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I'm a runner with a baking habit.  I'm constantly on the lookout for awesome desserts, freezer friendly recipes to pack in the lunchbox, and quick dinner ideas.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Simple Guacamole

Back in the day, I had a friend who made legendary guacamole.  Her recipe: three avocados and one packet of guacamole mix.  It was fabulous.  The only problem was that I was never motivated enough to figure out how to divide the packet of guac mix to make a batch with anything less than three avocados, so I never made it except for special occasions.

On the other end of the spectrum was time another friend and I scoured the internet for the perfect guac recipe.  Our ultimate selection was "authentic": avocados, onions, tomatoes, garlic, salsa, jalapenos, cilantro, limes...we sliced and diced.  When we were done, I grabbed a tortilla chip and sampled the fruits of our labor.  It was OK.  I figured it would be better after the flavors had a chance to meld...but as the evening wore on, there was no change.  It didn't taste bad, it just tasted like something that didn't have a lot of avocado in it, which is kind of a deal breaker for guac.

So the quest for a go-to guac recipe was stalled until a special someone, who claims that he doesn't like to cook, invited me over for a home cooked meal.  I saw an avocado, onion powder, salt, cilantro, and a sprinkle of lime juice come together in a flash.  The result was pure avocado bliss.

Everything about this recipe is flexible and easy going.  The only required ingredient is the avocado.  Lime juice is nice but not essential.  Cilantro is divine but can be skipped in a pinch.  The quantity can be scaled as needed: for a party, I'll use three avocados.  If I'm solo, anywhere between ½ to one avocado.  You can't go wrong.

  • avocado
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • cilantro
  • lime


Dice up some cilantro, as much as you want.  For a batch of three avocados, about ¼ cup.  If you're making guac for one, it just takes a few leaves. 

Cut the avocados in half.

Gently squeeze the avocado out of its shell.

Take a step back to admire the green goodness.

Add in the cilantro and sprinkle with onion powder and salt.  Mash it all together, with the goal of mixing and softening, but don't liquefy the avocados.  Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Squeeze in some lime juice, quantity to taste.  Give it a final mash or stir.

And enjoy.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Stained Glass Jello

Someone told me that jello desserts were a kind of status symbol back in the day.  If you could make jello, it meant that you were far up enough in the world to have a refrigerator instead of an icebox. The legend has always stuck with me, and was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the Brown Eyed Baker's post on stained glass jello. My second thought was that this was a Pinterest fail waiting to happen.  But inspired by the half empty box of Knox Gelatine that I've been hanging on to for years, I decided to try it anyway...and learned that jello is fun.

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: 22 stars
  • 2 boxes (3 oz each) red jello
  • 2 boxes (3 oz each) blue jello
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatine
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

You can, of course use any color combination that you want for your stained glass.  I went with Berry Blue and Strawberry as the theme for July 4th.

Early in the morning on July 3rd, I placed each color of jello in a small bowl.

And boiled up four cups of water.

I stirred two cups of boiling water into each jello (one cup for each 3 oz box if you were making more than two colors).

I poured the jello into ungreased 9"x13" pans and set them in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.

The next step was to cut the jello into squares.  You don't need to make any effort to get a uniform size, since the squares are going to get mixed up and cut before we're through here.

I placed the squares in a 9"x13" pan.  The original recipe says to do this carefully.  I didn't use any special care, I just alternated handfuls of red and blue and made sure the colors were well mixed throughout the pan.

Now our old friend Knox Gelatine...

Place the two packets in a bowl and mix in a half cup of cold water.  Let it sit for a few minutes until it blooms.

I didn't remember what "blooms" means when it comes to jello.  It's the thing that happens after gelatine sits in water for a few minutes.

It gets thick like this.

Stir in 1½ cups boiling water until the gelatin is fully dissolved.  Now stir in the sweetened condensed milk.  Let it cool to room temperature.

The first time I made this, I had serious concerns about the off-white tint of the milk and thought I had been pranked by the recipe.  But no cause for alarm, I promise that the final result will be white.

Pour the gelatin mix over the squares.  Try to break up any bubbles that form, but don't be fanatical about it.  Also, some of the color may bleed through from the red and blue blocks, but don't worry about it.  Place the pan back in the fridge for a minimum of three hours.

Once the jello was firm, I covered the pan in saran wrap and left the land of the purple counter tops behind and took my jello on the road.

The next morning I embarked on the final step, cutting the jello into stars.  If you're in a less ambitious mood, feel free to call it a day at this point and just cut the jello into blocks.  

Press the cutter into the jello, twisting as needed to loosen it from the bottom.

Carefully lift the star out of the pan.

Cut out as many stars as you can.  I got 22, someone with better geometry skills could probably get more.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

Continuing from last time when we talked about my love affair with potatoes, I have a soul warming dinner for you tonight.  Before that fateful night in the Irish Pub, I'd never had Shepherd's Pie, and wasn't quite sure what it was. When I saw a plate of tender meat nestled under a cloud of mashed potatoes, it was love at first sight.  Since then, I've tried many recipes, and never met one that I didn't like, but came to love Ellie Krieger's version a little more than all the rest, probably for the extra vegetables.  However, Ellie and I parted ways when it came to the mashed potatoes.  She uses a blend of potatoes and cauliflower, but I stuck with traditional spuds. This is a wonderful thing to take out of the oven on a cold night, and the leftovers are always a welcome thing to pull out of the freezer.

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Yield: 5 servings

  • For the pie:
    • 1 pound ground beef (I used 96% lean) 
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 1 cup onion
    • 3 carrots
    • 8 oz mushrooms
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • ½ cup broth
    • 1 cup frozen peas
  • For mashed potatoes:
    • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2-4 tablespoons sour cream
    • Onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Heat the oil on medium.  Cover the pot and cook the carrots and onion for eight minutes.

Peel the potatoes and chop into quarters.

Cover the potatoes with cold water, cover, and heat to boiling.  Once the water comes to a boil, uncover and turn the heat down to medium.

Chop the mushrooms into small pieces.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes.

Add the beef.

Cook until the meat is browned and the liquid from the mushrooms is mostly evaporated.

Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes.

Add in the broth and bring to a simmer.  At this point, start preheating the oven to 350° F.

Stir in the peas.  The liquid should be mostly cooked off, but if needed drain off the excess.

Meanwhile, check on the potatoes by poking them with a fork.  When they start to fall apart, they are ready.

Drain the spuds.

Mash in the butter, sour cream, onion powder, and salt.  Adjust quantities as needed for taste and mash until creamy.

Now make the magic happen.

Smooth the spuds over the meat.

And tuck it in the oven for 25 minutes.

And eat it up.