Or as Nick calls it: “Healthier Than It Tastes” Coconut Curry Chopped Thai Salad
Yesterday was the first day of fall. I love fall. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t? It’s pretty much perfection: the cooling temperatures, evening walks in a light sweater, the bustle of going back to school, and of course the gorgeous fall colors (one perk of moving from Colorado to Ohio). And let us not forget the scents of apples, cinnamon, and pumpkin streaming from every bakery, every coffee shop, and my very own kitchen. I think there’s no season with as distinctive flavors as the fall, or as many delicious and signature dishes as this time of year. It makes my little baker heart sing with joy!
Proof in point: When I realized that yesterday was the first day of fall, I immediately had an urge to bake. I NEEDED to make these killer caramel bars. Just…because. Because it’s fall. What other reason do you need, man?! So I packed my 2 kids into our car and ran to Kroger to buy a bag of caramels. Of course, before I could actually get to making the dessert, we had to go play outside in the PERFECT weather, enjoying the sunshine…and all of a sudden I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to summer yet!
Luckily, I’d planned a perfect summer meal for dinner. You see, we’ve had Nick’s mom in town helping with the kids for the past 2 weeks. It’s been great, and having another adult around to help out all day has been SUCH a blessing. But it also meant that we ate GOOD. I made good food, she made good food, and we sampled some of the best local food around. We did Skyline Chile, Graeter’s ice cream, my mother-in-law’s favorite burger joint (just a ¼ mile walk from our house – best burgers I’ve EVER had. Not exaggerating. Just living within walking distance of this place has to boost our home value by 10%. At least. Location, location, location), and a local chicken joint that we thought was a lot of hype, but was really quite good.
But, as we often do after vacations/visitors/other times when we eat VERY well, VERY rich, and VERY lots, we felt like we needed to purge. And for us, purging means eating meals consisting of mainly vegetables, fruits, and all of those uber-healthy trendy grains like quinoa and chia.
So in an effort to “purge” this week (and to reengage in my stalled post-baby weight loss), I planned to try a couple tasty-looking salads. As I was mixing up the marinade for the chicken for a Thai salad with cabbage, I happened across another recipe on Pinterest for a similar salad, but with more veggies (including kale – hello, superfood!) and a coconut milk curry dressing. YUM! So mid-recipe, I switched recipes. (Have you ever done this? Ridiculous! I think I need help…I have issues…) I was headed to the store to get a couple things I’d forgotten for the original recipe anyway, so I picked up the few ingredients I didn’t have for this new recipe and off I went!
Since I’d already had the chicken for the first recipe started, I added it to the coconut curry salad, and I’m so glad I did! It added a nice texture to the salad, as well as some lean protein. Maybe it’s heresy to use a sesame-ginger-soy-sauce-based chicken in a coconut curry salad, but it worked deliciously!
My husband got home from class early, so while he enjoyed a few moments of perfection downstairs, I was upstairs in the kitchen happily cutting up a whole bowlful of delicious healthiness.
It makes for a GORGEOUS dish, both before and after you stir it up! It just looks like summer. The colors are bright and beautifully contrasting. It has a great combination of the crunchy kale and cabbage with the tender chicken, and the sweet mango is a MUST to contrast the earthy kale and smoky curry dressing. I think I could have doubled the amount of mango in there (if it weren’t out of season and definitely NOT on sale right now).
I used to eat like this a lot before I got married. Then I met Nick, and he introduced me to butter, whipping cream, cheese – and God bless him for it. 🙂 When I do make a super-healthy meal like this and ask him how it is, I know he’s not super fond of it when he responds, “It tastes…healthy. Very healthy.”
But as we quickly made it to the bottom of the salad bowl, and he said, “It’s really good,” I asked, “Does it taste ‘healthy’?”
“Yes, but not TOO healthy.” Translated: 2 thumbs up. Even from a non-health nut.
There you have it, folks. Healthy, but not “too” healthy. Delicious. Super-food-y. Recipe and instructions below.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp finely minced ginger
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 can low-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
- 1 clove garlic
- Juice of 1 lime (or ~2 Tbsp)
- 1-2 teaspoons sriracha (depending how spicy you want it)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 2 cups chopped napa cabbage
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1-2 cups chopped mango (I vote 2!)
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
For the Chicken:
Place chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag. Combine 7 remaining ingredients to make marinade. Pour over chicken in bag; seal, and rub the marinade all over the chicken. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day.
To cook the chicken, heat a grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the grill, and grill each side for 5-10 minutes, until juices run clear. Remove from grill, let sit for 10 minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces. Place in refrigerator to cool until ready to combine with salad.
For the Dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients (I whizzed them together in my Blendtec for 5-10 seconds). Pour into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Turn down to low, and simmer until reduced and thickened, 10-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the Salad:
Chop all vegetables. In a large salad bowl, combine veggies, chicken, and dressing to taste (I found I didn’t use quite all of the dressing and it was still fairly heavy). Toss to combine.