Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad


Oh, hi! Anyone here? It’s definitely been a minute!

This salad is one of those things that I have been meaning to share for a LONG time. We make this on repeat in our house from about the time that blackberries first start re-appearing in the stores in the spring through fall grilling season. Why? It’s easy. Healthy. Delicious. Simple. And it makes just enough for a lunch salad serving for each of us the next day. It’s even better once I can start using my basil from my little vegetable garden.

The recipe originally came from emeals, and I’ve made a few changes but have mostly stayed true to the original simple ingredient list. I don’t love arugula in large amounts, so I usually buy a small pack and mix it with spinach or other salad mixes to spread it out a bit. My only other change, as above, is increasing the ingredients to make 4 salads. Enjoy!


(Printable Recipe)

Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad
Adapted from emeals

1 pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1-1/2 pounds)
1 (5oz) pack of arugula
1 (5oz) pack of spring mix
2 pints of blackberries, washed
1/2 cup chopped basil
6 oz can honey roasted almonds (I don’t use the whole can)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Panera refrigerated Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Preheat your grill (or heat a pan over medium-high heat). Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts and grill until cooked through. Allow them to cool, then slice.

Divide the salad greens between plates (or containers if you are saving some for lunches). Chop the basil. Divide the ingredients between each salad. Top with dressing and serve.

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad


This salad. I have been obsessed with this summery salad since it first debued at Panera. Berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and grilled chicken. I’ve tried for years to re-create it at home. Even posting a similar one here, although I never have been able to get the dressing quite right at home.

So, you can guess how excited I was a year or so ago when I found the Panera poppyseed dressing in the refrigerator section at Target (note: I can also buy it at Kroger, although it is usually slightly less expensive at Target).


I now have the hubbs hooked on it too. I’m not kidding when I say we ate this weekly until we had to retire the grill for the winter. Now that the warmer weather is creaping back and berries are creaping back into the stores, we’ve picked that habit back up. It is now at the point where I prefer our homemade version — we add WAY more fruit!

The recipe is pretty quick and easy. Washing berries, draining the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and grilling the chicken. We use a variety of berries depending on store sales/which ones look better, but the traditional is strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You’ll notice blackberries replacing the blueberries in this photo. Use whichever berries you like! As for the salad, you can cut up an entire head of Romaine lettuce or you can buy the pre-mixed salad mixes. We honestly do both depending on the time we have available. You could even use pre-grilled chicken to make this a layer and go type of dinner.



(Printable Recipe)

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Panera/The Cookin’ Chemist Original

1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce (or other pre-mixed greens), washed and chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 (6 oz) pkg. rasberries, rinsed
2 (6 oz) pkg. blueberries, rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pineapple tidbits (or pieces), drained
2 (8 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. feta cheese
Panera Poppyseed Dressing

Preheat the grill. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Grill until cooked through. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice.

Divide the salad greens between 4 plates (we usually do 2 plates and 2 bowls for lunches). Top with the berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and feta cheese. Top with the sliced chicken. Add dressing in desired amounts.

Thai Cashew Chopped Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing


So, remember that Sweet Thai Chili Peanut Butter from Sprelly. This salad was the recipe I finally picked out to use it. I didn’t end up making the pad thai as I was having a hard time getting over fish sauce. Silly? Possibly. I just can’t get my mind over adding fish sauce to anything. Have you smelled it by itself?

But this? This salad and the dressing were both awesome. In fact, we had enough salad for 4 meals, but only enough dressing for two. My husband was eating it with a spoon. That said, I am excited about the possibilities for this recipe. It was fresh. Light. Simple. Fast. Sounds like the perfect summer meal, and I’m sure we will end up making it all summer.


The salad itself is just chopping vegetables. I did use actual heads of romaine lettuce, but I’m sure you could swap out prepared salad mix to make it slightly quicker. I mixed the dressing in a small bowl using just a whisk, but you could probably also add this to a blender (or even a smoothie cup) if you wanted to make it easier too.

If you never use ginger, my tip is to buy a piece and freeze it. Then when it is time to make the dressing, you can just peel it and use it on a microplane while frozen. My last tip. Don’t skip the salted cashews (and the salt is key)!



(Printable Recipe)

Thai Cashew Chopped Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
From The Recipe Critic

2 heads Romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
15-20 sliced baby carrots
1/2 cup frozen edamame, thawed
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup salted cashews

Ginger Peanut Dressing:
1/3 cup sweet thai chili peanut butter (see Sprelly)
2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
water to thin (I used about 2 Tbsp)

In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, honey, ginger, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients through the green onions. Toss. Top with the cashews and dressing.

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad

bruchetta smothered chicken salad

Do any of you have specific ingredients that often predict what you will be making/eating? Those items that you cannot get enough of and automatically make an item included in your dinner or menu plans?

I have several – kalamata olives, caramel, roasted red peppers, butterscotch chips. I could give a few more, but as you may have guessed balsamic vinegar is pretty high on my list. Enter this smothered chicken recipe by Iowa Girl Eats. Truthfully, this has another ingredient both the hubbs and I cannot get enough of – tomato, basil, and garlic bruschetta from Trader Joes. They sell both a fresh and canned version, and both are awesome. We end up eating this bruschetta topping on toasted baguette slices at least once a week. Not kidding. Layer those with some avocado, chicken, and mozzarella cheese and you have this recipe.

bruchetta smothered chicken salad chicken cookingbruchetta smothered chicken salad close

The recipe itself is pretty simple. If you have never reduced balsamic vinegar, it is possible to burn it. The recipe states it takes about 20 minutes, but you probably should keep and eye on it and stir it a few times during that down time (not that I would know anything about burning the vinegar). This can be done ahead of time, making the recipe a great choice for a busy night. I cooked my chicken breasts on a grill pan, although they could be prepared in anyway you would like. Now that it’s officially spring, I am thinking the outdoor grill would be nice. Layer the cooked chicken with your toppings, slide it under the broiler, and you’re ready to eat. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

1 cup balsamic vingear
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until even thickness
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato, basil, garlic bruschetta topping
1 avocado, sliced
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, fresh or grated will work fine
baby spinach

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer until the vinegar is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the oven rack in the top position. Preheat the oven to broil. Warm a grill pan and warm over medium-high heat. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts and cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Can also bake or grill the chicken breasts if desired.

Spray a small baking pan with nonstick spray. Add the chicken breasts to the dish. Spread the bruschetta topping over each chicken breast. Top with a few avocado slices and mozzarella cheese. Place the dish in the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Plate the chicken over a bread of spinach. Split any remaining avocado slices between the plates. Drizzle the chicken and spinach with the reduced balsamic vinegar and serve.

Cheeseburger Salad

cheeseburger salad

By far, the most popular day at our work cafeteria is taco Thursdays. They make both normal tacos and taco salads served in those big, fried taco bowls. I typically bring my lunch to work, so I have yet to participate in taco Thursdays. Nevertheless, if you would sit outside the cafeteria, I would bet almost every single person walking out of that cafeteria has one of those big bowls. While those taco salads may be delicious, part of the reason that I have not yet indulged is just that. With all the meat (which I doubt is lean), cheese, and the fried bowl, I’m sure those salads are far from health food. 

From tacos to cheeseburgers, doesn’t seem like too far of a leap up the “healthy meter” but hear me out. Lean ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, whole wheat homemade croutons with no heavy dressing. May be a little higher in sodium due to the condiments and pickles, but not so bad after all. 

cheeseburger salad with homemade crutons

This salad is actually adapted from recipe that I saw on Ree’s site The Pioneer Woman. In the two weeks since I first noticed the recipe online, we have already made it twice. The second time requested specifically by my husband. It is that good. Almost better when I reassembled the leftovers for my Thursday cheeseburger salad lunch 🙂 Enough said. Enjoy!

cheeseburger salad further out

(Printable Recipe)

Cheeseburger Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

2 large whole wheat rolls, cut into 1-inch pieces
Butter-flavored non-stick spray
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
1 lb. lean ground beef (93 or 96%)
3 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and torn
1/4 – 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
4 whole dill pickles, cubed
1/2 red onion, sliced

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray the pieces of bread with the non-stick spray and toss. Sprinkle with the garlic salt and parsley and mix. Spread the cubes on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes. Stir and bake for 15 more minutes or until brown and crispy.

Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. When cooked through, drain any fat from the pan. Add ketchup, mustards, and barbecue sauce and stir to combine. Keep warm.

To assemble each salad, divide the lettuce between plates. Layer on the meat, onions, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, and croutons. Serve immediately. The salad can be saved for lunch by storing the vegetables, croutons, and meat separately. Warm the meat up in the microwave just before eating, then assemble the ingredients.

Fruity Coconut Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Since September hit, I have been seeing a lot of fall-themed recipes across the blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I still love pumpkin, apples, soups, and stews, but I am not quite ready to give up on summer. The weather has been gorgeous here the past week since we’ve dropped to right around or just below 100 degrees for a high. It’s also been cooling off better at night – I actually saw a reading in the 70’s in my car on the way to work the other morning (granted it was 5:30AM). I haven’t been able to enjoy the weather on an outdoor run yet since I’ve been on call this week, but I assure you that I will be out there as soon as I can.

Since stone fruit and berries have still been on sale around here, I thought this salad was appropriate to share. The inspiration for this salad came from finding this berry poppy seed dressing on Our Best Bites. I am amongst the group that enjoys fruit in my salad, and I thought that the coconut chicken would pair well with the berries to make a great lighter meal. I didn’t have any pineapple when I made these, but I think that this would make a great addition to the flavors here.

One note, I actually ended up using chicken tenders rather than chicken breasts as that is what I had stocked in the freezer. Chicken breasts would work just fine. You may need to adjust the ratios of coating, and just be sure to cook them to the appropriate temperature as gauged by a meat thermometer. The dressing does need to be made ahead of time, but it can certainly be made the night before to help speed up the cooking process when it is dinner time. Overall, we ended up really enjoying it, and it’s definitely a recipe I will continue to make for as long as I can get my hands on good fresh fruit this fall 🙂

(Printable Recipe)

Fruity Coconut Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Viniagrette
Dressing recipe from Our Best Bites

3-4 chicken tenderloins
4 Tbsp. unsweetend shredded coconut (can use sweetened if preferred)
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
pinch of salt
1 egg white
6 cups preferred salad greens (we love spinach, but a lettuce mix would work well too)
1-2 cups berries – blueberries, strawberries (sliced), raspberries, blackberries
1 nectarine, pitted and sliced
fresh pineapple, chopped (optional – I think this would be a great addition!)

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. grated onion
1 tsp. kosher salt or other coarse salt
10 cracks of freshly ground black pepper (1/4-1/2 tsp)
1 cup raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries
2/3 cup canola oil
1-1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

For the dressing, combine the vinegar, honey, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and berries in a blender. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Turn off the blender and whisk in the poppy seeds. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

For the chicken, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Combine the coconut, panko, and salt; place in a shallow dish. Add egg white to another shallow dish. Dip the chicken in the egg white, then coat in the coconut mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Divide the salad greens and fruit between 2 plates. If desired, slice the chicken and add on top of the salad. Dress individual plates with the dressing. There will be extra dressing. It should keep in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 dinner-sized salads

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing

I am getting towards the end of my strawberry posts. One more in line for tomorrow, and then we can return to the typical variety of recipes that find their way to my site. When I was searching for recipes to use my strawberries, I noticed that there are relatively few recipes that use fresh strawberries in a savory nature. I am not sure why this is, but I knew that I needed to find some non-baked ways to use a few berries so that we didn’t end up with WAY too many baked goods.  

This recipe from Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod was my starting point. While I have heard lots of good things about spinach and strawberry salads, I had never tried one before. Many of them have a sweet poppy seed-like dressing and use the strawberries primarily as a topping, but I liked how Maria used a strawberry puree on hers. Knowing that strawberries pair quite well with balsamic vinegar, I adapted the dressing to include balsamic vinegar and added a little bit extra sugar to offset the tartness of the vinegar.  

The result. We loved it! We usually have a small salad prior to eating our main dish for supper, and this was a great way to switch things up a little bit. Since this was a spur of the moment recipe, I didn’t have any almonds in the house like Maria used, but I think toasted almonds would make a great addition to this salad. It would also be great with different fruits including other berries or mandarin oranges. If you are still looking for a last minute Easter side dish, this would make a great light addition to a dinner spread. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted if desired
2 ounces feta cheese

Strawberry Dressing:
7 large strawberries, cut in half
juice from 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1-2 tsp. honey (to taste)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the spinach in a bowl. Top with sliced strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese. 

For the dressing, place strawberries in a blender or food processor. Squeeze lemon juice into the blender. Add balsamic vinegar. Drizzle with honey to taste. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over spinach and strawberry salad just before serving. 

Yield: 4 servings

I am linking this to Saturday Swap

Mexicali Chop Salad with Crunchy Tortilla Strips

I’ve got quite the string of sweeter recipe posts going, so I thought it’s time that I posted more of a healthful, savory meal. I first noticed the recipe for this salad in an older issue of Vegetarian Times. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to pick recipes out of magazines while I’m sweating away at the gym. Good thing they don’t have TV’s at the student gym. If I start watching food network, I would really be in trouble =)

Anyway, after coming home and immediately looking the recipe up online, I’ve already made this recipe twice. Since it was in the July/August issue, it has more of a “summer flair” to it, but I can attest to the fact that it was still delicious in October. The second time, I even divided it up into lunch-sized portions (minus pre-packing the dressing) and enjoyed it all week. The recipe calls for you to make a simple homemade dressing, and it is absolutely my favorite part. It ties the whole salad together and gives it just a little kick. 

I made a few swaps to the recipe using black beans rather than pintos, halved cherry tomatoes, and fresh bell peppers instead of roasted peppers. It is definitely one of those meals where you can swap ingredients wherever you see fit. If you’ve been craving vegetable-packed meals like I have, give this a try! It only serves as proof that lower-calorie, healthful meals can still be filling, flavorful, and delicious!

(Printable Recipe)

Mexicali Chop Salad with Crunchy Tortilla Strips
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

Tortilla Strips:
cooking spray
3 6-inch corn or flour tortillas
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. lime juice
1/4 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
pinch cayenne pepper

8 c. romaine lettuce (1 head) or spinach
1 pkg. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, diced and seeded
1 c. fresh or frozen corn (thawed if frozen)
3/4 c. black beans
1/2 c. fresh red bell pepper, chopped (can use roasted)
1/3 c. finely chopped red onion

To make the tortilla strips, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the tortillas with non-stick spray and spread on a baking sheet. Combine chili powder, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the tortillas. Cut tortillas in half with a pizza slicer and slice into 1/8-inch wide strips. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. 

To make the dressing, heat the olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, sugar and salt for 2-3 minutes over low heat until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the lime juice, green onion, and cilantro and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (this can also be added to a stand blender if desired).

Toss together all salad ingredients. Layer tortilla strips on top of the lettuce mixture and top with the dressing. 

Yield: 4 (The original recipe says it serves 8, but those would be little salads. You will have extra dressing for only 4 salads).

Note: The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Chipotle, Lime, White Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad

Unfortunately, I’m finding myself in that area where I’ve worked down through most of my saved blog posts, and I find myself saving the ones that I do have so that I don’t run through them all in a couple of days. Right now, I am gratefully staying in the same place for a couple of months, so I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to work in a little bit more cooking because things have been a little sparse around here lately in both my cooking group posts and just regular blog posts =)

Ever since first trying quinoa early this summer, I seem to be on a quinoa kick. I’ve made these stuffed-peppers several times as well as this stir-fry, and I think I may be obsessed with finding new ways to use it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for this salad. The recipe comes from Jenny at Picky Palate. I’ve got tons of recipes bookmarked from her site. She comes up with some pretty creative and delicious looking recipes! In addition to that, my husband actually made this for himself for some easy lunches while in Arizona (he actually stopped to take the pictures too so that I could put it up on the blog). You can’t take it from me, but he says it’s pretty good.

So, if you’re still in the hunt for a salad to take to those Labor Day Weekend barbecues, give this one a try. You may just be the catalyst that causes someone else to find a new obsession =)

(Printable Recipe)

Chipotle, Lime, White Bean, and Corn Quinoa Salad
From Picky Palate

1 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. water or low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt with parsley
1 tsp. adobe sauce (from can of chipotle peppers)
1-1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 can (14 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 chipotle peppers, chopped
1/2 c. red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. green onions chopped (the green parts)

Rinse quinoa in fine mesh strainer. Place quinoa in a small saucepan with either the water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until quinoa has absorbed all the liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside uncovered.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime juice, salt, garlic salt, and adobo sauce. Pour into quinoa and mix in the corn, beans, cilantro, chipotle peppers, bell pepper and green onions. Cover and chill until serving.

Note: This is pretty spicy as written. Cut back on the chipolte peppers and adobo sauce if you like things a little more mild.

Summer Garden Couscous Salad

I actually can’t claim this recipe. This one was all my husband. He called me a couple weeks ago bragging about a recipe that he made from the newest Simple and Delicious magazine when it arrived at our house – I’m actually quite impressed that he read it 🙂 

Regardless of that, he definitely found a great recipe! We made it again while I was down there last weekend to take to a 4th of July barbecue, and I have to agree with him. It’s a great salad.  How can you argue with a salad full of summer’s fresh produce mixed with feta, couscous, and a lemon vinaigrette? I can vouch for the fact that it also makes a great lunch!

The only change we made was to substitute about half a package of thawed, frozen sweet corn for the fresh ears of corn. I just wasn’t able to find any corn that seemed like it was quite “ready” yet. Maybe as the summer goes on a little more? Mel has a great method for cooking corn on the cob here at My Kitchen Cafe that sounds great so I’m adding into the recipe. Check out her method! We also didn’t measure the tomatoes – just put in the whole package of cherry tomatoes. That’s the great thing about recipes like this – you could probably add a series of other veggies too. They can incorporate whatever you like. Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Summer Garden Couscous Salad
From Simple and Delicious, submitted by Priscilla Yee and My Kitchen Cafe for the corn

3 medium ears sweet corn, husks removed (or 1/2 pkg. thawed, frozen sweet corn)
1 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 c. uncooked couscous
1 medium cucumber, halved and sliced
1 pkg. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. chopped red onion
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Bring water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add a little bit of white sugar and a splash of white vinegar (maybe 1 tsp. at most for 3 ears of corn) and bring it back to a boil. Add the corn and bring to a boil one more time; cover, remove from heat and let the corn sit in the water for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, onion, and parsley. Drain the corn and pat dry; cut kernels from the cobs. Add to cucumber mixture. Stir in couscous.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Pour over the couscous mixture and toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until chilled.