I could get lost strolling through farmers markets and small local specialty grocery stores. Upon entering the market, I enjoy strolling around, looking for new produce to mark the beginning of their season, and admiring the beauty of the bounty. Plants and their fruit are so beautiful, and the markets know how to display their vibrant, mix-match colors creating a landscape like the composed dots in a pointillist painting. I go to the market with a shopping list and an idea of what I want, but I can be easily swayed by the texture, color, and shape of the fruit and vegetables enticing me to take a closer look.
My inspirational browsing does not transfer to the supermarket. The stacks of pre-packaged fruits and vegetables greet me at the entrance., immediately making me defensive. No lingering allowed, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The costumer is encouraged to grab and go, not to examine and select. Ironically it often takes me longer to shop at the supermarket, despite the design for speed and efficiency. My focus concentrates on what I absolutely need, while my inner thoughts say, “Damn, this is what I have to choose from?” Then, I must hunt for the perfect food.
The supermarket may call the pre-packaged produce as “Grab and Go,” I call it wasteful and a rip-off. There is no need to encourage me to spend more money, I do a pretty good job at that already. All I want is fresh food at a reasonable price, that is ripe, flavorful, and I can select as I please without the extra waste.
I will be honest, I procrastinate going to the grocery store. It is a lot easier to procrastinate now that there are only two of us living under one roof. There are times when 5:30 rolls around after a day of work and I realize that there is nothing planned or prepared for dinner. On these days, leftovers and a well-stocked pantry come to the rescue. I do plan for leftovers and count on them often. As my dependence on leftovers grows, I am more insistent about keeping sneaky fingers from grazing or helping themselves to seconds.
When I was a kid, a dinner of leftovers was a sentence equivalent to eating the dregs scraped off the bottom of the pan. Mom enthusiastically announced leftovers for dinner, which we answered her with groans, rolled eyes, and exasperated reactions. I vaguely remember my own children giving me the same reaction as well, but it was possibly more directed to the number of times we had chicken for dinner. “Chicken! Again! Can’t we have something different for a change? Why must we always have chicken? Ugh. ”
How to make Grilled Chicken Salad with Leftovers
Leftovers do not have to be the dregs if there are some fresh vegetables available. Last night’s dinner gets new life with fresh produce. My inspiration for this leftover meal came about because I had more avocados than I knew what to do with, some homemade yogurt that I am in love with, and enough leftover grilled chicken to stretch into a salad for two. The avocado and yogurt dressing was inspired by a recipe of Mark Bittman’s of which I added a tomatillo and poblano pepper, (the leftovers from another meal). Avocado, tomatillo and poblano chili pepper make a perfect marriage of complimentary flavors for salad dressing or salsas.
Look in your fridge and pantry, hidden inside are some forgotten gems of produce and proteins ready to use for an easy impromptu dinner or lunch. These easy dinners are quickly prepared in 30 minutes or less. No dinner tantrums or doldrums with this fresh take on leftovers. You never know, an inspired leftover meal could become a family favorite.
What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?
What to do with your leftover avocado?
Avocado toast on whole grain bread with a poached or fried egg.
My standby lunch, an open-face sandwich with avocado, salsa and cheese, melted under the broiler.
Or, make the dressing for a composed salad with grilled chicken, lettuce, avocado, and blueberries as pictured below.
Inspired Leftovers: Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado Yogurt Dressing
Salads are a great way to use up leftover servings of grilled meats and extra produce. The yogurt avocado dressing sets this grilled chicken salad apart with its bright, tangy and creamy flavors. Crunchy vegetables like cucumbers and radishes add a crisp bite paired with the soft and chewy grilled chicken. Adding fresh strawberries or blueberries changes this salad from ordinary to extraordinary.
Serve the salad with greens like arugula, spinach, Boston bibb lettuce, or romaine lettuce lightly dressed with your best quality extra virgin olive oil and flaky sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Or make into a sandwich with your favorite bread.
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
- 2 grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 scallions
- 4-5 springs of cilantro chopped
- Avocado Yogurt dressing
- 2 large handfuls of cleaned fresh spinach
- Fresh blueberries or strawberries optional
Yogurt Avocado Dressing
- 1/2 Haas avocado
- 2 -3 TB plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 small tomatillo peeled and chopped
- 1/4 of a poblano pepper -seeds and stem removed and chopped
- 1/2 of a shallot minced
- 1 garlic clove
- Juice of one lemon and zest of half a lemon
- Kosher salt to taste
Grilled Chicken and Cucumber Salad
Chop the grilled chicken breasts in to bite size pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. Place the chicken in a medium mixing bowl.
Cut the half of cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice each of the 4 seedless sections in each half lengthwise to create 8 long cucumber wedges then cut the cucumber wedges into 1/2-inch chunks. Add the cucumbers to the mixing bowl with the chicken.
Cut the root off the scallion and cut into thin slivers, then add to mixing bowl.
Trim the cilantro leaves from the long stems and gather the leaves into a tight pile, holding the pile together with your non-working hand. Cut across the cilantro pile to mince the cilantro. Add cilantro to mixing bowl.
Mix all the ingredients together until evenly combined.
Avocado and Yogurt Dressing
Place the minced shallot in a small bowl and add the juice of half a lemon to the bowl. Let the shallots macerate in the lemon juice for a few minutes.
Peel the garlic clove and remove the green germ from the center. Mince the garlic then add to the lemon juice and shallots.
Scoop out the avocado meat from the peel and add the avocado to a food processor. Then add 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt to the avocado along with the chopped tomatillo and chopped poblano pepper, along with a pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 teaspoon, and lemon zest. Turn on the food processor and process the ingredients until combined.
Add the orange juice and scallion, garlic and lemon juice mixture to the avocado mixture. Turn on the processor and blend until the dressing is smooth. Taste and correct the seasoning to suit your preference. Add the remaining lemon juice and a little salt if you think it is needed.
Blend in the food processor until desired consistency.
Putting in all together
Pour half the avocado and yogurt dressing in the bowl with the grilled chicken and cucumbers. Stir until well combined. Taste the salad and add more dressing as you desire. I have used all the dressing on one occasion and three-quarters of the dressing on another. (If you have any leftover dressing, use it as a dip with chips or vegetables, that same night, as a light and easy appetizer before dinner).
Arrange the salad on a plate with a handful of fresh spinach. Drizzle the spinach and chicken with your best quality of extra virgin olive oil and a few fresh berries.
Serve immediately. Best eaten the day it is made.
This recipe can also be made into a composed salad with the yogurt avocado dressing served on the side. Slice the grilled chicken into strips and place them on top of crispy lettuce. Arrange with slices of avocado with blueberries and other vegetables of your choosing. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
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