2/20/12

SoCal Guacamole (+ a Giveaway!)

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I've been wanting to share this recipe with you guys for a while and just never got around to it.  This is what I call my "famous guacamole".  Or maybe I should call it my "magic guacamole".  The thing about this guacamole is... everyone likes it!  I've had many people tell me that they hate guacamole, but I ask them to try mine anyway, promising that they'll like it, and they always do.  I think the reason my guacamole is so good compared to others is because it's made with fresh ingredients, there are no preservatives in it, and it's got more to it than just avocado and a few seasonings.  I think many restaurants put Fruit Fresh in their guacs, which make it taste hideous. Sure, it makes the green color last longer, but it's not worth it.  Use your fresh lime juice and eat it as soon as you make it.

socal avocados

I was inspired to make my guacamole recently due to my Virtual Potluck group's partnership with  SoCal Avocados.  I received a whole case of avocados from them to enjoy and use in recipes as I wished, and then share those recipes with you.  The box I received contained a variety of different avocados - here are their descriptions:


haas

Haas - Haas Avocados have a wonderful rich, buttery, nutty flavor. Grown year round, ships and stores well. Thick skin turns from green to a purplish black when ripe. Flesh is pale green with a creamy texture. Oval shaped fruit from 5 to 14 ounces. Medium seed size. Peels easily. (These are usually the ones you find in your grocery store.)

pinkerton
  




Pinkerton - This variety looks like a long pear with pebbly green skin. The skin darkens when the fruit is ripe. The flesh is a creamy pale green with a small seed. This avocado is available winter through spring.

bacon








Bacon - A lighter taste with a yellow/green color. Smooth thin green skin. Large seed. Peels easily. Average weight is 10 to 18 ounces. Ripe when yields slightly to pressure. Originated in Buena Park, California by James Bacon. Introduced in 1951.

fuerte






Fuerte - Great taste. Creamy pale green flesh. Picked November through March. Smooth skin with medium thickness. Medium seed size. Peels easily. Pear shaped weighing 9 to 16 ounces. Ripe when yields to slight pressure. Skin is green when ripe.







I can tell you that all of the varieties I received were delicious.  Some ripened faster than others.  They were all different sizes.  The Bacon was ready first.  It was huge!  Pretty much the size of two small Haas avocados.  I found it to be the mildest tasting of the bunch.  You can see in the pic below that the Bacon was just bigger and fatter.  The other two were Fuertes.  These are the avocados I used in my guacamole.
 
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The Pinkertons were great because they were the smallest ones.  I would say they were the size of about 2/3 of a Haas avocado.  They were a more narrow shape, rather than fat and round like the rest of them.  I used the Pinkertons solely for slicing up and throwing into my dinner salads.  They were perfect for that because one Pinkerton was just enough for two dinner salads.

Here's a pic of an unripened Haas avocado, which is the type of Avocado you'll usually see in your grocery store.  When the skin turns a black color and it's soft to the touch, it's ripe.  You can see the black color of the skin in the second picture below.

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SoCal Avocados are grown on a 25-acre ranch called Tierra Rejada Ranch, where you'll find mature trees mostly of the Haas variety but also with a few acres of Bacon, Fuerte, and a newer variety called Pinkerton. There are also a few trees of the Gwen variety and a couple of McArthurs. All of the trees are irrigated by individual mini-sprinklers. In general, the trees flower in the spring producing a crop in the following year.  Find out more about their ranch HERE.

avocado of the monthSoCal Avocados also offers an Avocado of the Month service where they deliver 20 avocados a month to your door for $30 per month. 

They also have a page on their website with some info on the health benefits of the avocado and how it can help you during your diet.  Did you know that avocados have the highest dietary fiber content of all fruits? The USDA National Nutrient Database reveals that one avocado provides 13.5 g of dietary fiber and 322 calories.  Find out more healthy benefits of avocados HERE.

Want even more info?  Visit SoCal Avocados on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.



So after all that, I'll bet your craving some avocados, huh? 

Well, how about a chance to win a box of 12 avocados sent directly to your house? 
You can keep them in the fridge so they don't all ripen at once on you and just take a couple out at a time and allow them to ripen.  You'll be surprised how long they last! 


To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me which variety of avocado you'd like to try the most, why you love avocados or your favorite way to enjoy them.  If you win, you will receive 12 avocados of available varieties.


If you'd like extra entries, do the following and come back here and comment below letting me know you did one or all of the following:



  • Tweet about this giveaway by tweeting the following: "I just entered to win 12 avocados sent to my door from @SoCalAvocados @TaratheFoodie! Enter here: http://tarathefoodie.blogspot.com/"

This giveaway will end on Sunday, Feb. 26th at 6pm est and I will choose 1 winner from the comments below using random.org.

This contest is now closed.  Congratulations to Cara Baute!

Good luck, and find out how I made my guacamole after the jump!

2/8/12

Paleo People Gourmet Grain Free Granola Clusters

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paleo people granola variety Hey guys!  I just wanted to pop in here real quick and tell you all about a grain-free, gluten-free granola snack that I got to try recently and really liked.  The folks at Paleo People were nice enough to send me a variety pack of four 5 oz. packages of their granola snacks to try.  The flavors were Cappuccino Crunch, Apple Crisp, Cacao Nut, and Banana Nut.

These granola snacks are unique because they don't contain any oats or other grains, which makes them gluten-free.  Instead, they contain nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, spices and natural sweetener.

logoThe idea for Paleo People snacks came from Laura Keenan, a CrossFit Affiliate, where many of them were advocates of making their food choices based on "The Paleo Diet" by Loren Cordain.  Simply put, good clean foods with ingredients you would find in the cave dweller days.  Find out more about this food philosophy by visiting their About page.

Also check out their Facebook Page and follow them on Twitter.

build-a-better-me-logoThe day these snacks came, it was like fate.  I was just getting home from work and my plan was to run in, get a quick pre-workout snack, then get changed and go to the gym.  As I was driving home, I was trying to decide what my snack would be.  I wanted something that would give me energy for my workout, but wouldn't be loaded with fat and calories.  I usually go with peanut butter and pretzels, or nuts and dried fruit, or some type of granola snack.  So you can imagine how happy I was to open this package when I got home!  My pre-workout snack had been delivered right to me!  I decided to open every package and try a little of each.  They were nutty, a little chewy, and had great and unique flavor.  I liked these because they weren't too sweet because they're not loaded with sugar.  I also loved how they had a good amount of nuts in them.  Nuts are a great pre-workout snack because of the protein. It makes you feel like you actually ate something, which gives you the fuel you need to get through your workout.

The Banana Nut ended up being my favorite because it had those dried, sweet, crunchy banana slices in it.  This flavor was so fresh and just sweet enough.  It was like a treat.

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The Apple Crisp was similar, with it's fruity flavor, but it had a little more of a tang from the dried apples.  Still very yummy. 

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The Cacao Nut was like a chocolate flavor, but not very sweet.  It was good if you're a fan of semi-sweet chocolate, which I am. 

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The Cappuccino Crunch was very unique with it's coffee flavor.  It was very similar to the Cacao Nut in flavor. 

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I liked all four flavors and it was fun to try them all.  They ended up being a great pre-workout snack.  They'd also be a great "car snack", which is what Mark and I call the little bags of granola or other healthier snacks we keep in our cars that we can snack on after work if we're raging hungry and we don't want to eat dinner until later.

Would you like to win a sampler of your very own?
You can get exactly what I got shipped right to your door and all you have to do is leave a comment below.


If you'd like extra entries, do the following and come back here and comment below letting me know you did one or all of the following:

  1. Follow Paleo People on Twitter
  2. Tweet about this giveaway by tweeting the following: "I just entered to win a @paleopeople variety pack of gluten-free granola from @TaratheFoodie! Enter here: http://tarathefoodie.blogspot.com/"
This giveaway will end on Sunday at 6pm est and I will choose 1 winner from the comments below using random.org.


Good luck and have a great day!

2/4/12

Build a Better Me Healthy Blogging Challenge!

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build-a-better-me-logoHappy Saturday everyone!  Hope you're having a great day - I usually do on Saturdays.  It's the day you can sleep in and stay up late if you want to.  It's also the day you can usually get done what you've been trying to get done all week because you don't have to be anywhere.  It's a pajamas all day kind of day.  Ahhh doesn't that sound perfect? 


So today's post isn't a recipe or a review of any kind, but instead... an announcement!

Since the turn of the year, I've really been trying to focus on being consistent in eating right and working out in hopes of not only losing some weight, but also making sure I'm as healthy as I possibly can be. 

This brings me to my announcement... 
I am joining the Build a Better Me Healthy Blogging Challenge! 


What is the Build a Better Me Healthy Blogging Challenge?
It's a group of bloggers that support each other in their efforts to live healthy and blog about it occasionally.  It's a chance for us to share with you what we're eating and what we're doing for exercise to hopefully give you all some good tips and ideas what will help you achieve your health and fitness goals. 

Virtual PotluckOver the past couple months you've been getting to know the band of food blogger rockstars I'm involved with called Virtual Potluck. Well, during one of our many discussions on what we wanted to conquer in the food world next, we got on the subject of new year's resolutions and healthy eating habits and what we wanted to accomplish personal goal-wise in 2012. We agreed that food blogging lent itself to indulging in the best foods in the world and if you're not careful, that can lead to some weight gain. Together we came up with the Build a Better Me Healthy Blogging Challenge.


no fastfood
Does this mean you'll only be blogging about low-cal food from now on?
Hells no!  My approach is "everything in moderation" (except if there is an open bag of nacho cheese Doritos in the house, then all bets are off).  Also, portion control and consistent exercise.  So if I decide to make something deep fried, I will probably mention that I paired it with a salad and I had a small portion of that fried food.  My fast food days are over.  It may taste good in the moment, but it really does make you feel like a big fat slug afterwards and who wants to feel like that?  I WANT to eat good, whole foods because they really do taste better and they're better for you.  It's a win-win. 

Basically this initiative just means that every once in a while I'll pop on here and let you know about an awesome healthy snack I found that I love, or a great workout I had and how that made me feel, or just a healthy thought of the day.  The idea here is that I'm not on a diet, but I'm slowly changing my lifestyle for the better... and I'd love to share it with all of you! 


Why did you decide to join BABM?
Whelp... I'm a food blogger.  I love to cook and am capable of basically making myself whatever my little heart desires on a daily basis.  Over the years that has equaled to a few extra pounds that I'd love to get rid of.  But just as importantly, because I'm a food blogger, I tend to read a lot about food and talk to people about food and watch documentaries and videos about food.  I'm learning more about the food I eat every day and that information has made me want to eat more of some things, like kale, and completely stop eating other things, like Taco Bell and McDonald's. 

I want to show you that even a food blogger that eats (duh), breathes, and sleeps food can eat right, exercise regularly, and lose weight.  So if I can do it, then anyone can, right? 


cartoon_fitness_ladyWhat are you hoping to accomplish by being a part of BABM?
I want to be the best me I can be.  I want to feel great and be full of energy.  I want to look hot a sexy!  And I really want this to be an interactive thing with all of you.  Please comment on this post and all of my future BABM posts and share with me what YOU'RE doing to stay healthy and lose weight.  We can share ideas with each other and your comments can also give other readers great tips and ideas as well.  Let's do this together!




Check out the other VP Bloggers participating in BABM for extra motivation:

Theresa from Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine
Heather from Farm Girl Gourmet
Rachel from Not Rachel Ray
Shelby from Diabetic Foodie
Matt from Thyme in our Kitchen
Milisa from Miss in the Kitchen
Marnely from Cooking with Books
Donna from Cookistry
Vanessa from Groovy Foody
Susan from 30AEats



So, I hope you're just as excited about this new addition to FOODIE as I am.  You have let me know in the past that you like it when I post healthier recipes, so I'm hoping that you will get a lot out of these posts.  Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know what you'd like to see in a BABM post.  I want to make this something we will all enjoy.  Have a great weekend!



2/2/12

Valentine's Day Dinner & Cocktail Pairings: Herbed Smoked Salmon Mousse Croûte

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So it's already February... can you believe it?  Time flies, especially when you lead a busy life, and I know most of us do.  One of the best things about this month, in my opinion, is Valentine's Day.  :-)  I know, guys everywhere just cringed.  But many of us ladies LOVE this holiday.  It's goofy, it's silly, but I like that about it.  It's an excuse to go out to dinner and get a little more dressed up than usual.  It's an excuse to tell your honey how much you love him or her.  It can also be an excuse to plan a special dinner to prepare together and enjoy right in the comfort of your own home. 

My Virtual Potluck group partnered up with Taste on the N8tion.com this month to bring you Valentine's Day menus complete with signature cocktails created just for us by Taste.  N8tion.com is a web television and radio network covering a wide variety of topics from music to entertainment to food and drink!  You can watch Taste every Thursday for free on n8tion.com

taste banner

So Taste asked the members of Virtual Potluck  to each choose a course and they would pair our creations with a signature cocktail made just for us.  How fun!  Oh, and there are THREE Valentine's Day menus!  Check out last week's menu over at our host blog, Groovy Foody

So for this week's menu, I chose the appetizer course and since it was for Valentine's Day I thought I'd try to make it pink.  Pink is also my favorite color, so it works out nicely :-)  So I made a smoked salmon mousse and served it on a toasted croûte (crusty bread or baguette toasted with olive oil).  Taste created a drink to go along with it called the Brandy Squirt.  Here's the recipe:

BrandySquirt


Here's the Taste episode that shows how this drink is made as well as the other drinks created for this week's menu:




See how I made this mousse (it's really easy), after the jump!


2/1/12

Virtual Potluck & Lewis Bear Co. Super Bowl Party: Cheese Soup with Herbed Croutons

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Happy February!  If you live in the Northeast, hopefully you're finding some time today to get outside and enjoy the unseasonable warm weather we're having. Yesterday in Cleveland it was 60 degrees and today it's holding steady at 50, which is pretty warm for the first day of February.  This winter can't seem to decide if it's gonna be warm or cold. 

Are you getting excited for the Super Bowl this Sunday? Are you going to any parties or are you throwing a Super Bowl party at your house? Well, if you are, you might be trying to come up with ideas on what to bring or what to serve at your party. At the end of this post I'll put a list together of things I've made in the past that would be great for Super Bowl Sunday, but first I'd like to highlight one particular dish: Beer Cheese Soup.

I mean... it's made with beer, which deems it instantly acceptable at any non-sucking Super Bowl party. Just imagine a nice big crockpot of this stuff keeping warm on the back counter with a bowl of herbed croutons sitting beside it. Your guests could just roll on by, fill up a bowl, and go hang out in the living room with their hot soup and an ice cold beer, which gets them the hell out of your way as you put together the rest of the party fare.

This soup has a distinct flavor from the beer and a nice bite from the sharp cheddar cheese, hot sauce, and cayenne (I know, shocking... it's spicy!).  I suggest using a beer that actually has some flavor because the alcohol will cook off, but the flavor of the beer you choose to use will stay and be prominent in this soup, so choose wisely.  I suggest using an IPA or a Pale Ale.  Something with a little hoppiness and a nice flavor. 

The beer I used in this soup was Victory Brewing Company's Headwaters Pale Ale. This beer was provided to me by the Lewis Bear Co., who is a family owned beverage distributorship founded in 1876 that holds the regional franchise for Anheuser-Busch. The company is headquartered in Pensacola, Florida.  My food blogging group, Virtual Potluck, is partnering with Lewis Bear Co. to introduce you to some of the beers they distribute and show you how they can be enjoyed... and that means even cooking with them!

I received three beers from Lewis Bear Co. to try:

  • Victory Brewing Company's Headwaters Pale Ale
    • Tasting notes from the company: This firmly crispy and aromatically arousing pale ale integrates a softly supportive malt base with underlies streams of herbal hop complexity.
    • My take on it: This beer had a great flavor with a hoppy finish (but not too hoppy). I also picked up a touch of citrus flavor in this beer, which might have come from the herbal hops.

  • Grayton Beer IPA
    • Tasting notes from the company: A well balanced, yet hop forward IPA —Grayton I.P.A. effortlessly combines the hop essence with a surprisingly smooth body, balanced with a touch of malt. An invigorating taste that’s a perfect companion to an adventurous weekend.
    • My take on it: This was my favorite. I enjoyed the smooth maltiness and it was just hoppy enough - no bitter aftertaste. 

  • Pensacola Bay Lighthouse Porter 
    • (not pictured below as this beer is not usually bottled and served on draught only, so the bottle I received was just plain and unmarked)
    • Tasting notes from the company: The Lighthouse Porter is flavorful, without being heavy. An enjoyable sipping beer, you’ll definitely find your way to shore with our Lighthouse Porter.
    • My take on it: I'm not really a fan of porters in general, so this was not my favorite beer.  Granted, I was drinking it out of the bottle and it's usually served only on draught, so I might not have gotten a true sense of what this beer is.  If you're a porter fan, I would suggest giving it a try just based on how good the other two beers are.
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Want a chance to win a Lewis Bear Co. prize pack? 
Prize pack includes:   2 t-shirts (one from Budweiser and one from Victory Brewing), Budweiser hat, Bud light bottle opener and Pensacola Bay Brewery Coozie.

Mandatory Entry:
To enter: Just leave a comment in the comment section below.

Additional Entries:
For extra entries, do any or all of the below and then come back here and leave a comment for each:
  1. Follow Lewis Bear Co on Twitter
  2. Like the Lewis Bear Co Facebook page
  3. Tweet about the contest:I just entered to win a @lewisbearcomp prize pack from @TaratheFoodie #virtualpotluck Enter here: http://tinyurl.com/7a7wk7p  Comment again, letting me know you've done so, by providing the link to your tweet.
Contest will end on Super Bowl Sunday, February 5th at 6 pm EST and a winner will be chosen via random.org.

See how I made this soup after the jump!