THIS MONTH’S FORECAST: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2

September 6th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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Fighting hunger has always been a cause I’ve been passionate about. That’s why I was very happy to learn that the National Watermelon Promotion Board and several other fruit and veggie producers had teamed up with Feeding America and Sony Pictures on a special promotion surrounding the new movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (in theaters September 27).

The animated comedy is about an inventor whose creation transforms food into hilarious foodlike animals. Among the “foodimals” are shrimpanzees, tacodiles, and the gigantic but adorable watermelophant.

The partnership between Sony Pictures and Feeding America is well-timed, too, because September is Hunger Action Month. As part of the campaign, donations of fresh produce will be made to food banks across America.

picAnd if supporting such a worthy cause isn’t enough, you can be rewarded, too! The National Watermelon Promotion Board has placed stickers, like the one on the right, on 100,000 watermelons nationwide. If you find one, visit the Cloudy 2 Win website to redeem the code on the back of the sticker. Prizes include printable coloring pages featuring characters from the movie, two free 8×10 prints from Shutterfly, and Hollywood Movie Money 3D Movie Upgrade Certificates.

Of course, you can also go see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which arrives in theaters on September 27. It’s animated and rated G, which means it’ll be tons of fun for kids, but it’s one of those animated movies that also packs plenty of laughs and subtle humor for grownups.

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OUR WATERMELON CARVING CONTEST WINNERS ARE …

September 4th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

Two weeks ago, I asked you to cast your votes for the “People’s Choice” award in this year’s Watermelon Carving Contest. Nearly 40 carvings faced off for your votes (more than 1,200 votes were cast), and the winner is …

Donna L.’s turtle carving! Below is Donna’s winning carving. When she submitted it, she said “My turtle actually looked so real that my dad almost got mad at me for getting another pet without permission!” As the People’s Choice winner she will receive a $500 gift card to go along with plenty of bragging rights.

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Below are photos of the winners in each category along with a mention of the second and third place winners. Thanks again to everyone who entered carvings in this year’s contest and thanks to everyone for voting!

BEST FRUIT BASKET CARVING

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FIRST PLACE: Laura P. (Vancouver, WA)
SECOND PLACE: Albert T. (Davis, CA)
THIRD PLACE: Ryan A. (Spokane, WA)

MOST ELEGANT CARVING

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FIRST PLACE: John M. (Lapeer, MI)
SECOND PLACE: Maria D. (Orlando, FL)
THIRD PLACE: Chadwick I. (Springfield, MO)

FUNNIEST CARVING

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FIRST PLACE: Ryan A. (Spokane, WA)
SECOND PLACE: Laura P. (Vancouver, WA)
THIRD PLACE: Jeanne F. (Manhattan Beach, CA)

BEST WATERMELOPHANT CARVING

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FIRST PLACE: Ryan A. (Spokane, WA)
SECOND PLACE: Sheryl W. (Bella Vista, AR)
THIRD PLACE: Donna L. (Merced, CA)

BEST ANIMAL CARVING

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FIRST PLACE: Laura P. (Vancouver, WA)
SECOND PLACE: Sheryl W. (Bella Vista, AR)
THIRD PLACE: Heather H. (Cedar Rapids, IA)

 

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SEPTEMBER PRIZE: THE WATERMELON WATCH

September 3rd, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picBefore I became a parent, I was always on time. I attribute my punctuality to my experience in the Navy, where the rule was “if you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.”

Now that I’m the father of a three-year-old, my track record for early arrivals has been less than perfect. Now, seemingly simple tasks, like getting out the door for a 6 p.m. dinner reservation, have been turned into hour-long affairs involving lots of running around the house in search of teddy bears, matching shoes and sippy cups. And even when we plan ahead and try really, really hard to leave on time, we still end up being five or 10 minutes late for whatever it is we’re headed to.

This month’s prize – the watermelon watch – might help me keep a timelier schedule, but I seriously doubt it. The tasty timepiece is handcrafted by Etsy seller Objectify Homewear. It’s water-resistant, which means it would be great for a busy parent like me who has to deal with spilled juice and bath time splashings on a regular basis.

I’ll choose one comment at random from all the comments left on the blog this month to receive this eye-catching wrist wear. The watch shown above has a white band, but you can choose from a variety of band colors, including black, green, blue, red, pink, and purple. If you won the watch, which color would you choose?

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: THEY’RE TAKING OVER!

August 30th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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My watermelon seedlings have been outside for three months now, and it’s safe to assume that I can no longer call them “seedlings.” The plants have become sprawling, full-fledged vines that have begun to take over the corner of my yard where I planted them.

To be honest, I’m a little nervous. I planted the seedlings in a tiny plot of land – admittedly too small (about six feet long and three feet wide) – and they’re already trying to grow outside the plot stretching further with each passing week. When they reach outside the garden, I have to gently steer them back into the watermelon patch in order to avoid running them over with the lawn mower.

I’m also shocked by how fast the watermelon are growing. The first tiny watermelon appeared on the vines about five weeks ago (I noticed them when they were the size of a nickel) and they’re already as big as a baseball. At this rate, they might be the size of a baby elephant by the end of the growing season. I kid, of course. I’m actually a little concerned about their still relatively small size, but they’re not supposed to be very large even when full-grown, so we’ll see.

The Sugar Baby variety that I planted will reportedly mature and be ready for harvest 80 days after the first tiny watermelon appeared. That means I should have a fully grown watermelon (roughly the size of a volleyball) sometime in early October. Yup, early October. Just in time to be carved into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

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HOW TO CARVE: A WATERMELON GRILL!

August 27th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

I love to grill. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, even watermelon and veggies. If it can be cooked over an open flame, chances are I’ve grilled it. I’m a humble griller, too. Even though I love to fire up the barbeque on a regular basis, I’m not one of those guys with a fancy $1,000 grill with four side burners and a kitchen sink. Nope, my little tailgating grill suits me just fine.

This month’s carving – the watermelon grill – combines my love of grilling with my love of watermelon. Here are step-by-step instructions for creating the “grill-melon” I assembled.

MATERIALS

One small, round watermelon
12-15 shish kebab skewers
three stalks of celery (4-6 inches long)
One grill lid handle
Blackberries (for briquettes) and assorted fruit (if creating shisk kebabs for the finished grill)

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Start your watermelon grill with one very round watermelon. The rounder, the better. In addition to being very round, your watermelon should also be very clean before you cut into it. To do this, give it a rinse in the sink or, if you want to conserve water, take it into the shower with you.

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Cut off roughly 40 percent of the top of the watermelon. This slightly smaller half will become the top of your grill. The bottom half will become – you guessed it! – the bottom of your grill. Next, hollow out both halves, setting aside the watermelon flesh. (NOTE: These round “baby” watermelons have very thin rinds, so be careful not to scrape too deeply when hollowing it out.)

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Place six or seven skewers through the top portion of the bottom half of your watermelon (about an inch apart) to create the “grilling surface” part of the grill-melon. Push the skewers through the watermelon so that the pointy ends are flush with the fruit’s outer surface. Use a pair of wire cutter pliers to snip off the ends of the skewers that are sticking out of the watermelon half’s other side.

Next, install a handle on the top part of the watermelon (the grill lid). Where will you find a handle? You might find one at a hardware store. You might also decide to just remove the handle from your real grill and reinstall it later. I did neither of these things – my grill was handleless – but if you’re carving your grill to wow some guests, you won’t want to skip this step.

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Your grill also needs three legs. That’s where the celery stalks come in. Chose three thick and sturdy stalks, each about six inches long, and affix them to the underside of your grill. If you use skewers, make sure the skewers are inserted an inch or two into the celery stalks to give them extra stability.

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All that’s left to do now is place your lid askew on the top of the grill (using skewers like you see in the photo above), throw some blackberries in the bottom portion to serve as briquettes, and assemble your fruit on the grill. You can use skewers of assorted fruit to create fruit kebabs or carve tiny burgers out of watermelon flesh like I did. And there you have it – one watermelon grill that will make a nice centerpiece for your next summer barbeque!

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RECIPE: WATERMELON FETA SALAD

August 23rd, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

Some foods are just meant for each other. Peanut butter and jelly, bacon and cheeseburgers, and ice cream and chocolate fudge are just a few culinary matches made in heaven. Watermelon has a delicious partner, too, and it’s one that many people probably haven’t tried – paired with watermelon, that is.

This partner is feta cheese.

When you think about it, the relationship makes perfect sense. Watermelon is crisp and sweet. Feta cheese is soft and salty. Together, the two foods create a balance of tastes and textures that help them bring out the best in each other.

If you don’t believe me, whip up this recipe for Watermelon Feta Salad and taste that relationship for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

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WATERMELON FETA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

3 cups of 1- to 2-inch watermelon chunks
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pitted black olives
Dash of lime juice
Black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Mix all the ingredients together. Enjoy.

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WHO WANTS A SLICE OF WATERMELON CAKE?

August 21st, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

It arrived in my email inbox like some sort of unexpected prize. The subject line: “Watermelon cake.” The body of the email: Just a simple, unassuming link. The sender: my wife.

She came across the link on her daily visit to Pinterest and, of course, she knows I love watermelon. When I clicked on the link, I was expecting to see a beautifully decorated cake made to look like a watermelon. But what really popped up on the other side of that line of blue text was something much more fascinating. It was an actual piece of watermelon flesh, carved into a round shape and frosted with icing!

I knew immediately that I had to make it. Not next month, not next week. I had to make my very own watermelon cake NOW. (I actually made it two days later, but that’s the equivalent of “now” when you’re an overworked parent.)

At the top of this entry is a slice of my creation. Here’s how it came together:

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Start with a watermelon, the size of which is determined by the size of the cake you’re hoping to create. Before cutting your watermelon, wash it with warm, soapy water then rinse well. A thorough cleaning will get rid of any dirt on the rind, which is good because nobody wants a dirty watermelon cake.

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Next, cut off the ends of the watermelon, leaving only the center portion. This center portion, when stood on end, should be about 4-6 inches tall.

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Trim the rind away from the sides of your watermelon section, leaving only a single, cylindrical piece of watermelon. It’s starting to look like a cake already!

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Now all that’s left to do is apply the icing. But which icing should you use? Since watermelon is naturally sweet, I opted for a lighter whipped frosting that wouldn’t overpower the taste of the watermelon. After frosting the cake, feel free to decorate it with whatever cake decorations you’d like. I used just a thin ring of green frosting around the top.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of taste, but the watermelon cake was actually pretty good! The only catch to this creation is that watermelon’s natural moisture means the icing might slide off after a little while. For this reason, you should ice the watermelon cake very shortly before serving it, or maybe consider icing only the top of it.

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RYAN SEACREST AND THE WATERMELON QUEEN DISCUSS BOLL WEEVILS, HER ROYAL JOURNEY AND SEEDLESS WATERMELON

August 20th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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Back in May I interviewed Amber Nolin, the 2013 National Watermelon Queen. As the queen of all watermelon, Amber has a very busy schedule. She travels the nation, making appearances at state fairs, watermelon festivals, conventions and other special events, all while juggling her personal obligations as a full-time student at the University of Florida.

Amber’s duties also include performing media interviews whenever a reporter needs a few answers about watermelon. For example, last month, a producer from a Japanese TV show asked if Amber was available for an impromptu interview during a taping of the show in Florida. Unfortunately, Amber couldn’t do the interview because she was on her way to Richmond, VA for the town’s 30th annual watermelon festival, but that’s just one example of how unpredictable her daily life can be.

Not long after that, she was contacted by another producer via Amber’s “Ask the Experts” link here on the blog. Turns out Ryan Seacrest – that’s right, Mr. American Idol himself – was talking about watermelon on his nationally-syndicated radio show and he had a few burning questions about the fruit that only a National Watermelon Queen could answer. (Specifically, he was curious about how seedless watermelon are created and how, if they’re seedless, they’re able to reproduce.)

The producer for Mr. Seacrest’s show needed Amber to call in for the phone interview ASAP, which she was more than happy to do. Feel free to listen to the three-minute interview below, which features a photo of a very excited Amber during her interview. She and Ryan talked about her hometown (“Home of the Boll Weevils”), the process for becoming a National Watermelon Queen, and the in’s and out’s of seedless watermelon.

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2013 WATERMELON CARVING CONTEST: VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE CARVING!

August 19th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2The 2013 Watermelon Carving Contest is over and the first, second and third place winners in each of our five categories have been decided. To recap, the categories are as follows:

Most Elegant Carving
Best Fruit Basket Carving
Funniest Carving
Best Animal Carving
Best Watermelophant

I had the pleasure of seeing all of the entries and was even asked to weigh in with my thoughts on which ones should be awarded prizes. (My recommendation to award them all with a prize was applauded, but ultimately deemed unrealistic.)

The final decision on all first, second and third place winners was made by the folks at the National Watermelon Promotion Board and a panel of experts. Their task wasn’t easy – after all, there were so many great entries – but they got it done and I agree 100 percent with their choices.

Here’s the best part: Now you – the watermelon fans of the world – have the opportunity to play judge by voting for your favorite among ALL of the carvings (not just the category winners), with the top vote-getter taking home the coveted “People’s Choice” award. At stake are lots of bragging rights, but also a lot of money, because the carving with the most votes will win a $500 grand prize!

Stop by the 2013 Watermelon Carving Contest voting page to check out the People’s Choice award contenders and cast your vote before August 30. Which one will win? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on which one YOU think should win!

We’ll announce the winners in each category along with the People’s Choice winner when the voting is complete. Good luck to all of the competitors, and may the best carving win!

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RECIPE: CHUNKY WATERMELON LEMONADE

August 15th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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Before I bought my first house after a decade of renting, I used to think it would be fun to mow the lawn every week. That’s funny, because I hated mowing the lawn when I was in high school, so I’m not really sure why I expected to enjoy it now that I’m in my 30s.

Turns out, the 16-year-old me had the right impression all along. Mowing the lawn isn’t that much fun, especially when it’s 90 degrees outside and there are 20 other things I’d much rather be doing. On days like that, having a good beverage on hand is critical. Plenty of water and/or beer usually does the trick, but Chunky Watermelon Lemonade would be even better.

I discovered this recipe on the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s website and decided to put it to the test the next time I fired up the mower. The result? Mowing the lawn still wasn’t fun, but my frequent breaks to cool off definitely were!

CHUNKY WATERMELON LEMONADE

 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups water
1/3 cup raw sugar (or to taste)
2 cups seedless watermelon puree
1 fresh lemon, sliced thinly
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped seedless watermelon flesh (optional to create the drink’s “chunky” texture)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a half-gallon pitcher with lid, mix 1 cup of the water with the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir in the rest of the water, watermelon puree, sliced lemon, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir to mix well and chill thoroughly. To add the “chunky” element to this recipe, stir in 2 cups of chopped watermelon prior to serving.

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