Carrie’s “Empty the Fridge” Chicken Salad

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.

chickensaladThis 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
  1. Marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing for a few hours, or up to overnight
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 and bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet
  3. Let the chicken cool, then shred or chop into bite size pieces
  4. Combine chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, celery, red onion, basil, Parmesan, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Taste and adjust any ingredients as you see fit.
  5. Add pine nuts right before serving to keep them nice and crunchy.
  6. Serve on toasted bread, over a bed of lettuce, or as a snack with crackers.