Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pasta with Walnut Pesto (Vegan & non-vegan possibilities)

Remember back when I was missing my husband because he was travelling while I was all alone with nobody to cook for?  Remember how I flipped through the latest Rachael Ray magazine and found four delicious recipes to try?  Well, we tried one the other night.

(Picture taken from rachaelray.com... this one is much
prettier than the one I took!)
Oh.my.goodness.  So good! 

The best part is that it has no dairy, nothing fattening, and since I don't like ham, I left that part out of the recipe.  I actually put in chicken sausage, but you could easily make it without and you have a vegan dish that tastes amazing.  Or you can put sausage in (like I did) and it tastes amazing as well.  Either way: amazing.  Seriously, it's just pasta, spinach, mushrooms, and a pesto sauce made of garlic, walnuts, parsley, lemon juice, and some zested lemon peel.  Super natural, super healthy, super easy, super delicious... basically, it is the new Super Food!

Here, have it... I took out the "add ham" parts to make it purely vegan (since I know those of you with this diet don't get as many recipes as the rest of us) but if you want to try it with the sausage just cook some in the mushroom pan before you put the mushrooms in.  Try it and let me know what you think :)


  • 1 pound whole wheat penne rigate pasta    
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin oive oil    
  • 2 cups white mushrooms (about 5 ounces), thinly sliced
  • One 6-ounce bag baby spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup walnut pieces (about 4 ounces), toasted
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • Grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
  3. Using a small food processor, mince the garlic. Add the walnuts, parsley and lemon peel and process until finely chopped. With the machine on, add the lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Process to form a paste.
  4. Add the walnut pesto and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the pasta; toss to coat thoroughly. Stir in the mushroom/spinach mixture, adding more pasta water if needed; season with salt and pepper.

(Recipe and picture taken from rachaelray.com)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cooking with Friends: Tommy


Meet my little brother.  Isn't he cute?  Well, he doesn't really look like that anymore, obviously, but I still think he is cute.  Just in a more grown up, manly way.  (And yes, I know, my glasses were awesome.)

Tommy is not a cook.  He can cook, I guess, but I have never really seen proof of these skills.  No wait, I have...  one day, when I came home from high school tired, Tommy said, "Sis, I am going to make you dinner!"  He had a big smile plastered on his face.  Being six and half years younger than me, that would put him at about 5th or 6th grade at this time.  I was curious to see what cooking skills an elementary schooler would have, so I sat down at the table and waited.  It didn't take long.  About five minutes later, beaming from ear to ear, Tommy presented me with my dinner: a bowl of Easy Mac. 

No bowl of mac n' cheese could ever beat that one.

Later, when he was in high school and he was visiting me at my place, he said those typical words of a teenage boy:  "I'm hungry."  So I told him to go into the kitchen and get something to eat.  "What am I supposed to eat? (grumble grumble)"  Suggestions went up, grilled cheese, tuna sandwich, quesadilla... each one was met with, "I don't know how to do it."  "Alright," I said while pulling him into the kitchen, "I am going to teach you how to make a quesadilla.  It is really easy."  (Grumble grumble)  And then he asked me the question that I hope he has learned by now to never ask the other women in his life: "Why do I have to make it?  Why can't you?"  Ha!  Yeah right, Buster Brown!  Well, Tommy learned how to make a quesadilla that day, and although he wasn't outwardly showing his happiness, I am sure on the inside he was oozing with gratefulness that I was helping him survive against future starvation.

Or maybe not.  Whatever.

This week he was back to visit, a little older, a little wiser.  Now he is a married man with a career and a life of his own.  And from what I hear, a little more cooking skills than before.  After I begged and pleaded gently suggested, he decided to help me cook dinner one night.  It was no new recipe to you (if you have been following this blog) but I will put the link to it  HERE so that you, too, might try. 

The store was out of large Portobello's so we used stuffing sized ones.

Proof that I am working, too.  He is busy making the sauce while
I am fixin' up some mashed potatoes.

The look of success!
(Or maybe, "Yeah yeah, I did it, now let's eat!!!)

INGREDIENTS:  (My changes are in italics.)

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps, stemmed and gills scraped out
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard


  1. In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the flour and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In an extra-large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Rinse half of the mushrooms quickly and shake in the bag of seasoned flour, then add to the pan and cook, turning once or twice, until golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  2. Add the onions to the pan, lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Carefully pour in the cognac, simmer until nearly evaporated, then stir in the peppercorns, bouillon base and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the cream and mustard. Return the mushrooms to the pan and simmer, turning the mushrooms occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to serving plates and continue to simmer the sauce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the mushrooms.
I always make mashed potatoes and use the extra sauce as a gravy.  I serve with green beans.  Mmm mmm good!

COST: $8.65      PER SERVING (4): $2.16
Plus potatoes and green beans: $3.30

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blueberries N' Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

All my fear yesterday was for naught.  My blueberry coffee cake turned out fabulously.  With all the cream cheese in there it is somewhat of a cross between coffee cake and cheesecake.  Mmm mmm good. 


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, diced

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon peel. Combine 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk and water. In a bowl, toss blueberries with remaining flour; fold into batter along with cream cheese. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.
  • For topping, combine the flour, sugar and lemon peel in a bowl; cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 15 servings.

 Note: If using frozen blueberries, use without thawing to avoid discoloring the batter.
(Recipe taken from the Taste of Home cookbook.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To bake or not to bake, that is the question.

Baking is just not my thing.  I love to eat baked goods, but the process of making them... bleh. 

Maybe it is because it is so exact.  No taste testing along the way to see if you a need a bit more of this, a pinch of that. 

Or maybe it is because it tries your patience.  You work so hard, create something that (cross your fingers!) will be delicious, and then you plop it in the oven and wait.  The smell starts taking over the house, and yet you still need to wait.  Then you take it out and let it cool, waiting some more.  But sometimes I don't want to wait, darn it!  Sometimes I want it now.

Honestly, though, I think it is a little bit of those things combined with my own baking experiences.  Not counting the times I "helped" my mom in the kitchen (which I am old enough to now know really means "made the process long and drawn out and little messier than needed"), I have not had that many successful baking experiences.  My made from scratch brownies always turn out a bit dry, my cookies a bit flat, my cakes merely "OK".  I called my grandma one day to get help with cookies because, as we all know, grandmas are the queens of cookie-making.  She listened to me patiently explain what I was doing and then asked her for advice in getting my cookies a little more, well, cookie-like.  "Honey," she sighed, "why don't you just do it like normal people?  Go to the store and buy some Pillsbury."


And I really don't want to tell you about the time I mistook olive oil for canola oil in Paulo's favorite Brazilian cake...  let me just say that is smelled delicious.  But smells and tastes can be quite different.  Trust me.

But my banana-nut bread it good.  It is proof that I can do some baking right.

Tonight I am at the baking thing again.  I am hosting a baby shower tomorrow and since it is for a boy baby that is on his way, I thought blueberry coffee cake sounded good to go along with everything else that will be blue there.  Of course, instead of  the 25 minutes prep time that it said it would take, I took 55.  My workspace was small and my kitchen became messy.  And I have a little burn on my finger.  But it is smelling really good.  REALLY GOOD.  Let's just hope that this time the smells and the tastes match up!

My workstation for tonight. 

(I told you I have a small kitchen.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

He said, She said.

My handsome man and I were on the phone the other day, just shooting the breeze while he was on his way home, when this conversation came up:

Him: So, what are you doing right now?

Her: Just eating a snack and relaxing. 

Him:  Nice.  Anything delicious?

Her:  You bet, cottage cheese and orange juice.  It is a healthy snack.

Him: Cottage cheese and orange juice?!

Her:  Well, not together!  Like, I have a bowl of cottage cheese in front of me and a glass of orange juice off to the side.  No worries, I didn't mix them or anything.

Him:  Still, that's weird.

Her:  Weird?  What's so weird about it?

Him:  Cottage cheese is from milk.  You are eating fruit with milk.

Her:  And?

Him:  It's weird.

Her:  No, it's not.  People mix fruit with cottage cheese all the time.

Him:  But it's still weird.

Her:  No!  You mix milk with fruit when you make your smoothie things...

Him:  But that's different...

Her:  Really, how is that different?

Him:  It gets all mixed up, you know... it's just different.

Her:  Um... not really sure I see the difference...

Him:  Well, this is coming from the girl who eats peanut butter on bananas.

So, what's this picture of our wedding got to do with this? 


Isn't this what marriage is all about, really?  Taking two people, two ideas of what is weird and what isn't, and mixing it all together until you have one big crazy mess of this and that, but it all works beautifully.  I still maintain that cottage cheese and OJ is a great snack (and I had some today, btw!) while Paulo will forever hold to the belief that the two should not be side by side.  Yes, I may eat my bananas with peanut butter, but he eats his with rice and beans, for goodness sake!  And that is great.  It's like the avocados... two different ways of seeing the world (in this case, food), yet in the end I would rather have my non-cottage-cheese-with-orange-juice eating husband by my side than anybody else.  And honestly, I think these differences bring a lot of spice to our life... and just like any food that you set in front of you, it is the spice that you put into it that makes all the difference!

PS -- I know I have not been putting a lot of actual cooking posts up lately.  That's because I have not been cooking a lot of new things recently.  I have a CRAZY summer schedule, so if you are looking for good recipes, you might have to look elsewhere for awhile.  But there will be a few scattered here and there, so keep your eyes peeled!  (I have some good things coming your way...)  Besides, I don't consider this just a "cooking blog", I consider this more of a "glimpse of my life through the lens of food" blog.  And food comes in many forms other than cooking, such as the snack/conversation above :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Sounds like I am about to write a love poem to my husband, huh?  Although there are many, many things I could say about him, this post is not about my love for him.  It is about my other love: Trader Joe's.

Why do I love this store so much you ask?  Well...

there are my favorite non-homemade cookies in the whole world. 

These come in several flavors, all delicious, but my favorite is Candy Cane.

What can I say?

I am a sucker for Christmassy goodness. 

Then, of course, we have all those amazing staples at such a low price.

OJ, cream cheese, eggs, butter...

... you name it, they probably have it.  And preservative free.  LOVE IT! 
(Does this one even need an
explanation, really?)

Yum.  Discovered this one today. 

Let me say it again.  Yum

Now, before you think all I eat is sweets,
let me tell you about edamame hummus.  Sounds
good, huh?  That's because it is.  Good tasting and good for you.

And so is the garlic hummus.

And sun dried tomato hummus.  And... well... you get the idea. 

Chicken Sausage.

For a non-pork eater, this is 'da bomb!

(Yes, I really did just say that.)

The Sample Section = my favorite place in the store.  I find so many good, easy recipes there for lazy evenings.

Tonight's sample was meatballs, pineapple chunks, and Soyaki. 


And for you vegetarians out there who are like, "Yuck, meatballs!"  You can put those "yucks" behind you because they have meatless-balls for you.  Nice, huh?

As well as other meatless products... 

So we have the snacks, the desserts, the delicious dinner options, the basic food supplies.  But what are we going to drink with our dinner?  Or lunch?  Or snack?  Have no fear, they have wonderful choices for that, too.

All of this, and my grocery bill has shrunk considerably since I started doing the bulk of my shopping here instead of other unnamed stores.  And who doesn't like the island feel and crazy/fun workers? 

I have often dreamed of packing up and moving overseas again someday, but this might be the very thing that keeps me local.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thirty Days -- Day 31: The Thirty Day Challenge was so yesterday...

As of last night, I have successfully completed my Thirty Day Challenge. In true teacher-fashion, let me break this down for you in a few main areas.
(Photo courtesy of weheartit.com)

The challenge was to...
  • not spend any money on food that did not come from my regular grocery store trips, including dining out, fast food, snacks such as Starbucks, or take-out for 30 days (May 16 -- June 16).
A quick recap looks something like this...
  • On Day 1, I realized that many, many people had read about this, so I had no option to fail.  That was good for me.
  • Day 4 found me realizing that sometimes my careful planning was not carefully planned enough, and I had no quick fix to solve the problem.
  • We found new and fun ways to curb our boredom on Day 7 that did not include spending money on ice cream or some other treat.
  • On Day 16 I walked down Santana Row and realized how amazing everything smelled, yet I found the strength to say no even though I wanted to say, "YES, Let me have some of that, and that... and that!"
  • Day 29 gave me time to reflect on how great it is to have friends in your life -- especially when you are trying something different.
  • Yesterday, Day 30, I could successfully say I DID IT!  And then I realized that it was not just 30 days, but 32 days, because I went from the 16th to the 16th (which gives an extra day right there) in a month that has 31 days (and there is Day 32). 
Three things I learned from this are...
  • Our culture GREATLY revolves around food, and especially dining out.  There were times when I could not spend time with my friends because I needed to "just say no".  I don't think this is a bad thing, but I have decided I would like to make more opportunities for my friends to spend time together without spending so much on food.  Let's get back to potlucks and movie nights!  Just as fun, and way cheaper.
  • I am an impulse food buyer.  Giving up going out to eat for dinner was not that hard as I can make really good food at home (although sometimes I just don't feel like it).  The challenge was saying no to the smells that wafted in the air as I passed a bakery, the sight of well advertised food, or suggestions from others.
  • Leftovers.  It is one little word, but it means so much. 
And there we have it, folks!  The funny thing is that I was just invited to Chipotle (one of my favorites) as I was typing this, and I turned down the invitation.  "Nah," I said, "I have some pasta in my fridge, I think I will just eat that.  But have a good time!"  I don't know if it is because I really want to eat the pasta or I don't want to spend the money I worked so hard to save, but I do know this: It was easy to say no.  What a change from 30, I mean 32, days ago!

Just something to think about!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thirty Days -- Day 29: I get by with a little help from my friends

Where would we be without friends?  Well, lonely (for one), bored (most of the time), and in my case, totally off the wagon.

The Thirty Day Challenge wagon, that is.

I cannot count the times that I have been able to pull in one more successful day because of the support of a friend.  For instance, there was the day I was running late and threw a bagel and a tub of peanut butter into my purse.  How I wish I could have gone on that show they used to have with the purse challenge.  If they asked for something edible I would have won, hands down.  That day worked out pretty well, but the next day I had no peanut butter to put on my bagel since I left the jar on my desk at work so I figured I would just take the bagel with me -- except I forgot at it at home.  So instead of a bagel with peanut butter I was just staring at just the peanut butter.  Not exactly considered food all by itself.  Imagine how happy I was when five minutes after arrived a colleague handed me a bowl of berries and said, "I have a lot today.  Want some?  And there is pastries in the kitchen if you want. Please, take some.  We have too many."


Or there was that day when another friend called me to meet at a restaurant.  Of course, I had to say no.  "Ok, how about In n' Out and we just get soda?"  Still no.  I told her not to worry, I would meet her there and get a water.  It may just be $2, but my deal was no money spent on things other than from my kitchen; $20 or $2, it did not matter.  Yet when I arrived she had a soda cup in her hand and an empty one across from her, waiting for me.  Not only was it sweetened with (loads of) sugar, but the rootbeer that afternoon was extra delicious with a large scoop of kindness mixed in.

Things like this, as well as other friends inviting me over to their house while my husband was out of town for ten days or having a positive attitude when asked to eat my home cooked food instead of that of a professional chef made the past twenty-nine days positive.

Tomorrow is Day 30.  I have come this far, I will not fail.

Next 36 hours?  Bring it on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tiffany has an epiphany...

Fruit.  Most people love it.  Or hate it.  Whatever.  But they eat it. 

Not me. 

The thing is, I like it.  It tastes good enough, and I know my body likes it too since it is packed with essential nutrients.  I guess it just boils down to this: If I can choose between carrots or a banana, I will choose the carrots.  Celery or an apple?  Give me the celery.  Salad?  Yum?  Fruit salad?  It is OK.  So although I like it, I like veggies better. (In my defense, I do drink fruit juice daily.  And I do eat fruit.  Just not a lot...)   

As I was at the gym today, working my butt off -- literally -- I started thinking about my after work snack that I enjoy every day.  Chocolate soy milk and a few Joe-Joe's (Trader Joe's version of Oreos.  Oh so tasty!)  As I was thinking about it, I started thinking about all the work I was doing at that moment.  Cardio, crunches, lunges.  My chocolate Silk and cookies sounded delicious, but they also sounded counter-intuitive.  Why would I be working so hard to just go put that in my body?  But I needed something to fill that spot and wouldn't you know it, the food pyramid popped into my head.

Look at all that fruit there.  Bananas, watermelon, oranges, lemons, strawberries, grapes, apples...  Have you ever played Jenga before?  I really hate that game, it stresses me out.  But I started thinking about this food pyramid like a Jenga tower.  If I take out that fruit section, what happens?  Well, the whole thing comes toppling down.

 Honestly, I don't want my whole life/health to come toppling down.

Clearly, something needed to be done.  I walked out that gym door to the one right next door -- my favorite -- Trader Joe's.  Walking down the aisles I picked up bananas, an apple, a peach, dried fruit for snacks, and juice.  I may not like to eat fruit, but I sure do enjoy drinking it, so why not replace that glass of chocolate soy milk for fruit?  And besides, my dear friend Lisa bought me that blender as a wedding present to be used, not just sit in the cupboard all year long, right?  It is time to put it to use!

Check out my fruit bowl.  (The top one is sad, I know.  Trust me, the veggie drawers in the fridge are full.)
I know it is not a lot, but Trader Joe's fruit is pricey.  This is to get me going.  Then a trip to my favorite Mexican grocery store is in order.
I timed myself to see how long it would take... 5 minutes.  I can easily give myself 5 minutes a day.  And you know what?  It was good!  Tasted delicious and it was filling.  Not only that, but I feel good.  I know I put healthy things into my body and all that hard work at the gym seems not in vain.  I am going to try this and see how it goes.  Not that this means I am giving up my chocolate Silk and cookies, but just cutting back on them.  Wish me luck!

(My parents should be so proud.  My least favorite house rule growing up was that I had to eat a piece of fruit with my breakfast, and now I am doing it on my own.  It may have taken years, but that message they put in me did get stored away somewhere...)

Fruit Smoothie on FoodistaFruit Smoothie

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The future is looking bright...

My husband has been out of town for the past few days and won't be back for a few days more.  With him being gone it is certainly different around here.  Quiet, for one.  Not because he talks a lot -- more like I have no listening ear available for me which means I cannot do my usual amount of talking.  Except when I talk out loud to myself... 

Anyway, moving on... 

I think the time I realize his absence the most is around dinner time.  I have no one to cook for and no one to eat with.  (And no one to do the dishes... hahaha!)  I have been eating really simply.  No worries, I am getting my greens and my food groups are all represented, but it is definitely much simpler food.  Less of it, too, because I just do not enjoy eating as much when I am sitting by myself.  I need him to come back for many reasons, but one is so I can have good food to both cook and eat again!

When he does, this is what I want to make:
(All photos courtesy of rachaelray.com)
ONE: Salmon with Lemon-Dressed Vegetables

TWO: Crunch on Top Tuna Burger

THREE: Roast Chicken with Panzanella

FOUR: Spinach and Mushroom Pasta with Walnut Pesto

Can you tell I have been spending some time looking through a Rachael Ray mag?  Go ahead, click on a link above to be taken to a recipe and if you try it before me, let me know it goes.  Otherwise, look for an update hopefully soon!

(A wife that not only misses him, but misses feeding him, too.  Isn't my husband a lucky guy?)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jamie Oliver -- A True (non)American Hero

I must admit it, Jamie Oliver is somewhat of a super star to me.  With so much trash on TV (enjoyable trash, albeit) it is nice to find a show that is promoting something good.  Not that it is the only one, I know you have all had a moment with the tissue box in your lap and a permanent smile pasted on your face as Ty Pennington and the crew shout out, "Move... That... Bus!"  Quality TV, to be assured.  It's just that with the Food Revolution it is something a little more to me.  I see others making a change, I learn something new, and then I in turn want to make a change for me. 

The thing that gets me, though, is in the midst of this there are so many people who are not just ignorant, because honestly, we can't really blame someone for being ignorant... most of the time.  You see it all the time, these people are (*gasp*) shocked to learn that feeding your kids food that came straight from the freezer into the deep frying cooker thing is bad for you.  They wax eloquent about how this is what their family knows and likes and what are they going to do differently, really?  Yet they are quick to (1) listen, (2) learn, and (3) make some healthy changes.

No, it is not the ignorance that gets to me.  Ignorance is often the result of a community, not an individual.  The thing that just gets me, and I mean GETS ME is that so many people are apathetic about it.  "Yeah," they say, "I know that is going to kill my children someday, but you know, they like it."  No, sorry, I don't know.  Really, honestly, truthfully, I just don't get that train of thought.  I do get not knowing how to fix it, I do get being sad you have to change a lifestyle you are deeply embedded in; these are things I get.  As someone who lived off of packaged foods for years, I understand that.  But I want more than just quick and easy and a heart attack on the side.

Hence my affection for Jamie.  He has chosen to fight a big fight.  I hope he wins.

(And besides, he makes cooking look so incredibly fun, doesn't he?   I totally look like that when I am cooking... Yeah, that was the sound of my nose growing a couple of inches that you just heard.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sometimes you must agree to disagree...

I have been hearing a lot about avocados lately.  First, I read an article about the health benefits them.  Then, I saw a poll in a magazine asking your favorite way to enjoy an avocado.  (I was torn between "plain with salt" and "as guacamole".  Both are so incredibly delicious, how could I choose between them, really?  In the end I settled on guacamole, but that came after a great argument back and forth raging through my head.)  Finally, I got in a debate about which way is the best to eat an avocado -- the Brazilian style or the American way.  I seem to be having this conversation a lot lately.

Sheesh, this seems to be much ado about nothing.  But no, it is not.  We are not talking about nothing here, we are talking about avocados, one of the most versatile and delicious fruits ever created. 

I, for one, am happiest when my avocado is surrounded by turkey slices, cream cheese, tomatoes, bread, and (most importantly) Guigni's Juice.  If you know what I am talking about, then you know what I am talking about.  For those of you less fortunate folks out there, let's suffice it say that you are missing out.  You may enjoy your avocados any way you like, but you are missing out. 

A few years back I had an experience that shattered my knowledge of avocados.  I was quietly minding my own business (in other words, I have no idea what I was actually doing) when my friend Querubia brought me a tall glass with something green inside.  "Try it," she requested, passing it off to me.  I had no idea what I was trying, but I am usually game for anything so I did.  "Well," she asked expectantly, "what do you think?"  Hmm.  Good question.  What did I think? 

"I think..."  Wait.  "I think..." (insert another sip)  "I think it tastes like a turkey sandwich!"

By the quick shake of her head and puzzled expression I could tell that was not the answer she expected.  She had made me an avocado smoothie and I told her it tasted like a sandwich.  In my defense, up until that moment I have only ever enjoyed avocados in sandwiches, salads, and guacamole.  Well, and plain with a little salt thrown on top, of course.   

Here is where my dilemma comes.  I, being raised in America, know that an avocado is a fruit yet I treat it like a vegetable.  In fact, the very definition of avocado shows me that this is to be expected:

av·o·ca·do  NOUN
green-fleshed edible fruit: a fruit with a leathery dark green or blackish skin, a large stony seed, and soft smooth-tasting pale green flesh, eaten raw in salads or dips
Yet, when I searched for a definition in Portuguese, I just saw the first part -- the fruit part.  No salads, no dips.  Although Paulo now has a taste for them in his sandwiches and enjoys guacamole like the rest of us, given his options, he would rather mash it up with sugar and lemon, grab a spoon, and enjoy. 

You should have seen the looks on the faces of the aunts and uncles in Brazil when I prepared guacamole for them.  Squeezing lime juice in didn't surprise them, but the next step did.  "Sal?" they asked.  "Cebola?!"   Yes, I put salt and onion in my avocado mix.  Weird?  I don't think so, but apparently south of the equator it is.  Timidly they approached the bowl with the crackers (I couldn't find tortilla chips in the store) and sampled just a teeny, tiny bitA few faces were made, shifty eyes moved around the crowd gauging the other responses and then finally someone yelled out, "Muito bom!"   It was not just good, it was very good. 

Now, whenever I am at Tio Nene's house a request is made for guacamole and whenever Paulo mixes up his plate of sweet avocado spread I grab a small spoon to join in.  We may have our preferences, but we have crossed the cultural boundaries and prejudices.  Avocados can be enjoyed salty or sweet, in a salad or in a smoothie.

If only we could do the same with the debate of which country grows the best avocados...
Guacamole (as I make it)
Mash 2 ripe avocados with the juice of 1 lime.  Add in 1/2 onion, finely chopped, and 1 tomato, chopped.  Add a dash or two of salt and stir.

Vitamina de Abacate (Avocado Smoothie)
Honestly, this one tastes best with Brazilian avocados (which are larger, have a softer skin, and are slimier in texture).  Mix the flesh of 1 avocado, 2 cups of milk, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in the blender.  Makes two cups.

Creme de Abacate (Avocado Cream OR Paulo's Style Avocado in our house)
Mash an avocado with fresh squeezed lime juice and a tablespoon of sugar with a fork.  Voila!

Avocado on FoodistaAvocado

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thirty Days -- Day 16: A trip down Temptation Lane

Yesterday I had some time to kill.  I was between an appointment that was finished and another that was not starting for another hour and a half, so I headed out for a walk. 

The problem was not with my walk.  It was with the things I found on my walk.

See, I was not in the park.  Nor was I in my neighborhood.  I was at Santana Row.

Normally I would love this opportunity.  There are so many great stores and a ton of amazing restaurants.  But I am not in my "normal" phase right now.  I am in my Thirty Day Challenge right now, remember?  So as I walked down the street towards what used to be Borders and turned the corner I couldn't help but think of all of the options that I was missing out on.  Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's, Wahoo's Fish Tacos...  sounds delicious, huh?  Yeah, I thought so, too. 

That's when I quickly headed into H&M.  No harm could be done there as there is nothing edible for sale.  But one can only spend so much time in H&M when you have no desire to buy clothes at that moment.  All too soon I was back on sidewalk, willing myself to pass by the sushi, pizza, and fruit tarts I passed by.

Why do they need to make their food smell so darn good???

Still with time to burn and not trusting myself to have the self-control I needed at the moment, I nearly ran all the way down to Crate & Barrel.  Once again, no food.  Thank goodness.  Instead there were plates and cups and table clothes and other things that would just go so great with my decor...

You are trying to save money this month, remember?  Maybe Crate & Barrel was not the best place to be.  Finally I realized I just needed to hop in my car and head back to work and wait for Kindergarten graduation to happen so I could help cut the cake and mix the punch. 

Later that night I arrived home, proud of myself that I made it.  I had faced Santana Row without spending a dime.  It was a little difficult, but I did it.  Good thing I had some Prestigio Cake leftover to reward myself with ;)
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