This is my absolute favorite salad I’ve made this year. I picked up all the ingredients from the local Whole Foods and chose organic wherever possible. When I do salads, I don’t measure out the ingredients. Instead, I eyeball it. It’s not too hard to find the mix that works best for you. Start small with the strong ingredients (onions, for example) and taste test and add more if you like.
Here’s our mix:
Mixed baby spinach & arugula
Chopped red peppers
Sliced red onions
1/2 an avocado, diced
A heaping handful of cilantro leaves
Shredded sharp white cheddar
Cubes of chicken breast, baked in oil and cilantro dressing (I used one chicken breast for the size of salad shown) Cilantro lime dressing (made according to the recipe and heavy on the cilantro)
One of the best things about my winter in Arizona was that I had so many girl friends in town for coffee dates and afternoon walks and, most importantly, girls’ nights.
I hosted one big girls’ night dinner at my place and, since I was accommodating a variety of tastes, I went with something ethnic, but also classic:
Chicken Tikka Masala.
Also, homemade naan (because what Indian meal is ever complete without naan?).
For the Chicken Tikka Masala, I used this recipe, but I cut the onions down by about 25 or 30%.
For the naan, I used this recipe and cooked only enough for the meal, then reserved the rest of the dough and made and ate it throughout the next few days. I also added one last step that made a huge difference: when you’re mixing the dry ingredients, add about 1/2 a teaspoon (or more, to taste) of cumin and a small handful of chopped cilantro. It changes everything.
And just to shake things up and be a little crazy, we had chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
The secret to seeming like a really fancy chef (even if you don’t feel like you are) is making your own sauces and serving more than one at a time. Anything served four ways or three ways or two ways feels more impressive than a simple “here’s your chicken with pesto, enjoy.”
Which is why I chose this meal for my February date night. Each sauce and the chicken itself…all pretty simple. But when you put them together, you look like a kitchen rock star.
To make this as I did, you’ll want to start the night before (primarily to marinate the chicken, but you can also make the sauces a day ahead of time and then throw it all together quickly the next night).
Ingredients for each sauce and marinade are in the links below and you’ll also want to buy a jar of good jam (I used organic strawberry rhubarb, but most jams would probably work well here) and, of course, chicken breasts. I also served this with a simple salad, so if you want to copy my meal completely, grab some salad ingredients and start with that (mine was a spinach salad with some veggies, walnuts, cranberries, and a combo of soy sauce and oil as dressing).
Without further ado, then…chicken four ways:
First, prepare your chicken. I used this simple brown sugar and soy marinade and let the chicken sit in it overnight (in a ziplock bag) in the fridge. The next day (just before serving), I sliced the chicken into strips and sauteed it on the stovetop in its marinade with a little water added.
Since there were two of us, I only did three large chicken breasts (and it was plenty and we had two meals worth of leftovers).
Next, start on your sauces.
The first sauce is a homemade pesto (I used this recipe). It’s super simple…just grab a bunch of fresh ingredients, throw them in a food processor (or blender, which is what I did), and then put in a jar and refrigerate until the next day. I chose to do Romano cheese (mostly because it was the first thing I found in the store), but I’m sure the Parmesan version is just as good.
The second sauce is a fruity mango strawberry salsa made by following one of my all-time favorite recipes. This can also be made the night before and stored overnight in the fridge in a sealed container.
The second and third sauces both start with this whipped ricotta recipe. Start by whipping up the whipped ricotta according to the recipe, but don’t add the olive oil, lemon zest, and pepper just yet. If you are making this the day before, just store the whipped ricotta in a closed container in the fridge and finish the sauces off the next day. If you’re making it just before serving, you can finish off the sauces as described below.
Once you’re ready to serve up your supper, place strips of chicken breast (two to three, depending on size) in four places on each plate. Now, over one set of chicken breasts, spoon some of the homemade pesto. Over another, spoon the mango strawberry salsa. Over the third, spoon your whipped ricotta and now add (over that) some olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Over the final chicken serving, spoon some more of the whipped ricotta, but instead of olive oil, lemon zest, and spices, add a spoonful of good jam (I used organic strawberry rhubarb and it was a big hit).
Finally, apologies that I don’t have photos of my actual meal. The photos didn’t come out very well, but I didn’t want to deny you the recipes just because my photographic talent was taking the night off.