Saturday, December 31, 2011


Jason and I love guacamole.  My recipe is pretty simple, but very yummy.  It's basically pico de gallo with some avocado added in.  I don't have exact measurements, I really just eyeball everything.  The great thing is that you can cater it to your likes/dislikes.  You can easily add more or less of any ingredient. 

Never worked with an avocado before?  I got your back.  Check out some helpful hints I have below the recipe!


1 roma tomato (I like to seed mine), diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
3 avocados, diced or smashed, depending on your preference
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Dash of Cayenne
Few pinches of salt

Put the first 5 ingredients in a bowl, with the avocado on top.  Sprinkle the cayenne and salt and squeeze the lime juice on top of the avocado.  Mix well.  You can serve immediately, but I prefer to tightly press plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate it for 2-3 hours before serving.
Tips for working with avocados:
  • When picking out an avocado, take the little stem off the top of it.  If it's brown underneath, the avocado is bad.  You want it to be bright green.
  • Avocados should be a little soft with a little bit of give.  You definitely don't want a super soft avocado - it's past its prime.
  • If all of the avocados are hard as a rock, no worries.  Place in a brown paper bag for a day or two, they'll ripen right up.
  • Avocados brown very easily and very fast.  I've heard many different ways to slow down the browning process, but I don't think any work as well as pressing plastic wrap down tightly over the top of the guacamole.  This keeps oxygen from getting to the avocado.
  • Finally, if you've never cut an avocado and aren't sure how to, check this out.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

This is another recipe from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.  It is quite time consuming, but has great flavor and is very filling.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup
6 Servings

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (about 5 medium-sized potatoes)
4 cups chopped leeks, cleaned of all sand and grit (about 4 good-sized leeks)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or veggie stock (I prefer low sodium)
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz créme fraîche*
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 400°.  Combine the potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, turning them every 15 minutes, until very tender.  Add the arugula and toss to combine.  Roast for 5 more minutes until the arugula is wilted.  Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners.  Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the stock and cook over low heat, scraping the pan for any bits sticking to the pan.

2.  In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor in batches, adding stock as needed to make a purée.  Transfer puréed soup into a large pot.  Add the remaining stock, Parmesan, cream, créme fraîche, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. 

3.  Once heated through serve with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

*If you're like me and unable to find créme fraîche, you can use sour cream as a substitute.

For this recipe, Ina suggests topping this soup with crispy shallots along with the Parmesan.  My plan was to do this, but unfortunately, my shallots went from "crispy" to "burnt" in no time flat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheesy Grits

As I mentioned in my last post, I received one of Ina Garten's cookbooks for Christmas.  As soon as I started flipping through the pages I knew that I wanted to try her Creamy Cheddar Grits.  My husband was a little apprehensive about having grits for dinner, but he quickly changed his mind once he tasted them.  These were so good!  And so creamy!  And so cheesy!  I'll definitely be making these again.

Cheesy Grits
Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

2 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits (polenta) *not instant
1 1/4 cups half and half
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups aged sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (4 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 4-6 scallions)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
grated Cheddar and chopped scallions for garnish

1.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits thicken, about 5 minutes.
2.  Add the half and half and butter to the grits and stir.  Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes, until very smooth and creamy.  Take the grits off of the heat and stir in the Cheddar, scallions and pepper.  Season to taste and serve hot topped with more cheese and scallions.

Normally I try and "healthify" recipes, but since I'm still in holiday-eating mode, I didn't with this one.  Next time I make it I may try to lighten it up a little bit with less butter and maybe skim milk instead of half and half or lowfat cheese instead of full fat.  Although I think those ingredients may be the key to get the grits as creamy as these were, so maybe not ;)

Cookbook junkie

I'm almost always guaranteed a cookbook for Christmas from my husband and I look forward to it every year.  I LOVE cookbooks and have quite the collection.  I don't enjoy reading for pleasure unless it's a cookbook.  I can easily curl up with one and read it front to back.  I love learning new recipes and techniques and getting ideas for creating my own culinary masterpieces :)  This year I got lucky and received two of them!  One from my husband (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten) and one from my best friend (The Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter).  I can't wait to try out new recipes!  Tonight I'm trying the Cheesy Grits from Ina Garten's cookbook.  I have pages marked in both and can't wait to try out new recipes and, of course, taste them!  I'll be sure to post the long as they turn out!

The easiest EVER Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

This is seriously the easiest pie recipe ever.  This is what I made for dessert on Christmas Eve.  It's SO yummy and it's not terribly bad for you either.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 8

1 graham cracker pie crust - or 8 single serve pie crusts - (I use reduced fat)
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
1 cup milk (I use almond milk)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp peanut butter (I prefer/use natural)
1 8oz tub of cool whip (I use lite)
Additional cool whip/whipped cream if desired

1.  Bake pie crust at 375° for approximately 5 minutes - just enough to get your crust a little golden.
2.  Mix together the chocolate pudding mix, milk and peanut butter.  You can use a spatula/spoon, but for best results, use a mixer.
3.  Fold in the cool whip until well combined.  Put pie filling in the pie shell.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.  Slice, top with whipped cream and enjoy!
Easy as pie!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spritz Cookies

I think everyone has that *one* thing that makes Christmas, Christmas.  Maybe it's the tree, seeing lights, listening to Christmas music or putting up decorations.  For me, it's cookies (surprise, surprise).  But, not just any cookie my friends.  Spritz cookies.  I remember being younger and making these little 2-bite cookies with my mom at Christmas.  That is the only time of year that we made them.  They're so simple, only 6 easy ingredients, but so tasty!  You do need a Spritz Cookie press to make them and I just so happen to have the original cookie press that my mom and I used when I was a child.  Yes, it's outdated, but it works so well.  My mom was once given a new, updated, fancy press, but she returned it because she said nothing works as well as the original.  If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it!  If you were to go out today and buy a press, it would look a little something like this:

 If you were to come to my house to make these yummy treats, you'd use something that looks like this:
Old school at its finest people.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp extract - peppermint, almond, vanilla, etc.  (Almond is my flavorite.....get it, flavorite!?)
2 1/4 cup flour
Optional:  food coloring and sprinkles

1.  Mix butter, sugar, egg, salt, extract and flour until well combined.  Add a few drops of food coloring and mix until dough is to desired color.
2.  Load up your cookie press with the dough and desired cookie mold.  Press cookies onto cookie sheet and decorate with sprinkles, red hots, etc.
green christmas trees, red pinwheels and white snowflakes
3.  Bake at 400° for 7 minutes, remove from oven and let cool on cookie tray for 1-2 minutes.  Remove and place on a cooling rack.

Merry Christmas!!!
I, of course, had to try them out on Redmond.  Now, we don't feed him too many sweets, so any kind of cookie or cake are kind of foreign to him. 
First he gave it a good poke....
....the first bite....
"Yuck!  What is this woman feeding me!?"
"Eh, what the heck, I'll try it again...."
Can't wait until next year when Redmond can help decorate the cookies!