What do you get when you combine my absolute favorite recipe source with an intense need for a giant pot of soup to combat the gazillion feet of snow on the ground in Massachusetts?? Add that to about 4 pounds of leeks and you get an amazing meal. If you don’t know Cook’s Illustrated, they exhaustively test each recipe to determine what ingredients to use and how to cook the dish. Therefore, it would seem to defeat the purpose to deviate from their outline, right? Well, I did make a few tweaks but the recipe is still incredibly easy.
First, you need a lot of leeks. A LOT. It calls for 4-5 pounds of leeks. I bought everything the grocery had and it juuuuuust made 4 lbs. You also need about 5 cups of chicken stock, a bay leaf and some potatoes. Here’s how to clean leeks – they’re very sandy! Now, I decided I wanted to make it a white bean and sausage soup too, so to the potato leek base I added 2 cans of canellini beans and a sliced turkey kielbasa. Since I was adding these additional ingredients, I blended the soup with a hand immersion blender before adding the beans and kielbasa. The color looked like split pea soup but the taste was quite different. Then I decided to jazz it up just a bit with some cayenne. It also needed some salt and pepper.
The soup was creamy without any milk or cream added. I DID use the 3/4 stick butter (I know, I know), but next time would probably use much less and use some EVOO.
This is probably the last of the holiday 2010 photos. When asked what to bring to dinner, my host said, “I’d love to have some bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese.” You might think it strange of a host to be so specific with her request, but, well, it was my mom. I guess moms are allowed to tell rather than ask. “Have you ever made those?” I asked. “No, but they sound good. I think I saw them in a magazine or on a cooking show.” “But I’ve never made them.” “Well, TRY.”
I googled a few recipes for “goat cheese stuffed dates with bacon” and can’t recall exactly which recipe I used, but I’ll describe the basic process. You need big dates – Medjool dates. I found these at a specialty grocery store. I’m not sure if they’d be at a regular grocery. They have a pit, so you take a paring knife, make a slit down the side, and pop out the pit. It’s easy. Then you take a spoon and stuff the date with about a teaspoon of softened goat cheese. I did try a pastry bag technique to use with the goat cheese and it didn’t work as well as just using a spoon. Some recipes call for a roasted almond or Marcona almond to be stuffed inside the date as well. I did this, but if I made them again I probably would omit the almond, because I felt like I had to tell people it’s not a pit!
Next you take a package of bacon and cut it down the middle so you have 1/2 strips. Wrap a 1/2 strip around the date, secure with toothpick, and there you are. I made these a few hours ahead of time and baked on site. Sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. They were a hit!
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I’m not a fan of institutional decorating. Who is, really? Those muted mauve or mint green tones, framed paintings of anonymous landscapes or flowers, carpet with flecks and speckles to hide the dirt. In a perfect world, my office would have funky architectural elements with sleek and modern decor. But does it really matter to patients? As long as an office isn’t in shambles, do you notice the decorating?
I mention this because when I started my job, I brought in a poster for each of my exam rooms to replace whatever had been hanging there for the last decade. One is a large framed embroidery from a friend’s trip to Central America. I love it for the bright colors and also because my friend, a family physician, is truly a healer and seeing that piece of artwork reminds me of her fabulous outlook on life.
The other poster is a crazy, fun picture I’ve had forever and could spend hours trying to decipher. I highly recommend checking out the artist’s site.
Funny thing is, almost nobody notices these. Once every few months someone notices the Proverbidioms poster, usually to say, “That’s really odd!” This week a toddler was enthralled with it. I think he’s got good taste!
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How should you respond to a friend who, the minute you have a cough or sneeze, shoves a packet of Emergen-C in your face and orders, “Drink up!” Well, if you’re me, the response has always been, “You know, there are really no studies that prove this helps!” And I’m met with a lot of eye rolling and insistence that yes, it does help, and I’d better quit my “Dr. Know-it-all attitude” and push that vitamin C. Well, I kinda like the taste of Emergen-C, and it can’t hurt, right???
AND THEN . . .
Thank you, NYU Clinical Correlations blog for an excellent review of Vitamin C for the prevention and treatment of cold symptoms. I’d suggest reading the whole entry, but here’s the bottom line:
So, at the end of the day, is there any benefit to taking a daily vitamin C supplement, or for chugging down that fizzy shot of mega-dose vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on? If you are a marathon runner, or if you are planning a winter adventure in the arctic tundra, you should certainly consider a daily dose of vitamin C. For the rest of us, it doesn’t seem to be worth the hassle and expense of adding one more pill to our daily routine.
On the other hand, regarding the effect of vitamin C taken at the onset of cold symptoms, the Cochrane group left a little room for interpretation. The group was unable to identify a clinically significant benefit of therapeutic dosing based on the majority of currently available research. However, they pointed to a few interesting trials showing evidence of benefit, yet to be verified, for therapeutic vitamin C preparations containing 4 to 8 grams. Furthermore, in the general population, vitamin C’s side effect profile appears to be relatively benign.
The #1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and/or exercise more. Makes sense, as the month of December is often one big food fest. I tried to use this simple rule – “Is this something special?” Meaning, if a friend or relative put a lot of time and effort into making a food item or if it is something we just eat at holiday times, then it’s worth a taste or a serving. Note, I did not say “worth taking home an entire leftover cake and eating it in 2 days.” Our office had lots of treats around during the holidays, but I tried to remind myself that just because those Hershey’s kisses are in cute Christmas foil I do NOT have to eat handfuls of them. Same with store-bought baked goods. Tasty? Yes. But not the best choice for a workday mid-afternoon. However, I enjoyed my share of sweets this holiday and here are just a few . . .
chocolate chip merangues
flourless chocolate cake and homemade lemon custard with caramel
reindeer cupcake critters