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I learned long ago that when life hands me limes, it’s up to me to figure out how to turn them into something tasty.

So when this sunny Cinco de Mayo crept up on me – and me, a margarita aficionado had no plans, I had to spring into recovery mode to turn limes into margaritas.

5 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Fun (for people like me who lack planning skills)

1. Make Guacamole and cry tears of joy. You can pick up all the ingredients on your way home and whip up a little love in a bowl. Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out. My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love
  • Mix but don’t mush!
  • Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

2. Make Scarlet Margaritas! I found this recipe on myrecipe.com. We have recipe/taste tested and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win.

Scarlet Margs!

Scarlet Margs!

 

3. Make Margaritas from Mix! Ok, I said it. Don’t hate me. Sometimes cutting corners is the only way to celebrate a holiday without adding stress. So if picking up all the ingredients for a fresh-made drink is too much, you can get by with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of mix. For the tequila, I still suggest Milagro. For the mix, you’re on your own. But what ever you do, do not follow the instructions on the mix bottle. Those recipes usually suggest a 3 to 1 ratio of mix to tequila. If you’re looking for a spike in blood sugar, this is the way to go. If you want a reasonable drink, experiment and cut back on the mix and increase the tequila (I suggest a ratio of 1 to 1). Add lots of ice and … a message from my Dad … drink responsibly.

4. Margarita Ice Cream! This is so easy to make you’ll almost feel guilty when your friends worship you for your ice cream making skills.  This recipe is from Nigella Lawson so it makes sense that it’s called Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream. After a rough year that included being choked by her husband, publically outed for a cocaine habit, banned from travelling to the US and getting divorced (well maybe that last one is a good thing) Nigella is someone who needs to turn her limes into something great. So thank goodness she has this recipe!

And this recipe is universally loved. When I made it, I got raves from someone who doesn’t like margaritas (gasp!), someone who doesn’t like ice cream (double gasp!) and someone who doesn’t drink at all (huh?). Everyone loves Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

 

Margarita Ice Cream

Margarita Ice Cream – I swear this picture doesn’t do this treat justice

 

5. Celebrate at a Place known for something other than Margaritas.  I’m turning my limes into an outing to Butter (NYC). Butter in Midtown is a cool space. It’s set underground and its high ceilings reach the street to let light shine into the restaurant. And they have Parker House Rolls – or at least what I remember as slightly sweet rolls, with a little salt on the top that were amazing (but maybe not Parker House shaped). And while I don’t exactly equate drinking margaritas with eating rolls, anything goes for this non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Butter NYC

Margarita & Flowers, Butter NYC

 

Here’s wishing you turn all the limes in your life into the best margaritas ever!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

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The history of Guacamole is both short and long.

The Aztecs invented it.

History lesson over.

And since the Aztecs were happily living and eating guacamole in Mexico long before the Spanish swooped in on them in the 1500’s, Guacamole’s been around a long, long time.

Anyone who’s ever seen Guacamole turn brown and crusty at a party has reason to be afraid of it.  And let’s face it; the Avocado in its full fruit form is standoffish, even scary. Bumpy, green and black on the outside, it’s the bad apple of the fruit basket.  Unripe, they’re hard and horrible.  Overripe, they are the stuff of science fiction with the pale green flesh blighted with brown spots and stringy and the skin easily dented.

If an Avocado was a 5th grader, it would be the reason the teacher fears turning his/her back to the class.

And because of their look, Avocados are slighted.  Have you ever seen an avocado image on a slot machine? Cherries, apples, lemons, sure.  Avocados?  Never.

Nobody is the avocado of your eye.  You’ll never say, “She’s an avocado!” as a compliment.

English: A seedless avocado, or cuke, growing ...

Location: San Pablo Huitzo, Oaxaca, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in New York State so Avocados didn’t grow on trees, you know.  I knew about apples and pears. I understood strawberries and blueberries and berries of all persuasions.  I don’t remember when I first encountered the avocado but I know I was suspicious. Too wary to try it and I admit without any avocado knowledge, I was a hater.

Until a frostbite cold, stark and beautiful experience in Uyuni, Bolivia, brought me to the light.

Uyuni is possibly the ickiest city in Bolivia but also home to the largest salt flat in the world (Salar du Uyuni).  A salt lake covered much of Bolivia in Prehistoric times. Today, what remains is about 10,000 square kilometers of desolate, stunning salt desert.

Pre-warned about the ickiness of Uyuni, we booked a night bus from La Paz and planned a single day to see the flats, getting out-of-town that same night to head toward Tupiza (the town near where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are rumored to have met their maker).

I boarded the bus, my backpack deflated since I was wearing every possible layer.  Without heat on the bus  I was grateful when the combined body heat of the passengers warmed the air. The windows fogged but it didn’t matter since it was too dark to take in any view.

The trip lasted hours and hours and I was awake, sleep hard to latch on to, feeling the bus rumble on the road and feeling tortured by the sounds of snoring all around me.  Sleep eventually won out as the sun crept up on the horizon.  I drifted, only to jump up moments later when a drop of water fell on my forehead. Then another hit my nose and yet another dropped on my glasses and ran down the lens.

The windows were all closed and now streaked with water on the inside. The scent on the bus was Ode De Stale Locker Room and the ceiling was covered with droplets, waiting to pull away from the metal surface and fall on my face.

The breath we blew out during the night, transformed and collected on the ceiling was raining down on us.

I was trapped in a terrarium.

We weren’t even there yet and it was already icky. I was cold and worn through and really grossed out. And when we finally arrived, the driver parked and kept the bus doors locked with us inside. It wasn’t quite light and the streets were too dangerous to allow us to wander.

But it was all worth it.

Salar du Uyuni is isolated, unforgiving and beautiful. Just ask these guys:

It is also white crystals that run all the way up to the horizon.

We drove on it, walked on it and then ate it for lunch. Our guide, pulled white bread flour-dusted rolls from his pack, and with a jackknife, cut tomato and avocado into open rolls. Then he reached down, took a pinch of salt from the ground next to his boot, sprinkled it into the sandwich and handed it to me.

I ate two.

And I still remember that lunch as one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

The most spectacular moment of the day was sunset. The white of the salt bed held and reflected the colors of the sky and sometimes even seemed to be directing the show – as the bed turned pink, the sky followed.

I left Uyuni nourished, body and soul, by the experience and by the avocado.

I will never repeat the trip to Salar du Uyuni but I get to go back to the avocado over and over again.  I rarely slice it into a sandwich since my preferred avocado delivery system is Guacamole.

Aztecs believed Guacamole to be an aphrodisiac. I will leave you to test that theory on your own.  It clearly lights a pleasure center in my brain – I think if it as Guacrackole or Crackamole or I just think about it all the time.  Science today tells us the avocado is just plain good fat, good stuff, good for you.

Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out.

My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love

– Mix but don’t mush!

– Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

And of course, have a margarita!

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Peruvian cuisine is special and wonderful and if not underrated in the United States, at least hard to find. When I was in Peru, I was grateful for the amazing flavors and new experiences. I saw and ate my first purple potato and loved how proud the people are about the variety of potatoes grown in Peru.  So the food – Peruvian Corn,  Purple Potatoes  and  flavorful meat and fish are part of my experience and part of the magic of Peru.

Anticuchos are a traditional and popular Peruvian specialty – basically, marinated meat on a stick.  In Peru, they’re easy to find in restaurants and street carts. In New York, to try Anticuchos and everything else, you should go to Nuela, 43 W 24th St, NYC.

Anticuchos made with beef heart are the most popular variety.  Americanized versions steer clear of organ meat and at Nuela, they’re with Beef Lomo (Tenderloin).  But if you have the chance to try them, I suggest you don’t ask too many questions and just take a bite.

The night I went to Nuela, foodies of the highest order made up the Independent Panel of Judges  – a tricky group to please, and a panel member declared the Beef Lomo Anticuchos the …”best steak” she’s ever had. Peruvian Corn and Potatoes made the side and it was so good we ordered it twice.  They also served us Pandebono, a Columbian cheese bread that was hot, light, melty and so good I might even try to make it.  Luckily, I found this recipe online at mycolumbianrecipes.com. (Ok, confession time – I won’t make it – I’ll just go to Nuela and order it.)

They serve Pisco cocktails and the margarita?  It was good.  A little sweet but fresh.  But the food is the show stealer here.

So check out Nuela and fall in love with Peruvian cuisine.  And, NYC, it’s great for groups!

Margarita at Nuela

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There’s something in the air – maybe Cinco de Mayo excitement?

Two different people living on opposite sides of the country sent me emails about Margarita Cupcakes.  Coincidence? Maybe, if you believe in coincidence. What I’m sure of is that as of today margagogo went from having obligated friends, alert readers and maybe even a fan to having National Correspondents.

My sister-in-law (AKA West Coast Bureau Chief) sent me a picture of a sign in her Seattle local – Cupcake Royale – offering up a May 4th Margarita Cupcake tasting.

My good friend (AKA CT Editorial Director) sent me a Margarita Cupcake recipe with this note:  “Can you even stand it?  This makes me hungry and thirsty all at the same time!!”

No, I can’t even stand it. This is just so amazing!  Fate, or Cinco de Mayo excitement or my newly appointed editorial board demands Margarita Cupcakes. The recipe below, as submitted by the CT Editorial Director is from Chic Style Modern. It’s written by Ashley a Chic Style Modern contributing editor and it’s from 2011 –  I’m sure it’s as tasty today as it was then.

Cupcake Royale - Will the Cupcake of the Month be the Margarita Cupcake?

Margarita Cupcakes
9 ounces Margarita Mix
3 ounces tequila
3/4 ounce Grand Marnier
1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
3 large egg whites
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon lime zest

Lime Buttercream Icing:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons lime juice, fresh
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime zest

If you’re in the Seattle area, please go check out Cupcake Royale.  Not only is their tag line, “Keeping it Royale” funny, but I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a cupcake or two and they’re yummy. And if you’re in a kitchen and so inclined, whip up a batch of Margarita Cupcakes and let me know how they are. (Just be sure to visit Chic Style Modern for the full instructions.)

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The thought, “margagogo needs a food stylist” is going to pop into your head when you see this picture.

Margarita Ice Cream

But if you taste Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream, you’ll forget how bad this picture looks. Your thoughts will run more along the lines of “Wow”, “Yum”, and “Holy Margarita Cow this stuff is great.”

Then you’ll add it to your Cinco de Mayo menu.

It’s easy to make – making me a fan of both the ice cream and the chef.

First the chef: Nigella Lawson puts great pictures in her books. Yes, I like to see pictures before I decide what I’m going to cook. It helps me to know what I’m aiming for.  And I’m a fan because when she says a recipe’s easy, it is. With my limited cooking skills I’ve been able to repeat her results and wow my friends.

Now the Ice Cream: When I made Margarita Ice Cream for dessert on New Year’s Eve, I got raves from my guests. Some of them aren’t margarita drinkers, some don’t really like sweets and the crazier ones don’t really crave ice cream and one isn’t a drinker at all.  Yet, everyone loved Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

Margarita + Ice Cream = Cinco de Mayo, Summer and Celebration!

Holy Margarita Cow – This Stuff is Great!

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