By Kary Osmond

Tribune Content Agency

Festive Guacamole

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups of guacamole

2 cups mashed avocado

4 tablespoons finely diced tomato

2 tablespoons finely diced red pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1 green onion, sliced

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir together all the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and lime juice.

Guacamole tips

• Avocados come in a variety of sizes, and 1 cup of mashed avocado is approximately 2 small or 1 1/2 large avocados.

• 1 lime will give you about 2 tablespoon of juice.

• To cut open an avocado, watch a few how-to videos online.

• You can make this recipe one day ahead, as long as you press a piece of plastic wrap on top of the guacamole. That will keep all air away from the avocados, which turns them brown. If a little air gets in and turns it slightly brown, no biggie; just give it a big stir before you serve it.

The holiday season is a busy time of year, with dining in and out, having potlucks, attending parties, and experiencing the-always-fun “unexpected” drop-ins. If you need a crowd-pleasing, go-to appetizer recipe, look no further; this dip is guaranteed to start a conversation. It transports well and no cooking is required.

A good guacamole can be as simple as mashed avocados, lime, salt and a bit of diced white onion. And, frankly, that’s all I usually make, especially for weeknight tacos. But since the holidays are a bit more special, I want this guac to follow suit and be a little more sparkly. ‘Tis the season, after all.

When making guacamole, you want it to have a balance of flavors and textures. It’s a delicious dance between creamy and crispy, buttery and sharp. Taste it as you make it. If it falls flat, perk it up with a little lime juice and raw onion. If it’s too smooth, add some crisp texture with peppers or even toasted pumpkin seeds. And if all else fails, add a bit more salt.

There’s another important point to make when whipping up the most amazing guacamole recipe: If you don’t have super ripe avocados, it will taste horrible. It would be like making banana bread with green bananas — ain’t gonna happen.

There are a couple telltale signs of a ripe avocado. First, the skin will be black; then when you hold the avocado in your hand and gently press the skin with your thumb, it will yield like a ripe banana or a soft peach. Most markets will offer green unripe avocados. To ripen them, leave them in a warm spot in your kitchen for a few days and watch them change before your eyes.

Once the avocados are ripe, you can place them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Cooling them down will sedate them and slow down their ripening, but this will only work for a few days. So either plan ahead when avocados are needed for a recipe, or be prepared to scour the markets for super ripe ones.