Gazpacho with avocado recipe

The kids are going back to school tomorrow, which means that my favorite season is UNofficially over.  No more lazy days and waking up late or reading for pleasure instead of for a test.  Back to making lunches at 6:30 am and soccer carpools.  Not so fast!  The good news is that summer isn’t officially over until September 22nd and there are tomatoes to prove it.

If you’re new here, I am mildly obsessed with summer tomatoes, i.e. tomatoes grown in soil and hot July and August sun until they’re sweet and juicy and drippy with intense tomato flavor.  My garden doesn’t produce that many so I supplement with tomatoes from my local farmers markets or GROW, my favorite local market which always seems to find great produce from local farms.  I’m a lucky girl for sure!  I try to take advantage of the fleeting tomato season, so I buy a ton and seem to use tomatoes almost every day in some way, even for breakfast or in between meals.  Just now I took a handful of yellow grape tomatoes and ate them as a little snack like candy, which is what they tasted like.  Yum!

best to chop each ingredient separately; pureed  fresh tomatoes stand in the place of canned tomato juice

It’s always my preference to keep things simple when the ingredients are perfect, like sliced tomatoes and avocado on grilled bread with sea salt, but gazpacho is a recipe that is worth the extra 5 minutes to make.  We’ve been enjoying some hot weather here in Southern California so it’s the perfect time to enjoy this cooling, no-cook soup.  My version of gazpacho is not exactly traditional, but just as delicious and possibly a tad more healthful.  In Spain, it is very typical to add day-old bread, which I omit.  I don’t notice the lack of bread one bit, and I think if you’re going to indulge in bread, you might as well actually know you’re eating it.  I also don’t use canned tomato juice, which normally contains BPA or aluminum or both.  Yikes!  Not only that, I think you can get a cleaner, more tomato-y flavor from using awesome fresh tomatoes, not to mention more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like lycopene.

My kids like gazpacho because they think it tastes like a blended salad and they can add an assortment of toppings.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m big into topping bars, especially for soups and salads, because I think it gives the kids more control over what they’re eating and I notice they tend to eat more of a food when they can make it their own, so to speak.  Our favorite topping with gazpacho is creamy cubes of avocado with give the perfect balance to the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.  But don’t let me stop you there.  Croutons, grilled corn kernels, chopped shrimp or crab are all fantastic additions to the top of this bowl of summery goodness.  I’ll come clean and confess I’ve even put out popcorn for Mr. Picky to add.  Whatever works, people.  I love pairing cool gazpacho with chicken kebabs and chimichurri sauce or a summer frittata for a light dinner.  But one of my favorite ways to serve it is in little shot glasses as an hors d’oeuvre.  With Labor Day weekend around the corner, here’s one way you can keep that summer feeling going strong.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gazpacho with Avocado
Serves: 6
  • 2 cups large chopped unpeeled Persian cucumbers, about 3-4
  • ½ small red onion, cut into chunks*
  • 4 large (about 2 ½ - 2 ¾ pounds) ripe tomatoes, cored and cut in half crosswise to remove the seeds, cut into chunks
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  1. Place the cucumber in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer the cucumber to a large bowl. Repeat the process with the red onion and transfer to the bowl with the cucumber.
  2. Take half of the tomato and pulse in the food processor until chunky and add to the bowl.
  3. Smash the garlic cloves and place in the food processor with the remaining tomato pieces, salt and pepper, vinegar and oil. Process until smooth.
  4. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the cucumber and onion and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
  5. Before serving, garnish with avocado. Can be made several days ahead.
You can add finely diced radish for pepperiness; hot sauce or jalapeño for heat, croutons for crunch, or a dollop of sour cream. You can also use yellow heirloom tomatoes for a yellow gazpacho.

*Onion can be soaked in ice water for 15 minutes to take the edge off the raw flavor.


Egg-Free Avocado Caesar Salad Recipe

I hope you all had a lovely Easter or Passover holiday.  Ours was so nice thanks to my mother-in-law took care of the meal and all I had to do was show up with desserts.  But now I’m ready to move on from anything to do with coconut or eggs.  In fact I am going to be a rebel and just omit eggs in recipes where you would normally expect to find them!  I can be crazy that way.   One thing that has surprised me in teaching cooking classes the last few years is how many people have food intolerances/allergies.  If you or one of your kids is one of those people, you are not alone.  The most common allergens I run across with my students are gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs.  There are others of course, like soy, corn, mangos and shellfish, to name a few.   Then there are people who can’t tolerate garlic, which I’m not sure how I could live without.  But eggs is a big one.  So it’s always in the back of my mind when I come up with a recipe and I try to share egg-free versions of anything I teach.


Caesar salad dressing is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice or lemon juice and red wine vinegar, mustard and raw egg yolks.  Normally I substitute mayonnaise for the egg yolks because I’m not always comfortable serving kids raw eggs, but sometimes mayonnaise contains egg, too.  So to make this dressing egg-free, but still creamy, I tried using one of my favorite rich, nutritious foods — avocado — and a new favorite salad dressing was born.  The color is a tad green, but you won’t notice it once it’s tossed with the lettuce.  And the avocado does nothing to change the flavor of the dressing so you would otherwise have no idea that you weren’t eating a regular Caesar salad.  Do I dare say this is even better than a normal Caesar?  I made this for a working lunch at home yesterday and my assistants and I couldn’t stop eating it.  So goooooood!

Did I mention that Caesar salad is also very simple to prepare at home?  That’s one reason I’m not likely to order it in a restaurant.  I have a thing about ordering food in a restaurant that can be easily made at home.  I don’t mind paying for handmade pasta, high quality sushi, or foods that are either unusual or labor-intensive that I can’t reproduce at home.  But even the novice cook can make a delicious Caesar dressing for a fraction of a restaurant’s price.  I can buy an entire head of romaine lettuce at the farmer’s market for $1 and probably make Caesar salad for 4-6 people for under $4.  You’ll think twice about spending $12 for one portion.


Salads are a great way to use the topping bar method with your kids.  Many children do like Caesar salad,  but if yours are unsure about all that lettuce, allow them to add whatever they like to their plate, even if it’s something that you might not eat on the salad — olives, pecans, dried fruit, popcorn, avocado, chopped up chicken tenders.  That’s not what’s important.  We’re just allowing them to have some control over what they eat while encouraging them to eat the same food we do.  They’re still finding their way.

I don’t add cheese to the actual Caesar dressing, but instead sprinkle it on top of the chopped lettuce and then toss with the dressing.  If you are dairy-free, you can leave the cheese out completely or substitute Parma (vegan “Parmesan cheese”) or nutritional yeast and a little extra sea salt.  And if you’re vegan, omit the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce.  Dairy-free and vegan peeps, did you think I was only going to give love to my egg-free friends?  I have more than enough to go around.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Avocado Caesar Salad
Serves: 6
  • Dressing (makes about 1 cup):
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (you can add more if you’re skipping the cheese)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1-2 anchovies** (optional, but traditional)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • Salad:
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese* or a wedge shaved into thin strips
  • croutons for garnish, if desired
  1. To make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water to make it thinner, if desired. Taste for salt and pepper, but be conservative with the salt since the cheese is salty.
  2. Place the lettuce in a serving bowl or on a platter and sprinkle with grated cheese and croutons. Depending on the size of your head of lettuce, you may have more dressing than you need, so just toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat lightly. Or toss salad with dressing and garnish with shaved cheese.
Other options: You can also take a head of romaine, cut it in half, brush with olive oil and grill it for a Grilled Caesar Salad. Other sturdy lettuces could be radicchio, endive or red romaine.

*Try Parma or nutritional yeast for a dairy-free option.

**Vegans can drop the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce instead.

Spinach and avocado smoothie recipe (aka “Leprechaun Juice”)

Are you having trouble getting your kids or significant other to eat green food?  If so, your big chance is coming up and I don’t want you to miss out. Instead of looking at St. Patrick’s Day as a day of corned beef and cabbage, artificially-dyed green bagels and Irish soda bread, it’s actually a huge opportunity to bust out the healthful greens.  Why?  Because this holiday is all about green and it would be festive to serve green food.  I’m not talking green-sprinkled sugar cookies, but Leprechaun Juice of course!

Leprechaun Juice is what I first called this delicious spinach and avocado smoothie years ago and my kids thought I was a really awesome mom.  For all I know, they probably thought I put food coloring in the blender to turn everything this vibrant green or that I picked it up at the 7-Eleven because St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday and I can be fun that way.  Well, you and I know each other pretty well by now to know that there ain’t no food coloring in my smoothies let alone my arts and crafts basket (if I actually had one.)

In fact, raw baby spinach gives give this drink its vibrant color as well as more nutrition than almost any food out there (think folate, antioxidants, Vitamins C and K, iron, magnesium and chlorophyll.)  Spinach blends really well in smoothies because it’s tender and it doesn’t taste like spinach, especially when you toss some extra sweet bananas and dates in there.  Dates and ripe bananas are my secret weapons when I want to use a natural sweetener.  In fact, I buy several bunches of bananas at a time which I allow to ripen until they’re super sweet.  I peel them and then keep them in the freezer for great smoothies, acai bowls and to dip in chocolate.  You might be thinking the most unusual suspect here is probably the avocado.  But its richness makes this smoothie as thick and creamy as a milkshake with absolutely no weird flavor. I am truly the president of the avocado fan club.  They are full of fresh, high-quality fat, loads of Vitamin E and fiber.  And it’s that fat that helps us absorb the fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants, especially the carotenoids in spinach.

Mr. Picky has a cutie-pie friend that walks with us to school every Thursday morning.  According to his mom, he rivals my son in pickiness.  I don’t think she could have ever predicted that her son would be the one operating our juicer every Thursday morning and the first one to gulp down kale, apple and celery juice.  She was really tickled when I sent her a photo of the two “picky boys” slurping their green shakes.  One of the best things you can do is not to assume your kids or significant other won’t like something.  Worst case scenario here is that if you have no takers for Leprechaun Juice, there will be more for you!

Spinach and Avocado Smoothie
Serves: makes 2 medium drinks
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
  • 4 pitted dates or sweetener of choice to taste, such as raw honey or pure maple syrup
  • 4 cups spinach leaves
  • ½ ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 2 frozen bananas, cut into chunks
  1. If you have a high-powered blender, such as a Vita-Mix, place all the ingredients in the blender and process until smooth.
  2. If you do not have a high-powered blender, the dates may not get blended completely and may leave tiny little bits of date in the smoothie. If that bothers you, blend the almond milk and dates together and then strain the mixture. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender with the strained almond milk and blend until smooth. Or just use honey or maple syrup to sweeten instead of dates.


Chicken and Avocado Soup

Even though I’m a big football fan and I love a good game (especially when my team wins), when it’s over, it’s over.  Whether the outcome of the game is favorable or unfavorable, life goes on and so do I.  So football is finished until next year, but eating happens multiple times a day everyday.  And today I am much more focused on what to do with Super Bowl leftovers!

Quinoa cornbread became breakfast.  Chili went into thermoses for lunch.  And topping bar items can make their way into frittatas, quesadillas or soup for dinner.  This particular soup was not my brain child, but as often happens in my life, my kids leave the house and are amazed by what they’re “missing.”  A while back my mother-in-law took them to Cafe Rio, a “fast casual dining establishment,” and they went bonkers for the Tortilla Soup.  It’s is a brothy and flavorful chicken stock-based soup with some vegetables and whatever add-ins you choose.  Whereas the younger two kids asked me if we could go there for dinner some night and have it again, my older daughter knew me better than that and suggested I try to copy the soup at home.  Great idea!

So one day my friend Cheryl and I went on a secret reconnaissance mission to the local Cafe Rio to check out the famous soup and see exactly how they do this thing.  Truthfully, their method is pretty genius and it’s the perfect soup to make at home for a family or a group.  The server adds into a cup your choice of chicken, guacamole, salsa, cheese, cilantro, and tortillas, and then ladles a flavorful chicken soup on top.  Yep, that’s it.  And except for being unbelievably salty, the soup was rather tasty.   You know how much I love a do-it-yourself situation (less work for me!)  Can you picture how easy this is if you have cooked chicken and salsa already made?  This comes together in minutes, I tell you, and everyone makes it the way they want.  You want it to be vegetarian?  No problem!  Just sub a great vegetable stock for the chicken stock and add in some pinto beans for protein.

Even though my intent was to copy Cafe Rio’s soup, I ended up making a couple of my own tweaks, such as using chopped avocado instead of guacamole (but definitely use the guac if you have it) and adding a squeeze of lime at the end.  I used poached chicken the day I took these photos and give you directions for that in the recipe, but I have used leftover grilled chicken or the meat from a whole roasted chicken, too.  And sometimes I add quinoa to mine if I’m not in the mood for chicken, and I love that, too.  But the method behind this soup is giving me all sorts of ideas for how to use up some tasty leftovers.  If you make the soup base as directed here, I have chopped up leftover enchiladas and added them for an “enchilada soup,” but I bet you could add in taco meat and some tortillas for a “taco soup.”  I’m excited by the possibilities, plus I think I just made my meal plan for the week!


5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken and Avocado Soup
Serves: 6
  • 1 or 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (depending on how much chicken you want in your soup)
  • ½ large onion, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon additive-free kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • A few peppercorns, crushed
  • A few garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded (if you don’t want too much heat) and diced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (double this if you use unsalted stock)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
  • 1-2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks or guacamole
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges (my favorite part!)
  • Other possible add-ins: tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese
  1. Poach the chicken: Place the chicken breast, onion half (halved again), salt, pepper and garlic into a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer chicken for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow chicken to sit in the liquid until cool enough to handle.
  2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, scallions, carrots, celery and jalapeno. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Pull chicken from liquid and remove skin and bones. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. You can divide chicken amongst the 6 individual bowls or add it all to the pot.
  5. Put a heaping spoonful of pico de gallo and avocado chunks/guacamole in each individual bowl and ladle soup on top. Squeeze lime on top and sprinkle with corn tortilla chips and fresh cilantro, if desired.



Avocado, jicama and mango salad recipe

Mexico is close to Southern California, right?  They share a border for goodness sake.  Dare I say Mexico is almost local?  Well, this is convincing I do with myself during April and May.  Why? Because it’s mango season in Mexico and I am MAD for mangos.  Yes, we grow mangos in Southern California, but the season is waaaaaay too short for me and the kids. So I’m basically a hypocrite for a few months to satisfy my addiction to a luscious, fleshy, sweet fruit while the other 10 months of the year I turn my nose at melons in the winter or produce from South America.  I’m downright indignant when I see Chilean plums in February.  Can’t you people wait a few measly months until they’re in season here??

Listen, I’m no Barbara Kingsolver and in as much as I admire her quest to go truly local for a year, except for coffee, I buy plenty of goods that are outside of the 100 mile-radius from where I live.  Those foods include flours, grains and fish from Alaska.  But there are many reasons I believe in buying local produce.  In general:

  • local is fresher, which very often means better taste and higher nutritional value.
  • I like supporting local farms and local businesses.
  • local usually equates to eating seasonally which is a more healthful and more balanced way to stay in harmony with nature.  We are given exactly what we need to eat at just the right time of the year.  For example, melons and cucumbers are cooling foods and are very appropriate to eat during the summer months.  In contrast, pumpkin and butternut squash have a warming thermal nature and help us out in the winter.
  • buying local can have a lighter environmental impact versus importing produce.

But at the moment, I am buying 10 mangos every week for snacks, mixing them with yogurt, blending them in smoothies and using them in this scrumptious salad.  You know how I feel about a good dressing and this one is a favorite.  I actually like it just as much as a dip for crudite.  There is a bit of cilantro in the dressing, but I have had many cilantro-haters come over to the other side after trying this dressing.  Choose a crisp lettuce such as a romaine or butter lettuce and feel free to come up with your own creation.  Other possibilities include tomatoes, cucumbers, cooked pinto beans, grilled shrimp or chicken, toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds).

While I’m coming clean about the mangos, did I mention the jicama is from Mexico, too?

Avocado, Jicama and Mango Salad
Serves: 6
  • Dressing:
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (lightly packed)
  • ½ cup unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced, about 8 cups
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ medium jicama, julienned or cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Crispy tortilla strips (optional) see below
  1. In a blender combine lime and lemon juices, honey, salt, pepper and cumin. Add the cilantro and blend. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream and blend until emulsified.
  2. Arrange the lettuce on a large platter and drizzle enough dressing to coat lightly. Place avocado in a bowl and gently toss with enough dressing to coat lightly. Arrange avocado on top of lettuce. Repeat with the jicama and mango. Sprinkle with crispy tortilla strips.



1 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil

3 6-inch corn tortillas

Fine grain sea salt or additive-free kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the oil over both sides of the tortillas.  Stack the tortillas on top of each other and cut the stack in half.  Then cut the halves crosswise into 1/8-inch thick strips.

Spread the tortillas on a heavy, rimmed baking sheet (lined with parchment if desired) and arrange them evenly.  Sprinkle with salt and bake, tossing occasionally for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and cool.


Guacamole and baked tortilla chips recipe

perfect guacamole and baked tortilla chips

Do not be under the misconception that because I teach people how to cook healthful food that I myself eat only whole foods all day every day.  Didn’t you read about my 90/10 plan?  90% of the time I try my best to eat super high-quality food — as whole and unprocessed as possible.  The other 10% of the time (which basically leaves Friday and Saturday nights), I eat whatever I want and I don’t feel bad about it.  Want to know what my guilty pleasure is?  Nope, not chocolate or candy, not booze or burgers.  It’s guacamole and chips.  I could eat bowls full of the stuff at any time.

When I moved to California from New York almost 20 (gasp!) years ago, I was introduced to the avocado and guacamole.  I couldn’t believe such a wonderful thing existed and I had just had my first taste (like when my husband took my son at 3 years old for his first Slurpee and the boy asked “why I not have this before?”).  Creamy, rich guacamole on a crispy, salty chip was my idea of delicious and addictive, especially if the chip was folded over.  I was also finding lots of other ways to enjoy avocados — chopped into salads, as a garnish on chili, and my favorite, thin wedges on whole grain toast with or without a slice of lox.  Divine, I tell you.

You can imagine the cause for celebration when I discovered that avocados are actually good for you!  Really good for you!  Who knew that something so creamy and buttery could have loads of fiber, Beta-carotene and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and iron?  While it is absolutely true that avocados are very high in fat, it’s the kind of high quality fat that you want to eat.  It is the freshest kind of fat, one that hasn’t been exposed to air or processing and its profile is mostly monounsaturated fat, like the kind found in olive oil.  Hooray!  Avocados are also loaded with Vitamin E, a very powerful anti-oxidant.

So let’s chow down on the guacamole, right?  Well, you’ve heard it before — it’s not the guacamole that’s the problem, it’s what you eat with it that’s a whole lot of trouble.  I am referring to chips, especially the kind that are made from genetically-modified corn and fried in some low-quality corn or soybean oil.  Do not fret.  There is hope!  You can buy organic soft corn tortillas and make your own baked chips without a big commotion.  I am whipping up a few batches right now in preparation for tomorrow’s holiday.  What, you don’t celebrate the Super Bowl??  While you’re at it, check out a great vegetable chili recipe and you’ll be all set for the big day.  Go Steelers!

perfect guacamole and baked tortilla chips

Guacamole and Baked Tortilla Chips
Serves: makes enough for me and only me
  • guacamole:
  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and placed in a medium bowl
  • juice from ½ a lime or lemon (I prefer lime, but many swear by lemon)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red or white onion or shallot
  • ½ tomato, diced (leave it out if it's not in season)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced or hot sauce to taste
  • Sea salt to taste (don't skimp, guacamole needs quite a bit)
  • OR you can do the cheater version (no guilt, of course) and add a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa and salt to the mashed avocados
  • chips:
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil
  • 6 (6-inch) organic, soft corn tortillas
  • Sea salt
  1. Sprinkle the avocado with the lime juice and mash together in the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the onion, tomato, cilantro and hot sauce. Stir into the avocado mixture and season to taste with salt.
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve or refrigerate, tightly covered for a few hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tortillas on a cutting board. Brush the oil over both sides of the tortillas. Stack the tortillas and cut them in half, then cut the halves in half and one more time to make eighths. Spread the tortillas in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and cool.