Guac’n Around the Christmas Tree

Guac’n Around the Christmas Tree

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and weekend. As we head back to work and school tomorrow, it’s nice to have snacks in mind for the next time we get to kick back — maybe as early as next Saturday night! I’m hoping snackage like this will get me in the Christmas spirit. I think it’s a way to add a little fire side to your holiday — that is…if you’re willing to go whole hog on the jalapenos. This muy caliente guacamole is special for a couple of reasons. For one, the ingredients are grilled, which gives it the most incredible smokey flavor and two…you can recruit party guests into helping you make it.

Whatever mashing tools you have on hand will do, but giving someone one of those stone crucibles to grind the avocado in, is pretty fun, and makes a cool stocking stuffer. You can glue my recipe to the side of the gift! Most big box stores carry the mortar and pestle pictured.

Macy Macy’s carries these for around $20. You’ll use it constantly!


But now, a little background on this dish. Tex-Mex food is a staple in the southwest, one of my FAVORITE places to travel. I’m a fan of “Keeping Austin (Texas) Weird”, loving every aspect of their guac prepared tableside. This recipe, however, blows the doors off any guac I’ve ever had. Make it just for FUN, or impress your guests by grilling all of the ingredients, and asking them to mash the guac for you. Serve on nachos, as a condiment on fish or chicken, or…how about frying a tortilla in oil for just a couple of secs. Break off pieces and dip into the grilled guac for a communal appy? It doesn’t get any better!! Spread this guac on toast, enjoy it with cocktail shrimp, slap it on a sandwich — heck, even leave it for Santa instead of cookies. Cheers!

Grilled Guac

Serves a crowd

20 Minute Cuisine (plus an hour for roasting garlic)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large avocados, halved and pitted

4 medium plum tomatoes, halved

½ large red onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

2 large jalapeno peppers, cut in half and seeded

2 limes, cut in half

6 cloves roasted garlic (see Cook’s Tip at bottom of recipe for roasting instructions)

1 teaspoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the avocado, onion, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and limes onto the grill pan, cut side down. Cook until you see grill marks on all the food, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the veggies and limes and cook on the other side for about 2 to 3 minutes more. You want the onions to be fork tender, and the rest of the food firm, but not mushy.

Remove the food to your work surface, and let cool so that you can handle each item. Scoop the flesh from the avocado into a bowl. Chop the tomatoes, onion and jalapenos. Add them to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl. Add the roasted garlic. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher to mash all the ingredients to your desired consistency. Less mashing for chunky guac. More mashing for smoother guacamole. You can drizzle additional olive oil into the guac for added richness and more lime juice for extra smoothness.

Cook’s Tip

To roast garlic, cut the top third from the whole bulb. Place the bulbs (I do three or four at a time) onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic leaving an opening at the top. Drizzle with salt and pepper and a bit of dried oregano leaves. Place the foil packet onto a rack in the oven. Roast in at 375° until the cloves are golden and are trying to escape their papery skin, about 1 hour. Remove the cloves by squeezing them away from the skin or by using a tiny fork to lift them free. You can refrigerate the cloves and use them in absolutely everything for up to one week…maybe more!



Time to Make the Donuts!

Time to Make the Donuts!

I have a new puppy, Brownie (obviously a food name…) who likes to wake up early! I find myself walking her at zero dark thirty in freezing temperatures wrapped in a long coat, gloves and scarf sweetly recommending that she “hurry up, good girl”.  Flashback to that early Dunkin’ Donut commercial of that sweet, balding, old man waking up in the dark because it is “time to make the doughnuts!”

Doughnuts are a process. Make the dough, let it rise, cut out the circles, not forgetting the holes and frying them up in batches. Well worth the effort, yes, but what if we could short cut the procedure and have similar results?

Say, “Hello” to DOUGHNUT Muffins! I ran across a recipe in a recent issue of Fine Cooking magazine. I am a fan of their recipes because they explain the why behind the steps. It is almost a scientific approach to baking, which really helps the novice cooks. Of course I tweaked the recipe, just a bit, and will continue to do so, but for now these results are worth posting.

With the holidays upon us it is great to have an easy, go-to baked treat to start the morning off, or in my case to serve at my granddaughter’s Christmas tea party.

Let me know what you think and how you would tweak your doughnut muffins. Remember, Dunkin’ has seventy varieties and still counting!

Sugared Doughnut Muffins

Close your eyes and take a bite of this sugary, warm, light-as air treat and convince me you are not eating a doughnut! Then again, try a second one and convince yourself!

Makes 12 muffins
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-35 minutes

Preheat the oven to 350°

For Muffins

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 ½ sticks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup buttermilk

For Topping

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoon butter, melted, 3/4 stick

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray and dust each cup with flour. Use an electric mixer to cream together ¾ cup softened butter with 1 cup sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and stir in the vanilla. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and baking soda into a bowl. Do this by putting all of the ingredients into a fine sieve colander and shaking it over the bowl. It works!

Stir together the milk and buttermilk in a third bowl.

Use a wooden spoon to stir ¼ of the flour into the butter. Stir in 1/3 of the milk. Stir until the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter. Continue this process until all of the ingredients are combined. The dough will be thick and sticky.

Use an ice-cream scoop to fill each cup in the tin. Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow the muffins to cool slightly. Carefully lift each muffin from the tin to a rack to cool for at least 5 minutes.

Stir together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Brush each muffin all over with melted butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the tops, sides and even the bottoms of the muffins. Serve warm!


  • Brush warm muffins with maple syrup and dust with granulated sugar.
  • Add chopped blueberries or other fresh fruit to the batter before baking.
  • Add peppermint extract in place of vanilla. Brush the tops of the muffins with butter and sprinkle with crushed candy canes or peppermint candies.

Little Hands

Get everyone into the act when making these doughnut muffins. Little ones can brush the warm butter and sprinkle the toppings. Older kids can stir the ingredients together and wash up the bowls!

Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!

This Holiday Season Wrap Your Snacks with Bacon Bows

Then again, why limit a snack like this to the holidays?

HOLY APPY, Batman! This one is for the record (cook) book. I saw Food Network star, Ree Drummond prepare bacon appetizers on one of her Christmas specials and could not resist giving them a try. It is a simple idea of wrapping country club crackers with a thinly sliced piece of bacon and then oven baking the crackers at a low temperature of 250 degrees for 2 hours. Just layer the cracker with either Parmesan cheese or brown sugar. The cracker absorbs all of the rich bacon fat and the cheese or sugar melts right into the middle. This is such a great Christmas appy, which got me thinking, “Why do we have to wait until Christmas to eat things wrapped in bacon? This should be a year-round snack starter!”

That’s what I thought when I realized you can freeze these bacon crackers and then warm them back up any time you need a quick snack. You could also ditch the crackers altogether and embrace the gorgeous deliciousness of bacon in a more natural state. Hello, Chipotle Spiced Candied Bacon! You could also do what I did below in 2 simple steps.

Spicy-Cheesy Bacon on Warm Pita Bread

  • Step 1: Load pita chips with finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Step 2: Sprinkled on a couple of diced pickled jalapenos and wrap the pita chip in bacon, baking the “bacon bites” on a rack in a baking pan at 250° for two hours.

The result was a cheesy, rich, and salty pita cracker that melted in my mouth and then surprised me with a pop of heat.

Call to Action for All Bacon Lovers!

Let’s start a bacon-wrapped cracker movement. We could change the world! Let’s see what combinations we come up with, and vote on which one is the most original! You post your combo and I will give it a try.

Meanwhile, we will have plenty of bacony treats hidden in the freezer to quell our next snack attack! Oh, and heads up: my blog is going to be doing a whole series of SNACK ATTACKS in anticipation of my lucky #7 book, out in 2015. I think I may have given away the book’s content in this post. Oops! Oh well….commence your snacking – it is going to help me so much!!