The Immunity Boosting Salad

So I’m on my own again today.  And still sick.  It’s been over a week at this point and while I don’t feel terrible, I just can’t get the congestion, tiredness and fever to go away.

Well it’s moved on towards lunch time and I need to eat something.  I don’t have a car today, which takes care of that pesky lazy thought of “Well, just go to Panera and get some soup.”  And while, yes I do live just half a mile from a Panera–and 3/4 a mile from Whole Foods–my tiredness and the 83F took care of any inclination to walk someplace where I can simply hand over a credit card and some kind person will hand me a giant bowl of already prepared food.  No, we’re on our own today.  And since we’re tired and tired of being sick (and for some reason, speaking in the royal “we”), we want something that’s not just delicious but about as healthy as we can possibly stand it to be.

As luck would have it, I have a freezer full of chicken breasts and a fridge of nutritional goodies, so I can indeed accomplish this weighty task and I will not submit to the tiny voice in my head that says, “You could just order in Chinese.”  Even though my favorite Chinese restaurant is simply around the block (near the Panera, y’know) and they not only deliver but deliver quickly and the delivery guy is great.  But no.  No, we’re cooking ourselves well today.

So this is what I put together: a salad.  No, not just a salad.  THE salad.  An easy, delicious salad full of flavor, vitamins and antioxidants.  In fact, there is not a single unhealthy thing on this salad.  It is the exact opposite of certain other meals I have made while sick that may or may not have contained over an entire day’s worth of fat.

The great thing is that I made this with ingredients that I normally keep around anyway: chicken, fresh baby spinach, lemon, red onion (okay, I normally don’t but red onion, but I got some from the farm share this week), walnuts, olive oil, part-skim mozzarella, strawberries and basil.  Little known fact about me: I bleed strawberries.  It really freaks out the phlebotomist, but eventually they get over that when they realize I am made of deliciousness.  (Ok I made that last part up.)

I’m not a nutritionist (but I play one in this blog post), but I can tell you what you’ll get out of this salad: lean protein from the chicken, heart healthy flavonoids and cancer-fighting properties from the red onion, omega 3 fatty acids from the walnuts and olive oil, calcium from the mozzarella, vitamin c and antioxidants from the strawberries, high vitamin C content from the lemons, and vitamin K and antibacterial properties from the basil.  While all that might not make my flu disappear tomorrow, at least it’ll give my body a bit of a boost…and they’re delicious together.

And if you’re thinking that strawberries and chicken are an odd combination, you’re not alone.  Josh used to think that too, but honestly, try it, it’s a great combo.  I used to make giant salads atop flour tortillas topped with grilled chicken, strawberries and ranch.  It works.

The Immunity Boosting Salad
serves one

1 whole boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbs salt
1 tsp black pepper
olive oil
1 large lemon
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/4 c. sliced red onion
1 c. whole strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
3 small basil leaves
1/4 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella

Mix cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Slice chicken breast in half lengthwise so that you get two complete halves, brush with olive oil and rub with the cumin mix.  Cut the lemon in half, place the lemon and chicken halves on the grill over medium-high heat (with the lemons on the shelf above the grill grates if possible, or to the side away from the main heat source) and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the lemons are soft and juicy.  Let chicken rest about 5 minutes and then slice one half (saving the other for dinner or something else).

Toast walnuts in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant, just a few minutes, and chop into bits.

Layer the salad: spread spinach out on a large plate, top with the red onion, half the strawberries, the sliced chicken, the rest of the strawberries, the basil, the mozzarella and the walnut pieces.  For a light dressing, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the salad and then squeeze out the warm pulpy juice of the lemons over everything as well.  Eat!  Feel better.

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