A Squared: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

2012 Resolution Check Up

In a few hours June will be here... Can you believe we are basically halfway through 2012 already?  Time truly does fly-- when you're having fun and when you're just going through the ups and downs of real life.

Since I went ahead and threw our 2012 goals out into the universe it only made sense to do a little check up and see what our progress looks like approaching the halfway point, right?  This way you can hold us to our progress-- or laugh at our lack thereof.  I'm a little nervous, but here goes...

Back in Boston: The first New Year we rang in together. Welcome 2008!

Our Wishes & Goals For 2012:

1. Pay off our wedding-related debts. Happy to report that we have cut down our debt by more than 50% at this point in time.  Life events and the robbery set back our progress a bit, but I am considering it a big accomplishment nonetheless.  Here's to paying it off by the end of 2012 and never seeing the balance that high EVER again!

2. Save more money so that we can:
a. Buy a house. Still working on that... see above.
b. Get a dog. Ugh. This pains me.  Still saving for that too.  Although sadly, goal B will have to come after goal A.
c. Travel more. Domestically, of course. We need to be somewhat realistic with these goals. ;)  The first six months of the year were slow on the travel front.  I jetted off to New York and Orlando for work and we did take a weekend trip to Indiana to visit friends, but that sounds pretty lame!  Luckily, we have a packed summer full of weddings in New England, a roadtrip to Michigan, and (hopefully) Alex's first trip to NYC planned for the remainder of 2012.  That's not so bad, right?

3. Run another half marathon/possibly another marathon. (Alex)  Chicago weather is not very conducive to running in the first half of the year, but Super Hubby is signed up to run 2 half marathons in the coming months.  So proud of him!

4. Start running more. (Anne)  Ha.  That's funny.  Am I working out regularly?  Yes.  Am I running more?  That's debatable.

5. Spend more time with our friends (both far and near).  This goal needs some work still!  Granted, I did get to spend a lot of time with my girlfriends in New York in January and my good friend Liz has made a handful of appearances in Chicago in 2012, we need to step up our social game.  Coordinating grown up schedules is hard and it only seems to be getting more difficult!  I'm hoping summer will allow us some more opportunities for quality time with friends.  Definitely a goal for 2012: Part II.

6. Explore more Chicago neighborhoods.  We have certainly made some progress here.  Although we love our little pocket of the city, I am happy to say that we've dined in Bucktown and Wicker Park a handful of times this year (and will again tomorrow night!), we've explored a lot of Lincoln Park, and with those City Walks and our summer city plans I am sure that come year's end we will have covered some serious ground!

7. Work on becoming a licensed architect. (Alex)  You'll have to ask the Mister about this one, but I am pretty sure his answer will be similar to my response to #4 above.   

8. Read more books and watch less TV.  I have read 2.5 books this year.  This sounds SO pitiful, but compared to the 1 I read last year (and that was on my honeymoon in October) I am feeling pretty good about my renewed relationship with reading!  Since the beginning of the year I have read Water for Elephants, The Glass Castle, and am now reading Andy Cohen's memoir Most Talkative.  I used to be quite the reader before our wedding consumed my life... hoping 2012 will get me back in the habit.

9. Stress less and sleep more!  Also a work in progress.  We are definitely getting more sleep.  I am happy to report that waking up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays in a cold sweat about seating charts, floral arrangements, and makeup artists has subsided.  Still working on containing my stress level, but after a 2011 full of wedding planning drama life in 2012 is feeling very calm so far.

10. Keep on blogging.  Hey hey!  Safe to say this one is going pretty darn well.  40 posts in 2012 and counting... can't wait to share the rest of our year with you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, & Pine Nuts

Nothing like a nice relaxing 3-day weekend to make a 4-day week feel like an eternity, right?  I'm exhausted from all that relaxation so the goal for dinner tonight was something easy, budget-friendly, and relatively healthy after all of the BBQing and dining out we did over the holiday weekend.  This recipe hits every note.  I also love this recipe because it uses a lot of the staples that I always keep around-- whole wheat pasta, pine nuts, garlic, lemons, olive oil, fresh parmesan.  I had some leftover pancetta from a previous recipe, picked up some asparagus and there was dinner-- with lunch leftovers too.  Love it!

  • 8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta *I used whole wheat rotini
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 ounces diced pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.
3. Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.
4. Increase oven temperature to 475°.
5. Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 475° for 6 minutes or until crisp.
6. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

Recipe courtesy of Laraine Perri, Cooking Light

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Welcome Summer & Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 5.26.12

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and enjoyed some of the lovely summer weather that we had here in Chicago.  I also hope you took a moment to quietly thank the men and women that have served our country, sacrificed their lives, and kept us safe for all of these years.  I'm so grateful for the sacrifices that you all have made and continue to make for our country, our safety, and our freedom.  Cheers to all of the men and women of our armed services-- and especially to my [not so] little brother Tim! 

Besides being a weekend for reflection and gratitude, Memorial Day weekend also seems to be the first real weekend of summer-- the kickoff to grilling, beach, vacation, and wedding season-- and this year's holiday weekend did not disappoint.  The majority of our friends took off for the weekend, so Alex and I had plenty of quality time this weekend, which was nice since we are about 2 weeks away from the start of some serious summer travel.  It was great to just enjoy our city and each other for 3 days.  Here's a little sampling of our holiday weekend in pictures...

 I started the weekend off by being a really good wife and joining Alex at the Bottom Lounge for a Red Jumpsuit Apparatus concert on Friday night.  Aside from the parental chaperones we were some of the oldest people there, so that was interesting.  These are the times when I miss Ted (Alex's eternal concert buddy) the most!  We went out for a late night bite afterward at which point Alex was already sick of my photographic documentation.  See above for proof.

After our late night on Friday, we got a late start on Saturday.  It was kind of a hazy overcast morning-- the perfect kind for being a little lazy.  We stopped by Bull & Bear for a late brunch/early lunch and then wandered around the city for the afternoon outrunning the rain during another City Walk.  We ended the day with dinner and margaritas at Taco Joint in Lincoln Park.  I'm not sure why we have never been there before-- especially since Alex could eat Mexican food every day-- but it was awesome!  We'll be back soon for sure. 

Sunday was HOT.  We managed to make it to the beach, but only for a few hours before I basically felt like I was suffering from heatstroke.  I also came back with a freaky stripey sunburn too.... looks like I will be rocking some crewneck shirts this week until that starts to fade!  We were so exhausted after the beach that I actually came home and napped.  Very out of character for me.  And then I was so famished that I forget to photograph our grilled dinner-- shame on me.  I did manage to snap a photo of the desserts that we picked up at Fox & Obel the day before though.  A milk chocolate hazelnut and a key lime tart-- yum!

On Monday we made the mistake of venturing out to the outlet mall.  And hold the phone-- it was Alex's idea.  He had a list of things he finally decided he needed to stock his closet with so we drove out to the west suburbs and did some shopping.  I was proud of the restraint that I showed (as I normally go a bit crazy at the outlets) and only picked up a few things-- including a fab new chunky mint green necklace at the J. Crew factory store.  Whenever we go out to west suburbs (which doesn't happen all that often) we like to stop in at DMK Burger Bar for lunch.  The food is great and Alex worked on the design of the restaurant, which always makes the trip a little extra special.  And I just love a good bison burger.

We ended a great Memorial Day weekend with-- what else?  More grilling!  Alex made some barbecued chicken and I made a side dish that I wanted to share with you all.  One food that always reminds me of summertime is potato salad-- and not that creamy mayo-filled kind.  My Oma used to make a delicious and super simple German-style potato salad with red onion, parsley, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  It's seriously the best potato salad I have ever had and it's almost impossible to eat the typical American kind once you're used to Oma's.  Since I have never been able to recreate it perfectly, I put my own almost French-style spin on it for Monday's dinner and turned it into a Dijon potato and green bean salad.

Potato & Green Bean Salad

  • 1/2 lb. baby red potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
  • 1 Tbs. vinegar *I'd recommend apple cider, red wine, or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add potatoes and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes (give or take up to 5 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes).  Drain the potatoes and cool completely.  Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and set aside.  Tip: The cooler the potatoes, the easier to slice so sometimes I like to boil the potatoes the day before or earlier in the day and refrigerate them before slicing.

Separately, bring another pot of water to boil.  Add the green beans and cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans turn bright green, but are still crispy.  Drain the green beans in a colander and rinse with very cold or ice water.

In a large bowl, whisk together Dijon, vinegar, oil, pepper, and salt.  Add sliced potatoes, cooled green beans, sliced red onion, and parsley to the bowl and toss gently to coat.  Add any additional salt or pepper to taste.  Set the salad aside until it has reached room temperature-- it always tastes better this way.

Monday, May 28, 2012

City Walk #11: Riverside

Don't be confused-- this City Walk did not take place in the adorable western Chicago suburb of Riverside (although I wish one like that existed... it's basically the cutest little real life fairy tale village ever), but it was more literally a walk alongside the Chicago River.  I let Alex pick today's City Walk and I am pretty sure he selected this one because it is so architecture heavy.  This walk follows Chicago's River Walk, a promenade that follows the length of the River and weaves in and out between the plazas of different significant buildings.  We wound around and walked the River Walk on the the south side of the river on our way back as well.

We started the Walk at LaSalle & Kinzie and our first stop was the infamous "corn cob" buildings: Marina City (1) by Bertrand Goldberg.  They were once the tallest apartment buildings ever built.

After that we wandered east and through IBM Plaza in front of the former IBM Building (2), now known as 330 N. Wabash.  It was the last building designed by one of the godfathers of Modern architecture Mies van der Rohe.  Construction of the building didn't begin until 1971, two years after he died in 1969.

89th floor penthouse view during my visit in September

Donald Trump's Trump International Hotel and Tower (3) was next on our list.  It was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and was just completed in 2009.  Prior to 9/11 Trump Tower was supposed to become the tallest building in the world, but the plans were scaled back after the attacks on the World Trade Center.  I've had the privilege of touring a few of the condos in this building including the penthouse on the 89th floor-- if you're in the market for an unfinished 14,000 sq. ft. condo and have $30M to burn this might be the place for you!

Past the Trump Tower we made it to the intersection the River Walk and Michigan Avenue where our next two stops flanked either side of the street.  These are two of my favorite Chicago landmarks.  The first is the Wrigley Building (4) which was built in 1920 and designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White for the Wrigley Company (famous for the baseball field and the gum). 

Across the street is the Chicago Tribune Tower (5), designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood in 1923.  One of my favorite things about the Tribune Tower (and totally one of the corniest tourist trap things about it too) is that on the facade of the building there are pieces of different famous buildings from around the world embedded in it-- from St. Peter's Basilica to the Great Wall of China to the World Trade Center. That's pretty cool, right?

The last architectural landmark on the Walk was the Centennial Fountain (6).  The Fountain was designed by Lohan Associates and was completed in 1989.  It was designed to celebrate the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago who was responsible for reversing the flow of the Chicago River.  Every hour the fountain shoots an arc of water across the River.  Another cool thing about the fountain (which  I did not know until my husband pointed it out today) is that when you access it around the back, you can actually go inside of it.  That's us "inside" the fountain!

The last stop on our Walk made me laugh.  After all of those architectural landmarks we ended our tour of the riverside at Fox & Obel (7), an upscale grocery store.  I'm a foodie so I am not complaining, but it's random, right?  Instead of just checking out the exterior I dragged Alex inside to take a look at all the fun stuff they sell there.  We ended up leaving with some desserts to take home and enjoy after our BBQ dinner.  Not a bad finale to this City Walk!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches

Who's ready for a holiday weekend?  I sure am!  I have lots of lounging, BBQing, and beachgoing planned.  The perfect relaxed way to welcome what is sure to be a very busy summer. 

To get you ready for grilling season I thought I'd share a recipe that would be perfect for your next cookout.  This pork sandwich is a nice spin on your typical BBQ pulled pork.  Less messy, less saucy, less calories, and still a ton of great flavor.  The original recipe was intended for 2 pork tenderloins, which is way too much for a dinner for just Alex and me.  My tweaked version below is a bit more scaled down and should serve about 6 people.  Try it at your next BBQ!

BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded *I used just red cabbage, but any slaw mix will work
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed
  • 6 Sandwich Buns
  • Barbecue Sauce, to taste
Combine ground thyme and next 8 ingredients (through paprika) and mix well.  Season the tenderloin with salt and then rub in the rub mixture.  Once fully coated with the dry rub, roll the tenderloin in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
In the meantime, whisk together mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients (through celery seed) in a large bowl.  Add cabbage and onion and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Once the grill is heated, place the tenderloin on the grill and grill about 5 minutes per side until tenderloin is only slightly pink inside.  Remove from the grill and let the tenderloin to rest for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.  Thinly slice the pork and arrange on sandwich buns.  Top with desired amount of barbecue sauce and slaw.  Enjoy!

Recipe derived from original by chef Carla Hall, The Chew.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Avoiding the NATO Insanity: City Walks #19 & #20

What a weekend.  In case you have been living under a rock (or in case you live elsewhere and your life has been less impacted), the NATO Summit is underway in Chicago and the city has gone a little nuts.  Protesters have taken over the downtown area and since that's where we live, we have tried to make ourselves scarce this weekend!  We did some grilling, Alex played some soccer, we explored Lincoln Park (see more below), and then we rewarded ourselves with dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  On top of all of that, I have Monday off.  Not such a bad weekend after all.

City Walk #19: Lincoln Park (Northern Portion)

Elks National Veterans Memorial
We had some crazy beautiful (and hot!) weather this weekend, so we knew we wanted to spend the majority of it outside.  The NATO protests proved to make that a bit of a challenge, so we got out the City Walks deck and headed north to Lincoln Park.  And what a perfect day for it!  We ended up walking about 5 miles by the time we finished, but we saw a lot of Lincoln Park that I didn't even know existed.  I'm ashamed to admit that since I worked about 2 blocks away from the starting point for a year!

The walk started at the Elks National Veterans Memorial (1), which was unfortunately closed (maybe NATO related?) and then we wound through the northern part of the park down to Fullerton Pkwy. to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum (2).  This is where Alex and I had our last engagement photo shoot and where we walked through the butterfly gardens, saw lots of ducklings, and met a huge turtle named Sheldon!  Along the way we stopped at the statues of Goethe and Alexander Hamilton-- the latter was surrounded by sunbathers, so I don't have a photo of him-- and North Pond restaurant.

That's Goethe above, Sheldon the turtle at the Nature Museum, and the beautiful view from North Pond restaurant.

City Walk #20: Lincoln Park (Southern Portion)

Flamingo fight
Since the first walk was a shorter one, we decided to move right into walk #20 which picks up at Fullerton Pkwy. where #19 leaves off.  It began at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond (1) and I can't believe we have never been here before.  This is one of the coolest places that I have seen in Chicago and I didn't even know it existed before this weekend.  It's a quiet little prairie-style landscaped lily pond nestled right in Lincoln Park.  So beautiful!  Alex did his good deed for the day and rescued some teenage girls and their backpacks from an aggressive Canadian Goose.  They were petrified and he happens to be fascinated by Canadian Geese so we earned some good karma there too.
Alex and the scary Goose

We followed the Lily Pond with a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo (2) where we witnessed a flamingo fight and lots of really poorly behaved children and parents.  We also visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory (3)-- I have driven by a hundred times and never ventured inside.  It's a greenhouse so it was obviously really warm in there, but another really cool thing to experience. We ventured all the way through the Park to check out the historic Cafe Brauer (4), the statue of Ulysses S. Grant (5), and then ended at the Shakespeare Garden (6), which was blocked off.  This was a great way to enjoy a really hot day in the city and to enjoy all of Lincoln Park in one day.  The downside?  My feet are killing me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just the Two of Us

I'm a little bummed today.

Not long ago, we realized that with all the craziness of 2011 we never actually asked our landlord if she allowed dogs in our unit when we signed our lease.  Last summer wedding planning was our main focus and Alex's employment status was in limbo, so getting a dog was the least of our concerns.  Alex has found himself a great new job and now that the wedding is over and I am done with my charity fundraising position I have been craving a new project and-- dare I say it-- I am getting a little bored!  I'm someone who always need a project-- a party to plan, a room to decorate, a file to organize, a trip to prepare for... and lately life has been very quiet.  Especially after how hectic 2011 was for us. 

It's going to be a while until we are able to buy a house and an even longer while until we think about a baby and we've talked about getting a puppy for almost as long as we have been together.  This seems like the perfect time to expand our family with a four-legged friend, right?  I made the mistake of getting my hopes up.  Really up.  Like picking out names and researching breeders, up.  And then our landlord finally let us down gently this morning.  So, it looks like it will still be just the two of us for a while.  Time to plan another trip, I suppose...
If we had been able to get a puppy, it would have been a Golden Retriever like my old dog Duke.  He and Alex were fast friends:

And I had already picked this out for her (we had decided that it was going to be a her) for our living room:

Grown up problems.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Legal Sea Foods-Inspired Baked Scrod

Hello everyone and hello Wednesday!  I hope that the start of your week has been as lovely as ours has been here in Chicago. After a very rainy start to our weekend, we had a sunny Sunday and it has continued to be warm and beautiful this week. It's really starting to feel like spring (or even summer) here!  I have to admit that the summer months are when I really start to miss living in New England. Whether is was Rhode Island or Boston there was something really magical about living near the coast and as wonderful as Lake Michigan is, it just isn't quite the same.
One of the other things that I really miss about New England is good fresh seafood that's both affordable and readily available. I got really spoiled being able to walk 2 blocks to the store in Boston and pick up fresh seafood whenever. You really don't know what you've got 'til it's gone and you're buying freezer-burned salmon fillets at the grocery store fish counter. Alex's grandmother still lives in the Boston area and gave us a Legal Sea Foods giftcard as a wedding gift and I decided that this week we were going to finally put it to use. They have a great online store where you can order fresh seafood and schedule the delivery date. So, I came home tonight to 4 scrod fillets packed on dry ice on our doorstep. Amazing!

Legal Sea Foods restaurants serve this breaded baked scrod, which was one of the first seafood dishes that I tried after we moved to the East Coast when I was 12. It's really delicious, but I haven't had it in ages since we've been living in the Midwest. Even at the nicer markets, scrod is almost impossible to find here in Chicago so I was itching to order some and bake it Legal Sea Foods-style.  I found a great recipe online, made a couple tweaks, and it was great! It isn't quite as healthy as what I usually cook, but I figure we can make up for that with the rest of this week's dinners.  We've got two more fillets in our freezer so it's possible we'll be enjoying it again very soon.

Legal Sea Foods-Inspired Baked Scrod

  • 1 1/2 lbs. scrod fillets (cod would also work)
  • 1 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs *I'm pretty sure Legal actually used crushed Ritz or oyster crackers
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1/2 Tbs. butter and 1/2 olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute the onion in oil and butter mixture until soft, but not browned. In a medium sized bowl, combine the panko crumbs with lemon zest, parsley, and 1/2 Tbs. of melted butter, 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil, and the juice of half the lemon. Once the onions are soft, add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add to the onions, the remaining lemon juice, and the white wine, and cook for 1 more minute. Spread the onion and lemon mixture over the bottom of a small baking dish (just large enough to  hold all the fish snugly). Place the fish on top of the onions and season the fish with salt and pepper and a slight drizzle of olive oil. Divide the panko topping evenly over the fish and give a final light drizzle of olive oil over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes until fish is cooked through and opaque in the center and the crumbs are nicely browned. Cover with foil half way through baking if the top is browning to fast.

Recipe derived from original by Everything Tasty Kitchen via Food.com.

Here are some other great seafood recipes to try:

Lemon, Balsamic, & Thyme Tuna with Roasted Pepper Salad  
Pan Seared Cajun Salmon with Broccoli Slaw 
Sun Dried Tomato & Feta Baked Shrimp 
Fresh Herb & Lemon Grilled Whitefish Packets 
Pancetta Baked Scallops     
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Mom and me in the beginning
Happy Mother's Day to the best mom a girl could ask for!  I'm so lucky to have grown up with a mom that was so patient, understanding, generous, and creative-- and to now be able to call her one of my closest confidantes.  I know a lot of girls who can't say that about their moms, so I feel very blessed to be able say it about mine.  Thanks for all you do, Mom and have a wonderful day!  Hopefully, Dad and the girls have something special planned for you.



As a little ode to my mom (and since I can't be there to celebrate Mother's Day with her), our Sunday/Mother's Day dinner is dedicated to her!  Mom's Chicken Divan was one of my favorite meals that she made for my family when I was growing up.  Mom was never much of a casserole cook (and neither am I-- go figure), but this recipe has always been one of her "go to's" for birthday dinners, for potlucks or as a meal for friends in need, and always when I would come home to visit during college breaks or for a weekend when I was living in Boston.

This is actually my first go round making it for my little family and I, of course, decided to change up the recipe a little.  As I have gotten older and more health conscious with my own cooking I have done everything that I can to not cook with canned cream of whatever soups.  It can be a big challenge, especially when you are trying to fix a classic holiday dish like a green bean casserole or to recreate a family recipe like this one, which is probably why I haven't attempted it until now.  This recipe calls for cream of chicken soup and I have included that in Mom's original recipe below, but I have also included a recipe for the substitute that I discovered on Pinterest.  I honestly couldn't taste the difference except that it was considerably less salty.  Also, my husband really liked the meal (he even went back for seconds), but suggested that maybe it needed "a little kick."  I think next time I will add a few dashes of hot pepper sauce to the sauce mixture. 

Mom's Chicken Divan

  • 2 10-oz. packages frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups sliced cooked chicken (approximately 3 breasts)
  • 2 cups cream of chicken soup **See below for the homemade substitute that I used.
  • 1 cup mayonnaise *I used the reduced fat kind.
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 T. dijon mustard, optional *This is my addition. Mom doesn't include mustard in her recipe.
  • 1/2 shredded cheese *Cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere would work best.  I used cheddar tonight.
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs *I used panko
  • 1 T. melted butter
  • Cooked rice, for serving *To keep it healthier, I served it with brown rice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook broccoli, drain, and arrange in a 12" x 9" baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray.  Arrange the sliced chicken on top.  Combine the soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, and mustard and pour over the top of the chicken.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Combine the breadcrumbs and melted butter and sprinkle over the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.  You can also broil for an additional 3-5 minutes to get the topping nice and brown.  Serve with rice.

This recipe is also a great one to make ahead and freeze until you are ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**Cream Soup Substitute Recipe:

Basic White Sauce (thick)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter or oil
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1-1/4 cup liquid, milk, or stock
Melt butter or oil in saucepan. Stir in flour and seasonings. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Add liquid slowly, stirring with wire whisk to prevent lumps. Cook until thick. Makes 1 cup or 1 can of condensed soup.

For Tomato Soup: Use tomato juice for the liquid. Add dashes of garlic, onion powder, basil and oregano.

For Cream of Chicken Soup: Use chicken broth for half the liquid. Add 1/4 t. poultry seasoning or sage.

For Cream of Mushroom/celery/chive soup: Saute 1/4 C chopped mushrooms, celery or chives and 1 T minced onion in butter before adding flour.

Soup substitute recipe courtesy of A Frugal Simple Life
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