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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hello Friends & Growing Things

When I was a little girl and I needed time away, I would build a tent in my bedroom using blankets and chairs, and stay there for hours with my Barbie dolls, books and snacks.
It was my way of blocking out the cacophony of yelling, fighting, crying (mostly mine), late-night door banging, bottles smashing, gunshots in the neighborhood I lived--growing up in public housing in Boston.

Though I no longer live in a place where crime is the ubiquitous background noise, or build tents in my bedroom, or play with Barbie dolls, I still have the habit of seeking silence when the inconsequential begins to hum at equal pace with the symphony of good and meaning and tangible in my life.

An incident with a mean man at the bank, an argument with someone you love, or maybe worse, someone who is not meaningful to your life in any real way expelling that kind of energy from you, a health scare, etcetera...All possess the power to shift you off balance, but I believe the power of silence is much greater. There are occasions in life where getting back to the silence of salubrity takes hard work. Being truly alive is hard work. Setting your senses ablaze is no passing feat. but fire to your senses should meet.

It's important to know that, no matter where you go, there's always some place, someone, to come back to. That being said, I'm so glad to be back here with you, heart, mind and spirit dancing in accord with the symphony of the silence restored.

What/Who represents balance in your life?

Growing Things

One of my favorite ways to restore peace, is a walk to the fruit and vegetable store around the corner from my house. You can fill several bags with a myriad of goodies and spend no more than 20 dollars, as most of what they sell in less than a dollar and fifty cents.

The only thing that tops that, is a walk to my "pot garden," where I can pick my own fruits and veggies for free!

This year I'm growing:

Thai Basil
Sweet Basil
Green Bell Peppers
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
Hybrid Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes

I'll have pictures of everything once I've transferred the rest from their starter planters, but here are some...

Parsley (I use parsley in place of cilantro, which for me tastes like soap.)

Lavender (I'm looking forward to cooking and baking with lavender for the first time; cookies, cakes, ice cream. Yum! I picked some yesterday and the air filled with lavender scented perfume.)

Rosemary (My very first blog post was Sweet Potato and Beet Chips with Rosemary-Garlic salt. They were so good I had them three days in a row. This is incentive to make them again!)

Thai Basil (I recently found a Martin Yan chicken recipe that features Thai Basil. I'll make and blog about it soon.)

Sweet Basil (I tore pieces of this basil over my Gourmet Veggie Pizza last week. It was Won-Der-Ful! If I could only grow one herb, this would be it.)

Green Bell Pepper (I love Bell Pepper on pizza, salad, roasted with red potatoes...The possibilties are limitless.)

Yellow Cherry Tomatoes (Once these grow in, I'm going to make a salad including bell pepper, basil and mozzarella with freshly made vinaigrette. Doesn't that sound good?)

Cucumbers (I entrusted the planting and care of these to my grandmother who, unfortunately, planted them improperly and didn't water them enough. As soon as I noticed they were dying I re-planted, fed, and attempted to support their growth. In 1 week they've grown over an inch and are beginning to show signs of new life. I'm hopeful.)

Strawberries (Several posts back, Re: Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream, I mentioned strawberries tasting like rain. I recently picked and ate the strawberry in the picture below, grown after weeks of sporadic rain, now I'm sure strawberries are rainy deliciousness!)

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