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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.

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.

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