Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fresh Salads For Spring

I love having salads like this for dinner. Fortunately I have a husband who doesn't have the typical male appetite for meat and potatoes. (He likes chick food.) When we go out to a restaurant, he's most likely the one to order a big salad, and I lean towards a burger or something heartier. We always have to switch our plates around when the server comes out.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite main-dish salads -- packed with flavor, freshness, and may even please a meat-eater.


I'm totally in love with this salad. The PB & maple dressing is so sweet, you could use it as a fruit dip or pour it over your pancakes. Alone on the salad, it was a bit much for me, but pairing it with the pecan-crusted, cinnamon-nutmeg-spiced chicken that wasn't sweet was genius. They balanced each other out perfectly.

Pecan-Crusted Chicken with PB & Maple Drizzled Apple Salad
from The Noshery via Tasty Kitchen

7 whole chicken tenderloins (or a couple of large chicken breasts sliced into strips)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup pecans, chopped
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 whole egg
4 cups salad greens
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
1 whole apple, sliced
½ cucumber, sliced
¼ cup raisins (optional)
½ cup maple syrup (the real stuff, not pancake syrup)
4 T peanut butter
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T vegetable oil (or some other mild-tasting oil like grapeseed or canola)
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with either nonstick spray or a foil lining. Blot the chicken with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture and season chicken tenders liberally with salt & pepper.

In one shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, chopped pecans, cinnamon & nutmeg. Crack the egg into another shallow dish and beat with a fork. Dredge each chicken tender in the egg, then in the pecan mixture. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the salad. Combine vegetables and sliced apple into a large bowl.

Whisk together maple syrup, peanut butter, apple cider vinegar, oil and lemon juice in bowl, then drizzle over the salad. (I didn't put it all on there as I thought there was too much dressing for the amount of salad. It's good to dip apples in later. :)) Toss salad to coat evenly.

Serve chicken over salad.

Makes about 4 servings.

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This salad is really, really good. I can't believe this came out of my own head. But to fully enjoy it, you need to roast the corn and use either cotija or feta cheese on top. The sweetness from the caramelized corn and the saltiness from the cheese create a nice contrast in the salad. I just discovered cotija cheese, and I love it. It has a strong, salty flavor like feta, but not so slap-in-the-face. More like provolone with hard, crumbly texture.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle-Lime Vinaigrette

an original recipe by Natalie

1 chipotle pepper, minced (from a jar of chipotles in adobo sauce) or 1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 tsp House seasoning (or dashes of salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sugar

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
1 bunch Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 c matchstick carrots
2 c frozen corn
1 c purchased or homemade pico de gallo
1 avocado, sliced
1 c crumbled cotija or feta cheese

For the dressing/marinade, combine chipotle pepper, lime juice, cilantro, House seasoning, and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil until dressing comes together and thickens slightly. Pour half of dressing into a ziptop bag and add chicken breasts. Marinate for an hour or up to overnight. Refrigerate remaining marinade until ready to use.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Set aside and allow to rest while you put the rest of the salad together.

Roast the frozen corn by either broiling it on the top rack of your oven for 8-10 minutes or use a skillet and pan-fry it in a little olive oil. The corn should have brown spots.

In a large bowl combine lettuce and carrots. Whisk dressing to combine if it has separated. Add dressing to bowl and toss to combine. Slice chicken into thin pieces. Top salad with chicken, roasted corn, and avocado slices. Garnish with fresh pico de gallo and crumbled cotija cheese.

Nat's Notes:
1. I also used lemon in both the salad and the pico de gallo and both lemon and lime are equally tasty.
2. I used a grill pan on my stovetop to grill the chicken. It's a reversible cast-iron grill pan by Emerilware. Love it.

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I love this. But I love all things bacon and BLT. A yummy vinaigrette was the perfect addition.

BLT Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
adapted from

8 slices bacon
6 slices country Italian bread (or any chewy, rustic loaf)
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes or 2 Romas
8 cups torn romaine (about 2 hearts)
1/3 cup crumbled cotija, feta, Parmesan, or blue cheese (basically whatever sharp cheese you want)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
Salt and ground black pepper

In large skillet cook bacon over medium-low heat until crisp, turning occasionally. Remove bacon from skillet; drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, toast bread, chop tomatoes, and break bacon in 2-inch pieces. For vinaigrette, in screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, sugar, and mustard. Shake well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl, top with bread, tomatoes, bacon and dressing. Toss to coat. Makes 4-6 servings.

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  1. Ohhhhh, they all look SO GOOD!! My salads area always so boring... I need to make some of these! (especially that Pecan Crusted chicken one!!)

  2. YUM! Saw ElegantSnobbery's tweet and so glad I came. That first one reminds me a bit of my bourbon pecan chicken recipe. Bookmarking this!

  3. Oh my goodness I want to eat all of these.

  4. These all look divine, but I think the 2nd one wins the award! Thanks for the great ideas!


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