My love connection with the perfect chicken salad began when I was a child.
The lunch counter at McKnight Drugs on the square in downtown Garland made to-die-for chicken-salad sandwiches. In my earliest experience with take-out food, my mother would call McKnight's and order three chicken-salad sandwiches on toast with a dill pickle spear on the side of each.
My mother would drive me to the square, deposit me on the curb, plant some crisp dollar bills in my hand, and send me in to pick up our "to-go" lunch for that day. The sandwiches would be wrapped in waxed-paper squares held in place by a toothpick. Once at home my mother, my daddy, and I would slowly savor each delectable bite of this inimitable meal.
Ever since then I've been on the hunt for the perfect chicken-salad recipe.
My search ended a few days ago when I tried a recipe for Orange-Chicken Salad. No way it even compared to that of McKnight's, but it was a most unusual, interesting twist on a great summertime staple and featured garden-fresh green beans to give it special appeal. The recipe, from Family Circle magazine, long ago was clipped and ever since has been languishing in the "someday" pages of my summer recipe album. Worth the wait, I must say!
I loved the addition of the fresh green beans, spinach, and mandarin oranges (you could substitute fresh oranges that had been peeled and sectioned, with the white membrane removed.) Although doing so is unnecessary, I doubled the ingredients for the dressing and opted to used sugar-free maple syrup to keep the sugars at bay. With some slices of fresh cantaloupe on the side Orange-Chicken Salad made for an ideal summer dinner.
McKnight Drug is long since closed on the square, its owners retired, and has given way to the location for a storefront church in its old corner of the square in what is now known as Historic Downtown Garland (I'll be having a book signing three-doors down at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, in The Generator), but I never stroll by that section of downtown without remembering my beloved chicken salad.
I'm glad I found Orange-Chicken Salad, made with healthy, garden-fresh ingredients to help preserve that memory.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (5 ounces each)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 2 1/2-inch segments
1 bag spinach
1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained, juice reserved
(you can sub sections from fresh oranges)
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons reserved mandarin orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Place chicken, broth, and garlic powder in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to simmer. Cook until chicken is done, about 10 minutes. Add beans during last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove chicken to cutting board. When it is cool enough to do so, cut in small chunks. For dressing, stir together sour cream, reserved orange juice, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and hot-pepper sauce. Add spinach and toss entire mixture. Scatter chopped almonds on top and serve. Makes 4 servings.