Summer Watermelon Salad

Summer Watermelon SaladBits and Pieces
Fun fact: I will not bite directly into fruit.

And yes, I realize how strange that sounds…but let me explain. I have always had sensitive teeth so biting into, say, an apple is not a fun experience. I always cut my apples up. Same goes for other large pieces of fruit. Peaches, nectarines, plums, and especially melons.

Next week is the 4th of July. (I know. It snuck up on me, too.) For those who have been paying attention, I am sure you have seen all of the ads both digital and in print that show the bucolic standard picnic table set up with all of the usual fixin’s—burgers, hot dogs, corn, potato salad, flag cake, and, without fail, a giant watermelon.

There is nothing that screams summer as much as a huge watermelon. There something kind of nostalgic about it. It’s not difficult to picture a Norman Rockwell-esque scene in your mind of a young kid with an American flag in one hand and a slice of watermelon in the other. And without question, cut into more manageable slices, a cold watermelon is a great way to cool off from the summer heat. For me though, I have to find other ways to cool off.

I don’t care how fun it is to spit the seeds at your siblings, the thought of biting into a thick slice of watermelon makes me cringe. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watermelon for the 4th. I just get more creative. There are a number of ways to incorporate watermelon into your 4th of July menu. Personally, I like it in a salad as an alternative or a compliment to the usual potato or macaroni salads.

There are any number of watermelon salads out there. Some you make with feta and mint others have grilled corn and cucumbers. I like the simpler ones like the recipe below because it seems more like a salad to me and you get the best of summer produce plus it looks pretty on the platter. Not to mention you can feed a lot of people…

Summer Watermelon Salad
Yields 4 to 8 servings Read more…

Turkey Burrito Bowls

Turkey Burrito BowlsHot Prepper
I have recently become a food prepper. More accurately I should say I have tried to become a food prepper. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks. In an effort for my husband and me to eat healthy, better-portioned, balanced meals during the week (mainly for lunch), I have jumped on the food prepping bandwagon. The kids are into it too, but it’s mainly for us old folks. Here’s what I have learned…

Having a variety of pre-portioned meal choices that ready for you to grab on the way out the door to go to work is fantastic. Finding different recipes for tasty meals is easier than ever because there are some great cookbooks out there and not all of them are Keto books. (I’m not doing Keto. Too restrictive. I’m just making healthier choices.) Even better, the variety of flavors is unlimited. In fact, for those people like me who prefer a bit more International flavor, there are so many options to choose from. Eating this way also forces you to find the freshest ingredients possible and you will be proud to look into your shopping cart and see all of the fruits and vegetables. (Gold star for you!)

I have also learned that having good meal containers is a must. It is also a pain in the neck. Good reusable containers are great…but you have to store them when not in use. I don’t know what it’s like in your house but in my house, the “Tupperware/Gladware” situation is a nightmare. And, while I did find some really great containers on Amazon, I have now only added fuel to the dumpster fire that is my food storage predicament.

Another thing I learned? Food prepping takes time. Part of the reason I wanted to get into this was to save time on the busiest days during the week and while I knew that to do it the way I wanted would require an entire Sunday to get everything ready, the reality is I don’t always have an entire Sunday. Doing it on a slow night during the week is an option. But, again those are few and far between. There’s a reason that people out there have meal prep businesses and are doing very well at it.

So my conclusion about my little experiment is this: Food prepping is totally worth it—but not if it causes you even more stress. My plan for going forward will be to prep when I can, freeze when I can, and not be beholden to the perfect vision of multiple meal choices for multiple days in an organized refrigerator that resides in the clean kitchen that lives in my head.

This recipe for Turkey Burrito Bowls is one that I plan to make whenever I can regardless of food prep planning because it’s darn good…

Turkey Burrito Bowls
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Turkey Tacos Picadillo

Turkey Tacos PicadilloTaco Tuesday
In a not so shocking turn of events, we had tacos for dinner last night. We have tacos in some way shape or form at least once a week. So, this is not really news. We have a taco addiction and we are powerless to resist…

Ninety-nine percent of the time our taco fillings come straight off the grill. Usually, it’s skirt steak. Although, more and more I have been going the grilled chicken route, just to be a bit less heavy-handed with the red meat. Fish tacos are always tasty especially as it gets warmer. They’re even better if you are sitting on a deck and can wash them down with a cold Cerveza. (My mouth is totally watering…)

One of my sons, (We’ll call him the middle child even though he’s a twin because he plays that role perfectly.)is a big fan of all tacos. But, if pressed, he will tell you that he is partial to what I call American tacos. These are the loose ground meat tacos usually served in crunchy taco shells. I admit I am also a fan—especially when said meat is sprinkled over Fritos will cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. They’re a guilty pleasure. (Mom called them Mock Tacos and they’re kinda wrong but so, so good!)

For the same reason that I have been using a lot of grilled chicken lately, I went on a search for a loose meat taco with something other than ground beef. And, I was not surprised to find ground turkey as a popular option.

In the same way that turkey chili can be very good, ground turkey makes for a great taco filling. My one complaint about turkey though would be not enough flavor so I was looking for something with some oomph.

I played around with this recipe a bit and think I have found a winner. Feel free to up the spice or dial it back as per your preference and feed your inner middle child.

Turkey Tacos Picadillo

Read more…

Moroccan Caramelized Carrots

Moroccan Caramelized CarrotsSpring Break
This week is spring break. So, I have kind of taken the week off. The plans we had to go out of town fell through for a number of reasons so now we are enjoying a stay-cation at home. The problem with that is there is no lounging poolside in the sun while some wonderful individual continuously brings you beverages with umbrellas in them. Alas, what really happens is you catch up on the laundry you’ve been ignoring for weeks and you find little projects around the house to keep you busy.

One such project for me was reorganizing my cookbook library. I have to do this every few years for two main reasons. First, I am not always great about putting the books back in the same spot when I am finished with them. And, second, and most importantly, because I am constantly adding and subtracting from my collection. Eventually, I need to reorganize to make room. After I had pulled the 250+ books out of the shelves I took a picture of my collection and posted it on Facebook just to see what the reaction would be.

The people who know me well weren’t surprised at all by the giant piles but what I found most interesting were the friends who suggested I just use the internet to find recipes and other inspiration. While I do use websites to look for ideas as well as ingredients, there is no way that the internet would ever be a decent replacement for my cookbooks because it’s not just about convenience and millions of options at my fingertips. My cookbooks are more than just the recipes they contain. There are masterpieces from the giants of culinary tradition like Escoffier, Child, Rombauer, and Beard. Some of them are family heirlooms that hold the family’s history and traditions on dog-eared pages. Still, others tell the story of a new skill or technique learned between food stained chapters. And then there are the books that recount the journeys and exotic foods of far off lands and encourage the dreams of flavors yet to be experienced firsthand.

Nope. You will never convince me to get rid of my cookbooks. And, if the price I pay for that is the need to do a little spring cleaning from time to time, so be it. It also means I revisit some of my old favorites that haven’t been in my dinner circulation recently like this recipe for Caramelized Carrots.

I haven’t pulled my Moroccan cookbooks off the shelf in a while but my project gave me a craving. I made grilled halibut with fresh chermoula and these carrots on the side. Everyone cleared their plate…

Moroccan Caramelized Carrots
Adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Sausage and Sage Biscuits

Sausage and Sage BiscuitsChicken and a Biscuit
Next week is Spring Break. And, while we don’t have an elaborate vacation scheduled, we are planning on a few small trips here and there to get us away from the daily grind. There are a few open days with nothing planned except to sit around and drool. I am hoping there will be at least one rain-free day to allow for a little laying in the hammock laziness. (Of course, I am writing this as it is absolutely pouring outside. I mean seriously, will it never end?)

Hammock laziness is fantastic. But, it can lead you to daydreaming, which in turn can lead you on some pretty random mind journeys. Case in point, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night in search of a few minutes of mind-numbing escape, I saw a video that a friend of mine shared showing a chicken running in her pasture while wearing a pair of blue pants. I almost wet myself. I have been laughing about it for days. It’s cracking me up as I write this now. I don’t know why I find the video so funny. But, it gets me every time. My kids think I am certifiable. They’re probably right!

And now for the random mental journey…
While watching the video, I was reminded of when we first moved into our house. There was a lot of work we had to do including building a fence around the property plus a long list of repairs that needed completion before we could even move in. Strangely, we decided to build the chicken coop first—probably because we were so excited to have the room to have chickens.

That memory lead to another of my husband and a friend building the fence around our property. I can’t even tell you how many feet of fence they built in that single weekend. Our house sits on a little shy of an acre-and-a-quarter and the fence goes around three sides of it. So, feel free to do the math. It’s a lot of fence. And, I have never seen two men eat as much as they ate that weekend (and these are dudes that can put it away on a regular basis). I now have a healthy understanding of what it is like to feed people on a farm or working cattle ranch. Which reminded me of the biscuits and gravy I made for them on the second morning to make sure they had the energy needed to keep building.

See? All of this from a chicken wearing pants…

That’s how I found myself thinking about biscuits and gravy. Since we’re on break next week, I will actually be able to cook something time-consuming for breakfast instead of the rushed bowl of cereal or piece of toast. There will be no calorie-burning fence building. So, I had to find something gravy-less at the very least.

I was happy to come across this recipe for Sausage and Sage Biscuits. I may be delusional, but it seems a tad better for you than traditional biscuits and gravy. And, if not? It’s vacation. Calories shouldn’t count on vacation. So, I am going to eat my biscuits in my hammock while pondering the benefits of pants on chickens…

Sausage and Sage Biscuits
Adapted from New York Times Cooking recipe by Genevieve Ko
Yields approximately 20 biscuits Read more…