Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Date Night On Tuesday? Definitely.

I can't wait to see my sweet husband tonight!!  He has been in Wilkes-Barre doing an away rotation for the past two months and we are officially on the downhill slide.  He has six more days of apartment, bachelor living until he is home.for.good!  I try not to complain about him being away because, well, what would that help?  Let me just tell you though... I will be one happy chick to be living under the same roof again.  The best part is that after the end of this month there will be no more away rotations. Ever.

Residency and fellowship is all about flexibility and accepting whatever comes your way...  and to be very honest with you we have LOVED it.  Sure, there have been frustrating times, sleepless nights of nonstop pages, holidays spent away from family and even away from each other, and many plans that have had to be changed or cancelled last minute and unexpectedly... but ya know, at least we have been in it together.  This will be a phase and time in our lives that we will hold very close to our hearts.  I have LOVED this time.  We have been forced to learn to depend 100% on each other, to be flexible and understanding, and to appreciate every singe second we get to spend together, every date night, and every weekend off.  

As I decorate our home for Christmas, I've realized that this is pretty much it for our journey through residency and fellowship.  We're putting our home on the market next month and trying to plan for our next step of life.  Brian officially finishes fellowship in June... WOW time flies!  We're so thankful and so blessed to have had such an amazing journey so far.

Now... I'm off to shower and get all dolled up for date night :-)  I am amazed every day by my husband.  He works so ridiculously hard without complaints, does extra work because he wants to make sure things are fair, and really has one of the coolest and scariest jobs I could ever imagine.  However, somehow he still comes home and asks what he can do to help, has no fear of apologizing when he's wrong, makes me want to be a better person, makes me laugh until I can't breath, and makes me feel like the most important thing in the entire world.   His investment to our home life is twice that of his investment to work... which is a lot!   

All things that EVERY woman deserves!  

I'll definitely toast a margarita to that... and I plan to this evening!!

I stumbled upon this quote today and I think it's pretty amazing.  

“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.” – Bob Marley

Sunday, November 17, 2013

BOOK GIFTAWAY: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

One of my very favorite things to do is read.  I love it... especially when it involves cuddling up with my slippers, blanket, and puppies.  However, for the past several years I've come up with a million and one excuses to justify why I don't have time.  I need to clean the house.  I need to be reading for work.  I need to pay bills and run errands.  I need to exercise.  Blah, blah, blah. :-)  While all of those things are true, there is no reason I can't take 30 minutes a day to sneak away.  Thirty minutes always turns in to much, much longer but who's counting?

I love that feeling when you find a book that just sucks you in.  You know... the ones you just can't put down!  I recently finished what I could consider to be a "must read".

There are a few books that we will have forever... our Bibles, our Marriam-Webster dictionary with the cover falling off, my set of Grimm's Fairy Tales that my mom read to me as a child, my copy of Polar Express, and my collection of Herman Wouk novels that were given to me by Brian's mom.  They will all stay on our shelves forever.  I love all things with sentimental value!

However, since there are so many great books out there I think it's a shame to read one, put it on the shelf, and have it never be opened again because there are so many other great ones to read. So why not pass them along for others to enjoy?

Which brought me to my next idea... BOOK GIFTAWAY!

I'm a firm believer in paying it forward.  So this is how its going to work.  When I finish a great book, I'll post it on the blog with a short synopsis and if it's something you think you may be interested in reading then simply post something in the comments.  I don't care if we're good friends, have talked once in our life, talk every day, or are complete strangers.  I'm happy to send it to anyone that may enjoy it!  After one week, I'll put everyones name in a hat, draw randomly, and then mail you the book.  FOR FREE!!

The only thing I ask is that when you're finished that you pass it along to someone else that may love it.  Doesn't matter who :)

So here's the first book to be gifted.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.   This book was recommended to me by one of my best friends,  Carmen.  It has been sitting on my coffee table for the past year.  Shame on me!

This book turned me in to a crazy lady.  I was reading it at work, waking up much earlier than necessary to read, reading while pumping gas in my Prius (which takes 3 minutes) and then sitting at the pump to finish just one more page.  I was out of control!

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles--and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

Abraham Verghese, the author of Cutting for Stone, is also a physician. He did his internal medicine residency in Johnson City, Tennessee.  This is obviously a place near and dear to our family.  His history and background are incredible!  See the quote and link below to learn more about this amazing man.  

“I wanted the reader to see how entering medicine was a passionate quest, a romantic pursuit, a spiritual calling, a privileged yet hazardous undertaking,” he said. “It’s a view of medicine I don’t think too many young people see in the West because, frankly, in the sterile hallways of modern medical-industrial complexes, where physicians and nurses are hunkered down behind computer monitors, and patients are whisked off here and there for all manner of tests, that side of medicine gets lost.”

This book is truly sensational!

If you're interested comment below within the next week and I'll let you know who will be receiving this gem!

Happy Reading.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gourmet Portobello Mac & Cheese

One of the most important things I've learned about residence and fellowship is that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get things done.  Brian and I are in the middle of a crazy stretch... his call weekend, my work weekend, his regular work week, my night shift stretch, etc.  You get the picture!  I wasn't willing to let a whole week pass without spending at least a few hours with my hubs which meant one thing... ROAD TRIP!  This long, crazy stretch will be so worth it when we're able to load up and head to Arkansas for a long weekend!  YEHAW!

I was able to find a few hours this weekend to sneak up to Wilkes-Barre.  After hearing for days that Brian was either at Panera or chewing on sunflower seeds for dinner, I thought it would be nice for him to have a real meal for dinner.  I've always heard that the way to a mans heart is through his belly :)  I loaded up the Prius with a few spices, a few bags of groceries, and Brian's cast iron skillet.

I'm a firm believer that macaroni and cheese should be it's own food group!  I love it.  All kinds. All shapes.  All combinations of cheese.

This dish is one that reminds me of something you would get at a fine steakhouse.  It's perfect for a dinner party but in all honesty is probably "too much" for just a normal date night for two.  This is mainly because the cheese can get a bit pricey and it makes way too much for just two people.  It would be perfect for a group of four to six.   I promise if you pull this out at your next dinner party your guests will leave full, happy, and begging for the recipe.  It doesn't hurt that it's baked and served in cast iron. Cast iron makes everything better!  We served this with Brian's pan seared scallops but it would also be awesome with a big, juicy, medium rare steak.  It's rich, it's savory, and it's delicious.  Mmmmmm.

My next project is to find some individual size cast iron skillets...  I see a dinner party in our near future!  Who's coming??


The iPhone photo DOES NOT do this justice :) 

Gourmet Mushroom Mac & Cheese
(recipe from leitesculinaria.com)


  • Handful coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 1 pound macaroni (a classy macaroni called cavatappi is shown in the photo above)
  • 10 ounces portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed level with cap, gills removed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Leaves from a few sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Leaves from a few sprigs fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup tightly packed grated white Cheddar, plus more to taste
  • 2/3 cup tightly packed grated Parmesan, plus more to taste
  • 8 ounces Taleggio, rind removed, diced or sliced
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).
  • 3. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet, stem-side up, and brush with oil. Season lightly with salt, sprinkle with the herbs, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Remove and let cool slightly. Dice the mushrooms and set aside.
  • 4. Preheat the broiler to medium.
  • 5. Put the cream in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat. Add the Cheddar and Parmesan and half the Taleggio, and stir well to melt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (If a thicker sauce is desired, add more cheese to taste.)
  • 6. Dump the drained macaroni into a large bowl. Stir in half the mushrooms and the hot cream sauce and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the macaroni mixture to a 2-quart casserole or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (be sure your baking dish is broilerproof; do not use a glass or ceramic dish). Top with the remaining mushrooms and Taleggio and a good grinding of black pepper. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve immediately.

**I made this is a large cast iron skillet. I poured just enough peanut oil to coat the bottom and prepared exactly as the directions suggest.  It was so good, so pretty, and SO easy to clean up!**

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Foodie Friday: Camping Edition!

First and foremost, let me just set the record straight.  There are no calories when camping!  There are also no calories on date weekend, date night, girls night, Saturday mornings, or at Sunday dinner.  With that being said, let me introduce you to Foodie Friday: Camping Edition!

While I do LOVE a nice hotdog or sausage cooked over the open fire that is lightly charred with chopped onion and spicy brown mustard, it is also so fun to change things up a little bit.  One of the most beautiful things about camping is that there is just NO rush.  There is nowhere to be, no DVR to catch up on, no cell phone service and that my friends is glorious.  So why not prepare some gourmet food to go with your gourmet views?

We tried several new things this weekend... most of which were super easy!  The prep work is all done in your home, before you leave for the weekend, while you're surrounded by your modern day kitchen amenities.  When you get to the camp site your main job is to sit back, relax, and smell the delicious food cooking over an open fire.

See information at the end of the post for help with the basics of cooking with a dutch oven and grilling with charcoal.  It's really pretty simple once you get the hang of it :-)

In addition to what you see below, Brian also made a beef stew and paired with his Mom's cast iron cornbread that was so amazing I can't even think of an adjective to do it justice.  He and I shared a large bowl, dumped the cornbread in, and topped it with the stew.  I'm so glad no one else was around to watch us devour it... it was pretty embarrassing.  It was a continuous spoon, bowl, mouth motion barely allowing time to breath.  More on Brian's awesome meal later.  It really does warrant it's own post!



Onion Bombs On The Grill

Sorry veg friends... you may have to pass on this one.  One of my guilty pleasures and all time favorite foods is meatloaf.  This awesome dish is made with large white onions, meatloaf, and topped with a special sauce.  The concept is so easy!

Take a large white onion. Cut it in half removing the center of the onion to create an open ball/hollow area in the center. Prepare a meatloaf with whatever recipe you choose.  Make a large ball of meatloaf and place in the center hole of the onion repositioning the second half of the onion so that it looks whole again.  Wrap twice in foil and throw it in your cooler.  Mix up your sauce and place in quart size ziplock.

When you get to the campsite, simply throw the foil balls onto the grill (direct heat), turning every 10-15 minutes, and cooking for one hour.  Remove foil and you're DONE!  Top with sauce.

The sauce is so easy.  Make a small foil boat and heat only the grill for 2-3 minutes until warm. Pour over onion bombs.  

We served this with asparagus that we tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, 1 tbs lemon juice, and parmesan and romano cheese. We grilled this in a foil boat until tender.

While the photos may not make the onion bombs look super appealing (it's hard to get great food photos in the woods!) trust me when I tell you they are to DIE FOR!  

Onion Bombs
4 large white onions
Meatloaf recipe made with 1lb ground beef

1/4 cup Sweet and Spicy Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbs brown sugar


Dutch Oven Cinnamon Rolls
(recipe from livewellnetwork.com)

This recipe is also made 100% at home, frozen, and then brought to your campsite ready to be cut and placed in the dutch oven.  This makes for an easy, stress free morning that allows you to have coffee and watch the sunrise while breakfast is cooking away!  This is slightly labor intensive at home just as any homemade bread can be... but it is SO worth it!

Cinnamon Rolls
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 tbs honey
1 1/4 cups warm milk
4 tbs melted and cooled butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 1/3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
6 tbs softened butter

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbs honey
1 tbs prepared coffee

1. Prepare your dough.  In stand mixer or bowl comping yeast with 1/4 cup warm water and honey. Stir together. Let sit for approximately five minutes until it starts to bubble. Add milk, melted butter, eggs, and salt. Mix together.  Using a dough hook, slowly add flour one cup at a time mixing on medium low speed until smooth and elastic. This takes about 10 minutes.  Place dough in an oiled mixing bowl, cover with damp towel, and let it rise until the size has doubled. This will take about an hour.

After dough has risen, punch it down to release some of the air, lightly flour your work space, and roll dough into 12" by 24" rectangle.

2. Prepare your filling.  Spread 6 tbs of butter over rolled out dough.  Mix all other filling ingredients and spread equally over dough.

3.  Once dough is rolled out and filling is spread evenly begin rolling the dough towards you.  You want to roll it from the longer side so that you have a roll that is 24" long. Pinch ends.  Cut into two pieces.  Lightly oil a gallon size ziplock, toss it (carefully!) into the ziplock and put into the freezer until the morning you leave.  It needs to be frozen for at least 6 hours and can be stored for up to 1 month.

4. Mix icing ingredients in small bowl and pour into a ziplock.  Make sure you use coffee that has been prepared and not grounds.

Ready to camp??
Simply get your logs out of the ziplock, slice into 1.5" to 2" rolls.  Grease dutch oven with peanut oil (remember to get the sides). Arrange cinnamon rolls so they're touching.  Let them stand for about 30 minutes in the sun to warm up a bit.  Bake in dutch oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  

Pour icing on top and enjoy!


Breakfast Burritos

These are also made 100% at home and simply tossed on the grill!  

1 lb chorizo sausae
6 hot/medium hot peppers
1 large white onion
2 cloves garlic
6 large eggs
2 cups of cheese (I used Mexican blend)
1 pkg medium tortilla shells

Sautee chorizo sausage separate from onions, peppers, and garlic.  Prepare scrambled eggs as 
you normally would.  Fill tortillas with a layer of scrambled egg, chorizo, peppers, onions, and cheese.  Fold and wrap in saran wrap individually.  Place 3-4 in a ziplock and freeze the night before you leave.

The morning of simply get them out of the cooler and throw them on the grill using INDIRECT heat.  See photo below for our first attempt when we tried using direct heat... epic failure!!  Grill slowly until golden brown and warm to touch.  

Top with salsa and sour cream.

Indirect heat using direct heat just to brown at end.
Direct heat disaster!


TennTucky Cobbler
(recipe from everydaydutchoven.com)

1 cup sugar
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 cup sugar (for topping)

This cobbler is so easy and so delicious!! 

Lightly oil dutch oven.  You can even premix all of your ingredients at home (leave out the berries and cinnamon). Pour batter into dutch oven, sprinkle berries on top of batter, top with sugar and cinnamon.  Brian prefers tart deserts and isn't big on sugar so he recommended leaving the sugar off the top!  The beauty is that you can use any fruit that you choose.  We used a mixture of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

There are no photos of our fabulous cobbler because we literally made it under a tarp, at 10:00pm, in the pouring rain!  

I'm a firm believer in knowing the how and why of what you're doing before doing it.  Below are the very basics of dutch oven cooking and grilling with charcoal.

Basics Of Dutch Oven Cooking
I did quite a bit of research on this cooking method before we left for fear that we would be in the middle of the woods with burnt food... and I don't do well when I'm hungry :)

Dutch ovens are meant to cook food with even heat distribution with relatively low heat.  Make sure for camping that you get a dutch oven with legs and an inset lid.  Also, make sure it is well seasoned! Having a well seasoned piece of cast iron can make or break you success!  There are tons of methods and articles on how to do this.  Take the time and make sure you do it!  
Here are the need-to-know basics.

1. The oven works by putting coals below the dutch oven and also on the lid.

2.  There is a formula to use to calculate how many coals to use.  For 350 degrees use this easy +2/-2 formula.
Find the diameter of your dutch oven (There is a number printed on the lid... ours is 10")
Coals on top is diameter +2 (12 for us)
Coals on bottom is diameter -2 (8 for us)

3.  Arrange the coals below the dutch oven in a circle so that there is no heat directly below the cooking surface. This helps avoid burning the bottom of your food.

4. Arrange to coals on the lid in a circle and also with coals in the middle. 2/3 around the perimeter and 1/3 in the center.  We lined 8 coals around the edge and 4 in the middle.

5. To increase by 100 degrees add 4 coals to the top and one to the bottom.

Basics Of Grilling With Charcoal
1. Weber makes small briquettes to start charcoal. Use them!  Place one under your charcoal chimney.

2. Fill chimney with charcoal and light briquettes with long lighter.

3. Let charcoal heat and burn until the charcoal on top is white with red embers.

4. Pour into grill.

5. Decide on direct vs. indirect cooking
Direct cooking means all charcoal is evenly dispersed throughout the grill and your food is being cooked directly above the charcoal.
Indirect is when the charcoal heats the food indirectly by being placed on one side of the grill while the food is on the other.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Be Present. Do Date Weekend!

It's so easy to get caught up in everyday life.  It's easy to become consumed with all that you have to do, how many hours you have to put in at work, all of the chores you have to take care of, bills and mail that need to be sorted, dogs that need to go to the vet, laundry that needs to be done, and the list goes on and on... AND ON.

I challenge you to take a moment and just STOP.  Make an effort to "be present" in your life.

Life will go on if the laundry isn't done right this minute (or even within the next few days) and the world will keep spinning if the house isn't perfectly clean.  Are the little odd jobs of life really what's important to you?  HECK NO!!  God has blessed you with one special life and I challenge you to get out there and live it.

There are a few things in life that you cannot create more of.  One of those very precious things is time.  Unfortunately, the clock keeps ticking and every minute that passes is another minute that you cannot get back.  Take every opportunity to live life, enjoy the simple things, and be present in the things you are doing.  Leave the laundry and go have date weekend.  Spend your time actually spending time together.  When you're talking to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriends, or family make an effort to put down the iPhone, put away the iPad, turn down the TV and focus 100% on what they're saying.

One of the most amazing things in life, in my opinion, is having DATE WEEKENDS!  Take the time to get away together and enjoy each others company.  Catching up on life and actually having more than five minutes to plan for your future is priceless.  It is amazing how refreshing it is to spend the entire weekend with the one you love.  Pure bliss if you ask me.  Now... Do date weekends have to be fancy and lavish?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I've found that simpler is often times better.

My love.

This past weekend Brian and I had an amazing date weekend!  I've actually named it as one of my top five memories with Brian... EVER!  We headed north to Seneca Lake.  Since we've lived in Pennsylvania we've talked numerous times about going to the Finger Lakes for wine tastings.  We opted for camping instead of getting a hotel and found an amazing camp site right on the lake.  We woke up each morning and watched the sunrise while having fresh coffee made over hot coals.  We made delicious meals with the dutch oven and spent Saturday night huddled under a tarp in the pouring rain drinking wine and throwing together a homemade cobbler.  I learned that my husband is the worlds greatest rock skipper. It was perfection.

We spent the days traveling the countryside and stopping at several wineries.  The weather was perfect, the leaves were turning, and it was a perfect representation of fall in the northeast.  It was hoodie and scarf weather with no jacket required during the day!  I was with my sweet hubs and had my Canon over my shoulder. We picked some grapes off of one of the vines and then headed back to our campsite to get bundled up and make dinner.  It was my definition of paradise.

Making friends.

What if this was your "work" everyday?

For an entire weekend we were both "present" and spent all of our time together just enjoying and loving every minute of this precious life.  We slept outside, didn't have a bathroom, and wore the same clothes two nights in a row and I'm here to tell you it beat the socks off of any Marriott we could have found.

My one and only complaint is that it had to end.  I try to avoid the Monday blues but this Monday was a bit tough!  Yesterday I had to make the choice to go to work and "be present".

Please, please, please do yourself a favor and DO DATE WEEKEND!  If you feel like you don't have time... make time!  We had the most amazing weekend and truly probably spent less on food, gas, and lodging than we would have just by going out for one nice dinner.  Date weekend doesn't have to be fancy and it doesn't have to cost you a ton of money.  The only thing required is that you're there, "being present", together!  One thing I can promise you is that we will never regret spending a weekend away.

It's a brand new day.
Heaven let your light shine down.

Stay tuned for Foodie Friday: Camping Edition!  We made several amazing dishes that were ridiculously easy and equally delicious!!

Here are some of my favorite photos from this weekend.  You know I had my Canon strapped to my body the entire time :-)

If you're from this area and interested in a Seneca Lake date weekend with camping and wine tasting send me an email (tbandricks@gmail.com) and I'll send you a list of all of our favorite places with information on the campsite.

My advice for the day... if you have the chance ALWAYS get up in time to watch the sunrise.


Fall colors.

For any woman who wonders why their husbands want to go fishing in the early morning.

Pat... this one's for you! Mushroom pic!
Middle Fork Rapid Transit... on the life to-do list!


The days plans.

I'll never get tired of seeing a ring on that finger!
Rise & Shine.

Quiet time.

Vino to go!  Thanks for the awesome wedding favor, Car!