Saturday, June 26, 2010

Leslie's California Chicken Salad

   I love a really good homemade chicken salad on hearty bread, a chewy roll, or with nutty crackers and crudités.  This is something I never thought about making myself until a couple of years ago after my mom surprised me at work and brought me a wonderful lunch!  She had packed her homemade chicken salad with salty crackers and of course freshly baked cookies.  Yes I know, I'm just a little spoiled..err..loved!  Thanks for that, Mom!!  Anyways, after tasting her chicken salad I thought I can do this -- what an easy and delicious lunch.  This is like a California chicken salad. It's made with roasted chicken breast, crunchy toasted nuts and red grapes or pineapple and mixed in with a simple creamy curry dressing.  So delicious!

   Start off by cooking your chicken.  I like to roast mine in the oven.  Usually I season it with whatever I like.  This time I used some Herbs de Provence, just because I was just roasting some chicken breast to eat throughout the week.  I didn't know at the time I was going to put it with a curry dressing, but it actually turned out great.  Most of the time I just use salt and pepper and it's great! If you don't have much time, just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery to use. Once out of the oven, allow to cool and shred your chicken

   Next, you will want to toast your nuts.  Pecan are my favorite, although I have used walnuts, almonds, and even tried cashew and they are all so good!  Just spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for maybe 6 minutes or until you can smell the nutty fragrance from the oven.  This makes the nuts taste like candy in your mouth!  Once they are out of the oven, allow to cool and chop.

   Finely dice the celery, cut your red grapes in half, and have ready with the chicken and nuts.  If you use pineapple, which is just as good, used canned pineapple bits and drain well.  This really gives the salad a unique sweetness.

   In a bowl, put about equal portions of (light or regular) miracle whip or mayo, and sour cream.  To this mixture, add salt, fresh cracked pepper, and the yummy curry powder. ( I rarely measure anything whenever I'm making one of my own recipes, but add enough curry powder to your to taste.  Don't be afraid to taste your food along the way!) The curry give it a warm hue that just great.  Mix all of this together and add the chicken, nuts, celery and grapes and it's beautiful and ready to eat!

   Today, I served it on a bed of baby spinach with sunflower-thyme crackers and slices of red bell pepper. This is easy to make for a crowd, so invite your Mom, daughter, or friends over to lunch for Leslie's California Chicken Salad!

Grocery List
Chicken Breast
Pecans, or other nuts
Grapes, or canned Pineapple bits
Light Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
Sour Cream
Curry powder
Salt & Pepper

Friday, June 25, 2010

Roasted Garden Corn

   What says summer any more than homegrown garden corn?  I could eat it just about anyway: grilled with a little butter and salt, cooked down and creamed-style, corn chowder -- it all screams summer time flavor!  There's nothing like the natural sweetness that come from freshly picked corn.  It almost doesn't seem like a true Southern meal with out it, at least in my family!

   This recipe is a pretty simple one that I've come up with.  It's basically roasted corn seasoned with aromatics like sweet vidalia onion and green pepper, and seasoned with a little kick!  It's a yummy side dish that I like to prepare with farmer's market corn from the cob and I usually serve it with grilled chicken or pork chops, or (if I'm treating myself) delicious fried chicken.

    To prepare, husk your corn on the cob and obviously try to get all the silk off of the corn.
    Next, I take a good long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and I cut the corn from the cob directly into the baking dish that I will roast the corn into.  Otherwise, whenever I cut it off onto my cutting board that corn will just fly everywhere!  Trust me, I've made quite the mess before.
   After cutting all of your corn off the cob, you will want to get the "corn milk" out, too.  This is a very important part in making the corn taste sweet and the very best it can!  The corn milk is what will make your corn taste fresh from the garden, in my opinion!  How you do this is by using the back of your knife to run down the cob and press all of that good sweet milk out. It's easy to do and worth the little effort.
   Once you have all the corn in the pan, I like to add finely diced onion and green bell pepper to the corn.  I use about equal amounts of the onion and bell pepper.  Add as much as this as you like.
   Pour in a little milk.  Enough to about halfway coat everything, and stir it all  together.
   Next, I had my seasonings.  I like to use the simple combination of salt, freshly cracked pepper and paprika for the pretty color and little something extra.  You can add whatever you like, but since I've already added some onion and pepper for flavor I would keep it pretty simple.  Toss all of the seasonings together with the corn mixture.  Dot it all over with small pats of butter.  Once again, use as much as you prefer.  We try to eat pretty healthy so I only use about 1- 1 1/2 tablespoon or so.
   Put in about a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until the corn gets nice and tender.  You will want to stir it a couple of times, and add more milk if you like.  I usually don't make this recipe a creamy corn, it's more of a corn relish. The corn gets soft and yet some are a little crunchy and so good!

This corn recipe is so colorful, and delicious that I hope you try it will one of your summer meals!

Grocery List:
Corn on the Cob
Sweet Onion
Green Bell Pepper

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm back in my new Cozy Kitchen!

  My husband and I just moved to a cute house in the country and we love it!!!  So, my cozy little kitchen has grown!  I almost forgot how wonderful a dishwasher is, and I am enjoying the use of my first full size refrigerator with a freezer drawer! I have never had a convection oven, so I am learning how to use that with the warming drawer at the bottom. (I love serving all my food hot, so I will get lots of use out of that!)  Also, having a more organized pantry and a new spice rack is so helpful when it comes to cooking. I am so thankful that God helped us find just the right place with a perfect kitchen for me.

   So, I say all that to really say that I'm back (!) in the kitchen and ready to cook and share with you guys!  Summer is the best season for cooking with fresh vegetables and baking with ripe, juicy fruits and berries.  I love the aroma of earthy herbs, zesty marinades and grilling in the air!  I have some summer favorites and some new things that I'm going to try out this season.  Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!