Chicken Salad Salad

Nope, it’s not a typo in the title.  It’s a chicken salad salad.  As in, chicken salad in salad!  Salad salad..salad…I’m losing my train of thought.  Moving on.

I love chicken salad, but it’s not exactly a meal in itself.  You can make a sandwich out of it, but that’s adding a bunch of starchy bread to an otherwise fairly healthy dish.  You can use it as a side dish but, again, that’s adding calories to something that doesn’t really need it.  So, the other day, I made chicken salad and I said to myself “Self,” I said “let’s figure out how to make this a meal.  Also, remember to buy cookies for the potluck.”

What I came up with was really easy.  I just dumped my chicken salad on a bed of greens and voila!  Chicken salad salad.  (Salad.)

Here’s the recipe:

2 chicken breasts poached in stock, then cubed (it’s essential that you poach the chicken in something other than water to add flavor since poaching the chicken cooks it without adding any fat.  An average sized chicken breast needs to be poached for about 20 minutes.)

2 cups celery, chopped really tiny

1 cup red onion, chopped really tiny

1/2 cup mayo

1 lemon juiced

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mixed greens (they can be any kind you like!  This particular salad rests on butter lettuce.)

You poach the chicken first.  You can even do this a day ahead of time so the chicken is nice and cool when you add the other ingredients.  Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly.  This dish is one that gets better after a day or so, when the stuff can all marinate together and get yummy.  Don’t add the mixed greens until you’re read to serve, just leave them separate, otherwise they’ll wilt.  It’s a really fresh, tasty lunch.  This recipe makes 4 hefty servings at 6 Weight Watchers points per serving.  Enjoy!

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Simple Summery Side Salad

So, as we all know, it’s March.  But, apparently, California’s weather gods haven’t gotten the memo.  It’s been sunny and warm every day, recently, so I’ve been finding myself craving summery things.  Things like popsicles, swimming, doing nothing and yummy light salads.  This salad is a double whammy, because it’s a variation on one that my childhood best friend’s mom used to cook for us all the time.  It’s really simple and really yummy.

Ingredients:

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced (we’re talking as thin as you can get.)

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp EVOO

Salt and pepper to taste

Basically, you combine all the ingredients aaaaand that’s it.  I like to make this salad a day ahead of time, or at least a couple hours, because the onion soaks in the balsamic and it softens and sweetens it.  It is a really nice, crispy addition to a summertime meal, like a barbecue or…I mean does anyone eat anything but barbecue in the summer?  Maybe a sandwich.  Also you can eat this during the other seasons.  It makes 4 servings and each serving is 5 Weight Watchers points.  Enjoy!

Baked Maple Bacon with Acorn Squash and Wilted Spinach

Iiiiiiit’s….bacon time, it’s bacon time, it’s time for bacon, it’s bacon tiiime.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Fact: bacon makes everything better.  So does cooking with its delicious fat.  So does combining it with the sweet flavor of maple syrup.  Oh man, I’m too excited!  Let’s get to the recipe.

1 large squash (winter, acorn, whatever you prefer)

8 strips of thick cut, peppered bacon

4 tbsp (real) maple syrup

Kosher salt

Red chili flakes

1 bag of baby spinach

Okay, the squash needs to be peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes and then boiled for around 4 minutes, to soften it up.  After 4 minutes, drain the squash and transfer it to a large mixing bowl to let it cool slightly.  While this is going on, prepare the bacon.

everyone loves bacon preparation.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  To prepare the bacon, line a 8×8 or 9×9 pan with tin foil.  Then lay the bacon out on the bottom.  Pour the maple syrup evenly over the bacon and spread it around so that it coats each strip.  Put the bacon in the oven and let it bake for 25-30 minutes.  When the bacon is cooked, remove the strips from the pan and pour the bacon fat/maple syrup elixir (oh the sweet elixir) over the squash (leave the oven on).  Add a pinch of kosher salt and some chili flakes, to your taste.  Mix it up to coat the squash.  Put the squash back in the bacon pan and stick it back in the oven.  Cook it for a total of about 30 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes.

Chop up your cooked bacon and dump it into the serving bowl.  Add the spinach on top of it.  When the squash is done, pour it and all its juices over the bacon and spinach.  Toss it and serve it as a warm salad.

Nom.

Meditarranean Farro Bowl with Lemon-Tahini-Yogurt Dressing

This dish is a mouthful, in more ways than one!  Get it?  Terrific.

I can’t take credit for inventing it, sadly.  I got it out of the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.  It was in the Food & Wine section (the only section I ever read.  I get all my news from The Daily Show.) The article had three recipes for bowls featuring whole grains, which are super great and delicious (and expensive.)  Apparently, whole grains were staples in our diets before the Industrial Revolution when the mass production of refined rice became a thing.  Whole grains are way better for you and way more flavorful.  So take that, Industrial Revolution!

Here are the ingredients:

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest

2 tbsp finely minced parsley

2 tbsp finely minced mint

1 tbsp tahini

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup EVOO

Salt and pepper

6 cups semi-pearled farro, cooked (about 2.5 cups uncooked)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans

1 large cucumber, seeded and diced

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (I didn’t end up using these because it’s winter and tomatoes are kind of lame right now)

Okay, two things.

1) Semi-pearled farro is expensive, especially when purchased at Whole Foods, which is the only place you can find such a specific grain, I’m assuming.  Also, the farro I bought was Umbrian.  So.  Yeah.

2) Tahini is also really expensive, but, you only need about a tablespoon of tahini in almost every recipe I’ve ever seen it in, so a jar goes a long way.  You can make hummus!  Also, I opted for the local stuff made in Berkeley because I’m super environmentally conscious like that.

Okay, now on to the cooking.  I cooked the farro kind of like I cook rice, but it only needs to be cooked for about 20 minutes.  First, boil 4 cups of water in a large pot.  Then add the farro (I used the whole package, 500g.  That’s about 2.5 cups, maybe a little less.) and stir.  I turned down the heat to medium-low after the water returned to a boil with the farro in it.  I left it uncovered for about fifteen minutes, then covered it for five more with the heat on and about ten more with the heat off.  Those weren’t exactly the instructions in the article, but it totally worked.  So now your farro is ready.  Reward yourself with a pat on the back.

Next, move on to the dressing.  Whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, mint, tahini, yogurt, olive oil, salt and pepper together until combined.  Set aside.

does my hand look like a lobster claw?

Now you want to de-seed your cucumber.  I did this by cutting it in half lengthwise and then scooping the seeds out with a spoon.  In the end your cucumber halves should look like little cucumber canoes.

this wouldn't really hold up in the ocean.

Now dice your cucumber and onion.  Add those, feta cheese, garbanzo beans and tomatoes (if you use them) to your cooled farro. 

You’re done!  This makes a pretty hefty batch, enough for four separate bowls.  I suppose you can dress the whole thing and let it marinate, but I stored the dressing separately in my fridge.  Now you have a healthy, pretty meal to eat.  Yay!  Thanks again to the San Francisco Chronicle!

Chilean Ceviche

People are often squeamish about ceviche in the same way that they’re squeamish about sushi.  “Eeeww, raw fish!” they might say.  Well, ceviche doesn’t actually contain raw fish.  The fish is “cooked” in lemon juice before it’s served.  More accurately one might say that it’s cured.  But the lemon juice kills any offensive bacteria that may make you run for the hills when confronted with a slab of raw fish.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, to the preparation!

Ingredients:

2 lbs reineta or corvina (in the US, corvina is known as Chilean sea bass)

2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (you need a lot of lemons, about 2 lbs)

1 large onion

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 tbl fresh chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbl cumin

2 tbl EVOO

Salt to taste

Okay so, first thing’s first: “cook” the fish.  Chop the fish up into small, bite sized pieces and cover with the lemon juice.  This needs to be done first so that the fish can cure while you’re preparing the rest of the dish.  Set the fish and juice aside, stirring occasionally to make sure all the fish is in contact with the lemon juice.

Now chop the onion and peppers into very small little pieces (julienne) and add to a separate bowl.  Add the cilantro and garlic and mix it all together.  Add the fish and lemon juice to the veggie mix.  Stir so that everything is covered.  Add cumin and salf and let the mixture sit for at least half an hour in the refrigerator before serving it.  Add the olive oil immediately before serving.

You can serve it on toast, crackers or just eat it plain.  It’s also great with avocado.  Hope you enjoy this elegant and easy dish!