Cooking & Baking

Recipes and other ideas you can do on your own.

Book Club Brunch

Book Club Brunch

In May, the monthly (ish) book club I’m a part of decided to add brunch to its menu. Personally, I thought it was a fabulous idea.

What is unique about our book club is that no one dictates what anyone reads. It’s a free for all. We all read whatever we feel like and then we get together and tell the others what we loved, hated, and everything in between, about the books we read since we saw everyone last. I think this format works well when you have a group of friends who like to read, but aren’t all obsessed with a genre (Twilight, romance, Sci-Fi, etc.). I’ve been a part of many book clubs with different measures of success and this one stresses me out the least, since I don’t have to go along with the pace of the other readers at all. Prior I would read the book really fast and then forget what it was about by the time we met again or I couldn’t finish it, so I felt guilty about going and just listening in on the conversation.

Books aside, the brunch aspect was great. We had quite a collection of foods, from bagels to quiche and fruit to crock pot French toast. Eric made us lattes, which was nice touch, and, of course, there were mimosas.

Baby Bea listened intently, as she realized just how intriguing book talk can be. I’m looking forward to meeting again soon as I’ve been pretty busy reading this month—everything from Fifty Shades of Grey (decidedly overrated) to My Life (so far) Without a Date (pretty amusing).

Cheers to readin’ and brunchin’!


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A Salad in Thyme

DSC_2932By Tiffany Young

At work, we have a monthly potluck. It’s probably my favorite part of my job. Everyone in the department—from translations to communications brings a dish to share with others.

Since we don’t have any way to heat up food, except for a microwave, it’s always difficult for me to determine what to bring. Will cold mac ‘n cheese really taste all that great? So much of the time I bring a cold salad or pasta.

This month I brought a delicious cucumber, tomato and feta recipe altered from a Pinterest recipe by Five Heart Home. Their recipe can be found at:

A main change to mine is that I used thyme in place of dill, because it’s what I had on hand. I loved it!


  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c white wine vinegar (the original recipe used red, but use whatever you have on hand)
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  •  clove garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • black pepper ground to taste

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.


  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large cucumber, cubed
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, drained, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 c feta cheese
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss. Garnish with sprigs.


Take pics, refrigerate for a few hours, eat!


I thought I’d have plenty of leftovers after the potluck, since there’s usually so much food, but, alas, I did not. But I’m glad everyone seemed to enjoy it.

After we eat, we usually play a game. This time we played Catch Phrase.

Two of the best moments were:

1) When a lady whose first language is Spanish got the word cop out, she described it as a police officer who is not in. We were super confused, but realized it was a brilliant description once she told us what it was.

2) Just before our boss popped his head in because we were laughing so hard, the same lady as above had given this clue: It’s in your pants! None of us could think of a G-rated answer so we just burst out laughing. Turns out it was pocket change. That was so not what any of us were thinking …

If you want a pick-me-up at work, try planning a potluck. Bring food, bring a game and just enjoy each other for a change!



AFBA Potluck: Quiche Me Again, Please

DSC_2635By Tiffany Young

OK, from the title, you may have already guessed I have a bit of a love affair with quiche. I mean, how could I not? It has eggs. I love eggs. It has cheese. I love cheese. And best of all—it has crust! I mean frittatas are good, but quiche, with it’s lovely crust, is better. (That’s the difference between quiche and frittatas if you never knew.)

I have been invited to a lot of potlucks lately, and, while I enjoy cooking I don’t like to spend all of my free time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, unless it’s by choice. So, I’ve been sticking to quick and dirty recipes. Some of my favorite, easy recipes include cornbread, quick pies and—back to the subject—quiche.

My favorite base recipe comes from here. This “recipe” is perfect for me, because it’s not too structured. I want the basics: about this many eggs, this much dairy product, but I never really follow recipes to the T. This recipe allows you to decide what to add. Case in point, sometimes I have milk on hand, other times it’s half and half or cream. They all work just fine, so start with this recipe and then venture from there.

This quiche was made to share with the Austin Food Blogger Alliance for our anniversary potluck. You can just imagine all the deliciousness that was shared. And in good company, too!

Luckily, my coworker, Frank, had brought me a dozen fresh eggs and I had a frozen pie crust already awaiting for me in the freezer.

At the store, sundried tomatoes were calling to me, so I decided to pair it with feta cheese and Italian herbs. A quick tip: Always line the pie crust with cheese, so it doesn’t get too soggy on the bottom. I had a little cheddar cheese to start with, about 1/4 cup to spread on the bottom. Then I added a thick layer of feta cheese, then sundried tomatoes (both of these items already had Italian herbs added), then the egg mixture (see the formula on the link above) and then I added a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence.

I wasn’t sure what I would get since I’d never used feta or sundried tomatoes in quiche before, but it was better than I had even imagined.

So, the next time you’re pressed for something to bring to a potluck (or a brunch, or Easter breakfast), do us all a favor and make a quiche (just remember it takes about a full hour to bake, so it’s not necessarily quick, but it is easy!).



French Toast: Solution for day-old sourdough


By Tiffany Young
I’m trying to be more mindful of wasting food. As someone generally cooking for one, this is difficult to do. I typically go to the grocery store once or twice a week and try not to buy too much, but inevitably, I’ll think I’m going to eat dinner at home most nights per week and then end up being home about once during the week. This means I definitely can’t get carried away buying all the fruits and veggies I want. It also bothers me when I end up with a can or a 1/2 cup of something random that sits on the shelf for months upon months. For this reason, I’m trying to evaluate what food I have in the house on Sundays and determine what needs to be used and what items I should buy at the store to go with what I already have.

That being said, this week I had almost a loaf of sourdough left on Sunday and it was the “baked fresh” bread from the bakery–i.e. no preservatives, i.e. gonna go bad if I don’t use it pronto. I thought about ways to use it up quickly and came up with either 1) croutons or 2) French toast (my helper here is one of the tested toasters at Jane’s Kitchen). And with my sweet tooth, you know which one I was leaning toward.

And that’s how I came to make a lot of French toast this morning. So much, in fact, I’m freezing some and planning on taking some into work a few days this week to heat up for breakfast.


For the recipe, which promises (and delivers) crispy, not soggy, French Toast, visit Sweet Pea’s Kitchen. I subbed coconut milk for the milk and completely didn’t see it called for brown sugar until just now, but it worked out all the same. I’ve never done this before, but they have you bake the bread for 8 minutes on each side to keep the bread from getting too soggy when you dip it in the egg mixture. Also, I thought it was brilliant that they have you keep all the toast in the oven after you’ve put it on the griddle so that you can serve it all warm. I’m going to have to tell my parents about this! We always just eat pancakes and French toast one at a time when it’s ready so that it doesn’t get cold, but this way makes way more sense! It sucks to be the one cooking and watching everyone else eat while you’re still flipping food.

I will say French toast takes a lot longer to make than I had thought–You have to cook each slice of bread 3-4 minutes per side, with about 10 slices of bread puts you at 30-40 minutes, not to mention the pre-toasting time. Luckily it tasted so yummy I didn’t mind, and hopefully the grab-n-go breakfasts may save me some time in the mornings.

Sprouting Lunches 3 Days a Week


By Tiffany Young

My new “resolution” is to bring my lunch to work at least three times a week. This is primarily to save money, since I work downtown and it can get expensive eating at Whole Foods for lunch almost every day. But I know the lunch has to pretty good to convince myself not to go hang out with my coworkers away from the office for an hour or even 30 minutes. That means less store bought frozen meals and more homemade frozen meals. So, this week I made mac ‘n cheese and Sriracha roasted Brussels sprouts and packaged them for my mid-day meal. You can find the recipe at The Austin Gastronomist. I had been eying the recipe for sometime, but was a little intimidated by it for some reason. However, the recipe was pretty easy to carry out and has turned out to be a delicious choice for my lunch. My only caution is that some coworkers think it smells up the office when I reheat it. Also, when the recipe says that the sauce will bubble up on you, that means step back! There was definitely a little splash back when I poured the hot water in. Other than that, everything went well and I would definitely make it again!

Let us know what some of your favorite lunches are in the comments!










I’ll have rum with that bread pudding

Bread PuddingBy Tiffany Young

Chef Bren Young shows how to make an easy recipe to eat during the holidays: bread pudding with rum sauce.

Bread pudding
1 day-old loaf of bread, cubed
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
3/4 c milk
Dash of cream
1 tsp. salt
Cinnamon to taste
1/2 c “conditioned” raisins (Raisins soaked in rum for about 20 minutes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Put bread in a 9 x 13″ casserole dish sprayed with Pam. Whisk together eggs, sugars, milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread and sprinkle with cinnamon. Take a spatula and push bread down until it soaks up the  egg and milk mixture. Bake in oven 45 minutes.


Take 1 stick of butter and melt in a sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of regular sugar. Stir until melted and smooth. Add cream and mix thoroughly. Take off heat. Add rum to taste.

Serve pudding warm and drizzle with rum sauce.

Yum yum!

Note: You can also use brandy or grand marnier in place of rum.

Homemade Pasta is Always Best!

11042282043_3c26c6e091_oBy Tiffany Young

After Bird’s Barbershop’s Besties Party, my friends and I weren’t ready to say goodbye, so Eric & Lisa invited Christine and I over to make handmade pasta at their place with their little one, Bea. To be honest Baby Bea did not make a lot of pasta, but she was a fun addition to the night of playing games, eating and enjoying each others’ company.

Lisa had already made the dough, so the hard part was over. We used her new pasta maker for the first time, via trial and error. Lisa gave us the challenge: We could either watch Baby Bea or we could figure out how to use the pasta machine. Not feeling up to the challenge of caring for a small child, we decided using the pasta maker would be our challenge for the night. I don’t think either one would have been that challenging, but I tend to feel more comfortable in the kitchen than with bodily functions.

We immediately took to YouTube to get things started. This was the best one we found:

It was a little challenging not getting the pasta to stick together at first, but then we learned to add more flour than we thought to keep it from sticking. It turned out beautifully! Eric did the actual cooking part, chopping up mushrooms and sauteing garlic to make a traditional alfredo sauce:


He made two batches–one without mushrooms and one with. They were both delicious.

Feels like a Falliday

By Tiffany Young

Usually people talk about new beginnings in the spring, but here in Texas, it’s always the fall that feels like a fresh start to me. Probably because our summers are so long and hot that we’re not sure we’re going to make it, and then the temperature drops 30 degrees and we feel like we can breathe again.

When I feel like starting over, I start going through my things to see what I can get rid of and start buying things that seem to fit me better. Often I’ll start cooking again and trying new things. It’s like a fresh outlook.

The past few weeks I’ve been editing my closet (things in colors I never where or seem to hang funny on me) and seeing what I might be missing (shoes, turtlenecks).

I’ve also been trying fall recipes, even though it’s not that cold.

Today,  I tried a Pumpkin French Toast recipe, adapted from Minimalist Baker: It was good, but not as good as the carrot cake recipe I made from Flourish (or from King Arthur’s Flour). But really I changed up so many things in my carrot cake recipe it’s something totally different (but amazing) by now. Here’s the recipe: If you happen to run out of carrots, add some pumpkin puree to make up the amount—it’s terrific.

Anyway, like I’ve said, fall is for starting over and maybe life is like the carrot cake (sorry pumpkin French toast, but you’ve been trumped). You add all kinds of things to the cake and when you run out of something, you just throw something else into the mix and you’re not sure it’ll turn out, but it does. And it’s delicious. So, here’s to just throwing all sorts of new things into your life and seeing how it works out. And if you get halfway through making cream cheese frosting before realizing you’re out of powdered sugar, so be it. Life is sweet enough!


Love Biscuits

By Tiffany Young

Love biscuits is the name I’ve decided on for these super cute biscuits I made last night in the form of hearts. The idea was spurred when a coworker started passing out jam and cinnamon pear butter she got as favors from a wedding last weekend. I chose the cinnamon pear butter, even though blueberry was the other choice, because I’ve never had pear butter before.

On my way home all I could think about was making biscuits so I could try it out. My mom asked why I didn’t just go buy biscuits, but that seems a bit lame considering I didn’t need to go to the store for anything else and I had all the ingredients for biscuits. I don’t have a recipe I usually call upon, so I reached for the AFBA cookbook in the hopes that there would be a recipe, and sure enough, there was one for biscuits and gravy by South Austin Foodie (Side note: Oh, how I miss sausage gravy as a pescetarian).

The recipe was perfect and easy. I loved the idea of grating the butter instead of cutting it with 2 knives, which takes FOREVER! As I said, I used a heart cookie cutter, not knowing whether they would keep their shape, but they totally did, making them kinda the cutest biscuits ever. Yeah.

Lessons learned: Biscuits for dinner is great. Heart cookie cutters make everything cuter. Coworkers love leftover baked goods.

If you want to check out the cookbook, there are still some for sale: AFBA cookbook.


Fresh is eggcellent!

I just ate one of the best omelets I’ve ever had. It’s also probably the freshest I’ve ever had, which is probably no coincidence. My dear friend Mark Collins gave me some of his chickens’ eggs yesterday, along with jalapeños and bell peppers from his garden, which I used for an omelet this morning using this recipe. I subbed in what I had and left out the things I didn’t have, such as a red pepper and cilantro. I used green onion in place of a regular one, chipotle cheese instead of cheddar and used srirachi in place of Tobasco. The results were amazing! I don’t think I’ll be getting a chicken coop any time soon and my gardening skills aren’t quite up to par, but I am more determined to find locally sourced food! Thanks, Mark!