walnut ranch

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been mentioned before, but canned chicken is a huge lifesaver for me and it’s very easy to make a chicken salad that tastes great and can be modified for whatever you have handy. It’s a good way to get a lot of calories and protein in a simple dish which can help a lot with energy levels! Plus, it’s very easy to have some salad greens on the side to balance out a meal.

To make a really basic chicken salad, you need:

- canned chicken
- mayo (or basically any creamy spread like yogurt or sour cream– mayo gives the plainest flavor, but it’s not the only option)
- seasonings (my top three are salt, pepper, and minced onion. Dried minced onion lasts forever and can be found in a big canister that’s relatively cheap and great for adding to almost any dish. I’ll suggest some various combinations below that use other spices that you might be able to have on hand.)

1) Open the can and drain the chicken. You might be able to find cans with a peel-off top, and you can press the lid back down over the chicken as you drain over a sink to avoid having to find a strainer.
2) Dump the chicken into a bowl. You don’t need much space beyond enough to hold the amount you plan to eat, so a mixing bowl is not necessary. It can all be done in a single dish.
3) Depending on energy level, you can break up the pieces of chicken before you add any ingredients. It’s not necessary, but you may prefer the chicken salad to be more shredded or more chunky. You can use your fingers or a fork to break up the pieces.
4) Add about one large spoonful of mayonnaise per small can of chicken. The exact ratio is up to you, but a little goes a long way.
5) Add salt, pepper, minced onion, and any other seasonings you want. I’ll offer some suggestions for nice combinations below, but those three work well most of the time.
6) Mix the salad with a fork and eat on bread, over greens, or by itself.

There are unlimited ways to prepare a chicken salad and I have found it to be a great way to absorb some leftovers. Here are some combinations that work well:

- dried cranberries and sliced or whole almonds
- pistachio and lemon/citrus juice (I like to keep a container of lemon juice in the fridge to avoid having to squeeze it ever time. Store-bought works just great, so don’t worry about having to squeeze it yourself.)
- cucumber and dill (this is a great one if you have yogurt or sour cream as a base instead of mayo)
- dried or fresh tomato and bacon bits (great for a sour cream base)
- substitute some of the mayo for hot sauce if you like it spicy
- substitute pesto for mayo
- dried cherries and walnuts
- ranch seasoning (you can find this in a jar with the other spices and it’s great with the sour cream base)

There are lots of seasoning mixes that are extremely easy to use to spice up a basic chicken salad and it’s very forgiving. Stopping and starting while you’re preparing it doesn’t make any difference, so it’s good if you need to take breaks or split it up. You can double or triple a recipe very easily or buy a bigger can of chicken to start with and just eat some at a time because it refrigerates very well for about a week. It works well if you’re only able to do one or two meals a day, too, because it has a lot of fuel to keep your body going until you’re able to do more! I really recommend picking up a bag of salad greens to go with it, too, and most vinaigrettes or Italian dressings taste very good poured over everything.

I hope someone finds this helpful! Other canned meats like tuna can be used for most of these suggestions, too, though they require a bit more work for draining the liquid off and you should use even less mayo to avoid it being too soupy.