Every cookbook library should have a nice, sharp pencil handy. So often, the best recipes are the direct result of improvising on another recipe. The seasoning I used for this blackened chicken is made up of the ingredients I had in my cupboard: paprika from my local Indian store, ground dill and thyme.

You could, by all means, make a rub with a more cajun flavor, using white pepper and  onion powder. It’s up to you. But I didn’t have those things, so I made it my own way. And we are loving it. Even my daughter—whom I call the “hunter gatherer” of the family, because her ideal diet consists of seeds, nuts, berries, and chicken with skin—loves this salad, minus the lettuce and dressing, of course.

I hope you love it, too, but I’d love for you to make it your own. Just use what you have and make substitutions. I feel such a sense of satisfaction when I do that. For one, it makes me feel more creative—like I have made something authentic—and the other reason is, I save money.

What have been your best improvisational recipes? I hope you always write them down. And any time you make changes to one of my recipes, I’d love for you to share them with us.

Leafy Greens, Avocado, And Blackened Chicken Salad

  • 10 cups organic leafy greens, rinsed and dried
  • two large avocados, sliced and scooped out with a spoon
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • blackened chicken (recipe follows)
  • balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Toss in a large bowl, or arrange salad components in individual bowls, and drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette.

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon ground dill
  • 1 tablespoon ground thyme
  • 2 tablespoons ground paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts (preferably cage free and organic)
  • olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine spices, salt, and pepper. Rub onto the chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet set over medium high heat. Place the chicken in the oil, and sear, about two minutes on each side. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to cook for about five minutes more, until fully cooked, and internal temperature is 162˚.

2. Take off heat, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut in slices.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • large pinch salt
  • large pinch pepper

In a small jar, such as a cleaned out jam jar, place all ingredients, screw on the lid, and shake until emulsified. Or just whisk them all together in a small bowl.

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