Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups

Summer is here and I have been enjoying every single second of it! Tons of fruits and fresh veggies, farmer's markets, csa boxes, warm (ok sometimes really hot) weather, lots of homemade popsicles and ice cream, I could not be any happier than this!
It is by far my favorite season, my favorite time of the year, and with the wonderful hot weather we welcome any and all salads we can get our hands on, it is definitely cold foods season and again, I am totally enjoying!
I love salads, and as funny as this may sound, my salads rarely involve tons of leaves (which is what most people think of when talking about salads). I make salads with veggies, lots of it, a mix of colors and flavors, crunch and deliciousness tat pack a punch of nutrition to boot, something that only fresh veggies can give us in one big plate.
Zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, amazing summer tomatoes, grilled eggplants and other grilled veggies, avocados, sometimes fruits (watermelon + tomatoes makes an amazing salad!), all of these end up on my salad concoctions. Plus I always add some protein to make it more filling and delicious too: tofu, white beans, lentils or chickpeas (my favorites), grilled chicken, lots of possibilities here, and most of the time I add a bit of cheese too, usually goat cheese, ricotta salatta (both add some white color which make the salad more colorful!) or Parmesan shavings.
Now tell me, how can this be not good? :-)
This talk about salad brings me to this Giada Di Laurentiis recipe for Italian Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups which I have made numerous times and absolutely love the flavors. I have made it so many times already this summer, and I love it every single time I do.
This salad is packed with good protein from the roasted chicken, crunch from toasted almonds, veggie wonders from delicious roasted peppers and a punch from capers and a delicious vinaigrette, and the best part: you can eat it in cute butter lettuce "cups", which add so much to the meal, I love the experience of playing with your food. Plus I just love butter lettuce, it truly have a "buttery" feel, it is so tender, as I said, I am not big on lettuce, but this is one of my very favorite ones! (I do love spinach salad though, really, really like it!)
You can serve this salad as an appetizer, at a dinner party, whenever you feel like. We have had it for lunch and we love it! All I make is some rice or couscous to accompany it and some more veggies (because I just eat lots of veggies) and we are set.
A refreshing summer meal that is not only filling but totally delicious!

Ps: Giada's recipe makes a ton and serves 12, so divide it accordingly to how much you want to make. I usually wing the proportions to make for the three of us (or more when I served it to company), but it is easy to divide in half or in quarters if you need to serve 6 or only 3.
Anyway you decide to divide, don't worry if you have salad left, it is delicious on the next day too!
Also, Giada served it as appetizers and plated every single lettuce cups. I served it "family style", the salad in a big bowl and the lettuce cups in a platter, so each person could put their own portions together, which also ended up offering the option of just eating the salad in your plate without the lettuce if one chose to do so.

Italian Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
(Adapted from a recipe by Giada Di Laurentiis)

10 cups shredded cooked chicken (you can use rotisserie chicken, and need about 3 for this much)
2 cups roasted red and yellow bell peppers chopped (drain and pat dry if using
1 1/4 cups paper thin slices of red onions
3/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 cup capers, drained
About 1 1/2 cups red wine vinaigrette (recipe bellow)
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter lettuce leaves
4 ounces of Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

In a large bowl toss together the chicken, bell peppers, onion, parsley, almonds, and capers with enough vinaigrette to season and moisten it. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding salt and pepper as necessary.
Spoon chicken salad into lettuce cups and arrange into plates. Sprinkle with the Parmesan shaving right before serving.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

In a blender add vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. Turn it on to mix and, while the machine is running, add the oil and blend until emulsified.
Yield: 1 3/4 cups

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A produc review post: Nut Butters & Coconut Butter!

Knowing about my love for nut butters, the nice people from Artisana were super nice and sent me a few samples of their products to try and review on the blog. I haven't done much product review on this blog but I have been sent some cool products to try and being that I truly enjoyed these products I think it is more than fair that I share here with you all.
I would never recommend something I don't like or wouldn't eat myself, so for the next few posts regarding product reviews you can be assured that everything I am posting about are good eats!
From the Artisana folks I received some nut butters and coconut butter. Some of the nut butters were made with raw nuts and some with roasted nuts (their new line I am guessing).
They were all excellent products, high quality, full of deliciousness! all ingredients are organic and pure, and I love that!
From the nut butters my favorite by far is the almond butter and after trying both raw and roasted varieties I have to say that I LOVE ROASTED ALMOND BUTTER, the raw is not my thing, but I know for a lot of people that is the way to go, so it is a matter of preference.
Here are some pics and some of my thoughts on these delicious nut butters (sorry about the pics by the way, the jars were smallish and my camera is a simple point and shoot so no good lens here...):

These two above are Tahini and Cashew butter, both made with roasted seeds and nuts.
I really enjoyed these and if you like cashews you might also enjoy the cashew butter!
And if you like hummus as much as I do you will definitely love the tahini, I certainly did! I love hummus and make it frequently at home so this was a real treat. This tahini was smooth and delicious, adding nothing but perfection for my hummus concoctions. It is also very good as a sauce for falafels, I tried a little mixed with yogurt and lemon juice and it was reeeally good!

These next two are Macadamia and Walnut butters, both made with raw nuts. I have to say that these two surpassed my expectations, especially the macadamia butter. I don't actually like macadamia nuts, but in nut butter form I thought it became something different. It was smooth and sweet, and I enjoyed that especially added on top of warm oatmeal, it was nice.
The walnut butter was also yummy, but then I really like walnuts. I would be curious to try a roasted walnut butter, I think that would be even better, but for now the raw version was pretty good!

Next on my review comes Coconut Butter and for this friends there is only one word to describe: amazing! Coconut Butter is simply coconut "meat" (the white part of the young coconut) that is ground to a paste. That is it, nothing more, pure organic coconut. The flavor is subtle and there is a sweetness that I loved about this product. It is smooth and luscious, I truly liked coconut butter and went to spread the word to all my friends - I even got a very good friend and one of my teachers to try it and they both liked it too.
When it is cold the coconut butter is harder and when the weather warmed up it got all softened in consistency. Some people attribute a feeling of "tasting like frosting" to coconut butter, but since I don't like frosting this is not appealing to me and I just go with creamy and delicious, so I will leave it up to you to try and decide what do you think coconut butter feels like.
But definitely try coconut butter, it is delicious added to pancakes, on top of warm oatmeal, on top of crackers, omg, it is delicious just out of a spoon. My favorite is by far to eat this on top of oats, it melts and infuses the oats with coconut flavor, plus it sweetens it at the same time.
Oh my, I am so glad coconut is back into the healthy foods world!
One thing about this is I wish it was a bit more affordable, after I finished my jar I found out that coconut butter is really more of a treat to me right now, but it is a seriously worth indulgence I'll tell you.

The name on this one tells it all: Cacao Bliss! Oh lord, this IS bliss!
Get that amazingly delicious coconut butter and mix in cocoa... words cannot describe, it could only be good, and it is, not just good but amazingly delicious!!
Matheus and I could not stop eating this one, and the jar was so tiny... we polished it off in no time, baby spoons in hand and attack, the one who gets more is the luckiest!
Cacao bliss is really good, if you like coconut and chocolate together then you will also find true bliss in a jar of this. (it is amazing on top of oats!)

Like a lot of people I saved the best for last: Almond Butter!!
My very, very, very favorite nut butter of all times! Since I discovered almond butter I haven't spent a day without it, I just crave almond butter, and with almonds being so healthy (vitamin E, fiber, healthy fats!) it is an indulgence and a healthy benefit at the same time.
These two little artisana jars were one made with raw almonds (left side) and one made with roasted almonds (right side).
I have to say that in my universe there is no nut butter better than Roasted Almond Butter and that became even more true for me after trying both of these. The roasted almond butter is definitely my favorite, it is creamy and nutty, pure perfection in a jar! Nuts in its utmost smooth form, pure deliciousness for my taste buds. And I LOVED the artisana roasted almond butter!!
Talk about creamy and delicious, this was it!! I think from all the nut butters I have tried this is one of my very favorite for sure.
The raw almond butter was good too, but it had that raw almond taste which I don't actually care for, but I know a lot of people who like and even prefer to the roasted version, so it really comes down to personal preference. And if you ask me you know what my recommendation would be.

So that is it, my nut butter review post. Thanks Artisana folks for making it possible for me to try such amazing products. I just loved every single item I tried and already bought a few big jars of deliciousness after trying the sample sizes. There was no way after sampling it that I could live without such amazing products in my kitchen. Plus Matheus thanks you guys too as he seriously thinks that whoever created cacao bliss should be considered a genious of the coconut world, we both really enjoyed that coconut butter, oh so good!
The quality on these nut butters in imperative, pure, organic ingredients. I can safely tell all my friends to try it and I am sure they are all going to love it too!

So, any different nut butters out there I should try? I am always open for suggestions, especially on the almond butter world!!
Hope you all enjoy this post!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fruits we had for breakfast this morning... summer is just THE BEST!!
Love, love, love berries!!! Blackberries from our backyard, plus blueberries from our csa box and raspberries from the farmer's market... couldn't have asked for anything better!