Monday, July 28, 2014

Shrimp Pesto Pizza with Feta Cheese

Pizzas come in two types: the normal (classic cheese or pepperoni anyone?) and the gourmet. Obviously, I'm a fan of the latter.

On my very second date with B, he wanted to take me to a dinner at a pizza place at the Stanford Mall. Now, Stanford Mall is filled with fancy, expensive stores which no college student can afford - like Neiman Marcus, Crate and Barrel, and Louis Vuitton. And they have nice upscale restaurants, which serve things like gourmet pizza.
So B picks me up in his car like a gentleman (ah, the days when he still tried) and we sit down. I then inform him I have to fast for Ash Wednesday, which I had forgotten to tell him.

B: What?! You're just gonna sit and watch me eat?
Me: Yup.
Waiter: Would you like anything miss?
Me: Um, no.
Waiter: Ah, are you sharing?
Me: No, he's eating by himself actually... I'm just ... observing.
*waiter staring*
B: ...  Please eat something? I'm being judged here as a man.
Well, B tried to coax me, but, hey, I didn't make up the Catholic rules. He looks at the menu and sees nothing but fancy pizzas.

B: They have weird pizza topping here. Um, is there normal pizza?
waiter: normal pizza?
B: Like... pepperoni? Or sausage.
waiter: no.

Long story short, B ordered a gourmet pizza and raved about its deliciousness. He later admitted he didn't like it at all, but pretended he did, so I would try some and thus share - like a (more) normal dinner date. It didn't work, lol.
So here's a nice fancy shrimp pesto pizza from here which I thought was an unusual combo (pizza without mozzarella? gasp!). I'd never really eaten feta cheese before, but I enjoyed the twist. And I ate it all by myself, like B did so many years ago. Even better, I didn't have to pretend to like it.

Shrimp Pesto Pizza with Feta Cheese


Ingredients 
Pizza dough, homemade or bought
3-5 tablespoons pesto
5 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large clove garlic
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 bunch cilantro

Directions
Preheat the oven to 550 F. Coat a baking sheet with no-stick spray.

Unroll the pizza dough and spread on the prepared sheet to make 2-3 individual pizzas. Spread the pesto on the crust, leaving a 1/4" border.

Toss the shrimp with the lemon and garlic. Sprinkle the shrimp mixture, feta cheese, and onions on the crust. Top with the pine nuts and cilantro. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and the cheese is melted. Cut into slices and enjoy fresh.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Almond Crusted Cod // Almond Green Beans and Caramelized Onions

Well, after getting back to my apartment after a month of glutinous eating in cruise ships, buffets, and fancy restaurants all over North and South America, I had a food slump.

What is a food slump? Well it's my own term for when after dining on the fanciest foods ever during vacation, you get home, realizing
A) now you have to chop, cook, AND wash all your dishes
B) your pants are a lot tighter
C) you are now utterly broke.
So what do I do? I've been gone from my apartment for 6 weeks but have just enough random scraps and leftovers to avoid going to the grocery. And so I eat cereal, frozen dumplings, and frozen leftover pizza for a week's worth of dinners. And zero vegetables.

Yes, Chef Uy's culinary skills and ambition at its finest *ahem*

But eventually, I had to get my lazy butt to the grocery store and cook. I needed something
A) healthy
B) crazy easy with minimal cleanup, and
C) reasonably fancy to counter my food slump.

Hence, the almond crusted cod with green beans and caramelized onion. Not a bad fix. Cod adapted from Eating Well and green beans adapted from Food Network's Tyler Florence.
Almond Crusted Cod

Ingredients
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/4 pounds cod (see Tip) or halibut, cut into 4 portions
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Combine lemon zest, almonds, dill, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place fish on the prepared baking sheet and spread each portion with 1 teaspoon mustard. Divide the almond mixture among the portions, pressing it onto the mustard.
Bake the fish until opaque in the center, about 7 to 9 minutes, depending on thickness.
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Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds

Ingredients
Kosher salt
3 pounds green beans, trimmed of stem end
1/2 cup skin on sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Fill a large high sided skillet with some water, adding enough to be just shy of the rim of the pan by about 1 inch. Place over high heat and bring up to boil; add a big pinch of salt and the green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes, the beans should still be crisp. Drain the beans and then run them under some cold water to stop them from cooking. Reserve the beans while you start the onions.

Return the skillet you cooked the beans in to the cook top over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast stirring every now and then until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the almonds from the skillet and reserve. Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter and olive oil and heat until the butter has melted. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring frequently until the onions caramelize, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the thyme, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cooked cooled green beans and almonds, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lechon Sandwich from La Lucha / Sweet Potato Chips

So, I've been off the last month traveling all over North and South America, which is way more fun than work. I just came back from two weeks in Peru, my first time in South America (or heck, south of the equator). I must say winter in June is bizarre (especially after 11pm sunsets in Alaska the prior week).
I had been so busy with clinics that I didn't even know what country I was going to! My family gave me lots of funny looks.
Chef Uy: Yay, I can't wait to go to Brazil in two weeks!
Family: Um.... hello, earth to Natalie - we're going to Peru!!!! 
Chef Uy: Oh crap... I've been telling everyone the last 9 months I was visiting Brazil. 
It was probably for the best - Brazil is crazy with world cup fever, high hotel prices, traffic and protests anyway. We enjoyed our World Cup games with lovely Peruvian locals; literally every bar, restaurant, hotel, or marketplace was tuned via TV or radio.

Peru is a major foodie country and totally inspiring for the belly. Here's a nice easy recipe from the famous Sangucheria la Lucha from Lima, Peru.  La Lucha is a cute place near John F. Kennedy Parque (land of a million stray cats) and a very popular local and tourist lunch spot/hangout.
Lechon is traditional Spanish dish popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, and South America - basically roast suckling pig. I happened to have lechon in my freezer, but if you don't, you can easily find a recipe such as here or substitute with pulled pork.
Ingredients
SANDWICH
1 baguette
lechon pork (can substitute pulled pork)
sweet potato chips - recipe below
optional sauce: tartar sauce, mayonaise, ketchup, or aji sauce

SWEET POTATO CHIPS
1-2 sweet potatoes, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Slice sweet potato into thin strips and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake at oven at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 12 min (will vary depending on thickness).

Cut baguette in half and fill with sweet potato chips and lechon pork. Toast until bread is crispy. Spread sauce of choice. Serve your sandwich with the remaining sweet potato chips.
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream

Well, I've had my first week of internal medicine under my belt. I have my specialty month first and was assigned to Pulmonary/Critical Care/ICU (oddly, we can't know our specialty until actually stepping foot in the hospital on the first day, and we pull our assignment out of a sealed envelope like a secret agent). It's a bizarre feeling being 3rd year medical student. In other schools, I wouldn't even have been the hospitals yet, but just stuck in the classroom, so having an extra 6 months of wards to transition is so nice.

In second year, people are like, "Aww, you're a baby second year. You're not even supposed to be in clinics yet. Let me explain this very basic concept to you."

Now it's like "Oh, you're a 3rd year? You better know something!"
But it's nowhere near as frightening as being a new intern. Especially when your patient in the ICU goes into cardiac arrest. Or they stop breathing. Or their blood pressure crashes. I've never met seen people as terrified as my interns, mere med students just a few weeks ago. Now the real responsibility comes in, but you know nothing...yet.

Alas, there's no magical "Bam! I'm now a resident, so I become smart." Ah, why is learning such a long and slow process? So our whole team is kinda figuring things out and learning together.

So with great excitement, I carried my first patients and even filled out my own scutsheet of daily vitals and labs. Yes, I, Chef Uy, have my very own patients I visit every day and write notes about. Talk about a promotion!
My attending has given me a surprising amount of freedom - in fact, I have my own patients like a sub internship (basically, I report directly to the attending about updates). In the words of my attending "You're flying solo honey!"

Ok, so my patients are very simple cases, which suits me fine. I'd rather not have tough patients like my those of my nervous intern, who is trying to navigate a new EMR to place orders in the computer.
So these cupcakes are also a new experience for me. I've never made buttercream icing, nor have I piped anything - these were for a friend's large birthday party, and of course I try a brand new recipe. The icing kept separating, making me a nervous wreck (no stress like last minute baking, of course) until, bam! it combined. Now ... if only obtaining medical knowledge worked like that. Adapted from Baking Bites.

Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream


Ingredients
MOCHA CUPCAKES:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Kahlua
2-3 tbsp instant coffee powder
3/4 cup water
garnish - cocoa powder, sprinkles, cookie crumbles, etc

KAHLUA BUTTERCREAM:
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tbsp milk, room temperature
2 tbsp Kahlua liquor
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions 
MOCHA CUPCAKE: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin cups with paper liners (makes 9).

In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, Kahlua and instant coffee power until combined. Whisk in half the flour mixture, followed by half of the water. Stir in all of the remaining flour and the water, mixing until batter is just uniform (do not overmix).

Divide evenly into prepared muffin pan. Bake for 18 minutes until done (knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Allow cupcakes to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

KAHLUA BUTTERCREAM: In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee powder in milk and Kahlua. In a large bowl, beat together butter, instant coffee mixture and confectioners’ sugar until frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy. Add additional confectioner's sugar to thicken if necessary. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes on the day of serving and dust with desired topping.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

M&M Peanut Butter Cookies

I wanted to make a care package for B as he takes his National Boards Exam for podiatry tomorrow. He definitely likes snacking while studying, so baked goods are always a welcome gift.

B: I'm not a stress eater! I'm a ... study eater!
Deciding what recipe to make is always the hardest part, so I turn to another 6 ft plus eating machine for advice - my brother.

Chef Uy: Help! I can't decide - should I bake peanut butter cookies or M&M cookies?
Hans: Let me solve all your problems... you should make peanut butter M&M cookies. You're welcome.

These cookies (adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction) are thick, soft, and somewhat crumbly. It's got plenty peanut butter flavor already, but for me, you can't ever have enough peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie.
The most important part, however, are the M&M's. M&M cookies must be studded with M&M's (which I failed to do). B and I often make "long term bets" which last years, so we write our terms on a piece of paper and keep it in a shoebox. One of our bets is whether B can ever get a 6 pack. Apparently, you have to walk one football length to burn off one M&M.

Chef Uy: Um, I didn't add enough M&M's so you're going to have to supplement them as you eat your cookies.
B: I only heard "You must to go to Walmart and buy a huge bag of M&M's right now." Good idea!

M&M Peanut Butter Cookies


Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups M&Ms, plus additional for topping

Directions
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed. Mix in the peanut butter, eggs and vanilla. 

In another bowl, combine baking soda and flour and slowly add to the wet ingredient mix until just combined (avoid overmixing). Gently stir in the M&Ms. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll chilled cookie dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the balls down (they don't spread while baking). Press additional M&Ms on top of the dough balls. Bake for 12-15 minutes and cool on a wire rack. Cookies will be soft, but will firm up as they cool. Enjoy!
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