November 22, 2010

Pesto Caesar Salad with Chicken

I hate the inevitable weight gain that usually happens to me over Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I hoping to outsmart it this year. When I devised this week's meal plan, I made sure to build some healthy salads into our dinner slots. My rationale is that if we have only one day of eating splurges on the actual Thanksgiving holiday--and eat fairly healthy the rest of the week--we won't have any huge eating regrets after the holidays are over. Makes sense, right??? Hopefully, my craftiness will work out in my favor.

Anyway, I found this recipe in Cooking Light magazine and modified it slightly. I think my way is easier to prepare and a little more hearty as a dinner salad (I made the addition of the chicken); but I will link to the original Cooking Light version, too. Either way, this was an excellent salad and one of my favorite versions of Caesar that I have made, thus far. Yum!

Pesto Caesar Salad with Chicken
Adapted From: Cooking Light magazine, September 2009

extra virgin olive oil
2 stale dinner rolls, or any bread that you have on hand
2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup mayo
3 tablespoons jarred pesto
4 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 head of romaine lettuce, torn

Preheat oven to 400°. Place bread on a baking sheet; drizzle with a small amount olive oil. Then sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat all the bread pieces. Arrange bread in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until golden, turning once. When cooking is over, set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Grate Parmesan cheese, divide in half, and set aside.

Turn the oven broiler on high. Place chicken breast on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; all on one (the top) side of the chicken. Turn with a pair of tongs to coat both sides of the chicken with the oil and seasoning mixture(this allows the chicken to be evenly coated). Broil on high for 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked all the way through. Remove to cutting board and let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into cubes and set aside.

For the salad dressing: Combine half of the grated cheese, mayonnaise, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Combine croutons, the other half of the Parmesan cheese, and the lettuce in a large bowl. Add cooked cubed chicken. Drizzle mayonnaise mixture over lettuce/chicken mixture; toss to coat. Place salad on plates, and serve immediately.

The Result:
This was a satisfying and delicious salad! We all loved it; even my sometimes-hard-to-please son. (My husband was actually eating the salad dressing from the bowl...TMI, I know.) I think this would be equally great with sauteed or grilled shrimp (as a substitute for the chicken), too. I didn't toss the salad dressing in with the salad, but instead served the dressing on the side. (That way, it is much easier to control how much dressing I use.) I loved this salad; it was sooooo exactly what I wanted for our evening meal! This recipe was a great way to help lighten up an upcoming week of heavy eating.

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