It’s All About the Guac!

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All I need in life is good guacamole and a strong margarita.  Sure, I would miss chocolate, tacos, and coffee, but I don’t think I could survive off just those things.  However, guacamole and margaritas could sustain me forever.

In case you live in a hole, it’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow. I used to assume this was Mexico’s Independence Day, but according to Wikipedia the date, “commemorate(s) the Mexican Army’s difficult victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla”.  While their Independence from Spain is celebrated September 16th.

For me, I’m grateful it means I get to enjoy some good Mexican food! I was in elementary school – maybe 4th grade – when I first tried Mexican food with one of my best friends that year.  Her mom picked us up after school and took as to Taco Bell a couple of blocks away.  I know, Taco Bell, sounds questionable.  I was mortified at the time: I’d never eaten a taco or burrito, or any of these things on the menu.  I decided I’d order whatever she had and just eat it. She ordered two, I ordered one. After I was done I wished I had ordered two like she had.  It was so good I started asking my mom to take me to Taco Bell.

I suppose that’s how my love for Mexican food started: through positive peer pressure to eat a bean and cheese burrito in the 4th grade.

My love for guacamole (and avocados) came a little later in life during my college years.  But it was like meeting my food soul mate if you will.  It was while devouring a bowl of guacamole and chips that it first crossed my mind that I could, maybe, in some crazy crazy way be pregnant with our first over 6 years ago. It’s what I ate the most of while I was pregnant with him and later our daughter, along with all forms of chocolate and avocados in general.  Guac is our jam around here.  Sometimes we just mash some avocado, add a little salt, a splash of lime or lemon or both.  Sometimes we mash it and add a few spoonfuls of our favorite salsa.  Sometimes we make it this way:

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large avocados
  • 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion
  • 1 medium tomato, about half a cup, diced.
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste, I used 1/2 teaspoon

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed. Scoop out the avocado flesh into a medium sized bowl. Or a molcajete, as I used in the pictures.
  2. Mash with a fork or pestle.  I like to leave a few chunky bits, it doesn’t have to be completely smooth.
  3. Add salt and lemon juice. I prefer to add the lemon juice immediately, because the acid from the lemon juice will keep the green avocado flesh from turning brown too quickly.
  4. Add the red onion, tomato, and cilantro and stir together until fully mixed.
  5. Enjoy with your favorite chips!

NOTES:

  • Typically, I try not to store my guacamole in the fridge for more than 20 minutes before serving.  However, if you must store it, whether for 20 minutes or an hour, make sure you put plastic wrap right on the guacamole to cover it. If the plastic wrap is touching all the guacamole and pressed onto it, it will prevent air from reaching the guacamole. If air reaches the guacamole it causes oxidation and the guacamole to brown.
  • Guacamole is based on preference, so feel free to add a pinch of lime juice, chili, green onion, more tomato, etc. … in the summertime I love to add a little corn to my guacamole.  Delicious!

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Cheers!

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One Bowl Blueberry Muffins

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This is a recipe that I am going to commit to memory. It’s that good and that simple! One of my kids has been inhaling blueberries these last couple of weeks, to the point where I just can’t buy enough of them.  However, this week either she slowed down eating them or I bought too many because I found myself with a couple extra packs and somewhat unsure what to do with them. For a while I contemplated blueberry scones — my very very favorite blueberry scones, but that requires dusting the countertop with flour, using super cold butter, etc… etc… and to be frank: too big of a mess; too much of a hassle.

I’ve been pouring over the recipes in Deb Perelman’s book Smitten Kitchen Every Day since I got it around Christmas time and when I turned to these muffins yesterday I knew I had to make them ASAP! No fussy ingredients, one bowl, add the ingredients, mix it up, bake, enjoy… and easy clean up! To be honest, no one likes doing dishes. Especially on a weekend morning. So do yourself a favor and whip these up — you’ll be so happy you did!

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INGREDIENTS:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 c. granulated sugar

finely grated zest from half a lemon (I zested a whole, you should too)

3/4 c. sour cream

1 large egg, room temperature

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with 9 liners, or do as I do, and butter the muffin tin and then dust with flour, the good old fashion way.
  2. In a large, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter – about a minute and a half in the microwave.
  3. Add the sugar, lemon zest, sour cream, egg and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk until fully incorporated.
  5. Add the flour and blueberries.  With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour and blueberries to the batter.
  6. The batter will be thick and smell delicious.  Go ahead, taste a little 😉 Divide the dough into the 9 prepared muffin cups and sprinkle a generous amount of turbinado sugar on top of each muffin.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, then let cook for 10 minutes and enjoy!!

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cheers!

Raspberry Chocolate Souffles

 

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These delicious little souffles deflated faster than the camera could go “click!” by the time they were ready for their close up.  It was rather sad, but such is life.  Gotta take hold of the reigns before they fly past: life stops for no one and we always have to keep pressing forward. So press forward I did, and here we are with a delicious and surprisingly easy dessert!

Saturday night Chris went to the SMC/Gonzaga game at our alma mater (and also where we got married!) so I made these for the kids and I to enjoy as a consolation.  To be honest, we might have devoured these before dinner.  Oops! On another note, I made a couple of these without raspberries, and I must say they are not nearly as good without the raspberries! The great thing about souffle is that you can prepare the batter and pour  into the ramekins the day before, because it will keep in the fridge overnight.  This saves a lot of time, and breaks up the work quite nicely.

Don’t forget: if you’re going to put a cute, little powdered sugar heart or other design on top make sure your stencil and powdered sugar are ready to go as soon as they come out of the oven – the longer it takes for you to serve these babies the more likely they’ll deflate before they make it to the table!  A lesson learned for next time.  😉

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INGREDIENTS:

*recipe from William Sonoma’s book Home Baked Comfort

  • 7 tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for dusting the ramekins
  • 6 oz package of raspberries
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped.  I highly suggest using a high quality chocolate! It makes all the difference for this decadent, chocolate based dessert.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, separated plus 2 egg whites
  • pinch of salt – about a 1/4 tsp
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • confectioners’ sugar for dustin

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 375F.
  2. The recipe calls for six 1-cup ramekins, but I found the recipe made 8.  Hence, butter 8 ramekins and lightly dust each with granulated sugar.
  3. In a small bowl toss the raspberries with a tablespoon of the sugar and divide among the ramekins.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring as you go.  Don’t let the chocolate burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  5. In your mixer, with the whip attachment, beat the egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of the sugar on medium speed until it’s thickened. Fold the chocolate mixture in.
  6. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar on medium-high speed.  When the egg whites are getting fluffy, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and beat until you have thick, stiff egg white peaks.
  7. Fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins.
  8. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are set and puffed, about 18, but not more than 20 minutes.
  9. Dust with powdered sugar, and enjoy before they fall!

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cheers! and Happy Valentine’s Day ♥

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New Years in Argentina!

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I truly can’t believe it’s already February?!  We’re 1/12 of the way through the year, and I must say it’s been a really fun, adventurous, and exciting year so far. To kick off the new year we celebrated with friends in Patagonia.  Specifically, we stayed with family friends who have a fly fishing lodge in Esquel, Argentina.  It was one of the most beautiful places I’d been in years.

While we were there I kept thinking I was in the movie The Sound of Music, and found myself waiting for everyone to break out into song and dance: “a doe! a deer! a female deer, rain, a drop of golden sun…” while that never happened, I couldn’t stop playing the movie over and over in my head.  Maria, played by Julie Andrews, says in the movie: “the skies were so blue today, and everything was so green, I just had to be a part of it.” This is exactly what it felt like to be there.  Kids climbing trees, picking strawberries and raspberries and cherries right off the trees, running outside all day, riding bikes, swimming, I could go on…

We let the kids go kayaking in the river one afternoon, and I couldn’t help but remember that scene in the movie where the children and Maria are in their canoes heading back home and they all fall in the water while their Father watches –  although my kids never fell in I think these pictures give a glimpse of what I’m talking about! If you couldn’t already tell The Sound of Music is one of my all time favorite films.  😉

After we left our friends’ place, we continued to Villa La Angostura which is closer to Bariloche, also in Patagonia.  We stayed in a gorgeous home turned hotel that I didn’t want to leave, and that I now can’t wait to go back to one day! It was a truly incredible trip that I’m grateful we got to do as a family.

During this trip we didn’t have internet connection of any kind whatsoever for 3 or 4 days straight. I can’t explain how incredibly freeing it was to be forced to disconnect in that way.  We couldn’t check e-mail, there was no “let me Google that!” during dinner conversations…anything. Not even texting.  As a result, since coming home, I spend less time online, less time thinking about e-mail, social media, surfing the web to browse this and that. I find that it allows me to play more, have more fun, and be more present, for lack of a better word.  … things to think about, I suppose.

cheers! and happy belated New Year! 😉

M&M Holiday Cookies

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I used to make these all the time, I don’t know why it’s been a good year or so since I last made them.  It’s been a pretty busy holiday season: lots of holiday parties, birthday parties, a quick trip to Hawaii, upcoming holiday travel preparations, and other general life going-on’s, that I realized I needed an easy, reliable, and festive holiday cookie. Cue: The One and Only M&M Holiday Cookie!

I’ve had this recipe for so many years that I don’t even recall where I got it.  However, it’s a tried and true staple in my book, tested time and time again. I make them during Valentine’s Day with the pink, white, reddish colored M&M’s, on St. Patrick’s Day with green M&M’s, and even with your boring, everyday colored M&M’s when needed.  If you scoop the dough out in 1 tablespoon scoops, as I do, you end up with a solid 36 cookies. In our house, that means there’s plenty for us, and even more left over to share with the sweet neighbors who live in our little court with us. Merry Christmas!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tblsps all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 tblsps salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 white sugar
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 cup M&M’s, I used Christmas colors on these

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 and place rack on upper third of the oven.

  1. Mix the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and all the sugars until they are thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Stir until mixed together.
  4. Gradually add the flour and mix until a dough forms.  You may want to use your hands to bring it all together, because it tends be a little crumbly.
  5. Fold in the M&M’s.
  6. Scoop about a tablespoon of dough out at a time and roll into balls, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes.  I know to take them out when the edges are just barely beginning to turn brown.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

IMG_5394Notes:

  • This a cookie that I personally prefer slightly undercooked, and that 10 minutes at 375 in the upper third of the oven does the trick!
  • Also, these cookies are so forgiving! You can melt the butter low and slow in a pan, in the microwave on high, in the microwave on low where you still have chunks of whole butter and it will come out the same, every time.

cheers!

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Happy Little Monster Treats

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am a fan of rice krispie treats.  They’re so easy to make, cut into shapes, turn into all kinds of colors, and kids typically love them.  This particular rice krispie treat first came up on my Facebook feed late one night in September, and I knew I had to make them!

Little did I know, that in total, I would make close to 100 of these little happy monsters!  I’ve come to call them “Happy Little Monsters” because I find they put a smile on most people’s face 😉 We gave them to friends, family, and neighbors.  I made most of them for Jack’s pre school Halloween Party, and wrapped them in these cellophane bags with crinkle paper and a trick or treat tag.  They were pretty cute, and every now and then you could follow a trail of crinkle paper to the child who was eating his or her treat on the go.

It’s been quite fun making these festive treat throughout the month.  Spreading the colored spread, placing the eyeballs, even making the stamped “trick or treat” tags keeps me entertained as I sit next to Chris, while he watches whatever sports game is on tv that particular night after the kids have gone to bed.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 10oz bag of marshmallows
  • 6 cups of Rice Krispies
  • ChocoMaker Candy Wafers, choice of color
  • Candy eyes

INSTRUCTIONS

Rice Krispie Treats:

  1. In a pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add milk, vanilla extract and marshmallows. Allow the marshmallows to melt over low heat.  Don’t let the marshmallows burn, keep your heat on low and stir often.
  2. While they melt, prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper along the bottom.
  3. Once the marshmallows are melted, remove from heat and mix in the rice krispies.
  4. Pour the marshmallow/rice krispie mix into the prepared baking dish and spread out in an even layer.
  5. Put them into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool and set.

Assembling Monsters:

  1. Cut the rice krispies into desired size.  I roughly cut mine into 2×4 or 2×3 inch pieces.
  2. Melt the ChocoMaker wafers in the microwave, use a silicon spatula to stir.  One treat at a time, use the spatula to help spread the colored chocomaker spread onto half of the rice krispie.
  3. Place on parchment paper and add candy eyes.
  4. Repeat until done!
  5. Put treats in cellophane bags, with crinkle cut paper.  Tie with trick or treat tags!

NOTES:

  • I made my trick or treat tags using a stamp, paper and glue.  So easy, and like I said, keeps me preoccupied next to Chris while he watches sports after the kids have gone to bed.

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cheers!

Cooking With Kids, and a Gift Idea

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Since around the time that Jack was 2, maybe earlier, I’ve always loved including my kids in the kitchen.  Whether I’m making a quick sandwich for lunch, rushing to get dinner made, or baking a two layer intricate cake for a birthday, it’s always more fun when little hands are involved. The best part is that both of my kids have always loved helping me in the kitchen.  Who am I kidding, they’ve always loved helping with anything I’m doing: “mama folding laundry?!”  “I got it!” they tell me. “Mama sweeping the floors?!” “I got it!” they tell me.  “Mama doing e-mails?!” “I got it!!” 😉  Perhaps that’s why I never feel like the laundry is completely washed and folded, the floors never thoroughly swept, e-mails left unattended.  However, in the kitchen it’s different.  In the kitchen, there’s always a final product.  It may not perfect, because the frosting may be too thick in the middle from not being spread evenly, dinner might be overly salted, or someone might find an eggshell in their omelette, but there’s always a final product.  Something we all made together in our team effort that we can enjoy together.

Last year, for Isabelle’s first birthday, her Aunt (who is also her Godmother) and Uncle gifted her a few pretty cute gifts, including this incredible Amazing Chef cooking set.  On this particular day, Jack really wanted to make something, but I wasn’t quite in the mood to cook so we opened up this gift, that I’m embarrassed to say had been sitting in the cabinet above the fridge for almost a year, and let the kids have fun! Jack especially loved using the knife to cut up the bananas and Isabelle loved dipping them in the chocolate and sprinkles.

If you ever don’t know what birthday present to get younger children, ages 2-8 or older, I can’t image that this cooking set will ever disappoint.  It’s so fun and gives the kids so much confidence in the kitchen!

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Cheers!

 

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