The Food of Rancho La Puerta

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The Ranch Guacamole is a favorite of Ranch veterans.

Rancho La Puerta Guacamole

Rancho La Puerta Guacamole

Prep 10 mins   Eat 10 mins

Cutting calories in the New Year?  Make this healthy and easy guacamole I learned to make at Rancho La Puerta.  Everyone is looking for easy ways to make great tasting food without all the calories.  Start with this surprising recipe.

Chile Relleno with Poblano Rice, Ranch Guacamole and Oregano Sauce.

Chile Relleno with Poblano Rice, Ranch Guacamole and Oregano Sauce.


I believe in eating everything in moderation, but make the food really tasty and fresh.  That is what I have tried to accomplish with “Fresh Food in a Flash.”  This philosophy overlapped with the food I was served the week I spent at Rancho La Puerta Spa.  For this week, I would be eating a lot of fiber (good), no meat or poultry (didn’t miss it), a small amount of fish (love that), some dairy (love my cheese), mostly plants grown on property (fresh), light on bread or gluten (didn’t miss it),  prepared with tons of flavors (excellent) and presented beautifully on the plate with a gourmet flare (inspiring).  The word I learned at the Ranch is portion control.  They don’t promote portion control.  It’s just that the small portions of the meals served there are so tasty, you don’t need a lot to be satiated.

Ranch Guacamole and Baked Chips

Ranch Guacamole and Baked Chips

There was no going hungry at the Ranch.  At 3:00, you could find snacks and smoothies at the lounge.  One of the specialties of the Ranch is their house-made guacamole.  Previous visitors all talked about the guacamole as if there was a mystery surrounding it.  So I was anxious to try it.  Pea green and freshly whipped,  the guacamole was delicious.  The no-fat baked chips, not so much.  I would have much preferred to have a soft corn tortilla to dip into this mash of avocados and the secret ingredient…peas.  The peas boost the nutritional value of the guacamole, reduce the fat content and adds presentation value.   Check out the recipe below.

The formal menu describes the orgy of food you are about to be served.

The formal menu describes the orgy of food you are about to be served.

Breakfasts and lunches were delicious – what you would expect from a spa experience.  Fresh granola, grains, fresh made vegetarian soups, a base salad with healthy “salad bar” ingredients that you could add to build a customized meal and maybe a healthy taco or tostada.   Always super fresh, well done and beautifully displayed.

But save your appetite for the 6:00 dinner.  Wow!  I felt as if we were eating in a fine dining restaurant with another 100 people.  A host or hostess leads you to a table dressed in fresh linens where you will be served and meet new friends.   A menu is presented on each table and you can choose to accept any or all the five dishes on the list.  A stream of four courses are delivered to you in short order.  Impressive that they can move so fast, given the quality of the presentation.

Creamy Corn soup drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

Creamy Corn soup drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

The first course was always a fresh pureed vegetarian soup with seasonal ingredients like squash, corn or tomatoes.

Warm Jicama Salad with Lemon Parsley Vinaigrette.

Warm Jicama Salad with Lemon Parsley Vinaigrette.

Next was a fresh salad, which was not the usual romaine and iceberg greens.  No.  There was a variety of greens we watched being plucked from the garden in the morning along with fresh vegetables, heirloom tomatoes or garnishes that made these plates as beautiful as a still life painting. Delicious, great combinations of flavors, served to you in small portions.

There were two entree choices.  One or both are vegetarian.  While at the Ranch, I enjoyed dinners of fresh sole, chile relleno, vegetable lasagna, shrimp, a swordfish you felt must have been caught that day .  The sea is a mere 50 miles away.

My miniature portion of veggie lasagna.

My miniature portion of veggie lasagna.

If you can’t decide between the two entrees, they will give you a small serving of the second entree to taste in addition to a full plate of your first entree choice. Look at the beautiful the Eggplant Potato Lasagna with Chipotle sauce and Crispy Leeks.  I was satiated with these beautifully presented dishes and never went away hungry.   The kitchen makes good use of fresh herbs and spices to add flavor to the dishes.

Spicy Shrimp with Black Rice and Veracruzana Sauce

Spicy Shrimp with Black Rice and Veracruzana Sauce

One of my favorite dishes was the Spicy Shrimp with Black Rice & Veracruzana Sauce.  Wow.  I have some black rice in my pantry and am on a quest to make this dish at home.  Notice the swiss chard tucked in under the shrimp, adding more goodness and beauty to this plate.

Quince Tart with Pomegranate

Quince Tart with Pomegranate

Desserts are portion controlled and included a quince tart, persimmon cheesecake, chocolate flan, and carrot cake. A lot of agave syrup is consumed at the Ranch, but I did notice that brown sugar is used to sweeten some of the recipes in The Ranch Cookbook.

The decadent chocolate flan

The decadent chocolate flan

Chocolate is served rarely, so the group went gaga when served this luscious chocolate flan.

As a cooking teacher, I was very curious about the cooking classes offered at Rancho La Puerta and knew I would sign up for one when I visited there.  It turned out I was lucky to be there the same December week Patricia Wells had arrived to promote her new cookbook.

Harvesting basil in the Ranch garden

Harvesting basil in the Ranch garden.

One afternoon, I attended the Demonstration Cooking Class with Patricia Wells at the La Cocina que Canta (The Kitchen that Sings) Cooking School & Culinary Center adjacent the Ranch garden. Our first task was to harvest the last of the basil, before Salvador ripped it out to plant a winter vegetable.  Patricia conducts week-long cooking classes in Provence and in Paris, France and visits the Ranch with great regularity.  This week, she was ending her book tour in the U.S. promoting her newest book, The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

In this class, we watched as Patricia made some tantalizing dishes from her cookbook.  We participated once the cooking was underway and tasted as each dish was completed.

Miniature Onion and Goat Cheese Appetizers paired with Salvador's Super Salad

Miniature Onion and Goat Cheese Appetizers paired with Salvador’s Super Salad

Patricia had a great way for cooking the onions to go into the Miniature Onion and Goat Cheese Appetizers.  After slicing the onions, she added them to olive oil in a skillet on low heat and covered them so that they sweat and steam for 10 minutes until they were soft and translucent.  She claims that with this method, you will never burn another onion.   These little gems melted in your mouth and were delicious paired with Salvador’s Super Salad.

Patricia Wells tossing the Super Salad

Patricia Wells tossing the Super Salad 33 times.

We were treated to the freshest greens you could have…right outside our door.  I loved the combination of the kale, arugula, mixed lettuce, mustard greens, sorrel, tatsoi and herbs. The flavors of sweet, sour, bitter and fragrant all popping in my mouth at the same time.   Patricia tossed the salad 33 times, as they do in Provence, with a Creamy Lemon Chive dressing made with yogurt.

Grilled Polenta Squares with Tomato and Onion Sauce

Grilled Polenta Squares with Tomato and Onion Sauce

My favorite, hands down was the Grilled Polenta Squares with a Tomato and Onion Sauce . They contained gruyere cheese, which I adore and a flavor-filled tomato sauce that Patricia had made in advance.  Yum!  Want that right now!  Reminds me of my own Polenta with Tomato and Sausage Sauce.

Can you believe I ate all of this and still lost three pounds at the end of my week during the holiday season?  I was very happy.

The Ranch secret: PORTION CONTROL. HIGH FIBER NATURAL FOODS. DAILY EXERCISE.

Ranch Cookbook 12-13 #9150To read more about my adventures at Rancho La Puerta, click here.  I found “The Ranch” guacamole recipe in the Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta cookbook I purchased at the bookstore.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

Print Guacamole Recipe

Rancho La Puerta Guacamole

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, seeded & minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
  • 1 medium Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 Tbs lime juice
  • 3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 red or sweet onion, cut into 1/8″ dice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1. In the bowl of a food processor, mince the garlic and add minced jalapeno.  Add peas, avocado and lime juice and process until smooth.   Add in cilantro, tomato and onion and pulse until mixed.  Season with salt & pepper. Place in serving bowl.

2. If the guacamole won’t be served immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent browning.

Servings: 6    79 calories per serving      Yield: 2 cups

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