Wednesday, November 2, 2016

National Novel Writing Month & Yellow Chicken on Salad

November is National Novel Writing Month. Every year tons of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel within the 30 days of November, and many of them succeed. I have participated most years since around 2005, and I've come close to "winning" many times, but never ended up producing anything I was proud of. Last year I penned roughly half of a future-dystopia alien-invasion girl-power story, and I figured this year I'd just keep working on it and see how far I could get. Well, it's this year, and once again I've changed my mind about what to write for NaNoWriMo.

This year, I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to make my best effort to write every day here in this very blog and see if I can get to 50k by the end of the 30 day sprint.

Find out more about NaNoWriMo on the official website.

The past few years I've been through a lot of changes in my personal life. For a little over a year now, I've been working from home as an IT analyst for a group of animal hospitals with roughly 800 locations in the US and Canada. Before that, I spent two years mostly living out of a suitcase, traveling around the US teaching the software I now support, to staff in the hospital environment. I saw 28 states in two years, and I learned a whole lot about what a vast and variable place the USA is.

Also, if you need any tips for traveling, feel free to ask. Catching 4-8 flights a week most weeks, living out of my suitcase in a hotel, and driving a variety of rental cars, has made me something of an expert in air traveling, car renting, and hotel staying.

I picked up some new habits and interests while I was on the road. I'd like to talk about some of those things here, along with some things I'm glad to be able to do again now that I'm home all the time. I also got engaged in January to my beau of 8 or 9ish years, so wedding planning has been happening. Though a lot of the details of that are still up in the air since we plan to move, possibly far away, within the next few months.

After the jump, I'll give a rundown of what topics I expect to cover over the next month, and a recipe for "yellow chicken on salad" -- a crazy random happenstance dish we've been enjoying quite often lately.

Over the next 30 days, and hopefully continuing with some regularity after that, expect to see posts about:

  • adventures at our local organic farm
  • dishes cooked with the amazing variety of local produce available to me
  • what I'm reading lately
  • what's painted on my nails
  • the latest stuff making my personal spa nights great
  • my newest favorite subreddit
  • what's happening in my craft studio
  • delicious beer, wine, and cheese
  • modern and historical fashion
  • how much I love to sleep
  • what's on my TV
  • my adorable dog
  • wedding planning
  • anything else I feel like babbling about

I'll kick this off today with some tales from the farm, and a recipe for a salad we've been enjoying during the shift from Summer to Fall. For the past few months, I've been making a habit out of ordering a harvest box from our local organic farm Rutiz Family Farms. For $18 we get a big box full of fruits and veggies, and it's often more than we can easily eat in a week, though we've been trying. So far we've had the opportunity to try a few things I've never cooked with before, like tomatillos, shishito peppers, and jicama, and as a result my recipe repertoire has only expanded. I made green chili chicken enchiladas from scratch a couple weeks ago, which is something I've always wanted to be able to do, and now I can.

The salad I've been making combines the result of one "choose a random spice" night, and a sort of "everything but the kitchen sink" side salad I'd made to go along with our protein for the day -- pan seared butterflied chicken breast. I decided to just go ahead and top my salad with my chicken, and voila, the "yellow chicken on salad" was born.

I don't have any pictures of it, but I'll do my best to take some next time. The chicken comes out of the pan looking so glorious. The spice rub really does a good job of making it look as good as it tastes.

Yellow Chicken on Salad

First, you'll need to make your spice rub. I have this labeled in a jar as "Turmeric Mix" because I'm not very creative with my spice rub names, and right now I only have one turmeric based spice rub. I came up with this mix on a whim after I asked Randy to select any spice from our spice collection at random, and then I'd use it as a primary ingredient in our dinner that night. We both liked the result so much, I made a whole jar, and I make and cook with this very frequently now.

This recipe is in parts, so you can make as much as you'd like. If you aren't sure that you like some of the things in this mix and you just want to make enough to try it out once, I suggest making your parts 1 teaspoon, as the resulting quantity of Turmeric Mix should be enough to season roughly two large butterflied chicken breasts. This seasoning is also tasty on pork chops, white fish, and salmon.

Turmeric Mix:

  • 3 parts turmeric
  • 1 or 2 parts crushed red pepper (At your discretion. I make it with 2 and it's not spicy.)
  • 1 part cinnamon
  • 1 part paprika
  • 2 parts salt
  • 2 parts sugar (I typically use brown sugar, but white sugar would work too.)

Generously season your butterflied chicken breasts on both sides, and sear in a nonstick pan, with a little bit of your favorite cooking oil, over medium-high heat for 6 minutes per side. Rest 5 minutes off the heat, under a loose tent of aluminum foil, before cutting to serve. I recommend covering your skillet with a splash guard if you have one, because turmeric will turn everything it touches a lovely shade of yellow.


  • 1/2 to 1 whole head of your favorite lettuce. (I use red or green leaf lettuce, or romaine depending on what's going on at the farm)
  • 1 oz unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp walnuts or pecans - glazed or candied if you like
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, halved -or- 1-2 diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 cucumbers - remove half the rind in stripes, then dice
  • 4 tbsp of your favorite Italian vinaigrette, to taste. (I typically use Bolthouse Farms Italian Vinaigrette)
  • Optional: a little sprinkling of a good quality grated parmesan or crumbled goat cheese

Toss all salad ingredients together, dish into two bowls, and top with the prepared chicken, then enjoy!

Serves two.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear what you think of it! Feel free to drop me a line or share a picture in the comments below.

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