August 3 is National Watermelon Day!

Yes, there is indeed a National Watermelon Day -- and it's today, August 3!

To celebrate, here’s a melon salad perfect for the hot summer days.  Double it, pack the dressing separately and serve it at a picnic or at the beach in a large hollowed out watermelon half.  It’s also fun for a light brunch.  I serve it with my Smoked Salmon Blinis…and a Mimosa, of course!

Summer Melon Melange is perfect for hot summer days

SUMMER MELON MELANGE
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:
4 Cups each, cut into small cubes:
Watermelon
Cantaloupe
Honeydew

4- 5 Tablespoons each, roughly chopped:
Fresh Mint
Fresh Basil
Fresh Celery Leaves

DIRECTIONS:
Cut the melons into bite-sized cubes, roughly chop the mint, basil and celery leaves and combine in a large bowl.

Ingredients for the Melon Melange dressing

Dressing:
1 T Agave Syrup
2 T Watermelon Juice (from the cubed pieces)
2 t. Celery Bitters
2 T Lime Olive Oil
1 T Fresh Lime Juice

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and toss into melon mixture.

I like to top my Summer Melon Melange with crispy pancetta.  If you omit the pancetta, be sure to serve it with plenty of my favorite finishing salt, Maldon.  Serve room temperature or chilled.

Crispy pancetta is a perfect topping for the Melon Melange salad

Cook’s Notes: Bitters are a liquid concentrated extraction of plants, herbs or seeds traditionally used in cocktails.  Celery Bitters add a truly unique flavor here, particularly paired with the watermelon.  

I like the traditional cantaloupe and honeydew with the watermelon but there are many more exotic melons available now in most markets.  Or truly celebrate National Watermelon Day and use only watermelon.

What type of melons are your favorite? Let me know how you like this salad -- perfect for an August afternoon! 

Entertaining over the Holidays? Consider Breakfast!

On the spur of the moment we invited our very good friends Kevin and Candice over for Sunday morning breakfast. 

 Kevin getting ready to dig into his breakfast burrito

Kevin getting ready to dig into his breakfast burrito

Since they are unable to join us here for Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to make breakfast more special that just bacon and eggs.  So I created a Breakfast Burrito Bar. 

 Pinto beans with ham from the freezer. Recipe in  Salad Joy

Pinto beans with ham from the freezer. Recipe in Salad Joy

Having everyone make their own burritos took a lot of pressure off having to assemble them all myself and the island looked so festive with all the “fixins” displayed. 

breakfast buffet 2.jpg

I could hear my mother saying, “You have so many nice things, dear, you should use them.”  I put everything including all the toppings in pretty bowls.  OK, I left the Sriracha in the bottle!

sricha in bottle.jpg

Inviting guests for breakfast or brunch is much more casual than dinner, and if you’re on a budget, it’s certainly less expensive.  It’s also a nice alternative when you want to entertain over the holidays. 

Next breakfast for guests I will definitely make Spinach Benedict from Salad Joy.

Stuffed Peppers Redux – Part One

My mother used to make stuffed green peppers and anyone who has read Salad Joy knows that I do love food in other food. 

However, my mom used green peppers – ick – too bitter – and a very bland ground beef mixture. (It was the 60s, after all!)  

I like to lighten it up and spice it up by using ground turkey and several spices.  Like Smoky Jays’ Chili recipe, I like to use smoked olive oil and smoked paprika to smoke it up. 

Ground white meat turkey can be oh-so-bland.  Use half or all dark meat turkey to add a little more flavor. 

When browning it, really brown it so there are lots of crusty bits to add even more flavor.  This is a great partial Do-ahead, as you can cook the turkey mixture in advance and freeze it.  The rice only takes a few minutes to cook and the peppers only take about one minute to blanch. 

Instead of green peppers, use red, yellow and orange peppers.  Slice off their tops. Remove the seeds and membranes and blanch in boiling water for about a minute.  Shock in an ice bath, drain and cool.  

 A cup of red bell pepper contains about three times more vitamin C than an orange

A cup of red bell pepper contains about three times more vitamin C than an orange

For the turkey mixture, make it the way you like it.  I use minced onion and garlic, a large can of tomato sauce and smoky spices. 

 Make the turkey mixture in advance and freeze it

Make the turkey mixture in advance and freeze it

In a large bowl, combine the cooked turkey mixture with a couple of cups of cooked white rice.  Stuff the cooled peppers with the mixture, slice long-ways and microwave.  

 I love my fancy rice cooker!

I love my fancy rice cooker!

Once they are made, the stuffed peppers can keep in the frig a couple of days.  

John likes cheese slices on top but if you omit the cheese, they are even lower in fat. 

Stuffed peppers make for a delicious, satisfying and quick dinner for a chilly fall evening.  

 An old school fave... I think my mother would have approved

An old school fave... I think my mother would have approved

Tip:  There is often leftover turkey mixture.  Freeze it before adding in the rice and it’s a delicious hot appetizer with tortilla chips.

P.S. Stay tuned for Stuffed Peppers Redux Part Two, which will have my modern twist on the old favorite!

Cooking Aboard …Eggstra Delicious Breakfast

When preparing for John’s fishing trips that are just the guys, “Cooking Aboard” actually means “Prepping At Home.” 

This weekend they are going for three full days which means I need to pack something for their breakfasts. 

One of my Go-To breakfast/ brunch dishes is this hearty Egg Casserole.  I often make it for my P.E.O. women’s group or when entertaining for brunch. 

This dish can be made, baked and frozen so it’s an entire Do-Ahead.  Aboard Clicker, all the guys have to do is defrost and microwave it. 

 Ingredients for the hearty Egg casserole

Ingredients for the hearty Egg casserole

Hearty Egg Casserole

8-10 stalks Asparagus, blanched

1 lb. Chorizo (or Italian Sausage) cooked crispy

4 cups French Bread, in small cubes

2 cups Gruyère, shredded

¼ cup Onion, minced

1 4 oz. can chopped Mild Green Chiles, drained

¼ cup Chives, chopped

5 T. Fresh Thyme, chopped

10 Eggs

1 ½ cups Whole Milk

Blanch the asparagus and cool in an ice bath.  Drain, chop in ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

 Lots of fresh thyme and chives brighten up this dish

Lots of fresh thyme and chives brighten up this dish

Cook chorizo or Italian sausage until crispy.  Drain and set aside.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Spread in two cups of the bread cubes.  Top with cheese, onion, chiles, chives, thyme, half of the asparagus, and half of the chorizo.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and milk.  Pour evenly over the casserole and press down with a wooden spoon.

Top with the remaining asparagus and chorizo and press down again.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake uncovered in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.  Once baked, it can be frozen.

 Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Let it cool completely before freezing.

Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Let it cool completely before freezing.

Tip:  Egg dishes like this are so versatile – feel free to egg-speriment…If you want to make it vegetarian, replace the sausage with sautéed mushrooms.  I make it mild for my women’s group, but spice it up by replacing the green chiles with fresh jalapeno and the Gruyère with Pepper Jack.