Bridesmaid Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad and Ina Garten

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I was in charge of most of the food for the pampering party for my sister, her bridesmaids and all the moms and grandmoms this past weekend.

We had been working on wedding “stuff” all week. And with the 90% humidity we had been experiencing, everyone was hot and tired.

So I decided after we all went to the nail salon for our pampering that I would just have a picnic inspired dinner.

I wanted to make shrimp salad from this post but my sister (the bride) dislikes shrimp so I settled on a simple chicken salad with a lot of citrus.

In the past when I have made chicken salad I have just poached the breasts, but I am never happy with the moisture content or the texture so I determined that I would roast the breasts on the bone in their skin to keep them moist and flavorful.

Then I decided I wanted to add fresh tarragon. I had never cooked with it before, but I knew it had a light almost citrus flavor as well.

Just as I finished thinking (or talking out loud) to myself about all this chicken salad business, I flipped on the tv.

There was Ina Garten talking about how she loved roasted chicken and tarragon in her chicken salad.

I had a little moment….I was starting think like Ina. Oh the euphoria.

Let’s make some chicken salad.

Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad

Yields 24 small sandwiches

  • 4 chicken breasts (I prefer the breasts on the bone, with skin on)
  • black pepper
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tarragon, fresh and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp parsley (flat leaf or Italian), fresh and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup mayonnaise (or half mayo and half Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

Rinse and pat dry the breasts. Place in a baking pan, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes. After roasting, remove the breasts from the oven and bring to room temperature. Carefully remove the skin from the breasts and discard. Then remove the chicken from the bone and chop into bite size pieces. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the salad. *Can be made up to two days in advance.

To make the dressing combine the fresh herbs, mayo, olive oil, celery, lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours while the flavors combine and get super yummy. *Can be made up to two days in advance.

When you are ready to serve, simply combine the chopped chicken and the dressing.

Now you could serve the chicken salad on some butter lettuce or a bed of spring greens, but I opted for a more carb loaded approach. Carbs=Bread=Love.

Menu for the Pampering Party

Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad on Potato Rolls

Make-your-own Fruit Kabobs

Fresh Vegetables with Roasted Pinenut Hummus

Cheesecake Lemon Bars

A casual college graduation party

My mom grew these roses that my brother and his girlfriend made into centerpieces.
Egg Roll dipping sauces
Lots of food

Grandpa insisted we must have a cookie with writing on it to memorialize this event:)

The Graduates
The graduates

My baby sister and her fiancee both graduated with honors in accounting degrees on Friday. In the past, my parents have welcomed LOTS of guests to their childrens’ college graduation parties (they have 7 children), but this year we have wedding preparations going on as well as other things so my mom decided to keep it simple.

Family only.

And just the immediate family. It was such a nice dinner.  I was about to type “nice quiet dinner” but you see, that would be a lie. Our dinners are never quiet. Too much laughing, teasing and general humor (some intended humor and some unintended humor) are going on that you could never call our family dinners quiet but regardless it was fun. Here is the simple dinner we had:

Honey Sesame Chicken (in the slow cooker)- this was the perfect recipe because it cooked while everyone attended the graduation ceremony

Sticky Rice – made ahead of time

Simple green salad

Ready-made veggie egg rolls with lots of dipping sauces- we oven fried the rolls on cookie cooling racks so that the rolls were very crispy on all sides. Yum.

Ice Cream Cake– this recipe it totally adaptable. And it’s so simple I am almost embarrassed to share it but we use different kinds of cookies for the crust and sometimes layer different types of ice cream. It’s always a hit. And can be made well in advance.

Now if we can just get Nancee Lee and Jordan married in August….

Engaged October, 2011

Party Planning on a Budget

So for the last 5 weeks or so I have been planning a surprise birthday party for my mom (who turned 50) and my mother’s first grandbaby (who turned 1). When I take on projects like this, I like to do my best to do it right (ie. proper invitations, great food, pretty decor) but not spend too much. Some of you may think this party budget is extravagant while others may be amazed at how little I spent. It all depends on your point of view.

$100- Venue: Legacy Park @ Hollingsworth. I could have done this at my parents’ home for free but part of the gift to my mom was that she would not have to clean-up after yet another party in her home.

$34- Invitations and postage for 90 guests. I created personalized invites from ready-made Anna Griffin cards by Target.

$20- Paper products from Target and aluminum pans from Dollar Tree (I used fabric tableclothes and toppers that I already owned from previous parties).

$195- Picnic food and beverage to serve 80-90 people

Sweet cured ham and swiss sandwiches with honey mustard and onion puree (my sweet boyfriend helped me put together 150 of these tiny sandwiches!)

Southern slow-baked beans with bacon

Bowtie pasta salad with fresh basil

Mango Pineapple Sparkling Punch with fresh mango and pineapple “ice cubes”

Iced water with lemon and lime slices

$150- Cake to serve 80, carrot and strawberry cakes with buttercream swirl, Kathy and Company in Easley, SC. I just had them iced in plain buttercream so I could add whatever decorations I wanted. Kathy and her ladies always do a great job for me. I had planned to make these myself but at the last minute I decided toting (southernism for “carrying”) cakes to an event with all the other food I had prepared was just too risky! My sister-in-law picked up the cakes for me. Thanks, Holly!

$35- Party decorations, “spring trees”, birthday banners, cake toppers, party hats etc.

Finished Spring Trees with Birthday Banner

The guests of honor.They were sure surprised!
They were starting to figure out what was going on.
Bailee's 1st birthday cake