Spicy Chicken Meatballs & Raw Kale Salad

It never ceases to amaze me how the brain can juggle two seemingly opposing emotions at once. A huge part of me is so excited about the fact that in six short days my sweetheart and I’ll be cohabitating in our cozy new apartment in Lincoln Park.

And yet another part of me is deeply sentimental about wrapping up this chapter of my life as a single 20-something living alone in her Lakeview apartment. As cheesy as it sounds I feel like I’ve become myself in this apartment over the past two years. Living alone has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The experiences and lessons I’ve gained about taking care of my own health and happiness are priceless. And I know it’s these experiences and lessons that have brought me to a place where I’m ready and wanting to share a home with my guy.

I’m sorry if they look like boobs. Perhaps not the classiest goodbye I was looking for from my kitchen.

When I think about the many ways in which this apartment has helped shape me they always lead back to my tiny kitchen. I believe our passions help define who we are. Read no further than a post or two on this blog and you’ll see my passions are simple: writing, cooking, and yoga. While writing and yoga have been by my side for years cooking is a relative newcomer to my internal matrix. Yet the way it has transformed my life in the past two years is really remarkable.

When I consider the different thoughts that occupy my mind space on a day-to-day basis, food was barely a speck on my radar just a few dozen months ago. It was a means of survival, pleasure, and connection, but I only thought about food when I was around it. Now, I think about cooking nearly on a moment-to-moment basis. And if our thoughts help shape who we are, too, then the number of brain cells now devoted to food means I’ve changed as a person as well.

Yet food and cooking have changed me on a much deeper level than that: It’s how I care for others. It’s a language that allows me say things words cannot. This is above all the most transformational piece to come out of the hours I’ve spent in my apartment’s galley kitchen. Most of the time I’m propelled into that space not only in search of the simple joy cooking brings me or the peace I feel when lost in the flow, but also because it’s an opportunity to speak from my heart. For this, I’m humbled and grateful.

The final meal to come out of my kitchen and onto the blog is a simple one, yet perfectly represents my journey in so many ways. The chicken meatballs are packed with protein while the raw kale salad is brimming with countless nutrients. Just as I use food to care for others I use it to nourish and show myself love, too. What better way to do just that than with this hearty, healthy dinner during such a hectic time in my life? (Did I mention I’m simultaneously moving and editing a book manuscript— both happening/due on the same day?) The meatballs are also my very first 100 percent original recipe. Only weeks ago I was lamenting how I wasn’t ready to remove the recipe-less training wheels, but it finally and successfully happened.

I’ve also discovered that as my cooking skills have expanded so have my tastes. The meatball recipe involves an ingredient you’d never have seen me use two years ago: hot sauce. Thanks to a guy who puts the stuff on nearly every food imaginable I’ve learned to appreciate the unique kick. I found a way to work it into this recipe as a nod to my newfound tolerance for heat and the fact that I’ll be seeing a lot more of it in my near future.

The kale salad is a nod to a food I love and eat so often, but in a preparation I’ve never tried before. When the warm summer weather keeps you away from your oven try this method: simply massage the dressing (yes I said massage the dressing) into the leaves and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or longer so the kale becomes tender enough to eat. Top with avocado chunks because avocado makes everything better.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. It means so much to me and gives me even more purpose for chasing my passion in the kitchen. I always come out of it with much more than dinner. It may be a week or two before I’m able to post again. We’re taking a short vacation the day after we move, but as soon as I dig out my knives and a pot or two I’ll be cooking again in my new (non-galley, gas-stove) kitchen. Except this time, happily, it’ll be for two.

Spicy Chicken Meatballs
Makes about 15 meatballs

.75 lb ground chicken breast
2 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp hot sauce (such as Sriracha) plus extra for topping
1 egg

Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, green onions, breadcrumbs, and hot sauce. In a separate small bowl beat egg and add to chicken mixture. Use your hand to combine all ingredients.

Spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with cooking spray (you can also use a baking sheet). Taking one heaping Tbsp of chicken mixture at a time, shape into meatballs and place into baking dish. Cook for 15 minutes. When done cooking, top each meatball with one squeeze of hot sauce. Serve hot or room temperature.

Raw Red Kale Salad

1 bunch red kale (or any kind), ribs removed & leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp walnut oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, cut into chunks

Prepare kale and use a lettuce spinner to remove any remaining water. The drier the leaves the better the dressing will adhere to them. Place kale in a large bowl.

Combine remaining ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour dressing onto kale. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves. Allow kale to sit for 15-20 minutes so dressing can soften the leaves.

Add avocado before serving.

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