Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

New Year Reflection and Wishes December 29, 2009

Filed under: family — freerangenurse @ 11:16 pm

This time of year always makes me think of family and our lives together.  I wonder if I am giving wonderful memories for my daughter to reflect on later.  I was lucky, I grew up in a large family and though we certainly had our share of growing pains, perhaps more than some, but definitely less than others, we always knew we had each other to lean on. (more…)


Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes with Vanilla Créme Sauce December 27, 2009

Filed under: breakfast — freerangenurse @ 2:36 pm

Two summers ago, when I was still a free range nurse traveling the country, I took a summer assignment in Denver.  My family came with me and we lived in a 17th story condo uptown, one mile from Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, my daughter’s favorite baseball team.  While there, we were able to take several side trips around Colorado and Utah as well as take in a couple of baseball games and a Bronco’s football game.  John took Sydney to UC – Boulder to look around campus because that is where she wants to go to college.  I met a lot of wonderful people working at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Hospital.  It was a fantastic summer full of good times, good people and good food….did someone say good food? (more…)


This Ain’t Your Steel Magnolia’s Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa! December 25, 2009

Filed under: candy,dessert — freerangenurse @ 1:19 am

I have this recipe for toffee that I got from a friend years ago.  It has become a holiday tradition for me to make it for friends and it always gets rave reviews.  My friend Amy will eat it until she gets ulcers from it.  I take it to parties, share it with coworkers and stand back and baste myself in praise for this simple, simple recipe.  It is so simple, that my friend Jakob has renamed it Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa because that is pretty much all there is to the recipe.  I have finally decided to share the praise and let you make it for yourself and share it with those you love, or perhaps those whose love you’d like to have. (more…)


White Bread… from a brown girl December 11, 2009

Filed under: bread — freerangenurse @ 9:28 am

I love baking bread!  I love kneading the dough, seeing it rise, smelling the bakery goodness in my house, having that first slice, still warm from the oven slathered in butter.  YUMMMM!  My first attempt at making bread was actually years ago.  I can only remember that the results were not great.  It could’ve been the recipe, it could’ve been the baker?  I tried again several months ago when I was out of bread here at home and decided that I’d rather make some than go to the store to buy some.  I googled a recipe for white bread and chose the first I came across, Traditional White Bread.  It’s easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients in your house, already.  Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it!

Traditional White Bread

recipe from – modified ever so slightly

  • 2 (0.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour works fine)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  Stir in butter, salt and two cups of the flour.  Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oill a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves.  Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place loaves in oven and lower temp to 375.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes, brush tops with butter and continue baking for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.


Italian Wedding Soup December 5, 2009

Filed under: chicken,lunch,soup — freerangenurse @ 2:22 pm

Well, as some of you may know, Eileen recently proposed (see comment section of the last post), and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.  The recipe today is for wedding soup.  I first saw this recipe featured on The Barefoot Contessa.  Ina was making a special anniversary dinner for her husband and while soup would not be on my top ten list of things I want to eat on my anniversary, it looked delicious and on a cold fall/winter day, it seemed perfect.

The problem is I had several perfect recipes to choose from, for example abondigas soup (mexican meatball soup), meatball and tomato soup from Rao’s Recipes From the Neighborhood cookbook, and Ina’s wedding soup recipe with chicken meatballs.  Are you sensing a theme?  I decided to go with Ina because, well, she’s never steered me wrong (well there was that one time I tried her butternut squash/apple soup which ended up tasting like baby food).

I made a couple of changes, but stayed pretty true to the original recipe.  I would like to make the chicken meatballs again in some other meal, maybe a tomato based soup?  I’ll let you know.

Italian Wedding Soup

(adapted slightly from Ina Garten)

For the meatballs:

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed (I used one mild and one hot)
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs (I used store bought – don’t tell)
  • 4-5 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra large egg, lightly beaten (I used a large egg)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 up minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta (I use ditali)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • 12 ounces (1 head) escarole

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.  With a teaspoon (I use an extra-small ice cream scoop), drop 1 to 1/4 inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  (You should have about 40 meatballs.  They don’t have to be perfectly round.)  Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.  Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6-8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.  Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the fresh escarole and cook for 1 minute until just wilted.  Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.


Fettuccine Alfredo with Lobster December 3, 2009

Filed under: dinner,pasta,seafood — freerangenurse @ 10:15 am

If I were featured in an episode of MTV Cribs, and you were to take a peek into my refrigerator, you wouldn’t see bottles of Cristal or perfectly arranged cans of Monster energy drink, you would find cartons of cream and butter.  Pounds and pounds of butter.  It seems I am going through 3-5 pounds of butter per month!  It reminds me a little of the movie, Julie and Julia.  One of the best uses of cream and butter, in my opinion is alfredo sauce.

If you’re going to clog your arteries, you might as well enjoy the experience, right?

Today’s recipe is from the Rao’s Recipes From the Neighborhood cookbook.  There’s that name again!  Rao’s.  I guess it’s time I finally tell you the story, right?

I was first introduced to Rao’s while watching Martha Stewart.  Not the current incarnation of her show, but the old one taped without a studio audience.  She took a field trip to the kitchen of Rao’s restaurant in East Harlem, NYC to learn how to make one of their signature dishes.  While cooking, she and Frank Pellegrino (the owner) were discussing the history of the restaurant and its exclusivity.  This, apparently, is not a restaurant  mere mortals can get into, no matter how far in advance you try to book.  All the reservations are already owned.  Yes, owned.  The restaurant only has 10 tables and only has one seating per night.  The regulars have standing reservations, for example one person may have every Monday night, another might have every other Tuesday.  They will have this reservation until they don’t want it anymore (never happens).  They can bring whatever guests they like, or even loan the reservation out, but unless you know someone who has a reservation, you aren’t gonna get in. Dick Schaap, who writes the forward to Rao’s cookbook mentions the few exceptions to the rules.  You can get in if you are the pope, or higher, if you happen to turn up on a night in which the regular table holder doesn’t show (this has only happened twice in the 40 years Dick has had his table), or if you are in Las Vegas and head over to their second location at Caesar’s Palace.

There are two rooms with 10 tables, but those can be difficult to get or you can sit in the outer dining area and enjoy some of the best meatballs on the planet!  Meatballs so good, my friend and I pushed our dinner plates out of the way to feast on our side dish of meatballs (which we only ordered because the waitperson told us we should).  Don’t get me wrong, the dinners we ordered were fabulous, but the meatballs!  Wow!

When I got home, I looked up the recipe online and discovered that Rao’s has its own cookbook and they actually share their delicious recipes for some of their best dishes.  I am slowly working through it and its sister cookbook, Recipes From the Neighborhood.

This recipe is not a Rao’s menu item, but is delicious anyway.  If you are not adding seafood to it, add a little salt to the sauce.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Adapted from Rao’s Recipes From the Neighborhood

  • 3 – 6oz lobster tails, steamed, shelled and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pound dried (or fresh) fettuccine
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish (I have also used Pecorino Romano with good results)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • (pinch of salt, if not using shellfish)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes for dried fettuccine.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 2/3 cup of cream and the grated cheese and bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup of cream and set aside.  When the pasta is cooked, drain and place on a heated serving platter.  Pour the cream sauce over it, and toss.  Add the egg yolk mixture and toss again.  Add lobster and garnish with freshly grated cheese and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Sadly, alfredo sauce does not hold up well for leftovers.  The sauce separates and forms butter oil and curds.  If you are making this for 2-3 people, make a half recipe (what I did for the pictures above).  You’ll have to approximate a half egg yolk by breaking it and discarding half.  To test the doneness of the noodles, I usually take one out and cut it in half, if there is still a dry looking core (see picture), it isn’t finished cooking.  I prefer my noodles cooked a little past al dente, so just keep testing until the “bite” of the pasta feels right to you.