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.

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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

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.

Grandsons and Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes, patients have ulterior motives.

I was trying very hard to discharge my patient, an up-to-this-point very pleasant, easygoing Thai woman.

It just wasn’t working.

We told her at 6am (I was, after all on a surgery month, where rounds start far earlier and thankfully are far shorter) that we’d be sending her home later that day once her paperwork was done.

I was done with her paperwork by 9am, with her discharge order in shortly afterward.

And here was where the trouble began. Now, most people don’t like being in the hospital. Yes, you do have a few people who attempt to work the system, but in general, being in the hospital is NOT like being in a hotel (more stories on that to come in future posts).

First, she wanted refills of every medication she ever took, along with having them hand delivered to her room. Accomplished.

Next, she wanted to stay through lunch, as her family wouldn’t be able to pick her up until the afternoon. Request granted.

Then she wanted both the flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine. Ask and you shall receive.

I kept getting paged over and over again to go into her room and answer questions. (Can I shower when I get home? Well, we let you shower here, so…Can I eat my normal foods? Well, we had you on a general diet here, soo…)

And then the real truth came out.

Patient: So, you no married, no? My grandson, he real hottie for young doctor. He be here soon! Make grandma proud! Nice doctor to marry!

I then had to politely decline her offers to grant me a husband.

Potential In Law Approved Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin breadin case I ever truly find myself in that situation

Ingredients (makes 2 large loaves of bread)

  • 1 overly ripe banana
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/3 c white flour
  • 1 c dried cranberries
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 c water
  • 4 tbsp roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • Cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Liberally spray two loaf pans with cooking spray (otherwise these puppies won’t come out, and you certainly don’t want that!).
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (though feel free to make this by hand if you so choose), beat together banana, oil, and sugar. Add in eggs, one at a time, then pumpkin.
  4. In another bowl, mix together flours, dried cranberries, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  5. With the stand mixer running on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and water (I do flour/water/flour/water/flour).
  6. Equally divide batter between the loaf pans.
  7. Sprinkle each loaf with 2 tbsp pepitas and 1 tbsp sugar.
  8. Bake for 55-65 minutes, rotating one halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
  9. Cool bread for 10-15 minutes in the pans, then carefully remove from pans (remember, I said they stick!). Let bread cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap covered by aluminum foil and wait to eat until the next day (or immediately if you cannot wait). Slice thinly (or thickly if you must) and enjoy!

Emailers and Oven Pancakes

Persistence can be a virtue. Other times, not so much.

Remember the guy with the awkward voice? Yeah, the story didn’t end there.

When we had left off, I knew that I didn’t want to see said gentleman again for a variety of reasons…being late, the quick urge to settle down, and that whole voice that was higher than my niece’s.

It soon because obvious he did not feel the same way.

The next day, I had an email.

“Hi, I had a gr8 time last night! We had tonz in common and your super hot. Can’t wait to see you again! Here’s my phone number, what’s yours? Email back soon pls!”

Yes, the typos above are correct.

I then very politely responded back a few days later that I was busy with work (which I was), that I was not interest (also true) and thus unfortunately I did not think (my word choice as I was attempting to be polite) I would be able to see him again, but I wished him the very best in his continual search on online dating.

And then…

“Hey, R U any less busy with work? Would love to see you again! What’s your phone number?”

This time, I chose not to respond, as I had already said I wasn’t interested.

But the emails kept coming…for weeks.

“Hey, call me sometime!”

“Hey, I’m still interested, have you changed your mind?”

“Hey, just wanted to say hi again! Really would love to see you!”

Two months went by. The emails kept coming. I blocked his emails on the online dating website. I blocked his profile name. He changed his profile name and continued emailing. I blocked that but he just did it again.

Thankfully he continually made me a favorite and didn’t change his profile picture, so I at least was able to block him on a fairly quick basis and slightly decrease the annoyance.

I can’t imagine what he would have done if he had my phone number or last name.

Stay the Course Oven Pancake

002

this is one case where persistence and waiting are okay with me

Ingredients

  •  3 tbsp butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c flour (fluff up flour before measuring)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Fresh fruit
  • Jam or Jelly
  • Powdered sugar

How-t0

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place butter in 10-in oven-safe nonstick frying pan. Place in oven until butter melts (approximately 3-4 minutes).
  3. While butter is melting, beat eggs by hand until they just start to lighten (about 1 minute). Add in milk and beat again until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  5. While whisking eggs, add flour mixture until mixture is smooth.
  6. Once butter has melted, remove pan from oven. Pour batter into center. Place pan back in the oven.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until pancake browns and grows up the side (see picture). DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR FOR FIRST 20 MINUTES (and preferably the first 25). Wait at least 20 minutes to open oven to check and see if the center is set and browning (if you open it earlier, the pancake won’t rise properly).
  8. While baking, heat jam or jelly 30 seconds-1 minute in the microwave until warm. Add in fruit.
  9. When brown, remove pancake from oven. Add fresh fruit and jam/jelly mixture to center. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serves 2

Middle Children and Collard Greens

There’s telling stories about your family, and then there’s just excessive complaining to a complete stranger.

I was on yet another date from online dating. To start, I should have know that this date would be awkward, purely based on text messages. Most normal people don’t start complaining to a complete stranger, especially by text. However, the rest of them had seemed funny, so I wrote it off as maybe him just having a bad day.

I really should have listened to my gut.

I arrived at the date location a few minutes early (I can’t help myself- my dad is ALWAYS late, so I always arrive early. Always.). My date of course was a few minutes late (but not as late as a previous encounter).

And that is when the complaining started.

Over the next hour and a half (I literally darted out of there as soon as humanly possible), he complained about

  • that it was raining which of course made him late because someone MUST have stolen his umbrella and then put it back in the closet where he wouldn’t be able to find it
  • that he was sore because he ran earlier to train for a marathon, and he HAD to run a marathon since his little brother did, and of course he had to run faster than him to prove that he was the better brother (phrase actually used)
  • that the weather in Chicago was colder than the south
  • that he was the middle child and therefore his family would never love him as much as his older or younger brother (another phrase actually used)
  • that he liked the restaurant and came there often, but really he only liked one thing on the menu, and only if a particular cook had made it

He complained about more things, but to be totally honest I gave up really listening after the first 15 minutes and watched the baseball game above the bar instead, with occasionally throwing in comments I remember from my psych rotation (you know, when I wasn’t dealing with awkward psychiatrists one and two).

Date: Complain, complain, complain, complain.

Me: Sounds like that must be difficult for you.

Date: Yeah it definitely is because of complain complain complain…

Me: Have you tried talking to anyone about this?

Date: Well I saw a psychiatrist plenty of times but they just didn’t understand me because complain complain complain…

I’m almost convinced that someone else had written the amusing text messages or emails he had sent.

Low Maintenance Collard Greens

Crock Pot Collards

nothing to complain about here

Ingredients

  • 1 ham bone (perfect use of the leftovers from your holiday ham)
  • 2 bunches collard greens (I had approximately 2-3 lbs)
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Pepper jelly (optional)

How-to

  1. In a large crock pot, mix together chicken bouillon, chicken broth, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add in ham bone.
  2. Wash collard greens very well in cold water. Remove tough stems. Cut into small pieces (or tear by hand, which I did).
  3. Place greens into broth in crock pot.
  4. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, stirring occasionally, until at desired doneness.
  5. Top with pepper jelly or pepper sauce, if desired.