The strawberry fields have opened for the summer and we took our first annual trip to the farm to load up on some juicy berries. This is something we look forward to every year!
The variety we picked this week were the early season strawberries - they are very small but also very sweet. I personally love the flavor of these berries the best, but you have to pick a ton of them to fill your basket.
Emma could not believe her little eyes - everywhere she looked were little bushes filled with her favorite snack. She could not stuff those strawberries into her mouth fast enough. I felt rather bad that she pretty much just binged on berries the whole time, but the owners did not seem to mind. We had a minor meltdown moment when she ate some of the straw grass surrounding the plants and had a major aversion to the texture. Otherwise, she probably would have kept eating it.
Matthew was not-so-helpful with the berry picking this year. He, like Emma, preferred to snack on the berries while Paul and I filled the basket. Paul was quite the workhorse. He could not be distracted from his berry picking. I think he was just overheating in the hot sun and trying to finish our mission as quickly as possible so he could get back inside to some air-conditioning.
Emma stained her clothes so badly with strawberry juice. Immediately after berry picking, we had to stop by the store to grab some groceries for dinner. Unfortunately, both our kids looked seriously mangy as we walked through. I was so embarrassed, I felt the need to explain the situation to everyone who stared at us.
Once we got home, the kids continued to eat so many berries that I was afraid we would not have any left before long! I confiscated what I could and made a strawberry pie for dessert. We then made this Strawberry Chicken Salad for dinner. I have always been a huge fan of sweet and savory salads and thought the combination of grilled chicken, crispy bacon, tangy blue cheese, salty pecans, and sweet strawberries all tied together with a rich balsamic vinaigrette would be a winning combination. We served it buffet style so everyone could customize their own salads with as many or as few ingredients as they liked. This works out great for the kids because Matthew would gag and refuse to eat his salad if he saw there was blue cheese on it, even though he loves strawberries, chicken, bacon, and pecans.
Paul cooked the bacon in a cast iron skillet on the charcoal grill and kept begging me to let him cook the chicken in the bacon fat. Since I'm all about avoiding cardiac arrest, I refused. That husband of mine has an unhealthy relationship with bacon grease.
This salad is the perfect summer meal. Simultaneously healthy and indulgent, it is a great non-dessert way to use fresh strawberries and perfect for al fresco dining. At least we imagine it would be. We were driven indoors by a ginormous thunderstorm that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Paul was outside grilling as the clouds became more and more ominous and he was getting a quite nervous about being struck by lightening.
He survived to grill another day. Otherwise, the subject of this blog might have been a little more somber.
Strawberry Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a main dish
For the Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
For the Salad:
7 cups salad greens
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced if large
1 pound chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
1/2 pound bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 cup roasted, salted/sugared pecans
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (we like Stella Danish Blue)
To make the vinaigrette, combine the honey through garlic in a blender and blend until everything is smooth. On the lowest speed setting, keep the blender running and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once all the olive oil is incorporated, turn up the speed a little bit until everything is emulsified. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.
Toss the salad greens with a little vinaigrette to moisten. Divide salad greens on individual plates and top with the desired amount of strawberries, chicken, bacon, pecans, onion, and blue cheese. Drizzle with extra dressing. Enjoy!