Monday, June 28, 2010

A Tree Named Willow & Caribbean Chicken Salad

This past Saturday, I awoke early to a chorus of singing birds and, still groggy, walked downstairs to prepare my pot of green tea. Before that, per usual, I opened my front door to glance out at Willow swaying in the wind; My favorite tree. As this always puts me in the right frame of mind to start my day, imagine my horror when I realized very quickly she had been hacked-- more than half of her, chopped right off in the most slipshod way by the man who owns the property next door, Mike. An otherwise nice guy.

I know it wasn't his intention to make such a mess of her, but intention or not, that's just what he did. This may sound silly to some. She...It's, ‘Just a tree,’ after all. ‘Why would anyone spend two days crying over a damn tree?’

I was there the day she was planted, more than 15 years ago. With each passing year, as she grew bigger and bigger away from the large twig-like figure she first appeared, I fell in love with the Weeping Willow who adds life, charm and personality to the last house on the one-sided dead end street where I live.

With every dawn of a new spring, she has never failed to shed her nude and tattered winter coat for a dress bursting in a celebration of pink blossoms and then another, jewel-toned green;
Symbolizing what miracles can happen, even to an ostensibly hopeless thing, with a little patience, sunlight and love. Come each season of growth, she symbolizes what miracles can happen…with just a little love.

I took this photo and the one above just the day before.

The day after...

Later in the day I put the following sign at the bottom of her trunk. (Mine is the writing in red.) Shortly thereafter, Mike wrote underneath. (His is the writing in black.) Further confirmation he meant no harm.

...with just a little love.

What do you say we talk about something delicious? This salad is!

Chili's Grilled Caribbean Chicken Salad (This is actually a Caribbean/Asian Mix)

Recipe courtesy and adapted from Squidoo


I left the recipes' in tact in case you might be sharing this with family or friends. As I was eating this by myself, I cut the original recipe you have here, by half. The original recipe easily serves four.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

½ cup store bought Teriyaki marinade

4 cups chopped green leaf lettuce

4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce

1 cup chopped red cabbage

½ cup drained mandarin orange wedges

½ cup drained pineapple chunks, cut in half

2-3 chopped scallions (optional)

1½ - 2 cups fresh fried tortilla strips (sub thin, broken tortilla chips, if preferred)

Pico de Gallo (recipe to follow)

Chili's Honey Lime Dressing (recipe to follow)

Chili's Grilled Caribbean Chicken Salad

The Process: This dish is mostly about preparation.

1. In resealable, large-sized plastic bag, add chicken breast and teriyaki sauce, seal bag securely and shake. Place bag in bowl and allow to marinate in refrigerator for no less than two hours. Overnight is preferred.
2. Prepare the lettuce mixture only a few hours before cooking the chicken. In large mixing bowl, combine lettuce and cabbage completely. Cover securely and allow to chill until ready to prepare salad.
3. When chicken is marinated, grill chicken indoors on either a George Foreman, Indoor grill or Outdoor grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
4. Allow chicken to rest for at least five minutes after cooking so you don't lose the juices. Cut grilled chicken into thin strips.
5. On 3-4 large plates, equally divide chilled salad greens.
6. Over each plate, add tortilla strips, mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, Pico de Gallo (recipe follows) and grilled chicken.

Pico De Gallo (Prepare ahead): We've done this before. You can open the directions in a new page HERE, for reference. Simply omit the corn and beans.

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

½ cup diced Red or White Onion

2 tsp. fresh, raw jalapeƱo... seeded, de-ribbed, and diced

2 tsp. fresh cilantro, minced (Or Parsley) (I use a mix of parsley and salt-free garlic and herb seasoning)

1/2 teaspoon salt (salt to taste)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (pepper to taste)

Chili's Honey Lime Dressing (Prepare ahead):

¼ cup honey

¼ cup Dijon mustard

1½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1½ tsp. lime juice

1 tbsp. sesame oil

In food processor or small bowl, combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Chopping the greens.

I cut tortilla shells into thin strips then deep-fried and salted them.

Preparing the plates.

After all that preparation, it's time to enjoy.


  1. Poor Willow. She was such a beautiful tree. At least the neighbor meant no harm. She will grow back, right?! Beautiful Salad. looks delish.

  2. Hi Daisy. =) Wasn't she? I'm really hoping the Willow will grow back. This was her first time being cut, other than a leaf trim. The tree looks much worse in person, but I'm hopeful.
    ☮ ☀ ♥

    The salad was absolutely delicious. And perfect for summer!

  3. I know exactly what you mean. I'm the same way...and weeping willows just happen to my favorite trees. I hope she pulls through!!

    And on another note...YUM!! My salivary glands are working overtime looking at your salad...thanks so much for sharing...although I'd rather have a plate of it sitting in front of me right now ;)

    Glad you left a note so I could find your place...I'm enjoying it!

  4. I'm sorry for the loss of half your tree. I love willows and have them planted on my property. For as much as I love them they are a mess to clean up after so we've kept them away from our property lines and the neighbors - who would probably do just what your neighbor did. It a shame it happened. On to happier things...I love your chicken salad, especially the dressing. Thanks for sharing it and your beautiful photos with us. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  5. I forgot to add in my prior comment that babaganoush anf huumus have different textures but both still have the tahini flavor. They are similar but not alike. Mary

  6. That's just too sad! Hopefully it will grow back! One neighbor cut half of an over 100 year old oak tree that was hanging over his property. It absolutely destroyed the magnificent tree to the horror of the people whose property the tree is on. They were not not home when it was done and were shocked at what they saw upon returning home. It horrified us surrounding neighbors also. I just don't get it.

    Great KB song, she has a wonderful voice!

    Your salad looks like a perfect summer-time meal!!! My kind of salad!

  7. Thankfully trees can be pretty resilient. It's sort of like a bad haircut, you live with it until it grows out. Perfect summer salad.
    Thanks for visiting Mimi's Kitchen.

  8. it will grow back and they are fragile wood too - because of the drooping they can sometimes crack and send big branches to the ground...

  9. Hi GirlChef,

    I've been meaning to leave a message at your blog for months now. I'm glad I did. Now I can keep up with the wonderful things you're cooking/making.

    Hi Mary,

    I would have totally understood if it was making a mess or blocking light/view or maybe even a harzard. I've heard a lot about Willow trees, in particular, leaving a mess of branches but mine never has. Not in all the years we've had her. And it's mostly in front of my house, clear altogether of his. It's okay, I know he had intentions of simply "grooming" Willow. Maybe next time he won't wait until 2 a.m. when it's dark to do it.

    On a happier note, the chicken salad was delicious. A great, bright way to bring in summer. Thank you so much. You always have something kind to say.

    And thank you for the info on baba ganoush. It looks delicious, and as a hummus lover, I look for to trying something else that has the kick of Tahini.

    Hello Pam,

    I am always perplexed at some of the things neighbors do much to the shagrin of everyone around them, irrespective of consideration. One of the reasons I love visiting Maine so much is because it harkens back to a time where neighbors talked to each other, said hello on a first name basis, checked in on someone who might not be feeling well and cared about community. If only it could be that way everywhere. Maybe I'm asking too much.
    I love Kate Bush. 'The Hounds of Love' album is one of my favorites.
    The salad was wonderful! As I said on your blog, I love summer & and summer eating!

    Hello Mimi and Doggybloggy,

    Thank you so very much. Your words are very encouraging. I was just a little shaken initially as she's never been cut that much, only a leaf trim. I certainly don't want the tree to become dangersous. Just as long as Willow will be growing back, I'm happy.

    Mimi, you're very welcome. I look forward to see what's cooking with you.


    I quickly glanced at your blog and will absolutely comment. So many new, beautiful, wonderful, yummy things to take in.

    Thank you all for stopping by.

  10. That's so crazy! My land lord recently had one of our almond trees cut down. I was really sad. It was so beautiful with pink blossoms and provided lots of shade in our yard. I hope your tree withstands! That's a good-looking salad too!

  11. wow, that salad seriously looks so good!

    To answer your question about the chickpea salad- yes! I think grapes would actually go well!

  12. Willow trees are just one of my favorite trees! I hope she bounces back! This salad rocks! I love every flavorful component right down to the homemade tortilla strips. I bet it's better than Chili's - homemade always is!

  13. Hi Ms. Meanie,

    OH NO! I know the feeling exactly. We used to have a lemon tree in our backyard before my landlord cut it down. It really does feel like a loss. =(
    On a happier note, the salad was super yummy!

    Hello Simply Life,

    It was! I've had it twice now. Really good!

    Thanks for your answer. I will try it with purple grapes, as those are my favorite. Though, the tartness of green grapes would probably go really well too. Your salad looked so good!

    Hello Cinnamon-Girl,

    I'm really hoping she'll bounce back. A few of the responses here seem to have knowledge about willows and have said she will. Thank goodness! I would have been devastated otherwise.

    I really loved the salad. You know, I've only eaten fast food/chain restaurant food two or three times in the past ten years. One of the things I had was the Chili's Caribbean salad and I thought it was really good, tasty. I only wished it was fresher. I wasn't looking for this recipe at all when I found it, but I remembered liking the flovors and thinking it could be SO MUCH better if it was homemade.

    I agree with you whole-heartedly, homemade is always better!

    Thank you ladies for visiting. So good to see you!

  14. When I moved to my current house, there were some apple trees that were seriously damaged by the previous owners, but they bounced back and are now giving me beautiful apples. I'm sure your willow tree will mend too. It just needs love :)
    Wishing you a fabulous 4th.
    *kisses* HH

  15. awww nooooooooo!!!! :( poor willow! maybe she was sick?

    that marinade is sooo flavorful, i always use it in my stir fry meals. also i'm noticing the facelift to your blog: loving the header and side sundflower :)


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