Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad : Behind the Scenes

I’m so thankful that our friends John and Heather were visiting Chicago this past weekend from New York.  We got to spend a lot of time with them and even have some deep heart to heart talks about passion, creative work, and calling.

John is in advertising and he was mentioning how when he’s trying to come up with new ideas and concepts for ads, he’s constantly second guessing himself.  He’s always pushing himself and trying to come up with something that’s ground breaking and impressive.

I can TOTALLY relate to that.  Since this was episode 19, of Bits & Pieces, I knew that I only had 2 episodes left to make an impact before Season 1 was over, so I started beating myself up… going back and forth between different ideas and second guessing my instincts.

It also didn’t help because I asked Joe what he thought about me making this Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad.  He gave his honest opinion and said that he thought the idea was “okay,” but wasn’t sure if it was that impressive.  That’s what you get for marrying a fellow creative person.

But in a way, I understood what he was saying.  The recipe itself is very simple, and I got the inspiration for it from another recipe I found in a magazine.  Joe is a huge activist of me coming up with original recipes on my own.  I try to do that, but sometimes I just run out of creative juice.

But eventually, after trying to think of alternative recipes, I went back to my original idea and settled on doing this one anyways.  Shortly after we filmed, we met up with John and Heather.  That’s when John said, “for creative work, you just gotta stick with your gut.  Your gut is usually right.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself, John!  I was so thankful to hear that from him and get that affirmation.

Creative differences and being married to your coworker is what makes shooting our show difficult sometimes.  But 19 episodes later, we finally feel like we hit our stride!  You can hear us talk more about how our shoot went see some bloopers in our Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad Behind the Scenes video below:

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Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad

Avocado lovers rejoice!  This one’s for you… or should I say, this one’s for me?  I LOVE AVOCADOS and if you do too, you’ll be fist bumping me after you try this Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad.  First off, if you’re scared of the apple in this recipe because you’re one of those, “I don’t like fruit in my savory dishes” kinds of people, don’t walk away just yet.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

The tart Granny Smith apple kind of disappears into the background and adds just the right amount of sweetness, as well as a great texture and refreshing crunch.  Trust me, along with the creamy cool avocado, it just works.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

Next, let’s talk about the buttermilk avocado dressing.  I just so happened to have leftover buttermilk sitting in my freezer from the time I made my Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits.  But if you don’t, don’t fret my pet.

Just use regular milk, fill a measuring cup up to almost the amount you need, and top the rest with vinegar.  I always try to share that tip because I know I used to freak out when a recipe called for buttermilk and I didn’t have it on hand.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

I took the extra few minutes to cook up some chicken breasts, but if you want to make your life easier, use the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken.  I totally would’ve done that too, but I didn’t have one on hand.  Actually, I take that back, because my chicken was well seasoned and juicy, so I think it only helped the situation.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

I chose to use toasty Italian bread as my vehicle to transport the chicken salad to my mouth, and I think that’s the best decision I’ve made all year.  But you can go low carb and load it up on some lettuce and eat it as a regular salad with a fork.  You won’t be disappointed either way.

Apple Avocado Chicken Salad

This makes such a simple summer time meal, but it would also be awesome as an appetizer.  So watch how I make this easy Apple and Avocado Chicken Salad step-by-step in EPISODE 19 of Bits & Pieces:

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Corn Chowder with Sausage : Behind the Scenes

The first rule in the professional kitchen is to yell “hot…behind you” when you’re crossing behind someone especially with something hot or potentially dangerous.  This time, Joe made it a point to let me know that I forgot this rule I taught him, while filming in our own kitchen.  And that’s the reason he accidentally clocked me in the head!

You wouldn’t know it, but I had to carry on shooting our Corn Chowder with Sausage video with a throbbing head because he got me good.  Joe was standing on a ladder fixing one of our cameras, with his back turned to me, and I was right behind him, reaching for my phone, when he let his elbow sail through the air at warp speed, right into my temple.

I named the incident my corn chowder concussion.

But other than that, I’m happy to report that the rest of the shoot was pretty fine.  Okay, there was one more thing.  My pot got really dark.  And I felt like I could hear my chef instructor’s voice in the back of my head saying, “if your pot gets too dark, get a new one and start all over!”  But sorry to say, we were on a time crunch, racing the sunlight, and I do not have a spare Le Creuset kiwi green dutch oven lying around… I don’t know about you.

So I kept on going, and I was hustling!  I tried not to seem like I was rushing through some parts, but dude, I just wanted to get the shots done before it got totally burnt looking.

I thought it was cool, until I looked back at the footage afterwards and saw that the camera made the dark pot look WAY worse than it was in real life.  Next time I know.  But that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to film a cooking show.  You can watch some bloopers and hear what we have to say about our Corn Chowder with Sausage shoot in our vlog below.

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Corn Chowder with Sausage

When my husband and I first moved to Chicago, he jokingly told me that I better start coming up with a lot of corn recipes.  He’s originally from here, so I guess he knew what he was talking about, because he was right!  Everywhere I look, there’s corn in my face.

But especially now, the sweet summer corn is especially abundant.  It’s so juicy, sweet, and dang cheap!  I knew I had to take advantage, and whip up a special corn chowder, even in the midst of a hot summer.

Corn Chowder With Sausage

The best part of this recipe is that you’ll feel like you’re doing something noble by utilizing every piece of the corn, including the cobs!  And you’re not just throwing them into the soup for decoration.  There’s actually so much flavor that’s extracted from there that they are an ESSENTIAL part of the chowder.

So sorry folks, if you’re planning on making this with frozen or canned corn, let me just stop you right there.  This time I am actually FORCING you to use fresh.

Corn Chowder With Sausage

The corn juice that comes out of the cobs is EVERYTHING. Once you taste that first spoonful, you’ll know exactly what I’m saying. And what’s up with the sausage?  Well, I just always have kielbasa in my freezer.  I’ve already told you that tons of times.

But I just thought it made sense especially since it’s salty and smoky, which I thought would go so well together with the sweet corn.  Not to mention, it reminds me of Chicago too, since Chicago is all about their hot dogs and sausages.

Corn Chowder With Sausage

Then I throw some potatoes into the mix, along with a punch of fresh basil, because life is better that way.  The potatoes help thicken up the broth, and the basil adds that fragrant aroma and pop of color.  It all seems so simple, and it’s super easy to make.  But don’t be fooled.  The flavor is complex and it will surprise you.

One bite, and I think you’ll find yourself wanting to make this every summer.  You can watch how I pull it all together in EPISODE 18 of Bits & Pieces:

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What I got at Costco

Okay, confession time again.  This video was shot a few months ago, before summer hit, and before I got bangs.  By the way, why I always decide to get bangs when it’s hot outside and they start sticking to my face, I really don’t know.  But I digress.  I really wanted to share this earlier, but other things kept pushing it back.  Well,  I finally got around to editing it and thought that you might still want to know what we got on our Costco haul.

Since then, we’ve gone on several other trips to Costco…enough to make them notice us and even CONVINCE us to switch to an Executive membership actually, so technically, these groceries are now no longer in my fridge.  But they still apply, especially when I refer to my “staple items,” or things I tend to buy every time I go to Costco.

I also give explanations of why I buy them as well as some tips you might find helpful.  Let me remind you that we are a two person household and we still manage to buy big bulk items and have no waste.  You’ll see that the freezer is my best friend.

But if you’re curious to know what I bought on one of my sorta kinda recent trips to Costco, watch our Costco Haul video below:

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Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa : Behind the Scenes

I didn’t really expect this, but our Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa episode was one of our easiest videos to shoot to date.  I guess that proves how easy the recipe is in general, but it’s also because this time, we were well prepared.  We had such a nightmarish experience shooting our Soba Noodle Salad video because I was so tongue tied and scatterbrained.  Watch our Soba Noodle Salad behind the scenes video if you want to know what that experience was like.

This time, even coming up with the recipe was a piece of cake.  I did it in one shot.  It’s probably because I have similar fish taco-like recipes already posted, and part of it was just luck.  When I’m developing a recipe, sometimes I go with a recipe that’s already existing, and I add my own tweaks to it.  But other times, I literally pull it out of thin air and hope it works.  I think about what flavors sound good together, and just go for it.

What’s hard about doing it this way is figuring out the correct amounts of each ingredient, so I usually end up having to test it multiple times until I’m satisfied enough with it to shoot a video.  But this time, it was an easy recipe, and an easy shoot.  I sorta felt like some of my friends who have had an easy pregnancy and then an easy labor.  Not the same thing?  Okay…

But really, I think this was God’s way of throwing us a bone because we’ve been having a tough time just trying to finish Season 1 of Bits & Pieces strong.  So there has to be some moments of fun and smooth sailing, right?  Otherwise, it’s hard to keep going.  But you can hear us explain more about this shoot, and why this time was different, in our Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa behind the scenes video: Read more

Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa

I have to admit that I didn’t grow a love for fish tacos until I spent some time living in California, so that wasn’t until pretty recently.  And then we moved to Chicago and went through a looong brutal winter, so I forgot all about them!  Isn’t that a crying shame?

The good news is that summer is here and it’s time to sink my teeth into these babies again.  I know everyone and their mom has a version of fish tacos that they like, but I just try to keep things simple when possible, especially in the summer time.  I love a good fried fish taco with crunchy cabbage slaw too, but today, I wanted to keep things a little lighter, so I opted to go without the batter.

Fish Tacos Fresh Salsa

But no batter doesn’t mean no flavor.  You know me… I don’t do bland.  I chose to use mahi mahi, which I marinated in lime juice, fragrant cumin, and spicy chili powder.  But you can use any kind of firm white fleshed fish that you fancy.  That could mean halibut, tilapia, snapper, or cod.  And I’m going to let you in on a secret… I use frozen fish!

That’s right, I’m not mad at frozen fish at all.  It’s frozen at the peak of it’s freshness and it’s convenient.  All I do is thaw it out in the fridge the night before, and it’s ready to use.  But by all means, go ahead and use fresh.  I just used some fillets that I had in my freezer from a bag that I bought at Costco.  This is why these tacos can be easily made on the fly, even on a busy weekday.

Fish Tacos Fresh Salsa

I guess this is kind of a spin off of my other two fish taco-like recipes.  Check out my Spicy Fish Tostadas, and Wasabi Edamame Fish Tostadas recipes, if you’re in the mood for some crispy corn tortillas and crunchy cabbage slaw.  By the way, those videos feature vintage Julie.  I sorta cringe when I watch them.

This time I opted for more traditional looking tacos, with soft corn tortillas, refreshing iceberg lettuce, and juicy fresh tomato salsa.  Actually, the idea to film this episode came from one of our Kickstarter backers, Lktoepher from 6kidsProductions, otherwise known to us as Lee.  This name might sound familiar to you because she produced two of our other episodes.  Remember our Easy Shrimp Pad Thai and our Shrimp and Tofu Coconut Curry videos?  She always has good ideas, and we enjoy collaborating with her.

Fish Tacos Fresh Salsa

So I was excited when she brought up the idea for this episode to be based off of something she couldn’t get enough of on her recent trip to California.  As soon as uttered the words “fish taco,” I was already excitedly coming up with a recipe for it on the spot.  So thanks to Lee’s cravings, you can watch how I make these Fish Tacos with Fresh Salsa in EPISODE 17 of Bits & Pieces.

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Soba Noodle Salad: Behind the Scenes

There are days where my tongue decides to go on vacation and takes my brain with it.  The day we shot this Soba Noodle Salad episode was definitely one of them.  Oh sure I can laugh about it now, because in hindsight, it’s not a big deal.  But when I have an awful shooting day like this, I just want to throw my hands up in the air and run away, pure drama queen style.

It’s amazing to me what editing can do because that day, I was truly Mrs. Flustered Flusterson.  It seemed like everything made me distracted, from people laughing outside, to dogs running around in front my window, to Joe breathing.

But the most shameful part of this scenario was that the recipe itself was SO EASY to make.  It was probably the quickest one we’ve filmed to date, and yet, it took us so long to get through because I couldn’t even form a sentence straight.  Now you know my secrets.

I guess that’s why I feel a little guilty when people tell me that I’m so “natural” in front of the camera.  Yeah, just come to our place on filming days and see if you still say the same thing.  Okay, I’m being tough on myself because there are days where things are smooth sailing.  But this time, I blame it on the fact that we tried to do too much all on one day.

Usually we will film our ingredients board and title page, you know that stop motion part of our video, the night before, in order to save ourselves the pain and stress of having to do it on the same day we need to shoot.  But because we decided to suddenly move our shoot date up a couple days, we ended up running out of time.  So we had to shoot on the same day.  That meant we didn’t even get to start filming the cooking part until late into the afternoon, which made us both exhausted and out of whack.

But you can hear me make more excuses and see some behind the scenes footage as well as some bloopers in our vlog below:

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Soba Noodle Salad

This is another one of those recipes I’ve secretly held onto and haven’t posted because every time I made this dish, it was always when I was feeling too lazy to take step-by-step photos or make a cooking video for it.  But the time has finally come to share it because it got so annoyingly hot in my kitchen and I was not in the mood to film something that required too much cooking time.  So as I dug through my pantry, looking for inspiration, I spotted my trusty soba noodles, aka Japanese buckwheat noodles, and I instantly knew what I wanted to make.

Soba-Noodle-Salad-17

I guess I sorta did share this recipe though, after I made this for a cooking demonstration at an event, back in California.  Some friends who saw the demo asked me for the recipe, so I just emailed it to them.  Eventually, a few of them emailed it out to their friends.  So I guess this recipe is technically “out there” in the world already.  But this time, I thought I’d make a a slight variation of my original recipe, based on what I had in my fridge, so that’s what you’re getting here today.

Soba-Noodle-Salad-43

I think the best part of this dish is that the only real cooking you have to do is boil the noodles.  The sauce is made in the microwave, and it only takes a minute!  And to save myself even more trouble, I shred up some cold leftover rotisserie chicken instead of worrying about cooking one more thing.

Soba-Noodle-Salad-51

When it’s too hot outside to function, there’s nothing better than eating a chilled bowl of noodles, chicken, and fresh veggies.  It’s crunchy, refreshing, and satisfying.  You can watch how I easily whip up this Soba Noodle Salad in EPISODE 16 of Bits & Pieces:
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Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits: Behind the Scenes

We thought we’d switch things up a bit and shoot our behind the scenes video for our Buttermilk Bacon Biscuits episode in a different way.  This time, we plopped ourselves in front of the camera, immediately after shooting, to debrief together.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out at first, but I think I actually like this way better!  It brings me back to how we felt during the shoot, when I watch it later.  And it reminds me of all the challenges we faced and overcame.

This time, it was just a rough day in general.  I should’ve known it was gonna be a long day because things went wrong from the start.  I tried to save time by being prepared.  So I purposely made an effort to set up everything the night before.  I chose to film in our dining room, on our stainless steel table, so that it would be easier to roll out the dough.  I even made Joe set up the lights and tripods in advance too.  But then as we were starting to shoot, we noticed that our background was looking really messy Jessy on camera.  So we decided to break everything down and move it over to the kitchen as usual, thus, delaying our shooting time.

This is kind of a big deal to us since we’re always fighting for natural sunlight, and trying to wrap up shooting before it gets too hot in the kitchen.  But to make matters worse, we ended up having to film this episode twice!  GAH!  When stuff like that goes down, all the life gets sucked out of me, and it ruins my mood to continue on with a good attitude.  But I have no choice but to press on and keep going.  Eventually we made it to the end, but not without some emotional battle wounds.  You can hear more about our experience in our video below:

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