Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Topsy Turvy

My world has been feeling a little topsy turvy lately. One because of school and the whirlwind that it always brings and two because I lost my camera. It's so sad! It's why I didn't get a chance to update this past weekend and such a shame too because my wonderful little group had a great labor day/pool party/nacho day all rolled into one and since I made all the food it was a treasure trove of blogging material. But here it proves how awesome my friends are; I told them about my distress of losing it and immediately all of them were on it, ready to search my car, my apartment, and the store (the last time I saw it, I think?) and not only that but half of them were camera ready too. Yvette helped me comb over my car and house (not too mention was the best little sous chef) and Kasey had the hard task of keeping the boys out of the food and getting good lighting to take pictures before it was devoured. So sorry about not updating but there will be pictures soon thanks to Kasey!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Present To You

As promised I thought I would start sharing some of the cake pictures every Wednesdays so I hope you like them!

For this present cake, everything was done in icing (like I pretty much always do) but with a fondant ribbon on top and a bow to match. I was a little nervous the bow wouldn't stay on but with the help of trusty toothpicks, it worked.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tex-Mex Love

The inevitable has happened. School starts tomorrow and with that the closing of summer with a soft click behind. As I turn around and look through the peep hole, I see scattered memories of sunshine and laughter, pool days and kayaking, walks on the square, late nights out with friends, movies, inside jokes and the genuine joy of being at work. Before summer started my friend Michael heard my long miserable tale of the summer before, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said "You have never experience summer. This will be the best summer you have ever had." And you know what? He was so right. It was amazingly good. Better than that good. Truly, not a day goes by without me praising God for the blessings he has placed in my life, his will be done.

And as the summer comes to an end, the weather has gotten mildly cooler due to all our recent rains. Which means being next to a stove isn't near as bad, yet I still want something quick. Enter my favorite food of all time: tex-mex. Oh my gosh, my weakness. When I was a kid, nachos was pretty much all that I ate, literally. Taco Cabana's bean and cheese soft tacos was a staple in our family's diet and the must be seen at high school hang out places, full of drama and teenage jobs, was Los Palapas or Alamo Cafe. To this day I have never found any restaurant that can make tortilla soup better than my mom and my dad's homemade flour tortillas, which was rightly used to make breakfast tacos, cannot be beat. As you can see my love for tex-mex is deep. Unfortunately it is usually deep in calories as well. But if you know enough about nutrition it's easy to make switches for healthier versions. Like using black beans instead of refried pinto. Or whole wheat tortillas instead of flour. Last of the summer's fresh vegetables to brighten up the color, heart healthy guacamole, and reduced fat cheese all makes for a meal to give in to that Mexican craving without making sacrifices. So enjoy the last day of summer because tomorrow it begins!

Because school is starting back up, I'm worried about how often I will get to post. I've been trying to post at least once a week and my goal is to keep it up but if not, hopefully you'll will understand. In the meantime I've been thinking about doing picture Wednesdays, just a little pic of a recent cake or something funny my group did that week so it's not too boring to see the same post for weeks on end. I think I'll give it a try ;)

Black Bean and Vegetable Quesadillas

Whole wheat tortillas
Yellow squash, sliced
Zucchini squash, sliced
Broccoli, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped
Black beans
Reduced fat cheese (Monterrey, cheddar), grated
Red pepper flakes


I'm kind of a throw together and cook girl so that's why there isn't any quantities for this recipe but here's the gist. Saute the squash and broccoli with a little oil, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper under tender but still crisp, couple of minutes and set aside. Take a saute pan and heat to medium heat. Add a little oil and throw a tortilla down for a sec, then flip. Put grated cheese on, black beans, vegetables, and tomatoes and cover the pan with a lid so the cheese will melt. After only a minute or two, open it back up and fold the tortilla in half with a spatula. Slid onto plate and serve with salsa and guacamole.

Monday, August 18, 2008

We Interrupt This Program

Hey guess what, I'm on TV! Check it out at and find the Candy Haven show. Tell me what you think :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


You know, you would think I would be sick of cake. I mean I do work with it everyday and oh the atrocity of my apron stiff with icing would make anyone give up sugar for a year (well that's pretty extreme, okay only a week). But no, not me. I'd like to blame my grandfather and his enormous sweet tooth, graciously passed down to me. Maybe it's because I never eat it, trying to live my healthy lifestyle yet denying my craving which makes them worse. Whatever it is sweet things fascinate me, cake being one of my favorites.

Looking back into my childhood and growing up there have been funny little events that show my love for cake. Like when I was in elementary school and my absolute favorite thing at our yearly fairs was the cake walk.

Or when I was in middle school and I visited my grandparents and we baked a cake together. I still remember my grandmother telling me it tasted like wedding cake it was so good. The best is my 8th grade year when we had a Roman-Greek festival at school and I entered the baking contest, making a cake inspired by the goddess Hestia and that's right, won.

And I'm still in love, especially with this cake. I made it for a birthday party we put together for a couple of coworkers (happy birthday Molly and David!) but really wanted something unique and different, something you wouldn't think about eating in a cake. At first I thought about almond cake but here's where I let you in with a secret, I don't own a food processor, a blender, or a mixer. Well, now I own a mixer that I proudly bought this week with the justification of making this cake (plus it came with two cool bread hooks!). Anyway to make a good almond cake you kind of need a food processor to finely chop the nuts into a "flour" so that became out of the question; hey I am a working college student and the mixer is bad enough. It worked in my favor because then I thought of pistachio cake which is way better than almond cake. After tinkering with a few ideas of cake, filling, icing, I finally made the decision that I hoped would win the hearts of my friends: pistachio cake with almond custard filling and chocolate ganache. Oh yes. It was amazing.

I searched very hard for a good recipe and finally found one through Chocolate & Zucchini except she had chocolate in hers. Seeing as I already was putting a ganache on top, I skipped the chocolate part and just make it pistachio cake plus a few minor changes. If you like the idea of mixing the two, check out her original recipe here.

Pistachio Cake with Almond Custard and Chocolate Ganache

For The Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Grease two 8" round cake pans and cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Grease that as well and flour the pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until nice and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time mixing between each but don't over mix. Add in the yogurt or sour cream and vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and chopped pistachios. Slowly mix the dry into the wet batter and pour into the cake pans. Put in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Once a toothpick comes out clean, take out and let rest for 5 minutes then putting on a rack to cool completely.

For The Custard
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. almond extract

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in saucepan. In a separate bowl beat eggs and mix together with milk. Stir into dry mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbling. Cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, add almond extract and stir well. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap to prevent film from forming and chill completely before using.

For the Ganache
4 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put in a bowl. Put the cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until simmer, don't get too hot or it will curdle. Once hot, pour the cream over the chocolate and wait 5 minutes. Stir until you get a consistent chocolate sheen. Then let it cool (I let mine cool overnight).

To Assemble
Take cool cakes and cut each in half. Put the first half on your serving plate and layer with a generous amount of almond filling. Top with the other half and put more filling in. Continue layering with the second cake. Pour the cooled chocolate ganache on top and decorate as desired.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This Girl Went To The Market

Who knew that even little towns had farmer's markets? I guess I should have been smart enough to figure out that because I live in little country Denton where there are hundreds of farmers around me that they would sell something nearby. But you know, I'm kind of oblivious. So it was to my great pleasure that I learned Denton has a farmer's market, and right down the street from me! It's only open for a couple months in the summer and just three times a week and really consists of four or five stands but oh my gosh, I feel so cool. I like to pretend I'm this chic New York girl who gets up early in the mourning puts on her shorts and messenger bag and hops on her bike to ride a few blocks down to the famous farmer's market. The rows of stands piled with the freshest and brightest produce, the buzz of fellow foodies catching up and comparing finds; talk of culture, current events, art. The farmers would be old friends where after a glimpse behind crates of food we would greet with a big hug and kiss on the cheek and start the conversation the way any farmer starts a conversation: the weather.

Obviously I don't live in New York (never been actually) and I don't even have a bike (one day!) and did I mention the four or five stands? But it was still a blast, I loved every bit of it. And the cute old farmers totally made the day, well besides the amazing fruit and vegetables. Do you see the peaches up there? I mean they were to die for, so plump and juicy, perfectly ripe and sweet. I also got tomatoes and I'm pretty sure I've never had better. You know the tomatoes you buy at the grocery store? Yeah those really aren't tomatoes, just things that look like tomatoes. These were tomatoes, so red inside with such an intense flavor, still warm from the sun where they were picked just a few miles away. Oh and I got more local honey! And you know how I feel about honey; I really can't go long without having it stocked in the house. *Sigh* it was so wonderful. The weather was perfect making it a another glorious summer day to drink in the sunshine and although I didn't get any hugs and kisses from the cute old farmers I'm pretty sure I made some friends. In fact check out Mr. Blalock's (the one on the lower right hand corner) website here (can you tell I just figured out how to link words? I'm pretty excited). So support your local farmers and find out your nearest farmer's market. Trust me it's completely worth it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rainy Summer Days

I haven't really talked about my work situation yet, probably because it's hard to explain. See we're insanely close. My co-workers are not only my best friends, they are my little family. But I guess that would happen to anyone if you too had to sit inches next and across from one another, all sharing the same stainless steel tables for hours on end. We're talking 12-16 hours at a time. Once we worked all day and straight into the night and then got so lost into our work, time was forgotten in general. Imagine our shock to look up and see the big hand pointing to seven the next morning. So what did we do? Walk outside and watch the sun rise up, together - and then go back to work. We know each other so well; how we react, our goals, our projects, our obstacles, our lives. The inside jokes are countless, brewed up imaginary worlds created by highly creative minds stay trapped in that building, but the love that we share is what binds us together. That is why when the day is over, the last icing bucket is closed, and our spatulas put away, no one leaves until we are ready to walk five feet from the store door to the parking lot, together. The invisible rope still wrapped around us, we talk and hug, find out plans for the evening, and say good bye two or three times (its gone as far as six).

As usual, this day ended like most except for when we walked outside, the hot Texas summer air was thicker than normal and instead of the warm sun rays we crave after spending all day in a refrigerated building, the sky was dark with omniscient clouds. We looked to the north and saw a thing of beauty, rain falling in the distance. The natural breaking of the clouds and the sheet of rain made us stand in awe watching. But then, before you knew it, gusts of wind blew and the wall of rain came straight for us. It hit us hard, the unexpected suddenness and intensity taking our breath away. In second we were drenched. I ran for my car, determined not to get even more wet, but the boys pulled me back, and just like kids we played in the rain. Finally I gave my last hugs soaking as if I had taken a shower and escaped to my car. Once home one of my boys called me to make sure I made it back okay, because they're amazing like that. And in the end I got exactly what I needed, a big bowl of soup to take the chill out of the summer rain.

When I first got into cooking, it didn't take long for me to discover the most wonderful recipe website out there, I love it because it's so well organized and most recipes come from home cooks (like me!) who get reviewed and most of the time come with pictures. And it even gives all the nutritional value, such a bonus feature. This recipe is cheap, easy, fast, plus amazingly healthy so I had to try it but like I said, I wanted soup so I added more broth. This is the original recipe but if you do it like this, just might get liquidly pasta? I'd recommend adding more vegetable broth, making a soup, and calling it a day.

Spinach and Black Bean Pasta (soup)

1 (16 oz.) package whole wheat rotini pasta
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (more for soup)
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup diced tomatoes
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add rotini, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat, and mix in spinach, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir in the black beans and broccoli. Continue to cook and stir 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir the tomatoes into the saucepan, and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Serve over the cooked pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family Days and Tennis Games

There's no question about it, my family loves to cook. Sometimes when we're all together, it goes as far as waking up, throwing on our shoes for a mourning walk to stretch away our yawns and what do we talk about? Dinner of course. As we walk and talk, our ideas bounce back and forth just like we we're playing one of our regular tennis games. "What should we make tonight?" Serve. "Something light and healthy." Bounce. "What do we have in the house?" Nice forehand. "I don't think we have very much." Oh no, somebody save it! "Hey I noticed we have ginger, what can we do with that?" Yes over! "Let's do a creative Asian inspired dish." Bounce. "Something with mango, cilantro, maybe pork or chicken with a spicy vinaigrette for a salad." Slice. "Hmmm tricky, but I think we can do it." Hit! "Actually I saw this great recipe from SmittenKitchen that has all of that, we should check it out." Down the line. "Ooh sound good." Score!

SmittenKitchen has to be one of my favorite blog sites, everything she makes inspires me and her photography is breathtaking. It's so good that she recently started selling some of her prints off her website, check it out. If you read her blog religiously (*cough* like I do) then you know she's a very detail oriented person (also *cough* like me) and her food is just amazing. Anyway, needless to say this recipe popped up in my mind the last time I was home not only for it's simplicity but for it's light, colorful, and fun nature while still having complex and unusual flavors. Bonus points for being uniquely creative. The only change we made was using pork tenderloin instead of the shoulder. After putting it all together, everything about it; from the sweet and salty dressing and the melt in your mouth pork to the crunch of fresh vegetables, won our hearts. It was a complete victory. Game. Set. Match.

Cellophane Noodle Salad With Roast Pork

Adapted by SmittenKitchen who adapted it by
Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez, Gourmet, June 2006

Makes 10 first-course servings.

For pork
1 (1-lb) solid piece boneless pork butt (shoulder), halved along the grain*
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

For dressing
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil**
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 large fresh jalapeno chile, seeded and minced

For salad
8 oz very thin bean-thread noodles (also known as cellophane, glass, or mung bean noodles)
3/4 lb Chinese long beans (1 bunch) or green beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; about 1 lb), halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally 1/8 inch thick
1 bunch scallions, cut into matchsticks
1 firm-ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 thin carrots, cut into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh small basil leaves

Make pork:
Cut pork along the grain into long 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips. Remove and discard any sinew but do not trim fat. Transfer pork to a large sealable plastic bag. Stir together remaining pork ingredients in a small bowl until combined well. Add to pork and turn to coat, then squeeze bag to eliminate as much air as possible and seal. Marinate pork, chilled, at least 4 hours but no longer than 24.

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Put 1/2 inch water in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan and place a metal rack across top of pan (rack should not touch water).

Remove pork from marinade, reserving marinade, and arrange pork strips 1 inch apart on rack. Roast in oven 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then boil 1 minute (marinade may look curdled). Remove from heat.

Brush both sides of pork with some marinade and roast 10 minutes more. Generously brush both sides of pork with marinade again and roast, basting 2 or 3 times, 10 minutes more.

Increase oven temperature to 400°F and roast pork until strips are mahogany-colored and caramelized on edges, 10 to 15 minutes more (pork should roast for a total of about 50 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.

Make dressing while pork roasts:
Blend together all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. Stir before using.

Cook noodles and beans for salad while pork finishes roasting:
Soak noodles in cold water to cover until pliable, about 15 minutes, then drain in a colander. Cut noodles in half with kitchen shears.

Cook beans in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer with a skimmer or slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Drain beans and pat dry.

Return bean-cooking liquid to a boil, then cook noodles, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain noodles in colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain noodles again, then spread out on paper towels and pat dry.

Assemble salad:

Cut as much pork as desired for salad across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.***

Toss noodles with 1/4 cup dressing in a bowl. Toss long beans with 2 tablespoons dressing in another bowl.

Arrange pork, noodles, beans, and remaining salad ingredients on a large platter. Drizzle with some of dressing and serve remaining dressing on the side.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sweet Celebrations

I'm always up for a challenge and I tend to be a perfectionist. So I guess it comes to no surprise that I have a collection of recipes that I want to try over and over again, tweaking and revising, until I reach the exact flavor, color, texture, etc. I want. What falls under that category you ask? Hmmmm let's see, chocolate chip cookies (anybody read the now famous New York Times recipe?), scones (a sad fact that my mom begs me to bring her scones from work instead of asking me to bake her homemade ones), omelets (I can never get the top to flip without breaking, very irritating), are just some on the list. The more I cook and bake, the more the list grows. But nothing beats the challenge of one thing, the thing that I've been toying with for years: cheesecake.

Oh my gosh, the methods are endless! From all cheese, to adding milk, sour cream, whipping cream, flour, cornstarch, and even *gasp* water. I mean water? And I cannot even tell you how many accounts I've read of what people have gone through to prevent their cheesecakes from cracking (the true sign of a good cheesecake). Some people preheat their oven, turn it off, and then just leave it in their oven for seven hours. SEVEN hours. There's also the waterbath, or I guess correctly said bain marie, which is the perfect solution and does the trick beautifully but it's kind of a hassle. Needless to say, cheesecake has captured my attention and any chance I get to try it again with a whole new set of ingredients and variations, I'm down. So....two girls at my work were turning twenty one, and at the request and my delight, one of them (Kasey) asked for a cheesecake. It was all I could do to stop myself from dancing. I know, I know, I'm a nerd.

But more exciting than that was I finally got it, my eureka! moment. After mentally scanning through the list in my head of all my options, I got fed up, went straight into my kitchen and starting baking. And it turned out perfect, just the way I've been looking for all this time. Tall and thick but with a wonderfully creamy inside, sweet but not overly with the tang of sour cream and lemon to contrast. So good! The recipe I'm giving you is for a plain cheesecake but as you can see from the pictures, I ended up making it strawberry. Cheesecake is one of those things where besides the variations of making it, there are also endless flavors. Fortunately it's easy to mess with a basic recipe to get what you want. Like substitute the graham cracker crust with chocolate wafers or add pumpkin puree to the batter for a thanksgiving treat. I also love melting down chocolate, or getting jams and adding it in to the already poured batter in a swirl like motion to get beautiful color contrast. So have fun and play with it. Just remember three things when making a cheesecake 1) all ingredients should be at room temperature, 2) never over mix, learn the art of folding, and 3) you need to keep the oven humid to prevent cracking but instead of a water bath, I put a pan full of water at the bottom of my oven and place my cheesecake on the rack above it. Oh wait, I forgot, maybe four things, give it plenty of time to cool off or else the rapid change in temperature will cause cracking as well. Okay I'm done, promise. So I guess it's official, the oldest member of my list can finally be crossed out, it's almost sad. Almost.

Perfectly Plain Cheesecake
By Julia Canavera

1 ½ cups crushed graham crackers
2-3 Tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
6-8 Tbsp. melted butter

2 lb. cream cheese
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

*Make sure everything is at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl. Slowly pour in the melted butter until crackers combine and hold their shape when pressed together. Press into a 8”-9” spring form pan and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Take out and let cool. Lower oven to 300°F and put a pan filled with water in the bottom of the oven. (This will help to prevent the cheesecake from cracking without having to go through the trouble of doing a water bath.)

Next combine cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and flour, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in extracts and lemon zest and juice. In another bowl beat the eggs and egg yolks until thoroughly combined and slightly lighter in color. Slowly pour into the cream cheese mixture and fold. Try to be careful and not over stir as this will also create cracks. Take cool spring form pan and butter the sides where graham cracker crust stops. Pour in cheesecake mixture and put in oven. Let bake for one hour. After an hour, turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit for another 45 minutes to another hour. Make sure the center is still jingly, that means the cheesecake isn’t over baked and will set up once cool. Take out of oven and let sit on the counter too cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). Then put in refrigerator to chill and set up completely for at least 4 hours. (I just let mine sit overnight).

To make the strawberry variation, I bought good quality preserves and heated it up until it was liquidly (if you need to, add a little bit of water). Then pour half of the batter into the baked crust, spoon strawberry jam over the top and use a knife to make swirls. Add the other half of batter and if you wish, spoon more jam over the top and swirl for presentation. I cut up fresh strawberries and glazed the top with my leftover preserves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Berry Beginnings

How do you like to start your days? For most of my life I grew up starting it with nothing... meaning skipping breakfast. Just the thought of eating made me nauseous besides who had the time? Out of bed until the very last second, still trying to shake my dreamy state, and with school starting in 10 minutes it was amazing I made it down the stairs much less eat a decent meal. And don't even ask about lunch (I skipped those too). College was kind of a wake up call to that mourning haze. I choose to take a nutrition class for one of my core electives and I will never forget the professor that taught it, Mrs. Getty. A short plump little woman with cute roller-curl blond hair whose quickness and energy swept across the whole 300 seater classroom bringing all the students to the edge of their seats, drinking in her words. She had the best analogies and always found articles or hot topics that would interests us, sparking conversations with not only her but each other. "Breakfast", she told us pearing over her glasses with laughing eyes and a hidden smile, "is the most important meal of the day as I'm sure you've heard but why? Who can tell me why?" A hush fell over the classroom, most of us too shy to attempt her question while 299 people looked at us. "Because", she patiently continued, "your body is like a car that needs fuel. If your car doesn't have any gas what's going to happen when you turn the key? It doesn't start and even if it does, it won't go for very long."

Simply told but such an important basic and you don't have to look hard for the many scientific studies done that show the correlation between lower weight and better health to breakfast eating. From then on I've tried to eat breakfast every mourning. One of my favorites? Plain yogurt with blueberries, cinnamon, and honey. I like plain for the mere fact that I know for sure that there isn't any kind of syrup or sugar hidden in it, some brands have as much as 7 tsp. of sugar in it! Oh and yogurt is so healthy! Full of live active cultures that fight against unfriendly bacteria but add to the friendly ones, good for the digestive tract, has anticancer properties, the ability to lower cholesterol, source of complete protein, has calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Plus powerful blueberries chalk full of antioxidants (fights against free radicals that damage cell membranes and DNA and ultimately causes many degernerative diseases) and cinnamon (interestingly fights type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and digestive aliments). Now isn't that the breakfast of champions!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Welcome Home

Ahhhh home. It truly is my haven. And I got to be there for one whole week! Well, plus two days if you want to be specific. There really is nothing better than having two smiling parents with arms wide open to engulf me with their love as soon as I step out of my car, a little tired from the five hour trip. Once bags are brought in and our rambunctious year old lab, aka the third daughter, is settled down all of our attention turns to dinner. It's not hard, our house usually smells wonderful with the aroma of whatever concoction we whimfully made and this day was no exception. The air was thick with the flavors of bubbling tomato sauce and rich wine. Seasoned chicken laid out, a pile of mushrooms were awaiting the chopping block, and innocent looking fresh herbs graced the counter tops. It was the mess before the masterpiece: Chicken Marsala.

As a family favorite it was just what I needed to come home to. And I even got to make the polenta, with my great grandfather's polenta spoon! I am way too excited about that! As far as a recipe, eventually I might put it up. It actually comes from a book called The Hill, which if any of you St. Louis people are reading know what that's about. For those of you who don't, The Hill is a patch of the city that's pretty much 100% Italian. Unfortunately I've never gotten the chance to go to any of the amazing restaurants I've heard about but oh my gosh, if you ever go you have to go to Volpi's, it's extremely necessary. That and Imo's. Sooooo good, if I eat pizza it's there. And the local bakery for cannoli's with the perfect cherry, chocolate chip, and ricotta cream ratio. Okay sorry, I got off topic. Anyway it's a great book about the history of The Hill and packed with time tested recipes so needless to say we love it. Can't you see the love?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Don't Cry Honey

I'm kind of clumsy. Actually really clumsy. Like trip over shoelaces while running, fall down the stairs at church, set off the smoke detector when cooking, clumsy. At work it's become an inside joke to say you've pulled a Julia if you manage to stick your fingers into the side of a cake and I literally lose my spatula a good five times a day. My co-workers can attest. Endearing? Maybe. Annoying? Yes. So I guess it should be of no surprise that I dropped my brand new jar of honey, spilling the precious liquid into a sweet golden puddle. It all started with my joy of finding a big bottle of honey at my favorite grocery store for the low price of $6.99 from $10.99. Granted $6.99 is still pretty high so my inward battle began. Well, I thought, I do use honey a lot. Besides what a deal, I mean it's 48 ounces. Let's see, the top is a screw on cap as opposed to the snap down lid. Hey, that should keep our pesky sugar ants out. Sold! Happily I placed it in my grocery cart with thoughts of honey dripping treats.

Once home I decided to put my honey to good use on a granola bar recipe. I've been wanting to try out granola bars for a while and finally set aside the time to make them for my friend Michael, one of my go-to taste testers. I went through some combinations in my head and finally settled on apple and cinnamon due to his love affair for anything apple but funnily enough, apples themselves. Everything is going smoothly until I get to the honey. Unscrewing the lid, I peel off the safety paper, pick up the giant jug and carefully pour a stream of sweet goodness into a well oiled one cup measurer. Beautiful, I thought, as the sunlight reflected off the fair hue. I grabbed the lid and securely fasten the top. Ah ha! Take that sugar ants! Just try getting into my honey now, I devilishly thought. And then, as if God had heard my defiance, the honey jar slips through my butter finger hands and lands with a loud thud on the floor, immediately oozing out sticky goo. Noooo! I cried, frantically finding something to scoop up what could be salvaged. From that point on the recipe was doomed to fail (that's for Micheal too). Actually it really wasn't that bad. I saved most of my honey and although my intent was to make granola bars, that didn't work out either and I ended up with a cinnamon sigh worthy batch of granola. Perfect for passing out to all my friends.
Apple Cinnamon Granola
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds

2 cups puffed rice
2 cups dried apples (can use any dried fruit if you wish)

1 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vanilla

Turn the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first four ingredients and put on baking sheet. Let toast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning to make sure nothing burns.
Meanwhile heat the honey, salt, butter, and brown sugar together in a sauce pan until all is mixed throughly. Take off heat and add vanilla and cinnamon.
Once first mixture has been toasted, all the rice cereal and dried fruit, then pouring the honey mixture on top. Mix well and place back in oven for another15-20 minutes, once again stirring occasionally so not to burn. Take out and let sit. If you like your granola to be in chunks, let it cool almost completely and break apart. If you like it to be more cereal like, stir while cooling.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Midnight sky

We tossed a blanket and laid on the cool green grass gazing up into the heavens where the brightest of stars winked at us. My friend Jager and I were enjoying another warm Texas night in the middle of little historic downtown Denton. In the background, the song of a nearby guitar softly sung to us and just the whisper of conversations could be heard, painting mellow sounds fitting for the serene night. Walking couples strolled into close coffee shops and bars that made the perfect square, as the old courthouse stood behind, stubbornly still with the lighted clock tower shining it's smile at the scene it misses in the dead of winter. Full trees hung over us, whithered with age but done up in white lights, glittering as the cool breeze passed over. I laughed at the thought of silly old women, dressed in their best, ready to dance but too astounded to find themselves in a college town to move. The wind took more liberty as I let it gently play with my hair as we talked about life, our future, who we are. It was one of those conversations, you know the kind where you feel like the world is a book and you're still in chapter 3, page 22 and all you want to do is skip to the last page to see if it's turns out good. I tend to have those conversations with Jager, my deep thinker friend. As our serious talk turns to content silence, pondering the echoes of the words we spoke, I try not to escape into tomorrow but grasp the now, appreciating what I have and been given.... especially the clear midnight sky.

Dark Midnight Brownies
I found this recipe from one of my absolute favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. If you've never seen it, seriously go check it out. Just like her site, the recipe didn't fail me and it turned out to be a rich fudge-like brownie. The only thing is they came out kind of thin. I love a tall decadent brownie so the next time I make these I might make them in a smaller pan to get that perfect ready to bite into look. Also I didn't actually have enough chocolate so I used some dark cocoa powder to substitute. If you want to, instead of 6 oz. chocolate use 4 oz. plus 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder. And if you can't tell I didn't put any nuts in mine.

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1¼ cups (5 ounces) cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2¼ cups (15¾ ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fondant Flowers

What would you do with a ball of fondant and bak-klene.?I don't know about you but I would make flowers! Course I didn't really have a choice in the matter considering I was at my job and someone paid for me to make particular flowers for their cake but regardless it made me a pretty happy decorator. Here's how I did it....obviously the first step is to roll out the fondant, not too thin but not too thick making sure you have plenty of bak-klene to keep from sticking. That's right bak-klene and not scrubbing bubbles. Yes, *sigh*, I once mistook a can of bak-klene for a can of scrubbing bubbles and couldn't figure out why the fondant was foaming instead of rolling out. It took several tries, a few decorators, and a couple hours later to figure out the link. But in defense they look very similar and did I mention a few other decorators?

Pass the classic Amelia Badelia moment that I tend to have, fondant is really quite easy to roll out. And with the help of our master decorator David to give me some guidance and tools, the flowers are pretty easy too. First off I should tell you what type of flowers I was making; the lovely cherry blossoms that are so in trend right now. Usually we use gumpaste for those but because of the price tag the client opted for fondant, not quite as realistic but still impressive. With small and medium flower cut outs simply press into the fondant for the perfect little flowers. Then using the nifty little green tool above you take the flower in your hand, use the ball side of the tool, and give it a spin in your hand to make it curl up for a lifelike appearance.

Take your delicate little flowers and place them in a bowl or shallow dish filled with powered sugar.
This is actually a two day process because now they need to dry and I mean really good because next you get to paint them!

This is actually my favorite part as I like to reminisce about my days as an art student. Starting with the lightest color, gently paint the dry flowers almost to the tip. Let that dry and add the second color, only painting halfway now to still show off the lighter color.

Layer the last coat with dots of bright pink and vola! A cherry blossom. Glue onto your decorated cake or make them just because you can and your done. Look, your cake grew flowers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Show off your Asian side

Asian food perplexes me. With all the different oils, powders, sauces, and unique vegetables it can be a little intimidating especially if your a college student and not quite sure if you'll ever use sesame oil or chili paste again. Therefore I don't make too many Asian dishes even though their flavors are explosive with carefully balanced sweet and sour tastes. Not too mention their healthy aspect. But every once in a while I reach down and take a little bit of courage just to venture out into the unknown world and make.... stir fry. Okay yes, maybe a little lame compared to making Haam Daan Ja Yoke Beng (which translated means ground pork cake with salty egg and I probably wouldn't make it anyway) but hey I grew up in San Antonio, Tx with little to no Asian influences. And be impressed, I made up this dish on my own, no recipe. Risky? Perhaps. Could have been better? I think not! (Actually yeah, I'm just being defensive.)

I mean it was really good but anything can be worked on to make better so after thinking about it here's what I did with some revisions.

Fresh Veggie Stir Fry with Quinoa

2 cups Quinoa
4 cups water (or chicken broth)

3 broccoli heads
2 red bell pepper
1 bok choy

3 carrots
Oil (I used canola but don't be afraid to use sesame or peanut oil)
1-2 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger root
3 gloves of garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water
Squeeze or two of honey

Cook quinoa like you would for rice. Take a sauce pan and put both the quinoa and water together, bring water to a boil, put a lid on and turn the heat down to low. Let simmer for approx. 20 minutes or until all water has evaporated.

Meanwhile chop broccoli, red pepper, and bok choy into bite size pieces. Peel and cut carrots into match like strips. Heat 1-2 Tbsp. of oil into wok or any skillet pan on high. Finely mince ginger root and garlic to your liking and adding to hot pan but be careful not to burn garlic, 1-2 minutes. Throw and take out vegetables in batches to cook evenly and fast. While veggies cook, mix red pepper flake, soy sauce, cornstarch, water, and honey together. Once all the vegetables are mostly cooked, throw them all together in the pan and pour sauce over. Let cook for another few minutes but once again don't over cook. They should be tender but still have their natural crunch. By this time quinoa should be cooked.

Plate by scooping quinoa into bowls and ladling hot ginger scented vegetables on top.

See that wasn't so bad. :) Oh and add chicken if you feel like it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Eat the Rainbow

Red, yellow, green, red, blue blue blue
Red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red red
Red, yellow, green, red, blue blue blue
Red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red red

Blend them up and what do you get?
Ceries, chartous, and aqua
Mauve, beige, and ultra marine, and every color in between
Hazo ka li ka no cha lum bum

Color has it's harmony and just like I have said
Red, yellow, green, red, blue blue blue
Red, purple, green, yellow, orange, red red

Who hear remembers that song? The one that Disney made back in, oh... the 1960's? As a kid I loved that song, listening to it over and over again and I even got to the point where I could sing every word, impressive if you've ever heard it. I loved how it seemed frenzied and crazed and the challenge to sing every word. But my favorite part of it was the explosion of colors my imagination created and just like the song suggests, the harmony of it all.

Being someone who studies nutrition and diet, it's not uncommon for me to be asked how I do it, what I make, what I buy. And I tell them (and you) what my professors tell me, eat the rainbow. Even metaphorically is sounds delicious. And in the culinary world it really isn't hard to do. I mean, if you want an explosion of colors just look to your nearest grocery store. Actually the grocery store isn't near to me at all but it's well worth the drive for produce like that. So what's on my color wheel this week? Red peppers, strawberries, carrots, peaches and nectarines, banana, ginger, honey, mustard, chicken, lettuce, green onions, bok choy, broccoli, cantaloupe, yogurt, sourdough bread, soup, soymilk, avocados, plums, and grapes. All the colors and flavors to keep my body happy and harmonious. Now the question is what to make? Blend them up and what to you get? Hmmm I'm thinking stir fry.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I guess I'm always surprised to hear people say they don't know what polenta is. Polenta is the Italian version of mashed potatoes. Made essentially of cornmeal and water it's easy to play around with it to make it your own. A dab of butter, cup of milk, maybe some Parmesan, salt, pepper, thrown in your favorite herbs, whatever you have or want. It takes ten to fifteen minutes and you can even have it in two forms. I like mine to be soft and creamy, with a pudding like texture so it sticks to your spoon and melts in your mouth. But you can also make it firm by adding less water and in the end cut fun shapes like triangles and squares to fry or bake.

I've found Lamb cornmeal at most grocery stores and I like it for the mere fact that it's Texan made. A big advocate of local foods to support local farmers and reduce ecological footprint I try to be conscientious about the products I buy, even if it is a few cents more. And it's always worked beautifully for me.

Polenta with Tomato Sauce and Poached Egg

1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
3 cups polenta (cornmeal)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated)
1/2 cup milk
2 TB. butter
Freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp thyme (or any herb)

Any favorite bottled tomato sauce

2 large eggs (at room temp.)

Bring water to a boil and add salt. Gradually whisk in cornmeal and reduce heat to low, stirring often until mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese,milk, butter, herbs, and pepper. Stir until all has melted and transfer to bowl.

While the polenta is cooking simmer tomato sauce on low to reheat.

Poach eggs by using a sauce pan with at least 3 inches deep of water and add a splash of vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Crack eggs into a small shallow dish such as a ramekin and slowly lower into the pot. Don't touch and let sit for at least 3 minutes, give or take a minutes depending on how you like your eggs. Take out with a slotted spoon and let drain for a second.

Pour polenta into serving bowls, spoon warm tomato sauce over, and place your elegent egg on top.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Anybody else thinks this is funny? Come on now, come on. Just look at it! Not only did they have to tell the front person what the occasion was but the frontling actually wrote it down, as if it would change how we decorated it. *Sigh* The things I see at work, at least it makes for good entertainment. And I need to remember that as I find myself looking down into yet another hour filled work week. You see right now is our "season". The part of the year that is perfectly timed with must have spring weddings and graduation from not only colleges but all DFW high schools. In other words being chained to the store.

So why do it? I don't know, we ask ourselves that everyday. No actually there are good reasons. Like some of the best people I have ever met. And because I like what I do, it brings a slice of joy in people's lives (pun intended). I have yet to post a cake picture but here's one for just a bride to go along side her wedding cake. A little bit better than a 9" elopement cake.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Birthday days

Lately I've been blessed with the best of friends, something I've missed most of my life. Seriously I thank God for giving them to me. So when a birthday comes around I can't think of a better way to show them how much I love them than make a birthday treat. Besides it's another excuse to bake. :) Because I love food so much and even more what makes people happy I tend to pick up and remember what their likes and dislikes are. Austin hates chocolate but oddly enough will devour brownies. I make extra batches of granola just for Nancy and have yet to produce a much begged for cheesecake (to the point of offering money). My mom has a special place in her heart for carrot cake with nuts, coconut, and pineapple but my sister is disgusted by even the thought of any of those in her cake. This mental list of tastes for the special people in my life is always being updated for my amusement but mainly because it's a way of showing that I care what makes them happy.

Back to birthdays... I love them. Growing up birthdays were a big deal and too often they become faded, like a brand new shirt washed too many times. It gets old or people think but I like to believe that every birthday is like you're turning one and to try to treat it that way. Show the ones you love that you're overjoyed they are in your life not by just picking up something at a random store at the last second but to appreciate their uniqueness. I obviously do this by cooking. This is when I pull out my bag of tricks from my mental list. This year I played the apple card and brought out an apple pie to celebrate my friend Bobbie Ann Mann (yay BAM!) Get her and the boys going and they make me laugh till I cry (good to get through the late nights but bad because we stop being productive).

Every time I bake I like to do my research and I wish I could remember where exactly I got the recipe from. I tend to surf and read, even after that I add my own touches but hardly ever write it down. Her birthday was back in the beginning of April so now I really have no idea how I did this but in the future I'll try to better about that for all of those who might actually want to make something I made. But for now I just have a pretty picture.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The historian

So what is this all about? Mainly a food blog where I can write my thoughts and ideas on recipes, post pictures on all that I make or beautiful dishes, and connect with fellow lovers of food. But it might be more than you bargained for. I'll probably share anything that I'm excited about like my latest cake creation, news, pictures of friends and family, outings and trips. Pretty much a little historian, out to save history as my friends would say.