Big Chicken Salad

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. And are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26

June 21st is long gone, and that means we are losing daylight bit by bit, which I’ve started to notice – especially in the morning.  It isn’t much, but when you get up very early in the morning like I do, it’s definitely noticeable.  My favorite part of spring and summer is the early sunrise coupled withe the sound of the birds chirping like crazy in morning.  It reminds me of all the summers I’ve enjoyed and it’s a wonderful way to wake up.

My least favorite sounds are thunder and fireworks.  Now don’t get me wrong – I love a good thunderstorm (although I almost always sleep right through them if I’m not disturbed by someone else) and fireworks are just a fabulous part of warm weather fun. That is, unless you happen to have a big hairy dog who is terrified of storms!

We adopted Lou from Midwest Border Collie Rescue – a great organization.  Lou was about a year old and he’d had a rough time of it.  It took a long time for him to come around and feel confident, but he’s never gotten over his fear of storms.  He’s a little hard of hearing which is a bit of a blessing when we’re dealing with storms or fireworks.  And every city around here has some kind of “days” – Duk Duk Days; Crystal Frolics; Whiz Bang Days…you get the picture.  And they all shoot off fireworks.  We can deal with that, because they’re always done by about 10:30 and we can keep Lou occupied with a tennis ball.

Let me get off track here and tell you a little about Louie’s almost complete OCD obsession with tennis balls.  Anyone who has a border collie probably knows exactly what I’m talking about – there aren’t any sheep to herd so they have to find a substitute.  But even among border collies, Lou’s tennis ball obsession is legendary. Shortly after Lou came to live with use, the rescue organization had a get together/fund raising event for everyone who wanted to attend.

One of the things they did to raise money was to sell numbered tennis balls.  The idea was that they wrote down your number, and then all the balls were spread out in a field.  Then you send out a border collie to get one and bring it back, and whoever owned that ball won a prize.  The obvious choice for optimal tennis ball retrieval was Louis.  So I sent him out into the field of tennis balls, confident he would be back very quickly with a winner.  What no one counted on was Lou’s reaction to being in a field of over 200 tennis balls!  He’d pick up one, drop it, pick up another, drop it, pick up another, drop it – I think you see where I’m going here.  After about 20 minutes it was obvious we had cleverly laid a trap to drive the poor bugger completely nuts!

My point is, that no matter how scared Lou gets, we can always get him to ignore the scary stuff if we play ball with him.  The trouble is, there is no one in my house who wants to toss a tennis ball to a strung out border collie at 3AM! So, we drug him.  I give him Benedryl.  Now, before you get freaked out by this, I have the blessing of the vet and I have done extensive research on it – it’s very nearly impossible to overdose on Benedryl, and I only give him 2. It just takes the edge off a little bit so he can go to sleep.

So today I was thinking about what a big chicken he is and how glad I am he’s here, because he’s also a big cuddly guy who loves to be loved. So in honor of Louie, I made a yummy chicken salad.  Now I need to warn you, this is one of those recipes that I’ve been making forever and it changes based on the ingredients that I have, so the recipe is not super precise.  But I’ll try.

These are the ingredients I decided to use this time. To cook the chicken, I drizzled some really good olive oil over it, and added a little salt and pepper.  Then I baked it for about 50 minutes at 350°.  Delish!

I chopped up some green onion and celery, grated some Jarlsberg cheese, and mixed it with some Marcona almonds and some dried cranberries. Now, you may wonder why I would use dried cranberries considering I hate raisins. I believe the only thing that cranberries and raisins have in common is that they are both dried. Raisins are yucky, dried cranberries are not. Also, just for the record, I’m not particularly fond of fresh cranberries but I do love grapes – especially frozen grapes!

  Then cut the chicken up into bite sized pieces.  Mix some mayo with lemon juice (fresh is always better and you can add some zest, too but I was out of lemons so used the kind that comes in a bottle).  Add some basil – again, fresh is better but I was out, so I went with the dried kind. Make sure to crush it in the palm of your hand before you put it in the mayo – this helps release the oils and makes it more flavorful.  By the way, I just want you to know that as I’m typing this we are having a very loud thunderstorm.  I have to keep pushing the ball off the table to keep Lou occupied. In the meantime, brave little Keats just casually went outside for a few minutes.

Okay, this is really good.  Really really good.

Here’s a close up – mouth watering!

Chicken Salad

Ingredients (all are approximate, adjust to your personal taste):

  • 2.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (or whatever parts you prefer)
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup Marcona almonds (substitute whatever nut you prefer, or leave them out entirely)
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (if using fresh lemon, add some zest, too)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons crushed dried basil; or fresh basil – chiffonade
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook chicken – drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and cook at 350° for about 50 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Let cool completely, and cut into bite size pieces.
  2. Mix together onions, celery, cranberries, almonds, grated cheese and diced chicken.
  3. Mix mayonnaise with lemon juice, lemon zest (if using), basil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with the chicken mixture.
  4. You can enjoy this right away, or refrigerate it for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.  This is wonderful with a side of fresh fruit.


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