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!

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. 

Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini

Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini

The alarm clock on my phone rings, and I hit snooze for the first of several times. I’ve never been very disciplined about getting out of bed right away. Despite the previous night's vow to wake up before my kids, I reluctantly crawl from beneath the covers only when I start to hear, “Mama! Mama!” from the next room.

Today, fortunately, the calls for mama are interrupted by laughter. My two-year-old twins jabber to each other about something hilarious, but in a language unknown to me. I leave them to giggle and chat for a few more minutes, giving me a chance to put on clean clothes and spray my hair with dry shampoo (an innovation I should have embraced long ago). Then we hit the ground running—or waddling in my case, being eight months pregnant.

I change one diaper, then the other. We head downstairs, a migration which lately includes nearly all their stuffed animals—Bear, Sloth, Gorilla, and the rest of Noah’s ark. I fill my favorite white and gray mug with coffee and make my kids a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. They (usually) inhale it contentedly, although some days they suddenly deem such a breakfast inedible. I snag bites of their leftovers in between sips of coffee before wiping the worst of the mess off the floor (a feat that’s getting more difficult as my pregnancy progresses), and we’re off to do whatever the day has in store for us.

Sometimes the days feel chaotic. There are more spills, more cries, more clawing at my legs, more inexplicable fussiness. Other times, I aimlessly wander through our daily rituals, not stopping to give them much thought. I like routine. I crave structure and schedules and plans. But those ordinary moments can easily blend together like one homogeneous block of time, and the routine starts to feel too...routine.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini-2.jpg
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini
Strawberry, Basil + Goat Cheese Panini

Full post and recipe instructions can be found at Coffee + Crumbs!

Fig, Prosciutto + Goat Cheese Panini

Figs. For some reason, I have been obsessed with them in the last few weeks. I snagged a package at Trader Joe's not long ago, and now all I can think of are fig recipes. I've enjoyed them roasted with a spoonful of mascarpone, with yogurt in the morning and on top of cornbread. You may even see a fig-based cocktail coming to the blog soon. Yup, obsessed. 

Before a few weeks ago, I had only ever made a handful of fig recipes, and most of them called for the dried version. This season for me, it's all about fresh. Fresh figs have a rich sweetness to them that I absolutely love. The texture is almost creamy, with a bit of crunch from the seeds. 

This recipe calls for figs to be paired with goat cheese and prosciutto. The sweet and salty combination is perfection. Just as important, though, are fresh basil leaves. This recipe could easily become too rich, but the basil helps to perfectly balance that out. Add to that the crispness of grilled bread, and you've got one heck of a sandwich. 

Fig, Prosciutto + Goat Cheese Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

1-2 fresh figs, stems removed and sliced
3-4 slices of prosciutto
Goat cheese
A few fresh basil leaves
2 slices bread (I prefer a crusty white bread)
Olive oil

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

Layer the goat cheese, figs, basil and prosciutto onto the bread. Cook in the panini press (or grill both sides on a grill pan) until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.