Monday, June 30, 2008

Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad. Love, love, love it. And whenever I make it, I could literally eat three or four sandwiches at one time without thinking anything of it. I can't think of any sandwich that's more refreshing or more perfectly suited for the warm weather months. I made this for the bachelorette party I hosted two weekends ago and served it on mini slices of sourdough bread. It was a nice, light dish -- which is exactly the kind of thing you want to eat before a night of partying (and *ahem* heavy drinking), right?

Chicken Salad
Source: Cassie

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 to 3 cups Miracle Whip (add to desired creaminess)
4 celery ribs from the heart (leafy tops included), diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced or grated
2 handfuls seedless green grapes, halved

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and bake in a 350° oven until no longer pink and juices run clear. Dice or shred chicken.

2. Combine all ingredients and serve over lettuce or on bread.

*Note: If you add the grapes to the chicken salad right away, be aware that it will only keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Because the grapes have such a high water content, they thin out the Miracle Whip pretty quickly. You could keep the grapes separate until you're ready to serve to avoid this issue.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Strawberry Lemonade

There are certain things that just scream summer to me: grilling, the smell of freshly-mown grass, lightning bugs, and lemonade. There is absolutely nothing I'd rather do on a summer evening than sit on my front porch watching the world go by and nursing a tall, ice-cold glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade. That's why, when I saw a recipe for strawberry lemonade on one of my favorite food blogs, Annie's Eats, my mouth immediately started watering. Strawberries and lemons are a match made in culinary heaven, and when you put them together in drinkable form, forget it: totally delicious.

I'm hosting a bachelorette party tomorrow evening, and I needed a special non-alcoholic beverage to serve in addition to the margaritas and champagne I have planned, since two of the attendees are pregnant. I thought this strawberry lemonade would be perfect. Luckily for me, the strawberries were absolutely beautiful at the grocery store: ruby red and plump and sweet and so, so juicy. I brewed a pitcher of the lemonade last night, and of course I had to have a glass for myself. The verdict: absolutely delicious, everything I was hoping for. It's sweeter than it is tart, and the strawberry flavor really shines through. I think this would be delicious with lime juice, too -- it would taste just like a strawberry margarita, minus the alcohol!

I hope the pregnant ladies enjoy this lemonade. I know when I was pregnant, I couldn't get enough of everything hopefully they're the same way.

(By the way, stay tuned for more recipes from the bachelorette party later in the week...including a very naughty take on Paula Deen's strawberry cake!)

Strawberry Lemonade
Source: Annie's Eats

For the lemonade:
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup very hot water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups cold water
1 recipe strawberry puree
sugar, lemon slices, fresh strawberries for garnish

For the strawberry puree:
1 dry pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon frsh lemon juice
2 tablespoons cold water

1. For the strawberry puree, blend the berries, sugar, lemon juice and water in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl and discard the seeds. Stir in additional sugar, if needed.

2. In a pitcher, combine the sugar and hot water and stir until the sugar has dissolved into a syrup. Stir in the lemon juice and cold water.

3. Add the strawberry puree and stir to combine.

4. Pour over ice into tall glasses rimmed with sugar. Garnish with fresh strawberries or lemon slices, if desired. Lemonade will keep at least three days in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tater Tot Casserole

The movie Napoleon Dynamite has forever colored the way I think of tater tots. "Hey, Napoleon, give me some of your tots!" Ahhh, that movie totally cracks me up, and if you haven't seen it you definitely should. It's...well, it's indescribably fantastic.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: tater tots. A long time ago, when my knowledge of internet cooking sites didn't extend beyond a few very basic recipe search engines, I found a recipe for tater tot casserole. After a few tweaks, it quickly became a favorite in our house that I go back to again and again. A few nights ago, we had the casserole with chicken breasts (marinated in Italian dressing and grilled to perfection -- the best way to eat chicken, and the only way to eat it during the grilling months!). It had been a while since I made this, and it was just as delicious as I remember -- tangy from the sour cream and pimientos and really creamy. Comfort food at its finest -- and I think Napoleon would really like it, too! My changes to the original are in purple.

Tater Tot Casserole

1 package frozen potato rounds (I use Ore Ida brand)
1 16-ounce containter sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2 cups...we are cheese people)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small jar pimientos
Salt and pepper
1 6-ounce can French-fried onions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (I use butter, not shortening). Arrange tater tots in prepared baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine sour cream, cheese, mushroom soup, pimientos and salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour this mixture over the tater tots. Sprinkle onions over the top of the casserole. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes (45 minutes is sufficient in my oven).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Banana Bread

I have a confession to make: One of my worst culinary habits is buying a bunch of bananas at the grocery store with the intention of having them for quick breakfasts or using them in smoothies. I can always use them for banana bread, too, I tell myself as I scoop them into my cart. The problem is...I always say this, but I never do it. The bananas always just sit in the kitchen, over-ripening and smelling cloyingly sweet until they rot and I throw them away.

So last night, I broke the trend of wasted bananas and actually made some banana bread with them. I used the recipe in my trustworthy Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, and it was absolutely delicious. I was a big fan of the streusel topping, and I think I'll be using it in the future for some of the other quick breads I make. The bread was moist and not too overwhelmingly sweet. I'll definitely be making this bread again in the future, and I may even use this recipe to make some muffins! I think I've finally broken my bad banana habit!

Banana Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (Celebrating the Promise Edition) (page 130)

For the bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine (I used melted butter)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the streusel-nut topping:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9 x 5 x 3-inch or two 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, banana, sugar and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). If desired, sprinkle streusel-nut topping over batter in pans.

3. For streusel-nut topping, combine brown sugar and flour in a small bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes for 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 20-inch pans or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Cool in pan on a wire rack fo 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on rack. Wrap; store overnight before slicing.