Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breakfast-Inspired Cookies

In the fall, the majority of foods and beverages I consume usually contains pumpkin.  I love pumpkin everything: pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin latte, pumpkin-spiced chai, pumpkin soufflé, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie smoothies, pumpkin french toast- you name it.  A few weekends ago, it was a chilly autumn morning, and I was faced with one of my favorite questions: "what should I eat for breakfast?"  I definitely wanted something warm, so pumpkin pancakes immediately came to my mind.  However, I also wanted something healthy, so I dreamed up a quick, healthy, and delicious pumpkin oatmeal recipe, complete with pecans and dried cranberries:

It was so wonderful, that I decided it should also be a cookie.  That's right- my breakfast inspired my latest cookies.  This is what I came up with:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies w/ Pecans and Craisins
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 3 dozen small cookies

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crazy Candy Brownies

Sometimes we just have to slow down and rewind a little.  Other times, life is super stressful and you need to rewind a LOT.  Grad school kind of necessitates the latter, so we tend to regress when given the chance.  Last Friday, my friend Renée helped facilitate that by throwing a "Stereotypical Girls Night In."  There were pajamas, snacks, blankets, card games, nail painting, and the obligatory beloved chick flick, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.  It was fun and relaxing, and provided some very necessary self-care and giggles.  I now feel prepared to tackle the next few weeks until Thanksgiving break.

Of course, what would a girls' night be without chocolate?  This was my contribution to the evening:

Crazy Candy Brownies (Saucepan brownies w/ Peanut M&Ms and Almond Snickers)
Recipe adapted from My Grandma's Recipe
Yield: 1 9x13" pan of brownies

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Belated Birthday Treats (Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes)

I am definitely proud to say that my baked goods are becoming slightly famous in my circle of friends.  I often hear them say, "I finally get to taste a Hannah creation!" when I bring in treats for class or birthdays.  I'm sorry to tell you, my friends, but whatever comes out of my kitchen is not that exclusive.  I look for any excuse to bake, so if you tell me you want something, I will make it for you.  And if you tell me when your birthday is, I will most likely make you a cake if I have enough time/funds.  But if you don't tell me when your birthday is and I have not already made you something, chances are, I don't already have it in my calendar.  And then your birthday comes up and I didn't bake you anything, and then I feel embarrassed because I didn't know.  So save me the guilt trip and save yourself the empty birthday belly, and give me a heads up on the date and your favorite flavor combos!

One person that is guilty of this birthday advisement omission is my dear friend, Lauren H at MSPP.  That's right, there are actually THREE wonderful Laurens, not two as I have previously alluded, at MSPP whose birthdays all fall within three weeks of each other.  I sat next to Lauren H in class and opened my Facebook, only to find out that it was her birthday that day, and I hadn't made her anything!  I felt so terrible, and demanded that she let me make her something the following week.

Lauren and I became friends our first semester at MSPP because we had an incredibly awkward class together, and we bonded over the discomfort we shared.  Lauren is from Georgia, so she gets my lack of affection for the Massholes.  We share the common experience of growing up hearing "yes, ma'am," and "thank you, sir," and the occasional "ya'll."  She is also just one of those cuddly people you feel compelled to hug.  If you are having a bad day, just a quick squeeze from Lauren will cheer you up and give you the strength to get through the rest of your week.  Lauren and I also both try to be vegan, but occasionally fail because we love cookies and cheese.  She is beautiful, sweet, and genuine, and I am honored to call her my friend.  I would do anything for this girl, so when she told me she likes chocolate and maraschino cherries, I was obligated to make these:

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes w/ Dark Chocolate Ganache (vegan)
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Slow Down and Smell the Apples

I love fall.  Fall is my favorite season of the year.  I love the warm sweaters, apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween, colorful scarves, cider, boots, and apple- and pumpkin-flavored everything.  I love the cooler air, the leaves changing, and the perfect hiking conditions.  YAY FALL!

Unfortunately, I have been feeling like I haven't yet had the chance to really enjoy the best parts of fall.  You see, midterms inconveniently land at the peak of fall, and I have been writing papers and studying for exams instead of hiking mountains and carving pumpkins.  Most of all, I have been missing the smell of apple pies and pumpkin breads baking in the oven.  Yesterday I decided to slow down and take the time to really enjoy my favorite season.  Fall will be gone before we know it, replaced with that disgusting excuse for a season called winter.  I can't just sit by writing papers and let that happen!  I didn't have the time for a hike, but I took Peanut for a nice long walk and made some muffins with my favorite fall flavors.  Here's what I came up with:

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins
Recipe adapted from Mangoes and Palm Trees
Yield: 2 dozen medium-sized muffins

Muffin Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbs baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups Macintosh apples, finely diced (I left the skins on)

Streusel Ingredients:
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes


Step one: prepare your streusel.  Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and cut butter into the rest of the ingredients until crumbly.  Set aside.

Assemble your muffin ingredients
Finely dice your apples
In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Set aside.
 In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients, then stir into the dry, just until combined.
Gently fold in the apples, just until incorporated.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full, then top with streusel
Bake muffins at 350°F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.

Cool in pans on wire racks for five minutes, then transfer muffins directly to wire racks to finish cooling completely.

These muffins were just what I needed for my taste of fall.  They were moist and pumpkin-y and apple-y and crunchy on top- everything a fall muffin should be.  It was also a great way to start off a long day of homework.  There is nothing like a muffin warm out of the oven and a cup of coffee on the balcony to put you in a good mood.

I decided that some of my friends needed a little taste of fall as well, so I packaged some up and gave them away to spread that beautiful autumn spirit.

Here's hoping that you have a chance to slow down and appreciate this beautiful fall day.

Love and cookies,

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Sweetest Day: Spookies and Cream Cake

Last Saturday was "The Sweetest Day," a seemingly made-up holiday I have only ever heard of this year.  However, I would never be opposed to a day celebrating kindness with candy, so I will happily embrace this new holiday.

It seemed fitting that this holiday happened to be the day we were scheduled to celebrate the birthdays of two sweetest people I have ever met.  Lauren B and Lauren P are two lovely girls that I met my first day of orientation at MSPP, and we have remained close ever since, even if we don't get to see each other all too often.  The number of truly genuine people in this world is sadly declining.  Most of us are lucky to even know a handful of folks that are always kind, caring, empathic, and just genuinely want to know how your day went.  I am fortunate to know two of these rare creatures, and they are both named Lauren, and their birthdays are about a week apart.

Hmm.. how could I make the concept of "sweet"even more obvious in a cake?  WITH CANDY OF COURSE!  It is also the time of year for my other favorite holiday, Halloween, so luckily for me, there is an abundance of candy on the grocery store shelves and in my green Trick-or-Treat bucket on my kitchen table.  I decided I was going to make a cake that celebrated these two wonderful girls and these two wonderful holidays.  I planned to make a Trick-or-Treat cake, with the outside decorated like a bright orange bucket, and the top covered in different kinds of candy.  Brilliance!

Then something terrible happened.  I came home the night I was supposed to make the cake to find that Jay's brother, (our dog walker for the time being), had nearly eaten our entire bucket of candy.  All that was left were the Jolly Ranchers.  What kind of horrible person does that?!  Who comes into someone else's house and eats all of their Halloween candy, except for the Jolly Ranchers that no one really wants because they aren't chocolate, but they are in the mixed bag that has the Twix so you get them anyway.  Who?!  WHY?!

Once I got over my initial devastation because all the chocolate was gone, I realized that I also had nothing left to make my cake with.  Then I was even more distressed.  What is the point of making a cake?  What is the point of living any more if all the candy is gone?  OK, so maybe I wasn't that dramatic.  I thought to myself, "well candies aren't exactly cookies, so it wasn't the worst thing that could happen."  Then I had it- BINGO!  Cookies!  Jay's brother hadn't found the Oreos I hid in the cupboard!  The cake was saved.  I would make an oreo cake and decorate it with the only candy besides Jolly Ranchers Chris doesn't like- candy pumpkins.

Thus, the "Spookies and Cream" cake was born:

Spookies and Cream Cake:
Dark Chocolate Cake w/ Oreo filling-flavored Buttercream and Oreo cookie crumbs
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 1 8" double-layer cake

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Crazy Little Coconut

My friend Casandra is the most fun person I know.  She has a huge heart and an even larger sense of humor.  She always knows how to cheer you up and make you laugh, even on your worst of days.  And like I may have mentioned before, she's a little crazy, but only in the best possible sense of the word.  Casandra is also one of the most genuine friends I have ever had.  If you don't know her, you are definitely missing out.

When I found out that her boyfriend hadn't planned anything for her birthday, I immediately decided last minute that her needed to do something for her.  I suggested taking her out to dinner, and she invited the rest of her friends, and I immediately started planning a cake.  Of course, neither Casandra nor her boyfriend have Facebook, so I couldn't do any sneaking around to find out what flavors of cake she likes.  I decided that since I was on a 2-day time crunch to plan this thing, I would just come out straight and ask her.  She said that she likes chocolate and vanilla, but also chocolate with coconut.

Well, I had already made a Mounds cake, and an Almond Joy cake, so I needed to invent a new combination of chocolate and coconut.  This is what I came up with:

Dark Chocolate Cake filled w/ Liquid Milk Chocolate and Topped w/ Coconut Buttercream and Shredded Coconut
Recipe sort of adapted from here
Yield: 1 8" double-layer cake (approx 16 servings)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Baking Up A Better Year

This year is going to be a new year for me.  My first year of graduate school was horrible.  I cried almost every day, developed panic attacks, started psychiatric medication, and tried to drop out of the program.  I am determined that this year will be different.  My second year will be worlds better than the first.  Why?  Because I am going to make it that way.  I am going to approach this year with a new perspective.  I will be working with middle school kids instead of adults with substance abuse, so the work is a little more hopeful.  I will treat myself better by allowing myself the proper amount of sleep, exercise, and vegetables.  I have new classes and new friends.  I will make the time to spend with friends, and allow for plenty of playtime with little Peanut.  Oh yeah, and I'm going to bake more!  All of this should add up to a good year.  And if it doesn't, well, I have the most amazing friends to back me up.

One of these amazing friends, Carla, texted me last minute asking me if I could make her boyfriend's birthday cake.  I will jump at any excuse to bake instead of doing my homework, and since I love Carla and Zach, I immediately said yes and began brainstorming.  Carla said that Zach likes vanilla and alcohol, and I texted her every possibility I could think of in five minutes.  This is what she chose:

Vanilla Bean Whiskey Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 1 10" cheesecake (approx 16 servings)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Moving Forward and Family Farewells

This past year I had the great honor of completing my first year practicum placement at the Latin American Health Institute in Brockton, MA.  One year ago, as I prepared to begin my 10 months as a clinical intern there, I expected to have a great clinical experience and training in the field.  What I did not count on was that one year later, I would be leaving a group of wonderfully compassionate staff and clinicians that became my family.  These people taught me so much about therapy, and about what "client-centered care" truly means.  LHI taught me how to be a better and more understanding person.

I made incredible professional connections and developed friendships with people from all over the globe.  All of the 5 MSPP interns that stayed in the Boston area continued on to volunteer and to work for LHI.  I spent four hours a week all summer just scanning charts into the EHR system.  Why?  Because I love those people and wanted to do anything I could to help them, and to try to begin to repay them for the amazing year I've had.

The Interns
Today I stopped by LHI to say goodbye.  Classes have started and my new practicum placement is beginning, and no longer have to time to sleep, let alone to volunteer.  Peanut and I dropped in to bring cookies and to say thank you to everyone for the incredible year.  Of course we all promised to stay in touch and visit, but it was still bittersweet.  These cookies were just what we needed to combat the bitter part and make it just plain sweet:

Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate Chunk, and Cranberry Cookies (Dairy-Free, made w/ coconut oil)
Recipe adapted from my favorite recipe 
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Copy Cat Cookies

Last week I was cranky.  It was the first week of school and I had cramps and my fall allergies commenced.  And to make it the worst week ever, we had no cookies in the house.  I absolutely could not let this slide.  First week of school= cookie time.

I had been dreaming about making my favorite childhood cookie from scratch for a long time, but it just seemed like a lot of work.  And besides, could homemade really taste as good as the ultra-processed boxed stuff?  I decided to give it a shot, and this is what I ended up with:

Copycat Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies
Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy
Yield: About a dozen big cookie sandwiches

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Troubles and Truffles

A few weeks ago, had a revelation of sorts and I wrote a letter about my recovery journey from Eating Disorders.  I posted it to Facebook and the responses I got afterward were astonishing.  People (yes, not just women) from all over the world shared their stories with me.  I received phone calls, text messages, and Facebook messages thanking me for being brave enough to share my story.  By publishing this again here, I am encouraging everyone else to share their own story.  The more public we make our struggles, the smaller they become.  It is my hope that when more people know, the more support we have, and fewer people will feel alone in their recoveries.

Here is what I wrote:

An Open Letter to ED

For those of you unfamiliar with ED, he is not an ex-boyfriend or some estranged family member.  ED is the nickname a few of my friends and I have given to Eating Disorders.  I am choosing this space as a forum for this letter because I did not bake anything yet this week to qualify for a blog post, and I needed a public place.  I want to share this letter with you and the world and the next generation of insecure kids.  Eating Disorders should not be shamefully swept under the rug any longer.  They are vicious, all-consuming beasts that tear apart their victims both emotionally and physically.  It is my hope that this letter will allow others to come out of their shadows and confront their own EDS head on.  Without further ado...

Dear ED-

This has been one hell of a ride, but I think it's time for you to go.  You have overstayed your welcome and I am ready for you to leave.  After nine years, I don't need you anymore.  I am no longer that insecure fourteen year old girl staring uncomfortably in front of the mirror in ballet class.  That is when you showed up at my door.  You took advantage of my insecurities and made me compare my body to those of girls half my age.  You stole control of my brain, and made me think it was ok to eat only cottage cheese and oatmeal, as long as I wasn't the fattest girl in the class.

Unfortunately, even after I gave up ballet class, you never left.  You stayed with me on the diving team, and convinced me that all that mattered was how I looked in my swim suit.  I was doing two work outs a day and eating little more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch and a salad for dinner.  That was when you told me that I should start measuring.  I should measure out exactly one cup of cereal and put it in a tiny bowl so I wouldn't know the difference.  Oh but it wouldn't stop there...

By the time I got to college you showed me the tragedy which is binging.  You forced me to eat so much that I thought I was having a heart attack.  But you never let me throw up.  Instead, you convinced me to take laxatives, fast, and over-exercise to combat my binges.  My freshman year was a tireless back-and-forth of restricting and binging, and you almost forced me to drop out of college.

Sophomore year you dragged me over the deep end.  I was using online "fitness" trackers to plan all my meals and be sure I was only eating 800 calories a day.  I ate a piece of fruit, 10 almonds, and 2 prunes for breakfast and lunch, and then a salad for dinner.  I got down to 104 lbs, and you could have snapped my legs like a twig.

For years I have eaten the same things every day for fear that I would gain weight or start a binge.  I could not go out to dinner without looking at the menu the day before and taking an hour to decide what I wanted.  Any change in my planned meals would send me into a system-override shut down, and I would just go to sleep instead of confronting the anxiety you caused me.

Then one day in my junior year, I got really sick of you, ED.  I was sick of being your bitch, and decided it was time I fought back.  I found the meeting room number for the Anonymous Eating Disorder support group, and met an incredible group of girls that would empower me against you.  We cried together, we drew pictures of you, we ate meals together, and we set daily goals in order to beat you.  I started telling people about you, and found that the more people knew, the smaller you became.  I was not in this fight alone.  

I have struggled with your control for nine years, but I have been trying to actively recover from you the past two and a half years.  I joined support groups, I got a sponsor, I journaled, I meditated, and I cried more than I thought was possible.  I started teaching Zumba and running, and I remembered how strong my body used to be.  Bodies are fucking awesome, and you tried to take that away from me.  You succeeded for a while, and you took my mind with you.  But not anymore.  I am finally winning.

This summer has been a difficult one for me.  But after all I am going through, I did not come running back to you to take control of my life.  I went out for dinner last week and did not even bother looking up the menu ahead of time.  I decide what I am going to eat for lunch at lunch time, and not the day before.  Today I was hungry after my morning snack, so I ate another snack and didn't think twice about it.  I no longer pose for pictures using "the skinny arm" tactic, and I've stopped untagging myself if I appear to have a double chin.  That's right, you are losing.

Today I looked in the mirror and instead of seeing extra fat in all the wrong places, I saw a beautiful, strong body.  Today, for the first time in nine years, I looked in the mirror and I liked myself.  And no, I did not like myself for looking like you taught me to, I liked myself for being a beautiful and independent woman that was strong enough to stand up to you.  

I know you are not gone from my life entirely yet, and you may never be.  But the truth is, ED, I am stronger than you.  I am winning this fight and you are going down, bro.  I am the healthiest and happiest I have been in nine years, and it is because I told you to back the fuck off.  

But don't even think about finding someone else to prey on.  Just because I got rid of you does not mean you can go ruining the lives of other insecure little girls and boys standing in from of the mirror in ballet class or watching the Victoria's Secret models on TV.  Don't you even try.  Because they have me on their side.  And together, we will defeat you.  My generation will teach the next that being strong and independent is more important than looking skinny in a leotard.  We are going to be there for them and support them so that you can't touch them.  

So, dear ED, this is goodbye.  You are no longer welcome here, and you won't be anywhere else for very long.  We will get strong and defeat you, together.  We will win.  I already have.

No longer yours,

In the spirit of being free from measuring and binging on cookies, I decided to make some really awesome protein truffles.  I have been thinking of making these for a while now, and this was a great occasion to celebrate.  There is not really a recipe or step-by-step photos, because the truth is, I just threw a bunch of stuff in the food processor.  And they turned out awesome.  Here is what I made:

Chocolate Protein Truffles (No Bake, Vegan, and Gluten-Free)
Recipe: Completely made up in my head
Yield: About 2 dozen truffles

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Sparkly Champagne Celebration

I have made some pretty amazing cakes in my three years of blogging.  I have made a blue cake, Sangria Cake, a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake, a rainbow frog pond cake, and even a cake that looks like a salad.  But none of those even come close to what I made this week.  I have made the cake to top all cakes.

It came about because one of my first and best friends in Boston turned 30 yesterday.  My friend JoJo does nothing small scale or casual.  Everything has to be sparkly, rainbow, and covered in feathers and more glitter.  However, she does this all with the greatest amount of refinement, tact, and class.  She is one fancy lady, and I love her.  She is always spontaneous and is one of the most creative people I have eve met in my life.  For all of these reasons and many more, she has become my big sister here in Boston.  

Such an important birthday for such an important person deserves a very epic cake.  I was drawing a blank, so I emailed JoJo's wife for some ideas.  This is what Suzie wrote back:
"She wants something surprising... Here is how she defines surprising: lavender, spicy, layer of jelly beans or red hots, on fire, with sparklers, covered in googly eyes, looks like a monster, strange colors inside but looks normal outside, goes pop when you cut it (?), curry flavored ... You get the picture! "

"SERIOUSLY?"  I thought, "Who does she think I am?  Hannah Houdini?!"  None of those things could possibly go well together, and there is no way I am not going to allow a curry flavored cake with jelly beans to come out of my kitchen.  Nope, I had to start from scratch.  

I thought, OK, let's start with color, let's make it a cool color.  Marbled cake immediately came to my mind.  JoJo likes a lot of pink, so I decided on a pink marbled cake.  Logically, the pink would be strawberry cake.  But what flavor can I marble with strawberry that would taste good?  There was no way on earth I was going to make JoJo a boring vanilla cake.  So I started thinking about things I know JoJo likes.  My mind immediately went to booze.  BINGO- I had it!  CHAMPAGNE CAKE!  JoJo is a classy broad and loves champagne, and champagne and strawberries go so well together.  I knew it would be a winner.  

But a good flavor combination was not going to be enough for JoJo's cake.  It need to look as awesome as it tasted.  When I don't have a specific plan in mind, I like to wander around the baking section of Michael's and let inspiration come to me.  I found pink sugar crystals and metallic silver frosting spray paint, and I knew what I would do.  Now I just needed a little extra sparkle, and found that in the crafting section.  I also decided that it needed to be three layers: one for each decade of her life.  This is what I ended up with:

3-Tiered Strawberry and Champagne Marbled Cake w/ Champagne Buttercream
Recipe loosely adapted from Simply Decorated
Yield: 1 amazingly awesome giant cake

Friday, August 9, 2013

Piña Colada Cookies

Today Peanut and I got caught in the rain.  Peanut doesn't like that, but I do.  Know what else I like?  Piña coladas.  Do you see where I am going with this?  If you don't, then your life is sad, and you need to watch the video below.  However, if you do, let's listen to the song anyway and move on.

I am kind of obsessed with that song.  Anytime it is raining or blizzarding, that song pops into my head.  It brings me out of my bad weather blues and makes me feel all warm and tropical and happy inside.  Like I am filled with fruity rum drinks and sitting on a beach.  Even though it actually has to do with some dude trying to cheat on his woman, taking out a personal ad, and then his own woman ends up responding to the personal ad.  In the end, it's supposed to be all cute and coming back together grossness.  I think it's rather sad.  But I don't think about the real meaning of the song, because up until like 4 months ago, I only ever listened to the chorus, which is, "do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?"  And yes, I like both of those things.

And you know what else makes me feel all fuzzy and warm and tropical inside?  My friends.  My friends are fucking awesome.  I'm sorry, I normally try to avoid swearing on here, but that sort of expletive was necessary to convey to you the magnitude of love and gratitude I have for my amazing friends.  The last few months have been rough for me, but knowing that I have friends to call me after soccer, to cook with, to lay by the pool with, to run errands with, to go for coffee with, and who come all the way to visit me is all I need to get me through.  My friends are like fruity rum drinks, and sometimes, I have friends AND fruity alcoholic beverages, and then my life is DOUBLE AMAZING.

Since I've had this song stuck in my head all day, I wanted to make something piña colada themed for Shabbat tonight.  I once made pineapple and coconut rum cakes, but those were pretty heavy and potent little devils, and were better for winter months.  I was also craving cookies, so I came up with these little beauties:

Piña Colada Cookies (dairy free)
Recipe very adapted from Averie Cooks
Yield: 20 small cookies

Monday, August 5, 2013

Plum Luck

I was very excited to bring the leftover Mexican sunflower cupcakes to Shabbat the following night.  I wanted to share my sunnier life baking adventure with more of my wonderful and supportive friends.  And as I was putting them into the container, I realized I made a really dumb mistake.  I used almond milk in the cupcakes, and one of my Shabbat friends, Suzanne, is allergic to nuts!  Normally, this would not have been a problem, except I realized it just a few hours before I had to leave, and no time to go to the grocery store.

I searched my cupboards and refrigerator.  I was out of butter, so cookies were out, and the thought of making more cupcakes was nauseating.  I found some leftover dough wrapped up in the back of the fridge, and decided I could throw together a quick mini tart.  Now, the only question was what to fill it with.  Jay and I have started shopping at Costco and buying things in bulk, which can work to your advantage if you are in this predicament.  The previous week we bought a lot of plums, and we couldn't eat them as fast as they were ripening, so throwing them into a tart was the perfect option.  I do not recommend buying fruit in bulk unless you are going to can or freeze it, or throw a party.

So, in literally 25 minutes, I had the perfect personal dessert for Suzanne:

Rustic Brown Sugar Plum Tartelette
Recipe completely made up in my head
Yield: 1 mini tartelette

Sunnier Days and Sunflower Cupcakes

I moved to Norwood because I couldn't stand living in the city.  It was big and loud and exhausting and there weren't enough trees.  Now that I have relocated to the suburbs, I find myself having a lot of alone time.  The boyfriend works long and strange hours, and I am usually home by myself with Peanut.  At first, I resented Jay for working so much and for leaving me all alone.  I could not stand the silence of being by myself for twelve hours at a time.  I had finally moved to a place where I could hear myself think, and now I was tormented by my own thoughts and an intense feeling of loneliness.  I find myself wishing we had a TV, just for the background noise.

Where did this come from?  This isn't me.  I used to love the quiet of just sitting by myself in a field on the farm, listening to the wind blow the hay while the birds sang, and the occasional hum of a distant tractor.  I seem to have lost my appreciate for having peace of mind, and for that, I have nothing to blame but the last five years of living in cities.

There is a lot going on in my life right now, and not all of it is positive.  Living in Boston, I felt so busy and anxious and stressed out from the hussel and bussel around me that I could avoid thinking about things.  Now, my mind is quiet in Norwood, and I have to learn to face myself again.  I want to start running more, meditating more, baking more, and going to yoga regularly.  I want to relearn how to be comfortable in my own body and in my own head.  I want to have happier, sunnier days.

A large part of getting through this readjustment period will be the friends that surround me.  Our new neighbors, Brian and Patrice, invited us over for their legendary taco night last week, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start baking for fun again.  To go with the dinner theme, I chose to make something with a little kick.  And to go with my quest-for-a-happier-life theme, I chose to make something bright and sunny.  This is what I came up with:

Mexican Sunflower Cupcakes
Chili Chocolate Cupcakes topped w/ Oreos and Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Tegan's cake
Yield: 2 and a half dozen cupcakes

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Acting My Age and a Faux Ice Cream Sundae Cake

I have gotten exceptionally good at becoming a perfectly boring human being.  I would like to blame grad school, because I just got so used to saying, "no, sorry, I can't come out, I have a paper to write," but that would be unfair.  I have some responsibility in becoming the stay-in-every-weekend-and-do-jig-saw-puzzles-for-fun-instead old young woman many of you have come to know.  I am 23 going on 65.  I turn down invitations for parties, drinks, and even a craft night, because it sounded just a little too crazy for me.

What happened to me?  I used to be so full of life and fun and adventurous (or at least that is how I like to remember myself in college).  I think what happened was that for the past year, I felt like I had so much to prove to everyone.  I had to prove to my parents that I could be a big girl and have my first real apartments and pay the rent on my own.  I had to prove to my grad school that I belonged there, despite being one of the youngest doctoral students in the school.  I had to prove to my clients that I could still be understanding and help them, even though I was half their age.  I had to prove to my supervisor that I was a competent clinician and could handle my enormous caseload.  And lastly, I think I also had something to prove to myself.  I had to show myself that I could handle all the challenges that my life choices brought along the way.

Somewhere in all that mess, I lost track of who I am.  I was no longer the full-of-life 23-year-old with the world at her feet.  I became the puppet of this older, more responsible, and more knowledgable woman that I felt everyone wanted me to be.  Despite me looking like I am 12, everyone I have met in the past year guessed my age to be closer to 26.

If you liked this old lady version of Hannah, I am sorry.  But she is going away for a little while and is not coming back until it is her chronologically appropriate time.  I want to have fun again.

Last week, I was sitting at my desk at my internship (even though my internship is over, I stayed on as a volunteer to help out), and my friend, Casandra, and my supervisor came into my office and looked up to something.  Casandra warned me that what they were about to ask me might catch me off guard, so I should just be prepared.  Ready for some bizarre project they were going to throw at me, my supervisor explained that our beloved coworker, Teresa, was turning 50, and they wanted to do something for her birthday.  She said they arranged a dinner, followed by a "surprise," which I soon learned was taking Teresa to a traveling male strip show on the Cape.  I don't know if it was my love for Tere, peer-pressure, or the fact that I have given up coffee, but I said yes, I would come, to BOTH.

As soon as I agreed, I regretted my decision immediately.  Me?  Go out on a Friday night with coworkers?  To a strip show?  What was wrong with me?! I don't go out on the weekends!  I tried to get out of it by running by every excuse I could think of to Casandra, but she talked me into going.  She said, "it's for Tere," and I was sold.  Teresa is one of the most exciting and fun-loving women I have ever met in my life.  She is vibrant and loud and wonderful and talks about sex all the time, and I love her.  If I was going to make a commitment to myself to be more fun and adventurous, going out for Tere's birthday was the perfect place to start.
Teresa's favorite cake is ice cream cake, but I have only ever made one ice cream cake before, and I did not think it would make the hour long drive to the restaurant from my house.  So I decided to make a cake that looked like ice cream instead.  It works, right?

Faux Ice Cream Cake:
Black Magic Chocolate Cake, filled with Marshmallow Topping and Strawberry Preserves, topped with Vanilla Buttercream, Chocolate Ganache, Marshmallow Topping, Sprinkles, and a Cherry
Cake Recipe adapted from Hershey's
Cake idea: adapted from my crazy brain
Yield: 1 8" double layer cake (approx 16 servings)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fourth Baking Follies

We were planning on having a cookout at the boyfriend's parents' house for the 4th.  I would not allow us to go empty-handed, so I made a list of things to bake.  Jay and I went to the store and bought the ingredients, and then as we were bringing in the groceries, someone stole Jay's keys that we had left in the lock of the door when our arms were full.  That led to a horrible fiasco and a lot of terror, so my wonderful friend, Lauren B, came to help me bake and keep me company.

We were a little rushed after the whole key incident, so I didn't have time to photograph the processes. You'll just have to trust me on these.  They all came out pretty awesome, and the holiday was saved. Too bad the cookout was smaller than we expected and we ended up taking most of what we made home, and I was forced to eat all of it!!!  What a tragedy, right?

This is what we made:

Mini Cheesecakes Topped w/ Fresh Berries
Recipe adapted from my grandmother's recipe (that she probably stole from Kraft Foods magazine)
Yield: 18 mini cheesecakes

18 Nilla wafer cookies
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

1.  Beat cream cheese on high until fluffy.  Scrape down sides.
2.  Add in sugar until combined.
3.  Beat in eggs, one at a time until incorporated.
4.  Stir in vanilla.
5.  Line muffin trays with festive cupcake papers, then place a Nilla cookie in the center of each cup.
6.  Bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes, until set.
7.  Allow to cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, then remove cheesecakes from pans to finish cooling completely on racks.
8.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
9.  Before serving, place a teaspoon of jam on each cheesecake to secure the berries.  Decorate with blueberries and raspberries as desired.

Mini Strawberry Rhubarb Pies
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and my Great Grammie Martin
Yield: 8 mini pies

Crust Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs granulated sugar
2 tsps sea salt
1 3/4 cups vegetable shortening
1/2 cup cold water
1 Tbs white vinegar
1 large egg, beaten

Crust Directions:
1. Put the first three ingredients into a large bowl and whisk them together.
2. Cut in shortening until crumbly (about the size of small peas).
3. In a small bowl mix together water, vinegar, and egg.
4. Combine the two mixtures together and stir until combined.
5. Divid the dough into 16 small portions.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
6. Unwrap dough and roll out until 1/4" thick.  Line mini pie pans.

Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb, washed, dried, and cut into 1" pieces
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, dried, and thickly sliced
2 cups granulated sugar
6 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 Tbs butter to dot

Filling Directions:
1. Mix together rhubarb, sugar, and flour until the rhubarb is well-coated.
2. Cook the mixture over medium heat, until rhubarb begins to break down (about 10-15 minutes)
3. Pour filling into pie pans (about 2/3 way full)
4. Dot the tops with butter.
5. Place second layers of crust on top of the pies.
6. Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes (until crust turns golden brown)
7. Allow to cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove pies from pans to finish cooling completely.

Patriotic Pancakes:
*I made these for the boyfriend as a surprise on the morning of the 4th*
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens' New Baking Book
Yield: 4 large pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs granulated sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk (I used almond)
Twizzlers, blueberries, and powdered sugar (optional)
Butter for greasing pan

1.  Whisk together dry ingredients.
2.  Stir together wet ingredients and then quickly mix them into the dry.  Do not over-mix.
3.  Butter a hot grilling skillet (the ones with lines) until sizzling.
4.  Pour pancake batter in a rectangle.
5.  Cook until the bubbles in the batter stay open, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.
6.  Decorate with Twizzlers, blueberries, and confectioners' sugar if desired.
7.  Serve with butter and/or syrup.

Overall, these made for the the tastiest fourth of July I've had in a while.  Everything went perfectly. We even got to see the fireworks from the boat in the Boston Harbor.  The only thing that could have made the day more magical was a good sangria!

Happy Fourth Baking for next year!
Love and cookies,

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rainbow Confetti Cookies

Right now I am supposed to be writing a final paper for one of my summer classes.  Instead, I am think about how much I want a cookie, and how sad I am that my cookie tin is recently empty.  However, if I were to be an optimist, which most of the time I am, I could say that my cookie tin was also recently full (before it was emptied).  This is not something that I allow to happen very often.  Usually if I bake cookies, I try very hard to give them away, so I do not eat 7 in one day (like yesterday).  Unfortunately, when I baked these cookies for Shabbat on Friday, no one wanted to take the extras, so Jay and I were stuck eating them all by ourselves.

So instead of writing my paper, I am going to finally write the recipe for these amazing cookies that I cannot stop thinking about:

Rainbow Confetti Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Quick Cupcakes

I haven't had a ton of time to bake lately, because we finally moved!  My boyfriend, curious dog, and I have finally settled moved our boxes into our new place.  There is still a lot to be unpacked and organized, but slowly and surely, we are getting there.

Of course, I demanded that the kitchen be the first room to be unpacked, and that happened.  So when my friend, Lilly, texted me at 10pm one night last week to invite me over to her last-minute birthday dinner the following day, I was prepared.  When I saw the text I immediately thought, "Ha! Screw you Lilly!  You think I have time to bake a cake overnight?!"  But I wasn't going to let my friend have a birthday without a cake, especially not after how good her cake was last year, so I got to work.

I didn't have a lot of time, and my kitchen still is not fully stocked, so I had to improvise a little.  You know me, I cannot follow a recipe anyway, so I guess my lack of ingredients was an excuse to get creative.  I chose a really simple, one bowl cake recipe, invented a ganache, and had these babies ready in an hour.  Yep, I baked gourmet cupcakes from start to finish in an hour.  And you can too:

Spiced Orange Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Dark Chocolate and Olive Oil Ganache (vegan)
Recipe adapted from Life's a Feast
Yield: 15 cupcakes

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Playing With Pumpkin Pie

I had a rough week last week.  I was stressed about packing to move, the boyfriend was working long hours, the dog was crazy, and I quit my SSRIs.  I had two long papers due last week, it rained all week, and on top of everything, I had my period.  I was one big crying hot mess.

By the time Friday night rolled around, I knew that I HAD to force myself to go to Shabbat.  This wonderful combination of close friends and amazing food always cheers me up.  The tough part was that I am responsible for bringing dessert each week, and all my baking materials are already packed.  And I don't have any ingredients, except for a few things on my shelf that I haven't put into a box yet.  Luckily for me, those things included a pie crust, pumpkin, evaporated milk, and white chocolate chips.  It was a sign.  I had to make a pumpkin pie.  But who wants a boring old pumpkin pie in the spring time?  I decided that the white chocolate needed to be incorporated somehow, and boy am I glad that I made that ridiculous decision.  This is what I came up with:

White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
Recipe adapted from Libby's
Yield: 2 9" pies, or one pie and a large mug of extra filling for yourself

Carla's Cake Tutorial

One very important member of my internship family is Carla G., a very sunny Peruvian child clinician at LHI.  Even though we have only worked together for 6 months, Carla has been incredibly influential upon my professional and personal development.  She is not only one of the sweetest and friendliest people I have ever met, but she is also one of the most impecable dressers.  She has shared with me several recipes from Peru, as well as fashion advice.  She gives me insight on difficult cases, and very appreciated tips on self-care.

When Carla G. asked me to teach her to bake a cake that I had brought in for a staff meeting, I was so excited.  This was my chance to give something back to the woman that has inspired me so much this spring.  I went over to her house last week and she shared her beautiful home with me (she decorates her home just as well as she does her outfits).  We ate fruit, gossiped about work and life and kitchen appliances, and began the cake tutorial.  While the cake was in the oven, she taught me how to make an incredible breaded tilapia with rice.  There is nothing I love more than a great recipe swap!

The cake turned out great, even better than the first time I made it!  Carla's fish was delicious, our gossiping was fun, and it was just a lovely ladies' afternoon.  This is what we made together:

Mounds Cake
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 1 double-layer 8" cake

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carla's Crazy Cheesecake

I am so grateful for the internship experience I had my first year of graduate school.  The clients may have been extremely challenging, and I didn't always love the therapy process, but the office environment was what kept me going.  I met some of the most incredible people, both clinicians and fellow interns.  LHI is a family to me, and I am so sad that I will be leaving in only two weeks.

One of those incredible new family members is Carla, one of the masters interns from MSPP.  She is from Puerto Rico and is one of the silliest and most wonderful girls I have ever met.  I can't go into her office without smiling, and any time she comes into my office for chocolate, she always makes me giggle.  She is spunky and fierce, and also a fabulous dancer.  (She also didn't mind checking the grammar on letters I sent to my Spanish-speaking clients, even though she was working full-time and doing school full-time).  It's safe to say that I love and admire this girl like an hermana.

Carla is on a really inspiring fitness quest, and amazes me with her will power to eat healthy.  For her birthday cake, I had two choices: 1) make her a healthy, all-natural, fat-free cake, or 2) make her a cake that was as wild and wonderful and crazy as she is.  I obviously chose option 2.  This is what I came up with:

Chocolate and Vanilla Zebra Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Tales of an Overtime Cook
Yield: 1 10" cheesecake (approx 16 servings)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carrot Cake Cookies

I wish I had time to write some creative life update and background story to these cookies, but unfortunately, I don't.  Here is my life update: I am so busy!  I am taking summer classes, working for the marketing dept, still finishing up my internship, learning to mother a dog, and am getting ready to move. AAAHHH.

To avoid hearing me rant about how stressed I am, here is a cute picture of my dog on a boat!

And here are some cookies!

Carrot Cake Cookies w/ Cream Cheese Icing
Recipe adapted from Quick Feet, Good Eats
Yield: 30 cookies

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Baking for a Barbecue

I always have a tough time finding lighter recipes to bake during the warmer months.  No one really wants to eat heavily frosted cakes or dense chocolately treats.  You want something light and slightly sweet.  When I think of summer baking, I always turn to pies and other fruity desserts.

Last Friday night was my first ever "Shabarbecue" (Shabbat barbecue) and I was faced with this same challenge- baking a dessert that would be appropriate to a friendly outdoor BBQ and campfire.  But since we were grilling meat, my dessert had to be dairy-free.  Because I didn't have time to go to the store for Earth Balance or fresh fruits, I had to get creative.  I came up with these amazing treats:

Coconut Apricot Muffins (dairy-free)
Recipe very heavily adapted from New Baking Book
Yield: 1 dozen muffins

Giving Back for Getting Me Through

Sometimes when you are having a difficult time, it can feel like your life is turned completely upside down.  That happened to me this year in my first year of graduate school.  I felt lost and confused and depressed and didn't know what I wanted in my life anymore.

When things feel like that, you need stability and someone to show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  You don't need someone to tell you that everything will be OK, you need someone that has been there and survived and proven it.  That was the case in my severe depressive episode back in high school, and that was the case this year.  You need a role model.

My role model this year was my amazing fourth year peer supervisor, Lisa.  This girl's kind heartedness and compassion received me every week with open arms, and provided me with a safe space to vent, to ask for advice, and to question.  Lisa was everything I hope to be when I am in her shoes as a fourth year student.  She is not only genuine, but incredibly strong.  I found my strength to continue this year in her.

I simply do not have enough language to thank her for all she's done for me this year.  So, as usual, when words fail me, I show my love and appreciation through baked goods.  This is what I chose to say "thank you" to Lisa:

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, filled w/ Raspberry Preserves, topped w/ Dark Chocolate Nutella Ganache and Fresh Organic Raspberries
Cake recipe adapted from the Hershey's Black Magic Cake
Yield: slightly over 2 dozen cupcakes

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dulce de... Domestic?

I know you haven't heard from me in a while.  I was in finals, so forgive me for not posting.  I did bake to keep me sane; I just didn't have time to write about it.  Here's what I made:
Black Magic Chocolate Cake, filled w/ Raspberry Preserves, Topped w/ Nutella Mousse and Dark Chocolate
Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Nutella Mousse and Dark Chocolate
For those of you that haven't heard, my boyfriend and I are moving in together in June.  We are going to have completely opposite schedules.  I will be working at a school 8am-3pm, and he will be working 1-9pm.  In order to ensure that we would not be completely lonely, we decided to adopt a dog!

We chose to adopt from the animal shelter back home that I used to volunteer at every Saturday for 6 years.  I called up my honorary little sister that still works there, and asked if they had any apartment-friendly sized dogs available.  She sent me pictures of two, and Jay and I immediately fell in love with 1 1/2 year old beagle.  So the day after I finished my finals, I drove to NY with Jay's sister to pick up the little guy.  Meet Charles P. Nut, aka "Peanut":

He's pretty happy here, but I have found myself becoming increasingly domestic since bringing him home.  I have been on break from classes, so I have sort of been feeling like a stay-at-home mom.  I wake up early to feed and walk him, then take a nap with him, then clean the house, then go for another walk, then read, then cook dinner, then do the dishes, and then wait patiently with Peanut for Jay to come home.  It's been OK, but I think I have definitely realized it gets old pretty quickly.  I am definitely going to be a working mom when I have real kids.

To top off my feeling domestic, I was hired to bake a cheesecake for a coworker's church's mother's day celebration.  They chose a cheesecake I had made before from my portfolio: Felipe's dulce de leche cheesecake.  So in between cleaning the house, yard work, and walking the dog, I rushed around making this cheesecake, and delivered it on my way to a day at the mall with one of my girl friends.

For the recipe, see this post here.  Then drizzle with caramel sauce instead of strawberries.

The clinician that ordered the cake told me that it received rave reviews, and that no one could stop talking about it.  Normally, I am fairly humble about my baked goods, but I have to tell you, this is one damn good cheesecake.  I highly recommend it.

Now my domestic streak is coming to a close, as summer semester begins next week.  In the mean time,   I am going to enjoy my last precious days as a house wife, taking care of this little guy:
Love and cookies,

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Branching Out and Bread Pudding

Lately I've been trying to be open to new experiences.  I am a person that really enjoys routine and stability, but every once in a while, I really like to mix it up and try new things.  Last weekend, my boyfriend asked if I would go with him to his coworker's birthday party in Dorchester.  Hmm.. I thought.  Me, going out to parties, with strange people, and in Dorchester... 3 new experiences in one!  Since Jay always talks to his coworker, Anisha, about my baking, I knew I couldn't go empty-handed to her birthday party.

When I asked Jay what Anisha would like, he told me that she really likes bread pudding.  I know the basic concepts of how to make a bread pudding, but I'm not sure if I've ever really made one.  I decided to accept the challenge and make it new experience #4 for the weekend.  This is what I came up with:

Dark Chocolate Caramel Toffee Bread Pudding
Recipe totally made up in my head
Yield: 1 large pan/bowl of deliciousness

Cupcakes for Recovery

Last week's events have left us a lot of us shaken, confused, and afraid.  However, they have also sparked an incredible sense of hope and a drive to move forward and help one another. 

A 4th year student at my school and his wife were seriously injured at the Marathon Bombings and are still both in the hospital.  Because they are still unable to have visitors and the family has asked the world to respect their privacy, we have all been searching for a way to help from afar.  MSPP's administration created a fund to help pay for the couple's medical expenses.  MSPP's Student Coordinating Committee decided to take action to hold a bake sale to raise money for the couple's recovery.  I'm not part of the SCC, but I really wanted to help in a way that I knew I could: contributing baked goods.  This was my contribution:

Salted Caramel Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe adapted from The Cake Merchant
Yield: 20-24 cupcakes

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Moving On From The Marathon

I have been searching for the words to write a post since the tragic events at the Marathon bombings on Monday afternoon.  It was a terrifying week to live in the city of Boston that left many of us shaken, scared, and confused.  I personally had a difficult time discussing the events, and chose to avoid the media and conversations until yesterday.

On Thursday night, before the bombing suspects' pictures were released, I had the chance to spend time with my dear friend Nicole that attends MSPP with me.  We were having a girls' night, catching up and frosting cakes.  We first talked about everything else we could think of, and then lastly turned over to the subject of the marathon.  I guess finally having a fellow psychology student there was what I needed to open up about it.  I told Nicole how I needed to spend time away from my boyfriend because he was constantly glued to his computer, checking a live blog feed, a police blotter, and two news stations all at the same time.  For me, this was just too much to take in, and I became defensive and frustrated.  Then Nicole asked me if that was just how Jay needed to process everything.

"Oh... right..." I thought to myself, "processing...".  As psychology students, we talk a lot about how our clients process things, (how people actively understand and cope with new information).  I have helped many of my clients process events in their lives that were difficult for them to understand.  However, as I was living through this terrible nightmare, I was having difficulty remembering that we all understand and cope differently.  Earlier in the week, I felt numb and detached, and was aggravated by those that wanted to drown themselves in news of the bombings.  I did not want to see photos, or hear names of the victims, or read stories of heroism on that day.  I felt as if it didn't really happen, and by not discussing it, I thought I could wish it to be nothing but the nightmare it seemed like.

Then Nicole said that magical word: process.  I realized that this was not selfishness or heartlessness on my part, and that my boyfriend was not a sadistic man with attentional difficulties.  We were just processing the events differently.  As the events of late Thursday night into all of Friday unfolded, I became increasingly glued to the television.  For the first time since the marathon, I wanted to watch the news and follow the events.  I sat on my couch with a cup of coffee for hours and hours, listening to the surreal chaos coming out of my tv.  After a few hours, however, it all became too much for me to handle, and I needed something else to keep myself sane.  I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle, and somehow the simplicity of putting the pieces together made me calm, and helped me process the events of the week.

When it was all over and Suspect #2 was taken into custody, Jay and I breathed a sigh of relief together.  He could finally sleep, and I could finally talk about what had happened that week.  I decided to let him sleep and I ventured off to a party to celebrate two wonderful events: the end of the week's nightmare, and the anniversary of the birth of my wonderful friend Suzie.  I made her these cakes, and Nicole helped me decorate them: 

A Dozen Different Cakes
I hope you will understand that I didn't have the energy or desire to use a recipe or take photos this week.  Essentially I made three batches of white cake batter and divided them each into four bowls and added differently flavors, then baked them in mini bundt pans.  I flipped them over to make giant cupcakes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Sweet Life

Sometimes, life feels perfect.  Sometimes even if there is still lots of stress, or finals looming the corner, things just feel wonderful.  Today is one of those days.  Even though it was raining and gross out, I was a ball of happiness today.

I made a perfect cup of coffee and got to my practicum early, so I filled my car with gas and cleaned out my car to get ready for our super-fast road trip home tomorrow.  Then at LHI, I attended a really amazing training on HIV.  It made me realize just how much I am learning this year.

This week I also got the practicum of my dreams for next year at a middle school special education department. Next week is our spring break, so I'm headed home for the weekend to get my car checked out and then visit a possible new addition to my family.  The boyfriend and I are moving in together in July, so we are getting a fur-baby to keep us company from Ayres Memorial Animal Shelter.   Next week Jay and I are touring apartments, I'm picking up shifts at work, catching up with some friends, attending a conference on Autism and Asperger's with Temple Grandin.

And tonight, as I realize just how sweet my life is, we are headed to Shabbat at the Schwacobson's to share delicious food and wine (and of course a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity) with some of our dearest friends.  To mirror my newfound appreciation for life's sweetness I decided to make these for Shabbat tonight:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (dairy-free)
Recipe Adapted from Scientifically Sweet
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Making Special Muffins More Special

I know the title is a mouthful, but so are these muffins.  These are the first food-allergy-friendly baked goods that I have ever really enjoyed eating.  You would never know that these aren't the real thing.  I took one bite and said: wait, which one did I just eat? (I made a regular version and this one for my class, so I thought I had taken a bite of the regular recipe).

These were every bit as chocolaty and wonderful as the original version.  They were a slightly darker color, and just a little bit more crumbly due to the rice flour, but otherwise, you couldn't tell the difference.

I made these muffins for my clinical seminar family.  One of my best friends here at MSPP, Nicole, is allergic/intolerant of almost everything edible (remember that special tart I made for her birthday?).  It has been customary to bring in bagels or donuts or muffins and then a fruit cup for Nicole.  I didn't want her to feel left out this time, so I made her her own batch of special Nicole-friendly muffins:

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, peanut-free)
Recipe seriously adapted from here
Yield: about 8-10 muffins