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Monthly Archives: September 2012

“Save Some For Me” Guacamole

“Save Some For Me” Guacamole

I couldn’t decide what to title this post, because just calling it “Guacamole” seemed lame.  I thought about calling it “Game Day Guacamole,” because it is great to have when a bunch of people are together watching a football game.  I thought about calling it “Fiesta Guacamole” because no fiesta is complete without having guacamole present.  I thought about calling it “Summer Cookout Guacamole” because it is always one of the first things eaten up at our summer cookouts.  I thought about just calling it “Taco Night Guacamole” because it is an obvious great addition to any family taco night.

Really, I just felt torn.  I didn’t want some naive person to see my “Game Day Guacamole” while trying to prepare for a summer cookout, and then move on without giving it a chance.  I didn’t want some poor soul who was preparing for a football party to see my “Fiesta Guacamole” post and think that this recipe wasn’t for them.  There were just so many things that could go wrong…too many things at risk.  What in the world could I call this guacamole that would actually apply to every possible scenario where it would be served and eaten?

As Craig snacked on guacamole and chips, with med school papers in front of him and the Gamecocks football game on in the background, I continued to prepare the rest of our taco salad dinner.  My mind wandered from the title of this post to the football game to the cleaning I needed to do around our place back to watching Craig eat up the guacamole.  I hope he makes sure to save some for me, I thought.  I made a lot this time, so I should be good.  I continued to think back to the countless times in my family that someone missed out on getting guacamole because they were in the other room…or maybe they were watching something on t.v….or maybe they accidentally fell asleep (that is a BIG NO-NO in the Warner family if you don’t want to miss out on good food)…or maybe they just looked away for a moment.

It’s not that a I grew up in selfish family or anything.  We definitely don’t mind sharing.  We just love guacamole, and we really love this guacamole.  You just eat it up without even thinking and before you know it, it’s all gone.

Yep, “Save Some For Me” Guacamole really does summarize this easy recipe extraordinarily well.

Before you go on to read these ingredients, please know that they are estimates.  I wasn’t even going to list amounts of each ingredient, but I know that some people out there may have an anxiety attack reading an entire recipe with no amounts listed.  I have never actually measured this out.  Everything is really to taste, and that’s how I encourage you to make this.  You can use these amounts as guidelines, and then play around with the guacamole until it most suits your taste!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1/2-1tsp salt, or to taste
    • Kosher is definitely best, but regular salt will work also!
  • 1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
  • 1/2-1 jalapeño, diced up (optional)
    • Don’t include a lot of the seeds unless you really like hot stuff!
  • 1/3-1/2 of a lime’s juice
  • 1/2-3/4 onion, chopped
  • 1/2-1  large tomato or 1-2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic

Directions

Remove each avocado from its peel and pit.  If you are unsure how to do this, or you are just curious how I do this, click here!  Once you have removed all the avocados, you are welcome to go ahead and cut them into to chunks to give yourself a head start if you would like, or you can just toss the avocado halves into a bowl.  Use a fork or spoon to start mixing the avocados, using the edge to cut through bigger pieces into smaller chunks.  Once it is just barely starting to look like guacamole (your goal is to still maintain some avocado texture through the end of this), go ahead and add the other ingredients, mixing each one in at a time.  The order does not matter much, except that you definitely want the tomato pieces to be the very last thing you add.  Otherwise, they will just get mushed and make everything else soggy.

That’s it!  Wow, how easy is that?!  Now you can go enjoy your football game, your fiesta, your summer cookout, your taco night, you whatever!  Just make sure you get some of that guacamole before it’s all gone!

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How to Open an Avocado

Opening an avocado is actually really easy.  My dad taught me how to do it years and years ago, probably when I was early in high school.  I really never even knew that some people had trouble with it until I was older and saw friends actually attempt to open an avocado.  You know when you are watching somebody struggle through something relatively simple, and you are aching to say, “Just let me show you how to do it.”  Yeah, that’s how I frequently feel watching people open avocados.  (In my defense, I really only get that way when I’m watching people struggle their way through opening or cutting something in the kitchen, because I’m paranoid about people slipping with a knife and cutting themselves.)

Directions:

  1. Cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit, making two halves (one of which will still have the pit).
  2. Put the edge of your knife into the pit, and you can generally pop it right out.
  3. Use a spoon to scoop each half of the avocado out of its peel.
  4. You’re done!  Now slice it, cut it into small pieces, or do whatever you want to enjoy your easily-opened avocado!  You can even do a happy dance if you would like!  😉

I’m Getting Pumped!

10 more days until the official start of this

followed by 39 more days until this

followed by 22 more days until this

followed by 33 more days until this

followed by 6 slash 7 more days until this

11 Years…Never Forget

Time is passing.  Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th.  We will remember every rescuer who died in honor.  We will remember every family that lives in grief.  We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of children.  – President George W. Bush

Please don’t forget.  Don’t forget what this country has gone through.  Don’t forget the importance of freedom.  Don’t forget that we are one nation under God.

Take a moment today to reflect on September 11, 2001.  Say a prayer for those who are still grieving, eleven years later, for the loss of loved ones.  Pray that their aching hearts be filled with some sense of peace.  And pray for the future of this country that we love so dearly.

This is our home.  It’s the land of the free.

United we will stand.

As Lee Ielpi, a retired NY firefighter who lost his firefighter son on 9/11, said today in an interview, we move forward not with hate in our hearts, but with hope and with the thought that we will make a difference.

“Get Well Soon” Chicken Noodle Soup

An Instant Slow Cooker Classic

So unfortunately, after a fabulous Labor Day Weekend with my family, this work/school week started out with the hubster getting sick.  Padre and my twin brother, Alex, were not feeling well over the weekend, so with that many people in such close quarters, we all knew that someone was going down.  The question was, of course, who?  Of course, no one ever “has time” to be sick.  We’re all too busy, we have too many things going on and too many commitments.

I actually kept thinking how funny it was to me that everyone was trying to explain to each other why they really couldn’t get sick, where as everyone else apparently just “couldn’t get sick.”  Maybe it’s my family’s competitive nature, but I was wondering what that conversation actually accomplished.  It’s not like germs were going to say, “Oh, well this person really doesn’t have time for us, so we’ll go infect that person instead,” although that would be quite considerate.

My other thought was that I wasn’t helping by including myself in the “who actually can’t get sick” conversation, but I did, anyway.  The difference was that I wasn’t trying to explain to everyone why I couldn’t get sick.  I was trying to explain to everyone why Craig couldn’t get sick.  Sure, someone would probably end up getting sick this week, but I just kept hoping it wouldn’t be Craig.  I would be better off getting sick instead, or if Craig did have to get sick, he needed to be able to hold it off a little longer.  There were too many things going on this week, from volunteering at a free clinic, to a Wednesday night class Craig is taking this term (besides his regular classes), to being a supplemental instructor for first year students, to lab.  This week was just not the week for Craig to get sick.

Except apparently it was.

So with our home still in total disarray from the weekend, I set out full-force on a mission: To create a great “Get Well Soon” chicken noodle soup!  So what exactly are the components that make up a “Get Well Soon” chicken noodle soup?  Well, this was my list of requirements:

  • The recipe had to make a legitimate amount of soup without a lot of extra effort.
    • Nobody wants to have to make a new batch of soup every day or two when sick.  When you are sick and tired, you want the soup ready to go at almost a moment’s notice, so that means that you definitely want leftovers.  Even though I’m not sick (yet), I don’t want to have to make soup for Craig every couple of days while he is sick.  You could say that makes me an undedicated wife, or you could say that makes me a loving and resourceful wife who prefers to spend her time wisely.  If I can get it all done at once, why not?  Plus, I wanted to make enough soup that I would at least have a little bit ready for me if I do get sick.  Even if I have to make another batch, I want to be able to eat some soup first to give me the energy I need to make more.  And, BONUS, if we don’t use it all up, we can freeze what is left so that we have some to heat back up when we need it later this fall or winter.
  • It had to be made in the crock pot.
    • So I’m not currently sick, and I could have definitely made some chicken noodle soup in a big pot on the stove instead.  However, I wanted this recipe to be something that I could repeat later on, whether it is Craig who is sick or me or even (way in the future) one of our little “Craig-lings” (that’s what my parents call our future children).  When I am sick and achy and have a fever, the last thing I want to do is to have to stand over a stove, stirring soup while my legs are begging mercy for me to lay back down, and the steam and heat rise up, surround, and attack me, causing the beads of sweat I may have already have from the fever to turn in to a raging river of sweat pouring down my body as my temperature continues to escalate.  No, no.  I want the soup to basically make itself while I lay in bed, willing my body to get better.  And in the future when I have kids, I feel like I’m going to want to be able to focus on caring for them when they are sick, or if Hubster is sick, I would like to be able to get the kids out of the house to go do things so Hubster can actually rest.  I mean, Jada can be high-maintanence for a pup sometimes, but I am pretty certain kids will require even more effort than she does.  So, yeah, if this was going to be a recipe I could definitely use over and over again in the future, the crock pot was a must.
  • It had to use boneless chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken or chicken pieces.
    • There are plenty of soups out there that use whole chickens or chicken pieces, and quite honestly I would probably enjoy just about every one of them.  I’m really not picky.  However, I stock up on boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they are BOGO at the grocery store, so I always have some in the freezer.  As I made clear in my previous point, I want a soup that requires little effort in preparation so that I can still make it when I’m sick or don’t have a lot of time.  Plus, when someone is eating chicken noodle soup because they are sick and not just because he or she is craving it, I am guessing most people don’t want to have to worry about picking out any pieces of chicken bones or anything that got overlooked in the crock pot.  They want to be able to eat the soup in a half-asleep state and put the bowl right to their mouth at the end so they can slurp up all the goodness before returning to their nap.  So for the sake of all the sick soup eaters and slurpers out there, I was determined for the recipe to call for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Easier to make, and easier to eat.

So in the end, I got some inspiration from a few different websites, and eventually just decided that I would have to make this my own.  I guess I would say I ultimately adapted this from a recipe I found on the Southern Food section of about.com, but I definitely made some changes so that it would better fit my tastes as well as meet all of my soup requirements.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • I just used a three-pack of chicken breasts because that was easiest, and this recipe is obviously all about what is easiest.
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp salt
    • This is about how much salt I used, but you really need to add more or less to tasted, based on whether you are using low sodium chicken broth, plan on eating your soup with saltine crackers, etc.
  • 1/4 -1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • You could use 3-4 tbsp dried parsley instead, and it would work fine.  I just personally prefer using fresh ingredients when I can, but honestly, if I am making this soup when I am actually already sick in the future, I will just go for the dried parsley if I already have all the other ingredients on hand and want to avoid a trip to the grocery store.
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8-10 oz noodles
    • I used extra wide egg noodles, and those were awesome in this!

Directions:

Place all the ingredients except the noodles in your slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove the chicken and bay leaf.  Cut up or shred the chicken, and then return it to the slow cooker.  Cook your noodles separately* and add them as you serve the soup.

*Instead of cooking the noodles separately, you could add them when returning the chicken to the crock pot, and then continue to cook another hour on low or thirty minutes on high.  I knew that I would be ready to eat by the time I shredded my chicken and returned it to the slow cooker, so I went ahead and cooked the noodles so they would be ready.  I also chose to just add them to each bowl I served instead of tossing them into the slow cooker because since I knew I was planning on having leftovers to use throughout this week, I didn’t want the noodles sitting in there the whole time and getting too soggy.  Plus, Craig and I can add more or less noodles to our soup that way, depending on personal preference.  If we end up freezing some soup for later, I will just boil up some more noodles when we pull the soup back out.  This time, I actually just went ahead and cooked an entire 16 oz bag of noodles, and we are using what we want in the soup, and when we are done with the soup, we will probably just have what is left of the noodles as regular pasta.

I was a little nervous making this, as I am still working up my confidence in the kitchen, but I really enjoyed the soup (besides the fact that I was sweating because it is still in the 90s here in Charleston), and it really seemed to hit the spot for sick Hubster.  We had it for dinner last night, and then he actually had it again for breakfast this morning because nothing else was sounding as good.

So whether you or a loved one is getting sick, or if you’re just craving some easy, tasty chicken noodle soup as the cooler weather approaches, give this recipe a try.  And if you getting sick or are already sick, please get well soon!

Easy Weekend Monkey Bread

Easy Monkey BreadDear Reader,

I promise I do care about health and I do not live on sugar alone.  That being said, I am about to offer the fourth sweet treat I made over Labor Day Weekend for my family.  Please know that the perpetual sugar high of this past weekend did end eventually – just not before I made this tasty breakfast for my family.

Love and Calories,

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, this is the breakfast I made for my family on Sunday morning.  My mom made something similar to this for my brothers and me growing up when we would have friends sleepover.  We always loved it!  I found this version of classic monkey bread on the Pillsbury website.  I love that this version has the oozing caramel-type topping on top that is complimented by the perfectly soft and cinnamon-y biscuit pieces on the inside.

Recipe

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 of the large (about 16oz) cans or a 4-pack of the small (about 8oz) cans of buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Directions:

In a bowl, mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Open up all your packages of biscuits, and cut each biscuit into quarters.  Rolls the biscuit pieces in the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and the arrange them in a lightly greased 12oz bundt pan, adding the nuts and/or raisins if you are using them.  (While I think I would have also enjoyed this with nuts and raisins, I did not use any because I was serving to a lot of people with varying tastes and pickiness levels, and I knew this was plenty delicious already.)  In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and butter/margarine together, then pour over the biscuit pieces.  Bake for 28 to 32 minutes* at 350 or until golden brown on the outside and no longer doughy on the inside.  Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping the monkey bread upside down onto a serving plate.  Serve warm, and enjoy!

*For whatever reason, this generally takes me closer to 32-35 minutes before the delectable breakfast is truly done.

Easy Monkey Bread

Inside-Out Chocolate Bundt Cake

This is another recipe courtesy of my mother-in-law.  If you like chocolate, this is the recipe for you!  It doesn’t take long to make, and it’s almost impossible to mess up.  I made this cake over Labor Day weekend while my whole family was down here visiting.  Craig and my dad are both big chocolate people, so while my dad still requested the normal peach pie for his birthday celebration, the he was even more thrilled to find out I was also going to make this cake.  A great birthday celebration, indeed!

Recipe:

  • 1 box (4 1/2 oz) instant Jello pudding
  • 1 box (2 layer) Duncan Hines Devil Food Cake Mix (I’m sure other brands would probably work, as well…this one just happens to be Craig-friendly.)
  • 1 bag (12oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (I used vanilla soy milk.)
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips.  Mix well, and then slowly stir in the chips.  Spoon batter into a well-greased and floured 12 cup (the standard size you would think of) bundt pan.  Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes.  It is done when the cake springs back when lightly touched.  Do not over bake.

The only other problem I have ever heard of with this cake was a friend of my mother-in-law’s who just could not get the cake to come out of the pan in one piece.  It was always stuck.  Before she would put the cake in the oven, she was tapping the pan on the counter to make sure there were no air bubbles, but after three plus times of baking the cake and it never working, she realized that tapping to pan on the counter to get rid of the air bubbles was sinking all of the chocolate chips to the bottom of the pan.  So don’t try to get the air bubbles out of your cake.  Let it be as free and bubbly as it would like so that it can come out of the pan as beautiful and delicious as you would like!

I enjoyed my slice of chocolate heaven with some powdered sugar sprinkled on top!

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