Pressure Cooker Pho – all the flavor, (next to) none of the time commitment

That’s me sending up smoke signals.

I’m still here.

I promise.

Just been a little busy…

There are said to be 4 stages of competency:
1. Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know that you don’t know
2. Conscious incompetence – you start to realize just how much you don’t know
3. Conscious competence – the light bulb has turned on…maybe you are actually starting to “know” things!
4. Unconscious competence – you open your mouth and some how the right words come out
I’m now 1 year and 3 months into my second year of residency (my “re-turn” year that is), and I’m still struggling to figure out where I fall in that scale.
I walk into the hospital every morning, we start rounds, and for about 5 minutes I feel like I’m at stage 3…then a patient (or patient’s family member) asks me a question, and suddenly I’m slammed back to reality – the reality that I’m still sitting at stage 2.
This is actually a huge improvement compared to where I was a little over a year ago. I’m finally starting to realize that I’ve spent the last 26+ years living at stage 1 (at least with regards to medical knowledge). But stage 1 is nice. Blissful ignorance!
I’m starting to realize just how dangerous the title of “doctor” can be. By wearing that title, it suggests that I can fix things (or at least have the knowledge to fix things). But what if I don’t? What if I am a doctor in name only? That’s what it feels like to be a resident. It feels like I’m walking around playing dress up. The white coat says my name, but do I really have the knowledge to wear it? Unfortunately, patients only see the white coat. They don’t see my sweaty palms when I walk into the OR, or see me frantically pouring out anatomy texts the night before. When I state my title, they assume I’m at stage 4 (or at the very least stage 3). Thankfully, I stand on the shoulders of those who are much further along in their competencies, and they’re willing to help me progress through the stages. This includes my fellow interns, juniors, seniors, fellows, attendings…the whole surgical heirarchy. I’m incredibly lucky to be in a training program that puts such emphasis on surgical education. Though I currently feel like I’m stuck at stage 2, I feel confident that I will be make the necessary progression through the remaining stages over the next 6+ years of training.
This recipe has little to do with that intro, except for acknowledging those in the years ahead of me. I’ve found an amazing group of friends and colleagues in my co-residents. We share more than our masocistic love of surgery…particularly when it comes to food.
Pho (Pronouced ph-uh, not with a long o) is one of my absolute favorite foods. It was introduced to me by my old roommate who’s mother would make large vats of the heavenly broth, freeze it, then deliver it to our Cleveland apartment. It’s the perfect comfort food. Only problem is it’s notorious for being an incredibly time consuming undertaking…one that the average resident doesn’t really have the free time to commit to. Or at least not if they try to take the traditional approach. Lucky for me, I have a co-resident who shares both my love for pho and my lack of free time…plus he has just about every cooking toy known to man. A while ago, the stars aligned and we had the same day off – the perfect opportunity to take a stab about pressure cooker pho.


  • 2 1/2 lb beef shank
  • 2 lb ox tail
  • 1/2 lb tendon
  • 2 yellow onions, cut in half
  • Fresh ginger, about 4-5 inches, thickly sliced
  • 12 stars of anis
  • 2 tbs coriander
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 3-4 sticks cinnamon
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 0.3 lb palm sugar (about 3 inches)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (+/- a little more depending on your love of fish sauce)
  • 1-2 lbs dried pho noodles (banh pho noodles)
  • 1 lb raw round or sirloin steak, thinly sliced (easiest to slice if chilled in the freezer for 15 min before slicing)
  • Garnishes – cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, thinly sliced sweet onions, jalapeños, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, sriracha…oh so much sriracha
  1. Begin by parboiling the bones  – add beef shank, ox tail and tendon to a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 3-5 minutes (a foam will rise to the top of the water during this time). Drain the bones/meat and discard the water.
  2. In a large skillet, use a blow torch to char the beef shank, ox tail, tendon, onion and ginger. If you don’t have a blow torch lying around, alternatively, you can line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and broil the onions and ginger for 10-15 min until charred on all sides. The meat can be seared in a frying pan until brown.
  3. In a frying pan, toast the anis, coriander, peppercorn, cinnamon and cloves on low heat until fragrant (about 5 minutes).
  4. Place the bones/meat in a large pressure cooker. Add the onions, ginger, spices, and palm sugar. Cover the contents of the pressure cooker with water or up to the fill line (minimum of 4 quarts). Secure the top of the pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 75 minutes (plus extra time to release the pressure). Be sure to read the instructions for your particular pressure cooker as this can vary depending on system.
  5. Once safe to open, strain the fat using a fine mesh, ladle, or a fat separator (this thing is awesome!!). Discard the onion, ginger and spices. Using two forks, shred the meat off the bones and set aside. You can keep or discard the tendon depending on whether or not you like it.
  6. Add the fish sauce to the strained broth. Taste and add additional if needed, then set aside.
  7. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package (or this way).
  8. Now the best part – assembly of the bowls. In a large empty bowl, add cooked rice noodles and raw, thinly sliced steak. Pour the just-simmering hot broth into the bowl. The broth will cook the meat. Add some of the shredded meat from step 5. Garnish with whatever you like. My personal favorites are – basil, bean sprouts, lime juice, jalapeño and sriracha.
Posted in Non-Vegetarian, Soup | 1 Comment

Shrimp and Snow Pea Pasta with Cilantro Lime Sauce

This recipe needs no introduction. It is a family favorite that’s made for any and all get-togethers. It’s also one that can guarantee a visit from my sister if she catches wind of dinner plans featuring this delectable entrée.

Ingredients (makes 12-16 servings):

  • 2 lbs Rotini
  • 2 lbs. cooked shrimp
  • 2 8  oz cans of water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 lb. (or more) sugar snap peas (fresh or thawed from frozen)
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 1/3 cups lime juice – about 10 medium sized limes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. Mexican seasoning (store bought or homemade)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed Red Pepper, per taste
  1. Whisk together 2 cups of the lime juice, 3/4 cup olive oil, soy sauce, cilantro, green onions and Mexican seasoning till well blended, then set aside.
  2. Sauté the minced garlic with 1/4 tsp red pepper in about 1/4 cup olive oil. Pour most but not all the oil over the shrimp, add 1/3 cup lime juice, toss and set aside.
  3. Trim the  peas into about 3/4 inch pieces. In the same sauté pan, add about 4 Tbs. water and cook the snow peas 1 minute covered, then 2 minutes, stirring. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Grill the shrimp till slightly browned.
  5. Cook the pasta then drain.
  6. Combine the pasta, shrimp, snow peas, and water chestnuts. Add sauce to taste.
  7. For the record, this pasta tastes better and better the longer it sits in the sauce. As much as we dig in the moment after everything is done, it’s really the left overs we all crave. 

Posted in Pasta, Seafood | 1 Comment

Grilled Peaches

It’s easy to fall into the “woe is me” mindset when you spend the vast majority of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours in the hospital, and as the daylight hours become shorter, I have no doubt I’ll find myself sinking into this trap more and more. We work long hours. We sacrifice time spent with loved ones to focus our energy one someone else’s loved ones. We miss out on food, sleep, and normal human interaction. We force our brains to choke down textbook chapter after textbook chapter, then chastise ourselves when we make the smallest mistake during a pimping session…With all these complaints, you’d thinking someone was forcing me to be here. But that’s just it, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t realize, deep down, that there is nothing I’d rather spend my time doing. So allow me a few moments to take stock of my situation (the situation of all interns) and remind me (us) of a few things I (we) have to be grateful for.
1. We are healthy. We are not the ones lying in the bed being poked and prodded for the 10th time today by the intern who “just wants to make sure everything is okay” meanwhile watching the same infomercial they saw every hour on the hour for the past 5 days.
2. We are employed. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the luxury of saying that.
3. We chose to do this. Choice is a wonderful gift. Remember, if you wake up tomorrow and decide this isn’t the life you want, that’s okay! No one is forcing you to be here.
4. Somehow we are lucky enough to have loved ones who are willing to stick this out with us. They don’t gripe when we forget to call because they realize we probably fell asleep the moment we walked in the front door. Remember to thank them (thanks guys – you know who you are).
5. We have the coolest jobs in the world. Our patients have deemed us worthy of taking their lives into our hands (both literally and figuratively). If someone were to hear me describe my day to day, and have no idea I was training to be a surgeon, there’s a pretty good chance they’d arrest me on the spot (I’ve been told society looks down on cutting people open). And though we all encounter those “difficult patients” from time to time, the vast majority are grateful for their interactions with us (and for those who aren’t, try to put yourself in their shoes…the hospital is a scary place).
I don’t pretend that I wake up every morning with a giant grin on my face, ready to take on the day. No. I’m just like every other human being who groans when they hear their alarm, and like every other intern who walks into the hospital praying to Netter that I won’t get called on during morning conference, but hey…deep down I realize how lucky I am. Life is good.


  • Peaches
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Brown sugar
  • Basil or Mint
  1. Cute the peaches in half and remove the pit.
  2. Drizzle the cut faces of the peaches with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with brown sugar. Let sit for as long as you’re willing to wait (I lasted about 5 minutes).
  3. Grill face down for 5-10 minutes then flip over and grill the uncut side of the peach for another 5 minutes. The peaches are done with soft all the way through. 
  4. Top with basil or mint  and eat as-is or with scoop of ice cream. 
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chex Mix and Puppy Chow

Hi Friends. It’s been a while.
We’re now just under 2 months into the ever-terrifying intern year. And while this may be stating the obvious (as evidenced by our lack of posts), life has been busy. Here are some of the big updates since my last post:
1. I am officially a surgeon-in-training (I’ll write a post soon explaining exactly what that means).
2. Michael (the fiancé) and I bought a house. It feels incredibly adult to say that. So adult, in fact, that I feel like I’m kidding myself into thinking I’m mature enough for the responsibility of homeowner-ship. This was especially obvious as I tried to get over the sticker shock after seeing the bill for a 10 minute furnace repair job.
3. In spite of having owned our house for over a month, our garage is still nonfunctioning as it is currently full of unpacked boxes.
4. I’m afraid of my kitchen. Weird statement, right? Well when I first began cooking for myself it was out of necessity…no one else was going to put food in my mouth. Initially I was overwhelmed by all that went into preparing a meal. Over time, I learned to love the process, but I appear to have regressed. Now, you might be asking yourself, well if you’re not coking, how are you eating? (In truth, none of you were probably thinking that, but I needed some kind of lead in) Well I have recently discovered the beauty of “call money.” Michigan spoils us with a monthly allowance that can only be spent at the cafeteria. I’ve NEVER been the person to spend my money on hospital food. I was a religious brown-bag-luncher…until now. I mean, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Now I walk into the cafeteria like a rich kid in a food court. No more brown bags for this girl! And what that translates to is less cooking (Actually this is all an excuse…I’ve been avoiding cooking because if I’m cooking then I don’t have an excuse for not posting on BA. It’s all just a copout.).
5. Okay I know that  most of you have already stopped reading and jumped down to the recipe, but for those of you who stuck it out, this is the last point. I promise. It will even tie into the recipe! In an attempt to expedite the move in process, I scheduled my first vacation week in early August, and my best friend (Angela) was generous enough to spend that time with me painting, building furniture, cleaning, watching mindless reality TV and teaching me to make snacks that smell strikingly like high school. Phew. Done. Now go and enjoy.

Puppy Chow

  • 1/2 stick butter (4 tbs)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • about 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 bag of rice chex (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 bag of corn chex (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • a lot of powdered sugar (about 1 cup?)
  1. In a microwaveable bowl, combine the butter, chocolate chips and peanut butter.
  2. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate chips are melted.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the chex, then pour in the chocolate peanut butter mix. Stir until the chex are evenly coated.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup powdered sugar into a gallon ziplock bag, add the chex mixture, then top with another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Close the bag and shake until the sugar is evenly distributed (you may need a little extra).
Chex Mix
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs worcestershire
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 9 cups assorted chex (rice, corn and wheat)
  1. Melt butter and mix in the worcestershire and spices.
  2. In a separate (microwave safe) bowl, combine the chex and pour in the butter and spice mix. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Microwave the mixture for 2 min, stir, then microwave for another 3 min. 
  4. LET COOL (says Angela)!! You WILL burn your tongue if you do not heed Angela’s warming.
Posted in Dessert, Snacks, Vegetarian | Leave a comment