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Okay, so the temperature is climbing here…already.  While my friends back in Michigan are dealing with a late-season snowfall (hopefully their last!), I’m trying to figure out how to keep the electric bill low and still stay cool. What a difference 2000 miles makes!

Mark and Brendan are pretty non-picky eaters – they generally scarf down whatever I make.  Fortunately for them, I don’t blow it very often.  😉  But I’m now on the hunt for cooler recipes that won’t heat up my kitchen in the summer and won’t make us break a sweat while we’re eating.  My favourite food in the entire world is soup, but I’ve never really found a cold soup that I like.  I think I like soup because it’s warm and a comfort food to me, so cold soup is just… meh.  I might try some this summer just to see if my tastes have changed over the years, but it likely won’t be a regular dish.

And salads rock, but I typically go for pasta salads when the weather changes and I need to branch out.  Enter last night’s fare:  a mock-up of Applebee’s Asian Chicken Salad.

Mark declared it delish and nearly licked the plate clean.  We were both satisfied and not hungry later, which was a bonus. Dinner salads are an art, in my opinion, and need to have the correct proportions of protein to roughage to make them filling.  Which makes me think that I need to find my recipe for Maurice Salad, a dish that Michiganders know from the Hudson’s restaurant.  Hmmm….

Anyhow, I cheated a bit because I was crunched for time and used canned chicken.  In the future, I will plan a Newman's Own: Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing bit better and pan-sear chicken for this salad.  But this also worked.  The dressing was Newman’s Own Sesame Ginger Dressing, although in the future I will likely fashion something after my mom’s recipe (which is included below).

I also sugar-toasted the almonds for the salad – if you’ve never tried this, it’s a MUST. It’s easy and adds a delightful crunch and slight sweetness to the salad that’s heavy on tangy spice (from the dressing).

I layered the ingredients last night; in the future, I will dress the lettuce and chicken chunks together, plate that, dot with mandarin orange slices, almonds, sesame seeds, and crunchy chow mein noodles.  I think the dressing would be better distributed this way, and the add-ons will add a texture and flavour that’s outside the dressing.

Because there are layers to the salad, the directions are also layered:

Sugar Toasted Almonds
  • ½ c. sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3 T. cane sugar

Use a small skillet and turn the heat to medium.  Place the dry sugar and the almonds in the pan, stirring frequently as they warm.  You’ll eventually see the sugar begin to liquefy from the heat – stir rapidly at this point, covering all the almonds in the sticky sweetness.  If you let this go too long, you will burn the almonds and sugar – and that’s just not tasty.  So watch carefully.  When the almonds are coated and you see a small amount of light brown colouring on them, remove from heat and cool on a plate.  They will crunch-up as they cool.

Asian Ginger  Salad Dressing

If you choose not to use Newman’s Own, this is a very tasty alternative

  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. sesame oil (the darker, the better)
  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T. cane sugar
  • 1/2 t. grated ginger
  • 6 T. bland oil – olive oil is great if you have one that’s nearly flavourless

Shake these ingredients in a cruet or mix with a stick blender for better emulsion – it will separate eventually, though.

Asian Salad, ala Applebee’s
  • your choice of lettuce – I like green or red leaf lettuce
  • 1-2 cans of mandarin oranges (or pineapple also works), chilled
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, pan seared and diced, chilled
  • sugar-toasted almonds
  • crunchy chow mein noodles
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame-ginger dressing

Toss the lettuce (roughly torn) and chicken with the dressing and plate portions.  On top of each salad, dot with your choice of fruit (orange slices or pineapple), sesame seeds, almonds, and chow mein noodles.  Serve cold – simple as that!  :)

I’ll hunt down my Maurice Salad recipe, make it (just to make sure it’s still tasty, because I’m self-sacrificial like that!), and provide photos and the recipe in the future.

Bon appetit!

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