Tag Archives: vinaigrette

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Salad with Pan Fire-Roasted Vegetables and Peanut-Honey-Lime Dressing

2 Apr

After a year and a half hiatus, I’m back at it (well, sort of!). This blog is purely a hobby for me, and when I transitioned jobs a year and a half ago, I found that I really didn’t have time to photograph, document and post anymore, especially in the day light (my main challenge to this blog has been being able to photograph all my food in natural light, since I don’t have any other equipment to make night shooting possible). Anyway, I had the urge to share this recipe and thought that there’s no harm in getting back into blogging, although I do want to give a disclaimer that I have no idea how often I’ll be posting. I don’t want my hobby to become a chore – I just want to be able to share good recipes when I can!

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Salad

There were a few inspirations for this recipe – trying to eat healthier since it’s getting warm out and my winter hibernation is finally ending :-) and trying to eat more vegetables (inspired by this article I was reading today about how much it can cut your risk of death!). I figure it can’t do much harm to eat more fruits and vegetables, so I might as well try! This recipe counts for at least a few servings I think!

I tend to like heartier salads when I’m eating healthy – otherwise I’ll be hungry an hour or two later! That’s why I combined coconut-crusted chicken with a fire-roasted vegetable mix, which was inspired by the one on Panera’s Thai Chicken salad (my favorite!). It’s a nice, charred mixture of diced carrot, bell pepper and edamame, which adds great flavor, texture and body to the salad. The cucumbers add a nice fresh crunch and the almonds are sweet and crunchy as well. You could easily substitute chopped peanuts to make this even more “Thai”.

A few recipe notes – the coconut I used is unsweetened flaked coconut. I found mine from Whole Foods and it worked well as it was very small flakes that adhered easily to the chicken. I suggest checking the health food/organic aisle of your grocery store to find unsweetened coconut. Also, the quantities of cucumber, sliced almonds and lettuce are merely suggestions, as it is truly personal preference.

This dressing is worth making extra of – it’s super flavorful and versatile. Much better than anything you can get in a bottle!  For more tips on making homemade vinaigrettes and dressings can be found here.

Coconut Chicken Salad 2


  • Servings: 2 dinner salads
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Coconut-Crusted Chicken Salad with Pan Fire-Roasted Vegetables and Peanut-Honey-Lime Dressing


  • 2 medium chicken breasts or breast tenderloins (~1 lb)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Vegetable oil

Cut chicken breasts lengthwise into strips (4-5 per breast). Whisk egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Combine panko, coconut and salt (~1/2 t.) in a separate bowl. Coat chicken in egg, removing excess, then coat thoroughly in breadcrumb mixture. Meanwhile, heat several tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken several minutes per side, until golden brown and chicken is cooked through (165°F).


  • 1 T. creamy peanut butter
  • 3 T. rice vinegar
  • 3 T. lime olive oil (or regular – see notes below)
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1 t. fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a Tupperware or Mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. Alternatively, whisk together in a small bowl. If you do not have lime olive oil, you can substitute regular extra-virgin olive oil and use more lime juice in place of the rice vinegar (lime zest could be added for extra lime flavor).

Pan fire-roasted vegetable mix

  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ to ¾ cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 T. vegetable oil


  • Mediterranean or romaine salad mix (about 4 cups)
  • Honey roasted sliced almonds (or chopped peanuts)
  • 4-5” English cucumber, sliced

Place diced carrot and frozen edamame in a microwave-safe bowl and add a few tablespoons water. Microwave on high ~2 minutes to thaw edamame and slightly cook carrot. Drain. Heat oil in a small skillet over high heat; add edamame, carrot and pepper and stir fry until lightly cooked and slightly blackened.

Assemble salad with cucumber, charred vegetable mix, chicken, slivered almonds and drizzle with dressing.

Coconut Chicken Salad 1


Chicken, Squash and Goat Cheese Salad

2 Jul

Hello everyone!  Hopefully everyone is enjoying their summer so far.  Our summer is going quickly – it seems like we are traveling every weekend – but at least it’s for fun reasons!  Meanwhile I am also in transition with my job and will be starting a new job next week!  Very exciting, but it’s also keeping me very busy.  For that reason, I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to this blog, which I apologize for.  Hopefully once things settle down again I’ll have more time… until then, I’m trying to simplify my life and only post things that I think are really post-worthy.

The recipe I want to share this week is for a healthy and hearty salad.  In the summer I crave salad for dinner a lot, but I also don’t want to end up hungry just an hour or two after dinner, so I need to find ways to make them feel more like a complete meal.  This salad definitely fits the bill, and would even be great in the fall or winter.  The roasted squash really adds a more hearty, creamy element, and the tangy goat cheese gives it lots of flavor.  Combined with some moist chicken (ahh so much better homemade than the stuff they put on salads at restaurants) and crunchy almonds, this salad is definitely satisfying.

I hope you enjoy!  And let me know if you have any questions!

Chicken, Squash and Goat Cheese Salad

Time: 40 minutes; Yield: 2 large salads

  • 1/2 whole butternut squash (or roast the whole thing and use the leftovers for another meal!)
  • 1 large or 2 medium chicken breasts
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to coat squash)
  • Balsamic vinegar (few tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Roasted sliced almonds (the store-bought kind or toast your own)
  • 5 ounces (or 1 bag) arugula/spring mix
  • 3 ounces plain goat cheese, crumbled
  • Balsamic vinaigrette, see recipe below.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss chicken breasts with some balsamic vinegar (a tablespoon or two, just to quickly marinate) plus salt and pepper.

To prep squash, peel with a vegetable peeler and slice lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds, then cut into a small dice (~1/2″ cubes).  The smaller the dice, the quicker it will cook, so keep it small if you’re in a time crunch.  Toss with enough olive oil to coat, salt, pepper and sage.  Place on a baking sheet.

Place chicken in a baking dish.  Roast chicken and squash for ~35 minutes, or until squash is tender and chicken reaches 165ºF internal temperature.

Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  Slice against the grain, as thinly as possible.

To assemble salads, divide arugula or spring mix between two plates.  Top with red onion, almonds, crumbled goat cheese, squash and chicken.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing – for more on making your own vinaigrettes, check out my post on them here.

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (or sugar, optional)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a container with a lid and shake to combine.  Alternatively, whisk all ingredients except for oil together, then slowly stream in oil while whisking constantly.  Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Vinaigrettes 101

27 Jan

Making vinaigrettes is definitely a skill you want to have in your culinary arsenal.  Whether it’s for throwing together a salad for which a store-bought dressing just won’t do (sometimes there’s not just a perfect flavor in the store – so this way you can customize your own!), or creating a nice vinaigrette sauce for fish or other meals, it’s a good skill to have.  Making your own dressings is simple, yet impressive.  Additionally, you can make them how you want them – without high fructose corn syrup or preservatives (not that there’s anything wrong with those, I am a Food Scientist after all, but sometimes it’s just nice to have things all-natural and homemade).  Plus, homemade dressings can be healthier (you control the amount of oil and sugar) and taste better (homemade balsamic vinaigrette is just so much better in my opinion!).

There are just a few basic principles to keep in mind:

(1) the basic components: fat (oil), acid (vinegar) and an emulsifier (optional)

(2) the ratios of these components


Typically, a ratio of 2 parts oil to 1 part acid is a good starting point.  Sometimes the ratio can be 1:1 (when using a weaker acid, like citrus juice) or even 3 or 4:1 (for very strong vinegars).  It’s up to you!  Just go by taste and consider what the dressing will be on – can it stand up to a strong vinegar or is it better if it’s toned down a bit?  I tend to like a 2:1 ratio (because I like a good vinegar tang and then there is less total fat and calories than a 3:1 ratio).


  • Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, walnut oil…
  • Dairy: Yogurt, buttermilk, cream…  I’m not going to go into detail on how to make your own cream dressings – I’ll save that for another day
  • Other: Avocado (to supplement the above oils)


  • Vinegars:  Red wine, white wine, rice wine, balsamic, cider, Sherry or Champagne vinegar…
  • Citrus: Fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice…

Emulsifier (or in non-Food Science terms, the component that can make the oil and vinegar come together and stay together – since naturally the oil and vinegar tend to separate)

  • Eggs: raw egg yolks (which I don’t condone) or pasteurized egg products (like Egg Beaters)
  • Mustard: Dijon, whole grain, spicy brown, honey…

Eggs and mustard both help to emulsify dressings because they contain amphiphilic molecules that interact with both water and oil (so they bridge the gap between the two and help hold them together, in very simplified terms!).  Vinaigrettes can also be pretty successfully emulsified by the use of a blender or food processor, without adding mustard or eggs – the force of a blender breaks up the fat into smaller droplets – which will make a fairly stable dressing that won’t separate as fast as one that was just whisked together.


  • Onion/garlic/shallots: finely minced or even grated on a microplane
  • Seasonings: herbs (finely minced), spices, and definitely salt and pepper!
  • Sweetener: sugar or honey can really help complete a vinaigrette
  • Water: water can successfully be added to a dressing in small amounts to thin and to reduce calories
  • Hot sauce/cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes – something spicy, in a small amount can give a dressing a nice zing

To blend:

  • Whisk: The most traditional method.  Mix the vinegar, emulsifier and all other “extras” in a bowl, then slowly stream in the oil as you whisk the dressing vigorously in one direction.
  • Shake:  The quick-and-dirty method.  Place all the ingredients in a Tupperware or jar with a secure lid and shake until combined.
  • Blender/food processor:  If you want a more stable dressing, using the high speed of a blender or food processor will make a better emulsion (so it won’t separate as easily as the first two methods).  Like with whisking, add everything except the oil to the blender, turn it on, then slowly stream in the oil through the opening at the top of the blender or processor.  Using a hand-held immersion blender also works well.

Whether you want a more creamy, emulsified vinaigrette is up to you.  If you are tossing a salad with the dressing in advance, it won’t matter as much if it separates, compared to serving the dressing in a bottle on the table, where you may want the dressing to appear consistent and uniform for appearance sake.

Recipe for a Basic Vinaigrette

Yield: 1 cup, Time: 5 min

The cast of characters:

  • 1/4 cup vinegar of your choice (or 1/3 cup citrus juice) – in this example I used balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (or sugar, optional)
  • 1 dash Tabasco (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced (or 2 teaspoons minced shallot)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Whisk:  Add first 8 ingredients to a bowl.  Whisk continuously while slowly streaming in the olive oil.

Shake:  Add all ingredients to a container (jar or Tupperware with a tight-fitting lid), cover, and shake until well combined.

Blender:  Add first 7 ingredients to the blender (not the shallots, if using – add after blending).  While the blender is running, slowly stream in the oil.

I shook mine:

With any dressing and method, taste and adjust the seasonings and ratio of oil/vinegar to your taste (ideally, dip a piece of lettuce in the dressing to see how the final product will taste).  Add more salt, sugar or pepper if needed.  Vinaigrettes like this can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.