Thursday, February 9, 2012

Walnut Crusted Chicken Salad

Between my restricted diet, living alone and having to pack lunches, I've learned that it's best to make dinners with leftovers that can be eaten in different ways. After all, if I make tacos for myself one evening, I'm bound to eat tacos or taco salad for the next four meals - I hate wasting food. Thankfully the boys at work are always willing to step in and finish my taco leftovers for me.

Last night, I made walnut crusted chicken. At the Blue Heron yesterday, Kristin had created a walnut crusted chicken salad with caramelized apples and bleu cheese dressing for a lunch special. When she served it, I couldn't help but drool. Luckily, I had all the every ingredient I needed for my interpretation already in my little pantry.

With a free night for both Trevor and I, it seemed fitting to make dinner at home. Especially since the night before included an 10:00p.m. dinner date at "Round the Clock Diner" where I ate a mushroom and swiss burger (without the bun, of course) and a copious amount of french fries. But gosh, were those fries good.

For dinner, I served the chicken on a bed of spinach (I made a resolution to eat more dark leafy greens!) with red skin mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. It seems that any dinner I make lately is accompanied by the same sides. Unfortunately, the potatoes started off too starchy, developed in to too salty and after I added cream cheese to cut the salt, neither Trevor or I wanted to eat them. But of course we did.

Knowing that I had to pack lunch for school today, I made sure to bake extra chicken for my own interpretation of the salad which Kristin had created. Though I'm no chef, and certainly not as talented as Kristin, the salad? It was delicious and so I thought I'd share. Oh, and the best part.. my version? It's gluten free.

To make the walnut crusted chicken above, you will need the following ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts - sliced in half
1/3 Cup of Chopped Walnuts
2 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan
2 Cloves of Fresh Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Large Egg White
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Coarse Salt (I use fresh ground sea salt, personally.)

For the salad, you will also need:

Fresh Spinach
Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 Hardboiled Egg
1 Tomato (I recommend on the vine tomatoes during this time of year.)
Additional Chopped Walnuts
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

To make your Walnut Crusted Chicken...

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (F).
  • Take two cloves of garlic and press them with the back of a wide chef's knife. Or if you are fancy and own a garlic press, go ahead and use it!
  • Place the two cloves of garlic in a food processor and chop them into fairly fine pieces.
  • Add 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons of parmesan to the garlic
  • Process all of these ingredients until everything is uniform in size - this will be the coating for your chicken.
  • (If you don't eat gluten free, feel free to add two slices of dried out bread before processing)
  • Dump the mixture into a fairly large and shallow bowl.
  • In a small dish, beat an egg white with a whisk until it is nice and frothy.
  • Next, take your chicken breasts and slice them in half down the center.
  • Take each breast and dip it in the egg white until it is covered.
  • Then, place the chicken in the walnut coating and make sure that it is covered on both sides. It sometimes helps to press the coating with your hand onto the chicken. This doesn't have to be perfect. You should have enough coating for four chicken breast halves.
  • In an ovenproof skillet (ideally one large enough for all of your chicken), add olive oil and heat over medium to high heat.
  • Place the chicken in the skillet and cook it for about 3 or 4 minutes until it is browned on the bottom side.
  • Grind fresh salt and pepper over the chicken breasts.
  • Then, using a spatula, carefully flip the chicken over in the pan and grind salt and pepper over this side of the chicken, as well. (Some of your walnut coating may fall off - once again, don't worry about it being perfect.)
  • Place the entire skillet in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes.
At this point, your chicken is finished and could be served for dinner with any sides that you choose! But if you are looking to create a salad with it, here's what I did:

If you haven't already hard boiled an egg, you should complete that step before working on your salad. When you're ready to start the salad, this is what you do:
  • Place the amount of spinach you need for your salad in a small glass bowl.
  • Drizzle the spinach with a small amount of honey - this helps to mellow out the balsamic vinegar.
  • Adequately cover the spinach with a balsamic vinaigrette. I love this one from Kraft, it's made with real olive oil! 
  • Using your hands, toss the spinach until its nicely coated. Feel free to add as much vinaigrette as you like on your salad.
  • Once you're done tossing, wash your hands - they will be sticky for the honey! (yes, I know that was a silly step but I was shocked when I was done tossing!)
  • Spread your spinach over a fairly large plate.
  • Slice the walnut crusted chicken (hot or cold, your preference), and place in the center of the salad.
  • Add tomato slices and hard boiled egg. Use as much of these ingredients as you prefer! 
  • Sprinkle the salad with parmesan cheese, chopped walnuts and fresh ground black pepper. 

Since I had baked the chicken and boiled my egg the night before, this salad only took five or six minutes to create. This makes it a quick, easy meal and a great packed lunch! You can also try creating this with different greens, with shaved asiago, with caramelized apples or you could even coat the chicken in pecans or almonds, instead! However you decide to create your salad, enjoy it! And know that you're taking the time to do something that's good for you, too - it will make your lunch even more delicious. Or, you could be like my mom and eat TV dinners. (I consider her post a win for me)

If you are interested in other easy to make, healthy and college-kid friendly recipes, check out The College Cuisiner, a blog by my friend Marisa. She posts recipes, different meals she has when out and about and.. as an added bonus, she's currently studying abroad in London, so you can get a glimpse of Europe and her travels, too!  

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