Food, recipe

Mussels and Italian Sausage Fra Diavolo

I love seafood. I love it most when it’s done right and still affordable. And that sometimes means that you are going to get the most bang for your buck if you do it at home. Mussels are one of those seafood treats that only look expansive and fancy. In reality they are one of the cheapest, freshest options in your local seafood case. So skip the shrimp, oyster and lobster and head straight for the mussels. Mussels are endlessly versatile, most often you seem them in a white wine sauce. They can also be done with bacon and smoked gouda which Lloyd lloves!. But today I went with a yummy, spicy, tomato based Fra Diavolo sauce.

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If you haven’t cleaned your own mussels at home and are wary of making yourself sick never fear! I am here for you! Check out my guide on How to Prep Mussels at Home. Once you have your mussels prepped let them sit in a bowl cold of water until you are ready for them. I like to wipe down all my surface after cleaning the mussels before pulling out my meat and veg for the next part of this meal. So having them tucked neatly away works best for me. But I am sure that for the sake of saving time that you could clean these babies while your sausage cooks.

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I use turkey sausage because it’s healthier, less heavy and easier to cook with since you get to skin the “drain the pan” step. I remove the casings from these pretties and pop them straight into the dutch oven I’ll be serving from.

While these guys are cooking I get a pot of water ready to boil my pasta in. This usually takes about fifteen minutes and by that time the rest of your sauce should be ready so the timing usually works out pretty well. Make sure you liberally salt your water. This is where your pasta is going to get it’s flavor.

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While your sausage is cooking and your water is starting to heat chop up some shallots and green onions and add these to the pan with your sausage.

Now it’s time to add in your crushed tomatoes. Only, I didn’t have crushed tomatoes. I thought I did but it turned out to be diced tomatoes. So I poured them into a tall cup and used my immersion blender to make them crushed. I also added in my spices and wine so that it was really easy to add to the pan once I was ready for that step.

Wait for your sauce to naturally thicken as the wine cooks off, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce was ready I dropped my pasta in the boiling water to get the cooking process started but I pulled them out about six minutes early so that the could finish cooking with the mussels in my sausage Fra Diavolo sauce. I used whole wheat pasta because it takes longer to cook, has a richer taste and holds up better when you cook it in a sauce like this.

As soon as the pasta goes in it is finally time to add your mussels! Drain the cold water off and add them to your sauce. Mix everything together and put the lid on. You want a nice tight fitting or heavy lid so that no steam escapes and your mussels get cooked fully.

Leave that lid on for five minutes. Do. Not. Peak. While your mussels are cooking you can do some last minute prep work. Put your bowls in the microwave so that they are nice and warm and grate some fresh garlic and chop up some basil. You want to add these straight into the pan as soon as you pull the lid off and give everything one last good stir so that they cook and release their flavors evenly.

When you pull that lid off and the cloud of steam dissipates you should see the welcome site of all these gorgeous open mussels.

When you serve it I suggest a dusting of shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped basil leaves. It makes things more colorful and that fresh basil taste really offsets the spiciness and richness of the sauce.

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Note on mussels serving size: The bulk of the weight when you buy mussels is the shells. Usually for a main I aim for about a half lb of mussels per person when I’m mixing them into something hearty like this. If I was just doing mussels in a wine sauce with bread or frites I would shoot for closer to a pound a person. But if I was serving them as an appetizer I would only want a quarter pound per person. 

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb fresh mussels
  2. 1 lb Italian sausage
  3. 1 large shallot chopped
  4. 3-4 scallion bulb ends diced
  5. 1 can crushed tomatoes
  6. 1 cup dry white wine
  7. 1 Tbsp crushed red peppers (or to taste)
  8. 8 oz uncooked whole wheat pasta
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 3-4 grated garlic cloves
  11. 10-15 chopped basil leaves (reserve some for garnish)
  12. Parmesan cheese for garnish

Recipe:

  1. Clean and prep mussels.
  2. Start well-salted water to boiling.
  3. Remove casings and cook sausage in heavy bottomed pan with a tight or heavy lid.
  4. Chop onions big and add to pot.
  5. Once onions are translucent add in crushed tomatoes, wine, crushed red  peppers, salt and pepper and simmer until wine is cooked off.
  6. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes less than suggested time.
  7. Transfer half cooked pasta and mussels into pot, stir well and cover with lid. Do not touch for 5 minutes.
  8. Grate garlic, shop basil, heat serving bowls.
  9. Open lid and add in garlic and most of the basil leaves, stir well.
  10. Serve in heated bowls with a sprinkling of cheese and reserved chopped basil leaves.
Food, recipe

Asian Five Spice

Sometimes I get really annoyed by how expensive spice mixes can be. They are definitely convenient but marked up. So I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own for some of the easier ones. A very easy one to start with is Asian Five Spice. Easy because the clue is in the name. It only has five ingredients.

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Another nice thing about making your own spice mix is that you can get the balance you like. We prefer spicy food so I use an equal ratio of szechwan peppercorns in my mix. Although a lot of places will recommend less peppercorns. Use what makes your taste buds happy.

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I have a coffee grinder that I reserve just for blitzing my spice mixes. I did the cinnamon and whole star anise first because they are the biggest, and hardest to crush up. Then added in the rest. It’s a lot easier to get all of your spice powder out with a small brush so if you are heading down the make your own spice blend road I suggest getting one.

 

Storing is easy. Use any airtight container you have at hand, this could mean a mason jar or rubber maid container, or even a zip-lock bag. I used up the last of my star anise for this so I didn’t make a very large batch. If you don’t have whole star anise feel free to substitute in the seeds (as I clearly did). Use about a 1/4 tea spoon for every pod you are replacing. But as long as you have the proportions right you can make as much or as little as you want.

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Ingredients:

  1. 1 stick cinnamon
  2. 3-4 star anise pods
  3. 1/2 tsp of cloves
  4. 1 tsp of szechwan peppercorns
  5. 1 tsp of fennel seeds

Recipe:

  1. Blend all ingredients into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or blender.
  2. Store in an airtight container. Lasts for up to a year.
  3. Use in any asian inspired dish, best with Chinese cuisine.
Food, recipe

Garlic and Pancetta Pasta

Recently I went to the Virginia Wine Expo and while slightly tipsy I bought an I See Spain grater bowl. It is an absolute dream and I made this pasta to showcase it’s greatness!

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Those raised ridges on the bottom are very sharp and actually grate garlic and other roots, hard cheese and chocolate in seconds. With this dish I used garlic. Add in a little olive oil to the bottom of your dish to help with grating.

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The two cloves only took me a few minutes. In fact the pancetta that I had in the pan had barely started cooking before I was done. Which brings me to the pancetta step. You want this to cook up nice and crispy so do it at a low heat stirring frequently so that nothing burns.

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Cook your pasta in boiling water while the pancetta is cooking. The pasta I used called for boiling for about 5-7 minutes but because I was going to finish it off in the pan I only boiled it for about four minutes. And then added it when the pancetta looked like this.

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Next I added in the pasta and some diced cherry tomatoes.

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And some parmesan cheese. Because cheese is life.

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A healthy splash of your pasta water deglazes the pan and finishes cooking this pasta.

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Once the excess moisture as cooked off transfer it into the grater bowl and stir around so that the garlic and oil coats everything.

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I also sprinkled in some fresh chopped basil  for color and flavor.

Ingredients (feeds 4)

  1. 1 package of pancetta
  2. 2-3 cloves of garlic
  3. Olive oil
  4. 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  5. 2 cups uncooked pasta
  6. 5-6 chopped basil leaves

Recipe:

  1. Grate garlic and add to olive oil at bottom of serving bowl. Or use an I See Spain grater bowl if you have one.
  2. Boil pasta per the directions on the packet. Shave of 2-3 minutes so that you can finish cooking it your pancetta.
  3. Add pancetta to a warm pan and cook on low heat until crispy and cooked through.
  4. Add your pasta into the pancetta pan.
  5. Toss in cherry tomatoes and parmesan.
  6. Use about a half cup of the pasta water to deglaze and finish cooking your pasta
  7. Transfer into serving and bowl and toss well to coat with garlic and olive oil.
  8. Sprinkle on some chopped basil.
Food, recipe

Shrimp Stuffed Jalapeños Wrapped in Bacon

I was tooling around Trader Joe’s when I saw these frozen tiger shrimp and inspiration struck! I had some fancy Woodbury Farms bacon at home as well as some jalapeños. I was going to take that shrimp and make something delicious!

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So, I knew from personal experience that these Jalapeños are super spicy so I wanted to neutralize some of the spice.

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I do this with a mix of vinegar and water and letting them soak. I’ve read that you can use lemon-lime soda (like Sprite) but have never tried that. To get started you need to halve and remove the pith from your peppers.

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Removing the pith is much easier if you use a spoon. It’s dull it hurts more to quote Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. All joking aside the pith is where the spice hides so remove it.

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Next place them in a bowl and let them soak for about an hour in a 1:3 vinegar to water mix. The longer they soak the less spicy they will become.

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Don’t worry about getting all the seeds off before you soaking. They will rinse off easily at the end.

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Take advantage of that soaking time by letting your cream cheese soften, your bacon come to room temperature and your shrimp defrost. Once your cream cheese is soft you can go ahead and make your filling mix.

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I used chopped parsley, fine diced shallot and red bell pepper as well as some minced garlic, salt and pepper.

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I gave it a really good stir and then once everything was at room temp I got myself all set up to prep my peppers.

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I arranged my peppers so they were reasonably back together, or at least so that the sizes matched up and filled them with the cream cheese.

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Next I sandwiched a shrimp that best matched the jalapeño in size and shape in between the two halves. It was so cute all snuggled up in there.

Next it’s time to wrap your bacon around your peppers. In retrospect I would have used toothpicks to hold this all together. Live and learn.

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Put in a cold oven and set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They will cook in about 30-40 minutes. Just remember that the cheese inside will be like molten lava so wait a few minutes before you chomp down.

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Ingredients (makes 6):

  1. 6 large jalapeños
  2. 6 tiger shrimp
  3. 6 slices of thick cut bacon

Filling ingredients:

  1. 4 oz of cream cheese
  2. 1 Tbsp of fine diced shallots
  3. 1 Tbsp of fine diced bell pepper
  4. 1 Tbsp fine chopped parlsey
  5. 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  6. 1 Tsp salt
  7. 1 Tsp pepper

Recipe:

  1. Prep your jalapeños by slicing in half and removing pith. Soak in a 1:3 mix of vinegar to water and leave for 1-2 hours.
  2. Mix your filling.
  3. Stuff each half with cream cheese.
  4. Place shrimp inside of two halves of jalapeño.
  5. Place in cold oven and set to 400. Start checking after twenty minutes. Usually takes 30-40 minutes to cook but you don’t want to let them burn.
Food, recipe

Crockpot French Onion Soup

I find that my crockpot is endlessly versatile. Recently I’ve been using it make large batches of caramelized onions and from there it isn’t much of  stretch to turn your vat of caramelized onions into a delicious French Onion Soup. As long as you are okay with the delicious smell of cooking onions wafting through your house for a day or two. Step one is to acquire onions, arrange them artfully and photograph them.

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Once the photo session is over it’s time to get slicing. This is easily the most time consuming step in the process. But it can also be a nice cathartic release if onions make you cry. When I slice eight onions I indulge in a nice cry and end up feeling much better when the task is done.

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I start the crockpot heating while I slice and put in a knob of butter and a slug of olive oil. You don’t need a ton, just enough to make sure things don’t stick as you are getting the ball rolling.

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Once you cram all the onions you sliced into your crockpot it’s time to sit back and relax. I started the crock pot a few hours before bed time, gave them a couple of stirs, covered my crockpot and hit the sack. When I woke up I had the bottom left waiting for me. A couple of hours later my onions were oh so ready.

Once I had the onions were I wanted them I scooped some out into an ice cube tray to freeze and use later.

After I had the amount of onions I want left in my crockpot it was time for phase two. Add some fresh thyme leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, and unsalted beef stock, worcestershire sauce. And the most important thing to add is quality brandy instead of some grocery store sherry.

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Because I was taking this to a weekend getaway with a group of friends I packed it up into a zip lock bag and then warmed it up when it was time to serve.

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Ingredients:

  1. 8 largish onions
  2. 1-2 Tbsp of butter
  3. 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil
  4. 2-3 Tbsp of thyme leaves
  5. 2 boxes of unsalted beef stock
  6. Hefty splash of Brandy
  7. 2-3 Tbsp of minced garlic
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Recipe:

  1. Add butter and olive oil into crockpot
  2. Thinly slice onions and place in crockpot. Cram them in if they don’t fit. They will shrink.
  3. Leave crockpot on low for approximately 12 hours. Stir every few hours.
  4. Take out any excess caramelized onions and freeze or refrigerate.
  5. Add in thyme leaves, unsalted beef stock, brandy, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
  6. Let simmer for another couple of hours until the flavors marry. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
  7. Freeze or refrigerate once cool if eating later.
  8. If serving shred some fresh gruyere on top. Bake if you want or just let it melt into the soup on it’s own. Make sure there is some crusty bread for dipping!
Food, recipe

Sweet Potato and Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

We are meat and potatoes people through and through. Lloyd comes from Irish stock and likes nothing more than a simple and hearty meal. My Indian taste buds want something with a little extra oomph of spice. And my common sense tells me that eating red meat and white potatoes isn’t the healthiest option. So I’ve tweaked the traditional Shepherd’s Pie recipe to something that meets everyone’s needs. Also, I made this Shepherd’s pie ahead of time, froze it, and then assembled it at an AirBnB where we were staying with a group of friends. So, if you are looking for a good “cook and take” recipe this is an excellent option.

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You can’t smell the goodness or hear the delightful bubbling emanating from this pan.

So to get started I did a little mise en place and chopped up my onions, carrots, mushrooms, rosemary and thyme. If you’ve read my Chicken Pot Pie recipe you will see a lot of similarities in the strategy and flavors. Once you know the basic patterns of cooking it’s easy to extrapolate those ideas to other recipes. But, I digress. First step is always sweating your onions.

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I used my dutch oven for this recipe because the thick walls retains a constant heat better and is more forgiving if you forget to stir. Once your onions are well and sweated meaning they have gotten that glistening look to them but they aren’t burnt or starting to turn brown it’s time to add your carrots.

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Your carrots will start to cook, you know they are ready when the sharp edges begin to blunt and they get a shiny appearance to them. Now it’s time to add in your meat and herbs. Also you should be seasoning at every step. I always use salt, pepper and garlic powder. Also keep some low sodium chicken stock handy. This is excellent to splash in and deglaze when things get a little sticky.

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Once your meat is cooked down add in a hefty scoop of flour. This is totally optional if you are going the gluten free route feel free to skip this step. The flour is just used to thicken the gravy. You can always substitute arrowroot powder at the end. Also add in your peas and mushrooms once the meat is cooked.

Add in a heavy, heavy splash of chicken stock and turn your heat down and let it simmer while you fix your sweet potatoes. Peel and boil like another potato once they are soft enough to smash easily with the back of a fork transfer the potatoes into a mixing bowl and add in some stone ground mustard, parmesan cheese, heavy cream, salt, pepper and garlic. Reserve some of that lovely, starchy water from the sweet potatoes to help fluff up your mash and then get to mixing! I use a kitchen aid. I’m lazy.

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You want your mash a little extra runny because that way they don’t dry out when you bake it.

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At this point you have a two options. Go ahead and assemble or bag it up, freeze and save it for later. And a secret third option; freeze half, cook the other half. I went the freezing route because we weren’t going to eat our pie for another few days.

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Assembling is as easy as reheating the meat in a crockpot or on the stove and placing the bag of sweet potatoes into a bowl of warm water. I layered the meat onto the bottom of an aluminum pan that I brought with me and cut a hole in a corner of the sweet potato bag and squeezed it on. I decorated the top with some fancy fork work and add a layer of  fresh shaved gruyere because cheese is the best. Then it’s time to bake. The boys were so excited!

Quick tip on leftovers. I just bagged the whole thing and froze it. When we get home I’ll unfreeze it and probably bake it into a quiche.

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Filling Ingredients:

  1. 3 lbs of ground turkey
  2. 1 red onion
  3. 1 large carrot
  4. 1 bag of frozen peas
  5. 8 oz container of baby bella mushrooms
  6. 2-3 Tbsp of chopped rosemary  and thyme
  7. 1 can of tomato paste
  8. 3 Tbsp flour
  9. 1 box of low sodium chicken stock
  10. Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Topping Ingredients:

  1. 4 medium sweet potatoes
  2. 2 Tbsp of heavy cream
  3. 4 oz parmesan cheese
  4. 1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  5. Salt, pepper and garlic powder taste

Recipe:

  1. Chop your onions, carrots, mushrooms, rosemary and thyme while your pan heats with a glut of olive oil in it.
  2. Add your onions and let them sweat, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder
  3. Add you carrots and let them get sweaty, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Use stock to deglaze as needed.
  4. Add in the meat and let it cook down until it crumbles, season with salt pepper and garlic powder
  5. Once the meat is mostly cooked add in the dried herbs
  6. Once everything is soft and crumbly add in your flour and mix it around until everything is coated.
  7. Pour in whatever is left in your chicken stock container and add in your tomato paste.
  8. This is also the time to add in your peas and mushrooms.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thickened. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  10. Peel and chop sweet potatoes and add to pot of well salted water.
  11. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork soft.
  12. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until soft. Use potato water to get the consistency you require.
  13. Freeze or assemble.
  14. Layer casserole dish or baking pan with fulling mixture. Pipe or spoon on the sweet potatoes. Smooth with a spatula. Decorate with a fork if you want and top with cheese if you want.
  15. Bake at 400 for 30-45 minutes until crust is golden and bubbling.
Travel

Napa, CA

Admission time: I’ve been planning my bachelorette party since I was a little girl. Probably for as long, if not longer than I have been planning my wedding. Like the imagined wedding of my youth it has gone through many revisions. But one thing was for sure, it would be filled with friends, food, drinks and very little sleep. In recent years I have developed a deep love affair with wine and wine related vacations. When I discovered the Napa Valley Wine Train I know that was the ideal destination for the festivities I had in mind. Luckily Lloyd proposed shortly thereafter and following many months of planning and anticipation Napa Girls’ Trip 2018 is in the books. And it was indeed filled with friends, food, wine and almost no sleep.

We rented the cutest little cottage/bungalow house just down a ways from Main Street, Napa. There were many homes on offer in the Napa Valley through AirBnB and VRBO. But we were a large group looking to stay more central since our main event was the Wine Train and this cozy space met our needs perfectly. We actually rented through HomeAway and the property itself can be found here. It was painted a rustic green that made me think of grapes and vines and was well appointed with plenty of sitting space (inside and out) as well as rather snugly beds. It had an easy to use and well maintained gas grill as well as an hot tub. Both of which we very much enjoyed. And the kitchen had everything we needed to put together a lovely meal. We even used some of the fresh lavender that was growing next to the house to make simple syrup, as well as some Meyer lemons from Ermentrude’s backyard.

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As wonderful as the kitchen and garden were the best part of this home was the gorgeous backyard with the aforementioned grill and hot tub. We spent one evening grilling meat and enjoying an homemade Mexican fajita bar and the next night in the hot tub drinking our bodyweight in Cava, Rose’ and West Coast Chardonnay.

The house had some really cute touches that I really enjoyed. The TV stand had a bowl of wine corks that people had signed and there was an adorable little fireplace in one corner. I really appreciated that they had plenty of pillows on the bed. When Lloyd and I sleep apart I make a Lloyd shaped pillow pile on my right side and pretend like it’s him. It’s not nearly hot, sweaty or snoring enough, but it does the trick!

If you ever have an evening free to spend with your girlfriends might I suggest a fajita bar? Make a couple of different dips and salsas, caramelize some peppers and onions, grill up your favorite meat and open many, many bottles of wine. Some people might ask why I skipped out on the classic margarita and to those people I say… tequila is a bad decision juice, that’s why. Even with sticking to wine I managed to forget to take pictures of the vast majority of the food we made that night including a tomato salsa, guacamole, a corn and black bean dip, caramelized red/orange peppers and onions, grilled chicken, steak and tortillas. Not mention a multitude of nibbly bits like almonds, cheese and crackers. And wine. Did I mention wine? So much wine.

My lovely ladies and most spectacular Maid of Honor, Olivia, really outdid themselves when it came to the decorating. There was glitter, bridal paraphernalia and male genitalia all over the place. I’ll keep the pictures of the naughty stuff off of here. But there were inflatables and straws and a world of other risqué items that had me blushing all night long!

Olivia even had shirts made for all my girls. Which was simply the best thing. She did a great job picking out shirts for people she had only ever heard me talk about. She is thoughtful and introspective that way. Also, etsy for the win! It was really fantastic having all these women I know from different walks of life under one roof. Having moved a lot for school and work I have a lot of close friends that live all over the country and the world (Australia, in particular). So I rarely get to see some of my nearest and dearest and most of them have never even met each other. It was a really special weekend for me watching all my best friends get to know each other!

I’ve been hemming and hawing trying to avoid crying while I write this. But I have to mention a special gift that Claire curated for me. In addition to being an excellent doctor and oenophile she is also a gifted scrapbooker. She got in touch with all the girls I invited to my bachelorette and asked them all to send in pictures of us together and fill out a little questionnaire she had put together. I read all the letters out loud and cried through all of them. It was one of the sweetest and most touching gifts I’ve ever gotten. Made more so by the inclusion of those friends who couldn’t make it. I couldn’t believe all the time and effort people so obviously put into answering Claire’s questions about our friendships. Their words and love touched the very cockles of my heart. And the whole thing proved exactly how much I need waterproof, air brushed, shellacked makeup for my wedding cause I can’t even type this paragraph without tearing up.

Every picture and page and letter included in this scrapbook makes me eyes well. This weekend taught me how important it is to cherish your friends and cultivate your friendships. All of these amazing women were in my life before Lloyd and helped me become the person he loves and wants to marry. They watched me stumble, grow, change and strive to become the woman I am today. They are my roots.

Food

Girls’ Night Guacamole

I like my guacamole like I like my men, bright green and thick. So basically what I’m telling you is I have a weird thing for Shrek and I’m about to divulge my not so secret guacamole recipe. I was recently in California and the opportunity to use the freshest avocados I have ever seen to make this guac. It was something that had to be recorded for posterity because you don’t get avocados this fresh in Virginia. Especially not in March. Also, of note, it is currently snowing in Virginia. It wasn’t snowing when I was in California yesterday.

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The thing that really blew me away was how easily the pit came out. No need to thwack the knife into the pit to pull it out risking serious hand injury. My friend, Claire, who is going into hand surgery has a minor heart attack every time she sees me make guacamole. This time she did not have to worry as they practically fell out. Your avocado skins can be saved to use as tiny serving dishes later on. But usually I can’t even get it transferred into a serving bowl before people are scooping it out. Now most of you probably know the rudiments of guac crafting so I’m just going to share some helpful pointers. First and foremost, microwave your limes! What? That’s crazy! Nope, it’s actually a really good habit to get into with any citrus fruit if you want to get the max juice out of it.

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YOU PUT THE LIME IN THE MICROWAVE AND SHAKE IT ALL UP! DOCTOR!

Okay, I’m all better now. But, honestly this is a hack worth remembering. A warm citrus fruit will release a significantly greater amount of juice. Depending on how cold, ripe and big your lime is the perfect length of time can vary. I usually start with 15 seconds and go up in increments of ten. I know it’s ready when it feels a world softer and is just hot enough that it’s a little uncomfortable to hold in a closed fist. This is good because the next step is to roll that lime around in between your palms pressing gently, this releases the juices even further. For a larger fruit, like grapefruit, it might be easier to roll it between your palm and the counter. Once your cut it in half squeeze like your life depends on it! And don’t forget to use your pulp. I cut it off and scrape it into whatever I am making

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My other little hack is in regards to your garlic. We didn’t have a handy piece of Tupperware to shake the cloves in to help us peel them but this stuff was pretty fresh and peeled easily. Have I mentioned that California produce is insanely fresh? I just want you all to know that I keep a large of jar minced garlic in my fridge and a backup one in my pantry so I will not judge if you decide to go that route. But every now and then I think their are times when fresh garlic is worth the hassle. And girls’ night guac is one of those times! So once you have your peeled garlic it’s time to get to dicing. I find it easier to squash all my cloves with the flat side of my knife blade and then sprinkle the cloves with a little salt before doing a quick rough chop. The salt helps bruise the garlic and seasons it all at the same time. I wanted ya’ll to see how to the hold blade for the rough chop so I asked Hand Surgeon, turned Hand Model, Claire to demonstrate.

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Once you have your avocados, onions, garlic, salt and lime all sorted in a bowl it’s time to customize. Some would argue that garlic and onions should be part of customization. But guacamole without garlic and onions is like wine without grapes. It just makes no sense. And I feel almost as strongly about coriander and tomatoes but there are people who I know and cook for that do not eat tomatoes and coriander. It’s shocking, I know, but there you have it. So at this point you have the option to add in jalapeños, coriander, tomatoes, cumin, bell peppers. I personally don’t like bell peppers but the rest all goes in. I’m also not a huge fan of that raw onion taste to I tend to use milder onions like shallots or scallions instead of the red onions that you will often catch me cooking with. As far as your jalapeños go the finer your chop them the less likely that someone is going to get a great big piece in their mouth and be on fire for the rest of the night. If you want to avoid getting the capsaicin juice all over your hands and then in your eyes when your friends are so sweet that they make you weep tears of joy (I’m speaking from experience) you can avoid hand chopping by just blitzing them in a blender or food processor. I really wish I had done that because my eyes and face burned for the better part of the night.

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Funny story, I ended up mixing this up in a cooking pot because it was the only receptacle large enough and while I had every intention of plating it into something pretty and getting a picture of my bright green guac surrounded by a plethora of blue and yellow corn tortilla chips my girlfriends devoured it before I got a chance. Truthfully the began devouring before I even had it completely spiced. All under the guise of “taste testing,” I’m sure. So I will leave you with this picture of a heaping bowl of diced avocados instead.

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Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8 (based on the number of avocados you use, for the seven of us I used six largish avocados)

Ingredients: These ingredients are directly proportional to the amount of avocados you use and my particular taste. Feel free to adjust for your palette and the number of people you are serving. 

  1. 6 largish avocados
  2. 1-2 fresh limes
  3. 1-2 jalapeños
  4. 6-8 cloves of garlic
  5. 8 -10 scallion heads thin chopped
  6. Handful of coriander rough chopped (including finer chopped stems)
  7. 1 medium tomato
  8. 1 Tbsp salt
  9. 1 Tbsp cumin
  10. 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  11. 8 -10 scallion heads thin chopped

Recipe:

  1. Dice your avocados. Cut in half, remove pit while avoiding slicing your hand open, use a dull blade to section your avocado cross and length wise, scoop into very large bowl with a spoon.
  2. Cut and juice lime as above.
  3. Peel and dice garlic as above.
  4. Fine chop or blend an jalapeño, more or less depending on your taste.
  5. Chop your onion, I used the scallion whites and saved the greens for another dish. But you can use whatever you prefer.
  6. Rough chop the coriander leaves and finely chop the stems before adding to the bowl.
  7. Finely chop your tomato and scrape the juices and seeds into your mixing bowl.
  8. Add in your dry spices, I use a little extra garlic powder to give the guac a more uniform garlicky flavor. Add your salt in small amounts and mix well before trying. It’s very easy to go overboard but an under salted guac is too sad to fathom.
  9. Mix, mix, mix until you have the consistency that you want.