Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the sun will come out

It's the season for baseball games, soccer practices, and end of school activities....

It's the season for anticipation of change, newness, awakenings, and getting your wheels in motion after laying frozen and dormant...not to mention getting off the treadmill and onto an outdoor trail for pete's sake!

It's definitely not the time for long, complicated meal preparation!

One can only make so many frazzled dinner trips to the snack bar over the course of multiple outdoor sports games each week. Popcorn, hot dogs, and red licorice ropes don't do much to help you keep in shape, or keep you feeling very spry for that matter. Wouldn't it be nice to have something that's homemade, prepared without a whole lot of fuss, and can be eaten quickly or transported fairly handily to your sideline spectator's chair? We did this by making pulled barbeque chicken sandwiches. Pack along a bag of fresh cut watermelon cubes, dripping with ripe juice, and you can happily cheer your little sports stars to victory without any more trips to that unfulfilling snack bar. Really, those little snack shacks were only exciting when you were like 7, don't you think?

I'm looking forward to picnics, generous servings of a crunchy, healthy tossed coleslaw, fresh fruit of all kinds, cool popsicles that sharpen and freshen the tongue and help you savor the lingering rays of the sun. Yes, I know that Spring is a fickle season and can grace one day with heavenly warmth only to lash out with wind, falling temperatures, and wisps of snow the next. But it's those blessedly warm days that have been popping in here and there that have got me thinking...and I'll just let you know that I have my sights firmly and optimistically set on the return of warmth.

In this, I am undeterred. Even though we sat blue-lipped on the bleachers at my son's baseball game tonight, inwardly pleading that the minutes would tick-tick quickly by so we could escape to the warmth of the car, I watched another baseball game earlier this week without even a coat! So you see, I have reason to feel encouraged.

What we have in mind this week boasts the all-American flavors of sweet, smoky barbeque sauce, and in our minds it bids a happy welcome to the milder outdoor seasons that will bring a thaw to this stubborn Old Man Winter. So, keep this one handy. It'll be a great standby all through the coming season.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Makes 6 to 8 large sandwiches

Personal tastes as they pertain to specific barbecue sauces are many and varied. Search out your favorite. We happen to love Famous Dave's and Baby Ray's. The addition of liquid smoke to this recipe adds depth in flavor with just a measuring spoon and a little tip of the wrist. While standard hamburger buns are certainly acceptable (checking to make sure they're good for you, of course), try to find good quality bread as we tend to go by the rule that your sandwich gets exponentially better as you improve the quality of bread that is used to make them.

This recipe makes eating on the go or entertaining a snap. You can feel free to add extra condiments as you desire. Some possibilities are spicy mustard, horseradish, pickles, tomatoes, jalapenos, diced onions, etc. These are not required, however, since these sandwiches are delectable just as they are, especially if your transporting the meal.

This recipe pairs beautifully with picnic-type salads. And we love recipes like this with no added fat that don't sacrifice an ounce of flavor - or eating enjoyment for that matter!

4 large chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 c BBQ sauce or to cover

1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Salt and pepper, optional

1/2 c nonfat mayonnaise

1 T BBQ sauce

6 to 8 large good-quality hamburger buns, or rolls of similar size

In a medium mixing bowl combine the barbeque sauce and liquid smoke. In a large crockpot add chicken breasts and pour barbeque sauce mixture over. Cover crockpot and set on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. (Because crockpots vary in cooking temperature, it is a good idea to check the chicken early to assess doneness as they may be cooked and ready earlier than these times given.) Remove chicken from crock pot onto a cutting board (leaving barbeque sauce and cooking juices in pot) and shred each piece using two forks in a pulling motion. Return shredded chicken to the crockpot and stir to mix in with cooked barbeque sauce. If it isn't moist enough you can add a little more barbeque sauce and salt and pepper if needed.

In a small mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and barbeque sauce thoroughly and set aside.

You may choose to toast the buns by setting them under the broiler briefly (on a layer of foil or on a cookie sheet) until lightly browned. Otherwise, just split the buns in half, slather on some dressing and put a generous scoop of chicken in the center of the bottom half, before topping with other half of bun. Repeat with the rest of the bread. Serve while warm.

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