50. T’s Chicken Salad

Things don’t always go the way I expect them to. This morning, I expected yet another day of sunny skies and instead, a soggy day rolled in. When we were 17 and  T and I played on rival sides of an ultimate frisbee game, I expected she wouldn’t even want to talk to me because I’d been such an obnoxious guard. When T and I became each other’s long-distance friends for the next 10 years, I couldn’t have predicted that either.

So when, this week, months after the wedding, an email from T revealed a recipe for chicken salad, I had to give it a shot. I’ll start out by saying: I don’t like chicken salad. I always find it cloying and full of flavors that don’t mesh. Granted, I’ve never made it myself, and I’m sure that making it myself would allow for a lower input of mayonnaise, which would make me far happier with it, but it’s exactly the possible serendipity, the chance that it could be delicious, that made me give it a chance. With T, you really never know.

T’s recipe reads more like a poem than a recipe, but I promise it’s worth at least considering her style before you return to your old standard, because let me say, I ate myself silly on this stuff, smeared on cracked pepper crackers while looking out at the rain. It’s worth your trouble. This is the same T who once made biscuits for me purely from feel, with no measuring, so I encourage you to unleash your “inner T” when it comes to measurements, and try to feel the right chicken salad out.

Roast (or let the crockpot do the work) a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with your favorite marinade and whatever chicken-lovin’ herbs you have in the garden. I used rosemary, parsley, oregano.  Let it cool down, and take the meat off the bone, handshredded is best to make sure you don’t have any bones or other skin or fat that you wouldn’t want to eat.  Add a stalk of celery, chopped (I like more, but good to start with just one and keep adding); half of a red delicious or some other sweet crunchy apple chopped; more poppy seeds and black pepper than you would think you need; toasted pecans chopped; and a slice or two of red onion chopped very fine.  Stir in enough Duke’s mayonnaise with some pan drippings, if you dare, to hold it together.  This is Mom’s voice: “”If you like chicken salad, It will make you do the happy dance.”  Duke’s mayo is a must.  Freshly ground pepper is best.  Let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors marinade.  
Serve with anything: make a sandwich on wheat with spinach, croissant if you are feeling fancy, any crackers you like, celery stalks, the rest of the apple, romaine lettuce leaf and roll it up.  Yum.  Make a little bit at a time and make it often.  Pairs great with fresh tomatoes out of the garden cut up with pepper on them.
The main counsel I completely ignored was letting it marinade overnight, but there is some left, so tomorrow I’ll get that glorious aspect. Whatever happens, it will probably be different from your expectations, and it might be worth reveling in that for a little while.

Food Memory: The Best Salad Ever

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I have tried, extensively, to love salad – it’s good for you and it should just be naturally desired by our bodies, right? No dice for me. Salad is still something I shovel into my mouth to get to whetever else is coming, but occasionally, I find a salad that truly dazzles me. This salad had chicken and champagne vinagrette and ripe tomatoes and chunks of avocado and goat cheese – many things that made the salad less purely good for me, but in this compromise lay the desire that I wanted. If I want to be able to eat a hunk of garlic-and-herb cheese, it’s good that it comes paired with a bunch of mostly-low-flavor greens. This salad reminded me that I can add excitement to the everyday by pairing healthy and mundane things with the things that spark joy in me. I don’t have to love salads to love that.

17. T and K’s Root Beer Chicken (repost)

rootbeerchickenT and K are some of the happiest people I met in school. Not that they are cheerleader-excited about everything, but just that most of the times that I see them, they are reasonably optimistic, have something exciting they’ve recently learned or experienced, or are willing to slough off a bad day with a funny movie or a chat. At school, where I’ve started to learn a lot of people aren’t particularly happy, these kinds of people are so important. K and I studied some similar things and even though we didn’t get to hang out all the time, his excitement reenergized me when my homework got monotonous. T is a photographer and her work always makes me feel like the world is a little more mysterious and beautiful than I see it through my phone’s camera lens.

They made a delicious, surprising crockpot dish themselves for the dinner party, which has an amazing 3 ingredients (this is the kind of recipe of my dreams, folks). The result, despite tasting like root beer which I’m not a fan of, was awesome: moist chicken with just a slightly different take on barbecue-flavor, a bit of that rooty tang with a sustained sweetness. It would be really good on sandwiches, too, I think, without really needing to be “pulled,” just taken off the bone. om nom nom.

Recipe here! http://thefrugalgirls.com/2014/08/crockpot-root-beer-bbq-drumsticks-recipe.html

Beautiful Food: Chicken Pot Pie

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In a post-church hunger, Husband and I made this amazing pot pie, inspired by Seeded at the Table – we used whatever cream soups we had and some sweated veggies and shredded chicken, and made the cheddar biscuits for the top… enough said. It’s getting me through my long day of errands-running before the holiday!

The Return of Fiesta Chicken!

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Whipped up in a hunger-induced tizzy on Thursday night, this mix of leftover veggies, chicken, and rice was covered (not with salsa this time!) with the pepper jack cream sauce I devised in 28. M’s Fiesta Chicken/Arroz con Pollo – so tasty! I’ve been quite happy with the way we tore through the leftover enchiladas, leftover chicken, and now, most of the leftover rice and salad… Parties may feel like they cost a lot, but you’ve got to factor in the delightful leftovers for a week to come!

Chicken, Onion, and Rice Casserole

On Sunday, I made a casserole intended to fill in whatever meals we didn’t feel like preparing this week – this seems like a tried and true “meal prep” for the lazy/busy. It turned out to be a great plan because I got sick on Monday and have been fighting a cold during these busy school days. Today, however, I am free of work (fall break!) and finally attempting recovery. Also telling you about the delightful casserole I made.

So, I tend to rely pretty heavily on cheesy foods when I’m cooking, mostly because of my love of it, but I challenged myself to create a casserole that wasn’t cheese-themed. What emerged was inspired by, though not truly similar to, this chicken bake that uses onion as a centerpiece instead of cheese: http://www.plainchicken.com/2015/10/french-onion-chicken-and-rice-bake.html?m=1#more thanks for the inspiration, Plain Chicken!

I started with wild rice and jasmine rice (bottom of the bag for each) and poured a big can of french onion soup over them. That went into the oven while I cooked the chicken in a frying pan with just a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. I was hoping that with so much soup, the rice would cook up nicely before I even added the other ingredients, and sure enough; I chopped veggies till the rice soaked up most of the soup liquid. I added what i had: an onion, 4 stalks of celery, two bell peppers, some tomatoes, and some leftover butternut squash soup, mixed it all together with the chicken once it was cooked, and layered it over the rice. For a crusty topping, I crushed a sleeve of saltines, mixed them with the chicken juices leftover in the pan, and then topped with those delicious crunchy onions that people use on top of green bean casserole. I used a lot of them, but mostly so that I wouldn’t singlehandedly snarf them as a snack.

Finally, I cooked it at 350 for about 40 minutes – while most of the elements were individually safe to eat already, I wanted the veggies to soften and the flavors to meld. In the end, the casserole was pretty low on the spicy-meter (i put some salt and pepper in, but nothing else) but Husband added his customary hot sauce and I mixed in a little barbeque sauce into my portion, and it was delicious. Honestly, I’m glad that it was a little bland, because when I’m eating the same thing for a lot of meals in a week, it’s nice to be able to re-season it slightly differently each time. It’s not as beautiful as perfectly portioned meal preps, but it has served us well through the days of my cold.