Grilled Pineapple Guacamole

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole Compressed

Inspiration: You simply can’t have too much guacamole in our house. That much is a fact. And while we love our standard guacamole recipe best, it’s always fun experimenting and throwing some new flavors into the mix (like pumpkin seeds or tomatillos). I have quite a list of add-ins that I’d like to try – bacon, bleu cheese, and goat cheese, to name a few – but grilled pineapple seemed the perfect summery add-in for our Fourth of July dinner when we were throwing some steaks on the grill.

What We Loved: This guacamole is really an interesting treat. It is completely and totally characterized by the sweet pineapple. Each bite, whether you get a bunch of the pineapple chunks or none at all, is defined by a slightly charred sweetness. It’s a really interesting and refreshing flavor, and certainly a different and unique spin on standard guacamole. Delicious, refreshing, and so very summer.

Tips: We ate this guacamole with tortilla chips as a treat, but I’m thinking that it would be fabulous atop grilled chicken, paired with some sunny side up eggs, stuffed into an omelet, or even just eaten as a side dish with a spoon.

Grilled Pineapple Guacamole
Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love

2-3 slices of cored and peeled fresh pineapple
3 small ripe avocados
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, ribbed, and minced
Juice from 1/2 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Place the pineapple on the grill, and cook until slightly charred on both sides. Remove from the grill, allow to cool, and dice.

2. Pit the avocados, scoop the flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork.

3. Mix in the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, salt, and pineapple chunks. Reserve a few pineapple chunks to add on top for garnish. Serve.

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Chunky Vegetable Marinara Sauce

Inspiration: Marinara sauce is one of those things that I make differently every time that I need it, depending on what I have on hand and how chunky/smooth/etc. I want the sauce to be. My favorite way to make a marinara, though, is to pack it full of vegetables. In my opinion, marinara is such a great vehicle for all kinds of nutrients and flavors, and the more vegetables that are thrown in there, the better.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I made this particular batch to stash away in the freezer and to serve as a quick meal with these meatballs, which I also stored in the freezer.

What We Loved: As I said, I just love how packed full of vegetables this sauce is. You’ve got the classic marinara flavors – rich tomatoes, earthy oregano and rosemary, a nice serving of garlic and butter – plus you’ve got the added bonus of the lovely vegetable flavors of onions, carrots, mushrooms, and red peppers. You can’t get much better than that.

Tips: This sauce is very versatile. To name a few options, it is great served with meatballs, atop spaghetti squash, as a topping for sauteed chicken breasts along with some cheese, or stuffed into portabella caps with some cheese for an Italian-style mushroom meal.

Chunky Vegetable Marinara Sauce
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: Makes about 6 cups

1 onion, diced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
About 15 button mushrooms, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
1 28 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Heat a good pat of butter in a sauce pan. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and red pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the moisture released from all of the vegetables evaporates and the vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes.

2. Mix in the garlic and rosemary, and cook for an additional minute.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano, Italian seasoning, and another good tablespoon of butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Simmer for as long as you’d like until ready to serve.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto

Inspiration: Brandon and I love arugula. It’s Brandon’s favorite salad green, and even though we’re not huge salad eaters (mainly because we both prefer our side dishes at supper to be warm), we can both get behind a good arugula salad. So when I was at the grocery store and needed a tiny bit of arugula for one recipe, of course it only made sense to buy the largest package available even though I had no plans for using the rest of it. Hey, it was on sale. We could just have some salads with dinner throughout the week, right? Nope.

What We Loved: This pesto has an earthy, rich flavor that is really different and unique. It’s very much characterized by that defining peppery taste of arugula, and without knowing the ingredients, Brandon noted right away that he could taste the flavor of pistachios. So far, we’ve eaten this stuffed into chicken breasts, mixed into scrambled eggs, and dolloped atop a cheese pizza, and I imagine that it’d be good in any number of applications. I always love a sauce that is so versatile.

Tips; This one is pretty simple, but I do want to caution that it is very different in taste from regular basil pesto. If you’re like me, your mind hears the word pesto and automatically associates it with that rich basil flavor that is so prominent in pesto, but this one is a completely different story in flavor. It sounds silly to even mention it, since the taste will obviously be different as the basil and pine nuts have been completely replaced with arugula and pistachios, but I thought it was worth a quick caution. If you love arugula, though, I’m pretty sure that you’ll love this, too.

Arugula Pistachio Pesto
Source: Inspired from Love and Olive Oil

4 cups packed baby arugula
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Combine the arugula, pistachios, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely minced.

2. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Salsa

Inspiration: I have to confess that I’m kind of lazy when it comes to salsas. I know. For as much as we love Mexican, Southwestern, and Tex-Mex food (and since those are my favorite kinds of food to cook), you’d think that I’d be whipping up my own salsas left and right. But it always ends up that I don’t want to spend a long time making a garnish, so I’ll either pull a jar of Brandon’s Mom’s homemade salsa out of the pantry (score!) or throw a bottle of one of Rick Bayless’ store-bought salsas into the grocery cart (those are pretty darn tasty, by the way – and with nice, natural ingredients). But when all is said and done, there is just nothing like a fresh, homemade salsa, so when it came to our Mexican-inspired Thanksgiving meal, I really wanted to make a homemade salsa as a prominent part of the meal. The idea of this cranberry salsa just sang to me, so I was more than happy to spend a few hours whipping it up. Cranberry sauce and salsa? Together? As soon as that thought entered my head, there was no way that I wasn’t making it.

What We Loved: Brandon and I both absolutely adored this salsa. It’s got all of the classic components of a good salsa – fire-roasted tomatoes, spicy jalapenos, fresh bell peppers and onions, and the lovely bright flavor of cilantr0 – but it also has an awesome velvety smooth and slightly fruity backbone from the cranberry sauce. That backbone is what makes the salsa so unique, and it’s what makes it marvelous. The salsa really does have this crazy, silky smooth texture, and the savory/spicy/fruity/just-a-touch-sweet flavor combination is killer. I particularly loved that there was still that familiar spicy bite from jalapenos and a fresh garden flavor from cilantro. We ate this atop roasted turkey, but I can see it paring great with chicken or white fish, too.

Tips: Make a double batch? And don’t forget to season with Kosher salt and pepper when the salsa is done. I found that a really good bit of salt really brightened up all of the flavors.

Cranberry Salsa
Source: Melissa d’Arabian

1/2 cup simple tart cranberry sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 small jalapeno, coarsely chopped
1/2 white onion coarsely chopped, covered and microwaved for 1 minute
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup fire-roasted, adobo-flavored diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

1. Place the cranberry sauce, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, onion, red pepper, green pepper, and tomatoes in a food processor. Process until blended, but still a little bit chunky.

2. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Simple Tart Cranberry Sauce

Inspiration: This recipe was somewhat of a means to an end for me. I tried it out simply because I wanted to make some cranberry salsa to include on our Mexican-inspired Thanksgiving plates, and to make the salsa I needed some cranberry sauce. And if I can take a minute to be honest, here, this is the first homemade cranberry sauce that I’ve ever eaten in my life. Can you believe that? I’ve eaten the store-bought kind….and I’ve had some sweetened cranberry casserole-type dishes….but I’ve never had simple homemade cranberry sauce. It was high time that that ended :)

What We Loved: One of the things that I love about cooking is how food can sometimes be so simply and beautifully transformed right before your eyes. Throw a carton of fresh cranberries and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice onto the stovetop, let it boil for a few minutes, and you magically end up with this stunning, gorgeous red sauce that just begs for you to dig a spoon into it. I was amazed by the simplicity of the process and by how beautiful the final result was. And that’s not even mentioning the flavor of the sauce, which was fruity and tart, dominated of course by the flavor of cranberries with just a hint of orange and sugar. I’ve definitely found a lovely new treat to add to the fall and winter menus around our house.

Tips: I contemplated not adding any sugar at all to this recipe, but after a taste test, the sauce was way too bitter without any sugar at all. The original recipe calls for just a teaspoon of Stevia extract (I prefer agave or honey), but I added about two teaspoons of agave to suit my taste. I’d recommend tasting the sauce without any sweetener and then continuing to taste-test as you slowly add in the agave/honey, as I did, because what’s perfect for me might be too tart for you. And remember that the final dish will still be rather tart and unlike a very sweetened cranberry sauce, since only a minimal amount of sugar is used. It’s best to eat the sauce atop a nice piece of roasted turkey for the perfect complement.

Simple Tart Cranberry Sauce
Source: Adapted slightly from The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate

12 oz cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons agave (or honey)

1. Place the cranberries and the orange juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. The cranberries will begin to pop.

2. Boil for a few minutes, stirring, until the cranberries have all popped and the mixture has thickened.

3. Remove from the heat. Add a few teaspoons of agave or honey, to taste.

4. Let cool and refrigerate.

Pico de Gallo Verde

Inspiration: If you follow the blog, you might know that we love to celebrate cultural holidays by making lots of meals focusing on that culture’s cuisine (with St. Paddy’s Day and Mardi Gras being a couple of favorites). Well, Cinco de Mayo is this week, and Mexican is our very favorite cuisine. This is going to be a good week. :)

What we Loved: This salsa is such a great alternative to the more common tomato-based salsas or pico de gallo. If you haven’t had tomatillos before, they are very, very tart, especially when they’re uncooked. Since this salsa consists mainly of uncooked tomatillos, it’s got an intensely tart flavor that we just adored. When you throw in the other ingredients, you end up with a salsa that is tart, garlicy, spicy, and salty. Really unique and refreshing!

Helpful Hints: We ate this atop a sausage and sweet potato hash (recipe to be posted later this week), and we loved how it provided a cool, tart contrast to the richer flavors of the the rest of the meal. I think that this salsa would also be great in tacos, atop pretty much any type of Mexican-inspired salad, or as a topping for sauteed chicken breasts or fish. It’s just as versatile as tomato-based salsa and would really be great in some many different meals.

Pico de Gallo Verde
Source: Macheesmo

I scaled the recipe down to make a smaller batch. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

2 tomatillos, finely chopped
2-3 small hot peppers, any kind or color, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
Juice from 1/4 lime
Kohser salt and black pepper

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomatillo Guacamole

Inspiration: Since trying toasted pumpkin seed guacamole (yet another amazing Rick Bayless recipe), I’ve been somewhat fascinated with trying out all different versions of guacamole. Next up? I’m thinking goat cheese guacamole would be fabulous, or blueberry guacamole in the summer. Our classic guacamole will always be my favorite, but trying new little spins is so much fun!

What we Loved: This is like a standard guacamole with an explosion of sourness and tangy lime flavors. It’s a really bright and extremely fresh spin on one of our favorite foods. In contrast to our normal guacamole (which is salty and fresh with garlic and vegetables) or the pumpkin seed guacamole (which is rich, nutty, and creamy), this version is bright and citrusy. Another great variation to keep in mind for Mexican meals.

Helpful Hints: I feel like this would pair beautifully with fish – those light citrusy flavors are always a great compliment to fish and seafood, so maybe any leftovers would be great dolloped on top of a filet of tilapia or mahi-mahi.

Tomatillo Guacamole
Source: Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday

2 avocados
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa, recipe follows

1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the insides into a bowl. Mash well. I like to use a potato masher for this.

2. Add the garlic, cilantro, salsa, and salt to taste. Mix well to combine.

Tomatillo Salsa
Source: Rick Bayless, Mexican Everday (makes about 3/4 cup)

2 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 small garlic clove, peeled and quartered
1 serrano chili, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
Handful fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor with 1/8 cup water. Process until the mixture forms a smooth puree (or keep it chunky if you’d like). Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.