Thursday, April 6, 2017

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Salad

menumusings.com
I have ALWAYS been a huge fan of a great entree salad.  As far back as I can remember, my mother always made the best salads.  She would pile up the best mix of stuff imaginable.  Now here we are with spring and summer looming, which is when everyone seems to really be on the salad train. Salads are an excellent way to get in extra veggies, mix and match textures, and try some of your favorite flavors in new combinations - like this recipe! If you are a fan of buffalo chicken wings but are looking for a healthier lunch or dinner, keep reading! 

Who doesn't love that tangy heat of the buffalo sauce paired with the cool, creamy ranch and blue cheese dips and the crunchy sides that are served along with this super popular appetizer?!  Well you can have all of those awesome flavors right here in this great salad.  I know so many people who are doing their best to cook clean, using fresh, unprocessed ingredients.  So I kept that in mind with this recipe makeover.  I've used no/low/reduced fat options, Greek yogurt, lean protein, took out the fried component of the traditional buffalo chicken, and piled up the fresh veggies! 


Ingredients: (2 salads)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 individually packaged chicken breasts
    • about the size and thickness of your palm
  • Kosher salt
  • Restaurant style black pepper
  • Spanish style paprika 
  • Cooking spray
  • Buffalo sauce
    • I used Moore's (use your favorite kind)
  • Romaine lettuce mix
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut thin on bias
  • 1 celery stalk, cleaned and cut thin on bias
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/3 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half 
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat blue cheese crumbles 
Dressing
  • 6 oz container fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup 2 % milk (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch mix packet
    • if you prefer to not use a mix, you could sub juice of a lemon and a bunch of herbs - chives, parsley, dill, etc., plus salt and pepper. 
Step-by-Step:
Tip -  If you are doing your meal prep for the week, you can totally do all these components ahead of time and store them separately for a salad that comes together as quickly as it takes you to grab each component out of the containers!  You will be the brown bag lunch envy of the office!

Let's get that onion caramelizing first.  It takes the longest.  We won't need or use it all, but the rest of it can be saved in the fridge for another meal.  The sweetness of the caramelized onions work so well to balance the tanginess and the heat of the buffalo sauce!  Peel and slice a yellow onion into thin rings and cook over low-medium low with 1 Tbsp butter until very soft and caramelized and sweet.  I used a non-stick pan for this.
1 medium onion + 1 Tbsp butter

While the onions are cooking, lets get our chicken breasts seasoned and ready to cook.  I used these individually packaged, antibiotic free chicken breasts.  They tend to be a more reasonable size than the gargantuan sized (almost turkey sized) breasts that come in some packs, and therefore a normal serving each.    Pick your seasonings, but I dried them off on paper towels, then seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper, and spanish style paprika.  
kosher salt + black pepper + spanish style paprika

Then I turned the chicken over, cut them into bite sized pieces and seasoned the other side.  I'm not frying or using more fat to cook them in, so I want them to be flavorful.
season side #2
Let's check those onions.  After they are done, we can just remove them to bowl, wipe out the pan and use it to cook the chicken.  (If you are on a severely carbohydrate restricted diet, you may choose to omit the onions and carrots from this recipe.)
Here are our caramelized onions
Before we get to the chicken (which will cook super quickly), let's make this dressing.  

Dressing - 
Let's start with a base of 6 oz plain Greek yogurt.  It's fat free - that's a plus.  It also has twice the amount of protein of American yogurt - double plus!  
6 oz carton of fat free, plain Greek yogurt
I'll add a 1/2 cup of milk.  We have 2% reduced fat milk in the fridge.  Use what you have or prefer.  I used milk to thin it out.  
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
Now to season up our dressing, I'm going to add 2 Tbsp of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix (from a packet).  If you prefer to not use this, you could add in some finely chopped herbs (like parsley, dill and chives... and salt/pepper) and perhaps the juice of a lemon.   I was going for convenience here - and I happen to enjoy the flavor of the mix.

*As always, my recipes are a reflection of what I have cooked. Please use them as a concept.  If you would like to use something you prefer or something that fits your lifestyle, preference, or diet better, please do so.  
2 Tbsp ranch dressing mix

Okay folks, I think it's time to cook our chicken pieces now.  Don't blink!  Over medium to medium-high heat, spray the same pan that you used for the onions with some cooking spray and "pan grill" the chicken on both sides until just done.  These will cook very quickly, so please watch and don't overcook them and allow them to dry out.  
Add cooking spray to nonstick pan over medium to medium-high heat

Add seasoned chicken pieces to hot pan
Once you have the chicken in the pan, start heating about a cup or so of the buffalo sauce in a small saucepan of low heat.
Heat buffalo sauce over low heat
 Careful! The chicken pieces are just about ready!  
These cook in only a few minutes!
Once the chicken are just cooked through, add them to the warm buffalo sauce, toss to coat them in the sauce, and turn off the heat.
buffalo sauce + cooked chicken pieces

coated chicken in the buffalo sauce
While the chicken is hanging out in the warm buffalo sauce, let's build the salad.  There is NO "down" time in the recipe.  Not a speck of time where you are just standing there waiting to do something.  That's how fast this goes.  

I used a romaine mix, then added all the things I enjoy with buffalo wings - crunchy carrots (sliced very thin), celery (very thin), cucumbers (matchsticks), the buffalo chicken pieces, sweet baby grape tomatoes cut in half, crumbled low fat blue cheese, some of those sweet caramelized onions, then drizzled some of our dressing over the top!  

This salad is SWEET - SOUR - SPICY - TANGY - CRUNCHY - SMOOTH - HOT and COOL!
........and SKINNY!  😄



Written Method:
  • Peel and slice a yellow onion into thin rings and cook over low-medium low with 1 Tbsp butter until very soft and caramelized and sweet.  I used a non-stick pan for this.
  • While the onions are cooking, get the chicken breasts seasoned and ready to cook with kosher salt, black pepper, and spanish style paprika.  
  • Turn the chicken over, cut them into bite sized pieces and season the other side.
  • Let's check those onions.  After they are done remove them to bowl, wipe out the pan and use it to cook the chicken.  
  • Before we get to the chicken, let's make this dressing.  

Dressing - 
  • Let's start with a base of 6 oz plain Greek yogurt.  
  • Add a 1/2 cup of milk.  
  • Add 2 Tbsp of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix (from a packet).  If you prefer to not use this, you could add in some finely chopped herbs (like parsley, dill and chives... and salt/pepper) and perhaps the juice of a lemon.  
Chicken - 

  • It's time to cook our chicken pieces now.  Over medium to medium-high heat, spray the same pan that you used for the onions with some cooking spray and "pan grill" the chicken on both sides until just done.  These will cook very quickly, so please watch and don't overcook them and allow them to dry out.  
  • Once you have the chicken in the pan, start heating about a cup or so of the buffalo sauce in a small saucepan of low heat.
  • Once the chicken are just cooked through, add them to the warm buffalo sauce, toss to coat them in the sauce, and turn off the heat.
  • While the chicken is hanging out in the warm buffalo sauce, let's build the salad.  
  • I used a romaine mix, then added all the things I enjoy with buffalo wings - crunchy carrots (sliced very thin), celery (very thin), cucumbers (matchsticks), the buffalo chicken pieces, sweet baby grape tomatoes cut in half, crumbled low fat blue cheese, some of those sweet caramelized onions, then drizzled some of our dressing over the top!  

This salad is SWEET - SOUR - SPICY - TANGY - CRUNCHY - SMOOTH - HOT & COOL!
........and SKINNY!  😄

Bonus Recipes
As always, here are some Bonus Recipes I hope you might enjoy.  
BLT Buffalo Chicken Wrap
A brown bag lunch wrap version of this salad.  Perfect for picnics and hiking and your kids leftover chicken strips.  (Does that sound familiar?)

A Indonesian inspired favorite of my teens and their friends!

When you need something to bring to the party... but don't expect to bring anything home!

Because we ALL have a black iron skillet.  And this is a FABULOUS use it!  Even better, pick up some dough on the way home from your local pizza joint which makes it even faster.

Make extra of these if you expect to get any if you have teenagers in the house! Perfect for the grilling and outdoor season ahead of us.


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