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Chef's Hat: It's avocado time, and they're packed with nutrients

In case, you haven't noticed, avocados have been plentiful in area stores. California avocados start popping up in stores in May, reach peak season in July, and then start winding down in September.

Avocados are one of those mysterious foods that you think should be a vegetable. It is actually a fruit, and for those people who like trivia, it's not just any fruit, it's actually a berry.

Avocados contain a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals and have very few calories. They are probably best known for their use in guacamole, but these green fruits have been used in a wide variety of recipes including muffins pancakes, soups, drinks and pastas.

While some of us have not adventured past guacamole, these tasty fruits are delicious in sandwiches, either sliced and used as a garnish or carefully mixed in to other ingredients to add taste and a smooth texture.

Lately, I have been slicing avocados and adding a bit of salt and eating them as a side dish. It's definitely time to get more creative with a fruit that is so versatile that it can be a pancake in the morning and a pasta sauce at night.

Avocados combine very well with eggs and go especially well in egg salad. Add an avocado to a plain egg salad for a more elegant and tasteful egg salad sandwich. The second recipe combines avocados with chicken to make a melt-in-your-mouth wrap.

A common ingredient used with avocados is cilantro. Approximately 10 percent of people think cilantro takes like soap, and I fall into that select group. Any time you run into a recipe that calls for cilantro (like guacamole), it can be replaced with parsley. So don't be afraid to admit you don't like the taste of cilantro. You're not alone.

Avocados, by themselves, are a bit plain, but padded into other ingredients they pack a punch and add a lot of flavor. These delightful fruits are available all year long, but they are more plentiful and cheaper when the California crop hits the market. So now is a great time to enjoy these unusual fruits. Happy Eating!

Avocado Egg Salad

  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped into fine pieces
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • Buns, Kaiser rolls or crusty bread
  • Sweet pickles, optional

In bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, salt, pepper and paprika. Gently combine. Add the chopped avocado into the mixture and gently mix ingredients until they are well combined.

Serve on your favorite bun or on crusty rolls. If desired, top with sweet pickles.

Avocado Chicken Salad Wrap

Adapted from www.californiaavocado.com

Makes 3-4 wraps

  • 1 ½ avocados, seeded and peeled
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or mayonnaise)
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (leftover rotisserie chicken works great)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup seedless grapes, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon lime juice
  • Large flour tortillas

Scoop one avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in yogurt or mayonnaise. Add the salt, pepper and garlic powder and gently mix.

Fold in the chicken and stir a couple of times. Add the celery, onions, grapes and lime juice and gently mix. Spread the mixture onto the tortillas.

Slice the remaining half avocado and place the slices on top of the mixture in the tortillas. Roll up the tortillas; if desired, slice in half.

Best if eaten immediately, but leftovers can be stored in a tight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

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