Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cranberry Orange Christmas Sangria

This is my last Christmas gift I'm opening early, I promise - it's from my parents this time. This also counts for my birthday gift as well, even if i's a few months away haha. 

This is Nikon's 85mm prime lens (my new lens from B is a Nikon 50mm for those who asked); it's perfect for this sangria recipe today because it can capture such great depth of field - you can see my tree and Christmas lights in the back.
Cranberry Orange Christmas Sangria | Obsessive Cooking Disorder
The prior two weeks was my glorious clinic block which means I get weekends, which means I can actually host a Christmas party! This cranberry orange sangria is a fabulous Christmas/holiday party recipe because it's so easy and festive.
Cranberry Orange Christmas Sangria | Obsessive Cooking Disorder
I set up a white elephant exchange for my friends since I had a nice large real Christmas tree to hold them (trying to take advantage of the real evergreen trees in North, rather than the Texas "trees" which are really shrubs) Many of my friends hadn't heard of the concept of white elephant, but you just bring an anonymous gift and your open gifts or steal from others base on the number you draw.

We all got very aggressive with our gift stealing (although still managed to remain friends, as we do have to work together the rest of intern year haha). I had stolen some adorable plates perfect for food blogging but my friend stole them back!
Cranberry Orange Christmas Sangria | Obsessive Cooking Disorder
The Christmas party of course featured lots of drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and of course plenty of dessert! What I like about sangria is that even if you're not a big drinker, it's light enough for all to enjoy. This sangria was the first drink to be finished up, which means a big success.

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays from Obsessive Cooking Disorder!

Cranberry Orange Christmas Sangria

1 bottle white wine
pear juice (recipe below for homemade)
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup cranberries
4 oranges, thinly sliced
cinnamon sticks and green sprigs, to garnish

3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 Bosc pears, peeled
3 cinnamon sticks

Boil water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stocks and pears in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until pears are tender, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Let pears cool in syrup/juice and refrigerate (can be made ahead of time). You only ned the juice: you can eat the poached pears, use for this pear tart, or slice and add to the sangria.

In a large pitcher, combine all the sangria ingredients. Stir and then place in the fridge until chilled. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and herbs (rosemary, mint, etc) enjoy!
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

I have a new camera lens which I'm pumped to use. This is my other Christmas gift from B, which I also opened and used (I know, you must think I have terrible self control with gifts, but I just couldn't let all the holiday baking and cooking pass by with a new lens sitting in a box under the tree).
Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup |
One of my biggest fears is going blind. I have terrible eyesight, and the fact it gets dark at 3pm here doesn't help me either. I can see the darkness hitting as I fight against the sun to photograph food with whatever light I have left. The new camera lens helps with the brightness, but there's only so much you can do when it's dark; I usually have enough light to only photograph one dish at a time now.
Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup |
Today I want to share this cozy butternut squash soup, which has bold curry flavor and creamy coconut. The main way I cook butternut squash is in soups because you can cheat and bake the squash first, saving your knife and your wrists from a lot of effort (and fingers from getting sliced).

My mom always told me to eat lots of vitamin A to keep my eyes healthy. Butternut squash has so much vitamin A, but I'm not sure even eating tons of butternut squash can save my eyes from staring at the computer.
Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup |
This curry coconut butternut squash soup is really easy to make once you get the butternut squash out. Then you just let it simmer, do some work (or, not work *ahem*), and return after an hour to enjoy your rich hearty soup. Save the seeds and some cream/coconut milk to make a fun spiral! Adapted from NY Times Cooking

Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cups chicken broth
2-3 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 14-ounce can light coconut milk
Salt and ground pepper to taste
garnish: coconut milk or heavy cream, squash seeds, thyme, and paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut your butternut squash in half and reserve the seeds. Drizzle the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the butternut squash halves, cut side up in a foil lined tray. Roast for 30 -50 minutes, until flesh is soft. Scoop out and set aside. Also roast the seeds until toasted, about 5-10 min.

Heat the oil in a soup pot, and saute onions over medium-low heat until golden. Add the apple, squash, broth and spices. Bring to a simmer, then cover pot. Continue to simmer until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender in batches), puree soup until smooth. Stir in the coconut milk; continue to simmer on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until well heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon soup into a bowl, drizzle with coconut milk or heavy cream, and top with squash seeds. Garnish with sprigs of thyme and paprika and serve hot. Enjoy!
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mini Pear Almond Tart

Happy holidays everyone. It's my favorite time of the year - I'm all for decorating and blasting Christmas music and opening gifts. I know Christmas is more than gifts, but I can't help but light up like a kid when I get something I'm been wanting forever, but can't bring myself to buy it.

Like my new mini food processor! It's so adorable and useful and the perfect size.
I told B I wanted one for Christmas (with a stipulation that it had to be small). Although I told him to wait til Black Friday for sales, he bought one immediately and had it shipped.
As this mini prep cuisine food processor was just sitting around my apartment, I couldn't not use it. So I opened it up to make the dough for this pear tart. I'm not a very patient person (I was better as a kid, and actually waited til Christmas)

If you make any kind of pastry dough, getting a food processor for that alone is worth it (never mind processing things like vegetables)
 I love almond tarts and pears were a perfect combination for this. Any hard pear will do, but I recommend bosc pears in particular. You can use canned pears, but I do recommend poaching them as it's easy and you can add so much flavor while controlling the sugar. Poaching is basically boiling and simmering anything in a liquid, ranging from eggs to fruit. When you slice the pears yourself, it's so much prettier.

This pear almond tart is adapted from Epicurious; I made it with my mini 3 inch tart tins, so they're perfect for sharing amongst 2-3 people (or 1 if you're B). Enjoy!

Mini Pear Almond Tart

4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 Bosc pears, peeled

see recipe for almond tart dough

2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

PEARS: Boil water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and add pears. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until pears are tender, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Let pears cool in syrup and refrigerate (can be made ahead of time).

ALMOND TART DOUGH: prepare as per recipe for almond tart dough  (can be made ahead of time). Once the dough is chilled and ready, preheat the oven to 350 F. Fill your tart pan with chilled dough and bake blind for about 6-8 min.

ALMOND FILLING: Grind almonds in a food processor. Blend in flour, sugar, and butter and then mix in egg. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours (can be made ahead of time).

ASSEMBLY: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F.

Take your cooled prebaked almond tart crusts and spread almond filling evenly in the crust. Remove the pear stem, cut each in half lengthwise, and remove out the core. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Line the pears on the almond filling so they overlap.

Bake tart until golden, about 55 minutes for a large tart (for my mini ones about 20 min). Cool tart in pan on rack and serve at room temperature, Enjoy!
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Apple Caramel Cheesecake

A cheesecake is a fresh twist to the classic holiday pies.  I had wanted to make a big cheesecake for a long time, but didn't have a crowd to feed... until Friendsgiving. I decided to shy away from pumpkin, as we had quite the overload, but apples and caramel and nuts are just as fallworthy, and knew I had to make this Apple Caramel Cheesecake when I saw pictures of it online.
Since I didn't have space to bring all my kitchenware from Texas, I didn't have a full size springform pan. I asked my friends and colleagues to borrow any, only to get looks of confusion. However one friend did have one (I don't think she had ever used it since it was practically fused shut, and I wondered if this was actually a real springform pan haha). I finally managed to pry it open with success.

Sadly I only had two bites of this cheesecake before running to my night shift on Thanksgiving dinner, but my friend's husband loved this cheesecake so much he took it all home, and told his non-baking wife to get the recipe to make it for him. There's no better way to say "thank you" to a baker than to eat it all and insist on the recipe :)
The downside of nights is that you don't get good sleep - I could occasionally nap at night but hadn't slept more than 4 hours in a row during the daytime when working the past two weeks because day sleep just doesn't work for me. Since I was exhausted (and feeling lazy), I didn't set up a water bath as I normally do for cheesecake baking, hence the brown edges, but it was just as delicious.

The apple topping takes a bit of time but it's well worth it, and can hide any cracks as a bonus (mine had a lovely split since I didn't use the water bath or have time to cool it as slowly, hehe). You can use store bought caramel, as I did, but there is nothing quite like homemade caramel. This Apple Caramel Cheesecake recipe adapted from Bobby Flay.

Apple Caramel Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
6-7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinammon
pinch salt

1 tablespoon orange zest
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
toasted walnuts
caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

CRUST: Finely grind the graham crackers in a food processor or hand crush with a rolling pin and ziploc bag. Combined the crackers, sugar, salt, cinammon, and melted butter in a bowl. Spray the pan with cooking spray, then pat the crust into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake in the oven until lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

CHEESECAKE: Beat sugar, orange zest, and cream cheese until light and fluffy  Beat the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla extract. Add the salt and yogurt and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the springform pan with the cheesecake crust. Set up water bath if you want to bake it more evenly with less cracking. Bake until the sides of the cake are slightly puffed and set and the center still jiggles, about 55 minutes.

Water Bath optional: Wrap heavy duty aluminum foil around the bottom and sides. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake.

Turn the heat off and let cake slowly cool to room temperature over 2 hours. Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours until chilled through.

Bring apple juice, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saute pan over high heat and cook until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup. Stir in the butter until melted. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and soft. Add the apple brandy and cook until reduced by 1/2. Transfer the apples to a plate and let cool slightly.

Top with the warm apple topping, drizzle liberally with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining toasted walnuts. Serve additional sauce on the side.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Turkey Cranberry Avocado Panini

Have you finished your turkey leftovers yet? I can't believe it, but we have!
B had the good fortune if being off on Thanksgiving and traded his day off so he could get Friday off too. Although we had a Friendsgiving. B insisted we needed our own bird.

Me: Are you sure you want a whole turkey for just two of us? The smallest I can find is over 9 lbs!
Bryan: Nonsense, one can never have too much turkey!!
We had our own pre feast late lunch before Friendsgiving, then celebrated my alas too brief Friendsgiving, as I had to leave for work.  Then when I went to do my night shift, there was even more Thanksgiving food from the hospital chiefs for the night people.  Needless to say, I could already feel the turkey tryptophan kicking in before we even had our first admission.
Immediately after my overnight shift, we went straight to Black Friday shopping at an outlet mall. This is the sole perk of doing night shifts during the holidays and we (er, I mean, I) had a good haul.

B: Dear God woman, our bank account shrunk!
N: Hey, it's the two $1000 board exams we paid for ... 
B made a fabulous soup with the leftovers, but I needed something more portable for work, so I took our leftovers and made a panini. Turkey cranberry sandwiches are so classic for Thanksgiving leftovers, but the avocado gives a nice twist.
This is the kind of lunch that will make your coworkers look at your sandwich with envy. Secondly, you don't feel like you've gained a million pounds after eating this panini. Finally, it's got a lot less turkey, so you won't fall asleep at work either. That's the mark of a great leftover recipe.

Turkey Cranberry Avocado Panini

4 slices rustic whole-grain bread (2 sandwiches)
8 ounce leftover turkey
1/2 cup leftover cranberry relish
1 small avocado
4 slices provolone
Extra-virgin olive oil

For each sandwich, layer your cheese first, then avocado, then turkey on top of the bread. Top with cranberry relish. Top with the other bread slice

Dizzle olive oil on the top and bottom of the sandwich; heat a panini press. Put the sandwich on the press and close, pressing on the sandwich. Leave until bread is golden browned and the cheese is just melted. If using a skillet, heat the pan on medium heat. Place the bread on the skillet and press down with a spatula. Cook until bread is golden browned and cheese is beginning to melt. To serve, slice each sandwich halfway and serve warn.
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pumpkin Ginger Scones with Maple Glaze

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Although I'm working in the hospital tonight on a lovely 14 hour shift, I'm incredibly grateful for this year for two new changes in my life - a husband and a job!
 I'm super thankful for B, whom we're spending Thanksgiving for the first time together married! Our hours didn't coincide very well - on Wednesday night he arrived into Connecticut to an empty, as I had already left for my night shift. Today at least we get a few hours together (at least during the day when I'm not sleeping), before having a quick stop at Friendsgiving before I again head to my overnight shift.
B insisted we have our own turkey as well (Thanksgiving is pretty much a Holy Day for him) even though we already had Friendsgiving dinner.

Me: Just so you know the smallest turkey is around 10 lbs. You want that for just two of us?
B: One can never have too much turkey! Buy it!

 So of course we also make a ton of sides to accompany our own bird for lunch. We'll have two Thanksgiving feasts today.
I'm also super grateful for getting to do Internal Medicine residency at Yale - an amazing place for training and research. I couldn't have found a nicer, smarter, and more fun group of co-residents to work with and hang out. PS. I love having a paycheck for the first time ever :)
I wanted to share these pumpkin scones, as I had some friends over for tea and scones one evening and wanted to bake a fall recipe featuring pumpkin. These are harvest scones adapted from King Arthur Flour topped with a maple glaze adapted from Vanilla and Bean. Getting the right scone texture can be tricky, but this recipe makes amazingly fluffy, flaky scones.
These scones have pieces of candied ginger to give your bite a kick and a maple glaze to sweeten it. Happy Thanksgiving and share what you're grateful for!

Pumpkin Ginger Scones with Maple Glaze

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice (3/4 teaspoon total)
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup minced crystallized ginger, diced
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
coarse sparkling sugar, for topping

3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
scant 1/4 cup maple syrup

PUMPKIN GINGER SCONE: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly (I used a food processor). Stir in the crystalized ginger. Add the pumpkin/egg to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together (don't overmix). Dough will should be shaggy and somewhat stiff (not a liquid batter).

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Divide your dough in half and shape two discs. Brush each disc with milk, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. Freeze the dough for 30 min.

Remove the dough then slice each circle into 6 wedges. Pull the wedges away from the center to separate them.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. temperature.  Let cool.

MAPLE GLAZE: Sift the powdered sugar and add the maple syrup. Stir with a fork. Chill for about 5 min in the fridge (adjust the sugar and syrup amounts to desired thickness) . Drizzle with a fork over the cooled scones. Enjoy!
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Garlic Brussel Sprouts with Craisins and Pecans

As I went for a run over the weekend, I noticed so many Yale students with their luggages. It took me a moment too realize that it was the weekend before Thanksgiving, and those lucky people get the whole week off and go home.

Unlike me. Sadly.
For the first time ever, I don't have a Thanksgiving holiday and can't spend it with my family, which bums me out since it's such a big part of my food centric family. You can see some old Thanksgiving recipes on the blog (Pumpkin RollCranberry, Apple, and Pear Crumble, Pumpkin Butternut Squash Soup, Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Hazelnut Crust) but as you can see, I haven't posted one in a while.
I'm switching to nights this week unfortunately, so during Thanksgiving, while people are eating, sleeping, then Black Friday shopping at 5am - I'm taking care of inpatient geriatric patients with my 14 hour shifts. Such is the life of residency - the only downside of having a fulfilling job is that people truly depend and need your work 24/7.

When 4th year students ask me for advice on the interview trail, I say, enjoy 4th year as much as you can - it's really the last year you'll have without responsibility (until retirement).
This is a quick and easy Thanksgiving side you can make for yourself or for a large crowd. I love eating brussel sprouts so I don't fill up purely on carbs during Thanksgiving (allowing more room for dessert). The craisins' sweetness and the crunch of the pecans balances out a somewhat bitter brussel sprout flavor.
I used a cast iron pan, but any stove top pan will do; just transfer to a baking dish/pan for roasting. Have a hearty Thanksgiving dinner on my behalf! Adapted from NY Times Cooking

Garlic Brussel Sprouts with Craisins and Pecans

1-2 cups brussels sprouts
4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
handful of craisins and pecans

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of brussels sprouts, and slice each in half top to bottom. Heat oil in cast-iron pan over medium heat and toss the garlic, sprouts with salt/pepper, craisins, and pecans.

As the sprouts begin to brown, transfer to oven. Roast, turning the sprouts halfway through the cooking, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10-15 minutes.
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I can't believe we're halfway past November and I have to to share a fall dessert!

Today I'm sharing pumpkin chocolate chip bread and shedding some fascinating history on canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is absolutely iconic of America, and it was one of the earliest foods brought to Europe from America.
Pumpkins became huge in pop culture - referenced in poetry, literature, and ads - and thus, pumpkins found themselves in the slavery/abolitionist debate (apparently many abolitionists adored pumpkin pie). When Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, people in Confederacy angrily felt Yankee traditions were being imposed on the South, even calling it "Yankee abolitionist holiday" and they already had Christmas - not that one can ever have too many holidays in my opinion (source, source, and source)

This goes to show that we American, even way back in the 1800s, can and will protest about anything. Some things don't change much.
In 1929 Libby’s meat canning company in Illinois decided to branch into pumpkin canning. It was a hit, as people no longer had to roast and strain their own squashes - if you've ever tried yourself, it's certainly a bit of work.  Libby makes more than 80% of the world canned pumpkin, and their pumpkin breed is actually called Libby's, a subtype of the Dickenson pumpkin. They actually look more like butternut squash than the pumpkin for what we think of as a traditional pumpkin (source and source).
I was craving some pumpkin bread (with chocolate chips of course) and whipped up this pumpkin bread recipe adapted from Epicurious.
I liked this recipe because it was perfectly fluffy and kept its shape.  I wanted a big fat loaf of bread, so I made 1.5x the epicurious recipe amounts (reflected below, hence the somewhat unusual measurements) and made some minor adjustments. No skinny flat looking loaves allowed in the house! I've partnered with MinimalistMeal to share with you some top bread slicers as well to get that perfect slice!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
generous 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/8 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.
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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Coffee Ice Cream

Well, the USA woke up with a bigger jolt than a double shot espresso brings on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 the day after the election. This past week has been such a mix of emotions, and it didn't feel right just blithely posting about food when so much of the world has been in chaos.
I stayed up extremely late at an election night watching party, intending to go to bed early, but we all remained wide awake as the election results started deviating from predictions. I'm sure everyone in the US was sleep deprived the next day (it was not a fun call day in the hospital).
I am saddened by the division, the blaming, and hatred, but I remain hopeful that we can overcome these tough times for a better future.
Here is a coffee ice cream recipe that I made a while back, adapted from Emeril Lagasse. I had bought these coffee beans in Paris on our honeymoon, and the Europeans know how to make a strong coffee. I love my ice cream machine, which B had bought refurbished for my for Christmas a few years ago. I've also partnered with Here Coffe for a roundup of top organic coffee brands.
I had to feature this adorable spoon from Milk & Honey Luxuries, my maid of honor gift for my coffeeholic sister. It says "Coffee is my happy place."

Let's make the world a happy place too. Enjoy!

Coffee Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
6 egg yolks

Combine and bring the boil the cream, milk, sugar, and coffee in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks to temper it, then add slowly add the egg mixture to the hot cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours, preferably overnight

Remove from the refrigerator and pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine. After the ice cream is made, store in a airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Black Forest Trifle with Brandy

Here's a wonderful black forest trifle with brandy for today. This was a cake for one of my best friends in my residency here! We're "red block schedule" buddies and work in the same Internal Medicine clinic for the underserved.

This trifle was a huge labor of love; luckily, better outpatient clinic hours allowed me to make it over three days. As my gift to my friends, I always try make a birthday dessert, and it's fun to work with people's requests - hers was chocolate and brandy. Add cherries and whipped cream, and we've got a dream combination!
This trifle, hosted at my apartment, was the main show after dinner out. I have come to realize my little studio (and the fact I have only 4 normal non-foodblogging plates) can't entertain 20 people, but we stayed cozy.

My friends wanted to kick it up a notch, so lots of wine was to be had. Except I didn't have a wine bottle opener to open up the wines people brought, nor did I have a lighter to light the lovely skinny twisty candles my friend brought (we were awe of the twisty fancy candles, but alas, they were not self lighting). Though we struggled a little (trying to use a drill and hammer to get the cork out), one friend finally arrived with both, and the party commenced.
Afterwards the birthday girl wanted to go dancing like what "the 99% of normal people our age" do. First we after swung by the hospital to drop off trifle for a poor friend stuck in the overnight Cardiac ICU shift. Then a couple of us went to a bar/dance club downtown around 11pm (even though that's pretty much my bedtime haha).
You would think that people would be working the next day, but not from the massive number of people jam packed in the club. As an old grandma at heart, I don't think I've been clubbing since my college days. At least dancing was a great way to burn off the calories and feel cool/young.
The trifle looks impressive, and it's not hard if you take it one step at a time. I started the trifle with making the cake one day, then the pudding / whipped cream / cherries the next day, then assembling the day of the birthday.

B was very upset he couldn't make the birthday event and insisted I had to save him some black forest trifle, or else he "would never, ever forgive me". I ended up making a massive amount of dessert (I doubled the recipe quantity below), so it didn't fit in my already large trifle bowl. I made sure to set some aside for him - because the birthday girl took my trifle bowl to eat the rest! That's some great appreciation for a birthday gift!  Recipe adapted from Food Network and Eating Well.

Black Forest Trifle with Brandy

1 boxed mix or recipe here
1/4 cup brandy

1 cup Dutch cocoa powder
3/5 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup brandy

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups pitted cherries, canned or frozen
1/4 cup liquid (brandy + fruit/cherry juice)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

CHOCOLATE CAKE: prepare cake according to mix box directions or recipe of choice. Mix in brandy into the batter before baking. Let cake cool.

CHOCOLATE PUDDING: In a large saucepan set over medium heat, combine the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and 2 cups of the milk. Stir constantly as it boils and thickens, about 8-10 min to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low. Pour some of the hot mixture into another bowl with your egg yolks, then stir the egg yolks back into the hot mixture to temper. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding. Add the brandy and the last 1 cup of milk to reach your desired thickness. Remove from the heat. Place plastic wrap over the saucepan to prevent a skin from forming, and then cool (I chilled mine in the fridge overnight).

WHIPPED CREAM: Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

BRANDIED CHERRY COMPOTE: Combine cherries, liquid, and cornstarch in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely (I chilled mine in the fridge overnight).

ASSEMBLY: Crumble the chocolate cake in the bottom of a trifle dish. Layer pudding, cherries, and whipped cream and repeat until the trifle bowl is filled. Top with chocolate shavings and cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day. Enjoy!
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Happy Halloween - it's almost upon us. Recently I finished not just my clinic rotation, but also a geriatrics outpatient rotation. I did home visits,  saw patients in nursing homes, and went to geriatrics clinic. 
Geriatrics can be a little depressing since a large component is managing dementia on top of often multiple medical conditions as age catches up to us. 

In clinic, one of saddest moments was a poor husband who brought his wife to clinic because her memory had deteriorated so much. They would be married 54 years next month, but she was forgetting so much, even their grandchildren, although she was still able to recognize her husband. 

I can't imagine losing my mind the point where I wouldn't recognize B. I confess that I am very proud  (ahem, vain) of my brain, and it would be a big blow to my ego.

Still, there's good stories of very motivated children, working constantly to make sure their aging parents are cared for. Geriatric doctors are very family oriented and much of their practice is support and education. They say that geriatrics is like reverse pediatrics - in the nursing homes there's lots of finger paintings of pumpkins and halloween decorations, just like in kindergarten, which the elderly love to do.
Anyway, I wanted to share a more light hearted recipe that makes me think fondly of my childhood (something I'd rather do than think about aging) - Halloween Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers. You can make this without the jack-o-lantern faces of course, but that wouldn't be as fun.

This is a nice healthier option, so you can go ahead and eat more Halloween candy without guilt.
Alas, I don't have time to carve a jack-o-lantern pumpkin this year, but these bell peppers are close enough. No matter how much I age, I'm determined to keep my silly childhood spirit. Adapted from With Raw Intentions and Allrecipes. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds 1
1/2 cup dried craisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and ground black pepper to taste

2-3 bell peppers
olive oil

QUINOA SALAD: Plump the craisins by letting it soak in a small bowl with balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup hot water. (you can swap the water with juice as well for more flavor). Strain the cranberries out.

Cook the quinoa on stovestop according to directions (or use a rice cooker), using either water or chicken borth. Once it's cooked, toss the quinoa with curry powder, cilantro, lime juice, sliced almonds, and the plumped cranberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

BELL PEPPERS: Cut out the top of the bell peppers and carefully carve out your desired jack o lantern face. Stuff the pepper with your quinoa salad and drizzle with olive oil and the cranberry liquid from plumping. Serve and enjoy!
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lattice Berry Pie

I have decided what I want for Christmas.

A food processor. I have found out how amazing it is for making pastry dough. Pure wizardry.

B is very unimpressed and feels this is not a romantic gift for our first Christmas together as husband and wife, but I don't care. You can see our struggle between romantic / practical (guess who represents who?) is a running theme in our relationship.
I made this pie a while back during our vacation in the Bay Area. How long ago that seems. How sad it seems I won't have a vacation til next year. No such things as holidays in intern year of residency (or any year of residency).
Still, doesn't mean I can't practice my pie making skills. I've never made a lattice pie but always loved how beautiful they look. It's not hard, but requires a lot of patience. Sadly my pie lattice sank as it baked, but it tasted great anyway.

B's parents wanted to host a second wedding reception for their side of the family, and many couldn't make it to Texas for our wedding. This was also the formal introduction - most of them I have never met. I made this pie for the day after BBQ - again, no better way to win over relatives and in laws with baking skills (although an MD degree also helps gain approval!)
This is the last of my summer recipes - it's getting chilly here in the Northeast! Berry Pie adapted from Gourmet Magazine and pastry dough recipe by Simply Recipes (her website has a great guide)

Lattice Berry Pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 tbsp ice water

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups total (1 cup each fresh blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sanding or granulated sugar

*I made the the pastry dough for the lattice and then used 1 premade crust for base

PASTRY DOUGH: Put flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to mix. Add the butter, a little at a time, and pulse. Add water a little at a time, and pulse until the dough just barely begins to hold together (do not overmix). If you don't have a food processor, you can mix by hand.

Roll dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

PIE FILLING: Put a large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Whisk together granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, and berries. Place on a sieve to drain out excess juices (this prevents your pie from being too soggy).

Roll out your chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. Add water if needed to work the dough. Trim long strips to make the lattice top.

In your other pie crust (homemade or store bought) shell,  fill pie with your berry filling. Top the pie with other pastry, forming a lattice pattern (see guide here). Beat your egg to make your egg wash for a golden color. Brush the lattice with the egg wash and sprinkle granulated sugar

Bake pie on hot baking sheet in middle of oven 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about an additional 45 minutes.
Cool pie on a rack to let juices thicken and enjoy.
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Key Lime Pie

Today I'd like to share a recipe I made a while back  - key lime pie! For those down in Florida and the Caribbean, I hope you and your loved ones are safe from the hurricanes and storms. I've been following the weather as several of my patients were from Florida while I was on the Hematology service (they had traveled to Yale for cancer treatment).
How was Hematology? A busy, though rewarding, month. The patients could be quite sick, stuck in the hospital for months due to complications, and a few of mine sadly passed away during my time there. 
The Hematology team also carries the code pagers - anytime there's a code blue (cardiac/respiratory arrest) you stop what you're doing and immediately run to the location of the code to do ACLS (advanced cardiovascular life support).
There was one sad case where we ran the code - my first one. It was a shock for everyone given how unexpected the case was - the patient had cancer, but he was very young, had come in for an elective surgery, and was actually in the process of being discharged when something (most likely a clot to the lungs) caused him to stop breathing and lose his pulse.

After resuscitation attempts for almost an hour failed, we eventually pronounce him dead. Hearing his wife's despair was heartbreaking - she had come to the hospital expecting to pick him up and take him home.

Even though it's what I've trained for my whole life, it's still so surreal for me to be telling so many people, many older than me, what to do to try save a life acutely.
After the code ended we did a debriefing. The whole staff had been phenomenal; the nurses, techs, and doctors had run like clockwork. Although the ALCS had been very well organized and we could walk away feeling like we gave him the best chance, in the end, we could only do so much.

Every intern's first code is a big point in their training, mine particularly so given my involvement and the unusualness of the case. I was certainly tired and had lost my appetite, but there were no tears, just a resolution to continue the rest of the day's work after a brief 5 minutes of mourning.
I've had to come to the point where I need to decide my speciality soon. Having an uncle who recently passed away from leukemia and doing art therapy with cancer patients in college had piqued my interest; I've definitely enjoyed my Hematology patients this month.

While B thinks adult cancer is awfully "doom and gloom," there are many happier stories too (really!). In a few years, we'll see what I end up doing for fellowship ... but I wouldn't be surprised if I do end up a cancer doctor.

Key Lime Pie recipe adapted from epicurious.

Key Lime Pie

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup lime juice, fresh
2 limes, zested

1 cup chilled heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

CRUST: Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch removable tart pan. Bake crust in middle of oven 12 minutes and let cool. Leave oven on.

Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well. Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Just before serving, beat cream and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer to stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream. Garnish with additional zest and lime slices.
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Monday, October 10, 2016

Pastrami Swiss Panini

Panini (small bread in Italian) is one of my favorite versions of sandwiches. Everything is better when toasted.

Paninis arose in the US around the 1950s, (although they've been around as early as during the 16th-century in Italian cookbooks).  The sandwiches became trendy in Milanese bars in the 1970s and 1980s which quickly spread to hip U.S. restaurants in New York, whose popularity then spread to other U.S. cities, each with their own distinctive variations (Dining Chicago).
I've had a very busy month on the Hematology wards  (inpatient)- these patients, alas, all have some kind of blood cancer. While this month has been incredibly rewarding, the long hours have precluded any fancy recipe making (or even grocery shopping - I went three weeks without any groceries! A record for me!) 
This whole month, I literally ate ham and cheese sandwiches every day for lunch. Unfortunately, my sandwiches were not that great since my beloved toaster oven caught on fire! (Luckily, B was able to yank out the cord, and the flames eventually died down). The lack of groceries also did not help - so I had super boring untoasted/ungrilled bread.

This recipe was from a better time, when I actually had food in my fridge.
Sadly, I forgot I had B's panini press at my disposal until the whole month had ended.  I had made this Pastrami Swiss Panini prior to starting Hematology wards, and this could have saved me from so many unsatisfactory sandwiches. 

But when you're this tired, I guess you don't care so much what you eat as long as you have something to eat, lol. Recipe by me.

PS.  My brother and I had a spirited debate on what more important to have for a decent sandwich - I would have mediocre fillings as long as the bread was good (ie rustic, toasted/grilled), while my brother would forgo fancy bread (ie he was ok with regular plain old white untoasted bread slices) in favor of better cheese. Let us know your vote!

Pastrami Swiss Panini

4 slices wheat bread
4-6 slices swiss cheese
3/4 lb pastrami
red cabbage
extra virgin olive oil

Heat up the panini press while prepping your sandwich.

To assemble the sandwich, drizzle olive oil on the bottom side of one bread slice. Layer the pastrami, cilantro, and red cabbage. Top with swiss cheese and the other bread slice, then drizzle the top with olive oil. Place the sandwich on the press. Remove the panini once the cheese has melted, it is heated through middle, and the bread is toasted to a golden brown.
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