Salmon...and not from a can

That's right, we had grilled salmon tonight. Something about it being 75 degrees today made me want to make a summer meal. And I not only tried one new recipe for dinner, but two! I also sort of made up a recipe as well...it was pretty interesting to say the least! Here's what was on the menu tonight:

Grilled Salmon with sun-dried tomatoes
Cauliflower Au Gratin
Penne pasta with sun-dried tomato cream sauce
Steamed broccoli

First, the salmon. I found this recipe on......drum roll............kraftfoods.com! Are you surprised? It is actually called cedar-planked grilled salmon, but I didn't want to fool you into thinking I went all out like that. I don't even have a cedar plank....so here's what I did:

2 salmon fillets
non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup fat-free sun dried tomato vinaigrette
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes

Just heat the grill (or in my case, stove-top grill), and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place salmon fillets on top. Cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. In the mean time, mix the vinaigrette, parsley, and sun dried tomatoes together. Spoon over the tops of fillets and finish cooking another 4-5 minutes, or until they flake with a fork. 

Click here to see the recipe at kraftfoods.com

Next was the cauliflower au gratin. I saw Bobby Flay make this and I really wanted to try it. Of course, I made some alterations.

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup heavy cream  (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella)
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, shredded
*goat cheese, crumbled (I WISH I had some of this tonight!)

Wash & separate cauliflower into florets. Spray 8x8 pan and place florets in the pan. Pour milk/cream over to coat. Sprinkle with cheeses, salt, and pepper. Top with goat cheese. Bake @ 400 degrees for 30 minutes. YUM! Next time I will make this with goat cheese because I love it!

Click here to see Bobby Flay's how-to video.

Last, I made some whole wheat penne pasta and realized I needed a sauce. So....I mixed some ingredients together that sort of mimicked those on the salmon. And then I called it a creme sauce. It worked great!

2 Tbsp. fat free sour cream
1 Tbsp reduced fat cream cheese (the fat free won't melt well!)
Fat free sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, just a drizzle
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Dried parsley

*heat ingredients 30 seconds in the microwave and stir. Pour over pasta to coat.

Oh, and I steamed some broccoli to add some color :)

The final product:

It was very delicious. I will be making this meal again!


Update on Pa......

It has been a long and eventful week...to say the least. To give a little background, Pa, my mom's dad, has recently been seeing several specialists for abnormal proteins found in his blood/urine, along with recent diagnosis of kidney disease.  He was referred to UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) for further care at the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy. He and my grandmother drove down from Missouri to start three days of testing before they would meet with the oncologist on the final day.

They were scheduled to start the first test on Monday morning, continue through Wednesday, and meet with the oncologist on Thursday. It just so happened that the snow/ice that hit Arkansas on Sunday kept them from making it all the way to Little Rock. So, after going off into the median and a ditch, they pulled over and ended up staying two nights in Russellville. When they finally made it to hotel in Little Rock on Tuesday, Pa took the hotel shuttle to the hospital. Unfortunately, on his way into the building, he fell and hit his head. He had a large bump and some bloody scratches, but they were able to give him his paperwork and told him he could start his testing on Wendesday morning. Luckily, I work at a connecting hospital to UAMS and was able to come get Pa and take him back to the hotel. 

My mom was able to come up and stay with them on Wednesday to help them get to their appointments. The schedules each day involved tests starting as early as 7:30am and ending one night at 10:30pm. Very exhausting for two elderly people (85 & 86 years old) to be doing on their own. I came over to the Myeloma Institute on Wednesday after work and waited with them until 7:00 pm to see the doctor. Pa's uric acid levels were high, so they gave him a liter of fluid to normalize those levels and to rehydrate him. After that was finished, the doctor didn't feel comfortable letting him go home without a CT scan of his head, to make sure there was no internal bleeding from his fall. Since the clinic had already closed, the doctor had him admitted to the hospital overnight so that they could keep an eye on him and have the CT scan done. We left around 10:00 that night.

Thursday got off to a late start and Pa missed his morning tests because he was still in the hospital and there was some confusion as to whether or not he was supposed to be taken to those tests. He had a few MRI's, CT scans, ultrasounds, lots of blood work and urinalyses done, and was discharged Thursday night. They still had to wait around for another test at 9:00pm, and didn't leave the hospital until 11:00pm.

Friday was a better day, although my mom and grandparents were worn thin from all of the stress and appointments over the last few days. They were scheduled to meet with the oncologist at 1:30pm. I came over after work around 4:00pm because they were still waiting for their appointment. It was 6:30 before we finally met with the doctor. He informed us that Pa did not have full blown myeloma yet, but that he had "monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance," or as they call it, "MGUS".

Here is the Mayo Clinic's definition (I couldn't access UAMS' website)
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a common precancerous condition affecting people 50 years of age and older. It was first described by Mayo Clinic researchers in 1978 and is characterized by the presence of an abnormal protein in the blood called a (monoclonal) protein or M protein. Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance has a small risk (1 percent each year) of progressing to a blood cancer called multiple myeloma or a related condition.

We left the clinic around 7:00pm to have dinner at Cafe Prego, compliments of the doctor for having to wait so long on a Friday afternoon/night. I was very impressed. It was nice for everyone to have a good meal after eating on-the-go for a week.

Overall, we received much better news than expected, and are glad that Pa has something manageable for the time being. He went home on Saturday, and will come back every three months for follow-up. I know he and grandmother, along with my mother and I, are glad to be able to get some rest and relief after a long and stressful week.

A humorous picture from one night when we left so late, we couldn't get back through the building to the garage our car was parked in. So, we had the policeman take us. Here is mom and grandmother in the back of the cop car:

God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good.


Scrumptious Soups

I wanted to share two of my new favorite soup-y recipes that I've enjoyed making this fall.What I love about them both is that they aren't too time-consuming and they are full of flavor. I did, however, have to step out of my comfort zone to try them, because I had never had some of the ingredients before. But once I tried them, I fell in love. Obviously, because I've made them more than once and they are blog-worthy.

Savory White Chicken Chilli

This recipe is from good ole Betty Crocker-a favorite recipe source
Don't freak out about the long list of ingredients. It's so simple once you get started, and has a kick you will LOVE!


  Tbsp olive or canola oil
lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2
cups chicken broth (I use reduced fat, low sodium broth)
medium red bell pepper, chopped (I omitted these, but 1 can rotel or chopped tomatoes would be good in this)
Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained
  can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
  cup chopped fresh cilantro (I used 1 tsp dried because I'm not a huge cilantro fan)
container (6 oz) Yoplait® Greek Fat Free plain yogurt (I used 1/2 cup fat free sour cream)
  1. In 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Cook chicken, onion and garlic 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients, except cilantro and yogurt. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and yogurt. Serve with additional yogurt and chopped cilantro, if desired.
Makes 4 servings (1 1/2 cups each)
We.love.this.recipe! mmmm! This is a great leftover for lunch.
For a printer-friendly version, click here.

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is from Kraft Foods-another one of my favorite sources for recipes!
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2   butternut squash (4 lb.), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 clove  garlic, minced (I buy the minced garlic and use ~1-2 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 cans  (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth (I use reduced fat, low sodium)
1/2 cup Reduced Fat or Light Sour Cream (I used fat free-it melted just fine)
Saltine Crackers 

HEAT oil in large saucepan on medium heat. Add squash, onions and garlic; cook 5 min. or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in allspice; cook and stir 1 min.
ADD broth. Bring to boil; cover. Simmer on low heat 15 min. or until squash is tender. Process, in batches, in food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan; cook until heated through, stirring occasionally.
LADLE into 8 bowls. Top with sour cream; swirl slightly. Serve with crackers.

For a printer-friendly version, click here.

We like to enjoy this soup with baked chicken breast and steamed veggies (like broccoli or asparagus). It is also great for lunch the next day with a turkey sandwich!

I hope you'll try these warm soups out since Winter is here! You can find the nutrition information when you click on the printer-friendly versions (if you follow the alterations I made, the calories, fat, and sodium will be lower).



Welcome, 2011!...and a recipe!

It is now the year 2011. The Two Thousand Eleventh Year!!! This is so weird to me...I remember in school having trouble remembering to change the single last digit of the date (you know, 94, 95, 96...the 9 stayed the same and you only had to remember to change the last number). And then in the 2000's, not having to write "19" "something" anymore was very strange, but then I got used to the '04, '05, '06, etc because, again, you just had to change the last number. Now we have to change the last TWO digits, and that is a little much for my forgetful mind. Anyway, those are my random thoughts for the day.

How did you celebrate the new year? At home? At a friends' house? With family? On the ski slopes? Out on the town? However you brought in the new year, I hope you had a blast!

Derek and I celebrated at a friend's place with TONS of great food, and then went out to a party hosted by Next Level Events. It was held at the train station in downtown little rock and they had a DJ. I had so much fun because I knew almost everyone there. Literally. The entire UofA campus from 2003-present was there. Or at least it seemed like it. It was a nice surprise because a lot of times I don't enjoy going out because there is a strange mix of people that you don't know (or don't care to know), and it's just not as much fun as being with friends.

 Shay and Mark

 our kicks for the night

 Shay, here, is a pro at laundry. 

"see what had happened was..." Someone opened a bottle of champagne and when they popped the cork, it hit the ceiling and landed in a glass of red wine....you can figure out the rest! How odd? Must have been the perfect angle because we were on the complete other side of the room! Nevertheless, his brand new shirt is red wine-free!

 Mark has something "up his sleeve" for the cab driver. A mini pig-in-the-blanket. 
The driver ate it! And he liked it. WOW. Wish we could have paid him in food instead of cash...

it's a bird...with a credit card in hand

I didn't take as many pictures as normal (shocker, I know) because I dropped my camera. OUCH. Yes, I have only had this camera for 6 months and the reason I got a new one was because I dropped the last one. I swear I keep it in a case and have the wristlet around my wrist most of the time, but it just slipped. So, now when you turn my camera on, the screen has all of these lines and streaks across it and you can't see what you're shooting, nor can you view the picture after you take it. Considering that, the pictures that we blindly took didn't turn out so bad.

 our hats that we wore for 2 seconds

Happy New Year from the train station!

And last, I wanted to share a dip recipe that I made last night. It doesn't have a name...and I didn't make it up on my own. I just took a dip that my friend, Tammy, has made before and added my own little touches. I wish I had a picture of this colorful dip, but I don't, so you'll just have to make it for yourself and see!

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can rotel, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can black olives, drained & finely chopped
1 avocado, peeled & finely chopped
chopped chives (optional-I HATE onions so I omitted them)
1 cup Mexican blend finely shredded cheese
lime juice
Chardonnay, Lime & Cilantro seasoning (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil (optional)

Add all canned ingredients and cheese in a medium-size bowl and mix together. Cover with the juice of one lime (so that the avocado won't brown). The spices are fine to add by themselves, and I just so happened to have the Chardonnay, Lime & Cilantro seasoning that was given to me at my Recipe Shower last year. It is made by Cherchies and I use it all the time, but have no clue where it came from. It's AMAZING! I chose to whisk the spices together with some olive oil so that it would cover the other ingredients better. You can also add paprika or whatever spices you'd like. Serve with chips (I used blue corn tortilla chips)

This is something I make often because it has a variety of ingredients and it is fairly healthy and very versatile. You can enjoy it with chips, on a taco or burrito with chicken or fish, mix it with some rice for a colorful rice bowl, or like Derek, make a Mexican breakfast burrito with it. He just scrambled eggs and spooned some of the dip and hot sauce over them to enjoy in a burrito. Yum!

I'll be sharing more recipes soon! Enjoy the first day of the new year, 1/1/11! (now that's not hard to write:) )