If you’ve ever watched The Barefoot Contessa, you know that Ina Garten often prepares her favorite foods for her husband, Jeffrey on her show. In fact her latest cookbook is called Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook . I never really thought about the fact that most of my cooking is done for someone else, mostly for my husband now that the girls have moved out. Sometimes I cook for friends, taking items to parties and book club. Sometimes I cook for extended family when I host them at our house. Sometimes I even cook for myself, but the majority of my cooking is for Chip.
If you follow my blog, or know me personally, you know by now that Chip is a high-maintenance eater. Due to digestive problems, he does not consume gluten, dairy, corn, soy, or pork. There are some fruits and vegetables that don’t agree with him, either, but for the most part he eats beef, poultry, fish, seafood, rice, and potatoes. I’ve had to get rather creative over the past several years to accommodate this diet. The good thing is he is not allergic to anything, so I don’t have to worry about him dying if he gets a little dairy now and then. And, to be completely honest, he cheats on his self-imposed diet occasionally, but for the most part he tries to stick with it, or he’ll have to deal with the consequences.
I try to keep items in the fridge that he can eat and snack on, and I found that Chicken Salad is a great snack for him. It’s satisfying and made with lean protein (chicken breast) as well as pecans and celery for some crunch and grapes for a little bit of sweetness. He likes to eat this on gluten-free rice crackers, like Nabisco Good Thins, or he’ll eat it straight out of the bowl with a fork. I like that it’s easy to whip up and keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days (but it usually doesn’t last that long before he’s polished it off!)
I like to use fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast when I make this. I usually cut 1 or 2 breasts into large chunks and boil it in chicken broth on the stove until tender and then shred it with a fork. I have also used left-over chicken to make it, which is a great way to use up leftovers and not let them go to waste. The chicken will be difficult to shred if it’s cold out of the fridge, so just dice it up into chunks. Another option if you are in a pinch is canned chicken breast meat (found near the canned tuna in the grocery store). The only problem with this stuff it is tends to be quite salty, and many of the grands at modified food starch to it (which is a corn product and not in Chip’s diet). Look for “all natural” or organic brands if you go the canned chicken route, and be sure to reduce or skip the salt all together in the dressing.
Speaking of dressing, when it comes to mayonnaise, try to use a good quality mayo. I know most folks in the south are Duke’s fans, however Dukes, as well as most brands, has soybean oil in it, which is also not in Chip’s diet. Some brands of mayo contain modified food starch or even corn syrup, so reading labels is a must for me. The brands I stick with that are “Chip Friendly” are Earth Balance Mindful Mayo, Primal Kitchen – Avocado Oil Mayo, and Hain Pure Foods Canola Mayonnaise. I typically make more dressing than I use. I stir in a little, then add more until it is the right consistency and has the right flavor. Sometimes, if the chicken is dryer, it will need more dressing than if it is moist and juicy. If you end up with extra, you can keep it in the fridge for a few days and use it on salads, sandwiches or as a dip for chicken tenders.
I know everyone has their favorite version of chicken salad – some people like pickle relish in it, some like to add curry powder for flavor. This is my standard recipe that I’ve used throughout the years, and has become a family favorite. Hope you enjoy it!
Theresa’s Chicken Salad
2 cups shredded cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced red grapes
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 green onion, finely sliced
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons honey
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons almond milk (or regular milk)
1 teaspoon fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried
black pepper to taste
Toss the shredded cooked chicken, celery, grapes, pecans, and green onion in a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar and salt in the apple cider vinegar, the whisk in the mustard and honey. Next, whisk in the mayo until smooth, then slowly drizzle in a little almond milk until the consistency is of a thick but pourable salad dressing. Stir in the dill and pepper; taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Pour half of the dressing into the chicken mixture, and gently stir, then add additional dressing until the chicken salad is of desired thickness. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 4 days.