Nature’s Easter Egg

Nature's Easter Egg photo: jparadisi 2013

Nature’s Easter Egg photo: jparadisi 2013

A nurse coworker raises chickens for their eggs. As a spring gift, she brought to work a carton of variously colored eggs to share. None were plain white like the ones in the grocery store. I chose a buff colored egg.

Peeling it this morning for breakfast, I discovered the interior of its shell was a beautiful shade of aqua. I had no idea eggshells existed naturally colored on the inside. This is nature’s Easter Egg.

Happy Easter to JParadisiRN readers!

Velcome to My FrankenMess: When Art & Food Go Awry

Velcome to My FrankenMess. photo: jparadisi 2012

Welcome to my FrankenMess. For Halloween, I tried dipping pretzel sticks into melted icing to make them look like candy corn on a stick, à la Pinterest. This is what they turned out looking like before I gave up. I’m an artist, damn it! Curse You, Pinterest!!!

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!

Hello, 911? My Coffee Maker Broke

Morning, Joe. photo: jparadisi 2012

It was a crisis that will never make the morning news: our coffee maker died suddenly, without a gasp. The “power on” light still blinks a brilliant blue, which makes me wonder if the machine is actually dead or merely in a coma. No matter, as I have already pulled the plug.

Speaking of comas, I cannot function without drinking coffee in the morning, everyday, whether working or not.

My morning coffee is so important that I have not left it to chance, having kept an old French press in case of just such an emergency. However, as events over the past few years have exposed, no emergency plan is without omission of certain important details. In this case, the first being that the coffee I brew is too finely ground to hold up in a French press. My attempt created something resembling cream of coffee soup more than the elixir that helps me hang on.

The second glitch in my plan was that David had the day off too. He possesses the ability to wait to get to work before having morning coffee, but for some reason is unable to wait that long after waking up when he is home. This meant I had to figure out, in my pre- caffeinated state of mind, how to make enough coffee for two with available tools, while he sat in the big green armchair, eating yogurt with peanut butter. I don’t know why he eats peanut butter with yogurt. It’s one of those questions I don’t ask, preserving the sanctity of our marriage.

I came up with another plan, because I’M A NURSE DAMMIT! Have I mentioned that when I was a new grad nurse, one of my many nicknames (I seem to collect them) was MacGyver because of my ability to jimmy-rig supplies at hand to do the job of equipment I can’t find. So, I think to myself, “Hmmm, what if I Ieave the coffee machine’s swing door open, boil water, and pour it over the ground coffee in the filter held by the machine, thereby creating manually dripped coffee?

It didn’t work. The water refused to flow through the ground coffee and filter by gravity. WTH? IV fluids flow by gravity, why not coffee? Dammn it!

This is why I am sitting in my neighborhood bakery, with a sixteen ounce paper cup containing four shots of espresso and just enough water to prevent the stir stick from standing upright. The girl at the counter told me I was doing pretty well for not having coffee yet, but she didn’t see my fumbling fingers while I poured soy milk into the cup, or the struggle to prevent spilling coffee as I found a seat. Thankfully, I’m not at work, trying to start an IV on an unsuspecting patient.

 Good news! Thousands of studies find that drinking coffee might actually be good for you. For more information, watch this video: The Truth About Coffee.

What I Did This Summer: Wine Tasting and Flitting About the Internet

Here in the Pacific Northwest, Summer’s brilliant, white light has toned down to a golden hue, announcing that Fall is waiting in the wings.  I’m not ready for summer to end, so David and I are outdoors as much as possible.

On Saturday, we visited one of Oregon’s several wine regions, as our exploration of the state’s Pinot Noir continues. As far as wine tasting goes, I’m surprised to find I like playing the field. I’m not ready to commit to a case of any particular wine just now.

We tried a wonderful Blanc de Blanc, a white wine, paired with a Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta, and Ricotta Salata. We enjoyed it so much, I made it for Sunday’s dinner, although I left out the pancetta, instead seasoning with an artisan smoked salt to compliment the melon, and substituted shaved parmesan for the ricotta salata, forgoing a trip to the grocery store. I paired the salad with a chilled Chardonnay. See what I mean about not being ready to commitment to a case of a single wine?

Besides touring around Oregon, enjoying the last remnant of summer, JParadisi RN is also flitting around the Internet in places other than this blog:

Obesity, Stress and The Politics of Eating

photo: jparadisi 2012

Last week I attended a two-day chemotherapy and biotherapy course. I wasn’t worried about sitting through 16 hours of lecture, nor about taking the open book test. Instead, I was preoccupied with wondering what to eat for lunch during the two days. I watch my calories, which means I don’t usually buy lunch on days I am unable to fit in a run to compensate for the extra calories, as was the case on the two days of classes.

I track how many calories I’m eating, just in case overweight nurses are someday prohibited from working. You never know. Precedents are set daily, what with the proposal to outlaw extra large sodas and sugary beverages in New York. This will force the sugar addicted to quench their thirst by buying two large sodas instead of one super-sized one, creating an extra container for the landfill, and they will still be too fat for the skinny nurses allowed to work to wheel around in the super-sized wheelchairs hospitals are now purchasing for transportation to the super-sized MRI machines for images of the damage to overweight bodies.

I pack my lunch on workdays, knowing a refrigerator and a microwave are available. Even as a kid, I have not enjoyed sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, bologna, turkey, etc. As an adult, I bring frozen meals, leftovers, salads, and yogurt, stuff like that.

Since I didn’t know if a refrigerator and microwave were available at the class, I wandered the aisles of a grocery store the day before, looking for something healthy, and low in calories, which did not require refrigeration or microwaving to bring.

I may as well have been on a snipe hunt, traipsing through a forest of shelves loaded with foods from around the world, none of which met my criteria. With the exception of fruit and vegetables, if it was fresh, it needed refrigeration. Prepackaged salads started upwards from 500 calories or more; I couldn’t believe it.

If it sat on a shelf, it was processed, embalmed in sodium or sugar. Nothing fun to eat was even in the ball park: chips, “fruit snacks,” and cookies earn their title ‘junk food.”

Fortunately, there are other choices, such as investing in a lunch sack that accommodates ice packs or is thermal lined to keep food cold. Salads can be made at home, controlling amounts of fattening ingredients like cheese, and salad dressing. I wonder, however, how do working parents with two or three kids make nutritious lunches five days a week, given the available choices? During childhood, how many thermoses did I break; how many lunch boxes did I lose, before my lunches were carried in a simple brown paper sack, and I had to eat the sandwiches I can’t stand as an adult?

Limiting the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces is perhaps a good idea, but I suspect, as a method of weight control, it’s akin to spitting in a bucket to fill it. Our society is surrounded with the food of our own demise. Restoring children, patients, and nurses to normal weight takes rethinking the way most Americans live. There is evidence overeating is an addiction of self-medication: children and adults eat to control feelings of discomfort and stress. For instance, understaffed at work, you may fear you will not get a lunch break, so perhaps a super- sized soda and bag of chips seems like a plan that will take you through your shift.

I’m a nurse, not a dietician, but I wonder if outlawing overeating is a form of treating the symptom, not the disease.

Cranberry and Caramel Date Bars

Cranberry & Caramel Date Bars photo: jparadisi 2010

 

Last night I finished my nursing shift later than expected, and I still had to bake cookies for a Christmas brunch and cookie exchange the next morning. This is my mother’s recipe. She started baking these festive looking bar cookies after I had moved out on my own. I was delighted to discover that not only are they delicious, they are easy and quick to make, which is wonderful when you are short on time.  You can really speed things up by using date pieces rather than cutting up whole dates.

Cranberry & Caramel Date Bars

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups uncooked oats

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cups walnuts, chopped

1 cup caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 350° F. In bowl combine cranberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. In another bowl, combine 2 cups flour, oats, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, and soda. Add butter; mix well. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture; press remainder firmly on bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle dates, walnuts, and cranberry mixture over crust. Mix caramel topping and remaining 1/3 cup flour, spoon over fruit and walnuts. Top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown, cool. Cut into bars (makes 24 bars).

Thanks Mom!

Summer Weekend Guests Part I

Salt bowl, chocolate, and spurtle photo: jparadisi 2010

This weekend David and I happily entertained out of town guests. Besides the opportunity to spend time with people we love, we get to see our city, Portland, Oregon, through the eyes of visitors. Here are a few of the fun places we visited:

Bob’s Red Mill: 5000 SE International Way, Milwaukie, Oregon, uses antique millstones to grind whole grain products, which they package and sell. On weekdays you can tour the mill, then head over to the grain store and restaurant to buy products or have a hearty meal. I had the eggs and grits for breakfast, but could have had French toast, waffles, or one of many other choices from the bakery or espresso bar. Family friendly, Bob’s Red Mill has a vast selection of gluten-free products too. Bob’s steel-cut oats are an international award winner (also available gluten-free). If you buy some to take home, be sure to buy a hand-carved spurtle (Scottish porridge stirring stick) made by artisan Tim Cebulla from native Oregon myrtle wood.

The Meadow: 3731 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon. Okay, I know about sodium and high blood pressure, but it’s worth learning the discipline of moderation to shop at The Meadow. This unique establishment sells salt from all over the world. I think of it as geology for my kitchen. As a return customer, I already own one of their salt starter sets, and a bowl carved from pink Himalayan rock salt. So, I bought a bar of imported dark chocolate to melt directly in the salt bowl for dipping fresh strawberries and bananas into. The knowledgeable salesperson provided complete instructions on how to do it. Besides salts of the earth, The Meadow also sells a large assortment of fine chocolates, wines, and fresh flowers.

Pistils Nursery: 3811 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon, is down the street from The Meadows.  A marvel of design in a very small space, Pistils is a nursery and chicken habitat in a converted old house. Nestled in a largely residential neighborhood, my husband wondered how they keep their free-roaming, exotic chickens within the fenced yard. I’m curious how they keep the neighborhood cats out. At any rate, this homey version of a full-fledge nursery is a delight for the senses. I am kicking myself that this was one of the rare times I was without a camera. You’ll have to go see for yourself.