Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Med Holiday Extravaganza! AKA Thanksgiving 2014 in Review

My whole family is vegetarian. Well, my immediate family. For generations, we have been vegetarian. When my parents first moved to this country, that was a bit of a novelty. There weren't vegetarian restaurants galore, and whole foods selling all varieties of "fake meat." There was peas, cabbage, beans, and the occasional magic of tofu. Obviously this is hyperbole (sort of), but it's how they felt when they described it to me.

So obviously we never had the ginormous turkey for thanksgiving, and whatever it is people eat for the winter holidays. But my mom, always the light and life of our family, had a brilliant idea when I was a little girl of tex-mex holidays. After all, we love (no hyperbole) Taco Bell for it's vegetarian-friendly-at-no-extra-cost menu, so why not? Thus was born, the Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza!! No matter where I am, or who I'm celebrating Thanksgiving or the Winter Holidays with, I need Tex-Mex.

It reminds me of home, of tinsel wrapped around my banister, our big obnoxious plastic tree that was awkwardly bent at all angles but no one cared enough to fix it, my brother playing Golden-Eye, my dad looking at coupons for all the upcoming sales and separating out the worthwhile from the worthless, and my mom dancing in the kitchen taunting our dog with food singing "dancy-dancy, dancy-dancy, dancy-dancy-re!"  It might not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Now our family is bigger, with a lot more distance between all of us, but whatever. Nothing can stop the Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza. Full name, copyright pending.

So this year, we added in some new "traditionals" to the mix of our traditional. So along with tacos with all the fixings, we had cranberry sauce, brussel sprout salad, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and mushroom gravy.

So here's to what I'm most thankful for: a great family who will always add our own pzazz to tradition.

Cranberry Sauce Modified from Laurie's Little Kitchen. Made it 2 days ahead of time to let the flavors meld. I made it in a slow cooker, and just dumped all the ingredients in -- instead of water, I used red wine, and for the spices I used 1 stick of cinnamon and 1 anise. I took the anise out half way so it wasn't overwhelming, and took out the orange when it was done cooking but left the cinnamon stick in. Loved it, will make it again. 

Brussel Sprout Salad - From my head. Sauteed up 2 bags of TJ shaved brussel sprouts with some olive oil, soy sauce, and a little bit of balsamic just until the shavings were wilted. Then mixed in cut up dried apricots, slivered almonds, and pistachios. Definitely one of the evenings favorites and will most certainly make it again. 

Butternut squash and apple soup - Modified from a food network site. Instead of carrots, I used 2 apples and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and butter instead of peanut oil. I also added in garlic and onion. Overall, a phenomenal and easy soup to make. Especially if you get pre-cut butternut squash from TJs. Can you tell I use Trader Joes a lot? Served with sour cream, creme fraiche, or mascarpone with scallions.  
My brother sniffing the soup
Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy - Definitely the winners of the evening. The mashed potatoes are from What's Gaby Cooking and the gravy is from Oh My Veggies. I basically followed both recipes exactly, except I used some Thyme in the mashed potatoes, and didn't peel them. For the gravy, I didn't use shallots, but instead used a red onion since I really enjoy the flavor more, and didn't use mushroom stock but used regular vegetable stock from Better than Bouillon (which I love).  
The evening's winner. Barely any left by the end of the night.

Our Traditionals -- Spanish rice, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, tortillas (corn + flour), hardshell tacos, chips, lettuce, beans, etc. It was wonderful, although I did learn that making spanish rice in the slow cooker does not turn out as well as stove top. Everything else was great though. 

Then of course the extras:
Krinkle in his bed.  
Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner with Tyler!
The Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza!

Monday, November 17, 2014

GF Cucumber Canape

My goal: increase the number of posts I churn out. I love to write, good or bad, I love to write...which any of my friends from college who knew me first year (looking at you Sam and Liz) will laugh at. But whatever, writing is cathartic and expressive and lasting. With a blog though, there's a certain pressure to post something interesting or funny, or anything people want to read. And sometimes it's fun to write for the audience, but mostly it's stressful, so it's way more fun to just write for me.

I digress from my main point which is cucumber canapes. I've been searching the web and my mind-brain, high and low, for gluten free thanksgiving recipes that my mom (and of course the rest of my family) can enjoy and I came across this little gem. It's easy to modify for what you like, and takes like no time to make.
A wonderful amuse bouche or a simple side dish. Hate goat cheese? Try ricotta flavored with sage. Or whipped feta. Can't stand olives? Go with marinated mushrooms. Or roasted red peppers. Or even marinated lemon slices. Want to change the flavor? Pickled ginger with a little toasted sesame seed oil drizzled on top.

Cucumber Canapes

1 cucumber sliced as thinly as you like
Goat Cheese
Topping like olive
Salt and pepper for garnish

My only tip is to make sure the goat cheese is at room temperature so you can scoop it into a plastic bag, cut off the tip and pipette out the cheese onto cucumber slices.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

4 ingredient Coconut Macaroons and Surgery

Time is of the essence right now. I pre-make all my lunches, pre-prepare my protein shakes at night so my breakfast is drinkable, set my to go cup under the coffee maker so I just have to press a button, and after much trial and error have all my clothes laid out in the most time efficient manner so that when the alarm goes off at 4AM, I can hit snooze once, and then tumble out of bed and into my work clothes. Brush my teeth and let the dogs out after I hit the coffee button, brush my hair, put on some mascara, grab my lunch, kiss the hubs, and pet the dogs, and BOUNCE out the door to get to work on time.

It's dark when I get there, it's dark when I go home, but the OR is filled with bright lights, and of course blood, guts, etc.

It's a privilege to be able to see inside the human body, to be able to stick my hands where no one else's hands have ever been before. Which sounds totally odd and gross, but it's such a surreal feeling when you realize, hey, that's small intestine that I'm touching, or hey, that's a beating human heart that I just suctioned blood out's nuts.

Then, if you're lucky, you get to suture. Take the U shaped needle in the needle drivers, and the forceps (not to be called tweezers as I was informed), and get to work on some tissue. Got vertical, go horizontal, no...hold it like this! Like a pencil, why are you putting your fingers like that? Don't tear the tissue! Excellent, that's right. Do it again. It's ridiculously exciting, and worth standing there for 10 hours barely suctioning and not spoken to, to have the privilege of feeling things, seeing things, and maybe even suturing things.

But time is definitely of the essence--study when you can, sleep as much as you can, eat when you can--my bastardization of a common phrase in surgery.

For me, bake when you can. Hence the 4 ingredient coconut macaroon that turn out delicious in under and hour. Dip them in chocolate, add in nuts, dried fruit, or any other flavors you want...crushed candy cane for the holidays? Pumpkin puree for the fall? Anything really...the macaroon is your oyster.
one kind of bad picture...I was too busy eating them to get a better picture

4-ingredient Coconut Macaroons 

3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring

Mix egg whites, vanilla, and salt together. Add in the coconut. Mix together. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then form into mounds with your hands or a scooper if you have one. Make sure they're well stuck together.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, and then enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brunch Time! Easy Vanilla-Almond Baked French Toast

It's been a struggle to sit still recently and just enjoy the moment. Most doctors tell me, "Enjoy medical school, you'll never get the time off that you do then!" but then I everywhere I turn, friends are publishing papers and going to conferences, getting involved with all kinds of research, and I'm...petting my new puppy. Not to say that petting my new puppy isn't amazing, but it does leave one wondering, "Should I be doing all that?"

Those who know me know that I tend to obsess. It's a double edge sword really: if I need to sit down and study, I will sit down and study for 14 hours straight; if I lose something, I'll spend a hour and a half searching for it, and if I get concerned about whether or not I need to be doing something with my career/academics, I'll sit there and mentally chew on it for days until I'm out of my mind with nervousness and I internally implode and finally calm down.

Healthy, no?

Well, I'm a lot better than I used to be with the latter two. I don't really have an hour and a half to search for stuff now, and really what good does it do me to sit there and  constantly stress about whether or not I'm doing the "right thing" for my career?

So I just try not to. I'm not super successful, but when I catch myself careening over the edge of "what about research? Ahh! What if I don't get a residency? AHH! should I be going in after hours and shadowing?? AHH!" I just stop myself, take a deep breath, and eat a damn cookie. It's all gonna be okay, and I'm pretty happy. That, my friend, is a lot right there.

Speaking of happy, this french toast makes me happy because it's so unbelievably easy.  I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs under the "Pretty. Easy." heading, and it definitely looked anything BUT easy.

It wasn't a lie though, it's crazy easy, and people come over and are all, "You made that?!" and you're all, "Yeah" in a bashful yet subtly cocky way. That's right, subtle cockiness will get you far. Fair warning, it's an overnight recipe, which can throw people off for the easiness factor, but trust me, it's easy. I've said easy about 8 times here, EASY.

Try it, you won't be disappointed.
Easy Vanilla-Almond Baked French Toast
Adapted from Pairs Well With Food

1 Loaf Challah Bread, sliced into 1 inch thick slices and laid out to dry for 30 min to an hour (honestly, I skip this step most of the time)
4 large eggs
2 egg whites
1.75 unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular)
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 tsp kosher salt
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1.5 cups sliced almonds
Maple syrup for serving

The night before
Put your bread in a pan for the overnight soak. Mix together the eggs, egg whites, vanilla almond milk, vanilla extract, almond extract and 3 tbsp sugar. Pour it on the bread, make sure it coats the bread evenly. Cover it, and stick it in the fridge overnight. If you're pushing it, you can soak for as short as 30 minutes and it's still delicious.

The day of
Preheat oven to 400F. Pull out your soaked bread. Line another baking dish (the one you'll bake the bread in) with parchment paper/butter the dish (<--what the butter in the recipe was for)/whatever you do to get things not to stick. On a plate, pour out your sliced almonds. Take one slice of the soaked bread, let the liquid drip off of it, and then coat one side of it with sliced almonds, and place it on your baking dish. Do this with all your bread.

Tip: I usually put the pieces of bread down into the baking dish first, then I put the sliced almonds on by hand, gently pressing them down to get them to stick.

Take the 2 leftover tbsp. of sugar and sprinkle them over the top of french toast. Bake for ~20 minutes. Serve hot with maple syrup!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Brown Butter Frosted Rosemary Corn Cake

I always get turned off by desserts with more than 4 words in their name. It gets complicated with so much stuff going on. Salted Caramel Brownies. DONE. I can make that. Oreo cheesecake? Yes please. Cherry-Vanilla-Almond Cupcakes. Thank god cupcake is one word, because I can make that. 
But bear with me (I just looked up whether it was bare or's bear), this is legit. And delicious. And amazing. 

I don't like frosting, but brown butter frosting has got me hooked here. 
Fair warning, the corn bread cake is a olive oil cake and a bit "rustic" if you use not super fine cornmeal like I didn't. I like it, but if you like your corn bread smooth, get a smooth corn meal. 
It's not too hard to make and you'll wow people because you made something with more than 4 words in the name. 

Brown Butter Frosted Rosemary Corn Cake
From adventures in cooking
3 cups flour
0.75 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
2.25 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 cup olive oil
0.33 cup apple cider
1 tbsp vanilla extract
0.25 cup fresh rosemary, chopped (don't use dry) 

1.33 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp honey
Make the frosting first by browning the butter. Basically put the butter in a saute pan over medium heat and let it melt down. In about 5-7 minutes it will caramelize/turn brown. It will start to smell nutty, and caramel-y and delicious. That's when you know it's done. Be careful though, it can burn pretty fast, so you want a caramel color, not a black color. 

Here's a useful video for how to brown butter in the microwave, which is a lot less likely to burn. 

After it's done browning, put it in a heatproof container in the fridge and let it cool and harden. While it's hardening, make the cake! 

Preheat the oven to 350, and line/butter/flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl. In a cake stand mixer, or by hand, mix together the eggs and sugar until well-blended. Then add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition. Add in the fresh rosemary and mix by hand to prevent over mixing. Evenly distribute the cake mixture between the 2 cake pans and bake it for 35-40 minutes. When they are done, pull them out to cool. When they're cool, cut off the top of each cake so that you have an even base on both cakes (it makes it easier to frost).

While the cakes are baking, you can make the frosting. Pull out the cooled and hardened browned butter. Put it into your cake stand mixer (including the brown bits...they'll add color and be pretty), add in the powdered sugar and honey and mix together in your stand mixer until they are frosting-like. 

When the cake is definitely cool (or else the frosting will melt and be a tasty puddle), frost it. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Vanilla-Almond Coffee Creamer (Vegan)

I got bored of studying the day before my Medicine Shelf Exam, I'll admit it. Shelf exams are basically big exams you take your 3rd year of medical school after you finish your "rotations." So I spent 2 months doing general medicine and cardiomyopathy (heart failure) and then took a big test. But after 2 months of studying/work, etc. I didn't want to study for the test the day BEFORE the actual my mind immediately went to let me make a pie.

Then my mind-brain slapped some sense into me because I really didn't have time to make a pie. But I needed to do something, so I figured an iced coffee would be perfect on a muggy summer day. Buuuuut I didn't have any milk and I didn't feel like using almond milk, so out from my mind-brain that was straining against all the information about "what test would you do next?" or "what's is the diagnosis?" or "what would you advise the patient?" came this awesome coffee creamer and it's vegan!

I'm not vegan, but I can appreciate the deliciousness that is born from creativity when you can't use the deliciousness that is milk/cream/or cheese. And this is definitely delicious. It add just a touch of coconut flavor and sweetness, will a subtle almond undertone. Try it out, get creative with the flavors, go with hazelnut, try just vanilla, or just straight up coconut. Let the
creativity out, it'll taste delicious.

Vanilla-Almond Coffee Creamer  

1 can coconut milk (full fat is preferable)
2 tablespoons sugar (this is really to taste)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Before you open it, shake your can of coconut milk well otherwise it'll be separated and difficult to mix without it. Then just pour all the ingredients into your storage container or choice (I used a mason jar, then an old salad dressing shaker for my second batch), shake it up, pour it into your coffee, stir it and enjoy! I find it tastes best with iced coffee, but also fabulous with warm too.

For a regular cup of coffee I used around 1-2 tablespoons (eyeballs from pouring), you'll just figure out how much you like per cup of coffee. Also -- don't be disturbed if it separates a little when you pour it in, just stir it up and it'll be fine!

Friday, May 30, 2014

"But You're Married" : My thoughts on sexism

Over the course of the next year I doubt I will have much time to write. Not just to write notes for patients, or the occasional cooking post, but to really think about social constructs, political mishaps, cultural norms, etc. and put my thoughts to paper, or e-paper as it were, in a constructed, polished fashion. So for the most part I'll abstain from writing. We'll see though.

But before I stop clicking away entirely, I have one thought I wanted to share about the phrase: "but you're married." Over the course of the short time we have been married, multiple people have said that to me, usually in the context of a comment I make about someone else's good looks. Over the course of the short time we have been married zero people have said that to my husband, but multiple people have asked him why is he married? Looking at these two statements a little closer, it is not hard to make the jump that...

1. Why are you married? (to my husband) = why are you married when you could be out there livin' it up with the ladies.

2. You're married. (to me) = you're married, so therefore your eyes belong to your husband alone.

I don't think I have to discuss the sexist nature of the first question, other than to say I have only rarely gotten that question and when I have it has been wondering if I did it for tax purposes or a green card.

On to the second, and potentially more problematic, point. Now the obvious and defensive response to this is that I'm looking too closely at a benign statement, or it's just people being surprised that I might say "damn that guy is hot!" when I'm married.

Regarding the first explanation, that I am looking too closely for a problem that is not there, I say that in the world we live in now it is the insidious statements that can be the most damaging. It is the unintended hidden meaning behind the sentence that we can fail to realize, allowing subconscious sexism to slip into our actions. Looking closely at a sentence and saying it is problematic is not to suggest it is malevolence-driven, but to call attention to problems deeply ingrained in our society and ourselves that we must fix.

When a person gets married, do they lose their ability to see? Is the only thing that makes a marriage or partnership solid willful blindness to other physical attractiveness around you? Is the depth of your love and devotion to your partner reflected in whether or not you find someone else good to look at? And most importantly -- why is that my husband does not receive comments like this, but I do?

The implication of this, with a little mental processing, is that by getting married I signed on to an asymmetrical contract wherein he owns the entirety of my female sexuality -- including my ability to comment on the attractiveness of others. As such, men (most frequently but not exclusively) feel the need to remind me that I signed on to this binding contract by saying, "but you're married" in a mildly disapproving or scandalized tone.

From there, it is inferable that female sexuality is still something we as a society have not fully come to terms with. After years of bra-burning, birth control having, voting rights supporting feminism, we have reached new heights for women's rights, but it is clear that the jezebel-construct still underlies much of our social discourse. While seemingly innocuous, "reminding me" that I am married has the dual effect of shaming me for what I said and thought while making clear my husband's ownership.

This is another facet of modern-day sexism. It is not always in your face women-can't-drive-or-work comments, it is simple reminders, or shocked tones. If we accept these comments at face value, we will ultimately fail to move forward in our fight (and yes, it is still a fight) for equal rights on all grounds. It may be uncomfortable, but we must fight for equal footing on sexuality, or we will never really be equal.

So the next time you hope to remind me that I'm married, I can assure you that I happily remember, and I would ask that you reflect on why it is that you felt the need to say that. Hopefully, in doing so, you can realize any internal biases you may hold and help the next generation of young women step into a more fair world.