Monthly Archives: October 2009

Happy Halloween!!

Hey all,

Just a quick post to wish all of you ghosts and goblins a safe and happy Halloween.

Lots of food memories for me on this holiday. Popcorn balls, pillow cases full of candy, costumes and parties, the list goes on.

Lovely orange globes

Fall is fantastic!

Today marks a first for me on Halloween. I ran my personal best of 12 miles in preparation for my first half marathon next Saturday, November 7th. It didn’t really feel like Halloween, as I was just trying to stay upright and keep going forward.

I did however, hit the grocery store this late afternoon in preparation for an autumn dinner of Yellow Curry. The DH was craving it, so I complied. The dinner of shrimp curry, rice and paan was quite lovely actually. I thought (briefly) to photograph the meal in progress, but my body was still in recoup mode, actually surprised to find myself vertical at this point, so I didn’t want to rock the boat.

Homemade tart tatin

Just. Say. No. Damnit.

I will say however, this meal is worthy of a repeat, so I will post photos and recipes next week. The meal is easy, fast and really satisfying.

Oh, and it’s also easy on the waistline as I continue to move down the charts. I have now lost a total of 23 pounds, just 5 pounds shy of my goal. Remind me to stay on the good path next time I decide to eat my way through 2 years with reckless abandon. Stupid Kat.

Which reminds me of another milestone come this October 31st. No Halloween candy in the house. None. I thought about it for sure, especially with the promise of young neighborhood trick or treaters arriving at our door. How could I disappoint? Should I pass out money instead? Seriously? Is that a consideration for some people?

Really? Wow.

Well, no such luck at this casita people. Let’s keep moving. I think instead, I will settle into a warm, plush bed a bit early tonight with my trusted and loyal boys, Dirk and Shadow. Together we will all keep the ghouls and goblins at bay. And, the candy.

Waiting is the Hardest Part…

This week has been a tough one for me and for so many others close to my heart. I have not spent nearly enough time in my kitchen as I would like, but sometimes circumstances require a different direction.

My personal experiences with friends and family are first and foremost. That will never change. Most of the time I can regain hope and promise with a simple cooking session or two. Spending time in my kitchen with familiar smells and techniques will calm me, as well as feed the family.

This week was undone in many ways. My daughter whom I love to the extremity, is facing surgery for the removal of her left kidney. She lives is North Carolina. I do not. Coast to coast travel will deem necessary next month. Ashley is expected a full recovery and for that, I am so, so very grateful, but it will be a long road.

My husband in turn, was caught gravely ill with what I would call the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever seen. It began on Sunday and didn’t offer any reprieve until the last day. To see Dirk as sick as he was is something I pray I never have to see again. I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. Honestly, there was a point I felt so helpless to do anything I wanted to cry. This afternoon, his appetite returned along with the glow in his cheeks.

My lovely mother is stronger than most. She is hoping to hear nothing from her dermatologist about a suspicious mole(s) removed from her body. Gods speed.

And, the last trouble happened upon one of my dearest friends. She is awaiting news which hopefully will be favorable. She will find out Friday. Fingers crossed, we will be opening a great bottle of wine to celebrate. Other wise, we will be opening a bottle to commiserate.

Whatever the cases prove to be, I will spend time in the kitchen. When I travel to see Ash in North Carolina, I will cook some love for her; for Randy, Lynlee and any other family and friends that come over, I will nourish them at the dining room table.

This evening I was privy to be back in my kitchen cooking for Dirk and myself. We sat at our table enjoying some potatoes, green beans and a lovely steak. And life was good.

Whenever I get to spend time with friends and familia, it is a glorious event – all of us cooking and laughing together, warm fires and good stories flowing.

The past week I have felt out of sorts for sure. But once I fell into step with the familiar pots, pans and smells, I immediately became more centered than I have been in days.

Life continues. Good karma, bad news, the wins and losses. They are constant. I am so grateful to have a warm hearth and cozy kitchen in which to seek refuge. With a warm cup of tea and a warm light, waiting just became a bit more bearable.

The Best (and Easiest) Guacamole

Hi there dear readers. My 15 minutes of fame are fading, but I wanted to post my recipe which won me first place at the 23rd Annual California Avocado Festival this weekend.

It’s really absurd how easy this is. Thank goodness the judges aren’t reading this, because they might be tempted to revoke their votes. Yeah, good luck with that you mean, mean judges. Back off.

I think the biggest tips I can give you for making great guacamole are these:

Avocados waiting to become guacamole.

Avocados waiting to become guacamole.

1. Use the best avocados you can find. Make sure they are ripe, but not overly so. A properly ripe avocado will yield slightly under your touch, but not so easily that you can put your finger through it. Fresh lime and cilantro are a must as well. Fresh garlic though? I say no. Gasp! Raw, chopped garlic in this venue doesn’t bode well with me. I think it’s too overpowering. You taste garlic, and then. More garlic. I like a small amount of garlic powder. Not garlic salt. If you don’t have it, don’t bother buying it specifically for this dish. It won’t really matter. I do find however, that a bit of garlic powder can lend itself well to many dishes, so I always have a bit on hand.

2. Once the avocados are chopped and in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, just stir it all enough to blend it together. You want some great chunks in there. Texture is key with a good guacamole. This should not resemble a puree.

It is written, so it must be true.

It is written, so it must be true.

3. Dirk wanted me to add this tip… Do not add chopped tomatoes to your guacamole.

I concur. Tomatoes and avocados make great partners. BLT’s with avocado anyone?? Cobb Salad? Definitely! But something is weird and unappealing about raw tomatoes trying to ‘blend’ into an avocado mash. The result? The water in the tomatoes waters down the guacamole, and the tomatoes just get mushy with the weight of the avocados. Both distinct flavors end up getting drowned out by each other. We vote no.

Here I offer you the winning recipe:

Locals Only Guacamole

Makes about 3 cups – this recipe can be halved if you don’t want a shwack.

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium to large avocados, preferably local and organic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
  • the juice of 2 limes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Combine all ingredients together just to blend in a medium bowl. Taste and season accordingly. The flavor get a bit richer and refined if left alone for an hour or so.

Note: Guacamole is extremely perishable, so it should be made to order and consumed within the meal. If you have any leftovers to refrigerate overnight, a small schmear of non-fat yogurt or mayonnaise on the top will insure the air cannot penetrate and discolor the guacamole. Before serving, simply stir the yogurt or mayo into the left guac and resume the celebrations! Ay Ay Ay!

Party on. Party on.

And the Winner Is…

If you read my post from yesterday, you know Carpinteria hosted the 23rd annual California Avocado Festival this weekend. Why a little laid back beach town gets to host the state’s largest avocado event? Well, besides its phenomenal location and beauty, this county produces the largest amount of avocados in the nation. And in my honest opinion, the tastiest ones too. So it seems fitting one of the most popular events at the festival is the Best Guacamole Contest, which I entered this afternoon.

And won.

Green is good.

Green is good.

Yep, I won it! I could hardly believe it myself. I’ve never entered any food contests, and this being my first, I figured I had little chance at all. These cooking/baking/food contests are serious business folks. I guess it was a good thing I didn’t know all of this before I decided to sign up, because I’m pretty sure I could have found an excuse not to enter. But I just didn’t think about it all that much, and it paid off!

See? Sometimes not thinking everything to death can be a good thing. I’m going to have to repeat that last sentence to myself more often.

It was a very exciting afternoon to say the least. My loving husband (and biggest fan of my guacamole) was in attendance along with my Mom. We dropped off my entry and had about an hour before the judging began, so we walked around the festival snapping great food shots and sampling some good ‘festival foods’. I always get a kick out of the food choices at festivals, but especially food festivals, because they are so random. Now again, this is the largest avocado festival around, so the majority of food booths focus on the green fruit, but I also loved how you could get a Funnel Cake, a Churro and a Pulled Pork Sandwich, all within 10 feet of each other.

Yes, I put avocados in a pumpkin. I'm weird like that.

Yes, I put avocados in a pumpkin. I'm weird like that.

I told you I’m not a food snob. I love it all. Foie, caviar, absolutely. But put a plate of chile cheese fries in front on me and back away. Slowly.

After nibbling through the fair, we made it back to the judging stage and grabbed the last few empty seats. We enjoyed the auction of avocado trees, and awards handed out for the Festival’s largest avocado (a hefty 3.3 pounds).

The 7 judges sampled the entries, judging for taste, texture and presentation. After a short hour, the tallies were in and the results were announced. 3rd and 2nd place announcements were made; a young gal new to Carpinteria won 3rd, and a sister team took 2nd. I was already planning in my head where we were going to have lunch, figuring the event was nearly over, when the announcement came through for the winner.

Emcee: “And the winner of the 23rd Annual California Avocado Festival for Best Guacamole Is….”

Me (in my head): “Maybe Delgado’s for lunch. Or Zookers. No, definitely Delgados. I need chile…”

Emcee: “Kat…”

Me: “Huh?”

Emcee: “Jaaaaaaaaaames!”

Me: “Shut up!”

I got a great big blue ribbon. I may put it under my pillow tonight to keep it close. And a gorgeous hand crafted bowl, big enough to serve 2 gallons of guacamole at my next party. You’re all invited.

I’ll post the winning recipe for you, but honestly, it’s just so simple I really can’t believe I won with only 5 ingredients. But then again, when you live in the avocado capital of the nation, it’s hard to make a loser batch.

roll that footage...

roll that footage...

Holy Guacamole!

This weekend marks the 23rd Annual Carpinteria Avocado Festival. It’s a great event and takes place in Carpinteria, a sleepy little beach town just eight miles south of Santa Barbara. My Mom also lives in ‘Carp’ (hi Mom!)

Every year, more than 100,000 people attend the festival, enjoy live local music, sample various foods and just basically enjoy a beautiful fall weekend at the beach. Twist my arm. You can sample many versions of  guacamole, mexican fare, tri tip sandwiches and more. There is even an avocado ice cream (pretty good as I remember), and fried avocados (sometimes fried is not better people.)

And no avocado gathering would be complete without the largest vat of guacamole available on display and for purchase. Dirk and I are not proud; we tried it. Meh. But those cute cheerleaders who slaved over a hot (cold?) bowl the size of a hot tub mashing case after case of avocados, all the while cheering aloud and shaking their cute young bodies was a bit inspiring. Well, that was Dirk’s take anyway.

These items will be part of my guacamole display. Presentation people, presentation!

These items will be part of my guacamole display. Presentation people, presentation!

On the last day of the festival there is a guacamole contest, where mere mortals like myself can enter with a chance to win either 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbons along with your 15 minutes of fame in the local papers.

Dirk says my guacamole is pretty good, so I am entering the event tomorrow. I’ll post some prep photos and shots at the festival. Tasting and judging begins Sunday at 1pm, so we’re heading down to pick up my mom just after noon and we’ll see how it goes.

You would think finding the perfectly ripe avocados for said guacamole would be easy, but actually the festival does not coincide with the true avocado season, which hits here later in the fall. Most avocados in the store right now are either grown in Chile or Mexico. The local avocados available more resemble the firmness of a hand grenade than a soft, yielding vegetable. Not helpful.

Ripen says me!

Ripen says me!

Luckily, we had an ace in the hole. A client of ours has his very own avocado farm, so he was gracious enough to supply us with a dozen large Haas beauties earlier this week. Picked unripe, he recommended we place them in a large brown bag and toss in a ripe banana to speed the ripening process.

As of yesterday, I was 1 for 12. 1 ripe avocado and 11 green bombs. Plan B resulted in a couple stops to our local markets where I was lucky enough to purchase a half dozen local ripe-ish beauties. Another banana and brown bag later, I am hoping the last 16 hours will take them right to the edge of perfection.

Then I will smash them.

So, fingers crossed and all that. I’ll post the results (hopefully success will be mine!) At the very least, I’ll have fun in the process and can hang out on the beach eating great food. I’d better not fill up on too much guac though. Those 10 pounds of avocados on hand will ripen eventually. Let’s see, avocado brownies… avocado soup, avocado bread…