Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

How’s it going y’all?

If you’re on my side of the planet, then the answer to that is probably…kinda hot.

Like, really really REALLY hot.  I was recently back in Michigan for a visit and the heat combined with humidity there was just unbearable. We get heat here, but because we’re in a desert valley, it’s really dry heat. The air back in the Mitten felt so noticeably wet. I’d forgotten how wet the air is there in the summer time. My hair was as unprepared as can be. Thankfully, we’re back now. But it’s still hot.

Not a lot of people out here have air conditioning, and in this type of heat the thought of turning on the oven to cook while not having A/C is just unbearable. So aside from take out, the solution to preparing food would be to opt for meals and recipes that don’t require any stove or oven so that your kitchen doesn’t turn into anymore of a sauna than it may be already. Today’s recipe is one of those meals.

The inspiration for this came from a post a few weeks back–this Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad I did, where I took rotisserie chicken and mixed it with some other fresh ingredients, then tossed the whole thing with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. We really loved it, and before the leftovers were even gone I was thinking about different renditions I could give to the base idea of the recipe. Asian was a direction that I knew I wanted to take and I decided to go ahead and test some things out with it.

The base of the dressing from the first recipe is a whole head of roasted garlic. This time around I decided to use a combination of garlic cloves with fresh ginger root as the base. The ginger cuts the raw flavor of the garlic while lending a spicy sweetness that works. From there, I also added rice wine vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. It’s going to taste very strong–but keep in mind that rather than being meant to be eaten alone, the dressing is meant to season the salad, where all those assertive flavors are going to be mellowed & balanced out, especially after they’ve had time to marinate.

My mix-ins before were roasted red peppers, yellow onions, baby cucumbers and parsley. This time around I went with shredded carrots, green onions, sauteed cabbage and fresh mint. I also added some dried chow mein noodles for a crunch factor that’s supposed to mimic croutons. If you’d prefer to use different mix-ins than what I did that’s fine but one thing I absolutely insist you DO NOT try and substitute anything else for is the mint–besides the dressing, the mint is my favorite part of the salad. It gives this such a bright, fresh flavor that I don’t think can be replicated with anything else. So don’t skimp or do without it.

I’ll be sharing this at the Fiesta Friday #231, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health. Stay cool everyone!

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Asian Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1/2 cup whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons Rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt and plenty of Black pepper

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • About 3/4 cup (a generous handful) of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup of matchstick carrots
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of sautéed cabbage
  • Dried chow mein noodles, optional

 

Directions

Finely mince the garlic cloves and the fresh ginger. Place the garlic and ginger, as well as the rest of the dressing ingredients into a blender.

Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, mint, carrots, green onions, and cabbage together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld. When ready to serve, sprinkle the chow mein noodles on top as croutons.

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Hi, my name is Jessica and I have a confession to make.

Despite the name of this blog being Cooking is My Sport…I don’t always love to cook. Sometimes it’s the very last thing I want to do. I mean, the LAST. I envision putting on my baggy round the house clothes, pulling out pots/pans and standing in the kitchen for a while cooking–and I’ll just say to myself, “Yeah, nope. It’s not gonna happen today.”

And you know what? That’s okay. When those times arise, (and they will for everyone) there are a few different alternatives I will take to cooking a super ‘hands on’, full effort, time consuming meal:

First, I’ll order takeout–usually a pizza. Do I really need to do much explaining for this one? I mean, sometimes carb-heavy, greasy, sodium overload food is just what your body is craving. Life is short and if I don’t feel like cooking, pizza is a tried and true fail safe.

Second, I’ll eat cereal and milk. It’s quick, it’s not overly filling and so long as you pick cereals that aren’t loaded with sugar, it’s not the unhealthiest option either. (Honey Bunches of Oats and Hney Nut Cheerios is my winning combination in case you were curious).

Third, I’ll just pick up a rotisserie chicken.

Let me just say this right now: rotisserie chicken slander will not be tolerated on this here blog. I stan for rotisserie chicken and all the things that can be done with it. They’re awesome. They’re a pretty inexpensive buy whether you buy them fresh and cook them yourself, or pick a premade one up from your local grocery store deli. If the seasoning is done right by the deli, they usually taste pretty good on their own, but even if their bland on their own, it’s EXTREMELY easy to take the chicken off the carcass and give it a flavorific makeover within minutes.

I don’t like most chicken salad recipes because they’re mayonnaise based; mayonnaise triggers my gag reflex. So, I tend to stay away. However,  a little while ago I started experimenting with different ways to make the dressings for chicken salad, swapping out the mayonnaise entirely for other options, like this recipe where I used a base of Greek yogurt instead). This time around, I decided to go for a spin on chicken salad that was  made with a vinaigrette dressing rather than a creamy one.

I started out this post by saying I don’t always feel like cooking, and this recipe stays true to that. Literally the only thing that gets ‘cooked’ is garlic heads that are roasted in the oven. ‘Why do we roast garlic?’, you may ask. It cuts through the sharp flavor of raw garlic and improves it, giving a sweeter, richer flavor that really can’t be beat. You’ll be thanking me for this little trick and be using it in all kinds of dishes in the future.

Once the garlic is roasted, you really are practically done. From there, you just mix the rest of the dressing ingredients together in a blender, then pour it over the chicken and vegetables that make up your salad. I used roasted red peppers, cucumbers and onions (the usual suspects in my salads). There’s also a generous portion of chopped parsley leaves in there, which give it a zesty, peppery flavor.

I have to say, the dressing is the star here. The roasted garlic gives it a savory and almost caramelized flavor that’s gets balanced out with the remaining ingredients; acidity with the vinegar and honey mustard, and sweetness from the honey and OJ. Even if your rotisserie chicken isn’t seasoned right, this will spruce it right up. It tastes SO fresh and bright. It’s satisfying, but still light enough to where you won’t feel too full afterwards. This may have been a bare minimum effort meal, but we gobbled it up–I’ve already been asked to make it again. It’s really good and I think you ought to give it a shot on a non-cooking night when takeout or cereal isn’t tickling your fancy. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #219, co-hosted this week by the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Chicken Salad

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

For Dressing

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (I used malt vinegar, but you can feel free to use red wine, white wine or balsamic, according to your preference)
  • 2 teaspoons honey mustard
  • Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned (It should yield 2 1/2-3 cups of shredded chicken)
  • 1/2 cup baby cucumbers, chopped and sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 cup yellow sweet onion, finely diced
  • Handful of chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of a blender/food processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily).

Pour the vinegar, honey mustard, orange juice, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper in the blender with the garlic. Process on high until smooth—taste and adjust for seasoning. If it’s still a little thick you can add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.

Combine the chicken, cucumbers, red peppers, onion and parsley together in a large bowl. Slowly drizzle in about half of the dressing and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste it—if it’s to your satisfaction, you can leave off the rest of the dressing and save it for later, or you can add and stir it into the rest of the salad mixture.

Cover the chicken salad and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight to allow flavors to meld.

Falafel Patties

How was everyone’s holiday? You get any good presents? Eat any good food?

I hope the answer to both of those questions is yes. You deserve both.

Here we are at the end of 2017, and I feel like this year just flew by. My cooking and baking schedule for December is almost always hectic as I’m busy putting together recipes and posts for the 12 Days of Christmas series I do every year on the blog. Then all at once the holiday comes, the bustle is over and everything is calm and lax.

A lot of us have a tendency to indulge in a whole lot of sweet and not so lean treats during the holidays that after a while may feel like a sugar overload. I certainly love my carbs and sweets and I’ll never give them up–but after a while I too find myself craving leaner foods with fresh ingredients that leave you feeling full but not bloated or lethargic.

Usually when I get those cravings, I go to particular cuisine: Mediterranean.

Apart from soul food, if I had to pick a cuisine to eat for the rest of my life it would definitely be Mediterranean/Lebanese. I’m addicted to so many things about it: the fresh ingredients, the bright, zesty seasoning and spices, the satisfaction it brings to my belly without making me feel guilty if I ate a lot of it. It’s just the best.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite Mediterranean dishes on the blog already, and I highly recommend that you check them out, as they’d make a good accompaniment to the dish I want to share with you guys today.

No, I mean it. Chicken Shawarma and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, stat. They’ll change your life.

My ‘must-haves’ for a Mediterranean meal include a plate of chicken shawarma, hummus and falafel.  It’s the perfect trio. I hope to God that you know what falafel is, but on the most outrageous of off chances that you don’t…it’s a mixture of ground chickpeas, veggies and spices that are mixed together and then usually deep fried until crispy on the outside.

I say ‘usually’ because I’ve recently found that falafel doesn’t always have to be fried to taste good.

The base ingredients for traditional falafel are still here: you’ve still got your chickpeas, parsley, lemon juice, cilantro and garlic. I also added in plenty of cumin and smoked paprika with some other spices that I thought complemented the others well. I do recommend that you allow the mix to sit in the refrigerator overnight for two reasons: first, the colder it is, the more time it has to firm up and be easier to shape into patties. Second, it allows the flavors to marinate and develop into the beans.

The process of cooking the falafels is simple. After shaping them into patties, they get a quick sear on the stove, then a few minutes in the oven.From there, you can do whatever you like with them; eat them as a sandwich on a bun, stuff one into a pita, crumble them up into a salad, or even just eat it all on its own dipped in hummus. All of these are good choices.

I am most definitely not a vegetarian and it’s very safe to say I will never become one. I love poultry too much to do that. However! I will say that for several days I ate falafel patty sandwiches and found myself uncharacteristically not missing the meat. The garbanzo beans give the patty a ‘meaty’ texture and the fiber in them fills you up in an even better way than meat because your stomach doesn’t feel as heavy. These are really good and I think they’d be a nice way to start the year off if you’re in need of a lighter meal.

Linking this last post of 2017 up to Fiesta Friday #204, co-hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused.com.

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Falafel Patties

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled (preferably roasted garlic)
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Canola, vegetable or peanut oil for frying

 

 

Directions

Place the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or at least overnight. Drain well. They’ll expand to about 4 cups.

Place 2 cups of the beans in a food processor (or blender). Pulse a few times, then process until a smooth paste. (If the mixture is too chunky, add about 2 tablespoons of water to the food processor or blender to make it smoother). Remove to a small bowl, then pour in the other half of the beans. Pulse these a few times until they are mostly chunky—they don’t need to be as smooth as the first batch, it’s alright if there are some large bits still in there. Remove the second batch of processed beans with the first to the bowl. Place the herbs, lemon juice, spices and baking powder in the processor and process thoroughly. Pour the chickpeas back into the processor and process mixture all together. (If too thick and ‘dry’ to hold together, add a couple tablespoons more of water. If need be, you can also do this in batches, then mix it all together in a bowl afterwards).

Refrigerate the falafel mix overnight to allow it to firm up and for flavors to fully develop.

Scoop the falafel out with about heaping 1/3 cup measure, then shape into patties. Refrigerate patties for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add three patties to the pan, then cook for about 6 minutes per side. Remove to a wire rack that you place over a sheet pan. Repeat frying process with your remaining patties and oil until finished.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the patties in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes before serving on toasted hamburger buns or inside/alongside pita bread.

(Note: You don’t have to bake the patties in the oven if their initial consistency/taste after frying is okay with you. I like to bake mine to give the chickpeas as ’cooked’ a flavor as possible, but it’s not mandatory. )

Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

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I don’t really remember when exactly it happened, but somewhere along the way, I stopped liking straight white sandwich bread. I don’t mean *all* white bread; I still bake with white flour when making biscuits, rolls, challah and whatnot. I mean that when it comes to specifically eating sandwiches, I will give a hard pass to white bread.

I don’t even know how I ever ate white Wonder Bread at all anymore, there’s such a sour, acrid after taste to it for me now that is just…nah. These days I prefer whole grain, wheat, five seed, or oatnut flavored bread when building my epic sandwiches. I like the nutty earthy flavors in the whole wheat flour much better.

Whenever a long time passes where I don’t make homemade bread, I start getting an ‘itch’. Suddenly, bread baking becomes all I think about, where my thoughts automatically start to wander, all I want to do. My taste buds suddenly crave bread more than anything else.

Actually, no. That’s not one hundred percent accurate. My taste buds want and crave bread/carbs ALL the time, in general. Which is simultaneously annoying and glorious. But y’know, whatever.

This time around to satisfy my bread baking itch, I turned to this recipe from King Arthur Flour that I’d had my eye on for a while. The original calls for it to be made in a bread machine. I don’t have one of those, but bread machine recipes aren’t that difficult to adapt to using with standing mixers, so that’s what I did here. The ingredients were all things I had on hand in the house at the time. It made a single loaf and it was all very easy to throw together.

Honey wheat breads are probably my favorite, flavor-wise. There’s a perfect balance of the nutty grains with a slight sweetness from honey that just works. I will say though that breads that are based in whole wheat and bread flour (like this one) do tend to be more dense than those made with white. They’re often not light and/or fluffy; think chewy, heartier textures. Because they’re denser, they also can require longer proof times before the dough will rise. Just be patient with it because if you do it right, the results will be worth it.

Apart from being made with whole wheat flour, there’s also 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato in the dough, which is a sneaky yet tasty way to get a serving of vegetables in; y’know, just in case the angel on your shoulder is trying to make you feel guilty for eating carbs instead of a carrot stick.

Not that EYE would know anything about that, I’m just trying to help you guys out.

I really wish there was a way I could transmit the smells of this loaf baking in the oven to each and every one of you guys. It just smelled SO good. It took a lot of patience on my part before it was cooled down and I could cut into it. I toasted two thick slices, smeared them with some  Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, made some eggs & sausage and had myself a delicious Breakfast for Dinner. Although, this bread would work very well for french toast too, methinks.

Linking this post with this week’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Tales From The Kitchen Shed and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons.

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Honey Wheat Harvest Loaf

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed cooked yam or sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins, packed
  • melted butter for brushing on top, optional

 

Directions

Combine the warm water and milk with the instant yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp of white sugar on top. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the white whole wheat flour, bread flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer use the whisk attachment to combine yeast mixture with the unsalted butter, mashed sweet potato and honey and mix until well blended.

Using the dough hook attachment, fold in the flour mixture. Half way through, add the raisins. Mix until dough is smooth and surface of bowl is clean, about 8-10 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.

When dough is finished rising, gently turn out on a floured surface and deflate it. Divide in half and roll each half into a log. Wind the two haves together in a loose braid, pinching the ends together. Place braid in the loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap/damp towel and allow to rise for another hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the bread and brush with the melted butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, tenting with foil if browning too fast. Bake until golden brown and the inner temp reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cool completely before serving.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

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Whelp. As the song goes, this is The End.

The end of 2016, that is.

Wait, what; did you guys think I meant…THE end?

I mean, I dunno. Maybe it is. Check back with me after January 20th.

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For today however, let’s just keep the main focus on the fact that we’ve reached the end of the year. There is but one more day left in 2016. Crazy.

I won’t say this year’s went by particularly quick; it hasn’t really felt like that for me personally. I will say that it brought LOTS of change. Lots of new. Lots of different. There’s room for pessimism but the thing about starting a new year is that there’s also room for some new optimism. If things can get worse, there’s no reason not to hope that they can and won’t just might get better too, right?

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Some of us may choose the simple practice of optimism going into the new year. Others like to engage in certain practices that across cultures are supposed to bring especial luck to individuals if done on New Years Eve. I’m sure you guys are familiar with plenty of them.

Healthy amount of libations consumed.

Kissing a significant other or a… whatever you want to call them, at the stroke of midnight.

Opening doors and windows wide at night to let the ‘bad luck’ out of a house.

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There are plenty of places worldwide where people will consume particular foods, whether through tradition or believing that the foods themselves will provide good luck because of what they symbolize. Noodles consumed in Asian countries symbolize and are supposed to bring life longevity. In Spain, eating 12 grapes for each month of the year is supposed to predict the kind of year you will have (sweet for good times, sour for bad). There’s a certain Greek bread called Vasilopitta that I swear I’m gonna get around to trying myself one of these days. In the American south, black eyed peas, corn bread and leafy greens eaten at years end/new years are supposed to bring good luck.

If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t know or care whether or not eating greens of any kind will bring good luck. I’m gonna eat ’em regardless. But if the taste of today’s recipe was any indication, I’d say I was feeling pretty lucky this afternoon.

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Prior to this, the only ways I’d had kale previously was eating it raw, then eating it in the crispy chips you bake in the oven. Both are fine, but they’ve never really ‘wowed’ me into thinking kale was all that special. This recipe changed my mind. The kale is quick roasted in the oven, just to the point where it’s soft without being completed deflated. Sweet potato is roasted until it’s soft, but not quite mushy; it’s still got body to it. Both are then gently tossed together with some dried cranberries in a sweet and tangy dressing for a salad that is just REALLY delicious. The best part is, it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had enough time to meld properly. The firm texture of the sweet potato is preserved and the texture of the kale in my opinion is improved: whereas raw kale is tough and fibrous, the quick roasted kale that’s been tossed in the dressing has this robust chewiness that’s a really great bite.

Truth to be told, it’s gone now and I’m already missing this stuff.  Oh yeah: and did I mention it’s pretty darn HEALTHY? And I actually want it. That’s always nice.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #152, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Ginger @ Ginger & Bread.

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Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale Salad

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces) kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries or cherries

Directions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove potatoes from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar . Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cranberries to bowl with sweet potatoes and kale,. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.

Banh Mi Spring Rolls

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The weather here’s been just beautiful this week and I think it’s finally safe to say that we’ve left winter behind us–though you never really can tell in Michigan. You just take things as they come day by day and pray that the weather report for tomorrow is actually going to be semi-accurate. This week’s forecast was for sunny skies and mid-to upper 70’s.

And guess what? That’s EXACTLY what we’ve been getting. Which, makes me happy. I’m already excited for Memorial Day when my older sister (who’s good at barbecuing/grilling) can fire up our charcoal grill with the meat and I (who am NOT good at grilling whatsoever) can make everything else. Heh.

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Today’s recipe really complements the summer weather, as it’s one where you’re not going to need to crank up the oven and make your house/apartment anymore stuffy than it may be already if you’re trying to wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C (like us lol) Additionally, if you’ve got a grocery store in your area that makes good rotisserie chickens, then over half the work’s already done for you.

I was a Banh Mi late bloomer. Up until a couple years ago, I wasn’t even 100% sure of how to pronounce it correctly. (It’s okay if you still don’t either and go from here to Google to find out; that’s how I learned too.)Typically, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of a crusty baguette style bread that’s split in half and layered with marinated grilled pork or chicken, fresh herbs, and pickled carrots and radishes. I’ve seen versions that also involve pate spreads and spicy chili sauces, but at its core, the above is a good place to start for a Banh Mi virgin.

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Banh Mi sandwiches, if you’ve got a place that can REALLY do them well, are bound to become a quick favorite. Seriously, they’re just really hard NOT to like. There’s a Vietnamese/Creole (yeah, I know. Peculiar combination)  restaurant just down the road from where I live that makes them and also made the meal that served as my official induction into the club of Banh Mi sandwich appreciation. There’s also another dish that they make that I simply MUST get each and every time I go there: the spring rolls.

Up until this place opened, I had also never had a Spring Roll that wasn’t made of the standard egg wrappers and fried in oil. I’d certainly see and heard of the translucent rice paper wrappers, but never tried them before and of course–never prepared a dish with them.

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Like the Banh Mi sandwich, from that first taste I got of a rice paper spring roll,  I was just hooked. First of all, the restaurant’s seasoning of the pork inside was sublime, and the even though they crammed it full of both meat, veggies and herbs I still walked away from the meal without feeling ‘too full’. There was just a wonderfully refreshing ‘lightness’ to those rice paper spring rolls that’s really made me never want to go back to the old fried way I used to eat them.

Although, don’t get  it twisted: I still have MAD love for a deep fried egg roll. That, I’m never changing my mind and/or taste buds about.

What’s so great about today’s recipe is that it combines both of the dishes from the Vietnamese restaurant near me and makes it into a dish that gives me the best of both worlds; the core elements of the Banh Mi sandwich are rolled altogether in the spring roll rice paper to make a super delicious appetizer, snack, side dish or even meal if you’re game for eating several of these bad boys. I know I am.

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This was my first time quick-pickling veggies and using rice paper wrappers and I was pleased to find out it wasn’t that big a deal. Once you’ve rolled your share of egg rolls (and I have) then using the wet rice paper isn’t that big of a challenge. Just as few minor tips:

Make sure your cucumbers are sliced VERY thin, or they may tear or poke holes through the wet rice paper. Be sure to roll you ingredients up nice and tight. Place the finished rolls seam side down once you’re finished to help them “seal” better while you make the rest. AND most important: keep the leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the rice paper rolls moist. They have a tendency to get a little chewy and tough when left exposed to the air for too long, even if you keep them in plastic containers.

These are super yummy, guys. The pickled carrot and radish provides a tangy acidity that isn’t overpowering when tempered with the savory chicken that’s been juuuuuuust slightly sweetened from being mixed with the Chinese five-spice powder. Depending on the herb(s) you decide to use you’re going to have a different flavor profile but because I prefer it’s mild sweetness I went with the fresh mint leaves that paired very well with the cucumber. This is PERFECT summer food, plain and simple.

I’ll be bringing my spring rolls to this week’s Fiesta Friday #120, co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters. Thanks ladies.

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Banh Mi Spring Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com

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Ingredients

For Pickled Veggies:

  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (3-ounce) carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 (3-ounce) daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks

For Spring Rolls

  • 8 to 10 rice paper wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (small leaves)

Directions

To Make Pickled Veggies:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the carrot and daikon and let cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to stuff into rolls.

To Assemble Spring Rolls:

Fill a round cake pan with warm water. Place 1 rice paper round into the water, turning it gently with your fingertips until softened. Carefully remove the sheet from the water and lay it flat on a plate.

Toss the chicken with the five-spice powder. Arrange some of the seasoned chicken in a horizontal line on the wrapper, positioning it about 1 inch or so from the edge nearest you and about 1⁄2 inch from each side.

Top with some of the drained pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sprinkle of mint leaves.

Lift the edge of the rice paper nearest you and place it over the filling, then roll once to form a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides of the rice paper and continue to roll to form a tight cylinder (be careful not to rip the rice paper).

Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. Cut each roll in half crosswise at a diagonal and serve with the dipping sauce, if you like. To store, wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Curried Chicken Salad with Roasted Carrots

Curried Chicken Salad5

It’s rather amusing to me that although I’m doing a post on chicken salad today, the truth is up until about roughly 3 years ago, I absolutely LOATHED the stuff.

Seriously. I just couldn’t abide it. If you were to put a bowl of chicken salad underneath my nose I’d probably start gagging. That’s how serious it was.

The thing is, (and as you guys know about me by now) I actually love chicken and eat it all the time. And the ingredients in most chicken salads are ingredients that by and large, I’m fine with.

Save for one.

Curried Chicken Salad3

Friggingodawfulmayonnaise.

Oy vey.

I don’t think there are enough words in the English language for me to express how much I completely and vehemently despise mayonnaise.The smell is enough to trigger my gag reflex and kill my appetite. The thought of the stuff literally makes my skin crawl. Not joking, guys. It’s just one of the worst things to ever be created and for the life of my I don’t understand how people can actually enjoy it.

Miracle Whip is slightly less egregious to me, but not by much.

Curried Chicken Salad1

However, as we all know mayonnaise happens to serve as the base for most chicken salad recipes. If you don’t like it, then chances are you won’t like chicken salad–which would explain my nearly life-long aversion to it.

So, how did I get over it? Easy. I learned a little trick of swapping out the mayonnaise for another base: Greek yogurt.

Whole milk Greek yogurt is thick, creamy and a perfect substitute for those of us who can’t get down with the mayonnaise. It’s much better for you too so this dish is actually one you can eat and feel pretty good about afterwards.  If I had one personal criticism of Greek yogurt it’s that sharp tangy aftertaste it’s got. I know that most people love that about it, but for me, I need something to temper it. That’s where this recipe came in and saved the day.

Curried Chicken Salad2

The other ingredients in this salad really work to temper the sharpness of the Greek yogurt. The roasted carrots and golden raisins give it an excellent sweetness all on their own, but then the spices (curry powder, honey, cumin, turmeric and cardamom) also work together to give it another depth of flavor that elevates the typical ‘monotony’ that is most chicken salad recipes. The nuts just give it that extra edge of crunchy texture that it needs. The recipe does suggest using walnuts, but all I had in the house were almonds at the time so that’s what I went with and (like most of my improvisational kitchen decisions) it actually turned out to be what I think I would’ve preferred in the first place.

Curried Chicken Salad4

As you may have guessed, chicken salad actually tastes better the day after you make it, when the ingredients and flavors have time to sit and really meld together. So if you have the time to do so, I do recommend you making it at night just before you go to bed, then maybe taking it with you to work for  lunch the next day, or saving it for dinner the next day. You won’t be disappointed, this makes an awesome sandwich,  guys.

Side note: you want to send your chicken salad sandwich over the top and into the stratosphere of deliciousness? Add a layer of potato chips before you put on the top slice of bread. TRUST ME.

As I do every week, I’m linking this post up to the Fiesta Friday #116, co-hosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Cynthia @ eatmunchlove.

Curried Chicken Salad with Roasted Carrots

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or almonds, which is what I used)
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple-peeled, cored and cut into a fine dice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender. Let cool to room temperature. While the carrots are roasting, spread the almonds on a pie plate and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden.

In a large bowl, mix the yogurt with the honey, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, cardamom and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fold in the shredded chicken, carrots, walnuts, golden raisins and apple and season with salt and pepper.