Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wife Approved Recipe - Trader Joe's Curried White Deli Chicken Salad

My wife loves Trader Joe's Curried White Deli Chicken Salad, and so do I. She will often chastise me after I finish off the small tub of leftovers she leaves in the refrigerator - hey, it's her own dang fault for not hiding it better!

She shops at Trader Joe's more than any other grocery store. If you don't know Trader Joe's, it has a fanatical following (like In-n-Out Burger) here in Los Angeles, and it's even spread to New York City, after a store opened there a few years ago. (Click here for the website.)

They carry specialized frozen and fresh packaged foods, locally baked bread, organic veggies and fruit, hormone-free meat, chicken and fish, along with a huge selection of exotic beer, wine and spirits.

They my be best know for introducing the tasty 2 Buck Chuck line of wine (no longer 2 bucks, but still cheap) that is the favorite beverage of starving artist and actors, served at parties, dorm rooms, and gallery openings. There is even a popular cookbook series devoted to Trader Joe grocery store ingredients (see them here.) Check out  below a few stocked items.

Wall of Cheese

Well, I picked Trader Joe's recipe lock for my latest cheap$kate treasured bite. What makes Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad so good is the disparate flavorful contents. You have green onions and raisins, cashew nuts, garlic powder, lime juice and shredded carrots, with chicken, all in a mayo, mustard, honey and curry sauce. Whew, it shouldn't all work together, but boy does it ever.

This chicken salad will quickly move up the ladder on you favorites list. It's crunchy with cashews, creamy with mayo, and so flavorful with cumin or curry spice, plus an added sweet touch of honey. Especially when I can make almost twice as much, for less than the price of Trader Joe's eleven ounces at $3.99!

And luckily I can get almost all the package listed ingredients from my local 99c only Store. I bought a chicken breast on sale for 99 cent per pound at my local Latin market and poached it in water. Or, you can use any leftover chicken from a roast you buy in the deli section of your local grocery. (Using dark meat is the cheapest, but still tasty, way to go.)

I always find small packages of nuts. This recipe calls for cashews, but regular cooked peanuts are a cheap substitution. If you buy salted nuts, I recommend rinsing off the salt, then allowing them to dry. Too much salt will overwhelm the chicken salad.

Chicken and nuts are the most expensive ingredients, while raisins, green onions, shredded carrots, mayo and mustard are cheap enough. You need curry and garlic powder, but I find ground cumin has all the curry flavor you need. (I also find prepared curry powder cheaply at my local India or Middle Eastern mom and pop groceries.)

My Curried White Chicken Deli Salad is not as yellow as Trader Joe's version because turmeric powder is used. While this spice adds another level of flavor, it also adds a yellow tint. But I find the overall taste is close enough to Trader Joe's chicken salad, even without it. If you have turmeric in your spice rack then go ahead and add a teaspoon. I'm not replicating their recipe exactly, I'm more concerned about the overall flavor and using ingredients any of my visitors can find for the right price.

I make this as I would a regular mayo-based chicken or tuna salad, just adding the extra ingredients listed above. The ingredient amounts are the main mystery. Hmmm, I'm just guessing the balance, but I think it's close enough. And you can always adjust any ingredient amount to suit your own taste buds.

This recipe is wife approved, so I know everyone will like it. And don't let Trader Joe's know that I ripped off their Curried White Chicken Deli Salad recipe and made it for almost half the price, I don't want to get banned from getting their 2 Buck Chuck Chardonnay!

Ingredients (3-4 servings. Yeah right, like it will last that long!)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast - I poached a large half-breast. Okay to use roasted chicken from your favorite grocery store. Poaching dark meat chicken is a tasty and cheaper way to go.
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts - if salted, then rinse them off and allow the nuts to dry. Okay to substitute with cheaper roasted and shelled peanuts.
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot - I used packaged. You can thin "matchstick" slice a carrot, or hand-shred it with a veggie shredder.
  • 2 green onions - chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mayo - okay to add more or less for desired creamyness.
  • 1 teaspoon mustard - any type. I used coarse ground mustard.
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or curry powder - I find ground cumin is the cheap and easy way to go, as it is close enough to regular powdered curry (which can be hard to get.) If you have turmeric then add a teaspoon for color and extra flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder - or granulated garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice - fresh or from a bottle.
  • 1 teaspoon honey - or any favorite sweetener.


Roughly chop or shred cooked chicken breast. Total amount should be about 2 cups. You can use deli store bought roasted chicken, or follow my chicken poaching method below.

I bought a large half-breast of raw chicken. I filled a pot of water halfway covering the chicken breast. Season it with salt and pepper (or any favorite spices and aromatic veggies like onion and garlic.) Put a lid on the pot and low boil the breast about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, depending how large the breast is. You can slice into the thickest part of the chicken breast to make sure it cooks all the way through.

When chicken is fully cooked remove and allow it to cool so you can handle it. (And save the homemade chicken broth for a tasty soup, like my veggie loaded Mexican Calabasitas, a click away here.)

While chicken is cooking you can prepare the other ingredients. Chop 2 green onions and shred a carrot, unless you buy shredded carrot in a bag.

If roasted cashew nuts are salted, then rinse them off under water then allow them to dry out.

When chicken is cooled down after cooking, then remove the meat from the breastbone. Pull off the skin and any fatty pieces and discard. Finally, slice or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. (Do the same if you use dark meat.)

Now time to bring it all together.

Add into a large bowl the sliced and cubed chicken, along with chopped green onion, raisins and cashews.

Add a teaspoon of mustard. Spoon on 1/2 cup of mayo. (After everything is mixed together, taste it as see if you want more mayo - if so, then add a teaspoon at a time to desired creamyness.)

Sprinkle on the cumin (or curry powder) and garlic powder. Finally drizzle on a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice, and a teaspoon of honey, or a favorite sweetener.

Mix well. That's it.

Best to refrigerate the Curried White Chicken Deli Salad for a couple of hours, so the spices and other flavors intensify. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

I like this chicken salad served with crackers. You can put it on sandwich bread or in pita bread. Also, try adding a couple scoops to a favorite leafy salad.

Again adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. If you want a lighter curry taste then take away some ground cumin, curry, or turmeric powder.

Same goes for honey, mayo and mustard. Add a little at a time, then taste. Using less, or no honey, is okay as raisins add a good amount of sweetness.

Also stretch it out with more carrot, raisins and green onions - you could even add some celery or apple. If you like a lot of protein then add more chicken.

Substitute regular roasted peanuts instead of more expensive cashew nuts. You can taste the difference when fresh made, but after a day, or so, the curry flavor takes over and any nuts will taste the same.

I've made Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad with dark meat. There recently was a great sale at my Latin grocery store for skinless and boneless leg quarters (thigh and leg combined) for 88 cents per pound! While white meat is more common in chicken salads, I like dark meat, as it's more moist than white meat. You can poach a leg quarter and chop it for this salad. Dark meat has more fat that you can easily remove if necessary.

This recipe is easy to double the ingredient amounts. Although, you may not want to exactly double the mayo, mustard and cumin (curry powder,) just add a little more at a time and taste.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Portabella Mushroom, String Cheese & Herb Omelet - Video Recipe

This breakfast is extravagant. It's not often I make a Portabella Mushroom Omelet, but when I can get this high-end fungus for 99.99 cents, why not go for it? Thick, meaty slices of mushroom cradled by melted cheese, and wrapped in fluffy cooked egg, is a great way to start the day.

I make this omelet old school, diner-style. The egg is whipped with a little milk and cooked all the way through -- with a nice browned exterior. As a contrast, I made a soggy, French-style Cheese Omelette video a couple of months ago (check it out here.) It's good, but sometimes I like my food well done.

I gotta give it up the my local 99c only Stores for the main ingredient. A 5-ounce package often holds 2 to 3 nice-sized ones. And, you'll only need one mushroom per omelet, so, go ahead and invite a friend and make a few of these tasty suckers for breakfast.

I get string cheese there, too. You can use any favorite cheese you have on hand, or find on sale. And, I get my herbs for free, from my patio garden. You can sprinkle in little dried herbs if you don't have fresh - or just leave them out, this omelet is luscious enough.

I get many eggs cheaply here in Los Angeles, anywhere from a dozen to a half dozen for a dolllar. 

Mushrooms are easy to work with, just brush off the dirt and slice them.

You can use any mushrooms you find on sale, it's all good. I like a tasty omelet sometimes, and when mushrooms are on sale, that's excuse enough to make my Portabella Mushroom, String Cheese & Herb Omelet.

Portabella Mushroom, String Cheese & Herb Omelet - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 1 minute, 40 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.
  • 3 eggs - okay to make it a 2 egg omelet.
  • 1 portabella - per omelet. Okay to use small button mushrooms or any you can get cheaply. Add as many sauteed mushrooms to the omelet as you like.
  • 1 stick of string cheese - okay to use any favorite cheese, like mozzarella, Swiss, cheddar, or plain American.
  • 1 teaspoon herbs - any favorite, I used parsley and basil. Okay, to use dried herbs - but just a 1/4 teaspoon or a small sprinkle.
  • 1 tablespoon milk - to mix into eggs.
  • 2 tablespoons oil - one for mushrooms and one tablespoon for frying omelet.
  • Salt and pepper - to taste.

Chop herbs, I used parsley and basil.  Shred or slice cheese.

Prepare portabella mushroom for sauteing. Brush off any dirt. Thick-slice mushroom.  Okay to use any mushrooms on sale, including button mushrooms.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a medium/hot pan. Saute mushroom slices until soft, about 2-4 minutes. Set aside when done.

Add 2 to 3 eggs to a bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon of milk (optional.) Whisk the eggs and milk to blend well.

Heat the frying pan to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil (less oil for a non-stick omelet pan.) Pour in beaten eggs into medium/hot pan. Let it cook for a minute then add extra ingredients. I add the cheese and mushrooms on one half, and the herbs on the other half.

 Click on any photo to see larger.

Let the omelet cook until eggs are starting to firm up, but still slightly wet. Depending on the heat of the pan and how many eggs you used, it takes another minute or two.

Gently fold the omelet in half. Cook the omelet to the desired doneness, for about another 30 seconds or a minute.

Just cut into the thickest part of the omelet to check for slight dampness. Of course, you can cook the omelet until dry. A hot omelet will continue to cook and dry until eaten.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Brussels Sprouts & Chicken Stir Fry

Blame it on my local 99c only Store that I keep coming up with Brussels sprouts recipes. They're too easy to get cheaply these days. So here comes another recipe with them called Brussels Sprouts & Chicken Stir Fry

I've cooked Brussels spouts every which way, from an appetizer of Baked Bacon Wrapped (click on any name to see the recipe) to sauteed in a Buttery Pasta, and just plain Roasted. About the only way I've yet to do it is deep fried - hmmm...that's gotta be next.

If you are not so lucky in finding these flavorful mini-cabbages, then just substitute with half a head of cheaper cabbage -- it's all good.

Brussels sprouts need minimal preparation: slice off woody stem ends and discard yellow leaves, that's it. If they are extra large, you may want to slice them in half. 

Chicken is the cheapest of protein that I always find on sale, especially in local Latin markets. I used skinless and boneless dark meat for less than a dollar per pound, now that's the right price.

It's cheapest to work with leg quarters or dark meat, while white meat is easiest for removing skin and bone. But once you've deboned legs and thighs a few times, it's gets easy enough.

When I'm in a hurry, or just too lazy to think too much by dinnertime, I go to a quick Chinese stir fry. All you need is some soy sauce and a sweetener. And if you have a bottle of stir fry sauce or oyster sauce for extra flavor, then you are ready to go.

By the time a pot of rice is cooked my average stir fry recipe is ready, like this Brussels Sprouts & Chicken Stir Fry.

Ingredients (2-4 servings)
  • 10 ounce package Brussels sprouts - okay to substitute with half a head of cabbage, roughly chopped.
  • 2-3 pieces of chicken - boneless and skinless. I used dark meat. Okay to use leaner white meat chicken. Okay to add as much chicken as you like.
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce - I used low sodium.
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce - okay to substitute any favorite stir fry sauce.
  • 1 teaspoon honey - or favorite sweetener.
  • 1 tablespoons corn starch - okay to substitute with flour. Mixing in corn starch or flour will make the sauce thicken.
  • Pepper to taste - optional. I left out salt as soy sauce has plenty for me.
  • Oil for stir frying - about 3 tablespoons total.
  • 2 cups of cooked rice - white or brown rice. Okay to make more rice.

Cook rice according to package directions. One cup of uncooked rice makes about 2 cups when steamed.

Remove skin from chicken pieces and slice out the bone. White meat is easiest to remove bone from. I bought skinless and boneless dark meat chicken for this recipe.

Slice chicken into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle on corn starch to coat the chicken pieces.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium/hot pan. Add chicken and stir fry it until cooked all the way through, about 3-5 minutes. Slice into thickest chicken piece to make sure there is no pink juices when done. Chicken doesn't need to brown, just cook through. Remove chicken when done.

While chicken cooks, rinse off Brussels sprouts, if necessary. Next, slice off the tough stem ends of each Brussels sprout. Make a very thin slice, no need to take off too much.

Remove any yellow leaves. If some green leaves detach, just add them to the pan for stir frying.

Slice Brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise. If the sprouts are small then you can leave them whole. In the package I bought Brussels sprouts were about 1 to 2 inches tall.

Add another tablespoon of oil to pan if necessary. Cooked chicken may have left some liquid in the pan - that's extra flavor so don't pour it out. And the veggies will help steam loose any charred tasty chicken bits.

Stir in cleaned and sliced Brussels sprouts. Saute until tender. Should not take more than 2-4 minutes. It's up to you how well done the cooked veggies become.

*Regular chopped cabbage is a cheaper substitution (almost the same flavor too, and takes a similar amount of cooking time as Brussels sprouts.

Spoon on 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and oyster sauce. Add a teaspoon of honey or any favorite sweetener.

Click on any image to see larger.

Finally add the cooked chicken pieces and mix all ingredients. Heat through until hot, about another minute or two.

Serve Brussels Sprouts & Chicken Stir Fry over rice. It's delish without rice for the carb-averse.

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