Sesame Chicken Asian Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, paleo)

Do you find it difficult to eat salads during the winter months? I know I do! Here are a few tips and tricks to help make your salads heartier and more satisfying to eat during the winter.

In the colder months, our bodies naturally crave heat and warmth which is why we don’t gravitate towards raw fruits and veggies as much as we do in the summer months. Makes sense, right? But, this can also make it a little harder to get your veggie intake in, particularly those dark leafy greens. Especially if you’re like me and rely on smoothies and salads for them.

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If you’re not following me on Instagram, you should be! 😜 But in all seriousness, you would have missed a bit of a personal post that I shared back in February. One of the highlights of my winter was finally getting myself to Orlando, Florida to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! And yes, I’m totally serious (big HP fan) and no, I don’t have kids. This trip was just for me!

Last summer we made the excruciating decision to place my dad in long-term care. For those of you who have followed me for awhile, then you know he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s a few years ago. Alzheimer’s is a beast of a disease that really ravages a family. I knew that after I survived that experience (if I survived it, really) that I NEEDED to feel like a kid again. After many years of being a caregiver, at such a young age and dealing with heavy stuff on the daily, it was time that I started living. I really needed to tap into the innocence and freedom that I felt as a kid.

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Visiting Harry Potter at Universal was at the top of my list. After everything that I had gone through, I honestly didn’t know if it was in me to feel unabashed joy, wonder and magic again. But thankfully, I was wrong. I experienced all of that and more!

I just about ran all the way to Diagon Alley, I was so excited! I experienced both hot and cold Butterbeer, which was totally gross and I’m sure there were several hundred chemicals in each BUT I didn’t care and I gave myself to the experience. I boarded the Hogwarts Express at platform 9 3/4 and rode it to Hogsmeade. Honestly, I was more excited than some of the 10 year olds in our compartment! We had a traditional english lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and stopped at the Hogshead Pub for real beers (it’s nice to be an adult sometimes 😉). I even saw a breathing dragon and met a goblin at Gringotts Bank! I couldn’t leave without purchasing a ton of Harry Potter souvenirs including a wand, all to remind me of the feelings that I experienced while I was there.

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Outside of my time with Harry, I definitely enjoyed leaving the cold behind for a few days in exchange for a temporary summer. Waking up to sunshine and warmth each day was so nice! And I know that it was just the first of many new adventures for us 💃🏻.

As lovely as our trip was, I was more than ready to get back to my routine. I needed all the green veggies and I needed them stat! Enter this Sesame Chicken Asian Salad with purple cabbage, cilantro, green onions and an asian inspired dressing. It’s super anti-inflammatory and perfect if you’ve been traveling. It was one of the first things that I made to help us get back on track and really flush out our system.

Here’s how I generally make my salads more “winter-friendly”:

  • I like to add cooked proteins such as grass-fed steak, wild salmon, grilled shrimp, roasted chickpeas, marinated baked tofu, refried beans (homemade) or this sesame crusted chicken - there are a TON of options to play around with.

  • I also like to mix raw veggies with cooked ones so I’ll add roasted squash, roasted cauliflower, lightly steamed broccoli or brocolinni and sautéed mushrooms.

  • I like to add some richness to my salads, so I’ll add toasted nuts and seeds which helps draw out their natural oils or I’ll whip up a really decadent dressing with sesame oil and a nut or seed butter.
    NOTE: Yes, raw nuts and seeds are better for you, but lightly toasted can be a really nice alternative in the colder months.

  • I also like adding in a little bit of feta cheese or shaving in a little raw parmesan over top for some decadence. As long as you tolerate dairy, of course.

I throw all of that over top a variety of leafy greens that I try to rotate between such as arugula, spinach, kale, cabbage, romaine, micros and mustard greens.

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Sesame Chicken Asian Salad


Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 eggs, whisked
2 Tbsp each black and white sesame seeds
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup each purple & green cabbage, grated or finely sliced
2 carrots, shredded
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped & some whole leaves for garnish
2 Tbsp slivered almonds
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp ginger, diced or minced
1 small clove garlic, minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
2 tsp raw honey
2 tsp tamari or coconut amino
squeeze of lime juice
sea salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare your chicken. Cut your breasts into strips and then prepare a small dredging station: 1 bowl with your whisked eggs 2. another bowl with black and white sesame seeds seasoned with sea salt, pepper & garlic powder. Warm a pan on the stovetop over medium heat with 2 Tbsp olive oil. As your pan warms up, run each chicken strip through your dredging station: first into the egg wash, then into the seasoned sesame seeds. From there, place each one into the pan and cook until golden brown, about 4-5 min per side or until cooked through.

  2. As your chicken strips cook, prepare your dressing. In a small bowl combine toasted sesame oil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, honey, tamari, lime and sea salt and pepper. Whisk well, taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Set aside.

  3. In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients, purple and green cabbage, carrots, green onion, cilantro and slivered almonds.

  4. Once chicken strips are fully cooked, place them on a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces. Top your salad with the chicken, drizzle the dressing over top and garnish with whole cilantro leaves. Portion out individual servings and enjoy!

Tell me, how do you enjoy salads in the winter?
What tips and tricks do you use to make them hearty?

Share your recipe recreations with me over on Instagram @valeriepiccitto, I love to see what you’re cooking up!

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