Spring brings new season

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

April is the month for new beginnings. Nature all of sudden lets go of its breath and everywhere I turn, I see shoots poking through last year’s dead leaves. Our dove couple is back on our deck, nesting and cooing. The sun feels warmer each day. And for some of us, April also signifies a new season of baseball. So, on this lovely spring day, Jim and I are driving from the flat lands of Goshen to the familiar skyline of Chicago to catch our first live baseball game of the season.

OBJECTI did not grow up with baseball. In my native country, I followed the Tour de France every July and a good soccer game, if I had the occasion. But when I visited my Grandpa Ray in Ohio, we always watched baseball. I remember thinking how American these players looked, chewing gum, standing so relaxed, in their colorful uniforms. And I had no idea of the complexity of the game.

In marriage, I learned. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the team to watch. I found out how each player has a position, how the plays work, how the runs add up. I felt the thrill of seeing a ball go sky high. I heard the thunk of the ball into a well worn leather glove and the sound of a ball hitting the bat. With our family, we often headed down to the park to watch softball and later, my daughter participated as a first base player. And part of my baking story includes listening to the Chicago Cubs on the radio most afternoons as I shaped and baked bread in my kitchen. That was back in the day of Harry Caray, Ron Santo and Thom Brenneman. My life moved beyond baseball once I was at work every day, and having no cable, I sometimes caught the games I could on Saturdays.

Last year, on a whim, I decided to sign up for baseball watching. So on hot stuffy summer nights, we started to watch the Pirates again and pretty soon, knew all the players’ names. With a good place in the standings, it was a pretty exciting season. Then, just now, on another whim, at Jim’s suggestion, we bought tickets to watch the Pirates play the Cubs at Wrigley field.

OBJECTThis year is Wrigley Field’s Centennial and with its hand turned scoreboard and iconic style, it was worth a visit. It had been a while since I had gone to a game, and it was everything I hoped for.

The clean bright uniforms slowly stained by the infield dirt, those powerful arms throwing fast balls across perfectly groomed green grass, the slow pace of each inning, the speed of the runners, the bright lights, the low buzz then loud cheers of the crowd. There is something truly amazing when watching physically fit people giving their all that inspires me to do my best. And, since this column is about food, let’s not forget the food: brats, Chicago-style pizza, peanuts and Cracker Jack.

I hope you all enjoy the spectacle and, if you go to Wrigley, you can bring your own food. So why not pack some crispy chicken, some fresh veggies and fruits to take along. As for drink, there’s always plenty of beer at the ballpark!

Crispy Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • salt and pepper 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 breasts of chicken

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, place garlic, basil, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Process until garlic is minced. Add bread crumbs, lemon zest, olive oil and butter. Process until just mixed. Put mixture on a large plate.
  3. Whisk mustard and wine in a shallow bowl. 
  4. Pat chicken dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture then dip into bread crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Delicious cold for a picnic as well as hot for an entree or warm on a salad.
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