Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Pastry

It was well after midnight on Christmas Eve when I realized that not only was I making a yeasted dough (please see my post about the Bread In The Pipes Incident) but that it was a yeasted puff pastry dough and I still had two more "turns" to do and still needed to chill the stuff for an hour before I could carry on. But the pastries (recipe here) were, my husband said, "One of the best things you've ever made". I changed the recipe a bit. What's the deal w/ beating the butter w/ a rolling pin? Nope. God and Cuisinart teamed up to make the food processor for this very reason. And, besides, the kids were in bed and "Santa" was in the living room wrapping presents and drinking beer, so I couldn't wake them up in the name of Following the Recipe Exactly. Sometimes the science of baking has to take a hit to keep the visions of sugar plums dancing and all. And I didn't have cream cheese. I had mascarpone. And there was the panic: Pinch what, fold how? Huh? And yet.... I wanted to put the picture of the little layers of the finished dough with its lovely layers, but I thought the pastries looked better.

Oh, yeah. The score on the accursed paper was increased juuuust enough to get an A in That Class. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


So, the funny thing is, now that I'm on winter break I start wondering, "Can I do it? Can I handle nursing school? Am I tough enough? Do I *really* want to be a nurse?" And, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: idle hands are the work of....Aw, you just need to keep busy during the long break...etc. No. I'm making a quilt for each of my kids (that I want to have finished by Christmas, ho, ho, ho, uh), I'm planning to make five different kinds of candy for the neighbors (plus Christmas sugar cookies the kids can cut out and decorate): almond toffee, peppermint bark, homemade crackerjacks, chocolate-walnut fudge, caramels (I've been wanting to make caramels out of honey for a while. Have you tried it?). I have Christmas shopping to do. I'm in desperate need of a new pair of shoes and some new bras. Have you seen this house? I'm having the family over for brunch on Christmas morning and there are books and notes and clipboards and other finals-studying detritus that are strewn across every horizontal surface waiting to be shelved in shelf-spaces that don't exist or burned (depending) in a fireplace I don't have. Sigh. So, no, it's not that I've suddenly been granted all of this time and head-space to contemplate nursing school and nursing and what do I think I'm doing. It's..

just not fair. I turned in a group paper (remember the Constipation project?) and it was marked down to a C. And points were taken off for things that were included in the paper. And this was by the instructor who (pretty much) put smile-y faces and "great job" on very other paper, who told me, "Don't worry about it." when I asked about the mysterious "Appendix B" in the rubric (I want to spell that w/ a "k" instead of a "c". Is it just me? Is this-the rubric- a new school thing. I don't remember rubrics twenty years ago. Does it have something to do with Powerpoint, also a non-thing twenty years back...). Word on the street: Smiley-face teacher gave everyone 100 on the paper and was told she needed to be more critical. My guess: she took random points off rather than re-read the paper. Stopped reading any emails from students. My group has turned to the head of the program for a re-grade. Someone, I'm told, who worries a lot about "Appendix B".

So, who cares right? Let it go. Because of this paper I got a B in That Class. The one I barely endured. And I got an A on the final, but only because my friend, "S", made excrutiatingly detailed notes and gave me a copy. And, the other sucky thing= I was responsible for finishing up the paper and I deemed it "good" (that should read "B" to anyone taking notes, but was "Great Paper" and smiley faces for that instructor). So my group goes down with me. And that leads me to the peppermint bark. Pictured up there is the toffee. I'm not going to get into the toffee with you. It's good, real good, but if you haven't already made toffee before I don't want you to curse at me. You'll be stirring the sugar-y goo and it will take twenty minutes to get to the hard-ball stage rather than 10 and, if you're an idiot like me, you'll be using a meat thermometer to take the temp (it has a 5 inche pointy probe so you have to hold the thing with one hand and stir with the other and that thermometer hand is hovering pretty close to a goo that is registering 300+ degrees and it's bubbling like a mud pit in Yellowstone NP), and it's a rainy day which, apparently, in the candy-making world= potential for doom markedly increased because it's not the heat it's the humidity. sigh.

Anyways, we're on break here, people! We're not doing science. We're not measuring anything! We're stirring something up and slapping it down and letting it cool and eating it.

Here. Peppermint Bark.

About a pound of white chocolate broken into pieces(I know what I said about white chocolate, the peppermint counterbalances its evil) - not the chips, they melt funky

around half a pound of semisweet chocolate, small pieces- chips are fine

two or three splashes of cream (I dunno, 6 Tbsp)

one lid's worth of peppermint extract

10ish smashed candycanes or 30 or 40 crushed up round peppermints

Line a cookie sheet with parchement paper
melt white chocolate in double boiler (mine is a random saucepan at a crazy angle in another random saucepan with about an inch of water in it over medium-low heat)
pour half of it onto parchement spread it out with a spatula (but not all the way to the edge) add about half the crushed candy, spead evenly,and chill 'til firmish in fridge.
melt chocolate combined w/ peppermint extract and cream in "double boiler" and combine 'til smooth. Working quickly, pour the chocolate over the white chocolate, spread w/ spatula and fridge 'til firm (um, half an hour?). Re-melt the rest of the white chocolate and working even quicklier (I was slow and the top layer of white chocolate melted some of the real chocoalte and turned my top layer light brwon, but still tasty) pour and spread white chocolate over real chocolate layer and spread. Add the rest of the crushed candy. Fridge until firmish. Use the parchement to lift it out of the cookie sheet and put it onto a cutting board. Remove parchement. Use a sharp knife to cut it into pieces (keep it right side up or you'll make a mess).
This is sooooooooo goood.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is It Thursday Yet?

Ah, finals week. During my first tour of college around twenty years ago I would stay up all night studying. I'd drag my sleepy, studied butt into class and take whatever test it was and then stay up all the next night re-loading for the next test. I can't do that anymore. Can you say, "Almost forty."? Can you count the two kids over there? Chances are with the two of 'em, one will wake me up w/ a bad dream and one will have forgetten the How To Put On Your Own Blanket at 3 AM training session that we've gone over and over world without end anyways. And, so, I'll be up and bleary-eyed the next day anyways.

So, here's the deal, when you're old like me and you're busy like me and you go back to school the second time around you have to do it right. You do the reading when it's assigned. You start studying for the hard tests *at least* a week before the test. You show up to every class. You take The World's Best Notes (in part because all the note-taking keeps you awake!). You annoy the hell out of your fellow students by asking a million questions if you don't understand something. And that leads me to That Class: Nursing Theory. It will be my final final for this quarter and it's this Thursday. That test is the only thing that stands in the way of the completion of this first quarter in nursing school. And I have done NONE of the things I've just mentioned. Someone recently used the word "endure" to describe what it takes to get throught that class. I haven't endured. I've flaked. And I don't even care.

My pathophysiology final was today. I did, indeed, practice my exemplary busy mom study habits for that one. Still, hard test. My friend, S., came to class and informed me that I could get 13 wrong and still get an A in the class. It's good to have friends who figure these things out in their spare time! So, here's my list of the 5 diseases (not counting infectious diseases -um, ew, guinea worms!) I do not want to get in ascending order from, uh, "best" to worst:

5. Right-sided heart failure. There's something about all-over edema that really creeps me out.

4. Cirrhosis of the liver. You get varices (extra blood vessels) that can burst, especially in the esophagus. And, well, we're back to edema, especially in the abdomen.

3. Pancreatitis. Two words (or is it one?): auto-digestion.

2. Chronic renal failure. It's the edema, again. And this time it's in the lungs. And the urea build up. You can get a "uremic frost" wherein your skin is coated w/ crystals of urea like a dusting of candy-sugar or light snow. And it smells like pee. You wipe it off. It comes back.

1. Diabetes. It's the number one cause of renal failure, but it's not just that, it's that many of the complications occur because you're all sugary. Sugar literally gums up the works and causes everything from blindness to artheriosclerosis. And the infections! You are the perfect sugary breeding ground for bacteria.

Ooops. I left alzheimers off of the list. Oh, and hemorrhagic stroke. I should have done a top ten, but I need a break from pathofizz for a while. I have to spend time not studying for my last final.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The End is Near...Let's Bake!

There may, indeed, be something wrong with my brain. I have finals this week and next and I've spent all my "spare" time baking and cooking rather than studying. I just can't get around to it. My daughter's 6th birthday was today and making her tasty cupcakes and setting up a make-your-own pizza dinner was more important to me than doing well on tomorrow's nutrition test. And they *were* tasty cupcakes (recipe below).

I had my first final on Monday in Skills Lab. I had a horrible night's sleep the night before and I barely studied. I really felt like I knew my stuff. I've been watching the DVDs (Hygeine! Asepsis! (Oh No, It's) Bowel Elimination!), I've done the reading. But the test was horrible. Horrible! It had questions on the manufacturing instructions for glucometers. What are trocanter rolls and what do they have to do with patients in a coma (the question of the day)? After the test I asked one of the instructors. "Oh, you'll learn that *next* quarter." Um. It was, apparently, a test on premonition skills. But the worst part was the random skills part of the test. This was the doing part of the test and I thought I had it down cold, had it wired, had it in the bag etc. But the instructor handed me the card with the instructions on it and the four (hey, they told us three, see, here in the syllabus...) skills I had to perform and then snatched it away from me and gave me grumpy looks and muttered comments while I did my thing. I asked, "Um, aren't rectal temperatures contraindicated for end-stage AIDs patients?" and she grumbled something and had me do it anyways (I think she was hoping I would miss that so she could pounce on me for it.). Let me back up. Some of us were doing our skills on another student, but I got the mannikin (complete with place for rectal thermometer!). So while everyone else was chatting w/ their fellow nursing students and happily doing vital signs I was giving a bed bath to a mannikin with Growly Instructor glaring away at me. I knew the night before that I would have to make an occupied bed. I worked so hard on making beds (I'm not, uh, by trade, much of a bed maker) and it was the one skill I really improved on. I've nver practiced making a bed with gloves on (AIDs patient, er, mannikin, though, remember?) and it must have taken me a half an hour. It wasn't terrible. You should have seen some of my mitered corners before, though. I was so flinging proud of 'em. These just hung there like lasagna noodles stuck to the pan. Growly was not impressed and told me so. I tried to look at the instruction card and she was trying to hide it from me. Then she told me to write something down. "What?" "Here," she said, flashing the card at me, "you have to document it." Um. " uh, document what?" And the card was waving around again, but she wouldn't let me look at it. I wrote down 300 mL of urine ( I had to empty a "Foley" - the bag that catches urine from a catheterized patient. A skill that I never practiced and was shown once 2 minutes before class let out one day in October). I wrote down (on a scrap of paper, mind you) 38 degrees C, rectal temp (I figured that's a good temp for a mannikin w/ a fever) and I handed it to her. She scribbled down something in my permanent record and I went into the other classroom where the untested students were sitting. "Geez, what did they have you do in there?!" people asked. I was in there for an hour and fifteen minutes. And, just chatting with a group of people I started randomly crying. Does that ever happen to you? You're just chatting all of a sudden tears are slipping out of your eyes before you can stop them. Not about the test. I'm just overwhelmed which leads me to the cupcakes.

Make These Cupcakes

I stole this recipe from, but it's for some sort of cake w/ apricot this and such and I've turned them into the perfect kid party white cupcake.

8 oz imported (read: Lindt) white chocolate (I don't like white chocolate either, but it works in these cupcakes)
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 1/4 tsp non aluminum baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk (I used low fat)

preheat oven to 350.
spray oil muffin tins (will make more than 12 cupcakes, maybe even 24)
Melt white chocolate in a double boiler (my "double boiler" is a smaller saucepan in a larger saucepan with the flame on the stove down low). Sift flour, b.powder and salt. Cream butter and sugarin mixer 'til fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternatively with milk in 3 additions, beating after each one and blending until well-combined after each addition. Add melted white chocolate. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in tins for 20 minutes before removing. I frost 'em with cream cheese frosting, but you can use your favorite.

Picture is of my daughter's cake from her party Sunday.