Food Talk

Translating Healthy

My name is Renee but I am better known as the Monkey Queen on my blog Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys and I had something I wanted to talk about with everyone. Call it an adventure in healthy eating.

If we are what we eat, then I may have to learn to accept my bumpy green exterior. I am an avid avocado fan and have found that this fruit can be amazingly versatile when you throw caution to the wind and experiment with it as a replacement for the oils or other fats in your diet.

A little information:

  • Natives of Mexico and Central America have used the avocado fruit medicinally since 8000 B.C. for everything from treating diarrhea to stimulating hair growth.
  • Avocados are a great way to reduce fat in your diet, as an average sized fruit only has about 14 grams of a much healthier fat then you find in butter or some oils.
  • Avocados carry an impressive list of vitamins and some research shows that they can help to reduce your cholesterol and even fight heart disease!
  • The avocado that is most available is generally the Haas because of its shelf life after harvest, the seed to flesh ratio, the creamy interior texture and it grows as a year-round fruit. By the way, it is indeed a fruit and looking at it that way can help you think of new ways to use it.

So what is it that you can do with this perfectly yummy fruit? I have a few suggestions for you.

First, we will take the road well traveled and look at guacamole. There are as many ways to make guacamole as there are people who eat it. For a few different ways to make this creamy treat check out the Wholly Ahuacatl post at my blog Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys.

Another great use for avocados is as a substitution for the fat or oil in a recipe. Let’s take a look at pesto. Standard pesto is a mix of basil, herbs and nuts with oil as an emulsifier. What if you replaced the oil with avocado? Well you can and it is delicious! Here is how it works…

Take your favorite pesto recipe and make a couple of minor adjustments to it. First, you need to add a small amount of lemon or lime juice to keep the avocado from browning and second you can take away the oil all together or just part of it depending on how adventurous you are. Here is the recipe that I use with the changes made.

Avocado Pesto Sauce
1/8 cup walnuts
1/8 cup pine nuts
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado mashed or pureed
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or a blender and process for till it has become a paste of sorts. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper and with the processor running, drop in the avocado till well mixed. Add the Parmesan and puree for another minute. This is great on pasta, pizza or anywhere else you use regular pesto.

We have tackled a few of the savory uses for avocados but have you ever thought of ice cream? Well, you should. Ice cream made with avocado is amazingly refreshing and the fat content is so much lower than regular cream and egg ice cream. I have my favorite recipe and when I make it I try to change it up, sometimes adding mini chocolate chips, other times tossing in a little tequila, vodka, or rum (2 tablespoons) to keep it softer and give it a tiny bit of added flavor or maybe I am in a fruity mood so I will add in cherries, mandarin oranges, or pineapple.

Here is the basic recipe that I use.
4-5 medium avocados to make 2 1/2 cups avocado puree
¼ cup water
½ cup coconut milk
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice

Simply combine and blend until smooth using the appropriate appliance (blender, food processor or by hand). Add liquor or other liquids to the mixture while blending it smooth. If you are adding fruit, chocolate or solids into the mixture, do it after blending and before freezing. Then freeze your mixture using an ice cream maker or just a container in the freezer, either method works well.

Avocado can replace fats in many kinds of recipes, just like applesauce replaces sugar in healthy alternative baked goods. So what about using avocado in a more decadent kind of dessert? The California Avocado Commission can show you how! What about a chocolate avocado pistachio cake with avocado crème anglaise? Serving this beauty at a party may raise a few eyebrows but the payoff is a room full of converts to avocado in dessert and that just can’t be bad.

Now you have a few structured avocado adventures that you can try but what if you want to venture out on your own? Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help keep your avocado forays on safe ground.

Anytime you are going to add avocado to any food that is light or white in color, don’t forget that it will add a greenish tint to whatever it is in.

If you are using the avocado to substitute for butter in a baked item, you want to use a 1:1 ratio.
1 tablespoon of butter = 1 tablespoon of avocado puree
If your batter or dough seems dry and the recipe called for “melted” butter, you may need to add in a small amount of liquid(water is fine) to compensate for the fact that avocados don’t melt like butter.

If you have used the avocado as a replacement for the butter in a baked item like a quick bread, turn your oven down about 25% to allow it to bake more slowly and evenly. The avocados make your bread rise higher in the middle and can cause items to brown more quickly, so keep your eyes on your food while it is cooking. My suggestion would be to decrease your cooking time by 5-10 minutes to start. You can add time but you can’t take it away. Wouldn’t that be nice though? I would like to shave a few years off of myself if I could, but I digress.
Here is a sample temperature decrease.
350 degrees F = 265 degrees F
175 degrees C = 130 degrees C
These decreases are only approximate and you should still watch and make note of what temperature and time works best for your oven and the food you are cooking.

Did you know that you can also use avocados to replace eggs? You can, but it requires a bit more of an adventurous spirit since the substitution could be from 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of avocado puree for 1 egg. My suggestion is to start with a recipe you know well so you can see if you need more to make the consistency correct.

The avocado is a wonderful natural treat that lends itself to healthy eating, whether it is in a creamy guacamole, chocolate cake or all by itself with a touch of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt. While I am definitely no expert on the avocado, I am a major fan and really can’t think of a more perfect fruit. So I will continue to dive head long into the strange and wonderful recipes that have been bold enough to take on the greenish tint and the heart healthy fat of one of my most favorite foods….The Avocado!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *