Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Re-imagined Sonoma Chicken Salad

While I believe proper nourishment deeply influences how we feel, look and experience life, I also know how difficult it can be to find the time to prepare three nutrient dense meals and snacks every single day. Sure, eating well lays a proper foundation for a happy, energetic existence, but sometimes you just. can’t. even. I spent last year trying to assemble the disillusioned pieces of a regional marketing team at a global company. Some days I rose as early as 430 am deprived of sleep and the wherewithal to do anything but put my face in a jar of almond butter for a few moments before I ran out the door.  Looking back, if there was any uphill battle I needed to fuel up for, it was that one. I should have been as alert and sharp as possible to navigate those hidden-agenda land mines and bureaucratic mêlées. But like many other things in my personal life, trips to the farmers market and recipe testing with B took a backseat to career and a million other things. I’m pretty sure most women know a thing or two about that.

Thankfully, this year I’m in a new role that affords me a far better work life balance. I feel like I’ve been slowly but surely reclaiming parts of myself and the kind of life that I feel best living. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep consistently for the first time in years has been truly earth-shattering.  I appreciate having the time to grocery shop and explore recipes and nourish myself and my husband again on a whole new level. That being said, with a full time workload and a puppy scampering around at my feet (in addition to the other typical responsibilities of a physically active, type-A, dutiful career woman and wife,) the need for fast and easy is ever-present.  

I’ve been really into “bowls” lately. A super-easy way to get protein, fiber, healthy fats and greens into every meal,  once you find a favorite sauce or dressing to tie it all together,  there are endless satisfying combinations . To minimize prep time during the busy work week, I mix up a few dressings, cook some protein and steam some broccoli or kale over the weekend. With only assembly and the addition of garnishes like fruit and nuts to tackle before enjoying, you might even find a few moments to get creative.  I know, I know. You’re probably thinking I’m making it sound far easier than it really is. And there is certainly some trial and error involved. But that’s what I’m here for!

I most often take inspiration from restaurant meals, gourmet grocery stores or even Whole Foods. And of course Pinterest! The first recipe I’ll share (below) was inspired by the glorious (but calorie dense) Sonoma Chicken Salad at Whole Foods. The days of eating it right out of the container for a lunch on the go are hopefully long gone. This is a very loose and much healthier interpretation, but you still get the best parts – the crunch of toasted nuts, burst of sweet from the grapes, and savory chicken.

Re-imagined Sonoma Chicken Salad (1 serving)

3 cups mixed greens or baby lettuces
1 cup arugula (the bitterness balances out the sweet grapes and dressing, but if you’re not a fan, just add more lettuce)
 1 scallion, thinly sliced
3-4 oz grilled chicken breast, chopped (or shredded paleo chicken breast from whole foods is yummy too)
1/3 cup red seedless grapes, halved
2 tablespoons pecans, chopped
Almond Honey dressing (below)

Almond Honey Dressing (2-3 servings)

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted dry roasted almonds (or 3 tablespoons almond butter)
1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other mild salad oil)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon `garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put all dressing ingredients, excluding poppy seeds, in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add poppy seeds and mix on low just until combined. Set aside.
  3. Roughly chop pecans and place on a cookie sheet or sheet of foil in preheated oven until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Toss greens with 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing. Arrange scallions, grapes and chicken atop the greens and drizzle with additional dressing. Sprinkle toasted pecans on top.
  5. Enjoy!

Why do we so easily cast aside the simplest, easiest steps towards thriving? Eat well, sleep enough, be kind to yourself and others, and thrive. Eat almond butter out of the jar in the dark, sleep 4-5 hours, drive yourself into the ground, and whither. It’s not that complicated.

Here’s to being a little kinder to yourself, feeding your belly and fueling your happiness. 

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