Pesto Chicken Salad with Grapes for #NellysBigDay

Pesto Chicken Salad with Grapes

One of my fellow Virtual Potluck bloggers, Marnely Rodriguez (aka “Nelly”) of Cooking with Books, is getting married tomorrow! A bunch of her Twitter friends decided to throw her a virtual bridal shower today. We’re posting recipes of what food we would bring to the shower and we’re all offering her good wishes and advice about what makes a marriage thrive. If you’d like to follow the fun on Twitter, we’ll be using the hashtag #NellysBigDay.

To Nelly – congratulations! We are so, so happy for you. We wish we could all be in one place to celebrate your engagement the way normal people do, but who among your blogging friends is normal? :)

Marnely and Brian - Dec 10, 2011

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

The Grillmaster and I believe the reason we have a happy and successful marriage is because we share common core values. Our personalities are totally different, but we feel the same way about money, family, romance and other important things in life.

After I got divorced, I read a book called Who Am I? 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Actions Define Our Persona by Steven Reiss. This book contains a series of questions that analyze how important the following values are to you: Power, Independence, Curiosity, Acceptance, Order, Saving, Honor, Idealism, Social Contact, Family, Social Status, Vengeance, Romance, Eating, Physical Activity and Tranquility. I thought the book was fascinating, but then I love stuff that analyzes what makes people tick.

When The Grillmaster and I started talking marriage, I showed him the book and asked him to let me know which values were extremely important to him and which were not important at all. If one person scores high in an area and their partner scores low, it’s an indicator of what topics will exercise your, uh, patience in the future. Unbelievably, we had a discrepancy in only one area: order. Order matters a great deal to me, but not so much to The Grillmaster. He’s lucky if he can find one of his travel necessities (keys, wallet, glasses) when we’re ready to leave the house, much less all three. Yes, I sigh loudly and roll my eyes when he can’t locate something, but I understand why he can’t: he doesn’t value Order the way I do.

I highly recommend Who Am I? whether you are single, engaged or in a committed relationship. It gives great insight into yourself, your partner and your relationships. The Grillmaster also uses the book to help mold characters for his novels. (See below for an affiliate link if you’d like to order the book from

Nelly & Brian – my best pre-wedding advice: read this book! If you have advice for the happy couple, please comment below.

Pesto Chicken Salad with Grapes in Phyllo Cups

What I’m Bringing to the Virtual Bridal Shower

Everyone knows Nelly has a sweet tooth and many folks attending the shower are pastry specialists, so I figured I’d better bring some protein to balance out all of the desserts I know will be on display. A bunch of food bloggers on a collective sugar high sounds way too scary.

Pesto Chicken Salad with Grapes is perfect in “ladies who lunch” situations. It makes a simple, elegant appetizer when served in phyllo cups and it’s the perfect low-fat chicken salad because it contains no mayonnaise. The grapes lend sweetness, the basil adds punch and the red pepper flakes give the salad a nice kick. (And Nelly likes things spicy!)

This colorful chicken salad is a good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Niacin and Selenium.

Pesto Chicken Salad with Grapes
Zesty low-carb, mayonnaise-free chicken salad bursting with fresh basil.
Recipe type: Salads & Dressings
Serves: 6
  • Yogurt-Pesto Dressing
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt (not Greek style)
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • dash red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Salad
  • 12 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded carrots (about 2 large)
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 scallions, coarsely chopped
  1. Toss garlic through feed tube of a food processor that's running. Once the garlic is minced, add basil, yogurt, vinegar, oil, pepper, salt, sugar and red pepper to food processor. Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated and dressing is creamy.
  2. In a large bowl, place chicken, carrots, grapes and scallions. Gently toss. Add dressing and toss again. Serve immediately.
You can make the dressing ahead. Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

The salad is best served at room temperature.

If you are planning to serve in phyllo cups, dice the grapes and chicken into smaller pieces.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 170 Fat: 6g Saturated fat: 1g Carbohydrates: 10g Sugar: 7g Sodium: 167mg Fiber: 1g Protein: 18g Cholesterol: 44mg

Nelly’s virtual bridal shower was hosted by Sanjeeta kk at Lite Bite. Special thanks to FarmgirlGourmet for creating the Marnely & Brian logo and to Elizabeth of The Queen’s Notebook and Junia of Mis Pensamientos for co-hosting the shower.

The link to the left is an affiliate link. Please see my disclosures page for more information.



  1. says

    Oh I love chicken salad with grapes! I wish this was a real live shower so we can enjoy all these delish treats! What a wonderful post & great recipe for Nelly’s Big Day!

  2. says

    I’m so glad to be at a party, and know people! tee-hee! Also, since I go for pesto over sweets any given day, I would be all over this dish! Love the yogurt pesto dressing! Also, Thanks for always leaving comments on my new website! Don’t think it goes unnoticed!:)

  3. says

    What great advice–that book sounds like a good one (it also sounds like the quiz they give you on I wonder if they got the idea from the book)? So glad that you brought another savory. I’m loading up my plate for mains, and I’m taking a big scoop of this salad. yay!

  4. says

    Love your secrets to a happy marriage and that book sounds wonderful. My husband and I share the similar core values too, which, as you say, is so important! Love that you brought some protein to the party! I’m a little bit cheesecakes out :-). Great story BTW about your own bridal shower!

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