Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Northwoods Chicken Salad (plus a vegan version)

I grew up in Minneapolis, and there's a fabulous grocery store there called Byerly's.  This recipe comes from Byerly's and it utilizes the Minnesota state grain, wild rice.  Wild rice is grown in Minnesota and Canada, and is native to North America.  This delicious grain was a staple of the Chippewa and Ojibwa Indians.  It's low in calories; one cup of cooked wild rice contains only 130 of them.  It also contains more protein than other types of rice and  has potassium, B vitamins, fiber, and Vitamin E.  Wild rice can be a bit pricey, so I order mine online in a big 5 pound bag from Wilderness Family Naturals.  It's cheaper this way and the big bag will last awhile.  This online source offers either "Conventional Parching" or "Hand Parched" wild rice.  Last time I purchased the "hand parched" variety, which cooks quicker than the conventional.   You can find wild rice in any grocery store as well.  This salad is one of our favorites.  I'll serve it with muffins for a complete meal, and even my husband Mike is happy.  Make it the day before and you've got a delicious, healthy meal waiting--great for those days when you know you won't have time to make dinner.  Kinsey often takes this salad to school for lunch.  One of her friends asked to try it and reported, "well, it looks funny but it tastes great!" 

1 cup uncooked wild rice
5 1/2 cups chicken broth
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 chicken breast, cooked, cooled, and shredded
3 green onions
1/2 red pepper (though I usually use the whole thing)
2 oz sugar or snow peas (cut into pieces)
2 avocados
1 cup cashews

Place rice and broth in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then adjust to a summer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes (the hand parched will cook quicker).  The grains will start to split open and you want to make sure they're completely cooked--slightly chewy and soft.  If you need to add more liquid, just add some water.  Line a colander with a towel and drain.  Rinse well.  Transfer to a bowl and toss with lemon juice while still warm.  Cool.  Add chicken, onions (which I usually leave out), peppers and peas.  Toss with dressing.  Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.  Just before serving add avocados and cashews.

2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar or agave nectar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil

Combine all in a food processor or blender.

Vegan Version:  This is equally as delicious!  And you just need 2 simple substitutions.  First, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth or vegan chicken broth.  Second, replace the chicken with a product called Gardein.  This is a miracle product developed by a Canadian named Yves Potvin.  It looks and tastes like chicken, but is made completely of vegies and grains.   Kinsey and Mike both like it, which makes me happy since they are both so-so with other vegan meat substitutes.  Gardein comes in lots of varieties, but for this you want just plain tenders.  You can get them in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods (different varieties of Gardein are also sold in the freezer section). Buy the plain tenders, prepare as directed on the package (basically you just pan-fry them for a few minutes on each side).  Then when they've cooled, shred them and add to the salad in place of the chicken.  Trust me, this is totally delish!

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