Glasses and Chicken Stock

To children, some decisions seem far more important than they really are.

I’m legendary in my house for how great my vision was as a small child. According to my mother, I used to be able to identify the different planes that flew over our house (we were lucky enough to be on the flight path for a major airport) by calling out the colors on the wings and tails. I could identify birds and squirrels in trees all the way across a gigantic field.

And then my father’s genes took over after my visual peak in kindergarten.

By third grade, I had become the child that had to sit in the very front of the room, or else I would have to walk up right next to the board to read the chalked instructions. My first vision test was right before my class was scheduled to take a standardized exam, and the start time for everyone was delayed for forty-five minutes while the school staff became aghast at how bad my vision was at the old age of 8.

You know the big letter “E” on the vision chart? The one that everyone assumes even a blind person can see? My eyes, it turns out, were worse than that (though it’s a good thing that, at my current age, my eyes don’t appear to be getting any worse).

I should probably take a moment to say that I was legendary in my family for another trait- it took me FOREVER to make a decision. It was though my entire life would be completely dependent on what I chose to bring for lunch that day or what I brought to show and tell.

Therefore, choosing my first pair of glasses was quite momentous. My mother had taken me out of school for the afternoon so I could have a proper eye appointment and then pick out a pair of glasses.

Eyeglass sales clerk: What kind of glasses would you like, my dear?

Young Megs: Should I get blue? Or green? Or pink? What should the sides look like? Do I need sunglasses too? What should I doooooooooooooooo?

I looked at my first pair of glasses at 3pm that day.

By 8:30pm, I had tried on every pair of glasses in the entire store. It had actually closed at 8pm, but the store employee took pity on me (or, perhaps, didn’t want me to return another day where she would then lose out on even more commissions). I tried on glasses right through dinner, and snacks, and practically through bedtime. My entire family wanted to rip their hair out. I practically cried when they told me I had to make a decision in the next five minutes. And I still managed to delay that decision until 9pm.

I finally picked a pair of glasses. Which, looking at the pictures from back then, where my blue and turquoise frames took up over a third of my face, were probably not the best decision.

And, if you must know, it still takes me at least an hour to pick out the perfect pair.

Take the Time Chicken Stock

chicken brothbecause good food is always worth waiting for

Ingredients

  • 1 carcass from a large roasted chicken (or from two roasted cornish hens)
  • 3 large carrots, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 large purple onion, quartered
  • 12 oz bottle beer (I used an Oktoberfest, but an IPA works well, too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • Water

How-to

  1. In your largest stock pot available, place the chicken skin/bones, carrots, garlic, celery, and onion.
  2. Pour in the beer, then add in the bay leaf and peppercorns.
  3. Cover everything with water up to an inch below the top of your pot.
  4. Turn the burner onto high, and bring the water to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and let the stock bubble for at least 3-4 hours, until the liquid has reduced by at least 2 inches and the color of the stock is a nice golden brown.
  6. Using a large colander, pour out the broth and throw away the large pieces of the stock ingredients.
  7. Using your finest mesh sieve, remove the rest of the impurities from your stock. Place into containers and either freeze (you can keep it for up to 6 months) or refrigerate (it can keep for up to a week).
  8. Once the stock is cold, skim off the layer of fat that has solidified at the top (this is really easy to wash off the frozen stock).

Titanic and French Onion Soup

I think it’s a trait of all dads to have the ability to make their daughters feel awkward.

Titanic was one of the biggest movies back when I was middle school. I wasn’t allowed to see it until after we read a play version of the entire movie in my 7th grade class…so I already knew most of the details of the movie. My parents then finally let me borrow the movie on VHS from our neighbors (it belonged to their 8 year old daughter). However, I wasn’t allowed to watch it alone. Since it wasn’t really my mom’s sort of movie, my father was assigned to watch it with me.

That’s right…I had to watch Titanic, the love story of my generation, with my dad. And that wasn’t the half of it.

When it reached the point where Jack draws Rose naked…

Dad: Hey honey…you should probably leave the room now.

Me: Can’t you just fast forward it?

Dad: Then how would I summarize what happens?

He didn’t have to summarize, as I just stood outside the room and could hear the entire scene. I was allowed to return, only to have it be the car incident.

Dad: Okay honey, back out.

Me: Da-ad. I’m almost 13. The NEIGHBOR’S 8 year old daughter owns this movie.

Dad: Your mother said you’re not allowed to watch it, so out.

Me: But you don’t see anything in this scene besides a hand!

Dad: OUT!

After another brief interlude of listening to the movie from outside the room, I was then allowed to watch the rest of the movie…by myself (my dad said the “movie was too long”). I eventually was allowed to watch the ENTIRE movie six months later, but only after I turned 13. (And I, again, had to borrow the movie from my neighbor’s still 8-year-old daughter.)

For Adults Only Drunken French Onion Soup

be sure to use a whiskey you like!!

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs onions
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 c whiskey (see substitution below)
  • 1/4 c sherry
  • 1/4 c worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 4 c beef or vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c skim milk (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • French bread
  • Beer Jelly (optional)
  • Gruyère cheese, shredded

How-to

  1. Finely slice onions. Coat bottom of a dutch oven with olive oil, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until onions are golden and caramelized (this might take longer than 30 minutes).
  2. Add whiskey and sherry. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then add in worchestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, broth, and garlic. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for an additional 15 minutes to let the flavors develop. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. If you prefer your French Onion Soup with a thinner broth, stop here. If you like yours creamier (like me), stir in 1 tbsp cornstarch into 1 c skim milk, then stir into soup. Simmer for an additional 2 minutes (don’t bring it back to a boil or it might scald!).
  4. To serve, ladle into an oven-safe bowl. Spread beer jelly onto french bread, place on top of soup, and then top with shredded Gruyère cheese. Place under broiler (I actually did this in my toaster oven) until cheese melts.

Note: If you want to make a non-alcoholic version, substitute whiskey and sherry with additional broth.

Suits and Soup

As a physician or physician-to-be, there are only a few occasions where you need to wear a suit. One of them happens to be interviewing.

Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewing for residency in anesthesia. Part of the deal is that you wear a suit, and another part is that you ALWAYS have a hospital tour.

On one particular interview, they took us around the Labor and Delivery floor (your friendly anesthesiologist puts in your epidural). There’s about 15 people walking around in dark colored suits (I like to mix things up and wear brown or grey pinstripe instead of black).

Naturally, there were some laboring mammas on the floor as we walked by (birth doesn’t stop for tours).   Most of the time, they don’t noticed groups of people walking by in the halls.

One mother, however, did. And she did not take it well.  She immediately began screaming, and not because of the pains of childbirth.

“OH MY GOD THE LAWYERS ARE HERE!!!  IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY BABY????  DID SOMEONE *&^% UP AND HURT MY BABY???  OH MY GOD NOOOOOOOO!!!”

That was not exactly the effect we were looking for.

We then had to reassure her husband (she was quite inconsolable and still screaming and sobbing) that we were pretty much the farthest thing from lawyers, and then bring her doctor in to further confirm that we were only a bunch of medical students and that the baby was fine.

I really hope she doesn’t sue for emotional damages.

No Lawyers Required Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup

much better at melting snowmen than Campbell’s

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 whole bulbs garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 lbs roma tomatoes
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried Basil
  • 1 c carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth)
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 c skim milk

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off tops of whole bulbs of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in oven until soft for 35 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Quarter roma tomatoes and place in greased baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes until soft and slightly shrunken.
  3. In a large stockpot while tomatoes are roasting, coat bottom with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add in carrots and onions. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp dried basil. Saute for 15 minutes or until carrots begin to soften.
  4. Mix cornstarch into broth and add to the saucepan. Add in the roasted garlic cloves (you can squeeze them out or use a fork), the roasted tomatoes, and tomato paste.
  5. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes or until carrots become tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Using an immersion blender or a blender, puree soup until your desired consistency.
  7. Return soup to stockpot and add milk. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This makes a lot of soup!  Feel free to serve with your favorite grilled cheese, garnish with shredded mozzarella or parmesan, or freeze for later use.

Dating Disasters and Cold Weather Chowders

I have had many disastrous dates.  However, one guy has the prize for committing so many errors in just one evening.

It is partially my fault, since I hesitantly agreed to this date. I should have listened to my gut feeling…but I thought I’d be nice, give the guy a chance, and agreed.

I was slightly confused when he picked me up and his dog was in the car.  Now, this date was in winter, and I don’t know that many people who let their dog chill in their car when it’s cold outside in Michigan.

Surprise #1: “Sorry the dog is in here- I have to drop her off at my parents’ house before dinner.”

When we arrived at their house, I then had surprise #2- his mother and father both came running outside to meet me.

“Oh, you must be Megan!  We have heard so much about you and we are SOOOO happy to meet you!!!”

Now, I don’t like to meet parents until I have been dating a guy for a while, and I certainly don’t like to meet parents while on the first date.  I also barely knew this guy, and the fact that his parents had already “heard so much about” me was a bit alarming.

When we finally arrived at the restaurant, surprise #3 was right around the corner. “I really want to get married within the next year, and you seem perfect.”

And the piece de resistance, surprise #4. “So it looks like I forgot my wallet at home.  You can pay for your dinner and mine. After all, you’re going to be a rich doctor some day.”

Now I realize that mistakes happen, but at least say that.  I normally offer to pay for my half of the meal, but don’t tell me to pay for your dinner, too. And second, just because I’m going to be a doctor some day, does not mean that I don’t currently have over $250,000 in debt from medical school.

If you’re wondering, after mistake #4, I paid for my half of the meal and called a friend to come pick me up…I figured that he could call his parents to come bail him out instead. ;)

Skip the Date and Stay Indoors Spicy Corn and Pepper Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I prefer red)
  • 1 bag frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 c cooked chicken, shredded (optional)
  • 2 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c salsa
  • 5 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

How-to

  1. In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients except for the cornstarch and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until bell peppers and corn are tender.
  3. Mix cornstarch in 1/4 c cold water and mix into the chowder.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes until thick and creamy.