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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Most Special Muffins

MSPP is very committed to their idea of creating a strong community.  Because we are in such small classes, even smaller communities develop within that larger umbrella.  Our clinical seminar classes, however, become more like families.  We are small groups (mine has only five students) that share stories, cases, and professional issues that arise over the year, and help each other to process those events and come up with solutions.  In that process, we all learn and grow from each other's experiences, as well as from our professor.  

I was fortunate to be placed in the seminar of Dr. Ethan Pollack, one of the most genuine and knowledgeable professors I have ever met.  He has been practicing and teaching for many years, and always has an example from his experiences ready for us when we bring up a clinical issue.  Dr. Pollack is also one of the most knowledgeable experts on ethics in the field.  I look up to him as a professor, as a clinician, and almost as a grandfatherly figure, who is wise and caring and always there fore you.  It has truly been an honor to have been a member of his clinical seminar family this year.

Part of our family role in clinical seminar is to take turns bringing in breakfast each week.  Some people bring in bagels or donuts or fruit, and some of us bake.  So far, I've made some pretty interesting things this semester.  I've made toffee apple crisp, pumpkin cinnamon chip scones, and a flop batch of cinnamon roll muffins.  This week was my last chance to bake for my seminar this year, so I knew it had to be something incredible.  Since our professor is also a proclaimed chocoholic, I decided that I needed to make something super chocolaty as my one last chance to impress him.  I chose these:

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe adapted from Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
Yield: 14 muffins

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Welcome to the Grad Life!

Jay got into graduate school!  Hooray!  He was accepted yesterday as a part-time student at Northeastern University's Masters in Health Informatics program, and I couldn't be more proud of him. Obviously this a call for celebration.  The last time he got good news about a job, I made him his favorite crispy chocolate chip cookies.  I was going to make them again last night, but realized I was out of granulated sugar.

I decided to help him celebrate with a different cookie, one that he has never had but has made up a song about: my cookie cups.  Every time I mention these cookie cups, he goes into this song.  As annoying as the song is, I decided the reward of his surprise would be worth it.

So I made these to congratulate my super smart boyfriend:

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookie Cups
Recipe adapted from here
Yield: 8 large cookie cups