Like many other people who are dealing with the less than stellar economy, Ben and I have tried to be more aware of what we spend, what we buy, what we waste, and how we can be a bit wiser with our money. My baking and cooking habits are a big part of our budget, so I have been trying to use what we have in the house as often as I can and making recipes revolve around those ingredients instead of finding a recipe that requires that I buy everything and use nothing I have on hand. I was proud of myself for using just 1 butternut squash in two recipes last week. This recipe was also a way to use what we had. It makes cooking more fun and makes me try things I would not have otherwise.
This chicken salad came about like many meals do for me; I had to either use some chicken thighs I had in the fridge in the next few days, or they would need to be thrown away. So, I made a decision to do something with them…that something was yet to be determined when I put them in a plastic bag to marinate in some Italian dressing that was almost empty. After an overnight flavor bath, I still had no plan. Well, I guess baking them would be a good idea. So, that’s what I did.
While they were cooking, I went rummaging in the pantry and fridge for some inspiration. Celery…onion…mustard…mayonnaise…basil…Parmesan cheese…pine nuts…Carrie’s Chicken Salad was born. I will say that the idea for the pine nuts was not my own. A sandwich place in College Station, Blue Baker, put pine nuts in their chicken salad and it was one of my favorite items on the menu. That and the Mediterranean pizza. I sure do miss that place. If you ever go for breakfast, you must get the spinach, egg and feta breakfast sandwich on a croissant. It is decadent, but will also keep you full enough to not need a big lunch. Ok, back to the matter at hand…
I wish I’d measured a bit better when I made this chicken salad so that I could have written an usable recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this would turn out that great so I just threw the ingredients together and didn’t bother trying to measure or remember how much of anything I used. The recipe below is a guess, at best, as far as measurements go…so, just go with your gut! The flavors are great together, so taste as you go and adjust as needed.
Carrie’s Chicken Salad
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 1/2 cups Italian salad dressing
- 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons whole grain mustard
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (or more if needed)
- 3-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- salt and pepper to taste
- Marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing for a few hours, or up to overnight
- Preheat the oven to 350 and bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet
- Let the chicken cool, then shred or chop into bite size pieces
- Combine chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, celery, red onion, basil, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust any ingredients as you see fit.
- Add pine nuts right before serving to keep them nice and crunchy.
- Serve on toasted bread, over a bed of lettuce, or as a snack with crackers.