Tag Archives: watermelon

Weekly Menus: Fast Food Edition

Gentle Readers, sometimes one must concede to gravity, time, or other immutable forces. This is one such week. I’m at the crossroads at one of the largest events I work every year, with one of the most important ones. That would be my company’s tech conference and The Youngest Practical Cook’s Birthday Party. Yes, there were two parties, it happens sometimes.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank's Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank’s Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

I can now make a carrot cake in my sleep (and almost did after midnight last night). The larger point being–I still have to pull a Weasley Car act and shove more into one bag than should fit. At least I’m generally packed for this business trip, but I still have miles to go and need some sleep.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

So I’m breaking format with some thoughts about how I eat and feed TPCs Jr during crunch time, something I often tag on Instagram as #fastfood. My friend @ConvertibleLife had a great picture the other day of a pita pizza topped with produce-box offerings.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

My version of #fastfood is a commitment to keeping the house stocked with things we can eat quickly that provide more nutritional firepower than the commercial Fast Food. We are not making quiches and roasts here, I ate quesadillas for lunch most days last week, under 10 minutes prep including bringing a cast iron skillet up to proper heat.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

We keep a lot of fruit on hand at this time of year–cherries, apples, bananas, watermelon, strawberries– and one day I fueled up almost exclusively on watermelon and granola bars. This is not ideal, I’ll fully admit, but it’s still better for me than the alternatives. I don’t want to rely on frozen heat-up meals. I don’t want to eat powerbars or drink my lunch. I like to chew.

I can’t afford the physical crash that follows a typical burgers and fries fast food meal. Believe you me, I heart junk food, it’s just not sustainable when I need to stay alert and energized. For me, plain yogurt with fruit, nuts, and a sprinkle of muesli or granola is a much better option. More importantly, it’s faster than driving through.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

I made this salad in 5 minutes, the key was having the ingredients on hand. Obviously I have my breaking point when it comes to time, as this not-weekly menus post proves. I’m traveling on business next week, and I need to push pause here and focus. I’ll pick back up next Sunday. In the meantime, I encourage you to find new ways to eat and feed your family when time is the most precious commodity. Try cheese, crackers, fruit, and carrots.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

And forgive yourself the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. One day I’ll cook complex and interesting meals again, just not this week. See you soon–would love to hear your comments and see your #fastfood.

Send your SPF, watermelon, and good ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Next Sunday: Back on Track, Weekly Menus Resume!

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Watermelon Semifreddo Recipe: Magic in the Summertime

Gentle Readers, this week’s special recipe is a must try. From my friend over at The Professor’s Table, I bring you Watermelon Semifreddo. One of the best things I’ve eaten all summer.

Watermelon Semifreddo: I Think I Love You

Watermelon Semifreddo: I Think I Love You

Watermelon Semifreddo:

Let’s face it: anything made with sweetened condensed milk is not only delicious, but mildly sexy.  This little watermelon summer cooler is no exception.  Spiked with lime zest, cooled by watermelon and topped with the caramel sweetness of condensed milk blended with locally produced cream,  just giggle while you eat it.

1 medium watermelon – flesh with seeds removed
1/2 cup of sugar (or less, to taste)
1/4 cup of Tequila (do not omit, or your granita will be frozen solid)
2 Tablespoons of lime juice
1 can of condensed milk
1/2 cup of lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1 cup of cream, whipped until stiff peaks form

Combine first four ingredients – puree, then freeze as per ice cream maker instructions, let set in freezer in 9/9 inch baking pan lined with plastic or wax paper.

Whisk milk, lime juice and lime zest; fold in cream, pour over top of watermelon mixture, let set for 2 hours or more, serve in small squares.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

Have you ever tried semifreddo? Now is that time. Post your comments below! I’ll be busy licking my spoon.

Send your desserts, your challenges, and your kitchen dreams to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus, at Home!

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5 Simple Summer Sandwiches and a Note About Hunger Relief

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is infinitely fond of variety and options on the table. For whatever reason, I become even more so in the summer. I just don’t want too much of anything (that’s not ice cold watermelon). Enter the open-faced sandwich plate.

Summer Sandwich Platter

Summer Sandwich Platter

I can’t even call this crostini, because I didn’t toast the bread. This is slices of bread with interesting toppings. Here’s what’s on the plate, starting with the tomato sandwiches at 9 o’clock and going clockwise.

1. Tomato. Just thick slices, a dab of mayo, a sprinkle of salt, and a healthy grind of pepper.

2. Cucumber, goat cheese, and dill. This was my favorite. I’ve eaten it three more times since.

3. Tangy Tuna Melt. Initially we melted some colby jack on the bread for tuna adherence, but dropped it in the second round. The tuna is just chunk light mixed with a touch of mayo and a very healthy dollop of sweet hot mustard from Trader Joe’s. Top it with sliced green olives, and The Practical Cooks Junior ate it up. This is shocking for the Eldest, who is not a fan. Give it a try.

4. Hummus with roasted red peppers. The Juniors love this combo.

5. Pickled beets with goat cheese and dill. Thinly slice some pickled beets and you’re on to something. This is a beautiful sandwich, and another favorite of the Juniors.

The Practical Cook's Table in the Summertime: Simple and fruit-filled.

The Practical Cook’s Table in the Summertime: Simple and fruit-filled.

What are your favorite sandwich combinations? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way with your ideas!

Special Note About Hunger Relief:I Support Kids Summer Stock Badge

I obviously think about food a lot. The converse, I also think about people who don’t have food a lot. Kids who are hungry can’t really enjoy the simple pleasures of summertime. When school is out, a key source of  nutrition is often missing for those in need. You can help.

Find ways to give back in your area if you’re outside North Carolina. Thanks for listening.

Send your kitchen confessions, challenges, and food questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Believe it or not, and I do not, it’s almost time for Sunday Weekly Menus!

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How to Throw and Impromptu Cookout and Why You Should

Gentle Readers, there is nothing better than cooking out in the summer, unless it’s someone else doing the cooking. If you need an excuse to have a party or gathering, and really, who doesn’t, light a fire in the grill, and start dialing out. It’s a potluck on a grill, what could be easier?

Let there be fire! Chicken on the barbie.

Let there be fire! Chicken on the barbie. (As stated by an actual Australian.)

This past week, I had some truly delicious grilled chicken, consumed outside after the blazing heat had died down. Food tastes better outside. Food cooked over fire, better still. And if you supply the main and distribute the sides, it’s an easy occasion.

Outdoor dinner, summer style.

Outdoor dinner, summer style.

Here was the menu:

Grilled Chicken: Marinated overnight in a top-secret blend of flavorings and spices (top-secret because I could not read all of the labels of the myriad Asian chili sauces my hostess with the mostest used).

Grilled Chicken in Spicy Asian Marinade. Burnt skin was at a premium.

Grilled Chicken in Spicy Asian Marinade. Burnt skin was at a premium.

Corn on the Cob: Need I say more? Boiled, with butter and salt. Yum.

Corn on the Cob for the Win!

Corn on the Cob for the Win!

Watermelon: Again, I could eat my weight in this stuff, and it’s designed to be consumed outside.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

Random Whole Foods Side Salads: I’ll confess, this was me. I was working up until the cookout, and my hostess graciously let me off the hook. I brought quinoa and some firecracker slaw. I am back to my quinoa addiction, a perfect summer food.

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

Whole Foods Quinoa and Firecracker Slaw: Working Mom Food

Watermelon Semifreddo: Days later, I’m still dreaming about this dessert. Courtesy of my friend over at The Professor’s Table, this is a happy marriage of something like an ice-box pie top with a boozy watermelon granita bottom. I am seeking the recipe, or will direct you to her site if she posts it there. I didn’t think I could love or crave watermelon more. I was wrong.

Watermelon Semifreddo: I Think I Love You

Watermelon Semifreddo: I Think I Love You

We all brought things to drink, everyone did work to make the meal happen, and we ate outside. It was relaxing, delicious, and memorable. All that a summer meal should be. So go, create a moment outside of your kitchen! Thank me later. (Or invite me now. :))

Outdoor wine table.

Outdoor wine table.

Special thanks to the Friday night crew. It was awesome: you continue to remind me why I love food.

What’s your favorite thing to cook on the grill? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way. I am on vacation, but listening.

Send your invitations, spare watermelon, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Friday: Not Quite Carbonara Recipe (or Vegetarians Welcome)!

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Weekly Menus: July 4th Edition (week of 7/1/2012)

Gentle Readers, so this week we shall break tradition at The Practical Cook. Yes, there are so many places to go to find recipes for red, white, and blue food. If that’s your quest, I encourage you to go forth and prosper. If you have a minute and a cup of coffee, let me tell you my strategy.

Celebrate your independence from hothouse tomatoes! Bring on summer!

Celebrate your independence from hothouse tomatoes! Bring on summer!

I plan to buy the following this week:
trash bags, a gallon of milk, dishwashing detergent

I am putting the the CSA on hold and leaving much to chance. There will be some field research conducted at an undisclosed location. I plan to file reports. Yes, it is time to take a break for a week! I am going to eat picnics, put myself in the hands of friends for guidance, and celebrate my culinary independence.

Chocolate with Ancho Chile Powder FTW! It was like fireworks in my mouth.

Chocolate with Ancho Chile Powder FTW! It was like fireworks in my mouth.

One of the things I love about food and being a food blogger, there are no borders. I get to chitchat about my favorite topic with colleagues (more guest posts coming from the world of high-tech), and pastry chefs in bars (new idea borrowed from her, coffee ice cream with candied bacon, the chocolate above is her brilliance), and even while I have a beauty moment (step by step instructions on making Pho and the differences in Vietnamese food culture and American food culture).

Here’s my July 4th Weekly Menu Guidelines:

1. Watermelon. Sliced, chunked, in a salad. Whatever. Best eaten outside. As was the below, to celebrate the launch of The Local Palate, a new regional food and culture magazine. It was inspiring to be amongst my Southern foodies, fan in hand.

Watermelon Salad with Feta from Fearrington House.

Watermelon Salad with Feta from Fearrington House.

2. Grill out. Do I need to elaborate? This picture of the grilled burrito takes me to a happy happy place.

Chicken Paqueta (aka Grilled Chicken Burrito)

Chicken Paqueta (aka Grilled Chicken Burrito)

3. Dine al fresco when possible. That’s fancy for outdoors.

Even macarons taste better outside.

Even macarons taste better outside.

4. All coffee will be iced.

Iced coffee is my iced tea. Not sweet, never sweet.

Iced coffee is my iced tea. Not sweet, never sweet.

5. Tomato Sandwiches.

My first tomato sandwich of the season. Southern bliss.

My first tomato sandwich of the season. Southern bliss.

Are you declaring freedom from the kitchen? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way. I will be mobile, remote, and ready to field questions for Wednesday!

Send your queries, questions, and challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up on Wednesday, Reader Questions Answered!

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Creating the Perfect Summer Picnic Platter

Gentle readers, this just in, summer is here in humidity, even if the calendar hasn’t caught up. The Practical Cook adores a picnic, and her picnic ideas are very much an homage to Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner. Perhaps it’s because he really loves, and has perfected cold fried chicken. Yes, open the confessional booth, the Practical Cook prefers cold chicken over hot.

For the vegetarian readers, fear not, a swap will be suggested. The key elements here are “fried” and “cold.”

And because I am practical above all things, I bought the fried chicken at the store. Yes, it’s not that this is a no-fried zone, it’s just I’ve never found the effort to be worth the mess and clean-up. Not when respectable cold fried chicken is available elsewhere.

So here is the composition of the Perfect Summer Picnic Platter (in Spring):

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

1. Cold Fried Chicken. Make your own, buy it, up to you. For the veggies, consider a nice fried corn fritter (or try one of the Dr. Praeger’s items made crisp and then at room temp). But seriously, if you’ve only had your fried chicken hot, now is the time to cross over.

2. Potato Salad. Again, make it, buy it, I won’t tell. This is deli potato salad, because Sunday had Punt! written all over it.

3. Green Veg. I was raised to eat a green veg at all meals, and the veg will change with the season. We had fresh green peas from the Brinkley Farms CSA, and they were served simply and worked nicely here. Later in the season, cukes and onions would be my recommendation. Also consider celery sticks, or a side salad.

4. Watermelon. Shy of an allergy, I don’t consider this optional. I recommend a pinch of salt on it early in the season, before it’s truly ripe in the heat of the summer.

Of course, this is meant to be eaten outside. There will be bits of fried and drips of watermelon juice everywhere, no matter the age of the diners.

What’s on your picnic platter? Comment or Tweet!

Send pictures of your hot-weather meals and ideas to  practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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We’re keeping things cool tomorrow with Summer Rolls Recipe.

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