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!

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Lizards and Brussels Sprouts Slaw

I’m an animal lover. I really am. I just prefer them to stay in one piece.

Back in my senior year high school, my parents and brothers went on a weekend vacation, and I had stayed home for an extra day since I was planning on visiting some friends in college. As the responsible child, it was my job to feed the pets before I left.

Which included the anoles.

Now, I had grown up with two dogs, two cats, two frogs, and two fish. I was no stranger to animals, nor taking care of them. But lizards were different, especially since I had to feed them live grasshoppers.

Here I was, about to be picked up by friends for the weekend, and it was doing what I had put off until last- the delicate balance of lifting the lid off the lizard tank, scooping up and dropping in the proper number of crickets, and then putting the lid back on fast enough so that nothing got out. As you can guess, I did not succeed.

The second upon lifting the lid and dropped in the bugs, it happened.

A lizard jumped out and jumped at me. Naturally, I yelled, which then scared the bugger off so it jumped for the wall. Realizing that the rest of my family would kill me if I gave the anole free reign of the house, I reached for it.

Funny thing about lizards. They realize that their tails are the most likely thing to be grabbed by predators, so they are equipped with a fail safe.

I yelled even louder when I realized that I was holding in my hand not an entire anole, but just its tail.

It took me the next hour (and help) to finally catch the tailless lizard. And I refused to feed the lizards again.

Don’t Lose a Limb Brussels Sprouts Slaw

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be careful with those fingers and a mandolin!

Ingredients
2 lb Brussels sprouts
3 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled and fat saved for dressing
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 c pine nuts
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (trader joes makes a great white wine version)
Bacon fat from bacon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 c apple cider vinegar (depending on how thick you like your dressing)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper

How-to
1. In a large pan, fry up bacon slices. Crumble into a large bowl and reserve fat.
2. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice up Brussels sprouts and place in the large bowl.
3. Add the cranberries, pine nuts, Parmesan, and toss to mix.
4. In a jelly jar, add mustard, bacon fat, olive oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice. Shake jar well to combine. Add additional vinegar or olive oil as needed to adjust consistency to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Pour dressing over slaw and toss to combine. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for an hour if you don’t like your slaw as crunchy.

Keeps in the fridge for up to three days.

Going Home and Blueberry Buckle

Sometimes, patients are really excited to go home.

You’d be surprised how many patients never want to leave the hospital. Some people actually like the food, others think that we’re more like a full-service hotel than a place for patient care, et cetera.

Other patients are more normal. And they want to leave.

We were rounding that morning on a patient that had been admitted the previous day. He was approximately in his forties, walking around the hospital room, while his wife sat on the couch.

Patient: So when can I go home?

Me: Well sir, it looks like we can send you home this morning. We just have to finish up the paperwork.

Patient: Well hurry up, since I want to get LAID!

* stunned looks on the faces of the medical team *

To her credit, his wife immediately whipped out her phone, called her sister, and informed her that they needed a ride ASAP.

They ran out the door five minutes later. And his discharge instructions did recommend exercise.

Afterglow Blueberry Buckle

blueberry bucklethe perfect after-bang breakfast

Ingredients (buckle)

  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c white flour
  • 1 c whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 c blueberries (if using frozen, don’t thaw first!)
  • White sugar for dusting
  • Cooking spray

Ingredients (sauce)

  • 2  1/2 c blueberries
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus 1/2 c for later
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch

How-to

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray.
  3. In a bowl, mix together flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir in blueberries so they are all covered with the mixture (this will help them not sink to the bottom of the cake). Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, mix together sugar and vegetable oil. Add in the egg and stir until the mixture just starts to lighten. Stir in the milk and vanilla.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients with the blueberries in an attempt to keep most of the blueberries whole (some of them will get smushed in the mixing process, but that’s okay!).
  6. Divide mixture between the two loaf pans.
  7. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with cinnamon and white sugar.
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (besides parts of blueberries, of course). Let cool for 10-20 minutes before slicing.
  9. While the buckle is baking (or while it is cooling, if you took a recreational break), dump the blueberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar into a medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium high and cook for approximately 10 minutes (you want some of the blueberries to pop, but others to still be a bit whole. It will be boiling. And it might splatter, so wear an apron).
  10. Mix together the remaining 1/2 c cold water with the cornstarch. Stir this mixture into the saucepan. Cook for an additional minute or until desired thickness. (no pun intended)
  11. Let sauce cool for 3-5 minutes, then spoon it onto the buckle. Enjoy!

Talking and Sandwiches

Some people talk.  Some people talk a lot.  And other people talk at inappropriate times.

A truly memorable experience, and not in a good way, was the Detailed Talker.

This guy had a running commentary to everything he did the second he started kissing you.  “Oh baby [and to start, I HATE being called baby], I’m going to do this to you now.  And then I’m going to do this.  And after that this is going to happen. I’m going to treat you so right because I’m so awesome at all of this.”

During this one-sided conversation, where I was told how great this guy thought he was at the things he was doing and about to do, all I could think was “SHUT. UP.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, some talking is good, but TOO MUCH talking makes me want to scream. And not in a good way. Plus it’s great that you have self-confidence in what you do, but let ME tell you if it’s good- I don’t want you to tell me it’s going to be good (which even more disappointingly, it wasn’t).

Do I even need to say that it only took one detailed talking experience for me to know there wouldn’t be another?

Keep Them Quiet Tomato-Turkey Panini

Ingredients (makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 tbsp light olive-oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 regular Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices turkey breast
  • 4 slices french bread
  • 1 oz mozzarella, shredded (optional)
  • Cooking spray (preferably olive oil in a spray bottle)

How-to

  1. Mix together mayonnaise, parmesan, garlic powder, parsley, and pepper and spread on bread.
  2. On top of the cheese mixture, place 2 slices turkey breast and half of the tomato slices. Top with half of the mozzarella and the other piece of bread. Repeat for the other sandwich.
  3. Spray each sandwich on both sides with a quick squirt of cooking spray (I prefer olive oil in a spray bottle but feel free to use whatever you have)
  4. Place both sandwiches in a preheated panini maker or a fry pan over medium heat. If using a fry pan, start with the tomato side down.  Cook until the bread is golden brown (normally 3-5 minutes in a panini maker, or 2-3 minutes per side on a fry pan).  For the fry-pan version, weigh down the sandwiches with another pan topped with a can of vegetables to achieve a more panini-style sandwich.

Swimming in Potatoes

You can tell a lot about a guy by his taste in food.  During one first date, I could tell there wasn’t going to be a second.

I had met a guy who was a former state-champion swimmer and agreed to go out to dinner.  To start, we went to a Ruby Tuesday.  I’m not saying anything bad about the restaurant, but it’s not exactly what I would picture for first-date material, especially when you take into mind the conversation that follows.

Ordering food was a disaster.  I couldn’t tell you what I ordered for my main dish, but I do remember it came with a side of potatoes.  Now, when it comes to my heritage, I’m a European mutt, which means I love potatoes cooked practically any way (it’s rare for me to meet a potato I don’t like).

Guy: “You’re really going to eat potatoes?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

Guy: “Potatoes have too many calories.  I can’t keep this swimmer’s body by eating those.  Why don’t you order a salad like me?  It’s better for your waistline.”

Now, there are rules that guys should follow, especially on a first date.  First, never critique my food choices. And second, don’t mention your weight or mine.

Needless to say there was no second date.

Safe for Swimmers Potato Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1lb Yukon Gold potatoes, washed (I’ve also used a mix of regular and sweet potatoes)
  • 6 oz grated cheese (I used a low-fat Irish Cheddar from Trader Joe’s that I grated myself)
  • 1/3 c milk (I used 1/2 %)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Cooking spray

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice potatoes thinly and shred cheese, if needed.  I tend to leave the skin on because I think it makes for a prettier presentation, but feel free to peel if desired (and definitely peel sweet potatoes if you’re using a mix).
  3. Coat 8×8 in glass baking dish with cooking spray (makes for easier clean-up).
  4. Layer 1/3 potatoes into the dish and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (think a light sprinkle).  Reserve 1 oz (a small handful) of cheese, then divide in half.  Sprinkle half the cheese onto the first layer of potatoes.
  5. Layer the second third of potatoes into the dish, season again with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and again top with the cheese.
  6. Layer the final layer of potatoes on top of the dish and pour on the milk.  Top with the reserved small handful of cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until the potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the dish is bubbly with golden cheese on top.

Kisses and Peppers

I had a friend that is a really attractive guy who on the surface appears like the total ideal package.

Then I discovered a pretty significant hole in the tapestry…

…he kissed like a bird.  Specifically, imagine making out with a parrot.

We had both gone out with a group of people, one thing led to another, and next thing you know we’re making out.  I’ve had some awkward kissers in the past (I’ll tell those stories later), but this wins, hands down, for being the absolute worst I’ve ever experience.  Ever.  It felt like I was being attacked by a parrot’s beak over and over again and you couldn’t escape from it.

I quickly came up with some excuse to end the misery, but to this day I still shudder a bit inside whenever he pops up on my facebook news feed.

Sweeter than a Kiss Roasted Peppers

I think that any vegetable is made better by roasting it in the oven.  These are great as a side dish or they really help dress up leftovers- I’ll chop them up, add in some leftover chicken or seafood, and mix with rice or pasta for a quick and healthy meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet baby peppers (normally sold in 1-2 lb packages for ~$3 per lb)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper

How-to

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Clean peppers with a damp paper towel and place in a shallow roasting dish (preferably one with a rack)
  3. Drizzle olive oil onto peppers, followed by freshly grated pepper and a sprinkling of garlic salt.
  4. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until the peppers give to touch and the skin looks slightly wrinkly.

Porn and Peppermints

With holidays, come gifts.  And, inevitably, there is always the worst gift you’ve ever received…

porn.

And it gets so much worse than that.

To start, I’ve dated my fair share of former Catholic altar boys.  It’s never on purpose- I just always find out by the third or fourth date that they used to be Catholic altar boys.  It at least isn’t as bad as my habit of dating guys whose name normally has 4 letters and usually starts with J…or with middle names of “Michael.”

Anyway, so I was dating this guy.  And this guy was a formerly repressed altar boy who thought that porn was the pinnacle of sexiest things you could ever buy a girl, which I later learned.

Oh did I mention I ended up paying for this as well?

I should have known this was a bad idea from the start.  My birthday, per tradition, always sucks on the actual day. Without fail. So earlier that day, the guy I was dating asked me to borrow $20 since he had to go somewhere that took only cash (not uncommon in my college town).  He then said he had a “surprise” for me for my birthday.

He took me to the store off campus that sold the largest variety of DVD and VHS porn (it was also the only store that sold porn within a hundred miles, unless you want to count the ability to buy Playboy at Walmart). And this was early 90s style porn, according to the date on the back of the DVD.  Which he had already picked out. And then used the $20 in cash I had let him borrow earlier to paid for it.  And he was so proud of himself for his brilliant idea.

Needless to say, I didn’t keep that “birthday gift.”

Anyway, if you’re looking for a last-minute gift for the holidays (and don’t want to make the same mistake), I suggest you make the following…

Better than a Gift of Porn Peppermint Bark

Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package of 12 candy canes (or 6 oz peppermint candies)
  • 1 12 oz package white coating chocolate

How-to

  1. Cover 2 half-sheet pans (your average cookie sheet pans for those non-bakers) in either aluminum foil or parchment paper (whichever you happen to have on hand)
  2. Unwrap the candy canes or peppermint candies. Place into a ziplock baggie and place underneath a towel. Using either a rolling pin or frying pan, get out all of your aggression over bad gifts by beating the candy into small bits (you’ll have a lot of dust but that’s okay!).
  3. Dump the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and toss into the microwave, microwaving for 20 seconds at a time until the chocolate appears to be just melting (normally takes ~1 min in my microwave)
  4. Stir the chocolate chips until smooth, and then evenly divide the chocolate between the two sheet pans and spread thin.
  5. Break up the white melting chocolate into a separate bowl and microwave again for 20 second intervals until just melting (like before), then stir until smooth.
  6. Mix in the candy with the white chocolate, then divide up the white chocolate-peppermint mixture by spoonfuls onto each baking sheet.
  7. Using a knife, swirl the white and semi-sweet chocolate, then tap the pans on a countertop to settle.
  8. Place both sheets into a fridge under the chocolate sets, then break up into pieces and package into decorative bags or boxes.

Religion and Cranberries

It’s the holiday season, which means my apartment smells like peppermint bark and gingerbread.

However, holidays are also about more than food and friends…many of our “traditions” come down to religion and pagan practices.  Which reminds me of my nickname for my first six months of life…

Pagan Megan.

Yes, you have to say it so that “pagan” rhymes with “megan,” which means my first name sounds more like “may-gun” for nickname purposes. (I actually taught a kid at summer camp with that spelling, but that’s another story.)

And who gave me this nickname, you ask?

Oh yeah, the PRIEST at my church, good ol’ Monsignor M.

Like good Catholics, my parents decided to have me baptized.  However, between family schedules and whatnot, it wasn’t “convenient” for this to take place in the spring…or the summer…nope, the date of my baptism was two days shy of my six month birthday.  However, it was convenient to bring their darling screaming infant daughter (my case of colic was so legendary, my now 85-year-old pediatrician still calls me her “little colicky baby”- I was the worst case of colic she has seen to date) to church every week.  Therefore, one plus one does equal two, and as an encouragement for my parents to finally buckle down with the sacraments, Monsignor decided that a winning nickname would be the best way to take advantage of Catholic guilt.

In honor of my nickname, and not to mention the holidays, here is my recipe for cranberry sauce…perfect for serving with turkey, as a topping for steak and goat cheese, or as a sauce for ice cream.

Non-Denominational Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • 2/3 c sugar (can add more to taste if cranberries are extra-tart)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus 1/2 c for later
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (secret ingredient!!)

How-to

  1. Rinse cranberries and dump into a nonreactive saucepan (I prefer a larger size, but have made this before with a 2 QT one)
  2. Add the zest and juice from the lemon and orange, sugar, vanilla, and water to the cranberries.
  3. Turn on your burner to medium-high heat and cook for approximately 10 minutes.  The mixture will start to boil and the cranberries will pop, so don’t wear your best light-colored shirt while making this unless you’re aiming for a red-spot look!
  4. When about half the cranberries have popped (this may take longer than 10 minutes, depending on the weather and your elevation), mix 1/2 c cold water with 4 tbsp cornstarch and add to the cranberry mixture.  Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reached your desired thickness (remember it will thicken more as it cools, but you’re aiming for something that does have a consistency of runny gravy).
  5. Turn off the heat, and add 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or more to taste).  DO NOT make this sauce if you don’t have nutmeg, in my opinion…the nutmeg gives it a spiciness that sets it apart from other cranberry sauces!
  6. Let cool for approximately 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm or cold on nearly anything (turkey, chicken, steak, ice cream, crackers, cheese…the list goes on and on!).