Monday, July 27, 2009

Tip: Take a summer vacation!

I am.

Well, I'm not really on "vacation" so much as I am traveling with my family visiting relatives in my hometown. I am still trying to work while I'm visiting, but I'm finding limited Internet, changes in our schedule, and keeping up with my "wired from all the attention from grandparents" toddler making it difficult to keep up with some of the extras - such as this blog. We are home for a short stint, then away again for a few days of "real" vacation, home again for a bit, then off to Mexico for a "big time real" vacation, and my sister's wedding at the end of August.

So, I am taking this opportunity to apologize in advance for not blogging as much as I should. But, I'm keeping track of some of the good ideas I'm coming across, and will be back with a vengeance in the fall.

In the meantime, I'm going to hint at my next post: Thin Crusts Pizzas on the BBQ! My daughter just had her second birthday, and I decided a "make your own pizza" party would be fun for all! It was! The best part (for me - the cleanup lady) was it was all outdoors. Minimal mess for maximum fun. I will post the recipe, some pictures of our party, and how you can execute it all yourself in the coming weeks.

Until then, enjoy the summer. Take dinner outside tonight and enjoy some time in the yard. It won't last forever and come fall, you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BUY: Avocados

If avocados have a season, I think it would be now, though in most parts of N. America they are available all year round, and should certainly be purchased all year round in my opinion.

I've always thought this succulent, rich, buttery fruit is a staple on everyone's kitchen counter as it is on mine, but have come to learn that this isn't necessarily true (but in my opinion it certainly should be). Avocados are not only rich in flavour, they are rich in nutrients. As well as containing 60% more potassium than bananas, they are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K, and contain the most fiber of any other fruit. Unfortunately, they also contain a whole ton of fat, but it's the good fat that our bodies need to absorb all these fantastic nutrients, which means in moderation they are still very good for you. The picture above comes from this site, which contains much more info on all the health benefits associated with the yummy avocado.

But, I'm here to tell you about the taste benefits, because of those there are also many! First off, it needs to be said that in most cases avocados are not sold ripe. They often need to be ripened on your kitchen counter for 3 or 4 days, even up to a week. The most common variety are Hass, and you'll often see them in the grocery store to be green in colour and firm to the touch. They are ripe when the skin turns darker, almost black, and there is some give to the touch. I'm now in the habit of buying a few avocados every time I'm buying produce. That way, when I have a recipe that calls for them, or I just need a quick snack I always have them ripe and ready (ripened, avocados will keep in the fridge for few more days).

Once they are ripe, the possibilities are endless. My favorite is straight up, as a snack. In fact, they are one of my favorite snacks. Simply mash one whole avocado with a sprinkling of salt and a splash of lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips, or on a toasted pita. Yum. This same mixture can also be labelled "guacamole" and served on everything from sandwiches to fajitas, even in burgers or smothered on a toasted English muffin and topped with a poached egg. Yum (again).

Dice avocados to toss into your favorite salads, or slice them to make a simple BLT out-of-this-world. Mash them and layer them with refried beans, sour cream and salsa for a fun party dip. Cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, and use the shells as a "bowl" for an elegant presentation of a nice salad using the avocado as the main ingredient.

There really are so many more delicious ways to use your avocados. Trust me, they won't go to waste. So next time you are shopping (and then the time after that, and the time after that), buy a few. They'll soon become a regular on your shopping list, right after eggs, milk and bread.