Category: Food & Drink

Around the World in 10 Days: A Medical Elective in the Republic of Singapore

One of the things I’ve most looked forward to since Steph and I toured all over the country interviewing at 20+ residency programs was the prospect of an “elective” month. Almost every program had a month carved out for residents to choose an area of (educational) interest and immerse themselves however they pleased. Finally, after three years of waiting, this year was my chance.

I researched for months and finally settled on traveling to London to work with and learn from the London Ambulance Service, one of the world’s premier prehospital agencies. Combined with the emergency physicians aboard the London Air Ambulance, they are doing some cutting edge stuff – including point of care ultrasound, field thoracotomies, REBOA and true prehospital critical care. Plus I’d have a chance to visit Grandma.

So, needless to say, I was bummed when the opportunity failed to materialize.

But as luck would have it, just a few days later I bumped into Dr. Ornato, the chairman of our department at VCU. I mentioned it to him, and without skipping a beat he asked, “Want to go to Singapore?”

Uhhh… yea! Sign me up!

Less than 24 hours later I had an invitation from Singapore General Hospital and the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF), and not long after that I was boarding a flight in Richmond aimed at the opposite side of the world.

Fun Fact #1: Singapore is a tiny island city-state, meaning the entire country is one big city (think Ancient Greece, but Asian). It has been at the center of the global economy for hundreds of years, from a refueling port for the British East India Company to what is now one of the largest shipping ports in the world, with up to 100,000 vessels traversing the Strait of Singapore yearly.

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Now when I say Singapore is far away, consider this: the Earth is roughly 24,000 miles around and this was a 12,000 mile flight. If I’d have gone any further I’d have been on my way back home. (And did I mention I was in a middle seat? My knees, back and bladder were not amused. But I digress.) Roughly two days after setting off I landed as far from home as I’d ever been and will likely ever be (until I make it into orbit, that is).

My first impression both in the airport moving through customs and in the taxi on the way to the place where I’d be stay for the next ten days was pleasant surprise at just how clean, efficient and organized the whole place seemed to be. No pushing or even a raised voice, just well designed infrastructure ready to welcome visitors, students, investors and most importantly: me.

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Marina Bay Sands with the Art-Science Museum on the left

I decided to try AirBnb for the first time. I was traveling alone and found it to be much cheaper than hotels, so why not give it a shot. There was of course the possibility of being murdered in a stranger’s home, and every listing looked far too good to be true, but hell what’s life without a little risk of being drugged and dismembered in your sleep every now and then. So I settled on a condo in an upscale residential district which boasted four swimming pools, a hot tub, free wifi, private bedroom and bathroom, plus walking distance to two subway stations, restaurants, shopping, and a few of Singapore’s ubiquitous dining halls (more on that later), all for less than $60/night. See what I mean?! Must be too good to be true.

But it wasn’t! I found the apartment to be exceptionally comfortable and convenient, precisely as advertised. I met my hosts – an American/Chinese Harvard grad and a Moroccan/French banker – who didn’t seem like serial killers at all. Again, pleasantly surprised and more than a little relieved.

I arrived early and had slept for 16 hours all the way across the Pacific, so after getting settled I was ready to explore. I stepped outside to an instant reminder that the country lies just one degree north of the Equator – instant, drenching perspiration. Nevertheless, I spent the first two days exploring the tiny country on foot, sweating profusely.

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Gardens by the Bay

Singapore is about half the size of London or Los Angeles with a population of just over five million. One of the most striking things about it was the diversity – a nation made up of Chinese, Indian, Malay, European and dozens of other nationalities living in near-complete harmony. That, combined with an effective, non-corrupt government, has attracted tremendous investment, and in just one generation the little city-state has blossomed to become a global center of commerce, ranking 7th in GDP per capita world-wide.

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Hand carved decorations at the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India. Next door were two Buddhist temples.

Fun Fact #2: After independence from Britain following WWII, Singapore briefly merged with its big brother to the north, Malaysia. But thanks to racial strife between the Malays and predominantly Chinese Singaporeans, the island was kicked out in 1965. Singapore has gone on to become an economic powerhouse and first world nation while Malaysia currently ranks 79th in GDP. Whoops!

After eating my way around downtown, having coffee with some very pampered cats and strolling around the stunning Gardens by the Bay and exceptionally impressive Art-Science museum it was time to do some actual work. I spent the first two clinical days at Singapore General Hospital, in the emergency department with Dr. Marcus Ong and his staff. Here’s an excerpt from my Facebook travel diary with my first impressions:

“Spent my first day at SGH today. It’s a remarkably similar place, facing many of the same issues we do in the US. Grumpy consultants, slow throughput, ED boarding, and misuse of emergency services. That said, they see almost zero violent trauma, drug seeking is nonexistent, and psychiatric care is managed outside of the ED. Overall, the care is excellent and very up to date, with all the latest technology readily available but used in a more cost effective way.”

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Efficiency is key. Patients are brought to private areas long enough to be evaluated and have any procedures done but are then moved to a holding area to maintain throughput. There is an observation unit for those needing a little more TLC.
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To combat the ever-present risk of communicable disease the city’s ERs have separate treatment areas for febrile patients. They learned this lesson from outbreaks of SARS, MERS and, most recently, Zika.

I was impressed with the care but noticed it to be somewhat less aggressive than what we do in the US, with invasive procedures done emergently if necessary, but more often left to be sorted out upstairs. While they see very little violent trauma, I was fortunate to see how they managed a motorcycle accident victim – a wealthy British businessman with broken ribs and a collapsed lung. At VCU he would have had a team of 12 providers standing-by on arrival, been stripped of every stitch of clothing and irradiated from head to toe by our CT scanner. At SGH he cracked jokes for an hour while a nervous intern tried his best to place a chest tube.

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PSA in the subway station

Like everything else in the country, the healthcare system in Singapore is modern, effective and efficient (ranked most efficient in the world in 2014). Coverage is universal under the principle of no care being completely free which reduces wasteful over usage. Co-payments (typically 3-10% of the cost) and optional supplemental private insurance are paid from a compulsory personal savings account called MediSave. With the 3rd longest life expectancy worldwide Singaporeans spend just 1.6% of GDP on healthcare. For comparison, the US spends over 17% of its wealth on medical services yearly, and its citizens live just slightly shorter lives than the people of the Turks and Caicos islands at number 43 globally.

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A cardiac arrest case, eventually with ROSC. Note the built in xray in the ceiling and LUCAS device in action. This is not a 3rd world nation.
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Waiting for admission in the ED

After my time in the hospital I spent a full day with the staff of the Unit for Prehospital Emergency Care (UPEC) which is led by Dr. Ong. Just a few years ago the government of Singapore sent experts around the world collecting best practices and poured tens of millions of dollars into the project, tasking UPEC with modernizing the EMS system. At the heart of that effort is the SCDF.

The Singapore Civil Defense Force is a quasi-military 4th branch of uniformed national service which includes both the fire department and ambulance service. Unlike the US, the two branches are almost entirely separate, with firefighters generally providing no medical care and responding only to fire incidents. One exception is the new “firebiker” program, with an EMT trained firefighter on a motorcycle able to respond quickly through traffic to cardiac arrest cases. The ambulance service, on the other hand, is well equipped and staffed by paramedics on every ambulance. A unique aspect of both branches is the inclusion of conscripts, young men completing their two years of national service. While most are drafted into the traditional military branches, others fill the ranks of the SCDF.

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Morning inspection and roll-call at SCDF station Paya Lebar
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DART – Singapore’s elite technical rescue/USAR team maintains 24/7 readiness for deployment anywhere in South East Asia.
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DART HRT – Heavy Rescue Tender, with a mission-adaptable, modular back half.

Fun Fact #3: There are two emergency numbers in Singapore. “9-9-5” is reserved for emergencies, with a government SCDF ambulance responding. “1-7-7-7” is available for non-emergencies, and staffed by unregulated private ambulance companies. Calling 9-9-5 for a non-emergency can result in a hefty fine.  

I had a chance to spend time both aboard an SCDF ambulance and in their command center, where over 50 ambulances are dispatched to almost 1000 calls to 9-9-5 daily. Many unique challenges exist, ranging from the use of four primary national languages (English, Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin), to cultural and religious differences, not to mention a complex environment including dense urban centers and the surrounding swamps, jungle and sea. It was there I first heard the term “vertical response time,” the extra minutes which have to be factored in when lugging a stretcher and equipment to the 40th or 60th floor of an apartment or office building. To combat that particular challenge, the government has funded AEDs being placed in the lobby of every other housing complex as well as community hands-only CPR training, all organized by UPEC. The coordination of such an effort is a remarkable achievement.

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Much of the same capability at a fraction of the cost
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Red Rhino fire service QRV

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UPEC/DARE – Community CPR course. The government aims to train 50,000 first responders in the next few years.

Fun Fact #4: The government LOVES fines. Jaywalking? $20. Smoking in an elevator? Better have $1000 to spare. Even drinking water on the subway or spitting out chewing gum on the street will set you back $500. But most Singaporeans will admit the loss of a few simple freedoms is worth it and has led to a safe and orderly society, with essentially no crime.

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You don’t even want to know what they would do to you for eating a durian on the train.

As my time was coming to a close I had one last clinical opportunity, the one I was most looking forward to: race medical support for the Singapore Grand Prix. Now I’ve never followed Formula 1 racing, but if I learned one thing from the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond last year it’s that you don’t have to be a superfan to get excited when a big event comes to town. With an all-access pass, a chauffeured golf-cart, the scent of high octane gasoline and that distinct TIE-fighter whine of the engines I was soaking up an intoxicating atmosphere. The medical facilities were impressive, with the SCDF, dozens of volunteers from St. John’s Ambulance and the elite Disaster Assistance Rescue Team (DART) on standby. There were even fire-boats positioned to evacuate patients by sea if necessary, avoiding the inevitable gridlock of a city hosting a world-class event. Like everything else I came across during my time there, every detail was planned out and meticulously accounted for with robotic precision.

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Ferrari 458s compete in the warm up to the Singapore Grand Prix

After the race, having completed my educational syllabus, I used my last day in the country to be a shameless tourist. The highlight was undoubtedly the stunning botanical gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I spent most of the day strolling through various areas like the Evolution Garden, Healing Garden, Bonsai Garden and of course, the jaw-dropping National Orchid Garden. Next time you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and pay it a visit. You won’t be sorry.

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The National Orchid Garden
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The Bonsai Garden
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The cable car to Sentosa island – in the distance, the whole world’s commerce passing through the Strait of Singapore

Although it may seem I was in a veritable utopia, by the end of my time there I was ready to come home. Not only was I missing my wife, but in a weird way the predictability of the orderliness, combined with the brutal heat became somehow… monotonous. Full of new knowledge and tremendous respect for the work being done to develop Emergency Medicine in Singapore, I caught the last seat on a full flight home after saying goodbye to my new friends at UPEC, SGH and the SCDF. Did I mention Singaporeans love abbreviations?

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Dr. Ong and I

But what about the food?! Up to this point I’ve purposely avoided mentioning it to prevent an irreversible segway into what I can only describe as the best, cheapest, most diverse cuisine I’ve ever come across. It was simply too good for words, with each meal better than the last. Singapore more than lived up to its reputation as an international foodie destination, so I can think of no better way to conclude than with a stream of epic food porn. Enjoy!

~Amir

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“Hawker centers” are Singapore’s answer to street food – delicious, clean and cheap. What more could you ask for?
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Bak Kut Teh – roughly “meat bone tea” – The most savory, flavorful broth with tender pork ribs. Sides include fried bread for soaking up the broth, various greens, a soy-sauce egg and braised pig intestine.
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Singapore Chili Crab – one of Lonely Planet’s “7 Iconic Dishes” worldwide
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Beef and Kailan greens with fresh sugar cane juice
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Believe it or not, this is a Michelin starred meal. Chicken Rice is just that – but better. On the left, roast pork two ways. Price? $5
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Fancy restaurant? Nope. This roasted Peking Duck is standard hospital food!
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The local coffee – “Kopi” – is thick and flavorful, sweetened with a dollop of condensed milk.
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Laksa – a rich Malay coconut noodle soup with various proteins
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Curry three ways: Rice with chicken curry, fish curry, and tandori chicken. Roti bread to soak it all up.
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Grilled garlic king prawns with fried rice, greens and fresh mango juice.

Zesty & Fresh 7 Layer Mexican Bean Dip

This recipe is a staple at nearly every event my mom and I host.  It’s easy to make, requiring no actual cooking.  It’s always a hit, palatable to both adults and kids.

Serves: 10-20 party guests

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 0 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes


Ingredients:

  1. 2 cans of Frito-Lay Bean Dip
  2. 16 oz. sour cream
  3. 1 packet Old El Paso Taco Seasoning (Original)
  4. 8 oz. Mexican (four cheese) blend finely shredded cheese
  5. 12 oz pre-made guacamole (or make your own)
  6. 1/2 head of lettuce, diced
  7. 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  8. 1/2 cup chopped scallions (green onion)
  9. 1 bag Tostitos Scoops

 


Preparation:

  1. FullSizeRender (29)In a medium bowl, stir the taco seasoning into the sour cream.
  2. Prepare the produce by dicing the tomatoes, lettuce and scallions.  Keep separated.
  3. In an ungreased 9″x13″ pan (for convenience use disposable), spread the 2 cans of bean dip along the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spread the guacamole evenly on top of the bean dip, using a spoon to level the surface.
  5. Spread the sour cream mix over the guacamole.
  6. Sprinkle the lettuce across the bean, guacamole and sour cream layers.
  7. Add an even layer of cheese (this should cover the lettuce completely)
  8. Add the roma tomatoes
  9. Finish with scallions (and black olives if desired)

Don’t forget the tortilla chips!

~Steph

Exploring Virginia: A Day Trip to Tangier Island

Tangier Island has always been a place of intrigue in my mind – a mythical island of less than 500 people, disconnected from daily life. When we were young, my sister took an overnight boat trip there with family friends. A hurricane led to a near stranding and peaked my interest in visiting. In medical school, we learned of Tangier Disease, a genetic disorder causing reduced levels of HDL (good cholesterol), named after the island’s inhabitants who have a rather shallow genetic pool.

 

So when Amir suggested a day trip, I Googled “tangier ferry” and discovered Tangier Rappahannock Cruises, a 2 hour ferry service that leaves from the coastal fishing town of Reedville, VA. I recommend selecting the same-day return trip, and skipping the suggested lunch at the Chesapeake House (more on that in a bit).   Total cost round-trip for the two of us was just $57.24 including all taxes and fees. While you can just show up at the dock and buy tickets the same day, I recommend booking online to save yourself time and ensure your reservation.

We sat on the bow to get the best vantage point of blue skies and glassy seas. Osprey, fishing boats and crumbling barns float by, demanding the attention of your camera lens. I, as usual, captured them through the lens of my iPhone, Amir through his Canon DSLR.

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Tangier soon turned from a distant mirage to a beautiful green world just ahead. The skyline was low, consisting mostly of simple two-story houses with a rare deviation in height for a church steeple and a water tower. As we entered the man-made channel lined with little white houses and docks, our ship’s captain revealed that Tangier is the world’s source for soft shell crabs. The crabbers live in these tiny white shacks – shacks that are filled with blue crabs, checked diligently on the hour in anticipation of the golden moment when the crab molts its shell. The crab is then scooped up and placed on ice or into a freezer and sold to restaurants for a feast later that day. It’s a practice as unique as the island itself.

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We stepped off the boat and onto the dock, the end of which was lined with locals in golf carts offering 15 minute tours of the island, and friendly women with sun-aged skin offering coupons for the best lunch spots (there are only 7). We opted to skip the carts and create our own walking tour.

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Instantly we were struck by the strange collision of worlds. Tangier is part what you would expect – fishermen, boats, flip flops and simple life at a slow pace – everything I love about Chesapeake Bay living. But it’s also part Cuba, part 3rd world country. For an isolated island, bringing goods in is expensive, so you see signs of old everywhere you turn. 1970s motorbikes, rusted chain link fences, refrigerators from 3 generations past. If you want new and shiny, this is not the place for you.

And while old often equates with charm, there’s something a bit off in Tangier. Like bringing things to the island, disposing of them is also a costly task. So, garbage is everywhere – broken down golf carts, bottomless boats, and 20 year old Pepsi cans littering the land and the water. It makes you cringe. It doesn’t fit. A proud people so dependent upon nature for their existence, so careless in protecting it.

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For a half second my mind contemplated the missed opportunity – “What if they just picked up the trash?” “What if they had some eco-friendly activities?” I imaged the potential for increased tourism, and the subsequent revenue that could benefit this island and its people. And then I wondered, maybe this is deliberate.

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We decided to try Fisherman’s Corner for lunch. We entered the brightly painted, simple square building to find a bustling room tightly packed with tables of both tourists and locals. The menu was typical Chesapeake Bay fare – she crab soup, crab dip, fried shrimp, crab cakes and soft shell crabs. Clearly we had to try the soft shells. The food was simple, home-cooked and a tad pricy, but delicious. My soft shell crab was sandwiched between two slices of white Wonder bread. While I was initially skeptical of my minimalist bun, when topped with the zesty tartar sauce, the flavors combined perfectly. We skipped dessert since we’d already cheated and devoured hand-dipped ice cream cones on our earlier walk.

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Soft shell crab sandwich at Fisherman’s Corner | Tangier, VA
We continued our ambulatory tour of the island, scoping out the picturesque little houses and the oddly placed graveyards in each front yard. Tangier is only 4 feet above sea level and losing 10-15 feet of land mass per year, so space is limited. A brief scan of graves reveals repeating names – Crockett, Pruett, Pruett, Crockett, Crockett. I begin to better understand the origins of Tangier Disease.

There are two churches, one fire station, one police officer and one school. On an island with 450 people, you make do. The sign outside the fire station explains that until very recently, every household was provided with a single leather bucket. When a fire broke out, the entire town would arrive and form a bucket brigade. I wondered what hurricane preparations took place today.

In just 3 short hours, we’d experienced 90% of what Tangier has to offer. We heard a dialect I can only describe best as Old English garble. We marveled at the eccentric locals like bird watchers spotting a never-before-seen species. Tangier is a dichotomy of beautiful and ugly, but special none-the-less.

~Steph

Simple Steps for Throwing a British Themed Party

The great thing about a British theme is you can apply it to most types of parties. Whether you are throwing a baby shower, birthday, bon voyage, or simple dinner party, the theme is flexible and can be expressed in a number of creative ways.  My husband is 1/2 English, so we decided to throw a England/London/British themed Valentine’s Day party and called it “Love in London.”


Food

British food has a reputation for being a little dull and boring, but your spread doesn’t have to be. There are so many amazing recipes online, it can be hard to decide just what to make. We opted for sausage rolls, beef wellington (labor intensive & expensive, wouldn’t do it again), fish & chips (just buy ’em & fry ’em), cucumber & tomato salad, cucumber sandwiches and more. You can add some easy flare to your finger foods with these union jack toothpick flags.

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Simple sausage rolls with union jack flags
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Marinated cucumbers, onions & tomatoes add a flavorful vegetable dish

Last but not least, don’t forget proper condiments for your amazing food.  Buy a bottle of malt vinegar for your fish & chips, and a bottle of HP sauce, and you’ve got your bases covered.

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Don’t forget the condiments!

Drink

Ok, depending on your crowd, this might be the most important aspect of the party.  There are lots of great drink options, but a British party wouldn’t be complete without Pims cup.  There’s no exact recipe you have to stick to – I like taking whatever fruit looks fresh at the store and adding it to Sprite and/or ginger beer.  For ease, you can also mix up a whole pitcher to have ready to go, similar to a sangria.

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A spin on the traditional Pims cup

Fortunately we can thank England and Scotland for having a number of great beers.  Head to your local beer/wine outlet and find the “England” section.  We went to Total Wine.  You only need a 6-pack or so of each if you are buying a big selection.  Guests enjoy trying new beers as well as old favorites.

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Assorted British beers we found at TotalWine

If you want to try something really special, and have some time to plan ahead, take a chance on a home brew and create your own.  We made a delicious London Porter in just 4 weeks using this easy home brewing kit.  We also customized the bottle to fit our theme using these handy waterproof labels for your home printer. We sealed the caps with union jack flag stickers for a finishing touch.

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London Porter Home Brew

Dessert

There are many creative options for desserts to fit your theme.  I’m not much for baking, so I cheated and outsourced a bit of this.  The classic English dessert is a trifle, which is simply a layered dessert, typically with pudding, sponge cake and fresh fruit.

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Strawberry trifle with fresh berries

The hallmark of English tea time, after the tea of course, is small cookies.  Any small simple butter cookies will do.  You can make these, but I opted to buy pre-made.  For a mixed display, buy a box of chocolates to add to your 3-tier cake stand, and you’re ready for tea time.

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Traditional 3-tier cake stands with tea time floral designs
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Store-bought coconut macaroons on the bottom tier
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Add a frilly tablecloth to complete the authentic tea time look

For another dessert option (which is a great go-to for any party or theme), consider some custom decorated cookies.  These sugar cookie masterpieces are from Cookies by Design in Virginia Beach.  They are also a hit if you have little kids attending your party.

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Hand-painted London themed cookies by Cookies by Design

Decorations

The easiest way to convey “British” visually is with the union jack flag.  You don’t have to be an artist to create cool and creative decorations.  Add a $5 union jack flag over a white tablecloth to create a bold canvas for your delicious food.

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$5 union jack flag adds an easy visual punch

Simple things like adding a sticker to your cups or nametags can help carry your theme forward in an easy way.

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Cute and easy cups thanks to $3.25 union jack stickers

Another option that requires no artistry, is to apply this $4 union jack duct tape to simple objects.  For this project, buy 3D cardboard letters to spell whatever you choose.  Then wrap them in the duct tape and viola!

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“LOVE” decoration made with 3D letters and duct tape for just $8

If you do consider yourself artistic or crafty, and don’t mind putting in some time cutting objects out, consider making your own garland.  Find any image you like online, print it on photo paper, cut it out, hole punch it and string them together.  Add a lace paper doily for an extra English touch.

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“Love in London” hearts strung together with lace doilies and twine
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Itty bitty hearts strung together with silver thread to make a precious garland
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Template for tea time heart garland
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Search your house for any knick knacks that fit your theme and display them together
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Colorful tissue poofs are cheap and high impact

Music

Pandora has an array of great themed channels.  The best fit for an all-ages England themed party is British Invasion Radio.

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Games & Fun

Party games and activities are tricky.  Everyone’s been to a party where games feel forced and grueling, but you don’t want a party with everyone just standing around.  Two simple activities I love are photobooths and trivia.  They are great because guests can participate on their own time throughout the party, and they don’t take any bandwidth away from the host or hostess.

Photobooth

Grab some simple props (hats, glasses, boas) and if you want to go big, a life-size celebrity cut-out.  Kate Middleton and Queenie were the life of the party.

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If you entertain a lot, consider investing in the modern polaroid, the FujiFilm Instax mini camera.  It instantly prints a polaroid-style photo that makes a great takeaway memory for your guests.

Trivia

Create a set of questions related to your theme and post them, along with pens and ballots, for guests to fill out.  Winner gets a prize!

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So that’s it, ideas for food, drinks, music, decorations and activities for your next London/British/English themed party.  For additional ideas not mentioned here, check out the Love in London Pinterest board.

~Steph

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Cooking for Singles

Originally posted to Facebook August 12, 2010 @7:12PM:

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Kaye Krebs & Stephanie Krebs Louka

Backstory: I was whining to my mom about how difficult it is to cook healthy, quick meals for one person.  I can only eat so much broccoli in a week before it goes bad.  If you’ve been to my mom’s kitchen, you know that she has a unique ability to whip up something amazing in a jiffy.  I asked her to document her motherly wisdom.


What I Stock in My Kitchen

By Your Mother


REFRIGERATOR

Basics:  Eggs, large sweet onion, garlic cloves, butter, milk, half and half, whipped cream cheese, sour cream, chicken stock base and all my bread (except what I freeze)fridge

Condiments:  Mayo, ketchup, yellow mustard, Dijon mustard, sweet relish, bottled lemon juice, capers, horseradish, sweet pickle relish, Major Gray’s chutney, and Worchester sauce

Deli Drawer:  Bacon, hot dogs, American cheese, Swiss cheese, crumbled blue cheese or Saga blue wedge, cheddar cheese, fresh grated parmesan or parmesan reggiano wedge or assaggio wedge, sometimes feta cheese, and a ham steak slice

Vegetables: Baby carrots, small head iceberg lettuce, celery and one bag of specialty lettuce (spinach, arugula, field greens, baby lettuces, romaine, etc.)  Two white potatoes and two sweet potatoes


FREEZER

Breads:  Hot dog and hamburger rolls, raisin bread, small Lender Bagels (onion and plain), a loaf of Arnold’s hearty multigrain bread, Phyllo dough and English muffins

Meat/Fish:  Individually wrapped boneless chicken breasts, pork chops hamburger patties, Canadian bacon, sausage, cooked and peeled shrimp and tilapia filets

Vegetables:  (The kind in a bag, not “block”) Baby peas, chopped spinach, french green beans and strips of red and green peppers

Other:  Homemade soups, stews, chili, taco spiced ground beef and spaghetti sauce.  The only pre-made dinner products that I buy (and they’re excellent) are Stouffer’s Escalloped Chicken and Noodles and Stuffed Green Peppers with Tomato Sauce.


PANTRY

Canned Goods: Small cans of mushrooms, albacore tuna, white crab meat, minced clams, water chestnuts, corn, black beans and pimento.  Diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, kidney beans and white cannellini beans.  Soups:  bisque of tomato, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of celery and cream of asparagus.  Fruits:  mandarin oranges, whitePantry2grapefruit, and pear halves (not the kind packed in heavy syrup)

Dried Goods: Pasta, lentils, peas, panko crumbs, corn bread mix, Italian style breadcrumbs white rice, Top Ramen noodles, crackers (at a minimum saltines and Ritz or a flavored cracker) and peanut butter.  Nuts:  pecans, walnuts, cashews and peanuts.  Fruit: cherries, cranberries and raisins.  Cereal and cookies

Other:  Soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut oil, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, rice wine, dry sherry, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, flour, sugar, artificial sweetener and salt.  Essential spices: basil, dill, tarragon, parsley, oregano, peppercorns (for a pepper mill) and freeze-dried chives.


Some Tips for Inexpensive, Quick Wonderful Food

1.      Buy lots of small freezer bags and Glad plastic containers.  Mark and date what you freeze for easy identification.  Because you’re cooking for one, you’ll want to freeze the rest of that jar of spaghetti sauce or the extra diced tomatoes.   My rule is 6 months for frozen, 5 days for refrigerated leftovers.

2.      If you’re cooking, make enough for a second or third meal.  img_5013It doesn’t take any longer, other than to package and stick it in the freezer.  Things like stews and chili are actually better the second time.

3.      Pack meat and fish individually in freezer bags.  For fish and seafood, be sure to ask if it was previously frozen. Don’t refreeze if it was frozen and thawed at the fish counter.

4.      All the things I keep in the “deli drawer” will keep a long time.  Bacon and the ham slice have been cured.  Cheeses will keep too as long as you have them in a well-sealed baggies.

5.      Obviously, you can’t buy everything on this list at once, but keep in mind that you are stocking your kitchen each time you go to the store.  So pick up a couple of things on the list each time.  You can start with one vinegar or oil, then add others later.

6.      I haven’t included fresh fruits and vegetables.  Buy what’s in season.  They’re cheaper and better.

7.      Use your toaster oven instead of the big oven when you’re eating alone.

8.      That Sunday afternoon when you’re doing laundry and lounging around, make soup.  It’s fun and wonderful eating.  (Or you can come here and raid the freezer.)

9.      Buy a rotisserie chicken.  Eat it sliced the first time.  rotisserie-chicken2-webThen make chicken salad, chicken a la king, chicken sandwiches, or toss it with some pasta, those leftover mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.

10.  Make salad dressings, don’t buy them.  Mix oil to vinegar about 2 to 1.  Taste it, add salt and pepper, maybe Dijon mustard.  Remember that great dressing from Bodega?  Use sherry instead of vinegar with your extra virgin olive oil.   Maybe add some blue cheese crumbles.  saladdressingOr, if you like the creamy kind, start with a little mayonnaise, add a little sour cream and blue cheese.  Too thick?  Add a little milk.  Or make a dressing starting with mayonnaise, add ketchup and lemon juice.  This is the dressing you like on that shrimp salad (iceberg lettuce, shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, a little sweet onion).  Add a little horseradish for an extra kick.  If you want Thousand Island dressing, add sweet pickle relish to this.

11.  When you don’t feel like cooking, eggs and/or cheese is your answer.  Make a nice omelet.  You have ham in your deli bin, there are lots of cheeses to choose from and onions or chives (in the spice rack) or maybe you want to use some of those leftover mushrooms..  Or, maybe you have a fresh ripe tomato that would go great with Swiss, Brie, or mozzarella.  Take out some of that 12-grain bread from the freezer.  Get one or two of those green or red pepper strips while you’re there for the omelet.   Maybe whip up a little spinach salad with some pecans, dried cherries, a bit of apple and some blue cheese with the Bodega dressing.  Add a glass of wine.  Wow, what a great meal!

12.  What else can you do with eggs?  Egg salad or a BLT with egg sandwich, If you really want to get fancy, how about a cheese soufflé?

13.  What else can you do with cheese?   Well, of course, there’s American cheese for a grilled cheese sandwich (wonderful with your bisque of tomato soup and a few pickles).  But you might try a mixture of cheeses for your grilled cheese.  Or, take that plump ripe tomato (in season), put it on some toasted 12-grain bread from your freezer and top it with some Swiss cheese and put it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese, adding some Mayo before you close it.  Wonderful.  Or, get one of those bagels, toast it, cover with cream cheese and add a big tomato slice with salt and pepper.  (Kristin taught me this.)  Too good to describe.  Or maybe just get some good crackers, some fresh pears, grapes or an apple, and a hunk of cheese and go at it.  A nice glass of wine too.  Who needs a hot meal?

14.   Knowing how to make “white sauce” is essential. This is a basic of French cooking and there are three kinds of white sauce: thin, medium and thick.  bechamel-01-2500There are 3 ingredients: butter, flour and milk.  The basic recipe uses 1C of milk.  For thin 1 T flour and butter.  For medium: 2T flour and butter.  For thick: 3 T flour and butter.  Now, you want to add salt and pepper to taste.  (You may remember the dinner you, Jackie, Kara and Kristin Dennis made for all the parents.  You made a basic medium white sauce and added champagne.  This was the sauce you poured over your chicken.) Or, you can add a little sherry, if you like that flavor (I do.)  Quite honestly, I have never made a thin or thick white sauce.  The medium is always right for my purposes.  So now that you’ve made it, what do you do with it?  Well, you could chop up some of that leftover rotisserie chicken and put it in that with a little pimento or leftover mushrooms, maybe some onion that you’ve sautéed.  You could even add some of those baby peas from the freezer or a couple of chopped strips of red or green pepper (also in the freezer) and/or pimento….good too.  Now you have chicken a la king, which you can serve over an English muffin (also in your freezer) or toast points.  One of your dad’s favorite quick dishes is tuna fish (from the can) with just white sauce and salt and pepper on toast or English muffin.  You can add chipped beef (get it from a deli) to the white sauce too, serving it over toast.  When I make baked chicken potpie, I use white sauce with some tarragon (to taste…..add a little, then more until you like it).

15.  So what else can you make when you don’t really feel like cooking?   Well, you can stir up a “stir fry”.   exps152485_SD132778B04_12_4bTake those veggies that have been languishing in the fridge, maybe you bought some broccoli or fresh green beans or snow peas.  Put a little pan of water on to boil and start a skillet (you don’t need a wok) with peanut oil.  Chop up some carrots and onions.  Sauté some shrimp from the freezer, leftover chicken or even hot dogs.  Add the veggies to the stirfry (there are no rules here, just leftovers).  Put the Top Ramen noodles in the boiling water until they are soft……maybe a minute?……drain, then throw them in the pan with the veggies and add a little soy sauce and sesame oil.  Dinner, in 10 minutes, Chinese style.

Well, I could go on and on about the wonderful dishes you can make with these ingredients, but you will have fun discovering them, as you become an excellent cook.  (One of the benefits of regularly eating “in” rather than “out”).

You may notice that I didn’t list much for desserts.  Of course, my dad was a diabetic so we never had much in the way of desserts, but I always have fresh fruit and cookies on hand.  Cookies are great because you can eat a couple and that seems to scratch that “sweet” itch.  And of course, fresh fruits, in season, are like manna from the gods.

Much love,

Mom  ❤