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!


French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream [plus an essay about being seen and an invite to the C+C Mother's Day Brunch!]

French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast

We slide into the diner booth, scooting along the faux leather benches as our server hands us an impossibly large menu. My husband sits next to me and my dad in the seat across from us. Going to a place like this reminds me of my childhood. I grew up in New Jersey where diners are about as common as Starbucks in the Chicago suburbs. There's one on every corner, each with giant, plastic-covered menus showcasing all kinds of omelettes, skillets, French toast, crepes, sandwiches, and anything else you could possibly think to eat for breakfast or lunch.

I scan the menu as we catch up about my husband’s job and my dad’s new house. I try to keep the conversation light, but my heart feels heavy—maybe even a little guilty. Having my dad and stepmom in town is a gift, but over the last week I’ve been so weary that I feel like I’ve missed out on being with them. I take another sip of my coffee and internally lament the fact that my stepmom had to stay home with my kids just so I could have a few minutes of uninterrupted conversation with my dad.

Our plates arrive, and we drizzle on syrup and request refills of coffee. My dad looks at me and asks the question I hoped to avoid. “How are you doing? Really?”

It’s the “really” that gets me. The addition of that little word tells me I can’t get away with a scripted answer. My emotions sit too close to the surface, and any effort to hide them proves futile.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast
French Toast with Cherry Compote + Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream #breakfast #brunch #frenchtoast

Read the full essay and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.


Swedish Tea Ring [and practicing remembrance]

Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser

Of the six kids in my family, three of us live in the Chicago area and three live in New Jersey where we grew up. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, the girls who live nearby in the Chicago suburbs get together to bake. We make couple batches of family-favorite cookies—like chocolate mint cookies and krumkake, a Norwegian waffle-like cookie. Most importantly, though, we make my mom’s Swedish tea ring. Truth be told, it’s actually Betty Crocker’s recipe, but it’s the version we ate on Christmas morning every year as kids.

Swedish tea ring (at least the one we grew up with) is a pastry filled with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins and topped with a simple glaze. As kids, we always ate it with cheesy eggs—the two recipes yielding the perfect sweet and savory combination.

Now, the meal reminds me of my mom. It reminds me of our family. And it reminds me of so many Christmases over the years—like the one when we didn’t have money for gifts so we regifted our own things to each other (which still remains the best Christmas ever). Or when we attempted to buy the “tallest of allest” Christmas tree. It turned out to be way too big for our family room, and we chopped off the top to make it fit. Or the first Christmas my husband and I had as a married couple—the same one spent unexpectedly in the hospital with my mom as doctors performed surgery for pancreatic cancer, cancer which took her life just over two years later.

After my mom died, it seemed all the more important to me that we make Swedish tea ring. When life changes, sometimes traditions change with it. This needed to remain. I wanted to practice folding the dough perfectly and shaping it like she did. I wanted to savor those Christmas morning moments with my own kids the way I did years ago.

I have a few more Christmases to go before reaching her level of baking expertise. One year, I forgot that the dough recipe yields two tea rings. My husband and I went to church with his family on Christmas Eve, and I mixed the flour, sugar, and yeast before we left so the dough could rise while we were gone. When we came home, I noticed much to my horror it had risen so big and wide that it seeped over the sides of the pan, looking like Swedish tea blob. (Thankfully it still tasted good.)

But for as long as I can manage, Swedish tea ring will grace our table on Christmas morning. The tradition of making it with the women in my family is one I pray will continue. The pastry and the hands who make it serve as a tangible reminder of my mom, our family’s story, and all that God has done in our lives. It reminds me who we are and what we love. It reminds me that in both good times and hard times, God remains faithful. He was good when we ate this as a family decades ago, and he was good the first Christmas I ate it after my mom died. And he’s good now.

A couple weeks ago, my kids joined our annual tradition, alongside my sister, sister-in-law, and three of my nieces. My twins are just three years old, but they carefully rolled out dough and sprinkled it with brown sugar and raisins. They may not remember this Christmas, but the act of baking with them and others in my family flooded my mind with memories of how far God brought us. He’s brought us through seasons of grief and joy, weariness and flourishing. All along, he’s been faithful and good. May that be a truth I never forget.

Merry Christmas.

(Scroll down for the recipe.)

Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser
Swedish Tea Ring | Sarah J. Hauser

Before you bake, I want to give you a few notes on the recipe. This version yields two tea rings. If you don’t need both, this makes a great gift for a neighbor! You could cut the dough recipe in half, but I haven’t actually ever done that myself, so I wrote the recipe as I’ve always made it. Yeast doughs can be finicky, so I didn’t want to mess with what I’ve always done. Common toppings for this include maraschino cherries and nuts, but I usually leave off the cherries and just serve it with a simple glaze and plenty of butter.


Swedish Tea Ring
Yields 2 Tea Rings
Slightly Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1972

Traditional Sweet Roll Dough (Dough recipe yields 2 tea rings)*

2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
½ cup lukewarm milk
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking spray or butter for greasing

Add the yeast to a large bowl. Pour in the water and stir until the yeast dissolves. Add the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, butter, and 2 cups of flour. Mix until smooth. Add in the remaining flour until the dough is easy enough to handle.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or countertop. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.) Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, then turn it so the greased side is up.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until double in size. (In the winter in my house, I usually turn the oven on about 300 and then place the dough near the oven. Otherwise, my cold house makes it take forever to rise.)

Punch down the dough and divide it evenly in half.

* If you don’t want to make two tea rings, you can also use the other half of the dough to make cinnamon rolls or other breakfast treats!

For the tea ring (these amounts are for 1 tea ring)

½ recipe of Traditional Sweet Roll Dough
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts (optional)

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 15x9 inches. Spread the butter all over and sprinkle on the brown sugar and cinnamon. Then add the raisins and walnuts (if using).

Roll the dough lengthwise, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal it. You can also use a little butter to glue the edges together.

Grease a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Shape it into a circle, stretching it to make it even and then pressing the ends together to seal (glue with butter if needed).

With a scissors, make cuts ⅔ of the way through the dough, about 1-inch apart. Gently turn each section on its side. Cover and and let rise until double, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the tea rings for about 20 minutes.** Drizzle with vanilla glaze (recipe below) and serve warm with butter.

**We usually make the tea rings a few weeks in advance and then underbake them slightly (baking time is about 16-18 minutes). Then we defrost the tea rings in the fridge the night before and reheat in a low temp oven until warmed through.

Vanilla Glaze (this is enough for 1 tea ring)

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of whole milk (depending on how thick you like the glaze)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle on the warm tea ring.


Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser

I meant to post these muffins around Thanksgiving when, if you’re like me, you’re swimming in leftovers. But as maybe you can relate, the holiday craziness seemed to appear out of nowhere and suddenly trips to the post office, last minute errands, and making cookies for my kids’ preschool party became both urgent and important tasks. Freshly baked muffins don’t usually qualify as urgent—but hey, still important, right?

Thankfully, cranberry sauce is simple to make even when leftovers are long gone. I’ve also made this muffin recipe using the good ‘ol store bought stuff from the can, although I recommend buying the “whole berry” cranberry sauce instead of the jellied version. (Did anyone else’s grandmother serve the jellied version on a serving dish in the exact shape of the can? I usually buy a can every year and serve it like that in her memory. It’s funny how the random quirks can make such an impression.)

Anyway, here you go: freshly baked muffins with warm spices and festive cranberry sauce. I also highly recommend a generous pat of butter for serving, for obvious reasons.

What are you baking this time of year?

Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser
Cranberry Sauce Muffins | Sarah J. Hauser

Cranberry Sauce Muffins
Yields 12 regular-sized muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
¾ cup prepared cranberry sauce*
1 Tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a regular sized muffin tin, or use paper muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and butter.

Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. It’s okay if there are lumps. (If you overmix, the muffins get tough.)

Spoon about half the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Add a spoonful of cranberry sauce on top, distributing the sauce evenly between all the muffins. Top with the remaining batter and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm with butter and enjoy!

*Note: I have also made these using jam, but in my opinion they turned out too sweet. I like the tartness the cranberry sauce brings. If you do use jam, I suggest decreasing the amount and skipping the turbinado sugar.