Category Archives: Snacks

Chicken Salad – Cool and Healthy

Chicken Salad is a cool and healthy choice for a hot weather lunch or dinner and perfect for a potluck. There are dozens of recipes with all kinds of variations that you can make, but let’s start with a wonderful basic recipe that we have used in my family for years.

Image by Kathy Maister
Image by Kathy Maister

INGREDIENTS

  • Roasted or boiled chicken, chilled
  • Fresh crisp celery, sliced very, very thin
  • Onion, finely diced
  • Seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried and cut in half
  • Real Foods (or Hellmann’s) Mayonnaise
  • Mustard, regular
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sliced almonds or chopped pecans (optional)

NOTE: I purposefully omitted measurements because this is a dish that is best made “to taste.”  My recommendation is to go easy on the celery, onion, and mustard until you reach a combination that works for your family.  Once you get a good idea of the amounts that please your palate, you can always double or triple depending on the number of people you will be serving.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the celery, onions, grapes, and nuts (if using) – set aside.
  2. Cut the chilled cooked chicken into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix in the chopped ingredients.
  4. Start with 2 tablespoons mayo and 1 teaspoon mustard – mix very gently and add more mayo as needed until all ingredients are lightly coated – (Do not overwhelm the salad with mayo.)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: The nuts are listed as optional, but add a nice crunchy texture, if desired. You may also want to try other variations such as adding: hard-boiled eggs, avocado, seasoned brown or Basmati rice, or lemon juice for an additional tangy flavor. If you prefer, you can use low-fat, or light mayonnaise.

Change It Up

Chicken salad has multiple uses. It is delicious on rich whole-grain bread for sandwiches; on a crisp lettuce leaf for a refreshing summer salad; or as a side dish with dinner or at a potluck. My chicken salad is always one of the first dishes to be eaten at a potluck, church dinner, or teenage gathering.

This can also be an economical dish – and who isn’t happy for those? Chicken is often sold in larger quantities for lower prices. Take advantage of those sales and have a prep day where you make a large batch of chicken salad that you place in a big bowl in the fridge for easy access. It is ready for quick packed lunches (sandwiches or salad); a last minute side dish for dinner – or a healthy snack after school.

Chicken salad is also wonderful wrapped in a fresh tortilla, in pita bread, or spread on crackers as a yummy appetizer. And . . . don’t forget to serve it on fresh croissants for a tasty lunch with friends.

Chicken salad is a healthier, more unusual choice than potato salad. It is an excellent choice for picnics, graduation parties, open houses, 4th of July celebrations, taking to the beach in a cooler, or any time you want to serve a nice, cool protein-rich dish that can be prepared in advance.

When served in a clear serving dish, it presents beautifully, especially when it includes deep red or black seedless grapes and avocados; then, trimmed with dark green lettuce leaves.

When you want to serve a rich, healthy, delicious meal, think Chicken Salad. Your family, friends, and/or guests will love it. If you are taking it “out,” be sure to prepare a little extra to set aside for your family.

Photo Credit: Chicken Salad Classics via photopin (license)

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“Cool” Healthy Foods – Watermelon

This past weekend was a disaster. My daughter and her children came from California to visit me in Arizona. The frig was out when they arrived. A repairman FINALLY came and fixed that problem and one day later, my air conditioner went out – big problem in Arizona in August when the temperatures are 110+. It was miserable! My family had to stay with other family members – all very frustrating and disappointing.

The good news is there was a silver lining. I realized that recipes for “cool” healthy foods that can be served when it is really hot would be a fun thing to share with all of you.

Eating healthy should be the goal regardless of the weather.

As summer draws to a close, outside temperatures are still high, and you are overwhelmed with everything that must be done to get the kids back in school, the temptation to eat out or order in can be overwhelming. BUT . . . there are healthy options that require no cooking at all.

The next few posts will offer some nice suggestions to help you through the end of summer heat.

Watermelon – Nature’s Healthy, Sweet Treat

Summer is the time to enjoy some of nature’s most delicious foods – and watermelon is on the top of the list. When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, eating watermelon was part of summer fun – and I  love it just as much today as I did then. It is so sweet, juicy and refreshing.

Just the thought of a cold, juicy slice makes my mouth water, especially on a hot summer day. It is not only delicious, this colorful fruit brightens up any plate or table; and is very good for you.

The water content fills you up and acts as a natural cleanser for your body. I know the seeds can be a little annoying, but to me, it is worth the work of picking them out (or spitting them out…politely of course) for all the benefits you get from watermelon . . . and today, there are seedless watermelons.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to incorporating watermelon into your meals or using it as a healthy snack.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites

  1. Watermelon triangle snacks – a long time easy favorite. As soon as you get the watermelon home, slice some of it up into triangular pieces that are easy for little hands. Place the triangles into covered storage containers and keep them in the fridge for easy access. When healthy snacks are visible and accessible, family members will eat them up.  On the other hand, snacks that are out of sight or take a lot of work are generally ignored. Be sure to de-seed if you have smaller children who will be eating the snack.

    Image by Yvonne Brettnich
    Image by Yvonne Brettnich

  1. Watermelon makes a beautiful side dish on any table. Try this . . . lay the watermelon on its side and using zig-zag cuts, cut one-quarter of the melon off the top. This makes a decorative oblong or round “bowl” for serving. Then, cut one-quarter of the melon off the bottom to make a stable base. Set the “bowl” on a serving plate.

With a melon-baller, scoop out the fruit from all three pieces of the watermelon, removing the seeds as you go. Place the melon balls in a bowl as you scoop. When finished, scrape out any residual melon until the “bowl” is fairly clean and smooth. Return the melon balls to the watermelon bowl.

It is fun to add other melon balls from cantaloupe and honey dew for extra color and flavor. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The top part of the watermelon can be used as a lid if transporting.

If you are feeling creative, you can cut shapes out of the watermelon like fish and cars. A great site to learn how to make shapes out of watermelon is the National Watermelon Promotion Board. (http://www.watermelon.org/Carvings)

  1. Watermelon is a wonderful breakfast food. Serve it cut up – alone or layered with banana slices, apples, oranges or other fruits of choice. Top with plain Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and granola for a tasty and healthy morning starter.
  1. Watermelon checkers are a fun appetizer. Cut an equal number of 1” squares of watermelon and your favorite cheese and build a checkerboard, alternating watermelon and cheese. Then, cut small circles of the watermelon and cheese to use as checkers. This is a fun creative appetizer to serve at a summer outing or family barbecue. The little ones will have fun helping you build the checkerboard.
  1. Watermelon “ice cream” cones – a fun and healthy summertime treat. Start with small cake cones; fill the bottom of each cone with a tablespoon of Philadelphia pineapple cream cheese (original cream cheese also works). Add a spoonful of dried Craisins over the cream cheese. Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of cold seedless watermelon over the Craisins, and top with sprinkles. You will have a healthy, delicious and adorable treat kids ask for again and again. Great for birthday parties, 4th of July or any hot summer night.
  1. Frosted watermelon – another fun treat for both kids and adults. With your favorite cookie cutters create cookie-like shapes from the watermelon. Frost with plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and sprinkled with granola. You can also use classic watermelon wedges instead of cookie shapes if you like things easy (as I do).

These ideas not only brighten any table, they also offer the added benefits of serving a delicious and healthy food. Watermelon is nature’s healthy, sweet treat. Serve it often.

Photo Credit: IMG_2639 via photopin (license)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies – Pumpkin Harvest Series #10

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”22″ size_format=”px” color=”#d67d1e”]Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies[/typography]

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are heavenly, but frosted or filled with sweetened cream cheese makes them divine. This is a recipe that you will want to make soon and repeat often.

Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened (do not use margarine)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Filling

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ½ 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Grease a large cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper.

Make the Cookies

  1. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl and whisk together until blended.
  2. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well-mixed.
  4. Slowly stir-in the milk and pumpkin.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Drop dough onto the prepared baking sheet. (Don’t make the cookies too large or the filled cookies will be gigantic.)
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes. (Remember, these are soft cookies, so don’t overcook.)
  9. Remove from oven, let sit for a minute before placing on a wire rack to cool.

Make the Filling                                                                      

  1. Mix the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together until well blended.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.
  3. Cover the flat side of one cookie with the filling and top with a second cookie. Press together like a sandwich. EASY PEASY!

NOTE:  Cookies can be eaten plain, simply frosted, or filled as directed in the recipe.

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Caramel Pumpkin Tart Recipe – Pumpkin Harvest Series #8

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#e69215″]Caramel Pumpkin Tart Recipe[/typography]

This Caramel Pumpkin Tart recipe is easy to make and a hit with all ages. The recipe blends the yummy combination of spiced pumpkin and rich caramel all wrapped in a glazed buttermilk biscuit. This tasty treat is perfect with morning coffee, in packed lunches or for an after-school snack.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cube unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 1 scant cup buttermilk
  • 8 pieces of Werther’s™ Original Baking Caramels, or any good soft caramels
  • ¼ cup pre-seasoned Libby’s Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix
  • 1 large egg
  • Sugar and cinnamon mix for topping (Optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet.
  3. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until well-mixed.
  4. Using a pastry blender cut in the chilled butter into the dry ingredients until coarse crumbs are formed. (There may be a few large clumps remaining.)
  5. Form a well in the center of the crumbs and pour in the cold buttermilk.
  6. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the buttermilk gently into the mixture – just until the dough sticks together. (Add a few more teaspoons of buttermilk, if necessary) DO NOT OVERMIX.
  7. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.
  8. With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 8” in diameter and 1/4″ to 1/2″  thick, pressing in any loose bits. Do not overwork the dough.
  9. Use a 2½” to 3” biscuit cutter dipped in flour to cut out the biscuits as close together as possible. (Use one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.)
  10. Place half of the biscuits about 1½” inches apart on a large greased baking sheet.
  11. Press an unwrapped caramel and 1 small teaspoon of spiced pumpkin in the center of each biscuit.
  12. Top with another biscuit round and pinch the sides together carefully – use a fork if you want to make a design around the edges.
  13. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of each “mini-pie” with the beaten egg to glaze.
  14. Optional: Sprinkle the top any combination of sugar and spice, such as: brown sugar or granulated sugar with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. (Use a light hand.)
  15. Bake for 18-20 minutes until light golden brown and cooked through. Enjoy!



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