10 Tips: Picking a Ripe Watermelon and Serving Ideas

Have you been enjoying watermelon this summer? It tastes especially good on really, really hot days–like the ones we’ve been having the past few weeks! And it’s good for you, too–I read that it’s high in vitamins A, B6, and C, and it’s also a good source of lycopene, which is good for your heart. And, since a watermelon has over 90% water, it helps keep you hydrated on hot days!

I’ve always managed to pick good watermelons–I don’t remember ever buying a bad watermelon. It doesn’t hurt to know a few helpful tips when you’re choosing one, so you might find these helpful the next time you buy a watermelon!

  1. You may find the best selection at your local farmer’s market, since watermelons sold at grocery stores are often picked before they are fully ripened–once a watermelon is picked from the vine, it usually doesn’t ripen that much more.
  2. Look for a watermelon that has a uniform, symmetrical shape, smooth texture, and free of bumps, dents, and bruises–lumps mean the melon didn’t have a regular amount of sunshine or water while growing.
  3. Look at the skin of the watermelon-it should have definite dark and light green strips and should be dull rather than shiny–shiny means it’s not ripe (some grocery stores sell melons with skins that have been waxed, so this tip may not help in that case).
  4. Check the bottom of the watermelon (also called the “field spot” or “belly”)–you’ll want to see a creamy, buttery yellow color there–that means it’s ripe (you don’t want to see a white or light green bottom).
  5. A ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size–pick up some watermelons that are the same size and compare their weight–the heaviest one is the ripest.
  6. If you tap the watermelon and it sounds hollow, that means it’s ripe. If it sounds dull, that means it’s under-ripe or over-ripe.
  7. A cut watermelon can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.
  8. You can freeze watermelon chunks to use in smoothies (you won’t want to freeze watermelon for eating, though–the texture gets soft when thawed).
  9. You can freeze watermelon juice in ice cube trays to add to lemonade, ice tea, or punch.
  10. Make watermelon skewers by pairing watermelon chunks or balls with any combination of the following: large blackberries, strawberries, honeydew or cantaloupe chunks or balls, mango chunks, pineapple chunks, cucumber slices, banana slices, feta cheese chunks, pitted black olives, cherry tomatoes.

Have you used any of these tips yourself? Do you have any other watermelon tips of your own?

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Basil Pesto

I’ve grown basil every summer for many years–sometimes in a garden, but lately in a large pot, since I don’t have space for a garden right now. I love making homemade pesto with my basil! It’s really easy to make and there’s nothing like cutting fresh basil from your own garden or pot to make it. What probably takes the longest time in making this recipe is picking the basil leaves off the cut stems…but even that task is enjoyable because you get to sniff the wonderful aroma of fresh basil while you’re doing it! Here’s a simple recipe I use…it’s a good starting point, and you can adjust the amount of certain ingredients (like the garlic, for example) to suit your taste. You can use a food processor or blender–a food processor probably works best, but a blender will work, too.

BASIL PESTO by NancyC

Makes 2/3 to 3/4 cup

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves. packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. pine nuts (I often substitute pecans or walnuts, because they’re less expensive)
  • Dash or two of salt, to taste (optional)

In a food processor or blender, add the basil, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic; blend or process until smooth (the mixture is on the thick side, so if you’re using a blender, you may have to stop the blender and stir with a spoon to help it along). Add the Parmesan cheese and nuts (and salt, if desired) to the basil mixture, and blend well. Spoon it out of the blender or food processor into a small bowl (or covered container if you’re going to use it later).

I mostly eat pesto spread on a thick slice of crusty bread. It’s also really good on the Asiago cheese bagels you can buy at Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Company. If you’re a sourdough bread fan like I am, it’s good on that too!

Do you grow your own basil too? What do you like to make with it?

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Bacon Onion Mushroom Quiche

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I haven’t had much success with making homemade pie crusts. I know I need more practice, and just don’t seem to have the time. Which is why this quiche appeals to me, because I can use frozen pie crusts in it. If you are a good pie crust-maker, then you could use your own homemade crusts.

I also like this quiche because it has bacon, green onions and mushrooms in it. I take the easy route and use a pouch of real bacon pieces, but you can always fry your own bacon and crumble it. Or, if you’re not a meat-eater, you can leave out the bacon and add in some chopped tomatoes. So you can make this quiche the real easy way or make it a little more homemade, depending on how much time you have. Another great thing about this recipe is that it makes two quiches (you can halve the recipe if you just want to make one). Perfect for breakfast or brunch!

BACON ONION MUSHROOM QUICHE by NancyC

Makes two 9″ quiches

  • 2 frozen 9″ deep dish pie shells
  • 1 (3-ounce) package real bacon pieces (about 3/4 cup)–or substitute 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms (or mushroom pieces and stems), well drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Fiesta (Mexican style) Blend cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Half & Half (light cream)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • a few dashes of salt
  • a dash of pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. flour

Position your oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove the pie crusts from the freezer and let thaw for about 5 minutes. Prick the bottom and sides of the crusts with a fork to help prevent bubbles from forming in the crust as it bakes, and bake for 8 minutes. Remove pie crusts from oven–there may be some bubbles in the crusts, so just gently pat the bubbles down. After removing crusts from the oven, reduce heat to 350˚F.

In large bowl, combine the bacon, green onions, mushrooms, and cheeses; mix together and set aside. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, Half & Half, sour cream, salt and pepper, and flour. Add this mixture to ingredients in large bowl, and mix well. Then distribute mixture evenly between the two pie crust shells, put in the 350-degree oven and bake for 45 minutes or until set (I like to put the pie crusts on a large rimmed 13×18 baking pan while the quiches are baking–it’s easier to put them in and take them out that way). Also, you can cover the quiches with foil the last 10 minutes of baking if your crusts are getting too browned.

Note: The egg filling will be a little puffed up when you take it out of the oven, but it settles down as it’s cooling.

I like making the full recipe so I have two quiches–one to eat now and one to freeze for later! Do you enjoy making quiche and do you make your own crust or use pre-made crusts?

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Good Things

He crowns you will unfailing love and compassion like a king….

He fills you with good and beautiful things, satisfying you as long as you live.

PSALM 103:4–5 The Voice

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Fresh Strawberry Bread

Fresh strawberries are the best! And I love making things with them too, whether it’s a smoothie or a baked treat. Like this Fresh Strawberry Bread–it’s so good and moist, and has lots of little chopped strawberry chunks in it that give it a great strawberry flavor. This quick bread is great for a summer breakfast or brunch, but it’s sweet enough that it can also work as a dessert, too.

Just so you know, the batter is on the thicker side. The loaves bake up with a nice slight rise and come out of the pan without sticking if you grease and flour your pans. Another nice thing about this recipe is that it makes two loaves! So you can share a loaf with someone, freeze it, or eat both of them up, which is probably what you’ll be tempted to do. 🙂

FRESH STRAWBERRY BREAD by NancyC

Makes 2 (9×5″) loaves

  • 3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil or canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 9×5″ loaf pans; set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, blending well.

In medium bowl, blend the light olive oil, eggs, and chopped strawberries. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix everything until flour mixture is just moistened (do not overmix). The batter will be thick!

Divide batter into the 2 prepared loaf pans, spreading evenly in pans. Bake at 350˚F for 40 to 42 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate and cool completely.

I’ve only gone strawberry picking a few times, but I do want to try to do that more often. I usually buy my berries at farmers markets or the grocery store and thankfully, they usually have a good selection. Have you made any good recipes with fresh strawberries this summer?

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Watermelon-Mint-Lime Water

When hot weather comes around, I usually crave watermelon. It’s so refreshing and it’s good for you too. And I discovered that watermelon is also great for making flavored water! Combining chunks of juicy watermelon with fresh mint and tart limes makes a great-tasting summery drink! You just have to plan ahead a little, since you need to chill the mixture for 1 to 2 hours before drinking.

I buy watermelon regularly throughout the summer and I grow my own mint in a large pot, so I had everything I needed to make this except for the limes. You can make it without limes, but I like the refreshing zing they add to the mix!

WATERMELON-MINT-LIME WATER by NancyC

Makes 1 large pitcher

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon chunks (cut in 1/2″ size cubes)
  • 4 sprigs of mint (a sprig is a stem with 6 to 8 leaves), lightly crushed or rubbed (to release flavor and scent)
  • 2 limes, thinly sliced (use organic limes or wash limes very well!)
  • 7 to 8 cups of water
  • 2 to 3 cups of ice

Add cubed watermelon, mint sprigs, and sliced limes to pitcher, then add water and ice. Chill for 1 to 2 hours to infuse flavors, then serve, pouring into ice-filled glasses. Tastes best the day it’s made.

It definitely does taste best the day it’s made, but you can finish drinking this flavored water up by the second day if you have any left over. It really is refreshing and more fun to drink than plain water! What do you like to add to your water?

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Strawberry-Kiwi-Banana Smoothie

For me, summer is smoothie weather and I love having them for breakfast! It’s always fun trying out different flavors. Strawberries, kiwifruit, and bananas are a great combination, and this smoothie uses frozen banana slices to help thicken it and make it creamy. This smoothie is good and easy to make. And using a slice of kiwifruit as a garnish adds a nice colorful touch! Try this out for breakfast or for a healthy afternoon snack.

STRAWBERRY-KIWI-BANANA SMOOTHIE by NancyC

Makes about 2 cups

1 medium size banana, sliced and frozen

  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (or substitute a dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup milk (you can use low-fat, soy, or almond milk)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground flaxseed
  • Optional: a slice of kiwifruit for garnish

Add frozen banana slices, fresh strawberry slices, kiwifruit slices, yogurt, honey, milk, and flaxseed, if using, into a blender. Blend mixture for 1 minute or until smooth and creamy. Pour into a glass, add a slice of kiwifruit as a garnish, and enjoy!

This smoothie is a real treat and it’s nice that it’s healthy, too! I love making things with fresh fruit–especially strawberries! Are you a fan of strawberries, too?

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The Easiest Sweet Cornbread

This cornbread is so good, you’d never guess it was so easy! If you’ve ever been to a restaurant called Tippins (as far as I know, there’s one in Kansas City, Tulsa, and Dallas) and had their delicious sweet cornbread, this recipe tastes a lot like that. It’s great with chili or just on its own, warm and served with honey butter.

A friend had told me about this cornbread recipe after I talked about how good the Tippins cornbread was. And when I made this for a potluck, everyone wanted the recipe. They couldn’t believe how easy it was. It’s made with a blend of cornbread mix and cake mix. I typically like to make things from scratch, but I do like to make this every so often. If you’re not crazy about baking with mixes, this recipe may not be for you. But it is really, really good, so you might want to make an exception and try this out!

THE EASIEST SWEET CORNBREAD WITH HONEY BUTTER by NancyC

Makes a 9×13″ pan

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×13″ baking pan or line with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, blend the dry Corn Muffin Mix and Golden Yellow Cake Mix. Add the eggs, milk, and water, blending everything well. Beat mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.

Bake at 350˚F for 20-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

This cornbread tastes really good with honey butter! (see recipe below)

Note: You can make cornbread muffins with this batter if you prefer–baking time will be about 15 minutes.

HONEY BUTTER:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons honey

Mix softened butter and honey until well-blended; spoon into a small serving dish and serve with cornbread.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? If you need something quick and easy to make for a large meal or gathering, keep this cornbread in mind!

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Salad Burger

Just about everyone loves a good burger! I thought I’d try a making a healthier burger after I received some samples from Hilary’s. Their products are made with minimally processed ingredients and are free from common allergens. They sent me their Worlds Best Veggie Burger and Curry Veggie Burger, and I really liked them both. You can actually see bits of the fresh veggies these are made with, which make them seem even healthier than your average veggie burger. Hilary’s also sent me a few salad dressings to try: Spicy Island Dressing, a creamy,  tangy, slightly spicy take on Thousand Island dressing, and Beet Vinaigrette, a slightly sweet vinaigrette with some balsamic vinegar mixed in. Both flavors were very good and low on calories–30 per serving for the Spicy Island and 50 per serving for the Beet Vinaigrette.

I created this Salad Burger using the Curry Veggie Burger and Spicy Island Dressing, along with items I like to put in salads–cucumber, tomato, onion, banana pepper, black olives, and avocado. If you’re not into veggie burgers, you can use a beef burger cooked your favorite way–the toppings go great with beef, too! It’s a reeeaaallly good burger, so I hope you get a chance to try it this soon!

SALAD BURGER

Makes 1 burger (for larger servings, multiply the ingredients by the number of burgers you want to make)

  • your favorite cooked hamburger patty (you can use a veggie or beef burger-I used Hilary’s Curry Veggie Burger)
  • 1 whole wheat roll or hamburger bun
  • 3 to 4 thin slices of cucumber
  • 3 to 4 slices of banana pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of mashed avocado
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced black olives
  • Romain lettuce or your favorite lettuce/salad mix
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons creamy salad dressing, like a Thousand Island or Ranch flavor (I used Hilary’s Spicy Island Dressing)
  • slice of tomato
  • slice of yellow or red onion

Put the top and bottom of a hamburger bun face up on a plate, or slice a large roll in half and place both sides face up on a plate.

Place your cooked burger on the bottom bun. Top burger patty with cucumber slices, banana pepper slices, sliced black olives, and mashed avocado.

On the top bun, spread the creamy salad dressing, then place a slice of tomato and slice of onion on top of the dressing.

Carefully put the bottom and top buns together and serve.

These burger toppings taste great together and you don’t need to use any ketchup or mustard–there’s plenty of toppings and flavor without those. It’s a great burger and very filling–perfect if you’re craving something really good and on the healthy side! Do you like veggie burgers or do you prefer beef?

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Grow in Grace

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II PETER 3:18 NIV

I saw a cluster of irises growing near a creek when I went on a walk one day. The irises looked so graceful and the phrase “grow in grace” came to mind from the verse in II Peter. Hope it brightens your Sunday! 🙂

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