|Mango Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps|
Striking a Balance
When I first became a single mom, finding a balance between all the things that needed to happen and all the things I hoped would happen was a challenge (needless to say). I had managed to get an idea in my head, which wasn't a bad idea, that in the face of change I was going to re-embrace some things that used to bring me happiness but in the course of life and work and momdom had just fallen by the wayside. Cooking was one of them. I used to cook crazy-elaborate meals every night before I had kids. Then gradually that just fell away. It became a chore, and that's always a little sad when something you love just becomes part of the grind. So I was determined to reconnect with that love, and just as importantly continue to feed my kids healthy food and model good eating habits. All lofty goals, and easier said than done.
Honestly, at the beginning, the most important thing seemed to be just lying on the floor and playing with Legos with the kids... and it was. We all needed that. But there was also homework, giving baths, moderating tantrums and arguments, cleaning up spills (usually 1 after the other), and all the other stuff that comes with having small children. So cleaning my house, cooking, and pretty much everything else got pushed to the side. But I really wanted to be able to do it, and I knew it was possible since generations of human beings have managed far more than what is required to manage a household in the 21st century (so thankful I don't have to go out and hunt for mastodons on top of everything else, y'all!)... I just had to figure out how, and it took a lot of trial and error plus time.
Finding the right balance has been a major theme in my life these past years, and I'm feeling pretty good about it these days. A lot of people have asked me how I manage to cook like I do while taking care of the kids and the house and having a pretty active social life too (though, let's not make any bones about the fact that my house is usually a total wreck), so I thought I'd share some of the small, practical tips I have put in place in this blog as it develops. Take them for what they're worth... a lot of it is just common sense and things we already know, but putting them into practice is the main thing along with just getting into a rhythm that works for you.
So, first little tidbit, make things you can stretch out. Some nights you can indulge in cooking a more elaborate meal (if that is an indulgence for you), and some nights you'll be too tired to cook at all or really, there just isn't time. I almost always make at least one extra serving (though usually it's more, make the amount you need/want) that I can save and eat the next day for lunch or for supper later in the week when things will be a little more hectic. I know, this one is totally a "duh" kind of tip, but I've found when I plan to do this I have more success with it.
Plan some meals that are very simple to prepare. With this Mango Chicken Salad, for example, all that was required was popping some chicken breasts into the oven and cutting up the fruit and vegetables while it cooked. The kids won't touch anything like this, but they will eat most of the ingredients when they are separate and plain. So for this meal they ate baked chicken bites (no breading), golden raisins, mango, almonds + some carrot sticks I already had cut up and a stick of cheese. I ate the wraps. I have a rule about not cooking a special meal for the kids... they eat what I eat or they don't eat, their choice, but I'm okay if the food takes on a slightly different form (that's part of stretching it out). Plus, the chicken salad will continue to feed me either for work-day lunches, a mid-day snack with crackers, or a quick supper before running to a movie or to see a band with a friend on a night when the kids are with their dad.
Yield: 6 servings
- 3/4 lb cooked, white meat chicken, diced
- 1 mango, diced
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1/2 C golden raisins
- 3 T minced red onion
- 2 T capers
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 C light sour cream (full fat stuff works too, if you want)*
- 3 tsp curry
- toasted, shaved almonds
- leaf lettuce of your choice
Combine all ingredients except almonds & lettuce in a bowl. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Spoon the chicken salad onto leaves of lettuce and sprinkle with almonds. Note: this is also good on crackers or baguette slices.
*Be sure to buy a brand that specifies gluten-free if you are on a gluten-free diet. Sour cream often contains gluten as a thickener.
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