Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grilled Chicken Southwestern Chopped Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

I'm sure you know this, but salads do NOT have to be boring!!  On the contrary, it seems that the more stuff you pile on there the better.  I learned that from my mom, who makes the most amazing salads with lots of colors and textures.  So lets see... The star of the show would have to be the sliced southwestern-flavored chicken breasts strips, which top a bed of romaine lettuce, shredded red cabbage, carrots, and a little coleslaw mix. Topping that are the beautiful colors of the season, with vine-ripened grape tomatoes, sweet summery corn and black beans, sweet peppers, green onions, and big bold cilantro.  Of course I threw in some goodies with a blend of monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, and some colorful tortilla strips for crunch.  It's essentially the rainbow, on a plate!  Now of course you could top this all off with ranch dressing or something... but NO!  We are going to make a cool Creamy Cilantro Dressing that will blow your socks off, from a base of Greek yogurt!  Yep.  Stay with me here.  Ready-set-go!

Now this may look like a long list, but you just dump it all together!  This salad would be perfect for bringing to a family reunion, a work party, neighborhood block party, etc.  You could even layer it in a trifle bowl for a pretty presentation.  Just be sure everything is well drained so it will be crisp.  And let everyone dress their own at the end, so you won't wilt the salad beforehand.  Of course you can cut down the amount and have a killer salad to bring to work for yourself, too!  And as always, feel free to change it up any way you want to.  One of the joys of cooking is that you can make something how YOU want to!

Click here for a Printable Recipe 

Salad Ingredients:
  • 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage 
  • 1 cup shredded carrots strips
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 cup canned corn niblets, drained
  • 1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup coleslaw mix
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed and rough chopped 
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 2 (6 oz packages) Southwestern Grilled Chicken Strips
  • 1 cup Monterey jack/cheddar cheese blend
  • 1 cup colored tortilla stips
  • optional - 1 packet of taco seasoning
Creamy Cilantro Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder 
Method:
Let's do the dressing first.  Then we can stick it in the fridge so all the flavors can marry together while we do the salad.  Or the dressing could obviously be made up ahead of time.

For the dressing - Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Give it a whirl until smooth and creamy.  Adjust seasonings as you desire.
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil (I used 1/8 cup canola, 1/8 cup olive oil)
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp plain table salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
 
Here is the final dressing.  Smooth, cool, creamy, but BOLD!  I will put it in a dish, covered, and refrigerate it until I want to dress the salad.

Now for the Salad -
Really, you just dump it all together.  Nothing more complicated than that.
1 large head of romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup canned corn niblets, drained
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup coleslaw mix
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
Add in the freshly "snipped" cilantro and green onions.  We find it easiest to do this part using kitchen shears. 

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed and rough chopped
Don't forget the green onions.  (there's no photo for this.)
Just look at how beautiful this is going to be!
12 oz chopped, cooked, southwestern seasoned chicken breast strips
Now we are adding the final touches... the 1 cup Monterey Jack/cheddar cheese...

... and the crunchy tortilla strips!  I also added a packet of Taco bell taco seasoning. Rather than seasoning it with a bunch of salt, pepper, cumin, etc. Of course this is optional.  Now stir it up!



Add the dressing when you are ready to serve your salad.  Add a wedge of lime to add to the plate as a splash of freshness!
Note - If you are making this to take to a function, or just for eating later.  Keep the dressing separate!
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Here are a few more lunch options on the lighter side, but still delicious!
Dill and Sun Dried Tomato Cucumber Rolls

Cajun Chicken Salad

Toasted Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Cranberry Pecan Chopped Autumn Salad

Creamy Grape Salad



Friday, June 21, 2013

Southwestern Eggrolls with Avocado Ranch Dipping Sauce

Well YeeHawww Y'all!  I have LOVED these Southwestern Eggrolls from Chili's for years.  I know they are technically an appetizer, but be honest - who among us has not said (at least to themselves) "I wish I could just eat these for my main course!"  These are lots of veggies in them, as well as chicken, and the taste is big and bold as Texas!

This recipe makes a lot, so it's either perfect for a party, or for having leftover eggrolls in the freezer for YOU at another time!  I like those options.  :)  I know it seems like a long list, but have you ever looked inside those things?  They pack a LOT of goodies into a small space, and that's what makes them so delicious.  And a lot of this stuff is stuff you probably have in the house already.  Throwing it all into a big bowl and mixing it is pretty simple.
Ingredients: 
For the eggrolls - 
  • 2 (6 oz) packages of "Grilled and Ready" Southwestern chicken breast strips, diced
    • or 2 cups of chopped, cooked chicken seasoned with southwestern flavors
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced chives (or green onions)
  • 2/3 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained (with the water squeezed out)
  • 2 Tbsp diced, canned jalapeno peppers
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 medium sized flour tortillas ("soft taco" sized)
Avocado-ranch dipping sauce -
  • 1/2 cup prepared guacamole 
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk ranch
Garnish - 
  • 2 Tbsp chopped tomato
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 Tbsp chopped red onion
Step-by-Step:
Prep - Do yourself a favor, and chop, dice and slice EVERY thing before you start.  After that, it's just a matter of throwing it all together and wrapping them up!  I am saving several steps here by using pre-cooked chicken strips that are already seasoned with southwestern spices.  You could certainly cook your own chicken, or even use leftover cooked chicken. 
2 cups cooked, southwestern flavored chicken strips
To a large skillet, add the vegetable oil, and saute the red bell peppers over medium high heat for a couple of minutes until tender. 
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
Add the chopped chives and diced, cooked chicken to the vegetables and saute until hot. 
2 Tbsp minced chives (or green onions)

To this, add the corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the spinach separates and gets mixed well into the other ingredients, then turn off the heat.
2/3 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained (with the water squeezed out)
2 Tbsp diced, canned jalapeno peppers
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley


1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp table salt
Add the cheese to the hot ingredients and stir until all the cheese melts. Now the filling is ready.
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese


If your tortillas are really stiff, you may need to heat them first. To do this, wrap them in a clean moist cloth and microwave them from about 30 seconds. But mine were really soft, so I didn't do this.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling into the center of a tortilla. 
Fold in each end, then roll up the tortilla. Try to roll it tightly. I used a toothpick to stick it together afterwards. Let it "rest" on the seam. Repeat this process with the remainder of the tortillas and filling. 




Arrange the eggrolls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for a few hours. I have read that overnight is best, but I couldn't wait!
While the eggrolls are freezing, make the avocado-ranch dip. Just combine the ingredients into a bowl. Then pop it into the fridge until you are ready to make the eggrolls.
1/2 cup prepared guacamole
1/2 cup buttermilk ranch

When you are ready to cook the eggrolls, remove the eggrolls from the freezer and heat up your oil. You may need several cups of oil, depending on how wide/deep of a pot you use. Heat the oil to 375 degrees F. I clip a candy thermometer to the edge of the pot to let me know when this temperature has been reached.

Deep fry the eggrolls in the hot oil until golden brown. This may take a while, since we froze them. Remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a couple of minutes.

Slice each eggroll on the diagonal and arrange them as you desire on a plate around a small bowl of the dipping sauce. Optional - garnish the dipping sauce with your chopped tomatoes, a little red onion and chopped chives.

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Here are a few random bonus recipes to intrigue you.
Cajun Crawfish Bread

Stuffed Peppers

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Penne

Fire Roasted Corn Guacamole

Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli
Peanut Butter Cups - Just like Reese's

Written Method:
Prep all ingredients first.  Then, to a large skillet, add the vegetable oil, and saute the red bell peppers over medium high heat for a couple of minutes until tender.  Add the chopped chives and diced, cooked chicken to the vegetables and saute until hot.  To this, add the corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until the spinach separates and gets mixed well into the other ingredients, then turn off the heat.  Add the cheese to the hot ingredients and stir until all the cheese melts.  Now the filling is ready.

If your tortillas are really stiff, you may need to heat them first.  To do this, wrap them in a clean moist cloth and microwave them from about 30 seconds.  But mine were really soft, so I didn't do this.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling into the center of a tortilla.  Fold in each end, then roll up the tortilla.  Try to roll it tightly.  I used a toothpick to stick it together afterwards.  Let it "rest" on the seam.  Repeat this process with the remainder of the tortillas and filling.  Arrange the eggrolls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for a few hours.  I have read that overnight is best, but I couldn't wait!  

While the eggrolls are freezing, make the avocado-ranch dip.  Just combine the ingredients into a bowl.  Then pop it into the fridge until you are ready to make the eggrolls.

When you are ready to cook the eggrolls, remove the eggrolls from the freezer and heat up your oil.  You may need several cups of oil, depending on how wide/deep of a pot you use.  Heat the oil to 375 degrees F.  I clip a candy thermometer to the edge of the pot to let me know when this temperature has been reached.

Deep fry the eggrolls in the hot  oil until golden brown.  This may take a while, since we froze them.  Remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a couple of minutes.  

Slice each eggroll on the diagonal and arrange them as you desire on a plate around a small bowl of the dipping sauce.  Optional - garnish the dipping sauce with your chopped tomatoes, a little red onion and chopped chives.

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