Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!]

Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad

Years ago when I used to blog on an old site (back in the ancient days of blogging), I spent a lot of time trying to come up with unique, fancy-ish recipes. They were still realistic for that stage of my life, because I didn’t have kids and spent a lot more time in the kitchen creating and experimenting. But so much of that has changed in the last four years. I still want to embrace my love for cooking and make room to create in the kitchen, but the way I do that looks a little more ordinary, a little more realistic, a little more simple.

I used to think that was a bad thing—as if complicated always meant better or if it’d been done before I couldn’t do it, too. Well, sometimes simplicity is a gift, and as it turns out, it’s all been done before. That’s no longer crippling to me but totally freeing. I get to share what I love to eat from my point of view without expecting it to be completely new and original. Believe me, I am fully aware that chicken salad is neither new nor original. All it takes is a quick Google search to find that out.

But this is a recipe we eat all the time, and we love it. So I’m sharing it.

Its simplicity means I can make it off the cuff when I need a last minute brunch, lunch, or even dinner. If you want to get a little creative, try experimenting with other additions like curry powder, apples, walnuts, or basil. Use leftover roasted chicken or freshly baked chicken breasts instead of the canned stuff, and serve it with bread for sandwiches or on top of greens for salad. Or, dig into leftovers the next day with your favorite crackers. Simple. Flexible. Easy.

Scroll down to get the recipe!

What’s your go-to easy lunch or dinner? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. You can get a beautifully designed printable version of this recipe alongside a roundup of brunch ideas for our upcoming Coffee + Crumbs Mother’s Day Brunch! Learn more about that and sign up here.

Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad
Easiest Chicken Salad [Two Ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser #lunch #weeknightdinner #chickensalad

Easiest Chicken Salad (Two Ways)
Yields about 6 servings

2 (12.5 ounce) cans of chicken (or about 3 cups of chopped cooked chicken)*
8-10 ounces red grapes, halved (about 1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups when halved)
1 ½ cups chopped celery
¼ cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Croissants, Dijon mustard, and arugula (optional for sandwich)
Arugula, diced avocado, and balsamic vinegar (optional for salad)**

If using canned chicken, drain the chicken. In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, grapes, celery, and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve on a croissant, slice the croissant in half and spread each half with Dijon mustard. Add greens such as arugula and a large spoonful of chicken salad.

For a “chicken salad salad” version, serve a couple spoonfuls over a bed of arugula. Add diced avocado, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and enjoy!

*Not all canned chicken is created equal. Try to find some without additional flavorings or preservatives. I like using Trader Joe’s Premium Chunk White Chicken in Water.

**This salad version is gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole30 compliant!

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale [and learning to sit in the dark]

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

I scroll through my social media feeds, read articles about the latest news, and listen while a friend shares her heartache. It all feels so heavy. It is so heavy, the corporate hurts and the individual heartaches, the mundane struggles and worldwide crises. Some griefs are deeper than others, and I have the luxury of walking away from the news or giving up social media for a while before the weight crushes me. But the world is a hard, dark place, and I’m trying to learn what it means to mourn with those who mourn, to sit in the darkness without the darkness swallowing me whole.

I believe God will one day make all things new. He will fully bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, he will put everything right, he will bring justice and restoration and glory and joy. But we’re not there yet. We’re in this strange “already but not yet” place, a place still speaking the language of lament. My brothers and sisters throughout the world speak it fluently, but I easily forget. It’s a language that’s not easy to listen to, one I want to silence and ignore.

Frederick Buechner writes, “But if (the preacher) does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.”

I so often look for a solution. I look to speak a word that will fix what is wrong or at least attempt to silence such uncomfortable sorrow. But the Gospel we preach must be big enough for the nights when solution seems far off, sure enough to sustain us when our God seems absent. It must be clear enough to speak to tongue-tied souls that can barely mutter a prayer. Because even when we can’t bring ourselves to preach, the Gospel remains true in our silence.

We hold up our heroes in the faith, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and more. But we gloss over what Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.”

Is our Gospel strong enough to hold us if we die without receiving?

The same Gospel for which so many are killed is the same Gospel that sustains in the day-to-day. It’s not a gospel of easy solutions, quick fixes, or temporary comfort—that’s no Gospel at all. If that’s what I preach to myself and others, we’ll all too quickly find that gospel will crash with even the smallest storm. Superficial solutions make a feeble gospel.

Those heroes of the faith died before receiving. Jesus wept before raising Lazarus. He was crucified before he rose from the dead. But the Gospel—the true, sure, life-altering Gospel—says that his promises will come to pass. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing. The dead will be raised. The same Spirit who raised Jesus will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). And so we live according to that Spirit with enduring faith, come what may. That is a Gospel to cling to—and it will hold us.

As we wait in this “not yet” place, we weep and mourn, wrestle and plead. We learn to speak the language of lament knowing that one day our God will turn those cries into rejoicing. We work for change, justice, growth, and renewal, standing not on the shaky ground of cursory solutions but on the sure foundation of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that can never be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Whether in seasons of deep grief or ordinary heartache, we all need encouragement. But sometimes when we long to speak life-giving words and give comfort, our mouths get dry. We say something stupid. Suddenly we realize we have no idea what to do with our hands. (All these things happen to me all the time. Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

When you need to fill the silence or process sorrow by putting your hands to work, food is a great place to start. This recipe is a hearty, comforting dish that travels well so it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family who need a little encouragement.

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale
Yields 6-8 servings

1 pound orecchiette pasta (other types of pasta work, too!)
12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chopped kale
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 2 ½ cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until some of the fat renders out and it just starts to get crisp. Add the diced onion and cook for another minute until the onions begin to soften.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the bacon is fully cooked, the onions translucent, and the mushrooms soft, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and mushrooms to take on a darker color and get a little caramelized. This should take about 12-15 minutes.

Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked pasta, kale, and 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring everything together, until the kale wilts and the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Stir in the shredded parm. Add additional pasta water, a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta has the consistency you like. (I end up using another cup, for a total of 2 cups of pasta water.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. The Parmesan and bacon give this dish a decent amount of salty flavor, so you shouldn’t need a ton of salt, but I do like to add in plenty of black pepper. Top with red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.

Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad if you like, or enjoy the dish on its own! Pair it with a crisp, dry white wine like Pinot Grigio. The wine balances out the richness of the pasta perfectly. Enjoy!

Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions [and fighting for connection]

Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser

Sitting in my bed, I attempt to hide and drown out the noise downstairs with the rhythmic hum of my breast pump. I can still hear the baby crying and my toddler son whining. His twin sister yells at the top of her lungs for no reason, except maybe to keep up with the decibel level of everyone else. I’ve been here longer than necessary, partly because pumping takes extra time. I worry my supply is dropping, maybe due to diet changes or stress or who knows what. My mind conjures up a thousand possibilities, all of which I feel the urgent need to research.

I stop my frantic Googling as I notice my heart pounding faster. Apparently escaping to a semi-quiet room only made my anxious thoughts louder. I try to sit still as I listen to the steady hum of the pump, praying those bottles will fill with a few more drops. I’m not ready to add the chaos from downstairs to the chaos I carry in my own body.

It’s mac and cheese for dinner tonight—the one from the box, not the good homemade stuff. I can hear my husband’s footsteps bound up and down the stairs as he manages whatever is going on. He’s working hard to give me peace and quiet, but the volume can only be helped so much—especially during the witching hour.

There’s no denying it’s hard to connect. It’s hard to have the time and space to look each other in the eyes and ask, “How was your day?” and then actually answer without LEGOs being thrown across the room or a not quite potty-trained toddler peeing on the floor. How can we connect when I can’t even be in the room with the rest of the family?

Before babies, we used to get home from work and sit at the table together. I’d cook a homemade meal nearly every night. We’d talk over pasta and salad, garlic bread and a glass of wine. Now, even the most gracious attempts to talk more deeply or resolve conflict seem impossible. My husband’s words get caught in the tornado of emotions and information swirling in my mind, and I can’t seem to calm the storm. Some days that storm rages only in my head and heart; other times everyone else gets swept by its gale force winds. Feeling connected—feeling as though we’re on the same page, moving in the same direction, on the same team some days appears to be an exercise in futility. How do you connect with each other in the midst of a messy house, postpartum anxiety, sleep deprivation, carrying the burden of parenting, mom guilt, kids’ schedules, and the fact that if one more set of hands touches me, I may completely lose it?

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a weird season for cooking, in my opinion. I’m all cooked out after Thanksgiving but not quite ready to gear up for Christmas recipes. Okay, I may have already made my first batch of Christmas cookies—and it’s not even December. But apparently I can’t live off that batch of Double Chocolate Sea Salt cookies for the next few weeks (recipe coming soon!).

In these weeks in between feasts, I’m trying to keep it simple. We’re eating leftovers, soups I made a while back and stored in the freezer, and sandwiches. It’s so easy for me to go overboard in the kitchen during the holidays, and that only adds to the stress and overwhelm this time of year. But I’m learning to be realistic, simplify, and still eat food that’s really good.

Paninis are a perfect weeknight dinner. We’ve done panini nights in the past with friends and family, too. We provide an array or ingredients, or people bring something to share. Then everyone assembles their own and savors their creations alongside soup, salad, or a good glass of wine. (If you do this, I suggest borrowing multiple panini presses from others to make the cooking process go faster. We learned that the hard way!) It’s a great way to get a meal on the table, gather with others, and enjoy good food without spending a ton of time prepping. And to make things even easier? Go ahead and pull out those paper plates. You can use the good dishes at Christmas.

What are you cooking this week? Are you ready for the next big holiday meal, or craving something a little more simple?

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser
Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices bread (I prefer a crusty white bread)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
A few slices of deli ham (I used Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh ham)
Thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
Thinly sliced apples
Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat a panini press or grill pan. Brush both sides of the two pieces of bread generously with olive oil. Season both sides with black pepper. 

Layer the ham, Parmesan cheese, sliced apples, and fresh thyme leaves in between the slices of bread. Warm it all in a panini press and enjoy! It also taste great alongside your favorite soup (like this Butternut Squash Soup)!

Note: I didn’t give exact ingredient amounts because you can layer on the ingredients as you like! You can also try changing up the recipe to fit what you have on hand. Try using Asiago instead of Parmesan or sage instead of thyme. Enjoy!

This recipe was created in partnership with Oscar Mayer. All opinions are 100% my own.