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.

Old Men and Cornish Hens

Few people are as old-fashioned as old men.

I was flying across the country to give a talk. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really anywhere that I could fly direct to, and thus I was stuck with a connecting flight on the way there and on the way back (and I was flying in and out on the same day).

Now, I’m normally a person who loves flying. I can fall asleep sitting in the middle seat between two rather large people occupying my armrests. I joke that the engines can rock me to sleep. I can nap through turbulence, babies crying, and bratty children kicking my seat for hours.

That day was just not my day.

I went to get my seat for my first flight, where I discovered that I was next to an older gentleman.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love little old men. They remind me of my grandfather and my great-uncle and I just can’t help but want to have them tell me stories and hope they’ll treat me like their granddaughter for the foreseeable future (I was a daddy’s and a grampa’s girl, after all). I can listen to old war stories for hours, cry with them as they remember meeting their wives, and rejoice in hearing of first becoming a grandparent.

Yes, I do realize that it’s like I’m an old person already. But that’s besides the point for this encounter.

Older Guy (noticing my work bag): So you’re in medicine?

Me: Yup, I’ll be a doctor next Spring. I’m in med school now.

Older Guy: You do realize that you won’t be a success in life until you have a ring on your finger.

I politely declined further conversation for the rest of my flight. And on to flight #2…with another older guy next to me.

Older Gentleman #2: You’re a doctor? And you’re not married? Is there something wrong with you or something?

Again, I made the wise decision to decline further conversation. Then I gave my talk, boarded ANOTHER plane, and again found myself sitting next to an older gent…

Old Guy #3: In my day, women didn’t work, they got married. You’re going to be a horrible mother if some guy ever wants to married you.

This really was old after the first flight. But the hits just kept coming with my fourth and final flight of the day.

And another, final, old man was awaiting me.

Old Gent #4: You do realize that no matter how successful you might be, you’re always going to be a failure until you’re married, right?

Obviously, I need to sit next to grandmothers on planes instead.

Put a Ring on It Stuffed Cornish Hens

Stuffed Cornish Henin case I need to offer more than the doctor card

Ingredients (per person)

  • 1 cornish game hen, thawed
  • 1 c of your favorite stuffing (my recipe to follow in the next post!)
  • Olive oil spray (mine is just in a spray bottle since it’s better for you than the store-bought version!)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika

Tools

  • Aluminum foil
  • Roasting rack (not totally necessary, but essential if you want to have crispy skin all the way around!)

How-to

  1. Make your stuffing (as I said, my recipe to follow in my next post)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Wash and dry cornish hens. If you don’t dry them (use a paper towel!!!), you won’t get the crispy skin (which we all know is the best part).
  4. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika onto skin of cornish hens.
  5. Stuff bird with the stuffing (if you don’t use it to stuff something, it’s called dressing…you didn’t dare call it otherwise in my house growing up).
  6. Place bird(s) on a roasting rack (also essential to having crispy skin all over the bird).  Be sure to tuck in the wings so they don’t stick out and burn. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove foil and spray bird(s) with olive oil.
  8. Return to oven (without foil) and roast for an additional 30-40 minutes, when juices should run clear when you poke the birds with a knife (use a meat thermometer to be sure as this is poultry! Remember, you will see at least 5-10 degrees of carryover cooking after you remove from the oven).
  9. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Psychiatrists and Spaghetti Sauce

There are things that you just don’t want someone to say to you.

While on my Psychiatry rotation, we had two weeks of various outpatient clinics. Now, in my opinion, psychiatrists are some of the most fun doctors out there. They tend to have some of the best senses of humor and they’re always having a great time.

However, my two most awkward moments in medical school did come on behalf of the psychiatry department (and yes, I promise the next story will follow).

So here I was, sitting in addiction clinic. We had a patient end up cancelling, and that meant we had about 45 minutes to chat. We had been talking about a number of issues normally- his new son, my research, the psychiatry curriculum in medical school- and then things took a turn for the worst.

Doctor: So, why aren’t you engaged?

Me (shocked and then attempting to be tactful): Well, I’m single, so that makes it a bit hard to be engaged.

Doctor (in an understanding, reassuring tone): It’s okay, I’m sure you’ll be married by the time you’re 40. And you still should be pretty by then, too.

He then moved on to some other topic, having no idea how insulting that was.

I saw this doctor last week at a conference and he pulled me aside to tell me how I have a brilliant mind. And no, I still haven’t forgiven him.

Get a Husband Tomato Sauce

maybe I should have started making this a while ago…

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs roma tomatoes, quartered
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • Garlic salt

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place tomatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1.5 hours, checking about every 20-30 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning.
  2. Place tomatoes in a food processor or blender and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.
  3. In a large pot, saute onion in 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until it just starts to become translucent. Add in garlic and saute for an additional minute.
  4. Add in tomatoes, red wine, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes while flavors blend. Your home will smell amazing and neighbors might come knocking at your door.
  5. Use garlic salt and pepper to taste.

P.S. My apologies for being gone so long! It’s a bit difficult to post without the internet or a kitchen!

Plays and Chicken

I can’t wait to be old. Then I can say whatever I want.

My medical school is known for a number of crazy traditions. One of them is the 2.5 hour long musical that we write, produce, and star in every year. This is far more involved than any high school production I ever did…and my high school theater group was not one to half-ass a production.

As with every tradition, this musical is made up of more traditions. The musical always features the “babe dance” and the “stud dance,” which feature the about-to-graduate girls and guys, with the guys always coming up with clever ways to show their muscles and take off all of their clothes so they are dancing in their underwear. There are also roles that appear every year…

The Giant Penis and the Giant Vagina (and, a more recent tradition…the Giant Anus…which is really more of a Butt, to be honest).

These obviously come with huge, handmade (honestly, I wonder whose mother made these, because they are quite hideous) puffy, life-sized costumes. You can see the actor’s face, as they have holes strategically cut out for that.

Now, before I get any further, I should take a moment to say that these are actually quite coveted roles- they always have a lot of lines and it’s some of the most over-the-top acting in the whole show.

My very first year of medical school, I got the role of the Giant Vagina, with some uproar (it’s normally a fourth year female going into gynecology…and that student was not the most happy that she didn’t get the part). My parents decided to come to the play, and I did have to warn them ahead of time that I would be wearing a huge, ugly vagina costume.

My parents took it quite well, but the unexpected call came from my grandfather.

Grampa: Hey honey.

Me: Hey Grampa!

Grampa: So I hear you’re going to play a huge vag?

I managed to eventually choke out a “yes” after I finally recovered from shock.

Costume Inspired Oven Beer Can Chicken

I don’t think I need any more explanation

Ingredients

  • 6 oz beer or some other liquid (soda works well, too)
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using an empty soda or beer can, pour in your liquid of choice. Or, open a new can of your beverage of choice and drink half.
  3. Mix together butter, rosemary, paprika, garlic, and hot sauce.
  4. Using your fingers, make pockets between the skin and the meat of the chicken. Smear the butter mixture in these pockets. Try to cover as much of the chicken as you can.
  5. Spray the outside of the skin with the olive oil spray and sprinkle on the garlic salt and pepper.
  6. In an 8×8 in baking dish, place the can with the liquid in the center. Place the open end of the chicken over the can and use the drumsticks to almost create a tripod to stabilize the chicken.
  7. Place into the oven and roast for 1 hr 45 minutes to 2 hours or until juices run clear. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before removing from can and carving.

Alter Boys and Roasted Garlic

For some boys, the attention span does not last long.

I was in 6th grade at the time. Now, the middle school years were pretty rough. I had glasses, braces, and acne. I have a wonderful picture of me in 4th grade, when is when the ugly process started, that people don’t think is me, if that tells you anything.

Anyway, I was at the awkward age of 12. I was at some family function (I think it possibly was an uncle getting remarried, but that’s my best guess) that involved us going to church.

Now, on top of that gorgeous picture I just painted of myself, to this event I was wearing an unfortunate outfit. My mother used to make me a dress every year for Easter and Christmas to wear. Now, my mother was quite a good seamstress, but she always insisted on making the dresses have puffy sleeves.

Back when I was in middle school, I HATED puffy sleeves. HATED THEM.

So here I was, in church with my family, decked out in a floral print dress with puffy sleeves, with braces and glasses that took up half my face (the acne wasn’t as bad as normal that day). We’re in the middle of mass, and we’re at the part where everyone shakes hands and says “peace be with you,” for those non-raised-Catholic folks.

In this particular church, the priest and alter boys would walk around and participate. One of the alter boys made a beeline towards us, shook my hand, and then said, “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

I was flabbergasted and flattered, since obviously it wasn’t true. However, he then turned to my cousin who was standing next to me, and said, “You’re even more beautiful than your cousin.”

Obviously he hadn’t learned too much about manners as an alter boy.

Saintly Roasted Garlic

this garlic has more manners than some alter boys

Ingredients

  • Whole head roasted garlic (you can roast multiple at a time)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut off tops of whole bulbs of garlic to expose the tops of the cloves.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast in oven until soft for 35 minutes.
  5. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Use in sauces or just squeeze out a clove and spread onto a piece of good bread…my favorite!

Revenge, Glitter, and Asparagus with Eggs

Revenge doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to.

Back in high school, once of my longtime guy friends (we’re talking friends since kindergarten sort of thing) decided that we were meant to be together and asked me to be his girlfriend (yup, we jumped straight to that without even a first date).

I turned him down because I didn’t want to ruin the friendship (and I wasn’t interested in him in that way). Therefore, he decided to “get revenge” by asking one of my “friends” to an upcoming high school dance.

To start, I actually wasn’t friends with this girl. We hung out in the same group of friends, but personally I found her rather annoying. Victory #1 for me, with more to follow.

They both bragged the entire month about how they were going to the dance together. And then, the fateful day arrived.

The girl had chosen a glittery silver floor-length dress (which would have blended into her skin- she had one of those practically transparent complexions- in pictures if the glitter hadn’t caught the flash). Then they chose to grind it out (and sloppily make out- it was the first of such incidents for both of them) on the dance floor before getting their official dance pictures taken.

A week later, I walked up to this girl wailing over her dance pictures with her new boyfriend. Without a word, she passed the pictures to me.

It’s really recommended that, if do you choose to wear a dress with glitter, that you get your pictures first. Otherwise, you’ll end up with their situation. Remember how I said the glitter caught the camera flash?  Well, the guy had a large area of glitter on his suit. It was unfortunately all centered around his crotch, since they had made the unwise decision to dance before taking their pictures.

Yup, his revenge plan TOTALLY worked.

Stay Classy Asparagus and Eggs

the easiest, fanciest-looking dinner you’ll make

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb asparagus per person
  • 2-3 eggs per person
  • Olive oil spray (I use a spray bottle with olive oil in it)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray cookie sheet with olive oil.
  3. Break off woody ends of the asparagus and line up on the pan. Spray with some additional olive oil (you don’t need too much) and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Roast for 6-8 minutes until bright green (I use 6 minutes for thin spears and 8 minutes for thicker spears).
  5. Remove tray from oven. Crack one egg in a separate bowl and carefully pour onto a section of asparagus spears. Repeat with additional eggs. Sprinkle with some additional pepper and salt.
  6. Return to oven and roast for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until the whites have set (the eggs will end up having the consistency of a poached egg).  If you like your egg yolks harder, cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  7. Use a spatula to remove from the pan. If desired, top with a drizzle of hollandaise sauce.

Barbie Bungee Jumping and Tomatoes

Summers have always been my favorite time of year.

Granted, I was rarely home during summers as a kid (we were either in Jersey or on a camping/road trip- I’ve been to 45 states and we drove to most of them…). However, whenever I was home, I was normally joined at the hip with my best friend, who lived on the other side of the street plus one house away.

One day, she came up with a winning game- Barbie Bungee Jumping. We would tie a Barbie to a piece of yarn and throw her down the laundry chute, only to jerk the string at the end so she bounced back up.

I should probably note that neither one of us played with Barbies. Instead, we terrorized her younger half sister (I don’t know why she was always the target, but she was) and stole her Barbies instead.

I then came up with an even better addition- we should head over to my parents’ house to do this, since my parents had a second story porch deck- that way we could watch Barbie fall!

We then packed up the Barbies and the yarn and headed over to my house, grabbed my two younger brothers (who were often in on terrorizing her younger sister, too), and made multiple Barbies bungee jump for the next hour. I’m not sure why it was so enthralling to throw a Barbie over the porch railing and jerk the string up so she didn’t hit the ground, but it was. (I do promise that Barbies are the only thing that I have thrown with a chance of injury.)

A few days later, her sister noted that one of her Barbies had a leg that no longer seemed to fit quite right…and another with a broken beaded outfit.

There might have been some issues with the yarn breaking or coming untied mid-jump, causing Barbies to crash onto my neighbors’ driveway, but you never heard that from me. ;)

No Injury Required Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I never ate tomatoes as a kid until my best friend made me eat them in middle school…raw with TONS of salt

Ingredients

  • 1 container grape tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano

How-to

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the  tomatoes and garlic cloves into an 8×8 in baking dish. Spray with olive oil, then toss with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of oregano.
  3. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes and garlic are nice and soft.

Serve as a side dish. Toss with pasta and chicken for an easy meal. Mix with ciligine mozzarella and some fresh basil for a different take on caprese salad.

Gardens and Brussels Sprouts

I wasn’t your average kid. Then again, you probably assumed that already.

Unlike most kids my age, I love vegetables (except tomatoes, weirdly enough). My parents had a garden behind the garage, and I would sneak out there and munch away. I was a regular rabbit.

According to my mom, I was about 2 years old at the time and it was the middle of summer. I was decked out in my favorite Tweety Bird bathing suit since I had just been having a grand ol’ time in the kiddie pool. I then had sneaked out to the garden.

My mother called my name to take a walk around the block to visit some neighbors, and I appeared by the side door with a huge handful of green beans. We then went on our visit (well, more like my mom talked to my neighbors while I ran around on front yards) and she couldn’t figure out how I constantly appeared to be eating green beans….the handful should have run out ages ago.

It wasn’t until we were heading back to the house that my mother noticed I looked a bit…different. Specifically, the front of my bathing suit looked pretty lumpy.

Mom: “Megan, where on earth are you getting all of these green beans?”

I proudly pulled forward the front of my bathing suit, which revealed my stash of practically a bushel of green beans that I had ever so cleverly decided to pack. AND a delightful rash all over my belly to go along with it (really, they should have seen my grass allergy coming YEARS ago).

While my parents were happy I liked vegetables, they did finally decide that they might need to watch me in the garden from now on.

Disappearing Roasted Brussels Sprouts

unfortunately these are NOT never-ending

Ingredients

  • 1 bag fresh brussels sprouts (I think it’s normally a 1-2 lb bag- approximately $2.99 when not on sale)
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut brussels sprouts in half. Remove any wilted or old outer leaves. Toss into an 8x8in glass baking dish (or whatever else you happen to have on hand).
  3. Coat liberally with olive oil spray.
  4. Salt and pepper liberally and dust with garlic powder.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until soft and golden brown on the outer leaves. You might need to spray additional times with olive oil so they don’t burn (I normally check every 10 minutes or so to make sure that doesn’t happen).

Kisses and Peppers

I had a friend that is a really attractive guy who on the surface appears like the total ideal package.

Then I discovered a pretty significant hole in the tapestry…

…he kissed like a bird.  Specifically, imagine making out with a parrot.

We had both gone out with a group of people, one thing led to another, and next thing you know we’re making out.  I’ve had some awkward kissers in the past (I’ll tell those stories later), but this wins, hands down, for being the absolute worst I’ve ever experience.  Ever.  It felt like I was being attacked by a parrot’s beak over and over again and you couldn’t escape from it.

I quickly came up with some excuse to end the misery, but to this day I still shudder a bit inside whenever he pops up on my facebook news feed.

Sweeter than a Kiss Roasted Peppers

I think that any vegetable is made better by roasting it in the oven.  These are great as a side dish or they really help dress up leftovers- I’ll chop them up, add in some leftover chicken or seafood, and mix with rice or pasta for a quick and healthy meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet baby peppers (normally sold in 1-2 lb packages for ~$3 per lb)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Clean peppers with a damp paper towel and place in a shallow roasting dish (preferably one with a rack)
  3. Drizzle olive oil onto peppers, followed by freshly grated pepper and a sprinkling of garlic salt.
  4. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until the peppers give to touch and the skin looks slightly wrinkly.