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

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

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

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!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Burnt Orange Rose Cocktails

Germany, 2013. On our way to Berlin
It's been a while. It's not that I haven't been inspired by food, it's that I haven't been inspired to write about food. But now...I am. In less than 6 months I'll be "on the wards." What that means is that instead of lecture, study, exam, repeat, I'll be see how what I learned translates into actual patient cases...and then lecture, study, exam, repeat. It's amazing the things I've managed to shove, and I mean shove, into my brain over the past 1.5 years. I remember sitting on the floor nearly in tears over my Netter anatomy book because I was so overwhelmed by all the muscles in the body, 2nd year seemed like a million years away, and the Board exam were the farthest thing on my mind. Now, I've passed Anatomy, over half way done with second year, and I'll be taking the Step 1 Board exam in May...so  I'm definitely thinking about that. 
Gluehwein at a Christmas Market in Berlin 

Famous Hamburg Gardens
It's amazing how life can just happen sometimes. I was talking to my friend Lauri yesterday after our latest exam--we were sitting in a coffee shop tying up the last few strings from our latest module before celebrating another exam being done--and I said my biggest worry was that I would lose myself in work. I love learning about medicine, but I definitely scared that I won't DO the things outside of school that make me happy. I'm scared that I'll get so myopic in my view that all I'll be able to see is the next step, and everything else will get only marginal amounts of my focus. 
Burnt Orage Rose Cocktail

But I think that the fear is good. I think having that fear will motivate me to do things...like go to Germany over winter break when I'm living on loans and when it would be easier to give into inertia and study over break. It'll motivate me to keep doing things I love: walking my dog along the river so that I can see the world outside, finding creativity in food, etc. It'll motivate me to remember that life is happening. 

So on that note, I made this interesting drink last night with oranges, limes, and rose water. Caramelizing the oranges brings out a very interesting flavor that is highlighted by the rose water. Try it, it'll be amazing. 

Burnt Oranges
Mason Jar Shaker
Rose Water
Salt rimmed and beautiful
Dinner and Drinks

Burnt Orange Rose Cocktails
Makes one drink

2 oz. tequila
1.3 oz. Triple Sec or Grand Mariner
0.33 fresh lime juice
2 Oranges, sliced in half
0.67 oz rose water 
Crushed Ice

Salt for the glass rim

Take the orange halves and put them in the broiler for about 7 minutes or until the tops are brown-black, but not burnt. Pull them out of the oven to cool. Mix the tequila, triple sec, rose water, and lime juice in a container. Shake them up well to mix. When the oranges have cooled, juice them into the container, and shake it up again. Pour them over ice in salt-rimmed glasses and enjoy. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NYTimes: Cuts in Food Stamps Force Hard Choices on the Poor

Article: Cuts in Food Stamps Force Hard Choices on the Poor 

I am an accepting person. I will listen to your political opinion even if it's vastly different from mine, and try to reconcile what you're saying with why you might believe it. But this I don't understand. Cuts in the SNAP (food stamps) program are forcing millions of Americans to go to bed with empty bellies and empty pockets to pay for food. In a first world country, empty bellies.

Our policy makers, our fiscally conservative policy makers, have a particular way of de-humanizing the poor--painting an image of a greedy, money-grubbing, lazy faceless mass that want nothing more than the take advantage of the system. This idea was popularized by then candidate Ronald Regean's speech in Chicago's South Side, with the creation of the "welfare queen." He claimed:
"She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."
Unfortunately this was only mildly reflective of reality. With a little digging, you can find the woman to whom he was referring in his infamous speech, Linda Taylor. She was certainly charged with fraud--for a total of $8,000.

But who doesn't like keeping the money they earn? No one. So this idea of our hard-earned tax dollars going to lazy, jobless welfare queens with Cadillacs persisted throughout the decades and has fueled many a fiscally conservative fire. We keep voting fiscally conservative Republicans into office under their magic line of, if you work hard, you'll go far in life and won't need government handouts! Therefore implying the obvious--if you take welfare, you're not working hard enough.

But it really all begins with a bit of luck doesn't it? I was lucky to be born into a family that valued my education, I was lucky to have a good education, I was lucky to have a family that had the means to provide me what I needed, and I was lucky that I grew up with a family that taught me what "bad decisions" were, how to not make them, and had the means to help me if I did make them. I was lucky, I have privilege.

I am not saying I didn't work hard, I did. But at least I had the tools to work hard and run far. Millions of Americans are born without shoes or tools, and we ask them to hit the ground running and try not to step on any broken glass.

What I am saying is that next time you hear a proposal to cut SNAP (food stamps), or to make it harder for people to receive food stamps (i.e. "volunteer" their time or take drug tests)...think about the person saying those things. Have they ever experienced being so poor that you qualify for welfare? Have they actually seen rampant abuse of the system rather than occasional anecdotal tales? Have they dealt with parents who have to choose between food for themselves or food for their children? Or are they simply pandering to a people who bought into Regean's welfare queen idea as a way to justify their greed? Think about that next time you have an inkling to vote for a fiscal conservative.


Here are some statistics as of 2013 from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Commerce regarding welfare and food stamps:
  • 12.8 million people receive welfare (another way to look at it 4% of the US population) 
  • Total amount of money you make monthly and still receive welfare: $1000
  • Total number of states where welfare pays more than an $8 hour job: 39