Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ruminating on Calling and Variations on Baked Goods

It's been a while since I've posted anything, regarding life or baking or otherwise, so here goes.  Since returning from Africa, I moved to Los Angeles, completed an intense internship at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, graduated from grad school with a Master's in Public Health in December, ran a half marathon, spent weeks studying for the Registered Dietitian (RD) exam and passed (yay!), and now am currently looking for a job.  Now that you've been caught up in short, let me delve a little deeper:

The internship at Cedars was part of my program, meant to expose me to what clinical nutrition looks like, as well as prepare me for the RD exam by providing practical situations in which to apply the knowledge I've learned while in school.  As much as a wonderful learning experience it was, it really only highlighted the fact that I don't think I'm cut out for working in a hospital.  It was great to be able to work with patients, but it seemed to me like there was not as much of a chance to do what I think a big part of nutrition is: education.

As I finished the rotation, and moved onto studying for the RD exam, I could not just let go of this feeling that God had called me to something else, something that I had only had a taste of while I was in South Africa this last time.  Over the winter holidays, there was a Chinese missions conference in San Diego, and I was so blessed to go.  It was so amazing to see the entire West Coast, even some people from Australia and further, come to hear and discuss about the Chinese Church, and participate and dedicate lives to missions.  It got me thinking, and it was there that I truly felt that God has placed a burden on my heart for the world, that He is calling me back to Africa, and that it is no accident the path that I have been traveling on has led me there twice.  But more on that later...

Once the conference and the new year had come and gone, it was time to get back to the real world, one in which I am no longer a full-time student, meaning finding a job is a necessity.  While I did know that I was not going to be working in a clinical setting for the rest of my life, it was also the place that offers the most job opportunities for new graduates.  But in order for me to get any job in the first place, I needed to become an RD, and to do that I needed to study.  And so I did - spending hours on end cooped up in my room with books and binders full of nutrition information, all of which I could possibly be tested on.

The RD exam is a computerized, multiple choice exam.  While that did give me some confidence in not needing to be so involved in knowing every last detail of everything I've been learning over the past 6 years, there still remained the fact that I would be finding out immediately of my results, and that was scary.  Not only that, this was the test that would either validate or completely prove null my 6 years of higher education.  As the weeks and days wound down to the test date, I could feel fear creeping in.  Not just plain nerves and understandable anxiety for an exam, but an almost paralyzing terror of what could happen, leaning toward the likelihood of failure and what that would mean for my future.  In most circumstances of test taking, I've never been anxious or scared, and maybe it was that I took my intellect for granted, or that I just never contemplated the possibility of doing so poorly as to fail.   So to have this immense distress over a simple test was mind-boggling.  I don't think that it really was me questioning my abilities, so much as thinking of the people I'd be letting down should I fall short, of their reactions, which is absolutely idiotic, come to think of it.  Of course, telling a pessimist that something won't happen only heightens the idea that it will happen.  But once again, it came back to the focal struggle of my life: remembering God's goodness and the hope that He offers.  I no longer have to be afraid of what others may say, because in Him, I have found certainty and belonging from the marvelous grace He so lovingly offers.  Moreover, deep down I know God has led me to grad school, to nutrition, and to this test.  God is not a malicious God where He would bring me all the way through, only to have me end in failure.

And now that I have indeed passed, solely by the grace of God, I can fully turn my attention to the job market.  As I was saying before, I have felt this tug in my heart to return to Africa, or at least work in the international arena.  While I do feel that God is calling me to be in the public health sector (versus clinical), there is still the harsh reality of student loans and debts to be paid (gosh darn that private school tuition!).  I've come to the conclusion that in this current moment of applying for jobs, I will simply leave it up to God.  I am planning on applying to both kinds of jobs, and then just see doors God will open or close.  Because to be honest, I'm not really sure what or where I want to be, and seeing as God knows best, I will rely on His wisdom to lead me.

Having now found myself with a lot of time on my hands in the midst of a job hunt, I fill my time with edible delights of the baked variety and recipe experimentation, particularly those I have been meaning to try out.  And while it means that I have gone through nearly an entire 10 lb. bag of flour, it also means that I have some awesome eats for my bible study/community group.  It also means that I have been eating a lot of bread.  =)

Recent endeavors include scones of various flavors including blackberry lemon, strawberry lemon, blueberry peach (pictured on right), and apple cinnamon.  I simply used the same basic scone dough recipe and then added whatever fruits and such that I felt would taste good together.  The strawberry walnut was not so much of a success, partially because the walnuts were in rather large pieces.  I think next time, I will grind the walnuts into a flour and incorporate that into the dough.  Although the recipe link below has you rolling out the dough and cutting into triangles, I actually cut mine into circles, but regardless of whichever way you'd like to do it, they still taste awesome! And you can fool yourself into thinking it's healthier with the various fruits in it.  I was lucky enough to find some really cheap berries ($0.99 for 8oz of blackberries for example) at a local grocer, which is why I kind of went into scone-baking overdrive.
Recipe link:

Of note lately, I tried to make homemade English muffins.  There were a number of recipes that I looked at, but I finally settled on one from, (which has a plethora of recipes from the mundane to the complex -- check it out!).  For breakfast sometimes, I do enjoy an occasional English Muffin with peanut butter.  And since I did not feel like going and buying some more, I thought I could try and make some myself.
And while it was a noble effort, and they do look like they are supposed to, I failed to get the nooks and crannies that are the defining characteristics of the English muffin.  Nevertheless, they taste like delicious rolls and still taste awesome with peanut butter.  But then again, what doesn't taste awesome with peanut butter?  From what I've researched, English muffins are traditionally made on a griddle of some sort on the stovetop, although it is possible to make them also in the oven.  Seeing as I had many a muffin to cook, I decided that the oven would be the best way to get them all done.  I also do not own a circular cookie cutter (a problem to be remedied soon I hope), and so I improvised and used a wine glass to cut them out.  You can also use any metal can with both ends cut out, but I thought I looked that much classier cutting out my muffins with a slightly floured wine glass in hand.  Though I won't be making any Benedicts soon (despite my love for an excellent Hollandaise sauce), this has only made me that much more eager to try to make English muffins again with greater success.  In the meantime, I have some snacks to chomp on while I apply for jobs.
Recipe link:

So that's been my life recently.  I'm going to try and do a little better job of updating this blog with the baking experiments and adventures I partake in, and possibly send some out to friends.  Therefore, if you have any requests or deeply desire to receive some kind of baked eats in the mail, let me know!  I have some extra time on my hands, and it would be a pleasure to share my talent.  =)