Watermelon Hints

The best part of the summer season for me is that it is watermelon season, too. Yes, in California, you can find a watermelon most any time of the year but the summer ones are always the best. We discovered one problem, however. Since we revamped our diet and now indulge in more fruits and vegetables, our refrigerator is always full with absolutely no room for a watermelon. Not wanting to deal with a watermelon addict in withdrawal, my husband came up with the idea of keeping the melon in a cooler with four or five frozen bottles of water. Every evening, he switches out the bottles for the back up one in the freezer and this has kept my watermelon in a healthy state of coldness leaving room in the refrigerator for that pesky broccoli, squash, and carrots.

Also, an annual word to the wise. Always thoroughly wash the melons you bring home from the store before storing them either in a cooler or refrigerator. It is not enough to merely use a clean knife for cutting a delectable piece of melon as the knife is cutting through the ‘dirty’ outside of the melon and scraping any germs/virus right across that slice of deliciousness you are about to enjoy. Just think about where that watermelon has been on it’s way to your home! I use a dab or Dawn dish detergent as it rinses clean, doesn’t have a lingering scent and really gets the surface of the melon clean.

Cinnamon Crumb Top Cake

Even with the rise in temperatures, we still have some baking going on around here. Hey, that’s why we got the air conditioning system fixed, right! Don’t want to waste cool air on a summer day!

We are huge fans of cinnamon and spice and if we can put all that into one cake, we’ve put in a good day’s work. This makes a small, 8x8x2 inch cake so there is enough for a surprise dessert and a slice or two for whoever gets up first in the morning.

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until the mixture is crumbly but mixed. Scatter over cake before putting it in the oven.

Cinnamon Crumb Top Cake
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Finely shredded zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vegetable oil spray a square 8x8x2 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter, sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat together until mixture is light and fluffy. Blend together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture, stir in lightly, and then add remaining ingredients (except the nuts!) and beat until just smooth. Fold in the nuts and smooth into prepared pan. Sprinkle over the topping mixture and bake approximately 30 minutes or until done. Let cool a bit before servings.

*If you are gluten-free, King Arthur’s Cup for Cup Gluten-Free flour blend would probably work well in this recipe. Although I haven’t tried it yet, the success I’ve had with other recipes using the King Arthur’s blend were successful.

Our Favorite at the Family Salad Bar!

We enjoy salads in our family and are always trying out new combinations, dressings, and vegetables. The latest (pictured above) is the easiest yet most popular one yet . . . very few leftovers!

The Dressing is easy and most people will have the ingredients already around the house.

Peanut Butter Thai Dressing

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
Juice of three or four limes
Dressing a little too thick for you? Just thin with adding a bit of water.

Combine all the ingredients in a container you can seal and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. It keeps well for a day or two.

Salad
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup sliced cauliflower
1 cup broccoli broken down into small florets
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely sliced green onion (used the white and green part)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Prepare all your vegetables (You can add/substitute for other favorites) in a large serving bowl. When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing generously over the top of the salad ingredient and toss to coat evenly.

When we have guests, I like to bring the bowl to the table before using the dressing so everyone can see the pretty variety of salad ingredients and then
toss with the dressing just before everyone helps themselves.

We try to avoid too many carbs so often serve this with Cashew Chicken or a Spicy Beef stir fry. With all the produce and the rich dressing, no one misses a
side of rice . . . although no stopping you if you want to add that to the dinner plate, too!

Brave New World . . .

I’m definitely not technically inclined. While everyone else gets excited about the latest and greatest in cell phone upgrades, I’m still longing for my outdated flip phone that did nothing but send and receive calls.

My husband decided to get me a SmartPhone when my outdated phone died and could not be resuscitated. He was very excited to have a new bit of technology in his hands and would have liked to spend hours telling me all the neat and wonderful things it could do. My only question was, “How do I turn it off when I go to church?”

Besides my husband and children only one other family has my cell phone number. They have learned that if they call me on the cell phone and I don’t answer within a couple of rings, I’m either fumbling to remember how to answer it or I forgot to turn on the sound after church. Actually, we have a good pattern going: They call, they hang up and immediately call the land line phone. I answer. Mission accomplished!

My poor husband had visions of us keeping track of each other at the grocery store or mall as we could easily just call and find out where the other person was currently . . . except for that one, minor problem about me forgetting to turn the volume on. One shopping trip, I’m off wandering about enjoying my browsing when I start hearing some odd music. Interesting . . . I continue happily along the way but still wonder where the music is coming from. A few minutes later, I see my husband coming towards me, phone to his ear, and an unhappy expression on his face. He looks up, sees me and doesn’t greet me with a smile but demands, “Why aren’t you answering your phone!” He asked for my phone and said, “Do you hear that music? THAT is your phone ringing.” Really? I remembered turning off the volume when we went to church. My husband said that when I put my phone down at home, he secretly turned up the volume for just such a moment . . . only it still didn’t work.

Today, technology messed up our land line. People told us they were leaving messages but no calls were coming through. We called our land line provider who claim to be available for service 24/7 only every number we tried informed us the office was closed. We finally got through after ‘opening hours’ and were informed we had curtailed service to our land line. My husband carefully explained at least twice that there were only two people in the house that could have done that . . . but didn’t. Now they are talking about some upgrade with fiber optics while I haven’t even gotten the hang of volume UP and volume OFF. To confuse me further, until the land phone connection can be fixed, they will be routing our land phone number through my cell phone. Oh, oh!

So, until the land line problem is fixed next week, any one needing emergency contact with me might try going with snail mail. I DO know where the mailbox is located and how to access it.

Chinese Noodles . . . A Gluten-Free Possibility?

The best part of a Chinese meal has always been the crunchy noodles for munching or dipping in the hot mustard or spicy tomato sauce. Have been on a gluten-free menu for almost five years now, that hasn’t been happening. I realized that Google can find just about anything in the world so ran this request through the search and about two links down . . . SUCCESS! The recipe was simple, the preparation very easy, and I now have a surprise for my hardworking husband when he gets home from work this evening.

OH? Uh, what? You said that YOU wanted the recipe?

http://www.food.com/recipe/gluten-free-crunchy-chinese-noodles-158973

Enjoy!

Secret Agent in the Kitchen

When my firstborn was getting to the age where he could try different foods, he instinctively knew the difference between broccoli and a crispy, deep-friend pork rind . . . he chose the pork rind! From that moment on, I became a secret agent in the kitchen for getting healthy food into my children without letting on that even one vitamin gave it’s life for the meal at hand.

Macaroni and cheese was pretty popular for Fridays as the children would eat it and the budget could afford it. However, the vegetable escorting the mac & cheese to the table was often ignored. Steamed cauliflower to the rescue! No, it wasn’t in plain sight otherwise I wouldn’t have a story to share here. Nope, I steamed it until tender, pureed it, and then mixed it in with the cheese sauce. A two-fold benefit as it reduced the amount (and expense!) of the cheese and added some nutrients and fiber to the dish. Cauliflower also goes nicely undercover mixed into mashed potatoes, too.

Finely-grated and steamed carrots found a home in my meatloaf. The children loved the brown, crusty exterior of the meatloaf and the juicy interior. This manner of vegetable subterfuge went on for a long time until my older son found a suspicious bit of bright orange in his serving and immediately set off the sibling alarm that Mom was trying to poison them with carrots! To this day, however, they never found out that I was browning finely-diced carrots and onions and mixing them into what I called hamburger pizza sauce topping for pizza dinners.

The older they got, the sneakier I had to be. The smoothie fad came to the rescue. They loved a thick, icy smoothie and with the bonus of a straw, they felt I was earning a good mother badge. We used lots of different fruits and, still unbeknownst to them to this day, a few vegetables fell into the mix. Their peach and citrus often included carrot! When I made a very berry strawberry smoothie, a tomato or two often found it’s way into the drink. They loved the idea of a smoothie that was bright green and never quite realized that kale or spinach had come into play.

Perhaps, the infusion of secret vegetables into their growing systems, gave them a grownup disposition towards vegetables. These days, we practically have to fight for a serving of vegetables for ourselves at the dinner table. Eggplant has even become a popular ingredient to the dinner meal. And if you really want to witness a confrontation, watch them descend upon a platter of oven-roasted Kale.