Blackened Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Sweet Cilantro Dressing

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Here’s the thing about creating your own recipes. You always start by grabbing a bowl. And for a moment—just a moment—you feel a dark fear grip your innards. What if you’ve got no more good recipe ideas? What if you can’t ever again think up anything clever, and your glory days of recipe concocting are long gone? Your mind black and empty like the bowl you’ve sat upon your kitchen countertop.
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But then, you think of all the lovely people who check into your ideas each week. And, you think how nice a bite of blackened chicken might be. And, maybe would it go with that pack of strawberries you picked up this afternoon at the market?

Before you know it, you’re staring the most glorious salad ever made right in the face. And you realize the bowl wasn’t empty at all. It was just a canvas, waiting to be filled.

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On the day I made this salad, my husband called me from the seedy part of town. He was standing outside a jewelry shop, trying to muster enough courage to sell his wedding ring for cash. The budget had run dry, the cars needed gas, there were no eggs in the fridge, and we were both fighting off the fear of financial helplessness. So, that sweet hubby of mine walked into a one-window jewelry shop, lit with the buzz of fluorescent lights, and sold his wedding ring. He was sick to his stomach. I was sick to mine. What would we do when the pinch hit next month, and there was no ring to hock?

Two hours later, I arrived home, started dinner, and checked my email. Somewhere between the usual Twitter notifications, Facebook hello’s, and a note from a blog reader , I learned I’d won the lottery from a king in South Africa. (That South African royalty is such a generous bunch.) Oh. And, there was an email from the Babble, the remarkable parenting website, inviting me to join their team of talented bloggers over at The Family Kitchen.

For the first time in two and a half years, my blogging hobby would start pulling in a bit of monthly income. I called my husband and together we cried with joy. Not because the wedding ring was gone, but because in being willing to give it all, give everything up, take a step into the dark—a new path opened before us, a beginning just when we thought we’d reached the end. It’s been two and a half years and one wedding ring of his relentless support as I ventured into this dream of blogging. “I think this is a gift for pressing forward in faith, for not giving up on blogging, on stay-at-home motherhood, on devoting ourselves entirely to the goal of getting out of debt,” John told me through the telephone line.

Here’s the thing about creating your own recipes. You always start by grabbing an empty bowl. And with each slice of a strawberry, each dash of salt, you tell that bowl a story. Your story. You take the dreams from your head and little by little mix, stir, and bake it into reality. It doesn’t always come together perfectly, but with persistence and perseverance and faith and sacrifice, it does come.

It does.

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Blackened Chicken Salad
My husband, the one that sometimes calls my glorious Crackerbread Pizza “too untraditional for his taste”, the one who thinks my Lemon Curd Cupcakes are “weird” sat down at the kitchen table, took one bite of this recipe, then left the table. He returned two minutes later with his work cell phone, sat back down at the table, and took a picture of his salad. “This is the best salad I’ve ever eaten” he mumbled while shoveling bites in his mouth. It’s good. Darn good. Picture taking good. To learn how to Blacken Chicken Like A Pro, visit Babble tomorrow (6/14) at 11 a.m. EST to find my premiere Family Kitchen article on the topic. Then, make this salad. And take pictures. And smooch the people you love with your strawberry lips.
1 ½ c. grilled blackened chicken
5-6 c. Romaine lettuce, chopped
½ c. sliced strawberries (mangoes, peaches or blueberries will also work beautifully)
2 T. roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Toss all ingredients together. Serve with Sweet Cilantro Dressing. Enjoy!

Sweet Cilantro Dressing
A thin, creamy dressing. Sweet and lovely with the kiss of cilantro.
¼ c. cilantro
½ c. light mayo
¼ c. honey
¼ c. cream
1 T. freshly squeezed key lime juice
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until nicely pureed. Serve over blackened chicken salad.

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Visit me Monday thru Friday, 5 days a week over at Babble’s The Family Kitchen for incredible recipes, ideas, and other great kitchen treats and tips.

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Can’t wait to see you here and there in summerwear! XO!

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23 Responses to “Blackened Chicken Salad with Strawberries & Sweet Cilantro Dressing”

  1. 1

    Marisa on June 13, 2010 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Wow. What a great story! (The salad looks yummy, too.) Good luck with the Family Kitchen gig!

  2. 2

    Swiggy on June 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm Reply

    I hope this doesn't mean you'll be posting here less.

  3. 3

    Cheeky Kitchen on June 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm Reply

    Swiggy- Not in the least! You'll still find me here, just like usual. Now there will just be more Cheeky to go around. Happy week!

  4. 4

    cookies and cups on June 14, 2010 at 7:04 am Reply

    congrats! This salad looks amazing!

  5. 5

    oneordinaryday on June 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Wow. What a story ~ you gave me goosebumps. : )

  6. 6

    Amy on June 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm Reply

    Oh you have no idea how I needed to hear this today. Not just the blank canvas part but the whole financial stuff as well. We haven't sold my husband's wedding ring yet, but it comes close every month. The months that we don't get any overdraft fees we are so ecstatic. I keep thinking it should be over soon, that something will work out. And yet even though nothing major, like money falling from the sky, has happened, we continue to make it. And that is something to celebrate,I know. But your post today just helped me to feel that I'm not alone, that I made the right choice to stay home with my kids, and that it will all work out alright in the end. Thanks Brooke.

  7. 7

    Amy on June 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm Reply

    Oh-and I can't wait to make this salad tomorrow. Looks soooo good!

  8. 8

    bridget {bake at 350} on June 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm Reply

    That is so exciting. I just found your blog TODAY….and it's so cute, I want to CRY. Seriously.

    Off to add you to my reader. :)

  9. 9

    Timothy & Kimberly Pettitt on June 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm Reply

    I made this dressing tonight…I LOVE IT!!! Definitely putting this one in the FAVORITE recipes section of the cookbook! Thanks for sharing!

  10. 10

    Timothy & Kimberly Pettitt on June 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm Reply

    I made this dressing tonight…I LOVE IT!!! Definitely putting this one in the FAVORITE recipes section of the cookbook! Thanks for sharing!

  11. 11

    Timothy & Kimberly Pettitt on June 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm Reply

    I made this dressing tonight…I LOVE IT!!! Definitely putting this one in the FAVORITE recipes section of the cookbook! Thanks for sharing!

  12. 12

    Sophistimom on June 15, 2010 at 12:20 am Reply

    I'm excited to try this, Brooke, and I NEVER take time to make other people's recipes. NEVER.

    ever.

    ever!

    Too busy with all my other food!

    So glad you're blogging with us over there at Babble.

  13. 13

    Cheeky Kitchen on June 15, 2010 at 12:58 am Reply

    Everyone- Thank you so much for your kind comments. I truly adore you readers. Best.ever.

    Bridget- Welcome!

    Amy- Emailing you now. That comment of yours made me cry.

    Pettitts- So glad you loved it!

    Sophistimom-So tickled for the opportunity to join talented gals like you!

  14. 14

    A SPICY PERSPECTIVE on June 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Great post! This sounds terrific! Love the dressing!

  15. 15

    Tickled Red on June 16, 2010 at 8:08 am Reply

    I have to say that you made me tear up this morning. I am so very, very happy for you and wish you the best of luck. You are inspiring in so many ways.

    By the way love your recipe and the blank canvas analogy…it touched the dusty artist soul still beating inside. ((hugs))

  16. 16

    Mary on June 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm Reply

    Wow! That both looks and sounds DELICIOUS! A must try – soo perfect for summer!

    xxMK
    Delightful Bitefuls

  17. 17

    Stef on June 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm Reply

    Brooke,

    You take my breath away. Seriously. Your words are so beautiful. Congratulations to you. And I'm going to have to try this one, everything about it sounds delicious, and I will have all these good feelings thinking about your story while I make it. Thank you.

  18. 18

    The Cooking Photographer on June 16, 2010 at 11:14 pm Reply

    Brooke you have one wonderful family and they are lucky to have you too. I just wish you didn't have to go through tough times.

    This salad is stunning! I think I'll make it for lunch tomorrow.

    Oh and I need to get away from the computer. I'll get those questions written to you first thing tomorrow. I have the answers written on paper here.

    Laura

  19. 19

    Sean and Janet Eyring on June 21, 2010 at 9:05 am Reply

    That dressing was SOOOOO good! We had the salad yesterday with watermelon instead of strawberries, and it was so yummy. In fact at 10pm last night I finished off the rest of the chicken and watermelon with the remaining dressing even though we had run out of lettuce!
    Tell John Hi, we were in an ASL class together at BYU.
    –Sean

  20. 20

    Ammie on June 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm Reply

    I tried this last week with a few minor changes and it was amazing!! All four of my kids loved it and can't wait to have it again.

    Because I was short on time I used Trader Joe's Just Chicken (pre-cooked slices of chicken) and cooked them up with the spices as you directed. They turned out great! For the dressing I used regular mayo, agave nectar, and buttermilk because that's what I had on hand and it was soooo good! I also think that half mayo and half greek yogurt would be a yummy substitute as well.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  21. Pingback: Creamy Cilantro Dressing. | Something Like That

  22. 21

    Van Sjulstad on March 21, 2013 at 8:55 am Reply

    Hey, you used to write fantastic, but the last few posts have been kinda boring… I miss your great writings. Past few posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

  23. 22

    Seth Jaggers on April 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm Reply

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