Southwest Chicken Chopped Salad

Fact: life is too short to eat sad desk salads. This very real fact is why I am almost always looking for salad inspiration. From Pinterest, Facebook and even restaurant menus, I look for inspiration anywhere I can find to ensure I am not crying tears of regret into a sad little desk salad! 

While I love me some social media recipe stalking, I would say finding inspiration from restaurant menus is one of the most underrated and helpful resources I have found. One of my favorite salads I have tasted is the smoked chicken chop chop at Cactus in Seattle. With some of the tastiest "Pacific Northwest inspired" Mexican cuisine I have ever encountered, I can safely say that Cactus is one of my favorite restaurants of all time. While I swoon over their butternut squash black bean enchiladas with goat cheese and smoked chicken flautas with chipotle cream sauce and arugula, it is the smoked chicken chop chop that keeps me coming back for more and that inspired this very recipe in a very big way. 

Once I studied the menu and started to think through the ingredients of this winning salad, I realized it would be rather simple to recreate at home to help bring some life back into my weekday lunch routine. Starting with a bed of crisp romaine or your other favorite salad green, the salad is topped with shredded or rotisserie chicken to keep things easy, garbanzo beans, radishes for peppery crunch, smoky bacon, sweet red bell peppers, pumpkin seeds and, not one but, two cheeses, salty cotija and creamy panela. To top it off (literally), this abundant and vibrant blend gets dressed with a smoky, zesty chipotle balsamic vinaigrette.

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Kale Caesar Salad

Friday night dinners at Casa Davidson circa the mid-2000s were a blur. Be it a football or basketball game night where everyone fended for themselves, a Papa Murphy's pizza or a Costco lasagna type of night, times were a busy and moving quite literally a mile a minute. 

Even in the busiest of times with an ever-changing Friday dinner menu, there was always one constant: Caesar salad. We ate Caesar salads in the Davidson household so often, my mom bought Caesar fixins – croutons, Parm, romaine and dressing – in bulk from Costco. Cheesy, tangy and full of crunchy croutons, it was consistently a delicious and quick side dish to throw on the dinner table that always put a smile on our face. 

Having it as frequently as I did growing up, it's easy to understand why I have such an affinity for it now. While I must admit I'm still partial to the classic verson of Caesar using bottled (yes, bottled – *gasp* !) dressing, my love for Caesar salad is pure and true, loving any and all variations of the classic salad. Whether it's served with charred romaine, adorned with whole fresh anchovies on top (my fav) or in its classic form with a lemon wedge on the side, I am a diehard Caesar salad lover. 

While it's a huge departure from my guilty pleasure bottled dressing favorite, lately I've been really feeling Caesar salads made with meaty, bitter kale. There's just something about an extra zesty, anchovy and garlic forward dressing that can really stand up to a sturdy green like kale. Which is why I decided it was about time to put my good ol' bottled Caesar on the bench just this once and take a stab at a homemade kale Caesar salad. 

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Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata

Green beans are a veggie I have been behind since day one, even if the first memories I have of eating green beans were in canned form! Call me a green bean purist, but I shudder when I think that there was a time in my life when I would eat and even enjoy canned green beans. Maybe it was just the fact that I was a little kid or simply a product of the 90s where eating canned/processed foods were more acceptable, but I believe I recall wee little Ali actually enjoying the taste of those salty, mushy green beans. Yuck! I guess I'll forgive my adolescent self for a bad judgment call just this once…

Even though I take a hard pass on canned green bean these days, green beans, like real green beans, are still to this day one of my favorite veggies. Ever since I started to cook for myself in college, I would have them in stock on the reg. From blanching them and sauteeing them to charred perfection with jammy balsamic and a touch of cayenne for a sweet, tangy and spicy side to roasting them with olive oil and finishing them off with grated garlic for an intense garlic flavor, they're not only the most versatile side dish, they're one of the easiest veggies to make. Oh, and they're just plain tasty. 

While I love my go-to green bean cooking methods, I'm always looking for new ways to make my favorite veg. A recent trip to a Seattle foodie destination, Flint Creek Cattle Co. inspired me to try experimenting with gremolata to add a new level of flavor and complexity to your standard roasted veggies. Gremolata, since you might wonder, is a fresh, rustic, chopped herb condiment typically made with garlic, parsley and lemon zest. My version adds rich, crunchy hazelnuts for a simple yet decadent topping that'll give your green beans new life. Fresh, zesty and vibrant, they're a full departure from any canned variety. 

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Sunflower Crunch Chopped Salad

Salad fatigue (noun) | The general feeling of extreme tiredness due to overconsuming of salads. 

Are you a victim of salad fatigue? Are you or someone you know excessively tired of eating the same, boring, old salad day after day? Do you feel like dying every time you take a bite of said salad to the point where you feel like you never want to see a leafy green ever, ever again? Salad fatigue is a serious condition and is something that millions suffer from on a daily basis. 

Hungry Ali is here to help. You see, the cure to your boring salads that are causing you serious fatigue isn't another sad salad that you feel like you could weap into. It's a salad that's full of flavor, texture and, let's be honest some cheese and creamy, delicious ranch. Because cheese and ranch, in my opinion, are a salad's best friend. 

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Mexican Street Corn Salad + Life Update!

Everyone. I have a v v exciting announcement. It is so exciting that it probably beats just about anything I've ever announced or will announce about my life in the future. You ready for it?! 

Cole and I….adopted a PUG!!!!!!

Let me give you the full back story. For those who know me well, you know that I've been obsessed with pugs for a long time, especially since my parents got their pugs whom I adore, Maxwell and Chloe Boo. Cole and I dreamt of having a pug of our own for years, and that finally started to become a real possibility when we found out we could move into our new house complete with a dog-friendly landlord and a backyard just made for our future puggy.

We knew we ideally wanted to adopt a pug instead of buying one from a breeder and fortunately came across Seattle Pug Rescue. From submitting an application in May, to having a home visit to working with the adoption coordinator, it was quite the involved process, but worth every step. Because at the end of the day we owe Seattle Pug Rescue a huge thank you for putting in the time and effort to find us the perfect pug, Neville! 

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Sweet and Sour Dill Cucumber Salad

Question: why do main dishes get all the glory? The burgers at the backyard barbecue, the beautiful pot roast on a Sunday night dinner, the turkey on Thanksgiving; they all get far too much attention, if you ask me. But let's talk about side dishes for a hot sec. 

Burgers would be nothing without a healthy portion of baked beans, potato salad and/or buttery corn on the cob. Your pot roast doesn't stand a chance without some gorgeous roasted root vegetables at the dinner table. And Thanksgiving? I don't have to tell you twice that mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and roasted Brussels sprouts can practically stand on their own without the turkey. Turkey Shmurkey, it's all about the sides, baby! 

So I'm here to declare my love for the very underrappreciated side dish, for clearly it's side dishes that can truly make or break a meal. A few of my favorite side dishes include the utterly decadent potatoes au gratin with white cheddar and tarragon, lemon and basil confetti corn for summer time and rustic ratatouille for a cozy night in. But a side dish I'm newly obsessed with that deserves equally as much love is my sweet and sour dill cucumber salad. 

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Mandarin Orange and Goat Cheese Salad

I'm back peeps, I'm back! Yes, I've been on a brief hiatus due to all things life, but I have to say life has been pretty good! Here's a brief snapshot of what's new in the life of Hungry Ali: 

  • Cole and I are counting down the days (literally) until we move into a house (yes, house) in the heart of Fremont! The house comes complete with a backyard, washer/dryer (hallelujah), not one but two bedrooms, not one but two bathrooms and the ability for us to finally (wait for it) adopt our own pug…!!!! I know. I am quite literally dying from excitement. More to come on this exciting life update, including pics, in the next few weeks! 
  • Work and life are keeping me busy with lots of fun happenings like Mariners games, graduation parties, brewery outings and wine tastings. Nothing to complain about here!  
  • I just returned from a work trip from LA where my work wife and I spent three days soaking up lots of relevant info at a national event planning conference. When we weren't at the conference, we were immersing ourselves in the LA culture complete with copious amounts of delicious food, drink and cool scenery. Hashtag blessed. 

With all of these things going on and more, it's not hard to see why I've been slacking on my blogging/cooking game! But I'm happy to say that life will be settling down for a hot minute and I can finally return back to my happy place. 

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Bacon Honey Mustard Potato Salad

I'm gonna level with you all real quick: when the sun comes out, I turn into a real lazy cook. Gone are the days when I actually want to slave away over the stove making soups or roasting vegetables. Because I'm not trying to sweat anymore than I have to, ja feel? 

So when the sun comes out to play in Seattle, it's all about turning the oven off and turning the grill on! And in case you've been living under a rock, I sort of kind of like to grill things

But what I love almost more than delicious grilled meats and veggies on the grill in the sunny weather are cold summer salads. The kind you make a big batch of early in the week, stick it in your fridge to let the flavors marry and become even more delicious over time. The kind that make dinner time a real lazy effort because you're merely throwing something on the grill and eating a cool summer salad straight from the bowl. We're talking minimal effort here, friends!

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Almond Crunch Salad with Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

Ever since Cole and I started dating (almost five years ago…!) we've been into binge watching TV shows. Not unlike the rest of the modern world, it's kind of our thing. The very first show we watched together was Entourage. Followed by every season of Top Chef, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and so so many more you probably don't even want to know. 

One of my most favorite binge watching stints was when we watched the sort of little known local chef (to Cole at least, the native Californian) who first got on the map on local television and has since started his own Youtube series and livecast, Sam the Cooking Guy. Oh, the days of Sam the Cooking Guy were glorious! I was so thankful to Cole to have brought such a gem into my world. Not only is Sam just your average Joe cooking everyday recipes in his kitchen, but he is funny as hell. So when we binge watched not only were we consuming countless hours of food porn but we were laughing our bellies off while we were at it. 

While we fell off the Sam the Cooking Guy bandwagon and have moved onto bigger and better things (hello, Stranger Things/Silicon Valley/Westworld/Everything HBO and Netflix does because they are the second coming of Jesus Christ), I always think of Sam when I'm in the kitchen. Especially, when I think of a recipe that highlights some pretty awesome Asian ingredients, like soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, hoisin, sambal and even just your every day green onions. See, Sam cooks with these ingredients almost exclusively and he makes some pretty delicious looking thing with them! Which was why he inspired me to stock up my pantry with similar ingredients and get creative in the kitchen using this whole other flavor palette. 

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