Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tried & True Recipe: Chicken Apple Cranberry Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fall arrives in less than 6 days, but with temps still in the 80s I'm not yet ready to transition to all those warm yummy comfort foods (like soup!) that will surely start popping up on my menu in a few weeks.  I love to eat salads during warm weather months, just like I love to eat soup during cold weather months.  It drives my husband a little nuts, but I'm definitely one of those people with strong weather-related food associations.  Warm weather is for grilling, salads, lighter fare, and food that doesn't require heating up your house for hours to cook it.  Cold weather is for sooouuuppps(!), stews, comfort foods, and things that can cook away for hours heating up your kitchen before they heat up your belly.

Salad is on our menu nearly weekly during warm weather months.  It's easy to throw together, versatile, everyone can top their salad to their preference, and leftovers are good.  The very best salads have a variety of ingredients with different, complimentary flavors and textures.  I've already shared one of my very favorite summer salads, allow me to introduce you to it's late summer/early fall counterpart: a chopped salad with chicken, apples, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and pecans, topped with sweet and tangy honey-balsamic vinaigrette.  This salad is well-balanced, fall-ish, and takes advantage of seasonal produce (apples!), but is still light and refreshing.

Chicken Apple Cranberry Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette inspired by Brown Eyed Baker

For the vinaigrette:

2T Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 c Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2T Honey
1/2 T Dijon Mustard
1/4 t Salt
1/8 t Ground Black Pepper
1/8 t Garlic Powder

Combine ingredients in small mason jar or other container with a tight seal.  Shake until well combined and set aside.  Can be made in advance and keeps well stored in the refrigerator.  Yields ~3/4 cup.

For the salad:

Romaine Lettuce (or other lettuce of choice: spring mix/spinach blend, baby kale, or rubbed kale would be good here)
Diced Grilled Chicken (we season ours with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
Diced Granny Smith Apple (I like Granny Smith's for salad because they're firm and crunchy and have a nice tangy flavor, but whatever you prefer)
Blue Cheese (or Feta)
Pecans (or Walnuts)

Combine ingredients to your preference and top with honey-balsamic vinaigrette.  Easy peasy. Obviously, the ingredients are super flexible, that's another thing I like about salad.  Switching a few things up will make a similar, but slightly different salad!  Bacon would also be a good addition, because bacon is always good.

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