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A taste of spring in the middle of winter

January 18, 2011
By Wendy Monro

I write this on Sunday. It is the Sunday of the best birthday weekend I have ever had. I am now 40 years old and so happy about it. I have been anxiously waiting to turn 40.

We usually celebrate birthday week. We have been doing this for years. Claud and I agreed a long time ago that our birthdays should be celebrated for longer than one day. Sometimes, your birthday falls in the middle of the week and it is difficult to get the full celebration in when you have to work and take care of other responsibilities. If you take the whole week into account, you are bound to have a perfect day in there...somewhere.

This year, my birthday fell on a Friday. One of my dogs barked incessantly the night before, so I was very tired. Then, I had a very important meeting with a client that morning. I was really bummed out that I was so tired. However, the meeting went very well. Anyway, I was happy that I had the whole weekend to look forward to.

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Warm chicken and arugula salad

I thought I would just make this year my birthday weekend, rather than a whole week. Boy did I pack a lot of activity into one weekend. We went to a variety show which included tap dancers, a magician, comedians and more. We ate at an amazing breakfast buffet. I had to take advantage of my birthday with this one, because Claud hates buffets. It's funny though, because he sure seemed to be enjoying his omelet, kielbasa sausage, corned beef hash, cheese blintzes, bagels and lox, prime rib, and whatever else he could fit on his plate.

After stuffing ourselves, we went to the Hoover Dam and walked along the new beautiful bridge which is now directly across from the dam. That was pretty scary because it is so high up. Claud and I didn't want to go all of the way across because we were frightened. Jack was really upset with us. He forgot about it once we arrived at the marina at Lake Mead and he got to see the fish at the dock. We fed the most humongous carp. Well, the kids fed the carp while I sipped Chardonnay and took in the view. Who knew carp love popcorn?

We left the marina and headed to Boulder City and ate cheese, olives and crackers while sipping Red Zinfandel. I was in heaven. We left Boulder City and drove straight to a restaurant which serves crab. I ate over a pound of crab legs and dipped every bite in butter. This was like heaven's heaven. It was a full day of fun and food. I couldn't ask for anything more than that.

Fact Box

Warm Chicken and Arugula Salad

Serves: 2

Time: 20 minutes (if you already have cooked chicken. You can buy a rotisserie chicken at the market, or use chicken from a roasted chicken you already made).

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1/2 pound cooked chicken

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups arugula

2 tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 lemon slices


1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon truffle oil (you can use olive oil if you don't have truffle oil)

1 tablespoon grain mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

dash of salt and pepper

Saut the onion and pepper in olive oil for five minutes in a skillet. Add the chicken, salt and pepper. Heat the chicken up for about ten minutes. In a small bowl, place an egg yolk with the mustard. Whisk this together. Slowly whisk in the truffle oil. Then, slowly whisk in the olive oil. This should emulsify into a creamy dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the sliced tomatoes on the plate. Take the chicken and onions mixture out of the skillet. Set aside. Pour the dressing into the skillet. Add the arugula. Mix well for about one minute. Take out and set the arugula on the plate with the tomatoes. Pour the chicken and peppers mix on top of the arugula. Sprinkle on the pine nuts. Add a lemon slice.

The following morning, I woke up to the clanking of pans as Claud was downstairs cooking me Eggs Benedict. A few friends came over and we ate Eggs Benedict with mimosas. After all of that butter and champagne, we headed out to a movie. This is another thing I have to do on my birthday because Claud can't stand going to the theater. At the movie, Claud laughed out loud and really seemed to be enjoying himself. I think he really does like going to movies.

In the midst of all of this birthday excitement, I have reminisced on my 40 years of life and think about what the next 40 years has in store for me. More than anything, we want to get back to Minnesota and plan to do that by this summer. Yes, believe it or not, spring is just around the corner and shortly after that...summer. I guarantee it. I know when you are in the heart of the winter and everything is so white and cold, it's hard to imagine an end in sight. Winter will be over soon and that snow will melt and the flowers will bloom again. It's gotta happen.

After the movie, Claud and I had to make something for lunch (as if we needed another meal!). We came up with a recipe which will give you a hint of what is to come. It is spring like; however, it has a wintery flair to it as well. This dish is a warm chicken and arugula salad. When I lived in England, Claud used to make this for me to cheer me up because in the winter I rarely saw the sun. I absolutely loved this salad. Although it was hearty and filling and warm, it was light and reminded me of California. The light arugula mixed with warm chicken and vegetables is a fantastic winter treat when you are missing the heat. This was the perfect meal to end my idyllic birthday weekend.

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