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Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

Just over two months from now, this blog will celebrate its fifth birthday (anniversary?). I have been thinking about this date a lot. I’m horrible about over thinking things and wondering what I could have done differently over a given amount of time (my birthday and New Years Eve do this to me too). In the time that I’ve had my blog, I’ve moved, become a homeowner, become a mom, had friends come and go, met friends through my blog, received kind words from readers when I most needed them and a thousand other minor things that I won’t list. I’ve also watched the way people blog change. Maybe it was the rise of Pinterest or the fact that companies realized food bloggers were a good way to gain an audience or something else entirely. Instead of just writing a post, it seems as though now I have to worry about analytics and how many comments I get and backup ads and perfectly styled photos and how to time my tweets and gain more followers on Pinterest. When I started this blog in 2008, I didn’t anticipate being concerned, or feeling like I should be concerned, about those things.

When thinking about how this blog has grown and changed over the past five years, my first thought isn’t pride. It’s inadequacy. I wonder why my blog hasn’t grown as much as another, maybe one that’s been around for less time. There was once a time I didn’t compare my blog to others, but I’ve had difficulty stopping myself lately. I ask myself  what I’m doing wrong. Are my words, my pictures, simply not good enough? And if that’s the case, why do I keep putting them out there? The answer to that is simple. I love blogging. I love the friendships it has brought me, the world of food it has opened up to me, the photography skills I’ve learned because of it. When I started this blog, I had no intention of getting any traffic, hosting giveaways, attending a blogging conference or even becoming friends with other bloggers. I started this blog was for one simple reason – to have a place to save recipes we enjoyed and be able to easily share them with other people. My blog has grown more than I ever expected it to, so I’m not sure why I started caring that it hasn’t grown as much as someone else’s. I’ve gained so much from it that I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I had never started it. And who says traffic is indicative of success? Have you seen my early blog photos? The fact that the ones I have now are so much better makes it clear to me that I have been successful in improving my photography. My early writing was awful, too. I’ve definitely grown as a writer. So instead of looking back and wondering how I could have gone further, I’m going to look back and see how far I’ve come. Eric told me a couple months ago, “The truth is, it’s a game and you don’t like playing. You just like making pretty things.” So that’s it. I’m out. I’m over it. I just want to make delicious food, take pretty pictures of it and share them with all of you. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all along. Somehow, recently, the other stuff seemed to take more and more time away from doing that. I didn’t plan on telling you guys any of this, but I knew something was wrong when I debated sharing this recipe because I didn’t get a picture of the dressing. Really?! What a dumb reason.

Chipotle has become our go-to takeout place. I really love burrito bowls and was planning to make them at home recently. We ended up having a heavy lunch that day, so I decided to change things up and make Chipotle-inspired salads for dinner instead. We already had all the ingredients on hand, so it was easy to switch up our dinner plans. This dressing is sweet and smoky, with a little tang from the red wine vinegar and lime juice. I think it would be fantastic on any salad, not just a Tex-Mex one. We haven’t bought bottled salad dressings in years, and this is why. It’s so incredibly easy to whip them up at home, and you can totally customize them to your liking.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

Yield: about 1.5 cups

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette


For the dressing:
½ cup red wine vinegar
⅓ cup honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1¼ teaspoons ground chipotle powder
1 teaspoon lime juice
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
Chopped romaine lettuce
Cooked black beans
Grilled chicken (we seasoned ours with taco seasoning)
Finely shredded jack cheese


Combine all the ingredients for the dressing, except for the olive oil, in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend on low speed for about 10 seconds. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Alternately, you can just as easily whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Chill for at least an hour.

To assemble the salad, plate the lettuce in salad bowls. Top with black beans, grilled chicken and cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and add a spoonful of guacamole if desired. Serve immediately.


Dressing from Chipotle Fan

  • beantownbaker

    Good for you for blogging on your own terms. It is easy to get wrapped up and compare yourself to other bloggers. I found myself in a similar experience a couple months ago and had to reassure myself that it’s ok to blog how, when, and why I wanted to. Keep up the good work and congrats on making it to almost 5 years!

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Jen! I totally agree that sometimes we just have to reassure ourselves that it’s okay to do things the way we feel is right.

  • Shanon Lacy

    I’m giving you a standing ovation right now in Milwaukee. You and I are so much alike when it comes to this, Courtney. I don’t like playing the game (and I have learned that it can be a pretty mean game, like children playing on a playground) and I refuse to engage. I’ve learned that you have to just pour love into it. Just love. No self-doubt or insecurity. And if you get to a place when the bad thoughts are overwhelming the good, you have to take a break. Breathe. And then return. And keep doing what makes you happy…and you alone. The rest just falls into place. :)

    • Courtney

      We really are, and I’m glad to have a friend like you that understands. This is why my posts have been intermittent lately, and I hope that I can get back on track now that this is out in the open. Thank you for the support, Shanon. :)

  • Krystal R.

    Amen sista! I couldn’t agree with you even more on this well-written post! I love the quote, it’s all about the quality not the quantity. And I always have to remind myself that I shouldn’t compare my blog to others when I’m happy with everything going on in my life. Blogging is just a hobby for me, and my family is number one on my list. Thank you for voicing it and saying it out loud! Keep up the fantastic work!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Krystal! It’s a hobby for me, too, which is why I feel even sillier for getting so caught up in the not-so-fun aspects of it.

  • evabakes

    Happy blogiversary! Ditto what Krystal said. You should do this because you love and enjoy it, not because of anything else. Don’t compare yourself to others because you are unique and there is no other YOU out there. :)

    • Courtney

      Thanks! Yes, I needed that reminder. :)

  • Ashlee Battocletti

    I follow very few blogs. Not because of the lack of blogs to pick from, but because it is rare for me to come across a blog that I can feel connected to the blogger, to care for them as a person, to enjoy reading about their family and their ups and downs in life, but on top of that, for me to feel inspired by their food. Their love of food, their love of spending the extra time to give quality food, their love for the process behind the food! To be honest, I would LOVE to blog, I’m a decent photographer and an experienced cook, but I am overly competitive, so I don’t. I know that I don’t know the savvy behind blogging or how to even start. I know that I am a perfectionist and that I too would have been upset I forgot to take a picture of the vinaigrette. That part of you resonates within me and makes me feel like you would understand me. So please, blog..even if the lighting isn’t quiet right, blog. Even if the words don’t flow eloquently like you had imagined, blog. Even when you feel inadequate, blog. Just, blog.

    • Courtney

      This comment means so much to me, Ashlee. Thank you so much. My hope is that I can be authentic with my readers so that they see who I am, and I feel like you get that.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for writing this post!! You put it so well! I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of comparison at points during the time I’ve had my blog, but I decided a few months ago that it’s ok if I only post once or twice a week if I’m busy and I don’t have to compare myself to others. Family does come first and this is a great reminder of what’s really important. Not about the stats or how many readers I have but just about the joy of making something and sharing it with others. Thank you for your honesty and openness! And this salad sounds amazing!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Stephanie! I think we all fall into this trap to some degree, but I’m hoping this will be the last time it happens to me for a long time.

  • Karen Figi

    I follow about 75 food blogs on reader, most of the time I will just look at the recipe title and move on to the next item in my feed. Your blog is one of the few that I read every post of even if I have no interest in the recipe because I enjoy your personal stories and photos. I have never left you a comment before but have made several recipes with great success. I appreciate the work you put in to make this blog great. Keep up the good work :)

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Karen! I am so happy to hear that and am glad to have sweet readers like you! :)

  • Rachel Cooks

    Great post and good for you for re-focusing on what is important to you. Because we should all be doing what makes us happy. Worrying about numbers can be SO exhausting! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Courtney

      It is exhausting! It’s not wrong to care about them, but I was spending too much time doing it. Thanks for the support, Rachel! :)

  • CrazyforCrust

    I am always comparing myself. It’s not healthy! Sometimes I just wish I could bake. And post. And be DONE! Thank you for sharing this post! And the salad, because OMG.

    • Courtney

      Yes, exactly! I know it’s not quite that simple these days, but I’m going to make sure the majority of my blog time is spent doing the fun stuff.

  • Shannon

    I know absolutely nothing about blogging since I have neither the time nor desire to do it, but please know how much I value your blog! I have only had great success with the recipes you share and like someone else said, your’s is one of the very few blogs I follow (and actually make recipes from). I think you have a fabulous blog and very much enjoy reading your posts and making the recipes that you share!!

    • Courtney

      Thanks so much, Shannon! I appreciate that more than I can say. :)

  • Emily

    Hi Courtney, I’ve been a long time reader but have never commented. Just wanted you to know that I really enjoy each of your posts and value the effort you put into your blog! think you put together a beautiful and inspiring blog and that you should be incredibly proud of your art. And just remember, you’re ahead of all of us who dream about blogging but never start! Cook on!

    • Courtney

      Aw, thank you so much! I really appreciate that, Emily! :)

  • Michelle

    Courtney, I love your blog!! I love how personal it is, please do not ever stop blogging (unless you ever wanted to of course). I follow both you and Annie’s Eats constantly and have tried so many of your recipes and love how they are pretty much no fail and I can make them for any party and they end up crowd pleasers. I have recommended so many people to both yours and Annie’s blogs for this reason. I would love to blog myself, because I love to cook, make up recipes and photograph recipes (currently making three family cookbooks!) but in the end I just don’t have the time to commit to it and definitely do not have the computer expertise either. So I will continue expanding my cooking knowledge, making my personal cookbooks and reading all your lovely blog entries! Thanks again!

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Michelle! That is so sweet, and I’m so glad you’ve found recipes you can count on. And how fun to be making family cookbooks! That’s so awesome. Thanks for the sweet comment! :)

  • Courtney

    You are so sweet, Kate! I had similar feelings after the conference, which is why I haven’t gone back. People were telling me I should care about that stuff, and I didn’t (and still don’t) want to. It’s so much more fulfilling to blog for yourself, isn’t it?

  • Courtney

    This seriously brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much, Virginia. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. :)

  • Courtney

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. We’ll talk about a lot of this stuff at BSP. It’s a refreshing weekend, and I’m excited to meet you too! :)

  • Kayla Foreman

    Don’t ever think you have an inadequate blog! I’ve been following you for about 4 years now and yes, I follow some of the “big” food blogs too but when I need something that I KNOW will be good, I come here. Swearsies. Your cooking is from the heart and I’ve never had a bad recipe from this site. The bigger bloggers aren’t real. Maybe they were at one time but I’ve stopped following several of them for that reason. And their recipes kind of suck. I can look at your site and find recipes that I know my family will eat, that I don’t need special ingredients for, and that I know will turn out perfectly. Not to mention the tons of inspiration I get for making my own recipes and meal plans at home. You have a great little piece of the internet! Keep on being awesome.

    • Courtney

      Thank you so, so much, Kayla! I really appreciate that! :) I just want to make good food and share it so other people can try it, and I’m so happy to hear that you can come here to find dependable recipes.

  • In Katrina’s Kitchen

    I loved this Courtney. I often OFTEN don’t post something because I don’t like my pictures or I forgot something or because of something else silly. If I could stop comparing myself to others I think the stress would slip away completely.

    • Courtney

      Thanks so much! Stress free is the way to be, and I’m hoping I can get there eventually (at least in regards to the blog).

  • JulieD

    I’m glad you’re over it and are able to look at how far you have come. You should be so proud. It’s hard not to look at others compare yourself and I do it too but I don’t let it eat me alive like some do. It’s not healthy and as a mother of a cute little girl, I think it’s even more important to show her how to be inspired by others and not compare ourselves to others. It’s been a long journey for all of us; it took me a while to get to that point. :) I want to congratulate you early on 5 great years!! Kudos to you! :-D

    • Courtney

      Thank you so much, Julie! :)

  • Amy Bishop Cole

    Congratulations on your 5 year mark! That’s amazing! And Courtney, your blog is awesome! I have always wondered why mine has not taken off as well from time to time. Then there are times when I get so wrapped up I haven’t posted in weeks! But, we always come back to it don’t we :) Besides, I would have never met you if I didn’t start my blog!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Amy! And I am SO glad that we met! It was nice to be able to talk to someone in person who could totally relate to all the blogging stuff.

  • Jennie Iverson

    I haven’t ever posted on your blog, even though I check it daily!!! Just a note to let you know that how you feel makes absolute sense–it’s so hard not to want to join the rat race, but know that you are valued as a blogger from readers all around! I actually used to live in Richmond and loved it there, so it adds a special element when I read about local places in Richmond in your posts. I love your recipes, and I have avoided doing a cooking blog for precisely the same reasons you stated–it is too easy to get caught up in the craziness! In the meantime, however, you are documenting so many wonderful recipes and times in your life for your family later on, so it’s well worth it. But know that there are those of us that don’t post or comment but LOVE your blog. Kudos to you, and keep it up!

  • Erin Stokes

    Hi! just curious because I also follow your blog daily and live in Richmond I was wondering if you had heard of Broad Appetit happening downtown this weekend-total fantastic food event!

    • Courtney

      Yes, we love Broad Appetit! We didn’t go last year because Clara was so small (and it was so ridiculously hot), but I’m hoping we’ll make it out there today!

  • ErinsFoodFiles

    I certainly know what it feels like to feel inadequate as a blogger! I also know what it feels like to sometimes feel inadequate at work as a video editor, or as a career woman. And what it feels like to feel in adequate as a mom (I don’t make every ounce of baby food Elliott eats, I don’t cloth diaper, the list goes on & on…). In the end, I just decided to focus on what is important to me, and to spend my time & effort where I best saw fit. So continue to blog for you, for the reasons YOU find important! And your readers will continue to enjoy. :)

    • Courtney

      Yeah, I totally feel you. I do it with parenting, too, and I don’t even know why. I think you are awesome, Erin, and I know Elliot is a lucky little guy to have such a cool mom. :)