This is a frequent occurrence in our house. A hearty salad, thrown together at the last minute. For me, the trick to a speedy dinner that tastes great often lies in a simple homemade dressing. I have many that I like to make. (See the Dip, Dressings, Sauces & Salsas section on the right-hand side of the page.) And I like to use them in creative ways.
Repurposing leftovers is also a common occurrence here. Even though I love to cook, life gets busy and the time isn’t always available. I have a friend who calls them “intentional leftovers”. I love that term. So, when I make chicken or flank steak one evening, I plan on having enough to make a salad like this one a night or two later. Depending on the salad, your favorite veggies or fruits, cheeses, nuts, seeds need only a quick chop or a simple sprinkle to make a complete meal.
Here, I am using leftover pan-seared chicken, my homemade buttermilk ranch, tomatoes, avocados, on a bed of baby spinach. A crusty roll or a side of corn bread — even my Corn Spoon Bread — are all perfect accompaniments. In our house, this is a salad the kids and the adults are always happy to eat!
For my favorite homemade barbecue sauce, click here.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (keep tenders on)
- Barbecue sauce, marinade or spice rub of choice
- Olive oil for pan
- Spinach or mixed greens
- Chopped avocado
- Chopped tomato
- Slivered red onion
- Better-for-You Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (see accompanying recipe)
- Cut the chicken breasts horizontally without cutting all the way across. You want to be able to fan the chicken open, keeping the tender underneath (the breast is more likely to split in two if you remove the tender).
- Cut a small notch in the middle of the thick end–just enough to make the heart shape. You should not have to do much shaping. I remove just a little from the top of each side, right in the center.
- If you are using a rub, sprinkle it over both sides of the breast. If you are using chicken that you have marinated, remove from the marinade.
- Heat an oiled skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, place the chicken breast, tender side up first and cook for about 3 minutes. Then, flip and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on size of breast, until chicken is just cooked through the center. If you are using barbecue sauce, baste the cooked chicken with sauce on both sides and flip a couple of times in the hot skillet to caramelize the sauce a bit.
- Place the spinach or mixed greens on a plate and top with avocado, tomato, red onion, and chicken (sliced or cut into bite-size pieces, if desired). Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!
- If you prefer a thicker dressing, use approximately 1/4 cup of buttermilk depending on your personal preference and intended use.
- 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons minced chives
- Whisk all ingredients together.
- Dressing will keep for a week or so, covered, in the refrigerator.