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Warm Chicken Salad on a Chilly Day

It’s a nasty, rainy, cold day here in Harriman today. Today would have been better suited for the potato soup we made on Tuesday, but that’s the way the menu kind of fell out this week. Michelle and I used to eat Warm Chicken Salad at least once a week when we first got married, before Sean was born. It’s such a quick, easy meal that could be thrown together at the last-minute. it’s also great to make for a buffet-style party to put out with other foods, giving a healthier choice for people to eat. Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can really put in as many or as few ingredients as you like. We all like different things in a salad, and this gives a great opportunity to “customize” your meal however you would like it.

Warm Chicken Salad

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs ( I am using my own, but you could use panko or other store-bought if you like)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat

1 package mixed salad greens, such as romaine, spinach, arugula, mesclun or Bibb lettuce

Salad additions (recommendations to follow recipe)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and set aside to cool. Wipe the skillet clean. In a separate shallow dish, add the flour and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In a third shallow dish, add the egg and water and lightly combine. Dredge the chicken in the flour, lightly shaking off any excess. Then dip in the egg mixture and then dip in the breadcrumbs. Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere. Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Add in the chicken and saute until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until it is no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes longer.Transfer the chicken to a plate and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange the chicken with the salad and any accompaniments. Toss lightly and serve.

The nice thing about salad is you can add whatever you want to it. Here is a list of a few suggestions:

Cucumbers (I prefer the English ones myself)

Shaved Carrots

Olives (any kind you like really)

Artichoke hearts

Tomatoes – I find the cherry tomatoes work best in a salad

Avocados

Radishes

Scallions

Peppers – if you want a bit of  color

Hard-boiled eggs – you could just add the whites if you don’t like the yolks

Crumbled bacon

Cheese – whatever kind you like really – feta, cheddar, Asiago, blue cheese

Nuts – sliced almonds or walnuts work well

Beans – chickpeas and black beans are both great in salad

The combinations are virtually endless. They are so many different ways to serve this dish that alone it could probably make 20 different recipes. This also makes a great lunch if you just refrigerate the chicken after sauteing and want to have some the next day. Three more things about salad I want to say. One, fresh, clean greens are essential to a good salad. If you don’t have a salad spinner, I think you should invest in one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it and you will notice the difference in the way the greens of your salad turn out. Two, dressings, as I have said before, seem to be a personal choice. You don’t even need a dressing for this dish if you don’t want one (Many times we don’t use one). For this salad, I think just about any dressing is a great addition, although something creamy like a ranch, a blue cheese or a creamy garlic might be the best. There are lots of good brands available that you might like, or feel free to send me a message and I would be glad to supply a recipe for one to you. Third, I love a salad with croutons. Homemade croutons taste far better than anything you will buy at the store, and the store-bought ones are usually loaded with preservatives anyway. Besides saving money by making them yourself, you can add whatever spices you like to them for extra flavor. Here is a recipe for some simple garlic croutons.

Garlic Croutons

3 tablespoons olive oil (it really does taste better if you can use olive oil for this one)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups (1/2-inch) bread cubes (I don’t think it matters what kind of bread you use for this, as long as you cube it to a uniform size)

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the oil, garlic and salt together in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss until thoroughly coated. Spread the bread onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the croutons to cool at room temperature before serving.

Like the salad, you can add lots of things to the taste of the croutons, like chili powder, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese, paprika, whatever you might like to taste.

That’s all that’s to dinner tonight. Light, healthy and quick, just the way we wanted it to be. Tomorrow I really am going to the fish market to see what I can get, so it’s kind of a mystery as to what I’ll be cooking (just don’t think of it as the Manager’s Choice that used to appear on the lunch menu in school). We’ll also be laying out the meal plan for next week tonight, so I will post that as well if you’re interested. If you’re interested in using the meal plan, here it is if you want to print it out:family_meal_planner. As always, if you have any questions, comments (good or bad, I’m not sensitive, I can take it) or just want to say hello, please feel free to leave a comment or a message. hopefully you’re enjoying the recipes and can use some of the ideas for your own cooking. Until tomorrow, enjoy your evening and try to stay warm if you’re here in the Northeast. Might be a good night for hot cocoa, or an Irish coffee!

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Dinner, Equipment, Lunch, Salad, Vegetables

 

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Planning Your Meals This Week (and Some School Lunches Too)

I didn’t cook today, but we did do our shopping for this week’s meal plan I really do find that the plan helps me in staying on budget as far as shopping. Sure, there are still impulse buys now and then (who can resist a treat now and then) and I do have to buy household items once in a while (garbage bags, storage bags, toothpaste, etc.), but for the most part we really do only buy what we need to make the meals for the week. We do a lot of our shopping at BJ’s Warehouse Club, so we do get essentials that last us for a while, but I have found we can also get good deals on things we use a lot of, like diced tomatoes, pasta and rice, but we also get good deals on meat and poultry and produce. I can buy ground beef or london broil and get enough to freeze for several more meals. The same can be said of poultry. I buy the larger packs of boneless chicken breasts and whole chickens there and we get many meals out of it and also use the chicken carcass to make stock later on for soups. I then supplement that with a short trip to the supermarket for things I can’t get at BJ’s (which isn’t too much) and a trip to Adam’s Farms in Newburgh, where I get our fish for the week and some local produce.

Anyway, for this coming week, this is the meal plan:

Monday – Turkey Meatball with sauce, baked potatoes, broccoli (this was Sean’s choice this week)

Tuesday – Baked Potato Soup (this was Michelle’s pick, and is our meatless meal of the week)

Wednesday – Fish. I didn’t get to the fish market today, but I will go Wednesday morning and pick something out after I see what looks good.

Thursday – Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and corn (this one was my pick)

Friday – Warm Chicken Salad (Michelle picked this one)

Saturday – Peppered Steak, White Rice, Cauliflower and carrots (Michelle picked this one too)

None of the meals are difficult this week and all can be made in a short amount of time. As a matter of fact, we are making the potato soup tonight and refrigerating it for Tuesday. I didn’t have to buy anything out of the ordinary this week other than leeks that we are using in the soup and the peppers for the peppered steak. I bought meat loaf mix of beef, pork and veal that I buy either for meatloaf or meatballs. The London broil was 2 large steaks that I quartered and froze so I’ll only need one piece when I make the peppered steak on Saturday. The ground turkey I bought will be used for meatballs and a portion frozen to be used later on either for chili or turkey sausage (I do make my own for breakfast sausage; it tastes really good and I will be posting that recipe at some point when we make a “breakfast for dinner” one night). Other than that, the rest of the ingredients we will use this week are things we already have in the house, refrigerator or freezer.

Now that dinners are planned for the week, I thought I would spend a little bit of time writing about school lunches. School lunches can be a problem sometimes. Sean buys lunch from school about once a week or less often, mainly because the choices that they have for lunch are, well, less than desirable. It’s pretty rare that when I ask Sean if he wants to buy that he says yes, but I am sure he gets tired of eating either a cheese sandwich or peanut butter and jelly every day. We have thought about doing warm lunches for him in a thermos, but he eats lunch so late in the day that even the thermos wouldn’t keep it warm for him. For others of you, however, warm lunches may be a good option. There is a good blog out there right now called “The Mom With Moxie” by Bree Glenn and she has a good posting on some ideas for school lunch planning. Here is the blog if you want to check it out:http://www.themomwithmoxie.com/2011/11/04/8-resources-for-healthy-fun-school-lunch-box-planning/. She offers up a great list of sites here for some good school lunch ideas. I was able to pull a few ideas off of Good Housekeeping’s website from here also, but if you want to go to Good Housekeeping directly, here is their link:http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/healthy/ideas-kids-school-lunches. I thought the ideas of Turkey Meatball Pitas, Ham and Cheese Pitas, Chicken Noodle Soup and the Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich were all good ideas for lunches. There are several other great links on Bree Glenn’s blog about the school lunches that I think will be very helpful in getting some ideas for things to pack for the kids. If anyone has any other great ideas for school lunches, please pass them along and comment here. I am always looking for something new to offer Sean and I am sure plenty of other Moms and Dads could use some ideas as well.

I think that covers everything for today. I hope to go into greater detail on school lunches and some good recipes of my own in a later blog. I want to do a little more research and try out some recipes with Sean first before I put anything up here for you to try. Tomorrow will be the recipes for Turkey Meatballs with sauce, Baked  Potatoes and broccoli. I know, we seem to eat a lot of broccoli, but Sean really likes it so he seems to pick that one all the time. I need to find a few more recipes to find some more interesting ways to cook it. If you have any thoughts on that, feel free to share! Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, and if you’re watching the Giants-49ers game, enjoy the game! (what will you be snacking on during the game? I already plan to post some things as we get closer to Super Bowl Sunday)

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Lunch, School Lunches

 

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