(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
It's no wonder that watermelon doesn't often make top-10 lists of the most popular fruits put out by trivia organizations and produce growers. It's often a chore to have around. Did you work out with weights before lugging what's, on average, a 15- to 35-pound giant back home? And, once you cut into it, exactly how do you find the space to store the melon in your refrigerator? Oh, and don't forget to wipe up those pools of juice that undoubtedly leaked on your kitchen counter as you served up some thick slices.
As succulent as seasonal watermelon is during warm-weather months, many busy cooks avoid the hassle - or pay big bucks for tiny containers of pre-sliced fruit. Erasing the idyllic notion of the huge melons of one's childhood, however, and instead, implanting in the mind a newer convenient version may be just what time-crunched cooks need to make watermelon a quick and versatile seasonal staple rather than a once-in-a-while messy treat.
Personal seedless watermelons have been steadily rolling out into supermarkets over the last 10 years. On average 2 to 5 pounds in range, they often fit in your hand, yielding about 3 to 4 servings each. They have a thinner rind and are sweeter, juicier, crunchier and more of the traditional deep red color than the larger varieties. As one grower has accurately described, they contain the "heart of the melon" in every bite.
"Icebox watermelons," as they had been previously called (since they fit easily into home refrigerators), had populated roadside stands and farmers' markets for years under the names of sugar baby, minilee and mickilee, but they didn't begin to go mainstream until about a decade ago with the added convenient benefit of being seedless - a pollination-altered, sterile hybrid that also has just been fully developed in recent years. Seeds that do appear in "seedless" varieties are not fully developed; they are most often soft and edible.
Newly convenient means you'll probably find many innovative ways to use watermelon, which is high in vitamins C and A, and has the most concentration of lycopene - a cancer fighter often associated with processed tomato products - when it comes to fresh produce.
Fun fare like this also proves cooking can be easy, nutritious, economical, fun - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare
. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since there are no right or wrong amounts
. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
-- Watermelon chunks can be added, along with sliced bell peppers, pineapples, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, to chilled kebabs.
-- Swirl watermelon into dips made in the blender using sour cream or plain or vanilla yogurt as a base and adding spices, like ground cinnamon or allspice. Smoothies are also good. Try sliced fresh peaches blended with watermelon chunks and vanilla-flavored whey protein powder for an energy-filled, naturally sweet breakfast or snack.
-- Marinate chunks of melon in other flavors for an hour, such as a mixture to taste of lemon grass sticks (or fresh lemon juice), fresh ginger, honey, curry powder and ground black pepper.
-- Employing a water glass to cut, use watermelon flat rounds placed atop round plain crackers as the foundations for fun appetizers and snacks. Mix sour cream with vanilla extract, nutmeg and sugar to taste, then spread over the rounds and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
-- Use cookie cutters and letter molds to cut shapes from watermelon slices. Freeze them and then use as "ice cubes" in refreshing spritzers made from two parts chilled fruit juice and one part chilled sparkling water, notes Steve Petusevsky, author of The Whole Foods Market Cookbook.
-- Finely-diced watermelon can be a sweet alternative to pimento or red bell peppers. Mix into whipped cream cheese (a lower-calorie alternative that's usually in the cream cheese aisle of most supermarkets) for a unique bagel or toast spread. QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
Summertime is often the time of year for tea parties for bridal or baby showers, or just plain fun. Do you know the difference between high tea and afternoon tea? It isn't necessarily an issue of one being more casual than the other. Afternoon tea is generally earlier in the day with lighter foods, including tea sandwiches and some sweets. High tea can be as late as early evening, almost always features clotted cream and also would be more likely to feature some entrees, like fish or meat.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.