The Return of the Prodigal Blogger {and some thoughts on salad}

I guess I kind of disappeared for a month.  Sometimes a girl just needs to take some time off, to get away (figuratively, that is), to relax, relate, release (name that 80s sitcom).

Not a lot has happened since we last chatted.  I’ve mostly just been working and spending time with family.

Over spring break, most of our time was spent putting a new roof on our barn (which is really just a barn-shaped storage shed, but it sounds much cooler to say we re-roofed the barn).  When that was all over, we pitched a tent in the backyard and camped with the boys.

We rambled in the woods,

cooked over an open fire,

and generally enjoyed being outside, away from the television and the computer.  Of course, the two-year-old didn’t make it through the night in the tent, so I had to take him upstairs at around 2 a.m. and put him in his crib.  I think our oldest really enjoyed getting to finish the night in the tent with his dad, just the two of them.

For Easter we kept it pretty low-key.

The boys hunted eggs.

And caterpillars.  Which are now pupating in their cocoons in our dining room (in an enclosed container, of course).

I’ve been running (really), and getting better at it slowly.  The weather has been really nice – cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons.  Mid-morning has been the perfect running temperature, so I’ve been getting outside and doing a 3.1 mile circuit around our neighborhood.  I have yet to make it the entire way without having to stop to walk part of the way, but I’m increasing my pace every time I go out, so that’s good.

I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, mostly because I’ve been trying to spend more time outside with the kids, which eats into the cooking time.  What I have been doing a lot of is throwing together fresh salads with a little bit of protein.

A whole mess of salad greens, topped with some thinly sliced red onion, fresh jalapeno, avocado, some tomatoes (if you can find them in season where you are – if not, sometimes I use salsa on my salads), and sprinkling of cheese – sometimes feta, sometimes shredded cheddar.  I dice up a couple of ounces of protein – grilled chicken or shrimp works well – and top it all with a light dressing.

Tonight it was chicken breasts that I’d butterflied, marinated quickly in a little lime juice and worcestershire sauce, and cooked quickly in a cast-iron skillet.  I put it all in a flour tortilla that I’d baked in the oven to make a tortilla bowl and I topped the whole thing with my new favorite salad dressing – mix 1 tablespoon of sour cream with 1/2 a cup of salsa (make your own, or use a good quality jarred salsa).  It’s super simple and delicious.

I think we’ve eaten salad for dinner five nights out of the last seven.

A lot of this has to do with economy – of time, of calories, of effort.

Did you know that the word prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant”?  I was beginning to feel like I was being extravagant with my food, with my time, and particularly with my effort on this blog.  I was sacrificing time for myself, for my family, for my friends, in order to keep coming up with the next recipe, the next blog post.

I needed to simplify.  To focus on what was important – the kids, my husband, our health and our relationships.

And we’re all much happier for it.

So, you’ll forgive me if I’m not here as often as I was.  And if the posts focus on more simple meals – healthy things that you can put together quickly, and that will allow you to spend more time doing the things that are important.

Salad with Grilled Chicken
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • juice of two limes
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 romaine heart, diced
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4 flour tortillas (optional)
  1. If you want the tortilla bowl, take your flour tortillas and fit them into four oven-safe bowls and bake them at 350F for 15 minutes.  This will make them dry out and keep the bowl shape.
  2. For the chicken, combine breasts, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, oil, salt and pepper in a zip top bag and let marinate for 20 minutes or so.
  3. Heat an iron skillet over high heat and cook the chicken breasts thoroughly – about 8 minutes per side.  They should get nice and golden brown.  Remove from the pan and cut into desired shapes for serving (strips, dice, etc).  I usually allow 2-3 ounces per person, but my husband can eat an entire 6-ounce breast in one sitting.
  4. To assemble the salad:  place a four cups of greens in the bowl.  Top with diced avocado, sliced onion, sliced jalapeno, shredded cheese and diced chicken.  You could also include black beans, fresh corn cut off the cobb, diced bell pepper, or any other vegetable of your choosing.
  5. For the dressing: combine the salsa and sour cream.  Pour over salad.
  6. Enjoy!
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