Category Archives: Fruit

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. it’s also a good source of lycopene, which is good for your heart, and potassium, which helps steady your blood pressure. And, since a watermelon is 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 and juiciest.
  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. Store an uncut watermelon at room temperature (This is said to raise its levels of lycopene by 20 percent). Wash and slice the watermelon within a few days of purchasing it. A cut watermelon can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. Serving idea: make a glaze of lime juice, honey, and chopped mint–drizzle over watermelon slices.
  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). You can also freeze watermelon juice in ice-cube trays to add to lemonade, ice tea, or punch.
  9. Use watermelon in these easy recipes: 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. Add watermelon to summer salads (with some feta cheese) or just toss watermelon and feta cheese together for a refreshing “salad.” Make an easy watermelon salsa with diced watermelon chunks, diced cucumber, chopped cilantro, minced jalapeño pepper and some lime juice. Drink some Watermelon Lemonade–just puree 2 cups of small seedless 1/2-inch watermelon cubes and mix into 1 quart of lemonade. Enjoy some Watermelon Granita–In blender or food processor, puree 4 cups of small seedless 1/2-inch cubed watermelon, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 Tablespoons lime juice. Pour into a 9×13″ container and place in freezer. Stir with a fork every 30 minutes until mixture is slushy, up to 2 1/2 hours.
  10. Snack on the watermelon seeds: Toss 1 cup raw watermelon seeds, rinsed and dried, in a little olive oil, sea salt, and/or spices of your choice. Toast on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 325˚F for 10 to 15 minutes. Watermelon seeds have fiber, protein, and magnesium.

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

Sharing at Inspire Me Monday.

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Stovetop Apple Cinnamon Butter

Stovetop Cinnamon Apple Butter @ NancyC

Last fall, I made some homemade applesauce. I thought it was so much better than store-bought. After making that, I decided I needed to try making homemade apple butter sometime. Several friends have given me homemade apple butter the last few years–it makes a wonderful food gift, especially around the holidays. I discovered you can make apple butter with the slow cooker or on the stovetop, and for my first try I decided to make a stovetop version.

This recipe is really easy and it’s weetened with honey and apple juice or apple cider. You basically just put all the ingredients in a large pot and let it cook on low for an hour, until the apples get all tender and mashable. Then you let the mixture cool a little and puree to a smoother consistency in a food processor or blender. I love the cinnamony taste and I think that homemade apple butter, like homemade applesauce, is so much better than any you can buy!

STOVETOP APPLE CINNAMON BUTTER by NancyC

Makes 3 3/4 cups

  • 8 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (about 8 medium, or 2 1/2 pounds)–I used Gala apples; if using organic apples, you can leave the skin on if you want
  • 2/3 cup apple juice or apple cider
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large pot or saucepan, combine chopped apples with the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, cover pot, and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Let mixture cool for 15 minutes, then, in several batches, put mixture in blender and puree until smooth (be careful not to overfill your blender or food processor!).

Store in jars with tight-fitting lids or airtight food containers and refrigerate for up to one week.

This apple butter is great on toast, muffins, biscuits, and scones. You can stir it into plain or vanilla yogurt to flavor it up more, or layer it with yogurt and granola for a breakfast parfait.

Have you ever made your own homemade apple butter?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck.

Strawberry Fruit Dressing and Dip

Creamy Strawberry Fruit Dip @ NancyC

The weather feels very summery where I live, and when it’s warm outside, I tend to eat more fruit because it’s so refreshing. And when you serve fruit with a dressing or dip, it makes a great warm-weather dessert! This Strawberry Fruit Dressing and Dip is big on strawberry flavor and really good served with strawberries or a mix of fresh fruit chunks–pineapples, sliced bananas, apple wedges…whatever fruit you like.

I call this recipe a dressing and a dip because it’s thin enough to use as a creamy dressing, drizzled over your fruit, but you can also dip your fruit in it, if you don’t mind the thinner consistency. I think it’s best when you make it a day ahead and refrigerate it–it gets a little creamier the next day and thickens slightly more.

This recipe is really easy to make–just add all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and you’ll have a delicious strawberry dressing or dip to enjoy with your favorite fruit!

STRAWBERRY FRUIT DRESSING AND DIP by NancyC

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) package softened cream cheese, regular or light
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup strawberry jam, preserves, or fruit spread

Make your block of cream cheese extra soft by heating it in the microwave in a small microwave-safe bowl for 40 to 50 seconds. Then add all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend well (the mixture is on the thick side initially, so you may have to help stir it along several times if using a blender).

Keep fruit dip refrigerated until ready to serve–it’s best if you can make it a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. You can serve the dip in a small bowl with a large platter of fruit or serve the fruit and dip together in individual small bowls or cups. You can also serve the fruit on individual small plates with the dip drizzled over the fruit.

Note: You can substitute another kind of fruit and fruit jam for the strawberries–you could use blueberries with blueberry jam, pineapples with pineapple preserves, etc. Use whatever fruit you like best. You can use either fresh fruit or drained fruit from a can. I prefer using fresh fruit, but either works.

Do you have a favorite dressing or dip that you like to serve with fruit?

This recipe was featured on Meal Plan Monday.

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Show and Share, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Homemade Applesauce @ NancyC

Homemade Applesauce (Sweetened with Honey or Maple Syrup)

Homemade Applesauce @ NancyC

I’ve had homemade applesauce before, but this is the first time I’ve made my own. And let me tell you, it’s so much better than store-bought! It’s not as convenient as buying it, but I think it’s worth the extra effort to make homemade applesauce if you have the time. It’s really easy to make your own–the most time-consuming part is peeling the apples. After that, it’s just a matter of mixing the ingredients in a saucepan and letting it cook for 25 minutes until the apples are soft. If you like chunky applesauce like me, you can just use a potato masher to mash those apples into applesauce. If you like your applesauce smooth, you can puree the cooled apple chunks in a blender (you may have to do that in several batches).

I like sweetening my applesauce with honey or maple syrup. If you prefer using brown sugar, you can use that instead. The cinnamon and nutmeg also give this applesauce a great flavor.

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE (Sweetened with Honey or Maple Syrup) by NancyC

Makes about 4 servings

  • 8 cups (3 pounds) apples, peeled, cored, and chopped or sliced (this would be about 8-9 medium-size apples; use your favorite variety)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup (or substitute 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a medium-size saucepan, combine apples, juice or cider, honey or maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir ingredients together, then cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, until apples are soft. Let apples cool, then mash them with a potato masher. Or you can puree them in a blender until smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

You can serve this applesauce chilled as a side dish or snack. Or for dessert, heat it and use as a topping over ice cream. You can also serve it warm or cool at breakfast as a topping for pancakes, a bowl of oatmeal, or a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt.

Have you made homemade applesauce before?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Sunday Features, Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Inspire Me Monday, Making Memories Monday, Show and Share, Wonderful Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Wow Us Wednesdays, Wake Up Wednesday, Create It Thursday, Share Your Style, Full Plate Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Fabulous Foodie Friday, Feathered Nest Friday.

Ann’s Slow Cooker Apple Pie Filling

Ann's Slow Cooker Apple Pie Filling @ NancyC

Back in August, my friend Ann and her husband Steve were busy picking apples from their very own apple tree. And this year it produced quite a number of apples! Ann told me about an easy apple pie filling she was making with these apples. It’s made in a slow cooker, and after it’s done cooking and cooling, you simply put the mixture in a freezer bag, freeze it, and it’s ready for whenever you’re wanting to make an apple pie with your favorite crust, whether it’s homemade or ready-made. Or you can use it to make an apple crisp or cobbler.

Ann gave me the recipe, along with lots and lots of apples from her tree, so I could try it out. This pie filling is so good! After making my first batch, I ate some of it just as it was and decided, in addition to pie filling, it would also be great as a warm topping for pancakes, french toast, yogurt (top vanilla or plain yogurt and some granola with it for a great breakfast or snack), and even as a topping for ice cream. It also reminds me of those fried apples at Cracker Barrel–so I think it could work great served as a fruity side dish!

An added bonus it that this apple pie filling smells so wonderful as it’s cooking, especially after the first few hours–the apples, cinnamon, and other spices will give your kitchen a wonderful autumn aroma!

ANN’S SLOW COOKER APPLE PIE FILLING by Ann W.

Makes one 9″ deep dish pie (or one 9″ square apple crisp or cobbler)

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 cups of peeled, cored, and sliced apples

In slow cooker, put 2 cups of hot water and whisk in 1/2 cup of cornstarch; whisk together until there are no lumps.

Add in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Whisk all ingredients together; then add the sliced apples, mixing everything together.

Cook on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally, then cool completely. After mixture cools, put in a gallon freezer bag and store in the freezer. Just take out when needed, thaw, and pour into a 9″ deep dish pie shell and bake!

Follow baking instructions from your favorite pie recipe, or if you don’t have one, you can bake at 375˚F for 50 to 60 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. If it looks like there’s too much filling for the size of your pan, just use what you need–you can always save the rest of the filling to use as a topping.

This is the first time I’ve made my own apple pie filling, so I feel like I’ve really accomplished something! 🙂 Have you ever made it?

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