How to Cut a Watermelon

How to Cut a Watermelon

I’ve loved watermelon ever since I was little, and it was something I looked forward to as soon as the weather got hot.  Then during the summer of 2005, I ate so much of it every single day that I didn’t eat it again until 2016…literally I ate 11 years worth of watermelon in one summer.  The sight of it turned me off for so long, and now I finally love it again.  Watermelon can seem daunting because it’s so damn huge, it’s heavy, awkwardly shaped, and the juice starts to run as soon as you cut it.  But thank goodness for seedless watermelons because living the watermelon life is much easier without seeds.  After lots of trial and error, I’ve finally figured out the perfect way to cut a watermelon, and now I’m sharing it with you.  Once you’re done, why not try this salad or this refreshing summer drink?

You’ll need a large cutting board and a serrated knife for this.  You don’t “need” a watermelon knife like this one, but I find it useful for cutting other things too, like French bread.

Just like with pineapple, store the watermelon in a single layer to prevent bruising and juice buildup on one side of the fruit.  Also, once all the best pieces are eaten (you know what I mean!), you can use the subprime pieces to make this refresher, or you can turn them into watermelon juice.  To make watermelon juice, all you do is throw the watermelon cubes into a blender, and blend until pureed.  Then pour the puree through a sieve, and wait for the juice to pass through.  Discard the pulp, chill, and enjoy (or mix with some booze)!

 

Steps

  1.  Lay the watermelon on the cutting board.
    1.jpg

    step 1

  2. Slice it in half as shown.  Set one half aside.
    2.jpg

    step 2

  3. Turn the watermelon half flat-side-down.
    3.jpg

    step 3

  4. Starting at the top, use the knife to cut the skin and rind off the watermelon.  Stay as close to the flesh as possible without cutting into it.
    4.jpg

    step 4

  5. Use the knife to trim away any rind that is left of the watermelon.
    5.jpg

    step 5

  6. Cut the watermelon in half again, and line the 2 halves up as shown.  The sloped side should be facing toward your dominant hand (this will come in handy later).
    6.jpg

    step 6

  7. Slice each half into long quarters, as shown.
    7.jpg

    step 7

  8. Starting with the sloped side, begin slicing through the melon quarters in about 1/2 inch slices.  (By beginning with the sloped side, you will prevent the slices from falling down and splashing juice on you!)  Repeat steps 3-8 on the second half.
    8.jpg

    step 8

 

 


Fire Roasted Caprese Chicken Spaghetti

Fire Roasted Caprese Chicken Spaghetti

This pasta is a healthy, fresh family pleaser.  It’s got whole grain pasta, a fresh tomato basil sauce, juicy grilled chicken breast, and tiny pearls of fresh mozzarella.  It’s an adult meal that kids will love, too!  This recipe uses my standard Grilled Chicken Breast Recipe, but if you’re making this in the winter (or it’s raining, etc), you can also make this with Basic Baked Chicken.  Or!  If you want to go lighter, leave the chicken out, and go vegetarian for the night!  Either way, it’s a dinner everyone will be on board with.

Using fire roasted canned tomatoes give the sauce a little smokiness, and the basil keeps it nice and fresh.  Except for the chicken (which you can either make in advance or while you’re making the pasta –just remember to marinate it for 12 hours), you can have the whole thing done in 30 minutes. 

 

Total Time:  30 Minutes (not including the chicken)

Yield:  6-8 servings

Difficulty Level:  Easy5

 

Ingredients

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

8 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thinly

2- 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper

1 cup freshly torn basil

6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls

4 Grilled chicken breasts, sliced

 

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat ¼ of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is heated (you’ll be able to smell it), add the sliced garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly brown –watch carefully so you don’t burn it.
  3. Add the fired roasted tomatoes to the garlic. Bring up to a gentle boil for one minute.  Bring down to medium-low heat, and continue to cook for 10 minutes (while the pasta cooks and drains).
  4. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Off the heat, add the freshly torn basil.
  5. Toss the sauce with the spaghetti.
  6. Top the spaghetti with the sliced grilled chicken.
  7. Top with mozzarella pearls, and serve hot.

 


How to Grill Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

(That turn out juicy and flavorful every single time!)

Getting juicy grilled chicken is pretty easy if you’re working with dark meat, especially if it has the bone in and skin on.  It’s different when you’re grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Breasts are the least fatty (and least flavorful) part of the bird, and there is no skin there to hold the flavors in.  It’s really easy to grill chicken breasts that turn out dry and just not worth it.  But guess what?  It’s also pretty easy to make sure your healthy grilled chicken breasts turn out charred out the outside and tender on the inside every single time.  I’m writing an upcoming post that uses grilled chicken breasts, so I figured it would be nice to have the method here.  It’s a really useful recipe in the summer or if you’re trying to stay healthy. 

Here’s one little tip I have about buying chicken breasts or actually chicken, in general.  So you’re in the store and there’s chicken pieces out in individual styrofoam trays.  You may think it’s smarter to buy the heaviest one– the one with the biggest breasts or thighs, or whatever. But it’s not! If 2 packages both have 6 breasts, but one is a pound heavier, pick the lighter one. The smaller the pieces, the more flavorful they are.  Kind of like how a Cornish hen is more flavorful than a chicken, which is more flavorful than turkey– bigger is not better.  If you’re like me, and you buy in bulk– it’s better to have 5 pounds of 10 breasts than 5 pounds of 5 breasts.  

The key to getting a juicy grilled chicken breast is to keep it from drying out.  The way I cook it is kind of like braising, but on a grill.  Instead of searing the chicken on all sides and then adding it to a covered Dutch oven with liquid, I sear it on the grill and create a steam packet to finish cooking it without drying it out.

For the marinade, you can use just about anything.  For my upcoming post, I used a bottle of light balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  But you can use barbecue sauce, buffalo wing sauce, any salad dressing or marinade of your choice.  The important part is that you marinate it for a long time. 

If it’s a vinegar based or acidic marinade (like balsamic vinaigrette), don’t marinate it for more than 12 hours.  If it’s more of a saucy marinade (like barbecue sauce), you can marinate it for up to 36 hours.  The reason is that a really vinegary marinade will actually start to cook the chicken if it’s left on too long (think ceviche, but gross).  If the marinate only has a small amount of vinegar, it won’t have the same effect –at least not very quickly.

I’ll also tell you to how to get those nice cross-hatches on the top of the breasts.

Here’s how I do it—

 

Total Time:  40 minutes plus 12 hours marinade time

Yield: 4 breasts

IMG_2714.JPG

pouring the marinade into the crevices is one way to keep them juicy

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

16-24 ounces marinade of your choice

Non-stick cooking spray

 

Directions

  1. Add the chicken breasts to a non-reactive container (like Tupperware). Pierce the chicken with a fork on all sides to tenderize.
  2. Pour the marinade over the chicken, cover the container, and refrigerate for 12 hours.
  3. Preheat a gas grill to high, and take the chicken out of the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature.
  4. Turn the grill down to medium-high. Carefully spray the grill with non-stick spray, and put the chicken on the low rack of the grill, bottom side down.  Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Spray the grill again. Turn the chicken over, and place each breast at a 45-degree angle to the grates.  Pour about an ounce of marinade (reserve most of it for later) into the bottom crevices of each breast.  Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Rotate the chicken at a 45-angle to create the cross-hatch. Cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Spray the grill again. Flip the chicken over.  Cover, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  8. Turn the grill down to low. Use a large piece heavy duty aluminum foil to create foil pouch for the chicken.  Put the chicken in the foil, pour the rest of the marinade over the chicken, and wrap it up as tightly as possible.
  9. Put the chicken foil pack on the upper rack of the grill, cover, and cook on low for a final 10-12 minutes.
  10. Remove the foil pack from the grill, and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I decided to make these after ordering lettuce wraps while on vacation last week.  The ones I had used grilled chicken breast, but I think the ground meat (you could always use chicken or beef) has more flavor and is easier to work with.  My grocery store doesn’t carry Thai seasoning, so I got if from Amazon here.  These were fun for the kids and were a creative way to eat healthy.  I actually let the kids make theirs in soft taco shells—they liked it better, and they don’t need to worry about carbs and calories.  I make everything in large quantities because we are feeding 6 people, and I like leftovers.  Feel free to cut the recipe in half.  Another cool thing about this recipe is that it’s mostly assembling, not a whole lot of cooking.  Like taco night, it looks pretty and festive, but the actual amount of work is minimal. 

 

Total Time: about 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Easy

Serves: 8-10

 

Ingredients

48 oz lean ground turkey

6 Tablespoons traditional Thai seasoning (get it here)

2 Tablespoons chicken base

2 Cups water

Zest and juice of 1 lime, plus more wedges for serving

1/2 Freshly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

1/2 Cup freshly chopped basilimg_9087

1/2 English cucumber, sliced into thin strips

1 Red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

2-3 Scallions, sliced on a large bias

Angel hair cut cabbage

Butter lettuce

1 pound rice noodles, cooked according to package directions

Thai peanut sauce (optional)

 

Instructions

  1. Add the ground turkey and Thai seasoning to a large skillet, and brown over medium heat.
  2. When it’s almost done browning, add the chicken base, water, lime zest, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then down to a simmer.  Cover, and cook for 15-20 additional minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, and stir in the fresh cilantro and basil.
  4. To serve, use the butter lettuce as the wrap.  Add turkey, plus cucumber, bell pepper, scallions, cooked rice noodles, and peanut sauce.

 

[originally posted 7/28/16; recipe and photos updated 5/1/17]

 


Pretty Things: May 2017

Pretty Things: May 2017

1.  H2o Plus:  Sea Salt Collection. I have been waiting to share this product for months because it didn’t feel right sharing a sea salt spray in the middle of winter.  I found this stuff last year on clearance because they were changing their packaging, and now I’m hooked.  I was worried when I bought it that the “clearance” sticker meant they were discontinuing it– thankfully that wasn’t the case.  There’s a whole line of sea salt products, but the spray is my favorite.  It’s an alternative to moisturizer during the hot months, and it smells like the beach.  Not in a fake banana-coconut sunscreen way, but in a real authentically beachy way.  It’s so refreshing.  I also used it in my hair.bodygloss_hero_h20plus

 

2. Alton Brown: Pickled Watermelon Rind.   Alton Brown is kind of a mad scientist when it comes to food. I love the idea of pickled watermelon rind for several reasons.  First, I usually throw away the rind, but it would be cool to turn it into something new.  Second, I love pickles.  And third, I love watermelon (but who doesn’t??)alton-brown-watermelon-pickles

 

3.  Heather Christo:  Cilantro, Corn, Potato, and Poblano Chowder.  The colors in this soup are so beautiful!  If you’ve never checked out Heather’s blog, it is one of the most inventive and unusually photographed I’ve come across.  Many of her recipes are vegan or gluten free, and the are all made with allergies in mind.  Everything she makes really is this pretty.27136811955_17eceecccb_b

 

4.  A Cozy Kitchen:  Spicy Cucumber Margarita.  If you’ve never tried a cucumber drink, you should!  I love infused cucumber water, cucumber soda, and cucumber sparkling water.  I also love jalapenos and margaritas.  Since Cinco de Mayo is coming soon, it’s a perfect time to buy some tequila and try something new!margarita.jpg

 

5.  Bobby Flay:  Grape Focaccia.  Grapes are at their best between May and September (even though I tend to buy them all year).  I love focaccia because it’s airy and crispy while also being chewy and doughy –kind of like a round baguette, I guess?  But much more flavorful because of the salt and olive oil.  This grape focaccia would be perfect on a warm night with some wine and a good salad.cq5dam.web.400.300.jpeg

 

6.  Soap Queen:  Soothing Floral Bath Salts.  Every time I find a new homemade beauty product, I always swear it’s the prettiest one I’ve seen so far.  And this one is no exception.  This would be a really gorgeous homemade gift for a good friend.Floral-Bath-Salts-Tutorial.jpg

 

7.  How Sweet Eats:  Summer Skillet Gnocchi.  Look at the char on the corn!  And the basil!  And the cheese!  Something about Jessica’s recipes make me want to use exclamation marks.  Her pictures seem to jump off the page, and this is basically like summer in a bowl.  And in May, I’m pretty much behaving as if it’s summer anyway.summer-gnocchi-I-howsweeteatscom-6.jpg

 

8.  Giada de Laurentiis:  S’mores Pizzette.  However, if it’s still a little too chilly to hang outside at night, you can always make these s’mores when you feel the need.  It’s all done indoors, and would be a perfect treat for a kid’s sleepover. 20170108_163630_10358_3095.jpeg

 


Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

There are so many other ways to make pasta than traditional spaghetti and meat sauce (although I love that, too!).  This pasta is a great way to use any leftover ham you may have from the holidays.  If you’re doing this in winter, you can change up the vegetables any way you want, but I like that the peas and greens cook right in the pot in only a minute or 2. 

Making this creamy sauce from white beans is something I saw in one of my frozen dinners (very sophisticated inspiration, I know).  But I thought that was a pretty cool idea.  I decided to use cannellini beans because this dinner is semi-Italian.  But if you don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, you can always use store-bought hummus!  Even easier.  And since this sauce recipe makes a little more than what you need (about 2 cups, and you’ll only need 1 ½), you can eat this just like hummus.  It’s really good! 

 

Total Time:  45 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

For the White Bean Sauce

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons garlic powder

½ cup freshly grated asiago cheese

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oila

Salt and pepper

For the Pasta

1 pound whole wheat rotini

1 pound pre-sliced smoked ham

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup arugula or other baby lettuce

2 cups white bean sauce

1 ½ – 2 cups reserved pasta water

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Make the creamy white bean sauce by adding the drained cannellini beans, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and asiago cheese to a food processor. Pulse until it has begun to turn into a paste.  Then with the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the sauce is the consistency of hummus.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the skin and fat off the ham, and slice into strips about the same size as the pasta.
  4. When the pasta is done, but before you drain it, use a liquid measuring cup to pull out about 2 cups of pasta water. Set aside.
  5. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  6. To the same hot pot, add the ham, and heat through. Add the peas, arugula, white bean sauce, and cooked pasta.  Stir slowly to wilt the greens and heat the peas and sauce.
  7. Add pasta water as need to thin out the sauce until it has the right consistency. (I used exactly 1 ½ cups).
  8. Add the lemon zest and juice. Mix, and taste.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve hot.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon Grilled Shrimp + French Artichoke Vinaigrette

Butter Lettuce Salad with Tarragon Grilled Shrimp + French Artichoke Vinaigrette

This is the perfect lunch for 2—not really kid-friendly, but that’s okay.  Not everything needs to be.  As someone who loves all things French (but who has never been to Paris), I think this salad seems like something Parisians would eat. 

Do you ever get butter lettuce?  It’s got the creamiest, crunchiest texture that goes really well with both vinaigrette dressings and creamy dressings.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the salad with too many ingredients, so a few different veggies plus the shrimp felt just right.

The difference between a French vinaigrette and a regular vinaigrette is Dijon mustard.  It makes the dressing creamy and luxurious without adding mayonnaise.  The pureed artichoke hearts make the dressing extra creamy.  This salad makes 2 generous entrée portions, but the dressing will make enough for 6-8 servings. 

While I’m letting the shrimp marinate, I prepare the dressing and the salad ingredients.  I like to serve the shrimp at room temperature so they don’t wilt the lettuce.  If you don’t have shrimp or don’t want to use it, try it with some pulled rotisserie chicken instead!

 

For the Butter Lettuce Salad

Total Time:  10 Minutes (not including shrimp and dressing)

Serves:  2 Dinner Sized Portions

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Ingredients

1 head butter lettuce, roughly torn2

3 radishes, thinly sliced

6-8 jarred artichoke hearts, drained

4 scallions, tips cut off

Grilled Shrimp, cooled to room temperature (recipe follows)

Parmesan cheese

French Artichoke Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat an indoor grill to high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, to a large bowl, add the butter lettuce.
  3. Arrange the sliced radishes and artichoke hearts.
  4. Spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray. Add the whole scallions (with the tips cut off), and sear on high for about 3 minutes, or until you can see some grill marks.
  5. Arrange the scallions to the salad.
  6. Arrange the shrimp on top of the salad.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to cut shavings of parmesan cheese directly onto the salad.
  8. Drizzle with French Artichoke Vinaigrette, and eat immediately.

For the Tarragon Grilled Shrimp

Total Time:  45 minutes (including marinade time)

Serves:  2

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

1 pound of raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 ½ tablespoons of dried tarragon

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Add the shrimp, tarragon, olive oil, salt, and pepper to a bowl, and toss to combine. Let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  (Go ahead and assemble the rest of your salad, and make your dressing while it marinates.)
  2. Preheat and indoor grill to high heat. Once it’s preheated, spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Add the shrimp to the hot grill, and cook until pink (about 6-8 minutes). Watch carefully after 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
  4. Remove the shrimp from grill, and allow to come to room temperature before adding to the salad.

 

For the French Artichoke Vinaigrette

Total Time:  10 Minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy

 

Ingredients

½ of a 14 ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 cup of loosely packed whole basil leaves

Zest of 2 lemons

Juice of 3 lemons

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (about ¾ cup)

Directions

  1. Add the ingredients except for the salt, pepper, and olive oil to a food processor.
  2. Pulse until the artichokes and basil have been broken down.
  3. Stream in the olive oil while it’s running to blend everything together to a salad dressing consistency.
  4. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pulse again, and serve over salad.