Avocado and Tomato Salad, Italian Herb and Garlic Butter

This is from my kitchen staples series

Kitchen Staples & Shortcuts Series

I love to cook.  I find it relaxing and it is absolutely another art form for me.  I can express my creativity, feel the excitement of learning new skills and share those with my family and friends, including all of you!  It really makes eating healthy easier too.  Most of the time I am making things from scratch but occasionally if I don’t have something on hand I will use one of my shortcut staples.  Staples are those items that you always have in your kitchen.  What staples should you have?  What kitchen staples would make your life easier or save you in a pinch?

There are basic staples we all have, olive oil, salt & pepper, butter, eggs, etc.  There are a few fresh items I TRY to always have as well, fresh herbs & fresh garlic, lemons & limes, tomatoes, onions, cheese, low carb tortillas.  In the pantry, I keep the following canned goods on hand, crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs, Rotel Mild Diced Tomatoes with green chilies, diced jalapenos, garbanzo beans (chic peas), and black beans.  In the freezer, I always have corn and cauliflower rice.  Of course, I have a variety of dried spices like garlic powder and cayenne but I LOVE cumin and hot Hungarian paprika. 

Maintaining my kitchen staples really helps me with consistency in my cooking and meal planning.  In the coming weeks, I want to share with you how I commonly use my staples and creative ways to use shortcut items if I am out of a fresh option.  For today I am touching on two shortcut staples. Check them out and keep an eye out for a peek into my pantry.

Today’s Staple Spotlight:  Stonewall Kitchen’s Cilantro Lime Dressing and Gourmet Garden’s Stir-in Paste. 

Stonewall Kitchen Cilantro Lime Dressing (a stand in for cilantro and limes)

If I were to make a fresh version of this for salads and marinades I would use olive oil, fresh lime juice, a garlic clove, fresh chopped cilantro and salt and pepper. Fresh options are always best but if you are out of lime and cilantro then Stonewall Kitchen is a good choice.  It tastes great but what I really love is that it doesn’t have any sugar in it.  I use it three ways:  a dressing for Avocado Tomato Salad, as a marinade and topping on grilled chicken or steak, and for a Lazy Guacamole.  I call it lazy when all I have is a ripe avocado and this dressing!  I don’t want to run to the store for limes or a red onion but I’m dying for guacamole.  Smoosh the avocado to your liking and top with a bit of dressing.  Even if I don’t have chips in the cupboard I can fry some homemade ones with the low carb tortillas I keep on hand.   Other good options for when you are out of fresh cilantro and limes are having a bottle of lime juice concentrate or a tube of Gourmet Garden’s Stir-in Cilantro Paste.  Throughout the process of substituting item for item, remember that you have to taste and adjust.  Fresh items have a stronger presence in a dish so you may need a bit more of the stand in. 

Avocado Tomato Salad 3-4 servings

If you have the fresh stuff:

2 TBSP olive oil

juice from one lime

1 TBSP chopped cilantro

1 small garlic clove chopped fine

10 grape tomatoes

1 ripe avocado

salt & pepper to taste

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and stir into a dressing.  Cut the tomatoes in half and add to a medium bowl.  Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed.  Use a knife and gently make cuts in the avocado flesh in both directions (think waffle pattern).  Be careful not to slice through the avocado peel. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado chunks and add to the tomatoes.  Gently toss them together, pour the dressing over and gently toss again.  Have a taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.  I serve this with skirt steak and chimichurri or grilled chicken thighs that were marinated and basted in the same dressing.  If you are out of limes and cilantro then the role of “dressing” will be played by our pantry shortcut, Stonewall Kitchen’s Cilantro Lime Dressing.  Use 1- 2 TBSP of the dressing instead but taste along the way to be sure.  Fresh items have more flavor so when substituting you may need to adjust measurements.  Keep tasting as you season! 

Gourmet Garden’s Italian Herbs and Garlic Stir-in Paste (a stand in for fresh herbs)

Everyone loves fresh herbs but we are busy people.  Sometimes we run out of things and sometimes we need things to be easier.  Compound butter is a delicious way to elevate your meats and veggies and It’s easy.  A mixture of butter and any other ingredient is compound butter.  I am working on a post dedicated to this amazing concept but for now we will keep it simple.

Easy Italian Herb & Garlic Compound Butter

1 stick unsalted butter softened

1 TBSP Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Stir-in Paste

1 tsp Gourmet Garden Italian Garlic Stir-in Paste

salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything together in a small bowl.  I use this on steak, chicken, fish, veggies and pasta.  It is so fast to make that it can be done quickly for a week night meal or you can make ahead, keep it in the fridge and use as needed.  As a point of reference, 1 TBSP Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Stir-in Paste is the same as 1 TBSP of fresh chopped herbs and 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Italian Garlic Stir-in Paste is the same as 1 medium garlic clove.  So if you have the fresh stuff go for it.  Keep an eye out for a post that discusses additional compound butter recipes and uses. 

Check out some of the other articles from RED on nutrition and recipes!

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