Summer Noms

It’s been far too long since I wrote a food post. I’ve been in a major recipe rut for months now, and having to be on a low-carb diet hasn’t helped the cause any. But, I felt inspired today to post my favorite, favorite, favorite pasta salad recipe, for a couple of reasons.

1. Us San Franciscans are just beginning to enter our real summer, which comes a bit later than it does for the rest of the country. September and October are our hot, sunny, stellar months. We’ve had some good days so far this August too. And we’re rockin’ it. So, it’s time to whip out the “summer” recipes–i.e. those that don’t involve the oven and/or are served cold.

2. Every time I make this salad, Bowie enjoys it a little bit more. The last time I made it, he gobbled up every last drop. If you know my son at all (or have read my Twitter account on any given day) then you know he is about the pickiest eater there is. Won’t try a new thing ever. ESPECIALLY if it’s green. But he eats every single morsel of this salad. Once you see the ingredients, you’ll understand why this is so noteworthy. So, parents of picky eaters: read on.

You’re likely wondering how I can include a pasta salad in my diet when I’m supposed to be keeping it low-carb. First off, I use whole wheat pasta, which is better for the ol’ blood sugar than regular white pasta. Secondly, I can tolerate more carbs later in the day, so right now I reserve this dish for dinner. Thirdly, it helps to eat the pasta in conjunction with the other ingredients. And finally, our old friend portion control.

Ok. So. This recipe is based on one I found a while back on Real Simple. Well, it’s exactly this recipe, except that they advertise it as a lunch dish and the recipe “serves 2”. When I make it, I double or triple it, and really just eyeball the amounts needed of each of the ingredients. Which is why, to the dismay of some of you, I don’t have any exact measurements listed here, only the ingredients you need. You can decide how much of everything you want, which I think just adds to the beauty of the recipe. Ok, here you go:

Most Delicious, Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad Ever

Cooked and cooled pasta, penne works well

Bocconcini (smallish mozzarella balls) or chopped fresh mozzarella

Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Baby spinach, chopped

Salami, chopped

For the dressing:

3 parts olive oil

1 part white wine vinegar or rice vinegar (my “parts” are typically tablespoons)

salt and pepper

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Give it a taste and adjust based on how you like it. Put it on the salad and toss well to mix. It helps if this sits in the fridge for a half a day or so to let the flavors mix, but totally not necessary.

That’s it. Simple to make, easy to find ingredients, nice and light for those hot summer nights. And the leftovers keep for days. Yay for easy lunches!

Happy eating! And happy pleasing your picky kid!

(I mean, I hope it helps, at least. Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be when someone says they have the “key to getting a picky kid to eat!” and you find it doesn’t work for your kid.)

Ultimate Party Salad

There is a salad that I make for almost every single party, potluck, barbecue, whatever it is that I attend. It’s a sure-fire win for every occasion, it keeps well in the heat (i.e. summer barbecue) and it meets all three of my recipe criteria: easy, healthy, delicious.

So many people have asked me for this recipe over the years (some people more than once, you know who you are), and I thought I’d put it on the blog so I could just point them there from now on. And get in a little shameless self promotion in the process. Ahem.

Finding the recipe was kismet, truthfully. I had just purchased a basil plant from Trader Joe’s for my patio garden, and Real Simple magazine (go subscribe right now, it is amazing) did a spread on cooking with fresh basil. So, I tried it out, and both Huz and I were like THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING I HAVE EVER EATEN. I make it for a party and everyone is all, “WHO MADE THIS? RECIPE. NOW.”

Here is the recipe, as taken from Real Simple:

Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine or rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions, white and light green part, thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, diced (peeled if desired)
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness.
  2. Place the chicken in a large saucepan and add water to cover by ½ inch. Add 3 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.
  5. Drain, pat dry, and dice the chicken. Add it to the apple mixture with the peanuts, mint, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  6. Toss and divide among individual plates.

Some notes:

This recipe calls for poached chicken breasts. To that I say: NOT IN MY KITCHEN. I mean, if that’s what you have on hand, then by all means. But, I have found that a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store deli or the slow cooker chicken recipe outlined below (cooked in the AM, dismantled in the PM) are far superior. Just shred the meat by hand and add when you would have added the chicken breasts.

Follow directions exactly re: onions and apples. The vinegar and lime juice will help keep the chopped apple from getting brown.

I make this salad (for the adults) when I have snack duty at preschool, and there is a little gal there with a peanut allergy, so I omit the peanuts on those occasions. It still tastes awesome (but the peanuts add a wonderful flavor, so add them if you can!).

I have used both kinds of vinegar, both are great.

I’m sure other apples could stand in here, if that’s what you have on hand. But, the Granny Smiths are absolutely the bomb. The tartness of the apple is a major component, so just make sure it’s a really tart apple.

The salad tastes even better when it sits for a while, so make it ahead of time if you can, and let it sit in the fridge for 8 hours or so.

Just promise me that if we are attending the same party, you won’t bring this salad. Because chances are I’m bringing it too.

The fan-freaking-tastic slow cooker chicken recipe (from this cookbook):

Mexican-Style Lime and Cilantro Whole Chicken

One 3 to 4 pound broiler/fryer chicken

3/4 to 1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 small or 1/2 large lime

1/2 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

2 cloves garlic

1. Wash and dry the chicken thoroughly. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker, breast side up. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken, and put the rinds, cilantro and garlic into the cavity. Cook on LOW 6 to 7 hours.

2. Transfer the chicken to a platter. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and remove/shred the meat. If not using the meat immediately, refrigerate.

Note: I’m petrified of handling raw chicken and eggs, ever since the salmonella. If you’re like me, it helps to have all the other ingredients prepped and at your fingertips so you don’t have to get your germy hands all over the kitchen. Hint: I put the salt and pepper in a little dish.

Happy eating!

The Aformentioned Lime Vinaigrette

By popular demand. (Ok, so just my mom asked, haha). An SF Wankel household classic.

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)

2 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar

a few grinds salt and pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over salad/pasta/pretty much whatever you want.

I adapted this recipe from making this salad so many times (which is UNBELIEVABLE, make it NOW). But, I have also put it on green salad, quinoa salad, a whole bunch of stuff, it’s very versatile. I tried making it with lemons once, and I didn’t care for it, but some might.