Category Archives: Salads

Chicken Salad – Cool and Healthy

Chicken Salad is a cool and healthy choice for a hot weather lunch or dinner and perfect for a potluck. There are dozens of recipes with all kinds of variations that you can make, but let’s start with a wonderful basic recipe that we have used in my family for years.

Image by Kathy Maister
Image by Kathy Maister

INGREDIENTS

  • Roasted or boiled chicken, chilled
  • Fresh crisp celery, sliced very, very thin
  • Onion, finely diced
  • Seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried and cut in half
  • Real Foods (or Hellmann’s) Mayonnaise
  • Mustard, regular
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sliced almonds or chopped pecans (optional)

NOTE: I purposefully omitted measurements because this is a dish that is best made “to taste.”  My recommendation is to go easy on the celery, onion, and mustard until you reach a combination that works for your family.  Once you get a good idea of the amounts that please your palate, you can always double or triple depending on the number of people you will be serving.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the celery, onions, grapes, and nuts (if using) – set aside.
  2. Cut the chilled cooked chicken into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix in the chopped ingredients.
  4. Start with 2 tablespoons mayo and 1 teaspoon mustard – mix very gently and add more mayo as needed until all ingredients are lightly coated – (Do not overwhelm the salad with mayo.)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: The nuts are listed as optional, but add a nice crunchy texture, if desired. You may also want to try other variations such as adding: hard-boiled eggs, avocado, seasoned brown or Basmati rice, or lemon juice for an additional tangy flavor. If you prefer, you can use low-fat, or light mayonnaise.

Change It Up

Chicken salad has multiple uses. It is delicious on rich whole-grain bread for sandwiches; on a crisp lettuce leaf for a refreshing summer salad; or as a side dish with dinner or at a potluck. My chicken salad is always one of the first dishes to be eaten at a potluck, church dinner, or teenage gathering.

This can also be an economical dish – and who isn’t happy for those? Chicken is often sold in larger quantities for lower prices. Take advantage of those sales and have a prep day where you make a large batch of chicken salad that you place in a big bowl in the fridge for easy access. It is ready for quick packed lunches (sandwiches or salad); a last minute side dish for dinner – or a healthy snack after school.

Chicken salad is also wonderful wrapped in a fresh tortilla, in pita bread, or spread on crackers as a yummy appetizer. And . . . don’t forget to serve it on fresh croissants for a tasty lunch with friends.

Chicken salad is a healthier, more unusual choice than potato salad. It is an excellent choice for picnics, graduation parties, open houses, 4th of July celebrations, taking to the beach in a cooler, or any time you want to serve a nice, cool protein-rich dish that can be prepared in advance.

When served in a clear serving dish, it presents beautifully, especially when it includes deep red or black seedless grapes and avocados; then, trimmed with dark green lettuce leaves.

When you want to serve a rich, healthy, delicious meal, think Chicken Salad. Your family, friends, and/or guests will love it. If you are taking it “out,” be sure to prepare a little extra to set aside for your family.

Photo Credit: Chicken Salad Classics via photopin (license)

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Many Uses for Refreshing Iceberg Lettuce

You have many choices when it comes to lettuce at the local grocery store and the farmer’s market. Iceberg seems to have been relegated to second-class status in some circles, but should not hold that position for you and me.

Iceberg is the lettuce my mom used when I was growing up and along with Romaine, it is still at the top of my list.

The main reasons I continue to use it regularly are: it is the least expensive, it stays very crisp when handled properly; it contains a lot of water which is good for you; and, it has a mild flavor, which keeps it from overwhelming other ingredients in your dishes.

Yes, it does have fewer nutrients than some of your darker green lettuces; but, since it is often just a base for nutrient-rich dishes, that should not be a huge concern. Also, you can always mix in a little Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce for color and a nutrition bump if you choose.

Preparing Iceberg Lettuce

Cleaning and coring iceberg lettuce is quick and easy.

To remove the core, hold the head of lettuce, core side down and gently, but firmly hit the bottom of the head on the counter. The core should break apart from the rest of the head so you can pull it out quite easily. Rinse the head thoroughly with cold water. Also be sure to rinse all the crevices. Wrap in a damp paper towel  and store in the fridge until ready to use. This helps keep it fresh and crisp for two or three days.

Below are some of my favorite ways to use Iceberg lettuce:

Perfect Crunchy Freshness on Burgers and Tacos

For me, a nice crispy leaf of iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato and thinly sliced raw onion makes a hamburger complete. Iceberg lettuce gives the burger extra texture, color and flavor. Just before the burgers have finished cooking, I tear off nice-sized leaves from the head stored in the frig and dab them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture so the buns do not get soggy. Perfect!

When serving homemade tacos (one of my family’s favorites), I cut the crispy head of lettuce in half. I cut one of the halves into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. I then cut the slices in half  – and in half again. This creates perfect tiny strips for tacos. (I learned this from a wonderful Mexican cook in my home town years ago.) The lettuce adds a crunchy, fresh crispness to any taco.

Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad

Image by Tavallal
Image by Tavallal

This a classic traditional steak-house salad and always delicious when the lettuce wedge is fresh and crisp. It is usually served with a quality creamy Roquefort or Blue Cheese dressing – with or without additional toppings depending on the steak house, or personal preference. It is the perfect side dish for a good steak and potatoes dinner.

Traditional Tossed Salads

Of course, anytime you mention a dinner salad, Iceberg lettuce comes to mind. With fresh veggies, it makes a light, healthy first course or side dish for almost any meal.

I always chop my vegetables first – using a combination of any or all of the following: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, avocados, and cucumbers. I place them in a bowl and add a little vinegar and oil-based salad dressing to add flavor.

Then, I remove my crisp head of lettuce from the refrigerator and tear into bite-sized pieces, placing the lettuce on top of the marinating veggies (but do not toss). If not serving immediately, I cover the lettuce with a slightly damp paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to toss and serve.

When the time is right, I serve in individual bowls with dressings on the side; plus, croutons, bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, grated cheese, or other family favorites.

Main Dish Salads

The above traditional salad can also be used as an entrée – a great way to serve a low calorie, highly nutritious meal for lunch or dinner. I simply add a little more lettuce – usually a darker green type for color – and some grilled chicken or steak, cut into strips, and placed on top.

When serving guests, I put all the extra toppings in small serving bowls so they can create their own finished salad.  To keep the calories down and to savor the wonderful mix of flavors, I typically eat mine with a light vinaigrette or balsamic dressing

Substitution for Bread

Try this healthy, tasty twist for sandwiches. Use two large crispy leaves instead of bread for your next sandwich. Place your favorite sandwich meat or sliced leftover roast chicken or turkey, a slice of cheese, a slice of tomato, strips of raw onion, and a little mayo between two iceberg lettuce leaves for a tasty, crunchy and healthy meal. Tuna salad also tastes great when served between two crisp leaves.

You can either serve the “sandwich” open-faced using a leaf or two of crispy iceberg lettuce as the base and enjoy with a fork. Or – create your layers and do a roll-up.

Base, Garnish, or Decoration

One or two crispy Iceberg lettuce leaves make the perfect decorative base under any meat or rice dish. Since it is so inexpensive, it is great to use decoratively for almost any meal.

For example: place it under a scoop of chicken, tuna, or egg salad for a healthy lunch; or, place it under a bed of couscous or seasoned brown rice as a side dish.

This is only a tip of the “iceberg” (LOL). The next time you are shopping pick up a head of this wonderful lettuce and let your creativity take flight.

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Roasted Beet Salad with Feta – Recipe of the Day

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Roasted Beet Salad

Try this Roasted Beet Salad soon! Next time you roast beets for dinner, roast a few extra, so you can enjoy this delicious salad. Canned whole beets will also work, but freshly roasted beets are always better. To roast the beets – cover them in foil and put them in a 400º F. oven for about one hour. Chop the ends of the beets and peel them while they are still warm.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium roasted beets, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon thyme
  • Field greens or lettuce mix (optional)
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta (goat’s cheese)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, pecans, etc.
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the beets, oil, lemon juice and lemon thyme in a mixing bowl.
  2. Prepare four servings bowls with a bed of mixed greens (if you are using them – can be served with or without the greens).
  3. Top with the beet mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with feta and pine nuts.
  5. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Note: If you don’t have lemon thyme, use fresh basil, oregano or regular thyme. Dry herbs will also work, but use them sparingly. 



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Greek Potato Salad – Busy Mom’s Series, Day 13

Greek Potato Salad[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#B01025″]Greek Potato Salad[/typography]

Greek Potato Salad is very different from traditional potato salad. It is a taste delight and always a refreshing change of pace.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes, with skins
  • 2 medium bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded, cut into eighths
  • 1 medium cucumber, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ medium red onion, very thinly sliced (½ cup)
  • ½ cup whole kalamata or ripe olives
  • 1 package (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese (1 cup)

Lemon Dressing

  • ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut potatoes across width into 1/8” slices.
  2. Place in a large bowl and wash in cold running water until water runs clear.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  4. Add potatoes, bring back to a boil, and cook until slices are barely soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.  (DO NOT OVER COOK)
  5. Drain in a colander
  6. Place the potatoes and the remaining salad ingredients except cheese into a large bowl.
  7. Add the dressing and toss gently.
  8. Serve the potato salad immediately or cover the bowl and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.
  9. Sprinkle the cheese over the salad just before serving.

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