Engagements and Irish Beef Stew

Our engagement was almost ruined by the Russians.

We were on a trip to Ireland as a very belated birthday present (we tend to get each other experiences as a gift, and mine was a round trip airfare to Europe). That morning, we had raced through the streets of Galway to make sure that we made our scheduled bus trip to the Cliffs of Moher. I’ll be honest- I sort of thought that something was coming, since he had insisted on bringing his backpack (when I already had a purse that fit everything we would need, including 2 jackets) and was chugging water like a champ.

We started hiking along the Cliffs (which, by the way, some of the path is absolutely terrifying since you’re literally right along the end of a mountain) and fairly soon found what we thought was decently quiet place to sit down.

Then we were joined by a family of Russians. By “family”, I mean about 10 people of assorted ages who were all yelling and cursing at each other. They sat down RIGHT next to us and promptly started a food fight.

You read that right. A food fight on the side of a cliff.

We managed to get up, duck the flying sandwiches, and not fall off the side of the cliff (though most of the food did go over the side).

The next place we found was decidedly safer, and I said yes.

 

Irish Beef Stew

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You won’t want to throw any of this around.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs beef, cut up
  • 3 pieces bacon, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 can tomato paste (4 oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 can mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bottle Guinness or similar stout
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 c frozen peas
  • 1 c frozen corn

How-to

  1. Saute bacon in a large dutch oven or similar pot. When cooked, removed bacon with slotted spoon, reserving fat.
  2. Dry off beef with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Add to pot and brown on all sides, approximately 3-5 minutes. Don’t crowd the pan- if you don’t have enough room, do this in a few steps!
  3. Removed beef from pan, leaving fat behind. Add carrot, onion, celery, mushrooms, and garlic. Season again with salt and pepper. Saute until soft.
  4. Stir tomato paste into vegetables and cook until the tomato paste gets slightly brown. Add tomatoes.
  5. Slowly pour in bottle of stout, stirring constantly. Pour in beef broth.
  6. Bring stew to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 1-2 hours, until vegetables are soft and meat is tender (cooking time will vary based on your size of your ingredients).
  7. Turn off heat and mix in frozen vegetables. Cover for 5 minutes.
  8. Serve over Colcannon or Mashed Potatoes.
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Accidents and Turkey

My apologies for being a bit MIA lately.

You never know when a second can change your life entirely.

It was a few months ago, when I was helping out in clinic. A patient had to be emergently transferred to the intensive care unit, and I offered to help, as I knew the fastest way there.

We raced through the hospital, weaving around corners, up and down multiple elevators, across many halls, before we arrived and safely dropped the patient off and told the story to the physicians about to take over for the care.

And then, while heading back, it happened.

While loading the bed onto the elevator, my left hand got smashed between it and the elevator wall.

It was instantly gigantic and purple. The next day, I found my fifth digit was broken, and a week later (once a bit of the swelling had gone down), I found out the joint was broken too, in addition to the tendons being ripped off and the finger being numb from the nerve damage.

For the three weeks, my boyfriend commented that my hand resembled that of Aunt Marge from Harry Potter (once he accidentally blows her up). After that, it looked like Dumbledore’s after he touched a horcrux. Sweet of him, I know (but in return, I didn’t have to clean the house….but I couldn’t cook, either!!!).

Now, for those of you that don’t know, almost all of anesthesia involves the use of one’s left hand. Which is why I thought long and hard. I had to have a lot of conversations and figure out what was best for me.

As of now, I’m officially a resident in internal medicine, instead of anesthesia. I’m fairly happy with the choice- I really debated between the two specialties, and this gives my hand a better chance at healing. At the end of the day, we all go into medicine to help people, and I still get to do that.

And this whole experience has made me really thankful for fingers.

Accident-Free Maple Bacon Brined Turkey

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It’s okay to break these bones.

Ingredients for the Brine
– 1 gallon water
– 3 whole carrots, broken in pieces
– 2 onions, quartered, skins on
– 3 stalks celery, broken in pieces
– 1 head garlic, sliced in half
– 1 apple, quartered
– 1 pear, quartered
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
– 2 tsp whole allspice
– 1 tbsp parsley (I freeze mine in ice cubes at the end of the summer)
– 4 leaves whole sage
– 1 tbsp oregano
– 1 tbsp thyme
– 1 sprig rosemary
– 1/2 c brown sugar
– 3/4 c kosher salt

Ingredients for the Bird
– 1 turkey
– Softened butter
– 1 lb bacon
– Real maple syrup
– Salt
– Pepper
– Poultry seasoning
– favorite recipe stuffing of your choice

Ingredients for the Gravy
– Pan drippings
– 2-3 c chicken broth
– 1/4 c all- purpose flour
– 1/2 c white wine

How-to
1) For the brine, add all of the ingredients to a stock pot except the brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, then add sugar and salt. Let cool.
2) Line a bucket with a garbage bag. Pour in stock pot mixture. Add in additional 1 gallon ice water and ice to bring mixture to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in turkey (weigh down with a pot lid so it doesn’t float, if necessary) and brine up to 18 hours.
3) The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4) Remove bird from water and pat dry.
5) Make stuffing.
6) Rub bird with softened butter, then sprinkle liberally inside and out with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Apply stuffing. Place turkey in roasting pan.
7) Tent breast of bird with foil and let cook for 1 hour.
8) After 1 hour, begin basting with maple syrup every 30 minutes.
9) After 2 hours, weave bacon into lattice. Place on turkey breast. Return to oven and continue basting every 30 minutes with maple syrup.
10) Turkey is ready when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (don’t hit bone!) reads 170 degrees.
11) Remove turkey from pan and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
12) Place pan on stove burners on medium high heat (I normally spread mine over two). Sprinkle in flour and scrape up browned bits on pan. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, then begin whisking in white wine, then chicken broth until it reaches your desired consistency.

Eat and enjoy!

Flowers, Part 1, and Lobster

My father can get you to agree to anything.

It was my first Valentine’s Day in high school where I had a boyfriend. Now, Valentine’s Day was a bit different for my family- it’s both my dad’s and my brother’s birthday, so it’s normally the night we go out to eat for that. Plus my mother always gave us a treasure hunt (complete with our own treasure map) for us to find our chocolates that evening.

Thus, for my first Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend, I spent it with my family. But my high school boyfriend did call me that evening.

High School Boyfriend: Hey, did you get anything dropped off today?

High School Me: Nope, why?

High School Boyfriend: Oh, I tried to send you flowers. I only got your carnations since they were the cheapest thing they had. 

My dad was overhearing this phone conversation, and asked for the phone.

The next day, there was a knock at the door. And a delivery guy, who was carrying a dozen roses and a box of chocolates.

High School Me: This certainly isn’t carnations.

Dad: I know. I called the flower shop and had them upgrade you for free. I told them how disappointed you were, and how your boyfriend was too chicken to call, so therefore I had to swoop in and make things right. Besides, it’s not like anyone is going to buy roses today. The flower shop is really getting a deal on this. 

My high school boyfriend didn’t even attempt to take any credit, based on proper fear of the girlfriend’s father.

Only the Best Lobster Tails

lobster tailsbecause daddy’s little girl deserves everything, especially lobster

Ingredients (per person)

  • Lobster tail (look for around 5-6 ounces), thawed (most grocery stores seem to put these on special for $5 each here in the midwest, I’ve seen- and they freeze quite well!)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • Water

How-to

  1. Cut down the back of the lobster tail approximately 3-4 inches using a good pair of scissors (this will help the tails not curl up as much and make them easier to eat).
  2. Place white wine into whatever pot works with a steamer you happen to own (mine fits on top of a medium sized pot, but feel free to use a steamer basket if that’s all you have).
  3. Add enough water to the pot so that it’s at approximately one inch (or whatever level you need so that, once you insert the steamer, that the lobster tails won’t be sitting in the liquid).
  4. Place in or on the steamer and bring the liquid to a boil.
  5. Place in lobster tails and replace lid. Steam for 8-10 minutes, being sure not to remove the lid during the first 8 minutes.
  6. In a microwaveable safe ramekin, place the butter and Old Bay. Microwave in 10-second increments until the butter is melted.
  7. When the lobsters are done, remove from the steamer.
  8. Serve tails along with the melted, seasoned butter.

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.

“Breakups” and Wild Mushroom Lasagna

There is such a thing as a stupid request.

I was casually dating a guy. He was the sort of guy that was nice enough, but not really my type overall as I was quickly realizing. You know the guys that it would be better to have just been friends as opposed to date? He fell into that category…hence the “casually dating”. I was planning on ending it myself, but I knew he was really stressed with work (so I was barely seeing him anyway) so I figured I’d wait at least a little bit to not add to the stress.

One day, he came over to my house for dinner. I had just made an amazing lasagna with wild mushrooms from my local farmer’s market. I couldn’t wait to eat it.

I didn’t realize there was going to be a slight delay.

He walked in, sat down on my couch, and said “I think we need to take a break.”

Now, I’m not a believer in breaks, plus I really wasn’t sure what that meant when two people are casually dating.

“Well, I think we need to break up.”

Now, I was quite confused. How do you break up with someone who you weren’t even officially dating in the first place? I personally had planned on using the line of “I don’t think we should see each other any more,” but that’s just me.

And then, the piece de resistance…

“Is there any way I can take home a piece of lasagna?”

As you can probably guess, I ordered him to get out of my house. Without food.

P.S. My coworkers came over the next day for dinner, since, after all, I had a huge delicious lasagna to eat.

No Doggie Bags Wild Mushroom Lasagna

if he was smart, he would have waited until after dinner

Ingredients

  • 2 lb wild mushrooms (if you can’t find wild mushrooms, use cremini or portobello)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp worchestershire sauce
  • 8 oz fat-free cottage cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 4 c skim milk
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 + 1/4 c parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • Olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Remove stems from mushrooms and slice thinly. Add to olive oil, along with worchestershire sauce. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until mushrooms become soft and start to release liquid. Put mushrooms in a bowl to let cool.
  2. When mushrooms are cool, add fat-free cottage cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Add egg and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  4. Switch to a whisk. Whisk in milk slowly so it is incorporated. Add garlic. Increase heat to medium-low and cook for 5-10 minutes (the whisk is best at first and then you can switch back to a spoon) until the mixture becomes thick and coats the back of the spoon (you know the trick where you run your finger down the middle of the spoon and the sauce stays on either side? that’s what you’re looking for).
  5. To sauce, add nutmeg and 1/2 c parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. In another large pot, bring a large quantity of heavily salted (I’m talking a near handful here!) water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles to 1 minute less than package directions (you want it just shy of al dente). Drain and add a little bit of olive oil so they don’t stick.
  7. Finally, lasagna prep time! Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Coat a lasagna pan (or 9×13 in baking dish) with cooking spray. Add a small amount of the cream sauce and spread a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles. Add in 1/2 of the mushroom mixture, then 1/3 of the cream sauce.
  9. Repeat with another layer of the lasagna noodles, the rest of the mushroom mixture, and another 1/3 of the sauce.
  10. Top with a final layer of lasagna noodles and the rest of the cream sauce. Sprinkle on 1/4 c parmesan cheese.
  11. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

I know the recipe looks rather complicated, but it comes together fairly quickly! Saute the mushrooms first, then make the sauce and boil the noodles at the same time. My coworker, good friend, and fellow blogger Colleen can promise it’s delicious!

9FMKHTNGUPW2

Psycho and Pumpkin Pasta

Little brothers can get the best of you.

Growing up, my dad and I would have our Sunday night tradition- watching Alfred Hitchcock movies on the classic movie channel on Sunday nights. There was nothing like a big bowl of popcorn, ginger ale, and a good thriller (especially knowing that Dad was there to protect me in case I got too scared!).

I should probably take a quick moment to state that I get *way* to into movies/books/tv shows…to the point where I will cry during sad or emotional scenes (let’s not talk about that google chrome commercial from a few years back), yell out encouragement to movie characters (yes, in the theater), or practically look like I’m having a seizure from wringing my hands during stressful moments. And yes, this is quite enjoyable for other people to witness.

On this particular Sunday night, my dad and I had watched Psycho. As always, I had gotten a bit scared, but with Dad there I was able to tough it out. Afterwards, I hopped into the shower to start getting ready for school on Monday.

Now, for those of you that haven’t seen the movie, there is a memorable scene where a woman is stabbed through a shower curtain.

You can probably already see where this story is going.

My mother, bless her heart, told my middle brother of a wonderful trick he could do…all he had to do was grab his huge plastic pirate sword.

So, here I was, showering, thinking about going back to school the next day, still a bit on edge from the movie, when the next thing you know I felt myself being jabbed through the shower curtain with a knife-like object.

Let’s just say that my vocal cords gave a performance worthy of Psycho itself. It’s a wonder my brother still has his hearing.

P.S. Years later in medical school, the cat I had hit me with her paw through the shower curtain when I wasn’t suspecting it while getting ready in the morning. It’s amazing the cat isn’t deaf, either.

Scarily Easy Pumpkin Pasta

maybe the carbs will help lull me to sleep

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried pasta (I prefer cavatappi)
  • 1 c fat free half and half
  • 1 c canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely minced
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. In a large pot, bring to a boil water. Salt generously.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving some of the pasta water if needed to thin out sauce.
  3. Return pasta to hot pot. Stir in parmesan cheese, then half and half, then canned pumpkin. Add in sage. If needed, thin out sauce with additional pasta water (this sauce will really thicken up as it cools).
  4. Salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Romance and Chili

And now, for a slight departure from my usual blog posts…the most romantic story I ever saw in medical school.

I was on a consult month at the time, and every day we would round on a particularly sick patient in the ICU (intensive care unit). He was a relatively healthy middle-aged man until a few months before, and then all of a sudden he got more and more sick until he was eventually having muscle spasms so bad that he actually fractured some of his vertebrae into his spinal cord (you need to have REALLY strong spasms in order for this to occur). To protect his body (and skeleton) from any further damage and possibly permanent paralysis, the man was intubated, sedated, and medically paralyzed.

By the time I finally met this patient, he had already been sedated and paralyzed for a few weeks. They had tried lifting the paralytic drugs once, only to have him quickly begin spasming again with concerns for additional fractures.

Through it all, his wife was by his side. She was a shorter woman, hair pulled back in a ponytail, who sat in his ICU room in a chair wearing his big hunting t-shirts and the exhausted look of a family member with a sick loved one. To be honest, she was the sort of woman who blended into the surroundings, the woman you’d sit next to on the bus or plane and not remember any real features.

Towards the end of the month, we again decided to lift the man’s medication to see if he could wake up and not spasm. The process starts the night before, with the hopes of enough of the drugs to be out of someone’s system by the next morning to see if they’re okay, and if not the medication can quickly be restarted (which had already happened before).

That morning, I was getting a cup of coffee before rounds when I had a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and a beautiful woman was standing there. I had no idea who it was until she began speaking.

It was our patient’s wife. “I just wanted to thank you for all of your help. I hope he’s able to wake up today. Just in case, I wanted to look pretty just for him. Even if he only sees me for just a second, I hope he’ll have something to see in his dreams.”

Our patient woke up that day. While he couldn’t move much since some of the paralytics were still preventing that, he was able to do one thing.

Right after he opened his eyes, he saw his wife and kissed her.

There was not a dry eye in his ICU room, especially not mine.

Worth Waiting For Turkey Chili

true love…in food form

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (I’ve also done this with chorizo with excellent results)
  • 1 large can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can (14 oz) diced tomatoes with jalapenos
  • 1 can hot chili beans
  • 1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium green peppers, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper (feel free to use less if you don’t want yours as spicy)
  • Low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fat free sour cream

How-to

  1. In a large saute pan, brown the ground turkey and drain the fat.
  2. Get out a large crock pot while the turkey is browning. Add the tomatoes, hot chili beans (use all of the sauce!), red beans, onion, green pepper, garlic, and cayenne.
  3. Add in the ground turkey after draining.
  4. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili is done with the onions and green peppers are tender and the tomatoes have mostly broken down.
  5. Top with cheddar cheese and sour cream, or whatever other chili toppings you prefer.

This recipe easily doubles if you’re feeding a crowd with a gigantic crock pot- normally then I’ll use 1 lb lean ground turkey and 1 lb chorizo. It also freezes great in individual portions!