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Peanut Butter Energy Balls: A Tribute to Nurses Week

Thankfully, I am feeling much better at work lately. It is amazing what 2 months can do. It’s still isn’t perfect, but the fact that I am posting a recipe again means that I am cooking again, which must mean that things are at least a little bit better, and I am a little less stressed. Nurses Week just passed. I was hounded by a couple of the ANCCs to write a story for an “anthology” of stories that was going to be published for the event. Naturally I agreed to do it, but only so long as my story was anonymous, and was only published if plenty of other submissions were received as well. As my luck would have it, my story was the ONLY submission received, and it was published alone, on the back of the nursing newsletter, which was distributed at a very public ice cream social. I didn’t find out until after, and I can tell you, without exaggeration, that my cheeks were as bright as my pink scrubs. Oy! But since the whole world has read my story (it seems) I guess you can read it too. But before that, check out these balls.

I made this recipe because I have been SO hungry at work lately! My coworkers joke that I always seem to be eating something…but I just don’t understand how they aren’t eating something, too! I am training for a half marathon and it is inevitable that some of my runs occur before work, even though that means that they precede a 12-hour cardio endurance event in the ER, which makes me feel that I just created a new Olympic event: the Nursing Duathlon. These energy balls are perfect to pop in my mouth between patients…or on a hike in the Catskills, or a long travel day cross-country to Seattle, the possibilities are endless. And it doesn’t hurt that the “energy” balls kind of taste like cookie dough.

Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Adapted from: The Diva Dish


1/2 C pecans

1/2 C almonds

1/2 C chopped, pitted dates (I bought pre-pitted)

1/4 C carob/chocolate chips

1/2 C unsweetened finely shredded coconut (plus more for rolling your balls)

1/2 C quick oats

1/4 C pure maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4-1/2 C Peanut/Almond Butter (depends on how extreme you want the PB/AB flavor to be)

First gather your ingredients. In a food processor, first pulse together the pecans and almonds until you see chunky crumbs. Then add the dates and chocolate/carob chips and process some more until your mixture looks pretty crumb-y again. Next, mix in the coconut and oats (one at a time) and pulse until they are integrated. Lastly add the wet ingredients: maple syrup, vanilla and peanut/almond butter and process until they are fully incorporated. Scoop the mixture into a bowl (so the blade isn’t in the way), remove your rings 🙂 it is sticky! Start to roll balls. You can leave them “naked” (which I did for Matt, who has an unfathomable aversion to all things coconut) or roll them in a pretty dusting of coconut flakes (for me, who knows what is better) and then store them in the fridge/freezer as a snack for now/later!

Naked Balls

And now for a little post-cooking story time…

I eye the clock with apprehension. 6:52: my shift starts in less than 10 minutes. I pack my pockets with all manner of nursing paraphernalia; arming myself for the onslaught of patients during the 12 hours that lie ahead. A Carpuject, pulse oximeter, handy notebook of nursing diagnoses and interventions and plenty of saline flushes line my pockets, and my stethoscope is looped around my neck. With a deep breath, heart racing, I set off to receive report, wondering what sort of night lay ahead. It’s impossible not to wonder, but also impossible to control: this is life in the ER.

I thought I knew what to expect. I spent eleven eye-opening weeks as a student in the St Luke’s ER. But “Student Nurse” has a much different ring to it than “Staff Nurse.” As a student, I could apologetically shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know” to a patient, and come back with an answer later. As a registered nurse there is a much different expectation. Certainly, I can, and do, ask many questions. But I also feel the weight of responsibility in a different way.

Now, 8-months as a nurse, still green in many ways, I can at least look back on my first few months of being a nurse and see how far I have come. In the beginning, it didn’t take much to throw me off my A-game: a missing piece of equipment that I had to go hunting for or back-to-back “notifications” in the trauma room. Anything could do it, and often did, because the role of the ER nurse is to expect the unexpected and be comfortable feeling perennially behind. Every task is urgent…except for the ones that are emergent. My baseline emotion when chaos erupted was low-grade panic, punctuated by spikes sheer terror.

My confidence was (and admittedly still is) easily shattered. I can start IVs, administer medications and blood products, insert catheters and assist with other invasive procedures. I can competently help stabilize a trauma patient or efficiently do a cardiac work-up. And while I may not yet have the grace of far more seasoned nurses, I can feel satisfaction knowing that as I run around looking harried and crazed, I will get the work done.

It is only recently that I feel a small but perceptible transformation. Gradually, I anticipate what the plan of care will be for my patients, and find that I am correct more often than not. I assist my fellow nurses, like they so often help me. I feel a growing sense of familiarity and comfort with the staff, and realize that in knowing each other well, we work together like cogs in a well-oiled machine. But most significantly, I have started truly hearing my patients for more than their medical histories, and remember the real reason behind why I became a nurse.

One night, as I was busily scurrying around the ER, I picked up patient who had tripped and hit his head. When I went to see the patient, I found a man in his mid-80s, quite confused to find himself in the ER in the middle of the night and with a bloody forehead, to boot. I helped get him settled and explained the purpose of doing a CT of his head. With trepidation, he agreed. He miraculously had nearly no past medical history, and was staggered by the tubes of blood I had to draw for labs and bothered by the incessant beeping that came from the monitor whenever he pulled off his leads. Then, we were called to the trauma room and for 30 minutes I didn’t think about anything else besides the new patient in front of us.

When I eventually made it back to my older gentleman patient, he was agitated and disoriented. While his words came out in a tumble, I gathered that he was afraid, tired, annoyed and that he had soiled the bed. He told me that he had called for someone to help him but wasn’t heard and eventually couldn’t wait any longer. He was embarrassed, and rightfully indignant. I felt terribly that I had been holed up in the trauma room for so long, and apologized profusely. I helped change the linens and his wet gown. Now calmer, clean and settled, we spoke the plan for him to be admitted to the hospital, and I also learned about his wife of 60 years at home with whom he was still head-over-heels in love. In the end, I realized that it wasn’t the subdural hematoma that made my patient feel so scared and upset, but the feeling of being neglected. Everyone deserves dignity in their care and I felt reassured that despite my rush, I am still able to find moments in the ER to provide reassurance, listen to touching anecdotes, and care for my patients during their most vulnerable times. In nursing school, you learn about the progression of competence that every nurse makes in their journey to becoming experienced. It is gratifying to move past a near-exclusive focus on the completion of discrete tasks to the ability to view and implement comprehensive patient care based on individual needs.


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Healing Belly: Morning Glory Muffins

Sorry for the lame-O photO today...rushing around this morning and had to use my phone camera for the snapshot.

Mmmm, I made the most delicious and nutritious muffins yesterday. Truly! The word muffin is not usually synonymous with nutritious (even if it poses as nutritive) but this is actually factually a yummy-tasting specimen.  It doesn’t even taste like cardboard, as my mother suspiciously asked me today, point-blank, as I gushed about them. Rightly so, she is suspicious of replacing butter and other deliciously decadent fats with healthier alternatives like applesauce, and for the most part, she is right. Nothing stands up to butter and fat in the taste category. But if you are looking for something that won’t necessarily compete, but simply serve as a humble and healthy alternative, then this is it. And it won’t even make you muffin-top over those nice new pants you just purchased. Unless you eat 20 of them. Bah ha ha.

Morning Glory Muffins


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium-sized)
  • 1 apple – peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (raw or sweetened, to taste)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ (if you have it. I didn’t, and didn’t miss it.)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly oil 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. For ease and speed: food process your carrots, apple, walnuts and coconut all together, and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, apple sauce, oil and vanilla.
  4. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in carrots, apples, coconut and walnuts mixture. Stir in wet ingredient mixture until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed. (I had to bake them much longer, roughly 25-30 min – test the centers!)

Amount Per Serving  Calories: 194 | Total Fat: 4.2g | Cholesterol: 12mg

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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Breakfast, Snacks


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Homemade Applesauce Oatmeal: A cozy fall treat

Drowning in apples, swimming in sauce. Not for long, though. While I ambitiously put a few jars of my applesauce in the freezer 2 weeks ago, imagining I would find them in the middle of the winter when I was severely apple-anemic, I have already tapped into my stores. In a post-Halloween and birthday weekend funk, this is the perfect antidote and best way to start an unwelcome Monday. This warm combo tastes like breakfast apple crumble. It makes me happy, cozy and warm to my toes. It also helps me face the day, which is 32 degrees too cold, in my opinion. This recipe is simple and sweet, and tastes even better when you pick the apples yourself, or at least from a bin at a local farmers market. 🙂

Simply Applesauce

  • 3 to 4 lbs of peeled, cored, and chopped apples
  • Juice of one lemon, plus some zest
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ÂĽ dark brown sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • A dollop of brandy or rum if you feel like a little mischief

1 Put all ingredients into a large pot and cover. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes. Test for softness with a fork, it should pierce the apples with no resistance.

2 Remove cooked mixture from heat. Mash with potato masher, and you may also blend half of it, depending on the consistency you desire.

Ready to serve, either hot or refrigerated. Delicious with an array of partners: such as oatmeal, steel cut oats, vanilla yogurt, or even ice cream.

Freezes well, use within a year!

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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in Breakfast, Snacks


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Uff Da!

Nelly*, one of my residents, regularly disarms me with her dry wit. For example, her daughter gave her a calendar for Christmas. You know those calendars that you can made at a photo shop or online? Well, it is one of those. And every single month features the same little blonde girl, striking various poses, participating in a multitude of activities…you get the idea. So, after flipping through the calendar one day while chatting with Nelly, I asked her about the girl. “Nelly, who’s the cute little girl in all these pictures?” She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, “Oh God, doesn’t it just make you sick? Poor girl’s going to grow up thinking that everyone wants to look at her, be her friend, give her anything she wants. It just makes me sick to think how her parents are raising her.” I stutter for a second, “Oh, well, um isn’t she your granddaughter?” “Oh of course she is, and she’s a real sweetie, and she sure is pretty,” Nelly replies, “But that doesn’t mean I have to want to look at her 365 days a year!” I crack up because, I mean, well isn’t that the plain Jane truth without all the candy coating?

Nelly’s also easy to care for. She pages to use the bathroom at least once an hour (and that’s a conservative estimate) which certainly makes my legs tired from all the jogging up and down the stairs, but it’s not difficult. When I walk into her room she says, “Yup, need to use the toilet again,” I position her wheelchair, lock it, and firmly plant my arm in the crook of her armpit and, on the count of three, we heave up together from her recliner chair. I barely have time to help her plant her feet on the floor, before she plops down in the wheelchair, crooked, cockeyed, and without any pretense of grace. I look at her, slightly exasperated, and say, “Nelly, if you don’t wait for me to help you pivot, one day you’re going to end up on the floor!” She just laughs and replies, “I’m a dumper.  I dump in my recliner and I dump in my wheelchair; I just gotta get there!” I shake my head, but I am smiling. All I can do is be there to make sure she transfers safely. I can’t always control whether it looks pretty or not. Once we’re in the bathroom, I wait just outside for her to finish, staring at the magnets on her fridge, proudly declaring that she is a “Ballard Norwegian” and “uff da!” The other day, the med tech knocked on the door just as Nelly was finishing. I ask Nelly if it’s okay if she comes in, and she says, “Oh, why not.” When the med tech offers her the small cocktail of pills and a cup of water, she chuckles, looks up at both of us and says, “There really is nothing like taking your medicine on the pot!”

*Names changed

In honor of Nelly’s refreshingly simple attitude, I am including this no-nonsense, ridiculously easy, recipe for bread.

No Knead Bread

From: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes via Honey and Jam

Perfect for simple butter toast, sandwiches, pizza dough, bread bowls, naan…the list goes on, and on…
3 C. of lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. active dry yeast
1 1/2 T. coarse salt
6 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a big container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. Even regular tap water works. Just let that sit together for a while, then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours (1-2 worked for me). When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.

To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough (any size, the recipe suggests the size of a grapefruit). Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. Don’t worry about bunching near the bottom. It will look rustic.

Put it on a cutting board that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a cast iron skillet (or a pizza stone) in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan (I used a cookie sheet) in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and slash the top, about 1/4-inch deep.

After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. Remove and let cool completely, if you can wait that long.

Recipe notes: It might seem difficult to incorporate all of the flour into the yeast mixture, but just keep mixing. You can add just a little bit of water at a time to help, if needed. The recipe calls for a pizza stone, but Honey and Jam suggested a cast iron skillet, which worked perfectly for me. Also, The Ivory Hut suggests that you let the dough sit longer during the rest period to encourage a nice sourdough flavor. I will try that next time! You can also mix your next batch together in the same bowl with the remnants of your last batch and get the same sexy sourdough effect.

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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in Breads & Muffins, Healing Spoonful


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