Game Day Guacamole

So, it’s that time of year again… (Don’t brag about New England, don’t brag about New England…)

That special day, when friends & family gather around the TV to chow down and cheer… (Don’t say Brady is the greatest, don’t say Brady is the greatest…)

Yes, the Super Bowl is upon us! (OK, I can’t help it…)


Whew, sorry about that. It’s a little hard to keep the level of humility under control when your team is once again headed to the big game. In all honestly though, I love Super Bowl Sunday no matter who is playing (but it’s always the Patriots).

Game day is the perfect excuse to pig out while the pigskin flies. One thing that is on many menus is good ol’ fashioned chips and guacamole, so I decided to share an easy recipe for the green stuff, with a little Lara twist to it, of course. Here’s what’s going to be in my bowl on Sunday:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes, zested & juiced
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango habanero salsa
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  1. Remove the avocados from their skins & place in a large bowl. Add the lime zest & juice. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth (some texture is just fine).
  2. Add the onion, salsa, garlic & chili powder. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add a generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste.

YES, I added salsa to my guacamole. YES, I know that’s not really traditional. But my garden has been popping out habaneros like crazy this season, so I am always making my mango habanero salsa, which you can get the recipe for by clicking here (or above in the recipe). Sometimes I make it with pineapple instead of mango, equally delicious.

Since the salsa is always in my fridge, I’m always looking for new dishes to use it in. Feel free to use a store-bought version, or leave that step out if you want it to be more mild.

One ingredient you can’t skip it the fresh lime juice. Not only does it add flavor, but it actually keeps the avocado from turning brown quickly. Make sure you get that lime on there fast.

Keep that beautiful green bright

And of coooourse the easy thing to do would be buying a bag of tortilla chips, but it’s really easy to make them yourself. Just cut corn tortillas into triangles, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a touch of lime juice, chili powder and salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crispy. It’s like instant restaurant quality chips, and you can control the seasoning and salt levels.

Baked tortilla chips, before & after

Usually I like a make-ahead type recipe for party situations, but this is so quick to put together, I don’t mind making it the day of. Guacamole doesn’t last very long in the fridge, only a couple days.

Fun fact though, you can totally freeze it for a couple months. Just put it in a freezer safe bag and make sure to squeeze all the air out before sealing. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going that route before a party, but if you happen to have a lot leftover, it’s a good way to save it. Then down the road you can thaw it out for taco night or something else (because we all know how expensive avocados can be).

Well, whether you are into the game or not, I think we can all agree that Super Bowl Sunday is fun for everyone if you have the right snacks. What are you more excited for, football or food? I’m know ready for both.

(Go Pats!)


Not Your Average Artichoke Dip

Happy Halloween everyone! Today I have my take on a classic, crowd favorite appetizer: spinach & artichoke dip. This would be the perfect thing to bring to a Halloween get-together, or to snack on at home while waiting for trick or treaters. Or you can just bookmark this little recipe for one of the many holiday parties that are right around the corner.

Before I get to it, I wanted to say how randomly this post came about. It was all by chance. I was looking at these greens that were only going to be good for a couple more days, and trying to think of something fun to do. That’s when a jar of artichoke hearts caught my eye. I had bought them a few days ago with the intent of using them elsewhere, but forgot about them.

I scanned the rest of my fridge… yup. I was pretty sure I had everything I needed for dip. I even had tortilla chips that a friend had left behind, because I don’t keep a lot of snacks around. I cook meals, and my friends bring me chips. (And wine. It’s a good deal.)

The stars aligned in my kitchen that day, and thus, my dip was created.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup spinach (packed)
  • 1/4 cup arugula (packed)
  • 12 oz jar artichoke hearts (drained & chopped)
  • 2 roasted jalapenos (diced)*
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat oil & garlic in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the spinach & arugula & sprinkle with a dash of salt & pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes, tossing often, until greens start to wilt. Strain any liquid you can from the greens.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sauteed spinach & arugula with the chopped artichoke hearts, diced jalapenos & parmesan. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, mayo & sour cream with a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Gently fold in the veggie mixture until evenly distributed.
  3. Carefully pour or scoop the dip into an 8″ cast iron skillet. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top, then broil on low for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese turns golden brown.

*I roast jalapenos over the open flame on my gas oven until they are blistered & begin to char. You could alternatively roast them in the oven, use them raw, or omit them completely. I like a little extra spice & the pop of texture they add to the dish.

Spinach, arugula, artichokes, jalapeno & cheese mixture

Honestly, this entire recipe is based on having things in my fridge to use up. A lot of people make dip like this with frozen spinach, which is totally fine. I just had fresh spinach on hand. I also had arugula, which has a more peppery flavor, so I figured I’d throw that in too. Frozen spinach is a great shortcut though.

Before cooking… creamy & dreamy

I highly recommend having a small cast iron skillet on hand for things like this. It gets really hot (be careful!) which makes for evenly cooked food that will stay warmer, longer. Plus, it’s a great presentation for dishes like dips, cheese fries, pot pies… aka bar food. They require extra care and cleaning, but I love a cast iron skillet. Definitely a great investment.

I’m writing this as my beloved New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills, & it occurs to me that I should have restocked my fridge. This dip would have been awesome for game day, but there will be endless reasons to whip this up again during the next couple months. Let me know if you try this out for one of your next parties!


Part 3: Buffalo Chicken Dip

It’s crunch time, y’all. There’s a only two days to decide what you are serving up for the Super Bowl. I hope you at least you know who you are rooting for. My heart is always with the Patriots, but for now… Go Panthers!

Do not cave in and order in a bunch of generic chicken wings! I’ve gone through two easy and delicious buffalo alternatives and here’s my third. If you follow my Instagram or Twitter (@thepickygourmet, wink wink) you may have seen this dish when I made it for the games a couple weeks ago. Drumroll, please.

Buffalo chicken dip! What’s a football game without some form of chips and dip? I put this out for the Pats vs Broncos and it was gone before halftime. And the best part is, this might be the easiest of all my wing-less ideas. Besides the base of the shredded buffalo chicken we’ve used in all these recipes, there are only three ingredients.

Refresher on the chicken one more time: three chicken breasts, a dry ranch seasoning packet, a sprinkle of garlic and buffalo sauce to coat the chicken completely. Into the slow cooker for 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 on low, until it can be shredded with a fork. I swear, I make a batch of this every couple weeks for one thing or another. If you want to make an extra large batch, do it. You can totally freeze this and have it on hand for a quick meal in the future. But for now, here’s what you need for dip:

8 oz cream cheese block
6 oz blue cheese crumbles
2 cups shredded buffalo chicken
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

So yeah, consider this two birds with one stone. You’ll be satisfying the buffalo chicken lovers and the cheese lovers. You’ll probably won’t be impressing any vegan cross-fit enthusiasts though.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I use a 9×9 aluminum pan because it’s easy clean up and if you are traveling to a party you don’t have to worry about getting your bakeware back at the end of the day. Take the cream cheese block and start thinly slicing it, about an 1/8 of an inch thick, like you would a stick of butter. Arrange the slices evenly over the bottom of the pan, leaving a little space between them. Sprinkle on the blue cheese crumbles, again as evenly as possible, filling in those gaps.

A lot of buffalo dip recipes call for blue cheese or ranch dressing. Forget that! It’s all about the fresh crumbles. The flavor is better and it makes for a thick, decadent dip.

Next add the buffalo chicken. I sound like a broken record, but keep it even and layer it thick. Top it all off with the shredded cheddar and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top starts to become bubbly and slightly browned. Let this cool for about 5 minutes before digging in and serve with tortilla chips and celery stalks. Better yet, get that friend who doesn’t like cooking to bring those to party.

So this concludes the very first Picky Gourmet theme week! Wings are one of my favorite things, but I encourage you to do something different from everyone else for the big game. I’ve shown you simple but crowd pleasing ways to use buffalo chicken: nachos, stuffed potatoes and ooey-gooey, cheesy dip. I hope you try one (or all!) of these out, and most importantly, have FUN!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Bruschetta, My Go-To Appetizer

When I’m out to eat, if bruschetta is on the menu, I have to get it as an appetizer. It can be prepared in a number of ways but this is my recipe for a crowd. It’s always a hit when I bring it to a party because it’s so refreshing in a sea of heavy dips and store bought desserts. It’s also great because it’s a vegan/vegetarian option, and there’s always someone who appreciates that.

It’s super simple but can be a little time consuming if you hand cut everything. On the plus side, it can be prepped the night before so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen the day of the event. (Or it makes time to prep a second dish)

  • 6 large (or 8 small) Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the crostini:

  • 1 baguette
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • italian seasoning
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. At this point, you can put this in the fridge overnight. If there’s no lid for the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or place in Tupperware.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. If you want a stronger balsamic flavor, add more vinegar a tsp at a time. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. (It’s important to use the vinegar first so that it penetrates the tomatoes. The oil will repel the vinegar if it’s added first.) Cover and set aside in the fridge until time to serve
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with Italian seasoning. Bake for about 5 minutes, until bread is golden and crispy. Can be served warm or cooled, whatever your preference.

Again, so simple. The only thing that takes time is the chopping of the ingredients.

A lot of times the crostini will be gone before the bruschetta is. If that happens, it’s great on tortilla or pita chips. It can also be a great topping for tomorrow’s dinner protein. I love it on top of grilled chicken.

If you want to make it a more presentable appetizer and less of a party snack, cut the recipe in half and do the plating yourself. Like I said before, there’s hundreds of ways to change this up. If I’m serving this at a sit down dinner, sometimes I’ll place a slice of fresh mozzarella or a roasted red pepper on the bread before topping it with the marinated tomatoes. Arugula is a great peppery addition as well, or some might like a slice of prosciutto on top.

I made this today for a football party and it was a huge success with the crowd. I also made something a little heartier- buffalo chicken dip. But stay tuned for Super Bowl week. I’ll be sharing that recipe, plus two more of my favorite buffalo chicken dishes!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet} 

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