I wasn’t really into cooking and cleaning when I was younger. Saturday mornings were reserved for chores in our house when I lived home with Mom, and that always felt more like punishment than anything else. I didn’t care if my room was clean, and I would rather be sleeping late and lounging around in my pajamas or heading off to the mall than dusting and vacuuming.
In college, I lived with six girls in an off-campus house. From where I’m sitting now, it’s so clear that six young twenty-something females living in one house is a bad idea, but back then, we all thought it would be “fun”. A bunch of us lived together in the same wing of our sophomore year dorm, so that spring, it was decided that we’d look for a house together for the following September. It didn’t occur to me that we should have spent more time together or might have considered taking some sort of compatibility/personality tests before we signed the lease, but less than a couple of months into our cohabitation, there was trouble in paradise.
Two of the girls remained my close friends throughout the experience, but I can’t say the same for the others. Some of us went in and out of getting along, but not everyone was so easy to like. For example, one of the roommates, a rancid, Type A sort, was someone I nicknamed “Dragon Lady” because she was rigid and unforgiving, and if something wasn’t done according to her specifications, she would attack. It was clear that we’d never be sharing a hot chocolate and a laugh over a pile of textbooks at the kitchen table.
I was young then and a lot more lax, and I thought there were more important things in the world than tidiness and order. I think I was just where I should have been at that age. I felt happy and peaceful within myself, and I was enjoying college. Maybe I could have been a little less messy, but all the clutter was confined to my own room, and overall, I was just fine the way I was, thank you very much. And I certainly didn’t need Dragon Lady to leave me catty notes on the dry erase board. Gross.
Back then, I didn’t know better about how to stick up for myself, so I let Dragon talk down to me and scold me for being untidy. But now, I’d be able to handle myself in a different way. But I’ve also come a long way from those college days in terms of my domesticity. I may not be the perfect Martha Stewart that I long to be, but I find that I do enjoy keeping my home clean and preparing dinners for Mike and me. It’s something the younger me could never have predicted, but somehow, owning a house and working towards making it cozy is quite nice.
Of course, when I am home from work, I like straightening up and planning dinner a lot more than I do during the semester. When I work during the day and come home with a pile of papers to grade, the last thing I want to do is run the electric broom over the floors or look for an exciting new recipe. I just want to eat a bowl of cereal and watch TV all night. In fact, I’m kind of scared of what it will be like to be a mom. I mean, I can’t say to the child:
“Oh, there’s no dinner tonight. Just pour a bowl of Cheerios if you’re hungry.”
Since I was home today, and since I was pretty useless until three pm, I decided to try a recipe out of the newest Cooking Light. The January/February issue has twenty five different recipes for chicken breast, and when I saw this, I knew we’d have several dishes to add to our repertoire.
For tonight, I decided on the Coconut Chicken Fingers (which you can also find on the Cooking Light website). As strange as it sounds, I do not really like coconut, but I found this dish to be very tasty.
- 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips (I bought chicken breasts that are already cut into lean tenders, and I rinsed each cutlet under water and trimmed anything that seemed unsightly before preparing)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 cup rice flour (If you can’t find rice flour, you can add a little more all purpose flour)
- 1 cup whole buttermilk (I could only find 2%, but it didn’t seem to make too much of a difference)
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut (I used sweetened because it was all I could find, and I think it added a little extra kick, but that might just be me)
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- Sweet chile sauce (optional-I highly recommend**)
1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Combine buttermilk and egg in a shallow dish, stirring well. Place coconut in a shallow dish.
Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess.
Dip chicken in egg mixture; dredge in coconut.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown.
Overall, this was pretty easy, but I did have some difficulty discerning whether or not the chicken was fully cooked. I sliced one of the breasts down the middle as a test and found that I needed about seven-nine minutes rather than the recommended six. Also, the coconut tended to stick to the pan, so next time, I will use a teflon pan.
Serve with chile sauce, if desired.
**Okay, I have to admit that I was totally skeptical about the chili sauce. Because I’ve made sloppy joe sandwiches with Heinz Chili Sauce, I know it is sweet and not spicy in any way. To put in in plain terms: if you like ketchup, you will love this chili sauce. But as much as I like it, I could not imagine wanting to put in on my coconut covered chicken. I like to follow a recipe as closely as possible the first time I prepare it, so I bought the Heinz and Mike was all for trying it out. I have to tell you that it tastes amazing. The chicken is delicious, but the sweet chili sauce brings it up to eleven. You must add it if you make this dish.
Sometimes, I wish I would have told Dragon Lady to calm down and stop acting like an uptight parent (in plainer, less polite terms), but I suppose being so uncompromising and bitter at twenty years old was punishment enough for her.
I am thankful for the process of growing up and for being able watching my priorities take different forms over the years. I don’t think I would value my newfound appreciation of domestic life now if I hadn’t come into it on my own. Even though I’m afraid that I won’t be able to keep the pace as a parent, I guess I’ll learn soon enough. Maybe between the many nights of Cheerios, I’ll even get a chance to make coconut chicken fingers for my family once in a while.