Cork Dork Takes Me on a Wine-Fueled Adventure

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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.

Pumpkin Beer Bread

As a lover of everything pumpkin (which you may have guessed from the pumpkin recipes I continue to make) I bought a case of Leinenkugel’s Pumpkin Ale. Though I enjoyed it, I don’t drink beer very frequently. I found a way to use at least one of the bottles left over.

I had never baked bread when I first made this. All I knew about bread was that they require yeast and some proofing time, or things like “starters.” Fortunately, this is not that kind of bread!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. pumpkin beer (one bottle)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted and divided
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice

Instructions

1) Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9×5 in. loaf pan.

I usually spray the pan with Pam then use a paper towel to make sure everything is coated and wipe out the excess.

2) Pour the pumpkin beer into a sauce pan and whisk vigorously for 1-2 min. (without heat) for flatten the beer.

3) Heat over medium until boiling, whisking occasionally to help keep the foaming down. Reduce by half (for about 15 min.) and set aside to cool slightly.

Don’t let it cool too much! You’ll want the pumpkin to dissolve.

4) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

5) In a smaller bowl (or the pan you used to flatten the beer), whisk together the beer, 2 Tbsp melted butter, canned pumpkin, molasses, and ground spices.

6) Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix with a spoon until no dry ingredients are left.

Don’t use a whisk like I did! This is not a batter, it’s a dough. It will get stuck to everything.

7) Pour half of the remaining melted butter into the loaf pan.

8) Put the dough into the pan and drizzle the remaining melted butter over the top.

9) Bake 45-55 min. until a knife can be inserted into the center and come out clean.

Final Thoughts: Isn’t it beautiful? I love the amber color. It was a nice mild flavor with hints of beer, spice, and pumpkin, but none overpoweringly so. If you really want a tasty snack, slather it with apple butter!

Choosing a Medical School

This weekend I listened to one of my favorite podcasts – Pre-med  hosted by Dr. Ryan Grey. Dr. Grey and I have actually spoken before. He’s a kind man dedicated to helping pre-meds get into medical school. He has several books, podcasts, and forums. If you’ve never listened, I highly recommend it.

The topic for discussion was stats. As pre-meds, we tend to hyper-focus on our GPA and MCAT scores. A bad grade can send us into a panic. We send questions to our advisers with “what-ifs” about how to handle a bad MCAT score before we’ve even taken it.

The problem is that these numbers are not as important as we think.

These scores are to get you through what Dr. Grey calls “the shredder.” It gets you into the pile for consideration. But from there, your application depends on a number of aspects: your personal statement, your extra-curriculars, etc. The most important consideration is your school list.

When I first started my pre-med journey, I started a list of med schools. I looked at the best-of-the-best and quickly realized that very few of them would accept my non-trad AP scores, online courses, and community college classes. Nevertheless, I made a list. I brought it to my pre-med adviser, who told me to throw it away.

Throw it away? Wasn’t I supposed to be finding my schools and working towards making it into those schools? No. I had it backwards. I was looking at schools for the wrong reasons. There’s a strategy to finding the right schools. It does not involve specific specialties or even rankings. It involves school environment, cost, city life, and competition level. If I apply to 6 California schools out of 12, I’ve already made it harder for myself. I followed my adviser’s instructions and shredded the first list. Since then I’ve made a long, long list and continue to do research.

Fortunately Dr. Grey made another (long) podcast about making your med school list. The average student applies to 14 MD schools and 9 DO schools. Though Dr. Grey recommends applying to both, I’ll likely only be applying to MD schools. I also can’t afford applying to 23 schools (think AMCAS fees, secondary fees, and travel for interviews). I’ll likely apply to somewhere between 12 to 14 schools.

My primary consideration is that as a non-traditional applicant, not all schools will be willing to accept my AP, online, and community college credits. (You can check with AMCAS’ MSAR service). After that, location and curriculum are my priorities. Without my MCAT, it’s difficult to figure out which schools may be out of my reach. For now, I’ll focus on learning about the schools.

Dr. Grey recommends you avoid basing your school list off of World News ranking, tuition costs, and residency/Match trends. Focus on finding a school where you can thrive. For me, I prefer a non-trad friendly school that accommodates to different learning styles and strives for balance between my medical training and my personal life. That may steer me away from “prestigious” and more traditional institutions like Mayo or Harvard (though those would be a bit of a reach for me anyway).

Would you guys like me to share my preliminary list? What are your criteria for deciding where to apply?

 

Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse

An orthopedic surgeon and his wife recently made headlines for drugging and raping women. The NPR article makes no mention of revoking his physician’s license, though if he serves the maximum sentence (of only 30 years for possibly thousands of women!!!) it is unlikely he would be able to continue practicing. The article does make a reference to his position as a physician establishing a sense of trust in his victims.

After 2 years, prosecutors were finally able to convict Dr. Shafeeq Sheikh of raping a heavily sedated patient while she was hospitalized. He was fired from the hospital and his license was suspended. He served no jail time. Unfortunately, Texas does not require permanent revocation unless a doctor agrees or when a doctor permanently surrenders his or her license in lieu of further investigation. He could potentially re-apply in a year.

These headlines are unfortunately not uncommon. Sexual assault and rape are hot-button issues in the US right now, particularly sparking outrage when rapists and sexual predators receive little to no punishment for their actions. There should be even greater outrage against physicians who take advantage of their position and their patient’s vulnerabilities.

There are watchdog organizations focused specifically on appropriate legislation and punishment of physician-offenders. Per one website, Arizona only scored 66%, but ties Massachusetts and Ohio at number 10 best patient protection states in the country. Mississippi is the worst, and Delaware is the best.

In Delaware:

  • Duty-to-report laws require any healthcare worker aware of an offense to report the physician within 30 days, or else pay hefty fines.
  • Physicians who have committed felony sexual offenses have their licenses permanently revoked.
  • Doctors must undergo background checks with fingerprinting, updated every 6 months.

In Arizona:

  •  Incidents reported by other hospital or clinic staff do not need to be made within a specific time period, and there is no requirement to report these offenses to the medical board.
  • State law does not require revocation for any type of sexual misconduct or convictions.
  • The medical board cannot refuse to issue a license based on previous criminal acts.

In Mississippi:

  • There are no criminal laws specific to sexual misconduct for physicians.
  • State law does not require physicians to report possible violations by fellow doctors.
  • Doctors whose licenses are revoked can reapply at “reasonable intervals.”
  • State law doesn’t require revocation for any type of sexual misconduct or convictions.

Physicians are with patients at their best in worth. They establish trust with a patient, and that patient trusts their physician to provide the best care possible without taking advantage of their vulnerabilities. When a physician rapes or assaults a patient, they violate that trust and the trust future patients would have given. Those physicians guilty of such crimes have violated the fundamental vow of doctors- “Do no harm.” I cannot fathom how a felony sex offender, a rapist, would in good conscious be allowed to continue practicing.

The laws need to change. We need to make hospitals responsible for the behavior of the physicians they hire. Physicians, patients, and staff should be able to anonymously and quickly report inappropriate and unacceptable behavior. The physicians responsible for these heinous acts should be punished severely, including the loss of their right to practice medicine.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get Arizona laws regarding license revocation altered?