Archive | May, 2011

Basic Guacamole

31 May

Hi gang!

Seems like the craziness is slowing down and I’ve actually had some time to play in my kitchen, which has been a very welcome relief. Of course, I forgot to take a photo of this, but you know what guac looks like, yes? 🙂

I made this for a neighbor’s cookout yesterday, basing it loosely on Alton Brown’s guacamole recipe. Despite having less-than-stellar avocados to work with, it was pretty darned good, and gobbled up pretty quickly at the party. Best of all, it took all of seven minutes to put together, which isn’t a whole lot more than I’d spend opening a package of the grocery store stuff and stirring it up before serving.

I left my guac pretty chunky, as that’s how I like it. If you like yours on the creamier side, just whir up the avocados a bit and then add the tomatoes at the very end, when the green stuff is just shy of the consistency you like. Simple. To make this, you’ll need:

2 Haas avocados

About 1/4 cup sweet onion (I used about a quarter of a large Vidalia)

1 clove garlic, peeled

4 or 5 Campari tomatoes (use two or three plums if you can’t find the others)

A pinch of ground cumin

The juice of 1 lime

About 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Cut your tomatoes in half around their fat side (so you get a stem end and a bottom end). Gently squeeze them over your garbage can until the seeds plop out. Then finish quartering the tomatoes and set them aside.

Put your onion and garlic into a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped. Put the tomatoes in and give them a whirl to start chopping. Scoop the avocado out of its skin, and then add it and the rest of the ingredients and pulse to your desired consistency. Stir with a spoon to make sure the  lime juice gets all through the dip (it’ll keep the guacamole from turning brown). Transfer into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (pressing it down so the wrap actually touches the dip), and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe Redux: Fettucini with Lemon (and Asparagus)

19 May

Sorry for the radio silence, gang. My new gig is gearing up for its annual meeting, and I am living and breathing all things association right now. My house is a wreck (really–very sad). My children are neglected. I haven’t made a real meal in almost two weeks, which is horrifying on a number of levels. Things should get back to normal late next week–please don’t abandon me! 🙂

Last night, I made dinner for a neighbor who’d just had a baby, and I doubled it to give my ignored husband and children a decent meal too. I shared with you a recipe for pasta with lemon sometime last year (I’d link it, but I’m flying through) from Giada De Laurentiis, and while it was good, this is better. It’s her recipe, just ramped up a bit.

DH, who was decidedly lukewarm on the original version, said “This is EXCELLENT” last night. Now, that could be due to his living on Cinnamon Toast Crunch for the last 14 days (told you–very sad), but I’m going to choose to believe that it really was that good. Still super simple.

Here’s what I did:

1 pound fettucini, cooked to al dente

3 lemons at room temperature

1/2 cup olive oil (this is down from 2/3 in the original, and I think you could use even less)

About 1/8 cup very finely diced onion (I diced up two nice slices of one onion)

1 clove garlic

1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup diced fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook your pasta. Add the asparagus to that pot (with the noodles) for the last minute or two of cooking time, and drain. That’ll get you crisp-tender, which is YUMMY!

Get a saute pan nice and hot and add your olive oil. Stir in your onion and let it cook over medium until it starts to get soft and sweet (not brown). While that’s happening, zest one of your lemons and then juice all of them into a cup or bowl.

Either finely dice up your garlic clove or grate it with a Microplane (that’s what I did) into the oil/garlic mixture. Stir it together and then stir in the lemon juice and zest. Remove this mixture from the heat.

Stir together pasta, asparagus, sauce mixture, diced basil, and cheese. Enjoy!!

Crockpot Mac n Cheese

12 May

I’m so sorry I haven’t been around much, gang. Rest assured, it is not my smokin’ hot social calendar keeping me from you all and my stove (*snort*). I’m editing a magazine for an association on a long-term contract, and it is kicking my butt. In a good way, mind you. It’s nice to be regularly employed after 12 years of freelancing (which I’m also still doing for my other magazine clients). But time is not exactly available in huge doses, if you know what I mean.

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe, and it is a huge hit. All the time. I made it last weekend for my daughter’s first communion, and it rocked. Four ingredients, y’all. FOUR.

I know, right?

So. Two words of caution: Do not use cheddar jack or any other kind of cheese besides cheddar in this. It won’t hold up. And do not leave this on low more than four hours. It will burn. Burning is bad. Four hours on low and switch to warm, stirring it frequently.

Make this. And thank my sister-in-law, who totally rocks.

1 pound macaroni noodles, cooked to al dente and drained

1/2 stick of butter, cut into small pieces

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Mix everything together in a greased Crockpot. Stir every so often, cooking on low. Enjoy.

Treasure! And Caring for your Knives

9 May

My in-laws moved out of their house several weeks ago, and DH and his siblings have been feverishly working to clean the place out. There’s been lots of discovery along the way–things they remembered from childhood and things no one had ever seen before that had sentimental value nonetheless.

I was on a Girl Scout encampment with my daughter last weekend, when the phone rang. DH said he’d found something I would treasure. And he was right:

That is the biggest chef’s knife I’ve ever seen. The blade alone is 12 and a half inches long. It’s marked Ed Wusthof, Germany, and has numbers stamped on the other side, with a wood handle that has the Wusthof trident carved into it. It belonged to DH’s grandfather, who was a chef at a very well-known restaurant in Washington, D.C., and while it needed a good cleaning, it was in fantastic shape–no cracks or chips anywhere.

I started asking around and discovered that a very respected knife expert has a shop about 45 minutes away from me. DH dropped the knife off last week, and I drove up to pick it back up yesterday. It is *gorgeous*.

Not bad for an antique, eh?

Near as I can tell, this is called a Lobster Knife, and was sold commercially in Europe but never imported to the U.S. DHs’ grandfather was an immigrant, so that all makes sense.

I asked the knife expert how I should care for it, now that it’s all shiny and sharp again. My real worry was that wood handle; Wusthof doesn’t make many of those anymore (my beloved set has plastic handles), because they do crack with age. I wanted to keep this one as solid as it is now. The answer both explained how it survived umteen years in a basement, and what I should do from here.

“Use it,” he said. “Hand oils are a fantastic lubricant for wood and they never evaporate.” Keep it out of the dishwasher (please oh please don’t put your good knives in there! The detergent is harsh enough to take the sharp right off of them) and use it frequently, he said, and that handle should stay beautiful for another generation. If using it isn’t an option, rubbing it down with food-grade mineral oil should help a lot.

He put a gorgeous edge on the blade of this knife, and I’ll absolutely go back to have my other knives sharpened. Once that’s done, keeping them either in a wood block or a knife safe will both protect them from chips, keep your fingers attached to your body when you rummage through drawers, and protect that edge. I haven’t yet found a 13-inch safe, but I’m still looking. In the meantime, this baby’s blade has been wrapped up in cardboard, and the knife is way up high, away from little fingers.

Other tips: Chop only on wood or plastic boards; using your knives on glass, marble, or granite is one of the fastest ways to ruin them. Wash them by hand and either air-dry or dry them well with a paper towel before putting them away in their blocks or safes, to keep them rust-free. And keep those handles in good shape by keeping harsh chemicals off of them (sanitize your knives with vinegar, not bleach, if you like the handles) and using them with wild abandon.

DH was right: this knife is a treasure, both for its history and its amazing quality. I am proud to have it in my kitchen and can’t wait to put it to use, with all the respect it’s earned.

Happy Mother’s Day

8 May

Today I wish you kisses and hugs,

Playtime in the yard without any bugs,

Laundry that washes and dries by itself,

A visit from the magical housecleaning elf.

Time to relax, read a book, watch TV,

A nap by yourself; how sweet would that be?

Children who smile and play nicely all day,

Listen the first time and actually obey.

I wish for you thanks for all that you do,

A fun day that’s peaceful and relaxing too,

A day when your family keeps you off of your feet,

And then I hope later, you can go OUT to eat!

Happy Mother’s Day to all my wonderful friends and readers! See you tomorrow!



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