Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ideas for vegetarian substitutions are welcome.

in this economy, it certainly hopes to cut corners wherever one can. one of the most effective ways to do so, while reaping other benefits as well, is in eschewing ordering out or going out to eat. in this spirit, i will attempt to pepper my regular recommendations with interesting or self-created recipes to help you, beloved readers, live a more financially prudent life through financially prudent meals. and so, my devoted followers, i present to you the first installment of the recession gourmet: thom's snappy chicken salad (in search of a snappy name). i should add that ideas for the snappy name are also welcome.

chicken salad is a summer picnic staple. unfortunately, it is also boring. so, when i was looking for things to make and bring to work for lunch, and had tired of both salad and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, i started to think of what else i could make and also inject my own personal touch. after a couple of experiments with different flavor combinations and ingredient ratios, i think i have hit upon a formula which represents an interesting diversion from your usual deli/lunch fare.

i start with a large can of swanson chunk chicken meat. yes, canned food in general is pretty disgusting, and i'm sure it would taste better to use fresh chicken, but it's more than i want to deal with and frankly, it's probably more cost-effective to use the canned stuff. once you have the other ingredients mixed in, you no longer get that weird canned-chicken smell and look. next, chop up a stalk of celery and throw it in. crush a fistful or two of pecan halves and throw them in; toss in a handful of craisins. (obviously, i am not very exact with my measurements. i firmly believe that this is the one and only correct way to cook anything that isn't in a book or printed on the side panel of a box.) chop up/dice about 1/3 of a medium-sized apple and toss that in, as well. you can skin the apple if you'd like, but don;t feel obligated. i generally prefer to use granny smith for this; today i tried it with an organic gala, and it was good, but i feel like the tartness of the granny smith adds a nice accent that was missing from my sandwich today.

once you have mixed together all of the solid ingredients, mix in some light mayonnaise (i tend to use hellmann's, but any brand should do; and if you are one who fears the "light" label on foods, let me assure you i can detect no taste difference between regular hellmann's and light hellmann's). any pretense of even estimating measurements goes out the window at this point; add just enough to evenly coat all of the solid ingredients. with all of the fruit and nuts that you added, it will likely take lots of turning with a small fork to make sure it is all evenly coated.

voila! you have just created a quick, easy, inexpensive, colorful, and tasty chicken salad that should feed you for about a week, depending on the size of your sandwiches. speaking of the sandwiches: here is what i have determined to be the ideal way to prepare them with this chicken salad.

first, the bread choice. oatmeal bread is good, but lately i have fallen completely in love with this apple honey oat bread that i have found at wegman's. this particular bread is manufactured by wegman's, and i am unaware of any nationally-available equivalent, so you may want to search around, or simply find your own favorite alternative. spread some apple butter on one slice of the bread; i like to use the clearbrook farms brand, which has a nice texture and a robust flavor to it. on the other slice of bread, lay a bed of romaine lettuce. spoon out some of the chicken salad onto the romaine, then sprinkle liberally with ground black pepper. and there you go. when all is said and done, it costs less than $2.00 per sandwich, since a little bit goes a long way with all of the fruit and vegetable ingredients. it is reasonably healthy - more so than whatever fast food you were going to get on your lunch break, anyhow. and if i may say so while still maintaining my usual modesty, it is a really interesting, unique combination of flavors.

i'd be interested in knowing if anyone tries this, and i'd ESPECIALLY like to know of any modifications anyone makes to the recipe! today, i tried something different; i tried to temper the more traditionally autumn flavors of the apple and cranberries by placing slices of strawberry into the sandwich. it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. in the end, i think it was just too many different flavors at once, and the strawberry really didn't have a complement. but if you try something else and have success with it, please let me know!


  1. really? wow, thanks. personally, i thought it was pretty sloppily written and kind of sub-par in general. but i'm glad you enjoyed it! hopefully i'll be making some more recession gourmet posts in the near future, and i'll be able to make them more vegetarian/vegan-friendly.


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