Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Salted Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake

Recently, it seems like I've been making a ton of cupcakes for Dessert Nights. I'm not sure if it was just a coincidence or if I was inspired by how tasty the Irish Carbomb Cupcakes were for St Patrick's Day. I've consciously tried to deviate from cupcakes in the last couple of weeks. I realized that it has been over a year since my first ever cheesecake attempt and decided to try another one.

Salted Caramel has been all of the rage lately. It's in everything from ice cream flavors to Starbucks drinks. It's also a great topping for cheesecake since that's usually rich and the sweetness of the caramel would be a nice complement. I happened upon this great
recipe from Bake or Break. The recipe is super easy. For those of you who want a great easy dessert, this is it. Honestly, the toughest thing was the caramel and that's the easiest thing to cheat on by just using a jar. If you don't have a mixer, it will take more elbow grease to make sure that the cream cheese is light enough, but nothing that you can't handle. You will definitely be rewarded with a tasty cheesecake that's sure to excite your taste buds.

I did learn that nuts are more popular with the dessert night crew than I previously thought. I only put the pecans on half of the cheesecake to cater to those who don't like nuts, and that side was gone before anyone had barely gotten into the nut-free side.

Stay tuned to hear about next week's ice cream experiment and survey results.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fuqua Decision

After my experiences at Blue Devil Weekend (see both of these posts), I knew I had some tough thinking to do. I needed to revisit my answer to the question "Is this the right year for me to go to business school?" in light of the economic changes that have occurred since I initially decided to apply back in September and I needed to really think hard about "Is Fuqua the right school for me?".

BDW helped me learn a lot about the program and Durham. I feel like I would receive a fine education from Duke and the people were nice. I really didn't like the town of Durham. It's very isolated and I learned that I really value friendships with people who work in different industries and projects and that's something that would be very difficult in Durham because all of the Fuqua students live, study, and hang out together. After this weekend, I knew I could be happy going to Fuqua even though, honestly, it has never been one of my top choices.

Next, I had to determine how I felt about my need to go to grad school this year. I have a great job that is challenging for me and two great managers that will let me take on as much responsibility as I can handle. I didn't apply to business school because I didn't like my job or I was out of work. Since applying to school, my responsibilities at work have grown significantly.

In the end, not being very excited about Fuqua and having significant growth opportunities at work led me to decide to decline Fuqua's offer of admission. I wish the rest of the Duke MBA Class of 2011 the best in their two short years at Fuqua. Now it's either up to Haas or reapplying in September.

Vote for Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor!!

I decided to make Dessert Night a bit more interactive this week and am looking for your input into which ice cream flavor (or flavors if there is enough time) for me to have for dessert next week. Given that it's been 90+ degrees for a couple of days now, I'm feeling in the mood for ice cream and have decided that's what we're having next week. I'm looking for everyone and anyone's input even if you are unable to attend dessert night next week.

Please check out the survey here: http://tinyurl.com/d5j8h5

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blue Devil Weekend Day 2

I started sharing my Blue Devil Weekend experience with you in last week's post, but that only began to describe the first half of my experience.

The second day of the weekend was where the bulk of the material was covered. We started bright an early with a welcome from the Dean and started in on the curriculum and academic portions of Fuqua. We heard about the Research Advantage as Fuqua terms their faculty that specializes in both teaching and research excellence. They are cited among the most productive research faculty in terms of papers published in academic journals.

Next, we headed off for our classroom simulations. We spent 45 mins in one of about 10 "classes." These are much shorter than the usual 2 hour class, but gave us a taste of what our classroom experiences would be in a variety of different subject areas. I attended the Entrepreneurship and Strategy courses. Both were action packed and the profs were calling on us already. There was a nice balance of discussion and case method in my strategy course and the entrepreneurship course had an interesting focus for researching how entrepreneurial behavior can be fostered.

After classes, we met up with our student hosts for the weekend and chatted with them over lunch to get any of our questions answered. An accounting prof named Shawn worked to convince me and several others who were undecided about Fuqua to the good points of the school. He was really passionate about the program and about the local area. That conversation reminded me of the personal nature of the program because he asked us to come by his office in the fall and say hi so he knew that we decided to come.

The afternoon was filled with a variety of optional activities ranging from soccer games, runs, Wii games, and others. I decided to go on the Duke campus tour from one of the Double Dukies at Fuqua because I had briefly driven past campus but I hadn't been able to see too much. It was a beautiful day! Definitely in the mid-70s and I must admit that I thought it was getting a little "sticky" even though I'm told that's nothing compared to their summers. A group of us took an hour long walk around campus seeing the famous Chapel, Cameron Gymnasium, and undergraduate living and academic areas. The campus was beautiful and it was so nice getting outside after having spent most of the day in classrooms.

The weekend closed with a wonderful dinner and some FuquaVision. FuquaVision is something very unique to Fuqua. It is a SNL style improv sketch comedy group that makes and distributes videos on a regular basis. This one was one of my favorites. After that, it was back in the busses and out to Parizade, a lovely restaurant hangout near one of the most popular living option, Station 9. They had closed the restaurant for us and made it into a happening dance club. All in all, it was a great evening. I headed back to the Washington Duke on the earlier side since I had to get up a mere 2.5 hours later to start the journey home.

I have to say that I'm really glad that I made the trip out to Durham regardless of what I decide about Duke. I needed the first hand experiences of the weekend and conversations with students to make my choices more clear to me and also get a much deeper understanding of some of the things that were mentioned in the info session that got me to apply in the first place. For those of you who have been accepted to schools or find yourself in the spot in the future, I highly recommend that you make the time and find the money to make it to whatever Admitted Students events that your potential program has. The information and experiences you get on campus are something that you will get from no other source and are definitely worth the $500-800 that it will cost to get there for the weekend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies!

As you've read about in my other posts by now, it has been a very busy last few weeks for me. I decided that I'd take it easy this week and serve Girl Scout cookies for Dessert Night. I placed my original order for cookies from J's little cousin, but then needed more to make this enough for a Dessert Night. I found some Girl Scouts on Chestnut in SF a couple of months ago so I picked up some additional boxes.

It was a fun night. People made ice cream sandwiches with the Thin Mints. J tried a Thin Mint sandwich with peanut butter in the middle which he claimed to be good but not as good as Tagalongs. I even removed the lemon frosting from the middle of one of the Lemon Chalets and put ice cream in the middle. That was very tasty as it had some of the lemony flavor of the frosting still on the cookies.

All in all, it was a great and tasty evening. Next week, we'll be back to the usual tasty desserts. I will be making Salted Caramel Pecan Cheesecake. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Charoset and the Next Web 2.0 Cake

This week, Tara helped us celebrate the upcoming Passover holiday by bringing in some homemade Charoset and Matzah for us to share. The Charoset is a nice apple dish that you spread on the matzah and sometimes even enjoy with horseradish. It was a nice light change compared to our other dessert for the evening.

Rick brought the third cake in his Web 2.0 cake series. This cake was sporting the Digg logo and was a fabulous counter part to the Flickr and Blogger cakes that we've previously enjoyed. It was a very light and tasty cake. Unfortunately, Rick had some difficulty keeping the cake together as it was very light and moist. Luckily, it tasted fabulous!

Thank you again to both Rick and Tara for providing Dessert Night with tasty treats!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fuqua's Blue Devil Weekend Day 1

I can't believe it's already been a week since I got back from Blue Devil Weekend. It seems both like it was forever ago and just yesterday at the same time. It was a really fun and extremely tiring weekend at the same time.

To save money, I decided to take the red-eye out of San Francisco on Thursday night which put me into Durham, NC at 8:30am on Friday morning. It was a very early arrival and I didn't sleep much on the plane, but that's what you do to make it to a noon meeting on Friday. Luckily, the Washington-Duke Inn, where we stayed all weekend, let me check in very early on Friday morning so I caught a bit of a nap and a shower before wandering down to the Association of Women in Business luncheon. It was great to meet all of the women and minorities who were there from my class. I also got to talk to Cynthia from the admissions office who helped me get my admissions packet which I had never received in the mail.

Right before lunch, I also met my roommate for the weekend, Lisa from Boston. She was on the opposite end of the spectrum from me in terms of how decided we were on going to Fuqua. She had already sent in her deposit for the Class of 2011 and I was merely checking out the school for the first time. That seemed to be pretty common over the course of the weekend among other students. They were either almost totally decided or were completely undecided, but then I guess that's why you make it a point to come to an admitted students weekend.

After the diversity activities care of AWIB, we wandered over to the Fuqua building for happy hour. Let me just say that the Fuqua building at Duke was the thing that most impressed me all weekend. It's a gorgeous facility!! The building was designed both for form and function. The classrooms are well laid out, but there are also a lot of larger spaces with lots of light and trees inside the building. A great asset for the students of Fuqua since they basically live in that building. Next, the first years welcomed us with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, reminding us that we had joined Team Fuqua and were now responsible for shaping our own business school experience. From the welcome from the first years, we moved over to the Activities and Housing Fair that gave us good insights into the variety of organizations and clubs that we could be involved in for both fun and professional development as well as the housing options available to Fuqua students.

I will spend just another moment on housing. First, I was unable to go to the housing tour on Sunday which took students around to the most popular housing options and allowed them to see model apartments. In spite of missing the formal tour, I was able to get an informal tour of the area from a girl that I had started talking with on the Fuqua Class of 2011 Facebook group where I also met my roommate for the weekend. All of the apartment complexes looked wonderful! The mosquito nets on the windows were a poignant reminder of the quanity of bugs that I'd encounter during my first summer at Duke. What was even more shocking was that these really nice apartments ranged from $700-1200 a month!?! What a bargain!

After all of the formal activities were done for the day, we headed out to downtown Durham in busloads. I have to say that I really didn't fall in love with Durham as a town in spite of what others had said before I visited. It's a really small, older town that's very spread out. You definitely need a car to get around and a lot of the restaurants and stores are older and a bit weathered. On the flip side, drinks are ridiculously cheap! $7 got both a beer and a cocktail for the evening.

With a light buzz, my already exhausted self headed back to the Waah-Doo as the Washington Duke is referred for a couple of hours sleep before a very busy Saturday!

Stay tuned for the next post of Saturday's academic experiences as well as my first look at Duke's undergraduate campus.

Hamburgers for Dessert!

Unlike last year, Dessert Night wasn't precisely on April Fool's day. I decided that we should have a joke dessert anyway. Last year, I served a nice big flour pot of dirt! It was both really tasty and hilarious because people walked into the room and were confused by the flower pot on the table.

A couple of months ago, J had sent me a link to some very cute cupcakes that were decorated to look like a set of hamburgers. I decided that this would be the perfect desserts for April Fools Day as they look like little sliders.

To make these "hamburgers," you take a vanilla cupcake, cut it in half and then place half of a chocolate cupcake in the middle and cement it together with some red and yellow frosting to look like ketchup and mustard. I even happened to find some green sour airhead strips that looked like lettuce when you cut them into small pieces. The finishing touch on these master pieces is the sesame seeds on top. They really pull together the look and help these look like their real slider counterparts.

Not only were these a tasty treat, but they also were a great April Fools prank on your diners!!!

(P.S. Thanks for the comments about my terrible photography skills and often blurred photos. I'm working on improving this and possibly considering purchasing a better digital camera. In the meantime, my apologies.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cherry Cobbler

Wow, I just realized today exactly how behind on dessert night blog posts I am. My apologies to my readership! I have been all over the map literally and figuratively lately, but more on that in another post. Here we focus on desserts...

A couple of weeks ago now, I finally got around to trying a cobbler mix that my mom had given to me around the holidays. J loves cherries so my mom had found a cherry cobbler mix that she thought he might like. I liked that this mix was just the cobbler topping and used a can of cherry pie filling for the cherry part.

Unfortunately, something in the mix made it smell like it had coconut in it. It was the weirdest thing. My apartment started smelling like a coconut when the cobbler was baking and the smell stayed with it once it had cooled. It didn't have the flavor of coconut when you ate it, but it still smelled like it. I guess personally I prefer more crumbly toppings on my cobblers, so this didn't quite hit the spot for me. It did have a great cherry flavor though.

Thanks to my mom for sharing something tasty and I'm glad that J liked it!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sunnyside Up Nominated for a Clear Admit Best of Blogging Award!

I found out this morning that Sunnyside Up has been nominated by Clear Admit, an admissions consulting firm that helps prospective students navigate the challenging admissions process for top MBA programs, for their Best of Blogging 2008-2009 Applicant Blogger Award. They offer a variety of excellent free resources for students in addition to their paid counseling services and school guides. Each year, they nominate 25 applicants and 25 business school students for their blogs discussing their application and school experiences. See their original post with information on their criteria and prizes.

I'm very excited about the nomination and will be letting all of you know soon how you can vote for my blog!!! Congrats to my fellow nominees!!!