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!

And, The Secret Ingredient Is . . .

For quite a few dinner preparations, I had to hide the above fact from my family lest I get early votes on something they weren’t going to try. Cauliflower has actually been the best thing that has happened to our mashed potatoes and once tried, the family doesn’t want to change back. In fact, a few weeks ago, I ran out of cauliflower and made the ‘regular’ mashed potatoes with, well, only potatoes like the normal people do. At the first bite, shocked faces turned to me and demanded, “What happened to the mashed potatoes?” I admitted that there wasn’t any cauliflower to add today.” They finished their dinner but left the table with, “Don’t EVER let that happen, again!”

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!

Re-Invite Your Leftover Potatoes to Dinner

My Last-Minute Recipe for Potato Cakes

About 3 cups of cold, mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375 degrees.

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Use your hands because I won’t tell!

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I use an ice cream scoop to divide the mixture into even mounds directly on parchment paper.

Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese
Granulated onion
Granulated garlic

Grate about a tablespoon of your chose cheese on top of each mound of potato. Dust with the onion and garlic. With the bottom of a glass, press down to about 1/2-inch thick.

Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until starting to get golden around the edges.

*These go well with a meal having a beef gravy and are a nice change from baked potatoes.

Lenten Creations In the Kitchen

In case we come up short on our Lenten intentions, we have always abstained from meat on both Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent. Needless to say, requiring two meatless meals and two meatless lunches for my husband’s work lunch every week often has it challenges. There have been some days when I’ve managed to come up with something from nothing for dinner!

This past Wednesday, I was busy sewing and didn’t want to spare the hour or more to go shopping for fish for dinner. Since it was payday week and we hadn’t done our pay day shopping, I went through the refrigerator and cleared out all the vegetables on hand and made vegetable stew. My basic recipe:

Lenten Vegetable Stew
2 cans of diced tomatoes with the liquid
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic buds, smashed and diced
4 peeled and thinly sliced carrots
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly slice cabbage
1 large bunch of Kale
Sliced mushroom if you have them
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cups chicken broth or equivalent in bullion cubes or bullion paste
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chili flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

Saute the onions and garlic until limp and softened. Add everything EXCEPT the cabbage and Kale to your soup pot, bring to a boil and turn down to simmer, covered for about 15 minutes or so or until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the cabbage and Kale and continue cooking until they are done. Serve!

Cheesy Dumplings
1 cup flour (You can substitute King Arthur’s gluten-free flour with good results)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs

Mix together everything except the eggs to incorporate. Add one egg and mix in. You are looking for a soft but not runny dough so depending on the dryness of the day you might or might not need the second egg. Mix well. The dumpling should hold their shape.

Bring another pot of salted water to a boil and then turn down to simmer and drop in your small spoonfuls of dumpling batter and gently simmer until they are cooked through. Drain and place them on top of bowls of your hot soup. For an extra zip to the dish, you can dust them with grated Parmesan cheese.