Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf with Tomatoes, Arugula and Goat Cheese

Can you tell I have goat cheese in the fridge?  A healthy yummy meatloaf.  Easy to make and easy to eat.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1 handful parsley chopped
2 cups arugula
2 roma tomatoes cubed
1 tsp salt
1.25 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 slice white bread
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
4 oz goat cheese
In a saute pan over medium high heat, heat olive oil.  Cook shallots and garlic until fragrant and soft about 3 minutes.  Add parsley and tomatoes, cook until tomatoes begin to wilt, about 3 minutes.  Add arugula and salt and wilt arugula.   Set aside and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 375.  Soak bread with milk.  In a medium bowl add turkey, egg, soaked bread, salt, honey and mustard.  Combine with hands until bread is evenly distributed.  Add vegetable mixture and mix throughout.  Gently crumble in cheese and combine.
Put mixutre in loaf pan and cover with foil.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Remove foil and allow meatloaf to brown, about another 20 minutes.   Allow to rest for about 30 minutes before eating.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Refreshed-- Tart and snappy apple, fennel and fig salad

Life is worth celebrating!

Feeling happy and refreshed.  Even though I’m still working a lot I feel comfortable in my job and I’m loving what I’m doing.  Second year has been fantastic so far; I’m not so nervous about every decision I make or what everybody thinks of me.  I’m not falling asleep with the pager under my pillow praying it doesn’t beep.

This year I’m focusing on two goals--improving my surgical skills and more importantly appropriately counseling patients.  As much as I wanted to give patients the right information I think I failed many times last year due to time constraints, fatigue, frustration and lack of knowledge.  I’m trying to take the time to step back and truly make sure patients understand what is happening to them and why, and it’s a really good feeling.

I’m also trying to bring a bit of balance back into my life.  It’s easy to forget what being a human is like.  The other night I made this easy and fresh salad using fresh fall flavors which is very tart and sweet--but not too sweet.  The salad was very easy to make with a mandoline for thin slices.   A very sharp knife would work just as well.  I brought fresh figs as something new to try and was very happily surprised and how great they taste raw tossed in some lemon juice and olive oil. 

Tart and snappy apple, fennel and fig salad

2 gala or other tart apples cored, unpeeled
1 fennel bulb
4-5 fresh figs
1-2 lemons (depending how tart you like your salads)
½ cup toasted and salted pepitas
crumbled goat cheese
¼ cup olive oil
½ tbsp salt

With a mandoline or sharp knife, slice apples and bulb of fennel into paper thin slices.  In a medium bowl combine apple and fennel with lemon, salt and olive oil.  Toss to combine.  Place on platter, leaving remaining juices in bowl.  Slice figs into thin slices and toss in remaining dressing.  Place figs on top of apple and fennel combination.  Sprinkle pepitas and goat cheese on top.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Panna cotta, cherry and champagne parfait (aka creamy, boozy, fruity Jello)

layers of cream, fresh pureed cherries and champagne adorn this simple, beautiful parfait

 Can I tell you a secret?  I love Jello.  Slurping fluorescent red goop between my teeth is pure pleasure.  I eat less Jello now than I did in college, but my obsession was so great that my friends bought me a whole Jello cookbook after graduation.  This is just one of the hidden junk foods that I love.  I am a total food snob with a private occasional hankering for all things processed, salty and neon colored-- I could never turn down a bright orange cheese puff. 

Call this dish what you want, panna cotta with champagne gelee, but let’s not hide the truth.  Think of it as a fancy creamy, cherry flavored Jello shot.  The recipe is very light and refreshing in this horrible heat. 

The parfait is very easy to make, it just takes some time because each layer must set before the next can be concocted.  The first layer, panna cotta, which I had never made before, tastes almost like ice cream without an ice cream maker and couldn’t be simpler to whip up.  Fresh bing cherries are not as fluorescent as red food coloring, but they are certainly more delicious.  Champagne makes a great gelatin dessert; make sure to add a pinch of sugar to help bubbles form as the parfait sets for the final layer. 

Panna cotta, cherry and champagne parfait (inspired the French Laundry cookbook)

9 inch loaf pan
pitted bing cherries to top

Panna cotta
1 packet gelatin
½ cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cherry layer
1 lb bing cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 ½ tbsp sugar
1 ½ packets gelatin
¼ cup champagne
juice of one lemon

Champagne layer
2 cups champagne, divided
3 tbsp sugar
1 ½ packets gelatin

To make the panna cotta, sprinkle gelatin over milk and let sit 5 minutes.  In a saucepan over medium high heat, bring cream and sugar barely to a boil.  Remove from heat, add gelatin and vanilla extract and whisk until all ingredients are combined.  Add mixture to loaf pan and allow to cool and set, at least one hour.

Cherry layer.  While panna cotta is setting, in medium bowl break up cherries with hands.  Add champagne, lemon juice and sugar and allow cherries to release juices for at least half an hour.  Add cherries and juices to blender and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Strain mixture.  Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup water and allow to sit for five minutes.  Bring cherry puree to a slight boil, remove from heat and add gelatin.  Pour mixture over already set panna cotta and allow to cool and set, at least one hour. 

Champagne layer.  Over ½ cup champagne, sprinkle gelatin.  Bring 1 ¼ cup champagne to a boil with 2 tbsp sugar to cook off alcohol.  Remove from heat.  Add gelatin and whisk until combined.  Add final ¼ cup champagne and 1 tbsp sugar (this will make it bubble).  Quickly add to loaf pan and allow to set, preferably overnight. 

When ready to serve, loosen parfait from the sides of the pan with a sharp knife run along the edges.  Run the bottom of the pan under warm water for one minute and carefully invert onto platter.  Slice and enjoy with fresh cherries. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Corn, carbon and hair

Sweet, creamy elote dip made from fresh summer corn

A friend of mine asked me to write a dip recipe for the 4th of July.  Oops. Well, it’s still July isn’t it?  I based this recipe on one of my favorite foods that I’ve been introduced to since moving to Texas.  Termed “elotes”, which simply means corn in Mexican Spanish, these delectable treats are served in Dallas at roadside stands and adjacent to taco joints.  In a Styrofoam cup, corn kernels are layered with butter, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce and lemon pepper.  Certainly not a diet food, but my husband and I fell immediately in love with this local fare and even asked our caterer to make a fancy version for our wedding which was a huge hit.

This dip uses some sour cream and mayo but the creaminess is amped up by the corn itself, half of which is pulsed through a food processor to make almost a corn pudding-like consistency.   The dip is topped with a thin layer of cotija cheese, a salty dry cheese, not unlike a high quality Kraft parmesan.  The whole thing is baked for a nice gooey texture and served with corn chips.

I was asking my friend Heather if she thought this was too much corn for an appetizer.  She made an interesting point about a documentary she saw, King Corn, in which scientists used radioactive isotopes to trace about 50% of the carbon that we consume as Americans to corn.  As carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are the basis for carbohydrates, fats as well as amino acids and thus energy, it is quite remarkable how corn dependent our food chain is. 

The scientific methods used to trace the foundations of humans’ diet are fascinating and use human hair as the tissue of study.  Hair leaves an excellent footprint of what we eat—it is metabolically inactive, is derived from what we consume and immediately reflects changes in diet. This excellent article in the UVA magazine biographies one of the major scientists, Stephen Macko who helped advance research in using hair to trace the origins of diets, even using mummy hair to deduce food consumption among ice men and paleo humans.  He also helped the filmmakers of King Corn use their hair to measure the amount of corn in their diet. 

Using various concentrations of variations of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, known as isotopes, scientists can deduce the biologic origins of humans’ diets.  Corn is rich in the 13C isotope, thus allowing scientists to trace corn as it escalates in the food chain.  Scientists also use 15 nitrogen isotopes, which increase in an animal that eats a plant, then in a human who eats that animal, to track the amount of meat somebody is consuming in their diet. 

In the US, most livestock is corn-fed, thus meat is a large contributor to the corn carbon isotopes.  In fact, it has been demonstrated that when somebody moves from the UK to the US, their carbon isotopes from corn increase by approximately 3%.  A 2008 study from the University of Hawaii traced the carbon isotopes of various fast foods, and after a survey of various restaurants throughout the US, only about 5% of the chicken and beef were not solely corn fed; also many of the fries contained large amount of corn isotopes. 

The politics behind corn growth, production, alteration and consumption is a heavy debate--one that represents many levels of lobbying, industry and culture.  It cannot be denied that corn is pervasive and permanent in our daily lives.  Surely though, it is not corn in its unaltered form, such as this delicious elote dip, that calls for concern.  What is alarming however, are the ways that corn is manipulated and passed through the food chain and can produce potentially damaging effects on health, the economy and the ecosystem. 

Elote Dip

4 ears corn, grilled, roasted or steamed, or 2 cups frozen corn defrosted
¼ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
¼ tsp cayenne
juice of ½ lemon
¾ cup grated cotija cheese (or if you cannot find this anywhere, grated parmesan)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp Mexican hot sauce, such as Bufalo (or substitute for 1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce)

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut corn off cob.  In blender or food processor place half kernels, mayo, sour cream, cayenne, lemon juice, pepper, hot sauce, pepper and ½ cup cotija cheese.  Blend until smooth.  In heatproof dish, combine blended mixture with the other half of whole corn kernels.  Top with leftover cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brown and bubbly.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Macko, SA.  Engel, MH, et al.  Documenting the diet in ancient human populations through stable isotope analysis of hair. Philosophical transactions PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS- ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON SERIES B BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES. 1999, VOL 354; ISSUE 1379, pages 65-76

McCullagh, J et al.  Carbon isotope analysis of bulk keratin and single amino acids from British and North American hair.  Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. Volume 19, Issue 22, pages 3227–3231, 30 November 2005.

Jahren, A, Kraft R.  Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in fast food: Signatures of corn and confinement. PNAS November 18, 2008 vol. 105 no. 46 17855-1786

Petzke, KJ et al. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic composition of hair protein and amino acids can be used as biomarkers for animal derived dietary protein intake.  J Nutr. 2005 Jun;135(6):1515-20.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grilled chicken and eggplant salad with arugula pesto

I’m feeling lucky and relaxed, back from another wonderful vacation with my husband spent in the car driving around the Midwest.  Also, even bigger cause to celebrate, I’m a second year resident!  Intern year is over and I feel so proud and accomplished of all that I learned and did in one year (tons of deliveries, dozens of C-sections, gynecologic surgeries, hundreds of emergency and clinic patients.)  More than anything, I’m freaking relieved by the promotion.  The second year schedule is a bit more forgiving and well balanced and there is a scant amount of clout that comes with the job. 

Even though I had an awesome year, it is great to know that it will be somebody else running around labor and delivery trying to get it all done--although I think I’m hard wired to sprint when I hear “doctor for decelerations/delivery/exam” on the overhead speaker.  As second year, we learn how to be consultants to midwives and are in charge of the women’s ER.  Plus, there will be lots of scalpel time as we are primary surgeon to all C-sections at night.  It is amazing how much I’ve seen after just one year, and I’m excited to keep learning and gaining more responsibility as I work my way up.

Perhaps now with a new year and a new job, July is a much better month than January to make New Year’s resolutions.  While in January I was merely trying to survive; to get out of bed, go to work and do the best job I could, I’m blessed to have a bit of time this month to make some real changes in my habits.  I’m feeling bloated after eating a hot fudge sundae every day of my vacation. This is worsened by the fact that even though I joined the gym almost a year ago, I haven’t been at all since February.  (My husband is surely chuckling)

Thankfully, summer is a great time to eat a lighter diet.  I found beautiful small eggplants at the grocery store and they grilled up just great. We have a gas grill as part of our apartment, and I know, I know it’s not charcoal but I’m getting the hang of the grill and hopefully someday can promote myself to hot coals. Even though pesto isn’t necessarily diet food, it at least is a step in the right direction.  I love making pesto with arugula as it has a wonderful peppery bite and is cheaper than basil.  This “salad” can be served hot or cold and would be great over bread, mixed in with lettuce or pasta or can be eaten alone.

Grilled chicken and eggplant salad with arugula pesto

Arugula pesto

Handful loose basil
1 cup arugula
Salt and pepper to taste
Clove garlic
¼ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup walnuts
1 tbsp high quality balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 lb eggplant
1 lb roma tomatoes, seeded and divided in eight pieces
½ red onion thinly diced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil and salt for seasoning

To make the pesto, place basil, arugula, garlic, cheese, walnuts, salt and pepper into food processor.  Run until all components are well combined.  Scrape down sides and pulse in balsamic vinegar.  With machine running, slowly add oil until all ingredients well combined.  Set aside

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  If using small eggplants such as thai or Indian as I did, cut in half and salt and brush with olive oil.  If using a large eggplant, cut into 4-5 horizontal slices and salt and brush with oil each side.  With the chicken, salt and oil each breast.  Grill eggplant for about 6-7 minutes on each side until juices run from the eggplant and they are soft to touch.  Grill chicken for about 7 minutes on each side until juices run clear and the chicken has an internal temperature of about 150F.

Dice eggplant into about 1 inch cubes, doing the same for the chicken.  In a large bowl, add eggplant, chicken, tomato and onion.  Add pesto by the tablespoon until each piece of salad well coated.  You will have leftover pesto which can be put aside for a separate use. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pork and Peaches—Pork Chops with Perky Peach Salsa

The best thing ever happened a couple of months ago.  The USDA lowered the cooking temperature of pork.  Now pork can sit at a pink tinged 145 degrees instead of a crusty, chewy, floss-inviting 160.  The evolution of this change is directly related to laws passed in food safety. 

Even though there is much disturbing news these days about food production including E. coli infested sprouts in Germany, overcrowded, overmedicated, overfed cows and chickens, and genetically modified plants and animals, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in many ways regarding food safety.  The main concern about undercooking pork used to be trichinellosis, a disease provoked by tissue dwelling roundworms that caused fevers, muscle aches and a whole bunch of nasty.  The trichinella rate has declined exponentially since the 1940s.   In a survey by the CDC between 1997-2001, there were only 72 cases reported to the CDC, including 29 cases from bear meat and one from cougar meat (only 12 cases from commercial pork). 1

The rapid decline in trichinella is directly related to government policy.  Disgustingly, pigs were previously fed garbage contaminated with raw animal waste.  Only until garbage laws were passed in the 1950s did this rate begin to decrease.  Other policies enacted by the USDA have also reduced the rate of trichinella

Even though trichinella is killed by cooking at 140 degrees, there was concern by the USDA that due to uneven cooking, trichinella would survive.  This concern has now decreased and pork can be safely cooked to 145, also killing other potential microbes looming on the surface.

Now that I’m officially allowed to undercook my pork, I like it a whole lot better. There’s nothing like a quickly brined pork chop nicely grilled with a tangy fruity sauce on top. This peach salsa is bright and only slightly sweet, complimented by mint, cilantro and jalapeno. I know it’s a lot of fruit recipes lately, but I can’t help myself.  It’s summer!

Peachy Pork

4 center loin boneless pork chops
for the brine 4 cups water, 3 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar

For the peach salsa
5 ripe peaches
handful mint leaves--chiffonade
handful cilantro—chiffonade
1 large shallot finely diced
1 tsp salt
1 jalapeno finely diced
juice of 1 lime

Place chops in brine and let soak two hours in fridge.  Remove from brine and blot with paper towels to dry.  To cook, grill (outside or on grill pan) on each side about 7-8 minutes until golden on the outside and 145 degrees on inside.  Combine all ingredients for peach salsa.  Serve with cold salsa.

Trichinellosis Surveillance --- United States, 1997—2001. MMWR July 25 2003.  52 (SS06); 1-8.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hawaiian Style Pina Colada Creme Brulee

Ahh.  Wondrous vacation.  

sunset at our Hawaiian paradise

Makes a girl go from looking like this

Self portrait after a horrible night shift
to this.

It’s hard to come back from a romantic belated honeymoon with time in the sun, a cool Hawaiian breeze, tropical fruit, and lots of pleasure reading to 100-degree heat and C-sections. 


I love scientific research that is so obvious.  For example, a 2009 meta-analysis in the Journal of Occupational Health states that vacation has a positive effect on health.  People have actually spent money researching the fact that sitting on a sailboat drinking lemonade is more healthy than working a 12 hour shift overnight without sitting or eating taking care of 15 patients. Yeah, I know.   

Sadly, the same study suggests that coming back to work erodes away all positive effects of vacation between two and four weeks.  However, I have to disagree.  Having gone a six-month stretch between vacations this year with only one weekend off between, I think a vacation got me through about three months of that.  Then it was pure pain.

With this recipe, we can all go on a tropical vacation together.  I love pina coladas with their 1200 calories of rummy goodness.  I begged my husband to buy me ONE at the pool bar because it was 12 bucks.  (It wasn’t even that good.)  Now home, attempting to maintain my island spirit, I decided to make my own version of a pina colada in the form of a creamy crème brulee. This recipe has all the tropical hints of a pineapple and coconut without being overly sweet or cloying--just the elegance of fresh fruit and a tiny splash of rum wrapped in a ceramic package of a delicious custard and a crispy sugar shell.

Pina colada crème brulee

2 cups coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp rum
2 tsp vanilla
5 large egg yolks, 2 large eggs
¼ cup brown sugar

Thin pineapple slices

granulated sugar to top

blowtorch! Or oven broiler

6 6 oz ramekins

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, cream, rum, vanilla and brown sugar.  Heat, stirring constantly until almost simmering.  In separate bowl, whisk eggs together.  Temper eggs by slowly adding 1/3 of the warm cream mixture to the egg mixture and then add the tempered eggs back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream mixture.  Continue to heat over medium heat, stirring continuously until mixture begins to slightly thicken, about 2 minutes.  Do not allow to curdle.  Strain custard with a fine mesh strainer.  Divide mixture between ramekins.  Place ramekins in large roasting pan.  Place pan with ramekins in preheated oven and fill pan with boiling water ¾ of the way up the ramekins to make a water bath.  Bake for 15 minutes and as custards begin to set, carefully place pineapple slices on top.   Bake for another 15 minutes until the custards are set.  Remove from heat, allow to cool and refrigerate overnight. 

The next day, add 1-2 tsp granulated sugar to the top of each ramekin.  With a blowtorch or carefully with the broiler, caramelize the sugar until it is golden brown. 

De Bloom J, Kompier M, et al.  Do we recover from vacation?  Meta-analysis of vacation effects on health and well-being.  J Occup Health. 2009;51(1):13-25. Epub 2008 Dec 19.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Almond Ricotta Cake with Grilled Peaches

Nothing is more lovely than the first signs of summer.  For us in Texas, that started in March, but the true signs of summer, like fresh local tiny peaches at the Whole Foods are sure signals that barbeque season is here to stay.  This is the perfect dessert to finish off a grilled meal with friends, which is just how I enjoyed this cake.  Nothing is more wonderful than an evening outside with chickens pecking in the background eating home-grown greens, pasta made with fresh chicken eggs and pesto with basil from the garden.  

The cake is moist and light, fluffy and golden.  It has a nice bite to it from the almonds.  I prefer the taste and look of whole almonds compared to blanched--a little bit of brown almond peel enhances the color and texture of the cake.  

Peaches on the grill are incredibly wonderful.  My friends thought the idea was somewhat strange but when the peaches gave off their fruity aroma, they were instantly sold.  You have to try this cake!

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 ¾ cup sugar divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
6 eggs separated
1 cup raw whole almonds
2 ¼ cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup milk

5 peaches

Fresh vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, pulse almonds until they are finely ground but before they become pasty.  Pulse flour, salt and baking powder until well combined.

With electric mixer on high, whip egg whites.  Slowly add ½ cup sugar while mixer is on.  Whip until soft peaks.  Set aside in medium bowl.

With electric mixer, beat butter, ricotta and 1 ¼ cup sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla, almond extract and egg yolks, mix to combine.  Slowly beat in flour/almond mixture and then add milk until well combined.  Fold in 1/3 egg white mixture with a rubber spatula, and then fold in the rest of the whites.

Grease 11x7 baking pan and add batter.  Bake approximately 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and knife comes out clean when cake is poked.  Allow to cool.

Split peaches in half.  Grill until golden brown and fragrant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Advice to New Interns

As intern year is winding down and all of the giddy 4th year medical students are shelling out 200 dollars to rent that silly robe thingy for one day of pomp and circumstance, all of us interns are impatiently waiting for the fresh meat to arrive. Having just experienced every single emotion under the psychological rainbow this year, I am going to give a few pointers (or not really pointers but just some anecdotal evidence that it’s ok to feel the way you’re feeling). I am stupid enough to admit to all of the silly things that I did. This is not to prove that I’m an idiot, but to allay the fears of anybody who finds themselves in my shoes starting July 1.

1) You might have been a good medical student but you now know essentially nothing. You also have much more power and ability to screw things up than you ever had. This, however, is ok because you are being very closely watched by every single nurse, medical assistant, older resident, attending, even the lady who empties the trash, and you will not really do anything so stupid that you could actually hurt somebody (hopefully). You will do really dumb things though, for example, a wet prep is called a WET prep for a reason…you need to put a few drops of water on it. Somebody, not to name names, did a DRY prep. The whole point of residency is to do dumb things. The dumber the thing you did, the more likely, if you’re smart, is to not repeat the dumb thing.

2) Accept the fact that you will dumb things and you might hear about it. It might be a change from being a protected doe-eyed medical student to be paged by an older resident or attending to ask you to explain why you did such a thing. DON’T ARGUE. Just say, I’m sorry, cry in the corner for ONE SECOND and get over it. The whole point of residency is to do dumb things. You are not a bad person or incompetent because you made a mistake.

3) Having a pager sucks. The only profession ever that still uses an outdated contraption invented in the 1970s for drug dealers, residents and all doctors for the rest of eternity are given pagers which need to be worn and answered at all times. This cannot be turned off and have the potential to bring bad news at any time. However, I must add that having a pager is also something that becomes normal very quickly and grows more annoying than scary as time goes on. You might start to feel naked without the two pounds of buzzing plastic with two lines missing from the screen.

4) It’s ok to be absolutely terrified. I was so nervous when I did my first speculum exam as a resident that it took me five minutes to realize that the speculum was actually broken and that I wasn’t just a complete idiot that didn’t know how to use it. Being nervous reminds us that we are taking care of people who are sick and we shouldn’t be nonchalant about it. When I did my first delivery, I think I almost vomited. Being scared is totally normal.

5) As a continuation of point 4, there is a fine line between being terrified because it’s new and being terrified because something bad is happening and you are in over your head. If you are completely over your head, ask for help. Seriously, even if it might seem dumb to somebody older than you. Because, back to point 1, you are stupid and everybody knows that. Don’t pretend to be smart because that is dumb.

6) Things that seem scary will become second nature. The most awesome thing about being an intern is that while I almost vomited during my first delivery, I now am comfortable in the delivery room and can handle many different situations. Lots of bleeding, ok! Bad laceration, ok! (to a point, then same thing, ask for help). I’ve done enough deliveries now that I have fun with them. You will develop your own style and you will learn. Everybody does it. Something that helped me get through all the nerves is reminding myself that almost everybody that graduates from medical school survives residency and graduates to be a competent physician. So, if they can do it, why can’t I?! You can do it too.

7) It’s ok to complain. Residency is full of sacrifice. You will miss holidays with families, weddings, birthdays, weekends off, dates with boyfriends. You will be grumpy. You will be exhausted. My advice though is to complain to your co-workers. Complaining at home and to your family doesn’t really work as well because they are also suffering your hours and your holiday-missing and they really don’t understand how much your job sucks. I have completely failed to follow this advice. Fortunately I have an understanding family and a wonderful, exceptionally tolerant husband. (And on a completely personal tangent, avoid getting married as an intern. The wedding was great but planning ruined my life.)

8) Step back and realize how totally amazing your job is. You get to help people at their most vulnerable moments. I get to use needles and knives, scissors and suture as everyday tools. I bring life into the world. Wade through all of the crap, the hurt feelings, and just appreciate how great it is to be a physician. Even though the field of medicine is changing probably to the disadvantage of all of us, there is a reason people are willing to sacrifice so much to do what we do. Medicine is rewarding, stimulating, complex and most of all, really fun. Residency is a great community and an awesome bonding experience. Enjoy it.

9) Most importantly, work hard, keep your head down, take care of your patients and take responsibility for your actions.  This is by far what will get you through and all that people really expect of you.  Just keep going and you'll be fine!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mini Coffee Cheesecakes

I made these cheesecakes as a gift for my sister to keep her awake during her law school finals.  The crust is an adaptation from Doris Greenspan’s awesome book Baking that my amazing friend Julia gave us as an unsolicited wedding present.   With the aid of a food processor, it whizzes together in no time and is flaky and delicious.

After all of the lemons and limes from the wedding, I was trying to find ways to use them and I decided to make a key lime pie/cheesecake hybrid using cream cheese and condensed milk.  What resulted was a very creamy cake, which baked evenly and didn’t crack--a cheesecake miracle.  I tried the concept again with coffee and with great result.   This is pretty much no fail cheesecake so for those of you that are scared, go ahead and try it.

This recipe makes about 36 mini cheesecakes or enough to make bars in a large baking pan (I only made 24 and had a ton of leftovers).  Make sure to use non-stick cupcake pans with lots of Pam, a little faith, and a sharp knife to extract them.

Mini Coffee Cheesecakes with Chocolate Crust

For the crust (adapted from Doris Greenspan’s Desserts)

3 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons very cold butter
3 egg yolks

For the filling

2 8-oz packages cream cheese
2 14 oz cans condensed milk
1 cup freshly brewed coffee—cooled to room temp
1 tsp vanilla
6 eggs plus one yolk

Chocolate covered espresso beans to top

Per Doris Greenspan’s instructions:

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.   Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in.  Stir the yolks and add a little at a time (you probably will only need 2 yolks and a bit from the 3rd so don’t add it all too quickly).  When the egg is in, process in long pulses until there are clumps and curds.  Press the dough into very well greased muffin tins and freeze the crust for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Cover the muffin trays and prebake the crusts for 10 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350. 

With a mixer, whip the cream cheese until fluffy, slowly adding the condensed milk until well combined.  Add the coffee, vanilla and eggs until well combined.  Fill the crusts, cover and bake for 15 minutes or until the filling is set.  Remove and while still warm add an espresso bean to each one.  Chill.  Once cakes are cooled, carefully remove each with a sharp knife.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Marriage Good For You?

I am loud, disorganized and live by hyperbole.  My husband is quiet, focused and logical.  We’re an unlikely match.  But I can only say that my life has changed for the better since we’ve met.  I feel incredibly blessed.

The New York Times' Pauline Chen had an interesting perspective on the issue of marriage and lifelong health.  Overall, married people have better lifelong health than those who are single, however those that have turmoil in their marriage or ultimately divorce may have more health difficulties overall.  Good communication within a relationship can even promote wound healing.1 

Nobody in this society is stranger to marriage strain and divorce; I am definitely not alien to marital demise.  There is never certainty that everything will be ok.  So I’m just going to take this whole marriage thing one day at a time and count my blessings.  I’m going to try and play my part to be a good wife and a supportive partner. For me, there’s no better way to express my love for my husband than through a pot and pan. 

This recipe is the dish that I make that my husband loves most.  Which is funny because of all the things I make, it’s just stir-fried chicken and cabbage.  The delicious factor is the home-ground five spice powder which gives a unique taste and aroma.  You can always buy pre-packaged spice for a shortcut, but it’s never quite as good as what you can whack up in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle.

I actually got the idea for this recipe on an airplane of all places.  I know, I know, an airplane?! But I was flying to Asia, and the five spice was just so yummy.  Even though five spice is commonly used in Chinese food, it’s not really something that is served most commonly in restaurants.  It’s almost like a punchy version of mulling spices which gives a warming taste to the food.   You gotta try it.

Five Spice Chicken and Cabbage Stir Fry

For the five spice
1 cinnamon stick
5 star anise
15 cloves
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
1 tsp fennel seed

Toast the spices on high heat until fragrant in a dry skillet.  Pulse in spice grinder until it’s a fine powder.

For the stir fry
1.5-2lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ large onion diced

½ head of Chinese or regular cabbage cut into matchsticks
1 inch ginger finely chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp vinegar (rice wine or white)
1 tbsp sugar
¼ cup Chinese cooking wine or dry Sherry
2 tsp corn starch

In a measuring cup, mix soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, wine and cornstarch.  Set aside.  In wok or large sauté pan, place 2 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil over high heat.  When oil is smoking, add onion, chicken and five spice.  Cook until chicken is almost cooked through.  Add ginger and cabbage and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add sauce mixture and allow to bring to a boil.  Serve over brown rice.

1: Gouin JP, Carter CS, Pournajafi-Nazarloo H, Glaser R, Malarkey WB, Loving TJ, Stowell J, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Marital behavior, oxytocin, vasopressin, and wound healing. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Aug;35(7):1082-90

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Agony and the Ecstasy...of chilies

“Recent findings suggest that pain and pleasure share common neurochemical circuits, and studies in animals and humans show that opioid-mediated descending pathways can inhibit or facilitate pain1

While this quote from the abstract of a Journal of Neuroscience article is meant to pertain to specific medication that is an agonist/antagonist to opioid receptors, naloxone, the general concept can be applied to many facets of life including residency which is pain and pleasure embodied.  This statement also can easily be made about spicy food.  

My husband and I burn for spicy food.  When we had been dating for about a year, we ventured to Thailand for a week.  Seeing as were not about to pay 25 bucks a person for a fancy breakfast at our hotel, we ventured to the local street vendors for a plate of deliciously mouth numbing curry and jasmine rice. 

Well, we didn’t think this through quite enough because as we went to buy something to drink, our mouths ablaze, the lovely vendor offered us a bucket of tap water and a ladle.  Considering that my stomach is fairly sensitive and I didn’t even survive a night at the Texas state fair without my gastric contents painting the lining of the toilet bowl, I wasn’t about to imbibe a gallon of e. coli laden tap water certain to make my linings explode.  Surely, one can imagine a bunch of sun burnt idiots running around the alleys of Bangkok with their tongues hanging out of their mouths.

Even though the experience was painful, it was by far a happy moment in my life.   This is because chilies are one of those foods that cause as much pleasure as they do pain.  Paul Rozin, psychology expert suggests that spicy food are a “constrained risk” in that the act is a generally harmless however the body responds in with a warning system that is physically painful.  Basically, people love spicy food because it feels dangerous but it isn’t. 2  

I actually made these tamales for a recipe contest on Food52, a weekly competition for a community-compiled cookbook.  One of my recipes, this soup, actually was picked to be published in the cookbook.  Anyway, one of the problems with being a resident and an idiot is that I misunderstood when the entry time was over.  I spent all day making these tamales and I didn’t even submit them. 

The contest theme was coffee, so I braised short ribs in coffee and spices and then made a blistering red sauce to coat the meat to fill the tamales.  The caffeine and chile is a great combination for your gastritis…I recommend taking a prilosec first.  I think that if you just made the meat and the sauce and skipped all of the corn husk, tamale steaming assembly disaster and used the meat as a taco filling or serve it with rice and beans it would be a delicious meal.  Our tongues were burning with deliciousness. 

Makes about 12 tamales, takes about forever

Monday, April 18, 2011


Literally, crumbs or scraps, migas are the genius breakfast of some Mexican brainiacs disguising chips and salsa into a delicious breakfast.  Migas are a great use of the bottom of the tortilla chip bag or some stale crumbs that you found in the back of your cupboard hidden behind the seven pound bag of chocolate chips. 

Migas are a Texas staple and one of the amazing foods that have become necessities since I became a resident of this great state almost a year ago.  Yep, it’s been a great year in Texas.  The weather, the food, the people—it’s all awesome.   So, here I share some of my joy with you.

Gooey cheese, tortilla chips and eggs.  Breakfast of champions.


Serves two hungry people

2 tbsp veggie oil
1 small onion diced
1 clove garlic
½ cup green salsa or small can green chiles
½ cup tortilla chips broken into small pieces
4 eggs
½ cup shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, whatever you got)
salsa, sour cream, cilantro to top

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until ripples.  Add onion and garlic with pinch of salt and stir carefully until translucent.  Add green salsa and chips, stir until chips are slightly soggy.   Add eggs and stir until cook, add cheese until melted.  Serve with toppings and enjoy.