Sunday Chicken Salad

Chicken is a staple food item in my house. Since I eat gluten free (GF) meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables are mainstay food items. I eat very few processed foods and make most meals and snacks from scratch. Eating GF is important for my health and well-being, so I pay close attention to labels and I am extra careful when ordering out.

My usually M.O. is to cook on the weekends so that I have food "at the ready" for lunch and dinners for the majority of the work week. #simplyliving Eating lunch from home not only saves money, but ensures that I don't get hold of something that I'll regret later.
Chicken salad is a go-to recipe for lunch. I make it often and change it up frequently. (Someone in my life years ago once accused me of never making the same recipe twice -- there could be something to that!) If often depends on what I have on hand. Here is today's Sunday chicken salad.

Step 1. I bake several chicken breasts on Sunday. One or two will go in the chicken salad. The others are left for other recipes. Baking them is simple--a little olive oil in the pan, then the boneless chicken breasts (I generally "roll" them in the olive oil a bit to cover), then salt and pepper or other seasonings on the chicken. Lately, I've been fond of shaking on some Adobo seasoning.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on size and thickness of the breasts. When the timer goes off, I turn off the heat and let the chicken sit in the hot oven for a few more minutes to rest and finish cooking. Using a thermometer, the internal temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit/75 degrees Celsius.

Allowing the chicken to rest on top of the stove, too, gives time for the juices to redistribute back to the chicken. Cool.

Step 2. Chop 1 or 2 of the cooled chicken breast into chunks (or shred if you prefer).

These next steps all depend on what I have in the kitchen to add into the salad. Besides the ingredients you see below, I sometimes add any of the following: cashews, bacon, fresh baby spinach, red onion, raisins or dried cranberries, etc. Celery is a given. My mom always put chopped hard-boiled eggs in her chicken salad -- me, I'm not a fan.

So choose your add ins. What sounds good to you? Here is what I am doing today.

Step 3. Dice 2 apples. Today I used one green apple and one red delicious apple. Be sure to add a little acid to the apples so they won't turn brown. I used the juice from half an orange. You could also use lemon juice, or in a pinch, a bit of vinegar (but go easy with the vinegar).

Step 4. Dice 2-3 stalks of celery. For my chicken salad, I always choose the more tender, inner stalks of celery, and chop up the leafy greens as well!

Step 5. Grapes. When I was a little girl, my mother took my sister and me to Lazarus department store in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and we had chicken salad with grapes. I love when I can add grapes to my chicken salad because of the memory of that day. Hint. Lay a clean dish cloth over your cutting board when cutting the grapes in half. No slip-slidy grapes!

Step 6. And as if we didn't have enough sweetness to this chicken salad already, I've decided to add a few chopped and diced bread and butter pickles into the mix. Why not?

Step 7. Add all to one large mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 8. The dressing for today is easy-peasy. We have a lot of flavor already in the mix, with the orange juice, pickles, and fruits -- the dressing is simply going to pull it all together. Today I'm using Duke's mayonnaise, approximately 3/4 a cup (more or less to your taste) and thin it out a little with some of the pickle brine from the bread and butter pickles. Mix up until smooth and then mix with chicken/fruit mixture.

And there you have it -- Sunday Chicken Salad. This salad gets better every day. It is best to use it all up within 3-4 days (4 days absolute max) although it's usually gone long before that in my house. Remember begin with fresh fruits and not fruits that are too ripe. Your salad will keep longer. 

Enjoy! And have fun concocting your own unique salad!