Welcome! :-) Whatever brought you here today wasn't an accident, and I'm so glad you stopped by. I'm always glad to have folks drop in my kitchen for a visit and hope you'll feel right at home. We always have an ample supply of fresh lemonade, sweet tea, and a pot of coffee brewing along with a sideboard full of baked treats for you to enJOY while you're here. Relax and take your time as we visit and catch up on the latest news. Don't forget to email and let me know what's going on in your world, as well. And, come back soon!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer's Sweetest Fruit

How to Harvest a Watermelon in the Field or in the Store
What could be more tempting during a hot summer day than a very cold, dark red and juicy piece of watermelon? Watermelon is probably one of the best fruits to help you tolerate the summer heat. It is made mostly of water that provides a sweet and refreshing treat, that is, if you choose the right one.

Have you ever stood staring at that huge pile of melons in the store and felt a little bit (or maybe a LOT) overwhelmed trying to decide just which one to pick? None of us want to purchase an under-ripe watermelon, but how can we know which one is ripe enough to be sweet and juicy? If you stand back and observe, you'll see the ‘patters’, the ‘thumpers’, and the ‘knockers’ all with bewildered looks on their faces. The same can be true of amateur gardners who just aren't sure "when" it's time to pick that melon. I hope today's tips will be enlightening to both groups and will enable you to enJOY summer's sweetest fruit.

Several simple tricks can help you determine whether a watermelon is already ripe. Keep in mind that sometimes commercially sold watermelons are picked before they ripen, so you have to be careful in selection, because watermelons, unlike cantaloupes, don't ripen further after they are picked. (Note: You can read additional tips on page 163 of "A Pinch of This... A Smidgen of That" Cookbook.)

First, examine the surface. A watermelon needs to be nicely shaped and symmetrical. Examine its outer surface carefully before you purchase. The surface should be green, without cracks or bruises. If the watermelon has stripes on its surface, they can also provide you with information about its ripeness. A ripe watermelon needs to have nearly uniform surface. If the stripes stand out too much and their color differs sharply from the color of the rest of the outer surface, the watermelon is still unripe. Press the surface gently. If you feel a soft spot, the watermelon is probably overly ripe and will soon be unsuitable to eat. Avoid watermelons that have soft or rotting spots on their surface or deep gashes, pits, fissures or holes. Some minor scratches are okay, however. After all, the purpose of that thick rind is to protect the delicious contents inside. Ripe watermelons should also be dark green in color. The rind should not be soft or give to pressure, such as a ripe cantaloupe or other melon; it should be firm and smooth.The tough rind should protect the juicy fruit inside.

Second, pick it up. It should be heavy. Since watermelons are 92 percent water, your watermelon should be relatively heavy for its size. The juicier it is, the better and the heavier it will be. A ripe watermelon will be juicy and respectively – heavier than one that is still unripe. When buying watermelons, select the ones that seem to be too heavy for their size. Pick up a few and compare size and weight.

Third, check its bottom. Turn your watermelon over and check its bottom, which should have a creamy yellow spot (also called “the ground spot” or "sunspot"). This is where the watermelon sat on the ground while it soaked up the sun at the farm. If this spot is white or greenish, your watermelon may have been picked too soon and might not be as ripe as it should be. If the spot has turned yellowish, you can confidently purchase that watermelon. Here's an example for you (BELOW) or you can observe the yellow spot on the melon I cut up in the top photo. I purchased that melon at Sam's Club (Wal-Mart) and found it to be one of the sweetest we've ever enJOYed.

So, what about the "sound" test? While it’s true that the “sound test” can tell you a little about a watermelon’s ripeness, I don’t use it because I have yet to find a definitive agreement on which result the test is supposed to yield. Some say a ripe watermelon will sound "hollow," while a “thick” or “solid” sound indicates a watermelon that’s not ripe or too ripe. Others say a "hollow" or “tight” sound is bad, and your watermelon should instead sound “firm.” So how are we to know? You can "thump" all you want, and still not get a ripe melon, but if you perform the three steps I gave you, you should have no problem finding a great watermelon. If you have any further tips or enlightenment on the "thump" test, please feel free to leave a comment below.

What about picking a melon fresh from the field? How do you know which ones are ready? Having grown up on a farm where we went straight to the field to get our melons, I remember some tips my daddy gave me. Here are a few things that indicate that your watermelon is ready to harvest:

First, the tendrils near where the watermelon meets the stem, which are normally bright green, will have turned brown. Second, the surface of the watermelon will have gone from shiny to dull. Third, the side of the melon that rests on the soil will have turned from green to yellow, leaving a "sunspot."
If you follow these tips, I think you will enJOY success when picking your next melon. But, if you have a need to "hear" your fruit and nothing but the ripest tones will do, well then, by all means thump away and be sure to listen for deep tones that don’t echo too much, for a dense melon may symbolize mealy/grainy flesh.
Preparing the melon for the table:
The most common usage of watermelon is to chill the melon and slice or cut into cubes or wedges for a quick cold snack or dessert.

How to Slice Watermelon (You can also locate these instructions on page 165 of "A Pinch of This... A Smidgen of That" Cookbook.)
Watermelons can be messy to cut, but this is the easiest and neatest way to pull it off.
You'll need:
1 Ripe yummy watermelon (seedless is best)
1 Cutting board, large enough to hold your melon
1 Large, sharp kitchen knife (I use a very sharp butcher knife.)
1 Large plastic bowl with lid for storage in the refrigerator

First, cut the watermelon in half lengthwise.
Second, if the watermelon isn't "seedless," you can remove the seeds with the tip of a knife, if desired, before serving.
Third, slice watermelon horizontally into wedges, if desired.
Fourth, remove the rind, if desired, by inserting a knife between the rind and the flesh to cut it away.
Fifth, serve as wedges or cut into chunks.

Sixth, store wedges or cubes in a covered container in the refrigerator. (Keeps well for almost a week, if refrigerated.)

Be sure to use a large, SHARP knife to slice watermelon. More people are cut from dull knives than sharp ones. Sharpen your knife before you start to avoid an accident.
Try scooping out the fruit with a melon baller, if you are planning to use it in a salad. Use the remaining rind as a serving bowl.
For best flavor, serve watermelon very cold.
In many ways, a watermelon is a lot like a Christmas gift: You’re pretty sure you’re going to like what’s inside, but you’re never really sure until you open it. Unlike a Christmas gift, however, if you use these tips, you’ll like what’s inside 100 percent of the time. EnJOY!
Watermelon's botanical name, Citrullus vulgaris, comes from the diminutive form of citrus, referring to the color and shape of the fruit, and vulgaris meaning common or ordinary fruit. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where its English common name, watermelon, comes from. The flesh of this succulent fruit is over 90 percent water.

Native to Africa, watermelon was a valuable and portable source of water for desert situations and when natural water supplies were contaminated. Watermelons were cultivated in Egypt and India as far back as 2500 B.C. as evidenced in ancient hieroglyphics. (SOURCE: http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/watermelonhistory.htm)

Watermelon Carbs: Carb Counts and Nutrition Facts of Watermelon

Knowing the carb counts and nutrition facts of watermelon can help you utilize this fun summer fruit in your diabetes meal plan. Watermelon is low in calories and tastes delicious on a hot summer day. Here's the nutrition facts for watermelon. This refreshing fruit is high in vitamin A and vitamin C, and is also a good source of fiber.
Calorie, Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Watermelon
1 cup diced watermelon:
Calories - 46, Fiber - 0.6 grams, Carbohydrates - 11.5 grams
1 cup balls:
Calories - 46, Fiber - 0.6 grams, Carbohydrates - 11.5 grams
1 wedge (1/16th melon):
Calories - 86, Fiber - 1.1 grams, Carbohydrates - 21.6 grams

Friday, May 18, 2012


Feeling the heat? This year, summer seems to have arrived extra early, after having a very mild winter and a warmer than average spring. With the heat comes the need for cool summer foods. We often gravitate toward cool and refreshing foods like homemade ice cream, cucumbers, and watermelon. One great thing about this time of year is the beautiful selection of fruit; eat it “as is” or blend it into a refreshing smoothy or cool summer soup.

Today, I want to share my recipe (concocted from a combination of three or four other recipes) for Fresh Strawberry Soup. I hope you will take time to make and enJOY it with your family and friends, as you celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

Strawberry Soup – Refreshing and Packed with Antioxidants
The summer berry season provides delicious and refreshing fruit, and sweet strawberries are at the top of the list because they taste soooo good! But equally as important, they are loaded with skin protecting antioxidant properties. My recipe uses fresh fruit and a minimal amount of sugar (adjust more or less, as you wish) which allows the strawberry's natural taste to shine like a bowl full of summer.

This is a quick and delicious summer soup that is easy to make and can be served at the beginning of meal, along with a sandwich, or as a dessert. (In other words, it's great anytime you get a craving! :-) Now you can take your antioxidant meds with a smile, as you enJOY the taste, presentation, and wellness all in a single, gorgeous dish. (This soup is as pretty as it is tasty!)

Let's get started by gathering our ingredients:
Wash, cap, and slice strawberries. 
Blend until smooth in a blender or food processor.
Add vanilla yogurt
and sour cream.
Blend until smooth.
Add orange juice, vanilla, powdered sugar, and grenadine.

 Slowly blend, then increase speed until smooth. 
Add whipping cream (or half -n- half). Blend until well mixed in.
Turn off blender and use a spatula to stir and transfer
to a medium-sized storage bowl that you can cover. 
Chill for a couple of hours before serving. To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of whipped topping (f desired). Garnish with a sliced strawberry or fresh mint.
Serves four to six, depending on bowl sizes.
Now, wasn't that the easiest recipe ever? And, it's equally as delicious as it is easy. Hope you'll try it soon and come back with your comments on how yours turned out.

Don't forget to print the recipe (below) or paste it to your "keepers" in your cooking files.

Stay cool and enJOY this wonderful time of year!
BLESSINGS to you and yours!

Pat's Fresh Strawberry Soup

16 oz. fresh strawberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp. orange juice
1 pint whipping cream (or half-n-half)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 to 10 Tbsp. powdered sugar (more or less, depending on how sweet you want yours)
2 Tbsp. grenadine syrup

Wash, cap, and slice strawberries. Blend until smooth in a blender or food processor. Add vanilla yogurt and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Add orange juice, vanilla, powdered sugar, and grenadine. Slowly blend, then increase speed until smooth. Add whipping cream (or half -n- half). Blend until well mixed in. Turn off blender and use a spatula to stir and transfer to a medium sized storage bowl that you can cover. Chill for a couple of hours before serving. To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of whipped topping. Garnish with a sliced strawberry or fresh mint, if desired. Serves four to six, depending on bowl sizes.