In my noobular years, I disliked avocado.  I know, I know. Shame on me! Thank Heavens I came around. Like most people, it was guacamole that brought me around. Rich, creamy, and cool – it’s pretty much the perfect condiment. Lots of people have their own spin on guacamole, and mine is no exception. It’s similar to most guac recipes, but, I like to add a little bit of sour cream. It gives it a nice tangyness, and lightens it up a bit. I’m sure you could also use Greek yogurt, and get the same effect. We put it on everything; enchiladas, tacos, even scrambled eggs. Which, incidentally, I also add a bit of sour cream to. That’s a tip I picked up from Ralph Cifaretto in “The Sopranos”, right before he got whacked (one of my favorite episodes, btw, for all you Sopranos fans out there). Ahh, I miss that show!

I digress. The guacamole. With all the football game goodness we have to look forward to in the coming weeks (Go 9ers!), save room on your table for a big bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips. It’s always one of the first things to go! I’ve also got another great munchie coming up tomorrow that’s perfect for football snacking. Stay tuned!

I hate to admit it, but I used to dislike cilantro. I thought it tasted like soap. Thankfully, I’ve since come around and now I can’t get enough of the stuff. One of my favorite uses for it, which I find myself making often around here, is pico de gallo. Obviously, it’s a great condiment for any Mexican dish. But, it is also a wonderful accompaniment to serve on top of broiled fish or grilled chicken. Not to mention it’s totally figure friendly.

I’ve found that I get pretty decent results year-round with Roma tomatoes. Of course this summer is at it’s prime with summer tomatoes, but it’s nice to be able to have a fresh tomato salsa in these dreary winter months that is edible! I like a more predominant onion flavor in my salsa, so I use white onions. If you like a milder onion flavor, try using red onion or scallions instead. If you don’t like things spicy, remove the “ribs” and seeds from the jalapeno before chopping. Or, if you want to kick the heat up a notch, try using a serrano or habenero pepper in place of the jalapeno.

It’s been a good year, football wise, for our family. Not so much for my team (the Redskins), but for my husband’s 49ers. It’s also been a good year for football snacks in our home, mainly in the form of these fried pickles. I’ve always loved pickles, and at first I was hesitant about the concept of deep frying them. I first tried them at one of my favorite places, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (if you’re ever in Rehoboth, DE – go! Delicious local fare and craft beer await). After that, I was hooked. I tried a few recipes that were good – but diddn’t make my heart sing. Finally threw in the towel and just tried the battering method that I use for my fish tacos, and it worked like a charm! I’ve made them every Sunday afternoon for the past month, and we’re still not tired of them.

They’re a breeze to make, as I usually have everything on hand for beer batter. They’re also a super-cheap appetizer. While I’m sure they are wonderful with a premium cold-chilled pickle, I really like them with my store’s generic brand. They’re a thick cut pickle chip, and they have the ridges in them – which I think helps the batter adhere to the pickle. They also stay nice and crispy for a good while after serving, not that they’ll actually last that long!

With playoff parties and the Super Bowl upon us, definitely add these babies to your lineup. You won’t be sorry!

In the past, I haven’t been a huge fan of Swedish meatballs. The only rendition I’d had of them was from a frozen microwavable meal, and certainly left something to be desired. A couple of years ago, while we were on travel with my husband in DC, Andrew and I were looking for something to do. We’d been to the museums, the National Zoo, and all the upscale grocery stores in the “big city” to stock up on provisions to take home with us. I’d noticed that there was an Ikea about 5 minutes from the hotel, and thought that could be a fun activity to spend some time waiting for “Dad” to get out of work.

Andrew was confined to the stroller at the time, but was a trooper as I investigated ever nook and cranny of the store. I loved the bright colors and patterns of all the textiles, the organization options- a place for everything, the clean simple lines of the furniture. Oh yeah, and the Swedish Meatballs! Halfway through our journey Andrew and I stopped at the cafeteria for a bite to eat. We shared an order of the meatballs, with a side of mashed red potatoes and lingonberry jelly. A far, far cry from the dreaded microwave meals! I knew this dish had to be even better made at home as well. Their meatballs are okay, but they’re still frozen, mass-produced, and chock full of fillers.

I Googled recipes and bookmarked a few, but finally decided on Elise’s version after a recommendation from my best friend. They were absolutely delicious. The rich, beefy, creamy sauce en robes the tender bites of the beef/pork mixture. I was always of the school of the beef meatball, but I think this recipe has made me a convert. They literally melt in your mouth, a different texture completely from a beef meatball.  The recipe makes a lot of meatballs. I think they’d be delightful for a party as an appetizer instead of the traditional red sauce meatballs. The meatballs and sauce would be fine in a Crock-Pot on low for a few hours. I did change the spice combination in them, as I diddn’t have cardamom, and had no problems. I stock up on Lingonberry jelly (and the drink concentrate too!) when I’m at Ikea, but if you can’t find it then I think boysenberry jam or cranberry jelly would be a good alternative.