Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing – Updated

This salad is equal parts sweet and savory, and entirely delicious.

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Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

I know that some people automatically think of salads as being “sad desk lunches.” While this certainly can be true, this particular salad definitely does not conform to that stereotype.

This salad has a little bit of everything: fresh greens, sweet red grapes and blueberries, filling chicken, and a savory dressing. The sweet freshness of the salad and savory dressing play really well together. Plus, while it doesn’t have all of the colors of the rainbow, it’s also very colorful and pretty.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Along these lines, I’ve shared a few savory-sweet salads with you in the past. See the Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets, Watermelon Avocado Salad, or Strawberry Balsamic Salad for other delicious examples.

Sad desk lunch be gone!

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

This salad is based on a recipe from Pinch of Yum. I blogged about it almost 3 years ago exactly (original post found here), but tinkered with the proportions for the dressing a little bit.

You’ll need:

For the salad (makes 1 salad) –

  • 2 oz. cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces (rotisserie chicken is a time-saver)
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slivered or sliced
  • lettuces/greens of your choice (I used a combination of spring mix greens and baby arugula)

For the dressing (makes enough for 4-5 salads) –

  • 4 tbs almond butter (sub peanut butter if desired)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tbs water
  • 2 tbs stoneground mustard
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove

Assemble the salad in whatever vessel you choose. I prefer a bowl. Set it aside while you make the dressing.

Combine all dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Taste and add more salt as needed.

Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks
Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Herbed Kale and Sausage Dressing

This has been my go-to dressing for the past couple of years. It’s savory, herby, and makes for excellent leftovers.Kale and Italian Sausage Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Can we talk about the stuffing vs. dressing terminology for just a second?  I have a hard time calling anything “dressing”, and almost always want to say “stuffing”.  This is probably due, in part, to me growing up in Pennsylvania, where I don’t think think that “dressing” is part of our Thanksgiving food-related lexicon.

However, I realize that anything of this nature that’s cooked in a pan is called “dressing”, while stuffing is technically stuffed into the cavity of the turkey, and cooked that way.  But, let’s be honest, the concept of stuffing is actually pretty disgusting.  The innermost stuffing rarely has a chance to come up to a high enough temperature to be safe to eat.  Enjoy that holiday meal with a side of gastrointestinal distress.

Anyway… I suppose we should attempt to be as correct as possible here.  So, “dressing” it is.

Even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, this dressing would make a lovely addition to your table for Christmas dinner.  Or anytime you feel like eating a ton of carbs, really.  The leftovers are fantastic, too.  Heat them up in the oven, microwave, or in a skillet.  Enjoy as is or top with a runny egg (breakfast/brunch, anyone?).  Perfection.

Kale and Italian Sausage Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

This post may contain affiliate links.

This recipe comes from the blog Kitchen Konfidence.

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 lb loaf of good quality ciabatta or French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 lbs mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tbs fresh basil, chopped (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp fresh sage, chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried)

If making the stuffing to be served immediately, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  If you’re making this dressing a day ahead of time, don’t bother preheating.

Cut or tear the bread into bite-sized cubes.  Place it in a shallow baking dish and drizzle with the milk to saturate. Let it sit for 30 minutes, gently tossing things around occasionally to ensure that the bread is soaking up the milk uniformly.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook through, crumbling as it cooks. Stir in the onion, celery, parsley, and garlic.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Cook until the onion and celery begin to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add the kale, 1/2 cup of water and another pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the kale wilts.  This should take about 5 minutes.

Transfer the bread to a large bowl.  Add the sausage and kale mixture to the bowl along with the parmesan cheese, basil, rosemary, sage, 2 pinches of salt and several turns of black pepper. Gently toss the mixture until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.  Give the dressing a taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.  Transfer the dressing to a 9×13-inch baking dish.

This dressing can be made a day ahead of time (one of my favorite things about this recipe, TBH) and refrigerated until you’re ready to bake it.

Whenever you’re ready to bake and eat the dressing, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake uncovered until hot (at least 150 degrees in the center) and lightly browned.  This should take about half an hour.


Pumpkin Beer Bread

Fast, easy, and full of pumpkin and beer-y flavor. This bread is perfect for slathering with butter and dunking into some soup or chili.Pumpkin Beer Bread | A Nerd CooksIt’s the middle of September.  It is officially okay to blog about pumpkin recipes.  So says I.

After being sick for more than a week, I finally felt better last Sunday and went on a bit of a baking spree.  This beer bread was one of the recipes I tried.

The pumpkin flavor is pretty subtle, as are sort of traditional pumpkin spices.  It definitely predominantly has the flavors of the beer bread that we all know and love.

Though I’ve just been eating it warm with some butter, it would be great dunked in some Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili or Chicken Pumpkin Soup.  Or, you know, any non-pumpkin-based chili or soup.

Pumpkin Beer Bread | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from Gimme Some Oven.

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 12 oz. bottle of beer (pumpkin beer recommended – I used Sam Adams’ 20 Pounds of Pumpkin)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves together.

Add the honey and pumpkin puree, stirring until combined.  This will be a little difficult.

Slowly add the beer and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick/knife comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Allow the bread to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing in.

Pumpkin Beer Bread | A Nerd Cooks

Cilantro Lime Rice – Chipotle Copycat

Cilantro Lime Rice – just like Chipotle!Cilantro Lime Rice | A Nerd CooksSo, obviously I have a deep and abiding love for Chipotle.

Only a monster wouldn’t.  Kidding.  Sort of.


As much as I would love to eat at Chipotle on the regular, it can get to be a little bit expensive.

I’ve started playing around and making my own burrito bowls at home, and this Cilantro Lime Rice always serves as the base.  It makes a good side dish, too!


A little while back, Buzzfeed posted a bunch of Chipotle copycat recipes.  This is a slight adaptation of one of those recipes.

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/4 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt, to taste

Combine the rice, water, and bay leaves.  Cook according to package directions.  I made mine in a rice cooker.

Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and add the vegetable oil, lime juice, cilantro, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets and Poppy Seed Dressing

This salad is fresh, delicious, and chock full of spring produce. It is topped with a tangy-sweet homemade poppy seed dressing.Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets and Poppy Seed Dressing | A Nerd CooksSalad need not be boring.  Banish that notion from  your mind.  This salad–along with this Mediterranean Chopped Salad, Greek Power Bowl, and Strawberry Balsamic Salad–is proof.  #saddesklunch be gone!

For this little number, I loaded up some arugula and baby greens with lots of berries and roasted beets.  Then I added some crunchy toasted pecans and some salty feta cheese.  Top all of that with a tangy-sweet homemade poppy seed dressing, and you’re in business.

Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets and Poppy Seed Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

For the dressing (makes enough for 4-5 salads)-

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 3 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbs poppy seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad (makes 1 large salad)- 

  • 3 cups greens of choice (I used a spring mix and baby arugula)
  • fresh basil, sliced into thin strips
  • 5-6 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup roasted beets
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients for the poppy seed dressing together.  Taste and add more salt or pepper as desired.  The dressing will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for ~5 days.  Set aside for a moment.

Add all of the salad ingredients to a bowl.  Drizzle with 1-2 tbs dressing.


Mediterranean Chopped Salad – Updated!

Mediterranean Chopped Salad | A Nerd CooksHaaaayyyy!  I’m clawing my way back from grant submission-induced online inactivity.

The first recipe I wanted to show you this week is this Mediterranean Chopped Salad, which I’ve been making for a few years now.

Don’t worry, we’ll be back to donuts and cookies soon enough.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad | A Nerd CooksNeed more salad action?  Check out this Greek Power Bowl, Strawberry Balsamic Salad, and Watermelon and Avocado Salad, to name just a few.

They, along with this chopped salad, are all light enough for the warmer weather, but still substantial enough to keep you going until dinner time.Mediterranean Chopped Salad | A Nerd Cooks

My original blog post for this salad can be found here.

You’ll need (makes ~4 salads):

For the salad – 

  • 1 medium English cucumber
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 14 oz. can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4-5 cups lettuces of choice (I like baby arugula and a spring mix)

For the vinaigrette – 

  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper

Cut the English cucumber in half, lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.  This will keep your salad from getting watery and soggy as it sits in the fridge.  Cut each cucumber half into thirds, and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Add the cucumber to a large bowl along with the halved tomatoes, chick peas, chopped olives, crumbled feta, and greens.  Toss everything together.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the proportions to your liking.  I’m a big fan of super vinegary and sour, pucker-inducing flavors, but you do you.

Don’t add the vinaigrette to the salad until you’re ready to eat.

Want to make this salad even more filling?  Throw some avocado or baked falafel on top.  You can’t go wrong.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad | A Nerd Cooks

Farro Caprese Salad

This farro caprese salad is fresh and summery: perfect for upcoming warmer weather.Farro Caprese Salad | A Nerd Cooks

Farro is, hands down, my new favorite grain.  It’s an ancient grain that’s roughly nutritionally equivalent to quinoa. However, I find its chewy texture to be much more interesting.  It’s kind of nutty, and is great in salads.  I can’t lie, I even ate it as a hot breakfast cereal one morning with some brown sugar and cinnamon.  Pretty tasty.Farro Caprese Salad | A Nerd CooksThough you could definitely make this salad any time of the year, Caprese anything screams “summer” to me.  This salad is doubly summery, to me, with the addition of baby arugula.

I’ve made this to take to work all week for my lunch, but this would also be perfect for cookouts and BBQs, or as a side dish for dinner.Farro Caprese Salad | A Nerd Cooks

This salad is inspired by one that I saw on Pastiche.

You’ll need:

  • 14 oz. bag Italian pearled farro
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 handfuls fresh baby arugula
  • 1.5 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place the farro and water in a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the remaining water from the pot, add the olive oil and salt, and toss to combine.  Allow the farro to cool to room temperature.

Add the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and arugula to the cooled farro.  Toss everything together.

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Pour over the farro and toss to coat everything evenly.

This can be eaten cold, at room temperature, or warm (think melty strings of mozzarella).

Farro Caprese Salad | A Nerd Cooks