guacamole two ways

lovely guacamole

We are blessed to be friend with some Canadians who spent 15 years working and serving in Mexico. While they, they adopted a love for all things Mexican, including the food, and we were double blessed recently to be invited over for a fiesta with lots of scrumptious south of the border food on the menu. I was asked to bring guacamole, and with my hat in my hand (these folks know their Mexican food!) I prepared two different avocado dips, and would like to share the recipe with you below. You may only find avocados in your combo box from time to time, but you can find many of the other ingredients for delicious guacamole most weeks!

Smooth and Simple Guacamole

lovely guacamole

2 ripe avocados
juice of 1 small lemon
2 cloves lovely garlic
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1. Peel and pit your avocados and place the flesh in your food processor.

lovely guacamole

2. Peel 2 (or three if you really like garlic!) cloves of your lovely garlic. Add the cloves, the salt, and the juice of your lemon (being careful not to include the seeds) to your avocados in the processor.

lovely guacamole

3. Process until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Thick and Chunky Guacamole

lovely guacamole

2 ripe avocados
juice of half a lime
1 clove lovely garlic
2 green onions, white and green parts (not the middle, light green, woodier part, discard that)
1 small tomato
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Peel and pit your avocado and place the flesh in a large bowl. Set aside.

lovely guacamole

2. On a chop board and with a good, sharp knife (watch those fingers!), dice the lovely garlic cloves (peeled first) and the whites of the green onions very fine. Add to avocados.

lovely guacamole

3. Dice the green parts of the onions and the tomatoes, but in larger pieces, more like pea-size, and add those to the bowl as well.

4. Add all of your seasonings, as well as the lime juice.

lovely guacamole

5. Stir all of your ingredients together with a spoon until they are evenly distributed. Next, use a potato masher to mash everything together.

6. When you’ve reached a good consistency, and the ingredients are well-married, taste and check for saltiness. If you are adding fresh cilantro, chop and fold in now.

Both guacamoles do well being prepared an hour or so ahead of time so they chill nicely and all the flavors of the citrus, vegetables, and spices have a chance to marinate. But if time is a wasting, you can serve them immediately! Guacamole is a fabulous and healthy dish that can be served as a garnish for any Latin American food or can be eaten as a dip with chips, pretzels, or raw veggies. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

tomato basil cream sauce

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

Sometimes, when you are trying to eat locally and seasonally, it seems you can get into a bit of a rut, and if it’s close to payday or you’re just day or two away from getting your next local box, you can find yourself making the same thing you just made a few days ago. When this happens, its things like sauces that can help spice a meal up. Recently I was making baked chicken and skillet potatoes again, and as we had just had this the week before, I decided to make a sauce to make the meal different and more interesting.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

You can’t get ore summery than fresh, ripe tomatoes off the vine and beautiful fresh green basil. This sauce makes good use of these items, often in abundance at this time of year, by mixing them with some dairy staples of butter, cheese and cream. Easy to make, delicious to eat on just about anything. Enjoy!

Tomato Basil Cream Sauce
1 large fresh tomato or 6 large cherry tomatoes
8 basil leaves
3 Tblsp butter
2 Tblsp cream cheese
1 cup cream (or ½ cup cream, ½ cup milk for a lighter sauce), plus more as needed
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice your tomatoes and ribbon your basil.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

2. In a large saucepan (I prefer non-stick for sauces but I know some people shy away from using teflon), over medium heat, saute the tomatoes and basil in one tablespoon of your butter for just a few minutes, until the tomatoes are tender.

3. Spoon your tomatoes and basil mixture into your food processor and puree. Set aside.

4. Return the saucepan to medium heat, and add your remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, as well as the two tablespoons of cream cheese, to the pan and, using a small whisk, stir constantly until completely softened.

5. Gradually add your cream (and/or milk) to the butter/cream cheese mixture, whisking continually.

6. Add the parmesan cheese, spreading it evenly over the pan, and whisking thuroughly into the sauce until smooth.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

7. Add the tomato/basil mixture and stir in completely. Bring up to a gentle simmer on medium low heat for just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until all the ingredients are mixed well. Taste the sauce at this point and check for needed salt and/or pepper.

lovely tomato basil cream sauce

If you find the sauce is either too thick, whisk in a little more milk; if too thin, add another tablespoon of cream cheese. This sauce is versatile and, if thinned with another ½ cup of milk or tomato sauce, could be a great topping for pasta as well. Bon Appetit!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

jambalaya pasta

lovely jambalaya pasta

This is a great, very versatile recipe that brings in the flavors of Cajun cuisine but instead of serving it with the traditional rice, it is made as a pasta dish. The dish is versatile because as long as you keep the proportions more of less the same, you can change the vegetables and protein- you could use corn or okra instead of carrots and sweet bell peppers if you wanted to. In the same vein, instead of the hot Italian sausage and shrimp I use here, you could use chicken breast, a good quality veggie sausage, or even an equal amount of cooked beans, or any mixture of the above. Just about anything that you cook for an hour or two in this sauce is going to be tasty!

Note about shrimp: many people, including my husband, are particular about seafood. As such, I always prepare my shrimp separately for this dish and add it to the mix at the end.

Jambalaya Pasta
2 cups uncooked penne or other small pasta
1 tblsp olive oil
3 organic hot Italian (or any other) sausage
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 bell pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1 large can tomatoes
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (not needed if you use hot Italian sausage)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
½ cup organic cream

For the Shrimp:
10-15 medium shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1. In a large saucepan, cook the penne in salted water until very al-dente. The pasta should still have bite to it as you are going to cook it in the jambalaya before serving.

lovely jambalaya pasta
lovely jambalaya pasta

2. Dice the onion, carrot, and parsnip together in a food processor or very fine by hand and set aside. Dice the bell pepper but leave it in larger chunks and set it aside.

3. Slice the sausage in 1 inch medallions. In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the the sausage medallions in a single layer and brown on both sides. Remove sausage and set aside.

lovely jambalaya pasta
lovely jambalaya pasta

4. In the remaining oil, sauce the onion/carrot/parsnip mixture with the bell pepper and the garlic on medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent.

5. Add the broth, and while the mixture comes to a boil, scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up all the browned bits from the sausage (this will give great flavor to the sauce).

lovely jambalaya pasta

6. Add the tomatoes, all the seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring to a boil on medium heat for just a minute, adding the sausage back in at the boiling point. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour, or even longer if you have time.

lovely jambalaya pasta

7. While the jambalaya is simmering, prepare your shrimp. Shell and devein your shrimp, and sprinkle with cajun seasoning. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and saute the shrimp on medium-high heat for just a few minutes, until the flesh is pink and opaque throughout. Set aside until serving time

8. In the last five minutes of simmering your jambalaya, add the pasta and cream to the sauce and stir well. If needed, top up the mixture with a little broth or water, so that the liquid just covers all the contents of the jambalaya.

lovely jambalaya pasta

When serving, plate your jambalaya and add your shrimp and garnish with sour cream. The only thing that makes this dish better is a nice loaf of crusty bread to eat with it. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

roots curry

lovely roots

Who doesn’t love a good curry? Well, as it turns out, my husband. Poor fellow. Apparently his dad grew up in a house where the only spice used was curry powder, and as such grew an understandable dislike of the flavor, and thus my husband was never exposed to anything Indian. So sad- I could eat curry three days a week. Maybe four. And thankfully, our baby girl has inherited her mamma’s taste for international cuisine and digs this flavorful dish (see the end of the post for tips for serving this to babies).

lovely roots

I call this meal Roots Curry because it’s made primarily of root vegetables, and also as a little tongue in cheek reference to the very Canadian ingredients for a late winter/early spring seasonal dish. If you aren’t accustomed to making your own curry but enjoy Indian food, do yourself a favor and go out and invest in the necessary spices to do so (Bulk Barn is a great place for exotic spices). Don’t be intimidated- curries are a bit like chilis in that once you have the right spices, the rest is rather forgivable.

Roots Curry
makes 4-6 servings
(T= Tablespoon, t = teaspoon)
Spices :

    3T Curry powder
    2 t sugar
    1t salt
    1t corriander (dried spice, not cilantro leaves)
    1t garam masala
    1t dried ginger
    ½ t cinnamon
    3 bay leaves
    4 whole cloves
    1/3 C butter, divided in two (must use butter or ghee to get the right flavor)
    2 medium onions
    1 small parsnip
    2 small potatoes
    1 medium orange carrot
    1 cup cooked chickpeas
    1 large can tomatoes (or 3 cups of your own canned tomatoes)
    1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
lovely roots

1. Assemble all of your needed spices in a small dish so that they are ready to go when needed.

2. Cube your parsnips, potatoes, and carrots into ½ inch cubes and set aside.

lovely roots

3. Dice your onions very fine (I like to use my food processor).

4. In a large saucepot or dutch oven, melt 1/6 C of butter over medium heat and stir in onions. Cook onions for a few minutes until just starting to become translucent.

5. Add your spices to your onions. What you want to do is stir them into the onions well, and then make sure the onion/spice mixture is evenly spread across the bottom of your pot. This will allow the spices to become nice and aromatic. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring so your spices and onions do not burn.

lovely roots

6. Add your other 1/6 cup of butter, and once it starts to melt add in your root vegetables. Stir the veggies in and make sure they are covered completely by the onion/spice mixture. Saute, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for 3-4 minutes.

lovely roots

7. Add coconut milk and canned tomatoes, and stir well. The liquid should be just covering allt he veggies- if it is not add just enough water to cover. Bring the mixture to a boil only for a moment, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about an hour, until veg is nice and tender and the flavor comes together nicely (and what I like to do is cook the dish for about 45 minutes and then put it in my crockpot on low for another hour or so before dinner to let the spices get even happier).

lovely roots
lovely roots

Before serving, remove bay leaves and give everyone a head’s up to look out for the whole cloves- they won’t hurt you but they’ll be bitter if eaten whole. Serve with basmati rice or preferred grain, and naan bread if you have any on hand. This dish freezes very well; I like to make a nice big batch and freeze in individual servings for lunches.

Tip for babies: For those babies over 9 months and toddlers, this can be a great dish. For our daughter (who is 11 months now) I combine the following in our food processor:
¼ cup cooked rice (or other grain)
½ cup Roots Curry
¼ cup plain, full-fat yogurt

lovely roots

I blend just enough to bring all the ingredients together and make the food into pea-sized lumps, but feel free to blend further for wee ones who still prefer puree. The yogurt helps take a bite out of the spices and gives baby the fat they need in each meal.

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

african sweet potato & peanut stew


Even if you not a vegetarian this is a great recipe using loft sweet potatoes.

It even tastes even better the next day (f you have any left-overs)!

1/2 cup water
3 tbsp low-salt soy sauce
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and finely diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 cup dried garbanzo beans or chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender.
4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp curry powder

Heat the soy sauce and water in a large saucepan.

Add the onions and sweet potatoes, mix well, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened.

Add the carrots and bell pepper and cook another three to five minutes.

Add the tomatoes, water, beans with any liquid, herbs, peanut butter and curry powder.

Stir to mix, bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are fork-tender.

Sprinkle more fresh herbs on top, and serve hot over brown rice.

– Carol likes experimenting with new recipes for her family in Cambridge.

baby risotto


So, I call this baby meal “Baby Risotto,” but it isn’t, really. All it really is, is tarted-up rice cereal, but my boy loves it. And it’s a good vehicle for hiding vegetables when I feel he would reject them if presented with them straight-up, which is often. It’s a fast, foolproof little person meal.

To make this recipe, you’ll need some ground up rice. I buy organic brown rice and put it in the blender and grind it until it’s nice and fine. You can do this ahead and keep a jar of the stuff in your fridge. (I actually use a Magic Bullet for grinding, which was a gift to me and has turned out to be one of the greatest little kitchen appliances I’ve ever owned.)

To make, put 1 cup of water in a little pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and stir in 1/4 cup of your ground rice and stir until you’ve got a nice, smooth consistency — just a few mintues. Stir in some grated cheese (or smooth cheese, like goat) to taste.

Here’s where you can get creative adding in whatever veg you’ve got in your fridge. Last night, I used some of this week’s spinach, which I chopped up into thin ribbons, and some tomatoes that I oven roasted, then froze. But you could use anything else, like maybe some of your broccoli, chopped up small, or grated beet, carrot or sweet potato (in which case you’d want to saute them first, until nice and soft, then add the water and the rice). You could roast some of your dumpling squash ahead and stir it in. For something breakfast-y, you could omit the cheese and add cinnamon and grated apple — maybe even a drizzle of maple syrup.

Irv, my 13-month-old, opens his mouth wide like a little bird for this stuff. He likes it so much he forgets to wrestle me for the spoon. I often save this idea for his Friday night supper, when I am fully out of ideas, ambition and want to just get him fed, and fast.

baby risotto

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.

little person meal!


Baby mealtimes, I have discovered over the last six months, can be infuriating. Many days, watching something I have lovingly prepared spat out, shoved off the highchair tray or thrown onto the floor, I remember the books I’ve read that say, “Keep mealtimes light! Don’t allow yourself to become stressed!” and I try to maintain my cool and think, “Well, he’s not going to starve to death…” Much easier said than done.

My one-year-old, Irv, has been eating from the LOFT bag since he started on solids. We’re mostly beyond purees at this point, but this little recipe is good as a sauce to toss with pasta. You could even feed it to adults. I sampled it myself — really yummy. My boy gobbled it up. The only problem being that he ate it so fast and whined when it was over. I was boiling water for more rice pasta as fast as I could.

pasta

The recipe is an adapted from Annabel Karmel, a UK-based baby food guru. You can use one of this week’s sweet potatoes, a couple of the carrots and four or five of the tomatoes to make it, and you’ll have lots leftover. I filled one jar for the fridge then froze the rest in ice cube trays. This way I can take a couple of cubes of it out at a time for a quick baby pasta lunch or supper.

sauce

To peel tomatoes, score the bottoms with an X and plunge in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water and the skins will slip off. Then just squeeze the seeds out so your sauce doesn’t get too watery. It sounds like a lot of trouble but it doesn’t take too long for a small recipe like this.

Pasta Sauce with Tomato, Sweet Potato and Cheese

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sweet potato, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
4 or 5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup cheese, grated (whatever kind suits you — I used Swiss)

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onion for about 4 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Stir in the sweet potato, carrots, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor or blender. Stir in cheese until melted.

tomato
sauce
sauce

– Dinah Murdoch lives, eats and writes in Kitchener.