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10.16.2014

Bad Reviews

"I'm an A student. I'm addicted to feedback, and I want to please people. That's sort of how I've gotten to where I am. And I think that it's insidious to be spending more of your time reflecting and talking about [critics], and talking more and more in smart ways about your otherness, rather than doing the hard work of your job." -- Mindy Kaling speaking with Rachel Martin of NPR's Morning Edition
(hear the interview here)
I heard that interview this morning and figured it was serendipity and great inspiration for this here little 'ol blog. Like many, I can completely relate to Ms. Kaling's people-pleasing compulsion. It's something I wish I could change about myself, but it's also what's gotten me to accomplish a few things I'm pretty proud of. Nevertheless, that need for an A+ or a pat on the back from your boss or the acceptance from a new group of peers never quenches the thirst of a true people-pleaser. That's because there's always someone else to impress, something else to achieve, another gold star to jump through hoops for. It turns into a tiring and not-so-fun race against yourself-- a race you can never, ironically, win. The blogosphere is full of lots of how-I-live-my-perfect-life-and-how-you-should-live-yours. I get it-- I love reading those blogs too! This blog or at least this post is a bit more...."ain't no body got time for that!" Next month I'll  become another year older, and although I feel like a life-long adolescent what with the being in 19th grade and all...It's probably time to give up the life-long pursuit of getting an A+ in every aspect of life. Recently I found out that someone I really wanted to like me did not feel even close to that way about me, and my immediate people-pleasing gut reaction was to think 'wait, what did I do wrong? how can I fix it? how do I get them to like me back?' and then I realized....I have spent WAAAAY too much time being concerned with these ridiculous questions and quite frankly-- I am in 19th grade and ain't no body got time for that! 
"7 Habits of Remarkably Happy People: #1. They choose (and it is a choice) to embrace who they really are."
This is not a photo I authorized taking (as you might be able to tell), but here in my PJ's enthralled in making the best meringue I could manage, I didn't notice I'd gotten it in my hair-- that's who I really am :-)

Now, what I do have time for is this incredibly easy and fast breakfast. I'm a morning person (there! I said it), and the one thing I'm always running out of time for is eating a great breakfast. With this gem of a recipe, you will still have time for your morning workout, shower, blow dry, 'I have nothing to wear' mini meltdown, and commute. Also, did I mention that it tastes phenomenal and actually keeps you full 'till lunch?!

KiwiConfections Spicy Avocado Egg-wich
Serves 1

1 whole egg
1 egg white
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Half of a small/medium avocado, sliced
1 Slice Low Sodium Ezekiel Bread*
1-2 teaspoons Hot Sauce

Directions
  1. Spray a small/medium frying pan with some non-stick cooking spray. Heat the pan on medium/high heat.
  2. As the pan is warming up, slice up half of an avocado. (Store the other half in a Tupperware container and place back in the fridge.)
  3. Crack the eggs into the pan, salt and pepper the eggs, and flip to cook both sides
  4. While the eggs are cooking, toast the bread
  5. Once the eggs are cooked, remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Once the toast pops out, place your sliced avocado on top of the toast.  Dribble hot sauce on top of the avocado. Place the fried egg on the top.
  7. Enjoy immediately 

*”Sprouted Grain breads made of a variety of grains and legumes, like Ezekiel bread, deliver all of the amino acids necessary to make up a complete protein. And while most of us don’t rely on grains as a good source of protein, sprouted grains can be a good place for vegetarians to pick up some of the complete protein they’re missing out on by not eating meat.” -- Monica Reinagel MS, LD/N, CNS

10.09.2014

Why does unhealthy taste so #*$#@!% good?

I ask my friends, my mum, my sister, and my fiancé this question. Sometimes I ask this question mid-pain-au-chocolat-bite or post-pasta-massacre (as in, I killed all the pasta on my plate). But in all seriousness: How are humans-- the arrogant over-achievers of evolution-- so vulnerable to the dangers of cookies, cheese, and bread?! We humans have no natural predators (other than ourselves), and, yet, come 3:00pm those oreos seem like the closest thing to just that. The issue is that our love affair with food has outpaced the evolutionary tweaks needed ever since we stopped having to run after and shank our food. 200,000 years ago our Neanderthal ancestors didn't live the cozy life of being able to stock up on food at the local Piggly-Wiggly, and foods high in fat, sugar, and salt were rare. When they did find those paleolithic equivalents of a snickers bar, they cherished it and ate up because who knew when you'd find another. Fast forward a quarter of a million years and our brains are still hard-wired to cherish and gobble that [actual] snickers bar even though there's about 4000 of them within a 3 mile radius of your condo. Eating healthy definitely has the most significant impact on your physical health when compared to exercise, but for me (and many) it's probably the hardest thing to modify and stick with. Salad is something I rarely want to eat when I'm in my own kitchen, but at many restaurants there are salad magicians. These salad sorcerers can take leafy greens and mix them with random gems like fruits, nuts, and more veggies and suddenly you have a dish that can honestly compete taste-wise with that other delicious, carby, fatty thing on the menu. The trouble is-- most of us do not live with these salad magicians. But...now, you too can make at least one magical salad! On a recent trip to a favorite KC eatery, I begrudgingly ordered a salad as opposed to that other delicious, carby, fatty thing on the menu...and it turned out to be the best thing we ate that night. The next day I was determine to re-create it, and I honestly think I created its exact magical clone! The key to making this or any delicious salad part of your "everyday" is to chop up everything once and store everything in separate containers in the fridge. When it's Tuesday night and you don't have the energy or motivation to be a salad magician, you can just be a regular person and simply mix what you've already cut up. It really is impractical to do all this prep work every single time you want a salad-- so do it once, and reap the benefits of your one-time-only prep work.

The Salad You’ll Actually Want to Eat
Serves 10

Salad Components
3 Heads of Romaine, washed and chopped
1 Bag of pre-washed mixed baby kale and chard
2 Golden Beets
2 Red Bell Peppers
8 Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
Sliced Almonds
Goat Cheese

Sunflower Seed Vinaigrette
½ Cup Raw, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
¼ Cup Olive Oil
¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Honey
2 Garlic cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon of salt
½ Cup water

Directions
‘Da Beets
  1. Chop off the tops of the beets. Place them in a large pot and fill it with water to cover the beets. Boil the beets for 20 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Once the beets can be easily pierced through with a fork, remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Peel the beets and set them aside to cool.
  4. Once cool, slice and quarter the beets

‘Da Bell Peppers
  1. While the beets are cooking, work on the bell peppers. Wash, core, and julienne the red bell peppers.
  2. Toss the bell pepper slices in olive oil and spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Roast the bell pepper at 425° F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow peppers to cool.






‘Da Dressing
  1. To prepare the Sunflower Seed Vinaigrette, begin by toasting the sunflower seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, tossing constantly, until color deepens slightly. Don’t allow the pan to get too hot, or you will scorch the sunflower seeds. Toast for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the seeds from the pan and allow them to cool
  3. Place all the vinaigrette ingredients (EXCEPT the water) in a food processor.
  4. Run the food processor for one minute. Add the water.
  5. Run the food processor again until the dressing is smooth and free of lumps.
  6. Taste and add more honey, salt, or pepper if you see fit.

Magic Time!*
  1. Place your greens in a large bowl. Add some of the Sunflower Seed Vinaigrette to the greens and toss to coat.
  2. Add beets, bell peppers, dates, and almonds to the greens. Toss to combine.
  3. Plate the salad. Crumble goat cheese on top and serve

*I would advise assembling only the amount of salad you plan on eating immediately. I would not assemble all the ingredients into a salad and then store that. However, you can assemble a salad in the morning, store it in a Tupperware, and eat it for lunch a few hours later.

Sunflower Seed Vinaigrette Recipe Adapted from: Naked Cuisine
Recipe is inspired by the Napa Garden Salad at Urban Table in Kansas City

9.22.2014

Long Distance Relationships: A How To Guide (Kind of)

Photo Credit
When I tell people that my significant other and I are doing long distance for at least 4 years while he is in dental school and I am in medical school, the typical responses are: "Oh my gosh! That sounds so hard!" or "Wow! I don't think I could do that..." or "That sounds really difficult, but if your relationship can withstand this then it can withstand anything." The truth is: It is really hard. And if you have to do it, you can, in fact, do it. And sometimes the things that would normally be no big deal for a same-city couple might very well knock down a long distance couple. So far, we've done 3.5 years of living 333 miles apart. I kept my hopes resting on the idea that May 10, 2015 (his graduation date) would be the end of this annoying distance...but alas, it seems there are no guarantees in the world of residency matching. And so the very real prospect of another 3 years of long distance looms ahead. And as tempted as I am to throw a 1-year-old-style temper tantrum and chuck the whole thing out of the window of a speeding car-- I can't. (Full disclosure: I have already thrown the aforementioned tantrum). As several dear friends put it, 'how do you give up the person you know you're supposed to be with because of complicated logistics and inconvenient geography?' And to this, I have no logical answer except that 'you don't.' Instead I have compiled a list of things that helped me survive the last 3.5 years... and possibly the next 3. If you or someone you know is faced with having to do long distance, I hope this helps!

1. FaceTime: Usually this devolves into a contest of who can make the silliest faces

2. Audio Books: These are almost necessary to make the boring trips across The Plains pass by quickly. My favorites over the years have been #1. Bossy Pants, #2. Middlesex, #3. Anything by David Sedaris, #4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me & Other Concerns, #5. The Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy, #6. The Kite Runner, #7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, #8. The Fault in Our Stars,  #9. Bringing Up Bebe, and #10. The Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale

3. This American Life podcasts & Snap Judgement podcasts: See #2. Simply stated, these are wonderful AND free!! Great for when the library is out of the audiobooks you've been wanting or you can't pay $20 to buy an audiobook.

4. Working Out "together": We loved working out together when we were a same-city couple, but it's hard to keep each other motivated to workout when we're apart. We text each other as soon as we're done with our workouts each day and encourage each other with a 'congrats!' or 'good job, babe!' Also, we have a sort of penalty system going for missing workouts: I must donate $5 to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and Ry must support fame hungry, albeit entertaining, dregs of society by buying me an episode of the Real Housewives on Amazon Prime. If you know either of us, you'll know just how punitive (and thus motivating) these conditions are.

5. Safe Cars w/ good mileage: If it's at all an option, driving a car with good fuel economy really helps! It gets you to your destination faster and cheaper than a guzzler. At the same time, driving a Smartcar at 80 miles an hour on a highway for 5 hours does not exactly reassure loved ones of your safety-- remember that safety is still the most important thing.

6. A Southwest Credit Card: We don't fly to see each other much ever since the direct route got cancelled, but this credit card is amazing! You get 2 free roundtrip tickets when you sign up and it's pretty easy to continue to rack up more free flights just by using it for daily expenses. Even if we don't use the free flights to fly to Oklahoma or Kansas City, we can use them to go somewhere different and fun together.

7. A Supportive Network of Friends and Family: This is by far the most important tool in your LDR survival kit. Being in a LDR means A LOT of time alone, which inevitably leads to feeling lonely. We've each leaned on our friends a ton to keep those feelings of loneliness at bay. Make it a point to make plans with your local friends and spend time with your family. Go out! Start a new hobby! Don't put your life on hold because you're apart. Being individually happy makes your relationship a lot stronger and healthier. When you are in the same city, hang out with each others' friends. It's great that I can call Ry's friends my own friends too and vice versa.

I'm currently visiting Ry on one of my rare breaks from school. We love to cook together when we can. With Autumn occasionally peaking through the 80 degree weather we're having in September, I decided to make something delicious with one of my favorites-- butternut squash. I'm extremely impressed with the richness of this dish considering the fact that unlike most butternut squash recipes, this one is not swimming in heavy cream or butter! It's very easy to make...and easy to make disappear as well :-) We ate this for dinner last night next to some smoked chicken Ry's parents whipped up in their Green Egg.


KiwiConfections Butternut Squash Pasta
With Crispy Sage and Bacon
Serves 5

4 Slices No or Low Nitrate Bacon, finely chopped
1 ½  Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces
2 large scallions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 oz. linguine
¼ cup grated Pecorino, plus some shaved Pecorino for serving
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, and reduce heat if necessary. Cook until crisp, 3-5 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon onto a paper towel. Discard 80% of the bacon grease.
  3. Add the chopped sage to the skillet and toss to crisp it up in the remaining bacon fat. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the sage out of the pan and onto the paper towel with bacon.
  4. Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season the mixture with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7–9 minutes.
  5. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes.
  6. Turn the stove off and let cool slightly. Once slightly cooled, pour the squash (with all the liquid) into the blender. Keep the skillet—you’ll use it again soon.
  7. Purée until smooth; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  9. Combine pasta, squash purée, and ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid in the skillet and cook over low-medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  10. Mix in ¼ cup grated Pecorino, bacon, and sage.
  11. Serve pasta topped with shaved Pecorino.


Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetite

9.01.2014

Meatballs, baby!


I've never really been a baby person. I did have baby dolls growing up, but they mainly served as my patients to which I afflicted unlikely diseases-- tetanus, measles, and elephantiasis to name a few. Yes, I kept index cards AKA medical records on these dolls and marked the babies up with the appropriate symptoms. I like to think that I've come a long way since my early days as a cavalier play-pediatrician. However, babies still intimidate me. They are fascinating in their tiny-ness and indefinite curiosity, and yet their cryptic sleep schedules and inability to communicate terrifies me. As easy as it would be to swear off having my own kids and commit to the "cool aunt" role, I can't help but wonder if I may regret it down the road. Never has my internal battle been more salient as this past weekend I spent with my 1-year old niece.
After spending the work week busy in the hospital, it seems like a true herculean feet to raise a child while also being a medicine resident. I surveyed some of the residents asking: 'How in the world does someone DO IT?!' The answer seemed to be: 'you just do' and 'there's never going to be a good time.' Then of course I got to spend the last 2 days with my niece, who is all of the fascinating wonderful things that consist of being a 1-year-old and for, at least a little while, those things were able to dwarf the terrifying things. Watching her eat the meatballs I'd made also reassured me that maybe one day even I could sustain another human life and....perhaps even enjoy it...just maybe. In the mean time I will continue to be in awe of dedicated parents.

These meatballs are healthier that your average subbing bison meat for the traditional beef and veal combo. People are nuts about bison meat because it has only 2.5g of fat per serving versus over 10g in beef. It's also lower in calories (140 vs. 215) and a little higher in iron. You can find out more on bison meat here. These bison meatballs are also easy to make because of the baking method. They freeze well, so you can make extra and keep them for the next time you're wanting a kid-friendly, adult-tasting recipe! Enjoy :-)

KiwiConfections Gluten Free Bison Meatballs & Pasta Sauce
Serves 8

Meatballs
1 cup Schar gluten free breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 /2 pound extra lean ground beef
1 ½ pounds ground bison
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 Cup milk
  1. Place the first 9 ingredients in the bowl and mix
  2. Add the meat and combine it with all of the dry ingredients (hands are your best tool here)
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, egg, and milk. Continue mixing the mixture with your hands.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400°
  5. Form your meatballs by rolling in your hands
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the baking sheet about ½ an inch apart.
  7. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes at 400°. The baking time will depend upon the size of your meatballs. I suggest taking the tray out and cutting the thickest meatball in half to see if it is cooked all the way through (no pink should remain).
  8. Remove the tray of meatballs from the oven and allow it to cool

Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ Cup Chianti
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 ½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper

  1. Add oil to medium pot and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until onion becomes transparent. Add minced garlic and cook for another 1 minute.
  2. Add Chianti to the pot and scrape the bottom. Allow this to cook until almost all the liquid is gone
  3. Add the tomatoes and stir
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Lower the heat and continue to simmer for about 7-8 minutes.

8.26.2014

If Cavemen Ate Pies, They'd Eat This One


I've missed this place. Since my last dreamy post consisting of chicken pot pie and cooking nights with friends, things have been a LOT less warm and fuzzy. The last several months consisted of 17 hour study days for board exams, 3:30am wakeups for clinical rotations, and the eating and exercise habits of someone who does not write a food blog. Don't get me wrong-- the first and second years of medical school were my toughest years to date, but now we're a bit more exposed to the real world. By real world, I mean waking up before the sun does and getting home without a shred of energy left in you let alone the motivation to study and cook a gourmet something-or-other (<-- And that's a good day!) But over the last few weeks, I've come to realize that, for me at least, cooking and working out every morning is part of what makes me me. Without dabbling in the kitchen every week, sharing food, and working out regularly I start to lose my sense of self and that feeling of well-being-- aka I become a bit grouchy. This process of becoming a little less human is exacerbated by wearing scrubs 2 sizes too big for you every day, attending physicians who don't know you but already don't like you, and that pesky issue of sleep  lack of sleep. On my way home one day I realized how completely enveloped we are in non-food food that also makes you feel, well, not your best (and decided to take pictures). 

Full disclosure: My bad eating consisted of cafeteria turkey burgers, cookies, dirty chai lattes, sausage biscuits, frozen meals, and occasionally popcorn or cereal for dinner. So the default for those whose health is most vulnerable and those who (in theory) should be setting an example for how to maintain one's health is...the QuesaritoTM! Okay, okay...maybe that's not fair. There is a salad bar in the cafeteria. But try giving iceberg lettuce to a patient's worried family member or a stressed out surgeon or an even more stressed out resident after an involuntary 8 hour fast-- they will throw said lettuce at you! These experiences have made me even more aware of the very real obstacles between every day people and the healthy, whole lives we want to lead. I know that my future blog posts will be heavily influenced by this because I am-- from what I eat to how I fit in some extra physical activity not just to stay healthy but to keep being me. This recipe is something I made recently to remind myself of how much I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. It is great for those of you who love banana cream pie as much as I do but can't justify the refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. This recipe is gluten free and Paleo! Maybe you can make this for that Caveman Labor Day party you have coming up...

Paleo Banana Pudding Pie
Serves 12

Almond Meal Pie Crust:
2 Cups Almond Flour
¼ Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
1 Egg
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°
  2. Place the first 2 ingredients in the food processor and pulse to combine
  3. Add the oil and egg and pulse until it forms a ball of dough
  4. Press the dough into a pie dish or tart pan
  5. Bake the crust for 10 minutes
  6. Remove the crust from the oven and allow it to cool completely before filling

 Banana Chia Seed Pudding:
2 Cups Reduced Sugar Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Very ripe banana, chopped up
3 Tablespoons Honey*
3 Medjool Dates, pitted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
2 bananas for garnishing

  1. Put all the ingredients in the blender except for the chia seeds. Blend until smooth
  2. Add the chia seeds and pulse the mixture once or twice to just incorporate the chia seeds
  3. Pour mixture into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour
  4. Pour the thickened chia pudding into a cooled pie crust and chill the pie in the refrigerator for an additional hour
  5. Garnish with sliced bananas right before serving or cover with saran wrap immediately if you are not serving the pie right away
*You can replace the honey with pure maple syrup for increased sweetness or you can increase the amount of honey if you’d like it to be sweeter.

Crust Recipe from http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-pie-crust/
Photo Credits: KiwiConfections