Guest Post: Delicious and Healthy Avocados

So, just as I promised, here is the first post in a series of guest posts for this blog, featuring some of my favorite blog authors! We are kicking things off with a post from my good friend and longtime blog buddy Ben Herrera of What’s Cooking Mexico.

Ben and I started blogging around the same time, and I have always loved his unique and delicious recipes featuring REAL Mexican food. Just like many other food cultures, real Mexican food features fresh and local ingredients, and uses them to the fullest.

I have also really enjoyed watching his food photography and styling skills skyrocket over the years! Ben lives in Mexico City and offers insider peeks of all the delicious markets and fresh food that Mexico City has to offer. Today he shares a post about a staple food to Mexican cuisine- the delicious and nutritious Avocado, and shares his recipe for guacamole with an unexpected ingredient! So here is Ben! THANK YOU, BEN!

Who hasn’t tried guacamole at a Mexican restaurant or watching a football game with friends? Avocado is the main ingredient for that delicious dip that has become very popular in the US. I love avocados. I can eat them in many different ways, from slices in salads and tacos to sauces and as one of the ingredients for bread. Their buttery texture and flavor makes them what my dad calls nature’s butter.

But avocados are not only delicious. They’re also a great source of healthy nutrients.  Avocados promote heart health because they contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help to lower cholesterol. They are also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, and folate, a nutrient important for heart health.

Furthermore, they promote optimal health because they are a concentrated dietary source of the carotenoid lutein. It also contains measurable amounts of related carotenoids (zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) plus significant quantities of tocopherols (vitamin E). Avocados also increase your absorption of carotenoids from vegetables and recent studies show that they help to combat oral cancer, a form of cancer more deadly than breast, skin and cervical cancer.

Next time you’re at the grocery store look for this healthy fruit. I’m sure you’ll find a delicious way to eat them. If you have never bought avocados before you might want to keep in mind these simple tips:

  • A ripe and ready to eat avocado should be soft when you squeeze it, but it should not have dark sunken spots or cracks.
  • If you are not planning to eat avocados right away select the ones that are harder when you squeeze them. Avocados ripen in a few days outside the refrigerator, but if you are not planning to eat a ripe avocado, put it in the fridge and that will slow the ripening process.
  • The flesh of the avocado starts turning black the moment it comes in contact with air. Lime juice slows this process. If you are storing an open avocado wrap it in plastic to prevent contact with air.

Two of my favorite ways to eat avocados are in guacamole and salads. Making guacamole is very easy. However, I like to twist it a little bit adding mango. It gives the guacamole a very special and sweet flavor.This is how you prepare it:

The ingredients:

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

The how-to:

  • Cut avocados and mango and put them in a bowl.
  • Smash with a fork and add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Mix well until they form a smooth salsa.
  • Enjoy!

To make a healthy avocado and tuna salad, just cut one avocado in half and dice it. Mix one can of tuna, one can of mixed vegetables, one TBSP of low fat mayonnaise and the avocado and serve. It’s easy enough for a quick lunch.

I hope you like these simple ideas to eat avocado, one of nature’s most delicious fruits.

Buen provecho!

Sources:

More avocado ideas from Ben’s blog – Avocado Corn Muffins

Cooking with Friends: Sopes & Sangria

Sopes stuffed with local cheese and jalapeno jam

Part of feeling settled in a new community comes with making new friends. Having friends makes you feel more grounded in the place where you live and of course it is always nice to have people to share events, food and good times with! We have been lucky in this regard with our move to Vermont. We will have been living here for a year at the end of April, and we are lucky to have developed several groups of friends here in the local community.  The common vein is that all of these friends were met by way of food. But I guess knowing me, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise!

We met Corey and Kurt during a lamb butchering class we took with Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher , this past fall. It was an 8 hour class where we all learned how to butcher a lamb for our own consumption. Cole is a genius and a true artisan of the craft. I can’t wait to take more classes with him! Roberto and I were the only first-timers there. Of course during those many hours we all talked an awful lot about food and recipes. At the end of class, many of us exchanged email addresses. Several of us planned a lamb potluck for January, and for one reason or another, it ended up only being me, Roberto, Corey and Kurt at the dinner.

Since then we have been getting together regularly to enjoy good food, wine and each other’s company either at each other’s houses or out in the community.  Sometimes we even cook together and are making plans to start a Supper Club and acquire more foodie friends!

Corey and Kurt are big foodies. Having lived all over the world they have experienced a lot of different food cultures. They have big plans to host gourmet getaways to Vermont. They already have a beautiful cabin in rural Vermont that they rent out to guests, and are working on having a kitchen put in where they can offer cooking classes and gourmet dinners to their guests.

 

 

The last time we got together, they hosted and made Mexican food.  They had recently taken a class with Chef Courtney Contos (the chef on the Gourmet Butcher DVDs), and decided to keep practicing their new recipes by trying them out on us. I offered to bring drinks. I made nice winter sangria using a dark red zinfandel as the base. I added to it several shots of lavender scented vodka, a splash of vanilla extract and a variety of fruits we had preserved this fall, including, raspberries in syrup and plums in a vanilla-cardamom-rum syrup. I also added sliced blood oranges. I soaked the fruits in the vodka overnight and added a pinch of dried lavender. I meant to take a picture when we served it, but we were already a bottle of wine in, and it slipped my mind. The photo above is one of my favorite photos from this blog and a summer sangria recipe.

For appetizers, Corey made the coolest stuffed masa boats, called Sopes.  Masa is Spanish for “dough” but it usually refers to dough made from reconstituted corn meal.  My friend Ben from What’s Cooking Mexico has a great tutorial on making sopes and other tortillas .

Making the Sopes

 

The only thing we did different with our sopes is that we folded up the sides of the small tortillas to make “boats” before frying them to shape them. We stuffed our sopes with several different options – guacamole, Boucher blue cheese (Highgate, VT) and plain Chevre (Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg, VT). Both of the cheese options were topped with some of Corey’s homemade Jalapeno jam from peppers grown in Georgia, VT. They were all delicious, but I really loved the unique combination of the Boucher blue and jalapeno jam.

Dinner was Mexican rice, homemade beans, and a stewed chicken dish in a tomatillo sauce (via Corey and Kurt’s garden last year), served with freshly made tortillas. For dessert they had roasted pears and pineapple served with homemade caramel. Again, we forgot to take photos, but I promise it was good! We ended the evening with an impromptu Scotch tasting and tea. Definitely a great night!

Chicken Mole, My Way…

Mole_on_plate

I love Dark Mole – it is one of those sauces that captures the imagination and has an almost mystical quality to it– chock full of colorful, luxurious and delicious spices, chilies and chocolate. Whenever I see it on a menu, I can’t resist ordering it. I have never made it before, and it has been on my kitchen “to do” list for a long while. A series of events happened that made this the perfect time to make Mole, my way. This is not a traditional Mole, made by a Mexican Matriarch, but I do feel it encompasses the flavors and spirit of the dish.

Mole_Chilies

As I said, this dish was inspired by several things – a recent shipment of samples from my foodie friend Justin, at Marx Foods (these guys are awesome!) of various dried chilies that we will be giving away on The Foodie Blogroll soon. I used two mild varieties – Mulato and Pasilla Negro. The Mulato is described as having a chocolate and licorice flavor, which I thought would go well in the Mole. The Pasilla Negro said it was “good in moles” on the package, so I trusted the Marx Foodies on that one.

Mole_Spices

This dish was also inspired by a chocolate bar I bought for the trip from Florida to Vermont. On road trips, we always like to treat ourselves to some dark chocolate. This time I chose Dagoba’s Xocolatl bar – dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, chilies and cinnamon. It was wonderful on its own, a perfect pick me up during a long day of driving. As I was eating the chocolate, I knew it was destined to be cooked with – as it was not very sweet (which is the way I like my chocolate) and full of the flavors described on the package.

I also wanted to use some Calabrian pepper powder, I received as a recent sample from Scott at The Sausage Debauchery for a giveaway on The Foodie Blogroll last month, that I hadn’t had a chance to cook with yet. This hot pepper powder is very reminiscent of hot smoked paprika. It is a gorgeous bright deep orange, and smells wonderful. A little goes a long way though, and I didn’t need much to add a kick to the dish. I also used some Mexican Mole Seasoning that I got at the Saint Augustine Spice and Tea Exchange. A store I frequented in Saint Augustine when we lived there, and that I am very thankful has a website, so I can continue to order their amazing, top quality spices.

I was very pleased with the result of my first attempt at Mole. The sauce had a lot of depth, and all the flavors really complemented each other in a cohesive unit. Not bad for the first time!

queadillas 004

The leftovers make amazing quesadillas with some cheddar cheese and plain yogurt on top, or you could put some of the sauce over your morning eggs (fried or poached) for some Mole Eggs.

mole breakfast 020

This is definitely a diverse sauce that can be used to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. I love that this recipe makes enough for either 4 people, or several meals for 2, making this not only tasty, but cost effective, which is always a bonus. Especially because sauces like this taste doubly better the next day and your efforts in the kitchen can be extended to several meals.

INGREDIENTS:

4 chicken drumsticks
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 1/2 TBS Mexican mole seasoning – fresh pepper, chocolate, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, garlic, onion, salt, etc. From The Spice and Tea Exchange
½ tsp Calabrian Hot pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
6 sticks Dagoba Xocolatl bar, melted
1 dried mulato chili (chocolate/licorice, mild)– reconstituted and scraped – reserve about 1 cup of water used to reconstitute.
1 dried pasilla negro chili (Good in moles) – reconstituted and scraped
juice of one lemon
1 cup strained tomatoes
5 carrots, chopped
4 small onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced

METHOD:

Wash the drumsticks while the chilies are reconstituting in hot water (this takes about 10-15 minutes for them to soften). In a bowl drizzle olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle spices over top. Add the chili flesh and massage everything into the chicken. Then add the lemon juice and stir all together. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300F. In a dutch oven, drizzle olive oil and brown chicken on all sides. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and pour over chicken. Add the reserved chili water, and strained tomatoes to the bowl the chicken was marinading in. Whisk together and pour over the chicken, de-glazing the pan. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, then stir the whole pot. Place the lid on the pot, and cook in the oven for 3 hours. After the 2nd hour, reduce heat to 200 F. Check for liquid every 45 minutes, and add water if necessary.

Serve on top of sprouted tortillas, if desired. Serves 2 – with leftovers for 4 small sprouted corn tortilla Quesadillas and 2 servings of Mole Eggs.