Appetizers

Fresh Homemade Guacamole

big bowl of guacamole surrounded by chips and lime wedges

 

For me, there is nothing more satisfying then laying out a gigantic bowl of guacamole and devouring it with an arsenal of chips at hand (and friends too I guess).  What I like about guac is that it seems super fancy, but is actually really simple to make.  Not to mention, there is an added nutritional benefit from the avocado’s healthy fats!

One feature that tends to turn people off to guacamole is that it has the tendency to taste bland.  Avocados by themselves don’t have a ton of flavor, so in order to make a flavorful guac you need some reinforcements!

There are 3 key ingredients everyone needs when making guacamole, so make sure to have these on hand!

 

bowl of homemade guacamole with side of chips

 

THREE MUST-HAVE INGREDIENTS TO FLAVOR UP YOUR GUAC:

  1. Pickled Jalapeños—in my opinion, pickled jalapeños add more flavor than fresh cut ones, AND they aren’t as unpredictable when it comes to heat.  I even like to scoop out a little extra juice and drizzle it in.  If you have a spicy food aversion, don’t let this stop you from trying!  Pickled jalapeños are mostly added for flavor, not heat content.  Plus, these suckers are pretty low on the Scoville Scale!  If you prefer, start with half the recommended amount and see how it tastes 🙂
  2. Lime Juice—fresh squeezed lime juice not only helps to bring out flavor, but also slows the avocados oxidation process, preventing it from browning right away.  The acidic juices from the lime help to balance the bland flavor from avocados.
  3. Cilantro—have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE cilantro?  This herb adds the extra flavor that gives guacamole its signature taste.  Omitting it would just be a crime!

The timing of when to serve guacamole can be a little tricky, but thankfully there is still some prep work you can do before the avocado mashing commences!  If serving at my house, I like to chop the veggies ahead of time and place in a small bowl.  Then, right before serving, I’ll cut up the avocados, mash in a large serving bowl, and then mix my precut veggies in.  Lastly, I make sure to squeeze fresh lime juice right before serving.

If bringing guac to a separate location, try to whip it up close to your departure time and cover with plastic wrap.  I lay my plastic wrap right on top of the guac and then put a lid over top.  That way I can keep as much air off of it to prevent browning.  Once you are ready to serve, scoop off any browned areas and serve with chips!

 

Fingers holding a chip with fresh guacamole

 

HOW CAN I TELL IF AN AVOCADO IS RIPE?

The best way to tell an avocado’s ripeness is by touch.  When ready to eat, and avocado should be firm, yet give in a little when squeezed.  If an avocado is difficult to cut into, then it is not yet ripe and will need more time to soften up.    

On the other hand, your avocado is over-ripe if these features are present:

  • pit easily falls out when cut open
  • brown spots observed in flesh when cut open for the first time
  • brown strings in flesh

You’ll know when you have a ripe one, because it will be a beautiful green, easy to cut into, and easy to mash!

 

big bowl filled with fresh, homemade guacamole

 

Fresh Homemade Guacamole

Fresh, flavorful, and healthy guacamole that only takes a couple of minutes to whip up! Makes a great appetizer, or can be used to accompany salads, meat, or Mexican night! Includes ingredients that really bring out its flavor.
Prep Time10 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: easy, flavorful, fresh herbs, gluten free, guacamole, healthy
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 6 small avocados (or 4-5 large ones)
  • 1 lime juice
  • 1/3 cup red onion chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 roma tomato diced
  • 1.5 tbsp pickled jalapenos diced
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  • Chop onion, cilantro, tomato, and set aside in a small bowl.
  • Take each avocado and cut in half, long ways. Scoop out the pit with a spoon, and then scoop flesh intto a large mixing bowl.
  • Pour fresh lime juice over avocados. Using a potato masher, mash avocados and lime juice together until the consistency is smooth with some chunks.
  • Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer to decorative serving bowl and serve with chips. I like to serve mine with gluten free chips, like Siete or Food Should Taste Good, on top of meat, or on a salad..
Appetizers, What's New on Lulu's Table?

Orzo Salad

bowl of orzo salad on white wooden table

 

Looking back…I’m pretty sure that I grew up on this stuff.  Well this, cheese, and chicken taquitos.  

I have to sing my mom’s praise here though, because not only did she get my sister and I hooked on this as kids, but she would make my roommates and I a big batch whenever she came to visit me at college!  I would literally have to fight off my friends in order to get more than one serving (yes I am talking to you Jesse).

 

orzo salad on white wood table

 

So needless to say, this dish makes a regular appearance here at the Corna household.  Especially during warm weather months when there is fresh basil galore!

Not going to lie…this is one of my all time favorite dishes to make AND eat (more-so eat).  Here’s why I love this Orzo salad…

  1. it’s healthy
  2. all the veggies make it fun and colorful, with a ton of flavor
  3. it’s super simple to make
  4. it’s light, but you feel like you’re eating substance (which is especially nice for tailgating)
  5. won’t make you have to unbutton your jeans

I make my own vinaigrette that I mix in before serving, and I love using Banza Rice to make this a healthier gluten free orzo salad!  One bag of Banza Rice, mixed with all the veggies, will be enough for 4-6 people…but I would definitely recommend erring on the side of overdoing it because the leftovers are just as good!

 

orzo salad with wooden spoon and balsamic dressing

 

This is typically my go-to when we are headed to a friend’s house, or I need something quick to make for last minute house guests.  It’s always a crowd pleaser and the best part is that you have the ability to craft it the way you like!  Add in whatever veggies you think sound yummy, or add rotisserie chicken to make this a main meal instead of a side dish.

Tip for adding more color: use different colored bell peppers!  One bell pepper is only required for each batch, so I like to use half an orange, and half a yellow pepper to add more color.

Can’t find Banza Rice at your local store?  Click below to get a couple bags sent to your home!  The plain Banza Rice goes quickly, but there is a tri-color rice that is just as delicious!  Check which ones are in stock through the link below…

 

 

bowl of orzo salad on white wood table

 

 

Orzo Salad

A healthy Orzo Salad filled with fresh veggies, basil, feta cheese, and homemade vinaigarette. Vegetarian and gluten free appetizer.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: basil, feta, gluten free, healthy, orzo, salad
Servings: 4 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion diced
  • 1 cup asparagus chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil chopped
  • 1 8 oz bag Banza Rice cooked
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup almond slices

Balsamic Vinegairette

  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper each
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  • Cook Banza Rice according to package instructions, rinse, and set in a large mixing bowl.
  • Blanch asparagus by cooking in boiling water for 1 min. Remove, rinse, and add to rice mixture.
  • Chop remaining veggies and mix in with rice. Stir in feta cheese and almond slices.
  • Mix together all ingredients for dressing and then stir into orzo salad right before serving.
Appetizers, Vegetarian Meals

Oven Roasted Artichokes

bowl full of roasted artichokes on white wooden table

 

Not going to lie, I dabbled with my first ever roasted artichoke just the other week and I LOVED IT.  Why has it taken me so long to try these darn things?!  Oh I know…because I had no idea how to eat them!

Up until now the only artichoke I would consume was marinated in a jar.  And albeit, super yummy, I think everyone needs to try a fresh roasted artichoke in their life time!  Similar to mushrooms, the artichoke flesh soaks up the flavor of whatever its baked with, so in this case…garlic and herbs!

 

fresh artichokes, whole on white table

 

In this post you will find instruction on how to roast these beautiful, jurassic-looking veggies, as well as a guide through the prep work, and how to eat these suckers too!

Step 1:  Prep Artichoke for baking

This part can be completed in a couple of minutes and will require a sharp serrated knife and spoon.  Start by rinsing, then cutting stem off with sharp knife.  Lay artichoke on its side, and cut the top 1 inch off.  Then lay artichoke flush to the surface (stem side down), and cut through the middle from top to bottom. 

Next, you will need to scoop out a little area in the middle, where the “hair” is located.  Once you have scooped out the center, brush with a lemon to prevent browning and set aside.

 

artichoke halves in grey baking dish

 

Step 2: Bake

After your artichokes have been stuffed with garlic, herbs, and butter, you’ll want to bake them at 400 degrees F.  First for 20 minutes without foil, and then 30-40 minutes with foil.

(Something else I learned about artichokes…they make a great vehicle for butter!)

 

close up of browned, roasted artichoke halves

 

Step 3: Devour

The best way to eat an artichoke is one petal at a time.  Rip off a petal by grabbing the pointy end, and lay the inside of the petal on top of your tongue while still holding on.  Bite down and slowly pull the “flesh” off by pulling it over your bottom teeth.  Discard petal remains.  

The petals on the outermost surface will have the least amount of flesh, but the closer you get to the “heart” is where you’ll find the most substance to eat.

Continue this process until you reach the heart, which will be soft and VERY flavorful.  Eat the heart as you’d like…in a couple pieces, or whole!  It may look a little funny, but don’t be afraid, because its delicious!

If you really want to get fancy with it, you can add a dipping sauce for the petals, which adds more flavor!  I used pesto in this recipe, but some other recommendations would be, Caesar or Ranch dressing, any aioli, or any yogurt based dip.

I ended up eating most of mine without dip, because it was that flavorful on its own!  Hope you guys give this a try and enjoy 🙂 

 

roasted artichokes in bowl with pesto dipping sauce

 

Oven Roasted Artichokes

These oven roasted artichokes are very simple to make, require only a couple ingredients, and allow you to enjoy the true flavor of an artichoke! Roasted in garlic, grass-fed butter, and a few spices...YUM!  
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: artichokes, easy, fresh herbs, garlic, gluten free, healthy, oven, roasted
Servings: 6 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 4 artichokes whole
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp herb butter or regular butter melted
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Rinse artichokes and cut stem off with a sharp serrated knife.  Next, cut top 1 inch off, then cut artichoke in half from top to bottom.
  • Using a spoon, scoop out a small portion of the middle.  Try to spoon out the "hair".
  • Before placing artichokes in baking dish, coat front and back with a layer of lemon juice to prevent browning. 
  • Set artichokes in a greased baking dish with insides facing up.  Place one whole garlic clove in the center of each artichoke half.  
  • Brush with half of your melted butter, and sprinkle with half of salt and pepper.  Turn artichoke halves over and repeat butter, salt, and pepper.
  • Bake for 20 min without foil.  Wrap foil lightly overtop baking dish and cook for another 40 min.
  • Remove from oven and let cool before serving.  Serve with a side of pesto, any yogurt dip, or add some extra lemon juice and eat by itself!