Baked Brie with Orange Cranberry

I have never been really good at finger foods or fancy appetizers. My idea of hors d’oeuvres is mini hot dogs rolled up in Pillsbury crescent rolls. (Let’s be honest, I actually use the generic crescent rolls!)

Well guess what??? I found a really fancy looking, pretty, delicious “hors d’oeuvres”. And it’s EASY too!

Simply buy a round chunk of Brie cheese and cut the rind off the top. Then bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes, and put a mixture of cranberries with wild orange essential oil on top, bake it for another 5 minutes, and serve it all melty and amazing with crackers!

So officially you will need:
1 can cranberries (whole cranberry sauce, not the stuff that is the shape of the can when it comes out)
1 round of Brie
2 drops Wild Orange essential oil
Pecans for garnish (optional)

Check out this link which is where I originally got the recipe!

I’m loyal to one specific essential oil company, because I’ve found their purity stands far above the rest, and their educational support is second to none. To learn which one is my favorite, use my contact form and I’ll reply with details.
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Special Dark Peppermint Mocha

I originally began using Essential oils because I wanted a natural alternative to OTC medicine, especially for my kids, since the options can be overwhelming and I’m obviously very cautious about what I put in their bodies.

But now that I have them, I’ve been finding fun uses for them as well, like this homemade sugar scrub and all-purpose cream. You can also cook and bake with the oils, which I’ve only tried once or twice so far. This week I discovered this: I can make a peppermint mocha at home that rivals Starbucks’, plus it has the health benefits of peppermint oil instead of added sugar from a syrup. 😀 Now I will not give up my annual Starbucks Peppermint Mocha during our shopping break on Black Friday, but this is a really good option for all the other days in winter when I don’t want to spend $5 for a ‘designer coffee’. (Because you know I can’t have only one…!)

So here’s what you do!
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1. Brew your favorite coffee. We like Dunkin Donuts. It’s best when you grind the beans yourself, because it’s super fresh. If you want a little extra depth to your coffee, you can add about 1/2-1 Tablespoon cocoa powder to every 6 Tablespoons coffee grounds; you put that right in with the grounds while it brews. I use Nestle cocoa powder here, or a good quality baking cocoa.

2. Pour 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder into your mug. I use this in the actual mug because it is a very rich dark chocolate, which is my favorite. Plus it makes up for the fact that you are using regular coffee, not espresso, in your hot beverage.

3. Pour coffee over said cocoa powder, into mug. Stir.

4. Add as much cream or milk as you like. I’ve found I like Half & Half best. I only use a teaspoon or two. Also add a teaspoon or two of honey. (Click here to learn why I started using honey in my coffee.) Stir again of course.

5. Add one drop peppermint essential oil and, you guessed it, stir again! (It is strong. You only need 1 drop!)
*EDIT: Be sure to stir well or use a little frother to mix after adding the peppermint oil, so it doesn’t just hang out on top of the coffee. If you don’t have a frother and you find the peppermint oil is too strong for that first sip, you can always add the peppermint oil after the cocoa powder, BEFORE the coffee 😉

Your beverage now looks like this!

Your beverage now looks like this!

Now, you can stop there. It is already super delicious and perfectly satisfying. But if you want to splurge, read on..

6. Add whipped cream and some mini-chocolate chips. And then sip quickly, before the whipped cream melts and the chocolate chips sink!!

MMMM

MMMM… Special treat!

I think because the peppermint oil is so potent, the flavor kind of fuses into the whipped cream and even the chocolate chips taste a little bit peppermint-y!

This would be amazing with a chocolate creme pie for dessert.

Or on Christmas morning in your cozy Christmas PJs while the kids are opening presents around the tree, with snow falling outside… Yep, that sounds perfect. I’m doing that this year. 🙂

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I’m loyal to one specific essential oil company, because I’ve found their purity stands far above the rest, and their educational support is second to none. To learn which one is my favorite, use my contact form and I’ll reply with details.

All-Purpose Repair Cream

I’ve been waiting to post this one until I had a new batch of the glorious stuff.

I’ve used this ‘cream’ to help:
*Diaper Rash – relieve pain & reduce redness
*Face lotion – reduce lines, soften skin, calm acne
*Hands & Body – soften & moisturize skin
*Lip primer – before gloss or lipstick to soften and soothe chapped lips
*Anywhere – Soothe burns, rashes, or cuts

I love this. I use it on my face at night (my skin feels and looks so much healthier!) and on my hands pretty often throughout the day. I wish I had taken before and after pictures of my hands. The palm-side of my fingers had been really appalling – the lines on them were really deep and had a dark stain in them that no amount of scrubbing would remove (this was likely due to my working in a restaurant). I felt embarrassed because it looked like I never washed my hands, when quite the opposite was true. I began applying this cream after using my Lemon Peppermint Scrub, and the difference is amazing. The lines have been reduced, there is no longer a permanent dark stain on my fingers, and my hands always feel like velvet after applying it!

If you are an essential oils user, you probably already have all these ingredients in your home. Here is the recipe!

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All-Purpose Repair Cream
1/2 c Coconut oil (melted)
10-15 drops Lavender essential oil
10 drops Frankincense essential oil
10 drops Melaleuca essential oil

When I use just for my facial/skin care (not for first aid purposes), I add:
*5 drops Bergamot
*2 drops Geranium
*1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

First measure your coconut oil into a small glass mixing bowl. Fill a small pot or large measuring cup (like a 2+ cup Pyrex) with very hot steaming water (not boiling). Create a sort of double boiler by placing the bowl with coconut oil over the hot water. The steam will melt the coconut oil. I’m sure you can use the microwave to melt it, and I’ve heard of people doing it, but personally I like to melt it more naturally. (You can even do this directly in the mason jar if it has a wide mouth, but be careful because it will be full!)

Once the coconut oil is melted, add your essential oils and use a small whisk to stir. Then put into a mason jar, put the cap on tightly, and set somewhere to cool.

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When the coconut oil cools down, it will solidify more. The addition of the oils, though, make it smoother than the coconut oil on its own. If you are in a hurry to use it, you can place in the fridge for a few minutes until it’s the right consistency.

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Now this ‘cream’ is not like store-bought lotions you’ve used before; it took me awhile to get used to the more oily consistency. However the benefits far outweigh the discomfort of trying something new. You may want to allow a couple minutes for it to set into your skin. If my hands ever feel too oily after application, I simply pat them with a towel.

POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS:
Next up, I’m going to try a combo of coconut oil and shea butter, as well as the addition of Roman Chamomile!
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Lavender has an overall calming effect on the mind and body. It’s frequently used to soothe skin irritations and help skin recover from various maladies including rashes, burns, cuts, scabs, dry skin, etc. It helps reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Frankincense is one of the most widely prized oils; it has been used for centuries for its various uses including soothing, beautifying, and rejuvenating skin, reducing the appearance of stretch marks, scars, and lines, and slowing the signs of aging. It has even been used as perfume! It is anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting, and aids in overall optimum body system performance. 

Melaleuca can be used to cleanse and purify the skin and nails and to promote a clear, healthy complexion. It is frequently used on minor skin irritations to soothe the skin and help it recover quickly. It is also anti-viral and great for boosting immunity (great for our hands!)

I’m loyal to one specific essential oil company, because I’ve found their purity stands far above the rest, and their educational support is second to none. To learn which one is my favorite, use my contact form and I’ll reply with details.

Spaghetti Squash: Make-Ahead Meal

School is back in session! And with it, extracurricular activities. Our eldest, A, auditioned for a Junior Dance Company at her current studio and was invited to participate! This is super exciting as I was never a dancer, but now I’m like officially a “DANCE MOM”. (Um, wait. I think there’s a reality show about dance moms… I don’t think they have a good rep. So, I’m just a dance mom. Not one of THOSE dance moms. Glad we cleared that up.)

My struggle with extracurriculars is scheduling them at a time that works with school and meals and bedtimes. Last year I learned that 4pm is the WORST time to have an hour long class, because everyone is so hungry during and right after, and by the time we got home it was already 30 minutes past our normal dinner time – that’s if we were lucky and didn’t hit a whole lot of rush hour traffic. Not the ideal way to make a meal. It makes that witching hour in the kitchen just a little bit worse.

But today I tried something that I will absolutely be doing again. A’s class is from 5-6pm, so I knew I had to have something at least half-way prepped before I took her. Today we had to run a few errands after picking her up from school, so we didn’t go home in between the end school and the start of class. Commence early major meal prep!

If you have a similar situation and don’t want to do take out, fast food, or frozen TV dinners every week, try this:

Several hours before dinner – about 5 is good, but schedule it however works for you – start on this Homemade Pasta Sauce. I started about 1:30, knowing I had to leave to pick A up from school between 2:45-3, and wouldn’t be back until after class, about 6:30. Once that has simmered for about an hour, blend it up and turn it down as low as possible. Pop a lid on it, and leave it to simmer for another few hours while you’re gone. My hubby was home on this particular day, so I informed him of what was going on – but if you’re uncomfortable leaving a burner on while you’re not there, just transfer it to a crock pot after blending, and leave on low (or even just the “keep warm” setting) until you return.
*Side Note: If you don’t have time or don’t want to attempt making the homemade sauce, I SUPPOSE you can use jarred sauce. It won’t have the same effect when you get home and walk in the door though. 😉

About an hour and 15 minutes before you have to leave, prep a spaghetti squash for the oven. The ones I’ve purchased at the store are generally VERY LARGE, and difficult to cut. One tip is to cut it on a damp kitchen towel so it doesn’t roll around. If you’ve never used spaghetti squash before, here is a picture:
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All you do with this awesome squash is cut it in half lengthwise and put it cut-side-down on a foil-covered baking sheet drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with S&P. I have heard of people doing it the opposite way – cut side up – and then of course you’d put the olive oil, S&P on the inside/top. The large ones need about an hour at 400ºF. I had 2 small ones fresh from our visit at Frederick Family Farm (possibly it’s own future post – we had a blast!), so I baked them at 350ºF for 45 minutes. *Note: I also cut the stems off. It makes it easier to cut in half lengthwise and also, since ours were fresh from the garden, they were very long and would’ve been more difficult to handle if I left the stems on.

Right before you leave, pull that baby out of the oven and let it rest on the stove until you return. It needs to be at least room temperature for you to handle it, regardless of when  you cook it.

The other thing you’ll need for this make-ahead meal is some pre-cooked ground sausage. I had some in my fridge from a few days prior when I made biscuits and gravy. (Do you remember my posts on Second Meal sausage pasta & this one sharing other Second Meal ideas?) I use half the chub for the biscuits and gravy, and save the other half for a dinner in the next day or two.

So. Before you leave you have:
1. Cooked ground sausage in the fridge
2. Spaghetti squash cooling on the stove
3. Sauce simmering in the pot

When you return home, follow these simple steps:
1. Turn the heat up on the sauce just to medium-low. Leave lid off. Stir.
2. Add the sausage and stir.
3. Holding the squash by the outside, use a fork to remove the seeds (I just pile them up on my baking sheet with tin foil) and then use the tines of the fork to scrape along the squash from top to bottom to remove the good stuff:

That's the stuff!

That’s the stuff!

Once I have the majority of it out, I scrape along the inside with the side of my fork to remove whatever is stubbornly clinging to the inside of the rind. (Peel? Crust?)
4. You can scrape that good stuff right into your pot with the sauce simmering. Once you’ve finished that, stir again. *If you’re not sure that you made enough sauce, or think you made TOO much, you can scrape the squash onto a cutting board or into a different pan and then add the sauce after the fact.
5. Sprinkle some cheese on top, and VOILA! You have successfully completed a healthy, home-cooked, filling, delicious make-ahead meal that will be ready to serve your family in 10 minutes within arriving home. (I think fresh grated Parmesan would be amazing here, but all I had was shredded mozzarella and some Kraft grated parm. So that’s what I used. OHI, right?!)

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Any questions? 🙂

Spring Pork Loin with Citrus Garlic Ginger Crust and Apple Onion ‘Salsa’

You know what’s great about trying new cuisine or ingredients? You can try them in new ways – or, I suppose, OLD ways with a new twist.

Are you confused? Sorry. Let me explain in detail:
This week I attempted Indian food for the first time – Tandoori Salmon. It was actually AMAZING. I bought fresh ginger for the recipe. I’ve used ginger before, but not very often. The combination of the extra ginger sitting there and the marinade I made for the salmon gave me an idea. I scrapped the recipe I was going to try for my Thursday meal and made up my own instead!

And now I’ll share it with you! I’m calling it “Spring Pork Loin” because I suppose I’m wishful thinking. It is mid-March after all, and the weather has topped 50º more than once this week! (But then again, in Chicago that means nothing. Reluctant prediction: we will get another snow storm in April.)

Pay attention to the captions on the photos – they include instructions!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Not pictured: 1 orange, cinnamon, soy sauce

Not pictured: cinnamon, soy sauce, 1 orange

I started with a 4 lb. pork loin which I patted dry with paper towels. Next I made the marinade, which also serves as our liquid for the crock pot.

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup soy sauce

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup - then add the juice of one orange

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup – then add the juice of half an orange

Now brush that marinade onto the pork.

I always use a pastry brush. I've never used it for pastry. ;)

I always use a pastry brush – which I’ve actually never used for pastry. 😉

I let that sit while I made the “crust”:

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Stir in the Dijon mustard, then brush that ‘crust’ onto the pork:
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Be sure to get all sides and cover thoroughly. (More crust = more flavor!)

Put that baby in the crock pot!

Put that baby in the crock pot! (Fat side down)

Pour the remaining marinade into the pot. Just be careful not to wash away the crust. I poured mine in that little space you see above the pork.

Make the apple onion salsa by slicing an apple (I used Gala and a quarter of a Golden Delicious we had in the fridge. You see, I really do save and use everything. – almost -) and putting it in a bowl. Cut up half of a white onion by slicing vertically through the bulb 3 times, cutting in half crosswise, and then cutting a few times crosswise again to get big chunks. Put in bowl with apple. Add the applesauce, orange juice, and cinnamon, and toss.
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Now (gently) dump that ‘salsa’ on top of the pork! (I’m calling it a salsa because it’s the only word that comes close to a chunky kind of sauce. It’s not a slaw. It’s not a chutney. So it’s a salsa!)
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Cover any bit of the pork that is showing by moving the chunks around.

Now put on the lid and cook for 8 – 9 hours on LOW. I originally cooked mine for 8 on low, but had to cook it for an additional 30 mins on HIGH because it wasn’t as tender as I wanted.
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Here’s the finished product, ready to eat!
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Look at how caramelized the apples and onions were. They not only got soft but also soaked up the juice. The ginger and orange juice are bright against the deep, traditional ‘au jus’ flavors of the marinade, which is further balanced by the sweet apples. And the crust just melted right into the pork. So, maybe it was more of a ‘rub’ than a ‘crust’, since a crust implies crunchy, and crunchy it was not. It did however impart that nice spring flavor and extra layer of texture. All the pork has this great ginger scent. It’s just a hint, not too spicy or overwhelming. The meat was falling apart into shreds – just perfect to make a Second Meal of pork tacos or pork sandwiches!
I served it with a slightly modified version of these 
roasted sweet potatoes (yes, I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon!).

If you’re craving spring, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredient List:
1 4lb Pork Loin
Marinade:
1/8 C soy sauce
–up to 3/4C red wine
Juice from 1 orange
Crust:
2 Tblspn Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 Tblspn diced garlic
Zest from 1 orange
Apple Salsa:
1 Apple, sliced
Half large white onion, chopped
1/3 C Applesauce
Juice from 1/2 an orange
Few dashes of cinnamon (I used 5)

Garlic & Onion Crusted Pork Loin with Red Wine Jus

Every Thursday my eldest has dance class from 4-5. It is at least a 15 minute drive, more if we get stuck in rush hour traffic. I knew when I signed her up that I’d have to be strategic about dinners on these days. I figured it was a perfect opportunity to try new slow cooker meals!
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Most times my meal planning is influenced by the sales that week. This particular week, pork loin was on sale, so I searched for pork loin crock pot recipes. I came up with this: Amazing Pork Tenderloin in the Slow Cooker. However, since Kelly’s Honest Mom interview, I’ve been following her tips to read labels, and trying to do better in choosing products with more natural ingredients. One of the ingredients in this recipe was Onion Soup Mix. I checked the label at the store, and it had dehydrated onions, salt, onion powder, and some paprika – and a bunch of things I couldn’t pronounce. I decided to skip the mix and replicate the spices myself. I also adjusted the recipe because I bought a 4.8lb pork loin, and the recipe only calls for 2lbs. (I’m planning on making a Second Meal with the leftovers!)

Here’s what you’ll need:
Pork Loin (again, mine was 4.8lbs)
1/2 c chopped onion
4 Tbspn minced garlic
3 Tbspn Soy Sauce
3/4 c Red Wine
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp Onion Salt
1 c Water
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First I trimmed the pork loin of some of the fat, since the hubs and I are eating healthier. But don’t remove it all – you’ve got to leave some for flavor and tenderness!
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Then I cut it in half (it was big! too big to fit in my crock pot otherwise) and layered the chunks in the crock pot.
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Next I sprinkled the seasonings over top (onion salt & garlic powder) and added the liquids: wine, water, and soy sauce. Be sure to pour some of the soy sauce directly on the meat – it will sink in and make for a delicious bite!
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Next I placed the onion and garlic over top of the meat and cracked the pepper over top.
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Replace the lid and cook on low for 8 hours.

When it’s about half-way through the cooking time, splash 4 more dashes soy sauce and about 1-2 more tablespoons red wine directly on the meat.

Good luck resisting the amazing garlic smell coming from the crock pot all day. It’s worth the wait though, with a distinct saltiness and tender pork that pulls apart with no effort at all. The onions and garlic almost form a crust on top. So good!
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Save that juice and pour some over your meat and whatever side you choose; I served it with egg noodles and homemade creamed spinach.
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Save the leftovers for a Second Meal – pulled pork sandwiches, wraps (they’d be great with avocado, lime, and a little cheese!) or pork soup!

Homemade Italian Dressing

After interviewing Kelly for my Honest Mom series, I’ve begun reading labels more carefully according to her suggestions. What I’ve found is most of the time I can replicate a dressing or seasoning packet with what I already have at home – and without the unnecessary preservatives! Not only do I feel better about what I’m feeding my family, but it’s also a huge confidence booster to make something from scratch, relying entirely on your taste buds.

I won’t lie: when I was done, I did a happy dance in the kitchen.
To which A said, “Mom! STOP!” (Apparently she’s now hit the age of parental embarrassment. Even when no one’s around to witness.)

Let me share a little disclaimer: Several months ago I would not have had the time, energy, or even desire to do this. Chasing after the kids, meal planning, working, keeping up with obligations from the hubs, school, and church kept me plenty busy enough, thankyouverymuch. So the two biggest things that led to me trying this were:
1. My family eating healthier – The hubs is trying to lose weight, I want to eat healthier, and my mother in law started Weight Watchers. Part of the reason I tried this is because I knew she could only have fat free dressing, so I made it from scratch. (YES! The only fat in this recipe is from the olive oil, which she is allowed.)
2. My youngest is finally old enough to (pretty much) keep herself busy for longer periods of time and without endangering herself, so I can get more things done. Plus, I knew I’d be using most of necessary ingredients for dinner already, so it wasn’t a whole lot of extra work.

Just to be clear: If you would have told me 6 months ago to make Italian dressing from scratch, I’d have told you to jump off a bridge. Okay, maybe something less extreme, but I just want you to know that my intent isn’t to make anyone feel bad for using bottled dressing. More to show how fun and easy it is, if you have the desire and time to do it.

So HERE WE GO!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tblspn very finely diced red pepper
1 finely diced shallot
4 Tblspn Olive Oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 Tblspn Kosher salt
3/4 Tblspn honey
Dash oregano
Dash basil

Finely dice your red pepper. You almost want it to be a mince, releasing all the juices.

Keep cutting until juices are released and it's almost mushy.

Keep cutting until juices are released and it’s almost mushy.

Combine liquids (oil, vinegars, and honey) in a bowl and whisk to combine.
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Add salt and pepper; whisk again.
Add the finely chopped garlic. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of Italian dressing are the chunks. You can mince your garlic if you like, but I prefer to leave some texture!

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Guess what’s next? Yep! Whisk away!

A helped me whisk, taste, and adjust my recipe.

A helped me whisk, taste, and adjust my recipe.

Add your red pepper and shallot aaaand… WHISK!
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Add your dashes of oregano and basil.
The finished product should look something like this:
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I poured mine in a cruet for easier dispensing:

Remember to shake before using!

Remember to shake before using!

Be sure to let it sit for at least an hour before you use – the garlic needs time to flavor everything. This will keep in the fridge for about a week – longer if you keep shaking it – otherwise everything separates and you can get a thick solid film on top.

I dare you to try this. Then I dare you to take a blind taste test with a bottled dressing and determine which is which.
And even if you are able to tell the difference, you’ll probably prefer your homemade one anyway. Why? Because there’s one ingredient you won’t find in bottled store-bought dressing: LOVE!

Guacamole

Fixed my guacamole! Yum!

Recipe:

3 Small Avocados or 2 large ones, halved, seeded, cut, and peeled.
Juice from 1 large lime
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt, or more to taste
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 Roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 tomatillos, diced
1 TBLspn cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

So first you mash the avocado and gently stir in the lime juice and salt. Then fold in all the rest of the ingredients. I’ve gotta say, the trick is the 2 tomatillos. I’m telling you, they make it. They’re an indescribable combo of a cooling effect yet kind of zingy. I am also generous with the cilantro… If it looks like it needs more, I add it. Then I add more salt to taste. (If you’re wondering, yes, kosher salt is better! )
Let sit at room temperature for one hour to let the flavors really marinate.

It is So. Good. 🙂

But how do you keep it from going bad/brown?

Good question. I wondered the same thing, so I asked one of the cooks I work with. He said, keep the avocado pit in it, and lay a piece of lettuce over top. Well I don’t have lettuce, but I did cover it with plastic…
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And now you can enjoy your guacamole with chips, on wraps, on tacos, on steak, on burgers, as a veggie dip… Whatever your heart desires!

Aside

Slow-Roasted Glazed Pork Shoulder – Bon Appétit

This sounds amazing, but unfortunately a little too time-consuming and uses WAY too many dishes for me at this point in my life. Ha! I thought I’d share it though, in case anyone does have time and would like to try it. (And share reviews here- hint hint!)

Slow-Roasted Glazed Pork Shoulder – Bon Appétit.

What is OHI? Plus Banana Oat Cookies -only 3 ingredients!!

Something you should know about my cooking skills: When I first started making meals for my family, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I followed every recipe to a T because I knew NOTHING. I’m not kidding. Before we had our eldest daughter, it was just me and my husband in a tiny 500 sq ft rental house. I had to call my mom to ask how to boil water.
………………………………..
(I’m mentally pausing for you to have time to laugh at my ignorance. It’s okay, I’m laughing too – don’t feel bad.)
………………………………..
Now that we’ve all had a good laugh, I can tell you that with practice, I was able to take certain factors into account in order to change recipes to my family’s liking. These are:
1. Budget – like most families, we don’t have unlimited money pouring out of our closet or randomly falling off our tree in the front yard. I plan our meals before I strategically plan my weekly shopping list, which is most times based in part off of the grocery ad / what’s on sale.
2. Pantry/Fridge/on-hand ingredients (I think from here on out I’m going to just abbreviate and say, OHI. Because I can foresee myself blogging about this a lot from here on out!) – I keep a pretty good mental inventory of what we have at home and what possible ingredients are substitutable (is that a word?!? …it is now!) for ones I find in a new recipe. So, I will define OHI as fulfilling these things: 1. you already have it in your kitchen; 2. something that is expiring soon that you don’t want to waste by throwing away; 3. a similar ingredient to what’s in a recipe but that you know you or your family would prefer.
3. My family’s taste – I learned quickly that my husband Alex is a pretty simple guy. I’m talking frozen pizza – hot dog – salami/bologna sandwich kinda guy. And if I tried to do something fancy he wasn’t having it. I’m pretty sure he’s actually said to me before, “Why are you trying to make it all fancy? Stop trying to complicate things.” I was probably adding shredded cheddar to leftover mac n cheese, since that’s one of the few things I understood how to make at that point. And everyone knows reheated mac n cheese is not the greatest. I was so proud of myself for figuring out a way to freshen it up the next day (a splash of milk and a little shredded cheese actually DOES do wonders.) Once we had kids I had to learn how to adjust meals to be kid-friendly. I’m going to have to work in a post about what constitutes ‘kid-friendly’ in my house.
READ THIS NEXT: I do NOT feed my kids different dinners than what I make for Alex and I. And I do NOT make different meals for each child. I am blessed enough not to have to worry about allergies or special diets, so I take full advantage of that!
4. My cooking style – this includes anything from my time constraints, equipment limitations, availability of ingredients, and my own personal preferences.

So why am I talking about this??? To tell you this: I am about to share with you what might possibly be THE best recipe I have ever come across (and I made a small substitution that would have prevented me from making it at all when I first started cooking). Here’s why:
– It can be eaten in place of any meal: breakfast, snack, with lunch, dessert… ok maybe not fulfilling enough for dinner, so ALMOST any meal.
– The recipe includes 3 ingredients. YES I said 3. And they’re probably things you already have at your house!!! (remember OHI?!?! This is a slam DUNK in the OHI department)
– It is indulgent. It is sweet. It has chocolate. It has texture. It is served best warm. It pairs well with a hot cup of tea or coffee. It checks all my boxes in terms of a good dessert.
– My kids love them. They can help make them. Heck, Aubrey can practically make them on her own (as long as an adult does the oven part of course)
– The clean-up is super fast and easy. No worrying about cross contamination from raw eggs or having to soak really messy mixing bowls.
– IT IS HEALTHY! (And the crowd goes wild!!!!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

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2 large bananas, 1 cup oats, about 1/3 cup baking chips

The first time I made these, my bananas were not that large, so if you only have what can be categorized as medium or small, you’ll probably be fine. Just use a little less oats. HERE COMES THE SUBSTITUTION: The recipe called for “quick oats”. In my OHI all I had was “Old fashioned Oats”. I have no idea what the difference is. But I figured I’d try it and see how it came out. (If you’re wondering, they were amazing) And as for the baking chips, I’ve seen versions where people use white chocolate or peanut butter chips. In my house we use straight up semi-sweet chips for most things. (I’m kind of a former chocoholic.)

All you do is mash up the bananas and oats together:

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The first time I did these we mashed the bananas and then added the oats. This time I just put both ingredients in at once and mashed the bananas together. I found this way, the oats are incorporated with much less effort. Next add the chips:

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Lastly put them on a greased cookie sheet to bake for 15-18 minutes at 350º.

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DON’T SKIP THE GREASING PART! I’m not saying load your sheet up with butter, but use some non-stick spray or maybe a parchment sheet. I don’t have a sil-pat, but I’m sure that would work too. There is so much moisture in the bananas that they will surely stick otherwise.
The ‘cookies’ don’t look much different after 15 minutes. Just test them to be sure they’re springy and not mushy.  After picture:

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Enjoy! They are most definitely best warm. Eat quickly (I’m telling you, that won’t be a problem).

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I’m thinking the peanut butter chips will be worth a try, but I’d have to need them for another recipe to justify buying a bag. And I’m also debating if they’d be good with some chopped nuts, or maybe some dried pineapple?! I bet if you used the pineapple, then the white chocolate would be good. Otherwise the sweetness of banana + white chocolate = too sweet for me (I found this out when making banana muffins and tried white chocolate chunks). Yes, I can see many variations in my future 😉