Oven Baked Chicken + Orange Avocado Salad

Made one of AK’s favorite dinners again – oven-fried chicken, thanks again to Dinner A Love Story. Although the dish is mostly baked in the oven, it really tastes like fried chicken, without all the fat and calories (just some, while rendering the fat from the skin and making it crispy in the pan). When the main dish is so delicious, any salad works. Here I threw together mixed greens and orange slices and tossed with homemade lemon mustard vinaigrette.

Oven Fried Chicken

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My Favorite Cooking Blog: Dinner A Love Story

Miso Fish + Quinoa

As a relative novice to everyday cooking, I really appreciate recipes that are truly “easy” – many cookbooks and TV shows claim to offer this, but in reality, I often spend 2-3 hours on what was supposed to be an easy dish to make (I love the Barefoot Contessa, but Ina Garten doesn’t always make it easy for us mortals, though the worst offenders are probably those guys from America’s Test Kitchen). The other major criteria for me, of course, is that the food must taste good.  This is why I love the blog Dinner A Love Story (sometimes shortened to DALS), written by a busy working mom of two (she also used to be a food editor, so that doesn’t hurt). I love all the strategic shortcuts, the pre-planning tips, the little tricks of the trade. Most importantly, her recipes are unbelievably tasty and (relatively) simple to execute for a newbie like me.

Case in point: the miso-glazed salmon and roasted tomatoes with quinoa pictured above. The miso glaze is made in advance, and I took it out a mere 10-12 minutes before dinner to slather onto some wild Alaskan salmon for broiling. We almost always have cherry tomatoes in the house, so throwing a handful into the oven for slow roasting is also easy enough (I skipped the feta cheese and herbs because both were not on hand), especially when I have some leftover quinoa. Although I am not working right now, this meal was so easy that I feel confident that I would be able to execute it with ease as a busy working mom (keeping my fingers crossed). Both AK and I loved the meal. Thank you DALS!

Eggplant Parmesan & Orange Tomato Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

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I had to use up a tub of ricotta cheese and one lone eggplant before traveling to LA for Mother’s Day this weekend. The recipe from Allrecipes.com (“Eggplant Parmesan I“) turned out really well (4.5 stars with 300+ reviews is solid), especially with the addition of homemade tomato sauce. The vinaigrette is made with Dijon honey mustard from Maille (gift from Paris), which kicked it up a notch. AK suggested the Italian wine pairing at the last minute, and it was absolutely delicious. Great Tuesday evening dinner. So happy.

(P.S. It really helped that I decided to stop caring about how long it was taking me to put a simple *Eggplant Parmesan* on the dinner table, something I imagine many home cooks can whip up with their eyes closed. I just relaxed with my Pandora radio set to soothing tunes like Madeleine Peyroux’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” and enjoyed listening to the soft glurps of the tomato sauce on the stove.)

Pushing Through

Today was one of those days where I woke up feeling down. I think it has to do with a number of recent activities, like having to coordinate the upcoming Mother’s Day activities, which sometimes dredges up unexpected childhood memories or family dynamics, and thinking about the illness of a close family member. My own frustration with Project X doesn’t help either; neither does an email from a placement agency requesting a list of references, another reminder that I am someone without a career at the moment (even though it’s by choice, it is still at times a difficult adjustment).

What I have learned from past experiences is that the best way to combat a downhill spiral is to make a plan (and to reach out, which I did by texting Ms. Sunshine, who as usual was full of reassuring words). Sometimes, I find it easier to have a simple to-do list. This is what I scribbled onto a piece of paper:

  1. Tape up closet doors. (Prep closet doors with painter’s tape for spray painting later.)
  2. Email W re essay. (Review application essay and provide feedback)
  3. Fold laundry.
  4. Wash dishes. (Was too tired to wash last night.)
  5. Roast kohlrabi. (Unexpected find at local produce store; been meaning to make it.)
  6. Email references.
  7. Run.

The reason that these lists/plans work for me is that they give my brain something to focus on. It worked, but only progressively. By the time 5 p.m. rolled around, I was at least able to lace up for a run at Sawyer Camp (having completed many of the tasks on my list). The run was exhilarating but tough – several times I felt crushed by sadness thinking about the sick family member, and I just wanted to sit down on the trail and cry. But each time I pushed through, telling myself, “just a little farther.” In the end, I finished my 2 miles without stopping more than once or twice. It’s not far, especially compared to my marathon training days, but it felt really good to push myself again, both physically and mentally.

When I got home, AK was doing his own workout on our elliptical machine. He said I inspired him to get on! By then I was back to being in a good mood (those endorphins always kick in). It’s a reminder to me that it is always important to push through, no matter how dark my mood, and to reach out to the trusted inner circle for encouragement.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the roasted kohlrabi sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, which we paired with the Mexican chicken AK made over the weekend (coincidentally, on Cinco de Mayo!). Both were very tasty!

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Friday Dinner (Pork Chop with Kale & Watermelon Feta Salad)

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For dinner on Friday, I had already planned to make an easy dish of pork chops with kale in tomato sauce using the recipe from my favorite cooking blog, Dinner A Love Story (unfortunately, I forgot to ladle on the tomato sauce, so the pork chop in the photo looks drier than it actually is). It was such a sweltering day, however, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees, that I could not resist picking up a watermelon to make this perennial favorite – watermelon feta salad with mint. The end result was quite tasty and perfect for a hot (almost) summer day.