Guac + salsa

Guac + salsa

I love nachos. I do. They need to be crunchy, full of delicious melty cheese, and loaded with toppings. I don’t particularly enjoy spicy food so I usually love it when they’ve got guac, salsa and sour cream. When they’re warm out of the oven, cheesy, salty, zingy. They’re awesome.

Growing up I didn’t really eat avocado – I don’t remember seeing it much around! They’re obviously everywhere now but back in the day I thought of them as these strange “exotic” foods. And I think that nowadays they’re the kind of food that either you hate or you love. I love them. Problem is – like with most foods – that if you don’t season them properly, they doesn’t really taste like much.

Avocados are amazing, they’ve got lots of healthy fats and nutrients and they’re also really filling (as they’re so fatty!) so I really like incorporating them in my diet as much as I can, but let’s face it – if you always prepare foods the same way, they end up getting boring! So I love to find different ways to prepare avocados.

Same goes for tomatoes! I love them on so many things. I’m always looking for new ways to prepare them and have them on the side of lots of meals. They can get boring! And again, if you don’t season tomatoes properly they can be quite bland. I mean if you’re lucky enough to have beautifully ripe, gorgeous tomatoes you may not actually need to do anything to them and you may be able to eat them as if they were apples – lucky you! But living in England I’m unfortunately not that lucky. So they need a bit of dressing up!

Anyways, long rant just to say that I love these dipping sauces. Using them with nachos seems like the obvious way to use them (for a reason) but you can put them on – and as a side of – so many things. So let me show you basic salsa and guacamole 101.

 

 

Ingredients for the guac:

Guacamole

  • 4 avocados
  • 3 spring onions
  • A handful of parsley / cilantro
  • Juice of 1 -2 limes
  • Salt and pepper

 

How to make guacamole:

  • First, wash your spring onions and parsley / cilantro
  • Roughly chop up your spring onions and parsley
  • Cut up your avocados and scoop them out
  • Pop all your ingredients (avocado, spring onions, herbs) in a food processor

Guacamole

  • Blitz it all up until it reaches the consistency you like – I like it fairly smooth but if you like it a bit chunkier just pulse it until it’s where you like it.

Guacamole

  • Add in your lime, salt and pepper
    • For this amount of guac I added the juice of 1 1/2 limes and 1 1/2 tsp salt but start with less, mix and add more until it tastes the way you like it

Guacamole

  • Spoon it onto a bowl and if you’re not using it immediately, cover with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge

Guacamole

 

 

 

Ingredients for basic salsa:

Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 3 spring onions
  • Handful of parsley / cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

 

How to make salsa:

  • First, make sure to wash all your ingredients – the tomatoes, spring onions and parsley / cilantro

Salsa

  • Finely chop your spring onions (green and white bits)

Salsa

  • Finely chop your parsley / cilantro and add it to the bowl with your spring onions

Salsa

  • Finely chop your tomatoes
    • Note: if you don’t want your salsa to be too watery you should de-seed your tomatoes. This basically means to remove all of their insides and just use the flesh

Salsa

  • Add your tomatoes to the rest of your ingredients

Salsa

  • Mix all your ingredients together and season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper
    • For this amount I used the juice of 1 lime and 1tsp of salt but as before, start with a small amount, mix and taste and add more as needed.

Salsa

 

 

 

Bonus – Basic nachos!

You’ll need:

  • Tortilla chips
  • Grated cheese – something like cheddar works best but any blend of cheese that will have flavour and melt well
  • Sour cream
  • Guac and salsa
  • Jalapeños (optional)

 

To make them:

  • In a baking dish (use one that you like so you can bring it straight to the table) arrange your tortilla chips and grated cheese in layers
    • Nobody likes it when all the cheese is at the top and there’s nothing at the bottom!! I’d suggest putting a layer of chips with a healthy amount of cheese, then more chips and then even more cheese.

Nachos

  • Pop your nachos in a 180C oven for about 10-15 min, until your cheese has melted and your chips start to look a bit toasty
  • Top with whatever you like and eat!
    • I’d recommend a mixture of salsa, guac and sour cream.
    • I also like to add some fried chopped up chorizo bits if I’ve got some on hand because let’s face it – everything is better with chorizo!
    • Make sure to eat them immediately so you’re not left with soggy nachos – nobody wants that!

Nachos

 

 

 

Top tips:

  • Even if you remove the seeds of your tomatoes when making salsa, it’ll probably still release quite a bit of juice so don’t be surprised if you go back to it and suddenly your salsa looks a lot wetter!
  • I’ve used parsley on both recipes because I cannot stand cilantro. I’m one of those people to whom it tastes evil so I like to use parsley whenever I can instead. If you like cilantro tough, you should definitely use it here instead.
  • If you like your dips to have a bit of a kick I’d suggest using a jalapeño – just treat it like your spring onions. Chop it slightly and add it to your food processor when making guac, and chop it nice and fine when adding it to the salsa.
  • If you’ve got the time for it, I’d recommend making either of these recipes ahead of time. Something magical happens when they sit in the fridge for a little while – the flavours just marry each other and develop even more and they become that much more special!
  • If you do make the nachos be really generous with the cheese! You’d be surprised with how much that cheese just disappears – you’ll end up wishing you had put more!
  • If you’re making the nachos, make sure that when you assemble them your cheese is at room temperature so it melts better.

 

And that’s it! I hope you enjoy these simple, basic recipes and you get to give them a try next time you think about buying them in the store – they’re so easy to make and honestly so much better than whatever you might buy in a package at the store!

I hope you give these a try and enjoy them and if you do, make sure to share on social media so I can feel proud from a distance!! As always, thanks for reading and see you again soon!

Roasted butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash

This is one of those undiscovered gems for me. I’ve always associated butternut squash with soup and most of the time, not well-seasoned soup. Also, any time I saw it at the supermarket I just didn’t know what else to do with it, so I’ve never really been very into it! And then one day I saw one of the YouTubers I follow make a veggie dinner and she used butternut squash as part of the meal – it looked so interesting to me I decided to try it and since then I’ve made it a bunch of times at home. I’ve tinkered with the method and found a way to make it my own and let me tell you, it’s become one of our favorites!

Butternut squash is actually quite sweet – kind of like pumpkin or sweet potato. So whichever way you make it you really need to think about your seasoning as this will make the biggest difference! I think the best flavour to compliment the sweetness of the squash is smokey. So I love to use smoked paprika and smoked flakey sea salt to finish it. I think it really does make all the difference here. If you have any seasoning that’s good for steak or big cuts of meat (stay tuned for my smoked brisket recipe!) that would work really well here too.

 

Butternut squash

 

 

First things first:

  • Preheat your oven to 220C
  • Wash and dry your butternut squash

 

Ingredients:

  • Butternut squash
  • Seasoning of your choice (see below)
  • Olive oil

 

How to make it:

  • Even though we’re not going to be eating the skin of the butternut squash, I like to wash the skin a bit to get rid of any soil or anything else that might be on it. Just a quick scrub will do!

Butternut squash

  • Cut the top and bottom of your squash and then cut it in the middle, lengthwise

Butternut squash

  • With a spoon, remove the seeds from your squash. It’s a lot easier to do with a spoon than it is with a knife, but still be careful when you do this! It starts to get a bit slippery in there so just be patient.
    • Note: you don’t have to discard those seeds if you don’t want to. You can just remove all the flesh and then rinse the seeds, pat them dry and roast them in the oven until they become fragrant. 

Butternut squash

  • Grab a baking tray, line it with aluminum foil (trust me, it’ll make the biggest difference when it comes to cleaning!) and place your squash on it, open-side up. Season it however you like and drizzle with some olive oil
    • Note: My favourite way to season it is with a blend that I make which has salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder (if I have it), and lots of smoked paprika.
    • Sometimes I also add mixed dried herbs or fresh herbs – usually rosemary and sage.
    • On this day I used some leftover seasoning from my smoked brisket which is basically the same thing!

Butternut squash

  • Once your squash is all dressed up, put it in the oven at 220C for about 45min. Keep in mind that depending on your oven and the size of your squash, the cooking time may change.
  • When you think it’s about done, poke the thickest part of your squash with a knife and if it goes in and out super smoothly (as if it was soft butter) then it’s all good to go. If you get any resistance, pop it back in for another 5-10min and re-check.
    • Don’t be alarmed if the top looks really dark and almost burnt. This is just the top and in my opinion it’s actually the best part! You’ll see.

Butternut squash

  • Let it rest for 5-10min and serve it however you like! I like to just use a spoon to scoop it out. I use a fork to help myself with holding the skin down (it’s too hot for my fingers!). It should come off from the skin nice and easily.

Butternut squash

  • And that’s it! Sprinkle some flakey (smoked if you can) sea salt over the top and it’s good to go!

Butternut squash

  • I like to serve it “messy” because I feel like that way the ratio of seasoned and not-so-seasoned flesh is nicer but if you want to just cut it up into neat little chunks you can too – it’s up to you!

Butternut squash

 

I hope you give this recipe a try and if you do, let me know if you like it! It’s one of those super simple things to make that are just so yummy! It’s also super easy to prepare and great for a weeknight dinner.

Also, I always serve this as a side dish but if you’re veggie it’s great as part of your main meal – I’ve had it before with a serving of quinoa and some greens and it’s really filling and delicious!

Thanks again for reading me and stay tuned for more yummy recipes!!

Mike’s favorite salad

Mike’s favorite salad

My husband Mike is a true meat-eater. For years he’s been saying that “if it doesn’t have meat it’s not a real meal“. He’s never been into veggies, soups and much less salads. So when he kept insisting that I made this salad over and over again, I thought there must be something to it – and I should probably share it with you!

I love to try new recipes and follow the guidance that other people are giving me, but when it comes to certain foods – particularly salads – I tend to go “off the cuff” and just mix stuff up based on what I’m feeling like. I tend to just open the fridge and see what I’ve got and what speaks to me.

On this day it was the middle of fall and I just wanted to have a “wintery, fall-like” salad. I had some pomegranate seeds in my fridge that I wanted to use up somehow and Mike had just bought some feta cheese at the store because “it spoke to him”. So in my brain these two were a match made in food heaven. So with a few more ingredients I found around the house I somehow made this little concoction and it’s been a winner ever since!

 

Mikes salad

 

First things first:

  • Wash and dry your lettuce
  • Mix up the dressing
  • Toast your almonds

 

Ingredients:

Mikes salad

  • 2 heads of lettuce – I like to use romaine but you can use cos lettuce or any lettuce you like to eat
  • 250g of pomegranate seeds
  • 200g of feta cheese
  • 1 cup flaked almonds – roasted
  • Cucumber – about a 10cm chunk or 150g
  • 1 apple – we usually have pink lady but use whatever you like to it. Something that’s relatively sweet and not too tart.

 

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

What to do:

  • Mix your dressing ingredients until they become uniform (the honey will help bind it all together)

Salad dressing

  • Toast your almonds on a dry pan for about 5min – you should stir frequently so that they all get toasted evenly. You’ll know they’re done when they start to look beautifully golden and you can really smell them

Toasted almonds Toasted almonds

    • Cut and wash your lettuce
    • Chop your cucumber, apple and feta cheese into small cubes

Note: I don’t like to peel my cucumber or apple but you’re more than welcome to do so if you like! 

Mikes salad

  • Mix all your salad ingredients except your almonds – save these for the end

Mikes salad Mikes salad Mikes salad

  • When you’re ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad, mix until everything is coated and sprinkle your toasted almonds on top

Mikes salad Mikes salad Mikes salad

 

And that’s it! Just a simple salad that takes no time at all to put together but is super satisfying and different to your everyday “lettuce, tomato, cucumber” mixtures. I’ve really enjoyed having it this fall / winter season but you can have it all year round!

 

Top tips:

  • If you’re not the biggest fan of balsamic vinegar or feel like it’s too tangy you can swap it for balsamic glaze instead – it’s a much thicker consistency and it’s pretty much like caramelised balsamic vinegar. I don’t think you’d need the bit of honey if you were using the glaze instead.
  • You can get all the salad ingredients ready, toast your almonds and mix your dressing and just leave it at that until you’re ready to serve. I like to mix it all in a big bowl and then serve directly from there but you could also mix the salad ingredients and then add the dressing and almonds directly onto each plate (this is also a good option if you’re meal prepping and want to have this salad more than one day).
  • Most of the time we have this as a side salad when having steak or fish but you can also have it just as a main dish! It’s actually fairly filling and this recipe makes a good amount. I’d say as a main it’ll serve 4 people happily but as a side this amount will probably be good for 6-8 people.

 

Mikes salad

 

I really hope you give it a try and that you enjoy it as much as my husband has! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and whether you’ve tinkered with it – have you changed anything? Have you found any other ingredients that you think go really well in here? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

As always, thanks for reading and see you on my next post!

Stuffed dates

Stuffed dates

Dates are one of those foods that I didn’t grow up eating at all. It’s not something that was around me as a child and I didn’t even try them until I was a grown-up. Honestly, I didn’t really like them at all. I remember just thinking “what a weird sweet and sticky food!” and they were just not for me. My husband loves them though so I thought that maybe if I tried to mix them with something they would be a bit more appetizing.

You’ve probably tried dates on their own and not really liked them and you’ve probably had them in other things without realizing they’re there! Things like healthy protein-type bars, some energy balls or bars, baked goods, and even some savoury meals. I think that you probably didn’t mind eating them that way because if you’re not used to having dates it’s actually pretty easy to hide them in other foods – I personally think the most difficult thing to get used to is their texture.

So here’s the best way that I’ve found works for me to eat dates – I love them as snacks, they’re super filling and they hit the spot with sweetness that’s not too sweet, but also a bit of saltiness that is just such a great balance! If you don’t particularly like dates give these a try – and if you’re already a date lover, this may be another great way to enjoy them!

Stuffed dates

 

 

First things first:

  • Make sure your nut butter of choice is nicely mixed – particularly if you’re using a natural one it’s completely normal that the oils separate from the rest of the butter. Just give it a good mix and it’ll be good to go!
  • Chop up your chocolate so that it’s easily mixable throughout.

 

Ingredients:

Ingredients for dates

  • Dates  – I like to use Medjool dates that have the seed inside. I find them to be the freshest-feeling and plumpest dates that just work best here.
  • Nut butter – I like these with crunchy almond butter but any kind of nut or seed butter that you enjoy eating will work!
  • Chocolate chips or regular eating chocolate that you like. I prefer it dark (70%). Make sure that they’re cut into small pieces!
  • Chunky / flaky sea salt
  • Optional: Hemp seed hearts

Note: I can’t really give you exact measurements here because every date is different so the amount of mixture that you’ll need will be different depending on your dates. It’ll also depend on how much you like to stuff them. On this day I made a total of a dozen dates and used about 100g of almond butter, and a tbsp of chocolate chips and hemp seed hearts.

 

What to do:

  • Mix all your stuffing ingredients together until they form a paste – your nut butter, chocolate chips, and hemp seed hearts

Almond butter mixture

  • Remove the seeds from your dates and make them into little boats – do this by cutting half of the date lengthwise and remove the seed that’s inside

Date and seed Date and seed

  • Once all your dates are de-seeded and ready to go, use a teaspoon to stuff them with your mixture
  • Sprinkle some chunky sea salt over the top (as much or as little as you want but please don’t skip this step!)

Dates Stuffed dates

 

And voilà! A quick little snack that’s both sweet and salty and a lot more filling than you may realize!

 

Top tips:

  • They’re ready to be eaten just like this but they’re even better if you put them in the fridge to cool down and set up a bit. That way they also keep their shape a bit better.
  • You can also freeze them by putting them on a plate or tray and putting them in the freezer until they’re solid. Then transfer onto an airtight baggie and they’ll last for a long time – all ready for when you need a quick snack!
  • You can play around a bit with what else you can add – maybe try some chia seeds or any other seeds, try some chopped up nuts if your nut butter is smooth, or even mix some protein powder with your mixture!

 

I hope you enjoy this little recipe and that you give it a try – it’s really helped me like dates a bit more and their texture doesn’t bother me at all when I eat them like this! I hope you like it and that you’ll stick around for my next recipe!