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June, 2009

Summer Fruit Chicken Salad

By Dennis Linden

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home cooked meal together, it is not impossible with a little planning and can even be fun
.

Cookin with the Kids Image
Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever.

Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as where help will be especially needed.


Here’s a fun Chicken Salad for the summer that can be served as a refreshing lunch or an easy dinner entrée on a warm evening. While the recipe uses some fresh ingredients from this month’s June harvest with tiny champagne grapes and luscious strawberries, the salad ingredients can be flexed to take advantage of other seasonal fruits as the summer progresses. Both peaches and nectarines could be swapped in for the strawberries, or just added to the berries, as well as other seedless grape varieties can take the place of the champagnes as they become available.

Except for cooking the chicken, this recipe can be prepared almost entirely by your children with an adult supervising each task, of course. In fact, you can eliminate the cooking part altogether with a stop at your local market’s rotisserie chicken department when picking up the other few items needed for this simple dish.

Note that use the word “chop” in the recipe refers to the CHOP setting on a food processor, not a sharp knife, so that the task can be accomplished safely by a child with a quick flick of the “on” and “off” switch. However, while the small champagne grapes work whole, the larger grape varieties would do better being sliced into halves or quarters by a responsible older child or the adult in the kitchen. Chopping them in the processor is a delicate task that could end in grape juice if not done correctly. Although the dressing recipe is so simple that a child can and should prepare it, it is the real star of this dish. It not only binds all the fresh flavors together, but it is also a very healthy alternative to the traditional cholesterol packed mayonnaise in most chicken salad recipes. This meal in a salad is the perfect combination of fresh, healthy tastes that the whole family will enjoy. No eat-your-salad coaxing needed as your little helpers will be attracted to the unusual prospect of strawberries and chicken on the same plate, the first bite is guaranteed to win them over. In fact, this one is so good that it qualifies for the culinary memories scrapbook that your kids will refer to years from now in their own kitchens with their own little helpers.

SUMMER FRUIT CHICKEN SALAD
SUMMER FRUIT CHICKEN SALAD
Serves 4 [prep time: 15 minutes]

Ingredients:
4 cups baby spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces
2 cups cooked chicken, skinless and hand shredded
2 cups strawberries, sliced or rough chopped (seasonal options: peaches, nectarines, and kiwi)
1 cup Champagne grapes, stems removed (seasonal options: larger red or green seedless grapes, chopped or halved)
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
Pinch of salt to taste

Dressing:
¼ cup Organic Good Life Food Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar Salad Dressing
¼ cup fresh organic orange juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

PREPARATION:

What adult should do:
Cook or buy the rotisserie chicken, then cool. Always supervise your kitchen crew. Decide what a pinch of salt looks like in #6 below!

What the kids can do:
1. Tear spinach into an extra large salad bowl.
2. Chop strawberries and stem Champagne grapes, add to bowl.
3. Remove skin and shred chicken by hand into thin strips about 2-3 inches long, add to bowl.
4. Make dressing: in a glass jar with lid, combine salad dressing, orange juice and mustard. Shake!
5. Add just enough dressing to lightly coat all the ingredients in the bowl and toss with clean hands.
6. Under adult supervision, add a pinch of salt.
7. Plating - place salad on plates, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.