Cashew Chicken Salad

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

I love cashews.  I think they are my favorite nut, perhaps because they had a seat at our holiday get-togethers growing up.  My grandfather would set them out in a bowl where the adults had gathered and I couldn’t resist snagging a few for myself.  They are perfectly salty and creamy, and I find it disappointing that there are so few when you have a container of mixed nuts.

This Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados is a result of merely wanting – and buying – a copious amount of cashews.  I figured it was better to incorporate some into a dish rather than scarfing them down by myself.  We often eat chicken salad in my house for lunch, so why not shake it up a bit and make a cashew chicken rendition?

Cashem Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

A bit of soy sauce, ginger, and rice vinegar added to mayonnaise form the creamy dressing, and cashews, green onions, orange pepper, and water chestnuts add just the right amount of texture, crunch and flavor to the chicken salad. Serving the salad as a stuffing to avocados was just another fun way to break out of the lunchtime rut.

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

I served the Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados with some rice noodles and cashews on the side so that my family could add as much or as little as they wanted.  The dish was an instant hit, even with my two little kids. Lunchtime success!

Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

P.S. If your New Year’s resolution has you trimming fat from your diet, try the Cashew Chicken Salad over arugula instead of avocados (though note that avocados pack a lot of nutrients, so they shouldn’t be vilified for their fat content!) . My husband and I thought this was just as yummy over greens (plus I was out of avocados after the photos seen here and the salad was requested again by the hubby).


Cashew Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocados

12.5 ounce canned chicken, drained
4 green onions, diced
¼ cup diced orange pepper
1/3 cup salted cashew pieces
¼ cup diced water chestnut
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large, ripe avocados
Crispy rice noodles (optional)
Additional cashews (optional)

Add the canned chicken, onions, pepper, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts to a large bowl; set aside.  In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger until a smooth sauce forms. Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture and stir to coat and mix the ingredients well. Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pits and then place the sliced avocados cut side up.  Evenly divide the chicken mixture between the avocados, stuffing the pit cavity.  Serve with rice noodles or additional cashews, if desired.

 

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Adzuki Bean Salad

Since I am always on the lookout for new, healthy foods to incorporate into my family’s diet, it was about time that we tried adzuki beans.

Adzuki beans (also called aduki beans) are a part of the legume family. They are often found in red bean paste used in Asian cooking and are easier to digest compared to other beans.  After slowly cooking the adzuki beans, I mixed them with some butternut squash, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette to make a colorful and delightful salad.

adzukiBeanSalad_3

Why try a new bean, you ask?

*Did you know that beans can count as vegetables or as a protein source in your diet? (although the Botanists among us might argue that they are a fruit)

*They are a source of high fiber, important minerals, and useful nutrients.

*Can you really argue with trying something new?

My whole family (kids included!) enjoy eating this as a side salad, though we have been known to eat it as a lunchtime meal with a bit of chicken stirred into the Adzuki Bean Salad and served over mixed greens.

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Adzuki Bean Salad

1 ½ cups dried adzuki beans

2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash, cooked

1 avocado, cubed

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

 

Place the adzuki beans in a large pot with 4 ½ cups of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until beans are tender, adding additional water if necessary (I usually have to add 1-2 more cups of water after about an hour). Drain the beans and place in a large bowl, then stir in the butternut and avocado. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic then pour over the bean salad and stir to coat. Serve immediately; refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: Some cooking instructions recommend soaking the beans prior to use. My package indicated that no soaking was required, however I recommend checking your package and adjusting your cooking time as necessary if soaking is required.

 

 

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Quinoa Tabouleh

A fresh, brightly colored salad is hard for me to resist. Both the vibrant hues and the variety of ingredients make me almost forget that it is in fact already October, ushering in cooler weather. A favorite in my household is tabouleh, a dish originating from the Middle East, typically consisting of mint, tomatoes, and couscous or bulgur as the main ingredients. Today I’ve substituted quinoa for the couscous/bulgur to make a more gluten-free friendly version.

Not only is quinoa a gluten free grain, it is also a great option for meat-less meals. It is considered a total protein since it packs all eight of the essential amino acids. In addition, it has a high fiber content and is touted as possessing anti-inflammatory properties.

quinoa

Quinoa starts out as hard, smooth, tiny grains that after boiling become fluffy with a more translucent center and outer white ring.

cookedQuinoa

In addition to the quinoa, I filled the salad with plenty of other scrumptious things, such as avocado,

avocado_tabouleh

red onion, tomato, parsely, garlic, and pine nuts.

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A light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is poured over the salad,

dressing_tabouleh

and then you are ready to eat.

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One other interesting fact about quinoa is that while it is grouped with cereals (like wheat) based on it’s typical use, it is actually a member of the spinach family. Maybe in a modern day “Popeye the Sailor Man” cartoon, quinoa would be his fuel of choice!


 

Quinoa Tabouleh
1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
¾ cup diced red onion
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, roughly minced
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, diced
3 oz olive oil
1 ½ oz lemon juice
Place water and quinoa in a large sauce pan and bring to a vigorous boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender and chewy (white ring will apear on the outside of the puffed up grain), aproximately 15-20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, red onion, parsley, garlic, avocado, and pine nuts, then add the salt, oil and lemon juice and stir until combined.

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