From Arts and Crafts to Avocado Caprese Chicken Salad

As I contemplated my love for Sunday Brunch and the fabulous friendships I have had throughout the years, I reflected, as I have many times in the past, on the fact that for me – the time best spent has always been that which involves engaging in deep conversation. Most of the people that I have chosen to surround myself with also enjoy endless hours of discourse and metacognition, often focused on our own introspections and observations of the world around us. For me, this “thinking about thinking” and examination of mental and emotional processes has been not only a valuable source of knowledge, but also so fascinating to me that I elected to study psychology as my undergraduate degree. This type of soul searching or self analysis is sometimes discredited due to its lack of scientific reliability and inherent subjectivity, but it also bears mentioning that (in every field) science and research is always changing and often conflicting. Therefore, in many aspects of my life, I have found great success in relying upon a “data point of one” – myself.

Rather than taking the prevailing scientific literature or authoritative advice at face value, I have chosen to personally adopt an alternative approach to my own diet, health and good habits based upon the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all (and it doesn’t require too much effort to find evidence to support this in our day-to-day lives). There are so many confounding variables, tendencies, and preferences to take into consideration, that I have decided to engage in structured self-experimentation and study my own experiences to find out what works well for ME. The efficacy of such an approach was evident when I completed my first Whole30, an elimination diet which seeks to “hit the reset button on your health, habits, and relationship with food.” By removing any potentially problematic foods from my diet and then systematically reintroducing them one at a time in a controlled manner, I was able to gain invaluable insight into what works for me personally. And I have had exceptional results in many areas of my own health, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

Outside of any health related topic, methodology centered upon self-discovery and awareness can also be very helpful. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin writes about how “making time for a passion and treating it as a real priority instead of an “extra” to be fitted in at a free moment (which many people practically never have) will bring a tremendous happiness boost.”  She also notes that although most people understand intuitively that spending more time doing things that they love will make them happier, many adults struggle to accurately describe what it is that they actually like to do. We become laden with responsibilities and the monotony of the day-to-day and forget. Or we have fallen prey to the belief that just because something is fun for someone else, that it is (or at least should be) fun for us. Rubin encourages and facilitates introspection and better self-understanding with many probing questions which are designed to help us know ourselves better. One of my personal favorites: What did you like to do when you were 10 years old? This can provide a very helpful clue as we seek to find our own passions to pursue.

My favorite things to do when I was 10 years old:

  1. Play Barbies with my sister – this encompasses a lot of subcategories such as playing school, house, shopping, and bank, making clothes and styling hair and practicing interpersonal relationships/role playing
  2. Read – I used to read for fun all the time, even in the dark after I was supposed to be asleep which aside from getting me in trouble more than once, probably did not help with my eyesight
  3. Write – I have always loved writing. When I was in first grade, I won a Young Author’s award for a book I wrote and illustrated about my mom teaching me how to make a skirt (very creatively entitled: My First Skirt). All through school and into adulthood I have enjoyed researching and writing of all types immensely
  4. Cheerleading – I started off a mascot for a high school pom pom squad at age 6 and continued onto sideline and competitive cheerleading all the way into college. My parents would not hesitate to roll their eyes as they describe how ridiculously obsessed I was with cheerleading – reading and researching everything I could, practicing, making my sister and friends participate and creating my own choreography to no end
  5. Arts and Crafts – Scrapbooking stands out as a something I liked to do often, along with making jewelry, greeting cards, ornaments, and decorations.  Although I loved it, this was one area where I have always felt a bit apprehensive about my own abilities and often spend a lot of time in perfectionism paralysis wondering if I should add such-and-such or not or what colors to use, etc.

And the funny thing is that as I analyzed myself with Rubin’s question, I laughed as I realized immediately that many of these are still my favorite things to do as an adult, with only a minor spin if any! Everything we did as we played Barbies was a practice for “real life” in terms of adult activities and understanding of different types of relationships and personalities we deal with all the time. This was also probably my childhood version of those introspective conversations that I so adore now. Reading for pleasure is probably at its all time high in my life now that I am finished with school and I just can’t get enough. Obviously here I am now, blissfully writing away for fun. My passion for cheerleading has now evolved to barre as I described in a previous post. And arts and crafts is still something which I love and wish that I made more time for/had more confidence with. But thanks to my insightful husband, I realized recently that in many ways cooking has become my grown up version of arts and crafts. I genuinely love planning out a project (meal), shopping for the perfect supplies (ingredients), following and combining just the right defined vs. creative techniques and processes (cooking/baking/mixing) and building a masterpiece which is visually appealing and tastes good.

So this week, I indulged in some adult arts and crafts time with an easy, but pretty version of an Avocado Caprese Salad with Chicken. Substituting the avocado for fresh mozzarella helps to maintain the highly satiating fat profile without compromising much on consistency and making it a viable Whole30 and Paleo option. Limited artistic or culinary skill required for this one, but the combination of colors and flavors lend appeal visually and deliciously.

Avocado Caprese Chicken Salad

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 2

Whole30 and Paleo version of the ever popular and pretty Caprese Salad paired with baked or grilled chicken to make a complete meal.
Ingredients
  • Chicken Breast 2 each
  • Balsamic Vinegar .75 cup
  • Roma or Plum Tomato 2 each
  • Avocado 1 each
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Coconut Oil 1 TBSP
Instructions
  1. Cook the chicken to your liking - grilling would be fantastic, but if you don't have time or weather conditions, just bake some in the oven. I preheat the oven to 350 F and then line a baking sheet with foil. I drizzle coconut oil and a bit of sea salt and pepper over the chicken and bake until done, but not overcooked (usually 15 - 20 minutes depending on cut). Once cooked, slice into thin pieces against the grain.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the balsamic vinegar over medium heat for about 10 minutes to reduce it. You will know that it is done when you dip the back of a spoon in and it is slightly sticky.
  3. Slice the tomatoes and avocado.
  4. Build your masterpiece! Layer a piece of chicken, followed by avocado, then a basil leaf, and finally tomato and then repeat.
  5. Drizzle the balsamic reduction all over and add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy the simple beauty and fresh taste combination!

 

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