4 Feb 2016

healthy eating with a busy lifestyle (& a little recipe!)

Sometimes, after a long day, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. This can lead to skipping meals and in the long run, this isn't good for the human body. I'm lucky in that, living at home, my mum doesn't mind cooking for me but when she's at work (which she does part-time), I'm responsible for my own dinner. As a result, I've become a bit of an expert in cooking quick meals that require minimal prep time and even less cook time. 

One of my specialties is a potato salad and I've shared my 'recipe' for it at the end of this post. I've called it a recipe but it's so brief and simple, I'm not sure it deserves that title.

For me, the key to quick meals are to have a certain few ingredients in your fridge, freezer and cupboards at all times. These include:

cupboard: rice noodles, spaghetti and pasta, rice, eggs, chilli flakes, paprika, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, dried basil, oregano, salt and pepper and sugar.

fridge: garlic, spring onions, tomato puree, tomatoes, lettuce (it can keep for over a week!) and chinese leaf.

freezer: prawns, sweetcorn, peas, frozen veg, Quorn mince and fish (usually salmon or sea bass).

My list is very South East Asian (with a bit of Italian thrown in!) but you can adapt yours to your own tastebuds. I'm a fan of spice and minimal salt (I tend to use herbs to flavour instead!). With the basic ingredients shown above, I can whip up a meal in less than fifteen minutes. I'd also recommend getting a rice cooker: you can honestly put all ingredients for a meal in there and then leave it to cook. I used to do that during exam time and the meals didn't taste that bad either! You won't gain any Michelin stars but at least you'll be eating fresh food without resorting to ready meals.

Examples of quick meals using these ingredients are:

Rice noodle soup: rice noodles, fish sauce, sesame oil, chilli flakes, sugar, chinese leaf, spring onions and prawns.

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognase: spaghetti, garlic, tomato puree, tomatoes, salt and pepper, oregano, basil, Quorn mince.

Fried rice: eggs, rice, ground pepper, sweetcorn and peas.

Omelette with boiled rice: rice, peas, eggs, ground pepper.

Other things you can do is batch cook things such as chilli con carne, bolognase, paella, etc. and freeze portions for those times where you don't even feel like whipping up something quick from scratch. 

And as promised, here's the recipe to a quick and simple potato salad!

Just a little prelude - I've gone gluten free due to medical advice (and have been for fifteen months now) so lunch is a bit of an issue for me. Hospital canteens are really good at lacing their food with gluten and I've had to bring lunch with me everyday. I try and ensure my lunch is made the night before and quite often, this equates to a super quick potato salad. How much you decide to spend on each ingredient is up to you but this can be a cheap and fast recipe for those on a budget and who don't have the time to spend on making elaborate lunches that require rinsing and rinsing (quinoa, I'm looking at you!).


Potatoes (baby potatoes work best but you can use baking ones and then chop them up once cooked)
Rocket salad
Other salad leaves of your choice (spinach and lettuce work great here)
Ham/prosciutto/bacon/a meat of your choosing (or not if you're vegetarian)
Mayonnaise (I tend to use the lowest fat one I can find)
Black pepper
Salt (I don't usually add salt and it tastes fine)

1. Wash the rocket, salad leaves and potatoes.
2. Microwave the potatoes until they are cooked to your liking.
3. Chop up the ham/meat. Once the potatoes are done, chop them up too.
4. Put all of the washed leaves into a bowl and add the potatoes once they've cooled down.
5. Add mayonnaise, grind some pepper and salt and then mix!
6. Put in a tupperware box, refrigerate and then remember to take it with you when you leave the house in the morning.

2 Feb 2016

a more in-depth look at how I take notes

So this isn't a set-by-step guide but it's kind of a more detailed look at how I take notes. As I've mentioned on a few other occasions, my notes are quite structured in that we're given the 'final year learning objectives' and the university basically assume we plough through those at our own leisurely pace. As a result, a lot of my learning focuses around these objectives rather than on a certain chapter in textbook x or y.

The first step of any note-taking session is to make sure your desk is set up to your liking. I like to have plenty of pens to hand, the learning objectives in one corner (top left on this occasion), a textbook to the left, my notebook usually in the middle, my computer at the back of the desk so I can do an emergency Google for things if necessary and a few post-it notes nearby. My desk can end up quite messy during these sessions so I always tidy everything away at the end of each day.

The pens I like to have to hand are some form of colour (either Staedtler Fineliners or Muji gel pens), a decent fountain pen (shown below is a Pilot Vanishing Point Raden on the left and Platinum 3776 Century Nice in the middle and a Lamy Safari on the right). Post-it notes are invaluable also for the tiny bits of niche knowledge that may be the difference between being in the top 20% and the top 10% (I use my own judgement for this!).

When it comes to the layout of my notes, I try and keep it simple. Colour is kept to a minimum (much different to how my notes were last year) and there is a bit more underlining and highlighting in the form of boxes around key words. I try and keep each section as short as possible because a consultant once told me that medicine is all about knowing a little about a lot. I also write them with the thought that if someone else at a similar stage to me in their training were to pick them up, they'd be able to learn from them and understand them straight away.

This is essentially the process I go through each time I take notes. I first skim-read the info I need to know. This is then broken down in my head where I think about how I want the relevant information to appear in my notebook and that's when I make it a reality. I use colour pretty sparingly now though I do go back and highlight things from time to time.

I know a few of you have asked me to write a post similar to this (such as a step-by-step of how my notes are made) but each time I do a study session, I'm concentrating so hard, it makes it hard to make sensible notes and take photos for a blog post at the same time.

31 Jan 2016

my week #198

What a difference nine months can make! Nine months ago and on my first surgical placement as a medical student, I really didn't enjoy it. Fast forward to now and having done a week on plastic surgery (ironically the same one from last year), I'm seriously considering a career in the surgical field. The surgeons have really got me involved in theatre and the fact that surgical ward rounds are super brief and short are another positive.

Funny how things change! I mean, I'm still not loving the 7:30am starts and late finishes but compromises!

How has your week been?