Thursday, June 30, 2011

Watermelon-Mint Granita

The other day Ali posted on her status that she wanted watermelon. Hopefully she found one somewhere at a market. I look forward to hearing how they will celebrate the 4th of July in the Dominican Republic. I am not a huge fan of watermelon... it's not that I don't like it, I just prefer other melons, plus I never understood why someone would actually want to eat something that you have to pick the seeds out of while you eat it! I know they make seedless versions and this recipe is best with one of those small, seedless varieties. It is perfect for a hot summer day. I think it would be a great addition to your Independence Day celebration this weekend. It is ultra-simple to make!

Watermelon-Mint Granita

1 small seedless watermelon
1 large bunch fresh mint
1 large lemon
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

In a saucepan, heat the water until it is just simmering. Pour in the sugar and stir on the heat until all of the sugar dissolves. Toss in 1/2 of the mint, stems and all, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. While the simple syrup cools, cut the watermelon up into chunks. You should have about 8 cups (roughly). Remove the mint leaves from the remainder of the bunch discarding the stems. Zest and juice the lemon. Place the melon, mint, lemon juice/zest and cooled simple syrup (remove the mint leaves/stems that have been steeping in it) into a blender container and blend until smooth. Pour into a 9x13 glass baking dish and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours. You can scrape it with a fork every hour to create fluffy ice crystals or you can be lazy and cut it up after it is frozen through.

This works well with any melon, so try it with cantaloupe or honeydew, or all three and serve them together - that would be pretty!!

Keep cool this weekend! It's gonna be a scorcher!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lemon-Caper Chicken, Mashed Potato Cakes and Missing Children

Okay, so my kids are not missing and this blog is not about children who have disappeared or been kidnapped. It is about me - missing my children. I can understand now why parents have children later in life. Don't worry, I have no plans for more children. That last one just about killed me... literally.

Ali left on June 1 very early in the morning. She got on a plane all by herself and flew roughly 1500 miles away to stay 2 months in Dajabon, Dominican Republic while helping an old high school friend of mine whose family is ministering in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Glen Clementi and his wife Debbie are in the process of building an orphanage in Haiti. Ali has been learning Spanish and Haitian Creole, playing with and teaching the children, helping out in the Clementi home and obviously growing closer to God as she is used however He sees fit to use her. It has been 3 weeks and she has 5 more to go. She is settling in to a routine and really seems to be flourishing there. I miss talking to her, hearing her voice and seeing her laughter. She is doing some great things and I know she is being forever changed by this opportunity.

Nate and Kami got on several vans carrying 32 students and adults to Orlando, Florida to go to Lifeway's SonPower. It is a choir/mission camp that the youth choir, 4:12 has been to for the last several years. It is an amazing opportunity and this year there are 1400 students there. They will make a recording on Friday of all of the music they have been working on, 13 songs in all. I wish I could be there with them :)

Needless to say, I am missing the kiddos. But they will be home soon and once again noise, laughter, fighting, complaining and more noise will again fill the house. This silence is KILLING me!

The other night I made Lemon-Caper Chicken and had a good bit of mashed potatoes that needed to be used up. I am not a fan of leftover potatoes because they tend to be mealy. I decided to try my hand at making them into pancakes and came up with this recipe. They came out really tasty. As I was eating them, I thought how much better they would be with some crumbled up bacon and green onions stirred in - like stuffed potato skins...maybe even with a sour cream sauce drizzled on the top... I'll get right on the re-make of this recipe.

It's been a while. I am teaching writing seminars this summer and this week I have a "Parent Seminar" and one of the parents inspired me to write today. Apparently I have readers that I don't even know about :) That made me smile and realize that I really have no excuse for not getting back at this. Enjoy your chicken and potatoes!! I love to hear comments so let me know you are reading!

Lemon-Caper Chicken Breasts

4-6 boneless chicken breasts
1-2 large lemons
2-3 cloves of garlic (1 per every 2 chicken pieces)
2 T. capers, drained
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish. Lay the chicken in the pan and grate the garlic using a microplane over the pieces. Zest the lemons using the same microplane then juice the lemons letting the zest and the juice cover the chicken pieces. Sprinkle the capers over all and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Mashed Potato Cakes

2-3 cups leftover real mashed potatoes (don't use the fake stuff PLEASE!!)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar (or any cheese you like)
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3T butter
3T olive oil

Thoroughly mix the eggs into the potatoes. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper (here is where one MIGHT have added in 1/2 c. crumbled bacon and 1/4 c. finely chopped green onion IF one was thinking straight the other night). In a large nonstick skillet, heat butter and oil. Take approximately 1/2 cup of the potato mixture and pat into a 1/2-thick circle. Coat both sides with bread crumbs and lay gently in the hot oil. Repeat and put as many as will fit the pan with a little space between. I did this in 2 batches in a 12-inch skillet. Let them sit undisturbed for at least 12 minutes until the bottom side is golden brown. Turn gently and allow the other side to cook completely. Don't be tempted to turn them too early or they will fall apart! Don't make them wider than your spatula or you will have difficulty turning them.

Until next time - stay COOL and loved, my friends!