Saturday, April 16, 2011

Basil Roasted Chicken Salad With Avocado

It is hard to believe avocado was once on my "do not consume" list.

It was one of those foods that just clicked for me in my adult life. Perhaps I just grew tired of saying "no avocado please" when ordering at restaurants since they manage to work it into every sandwich, salad and beyond here in California. It is now rare that a day goes by where I do not eat this creamy, buttery fruit.

So when my friend, Elysse, over at The Daily Binge told me about the "Avocado Takedown", I decided that was a great way to get my avocado on last Sunday.

Let me explain this to you: 20 local chefs, 20 dishes featuring avocado, 20 samples to taste/judge (top chef style), $10, stuffed.

This event was just the perfect example of what I love about LA. There is always so much to do. Even when you think you might not have anything exciting to do on a Sunday afternoon, an irresistible event somehow makes its way through your email inbox or on your facebook newsfeed. I cannot think of anything in the world that would have been more worth my time last Sunday afternoon. I ate like a king for just $10, well...a king who really likes avocados.

The dishes were creative. I realized avocado was far more versatile than they usually get credit for. I remember a couple years ago, my friend Candace made vegan chocolate cupcakes with a "secret ingredient", and no one could guess what it was. When she told us it was avocado, it finally made sense that this fruit really does have the consistency of butter. The flavor is mild and nutty which is always something that works well with desserts. In fact, my favorite dish from the competition was a dessert.

Avocado cream cheese cake with mint whipped topping.

Other interesting dishes were:

The avocado bacon muffin:

An avocado and nut mixture wrapped in steak with a side slaw:

Avocado pesto pasta with an avocado "meatball" on top:

Avocado ice cream with pomegranate whipped topping:

Dark chocolate avocado caliente cupcake:

Then they gave us these cute bags on the way out:

Sunday night has become "Sunday Night Salad" Night at the Lindzachary household. Even after being stuffed with avocado-based foods all day, I could not resist throwing it into the salad I made. This recipe is a copycat for one of my favorite new salads to order for lunch while on the job. It is from Doughboy's Cafe and Bakery which has recently taken over as lunch king at work. Every day my coworkers Sara (at Lovely Clear Sweet, Ally and I mildly struggle to decide where to order our lunch from. If we are honest, the struggle is always to figure out a place that will satisfy us at least half as much as Doughboys since we cannot eat there every single day (record: 4 days in a row). I even found myself there with Zach and Stanley one Friday night; I cannot get enough of this place. They have amazing salads (favorites include "the works", the chef salad" and "basil roasted chicken salad"), freshly baked bread that is soft and well, doughy (I could make a mattress out of this plush ciabatta bread that comes with the salads), and they have a huge rest of the menu that includes "the after-school special: a huge grilled cheese sandwich and a PINT of chunky/creamy tomato soup, sloppy joe's, etc. They also have an extensive brunch menu that includes things like rice krispy pancakes and malted cornmeal pancakes; that will have to be a different story.

I copied the basil roasted chicken salad for dinner. While the salad was good, and I got pretty close, I would still recommend trying out the real really cannot be beat.

Copycat Doughboy's Basil Roasted Chicken Salad:
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (or about 6 boneless/skinless chicken tender cutlets)
2 navel oranges
1 bunch of basil (a generous handful)
mixed greens
gorgonzola cheese
roasted walnuts
1 avocado
1/4 c Citrus olive oil (I happened to have some, but you can just use canola oil with a drop of orange extract)
1/4 c White balsamic vinegar

Cut one orange into 4 sections. Squeeze the juice out and place juice with the peel in a plastic bag. Chop up half of the basil, and ad to the bag.
Add the chicken breasts or tenders to the bag and marinate for at least an hour (or overnight).
Heat a pan over med-high heat.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan.
Cook the chicken in the pan, about 3-5 minutes on each side until cooked all the way through.

In a large bowl, add mixed greens, the other orange (peeled and sliced), the gorgonzola cheese, the avocado (peeled and sliced), the tomato (chopped), the rest of the basil (chopped) and the roasted walnuts.

Mix the oil and vinegar thoroughly and toss into the salad. Once the chicken is cooled, chop it up and toss it in.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Getting There

I know it seems like I got engaged and just forgot about you all.

This is not the case. It is the #1 drawback to having a regular blog: entry guilt. When I fail to post a new entry at least once a week, a sense of anxiety creeps in. I have been feeling guilty and shameful for seemingly abandoning my blog for the first time in a year and a half. However, this sense of anxiety, guilt and shame was trumped by the only thing that has the power to trump my desire to cook and write about it: pilot season. Remember? I told you all about it a few years ago in this post.

This was the busiest one yet, and my life has been JELLO for the past month and a half. I have not cooked a single thing that entire time, but even if I had, there would have been no time to write about it. I am pathetically making my way back into almost a normal lifestyle (although things are still quite busy), and that includes this.

It was the birthday of my dear friend, Sara, and I wanted to make her something special for this debut back into the world of recipes.

I realized that we are entering the stage of life where we may still look forward to birthday parties (a chance to spend time with friends and eat yummy sweets), but we no longer look forward to birthdays. It may sound ridiculous coming from someone my age, but we fear becoming older. It is not the wrinkles or the gray hairs that being to pop up every now and then (although that stuff sucks on it's own); it is the quarter-life crisis, this in-between stage where you may not be where you pictured yourself ending up as an adult whether it be career, family, spiritual-life or finances. As kids, when we dreamed of what we would be when we grew up, we completely neglected to consider this step of actually giving ourselves the opportunity to get there. It is a time in life that few people really anticipate: the getting there.

Sometimes I find myself getting impatient, wanting to rush through this stage of life towards a more settled and secure future. However, I have come to appreciate this time to soak in all of my twenties have to offer, to gain new experiences, make new friends and continue to develop old friendships. These experiences give me perspective for the future and these friendships get me through the experiences. See how that works?

I made these cookie cupcakes for Sara's birthday because she is my friend and has helped me through many an experience since I have known her. She loves to bake and is super at it. You can visit her blog, Lovely Clear and Sweet for her great recipes. I, on the other hand, tend to perform poorly in this arena. I wanted to ease back into making more new recipes with something simple, yet original. I think these were just the thing for a simple sweet treat.

Peanut Butter Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Chip Frosting

1 bag of mini chocolate chips
1/2 c crushed peanuts
your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe (you can really do this with any cookie recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Drop cookie dough balls into greased cupcake pan
Bake for about 13-15 minutes (until the tops begin to brown.
When the cookies are still hot and in the pan, sprinkle chocolate chips generously over the top of each.
You can let them melt and spread the chocolate around like frosting or you can leave the chocolate chips in tact for a textured look.
Sprinkle some crushed peanuts over the top, and pop the cookies out of the cupcake pan once they have cooled off a bit.