Strawberry Chicken Salad {and a Menu}

Y’all…I can’t believe it, but this is my last menu post until September!  As you probably have heard (because I’ve been obsessing about it for months), we’re moving back to the Pacific Northwest in July.  Between moving our entire household and vacationing on the way back, I’ll be “offline” for about six weeks. Then all our stuff will get delivered and I’ll be unpacking. And unpacking. And unpacking. It’s a lot of fun. That’s why we keep doing it again and again.

But I digress. I’ve been a busy little bee, crafting, cooking, and stockpiling posts for the last couple of months, so I’ll be posting new ideas (that you won’t want to miss, of course) three times a week for July and August. I might throw in a few extra favorites from the archives, if I get around to that.  I will still be checking on the blog, so please visit and leave comments!

So here goes, the last menu until September!

  • Monday: Strawberry Chicken Salad with Sourdough Rolls
  • Tuesday:  BLT Sandwiches with Dilly Green Beans (I found a jar in the pantry) and Fresh Pineapple
  • Wednesday: Lemon Pepper Shrimp, Red Peppers, and Spinach over Linguine with Chopped Salad
  • Thursday:  Chicken Sausages and Couscous with PIne Nuts, Apples, and Craisins
  • Friday:  Grilled Burgers with Alessi Sweet Potato Fries and Fruit Salad

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Chicken Salad with Strawberries

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, about 6 oz. each
  • 1 heart Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 cups strawberries, chopped (about 4 whole berries per salad)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced (green parts only)
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachios, pecans, or almonds (we prefer pistachios)
  • Raspberry or Cranberry Vinaigrette, store-bought
    or
    Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing: Whisk together 1 Tbsp strawberry jam, 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil.

1. Pressing down on a chicken breast with one hand, slice horizontally through the center to make 2 thin fillets with each breast. Alternatively, you can buy the thin-sliced ones, but where’s the fun in that?

2. Salt and pepper them well, and place on very hot grill or grill pan. I use a cast-iron grill my GI gave me for Christmas…it works fabulously. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on first, then heat over medium high. Reduce to medium when you put the chicken in, and leave it alone for about 5 minutes, until it turns loose on its own. That means it’s ready to turn over. Cook on the other side for about 3 minutes, until it also turns loose. If you’re grilling it outside, I’m sure you know how to cook a piece of chicken, so I won’t boss you about it.

3. Remove the chicken and let it rest while you assemble the salads. Divide evenly among 4 chilled plates the lettuce, strawberries, onions, nuts, and cheese. Slice chicken diagonally and arrange prettily (as I did not in the photo) on top of salad, then drizzle with dressing. The strawberries are so juicy and the salad so flavorful, it doesn’t need a lot of dressing.

Click here for the printable recipe

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Knot Jar Hanger

These jar hanger are so simple, y’all…you’re going to be in search of places you can hang “just one more!” They’re perfect for flowers or candles, or I’m sure you can think of something else. And…this is important…Ball released these vintage-style blue-green jars this summer…I was beyond excited when I finally found them at Target. I love that they’re heat safe, for canning, which my vintage jars are not. But on with the how-to for these hangers.

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Supplies:

  • Five pieces of twine or whatever rope you’d like to use, each 6 feet long
  • A ring to hang from…I used a key ring
  • A jar or other heatproof container (if using for candles)

1. Gather all five pieces of twine and fold in half. Tie onto the ring at the center of the twine.

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2. About 8 inches down, tie every two strands together, for a total of five knots.Hanger2-ChaosServedDaily

3. Scoot down the twine about 4 inches (I used the width of my hand for consistency) and tie one strand from each of two neighboring knots together, forming another five knots. Hanger-3-ChaosServedDaily4. Move down a couple more inches and repeat step 3, tying knots using strands from neighboring knots to form a web.  To finish it off, tie a knot with all the strands about 3 inches below the last knots.Hanger-6-ChaosServedDaily

5. Put your jar into the center, and you’re ready to hang it!

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Easy Peasy Frozen Yogurt Pops

The hooligans love those little Chobani Bites yogurts for snacks, so I almost always have a few in the frig.  When they were begging for frozen yogurt recently (and I really didn’t want to drive the half hour to the nearest Cherry Berry), I decided to try freezing the Bites.  It worked perfectly, even if the kids did have to practice patience for the few hours it took for them to freeze.

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All I did was cut a small “x” in the lid of each yogurt using a knife tip, then put a thick paper straw in the opening, and freeze them. The straws were only about 6 or 7 inches long, but if yours are longer, you can just cut them off, or use wooden popsicle sticks.

To unmold them, I dipped each carton in hot, hot water for a few seconds.

Full disclosure, these are not nearly as tasty as Cherry Berry, but they’re much less expensive, you can easily make them at home, and you know just what the ingredients are! And you can stay in your hanging-out-on-a-hot-summer-day ratty tee, shorts and flipflops.

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Cherry Chocolate Marshmallow Crunch Bars

These bars from Mom on Timeout totally rocked!  I sent them into the office with my favorite GI Joe, because they were so delicious there was no way they could stay anywhere that I could reach them.

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It appears to be a really lengthy, complicated recipe, but it really wasn’t.  Hands-on time was maybe 20 minutes.  And I had mini-marshmallows and two jars of cherries in my pantry that I needed to use before we moved. I have no idea why I had not one, but two jars of maraschino cherries…plus another opened one in the frig. I substituted crushed cornflakes for the Rice Krispies, because I needed to use those up, too, before our move. They worked perfectly!

Chocolate Cherry Marshmallow Crunch Bars

(From Mom on Timeout)

24 bars

Ingredients

  • Base:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbls flour
  • 2 Tbls unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking pwder
  • Filling:
  • 2 10 oz bottles maraschino cherries, no stems, drained and chopped
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Topping
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbls butter
  • 1 1/2 cup Rice Krispies or crushed cornflakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer bow. Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined. Add in vanilla extract.
  3. Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Gradually add to creamed mixture.
  5. Spread in a lightly great 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Bake for 16-18 minutes until set.
  7. Sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake for another 3 minutes or until marshmallows have puffed up.
  8. Sprinkle chopped cherries on top of marshmallows and spread evenly using a knife dipped in water.
  9. Let cool completely.
  10. Melt peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butter together in a small saucepan.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in cereal.
  12. Spread evenly over top of bars.
  13. Chill for 1 hour or until set. Cut into bars and serve.

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June Books of the Month

Oh, my!  I spent WAAAAAY more time than I should have reading this month, thanks to a couple of books I couldn’t put down.  But that’s what summer break is all about, right? Neglecting housework, laundry, and cooking and enjoying a good book!

The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

This was my least favorite book this month, but still quite captivating. I really enjoyed learning more about Quakers and their role in society, especially the slavery issues.

Here’s the synopsis:

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.
Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.
A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history

Then Came You

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

This is my idea of a perfect beach read, much like all of Jennifer Weiner’s books. I found myself empathetic to all the women involved, even though their motivations were entirely different from one another. The ending was pretty improbable, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book.

Here’s its synopsis:

Annie Barrow, a struggling Pennsylvania housewife, thinks that carrying another woman’s child will help her recover a sense of purpose and will bring in some much-needed cash.
India Bishop, thirty-eight (really, forty-three) and recently married to the wealthy Marcus Croft, yearns for a baby for reasons that have more to do with money than with love. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to Jules and Annie to make her dreams come true.
But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Bettina, Marcus’s privileged daughter, becomes suspicious that her new stepmother is not what she seems . . .
Told with Jennifer Weiner’s trademark wit and sharp observations, Then Came You is a hilarious, tender, and timely tale that explores themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and charity, the rights of a parent and the measure of a mother.

Under the Dome

Under the Dome by Stephen King

OK, so I mostly started this because the TV series was starting this month, and I can’t bear to watch things on television if they are inspired by a book and I haven’t read it yet. Let’s call it a quirk, shall we?  That’s why I can’t watch Game of Thrones…yet. I’m working on that series now.

Anyway, I don’t often read Stephen King, but when I do, I’m always surprised at how readable his books are. I guess that’s why he’s written something like 452,784 books. I loved this book, although I did wish I had it in digital format rather than propping up almost 1100 pages while reading. I wholeheartedly recommend it (although I know some of you did not enjoy it at all).

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

Because we’ll be in the throes of moving cross-country in July and August, I won’t have any book recommendations for you until September…but I plan to get lots of reading done during this summer, so get ready!

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Drip Beef Sandwiches {and a Menu}

Our move is rapidly approaching, so we’re continuing to clean out the pantry, freezer, and frig as much as possible.  I’m pretty sure this week’s menu reflects that!

  • Monday: Drip Beef Sandwiches with Gorgonzola Wedge Salad
  • Tuesday:  Grilled Salmon with Corn on the Cob and Watermelon
  • Wednesday: Crockpot Lasagna with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
  • Thursday:  Cheese Tortellini (the refrigerated kind) with Dave’s Gourmet Butternut Sauce and Fresh Veggies
  • Friday:  Hashbrown Pie, Scones (from a King Arthur mix), and Fruit Salad

This family recipe for Drip Beef satisfies the heartiest appetite as a sandwich, but we also love serving it at parties on sliders, with some horseradish sour cream and chopped chives. And did I mention it cooks in the slowcooker, so it’s perfect for hot summer days, as well as a comforting winter meal?  Yep, it’s a keeper, all right.

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Serves 8-10

  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp seasoning salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
  • 4 lb roast (the cheaper, the better)

Place roast in crock pot and add all seasonings. Add water to nearly cover. Cook on high 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. You can also cook on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 6-8 hours.

Let cool slightly, then shred meat using two forks.

Serve on crusty rolls with horseradish mixed with sour cream and green onions. Serve a dish of juice for dipping if desired.

Wedge Salad with Chunky Gorgonzola Dressing

Serves 6

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (nonfat or Greek nonfat)
  • ¼ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup crumbled Gorgonzola, divided
  • Sliced green onions
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Diced tomatoes

To make dressing: In blender, combine yogurt, cottage cheese, mayo, and ¼ cup Gorgonzola. Blend until almost smooth. Stir in remaining Gorgonzola.

For salad: Remove outer leaves from lettuce head. Cut into 6 wedges. Place on plate and top with dressing, then onions, bacon, and tomatoes.

Click here for the printable recipe

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Pinwheel Decor (Take Two)

I first posted this last June, but while decorating for the 4th of July this year, I found my pinwheels and decided they needed another outing into cyberspace.  So, if you didn’t see it last year, or if you’ve forgotten (gasp!), here goes.

I recently discovered the secret of everyone getting along in the car…kid books on CD. I know, I’m late figuring this out, but I didn’t think they would listen, since they don’t listen to me or each other in the car. It’s amazing how captivated they are!

So what’s the connection with pinwheels? I’m glad you asked. We were listening to a Nate the Great book and at the end are all sorts of nifty little crafts and information. One segment described how to make a pinwheel, and it sounded super easy. And it was!

Once I made one, I couldn’t stop. The kids even made them. That’s how easy peasy lemon squeezy they are. Yes, I need to stop listening to kids’ books.

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I used Stampin’ Up! cardstock to make this decoration for the front door. It was, frankly, a bit too thick to bend without creasing. For the sticks, I wrapped that cool paper tape from Target around dowel rods, then wrapped red and white bakers’ twine around that. To make them lay flat against the door, I tied monofilament line from each stick to a metal clip in the center, above the white pinwheel. See it? That’s also how I hung it on the door.

Then I wanted to make a garland for the mantel, so I raided the kids’ stash of construction paper. I don’t think these will last through storing them, so it’s not important that they be colorfast. I thought it was for the ones on the front door, since the sun would fade the construction paper in about 2 seconds.

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How do you make them, you ask? (Aren’t you just full of questions today?) Here’s how:

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Cut your paper to a square. The ones on my door are 8-1/2” squares, the garland is 6” square. Draw diagonally from corner to corner, making an “x”.” Cut from the corners to about 1” from the center. Punch a small hole (I used a 1/16” punch because I was using tiny brads) in the upper leftr corner, then the next left corner and so on. Also punch a hole in the center.

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Push a brad through from the back of one corner. Work your way around, tucking each corner under the brad so that the brad goes from back to front.

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When all four corners are on the brad, push it through the center and open the prongs to hold it.

Roadtrip Ready Snacks

I may have mentioned a time or thirty that we travel as a family A LOT. Even when we’re not moving cross-country, we travel to visit family by car.  From Wisconsin, that means either an 18-hour or 14-hour drive. In one car. With three kids. Good times.

Our kids, while actually very good travelers by car or plane, are still kids, and get bored. When they’ve played all the games of Bingo and ABC Signs they (and we) can stand, and they’ve spent their iPad time, and they don’t want to just read a book, they often decide they’re hungry. I know it’s mostly boredom, but can relate, especially if they’re watching a movie in the car. What’s a movie without snacks, after all?

For our last move, two summers ago, I assembled individual snack boxes for each of them. They can eat what they want, when they want, but there are no refills, at least for a couple of days of driving. We also took these along to Disney and they worked great for the travel portion of our trip.

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I bought small craft organizers for a couple of bucks each, then found the wood cutouts at the craft store for about 60 cents each. You could also just use Sharpies to draw a design or name on them, but that rubs off after a while. I used my favorite E6000 to adhere the cutouts to the boxes.

Inside, I just put a mix of salty and sweet snacks, and sometimes I even add an “Unreal” candy as a treat.  They also love to find a WHOLE PACK OF GUM OF THEIR VERY OWN tucked in there, especially on planes.

I like this idea because I’m generally “Keeper of the Snacks” in the car, and I’ve spend entirely too much of my life listing all their choices while balancing the snack bag on my lap or rummaging through for the last fruit strip. Now they can be in charge of their own snacking.  And….wait for it….everyone starts out with the same amount, so there is no excuse for yelling, “That’s not fair.” It totally is.

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Strawberry Dessert Nachos

Mmm-hmm, I said dessert nachos. These have quickly become a family favorite (and a favorite for me to make, since they’re so quick)…once I finally made them.  It’s a recipe I first made back when I was a personal chef, a long, long time ago.

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Strawberry Dessert Nachos

(serves 6)

  • 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more, depending on how sweet your berries are)
  • 2 Tbsp almond or vanilla syrup (or amaretto if you’re making them for adults)
  • 6- 8” flour tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Butter cooking spray
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 for the chips.

2. Mix the sliced berries with the 1/3 cup sugar and syrup and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or longer).

3. Cut the tortillas into 8 wedges each.  Stack and cut with a large knife for the easiest method.  Place on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp.  Remove from oven and let cool.

4. Just before serving, place 8 chips in a starburst pattern on your plate and top with sliced strawberries.  Dollop a generous 2 Tbsp yogurt in the center, then drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Simple, aren’t they? I have seen cinnamon sugar tortilla chips at the grocery store, so you can use those instead and have very little “cooking” to do….just assemble and enjoy!

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Epic Day Designer Series Paper and New Stamps

Have I mentioned how much I love the new Epic Day DSP from Stampin’ Up!?  Yeah, I thought so. And the This’n’That notebook and the washi tape and the rotary stamp and the stickers that go with it?  Okay, then. Did you order it yet?  I’m using my journal to write down the funny things my kids say, along with fun photos of them  Because pretty soon they’ll be obnoxious teenagers and I won’t think their smart aleck remarks are funny.

Back to the paper… I love it for card-crafting, too.  It’s a little grunge, a little cozy, and a lot of color.

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Supplies:  WooHoo Single Stamp; Epic Day DSP; Pool Party and Whisper White Cardstock; Calypso Coral, Pool Party, Gumball Green, and Daffodil Delight markers; Calypso Coral Ribbon; Hung Up Cute Clips; Corner Rounder Punch

This WooHoo stamp is available through the end of July in the single stamp section of the online catalog. Did you know those even were there?  Lots of fun stamps, sold all by themselves. You can check it out on my Stampin’ Up! website.

And how cute is that clip?  Maybe that’s why they’re called Hung Up Cute Clips. You get 8 each of tiny little hangers, arrows, and speech bubbles. I added a snippet of ribbon for a little punch of color and texture.

And then I made this one, with the scraps of paper left on my desk:

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Supplies: From My Heart stamp set; Epic Day DSP; Pool Party and Whisper White Cardstock; Calypso Coral, Pool Party, and Gumball Green markers

I thought about using my Big Shot and a Framelit to cut out the focal piece, but decided fussy-cutting it with paper snips would be better. And it took just a minute to do, without getting out any other supplies. I realize it’s not perfect, but am telling myself that adds to the charm of the card.

I’ve spent way too much time playing with my new goodies from Stampin’ Up!…but I just have no willpower to avoid the temptation. And I want to avoid all of my moving chores, so it’s an easy choice!  I hope you’re enjoying your summer days, too, doing just what you like!Signature