Uncommonly Good

Once de Guacamayo

Avocados are on my top ten list of favorite ingredients. I wanted to share this recipe last week on Cinco de Mayo (which, by the way, is not a celebration of Mexican independence) but I couldn’t find any good guacs at the last minute. So now, on the eleventh, I’m sharing this Once de Guacamayo recipe.

If you want to make guacamole and can’t figure it out on your own you’ll find recipes that call for 4 or 8 or 12 avocados, and piles of fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and more. Unless you’re feeding a crowd it’s way more than you want to make and all that chopping and slicing and dicing is a lot of work for a simple snack.

So here’s my shortcut. Two ingredients. Avocado and salsa. Lime is the essential third ingredient and if I have some fresh cilantro anyone who eats it will swear I made it all from scratch.

Here’s how it goes. Cut an avocado in half by starting at the pointy end and sliding the knife all the way around.

Avocado, Onion, Serrano, and Jalapeno

Twist each half of the avocado in opposite directions to loosen it from the seed.

Twist the sides in opposite directions to pull it apart.

Split Avocado

This avocado is perfectly ripe and ready for anything.

Remove the pit by striking it with the blade of your knife. It will slice into the pit and stick. Twist the knife, still attached to the pit, and pull the pit out of the avocado.

Remove the Avocado Pit

Remove the avocado pIt by whacking into it with your knife. You can see I've already sliced and diced the avocado half on the left. It's ready to scoop into the bowl.

While the avocado is still in the skin, use the knife and slice it one direction and then the other. Make your slices few and far between for chunky guac, and close together in all directions for smushy guac.

Diced Avocado Ready for Guac

The diced avocado goes into the bowl first.

Use a spoon to scoop the avocado out of the skin and plop it in your mixing bowl.  I used a small plastic container that held blue cheese yesterday. (The blue cheese went into meatballs. That recipe will come soon.) It was a handy size for dipping and would be a handy size for leftovers.

Add Salsa to Avocadotg178

Add a couple of spoonfuls of salsa to the avocado.

Add your favorite salsa. If this is all you’re going to do, mix and taste. But if you’re adding more ingredients wait to mix it so it doesn’t totally turn to mush by the time you’re done.

It just takes a small amount of any optional ingredients to make a difference in the taste and the texture. You may need to add another avocado if you get too rambunctious. A little goes a long way when you’re starting with just one avocado.

Jalapenos and Serrano Peppers

Jalapeno and Serrano slices are ready to dice for the guacamole. The Serranos were green when I bought them, but continued to ripen and turn red.

  • Finely diced red onions
  • Finely diced peppers: Jalapenos and Serranos are frequent choices; red bells add color and crunch but no heat; habaneros add color and a LOT of heat.
  • Thinly sliced green onions, including the tops
  • Crushed garlic
  • Garden fresh diced tomatoes
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs
  • Salt and pepper if you must
Avocado soon to become guacamole

The avocado is disappearing under a growing pile of finely diced red onions, green onions, jalapenos, Serranos and salsa.

My essential optional extras are:

  • fresh lime juice
  • fresh cilantro

    Lime and Cilantro

    Avocado and options are ready to mix. Lime and cilantro are my essential finishers for any salsa or guacamole.

Gently fold the guacamole together and finish it off with the essential optional extras: a generous squeeze of lime juice and cilantro.


Guacamole mixed and ready for the finishing touches.

When you’re done you can transfer the guacamole from the mixing bowl to a festive serving bowl if you’re serving guests. Or you can just eat it. Which is what I did.

Guac and a Tray of Chips

Guacamole and a tray of chips.

PS – if you end up adding too much heat (like, how could that happen?!) you can add more diced tomatoes. You can also serve it with a plop of sour cream or plain yogurt top. Don’t mix it in, just dip into it as you need to. The dairy will dilute the heat without diluting the flavor.

If you have leftovers, transfer to a lidded storage container. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole and press out any air bubbles. Press the plastic wrap up the sides of the bowl and around the top edge before putting the lid on it. Put it in the fridge.

I’d planned to take a picture of the storage set up, but alas, there were no leftovers available for the demonstration.

Larrapin! Continue reading


May 11, 2011 Posted by | Appetizer | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grandma’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

There were a couple of things we could always count on when we arrived at Grandma’s house in Key West. There was a Key Lime Pie in the freezer, and the cookie jar was full. Grandma made Oatmeal Raisin Cookies for dad, and she put chocolate chips in them for us kids.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Grandma's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think the original recipe came off the back of one of those round oatmeal boxes. I have a scribbled copy under a magnet on my fridge. It’s on a 3 x 5 card with a couple of sticky notes with modifications I’ve made in different batches.

Until today I always made them by hand, first combining the sugars with the shortening and then using a sturdy wooden spoon to work in the flour, oatmeal, chocolate chips and any nuts I added. Today, however, I used the fancy smancy second-hand Kitchen-Aid Mixmaster I got at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago. Paid $15 for it.

Cookie Dough

A small ice cream scoop is just the ticket for making cookies all the same size.

So here’s the scoop, so to speak.

Grandma’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 C shortening
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 C oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 C chopped pecans
  • 1 C chocolate chips or 3/4 C raisins
  1. Mix shortening and sugars until creamy.
  2. Add egg, water and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Dump in flour, salt, soda. Mix well.
  4. Add cinnamon.
  5. Fold in oatmeal.
  6. Add chopped nuts and chocolate chips or raisins as desired.
  7. Bake at 350° 8–10 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Cookie dough goes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Cookie dough goes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Some of the alterations on the sticky notes attached to my recipe card include:

  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1 C mixed walnuts/pecans
  • 1/2 C wheat germ

Another note says: “used molasses with brown sugar ~made a softer cookie~ 1 C almonds” As I recall I was nearly out of brown sugar so I added molasses to make one cup.

Today I used cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup crumbled slivered almonds, and 1/2 cup raw coconut.

Cookies ready to come out of the oven

Cookies ready to come out of the oven.

The cookies don’t spread much, and they don’t get very brown so keep an eye on the clock and pull them out within ten minutes. Leave them on the cookie sheet a few minutes. They’ll fall part if you try to move them while they’re still hot.

Broken Cookie

Let the cookies rest before moving them off the cookie sheet.

Sometimes you can push them back together and they’ll stick as they cool… or you can just eat the crumbs.

Cookies Cooling

Let cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

After the cookies cool completely put them in an airtight cookie jar. They’ll last several weeks unless you eat them first. You can sprinkle the crumbs on top of ice cream for a crunchy topping.

This batch made exactly 4 dozen cookies.


May 8, 2011 Posted by | Cookies, Dessert | , , , | Leave a comment

May is Hamburger Month: Cheeseburger in Paradise

After spending the day snorkeling and scuba diving off Key West a Cheeseburger in Paradise at  Margaritaville Café was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Just like in the song the description included onion, lettuce, tomato, Kosher dill pickle, and French fries. It was almost 20 years ago, so the menu has likely been revised, but after a busy day on the water it was one tasty burger.

Here’s a recent review of a Key West Cheeseburger in Paradise. Very nice pix are included. I’ll post my own as soon as I build my own burger in a few days.

Here’s a recipe from Food Network that starts with grinding your own hamburger meat. I’ll make mine with 90% lean from the grocery store, but I will be making one of these as soon as I get some ground cow in the fridge. And I promise to post pictures.

BTW, I had another one of these in New Orleans and was not impressed. The burger was OK, but when I placed the order for a Cheeseburger in Paradise “just like in the song” I got twenty questions from the bartender who took my order.

“Do you want tomato and lettuce on that?”

“Uh, yeah.”


Again, “Yes.”

I mean, what part of “just like in the song” is so hard to understand?

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Sandwich | , | Leave a comment

Grilled Cheese and Pear

Here’s one last grilled cheese sandwich for the month.

Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich

The Ingredients

I put cheese on both sides of the bread with the pear slices only on one side before closing it up.

Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich

White Cheddar and Pear on the left, Muenster on the right.

I buttered both sides of the sandwich and put it on my trusty preheated iron griddle.

Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich

Bubbling butter on the griddle gives this a great flavor.

Ready to bite into.

Grilled Cheese and Pear Sandwich


It’s up to you, but I like this best with crisp pears.

Substitute the pear for a Granny Smith apple and use sharp cheddar for something with more pop.


April 30, 2011 Posted by | Sandwich | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grilled Cheese Month: Dijon, Muenster, Egg and Avocado

I came across a recipe for the Perfect Fried Egg Sandwich a few days ago which got my mouth a-watering. It was piled high with bacon, but when I got ready to make this I was too impatient to fry the bacon. It wasn’t too shabby the way it turned out.

I wanted to be sure the cheese was melty on both sides and I didn’t think this would be very easy to flip, so I made it open-faced and put it together when it was done. I put it together on my homemade garlic-herb bread.  I used two burners, my iron griddle for the sandwich, and one of my 6 1/2-inch iron skillets for the egg.


Muenster Cheese

Spread butter on one side of the bread, Dijon on the other and place it, butter side down on a medium hot griddle.


Fry and Egg

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet to medium, add butter and immediately add the egg. This is one time you want the yolk to break. Swirl it around a little or a lot.


Add Avocado

While the egg fries, add slices of avocado to the top of the melting cheese.


Add the egg

When most of the egg white is cooked, put the egg on top of the avocado. Leave it flat for a whole sandwich, or use a spatula to roll it burrito-style to fit. Add the bacon here if you have it.


Put the sandwich together

Carefully flip one side of the sandwich on top of the other.


Grilled Fried Egg Sandwich

Grilled Cheese Fried Egg Sandwich


Grilled Cheese Fried Egg Sandwich

Grilled Muenster, Dijon, Fried Egg and Avocado on Garlic-Herb Bread Sandwich


April 17, 2011 Posted by | Sandwich | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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