Forget the stress, let’s bake!

By Erin Mikson

Contributor Writer

It seems simple: bake some tasty treats when stressed to let your mind focus on something more fun and enjoyable. But can baking actually relieve one’s stress?  A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that people who frequently take a turn at small, creative projects report feeling more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives. 

The study followed 658 people for two weeks and found that cooking or baking made the group feel more energized about their day and upcoming events. St. Michael’s College students also find baking to be a helpful way to relieve stress.

“Whether it’s painting,  making music, [or baking], there is a stress relief that people get from having some kind of an outlet and a way to express themselves,” Donna Pincus, an associate professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University told HuffPost.

With finals just around the corner, you can feel the overwhelming power of stress building up around students. Senior Stephanie Brunelle, a double major in Education and Religious Studies, finds that her go-to stress reliever for this time of the school year is baking some sweet treats in her kitchen in the New Building. 

Brunelle’s obsession with baking started at a very young age. “When I was around the age of five, I remember going to my grandma’s house for Thanksgiving and the smell of her pies would hit me right when I walked in the door,” Brunelle said, adding that she often helped make the famous ‘Brunelle Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.’ “My mouth waters when I even think about this pie,” Brunelle said. The pie includes an oreo cookie crust with thick chocolate pudding poured inside, then creamy peanut butter melting into the pudding, topped with a smooth chilled cool whip. “My mom had to literally hold me back from eating the whole pie, that’s how good it was,” Brunelle said. 

Brunelle feared that her roommates thought she was going crazy in the Fall with how much she was stress baking. “I made apple crisp twice a week, but I don’t think they cared because there were never any leftovers,” Brunelle said. 

Brunelle is not the only student on campus who finds comfort in cooking meals or a yummy dessert that reminds them of home and eating with their family. 

Growing up as a triplet with two brothers, Kaelyn Oliver, who graduated in May, did not always see eye to eye with her brothers. The one thing they could always agree on was when their mom cooked “Mommy Surprise.” 

“It’s only elbow pasta, meat sauce, and cheese, but she’d always tell me and my brothers that it was her special recipe and we would go crazy over it as kids,” Oliver said. 

Oliver makes “Mommy Surprise” once in a while when she’s really missing home due to the stress of being a psychology major in her last year of college. “I’m not necessarily the best cook, but I enjoy cooking dinner every night and it is just a nice break from studying or the craziness of a day,” Oliver said. 

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, Matt Mosher, who graduated in May, and sophomore Matt Schreiner both get their favorite holiday meal soon: homemade stuffing. “My mom makes a homemade crescent roll stuffing and it’s the best thing about Thanksgiving for me,” Mosher said. 

Mosher confessed that he can’t make it himself as well as his mom does, but he does think that baking is a good way for some people to relieve stress, just maybe not him.

 “I think for the people who can cook or bake it can be a great stress reliever.  I personally dislike cooking because I’m so bad at it that it usually stresses me out more,” Mosher said.

Schreiner said he has never attempted to bake his mom’s homemade sausage and apple stuffing, but when he does bake, he finds that it brings him a way to escape the world and get away from the stress of hockey and school. 

“Cooking definitely brings me good vibes, when I make something my mom makes it also makes me feel good and that I’m at home,”  Schreiner said.  So what does he make?

International student, who also graduated in May, Emilia Laffin’s go-to holiday meal is the raclette, a French dish made with melted cheese. “It reminds me of where I grew up and all the good times I spend with my family and friends at dinner,” Laffin said. 

Being from Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France it is much harder for Laffin to find the correct ingredients to make home-cooked meals. “Most of the meals that I love from home are made with cheese and it’s impossible to find the same cheese here and at home,” Laffin said. 

While Laffin doesn’t feel she’s the best cook and it typically causes her more stress, “In my opinion, cooking can be a good way to release stress if you are actually good at cooking,” Laffin said.  

Twice baked potatoes keeps Jillian Perry ‘22 from going over the edge. . “It’s been a family tradition since I can remember,” Perry said. The melted cheese dripping down the side of a baked potato drizzled with warm crispy bacon and fresh cut green onions always gives Perry the feeling that she is home with her family.

“Me, my sister, and my brother all go crazy when we can smell our dad cooking it on Thanksgiving,” Perry said. 

“I always cook meals that remind me of home. I think it has more meaning to me because it reminds me of my family and our traditions and knowing I always have a good time when I am with my family,” Perry said. 

Photo by Grace Filloramo

Easy Tasty Feel Good Meals 

Shortbread cookies by Stephanie Burnelle ’21

Ingredients: 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, and 2 cups of flour

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 350℉

Step 2: Grab a bowl

Step 3:  Place 1 cup of butter, at room temperature, into bowl

Step 4: Pour 1 cup of powdered sugar into bowl

Step 5: Pour 1 tablespoon of vanilla

Step 6: Add 2 cups of flour into bowl

Step 7: Mix well

Step 8: Roll out small pieces of dough into circle and place them on pan with enough room to expand

Step 9: When done rolling dough, put in oven for 8-10 minutes at 350℉

Step 10: When cookies are done baking, leave them out to cool for 5-10 minutes 

Buff-Chick Dip by Cana Courtney ‘21

Ingredients: ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, ½ cup of hot sauce, ½ cup of blue cheese dressing, 1 pack of cream cheese, and 2 large chicken breasts of a pack of chicken strips 

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350℉

Step 2: slice up the 2 large chicken breasts 

Step 3: Spread 1 pack of cream cheese into a baking dish

Step 4: Layer chicken on top of the creamcheese 

Step 5: Layer ½ cup of hot sauce

Step 6: Drizzle blue cheese dressing on top

Step 7: Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese over blue cheese dressing

Step 8: Bake for 25 minutes at 350℉

Gluten Free Banana Bread By Megan Doherty ’21

Ingredients: 3 ripe bananas, 1 cup of white sugar, 1 egg, ¼ melted butter, 1 ½ cups of gluten-free all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, and cinnamon 

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350℉

Step 2: Mash up the bananas

Step 3: Pour all of the wet ingredients into the mashed bananas: sugar, egg, butter

Step 4: In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon

Step 5: Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients

Step 6: Bake 45 minutes – 1 hour @ 350℉

Pasta with Mushrooms and Spinach by Kaelyn Oliver ’20

Ingredients: 1 Box of rotini pasta, mushrooms, spinach, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes

Step 1: Boil rotini pasta 10-12 minutes 

Step 2: Sauté mushrooms and spinach for 3-5 minutes 

Step 3: Strain pasta when fully cooked

Step 4: Add mushrooms and spinach

Step 5: Add butter and garlic flavored olive oil

Step 6: Add a splash of salt, pepper, and red chili flakes