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

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.

Mishearings, Part 1, and Carrot Cake Jam

Sometimes my patients don’t exactly hear what I’m trying to tell them.

I had a patient that the previous night had been having a difficult time breathing, and thus I was in his room discussing his care with his nurse. He was lying there calmly sleeping (or so we thought) while we were talking to his wife.

Me: So we’ll keep him on this form of oxygen now and then switch him later?

Nurse: Yeah, I’ll switch him when my shift is done to rest him.

All of a sudden our we-thought-he-was-sleeping patient shot straight out of bed.

Patient (yelling): RECTUM? YOU AREN’T GETTING ANYWHERE NEAR MY RECTUM! NO MA’AM! NOT TODAY, NOT TOMORROW!!

(confused looks shared by everyone in the room)

Me: But sir, we said absolutely nothing about your rectum.

Patient: Yes you did! I heard you! You can’t trick me!

Me: Sir, we were talking about resting you by putting you back on some better oxygen. She said “rest him,” not “rectum.”

Patient: Oh. That makes more sense. But you still aren’t going anywhere near my rectum!!! I won’t allow it!

As promised, we went nowhere near his rectum during the rest of his hospital stay.

You Heard Me Correctly Carrot Cake Jam

Carrot Cake Jam

no misunderstandings with this one

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots, peeled
  • 2 pears, peeled and sliced
  • 1 inch thick round fresh pineapple, rind and core removed and cut into large cubes
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 c water
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • 6 1/2 c sugar

How-to

  1. Dice carrots in food processor until just barely larger than your desired consistency. Add pears and pineapple and pulse until those are in small chunks.
  2. In a large pot, dump in carrot, pear, and pineapple mixture. Add in lemon juice, spices, and water.
  3. Prepare water bath canner with six pint jars, rings, and lids.
  4. Bring jam mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until fruits and carrots soften and start to release their juices.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in powdered pectin. Turn heat back on and bring to full boil.
  6. Add sugar and bring back again to full boil. Cook for 1 minute, then turn off heat.
  7. Ladle jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch at the top. Wipe off rims then place on lids and rings.
  8. Place jars in water bath canner, bring water back to a boil, and process for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove jars and let cool for 12-24 hours. If jars not sealed within 24 hours, place in fridge and eat within a week.

P.S. This makes excellent holiday gifts!

P.P.S. If desired, you can stir 1/4 c nuts and 1/4 raisins into the jam mixture at the beginning of cooking.

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!

Holiday Dinners and Hot Pepper Jam

Things that your family find normal may be weird to others.

My mom’s cousin has schizophrenia.  For those of you that don’t know, people with schizophrenia can have visual, auditory, and paranoid hallucinations.

In his case, he regularly had intellectual conversations with the devil.

Since he always had these chats, this wasn’t something that ever bothered us. (It’s not like the devil was ever telling him to do anything bad- they apparently just discussed politics and philosophy. And he never turned his head in normal conversation to ask the devil’s opinion.  I guess these were one-on-one chats.)

However, it’s a bit different for people who aren’t used to this.

My family had a bunch of our elderly neighbors over that year for some holiday dinner. Before we knew it, my very conservative neighbor from down the street had sat down next to my mother’s cousin in preparation for the meal.

He looked over at my normally very talkative neighbor and said, as he went to take his first bite of the meal,

“So I was talking to the devil about politics the other day. What did you talk about with the devil the last time you talked to him?”

I’m actually surprised my neighbor didn’t head home right then and there after he finished choking. He was, however, absolutely silent for the rest of the meal and dragged his wife home the second the pie was served.

Devilish Hot Pepper Jam

feel free to discuss with Satan

Ingredients

  • 12 oz jalapenos, halved and seeded
  • 12 oz red and jelly peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 c cider vinegar
  • 6 c granulated sugar
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin

How-to

  1. Prep water bath, cans, and lids. (Place clean, empty jars into the largest pot you have. Add enough water so that the water comes over the top of the empty jars at least 1 inch. Bring water to a boil using a lid.)
  2. In a food processor, chop peppers finely with 1 c cider vinegar. (Don’t process all the way until smooth- small pieces look better!)
  3. In a large pot, add peppers slurry with the rest of the vinegar and the sugar. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add liquid pectin quickly.
  5. Bring back to a boil and cook for 1 additional minute.
  6. Remove from heat and skim foam.
  7. Ladle jam into hot jars (this makes about 5-6 half-pint jars, but always prep an extra in case you need it!) leaving 1/4 in headspace.
  8. Wipe rims, place on lids, and secure with bands.
  9. Place jars in the canner. Bring water back to a boil and process (boil) for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.
  10. Let jam jars cool 1 hour, test to make sure seal has happened (it might take longer than 1 hour!), and don’t move until the next day so it sets properly.

This is delicious on crackers or bagels with cream cheese or in brie en croute.

If you want this spicier, use only jalapenos and none of the regular peppers. You can also make this clear and strain out the peppers.

Psycho and Pumpkin Pasta

Little brothers can get the best of you.

Growing up, my dad and I would have our Sunday night tradition- watching Alfred Hitchcock movies on the classic movie channel on Sunday nights. There was nothing like a big bowl of popcorn, ginger ale, and a good thriller (especially knowing that Dad was there to protect me in case I got too scared!).

I should probably take a quick moment to state that I get *way* to into movies/books/tv shows…to the point where I will cry during sad or emotional scenes (let’s not talk about that google chrome commercial from a few years back), yell out encouragement to movie characters (yes, in the theater), or practically look like I’m having a seizure from wringing my hands during stressful moments. And yes, this is quite enjoyable for other people to witness.

On this particular Sunday night, my dad and I had watched Psycho. As always, I had gotten a bit scared, but with Dad there I was able to tough it out. Afterwards, I hopped into the shower to start getting ready for school on Monday.

Now, for those of you that haven’t seen the movie, there is a memorable scene where a woman is stabbed through a shower curtain.

You can probably already see where this story is going.

My mother, bless her heart, told my middle brother of a wonderful trick he could do…all he had to do was grab his huge plastic pirate sword.

So, here I was, showering, thinking about going back to school the next day, still a bit on edge from the movie, when the next thing you know I felt myself being jabbed through the shower curtain with a knife-like object.

Let’s just say that my vocal cords gave a performance worthy of Psycho itself. It’s a wonder my brother still has his hearing.

P.S. Years later in medical school, the cat I had hit me with her paw through the shower curtain when I wasn’t suspecting it while getting ready in the morning. It’s amazing the cat isn’t deaf, either.

Scarily Easy Pumpkin Pasta

maybe the carbs will help lull me to sleep

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried pasta (I prefer cavatappi)
  • 1 c fat free half and half
  • 1 c canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely minced
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. In a large pot, bring to a boil water. Salt generously.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving some of the pasta water if needed to thin out sauce.
  3. Return pasta to hot pot. Stir in parmesan cheese, then half and half, then canned pumpkin. Add in sage. If needed, thin out sauce with additional pasta water (this sauce will really thicken up as it cools).
  4. 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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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.

Childhood Pictures and Sloppy Joes

Parents take a lot of pictures. However, they don’t always realize how embarrassing those can be.

As a kid, my father must have kept every photography store in business in Michigan and New Jersey. There are hundreds of hours of video tape of me crawling around naked in our living room. And I’m not kidding- HUNDREDS of hours. It might have been cute to watch 30 seconds of this footage, but not 300 hours.

There are also pictures. And boy, are there some bad ones.

My parents had taken lamaze classes with the neighbor family four houses down the street, and thus their son and I were destined to become friends (or at least for the first four years until they moved). We did everything together, which my father proudly documented.

Including taking baths.

The most infamous is simply known as the “bath picture,” even though there are two different ones. Both pictures feature my friend the neighbor boy, his 2-year-old sister, and me (we were both about 3 years old at the time). I at least had the sense of decency to try to cover up in one of the pictures with a washcloth, but I failed miserably in that quest.

My brothers first found the picture when I was 10 or 12 years old, and obviously loved teasing me about how naughty I was for being naked with a boy at the young age of 3. (They were the fortunate ones- my father had finally realized by the time they were born that it wasn’t quite necessary to document EVERYTHING). My mother and I kept trying to hide the pictures, but my brothers would always find them and show them to anyone who would look while snickering endlessly.

The true highlight of the story, though, is that I didn’t see my former neighbor for 18 years after they moved, and then we ended up attending the same medical school. And the first thing he said to me after not seeing each other for all that time?

“So, do your siblings tease you endlessly to this day about that bath picture, too?”

That’s right, after 18 years, the first thing he brought up was a naked picture of the two of us. Like I said, some things will always come back to haunt you.

All Grown Up Spicy Sloppy Joes

much better than man’wich

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground meat (you can substitute with 2 14-oz cans black beans for a vegetarian option)
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 c salsa (I prefer hot, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 c tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hamburger buns (I prefer whole wheat)
  • Cheese of your choice, if desired

How-to

  1. In a large skillet, saute together ground meat (I normally prefer lean ground turkey), onion, and bell pepper over medium heat. If making these vegetarian and using black beans instead, saute the beans (rinsed and drained) with the bell pepper and onion in 2 tbsp olive oil.
  2. When meat is brown and veggies are soft, remove from heat and drain off any grease. If using black beans, saute until veggies are soft and beans are warmed through.
  3. Return to medium heat and stir in garlic powder, salsa, worchestershire sauce, chili powder, and tomato sauce. If mixture is still too thick, add 1/4 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes for the flavors to develop.
  4. Serve on your favorite buns (I prefer to serve these open face on toasted whole-wheat buns) and cheese if desired.