main dishes

And So, I’ll Keep Going

Dear Joey,

When we moved, there were a few things that we swore up and down we would do once we got settled. Get Mia sleep-trained so we could have a full night of sleep. Move the girls into a shared bedroom. Make it a point to go on a date every week. Potty train Addie. Spend time with other adults, like you know, friends.

After all, living back across the hills with “built in babysitting” would change everything. Suddenly maintaining a regular social life with two kids under two years old at home would be not only possible, but simple.

Here we are four months later and the only goal we’ve managed to sort of accomplish is spending more time with other adults. You do so in the form of working grueling hours at the hospital, and me in the form of seeing my brothers and parents on a daily basis.  In some ways, being in on this side of the hills is easier in that I don’t have to drive a half an hour with two sleepy little girls in order to visit family or hang out with friends. But the truth is, family aside, I’m not sure I see them any more than I did before we moved. It’s just easier to do on short notice now, but those days are few and far between.

But, following through on my promise to myself, I joined MOPS, and unlike last time, I kept going, repeating to myself a phrase you said to me several years ago now: Faith isn’t in the knowing; it’s in the going.

And slowly, I’m getting to know some of the other girls, girls who probably joined for the same reasons I did; girls who are diverse and funny and talented and thoughtful; girls who make me realize that the things I face aren’t all that uncommon (loneliness, fatigue, a house that never stays clean); girls who stretch me and listen to me and value me and pray for me; girls who I’m fairly certain would be just a phone call away if I really needed them.
 
There are some mornings that I simply have to make myself go. Getting an infant and a toddler ready to go anywhere before 9 am can be really, really difficult. Sometimes it feels like more trouble than it’s worth. But I’ve never been disappointed, and I walk away encouraged and ready to face the rest of my week.

It’s a lot like cooking, really. I love the idea of challenging myself in the kitchen, and it is not uncommon for me to make lofty mental lists of the things I want to experiment with on a given day or week. Often, I really want to try something new, to step out of what I know and do something different, but when the opportunity presents itself to follow through on my plans (like when I finally have two sleeping kids), sometimes I have to make myself follow through.

What’s funny to me about all this is that it’s not the group of strangers or the work in the kitchen, or any number of other things that lay on the other side of starting something new that is the scary, cumbersome obstacle to overcome. It’s myself – it’s me being my own stumbling block.

Thank goodness for people like you who push me to get over myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the chance to find out that I can still make new friends. I wouldn’t have met these girls, or – and not any less significant – come upon this stack of recipes – Baked Chicken Parmesan, in particular. Sure, I might have stumbled upon similar recipes at some point, but there’s something much more meaningful about being passing recipes from person to person. The sorts of recipes that are staples at their house often end up being staples at our house.

Baked Chicken Parmesan will always remind me of more than just the girl who gave me the recipe (although I’m hoping that we do become good friends). It will remind me to just keep going, even when it seems too hard or just not all that worth it. Baked Chicken Parmesan will remind me that something really, really good can come from simple things, and that what seems difficult really isn’t all that complicated after all.

And so, I’ll keep going.

Love,
Scratch

Baked Chicken Parmesan
All of the ingredients listed below were from Trader Joe’s, but the only thing that really needs to be from there is the croutons. I don’t recommend Marie Calendar’s or similar croutons, as those aren’t substantial enough to hold their shape and texture. The croutons should be big & chunky and essentially be real pieces of bread. 

1 pack of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed)
2 T olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp dried basil
2 1/2 cups Marinara sauce
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz grated Parmesan/Romano cheese blend (not fresh–from the can)
4oz bag of croutons (see note above)
1. Prep the chicken. There were four large chicken breasts in the pack from TJ’s; I cut them in half to make 8 breast pieces. 
2. Spread olive oil and garlic in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Place chicken pieces on top of the oil, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt & the basil, then pour all of the sauce on top.
3. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella and 1/2 the Parmesan on top of the sauce. Place croutons on top of cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the croutons. 
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until internal temp of chicken reaches 165 degrees. 

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