Archive for the ‘Condiments’ Category

“Greek” Guac

September 19, 2011

I looooooooove guacamole.  It leaves salsa in the dust any day of the week in my book.  avocados have a fair amount of fat, but it’s healthy, plant-based fat, rather than the artery-clogging animal-based fat.  Traditional guacamole is simple–mashed avocado, salt, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and perhaps some jalapeno and minced onion.  Some call for freshly diced tomatoes, others call for sour cream.  I’ve made it in a wide variety of combinations and I love them all.

On a recent night I was making fish tacos and had half of an avocado in my fridge.  Knowing that small amount wouldn’t be enough, I considered how I could ‘stretch’ it a little.  Non-fat Greek yogurt to the rescue!  By adding just a touch of the yogurt, it added creaminess, tang, and smoothed out the consistency of my guacamole.  Best of all, it adds some protein and calcium, which is an added bonus.  Even my all-things-green-skeptical children proclaimed it “mmmmm–delicious!”.

Serve with tacos, on top of a burger, or simply with tortilla chips (check out my easy homemade tortilla chip recipe here).

“Greek” Guacamole

Makes 1.5-2 cups

1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

2-4 tablespoons non-fat plain Greek yogurt (adjust to taste/desired consistency)

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

By hand, mash the avocado with a fork until creamy.  Add additional ingredients and continue to mash/stir until smooth.

In a food processor, add all ingredients to work bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse until smooth.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.
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Product Profile: Easy Brownies and Sweet Sprinkles

August 22, 2011

I love trying new products, especially when it comes to new foods!  On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, it was so nice to see so many new products on the shelves.  One that caught my eye was the  “Ready to Bake Brownies“, which is basically pre-mixed brownie batter that you just pour into a pan and bake.  I’m a huge fan of their Truffle Brownie Mix (which I think is the closest to homemade that you’ll get without it actually being from scratch), so I figured this was worth a try.  Not that it is particularly difficult to mix up a batch of brownies, but particularly since I was just in a beach rental house for two weeks, I was thinking how convenient this would be to bring along to a place where you may not have eggs or vegetable oil readily available (this winter, think ski house apres-ski brownies!)

The verdict?  Well, the brownies couldn’t have been easier.  Just pour into a greased 8×8 pan and bake for 20-22 minutes.  As for taste, well, I don’t like them as much as I like the TJ’s Truffle Brownies, but they weren’t bad at all, especially considering they took all of 30 seconds to prepare for the oven.  I found them a little more cake-like than I prefer (I’m a chewy brownie fan), but based on how quickly my daughter’s group of girlfriends gobbled them up, they passed the taste-test.

The other new item I picked up was the “Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder“.  I had to look at it for a minute or two to even figure out what it was, but I liked the name!  Basically, it’s a little pepper grinder filled with, no surprise, sugar, chocolate and coffee beans.  The label suggests grinding it over “cupcakes, coffee, tea, buttered toast, or ice cream…”.  Since I’d just picked up the brownie mix, I thought, “or brownies!”.   I spread some white vanilla frosting on a few of the brownies and ground away, and not only did it make a pretty topping, but gave the brownies a tiny bit of crunch and extra sweetness I loved.  I think it would also be great ground over a cappuccino or latte as an alternative to cinnamon.  Okay, it’s a bit of an indulgence item, but what the heck.  Live a little.

Testing these items certainly didn’t fit in with my post-vacation diet plan, but hey, it was ‘for work’!  Enjoy!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Smokefest ’11

July 25, 2011

Three summers ago our friends started what has become a July tradition.  “Big Mike” as my kids call him, has been brewing beer and  smoking meat for years, and his girlfriend is a fabulous cook, gardener, and all-around party planner.  When these New York City mice decided to buy a New York country house, they put their talents together and Smokefest was born.

Of course the highlight of the party is the meat.  Mike gets up at 7am  to start the smokers and prepare the 16 racks of  pork ribs and 15 lbs of brisket.  The brisket and half the ribs are prepped simply with salt and pepper, and the other half of the ribs get a dry rub the night before.  He may be a barbeque weekend warrior, but he’s no hack.  In fact, while smoking ribs for a charity event in Connecticut, Jacques Pepin stopped by for a taste and proclaimed “THOSE are some great ribs!”

Daniela makes a wide variety of side dishes—fresh from the garden.  This year she had a 6 foot grill loaded up with summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and 4 dozen ears of corn.  If that wasn’t delicious enough, she and Mike make a Cilantro-Lime Butter sauce (see recipe below) to brush on the corn which is De. Licious.  There are also salads galore—from potato, to tomato-peach, to cucumber, and more.  This year one neighbor brought some killer mac-and-cheese which you just couldn’t stop eating.

My favorite thing is the “Tavern”, a quaint little outbuilding (which Mike says is a character itself for this party), where little lights are strung along the ceiling, and coolers are filled with homebrewed beer (I loved the “6” a blonde beer), chilled whites and roses, water and soda.  Out back is a fire pit—where my kids spent most of the day filling s’more orders (you could choose from ‘burned’, ‘golden brown’ or ‘plain’ marshmallows, and could have your chocolate ‘very melty’ or just ‘kind of melty’).

It is so much fun to go to a party that’s all about the food.  It’s not anyone’s birthday and no one is being feted.  It’s just a gathering of people who love food, hosted by people who REALLY love food.  I can’t think of a better reason for a celebration!  Go Meat!

Smokefest Cilantro-Lime Butter

Courtesy of Mike and Daniela

3 limes, juiced

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

salt

In a small saucepan, reduce the lime juice until it is syrupy. Add butter, and melt.  Season to taste with salt and add cilantro at the end.  Brush on grilled corn or any veggies (also makes a great topping for clams!)

Hint:  Mike says you can spice it up by adding 1/2 tsp of chipotle!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Sicilians Like it Hot

December 13, 2010

The house specialty at one of my favorite pizza joints is what’s called a “hot oil pie”.  I know how gross that sounds, because I had the same reaction the first time I heard it.  However, when you realize that it’s ‘hot’ as in spicy and not ‘hot’ as in very warm, it takes on a whole new dimension.  Just a drizzle of hot oil over super-thin crust pizza ….if you like things on the spicy side, you’re hooked for life.

You can imagine how happy I was when I saw one of the new selections in frozen pizza case at Trader Joe’s (again, so sorry for all of you who aren’t lucky enough to have a TJ’s near you!)…TJ’s Organic Woodfired Sicilian Pizza.  The pizza itself isn’t anything unique– just a regular crust with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers.  What makes it special is the little packet of spicy oil that is inside the box, which is to be drizzled on top of the pizza half-way through the cooking time.  YUM.  I had no idea this spicy oil was Sicilian.  No wonder I love it so much!

What’s even better, is you can make your own spicy oil at home in a very short amount of time.  Make a batch and store it in your refrigerator.  Just allow to come to room temperature before drizzling on pizza, or anything else that needs a little Sicilian spice!

Sicilian Hot Oil

1/2 cup olive or canola oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Place oil and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and heat for around five minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.   Store in a glass bottle or jar with a tight fitting cap/lid in the refrigerator.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Top picture from wikipedia.org.