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Deconstructed S'Mores

Hey y'all! I'm in Oklahoma City right now, so I can say that. :-)
It's been pretty quiet around these parts for a while now, but all that is changing in the next few months. My perfectionist-nature has held me back from writing so many blog posts on my favorite recipes these last 6 months. Now that I'm in my last year of medical school, I have a lot more time to blog and do other things I love but have put on the back burner for too long. Move over Ms. If-it's-not-perfect-and-shot-with-my-Nikon-it's-not-going-on-the-blog!! Let's start with my newest creation that I'd love to share with you all: Deconstructed S'mores! I had some OKC friends over for dinner and made one of their favorites. For dessert, I thought I'd pull out something new from my (nonexistent) chef's toque. For those who know me, I LOVE marshmallows! My favorites are toasted burnt marshmallows made over an open fire AND homemade marshmallows (this will be a post for the holidays). I love all things marshmallow, even those Pinwheels that no one seems to buy...

So I made this recipe mainly because I wanted an excuse to eat toasted marshmallows for dessert. I let it get fancy schmancy since it was for company. For the base and the component that brings out the campfire taste, I made the famous chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti's, burnt sugar pot de cremes. I might experiment by adding a little whiskey or even a drop or two of this premium liquid smoke. But honestly, that complex caramel flavor was everything, and I'm afraid of messing it up. Even though this recipe looks super complicated, if you follow the directions-- it's very doable! Now go forth and brûlée, my friends!!

KiwiConfections Deconstructed S'Mores
Makes 7-8 Servings
6 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3-4 Graham Crackers
1 package Large Marshmallow

To Make Burnt Sugar Pot de Crèmes
  1. Separate egg yolks out while eggs are cold. Cover your bowl of egg yolks and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  3. Decide on a pan that you want to use as your bain marie. In a kettle, boil enough water to fill your bain marie pan with a ½ inch of water.*
  4. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; remove from the heat and keep warm. Whisk it while it’s warming up to prevent a film or skin forming on the milk mixture.
  5. Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of measured water in a medium heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to cook without stirring, until the mixture turns a dark amber color. Immediately remove from the heat!
  6. While whisking, carefully add about 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture to the caramel (it will bubble up and sputter so be sure to only add a small amount at a time), making sure to whisk the bottom of the pan, until the bubbles subside. Continue to slowly add the cream mixture 1/2 cup at a time while slowly whisking to incorporate it, until all of the mixture has been added; set aside.
  7. Whisk the yolks in a small heatproof bowl until blended. While whisking constantly, slowly pour about ½ Cup of the cream mixture into the yolks until combined. Continue to add/whisk ½ Cup of the caramel/milk mixture into the eggs.
  8. Pour and evenly divide the custard among the ramekins filling them three-quarters full.
  9. Cover each ramekin with aluminum foil. Place each of ramekins into the pan you’ve designated as your bain marie.
  10. Being careful not to get any water inside the ramekins, add enough of the boiled water to the bain marie so that the water level reaches ½ inch up the sides of ramekins.*
  11. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the tops of the custards are darkened in color and almost set, about 30 minutes.* (The entire custard will still jiggle, but it will set as it cools.)
  12. Using tongs and being careful not to get any water inside the ramekins, remove each custard from the bain marie to let cool to room temperature.
  13. Serve or leave covered with foil and refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, let the custards sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
*I used oval ramekins, which are wide and shallow compared to the classic ramekin which is circular and deep. If you use the circular, deeper ramekins, you’ll need the water level to reach 1 inch up the sides of ramekin. Also, it took about 30-45 minutes for my oval ramekin custards to finish cooking, but the deeper ramekins will mean your custards will take longer to cook (closer to 1 hour).

To Assemble Deconstructed S'Mores
  1. Crumble up graham crackers
  2. Sprinkle crumbled graham crackers on a burnt sugar pot de crème
  3. Place 2 marshmallows on top of the crumbled graham crackers
  4. Use a culinary torch to brûlée the marshmallows to your preferred level of toastiness
  5. Place a chocolate pretty on top!
Burnt Sugar Pot de Crème Recipe Adapted from Michael Recchiuti


Red Velvet Cake Appreciation Day

Dear reader,

I wish you the happiest Red Velvet Cake Appreciation Day, which as we all know is February 14th. I hope you take the time to make and share this tricked out confection with all those you like, like-like, and even love. Definitely, don't share the scrumptiousness with frenemies-- since we all know that fruit cake is the official cake for those people. You can learn more about the history of red velvet cake here because it's way too extensive for me to summarize. The short version is that the combination of tangy, sweet, and delicately cocoa-y has enchanted Americans for several decades and continues to do so today. I have only taken the time to make this cake for my dearest friends and family. It may be a little work, and you will end up with red dye somewhere you didn't want it, but the final product is unrivaled. I've scoured the internet and made several different recipes, but this one is, without question, the best! There was even a scientific trial performed to demonstrate the recipe's superiority.

Red Velvet Cake
Makes 36 Cupcakes
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa + 1 Tablespoon (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk*
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 Cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
  3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Turn mixer off and slowly add red food coloring and vanilla.
  4. Turn mixer on low and allow to mix for 30 seconds.
  5. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
  6. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
  7. Fill cupcake liners up 2/3 of the way full.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes

*Instead of buying buttermilk, you can also use regular milk with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice stirred in. This will cause the milk to curdle, but don’t worry. Allow this mixture to sit a couple of minutes before using it.

Fluffy Cream Cheese Icing
Makes Enough to Frost 36 Cupcakes
8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
4 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted

  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat and high speed until fluffy.
  2. Beat in vanilla and salt
  3. Add the Confectioner’s Sugar in slowly in batches
  4. Beat until fluffy

Red Velvet Cake Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


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

  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


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., 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

‘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


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