Graveyards and Cheese Spreads

No one can scream louder than a preteen girl.

I was in fourth grade at a slumber party for a friend’s birthday. Now, as I said in my last post, I’m not the biggest fan of scary movies since I get far too involved in the stories. Unfortunately for me, my friend’s dad had rented only Twilight Zone episodes (and of course, only the terrifying ones- I vaguely remember something about ants and evil rabbits) for us to watch.

Therefore, by about midnight, we were all quite terrified, but attempted to act like we were brave.

I should take a brief moment to say that my friend’s house was located next to a cemetery, and you could very easily enter it from a back through a gate in her backyard (I have no idea why they had a gate to the cemetery in their backyard- they just did and it was never something we questioned as kids).

Therefore, what do preteen girls attempting to be brave do? Challenge everyone to a graveyard walk, of course.

We quickly bundled up into sweatshirts (April in Michigan can be a bit chilly at night) and ventured outside, holding onto each other as we made our way into the cemetery, accompanied by my friend’s mom. We were just starting to feel like we were all brave when a huge creature in a horrific mask popped out from behind one of the gravestones and came running at us while yelling.

Twelve preteen girls then shrieked at the top of their lungs (it truly is a wonder we didn’t wake the dead) and disappeared in all directions of the cemetery.

I at least ran towards the house, where we discovered my friend’s mom and younger brother laughing hysterically. Turns out my friend’s dad decided to play a prank on us during our graveyard walk, and had managed to run around to a separate entrance with mask in hand so he could be ready and waiting by the time we ran outside.

Granted, her parents then had to spend the next hour tracking down the girls still hiding terrified in the cemetery and stay up with us until daylight as we were far too afraid to sleep.

Ghoulishly Good Cheese Spread

worth shrieking for

Ingredients

  • 10 oz goat cheese, softened
  • 8 oz fat free cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz feta (I used whole feta and cut it into chunks, but feel free to use pre-crumbled feta)
  • 1/4 c pesto
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced thinly
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Crackers (I prefer pita crackers) and peppers

How-to

  1. In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer (though feel free to just whip this up in a bowl, but you’ll need some strong arms!), cream together goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, and pesto.
  2. In a small saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and allow them to sweat, stirring fairly regularly, until they just because translucent.
  3. Add shallots and butter to cheese mixture and mix on medium for 1 minute.
  4. Now is your time to get creative. Line whatever container you’d like to use for shaping your cheese spread with plastic wrap. Add in the cheese spread and cover. As an alternative for a free-form shape, place into a bowl and cover.
  5. Let cheese spread chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up and let the flavors mingle.
  6. Invert container onto a plate and top with freshly cracked black pepper and sesame seeds (this adds a nice crunchiness). Or, to make the spider I made above, make a spider “body” and “head” on a plate, then pat on the sesame seed/black pepper mixture. Add in sliced peppers for “legs” and “eyes”.
  7. Serve with crackers and veggies!

As an alternative, you can also stuff this mixture into mini sweet peppers for another delicious appetizer. Feel free to spread leftovers onto sandwiches or melt onto paninis!

Asthma Attacks and Breakfast Sandwiches

As a doctor, I’m supposed to get all of the details about why you’re seeing me. However, sometimes I really don’t need to get the entire story.

While on a stint in the ED, I had a patient coming in for an asthma attack while I was working the overnight shift. It involved a bit of drama at first, with the patient quite a bit anxious and hyperventilating. It also didn’t help that the woman with him was prancing around braless in pajamas.

When he finally was breathing like a normal person, I started asking questions. Now, it’s normally a sign of poorly controlled asthma if it wakes you up from sleep.  That was not the case.

Me: So, sir, did this asthma attack wake you up?

Patient: Nope.

Me: So you were awake at 3:30am?

Patient: Yup.

Me: And why were you….?

The patient and the woman looked at each other. And then I got it.

Me: Oh. Okay. You don’t need to say anything more.

Patient: Well my fiance here had started in this position and..

Me: Sir, I said I got it. I don’t need any more details. Do you often have asthma attacks during this activity?

Patient: Nope, but this time was different because…

Me: Sir, as I just said, I don’t need the details. The basic story is fine.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a medical code for “sex-induced asthma,” so I had to send him off with the simple diagnosis of “asthma attack.” And you at least have to give the fiance props for spicing things up to a point that her man couldn’t breathe…

Morning After Breakfast Sandwich

Take that, mickey-d’s…just don’t serve to anyone with an egg or gluten allergy!

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 whole-wheat english muffin, split
  • butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 3 thin slices good salami
  • 1 slice smoked gouda (or whatever other type of good melting cheese you have on hand…even american!)
  • 1 slice tomato
  • salt
  • pepper

How-to

  1. Toast an english muffin in a toaster or toaster oven
  2. Spray a small non-stick pain with butter spray (I know I normally tell you never to do this because it ruins your pans, but I have a specific small egg pan that I use just for this- they’re pretty cheap at your large big box store- and so I don’t feel bad about replacing it more often) and play over medium heat
  3. Crack an egg into the pan and break the egg yolk immediately (I’ll use a spatula or even the egg shell). Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
  4. After 1-2 minutes, flip the egg and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes (or whatever your desired egg consistency is). Top with the slice of cheese so it melts.
  5. Place the salami slices on the bottom of the toasted english muffin. Top with the egg covered with cheese, tomato slice, and the top of the english muffin.
  6. Enjoy! These also are easy to eat while driving on the way to work, or put into a container to eat once you arrive!

Recycling for Pork Chops

I had the best roommate in college.  She didn’t mind any of my crazy cooking experiments, from roasting a chicken in a crock pot in our dorm room (it made our room, and our entire hall, smell delicious) or using a hammer to break up candy to make peppermint bark (though the residents of the room directly below ours did venture up to complain about the racket- we were getting out a lot of aggression on that candy).

My roommate taught me how to recycle.  Now, it’s not that I didn’t recycle before- I just didn’t recycle to the degree that she recycled.  Our school at first didn’t have a lot of recycling, so she would lug home glass bottles instead of just throwing them away.

Our campus, however, did have paper recycling.  Now I had never lived in a place that had paper recycling, but I quickly learned to start doing this after my roommate gave me a sad look when I nearly threw away a piece of paper.

We had a brown paper bag (of course) for our recycling every week.  Now, the guy I was dating at the time thought that recycling was silly, and was especially amused by my roommate’s devotion to it.

We were all hanging out in our dorm room that night, when the guy in question decided to grab the bag of paper to be recycled and took off towards the trash room.

My roommate took off after him.  Naturally, I took off after her.

When I arrived at the scene, I could hear the guy I was dating inside the trash room, yelling that he was going to throw the paper away.  My roommate was trying to pull open the door (he was holding it from the inside).  Then she said perhaps the funniest thing I ever heard her say, in the most desperate voice,

“Don’t take the recycling! Take me instead!”

At that point we were all laughing so hard the door opened and she got her brown paper bag of paper back.  No one ever tried to steal her paper again.

Recycling-Friendly Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 pork loin chop
  • 1/2 oz smoked gouda (or whatever other cheese you have on hand- about half a slice works)
  • 3-4 slices granny smith apple (you can also use peaches, pears, or plums- nearly anything in your fridge!)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In each pork chop, using a paring knife to cut a pocket in your pork chop- insert the knife into the middle and then cut all the way to the edges but not through.
  3. Stuff pork chops with fruit first, and then stuff cheese on top of fruit.  If needed, use toothpicks to close pocket. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top.
  4. Heat an oven-safe frying pan (I prefer cast iron) over high heat, then reduce to medium.
  5. Place pork chops into the pan, cheese side down. Sear for 2 minutes.  Season uncooked side with salt and pepper.
  6. Flip pork chops (using a fork works well) and seat for another 2 minutes.
  7. Place pork chops and pan in oven for 20-25 minutes or until pork is cooked through and fruit has softened (20 minutes for thinner pork chops, 25 minutes for thicker chops).

Talking and Sandwiches

Some people talk.  Some people talk a lot.  And other people talk at inappropriate times.

A truly memorable experience, and not in a good way, was the Detailed Talker.

This guy had a running commentary to everything he did the second he started kissing you.  “Oh baby [and to start, I HATE being called baby], I’m going to do this to you now.  And then I’m going to do this.  And after that this is going to happen. I’m going to treat you so right because I’m so awesome at all of this.”

During this one-sided conversation, where I was told how great this guy thought he was at the things he was doing and about to do, all I could think was “SHUT. UP.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, some talking is good, but TOO MUCH talking makes me want to scream. And not in a good way. Plus it’s great that you have self-confidence in what you do, but let ME tell you if it’s good- I don’t want you to tell me it’s going to be good (which even more disappointingly, it wasn’t).

Do I even need to say that it only took one detailed talking experience for me to know there wouldn’t be another?

Keep Them Quiet Tomato-Turkey Panini

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 tbsp light olive-oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 regular Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices turkey breast
  • 4 slices french bread
  • 1 oz mozzarella, shredded (optional)
  • Cooking spray (preferably olive oil in a spray bottle)

How-to

  1. Mix together mayonnaise, parmesan, garlic powder, parsley, and pepper and spread on bread.
  2. On top of the cheese mixture, place 2 slices turkey breast and half of the tomato slices. Top with half of the mozzarella and the other piece of bread. Repeat for the other sandwich.
  3. Spray each sandwich on both sides with a quick squirt of cooking spray (I prefer olive oil in a spray bottle but feel free to use whatever you have)
  4. Place both sandwiches in a preheated panini maker or a fry pan over medium heat. If using a fry pan, start with the tomato side down.  Cook until the bread is golden brown (normally 3-5 minutes in a panini maker, or 2-3 minutes per side on a fry pan).  For the fry-pan version, weigh down the sandwiches with another pan topped with a can of vegetables to achieve a more panini-style sandwich.

Swimming in Potatoes

You can tell a lot about a guy by his taste in food.  During one first date, I could tell there wasn’t going to be a second.

I had met a guy who was a former state-champion swimmer and agreed to go out to dinner.  To start, we went to a Ruby Tuesday.  I’m not saying anything bad about the restaurant, but it’s not exactly what I would picture for first-date material, especially when you take into mind the conversation that follows.

Ordering food was a disaster.  I couldn’t tell you what I ordered for my main dish, but I do remember it came with a side of potatoes.  Now, when it comes to my heritage, I’m a European mutt, which means I love potatoes cooked practically any way (it’s rare for me to meet a potato I don’t like).

Guy: “You’re really going to eat potatoes?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

Guy: “Potatoes have too many calories.  I can’t keep this swimmer’s body by eating those.  Why don’t you order a salad like me?  It’s better for your waistline.”

Now, there are rules that guys should follow, especially on a first date.  First, never critique my food choices. And second, don’t mention your weight or mine.

Needless to say there was no second date.

Safe for Swimmers Potato Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1lb Yukon Gold potatoes, washed (I’ve also used a mix of regular and sweet potatoes)
  • 6 oz grated cheese (I used a low-fat Irish Cheddar from Trader Joe’s that I grated myself)
  • 1/3 c milk (I used 1/2 %)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice potatoes thinly and shred cheese, if needed.  I tend to leave the skin on because I think it makes for a prettier presentation, but feel free to peel if desired (and definitely peel sweet potatoes if you’re using a mix).
  3. Coat 8×8 in glass baking dish with cooking spray (makes for easier clean-up).
  4. Layer 1/3 potatoes into the dish and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (think a light sprinkle).  Reserve 1 oz (a small handful) of cheese, then divide in half.  Sprinkle half the cheese onto the first layer of potatoes.
  5. Layer the second third of potatoes into the dish, season again with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and again top with the cheese.
  6. Layer the final layer of potatoes on top of the dish and pour on the milk.  Top with the reserved small handful of cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the dish is bubbly with golden cheese on top.