Nana’s Guilt-Free Chicken Salad

This is Meal #2 in this week’s meal plan using America’s favorite: chicken breast. (Well, maybe it’s not your favorite, because you’re tired of it. Hopefully after this week I’ll change your mind!)

If you’re blessed to have an Oma, Nana, Grammy, or Grandma like mine, going to her house always meant a special treat that you could only get from her.  (No matter that your mom would make it at home. It was just never the same.) At my Nana’s when I was young, it was always cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. She must have had some secret recipe for her cinnamon/sugar recipe, because I could never quite replicate how it tasted. And I’m pretty sure her hot chocolate was microwaved milk with store- bought packets. But it was always SO good.
When I got a little older, less picky, and more adventurous, it became this chicken salad. I had never had anything like it. Creamy, crunchy, a little sweet, on toasted bread; it was just the perfect combination of, well, everything.

After I got married, she lovingly shared the recipe with me. I made it a few times exactly to the recipe, but then I started realizing that I had a lot of leftover chicken from dinners, and it was silly to buy canned chicken when I could easily chop up the leftovers instead. Then I started cooking healthier. I have never been a mayonnaise fan, but I’ve conceded that it’s a ‘necessary evil’  – until I learned that Greek yogurt pretty much does the exact same job mayonnaise does, but in a much healthier way.

What makes this recipe special? The apples, grapes, and pecans. I love the apples and pecans for extra crunch – normally celery serves this purpose alone, but it again is one of those things I use semi-reluctantly and that I can’t eat by itself. The grapes add a surprising sweetness. Everything together is just the perfect combination for lunch or dinner. So, here is the recipe for Nana’s chicken salad – adjusted to be a little healthier and a little thriftier!

What We’re Re-Purposing:
Leftovers from Baked Chicken: about 2 cups, chopped

Additional Ingredients:
1 Apple of your favorite variety, finely chopped
1 cup Seedless Red Grapes, cut in half (or in quarters if you prefer)
3/4 cup Chopped (or Diced) Pecans
1 cup Celery, chopped (about one stalk, halved and/or sliced)
1 tsp. Celery Salt
3/4 – 1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Fat-Free or Low-Fat Mayonnaise
*Optional: We are using our seasoned baked chicken for this Second Meal, so it will add extra flavor. If your chicken salad tastes bland, add salt, paprika, or pepper to taste.
*You can also add a teaspoon or two of chia seeds for a hidden boost of nutrition!

There is really no secret to preparing this; the secret is in the ingredients. Combine all of them, and toss to coat. I like to use a fork, because it breaks up the chicken a little and makes it easier to eat. Then simply adjust to taste. Instead of making it in a mixing bowl, I make it directly in a tupperware container for easy storage and less dishes. 😉 Many of these ingredients we keep in our house anyway, so it’s easy to add more of anything as you like. Here’s what mine looks like, completed:

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Another reason this is one if my favorites is because of its versatility: You can eat it straight up with a fork.
You can eat it on toasted bread, like my Nana used to make:

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On Toasted Whole Wheat Bread – also great on Whole Grain!

You can serve it on a tortilla, as a wrap:

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It’s also great as a lettuce wrap if you want to skip the carbs altogether.

For our meal plan purposes, serve this for dinner with a side of cooked baby carrots. This same night, plan to make your overnight stock using more of the celery from this recipe. When you cook your carrots, simmer them in water with a little salt until they reach a desired done-ness. But DON’T DRAIN THAT WATER! I’ve always been conflicted about pouring that water down the drain; with carrots and spinach, cooking in water is healthy, but many of the nutrients leach out into that cooking water, and some of the nutrients go down the drain with it. So this time, drain your water directly into the crock pot, and that will give us a little extra boost for our overnight stock!

Don't throw away this nutrient-rich cooking water. Drain into crock pot for our overnight stock instead.

Don’t throw away this nutrient-rich cooking water. Drain into crock pot for our overnight stock instead.

To save time, I had the crock pot ready to go while I was preparing the chicken salad. While I had the cutting board out, I prepped some of the veggies for the stock and tossed them into the crock pot. Most of them are root veggies and won’t be negatively effected if they sit for an hour while you eat dinner. The stock can cook for 10+ hours. Mine cooked for about 12 this last time and turned out great. I’ll post the full details tomorrow!

Hope you’re enjoying the meal plan so far, and especially this chicken salad, which has such a special place in my heart. ❤

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Steak Wraps & Salads (Second Meal)

I am loving wraps lately to use up leftovers.  You can add whatever you like to them, and they’re usually fairly healthy – especially if you get whole wheat tortillas.

So after I made grilled Chuck steak the other night, I made wraps for lunch with the leftovers.

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I sliced the steak, reheated it gently by sauteeing in a pan, then layered it on a tortilla with cheddar, chimichurri, avocado, and tomato. If you have enough steak left, this would work as dinner the next night too.

Or, you can make a salad.  Prepare the steak the same way, then toss it lightly in the chimichurri. Place over your green of choice, adding whatever toppings you like. I put romaine lettuce first, then cheddar and tomato, the steak, and avocado. It’s great with this homemade dressing.
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My lovely sister had the idea of making burrito bowls too – rice and beans topped with these same ingredients.

If you used lean beef, you can feel good about making a healthy choice for lunch. It doesn’t take much time at all, and as a mom, it sure feels more grown-up to eat one of these options than it does to eat a PBJ or grilled cheese (not that I have anything against those classics).

Now enjoy a very simple but elegant feeling second meal!

Quick chicken wrap

I needed something pretty quick and delicious for lunch – and I didn’t want to fall back on a grilled ham and cheese – so I evaluated my OHI. After I made guacamole, I had some leftover cilantro, also some lime, and some chicken breast that I had portioned out for dinner tomorrow night. Many of the breasts were really thick and large (I realize how that looks. Pull your mind outta the gutter, kay?) so I cut them in half lengthwise or butterflied them depending on their size. I was planning on using Kraft Fresh Take.  However after I cooked the chicken this way, I’m rethinking that, as this way  is delicious and probably much healthier.

WHAT YOU NEED:
– A chicken breast tenderloin (probably about 3-4 oz)
– Cilantro
– Lime juice
– Salt
– Tortilla (whole wheat is best, or you can get the flavored kind- spinach or tomato)
– Shredded Cheese (I like Mexican or cheddar)
Guacamole
– Buffalo or Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)

1. Salt the chicken.
2. In a ramekin or small soufflé dish, mix about a teaspoon lime juice with chopped cilantro.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
4. Using a pastry brush or your finger, ‘paint’ the cilantro/lime mix on the chicken. Pour the leftover lime juice over the chicken as well.
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5. Put chicken onto grill pan. *You know the grill pan is hot enough when water flicked onto it sizzles!* Cook for approximately 5 minutes, then flip to other side and cook another 5-6 minutes. Using tongs, you may want to rotate the chicken to ‘brown’ the other smaller sides of the chicken. Honestly when chicken is cooked it turns more of a white color – but you will get some beautiful caramel-colored marks along with your black grill marks. Chicken is done when no pink is visible and it is firm to the touch. Even if you’re using tongs, the chicken shouldn’t give at all. If it does, you probably still have some pink inside. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. (Don’t worry. While a watched pot may never boil, watched chicken most certainly cooks!)

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Beautiful!

6. Remove chicken from grill pan and place on a cutting board to rest for about 1-2 minutes. Then slice diagonally into medallions. *If, upon cutting your chicken, you notice there is still some raw pink in the middle, just put the medallions back on the grill for about 30 seconds per side. You’ll get some of that nice carmelization on more surface area! Yum.*
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7. Heat a small tortilla over medium heat in a skillet or grill pan. (you can do this while the chicken rests). Remove from skillet onto a plate. Sprinkle some cheese down the middle, if you so desire.
8. Place the chicken medallions evenly atop the cheese. If desired, you can drizzle with some buffalo or Louisiana hot sauce. *Both of these have no calories (woo!), but are high in sodium (boo).*
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9. Smother with some homemade guac, and fold up the tortilla. Subsequently ENJOY your quick, delicious, pretty, healthy wrap! Mange mange!!
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