Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Salad: 3:2:1 Direction

It's been a very big week here.  The time has been ticking for almost 8 months since my daughters received their One Direction concert tickets for Christmas last year.  A dream come true for them (and I think almost every other teenage girl).  The day had finally come and I don't think they slept at all the night before, filled with excitement and energy.  

3 Hours Of Fun Memories - 2 Very Happy Teens - 1 Direction Concert
Off to downtown Denver we went with two of their friends to the Pepsi Center.  As we pulled into the parking area we witnessed a sea of teens - a line that formed all the way to the freeway!  I sent them on their journey to (and I quote) "the most amazing concert ever"!

So there I was, alone in downtown Denver with three hours to spare...what is a mom to do?  Well, go shoe shopping of course!! I found myself in the middle of the infamous 16th Street Mall - a shopping, dining and great people watching mecca, to say the least.  I walked blocks and blocks just browsing looking for the perfect retail therapy.  Then hunger took over and all the amazing aromas from the surrounding cafes started calling my name.

I looked over and found this great patio restaurant with the sun setting down on it to have dinner.  I skimmed the menu and found the perfect pairing - Buffalo Chicken Salad and an extra bonus it was 2 for 1 on glasses of wine that night....sign me up for a little Cabernet, it had been a long 8 months after all.

The salad was very much like my creation which has been tagged by my family as "The Salad Thing".  I have no idea how the name was born, but it is a favorite among my husband and daughter as they are both huge fans of buffalo chicken.

Photo Courtesy of Chili's Restaurant, Denver, CO

The Salad Thing (a.k.a. Buffalo Chicken Salad)

(This is our family's version of the popular salad)

1-1/2 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders
2 Eggs

1 1/2 Cups Panko Crumbs
1 Cup Flour
Franks Red Hot Sauce (the original)

 1/2 Head Iceburg Lettuce
1/2 Bunch Romaine Lettuce
4-6 Slices Cooked Bacon Chopped
4 oz. Blue Cheese Crumbles
1/2 Avocado Chopped
2 Green Onions Diced
2 Roma Tomatoes Diced
1 Cup Colored Tortilla Strips

Ranch Dressing (prepared)
Taco Seasoning

For the chicken, 3-step breading process; flour, eggs, panko.  Coat all the chicken tenders and lay on a sheet pan. Let tenders chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to help set up. Heat large frying pan with 1/2" canola oil to medium-high heat.  Fry tenders approximately 3-4 minutes on each side (depending on thickness of chicken tender/breast).  Let tenders drain on paper towels.  Baste with hot sauce on both sides and keep warm in 200 degree oven while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Chop both lettuce in bite size chunks toss together, then plate adding bacon, blue cheese crumbles, avocado, green onions, tomatoes and top with sliced chicken tenders and tortilla strips.

Mix ranch dressing with taco seasoning to desired taste and drizzle over salad.

Enjoy with your favorite cheesy, garlic, toasted bread.

Oh, and not to worry, for dessert I did end up finding and buying the perfect pair(s) of shoes.     

I just  love concert nights!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Colorado and Pickling Cucumbers

We recently moved to Colorado after living most of our lives in Southern California (via 16 months in Alaska).  Colorado has all the beauty and nature of Alaska with the added bonus of many shopping amenities of Southern California to curb my addiction to dishes, tablecloths, kitchen accessories, cookbooks, candles... (I think you get the picture).

Here in Colorado we have a farm (well, most people probably call it a simple backyard garden), but to us it's our first year of crops.  Now I must explain that the only thing I have successfully grown in my life, is my hips.  So, for us to actually have vegetables and herbs abundantly in our backyard for the picking is quite an accomplishment.

Herbs Galore
This week we harvested our first batch of cucumbers for my husband's famous pickles.  Mark and my daughter absolutely love to eat pickles.  Whole, spears, chips and name it, they LOVE their dill pickles. Amy has requested the "surfboard" cut of choice for our first batch we are making.  I think it's a cross between stacker and chip styles. (She may be on to something here!!)

So, now that we have cucumbers and dill ready in our "ranch", today was pickle day.  I know there are probably just short of thousands of pickle recipes out there and believe me I think he has tried them all.  His is simple though, he adds crushed garlic, whole peppercorns and a few slices jalapeno peppers (for a little kick) to the fresh dill - the end result is pure heaven.

Mandoline For Men
Only The Freshest Will Do

Feel The Heat
Lined Up And Ready For The Brine

See you in 6 weeks!

For Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

When an author writes a book, he or she will typically always dedicate it to it their friend, spouse, children, parent, or simply that one special person that has inspired them in their life.

I suppose writing a blog is like authoring a book, except that it is always evolving and expanding for everyone in the cyber-world to read and experience.  You never know who (if anyone) will read a blog or how it reaches out to a particular person or group and perhaps even touch someone's life.  

In that spirit I am dedicating this blog to all of those people of my yesterdays, today and tomorrows who have inspired me.  You will read more about them in the coming weeks, months
  and hopefully years.

First, I have to thank my friend Toni who inspired me to take on this venture (and introduced me to Nutella and Prosecco).  Toni started her blog over two years ago and I love reading it. Her posts are hysterical - they make me laugh and cry all in the same paragraph.  If you want a true taste of what life is like in Alaska, 

My inspirations of yesterday are two very dear ladies that have passed and are missed often...
my mother-in-law Janis and my sister-in-law Jodi. 

I have all the respect for Janis who was able to creatively feed their family of 11 each and every day and still find the time to put on a beautiful dress, wear her set of pearls and 
display an amazing pot luck party for all of their friends.

As you have probably surmised, I married into a very large family.  My husband is the youngest of 9 and with that comes many wonderful in-laws, nieces and nephews....all of which are excellent chefs (they even published their own family cookbook).  Jodi was one of those - the sister I never had.  She and I loved to cook together and had the utmost respect for each other's kitchen. 

To those in my life today, it goes without saying my greatest partner in the kitchen is my husband Mark. 
He can grill, bbq and smoke meats like nobody's business. 
 You gotta love a man that loves to clean a kitchen too!!!!

My mom Meredith who has lived her entire life in Alaska (not an easy thing to do) truly inspired and taught me to cook, work hard and never give up.  She is the most giving and caring person - mom would do anything for someone in need.  Her Chicken Cordon Bleu is out of this world and still one of my favorites to this day. 
Stay tuned for that one to come....

My grandmother Helen, one of the greatest and respectable ladies you will ever meet.  Her award winning Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Layered Pudding are those "can't eat just one" recipes.  More to come on this one (fair season is right around the corner - bring on the blue ribbons!!)

My high school and best friend Felicia.  I don't know how she has put up with me for all these years - a true friend indeed.  She is a vegetarian, which has helped me step up my game and challenged me to create menus when we are together, like my Churchill Downs Signature BBQ Shrimp.  (I can't help it - I do love a good steak). She has been gardening her entire life and I have much to learn from her.  
Her biggest weakness though is my husband's Cosmopolitan - oh so good!!

I also have to thank my very dear friend Carole.  I have known her for over 20 years and she is one of the most gracious, creative and kindest ladies.  She has prepared some of the most amazing old school Italian dishes for us and have shared our Puttanesca with her on many occasions.
 Mangia! Mangia!

And last but certainly not least, Annie and Debbie.  Two sisters from Kansas that have unbelievable tried and true family recipes that I love to make.  Stay tuned for Annie's Sunday Night Pot Roast - 
a favorite at any family gathering we have.

For those special people of the next generations, this is dedicated to my twin girls, stepson Tyler and his wife Rachel, twin grandchildren (yes, that's right mother and grandmother of twins) and sweet granddaughter (who loves to make cookies with her Nana Suzie).  I love each and every one of you.

Now, let's get cooking and start Corking Life's Moments!!