chicken salad

Strawberry Basil Chicken Salad & the Best Method for Cooking Chicken Breasts

Every summer my Mom would make a big bowl of her chicken salad to keep in the fridge. It was the perfect lunch for busy little kids swimming out by the pool all day. She made this traditional summer dish with chicken breasts, celery, red grapes cut in half and rotini pasta. As we got older it became the perfect lunch to keep in the fridge for busy teenagers and summer schedules of sports, days at the beach and sleepovers. I pretty much grew up with the stuff!

As I got older I started parting ways with the white pasta but man did I love those chilled grapes!

Now I’m meal planning for my own family during a Southern California summer and it seems only right that I make chicken salad for our lunches! Every time this summer that I’ve set out to make the classic grape chicken salad, I always end up getting creative, using different fruits and veggies and veering away from the traditional recipe. Last time it was fresh cherries and corn this time it’s strawberry and basil! One of these days I’ll have to go back to my roots!

For this recipe I tried using a different method for cooking my chicken breast and it’s now my new favorite! Sometimes I’ll boil the chicken breasts, especially if I didn’t plan ahead and defrost them but that usually means missing out on flavor. Most of the time I’ll sauté them but I almost always wind up over cooking the chicken and it ends up dry and chewy. Gross.

This time I slow cooked the chicken at a low temperature and it ended up being the juiciest boneless, skinless chicken breast that I’ve ever had! It was so easy – you just flip it once and walk away!

BEST WAY TO COOK CHICKEN:

  • Season your chicken breast and sprinkle both sides with a good dusting of flour while your sauté pan, coated with a little oil, heats up on medium-high.
  • When the pan is hot, throw down your chicken, let it sit for only one minute and then flip.
  • After another minute you immediately turn the heat down to low, throw a cover on your pan and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • No peeking! After your 10-minute timer goes off you remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes.
  • NOW you can remove the lid – your chicken is perfectly done!

Sure, it takes longer but the good news is that this method frees you up to do all sorts of other kitchen prep like chopping veggies, unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, whatever you need to do. I thought for sure that I would under cook the chicken and I’d need to put it back on the burner for a couple more minutes but I was surprised to cut into this juicy, flavorful, “pink-less” chicken breast for my salad!


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The strawberries are delicious this time of year in California so I chopped up a few of those, quartered some persian cucumbers and thinly chopped some fresh basil off of the new plant that Eric’s Mom surprised me with last week!


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I also added a handful of chopped arugula to balance the sweetness of the strawberries and basil with a little fresh spice.

 
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Next, I threw in the juice of half a lemon, sea salt, black pepper, a little celery seed (optional) and a little all-natural mayo.

 
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Chicken salad is at it’s best when it’s cold so I like to let it sit in the freezer for a little bit while I clean up and toast my bread.

I love this flavorful and colorful spin-off of the traditional chicken salad recipe! It’s a convenient way to keep some healthy protein options on-hand for a quick lunch!

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Healthy Chipotle Chicken Salad: Perfect Picnic

I grew up eating chicken salad on hot summer days for a picnic or a party. My mom has her own recipe that includes celery, grapes, mayonnaise, and elbow macaroni. It’s a traditional family dish but what I don’t like about her chicken salad (and most others) is the mayonnaise.

Good news is you can still have your chicken salad for your summer picnic! Just try my healthy version:

In a mixing bowl, combine (half of a) lime juice, a spoonful of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, sea salt, pepper, a handful of chopped green onions and a handful of chopped cilantro.

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce usually come in a can and will most likely be found in the “Mexican” or “Ethnic” aisle of your grocery store. These smoked jalapenos can sometimes be really spicy, depending on what you’re used to so I recommend starting with a little bit and then adding more to your desired taste.

Next you’ll add an 8 oz. container of plain nonfat greek yogurt. It’s thick and creamy with lots of protein, no fat, and none of the nasty oils and additives of mayonnaise. Even “low fat” mayo is full of cellulose gel, starches, and other additives to simulate the consistency of real mayonnaise. Greek yogurt is a brilliant, creamy, healthy alternative to mayo!

Combine all of your ingredients together and start to fold in chopped chicken and chopped red bell pepper.

Now you can top your favorite crackers – I love those sweet potato “chips” by Food Should Taste Good – or add your chicken salad to a bed of chopped romaine. Whichever way you eat it, it’s a quick and healthy, delicious summer meal!

Enjoy!