Lemon Thyme & Ginger

A Family Favorite, Guacamole!!

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.

For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole reicpe

Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole

Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.

The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.

My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work.  Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe

How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe

When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.

Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor

Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.

Learn how to roast tomatillos and chili peppers by reading, Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce or White Chicken Chili.

A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.

Family Favorite Guacamole recipe.

How Many Avocados?

3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.

Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.

Need more appetizers for your party? Try, Roasted Shrimp with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce and Deviled Eggs.

Family Favorite Guacamole

The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill. 

This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.  

This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
  • 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional

Instructions

  1. Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves. 

  2. Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.

  3. Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out. 

  4. Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork. 

  5. Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix. 

  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.  

  7. Optional Ingredients:

    The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole. 

    The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole. 

    Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.

    For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 

    Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip. 


  8. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit. 

Family Favorite Guacamole. How to make delicious guacamole. Start with the foundation recipe, then adjust the flavor with roasted tomatillos, or salsas for the perfect guacamole every time.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, reicpe

When you crave fudgy brownies like nothing else matters, sometimes the only way to satisfy this desire is make them for yourself. It is my experience, homemade brownies have just the right texture and flavor that I want. There were too many times I bought a brownie at a gourmet store and they were dry and dull. I guess I am very particular about my brownies. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make good fudgy brownies at home.

Other than the dark chocolate, what I love about making brownies from scratch is I can mix them by hand. It doesn’t take a lot of whisking, whipping or timing, just a good stir to mix everything up. For the novice baker, homemade brownies are a good place to start learning how to bake.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe

This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies from her book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Ina’s cookbooks and recipes are very well organized and constructed. You can trust her to present each recipe clearly, accurately and efficiently. Her brownies are dangerously delicious. They have deep dark chocolate flavor with just the right amount of moisture without being gooey. For all brownie lovers out there, chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel and flaky sea salt drizzled over the top are a masterpiece. There is nothing that grabs your attention like chocolate, caramel and sea salt all in one delectable brownie bite. This is a happy marriage.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe 

I made two changes to Ina Garten’s recipe. In the original recipe she uses semisweet chocolate chips in the brownies chocolate foundation. Chocolate chips have additional ingredients besides cocoa butter and sugar and I believe should only be used as chips. Sometimes, melted down chocolate chips has a chalky flavor and grainy texture. This is not something I want in my brownies. A bar of good quality semisweet chocolate melted with a bar of unsweetened chocolate gives the brownies a lighter texture and a purer chocolate flavor.

The other change I made is, I use less caramel sauce than she recommends in her recipe. She specifies 5 ounces of caramel sauce to drizzle over the brownies. That is a lot of caramel sauce and looks more like frosting on a cake then a glaze. Feel free to adjust the amount of caramel sauce according to your preference.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Caramel Sauce for Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

If you are buying caramel sauce, please seek out real caramel sauce. The common brands you’ll find in a super market are mostly made with artificial flavor and corn syrup. You want the real deal to drizzle over your homemade real chocolate brownies. Ina Garten recommends Fran’s, but I also like Cara Sel and Fat Toad Farm Caramel. Fran’s is a company out of Washington that specializes in chocolates. Cara Sel comes from a family run company in the NY Hudson Valley. You can find their caramel sauce in stores all over NY State and on-line. Fat Toad Farm is a family run farm in Vermont and their caramel sauce is made with goat’s milk. All three sauces are delicious artisan caramel sauces you can buy online or in specialty stores. Use any brand you like, but please make sure it is the real stuff.

Often, I make caramel sauce while these brownies bake in the oven. It takes about 20 minutes and is something worth knowing how to make. Loaded fudgy brownies have a lot of dark chocolate, almost 12 ounces worth, plus 6 ounces of chocolate chips. Depending on what brand chocolate you buy, brownie ingredients are expensive. Add another $10 to $16 for a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce turns these homemade brownies into gold.

The caramel sauce recipe I use is from Simply Recipes on the web.  It makes caramel sauce using the dry method, which I prefer because it takes less time and I am impatient. Here is a recipe for caramel sauce using the wet method. It takes longer but the sugar melts at an even rate. Also, it does not have butter in it. You need a good heavy-bottom 3-quart sauce pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Follow the directions carefully and please take the necessary precautions so hot caramel does not bubble over your mixing hand.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Tips for Making Fudgy Brownies

  • One special piece of equipment you need is a double boiler to melt the chocolate and butter. If you do not have a double boiler, make one by fitting a small heat proof mixing bowl over a 3-quart sauce pan filled with less than an inch of water.
  • While melting the chocolate in a double boiler, keep the heat medium-low and make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the pan, or bowl holding the chocolate.
  • Allow for several minutes to cool the chocolate before you add it to the eggs and sugar. If the chocolate and butter are too hot, it will cook your eggs.
  • Before you add the chocolate chips to the brownie mix, allow some time for the mix to come to a cool room temperature. This insures the chips don’t melt and ruin the brownies.
  • Be careful not to over bake the brownies. They are done when a tooth pick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. If you do over bake them they will still taste good, but they won’t be as moist.

Whenever you need to bring a dessert to a friend’s house, a hostess gift, a dessert for a weekend getaway, or a last minute get together, these brownies will please everyone who loves chocolate. I even mailed them as a care package to Taylor in college. Fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel are a family favorite.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Dark chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel sauce and flaky sea salt. It just doesn't get any better than this. This recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Salted Caramel Brownies from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Cookbook To make your own caramel sauce try either of these recipes from Serious Eats or Simply Recipes or buy real caramel sauce at a specialty store.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 brownies
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • ½ lb 226 g unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces about 1 TB in size
  • 8 oz 227 g semisweet chocolate, broken in to irregular pieces
  • 3 oz 75 g unsweetened chocolate, broken into irregular pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • TB 6 g instant coffee granules, like Medaglia D'Oro or Café Bustelo
  • 1 TB pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB 246 g granulated sugar
  • ½ cup 71 g plus 2 TB (17 g) all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 6 oz 172 g semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2-4 oz 60-125 ml caramel sauce
  • 2-3 tsp flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Butter and lightly flour a 9 x 12 x 1½ inch (23 x 30 x 4 cm) baking pan. (preferably metal)
  3. Make a double boiler by placing a medium bowl resting on the rim of a 3 qt sauce pan filled no more than an inch (2.5 cm) of water. Turn the heat to medium-high and place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter. Every now and then, carefully stir the chocolate and butter. Watch to make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Once melted, remove the bowl from the sauce pan and cool for 15 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl stir together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Do not beat the eggs, just stir to combine.
  6. After the 15-minute cooling time, slowly add the melted butter and chocolate to the eggs and sugar mixture. Pour about a quarter of the chocolate into the mix and stir to temper the brownie mix. Slowly add the remaining melted chocolate and butter and stir at the same time. Once mixed together, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. See note.
  7. In a medium bowl add the ½ cup (71 g) flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt. Use a small whisk and whisk the flour mixture until the flour, baking powder and salt are evenly combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the cooled chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Toss the chocolate chips in the flour bowl with the remaining 2 TBS of all-purpose flour until they become nicely coated. Add the chocolate chips and flour into the chocolate brownie mix. Stir to mix.
  8. Pour the brownie mix into the prepared pan and spread to form an even layer.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, or when a tooth pick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. The edges will look slightly dry and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not over bake. The brownies will continue to bake while it is cooling.
  10. Remove the brownies from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
  11. When the brownies are just out of the oven, heat up your caramel sauce in a microwave until it thins out to a pouring consistency. Stir the caramel sauce until smooth.
  12. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the hot brownies, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  13. Completely cool the brownies before cutting into serving pieces.

Recipe Notes

Cooling the chocolate brownie mix to a cool room temperature is crucial. If the brownie mix is too warm when you add in the chocolate chips, all the chocolate chips will melt and ruin the brownies.

Nutrition Facts
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe. Deliciously addictive Chocolate Brownie recipe with caramel sauce and sea salt drizzle . Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Salted Caramel Brownies.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I have a few recipes that stand the test of time, is always there when I need it, and never fails me. This pumpkin bread recipe is one of them. It is always a crowd pleaser and it is so easy to make. If this recipe could talk, it would tell many tales of my children’s’ preschool snack time, their school bake sales, our weekends away visiting friends, homemade gifts, learning how to bake, swim meets, college care packages, and easy mornings at home.

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe

Some foods and recipes are like that. They exist as part of our collective experience spanning a family’s history and time well spent with friends, teachers, colleagues, neighbors and family. They are treasured artifacts in the family archives. For me, I have a couple symbolic recipes that mark my parent’s heritage, but very few. Hopefully, I generated a selection of treasured recipes for my children to remember their childhood by, and create new ones that hold a special place in our growing family’s future.

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

My pumpkin bread is a throwback recipe from the 70’s when I was in high school. A dear friend gave me the recipe. I cannot remember what initiated this gift, but I believe she just wanted to share it. Harriot and her family loved to cook and were always generous with recipes and information about food. Whenever I was at their house, someone was in the kitchen making something. If I remember correctly, Harriot and I had a few cooking adventures of our own.

Besides the delicious taste, this pumpkin bread recipe has a couple of great features. One, it is easy to make and second, it makes two loaves. After all these years, I still can’t believe one small can of pumpkin purée makes two loaves of pumpkin bread. There is no need to measure out a cup of pumpkin mash and worry about what to make with the rest. That is a real pet peeve of mine. It is not the case for this pumpkin bread. One recipe, one can of pumpkin purée, two loaves of spicy pumpkin bread. A practical quick bread recipe.

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Because it is so easy to make, it is perfect for a baking project with young children, or anyone who wants to learn how to bake. This recipe rarely fails. However, if it has been a while since you used baking powder or baking soda, make sure the leaveners are fresh. There was only one time this pumpkin bread did bake properly. Once, after I gave this recipe to a friend who said she couldn’t bake, she made it and came over to share it with me. She was so proud of her accomplishment I did not have the heart to tell her the bread did not rise. When that happens it usually means the baking powder and baking soda lost their leavening powers. Still, it tasted great and hopefully she kept on baking.

More family favorite recipes:

Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables

Swedish Apple Pie

Pineapple Stuffing

The spices are a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and a generous amount of ground clove. Not all pumpkin bread recipes include ground cloves, and I believe they fall flat. There is twice as much cinnamon and allspice to cloves in each loaf, yet the ground cloves gently stand out. I like that the cinnamon does not dominate the spicy favor. Often, after I serve pumpkin bread to friends I get a delighted question, “Oh nice. What spice am I tasting? ” My anser is always received with a surprised and happy expression, “It’s clove.”

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Over the years I have made a few variations of this pumpkin bread, but I keep coming back to the original. I made it with canned pumpkin purée and fresh pumpkin purée. With orange zest, crumble topping, candied ginger, and different flours. Each variation slightly changes the texture of the bread. I discovered, the fresh pumpkin makes an airier bread. Also, I noticed the crust is crispier with the fresh pumpkin.

If you want to use fresh pumpkin, roast wedges of sugar pumpkin in a 400°F (200°C) oven until very tender. Scrape the roasted pumpkin from its’ peel and purée in a food processor, or blender until smooth. Cool and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Best Pumpkins to bake with. 

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I should call this Friendship Bread, because the recipe is enjoying a life span of over 40 plus years and growing. I never thought twice about sharing it with friends and family. The name Friendship Bread is already taken, so Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread it stays. A treasured heirloom for sharing over the years to come.

Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread

This pumpkin bread is one of my family's all-time favorite recipes, and the most requested recipe from friends. It's a keeper. It is the perfect baking recipe for new cooks and young children. There is no fancy equipment required, just a large mixing bowl, mixing spoon and 2 loaf pans. All you need to do is measure, stir, then bake. This is a great breakfast treat, or an after-school snack with apple slices or an orange. The pumpkin bread will last covered in plastic wrap or an air-tight container for 4 days unrefrigerated. It freezes well when tightly sealed with several layers of plastic wrap, or one layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (574 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 cups (613 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 15 oz can (425 g) pumpkin purée or 1 lb (453 g) fresh pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or canola oil
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) cold water
  • 4 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (175° C / Gas Mark 4)
  2. Prepare 2- 9 x 5 inch (24 x 13.5 cm) loaf pans. Lightly grease with butter or oil spray, then line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, cinnamon allspice, and clove into a large mixing bowl. Then whisk the ingredients in the bowl until you see all the spices are evenly mixed in the flour. Add the sugar and whisk together until combined.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then add the pumpkin purée, oil, and water. Stir until just combined. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, scrape along the bottom and sides of the bowl to get everything thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly with each addition.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, about 3/4 full.
  7. Place the bread pans in the oven and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove the pumpkin bread from their pans.
  9. Cool on the cooling rack before serving.
Nutrition Facts
Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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