Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Honour of Earth Day

So today is Earth day and around the world from 8-9PM people are being asked to turn off lights and appliances! In loads of major cities landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Government buildings here in Ireland are going under the cover of darkness as their lights are all switched off for the hour. 

In honour of this I thought I would post up some research about how important nature is to our psychological well being and how important it is to preserve our natural environment :D. 

It's been shown that people in  a community feel safer and more connected to other community members when there are trees and green-space in their surroundings. children will automatically go for green space over concrete playgrounds where availible; even if it's just an empty field; we humans appear to be naturally drawn to nature, a need which is forced out of us in cities.

Numerous studies have found that nature can improve our physical and mental health, including one reporting that depression levels in people living in apartments were lower in those that looked over a window box with flowers in it. Nature and Health found that mental and physical health were positively impacted by the natural environment!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Icebox cookies and the 24 hour Juggle-a-thon

Firstly I feel I should apologise for the lack of pictures of the cookies themselves; they were hoovered up in no time, before I had a chance to take any snaps!

So yesterday (and this morning) we held our second annual 24 hour Juggle-a-thon in college to raise money for charity. I should probably explain this a bit better; I'm the current president of the Juggling Society in university and I've been a member of the society for 3 years and will continue to be for as  long as they will let me. Last year I decided we needed to do an event for charity week; and so the 24 hour juggle-a-thon was born!

It kicked off at 12 noon yesterday and we juggled all day and throughout the night, finally finishing at 12 noon today to the strains of the Final Countdown by Europe. We were raising money for M.S. Ireland which is the Multiple Sclerosis charity over here and is a fantastic cause. I'm still not quite done counting the money (there's a lot of small change left) but we've broken the €400 mark!!! It was a great laugh and the people walking by seemed to enjoy the event as much as we did!

Anyway, you're here for a cookie recipe, not to hear me go on and on about juggling (it's a fantastic past time, and I would strongly recommend it to everyone!). I did have a problem in that they were a little cakey because I couldn't find my usual go-to cookie recipe but leaving them in the oven a little longer yielded better results. I will be trying them again with my usual recipe and I'll report back which is better :)

Chocolate and Vanilla Icebox Cookies

(Makes around 30)
  • 200g butter (softened)
  • 185g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 280g flour (divided)
  • 1tsp baking powder (divided)
  • 3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
  • 40ml milk (divided) (if necessary)
Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until fluffy
Add vanilla and egg and beat well
Divide the mixture into 2 bowls (one for the vanilla dough and one for the chocolate)
Sieve 1/2 of the flour and baking powder into each bowl of the wet ingredients 
Add the cocoa powder to one bowl and mix into a soft dough
Mix the ingredients in the other bowl into a soft dough
Add some or all of the milk if necessary to achieve this consistency (my dough came out a little dry so I had to use all of the milk)

Roll out the dough you want to use on the outside (I picked the chocolate dough) into a rectangle 1cm thick 
Roll the other dough into a sausage shape the same length as the rectangle and place at the edge of the rectangle.
Wrap the chocolate dough around the vanilla dough and seal with your fingers
Slice the resulting log into 2 smaller logs and wrap the logs in cling film, rolling them on a hard surface to remove the uneven seam in the dough

Place in the freezer for 20 mins (hence 'icebox' cookies :P)
While the dough is chilling preheat oven to 180 C and line baking trays with greaseproof paper
Take the dough out of the oven and slice into 1cm thick rounds
Bake for 20-23 mins, until golden, cool and serve.

They're great party cookies because the yield is high and they're the best of both worlds; chocolate and vanilla :D. You can alsomake spirals or Battenberg style checkerboards; give your creativity a whirl and let me know what you come up with :)


Monday, March 14, 2011

Synesthesia: Seeing 2 colours at once

I found out pretty recently that one of my friends has synesthesia which is a blending of the senses which causes input to one sense e.g. vision to cause firing of other senses e.g. hearing! In one common form of synesthesia, known as or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as coloured. In other forms of synesthesia numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities or musical notes can evoke colours. In number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week have precise locations in space, e.g. a number line may be ever present in the air infront of the person and 20 may be further away than 12. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported, but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research. Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions. Because they're usually born with synesthesia they can be completely unaware of their perceptual differences until they are made aware of it 

Now researchers are getting closer to understanding the mechanics behind this phenomenon. In this study Reading in 2 colours at once they explored the fact that synesthetes report seeing both the original colour of the word (i.e. black) at the same time as the synesthetic colour!!!

Synesthesia is honestly the only disorder people are jealous of (me included, I'm very jealous)!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares

While looking for a quick fix for a friend's birthday a few years ago I was put onto the idea of a jazzed up version of rice krispie squares by a friend of mine. She recommended adding marshmallows and golden syrup and they worked out really well!!! (I'll include the variations at the end of this recipe)

I came up with this mars bar variation for an event in college last year and they went down an absolute treat so I usually make them for birthday parties where a cake or something more fragile would be impossible to transport or wouldn't keep well in the open :) And let's face it, who doesn't like sticky, chewy, crispy, chocolatey treats?

The recipe is a bit on the approximate side because it really is improvised to the max but I'll make sure to describe what you should be seeing in your bowl :) You'll have to do this in 3 batches if you want to make the full amount of squares.

Mars Bar Rice Krispie Squares

(Makes approx. 30 smallish squares)
  • 20 snacksize Mars bars
  • 3 tbsp Golden syrup
  • 3 tsps butter
  • 250-300g Rice Krispies

Melt 1/3 of the Mars Bars over a bain marie until sticky (it will still be quite firm though)
Add 1 tbsp of the Golden Syrup and mix in well
Add 1 tsp of the butter, let it melt and mix well (it should be quite malleable and loose at this stage but still sticky)
Add 1/3 of the Rice Krispies and mix until they are coated in the mars bar mixture (they won't get completely 
coated but that's how it works)
You can add more if you feel there aren't enough Rice Krispies in the mix
Either roll into balls using 1 tbsp of the mix or pour out onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper

Repeat the above with the remaining Mars Bars and add to the same tray.
Refrigerate until hard then remove, cut into squares and enjoy!

If you want you can substitute the Mars bars for 150g of mini Marshmallows, or add both (SINFULLY yummy!)

Thanks to the Greedy Gourmet for the pic :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pancake Tuesday

I love love love this holiday because it's a chance for my to bring together two of my great sources of happiness; my friends, and cooking :)! I missed out on having a big Pancake party last year (sad face) so I decided I'd make up for it this year by making totally super awesome pancakes :D! 

I was always going to make crepes because in my mind they are pancakes (we Irish don't tend to do the whole fluffy American style ones over here), but for the first time I was faced with the exciting task of making the fluffy type. Ethan (being from the U.S.) wasn't too keen on crepes so I went hunting for recipes. I eventually settled on a cinnamon pancakes recipe because I know how much he loves that spice (I also had some lengthy consultations with him). So yesterday at 3:30 I set about making pancakes for 6 people. I flipped the last one onto an eagerly awaiting plate at 5PM (boy was I sleepy afterwards). Oh, I didn't quit making them because I was out of batter by the way, everyone was just too stuffed! I still have crepe batter left over, which is the reason I haven't included how many this batter makes in the recipe below. It's in my fridge in a milk carton...I really hope no-one makes that mistake when they go for cereal...

Also, what are people's favourite toppings? Lemon and sugar, Nutella and banana and fresh blackberries in that order are my top 3 :)


  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 600 mls milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)
Sift flour into a mixing bowl
Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, butter and half the milk
Gradually mix all the ingredients together and beat well until the batter is smooth
Add the remaining milk
Leave to stand in the fridge for 15-30 mins before cooking

Heat a small pan over a high heat and then reduce to a medium heat
Grease the pan with butter (I use kitchen towel to spread it), you can use oil instead.
Put enough batter into the pan and tilt the pan to spread it evenly into a thin layer
Cook until the top of the pancake is dry (around 1-2 mins), then turn over with a pallet knife/fish slice
and cook the other side.

Cinnamon Pancakes
(Adapted from Sugarlaws)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk 
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 5 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 5 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp butter (melted)
Sieve flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl
Add cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar and combine
Combine butter, eggs and milk in another bowl and add 1/2, mixing well
Add remaining liquid ingredients and combine
Leave to stand for 15-30 mins

Heat medium pan on medium and grease with butter/oil
Add 1 ladel of batter to the pan and cook until bubbles start to form 
on the top of the pancake (approx 1 min)
Flip and cook the other side for approx 1 minute

Serve both with your choice of toppings, applesauce goes amazingly well with the cinnamon pancakes!

Happy Mardi Gras/ Pancake day/ Fat Tuesday


Friday, March 4, 2011

Planning Could Lead To Better Eating Habits

Researchers at McGill have found that visualisation and planning can improve eating habits

 Planning for Better Food Habits

What's super interesting about this research is how easy it is to implement. I put it to the test by planning out the amount and type of protein I was going to have in my diet for the past week and visualised myself putting this plan into action. It worked. I stuck to my plan and really feel a sense of satisfaction that I didn't stray from it. While I'm not certain how much influence the visualisation actually had, the planning out really did have an affect. I'll have to try each component separately and judge for myself. 

Give it a go and see if it works for yourself :)