Ducking for Steak

Sometimes it’s good to duck. Other times, it’s not.

Back in college, the guy I was dating and one of our friends used to argue over who could land a better punch.  Apparently this was big bragging rights. Hockey player versus farm boy, city boy versus country boy, you get the idea.

That meant that they would try to punch each other randomly, and it also was a big deal if you were able to duck and miss it.

One time, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We were in, of all places, an elevator. I was standing next to the wall, next to my friend, with the guy I was dating on the other side.  The guy I was dating decided that this was the perfect opportunity to slug the mutual friend in the shoulder.

Now, I should take a quick break and mention that these two boys were approximately six feet, and I, on a good day, am 5 feet and 2.5 inches.

You can probably see where this is going. Guy I was dating let the fist fly, mutual friend ducked, and the fist instead connected with my head and slammed it into the elevator wall.

The best part was that, instead of apologizing, the guy I was dating decided to yell at the mutual friend for ducking and “making” him punch me in the head.

Needless to say, the punching game ended after that.

No Beatings Required Marinated Flank Steak

Ingredients

  • 1 flank steak, approximately 1 inch thick (if using thinner, see note below)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c red wine
  • 1/4 c worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp spicy steak seasoning (like McCormick’s)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Mix together garlic, red wine, worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, and steak seasoning in a large bowl or baking dish (preferably glass or plastic).
  2. Prick both sides of the flank steak with a fork, and soak in marinade at room temperature for at least 15 minutes per side. Occasionally baste top side with marinade.  If desired, soak in a ziplock bag overnight for an extra-tender steak.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place an oven-safe pan (preferably cast iron) over high heat to get hot.
  4. Remove steak from marinade and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn burner to medium and sear steak on each side for 2 minutes.
  6. Place pan with steak into oven and cook for approximately 6 minutes for medium rare.
  7. Removed steak from oven and pan and let rest for approximately 10-15 minutes before cutting against the grain.

Note: if you are using a thinner steak, sear for only 1 minute per side and bake for only 4-5 minutes for medium rare.

Note #2: feel free to eat on its own, with mushroom sauce, topped with goat cheese and my cranberry sauce, or sliced thin on sandwiches or tacos!

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Imaginary Friends and Cookies

I had a very active imagination as a child. My family went along with it.

My favorite television show was “Pound Puppies.” I had a few of the stuffed animals (honestly, I found one in the closet a few years ago and it looks like an early beanie baby).

However, Cooler the dog was also my best imaginary friend.

My family had been camping for a week and we had just packed up our entire campsite. We were all in the car, waiting to leave, when I told my father, “Daddy, we can’t leave yet! Cooler is still outside! We can’t leave without him!”

My father, bless his heart, then got out of the car, opened the door, and whistled and yelled for all to hear (and my father does have the reputation of being the loudest person in my family),

Here Cooler, come on boy! Here Cooler Cooler Cooler!

He then enthusiastically clapped and waited by the car door until I told him that Cooler had hopped in safely (and while the rest of my family died of embarrassment while the whole campground looked on).

I only hope that one day I’m that kind of parent.

Kid Approved Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip

a slightly healthier version of your favorite childhood cookie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c white flour
  • 1/2 c whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c quick-cook oats
  • 3/4 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together shortening and sugars, then mix in egg, water, and vanilla.
  3. Add in flours, salt, and baking soda all at once and mix in.
  4. Add in oats, chocolate chips, and cranberries and evenly distribute through the batter (I find it’s best to use your hands for this step).
  5. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until middle of cookies just starts to set (they’ll already look more golden brown because of the whole-wheat flour).

Makes approximately 20 cookies (this recipe easily doubles).

Truckers and Meatloaf

Fact #1: My family was a big believer in long car trips.  We were continually driving back and forth from Michigan and New Jersey, in addition to driving just about anywhere in the state of Michigan.  (You can drive over 600 miles in a straight shot just by driving from the Ohio border to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula…I know this from experience.)

Fact #2: My parents were big believers in not using air conditioning while driving and instead preferred to keep the windows down.

Those two facts were crucial to the following story.

We were stuck on I-80 across Pennsylvania in horrible traffic sometime in July.  And by stuck, I mean that we were parked for hours on what should have been a highway next to a large semi.

My younger brother at the time was unable to say the sound “tr” and instead said “f”, so a word like “trail” would become “fail.”

You can probably see where I am going with this.

My brother was seated on my mother’s lap, and she was trying to amuse him by pointing out things around us.  He then looked at the semi, and yelled, “Look mom, a trucker!  A trucker!”

Except he didn’t say trucker because he said an “f” sound instead of “tr.”

Unfortunately for my parents, the semi truck driver parked next to us also had his windows down, and thus was able to hear loud and clear what he thought my little brother was calling him.

That was the most awkward few hours in traffic ever. However, for once, we did use the air conditioning.

Trucker Friendly Vegetable Turkey Meatloaf

your momma’s meatloaf made healthier

Ingredients

  • 1 large bell pepper, diced into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced into small pieces
  • 1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained very well
  • 1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 3/4 c skim milk
  • 2/3 c dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 package 93/7 ground turkey (normally 19-20 oz)

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set up racks so the top rack is in the middle of the oven and the bottom rack is at the lowest setting.
  2. Mix together everything except the ground turkey in a large bowl.
  3. Add ground turkey and mix well (you’ll probably have to use your hands).
  4. Dump mixture into a large loaf pan (you might need to pack it in so it fits).  I think glass is best but use whatever you have!  Since some juices might spill over the side, make a tray of aluminum foil and place on the bottom rack.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2 hours (place on the top rack directly over your foil tray) until top is golden brown and internal temperature is 160 degrees.  Blot off any fat with paper towels.
  6. Serve with your desired meatloaf toppings (I prefer ketchup) and mashed potatoes!

Horny Old Ladies and Mashed Potatoes

In medicine, you always have some crazy patients.

I was doing my emergency medicine rotation at a private hospital in the Detroit area.  Our patient population was this mix of people with a lot of money and residents of Detroit that didn’t want to go to any of the inner city hospitals.

I picked up the next chart to see that I would be seeing a lady who had been sent to the ED with high blood pressure. I made my way over to her hallway bed- the place was packed, which is normal for night, so the majority of our beds line the hallways.

In taking a history, you run through a number of questions…what brings you here? when did this start? how are you feeling now?

My patient was an African-American woman who was much closer to 100 than she was to 50, decked out in a leopard-print suit and had her red hat lying on the bed next to her. Her daughter, who was much closer to 50, was sitting in the chair next to her. She was a bit hard of hearing, which meant that she answered every question very loudly.

And then, I hit the fated question: “Ma’am, are you in any pain right now?”

Patient (in a loud purr): Oh honey, I have a pain between my legs that only a man or toy can fix.  Unfortunately my husband passed away so I’m stuck resorting to batteries.

Daughter: Oh mom, this nice lady here doesn’t want to know about your sex life. Just answer the question.

I’ll admit two things:

  1. I burst out laughing in the middle of the ED- I just couldn’t help myself. Thankfully they laughed along with me, along with everyone who overheard.
  2. She went home in great health a few hours later.

Satisfying Alternative Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs small red-skin potatoes (about half a 5 lb bag), not peeled and chopped into small pieces (feel free to use whatever potato you have on hand- I just prefer red skin or yukon gold)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (can use more if you like)
  • 2 tbsp light butter
  • 1/3 c skim milk
  • 1/4 c fat-free sour cream
  • 1/4 c fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp chives, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Place potatoes into a 2 qt saucepan and cover with cold salted (normally 1/2 tsp) water. Cover and place over medium heat. Remove cover when boiling and continue for approximately 15-20 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.
  2. Drain potatoes (do not rinse), add butter and garlic to pan, and cover for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Mash potatoes, butter, and garlic together.  (Don’t have a potato masher? Me either!  I always use a whisk- my grandfather’s trick.)
  4. Stir in skim milk, sour cream, greek yogurt, and garlic powder and continue mashing until potatoes reach your desired consistency (feel free to add more skim milk if necessary).
  5. Add chives and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6 normal adults or 3 of Irish-Polish heritage 😉

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).

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.

Hoarding and Potatoes

My kindergarten teacher set me up for a lifetime of hoarding.  Thankfully I got over it.

My teacher was a wonderful woman who imparted her green-living choices to a bunch of five year olds (though this was a long time before we even started talking about the “green revolution”).  She told us that we could always find a second use for something.

I took that a bit too far to heart by then never throwing anything away.  My closet was a sea of should-be-garbage (or at least recycling) where you actually couldn’t find anything.  And that slowly extended into my room.

Like many kids, my idea of cleaning as a child was to throw everything on my floor into my closet, which wasn’t going to help my problem.  I also didn’t have a huge closet, which means that we eventually reached the point where I couldn’t open it.

I was in 7th grade when my best friend Brittany made the mistake of opening my closet.  I thankfully was standing next to her, and thus we were able to save her from being crushed when everything wanted to tumble out out the closet (it took both of us combined to slam the door in time).  However, it took every pound  in our scrawny 13 year old bodies to get that door closed, and then a chair shoved under the handle to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, my mother heard the crash of trash against the door (it had even scared my deaf dog out of my room, after all), saw the chair wedged precariously under a doorknob, and then made me spend the rest of that remaining weekend cleaning my closet.

It took the entire weekend, from 9am Saturday morning until 9pm on Sunday night.  I threw away or recycled 10 garbage bags full of stuff that I had managed to cram into a very, very small closet.  I discovered clothing that hadn’t fit since I was 5, a homework assigned I lost and had to redo from 5th grade, and a library book that I had been continually renewing for a year because I told myself I would eventually find it.  There were shoes in shoeboxes I had only worn once and then forgotten about. It was like opening up one of those boxes that cities bury and dig up in 10 years, except all mine contained was a lot of junk (plus some nice things) that should have been thrown away years ago…oops.

I’ve at least now learned that recycling and Craigslist means that someone else can use something for a second time (and it’s used a lot faster than I would keeping it in my closet)…which is pretty helpful considering I have to move for the first time in 4 years in less than 6 months and I don’t need to drag everything across the country.

Reduce the Guilt Au Gratin Potatoes

Yes, these are those potatoes everyone brought to potlucks back when this story happened…and they’re still delicious (and I made them slightly healthier)

Ingredients

  • 2lb frozen diced hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c fat-free sour cream
  • 8 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted (I tried eliminating this completely but it doesn’t taste the same)
  • 1 c fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth (you can also swap in vegetable broth or fat-free milk, but I think chicken broth has the best flavor)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together all of the ingredients and dump into a 9×13 in baking dish.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and the top is golden brown.

As you know, this makes a LOT of servings (and pairs perfectly with ham or potlucks)!