Chicken Salad Sandwich

Following the copious restaurant meals I’ve had in the recent week(s) and amidst the laziness which ensued on Sunday, I was struggling to decide what to make myself for lunch. I could no longer ignore the hungry pleas of my stomach and succumbed to making a sandwich. Trying to find the easy way out, I fumbled in my fridge and noticed some leftover roast chicken – that’ll do.

Why argue with a classic or put up with an industrial version of a chicken salad sandwich, especially when one like this is so easy to make? Simple, tangy and a great way to use up leftover chicken. Serve on whole grain bread with some salad, and you have a healthy balanced lunch (or dinner) in no time flat. Here’s my version of chicken salad (quantities are for one).

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Chicken Salad Sandwich

  • ½ chicken breast, cooked and chopped
  • 1 tbsp apple, finely diced (snack on the rest of the apple while you make your sandwich)
  • 1 tbsp celery, finely diced (I had zucchini leftover, so I used that instead)
  • 1 tbsp onion, finely diced (any onion of your choice will do)
  • 1 ½ tbsp plain yogurt (because it’s a healthier choice than mayo)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread between two slices of your bread of choice, stuff in a bun or pita, or even roll up in a tortilla, and garnish with lettuce.

Sandwich in hand, I proceeded to return to the warm spot waiting for me on the couch and curled up in front of another episode of […]. Come on, I can’t confess all my secrets here… but if you guess right, I’ll tell you which show I was indulging in. 😉

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When there is no time to cook…

Sometimes there is just no time to cook. I had aspirations of creating and writing about about all sorts of dishes that dreams are made of. Recipes that challenged me, and expanded my repertoire. Concoctions that required that I put my brand new Creuset to good use, for something other than soup. A new Creuset calls for a braised meal for me to truly say that it has been broken in. I’m over zealous, need to be consistently over -stimulated, that it is difficult to back off from overdrive. Amongst numerous parties and events  that have kept me out of the house, I still need to eat good food made with my own two hands. Coming home late, tired and lazy, sometimes the last thing I want to do is cook. Yes, it happens to me too. You know when you open up that fridge and the only words that come to mind are: “there is nothing to eat!” Even though you know perfectly well that there are plenty of healthy ingredients, that should be used up and converted into food before you are forced to toss them?Yup, I do that too; but I hate wasting food. That is how I put this dish together.

It was 9pm and I was just walking though the door. Opened up my fridge felt completely uninspired and tired at the thought of having to be up at 6 am for the 6th day in a row after going to bed way past my bedtime more than once in the last week. Changed into sweats, considered skipping dinner but my tummy was growling. Went back into the kitchen opened up every single cupboard, drawer,  and door for inspiration. I thought of my wilting spinach and abandoned bell pepper, caught a glimpse of the opened package of rice noodle vermicelli and settled on an idea. Twenty minutes later I was eating this:

Red Curry Veggie Bowl

Makes one portion, ready in less than 20 minutes.

  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup of raw vegetables
  • 1 cup of leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard or kale
  • 1 handful of rice vermicelli, softened in boiling water (or about 1 cup cooked)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
    1 tbsp hot water (take from noodle soaking water)
    1 tbsp coconut oil
    Salt and pepper to taste

Use an assortment of vegetables, whatever you have leftover in your fridge is fine. I used some zucchini and red peppers. In a pan on medium-high heat, melt the coconut oil and sauté the garlic, onions and ginger until soft. Since discovering coconut oil I always have some in my pantry. It gives a great flavour to any dish and is great for sautéing. If you do not have any on hand, simply use a vegetable oil and add a dash of sesame oil when serving to add a nice nutty flavour. Add the remaining vegetables, sprinkle with the turmeric and sauté until cooked. Add the leafy greens, cover the pan and allow to wilt, about a minute.

In the meantime, dissolve the red curry paste with the hot water and the fish sauce. Strain the soaked and softened vermicelli. Uncover the pan to toss in the red curry mixture and noodles, until everything is well mixed.

Serve piping hot and you can choose to garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, a wedge of lemon or lime, or even some nuts or seeds for added crunch. I had none of these on hand, and my bowl was just as tasty.

You can also add some cooked shrimp, meat or a scrambled egg. Play around with what your fridge has to offer. We rarely ever make a fuss over our everyday meals, but nothing is stopping us from making something tasty and bright in no time flat.

Solo Brunch at Home, Oeuf en Cassolette

With the days getting colder and colder, it makes it that much more difficult to pull yourself out from the warmth of your comforter. As you stumble your way to the kitchen to turn on the kettle for some hot tea or coffee, the last thing you want to do is have to put on a coat and head out to the store to pick-up that one item you are missing for your weekend brunch.

There is something completely induldgent about staying in on a cold weekend morning, curling up with a hot cup of tea or coffee and spending a little quality time with yourself. In my case this usually involves flipping through a recipe book, a food magazine, jotting down some creative ideas… and yes, sometimes watching a movie first thing in the morning.

So instead of venturing out into the cold brisk air, I chose to work with what I had in my fridge. Stuck with an array of vegetables and some eggs, who says that brunch needs to be boring. Cassolettes (or any ovenproof individual dish) are an easy way to make the simple ingredients look like a treat, and when you’re having brunch solo at home – even more reason to make it special!

Oeuf en Cassolette

  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/3 cup sweet potato, diced (or regular potato)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, sliced
  • 3 mushrooms, cut in quarters
  • 1 tsp fresh herbs of your choice (use dried herbs if you do not have fresh ones on hand)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a pan to medium-high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, zucchini, sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms in olive oil. Season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the diced tomato and heat through.

At this point you have a couple options (share your ideas in the comments below):

Option 1 – make one big plate all to yourself: pour the entire filling into an oven-proof dish, crack two eggs on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness.

Option 2 – attempt to be reasonable and make one smaller plate for yourself: pour half the filling in an oven-proof dish, crack one egg on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness. Use the other half of the filling to make a second egg cassolette, or turn into a different dish all together.

I made this egg dish a little luxurious by topping it with a square of porcini composed butter that I had on hand. But be creative… top with sour cream, cheese, avocado… anything.

Any leftover filling can be saved for another meal to serve as a gratin in a cassolette (top with cheese or your choice and broil), use as a hearty topping for a salad, or spread in a tortilla and make a quesadilla.

Salsa as easy as 1-2-3

In the last two, maybe even three years, I haven’t bought a single jar of pre-made salsa. Nothing tastes better than a homemade version and it is the simplest snack to put together. No cooking required, homemade salsa never ceases to impress and the combinations are endless.

At this time of year I always have tomatoes on hand. They are simply irresistible with their heirloom shapes, golden yellow and oranges, bright and captivating reds, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My heart skips a beat whenever I see them on display at the market, isles and bushels lining the rows of vendors. During the off season, I like using the small grape variety because they remain sweeter than the larger counterparts.

My basic salsa recipe is another way for me to use up some leftover vegetables in my fridge. Use this as a guide and have fun with it!

Fresh Tomato Salsa

  • 2 cups of diced tomatoes
  • ½ diced cucumber, zucchini works well too
  • 1 tbsp to ¼ cup pepper, hot or sweet, or both
  • ¼ cup onions, use any variety you have on hand
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon juiced, or a vinegar of your choice
  • Something spicy like chilli flakes or hot sauce to taste
  • Some chopped fresh herbs, like cilantro, parsley, basil, or dried if in dire straights
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Spices
  • Salt and pepper

Begin by chopping, dicing and mincing all you fresh ingredients and combining them in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt to help draw out some of the juices from the vegetables. Add your chosen chilli flavour, herbs, spices and olive oil. Mix well, taste and adjust your seasonings.

There is tons of room to pay around here, but here are some of my favourite spices and herbs combinations.

  • A classic salsa that reminds you ofMexico: cilantro, cumin and hot smoked paprika
  • Try mixing in different nuts and seeds: parsley, chopped pistachios or pumpkin seeds, hot chilli flakes
  • Or add extra sweetness with fresh fruit: mango, pineapple, kiwis, grapes, apples… all work well!

Dressing Up or Dressing Down?

It seems that I am always returning to the same dressing recipes. The same ones that are mixed up in a second and I never have to think twice about it. Sometimes I want to explore flavours, combinations and experiments but at the end of the day I always end up with the same ones. Many weeks ago, I put together a new dressing recipe that has made its way into my regular cycle. This curried dressing easily became a habit and opened up new salad combinations. See how to make it here and it pairs really well with sweet, so go ahead and try adding pears, grapes, apples, mango, pineapple or even dried fruit to your salads.

Recently I was in the mood for something creamy, garlicky and that certain je ne sais quoi, that umami flavour that sets off cravings for, in this case, for the ultra-fatty-not-so-healthy Caesar dressing. I thought about how to make one without all that egg or mayo or any other ingredient I would rather not know about (I’m talking out standard run-of-the-mill store-bought kind).  I was also invited over to a friend’s house who is a rawfoodist, so thought it would be nice to bring a small hostess gift of homemade raw dressing for her. And so, a new dressing recipe is born.

A new favorite ingredient of mine is shiromiso. I used it to make soups and broths, especially good if cooking for vegetarian/vegan crowd – vegetable broths just don’t pack as much flavour. It is a great base for marinades, dips, spreads and dressings. Shiromiso  is a white miso, a Japanese condiment that is made by fermenting rice and/or soybeans, and as a result falls into the living food category. When buying miso in general, watch out for preservatives and added sodium (it is naturally salty in flavour) and try to find organic. The kind I buy costs about $5 and last up to two months (and I use it all the time!). When making broth, I use about 1 tbsp per 1.5 cups of water.

 

Raw Caesar Dressing

  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tbsp shiromiso
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy – yup, it’s just that easy. Pour over any salad and fresh vegetable combination. As you can see in the picture above, I combined lettuce, pears, tomatoes, celery, avocado and a sprinkle of blue cheese. I have also used this dressing as a creamy dip for grilled asparagus, that was awesome!

On another occasion, I brought this dressing with a large container of arugula to my office for a potluck lunch and it was a real hit with my colleagues! On the plus side, you do not have to worry about any ingredients sitting out for a prolonged under that hot summer sun.

Lobster Season and Sparkling Wine

It’s a nice feeling when you have something to celebrate and there is nothing better than celebrating with the pop of a bottle of sparkling wine and taking advantage of lobster season being upon us.

My little cousin (ok, she’s not that little but as I am an only child, I see her as my little sister) has just graduated university and I am immensely proud of her. She has been living under a rock for the last couple of months just getting everything in gear to graduate with flying colours – there is no surprise there!

It’s a good feeling when you have something to celebrate. For this occasion, I was really looking for a sparkling wine that would pair nicely with the lobster without overpowering its delicate flavour and compliment the side of greens I had come up with.

Sparkling Wine

The knowledgeable staff at the SAQ (aka the local Quebec liquor board) recommended an Antech Brut, Crémant de Limoux, a 2008 vintage from France. This sparkling wine combines vintages from Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin. It is a dry sparkling wine that is both robust and delicate to the palate – a good balance that paired nicely throughout our celebratory dinner, both with the lobster and the greens.


Lobster

To cook lobster it is pretty simple. Bring a large pot ofsalted water to boil. Once the water in boiling, take the lobsters and slowly immerse them head first into the water. Cover the pot and cook for 12 minutes per pound and an additional 2 minutes per 1⁄2 pound. Once the lobster is cooked, remove from water. To serve, you can cut the lobster in half lengthwise or any other way you wish to savour it.

Parsley-Pistachio Pesto 

  • 1⁄4 cup pistachios, soaked in water for at least one hour, rinsed and strained
  • 1 small bunch parsley, about 1 cup packed
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 scallion
  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you wish to have a looser type of pesto, simply add more olive oil. Use this pesto as you would any other kind of pesto. Makes about one cup. Do not freeze if you want to keep its raw properties.

For this meal, I tossed some baby arugula leaves with lemon juice, a spoonful of pesto and garnished with roasted red peppers. Learn how to make roasted red peppers here.

Overall I was surprised at how well the various flavours paired with each other. The pesto complimented the lobster and the sparkling wine brought a refreshing crispness to the entire meal. I would even suggest serving a lobster cocktail with this this pesto as an appetizer.

Later that week, I used up the leftover pesto with some zucchini spaghetti to make another fantastic dish. Find out how to make zucchini spaghetti here.

Asian Peanut Salad

A few weeks ago I signed up up for an organic fruits and vegetables delivery with Jardin des Anges. I am loving their service and the variety I get every week, and for the most part I make it through my week’s worth of produce. This past week however, due to a number of social engagements, my tastesbuds have been dining out more often than not. I was stuck with an array of leftover vegetables that needed to be consumed asap, especially considering a new delivery was already on its way!

All that was to say that this recipe really is all about the dressing and spices used to macerate the salad. The rest is all up to you, so feel free to throw in everything but the kitchen sink.

Asian Peanut Butter Dressing

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (I used the crunchy and unsweetened kind)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp sweet chili sauce (can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup or honey
  • 1-3 tbsp hot water

I am going to save you some frustration here. Before you even get started with making the dressing, make sure that your peanut butter is soft and oozy, by either warming it on the warm zone of your stove top, in a double-boiler or in a microwave. This will make the process of combining the other ingredients easier – trust me on this one, it took me a while to figure it out!

Once your peanut butter is soft, stir in the other ingredients except for the hot water. If you are having trouble obtaining a smooth and soft consistency, this is where the hot water comes in. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dressing is smooth and creamy. You want to obtain the consistency of honey, but without the stickyness. In my case I needed to add three tablespoons of hot water.

For the salad:

  • Any vegetables sliced and diced, 4 to 6 cups
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Chinese all spice
  • A pinch of salt
  • Scallions and cilantro to garnish
These are the vegetables that I had on hand:
  • Cabbage, shredded
  • Carrots, thinly sliced
  • Celery, cut on a bias
  • Red bell pepper, diced
  • Zucchini, julienned
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Baby spinach
When using a wide variety of vegetables the colour make the dish look great but also play around with different types of cuts. As you can see from my list, some were chopped, sliced and diced , while other were shredded or julienned. Toss the vegetables together with the lemon juice and spice. Let the flavours macerate. When you are ready to eat, stir in the peanut butter dressing and garnish with fresh cilantro and scallions.
 
Aside from any vegetables, you can also add some fruit (I’m thinking mango, pineapple or grapes would work nicely), rice noodles, grilled chicken, shrimp, nuts, seeds…anythign you want.
 
If you want to share your favorite combination of this salad, submit a photo and email me at:
 
kristelskitchen{at}hotmail{dot}com