Tomato Chile Melon Salad

Tomato Chile Melon SaladTomato Treasure
This is the time of year when tomatoes are at their best. And, if you are growing your own, chances are you have more than you can handle. For me, that was always the best part of gardening. There is nothing better than a homegrown tomato. Giving a portion of your bumper crop to someone who understands and appreciates that a homegrown tomato is worth its weight in gold is just as satisfying as eating one. In fact, I tended to over-plant just so I could give some away. Mainly to my mother who lived for a summer tomato sandwich.

Time constraints and squirrel invaders have prevented me from planting a tomato garden in recent years. So, I have become hopefully dependent upon the generosity of my tomato-growing friends and I am beyond grateful when they share.

Summer tomatoes make the best meals because they don’t require you to do anything with them. They are basically the perfect snack. The flavors are so good that to hide them under or in a heavy sauce or as an ingredient in a complex recipe is in my mind criminal. If you ask my husband, the best way to eat a summer tomato is to slice it up, sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt and eat it with a fork. That was how my grandmother liked to eat hers, too. But, she would also serve them sliced alongside some avocado wedges and sprinkled with a little bit of Italian dressing (and the occasional dollop of mayo). I think that is one of my favorite “salads” that I serve with grilled steaks. Having a variety of heirloom tomatoes sliced on a platter can be a very pretty yet simple side dish addition to any meal.

I think if I had to pick my favorite way to eat peak of season tomatoes, though, it would be sliced and set atop some creamy fresh burrata cheese that has been spread on a slice toasted baguette. Heaven! (Add a little prosciutto and you have the perfect picnic!) Which is probably why this Tomato Chile Melon Salad recipe appeals to me so much. It’s basically an appetizer platter in a bowl.

Tomato Chile Melon Salad
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

San Diego Livin’

San Diego Livin'Traveling the World…Series…Kinda
Ahhh, vacation. Nothing like getting away to unwind and relax, right? As you read this, I am enjoying all that is beautiful on the shores San Diego…sort of.

In actuality, I am probably sitting in a chair or in a bleacher seat with a cooler full of water watching my dudes play baseball in the World Series. This is what our family vacations have become. The funny part is that this is the second leg of our World Series tour. Our daughter had hers last week and I have to be honest, I prefer this week’s venue by the sea to the hot dusty fields of the Central Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the kids play—and certainly playing at this level. But, you have to have a sense of humor about the fact that you’ve traded a vacation week on the sand in Cabo for vacation sitting in the stands on the diamond.

The upside is that we get to explore San Diego which is a place where I have not spent much time (outside of a few random food shows over the years). Needless to say, I have researched where we want to go, what we want to see and, most importantly, where we or should I say I want to eat. That is really the first thing I look for when heading to a new destination. Where do you find the good eats? Where do the locals go, etc.?

Of course, it goes without saying that I will be on the hunt for the best Mexican food I can find. And let’s not forget the seafood. We will be on the ocean after all.

I plan to squeeze as much fun and relaxation out of the time we have down there as I can because the minute we get back? School is back in session.

For those of you who are also squeezing as much out of the summer as you can, here is a list of San Diego inspired recipes to help you out. Read more…

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…