Monday, September 26, 2011

The Best Guacamole Ever

Everything you need for great guacamole is in this photo!

The best guacamole I ever had was at the Acapulco Princess Hotel. I was there with my Mom and my Aunt Lynn. While Mom was working, Lynn and I soaked up the sun and ate quite a bit of guacamole! It was a really long time ago so I can’t really quite remember what made it so amazing, but ever since that trip I have been trying to recreate the awesomeness of that perfect green dip. I have succeeded in coming pretty close. Here is my recipe.

This recipe will feed 4-6 people as an appetizer, with chips. And make sure you choose good chips - our favourites are made by Que Pasa.

2 large avocados
2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Lemon juice – about the juice of ½ lemon, but you might like more (or less)
Tomato (or salsa) – one small tomato or a couple of tbsp of salsa
Sambal Olek (Thai chilie sauce) – start with a good teaspoon, then taste and add more
Salt & pepper to taste

Optional additions (not in the photo):
Fresh cilantro, cumin, sour cream, lime – one at a time or all together

I like to use one soft avocado for every firm avocado; that way you get a chunkier guacamole and you experience different textures of the avocado as you are eating. Some hipster bloggers might actually dare to say that it gives “good mouth feel”, but I would never say that because I am not a hipster.

Slice the avocado with a knife and break it in half. Hit the sharp edge of the knife on the pit of the avocado and twist it out. Remove the deliciousness from the skin, and put it into a bowl. Save the pit (I will tell you why later). Repeat with all avocados.


Toss all the other ingredients into the bowl and mix it lightly with a fork.

Taste your guacamole. Is it super awesome? Great. Not so super awesome? It might need more lemon juice. Maybe more hot sauce. Likely more salt and pepper. 

Once you are happy with the taste, decide when you are going to serve it. If your guests are at the table and you need to serve right away, put it in a nice bowl, pour some chips into another bowl, and go mad. If you are planning to serve it later, put it into a container with a lid and add the pits back into the container. The pits will help prevent the guacamole from turning brown. For real!

If you decide that you want to spice up your guacamole, you could go with the cumin – it adds a nice smokiness without being too chipotle-ish. Or, add some chopped cilantro. Sour cream makes it creamier which can sometimes repair your guac if your avocados are not ripe enough. I sometimes use lime juice instead of lemon juice, and sometimes, when it’s Crazy Day, I use both. It’s up to you because you are the Chef.

Also goes well with quesadillas! And tacos! And burritos!

Roasted Squash Soup with Coconut Milk & Thai Spices

My husband has many nicknames; one of them is The King of Soup. He creates some of his masterpieces himself and for some he follows recipes, and then adds his own twist. On Sunday he made this beautiful squash soup – spicy, velvety, sweet, amazing.

One of the books that he and I reference regularly is called 500 Soups, by Susannah Blake. That is where this recipe comes from.


1 butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into chunks
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 green chillies, seeded and shredded (we used red chillies) (see tip below)
2 lemongrass stalks, chopped (see tip below)
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (see tip below)
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 ¾ cups coconut milk (we used light coconut milk)
Juice of about 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the squash in a baking dish, drizzle 1 tbsp of the oil over it, and toss to coat. Roast for about 25 minutes until tender.  If you cut the chunks of squash a little bigger, it will take longer to roast.


Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook gently for about 3 minutes.  Add the chillies, lemongrass, lime leaves, stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add the roasted squash to the soup, then stir in the lime juice and fish sauce to taste.

Now here is the King of Soup’s twist on this recipe – take the soup and puree it with a hand blender. Then ladle the pureed soup into a strainer and press the puree through the strainer using the back of the ladle. Do this ladleful by ladleful until all the puree has turned into velvet. (The cookbook recommends serving it as-is, with chunks of squash left whole – we prefer it in its velvety form.)

Portion out into bowls and sprinkle fresh cilantro on top to serve (optional - we didn't have any when I took this photo). Makes 4 good-sized helpings.

Tip: You can prepare a whole bunch of lemongrass ahead of time and freeze it for later use. You can do the same with the chilies and the lime leaves - just pop them into a ziploc bag and keep them in the freezer. Believe it or not, you can also do this with fresh ginger! When you take it out of the freezer, peel it with a potato peeler and you're good to go.  For those of you who live around great Asian supermarkets, like T and T, you can buy prepared lemongrass already frozen!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

We aim to please and are therefore, providing a recipe for your four-legged friends! The other night, my son and I were talking about what we could make next for the blog and at that moment, our new puppy charged into the room and slid into her bowl of food (empty because she had already eaten). Dog biscuits, I thought!

Our inspiration - Kugel the Poodle

I searched the web for some recipes – there are so many on there to choose from – but this one came up on at least 5 different sites so we thought it must be good. I don’t remember all the sites we checked, but I do remember that one of them was the Brown Eyed Baker’s site (since I love that site), so that is the reference I am providing.

We whipped these up in no time at all – and the puppy loves them. It’s also much less expensive to make your own treats, rather than buying some from the pet store.

Here is the recipe.

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

In a bowl, cream together the peanut butter and milk. 
Then add the flour and baking powder. Mix well. 



Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times and then form it into a nice round lump. Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out shapes.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown (they took 15 minutes in our oven – we cooked them at 350 degrees F on ‘convect’). Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 20-30 dog biscuits, depending on which shape cookie cutter you use.

She loves them!

Braised French Lentils

As a vegetarian who doesn’t like tofu, I eat a lot of lentils as a source of protein. To prevent boredom, I endeavour to find as many ways as possible to prepare them. A couple of years ago I was at a restaurant on the Danforth (in Toronto) and tried braised French lentils – it was my first time having French lentils (also called du Puy lentils) and I really liked them for their earthy flavour, and firm, round texture.

I figured out how to make something that tasted pretty much like what I had in that restaurant, and this weekend I invited a friend over for some cooking and we made this dish. We went to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients and to my chagrin; I could not find French lentils. So the photo you see for this recipe is actually of mostly red lentils, with whatever amount of French lentils I had left in my pantry thrown in to the mix! It was still delicious and I plan to eat it today for lunch.

For those of you out there who eat and enjoy meat, you can serve this with whatever meat or fish you like. When I first had it in that restaurant, they served it with pistachio-crusted salmon, and green beans. At the time I was still eating fish, and this was just a fabulous combination. For all the vegetarians out there, this can easily be a main dish as it is quite hearty. Below you will find my made-up recipe – enjoy!

Braised French Lentils
1/8 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 – 3 stalks celery, diced
2 – 3 carrots, diced
½ bottle red wine
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 cups French lentils
6 cups of just boiled water
Rosemary & thyme (or herbes de Provence) - a few teaspoons of herbs in total
salt & pepper

Slice the onions and yes, you guessed it, caramelize them in the olive oil (I am sure you have noticed by now that I am a big fan of caramelized onions!). To caramelize the onions, start the heat on high, and then after a couple of minutes lower the heat to medium. The process will take 20 to 30 minutes in total. At around the last 5 minutes mark, add the crushed garlic and some salt and pepper.
Add the carrots and celery and the red wine to deglaze the pan. Let this cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Then add the sweet potatoes, the lentils, the water, the herbs and the salt and pepper.

Let this simmer on low heat, uncovered, until the lentils are the texture you like (I like mine still a bit firm, which last night took about 20 - 25 minutes).

Serve as a side dish, or as a main. Perfect for those blustery autumn nights ahead of us.