13 June 2010


The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
Chopped lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, jicama, cilantro, basil, crispy corn tortilla strips and Monterey Jack cheese tossed together in our herb ranch dressing. Topped with chopped BBQ chicken breast, diced tomatoes and green onions.

Our turn to host Small Group tonight and CA is kept busy as cleaner and sous chef. We crowd a lot into our morning--HB for Yoga (me) and exercise bike (CA); strawberries from Tom's on Algonquin Road; produce run to Caputo's; WalMart for the staples and personal care items; home by 11am to pull it all together.

It's kind of a blur, but clarifies later in the day...

We make, what turns out to be an elaborate CPK BBQ chicken salad. From frying the tortilla strips, to making the salad dressing, to preparing the chicken breasts, this is a labor and time-intensive recipe that turns out spectacularly. And, I may ever only make it once more in my life! I told RvH that I'd make it once for her and then never again.

Of course, there are shortcuts that would never be noticed--you could use commercially-prepared herb ranch dressing and a rotisserie chicken breast. You could even use tortilla chips from a bag instead of frying corn tortilla strips. But, overall the end product is so spectacular (I know I'm repeating myself, but it's true!) that it's almost worth the effort.

The thing that pulls the salad together is that my friends dive in to help when they arrive. KG dices the chicken breasts that CA has expertly grilled. JS slices the bread and drains the veggies from their ice-water baths. Everyone helps themselves to beverages and gives CA and I grace for the few extra minutes all this prep requires.

I arrange the BBQ chicken salad on my large, square, white-embossed platter and there are audible ooohs and aaahs. Then, silence with just the sound of forks against porcelain (plates, not teeth). Most have seconds, and some thirds. What can I say? CPK makes it right.

The brown sugar strawberry shortcake is very good, especially the strawberries laced with brown sugar and vanilla. Next time I'll add a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar to the dry ingredients for the shortbread, as it's almost too biscuit-like.

We chat and eat for quite awhile. This is a busy weekend so there are 7 of us tonight instead of 16. This is graduation, recital, and wedding season and ours is a socially busy group. Sometimes it's O.K. to have a smaller group because it allows for more intimate conversation and chances to go to a deeper level.

Tonight we settle in about 8:00pm for some guided conversation. I've emailed a few discussion-starter questions that go over well:
  1. Where's my favorite place in all the world?
  2. What activity gives me the most pleasure, energy, peace...?
  3. Choose one new goal for the remainder of 2010. What is it?
  4. Can you remember one person who has had significant impact on your life? How?
  5. I am most proud of.... ?
The question that surprises me the most--and I've had no time to pre-process my own responses--is #4. As I quickly think it through, I come up with a name, consider it, and then am totally convinced who the one person is that has had a significant impact on my life. I think I'll write about my answer in Stories I Don't Remember as a separate blog entry.

We have a fun evening and part with hugs and promises about the days ahead. And, JS happily agrees to babysit my potted flowers when we hit the road for Omaha and Eureka--a huge relief as I was worrying some.

(Santa Barbara Magazine)

2 pints Strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla

2 T Butter
1 cup Flour
1 tsp Baking powder
pinch Salt
*2 T Brown sugar
1/2 cup Milk

2 tsp Milk
1 Egg yolk
4 tsp Brown sugar

1 cup Heavy cream
1/4 cup Powdered sugar
Mint sprigs and powdered sugar for garnish (optional)

* Added to original recipe

1. Combine the strawberries with 1/2 cup brown sugar and vanilla an stir until coated.
2. Set aside, occasionally stirring gently until sugar dissolves.
3. Preheat oven to 450˚.
4. In large bowl, combine the butter, flour, baking powder, 2 T. brown sugar, and salt.
5. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut mixture together until it resembles coarse meal.
6. Add 1/2 cup milk and mix until just combined.
7. Form pastry into a square 4" x 4" by about 1/2" thick.
8. Cut the square into quarters.
9. Mix the egg yolk and remaining 2 tsp. milk together and brush a light coating on top of each biscuit.
10. Sprinkle each with 1 tsp. light brown sugar.
11. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden.
brown around the edges.
12. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
13. Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

Cut biscuits in half horizontally; spoon about 1/2 cup strawberry mixture and 2 tablespoons whipped cream on bottom halves. Garnish with mint and powdered sugar, if desired.

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