Pickled Watermelon Rinds

Pickled Watermelon Rinds is an extremely old Southern mountain recipe. There used to be a time when people could not spare to waste anything so they would make more out of what they had. After all Southerners sure loved their pickles. The watermelon would be ate, the seeds would be saved for growing watermelons next year and the rinds well they would be pickled. But most definitely its an old recipe that everyone should try at least once. I am not much of a pickler that being said I have yet to pickle anything so if your comfortable then please do so the right way and you will not have to refrigerate like I have. Let your pickles sit for awhile before you eat them.

6 cups cubed watermelon rind
3/4 cup salt
12 cups water plus more for brine
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
20 whole cloves
3 large cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon Allspice
1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed

1. Remove pink flesh from rind. In a large bowl add rind, add salt and cover with water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator over night.

2. Drain; rinse. In a large saucepan on high heat add watermelon with 12 cups water and bring to a full boil; continue cooking until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

3. In the same large saucepan on high heat add sugar, vinegar, water cinnamon and allspice. Boil 5 minutes. In a large bowl add watermelon and pour hot liquid on top with lemon slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

4. In a large sauce pan on high heat add watermelon with syrup. Bring to a full boil; reduce heat to medium-high for one hour. Pack the hot watermelon pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars.Cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space if needed. Tightly add lids. Leave jars out over night not moving.

5. Place pickles into refrigerator and allow to sit for awhile.

Yields: 2 jars

Basil Salmon

I have most defiantly realized that basil is the perfect match for salmon. If you are unable to find fresh basil please by all means use it but it not dried works just as well. This beautiful golden fish pairs perfect alongside pasta, salad and asparagus. Please forgive me for my last few pictures they were taken when we were having sandstorms for a few weeks and nothing looks as great as natural light. 1 pound salmon fillet 4 cloves garlic, minced 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 teaspoons honey 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon dried basil black pepper to taste 1. In a small bowl add 4 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper and basil. Pour on salmon, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 2. In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat saute garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 2 minutes. Add salmon skin side down. Cook until half way cooked about 10 minutes, carefully flip and cook until thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Yields: 2 servings

Okra with Olive Oil

This has been a family favorite in my home for as long as I can remember. The one thing I have always adored about Lebanese cuisine is the way they make beautiful and delicious dishes using all things fresh. Lebanon is a beautiful country filled with greenery. Most dishes do not even use many spices, they do not have to as the freshness speaks for itself. 1/2 kg (1 pound) okra, cleaned and heads removed 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped 1/4 cup olive oil 1 onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, diced 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon all-spice 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar 1/2 cup water 1. In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat add oil. Add onion, garlic and fresh coriander. Cook until tender. 2. Add okra cooking for 5 minutes, stirring at times. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, all-spice, salt, pepper, ground coriander, vinegar and water, cover pan. 3. Cook until okra is soft about 10 minutes. Yields: 4 servings

{small batch} Chocolate Carrot Cake Muffins

A few weeks ago I bought one of the few Small Batch Baking cookbooks that is currently out. I have been wanting one for awhile because large amounts of baked good really do not go over well with my small family. We just can not eat a large amount of sweets in a few days. This book is absolutely perfect for those of us who love to bake and have small families. The first recipe I chose from the book was this delightful little recipe. I tweaked it a bit adding dates instead of raisins. I guess you could say this is not your everyday carrot cake and that's a good thing considering the chocolate added to it. 9 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons sugar 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1-1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped 3 tablespoons chopped dates 2 tablespoons beaten egg 2 tablespoons sunflower oil 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/3 cup grated carrots 3 tablespoons crushed pineapple (reserve 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice) 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts Cream Cheese Glaze: 1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted 2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a food processor separately pulse walnuts, chocolate and carrots. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl add flour, oil, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Mix with a spoon. 2. Add cinnamon, vanilla, oil, egg, dates, carrots, pineapple and walnuts. Mix well with a spoon until combined. 3. Line 3 large jumbo muffin cups or 6 regular cups. Making sure to fill empty cups with water so pan does not scorch. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl add cream cheese, powdered sugar and pineapple juice. Whisk together until glaze is smooth. 5. Allow muffins to cool then glaze. Yields: 3 jumbo or 6 regular muffins Adapted from Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers

Red Lentil, Chickpea, & Tomato Soup

I absolutely love cooking with red lentils not only are they beautiful vibrant orange but they are amazingly filling and delicious. You can do so many creations in your kitchen with lentils and that is one thing any cook can appreciate. I have found that a few spoons of butter is a must when make any lentil dish as it gives them a distinct flavor and do not forget about the yogurt which just mixes with the dish perfectly. 1 onion, diced 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 garlic cloves, minced 3 teaspoons paprika 2 teaspoons dried thyme 1 chicken bullion cube fresh ground black pepper to taste 1 cup red lentils, picked over for stones 1 can chickpeas, rinsed 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock 2 tomatoes, diced 4 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons butter yogurt, for serving 1. In a 4-quart saucepan on medium-high heat add olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook until tender. Add paprika, thyme, bullion, salt and pepper, cook for 1 minute. Meanwhile, clean lentils with water under not cloudy. 2. Add chicken broth, chickpeas, tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to a full boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add butter and allow to melt, mix well. Add a dollop of yogurt on top of soup per serving. Yields: 12 servings

Funnel Cakes

Growing up my grandparents and I would go to the flea market every Sunday. As soon as we would get there we would go straight to concession stand and get a fresh funnel cake and a cup of homemade lemonade. The same goes for every year when our local strawberry festival would come to town. Funnel cakes have always been a southern favorite that's for sure. The warm weather always reminds me of those special days and I thought 'hey I can make these at home'. So that is exactly what I did and how amazingly simple these little sweet treats are to make and well worth it. 1 cup sunflower oil for frying 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons milk 1 egg 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus more for topping 1/8 teaspoon salt powdered sugar for topping 1. In a 9-inch non-stick skillet, heat oil until hot. 2. In a large mixing bowl, add milk and egg, mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir into the egg mixture until smooth. 3. While covering the funnel hole with one hand, pour in 1/2 of batter. Start from the center in a swirling motion to make a 6 or 7 inch round. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and freshly ground cinnamon, serve warm. Yields: 2 9-inch cakes

Double Chocolate Brownies

The better the quality of chocolate you use, the better the results. Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for pan 6 ounces coarsely chopped good-quality semisweet chocolate 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup sugar 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside. 2. Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until butter and chocolate are melted. Let cool slightly. 3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside. 4. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated. 5. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle walnuts over top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Yields: 9 large or 16 small squares adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies

Al Za'tar

Za'tar is an herb similar to oregano which is popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This herb is believed to a remedy for stomach aches and indigestion. Za'tar is soaked in hot water to make the tea and can be served with or without sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of za'tar per every 3 cups of water. 1 tablespoon za'tar 3 cups boiling water 1. Add za'tar to boiling water and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Drain tea with a strainer and serve tea. Yields: 3 cups or 16 Arabic cups

Extra Crispy Fried Chicken

I saw a copycat recipe for KFC extra crispy chicken the other day and I knew I had to try it. As soon as I started coating the chicken I knew this was going to be a great recipe. The coating does its job magnificently leaving a lot of breading and the best part is that the skin has been removed. My entire family enjoyed this dish and we have decided that this will be our go to fried chicken recipe from now on. 1 whole frying chicken, cut up into 8 pieces 2-3 cups sunflower oil, for frying 1 egg, beaten 1 cup milk 2 cups all-purpose flour 2-1/2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons pepper 3/4 teaspoon msg 1 teaspoon paprika 1 tablespoon fresh garlic pureed 1/8 teaspoon baking powder 1. Remove all skin from chicken pieces. In a saute pan on medium-high heat add oil. Allow to get hot. 2. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt, pepper, msg, paprika, garlic and baking powder. Mix well. In a small bowl add beaten egg and milk, mix. 3. One piece at a time coat chicken in milk mixture, flour mixture, milk mixture and flour mixture once again. Lay on a large plate until all chicken has been breaded. 4. When oil is hot carefully place chicken into pan. Fry chicken on each side about 15 minutes or until golden. Place on a paper to towel to drain oil. Serve. Yields: 8 servings

Chocolate Rose Panna Cotta

Panna cotta an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. It is generally from the Northern Italian region of Piemonte, although it is eaten all over. Italian dessert have always been my personal favorite with their natural and in season ingredients. I have previously made this dessert featuring beautiful mango's. This time I decided to incorporate fresh grated baking chocolate with rose water to compliment. When working with essence such as rose water I have found smaller is better as to much really ruins the food and a small lingering taste is the key. 1-1/2 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon gelatin powder 1 cup heavy cream 5 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted 50 grams milk chocolate, chopped 1/2 tablespoon rose water sunflower oil, for greasing 1. In a small bowl add water and gelatin and allow to stand for 5 minutes or until gelatin absorbs water. Place cream, sugar and chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat and stir to melt chocolate, allowing the cream to just come to the boil. Add the gelatin and rosewater, stir for 1-2 min to dissolve it. 2. Strain the mixture and pour it into 2 x 1/2 cup capacity ramekins, that have been lightly greased with oil. 3. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight, until firm. Remove them from the fridge 5 minutes before serving. Yields: 2 servings