Sesame mandarin chicken salad

I was in Las Vegas last week for IDEA World, and it was such a blast! I put on a conference for work, so I was mostly there to check out the setup, sponsorship activation, registration process and get some ideas for our conference, but it was an added bonus that it was something that's a big part of my life! I got to attend a few nutritional sessions and a few workshops/workouts, so I definitely learned a lot and got some great sweat sessions in. The expo had 350 booths! It was HUGE and so great to see everything set up and check out the various health food companies, fitness equipment and entertainment. It was intimidating being around so many fit people, but definitely motivating :). This was the first time I went to Vegas and didn't have a single sip of alcohol and came back feeling healthier than when I left! Definitely weird, but it sure was great feeling 100% on the flight home!

Vegas was 104 every day so I didn't spend too much time outside, so I went on a picnic this past weekend and wanted to make something light and refreshing. With the mandarin oranges in the salad, it was exactly what I was craving! The salad is pretty much a healthy version of an oriental chicken salad, but I added in avocado for some healthy fats and creaminess and made a paleo version for the dressing. The avocado pairs so well with the sesame oil!

I used a mix of romaine lettuce and shredded cabbage, but you can use spinach or another leafy green of choice. I used pre-shredded cabbage (it was actually a mix of green and red cabbage and carrots) and shredded carrots to make life easier. You could buy green cabbage and thinly slice it if you'd like. For the carrots, you could buy whole ones and shred them.

I used canned mandarin oranges from Sprouts. They're in pear juice and have no added preservatives. If cuties or tangelos are in season, you can definitely use fresh oranges. You would just peel them and use the slices and juice one for the dressing.

For those that think cilantro tastes like soap, you can totally leave it out. The friend I was with wasn't a fan of cilantro so they left it out and still loved the salad. However, I LOVE cilantro and love the flavor and freshness it adds to the salad. I made quite a bit of salad so I'd still have 2 salads left for lunches for the week after our picnic, so you can definitely cut the recipe in half if you just want two servings.

Ingredients:

salad:

5 cups chopped Romaine lettuce

5 cups shredded cabbage (you can use a bag of already shredded cabbage or chop it yourself)

3 cups shredded carrots

1 bunch cilantro

1 can mandarin oranges, juice reserved

4 green onions, minced (I used the entire thing - green and white and just cut the very end off)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1'' cubes, or shredded chicken

1 large avocado

dressing:

1 tablespoon mandarin juice (from canned mandarin oranges)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons coconut aminos

1'' ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the romaine lettuce and cut (or tear) into bite size pieces and place in large mixing bowl

2. Pour shredded cabbage and carrots into the bowl

3. Wash and dry cilantro and remove stems. Roughly chop and place in bowl

4. Wash and dry green onions. Remove very tips (the fuzzy part) and slice diagonally into very thin pieces and place in bowl

5. Mix everything well and add the chopped or shredded chicken

6. In small jar with tight lid, add the dressing ingredients. Close lid tightly and shake well

7. Slice avocado into 1/2'' pieces and add to bowl

8. When ready to serve, add the dressing to your taste preference (I had some dressing left over).

Enjoy!

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