lunch

Strawberry Basil Chicken Salad & the Best Method for Cooking Chicken Breasts

Every summer my Mom would make a big bowl of her chicken salad to keep in the fridge. It was the perfect lunch for busy little kids swimming out by the pool all day. She made this traditional summer dish with chicken breasts, celery, red grapes cut in half and rotini pasta. As we got older it became the perfect lunch to keep in the fridge for busy teenagers and summer schedules of sports, days at the beach and sleepovers. I pretty much grew up with the stuff!

As I got older I started parting ways with the white pasta but man did I love those chilled grapes!

Now I’m meal planning for my own family during a Southern California summer and it seems only right that I make chicken salad for our lunches! Every time this summer that I’ve set out to make the classic grape chicken salad, I always end up getting creative, using different fruits and veggies and veering away from the traditional recipe. Last time it was fresh cherries and corn this time it’s strawberry and basil! One of these days I’ll have to go back to my roots!

For this recipe I tried using a different method for cooking my chicken breast and it’s now my new favorite! Sometimes I’ll boil the chicken breasts, especially if I didn’t plan ahead and defrost them but that usually means missing out on flavor. Most of the time I’ll sauté them but I almost always wind up over cooking the chicken and it ends up dry and chewy. Gross.

This time I slow cooked the chicken at a low temperature and it ended up being the juiciest boneless, skinless chicken breast that I’ve ever had! It was so easy – you just flip it once and walk away!

BEST WAY TO COOK CHICKEN:

  • Season your chicken breast and sprinkle both sides with a good dusting of flour while your sauté pan, coated with a little oil, heats up on medium-high.
  • When the pan is hot, throw down your chicken, let it sit for only one minute and then flip.
  • After another minute you immediately turn the heat down to low, throw a cover on your pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • No peeking! After your 10-minute timer goes off you remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes.
  • NOW you can remove the lid – your chicken is perfectly done!

Sure, it takes longer but the good news is that this method frees you up to do all sorts of other kitchen prep like chopping veggies, unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, whatever you need to do. I thought for sure that I would under cook the chicken and I’d need to put it back on the burner for a couple more minutes but I was surprised to cut into this juicy, flavorful, “pink-less” chicken breast for my salad!


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The strawberries are delicious this time of year in California so I chopped up a few of those, quartered some persian cucumbers and thinly chopped some fresh basil off of the new plant that Eric’s Mom surprised me with last week!


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I also added a handful of chopped arugula to balance the sweetness of the strawberries and basil with a little fresh spice.

 
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Next, I threw in the juice of half a lemon, sea salt, black pepper, a little celery seed (optional) and a little all-natural mayo.

 
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Chicken salad is at it’s best when it’s cold so I like to let it sit in the freezer for a little bit while I clean up and toast my bread.

I love this flavorful and colorful spin-off of the traditional chicken salad recipe! It’s a convenient way to keep some healthy protein options on-hand for a quick lunch!

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California: Introductions & Delights

I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life not in California!

It feels like I was made to live here. I’m loving the fresh fruit, the gorgeous hills, the winding roads, the SUNSHINE and the change of pace.

The other day I went to Trader Joe’s and it felt like a whole new experience! I forgot that the alcohol doesn’t have to be separate from the groceries in this state and I found produce with the stems and leaves still connected to the fruit! Freshly picked clementines, straight from the grove and sold at Trader Joe’s. I was in heaven!

I’ve been eating my fair share of cheap, fresh, tropical fruits: pineapple and papaya with lemon juice was for breakfast. With the price of the fruit out here I’ve been able to snack on blackberries and mandarins all day. I can’t wait until we go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, Eric’s mom has been telling me about fruits I’ve never even heard of that I should try!

The guys come back from their cross-country trip this afternoon. I can’t wait until Eric gets home! After so many months of winter and packing it’ll be so much fun to actually get some time together.

While I’ve been waiting for him to come home I’ve had people “capturing” me and taking me on fun adventures. The other day Faye and I went to the OC and had lunch at this all vegan restaurant called The Veggie Grill.

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We had the “Bali Bliss” which is a Tempeh burger with red onion, tomato, lettuce and a (all vegan, of course!) chipotle ranch sauce. I ordered the “All Hail Kale” salad which was this amazing creation we tried to reproduce last night. It was kale, red cabbage, quinoa, corn salsa, agave-roasted walnuts, with a ginger-papaya vinaigrette. The burger and the salad were the best things we ordered! The mac-n-cheese was a disaster (but what did I really expect?) and the chili was an incredibly fresh texture but not a lot of flavor.

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All in all, it was a great experience and such a joy to find easily accessible and affordable healthy food. Welcome to California!

The next day Ruby picked me up and we went to Uncle Tim’s for a little Thai date with the girls and an IKEA run. It was so good to catch up a little, get out of the house and start doing “normal” things. I’m still adjusting to the fact that I live here now because every other time I see these people I’m visiting. That’s a pretty good lightbulb-moment feeling: I live here now.

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I, thankfully, was able to grab a few things at IKEA to style up my new digs. There’s still a lot of unpacking (and then more packing) that needs to be done but it feels nice to have some clean white light coming in through open windows and a freshly made bed. Waking up to birds chirping outside my windows has been another one of my favorite things. What a delight! (I feel like a visitor to a foreign country) 

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This does look like a foreign Target though. It’s like I’m taking pictures of Starbucks in different countries or something. The last Target I left was a freezing walk from the car to the store through salty parking lots with downtown’s skyscrapers in the background. What a difference!  Now I’m seeing palm trees, hills, snow covered mountains (this time of year) and blue skies.

I’m thankful to the Lord for all these little blessings sewn throughout my day. This is exactly what I needed.