Mama life is different from pre-baby life in so many ways, but one of the trickiest for me so far has been managing time. An entire day can go by and find me still in my pajamas. How is that even possible?! With John transitioning back to work full time, I’m at the mercy of this little nugget we call Oden. Some days, we seem to be on the same page. We’re grooving and smiling and singing songs and sleeping well. During naps, I can do laundry, clean the kitchen, prep bottles for the afternoon, or even spend some time writing. I think, “I’ve totally got this.” Other days, it becomes clear early on that Oden and I are in some sort of fight that I didn’t know about. He’s fussy and demands to be held and refuses to nap. Nothing I do seems right and I feel my own tears welling up in my eyes and an hour feels like a day. It’s a huge relief when John walks in the door to help diffuse the chaos. I look around and feel deflated that I wasn’t able to accomplish much on my to-do list; even the basic household routine was put on hold for Oden. That’s motherhood, and it’s part of the gig (especially during these first schedule-less weeks). But those are the days when I wonder how on Earth a single parent does it.
As the weeks go by, we’re getting the hang of our new “normal.” A big lesson has been to accept help when it’s offered, which isn’t always easy for me. I mentioned how priceless our time with the Grandma Fairy was during the blur of the first three weeks of Oden’s life. When a friend offered to set up a meal train for us, I wasn’t sure we needed it. My mom would be helping with cooking and grocery shopping for three weeks, I reasoned, and surely by then we’d have a handle on life. It turned out to be one of the biggest lifesavers of all. It’s all we can do some days to pull something out of the freezer to reheat or order take-out, so we really looked forward to a home-cooked meal delivered to our door by a friend. Bonus: Social time with other adults!
Our friends went all out with the meals they brought us, too. I’m talking about a whole roasted chicken or Shepherd’s pie or elk Caprese burgers or succulent pot roast. People usually included a salad or side dish and dessert, and sometimes a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine, too. The effort and thoughtfulness people put into their deliveries made us remember how very loved and supported we are.
The first meal we received, weeks ago, was from my friend, Beth. It was a healthy but filling BBQ chicken salad, with all of the components presented separately so we could build our own masterpieces. There was very little actual cooking involved, but the presentation was gorgeous and it was so delicious!
I knew right away that I’d want to replicate it sometime when life had settled down a bit…and last night, I did! I had to pause here and there for some Oden time, but it felt wonderful to actually be in my kitchen, sipping wine and creating something tasty. I pulled up the photo of Beth’s salad for reference and got started by slicing and caramelizing half of an onion.
While the onion softened in the skillet (the only cooking involved!), I gathered the rest of the ingredients. I sliced some red pepper, chopped cherry tomatoes, cut up a fresh lime. I also drained and rinsed a can of black beans and a can of corn. I’d saved a few slices of crisp bacon from our breakfast and crumbled them up.
On another day, I’d grill or poach the chicken. To keep things easy, I chopped up chicken breast from a grocery store rotisserie bird. Beth informed me that the dressing for the salad is brilliantly simple: equal parts Ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. I’m all about the shortcuts these days!
I waited until it was time to serve dinner to slice up an avocado and chop fresh cilantro. I also stirred a smidge of balsamic reduction into my softened onions for additional sweetness. The last ingredient for these gorgeous salads was corn chips, for crrrrunch!
I decided to plate our salads myself as opposed to a do-it-yourself situation, taking hints from the Cobb-style salads I’ve made in the past. I started with a mixture of chopped romaine hearts and spicy arugula, then laid out each component on top of the lettuce mixture. The result was a delicious, edible rainbow! We sprinkled cilantro over everything, squeezed lime over the top, and drizzled dressing over the salad.
I guess there are some people that would prefer to keep the components separate on the plate and sample them all individually. But my preference is to mix the whole mess together and dig in! Each bite had a unique blend of texture and flavor: sweet onions and corn, creamy black beans and avocado, fresh raw veggies, and a satisfying crunch from the chips. The tart lime balanced out the sweet and spicy dressing. I wasn’t shy when serving the salads and our plates were piled high, but we both cleared them.
This salad is simultaneously light and hearty, and you could customize it with whatever toppings you like best. You could also switch out the chicken for grilled shrimp or baked tofu. You could grill fresh corn and the bell pepper for a charred flavor. There are so many tasty options. We’ll be adding this meal to our summertime rotation for sure. Delicious! (Thanks, Beth!)
BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad
- Mixed greens of your choice (we used romaine hearts and arugula)
- Two cooked rotisserie chicken breasts, chopped
- ½ red onion, caramelized
- ½ can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- ½ red bell pepper, sliced
- 3 pieces of crisp bacon, crumbled
- ½ avocado, sliced
- ¼ cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup BBQ sauce
- ¼ cup Ranch dressing
- Lime wedges and corn chips for garnish
Combine BBQ sauce and Ranch dressing and set aside. On two plates, lay down a bed of mixed greens. Divide the remaining ingredients between the salads in colorful rows. Top with chopped cilantro and dressing. Serve with corn chips for crumbling and limes for squeezing. Cheers to thoughtful friends, a cooperative baby, and returning to my happy place (if only for a night). YUM!
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One year ago: Veggie Griddle Cheese Sammies.