Kitchen Therapy


6 Comments

Tardis Rainbow Birthday Cake and Dalek Cupcakes

In 1979 we left Yugoslavia and boarded a Qantas flight to begin our new life in Sydney, Australia.
My mum’s sister greeted us at the airport, she had immigrated many years earlier and we stayed with her family for a couple of months until we got on our feet.
I was 7 years old and I have two very distinct memories of this time.
1. I remember wondering how people could eat Kentucky Fried Chicken with Coleslaw! I thought it was the strangest and most unpleasant tasting thing I had ever tried (strangely enough, it didn’t take long to develop a taste for this food phenomenon!)
2. My 10 & 6 year old cousins had a small tv in the play room at the back of the house where they would go and watch Dr Who episodes every night after dinner. This is the Dr I was introduced to…

                                                                                        The Fourth Dr Who

I have to tell you, we were terrified watching some of the episodes! I remember many times hiding under sheets while we waited for the scary bits to be over! But as soon as the show was finished our bravado returned. I remember wrapping my younger cousin from head to food in toilet paper trying to re-create one of the show’s creatures!

I’m not sure where Dr Who and I parted ways? I’d like to say it was the long hours spent studying as I got older and had less and less time for tv. This is true (seriously!) But if I’m to be totally honest, I have to acknowledge that along with this was an ever growing interest in boys and spending any free time I did have, going out with friends.

However,  in the last few months the Dr entered my life again, thanks to my now 12 year old son and his friends!
I listened to their in depth conversations about the latest episodes as they dissected each event and argued about their absolute favourite episode!

We had some sleepless nights when they discovered the weeping angels and thought it was funny to replay the scary bits of the episode again and again on You Tube! It was okay doing that when they were all together at someone’s house and in a big group, but they soon learnt it wasn’t that great when they had to come home and get ready for bed! At night! By themselves. All alone in their room!
Thankfully the more they watched the scary bits on You Tube, the more immune they became!

(Can you believe every photo I have of my son’t 12th birthday is blurry! How to make them stand still long enough to take a decent photo is beyond me!)

So with his 12th Birthday approaching I told the boys I would make a Tardis birthday cake!
To be honest I was all talk.
But they told everyone and got so excited I realised at some point my credibility was at stake!
Once I stopped fighting the idea, I relaxed and had a lot of fun.

I decided I would take this opportunity to incorporate a number of recipes I’ve been wanting to try for a long time and to be honest, without accountability and a looming deadline they would probably have been on my “one day” list for years to come.

I’ve been wanting to try Marshmallow Fondant.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE MARSHMALLOWS!
I found a recipe one of the prettiest blogs I have ever come across! Bakingdom .
If you click here it will take you straight to Darla’s marshmallow fondant recipe!

Now I’ve never made, let alone used marshmallow fondant before. So I was pretty happy with the results…


My other “one day” recipe was from a blog I stumbled upon recently that is indescribably stunning Sweetapolita.

I saw Rosie’s Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake and it’s been on my mind ever since.
So I decided, since I was expected to produce a Tardis birthday cake, I was going to go all the way!

We sang happy birthday (which included strange word additions and a lot of wresting) but eventually my son cut into his birthday cake…

To say the boys were blown away would be an understatement!

I followed Rosie’s recipe for the Rainbow Cake with Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream and made as many layers as I thought a Tardis would need in height. I spread her lemony swiss meringue buttercream between each layer and finished it off with a crumb coat before covering the whole thing with the coloured Marshmallow Fondant.

The dalek cupcakes were simply chocolate cupcakes.
I made a dozen regular sized cupcakes and topped them each with mini cupcake.
I then made and tinted buttercream in the colours of the newest dalek models and covered the cupcakes.
From what I can gather, the different coloured daleks have different qualities, so the boys put quite a bit of thought into which dalek they wanted to eat!

Then back to their skateboards… on their stomachs…as you do…
I guess riding upright got boring?!?


5 Comments

Gingerbread Christmas Cookie Tree

I remember someone telling me that the purpose of meditation was to give us a break from our daily lives. While meditating we are focused on other things, our breath, our body, the present moment. Anything but what has been consuming us and occupying our thoughts. At the end of our meditation time we step back into our lives. But we do so refreshed. We’ve had a break from all our worries, duties and roles. And now we return recharged and the time away has, hopefully, given us a new perspective. A more detached and objective way to see our lives, and with fresh eyes, we can tackle our concerns with new ideas that were hidden from us while we were caught up in the story that was our life! I honestly cannot remember where I picked up this broad definition of meditation, but it’s stuck with me.

That’s what I love about cooking and in particular, baking. My way of being in the world can be very much in my mind and not much happening in the body! My mind can be a hive of activity, sometimes it feels like it’s home to a loud, chaotic, formula 1 race track. You’d never know what’s going in there by watching me, my body goes through the day doing it’s thing and not getting in the mind’s way. Actually it’s learnt to stay out of the mind’s way! And that’s where baking and cooking come into play.

Doing something that is physical and new requires me to focus fully on the activity at hand. My mind tries to gloss over instructions so it can get back to solving the latest drama, but I’ve learnt the more active my mind, the more complex the recipe I need to pick needs to be. I have to concentrate on what I am doing and force myself to take a break from the tapes playing in my head. And when the business and dramas are big, like at Christmas time, doing anything complex is the last thing I want to do! That’s how I new it was time to undertake a challenge. I have been wanting to make a Gingerbread House, but I have been sick with the latest bug the boys brought home and when I saw Gingerbread Christmas Trees I was sold! They looked amazing and somehow not as daunting as the houses, to me.

I made the dough using the recipe below from Gourmet Traveller. I also had five 11-year old boys in the house having a sleepover, friends dropping in and still feeling weak from the bug. The combination wasn’t great. After many hiccups, I took my first batch out of the oven and then dropped them!
At this point my 14-year old decided to step in. My goal was to spend some mother daughter time while the boys were destroying the house. She was reluctant to begin with, but I stepped back fully and other than making the dough and destroying the first batch of stars, she did everything. 

She is also an “in her head” sort of person. 
So it was great to sit back and watch the meditative process of baking in action.
She was in “flow”.
She had purpose and an incredible sense of achievement at the end of it all.
And while she took pics of her creation to post on facebook and tumblr, I took pics of her to post here.

Remember to take a break from the busy-ness of the season, whatever form your ‘meditation’ takes, take time to do it and you will be rewarded with a renewed sense of perspective, love and joy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Gingerbread Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

700g plain flour
190g each light brown sugar and dark muscovado sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
220g cold butter, cubed
180g golden syrup
2 eggs

1. Process half of each of the flour, sugars, baking powder and spices in a food processor to combine well. Add half the butter, process to combine, then add half the golden syrup and 1 egg and process until mixture comes together (3-4 minutes). Turn onto a work surface, knead until mixture comes together, wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate to rest for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Roll our each piece of gingerbread on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick. Cut decorative shapes out and place on trays lined with baking paper and bake in batches until darkened around the edges. About 10 minutes. Cool on trays for 5 minutes then cool on wire racks.

Royal Icing Recipe (as it appears in Gourmet Traveller for their gingerbread house recipe)

2 egg whites
450g pure icing sugar

Whisk egg-whites in a bowl, gradually adding icing sugar to the mixture until it is smooth holds a stiff peak. Leave white or colour what ever shade your desire the spoon into piping bags fitted with desired piping tubes.

To assemble:
Pipe icing onto each star in whatever pattern you fancy and we dabbed icing in the middle of each star to stick the tree together.


17 Comments

Quiches and Tarts – and everything in between!

It has been another busy week.
At home there’s school, soccer, band, karate, dancing, netball, get togethers, parties, homework, assignments, fights, tears… mostly mine!

Netball Gala Day to raise money for Cancer Research

Band Workshop

Helping out at school

At work there’s more tears, lots of them, but at least there the tears are from clients trying to cope with their own lives.

In all the madness I tried to foster a sense of control so I went on a cleaning and purging binge!
I cleaned everything! Including my iphone… and all the photos… including the one’s of this week’s recipe.

Probably how I looked when I realised I wiped the photos!
(Don’t you love the pics the kids think are hilarious to take!)

Anyway…

I can tell you Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche was amazing.
Everyone loved it, from the 3 year old to my 70 year old dad.
Absolutely amazing!
To see actual photos of Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche from the talented French Fridays with Dorie cooks, click here. 

I made this quiche on the weekend, so I was going to be really good (after missing last week’s recipe) and get my post ready nice and early.
When I discovered I’d wiped my photos I was bummed but ready to make another quiche.
Everyone loved it after all…
But then, as I was flicking through my copy of Around My French Table, I noticed the recipe for Gerard’s Mustard Tart.
I joined after the group made this and I happen to love mustard so I thought I’d make this instead.

Dorie uses the same tart dough recipe for both recipes and I had my trusty sidekick helping…

The dough is so easy to make…

The filling for both quiches was even easier to prepare…

As I said I love mustard.
I also love leeks and pasty.
The taste was unusual and unfamiliar, but in a good way.
It left us with a quizzical but appreciative look on our faces.
I definitely recommend stepping out of the familiar and giving this tart a go.
And the spinach and bacon quiche will definitely be made again and again!

A very comprehensive and detailed recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s mustard tart can be found here. 


26 Comments

School Holidays and Vanilla Eclairs!

It’s school holidays in Australia! Yay!
I missed the last two challenges of French Fridays with Dorie. The first week I was sick with the flu and the next we were in Melbourne.
I was determined I was not going to miss another week!
So I decided, despite having 6 of my 10-year-old son’s friends over for the day, I would make this week’s recipe!

The Vanilla Pastry Cream came together perfectly over arguments discussions about why they can’t watch Sucker Punch or Red Riding Hood at the cinemas.
It chilled in the fridge as I stood out in the middle of the street directing traffic so the boys could scooter and skateboard out of our steep driveway at full speed.
It was all good! I was in control and feeling pretty chilled!

Next, the Cream Puff Dough!
I went through a phase some years back when I made profiteroles on a regular basis so I was feeling pretty confident.
Now somewhere between chasing running after the angels as they moved like lightning between our house and the oval at the end of our street
and more ummm… ‘debates’ as to why they can’t play knock and run or go into the National Park surrounding the oval by themselves,
my Cream Puff Dough didn’t… puff!

Hard as I tried, there was no way these babies were going to be filled. They tasted pretty good, but were flat as pancakes!
I learnt something from my house full of tenacious and relentless boys, don’t give up, cos you’ll eventually get what you want if you keep pestering trying!
The second time around I cut a hole at the end of a sandwich bag, filled it with the dough and squeezed out the eclairs!
Yes! This time it worked!

I was pumped! I managed to complete the recipe!
I piled the boys in the car and met a friend who had the rest of their friends waiting for us at the cinemas.
We settled on ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2’.
We sat them all into their seats and just as we started to think okay! They are in a contained space and we can relax for the next 90 minutes or so, we realised we had taken boys, that already had the resources and stealth of seasoned ninjas, to watch a movie that turned out to be an instruction manual on how to get away with absolutely anything!
We sat and watched in helpless terror!

To see more versions of this week’s recipe and read more stories visit French Fridays with Dorie!


16 Comments

Short Ribs In Red Wine and Port

I admit it! I have (until recently) been one of those people who thought creativity meant being able to paint or decorate!
It was something that involved a lot of drawing and knowing which colours went together.
So, given this definition, I routinely described myself as “the least creative person you were to ever meet!”
Then, my 10 year forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs.
I had his future clearly planned for him in my mind. Studying economics at university and then working for one of the major banks! Done!
Then something weird happened. He started to develop a real creative streak!
I started to get nervous.
He enjoyed it and others noticed he had a knack for it.
My banking dreams were being threatened and replaced with visions of him painting portraits at Circular Quay!
How could he do this to me!!!
Just as I was beginning to think I had to do something drastic to save my child from a life of artistic poverty, he said to me “Jack (his friend) and I have been talking and we decided we are going to work for Disney making graphics for their movies!” I wanted to cry! Working for Disney! That was a real job? Right? And he would be making money!

He forced me to re-think my ideas on creativity! It was the best gift he could have ever given me!

Today I see creativity everywhere I go.
Take this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It took creative genius to pull this baby off!

Juggling work, three kids at three different schools doing three different after school activities, a father coming out of rehab after a massive heart attack and stroke and me deciding to go back to uni, I was sure these ribs were going to fall by the wayside!

But the sadist in me wouldn’t let go of the satisfaction I knew would be waiting for me at the completion of this week’s recipe! So after buying a wheelchair and mobility scooter for my dad, I ducked into the fabric shop nearby and bought the cheesecloth for the bouquet garni.

After driving to uni to pick up my time-table with my 3 year old I realised it was ‘O’ week (orientation week) so I put off my grilling plans and we joined the celebrations!

A few lollipops and some one on one time with my baby was worth the delay!
Back home and the grilling…

…chopping and cooking were finally under way!

Before long the ribs, vegetables and a tonne of booze were all tightly snuggled into the oven for a few hours and we were on our way to pick up the others from school and meet friends for a catch up.
While the kids ran around and the grown ups chatted, the ribs bubbled away at home. We came home to the most amazing smell! Everyone was so excited about dinner till I told them it was for tomorrow night! Ha!
The next day the fat was scooped off and the ribs were ready for the final grilling!

They were pretty amazing!
If I didn’t join French Fridays with Dorie I would never have cooked these!
I would have flicked through the book and came back to it on the odd occasion and maybe even made a handful of recipes I felt comfortable with.
How much I would have missed out on!

The creativity of the other members inspires me, check out their takes on this recipe here.

 

 


1 Comment

Counselling 101 – Skills we should be taught at school!

 Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling

As a psychologist I get to witness  the power of words first hand. I see the effects of words that evoke fear, powerlessness and helplessness. I also see the flip side to this, words that empower, motivate and create joy, love and happiness.

Understanding and fully appreciating the power of words has been one of the most amazing things about my line of work. People are able to shift from depression, anxiety and fear to a state of peace and happiness through words.

The words we use to describe what we experience will in turn become our experience.

If one of my children is feeling sad, angry, happy, or playing victim I ask them what they are thinking. I can guarantee you the response is usually “I don’t know” followed by a scowl!
And it’s true, they have no idea what thoughts lead them to this emotion. They just know they feel good or bad!
And same goes for any of us, we don’t really pay attention to the constant chatter in our minds. But it’s there and it’s creating our reality!

As a psychologist, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the most important lessons I need to teach my children.
To build in them the awareness and understanding that they are not victims to random emotions that take over their bodies.

(I know I am referring to children here however this is something most of us as adults have never really been taught. I passionately believe that this is crucial information about living that all kids need to be taught in school so they have the resources to become functional and contributing adults. Unfortunately it isn’t taught in school and it is what I teach my adult clients. Imagine how far we would all be if we were given this information at a young age?)

Most of us don’t really pay attention to what we are thinking, but we are pretty aware of how we are feeling at any given moment. So start with your emotions. Ask yourself  how you feel which also helps to build emotional awareness and identify and verbalise feelings better. 
Once you establish how you feel, take a step back and try to identify what you were thinking and as I said, people find it very difficult to pin down their thoughts. So take it slowly. How you feel and how you behave is determined by what thoughts are going around in your head. So if you’re feeling sad, you’ve been thinking sad thoughts and you may be crying or isolating yourself. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you’ve probably been telling yourself that something is not fair and you may be sulking or stomping around! If you’re feeling happy, you’ve been having happy thoughts and your behaviour may be to whistle, play or be easy-going.

Your thoughts will determine how you feel and act. 
You cannot have happy thoughts and feel angry.
You cannot have angry thoughts and feel happy.
If you are thinking happy thoughts, you will be feeling happy and acting happy.
If you are thinking angry thoughts you will feel angry and act angry.
And so on…

 It sounds incredibly simple and yet it is one of the hardest things to master!
Choosing your thoughts and ultimately choosing the life you have.

Please feel free to leave me any questions or comments you have!


Leave a comment

Are you a tad bit overprotective when it comes to your kids?

 

As a parent, first and foremost I want to protect my children.

My instincts are to protect them from any harm that may come their way. So while I understand the following concept intellectually, I really struggle implementing it.

Depression has been on the rise since the late 1950’s, it is not only increasing, the victims are getting younger and younger.

Dr Martin Seligman claims that “our society has changed from an achieving society to a feel-good society. Up until the early 1960’s, achievement was the most important goal to instill in our children. This goal was then overtaken by the twin goals of happiness and high self-esteem.”

The focus today is very much about feeling good, I know how intense the urge to rush in and protect my children from any negative feelings is. The argument however is that negative feeelings are there for a reason. They carry messages about how we are fairing in life and galvanise us into action when things are going wrong by making it very hard to ignore the pain and discomfort they inflict upon us.

Another thing to consider is the concept of “flow” that I wrote about in an earlier post by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Being in flow is when you lose yourself in what you are doing. It’s when the best of your abilities are matched with the challenge before you. If the challenge is to easy, then you get bored, however if it is too hard you feel hopeless and want to give up. Flow is about feeling challenged and frustrated as you try to achieve your goals. It is about failing and trying again. Seligman says, “rewards alone, high self-esteem, confidence and ebullience do not produce flow… A life without anxiety, frustration, competition and challenge is not the good life; it is a life devoid of flow.” When we consider that research indicates flow is what makes us happy and gives our lives meaning, we can then can grasp the importance of negative feelings in our overall happiness. 

The last point I want to make is about how bad feelings can be used to stop us from feeling helpless and depressed. Feeling helpless, feeling immobilised, feeling like nothing you do will make any difference, is how many of my clients who are depressed feel. When we protect our children from failure, from feeling sad, anxious, or angry, we deprive them from learning persistence. When we are faced with a problem, we can try to change how we approach the problem until we find a way that works. Or we can give up. If we protect our children from feeling bad and failing, then we are teaching them to give up, we are depriving them of the skills to perservere when the going gets tough. We are teaching them to avoid anything that feels bad, making it difficult in the long term for them to experience flow in their lives. When they come up against any difficulties, or negative feelings, they may easily give up, placing them at high risk for developing depression.

My own goal is to try very hard to resist the urge to jump in and “rescue” my children from anything and everything. This includes too much homework, a mean comment by a friend, being overlooked for an activity, etc. Yes, I know I sound a bit nutty but I can’t help it! I want to “fix” it so they don’t feel bad. However the prospect of creating helplessness and depression is sobering enough to make me stop and think. I want to help them build resilience and resources to cope with life. Bailing them out will make me feel good, but it won’t be doing them any favours!