Spice is nice

Before an update on the adventures of my senior year in nursing school, I owe a few recipes - here's one for the vegetable enthusiast! It's a spicy southwestern vegetable stew, with roasted pepper salsa, diced avocado and organic blue corn tortilla chips. Isn't she pretty?

Alexa's Spicy Vegetable Stew
- 1 (large) can of organic diced stewed tomatoes - if you only have small, or need more liquid + > 1 cup of vegetable stock
- 1 can of chick peas (you can use dried, cook before adding)
- 1 garlic clove diced
- 1 1/2 tbs. of olive oil
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow squash, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 jar of roasted red peppers, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 3 tsps (=1 tBs.) of cumin - > 1 1/2 tsp added to vegetables, another 1 1/2 tsp added to liquid
- 3 TBS. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne (spicy!)
- salt & pepper to taste
* substitute with whatever you have on hand

- > Saute med-low heat: 1) olive oil with garlic (to infuse) 2) green bell pepper 3) yellow onion. When everything is in, saute for 3-5 minutes, stirring. These veggies take longer to cook, which is why I add them first. When onions begin to soften, add the diced squash, zucchini and 1 1/2 tsp. cumin (turn down heat). Add roasted red peppers. --- Then add the tomatoes, (and vegetable stock if using), and rest of spices. Cook 5 minutes. Add chickpeas and let simmer 25-30 minutes over medium heat, or until vegetables are soft and delicious.

Roasted Red Pepper Salsa
In a mixing bowel, combine:
- 1 small tomato diced (or 1/4 cup of diced canned)
- 5 cloves of garlic diced small (good for the heart!)
- 1 zucchini diced small
- 1 jar of roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1-2 jalapenos (with or w/o seeds. seeds = spice) diced small
- 1/2 onion, diced small
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- a dash (or two, or three...) of cayenne
- salt&pepper to taste
-- > this salsa is even better day 2, so try and make ahead of time.

Serve vegetable stew with a few blue corn tortilla chips sprinkled on top, and a heaping spoonful of roasted red pepper salsa. YUM!


Well, the four days spent in Italy were fantastic! We swam in the Mediterannean *never thought I'd say that*, went snorkling, there were fresh figs in arms reach *I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming*, wonderful seafood, gelato, foccacia, espresso, and exploration..... I could have stayed and continued this gluteny indefinitely and lived a wonderful life of sin. Saturday came, our day to head off on our adventure, map in hand.... but we started off on the wrong foot, with a missed boat to Montorosso, the day continued to reveal that our plan was not fool proof. Turns out we had decided to backpack down the Cinqua Terre on the wrong week - the Italian National Holiday. The Cinqua Terre is on the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region including five breathtaking villages, mountains dropping off into the sea, we had planned to set up camp at a hotel or hostel and do the backpacking during the day. After visiting every hotel, inn, and hostel in Montorosso (I'm being dramatic - there aren't THAT many, but still, it was really hot) we threw up our hands, ordered a few drinks and decided we would train it back to Switzerland, in a few hours.....


Gruetzi! Bonjour! Cioa!

I AM IN SWITZERLAND! And eating as much Gruyere and yogoz as is humanly possible! Glorious!

Despite having my gums cut open for the third time due to a second post-op infection after my wisdom tooth extraction - I looked less than ideal upon arrival. It looked as if I had a tennis ball in my cheek - they couldn't be "conservative" with the cutting because I was leaving the country and they needed to be sure they got "everything". It was mortifying and frustrating, after spending weeks in and out of the oral surgeons office, here I was the day before departing for Switzerland and I was getting cut open by a 12 year old with a knife, again (exaggeration, he's not 12 but he looks like it). With a mouthful of stitches, I was still hopeful. My boyfriend assured me the clean swiss air would remedy my ailments.

Even though I had trouble talking, smiling, and eating, I did quite a bit of both. I knew it was going to be a successful trip when the flight over was practically turbulent free, and they sat me next to an adorable musician from Amsterdam *thank you SwissAir. We talked about traveling, about food, about Texas (he played at South by Southwest and decided Austin was the best that Texas had to offer - obviously I agreed), our mutual distaste for techno and about life. I explained I didn't speak German *yet! and despite any gaps in translation, it was such a lovely conversation. He looked down at my book and said "Oh, you read about food? You like food?" *just imagine that in an adorable accent, it could make knees weak -- he was referring to my "In Defense of Food" reading materials - and I explained to him my interest in local produce, the paradox of "nutritionism", the American obsession with dieting and their increasing waist size and consequential chronic disease. He was interested, and said that they have similar problems when it comes to mass production of food stuffs. We walked off the plane together and if I hadn't been so incredibly excited to reunite with my boyfriend, I would have grabbed a latte with him during his layover so our conversation wouldn't have to end. Though at the end of the flight I was certainly over due to ice my cheek, the laughing and talking had consequences....

I went back to the apartment in Zurich and looked him up, since we exchanged information and I promised to spread the word (under the condition that his music was any good) and that is an understatement. Their music is AMAZING. A combination of jazz and R&B - I've already listened to every song on their multiple albums. Here is some information on these two talented artists:
http://www.myspace.com/perquisite (adorable, as promised!)

I would like to continue this post and document my experience at the Zurich street parade (oh my!) and my evening that led me to a DJ's booth with some very sweaty dudes. But it will have to wait. Because I am catching the tram to Zurich (boyfriend in tow) and hopping a train to Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy to visit his family in Prelo. After that we will either travel to Rome or Tuscany, in hopes to explore more of Italy.... I suppose when we can't afford any more pasta, gelato or sleeping accommodations we will return to Zurich. Will post whenever I can! Cioa!


Fight the Tears and Win!

Last week of work before Switzerland. . . .

Call me a totally sissy, but I had to hide in the bathroom on three different occasions on Tuesday to let out a few tears - as not to expose myself to the mass of people crammed into my unit. Why did I keep crying? Not exactly sure. However, the moment I stepped onto the floor, I felt a ton of weight upon my shoulders. Not an empty bed on my unit. My knees practically buckling below me.

It wasn't necessarily the patients that made it particularly challenging (no doubt they kept me busy). What I couldn't escape was the feeling of confinement in a world of chaos, the loud ringing of call lights, the sound of IV pumps shouting at me, the cackling of my co-workers, the fluorescent lights, the TVs turned loudly *malfunctioning hearing aids "I don't want to miss The View!", and the realization that this was my life. All I wanted was to run off the floor and possibly change my name and join the circus. That's an obvious exaggeration, I had to keep reminding myself. It's a job, just a job - it does not encompass the whole of me. Unless I let it. All day, amongst the insanity, I tried my very best not to get run over by the nomadic herd of residents and frantic nurses - but there was something biting at my heels.

One patient died, a patient who I had taken care of the last time I worked - and post mortem care was challenging. This is what they don't talk about in nursing school - they say "here's a 300$ text book on how to take care of sick (but living) patients" but the flip side is taking care of those without a pulse. It was my second post-mortem and although I haven't quite grown insensitive to lifelessness - I will say it gets easier. Maybe it shouldn't matter, but both of my post-mortem were older. . . so the internal rationalization is that they have had their time here. If someone dies at old age, celebrate their time - that is certainly an achievement. What is an unspeakable tragedy is those have not been granted the same opportunity to explore themselves and the world. Which is what makes the death of infants and children significantly more challenging because there is no internal rationalization present. It makes no sense and it is unfair. That is why pediatrics is absolutely not in my cards.

Somedays are better than others : )


Break It Down

An update on the reading materials; I'm almost finished with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I'm at a point where I'm dreading the end. She's such a fantastic writer, clever, witty and passionate. Every time I turn a page the longing to get my hands in the earth is almost unbearable. The way she describes gardening, farming and cooking makes me melt. After I part ways with Barbara, I'm on to "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen. Becoming more painfully aware of my dining experience at every turn of the page....

I worked another long day shift today, by the end of which I found myself in a hypoglycemic stupor. Despite my efforts to prepare a delicious and "I'm really looking forward to my lunch break" lunches -- and as truly exceptional as they may be *hate to brag*, there's nothing like a good ole diaper change to ruin your appetite. Or maybe it was the general smell and sight of sterility in combination with the scent of hospital food. Today, I actually clocked out for break and went back to work - until ushered off the floor by the charge nurse. Then I meandered around the hospital returning phone calls until my 30 minute time-out was up. Absolutely bonkers considering what yummy treats awaited me in the break room, but food was of no appeal.

I have recently discovered "LIBERTE" yogurts made in Quebec *another reason to love Canada -- some are low-fat yogurt cups with grains such as barley (the pear is fantastic), and then there's the ones that taste like heaven in your mouth. I prefer the latter -- "LIBERTE Mediterranean " with plums and walnuts. This reminds me of my beloved yogurt that I practically sustained myself on during my trip to Switzerland called "Yogos" (*or something to that effect). Delicious, rich, creamy, with fig pulp at the bottom; oh my! --- I was absolutely taken aback by the similarity. I highly recommend LIBERTE if you don't have the time or resources to fly to Zurich for a greek yogurt--- the plum walnut is a wonderful way to end a meal - because it is so rich, sweet and deliciously creamy. LIBERTE is now competing with Yo-Baby for a spot in my lunch box.... and I can tell you now; LIBERTE is in the lead.....

Not only was a LIBERTE yogurt, and some fresh fruit and vegetables awaiting me -- but a quinoa concoction I call "Fiesta Confetti"; in honor of my favorite and sorely missed holiday. Quinoa is my grain du jour, healthy, filling, and packed with protein-- I've been cooking with it all semester and have never been disappointed. Here's the quinoa recipe *first of many:

Cook Quinoa:
-1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups water * Combine and bring to boil. Let simmer till quinoa has fully absorbed the water and is fluffy and dry. I recommend cooking it till almost done, turning off the heat and leaving the lid on the pot to further steam the grains. Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl...
- juice of zest of two limes
- two tablespoons of canola oil
- 3 Tbs. of melted *cooled butter
- tsp of honey
- 1/2 tsp of chipotle powder and/or cayenne *optional

When quinoa is cooled and dressing assembled, combine both with:
- 1/2 of orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 - 2 jalepanos diced (seeds removed) *adjust spice to preference
- 4-5 green onions, diced
- 1/3 cup of corn (if frozen - thawed, if canned - drained/washed)
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro *adjust to taste
- 2 ripe and delicious tomatoes, diced
- 1 can of black beans rinsed and drained

-- > This is much tastier the next day when all flavors have melded, eat cold or at room temperature! Garnish with a lime wedge if serving to guests! Add a spoonful of your favorite salsa or diced avocado, sprinkle a couple of crushed organic blue corn tortilla chips - the combination of flavors and textures will knock your socks off. Not to mention the visual appeal of sitting down to a plate of food containing every color of the rainbow. Enjoy : )


First Post!

First post, ever!

I've only been working at the hospital since May, and despite the ups and downs - the experience has been great *sans sarcasm. I've relished the time spent with patients, even if I'm doing some seemingly insignificant chore. . . I could be changing a bed pan or wiping a butt for pete's sake, and you'd think I was adorning them with jewels! Obviously this is not a reference to the patients who sock me in the jaw, who press their call buttons every two minutes, or who simply relish in their role as "patient" - "my pillow needs propping!" More so I refer to the individuals who are often times the sickest and most chronically ill, and despite the hand they've been dealt, are the most gracious and kind. It humbles me. When suffering is a part of their every day life, you wonder what makes this paradox possible?

The patients and their families are easy as pie compared to some of the fellow "team members" who take pleasure in making my job less than ideal. It took me a couple of weeks and several experiences in which I was feasted upon by seasoned nurses, to realize that I was fresh meat, and new material for round table discussion at the nurses station. "I can't believe it took her that long to document vitals, it wouldn't take that long for my dog to get vitals." Well it shouldn't be that hard for them to believe, really. Their refusal as "RN" to even lay a hand on their patients results in twice as much work for me. It's a linear equation, you can do the math, nurse ratched.

When I say the experience has been great -- I am not excluding the negative ones! They have served me well! I went into this saying "Co-workers and patients will most certainly like me! I'm always smiling, always willing to help lighten their load. I'm enthusiastic and happy; inquisitive and willing to learn! I will not let their apathy and cynicism swallow me whole!" (What can I say? I watched a lot of Disney movies in my youth. Confession. I still do.)

But thanks to the nurse ratched's out there - I've learned an important lesson; mean, miserable people do not like happy and optimistic people. And the more you smile at them, the less they like you. But mark my words, my optimism will persevere! I'm here to learn the craft of healing, not to win a seat at the cool kids lunch table.

Along with a cup of delicious coffee in the morning, my ritual before heading to work is drinking a delicious smoothie. It's filling (which makes skipping break easier because I'm not hungry yet). It's a way to start to the day right - and I can slurp it down in the car (no crumbs!) On days when my alarm has gone off late (or not at all) or I simply can't kick myself into 2nd gear - I have to sacrifice this ritual. Those are the days when I find most every task daunting, because I'm not in that "I can do it!" frame of mind.

If a trying day lay ahead, or you just need to start the day off right -- this smoothie can (practically) guarantee success.

Recipe for success/survival of a 12 hour shift:
-1 cup of mixed berries (fresh or frozen) *mind you it's July so I've been enjoying blueberries, raspberries and cherries from the farmers market! Hooray!
-1 cup of plain organic yogurt (or soy)
-1 1/2 cups low-fat organic milk or soy or almond
-1 tbs ground flaxseed (fresher the better!)
-1 tbs of honey *only for those who need added sweetness

Enjoy : ) Will post again soon!