Thursday, April 23, 2020

Eat-All-Week Chicken

This whole COVID19 quarantine business is surreal in so many ways. But one thing I didn't see coming was the surge in chain letters. I guess the lack of real human connection and the sudden void of busy-ness has us spiraling back to the olden days. Anyway, I received a chain letter asking for a #quarantinecooking recipe, and I thought... what's better than a recipe? Three recipes in one. Because if you're going to make dinner, you might as well get a few more meals out of it.

So here's what you do. One night, you roast or grill a chicken. You serve it for dinner with lots of sides (to stretch the chicken!). You make chicken broth. You use some leftover meat for a delicious Cobb salad, and you make soup with the rest. Keep reading for the details, and stay safe and healthy!

Grilled or Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken

1 3- to 4-pound chicken (organic is great, but use what you can find!)
olive oil or soft butter
kosher salt

If you've never spatchcocked a chicken, you must try it! It seriously reduces the cooking time on a whole chicken, and helps it cook evenly without drying out. It's not very hard, either. Here's a video showing the basic technique. You can do it with a chef knife, but it's much easier with sturdy kitchen shears. These are similar to the ones I have. I like that you can pull them completely apart and put them in the dishwasher - that way they get thoroughly clean.

Cut the backbone out of the chicken (save it for your bone broth!) and flatten it. Pat dry, then gently separate the skin from the breasts and thighs without tearing it. Use your hands to spread the olive oil or butter all over under and over the skin. Season liberally with the kosher salt, especially under the skin. This helps to season all the way through the meat. Leave it to soak in for about 30 minutes (this process is called dry brining). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 or prep your grill. On the grill: When the coals are ready, bank them all to one side of the grill. Put the chicken directly over the coals, skin side down for 10 minutes, and then flip it over and move it to the other side of the grill with the legs closest to the coals. Cook for another 30-40 minutes, until the meat is pulling away from the bones and the juices run clear. In the oven: Roast for 40-50 minutes, until the juice runs clear. Serve with lots of sides! 

Chicken Bone Broth

Remove all the meat from the chicken bones and place the bones, the back, and any pieces that came in the little bag into a large pot. I have an instant pot, which I love, but you can use any large pot. Add some veggie pieces - onion, carrot, celery, garlic - and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (this helps to draw the minerals out of the bones), and cover the whole thing with water. (Note about the veggies: I've started keeping a gallon-sized bag in my freezer and putting scraps in anytime I have them. Carrot scrapings, onion skins and roots, herb stems, anything that's about to go bad - all of it goes into the pot when I'm making broth!) In the instant pot, set it to manual and cook on high for 4 hours, then do a natural release. This is always an overnight process for me. Otherwise, simmer for 12 hours or longer on low. Strain and refrigerate!

Chicken Cobb Salad

mixed baby greens or lettuces
cherry tomatoes, halved
crisp bacon, cut up
blue cheese or feta
hard boiled eggs
leftover chicken

Equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Arrange all the ingredients in a bowl, drizzle with dressing, toss and serve!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When I open a can of chipotles in adobo, I use one or two in the recipe and then I line a sheet pan with parchment and scoop the remaining chiles individually onto the parchment. Then I freeze it. After it's frozen, I put the chiles into a container and the next time I need one, I don't have to open a new can!

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 small onion or half of one large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
3 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil
1 quart chicken broth
1-2 cups leftover cooked chicken, cubed

To serve:
tortilla chips
diced avocado
chopped cilantro
queso fresco
hot sauce

Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic into a blender or food processor and puree. Place a large saucepan over medium heat, and add the oil. Pour in the pureed tomato mixture and cook for a few minutes, until it thickens slightly and the color darkens a bit. Add the chicken broth and cook for 10 minutes or so, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chicken and cook for a minute to warm. Place a handful of crushed tortilla chips in each bowl, then ladle over some soup. Top with avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, and a squeeze of lime. Dig in!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

On Reaching Aslan's Country

Sometimes kids ask ridiculous questions. Sometimes they ask the same question again and again and... again (why? why? why?). And sometimes they ask a question that is so perceptive, so thought-provoking, that it reminds you how complex, unique, and in tune with the whispers of God these small people are.

Anne and I have been making our way through the audiobook versions of the Chronicles of Narnia. I read the first couple to her aloud, but after several failures to launch into Prince Caspian, we switched the audios, and my goodness. There is a reason why some people deserve to be paid to do a job. Not only can you easily tell when a Mouse is talking, you can also tell without any mental effort when it's Lucy and not Susan. That's talent.

We reached the end of The Silver Chair on our way home from playing with friends at a great park in the suburbs the other day, and in the silence afterward, the story began to settle in our hearts and we began to talk about it.

In the story, King Caspian is an old man, and just at the end of the book, he dies. After he dies, a great mourning cry and funeral music rise in Narnia, and then Aslan brings the children back to his country. Rather than ruining this part by paraphrasing, I'll just quote C.S. Lewis:

Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like waterweed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond. And Jill noticed that Eustace looked neither like a child crying, nor like a boy crying and wanting to hide it, but like a grown-up crying. At least, that is the nearest she could get to it; but really, as she said, people don't seem to have any particular ages on that mountain.

"Son of Adam," said Aslan, "Go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me."

Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier.

"Drive it into my paw, Son of Adam," said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pads towards Eustace.

"Must I?" said Eustace.

"Yes," said Aslan.

Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion's pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all the redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them -- a very young man, or a boy. (Jill couldn't say which, because of people having no particular ages in Aslan's country. Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grown-up.) And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.

At last Caspian turned to the others. He gave a great laugh of astonished joy.

"Why! Eustace!" he said. "Eustace! So you did reach the end of the world after all! What about my second best sword that you broke on the sea-serpent?" 

Eustace made a step towards him with both hands out, but then drew back with a startled expression.

"Look here! I say," he stammered. "It's all very well. But aren't you?-- I mean didn't you--?"

"Oh don't be such an ass," said Caspian.

"But," said Eustace, looking at Aslan. "Hasn't he--er--died?"

"Yes," said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost (Jill thought) as if he were laughing. "He has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few who haven't."

An incredible scene. And as we rode along in the car, discussing favorite parts and favorite characters, and just sitting silently sometimes, soaking in that golden glow of a good story, Anne asked this question:

"Is it good to die?"

The conversation that followed this question was a great one, about what happens when we die and why that's something to look forward to, how our perspective on Earth is different because we don't experience Time the same way God does, and how our earthly lives are just a brief separation from God. But it was the question that floored me. That is the magic of good stories. They teach eternal truths and help us to plumb the depths of human experience without much effort on our part, beyond using our imaginations.

We've had a lot of experiences with death this year. My grandmother passed away in the fall, at the age of 96. She was my last living grandparent, and it was hard to say goodbye to her - I felt as though my ties to the past had been cut and I was just drifting out to sea. Back in September, we talked a bit about how Bajee was happier now, how she wasn't suffering and she was glad to be face-to-face with Jesus, whom she had loved for so many years. 

Then earlier this year, we found out we were expecting a baby - a new, much-anticipated addition to our family. And then about a month later we found out the baby had died - no more heartbeat, no more growth. Just pain and suffering and the heart-wrenching truth that half of our children are waiting for us in Heaven. We mourned. It was awful.

But is it good to die? It has been immensely comforting to me to realize that no matter how I feel, no matter how much I wish we could have held and loved that baby, I know that he is safe, loved, and happy in the presence of God forever. And the suffering brought our family together in ways we would not have chosen and could not have predicted. So was it good? Yes. But it was not easy. Good things seldom are.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Almond Joy Oatmeal {Happy Halloween!}

Happy Halloween! This is a busy week for us - Halloween is just the beginning of the "mini-triduum" of Hallowtide: All Hallow's Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day. Lots of fun and devotion and proper attention to death are planned. (For more info on how and why Catholics celebrate Halloween, click here!)

(Digital download of this coloring sheet available at Someday Saints Designs)

Almond Joy Oatmeal

A special request for "coconut oatmeal" and an abundance of Halloween candy staring me down all day inspired this recipe. Enjoy!

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
dash of salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but you could use the sugary coconut!)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Sweetener to taste (I used maple syrup, but honey, coconut sugar, brown sugar, or stevia would work!)

Put the oats, coconut milk, water and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook until almost done (5-8 minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and serve! (For an added boost of protein, and to cool it down quickly for little people, I stir in a dollop of greek yogurt.)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Rosy lenses of gratitude

Lately I have found myself struggling with a nagging feeling of discontentment, though no conceivable reason can be found for such a feeling. Most noticeably, I feel as though I never quite want to be where I am, always looking forward to or wishing I were doing something else. At breakfast with my girls in the morning, I wish they would hurry up and finish so that we could get on to the next thing. With them at forest school, I get fidgety and bored because instead of "getting things done," I'm stuck digging holes, playing dress-up, or looking at birds and bugs. At the park, I wish they would just play on their own so I could read. I'm not sure how I got stuck in that rut, but last night I figured it out. The antidote to the spreading virus of discontent that has been plaguing my (by all accounts, richly blessed) life:


Here's what the three examples above look like when viewed through the rosy lenses of gratitude:

Because I don't work outside the home, and my kids don't go to traditional school, I am free to let them wake up naturally in the morning and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with them. We can read books and enjoy each other's company, while learning about how to savor a meal together. GRATEFUL.


We live in a huge, metropolitan city with all its cultural and educational benefits. Since my kids don't get to spend extended, uninterrupted time outside in nature, we found a school that takes place in a nearby nature preserve, where Anne goes twice a week, just to play outside with other kids and get comfortable with the wild and free outdoors. So important for a city kid. And since Easter, Eleanor and I have joined, giving me time to focus on her and just be at leisure to play in the beautiful springtime forest. GRATEFUL.





My girls want me to play. I get to be with them. I get to see their faces full of smiles, and hear their peals of laughter when I push them higher on the swings or chase them and tickle them, I get to see them jump and slide, run and dance. We get to go on impromptu adventures anytime we want! And because I'm home with them, I don't have to miss these things. GRATEFUL.



I'm not saying it won't be hard sometimes, or that I won't ever feel like I'm gritting my teeth and barely making it to bedtime. I am saying that most of the things that arise in my heart and come out of my mouth complaints could be turned on their heads by the simple addition of gratitude. A subtle shift in how I see my world, a huge impact on whether or not I enjoy my life.

Usually we set aside November as a month for gratitude, but I think I need a reboot. Would you join me? I need help and community. Please share your practical ways to a grateful heart in the comments, and join me in a #gratefuljune on Facebook and Instagram, so that we can savor each moment of this life together!


Friday, August 26, 2016

St. Teresa of Calcutta Party! (Shining Light Dolls GIVEAWAY!)


Happy Friday, friends! Today is Mother Teresa's birthday! She's set to be canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta on September 4, so this morning I teamed up with my good friend Chantal (of Shining Light Dolls fame) to throw an epic Indian-themed party! We've got a fledgling group of Catholic moms in Chicago (sound like you? join us!) that started online and is growing fast, and we had yet to plan a get-together, so this was a wonderful opportunity to meet some new people. It was actually pretty easy to put together, and I've got lots of ideas to help you start planning yours. What better way to add to the festivity of a long weekend at the end of summer than to celebrate a new Saint?


Agnes Bojaxhiu was born into a Catholic family in Yugoslavia in 1910. At 18, she joined the Loreto Sisters of Dublin and took the name Teresa, in honor of St. Thérese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. She was sent to India and worked as a school teacher. Later, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, an order which became known throughout the world for its work to help the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003.

A new Saint Teresa Shining Light Doll is also being released just in time for the canonization, so each child at our party received a doll, as well as a copy of Chantal's fantastic new book, Saints on the Go, which features Saint Teresa (among many others)! Would you like one for your child? We're giving away 3, so enter at the bottom of this post to win!



It was a beautiful day, so in addition to the things listed below, we had a lot of end-of-summer fun in the back yard, and a big baby party in the living room.









On to party planning! This can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be.

  • Marigolds are a symbol of celebration in India, so why not craft your own out of pipe cleaners and tissue paper?
  • Easy as can be: print a coloring sheet (scroll down for a printable!) and provide crayons and colored pencils!
  • Pray together! Mother Teresa would love it. We used the simple, short prayer from the novena to St. Teresa here:




Food and Drinks:
  • If you have an Indian grocery or bakery anywhere near you, you can pick up beautiful traditional desserts, as well as snacks and other things from their frozen section. 
  • Mango Lassi - Like a milkshake. Easy, kid friendly, and healthy!
  • Classic Samosas - Want a little challenge? Make these from scratch (we opted for frozen to save time)!
  • Indian-spiced Hummus, with slices of naan (I found it at Costco!) and raw veggies for dipping.
  • Chai tea with milk and honey (decaf for kids, great iced or hot).
  • Mango lemonade and/or pineapple coconut water.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala with rice (scroll down for the recipe!)






To enter to win the doll and book, comment on this post letting me know how you are planning to celebrate the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta with your families! Extra entries for visiting Coppertop Kitchen and Shining Light Dolls on Facebook. Good luck!! Winners will be announced on September 1.  Congratulations to our winners: Mary-Anne, Nicole, and Amanda! Check your email for info about how to claim your prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
serves 4-6

While there are lots of Indian foods that would have been more authentic than this (this dish actually originated in London, not India), it's hard to beat a kid-friendly, crowd-pleasing meal that still has a bit of Indian spice. And I really mean a BIT. I took out every hint of spicy the original recipe had to offer. You're welcome, kiddos!

3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced

For the sauce: In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and stir until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir together until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomato paste and garam masala and stir together, cooking for another minute until it all blends together. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the chicken.

Preheat broiler to high, and place a rack in a foil-lined baking sheet. Spray the rack with cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the salt, cumin, and coriander. Sprinkle evenly over the chicken breasts, and rub the spices in slightly so they stick. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, ginger, and garlic. Using tongs, dip the chicken in the yogurt mixture and coat well. Lay the chicken on the prepared rack and broil until cooked through, about 7-9 minutes per side. Chicken will be slightly charred on both sides. Remove to a cutting board and let cool for a minute or two, then cut into 1-inch cubes.

Add the cream and cilantro to the sauce, stirring to combine, and then stir in the chicken pieces. Serve with basmati rice.



Friday, May 13, 2016

An ordinary, wonderful spring day


I couldn't have predicted that today would be one that I would especially want to remember. We had an extra three-year-old hanging out with us all day, we just moved into a new house and things are still quite chaotic, and I had a dentist appointment scheduled in the afternoon. A hum-drum day, at best.

I woke up and, suspecting that I would not have a lot of time to myself throughout the day, I immediately treated myself to a shower, complete with hair-washing. I put on makeup and got dressed before going downstairs.

I made coffee, and as I sat sipping it and reading, I heard Anne wake up. I heard her pad into my bedroom where Eleanor was still sleeping. Anne knows to check and see if Eleanor's head is popped up before talking to her - if her head is still down, she silently creeps back out of the room. She must have been awake, because Anne greeted her in the sing-song voice she saves for her baby sister, then sang the song I sing to them every morning as soon as everyone's awake:

Good morning to you!
Good morning to you!
We're all in our places with bright shining faces
and this is the way we start out our day!

Unable to resist seeing their sweet faces at that point, I joined them upstairs, and then we all came downstairs for breakfast and read-aloud time. Soon after that, our 3-year-old buddy Evan (son of some of our dearest friends from college) arrived, and he and Anne ran off to play.

I nursed Eleanor, put her peacefully in her pack and play, and she went to sleep for 2 hours. 

Anne and Evan quickly took up residence in the back yard. For almost 3 hours. As aforementioned, we just moved in, so we don't have a lot of outside toys. I found a plastic tub, a funnel, some plastic cups and bowls, and our sand toys, filled the tub with the hose, and let them have at it. I left the door open and listened as that tub of water morphed from a stew to a "mixture" to a mud puddle (after they dug up some dirt from under our fence and mixed it all together).


In the middle of this, a huge delivery truck pulled up in our alley and a delivery man maneuvered a pallet full of closet organizing hardware into our garage while the two kids stood transfixed. Their outdoor time ended with them happy, tired, and muddy from head to toe. I carried them inside one by one and plopped them in the shower to hose them down, got them into clean, dry clothes, and made lunch.

My sister in law stopped by to see the new place, and we had lunch together. The kiddos had chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and the strawberry-coconut water popsicles we had made in the morning.

After lunch, I set the kids up with a movie and I cleaned up and unpacked a bit. Eleanor went down without protest for another hour-long nap. This may not seem amazing, but she has pretty much exclusively napped in a baby carrier of some kind for her entire life, so I'm not sure how she knows how to sleep alone. I take no responsibility. She's a magic baby.

Soon after that, another delivery truck! Another crew of guys unloading and carrying and assembling,  and poof! A couch!!



Then, I enlisted the help of my small cohorts in baking a lemon meringue pie, requested by Anne after several readings of Amelia Bedelia. It turned out just right! So beautiful! So GOLDEN, as Anne will tell you. (Recipe here!)


Jamie got home and as I started to make my way out the door to my dentist appointment, Anne begged to go with me. I told her it would be very boring, but she insisted. As we walked out the door to the car she grabbed my hand, looked up at me and said, "Mamma! We're going on a date!"

Arrived at the dentist, and it occurred to me that as long as Anne was there, and Eleanor wasn't, she might as well get her teeth cleaned too!


2.5 hours later, all teeth shiny and clean, and me with half my mouth numb from a new filling (thanks to our awesome dentist for the triple dose of novocain. I love you.), Anne and I waltzed back out to the car, called in an order for takeout sushi, picked it up on our way home, and ate our miso soup, edamame, and sushi in the kitchen together, followed by a piece of lemon meringue pie.


It was just an awesome day. Not for any one specific reason. I think my expectations were appropriately low. I think I said "yes" whenever I could. I think I ate good food and drank enough water, and that I'm a better mom when I'm not hungry or craving sugar. Thank you, Jesus, for days like this. With nothing terribly remarkable in them, but somehow adding up to something spectacular. May my life be the same. A series of good days, where I did my best, enjoyed the people around me, loved, laughed, baked, played outside. Nothing flashy or ostentatious, just a life LIVED.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Charoset-Inspired Baked Passover Apples


It's a feature of my personality, not to want to miss out on anything. I struggle with decisions, because I know that choosing to do one thing means choosing not to do a host of other things. This is especially difficult for me around holiday times, because with little kids around, doing everything is totally impossible. And what's more important? That they have a well-planned craft for each day of Holy Week, or that I remember to take time to sit down and just read the Story with them? To make sure their little minds are absorbing just a little more of the mystery we celebrate this week?

Amid the chaos of extra church services, cleaning, shopping, and redecorating, I'm trying to cultivate calm. I'm reminding myself that family traditions aren't built in one year, but over a lifetime.

One spring, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, our church hosted a Passover seder. It was the first time I had been exposed to beautiful rituals of this ancient Jewish feast, and I was blown away. As we read the questions, ate the symbolic foods, and drank sips of wine, I saw in a totally new way what Jesus had done. How he had fulfilled centuries' worth of prophecy. I was moved and changed.

Every year, I feel a tug to celebrate the Passover like that again, with matzah, bitter herbs, four cups of wine, and the Haggadah to guide us through it. This year, with a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old, though, I decided that all the careful work and planning I would have to complete to make this meal happen would just end up in my frustration over their inability to appreciate it. I'm going to wait. Maybe next year. (Ann Voskamp has a wonderful post about her family's Seder here.)

But instead of giving up on the idea entirely, I made a seder-inspired meal for Palm Sunday dinner. I would have loved to have it on Holy Thursday, in memory of the seder Jesus celebrated with His disciples before He died, but again - elaborate dinner on a weeknight ups my chances of ending up in tears, so I did what I could to keep both this feast and my sanity.


The menu:

Broiled lamb chops
Greek salad (with lots of parsley)
Baked apples and vanilla ice cream

Charoset is a paste made from apples, nuts, honey or sugar, and red wine, and it's a traditional part of the seder plate; its texture represents the mortar the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Egypt. Here's a traditional recipe.


Charoset-Inspired Baked Passover Apples

5 Fuji apples, cored
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the apples in a baking dish with a lid. Combine the wine, water, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon, and spoon the mixture into the center of the apples. Top each apple with a small piece of butter, right on top of the filling. Pour the wine around the apples, cover, and bake for about 45 minutes, until soft.