Vietnamese Cucumber and Melon Salad with Peanuts

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When I got home from my retreat last week, the fridge was bare. The kids and I had to go out for breakfast on Sunday morning for lack of fruit, bread, milk, or eggs. Amazing! Monday I could hardly close the fridge!

Once the grocery shopping is done, I often spend a good 2 hours in the kitchen--cleaning the fridge, consolidating boxes of crackers, freezing overly ripe bananas for smoothies, and washing veggies for the week. If I don't make time for this task (which, crazily, I actually LIKE), I am sure to be frustrated and impulse-eating by Wednesday. A giant bunch of unwashed kale taking up a whole shelf in the fridge isn't nearly as likely to be sauteed with eggs in the morning as a neat like bag of washed and chopped kale. I overestimate myself if I think otherwise.

This week, I cut up a cantaloupe and a pineapple. I washed two big bunches of cilantro and a head of lettuce, roasted a head of cauliflower, made a big batch of brown rice, and rescued half a head of radicchio that looked past its prime but actually just needed a little trimming.

I was famished by the time I was done. And of course, inspired by handling all those beautiful fruits and veggies. This salad is what I made for lunch. My goodness. It's not summer here in the Northwest, but this salad tricked me. Juicy, sweet, spicy, sour, crunchy. A delicious little number to bring to a potluck or BBQ and infinitely more fascinating that the other salads that might be sitting on the table. (I'm always looking for a chance to be popular. At least I admit it.)

Vietnamese Cucumber and Melon Salad with Peanuts
Gently combine about 1 c. each of thickly sliced cucumber, pineapple, and cantaloupe in a medium bowl. Add a good portion of cilantro (I used stems and all), mint leaves, celery leaves, thinly sliced red onion, and fresh chile if you wish. Add 1 Tb. sugar, a good jigger of fish sauce, salt, juice from half a lime, and about 1 Tb. of sesame oil. Combine gently with your hands, and scatter chopped salted peanuts over the top. Serves 1 famished Household Coordinator or 2 more petite eaters. Eyeball it for a crowd. 

Peanut Butter Coconut Bars

peanut butter bars
For a few years now, these have been my go-to cookies. (Alright. One of them.) You can almost make them in your sleep. In fact, I've often been half-asleep, standing at the mixer at 11:00 pm, making cookies for a potluck I forgot about or a school bake sale I foolishly agreed to contribute to. Peanut butter (the bad, hydrogenated oil kind), coconut, butter, maybe some chocolate chips. They're what I like to call "sleeper cookies," in that they look disappointingly dull.  Like, "Who made those for the bake sale?" No one will swoon when you walk into the room with your Saran wrap-covered platter.  But they'll be your BFF after that.

Maybe you can bring these to the Halloween party you forgot about. Growing up (and this is a long story I won't tell), our family was one of those weird ones that had harvest parties instead of going trick-or-treating. So I am bound and determined that my children will go trick-or-treating, get as ghoulish as they want, and dive into the ridiculousness of Halloween with gusto. And if that means cookies and candy, so be it.

Peanut Butter Coconut Bars
Adapted from my Gourmet cookbook. You really do want the bad kind of peanut butter here, not the good-for-you, stir-it-up kind. Other than that, these cookies are a blank slate. I've made them without the coconut, subbed oatmeal for the coconut, added chocolate chips or not, put salted peanuts on top or not. The best pan to make them in is an aluminum  1/4 sheet (half the size of a regular baking sheet). If you don't have one of those, a  9 x 13 will work.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2  cup white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut or oats (or 1/2 and 1/2)
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup finely chopped salted roasted peanuts for the top (optional)


In a bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with both sugars and beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter, beat the mixture until it is combined well, and beat in the egg, the vanilla, and the salt. Add the flour, beat the mixture until it is just combined, and stir in the coconut and/or oats, and chocolate chips. Spread the mixture evenly in a buttered jelly-roll pan, 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 by 1 inches, sprinkle the peanuts over it (if using), pressing them into the mixture lightly, and bake the mixture in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let the mixture cool completely in the pan on a rack, cut it into 24 bars, and cut each bar in half diagonally to form 2 triangles if you want (I usually don't.)