Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad

My wife loves Trader Joe's Curried White Deli Chicken Salad, and so do I. She will often chastise me after I finish off the small tub of leftovers she leaves in the refrigerator - hey, it's her own dang fault for not hiding it better!

If you don't know Trader Joe's, it has a fanatical following (like In-n-Out Burger) here in Los Angeles, and it's even spread to New York City, after a store opened there a few years ago. (Click here for the website.)

They carry specialized frozen and fresh packaged foods, locally baked bread, organic veggies and fruit, hormone-free meat, chicken and fish, along with a huge selection of exotic beer, wine and spirits.

They my be best know for introducing the tasty 2 Buck Chuck line of wine (no longer 2 bucks, but still cheap) that is the favorite beverage of starving artist and actors, served at parties, dorm rooms, and gallery openings. There is even a popular cookbook series devoted to Trader Joe grocery store ingredients (see them here.) Check out  below a few stocked items.

Wall of Cheese

Well, I picked Trader Joe's recipe lock for my latest cheap$kate treasured bite. What makes Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad so good is the disparate flavorful contents. You have green onions and raisins, cashew nuts, garlic powder, lime juice and shredded carrots, with chicken, all in a mayo, mustard, honey and curry sauce. Whew, it shouldn't all work together, but boy does it ever.

This chicken salad will quickly move up the ladder on you favorites list. It's crunchy with cashews, creamy with mayo, and so flavorful with cumin or curry spice, plus an added sweet touch of honey. Especially when I can make almost twice as much, for less than the price of Trader Joe's eleven ounces at $3.99!

And luckily I can get almost all the package listed ingredients from my local 99c only Store. I bought a chicken breast on sale for 99 cent per pound at my local Latin market and poached it in water. Or, you can use any leftover chicken from a roast you buy in the deli section of your local grocery. (Using dark meat is the cheapest, but still tasty, way to go.)

I always find small packages of nuts. This recipe calls for cashews, but regular cooked peanuts are a cheap substitution. If you buy salted nuts, I recommend rinsing off the salt, then allowing them to dry. Too much salt will overwhelm the chicken salad.

Chicken and nuts are the most expensive ingredients, while raisins, green onions, shredded carrots, mayo and mustard are cheap enough. You need curry and garlic powder, but I find ground cumin has all the curry flavor you need. (I also find prepared curry powder cheaply at my local India or Middle Eastern mom and pop groceries.)

My Curried White Chicken Deli Salad is not as yellow as Trader Joe's version because turmeric powder is used. While this spice adds another level of flavor, it also adds a yellow tint. But I find the overall taste is close enough to Trader Joe's chicken salad, even without it. If you have turmeric in your spice rack then go ahead and add a teaspoon. I'm not replicating their recipe exactly, I'm more concerned about the overall flavor and using ingredients any of my visitors can find for the right price.

I make this as I would a regular mayo-based chicken or tuna salad, just adding the extra ingredients listed above. The ingredient amounts are the main mystery. Hmmm, I'm just guessing the balance, but I think it's close enough. And you can always adjust any ingredient amount to suit your own taste buds.

This recipe is wife approved, so I know everyone will like it. And don't let Trader Joe's know that I ripped off their Curried White Chicken Deli Salad recipe and made it for almost half the price, I don't want to get banned from getting their 2 Buck Chuck Chardonnay!

Ingredients (3-4 servings. Yeah right, like it will last that long!)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast - I poached a large half-breast. Okay to use roasted chicken from your favorite grocery store. Poaching dark meat chicken is a tasty and cheaper way to go.
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts - if salted, then rinse them off and allow the nuts to dry. Okay to substitute with cheaper roasted and shelled peanuts.
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot - I used packaged. You can thin "matchstick" slice a carrot, or hand-shred it with a veggie shredder.
  • 2 green onions - chopped
  • 1/2 cup of mayo - okay to add more or less for desired creamyness.
  • 1 teaspoon mustard - any type. I used coarse ground mustard.
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or curry powder - I find ground cumin is the cheap and easy way to go, as it is close enough to regular powdered curry (which can be hard to get.) If you have turmeric then add a teaspoon for color and extra flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder - or granulated garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice - fresh or from a bottle.
  • 1 teaspoon honey - or any favorite sweetener.


Roughly chop or shred cooked chicken breast. Total amount should be about 2 cups. You can use deli store bought roasted chicken, or follow my chicken poaching method below.

I bought a large half-breast of raw chicken. I filled a pot of water halfway covering the chicken breast. Season it with salt and pepper (or any favorite spices and aromatic veggies like onion and garlic.) Put a lid on the pot and low boil the breast about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, depending how large the breast is. You can slice into the thickest part of the chicken breast to make sure it cooks all the way through.

When chicken is fully cooked remove and allow it to cool so you can handle it. (And save the homemade chicken broth for a tasty soup, like my veggie loaded Mexican Calabasitas, a click away here.)

While chicken is cooking you can prepare the other ingredients. Chop 2 green onions and shred a carrot, unless you buy shredded carrot in a bag.

If roasted cashew nuts are salted, then rinse them off under water then allow them to dry out.

When chicken is cooled down after cooking, then remove the meat from the breastbone. Pull off the skin and any fatty pieces and discard. Finally, slice or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. (Do the same if you use dark meat.)

Now time to bring it all together.

Add into a large bowl the sliced and cubed chicken, along with chopped green onion, raisins and cashews.

Add a teaspoon of mustard. Spoon on 1/2 cup of mayo. (After everything is mixed together, taste it as see if you want more mayo - if so, then add a teaspoon at a time to desired creamyness.)

Sprinkle on the cumin (or curry powder) and garlic powder. Finally drizzle on a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice, and a teaspoon of honey, or a favorite sweetener.

Mix well. That's it.

Best to refrigerate the Curried White Chicken Deli Salad for a couple of hours, so the spices and other flavors intensify. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

I like this chicken salad served with crackers. You can put it on sandwich bread or in pita bread. Also, try adding a couple scoops to a favorite leafy salad.

Again adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. If you want a lighter curry taste then take away some ground cumin, curry, or turmeric powder.

Same goes for honey, mayo and mustard. Add a little at a time, then taste. Using less, or no honey, is okay as raisins add a good amount of sweetness.

Also stretch it out with more carrot, raisins and green onions - you could even add some celery or apple. If you like a lot of protein then add more chicken.

Substitute regular roasted peanuts instead of more expensive cashew nuts. You can taste the difference when fresh made, but after a day, or so, the curry flavor takes over and any nuts will taste the same.

I've made Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad with dark meat. There recently was a great sale at my Latin grocery store for skinless and boneless leg quarters (thigh and leg combined) for 88 cents per pound! While white meat is more common in chicken salads, I like dark meat, as it's more moist than white meat. You can poach a leg quarter and chop it for this salad. Dark meat has more fat that you can easily remove if necessary.

This recipe is easy to double the ingredient amounts. Although, you may not want to exactly double the mayo, mustard and cumin (curry powder,) just add a little more at a time and taste.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chicken Fried Rice

This is one cheap meal. And everything is cooked in one pan. You can't get much cheaper than rice, veggies and chicken. Oh, and you add two eggs to make my Chicken Fried Rice.

I marinade the chicken in a couple of sauces that I get from my local 99c only Store. Most regular grocery stores sell soy sauce and oyster sauce. If you can't find oyster sauce then use easy-to-get Teriyaki or Sweet and Sour sauce.

For chicken you only need a half breast or a leg quarter (combined leg and thigh.) So your stir fry can be white or dark meat, it's up to you. I take off the skin and slice the meat off the bone. You can purchase boneless and skinless chicken for convenience and more money. You could also just saute the large chicken segments with skin and bone and break it down later.

I get chicken from my local Latin market for 99 cent per pound or less.

The main thing is to use cooked/steamed rice. And it's best if the rice has been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. This allows the rice grains to separate and slightly dry out, so they don't get soggy when refrying. Anyway I always have leftover rice in the freezer. So just defrost it if you have any.

Everything is sauteed in a wok or a large frying pan and it all come together quickly. Also, my Chicken Fried Rice microwaves well the next day(s).

This is the first in my Cheapie Chicken Recipe Series, so check back as I have a coopfull of tasty entrees for you for the rest of the month, including a Fried Chicken Sandwich video.

Ingredients (about 2 servings)
  • 1 pound of chicken - a half breast or leg quarter (thigh and leg,) or any favorite combination. Cut into bite sized pieces. You can also just saute whole chicken piece in marinade and slice it off the bone.
  • 2 cups cooked rice - I mixed brown and white rice. Follow package directions. Best to let cooked rice set a couple hours in the refrigerator or overnight. 1 cup of uncooked rice makes 2 cups of cooked.
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas - defrosted (canned are too mushy.)
  • 1/2 carrot - about a 1/4 cup peeled and chopped. I used shredded from the bag.
  • 2 green onions - sliced, about 1/4 cup, include green stem. Okay to substitute with regular white or yellow onion.
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
  • 2 eggs - scramble
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil - or sesame oil, for sauteing veggies and chicken.
  • Pepper to taste - optional. No salt necessary as soy sauce has plenty.
* Add more or less carrot, peas and onion to suit your taste.

Chicken Marinade
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger - chopped or grated. I used it from a jar. Okay to use powdered ginger.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic - chopped. I used it from a jar.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce - I used low sodium.
  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce - or a favorite Oriental sauce like Teriyaki or Sweet and Sour. If you use Teriyaki or Sweet and Sour sauce then leave out honey, as it's now plenty sweet.
  • 1 teaspoon honey or favorite sweetener.

First cook 1 cup of rice according to package directions (brown rice takes a little longer to steam.) Best to refrigerate overnight, or at least a couple of hours. This allows rice grains to set and separate -- so it doesn't get too mushy during stir frying. My recipe uses 2 cups of cooked rice.

Remove skin and slice chicken off the bone (or use boneless and skinless) and add to a bowl. Pour in the marinade ingredients and mix well. You can let the chicken set in the marinade (in the refrigerator) for half an hour, or go right to sauteing.

If you don't want to fool with removing the bone then just saute the chicken whole and remove the flesh when it cools down. It takes longer to cook the chicken all the way through, so add extra cooking time.

Over a medium hot, wide pan, add oil and get the pan hot. Next put in the chicken with marinade. Saute the chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Slice into largest chicken piece, it's done when there is no pink color or pink juices. 

When chicken is done, move it to a plate or bowl and set aside while you make the fried rice.

Add tablespoon oil to a medium/high heating pan. Add carrot, peas and green onion. Stir fry about 2 minutes to desired tenderness. I like my veggies a little crunchy.

Add cooked rice and mix well. Heat though about 2 minutes, continuously stirring to heat up all the rice.

Add cooked chicken and heat through for a minute. Push it aside with veggies and leave space for the rice.

Finally, push the veggies, chicken and rice to the edge of pan, forming a clear space in the middle of the pan.

Add 2 eggs and lightly scramble. (You could also pre-cook the scrambled egg and add it at this stage.) When egg is almost cooked through and firm, mix it into the rice, veggies and chicken. Cook another minute.

I like larger pieces of egg to show in my stir fry, so I don't break it up too much. Mix well and serve hot.

And this recipe is easy to double, if you are feeding a brood, or want leftovers to bring for lunch during the week - it reheats quickly and deliciously.

For the cheapest version use chicken legs or thighs. Don't worry about taking off the skin or bone. Just marinade the pieces and fry them up until done. When they cool down take the meat off the bone. You can get rid of the crispy fried skin if you want - or save it for the cook!

Add more or less chicken and veggies to suit your taste buds. Also, you can substitute broccoli or almost any favorite veggie, instead of peas and carrot.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cheapie Chicken Recipe Series

Chicken is the cheapest meat, and for the next half dozen blog posts I'll give you a clutch of pleasing poultry entrees you'll crow about. I'll even stuff-in a couple recipe videos.

If you're a penny pincher like me then you know poultry is the way to go. As an example, I get chicken from my local Latin market for 99 cents per pound and less. I often get a 10 pound bag of leg quarters (that's leg and thigh combined) on sale for 67 cents per pound! White meat breast is frequently priced at around 99 cents per pound. If you can break down a whole chicken, then it's way less than a buck per pound. And every once in a while I even get boneless and skinless leg quarters for 88 cents per pound! Now you know why I like to cook with cluckers.

(Of course, if you are the health food type with a few more ducats to blow, then, by all means, splurge on chicken that's organic, free range, no hormones or antibiotics - you can still use my tasty recipes.)

When I want to feast on fowl, fried chicken is number one. It's all about the crusty coating for traditional fried chicken, and I have a delish seasoned flour recipe for you. You'll have to check back and watch my video to find out how I make a moist and crunchy Fried Chicken Sandwich. Chick-fil-A, look out, there's a new poultry purveyor on the scene!

Fried chicken is easy to make but it's a little greasy, so you don't want to make it every week, but I have a lighter entree that's even simpler to do, my Roasted Chicken & Peaches with Herbs.

It's a one pot meal: just add a couple of your favorite chicken pieces with fresh peach slices, and sprinkle on some herbs with a splash of white wine. Bake it for 45 minutes and you have the best of both worlds: sweet baked fruit and juicy roasted chicken. I find fruit and poultry go so well together. And this is another of my stop motion animated recipe videos.

You can't get much cheaper than rice and chicken, so I include a quick and easy to make Chicken Fried Rice recipe.

I also have a ripoff recipe. Hey, when you find something that's so delicious, you gotta do it yourself, and if you can do it cheaper, then all the better. My wife likes to shop at Trader Joe's here is Los Angeles. It's a cross between Whole Foods and a regular grocery store. They have a lot of prepared food stuff, and one of the best is Trader Joe's Curried White Chicken Deli Salad. It's the most savory chicken salad you can pile on a cracker.

When I was trying to figure out the recipe, I would drop by Trader Joe's after work to take a picture of the chicken salad ingredients, but I found it always sold out! It's the type of to-go food that you must buy earlier in the day -  by the time everyone hits Trader Joe's on the way home from their 9 to 5 (or in my case, 10 to 8) it's sold out.

The tricky part is, how much of each ingredient do you use? I think I got it close enough, and I'm happy to share it with you. Some of the ingredients are: cashews, raisins, shredded carrot, green onion, curry powder, and of course, white meat chicken. It's all too much of a good thing.

You know where I get my plucked pullets, or broilers. As for the other ingredients, most come from my local 99c only Store. Trader Joe's sells eleven ounces of Curried White Chicken Deli Salad for $3.99. I made almost twice as much for less than the market price.

So do check back for my flock of cheap$kate, but delicious, chicken recipes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Breakfast Salsa Tacos - Leftovers Series

Usually when I make Carnitas Tacos from scratch there are leftovers. We threw a party for my father-in-law Bob on his 80th birthday this summer. There were 10 of us to feed and I cooked 2 whole pork shoulders (click here for my Pork Carnitas Recipe.) I also made homemade Pinto Beans and Mexican Rice. It was such a big hit, that all the Carnitas were eaten -- so no leftovers there.

To get the birthday party rolling I made 6 homemade salsas served with a big bowl of store-bought tortilla chips. Since the main entree, and the beans and rice, were made a day ahead, I wanted something fresh, so the salsas were made the day of the party with veggies, fruit and pungent dried (and rehydrated) chilis.

For my salsa party recipes, just click on any name listed here: Roasted Salsa Verde (tomatillo,) Red Chili (2 dried types - but same recipe,) Pico de Gallo, Mango, and Avocado Crema. I had a lot of salsa leftovers - mainly Mango, Roasted Salsa Verde and the 2 Red Chilis. Not that the guests didn't like the leftover ones, they raved about them, especially the Mango Salsa, I just made a lot.

So the easiest way I thought to use up the salsas was to make Breakfast Salsa Tacos. I combined two of my favorite Mexican Taco recipes, Scrambled Eggs with Refried Beans, and Mexican Chorizo and Eggs (click on the names to see the complete recipes.)

Homemade salsas are so delicious and will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 to 7 days. And the cooked salsas, Red Chili and Roasted Salsa Verde (tomatillo,) can be frozen for later use.

My homemade salsas add appetizing color and intense flavors. I also used Soy Chorizo that I get from my local 99 cent only Store. Corn tortillas, pinto beans and eggs are cheap too. It's quite impressive when you serve this colorful breakfast made from humble ingredients.

Using fresh made salsa is such a refreshing way to start the day. So read on as I take you step-by-step on my Breakfast Salsa Taco cooking journey.

Ingredients ( enough for 2-3 people)
  • 4 eggs - I used large eggs.
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Mexican Chorizo - the soft kind. I used Soy Chorizo, okay to use beef or pork chorizo.
  • 3 tablespoon cooked pinto beans - homemade or from the can.
  • Corn tortillas - about 6 to 8. I used the small taquera or taco truck ones (measures 4 inches across.) Of course, okay to use regular larger ones. Also, you can use flour or wheat tortillas.
  • A few teaspoons of cooking oil, or leftover pork fat and broth from Carnitas - which I used.
  • No seasoning necessary as Chorizo and beans have plenty of salt - at least for me.

Get out the salsas to bring to room temperature, so they are ready to top your tacos.

In my original Chorizo and Eggs recipe listed above I cooked the two ingredients together. For this recipe I cooked the chorizo by itself, adding it to the Refried Beans and Eggs later.

I get things going by adding a teaspoon of oil (or leftover Carnitas broth/fat) in my frying pan, over a medium heat. I add the chorizo and cook and stir it until the liquid is cooked away the the chorizo is crumbly, but still a little moist - about 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove it from the pan when done and set aside. Add more oil if needed and spoon-in the 3 tablespoons of cooked pinto beans. Add a tablespoon of the liquid too. Use a fork and mash the pinto beans. You will form a chunky paste. Stir and heat beans through, about 3 minutes.

Now add the 4 eggs. I like to break the yokes and cook it a minute until the eggs start to set - without stirring. That way you get nice egg pieces and it's not all brown from over-stiring.

At this point see the paragraph below and start the tortillas heating up.

Once eggs are semi-cooked break it all apart and loosely stir it together. Just cook eggs until they are at your desired scramble doneness. About 3 to 5 minutes total.

(If you like your eggs well scrambled, so the white and yoke are blended, then mix eggs in a separate bowl, add them to refried beans. I would still let the eggs set for a minute, then start slowly mixing it all together.)

Once the eggs have cooked for a minute, that's when you start the tortillas heating up. I add a little pork fat or oil to a grill or frying pan and start heating the tortillas over a medium heat. If the tortillas cook too fast, then just drop the heat to low and stack the tortillas and flip them, from time-to-time, until eggs are done.

You can heat the torilllas a little or char them, it's up to you. It takes just 30 seconds, to a minute, for each side to heat through. It's okay to cook all the tortillas ahead and wrap them in a paper towel (to keep warm) and place them on a plate. You can even give them a 20 second microwave to reheat them when the eggs are done.

When the eggs are almost done, I move them to one side of the pan and add the cooked chorizo to heat it up, too. Cook eggs until desired doneness. You could also microwave cooked chorizo for 15 to 30 seconds, if your pan is too small.

That's it, now you just assemble the Breakfast Salsa Tacos by adding some eggs and chorizo to the warm corn tortilla and top with any salsa, or combination of salsas.

It's easy tweak the the main ingredients to balance the tacos your way. Do you like a lot of egg and no chorizo? How about mainly chorizo and refried beans? It's all good. Just break an extra egg or two, or add another scoop of chorizo and refried beans.

It's best to keep leftover salsa in the refrigerator until you get to cooking. Bring the salsas to room temperature before serving.

You can use a favorite cooking oil instead of leftover Carnitas broth/fat (if you are making these Breakfast Salsa Tacos from scratch.) And, of course, you can use your preferred jarred salsa, too.
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