We're two sisters who are craft book publishers and found ourselves in the midst of an avocado grove. We bought this house where we planned to conduct our publishing business and in the deal got 4 acres of avocado trees thrown in. Now we're not only publishers but ranchers as well! This blog is all about avocados and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our First Guest Writer - Agatha French

I had read one of Agatha French's stories on another blog and liked her writing so much that I  immediately contacted her to see if she'd like to contribute a story about avocados. And to my delight and surprise she said she'd love to. I sent her a big box of avocados and told her to go to it.

Here's Aggie:
Aggie trying an avocado ice cream recipe...she's smiling now!
Here's her story:

I owed Lupe a phone call. My childhood nanny, who I consider a mother and subsequently avoid as only a daughter can, she'd left multiple messages, always the same: "Aggie, soy yo," said in the most accusatory tone imaginable. The sound of the phone clicking into its cradle (less and less common now) was itself an admonishment. She didn't need to say anything else.

I was standing in my kitchen over a box of avocados that Nancy, one half of the duo Ladies of the Grove, had sent to me. I'd been looking forward to the delivery, but when faced with the physical reality of two dozen avocados, each single one's weight in my hand a reminder of its filling fattiness, I felt overwhelmed. The logical option was to make guacamole, but I'd already made up my mind to experiment with them, being the kind of person who irrationally believes that the perfect recipe, the recipe that will change my life and that I will forever and affectionately be known for, lies just ahead. But what could one make with avocados?

I called Lupe for advice.

"Lupe, I have a mountain of avocados, but I don't want to make guacamole. What else can I do with them?"

"I don't understand."

My Spanish isn't what it used to be, and so I began to repeat myself.

"I want to cook with avocados, but I do not want guacamole."

She asked me when I was coming to visit her, and whether I wanted carnitas or pollo. I realized that she had understood my question perfectly, what she couldn't understand was why I would ever ask such a thing. It was Lupe's belief that when faced with a mountain of avocados, you make guacamole. What would possess you to do anything else?  We made a lunch date for the weekend. She decided that chicken would be served.

"Bring me an avocado," she said.

"What are you going to do with it?" I asked her. I thought for a moment that I had caught her, that I would learn of some authentic and stewy dish that avocados brilliantly garnish.

I'm going to eat it," she replied. She clucked her tongue and sucked her teeth in that way she has, a sound universally understood by children to preface a chiding. "It's an avocado", she said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

I enlisted the help of my best girlfriend, Meghan. I had once seen in her eye the same blind faith in the New Recipe that I feel, as she clipped one from a glossy magazine. (I have also seen her file New Recipes, in a special recipe box, with a reverence and formality that is like prayer.) She did not balk when I sent her a lengthy email listing 14 possible recipes to try, including the possible pros and cons of making each one, and the multiple places we would need to go for their ingredients. In fact she replied carefully, in bold, to each of my bullet points. (We are best friends for a reason.)
             • No matter what else you put in it, if you mash an avocado and spread it on a chip, you will be eating guacamole.
             • Guacamole does not need sun dried tomatoes. I repeat: do not try to tart guacamole up. You will only wish that you made guacamole the way you always do, and not this ostentatious guacamole sitting in your living room like an overdressed guest.
            • You should make avocado ice cream...if you want to be truly appalled.

"I'm never eating an avocado again," Meghan told me.

"I know," I said. I was uncomfortably full and trying, unsuccessfully, to ponder the number of calories we'd just consumed. "But look at it this way, with all those good fats, it's like we just gave ourselves a round of botox from the inside." This cheered us up for a moment, until Meghan said, "We are not a test kitchen," hugged me and went home.

On Saturday I still couldn't face an avocado, but I brought Lupe one like she'd asked. We sat on her porch eating chicken, watching the smell of her cooking drive her son's new dog mad. ("What's its name?" I asked her. "I call it Pumpkin," she said. An hour later her son came home, and, seeing me pet the dog said, "So I see you've met Brownie.") Lupe ate her avocado with a spoon, out of the shell, with some salt on it.

"Que rico," she said.

The next week I ate the last couple of avocados this way, standing up in the my kitchen. What do you do with an avocado? You eat it. Lupe was right.

Thanks Aggie, for reminding us that it's always best to trust the simple things in life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More Chilling Out

Oh, it's hot here in Fallbrook. Like 100ยบ or more and very humid which is unusual. We're used to dry heat. Not this wet, sweat producing, insufferable heat. You wouldn't want to turn on your oven or stove and actually cook something in this heat, would you? What you need are some great recipes you don't have to cook at all and would be nice and cool. Like these for instance:

Chilled Avocado Cucumber Soup, adapted from Everyday Food
from the blog framed-my life one picture at a time
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 2 avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 minced small jalapeno chile (seeds and ribs removed for less heat, if desired)
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6 ounces cooked shrimp or crabmeat
  • 1 chopped tomato
  1. In a blender, combine half the cucumber and 1 avocado with the yogurt, lime juice, jalapeno, scallions, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 cup ice water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Cut remaining avocado into 1/4-inch cubes. Stir avocado and remaining cucumber into soup. Thin with1/2 to 1 cup ice water, as desired. Season again with salt and pepper. Chill, about 1 hour.
  3. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with shrimp or crabmeat and tomato.
Or how about these recipes from the Fallbrook Woman's Club Fabulous Avocado Recipes:

Avocado Lime Jello Salad

1 package Lime jello
1 cup celery, chopped fine
1 small package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups water
1 avocado, mashed
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Mix jello and water and chill. Mix avocado, cream cheese and mayo together before adding to chilled jello mixture. Add celery and stir gently to mix. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Here's another chilled soup that sounds delicious:

Chilled Avocado Soup

1 ripe avocado
2 cups chicken soup
salt and pepper
chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup cream
juice of 1/2 lemon
sour cream

Puree avocado flesh in food processor. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the cream. Pour in chicken stock while mixing. Sprinkle in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill soup 1 hour. To serve, garnish portions with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives and paprika. Serves 4.

Walnut Avocado Salad

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice
1/3 cup wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine lettuce, nuts and avocado in a bowl; chill thoroughly . Combine remaining ingredients in a jar; refrigerate. Toss with chilled vegetables just before serving.

Hope these recipes have inspired you to chill out and make some cool recipes without turning on your stove.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beauty and the Beastly Avocado

I've been doing a lot of reading and research this week about using avocados for various beauty treatments - soaps, moisturizers, hair shampoo and conditioners. I wanted to add some of the recipes and instructions, but after reading the instructions and watching youtube people smooshing and slopping chunky avocado stuff on their hair and face, I thought yuk. I just wouldn't do that. Would you? I'd rather buy the products already made up. Maybe that's just me.

Below are some products from Etsy that sound and look interesting. See if you agree.

From Sobe Botanicals , this is their Hot Stuff Hair Treatment containing rosemary, cedarwood, avocado and other oils. This hair treatment is good for dry, brittle and curly hair.

Then for a refreshing shampoo, try this Salty Dog Creme Shampoo from Gudonya Too. She maintains that the shampoo has a wonderfully light and fresh scent and gets hair squeaky clean. You'll have to read her interesting description of how she came up with the shampoo and the instructions for using it.  Very interesting.

Or you might want to try using a shampoo bar from La Conchita Naturals. This bar contains a nourishing blend of nutrient rich oils (including avocado, of course) and is scented with essential oils.

After you shampoo, you'll want to condition, right? Here's a conditioner from BathNBody. The conditioner contains avocado oil and glycerine among other ingredients. It's to recondition and revitalize the look and texture of your hair and supposedly leaves no flaky buildup or residue. 

After you've taken care of your hair, you're ready to use some hand and body lotion. Here's some from Picnic Basket Crafts. This cream contains pure apricot, cocoa butter and organic avocado and sunflower oils and according to the description, is gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.

And now for the lips. From Skin Journey, a softening and conditioning lip balm which contains squalane oil ("facelift in a bottle"), avocado oil and shea butter, among other ingredients. Use this lip balm and according to the maker - your lips will stay youthful looking. Sounds good to me.

You might want to try slopping a gooey mess of mashed avocados on your hair, but I for one, don't. I would much prefer to purchase some wonderful sounding treatments like the ones above.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chill Out

During these hot, hot days you really need recipes to cool you down. So I've collected a few avocado popsicle recipes - that's right I said "avocado popsicles".  Don't they sound fun?

I saw a food network show with Bobby Flay going to a popsicle store in Nashville called Las Pelatas Gourmet Popsicles. They mentioned that they had an avocado flavored popsicle on their menu along with many others, all sounding delicious. Wish I was in Nashville right now so I could try every flavor. So after seeing this show I checked google to see if I could find some recipes for avocado popsicles. Here's what I found:

Avocado Coconut Popsicle

1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Blend all the above ingredients using a hand mixer or blender. Fill molds with the mixture, add popsicle sticks and freeze for about 5 hours.

 Refreshing Avocado Popsicle

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 ripe avocados
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons tequila
2 egg whites
pinch of salt

Puree the avocado, lime zest and juice until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, tequila and egg whites and pulse to combine. Add Creme Fraiche and pulse until smooth. Pour into molds. Smooth the tops and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze.

Avocado/Mango Popsicles

3 cups cubed mango
3/4 ripe avocado
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Blend all ingredients. Pour into molds. Add popsicle sticks and freeze.

I also saw this popsicle maker that might come in handy. They say that it freezes ice pops in as little as 7 - 15 minutes right on your kitchen counter without electricity!! It's from zoku.

There were several youtube videos about making popsicles but none were worthy of sharing. Some were too long, some completely out of focus, etc. But I like this one because it's short, the recipe sounds very interesting (no avocados, however) and it's semi-professional looking:

Hope you have time to try some of these popsicle recipes to keep you cool this summer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Girl Scout Cooking Badge

After I posted the retro cookbooks and featured the "Girl Scouts of the USA Beginner Cookbook", I started thinking back about when I was a Girl Scout. Did I get the cooking badge? I couldn't remember. So as luck would have it, I went to my bookcase and there was my original Girl Scout Handbook. Here it is:

I looked in the section where the badge requirements are listed in the back of the book and there was the Cook's Badge section. And look, I've circled and checked the activities that I had to do to get the badge.

So I must have gotten the badge. Looks like I did the 10 things you're supposed to do. I still have my sash with the badges somewhere in my house, but after a thorough search I couldn't find it anywhere. But here's what a sash looked like back then (I found this one on google images), mine was similar but I sure didn't have this many badges. You can see the "cook" badge - it's the one 7th row down, on the left.

We had to do some pretty easy things to get this badge, like cook eggs in three different ways. Wonder what I did - maybe scrambled, hard boiled and soft boiled. I doubt if I attempted an omelet or a souffle!

This one puzzles me, "Make cocoa with three kinds of milk and decide which kind you prefer." Back then did we have 3 kinds of milk? I only remember one. Now we have non fat, skim, low fat, 2%, soy,  lactose free, goat's milk. What could I have used to make cocoa? - regular milk, buttermilk (yuk) and chocolate milk (yum).

For the cook-out dish I vaguely remember doing something en papillote - maybe fish and vegetables. Of course we would have called it something else - like fish and vegetables cooked in paper, or something descriptive like that.  In those times "en papillote" would have sounded like something from another planet.

I wish I still had a copy of the cooking quiz or game I was supposed to make up. I don't remember what that could have been. Maybe a takeoff on Monopoly. When you pass go, you get a free meal. When you land in jail, you get bread and water. All the little buildings would be restaurants - fast food places to five star restaurants. The game pieces would be a rolling pin, whisk, spoon, cook book, etc.

I also wish I still had my uniform. But that was given away long ago. The one from our era looked like this:

I was trying to remember the girl scout song that we used to sing at every meeting.  Thanks to You tube and these two lovely ladies I can harken back to those days. I didn't remember that there was a second verse. Hmmm. Maybe we didn't used to sing that one.


I don't think getting the cook's badge led me to a lifetime interest in gourmet cooking. I didn't even get interested in cooking until just lately and I think that was because of the Food Network and Alton Brown, not because of learning how to make three kinds of eggs!

I'd like to dedicate this post to Mrs. Brewster, our girl scout leader. Judy, her daughter was in our troop and she and I ran into each other at a Fallbrook High School open house. Our two kids were in the same class. Judy and I were in the same class at Ganesha High School in Pomona. Somehow we both ended up in Fallbrook. Small world. Anyway, her mother was our leader and she lives in a nearby town. She's in her 90s now but according to Judy, she's still alert and still a girl scout at heart.