The Healthy Hungry Med Student

My husband and I have, for the last two months, been on what we affectionately call our “health kick.” We started on a whim on a Tuesday night after my husband bemoaned the fact that the waistband of his shorts seemed a bit snug. I did some internet research on integrative medicine and clean eating (something I’d always been interested in but had never made the decision to pursue) and we decided to give it a shot for a week or two to see what would happen. We cut white flour, white sugar, white potatoes, white rice, and other calorie-dense but nutrient-poor foods from our diet. We doubled or tripled the amount of vegetables we ate everyday and cut down on meat. We started taking a multivitamin. We started drinking more water. We got more creative with our meals and excited about new ways to add nutrient-rich foods to our diet. We found ways to incorporate exercise in our daily routines. What started as a fun project for a week or two has become a new normal for us. We’re having a blast and don’t plan on going back to our old ways. (And in case you were wondering, we have lost weight too!)

My husband and I have been having so much fun cooking lately we decided to start blogging again to share with y’all what has worked for us. My second and third years of medical school were tough but crucial in helping us grow together as a couple and helping me figure out what I want to do with my life in the future. I’m a fourth year medical student now (!) and have decided to become a primary care physician in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  I’m passionate about people, food, and health and can’t wait to empower my patients and their families to be the healthiest they can be!

Sourdough Bread and Sweet, Sweet, Summertime

DSC_3433I have a confession to make. I’ve never really liked summer all that much. Growing up in the Deep South, any joy I felt from being out of school was quickly overshadowed by oppressive heat, suffocating humidity, ferocious mosquitoes, and encroaching boredom.

DSC_3434 This summer has been different, though. It’s as if my Dear Father knew just how sincerely I desired respite and recuperation in anticipation of my second year of medical school. In addition to long, lazy days spent with my Mister, the weather even acquiesced to my most impossible hope – bearability. Maybe that’s not actually a word, but I like it.

DSC_3438 My Mister and I have read new books together, watched movies (complete with popcorn!), gone to the local Farmers Market (nothing like home-grown peaches, local honey, and fresh roasted coffee!), brewed countless pots of French press coffee and tea, stayed up late having boisterous conversations with new and dear friends, and cooked and baked and baked some more.

DSC_3436 We even got a pet – well, we call it our pet. It’s sourdough starter from my grandmother. She gave it to us on our way home from our honeymoon. It’s become a part of our family and we take great pride in feeding it and baking loaves of delicious, fragrant bread. We even named him Fitzgerald (we call him Fitz.)

DSC_3435 School starts again for me in just a few short days and I’ve been stocking our freezer and pantry like I’m preparing for a hurricane to make landfall. This year won’t be an easy one, for sure, but with my sweet Mister (and some fresh baked bread from Fitz,) it’ll be a good one.

Sourdough Bread

If you can get a jar of starter from a friend, by all means do, but if that’s not an option for you, you can make your own.

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup starter
  • 6 cups bread flour (you can use all-purpose if you’re out of bread flour)

Mix all ingredients and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. It will be a little sticky – that’s ok. Grease a large bowl with oil. Put dough in and turn over so oil is on top. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let set for 12 hours. Do not refrigerate dough. After dough has set, punch it down and knead a little. Divide into three parts and knead each part 8-10 times on a floured surface. Shape into loaves and place in greased pans. Grease the top of each loaf, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 12 hours. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Brush loaves with butter.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread: Make bread following directions above, but substitute two cups of bread flour with two cups of whole-wheat flour.

Brown Butter Peach Cobbler and a Brand New Chapter

DSC_3420There comes a time in every girl’s life where she has to just stop, catch her breath, take a retrospective glance into her recent past and stand in awe at the abundant blessings that have flowed so freely in the midst of trials. During this last semester of medical school, I came close to throwing in the towel many times. Handling the never-ending onslaught of lectures, labs, and tests, intermixed with some interpersonal issues on the home front, maintaining a healthy romance and friendship with a long-distance fiancé, planning a wedding, and preparing to move into a new home very nearly got the best of me.

DSC_3421Through it all, though, I was never left alone. My church here in town, new friends, and my wonderful Mister cared for me so excellently that I was, and am, rendered speechless.

DSC_3426Now, as of this post, I am a new Mrs. and so overwhelmingly content and elated with how God has orchestrated my life thus far. I would never want to go through last semester again, but at the same time, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

6465_10151552780699667_1122900346_nLast night, my Mister and I had some friends from church over for dessert and coffee. Our first guests in our home as a married couple!

DSC_3427Sitting on our couch, sipping a steaming mug of rich French press coffee, surrounded by the joyful laughter of good friends, and leaning on the arm of my dearest friend, I just had to stop, catch my breath, and stand in awe of the abundant blessings that have flowed so freely from my Dear Father.

DSC_3428I am whole.

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Brown Butter Peach Cobbler

(inspiration from here)

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • 4 large peaches
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut butter into two 1/4 cup pieces. Brown 1/4 cup of the butter by cooking it over medium heat, scraping the bottom evenly, until the particles turn brown and it smells nutty. Pour into a clean mixing bowl and let cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut in the remaining butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine the brown butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Set the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the peaches.

For the filling:

Peel and slice peaches. Toss with brown sugar and place in a buttered 9-inch pie tin (or cast-iron skillet, as I did).

Bake the peaches for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Drop the topping dough over the peach slices (it will spread). Sprinkle sliced almonds over the dough, if desired, and bake the cobbler 45-55 minutes, until the top is browned and the filling bubbling.

Let cool and serve with ice cream!

Blueberry Muffins and the Brainstem

….aaaaaaand we’re back! My apologies for the abhorrent lapse in posting the last, er, three months. I can offer you only one excuse: medschool. But let’s let bygones be bygones, shall we?

DSC_2990-2I made these delicious blueberry muffins to bring to my regular Saturday morning ladies’ Bible study and to have a late night study snack, only I didn’t end up studying late at night because I was kind of brain-dead, which is ironic, because we’re studying the brain. I digress.

DSC_2986-2 Seriously. You should make these. They’re my favorite.

DSC_2967-2 Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Oh, did I fail to mention that I GOT ENGAGED since my last blog post? ‘Cause I totally did. Best and easiest decision I ever made.

DSC_2962-2 Measure out your dry ingredients and stir them all together in a large mixing bowl.

DSC_2963-2Whisk together oil, an egg, and milk. You could also stir in some sour cream at this step! (I used sour cream in this batch, but I don’t normally. It really just depends on my mood.)

DSC_2964-2 Squeeze in the juice of one small lemon. This will give the muffins more of a buttermilk flavor and also make your baking powder super happy. If you’re like me and spend a lot of time daydreaming on Pinterest, save your lemon seeds and grow a lemon tree! I’m currently trying this. I’ll let you know if it works.

DSC_2965-2 Stir all of your wet ingredients into your dry ones til just combined and then fold in fresh blueberries GENTLY. Otherwise you’ll end up with purple muffins. Unless, of course, you want purple muffins, in which case, smash away.

DSC_2968-2 If you have super cute paper baking pans from your future mother-in-law, by all means, use those, but if not, feel free to use regular muffin pans. Fill the cups up almost to the top!

DSC_2972-2 Once you’ve filled your pans, sprinkle the tops with cinnamon-brown sugar, also known as lazy-streusal. OK, maybe that’s a term I just made up.

DSC_2974-2 Bake them for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean and/or you can’t stand the delicious aroma rising out of your oven any longer and absolutely must break a muffin open and devour it.

DSC_2979-2These are so super good, especially with a mug of hot tea or coffee. My wonderful Mister loves these muffins and has requested that we make them every time he visits. So do yourself a favor and make some for breakfast or a snack or a gift or just because! “Because” is always a great reason to bake.

Best Blueberry Muffins 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • (optional) 1/4 cup sour cream
  • juice of one small lemon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • brown sugar and cinnamon, for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir til just combined. Don’t over-mix or your muffins will be tough! Gently fold in blueberries. Divide batter among eight muffin cups and sprinkle with cinnamon-brown sugar mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Sandwich Bread and Standardized Patients

Out first standardized patient exam is tomorrow!  We’ll be inquiring about our patients’ present illness and past medical history and taking their vital signs (pulse, respiration, and blood pressure). We have a quiz at 8AM and then I’m not scheduled for an exam slot until 2:20, so I’m going to stay at school in between and study. Why do I tell you this? Because that schedule means that I’ll need to pack a lunch tomorrow. And why is that relevant to this post? Because I was out of bread. So I made some.

 I mixed up the dough while I was studying yesterday and let it rise for about six hours (total) – I wasn’t in any hurry and this dough is pretty dense due to the wheat flour.

 I used some sort of long loaf pan (that actually belongs to my roommate,) so that’s why the loaf didn’t get very tall. In a regular size loaf pan, it should look a little prettier, i.e., more vertical.

Before baking the bread, I coated the top of the loaf with honey-butter and sprinkled on ground oatmeal.

The honey-butter pools in the corners of the pan and makes the corners of the baked bread deliciously caramel-y. No one will ignore the end-slices from this loaf! 🙂

I think that baking bread is one of the most beautiful things in this world. And the smell is absolutely divine.

 Slice it up and enjoy while it’s warm! And then the next day as a sandwich in your lunch. 🙂

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 1 1/2 whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
  • 1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
  • 2 tbsp  butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 package or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • approximately 3 Tbs oatmeal, coarsely ground
  • 2 Tbs of melted butter
  • 2 tsp of honey

Combine warm milk and water, yeast, honey, and melted butter. Add to flours and salt. Knead (by hand or with a dough hook) until dough is smooth and then about five minutes more.* Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Allow to rise until about doubled in size. Punch down, knead for about a minute, and then shape into a log that fits into the bottom of your greased loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until it fills the pan and rises above the top edge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and mix up honey butter. Brush the loaf with honey butter and sprinkle with ground oatmeal. Pour two cups of water into another baking pan and place on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the bread on the upper rack of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until well browned and sounds hollow when turned out of the pan and thumped. Remove from pan and allow to cool before diving in with a knife and some butter.

*Once I tried making bread without kneading it enough and every slice of the baked bread crumbled. It tasted delicious, but it didn’t work at all for sandwiches. You have been warned.

White Chocolate Cranberry Snickerdoodles and White Blood Cells

These were also part of my exam week care packages for my friends. The inspiration for this recipe was basically the culmination of some of my favorite things and what I happened to have in my pantry.

Snickerdoodles are some of my favorite cookies, with their chewy texture and delectable cinnamon-sugar coating. Throw in some tart dried cranberries and mellow white chocolate chips and you’ve got something really special!

White Chocolate Cranberry Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick), softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, and egg thoroughly in a large bowl. Combine flour, cream of tartar, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl, then add to butter mixture. Fold in white chocolate chips and cranberries. In a small bowl, combine 3 Tbs sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Roll 1-inch balls of dough in cinnamon-sugar and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are very slightly golden on the edges. Don’t overcook them or they’ll be crispy instead of chewy. Unless, of course, you like crispy cookies. In that case, overcook away!

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti and Protein Kinase A

 The week before our last exam, I baked some study snacks for my friends and me. Baking is my therapy and I love sharing what makes me happy! One of the treats I shared was this pumpkin pie biscotti. Biscotti of any kind is one of my favorite things to bake. This recipe is very simple and tastes like Thanksgiving! It’s absolutely divine with a mug of rich coffee.

If you’ve never made biscotti before, the general method is to bake large planks of the dough, slice the planks into dippable bars, and bake the bars again to give them biscotti’s characteristic crunch and a sturdy enough constitution to handle being dunked into coffee.

Give it a shot! You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

  • 2 tablespoons butter, grated
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, make your own! Recipe follows)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend together all of the dry ingredients and grated butter (yes, grated. I keep a stick of butter in my freezer and use a cheese grater to grate the necessary amount right into my mixing bowl. This basically does the same thing as cutting in butter, but I think it’s easier!) Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add to the dry ingredients. Fold in pecans once dough comes together. Divide the dough in half and form two planks (about 4″x10″ – the exact size isn’t crucial) on a baking sheet. Bake until the planks are firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes. Let them cool for about 15 minutes. Decrease your oven temperature to 300 degrees. After the planks have cooled, transfer them to a cutting board and cut them into one-inch-thick slices, using a serrated knife. This may take some practice to keep the slices from breaking at the ends, but be gentle and patient. It is possible! Lay all of the slices back on the baking sheet, cut side up, and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through. Let them cool completely and enjoy with a cup of coffee!

FYI: Ideally, these would have white chocolate drizzled over them. I attempted this, but accidentally got a little bit of water in my melting white chocolate and it caused the texture to get all weird, so I had to scrap that part.

PS. Here’s a recipe for pumpkin pie spice if you’re out: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves.