Luckily for me (and you, too, if you're sick of living in a polar vortex), March is National Nutrition Month and the theme for 2014 is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right," which is perfect for starting your spring off right by lightening up your favorite recipes with real California dairy products.
One of my very favorite ways to spend a spring afternoon (or lunch hour) is on a picnic blanket or park bench, with a chicken salad sandwich, a big bowl of fresh fruit and a good book. I prefer a nice breeze but it can't be TOO windy - there's nothing worse than trying to juggle a sandwich and a book while simultaneously keeping your picnic blanket down and your hair out of your face. Not that I know this from experience. Just speculating.
Chicken salad can be a wonderfully light, healthy snack when made the right way, but it is often laden with thick globs of mayonase, which is a total taste-killer as far as I'm concerned. My favorite chicken salad recipe features chunks of all white meat chicken, freshly chopped nuts, and a creamy Real California yogurt-based dressing that won't leave you feeling full of grease and guilt. In fact, in addition to calcium benefits, dairy is a protein powerhouse, leaving you feeling full until your next meal and playing a vital role in contributing to an overall healthy diet.
Best of all, this recipe is incredibly user-friendly. The California Milk Advisory Board has made it super simple to find Real California Dairy products in your local supermarket (just look for the seals!) and packing the "sandwich" in a hand-held cone lets enjoy the weather, a good story AND a healthy, delicious lunch all at the same time.
1.5 lbs cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
.5 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup diced red onions
.5 cup plain California Yogurt
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp honey
1 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 head living lettuce
4 large waffle-style ice cream cones
In a small bowl, mix plain California yogurt with apple cider vinegar, poppy seeds and honey. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix chicken, pecans, celery and onions until well combined. Pour dressing mixture over chicken and stir gently until evenly coated, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Place 1 large leaf of lettuce into each cone and fill with chicken salad. Sprinkle each top with dried cranberries.
Serve with fruit, veggies or hummus.