WELCOME SPRING! (AND WORLD WATER DAY)

March 21st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to the start of spring. Here we are, about 24 hours into the new season, and I’ve already put winter FAR behind me.

I can appreciate the beauty of a fresh snowfall, but I’m just not a winter person. Plain and simple. I don’t like cold weather and, to add to that disdain, I don’t like wearing jackets (they always seem to be a burden when I reach my destination).

To celebrate the arrival of warm weather (and summer 90 days later!), I whipped up a watermelon and feta salad yesterday and inventoried my stockpile of spring and summer T-shirts.

I should also take a moment to remind everyone that tomorrow is World Water Day. The day is held each year on March 22 to raise awareness about the importance of freshwater globally and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s World Water Day focuses on the connection between water and energy.

Watermelon, of course, is 92 percent water. Although the energy at the heart of this year’s World Water Day is on a much larger level, watermelon, like almost any food, can give you energy on a personal level. Because it’s so high in water content, watermelon is one of the few foods that allows you to “eat your water.”

With that in mind, feel free to celebrate the arrival of spring AND World Water Day with a wedge of watermelon. Or, if you’re feeling particularly celebratory, maybe even some Watermelon Pad Thai.

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: ON YOUR MARK, GET SET …

March 20th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picBy now, you’re all well aware that my New Year’s resolution is to compete in a watermelon-eating contest. In last month’s update, I reviewed a few potential contests in my area and decided that the Bel Air 4th of July Festival in Bel Air, Maryland would be the event at which I would restart my once semi-successful competitive eating career.

That gives me roughly 100 days to get back into “eating shape” and train for the big showdown. Before I start training, however, I need to do a little research to figure out what type of eating contest will be hosted in Bel Air on that warm summer day. When it comes to competitive eating events, there are two types:

1. SPEED – Competitors are given a predetermined number of food items (one dozen chicken wings, six cheeseburgers, half a watermelon) and the first person to finish all of his or her items is the winner. These contests are usually fast and can be over in as little as 30 seconds.

2. QUANTITY – Competitors are given a time limit (usually 8-12 minutes), and the person who eats the largest quantity of the contest food is the winner. These contests are grueling affairs, with many eaters pushing themselves to the limit during the final few minutes. It’s not pretty.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach (which isn’t all that big), so speed contests definitely suit me better. From what I can tell, the Bel Air contest is a speed event. I don’t know for sure, but when you have events – like the Bel Air contest –  with hundreds of competitors, giving each person a predetermined amount of food is usually the easiest and most cost-effective contest method.

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Although I haven’t been able to dig up many details about the Bel Air contest (I emailed the contest organizers and am awaiting their response), I was able to uncover the photos above, which were taken during the 2011 event. Curiously, it shows a hoard of competitors crouched down in the grass devouring a nice-sized chunk of melon. Based on those images, the contest appears to be a speed contest, which bodes well for me.

Another good sign is a news article about the 2011 event that notes that the contest was judged by a local Girl Scout troop. I buy a lot of Girl Scout cookies (our local troop calls me “Mr. Ten Boxes of Tagalongs”), so I may have a bit of an advantage with those tough judges.

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HOW TO AVOID GETTING PINCHED ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

March 17th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picRemember when you were a kid and you had to wear green to school on St. Patrick’s Day to avoid being pinched? Surely, I’m not the only one who observed this painful tradition.

A quick Google search confirms that pinching those who don’t wear green on March 17 is a common practice. According to one website, “it’s an American tradition (dating back to) the 1700s. (It was thought that) if you wore green, it made you invisible to the Leprechauns, which was good because they would pinch anyone they could see. So the pinching is to warn and remind you about the Leprechauns.”

Not surprisingly, now that I’m adult, I don’t give a hoot about wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. The main reasons for that are that I don’t have many articles of green clothing, and adults usually don’t run around pinching each other.

So how CAN you observe this great Irish holiday as an adult? Many folks like to grab a few green beers during happy hour. Others might prepare some corned beef and cabbage at home.

You might also consider adding watermelon to your green-holiday menu. Sure, it’s not green on the inside, but it’s very green on the outside. And as long as you’re eating something that has green on it, maybe the leprechauns (and your co-workers) won’t pinch you.

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RECIPE: THE WATERMELON ZAPPER

March 14th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picMy wife recently added a fancy, high-powered blender to our kitchen arsenal, which means we’ll be making all sorts of blended things in the near future. One of those things is a drink known as the Watermelon Zapper.

The Zapper is one of the newer recipes on the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s website. To be honest, the funny name of the recipe was the only reason it caught my eye. (Would the drink zap me? How would it zap me? Do I want to be zapped? More importantly, will it hurt?)

You’ll be happy to know that no actual zapping occurs while making or drinking this beverage. I was actually a little disappointed by that, but oh well. The four-ingredient treat benefits from the use of a blender because all of the phytonutrients and antioxidants are retained (when using a juicer, most of those goodies are thrown away).

WATERMELON ZAPPER

INGREDIENTS

2 cups watermelon cubes
1/3 large lemon, peeled
1 1 /2 tablespoons peeled, fresh ginger
2 medium carrots (cut into rounds for the Vitamix only)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a blender, place watermelon first,then the remaining ingredients. Turn blender on low until watermelon is liquefied, then gradually increase speed. Blend for two minutes.

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SECOND SLICE: ASK THE EXPERTS – THE YELLOW-BELLIED WATERMELON

March 11th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

The following was posted here on the What About Watermelon? blog back in 2009. With watermelon picking season just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to give this lesson another look.

MARCY P. OF WEST ISLIP, NY ASKS: What’s the significance of the yellow spot on the outside of the watermelon? I’ve heard that the spot is a good thing, and I’ve heard that it’s a bad thing. What’s the truth?

 

picIf it’s the truth you seek, Marcy, you’ve come to the right place. The creamy, yellow, flat spot on the “belly” of the watermelon is where the watermelon lay on the ground during the growing process, and it’s definitely a good thing. In fact, its “yellowness” is a telltale sign that the watermelon is ready to be harvested.

Don’t worry too much about the outside of your watermelon. A big reason watermelon is one of the cleanest fruits in the produce aisle is because of its thick rind, which is capable of taking a lot of abuse while protecting the juicy flesh inside. Your watermelon may have small nicks and scratches. It might even be dirty. As long as the nicks and scratches aren’t deep enough to expose the flesh, you’ll be just fine. I should note, however, that it’s still important to give your watermelon (and all your fruits and vegetables!) a thorough washing before you cut or eat them.

At the end of the day, remember that watermelons are a lot like people. It’s not what’s on the outside – but what’s on the inside – that matters most.

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THE FLOWERS ARE BLOOMING AT THE EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER AND GARDEN FESTIVAL!

March 6th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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Spring is just around the corner, which means that the National Watermelon Promotion Board team members will be racking up the frequent flier miles as they travel to various watermelon-related events throughout the nation. One of the first events on the 2014 calendar is actually in their backyard (Orlando), so they’ll probably just hop in the watermelon mobile and drive that one.

The event is the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and it’s held at Disney’s Epcot theme park. It’s not the first Epcot event the watermelon team has attended. You may remember their adventures at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival last year.

The Flower and Garden Festival runs from March 5 through May 18 and is designed to bring the magic of Disney to life through flowers. The displays includes 30 million blooms, 240 floating flower planters, 700 gardens, 100 Disney character topiaries and 30 flower towers. (I’m not sure what a “flower tower” is, but it sounds pretty impressive.)

It takes 400 Walt Disney World horticulturalists (that’s “flower experts” to you and me … or at least me), almost a full year to prepare for the 75-day attraction.

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There will also be plenty of food on hand, including 11 food kiosks. That’s where the National Watermelon Promotion Board team comes in. The team’s watermelon salad (that’s it above) was a popular culinary attraction at last year’s Food and Wine Festival, and it will return for the Flower and Garden Festival. They’ll also offer a tasty watermelon-passion fruit non-alcoholic drink.

If you’re in the area this spring, or if you’re planning a vacation and don’t know where to go, you should definitely consider a visit to Epcot! If you do attend, however, try to avoid picking any of the flowers. Something tells me that sort of behavior is frowned upon.

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MARCH PRIZE: WATERMELON CANISTER SET

March 4th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

You know, it’s not easy choosing a prize to give away here on the blog each month. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There are plenty of watermelon-related gifts to choose from; it’s just that I’m a little picky when it comes to finding the “perfect” one.

I’m the same way with birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, anniversary gifts … you name it. I shouldn’t be – it’s the thought that counts, right? – but I always end up spending way too much time agonizing over my options and getting stressed out about something that, frankly, shouldn’t be that stressful.

With that in mind, I’ve begun combing through watermelon gifts that I’ve given away in the past to see which prizes deserve a return to the spotlight. This month’s prize was originally posted back in 2009, but it’s one of the cooler things we’ve featured on the blog, so I’ve decided to give it another look.

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It’s a set of three ceramic watermelon canisters (above). The canisters stand about eight inches tall and are available on Amazon.com. The site even mentions that they’re great for storing “cookies, crackers, noodles, flour, sugar, candy… whatever you want!”

If the canisters were mine, I’d probably fill them with breakfast cereal (I’m an addict) and coffee (also an addict). If you win the canisters, what would you fill them with?

Leave a comment below with your answer. I’ll choose one comment at random from all the comments left on the blog this month to win the canisters. Good luck!

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HOW TO CARVE: A WATERMELON GOLF BALL (SORT OF)

February 28th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

I like to golf. Or, I should say, I used to golf. After many years of hitting the links once or twice a month, I didn’t go at all last year. Not really sure why; it just sort of worked out that way. This month’s watermelon carving, a watermelon golf ball, is a reminder of those lazy spring and summer afternoons on the golf course. It’s also my first carving since last August’s watermelon grill. Grilling and golf? Man, I can’t wait for spring to start!

MATERIALS

One very round watermelon (small or medium-sized)
Kitchen knife & paring knife
Potato/produce peeler
Cutting board
Melon baller

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Just like in golf, it helps if you start with the clean ball. Or, in this case, a clean watermelon. Give it a rinse, tee it up, and then let the carving begin!

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First, cut off the bottom portion of your watermelon golf ball. Not too much, though. Cut off just enough to give the ball (which will eventually be used to hold fruit) a flat, stable base. Next, use your potato peeler to peel off the green outer skin of the watermelon, revealing the white golf ball hiding underneath.

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Now it’s time to break out the melon baller to create the dimples in your watermelon golf ball. If you have one of those handy two-sized melon ballers and you’re using a mini watermelon, use the small ball side. If you have a slightly larger watermelon, use the larger ball side.

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After your dimples are carved, it’s time to fill it with watermelon chunks, or whatever else you’d like to add to it. I decided not to fill my watermelon, mainly because, when I carved the dimples, the dimples went all the way into the red flesh (mainly because the mini watermelons have thin rinds).

The end result? It’s clearly not my best carving, and it’s proof that even the carvings that sound “easy” can sometimes be challenging. The best part of this carving — like many carvings — was cutting it up and eating it!

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RECIPE: WATERMELON AND SPICY MAYAN DARK CHOCOLATE FONDUE

February 26th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picRemember fondue? It’s been around for awhile – originating in Switzerland, France, and Italy in the 19th century – but it didn’t arrive in the United States until the 1960s. The communal dish involves a pot, usually filled with melted cheese, but sometimes melted chocolate, into which people dip pieces of bread or fruit using long fondue forks.

It’s a lot of fun, which is why I bought a fondue pot back in 1997. I used it a few times – once for chocolate and once or twice for cheese – and it’s been tucked away in our pantry since 1998. Today’s recipe, which dips watermelon cubes in spicy Mayan dark chocolate, might cause me to dust off the old fondue set for the first time since the last millennium.

If you decide to do the same, here are a few fun fondue facts to make your dipping experience even better:

1. Ladies, if you drop your food in the fondue pot, tradition dictates that you must kiss your neighbors.

2. Gentlemen, if you do the same, you must buy a round of drinks. Is that better than kissing your neighbors? I guess that depends upon who’s sitting next to you.

3. Fondue arrived in the U.S. in the 1960s and became a full-fledged fad after a traveler brought a fondue set back from Switzerland after winning it during a ski trip. (It was the Americans who invented chocolate fondue. Before then, it was always cheese.)

4. Like any party dip, double-dipping is discouraged. The dipping fork should also not be eaten from. Instead, it should be used to transport the dipped morsel from the fondue pot to your plate.

Watermelon and Spicy Mayan Dark Chocolate Fondue

INGREDIENTS

4 cups watermelon cut into 1″ cubes
1 /2 cup fat-free half-and-half + extra reserve
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 /2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 /2 teaspoon coriander
8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa powder)

INSTRUCTIONS

Wrap watermelon cubes in paper towels to soak up excess fluid. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring half-and-half and spices to almost a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Let chocolate melt, then continue to stir until thoroughly blended and creamy. Adjust flavors. Transfer the fondue to a fondue pot and heat according to directions. (If fondue becomes too thick, stir in extra reserve half-and-half, 1 tablespoon at a time, to desired consistency.)

Place watermelon cubes on a platter with fondue forks or skewers.

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ANIMAL EATING A WATERMELON: A HUNGRY CAT

February 21st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

A couple years ago, I featured a fluffy feline named Cooper who loved watermelon. Turns out, Cooper isn’t the only cat with good taste in snacks. The cat below starts his meal where most of us would – at the top of the watermelon wedge – but soon turns his attention to the rind.

Like we’ve discussed before, that’s actually a smart move, because the watermelon’s rind contains a higher concentration of nutrients like fiber, potassium and citrulline than the red fleshy part of the watermelon. The main reason for this perk is because the rind has less water and is more dense. And yes, it’s not as sweet, but if you’re a hungry, orange cat, that’s not a big deal.

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