Springs’ First Breath: Curried Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

Well, it finally came, Spring.

After such a long hibernation, trapped house-bound, it is marvelous to be able to sit outside on the patio and have dinner. This is that brief period of Minnesota spring where the snow is just behind us and the heat of the spring has not yet manifested in the feasting hordes of mosquitoes.

Tonight was a simple dinner of Curried Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps, set out for assembly, and fresh fruit. Delish.

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Simple Curried Chicken Salad

1/2 cup celery

1/2 cup mayonnaise (you can use light to reduce the calories)

1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped dried cherries or mixture of both.

1 cup grapes, sliced in half (optional)

1/4 cup diced white onions.

2-3 tbsp sweet curry

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped

Mix the first 6 ingredients together. You can add more of any one to suit your taste. My family likes it very curry flavored and crunchy, so I add more  curry andcelery. Then add the chicken and fold gently to mix. I also prefer to have the grapes in there, along with the the tartness of the dried cherries, but if you dont have the fresh grapes on hand, this is just as good without them.

You can serve this right away, but it tastes best after it has had a chance to rest.

This salad can be served as pictured, on lettuce leaves, which is naturally Gluten Free. It can also be served on whole grain bread, in pita pockets, or on a bed of salad greens with radishes and cucumbers, dressed with a simple vinaigrette.


Gluten Free Buffalo Style Chicken Finger Lettuce Wraps

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Last week I was cleaning and reorganizing my cookbook library shelves. Some people collect dishes, spoons or other knick knacks, I collect cookbooks. Sure, I use the gift of the internet just as well as anyone for cooking recipes and inspiration, but I love the tactile feel of a cookbook. I love to read the recipes, flip through the pages and let my mouth water with the photographs. Let’s face it, even in this high technology world we live in, there will never be a replacement for the touch and feel of a cherished, worn, food stained and well loved cookbook. (This goes for all books in my opinion) 

I took the opportunity, while cleaning (all 140 of them, yes I have issues!) to check their condition, relevance, and thumb through the color pictures when I stumbled upon one of my more recent purchases that I’ve yet to make something from. It is The American Test Kitchens HEALTHY Family Cookbook. I have the regular version (see here) that I adore and use all the time. They both are the same format, ringed binder books that come with the tabs separating the sections. When you get the book, you have to place the tabs in between the pages. It’s a great concept actually, because it forces you to thumb through the pages and well, it’s hard not to be inspired not to cook SOMETHING after looking at all that great food! This particular book was still in it’s plastic wrap, so I took the time to put the tabs in place. While thumbing through, I noticed a cute section in the back labeled “Kid Friendly”. Curious, I looked through the section and found a recipe for chicken fingers. Nowadays, I always look at recipes through the lens of Gluten Free. How can I modify, what can I switch out, ect? This recipe is a baked chicken fingers which uses Panko bread crumbs to get that crunchy ‘fried’ texture/taste without having to deep fry them. Bummer. Panko is wheat, and so I moved on finishing my project for the day. 

Providentially, that next week while shopping at the little grocery I frequent, I was scanning the shelves as I walked the aisles. This is something I love to do. Some people window shop at the mall, I window shop at the grocery. There, next to the regular Panko was Gluten Free Panko!!! Those chicken fingers were still on my mind, so I snatched the last bag (I learned they cannot keep them in stock, they are THAT popular) and headed home to whip up a batch for my gluten intolerant daughter. 

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That night for dinner we had, what I can best describe as a hybrid between buffalo wings and chicken lettuce wraps, and they were AMAZING. I served the chicken with side sauces of homemade honey mustard (gluten free), homemade low-fat ranch, Franks Red Hot Sauce, and gluten free BBQ sauce. I had Butter Lettuce leaves on hand, so that is what I used as a vehicle to get it in to our mouths! A side of carrots, celery and radishes, and it was really a fun and tasty meal. Below is the recipe which I have modified from the original to be gluten free. 

My daughter was tickled pink and remarked how she had not had a chicken finger for over a year, since she was diagnosed, and honestly it had never occurred to me to make them! I forget how much out there is breaded, floured or deep fried with wheat products. As an adult who doesn’t eat at fast food joints anyway, I hadn’t noticed on our new gluten free diet. But as a teenager who goes out with her friends to eat at places like that, she had missed being able to have something as simplistic as a breaded chicken finger. Well, no more. This recipe is a keeper. Now make a double batch and freeze the rest, so she can microwave them up and have chicken fingers anytime. 

Gluten Free Baked Chicken Fingers

2 cups gluten free Panko (if you are not gluten free, you can use regular)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (you could use olive oil but it will change the taste)

1/2 cup gluten free flour (i used Pamela’s Artisan Flour); 1 tsp garlic powder; 1/8 tsp cayenne powder (this is your dredge, combine them together)

3 large egg whites; 1 tbsp water; 1 tablespoon gluten free Dijon mustard; 1 tsp fresh minced Thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried.  (this is your wash, whisk these together)

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in to 3/4in wide strips

Preheat the oven to 475 deg. Line a low rimmed jelly roll pan with foil and put a metal (heat safe) cookie cooling rack inside or across the top. (this allows the airflow to cook the chicken evenly) Toss the Panko with the oil, and in a skillet, toast the Panko till it looks golden, stirring often. Remove to cool. Mix up your dredge and wash and put in shallow pans or bowls that you can easily toss the chicken pieces in. Cut your chicken breasts in to strips, season with salt and pepper. 

Spray your wire rack with Pam (or any vegetable oil spray). Working with a few pieces of chicken at a time, dredge in the flour, then the egg wash, then in the Panko and lay on the wire rack. When done with all the chicken, spray the tops of the chicken pieces with Pam and bake for about 10-12 minutes until cooked through. 

Serve with your favorite sauces, ranch, blue cheese (be careful with blue, most are not GF), BBQ sauce, honey mustard or even horseradish. 

Admit it. You want these, don’t you?! 

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