Cooking & Baking

Recipes and other ideas you can do on your own.

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

Hi friends,

I feel like I haven’t talked about this before, but one of the things I do with some of my friends is bake cookies. A lot of my friends want to know how they can make the pretty sugar cookies they see online. As the unofficial baker of my friend group, it’s not unheard of for a friend to say, “Hey—When are you going to teach me how to make pretty sugar cookies? Mine never turn out how I think they should.”

Now the perfectionist in me makes it hard for me to bake cookies with other people. I explain to them that the cookie project is not a 30-minute activity. I tell them making pretty sugar cookies sometimes takes days. Luckily, a few friends are up for the challenge.

My friend Bobbie Jill is one of those friends who has really taken off with decorating cookies, now taking orders for and selling cookies regularly. The first couple of times we got together to make cookies I didn’t know if she was going to make it. She wanted to make perfect cookies immediately. Of course, I know the feeling, but with any new hobby, your first take is not going to be the best!

Our first time together, we planned on making sugar cookies from scratch, but we ended up shopping so much that weekend, that we ended up at H-E-B, purchasing round plain sugar cookies and decorating those. The results were NOT pretty. The cookies did not have a smooth surface, so the frosting dipped into the holes of the cookies and showed every bump. Of course, they still tasted great.

So, step No. 1 for cookie decorating:

  1. Start with a flat, nonporous cookie. This pretty much means bake your own cookies.

The next time we got together, we decided we would each bake cookies separately (we live in different cities) and then decorate them together. That worked much better, though we still left decorating to the end after spending too much money and time at The Domain.

So, Step No. 2:

2. Give yourself enough time to decorate.

The next time we got together was even better. We went to Hobby Lobby and purchased my favorite bottles, which are accordion looking and are the easiest for me to push the royal icing through without hurting my hands too much.

Step No. 3:

3. Have the right tools.

Since that first time of baking cookies, both of us have learned so much and gotten so much better at baking cookies. This is a fun hobby I enjoy doing with friends. It’s a lot of work, but people love the results and I’m glad I can introduce my friends to this hobby—and glad some of them are taking it to the next level—selling their lovely treats to others.

Double Vanilla Cupcakes

Double Vanilla Cupcakes

I’ve taken to calling these double vanilla cupcakes, because it’s vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. The recipes came from Sally’s Baking Addiction and the frosting decoration was part of her monthly baking challenge for this month. Mine didn’t quite look like roses as hers did, but I still thought they came out beautifully.

This weekend was supposed to be full of rain, so I planned indoor activities for Saturday, but so far I haven’t seen a drop.

My indoor activities included making these delicious cupcakes (the crumb on these are amazing!), watching Doc Martin on Netflix, reading “All Grown Up” by Jami Attenberg and some good old puttering around the house.

A new method for my to-do lists is to write each thing I want to get done on a separate post-it note on my bathroom mirror. I got about 4 things done today of about 12 that I put up there. I’ll let you know how this works. It does remind me of what needs to be done every time I wash my hands, but I find after a few days I stop seeing notes around the house at times.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend!

Everybody Eats

photo(1)Food is a part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. Some of us embrace it, making it a big part of our lives. Others begrudgingly do what they have to do to survive. And others see it as a transaction: x calories in means I must work out x hours per day. i.e. What gives me the best bang for the buck?

Personally, I’m the first one. A big portion of my day is filled with thinking about, preparing and eating food. My first thought of the day usually centers around … mmm … coffee. I don’t always eat breakfast, but already I’m thinking about the possibilities for lunch and dinner and snacks and dessert. Should I bring lunch to work? Of course, I should. But are those leftovers really going to sound appetizing after I’m stressed or will I just say, “Screw it,” anyway and go to lunch with coworkers?

When I get home, I think about whether I’m going to try the recipe that I tore out of that magazine and bought the ingredients for a few days ago. Or is my hunger going to win and make me eat some non-memorable meal thrown together in desperation.

I also have this weird game that I continually play with myself. I’ll call it Use Up. As in I like to see if I can use up all of some ingredient. I see a can of corn that’s been in the pantry for way too long, so I scour Pinterest to find a recipe to use up this fine ingredient that will never be used if I don’t specifically go out of my way. I then buy several items in order to use up this one item. More often than not, this game leaves me with yet another item (or two or three) to use up. The items I find hardest to use up before they’ve gone all wilty? Celery, scallions, cilantro. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of things to use them in. Of course, there are millions of recipes that use these ingredients. But I rarely use as much as they call for, since they’re not my favorite ingredients; And I live alone, so my recipes aren’t usually the sort that make massive amounts of food. Why do recipes call for just one stalk of celery, anyway?

If I’m not actually eating or cooking or baking, there’s a good chance I’m looking through recipes: magazines, Pinterest, cookbooks, the recipes that come on food containers. Yes, I look at those. I read them and think, “I will make that some day,” and cut them out. Sometimes I even make them. The thing is … those recipes are good. We tend to forget about them, since they are always there, but they are really, truly, almost always really good. Because those recipes have been tried. Over and over again they were tried and when it seemed like, yes, this recipe was easy enough for the average person—and yes, this recipe would make people want to buy our product—only then would the company slap this recipe on the bag that goes to the homes of millions of people.

I remember telling an ex-boyfriend, “You’d be proud of me. I cook now. I’m really good at it.” And he said, “I’m not surprised. You were always cutting out recipes and reading those magazines about food.”

I guess sometimes you’re more surprised by where your life is heading than those around you. They see where you are headed before you even realize it. That hobby you have that seems inconsequential to you is obvious passion to others. I’m always annoyed when people say you’ll know it’s a passion when you find yourself doing it all the time, but really, when it feels like puttering around your house, you figure everyone is doing the same thing. Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s right in front of your eyes.

Homemade Wheat Pancakes with Chokecherry Jelly

imageWhen you’re a food blogger you tend to get food gifts from people. Not just for Christmas or your birthday, but for other reasons, too. Here—this made me think of you. Here—I think you should try this. Or in this case—Here, I have no idea what to use this for.

That’s how I came across chokecherry jelly from New Mexico. My co-worker, Frank likes to vacay in New Mexico while we’re on break. Recently, he bought a jar of chokecherry jelly and brought it home only to realize he wasn’t sure what to do with it. A few months went by and he decided to give it away—to me. Not a problem. I can find something to do with it, I told him. Then I told him if I were him, I would have made a stuffed grilled pork and drizzled the sauce over the meat (you know, if I ate meat). I could see the internal struggle on his face: Should I ask for the jelly back and make the pork? That sounds really good. But, alas, he had already given it away and he allowed me to keep this interesting gift.

Finally, this morning I prepared some wheat pancakes. A craving I rarely have, but, hey, everyone’s entitled to pancakes on occasion, I suppose. So, I whipped up these babies from Freckleberry Fit.

Then I realized I was completely out of maple syrup. How did that happen? I considered using molasses, but then I did a quick taste and decided that would be a bit much. I wasn’t about to run to the store before 7 a.m., so I kept digging through my pantry. Lo and behold, I finally rested my eyes on the chokecherry jelly. Well, I’ll give it a try, I thought. The consistency was already smooth and runny, so it was soaked up by the cakes immediately. I drenched the pancakes in it, as that’s the only way I eat them, and then I took a bite. Yum. That was just right.

So, in the rare chance someone went to New Mexico and gifted you with chokecherry jelly, no need to fret. Just make some pancakes, get your Urban Kitchen rose gold flatware and you are set!

Recipe: Crockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

This recipe I came up with by mistake. I was planning on making plain old vegetarian chili, but after I got back from the store I realized I was missing the main ingredient: Chili powder. How did I not have chili powder? Have you seen my spice drawer??

spice drawer

Anyway, I did not want to go back out in the cold—it’s too cold in Austin right now. I know. I know. Us Southerners can’t take the cold. That’s why we live here!

So, I decided to take the recipe I had and use the seasoning I had on hand, which were mainly Italian spices and it turned out really well.

So, here you go: Crockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

Crockpot Italian ChiliCrockpot Italian Chili for Cold Days and Nights

  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 packet of Grill Mates tomato, garlic and basil marinade (or make your own seasoning with  a mix of basil, oregano and garlic powder)
  • Salt to taste

Pasta (optional): Choose a pasta, such as angel hair, and cook according to directions just before serving chili.

Optional toppings:

  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream

Throw in all ingredients in a crockpot, except toppings, and mix well. Leave in for 3 hours to do its thing. Serve in bowl over pasta and serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and grated cheese (if using). Serve with crackers, cornbread or your bread of choice.

Notes: You can saute the onions in garlic before adding if you want, but I found the onions turned out well without this extra step.

I ate the chili with and without the pasta and loved it both ways, so it just depends on whether you want it to feel like a spaghetti sauce or more of an nontraditional chili.

This recipe is sure to warm your spirits on a cold day and the smell in your home as go you about your chores is wonderful. Enjoy!

How to Keep Your Foodie Resolutions

NewYearsGoalsandResolutionsUs foodophiles love to add things like “cook more” and “bake more” to our list of things to do more of in the New Year. Or maybe you just want to try some new foods in 2015. Whatever your goals, they’re probably totally doable. The hard part is putting an action plan in place.

This is how to go about making your goals, resolutions, whatever you want to do, come true this year.

1. Make it specific. Do you want to go through the whole Joy the Baker Cookbook? Do you want to eat five new fruits? Do you want to visit every gastropub in Austin? The choice is yours, but you have to know exactly what you are wanting to do or it will be very difficult to accomplish your goal.

2. Now that you know what you want to do, figure out how to do it. Say you do want to make every recipe in a book. Count how many recipes are in the cookbook and divide by the numbers of months or the number of weeks to determine how many recipes you should make each week or month depending on whether you want a very strict plan or more of a guideline. You know yourself better than I do, so you’ll be able to figure out which is needed on your own (Trial and error helps).

3. Share your goal. This really helps with follow through. Maybe start a blog to show your progress and let friends follow along. Maybe start a Twitter account for your resolutions or goals.

I know I’ve been using goals and resolutions interchangeably, but here’s the difference:

Goals are something you want to accomplish and have a beginning and an end.

Resolutions are something you want to start doing or quit doing. More like a habit.

I think it’s great to have both.

Take a little time today to think about what you’d like to accomplish in 2015. To get you started, here are a few ideas:

  • Take a foodie trip.
  • Try an exotic dish you’ve never tried before.
  • Eat the required amount of fruits and veggies per day.
  • Stop eating milk, cheese, meat or grains.
  • Read 12 foodie books.
  • Watch the all-time top 10 foodie movies according to epicurious.

Happy New Year. I hope you all have the tastiest, sweetest, juiciest year ever!


Last-minute Greek Dip

photo-3Need a last minute appetizer for dinner? This dip takes no time to put together and easily goes with a fish, pasta or veggie heavy dinner.

Last-Minute Greek Dip

  • 8 oz. Greek Gods Greek yogurt
  • 4 oz. Organic Valley Feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1 tbsp. Greek seasoning (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • Parsley (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Garnish with parsley. Serve with Ritz crackers.

How to use leftover veggies

photo-1I like to try to use up all of my food as soon as possible. This can be hard when you’re cooking for one. Especially those recipes that uses a ton of veggies, because you never need them all!

The key, I’ve found, is to make one “main” dish once a week, with several smaller side dishes to fill in throughout the week. I know this won’t work for everyone, but it works pretty well for me.

I’ll use this week as an example:

On Monday night I made the best veggie curry pot pie. I mean delicious. But I had cauliflower left over as well as some carrots and onions.

With the cauliflower, I made a curry coconut side dish (above).

Mine looked nothing like theirs! No clue why. It tasted good, though, with a spicy kick. I like curry a lot, so this wasn’t too much curry in one week for me, but you could do a quick Pinterest search and find something totally different—like cauliflower mac-n-cheese. Yum!

Next up I’ll be making these spicy maple roasted carrots.

Then I’ll just have to figure out something to do with the onions and the extra pie crust. I’m thinking a berry pie for the crust and adding the onions to the leftover dressing I have in the freezer.

Basically, my advice is get creative and try to use everything in your fridge each week. Occasionally, I’ll have a Sunday night where I try to use up all my leftovers in a soup or casserole.

So many options, so few meals!




Holiday Madness: Pomegranate-cranberry sauce

Editor’s note: Sorry about posting this late. As you can see, this was written BEFORE Thanksgiving :).

The holiday potlucks are well under way, what with Thanksgiving only a few days away.

My work potluck is tomorrow and I said I’d bring the cranberry sauce.

I found a recipe for pomegranate cranberry sauce on Pinterest that looked yummy and since pomegranates are supposed to be chock full of antioxidants, I figured that was the way to go.

I’ve never opened a pomegranate, so I searched the interwebs for a how to. This one worked well.

The actual cooking/prep part only takes 15-20 minutes, but factor in 2 hours of cooling off.

It came out super scrumptious. If you enjoy your cranberry more tart than sweet, cut down the sugar by half. I happen to love sweet, so I kept the full two cups of sugar. I hope there is still some cranberry sauce left over for tomorrow’s potluck—it’s so good!

While you’re cooking the cranberries, make a drink with the leftovers:

Pomegranate Holiday Mimosa

  • ¾ c Pom Pomegranate juice
  • ¼ c champagne
  • Handful of cranberries

Mix in a pretty glass over ice and enjoy.


A Sunday Walk Through East Austin

A Sunday Walk Through East Austin

Recently, Cuvee coffee had an open invite for free coffee as part of the POP Austin International Art Show 2014. I invited my friend Grace along since we tend to hang out on Sunday mornings. After we stopped by for a can of coffee (yes, drinking coffee out of a can does feel a little weird) and checked out the Black & Blue Pop Mural, which you can see being made here, we decided to take a tour around the area to see the great sights of East Austin.

DSC_4086This is Grace.

DSC_4088This is me.

DSC_4082This is Cuvee.

DSC_4093This is a mural.

DSC_4092This says who made the mural.

If you didn’t know, the City of Austin has added bike rentals in a few spots downtown. We weren’t planning on going very far, so we didn’t try it out this time around, but it could be useful, especially during SXSW! Find bike locations.


DSC_4097Next we stopped by the Pop International Show, but the cost, at $30, was a bit steep for a last-minute idea, so we took some pics of the entrance and moved along.



DSC_4101The Pop International Art Show was across the street from the Pine Street Station, which used to house the farmers market.  DSC_4107



DSC_4108It’s got cute murals on the side of the building.

Then we headed over to the HOPE Farmers Market at Plaza Saltillo to smell teas, listen to music and check out the wares.

And on the way back to my car, I couldn’t help but take pics of everything along the way. Like Grace pointing out to what made the plant below a boy… You can probably figure that one out yourself…

Thanks for going on this tour with me!