Food Friday: Sesame Chicken Spinach Salad

Today is another installment in our wildly popular summer salad series....

Summer Salads
Delightfully Delicious
Splendidly Simple
N'crediby Nutritious

Sesame Chicken Spinach Salad

Salad Ingredients:
5 cups cubed barbecued chicken breasts *
2 cups seedless grapes (halved)
3 cups packed torn baby spinach
7 oz. fusilli pasta (cooked)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (drained and quartered)
1 bunch green onions
1 large can mandarin oranges
1 pear (thinly sliced and marinated with lime juice) (optional)
large spinach leaves for serving bed

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/6 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbls. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbls. dried minced onion
1 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
2 Tbls. minced fresh parsley

*Marinade for chicken
Mix approx 1/3 each of the following ingredients:
Teriyaki sauce (soy sauce, ginger and sugar, OR any commercial brand)
Lawry's Mesquite-Lime Marinade
Italian Salad Dressing
Several dashes of lime juice (optional)
Sprinkle chicken generously with lemon pepper before grilling


Unlikely Suspects

What do these three things have in common?

These handy dandy tools represent my new discovery! I found out that a frosting spreader works great in scraping the mounds of charcoaled soot and clumps of grease from the soot catcher drawer of our BBQ grill. And the paintbrush is mighty handy for brushing off the soot from edges, cornes, and grill grates (this was my husband's idea!). The pumice stone worked well for cleaning the grates.

Our grill is Big. Manly. And highly capable of getting very, very dirty. Cleaning the grill with two years worth of residue was a LOT of work. But I must admit, it was satisfying to see the transformation....

With my new arsenal of cleaning tools, my grill looks so purdy and is ready for an awesome season of summer grillin' of things like grilled halibut, kebabs with hoison barbecue sauce
or grilled pineapple.

Maybe. I kinda sorta don't wanna use the grill now. Cuz that will mean it will get dirty. Which means more cleaning.

PS: I also found this tool which looks like it would be great.


There Goes Grandma

Among families there are often a few favored tales that transcend the ephemeral lives from which they originate. Over miles and years and through repetitive telling, the tales become family-lore (a word that I just now invented). These stories, whether oral or written, serve as a conduit between the past and present.

If we choose to listen to the stories, we have the good fortune of gaining valuable insights about who we are (and why) and what we have the capability to become. I truly believe that the DNA imprint passed along to offspring is not only made-up of physical characteristics but also a conglomeration of experiences, which exert a biological influence.

There exist in my family several examples of family-lore. Some are sad. Some are inspiring. Some are funny. They all illustrate the character of individuals and circumstances that contributed to my genes.

Here is one such beloved story.

Alice Merrill Stephenson, my great grandmother
Photo courtesy of Allen Hackworth

On a beautiful summer day many, many years ago, Alice, my maternal great grandmother, and her husband decided to take a ride in their spiffy automobile. My grandmother was a tiny babe at the time, contentedly cooing in her mother’s arms (no such thing as car seats yet…).

The traveler’s anticipation of a freshly packed picnic encouraged an expeditious arrival to their destination. As the rudimentary vehicle chugged and bounced noisily along the narrow dirt road, it eventually approached the crest of a large hill. Just as WE do each time we get in a vehicle, my great grandfather continued to drive with faith in his automobile and thought nothing of the inherent risks involved in a steep descent.

Ok. Now after that foreshadowing, I must interject and set the scene. I have this picture very clearly in my mind. And I hope never to have a movie made of it, for it will surely be incorrect and unequal to my imagination. Picture a one-lane country road, with tall green grasses on either side forming a flimsy photosynthetic guardrail. Weeds are sprouting up in the middle of the road unfettered by the wear of tires and the constant plague of exhaust. At the bottom of the steep hill, the road sharply curves just before running into a large canal filled with the liquid sustenance of summer’s bounty. To non-swimmers, a canal such as this is seen not as a giver of life, but rather as a possible taker of it.

Now back to the story:

The jovial travelers began their uneventful descent when SUDDENLY the brakes of the automobile malfunctioned. I use the word malfunctioned here to gently mean “went completely and irrevocably kaput.” The increasing drop in altitude increased the speed of travel, increasing the approach to the big canal, and thereby increasing the anxiety of the passengers. Especially Alice. She was sure that a refreshing (or NOT) plunge into the canal was in their immediate future. And Alice conveniently remembered the inconvenient fact that she couldn’t swim, especially with a babe in her arms. She also realized that because she gave birth to a non-amphibious child, the baby couldn’t swim either. And so, Alice thought, “How can I best protect my daughter?” Quickly, a debate raged in her head weighing the options and subsequent consequences.

What would you do?

With no hint of returning brake power, a sharp corner rapidly approaching, a deep and swift canal waiting for the curve to be missed, and an unselfish survival instinct for her child, Alice made her decision. With resoluteness, she quickly tossed the baby out of the car window choosing for her child- LIFE, over the possible loss of her own.

My grandmother landed safely in the bulrushes and was left to fend for herself. She became the female equivalent of Mowgli, being raised for several years by wild goats.

The End.

So there you have it…a plausible explanation for why I am so unrefined.

Well…that is sort of what happened. Everything except for the “fend for herself…raised by wild goats” part. I got a little Hollywoodish. Forgive me.

Actually, the story has a happy ending. Everyone survived. And Alice was able to retrieve her daughter, Dorothy, who grew up to be one of my favorite people! (And, incidentally is about as gracious and refined as anyone you will meet.) My dear, dear grandmother….how I miss her so!

Over the years of hearing this story, here are some of the lessons I take from it:

1. One needs to develop the ability to be decisive and think quickly.
2. Impressions are gifts and should be heeded.
3. Mothers have an amazing power to provide for the welfare of their children.
4. I am blessed with the blood of those who have great compassion, unselfishness and concern for others.
5. It is possible to forgive your mother if she throws you from a moving vehicle.
6. Without wild goats, I cannot use this story as the excuse for why I am unrefined.

What did YOU learn from this story?

I am thankful for my hard working, noble relatives whose lives taught me valuable lessons, and whose characters shaped who I am today and provide me with a vision of who I can aspire to be. Today I pay honor and tribute to my ancestors and others who paved the way for my privileged and abundant life on blessed American soil.



Something else to spend your time on. A new TV show from FOX....called GLEE.

I don't have TV. So I watched it here.

Guess why I liked it?
Two words: MUSIC, MUSIC

And I think it resonated with me because I have high schoolers. And I liked High School Musical (the first and original only). And because I am a hopeless stage junkie. And because I DON'T HAVE ANY HOMEWORK!!


Food Friday: Strawberry Spinach Salad

Summer salads
Delightfully Delicious
Splendidly Simple
N'credibly Nutritious

This salad doesn't need a flowery write-up. It is good enough to speak for itself. So ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the incredible, sinfully delicious, can't stop at one helping, burst of flavor, versatile and easy:

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ok... wait....a few words....to build the suspense. Did you notice I mentioned "versatile? Try these other ingredients for a variation on a theme. I have made this salad using various combos of the goodies below:

mandarin oranges
dried cranberries
feta cheese
grated parmesan cheese

Ok...now the salad recipe. I promise. No more talk. Just salivation.

Simply Summer Strawberry Spinach Salad

torn Romaine
1 bag spinach salad
2 cups diced fresh strawberries
toasted, sugared almonds
crumbled bleu cheese
cooked, crumbled bacon
red onions, thinly sliced

Toss ingredients. Top with dressing.

Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing

In blender combine the following until smooth:
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup cider or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbls plus 2 tsp vegetable oil (I use olive oil)

Pour over the salad just before serving. You know that. Or else it turns to a soggy wilted spinach salad. But that is an entirely different recipe.

**Note: The dressing in this photo is a poppyseed dressing
Photo from My Sweet and Saucy

Think of pungent blue cheese against the backdrop of tangy onions and the sweet nuts and sweet dressing. Then there is the hearty bacon mixed with delicate lettuce. And the juicy strawberries are like a little present for your tongue in every bite. Oh...go make this salad!!

Dang. MM Drops Several Notches

While the men went to Wolverine, my daughter and I went to Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past.

Let me just put it out there without beating around the bush.

The hunk went from being Matthew McConauhottie to Mathew McConaunaughty.

This movie was replete with rampant and reckless promiscuity. It promoted and glamorized complete and utter disregard for boundaries, relationships, emotions, connections, feelings, love, responsibility and respect. Needless to say, my daughter and I did not hang around to see the "moral of the story." The price to pay was too high.

This movie gave me an idea.

Anyone who spreads a sexually transmitted disease should be heavily fined for WRECKLESS DRIVING! Think about that.


A Tip on Skin Care

My whole life has been full of bumps.

Mostly on my arms. And upper thighs.

Every since I was old enough to notice I could not figure out how come all my friend's legs are as smooth as sour cream and mine are more like...uh.....let's just say that when Brent does woodworking, my arms and legs have come in mighty handy when he runs out of sandpaper.

Well, guess what an advanced education does, folks? Thanks to my dermatology rotation, I learned the official name of the "chicken skin" disorder I have had all my life. It is called Keratosis Pilaris.

For the past several months, I have been slathering with a lotion that really helps:

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Daily use of the lotion plus gentle scrubbing (exfoliating) in the shower has made an improvement in smoothing and softening the bumps. More aggressive treatment includes Triamcinolone (steroid) cream and/or a Retinoid. It is a chronic condition, difficult to CURE, but can be improved with consistent care.

This lotion is good stuff. Recommended by the dermatologists I worked with. And not just for Keratosis Pilaris, but for any rough, dry skin. Give it a try and let me know what you think....


Cinnamon...and Company

A few weeks ago my family and I watched Marley & Me. It was sweet and innocuous (so the critics probably hated it).

And I admit. I fell victim to the sentiment (and produced a wellspring of saline). For me, the movie was endearing because:

1. I could enjoy having a dog in my living room without having hair all over my couch
2. It conjured up sweet n’ sour MEMORIES…

One fall day, in 1985, I was sitting in my college freshmen English class (one of my favorites). Waiting for the teacher to arrive, students were busy rummaging through backpacks and making small talk. Suddenly, the professor entered. All eyes turned to him, because:

1. he was handsome and had that effect on people
2. he was carrying a mysterious brown paper sack

And starving, homesick college students are mesmerized with brown paper sacks. Plus, I noticed an impish twinkle in the professor’s eye.

Quickly, the student’s chatter faded in eager anticipation.

Enjoying the student’s curiosity, the professor announced, “I have a gift for someone in this class.” A rumble of excitement spread through the room like the classic “wave” at a football game. Walking over to my row, the professor began to walk down the aisle.

My pulse quickened. Could he be headed to my desk? The only deliveries I had ever received were pizza...and warrants. Just kidding, mom. I had never experienced a public gift. I was never asked to a high school dance in front of the studentbody. Or proposed to on Oprah (of course I didn't have a serious boyfriend but that is beside the point).

The professor was a few steps closer to my desk. "Don't get your hopes up," I reassured myself. These kinds of things [unexpected, exciting] almost never happened to me. I quickly reviewed the date. Had I forgotten the day was my birthday? This kind of thing often happened to me.

No...it wasn't my birthday. Or any other holiday. Besides, I mused, "the contents of the brown paper sack were probably an extra-credit homework assignment."

The professor was beside me now and stopped. He gently set the bag down on MY desk and motioned for me to open it. All eyes were on me. And my eyes were riveted to the bag.

NEVER did I expect what I saw. I had not wished for this. And least of all expected it to arrive during a college class. It certainly had nothing to do with misplaced modifiers or dangling participles.

There, lying in the sack was a little blonde puppy. I loved him/her immediately. He/she loved me too and showed it by vomiting (an understandable reaction when seeing me for the first time). And he/she had just endured the puppy equivalent of being abducted, blindfolded and taken on a roller coaster ride.

The professor then leaned over and whispered, “you may leave class and take the dog home to get it settled.”

I felt like I had just won the lottery and practically skipped to the car. But don’t worry, I didn’t. I was sensitive to the doggy’s vertigo and my new role as doggy nurse.

“Home” was 2 ½ blocks west of campus. Of my own choice, I still lived with my parents and siblings. I walked in the door and was a little disappointed to find that mom was not home. Surprises not shared are stifled.

There was no puppy food waiting at home, no doggy bed, no toys. No big puppy "Welcome" sign. Yet, I was confident that my parents were excited for me and aware of OPERATION PUPPY.

I knew this because....

To be cont….


Who Needs Bacon & Eggs When You've Got Potato Chips

My mom and dad came home from England bearing gifts.........

Not T-shirts. Not a pressed leaf from William Wordsworth's house. Not a piece of art.

Da da dadeh da dah: Potato crisps!

Realize these were not just ANY ordinary salty run-of-the-mill-had-that-a-thousand-times type of chip. These were contest finalists!

Walker's hosted a chip flavor contest in the U.K. where citizens could submit flavor ideas, such as beef & onion, and prawn cocktail. The top flavors were chosen, mass produced and presented to the public for voting.

Here are the flavors my parents brought us:

Now I admit that I have been spoiled. I mean usually when I eat squirrel, it isn't weighted down with Cajun spice. And it has substance I can sink my teeth into. This crispy Cajun Squirrel left me wanting..............

to vomit.

Chili and Chocolate wasn't too bad. Made me want to try this recipe. The taste started out with a tiny tease of chocolate (with a healthy imagination). Then you get hit with a punch of spice. Followed by a cough reflex.

Worcester Sauce tasted like weeks' old Chex Party Mix. Without the chex and without the party.

Now Builder's Breakfast actually tasted like bacon and eggs. And sausage. And tomato sauce. Maybe a little squirrel. And bituminous and anthracite.

The other flavors we did not taste were Fish & Chips, Crispy Duck Hoison and Onion Bjahi.

Which one do you think won? I'll give you a hint: Heuvos.
Oh brother. Too Easy.

PS: Lest ye think this be our only taste of Europe, do not sorrow. As a consolation, mum and daddy also gave us Belgian chocolate. Oh baby....I have to go now. The chocolate is calling my name.

Simply cuz I now have a squirrely taste in my mouth that needs getting rid of.

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Graduation PS

I very rudely and absent-mindedly forgot to mention that all of the photos in my graduation post were taken by my father. He does nice work!

Thanks Dad

And I also forgot to mention the exquisite Vera Wang crystal vase my parents brought back from Europe. I love it. Picture coming soon..... And thanks for their other generous gift(s)!

Thanks Mom and Dad

And I forgot to mention that my sweet husband so thoughtfully gifted me with a KINDLE. And thanks for all his behind the scenes help (and behind the scenes lovin'!!).

Thanks Babe

And I forgot to mention that my brother took some awesome pictures.

Thanks Justin

And I didn't even mention my sister-in-law coming. How sweet it was of her, especially in the midst of loose-teeth trauma. And she made us a gourmet breakfast on Saturday. Yummy!!

Thanks Amy

And gosh, thanks to my brother for flying in from San Diego! And spending the next day with us.

Thanks Jeremy

And I need to mention how great my kids were for missing two days of school and having to make-up end of level testing. And for their help at the luncheon and listening to my rants and raves about getting my paper done!

Thanks Sean, Janessa, Stockton and Landon.

And lastly, I need to thank Sean who rescued all the photos I accidentally (stil have no idea how it happend) deleted on my computer (TRAUMA!!!) and for staying up with me half the night to finish the DVD.

Thanks Sean

The blessing of family never ends.


Gone in 35

Ever since my husband and I began producing little money pits, I knew this day would come. And 18 years and 10 months later, it did.

Every single one of them, four to be exact, had to go. Sure, roots run deep, and the attachment strong, but their presence compromised the kind of un-congested environment New Yorkers only dream of. Besides that, all they did was sit idle, without contributing or progressing. Kinda like my 401K.

So, despite the sacrifice, it was a calculated riddance to prevent trouble down the line. The thing is, now that they are gone, there is a definite ache. A hole. A bloody aching hole.

It all started yesterday. Sean was fasting for the promise of sedation. I was fasting out of respect for my tradition of only eating breakfast I don’t have to make. We arrived at 11:45 am at the Castle of Dirty Gum Work. We filled out enough paperwork to start a forest fire. This is where the jitters began.

Sure, I am a medical professional. I understand the comprehensive Consent Form. But, my lands! We are talking about my child. The form listed possible surgical outcomes such as:

cheeks the size of a Volkswagen bug
bleeding from facial orifices
paralysis of tongue, lips and eyeballs
shattering of every major bone listed in Grey’s Anatomy
tastebuds that no longer despise seafood
brain damage
(I am not making this up)

Thorough. Nice. Even Harry Potter would tremble.

Now that we had been placed completely at ease, the receptionist peeked out from behind the sliding glass window and sweetly piped up. “We’ll need a co-pay. We charge $32,000 per minute to put you at risk of brain damage” (at least that is the way I heard it....).

At that moment I figured it out. Those double-paned, no-doubt bullet-proof glass windows are NOT to ensure HIPAA confidentiality like they want us to believe.

Oh ya, did I mention “The Form” forgot to list this:

bleeding from every financial orifice

Then, speaking of Harry Potter, in walked the surgeon whose name was DUDLEY. It is a little hard to have faith and confidence in man whose name is forever linked with Petunia and Uncle Vernon. But Dr. Dudley’s kind, confident manner soon won us over. Here was a man who no doubt had risen above constant grade school Dudley Do-Right type-ridicule to reach the coveted status of King Expensive Pain Inflictor. Snidely Whiplash would be proud.

No time was wasted. The office routine was precisely and efficiently executed. Two assistants slapped on oxygen, an ECG and O2 sat monitor and placed an IV as fast as a lizard can infiltrate a Southern-Utah home. Then Dr. Dudley presented Sean with a certificate inducting him into the First Time IV Club.

And then, the drugs: as the medicine began its ascent up the median cephalic vein, Sean tracked the location by the coldness of the liquid. Before the magic potion reached the inferior vena cava, Sean was asleep. “Take good care of my baby,” I whispered and went to the waiting room to lament about the breakfast I should have eaten.

35 minutes later, Dr. Dudley came into the waiting room and said all went well…at least in terms of survival. But watching Sean come out of sedation made me question the brain damage part. Think Forrest Gump mixed with Robin Williams. Or maybe Sylvester Stallone crossed with Richard Simmons. Drunken Sean gave the entire office a good laugh. Unfortunately no videos were taken for future blackmail ammo.

Now on day two, recovery is going well: complete with bloody gauze, milkshakes, Carnation instant breakfasts, ice cream, salt water rinses, and pain pills. Sean has me inspect the surgical site. I have to look so far into the back of the mouth that Sean’s uvula gets twisted around my flashlight.

Thankfully, so far the dreaded “dry socket” has been avoided. This happens when a precious blood clot gets dislodged from the space previously occupied by the large calcium parabola leaving a crater the size of Nebraska. And causing pain as bad as living in Nebraska.

This was all part of the sacrifice in order to go on a mission.

I am proud of Sean and his willingness to do this for his convictions and his desire to offer selfless service.

Dr. Dudley is proud too. Once Sean gets his mission call, he can send a copy to Dr. Studley…er…I mean…Dudley who will contribute to Sean’s mission. A small return on our $300,000 de-wisdom tooth investment.

Now I have gotta go. The bloody aching holes and their owner need attention. I have to make sure the Creamies I got for "volkswagen bug-face" are palatable!

After Sean’s great sacrifice, it’s the least I could do.

Minutes after the assault

Ice glorious ice!

Dr. Studley


Graduation Day

It was one of those days. The kind that begins its seductive promotion long before the actual event. Would it be the kind of monumental day where anticipation sometimes trumps execution?

After a four year tease, the sunny day arrived. Because of a recent 3 week marathon to produce a 38 page metasynthesis, and a 3 day (and night) marathon making a graduation gift for my friends, I was especially thirsty for the freedom and joy this day promised.

As the day gradually unfolded, each elysial event proved equal to my imagination.

Here is a ReCaP

Thursday, May 7 began at 5:30 am after a brief four-hour doze. The family packed the car with the essentials: skittles, licorice, pillows and people and bounded off to SLC, arriving just in time to set up for our party. My friends and colleagues Amanda Turner, Bridget Penick, Heide Bedingfield, Melissa Hinton and all of our families pigged out on chicken salad croissants, potatoe and macaroni salad, fresh pineapple, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and homemade desserts.

In between kids getting their shoes stuck up in the basketball hoop and surprise visits from out-of-state family, we managed to eek out a memorable program. There was singing. And laughter. And tears. Bridget gave a stand-up comedy routine to rival Brian Regan, describing a typical day with the famous fab five. I laughed so hard it was the equivalent of doing 50 sit-ups.

Forget this nurse practitioner business. I decided that Bridget should take her routine on the road. And I should be her manager. She would make people laugh and I would get rock-hard abs.

We ended with a slideshow documenting our two and a half year journey together. Pink Martini showed up. Nice.


Pre-event festivities. My brother melted my heart.

Melissa sings a parody of our days in school

Bridget brings down the house

Next was the graduation itself. Short and sweet. And official. My name was actually listed in the program. It must be for real. I was tasting euphoria. Even smelling it. Funny how euphoria smells an awful lot like orchids. (Thanks, mom and dad)

Sibs to die for

My rocks. My backbone.


I love my family

Trust me. I'm a nurse practitioner

Three generations

Most of the family nurse practitioners, class of 2009

My brothers, parents and family then indulged in an expensive and delicious meal at the Tin Angel Cafe: an eclectic artsy joint with a small space and a large following.

Taking it easy at the Tin Angel Cafe

Mom, Justin, Eli and Stockton

The next day was spent hanging with my family enjoying downtown SLC, especially the tulips of Temple Square. The beauty of the grounds mirrored the peace in my heart (well...that is the peace in the section of my heart that is not worried about finding a job). I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have attended graduate school and for a supportive, awesome family.

Yes, it was one of those days. The kind that leaves a honeyed savor lingering in the memory for months and years. A day where actuality exceeded expectations.

Thanks family, for making this an awesome day.

PS: I missed you so much Kristi and Jordan.

Three Cups of Tea

Now that I am finished with school, I read a book.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

My review

Wow. Most would say the lesson from Greg is to dream and persist. I also think his story shows the power of knowing the right people. An inspiring book which epitomizes the Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken."

View all my reviews.


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