cranberry walnut chicken salad

On Monday evening, I roasted a whole chicken. It turns out perfect every time thanks to my trusty instant-read thermometer and to the chicken dude who sells them to me on Sundays at the Hillcrest Farmers' Market--giblets and all. I buy whole chickens because they taste better. Actually, if you cook any meat or fish with the bones, it will taste better. I also buy whole chickens because I make my own stock. I freeze the bones and giblets until I'm ready to throw them into a pot of sauteed veggies (onions, carrots, and celery) and slow cook them into a perfect stock which is easy to freeze and use as I please. 

The only problem with cooking a whole chicken, especially when there are only two of you, is that you have a bunch of leftovers and have to creatively think of new and hopefully exciting ways to prepare it each day. After eating chicken sandwiches for the past couple of days, I decided it was time to make a chicken salad. I am not a fan of the usual curried chicken salad that you will find on most tables. I like my chicken salad to be salty and sweet, tangy, and crunchy. This one is refreshing and light, perfect for any time of year and is oh-so-versatile. I like to eat it in red-leaf-lettuce wraps, on top of chopped romaine, on some fresh sourdough, in a grilled sandwich, or just by itself. I was inspired by this recipe from Gourmet except I didn't have all the ingredients, so I improvised.

Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad
Serves 2

1-2 cups coarsely chopped chicken
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted if desired
1/2 celery rib, diced finely
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or red onion
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1-2 tablespoons Vegenaise (the grapeseed oil one with the purple top) or mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons vinegar, you can use rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar
salt to taste
lots of freshly ground black pepper

Toss everything together until thoroughly mixed
I didn't have all the ingredients today (celery and walnuts were missing) but it still turned out great:


coconut cream pie

I'm an ice cream kind of girl, but my husband prefers baked goods. He loves lemon bars, cookies, cakes, and pies. His favorite pie is a coconut cream pie. He recently requested one, so I set out on making one that wasn't too sweet or overly coconut-y. I whipped up a simple vanilla pudding, threw in some coconut and let it cool in a fresh pie crust. Below are the recipes. The pie was so good we didn't get a picture of it, but I found one that looks similar so you can imagine what it'll look like. Enjoy...

Pie or Tart Crust
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Makes two 11 inch tarts, or one double crust nine-inch pie. It's easily doubled or halved.

1/2 cup ice cold water
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter)

1. Whisk together: flour and salt (if using unsalted butter)
2. Add 12 tablespoons (one and one-half sticks) cold butter, cut into small (1/4") cubes.
3. Cut or work the butter into the flour with a pastry blender your fingertips, or two knives using a scissor-like motion, leaving some of the butter in fairly large, irregular pieces. This will take 1-2 minutes. Pour in three quarters of the water, stirring all the while with a fork until the dough begins to form clumps. Keep adding water if needed. Divide the dough in two, bring each part together into a ball, and wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Let rest, refrigerated, for one hour or longer.
4.Rolling out the dough. If the dough has been in the 'fridge for many hours, take it out to warm a bit (no more than 20 minutes). If it's just been in the 'fridge an hour or two, it's ready to roll out.
5. Choose a surface that is smooth and cool with plenty of room to roll the dough out. Flatten the ball with your hands while it's still wrapped and/or pound it with your roller to flatten it out. If cracks appear on the edge of the dough, just pinch them together.
6. Dust the counter lightly and evenly with flour, dust the top of the dough with flour, tap the dough with the rolling pin to flatten it out even more, and then roll from the center of the dough disk out toward the edge with firm but consistent pressure. Don't roll back and forth, continue to roll outwards from the center.
7. Brush off extra flour gently with a brush or lightly using a kitchen towel, fold it in half and then quarters, and ease gently into the pie pan. Or you can roll the dough onto the rolling pin to transfer into the pie pan.
8. Cover crust with parchment paper and fill paper with pie weights, rice, or beans so the crust cooks evenly. Cook for 7-10 minutes.
9. Remove parchment paper and weights, cook crust an additional 3-5 minutes or until just golden brown.
10. Fill.

Coconut Cream Pie--Filling
from Real Simple Magazine
Makes 2 cups

1/2 cup sugar, or less, depending upon your desired sweetness. (I use just under a half cup)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 C Unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 C whipping cream

1. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan.
2. Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into the sugar mixture, stirring to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and the egg yolks.
3. Cook the pudding mixture over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until thickened, about 20 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
4.  Toast coconut in the oven--350 °F for 10-15 mins, until just golden
5. Scrape the pudding into a bowl and add toasted coconut.
6. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the surface to make an airtight seal and prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour. Then fill cooled pie crust with chilled pudding. Refrigerate and top with fresh whipped cream when ready to serve.