The One With The BEST Chicken Salad

This week, I attempted to make mayo again.  The first time, I tried it by hand but being as that I have no culinary training, it ended up more like a dressing. It still tasted good in my tuna salad, but it wasn’t mayo. So, I decided to try again and I’m so glad I did. It turned out PERFECT. I used the recipe the blog The Clothes Make The Girl and it was so easy.[Note: I used a pasteurized egg to be on the safe side, because if you know anyone that has gotten Salmonella you know a little mayo isn’t worth the risk. TRUST ME. My mom got salmonella from peanut butter crackers back when that a big thing. It was awful.] I cracked my egg and let it come to room temperature in the food processor. I was a little nervous because I have a previous generation Ninja blender so the engine is on the top so I couldn’t leave the lid off and slowly add the oil. Instead, I dumped it in at 1/4 cup at a time and gave it a little whirl. Slowly but surely it began to take and I was so excited that it worked out.

At this point, I realized I was going to have real homemade mayo. So excited.

The Finished Product: Perfect homemade mayo.

Now, I’m not that big of a mayo fan, I actually prefer mustard. But, I do love me some chicken salad. Growing up, Chelsea’s Deli was THE place for chicken salad. If you got out of school early you were going there for lunch and when you got home from college this was the place you met your old friends. Well, I’m sorry to say, this is no longer the best chicken salad. Instead, that title belongs to Cormie’s Grocery in Lake Charles, LA. That fine chicken salad on fluffy slice of Evangeline Maid Bread is the stuff dreams are made of…seriously, it’s that good.

So, I decided to imitate it as best I could. I boiled a little less than a pound of chicken breasts then let them cool (did this while making the mayo). Then i tore it apart to get rid of those disturbing gummy parts in chicken and added to the food processor. I did about half up it pretty fine and the other half less to give it more substance. Then I finely diced a stalk of celery and a little red onion. Added some S&P and then some of my mayo and stirred it up. You want enough mayo that it is moist but not too moist. For me, I prefer it when it reaches a texture similar to that of raw cookie dough. But, that’s personal preference. Then I put it in the fridge to let the flavors meld together. It turned out delicious and as close to Cormie’s as I’ll get on this side of the Sabine. It made about 4 hearty servings.

The One With A Zucchini Bread Fail

In my last post, I showed you what I got in my CSA box this week. Well, it included two huge zucchini. These remind me of the summer between working in DC and starting business school. My Aunt Melinda and Cousin Nancy decided to do a big garden and sell their produce at a couple of local farmers markets. Well, it was usually me and Emily that ended up having to do the early morning selling. We definitely have some interesting stories from that summer. Here’s a few pictures from that Summer:

The Garden

Macomb Square

Flowers

Now back to the reason I’m here. Yesterday, I went to my dad’s house and we made some kabobs with some marinated steak and the green bell peppers, tomatoes and some crimini mushrooms I picked up at the urban harvest market yesterday. I didn’t take a picture, but I should have because they looked so pretty with all the colors. We also grilled the corn, my dad had this method he read in a bbq book where you wrap the cob in a damp paper towel then cover with foil. Some pieces got a little over done, but it was still tasty. Then we sliced two of the zucchini lengthwise and added a little olive oil and S&P. The whole meal was fantastic.  I still had some zucchini left so I decided to make some bread. I shred it up using a cheese grater and added it to the following recipe:

Fruity & Nutty Zucchini Bread

“Wet”:

1 Good Sized Zucchini, Shredded

3 Eggs

3/4 Cup Oil (you can sub apple sauce for 1/2 cup, then use 1/4 oil, but if you do the whole thing with oil it gets a little spongy)

2 Cups Sugar

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Crushed Pineapple

Dry:

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1 Cup Red Currants or Raisins (Optional)

1/2-1 Cup Chopped Nuts (Optional)

Mix the “Wet” ingredients until incorporated. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients except for nuts and currants. Slowly add dry mixture to wet and stir until just incorporated. Add nuts and currants. Pour into at least two loaf pans or 24 muffin tins. Bake at 350 for around 40 or until an inserted knife comes out clean or the top isn’t jiggly.

Here’s where I made my mistake, I poured it all into one giant loaf pan because I was too lazy to make a batch of muffins. Well, it ended up taking like 2 hours to bake and then i couldn’t get it out of the darn pan. This is a warning, it looks really gross, but tastes awesome.

FAIL: Half stuck in bottom of pan

It still tastes yummy though!

What’s in the Box Wednesday

Not much to say today, but thought I’d share my most recent CSA box. This week I have a huuuuge watermelon, sweet corn, kale, zuchinni, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, micro greens, banana peppers and okra. I’ll be honest, I have no clue what to do with the peppers and okra. I’ve gotten about this many of the peppers the past couple of weeks and have been sticking them in a bag in the freezer until I come up with an idea. I also have several peaches, jalapenos and an eggplant from last week.

Beer ‘n Cupcakes

Well, I failed to make it 30 days on my attempt for a Whole30. Shocker! Oh well, I’ll continue eating my whole foods, because I like eating stuff that is real. Though, going to the grocery store is pretty depressing because there’s aisle upon aisle of fake but delicious crap. Like cookies or double chocolate malt balls [ I guess a few double chocolate malt balls won’t hurt :)]

What made me cave? Well, it was this:

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Abita Strawberry Harvest. It tastes like late-spring/early-summer nights on the patio, eating crawfish and drinking with friends…funded by book buy back money. I love it.

If you aren’t familiar, the Abita Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Abita Springs, LA. It’s located about 70 miles east of where I went to school. They offer several different brews year round: Amber, Restoration Ale (Pale Ale), Andygator and Turbo Dog. In addition, there are also a couple seasonal brews: Mardi Gras Bock, Red Ale (I DO NOT like this one, ew), Chrismas Ale, Satsuma and everybody’s favorite: Strawberry Harvest. It’s made with real Louisiana strawberries, it’s sweet but not offensively so. When it hits the shelfs, word starts spreading like wild fires. Now that I’m back in Texas, it takes a little bit longer to reach us. But when it does, you have to stock up. I might buy it by the case. Don’t judge.

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Note: I was not paid for this endorsement, but if anybody at Abita is reading I will gladly accept your samples or donations.

So, I kind of went off on a tangent, I didn’t intend this post to be about beer, but rather strawberries. I don’t care for them except for the beer and these cupcakes.

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The recipe is based on one from the famous LA cupcake bakery: Sprinkles.  It’s super easy and really delicious. I made these using my fresh strawberries from the CSA.

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CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup Fresh Strawberry Puree (About 2/3 Cup Whole Fresh Strawberries)

1 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour

1 Tsp Baking Soda

¼ Tsp Salt

½ Cup Milk

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 Large Egg Whites

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar until well combined. Reduce speed and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
  4. With mixer on low, slowly add half of flour mixture. Mix until just blended.  Add milk mixture. Then add remaining flour and until blended.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until the tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

Note, the original recipe calls for baking powder. However, I had better results using baking soda. Also, these cupcakes will not be pink. If you just have to have a pink strawberry cupcake, add some red food coloring but it really isn’t necessary.  If you are looking for an intense strawberry flavor, I’d recommend cooking the puree to almost like a syrup so you get more flavor but not more liquid.

STRAWBERRY FROSTING

1 ¾ Cup Powdered Sugar

½ Cup Unsalted Butter, Firm

¼ Tsp Vanilla Extract

3 Tablespoons Strawberry Puree

Pinch of Salt

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add powdered sugar, beat until well combined. Add vanilla and strawberry puree, mix until just blended. Do not over beat, it should be dense and creamy.

Note, I halved the originally recipe and felt it was plenty for 12 cupcakes. Unless you LOVE frosting, then you should. This will give you a lovely pink frosting – without any dye. However, don’t be tempted to dumb extra puree in. Again, I recommend you cook it down to syrup or you’ll end up with a very disturbing texture to your frosting. Like it’s melting off the cupcake, not that I did that or anything.

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Playing Ketchup

Well, the worst thing you could do when you start a new blog is not blog for a whole month. Honestly, it hasn’t felt like a month. I guess time truly does fly when you’re having fun…or something like it. I’ve been pretty busy and had to stay late a few weeks at work, then I went on vacation for 9 days and last week I was straight up lazy. So now I’m playing ketchup…(You’ll get my clever play on words shortly).

So, where did I go on my vacation you ask??

 

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Just kidding, I went to Roseville, IL – which is equally awesome. [That photo is from my Cali (specifically, La Jolla) trip a few summers back. ]

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That’s more like it…but this photo is actually in Peoria. Close enough!! It was a good time, we had a fiesta for my mom’s birthday which included our annual cupcake war. Sadly, I was dethroned… by ONE point. I’d really like a recount. Apparently, my cupcakes didn’t look good, but they tasted amazing. Personally, I think taste should be the most important factor. But I am the all time champ, just saying…I made a caramel apple cupcake which was an apple-y flavored vanilla cake and a caramel fudge frosting. It’s based on a recipe I found while making a family recipe cookbook for my cousin Josh’s wedding last year.  We also danced, grilled out, danced, saw some fireworks (it had like 20345 grand finales, according to Russell), danced, played some board games, and we did A LOT of dancing.

And of course, we had to make the trip to the Club for some of those “world famous” shoestring onion rings. Seriously, best onion rings ever. I decided to branch out and try something new but don’t even remember what it was, but I enjoyed it later because I was so full from the onion rings.

Club 41 also got some new menus a few years ago and it now includes cocktails, this is a shout-out to my China people – ZOMBIES!!!

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We also did a little gambling in Bloomington, IA…They had “my machine”. Sadly, I didn’t win anything.

 

ImageIt was a good time and I was sad to come home.

So when we got back, I decided to do a Whole30. For 30 days, you don’t eat grains, added sugar (artificial or natural, but fruit is okay), dairy or legumes (beans or peanuts). It wasn’t as hard as I thought…I support any kind of “diet” that lets you eat a boatload of avocados and olives. Those are 2 of my 3 favorite things… If cheese was allowed, I’d be set for life. We’ll see how it goes, I already feel like I have so much more energy…At 4PM, I don’t want to crash. And, my cravings for chocolate are pretty much gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to go to Chic-Fil-A everyday (i blame my co-worker Renee for that addiction 🙂 ) So now that brings us to the ketchup portion of this post, I decided to make my own ketchup and it was super easy. 

Easy Homemade Ketchup

12 Oz Tomato Paste (look for something where the only ingredient is TOMATOES)

1.5 C Water

2 TBS Distilled Vinegar

1/2 tsp Garlic

1/2 tsp Onion Powder (I used Onion Salt, b/c that’s what I have)

1/4 tsp All Spice (Note, all spice is it’s own thing, it’s not a conglomeration of other spices as some often thing)

– Stir over low heat until desired consistency is reached. Then pour (hopefully you have a funnel, unlike me) into your container of choice. This stuff is good. Really good.

I got the recipe from here:  http://notinmoderation.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/nailed-it-ryan-wilders-wicked-easy-paleo-ketchup/

I enjoyed a nice steak and some homemade baked matchstick sweet potato fries.

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Travel Notes a.k.a “bitching”: The trip started off on the wrong foot, at 10 AM on Friday morning we got an email saying that our flight at 4PM flight to Chicago was cancelled so they rebooked us on a noon flight. Umm… what? So we called back and they couldn’t get us out until 530PM. Sweet, well the guy didn’t mention is was 5:30 PM on Saturday, a full 24 hours after we were originally supposed to leave. So I called back again, and was able to get an earlier flight. Everything seemed to go smoothly, we got into O’hare early and were able to stop at Starbucks because our gates were about 4 apart. Skip to me standing at baggage claim in the Quad Cities, slowly I realize that I’m the only one still waiting. I go to the service desk and the guy says my bag is still in Chicago and it won’t get there until the next flight which gets in a 430 (It’s around noon at this point). Ok, that’s fine, can you deliver it b/c I’m driving an hour away. Then he looks it up in his notebook and says that it’s going to be $68. Umm, no it’s not. I will say this, they ended up waving the fee and the delivery guy was super nice, but United SUCKS. I won’t even get started on the lack of empathy and just general lack of service provided by customer SERVICE. We did have flight issues that put us behind schedule by about 8 hours on the way back. Neither were weather related. Honestly, I understand that stuff happens, but when just about everything that can go wrong does and you don’t apologize that’s where I lose my patience. I can’t imagine how i’d react in this situation: http://abcnews.go.com/US/united-passengers-stranded-days-china/story?id=16784289