Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad

What’s always funny to me is when people refer to things as “salad” that to me do not constitute a salad—case in point: the ubiquitous “marshmallow salad.” There are zero vegetables and absolutely no redeeming nutritional qualities to them—they are really a dessert, but I suppose by calling it a salad, people feel vindicated in eating it with their dinner.

A few nights ago I had a “salad with chicken.”  It was salad greens, with tomatoes, cucumbers, grilled chicken pieces, sauteed red bell peppers, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  So was that a chicken salad? Well, it was, but not the kind of chicken salad that this recipe entails. 

For most Americans, the “chicken salad” is something like 1 cup of mayo, canned chicken, and some chopped celery and salt & pepper.  This is kind of the cholesterol bomb lunch equivalent of the marshmallow salad I mentioned above. 

My sister-in-law-once-removed (i.e., my sister’s husband’s sister) makes a really good chicken salad that’s considerably healthier, and I’ve tweaked her version a little, and come up with my own version.  Most of the ingredients can be substituted, and I’ll make note of other suggestions that are equally good.

1 - 12 oz can of chicken breast (or approximately 1.5 cups of chopped, grilled chicken, whichever you prefer.)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled, and grated with a cheese grater
3/4 cup “craisins”
4 green onion stalks, cut into rings, about half-way up the green stem…(fresh chives will also suffice if approximately the same amount.)
1/2 cup slivered or chopped raw almonds – make sure the chopped or slivered pieces are small enough to blend in well with the salad’s texture, and just add a bit of crunch and extra protein.  Another option is salted, toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts

Optional: 1 apple (preferably something like Gala, Fuji, Cameo, Jonagold…) diced, and/or 2/3 cup red grapes, sliced

2-3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or try any other deli mustard that you like)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Mix all together in a bowl until evenly coated, and serve in a tortilla, pita pocket, or with bread or crackers.

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