Sometimes an idea for a meal strikes out of nowhere. You’re moving through the course of your day when inspiration hits, creativity takes hold and a delicious recipe forms before you. But most of the time planning what to cook for the week can feel stressful and overwhelming. There seems to be an invisible pressure to cook the latest and greatest meals, and a never ending supply of new recipes to try. When I’m feeling this way, there is a technique I use to cut through the clutter and make some quick meal planning decisions: copy your favorite store-bought and restaurant meals.
This salad was born from this technique when one week, I couldn’t decided what to make for lunches. It was Sunday afternoon and I was drawing blanks on what to prepare for the week. I was about ready to throw in the towel and buy pre-made salads when it occurred to me that I could just recreate what I was about to purchase. It’s a simple solution, I know, but suddenly I had a whole list of salads I knew I loved that I could learn to make and enjoy.
This Cold Noodle Salad is based off of Trader Joe’s Five Spice Chicken Noodle Salad. Cool and refreshing it is a perfect lunch for the warm days ahead. Raw bell peppers and cucumbers provide a fresh crunch and the herbs make each bite bright and full of flavor. The chicken and peanuts give it a rich and savory balance and the sweet-chili dressing finishes this salad off with a sweet and sour tang.
- In a bowl combine the soy sauce, ¼ cup of the vegetable oil, 2 tbsp of the lime juice, 2 tbsp of the ginger, pepper, 1 clove of garlic, and the lime zest. Marinate the chicken breasts for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In an oven safe pan heat 2 tbsp of olive or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering sear the chicken breasts until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side.
- Move the pan to the oven and bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Remove pan from oven and move the chicken to a plate or cutting board and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and store in the refrigerator.
- In a mason jar add remaining ¼ cup vegetable oil, 2½ tbsp lime juice, ½ tbsp ginger, 1 clove of garlic, rice wine vinegar, sweet chili sauce and sugar. Close with lid and shake vigorously to combine. Store in the refrigerator.
- In a large bowl toss cabbage, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, rice noodles, and herbs in desired amount of dressing. Divide between two plates or bowls and top with sliced chicken and peanuts. Enjoy!
* After you’ve cooked your rice noodles according to the instructions and drained them, add a 1/2 tsp of oil to the noodles to keep them from sticking together
* To get fine pieces of garlic and ginger for the marinade, and more importantly for the dressing, use a fine grater or zester