All of the delicious little morsels that are found within a Southwest Stuffed Chicken Breast are a bit like all of the beautiful things within ourselves that we must rediscover when we go through colorful changes in life.
These days, there’s a sort of deafening silence that greets me when I arrive home from my day at work, or from my time running those simple household errands.
It’s a very specific type of silence, a silence that any mother who has raised her child up until young adulthood and then released him or her into the world knows all too well.
When a child is still living in the home, even when they’re not physically there, they leave a certain frequency behind until they return, or a sort of inaudible buzz that is their mental attachment to home.
But when a child ventures off to spread their wings, to begin their own life, there is a certain type of quiet that is almost jarring, and takes some getting used to.
These days, it’s the low hum of the refrigerator, or the sound of the central air conditioner as it kicks on and sucks in the air that greets me; it’s the stirring of our dog Lola on the couch as she lazily lifts her head up to see who just walked in through the front door that I now hear; it’s the sound of my own voice as I greet her, and the clang of my keys and my purse as I set them down on the glass table that reverberates rather hollowly in the living room, and not the faint “Hey, Mom” that used to come from my son’s room, that I experience these days.
And though it’s only been a fairly short period of time since I’ve last heard my boy’s voice, it somehow seems like an eternity.
It’s so strange.
Ever since our son left home to attend boot camp for the Marine Corps several weeks back, I’ve felt sort of stripped bare in this very specific silence, and I’ve come to realize that it’s now only me, Ingrid, “wife”, and yes, “mother”, but in a new way now, with nothing to hide behind.
Who am I now?
There’s been a lot of internal “cleaning house” for both my husband and I, but in a good way; a therapeutic and let’s-get-re-acquainted-with-ourselves-and-with-each-other sort of way, and it’s been quite an amazing (albeit a bit tumultuous) thing.
The departure of a child from the house can do that.
Though it’s painful and stunning to have a child leave home, there is an opportunity for a silver lining to emerge, and that is to find out who we are now, as individuals.
We will always be parents, yes; but the way that our parenting looks and feels will be very different from this point forward.
It won’t be hands-on any longer (especially with our son who is about to become a Marine), though it will be supportive and encouraging, and provide him a soft place to land when he needs it.
Both my husband and I are young and full of life—we feel vibrant and very hungry to plug in in a way that will be relevant and useful to all who are in our lives.
And at this point in my life, I bring new maturity and that much more life experience that I didn’t have in my possession in the same way when I first became a mother.
So, who am I now?
Who am I apart from my role as “mom”?
The beautiful thing about the way that life plays itself out is that God builds into the equation opportunities for each of us to check in, at various points along our journeys, with who we are, in the present.
Here’s what I’m discovering:
I’m strong, stronger than I thought I was.
I’m courageous, more courageous than I realized.
I’m creative and full of desires to still continue to spread my own wings, and to express myself and all of my colors, more so than I knew.
And I’m even more connected to our son through this distance, because it is a connection based completely on freedom, now.
And these discoveries make me excited about the future.
Just as a succulent stuffed chicken breast that is filled to the brim with delicious, juicy, and flavorful morsels can bring pleasure to the hungry appetite, what we find within ourselves that perhaps we never knew was there, or that fleshed itself out over time very quietly without us knowing, can bring revitalization to our soul and an awakening to a new self, a self that exists today.
So if my boy can find the courage and the strength within himself to go through all that he must go through, all of the changes that he too must endure in order to earn the title “Marine”, then I, also, must be courageous and be the complete woman—mother, wife, daughter, friend, chef, writer, etc, etc—that God had dreamed me to be long before He ever knit me together into my physical form.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Southwest Stuffed Chicken Breast with Pepper Jack Cheese
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 4 servings
• 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (tenderloins removed and saved for another use)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill pan
• 1 teapsoon lime zest
• 1-1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teapsoon paprika
• ½ teaspoon granulated onion
• ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
• ½ teaspoon ground coriander
• Pinch black pepper
• 1 ¼ cup shredded pepper jack cheese
• ½ cup black beans
• ½ cup corn kernels
• ¼ cup sliced roasted red peppers (from jar)
• Pico de Gallo (prepared), for garnish
• Cilantro leaves, for garnish
• Lime slices/wedges, for garnish
-Place the chicken breasts into a medium-size bowl, and add in all of the ingredients beginning with the olive oil, up to and including the black pepper, and toss to season the meat well; marinate the chicken for at least 20 minutes, or even overnight, if preparing ahead.
-Once chicken in marinated, preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with foil and top with a wire rack.
-Preheat your grill pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 1-2 tablespoons of oil; once hot, add in the chicken breasts (work in a couple of batches, if necessary) and grill them for about 3 minutes per side, or just until golden on the outside (the chicken will not be cooked through at this point, which is fine.)
-Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, make a pocket in the thickest part of the breast, taking care not to cut all the way through, but just creating a large enough of pocket to stuff with filling; add a generous ¼ cup of the cheese, then a couple of tablespoons each of the black beans and corn, and then a few slices of the roasted red peppers.
-Use a couple of toothpicks to secure the opening, and place the stuffed breasts onto the wire rack, and place into the oven to bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melty.
-Top each stuffed chicken breast with some of the Pico de Gallo, plus a few cilantro leaves, if desired, and a slice/wedge of lime, for garnish.