An Amuse-Bouche

You’ve seen it on Instagram, you’ve seen it on Buzzfeed, you’ve seen it all over the Internet – trendy, stylish foods that toe the line between disgusting and impressively creative. Yet we can’t get enough! We line up for hours to try rainbow bagels and cookie dough served in ice cream cones. We “do it for the ‘gram.” We are foodies.

I am one of these foodies. I watch Food Network, I follow more food Instagram profiles than anything else. I’ve made lists of restaurants to try. I can name exotic foods and spices, and I yell at Chopped contestants like I’m watching football.

But I also have a secret… I never actually learned how to cook.

I was a picky eater as a child. No one in my family ever seemed to be particularly excited about food. Growing up, I saw cooking as more of a chore than a hobby. Once I got into food, I found myself wanting to make the dishes I saw on Pinterest or practice the skills I saw on TV. In 2015, I started this blog on another platform. Now I’m continuing that blog here as of 2018.

The point of this blog is to document both my pre-med journey and my culinary exploration and share it with my readers. I hope to share the lessons I’ve learned, as well as my successes and many failures. I feel learning to cook is not only a great hobby, but a way to encourage a healthy lifestyle while I pursue my dream of being a physician.

“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”  -Julia Child

Easy Sopapilla Cheesecake

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Living in Arizona, the holiday is celebrated by our resident Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. I’ve never been one to take part of “Cinco de Drinko,” as that’s not why the holiday is celebrated. The holiday marks the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s victory against the French in 1862. It is not Mexican Independence Day.

In the US, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican-American culture. Mexico has a rich, diverse food culture outside of the “Tex-Mex” often mistaken for true Mexican food. Though tacos, burritos and the like have Mexican counterparts, I wanted to make food that incorporated traditional Mexican foods.

Sopapillas are a popular dessert in northern Mexico and Latin America, the result of Spanish influence. Sweet dough is fried into a pillowy pastry that is then covered in cinnamon and sugar. I’m still not quite comfortable with frying, so I found this recipe for a faux-sopapilla cheesecake.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 8 oz. bricks of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Notes about Ingredients: Frozen puff pastry takes about 30-45 minutes to defrost. For the best results in your baking, your ingredients (egg, cream cheese, sour cream, and butter) should be at room temperature.

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×13 in. baking dish. Lay the first sheet of puff pastry flat in the bottom of the dish. Do not trim any extra dough. Gently press the pastry to the sides of the dish.

2) Poke holes in the puff pastry with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes.

3) Beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of the sugar. Add the egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Be careful not to overmix.

IMG_0747

4) Remove the crust from the oven. Let it sit for 5 minutes, especially to deflate. Pour the cheesecake mix over the crust.

IMG_0748

5) Top the cream cheese mixture with the other sheet of puff pastry. Gently tuck or press the sides of both sheets together. Brush this pastry with the melted butter.

IMG_0749

6) Mix 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon.  Sprinkle over the melted butter on the pastry sheet.

IMG_0750

7) Bake 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Place the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.

IMG_0753

Final Thoughts: I’m not 100% sure this counts as sopapilla cheesecake, but it was tasty. It was less appealing once it had cooled, but it was sweet and tasty. Once I took the first piece, people were more willing to try (because it “looked weird”). By the end of our potluck, the entire cheesecake was gone.

 

Easter “Garden” Cups

Easter is a time for brunches and family dinners, but it’s also a time for candy and sweets straight from the Easter bunny! When you’re going to see your friends or family for a party or dinner, you should always bring something with you. Here’s a sweet treat you can bring for dessert without too much frantic effort. Plus they’re adorable! Happy Easter! Enjoy these cute Easter dirt cups.

Ingredients:

“CARROTS”

  • Fresh strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • Bag of orange candy melts (from Michael’s or Jo-Ann Fabrics)

PUDDING CUPS

  • Crushed Oreos
  • 1 large box chocolate pudding
  • 3 cups milk

Instructions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

2. Melt the bag of candy melts, except for about 15 discs.

I used the microwave to melt the chocolate discs. I put it in a small glass bowl for 1 minute. Then repeat in 30 second intervals, stirring each time.

3. Grab the strawberries by the stem. Dip both sides in chocolate, then place on the parchment paper. Repeat with all the strawberries.

4. Put the strawberries in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

5. Take a sandwich bag and cut the tip of it off. Melt the rest of the discs. Pour the melted chocolate into the sandwich bag. Close the bag and twist it. Drizzle over the strawberries. Let sit.

6. Make the chocolate pudding according to the instructions on the box.

I made the pudding first so it could sit in the fridge while I worked on everything else.

7. Put some crushed Oreos on the bottom of some clear cups. Pour pudding over top of them.

8. Top with more crushed Oreos. Press a strawberry into the center.

9. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve/bring them to the party!

Final Thoughts: Mine turned out a little differently. I didn’t drizzle the strawberries with more chocolate, and I didn’t put Oreos on the bottom of the cup. These were a hit at the Easter party at work! And they are so incredibly adorable. A big group of them together is like a little garden!

The List

Compiling a medical school list is as much of a strategy as studying for the MCAT. After months of research, studying, and comparing requirements, I have a tentative list of medical schools to apply to for the upcoming cycle. The AAMC application opens on May 1, 2019. Though I don’t have my MCAT score, I have a general idea of my personal stats.

Applying to these schools is expensive, so I’m limiting myself to 13-15 schools for this cycle. I’m still debating on whether I want to apply to the Texas Application System.

Factors I Considered:

  • Location
  • Accept All Types of Credits (online, AP, community college)
  • Global Health Component
  • School’s Preference for In-state/Out-of-State Students
  • Team-Based Care
  • Problem-Based Learning

Factors I Did Not Consider:

  • School Rankings
  • Residency Matching
  • Underprivileged Students Programs (I don’t qualify)

I looked for schools where I have support systems and where I felt I could live without too much “culture shock”, if you will. This means many of my schools are located around the Southwest. Being located in the Southwest does not guarantee admission of course. A school in Utah stated that they basically left only 8 slots for out-of-state students. I’m not applying there with such slim chances.

Being a non-trad also changes my profile. My classes come from a variety of backgrounds, which some schools do not accept as pre-requisites. I took time going through MSAR (AAMC’s cheap service with all of the AAMC school statistics) eliminating schools that didn’t accept my credits. For example, Johns Hopkins expresses a strong preference for traditional applicants (in addition to high GPA and MCAT preferences). They do not accept online courses, so I can’t apply there. (Their admissions team was rude to me anyway.)

Here’s the List:

  1. University of Arizona Phoenix
  2. University of Arizona Tucson
  3. Chicago Med- Rosalind Franklin College of Medicine
  4. University of Colorado
  5. University of Southern California
  6. University of California San Diego
  7. Baylor University
  8. University of Kentucky
  9. Wake Forest University
  10. Tufts University
  11. Thomas Jefferson University
  12. Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  13. Duke University

Schools 10-13 might be considered “reach” schools, but I have reasons for choosing them. There’s always a chance that I score high enough on my MCAT to make it past the admissions filters.

I’ve got 2 Texas schools as well, which I don’t think makes it worth it to apply to the separate Texas application service… Of course, the list might change once I get my MCAT scores, but we’ll have to wait until June before I know anything.

What do you think of my school list? Are you applying to any of the same schools? Share your lists with me!!

RIP Laptop

After almost 10 years, my laptop finally gave up the ghost. This means I’ve lost all my photos (at least for now). Hoping to get a new laptop soon and get the blog back up and running!

Improving My Body Image (+Caramelized Banana Oatmeal)

Losing weight for a healthier body and lifestyle is common medical advice. By age 18 I was nearly 200 lbs. My parents worried about my weight, but I felt pretty good about myself. I started exercising my freshman year of college with my best friend. I remember walking around in sweatpants and a sports bra, thinking I looked really good.

I’m not 100% sure what happened. By the time I got to my goal weight, it became exhausting to step on the scale. I weighed myself daily, panicking at the slightest gain- I’m talking 1-2 pounds. I would call Boyfriend in tears, terrified of gaining all of the weight back.

My biggest goals for myself this year are self-care and self-love. I’ve been working harder in the gym, strengthening my body and accepting the changes that come with building muscle. Today I am about ten pounds heavier. I’m not 100% sure since I haven’t weighed myself very consistently. My pants size hasn’t really changed. I’ve noticed changes in curves, but more than anything, I can lift more, I can run longer. I feel healthier and I’m not torturing myself for enjoying certain foods.

The diet mentality tends to label foods as “good” and “bad.” An Instagram account previously called #nutribollocks has been phenomenal in combating shame. I focus more on honoring my hunger and respecting my fullness. Granted, there is still a balance in what I’m eating.

On Sundays I get to sleep in a little before Boyfriend comes home and we go the gym. After the gym we may grocery shop. I’ll cook us a large breakfast to help us recover from the work-out. Some mornings Boyfriend prefers to sleep in, so I get a quiet morning to myself. This happened last Sunday, so I decided to try a warm oatmeal recipe for the cold morning. Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast choice with lots of fiber. Overnight oats are classic, but sometimes I like to cook old-fashioned stove top oats. Since I prefer sweet oatmeal, these caramelized bananas (with coconut oil instead of butter) offer sweetness without going overboard!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla
  • sea salt, chocolate chips, and other desired toppings

Instructions:

1) Heat 2 cups of milk in a pot until it boils. Add 1 cup oats and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit about another 5 minutes.


2) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla, and let it bubble until foamy.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_3076.jpg

3) Add bananas and simmer for a few minutes on each side until soft and plump.

4) Remove from heat. Stir half of bananas into oatmeal, and reserve the other half for topping

I chose not to stir in the bananas for myself, but I assume this makes a creamier texture. I did not pour the remaining syrup into my oatmeal either; I’m pretty sure it would be too sweet if I did.

Add some chocolate chips and it’s done!

Final Thoughts: This surprisingly did not take as long as I thought it would! It may not be a work day breakfast, but it was certainly quick. I’ve never cooked anything with coconut oil, so I was quite surprised that I didn’t get an underlying coconut flavor. I’m assuming the other flavorings masked the coconut (or perhaps I need new coconut oil). This was a sweet and warm, healthy start to my week.

New Year, New Goals

Each year I take a look at what I’ve cooked/baked and what I’m hoping to learn in the future. This year I was unpleasantly surprised to find that I barely made any of my 2018 goals.

  1. Pulled Pork
  2. Roast Chicken
  3. Sourdough
  4. Quesadillas
  5. Scones
  6. Trifle
  7. Madelines
  8. Quiche
  9. Cocktail
  10. Salad with Homemade Dressed
  11. Cinnamon Rolls
  12. Steak and Mashed Potatoes
  13. Frittata
  14. A Homemade Condiment
  15. French Press Coffee

Out of these fifteen goals, I made roast chicken, quesadillas, scones, and mashed potatoes. I’ve never met every single goal in a year, but I’m usually more dedicated to my goals.

This year I’ll be trying something a little different. Keep following and I’ll be less mysterious! Updates to come soon!

Happy Holidays, You Might Have Cancer

It was the day before Thanksgiving. The menu was planned, the shopping done. I planned on baking pies and chopping vegetables once I got home. Only a few patients to see that day, one a new patient. Usually my NP doesn’t see new patients, as initial evaluation is left to the physician.

She was flustered about seeing this patient she’s never met. Rushing into clinic to see the NP usually means something is urgent. This particular patient was highly symptomatic following a procedure by another provider. Unable to provide an explanation for her sudden shortness of breath, that provider referred her to our clinic.

The sudden onset and change in her symptoms frightened the patient and her husband. A young woman who enjoyed exercising was panting after walking less than 10 feet. Looking over the results from labwork, procedures, and imaging didn’t reveal a clear picture. She looked at us, pleading for answers with big, round eyes. She held her hand tight as her husband helped answer questions so she could catch her breath.

Imaging showed an abnormality, not explained by the most common diagnosis. The suspicion arose for cancer, though more testing would be needed. By the way her face fell, she had obviously not considered such a disastrous possibility. Her procedure was supposed to be simple and easy. From a cardiac perspective, it had been successful. Now she and her healthcare providers were forced to contemplate more malignant causes.

Despite working in a medical clinic, I’m not accustomed to seeing my patients die. We primarily see patients with atrial fibrillation, a treatable and manageable disease not likely to be the sole cause of death. The interventional team has to worry about death from heart attacks, while the heart failure team deals with high risk transplant candidates or LVAD patients. Cancer is usually handled by outside physicians specializing in other bodily systems and/or oncologists.

Right before the holidays, even the most remote possibility of cancer seemed devastating. It was difficult to hold myself together for the patient’s sake.

One of the research physicians suggested that I begin hospice volunteering. Despite all my research and reading book after book about death, I have little experience with confronting the ultimate partner to medicine. Perhaps it’s best I heed his advice.