Salsa Chicken Salad: the lowdown
I think it's pretty unanimous that salsa is a favorite in most households. It's cheap, it's delicious, and it's healthy. It checks all of the boxes.
When I was in high school, I was going to a Cinco de Mayo potluck. I had no clue what to bring (someone was already providing guac, aka my go-to). My mom suggested bringing the meat for the tacos. Okay. We were doing this.
Ever since then, my mom's method has been my favorite way of doing what I like to call "salsa chicken".
So let's start with what you'll need. First, chicken. I am a new meat eater (I was pescatarian for about five years; more on that another day). So, being a new meat eater and someone who is very cautious of her carbon footprint, I always opt for the most local/organic/sustainable of products, notably meat. Although it sometimes means paying a few extra dollars, considering the negative impact meat has on the environment, it is well worth it. For this recipe, I opted for organic, free-range chicken thighs from Kroger. Kroger isn't the leader in sustainability by any means, but this girl is living on a serious about-to-graduate-college budget.
Next, salsa. I grabbed a jar of organic chunky salsa and called it a day. Because this salsa is going to be mixed with greek yogurt, it's best to go with chunky so you don't have a big, soupy mess. I used AtlantaFresh plain greek yogurt. If you're local to Atlanta, this is the best stuff around. While I am a big proponent of organic -- local and grassfed is so much more important (and is normally organic, but without the expensive certifications). Buy local, folks.
For this recipe you will also need: quinoa, cilantro, green onion, romaine lettuce, lime, avocado, and the vegetables of your choice.
So, Lori Barbee's method of salsa chicken. Boil those bad boys. Yep, you read that right. Bring a pot of water to a boil, put your chicken in, add a little garlic powder, and boil for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
While your chicken is boiling, get started on your quinoa. Add your desired amount of quinoa to a pot with double the water-to-quinoa ratio, put it on high, and when it starts boiling, lower it to a simmer. This sounds a lot like rice, except the total cooking time is normally only fifteen minutes, and quinoa packs quite a punch when it comes to protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
While your chicken and quinoa are cooking, chop up your green onion, cilantro, lime, avocado, romaine, and anything else you deem fit for this play on a taco salad.
After your chicken is finished cooking, let it cool a bit, and then use two forks to shred it. I absolutely love shredded chicken. I am not sure why, I suppose it is a texture thing - but shredded chicken is the way to my heart. After shredding your chicken, add the salsa and greek yogurt. While my mom normally uses sour cream, I tend to opt for greek yogurt because of the incredible health benefits that local yogurt has on the body. Plus, greek yogurt tastes almost identical to sour cream, making it an easy substitute. Combine this mixture until the chicken looks like it's sitting in a sauce.
Now for the veggies. I have a thing for frozen vegetables. There are a lot of misconceptions about them, but let's get one thing straight: these guys are a nutritional powerhouse, sometimes even more so than fresh vegetables. This is because frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of their freshness, and then quickly flash frozen. This means they were also picked at a time when their nutrition was at a high and then frozen with all of the goodies left in tact. For this recipe, I used a combination of frozen cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, zucchini, and squash. I steam them in the microwave to keep things low maintenance.
Once everything is finished cooking, pile it all together. While I used a plate in these pictures, I would definitely recommend a large bowl so everything can mix properly without the mess.
Garnish with cilantro, green onion, and lime. Serve with tortilla chips on the side (my current favorite is Late July Organic's lime and sea salt).
There you have it, folks. A low maintenance, cost-effective, and healthy take on taco salad. Enjoy with the windows open and a cold beverage. Unless you're allergic to the outdoors this time of year like me - in that case, keep the windows shut. Happy eating!