Warm Chopped Chicken, Kale and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Chickpeas

I've been a fan of chopped salads since my days of living in Manhattan in my early twenties.  My friends and I would eat lunch at a cafe near my apartment and order the chopped salad.  

It was the first time I had ever experienced a salad that was cut up into little bite-sized pieces, getting a taste of each ingredient in every forkful. I was in love.

Warm Chopped Chicken, Kale and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Chickpeas

Recently, the restaurant, Chopt, opened in my town and I was super excited to try it out.  They have a huge variety of chopped salads, including make-your-own.  

They also have a series of salads served warm, with a hot quinoa or rice blend mixed in.  I find the toasty, earthy flavors so cozy to eat, and these are my favorite salads at this popular restaurant. 

Inspired by that first chopped salad in New York City, as well as my favorite warm salad from Chopt, I created this chopped chicken, kale, and quinoa salad, studded with pine nuts, cranberries, and toasted chickpeas, and served warm.  

The tangy dressing pulls the flavors together without overpowering them, and this is an easy meal to make.  My husband and I both loved this hearty and healthy salad.  The recipe is gluten-free and could also be made vegetarian or vegan by omitting the chicken.  There is plenty of protein provided by the quinoa and chickpeas.

Delicious earthy, toasty flavors comprise this warm chopped salad.  Quinoa, chicken and kale give it heartiness, while the tangy dressing brings the flavors together.

Warm Chopped Chicken, Kale, and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Chickpeas

3 servings

For the salad:

1- 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp seasoning blend (I used Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning)
1/4 tsp salt (if seasoning blend does not include it)
1 tsp avocado oil or other cooking oil
1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa or brown rice/quinoa blend (see note below), warm
2 cups of kale, chopped into small bites
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
3 tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 cup diced cooked chicken (optional - omit for vegan/vegetarian)

For the Dressing:

1 tsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.  

In a non-stick skillet, heat the avocado oil over medium heat.  Add the chickpeas and season with the seasoning blend (and salt).  Cook until toasted and the skin starts to turn brown and get crunchy.  Remove from heat.

Combine quinoa (or brown rice/quinoa blend), kale, pine nuts, and cranberries in a bowl.  Add the dressing and toss to combine, letting the warm quinoa and the dressing wilt the kale a bit.  Add the chicken and parmesan and toss again.  Plate the salad and top with toasted chickpeas.  

**Note about Brown Rice/Quinoa blend:  I like to cook a batch of this blend to have on hand weekly.  I mix equal parts quinoa and quick-cooking brown rice (I use the Trader Joe's Quick Cook Organic Brown Basmati Rice) with double the amount of broth or water  (a 1:2 ration of grains to liquids).  The quick-cooking brown rice and quinoa have similar cooking times of 12-15 minutes.  

My husband and I ate this for dinner and then I ate the leftovers cold the next day for lunch.  It was equally delicious coming right from the fridge!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

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