chicken salad with grapes and raisins

Mayonnaise tends to be a rather black and white issue — you either love it or you hate it. I haven’t met many people who fall in the middle. In my house, just like with tomatoes, I’m the only one who loves mayonnaise. My husband cringes at the thought of it touching his sandwiches. And because they are loyal to their dad, my kids are following in his footsteps. But me? When I was pregnant with both kids, I didn’t crave pickles. I craved mayonnaise. The real, full-fat mayo. Well, that and Icees.

Because this week is going to be a bit of a beast, I told myself that I would be prepared for it this time. Not only will I put on my This-Week-Will-Not-Get-Me-Down game face, but I will actually pack a lunch.  Novel concept, I know, but sometimes these little things are sometimes tough to keep up with. I decided that I would make chicken salad — all for myself. And I can justify this, you see, because no one else likes mayonnaise. [imagine evil laughter here]

So, as I sit here on a rainy Sunday afternoon typing away on my Mac laptop, I’ve got two lunches chilling in the refrigerator.  I’ve made two little containers full of the most delicious chicken salad. When I finally get to squeeze in a few minutes for lunch Monday and Tuesday, the chunks of roasted chicken mixed with mayonnaise, celery, grapes, and golden raisins will give me a smile and get me through the rest of those busy days.

I am ready for this week. Oh, yes I am.

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Raisins

As much as I love full-fat mayonnaise, I just can't justify it, especially when I'm going to be the only one eating all of this delicious salad. I used a combination of light mayonnaise and nonfat Greek yogurt, and the flavor is spot on. You'll never notice the difference. Serve it up on your favorite sandwich bread, or just eat it out of a bowl.


2 chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
1 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Hellman's Light.)
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken breasts skin-side up on a sheet pan lined with foil. Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle generously with Kosher salt. Roast chicken breasts for 35-40 minutes, until the thickest part of the chicken breast reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let cool to room temperature then remove skin and bones. Cube chicken into 1/4-inch pieces.

Mix cooked chicken, celery, shallot, grapes, and raisins in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well, then add to large bowl with chicken. Stir well to combine.

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31 Responses to “on the packed lunch and a recipe for chickpea salad”

  1. tami — April 13, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

    i picked up that issue of BA that this recipe was in and was reminded of how much i want to make this…and you’ve sealed the deal. love the addition of the preserved lemons.

    this orzo salad i made a while back for my blog is always something relatively easy to make & holds well for lunches:


    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

      Tami – Thanks for the orzo salad link. It looks perfect! And yes, you should make the chickpea salad. It’s a keeper.

  2. Kate @ Savour Fare — April 13, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

    I was going to suggest this one, too! I saw it in BA and put it on my mental lunch list. I also like lentils with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, a little fresh mint, and a mustard vinaigrette. Or Molly’s butternut squash and chick pea salad. Or the one on my site with the roasted summer squash and cauliflower and beans.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

      Kate – So many ideas…awesome!

  3. Maris (In Good Taste) — April 13, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

    Lovely salad. What are your thoughts on certain Chicago schools banning children from bringing their lunch?

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

      Maris – I’m just happy I don’t live in that school district. I would guess it’s a ploy to keep school lunch dollars within the school district. It usually comes down to money.

  4. Aggie — April 13, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

    I love this post MJ. Its so honest and so true for so many people!! I’m home and I wish I had a cafeteria to give money too for lunch sometimes. I am also secretly (not so secretly) jealous of the lunches my husband has with his work friends too.
    But for all the reasons you mentioned, such a good idea to bring lunch from home. Going through this with my husband right now, trying to keep things interesting for him and me at lunch. Am def trying this chickpea salad. It looks all kinds of good. Where do I get preserved lemon?
    Here’s an easy throw together salad I’ve made plenty of times. I don’t put the dressing on till last minute.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

      What a great lunch idea, Aggie. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  5. macaroni mama — April 13, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    I have just the recipe you need. I will email it to you. Darlene made it for us and the men loved it!

  6. Jen — April 13, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

    I almost exclusively bring leftovers from dinner. You cook lots of yummy awesome thing- just make a little more and you have lunch covered.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

      I forgot to mention that I hate leftovers. 😉

  7. DessertForTwo — April 13, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

    I made this same recipe from BA and adored it!

    My strategy for work lunches is to make extra dinner. I enjoy leftovers even better at work. But when I don’t have leftovers, I turn to a few things:
    1. Sweet potatoes. They keep forever in the cupboard and you nuke ’em at work, top with butter& honey. EatingWell has a great recipe for sweet potatoes topped with black beans. The recipe doesn’t sound that great, but the flavor is out of this world. It always surprises me!
    2. Hummus & baby carrots and celery is one of my favorite lunches. Add a glass of milk (or an ounce of cheese) and some fruit, dates and nuts and I’m good for a few hours.
    3. Avocado & salsa. Cut open avocado, fill pit hole with salsa and eat with a spoon. I’ve been known to eat this on-the-go. If you stash tortilla chips at your desk, you can enjoy them with this too.
    4. Smoothies. Can you stock frozen fruit in the freezer at work for quick smoothies?
    5. Can you stock cans of Amy’s Soup (lentil vegetable is my fave) at your desk? A bag of pita chips and an orange with this is a great lunch for me.
    6. And last but not least, whenever I make lasagne, I wrap up a few extra squares for the freezer. It usually defrosts by lunch time and it’s good to go!

    Good luck with this! You will love living without the guilt of eating hospital cafeteria food 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 13th, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

      Such wonderful lunch ideas! I love the simplicity of them.

  8. DessertForTwo — April 13, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

    Wait! I have one more!

    Bulgur! You know, the stuff they make tabbouli with? You boil water, pour it over, cover it and let it sit for ~5 mins and it’s done! (just like cous cous). Usually, I add a handful of herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.

    While my honey is washing the dishes after dinner, I throw on the tea kettle, add some bulgur to a bowl (and some sun dried tomatoes), let steep, stir in herbs & things and throw it in the fridge for the next day. Super easy! Cubes of feta and olives are great in it, too.

  9. My 13 year old daughter informed me today that hummus is embarassing to take to lunch — maybe I’ll try this one out. Looks like a delicious way to get your garbanzos if hummus is uncool!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 14th, 2011 @ 7:10 am

      That is so funny. I thought all the cool kids brought hummus. 🙂

  10. Gretchen — April 13, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

    I’m a weirdie and can’t handle day after day of room temperature lunches. The solution was to get a vacuum jar; we use Mr. Bento but there are other varieties out there. This keeps two dishes hot and two dishes at room temperature (there’s an insulated lid separating the top from the bottom.) I have to use fairly robust lettuces in the salad to keep it from wilting, but those are better for you anyway. Anyhow, you can put anything you like into this, so it’s not as restrictive as a cold lunch diet, and it doesn’t require waiting in line for a microwave like most workplace hot lunches. We batch cook weekly and then vary it slightly with garnishes and sides.

    You can get an idea for the kind of goodies you can put in these boxes by looking at — I’m way behind in my uploads but my own pictures are and you can see how we evolve from using some packaged foods, especially packaged soups, to a completely from-scratch lifestyle. This has also gotten my husband eating more fruits and vegetables, and broken his habit of eating restaurant lunches, which were hammering his blood pressure along with not being cheap.

    When we need to do cold lunches, I really like either something based on fried rice or quinoa, or frittata. It keeps a few days so a pan of frittata can make several meals, depending on how big your pan is.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 14th, 2011 @ 7:12 am

      Gretchen – Holy cow! What a wonderful idea, and your photos of the lunches are incredible. So colorful! Thanks for sharing with me.

  11. Binky — April 14, 2011 @ 12:14 am

    Great post + photo! That chickpea salad looks so good!

    I am lazy too. But, money is getting tight around the house, and I have to discipline myself.


    I used to do leftovers from dinner. Now, I cook in bulk. Chicken soup from a whole chicken, beef stock just to have it, beef stew, filipino chicken adobo (easy dish; I can give you a recipe!), and chicken curry. I freeze dishes in separate tupperware if I make a lot, and put one in the fridge to defrost as I plan my meals.

    For my morning breakfast or snacks, I make bulk oatmeal to refrigerate for a few days, or have grapefuit with cottage cheese, or just boil some hard boiled eggs the night before.

    I eat every dish with rice (except the oatmeal & grapefruit w/cc), and so I make 2- 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker (set & forget) which is good for a couple of days.

    With homemade bulk, you get to control what you eat, and the system is lazy-friendly!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 14th, 2011 @ 7:12 am

      Binky – I like the bulk idea. We rarely cook in bulk, so this is an easy thing we could change.

      • Gretchen replied: — April 14th, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

        Cooking in bulk has really changed our lives. It does mean our staples are not “one dish wonders” but lots of stews and braises, but we can do special cooking on the weekends when we have more time for it. We like to keep a week of frozen main dishes and soup on hand… it’s usually easier to make the sides as we go. I like freezing in freezer-safe canning jars, which can be popped into a pan of hot water for a rush defrost, but you have to be careful to leave enough headspace, or they can crack. It makes portioning a breeze, too, just figure out how much you like to eat at a meal, find a container that fits two portions, freeze/store in fridge depending on how soon you’ll eat it. Split it in half and enjoy not having to cook.

  12. Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 14, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

    I do adore a good chickpea salad. I love how filling garbanzo beans are, how this could not only make a wonderful side dish, but a vegetarian entree for lunch as well!

  13. Ara — April 17, 2011 @ 10:24 am

    Looks delicious! That chickpea salad recipe is easy to do and seems really delicious. I would try this one of these days. Good thing, I found this. Anyway, a good pack lunch is a healthy pack lunch. =) Why not make a sandwich or a salad? Here, I think you might be interested on this one,

  14. Molly — April 18, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    Although my husband could survive on pb&j sandwiches, a glass of milk and cookie, I am not as lucky. I never seem to get my act together in the morning for a freshly made lunch. I keep some ramen-esque type noodle soups in my desk at work for emergency situations, and oftentimes eat last night’s meal for the next day’s lunch. I wouldn’t recommend dressed leafy greens on the second day, though. Bad, bad news.

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  16. I am so glad that you posted this. I saw this in the recent issue of Bon Appetit and thought it looked good. It looks like a really easy recipe to make and would be perfect for packing for lunch. Also, a wonderful side dish for dinner! Thanks again.

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