Gluten Free Chicken, Rice, Apple, and Kale Salad with Apple Cider Vinegar & Cinnamon Dressing

Answer the question: “What should I make for dinner tonight?” with this easy, quick, and healthy rice salad.  Filled with fresh apples, kale, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and chicken, this salad will become a family favorite.

While I am no master gardener, I do work my little piece of land each year and hope for the best.  It seems that the composition of my soil is very well suited for growing kale.  Every single year our garden is full of lush, green kale.  As a result, my kiddos are accustomed to finding kale in many of their meals, and thankfully, they don’t mind!

One of the reasons that I love kale so much is that the growing season is so long.  I live in the Northeast, and I will be harvesting kale well into the fall months.  I typically have plants that weather our cold winters and begin sprouting at the first hint of warmth.

Today’s recipe features kale.  It adds color and great nutrition to this amazingly simple meal.

Because of food allergies, we rarely eat out.  As a result I always have a quick and easy dinner at the ready when a crazy, overbooked day bombards us.  One item that I always keep on hand are grilled chicken breasts that have been fully cooked, cubed, and packaged into 2 cup portions.  I keep them in the freezer so they are ready to use when I need to whip up dinner in a hurry.

This dish begins with rice.  Normally, I make long grain brown rice and steer clear of white rice.  Brown rice is far more nutritious. However, I must make a confession:  I love white rice.  But as I said, I rarely make it.  Because I rarely make white rice, I don’t feel guilty about indulging in the fluffy stuff every now and again. And since white rice cooks up so much quicker than brown, I used it in this recipe.

I love the flavor combination in this salad: apple, kale, lightly salted and roasted sunflower seeds, tart dried cranberries, scallions, and grilled chicken.  They all work together so well especially in the fall.  But the real star of this dish is the dressing.  It is loaded with a hefty dose of cinnamon.  When making the dressing you will feel that you’ve added too much cinnamon.  You haven’t.  The point of this dish is to have a pronounced cinnamon flavor not a subtle one.

Celebrate the beginning of fall with this easy and festive dinner.  I think you’ll love it!

Gluten Free Chicken, Rice, and Apple Salad
serves 8

4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups long grain white rice*

Stir ins:
1 cup dried, fruit juice sweetened , cranberries
1/2 cup lightly salted, roasted sunflower seeds
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
3 cups diced apple (I prefer to use Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Pinata variety)
2 cups tightly packed chopped kale leaves
2 & 1/2 cups cooked, cubed white meat chicken

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil (I prefer a mild oil)
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Bring the water for the rice, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a bowl.  Add in the rice, stir once, and cover tightly.  Reduce the heat to low and allow the rice to simmer for 15 minutes (or according to package instructions).  Remove from the heat, take off the lid (yes, take off the lid), and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

*You can certainly opt to use brown rice instead of white, just be sure to cook according to package instructions.

Transfer the cooked rice to a stock pot (using a bigger pot will make the stirring process much easier!).

Add the cranberries, sunflower seeds, scallions, apples, kale, and cooked chicken to the pot.  Don’t stir.  Too much stirring can make the rice sticky.

Place all of the dressing ingredients into a mason jar with a tight fitting lid.  Vigorously shake until all of the ingredients come together and are emulsified.  Pour 3/4 of the dressing into the stock pot with the rice.  Stir to mix all of the ingredients together.  I like to reserve a bit of dressing in case someone would like to add more to their salad.

That’s it!  Serve and enjoy!

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