Saturday, July 28, 2012

I love the Olympics! And Chicken Salad.

The Olympics are finally here again! As the title of this post suggests, I am a tad partial to this glorious event. Always have been. I have been watching them religiously since I was a kid (I have to admit, I don't remember much of Seoul, though I do remember Barcelona), and I am lucky enough to say that I attended events in Sydney (2000), Salt Lake City (2002), Athens (2004), and Vancouver (2010).

Here's me and my Dad at a toga party in Athens for the opening ceremony. Apparently his hotel room had floral sheets. And apparently I was going for the ancient credentials-around-the-neck look.

And here is one of me, my Mom, my brother, and my future sister-in-law in Vancouver a couple years ago...

I could rave about my Olympic experiences for hours (and sometimes I do). Not gonna lie, Olympic montages make me well up on occasion more often than not. Aaaaannnnd, speaking of the Olympics, how 'bout chicken salad, it's great, huh?

(How's that for a segue? Totally makes sense...The Olympics are awesome, so is chicken salad. No? Fine. But speaking of chicken salad...see? Now it makes sense.)

This chicken salad is super easy. My sister and I first made it a few weeks back to stick in the fridge as a snack for the next few days. It was not meant to be. We finished it off within the hour. Licked our plates and everything. That said though, if you don't like curry, I'm sorry to say that you won't like this chicken salad. To be fair, I'll do a non-curry one at some point for those peeps.
Try it in a lettuce wrap, on a croissant, or just straight out of the bowl.

This recipe is super easy to make (I use rotisserie chickens and save the rest of the meat for snack-time, salads, sandwiches, etc. If you want to roast your own, knock yourself out.), and so yummy. We adapted it from Ina's Curried Chicken Salad.

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 2. Just kidding. Not sure how many it serves actually. Ina says 6. The first time we made it, we (my sister and I) ate the lot by ourselves. The second time I made it, I estimated amounts and roughly doubled it. It served about 20 as a side. So go figure. Serves 2-10ish.


2 rotisserie chickens (or 3-4 roast chicken breasts)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (I recommend using real mayo, because it's delish)
1/2 cup dry white wine 
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup diced celery
1/4-1/3 (to taste) cup diced scallions (white and green parts)
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup roasted, salted cashews (whole vs. halves and pieces is totally your call. I use the halves and pieces, mostly because I think it's scandalous that they can charge you three times as much for the whole ones)


Mmmm, chicken.
Separate the chicken breasts, and cut into bite-sized pieces. You can use three or four here, depending on their size. Set aside the chicken.
Mmmm, chopped-into-bite-sized-pieces chicken.
Do as you will with the rest of the meat on the chicken. I always take apart the whole chicken at this point, since I'm doing it anyway. I leave the meat in a container in the fridge and throw it on salads or make quesadillas or chicken pie throughout the week. 

A little for the chicken salad, a little for the chef.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, wine, curry powder, and salt (until smooth). Add the chicken, celery, scallions, and raisins and mix well. If it seems too saucy, why not add more chicken? You've got it in the fridge anyway. 

All together now in the bowl, to be whisked into smoothness... that.
And now with the rest of the cast of characters. Get to know each other, y'all.
Little FYI for the celery: If the stalks are wide, I will usually slice them part-way up longways. Then chop the normal way, and the thick parts will be nice neat little pieces that match the ones from the thin end. Doesn't make sense? See these pictures here...

Above, we have a nice little slice along each of the thicker stalks...

...resulting in (relatively) uniform pieces of celery.

Chill for a couple hours to let the flavors get all friendly in the bowl. Or, if you want to be like me and my sister, eat a bowl and a half and put the rest in the fridge for later. Like 20 minutes later.

Add the cashews just before serving.

And once more with the cashews. 
We made this for the second time as a side at my brother's engagement party. It was good the second time too. I guess the first time wasn't just lucky. 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Going to the Chapel - Engagement Cake and Cake Pops

They're gooooing to the chapel, and they're gooooonna get ma-a-a-rried (that's embarrassing, I'm not even a good singer in print). Not the point. MY BROTHER IS GETTING MARRIED!!! THAT is the point. And a totally legit reason to use all caps, which in general I usually have a burning hatred for (more so their completely inappropriate or unnecessary use).
Anyway, my brother and his gorgeous fiancée Natalie got engaged a couple weeks ago.

This is them! Lovely.
We decided to have a party while they and my little brother (who is not getting married) were all still here (they all live in Australia), but we had to cancel due to the Waldo Canyon Fire evacuations. Thankfully, we have safely returned home, to an undamaged house. We are so lucky where so many were not (on a sobering note, please keep those families in your thoughts, and help out if you can).
Once we were settled back into the house, we rescheduled the party. Unfortunately, my little bro had to return home to Australia while we were still evacuated, but he will get to go to the party down under when they return home.
Planning this cake was simple, since both the bride and the groom had special requests. The groom wanted carrot cake (our secret family recipe, which will also make an appearance at their wedding), and the bride wanted chocolate cake pops. She also already knew what colors she wanted for her party. Planning done. Sweet.

For the carrot cake, I went with a super simple rustic (read: messy) frosting look, with festive paper bunting in the party colors. Cream cheese frosting, in case you were wondering. Obviously.

Look what I got for my birthday!! Not the half-frosted carrot cake, the turntable. Yay!
The bunting was really easy too. There are lots of cute printables and templates that you can get online, but it's also just as easy to make your own. I used yellow paper, wrote the letters in pink, and tied orange bows on the skewers. To make the pennants, I simple folded a piece of paper long ways and cut out little triangle shapes.
Like this (please excuse the fact that I craft on the floor, and that I clearly did not have time to take half-way decent pictures).

And then lined them up on string. And then glued the ends together.
And then drew on the lettering.

And then tied the ends to skewers, and stuck the skewers into the cake.

For the cake pops, I made the same chocolate cake that I made for these. They turned out great last time, and who am I to mess with a good thing? Since I made a boatload of cream cheese frosting for the carrot cake, resulting in massive amounts of excess (no accident, my friends), I used cream cheese frosting again for these cake pops. Plus it's the best way. Honestly people, I would eat cream cheese frosting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were it socially acceptable. With a side of Butterbeer Cupcake Frosting. But I digress.
Cake Pops.
The basics for making the cake pops are the same as I explained here, when I made these.
Except this time, all of the pops were round. I tried to make them roughly the same size, but I am apparently challenged in that arena. Like, to the point of being comical. I rolled, oh, I don't know, 40 of these, and then stepped back to admire my handiwork, and promptly noticed that they definitely increased in size from the first one to the last one. And there were a few in there that had no relation to the sizes around them whatsoever. While the uniformity of cake pop size is not super high on the Really Big Deal priority list, I had time to fix it, so I rerolled a bunch of them until they were all mostly the same. Still not perfect, but who is, right? (This is where you all say "you are!" and I blush and say "Gee Whiz you guys, you're too much..." No? Fine, whatever.)
Here they are. In all their glory.

Anyway, now that we have cake balls in 40 different sizes, it was time to make the ball-to-pop transition. It's easier than you think, and (hold your applause...) not a single cake pop fell off its stick. Not. A. Single. One. OK, you can clap now.
So I melted, dipped, stuck the balls on sticks, refrigerated, melted, dipped, set, aaaaand decorated. And repeated. And repeated. And ate sickening amounts of frosting and melted white chocolate. And then realized I was done. And danced. But then realized I didn't make the bunting for the other cake yet and stopped dancing. And then fended off the vultures (my family, who apparently all thought they needed to test the cake pops before the party).
Here's what I did. To tie in the colors, I made colored pops with white sprinkles, colored pops with white stripes, and white pops with colored stripes.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that even I am astonished at the mess being made (and the mess that was already in full force) in the next picture. But it's fun to see how it all works. Here is the be-striping (totally a word) of one of the yellow cake pops. Super simple. Just drizzle white chocolate melts back and forth over a dipped colored cake pop. Just be sure to keep moving the whole time or the stripes will be chunky or crooked.

These colorful pops were very fun and festive. They would be great for any kind of celebration, and the colors are soooo easy to customize.

The party was really fun, and we are thrilled to officially be welcoming Nat into our family. Stay tuned for their wedding cake in 2014!