DHAL: June 19-26, 2014

Hello friends! How have you been?

What a long absence, but here’s what I’ve been up to this past week!

Highlights:

  • As I mentioned in my previous DHAL, I spent last week in ICU and glad to say I enjoyed my entire time there. Unfortunately, I do think a week is too short. Just as I was getting used to the very different medical environment and getting to know the team, it was time to move on. Alas!
  • On Friday, June 20th, I made soft cranberry white chocolate chips! I think they turned out good and not too sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

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  • The next day, I accompanied FangYing (and her younger sister FangZee) in the morning to help her look for wedding dresses. I couldn’t stay with her for all her appointments because I had lunch at Matt & Kristen’s – thank you so much for the delicious food! It was lovely to see their family – Abigail gets bigger, smarter and more gorgeous each time I see her. Not only was it really nice to see my friends (James, Kim and Smiles), it was also really nice to meet some of their friends and catch up with some of the ones I’ve met in the past. Annette, who I first met through Kristen during our first year elective in Vietnam is 6 months pregnant already, how time flies!
  • On Sunday, I went with FangYing and her sister again to another bridal shop in Indooroopilly, where she also convinced me to try on a few wedding dresses. Although I’m not seriously looking for one myself yet, it was a fun experience! I definitely do not want a mermaid wedding dress and after trying on some strapless ones, I like them a lot more than I think! That’s all I got so far 😛 Afterwards, we met up with YungHowe, her fiance, for dimsum lunch – yummy! I’ve been craving for a while so it was quite satisfying 🙂

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  • It was a fun weekend that continued even into Monday when I met up with Sarah and Amanda for a girl’s night catch up. We had dinner at New Shanghai, left stuffed with the promise of doing it again soon. It was also Amanda’s belated birthday so Sarah and I had the chance to treat her to dinner.
  • My gorgeous friend Ruixi married her love, Chris, on June 21! So sad I couldn’t be there with them and friends, but she was a beautiful bride and they both looked so happy!! I’m so happy for you two! Love seeing the photos!
  • Starting this week until the end of this rotation – July 11th, I will be on Anaesthesia. This entails me accompanying a different anaesthetic consultant everyday to theatre in order to learn and assist. So far, I have been blessed with very friendly seniors who are happy to have a medical student and eager to teach and give me hands on experience. I am getting better at ‘bag and masking,’ which is the most important skill to learn in these next few weeks. I still lack the upper body strength to hold the mask and bag at the same time, but I’m working on it! Another skill we try to master during this term is intubation – which I’ve met with variable success – I accidentally put the endotracheal tube in the oesophagus today. My last intubation was perfect though, hopefully I keep it up!
  • The other nice thing about anaesthesia is the chance to see surgeries I haven’t seen in the past. For example, a total hip replacement, maxillary advancement, bilateral breast reduction, etc.
  • This morning, I got confirmation that I will have free accommodation during my 4 week elective in Nanaimo, BC – yay! Saves me at least $500 🙂
  • I finished at the hospital quite late today. It was already very dark outside when I got home but I saw an outline of a bouquet waiting for me at the door. I couldn’t look at it until I was inside but what a beautiful surprise. A bouquet of our favourite flowers – lilies from Michael – I love you! They haven’t bloomed yet but are so fresh and I can’t wait to see what colour they are. Thank you dear!

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Lowlights:

  • I need to start packing! 2 weeks left until I go home! So much to do still. I have 2 pieces of baggage on my flight back so I will be bringing back goodies for my family 😉
  • Long days. I’m exhausted and falling asleep around 10pm these days. This rotation is draining! Can’t wait for it to be over and to be going home!

First batch of Year 4 Food

As you may know, I have gotten into the habit of keeping a photo diary of food I’ve been making since coming to Australia from Canada 3 years ago.

Going across the world was my first time moving away from home, and I hardly ever cooked before that because my mom’s food was too fabulous to bother trying. Curse of living at home? 😛

I am proud of myself for continuously trying and improving my skills in the kitchen. I am most certainly not the best at anything, but I am enjoying trying my hand at new things, and most importantly, it brings me happiness that people (especially Michael) enjoy the things I make. Being in the kitchen is my ‘relaxing activity’ believe it or not. And I especially love to cook and bake when I can share.

Annoyingly, I still have family members that ask, “So… how do you feed yourself when you’re living in Australia?” and are so surprised when I reply, “I cook for myself.”

“Really? You can cook?!” Why yes, yes I can. Did you really think I have been eating just take-out and salads for 3 years? Come on!

And the way I see it. Anybody can, they just have to want to try!

You’ll notice there’s no meat in anything below. Mike and I wanted to go meat-free for a few weeks, especially after indulging so much over the holidays.

First ‘hot meal’ after we finally got groceries on arriving back to Brisbane. Breakfast for dinner, a favourite.

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Creamy cauliflower soup, with onions, potato and sweet potato. Definitely a new favourite!

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Trying my hand at gnocchi from scratch for the first time. Sweet potato gnocchi (can you tell I was really lazy with the shaping of it) with a butter garlic rosemary sauce, fennel and apple salad and some grilled haloumi. Quite an odd combination, I know. But hey, it works! We shop the sales and then decide on the menu, not vice versa. Life of a student, you know? 😉

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Ricotta lime cookies with a lime glaze. Made these for “Friday Bake Day” at the hospital, which were enjoyed by many. Will definitely be making these again.

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Pasta salad with green beans and carmelised onions with a greek yoghurt dressing. Side of cucumber and tomato salad.

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Coconut basil shrimp!

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Peanut butter cookies with caramel chips. Made these for another Friday Bake Day

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Had some basa fillets that I cooked up…

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To make delicious fish cakes for the first time! What an easy method to serve fish in a totally different and flavourful way!

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And 2 dishes that I made when back in Canada

Quiche with mushrooms, onions and bacon. Cheated with store bought crust though! 😉

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Cream of (wild) mushroom soup

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Learning to bake and cook

Prior to coming to Australia in January 2011, I did not know how to cook… or bake.

Sure, I could print off a few recipes and attempt to make some dishes on special occasions but rarely were they wow-worthy. And of course, I could make awesome baked goods… from a box. Why bother learning how to bake things from scratch when it was so easy to cheat?

Why did I never learn how to cook? Because my mom is one of the greatest cooks I know. She makes the most amazing traditional Vietnamese foods and great dishes from other countries as well. You can probably guess, but I have always been extremely food-spoiled. My mom also made sure to introduce us to a wide variety of flavours and spices so my love for food is now vast and diverse. Living at home and loving my mom’s cooking, I always felt it was pointless to try and make something when I’m almost sure I’ll enjoy her food more.

But then I moved to Australia and everything changed. I now lived on my own and had to cook to feed myself! Oh my gosh – the impending sense of doom. Panicking before leaving Canada, I had asked my mom to write down a few of her recipes but she insisted she was busy and that I would have no problem learning quickly on my own.

Like many things a mother says – she was right. I am now able to whip up many meals – from scratch – that are delicious and I’m proud to say I made them.

I also used to be really confused and frustrated when my mom and grandma would say, “I’m not sure about measurements, just go with your feelings” or “Once you’ve marinated the meat well, it will just smell right” or “A little bit of this, a pinch of that” or “Once you do it enough, you just know”

What does that even mean?! How am I supposed to know how much of an ingredient to use?!

But now I completely understand and it’s exactly how they said. When my friends ask me for recipes, I give them similar answers now!

So thanks mom 🙂 For believing I could do it without any expectations while I lived at home with you. I believe that learning to cook has made me a better person in life and look forward to cooking for you when you are visiting me in July!

Some recent dishes:

I have a habit of reading a bunch of different recipes for one dish. Learn the procedure, how things should be done, oven temperatures, time it takes, servings it makes, etc. I also tend to take components I like from one recipe and adding it to part of another, tweaking it here and there. Luckily for me, it’s worked so far and I can actually put it down as my own recipes!

Apple cinnamon muesli cookies – so soft, moist and delicious!

My first quiche ever! Yum 🙂 Used milk instead of cream and the filling included red peppers, bacon, onion, garlic, cheese, spinach – seasoned with salt/pepper and dash of nutmeg.

(Annoying little piece of spinach!)

We’ve also tried to cut back on our meat intake and eating more healthy. We’ve been quite successful at having meat only 2 times a week and eating more veggies, tofu, beans, nuts, etc!

Veggie curry

Mike made a buttercup squash pasta with pita garlic bread

Rice with salad and store bought veggie sausages – those sausages were not good! Would definitely try to make my own!

Lack of Cooking

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been cooking much recently. Reason? Eating lots of leftovers. I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking a lot of one thing and then having leftovers for days. In addition, we still have lots of cheese from the party last week so naturally, been eating a lot of crackers and bread with cheese for meals.

Yes, I know. Cheese is not that good for you. But I’m trying to be balanced! Lots of fruits and veggies throughout the day as well! It would be a shame to let all this good cheese go to waste.

Cheese I’ve been hooked on this past week: Edam. So subtle yet delicious, where have you been all my life?

Combinations I’m currently enjoying: Cheese and grapes

My dear friend Julia gave me this magnet before I came to Australia. It’s on our fridge and I try to abide by it everyday – it just doesn’t work.

Yummy curried eggs

Cinnamon & sugar buttery-crispy baguette

My mom makes these really delicious yummies we call ‘Rosette Cookies’  that look very similar to these:

I was craving them, like how I crave a lot of things from home, but didn’t have a rosette iron to make the proper shapes. 😦

My take on rosette cookies:

They may look odd, but I assure you they really tasted great!

Chocolate Truffle Balls

I’ve made these twice this year and both times people have loved them. They try to blame me for potential weight gain but believe it or not, they’re not THAT bad.

Some have been asking me for the recipe and if you’ve asked me for recipes before, I’m sure you were only disappointed. Mainly because all my recipes go something like this: “Oh, well I just go for it. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and see what works”

Well! I can do a little better this time! Sort of…

You will need:

  • Your favourite cookies
  • Anything you would like to add to the truffle filling: nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc
  • Cream cheese
  • Milk/dark chocolate for melting and coating the balls.
  • Sprinkles for decoration

Sorry but I’m very bad with amounts, mainly because I am never consistent and play cooking by ear.

  • Finely crush the cookies, the more you crush, the more balls you’ll make. One pack of TimTams (9 cookies) will make around 15-20.
  • Add in your additional fillings.
  • Melt the creamcheese in microwave, to more you put in, the silkier and rich your filling will be. For the past 2 batches I’ve made, I’ve used a little over ½ a 250g container for each pack of TimTams
  • Stir everything together until nice and smooth. It should naturally clump together but if the mixture is too liquid, put in the freezer for a few minutes before mixing again.
  • Measure out 1 tbsp balls, then roll them and put in freezer. You can make them bigger or smaller – up to you!
  • Break your chocolate into smaller pieces and melt them. Don’t overheat! Stir in peanut butter/flavour/nuts if you’d like
  • Take the balls out of the freezer. Using a fork, dip the balls into the chocolate and place on a plate lined with parchment paper or saran wrap. Sprinkle toppings!
  • Freeze or refrigerate until nice and hard!

Don’t be like me. Put more time into them and make them prettier! Haha