My Favorite Guacamole

 Does anything say game day more than chips and dip? Maybe like…wings, but for the purposes of this blog, let’s go with “no.” You simply can’t have game day without chips and dip! I mean, when it comes down to it, everybody’s mostly there for the food, am I right?!

I mentioned yesterday that football isn’t my thing, but that won’t discourage me from accepting an invitation for a Super Bowl party. Ohhhh no. I’ve got a strategy.

I’ll come over and make nice during the pre-game show, and then while everyone else is yelling at the TV about first downs and safeties, I’ll be in the back demolishing the guacamole I brought for “everyone.” And by “everyone,” I mean “you may all have two bites and the rest is for me, okay?” 

You see, I make ridiculous guacamole. There’s nothing fancy about it–it’s just some vegetables mashed together–but everywhere I take it, it becomes a hit. My friend, David, insists that I make the best guacamole in the world. I don’t know about the world, but how about the best in the four block span between our apartments?

Maybe just my block?

Just my building? Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Let’s go with that.

So, what makes this recipe such a crowd pleaser? It’s all made to taste. Since vegetables are seasonal, and this entire recipe relies on fresh vegetables, the stellar recipe I made in April can taste very blah come October. So taste, taste, taste. 

Start with ripe avocados. They should have a little give when you press the skin lightly with your fingers. If they are super squishy, back away–the insides are probably black and watery. Gross. So grab three ripe avocados. Pit them and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Then dice half a small onion and add that too. You may use red or white here, but red tends to have a stronger flavor. If raw onion isn’t your favorite thing, go for the white variety. Me though? I like raw onion on everything.

Next, dice up a couple of fresh jalapeños. If you are sensitive to heat, remove the seeds and ribs with a spoon. Then, dice it up. Regardless of how spicy you like your guacamole, it’s a good idea to taste a tiny piece of the jalapeño before adding it to the bowl. If it’s crazy-burn-your-tongue-off hot, maybe only add one full pepper. If it’s mild, go ahead and add two. The batch pictured has two whole large jalapeños, one with seeds and ribs, one without. Oh, and a quick reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly after handling hot peppers. And for the love of everything, don’t touch your face! I made that mistake in 2011, and it took an hour to stop burning 😁

Don’t be like me. 

 Anyway, mince up some garlic and add it to the bowl. I like two whole cloves, but if you’re sensitive to raw garlic, only add one. Squeeze in the juice of a lime and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then, grab a potato masher or a fork and mash the living daylights out of everything until it’s to your desired consistency. Fold in some chopped cilantro and taste and adjust. Need more heat? Add more jalapeño! Need more lime? Squeeze another one! Not salty enough? I usually end up adding an additional 1/4 teaspoon, keeping in mind that the chips are salty too. Then put it in a cute bowl and serve it with tortilla chips. 

I know many people like their guacamole with diced tomatoes. I do too, but the February tomatoes I saw at the market yesterday were just too sad to use. If you find some that look good, by all means, use them! I recommend using two or three medium tomatoes that have been seeded. Just dice them the same size as the onion and jalapeños.

So, this weekend, make this guacamole and bring it to your Super Bowl party. It may not be the best in the whole world, but it’ll be the best at your get-together 😊 

Need more game day food? Check out my Artichoke Dip, Restaurant-Style Salsa, and Double Chocolate Fritos Cookies!

Classic Guacamole
makes about four cups

3 large ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 small red or white onion, diced small
1-2 jalapeños, diced small (ribs and seeds removed, optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, plus more to taste.
1/4-1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
tortilla chips, for serving

In a large bowl, combine avocados, diced onion and jalapeño, minced garlic, lime juice, and salt. Use a potato masher or fork to thoroughly mash all ingredients together. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in cilantro. Transfer guacamole to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with tortilla chips. 

Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars

 
I spend my life rushing. Rushing to bake, rushing to nanny, rushing to deliver cakes. Like this week–I have had four separate celebration cake orders. It wouldn’t be much for a bakery, but I am just one woman with one small oven and the world’s tiniest fridge. So, I rush. And I don’t remember to eat. I am asked often how I maintain a healthy weight with all the baking, and the answer is that I don’t actually eat much of it. No, I don’t have great self-control. After three years of near-constant baking, I just see cake and pie and cookies as projects most of the time. I taste-test, to be sure, and I have had cookies for dinner more than a few times, but for the most part, when I bake something it’s either picked at for several days or given away.

All that said, I am often so scattered that I forget to eat until I am halfway to wherever I’m going. Most of the time, I stop into the nearest corner store to get Cheez-Its and a Diet Coke. It keeps me from passing out, but it’s not a healthy or sustainable way to eat. 

I’ve been making a few changes to my diet this month, as evidenced by all the whole grain and grain-free recipes I’ve been posting. Today is the final post of this healthier January, and so I am posting what has become my Cheez-Its alternative: Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars. They’re like a cross between blondies, muffins, and granola bars, made with whole wheat flour and oats, dotted with dried cranberries, and scented with orange zest. They’re soft, chewy, and not too sweet, with a flavor that is wholesome and delicious. They’re great for on-the-go, a sweet treat in school lunches, and after-school snacks. They also make a fantastic dessert with a little vanilla ice cream. 

 

Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars are quick and easy to put together. They start with creaming softened unsalted butter and orange sugar until it’s all light and fluffy. Orange sugar is easy to make–just add the zest of an orange to some brown sugar, and rub it together with your fingers like you would if you were trying to remove dried school glue. This brings out the oils in the orange zest and starts to melt the brown sugar. Once the butter and brown sugar are combined, beat in an egg, followed by some vanilla.
 Beat in a mixture of white whole wheat flour, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt, followed by a cup of old-fashioned oats. All that’s left to add are some dried cranberries that have been plumped in hot water. This little act of soaking the dried fruit ensures that the pieces are more juicy than waxy. Spread the batter into a parchment-lined pan and bake 20-25 minutes, until the bars are just done. Let them cool to room temperature and then hang out in the fridge for an hour or so. Refrigerating the bars helps them to slice cleanly.

These bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or wrapped individually in plastic wrap so they’re easy to grab as you’re running out the door! Make a batch of Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars this weekend so you can enjoy them all week long 😊 

 Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars
makes one 8×8″ pan, about 16 bars

6 tablespoons water
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8″ pan and line it with parchment. Grease parchment. Set aside.

Heat water to a simmer, and pour it into a small bowl. Stir in dried cranberries. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, rub orange zest into light brown sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, together white whole wheat flour, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until it’s fluffy and lighter in color. Beat in light brown sugar mixture, followed by the egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture until completely combined. Beat in oats.

Drain dried cranberries and fold them into the batter. Spread batter into prepared pan. Tap the full pan on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack before refrigerating for at least one hour. Slice into bars.

Bars will keep covered at room temperature for up to one week.


Note:

Regular whole wheat flour may be substituted for white whole wheat flour.