mom

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!


IMG_9334

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!


IMG_9349
I also added a handful of chopped arugula to balance the sweetness of the strawberries and basil with a little fresh spice.

 
IMG_9357
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.

 
IMG_9374
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!

IMG_9386

Baby Prep: DIY Diaper Clutch & Diaper Changing Pad

I keep going back and forth: to cloth diaper or not to cloth diaper? That is the question. With the cost of disposable diapers and the number of kids we want to have I always thought it would be a good investment to be a “cloth diapering family”. My husband, on the other hand, needed some convincing. The “saving money” aspect was attractive but the fact that our other kids would wear their older siblings diapers was not. I told him that you wash them and that they’re clean but his argument was that his brother washes his underwear too – that doesn’t mean they’re going to share!

We have a long road ahead of us before he warms up to the idea! For the first three months of newborn diapers we’ll use disposables just to help as we get into a new-baby routine. After that we’ll evaluate but I’m pretty sure between the money-saving factor and the convenience factor I’ll be able to show him how easy cloth diapering really can be. That’s my hope anyways.

Either way, whether our son sports Pampers or BumGenius, I wanted a cute and organized way to take my diapers, wipes and changing pad on the go.

This will be the last time I do my cutting, piecing and ironing on the floor. I don’t know why I thought this would be a convenient choice but my back clearly thought it to be a bad idea.

I used some black and white striped canvas fabric that I got from IKEA a couple of months ago and some bleached muslin. I cut a rectangular piece of each fabric that was about 12″ wide and 20″ long, pinned the two fabrics, right sides together, and used a plate to guide my rotary cutter around the two top corners to give me even rounded edges.




IMG_9279

I sewed around the whole clutch except for a 3″ opening on the lower right side. This allowed me to turn my fabric inside out and press the seams properly. Then I used some yellow knit fabric from an old shirt I cut up to sew a pocket onto what would later be the front of the clutch. I wish I would’ve sewn a pocket on the white muslin first before I sewed it to my canvas that way the inside of the clutch could have a little pocket too.

 
IMG_9286

After you’ve added all of the pockets that your little heart desires, you fold the long rectangle up about 8″ or more and pin in place. You can play around with how deep you want your clutch to be compared to how long you want your front flap. When it looks how you like make sure all of your sides are lined up and that the 3″ opening’s seam is ironed in place. Then sew up the right and left side of your clutch.

IMG_9302

That’s it! You’re done! Cute little clutch to hold your diaper changing pad, about 4  diapers (cloth or disposable!), pack of travel wipes and a change of little people clothes. Now all I need to do is find a cute button for the front and add a little velcro on the front flap to make sure it stays closed.

 

IMG_9389

 
I also made this travel diaper changing pad to take along with me. One side is a waterproof fabric and the other side is cotton. I used the fabric I got for 99 cents/yard at IKEA which seems to make it’s way in almost all of my sewing projects. I cut out the fabric to be about 15″ x 24″, faced the right sides together and pinned in place.

 
IMG_9390

 

I sewed around all of the edges except for the bottom. I turned the fabric inside out, pressed the seams and then folded the fabric of the opening under so I could iron it flat. Then I sewed the opening shut and sewed random lines across the fabric to hold it together. Next time I should send my fabric pieces to Minnesota to have my mom make a quilted diaper changing pad with her fancy quilting machine!

 

IMG_9393

 

 

There you have it! A quick and easy diaper changing pad to take with you on the go! My husband thinks that I should’ve put some batting on the inside to make it a little cushy for baby’s bum which is a good point but I love that this isn’t bulky and folds up really thin, taking up hardly any space.

One more project down…many more to go!