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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Moroccan Crockpot Chicken

I have been wanting to make Moroccan food at home for a while. What makes Moroccan food delicious is the “warm” spices and slow cooking. Often Moroccan food is cooked in a tagine, which allows for slow cooking that holds in a lot of moisture. Now, I don’t have a tagine. When I was thinking of making this recipe, I thought about how I could cook the  dish without a tagine, and my trusty crockpot came to mind. (Not only that, but it makes it a lot easier for me.)

The prunes in this may seem a little strange, but they break down in the slow cooker and make a wonderful sauce. Plus, they help keep the chicken nice and juicy. This is actually surprisingly good.  I was a little suspicious of how the flavors would meld, but they do so beautifully in this dish.  I can see this soon becoming a quick and yummy favorite at our house.  Additionally, it is quite healthy and my husband says it tastes like fall. 🙂

Moroccan Crockpot Chicken adapted from The Perfect Pantry

1 medium onion, minced

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp olive oil

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat

9 oz pitted dried prunes

1 Tbsp honey, or more to taste

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp chicken broth

1 cup sliced almonds

Mint (optional)

In a bowl, mix the onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, garlic and oil. Add the chicken and coat. Let marinate for 20 minutes.

Place chicken, marinade, and prunes, honey and broth in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5 hours. Let cook until the last hour, then stir and add almonds.

When cooked all the way through, finish with mint.

Chicken and Leek Puff Pastry Tart

This might be my best invention yet.  It is reminiscent of something you might get in a French cafe, and it’s incredibly simple to make.  I imagine you would look like quite the host if you whipped this up for a lunch with friends.  Served with a side of mixed greens, it looks like something you might pay a pretty penny for in a trendy restaurant.

I had originally planned to make this recipe from Kayotic Kitchen.  But, in true home-cook fashion, I didn’t have all the ingredients I needed, including the bacon I had cooked and my husband ATE when he wasn’t supposed to.  *ahem*  So I had to improvise, and the end product had little to no resemblance to Kays’ recipe.  But it DID turn out amazing!

I still totally love her blog, and HIGHLY reccommend you check it out.

Chicken and Leek Puff Pastry Tart, inspired by Kayotic Kitchen

2 chicken breasts – approximately 3/4 lbs

1 package of puff pastry – two

sheets, defrosted

1 egg

1 large leek

1 Tbl vegetable oil

2 Tbl butter

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried parsley

2 Tbl dry, white wine

1 1/2 Tbl stone ground mustard

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

Preheat oven 400 degrees.  Chop chicken into small, bite-sized pieces.  Clean and chop the leek into fine pieces.   Heat the oil on medium-low heat.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken in oil until nearly done.  Then, add butter until melted.  Add garlic and parsley and toss. Add leeks to chicken mixture.  Cook for a few minutes until bright green.  Add wine and deglaze pan.  Let the wine cook off a bit, approximately 7 minutes.  To finish, add mustard and mix well.  Take pan off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

In a separate bowl, add cream cheese and chicken mixture from pan.  Mix well.  Place chicken and cream cheese mixture in the middle of defrosted pastry.  Pinch edges well and brush the pastry with whisked egg.  Cut a couple of slits in the top of the pastry.

Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and flaky.  Cut into 1-2 inch pieces and serve warm.

Cashew Chicken

After the long delay, I thought I would post my new favorite recipes in honor of the many “new” things in my life.  One of the many new things the husband and I got for our wedding was a “Quick and easy Chinese” cookbook from Crate and Barrel.  It turned out to be fantastic!

The husband loves Chinese food, but at times, it is difficult to find the good stuff.  I decided that I might as well try making some at home.  Turns out, it is actually quite easy (and better for you than take out, I’m sure).  If you are feeling intimidated about cooking Chinese food, this is a good introduction.

There is one specific ingredient in this dish that is difficult to find if you can’t find in a normal grocery store.  It is called Shaoxing cooking wine.  You can easily find it in an Asian grocery store like I did, but if you don’t have one of those near you, you can substitute dry sherry or white wine.  It isn’t quite the same, but it is pretty close.

When they say quick and easy, they really mean quick, so make sure you have all your vegetables prepped when you start cooking.  I made some slight adjustments so it isn’t the exact recipe, but slightly more flavorful.

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

red pepper flakes to taste

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 teaspoons grated ginger

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 bell pepper chopped

3/4 lb boneless chicken cubed

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 – 4 scallions chopped

3/4 cup dry roasted cashews

Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk to make a slurry.  Add in Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, brown sugar and salt.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan.  Add garlic, ginger and red pepper flake.  Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add chicken to the pan to sear.  Cook chicken until nearly cooked through, then add celery and bell pepper.  Cook until celery is bright green and peppers begin to soften.  Add scallions and cook for 1 minute.

Add sauce that has been set aside and toss.  Add cashews.  Serve over rice.

Giant Dumplings!

My boyfriend and I recently made a trip to Beloit, Wisconsin.  While we were there, we went out to eat at a cozy little family owned diner called The Mouse.

This place should be on the Food Network.  They have the BIGGEST dumplings I have ever witnessed.  Their version of chicken and dumpling night is 2 or 4 pieces of fried chicken with a gargantuan dumpling.  This place could easily start a food competition to see who could eat a giant dumpling and some fried chicken.  I’d love to see someone actually finish the 4 piece and a dumpling.  Word on the street is it happens frequently . . .

Just to give you an idea, that’s a chicken breast next to that dumpling.  The dumpling was literally the size of my head!  The great part is, its fantastic.  It was actually pretty light and perfectly done.  And the gravy was fantastic.  I know because I am not a fan of gravy, but you could have put this on an old shoe and I probably would have eaten it.

If you are ever in southern Wisconsin, I highly recommend The Mouse and their chicken and dumpling night.  But be prepared for leftovers.  Lots of them!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This concoction is sometimes referred to as “crack dip”.  I made it for my boyfriend and he agreed, it has some deliciously addicting qualities.  It is a mixture of all the things we love about wings – chicken, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese.  This recipe has a sort of cult status in the food world.  There are many different versions of this dish, all are very similar with the same basic ingredients.

Please excuse my bad nail job in the picture.  This dish is creamy and full of flavor.  I never thought combining chicken, sauce, cream cheese, and dressing would make something so delicious, but it does.  Honestly, at first, I thought, “gross, I’m just gonna throw this all together?!”  Somehow, it all works out.  It is definitely a guilty pleasure.

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup ranch dressing

1/4 cup blue cheese dressing

1/2 cup buffalo sauce

1/2 cup blue cheese (you can also use 1/4 cup blue and 1/4 cup mozzarella)

1 cup chicken (the recipe calls for canned, but I’m a snob and used leftover chicken breast)

Heat the oven to 350.  Mix cream cheese, salad dressings, buffalo sauce, and cheeses together.  Stir in chicken. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes.  DO NOT over bake.  Serve warm with your favorite veggies or bruschetta.

Ginger Chicken

I really love Chinese food. My boyfriend likes it even more.  Unfortunately, when we moved to our new apartment we realized we chose the one neighborhood with no Chinese food.  Its a tragedy, really.  Of course, we couldn’t just go without Chinese food, so I learned to make some on my own.

Not only that, but Chinese food is comforting.  Its warm, its spicy, and it tingles my taste buds, especially when ginger is involved.  Right now, I could use all the comfort I can get. I am currently waiting to hear about my internship applications and going slightly batty in the process. My friend (who follows this blog) suggested I cook to pass the time. 🙂  So this one is for you, Kristin.

This recipe is delightfully appealing and surprisingly simple. I was intimidated to make my own ethnic food at first.  After all, why mess with a good thing? But after some trial and error, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good combination here.  I used leeks because its what I had around the house, but you could always use green onion or just regular onion.

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast, cubed

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 Tablespoon of butter

2 carrots, peeled

1 medium leek, washed

2 teaspoons of minced garlic

2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper (more or less depending on your taste)

1/4 cup grated ginger

3/8 cup of soy sauce (or 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons)

1 Tablespoon of sugar

1 cup of water

1 Tablespoon of sesame seed oil

2 teaspoons of lime juice

salt and pepper to tase

Begin by making sauce.  Heat sesame seed oil in a saucepan.  Add garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper.  Heat until fragrant.  This will take only a minute.  Add soy sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice.  Let simmer.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.  Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in pan until nearly cooked through.  This will only take a few minutes.  Remove from heat and add to sauce and turn heat down to medium-low.

While chicken is cooking slice leek crosswise,the slice lengthwise.  Chop carrots into evenly-sized pieces so they cook at the same rate.  Heat last Tablespoon of oil in a hot pan.  Add carrots.  Continue to season vegetables with salt and pepper while cooking.  Once partially cooked (this will only take a couple of minutes), add butter and melt.  Then, immediately add leeks. Cook until transluscent.  Remove vegetables from heat and add to sauce.

Let mixture meld in the sauce for at least 10 minutes.  Serve over brown rice. You will never order Chinese again!