Beach Picnics Part 1 – Chicken Salad Sandwiches

The last couple of weekends I’ve been lucky enough to have Tim free on Sundays. Since we sometimes work opposite schedules, it’s a real treat when we both have a day off. We had been making a routine of hitting up brunch at The Hammered Lamb over on Ivanhoe Row. It’s the only place that has been able to break me of my standard eggs benedict and mimosa meal. Now I always order a BLT and their bloody mary bar. I’m definitely one of those classless assholes that tops their bloody mary with four pieces of bacon, two skewers of blue cheese stuffed olives, a few artichoke hearts and a stick of string cheese. I tried their BLT on a whim, since I’ve had a very strict policy ever since I was a toddler that bread and vegetables like raw tomato and lettuce should never meet. Sometimes food just beckons you, I suppose.

There is also a very distinct flavor in their BLT. They use an herbed mayo that is rife with thyme. I love herbs on my eggs, and its not uncommon for me to sprinkle herbes des Provence on eggs when cooking breakfast at home. I feel like you usually find thyme in much more rich and savory dishes, like French onion soup or anything else where beef is simmered for hours. But thyme also has a wonderful flavor that works well with lighter dishes, like eggs and chicken.

The Florida summer has really had me yearning for the beach, however. I usually never go because I got in the habit of only going for 2 or 3 hours and then heading home. When I was growing up in New Smyrna Beach, that was fine. Now that I live in Orlando and it’s easily an hour before I can even put a foot in the sand, I’d rather make a day of it. Tim and I took our brunch money and invested in all the tools necessary to make us look like every other Orlando resident that I grew up annoyed by yet thankful for; my beach umbrella, cooler and chairs a reminder of my time working at Mon Delice where I’d make sub sandwiches and box pastries up for the tourists.

I had been wanting to hit up Playalinda in Titusville. To keep us on the beach, I decided I’d pack the cooler with a great picnic spread. First, I’d make big chicken salad sandwiches on wheat buns. I chopped up some cucumber slices and celery sticks to go with hummus. For dessert, I made rosemary lemon shortbread cookies. Those actually turned out to be quite the Pinterest Fail, and I’ll be sure to post all about that so you can enjoy. For good measure I grabbed the vodka and a bottle of bloody mary mix.

Chicken salad is one of those recipes that I always forget how much I like. Although it can be labor-intensive, I enjoy how few ingredients it takes. Its also pretty cheap to make because I take bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and roast them in the oven. Not only are they half the cost of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but they have so much more flavor and moisture when you cook them.

The labor-intensive part is standing in the kitchen pulling the meat from the bone and shredding it by hand. Not only will you be able to make sure you separate the little bones and bits of cartilage, but I think the long shreds hold the sauce nicely and give a different texture. I also have made this recipe with salmon I’ve cooked. Salmon goes wonderfully with either herb, but especially with dill. Again, you’ll want to flake the salmon apart by hand; that will keep the thick flaky texture instead of mushy like bad tuna fish salad.

There are other ingredient swaps you can use in this recipe. For the mustard, I have Dijon listed. I’m also a big fan of stone ground mustard or even deli-style mustard with chicken in particular. I like to use a combination of half mayo – half low fat Greek yogurt to lighten it up. I’ve also made this with just Greek yogurt, but we like the extra richness the mayo gives. Play around with the proportions that you like, or even try with a vegan or paleo mayonnaise. Get funky.

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2 Chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on, or about 3 cups of cooked shredded chicken
1 Cup celery, diced
½ Cup Mayo
½ Cup Greek Yogurt
¼ Cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Thyme or Dill
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. If you’re starting with uncooked chicken, bake the chicken breasts skin-side up in an open pan at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Let them cool until they are cool enough to handle with your hands.

2. Discard the chicken skin… Or snack on it like I do while I make this! Its like chicken bacon.

3. Shred the chicken using your hands.

4. Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

5. Check the mixture for seasoning. Some mustards have different flavors, so get a feel for where your flavors are at before adding additional salt and pepper. I usually will add about 1 teaspoon of salt at this point.

6. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least an hour before making your sandwiches.

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Paleo Zucchini Bread

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I suck at baking. Like really, really suck at baking. I never can seem to get things right. I blame it on the fact that baking is all about being precise. It’s a chemical reaction, and I think I got a C+ at best in chemistry. The best part of being a business major in college was that I could get away with geology as my required science class. The only thing I took away from my professor was his love of ‘A Land Remembered’ by Patrick D. Smith, which is now one of my favorite books. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Florida history.

Luckily paleo baking seems to be something I’m far better at. It’s still not the ‘pinch of this, dash of that’ freedom that cooking gives me, but it seems less hard for me to totally screw things up. I also enjoy paleo baking because it means I can eat baked goods without all of the extra sugar and processed carbs. I’m one of those people who needs to watch my carbs and processed junk I put into my body because it seems to enjoy settling on my stomach. I by no means am trying to ‘eat like a caveman’, and I do still put some lower-fat cream cheese on my paleo zucchini bread because that’s the way God (and my mom) intended zucchini bread to be eaten. As far as my lower-carb-higher-protein lifestyle goes, this just seems to fit right in.

In the two times I’ve made this recipe, I’ve found that using thawed zucchini that you’ve nearly crushed with your bare hands works the best. This is particularly helpful when it’s near the end of summer, and your fridge is overflowing with all of the zucchini that you bought on sale because it was in season and you got tired of grilling, sautéing, and making baked zucchini fries (recipe here). Just run it through the food processor’s grater (or shred by hand with a box grater), bag it up in portions, and toss it in the freezer (next to your stockpile of bananas that you also bought in bulk) till you’re ready to make a bounty of zucchini bread, which to me is a fall treat with summer’s leftovers. Let it thaw, then squeeze as much liquid as you can out to make sure your bread doesn’t come out too wet.

1 ½ c almond flour
1 cup zucchini, shredded and drained of excess water
3 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1 ½ tsp baking soda
3 Tbs honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs coconut oil, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

3. In another bowl, add your eggs, honey, banana, and coconut oil and whisk together thoroughly.

4. Add your squeezed zucchini to the wet mixture. Seriously… Squeeze the shit out of it.

5. Fold in the dry ingredients until everything is smooth.

6. Grease a loaf pan and pour the batter in. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

7. Allow the bread to cool before removing from the pan. Enjoy!