Saturday, September 15, 2012

Southwestern chicken wrap and caprese on a stick

Well it's not officially fall yet, but summer is coming to a close, isn't it? Normally I hold onto summer for dear life, with white knuckles as I cling to every... last... drop.

But this year I'm (kinda) ready for fall. Being able to use my oven once again. Wearing boots. Slow-cooked meals. Thick tights with skirts. Drinking whiskey and bourbon. Rotating the clothes in my closet. Cooking more. Thick scarves and excuses to go shopping for new clothes. Having a valid reason to turn into a bit of a hermit and not feeling that I need to spend every weekend doing something before it gets cold again. I'm (kinda) ready for fall because this summer was one of the best I've ever had. Between family events and unexpected meetings and Chicago street festivals and day trips and beach time, it's been an exhausting, yet completely exhilarating summer. So instead of screaming and kicking as fall (and inevitably winter) starts rolling around, I'm at peace with saying goodbye to summer- until we have the pleasure to see each other next year that is.  

I'm sorry for posting about these recipe so late, as in many ways they are perfect picnic treats for hot summer days, but I'm continuing with my mission to catch up on old posts. And let's be honest, it isn't fall just yet. And these treats can easily be enjoyed year round.

Mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes with basil, balsamic, and coarse kosher salt

Back in July (?) I took a day-trip to the Indiana dunes with the activity partner. Hiking around the dunes, swimming in the shockingly-warm lake Michigan, and relaxing on the beach soaking up the sun. It was a great way to spend the day getting out of Chicago.

Hiking up and down hundreds of steps in one of the dunes. Not your average hike. 
(the stairs were built to protect the dunes habitat)

View from atop the largest dune in the Indiana dunes (just under 150 feet). It took less than 10 minutes to the top, but it had a pretty cool view. Minus the nuclear power plant, that is.

My friend says the dunes reminds her of the Simpsons. I can see why...

But of course, I had to bring some sustenance for the day. As we were going to be gone the entire day, I wanted to prepare food the day before that would be fast, easy, and would require no oven time. Which meant caprese on a stick, my favorite pasta salad, and a super veggie-packed, flavorful chicken wrap.

Buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for these wraps means that you can throw them together in no time. And no need for an oven means that my kitchen won't turn into a sauna in the summer heat.

I have to say, this was probably some of the the best beach food I've had. Everything was cool, flavorful, crisp, homemade, and delicious. A great lunch not just for summertime, but also fall, winter, and spring!

Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Caprese on a Stick

These don't really need much of a recipe, and you can browse the internet to see all the beautiful ways to present this dish. I wanted them portable for the beach, so I was less concerned about aesthetics this time. All I did was put a mini-mozzarella ball (bocconcini), a grape tomato, and a basil leaf on a toothpick. Sprinkle with salt, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and/or basil oil if you please.

Luckily the boy doesn't really care about presentation :)

Southwestern Chicken Wraps, from Martha Stewart
Yields 4

Note: I didn't make the jalapeno sour cream, but I kept it here for you as I love the idea. But feel free to add/remove anything you want to suit your taste. I also didn't measure anything, I just used the recipe as a guideline for ingredients to include in my wrap. I've included tips below if you end up overstuffing your wrap (like I did).

Ingredients 
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
coarse salt and ground pepper
4 sandwich wraps (10 inches each) I used spinach wraps
3 cups baby spinach
3 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey (hot tip: buy a pre-made rotisserie chicken for this)
1 can (15 ounces) drained and rinsed black beans
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced
cilantro, to taste

Directions 
1. In a bowl, whisk together sour cream, jalapenos, and lime juice; season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread sandwich wraps with sour-cream sauce, leaving a 2-inch border.
3. In center of wraps, layer equal amounts of baby spinach, shredded chicken, black beans, tomato, onion, avocado, and cilantro. For each wrap, fold two sides of wrap over filling, then roll tightly, ending seam side down.
4. If taking on a picnic or not eating right away, wrap the entire wrap (haha) in wax paper, cut in half (see below), and re-wrap the whole shebang in foil. The wax paper will help keep the sandwich contained when you're eating it sans table on the sand and the foil will help keep your sandwich dry in case your ice pack starts leaking.

I stuffed my wraps a LOT. (Maybe more than I should have?) Who cares! It was delicious!!!

If you're at home, feel free to eat the chicken wrap taco style (pictured at right). But if you're traveling with the sandwich you should definitely wrap it in wax paper. The wax paper really helps keep the entire thing contained and provides for mess-free eating. But please, DO NOT unwrap the half-wrap all at once. (That would defeat the entire purpose!) The key is to rip back the wax paper as you're eating the wrap. That way stuff won't fall out the end and make a giant mess. Very important when you're trying to eat on the towel in the sand vs a table.

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