Ashlyn’s Guacamole

A few years ago my mother and I fell in love with guacamole.  Previously, we had had no real experience with the avocado  and we weren’t that big into experimenting with foods.  Alas, the deliciousness of this fantastic dip intrigued us enough to where we would give it a go!  It was a sad beginning, though, as we knew nothing of how to tell a ripe one from a ripening avocado   We spent many disappointing moments over the cutting board, quickly realizing that we had just split open something that clearly was not ready.  We were determined still, and decided to make it once a week.  Before long, we were pros!  Today, it is our signature dish that we bring to every party, and people can’t get enough.  Michael even says that my guacamole is the best he’s ever had!

Guacamole, feeds 4

  • 3 avocados
  • 1/2 carton of  cherry tomatoes (you can use any tomato, heirloom is great too, but I just really love the flavor packed into these little guys)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 C cilantro
  • sea salt, to taste

Cut open avocados  discarding the seeds.  Once all cut, spoon out into a medium sized bowl.  Cut the avocado into small pieces by running swiftly over with a knife.  Chop red onion very fine, add to mixture.  Cut tomatoes into quarters and add to mixture.

Begin to fold together with a spoon, fork, whatever you have on hand.  Cut up lime and squeeze out as much juice as possible.  The juicier, the better. Plus, lime juice helps the avocado stay green.  Finely chop the cilantro, and add that plus the salt to the mixture and fold some more.  Check to see how it tastes-you might need more salt! If not, enjoy!

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Quinoa Croquettes

At Lino’s, Michael’s family owned restaurant, we would make cheese croquettes around the holidays.  It would take almost the entire day to make hundreds of these, but it was always rewarding to be able to eat a few.  If you’ve never had a homemade croquette, I suggest you follow this recipe right now!

I always figured they would be difficult to make at home.  Unfortunately, anything I made at the restaurant was ingrained as “difficult” in my mind.  I attribute that to the fact that no one is ever going to make 50 pounds of pasta for their home kitchen, but still, everything seemed a bit harder than it actually was.  With that being said, once I found this quoina croquette recipe, I knew I had to challenge myself, and was surprised at how easy they were!

Quinoa and Pea Spice Croquette  (as adapted from here)

  • 1 large potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed
  • 1 C cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 C fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 T crushed red pepper (I love adding heat to food, but if you don’t, just skip this!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 T olive oil, for frying
  • Handful of spinach, for garnish

Heat 1 T oil on medium heat in a frying pan.  Add garlic and peas, saute until soft (this should only take a minute).  Remove from heat and set in large bowl.  Add potatoes, quinoa, salt, and red pepper flakes to garlic and peas.  Mix together and form into slightly flattened croquettes.  (They should look like silver dollar pancakes, essentially.  Add more oil to frying pan and increase heat to medium-high.  When oil is hot, add a few croquettes to the pan and cook each for roughly four minutes, flipping when they turn golden brown.

Repeat with remaining croquettes.  When finished, wilt a handful of spinach to garnish tops of croquettes.  Enjoy!

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Spinach Lemon Chickpea Salad

Michael is spending the weekend in New York for work, which means I am on my own for food.  Before he left, he kindly suggested that he would just make extras of the food he was going to make that week, so I could eat leftovers for the weekend.  His kind gesture went unnoted (until now) as I quickly retorted that I could feed myself.  “It’s not that I can’t cook, Michael!  It’s just that you’re so much better at it, and you like it, so why should I?”  We both knew that for the most part that was true, but a little part of me was nervous about how hungry I would be over the weekend.  So far, I have been sufficiently stuffed!

My lunch today was a great combo of all things in my fridge, and packed a lot of protein.  Easy to substitute, I actually adapted it from this recipe here, and as you can tell, I did a lot of switching around.

Spinach Lemon Chickpea Salad

  • 1 C cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/4 C onion, chopped finely
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10-12 grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 C sprouts, optional
  • salt, to taste

IMG_1034If chickpeas are not already cooked, cook them now by following directions on can, or putting them in a pot, covering them with water, and cooking until tender.  Make sure they don’t run out of water.  Add chopped garlic to saucepan with olive oil, cook for one minute.  Once minute is up, add onion and spinach together, cook for two-three minutes.

Place chickpeas in a serving bowl, adding spinach mixture, and blending together.  Add tomatoes and sprouts.

I suppose if I did mess this up, I would be too ashamed to make anything but a decent sandwich from then on.  Long live an easy meal!

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Southwestern Quoina

We spent Friday night anxiously anticipating the midnight showing of Django Unchained at our local art theatre.  It seemed a little strange that they would be showing a movie at midnight after it had been released for a few weeks, but our minds were clouded with excitement, so we didn’t give it much thought.  When we reached the theatre and paid for our tickets, we noticed a peculiar looking poster-it was from the ’60s, was not directed by Quentin Tarantino, and had mostly Italian sounding names where “Jamie Foxx” and “Kerry Washington” should have been.  Hmmm.

We sat down and began to munch on popcorn.  Curious, we googled the theatre’s website and looked a little further into the movie we had just paid $9 to see.  It was, in fact, called Django, but he certainly was not unchained.  One of the first “spaghetti westerns”, we were about to enjoy a film completely in Italian.

The film, which was about a young man who had lost love and just wanted to be buried with her, was full of cheese, but I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the night.  Laughing at the situation we had so foolishly put ourselves in reminded me how much joy a simple mistake can bring if you don’t let it get to you.  The next night we went to a non-artsy theatre and saw the real Django Unchained, and although it was a fabulous movie, I have to admit I liked seeing the other one better!

With our bellies sufficiently filled with popcorn and butter, we decided to create a much light fare for dinner Saturday night.  I present to you, Southwestern Quoina.

  • 1 C Quoina
  • 2 C water
  • 1/2 C Corn
  • 1/4 ChoppedCilantro
  • 1 Tomato
  • 2 Avocados
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Small Yellow Onion
  • 1 T olive or coconut oil
  • 1 C baby spinach
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lime
  • Hot Sauce, optional

In a medium sauce pan, boil 2 cups water, 1 cup quoina.  When water reaches boiling, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Dice garlic and onion. Heat a medium saute pan over high heat.  When pan is hot add one tablespoon of oil.  Add onions, garlic, and corn.  Caramelize vegetable.  When they are brown, wilt spinach.  Drain quoina and add to cooked vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Dice tomato and avocado, add lime and cilantro.  Season with salt to taste.  To plate, make bed of quoina and vegetable mixer.  Add avocado on top.  Add your favorite hot sauce-we recommend Co-op Hot Sauce from Chicago!

You can't beat fresh cilantro

You can’t beat fresh cilantro

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Using up the Leftovers

My family has a huge New Year’s Eve party every year. Filled with family and food, we are usually too stuffed to even think about jumping up and down when the clock strikes 12. This year was the first year Michael was able to come, and he certainly didn’t disappoint my hungry family. Taking over the kitchen (to the relief of my mother!) he busted out thick Cuban and roast beef sandwiches made entirely from scratch. He enjoyed the compliments all the way into the new year!

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As we packed up our bags to head back to Chicago, my mother loaded down our car with all the leftovers sitting in her fridge. Mostly delicious veggies that would wilt fast, Michael quickly began dreaming up some delicious and healthy dinners to use what we had. This was tonight’s:

Ingredients:
-1 cup rice (2 cups water)
-1/2 white onion
-2 cloves garlic
-1 C thinly sliced parsnips
-1 T coconut oil
-1 T sesame oil
-1 t red pepper flakes
-2 T soy sauce
-2 C baby spinach
-1 C broccoli florets
-1/4 C corn
-1/2 C green beans

In a medium sauce pan, put rice with two cups water and boil over high heat. Once boiled, put lid on pan and lower onto medium heat until rice absorbs water. Once it is absorbed, fluff rice with fork and let rest with five minutes.  Heat coconut oil in sauce pan. Saute garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, and parsnips until browned.  Add broccoli, green beans, and corn to pan. Saute until cooked, but still firm.  Add baby spinach, wilt.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Place rice on plate, then cooked veggies on top, and serve.

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