Thursday Born

The everyday life of a medical student (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for June 2010

Why I Enjoy Blogging

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It hasn’t been a year since I started this blog, but it’s getting close. This has been a successful project for me so far and I think it’s worth continuing to put time into. I may not have a cult following or a book deal (quite far from either!), but maintaining this blog has been good to me.

I like to write, and I always have. Just because I’m going through a long fiction-writing dry spell, doesn’t mean I need to let my writing skills go completely un-honed. This is good practice, and I’m really enjoying it as a hobby. While I’ve kept more private online journals for many years now, I’ve been putting a lot more thought and effort into writing these posts, and it’s been a much more valuable exercise.

It’s also a nice way to maintain connections with people I know. A few of my friends read this, and at the very least we interact in the comments. My posts have also been the starting points for several great conversations with my mother and my boyfriend. Written word is honestly my preferred mode of communication (I think this is why I took so quickly and strongly to the internet), and a lot of the time there are things that I would like to say that I have trouble saying, but little problem writing. So my blog has been a good conversation starter. A way for me to get my thoughts out there and give people I know a good segue (random fact: I learned the word segue when I was 14 in chemistry class) into ¬†a proper conversation. I’m a quiet person, but if you get me in the right mood and get me on the right subject, I can actually talk quite a bit. Someone I knew growing up used to call me “Radio,” which I’m sure comes as a surprise to many who know me. (Another old nickname, “Little Library,” is probably much less of a surprise).

Blogging can be a way to create connections with people I don’t know, though (as far as I know) I don’t have any regular readers I didn’t know before I started this blog. However, I have had a few random passers by, and it’s always nice to get a positive comment from a stranger.

So I’m willing to call this a personal success. ūüôā

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Written by Aba

June 28, 2010 at 12:45 am

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Orange Olive Oil Cake & Blueberry Butter

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I’ve read through the entire archives of the blog I got my strawberry jam recipe from.There’s a lot of great recipes there, but the one that really piqued my interest was a recipe for Orange Olive Oil cake. What on earth is olive oil cake like? I didn’t have any yogurt so I didn’t make it immediately, but then I forgot to buy yogurt this weekend and ended up using sour cream and milk.

This is the recipe I mostly followed, which is an alteration of this recipe, but I changed it a tiny bit.

My version:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange (I used a navel orange)
1/2 cup yogurt (ie, 1/2 of sour cream + milk)
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the zest with the sugar.

Then whisk in the eggs, the vanilla extract, and the yogurt. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, the salt and the baking powder, then whisk them into the wet ingredients. Do not overmix, just mix till everything is moistened. Using a spatula, fold in the olive oil until it seems mixed in, then pour/scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for about fifty minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

It’s a delicious base for jam (and delicious plain!), and I’m debating trying to make it without any zest to make it a slightly blanker state. It’s chock full of olive oil so I happily skip buttering it.

And then I made blueberry butter, another recipe from the same blog. A butter is like a jam, but more often the recipes don’t require pectin, because you cook the fruit for hours and hours at a low heat and it naturally congeals on its own. There’s a tiny bit of lemon zest in this, (and an even tinier amount of orange because I originally added too much to the bowl for the cake and had to fish some of it out), some cinnamon, and some nutmeg. But the main flavor is the blueberry. It’s not quite as sweet as the jam I made, nor as tart, but I like it. I made about half the recipe (~1 pound of blueberries), which yielded 3 half-pint jars with a tiny bit leftover to keep for myself.

Written by Aba

June 27, 2010 at 3:15 pm

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Thumbprint Cookies! (and libraries are great)

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I decided I wanted to try my jam, so last night I used the crust base for this tart to make really quick (aside from the hour chill in the fridge) thumbprint cookies. They’re really soft and not too sweet and work well with the sugary acidity of the jam. =)

If I keep making jams (which I hope I do; I forget I do like jams and strawberry isn’t even one of my favorites), I’ll probably be making these cookies fairly often. I don’t like really sweet or sour things, and when I do eat them, I prefer to pair them with good bread or cookie of some sort. I need to find a good fluffy bread/roll recipe to eat jams (and butter!) with.

My summer has been going well so far. It’s best when I’m filling my spare time with mini-projects like all the baking I did this weekend. The research I’m doing has been good too. A little more often than I’d like, I don’t have anything specific to do, or my task is repetitive and fairly mindless, but there has been a good fun amount of problem solving and figuring out how to do things on my own. All the people in the general office area, and specifically the people in my lab, are all rather awesome. It’s a nice social environment, just overall pleasant.

I’m also so happy I got a public library card. The library is on my way home when I walk, so it’s really convenient for returning or picking up books (which I just reserve online). While I do love the idea of owning lots of books, I’ve been realizing that there isn’t much reason to anymore (beyond the I have so many books! I love books! factor). As a kid I used to re-read books a lot, sometimes until they would fall apart, but it’s been a while now since I’ve re-read something I’ve bought in recent years, even once. I don’t even lend books out that often. So I’ve been sticking with getting books from the library, and I’ve been reading more. Instead of Can I afford this book right now? it’s I can read it now! Or maybe in a few weeks when it’s back in circulation! And I don’t even need to be sure the book will be good. I can just try it and see for myself.

It’s liberating.

Written by Aba

June 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

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New Adventures with Mason Jars

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As I’ve mentioned before, my friend Amrita has a really cool food blog. A few months ago, she posted a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I’ve been meaning to try since then, and on Thursday night I finally did! They weren’t done until close to midnight, which made for a wonderful bedtime snack of warm, chewy cookie with a tall glass of vanilla soy milk.

My roommate has been gone since very early Friday morning, and I decided to take advantage of her absence by completely taking over the kitchen (and giving the apartment some much needed cleaning). While I try to leave the kitchen at least as clean as it was before I was using it, if not cleaner, I’m actually a really messy cook during the process and I was going to need a lot of space to spread out.

I love giving homemade food items as gifts, and I’ve been wanting to try canning for a while, because then I could safely make gifts months in advance and avoid my last minute scrambling.

So I bought some cute, squat mason jars, but before I made my jam, I wanted to bake in them first. A long time ago, I saw a blog post about making single serving pies made in mason jars and being a big fan of small cute versions of things, I thought it was a great idea. Instead of pies, I decided to make quiche, since they freeze really well cooked.

So late Friday night, I made 18 small quiches. 9 for me, 9 for my roommate. I ran out of crust (apparently 4 jars = 1 pie crust, but I think I could have used less crust in each jar if I wasn’t really tired and in a hurry to just be done), so 6 of them are crustless. 6 roma tomatoes, several slices of bacon, 9oz of spinach, 16 eggs (+2 in the crust), and many other random ingredients later, I had Garlic Spinach, Tomato Basil and Tomato Bacon quiches ready to be baked!

Don’t they look delicious? Unfortunately, ¬†the crusts actually weren’t cooked all the way through in this picture, so Saturday morning they went back into the oven (it was past 2am when I realized this and they’d already cooled down).

And so they were baked again, and are now in the freezer (this is a picture of the already frozen quiche inside the ziploc bag). I used a butter knife to loosen the crusts from the sides of the jars, and they popped out very easily. They were a bit fragile, so I froze them on a tray before putting them inside the bag. You should be able to use any crust and any quiche filling you want. My advice is to make sure to pour the filling below the crust, and in general, don’t overfill, because they will bubble over. And have an old toothbrush handle to clean the outside threading in case any filling gets baked into them. I spent a lot of time Saturday soaking the jars and trying to scrub inbetween the threading with a sponge before realizing a toothbrush would make this a lot easier.

While all that was going on, this was in the fridge, marinating overnight. 2 32oz bags of frozen strawberries, 2 cups of sugar, and 1 vanilla bean. Fresh strawberries would have been better, but when I decide I want to try something new, I don’t have too long before I become bored with the idea. Strawberries weren’t on sale at the moment, and I couldn’t make it down to the farmer’s market, so frozen strawberries had to do. I will definitely make this again with fresh berries.

When I first looked into canning, I kept seeing these $60 or $80 sets, which after all the money I’ve already put into home brewing equipment, felt like a lot for yet another hobby. But you don’t need to buy an expensive set! So I bought this $12 set from Amazon because we didn’t even have tongs yet, and I needed something to lift the boiling hot jars and lids out of the water.

Gratuitous extra shot of the berries. I couldn’t pick a favorite picture.

Some zesting, a lot of boiling and stirring and cleaning up spills and splatters later, I have 13 8oz jars of jam that seem to have sealed well, so they should be good to eat for about a year! I used a recipe for Strawberry Jam with Vanilla (and lemon!). Next time I make it, I think I might only use the zest of one lemon, and I would up the vanilla content to 2 vanilla beans (I love vanilla; as is, I added a teaspoon of extract to supplement the flavor) and, of course, I’ll use fresh berries. I might also let it marinate longer. The recipe author marinated hers for 48 hours, while mine was more like 24 hours, and I think that might be why I didn’t have as much vanilla flavor from just the bean. I just looked through the comments on the post and apparently her mother had the same problem and also added a teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.

I had forgotten to buy the lemons when I went grocery shopping so I had to stop at a somewhat pricy store on my way home from work Friday. I could buy expensive single lemons, or a more reasonably priced bag of 8. I bought the bag, and with the leftover lemons, I’m making a small amount of vanilla limoncello, which I’ve been wanting to try for a while anyway (my last limoncello attempt did not go well and I had to move before I had time to salvage it). It looks so pretty! And hopefully it will taste great. It’s the zest of 6 lemons, 300ml of 80 proof vodka, and 1 vanilla bean.

Vanilla beans are apparently cheap on ebay (100 for $20 instead of 2 for $3) so I might be stocking up sometime in the near-ish future. =)

Obviously, I’ve had a busy weekend, but it’s been wonderful. I got a lot of chores done and I made some good foods. Very domestic, but domesticity is fun in occasional doses. =)

Written by Aba

June 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

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Broiled Nectarines and Banana Bread

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Broiled Nectarines

Pardon the somewhat blurry and rather indistinct photo. Another one of those hurried “Oh! I should take a picture before it’s gone!” moments. I bought some really juicy, very ripe nectarines on Saturday, except they turned out to be incredibly sour. I gave the first one to my roommate, but was determined to turn the other two into something edible. So I asked a friend of mine for suggestions and she gave me this recipe. ¬†I was skeptical about the use of balsamic vinegar and sour cream in a dessert; I shouldn’t have been. After being broiled, the nectarines were much less sour, but had a bitter note that the acidity must have masked. Still, I ate both of them (albeit smothered in sweet sour cream and ice cream), which was the goal of this endeavor. =)

I think I’ll be less scared of temperate climate fruits now. I grew up with tropical fruits, which are generally either too expensive in the US or not as good as what I grew up with. On a day to day basis, I just eat apples because I know which apples are usually sweet (Fuji Apples!), and if they’re sour then peanut butter is a great fix. But other fruits (plums, pears, nectarines, peaches) I don’t know very well, and when they’re good, they’re wonderful, but more often than not they’re too sour for my liking. ¬†I just need to get used to the idea of cooking my fruits so I can branch out some more.

Banana Bread

I love banana bread! I love banana muffins even more because they’re no slicing involved and they freeze beautifully. Last year I would pack them for lunch all the time. Just pop them in a tupperware and by lunch time, they’re defrosted and ready to eat!

I like my banana bread with a ton of banana in it, really dense and moist. These came out close to what I wanted, but I think they could have used at least another banana or two (I used six total) and I wish I could get my bananas riper without breeding a bunch of fruit flies in the process. As is, I think next time I’ll freeze and thaw all my bananas, because they become perfectly mushy and easy to mash afterwards. As is, I get more chunks than I want. Still tasty, but not ideal.

In the idea world, I would always have banana muffins and at least one other baked good in the freezer. Living with someone has seriously cut back on my available freezer space, but thanks to our new chest freezer, I can go back to stocking food. I’m a lazy eater so it’s really helpful to have healthy things that I can easily eat. Soups, Chili, Muffins, Quiches and Burritos are the things I usually make and freeze. I really missed having these things on hand all the time, and I’m excited to start making them again.

Written by Aba

June 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Food, Life in General

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The Grass is Greener

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I spend a lot of time reading blogs, and a good many of them have to do with subjects that (it seems)¬†unfortunately don’t really apply to me. I can translate the general messages to apply to my life, but a lot of the advise and suggestions are flat out impossible given my career choice.

People always say that if you can think of an alternate career you could be happy with, do that instead of medicine, and I can see why. While there are flexible things you can do with an MD degree, when it really comes down to it, it’s a vocation and not a job, it really is something you better be willing to make sacrifices for.

I feel a little pang every now and then when I think about other careers, about the things I see other people doing with their lives. But eventually, you have to choose. I can dabble in a wide variety of things as hobbies, but I can’t really have multiple careers (some people can; they are incredibly dedicated people), especially when one of them is being a doctor. I have decided that this is what I want to do more than anything else and I’m sticking with it.

I won’t stop reading the blogs of people who blog for a living, or who run really cool start ups or who have really strange, fun jobs. I won’t stop wondering what it would be like to be them, and maybe even for a moment wishing I could be them.

But I will not regret my decision to pick medicine over all these other options, even though I’ll need to keep reminding myself of this when this journey starts to get harder and the sacrifices start becoming apparent.

Written by Aba

June 14, 2010 at 10:39 am

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Saturday Housekeeping

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We bought a “portable” washer! And by we, I mean me, my roommate, and my two classmates who’ll be moving in next door. We got it off¬†craigslist¬†from a couple who work for our university but are going on sabbatical. It was listed for $150, but unasked, the lowered the price to $130. They had nothing but good things to say about the washer, and I finally tried it out today! I thought it was going to be a sunny day and it has been, on and off, which makes it a good day for laundry since we didn’t buy a dryer so I’ll be air drying my clothes (so long as the weather’s good enough for it, I guess. Not sure about the winter).

Craigslist and graduating fourth years are great ways to get cheap items. I bought the drying rack for $5 off a fourth year ($15 cheaper than the one I’d been eying on Amazon!) and the down comforter in the corner was also a fourth year buy. Not pictured is the down comforter’s duvet, which is drying over my armchair, because there is only so much that can fit on the drying rack (notice the towel drying over the basket). ¬†And yes, my lamp was on during the day time. It was cloudy when I first started taking the pictures and then the sun came back. The lamp is now off. =)

The washer is currently being stored in my bedroom (our living room is overfull at the moment and I have the bigger bedroom. Unless we can think of a better place for it, I’m happy to leave it here), and being run in the kitchen. It has wheels, although they’re only on the front, which baffles me a little. It hooks up to the sink faucet, and has a separate pipe for draining used water. It’s really easy to use, holds about 1.7 cubic feet of clothes, and spins them down really well. No dripping at all onto my bed.

To use the machines our building provides, it costs us $1.50 per washer load and $1.25 per dryer load. I do at least a load of laundry a week, more once I factor in occasionally washing sheets and the table cloth and the bathroom mats, so at least $78/year in washing and $65 a year in drying. The washer cost me $32.50, and it remains to be seen how much it’ll drive up our water bill, but I doubt it would be even $5 a month (which would be $60/year, still cheaper, and that would be split between my roommate and I). I’ve been hang drying the majority of my clothes since the weather got warmer, so already I’ve been saving money there. I expect I’ll use the building dryers every now and then (like for pillows or anything down filled), but I think I can rely on air drying the majority of the time.

Some people prefer air drying, cost saving value aside. I’m ambivalent ¬†about the difference between air¬†dried¬†and dryer¬†dried¬†clothes (though I’ve finally decided to be responsible and stop ruining my undergarments by putting them through the dryer, because shopping for them is such a pain), but I really like to save money, and that’s enough reason for me. I grew up with both air¬†dried¬†and dryer dried clothes so both seem normal to me. I think my boyfriend prefers air dried, and the girl I bought my drying rack from does too.

I definitely think buying your own washer in an apartment can be a good idea, but I don’t think a dryer is really¬†necessary¬†unless you have really bad circulation or maybe if there isn’t one available at all in your building. I can’t¬†recommend¬†a washer as a rule, because it depends on a number of factors. You need to do the math yourself and figure out if it works out in your favor. Buying ours used and splitting it among four people were key factors.

My roommate and I have also bought a chest freezer (fourth year buy! it’s 5 cubic feet) but more on that later. =) It’s still quite empty because we just got it on Monday.

Written by Aba

June 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm

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