Devils and Black Pepper Strawberry Jam

You really never do know what is about to come out of someone’s mouth.

I was on a consult month and had just gotten a new patient. Now, I will admit that the feisty patients are some of my favorites- they really break up the day and are by far the most memorable.

This lady was FEISTY. I walked in and was immediately informed that she was doing things her way (as she always had, thank you very much). She also had an opinion on pretty much everyone.

Including, when we came back to formally round, my medical student.

At this point in time, I had a medical student with a very full beard. Which he liked to stroke as a nervous habit when he wasn’t talking.

That was what my patient picked up on immediately.

Attending: So, my dear, we would recommend…

Patient (interrupting): Oh, you a kinky devil, aren’t you?

Attending (shocked): Excuse me???

Patient (pointing at my medical student): You there, with the beard. You a kinky devil. You like stroking that beard. Man, you KINKY. You are so KINKY. STROKE that beard.

Medical student (shocked, but still nervously stroking his beard): Uhm, I don’t quite know what to say…

Patient (knowingly): Oh, you don’t need to say anything, you kinky devil.

Needless to say, we didn’t make him see that patient on a daily basis.

Devilish Strawberry and Black Pepper Jam

Black Pepper Strawberry Jam

for the spicy side in you

Ingredients

  • 4 c strawberries, hulled and mashed (I used about 2 packages of fresh strawberries)
  • 7 c white sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground

How-to

  1. Prepare water bath canner with eight washed pint jars, rings, and lids.
  2. In your largest pot, mix together strawberries and sugar.
  3. Place strawberries and sugar over high heat and bring to a rolling boil (a boil you can’t stir down), stirring often (this easily can boil over the edge, so don’t walk away).
  4. Add liquid pectin all at once (it helps to cut the top off and have the container waiting upright in a drinking glass).
  5. Bring jam back to a rolling boil.
  6. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then turn off heat. Stir in black pepper. Add more to taste, if desired.
  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.
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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

ICUs and Mini Tacos

Some behavior is hospital appropriate. Other behavior is not.

When you’re in the hospital, I expect you to be physically sick. You’re coughing. You’re vomiting, You’re in a ton of pain. You’re having high fevers. You’re having a heart attack. You’re undergoing surgery. The list goes on and on for what symptoms I’m expecting you to have when you present as a patient on a non-psychiatric floor.

And as I said, there are some things I don’t expect you to do.

We had a younger guy admitted to the ICU back when I was in medical school. Now, most ICUs (or intensive care units, for the non-medical peeps out there) are for the very sickest patients. They’re about the least private place in the hospital, with many of them (including the one at our hospital) have entirely glass walls, so that you can always see into the room.

Which didn’t stop this particular patient. When he first was admitted, he kept leering at most of the female doctors and nurses. We all just thought he was a bit of a creep, but we certainly didn’t expect what happened next.

We were about to start rounding in the morning when one of our residents ran into the workroom.

Resident: Oh my god! Ewww! Yuck!!! Why would you do that???

Rest of the Medical Staff: What? What happened?

Resident: Mister So-and-So was jacking off when I walked into the room! And he didn’t stop! I had to bring someone else in there to tell him it wasn’t appropriate! Thank god I couldn’t see anything!

Needless to say, rounds that morning included lecturing the patient on keeping it in pants (or in his case, under his hospital gown).

Party Appropriate Mini Pork Tacos

Mini Pulled Pork Tacosit’s always appropriate to whip these out

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1 c black bean and corn salsa
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 onion, diced into small pieces
  • 24 wonton wrappers (square and circular both work)
  • 1 c shredded 2% mexican cheese blend
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, black olives, lettuce, diced tomatoes

How-to

  1. In a slow cooker, mix together salsa, garlic, jalapeno, and onion. Add in pork.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours. Shred pork and add back to salsa mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Place wonton wrappers into a mini muffin tin. (If you don’t want to use the pork, start at this step with 1 lb cooked meat, warmed, or 1 can black beans, also heated.)
  5. Evenly divide meat between the wonton wrappers.
  6. Evenly divide cheese between wonton wrappers.
  7. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted and wonton wrappers are beginning to brown.
  8. Remove from mini muffin tin and serve. Allow guests to put on their own toppings!

Perfect for your Superbowl party!

P.S. Do you want a yummy box of treats hand delivered to your door each week? Using this link (http://www.graze.com/us/p/QPKLN96), you can try Graze and your first box is even free! They’ll deliver a box of healthy snacks to your door each week (your other boxes are just $5 each, and that includes shipping, plus you can cancel at any time!). And no, I’m not being sponsored by Graze- I just thought it was a fabulous opportunity and wanted to share it with my readers!

Holiday Music and Mojito Jelly

I don’t care if you think someone is old- you never say it to their face.

It was last year and I was doing some holiday shopping in my favorite shoe department. Now, I’m a big fan of holiday music. And the holidays in genera. I do at least wait to start playing holiday music until after Thanksgiving, but my tree might go up beforehand (but my excuse is that I work too much and sometimes that’s the only time I have to set everything up).

So here I was, waiting in line, when one of my favorite Christmas songs came on- “This Christmas” by 98 degrees.

In front of me in line were a preteen girl and her mother.

Preteen: Who is this?

Me (attempting to be helpful): It’s 98 Degrees. I remember buying this album when it came out.

Preteen(in a shocked voice): God, you must be OLD.

I stood there looking dumbfounded. I should probably also tell you that I’m 26 now and definitely not old, not even to a preteen. At least, I didn’t think I was.

Preteen’s Mother (appalled): Honey, you NEVER tell anyone that they’re old! Especially a woman! She’s younger than me!! Never! Apologise now!

Preteen (in a blase voice): Sorry, I guess.

Let me tell you, that was an awkward wait in line until we finally all checked out.

P.S. My grandfather has a rule that you can never call someone old unless they are at least 5 years older than his current age, and since he’s currently in his mid 80s, that means you’re not old until you’re in your 90s. Otherwise, you’re just “older.”

Respect Your Elders Mojito Jelly

Mojito Jelly

I may not be old, but I’m old enough to drink legally

Ingredients

  • 2 c mint
  • 7 c water
  • 1 c light rum
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • 4 c white sugar
  • 1 c lime juice
  • Green food coloring

How-to

  1. Prep water bath canner and 8 pint jars with lids and rings (you might not need this many, but it’s always best to be prepared!).
  2. Crush mint leaves to release juices (bring out your mixed drink supplies or just use the end of a wooden spoon).
  3. Add mint leaves, water, and light rum to large pot. Bring to a boil and let cook until liquid has reduced to four cups (so half).
  4. Turn off heat. Using a skimmer, remove the mint leaves from the liquid. Add 2-3 drops green food coloring if desired.
  5. Add pectin and stir until dissolved.
  6. Add sugar and lime juice. Bring back to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Ladle jelly into hot jars. Wipe off tops and place on lids. Place into water bath canner and place in jars. Bring water back to a boil (make sure the bubbles are coming from the bottom of the pot and not from the jars themself releasing air). Process for 5 minutes.
  8. Let stand for 12-24 hours or until jelly sets.

This makes an excellent Christmas gift!

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.

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!