Summer is finally here, and it’s time for picnics in the park. As I write this column, this may be the most beautiful day since sometime last fall. We needed neither air conditioning nor heat, and the soft gentle breeze was comfortable. After an anxious night of staying close to the television, we are thankful that the worst of the weather forecasts did not occur.
So, today, we had an old-fashioned picnic, on a wooden table in the backyard, to celebrate that we still have a yard.
When I was a kid, sandwiches meant picnics in the park, and if that wicker basket held chicken salad sandwiches and potato salad, we couldn’t wait to eat. We knew everything would be delicious because my mother made it. I recall thinking my mother was the best cook in the world. When we ate at somebody else’s house, it just did not taste as good.
My favorites were chicken salad and potato salad, with soft, white homemade bread and real mayonnaise. The same with the potato salad.
Salad recipes have evolved over the years, and the ingredients for many old standbys have changed. My friend, Diane, comes to most of our photo shoots and volunteers to help me get the food ready. Diane does most of the slicing and dicing. We call her “our live audience.”
Last week, she was putting away some of the food and holding a cup full of sliced chicken we had left over from a rotisseried bird. Already seasoned and cooked, it was delicious and easy to work with. She looked around the kitchen to see what else was left over, wondering how the chicken could be used.
She decided on her own delicious recipe for chicken salad, which we snacked on and made into a couple of sandwiches. Here is the recipe – which is a bit different from what you may be used to.
Diane’s Original Chicken Salad
1 cup (or so) of shredded seasoned leftover rotisserie chicken
1 sliced green onion
1 small celery stalk
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
Some red grapes, cut in half
1 apple, sliced thin for garnish
To finish up, she found some red grapes, cut them in half and mixed them in for garnish. She said she likes to make a light raspberry vinaigrette to drizzle over the top.
Mom’s Potato Salad
Here is how I made my first potato salad, which started with my mom. I have tweaked it over the years.
My mom did not have a lot of recipes. She tried to make things she heard on the radio or saw on early television. It was fun. When homemade pizza was all the rage, her version was head and shoulders above the ones on TV.
She decided to make potato salad the way she saw it. She mashed and seasoned the potatoes, then she chopped the onions and mixed the celery, relish, and boiled eggs into the warm potatoes. We loved it and still make it that way sometimes.
This is one of my favorite chicken salads recipes.
Chicken Salad with Grapes
3 cups diced cooked chicken
3 finely chopped celery stalks
1 small minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients; chill
Warm Chicken Taco Salad
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 pound), cut into thin strips
1/3 cup Kraft Dressing.
1 cup chopped tomato
1 package (1-1/4 ounce) Taco Bell Taco Seasoning Mix
4 cups tortilla chips
4 cups shredded lettuce
1/4 cup green onion slices
1 cup Kraft shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sliced black olives
Cook chicken in 2 tablespoons of the dressing in a large skillet on medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium.
Stir in remaining dressing, the tomato and seasoning mix. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Place chips on large serving platter; top with layers of lettuce, chicken mixture, cheese, olives, and onions.
–Recipe courtesy of Taco Bell