Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let the Stress Cooking Begin!

A favorite blogger of mine asked the question "How do you survive the winter?" 

The answer in this blogger's world is simple, and the same answer for how do you survive boards? How do you get through finals week? or how do you live?

I Stress Bake - to the demise of the neighbors' waistlines, I cook and bake everything in times of stress. Especially when the weather inhibits outside activities like running, cycling or existing - thanks Missouri winds.

For the next couple of weeks while we bunker down for the worst of the winter weather and the worst waiting period of my life - taking about you match day - follow along as I proceed to cook, bake, broil, baste and flambé everything in my path.

Phil Hall, if you're out there - this one's for you.

Citrus & Thyme Chicken Thighs

While I can't read, hear or think of the word "thyme" without starting to sing Simon and Garfunkel's classic Scarborough Fair.... "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...." I'm sure you can.

This recipe brings together the flavors of lemons, orange zest, fresh thyme and baked dark-meat chicken to fill the house with wonderful smells and the dinner plate with delicious fare. Fall-off-the-bone, juicy and mouthwatering chicken.

  • 4 Chicken Legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • Handful of Thyme Sprigs
  • Salt & Pepper Grinders 
  • 1 Lemon (cut in thick slices)
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion (cut into huge pieces)
  • Orange Zest (fresh or dried works fine)
  • 2 Tbs Unsalted Butter 
Arrange the chicken quarters in the pan, here we used two pie pans instead of one larger roasting pan. Coat the skin of the chicken in the orange zest, liberally crack fresh pepper all over the chicken and just two salt grinder twists on each quarter. Toss in the large chunks of onion around the legs.

Place the lemon slices around the quarters and arrange the thyme springs evenly. Bake the chicken in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45minutes, then place 1/2 Tbs of unsalted butter on top of each quarter and continue baking at 350 for another 45 minutes. 

This chicken pairs great with honeyed carrots and wild rice, enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

You can take me out of New Jersey, but you cannot take away my pizza! 

Even if I have to make it myself. For everyone away from the culinary greatness that is the corner pizzeria, here is a recipe for you. Enjoy this crisp, fresh and easy to make pizza from dough to toppings.

Love in the Oven
For the pizza dough I love starting out with a simple night-before recipe by Jesse and Christa found HERE on FeedingMyLove. (check out all their great talent for cooking and sarcasm)

Lovingly highjacked from HERE
Next you're going to need a sauce worthy of eating, and I don't mean the kind that comes in a jar. 
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes (diced)
  • 4 leaves Fresh Basil (chopped)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs White Onion (finely chopped)
  • Fresh Ground Pepper 
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil 
  • 1 Tbs Tomato Paste (optional)
Salute the garlic and onion in the olive oil, if desired add the tomato paste. Add the diced tomatoes and turn down the heat to a simmer, add the basil and ground pepper and cover. Allow the sauce to simmer while you prepare you're toppings and roll out the dough. 
Homemade Sauce, ready to go
So fresh, so delicious 

Toppings, oh the possibilities! Just remember that too much water leads to mushy, soggy crust. For mushroom loves I recommend using baby bella mushrooms, they hold less water than their white cousins and have a more robust flavor. Searing the pepper, onions, garlic and mushrooms prior to topping the pizza can help eliminate some water and save your crust too. 

For this masterpiece I seared baby portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Diced lean ham was a perfect choice to keep the moisture down and the flavor up!

The toppings are prepped, the sauce is smelling great and its time to roll out the dough. On a floured surface use a floured rolling pin to "encourage" the dough into your desired shape, I often find myself using kitchen items to hold the rolled out dough down, and avoid it creeping back into a smaller shape. The olive oil bottle works great for that!

An oiled cookie sheet is your best friend to avoid sticking, combined with the floured bottom of the crust you are looking at a future of easy to transfer tastiness opposed to fighting with a stuck blob of awful. Transfer the dough to the oiled sheet first, then assemble your pizza to perfection: sauce, a mixture of low moisture Italian cheeses, toppings and here a few super thin slices of Roma tomatoes just because. 

Pop this bad boy on a rack in the middle third of a 425 degree oven. Everyone's oven cooks differently, I watch my pizza like a hawk through the oven window, after about seven minutes I'll check the bottom of my crust and if its cooked and holding I like to transfer it directly to the oven rack for a little extra crisp. 
You won't find this in Missouri.

Monday, January 26, 2015

February Challenge: $100 Budget

February, new month, new challenge!

Meal planning is coming along, with a big hand from batch cooking. We have gotten better about identifying what soups, stews or other prepare-ahead-of-time dishes that we want to enjoy throughout the week. Some favorites are venison chili, chicken soup and corn chowder. Also, one large batch of shredded chicken for build-your-own tacos keeps great in the fridge and tastes even better on day two or three.

In a similar vein to last month's culinary motif this month we will be focusing in on the amount of money that we are spending each week on food and drink.

Yup, we're capping the grocery bill at $100 a week. 

Again, by getting into gear now we hope to make the transition to Intern Year smoother. By having good cooking/planning/prepping habits we will be able to keep eating clean/healthy and by tracking and paying closer attention to spending we should be able to maintain our goal budget of $100 a week.

WHY? You ask... because we love to travel, to dance, to live. By no means will we be starving ourselves, but we will cut out impulse buys, late night pizza ordering and other financial/health potholes. 

Heres to another month, and a new challenge!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apple Oatmeal Bites

No flour? No salt? No butter? Sweet! These sweet little bites pull together three of my favorite flavors into one delicious finger food.

Fresh Apple Oatmeal Bites 
Don't be fooled, these are not cookies nor muffins...think of a cross between an oatmeal cookie and fresh granola. Perfect for breakfast on the go!


  • 2 Tbs Coconut oil (solid)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Whole Egg
  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats 
  • 1/3 Walnut Pieces 
  • 1 Apple (peeled and diced)
  • 2 Tsp Cinnamon 
Preheat oven to 350. Combine oil and sugar well, then add in the egg and combine. Toss in the rolled oats, apple, walnuts and cinnamon and mix well. Using mini muffin tins with baking papers this recipe yields 18 bites. Fill the papers evenly and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Match List In, Now What?

2015 is the year I'm going to graduate A.T Still University, the founding school of osteopathic medicine. 2015 is the year I become a doctor! Now what?

It's January 24, 2015 and my Match List is in, certified and locked. No going back now.

But what does that mean? What is the Match? Will I become a surgeon? Where will I go from here?

These are the questions surging through my brain, and probably the minds of my fellow OMS4's right about now....ok maybe not the surgeon part.

The Match: to me it is a big, scary algorithm that takes the rank lists (each residency program ranks the students they want to take and each student ranks the programs we want to go to from 1-10) and attempts to make everyone happy with the greatest number of "matches" possible.

This means that based on who wants me, and where I want to be......Hopefully I will be among the Matched and have a residency spot. But what happens if I don't match?

The Scramble: Nightmare scenario, thats what this is. On February 9, 2015 I find out my future. In the event that I do not match my future is pretty sucky looking. The Scramble is a cold calling sh!t show where, once the list of available "spots" is released you literally scramble and call every single one, mass email your credentials, letters of recommendation and everything you have saying how awesome you are and why that program should take you without ever laying eyes on you and pray.

2/9/15: The all important day where either all my hard work pays off, or I go into the scramble and take what ever I can get, wherever the spot is. Please, don't call me, text or email this day.

So what now? There is nothing that I can do from my end, no more phone calls, no more little love notes to programs, no more traveling. Now, I finish the last paper I will ever write in medical school and try to keep breathing. And reading....I'll be doing lots of reading.

Here's to Matching to my Number 1

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ads: Why I Hate to Love Them

Personal dilemma here: I hate navigating around the mine-filed that is the internet these days with all the new and crafty ways that advertisements are being thrust in the way of content that I might actually want to read. What little brain power I have left is quickly frazzled as I search for the "no"option, or the "Thanks, but No Thanks" fine print on pop-up ads, the in-between paragraph banner adds and those little sneaky buggers that move around the page so you can never hit the "X" adds.

Yet, I have advertisements on my little blog. Yes, I feel like a sell out....Ok not really. But mine don't chase you around, hollering and screaming to be clicked, chasing your mouse and hiding their "go away" options. 

While I hate in-your-face adds, I kind of like the grown-up feeling that they lend to my humble little blog. And I honestly don't mind seeing the little bit of revenue that they create for me either. 

I am (despite appearances) a starving medical student surviving off high-interest government loans, anticipating working insane hours for below-poverty wages all the while kissing the ground my attendings walk on because: one day I will hold the scalpel.

So take a moment, have some pity and click on an ad or two. 


Really, please do it. 

For me. 

Me and Ninja 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shredded Chicken-Under-A-Bowl Tacos

Chicken underwear? My frying pans don't have I improvise frequently. I do however have a good set of metal, uncoated, mixing bowls that I frequently use to trap heat/juice/flavor in the pan and  occupant of said pan to ensure the most flavorful food possible.

Like I've said may times: dining options in Kirksville are slim at best. So I cook.

For Shredded Chicken-under-a-bowl tacos you'll need a few simple, wholesome and identifiable ingredients.


  • 2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts 
  • 1 tbs Avocado Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion (cut into long/thin strips)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (red/yellow or orange) (cut into long/thin strips)
  • 1/2 Sweet Green Pepper (cut into matchstick size pieces)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 Sprigs Cilantro 
  • 1 Lime (cut into wedges)
  • Mission corn tortillas 

  • Garlic powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Red pepper flakes -1/2 tsp
  • Cayenne pepper - dash
  • Chili powder - 1 tsp
  • Cumin - 1/4 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika 1/2 tsp 
  • Salt - dash (used smoked salt if you have it)


  • Salsa of choice (I love mango/pineapple based ones)
  • Guacamole (use the recipe on this sweet link)
  • Crumbled Mexican Cheese (
  • Fresh Lime Juice (Hence the wedges)

In a large metal bowl (that you will use to cover the pan later) rub the seasoning mixture onto the chicken and squeeze the juice of two lime wedges over the chicken. If you have time, let the chicken rest for a half hour, if not don't worry.

Bring the avocado oil to to temperature in a large frying pan over medium/high (6/10) heat. Add half the garlic and allow it to begin browning. Increase the heat to high (9/10) and place the chicken in the pan, on top of the garlic, cover with the metal bowl (or lid if you have one) and turn the heat down to low/medium (4/10). Allow the chicken to cook uninterrupted for about seven minutes, then remove the bowl and flip the chicken over, replace the bowl and let it cook for another five.

In the meantime prepare the guacamole, crumble the cheese and select your salsa of choice. Serving the toppings in little bowls and allowing everyone to make their own tacos is fun and oh-so tasty.

Back to the chicken. Remove the bowl and place the whole chicken breasts and half the liquid from the pan back in the bowl and set it off to the side. Turn the heat back up to medium (6/10) and after waiting a moment toss in the peppers, onions and remaining garlic. Here I like to turn the heat up a touch more to get a nice fajita style look to my veggies. Now is the best time to place corn tortillas in the oven, they take on a much better flavor when you heat them up for a few minutes before serving.

While the veggies are cooking, take two forks and shred the chicken breasts apart thoroughly. Once the peppers and onions are cooked (some char is great) and the garlic is real golden brown transfer them to a warm platter (setting the oven to 170 is safe for dishes/food/hands). Put the chicken back int he pan with its juice for just a moment, toss it around to pick up the last of the flavors lingering, then add it to the serving platter.

Share this dish with family and friends, enjoy!

Share and Enjoy!

Check out these Steak Tacos with black beans and guacamole too!

Books for Doctors, Books for Fun

Medical Student Here: I read a lot. I don't read a lot of books for fun anymore though, mostly medical journals, texts books, UpToDate entries and prescription drug information. But, thats to be expected.

Over the last two years of rotations I have had greater freedom with my time and my choice of reading. Thankfully my mom and I have very similar taste for fiction novels, so she screens hundreds of books and only recommends the really worth while ones to me. We like stories, well written and unique. Some of our favorites that have little to nothing to do with medicine are:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra  

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Check out the Amazon Store, I've conveniently gathered these titles and others I either love, or plan to love for your perusing pleasure. 

Let me know what you think of these books, my definite non-medical favorites of 2014.

Check out Chocolate and Bacon for more great suggestions and good reviews. 

Check out the next list of titles that I plan to love in 2015!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

4 Top Blogs: Check Them Out

A good blog is hard to find, never mind a great one!

Here is a short compilation of some of my favorite blogs, places that I look to for inspiration, entertainment and just because.

Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer is one of the finest, if not the finest, cooking and recipe blog on the internet. She brings her family's traditions, recipes, methods and spirit to the world of food blogging. Simple to follow directions accompany ingredient lists composed of real food. She uses very little processed or pre-packaged items and even goes into detail on preparing and storing your own broths and bases. Make sure you try out the "Perfect Cheesecake", it is everything it promises and more: its my go-to for impressing neighbors and guests!

GomerBlog is like The Onion for medical professionals! A superbly executed satirical site that hits the nail on the head for nearly every frustration, wtf moment, medical school hardship and gomer in my life.
"Gomer" from the must-read book The House of God by Samuel Shem essentially means 'get-out-of-my-emergency-room'. Anyone with a toe in the medical field can and should enjoy this little gem of a blog.

Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn is Tom's favorite website ever, at least I think so. Pat uses this site to help others get on board with making the internet and other aspects of life work for you and make you money. The podcasts are enjoyable, easy to listen to and insightful. This blog is worth a once over for anyone and everyone, get inspired and make money from your experience and find your niche!

Chocolate and Bacon by Christa Hannon aka my sister-in-law is a favorite stop on the internet for me to check in and see what new, creative and cool things she is up to. I love checking out her to-do lists, as well as the dream travel locations and new life-challenges and updates. Check out her advice on cleaning out, and paring down your wardrobe and while your there checkout the great travel pics! is a must for finding new blogs and sharing your own little slice of internet notoriety. Follow Misadventures of a Medical Student on bloglovin today! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hickory Smoke Chili

I love a hot bowl of body warming chili in the winter. I hope you enjoy this recipe for my favorite chili, its quick to make, simple, healthy and best of all tastes even better as it rests over night. Make a batch to warm up the house on a cold winter day.

On a recent trip to Texas I picked up some new spices, special salts and new jams and preserves. This recipe revolves around the Hickory Smoked Sea Salt I found while in Fredericksburg, TX on vacation. Check your local grocery or specialty store for a similar ingredient.

This recipe produces a wholesome, mild chili with great undertones of smokey flavor. You may want to adjust the seasoning once everything is together to make it hotter or smokier.


  • 2lbs Ground Meat - lean beef or venison 
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper - coarsely chopped 
  • 1 Yellow Onion - coarsely chopped
  • 1 Head of Garlic - cleaned and cloves crushed, not minced 
  • 1 Guernica Pepper - clean and chop into small pieces 
  • 1 Can Dark Red Kidney Beans - no salt added
  • 1/2 Can Tomato Paste - no salt added
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes - no salt added
  • 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes - no salt added 
  • 1tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Hickory Smoked Sea Salt 
  • 1tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tbs Chili Powder 
  • 1 tbs Ground Cumin 
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cayenne 
  • 1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder 
In a large pan heat the olive oil, as it heats mix the seasoned salt, ground pepper, and paprika thoroughly with the ground meat then brown the seasoned meat in the hot olive oil. As the meat browns, add the crushed garlic cloves to the pan. Once the meat is cooked through transfer it to the slow cooker set on high.

Using the same pan, sauté the peppers and onion until translucent and browning. Transfer to the slow cooker and mix well with the meat. 

Clean and open the kidney beans, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes. Add each of these to the slow cooker stirring thoroughly after each addition. Finally, add the remaining seasonings and mix well. Allow the slow cooker to cook on high for at least three hours, adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy!

January Challenge: Meal Planning

It's January, its cold and windy here in Missouri and I'm not a fan of heading to the grocery store when I  want something to eat.
Cold Missouri Morning on Rt 63
Friends of ours are trying out Paleo Meal Planning, they are both busy medical students, with a baby and very healthy conscious. They have been going strong for the last six months, and love the once a week grocery trip, as they get more time at home with each other and their little one. Not to mention less time in the freezing wind on icy roads.

Paleo you say? Sounds interesting.... but I love beans, corn and other restricted foods too much to go strictly Paleo.

Once a week grocery shopping? Count me in!

Having a plan for dinners, and not using precious mental power to think about what to make? Sweet!

But, lets talk about other options. Earlier this month Tom and I went through the Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef app, identifying new recipes that looked tasty, fresh and relatively simple. We are both good cooks, with lots of practice (there are no good restaurants in Kirksville) and discerning pallets (East Coast and Texas raised). Using the app we built a grocery list, checked off the items we had at home already and hit the ground running.

One week of cooking together, new flavor combinations and a flop or two got us hooked on the idea of meal planning. Why not layout what you want to eat, with flexibility of course, and buy everything for the week in one go?

This week we are trying a slightly different take on the idea: Batch Cooking. Check out this post on Batch Cooking 101 on Nutrition Stripped for an over view of the idea.

This morning I had some free time (how weird) so we put together a batch of venison chile and a pot of chicken soup. Since we only ever eat dinner at home having two homemade and oh so tasty options for dinner doesn't seem like a bad idea. We spent quality time preparing the food while we had a moment, and now can simply re-heat the better-the-next-day dishes while we are busy during the week.

Soups, chili and stews lend themselves perfectly to our plan, as they tend to taste better the next day anyway. Also, at the end of the week what ever left will go nicely into the freezer and become an emergency dinner down the road.


  • One trip to the store
  • Cooking when there is time, not when you're tired
  • Fresh, healthy food on hand
  • Freeze leftovers for emergency meals
  • Less time in the kitchen, more time with family
I recommend making a batch of my favorite Balsamic Venison Stew to start out, or a body warming Hickory Smoke Chili

Monthly Challenges: Build Better Life Habits

New Year, same me, same house, same boyfriend and same cat. New Year, new adventures, new milestones, new challenges.

Medical school is rough, you work harder than you ever thought you could and you change. you change in ways that are subtle at first, but become more apparent the farther through the crucible you go. Yes, the road to becoming a doctor is a crucible: a place or occasion of severe test or trial.

My time is precious, and expensive now. Therefore I am taking it upon myself to try out new money/time/brain saving ideas each month to nail down good habits and break expensive ones before entering Intern Year.

I want to know that what precious "free time" I have, and what little "disposable income" I'll enjoy are put to the optimal use. I want to spend my down time enjoying my boyfriend's company, and playing with my Ninja, not cleaning, or working at home. I want to use what little money doesn't go to loans and cost of living to gather experiences, not things.

Join me, take on a few challenges along with me and find out how I'm doing in my hunt for good, healthy and relationship friendly life habits.

January: Meal Planning

February: $100 Budget

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fredricksburg, TX

Fredricksburg, TX
Situated in Texas Hill country is an enchanting little German town home to unique shopping, tons of romantic Bed and Breakfasts, several award winning wineries and intimate gourmet dinning experiences. Recently named on CNN's list of "6 most romantic small towns in America" Fredricksburg, TX is more than deserving of the title. Take a weekend to visit and discover the charm of the Texas Hill Country for yourself.

  • Absolute Charm 
  • Inn on the Creek Dinning Room
    • Absolute charm is a convenient B&B reservation service that has compiled the most luxurious inns and cottages in the area. Their easy to navigate website highlights the amenities, locations and close-by attractions to each unique B&B. Check-in and check-out is extremely simple and their communication prior to your arrival is very thorough without being overbearing. They also offer customizable services to make your stay even more special, such as wine or champaign upon arrival, massages, and much more.
  • Inn on the Creek 
    • This five room B&B just off of Main St. offers unique experiences in each suite, some with in-room Jacuzzis, elegant four poster beds, soaking tub and richly appointed decor. 
    • Breakfast is an event not to be missed at this property, the chefs prepare a three course feast every morning for the guests, making sure everyone is fully satisfied and ready for a full day of exploring the surrounding town and vineyards.  
  • Texas Wine Country 
    • Route 290 ambles through the beautiful rolling hills that serve as the back drop for one of the hottest destinations for wine enthusiasts. Don't miss the opportunity to visit and immerse yourself in the gorgeous vineyards and unique tasting rooms at each of the thirteen different wineries along this stretch of highway. 
    • Check out the event schedule at for upcoming events and festivals to make the most of your visit. There are special events nearly every weekend of the year, as well as tour busses and shuttle services available.  
  • Main Street
  • View down Main Street
    • Strolling down Historic Main Street is a great way to work up an appetite before dinner, while satisfying your appetite for unique boutiques. Enjoy the distinct art galleries and fine jewelry stores along side German preserve shops and western leather and spice stores. There is something for everyone, from the chef to the quilter to the fashionista and the kids. 
    • Multiple wine bars bring the vineyard tasting good to Main Street, check out House.Wine. for a cool atmosphere and a wide selection of local and international wines. Just off of Main street, on Lincoln you will find the larger and more rustic feeling Lincoln Street Wine Bar, complete with outdoor fireplace and wicker seating. 
  • Enchanted Rock
    • Located a short drive out side of Fredricksburg, Enchanted Rock is a must see destination for a fun day in the great outdoors as well as a good way to work off some of the fine meals you're sure to enjoy during your visit.
    • Enchanted Rock rises 425 feet above the elevation of the park, climbing the Summit Trail is similar to climbing up the stairs of a 40 story building. The highest point offers beautiful views of the surrounding Hill Country at 1,825 feet above sea level. The three visible peaks (Little Dome, Enchanted Rock and Turkey Point) are just the visible portions of the entire granite deposit, which covers over 640 acres. 
    • Make sure to check the Park Website to ensure the park is open, as they hold private hunts in January and close the park on occasion. Enchanted Rock is one of the most popular destinations of the Texas State Park system. 
View headed up the Summit Trail
  • Otto's
  • Seared King Salmon over potatoes augrauten 
    • A converted house makes for an intimate setting perfectly fitting the fine cuisine you will encounter at Otto's. They have left the rafters bare to create as open of a space as possible in this tiny establishment where you are in the same room with the chefs and full service bar. With only a handful of tables you will be treated like friends by the waitstaff, and the head chef makes rounds to check on every table and gather insight about your experience. 
    • A must for dinner, they are open late all year round. Unique cocktails for reasonable prices include an Absinth Old Fashioned and Black Forest Sparklers. Call ahead and make a reservation! 

  • Rathskeller
    • Located in the basement of the Historic Keidel Hospital Building Rathskeller's is a rough little gem serving breakfast, lunch and dinner: gourmet food at diner prices served up in a funky little basement.
    • Texas Hill Country Hash
    • Recommend trying his spot for breakfast, the Texas Hills Hash with Duck and Poached Eggs is fantastic! Fried breakfast potatoes with onions and peppers support two poached eggs and a healthy scattering of roasted duck meat all tenderly brought together with hollandaise sauce. For the non-egg-eaters: the German Style Pancakes are reminiscent of thick crepes served with banana pieces on top, be sure to add the maple syrup!

  • Java Ranch
    • The only actual coffee bar in Fredricksburg. They make a great latte and cappachino with a  wide choice of flavors and prices similar to Starbucks. Stop in for a little pick-me-up. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Great American Vacation: Take 1

Great American Road Trip 2013: Take 1 Kirksville to Las Vegas, NV

As OMS3 (third year medical students) we are gifted our last actually Christmas Vacation for more or less the next ten years. Last year we took full advantage of those precious fourteen days off and ventured off for A Great American Adventure!

Google Maps only lets you add 10 destinations!
Along the way we learned a ton of invaluable lessons, saved a few lives, ate a ton of great food, saw amazing sights, nearly broke a tailbone and drove over miles. Here are a few stories, tips and recommendations for planning and inspiring your own amazing road trip. 

Texas In January

Texas is a HUGE state, and a great location to visit no matter the time of year. I've been here in the heat of August and the mild chill of January. While there are deffinite advantages to a summer time visit, don't discount a winter visit to the lone star state.

Winter in southern Texas is mild, the farther south the more mild. But you will get temps in the 30's some days so check ahead for the forcast before you pack. While snow is rare, wet weather with rain and cloudy days is very frequent in the winter. Expect highs in the 50's and lows in the 30's.

Make several variations of plans so that a little rain or mist doesn't ruin your outside fun.

Don't expect to enjoy water based activities like kayaking, swimming or tubing in the winter. Most of these outdoor type activities are not available in the winter, Lady Bird Lake in Austin is deffinatly a summer destination! Also, the zip lines over Lake Travis are closed for the winter, as are most amusement parks like Six Flags Fiesta Texas (opens Feburary 28th).

BUT there is a wide array of activities perfectly suited to a cool weather visit! Texas is a state steeped in history, rich and waiting for you to discover it. From Spanish conquistadores and missions,  cowboys and Indians to cattle barons,  and art museums Texas is full of year-round adventure.

San Antonio 
San Antonio is a huge sprawling urban center branching out from the downtown area. While not one of my favorite destinations in the great state of Texas, it has some great highlights that are not to be missed, and a convenient little airport and central location between Austin and Houston. 

Situated in Texas Hill country is an enchanting little German town home to unique shopping, tons of romantic Bed and Breakfasts, several award winning wineries and intimate gourmet dinning experiences. Recently named on CNN's list of "6 most romantic small towns in America" Fredricksburg, TX is more than deserving of the title. Take a weekend to visit and discover the charm of the Texas Hill Country for yourself.

San Antonio

San Antonio
San Antonio is a huge sprawling urban center branching out from the downtown area. While not one of my favorite destinations in the great state of Texas, it has some great highlights that are not to be missed, and a convenient little airport and central location between Austin and Houston.

Its hard to choose a hotel in the San Antonio area, there are just so many. Identifying what you want to do during your stay can help narrow down some areas and options.
  • Drury Hotels
    • I am a huge fan of Drury Hotels, and San Antonio is home to some of the newer additions to this company. The happy hour, fresh breakfast, and clean rooms are wonderful, as well as the kid friendly atmosphere with pools and workout facilities. Also the price is well within budget, without feeling like it. 
  • Omni Hotels
    • On the pricier end of the world is the Omni Hotel and Resort chain. I have stayed at the Omni at the Colonnade and enjoyed the great workout facilities, indoor and outdoor pool areas as well as the in house bistro. Again, there are multiple Omni Hotels in the area and deciding if most of your activities will take place downtown, or in the outskirts will help you choose the best location. 
  • Resorts 
    • On another hand, there are a plethora of resorts with lazy rivers, day spas and the sort a short drive into the hills from San Antonio. Some of these can be booked relatively cheaply through PriceLines "name your own Price" option. 

Don't cheat yourself out of some great sights while in the area. Most of these are free or inexpensive activities great for a couple, or a family. San Antonio is not know for its nightlife, nor should it be.
  • Historic Mission Trail
  • Mission Conception 
    • Not so much of a park, this trail links four of the remaining missions established by  Spanish colonization of the southern frontier. Established in the 1700's these four missions and the Alamo, formerly known as San Antonio de Valero, make up the surviving medieval outposts of Spanish presence. 
    • As this trail takes you through some sketchy areas and neighborhoods I would recommend traveling by car and stopping at each mission to enjoy its history and beauty. No two missions are alike in style, and each has its own piece of history to share.
    • The Mission Conception is the best preserved of the four, while the Alamo is the most famous and located in downtown San Antonio.
  • The Riverwalk 
    • The San Antonio Riverwalk is an impressively built up region along the canalized San Antonio river featuring a huge number of bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and beautiful sights. 
    • As long as you stay on the riverwalk you can have open containers and drinks. And yes, there are margarita stands right where you enter.
  • The Alamo 
    • The Alamo gets it's own dot here. Yes, it is impressive and its story is unique and integral to the history of Texas independence. A must see landmark and bucket list item. 
  • McNay Art Museum
  • McNay Mansion
    • A treasure of a small museum housing everything from medieval European art to impressionists, modern sculpture, Pablo Picasso, and contemporary video art and photography. They offer an afternoon sized stroll through a wide variety of time periods and styles. Enjoy the newly expanded galleries and don't forget to stroll the grounds.
    • The McNay mansion was originally built in 1927 by Marion McNay, a passionate proponent of the arts. Upon her death, the home was bequeathed to the city of San Antonio to house Texas' first modern art museum. Along with her extensive collection of books, which is the base of the art library housed here, she also dedicated a large portion of her fortune. 
    • Admission is $10 for adults, Kids under 12 are free, $5 for students (13+), active military and seniors (56+). 
    • Closed on Mondays, the museum opens at 10am all other days of the week. 
  • Brackenridge Park 
  • Japanese Tea Gardens
    • Home to the Japanese Tea Gardens, the San Antonio Zoo and the Sunken Garden Theater Breckenridge Park offers a whole day worth of entertainment. 
    • Japanese Tea Gardens. This spot is picturesque no matter the season!
    • San Antonio Zoo. The animals are more active in the cooler weather, moving around and not hiding from the blazing sun in their dens. 

I love food, you can tell from my Yelp account that I go out a lot, and love to add to the culinary conversation. Cooking and eating are a passion of mine, and here I give you a short list of the places that I am in love with in San Antonio area.
  • Mariscos El Bucanero
  • Maricso Pina
    • Don't be scared. They offer traditional Mexican seafood with live bands, bright decor and great drinks at low prices. The ceviche is fresh, there are tostadas and four sauces instead of chips and salsa (green isn't hot), the drinks are fresh and strong, and they even offer a small number of "American Dishes" for the faint of heart. 
    • Get the Marisco Pina, and love your life. Seafood stew served in a hulled pineapple with fresh chunks of pineapple and broiled to crisp the cheese on top. This beast is easily shareable and served with rice, lettuce and tomatoes on the side. 
    • Guacamole is actually made fresh table side and is a generous, super flavorful portion. 
  • Aldo's Restorante Italiano
  • Beef Carpaccio 
    • Don't get put off by the reviews noting the chilly service. They offer traditional Italian fare (not spaghetti and meatballs) that is worth putting up with a less than ecstatic waiter. 
    • Situated in a converted home, Aldo's is visually pleasing with trees wrapped in lights, a beautify entryway and closed-in wrap around porch seating area. There is a main dinning room, but I preferred the intimacy and unique style of the porch seating areas. 
    • Enjoy fresh bread with oil and garlic as you wait for the beef carpaccio and sip your choice of wine from from the extensive offerings. 
    • The portions are sharable, and there is no extra plate fee here. 
  • Kirby's Steakhouse 
  • Potato crusted calamari 
    • Ranked #4 on's "Best Steakhouses in San Antonio" you cannot miss this gem if having a steak in Texas is on your bucket list too. 
    • An intimate setting, great atmosphere, private party rooms, even private booths with curtains, full bar and dinning room. This restaurant is the place to go for a nice evening, and some pricey indulgence. 
    • You are going to pay for culinary perfection, BUT they offer a FREE APPETIZER for YELP users (up to $14). I recommend the potato crusted calamari, not its not squid covered in mashed potatoes, they use a potato flour that gives a great crispy outside without imparting any unwanted weight or oily taste. Served with a rich, garlic tomato sauce. 
    • The 18oz mesquite cold smoked ribeye is my favorite item on the menu, an absolute treat  don't pass it up for a more expensive filet minion. Bask in the glory of a professionally prepared, aged, smoked and rested steak. 
    • Desert is also a must, the creme brûlée is to die for.
  • Pho Cong Ly
  • Pho Ga with all the fixin's
    • Feel like something lighter? Looking for lunch? Try my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in San Antonio. This restaurant has been here forever, living quietly in a strip mall, its the place that locals know about and rave about. 
    • Enjoy a hot bowl of pho (soup), or a fresh vermicelli dish (thin noodles). Ordering by the numbers is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. The waiters will chat with you if you ask them how to pronounce the Vietnamese words, but don't worry, the menu is in English too. 
    • They also offer Chinese food for the less adventurous in your party.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Patchwork Pony

For the last three weeks it's looked like a pony exploded in my quilting room. But with good reason: one of my best friend's daughter turned three this week!

I've been crafting this beautiful patchwork quilt as a birthday present that I'm headed down to Texas to deliver in person. (Keep an on on Live, Love, Travel).

This full-size quilt is pieced together out of 4 inch squares and backed with soft blizzard fleece in purple marble. The quilting was done free-hand on my regular sewing machine (not easy).

I absolutely love this quilt and hope its new owner loves it just as much!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

You Call This a Bagel?

Yes, I am a Jersey Girl and damn proud of it.

No, I do not say Jouy-zee.

Yes, I grew up down the shore.

Yes, I will drive an hour for good pizza (and pass two thousand places on the way)

No, I never pumped gas until I left the state.

And, oh boy do I miss real bagels!

Living in Missouri I got pretty desperate for a good, crispy outside and chewy inside properly flavored, saliva-inducing to think about, honest-to-god bagel. You just can't get anything out here that even comes close. 

I've tried to quell the craving with Einstein Bros Bagels, they are ok.... and by ok I mean horrible and I would never eat one if I was anywhere near driving distance to Yorktown Bagels in Manalapan, NJ
Bagel perfection, still warm sesame with cream cheese

No matter how far I travel this is one food (along with pork roll) that I will always crave and search for. 

Every visit home I freeze and transport a dozen or so precious bagels back to Missouri with me, worrying all the way that they might start to thaw if I don't get back fast enough. Fresh these things are worthy of song and folklore, frozen and toasted they are almost as good. 

But what does a girl do when there just is no going home, and no convincing my parents that overnight mailing food to me is a great idea?

You spend a year trying to recreate perfection. Yes, a whole year of trial and error, of feeding the neighborhood and hearing that your creations are "delicious" and "awesome" but knowing they can't even hold a candle to their inspiration. 

In Columbia, MO there is an attempt at a bagel shop. Yes, they sell baked dough with a hole in the middle.... but its not the same! No relief to be found for a Jersey craving.

From yeast, flour and love I crafted batch after batch of tasty creations, but no one was worthy of the title of Bagel. I tried different flours, yeasts, boiling times, oven temperatures, flavor combinations and still failure. 

Although, now I do make one heck of a cheesecake, apple pie and fruit tart with pastry cream!

Boiling pot with baking soda and molasses

One batch of attempts: cheddar jalepeno, Asiago basil, and apple cinnamon 
Perfect cheesecake with raspberry and chocolate swirl. 

Mom's apple pie, made by me

This happened: pastry cream, almond flour crust fruit tart

 I've come to accept that while I'm away from my home state, there will be no bagels. And thats ok. Really. I'll always have a little sand in my heart and sun in my hair.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Great American Road Trip 2013: Take 1 Vegas to Texas

As OMS3 (third year medical students) we are gifted our last actually Christmas Vacation for more or less the next ten years. Last year we took full advantage of those precious fourteen days off and ventured off for A Great American Adventure!

Google Maps only lets you add 10 destinations!
Along the way we learned a ton of invaluable lessons, saved a few lives, ate a ton of great food, saw amazing sights, nearly broke a tailbone and drove over miles. Here are a few stories, tips and recommendations for planning and inspiring your own amazing road trip.

Hoover Dam is a short 35 mile drive from Las Vegas, and for this trip a no-brainer must-see. This was my second time visiting Hoover Dam, like Vegas I hadn't stepped foot there since I was seven years old. At that time the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was just a plan in the works, all traffic went directly over the dam. It was amazing to see the changes, as well as feel the awesome power and sheer size of the construction again.

View from the parking area on the far side of the complex
Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge 
Drought and sunset on Lake Mead 
Original generators are still fully functional and operational
We highly recommend taking one of the tours through the dam, there is the Dam Tour a full hour of information and guided tour of the inner workings and passageways of the dam and its history. The Powerplant Tour a  30 minute tour into the dam, its power plant and intake pipes.

We arrived too late for the Dam Tour, and were not disappointed by the Powerplant Tour and visitors center.

Take some time driving up to the dam to stop and check out the vantage points along the way. There is a parking area that lets you walk over the Memorial Bridge for spectacular views of the Hoover Dam.

Staying overnight in Flagstaff, AZ put us in perfect driving distance to spend the day at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. My traveling partner was beginning to feel under the weather, so most of the driving was left to me. We also found out that it is very hard to find cold medicine that does not contain phenylephrine! And it takes enough time so that I never got to see Horseshoe Bend.

View from the South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park 
The North Rim is over 12 miles away across the canyon here
The Grand Canyon is one place that I hope everyone sees in their lifetime. Pictures do not begin to do justice to this wondrous place.

In the winter months only the South Rim is open, entrance fee of $25 fora private vehicle.

We spent most of the day walking the ridge trail, taking pictures and venturing as close to the edges as we dared.

Bring lunch with you, as there are no great options for food. There are some, um, things....but save yourself and bring a lunch.

Phoenix, AZ is home to one of our good friends and fellow classmates. He opened his home to us for a few days, and good thing! My traveling companion got horribly ill in the time it took to drive from the Grand Canyon to his apartment. We ended up not seeing any of the city, nor the surrounding hiking spots (poop). And two days later and packing a case of gatorade we headed off to the next stop on our journey.

My only decent Saguaro picture
A complete side-track: I realized we were passing through the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, AZ and just had to see one of these giants. This is the only place in the world where the nation's largest, most iconic cacti grow naturally.

It was pitch black and cold but damn it, I got to see the cacti!

Also, this about where the "check engine" light came on.... No worries! it was only about 9pm, dark, in the Arizona wilderness and oh wait, no cell phone service.

This is when we learned that taking pictures of the directions from the phone for future reference was a great idea. In areas where there is no signal you can still look at the picture of the map and directions.

Also in this area were great cattle crossing signs, but we didn't see any free range cows going by.

White Sands National Monument was another spot I just had to see. My companion was feeling better, but I was doing the driving still. New Mexico has inland boarder patrol stops, and they are serious. I nearly said "New Jersey" when they asked me what country I was a citizen of.....Yeah, I know. It's startling to run into a boarder checkpoint while still in your home country.

So why the dunes? Sand sledding!!! At the park office they sell new and used saucer sleds along with surfboard wax (get it) and then you go off into the wilderness to find the biggest dune you can and try not to kill yourself. It was so much fun! These dunes are not like Kitty Hawk, NC, they are special and smooth, 275 square miles of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals

Aside from tailbone-breaking fun, the area is also home to the White Sands Missile Range where the first atom bomb was detonated.When missile testing is being conducted they shut down Route 70 between Las Cruces, NM and Alamogordo.
This is so much fun

Texas is huge. Vast, wide-open stretches of land with nothing visible for miles. Leaving Las Cruses, NM we made our way east across west Texas aiming for San Antonio, TX. Get gas at every opportunity through here. 

Our first intended stop in Texas was San Antonio to visit friends and family. No visits to the Alamo or the River Walk this trip (but I have been to both) just a walk through the Japanese Tea Gardens and San Antonio Zoo.
Entrance to Japanese Tea Garden, San Antonio 

Next over to Houston for New Years Eve at friend's house. And off to Austin for two days because I love that city.

Two of my best friends recently moved there so check back for some great insight on Texas trips, this state deserves it's own page...or at least several posts.

Austin is full of live music, a wide array of food and some of the best street entertainment and art culture you can find.

Coy Pond!
The best Mexican food I've ever eaten: 
The best Mexican food I have ever eaten was near San Antonio in a strange little place called Mariscos El Bucanero

If you are ever in the area go there, and get this pineapple loaded with seafood awesomeness, you will not be disappointed. 

Capital Building, Austin, TX

Austin offers a past rich in history and a present rich in culture, music and food.

We spend two days relaxing and enjoying the city, touring the capital building and taking in the history (by following a Segway tour), and reveling in the nightlife, music and food.

The Driskill Hotel was built in 1886 as the showplace of cattel baron Jesse Driskill. We did not stay here, but we sure enjoyed a few drinks in this classic old-money hotel and bar.

The Driskill Hotel, Austin,TX
Even the bar stools were covered in cow hide, the couches leather and all the art work original and cowboy inspired.

When you visit Austin, TX you MUST go to 6th Street in the evening and stay. Just go into every bar and listen to the music, taste the food and have a few drinks. You will not regret it.

In this area Yelp is your best friend helping you find the hottest spots and drink specials (check in specials too!).

121 5th Street, Austin, TX

The sad truth is that from Austin we had to hurry back to Kirksville, MO. I wish there were more adventures to share from this trip, but alas, it was a lot of straight driving through Oklahoma and Missouri to get back to our next rotations. 

Keep an eye out for more travels and misadventures of this medical student!