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.

dancing gif

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.

Lemon Lentil Salad

If anyone can give me the secret to getting rid of sea legs, I will give you a high five. I’ve been back on land for over 24 hours, but I still can’t shake the inevitable feeling that I’m rocking back and forth on waves not suitable for vacationing on a cruise ship. Luckily I’ve tamed the acid reflux from too much food and even more Mai Tais with vodka floaters. Pro Tip: Don’t even bother getting drunk on a cruise ship. You’ll blow through your budget and your stash of smuggled booze faster than you can make your way from one end of the dinner buffet to the other. There just isn’t enough real estate in your stomach, and your liver is too busy processing the plate of bacon you had for breakfast and the plate of roast beef you had for lunch to even bother with that $8 pina colada you just bought.

Speaking of $8 pina coladas, let me recap a few things that happened to annoy the shit out of me on my long weekend!

1. If a drink is described in great detail on a menu, please serve it to me that way. I knew better than to get caught up in drinking cruise ship beverages. But when I bellied up to one of the bars with a stunning view of the ocean just as we had set sail, I took a gander at the bar menu and saw a lovely sounding beverage. Why not kick off the trip with a little something besides bootlegged vodka mixed with the lemonade from the soda machine? There was a Hendrick’s gin rickey of sorts that boasted fresh limes muddled together with fresh raspberries and simple syrup. The price seemed reasonable so I went for it. I was handed back a glass filled with Mr. Boston’s well gin and syrupy margarita and raspberry frozen drink mixes. Oh, and a lemon garnish. For $8.XX (because gratuity is already added).

bsi

I did remind the bartender that I ordered the ultimate gin rickey… You know, the one with Hendrick’s in it and the fresh ingredients. The boyfriend offered to drink the first one, and I watched the bartender make the ‘correct’ one. Sadly, the correct one still came to me made with the syrupy junk from the carton. With a lemon. And I still got charged $8.XX. Later that night I tried ordering another lime-based drink and was informed that the entire ship was out of limes. Good thing I had listened to NPR a few days ago when they ran a story about the international lime market and how global demand for the fruit has jacket up the street value and made them hard to find. I still wish someone would have told me when I placed my drink order that there were no limes.

On the third day of the cruise I treated myself to the festive Mai Tai. Again I ordered the fancy one off the bar menu, because why not. It had Disaronno and some Pyrat special rum that the boyfriend said was particularly good. I’m watching the bartender make the drink. In goes the Disaronno. Then he tops the whole glass off with fruity juice from a big jug and hands it to me. I politely say, “Oh, I’m sorry… Did you add the rum?” He chuckles back and says the rum is already mixed in the juice, and suggests I try it because I can taste it. Sure enough, I do taste it. But deep down I’m furious that I’m again being charged for top-shelf liquor and being served the opposite. I take my drink, enjoy half of it, and then try to justify the situation by pouring some of my smuggled vodka into it.

2. When a pool is designated as the grown ups’ pool, please keep your goddamned kids out of it. The adults need a place to chill out sans kids too. When you’ve finally dropped the babies off at the nursery for the afternoon, or you’ve snagged one of the last chaises by the pool and you’re about to crack open a good book, or you’re just a lone traveler trying to enjoy a little ‘you’ time, do you want to deal with five year olds doing cannonballs? Having the whirlpool tub overrun by unsupervised preschoolers? No! I want to read Chuck Palahniuk and listen to this symphony cover of Celine Dion and enjoy my third lox and bagel from the breakfast buffet.

Those unexpected days at sea are the worst. We were unable to tender in to the cruiseline’s private island (our second and last stop of the trip), so we were left to fend for ourselves on board. Needless to say the pool deck was packed. It was the only afternoon where there was sun, so there was not a chair in sight. Getting into the pool was not a possibility; the kids had abandoned the children’s pool and opted for the family pool and there was a swarm of about 20 kids bobbing around in snorkel gear or diving in on top of each other. The boy and I checked in the grown up’s pool. Not ideal since it’s a solarium-style and I wasn’t sure how much sun we’d end up getting, but beggars can’t be choosers. Sadly, everything was taken. There could have been more seating, but some families decided it would be great if they could just tote their kids along. Eventually the boy and I found 2 chairs that another couple had just abandoned on the public deck and were able to get sunburned and listed to the reggae band play covers in between asking the kids not to do handstands into the pool.

3. Put some damn clothes on your kids. There have been a few times where I’ve stopped, cocked my head to the side and have wondered what in the hell some parents are thinking when they let their kids leave the house. But when a kid is under the age of 5, odds are pretty good that you dressed your kid yourself. This is not a matter of your 13 year old unzipping their hoodie to reveal a tube top. This is a 4 year old running around in micro-bikini and you put her in it. Seriously, I don’t even think that one of the triangles would have covered one of my nips. It was downright disturbing, and the thought that all one pervert had to do was snap a picture on their cell phone was too much.

I'm all like

I’m all like

dafoe

Creepers be all like

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from coordinating what time to hit the dinner buffet before our sit down dinner, the boyfriend and I talked about what we will and won’t allow our kids to wear for the better part of that afternoon. Glad to know he and I are on the same page.

4. Don’t make me pay three times what I’d pay on dry land and then give me a sales pitch. Another thing I knew better was not to spend money in the spa. I wound up spending over $100 on a ‘manager’s special’ treatment that was a scalp massage, foot massage, and a hot stone back massage. I could have gotten a Groupon! And if the price tag wasn’t unsettling enough, try relaxing when the spa is directly located under the weight room of the gym. All of the bro’s on the ship (and trust me, the boy and I counted at least 20 bro’s) were all working out at the same time, slamming their weights down on the thin floor above me. But the real cherry on top was the sales pitch. Talk about bursting what little bubble of relaxation I had. I had a feeling it was coming… I had sailed once on this cruise line a few years back and had the same thing happen to me. As soon as you’re handed your cup of water and still nekkid on the massage table, your therapist explains in her heavy accent about the types of oils she just rubbed you down with. Then she tells you how to use them at home. Then she says, “So which ones will you be purchasing today?” I’m sorry? I just overpaid you for the least relaxing massage I’ve ever had and you’re asking me to purchase these ‘exclusive’ beauty products?

no-effin-way

So that’s my rant.IMG_0579

At least now I’m home and slowly working good things into my body, like water. I’m already feeling some of the bloat going away, and last night when I finally found my appetite again all I wanted was something light but flavorful, and preferably with ingredients I already had in the fridge. There is a lemony lentil salad that I really like, and its great for lunch or as a side with dinner. It would also be good for taking on picnics because it doesn’t contain mayo and is great hot or cold.

 

Eat this and feel good!

1 ½ cups of green lentils
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 Tbs quality extra virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup diced red onion (optional)
1 clove of garlic minced or grated on a micro plane
Salt to taste

1. Boil your lentils in water for about 15 minutes, then drain.
2. In a mixing bowl, add all of the other ingredients except the salt.
3. Add in your lentils and toss together until everything is coated evenly.
4. Salt the salad to taste. Sometimes Dijon can add a little saltiness, so you always want to salt after.
5. Enjoy either warm or cold!

IMG_0578

Lunch: Provencal Potato Salad

I like to call this The Pantry Cleaner. Basically, take all of your things in your pantry and just dump them in here. Not really. But basically.

Provencal Potato Salad

Provencal Potato Salad

Usually I can’t stand recipes that call for so many ingredients. And you still have to make the base of this recipe, which can be found HERE. But, Ina Garten again works her magic, and everyone that I had try this at the office agreed its pretty flippin’ amazing and totally worth the slaving in the kitchen.

OK, maybe you’re not really slaving… Just opening up a few jars, mincing a few things, and peeling some eggs. If you’re a fan of nicoise salads like I am, your mouth will thank me. Thankfully this does make a pretty hefty batch, so get ready to eat a few bowls of this or feed a small army of friends. Since this is a pretty complete meal, you’ll have a great lunch for the week!

Here we go!

½ lb haricots verts (fresh green beans, to you and me)
1 recipe French Potato Salad
1 can of tuna fish, drained
½ cup capers, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, minced
½ cup pitted olives, chopped
6 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

1. Get a giant ass mixing bowl with your French Potato Salad in it.

2. Get a pot of water to a rolling boil. Drop in your haricots verts and cook for about 3-5 minutes. You want to keep them fairly crisp, instead of too mushy. Drain and give them a chop in half.

3. Add the haricots verts, tuna fish, capers, cherry tomatoes, onion, olives, and eggs to the potato salad. Toss well and serve!

So pretty...

So pretty…

...So yummy!

…So yummy!

Sides: French Potato Salad

This is another stab of mine at an Ina Garten recipe. That woman really does no wrong in my book, and this recipe proves just that. I’m a big fan of Southern-style potato salad, but this one is so fresh and flavorful with the tangy vinaigrette and fresh herbs that it’s a nice detour from mayo-heavy potato salads that we’re used to.

I will be honest, I’m not crazy about recipes that call for a million ingredients. I’m also not a fan of ingredients that are highly-specialized or very expensive. However, I passed up my usual six pack of fancy beer and decided to pick up some fancy vinegar instead. Luckily my grocer had a clearance on a walnut champagne vinegar. Even on sale, this shit was like $7 for 6.75 oz. But once you add your vinaigrette to the warm potatoes and you get a nose full, you’ll understand. And when your friends are asking you what that flavor is in the back that they just can’t place and you casually say, “Oh. It’s just this champagne vinegar I picked up. Sounded like a good idea at the time…” Get ready for the eyebrows. Shit just got real.

Here we go:

2 lbs of small potatoes (I love the little red ones, but feel free to add the white and reds together for color)
3 Tbs champagne vinegar (I used a walnut champagne for extra flavor… and it was on sale)
½ tsp Dijon mustard
10 Tbs quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced scallions, white and green
2 Tbs minced fresh dill
2 Tbs minced parsley
2 Tbs chiffonade of basil

1. Get a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add some salt, the same way you would if you were cooking pasta. Add the potatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes. Once tender, drain them and then add them back to the pot and throw the lid on them. This will let them steam, which lets them develop this creamy texture. Sounds nuts, but just go with it.

2. While your potatoes are at the spa, add your vinegar, mustard, oil, salt and pepper to a glass jar*. Shake it furiously until all of the ingredients combine to make a smooth dressing-like vinaigrette.

3. Take your warm potatoes and chop them into thick cubes. This may mean you’re quartering them, or if you’re using larger potatoes you’ll need to cube them a little smaller. Do what feels right.

4. Toss the potatoes with the vinaigrette, then add your fresh herbs. The warm potatoes will absorb the vinaigrette like a sponge, unlike if they were cold. The end results will be tasty potatoes literally packed with flavor from the inside out. Serve this warm or at room temperature.

French Potato Salad

French Potato Salad

*Pro tip: I keep little glass jars around the house for all kinds of shit. Every time I’ve used up a jar of olives, mustard, or whatever, I throw it in the dishwasher and add it to the collection. They are fantastic for cleaning your skate bearings (when friends stop by for a bearing cleaning party, I can send them home with a little jar or dirty turpentine!) and they are great for when you make your own dressings and marinades. Just throw your ingredients all into the jar, seal the lid tight, and shake like crazy… Preferably over the sink, just in case that lid got loose on you! It’s much fast than that whole ‘drizzle the oil slowly and whisk till your arm falls off’ method, and when you’re done you can throw it in the fridge, the cooler, your lunchbox, wherever… And it’s less mess.

Makin' dressing...

Makin’ dressing…

Sides: Clean Eating Waldorf Salad

This week I’ve been focusing on eating my veggies, especially ones that I don’t eat much of. Celery is one of those things. I tend to only use it in soups, but its one of those great veggies that is full of vitamins and fiber. Much to my surprise, it’s pretty damn good mixed with fruit.

Waldorf Salad is one of those recipes that freak me out also because of the mayo that’s used. Mayo + fruit + celery just doesn’t seem right. Luckily this recipe swaps out the mayo for Greek yogurt, and it’s a great snack to have later in the morning around 11a when your stomach starts craving lunch a little early.

Let’s get started!

1 cup celery, diced (about 3-4 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup grapes, halved
1 single-serve container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ of a lemon

Throw the celery, apples, walnuts and grapes into a large tupperware. Squeeze the lemon into the container of yogurt and stir it well. Add the yogurt to the other ingredients, snap on the lid, and shake furiously to mix everything together. Keep chilled until you’re ready to serve.

Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad

Pro tip: Keep the walnuts in a bag and when you’re chopping them, take the back of your knife and smash them with your palm instead. This will keep them in one place, and when you’re ready to add them, just pour them from the bag. Less mess!

Smashing walnuts!

Smashing walnuts!