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 bear...it'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
Cake
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) 

Frosting
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 test...so 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. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Night Drinks: Cucumber Gin with Salt and Pepper



Friday nights should be about clearing off tables, putting away study material, closing Qbank (a test question bank thing second year medical students use for our impending board exams), and enjoying a drink. Having a drink is what I do Mon-Thursday...I like it, it tastes good, it makes the last few lectures I'm watching on double speed from the comfort of my home go down smoothly...it's nice.
But enjoying a drink, that's what I do on Fridays. The drink-making process is more than just the finished product: it's discovering something exciting, getting the ingredients, prepping it, finally adding the last accoutrements to make it pretty...and taking that first sip--it hales the end of another week and the beginning of the weekend. Forget the fact that I will study on Saturday and Sunday, forget the fact that I could be doing work now. Nope, with that drink in my hand and the dinner that'll follow, I'm taking care of myself...the typical, "me time" situation. That's right, I said it, me-time. Time for me, my drink, and the beautiful silence of my brain.

Anyways, try this drink, it'll make you look forward to spring days. The idea of cucumber juice might seem a little daunting, but trust me, it's not difficult or really time consuming.
Gin Cucumber Salt and Pepper Cocktails
Makes 4 drinks, from www.joythebaker.com

8 1oz shots of gin (1 cup)
6-8 1oz. shots of cucumber juice (0.75 - 1 cup)
4 1 oz. shots of lime juice (0.5 cups)
0.33 cups of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled together)
Sparkling water (to top off the drinks)
Sea Salt
Crushed black pepper

Cucumber juice -- I don't have a juicer, but if you have one, use it! I used my hand blender. Blend up one english cucumber, and then put the pulp into a strainer over a bowl, and let it drain out of about 10 minutes.

Then mix the juice in with the simple syrup, gin, and lime juice into a mason jar or shaker with a few cubes of ice, and shake it up to mix well. Pour it into glasses filled with ice, top with sparkling water, a cucumber slice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Modified Chile Rellenos

It's still winter. Spring break is around the corner, and it's still winter. My fingers, nose, and toes are well aware of that, but my brain and taste buds...not so much. I want tomatoes, I want avocados, I want iced coffee, iced tea, ICE. I want arugula salads with orange ginger vinaigrette, watermelon slices, frozen grapes, delicate asparagus, and cold noodle salad. I want spring, I want summer. I want sun, and flowers. Flats and shorts. Dresses and grass stains. I want it.

So to instead of doing a come-hither dance for the sun, I'm going to settle for spicy chile rellenos to light up my life, and belly. Chile rellenos are a Mexican dish that takes roasted chiles, stuffed with cheese, breaded in a delicious egg-based batter, pan fried, topped with a red sauce. It's amazing, wonderful, and immediately makes me think back to Arizona. Unfortunately, when I had a hankering for this dish, I didn't have the time or patience to make the batter, pan fry, etc.

So I modified it, and it was surprising easy, awesomely delicious, and as an added (unplanned) side benefit, healthier. This is definitely getting added into my weekly meal rotation.




Modified Chile Rellenos 
Serves 2-3

6 Poblano peppers (you can use any pepper, spicer or milder, poblanos aren't that spicy, but give a nice chile flavor)

Enchilada sauce (I used the Trader Joes brand, it's pretty good)
Mild Cheddar Cheese
Spinach

Extra stuffing/topping options: black olives, tomatoes, green onions, red onions, jalepenos, corn.

Wash the chiles, and put them on a cutting board. Lay the chile so it lays flat without rolling, and use a paring knife to make 2 cuts forming a T, one cut parallel to the stem, and one perpendicular, down the middle of from the stem to the tip. Expose the inside of the chile and scrape out the seeds. Be careful not to cut through the chile entirely, or not to cut off the stem).

Coat the chiles in a layer of olive oil, and broil them for about 5 minutes, turn them over, and broil for another five minutes. You want the skin to be blackened/charred, and the chile itself to be soft. When it's done, put in a heat proof bowl, and cover it for about 10 minutes. The steam from the chiles will make the skin easy to pull off.

Meanwhile put your stuff mixture together into a separate bowl. I mixed spinach and cheese together.

When the chiles are cool enough to handle, pull them out, and gentle peel off the skin, making sure not to pull apart the chiles. Then you want to lay the chiles onto a flat cutting board and place some of your cheese mixture in the middle, roll the chile around it, and put it into a baking dish. Do this with the remaining chiles. Cover with enchilada sauce and little more cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and you're done! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Salted Caramel Brownies, the easiest

Oddly enough, I don't love sweets. I was that child that came back after a night of trick-or-treating, flushed face with my pumpkin bag in hand, dumped out all my candy on to the living room floor, and just started at it. After about 3 minutes of staring in awe at my bounty, the fun began: I methodically organized and reorganized my candies. Biggest to smallest, most delicious to least delicious, brand, those that contain nuts, those with the same color wrapping paper! I repeated this over and over until I found a pattern that suited me for that year. Then, I would slowly pack up my candy, back into my pumpkin bag, and put it away. Throughout the year, I would pull out the bag, like a little hoarder in training, and look at my candy. Not eat it, look at it. My parents must have found this behavior decidedly odd, and knew that I would probably grow up to be pretty awkward, but they went with the flow and ended up recycling my old candy as next years Halloween candy. I've been green from a young age.


In college, my best friend would stare at me in wonder when she saw that I still had snickers bars from the beginning of the year from the care package my mom sent me--and then promptly relieve me of those candy bars. Now, my husband rolls his eyes every time I get a new chocolate bar, because he knows that I'm going to eat about three bites and leave the rest in the fridge for the next year or so.


What can I say? I'm like a small dog with sweets, I'm interested for a short period of time, and then I forget about it...I just don't like things that are too sweet. But, I have an overwhelming urge to make desserts, especially those that toe that line between too sweet and perfect. These brownies most definitely fall into the perfect category.

We had a little bit of heavy whipping cream sitting around so I decided I wanted to make salted caramel sauce with...which turned into straight up salted caramels...which turned into salted caramel brownies, a the ultimate trifecta of awesome. Sounds like they'd be hard and time consuming, but I promise you they're not. I don't love sweets, but I definitely love these brownies...not too sweet, with just the right touch of chocolate and salt mixed in.
The best picture I could get before we ate them! 

Salted Caramel Brownies
Recipe straight from smittenkitchen.com

Caramel
0.5 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp. heavy cream
0.25 heaped tsp. salt

Brownies
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.25 tsp salt
0.67 cup all purpose flour

This sounds like it would be hard, or like it would take a long time. Rest assured, I can promise you neither of those things are true. First make the caramel:

Caramel -- get your ingredients together, and a medium sautepan. Put the sugar in by itself and turn the heat to medium. Mix the sugar around with a wooden or metal spatula and you'll see it begin to melt. When it's melted entirely, take it off the heat, and stir in the butter. It'll start to bubble, but that's okay, just keep stirring. Then add in the salt, and heavy cream, and put it back on the burner over medium-low heat. When it turns a golden brown color, you're done. Pour it into a pan lined with non-stick sprayed parchment paper and stick it in the freezer for 45 minutes. When it's done, you can shatter/cut it.

Brownie batter -- Preheat your oven to 350. melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler. When it's melted and stirred together, add the sugar and mix well. Then add the 2 eggs, vanilla, salt and mix together. Then add the flour about 1-2 tbsp at a time, mixing to make sure it incorporated. Then you take about 1/2 the caramel pieces and mix it into the batter. Pour the batter into a non-stick sprayed pan. Put the rest of the caramel pieces on top. Pop it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, pull it out, let it cool, and you're done!

If you want a darker flavor for the caramel, you can let it go a little darker, but be careful because otherwise the sugar can burn and taste bitter!

Enjoy!