Pineapple Chicken Salad
A couple weekends ago Jeff and I went to Wrentham to do a little shopping. On the way there, we realized we hadn't bothered to eat breakfast before leaving the house and we were both hungry. I started thinking about where we could stop to grab a bite to eat when I remembered there's a Cracker Barrel at the entrance to the outlets, and Cracker Barrel serves breakfast all day.
Jeff teases me for liking Cracker Barrel because he thinks it's so not "me." I think because my family used to stop at Cracker Barrels whenever we went on road trips when I was younger, I have a special place for it in my heart. I have fond memories of wandering around the store (well, running to the restrooms first, as this was usually a pit stop on a long road trip) and checking out all the candy, t-shirts, and teddy bears. We'd often grab a bite to eat there before heading back out on the road. The food isn't high-end; it's good, old-fashioned comfort food, and it's consistent and reliable.
While I walked in thinking I wanted breakfast, once we were seated and I opened the menu, a picture of the Grilled Chicken 'n' Strawberry Salad caught my eye, and I immediately decided that's what I wanted to eat. Jeff stuck with the plan and ordered breakfast.
The salad came out as a large bowl of greens and romaine lettuce topped with chicken, canned pineapple, crumbled feta, and sunflower seeds. The strawberries, oddly, were served on the side and just halved and not well-hulled. The salad was supposed to come with country pepper vinaigrette, but they were all out, so I just got Italian.
I loved the idea of the salad and the salad itself was pretty good, but as I was eating it, I just thought that I could make it better, starting with replacing the canned pineapple with fresh.
So the next day, I wrote up a shopping list and gathered ingredients to make my own version of the salad to take for lunch that week. Whenever I make work lunches, I basically buy enough of everything to last me the whole week. With salads, because I don't want them to get soggy, I prep all my ingredients on Sunday, but then I throw together a salad each night or morning before work. The ingredients below are what you'll need for about a week's worth of salads. Use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like to craft your salad. This is meant to be more of a guide than a recipe.
Pineapple Chicken Salad (inspired by Cracker Barrel)
1 5-ounce package Olivia's Organics 50/50 Blend
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut in small chunks
2 chicken breasts, flattened, grilled, and cubed
1 16-ounce package strawberries, hulled and sliced (I like to slice the strawberries fresh each day)
1 6-ounce container crumbled feta
Honey vinaigrette (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
Combine 1/4 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small measuring cup. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons champagne vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoons honey. While whisking constantly, drizzle the oils into the vinegar-honey mixture. (Refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.)
Start with some greens.
Top the greens with some pineapple.
Scatter some chicken over the greens and pineapple.
Top with strawberry slices.
Sprinkle feta over everything.
Toss some sunflower seeds on top.
Just before serving, drizzle some of the honey vinaigrette over the salad. If transporting the salad to work, bring some dressing in a separate container.
I enjoyed my homemade version more than the Cracker Barrel version. Something about having that fresh pineapple in there really livened up the salad. And I'm starting to realize I might be a little obsessed with using Thomas Keller's honey vinaigrette in any salads with lots of fruit.
How do you plan out lunches for the work week?