Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

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This soup is so comforting and delish. As new parents we are ALL about meal prep…IE: what can we make a lot of and toss in the freezer for quick meals on week nights? Soup is an amazing option for lunches, dinners, period. Its my new favorite food!

Before my husband heads to work he pulls a mason jar of soup out of the freezer and places in the fridge. When home – pour it into a pot on the stove, heat it up and eat. Voila! Its much better for you and comes with much less guilt than ordering a pizza or hitting the BK drive-thru when exhausted after a long day and sleepless night before. We also made it over the Christmas holiday with my family and it was a big hit.

This soup is SO easy to make and I know you’ll love it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice blend
  • 1 cup chopped yellow or white onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into 1 tbsp chunks
  • 2 clove minced garlic
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp of each dried thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary
  • 1 rotisserie chicken – shredded (or you can shred chicken breasts or chicken thighs on your own)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Prepare rice according to directions listed on package.
  2. As the is rice cooking, in a large pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until slightly tender, about 5 minutes
  3. Add in garlic and sauté another minute or so
  4. Add chicken broth, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile reduce heat to low and add cooked rice.
  6. Add shredded chicken to soup. Keep on low temperature.
  7. In a separate medium saucepan (you can just rinse/wipe the rice pan), you will start the roux by melting the remaining 6 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
  8. Whisk in flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Then, while whisking vigorously, slowly pour milk into butter/flour mixture.
  9. Stir this roux constantly until it thickens. Add the roux/milk mixture to soup/broth mixture in pot and cook about 5 minutes longer, or until soup is thickened (you can simmer the soup for a longer period of time if you want the rice to soften more, just cover with lid first and stir occasionally. **I don’t use all the roux every time, pour in as much as you like or don’t like to satisfy the texture you prefer — up to you!
  10. Stir in heavy cream and serve warm.
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Carrots, celery, & onion chopped

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The wild rice blend we used

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Rotisserie chicken shredded

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Cooked wild rice

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Broth poured into cooked vegetable mix

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butter and flour – ready for roux

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roux (milk mixture)

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Soup mix after roux is added

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Final product once all ingredients included

Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad is delicious – WHEN its done right. I am kinda picky about my pasta salad which is odd b/c I eat pretty much everything that comes in my path. Usually restaurants throw in a bunch of pasta, red onion and a basic Italian salad dressing and charge way too much for that thoughtless dish. No thank you!!

I love to make this salad for when I have friends over. They always think its store-bought, but its not! Its super easy to make and is bursting with flavor. If I have leftovers, I use for lunches or quick dinners on weeknights. Grill up a chicken breast or some shrimp – toss it all together and you’ve got a delicious meal. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 pound rotini pasta
  • 3/4 pound bow tie pasta
  • 3/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cups pesto, store-bought or click here to try my recipe
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parm Ramano
  • 1 small bag frozen petite peas, defrosted
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring a large heavily salted pot of water to a boil. Add all pasta. Cook in boiling water for about 8 to 10 minutes total, but taste to ensure its done. Strain and rinse gently with cold water. Toss with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in the microwave according to package directions. Strain into a colander, rinse with cold water and press out the liquid with the back of a spoon. I also grab paper towels and do one last smoosh through the colander to get out any additional liquid. Set aside.
  3. In a very large bowl, stir together pesto, spinach, lemon juice, balsamic, mayonnaise, salt and black pepper. Add pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, peas, and 1/2 cup the parmesan cheese.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with other 1/2 cup of the cheese.
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Cooked pasta tossed in olive oil

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Peas thawing

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Chopped sun-dried tomatoes

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Mixing mayo, spinach, pesto, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice & red pepper flakes

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Final product!

Simple Caprese Salad (avocado optional)

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IMG_3466I like to spend money, especially on beauty items, beauty treatments and clothing/shoes/accessories. Such odd behavior for a female right? I work to trim my part of the household budget by not eating breakfast or lunch out. This is also a great way to cut calories during the day and allows me to eat dinners that may be slightly higher in calories. Sometimes after a long day a girl just wants CREAM SAUCE for dinner!!!!

Since I bring lunch to work, I have to choose food items that do well with the kitchen tools I have at work: fridge, microwave, basic silverware and toaster oven. This caprese salad is a little unorthodox since I use cherry tomatoes vs. slicing vine ripened tomatoes. As I usually take a double or triple batch of salad for the whole week, the cherry tomatoes hold up a little better once they are halved and placed in the fridge.

If avocados are in season, I will chop one at the office and add it to the salad. This is freaking yummy and if you really want to replace calories w/ better calories, the avocado can replace the cheese but keeps the creaminess. I sometimes will take ciabatta bread or even a bagel thin to eat with the salad for a firm texture and to get a few carbs. I highly recommend this for lunch, for a quick snack or even for an appetizer that will impress friends with its freshness!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 carton cherubs (about 1.5 cups of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella (sliced into rings, then sliced into strips, then cut into small cubes about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch)
  • 2 -3 tbsp chopped fresh basil (I use 3 but I looove basil)
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste (I use a good pinch of salt and about 1 tsp pepper)
  • Chopped avocado (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Slice all cherry tomatoes in half (check THIS out – its a great hack on cutting cherry tomatoes)
  • Place tomatoes, cubed cheese, basil, evoo, balsamic, salt, & pepper into small bowl with tight-fitting lid.
  • Roll bowl around slowly and gently to mix the ingredients without puncturing or damaging the tomatoes. Do this for about 1 minute – turning on its head, sides, etc. – just rolling gently to mix.
  • Taste – then add in more salt, pepper, olive or balsamic. Everyone likes a bit more of one ingredient.
  • Remove lid and stir in avocado if using
  • Serve with bread if using
  • ENJOY!
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Tomatoes halved and cheese cubes in small bowl

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Chopped basil

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All ingredients (minus avocado) in bowl

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All ingredients slowly tossed in bowl with lid on

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Final product – take to work or enjoy immediately!

 

Salmon Salad w/ Creamy Avocado Dressing

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DSC_0025 Salmon might be my favorite fish. I am a BIG fan of sea-bass too…but salmon is more affordable and easier to find and is full of health benefits. My husband likes it, but not as much as I do — so when he is out of town I do a lot of salmon cooking for one. This salad is delicious, fresh, and healthy! Again, key here is fresh and ripe ingredients. Especially the AVOCADO. INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ripe avocado – peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 tbsp shallot chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 filet of fresh salmon – 4-6 ounces
  • 2 cups mixed field greens
  • 1 small vine ripened tomato – seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp of light shredded cheese
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil with a high smoke point
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place 1/2 of the avocado, cilantro, sour cream or yogurt, shallots, garlic, lime juice, sugar, and salt in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth. Set aside
  3. Pat dry salmon with paper towel. Sprinkle w/ salt and pepper.
  4. Heat oil to medium heat in a saute pan.
  5. Place salmon in pan, skin side up.
  6. Saute for 4-5 minutes and flip to skin side down.
  7. Keep skin-side down for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Place saute pan in oven for about 7-10 minutes. If pan is not oven save, line baking sheet with foil and place salmon skin side down on pan.
  9. While salmon is cooking, mix lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and the remaining avocado into a bowl. Toss with about 1-2 tbsp of the dressing- depending on how much dressing you like.
  10. Salmon should register a 145 degrees internally when done.
  11. Pull from oven and let rest while you prepare to plate.
  12. Pull skin from bottom of salmon – due to the searing skin side down it should peel off easily.
  13. To plate: place salmon on plate or in bowl, lay salmon on salad, and top salmon with a dollop of dressing.
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All ingredients in food processor

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Dressing is complete!

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Salmon is done!

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Pulling skin off the salmon

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Mixing the salad while salmon cooks

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Salad complete!

Restaurant Redo: The Mighty Cone from Austin

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My first mighty cone at Austin City Limits 2011

Austin, TX. What isn’t there to love about this place?! I have been visiting this city for at least once a year for quite a few years. Between friends who used to live there, or friends who live there now – I am fortunate enough to have plenty of reasons to visit Austin. Even if you don’t have a personal connection to Austin, just go check it out. It’s one of the most fun cities I’ve ever been to. Its domestic, SW Airlines flies there for CHEAP, and its a great getaway for a quick weekend or a full week. I’ve traveled down to the lone-star state for music festivals, concerts, weekends on the lake, college reunions, or relaxing and spending time with friends. There is something for everyone! Promise.

Austin is an active place mostly due to the weather.  The rivers, parks and lakes IN the city also help quite a bit. Everyone is Austin is always out and about. Just doing stuff. Being active. The whole population seems to always be outdoors, running, walking, hiking, swimming, boating, paddle-boarding, you name it. These people work hard, workout hard and they play hard. yay! Tons of fun bars, restaurants, live music venues, food trucks, events, and people who want to just live it up.

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Us with ‘finger mustaches’ at ACL

When visiting the ACL music festival a couple of years ago I experienced nirvana when I ate my first ‘Mighty Cone‘. This is a food truck born/raised in Austin that serves a unique batter blend for fried chicken, shrimp, avocado or combinations of these three wrapped in a tortilla, with mango jalapeño salsa, and dressed with ancho chile cream. H E A V E N. They serve this legal drug combination in a paper cone to make eating easier and less messy. Brilliant! Every time I go to Austin now, we must get a mighty cone. MUST!

I found a recipe at Food & Wine where I made a few tweaks to my liking – less sugar, less salt, more mango, more lime zest – other changes like that. I didn’t put them into cone shaped paper like they do in the food truck, I basically made burritos. This recipe takes some time for sure, but its worth every minute! Its a consistent blend of spicy and sweet and savory. It is SO good!

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Final product – Chicken ‘cones’. 🙂

Ingredients (for 6 persons):

Chicken/Avocados:

      • 12 Chicken tender strips
      • 2 avocados
      • 6 cups corn flakes
      • 8 tablespoons sesame seeds
      • 12 tablespoons slivered almonds
      • 8 tablespoons white sugar
      • 3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
      • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
      • 6 eggs
      • 1 cup skim milk
      • 3 cups AP flour for dredging
      • Oil for frying (soy, peanut, vegetable – your choice)
      • 5 flour tortillas

Mango/Jalapeño Slaw:

  • 1 bag shredded cole slaw mix
  • 1 cup diced mango
  • 3 jalapeño peppers – seeded and chopped
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp diced shallot
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup light mayo
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro

Chipotle cream sauce:

  • 1/3 cup adobo sauce
  • 8 oz light sour cream
  • 2 tbsp lime zest
  • 2.5 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground pepper

Directions: (make sauce and slaw first)

Chipotle cream:

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Add more honey, lime juice or cream if too spicy. Pour into squeeze bottle with a 1/4 inch or smaller spout. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Chipotle Cream Sauce

Slaw:

  1. Combine vinegar, sugar, water, mango, jalapeño & shallot in a small sauce pan.
  2. Warm over low heat for about 20 minutes until mango begins to break down.
  3. Pour into blender or food processor. Pulse until mixed well.
  4. Pour mixture into mixing bowl – add mayonnaise and sour cream. Whisk well.
  5. Add cilantro and finish with one last mixing to incorporate everything.
  6. Pour over cole slaw and mix all together. Add by 1/2 cup at a time to ensure the cole slaw doesn’t end up too soupy. Slaw should be covered but not sitting in excess sauce. If you have leftovers you can freeze for future use.
  7. Refrigerate until ready you use.
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Mango, Jalapeño, Shallot, Vinegar, Sugar, Water – In sauce pan over medium heat

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All ingredients cooked down

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Sauce pureed, with sour cream, mayo & cilantro added

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Pouring slaw dressing onto slaw mix

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Slaw after completely mixed

Chicken/Avocado Cones:

  1. Place ripe avocados in fridge for about 2 hours prior to frying.
  2. Pull from fridge and cut each avocado in half, then each half into 4 slices = 8 total per avocado. 16 slices total per 2 avocados.
  3. Heat fryer or skillet with oil to approximately 350 degrees.
  4. Pour corn flakes, salt, sugar, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and almonds into a food processor.
  5. Pulse until coarsely ground and place into bowl.
  6. Whisk eggs and milk together, place in  bowl.
  7. Pour flour into small bowl.
  8. Set up ‘frying station’ so that you first dredge items in flour, then egg mixture, then corn flake mixture, then into hot oil.
  9. Start with avocados in batches of 4 and and follow the step 8 dredging process from flour, to egg mix, and so on into the oil for frying. I recommend starting w/ avocados so the batter doesn’t pick up the chicken salmonella. I didn’t follow this advice – but you definitely should.
  10. Pull avocados from oil and place on paper towels to dry. Repeat until all avocado slices are completely fried.
  11. In batches of 4 strips each, follow the dredging process outlined in step 8. Place final chicken strips into oil and cook for about 7-8 minutes until coating is a caramel brown color.
  12. Pull from oil and place on paper towels to dry. Repeat until all chicken strips are completely fried.
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Dredging chicken in flour, egg mixture & corn flake mix

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LuLu waiting for crumbs to hit the floor

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Chicken is a-fryin’!

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Chicken fried, avocados on deck

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Hands are super gross! Use left hand to dredge in flour and egg with the right hand in the corn flakes and oil

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Avocado fresh out of the fryer

To assemble cones:

  1. Warm tortillas in microwave or oven.
  2. Start with one tortilla and follow the process until all are completed for your meal/diners.
  3. Lay open tortilla and line the middle with slaw.
  4. On top of slaw place 2 chicken strips and then two avocado slices.
  5. On top of chicken and avocado, drizzle with chipotle cream sauce.
  6. Fold and serve in a cone (like the food truck) or eat like a burrito.
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Tortilla with slaw – topping w/ chicken

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Tortilla w/ slaw, chicken, avocado and topped w/ chipotle cream

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final ‘cones’. Mine are more like burritos – but TASTE amazing. OMG OMG OMG. Nailed it.

Restaurant Redo: Chik-Fil-A Original Chicken Sandwich

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So, I am one of those people who L-O-V-E-S the Chik-Fil-A ‘original chicken sandwich’. Don’t think I’m crazy, I promise its a large fan club I belong to. I think its just the most delicious fried chicken sammie I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a bad one, and although they aren’t healthy…I would go to the gym for an hour just to not feel guilt when eating this heavenly meal. Serious goodness here.

Now, with all that being said, I am not a fan of the Chik-Fil-A company. Their beliefs on homosexuality do not align with mine, and for this reason I choose not to purchase from their establishment. I’m not trying to make some big political statement here, its just my point of view and we live in a free country, this is my blog, and my opinion…so that’s that. Enough said.

So, if I don’t GO to Chik-Fil-A…how on earth can I continue to eat that yummy sandwich I love so much? Well, hunt down a recipe online and make it for yourself! 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1  egg
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk powder
  • 1.5 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup pickle juice
  • 4 soft hamburger buns
  • Peanut oil or similar oil for frying. We use a Crisco blend.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Trim fat from chicken breasts.
  2. Pound each chicken breast to 1/2 to 1/4 inch thickness. Make sure its evenly pounded or your chicken will cook unevenly and you’ll have to put it back in the oil. 😦
  3. Pour all pickle juice minus 1 tbsp into a dish with a tight fitting lid.
  4. Place chicken breasts in the marinade and put in fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. While chicken is marinating, whisk both flours, milk powder, powdered sugar, paprika, pepper, dry mustard and baking soda in a med-large mixing bowl or shallow dish.
  6. Whisk eggs, milk, 1 tbsp pickle juice & water in another med-large mixing bowl or shallow dish.
  7. Heat oil to 325 degrees. You can use a deep fryer or you can put about 2 inches in a dutch oven. Just be sure oil is to the right temp and stays at this temp while frying.
  8. Pull chicken breasts from refrigerator and let sit for approximately 30 minutes to warm up a bit.
  9. Pull one chicken breast at a time from the pickle juice, dredge in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture.
  10. Place in dutch oven or deep fryer. Continue until you have reached max capacity in your pan or fryer.
  11. Cook at 325 degrees for about 5-6 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the color, if it starts to turn very dark pull out of oil. It will darken and firm up a bit after you pull it from the oil.
  12. Place on plate with paper towels to dry/cool.
  13. Continue until all chicken is cooked.
  14. Serve on toasted buns sliced pickles – for the true original sandwich. I served mine with the option of mustard or mayo.
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4 chicken breasts ready for pounding

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Chickens in plastic wrap ready for pounding

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Chickens in pickle juice for marinating

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Fry station: chicken breast in pickle juice, egg mixture, flour mixture and paper towels on paper

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Dredging chicken breast in egg mixture

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Dredging chicken breast in flour

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Pulling chicken from oil – placing on paper towels to dry

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Delicious fried chicken breasts

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Toasting my buns

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Final product!

Tuna Salad with Dill and Jalapeño

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 So its pouring snow here in Kansas City, and I am having a snow day! First off, snow days aren’t what they used to be. Unfortunately today I didn’t play in the now, eat grilled cheese w/ tomato soup, nor did I drink hot chocolate.  But I did stroll down memory lane a bit when I made tuna salad today. My family often made tuna salad and they lovingly called them ‘tuna bombers’. I think the term stemmed from us packing so much salad on the bread it was going to be a ‘gut bomb’. Yeah – we are weird.

Tuna salad isn’t anything fancy, but its a staple at our house now. I always have the ingredients for it and we make it a lot.  I love it. I take it work since I usually eat at my desk, my husband loves it, you can put it on sandwiches, green leaf salads, pasta salad, eat it w/ crackers, eat it by itself, whatever! If its going to be a staple, then it should be delicious right? So I took that tuna salad from my childhood and pumped it up a bit. I think its delicious and hope you do too. 🙂

Snowy Tuesday that started us down the tuna salad path

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cans of albacore tuna in water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp diced pickled jalapeños
  • 3 diced pickle slices (I use the long sandwich slices or you can use 2 large spears. The slices are easier to get an even dice)
  • 2 green onions sliced into extremely thin rings (only use the section from the white base halfway up the stalk – using more of the white part than the green)
  • 3 tbsp light mayo
  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt + more on hand for final seasoning

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Boil the 3 eggs until hard boiled. Put eggs into cold water and once the water begins to boil, set timer to 7 minutes. Keep boil at a soft rolling boil to ensure eggs don’t crack in the process.
  2. Pull eggs off heat at 7 minute boiling mark and leave in water for 3 more minutes. Dump out most of hot water and run lukewarm water over eggs until they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Starting with one egg only, peel and slice in half to ensure the eggs are done. chop and set aside.
  4. If eggs are done, chop and set aside.
    • If eggs are not done, toss other eggs into microwave for no more than 15-30 seconds to ensure they are done. After 7 boiling minutes they should just need a bit of a push.
  5. Strain canned tuna from water, and put into bowl. Using a fork, break apart large chunks.
  6. To the tuna add the chopped green onion, pickle and jalapeno.
  7. To the bowl add the remaining ingredients – mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, dill.
  8. Mix well and taste. Tuna salad is great since you cant really mess it up. Add any more ingredients you aren’t tasting or you would like to taste more of.
  9. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  10. If serving a sandwich, toast the bread and load up with tuna salad.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

Step 1: Boiling eggs

Step 3 – checking for doneness

Step 3 – chopping eggs

Step 5: Tuna out of can, strained and broken up.

Chopping green onions

Step 6: Adding green onion, pickle & jalapeno

Step 8: Mixed tuna salad – time to refrigerate!

Step 10: Sandwich presentation