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…

Homemade Trail Mix

Trail MixBest Laid Plans
This weekend, Memorial Weekend, is the unofficial start to the summer season. With the kids almost out of school, the beginning of the Road Trip season is also upon us.

In fact, our family was supposed to embark on our first summer road trip this weekend—through the desert to Las Vegas. That’s 10+ hours of family fun and harmony… Due to circumstances beyond our control, the trip has been scratched. This may be a blessing in disguise. But, never fear! We are still going to load up the truck and head out on the road. And, it will be a more manageable 3-hour drive to spend time outdoors in Northern California.

All kidding aside, road trips can be a lot of fun. And, no matter your destination, anytime you stick people in a confined space for more than an hour or two, someone’s going to be touching someone else, or crossing over an imaginary line, or the dog is going to try to get in someone else’s lap. And, things are going to get tense. Having drinks and snacks at the ready can go a long way to preventing a migraine.

I am a big fan of nut mixes and trail mixes. I have a huge canister at home for when I just need a handful of something to get me through until dinner. I make it myself and the ingredients change depending on my mood.

My trail mix always contains multiple varieties of nuts. But, the other ingredients change each time. Sometimes I’m feeling tropical and add macadamia nuts with some dried mango, bananas and coconut chips. If I have a sweet tooth there are chocolate chunks in it. And then there is the kitchen sink mix that has a little bit of everything (usually comprised of reminders of things from past baking projects).

Any of these options is great for road trips because you can make a lot of it for sharing with everyone. And, it’s definitely portable. Beware the chocolate ones, though…It’s best to keep them in the cooler with your drink supply. They don’t do so well in the hot car when you have to stop for the 50th time because someone has to go to the bathroom…again!

This trail mix recipe is a suggestion. There is no real recipe for something like this—just your imagination and your taste buds.

Trail Mix Recipe
Yields 5 cups Read more…

Flan

FlanThat’s the Flan
The older I get the more I notice how time is speeding up. The month of April is gone and I seriously have no idea where it went. It’s crazy to believe that we are now in the Month of May. But if it is early in the month of May you know what that means…

For me, Cinco de Mayo is just another excuse to make Mexican food which, frankly, I make a lot. However, for Cinco de Mayo I like to step up my game. I try to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and get to the good stuff beyond tacos and enchiladas.

One such dish is flan.

True, flan is not exactly unheard of. You can basically get it in any Mexican restaurant but it’s not something that your average home cook just whips up. I will whip up a batch of guacamole at the drop of a hat. Flan? Not so much.

Flan can be sort of polarizing. I have found that people either like it or they hate it. There is not a lot of grey area. For the most part, it’s a texture thing. Not everybody likes that eggy custard mouthfeel. Personally, I love it. Though it may seem daunting, Mexican flan is not difficult to make especially if you do individual servings. I have had more difficulties with the bigger versions coming out clean.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean if you want big vanilla flavor. I like to add a little cinnamon to mine. Try to use a true Ceylon cinnamon if you can.

Regardless of what you serve at your fiesta this weekend, enjoy the great weather, good food, and good friends. And, most of all be safe.

Flan 
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
Yields approximately 8 servings Read more…

Turkey Chili

Turkey ChiliShut Off the Hose!
Ok. I’m done with the water. I wake up every morning and dread looking at the weather report. I fear I’m starting to grow webbed feet. On top of all that, it’s been rather cold. And, don’t get me started about the snow.

In all fairness, February is usually a rainy, gloomy month but this is unreal. I can honestly say that in all of my 45 years, while I have always heard them urge caution and carry chains, I have never heard of the Highway Patrol and other transit authorities asking people to not drive up to Tahoe because it’s just that bad. Squaw Valley reported this morning that their snowfall total on the upper mountain for February was 300 inches. That’s 25 feet people. It’s great if you’re a skier (or a ski resort) but that’s just nuts.

And if I hear the phrase, ”well, we need the water” again I’m going to lose it. It may be true and it’s always good to have more than we need but I think we’re good for now. The draught map of California shows most of the state with no drought conditions as of February 19. It’s time to shut off the hose…

Weather like what we have been experiencing always makes me think of soups, stews, and chilis. There is something about a rainy night and a hot bowl of goodness that just seems right. Over the weekend I made this turkey chili. It’s fast. It’s tasty. And it goes great with cornbread.

I made sure to stash the leftovers in the freezer for warmer days when the sun is shining—when watching a baseball game. And, a chili dog is the perfect accompaniment.

Turkey Chili 
Yields 6 servings (at least!) Read more…