Chicken strip salad and my quarter life crisis

I am going to try and make this into a succinct essay, (probably won’t happen, but let’s give it a go) and talking about what having a quarter life crisis has to do with chicken strips. I will start by saying that I have made countless versions of this salad for probably a decade of my life. Nearly ten of my working years on and off were at the City Club in Ogden, Utah. My mother started there as a cook in the mid nineties, after closing our restaurant, and subsequently my sisters and myself worked with her or at Brewskis or at the other bars within the City Club family.
I started at 15, working night shifts making pizza with my sister Georgia at Brewskis….I loved it, back in those days the kitchen was right next to the stage and I remember loving to listen to the Kapp Brothers, or whatever local, or national act was there for the weekend. I never really was offended by the drunkenness of others and loved getting to at least be a spectator in the action. In high school I had a stint at a bagel shop, and then by 18 I was back being a prep cook at City club during the lunch shift, when I wasn’t half assing my way through general ed at Weber state University. From the best of my recollection this salad came on the menu in the late 90’s and was always a hit. It’s perfect in composition, and I always enjoyed assembling them and watching the patrons enjoy what I had assembled.
I moved to Salt Lake when I was 19 to go to University and didn’t go back to work(I did hang out there though) at the City Club until I was 27. By this point I was married to a successful computer whiz with his own business,had my culinary education, my first child, I was living in my newly built “dream home”, and was driving an only slightly used BMW, I had even done a cooking segment for PBS making Greek potato salad and won the Utah State fair beef cook off. From the outside looking in I seemed to have it all, I had done my best to achieve what a consumer culture deems “The American Dream”. But in all actuality the stuff didn’t make me happy, it made me feel caged and insecure of losing it. It was right about the same time as the housing crisis and our timing on our home purchase wasn’t optimal, my husband was in construction so he was stressed, miserable, and working constantly to pay for all of the stuff.
I started working to make money of course but to also remember who I was, I felt hugely guilty that “stuff” didn’t make me happy and that I was still the same flawed, unacceptable, weirdo I had always been, and that driving a BMW made you a target for road rage and speeding tickets! Cooking helped with the anxiety, following in my Mom’s footsteps I served Greek food as she had for specials, and loved reinventing Taco Thursdays. But within myself I was having an existential crisis, I was struggling to maintain an image that was never really who I was, but was what I was told to be, I started to drink a lot of vodka after my shifts, and escape my stress with karaoke and hanging out with some of the best and worst characters Ogden had to offer. I ended up quitting, I shouldn’t have, but it did drive me in the direction to being a truer version of myself, we got rid of the house, the car, moved to a new city, and got new jobs. Six years in and I have more than ever, in different ways, and I feel like I am living my own version of the “American Dream”, there is always room for improvement which is what I strive for. But, I would lying if I said I never miss making chicken strip salads for my favorite patrons, and drinking with the people who saved me from myself in a somewhat dark era. In the words of the star of maybe the best reality show ever, “Rock of Love” Bret Michaels “Every rose has its thorn”. If you are in Ogden you really need to go have the real deal, but if you can’t get there I will give you a guideline to make your own.
Iceberg lettuce
Shredded carrots
Green peas (thaw frozen ones)
Green onions
Chicken strips, like 2-3 per portion you are making.
Thin chow mein noodles
Sesame ginger dressing
Assemble in shallow, scalloped glass bowl for maximum authenticity.

Nando’s Peri-Peri Shrimp in lettuce cups, cricket protein in ranch flavor and why I am ready for self driving cars.

Okay I am going to get right down to it….first Degusta review and recipe, I was recently told by another blogger, that he hates having to read the backstory on food blogs to get to the recipe, so for those folks I am putting that info first, it is your choice if you want to take it deeper at that point.
April’s degusta had some really interesting products, my recipe will feature the Nando’s Garlic peri-peri sauce. This recipe is so fast that you could have it on the table before you can even order pizza. It’s healthy, and I do really love it when I make something that isn’t just delicious but also low in carb, fat, gluten and calories. It will counter act the bagel sandwich I ate for breakfast! LOL.
Peri-peri Shrimp:
1 pound of shrimp, deveined, tails removed. So you can eat the whole damn thing with reckless abandon!
¼ Nando’s, I used garlic but they have several other varieties
1 tsp old bay seasoning
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp mirin, or white wine
1 Tbsp peanut oil
4 lettuce leaves that can be good for cupping the shrimp.
Garnishes that you like: I used tiny diced red and green bell peppers.
Marinate the shrimp in the peri-peri, old bay, mirin/wine, pepper, for up to 20 minutes.
Heat a skillet on high, add peanut oil, when the oil shimmers at you like a glitter covered stripper, add your marinated shrimp, making sure they don’t crowd each other, you want them to brown up. After about 3 minutes flip em, and cook another minute or two, turn of the heat. Place your lettuce cups on two plates, fill them with the shrimp and top with garnishes. Ya done, son, eat.
The next product I wanted to review was the Wilton’s Candy Melts drizzle pouch, I had, shall we say less success with this. (pic)
I followed the directions and reheated twice on top of that but mine never really got “drizzle” like, mine was more of a “plop pouch” with the consistency of peanut butter. That being said, it was rather tasty, and my kids really enjoyed it…plop and all. I think it needs a little less stabilizer (palm oil).
The lovely Candy chewy caramels were a hit, they are even wrapped with wax paper like the homemade ones the neighbors would give out at christmas when I was a kid …10 outta 10. I love Mutti tomato products anyway, so I was stoked to get tomato concentrate in a tube, best way to buy and use tomato paste, you utilize more product with the tube as the can, can be precarious to get all the paste out…WINNER! I liked the Bush’s hummus made easy, but the only thing that bothered me is the added sugar, hummus doesn’t need added sugar in my opinion so I probably will stick to buying tahini and making my own. I like the Better oats, and I would buy this again, it’s a lot heartier and tasty than conventional instant oats, great if you add some fresh fruit and toasted walnuts. The PR bar had a chalky aftertaste to me, but my 10 year old daughter loved it, so if i needed a quick meal replacement or snack if I was in a rush, I would feed these to my kids. The “chorido’s” are a snack food made with cricket protein, they have mole, ranch, and salsa flavor, they kind of look like a frito, and my kids loved them. I find it rather inspiring that a company is making a snack food that contains a sustainable protein, yeah I felt a bit weird at first, but other cultures have been utilizing insects as snacks for centuries. I loved the cafe Bustelo instant espresso, it was super easy to make or carry with you to mix with hot water, haters gonna hate on instant coffee, but I think the Europeans do it quite well. I don’t have a K-cup machine for the skinny girl tea, so I will pass those along to a friend who has one!
After nearly getting hit by a speeding van that ran a red light today, I have decided that I am on board with self driving cars. I have been in more than my share of minor-mid range car wrecks in my life. Auto accidents are fucking horrible, and I think that driving is hands down the most dangerous thing we do in a day. Yet, with all the hazards, health consequence, and expense, humans are totally addicted to cars and they are still some archaic shrine to social status! You know those “life flashes before your eyes” moments? I have felt it only twice in my 36 years, the second time was this morning. I made it out unscathed except I spooked myself real good, my heart still pounds due to adrenaline release, some folks do “extreme” sports and things to feel this….I don’t like feeling this, some say it makes you “feel alive”, I totally agree but it’s that lingering sense of how fragile life is that remains. Fragile things are usually beautiful, but often aren’t intended to last forever, just like being a human. I think the lesson is to focus on being present. Anyway, get us some self driving vehicles Elon, I trust the robots more than the humans. And if that offends you…you probably haven’t been in any car accidents.

Chinese chicken salad revisted

Nineties food nostalgia is all the rage right now, and my recipe today is a play on one of my favorite salads that was quintessentially 90’s. Originally invented by Wolfgang Puck at Spago as an entree salad for Beverly Hill elites in the mid 80’s, it quickly spread like wild fire to every corner of our country. To this day most every chain restaurant and hotel room service menu has a version, and every home cook has their own version of this crowd pleasing mash up of Chinese flavors. I have had many versions, and I really haven’t met one I didn’t like (I am embarrassed to say I ate the Wendy’s version weekly as a teenager). Continue reading “Chinese chicken salad revisted”

Larb Satay

Portland springs are the best, bipolar, but I guess that is why they are so exceptional, if you visit right now you would want to live here. No matter the 6-9 months of rain, when spring has sprung its 80 degrees and gorgeously lush, due to the prior rain fall. The Willamette twinkles like diamonds and the locals set up outdoor picnics and find ways to absorb as much vitamin D from the sun as humanly possible, like depraved prisoners let out into the world for the first time in decades. Plus most folks don’t have air conditioning, like us, so cooking outside makes things a bit more comfortable. So with this in mind I have a Asian fusion recipe for your future outdoor, entertaining needs or just a simple weeknight dinner. Continue reading “Larb Satay”

Fruity Fluffer

This is one of those “You can take the girl outta Utah, but you can’t take the Utah outta the girl!” recipes. This is in essence a fruit salad, made slightly more “classy” than the original that I have had at many a BBQ over the years. This came about because my son wanted fruit salad (thanks Wiggles) everyday and I ran out of fun ways to make it, then it dawned on me that we hadn’t had this version of my youth! It’s simple and people love it, they may pretend they are too groovy but once you turn your back the bowl will be gone! Keep in mind I did update it a bit, but not much, and this is a fun throw back to a 60’s era recipe that every homemaker had in her arsonal. Continue reading “Fruity Fluffer”

Pork Souvlaki

pork souvlaki 003
One of my very first memories of cooking is when I was about three and I was sitting on the large butcher block in my parents Greek food lounge on 27th St. in downtown Ogden, Utah. My mother would let me grab toddler-sized handfuls of dried Greek oregano and let me “make it rain” all over the cubed pork over the massive tubs my mom would use to make souvlaki for the restaurant. Salt,granulated garlic, pepper, lemon juice, I would watch as she would eye the amount needed for each 20 or so pounds she would season at a time. Continue reading “Pork Souvlaki”