Spicy Cilantro Lime Chicken Soup

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Soup is good even in the summer. I saw a picture for a lime chicken soup recipe online and I didn’t even read the recipe, I just thought to myself “Yum! I will make something like this tonight.” I boiled chicken breast in some chicken stock and then shredded it once cooked. I added some jalepeno, cilantro, fresh lime juice, lime zest, black beans, and minced garlic. Once that simmered for about 30 min. I served and topped with avocado, sliced radishes, and fresh cilantro. This soup is so good and refreshing. I really like eating it lukewarm but it is also good cold. The flavors really mellow out the following day so if you like spicy, I would add a little more jalepeno than you think you need. Also, it’s a good idea to reserve some lime wedges to squeeze over leftover bowls.

Olive

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This is Olive and she is very special to me. Her mom found her in a box with her siblings next to a dumpster. The kittens were very young and didn’t even have their eyes open but Olive’s mom, a young college student, cared for them all and found them homes. I spoke with Olive’s mom on the phone many times to discuss her care when she was very little and having ups and downs. Olive’s mom was so appreciate for the free advice and she decided to start bringing her to our hospital despite a 20 mile drive. She has even brought her to one of our special events. Olive is a really cool cat and her mom is head over heels in love with her.

Maltipoo Puppy

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And what is her name you might ask? Feather… her name is freakin feather and it couldn’t be more perfect for her. Her name matches her personality.

Practice of the Year

Why have I been so busy lately? Well, I’m always busy working 40-50 hour weeks, regardless, but I decided that on top of all of the extra things I do besides tech/assistant work, that our hospital should apply for the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Practice of the Year title. If you haven’t heard of AAHA, it is our industry’s only independent accreditation organization and the hospital I work for is accredited. AAHA hospitals voluntarily undergo regular inspections and are evaluated in literally hundreds of standards. Ok so… Practice of the Year… very detailed, time-intensive application… 7 weeks… that’s how much time we had to complete the application when I learned more about this accolade and we decided to go for it… This is the start of week three. Some of the application consists of essay-type submissions that are answers to specific questions. I want to post something I wrote for the introduction section of the application because I think it does a great job of reflecting my love for this field and some of the reasons why I stay in it and continue to find ways to grow. In one part of the introduction section you are asked to describe why your hospital is unique in 500 words or less. Since I will end this post with what I wrote, I will just add that you can expect puppy and kitten posts to finish out this week. This week will be my warm and fuzzy feeling posting week. I need to remind myself of the warm and fuzzies considering I’m constantly feeling like a grade school student who didn’t finish her book report in time except my book report is fixing a recall on my car or getting wedding invitations together. So here it goes, this is why our hospital is unique in 490 words (ps. I tried reading this to the staff at an all-hands meeting last week and had to have one of the doctors finish reading it so that I didn’t start crying):

If you were to ask every staff member at our hospital what about it they are proud of, you will get a long, varied list of answers. We are proud of our AAHA accreditation and Cat Friendly Practice certification. We are proud of the level of medicine and care we provide. We are proud of our facilities, our community, and each other.

When you ask every staff member at our hospital what makes our hospital unique, each individual will generate a singular, compelling response: our team. The importance of a veterinary hospital’s team is tremendous. Every single staff member executes our standard for care and compassion, they are a beacon for our message and recommendations, they are patient advocates, and they are, in a great sense, the establishers of each other’s quality of life. With the tremendous amount of time and energy that individuals devote to our field, we must recover and recharge somehow. Luckily, we do this by leaning on each other.

We go to great lengths to ensure that we create and maintain a cohesive and supportive team unit. Our hiring process is extensive, consisting of a handful of interviews for each candidate and ending with a review form completed by every existing team member. Aside from initial training, all team members participate in a continued education topic at bi-monthly meetings and are allotted a yearly allowance for continued education. Team outings occur quarterly each year but often times occur informally much more often than that. In the past few years, we have had the pleasure of getting together to enjoy dinners, baseball games, bowling night, game night, and pot luck thanksgivings.

Our team is exceptional in so many ways. Our doctors have visited patients in critical care at referral specialty hospitals and made themselves uncommonly available to discuss patient care to the team, clients, and other professionals. Our team members regularly send out cards on their own accord to clients to acknowledge events in their lives and in their pet’s lives. Our staff turnover is very low and the average amount of time our staff has been employed here is over 6 years. Every member is positive and supportive of one another. Every member cares deeply about pets and their people.

We are fortunate to have leaders who understand the value of utilizing the unique skills of each individual and encouraging personal growth. We have had multiple entry level staff members who are on their way to become or have become successful RVTs and doctors of veterinary medicine. If we assigned additional informal titles to our current team members, the list of titles would include party planner, storm chaser, personal chef, pet sitter, professional organizer, pet nutrition enthusiast, botanist, dog agility and training specialist, and social media expert among many others. Our hospital is only as unique as the individuals realizing its existence each and every day and what a unique hospital we do, in fact, have.

Vesuvius Rigatoni

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I have not had a food crush like this in a while. I was watching a tv show about Italian street food and saw this dish and cooked it the next day. I even found a recipe for it online in Italian and translated it to English to find out what exactly was in this dish. I didn’t make the recommended sauces for it (in small part because I didn’t have tomatoes from the foothills of Mount Vesuvius) so I topped it with Julie’s Pasta Sauce. Also, they originally baked these at 300 degrees in aluminum tins lined with plastic wrap but I just used a 6-count nonstick muffin tin instead and it worked great. I’m still very unsure about the whole plastic-wrap-in-the-oven-thing. I tried researching the details about such a thing with inconclusive results. Ok, back to the fun part. To make this dish you will need to dice up a log of fresh mozzarella, mix together grean peas and ricotta cheese (I ended up using about 8 oz.), make mini meatballs (I made simple mini turkey meatballs by combining 1lb. lean ground turkey, one egg, breadcrumbs to texture, garlic powder, salt, and freshly ground black pepper), and boil large rigatoni pasta for 4 minutes. Trust the four minute cooking time and do not worry about stopping the cooking process of the pasta once drained. 4 minutes is perfect.

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Chipotle Apple Dipping Sauce

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Pork chops and apple sauce… not a huge fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love pork. I love breading and baking chops (pictured above), grilling chops, and grilling tenderloins. I super love slow cooking pork shoulder when it goes on sale. However, accompanying chops with applesauce doesn’t excite me in the least. I figured, though, that there has to be something worthwhile in the pairing for it to be considered the classic that it is.

I made a dipping sauce for breaded pork chops by combining about 1 and 1/2 cup of no added sugar applesauce, 2 diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. of molasses, 2 dashes of worcestershire sauce, and a dash of salt into a small saucepan and heating on a low heat until the mixture was bubbling and well combined. The sauce kicked ass and I would definitely make it again for the same purpose or for another, such as a topping on a burger. Even if you do not wish or have the means to create that exact sauce, just the simple addition of any amount of chipotle peppers to applesauce will be a tasty accompaniment to pork chops.

Side note, the pork chops were served with a very simple broccoli casserole. I caramelized some diced onion with a little bit of butter, added a small amount of water and chicken bullion, and carefully steamed chopped broccoli in the same saucepan. Once the broccoli was lightly steamed, I added a little more butter, a little bit of 2% milk, and a little cheddar. I thickened the liquid in the saucepan by adding some corn starch dissolved in a very small amount of cold milk and then brought it to a simmer before dumping the whole thing in a casserole dish. I topped the broccoli mixture with a light sprinkling of cheddar and with crushed cheddar goldfish crackers. If this sounds like a lot of work its really not… cheesy broccoli either baked or just with a light cheese sauce is one of my go-to craving replacements for macaroni or rich starches.

Baklava

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Baklava! Yay! I love eating baklava and I decided to finally make a version of it myself this past Saturday night. Before I go any further, I would just like to say that while I generally love spending hours in the kitchen, baklava stresses me the eff out. Picture this scene… I have just begun layering my phyllo dough and I realize I forgot to have a damp towel to cover the sheets of dough waiting to be brushed and layered and that I would greatly benefit from a second wax paper workspace… “GARRICK! I need a second workspace and towels stat.” (audible yet unintelligible reply from Gar) “What!? I need help fast!” (audible unzipping noise) “Can it wait? I’m in my new sleeping bag,” says Gar. “Get out of the sleeping bag. I need your help. I don’t know why the hell your in your sleeping bag anyways.” “You don’t want to try out your new sleeping bag?” replies Gar in a surprised tone as he walks into the kitchen. In hindsight, in less than the time it took me to get his ass in the kitchen I could have washed my hands, made some damp paper towels, and gotten out some wax paper to create another area for me to lay phyllo dough on. They say hindsight is 20/20. By the way, bless Gar for trying out one of the new sleeping bags we got for camping almost immediately after coming home from work and then sleeping in it that night. How could I not love the shit out of him?

Back to Baklava, if you have never worked with Phyllo dough then read the directions on the box. It dries out quickly and each sheet needs to be brushed individually with oil or butter or margarine. I use a 50/50 unsalted butter and olive oil mix. I have read and seen different ways of brushing sheets quickly but I have not managed to execute these effectively. I find that I can brush it out relatively quickly by doing one sheet at a time. I brush one side of a sheet, flip it over on top of the stack, and brush the other side. I also use my fingers along with the brush in order to do all of this more quickly. When I move the top sheet that is brushed, I cover the stack completely with damp paper towels, sometimes beginning to brush the top as I’m covering.

First, I combined a 5.5 oz package of chopped walnuts and a 5.5 oz package of sliced almonds with about a tsp. of cinnamon and about 1/3 cup of panko breadcrumb for the nut layers. I chose to use almonds simply for the protein but I ended up loving the addition in both flavor and texture. I thought the sliced almonds would be a nice textural contrast to the walnuts. Next, I began layering the baklava in and 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish, reserving a small amount of the nut mixture for topping after it was baked and the syrup was applied. The layers were as follows: 4 sheets phyllo, 1/3 of nut mixture, 1 sheet phyllo, 1/3 nut mixture, 1 sheet phyllo, 1/3 of nut mixture, and 4 sheets phyllo. Before baking in a 350 degree oven for about one hour (or until golden), I cut into the baklava lengthwise and widthwise to make rectangular strips. In the meantime, I made a syrup by combining 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup honey, and about 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture was well combined an bubbling. I think that the amounts of sugar and honey one uses should really depend on your taste and how sweet you want this to turn out or how much you want to taste the honey. You just want your syrup to cover the top and surround the edges of all the pieces. Once the baklava came out of the oven, I poured the syrup over it and making sure I got it in all of the cuts and let it refrigerate overnight.

In conclusion, was the baklava worth the stress of making it? Absolutely. I even had a friend ask to pay me for another batch… very flattering.