I enjoyed every single minute of the time I spent in the restaurants of Chicago. I ate any and everything that my heart desired without thinking about the consequences. Somehow, I was able to justify it in my mind with the excuse of, I live on an island with limited resources (a.k.a. restaurants), and therefore, now that I am in a big city I should take advantage of it and eat anything I want. And as you can imagine, the variety of restaurants in Chicago did not disappoint and helped me rationalize my justification even more.
It was all good until on the last day of my trip when I realized that the jeans I thought I would wear on the long flight back to Virgin Gorda were tighter than usual. So much so that sitting without opening a button (or two) was not an option. It was obvious that I put on some weight, but I had no idea how much. I conveniently switched to sweat pants and decided to worry about it when I get back home.
I was pretty scared to get on the scale and face the reality on the first morning after my return trip. The whooping 5 pounds difference that it revealed was shocking, and quite frankly, unexpected. I knew that I had gained weight, but did not think that it would be 5-pounds.
Clearly, it was time to get back to normal and eat wholesome-homemade, portion & ingredient-controlled meals. So this Kale Chicken Waldorf Salad was a start for my journey to eating healthy again, and hopefully loosing the 5-pounds I gained in Chicago.
About the recipe:
In my version of this classic salad, I added my twist to the original recipe to make it healthier. As you may know, the original Waldorf salad is made with mayonnaise. Although I love mayonnaise, I knew that it is not considered as a “healthy” ingredient. So I switched it with my recent favorite salad dressing made with unsalted cashews and ripe avocados.
I think cashews are awesome, because after being soaked for a couple of hours (or overnight) and processed in a food processor, they become a creamy base that results in a texture similar to mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream. It has a very mild nutty taste, which makes it like a blank canvas that you can paint in any way you want.
Since I was going for a mayonnaise-like texture with sour and salty taste, I choose to flavor it with a ripe avocado, freshly squeezed lemon juice, unsweetened almond milk, and salt and pepper. After mixing it with the kale & curly lettuce mixture and letting it marinate in the fridge for a little while, it ended up being so delicious and flavorful that I could just eat it by itself.
The rest of the ingredients are pretty similar to the original version; apples, celery, walnuts, and fresh red grapes. However, instead of using grapes as they were, I used a technique I learned from Tyler Florence’s new book, “Inside the Test Kitchen“. Come to find out, roasting grapes in a little bit of olive oil in a skillet on the stovetop for 8-10 minutes (while closely supervising) brings out their flavor, making them even sweeter. I could not agree more. At the last minute, to make it meat-loving-husband friendly, I added some leftover chicken breasts that I had in the fridge. Though if you are looking for a vegan alternative, feel free to omit the chicken.
Kale Waldorf Chicken Salad with Cashew and Avocado “Mayo”
For the Cashew & Avocado “Mayo” Dressing:
- 1 cup unsalted cashews soaked overnight
- 1 1/2 ripe avocado cut into small cubes
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1- teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk plus more if needed*
For the Kale Waldorf Chicken Salad
- 2 bunches 5-6 cups of kale- washed, drained, and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of curly lettuce- washed drained, and roughly chopped
- 2 +2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 2 cups seedless red grapes on the stem – gently washed and pat-dried
- 3 stalks of celery chopped thinly
- 1 fuji or honeycrisp apple peeled & cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup of leftover chicken such as 2 slices of roasted chicken breasts
- 1 cup walnuts lightly toasted and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- Coarse sea salt
- To make the cashew & avocado “mayo” dressing: Drain the cashews and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add in the cubed avocado, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process 15-20 seconds until it turns into a paste. Pour in the almond milk through the tube and process until it reaches to the consistency of mayonnaise.
- To make the salad: Place the thinly chopped kale and curly greens in a large salad bowl, pour the mayo dressing over, and mix until all leaves covered with the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap, let it marinade in the fridge while you are getting the other ingredients ready, 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet in medium heat. When it is hot, add the grape clusters. Toss gently to make sure that grapes are covered with the oil (you do not want them to stick to the pan). Cook while turning the grapes every so often, until they start bursting, 8-10 minutes. Let the grapes cool for 5 minutes before removing the grapes from their stems.
- To assemble the salad: Place the grapes, celery, apple, chicken, and walnuts into the salad. Gently toss to make sure that they are equally distributed throughout the salad.
- Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.
- Toss and serve.
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The “Kale Waldorf Chicken Salad” recipe is loosely adapted from Tyler Florence’s “Inside the Test Kitchen“.