Stuffed Avocado with Garlic Shrimp

Over the past few years, my husband Dan and I have started a tradition of cooking at home together for special occasions instead of dining out.

There are a number of benefits to this: It is often healthier, sometimes cheaper and (usually the clincher for us) we can cook together in our pajamas without getting any weird stares. This Valentine’s Day proved no different for us. Rather than fighting the crowds, we decided to stay at home and cook a slow, luxurious meal while sharing a bottle of champagne and enjoying our latest Netflix binge.

As per usual in the Cwach household, the ideas for our meal started small and steadily grew, with Dan enthusiastically throwing out requests for steak, pan-seared scallops, lobster tartlets, fingerling potatoes and sautéed mushrooms. (Hey, I said usually cheaper and healthier!)

Knowing we had an extensive menu planned later on, I decided to whip up a light and healthy lunch that day using leftover avocados and some frozen shrimp we had on hand. This recipe takes no time at all to put together once the shrimp are thawed, making it easy to prepare over a lunch hour or for a light dinner. We’ve been on a kick of trying to incorporate more avocados into our diet lately – they are full of healthy monounsaturated fat as well as potassium, vitamin E, folate and magnesium– not to mention they’re incredibly rich and delicious.

These stuffed avocados with garlic shrimp are simple to pull together, but here are a few tips to make them even easier. First, when looking for an avocado at the supermarket, consider when you are going to use it. If you are planning on using it in the next day or two, look for one that is ripe now. That means it’s not too firm but it’s also not soft and mushy. The avocado should have a bit of give when you press your finger gently against its skin. If it feels mushy at all, pass on buying it.  If you don’t plan on using the avocado right away, go ahead and buy one that feels firm to the touch and leave it on your counter to ripen. You can also place the avocado in a brown paper sack to speed up the ripening process, or stick it in the fridge to slow it down.

To halve the avocado, simply slice lengthwise and twist both halves to open. To remove the pit, the best option is to use a spoon to scoop the pit out. You can also use strike the pit using a chef’s knife and rotate the pit to remove, but spoons are much safer and eliminate the chance for accidental bloodshed.

We added an extra healthy sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a generous squeeze of lemon juice at the end, which really pulled all of the flavors together. Do not delay in serving— avocados brown quickly, though the lemon juice should help prevent the browning. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and you’ve got a light, healthy entrée or appetizer that is easy to prepare and stunning on a plate.

Stuffed Avocado with Garlic Shrimp
2 whole medium avocados
2 cups medium to large shrimp, uncooked and thawed
5 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Chili powder
Half of a lemon or lime

Halve the avocado and remove pit from center. Scrape most of the avocado flesh, leaving a very thin layer. Dice avocado flesh and crush slightly, leaving most squares intact (Alternatively, you can mash avocado flesh). Set aside.

In a plan, heat olive oil and add the minced garlic and shrimp. Add a pinch of sea salt and cook shrimp over low heat just until pink. Do not overcook.

Add the shrimp mixture to the avocado pieces. Add chopped parsley or cilantro and chili powder and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the avocado shells and sprinkle with a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of sea salt and a good squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Garnish with additional cilantro or parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Source: Modified slightly from


Selling a Calf Crop

In just a few weeks, we’ll be arriving at one of the most exciting and slightly bittersweet times of the year at the Cwach farm: Selling last year’s calf crop.

It’s a time filled with mixed emotions for my husband the farmer. So much happens over the course of a year, both good and bad. Dan often enjoys the easy deliveries from new moms and old alike, but still is touched by the rare but painful disappointment of a calf unexpectedly born dead. He’s doctored his herd himself when he could and raced sick and injured animals to the vet when he couldn’t.

For the farmer, selling something you’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours cultivating is a unique combination of anticipation, anxiety, exhilaration and a twinge of sadness. After all, the farmer has spent significant time putting his (literal) blood, sweat and tears into growing and maintaining a happy, healthy herd.

It’s not an easy task to try to pick the right time to sell, either – trying to factor in the market price of beef, availability and cost of feed, weather conditions and looming responsibilities on the farm can be extremely taxing. The farmer must become a bit of an expert in everything, which is one reason the profession has always amazed me. The farmer must wear so many hats in his day-to-day work – scientist, doctor, businessman, repairman, caregiver – and wear them all equally well. Dan likes to tease his younger brother Kevin, who just finished medical school and about to enter urology residency in New York, that as a farmer he’s delivered more babies than his brother ever will. Of course, Dan’s deliveries come with four legs and a pair of nylon calving straps, so the comparison is a bit subjective, but Dan assures me it’s essentially the same thing. I’ve had to remind him that under no circumstances is he allowed to help out when it comes to the delivery of our future children – particularly if his idea of helping has anything to do with the word “strap.”

Because I get to see so much of Dan’s labor on the farm on a day-to-day basis, seeing the end result at a sale is that much sweeter. As a farmer’s wife, I too feel a rush of emotions when it comes to selling a calf crop, pride for my husband perhaps being the strongest. There’s no better feeling than watching a group of healthy, well-cared for cattle running into the ring and knowing that all of those long hours put in by your farmer were well worth it. It’s a long-awaited payday, to be sure, but it’s also a simple moment where you can see the blessings of the past year and feel renewed to start the next calving cycle.

Taking a cue from another young farming couple down the road from us who just celebrated selling their calves, we are already planning festivities at a local watering hole to mark the end of another successful calving year and the beginning of a new one. Already, Dan has started the process with five January calves under his belt and 104 to go in the coming months.  Not only will we celebrate the culmination of a calving season, but we will also take that opportunity to thank our farming friends who help each other purely because that’s what good neighbors do. In my few years on the farm, I’ve been forever changed by the farming community that has demonstrated what true generosity is. And let’s be clear- I’m from small-town South Dakota, where being kind is just part of our culture. But the farmers I’ve been lucky to know go a step further. They help each other when the cows break down a fence and escape. On the rare occasions the farmer can leave town, they keep an eye on the place. They help sort and haul and do their best to refuse payment of any kind, unless it’s a cold Bud Light.

It’s a community I’m proud to be a part of, and can’t imagine living our lives without.