Watermelon Salad

Breathe it in . . . those last days of summer! Pretty soon backyard barbeques, picnics at the park, and lazing around the pool will be replaced with the organized chaos of packing lunches, checking homework, and laying out school clothes. It also means planning that weekly menu of grab and go breakfasts and quick and easy dinners. As a working mom, I do my best to plan my menus and recipes around the Sunday grocery sales papers. This way I know whatever I decide to make for dinner is on sale and more than likely in season-which is why it’s on sale in the first place. Although it’s the end of summer break, it’s not the end of summer’s growing season. We still have peaches, tomatoes, melons, greens and acres of other wonderful produce growing fresh here in Georgia.

So if you’re looking to hold on to those dog days of summer a little while longer, try this cool refreshing Watermelon Salad. This recipe celebrates summer with juicy sweet watermelon, crisp arugula, and a quick and easy vinaigrette.

Watermelon Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Yields 6 servings

Watermelon Salad

Photo courtesy of Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
6 cups seeded watermelon cubes, about 1- inch in size
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
6 cups arugula greens

Vinaigrette:
3 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons grained Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste ( I like Shamrock Apiaries Honey from Macon, GA)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Georgia Olive Farm’s extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Vinaigrette:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, mustard, honey and vinegar.
  2. Whisk in the oil by slowly pouring it into the bowl in a steady stream. The vinaigrette should be thick. If oil has settled on the top-continue to whisk until well combined.
  3. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste and additional honey if too tart. Set aside

Salad:

  1. In a small dry sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are a golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve for later.
  2. In a large bowl, toss half of the sesame seeds, the watermelon, parsley and scallions with the vinaigrette.
  3. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and spoon the watermelon salad on top, pouring any remaining vinaigrette over the salad.
  4. Sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Adapted from Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Georgia Pecan Oil

TRY GEORGIA PECAN OIL FOR THE PERFECT COOKING EXPERIENCE

Georgia Pecan Oil

Pecan oil and more from Oliver Farm

Imagine the aroma of fresh Georgia vegetables like sweet corn, crunchy peppers and spicy onions, being sautéed in a hot pan drizzled with oil. I know you’re thinking, ‘she must be talking about olive oil.’ Well guess again. I’m talking about Georgia pecan oil. It’s full of antioxidants like vitamin E and flavonoids, it’s high in protein, but also in oleic acid-which is the same type of healthy fat found in olive oil, and as an added bonus is bursting with flavor.

When placed side by side with olive oil, Georgia pecan oil comes out the clear winner. It contains 9.5% saturated fat, which is less than in olive oil, is rich in monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Although pecan oil is nothing new in the word of healthy oils, it is new to most cooks. Pecan oil’s mild nutty flavor is neutral  enough to take on the flavor of whatever seasoning is being used with it, has a high smoking point of 470*F, and is versatile enough to use for frying, baking, and as the base for salad dressings, marinades, and infused oils. Making this Georgia grown oil the perfect every day oil to cook with.

To give you a little peek into how versatile Georgia pecan oil actually is, I’m including a Southern spin on hummus. Using black eyed peas instead of chick peas, cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, and-you guessed it-pecan oil instead of olive oil, this Black Eyed Pea Hummus will make you a believer:

Black Eyed Pea Hummus
Original recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Yields: 5 cups

Ingredients:
2-14.5 ounce cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1-14.5 ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pecan oil, I like Oliver Farm Pecan Oil
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Garnish:
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
Pecan oil

Directions:
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor with the blade attachment.
Pulse for 2-3 minutes or longer for a smoother hummus.
Adjust taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar, as needed.
Garnish with chopped pecans, scallions, and a drizzle of pecan oil.
Enjoy with pita chips, crackers, or fresh cut veggies!

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

Tour #GeorgiaEats with Georgia Crafted

Have a love of Georgia products, made with locally-sourced Georgia ingredients? Well, this might not come as much of a surprise, but so do we! That’s why Explore Georgia has partnered with Georgia Crafted on their August subscription box full of #GeorgiaEats goodies!

Georgia Crafted BoxGeorgia Crafted shares their obsession with Georgia artisan creations – ranging from bath and body products to candles that share the scents of the state – through subscription and gift boxes, which they mail right to Georgia lovers’ doors! Each month brings a new box with a new theme and new Georgia surprises.

For example, the November 2014 subscription box focused on the tastes of fall. Georgia Crafted brought Georgia-lovers carefully selected  tastes of the North Georgia Mountains to add a little fall flavor to their day. The box’s surprises included products sourced from R & A Orchards, Malvi Marshmallow Confections, K-Teas, Cartwright’s Popcorn and other local North Georgia makers. Their boxes celebrate everything from The Masters and South Georgia to the Southern Gentleman, Southern Belle and Southern Hospitality.

It’s that love of Georgia and the dedication to showcase all the state has to offer that excited us about partnering with Georgia Crafted for the #GeorgiaEats box! And we can barely wait until they arrive at your door this August, because we are working together to immerse you in Georgia’s culinary scene. Each box will come with 5 amazing Georgia food products highlighting local culinary treasures from every corner of the Peach State. So head on over to Georgia Crafted’s website and subscribe and we’ll take you on a tour of #GeorgiaEats!

Oh! And don’t forget to post a picture of your box with the hashtag #GeorgiaEats for the chance to be featured on Explore Georgia’s Instagram feed!

Tour #GeorgiaEats

Top Five Family Attractions in Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Make memories with these unique Blue Ridge attractions, catering to multi-generational fun.

1. Mercier Orchards – A family-owned and -operated primarily apple orchard, the must-see attraction will reward senses with bushels of apples, strawberries and other produce, fresh pressed cider, warm fried pies – but, most importantly, memories. Started back in 1943 by Bill & Adele Mercier, Mercier Orchards is now celebrating more than 70 years of fruitful harvests. Beyond fruit, the onsite store serves up a variety of farm toys, pet items, kitchen paraphernalia, home decor and a meat and cheese shop. Visit the tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Gather the family for a u-pick experience and fill baskets with fresh-from-the-tree apples or other seasonal produce.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

It’s all about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

2. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway – Chugga-chug down the 13-miles of rails comprising the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. The 45-minute (each way) excursion is a generation-bonding adventure that starts at the historic 1905 depot in Downtown. Vintage climate controlled rail cars or open air rail cars host more than 70,000 passengers each year for a ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River, with a stop in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee. Copperhill/McCaysville is one town with two names because it is split by the GA/TN state line, where visitors have a two hour layover (one & half layover on Sunday); plenty of time to eat lunch, shop for unique crafts and antiques, snack on ice cream, or walk around.

3. Swan Drive-in – Catch a movie the old-fashioned way at one of Georgia’s four remaining drive-in theaters. Established in 1955, the Swan Drive-in also features a full concession stand, including funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

4. The Lilly Pad – Mine for gems, go fishing, take a hike or play a round of mini-golf, all at Blue Ridge’s destination for family fun. Pets are welcome, too.

5. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

Top Five Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge

Get to know the best of Blue Ridge, 90 minutes north of Atlanta, with this series of posts featuring top five picks for hiking, waterfall watching and family fun.

Chase waterfalls with the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce’s recommendations for easy access to some of nature’s finest accomplishments.

1. Fall Branch Falls – The upper portion of Fall Branch Falls is a series of cascades that lead to a single major drop of some 30 feet, with the water plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. These falls, along the Benton MacKaye Trail, west of Aska Road, are a shorter, although a bit harder walk than Long Creek Falls.

2. Long Creek Falls – The most popular of the waterfalls in Fannin County is Long Creek Falls, which can be seen by hiking down a short side trail from the combined Appalachian/Benton MacKaye Trail. These falls total about 50 feet in two distinct drops. A leisurely 30 minute hike to the falls is uphill on the way in, downhill on the way out.

Benton MacKaye Trail

Discover the beauty of Blue Ridge’s Long Creek Falls. (Photo Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce)

3. Sea Creek Falls – Located in the Cooper Creek Scenic Area, Sea Creek Falls are an easy walk of less than .1 mile. The first, or upper falls are a series of steep cascades ending in a brief drop. The second falls are also a series of steep cascades. When the water flow is heavy either in late winter or spring, or after a summer rain, these are a remarkable sight.

4. Amicalola Falls – About 21 miles from Ellijay on Hwy 52 is a spectacular 729-foot falls, the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Also, a strenuous 8.5-mile approach trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the start of the famous Appalachian Trail.

5. Helton Creek Falls – There are two falls on Helton Creek near Blairsville. A short trail descends to the first waterfall then climbs to the second larger waterfall. Beware – the rocks are slippery. From Blue Ridge, take Hwy 515 north to Blairsville. In Blairsville, take US 19/129 south about 11 miles. Turn left onto Helton Creek Road, the first road past the entrance to Vogel State Park. Go 2.2 miles; the road turns to gravel. There will be a small parking lot on the right in a curve, and the trail is marked.

Insider tip:
Visit the Self-guided Tours page on www.BlueRidgeMountains.com for complete descriptions and driving directions.

If you go:
From lake-view with a mountain vista and room for 20 to cabins hidden away and built only for two (hot tub included!) find links to cabin rental companies at www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.