Asian Chicken Salad with Sesame-Soy Vinaigrette

asian chicken salad

I love ordering the Asian chicken salad when I go to Cheesecake Factory. My husband makes fun of me for ordering a salad when we go out to eat, but this one isn’t just a sad, cold pile of iceberg. It has such great texture and flavor, and it feels special.

I wanted to recreate an Asian chicken salad to prep for workweek lunches, and this one fit the bill beautifully. The chicken adds protein, the peanuts give great crunch, and the Mandarin oranges round out the mostly umami dish with welcome sweetness.

But…it took me a few tries to get the vinaigrette right. The Cheesecake Factory’s Asian chicken salad dressing is plum sauce-based, but I didn’t want that much sugar in mine. I prefer a dressing that’s a bit more on the savory side—especially if I’m eating it for lunch all week.

The dressing I made has just a bit of light brown sugar for sweetness, but relies largely on soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and apple cider vinegar to up the flavor ante. Feel free to adjust the dressing to your liking (I personally like a more acidic dressing, so add more olive or sesame oil if that’s your jam.)

To make this salad even speedier, use leftover rotisserie chicken. Make it vegetarian by opting for pan-fried tofu or shelled edamame.

Asian Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bag coleslaw mix (about 6-7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 can Mandarin oranges in water
  • 5 scallions, diced
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup neutral olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Whisk together last 8 ingredients in a bowl. 

  2. Toss lettuce and chicken together in dressing. Top with oranges, chopped scallions, and peanuts. Serve immediately. 

Curry-Mustard Sauce

curry-mustard sauce

Have y’all ever heard of Chicken Kitchen? It’s a fast-casual restaurant known for its chicken “chop chop salads”—bowls made with chicken, rice, black beans, and veggies. Chicken Kitchen has plenty of sauces to choose from, but my favorite was always their curry-mustard sauce. Pollo Tropical has a really similar version that’s also super delicious. Since I live in Alabama, there are no Chicken Kitchens or Pollo Tropicals near me.

I know, I know, it’s really sad. And I’ve had a massive curry-mustard sauce void in my life since I moved here from South Florida. But, alas, I’ve found the next best thing: making it myself at home.

The curry-mustard sauce combo sounds a little weird, but if you think about it, curry and mustard pair beautifully together. Mustard and curry powder are often used together in Indian cooking, and they’re absolutely delicious over meat, in stews, or in curry.

This curry-mustard sauce is no exception. I like to spoon it over DIY chicken chop chop salads or roasted veggies (carrots and sweet potatoes are divine). If you’re on the fence about trying this sauce, it only requires three ingredients and about 30 seconds of your time (so, um, not much investment). But I promise, it’s so easy and delicious, you’ll want to make it again and again.

Curry-Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp mayonaise (I like Duke’s Original)
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and refrigerate for up to a week. 

Easy Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Walnuts

easy cranberry sauce

Much like politics and religion at the dinner table, cranberry sauce can be divisive among families on Thanksgiving. I find that you’re either team “love it” or “hate it”, and there’s really no in-between. Unfortunately, I kind of fall in the latter camp. But I still make it every year for my dad from scratch. I say “from scratch”, but this easy cranberry sauce takes all of 10 minutes—and like four ingredients—to make. And since this sauce is more zesty than tart, if you’re on the fence like I am, you may be able to switch to the cran-loving dark side.

Even though I’m not a *huge* fan of cranberry sauce, I absolutely love making it. It’s so fun to watch the little berries pop and release their gorgeous juices. If you have kids, this is something they can definitely help you make on Thanksgiving. And, oh my God, it makes your kitchen smell divine. You’ll never want to buy a can of that jellied mush again after making this easy cranberry sauce.

Here’s how to make it:

Easy Cranberry Sauce With Orange and Walnuts

This easy cranberry sauce is so delicious, you may even be able to convert the cran sauce haters in your family this Thanksgiving.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 orange (zest and juice)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil until cranberries begin to pop and release their juices.

  2. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in walnuts, and remove from heat. Cool and serve.

Crab-Corn Chowder

crab and corn chowder

I stumbled on a recipe for crab-corn chowder in the November issue of Weight Watchers Magazine (it’s similar to this one). Needless to say, I was intrigued. Chowder is one of my favorite dishes, but it can be super heavy. All of that butter and heavy cream is really delicious, but not exactly diet-friendly!

Cold fall nights require something hearty and filling, so I was excited to try the Weight Watchers version. But, honestly, I thought it fell a little flat. It needed some extra pizzaz, so I adjusted the recipe slightly.

I’m sharing my version of crab-corn chowder here. I think you’ll really dig it. The addition of Old Bay seasoning and crab claw meat, plus the smattering of fresh chives really punches up the flavor and takes it to the next level.

Crab and Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, leaves and fibrous ends removed, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 (10-oz.) bags frozen corn kernels
  • 8 oz. crab claw meat
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chives, snipped

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer (about 1-2 minutes). Add diced onion and celery, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Do not let garlic brown.

  2. Add flour, and slowly add milk and half and half, scraping the little brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

  3. Add corn and simmer for 8-10 minutes until soft.

  4. Add soup mixture to blender and pulse a few times until chunky (be careful with hot soup, and open blender vent and cover with towel, if possible).

  5. Add soup mixture back to pot. Let simmer for additional 5-6 minutes. Add crab meat, and stir until combined. Serve immediately. Garnish with chives and drizzle with half and half. 

 

Spanish-Style Braised Chicken Drumsticks

spanish style braised chicken drumsticks

We got a Le Cruset 5.5-quart Dutch oven for our wedding. It was one of my most-coveted items on our registry, so I really wanted to make something special the first time we used it. (Real food people will understand my weirdness about this). I took a chance developing a recipe for the first time in my Dutch oven. I’d never made this type of dish before, but these Spanish-style braised chicken drumsticks turned out great.

This dish is super savory and perfect for crisp nights—the fall-off-the-bone meat and stewed vegetables really warm you from the inside out. Bonus points if you sop up the extra sauce with rice or a side of patatas bravas.

Since there are just a few ingredients in this recipe, you want to make sure they shine. At the risk of sounding like Ina Garten, make sure you’re using high-quality chicken, real garlic cloves, and good olive oil. Trust me, good ingredients make a big difference.

Spanish-Style Braised Chicken Drumsticks

Low and slow is the name of the game here. Chicken drumsticks get braised in a flavorful Spanish-style tomato sauce that makes them fall-off-the-bone tender.

Course Main Course
Keyword chicken drumsticks, spanish chicken
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. skin-on chicken drumsticks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 320. 

  2. Pat drumsticks dry and add generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper all over the meat.

  3. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to a large Dutch oven (I used my 5-quart Le Cruset), and heat on medium-high. When olive oil begins to shimmer, add drumsticks. 

  4. Cook drumsticks until skin is browned on all sides (this should take 3-4 minutes. Your chicken should not be cooked, you just want the skin to get crispy). Remove chicken from pan. 

  5. Swirl remaining olive oil in pan. Add chopped onion and green pepper, and add a small pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Cook over medium-high until softened (about 5-6 minutes). 

  6. Once softened, add in garlic and tomato paste. Scrape any brown bits on the bottom of pan (that's where you get the good flavor), and add in your chicken broth. 

  7. Add chicken drumsticks back into Dutch oven, turn off heat, and cover with a lid. 

  8. Place into 320 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.

  9. Turn the heat up to 400, carefully remove lid from Dutch oven, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Serve with rice, patatas bravas, or a side salad.