Mom's weekend and lots of etc.: Avocado Ranch Dressing for Buffalo Chicken or Tofu Salad

Here's where I'm living today:  just back from one fabulous Kappa Alpha Theta Mother's Weekend at Purdue with Kelly and readying the house for her quick turnaround before leaving to start her grown-up live and for Sara's summer at home which will most likely be the last one where she spends the whole Duke summer break here.  When I write that I realize that I'm maybe not actually living completely in the lovely day I've been given.  I have memories filling my mind of my girls small and sweet, dirty and sticky, silly and crazy, drowsy and sleeping, happy and mad as little hornets.  Maybe I'm extra nostalgic after browsing through the baby section at Target today for some baby shower things for my pregnant lululemon friends.  That's probably what tipped me so far backwards today.

early Saturday night at Harry's (never mind the creeper in the background)

Yesterday driving home from Purdue I was in fast forward.  Graduation is Mother's Day weekend and Kelly hopes to be driving off to LA by the first week of June ready for her shiny new life.  After spending all weekend with her beautiful sorority sisters and their lovely mothers,  I finally know all of their names.  Now that they'll maybe stop by the tailgate for Homecoming weekends instead of just about every blazing hot Saturday in September, maybe.  For the life of me I can't picture tailgating without my children and their friends.  Well, I can see it in a fuzzy kind of way with tears welling up in my eyes and a little dread at the bottom of my heart.  As I told Kelly, after spending a few very hilarious hours upstairs at Harry's with the Purdue Football alumni in for the Spring Game, they should really do their part and at least entertain me with some good football.  Sadly, as much as I always wish for that to happen, I don't see my team with five quarterbacks on the roster and not having any named "Brees" pulling off a trip to the Rose Bowl.   And let's face it, the Drew Brees era was the last truly fun Purdue football we've seen.  Someone else is going to have to drive home after the first game.  I will be drinking mojitos.

And so it's time to get back to the now.  My yoga practice was at about half speed while I worked full-time the last six months, but thankfully it's fine with the powers that be that I reduce my hours for the summer for more time with my family and a little more balance.  Time on the mat will help me embrace each day with a better energy.   Went to one of my favorite classes this morning.  It's always full of some of my favorite instructors practicing.   For someone who never liked to exercise in a group, I love the dynamics of a full yoga class.

Time to organize the kitchen before the days are too pretty to work inside.  Sara and I meant to cook through two fresh and healthy cookbooks we bought this time last year and we've got the sticky note page markers ready and with only a few already tried last summer.  Soon it will be Farmer's Market time and both girls will be willing and able to help in the kitchen, at least with helping me decide what's for dinner.  My herb garden in pots will soon be planted as the weather starts to stabilize.  It's almost that time too.

Time to go through the girls' rooms so they can move back in for however long they are here.  It's a luxury to have so much space.  It's actually a ridiculous luxury to have 5 bedrooms for my transitioning family, but we built our home and we love our yard and then there are the neighbors we just can't leave.  So the girls can leave whatever they want at home for as long as they want, but seriously some of the stuff  really must go.  We moved in when they were 9 and 11.  And that, in a nutshell is why I've been writing for an hour today.  Just not feeling the organization flow at the moment.

I'm not sure what's for dinner, but I have a crazy amount of vegetables in the refrigerators for one person.  Greg will not be dining at home until Friday this week.  Whether cooking for one, two, three or four I'm always hungry.   I like to save the few convenience foods I actually buy from Trader Joe's and Costco for working days.  So we'll hit the pause button and with any luck I'll have something to add to this post so I can actually publish it all in the same day.  You'd be surprised how many I've had to rewrite because the "mojo" is lost or the time just isn't there to finish something.

Alrighty then, it's happening.  Food highlights of Mom's Weekend:  Dr. Strangelove latte at Greyhouse (a local coffee house) Saturday morning after our 5K (Purdue Cancer Challenge) and grilled mac and cheese from The Big Cheez food truck at 2:30 a.m. (technically Sunday morning) outside of Harry's.  That divine latte was flavored with their homemade Mexican Oaxacan sauce (chocolate) Sri Lankan cinnamon, orange and cloves.  Umm, if you can figure out that recipe please share it with me!  The grilled cheese is pretty self-explanatory; but even if it wasn't super late, that thing was amazing.  Straight up white bread, mac and cheese, probably a slice of cheddar and a good pressing on a well greased kitchen grill.  Best part:  a Purdue basketball player took our order and served it up.  Mind you we had just left Hot Box Pizza and split an order of stix with cheese sauce.  We were carb-loading after our race.

And now I get around to tonight's recipe.  Bet you thought we'd never get here.  We took a nice long walk Sunday and ended up at Scotty's for an early lunch.  We were thinking brunch than we thought of buffalo chicken salads and they do make a good one.  The best part?  Dipping your fork in the avocado ranch dressing alongside (a good trick when you want the delicious dressing your sure is super bad for you).  Since I had all kinds of greens and vegetables, I made up my own version of the dressing and served it on a salad of greens, grilled red peppers/onion/butternut squash, mango and feta.  I did not have tofu like I thought I did and I had buffalo chicken blue cheese sausage from Whole Foods so there's my twist.  You don't have to do the whole buffalo protein and grilled vegetable salad thing, you can just try the dressing on a regular green salad.  Pretty darn tasty.

Avocado Ranch Dressing

1/4 C sweet onion cut in large dice
2 cloves garlic
1/4 C loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 tsp dried dill or 1 tsp fresh dill
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
one small or medium ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1/4 C plain Greek yogurt
1-2 T lowfat buttermilk (more to thin)
1 T white wine vinegar
2 T olive oil

Combine onion, garlic, parsley, dill, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add avocado, yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar and olive oil and process until smooth.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Thin with additional buttermilk and or olive oil, if desired.  You can also add a dash of Tabasco for a little kick.

dressing ingredients

using my stick blender's chopping attachment

finished dressing

onions, peppers and squash on the grill

here's how you dice a mango, slice along seed, score and scoop

my salad

Buffalo Chicken/Tofu Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing

boneless, skinless chicken tenders
or one block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Frank's Hot Sauce or other Buffalo Sauce
unsalted butter, optional
one sweet or red onion, sliced
one red pepper, sliced
one 10 -oz bag frozen diced butternut squash or fresh diced butternut squash
one mango, halved and diced (optional)
feta or blue cheese

Toss chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil or brush tofu slices with the same.  Grill alongside grill pan of onion, peppers and squash also tossed with olive oil and kosher salt and cook all until done (probably about 10 minutes with turning for everything).  Toss chicken or brush tofu with Frank's or other Buffalo Sauce with a little butter if you like (lots of sauce: a pat of butter) but it's not necessary.  Toss greens with avocado ranch dressing and top with grilled vegetables, mango, buffalo chicken or tofu and sprinkle with cheese if you like.


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