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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