Growing up, my family lived in Jacksonville in a classic 1950's mid-century Florida style home. I am sure you can visualize the look complete with jalousie windows and terrazzo floors. As with most homes in Florida during that period, it was not air-conditioned and during late afternoons it was as hot inside the house as it was outside only cooling down after the sunset. I remember my mother frying chicken early in the morning before temperatures became unbearable. Today with air-conditioning we can cook anything anytime during the day without worrying about cooking in a kitchen that feels like a blast furnace.
Even though our home is air-conditioned, I change up our menu during the summer, preparing lighter dishes that include seasonal salads and fruit. I don't like feeling "full" when it is 90° outside. If you are finding it challenging to get your mom or dad to eat, you might take a look at what they are eating. You may have been a "meat and potato" family growing up but as we age the body doesn't process food as easily particularly at night. Now I am not suggesting that you try to convince your 80-year-old parents that sushi dishes like Tako Nigiri (octopus) or Ankimo (monkfish liver) are the perfect summer meal but a chicken salad or a steak salad could hit the mark. It just requires everyone thinking a little differently.
As my mom aged, she started eating her big meal in the middle of the day and had what we traditionally think of as lunch foods for dinner. A half of sandwich, a salad or a bowl of soup was plenty for her given her activity level. Plus she was able to sleep better since her body wasn't trying to digest a big meal. Below is my recipe for chicken salad. My mom and grandkids love this recipe and I think part of the appeal is that it is the perfect summer food. What is your perfect summer meal? Do you eat lighter during the summer? I would love to know.
I think part of the resistance to chicken salad as a dinner meal is that it is closely associated with the "Ladies Luncheon" set. Fortunately it is high in protein and can be tricked out to customize the taste. If you like a little crunch but aren't a big fan of celery, you could substitute water chestnuts or carrots. I am not a big on fruit in my chicken salad but grapes, cranberry or blueberries adds a little sweetness. My recipe calls for the contrast of crunch vs. sweet. What is your favorite chicken salad recipe?
Dinner Chicken Salad
1 Whole chicken or 3 large chicken breast *
2 Stalks of celery, chopped **
1 Mild white onion, chopped
2 Cups of grapes, quartered
1/2 Cup of mayonnaise
1/2 Cup of Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons of dill or If you have fresh dill uses 1/8 of a cup
1/2 Teaspoon for powered mustard
Salt and pepper for taste
1. Place chicken pieces in a pot and cover with water. Make sure that the water is about 1 inch above the chicken.
2. Boil chicken for about 45 minutes
3. Remove chicken from the broth and cool on a plate; set aside.
4. Chop celery, onion and grapes and set aside
5. Pull chicken off the bone and cube.
6.. In a small bowl add mayonnaise and Greek yogurt; mix with whisk
7. Add powered mustard to mayonnaise and Greek yogurt mixture
8. Add dill and mix
9. Salt and pepper mixture to taste
10. In a large bowl combine chicken, celery, onion and grapes
11. Pour over mayonnaise mixture over the chicken and mix
12. Serve on a bed of lettuce with sweet pickles, green olives and whole grapes
*I prefer white meat so use only the chicken breast.
**You may substitute 1-8 ounce can of water chestnuts, diced if your prefer.
***If you want to make broth from the liquid from the chicken, first brown 3 cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil, carefully add about 2 quarts of water, add celery tops from two stalks of celery and 1/3 of an onion. Add 3 pepper corn and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then add chicken to the liquid and boil for 45 minutes.