Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Sweet Potato Casserole January 6, 2010

Filed under: side dish,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 2:08 pm
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I know, I know – it’s been a while.  I hope everyone’s Christmas and New Years were spectacular and spent with lots of friends and family.  Mine definitely were.  I’ve been home at my parents’ house for the past two and a half weeks and it has been amazing.  Especially after such a stressful and ridiculous exam week.  But I survived and now I’m gearing up for another semester.  We’ll be taking the hardest class in all of pharmacy school this semester, and I’m really hoping that it won’t take out all of my precious free time, but I’m thinking it just might.  I will try my best to keep cooking and posting though!

They say that your taste buds are recycled and replaced with new ones about every 7 years, and with this replacement your tastes can sometimes change as well.  I’m sure we all can think of foods that we once loved but now can’t stand, or vice versa.  One of these for me is sweet potatoes.  I never used to like them – I wouldn’t touch them whenever my parents made them (mainly at Thanksgiving and Christmas), even though I had no problem picking off the gooey toasted marshmallows from the top of them!  This year though, I found a really promising recipe for a sweet potato casserole that I wanted to try.  I figured if I didn’t like it, I was pretty sure that the rest of my family would.  Surprisingly enough though, I couldn’t get enough of it, and not just the marshmallows on top this time!  I think the combination of brown sugar, honey and cinnamon really helped with that.  Those three ingredients are high on my list of favorite things, so they’re bound to make even the lame sweet potato taste good.

I’ve made this a couple of times since then, and I have one word of advice: do NOT microwave the sweet potato to cook it.  I know, it’s so much easier and takes less time than baking it in the oven, but the one time I tried to microwave it, it was a disaster.  Instead of getting the creamy, fragrant sweet potato mixture, I got a sticky, gummy glob of grossness.  It was disgusting.  I’ve always been a little suspicious of the idea of baking a potato in the microwave, and now I’ve been proven correct.  So take the little bit of extra time and bake the sweet potatoes in the oven.  I promise, it’s worth it!

I’ve given a range on most of the amounts in this recipe because it should really be made the suit the tastes of those who are eating it.  For example, I like lots of brown sugar and honey in mine, but my parents like to rely more on the natural sweetness of the sweet potato, and use a lot less.  I would start out at the minimum amount and keep adding more until it tastes right to you.  There are also a lot of other things you could add in to add a nice crunch and some extra flavor.  I like to keep mine plain, but I’ve added toasted pecans, raisins and apples to it before and that’s been pretty tasty, too.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Makes: 4 servings

2 large sweet potatoes

1/4 – 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tbsp – 1/4 c. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. mini marshmallows

Optional add-ins: toasted pecans, chopped apples, raisins

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  It would be best if the cookie sheet had sides, like a jelly-roll pan.

2) Place the sweet potatoes on the cookie sheet and prick a few times with a fork.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until very soft (a knife will go easily through the potato when done.)

3) Trim the ends of each potato and peel the skin off.  Mash the potatoes in a large bowl until smooth.  Add in the brown sugar, honey, cinnamon and vanilla, mixing well.  If the mixture is too thick, add a few drops of milk until the desired consistency is reached.

4) Spoon the sweet potato mixture into a greased baking dish and spread evenly.  Top with the marshmallows.

5) Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until potato mixture is warmed through and marshmallows are browned, about 15-20 minutes.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing November 19, 2009

Filed under: bread,breakfast — pharmfresh @ 10:38 pm
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Wow, I’m already up to four posts so far this month!  I’m pretty proud of myself.  I think it’s because these last few weeks have been really stressful, and when I get stressed I cook.  Usually something involving chocolate.  This time I was working on studying for a pharmacokinetics exam, but was having trouble sitting still and concentrating for any great length of time.  This recipe actually worked out perfectly for that, because it has lots of wait time.  So I could work on it for a few minutes, then study while the dough rose, take a break and do the next step, and then study while I was waiting through the next rise period and baking.  Not only did I get some super cinnamon rolls out of it, but I think I did pretty well on the exam, too!

These turned out really well.  I don’t usually make cinnamon rolls because they’re pretty labor-intensive, but this recipe wasn’t actually too bad.  Like I mentioned before, there’s definitely a bit of wait time involved, but if you’ve got a whole afternoon to yourself and something to occupy you while you’re waiting, it works out perfectly.  I really like the caramel icing on these.  Usually I go for a cream cheese icing for my cinnamon rolls, but this was surprisingly different and delicious and went really well with the pumpkin flavor.  These would be perfect for breakfast on Thanksgiving or Christmas day!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing

Adapted from: Recipe Girl

Makes: 12 rolls

For the rolls:

1/3 c. milk

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. canned pumpkin

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 package rapid rise yeast

2 c. all-purpose flour

Pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)

For the filling:

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. melted butter

For the caramel icing:

1/4 c. (4 tbsp.) butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/2 – 3/4 c. powdered sugar

1) In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk until warm, but not boiling, stirring constantly.  Set aside.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar and salt.  Add milk mixture and stir until smooth and well-mixed.  Beat in the egg and yeast.

3) Add 1 cup of flour to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes on low speed.  Add the remaining flour and optional spices and mix well.  The dough should be very soft.

4) Transfer the dough into a greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

5)  After dough has risen, punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured surface.  Knead 4-5 times to form a smooth dough, adding only enough extra flour to make the dough manageable.

6) On a well floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12×10 inch rectangle.

7) In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling.  Brush the dough rectangle with the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over it.

8) Beginning with one of the long sides of the dough, roll up jelly-roll style and pinch the seam to seal.  With a sharp knife, cut the roll into twelve 1-inch slices.  Place rolls cut side up in a greased 9 inch square baking pan.

9) Bake rolls at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

10)  For the icing, melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and milk and mix until smooth.  Cook over medium-low heat for one minute, then take off the heat and stir in vanilla, salt and powdered sugar.  If necessary, add more powdered sugar to reach the desired consistency.

11) Drizzle icing over rolls.


Turkey Tenderloins with Bacon Shallot Sauce November 17, 2009

Filed under: main dish,pork,turkey — pharmfresh @ 4:50 pm
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I’ve come a long way from when I first started cooking.  I used to be so afraid to deviate from a recipe because I didn’t want to mess it up.  I would check and double check my measurements, and not even change the amount of salt and pepper the recipe called for.  And don’t even get me started on what happened when the recipe didn’t give exact amounts of salt and pepper!  I’m proud to say now that unless I’m baking something very finicky, I pretty much throw caution to the wind and tweak almost every recipe I try to fit my tastes.  This recipe is by far my most successful tweak yet!

If you saw the original recipe that I based this off of, you probably would barely be able to tell that it’s the same thing.  The general method is still the same, but I changed quite a few steps and ingredients to fit my tastes better.  To begin with, the original recipe was supposed to have a thinner sauce with sage and pancetta, but I really think it tastes better with bacon and shallots.  But really, what doesn’t taste better with the addition of a little bacon?

This is a little more time-consuming than your average weeknight meal, but it’s definitely not impossible.  I actually make this quite often on weekdays – after you get the general method and steps down, it’ll probably take you about 30-40 minutes to prepare.  I like to cut the turkey tenderloins crosswise into about 1 inch thick medallions so that they cook faster, and are easier to cut and eat at the end.  The sauce for this is phenomenal – I love the combination of the salty bacon and chicken broth with the sweet and fruity white wine.  Reducing them all together creates a really deep and savory flavor combination.  The more you reduce the sauce, the saltier it gets, so I would recommend using reduced sodium chicken broth and unsalted butter, then adding a little salt at the very end if needed.

Turkey Tenderloins with Bacon Shallot Sauce

Adapted from: Cooking Light

Makes: 4 servings

1 pkg. (about 1 lb.) turkey tenderloins

2 tbsp. olive oil

8 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into medium-sized pieces

2 shallots, finely chopped

3/4 c. white wine

1/2 c. chicken broth

3 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Rice, for serving (if desired)

1) If desired, cut turkey tenderloins crosswise into 1 inch thick medallions.  Sprinkle with pepper only.  (Remember, the sauce itself is going to be really salty, so we don’t want to add any extra salt until the very end).

2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Place the tenderloin medallions in the pan and let cook without touching for about 1 minute, or until nicely golden on that side.  Flip over and cook until completely cooked through, about 2-3 more minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside, covering with foil to keep warm.

3) In the same pan the turkey was cooked in and still over medium heat, add the bacon and cook, stirring constantly, until crisp, but not burned.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.  Keep 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan; discard the rest.

4) Reheat bacon grease over medium-low heat until hot (still in the same pan that we started with) and then add shallots.  Saute until softened, about 2 minutes.

5) Carefully add the wine to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/4 cup.

6) Add the chicken broth to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup.

7) Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and most of the bacon (reserving a little bit for garnishing) and stir until the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened slightly.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

8) Place the turkey medallions on a plate and spoon the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining bacon pieces.  Serve with rice, if desired.


Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting November 9, 2009

Filed under: cake,dessert,fruit,sauces etc. — pharmfresh @ 4:02 pm
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I know I’ve professed my love for banana flavored baked goods before, but let me reiterate: I love them!  I think it has to do with the fact that I have so many happy memories of my Nana Dee and her famous banana muffins and banana bread.  Banana bread and banana cake have always been really homey foods to me, and I find them incredibly comforting.  I happened to have some over-ripe bananas attracting fruit flies in my kitchen, so I decided to branch out from the usual banana bread and go for banana cake.

The recipe will make either one 9×13 inch sheet cake or two 8 or 9 inch round cakes.  I like to go with the sheet cake because it’s simpler.  The vanilla bean is completely optional in the frosting, but I think it gives this otherwise very simple, no-frills cake a little bit of fanciness.  Oh, and it tastes good, too.


Banana Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting


Makes: 1 (9×13 inch) sheet cake or 2 (8 or 9 inch) round cakes


Adapted from: my Nana Dee


For the cake:
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
4 tbsp. milk
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)


For the frosting:
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese (reduced fat is fine, I wouldn’t use fat-free)
1/2 c. (8 tbsp.) butter, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2) In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until combined.  Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.

3) Mix in the bananas, vanilla and milk.

4) Stir in the flour, baking soda, walnuts and cinnamon (if using), mixing until smooth.

5) Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan or divide into two greased 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.

6) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown.  Cool completely before frosting.

7) For the frosting: In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.  Add the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds and powdered sugar and mix until smooth and fluffy.  If the frosting is too thick, add enough milk to reach the desired consistency.  Frost cake.


Marinated Drumsticks November 5, 2009

Filed under: chicken,main dish — pharmfresh @ 9:38 pm
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I’m back!  I know, I was doing so good with posting and then I disappeared for a whole MONTH!  And trust me, it’s been a ridiculously busy month! I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that I will probably never be able to update this on a regular basis.  It’s unfortunate, I know, but my schedule is just way too variable depending on how many exams and other activities I have each week.  But don’t worry, I’ll definitely still keep posting recipes!  And now that we’re getting into the holiday season, I will for sure be cooking (and hopefully posting) more often.

It’s starting to get cold here, and I finally broke down about a week ago and turned my heater on.  For some reason, I hate doing that.  Not because I’m worried about increasing my utility bills or anything, but because that it means we’re in the inevitable downward slope towards snow.  Ugh, I hate snow.  I’m hoping it’ll hold off until at least after Thanksgiving.  A girl can dream, right?

As I’m sure is true with just about everyone, the cold weather makes me want to cook more often.  A lot of times during the summer I’ll just throw together a salad or a quick pasta salad for dinner, but now I’m craving warm, comforting food.  I decided to experiment a little bit with a cut of meat I don’t usually eat very often – the drumstick!  I’m really more of a boneless chicken breast girl, but I’m really glad I tried this recipe.  It’s super easy to make – just throw together the marinade in a plastic zip-top bag, toss the chicken in and let it sit for a few hours or up to a day, and then cook!  I really like the combination of garlic and honey in the marinade – the sweetness of the honey curbs the bite of the raw garlic and the extra bit of sugar helps the chicken caramelize really nicely in the oven.

Feel free to play around with the marinade and make it the way you like it.  I think next time I’m going to try leaving out the soy sauce entirely and adding in a few tablespoons of chopped chives.


Marinated Drumsticks

Adapted from: SimplyRecipes

Makes: 6-8 drumsticks

8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 c. olive or canola oil

1 tsp. salt (more or less, to taste)

1 tsp. pepper

6-8 chicken drumsticks

1) Combine all ingredients except drumsticks in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Seal the bag and squeeze it until all the ingredients are mixed well together.

2) Open the bag and add the drumsticks, squeezing the bag again until they are all well coated.  Place bag in a large mixing bowl (just in case it leaks!) and put in the refrigerator.  Let the chicken marinate for at least an hour, or up to one full day.

3) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

4) Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Remove the drumsticks from the bag of marinade and place on the baking sheet.  Discard remaining marinade.

5) Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the outside is golden brown.


Moist Pumpkin Bread September 15, 2009

Filed under: bread,dessert,fruit,snacks — pharmfresh @ 3:57 pm
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I don’t know about everywhere else in the world, but for the past few weeks here, it has been HOT. Like, mid to high 80’s. I know that sounds really wimpy, but hey, it’s Michigan! And northern Michigan, at that! We had a really mild summer here, so for it to get this warm while I’m already back in school is really weird. I am definitely more of a fall girl. I love the cooling temperatures, the turning leaves, bringing out the sweatshirts and jeans and most especially, fall foods.

We’ve made this bread every single year around Thanksgiving and Christmas time for years. It’s one of my most favorite fall treats. It’s very easy to make, uses mostly ingredients you probably already have on hand, and it makes the entire house smell fabulously autumnal while baking. You can’t get any better than that!

Feel free to play around with the amount of spices in the recipe.  The original recipe called for only a teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves, but I found that it wasn’t spicy enough for me.  I like to add a little bit of nutmeg, ginger and allspice as well.  Play around with it a little and if it doesn’t have enough flavor the first time, try putting in more next time!


Moist Pumpkin Bread

Makes: 2 loaves

Source: my mom!

2/3 c. shortening

2 c. granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. pumpkin puree

2/3 c. water

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground allspice (optional)

3 1/3 c. flour

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans.

2) In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until combined.

3) Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

4) Stir in water and pumpkin puree, then add baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  Mix until completely combined.

5) Stir in flour, mixing until smooth.

6) Bake for one hour, until a knife inserted in the middle of the loaves comes out clean.


Pot Stickers September 1, 2009

Filed under: main dish,pork — pharmfresh @ 4:26 pm
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Over the summer I worked as an intern at a Walmart pharmacy.  It was by and far one of the best jobs I’ve had, mainly because of my coworkers.  The two pharmacists I worked with were both super nice and supportive, and all the pharmacy techs were really fun.  We had a bunch of fun working together, and I miss them all!  I really liked that I was able to make friends with all of my coworkers – usually you just try to get by and stay away from the ones that you really don’t like, but I didn’t have to do that here.  On my last day working there, they even had a potluck for me!  Our pharmacy closes for 30 minutes every day so the pharmacist can eat lunch, so everyone brought a dish to pass and we had a mini party during the lunch break.  There was some amazing food at that potluck, and very diverse food too!  Both pharmacists, Anuya and Manisha, are from India so I got to try some real, authentic Indian food and one of the pharmacy techs, Tomoko, is from Japan and she brought these pot stickers.

I’ve always wanted to try branching out and cooking some more Chinese/Japanese food, but I feel like I just don’t know enough about the ingredients and the cooking methods to do it successfully.  There are so many different ingredients that I don’t use on an everyday basis or have never used at all, so when I see them in a recipe I have no idea how they will taste or work with everything else in the recipe.  So when I ate these at our potluck and realized how delicious they were, I knew I had to have the recipe!

This recipe makes a TON (probably over 100) pot stickers, so if you’re not sure if you’re going to love them, I’d definitely recommend halving the recipe and then deciding if you want to make more after you taste one. The good news is that the uncooked pot stickers freeze very well, and cook up without any change in the consistency.  Just make sure they’re completely thawed before you cook them.

These are a little bit time consuming, but the taste totally makes up for it.  Filling the pot stickers takes the most time, but as soon as you get used to the process it goes a little bit quicker.    Also, the recipe calls for round wonton wrappers, but I could only find square ones and then proceeded to cut each one into a circular shape.  Huge waste of time!  Next time, I’ll keep them square and just make rectangular shaped dumplings.

One last tip:  make sure and use a nonstick pan for this.  If you don’t, they will definitely live up to their name and completely cement themselves to the bottom of your pan.  Trust me, I know this from experience.

I was able to find the sesame oil and miso paste in the ethnic foods aisle in my grocery store, but I couldn’t find sake anywhere, so I just left it out.  I couldn’t really tell a difference in taste between the ones I made (without the sake) and the ones that Tomoko made (with the sake), so if you can’t find it, it won’t make much difference if you leave it out.  Tomoko did say that though the miso paste might be kind of hard to find, it makes a big difference in taste, so don’t leave it out unless you absolutely can’t find it.  The same goes for the sesame oil. And definitely don’t skip the dipping sauce – it only has two ingredients in it (both of which you’re very likely to already have on hand) and it makes a HUGE difference in the overall taste.


Potstickers (also known as Gyoza)

Source: Tomoko DeKilder

Makes: a lot! (Probably around 100)

2 pkgs. wonton or Gyoza wraps

1 lb. ground pork

1/2 green cabbage

2 bunches green onions or scallions, finely chopped

2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

2 tbsp. sake

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. miso (soy) paste

salt and pepper, to taste

1-2 tsp. olive oil

1/4 – 1/2 c. water

Dipping Sauce

Equal parts soy sauce and white vinear

(for just me, I do 2 tbsp. of each – for a crowd, I’ll usually 1/4 cup of each)

1) Boil the cabbage whole for 3-5 minutes.  Drain and let sit until it is cool enough to handle.  Roughly chop.

2) Lay a clean, dry kitchen towel out on the counter.  Place half of the chopped cabbage in the middle of the towel, and pull up each side  and gather at the top to form a little bundle.  Squeeze and twist to extract as much water as possible.  Repeat with the remaining chopped cabbage.

3) Combine all pot sticker ingredients except the wonton wrappers, water and olive oil in a large bowl.

4) To form the dumplings, place one wonton wrapper on the counter.  Place about 1 teaspoon of filling into the middle of the wrapper.  Brush a little bit of water around the edges of half of the wrapper.  Bring the dry edges of the wrapper up to meet the wet edges and press to seal.  The dumplings should sit with the crimped edges at the top.  At this point, the pot stickers can be cooked or frozen for later use.

5) Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the pot stickers in the pan.  They should sit straight up with the sealed edges at the top.  Cook 1-2 minutes, until the bottoms are nicely browned.

6) Add the water to the pan and cover.  (The size of your pan will determine the amount of water you use – there should be about an inch of water in the pan)

7) Cook, covered, for 5-7 minutes until the wrappers become translucent and slightly wrinkly.  Remove the lid from the pan and cook until all of the water has evaporated and the bottoms have re-crisped a bit, about 3-5 minutes more.

8) For the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce and vinegar and place in a small bowl.  Serve beside the pot stickers.