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Chicken salad is something I make often.  It’s easy, tasty and the ingredients are readily available.  I like that it has fruit and little bits of sweetness even though it’s a savory dish.  I usually eat a scoop of this all by itself but also serve it along with veggies or on top a bed of greens.  It’s a go-to lunch item but I’ve also made it for company to glowing reviews.  If you fancy, you can swap out the cranberries for other dried fruit (raisins are a favorite), add some walnuts or pumpkin seeds, use celery instead of carrots.

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

1 pound cooked chicken

1 medium to large apple (I like Fuji but any variety will do)

1 medium carrot

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 – 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 – 2 teaspoons TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other herb mix)

1 teaspoon dried dill

Salt and pepper

  1. Cut up the cooked chicken, apple and carrot into pieces that are roughly the same size and place in the food processor and pulse.  Process until everything looks crumbly.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process just until everything is well mixed.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with a salad or raw veggies.

We use to frequent a little local Vietnamese restaurant that, sadly, is no longer in business.  It was a favorite of ours because we really enjoy pho and banh mi and it was the only Vietnamese restaurant around us that didn’t use MSG.  The ingredients were always fresh, everything was prepared to order and they served some things that were unique.  One of those items was a chicken and apple salad that the owner created just for their menu.  Now that the restaurant is closed, I tried to recreate the tangy, sweet salad with this recipe.  It’s crunchy from the fried shallots and the crisp apples.  I especially like the dressing that goes with it.  It can be used for salads or as a dipping sauce for veggies and rolls. 

Chicken and Matchstick Apple Salad

Makes 2 servings

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 medium sized apples

4 shallots

Coconut oil for frying

  1. Preheat pan or skillet with oil.
  2. Thinly slice the shallots.  I leave them in rings and separate them.
  3. Fry shallots until crispy and browned.  Don’t do what I did and leave them in there for too long.
  4. Core and julienne the apples.  I used a mandoline.
  5. Combine shredded chicken, apples and dressing (recipe below) and toss well.
  6. Top with fried shallots.
  7. Extra shallots can be refrigerated for about a week and reheated in the oven.

The restaurant served the salad with just the chicken and apples but I usually put my homemade version on top a bed of greens.  Either way, it’s delicious. 

Vietnamese Style Dressing (adapted from this one)

Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 – 3 tablespoons water

1 – 2 shallots, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. Combine everything and mix well.
  2. Left over dressing can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Fish sauce is quite salty and I found I had to reduce the amount from the original recipe.  You can always use a little less fish sauce and a bit more water.

I’m sure that this salad has been done before but it’s one of my favorites.  I always have the ingredients on hand and I get my meat, eggs and fresh veggies all in one great big bowl.  Yes, technically there is no egg in a BLT but I like having hard boiled eggs in many of my salads so I toss them in.  If I have a ripe avocado, I’ll chop that up and throw it on top.  So depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can have a BLET or BLAT.

BLT Salad

Makes 2 servings (or 1 really big one)

2 large handfuls baby spinach

3 large handfuls lettuce mix

6 – 8 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

4 slices crispy bacon, chopped

2 eggs, hard boiled

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce

2 – 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon stevia (or 1 teaspoon honey)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine the mayonnaise, hot sauce, vinegar, stevia or honey, salt and pepper and mix until smooth.
  2. Toss all other ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle enough dressing over salad mix to coat.
  4. Grab two forks (or just one) and dig in.

Before we had the baby, I kept a great vegetable garden.  There was a variety of produce that could satisfy any salad bowl or soup pot: lettuces, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, chili peppers, peas, eggplant, zucchini, herbs, cauliflower and, of course, tomatoes.  I was very proud.  Now with a child, I still have a garden but it’s very neglected.  I don’t get out to visit my veggies much and I’ve delegated all the watering and most of the picking to my husband.  Looking out of the kitchen to the yard, I spy a pitiful group of gangly looking tomato plants.  The basil and chives have gone to seed and are a gnarly sight.  The cukes are long gone from when my husband pulled the plug on them.

Even so, my heirloom tomato plants are bearing us more fruit than I can rightfully expect.  I’m not canning tomato sauce or anything but there’s enough of a supply to keep our plates full.  I planted a few varieties this year – Black Krum, Paul Robeson, Anna Russian, Snow White, and Yellow Pear.  I prefer heirloom tomatoes because they are colorful, juicy and flavorful.  They taste real.

The Black Krums, slightly smaller than a golf ball, are the stars of this simple salad.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Serves 2

12 Black Krum tomatoes (or other small variety), cut in half

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded

5 – 6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (fancy word for rolling the leaves and slicing thinly, now you know)

1 – 2 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Cut the cucmber into same size as tomatoes.
  2. Toss all ingredients together and plate.

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get fresh, organic food in your diet.  It’s inexpensive and can provide a great workout.  I love sitting down to a homemade meal knowing that the food came from my own land (or 4 x 4 planter, but whatever).  Try it and see what wonderful things you can grow.

(Thanks to AW for letting me borrow the D60 :).  I finally figured out how to turn the thing on and shoot.)