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.