Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Usually, my mom and stepdad host a pumpkin carving/fall fest every year, but unfortunately, this year they didn't because they were down in Texas visiting my uncle. So this is a throwback to the previous year's pumpkin carving contest:


HAPPY HALLOWEEN to everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Holy Guacamole!



Yup, this is it. This is the best guacamole recipe out there, folks.

It won me first prize in my company's annual Cinco de Mayo Guacamole Contest. It has been the spark to many a friend's new-found love for avocados.  My dad requests it for his Father's Day gift every year. And it may just be the real reason Brent married me. (okay, maybe that was a stretch)

Seriously though, every time I bring this to a party, it is gone in under 15 minutes, leaving people wondering, "what in GOD'S NAME is so addictive delectable damn good about this goopy green stuff?!"

I've been going back and forth on posting this recipe since I've started my blog - the reason being, quite frankly, I'm hesitant to let people in on how simple it really is. It's so much more gratifying to leave a party where everyone there thinks you're some sort of Guacamole Goddess.

So, I'm biting the bullet on this one and finally giving in. Are you ready for it?

The secret ingredient, my friends....

is SHALLOTS!

This recipe totally came about on accident. I forgot to buy onions one day, and all we had were a couple shallots in the pantry, so I tried those instead. WOAH. Talk about mind-blowing.

What you'll need:


Holy Guacamole

Ingredients:
1 large (or 2 small) clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 large shallot, small diced
2 ripe avocados, mashed
1-2 tsp of lime juice
Salt to taste

Combine all your ingredients and mix well - I use a fork for this. I don't know why, but I'm a creature of habit, so this is how it will always be.

I wait to add my salt at the very end. Honestly, the key difference between a good versus GREAT guacamole is making sure to add JUST the right amount of a salt. 

My recommendation: after each dash of salt you add, taste your guacamole using a chip. Tortilla chips tend do be loaded with salt, so you want to make sure you're not adding too much salt to your guacamole in addition to the salty chips. Sometimes, this requires that I do a good 4-5 taste tests (what a shame, right?) before I hit the right saltiness - but I'm telling you, it makes all the difference!

Bring this to your next Sunday football party, and I guarantee the bowl will be empty in 15 minutes or less. And you'll probably have 15 new friends, too.

If you're bringing it to a party, I would strongly suggest doubling the recipe - it will go very fast!




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recipe of the Week: White Bean & Kale Soup



Now that fall is upon us - I don't even want to talk about the frost on my windshield this morning - it is totally soup weather.

This soup is hearty, comforting, delicious, colorful, healthy, and did I mention, INCREDIBLY SIMPLE to make! It goes perfectly served alongside some crusty bread or a nice grilled garlic roasted ciabatta and havarti cheese sandwich...

For all you meat-lovers, feel free to add your preferred protein: chicken, ground meat, or sausage.

For those not into animal products, just substitute the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and you've got yourself one delicious vegetarian soup at hand.

Allergic to gluten? No worries, this soup is gluten-free!


White Bean & Kale Soup

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 C carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, chopped (about 8 to 10 cups chopped)
4 C chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain!)
1 can (15 oz) white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preparation:
  • In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. 
  • Add onions and carrots. Saute until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low. Add kale and garlic, then cover, and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add more salt if desired.

I found that this soup is even better the next day - the flavors blend really well and the kale soaks up all the tomato/broth goodness. It transforms into an ultra chunky soup - my favorite kind!



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Maudslay State Park

Ally and I ventured out to Newburyport, MA for the day on Saturday to embark on a self guided fall foliage hike at Maudslay State Park. Neither of us had been, but reviews claimed it was very "secret garden" esque. Pictures hardly even do this beautiful park justice - it was breath-taking...I had a hard time putting my camera down throughout the entire hike. If you live in New England and are looking for a nice outdoorsy way to spend a fall day, I highly recommend checking out Maudslay. Hikers be warned though, the trails are not very well marked, and the trail map is from a few years ago, so it is not entirely accurate. 2 1/2 hours and 6 miles later, we were able to conquer the hike, but not without a few wrong turns!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Honeymoon Recap: Day 5 & 6

Day 5 of the honeymoon began with a trip to Pearl Harbor, then continued with a drive up to the north shore of the island, making stops at the Dole Plantation, lunch, and random beaches along the way.

It was a little rainy on our drive to Pearl Harbor that morning, but it resulted in a series of beautiful rainbows:




While waiting for our tour to begin, we walked around the property and the museum for awhile.


To begin the tour, they showed us an amazing 15-20 minute documentary with footage from day of the attack as well as the recovery efforts - talk about incredible. It made me extremely proud to be an American, to say the least. Then we boarded a boat that took us across the harbor to the beautiful USS Arizona Memorial:


The memorial itself is very simple, but perfectly represents the lives of those who were lost.



The monument sits on top of of the USS Arizona. Some parts of the ship still remain above water, but most of it is submerged. A small amount of oil from the ship still seeps out into the harbor.



Brent captured this beautiful shot of the American flag above the memorial:


We continued our day at the Dole Plantation, where we embarked on their giant pineapple maze - this ended up being a lot more fun than we anticipated. The "maze game" consisted of finding the 8 hidden symbols on the map and completing the puzzle at the end, as quickly as possible. The record set was 8 minutes - it took us just under an hour...we were still proud! haha




Then we hopped in our lil convertible, threw the top down, and cruised up to the north shore for lunch and beach hopping.







I highly recommend to everyone traveling here to drive up the coast to the north shore - it's full of some pretty amazing views!

Day 6 was pretty low key for us. We spent most of the day by the pool and walking around Honolulu doing some souvenir shopping. We found an amazing happy hour at a place called Wolfgang's Steakhouse (not THE Wolfgang Puck, we later found out, but still, it was a noteworthy find!), and we hung around in the area for the Honolulu Hoolaulea festival that night. They had live music, food trucks, beer tents...it was basically this huge street party that spanned 10 blocks - SO much fun!







We had all intentions of waking up early the next day to go watch football (bars open at 6am for the football games on Sundays - crazy!), but that last drink at the beer tent did us in. Woops!