Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grilled Chicken Southwestern Chopped Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

I'm sure you know this, but salads do NOT have to be boring!!  On the contrary, it seems that the more stuff you pile on there the better.  I learned that from my mom, who makes the most amazing salads with lots of colors and textures.  So lets see... The star of the show would have to be the sliced southwestern-flavored chicken breasts strips, which top a bed of romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage, carrots, and a little coleslaw mix. Topping that are the beautiful colors of the season, with vine-ripened grape tomatoes, sweet summery corn and black beans, sweet peppers, green onions, and big bold cilantro.  Of course I threw in some goodies with a blend of monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, and some colorful tortilla strips for crunch.  It's essentially the rainbow, on a plate!  Now of course you could top this all off with ranch dressing or something... but NO!  We are going to make a cool Creamy Cilantro Dressing that will blow your socks off, from a base of Greek yogurt!  Yep.  Stay with me here.  Ready-set-go!

Now this may look like a long list, but you just dump it all together!  This salad would be perfect for bringing to a family reunion, a work party, neighborhood block party, etc.  You could even layer it in a trifle bowl for a pretty presentation.  Just be sure everything is well drained so it will be crisp.  And let everyone dress their own at the end, so you won't wilt the salad beforehand.  Of course you can cut down the amount and have a killer salad to bring to work for yourself, too!  And as always, feel free to change it up any way you want to.  One of the joys of cooking is that you can make something how YOU want to!

Click here for a Printable Recipe 

Salad Ingredients:
  • 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage 
  • 1 cup shredded carrots strips
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 cup canned corn niblets, drained
  • 1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup coleslaw mix
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed and rough chopped 
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 2 (6 oz packages) Southwestern Grilled Chicken Strips
  • 1 cup Monterey jack/cheddar cheese blend
  • 1 cup colored tortilla stips
  • optional - 1 packet of taco seasoning
Creamy Cilantro Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder 
Method:
Let's do the dressing first.  Then we can stick it in the fridge so all the flavors can marry together while we do the salad.  Or the dressing could obviously be made up ahead of time.

For the dressing - Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Give it a whirl until smooth and creamy.  Adjust seasonings as you desire.
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil (I used 1/8 cup canola, 1/8 cup olive oil)
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp plain table salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
 
Here is the final dressing.  Smooth, cool, creamy, but BOLD!  I will put it in a dish, covered, and refrigerate it until I want to dress the salad.

Now for the Salad -
Really, you just dump it all together.  Nothing more complicated than that.
1 large head of romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup canned corn niblets, drained
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup coleslaw mix
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
Add in the freshly "snipped" cilantro and green onions.  We find it easiest to do this part using kitchen shears. 

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed and rough chopped
Don't forget the green onions.  (there's no photo for this.)
Just look at how beautiful this is going to be!
12 oz chopped, cooked, southwestern seasoned chicken breast strips
Now we are adding the final touches... the 1 cup Monterey Jack/cheddar cheese...

... and the crunchy tortilla strips!  I also added a packet of Taco bell taco seasoning. Rather than seasoning it with a bunch of salt, pepper, cumin, etc. Of course this is optional.  Now stir it up!



Add the dressing when you are ready to serve your salad.  Add a wedge of lime to add to the plate as a splash of freshness!
Note - If you are making this to take to a function, or just for eating later.  Keep the dressing separate!
Have you enjoyed this recipe?  I hope so!  There are LOTS more where this came from.  Hop on over to my Recipe Index to find more awesome recipes!

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Here are a few more lunch options on the lighter side, but still delicious!
Dill and Sun Dried Tomato Cucumber Rolls

Cajun Chicken Salad

Toasted Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Cranberry Pecan Chopped Autumn Salad

Creamy Grape Salad



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