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

Pecan Pie

Each Thanksgiving I try to take charge of something new or something more complicated. So far I’ve made side dishes (med), cornbread stuffing (yummy), cranberry sauce (disastrous), and several pies. She and I have our own fair share of failures. Last year her pecan pie was over-baked. My apple pie was under-baked.

Pecan pie is a staple for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. My mother is the only person who eats pecan pie at Thanksgiving. Usually she bakes a whole pie for herself to enjoy for the entire week. While many recipes include alcohol, I went for an old-fashioned recipe.


Ingredients: 

  • Pie crust dough (store-bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups pecan-halves (You can find these in the baking aisle. You don’t have to split them.)

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2) Roll out the pie dough onto a lightly floured surface. Trim and crimp crust as desired. Lightly prick the bottom of the crush with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

3) For the pie filling: melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt.

4. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk into the corn syrup mixture.

Be really careful! If you mixture is too hot, your eggs will scramble! Mine was just a little too hot so there were some heated egg whites. I strained these out with a sieve and it was fine.

5) Put pecans in the pie shell and pour the corn syrup mixture over evenly.

6) Bake until the filling is set (50-60 min.) Cool completely.

Final Thoughts: I’ve never been a big fan of pecan pie, but I stole a bite and loved it! It was fairly easy to make, despite needing a tiny bit more effort than a pumpkin pie. Now that I’ve checked off apple, banana cream, pumpkin, and pecan, which pie should I try next?

American Heart Association Scientific Sessions

I’ll be in Chicago this weekend for the AHA Scientific Sessions. You can contact me on Instagram at futuredoctorfoodie. If you’ll be in attendance, I’ll be presenting my research on a poster on Sunday around 10:30 AM!

For those of you who are unable to attend, I’ll be posting about it once I get back!

The Dreaded MCAT

The MCAT is the standardized test required for entrance to medical school. After major revisions a few years back, the test is now an anxiety-inducing 8 hour trial, testing the major sciences, psychology/sociology, and reading comprehension. Pre-meds dread this test. If your score is “too low” you might start to worry about your “stats”.

I’ve never struggled with standardized tests, but after a recent experience I’m starting to understand their concern. The other day I signed up for the free Next Step MCAT bundle, which provides diagnostic testing. (Prior to diagnostic testing, I recommend you do your research about the test, your learning style, and the resources available). Without doing much studying, I scored a 493.

I should definitely mention that I haven’t actually started studying for the MCAT. I took the diagnostic exam without a proper review. This is definitely not going to be close to my score once I actually start studying. I wanted to know which subjects to focus on. My CARS is quite strong. My psych/sociology needs a bit of review, but I’m comfortable with that area as well. Unfortunately, my biological and chemical systems section scores were dismal.

My concern is that I need to spend more time preparing for the exam than I expected. I was going to start my study plan in January 2019 for my May 2019 test date. Considering I got an email from the Next Step team warning me about my score… it looks like I’ll need to move up the time table. Right now I’m starting with the backlog of MCAT practice questions in my email. Hopefully I’ll be able to find more specific areas within the sciences to focus on. Then I’ll start the Khan Academy videos and prep books. Ultimately I intend on a Next Step prep class. What I need is a schedule. Does anyone have any study schedule recommendations?

Cork Dork Takes Me on a Wine-Fueled Adventure

Image result for cork dork

I finally got around to reading a book that has been on my to-read list for a while- Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste. In this enrapturing true-story, the author Bianca Bosker quits her job as a journalist to pursue a single-minded journey of becoming a sommelier. For those of you who have never heard of a sommelier, they are the wine experts of high-end restaurants. Their role in the dining room is to help guests choose wine, then serve it to then. Part salesperson- part oenophile, they learn to distinguish wines based on smell and taste alone. They study the long process of making wines, the histories of certain wines, and the quality of certain producers.

Mrs. Bosker took her journey a step further, combining her new passion for wine with scientific study. She travels the world to meet experts in neuroscience, olfaction, and cognition. She attends conferences, watches human dissections, and even undergoes testing in an fMRI to analyze her brain activity during wine tasting.

To wholeheartedly commit your life to a passion is admirable. What makes the author’s journey so much more is that she spent the journey determining what she wanted out of being a sommelier. She questioned conventional practice, the tendencies of the Masters, and found her own place. Her greatest joy is in sharing the experience that great wine (like great food) changes a person, even if only for a moment. Our sensory experience of wine transports us to memories and moments.

If reading this book has done anything, it made wine a more approachable beverage. I like wine. I drink it, but I don’t know much about it. I considered my Malbecs to be pretty fancy (until the author called it “cougar crack”). So I decided I would go try to pick out some wines and learn a bit for myself.

I started with a book that is recommended reading for all sommelier’s – “The Wine Bible.” I also looked online. The best way to begin the journey toward being a oenophile seemed to be by expanding my horizons. This meant trying something other than my usual Riesling, Malbec, or Moscato.

While in Las Vegas, I tried two similar white wines. Chablis is a crisp, citrus-y wine. I described it as the “watered-down drunk girl in Vegas.” I could barely taste any alcohol, possibly due to the acidity. I followed this with a glass of Sancerre. Though there was a similar taste, the alcohol was more apparent. I was most intrigued by the color, as it appeared nearly clear in the glass.

I’ve purchased two bottles of wine since – a Cote du Rhone and a Paso Robles. Though I haven’t tried them yet, I’m looking forward to opening those bottles! Maybe in the meantime I’ll keep reading up on flavors. I’m really enjoying the journey of expanding my palate and exploring new flavors.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

The pumpkin craze continues! I saw this design in a magazine and thought to myself, “I could make that!” A pumpkin chocolate chip cake seemed perfect for a pumpkin-shaped cake. This monster cake is a perfect centerpiece for a big Halloween party. Since it’s technically two cakes, make sure there are enough people to eat it!

Ingredients:

CAKE

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghiradellhi’s bittersweet)

FROSTING

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups maple extract
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp water or milk (I used milk)

Instructions:

I made 2 of these bundt cakes, prepared and baked separately. The instructions below are only for one cake.

1) Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10 in. bundt pan.

2) Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl. Whisk until combined.

3) Combine oil and sugar in another bowl and mix well.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, into the sugar-oil mix.

5) Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the pumpkin, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

6) Fold in the chocolate chips.

7) Bake 60-65 min. or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.

I use a lighter colored pan, so 55 minutes did the trick.

8) Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely,

9) Make the icing. Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.

10) Add the powdered sugar and maple extract. Mix.

11) Add 1-2 Tbsp of water or milk.

This is to get the right consistency. I felt I had the right consistency without any additional liquid, but the milk really helped cut down on the sweetness of the maple frosting.

12) Decorate once the cake is completely cool.

This keeps the frosting from melting off of the cake.

Now to make your pumpkin masterpiece! I froze the two cake that I made, because who has the time to bake 2 cakes, level and carve them, make and dye frosting, then decorate a cake all in one day?

1) Level the bottoms of both cakes.

My cake was still moist even after freezing, so take it slow so you don’t take chunks out of your cake by accident. PS this is a great step for tasting.

2) Place one bundt cake upside down. Place the other on top of the first bundt cake. Use a knife to carve into a smooth shape.

3. Dye your frosting orange (or use pre-made orange frosting). Frost between the two cakes, then cover the rest of the cake.

I really wish that I had made more frosting, or done a light crumb cake layer. There were some patches later on where you could see the dark cake below the icing.

4. Take an ice cream cone and place it in the center hole. Frost this with green icing. Pipe green frosting vines and leaves. Enjoy!!

Final Thoughts: Usually I don’t like to bake cakes that use oil as their source of moisture, but it worked out because of how often I was freezing the cakes while decorating. I didn’t think I would like the maple flavor paired with pumpkin, but it was a nice subtle addition to the flavors. Next time I might cut down on the sugar as it was quite sweet in comparison. I’ve heard milk powder can help thicken frosting without adding sugar.

Ochem Woes

Many of you saw on my Instagram that I was taking summer Ochem I. Taking it over the course of 1 month (4 hour classes 4 times per week) was really not advisable. I was looking forward to this semester’s Ochem II class, because the pace was more suited to my learning style.

My professor taught quite slow for my tastes, but the expectations were clear and the information was much easier to process. Unfortunately, my professor had to have surgery and will now be out for the remainder of the semester. A substitute teacher has been assigned to us – a physics and engineering professor with a background in chemistry. Without the syllabus, the previous professor’s powerpoints or materials, and no knowledge of what we have learned, this professor has strived to teach us.

My classmates and I have been frustrated, as the professor’s teaching method is a strong shift away from relevant materials toward seemingly hare-brained physics lectures. They take their frustration out on him, when it isn’t his fault.

Supposedly next week, we will have 2 new teachers. The first person will teach lecture. Some of my classmates have been in his class before, and there are mixed reviews. My lab professor will be the same professor who taught me over the summer. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad yet…

Regardless, I need to finish this class in order to complete my pre-requisites. They cannot cancel this class and I refuse to withdraw. Anyone have any tips on how to deal with inconsistent classes like this?

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

I’m sure many of you remember that I have a very close friend who suffers from a variety of issues which prevent him from eating many foods. For his birthday last year, I made a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and soy-free carrot cake.

One of my friend’s favorite dishes used to be pumpkin pie. The challenge this time is creating such a classic dish without gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, and as little processed sugar as possible. Because I use real eggs, it is paleo, but it is not vegan. For the same reason I say it is mostly allergen-free. You should be able to use an egg substitute if you have an egg allergy or would prefer a vegan recipe. (I hear flax eggs are a good substitute.)

I hope this Thanksgiving, those of you with allergies and dietary restrictions are still able to enjoy some of your favorite American comfort foods. If you’re looking to avoid the holiday weight gain, these paleo options might help you enjoy holiday treats without overindulging.

As this is dairy free, I used 20 Tbsp of soy-free, vegan shortening. You can find the paleo pumpkin filling recipe here.


Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 bag of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pie crust mix
  • 20 Tbsp soy-free, vegan shortening cold
  • 6 Tbsp ice water
  • Extra gluten-free flour for the rolling pin and rolling surface

For the filling:

  • 1 15 oz. can of organic pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, stirred
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup 100% maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Instructions:


1) Make sure your counter, ingredients, bowls, and utensils are as cold as possible.

I like to keep my mixing bowls in the freezer prior to starting.

2) Using a food processor, pulse until the pie mix and shortening are in dime-sized pieces. If you don’t own a food processor, mix with a fork until the shortening is fairly well incorporated.

I tend to use my hands because the fork is more cumbersome.

3) Add 6 Tbsp of water, one a time. Mix after adding each tablespoon.

If the dough is too wet, add more flour. If it is too dry, add more ice water.

4) Roll the dough into a ball and flatten slightly into a disc. Wrap with saran wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour (a day max).

5) After the hour is up, preheat the oven to 350 F.

6) Press the dough into a pie plate.

Rolling the dough may be difficult due to the consistency. You can smooth out the fingerprints with parchment paper.

7) Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Place back into the fridge for about 30 min.

8. Line the crust with parchment paper. Pour pie weights onto the parchment paper. Bake for 15 min. Set aside.

If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dry, uncooked beans. This process is called “blind baking.” The weights keep the pie crust from puffing up while it bakes.

9) Combine all of the filling ingredients. Mix with a hand mixer or whisk.

10. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 50-60 min. The pie is done when a toothpick can be put in an inch away from the crust and comes back clean.

11. Remove from the oven and let cool 30 min. Then place in the fridge for 2 hours so it firms up.

It is important to let the pie cool before refrigerating so the filling doesn’t pull away from the crust.

Final Thoughts: He loved it! Luckily enough, he had a wedding to go to (where he can’t eat the cake) so he still got to enjoy dessert. He even shared with a girl with a gluten allergy and she loved it too! The crust was great, not very flaky (hard to do with GF), but crisp and still a little buttery.