Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rocky Road Brownies

When you talk to children in psychiatry, a good way to assess what's going on in their life is asking, "If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?"

It can be pretty revealing. A child with terrible depression told me "health, happiness, and a better family." Another boy said, "I wish for a million bucks because I hate being poor all the time."

And if the kid says, "I want a unicorn!" .... well, unicorns are a popular wish, by the way.

I think the best reply I heard had to be "I want it to snow marshmallows!" I mean, you can't beat marshmallows falling from the sky right?
On that note, I made these rocky road brownies for B when he visited. There are fudgy brownies (dense and chocolatey like truffles), cakey brownies (moist and fluffy), and chewy brownies (in between). Adapted from Joy of Baking, these are definitely the fudgy kind. 

Rich chocolate brownies topped with nuts, chocolate chips, and, of course, marshmallows. Yum. 
B couldn't wait to kill these. But I made him wait a whole day and night so I could photograph it in daylight.

He said that took the most willpower he'd ever mustered as he studied at home, eyeing it on the counter. I'm glad he passed the famous Marshmallow Test done at Cornell 40 years ago. He doesn't have ADHD.

Rocky Road Brownies

4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces (can replace 1/4 butter with 1/4 cup Greek yogurt)
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, an 8 inch square baking pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and salt. If substituting 1/2 the butter, add the Greek yogurt now.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from oven, and immediately sprinkle the brownies with the chocolate chips, miniature marshmallows and chopped nuts. Return the brownies to the oven and bake for about 2-3 minutes, or just until the marshmallows start to melt (broil if you want the marshmallows browned). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Smoked Salmon Bagels

Smoked salmon is a blanket term for any salmon: wild, farmed, fillet, steak, cured with hot or cold smoke. Lox is salmon cured in a salt-sugar rub or brine but not actually smoked/cooked, which makes it smoked salmon. Authentic lox is made from only the belly portion of the salmon - the richest, fattiest and most succulent portion and traditionally from Pacific salmon (Food Republic and The Kitchn)
I got this idea from B since he loves going to a bagel shop near his school. He hates paying $12+ for tiny sandwiches like these since can make them himself much cheaper. B basically lives at Costco. I don't know how Costco membership can be worth it for one person, but given how much he eats (2 gallons of milk a week! crate of oranges and avocados! trays and trays of salmon!), it works for him.
B is visiting me now and took me there to Costco where we somehow bought nearly $200 worth of groceries. That's how much I spend in a whole month, so the price tag was a little eye popping for me, but it will last a long while at least.

Smoked Salmon Bagels

4 bagels
8 Tbsps cream cheese
1/2 pound thin smoked salmon slices
lemon juice (optional)
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced

Slice the bagels in half and toast each side until golden brown.

Smear each bagel half with cream cheese. Add smoked salmon slices and squeeze lemon for additional flavoring if desired. Add avocado and onion slices.

Top each sandwich with a second bagel half and press.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mushroom Barley Risotto // Baked Whole Trout

I've been working in pediatric psychiatry this month now, and needless to say, it's been very different from the country hospital ER. There's depression, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, but most of all, ADHD.

Before, I thought that if you just tried and concentrated hard enough, you'd overcome ADHD. But after meeting these families, I can see how real it is. Their struggles in school or controlling outbursts are real. The side effects, like difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite or feeling "zombie-like," unfortunately are real.

Sometimes, I feel like I have so much energy, yet I'm so all over the place I can't do anything productive; I end up doing nothing, wasting time, and hating myself for it. I don't even have ADHD, so I can hardly imagine what these kids go through 24/7.
Medications don't take away a child's personality as some people fear but channel their energy into something productive. I still have somewhat mixed feeling about stimulants and its risks, but, undoubtedly, these kids need them. And for the vast majority of patients, taking medicine decreases dropping out, drug abuse, and violence, so I believe it's worth it.
Adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman. I didn't have cremini mushrooms and had to sub red wine vineger for the white wine. And used a rice cooker to speed up the risotto making process.

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms, Manchego and Thyme

3.5 oz fresh shittake mushrooms
6 oz sliced portabella caps
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
3 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup barley
1/2 large onion, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 fresh bay leaves
2-3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/2 cup manchego, grated

Add barley, sliced onions, and bay leaves in a rice cooker and 2 cups of chicken stock. Cook to desired doneness (add more liquid if necessary to keep the rice cooker on the "cook" setting if it's not done).

While the barley is cooking, clean and slice the shittake and portabella mushrooms. Over a pan on medium high, heat olive oil and saute and garlic. Add mushrooms and 1/4 cup white wine, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Add rosemary and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms are browned and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the cooked barley to the pan with the mushrooms and its juices and stir over stove top on medium high for the flavors to meld, adding more chicken stock depending on desired consistency. Add salt and pepper. Grate manchego cheese.

Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve, adding additional manchego cheese if desired.

Pan-Roasted Rainbow Trout
and Western Living

3 whole rainbow trouts, cleaned and scaled
salt and pepper
fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, and oregano)
6 cloves garlic
2 lemon, sliced or cut in half
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil and add carrots.

Rinse the trout, then pat dry with a paper towel. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with fresh herbs and garlic.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and place the whole fish directly into the pan, searing both sides until skin is crispy. Transfer to the prepared pan with carrots, and squeeze lemons over the fish and carrots. Drizzle the top with olive oil and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast for 15–20 minutes, or until just firm to the touch.

Tip: To get crispy skin, make sure the fish that has no surface moisture. Blot the entire surface with a paper towel before frying, broiling or grilling.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Valentine's is coming up, so all things pink is of course fitting. I don't know who decided pink and red symbolized Valentine's Day, but it works. 

History digression: According to legend, Saint Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers (they were forbidden to marry since *gasp* women were distractions) and for other Christians. The night before Valentine was to be executed, he supposedly wrote the first "valentine" card to his jailer's daughter, whom he miraculously cured from blindness, signing it as "Your Valentine." 

This sad tale somehow became associated with love, as the tradition of courtly love flourished during the Middle Ages. Starting in 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers professed their love with flowers, sweets, and greeting cards (known as "valentines") (Wiki)

Well, I can't offer everyone flowers and soul mates, but I can offer you sweets.
I was trying to use up my overly sweet jam I had bought, but it turned out I didn't have enough jam to fill these bars. So I made my own in a pinch. It's pretty easy; just mash fresh/frozen berries and cook over the stovetop with sugar and cornstarch to reduce it. And you get to control the sugar as bonus. Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman from Food Network. 

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

1 1/2 sticks salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
One 10 to 12-ounce jar raspberry preserves (or make your own, see below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan.

Mix together the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Press half the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Spread with the raspberry preserves. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly.

Bake until light brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely, and then cut into squares

1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine raspberry, sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan on stovetop on medium. Stir until thickened.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Biscotti

I can bake the most beautiful desserts ever. But apparently I can't cook real food.

Fine.... one can subsist on sugar alone, right?

I saw this peanut butter biscotti from Allrecipes and had to make it. I loooove Italian biscotti because it's hard and crunchy. Traditional biscotti does not contain oil or butter (even better), and is twice baked which causes its dry crunchiness. B calls them "rocks," but hey, biscotti is an elegant cookie that demands an accompanying drink for dunking.
I slaved on making biscotti look gorgeous - dipped in tempered chocolate to perfection and rolled in crushed peanuts. I was feeling pretty smug, oh yeah.

I then decided to needed eat a very late lunch.... and burnt a simple veggie egg scramble to a crisp. It looked fine on top, but the bottom was black. And it smelled horrible. I tried to salvage it/eat it but it was totally inedible and, alas, I was forced to throw it away.
So readers, learn from me. Don't cook eggs on high heat. (Apparently, every single person in the world knows that you don't cook eggs on high heat. Except me. Literally everyone else said, duh, cook eggs on low or medium.) 

Well then. I may not be able to scramble eggs, but at least my biscotti tasted awesome!

Peanut Butter Biscotti

1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups peanuts
1 (12 ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips, for dipping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and beat. Add milk and vanilla extract.

Alternate pouring in the flour and mixing until just incorporated. Fold in the peanuts; mixing just enough to evenly combine.

Divide the dough into 2 equal logs and place on parchment paper. Flatten slightly to make a rectangle shape. Bake in the preheated oven until firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove biscotti logs and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Cut each loaf into 1/2-inch slices using a sawing motion to avoid crumbling. Return the slices to the baking sheets with the cut sides up. Bake in the oven until biscotti are dry (about 10-12 minutes on each side depending on desired dryness). Cool completely.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes (depending on your microwave).

Dip the cooled biscotti into the melted chocolate. Set the biscotti onto parchment paper, and allow to set, about 20 minutes.
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad

Chinese New Year is a huge holiday in Asia -- people get a whole week off and eat tons of food (basically like Thanksgiving!) But, here in Texas in school, I still had to go to work anyway.
Asian Chicken Bell Peppers sesame oil sphagetti
According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the horse (my year!). As a horse, I'm popular, intelligent, pretty, and free spirited...just like every person in my class. Although I follow chinese superstitions like wearing red and eating noodles, I just never got into astrology, Asian or Western. Still, it's interesting to check it out.

In Chinese astrology there twelve zodiac animals, and most people are aware they're assigned by year. But, apparently you're also assigned an animal by month (inner animals), by day (true animals) and hours (secret animals). There's also different elements (wood, fire, water, metal) depending on the year. It gets even more complicated but you can read here for way more detail.
Asian Chicken Bell Peppers sesame oil sphagetti
As it was Chinese New Year, I had to make noodles for long life of course. This is a nice easy dish adapted from Once Upon a Chef and you can scale it up easily. Cooked pasta is freezable, so I saved half for another day.

I personally prefer my food hot, but you can eat this Asian chicken noodle salad cold. Which is great because our apartment microwave just broke, and we have to wait two weeks for a new one.

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad

6 chicken breasts (or any cooked shredded meat)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and black pepper
ginger powder

10 oz soba noodles (or spaghetti)
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 small garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a foil lined sheet pan. Rub the skin with oil and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and ginger. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Slice or shred, then set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse well under cold water.

Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, toss shredded chicken with noodles, dressing, bell peppers, peanuts, scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Cottage Buttermilk Coffee Cake

A old summer roommate shared this buttermilk coffee cake recipe from The Cottage, a restaurant in San Diego on facebook. In all honesty, coffee cake is a bit too dry for me, so I have never been a huge fan of it. I'm not sure how to more moisture without losing the coffee cake-ness (whatever that definition is). 

I told her I'd check it out, but it'd be "a long while" since I'd be busy in clinics.

I lied. I baked it a day and a half later. B says I really do have an obsessive cooking disorder.
Ironically, I did see a true OCD patient that day. While the name of the blog is of course a play on words, the seriousness of these psychiatric disorders is truly sobering. It's incredible how difficult it is to function when your mind isn't right. 

As one classmate succinctly stated, "The more I learn, the more I wonder how I'm alive." More specifically, I wonder how so many of us managed to come out somewhat normal.

I think having mental illnesses is tougher than any other type of illness. As long as I have the ability to think, have meaningful relationships with friends and family, and keep a sense of humor, life just seems more manageable. 

The Cottage Buttermilk Coffee Cake 

1 cup canola oil
3 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking dish. In a large mixing bowl combine the oil, flour, sugars, cinnamon, and ginger. The mixture should be crumbly. Remove 1 1/3 cups and set aside. Add eggs, buttermilk, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix it using a whip. To the remaining topping batter add the walnuts and spread the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 25 minutes or until cake springs back to the touch.

Makes 12 pieces of coffee cake.
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