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.

Northern Utah Road trip 2017

I travel back to my hometown about once or twice a year, every year to visit with my family and friends. This year I agreed to run the Ogden Marathon relay with my bro, his kids, and a friend of my niece. My husband, being the good sport that he is agreed to drive down with me this year as I am super paranoid about flying on airplanes right now. It’s a good eleven hours without stopping, and you always have to stop, but for the most part the drive is beautiful and there are lots of fun places to see on the way (that is a whole other post). I figured I would mention a few of the highlights of my trip in case someone out there needs some ideas of things to do or see, or stay when they find themselves in the midst of the Northern part of the Zion curtain.
Ogden (O-town)
I have waxed poetic about my hometown before, and I still think it is a great place with loads of potential and I always enjoy my time there.
I always try to get in touch with my roots! This is always the most important part for me to hang out with all the awesome friends and family that still like me even though they have seen me at my very worst, even better if they invite you to eat dinner and they know how to make some great grilled deliciousness or they have epic beards!fb_img_1496173380829

A huge thanks to those folks that went out of their way to spend time with us….seriously it means the world to me, I wish I had photos of everyone and everything but I don’t. Even if you aren’t from Ogden, I promise you will make some fast friends just by chatting up some locals!
Participate in some of the great outdoor activities:
Hiking, biking, skiing, running, pickleball, hunting, Ogden is a sportsman’s paradise. I am pretty much terrible at running and I did a beautiful 5 mile section of the marathon relay in the best time per mile I have ever done, it was mostly downhill in gorgeous Ogden canyon, a special shout out to bluetooth headphones, coaching from my niece Xena, and Rage against the machine for helping me stay motivated. I felt really accomplished that I conquered the fear of distance running I had and did something with my family that took teamwork, training, and a bit of “daughters of the Utah pioneers” grit. I also met some really nice people on the shuttle ride up, and the subsequent wait we had in the canyon, people are super nice and curious there. I would do it again but maybe the half so I wouldn’t have to get up at 4 am to wait till 11 am to actually run….better get training.
Support the locals who own businesses and attend their events. One of my favorite nights we had was going to the Lighthouse lounge for “Record Night” with the Digital Smoke crew. lighthouseDigital smoke sponsors a night where you can bring in your favorite vinyl, sign up on a list, and listen to it while you drink a local beer, and eat some good pub grub (drink the Ghostrider White IPA and eat a french dip). Dance with your friends to records!! Don’t have any vinyl? Lavendar Vinyl is across the street and can service your needs.vinyl
I’ve said it once and I will say it again, eat at Tona! nigiritonarollBasically you can’t go wrong, they are one of those rare places that just keep getting better and better, tell them I sent you and order the chef’s choice nigiri, the maki rolls, or basically any special they have. You won’t be disappointed.
I don’t get out much in my normal life, so whilst on vacay, my husband decided that we should try out Airbnbing a few spots one of which was in Salt Lake City, we met in SLC along time ago at the U of U so SLC holds a great deal of nostalgia for us. We left our kids with the family in Ogden for a few nights and he and I hit a few of our favorite spots, and found a few new ones. We got an Airbnb on Capitol hill, for $80 a night18620749_10212563155934396_7706742343535191453_o
it was a bargain with its 100 year old charm, 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, and kept in pristine condition by the owner, it was also close to where we had our first apartment before we backpacked through Europe and got hitched way back when.
Go for coffee at Caffe D’ Bolla! caffedbollaThis shop has been open nearly as long and Jarom and I have been together, and it’s a must for any coffee connoisseur. Caffe d’ bolla rivals anything we have here in Portland, start with whatever freshly roasted espresso he has (a real macchiato does not contain caramel and is served in espresso demitasse) and if you have the time and want to splurge, experience his exceptional and rare siphoned coffee. Let John be your guide and taste coffee like you never have in your life.
Eat at the Red Iguana, but don’t order the gringo stuff (I’m talking to you crisp shell beef taco, make those at home its easy!)get the mole any mole, I am partial to the verde, but Jarom ordered the rib special with a mango version that blew my mind!18699508_10212565083782591_4675346322359277907_o Expect a wait, they are always busy, and consider ordering the jalapeno appetizer that is stuffed with shrimp and queso fresco, goes great with a rocks margarita! Our waiter was great and loved sharing his love for the food they serve and their culture, he gave me some tips on getting better at pronouncing in Espanol, not to mention hooked us up with some tres leches cake!
Go to the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, it’s weird, it’s behind Chuck o’ rama, and it is a fine way to round out the whole Temple square, LDS history part of Salt Lake.18836948_10212613075942365_5315557460470264258_o One man’s passion for his religion with a twist of masonry, and love of sculpture is a total gem for the curious and open minded tourist, plus Joseph Smith sphinx nuff’ said.
Check out some sassy nightlife with a local, I was lucky enough to have a night out #salazarstyle with many drinks and fun.18700506_10212568345584134_7449614075780660030_o
Next we traveled on to Park City, home of the Sundance film festival, and more chefs per capita than anywhere else on the planet. We Airbnbed an entire house (zillow value 800K) for about $180 a night! It was incredible and located in the heart of the action, with a hot tub, trampoline, and home gym. If I ever moved back to Utah, I would live in Park City…..make sure you check out Mainstreet, walk down, shop, ride the free trolley back up, walk down the other side, shop.mainstreetpc Check out the Banksy on the side of a gallery.18673304_10213072909197688_8624729797930514568_o
Go to the High West distillery saloon distillery-signTake a tour, sample the wares, decide which variety is your favorite, have the best “old fashioned” of your life!highwest Buy some merch and bottles for the road.18768203_10213075008810177_6953547034312047360_o We tried hard to take everyone to eat at the saloon, but it was a three hour wait by the time we rounded up the troops. So we ended up at the Baja Cantina, which you should skip, it was expensive, the food was awful, and the wait was too long for the atrocious fare. It was however family friendly, but I can’t believe a world class resort would house such a terrible, out of date, disappointment of a restaurant. Canned refried beans, cremated hockey puck burgers, or cold fish tacos anyone? If you read this Baja Cantina….step your game up.
Do, do the fun activities at the resort, we did the Alpine slide which is a classic, but I wish we would’ve spent the day doing the other activities….Alpine coaster you are on my radar for next time. In all it was a great trip and there is really no right or wrong way to do it, but I hope I could give you some inspiration to get out there and do your own road trippin adventure! See more photos and some fun boomerang vids of the trip on my instagram!

More Thai inspired noodles…Be like Lillard, and I think i’m ready to move to Uruguay.

Yep, last week sucked royally…haha! With trying times often comes a period of growth, I guess like “April showers brings May flowers” well add about four more months to the “showers” part if you live where I live. Cancer, racism, sexism, judgmental bias. Continue reading “More Thai inspired noodles…Be like Lillard, and I think i’m ready to move to Uruguay.”

“Chi-town” style Italian beef for slackers.

Fall is drifting in as Summer exits stage left, and it’s a stunning change for sure. If you are hoping for a post about pumpkin spice flavored things, or to see a picture of a set of hands and canvas aproned torso, forming savory scones, you have made the wrong turn at Albuquerque (Bugs Bunny reference, in cause you are a reader under the age of 30) and find the 10’s of 1000’s of other posts available with that. Continue reading ““Chi-town” style Italian beef for slackers.”

Ogden really is awesome.

The Pharaoh’s Horses Tattoo, 1742 Washington Blvd. Ogden Utah

What can you say about the place you come from? I definitely have had my fair share of criticism of my hometown, but I think that is the kind of passion that you feel for a place where you have lived most stages of life; the good and bad. Ogden is geographically gorgeous, regardless of season, the mountains are majestic, the clouds are puffy and surreal, there is a unique energy that I feel only when I am in Ogden. Continue reading “Ogden really is awesome.”