Fast, Easy Recipes: Kalyn’s Kitchen

I’m always looking for good websites for recipes that are healthy, simple and easy to make.  In other words, the kind of food that makes it easy to avoid eating fast food when you are on call.   Kalyn’s Kitchen is a fabulous website for delicious, healthy, and often low calorie recipes that meet the “pizza rule” for medical students and residents (i.e. recipes that take less time to prepare than it takes to order a pizza). She also really goes out of her way to teach each step in the recipe, so if you are new in the kitchen, this is a fabulous website for you!


Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps with Capers and Tomatoes

Not-so-Dumb Salad with Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Onions, Avocado, and Balsamic Vinegar

Mediterranean Tostadas with Hummus, Feta, and Kalamata Olives

Crockpot Double Lentil, Sausage, Brown Rice, and Spinach Soup

Thanksgiving Cornbread

Every year at Thanksgiving, I make my great grandmother Sallie’s cornbread recipe.  She and my great grandfather were “dirt farmers” in Oklahoma during the depression.  This bread, plus some beans, was their dinner many nights. Their life on the farm was not easy, but it was a life that provided the simple necessities.

Every year at Thanksgiving as I mix the ingredients for this cornbread, and then make the stuffing for the turkey, I have the delight of remembering my great-grandmother.  It always leads to a sense of gratitude for her, all my ancestors and my family.

I don’t want you to just sit down at the table.
I don’t want you to just eat and be content.
I want you to walk out into the fields
Where the water is shining and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there far from this white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with mud, like a blessing.

-Mary Oliver


  • Mix together with a big spoon
    • 1 cup corn meal
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 tsp soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Make a large “hole” in the middle of the dry mixture with the spoon
    • Beat one egg with a fork, add 1 tablespoon of oil (or melted butter) into well in the middle of the dry mixture and mix with a fork
    • Add 1 cup of buttermilk
  • Let rise while heating the oven to 450 degrees (about 10 minutes)
  • Gently whip down with a fork
  •  Grease a one layer cake pan, cast iron skillet or 8” square pan with oil
  • Bake 20-25 minutes (until a toothpick or knife comes out clean)

So that’s my great grandmother’s recipe (and yes, the photo at the top of this post is of her and my great grandfather). But, this recipe doesn’t make enough for Thanksgiving – so I’ve figured out the math for you to make enough for your family,  If you don’t have two cast iron skillets, no worries. Use muffin tins, cake loafs, whatever you have. I have modified her original recipe by using butter instead of oil, but feel free to use either.

  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees
  • Melt 7 tablespoons of butter in the microwave (a stick is 8 tablespoons, so I add that little extra)
  • Combine the dry ingredients
    • One bag of cornmeal (2lb)
    • 3 1/2 cups of flour
    • 7 tsp of baking soda
    • 3 1/2 tsp of baking powder
    • 2 1/2 tsp of salt
  • Make a large “hole” in the middle of the dry mixture with the spoon
    • Add seven eggs (beaten with a fork) and the melted butter into well in the middle of the dry mixture and mix
    • Add “7” cups of buttermilk – the batter should pour but not be too thin
  • Put a tablespoon of oil (or two) into two cast iron skillets and put them in the oven for 4-5 minutes (let the cornbread batter rest during this time)
  • Pour any excess oil from the pans then pour the batter into the hot cast iron skillets.
  • Bake ~25 minutes.

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Fast, Easy Recipes:

I’m always looking for new websites that have easy, delicious and healthy recipes that meet the “pizza rule” for medical students and residents (i.e. recipes that take less time to prepare than it takes to order a pizza).

My latest find is  It’s a great site run by Elise Bauer.  These are mostly recipes she and her family have created.  There is a section on “budget recipes” and another one on “Quick Recipes” both of which are great for students and residents.  She also has a lot of instructions about cooking if you are new to the kitchen.


Baked Shrimp with Tomatillos


Sesame and Cilantro Vermicelli Salad


Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sage Sauce

Healthy Habits: Reduce Your Salt Intake

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog.  Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits!  This month’s healthy habit is to eat less salt.


Adding salt to taste in your own food is one thing.  “Hidden” salt in processed food is a totally different matter. Restricting salt is important for salt sensitive people to prevent or treat hypertension.

Different people have different sensitivities to salt.  Somewhere between 10% and 25% of the population are salt sensitive.  (this increases to 60% in people with hypertension).

The average American consumes around 4000mg of salt each day.  “The 2010 update of the Dietary Guidelines recommends adults limit their daily intake to less than 2,300mg, the equivalent of just 1 teaspoon of salt. The limit for those at risk of high blood pressure—African-Americans, people with hypertension, and anyone over the age of 51—was lowered to 1,500mg. “

How to decrease your sodium intake

  • Become “salt aware”.  Prepared foods will always have more sodium than fresh foods.  Here’s a great chart from that shows the differences.


Salad dressings – up to 350mg per serving

Frozen dinners or entrees – 600 to 1600 mg

Soy sauce – 1000mg per tablespoon

Cheeses – 500-600 mg per oz

Prepared snacks – chips, pretzels, microwave popcorn, etc  – 300-600 per oz!

Pickles – 1000mg in a big dill pickle!

Canned vegetables – 150-350 mg per cup


Photo source

This Week’s Highlights from @drmlb

Twitter has become a wonderful way for me to send out a variety of ideas and links that I think are helpful (and/or interesting).  Here are this week’s highlights!  If you are new to Twitter RT means Retweet (just “forwarding” it as is) and MT means Modified Tweet (“forwarding” it with a comment).

  • “This is definitely a 15 minute video every medical student should see.” The art of the physical exam @drmlb
  • Comments one makes to colleagues: as important as the interview. Professionalism = doing the right thing when no one’s watching. RT @MedPedsDoctor
  • Beginner’s mind in medicine. How to keep what we do exciting! MT@KevinMD
  • One flight of stairs = 16 calories burned. One day on call = ?10 flights ?20 ?30) adds up! @drmlb
  • Epidemiologist with humor?!? This is a great talk about drug development. @drmlb
  • “…small things often adds up to produce a far greater impact than any of us realize.” Surgery through different eyes  @drmlb
  • “..those of us who spend our emotions at work are not the kind to view our work as “just a job.” MT@Kevin MD  @drmlb

This Month’s Healthy Habit: Eat More Fish

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog.  Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits!  This month’s healthy habit is to eat more fish.

Seafood is a great high protein, low fat food.  It’s also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids.  It also has the advantage of being very fast to cook, a big plus for medical students, residents and busy docs.

How do you decide on which seafood to buy?

There are two things that should guide you in picking fish.  Importantly, one of them isn’t price.  You need to know about sustainability and toxicity when choosing your seafood.  Seafood that is caught or raised in a sustainable fashion with low toxicity is more expensive, but worth the extra cost.

It’s a sad fact that the oceans are being heavily overfished.  It sounds like an easy fix to farm raise the fish, but it’s not always true – sometimes the pollution that results from fish farms is worse than the overfishing.

The Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an amazing resource to find out which seafood is being caught or farmed responsibly.  It’s available on line or as an app for your phone.  Look for labels from the Marine Stewardship Council or Friend of the Sea, too.


For docs, it’s important to know that, like all foods, there are contaminants that can occur in seafood.  The risk – unless you are immunocompromised – is tiny compared to the benefit, though.  Another serious issue is the concentration of heavy metals (mercury and lead, in particular) in some of the larger fish.  This is particularly important for women of child-bearing age and for children.  Heavy metals are concentrated in large fish because of the food chain.  It makes sense that smaller fish will have negligible (or absent) levels.  Fortunately, they are also higher in omega-3 fatty acids making them an even better choice!  Sardines, anchovies and mackerel may not be on your usual list of foods, but give them a try.  Here’s some good sardine recipes to get you started.

What about tuna?

Canned tuna is a cheap and high-quality food, so it’s high on the list for medical students and residents.  Unfortunately, all tuna is not created equal – so you have to pay attention.  It’s more expensive, but look for pole-caught tuna in the store.  Blue fin tuna, and most other tuna used in sushi is incredibly overfished and should be avoided.


Fast, easy recipes to get you started


Thai Red Curry Shrimp

salmon-kiwi-relish-lMarinated Salmon with Mango-Kiwi Relish


Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

Cooking Healthy, Eating Fresh Elective, Class 1 – The Hispanic Diet (Guest post)

His big red clown shoes were obvious as they peeked out from underneath the curtain. His smell overtook me immediately upon walking into the room. Pulling back the curtain, I saw him sitting there, right next to my patient. My 47 year old, obese patient with diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and exacerbation of her interstitial lung disease, had gone down stairs and picked up a meal from McDonald’s.

It’s a story we hear all to often in the medical field. And yet, these stories are not limited to our patients. As medical professionals, we too find ourselves in line for a quick bite of McyDees.

Among these stories that have now become commonplace though, there is a new story being written. One that is gaining prominence across the country, in places like the NYU medical center, Kaiser Permanente in California, and Cleveland Clinic, to name a few. And the string that binds these stories together is healthy, fresh food.

This week there was a new addition to this story with the inaugural class of the “Cooking Healthy, Eating Fresh” elective – a student run, hands-on cooking class geared towards MS2s right about to enter clinics. With a total of 5 classes this semester, each one focused on a specific health topic (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease), the students in this class are getting a chance to hear from a physician in the field as well as learn to cook from a premier chef – German Mosquera, formerly at Ruggles Green, and now Head Chef at  Roots Bistro.


Class Topic – Accessibility

One of the main issues with counseling our patients, especially those with no insurance or a Gold Card, is accessibility to fresh fruit and veggies. If you’d like to read more about Houston’s food desert status and ideas already being worked on, check out this article from the Houston Chronicle.  The bottom line is that some of our neighborhoods in Houston don’t have easy access to fresh produce. There are a number of ideas being discussed, including the establishment of farmer’s markets in these communities, but share your thoughts – let us know if you have any ideas for what we can do as a community to promote accessibility.


Cool Ingredients

Butter lettuce – a versatile green leaf lettuce for wraps, salads, and sandwiches, use the hydroponic variety for cleaner, more sustainable growing.

Ancho Dried Chili – sweet and mild chili accent that can be added to any soup, sauce or marinade.

Epazote – A Latin American herb, available at a local Fiesta market, comparable to cilantro or basil.

Coconut palm sugar – a great low-glycemic sweetener option that is minimally processed.

Banana leaf – useful in Latin American cooking as a cooking vessel and flavor infuser.

Whole grain sprouted hemp tortillas – a better alternative to processed wheat or corn tortillas, contain more protein and fiber.


Random Tips

–  Learn how to handle your knife properly – allows for more precise cutting, better handling.

–  Use a type of acid, such as lime, lemon, or orange, to prevent oxidation (browning) in fruits such as avocados and apples.

–  Use Ancient sea salt instead of iodized salt because of its high mineral content. (but remember there is no iodine in sea salt)

–  Color is flavor, burnt is burnt!

–  Fresh ingredients are the key to flavorful food.

–  Simple vinaigrette ratio – 1 part acid:3 parts oil.

–  Know your dirty dozen and clean 15. This will help you save money and be more conscious when deciding what to buy organic.

Tortilla Soup


  • 3 field ripe tomatoes, or 1 -14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 4 large fresh epazote sprigs or cilantro

For the condiments:

  • 2 pasilla chiles, seeded and cut into small squares or strips
  • Hemp tortilla strips or squares
  • 1/2 lb. local artisan cheese
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and peeled, then diced


1. Sauté the onions, tomatoes, and garlic with olive oil until soft.


2. Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Season to taste with sea salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the epazote or cilantro and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. (Add chicken if desired).


3. To prepare the condiments, heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Add the chiles and fry quickly until crisp, about 1 minute.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles to paper towels to drain, the pat them with more paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Repeat the same steps for the tortilla strips.


4. When ready to serve, remove the epazote sprigs from the soup.  Put equal amounts of the tortilla strips and cheese in the bottom of each warmed bowl.  Ladle the hot soup and top with the fried chiles and the avocado.


Makes 6 servings



Butter Lettuce Salad with orange, jicama, and avocado


  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice, strained (about 2 limes)
  • 1 chipotle chile, pureed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 bunches greens of choice, about 1/2 lb, large stems removed
  • 1 small jicama, about 3/4 lb, peeled and finely julienned
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and peeled, then sliced lengthwise



1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chile, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Pour the oil in a thin, steady stream while whisking constantly until thoroughly emulsified, forming a vinaigrette.  Set aside.


2. Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a slice off the top and the bottom to reveal the flesh.  Place the orange upright on the cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut down along the sides, removing all the white pith and membrane.  Cut the orange in half vertically then cut each half crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat with remaining orange.  Place in a bowl, add the greens and jicama, and toss to mix.


3. Just before serving, drizzle the vinaigrette over the greens mixture, then carefully fold in the avocado slices.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt.


Makes 4 servings

Link to photo and alternate salad recipe


Jasdeep Mangat & the Cooking Healthy Team
(Recipes courtesy of German Mosquera)


Healthy Habits: Go Meatless (at least) One Day A Week

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog.  Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits!  So, for August, think about setting a goal to go meatless one day a week.

It’s impressive to me how many of my colleagues, students and friends have become vegetarians.  They have different reasons, from ethical concerns for how animals are treated to issues with their health.  If you’ve thought about trying a vegetarian diet, this is a good month to experiment by going meatless one day a week.

What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

  • It will be easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
  • You’ll help the environment by decreasing the “carbon footprint” related to your food choices.

Photo source

What are the different kinds of vegetarian diets?

From Wikipedia: “An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, such as eggs, dairy, and honey.”

How do you make sure you get adequate nutrients if you are not eating animal protein?

If you are going meatless a day or two every week, none of this will apply to you.  If you are thinking about a completely vegetarian diet you may want to look at the the USDA resource page on Vegetarian Nutrition.  The four nutrients that may be deficient in some vegetarian diets are:

  • Protein.  If you include eggs and dairy products, it’s realtively easy to get enough protein in a vegetarian diet.  Good protein sources include beans, soy products (tofu has 20gm of protein per cup) and nuts.  In the past, people who ate a vegetarian diet were told to combine food to make sure they got complete proteins. Current thinking is a little different – as long as you are eating a variety of proteins during the day, you’ll be fine.  Women need about 50 gm of protein a day, men a little over 60 (unless you are an endurance athlete, pregnant or nursing). Here’s a list of protein sources from SportsMed Web.
  • Calcium. If you include dairy products, calcium is not usually a problem.  For vegans, it’s important to include calcium rich foods or consider a supplement.


Photo source

Where can I get good vegetarian recipes?

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day

Vegetarian Times

Vegetarian recipes from

Vegetarian recipes from

Food Network vegetarian recipes

What To Do This Summer

This week approximately 16,000 US medical students are going to receive their diplomas and become physicians. There are also about 16,000 college graduates who will start medical school later this summer or early in the fall.  Congratulations to you all!

Nearly all of you have a well-deserved month (or two)  to rest and get ready for the next step in your training.  So, I thought it might be helpful to pass on a few words of advice on how to spend your time this summer.

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Do NOT study!

  • If you are starting your residency and you think it might help relieve your (normal) anxiety, here is what to do:  Buy one of the major textbooks and use it to get excited about what you are going to learn.   If you want to, plan how you are going to study for the year.   Skim the book if you really have to do something to feel less anxious, but don’t spend hours studying.
  • If you are getting ready to start medical school – step away from the books!  Seriously, there is nothing you can do that will make it any easier, so just enjoy your time off!

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Take a vacation (or two or three…)

  • Visit family and friends – take a road trip and connect with people you haven’t seen in a while
  • Hang out on a beach, go for some great hikes, read some great novels
  • Sleep late, eat well, and just rest

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Develop (or strengthen) an exercise habit

  • Use this summer to develop a daily exercise routine that you can take into your new (and crazy) schedule.  Overall, your goal for the summer should be to develop a balanced exercise program (cardio, strength training and flexibility).  If you’ve never done any strength training, hire a trainer and learn about it.  Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of cardio 4-5 times/week, 2-3 strength training sessions/week and stretching every day. If you develop a balanced exercise routine this summer, it will be much, much easier to continue this once you start medical school or your internship. Commit to doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day this summer.
  • Running is one of the best (and most convenient) cardio exercises for medical students and residents (because it’s cheap, efficient and effective)  Use this summer to become a runner. If you hate running, find another good cardio exercise habit to develop instead – but pick one!
  • If you don’t own a bicycle, think about getting one that you can use to commute to school or the hospital.

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If you don’t know how to cook, learn.

  • Unless you want to gain a lot of weight, have poor energy and feel bad, you are really going to have to cook for yourself (or at least plan for good food cooked by someone else).  You won’t be able to eat what you need, particularly as an intern, unless you bring the food with you.
  • Learn some basic skills to cook simple things.  If you have good cooks in your family, have them teach you.
  • If you don’t have family members who can teach you, find cooking classes near you and sign up.  Many high end grocery stores and gourmet stores offer classes for beginners – look on line for classes near you.

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Easy, Fast Recipes: Stone Soup

I found another great recipe site to share – Stone SoupJules Clancey, who developed her blog to share recipes, also runs a cooking school and has authored an ecookbook.  The site has a great collection of recipes with only 5 ingredients – and that are usually well within the parameters of the “pizza rule”.

Zucchini “surprise” pasta

Chickpea and Rosemary Fritatta

Simple Salmon Kedgeree

Super moist carrot cake