Chunky Guacamole

Guacamole is one of my favorite foods and I’ve enjoyed it countless times – both at restaurants and my own. Yesterday realizing that I had everything I needed to make up a batch, I made (possibly the best) chunky guacamole I’ve ever had. Seriously, it was so good that I wrote down EXACTLY what I’d done with the hopes of capturing the magic in the future.

Chunky Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados 
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small jalapeños
  • 1 large or 2 medium/small garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 shallot
  • 1-1 1/2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 t sea salt

Halve avocados, remove pits setting them aside for later, scoop each avocado half into a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, seed and then coarsely chop them – place into a second bowl. To that bowl add the jalapeño first removing the seeds and ribs and finely chopping. Mince the garlic and add to the second bowl with the shallot after dicing it.  Add the sea salt to the second bowl and toss the mixture together.  Add second bowl to the avocados, followed by the lemon juice and half the lime juice. Used a hand chopper, do a coarse chop over all ingredients and stir to blend. Chop again until it’s the chunkiness you desire.  Add chopped cilantro, stir to blend.  

Now for the tip:  In the bowl which you are using to serve or store, push the avocado pits into the guacamole. Drizzle the last of the lime juice over the top and press plastic wrap over the guacamole, touching it to the surface rather than the bowl.  Remove the pits just before serving. These steps keep the guacamole from turning brown, I deliberately waited 24 hours to take the photos and it’s still a vibrant green.   

A perfect light meal of Chunky Guacamole, warm corn tortilla chips and a hearty red wine. Living the dream!

My Famous Cran-Orange Relish, just in time for Thanksgiving

 Cran-Orange Relish
Cran-Orange Relish

  • 2 12 oz bags of fresh cranberries
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1 T raspberry or strawberry jam
  • 2-3 T sugar
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 T Grand Marnier liqueur

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Assembly Line

I use a dutch oven pan to create more surface area for warming the berries. Place cranberries, sugar, jam and vinegar in the pan on a low to medium setting, stir. Zest one navel orange and then juice that orange, adding both juice and zest to berry mixture. Stir again

Using a veggie peeler or small sharp knife, remove about 1/2 the peel from the second orange, careful not to go beneath the “orange” peel (avoiding the bitter white part). Chop the peel fine (see below) until you have 1 tablespoon. You may use more peel if you end up with more or freeze it for later use.

Add peel to berry mixture. Cut the second orange in half and then section it, adding the sections to the berry mixture. Squeeze any residual juice from the second orange into the pan.

Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy
Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy

You will start to hear little pops from the pan, those are the cranberries bursting. Give it a stir, put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat to low. Check back every 15 -20 minutes for another stir, letting it simmer.. After 45 minutes, stir in the Grand Marnier, the berry mixture should be breaking down like a chutney. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more. Cool and serve. Makes 2-3 cups of relish. This can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks and freezes beautifully, simply thaw and serve.

This is delicious as to serve not only with your Thanksgiving dinner but with chicken, pork or even seared scallops (trust me). For a festive appetizer, make a charcuterie platter  with cheeses like brie or a spreadable goat cheese or camembert, manchego, sharp white cheddar, cornichons and marcona almonds with sliced baguettes! Get creative…..and always, enjoy!

Looking for other Thanksgiving or Holiday recipes? Here’s links to a few of my best recipes:

Chestnut, Apple and Sausage Stuffing

Roasting Chestnuts – a Labor of Love

As I’m making my 2016 batch today, I decided to re-publish this recipe in hopes that it might be helpful to someone this Thanksgiving!  

Oven-Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots

With Autumn upon us, I’m in that mindset to switch to my colder weather cooking – casseroles, crockpots and last Sunday, my mouth-watering pot roast.  I’d bought the most perfect carrots at the Farmer’s Market and thought they’d be a colorful and tasty side dish.

While I could have dropped them in with the simmering pot roast I wanted to change it up and do something visually stunning and delicious.  Though it’s in the seventies today, on Sunday our furnace was on and having the oven fired up was welcome, making the kitchen cozy.

After perusing lots of recipes, as usual, I took those ingredients that looked the best from several recipes and came up with this.  Visually stunning – check.  Delicious – check. I wanted to share it as it would make a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.

Oven-Roasted Honey Glazed Carrots

  • 6-8 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch long sticks
  • 3-4 T honey
  • 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • chopped flat leaf parsley, chives and thyme for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a shallow baking pan with foil (for super easy clean up), drizzle with olive oil and smear to cover the surface.

In a bowl, mix the olive oil, honey, pepper, salt and balsamic till blended.  Add the carrot sticks and toss to completely coat them.  Place the carrots in a single layer onto the pan, use a spatula to get any excess glaze out of the bowl and drizzled over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, onto your serving platter and top with the chopped herbs.  If you don’t have honey or want to make this vegan, maple syrup would be wonderful as a substitution.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

On Sunday when Mom came to dinner, she brought me three perfect, lavender baby eggplants from the Farmer’s Market.  I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture.

I thought of what I had on hand – fresh Michigan tomatoes,  fragrant basil from my herb garden, tart goat cheese and toasted breadcrumbs made from my homemade croutons and came up with this recipe last night.

They were….phenomenal.  And I’m going to share how I did it in case you’d like to make these little melt-in-your-mouth bites of goodness. They would be great for appetizers, side dishes or a meatless entree.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

  • three baby eggplants
  • 1 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c goat cheese
  • breadcrumbs

Trim the tops and bottoms off each eggplant then slice them in half. Place the eggplant halves on paper towels, flesh side up and salt them. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, blot the eggplant and drizzle olive oil over the cut side lightly coating the surface. Place them flesh side down on a grill pan (I used my cast iron one) and roast them for 15 minutes.  Chop the tomatoes, add sea salt and garlic powder to taste, chiffonade then stir in the basil and set aside. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the eggplant over (skin side down), top them with chunks of goat cheese, chopped tomatoes mixture, then a sprinkle of the crunchy breadcrumbs and place them back into the oven. Turn the oven off and remove them after 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.

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Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread

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I recently came up with this recipe after looking at Pinterest seeking a way to use both frozen shredded zucchini and a partial bag of carrots.  I found several recipes, each which had appeal – and took ideas from each.

After I made this bread, I shared it with my Mom and my lifelong BFF, both who gave it a big thumbs up.  It remains moist even after a few days, the orange zest and cinnamon giving it a delicious flavor, chopped walnuts adding texture and  the flecks of orange and green make it look festive.  I loved it so much that I made two loaves this morning to enjoy over Thanksgiving and the weekend.

Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread – makes 2 loaves

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3/4 c canola oil
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 1 1/2 c shredded zucchini – squeeze out any excess liquid
  • 1 1/2 c finely chopped carrots
  • 3 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 t orange zest
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat four eggs until they are a creamy yellow, add sugar and beat till blended, followed by oil, orange juice and orange zest.

Add all dry ingredients, blending as you go.  Fold in the zucchini, carrots and walnuts.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly between the pans, it will rise as it bakes.  Check after 45 minutes by testing with a toothpick, if not clean when tested, place back in oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Cool on a rack, loosen around the edges with a knife.  After cooling turn out of loaf pans and if completely cooled, wrap in foil or plastic wrap.

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Festive Napa Cabbage Salad

Festive Napa Cabbage Salad                        Serves 4-8

For the Crunchy Ramen topping:

  • 1 package ramen noodles – broken up, (discard the flavoring package – not needed)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1 stick butter

Melt butter in a large frying pan.  Add noodles, almonds and sesame seeds, lightly brown them.  Set aside to cool.

The topping is pure crunchy and buttery goodness.
The topping is pure crunchy, buttery goodness!

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/3 c champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes

Mix together well and set aside. (I put it in a jar and shake it to dissolve the sugar and emulsify) You’ll dress the salad just prior to serving.

The dressing in a jar!
The dressing in a jar!

For the salad:

  • 1 head Napa Cabbage – shredded (I don’t use the last two inches of the base and eliminate some of the stalk like center of the larger leaves)
  • 1 bunch green onions – chopped
  • 1/2 c finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/4 c finely chopped carrot
  • 1/4 c finely minced parsley

Toss all salad ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The salad, assembled but not yet dressed.
The salad, assembled but not yet dressed.

When ready to serve, pour dressing over the salad mix and toss together.  Top generously with the crunchy ramen topping and serve.  Enjoy!

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes

  • Fresh green beans, trimmed
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
  • Sweet white onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Finely shredded cheese
  • Salt, pepper & seasoning blend ( I like Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute or Melting Pot’s Garlic Wine Seasoning)

Trim green beans, place in steamer basket. Steam on high for 4-5 minutes, remove from heat. In a separate pan, drizzle oil and sauté onions until carmelized. Add tomatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and seasoning. Place beans into serving bowl, sprinkle with cheese, add tomatoes and onion, add more cheese and serve.