Sunday, February 24, 2008

Puffed Pancakes: My Undoing

It happened like this: As some of you may or may not know, I'm in nursing school. And I'm a mom. It's a bad combination (Do I *need* to say that?). My kids watch a little too much TV, because, even though I vowed to limit my studying to times when the kids are asleep (unless there was a dire and pressing deadline), it just hasn't been working out that way. And somehow (the chain of events is building here) the kids went from PBS kids to the hardcore stuff of Nick Jr and Cartoon Network and now we have TV commercials which really do eat into their brains in a bad way... The kids saw a commercial for some sort of now-only-19.95!!! puffed pancake pan. Now mix in an overly-indulgent grandma (go'bless her) and SUDDENLY there's a puffed pancake pan waiting for me when I got home from school. So, I figured: I make pancakes ALL THE TIME. We have pancakes for breakfast, lunch AND dinner 'round these parts. I can make pancakes with nothing more than a notion and a few ingredients and I don't even need the *right* ingredients: I'll improvise.

No. These things took me two hours. I was flipping 'em with skewers, burning my fingers on molten jam, cursing the TV, grandma, the puffed pancake pan, my husband. The first two batches came out burnt. The next two were anemic and probably unsafe for human consumption (those were the ones I ate) and then - voila! - got it. I serve them to the kids and my son (go'bless him) said, "Ew. These are yucky." Great. So I says to my husband, I says: "I need to quit nursing school." And he says (go'bless him): "Maybe you should quit exotic baking projects instead." Exotic? They're pancakes!

And, well, here's the fun part of the story. I have my pediatric midterm tomorrow and am I studying? No. I'm making puffed pancakes and writing in my blog. See, that's fun, right? And tomorrow is shaping into a 14 hour day (Now w/ midterm!). And tonight is shaping into a very long night. Pediatrics is hard. It's a whole new barrel of monkeys and that = lots of reading, and an instructor who is double-dipping us on the lectures (we get a handful in person and, additionally, online lectures that go on and on and on). And the instructor is often wrong (eg. "Hotdogs should be served to infants in cylinders." Which is *more* wrong: hot dogs served to infants? Or hot dogs served in the ultimate choking hazard form?) and she's often mean (she lectured us for 15 minutes on the first day about how our papers are always late: um, we haven't turned in any papers) and she's almost always confused (see other examples).


Monday, February 18, 2008


Shouldn't it be "Pedes" or "Peeds"? I always read Peds like heads, but anyways that's the rotation I'm doing now. I'm working my way up the ages. I've worked w/ a baby w/ a form of spina bifida and, tonight, a toddler w/ meningitis. The kids have been pretty unhappy to see me coming because they see medical person and remember the shots and the IV insertions and having to get out of mom's arms and be prodded. And the little one tonight was in isolation so here I was this lemon-yellow-paper-gown coated student nurse w/ a mask and gloves. I was smiling and talking, but my little patient couldn't tell past the mask. I hit on the idea of giving her a popsicle and brought it in without the mask: see? here I am: friendly gal w/ popsicle.

(And who knew that popsicle was a brand name? What do you call them? If I spell it w/ TM will I stop getting the you-spelled-it-wrong-underlining?)

And it worked for a while until the little one's IV got pulled out by a tripping-over-it family member. And it took two nurses two tries to re-establish the IV and it was heartening how much the little one cried and screamed -to be honest - because that's what a two-year-old should be doing. But all my popsicle-y good will went out w/ old dressing there and I still had to do a neuro check and vital signs. So, I'm not making many friends in Peeds. The family tonight was so sweet, though. They thanked me for my kindness and it made me want to cry: this sweet family and their tiny one so sick and unable to walk but still fighting like a two-year-old.

I haven't been posting much. I've barely been able to look up every now and again: this has been a hard quarter and I've only wanted to quit once/week, but there's something heartening about working peeds. I'm tired so maybe I can't explain it. I guess there's so much possibility w/ kids even when it's hopeless and maybe doing good care (cuz that's what I'm doing or aspiring to do, right?) can make a big difference even if it's only for a little while. And I guess the hard part is that everyone is so scared: the kid, the family, um, me.

OK. This is The Best Chocolate Cake recipe EVER. It's from the new Alice Waters book, The Art of Simple Food.

Chocolate Cake:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
Stick of butter (8 Tbsp), softened
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature (put 'em in a bowl of warm water)
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (I heated in the microwave for 10 seconds)
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Butter a 9 inch cake pan (oops, I just noticed that it says one cake pan. I've been using two eight inch cake pans and two ramekins for a cook's treat! Yummy all around.) and line the bottom w/ parchment paper. Butter the parchment and dust the pan w/ a little cocoa powder. Shake out the excess.

Melt the chocolate. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Cream butter in mixer. Add and mix until fluffy the brown sugar and vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Stir in melted chocolate. Add half the dry ingredients and combine. Add the buttermilk and the rest of the dry ingredients and combine. Add the boiling water on low speed (um, careful!) until just incorporated.

Pour batter into pan or pans and bake for 30 or 35 minutes if more than one pan is used and for 45 minutes if you use One Big Pan. You know the drill: the toothpick will come out clean when it's done.

Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan. You may need to run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Remove the parchment paper and cool completely before frosting w/ the frosting of your choice.

It's really good chocolate cake!