Peonies and Beet Risotto

You can tell I’m my mother‘s daughter because of my ability to mishear words.

I was about five years old at the time and spring had finally arrived in Michigan. Along with the warm weather, we loved seeing the flowers erupting in our yard. (It was always a very proud day when I got to bring my teachers snowballs and lilacs I picked myself.)

However, I didn’t always know what things were called.

That day, I found flowers on our side steps. Naturally, I yelled for my mom that someone had left us a present.

And, in the loud voice that only a five year old has, I bellowed…

“Mom, someone left panties on our doorstep! They’re such pretty panties!!! Panties, mom, panties!!!”

I kept yelling that so the entire neighborhood could hear, or at least until my mother could rush down the stairs to see what was actually on the step.

Peonies. Not panties.

Peonies have been known as “panties” ever since.

Spring’s Arrival Beet and Asparagus Risotto

Beet and Asparagus Risottoone can also not mess up this name

Ingredients

  • 1 beet, roasted, cooled, and diced (you can find plenty of beet recipes online- much of the cooking temp will depend on what kind of beet you have and how big it is! feel free to make more than one for salads and sides!)
  • 1lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, and roasted (throw this into the oven with the beet, topped with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper- you can normally do both at 400 degrees, but the asparagus needs far less time than the beet!)
  • 4 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1 c white wine
  • 2 oz goat cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Roast any vegetables, if necessary (it’s easy to do this part ahead- just make more of them to use in other dishes!)
  2. Bring the chicken broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Add in the rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Pour in the white wine. Stir every minute or so until the wine is absorbed. (You want the rice to be at a simmer.)
  6. Start adding in the chicken broth, 1 c at a time, and let the rice absorb the chicken broth, while stirring fairly often.
  7. Continue adding the broth one cup at a time until you have used up all the broth (again, keeping the rice at a simmer the entire time), making sure that you let the rice absorb nearly all the broth before adding the next cup.
  8. Once all the broth has been added, cook for an additional few minutes at a very low heat until the rice reaches your desired consistency (you’re looking for a creamy al dente).
  9. Turn off the heat. Stir in the parmesan and goat cheeses until melted.
  10. Stir in the beets and asparagus until the whole dish is a pretty pink color.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Competitions and Colcannon

St. Patrick’s Day can be a wild holiday. Especially with pride on the line.

Back in college, I made the *wise* decision of coming to Chicago with my on-again, off-again boyfriend (we were off-again at the time). It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we went out to a large Irish bar for the evening.

It was there that the competition started.

Since we were “off again,” somehow we decided to see who could pick up the hotter girl first. (A number of lemon drops- part of the reason why I haven’t done shots since- did influence this decision.)

Next thing I know, I’m chatting up a Brazilian girl (whom I had decided was the hottest girl in the bar). We started dancing (some other things might have happened, too…), and then that’s where some deleted scenes occur (I know that I was found dancing upstairs with her, but the rest of that is a little bit hazy, especially after I saw some of the pictures that I really don’t remember taking all that well).

The next morning, I had this text in my phone.

“I had a great time last night. Call me sometime. -Camille.”

Let’s just say I won.

Competition Worthy Irish Colcannon

Colcannon

perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day throw-down (or when you’re recovering the next day)

Ingredients

  • 5 large russet potatoes (about 3-4 lbs worth)
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 + 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 small head cabbage
  • 1 c fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c fat-free sour cream
  • 1 c fat-free half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Wash and peel potatoes (or you can skip the peeling part if you have a food mill). Cut into large cubes. Boiled in salted water until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Cut off the ends of the leeks. Slice in half (nearly down to the root) and rinse in cold water. Slice thinly.
  4. Saute leeks in 1 tbsp butter and olive oil until soft. Set aside.
  5. Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut into quarters, then slice thinly. Boil in the plain water until tender (this took about 8-10 minutes). Drain.
  6. Slice the green onions thinly.
  7. Drain the potatoes. Mash until very smooth (or use that food mill). Add the butter, half-and-half, greek yogurt, and sour cream.
  8. Add the leeks, cabbage, and half the green onions.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve with reserved green onions on top.

This makes a LOT of potatoes (so perfect for your get-together), but if making for a smaller crowd, it can easily be halved. Though it does warm up perfectly in the microwave if you’d rather just have leftovers.

Flowers, Part 2, and Hasselback Potatoes

Over a decade later, I still have issues with flowers.

It all started a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, when my boyfriend and I had a chat over dinner about how neither one normally does much for Valentine’s Day. I thought I was in the clear- maybe we’d make a nice dinner, watch a movie at home, eat some homemade chocolates. And he’s always maintained that he doesn’t like flowers since they die.

Then the week of Valentine’s Day, where I got asked the following questions:

Boyfriend: What’s your address? I’m updating my address book.

That seemed silly, but I gave him my address.

Boyfriend: What’s your schedule like this week? Did you want to get dinner?

I said sure as long as it was low key since I was on nights.

Boyfriend: Hey, I know you’re on nights right now. Do you wake up if someone rings your doorbell? If you get a package, where do they put it?

I replied that the UPS guy leaves packages on my deck since I don’t wake up. To anything.

Boyfriend: Hey, do you wake up if someone call your phone?

I reiterated the point that I don’t wake up. To anything.

Of course, I was working every night up until Valentine’s Day, which made shopping or really anything else a bit difficult, as I was keeping the hours of a vampire (and working a lot of hours at that). But I really had the feeling that I was getting flowers.

On Valentine’s Day, I woke up after sleeping most of the day so I could shower before what I felt was a very early dinner, as it was happening before I was even eating “breakfast” that week. I did, however, check my phone to see if I had a missed call.

No missed call.

I then checked my deck. No flowers.

I checked the side door. No flowers.

I checked the mailbox. No slip from a florist informing me I had missed a delivery.

Now, by this point in time, I was a little bit disappointed. I normally pride myself on my powers of deduction (Sherlock Holmes is my favorite character), and to me there were too many coincidences in Valentine’s Day week. But I then was thinking that I had been wrong.

That is, until my boyfriend showed up, and insisted on walking in (and looking around) my house when he came to pick me up for dinner.

Boyfriend: Did you get a package today? Nope.

Boyfriend: Did you get a phone call? Did your doorbell ring? Nope and nope.

Boyfriend: Well, that’s annoying. I sent you flowers.

I secretly did a “yessssssssssssssss” for my powers of deduction. But then realized I still didn’t have flowers.

After much arguing, I finally got my flowers four days later. And my dad didn’t have to come to the rescue this time (though he did offer to).

Always On Time Hasselback Potatoes*

roasted potatoesno need to have anything delivered

Ingredients

  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil in a spray bottle
  • Parsley
  • Truffle oil (to finish)

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash potatoes and remove any eyes that might have developed.
  3. In a glass baking dish, spray with olive oil spray (so the potatoes don’t stick and get nicely brown).
  4. One at a time, snuggle the potato close to an old wooden spoon. Using a knife, make thin slices in the potato, cutting until you just barely hit the spoon handle (if you go too hard, you’ll cut the spoon).
  5. Place potatoes into the baking dish. Spray with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced.
  7. Remove from the oven. Drizzle with a teeny bit of truffle oil (use olive oil if you don’t have truffle oil, though I find that a bit of truffle oil goes a long way, and it’s not that much of a fortune) and parsley. Serve.

*a.k.a. Accordion Potatoes

Names and Stuffing/Dressing

I realize that my last name is complicated. However, there are still unacceptable things to call me.

I was born with a Polish last name that isn’t quite pronounced the way it’s spelled. It actually used to be far more complicated, but my great grandfather had changed it, assuming that people would still know the basic pronunciation of the Polish language. That essentially means that I was always really good at identifying telemarketers as a kid, since they always said my last name with two syllables instead of three.

For most of my patients, I introduce myself as Dr. So and So, but then normally tell them that they can call me by my first name if a wave of confusion washes over their face. However, I always have to say the “doctor” part the first time I meet someone- in the hospital, everyone and their mother is walking around in a long white coat. There’s also the fact that every patient tends to assume that any female they meet in the hospital is a nurse, and then I get paged incessantly about how the “doctor hasn’t been in to see the patient yet” when I’ve spent 30 minutes already that morning explaining everything.

But, I digress. To the story at hand.

It was the same drill as always, “Hi Mr. Patient, I’m Doctor So and So.”

Each day, this gentleman got more and more casual. At first, I was still Dr. My Last Name. Which then became Dr. Megan. Which became Megan.

Which then transformed into something else entirely.

When I was in the process of discharging my patient, he thanked me for providing him with good medical care during his visit.

Except he said, “Thanks Doctor Babygirl, I had a great time.”

When asked, he couldn’t even understand why this wasn’t appropriate to say.

Multiple Names Stuffing/Dressing

Stuffing/Dressingin my family you don’t dare call this by the wrong name unless you want a lecture

Ingredients (makes 3 cups stuffing)

  • 5 slices wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Saute onions and celery in the butter (just do all at once- no need to pre-melt the butter) in a medium saucepan.
  3. In a large bowl, rip up toasted bread into small pieces. Add in celery, onions, butter, and cranberries.
  4. Stir in poultry seasoning (sometimes I go up to 1 1/2 tsp).
  5. Add in wine (start with 1/4 cup and continuing adding as the bread soaks up the wine). If necessary, add more wine to soak wheat bread (you want this to be pretty moist so it doesn’t try out).
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Stuff into birds (this makes approximately 3 cups) for stuffing or bake in a casserole dish for 30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, for dressing.
  8. Serve with gravy.

Middle Children and Collard Greens

There’s telling stories about your family, and then there’s just excessive complaining to a complete stranger.

I was on yet another date from online dating. To start, I should have know that this date would be awkward, purely based on text messages. Most normal people don’t start complaining to a complete stranger, especially by text. However, the rest of them had seemed funny, so I wrote it off as maybe him just having a bad day.

I really should have listened to my gut.

I arrived at the date location a few minutes early (I can’t help myself- my dad is ALWAYS late, so I always arrive early. Always.). My date of course was a few minutes late (but not as late as a previous encounter).

And that is when the complaining started.

Over the next hour and a half (I literally darted out of there as soon as humanly possible), he complained about

  • that it was raining which of course made him late because someone MUST have stolen his umbrella and then put it back in the closet where he wouldn’t be able to find it
  • that he was sore because he ran earlier to train for a marathon, and he HAD to run a marathon since his little brother did, and of course he had to run faster than him to prove that he was the better brother (phrase actually used)
  • that the weather in Chicago was colder than the south
  • that he was the middle child and therefore his family would never love him as much as his older or younger brother (another phrase actually used)
  • that he liked the restaurant and came there often, but really he only liked one thing on the menu, and only if a particular cook had made it

He complained about more things, but to be totally honest I gave up really listening after the first 15 minutes and watched the baseball game above the bar instead, with occasionally throwing in comments I remember from my psych rotation (you know, when I wasn’t dealing with awkward psychiatrists one and two).

Date: Complain, complain, complain, complain.

Me: Sounds like that must be difficult for you.

Date: Yeah it definitely is because of complain complain complain…

Me: Have you tried talking to anyone about this?

Date: Well I saw a psychiatrist plenty of times but they just didn’t understand me because complain complain complain…

I’m almost convinced that someone else had written the amusing text messages or emails he had sent.

Low Maintenance Collard Greens

Crock Pot Collards

nothing to complain about here

Ingredients

  • 1 ham bone (perfect use of the leftovers from your holiday ham)
  • 2 bunches collard greens (I had approximately 2-3 lbs)
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Pepper jelly (optional)

How-to

  1. In a large crock pot, mix together chicken bouillon, chicken broth, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add in ham bone.
  2. Wash collard greens very well in cold water. Remove tough stems. Cut into small pieces (or tear by hand, which I did).
  3. Place greens into broth in crock pot.
  4. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, stirring occasionally, until at desired doneness.
  5. Top with pepper jelly or pepper sauce, if desired.

Voices and Pasta Salad

People  can be fairly attractive…until they start talking.

I had a first date with a guy that looked very good on paper and in pictures. (Yes people, I resorted to online dating. I work far too much to meet guys out in public.) He had a steady job, loved dogs, and worked out.

Then I met him in person.

I should probably take a moment to say that many people that I met while online dating were new to the city or worked too much to meet people in a bar, like me. (Plus meeting people in a bar is always a risk, since you never know how they’ll look the next morning…story about that to follow soon.)

So here I was, waiting for my date to show up. He was late…15 minutes late. On the other hand, I do live in a city, so you tend to be a bit more forgiving in case someone missed the bus or train or got stuck in traffic.  Granted, I had planned ahead of time not to be late, so I was 10 minutes early…which meant that I was waiting for almost 30 minutes. (Mom had a nice phone call there to pass the time.)

My date showed up, gave me a hug, and then started talking.

And that is when I was no longer attracted to him…

…he had the voice of a child. MY VOICE was deeper than his, if that tells you anything. My niece’s voice is actually probably deeper than his was, and my adorable munchkin is all of 20 months old.

For the next hour and a half, he went on and on in his really high pitched voice about how he needs to get married soon because his parents keep pressuring him, and it really needs to happen in the next year. He might have mentioned something else in this conversation, but that was the point he kept coming back to and making. Marriage in a year. Marriage in a year.

I really should have left when he didn’t show up in time.

Stuff It and Shut Up Pasta Salad

stuff your face and stop talking already

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tricolor rotini pasta
  • 1 bottle fat free italian dressing
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced (depends on how many tomatoes you like in your pasta salad)
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions in well-salted water. Drain and rinse once with cold water.
  2. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add half the container of italian dressing. Refridgerate overnight (this allows the warm pasta to absorb some of the dressing).
  3. Before serving, add the rest of the italian dressing, tomatoes, green peppers, and mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste.

Feel free to add any other vegetables (olives, cucumbers, etc) that you may like! You can add the vegetables to the pasta before chilling, but you won’t have as much of a contrast in textures.

This also keeps well in the fridge in the off-chance you have leftovers!

Boyfriends and Baked Potato Salad

You can never make assumptions in medicine.

I once walked into my elderly patient’s room, where she was accompanied by a gentleman sitting there caressing her hand. I went through the general questions of the admission: what brought her here, what other medical conditions she had, what drugs she took.

And then, I said the wrong thing.

Mind you, this patient was a fairly spry 98 year old woman who didn’t look a day over 80, accompanied by a man who looked to be approximately 60 (though I had no idea of his real age).

Me (to patient): And I’m assuming that this handsome gentleman here with you is your husband?

Patient (appalled): Excuuuuse me, missy, this man is my boy-friend.

Me (stuttering): I’m so sorry for making that assumption, ma’am. My most sincere apologies.

Patient (proudly): Yup, at my age I can still bag ‘em and tag ‘em. But I’m just here to have fun, you know? No need to waste good money on a wedding when we can waste it on other things, right doll?

This last bit said to the patient’s boyfriend, who had not yet spoken, but found it wise to answer a simple “yup”.

Bag ‘em and Tag ‘em Baked Potato Salad

Perfect for obtaining that significant other…no engagement ring required

Ingredients

  • 3 lb redskin potatoes, cut into 1-in chunks
  • 1 c reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c fresh chives
  • 1/2 c light mayonnaise (I prefer the olive oil versions)
  • 1/2 c fat free sour cream
  • 1/2 c fat-free plain greek yogurt
  • 1/8-1/4 c fat-free milk
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

How-to

  1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Add a liberal amount of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until you can pierce potatoes with a fork (not a knife!!).
  2. While potatoes are cooking, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, and greek yogurt in a large bowl. Thin out with 1/4 c milk. Stir in cheddar cheese, chives, garlic powder, and bacon (optional).
  3. When potatoes are finished cooking, drain and rinse twice in cold water.
  4. Add potatoes to dressing mixture. Add additional milk if necessary to thin to desired consistency.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Chill potato salad for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld. Taste again and add additional salt and pepper if necessary before serving.

Feel free to halve recipe if you aren’t serving a crowd!

Snowcows and Steakhouse Leftovers

Sometimes nicknames get lost in translation.

I went to a teeny-tiny engineering school in the middle of Lake Superior for college. While the area is known for its magnificent fall colors, hiking, boating, and winter sports, it’s also known for the sheer lack of females.

In particular, my college class had a ratio of 8 guys to 1 girl.  The overall college was 3 guys: 1 girl at the time (it’s since improved). And still, the odds were not always in your favor. “The odds are good, but the good are odd” is a phrase that could definitely be applied to some of my male counterparts.

The ratio was also misleading…

  • If you subtracted the guys still dating their high school girlfriends, the ratio was 4 guys:1 girl
  • If you subtracted the computer engineers/science majors who thought that girls only existed in anime and had never spoken to a female in real life, except through a video game, the ratio was 2 guys: 1 girl
  • If you subtracted the man whores that you were sure were sources of an STD epidemic, the ratio was 1 guy: 2 girls
  • However, if you subtracted the female counterparts of the first and third lines, the ratio was still maybe 1:1.

There also was an unfortunate nickname for the girls that were less than desirable but would sleep with anyone…

Snowcows.

Anyway, it was the fall of my freshman year of college, and the grandparents and mother of the boy I was dating came to visit. During the exploration around the Upper Peninsula, we had the misfortune of stopping into a gift shop.

Now, somehow, his grandmother had heard the phrase “snowcow” (but, of course, just thought it was a cute term for any girl that went to Tech) so when she came across a cow puppet, there was logically one thing she thought of…

“Oh, here, let’s have you take a picture with this puppet! It’s two snowcows in the picture!”

I then was forced to endure a picture with said puppet, while my boyfriend at the time stood there absolutely mortified, since his grandmother had unknowingly just called me a whore.

Leftover Steakhouse Risotto

this is the only cow I’m okay being in a picture with

Ingredients

  • 4 c low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1 c white wine (I use a sauvignon blanc in the $8 range)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 c leftover roasted vegetables, brought to room temperature and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 c leftover steak, cooked rare, brought to room temperature and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 c grated smoked gouda (this gives it a mac-and-cheese type feel)
  • 1 tbsp steak seasoning (or more if you so desire)

How-to

  1. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low to medium heat until onion is translucent (about 3-5 minutes)
  3. Add dry rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add 1 c wine and stir until absorbed.
  5. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, start adding the broth, two ladles at a time. Your goal is to have this at a simmer. Stir frequently (but not constantly) until absorbed. Add more broth. This does take a while (you’re looking at about 20-30 minutes of active cooking from start to finish).
  6. Continue adding the broth at 2 ladles at a time until all the broth has been added. Add the butter.
  7. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the risotto reaches your desired consistency (maybe another 5 minutes, tops!). Add in the leftover vegetables and steak.
  8. Turn the heat to as low as possible, then stir in the smoked gouda and steak seasoning. Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes to let the leftovers heat up, then serve.

Movies and Risotto

The tv version of a movie can be quite different from the original.

As kids, we loved Rodney Dangerfield movies. Friday and Saturday nights during the winters in Michigan were spent eating homemade popcorn under blankets with “Dinner and a Movie” on the television. One of our favorite movies (which somehow was normally on at least one per month) was Caddy Shack, the comedy where the caddy comes from behind and wins it all (and the girl) on the golf course.

So, when the DVD of Caddy Shack was on sale shortly before my youngest brother’s 8th birthday, my parents thought it was a perfect gift.

I should take this moment to state that no one in my family had ever seen anything other than the tv-sanitized version of Caddy Shack.

Therefore, it was a bit of a shock when we started watching the tv version. To start, the made-for-tv version with all of the commercials is about the same length as the full-length DVD version. That’s because Caddy Shack has about that much nudity and other things that must be cut from the tv version.

For some reason, we made it through the entire movie as a family. I think my mother nearly had a heart attack when she realized what she had bought her 8 year old son.

My 8 and 12 year old brothers, though, were absolutely delighted.

Adult Flavors Asparagus and Goat Cheese Risotto

for anyone with grown-up tastes

Ingredients

  • 4 c low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1 c white wine (I use a pinot grigio in the $8 range)
  • 1 lb asparagus, diced into small pieces
  • 4 oz goat cheese, softened (just leave it out on the counter while you make the risotto)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low to medium heat until onion is translucent (about 3-5 minutes)
  3. Add dry rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add 1 c wine and stir until absorbed.
  5. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, start adding the broth, two ladles at a time. Your goal is to have this at a simmer. Stir frequently (but not constantly) until absorbed. Add more broth. This does take a while (you’re looking at about 20-30 minutes of active cooking from start to finish).
  6. When you’ve added half the broth, stir in the asparagus pieces (this will help them stay green)
  7. Continue adding the broth at 2 ladles at a time until all the broth has been added. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the risotto reaches your desired consistency.
  8. Turn the heat to as low as possible, then stir in the goat cheese. Remove from heat.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Post-Call and Sweet Potato Fries

Post-Call and Sweet Potato Fries

Medicine makes you tired. Sometimes, too tired. Back in the day before work hour restrictions (or, in other words, two years ago), all medical students and residents did “call” shifts. To make a long story short, you’d show up for … Continue reading

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