How We Make Guacamole for a Large Party

 

peeled avocadosI’ll never forget the first time I met The Farmer.    He came to a potluck party in a church social hall carrying a very large Tupperware bowl that was filled to the brim with guacamole.  I had never seen so much guacamole in my life.   He had the attention of all the girls in the room, believe me!

Fast forward 31 years later…Making huge quantities of guacamole is now a family specialty.  Living on an avocado farm has its perks,  and an unlimited supply of avocados is one of them!

If you missed The Secret For Perfectly Ripened Avocados , click here right now and catch up.  The best tasting guacamole begins with the best California avocados… grown on healthy trees with excellent care from the farmer,  picked and ripened to perfection.   I’ve given you the inside scoop on what it takes to manage a large quantity of avocados so they will all be ready to eat on the same day, so don’t miss my previous post.

ready to make guacamole

Ripe avocados, fresh salsa, fresh cilantro and seasoning is all you need for delicious guacamole

By the way,  you can use the same strategy for the avocados that you eat every day!  I know that many of you buy  California avocados when they’re on sale,  or receive your avocados through the mail via subscription from growers like California Avocados Direct (our family farm).   Keep some of them in a cool basement (45-55 degrees),  bring some into the kitchen and monitor them daily.  If you have several ripened at one time,  hold them in the refrigerator for a day or two.

ripe avocados

Perfectly ripe California Hass avocados are still firm, but yield to gentle pressure when held in your hand and pressed with your thumb

Notice that these perfect avocados are not dimpled,  not too black,  not mushy.   Cut them in half, twist to separate the two halves,  and remove the pit.

(There is some controversy about whacking the pit with a knife, as some folks have injured themselves    doing it.   I think whacking is the best  and fastest way to remove the pit…but you don’t need to use a giant sharp butcher knife to do it…just use a table knife!  I have even used a plastic picnic knife!   Whack the pit with just  enough force to barely lodge  the knife into the pit…you don’t have to karate chop that pit!)

Turn the knife gently in one direction and the pit will move…then the pit will come off easily.  Cut the avocado into quarters and peel the skin away from the beautiful flesh of that perfect avocado.

Collect all your peeled avocados in a bowl and then rough chop them by gently dragging a knife through the fruit in different directions.

chopping avocados

To rough chop avocados, gently pull your knife through the fruit, criss-crossing the bowl. Try not to touch the bowl with the knife…the fruit will be creamy and easy to cut.

Be careful not to over work the fruit…you want a nice chunky guacamole.  Mash the fruit in the middle of the bowl until it is no longer chunky…but not really smooth.   Use your knife again to make sure the chunks on the outside of the bowl are not too large.

mash avocados

Use a potato masher to mash the middle of the bowl, leaving chunks around the outside of the bowl that will be folded in later

At this point you have a choice.  Do you want to chop onions, tomatoes, chili peppers, and cilantro?  If so, have a wonderful time!    I prefer to buy fresh salsa already made and save myself the  prep and clean-up.    For this batch of guacamole,  I started with 16 ounces of fresh salsa….but ended up adding two more 16 oz. containers.

 

add salsa to avocados

Here is the first 16 oz. container of salsa…we use the medium salsa, but you might choose mild or hot, depending on your taste

Gently fold in the salsa and add more until the guacamole looks right to you.  Some folks like more salsa and some like less.    You can always put salsa on the side for people to add later on.

Now here is a VERY important detail.  Fresh cilantro.   I know a few of you don’t enjoy fresh cilantro, but adding it to guacamole makes all the difference!   If you want your guac to taste authentic,  be sure to chop up a large bunch of cilantro and add it to the bowl.

add fresh cilantro

Add chopped fresh cilantro to the guacamole

Next it’s time to season the guacamole.   We love to add garlic powder,   black pepper  and some “Ben’s Blend” all purpose seasoning.   Use what you like…add a little and then taste….the tasting is part of the fun!

taste the guacamole

Taste the guacamole and then add more seasoning or salsa until it pleases your tastebuds

We usually let several people taste the guacamole before we decide that it’s perfect.  Sometimes we put some in a separate bowl and season it for the folks who want more or less spice.   Some of our family love black pepper and extra garlic powder,  and heavy on the salsa!

add more salsa and pepper

Adding more salsa, pepper and garlic powder for The Farmer

It is best to wait until an hour before the party to make the guacamole so it will be really fresh.

guacamole

Guacamole should not be over mixed…leave some chunks. Garnish with sprigs of fresh cilantro.

Once the guacamole is mixed,  cover it with plastic wrap,   pressing so that all the air bubbles are eliminated.   This will help keep the guacamole from turning brown before the guests arrive.

plastic wrap

Plastic wrap helps keep the guacamole from turning brown before the party

When the party is ready to start,  serve the guacamole in small bowls or heap it on plates with plenty of tortilla chips nearby.  Some of your guests may prefer the pure deliciousness of fresh avocado.   If you have plenty of avocados,   save some for slicing!  Sliced avocados are delicious on salad, sandwiches, burgers…or just by themselves!

So now you know how we make our guacamole for a party.  There are plenty of ways to get creative with your guacamole  by adding special ingredients or using it as a topping in unusual ways.   What is your favorite way to serve guacamole?

guacamole tops a fried chicken wonton

Someone brought homemade fried wontons to our last party, stuffed with delicious chicken. So we put guacamole on top!

“Join I Wash… You Dry and Southern Fairytale for the California Avocado Cinco de Mayo Recipe Fiesta, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission.”

If you’d like to order some fresh California avocados from our family farm,  visit our website: CaliforniaAvocadosDirect.com

The Secret For Perfectly Ripened Avocados

 

Holy GuacamoleWe mixed up some guacamole for the “End-Of-Summer” Kick-Off  Party of our church choir last weekend.  As you may know, I’m the director of the group, which has grown to include up to 65 members.  When they get together for a party with spouses, we often have 80 – 100 people!   How do you manage to have enough ripe avocados on the same day to make guacamole and sliced avocados for a crowd like that?      I’ll give you the scoop on how we do it … it takes some planning and strategy to manage that many avocados!

First we have to decide when to pick the avocados.  You probably know that avocados do not begin to soften until they are picked from the tree.  They will stay hard as long as they are still on the tree.   Once they leave the tree,   the ripening time depends on several things.   We planned to use Hass avocados,  which are usually harvested in California between April and September.

Maturity:  Early in the season the oil content is lower than later in the season.  The maturity of the fruit will allow it to soften sooner.  Since our party was in August,  we knew it might not take as long for the fruit to soften as it would in April.   We also knew that the fruit  would be more buttery,  since the oil content is high at this time in the season.   It’s tricky to figure out exactly when to pick the avocados if we want them to be ripe on a certain day.   We decided to pick our avocados for the party one week before we needed them to be ripe.   If the party had been in April,  we probably would have picked them 10-14 days before we needed them.

picking avocados

This is my blogging friend Colette of “Learning To Eat Allergen Free”…she visited this summer and learned how to use a picking pole to get the avocados high up in the tree.

 Storing the Avocados:   Once the avocados are picked, we have to take special care of them  if we want to be sure they are all ripe on a certain day.  Some will ripen faster and some will take more time.   Lay them out in a single layer in a box if you want to slow down the ripening and eat them one by one.   Check them every day,  and when they’re beginning to soften,  check them twice a day!    If you want to speed up the process,  put some in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple,  and the natural ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will enable the avocados to soften.   This is not a hard-and-fast rule…it may or may not speed up the ripening by a day or two, depending on the maturity of the avocados.

fresh avocados

Hass avocados are green and rock hard when they are first picked.

When I take avocados to Vermont,  we put them in the cool basement (45 degrees) and bring them upstairs as they just begin to “break”…no longer rock-hard.  Early in the season (when the avocados aren’t as mature and the oil content is less) the avocados will stay hard and green for two weeks or more in the cool basement.  Upstairs we’ll put 2 or 3 in a brown paper bag (and carefully monitor their softening so that we can eat them when they’re perfectly ready.)   We may put several in a bowl…sometimes they ripen just as fast as the ones in the bag.  It is very important to watch the avocados daily if you want to eat them at peak ripeness.

unripe avocados

This box was full when we started, and each day we removed the avocados that were beginning to soften. The skin of Hass avocados also darkens as the fruit ripens.

Here in our kitchen in Southern California,  we keep some on the counter and eat them as they ripen…usually two or three at a time.  When we want to have a large quantity of avocados ripe on the same day,  we  put them all in a box and keep them  in the house (since the garage is pretty warm here in August).

avocados on the counter

These have been sitting out on the counter and are ready to eat…they’ll yield to slight pressure when you hold them in your hand and press gently with your thumb.

When we’re trying to ripen a huge quantity of avocados for a special occasion,   some will ripen earlier than others.   When they are just about ready to eat (and not over-ripe) we put them into the refrigerator for a day or two…not longer.   They will be fine for guacamole or slices,  but will taste better if brought to room temperature before eating.   We never refrigerate our avocados unless we’re trying to save a large quantity for a party.  Important to note:  do not refrigerate avocados unless they are ripe and ready to eat.  The refrigerator is too cold to allow a hard avocado to ripen.

avocados stored in refrigerator

Put avocados in the refrigerator when they are barely ripe if you need to hold them for a day or two. Do not let them get over ripe before refrigerating.

Review:  Various stages of avocado  ripeness are happening at one time, even if the avocados were picked on the same day:  1. Rock hard (in a box or bowl)

2.  Beginning to soften (in a single layer on the counter or in a box)

3.  Just about ripe  (monitor them so they don’t become over ripe!)

4. Ripe and ready (holding them in the refrigerator)

On the day of the party,  all the ripe avocados come out of the refrigerator to be cut and peeled.  It’s important not to use any avocados that have become over-ripe, mushy, discolored or have a strong odor.   An over-ripe avocado has an off-taste and odor…and it ruins a batch of guacamole!   Sometimes we just have to eat some avocados before they go “over-the-hill”,  even if we were hoping to save them for a party.  A perfectly ripe avocado deserves  to be eaten!

If your avocados look like this one,  you have waited too long.  Don’t let this happen to your beautiful California avocados!  Eat them when they’re perfect!

overripe avocado

An avocado that’s dimpled, and very soft is over ripe. Sorry, too late.

If you cut open an avocado and find that it’s mushy just next to the skin,  you can probably scrape that mushy part off and still use the rest of the fruit.   The avocado should not have a strong odor.

over ripe and mushy

The left side of this avocado is “over the hill”…but I would scrape off the mushy part and use the rest. The right side is still fine. The brown spot (lower right) should not be eaten.

Perfectly ripe avocados can be peeled…I don’t like to scoop out the flesh with a spoon because the most nutritious part of the avocado is next to the skin.  Any bad spots will usually stick to the skin when the peel is pulled away from the flesh.  If you scoop the fruit,  you can’t tell where the bad spots might be.

Here is a perfectly ripe avocado! The flesh is soft but still firm…not mushy…and still a beautiful green color! This is how you want your avocados to look when you eat them!

perfect avocado

A perfectly ripe avocado is still firm, not mushy, and will peel like this!

Now that we have ripe avocados, we’re ready to start making the guacamole.    Stay tuned for Part 2,  How We Make Guacamole for a Large Party!

peeled avocados

Avocados have been cut, pit removed and peeled…it’s guacamole time!

For more information about ripening avocados:   Making Guacamole With Hard Avocados

Summer on the Ranch: Avocado Harvest!

Want to order fresh California avocados from our farm?   California Avocados Direct

 

 

 

 

 

 

BlogHer12 in NYC: What a Difference a Year Makes!

 

BlogHer

Largest blogging conference with over 5,000 in attendance!

Last year I discovered the BlogHer11 convention by reading about it in the newspaper.  It was being held in San Diego, not far from our avocado ranch,  so I decided to go.  I didn’t have a blog,  didn’t really understand what a blog was or why anyone would want to put so much time and energy into blogging.    I found my roommate on Twitter,  packed up and drove off to have an adventure.   Besides having a wonderful time,  I discovered a whole new world of creative, intelligent women who were open to sharing their ideas and skills.  I made lasting friendships and came away with a sense that I had more freedom and power to expand my life than ever before.  Rather than being intimidated by the talent and experience of 3600 fabulous bloggers,  I felt welcomed and encouraged to join the blogging world.   When we were offered discounted rates to sign up for BlogHer12 in New York City,  I jumped on board!

NY Hilton and BlogHer!2

Fast forward to August 1st, 2012:  After spending two relaxing weeks in my home state Vermont with my mother,   I anticipated meeting college friends for dinner in New York City.   Flights were delayed due to thunderstorms,  so I didn’t arrive at the hotel until late evening.   I discovered the famous Halal Guys meat cart on the corner near the hotel, but the line was really long.  I spied another cart one block away that looked exactly the same.  Sure enough,  the guys at that cart told me they are all from Egypt,  they all work for the same family and the meat is exactly the same as the cart with the long line.  So I bought my lamb and chicken with rice combo and took it back to my room at the hotel.  It was delicious!

chicken and lamb with rice combo from Halal Guys in NYC

Lamb and Chicken with Rice Combo from Halal Guys at 53rd & 7th

I had signed up for Pathfinder Day again this year, opting for the track titled  “My Blog As A Media Company”.    I was pleased to find several familiar faces from last year and surprised to see a much larger percentage of bloggers “of a certain age” (over 45) in the room!     The word is out that blogging is an important PR tool,  so authors and marketing professionals turned out this year to learn what they need to know to start their own blogs.  Later in the week I realized that brand representatives were also there to learn how to add blogs to their product sites or how to interact with bloggers to promote their brands.   Did I mention that the percentage of males was also much higher this year?

 

Amy Jo Martin was a fascinating speaker

The opening keynote presentation by Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty was impressive.   She has written a book that will be released on October 2nd titled Renegades Write the Rules.  I snagged a copy of the pre-release version and highly recommend that anyone interested in social media read what this successful and innovative renegade has to say.   Amy  is offering a blogger special too:  you can order two copies of her book,  one for yourself and one to give away…at no charge!  Just promise to tweet and blog about it.

The day-long Pathfinder session was facilitated by Kathryn Finney of The Budget Fashionista and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.  Each told about their background in building a successful business through their blog.  They  offered practical, insightful advice for growing (or deciding not to grow) a large money-making blog as well as professional tricks of the trade.   One of the best moments of the day for me was at lunch,  when I had a chance to visit with Jaden one-on-one.   She told me not to be afraid to step up and ask for opportunities, even though my blog is relatively new.  She emphasized offering  high quality content and developing relationships with other bloggers.

At the end of the day, we all gathered into the largest ballroom for a live visit from President Obama.  Wish you had been there?  Watch it live here.

Obama

President Obama addressed BlogHer12 via live video

The next two days were a blur of  networking,  speakers’ sessions,  meeting brands at the Expo,  and attending parties.  The sheer size of the crowd this year made logistics more difficult…some sessions were over-crowded or closed,  lines at mealtime were long and  parties started up to 30 minutes later than scheduled.  People who had attended BlogHer11 in San Diego couldn’t help comparing the wonderful food and service we had in San Diego to the difficulties in New York.   Even with the inconveniences  (such as a lack of gluten-free and vegan food options),  no one came away without learning something, meeting new blogging friends or reconnecting with friends from last year.

 

BlogHer12 Martha Stewart keynote

Martha Stewart’s keynote at BlogHer12

Martha Stewart gave a keynote talk on Friday.  She caused quite a stir with her orange pants and matching orange wedge shoes!  It was disappointing to hear comments in a later session referencing Martha’s age…as if a 72 year old wouldn’t wear cute, stylish clothes.  Can we just get over this age thing, please?   After all,  she was celebrating her BIRTHDAY by speaking at BlogHer12!  Martha told us that one of her mottos is to learn something new every day.  She seems to have an endless list of ideas for new businesses…and she has embraced social media wholeheartedly.

BlogHer12 speaker Katie Couric

Katie Couric speaks at BlogHer12

On Saturday our keynote speaker was Katie Couric.   She talked  about her new afternoon talk show on television beginning September 10th.  Social media will have a big role in her new show, and there will be seats for two bloggers at every show. When she invited everyone to tweet her with ideas for the show,  I couldn’t resist….and she tweeted back to me too!

tweets

 So I’m waiting for a call from the Katie Couric Show…would love to show them all about California avocados!

Several other highlights of BlogHer12:

Off-site party specifically for “B(L)OOMERS”,  matching brands with women over 45.  I won the door prize! Learn more about the sponsors of the party here.

party for bloggers over 45

Connecting brands with bloggers over 45

I won the big prize from PaloVia!  Check out a great video of the party here.

PaloVia winner

I won a PaloVia skin renewing laser

Super Session in Google Analytics by friend and blogging mentor, Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules and BlogTutor

Andrew Wilder and Keidra Chaey

Best BlogHer roommate ever,  Anne DiNapoli  and our fabulous shopping trip to FAO  Schwartz and  5th Ave

NYC shopping

 BlogHer13 will be in Chicago!  Want to go?  Check out the information here.    

BlogHer is the largest blogging conference in the world,  and it’s getting bigger!  I have to admit that the smaller blogging events I have attended,  like Camp Blogaway and TechMunch,  are more relaxed and relevant to food blogging in particular.  There is so much going on at BlogHer all the time that it can be overwhelming,  but it’s the ideal place to expand one’s horizons in a big way.

All the information that was presented at BlogHer12 is available to you at the Virtual Con.   It’s great to know that the sessions I missed due to schedule conflicts or over-crowded rooms are available here!

Have you attended blogging conferences?  Which ones are your favorites?

 

 

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