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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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.

Competitions and Colcannon

St. Patrick’s Day can be a wild holiday. Especially with pride on the line.

Back in college, I made the *wise* decision of coming to Chicago with my on-again, off-again boyfriend (we were off-again at the time). It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we went out to a large Irish bar for the evening.

It was there that the competition started.

Since we were “off again,” somehow we decided to see who could pick up the hotter girl first. (A number of lemon drops- part of the reason why I haven’t done shots since- did influence this decision.)

Next thing I know, I’m chatting up a Brazilian girl (whom I had decided was the hottest girl in the bar). We started dancing (some other things might have happened, too…), and then that’s where some deleted scenes occur (I know that I was found dancing upstairs with her, but the rest of that is a little bit hazy, especially after I saw some of the pictures that I really don’t remember taking all that well).

The next morning, I had this text in my phone.

“I had a great time last night. Call me sometime. -Camille.”

Let’s just say I won.

Competition Worthy Irish Colcannon

Colcannon

perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day throw-down (or when you’re recovering the next day)

Ingredients

  • 5 large russet potatoes (about 3-4 lbs worth)
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 + 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 small head cabbage
  • 1 c fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c fat-free sour cream
  • 1 c fat-free half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Wash and peel potatoes (or you can skip the peeling part if you have a food mill). Cut into large cubes. Boiled in salted water until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Cut off the ends of the leeks. Slice in half (nearly down to the root) and rinse in cold water. Slice thinly.
  4. Saute leeks in 1 tbsp butter and olive oil until soft. Set aside.
  5. Remove outer leaves from cabbage. Cut into quarters, then slice thinly. Boil in the plain water until tender (this took about 8-10 minutes). Drain.
  6. Slice the green onions thinly.
  7. Drain the potatoes. Mash until very smooth (or use that food mill). Add the butter, half-and-half, greek yogurt, and sour cream.
  8. Add the leeks, cabbage, and half the green onions.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve with reserved green onions on top.

This makes a LOT of potatoes (so perfect for your get-together), but if making for a smaller crowd, it can easily be halved. Though it does warm up perfectly in the microwave if you’d rather just have leftovers.

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

Commitment and Cinnamon Bread

Sometimes commitment can come too quickly, especially if it’s unwanted.

I was seeing a guy that seemed quite nice. However, if anything, he was a little bit too nice. Not that I have anything against nice guys- I certainly don’t like dating assholes. But on occasion, I do like to date someone who isn’t exactly like me, because I am a big fan of a good debate everyone once in a while.

So here I was, on the third date, seeing what I was quickly realizing was a too-nice-for-my-taste guy.

It would have really been in my favor to realize that on the second date.

At the end of the date, he leaned in to kiss me. And that is when I really realized that he was not the guy for me, since he even kissed too nice. But it was what happened afterwards that really sealed the deal.

Guy: We’re perfect for each other. I want us to be officially dating in a few weeks, engaged by Christmas, and then married by next summer.

Me: gulp (haven’t I mentioned before that I don’t jump into commitment? and I told this guy that! AND HE JUST GAVE ME A TIMELINE.)

Guy: We’ll be so in love! 

Me: gulp (haven’t I mentioned it before that this freaks me out when that is said too soon? and I told this guy that, too! AND I’VE REALIZED I’M NOT EVEN “IN LIKE”)

Guy: It’ll be a dream come true!

Too bad for me it seemed more like a nightmare.

It also made it very difficult to let this guy down easily, as he obviously hadn’t been listening to anything I had said so far (except for “I’m a doctor,” likely. Seems like he had things in common with some of my patients.)

Take Your Time Cinnamon Bread

cinnamon breadbecause who doesn’t need to slow down and breath every once in a while?

Ingredients (this makes two loaves)

  • 6 c unbleached flour (this is approximate- you might use anywhere from 1/4 c more or less, depending  on the day), plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tsp and 2 tbsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 c vegetable shortening
  • 2 and 1/4 c skim milk
  • 1/3 c + 1c sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten

How-to

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together 2 c flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, and yeast.
  2. Using a small saucepan over low heat, melt vegetable shortening. Turn off the heat and add the milk, 1/3 c sugar, and salt. Let cool until temperature is between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit (use a thermometer- you need the right temp for the yeast!).
  3. Turn the mixer on low using the paddle attachment. Slowly add the liquid ingredients. Turn speed up to medium for 30 seconds, scrape bowl, then turn mixer back onto high speed for 3 minutes.
  4. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Turn the mixer on low, then slowly add the rest of the flour (taking into account that you might not use all of the flour, or you might need to add a little bit more if the dough seems too wet).
  5. Crank that mixer up to high for 3 minutes to kneed the dough.
  6. Remove dough and place into a glass bowl coated with vegetable oil, flipping dough over once to make sure it’s coated in a thin layer all around.
  7. Place in a warm place covered with a towel for 45 minutes to one hour to allow dough time to double in size (I normally place the oven on 200 degrees when I first start making the bread, then turn off before placing my bowl in there).
  8. Remove dough from your warm place and punch down. Let rest 10 minutes, then divide in half.
  9. Spray two loaf pans with vegetable oil spray.
  10. In a small bowl, mix together remaining 1 c sugar, remaining 2 tbsp cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  11. Sprinkle a clean countertop and your rolling pin with flour. Roll half the dough out into a large rectangle, slightly wider than your loaf pan (I normally aim for about 2 inches here) and 16-18 inches long.
  12. Rinse your hands with cold water, and massage the surface of the dough until slick (this will help create a gooey cinnamon layer). Sprinkle on half the spice mixture. Roll up the bread, fold over ends, and place into the loaf pan seam-side down.
  13. Repeat with the second half of the dough and spice mixture.
  14. Cover again with a towel and place in a warm place to double in size (30-45 minutes).
  15. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (be sure to make sure your oven is empty!!!).
  16. Beat egg with a little bit of cold water. Using a pastry brush, brush tops of bread.
  17. Bake for 40 minutes (bread will sound hollow when you knock on it).
  18. Remove from pans and let cool.

Slice and serve. Be sure to keep in an air-tight container so it doesn’t dry out! If it does, heat up a slice in the microwave for 30 seconds with a little butter, or use to make french toast.

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!

Flowers, Part 2, and Hasselback Potatoes

Over a decade later, I still have issues with flowers.

It all started a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, when my boyfriend and I had a chat over dinner about how neither one normally does much for Valentine’s Day. I thought I was in the clear- maybe we’d make a nice dinner, watch a movie at home, eat some homemade chocolates. And he’s always maintained that he doesn’t like flowers since they die.

Then the week of Valentine’s Day, where I got asked the following questions:

Boyfriend: What’s your address? I’m updating my address book.

That seemed silly, but I gave him my address.

Boyfriend: What’s your schedule like this week? Did you want to get dinner?

I said sure as long as it was low key since I was on nights.

Boyfriend: Hey, I know you’re on nights right now. Do you wake up if someone rings your doorbell? If you get a package, where do they put it?

I replied that the UPS guy leaves packages on my deck since I don’t wake up. To anything.

Boyfriend: Hey, do you wake up if someone call your phone?

I reiterated the point that I don’t wake up. To anything.

Of course, I was working every night up until Valentine’s Day, which made shopping or really anything else a bit difficult, as I was keeping the hours of a vampire (and working a lot of hours at that). But I really had the feeling that I was getting flowers.

On Valentine’s Day, I woke up after sleeping most of the day so I could shower before what I felt was a very early dinner, as it was happening before I was even eating “breakfast” that week. I did, however, check my phone to see if I had a missed call.

No missed call.

I then checked my deck. No flowers.

I checked the side door. No flowers.

I checked the mailbox. No slip from a florist informing me I had missed a delivery.

Now, by this point in time, I was a little bit disappointed. I normally pride myself on my powers of deduction (Sherlock Holmes is my favorite character), and to me there were too many coincidences in Valentine’s Day week. But I then was thinking that I had been wrong.

That is, until my boyfriend showed up, and insisted on walking in (and looking around) my house when he came to pick me up for dinner.

Boyfriend: Did you get a package today? Nope.

Boyfriend: Did you get a phone call? Did your doorbell ring? Nope and nope.

Boyfriend: Well, that’s annoying. I sent you flowers.

I secretly did a “yessssssssssssssss” for my powers of deduction. But then realized I still didn’t have flowers.

After much arguing, I finally got my flowers four days later. And my dad didn’t have to come to the rescue this time (though he did offer to).

Always On Time Hasselback Potatoes*

roasted potatoesno need to have anything delivered

Ingredients

  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil in a spray bottle
  • Parsley
  • Truffle oil (to finish)

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash potatoes and remove any eyes that might have developed.
  3. In a glass baking dish, spray with olive oil spray (so the potatoes don’t stick and get nicely brown).
  4. One at a time, snuggle the potato close to an old wooden spoon. Using a knife, make thin slices in the potato, cutting until you just barely hit the spoon handle (if you go too hard, you’ll cut the spoon).
  5. Place potatoes into the baking dish. Spray with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced.
  7. Remove from the oven. Drizzle with a teeny bit of truffle oil (use olive oil if you don’t have truffle oil, though I find that a bit of truffle oil goes a long way, and it’s not that much of a fortune) and parsley. Serve.

*a.k.a. Accordion Potatoes