The Best (Healthy) Chicken Salad Ever

I know that the title might seem hyperbolic, but this is seriously the tastiest chicken salad I’ve ever had. Honestly, I don’t even really like chicken salad that much. Something about the texture of gooey mayo with chunks of whole chicken just doesn’t do it for me. However, I have found a magical solution to my texture problem – don’t use mayo.

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I know what you are thinking. That’s crazy! Mayonnaise is what makes chicken salad stick together! It is the classic glue of chicken salad! But here is the rub with mayo. 1. It has a strange, sticky texture that doesn’t really lend itself gracefully to nice, delicate chicken salad 2. It is not very healthy.

I’m not saying chicken salad HAS to be healthy. But if you can make it more healthy, and more delicious, why not?

I scoured the internet for recipes for versions of chicken salad that didn’t use mayonnaise. Most use greek yogurt. But I wanted a punch of flavor in mine. Not just plan old yogurt. So, what is a great option instead? Tzatziki!

This is a light, refreshing, Greek flavor inspired chicken salad. It is what I always imagined chicken salad to be. It works really well.

The Best (Healthy) Chicken Salad Ever – A Delectable Endeavor original

1 lb chicken breast cooked and cubed

1 cup tzatziki

5 scallions, thinly sliced

1 red or yellow pepper cut into small, bite-sized pieces

1/2 cucumber cut into small, bite-sized pieces

2-3 oz crumbled feta (depending on how much you like feta)

squeeze of fresh lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Start by draining the tzatziki. You need to get rid of some of the water, or it will make your chicken salad watery and unappetizing. I do this by lining a sieve or strainer with cheesecloth (or paper towel will work too). Place the strainer over an empty bowl. Pour tzatziki into lined strainer and let sit in your refrigerator for a couple of hours.

After tzatziki is strained, take strained mixture and place into a large, clean bowl. Add cubed chicken, scallions, pepper, cucumber, and feta. Fold the mixture gently until well incorporated. Finish by folding in a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little salt and pepper to taste. I like to eat it with pita chips.

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Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Remember how I said I was going to make more vegetarian food?  Here’s a doozy.

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to made it. Stuffed shells sound and seem like a fancy meal, but they are actually quite easy. Shells are quite forgiving. Even if you tear one, you can just stuff it with some delicious filling and bake away – no one will even notice! And although this is a special-looking dish, it is easy enough to make any night of the week, rounded out with a nice salad.

Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

approximately 25 jumbo pasta shells

2 Tbls olive oil 0-1

1 1/2 cup marinara sauce

1/3 cup Parmesan, grated

1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, washed and torn into pieces

2 cups part-skim ricotta

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 shallot, minced

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tablespoon basil, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour marinara into the bottom of a 8 x 8 pan.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt, pasta and stir. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to box instructions. Drain pasta and toss with olive oil while still warm.

In a large bowl, mix ricotta, egg, shallot, basil, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Using a spoon, scoop a small about (about a Tablespoon) into each shell, then place shell into the baking dish, on top of sauce. Top with parmesan cheese.

Lightly spray a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover baking pan. Cover pan with sprayed side down, facing the shells. Tightly cover the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Then, remove foil and continue to bake for approximately 5 more minutes or until parmesan bubbles. Remove from oven and let set for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Bacon Jam

I know, I know. The combination of these two words just blew your mind. After you’ve picked up the pieces of your cranium, please, take a deep breath and read the rest of IMG_20130106_141048this post.

Bacon and jam are usually separate parts of a delicious breakfast. But I have found a way to marry them together in a deliciously amazing concoction. However, I can’t take full credit for it. The internet is full of people posting recipes for bacon jam, and they vary widely. I studied many of them before coming up with my own. This is encouraging because it means that this recipe is flexible. If you don’t have *just* the right ingredient or amount of something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have your own delicious bacon jam.  It will just be a slightly different version.

Now let me abate your worries. This is not a jammy-sweet, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of food. It is bacon in a somewhat sweet, somewhat savory mixture that loosely resembles the consistency of jam. It is really more like bacon chutney. I recently made this for a BLT appetizer where I spread some on crostini with arugula and tomato a la Spoon Fork Bacon. It was a big hit! But then, people started using it in different, creative ways, like on top of scrambled eggs. Delish! So let your little bacon-obsessed brain get creative with this surprising little dish.

Bacon Jam – A Delectable Endeavors original

1/2 lb bacon, cut into small pieces (I use Trader Joe’s Classic, sliced dry rubbed)

1 Tablespoon bacon fat

1 Tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, minced

6 ounces of your favorite dark beer, scotch ales and stouts work best (I used Tyranena’s Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale)

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (do not used flavored coffee)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Cook bacon in a large pan on medium heat. Render the fat completely so that bacon is nice and crispy. Remove bacon from pan using a spatula, so you can save the bacon fat in the pan. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.

Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter to Tablespoon of reserved fat in the pan. Add chopped shallot and cook until translucent (this should only take a couple of minutes). Add beer, maple syrup, vinegar, and coffee to pan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add bacon bits and thyme and mix.

Let this mixture simmer lightly for approximately 30 minutes, or until it reaches desired jam-like consistency. Like I said, this recipe is flexible, so if it gets too thick, feel free to add a little coffee or beer. If if is too loose, let it simmer a little longer.

Once cooked, let cool before putting into your favorite jar. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (if you don’t eat it all before then). Canning will keep the jam for longer.