Autumn Chicken Salad with Apples and Bleu Cheese

My parents have a gorgeous yard at their home in Durango. Cholula adores visiting Grandma and Grandpa for another reason than the fact that my mom feeds her more than I do: the yard is like her very own park! In addition to the lush green grass, the fence is lined with Russian olive trees. It’s got a lovely patio with vines hanging from the pergola. My mom’s garden is tucked near the back of the house and there’s a pond with a water feature that Cholula swims in. There are roses and lilies along the front of the house and hibiscus in pots near the chimenea on the back patio. And there are multiple apple trees.

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Not every year is a good apple year. Sometimes the blossoms are knocked off by rain or there’s an early freeze. Sometimes the apples are small and aren’t very sweet. Sometimes the local bears clean them out before my folks have a chance to harvest them! But this year was a good apple year. They actually had to cut some of the lower branches back because the apples were weighing the trees down so much. Who knows what weather combination created them this year, but my parents say they are big, sweet, and delicious… and there are a LOT of them!

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What do you do with that many apples? My resourceful parents are trying their hands at hard cider, learning how to press the fruit for the juice and how the fermenting works. My mom has jarred lots of apple pie filling. They’ve given away bags and bags of fruit to neighbors and friends at church, and I expect a bag of our own when my folks visit next week. It’s one of my favorite fall foods (sorry, pumpkin), and I’ve made crockpot apple butter, whole wheat apple muffins, glazed honey applesauce bread… I’ve even put apples into a tasty frittata! Now that Oden is in the picture, I puree apples at least once a week for him. But after a while, you kind of run out of things to do with apples. That’s where this cookbook comes in!

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How D’ya Like Them Apples? was one of the products I tested for the AOL Food Awards recently. Does a person really need a whole book of apple recipes? I would have said no until my parents’ banner apple year! I was intrigued by a lot of the savory recipes as well as unexpected sweet stuff. I dog-eared many pages but started with something simple for lunch: chicken salad.

I started by poaching two chicken breasts in chicken broth for 15 minutes. When the meat had cooled, I chopped it into bite-sized pieces and prepped the rest of the ingredients for the salad. I halved some juicy red grapes and sliced up some crunchy celery. I chopped a handful of pecans and some arugula leaves, too. And let’s not forget that gorgeous apple! I ate a Honeycrisp apple pretty much every single day of my pregnancy, and that’s what I used here. They are sweet, not too tart, and I like the firm texture. Yum!

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All of the salad ingredients went into a bowl with the chopped chicken. So many textures and flavors already! I moved on to the simple dressing, which consisted of mayonnaise, lemon juice, and big chunks of Bleu cheese. A pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, and a good whisk and the dressing was done. All that was left to do was put it all together!

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I put half of the dressing into the bowl with the ingredients and mixed it well, then added more dressing until it was just right (I don’t like too much!). I tasted the finished product and adjusted the seasonings. So tasty! I love the different kind of crunchiness from the apples, nuts, and celery. The chopped arugula is almost like an herb in this salad, adding that bit of peppery bite. The creamy Bleu cheese bits gave a yummy, salty contrast to the sweet apples. I love sweet and savory dishes!

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This chicken salad is delicious and I love how light and healthy it is (even with the mayo and cheese!). It would be awesome on a toasted baguette as a sandwich, but for my lunch, I served myself a big scoop on a bed of more arugula with a few crackers on the side. Perfect.

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This particular recipe didn’t use up a bushel of apples, but there are a lot more options in the cookbook. Here’s to an impressive Apple Harvest 2016 (and apple pie for months to come)!

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Autumn Chicken Salad (adapted from here)

You’ll need:

  • 2 small chicken breasts, poached and chopped
  • About 15 red grapes, halved
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 1 large apple, cored and chopped (I used Honeycrisp)
  • 1 cup arugula, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon crumbled Bleu cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, plus more to taste
  • Salad greens or toasted rolls for serving

In a bowl, combine the chicken, grapes, celery, apple, arugula, and pecans. In a small bowl, whisk the mayo and lemon juice and stir in the cheese crumbles, salt, and pepper. Starting with half, pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and mix well, adding more dressing to taste. Serve on a bed of greens or in a toasted bun. How d’ya like them apples?

Hungry for more? Check out all of my recipes HERE.

One year ago: I wrote a letter to Oden while he was still baking away in my belly

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