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!

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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!

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Lately the questions, "What can the baby eat?" and "What will my toddlers eat with minimal complaining?" seem to drive my meal planning. I feel like I've lost a bit of my joy in the kitchen. I still love cooking, of course, and I'm grateful I even have the luxury of choice in what I make for dinner. But I've found myself stuck in what's practical. I miss asking, "What can I make that nourishes body and soul? What can I make that delights?"

This dish is an answer to those questions. It's nourishing for body and soul, and it's one of my new favorite salads. It's got a slight kick from the arugula and Dijon but then richness from the goat cheese and sweetness from the cherries. Hearty, healthy, sweet, and savory.

And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’…And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
— (Genesis 1:29-31)

I generally serve my kids at least a version of what we eat for dinner, but my twins often do better eating the components of a dish separated. For this one, I'll give them a scoop of plain quinoa, a handful of walnuts and dried cherries, and then add chicken or whatever else to their plates. That way, they try new foods and eat what we eat, but they also have something a little more palatable. (I don't know if that's the right way to feed toddlers. I could be doing it all wrong, but hey, we're all just figuring this out as we go, right?)

It's easy to get bogged down in the utilitarian that we forget the beauty of variety and the joy of cooking. After all, our God could have only provided the basics needed to keep us alive, but instead, he gave us thousands of foods with endless combinations. So every once in a while, regardless of how your kids eat, treat yourself to something you love, something that delights. After all, I think when we delight in God's good gifts, we can taste that the Giver himself is good. 

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries
Yields 4 entree-sized portions

1 cup quinoa
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Arugula or other salad greens (optional)

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water. (Quinoa has a natural coating that can taste bitter or soapy, but you can get rid of this coating by rinsing it well.) Add the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat, and let it stand for about 5 minutes (keeping it covered!). Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool while you prep the dressing and other ingredients. 

For the dressing, in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed well. 

In a medium bowl, add the cherries, walnuts, and rosemary. Add the cooled quinoa to the bowl, and stir everything together. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the dressing. Mix well. Add more dressing if desired, reserving some for serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I added about another ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper). 

Transfer the quinoa salad to a serving dish. Top with crumbled goat cheese, if using. Serve on its own or over arugula or other salad greens.* 

Drizzle each portion with some of the remaining dressing and garnish with fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

*Rather than serving the quinoa on top of greens, you can also add a few handfuls of arugula right into the quinoa mixture. Pour the rest of the salad dressing on it, and toss well. The arugula will wilt slightly with the dressing, so serve immediately. 

Autumn Pasta Salad with Maple Dressing

It has been a busy few weeks. Apparently in the midst of the busyness, September showed up. Is it just me, or does it seem like this month came out of nowhere? Last I knew, I was brainstorming a thousand different summer recipes, and the hubs and I were researching the grill we were finally going to buy.

Yesterday, we realized that we may as well forgo the grill purchase (again) this season and use the money to buy a snowblower instead. Oy. I'm not ready for that. I'm still clinging to the last bits of summer - farmers' markets, grilling (or using the stove-top grill pan in our case), eating s'mores around the fire pit and enjoying good 'ol picnic food.

This pasta salad is sort of a bridge between the seasons. To me, pasta salads are a summer staple, but this one boasts of fall flavors like maple syrup and butternut squash. Enjoy it warm on the cold days or cold on those last few lingering warm days. It's the best of both seasons.

Are you clinging to summer? Or are you ready to bring on fall?

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Autumn Pasta Salad with Maple Dressing
Yields 8-10 servings

Pasta Salad
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ to 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound bow tie pasta
1 ½ cups dried cranberries
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
3-4 ounces fresh arugula (a couple handfuls – just eyeball it)
Maple Dressing (see recipe below)
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay butternut squash out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until squash is tender.

While the squash is roasting, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

When the squash is done roasting, add it to a large bowl, along with the cooked pasta, cranberries and walnuts. Mix well. Add in the Maple Dressing and fold in the arugula. The warm squash and pasta noodles should cause the arugula to wilt slightly.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Maple Dressing
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over pasta salad as directed above.