Salad Crunch

The early days of not-quite-summer are busy. School's ending and nothing like a routine has taken root yet. Late mornings give way to busy afternoons and sometimes dinner is an after thought, if it manages to become a thought at all. So I tend to do a little planning ahead for quick and easy meals that I can snag my family into helping to assemble. And nothing helps make that happen quite like bright, colorful salads with lots of layers and textures.

Few salads do this as well as a spicy chicken salad. All you need is a single boneless, skinless chicken breast (trust me, these things are getting so huge you can serve an army with just one!) and a combination of fresh (think greens, tomato and onions) and canned (think corn and black beans) items with something a little crunchy and a spicy-creamy dressing. On the plate, it's a beautiful, tasty, definitely non-boring salad that we put together in about 20 minutes. With such a small amount of time invested, we even have enough time to wipe off the patio table and take our dinner outside!

Now, a note about croutons and other crunchy things. I love croutons and have been known to save bits of bread here and there to make them myself. That said, feel free to work other crunchy ingredients into your salads. Spiced nuts, lightly crushed tortilla chips, and odd snacks can all make an appearance. I used some spicy quinoa puffs I had on hand that were a bit too spicy for just snacking on their own, but made an amazing addition to this themed salad. Beyond that, they actually looked pretty on a plate! So contemplate how you can mix things up a bit the next time you start putting together a salad.

For my family, this salad was a meal in itself. If you want, pour yourself glasses of ice water or lemonade, maybe put out a bowl of oranges or melon to help put out any flames, and find a comfortable chair in the backyard. Things are going to be busy this summer and we want to reclaim every bit of time we manage to save along the way!

Chipotle Chicken Salad

  • 2 tsp. cooking fat of your choice (I used bacon fat)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp. southwest seasoning blend
  • 10 oz. mixed salad greens
  • 1/3 c. corn kernels
  • 1/3 c. cooked black beans, rinsed
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/4 c. sliced green onions
  • Handful of spicy quinoa snacks, coarsely crushed tortilla chips, or southwestern style croutons
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. chili oil
  • 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Heat the cooking fat of your choice over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the chicken and stir-fry about 5 minutes before sprinkling evenly with your seasoning blend. Sauté another 5 minutes and remove from the heat and allow to rest.

While the chicken is resting, arrange the greens, corn, beans, tomato, and green onions on three serving plates. Add the chicken and the quinoa snacks, tortilla chips, or croutons.

In a resealable jar, combine the mayonnaise, chili oil, lime juice, garlic powder, and salt. Shake vigorously to combine and drizzle generously over the salad. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

  • Yields: 3 main dish servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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