Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is there anything nature can't do?

Being a Psychology student I've been exposed to a lot of research in Social Psychology and this research is highly relevant to everyday life (as you might expect considering it's the study of people and processes). One theory we've learned about is Attention Restoration Theory which proposes that when we are doing an activity which required our direct attention (like studying) we often take study breaks the wrong way; we go on Facebook or text friends. However, A.R.T. suggests we should instead do something like walking in a park or just looking out th window onto a natural scene.

This method of recharging our attention span has been found to be highly effective in both the general population and those diagnosed with ADHD which is a fascinating result!

See Kaplan's (1995) article for more detail :) The Restorative Benefits of Nature

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

I took a break from studying to go and watch a game of Twilight Imperium which, for those who don't know, is a very nerdy space wars game involving the taking over of planets, making peace accords and having space battles :D :D :D! I normally do play but I had waaaaaay too many readings to do for college :(

I decided I'd make something for the game and Ethan requested these muffins. Unfortunately, I've just moved apartments and while the new place is bigger, quieter and much better for studying the oven has NO markings whatsoever!!! So I made the batter and hightailed it over to a friends apartment only to find the same situation! It was a nightmare but I decided to go for it. They were a little overdone but I'm blaming the fact that the oven was probably a tad too high, they should turn out much better for you :)

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12
  • 240g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 60g butter (melted)
  • 110g white sugar
  • 2 medium apples (I used Jonagold)
  • 11/2tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 110mls milk
Preheat oven to 200 C and grease/line a muffin pan
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl
In a separate bowl mix eggs, milk, and melted butter well
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry mixing just enough to combine
Peel and grate the apples and fold gently into the batter mixture
Add 1.5 tbsp of batter to each hole in the muffin tray, dividing any remaining batter evenly between them
Bake for 20-25 mins
Cool in the tin for 5 mins then cool completely on a wire rack

Enjoy :D x

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Things that go Bump in the Right

Recently I got an email asking me to submit mt thesis research to a European journal and I'm currently in the middle of editing it to their (super) strict rules. I was going through the paper that inspired it all and decided I'd share it with you all :)

Before I post the link I want to ask you a question; over the past week have you bumped into anything or anyone? If no, go you, if yes, what side did you bump with; right or left? Research (mine included) has found that   people bump into things and people on their right side more often because of an in-built lack of attention for that side (pretty cool right?!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Peanut Butter and Honey Flapjacks

I love flapjacks, the buttery taste and chewiness of the oats in these simple bars is just heavenly. But alas I find myself unable to eat them anymore and have been racking my brains to come up with a healthier alternative. I knew I could replace the sugar with honey to provide the sweetness but I was lost with what combinations of alternatives to try for the butter that would work with honey. I finally decided to give it a shot with peanut butter and roped Ethan into helping (he loves the combination of peanut butter and honey so I didn't need that much rope to convince him). They worked out really well; my kitchen smelled like roasted peanuts for hours afterwards! The texture was just the same and the taste was the right balance of earthy peanut and sweet.

Peanut Butter and Honey Flapjacks

Makes around 20
  • 370g jumbo oatflakes (rolled oats)
  • 270g peanut butter
  • 200g honey
Preheat oven to 175 C
Melt peanut butter in a bowl over boiling water
In a separate bowl, mix oats and honey together
Add peanut butter and mix well

At this point if the mixture looks and feels a bit dry add more peanut butter and honey until the desired consistency is reached.

Spread out into a 9x13 inch pan, bigger if you like your flapjacks a little thinner, and gently press the mixture down (this will create a denser flapjack)
Bake for 20-25 mins until golden

Feel free to add 75-100g of mix-ins after adding the peanut butter. I had nothing in my cupboard but I plan on trying peanuts and chocolate chips next time 

I hope you enjoy my healthified flapjacks and please experiment and let me know how you get on 

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Song Lyrics Say About Us

Over the past 50 years song lyrics have changed, arguably not for the better. According to a study published in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, song lyrics have gotten more narcissistic in that time. It's really interesting after reading this to go and listen to songs from earlier decades and notice the differences :)

Song Lyrics reflect our Narcissistic Age


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Icing with Sammi

So I spent the weekend in U.C.C. in Cork at the Student Psychology Conference which was FANTASTIC! We got a chance to present our research and meet other psychology undergrads and postgrads and people genuinely seemed interested in my research which was a huge boost to my confidence.

When I got back on Sunday I was wrecked so I went for a bit of a snooze and had a very lethargic afternoon. I didn't even train too hard in dance (which is highly unlike me). Anyway, I wandered up to visit a friend of mine who lives near the college and she had been baking wholewheat vanilla cupcakes and the smell hit you right from the time you stepped in the house. She had also made this wonderfully pale pink frosting which was sitting in a white bowl when I walked into the kitchen (the picture of girlie :P)

Wholewheat Vanilla cupcakes

(Makes 12)
  • 110g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 150g self raising flour, sifted
  • 125g  wholemeal flour
  • 120ml milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 160 C
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth, 
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each
Combine the flours in a separate bowl and add 1/3 to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat well
Add the vanilla to the milk
Pour 1/3 into the other ingredients in the mixing bowl and beat again
Repeat until all of the flour and milk have been added
Transfer the mixture into the muffin cases
Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes, until golden
Cool in the tin for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely

* You can substitute the wholewheat flour for 125g of plain white flour

The texture of these muffins is a bit denser that regular muffins thanks to the wholewheat flour but they have a lot more bite as a result.

When her cupcakes (which smelled amazing) had cooled we set to work, her icing with a spatula, me with a trusty piping bag. Then armed with sprinkles we went to town (and a little bit overboard in some cases) and decorated them...and the floor...

T'was a lovely evening, just what I needed after the long drive and busy weekend :)

Incidentally, Sammi is a writer and has a blog of her own all about writing and general artistic stuff (it's very good) Wisdom Words and Whimsy


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Orange and Raspberry Cake/Pudding/Yumminess

This is my first slight baking mishap in a good while (new record!). I wanted to make an orange pound cake so I found myself a pound cake recipe from years and years ago in my mums recipe box and set to work. On my hunt through the kitchen for yoghurt I found some raspberries that needed to be used before they were claimed by the grey fuzz lurking threateningly in the corner of the punnett.

So I made up the recipe and folded in the gloriously pink and pretty raspberries, transferred it into the tin and baked for the required time...then a bit more....then even more because the centre was still quite raw and squishy... it has to be because of the raspberries though because mum said the recipe works perfectly otherwise. All was not lost however. We simply served it as pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream :D

Anyone have any advice for me on how to stop this happening again? I'm gonna post up the recipe anyway so that anyone who knows how to deal with the devilish little raspberry can make this totally yummy cake/pudding. Or, you can leave it as I did and have it as a gooey, heavily scented, summery pudding

Orange and Raspberry Pound Cake
  • 114g butter, Softened
  •  170g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 190g flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 oranges, Zested and Juiced
  • 160g Greek Yogurt
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 400-500g raspberries

Preheat oven to 175 C
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
Stir in eggs and orange zest
In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder
In a third bowl, combine the orange juice, vanilla essence and yogurt. 
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and mix gently (just enough to combine without over-mixing) 
Add the yoghurt juice muxture and stir gently.
Mix in the remaining dry ingredients and gently fold in the raspberries
Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before slicing.

I baked this for around 75 minutes in an effort to make sure it was cooked through and as I already said it still came out quite gooey...the resulting pudding with cream was heaven!

If anyone has any advice about making it work as a cake I'd really appreciate it :)