Peruvian-Style Green Sauce

One of the things that coincides with choosing to live in a smaller and older home is that just about every piece of furniture, shelf, nook and cranny must serve double duty – everything must have multiple uses, functions, or purposes.  Our eating space in the kitchen has storage cabinets under the seats.  The “bench” in our living room is really a trunk that stores our collection of DVDs.  The hall closet is both coat closet and home to our vacuum cleaner. Our home is an exercise in function over form.  Utility over glam.

Any purchase contemplated elicits a “where would I store it?” or a “do we have room for this?”   Needing a new pair of running shoes requires retiring an old pair to Goodwill because there is only one running shoe designated slot on my shoe rack.  My husband’s love for (and collection of) down winter jackets have become a source of contention with closet space at a premium.  I am the queen of donating clothes I don’t wear because I simply do not want them to take up extra space.

Regardless, I wouldn’t trade out little cottage bungalow’s charm for the world.  I love our cozy little slice of town.  Moreover, I love the intentionality it forces us to practice.  In this world of “bigger is better” and excess is the new normal, I prefer to live our lives on a smaller scale.  There are very few items, if any, not in our possession that we truly need.  So in general, if we don’t need it, we don’t buy it.

As you would imagine from my hard-working, multi-function furniture, I love when objects – and foods – truly are “earning their keep”…. which leads me to this splendid little green number.  It is part sauce for roasted chicken or veggies, part veggie dip, and part salad dressing.  But, I promise you, it is 100% delicious.

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Seriously now. This stuff is the bomb-dot-com.  I have no problem expressing my love for it with cheesy sayings (see previous sentence) because after making it, I spent the next weeks wracking my brain for excuses to make it again and again.  Lucky for me, there are many (see links at bottom of post)!

I make a big batch and use it throughout the week, or you can always freeze a portion of it.  The recipe below is enough for approximately 2 different usages – depending how liberally it is applied in each.

Peruvian-Style Green Sauce

Active Time: 10 minutes   Additional time: 2o+ minutes chilling 

Special equipment: Blender or immersion blender

  • 1 small jalapeño roughly chopped, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 small anaheim pepper roughly chopped, seeds and ribs removed
  •  1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbl. fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients, except for olive oil, in blender or bowl if using an immersion blender.

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Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while continuing to blend.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 5 days.  The finished product will seem really runny initially but will thicken while chilling.

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Hello, yummy green sauce.

Here is are a couple recipes that puts this sauce to work!  (More to come!)

Thanksgiving: Hors d’oeuvres or Hors don’ts?

I think we all can agree.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and whatever else makes up your holiday feast is plenty of food.  The kind of “plenty” that results in days of turkey sandwiches.  In my family, if you don’t leave the thanksgiving table feeling stuffed beyond all reason, then you haven’t done it right.

So, as a host, should you offer drinks before dinner? Yes, absolutely!  But, should you offer appetizers on the day of food abundance?  Here, I am torn.  Do we need to offer more food?  Not in the least!  But, do my dad, husband, brother, uncles, and cousins (yes, mostly the men) meander around the kitchen looking for items to sample or graze on while the turkey is finishing its last few minutes in the oven?  You betcha!

Herein lies my conundrum.  Do I offer hors doevres or don’t I?  On one hand, I don’t want to fill guests up on appetizers before the meal even begins – which I am not saying I have ever done (cough, cough).  But, on the other hand,  I don’t want to make the hungry wait in-case the turkey takes a few more minutes than expected.

My solution this year is to offer a couple of very light – appetizers that are set out on petite serving plates so that folks don’t stuff themselves.   I am avoiding my typical go-tos entirely: No filling baguettes and no heavy cheese.  We will get more than enough starchy, heaviness from the meal itself!  So light, bright, acidic flavors are my friends here!

Secondly, Thanksgiving is the most labor-intensive holiday to host, without a doubt.  If you are a brave enough soul to host the masses, then its about coping with this reality not working around it.  Even if you approach the holiday potluck-style, the hosts still bear the brunt of the load!  So adding an additional questionably necessary task or dish to prep is pretty low on my ladder of priorities. So my solution is easy make-ahead items or items of the open and serve variety!

This year we will be serving this impressive looking, but surprisingly simple Mussel Escobeche from Sunset Magazine (LOVE this one by the way!)and these Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans that will serve a dual purpose as a salad garnish.  Both can be made several days in advance.  And, my husband will be making the world’s most simple Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with crostini when the guests arrive!  Recipe below.

Smoked Salmon Carpaccio

  • 4oz. Cold Smoked Salmon, lox, or similar (not hot smoked or jerky style
  • 1 hardboiled egg (make ahead and chill)
  • 1-2 tbl. creme fraiche
  • Fresh dill
  • Fresh coarsely ground pepper
  • Crostini (or crackers) for serving

Arrange smoked salmon as one thin layer on serving platter.  Drizzle a little creme fresh over the top.  Discard the whites from the hardboiled egg and crumble the yolk over the top.  Chop and sprinkle some fresh dill and a little ground pepper.  Serve with a few Crostini!

Voilla!  You have a fancy looking but crazy easy appetizer that won’t fill up your guests before the big feast!

 

Football Food Staples: Sweet and Savory Dips!

I did not grow up in a household whose sundays revolved around “Game day.”  I figured watching football was one of those things you do if you don’t have anything else planned.  But since getting married, I have learned exactly how wrong I was.

You can think I am stupid or ignorant of American past-times, but I grossly underestimated the importance of this American ritual – not to get all anthropological on you.

So with time, football has grown on me.  I know the difference between a tight end and a corner back; a safety and a touch back  And as with any American ritual, there is food involved.

Our game day menu includes some staples like wings. These knock-off Asian Zing  Wings are a favorite in our house.  And, if you live in the Seattle area, you must try the house-made sausages from this local spot!

After those main dishes: its all about the dips!

Homemade Guacamole

  • 2 large avocados,
  • 1 minced clove of garlic
  • 1 small chopped tomato
  • Chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons or so of fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste.

Mix all of the above together, and if its not this brand of tortilla chips scooping up the delicious-ness, then I will never hear the end of it.

Blue Cheese Dip 

(Great for Veggies!)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4-1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 6-8 oz. crumbled bleu cheese (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice.
  • Salt to taste (I only add a tiny bit.)

Mix all of the above together and enjoy with your fave veggies.  Carrots, celery, and bell peppers seem to be the faves around here.

Salted Caramel Dip 

(Dessert dip for apple slices!)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tbl. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)

Caramel timing can be tricky, so directions can be found on the blog here.  In Washington, we love our Washington apples.  And, what says fall more than an easy caramel dessert dip?

This is how we Football.  What game-day staples rule in your house?!

Gooey Salted Caramel Sauce

I have embarked on an adventure that has forced me to bring my own sanity into question.  It didn’t seem this crazy when I did it for my own wedding.  Nor did it feel that way when I did the same for a small handful of friends’ weddings.  I have agreed to make the cakes for my cousin’s wedding this month.

I can do this.  I can manage my time.  Write out a plan for what to do each day leading up to the wedding and stick to it.  Not a problem.  Been there, done that.  Well, not exactly…. You see, I agreed to this when there was an estimated 100 guests.  Still larger than any wedding I have baked for before but not by much.   But, now there are roughly “200, plus or minus 25,” according to my cousin.  Oh boy…  

The bride and groom are without a plan B.  While my plan B is to hit up costco if this whole plan goes to hell and a hand basket, I am plan A.  YIKES!

So, I have begun the adventure of baking for 200 (give or take).  We  –  meaning the bride, groom and I  –  have a plan.  We have flavors selected, and colors, flowers, cake toppers, and stands coordinated.  And I am ready!  Well, semi-sorta, non-professionally ready…….  Ok, totally unprepared and feeling more panicked by the minute.

But like I said I am plan A, so I have begun round 1 of baking, vacuum sealing and freezing baked cake.  Thank goodness for family with industrial sized freezers and vacuum sealers!  This week I got a jump on the chocolate cakes.  And because my cousin hadn’t tasted this flavor yet, I made a semi-mini batch of the filling and frosting as well.

Her filling is gooey salted caramel.  Homemade, soft, gooey, salted caramel.  In case you were wondering, the last sentence can also be read: “The Best Cake Filling of All Time!”

Now the 2nd best part about this filling is that it is also a sauce… And gooey salted caramel sauce is great on ice-cream, apple slices, brownies EVERYTHING!! So I gave my cousin and her fiancé a bit to taste with the mini-cakes and then I may or may not have kept the rest for myself.  😉

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As such we have been enjoying dunking apple slices, drizzling on ice-cream sundays, over brownies and french toast and coffee, etc.  Shoot, who am I kidding!?  We have been eating caramel like it is going out of style.

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So if you are a fan of rich, sweet, gooey, slightly salty caramel then prepare for caramel nirvana.  This caramel is super easy and quick!  No candy thermometer required (although having one handy wouldn’t hurt)!

Gooey Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tbl. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)

Chill a small metal spoon in the freezer.  In a saucepan, bring butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, and condensed milk to a boil while stirring constantly.  Slowly stir in heavy cream.  Allow to boil for a couple minutes longer while stirring. Remove spoon from freezer and dip back of spoon in caramel.  If the caramel coats the spoon and cools to a soft, gooey texture, then it is done.  Also known as softball stage (238 degrees if you are using a candy thermometer)!  For this recipe, you do not want cook it long enough that the caramel turns chewy.  Once it reaches the softball stage quickly stir in the vanilla and salt.  Pour caramel sauce into a heat proof bowl to cool.  If you left it in the sauce pan, it will continue to cook!

If you are making this as a cake filling, allow caramel to cool completely.  Then simply create a dam with whatever frosting you are planning to use around the edge before adding the caramel to the layer.  This way it will stay in place.

This recipe makes over 2 cups of sauce!  Plenty of caramel to go ’round;)  Apple slice anyone? Or how about a brownie sunday?

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Also, how cute caramel sauce be as a hostess or Christmas gift in a mason jar?!  (No need to refrigerate!)  Gift me some of that, please! Gooey and delicious!!

Mango Avocado Salsa

On a spiciness scale of plain yogurt to ghost peppers, my preference lands somewhere just above plain yogurt.  As a kid I thought ketchup was too spicy, so while every other kid was busy dumping it on everything in sight, I stuck to my Nonna’s homemade bleu cheese dip.  I was a weird foodie kid from the get go.

My husband, who is 10 years my senior, keeps waiting for more of my tastebuds to die so that we can finally add an additional star to our Thai food order.  “Just wait until you get older,” he says.  So far, no such luck.  Sorry, Tim. 

But Salsa…I love salsa.  Maybe not spicy salsa and yes, I have been told by many that mild salsa isn’t real salsa.  But to them I say, who made you the salsa boss?!

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So this Mango Avocado Salsa, may not be real salsa, but all I know is that it is REALLY tasty.  I made a mild version with bell peppers but you can chop up a red jalapeño or two if you want more heat.

Just to keep us all on our toes, this salsa is also made out of two of the hardest things to cut into cubes without making a mess: Avocados and Mangos.  I will be honest.  I am still working on gracefully cutting a mango.  The method I use is to quarter it around the pit.  Then skin each quarter and dice from there.  If you have a better method, please share!!!

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Avocados I have a little more confidence with.  After halving the avocado, I keep the avocado flesh in the skin and score all the way down to the skin in a grid pattern. Then take a spoon and separate the skin from the avocado flesh.  Yay, avocado cubes!

Onions are basically the best designed produce for easy dicing, but a lot of raw onion in salsa can sometimes be overpowering  –  especially when the onion is extra fresh!  So I borrowed – errr, stole – this little trick from some late-night, binge Food Network watching.  Dice up the onions first and then add the lime juice to them.  The acid in the lime “cooks” the onion and makes their flavor much less overwhelming.  I use this little trick in everything I can!  Including this salsa!

This stuff is awesome on chips, tacos, salads, BBQ teriyaki chicken, or even on its own.  I made it once this week already and am already craving more of its sweet mango and creamy avocado deliciousness.

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 Without further ado…these summer flavors are calling your name.

Mango Avocado Salsa

  • 2 mangoes, cubed
  • 2 avocados cubed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (or for those who like it hot, 1-2 red jalapeños, finely chopped)
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • juice from one baby lime
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. chile powder
  • dash of salt

Finely chop onions and add to the bowl you will mix your salsa in.  Immediately add the juice from one small lime to the onions and give the onions a quick toss to coat.  Dice the mangos, peppers, and avocados.  Tear or coarsely chop the cilantro. Add the mangos, peppers, avocado, and cilantro.  Gently toss the salsa until ingredients evenly dispersed.  Add the chile powder and a dash of salt. Gently toss again.  Cover and chill until serving.

This is enough to serve a crowd.  So, now all we need is some Salsa music and maybe a BBQ invite;)