Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate

This Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate is just the recipe you need to kick your guacamole up a notch. You’ll never want plain guacamole again!

An overhead shot of Festive Guacamole in a bed of tortilla chips.

Don’t get me wrong – I love me a good traditional guacamole – but when it comes to stepping it up a notch, what better way to do so than with salty, crumbly cotija cheese and tangy pomegranate seeds? (Okay, besides than with kimchi and bacon).

This recipe takes me back to my Napa days, and the one semi-classy Mexican restaurant (now defunct) that we had in our little ol’ town of St. Helena. It was a regular spot for us to take a long work lunch or meet up for an early Happy Hour, and one of the signature dishes was none other than a guacamole sampler, complete with three or so different spins on traditional guacamole. My very favorite spin – that I still think about now, over six years later – was the pomegranate and cotija version. So naturally, I had to try making it myself!

Guacamole is one of those classic party dishes for which you always need to have a good recipe up your sleeve. I’m now in a position where I’ve made it so much that I do it completely off-the-cuff without any sort of reference. BUT, I’ve made an exception for you, and when I whipped up this Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate I made sure to write down every portion and ingredient so that you can now have your own go-to guacamole recipe on hand whenever inspiration (or a tailgate, backyard BBQ or 4th of July get-together) comes along.

A wooden mortar filled with Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate, surrounded by a platter of tortilla chips.

It is, in most senses, a classic guacamole recipe, it simply gets dressed up with cotija cheese and pomegranate seeds at the very end. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though, because its flavor meter is through the roof.

Cotija cheese seems to be fairly widely available at grocery stores these days (I found mine at Sprouts), but if you’re having trouble tracking some down, queso fresco would also be a great substitute.

This dish is fantastic as is, but if you’re so inclined you could also add some toasted pepitas at the very end to add a little extra savory crunch. Though it could easily be loaded into tacos, nachos or burritos, I find that Festive Guacamole is best enjoyed simply piled on top of fresh tortilla chips.

An overhead shot of a wooden mortar filled with Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate nestled in a bed of tortilla chips.

I hope you’ll give it a try, and let me know how it turns out in the comments!

Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

This Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate is just the recipe you need to kick your guacamole up a notch. You’ll never want plain guacamole again!

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: appetizer, guacamole, Mexican, pomegranate, side dish, snack
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 147 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
  • 3 medium avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
Instructions
  1. Combine onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, avocados and lime juice in a medium mixing bowl, using the fork to mash up the avocado as you stir. 

  2. Stir in the salt, add more to taste if necessary.

  3. Scoop guacamole into whatever dish you will be serving it in and top with cotija cheese and pomegranate arils. Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Low

To-Die-For Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs get a tasty upgrade with the addition of sweet-and-spicy candied bacon. They’re the perfect appetizer to bring to Easter or your next potluck brunch and are sure to be a hit!

These Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs are the perfect appetizer for your next brunch or Easter get-together. | CaliGirlCooking.com

If you’re a fan of deviled eggs, you better fasten your seatbelt, because the classic springtime brunch appetizer just got a whole lot better. Yep, I’ve gone ahead and taken deviled eggs and upped the ante by sprinkling on the most delicious candied bacon, giving them the perfect hint of sweet, spicy AND crunchy. Let’s be honest, bacon makes everything better!

Deviled eggs are one of those dishes that can be a bit intimidating to make, but really shouldn’t be. Once you get the technique down, you’ll most definitely want to be serving these for more than just your annual Easter brunch.

These Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs are the perfect appetizer for your next brunch or Easter get-together. | CaliGirlCooking.com

So, how’s it done?

The first, and perhaps most intimidating, step is hard boiling your eggs. There are lots of different techniques out there, from using a steamer to breaking out the ever-so-popular Instant Pot, but I prefer to stick to the good old-fashioned way of boiling them in water.  It’s pretty darn foolproof and, after all, aren’t they called “hard-boiled eggs”? I’ve included my easy-peasy technique in the recipe directions below. You’ll never be intimidated to hard-boil eggs again!

While you’re waiting for your eggs to cool down (that ice water bath is so crucial for easy peeling), you can whip up the candied bacon, which couldn’t be easier. All it takes is two ingredients and another foolproof cooking method to take our favorite breakfast treat from standard fare to sweet-and-spicy candied treat. Even though you’ll only need three slices of the bacon for the eggs, in the recipe I’ve included amounts for a dozen slices (an entire standard pack of bacon) so you’ll have plenty to snack on on the side. You can thank me later!

Once the bacon is done and cooling, the next step is to make the filling. I’ve stuck to a VERY basic filling recipe (thanks, Mom!) but it’s for a reason, I promise. We want that sweet-and-spicy candied bacon to really shine through!

Now that the different components are all prepared, you’re ready to compose your deviled eggs. I prefer to use a piping bag for the filling, but you can also easily use a Ziploc with the tip cut off or even a spoon. There are no hard and fast rules about this.

Once you’re done with the filling, all that’s left to do is sprinkle on that oh-so-tasty candied bacon. See? I told you it was easy!

These Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs are the perfect appetizer for your next brunch or Easter get-together. | CaliGirlCooking.com

Now what??

Well, I’m not going to sugar coat it (hehe, pun intended), but you’re probably not going to be able to wait until whatever function you’re bringing these to to give them a shot. So give them a taste (you might need to eat two so as not to give your taste test away with an odd number of eggs when you get to the function), and then artfully arrange them so it’s not obvious. These do keep for a while in the refrigerator, but I encourage consuming them within one to two days for that candied bacon to really pop. If you’re transporting them, be sure to keep them tightly packed in a single layer so they don’t roll around or flip over.

These Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs are the perfect appetizer for your next brunch or Easter get-together. | CaliGirlCooking.com

Well, what are you waiting for?? Hop to it and make some Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs ASAP!

To-Die-For Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

Deviled eggs get a tasty upgrade with the addition of sweet-and-spicy candied bacon. They’re the perfect appetizer to bring to Easter or your next potluck brunch and are sure to be a hit!

Course: Appetizer
Keyword: appetizer, bacon, brunch, Easter, eggs, hors d'oeuvres
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 138 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 12 eggs
  • 12 slices bacon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Chopped chives, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Place eggs in a large saucepan and fill saucepan with water until it comes to about an inch over the eggs. Place on a burner over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover saucepan and let sit for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, transfer the eggs to an ice bath until they are cool to the touch. 

  2. Place bacon on a baking rack over a sheet pan. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cayenne with a fork. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the bacon, reserving the rest for later. Place bacon in oven, then turn oven on to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a timer for 12 minutes (the preheating time is considered part of the cooking time here.)

  3. After the 12 minutes is up, remove the bacon and, using tongs, flip it over. Sprinkle the reserved brown sugar-cayenne mixture over the second side and return to the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the bacon looks done and fairly crisp. Remove and let cool on the rack, turning off the oven. 

  4. Peel your eggs and slice them in half vertically. Carefully scoop out the yolks and add them to a small mixing bowl. Next, add the vinegar, mayonnaise, relish, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Mash all of the ingredients together with a fork, until there are no large chunks remaining. 

  5. Using a piping bag, Ziploc or spoon, divide the filling evenly among the whites of the eggs. Finely chop up three slices of the candied bacon and sprinkle over the top of each egg. To finish, sprinkle on some chopped fresh chives. 

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse

These bite-size appetizers feature the best healthy ingredients – ahi, pineapple and avocado – and are both gluten- and dairy-free! 

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse are the perfect healthy appetizer for your next get-together.

If you know me at all, you know that poke is one of my absolute favorite foods, and it seems to be right up there on your list of favorites, too. My Spicy Poke Bowls are the most pinned recipe on this site, after all, and this Spicy Beet Poke has become one of the most-requested dishes from some of my closest friends.

I’ve been dying to share these Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse for MONTHS now, but I wasn’t about to share them when I couldn’t enjoy them (thanks, pregnancy!) Well, let’s just say that now I’m making up for lost time and ahi poke in any way, shape or form has once again become a weekly staple in my diet.

I love these flavorful little bites because they combine so many of my OG foods in one bite – poke, pineapple AND avocado? I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse are both gluten-free and dairy free!

So let’s chat a little bit about the three different components that go into making these tasty appetizers..

The pineapple is the easiest part. I cut into a fresh piña because they are plentiful here in CA even in the winter, but if you live somewhere that’s not the case, you can even use canned slices. The important part is to get the wedges as thin as possible so the juicy pineapple flavor doesn’t overwhelm all of the other deliciousness we’re getting to next.

Speaking of – the next step is perhaps the most important part: the poke! You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so I stuck with the basic recipe I’ve used for the other poke dishes on this site. When I made this dish to photograph I left out the spicy sambal oelek, but I must say that there would be absolutely nothing wrong with adding some in to the mix to give the poke a little extra hit of flavor.

And, the third and final step – avocado mousse! Guys, I don’t know why I’ve never ventured down this path before but I kind of feel like I’ve just opened the door to a whole new world of avocado usage. And it’s so easy! Just take ripe avocado, lemon juice and a touch of salt, throw it all in the food processor and – voila! – the creamiest, fluffiest, avocado-ness you’ve ever tasted.

A tray of Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse is sure to be the star hors d'oeuvres at your next party!

I mean, how can you hate a healthy appetizer that contains THE best healthy ingredients (IMO) on the planet? Pineapple, avocado, ahi – I’m looking at you.

Okay, I have to admit that there is ONE more special touch that I think would really take these Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse over the top…and that special touch comes in the form of CRUMBLED MACADAMIA NUTS. I was seriously kicking myself for not thinking of this before I shot the recipe, so please, please PLEASE do me a solid and sprinkle some over top when you make ‘em. And then invite me over 🙂

Ahi Poke Pineapple Bites with Avocado Mousse
Prep Time
25 mins
 

These bite-size appetizers feature the best healthy ingredients - ahi, pineapple and avocado - and are both gluten- and dairy-free!

Course: Appetizer
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 292 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the poke:
  • 1.5 pounds sushi-grade ahi
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, diced
  • Sambal oelek or sriracha, to taste
All other ingredients:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. Add all poke ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Place peeled, ripe avocados, salt and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until no chunks remain. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside.

  3. To assemble the bites, scoop a small spoonful of poke onto each pineapple wedge, then pipe a dollop of avocado mousse on top. [And here is where you would also sprinkle on the macadamia nuts if you’re smart enough to use ‘em.] Serve immediately, before the avocado mousse has a chance to brown.

Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil

This homemade shallot olive oil is perfect to have on hand in your own pantry, or to give as a hostess or holiday housewarming gift.

This Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil is incredibly easy to make and adds tons of flavor to any dish!

Easing back from the long holiday weekend with the simplest of recipes for you! In fact, much like my Three-Ingredient Calabrian Chili Spread, this Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil is so simple that I even hesitated to share it with you all. But guys, it’s just as the recipe title says – stupid simple – and will be such a life-changing addition to your pantry that I just couldn’t NOT share it with you all. So here goes!

Flavored olive oils have been gracing grocery and specialty store shelves for quite some time now but, to be honest, do we really know where those “flavors” are coming from? Are your favorite flavored olive oils that you buy at the store done so artificially? Are you absolutely positive that all the flavoring comes from the freshest ingredients? Are you sure you want to drop a few extra bucks on the so-called high end “fancy stuff” when you could just as easily invest in a Costco size jug of extra-virgin olive oil and flavor it on your own for pennies on the dollar?

If you’re anything like me, I’m going to guess you’re in the latter camp, which makes Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil the next best thing to hit your kitchen table this holiday season.

Use this Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil as a dip for your favorite bread, or use it in place of regular olive oil for cooking and dressing salads!

Sure, making your own Shallot Oil requires just two simple ingredients, but the ways in which you can use it are endless. We love whipping up a batch to dip pizza in (ranch dressing, you can take a back seat) and I also used it in place of the regular olive oil I called for in this Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad with Fresh Herbs. Basically, you can add a dash of Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil to any ol’ dish that calls for olive oil to really up the flavor game (just make sure the crowd you’re entertaining is down for boatloads of flavor!)

As far as the making of this deliciousness goes, it really couldn’t be easier. Simply slice up some shallots, throw them in a bottle with some olive oil, let it sit for a day or two and, voila, you now know why we dub this tasty concoction “Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil.”

A bottle of Stupid Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil is the perfect holiday or housewarming gift!

Grab the recipe below and let me know what great ways you end up using it!

Super Simple Two-Ingredient Shallot Oil
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This homemade flavored olive oil is perfect to have on hand in your own pantry, or to give as a hostess or holiday housewarming gift.

Course: Side Dish
Servings: 2 cups
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Combine ingredients in a glass bottle with a stopper and/or drizzle lid. Let sit for a day or two before using. 

Creamy Mushroom Pâté

This Creamy Mushroom Pâté is a tasty vegetarian version of the classic French cheese and charcuterie accompaniment, and it’s so easy to make!

This Creamy Mushroom Pate is the perfect, easy, vegetarian appetizer for entertaining!

Who’s ready for a little decadence? Meeeee!!

We all know that the very beginning of the week is THE worst, so I always try to do a little something special/out of the ordinary to make it seem just a little less, well, depressing. This Creamy Mushroom Pâté is my answer to that this week, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

First off, tell me, have you ever had pâté? If not, you’ve really been missing out. It’s typically made from chicken liver (don’t gag just yet, trust me, I hate “liver” but I love pâté) but it can also be made from any number of things such as beef, pork, ham, seafood and VEGETABLES! Yes, vegetables. You’ll most often find it served alongside a cheese platter and/or plate of charcuterie, and you know these are some of my favorite things, so it’s no surprise that I’ve decided to make my own, healthier version of pâté to share with all of you!

This Creamy Mushroom Pate tastes rich and decadent while it's actually pretty darn healthy. Plus, it's so easy to make!

But before we get to this mouthwateringly delicious Creamy Mushroom Pâté tell me, how was your weekend? We had a nice visit with my mom, and I think we’re slowly starting to get organized and figure out how we’re going to fit another little human into our house in just a couple of months. We have our Infant CPR class tonight and my NorCal Baby Shower this weekend, so things are definitely starting to feel real around these parts! Our weekend up north will be my last trip before my due date, and my goal for when I come home is to get to prepping my blog content for right after Baby D. is born and stock my freezer with lots of yummy food we can heat up at a moment’s notice! (Got any delicious freezer-friendly recipes I should try?)

Speaking of freezer-friendly recipes, now that I think about it, this Creamy Mushroom Pâté might just be one of them! It’s full of savory flavor and incredibly tasty, with very few ingredients and taking under 20 minutes to make. It’s also fairly healthy, as long as you don’t count the butter 😉

A fresh baguette is the perfect accompaniment to this Creamy Mushroom Pate.

(Confession: I originally set out to make this a VEGAN Creamy Mushroom Pâté, but after tasting the mixture sans butter, I decided that’s what it really needed to tie everything together. If you are vegan and have any suggestions of what I could have substituted the butter with, please let me know!)

So here’s what you need to do to have a bowl of Creamy Mushroom Pâté in front of you in no time: You’ll first need to sauté the mushrooms in olive oil with some shallots, garlic, fresh thyme and marsala. Then, once those ingredients are nice and cooked, you’ll transfer them to a food processor to get that creaminess going. Finally, you’ll throw in the butter (while the mixture is still warm) to really seal the deal.

Now that doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

My best suggestion for serving is to serve as you would any other pâté – with a fresh baguette, some crackers, and perhaps a nice chunk of cheese or two. Oh, and wine! Please don’t forget the wine – and have a glass for me?

This vegetarian Creamy Mushroom Pate is the perfect healthy appetizer for any get-together with friends. Plus, it's healthy!

Creamy Mushroom Pate
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

A classic French cheese and charcuterie accompaniment gets a healthy, vegetarian makeover when made with fresh mushrooms and thyme.

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Keyword: appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, mushrooms, vegetarian
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 whole shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Warm olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms, shallots and garlic and stir to combine, cooking until mushrooms begin to sweat.

  2. Add fresh thyme and marsala and stir to combine. Let cook until mushrooms are nice and sautéed, about 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper and stir again to combine.

  3. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a rough purée forms. Cut butter into three separate tablespoons and add to the food processor. Pulse until a creamy (not chunky) purée forms, season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

  4. Transfer to a bowl and serve with baguette, crackers and cheese.

Creamy Mushroom Pate | CaliGirlCooking.com