Lighter Chicken Salad

Lighter Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t eat it often, mostly because of the whole calorie bomb factor, but I want to eat it all the time. A couple of months ago, after a tough day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered a chicken salad hoagie from Wawa. It was heavenly. That is, until the angel on my shoulder innocently wondered exactly how damaging my mayo based revelry really was. Wouldn’t you know, Wawa provides nutritional information on their website. All I can say is…ouch. I enjoyed the first half of that sandwich. The second half was just as delicious but not nearly as enjoyable. I hate that.

Today’s recipe is my solution. I think this chicken salad is perfection. The dressing is a perfect balance of creaminess, sweetness and acidity. The chicken is roasted on the bone to ensure it stays juicy and flavorful. Crispy and crunchy accents abound in the form of veggies, seeds and nuts. I’ve tried a lot of “light” chicken salad recipes and have been disappointed in many of them. Greek yogurt is almost always used as a stand in for mayo (and makes an appearance in my recipe, too.) But the problem is, I know the difference between Greek yogurt and mayo. Using Greek yogurt alone results in an overly tangy, distinctly yogurt-y salad. No thanks. I use equal parts low-fat mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt to reap the lower calorie, protein rich benefits of the yogurt while enjoying the luscious creaminess of mayo. The dressing is rounded out with honey, apple cider vinegar and poppy seeds. I’ve stuck to traditional add-ins in this recipe, such as finely diced celery, shallots and almonds. However, if you want to get creative, you could add diced apples, halved grapes, dried cranberries, carrots or any type of nut you prefer. You could also get creative with the herbs you use- basil or tarragon would be delightful.

Lighter Chicken Salad

The abundance of mayo in traditional chicken salad can hide a lot of sins, particularly dry chicken. We’ll make sure that’s not an issue here by roasting bone in, skin on chicken breasts. This way we ensure the chicken stays moist, but still get the benefit of lean breast meat (we toss then skin.) As the chicken roasts, whisk together the dressing, dice the veggies and toast the almonds. Once the chicken is done and cool enough to handle, shred either with two forks or your fingers. I like the chicken in my chicken salad to be finely chopped, so that’s what I do. If you like bigger pieces, you do you. When you’re ready to serve, you have a multitude of options. I think it’s adorable as a light lunch or hors d’oeuvre on top of cucumber slices. I’ve been packing this chicken salad for work lunches this week on a bed of greens. Or, you can take advantage of all those calories you’re saving and serve on a nice toasty baguette. That will be a sandwich you can enjoy start to finish without a shred of guilt after.

Lighter Chicken Salad

Lighter Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry and place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper over chicken. Roast 35-40 minutes, until meat registers 160 degrees. Once meat is cool enough to handle, shred using hands or two forks, then finely chop.

While chicken is roasting, toast almonds, chop vegetables and prepare dressing. To toast almonds, place them in skillet over medium heat and toast about 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch closely to ensure they don’t burn. To prepare dressing, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds and remaining salt and pepper.

Once chicken is chopped, combine with vegetables, dressing and parsley in a large bowl and toss until ingredients are evenly coated with dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or chill to serve later.

Serves 6-8.

 

Lighter Chicken Salad

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

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So let me preface this recipe by saying that I am by no means an authority on Middle Eastern cuisine nor am I an expert on the traditional means of cooking shawarma. What I DO know is that I am exceptionally glad that I can close my office door when I eat lunch, because I’m pretty sure I moaned in ecstasy when eating this oven roasted chicken shawarma and accoutrements for lunch today. It’s just. so. good. Tender chicken thighs are marinated in a garlicky, lemony spice blend and are quickly roasted in the oven then crisped under the broiler. The result is out of this world delicious. Topped with a quick garlic sauce made with pantry and fridge staples and a fresh and crunchy tomato cucumber salad, this meal is truly a symphony of flavor and texture. This dinner has definitely earned a spot in our regular meal rotation.

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It’s hard to believe that something this flavorful can be simple to make, but it’s true. The marinade comes together in a snap and the chicken marinates on your schedule. Only have an hour? Great. Need to toss everything together the prior evening or before work in the morning? You are in for a treat, my friend. You can’t argue with that kind of versatility. When you’re ready to make the chicken, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and place the chicken in a hot oven. While the chicken cooks, whip up a quick (and yummy) garlic sauce and a fresh cucumber tomato salad. The cucumber tomato salad is a riff on Tabbouleh sans the grains. You know I love carbs, but save them for the naan (a soft, delicious flatbread) in this case. I found mini naan in the refrigerated section at Costco and I am obsessed, because they fit in the toaster. Warm, toasty naan on demand? Yes, please!

Once the chicken comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces. Drain excess juice from the sheet pan and place the chicken back on the pan. Broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes until edges have crisped and you’re ready to eat! The richly spiced, tender chicken, fresh salad and tangy garlic sauce complement each other so perfectly you’ll be amazed that this came from your own kitchen and not an NYC food truck. And since you’ve made it at home, you’ve controlled the amount of oil, fat and sodium in the dish so you can go back for seconds (or thirds) guilt free. If you make ONE dish in the next week, promise me you’ll make this. Please also promise me you’ll call me so I can come over. I’ll bring the wine!

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Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

Chicken:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large wedges
  • Naan bread, for serving

Garlic Sauce:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayo (low-fat is fine)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Cucumber Tomato Salad:

  • 4 firm Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 ½ seedless (English) cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 green onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions: 

Add chicken thighs and onion wedges to gallon sized resealable plastic bag. In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in bowl until well combined. Pour marinade into bag with chicken and seal. Massage chicken until thoroughly coated. Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate at least an hour, up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook chicken, preheat oven to 425. Spread remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil on rimmed baking sheet. Remove chicken and onion from marinade and place on sheet pan. Bake 25-30 minutes. When chicken is done, take out of oven and remove chicken to cutting board. Preheat broiler. Chop chicken into small pieces. Pour juices from baking sheet into a bowl. Place chicken under broiler for 5-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crisp edges have formed.

While chicken is cooking, prepare garlic sauce and cucumber tomato salad.

To make garlic sauce, add all ingredients to medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

To make cucumber tomato salad, toss vegetables and herbs in olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve chicken with sauce and salad and warm toasted naan bread.

Serves 4.

Shawarma recipe adapted from the New York Times

Tabbouleh recipe adapted from The Mediterranean Dish

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Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken

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By the time I’m halfway through the work week, I need all the help I can get. Is anyone available to do my laundry, pick up my dry cleaning, clean my house and maybe just do my job for me, too? No takers? Darn. I don’t know how those of you with kids do it. I’m lucky if my shoes match by Wednesday. Luckily I have a few simple and tasty last minute dinner recipes up my sleeve to save me from the after work hangries (hunger + anger, for those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted.) This chicken, for example, is ready in a snap and checks enough delicious boxes to keep me going until Friday. Cheese? Check. Bacon? Check. A heaping pile of guacamole? Ohhhhhh, check. Served over a bed of greens dressed with olive oil and lime juice, this is a delicious, relatively healthy low carb dinner. Served with tortilla chips and margaritas… can I come over?

This recipe has a lot going for it even beyond deliciousness. It’s done in 30 minutes and leaves virtually no dirty dishes in its’ wake. Start by lining a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and bake the bacon in a hot oven. No greasy splatters and the bacon grease can be rolled up in the foil and thrown out once you’re done. While the bacon sizzles away in the oven, prepare the remaining ingredients. Chicken cutlets are a favorite of mine for a quick weeknight protein. They’re easy enough to make yourself with a chicken breast, a sharp knife and a steady hand, but if you’re really pressed for time they are also easy to find in the grocery store. While the bacon is cooking you’ll have plenty of time to season the chicken, shred some cheese and mix a quick guacamole. The chicken is baked on the same sheet you use for the bacon, then topped with shredded cheese and bacon and popped back in the oven until the cheese and bacon melt into the chicken in a gooey delicious mess. Top each chicken cutlet with as much guacamole as you please and you are DONE! You could also use shredded cheese and store bought guac to make this even more of a time saver. Enjoy this quick and easy mid-week dinner and keep your chin up. There’s light at the end of this tunnel.

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Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken cutlets (either purchased as cutlets or 4 chicken breasts cut in half to make cutlets)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 heaping cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450. Line rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack inside of sheet. Spray baking rack with cooking spray. Place bacon on rack and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from rack and chop when cool enough to handle.

While bacon is cooking, season chicken cutlets with chili powder, cumin, 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. When bacon is done, wipe excess grease from sheet with paper towels and place chicken on baking rack. Cook chicken 3-4 minutes, then remove from oven. Divide bacon evenly over chicken cutlets and top with cheese. Place chicken back into the oven for 2-3 minutes.

While bacon and chicken are cooking, prepare guacamole. In medium bowl, mix avocados, tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, remaining 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper.

Once chicken is completely done, spoon guacamole on top and serve.

Serves 4, 2 cutlets per serving.

Caramelized Onion, Smoked Gouda and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts

 

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I have to tell you, being a grown up is not nearly as fun, liberating or glamorous as I anticipated it would be when I was 10. 10 year old Diane was going to grow up to be the next Celine Dion, live in a ridiculous mansion and have zero obligations. She would always have a bowl of raw cookie dough in the fridge for snacking and would have a massive pool in the backyard for her pet dolphin. Naps would be abolished. Not to disappoint my younger self, but I am decidedly NOT the next Celine Dion (that’s still Celine.) My house is not a mansion and I alone am responsible for all cooking, cleaning and laundry in my little corner of the world- but only after a full day of work. If I want some cookie dough, I’m going to have to buy the ingredients, pull out the mixer and make some. I get to do the dishes, too.

But, it’s not all bad. I’m married to a hunk of a man even more handsome than Zack Morris (10 year old Diane is thoroughly impressed.) Naps are now an infrequent but divine indulgence. While I still don’t have a pet dolphin, I do have the two sweetest kitty cats who have ever laid little jellybean toes on this earth. And, now I get to decide what we have for dinner. No more sloppy joes! Sorry, Mom. This caramelized onion, smoked gouda and bacon stuffed chicken is the kind of dinner that takes some of the sting out of being grown up.

Tender, juicy chicken breasts are stuffed with sweet, jammy caramelized onions, luscious smoked gouda cheese and bacon. It’s a decadent, delicious combination that will make it easy to clean your plate, per Mom’s orders. There are a few moving parts, between crisping the bacon, caramelizing the onions and shredding the cheese, but they’re all no brainers. If you caramelize the onions and crisp the bacon on the weekend, this would come together quickly on a weeknight. Or pour yourself a glass of wine and cook yourself a leisurely dinner. Go ahead and pour a second glass, too- you are a grown up after all.

Stay tuned tomorrow for some killer butter roasted potatoes to serve as a side with this chicken!

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Caramelized Onion, Smoked Gouda and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, halved then thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry white wine
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Start by making caramelized onions*. These may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Heat butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sugar and salt to pan. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally. After about 10 minutes, add 1 tsp thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized. Onions will require more attention as they near the end of cooking. Once brown bits start to stick to bottom of pan, add wine and scrape up brown bits. Entire process will take about 40 minutes. Once onions are done, remove from heat and place in small bowl.

While onions are caramelizing, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Season chicken breasts with kosher salt and pepper. Beginning at the thickest part of each chicken breast, use a paring knife cut a slit about 2 inches wide, taking care not to cut all the way through. Carefully use knife to deepen the pocket toward the top and bottom of the chicken breast, trying not to cut a hole all the way through. The idea is to maximize space for the filling while keeping the pocket neat enough to contain it. Place chicken breasts on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 350. Once onions are prepared, stuff chicken breasts. Add 1 Tbsp each onions, cheese and bacon to each chicken breast, working the filling all the way through the pocket, toward top and bottom of each piece. Top each chicken breast with 1 Tbsp smoked Gouda and remaining 1 tsp thyme.

Place chicken breasts in oven and bake about 30 minutes or until meat reaches 160 at thickest part. Remove chicken from oven. Preheat broiler. Drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp oil over chicken breasts and return to oven, under the broiler. Broil 1-2 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Some cheese will ooze out during cooking- just scoop it up and serve with the chicken.

Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes, then serve.

Serves 4

*This will make more caramelized onions than you need for this recipe, but why not make some extra while you’re at it. Store in the fridge and put on sandwiches, in omelets or, let’s be real, eat straight from the container.