Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Dear Lauren,

When someone gives you a hug and says you have a beautiful soul, it's a tear-jerker. When that someone is an oncologist, you never forget it. I saw Dr. Tolbert yesterday because I have some weirdnesses in my blood and we had to make sure that I don't have cancer, and I don't. But, the experiences I had the two times I was in Dr. Tolbert's office will stay with me for a long, long time, and so will his advice.

Here's the short list of advice I received (at least this was my take-away from both of my visits.) Maybe he didn't say it exactly this way. Maybe he didn't say it at all. I still think it's worth you reading and adopting into your life in one form or another.

1. Treat people really, really well. Depending on your personality and your own personal habits and values, you might want to treat others even better than you treat yourself.
2. Hire people that reflect who you are (see #1.) Dr. Tolbert did. He hired Troy. Troy made me not care about stepping on the scale or giving up vial after vial of blood. He's funny, he's smart, he cared about me. He taught me about my median cubital vein and he showed me a new GPS app on my phone called Waze. Now I'm a Baby Wazer.
3. Love your job.
4. It's sobering sitting in a cancer center when you don't have cancer. Count your blessings.
5. Doctors want to help you. They want to heal you. Be judicious in the treatment you accept. Try to take the least amount of medicine and accept the most conservative treatment plan possible. They won't ever mean to, but the more treatment that you accept, the more the possibility of you being accidentally injured. I'm not explaining this as well as it was explained to me, but I got the message loud and clear. Stay out of the doctor's office whenever possible.
6. Don't discount Eastern medicine. There IS a mind/body connection.
7. Reduce the stress in your life. Figure out where it's coming from and eliminate it as much as possible.

We also talked about carnitas. Dr. Tolbert is a cook like me and right now I am obsessed with the best carnitas recipe I've ever made. He asked me for the recipe and since you love these carnitas too, I decided to post the recipe here. (Have fun, Dr. Tolbert. Thank you for being you. You also have a beautiful soul.)

adapted from Food & Wine Best of the Best Volume 16 from a recipe by Roberto Santibanez in his book, Tacos, Tortas and Tamales

5 cubes Dorot Crushed Garlic, or 5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup water
5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces (you do not want to have more than 2 layers of these pieces in your Dutch oven)
3 bay leaves
1 cup coke

onion, chopped, for serving
cilantro, chopped, for serving
corn or flour tortillas, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt and 1/2 cup water in a blender and blend until fairly smooth. Place the pork in a 6-quart Dutch* oven in two layers. Add the bay leaves, the coke, and the blended mixture and toss well. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Remove the lid, stir the contents, scraping the bottom and cook for an additional 10 minutes, uncovered. Stir/scrape again and cook 10 more minutes. Do this one more time so that you have cooked the meat uncovered for a total of 30 minutes, stirring and scraping at 10 minute intervals. The uncovered cooking is crucial! Don't skip it! Remove the carnitas from the oven, stir/scrap one last time, which essentially shreds your pork a little more each time you do it. Serve on tortillas and garnish with the chopped raw onion and cilantro. We prefer corn but you might prefer flour tortillas. Or no tortillas at all, just serve in a bowl. 


P.S. See the photo I took the first time we made the carnitas? Look at that pot. Wow! The original recipe says, you will remove the top from the pot and see black. Don't be concerned with this. Well, you might want to be a little concerned, especially if you are using an old Dutch oven like I was. My enamel lining was compromised from years of use and it took Dad 3 days to remove the black. He was less than thrilled! LOL! He bought a new Lodge 6-quart Dutch oven that he now calls the carnitas pot. The Lodge was a lot less expensive than the Le Creuset, but you know what? I can't tell a bit of difference in the quality of the way it cooks. It's my new true love!

*P.P.S. You do need a special pot for this recipe. It's called a Dutch oven. Specifically, you need the 6-quart size. Lodge makes an enameled Dutch oven that is a fantastic value for the money. Just look at this one and compare it to similar ones from Le Creuset or Staub. If you have Amazon Prime you don't even pay for shipping. You really can't lose! The prices vary based on the color so get a cafe brownpumpkin or a emerald green one for $45! The regular price is $115 according to the Lodge website. What a bargain! I used a Le Creuset to make this recipe the first time and as I said, it took 3 days to get it clean. I made carnitas a second time and was able to get the Lodge clean after a quick soak in blue Dawn. Without Dad.

P.P.P.S. I love Dorot products. LOVE. Keep some in the freezer at all times!

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