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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

Ingredients:

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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Craziness and Cookies for Peace

This story does not make me look like an angel. Yesterday, I was severely annoyed by a patient. This patient drove me so crazy that I wanted to pull out my hair, ignore her completely, or worse, make her disappear. It wasn’t that bad from the beginning. While I knew she had a psych history, and had been to multiple ERs with the same complaints, and had same tests done and had been medically cleared any number of times, it’s not in my nature to immediately distrust a patient that I have never met. But with a large load of patients already, and a busy day ahead, it soon became clear to me who was the truly ill and who fell to second (or fifth) priority. And with a steady stream of complaints and demands with seemingly no relief, I soon grew exasperated. Probably more so than I have felt ever before in this setting. It is not a good feeling, and it colored the quality of my care for this patient and tinged my mood for the entire day. I was not at my best. Less than super nurse, to say the least. She was with me all twelve hours, my lovely lesson of the day. She was constantly telling me how sick she was – as if I could forget. She told me again and again that the regular doses of pain and anti-nausea medication that I was giving her had done nothing at all and she would rate her pain as ten out of ten, and later twelve out of ten. When I paid attention to her it was almost worse than when I ignored her. I hate to say it, but I realized that I had to be firm and set limits with her so that I could safely care for my other patients as well. It was a hard lesson, but very necessary. And when she was finally medically cleared (with yet another CT scan, that she demanded) she still wasn’t ready to leave. Multiple physicians tried to use reason, and I did my best as well, but we could not get through to her.

Then suddenly, while I was in the midst of drawing up medications for another patient, an old man appeared at my side. He said he was her father. He looked nearly as tired as me. But with a sweet smile, he asked me if she was medically cleared, and if so, could he take her home? Unanticipated, a huge sigh whooshed out of me. I told him that yes, she had been cleared. Another sad little smile and he said, “If she is clear, then I can take her off your hands.” This small stocky man with the unruly grey Einstein-esque hair and disheveled appearance–sweater pulled taut over a slight paunch–was my knight in shining armor. And after a full day of caring for this patient with no relief or remission of symptoms, arguing with her about her diagnosis (or lack thereof) and just generally sweating over her care, she meekly followed her father out the door. That easy? For me, it was. That was one day for me. One hard day and then I get to wash my hands of it. But guess who doesn’t get to do that? Her kind mother who called earlier in the day to inquire about her status and her sweet father who came to escort her home and ultimately ended the circular game of discharging someone against his/her will, sick or not. Mother and father will never wash their hands of their daughter’s illness and neither will this woman herself, who is clearly sick in a way that the medications in our Pyxis simply cannot treat. I left very sad, and frustrated. Our system isn’t very good at dealing with the mentally ill. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the system failed this patient, despite our well-intentioned efforts, and that makes it fundamentally flawed. Clearly, I don’t know the whole story. I only saw a small piece of the puzzle. But, I know something different should have occurred to stop the cycle of her using the ER like a revolving door. Should she have received a psych consult even though every complaint she had was physical in nature? The clues of prior visits point to yes, although clearly this is not a means to a permanent end since prior psych consults have not yielded answers or an end to the behavior. And should she have been assessed for an addiction? Perhaps. It is hard to say without knowing more of the story than her singular ER visit.

What I do know is that the very next day, while putting a chart away at the charge nurse’s desk, a little piece of me shriveled up inside when I heard her voice behind me saying, “Oh, Rachel…I’m back. This time I am really sick!” There she was, brought in by EMS…AGAIN…on a stretcher. She told me that she was still feeling terrible, and that “they” had called her back because they had seen something on her CT scan when re-reading it. I have to admit, I held my breath and crossed my fingers that our team wouldn’t be assigned to her care. And it wasn’t. But the Communications nurse later told me that the look on my face was priceless when the patient called out my name, she said she cracked up, and only for that reason was the patient not assigned to our team again Only in blog-land can I admit how grateful I was. After another 12 hours of her in the ER, with so many other patients, I may have quit my job on the spot. Obviously, I need to learn to better outlets to control my frustrations, because not every patient is pleasant or kind. I am working on learning not to let my crazy patients make me crazy as well because then i really can’t help them!

And now, a recipe for peace. Tea and these cookies, combined with a little yoga on the side help me stay externally peaceful in the ER.

simple lemony cookies

Ingredients (I doubled this recipe and kept one log in the freezer for later use at a future tea party date!) From: VodKitchen
  • 9 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Barely less than 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 lemons for zest
Preparation
  1. Put your softened butter into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients (save the lemon zest) and process until smooth.
  2. Finely grate your lemon zest. Stir the zest into the cookie dough and mix together well. Spoon on to a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape with a roughly 2 1/2-inch diameter. Chill the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Get your chilled dough out and cut it into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place these on two cookie sheets, making sure you leave a good bit of space between the slices because they’ll spread while cooking. Place the cookie sheets in the middle of your preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Let them cool down slightly before transferring to a wire rack to let cool completely.

Also great made with orange zest instead of lemon, and served with tea, coffee, or hot cocoa!

 

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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

Ingredients

  • 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.)

Directions

  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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The Crock Pot Saga: Texan Picante Chicken Sandwichitos

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while, but kept it on the back burner–so to speak–(pahaha, so punny) since this whole Emergency Room saga began. I figured now is a great time to put it up, though, since it’s been wiggling its way into my food brain lately. Nothing like coming home from a 12-14 hour shift to the tangy and mouthwatering scent of barbecue sauce wafting out into the stairwell, and knowing that it’s coming from my own apartment. The best part about this recipe is that the prep time is next to nothing and it’s great for leftover lunches, too.

Texan Picante Chicken Sandwichitos

Cleverly named by: My fiance 🙂

– 1 medium onions or 1/2 large onions, thinly sliced

– 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

– 1 cup ketchup

– 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

– 2 tablespoons molasses

– 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

  1. Cut the onion in half and slice. Line the bottom of the crock pot with the onions.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts and place on top of the bed of onions.
  3. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and pour on top of the chicken covering completely. (I made the sauce the night before so that it’s even easier to prep in the morning.)
  4. Cook for 6 hours on low setting. While cooking, the sauce will thicken and darken and the onions will soften or perhaps dissolve completely depending on how thinly you’ve sliced them.
  5. When the chicken is falling apart tender, take two forks and shred the chicken.
  6. Serve on top of split buns. I like mine toasted and with a few spinach sprigs so they hold up better to the weight of the shredded chicken.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Main Dishes

 

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Digesting

A perfect snack

I wrote this post about a week ago – and never posted it. Oh my goodness, it feels so good to read over this post now, a week later, remembering how stressed out and tired I was then and how GREAT I feel now! I am finally done with nursing school’s dirty little trick – summer boot camp. I didn’t get an ulcer, I am not sick with the flu (yet), and I did pretty darn ok! I am going to write another entry shortly, reflecting on my experience over the summer, since I didn’t get to digest it before…but for now I have this for you…

(Written a week ago…) The inspiration for this recipe hails from my mom. Clearly, I cannot make her recipes taste better, nothing tastes better than the mom-infused touch, but I can at least try and make it healthier. Ah, the dreaded words. However, in nursing school bootcamp, with little-to-no-time to exercise (a lame excuse, I know) I am trying to be more conscious of what I eat. For the time being. Because I am in the 6 day countdown till FREEDOM, and once that bell tolls, it’s all about running, and playing and eating freely!

Healthful Yogurt Banana Bread

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-3/4 C. sugar (depending on how ripe your bananas are: more ripe=less sugar)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 C. toasted walnuts/pecans; chopped coarsely–about 1 cup (optional)
  • 3 very ripe, darkly speckled large bananas
  • 1/4 c. yogurt (I use plain greek yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled (I used less, probably about 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, cinnamon if you like!

1) Use a regular loaf pan, grease and flour bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350.

2) Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nuts.

3) Mash the bananas well, and mix them with the yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake 55 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, transfer to wire rack.

Of course, there are many fun variations you can try too. Banana bread is never boring! Try using a flavored yogurt, such as vanilla. My mom regularly made her famous banana bread studded with chocolate chips. You can try different nuts, adding coconut, substituting some apple sauce, adding in some zucchini to fraternize with the banana, etc, etc — the possibilities are endless. Let me know if you come up with any fantastic variations. I can’t wait to try it!

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Breads & Muffins, Snacks

 

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Vegetablemania

(semi)local produce delivered to my door!

I love home delivery! It’s not quite a CSA (we’ll get one of those when we move to the East Coast in less than a month) but it is produce, delivered to my door, and as local-as-you-like-it! This is only our second delivery, but I am already completely enamored with the spudliness of our produce. And as with the first time, as soon as it came, I went into a veritable vegetable frenzy. What to do with all these veggies? What’s that I sense? Is it the kale turning bitter already? Maybe I should use it today! How can I possibly combine all these carrots-apples-limes-shallots into one healthful and delicious dish? How about a hodgepodge soup? I did them both. But first for the most miraculous discovery…

KALE CHIPS

Yes, kale chips. Healthy and no way – delicious too. I can hardly believe it. In the past, I have felt a wee bit intimidated by kale. The bitterness, the toughness of the stems, how it quickly wilts from its oh-so-becoming curliness into, well, wilted kale…Until Today, I was: not so impressed.

I remembered reading about kale chips on a blog somewhere, but amongst all my blogs, it was a lost cause to search for the exact kale chip recipe. So I googled. And lo and behold, there is not just one recipe for kale chips, there are many! And should I really even dare to call it a recipe? That may sound a little imposing. This is so gosh darn simple, I nailed it the first time reading it. But here it is, printed for posterity in my blog:

Crispy Kale Chips

Poor discarded cores...

  • 1 bunch of kale (a lot, it shrinks)
  • Olive oil
  • Ground sea salt

Preheat oven to 300. Trim the kale leaves by first cutting out the tough center core and then chopping each side into a few more bite-sized pieces. Toss the leaves in a big bowl and drizzle olive oil over them. Add a little, mix. Add a little more, mix until satisfied. You don’t want to  overdo the oil. Sprinkle salt over the oiled leaves and toss lightly. Spread the kale-chips-to-be in a single layer on a baking sheet. No need to oil, your kale babes already have that going for them. Toss in the oven for roughly 20 minutes, check for crispiness! But please don’t let them burn…

my tossing strategy

a REAL healthy snack

A little bird told me that if you make these, then crunch them up into little kale crisp crumbs, they are GREAT sprinkled over popcorn. Go light on the oil so that they don’t stick together if you attempt this. It’s definitely on my list of things to do now!

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Snacks, Vegetables and Sides

 

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