Sunday, June 12, 2016

Spring Chicken Salad

Well yes, even though it's still technically spring, it's hit over the 100 degree mark in many of our states by now, so that means most of you are hitting the beaches, lakes, parks, and trails with your kids, grandkids, dogs, and best friends on summer vacation activities.  And even those of us with more than a few decades behind us still want (and need) to keep up with those little ones.  Basically, we all want to feel like... let's say it together... a Spring Chicken! 

We have the DESIRE to eat healthy, but it must fit certain criteria, dangit!  We want our meal to taste great, to fill us up, to be visually appealing, to be balanced with textures and flavors - creamy, crunchy, salty, sweet, savory, smooth... you name it - we WANT it!  And oh yes, can it please be healthy?  And for some of us, can it please be gluten free?  Can I make up the components ahead of time and throw it together in the morning?  For the guys - Will it have enough protein to keep my blood sugar level and not feel like something "a girl" would eat?  Can I have my dressing on the side?  Can the dressing multitask and be used for something my kidlets like?   YES!  YES!  YES!  Let's do healthy together.  You're going to love it!  

Salad Ingredients:
  • Your choice of salad mix
    • shown is a mix of Romaine and organic spring salad mix
  • Seasoned and grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
    • can be made and portioned ahead of time
  • Dried cranberries
  • Apples cut into matchsticks
  • Candied black pepper walnuts
    • see link to make walnuts or substitute purchased glazed nuts
  • Herbed goat cheese, crumbled over salad
  • *Optional grating of Romano cheese over the top
  • Honey Dijon vinaigrette (recipe below)
Honey Dijon Vinaigrette (yield 7 cups)
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 1/4 cup canola oil 

Begin by making the Honey Dijon Vinaigrette.  This amazing dressing can be kept covered in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and is fabulous on chicken tenders, coconut shrimp, etc.   We make a bunch of it at a time; but you can feel free to cut the recipe in half if you'd like.  

Add the first 6 ingredients to your blender.  Do not add the oil yet.
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup water
1 tsp kosher salt (not table salt)
1 tsp large ground black pepper 
1/4 cup honey
Stop here!  Don't add the canola oil along with the rest of the ingredients.
3 1/4 cup canola oil
(We actually use a mixture of canola/sunflower oil, but that's probably hard to find.)
Okay, with the first six ingredients in your blender, get it started... then slowly pour in the canola oil with the blender going.  We want to emulsify the dressing and make it light, fluffy, and silky.

There is a big color change from a darker yellow to a pale yellow, and the texture is way different now.  It is light and airy and very silky.
Pour your dressing into an airtight container for storage.   Isn't it beautiful?  :)
Now, for the salad, start with you greens, then top with all the pieces and parts in the amounts you would like.  That's all there is to it.  Enjoy!  

You've got protein from the grilled chicken, the goat cheese, and from the walnuts.  You've got tons of antioxidants in the cranberries, walnuts and spinach, and vitamins and minerals from the leafy greens.  You've got juicy sweet apples for sweetness to balance out the tartness of the honey Dijon... let's face it... you've got it all in this one!  

Busy mom/dad tips - 
  • There are cute little 2 oz salad dressing containers available in the stores.  You can pre-portion your dressing and have some ready to go for your brown bag lunch in the morning.  
  • Pre-portion your other ingredients in ziptop backs to have them ready to throw together: grilled  chicken, cranberries, etc.  
  • This also makes a fabulous "big salad" for a family reunion or large function.
  • If you are going to chop up your apples ahead of time, either sprinkle them with Fruit Fresh or give them a quick bath in acidulated water (water containing some lemon or lime juice) to prevent them from oxidizing.  But this is a step you can easily do in the morning.  
  • Do yourself a favor a make up a batch of the walnuts.  Not only are they super healthy (including tons of melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants as well as supporting brain health), but they are so  so so delicious!!!  They also make great gifts!  (Think - Father's Day!) 

Written Method:
Prepare dressing first.  Add first six ingredients into blender, then slowly pour canola oil into blender while it is processing other ingredients until dressing is light and fluffy.  Store covered in the refrigerator.

Salad - Start with salad greens and top with other ingredients as desired.

I hope you enjoyed this amazingly delicous recipe!

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