Block Parties, Part 2, and Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

When one decides to make a scene, it’s best to do it in front of the neighbors.

It was another epic neighborhood block party (and this time, one without any performances on my part). This time, we had all brought out the roller blades (can’t you tell this happened in the 90s?) to play a game of roller hockey. For once, it was quite easy- the street had JUST been redone, so every kid on the block was out testing out the smooth pavement and relishing the lack of potholes or cracks.

Including the “big” kids.

My neighbor had played ice hockey back in the day, and wasn’t going to let being in his late 30s stop him from playing street hockey with people a third of his age. It also wasn’t going to stop him from showing off how many tricks he could do on wheels.

It was at that moment, watching him skate backwards, that I suddenly screamed, “MIKE! STOP!!! OR TURN AROUND!!!!!”

He didn’t listen. And went straight into my neighbor’s glass picnic table, which they had been ever-so-kind to bring out into the street for the purposes of eating and drinking.

My neighbor emerged, drenched in beverages, from the table which was now cracked and flipped entirely over, and enduring the steely grey eyes of the owner of the table which never quite sat evenly again.

Obviously, we never let him live that moment down. And, according to my parents, even though Mike has moved from the neighborhood, we still can’t play hockey during block parties.

No Tricks Required Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

Sweet Tortilla Chips

these chips are able to show off themselves, no talent required

Ingredients

  • 12 flour tortillas
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Butter flavored cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut tortillas into eight triangles.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Place tortillas onto a large cookie sheet, making sure not to overlap (you will need to do this in batches).
  5. Spray tortilla triangles with cooking spray, then sprinkle on sugar-spice mixture.
  6. Bake 7-9 minutes or until light brown.
  7. Eat on their own or serve with fruit salsa.

Block Parties, Part 1, and Fruit Salsa

As a kid, you always have dreams. It takes acknowledging those dreams in front of others to make you realize that they might not be the wisest idea.

 My elementary and middle school years were filled with boy bands and girl bands. From New Kids on the Block, to Spice Girls, to Backstreet Boys, I’m pretty sure that my best friend and I bought nearly every CD the day it was released and wore them out listening on repeat.

That also meant that we felt we could create our own girl band. (And yes, I realize that two people forms just a duo, but we weren’t quibbling with the details here, folks.) We spent hours writing our own songs, designing our album cover art, and recording our music using a pair of drumsticks we found to keep the beat.

Naturally, we needed a place to first showcase our talent. Which happened to be the neighborhood block party.

We announced that year that we’d be hosting a talent show. We might have been the only people to sign up for the talent show, but that’s a different story. Decisions were made to submit two pieces- we’d demonstrate our dancing skills to a choreographed rendition of Backstreet Boy’s “Everybody [Backstreet’s Back]” and show off our chops singing a song we wrote ourselves.

Then, on the day of the block party, my friend wisely made the decision to drop out of the singing portion. I chose to go it alone.

I should probably take this moment to say that I am not the strongest dancer (future stories to follow). Nor is my singing voice the best when I’ve been running around screaming at a block party the entire day. And then there was the rather unfortunate fact that our song didn’t make the any sense, and would not sound good even if Adele sang it, much less two pre-teen girls going through puberty.

We danced. I nearly fell. I sang. My voice kept giving out.

The polite clapping I heard after the performance let me know that I should probably come up with another career choice.

Anyone Can Do It Fruit Salsa

Fruit Salsa

you don’t even need talent to make this

Ingredients (feel free to use whatever fruit you have on hand- this is just what I like in mine!)

  • 1 c blackberries, halved
  • 1 c red grapes, halved
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded (if you do this inside a bowl of cold water, you won’t end up looking like a scene from a crime show- just break it apart and the seeds will sink to the bottom)
  • 1 c strawberries, quartered
  • 1 kiwi, cubed
  • 1 plum, cubed
  • 1 mango, pitted and cubed
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Cinnamon tortilla chips or pita chips

How-to

  1. Cut up the fruit so that everything is in similar sized. Divide into two bowls.
  2. Using a potato masher (or a fork), lightly squish half the fruit.
  3. Combine the fruit back together. Sprinkle on the lemon juice. Fold gently.
  4. Refrigerate at least 2 hours (though overnight is better).
  5. Serve with cinnamon tortilla chips, on top of pound cake, et cetera

Emailers and Oven Pancakes

Persistence can be a virtue. Other times, not so much.

Remember the guy with the awkward voice? Yeah, the story didn’t end there.

When we had left off, I knew that I didn’t want to see said gentleman again for a variety of reasons…being late, the quick urge to settle down, and that whole voice that was higher than my niece’s.

It soon because obvious he did not feel the same way.

The next day, I had an email.

“Hi, I had a gr8 time last night! We had tonz in common and your super hot. Can’t wait to see you again! Here’s my phone number, what’s yours? Email back soon pls!”

Yes, the typos above are correct.

I then very politely responded back a few days later that I was busy with work (which I was), that I was not interest (also true) and thus unfortunately I did not think (my word choice as I was attempting to be polite) I would be able to see him again, but I wished him the very best in his continual search on online dating.

And then…

“Hey, R U any less busy with work? Would love to see you again! What’s your phone number?”

This time, I chose not to respond, as I had already said I wasn’t interested.

But the emails kept coming…for weeks.

“Hey, call me sometime!”

“Hey, I’m still interested, have you changed your mind?”

“Hey, just wanted to say hi again! Really would love to see you!”

Two months went by. The emails kept coming. I blocked his emails on the online dating website. I blocked his profile name. He changed his profile name and continued emailing. I blocked that but he just did it again.

Thankfully he continually made me a favorite and didn’t change his profile picture, so I at least was able to block him on a fairly quick basis and slightly decrease the annoyance.

I can’t imagine what he would have done if he had my phone number or last name.

Stay the Course Oven Pancake

002

this is one case where persistence and waiting are okay with me

Ingredients

  •  3 tbsp butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c flour (fluff up flour before measuring)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Fresh fruit
  • Jam or Jelly
  • Powdered sugar

How-t0

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place butter in 10-in oven-safe nonstick frying pan. Place in oven until butter melts (approximately 3-4 minutes).
  3. While butter is melting, beat eggs by hand until they just start to lighten (about 1 minute). Add in milk and beat again until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  5. While whisking eggs, add flour mixture until mixture is smooth.
  6. Once butter has melted, remove pan from oven. Pour batter into center. Place pan back in the oven.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until pancake browns and grows up the side (see picture). DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR FOR FIRST 20 MINUTES (and preferably the first 25). Wait at least 20 minutes to open oven to check and see if the center is set and browning (if you open it earlier, the pancake won’t rise properly).
  8. While baking, heat jam or jelly 30 seconds-1 minute in the microwave until warm. Add in fruit.
  9. When brown, remove pancake from oven. Add fresh fruit and jam/jelly mixture to center. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serves 2

Medicine and Pink Sangria

If you’re going to date me, you at least have to think my job is needed.

I was on a date with another guy from my online dating stint. The first date had gone quite well- met up for coffee and pie, good conversation happened, and then we agreed to a second date. I told amusing stories about my work, and he told funny stories about some of the things he dealt with (he had previously lived in a far more rural area before moving to the big city).

It was on the second date where things went wrong.

We met up at a bar for drinks and were at the point where we started talking about our families.

Date: So my dad works in alternative medicine…my family doesn’t believe in modern medicine.

I might have nearly choked on my beer at that statement.

Me: Nothing? Not one bit?

Date: Nope. No medications ever. We don’t see doctors. The dentist is fine, though. Gotta take care of your teeth.

Me (shocked): You do remember I’m a doctor, right? In particular an anesthesiologist? Where I use drugs all the time to put people to sleep for surgery?

Date: Oh, I thought that maybe you just didn’t use medications. Can’t you use alternative methods for all of that?

Now, don’t get me wrong- I use meditation and deep breathing with my patients all the time. I’m a big proponent But I also give them medications.

Shockingly, I did not see him again.

Alternative Strategies Pink Sangria

in case you want to go ahead and medicate yourself

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle rose wine
  • 1/2 c vodka
  • 1/4 c raspberry liquour
  • 2 lemons, sliced thin
  • 1/2 raspberries or blackberries
  • 2-3 c light pink or raspberry lemonade
  • 1-2 c soda water

How-to

  1. In a large pitcher, pour in rose wine,  vodka, liquour, and lemonade (start with 2 c).
  2. Add lemon slices and berries. Taste (you might need to add additional lemonade).
  3. Place in fridge and let sit overnight.
  4. Before serving, stir and add soda water to achieve however many bubbles you’d prefer. (I normally start with 1 c and go up from there.)

Fireworks and Cobbler

Discovering new allergies is never a fun experience.

Now, I am a person known for having interesting allergies. Pool chemicals make me look like I’m still wearing my bathing suit for hours after I’ve taken it off (if I don’t pre-dose with benadryl and shower immediately afterwards, that is). The adhesive from cardiac monitors made me look like I had lyme disease on my chest and abdomen for a week after surgery. Eating blue cheese can land me in the hospital with my entire GI system waging war. Hyacinths, my grandmother’s favorite flower, at her funeral made me appear to be sobbing uncontrollably for the entire day.

And yet somehow I’m not allergic to the average things. Go figure.

It was the Fourth of July and I was in living in Phoenix at the time. At Tempe Town Lake (which I might add isn’t even a lake at all, but essentially a man-made channel that brings water all around the Phoenix metro area), they would do a 45 minute fireworks show to celebrate our nation.

Since I was only living in Phoenix for 3-4 months in a furnished condo, I didn’t have anything that even mildly resembled a picnic blanket to lie on while watching fireworks. So, my ex and I headed down there, figuring we would just sit on the grass.

When the fireworks started, we realized that lying down on the grass was a better idea. About halfway through the show, I realized that my back was really starting to itch. At first I thought it was maybe just a bug crawling on me (after all, we were lying on the grass), or maybe it just was that the dry grass (come one, this was grass in Phoenix) was just scratching me.

Upon getting home. I went to wash my face in the bathroom. I then, after turning, saw my back and gasped.

I was allergic to grass. My entire back from my head to my toe (beside the parts covered by clothes) was a mass of angry hives that had started to blister.

Needless to say, in summer I’m always wearing sandals unless I’m at the beach. And I always bring a chair or a picnic blanket.

Hive Free Mixed Berry Oatmeal Cookie Cobbler

well, unless you’re my ex…he was allergic to fruit

Ingredients

  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c whole-wheat flour
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 c fresh fruit, or enough to fill up a 9×13 baking dish halfway (I used a container of strawberries and 2-3 pints of blueberries, but feel free to use whatever you’d like…I’ve made this before with cherries, peaches, etc…anything on sale that you can throw in the oven is delicious!!!)
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

How-to

  1. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), cream together the sugar and butter. Add the vanilla and egg. Mix in the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes (but a few hours works fine, too!).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Fill a 9×13 in glass baking dish with fruit (it should come up about halfway). Sprinkle fruit with granulated sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.
  4. Scoop cookie mixture on top of the fresh fruit. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the cookie dough looks lightly browned.
  5. Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes for fruit juices to set and serve.

This is also pretty healthy, too!

 

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).

Religion and Cranberries

It’s the holiday season, which means my apartment smells like peppermint bark and gingerbread.

However, holidays are also about more than food and friends…many of our “traditions” come down to religion and pagan practices.  Which reminds me of my nickname for my first six months of life…

Pagan Megan.

Yes, you have to say it so that “pagan” rhymes with “megan,” which means my first name sounds more like “may-gun” for nickname purposes. (I actually taught a kid at summer camp with that spelling, but that’s another story.)

And who gave me this nickname, you ask?

Oh yeah, the PRIEST at my church, good ol’ Monsignor M.

Like good Catholics, my parents decided to have me baptized.  However, between family schedules and whatnot, it wasn’t “convenient” for this to take place in the spring…or the summer…nope, the date of my baptism was two days shy of my six month birthday.  However, it was convenient to bring their darling screaming infant daughter (my case of colic was so legendary, my now 85-year-old pediatrician still calls me her “little colicky baby”- I was the worst case of colic she has seen to date) to church every week.  Therefore, one plus one does equal two, and as an encouragement for my parents to finally buckle down with the sacraments, Monsignor decided that a winning nickname would be the best way to take advantage of Catholic guilt.

In honor of my nickname, and not to mention the holidays, here is my recipe for cranberry sauce…perfect for serving with turkey, as a topping for steak and goat cheese, or as a sauce for ice cream.

Non-Denominational Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 2/3 c sugar (can add more to taste if cranberries are extra-tart)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus 1/2 c for later
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (secret ingredient!!)

How-to

  1. Rinse cranberries and dump into a nonreactive saucepan (I prefer a larger size, but have made this before with a 2 QT one)
  2. Add the zest and juice from the lemon and orange, sugar, vanilla, and water to the cranberries.
  3. Turn on your burner to medium-high heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes.  The mixture will start to boil and the cranberries will pop, so don’t wear your best light-colored shirt while making this unless you’re aiming for a red-spot look!
  4. When about half the cranberries have popped (this may take longer than 10 minutes, depending on the weather and your elevation), mix 1/2 c cold water with 4 tbsp cornstarch and add to the cranberry mixture.  Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reached your desired thickness (remember it will thicken more as it cools, but you’re aiming for something that does have a consistency of runny gravy).
  5. Turn off the heat, and add 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or more to taste).  DO NOT make this sauce if you don’t have nutmeg, in my opinion…the nutmeg gives it a spiciness that sets it apart from other cranberry sauces!
  6. Let cool for approximately 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm or cold on nearly anything (turkey, chicken, steak, ice cream, crackers, cheese…the list goes on and on!).