Spring break ended on Sunday of last week. This means daily life functions must be tended to again: work, school, dinner on the table by 5:30 pm, nightly baths, and early bedtimes. I’m the kind of person who loves routine and consistency (it’s the former first grade teacher in me), but a little break every once in a while is such a treat.
The end of spring break also means that summer is quickly approaching, along with the intense heat that makes Florida an unbearable state to live in for a good four months out of the year.
For some folks, the fast approaching summer heat means switching from cold weather foods, like soups and casseroles, to warmer weather foods, like salads. Personally, I crave hot soup and warm shepherd’s pie even in the 100 degree summer heat waves, but I also love the convenience and refreshing taste of a summer salad.
Today’s recipe, Chicken and Napa Cabbage Salad, is the perfect recipe to help prepare us for the upcoming summer heat wave. This salad is super easy to make, packed full of fresh veggies, a kid-friendly meal (we’ll talk more about that in a minute), and it can be prepped in advance.
Basically, this is THE summer salad you’ve been waiting for. Yes, I may be slightly biased, but consider this: I’ve been enjoying this salad every week for the past month, along with those crispy rice treats from last week. #balance
Before enjoying yet another bowl of this summer-inspired salad, let’s chat about a few of the recipe characteristics above.
First, this salad is a kid-friendly meal. I personally hold the belief that just about every real food recipe is kid-friendly, although not every recipe is kid-friendly in its current state.
Maybe you have a child, like my youngest, who will eat anything and everything. If that’s the case, this salad is perfect the way it is: a fully assembled salad. If you have a child that is a bit more opinionated about food, like my eldest, then this salad may not pass the thumbs-up taste test. Friend, I have a solution!
To make this salad kid-friendly, I suggest chopping up a few extra pieces of celery, cabbage, chicken, carrots, and even the cilantro (or just setting aside extra ingredients from the amounts called for in the recipe). I use a small muffin pan to display this assortment along with the dressing for my son (and my daughter thinks this is pretty cool, too). I also include a small helping of the finished salad. The idea is that my son may not enjoy the salad as-is (he is always encouraged to take one bite), but he will dabble with the ingredients. Sometimes he will eat the chicken and celery, other times we will go for the carrots and chicken.
I know, the deconstructed idea may sound crazy, but I’ve found this is a very grace-filled approach to introducing a skeptical little foodie to new tastes and meals. And this strategy means I’m not making Piper a separate meal since he can still enjoy this salad, just in a more deconstructed state. Win-win!
Second, this salad can be prepped in advance for an easy grab-n-go lunch or quick dinner. The only ingredient in this entire salad that needs to be cooked is the chicken, so I recommend cooking a whole chicken either in the crock-pot or the oven, or roasting a few crispy thighs, shredding the chicken and using some of the meat for this salad. Once you’ve shredded the chicken, the only steps that remain are chopping veggies and whisking together a simple lime and soy dressing. That’s it!
My favorite strategy for prepping this salad in advance is to toss the salad ingredients in a large Tupperware container, and store the dressing in a small container until we’re ready to eat it. The salad can be dished up and dressed as needed for a few days worth of lunches or a quick and easy weeknight meal.
Another option for prepping this salad in advance is to simply cook and shred the chicken in advance, and then prepare the rest of the salad when you’re ready to eat it.
Whichever approach you take, this salad is an ideal way to enjoy a real food meal without spending hours in the kitchen during the hot summer days.
Finally, one more note. If you’re going to serve this salad as a main meal, I recommend pairing it with fruit, corn on the cob, or a warm loaf of bread (and there’s the winter foodie in me).
Let’s dig in!
Chicken and Napa Cabbage Salad
- 5 cups shredded napa cabbage a little over 1/2 a head of napa cabbage
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken *
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 3/4 cup sliced green onions
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or more if you love cilantro
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 TB organic tamari sauce or soy sauce
- 1 TB sesame seeds
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- In a large bowl, combine all the salad ingredients.
- In a small bowl, combine all the salad dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad, and gently toss the salad to combine.