Co-Dependent’s Chicken Salad

chicken salad on a croissant

For years, I made my famous chicken salad for friends and family. When a neighbor had surgery, I was there with chicken salad in hand. When my mother-in-law came to visit, I served this lovely dish with buttery croissants and her favorite dessert. At church dinners, I’d strategically lurk near my bowl of chicken salad to hear all the compliments like “It’s so delicious. I wonder who made this…”

The Original Secret Ingredient

I told everyone the secret was in my dressing, but I smugly thought my secret ingredient was love. I deeply loved all of these people, and I wanted them to feel loved.  Unfortunately, that is a huge responsibility to put on such a humble dish of chicken.

Worse than that, I was putting even more pressure on mysel. I thought to be loved I had to first show love. Sounds more like earning love, doesn’t it?  I might have added love to my dish, but while it sat there on the table waiting, my love turned into expectations. Those expectations quickly soured.

Was I Giving to Get Back?

To be fair, I didn’t know I had expectations. I really just wanted to be loved. I thought I was being a “good” friend, daughter, neighbor, and Christian by putting others first and following the golden rule. Ironically, my religious upbringing focused so much on others that I missed a bigger concept – Love your neighbors as yourself.

Many times, I would make my most delicious salad and not save any for me or my family. I was doing the same thing with love. I was serving love to everyone else and starving myself, and it doesn’t take long for unidentified expectations to turn into resentment. Hurt and still looking for love, I quit making my chicken salad.

The New Improved Secret Ingredient

A few months ago, I dusted off my recipe card and made this salad for my Celebrate Recovery family, and last week, I made a batch for my son’s teachers. Thanks to recovery, I’ve made two important changes to the recipe, which make the salad even better. First, I serve this salad with gratitude instead of attitude. I no longer offer up this dish or any other with expectations of approval or love. Second, I make sure my little family enjoys the first serving. I am learning to take care of myself first. Wise friends in recovery tell me, “Self-care isn’t selfish.”

Co-Dependent’s Chicken Salad

  • 40 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 5 stalks celery
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups seedless grapes
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup Ranch dressing

Add the stick of butter and chicken to a large skillet and cook on medium high heat until chicken is cooked through and a golden brown. Let chicken cool then cut into small chunks. Wash celery, grapes, and onion. Chop celery and onions into small chunks. If grapes are large, cut them in half. I prefer to use red grapes and a red onion because it makes for a prettier presentation.

Mix the honey, Dijon mustard, and Ranch dressing into a small bowl and then stir into salad. Serve with crackers, croissants, or Hawaiian rolls.

Want more of Pam’s delicious recipes seasoned with recovery tools? Check out our cookbook, the Codependent in The Kitchen.