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

Butter
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.

Pimiento Cheese and Pimiento Cheeseburgers with Fried Eggs & Onion

Inspiration: Ever since we visited my brother and sister-in-law in North Carolina last October and had a relatively Southern-esque burger topped with a fried egg and fried green tomatoes, Brandon has been really into eating burgers with fried eggs. Since green tomatoes aren’t in season right now, I thought I’d throw in a different Southern ingredient instead – pimiento cheese!

What we Loved: This is our first experience with pimiento cheese, and we both really enjoyed it. The peppers have a slightly sweet and spicy flavor, and the cheese itself is sharp and creamy. When melted, it transforms from a thicker consistency of a dip to ooey, gooey deliciousness. That melty texture was definitely my favorite thing about this cheese. And when added to a burger and topped with a fried egg (with a slightly undercooked, creamy yolk) and a thick slice of browned sweet onion, well, how can that not be good? What a fantastic and rich combination of flavors.

Helpful Hints: I’m sure that pimiento cheese would be great in any number of recipes. We enjoyed the leftovers sandwiched in an omelet. Delicious!

Pimiento Cheese
Source: Sidewalk Shoes

I cut the recipe in half. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/8 cup mayonnaise
1 oz cream cheese
Kosher salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 oz pimientos, sliced

1. Place the cheddar, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and cayenne in a food processor. Puree until smooth.

2. Add the pimientos, and pulse a few times to finely chop and incorporate.

Pimiento Cheeseburger with Fried Egg and Onion
Source: Original Recipe to serve 2

Ground beef, as much as desired to form two patties
Garlic powder
Seasoning salt
1/3 cup pimiento cheese, using more or less to taste
2 eggs
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 thick slices onion
 
1. Form the beef into two patties. Sprinkle some garlic powder and just a bit of seasoning salt in a saute pan. Add the burgers and the onion slices, and turn the heat to medium. When the burgers begin to sizzle, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip both the burgers and the onion slices, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Add the cheese to the burgers, cover, and cook for an additional minute to melt the cheese.
 
2. While the burgers are cooking, add a drizzle of olive oil to a second saute pan, and fry the eggs. Sprinkle to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.
  
3. Plate the burgers topped with the fried eggs and onion slices.

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Guacamole

Inspiration: Cuban picadillo is one of the few meals that I make relatively often for supper, and I love to serve it with avocado slices. With the last remnants of a bag of tortilla chips and a bag of pumpkin seeds in the pantry, though, this guacamole recipe was the perfect accompaniment. We could eat guacamole (and any Mexican food) every.single.day.

What we Loved: OK. Considering that this is a Rick Bayless recipe, I should have expected it to be awesome. And I did. But. This was really the best thing that has come out of my kitchen in a long time. I tend to like almost everything, love a lot of things, and then really love some things, and this recipe was one of the latter. When I tested the first bite to check for the salt level, I had to restrain myself from eating the whole bowl right then and there. What’s so great about this guacamole is that it’s the absolute creamiest, thickest, richest guacamole that I’ve ever had. It’s basically like a combination of a really rich nut butter and a wonderfully creamy avocado spread. With the additional flavor of fresh cilantro and just a tiny kick of heat from serrano peppers, I can’t imagine anything that would make this recipe better. It’s not a traditional guacamole (check out my all-time favorite guacamole recipe for that), but if you’re looking for something a little bit different, I really can’t recommend this one enough. I rave about most things on my blog, because I never post anything that I don’t really like, but this one is really one of those recipes that’s heads and tails above the rest.

Helpful Hints: Make a double batch? Also, I’ve found that organic avocados are really worth purchasing, especially for guacamole. They seem so much creamier and more delicious!

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Guacamole
Source: Rick Bayless

3 avocados
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 – 1 serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Juice from 1/2 small lime
3/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt

1. Place the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over low heat. When the pumpkin seeds start to pop, mix them with a spoon until they are golden and toasted. Place the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then run the processor until the seeds are the consistency of a chunky paste.

2. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the avocado into a bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork or potato masher.

3. Add the onion, serrano, cilantro, and pumpkin seed mixture to the avocado. Mix well to combine, and then mix in the lime juice.

4. Season to taste with salt, and garnish with additonal cilantro and pumpkin seeds.

Cilantro and Sunflower Seed Pesto

Inspiration: 1) We ended up with a big bag of cilantro in the crisper with no use for it. 2) We’ve been sitting on some random sunflower seeds in the pantry. 3) I’ve been obsessed with smoked paprika lately, so I’ve been throwing it into everything. 4) It was taco night, but we didn’t have any salsa.

What we Loved: I was a little skeptical of this pesto as I was making it, but boy was it good! The predominant flavors were the nutty, buttery flavors from the sunflower seeds, almost making this like a nut butter/pesto combo. Really great and unexpected! There were also some rich, smoky undertones from the smoked paprika that we really loved. I served this with some standard beef tacos, and it was a surprisingly great topping that complemented the taco flavors of beef, cheddar, and vegetables so well. I may have to whip this up every taco night!

Helpful Hints: I didn’t measure as I was making this, so the ingredients below are an estimate. It’s probably best to taste as you go, adding more sunflower seeds and smoked paprika if necessary.

Cilantro and Sunflower Seed Pesto
Source: Adapted from Just Making Noise

1 large bunch cilantro leaves (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Place the cilantro, sunflower seeds, garlic, paprika, and pinch of salt in a food processor. Process until everything is finely chopped, and then stop to scrape down the sides.  Continue processing, adding olive oil as necessary until the mixture forms a smooth paste.