Cooking & Baking

Recipes and other ideas you can do on your own.

A sweet Thanksgiving

By Tiffany Young


About a week ago I stopped eating bread, leading up to Thanksgiving. Everyone kept asking, “But why are you giving up bread?” You’ll see from the pictures below why it is necessary to cut back before visiting my parents for Thanksgiving.

My mom and I were a little bored after a few days of sitting on the couch, so we decided to frost a cake. After all, you can only watch so much TV in a long weekend (my brother would disagree, however). We took a break from watching “Breaking Bad” and made some butter cream frosting. The pictures and video below are the results of our hard work. The video has my mom saying we’re finished in 20 minutes, but really that was just to get a rise out of my  brother since we had said we’d only be 20 minutes and he watched at least one-and-a-half Star Trek shows during the time it took us to complete the cake.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to frost a cake and I’ll get my mom to share some tips!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dipping in with fall fun

One way I’ve found to clean my house is to invite people over. I’m not naturally the cleanest or organized person alive, but I find if people are coming over, I will put in some extra effort. I also have a lot of stuff that I need to get rid of. So, I put both of those things together and organized a clothing swap for my girlfriends. It 1) forced me to clean the living room and kitchen and 2) forced me to go through my closet and get rid of some clothes that didn’t need to be in there.

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with food? Well, you can’t have people over and not feed them anything! I knew the day was already going to be a little crazy, since I still needed to sweep and mop and buy groceries, so I went over to Pinterest and looked for a few simple recipes. There was a recipe I really wanted to try but it was in European measurements and I knew the extra conversion was just going to stress me out. I chose a delicious warm bean dip and brownie batter dip. Both turned out really well and are super addictive. Since they’re both pretty fattening, I served the brownie batter dip with fresh strawberries, sliced apples and pretzels. The bean dip was served with two kinds of tortilla chips.

I also served iced coffee, iced tea and water. Next time I’ll have to remember to have a non-caffeinated option for pregnant and lactating ladies.

If you’re having something in the afternoon and just need some snacky foods, I would recommend both of these recipes, because they are simple and tasty. Let me know what your favorite dips are to serve at parties in the comments section.

Gaining 5 pounds in a weekend

Every time I visit my hometown of Texarkana I gain five pounds. I blame it on my mom’s cooking! Or maybe it’s that we watch a lot of TV AND my mom’s cooking. Either way, it happens. Last weekend, I went home to see my parents, since my dad had a hernia operation (which went really well).

My mom made homemade spaghetti filled with veggies, peach pie and quesadillas. Yum Yum!

Like I’ve mentioned before, she is a pastry chef instructor, so the lattice work was all done expertly at home—I’ll have to make a video of it the next time I go home to show everyone how easy she makes it look!

Anyway, I just wanted to show off some of the meals we ate and how cute her kitchen staples are, with chalkboard labels.

Have a great weekend!

The perfect summer salad

If you’re looking for the perfect summer salad, look no further. I found this delicious salad to beat the Texas heat in a year-old Vegetarian Times issue: Cantaloupe-Arugula Salad.

Not only is it cheap and tasty, but it also takes advantage of locally grown melons. I got a canary melon for free from Engel Farms while working at the farmers market, but anyone can buy one for $3. They are nice and sweet right now. An additional $2 for the organic arugula and $6 for the ricotta salata from H-E-B made the salad almost $10, but will make at least 5 salads to eat throughout the week.

The peppery, sweet and sharp flavors mesh wonderfully in each bite. I’ll have to share this salad with Antonio, since he is the one who usually likes pepper, not me.

The salad is easy to make, just requiring washing some arugula, cutting a melon and otherwise just sprinkling on some seasoning. It’s so easy, cheap and carries a wonderful taste that’ll carry you through the hot summer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.


Farmers Market sandwich

For the past week I’ve been helping Engel Farms from Fredericksburg, Texas, sell their produce at farmers markets around Austin. In addition to getting some cash in my pockets, I also get to bring home some lovely produce, including golden zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, blackberries and whatever else is fresh from the farm.

Today I decided the squash and zucchini had a few days left in it, so I cooked it the way my mom always does. With a little olive oil in a pan, you add the sliced squash, zucchini and onion and saute it until you get it to your favorite texture. I like mine a little softer, but golden on each side. Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking.

I also have some French bread I’m trying to eat by the weekend, so I sliced it up, added a dab of butter to each piece (OK, a huge slather, really) and then toasted it in the toaster oven. When it came out, I added the sauteed veggies, and, presto—what I’ve deemed Farmers Market sandwich was born. It was so delicious I almost forewent peaches and ice cream. (I said almost!)

Lentils are healthy, inexpensive in soups, salads

One of my new favorite foods to cook with is lentils. For one thing, I only eat fish (animal-wise), so lentils are a great way to pack in protein. It also has a lot of fiber. I also enjoy how inexpensive the meals are with lentils.

But other than just being healthy, I think lentils bring a variety to dishes cooked at home; They can be found in a variety of colors and can be in soups, salads and side dishes. I’ve made several lentil salads recently, cold and hot, and they’ve all been pretty good.

My latest recipe Red Curry Lentils and Spinach, while good, was not my favorite. It tastes good—and looks beautiful—but the seasoning doesn’t seem to be very consistent—probably the chef’s fault, but none-the-less that means some bites are amazing and others a bit lacking depending on the bite. I’d give it a 3.5 spoons out of 5. Better than average, but not lick-the-spoon-clean good.

You can find the exact recipe at even though mine came from a print magazine. I substituted  brown lentil for red, since that’s all I could find at H-E-B and white rice for brown rice, because it’s what I had on hand. states “Lentils are to India as meatloaf is to America: the quintessential comfort food.” If that’s the case, I’ve got a feeling I would enjoy the food in India! If you want to combine the two and try lentil meatloaf, no problem!

My mom made something similar to this once she found out me and my brother had become pescetarians.

How about you? Are there any healthy foods you keep returning to now that it’s beginning to turn warmer?

Ringing in the New Year

For New Year’s Eve, Antonio was sick with allergies and we ended up deciding to stay in, so I decided to make a big dinner.

I had already copied several recipes I wanted to try out, using the “Cook This” notepad made by Knock Knock. I decided to make Cream of Mushroom Soup, which I found over at YumSugar, Mushroom and Potato Gratin from a recipe from Williams-Sonoma, Not Real Macaroni and Cheese (unfortunately I don’t have the original source on this as I just copied it into Evernote sometime ago) and a salad of mixed greens, avocado and a homemade vinaigrette.

Basically if you weren’t a fan of mushrooms or cheese, you would hate this meal. As it turns out, that was not the case, for Antonio, myself, or his roommate Rolando.

The whole project took me several hours and dirtying almost all of the dishes at the Baylor House. Everything smelled so good and it was pretty much the first time I had cooked for Antonio, so I knew it was a waste when he said his nose was so stuffed up he couldn’t smell anything.

We finally sat down and toasted to the good life and the new year and being thankful to friends and all the things we have. We all realize we have little to complain about compared to many, many others.

I was pretty happy with how the meal came out, even if we had to start on the soup and salad while the gratin continued to bake.

The salad and dressing was good. My secret recipe consists of half balsamic vinegar, half olive oil, a splash of honey—and this time I added some fresh thyme since it was on hand.

The mushroom soup was wonderfully aromatic and the splash of truffle oil divine! I can’t wait to pour truffle oil into many future dishes.

The gratin proved to be a lot of trouble for how it came out—I don’t think I got enough salt and pepper in the layers to make it worth its while. I also would have loved for the potatoes to get crispier, but we were all hungry by the time the buzzer went off. However, I got to use the mandoline Antonio bought me for Christmas, so it was worth it.

The mac and cheese was Antonio’s favorite. I liked how creamy it came out.

The next night ate in again and made grilled cheese and tomato soup. It took all of 15 minutes to make. Antonio said, “This is the best meal we’ve had in a long time!”

It’s the simple things in life, spoons!

Here’s to a yummy year!


Pizza Pizza Pizza with Eric Pulsifer

A few weeks back, our dear friend Alex had a Birthday and she wanted to celebrate in style. She asked all her friends to bring a pizza of their choice. And our buddy Eric stood above the rest – physically and foodically!

Who can say no to a Jalapeño Popper–stuffed Pizza?

By Eric Pulsifer ///Junk food gourmet

My go-to homemade pizza topping is Spanish chorizo, a cured smoked meat more similar to high-quality pepperoni than the greasy, lymph node-laden skillet magic that is Mexican chorizo. But Alex already had the gourmet pizza down, and I felt an itch to make the kind of pizza that would only sound appetizing to a reasonably health-conscious person after a few drinks.
I was tossing around the idea with some other pizza partiers about making something deliciously trashy — using low-quality ingredients to create a guilty pleasure of a pie with the sort of fare reserved for bachelors and teenagers. Funny enough, I’m willing to be bet my pie was still probably healthier than the stuff the big chains call pizza.
My initial thought was to make a crust stuffed with that staple of the lonely man diet, the Pizza Roll. However, recalling that those little pockets of sauce and square bits of meat aren’t actually very good, I opted instead for a crust stuffed with gorgonzola-filled jalapeño poppers.
The recipe is simple, and the result was tasty. This made a 10″ round pizza with a couple of leftover poppers for pre-pizza snacking.
1 tube of pizza crust
2 boxes of frozen Safeway Gorgonzola Gems
1 box of frozen spinach artichoke dip
1 cup of Velveeta shreds
1/2 a cup of corn meal
1 tablespoon of cheap olive oil
Sprinkle some corn meal on a nonstick tray. Spread the dough out on top of the tray, rub olive oil over the center and add additional corn meal. Surround the pizza with a barrier of halfway cooked (as per instructions) Gorgonzola Gems and roll the crust over. Spread halfway cooked spinach artichoke dip in middle, top with cheese and throw in the oven. Bake at 425 degrees until crust is golden brown.

Minimalist Cooking

A simple meal that's easy to put together, but still tastes great.

So, I have this thing with minimalism. I read all the blogs from Unclutterer to The Minimalists to This Tiny House. That might seem odd to anyone who’s been in my room, since it is quite full, but none-the-less, I love the concept and aim to continue uncluttering my life (as I have been for years). Today I read a post on Unclutterer about the two hats the poster uses in cooking: one as creative chef, the other as utilitarian cook and I can totally relate.

There are days when I come home and all I can do is take a slice of bread, toast it and maybe, maybe add some jelly or honey to the top for diner. Then there are days, such as today, when I feel creative in the kitchen and I really want to make something, be it trying a new recipe or just whipping up something I could make in my sleep.

Today I went to the store after having avoided it for so long, and, although I planned to just pick up a few items for a smoothie, ended up buying stuff, instead, for enchiladas. I didn’t use a recipe, but then again, I don’t really need to. The key to good enchiladas are simple: cheese, onions, fried corn tortillas, green or red sauce and black refried beans to accompany it. I added avocados and tomatoes to make it a little extra special, because come on—cheesy goodness was not on my diet for today.

What about you? Do your days go back and forth from chef to cook? What are some of your “go-tos” when your energy is gone and you just need some fuel?

Srirachi, can’t live withoutchi

A quick meal that looks and tastes fancier than it is.

I had the best dinner I’ve had in a long time tonight—and I didn’t have to leave my place to get it.

Tonight Antonio and I both decided we had a lot of projects we needed to work on, so we decided we’d do our own thing, which worked out because I ended up needing to make a visit to a friend and, also, I bought some groceries last week that still needed to be eaten.

I pulled up a recipe from that I had already preplanned. I checked out the comments, because it only had received 3 stars. The comments were not great, which put me in a ‘mood’ while I was cooking. “Why am I cooking this?” I thought. “Someone already said it was bland.”

But I had all the ingredients, so what was I supposed to do?

I am so glad I made this despite a few negative comments! There was nothing bland, in my opinion, of the salmon with gingery green beans and bok choy. I forgot the bok choy at the store, so really it was salmon with gingery green beans and carrots.

The salmon perfectly complemented the cooked carrots, which tasted sweet with the added ginger. Being out of fresh ginger and garlic, I substituted from my spice rack. Green beans, which I can usually do without, tasted wonderfully with the green onions. It was a very quick recipe, with just a little pre-chopping and maybe 10–12 minutes of cooking on a skillet.

But the best part of it was the srirachi. I bought srirachi about a year or two ago after reading a wonderful article in the New York times about it. I wasn’t really even sure what to expect, but I bought it anyway—and loved it! I can’t say there’s cause for me to break it out often, but when I do, watch out! It’s a splendidly fantastic, sweet burning taste on your tongue. And it’s addictive! Try it in soups, on chili, anything that needs a real kick to it.

Try it. Love it. Let me know what you think.