Crab Salad Tea Sandwiches…

My life has changed a lot since I retired. And it’s changed so much more this past year with the Covid 19 pandemic. One thing that’s kept me sane is a small group of neighbors who get together with me every Monday to play cards. We started this weekly get together before the pandemic and we all are committed to following the same safety protocols so luckily we’ve been able to maintain our games (often masked for extra precaution). It’s managed to keep all of us sane.

Every week we meet at a different condo and once a month everyone has the opportunity to host. Hosting involves serving lunch. I love my turn to host because it’s an opportunity to try out new recipes on my guests. They’ve informed me they don’t mind at all being my guinea pigs and it gives me an opportunity to create an even greater arsenal for my blog.

I usually like to make something that I can prepare the day before and just heat up the following day. Normally that consists of soups, stews, casseroles and the like. A while back when I knew it was going to be cold outside I decided to make a creamy chicken and mushroom soup (recipe is forthcoming) and to add to it these crab salad tea sandwiches. I could make the crab salad the day before and the day of simply assemble and serve them.

So let’s talk crab salad tea sandwiches…

Lesson Learned 1 – Make the crab mixture the day before: With almost any type of salad like this, shrimp salad, chicken salad, crab salad, etc., it’s always best to make it ahead of time and allow all the ingredients to get sufficiently acquainted. The end result tastes notably different and better when the flavors get some time to gel. Plus an added benefit is you don’t have to scramble the day of your party because most of the work is already done. Take the time to make stuff ahead. It is well worth it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use good crab meat and not the fake stuff: I know crab meat is expensive. The can I bought was on sale and I paid about $18.00 for it. But the flavor profile is so much better using good ingredients. A viable alternative is crab claw meat which is less expensive but I prefer the actual crab meat

Lesson Learned 3 – Rinse the crab meat with water: I found this is a great way to remove any gel or liquid that was on the crab in the can. Also go through the crab with your fingers and check for any shells. Sometimes small bits of shells can be on the crab and you want to remove them before mixing them with other ingredients.

Lesson Learned 4 – The trick to cutting nice small round sandwiches: I used a 3 inch biscuit cutter to make the sandwiches. I found I could make one sandwich, top and bottom, out of one slice of bread. I also discovered a little secret. Initially when I was cutting out the circles I swirled the biscuit cutter like you would when you cut dough. That created somewhat scraggly edges on the bread. Since the bread is so soft anyway, all you need to do is press down with the cutter. The round will form, you can easily pop it out of the biscuit cutter and you wind up with nice smooth edges. Live and learn…

These are very easy and fun to assemble and they are impressive looking and delicious. So try these out and tell me what you think…

Crab Salad Tea Sandwiches...

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

8.5 ounce can of crab meat, drained and checked for shells

1/4 cup English cucumber, diced

1/4 cup orange bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup celery, finely chopped

1/4 cup mayo

1 Tbs. sour cream

1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 generous Tbs. of fresh dill, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. white pepper

A couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce

1 loaf of soft white bread

softened butter

fresh dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the crab, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and celery together. Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayo, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper, paprika and Worcestershire sauce.

Pour the dressing over the crab mixture and carefully fold to combine. Cover and let chill for at least one hour, overnight is preferable.

Slice the bread using a biscuit cutter to create three inch rounds.

Butter one side of each piece of bread (this will help the sandwiches from becoming soggy). Place a helping of crab salad on top of one buttered slice. Put the other slice on top buttered side down.

Press down on the bread to push the crab salad to the edges of the bread. Garnish with a dill sprig. You can serve immediately or store covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for no more than one hour.

 

Homemade Chicken Salad…

You may have noticed over the years that I love chicken. I could eat chicken every day of the week and am always looking at either new recipes or how to perfect old ones. This is the latter. I used to make a very basic chicken salad with grapes, green onions, mayo, salt and pepper and although it wasn’t bad it wasn’t the kind that was over the top in flavor. This recipe is, and I am so excited to share it.

It is not unusual for me to have leftover chicken in the house but this time I made it as the main event and not as a way to use leftovers. But either way, these combination of ingredients makes a chicken salad that you’ll make again and again.

So let’s talk homemade chicken salad…

Chicken Salad Ingredients

Lesson Learned 1 – Use this recipe as a base for what the amount of chicken you have: The recipe I am providing produces enough chicken salad to feed 8 people but can be adjusted for use with lesser amounts of leftover chicken. Just reduce the ingredients according to the percentage of chicken you may have on hand. To make the entire recipe I recommend using a 3 – 4 pound rotisserie chicken, cut up. When I made it initially I had about 2 pounds of cooked chicken pieces, so I reduced the ingredients slightly (remember this is not baking and so it’s ok to fiddle with the amounts) and it came out perfectly. You may have to step out of your comfort zone a little if you decide to adjust the ingredients, but frankly I can’t see that you’ll hurt the chicken salad doing whatever you choose as long as you are somewhat mindful of the overall portions in relation to the full recipe.

Lesson Learned 2 – No matter how much you want to eat it immediately, let the chicken salad sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour and, if you can, overnight: Once the chicken salad is made it looks so good you’ll want to eat it on the spot. I remember I tasted it right away and wasn’t all that enamored with it. But I know from experience that recipes like this require the ingredients to get acquainted in order to fully develop their flavors and so I let it sit overnight. The next day I couldn’t believe the difference in the taste. I was mostly struck by the flavor of the dill which I could hardly taste when I first made it but could really taste after the chicken salad rested overnight.

It wasn’t only the dill flavor that was different – the combination of flavors fully developed and complimented one another to the point that I felt I could eat the whole bowl right on the spot. So please, when you make this, give the ingredients a chance to fully develop. You won’t be sorry you did!

Lesson Learned 3 – You can also add slivered almonds to this recipe: Many recipes I researched included thinly sliced almonds as one of the ingredients. You can certainly add them to this recipe. I did not use them because my husband has a hard time with them – but I wanted to let you know that they are certainly an option for you.

Not a lot of lessons learned on this one as you basically combine all the ingredients and let them sit for a period of time. But this is a great recipe and I’m sure if you try it it’ll be your go-to chicken salad recipe…

Homemade Chicken Salad...

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3 – 4 lb. rotisserie chicken, cut into bite size pieces

3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved

2 celery ribs, diced

3-4 scallions, chopped (including the green parts)

2 Tbs. fresh dill, chopped

1 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

1 lemon, juiced

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl combine the chicken, grapes, celery, scallions, dill and parsley. In another bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and mustard. Add the mayo mixture to the chicken mixture and carefully stir until mixed. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator for minimally an hour and preferably over night. Great for sandwiches and salads.

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Honey BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches…

If you are looking for an easy, and I do mean easy, meal to prepare look no further. I served this meal a couple of times now and it always turns out perfectly and it’s always super delicious. I have to admit I was initially skeptical about how this would turn it, but it was absolutely fabulous. When you know you’re going to have a busy day and you still want to have a good meal at dinnertime, this recipe is the answer to that dilemma.

So let’s talk slow cooker honey bbq pulled chicken sandwiches…

Lesson Learned 1 – Try to use chicken breasts with the skin on: I normally buy chicken breasts with the skin on and rib portions attached. First they are cheaper when purchased that way and second it’s easy to remove the rib portion and you’re left with a skin-on breast. Chicken can dry out very easily in a slow cooker and often can get overcooked. With the skin on it gives the breast meat more moisture during the cooking process and that is what you’re looking for. But sometimes you just can’t find them that way and that’s ok as well. Both times I made this recipe I had skinless breasts in the freezer and so I used them. But in my experience with other recipes, skin on breasts are preferred when cooking them in a slow cooker.

It’s also important to season them as well. I seasoned mine with kosher salt, pepper and McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken seasoning blend. I really like this blend as it gives the chicken a great rotisserie chicken flavor. Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use a slow cooker liner for this recipe: The sugar and honey in the bbq sauce can cause a mess that is very hard to clean up if it burns into your ceramic crock. Personally I am not a fan of slow cooker liners but I use them for this recipe. If you use one, clean up is a breeze and you don’t wind up with burnt bbq sauce all over your crock.

Lesson Learned 3 – Don’t overcook the chicken: I know, easier said then done, but most people overcook chicken breasts no matter what cooking method they are using. Chicken breasts can be moist as well as cooked through but there is a fine line between when that occurs and dried out chicken.

My rule of thumb is I never cook half breasts (and the ones I used were quite large) for more than 6 hours on low in my slow cooker. A lot of recipes say to cook chicken between 6-8 hours. In my opinion a two hours difference in cooking times is huge. Whenever I’ve cooked chicken in a slow cooker for 8 hours it always turned out dry. But the other variable is your slow cooker. Not all slow cookers are created equal. Know your slow cooker and if for some reason you can cook chicken for 8 hours and it does not dry out that’s fine. But I bet if you cook it for only 6 hours you’ll get a much better result.

Lesson Learned 4 – You can cook a veggie with the chicken if you want to: The first time I made this recipe I only cooked the chicken in the bbq sauce mixture. The second time I added carrots. When it came time to shred the meat I just pulled out the carrots, put them on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray and kept them in a warm oven until dinner was served. Make sure you use cooking spray on the foil as the remnants of the bb sauce on the carrots will stick to the foil and you don’t want the carrots sticking. Also make sure you don’t use overly thick carrots – they won’t cook through in six hours.

Lesson Learned 5 – Serve the chicken on good sandwich rolls: The sandwich rolls are also important. I served my chicken on brioche buns. I found them at Whole Foods and I have to admit they were a little pricey, $4.99 for six rolls, but boy were they worth it. They were just the perfect compliment to the bbq chicken. I’m not saying you need to invest that much in dinner rolls, but make sure they are fresh and soft. It makes a difference. I served the sandwiches with cole slaw and sliced tomatoes and the meal was a hit!

An easier, more delicious recipe you’d be hard pressed to find. Try it and let me know what you think…

Slow Cooker Honey BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

3 large chicken breasts, skin on preferred

1 18-ounce bottle of bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1-2 Tbs. Perfect Pinch Rotisserie Chicken seasoning

2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch logs (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Line the slow cooker with a slow cooker liner. Place chicken in slow cooker. (Place veggies in with the chicken). Season with salt, pepper and rotisserie chicken seasoning.

In a separate bowl combine bbq sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over chicken. Place lid back on top of the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 6 hours. If cooking veggies, remove them onto a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Keep in a warm oven until serving.

Remove chicken, take off any skin and shred the breasts using two forks. Place shredded chicken back in the slow cooker and cook on high for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. Serve on dinner rolls.

Deli Style Tuna Salad…

Sometimes I get so consumed with trying new things in the kitchen that I forget a simple meal like soup and a sandwich can be just what the doctor ordered. And so it was the other night. My husband purchased some gourmet soup at our local grocery store, New England clam chowder to be exact, and every night he kept saying, “Let’s have something to go along with that soup.”

For some reason I was hard pressed to think of something and so I held off for a couple of days. When he asked once again and I told him I was struggling with an accompaniment he said, “How about a tuna salad sandwich.” Bingo. It’s like those words just hit the spot. So off I went researching various tuna salad recipes until I figured out what bits and pieces of various recipes might work for us.

Tuna salad

I have to tell you it was a very satisfying meal. No frills, no fuss, just store bought soup and home made tuna salad on white sandwich bread. Sometimes all the bells and whistles just can’t compare to the simple pleasures of life. But even simple dinner fare can produce some lessons learned. Here are mine:

Lesson Learned 1 – Make the tuna ahead of time and let the flavors get acquainted: There is a big difference when the flavors have the chance to meld. I recommend making this and letting it sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use a combination of tunas: For this recipe I used a combination of solid white and light tuna. What’s the difference you ask? Solid white is almost like a large flaked tuna filet. It is very full bodied but dry. Light tuna has almost a shaved consistency. It is slightly darker but more moist. The combination of the two gives the perfect consistency for tuna salad.

Lesson Learned 3 – Not all white breads are alike: I really wanted to serve the tuna salad “old school” and so I decided to serve it on plain white sandwich bread. Have you ever read the ingredients on packages of plain white sandwich bread? More and more I am shying away from processed foods made from names I cannot pronounce, names that sound like they should be in a beaker in a laboratory and not an ingredient in my food.  So I chose a more expensive organic white bread, Rudi’s country morning white to be exact. The ingredients in the bread were all organic and I could pronounce them all (I knew what all the ingredients were as well). I guess if I was really trying to eat cleaner I would have made some home made bread. I just didn’t have the time. I know how difficult it is to eliminate all kinds of processed foods from your life, but being diligent and making smart choices more often than not has to be better for your overall health, right?

Lesson Learned 4 – Once you make the tuna salad the possibilities are endless: I chose a more traditional way to serve the tuna salad. But you make a tuna melt, a tuna stuffed tomato, tuna salad lettuce wraps, tuna pasta salad, an avocado and tuna salad wrap, or tuna salad mixed with your favorite greens and veggies. The sky’s the limit on this one.

The next time you want to have something simple but satisfying make some tuna salad and experiment with various ways to serve it. But let me tell you, a plain tuna salad sandwich on white bread with some sliced tomato, lettuce and pickles really hit the spot the other night!

IMG_4255

Deli Style Tuna Salad…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

2 (5 ounce) cans of solid white tuna packed in water, drained

2 (5 ounce) cans of light tuna packed in water, drained

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/4 cup celery, minced

1/4 tsp. dried dill weed

1 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley, minced

1 – 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

4 green onions, white parts only, chopped

Freshly cracked black pepper

Tabasco sauce (to taste, optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Start out with only 1/4 cup mayo and add more to taste. Adjust salt, pepper, tabasco and lemon to taste. (I only used 1 Tbs. of lemon and found it added flavor but did not overpower the tuna).

Cover and refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours. Serve on white bread with some sliced tomatoes, leaf lettuce and sandwich pickles.

IMG_4251