Chicken & Grapes Waldorf Salad (and a slightly bent resolution)

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How many of you resolved to eat better this year? I’m guessing a lot. It’s a pretty popular resolution. (Actually, that might be why you’re here right now!)

I resolved to eat clean as much as possible by eating fewer foods that have more than five inrgredients on the label. (More than 5 ingredients is okay as long as I make it myself). Essentially, I’m trying to cut processed foods. Just a few weeks into the year I’m already realizing how hard that is. Bread is impossible to buy in the store without a ton of ingredients and preservatives (and as much as I’d love to, I’m NOT making my own bread on a regular basis). I’ve spent a lot of time reading food labels in 2015.

So when I had a craving for waldorf salad, I was in a bind. (Waldorf salad is usually a chicken salad with apples, grapes, and/or nuts.) I wanted a fresh, crisp dish to start off a healthy New Year, but there was one barrier in my way: mayonnaise – the base for the waldorf dressing.  Sadly, the mayonnaise I had in my fridge had exactly 10 ingredients. Too many.

I thought about substitutes, but couldn’t come up with any that could properly replace the creaminess of the tradition dressing for a waldorf salad. So I went for it – but in a small quantity. The dressing in this recipe includes a little mayonnaise, but also apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Overall, this is a healthier, lighter version of a waldorf salad. So what if I cheated a little bit? Rules are meant to be broken (or just slightly bent)!

Light Chicken Waldorf Salad

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Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $3.28, 434 calories, 13g fat, 70g carbs, 39g protein.

Slice ¼ cup grapes in half, cook ¼ cup faro according to package instructions, and slice 1 large stalk celery on a bias. Prepare dressing the dressing by whisk together 1 teaspoon each of mayonnaise, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss grapes, faro, celery, 1 cup arugula, and 6 ounces of sliced, cooked chicken breast with the dressing.

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Curry Chicken Salad with Grapes

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At around noon every day, lunch begins at my office. Staff wander out onto the streets of Harvard Square, each hoping to find something to eat at one of the many restaurants within walking distance. About 20 minutes later they return, carrying paper bags holding their lunch of choice.

Everyone else gathers in the kitchen to prepare their bring-your-own lunches. They pull their labeled Tupperware (there’s a system – initials and the date – to keep things in order) out of the fridge or pop lean cuisines into the microwave. Except on special occasions (like birthdays, lunch dates, or I’m-too-busy-to-make-food days), I’m in the bring-your-own lunch group.

Most of the time, I’m satisfied with what I prepared in advance. But there are times when those paper bags are filled with food that looks so good. And smells so good. That’s when lunch envy sinks in: that feeling when you’re sitting around a table and everyone else’s lunch looks better than yours. On those days, I spend the entire hour pushing my salad or pasta or chicken around on my plate with my fork as I steal sideways glances at the other meals, wishing I had chosen to purchase a roll-up from Falafel Corner. It happens to everyone.

Sometimes I succumb to my lunch envy and purchase something else (as I did today – opting for a chicken salad sub from Al’s rather than the chicken, carrots, and rice I had packed). But if I did that all the time I’d be broke and have nothing to post on this blog. To deter the inevitable feeling of lunch envy, I often resolve to make the lunch in question myself, which is where I found the inspiration for this recipe.

This twist on a traditional chicken salad recipe adds grapes for sweetness and cuts calories with the use of Greek yogurt as a replacement for mayonnaise. It can be served in a pita as described, or in a sandwich, on top of a salad, or as a dip for celery sticks or pita chips. Take that, lunch envy – this version is cheaper and healthier than yours!

Curry Chicken Salad with Grapes

Boil 2 chicken breasts in water for 15 minutes until cooked through. Let cool in the fridge for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, dice 2 large celery stalks and slice 1/2 cup of red grapes in half. When chicken is cool, dice into small pieces and combine with celery and grapes in a medium size bowl. Add 3 tablespoons plain greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, ¼ teaspoon curry powder, zest from ½ a lemon¸ and salt and pepper to taste. Mix to combine and serve in a mini pita with a handful of baby spinach.

Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 1 pita filled with 1 cup chicken salad. Per Serving: $2.73, 329 calories, 8g fat, 22g carbs, 41g protein.