Lemon-Dijon Chicken Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Almonds
That statement has really resonated with me lately. I’ve got a lot of balls in the air, and for the past few months, I’ve been feeling particularly stressed about getting everything done. While productivity has been high, so have my anxiety levels, and my white girl insomnia is seriously acting up. I keep having this dream where all of my teeth fall out, which, according to the internets, is a reflection of the tension/lack of balance in my life. (It could also be because my Invisalign is too tight, but let’s go with the whole “lack of balance” explanation for the purpose of this post.) It’s weird and scary, and I’d like it to stop.
The truth is, I’m not the most organized human being. I’d love to blame my hoarding, lack of list-making, and poor time management skills on being a creative genius, but I’m mostly just lazy about structuring my days. The greatest benefit of being self-employed and working from home is that I don’t have to wear pants make my own hours, but that also means that my work and personal time/spaces tend to overlap, and it’s only getting worse. I now answer emails and return calls in the bath.
I told you that I’m trying to be less anxious/more present this year, but it’s a little unclear how I’m actually supposed to do that. People keep telling me to meditate, but I don’t want to, so I was quite pleased when I stumbled across an article in this month’s SELF Magazine (called “Make Time”) on how to streamline your schedule in order to make quality time for yourself. There’s all kinds of data proving how downtime is crucial to productivity and happiness (as is exercise, but that doesn’t appeal to me), and how one needs to carve out true breaks during the day. While the whole “me time” thing is on the touchy-feelier side, I believe in the premise, and I’m giving it a whirl.
Although I considered a few possible break times and what I could do with them, most of my ideas were impractical (morning ice-skating break! afternoon break dancing!) and lunch seemed like the best option. I usually eat lunch in one of two ways. If I’m recipe testing, I’ll crush a random bowl of whatever I made while cleaning up my mess. If I’m writing, I grab some leftovers from the fridge or make avocado toast and pick at it while I work. NO MORE.
In pursuit of balance (and dreams with a full set of teeth), I’m going to try and carve out 20-30 minutes in the middle of the day to do a real lunchtime thing. I’m going to leave my desk, sit at the living room table, and eat something bomb while enjoying my own company. No work allowed. I shall be a lady who lunches!
I started this experiment yesterday, and I’m pleased to report that I felt significantly happier and more relaxed after my fancy lunch. I spent a full 30 minutes with a new book and this Lemon-Dijon Chicken Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Almonds, and it was absolutely glorious.
A serious departure from your standard devil’s condiment mayonnaise-heavy chicken salad, this mustard-based version is bright, fresh and fabulously light. Tender, juicy chicken breast kicked up with shallots, sweet apple and tarragon is a winning traditional combo, but the addition of tart pomegranate seeds, a tangy lemon-mustard dressing and crunchy toasted almonds really takes things to the next level. Flavor and texture out the ying-yang, folks.
Sidenote: I am very anti-mayonnaise. That said, I recognize some of you may be die-hard fans of creamy chicken salad. If that’s the case, a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt will have the desired effect. (Or add mayonnaise and never, ever tell me about it.)
I like to eat this chicken salad lettuce wrap style, but as always, feel free to get creative with the serving. Pile it on a bed of butter lettuce, chopped romaine, or baby arugula. Try it on toasted Ezekial bread, or wrap it up in a brown rice tortilla. Scoop it up with whole grain crackers, or serve it over quinoa/brown rice/faro. The possibilities are endless, friends. You do you.
In other exciting news, Lemon-Dijon Chicken Salad is laughably simple to make. The only time-consuming element is cooking the chicken, and even that only takes 20 minutes using my favorite idiot-proof poaching technique (which I previously fangirled over here). You prep all the other ingredients (i.e. chop half an apple and a shallot, whisk dressing, toast almonds), while you wait for your perfect chicken, then you just toss everything together and GET DOWN ON IT.
Now that I’ve finished this post, I’m very excited to spend the next half hour happily eating leftover chicken salad and watching music videos. Day 2: killing it.
Lemon-Dijon Chicken Salad with Pomegranate and Toasted Almonds: (Serves 2-3, depending on hunger levels)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (approximately 1 pound)
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard (Please pass the Grey Poupon.)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (Feel free to add extra lemon juice at the end if you’re really into lemon. I am.)
¼ teaspoon honey (Feel free to add a touch more if you like sweeter dressings.)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 shallot, minced
½ large golden delicious apple, very finely chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate arils
1 tablespoon freshly chopped tarragon
Butter lettuce leaves for serving (optional)
Preparing your Lemon-Dijon Chicken Salad with Pomegranate and toasted Almonds:
-Let’s start with the chicken, shall we? Using the bottom of a mason jar or wide glass, lightly pound your chicken breasts to an even thickness. (We’re not paillard-ing here, people, you just want to make sure that the chicken cooks evenly.)
-Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken breasts. Cook for 1 minute and then flip the breasts over. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 10 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE LID UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I know it’s hard, but you must not touch! Trust me.
After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the chicken sit, covered, for an additional 10 minutes. Again, DO NOT LIFT THE LID. Resist the urge. Once the time is up, you can finally remove the lid. (Your chicken will be cooked, but if you’re nervous check it with an instant-read thermometer and make sure it’s at least 165 degrees F.)
-Now you’re going to toast the almonds. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. (Don’t put any oil to the pan, peeps!) When hot, add the almonds and toast for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan periodically, until golden brown and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
-Transfer to a serving bowl/plate and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. (Or just serve the almonds alongside and let people garnish their own salad. Some people are weird about nuts.)
If you’re interested in SELF Magazine‘s #TimeForMyself Program, check out their website. There’s tons of info, and you can even sign up for a 21-Day Time Makeover that provides 3 weeks of customized tips and inspiration to conquer your biggest time traps. It’s pretty sweet.
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