After what seems like the longest winter we’ve ever had, the warmer weather is finally trying to peek through. Two weekends ago we had a true spring weather weekend. I was so happy to soak up every minute of it. One of the reasons I love springtime is the new food palate that begins. I start to slow down on making heavier comfort food dishes and start to mix in some lightened up meals. That weekend was the perfect, and really the first, opportunity of the new season to break out of the winter mold. I went with Thai Peanut salads to kick off the season.
With my urge to be outside for as long as possible I decided to make some mason jar salads for the weekend to enjoy on the back porch. I love the look of the salad in a mason jar. It screams sunshine! (at least in my mind). It also makes for great layer salads. These are always so fun because with every few bites you get a new level of toppings. (It’s like those firecracker icepops we ate growing up…you race to finish one flavor to get to the next!) I decided to go with a Thai inspired salad to fill the jars. I had recently tried a gluten free Thai peanut sauce by San-J that I was having a hankering for. My goal was to incorporate the sauce but still have a chilled salad. I succeeded and came up with something that is a little sweet, a little spicy and has some fresh and crisp ingredients that make this an essential Spring salad.
I ate this salad on the spot but saved 2 of my mason jars for lunches during the week. It tasted just as great the next 2 days. It was actually a brown bag lunch I looked forward to.
Don’t despair if you don’t have mason jars laying around for this recipe. You can easily layer this salad in bowls for the same effect!
Now you are all set to crack a bottle of white wine and sit outside and enjoy!
…all for the love of the dish
- Ingredients for Chicken & Noodles:
- 1 lb (approx. 2 large chicken breasts) chiken
- 3/4 cup Thai peanut sauce (I used San-J brand but Kikkoman and others make a simlar product)-for chicken
- 1/2 cup Thai peanut sauce -for salad jars
- 2 1/2 cups cooked vermicelli/rice noodles
- Ingredients for Cucumber Salad:
- 1 large peeled cucumber
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar (You can use regular sugar as well)
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- Ingredients Bell Pepper Peanut Salad:
- 1 bell pepper (preferrably orange)
- 1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 1-2 sticks of lemongrass
- 2 stalks of green onion
- Tools Needed- Crock Pot and Food Processor (Can use a food chopper in it's place if needed)
- Step 1-
- Turn your crockpot onto the high setting. Place 1lb (about 2 large breasts) of chicken in the pot. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours.
- *Note this step can also be done the day of as long as you have time to chill the chicken afterwards before serving
- Remove chicken onto a cutting board. Drain all liquid and wipeout the crockpot. Using a fork to shred the chicken. Put back in the crockpot, pour in ¾ cup of Thai peanut sauce, and squeeze half of a lime over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes. Remove chicken and let cool to room temperature. Put in a Tupperware container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I let mine cool all afternoon because we ate for dinner).
- Step 2-
- Make vermicelli noodles according to package. You only need 2 ½ cups of cooked noodles so if you cook the whole package you will have lots of leftovers. You can use for another fun recipe during the week. Once cooked also chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour .
- Step 3-
- Peel and cut a cucumber into quarters and dice. Put the cucumbers in a strainer and pour about 1 tsp of salt evenly over them (This helps remove the water from the cucumbers). Let sit for about 30 minutes. Then use paper towels to pat any additional liquid out of the cucumbers. Put in a bowl and place aside.
- Meanwhile, bring rice vinegar, water, coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you like), and red chili flakes to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 7 minutes.
- Chop a ½ medium onion and mix into vinegar sauce once removed from heat. Pour over the cucumbers and stir to combine. Place this mixture aside.
- Dice 1 bell pepper and the stalks of green onion. Set aside.
- Prepare the lemongrass.To do this, remove the outer layer of the stem Using a zester, shred the lemongrass into the food processor or blender. Place ¼ cup of cashews into the food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds until finely chopped.
- Mix the pepper and green onion with the processed lemongrass and cashews. Place this mixture aside.
- Step 4-
- You now should have 4 separate salad components: the cooled shredded chicken, the vermicelli noodles, the cucumber mixture and the pepper mixture.
- Begin to layer these in your mason jar. First pour about 1-2 tbsp of excess peanut sauce at the bottom of the jar. Next comes the vermicelli noodles, then the cucumber mixture, now put the shredded chicken and top it off with the bell pepper and cashew portion. Evenly distribute between your 4 jars.
This recipe is gluten free however; those with celiac should be contentious of the rice vinegar. I have read a handful of articles and most said it is safe as long as you check the ingredients. But, apparently there is a controversial debate on if the gluten is fully dissolved during the distillation process.