Thursday, June 18, 2009

Avocados...more than just guacamole

Don't get me wrong, I love guacamole (even posted my recipe below, which is the best I've had - not that I'm biased!), but sometimes an avocado is worth more than a tasty dip. Thus, I set out on a trek to find alternate uses for this creamy fruit, and was pleasantly surprised by what I came across.

If these recipes don't strike your fancy check out the California Avocado Commission for additional recipes. Also, Women's Health Magazine has a great article on the best fitness foods for women and guess what's number one on the list....avocado!

Grilled Chicken with Avocado Corn Salsa

1 ear corn, roasted (or 2 cups canned)
1 large avocado, diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup minced red or orange bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut the kernels off the cob and mix together with all the remaining ingredients. Keep covered and refrigerated. I put the avocado pit in the salsa to keep it from turning brown.

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup lemon juice
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill or a grill pan.
Season chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush with lemon juice. Grill 10 to 15 minutes total on a hot grill, turning 3 times. Top with Avocado Corn Salsa.

I served this with steamed white rice and black beans with some fresh cilantro mixed in.

Recipe courtsey of Food Network.

3 ripe Avocados, peeled & pitted
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded & finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Garlic salt to taste

Mash avocado, add onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Beat until creamy. Gently fold in tomato. Add garlic salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until served.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Supper Salads

Taking the lead from my friend at pthappyhomemaker I decided to post some of my favorite salad recipes. Enjoy!

Simple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp dried basil leaves
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 C. olive oil

Put the garlic and basil into a blender or food processor; pulse until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and peppper and pulse again. Add olive oil and pulse again. Pour into a serving jar or other container.

1 head of Romaine or Bibb Lettuce
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper

Wash and dry lettuce; tear into bite-sized pieces. Toss the greens with 1/2 cup of vinaigrette to coat. Place in a salad bowl. Wash pepper at slice into thin strips. Wash tomatoes and cut in halves. Top salad with peppers and tomatoes; toss & serve with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Spinach & Fruit Salad
1 bag baby spinach
1/2 C. Craisins*
Crumbled goat cheese to taste
1/3 C. Bottled Strawberry Vinaigrette, or to taste
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds**

Wash spinach and place in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Top with Craisins, goat chees, and sunflower seeds.

*Substitute other dried fruits or an assortment of dried fruits
** Substitute pine nuts

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Pesto, Please!

I ventured into the world of pasta making and found it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. I love pesto, especially because I can make it from the basil growing in my backyard, so when I saw this recipe I couldn't resist. Now I must give fair warning, this isn't for those with sensitive tummies as it is quite rich, but boy is it tasty!

Gnocchi with Pesto
Serves 4

Kosher salt
2 russet potatoes, about 1 1/2 lb, scrubbed
1/2 C, plus 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 lg egg, beaten
1 1/4 C all-purpose flout, plus more for rolling
6 oz haricots verts or other small slender green beans
1/2 C Pesto (see below)
6 Tbsp butter

To make gnocchi, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the unpeeled whole potatoes until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 30 min. Drain and let cool for a few minutes. Submerge potatoes in a bowl of ice water, skin should peel right off (see Sprint Cuts, How to Peel a Potato on YouTube). Place peeled potatoes in a large bowl. Add the 2 Tbsp grated cheese, 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, and nutmeg and mash well with a potato masher. Let cool to lukewarm, mix in the egg and then 1 cup of the flour.

Knead the dough, adding more flour 1 Tbsp at a time as needed, until a soft and sticky dough forms, about 3 minutes (I did this in my Kitchenaid mixer). Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then divide it into 6 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, use your palms to roll each piece into a rope 3/4 in. thick. Cut the ropes into 1 in. pieces. To form the grooves in the gnocchi that will hold the sauce, roll each piece over the tines of a fork or down the length of a wire whisk.

In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook the hericots verts until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a skimmer, transfer beans to a colander and drain.

In 2 batches, cook the gnocchi in the same pot of boiling water until just tender, stirring often to prevent sticking, about 5 minutes per batch. Using the skimmer, transfer to a baking sheet.

Put the pesto and remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese in a large bowl. In a large frying pan, melt the butter (I used less thatn 6 Ybsp, but to each his/her own) over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi and saute until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the haricots verts and toss for 1 minute. Transfer the gnocchi and haricots verts to the bowl of pesto and cheese and toss to coat.

The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook


2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 c pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the tube. Stop the motor when you have a thick, slightly chunky paste.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Composting

Not every gardener has the space for a large compost pile, and not all municipalities allow back yard composting. The good news is that it's very easy to compost in a small space. Even if all you have is a patio or balcony, you can use this method of making compost in a trash can. And, if you need to compost on the sly, no one will be the wiser---they'll just see another trash can.

To start out composting, purchase the most inexpensive 32 gallon or larger plastic garbage can you can find. Make sure it has a lid. If rats are a problem in your area, consider purchasing a metal trash can. Then, using a two to three-inch hole saw bit and a drill, drill holes all the way around the trash can (lid, bottom, and sides) six to twelve inches apart. Cover these holes with window screening. Good strong duct tape or epoxy will work. Put your trash can composter in a convenient place. If possible, raise it up on a couple of bricks to get even more air circulation to the contents of the trash can composter.

So, what do you put into your trash can composter?

Fruit and vegetable peels and cores
Leftover cooked veggies (as long as they don't have salt or butter on them)
Produce that's past its prime
Coffee grounds
Tea leaves and tea bags
Egg shells
Shredded newspaper
Weeds, leaves, and spent flowers from the garden

Never add meat or dairy to the composter, as it will spoil (and smell!) and attract pests. Besides that, your compost could then harbor harmful bacteria that could cause illness. It is a good idea, however, to add a shovelful of garden soil to your compost. The soil contains all kinds of microorganisms which will consume the contents of your compost and break it down. If you don't have access to garden soil, don't worry. You'll still get compost, but it will take a little longer.

Most books and articles about composting recommend using specific ratios of “green” and “brown” materials to make perfect compost. You may be able to get away with ignoring ratios if you have a large pile, but in a closed system like this, paying attention to the ratios of your materials is important. If you have too many “greens,” such as fruit and veggie peels, weeds, and grass clippings, the pile will stay too wet and will start to smell. If you have too many “browns,” such as leaves, small twigs, shredded paper, and coffee grounds, the pile will just kind of sit there. Try for a ratio of at least 4:1 of browns to greens. I've seen recommendations as high as 25:1, but the 4:1 ratio works well in my trash can composter.

In addition to a proper ratio of materials,you'll also need to make sure that your compost stays moist, but not wet. In general, your compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Any wetter than that, and it will start to smell because it has become anaerobic, meaning oxygen can't get to parts of the pile. If your pile dries out, it will still break down eventually, but it will take much, much longer than it should.

You'll also need to keep your compost aerated. In a traditional pile, this is done by digging into the pile and turning the contents every week or two. You can aerate your trash can composter by simply laying it on its side and rolling it around a few times. Do this once or twice a week, and you should have finished compost in two to four weeks.

Trash can composter courtesy of Anthony at The Compost Bin.