Monday, June 30, 2008

Blog Awards!

Sorry for the delay, but I finally posted the actual awards :)!

So I have 3 more blog awards to give away, and instead of posting them 3 different times, I decided to give them all away at once! Who cares about the suspense! Don't you want to know who the winners are now :)?! Since I was nominated for the Arte y Pico award twice, I figured I'd pass it along to 6 bloggers instead of 3. This is going to be a lengthy award post :)!

I'll start with the Arte y Pico award. Lina and Sharon both nominated me for this award. You girls are really lovely, and I'm a big fan of each of your blogs :). Lina's been traveling around Europe for a few weeks now, sharing her fun travel and foodie adventures on her blog all the while! Sharon's blog is always a fun read...this gal is dedicated to making a great grilled pizza! ;) Read about her pizza adventure here.

The Arte Y Pico award

Flexitarian Menu: Who I know as cookingpanda :). Her recipes are always delicious and colorful. Every one of her pictures is mouthwatering. I love that she primarily blogs about savory food - she never runs out of ideas for delicious and healthy recipes!

The Sugar Bar: Rebekka is the same blogger behind Maple Sugar, The Sugar Bar is her new baking blog. I'm a big fan of the sweets she posts on Maple Sugar and look forward to the new recipes she posts on her new baking blog!

The Healthy Baker: After having some issues with her health, Sarah learned how to create delicious recipes that are also healthy. Even when she feels a little under the weather, she still manages to post yummy recipes on her blog :).

She Who Eats: Beautiful pictures of food and Japan. Her blog is a feast for the eyes :).

My Cake Wardrobe: Fashion, fun, AND food come together in this blog. What a great combo - never a dull post :)!

LemonPi: Because the cupcake on her header is so cute, I just want to give him a hug...and her recipes are also mighty tasty!

The Blog of Excellence award
Janna's the thoughtful gal who honored Flour Arrangements with this award. I was actually hoping it would've been someone else, because I certainly would've nominated her blog for the Blog of Excellence award! I love her comedic writing style, one of my favorite quotes so far is, "I'm like a birthday baking dj, except I spin icing and not records." :)

Palachinka: Because she can make even an Atlantic Meckerel look beautiful! I don't know how she does it, but everything she features on her blog is almost too pretty to eat...almost ;)!

Pretty Tasty Cakes: The name of her blog says it all ;)!

Baking Obsession: Just take a look at that Danish Braid! That's just a tiny glimmer of this blogger's talent!

The Spreader of Love award
The Culinary Princess honored me with this sweet award. She was one of the first bloggers to comment on my blog :)...when she's not busy studying for those tough medical exams, she shares her love of food with the world, one recipe and photo at a time :).

Fig & Cherry: Large and delicious looking photos are what bring her blog to life! Anyone who loves to look at tasty food will find her blog appealing :).

Gifts from the Kitchen
: From the sweet to the savory, She captures her love of food elegantly.

Kitchen Wench
: I have a feeling she's probably been nominated for countless awards already, but I'd like to recognize the way she shares her heritage with food. These family recipes are definitely made with quite a bit of love.

Congrats! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers June: Sherry Yard's Danish Braid with Apple Filling

I can't believe I'm actually saying this...but I think I might just have to take a break from baking! (It will likely be a short-lived 24 hour break, if that :D). Between the Cupcake Hero recipe and this month's Daring Baker's Challenge, I feel exhausted...well, that's not everything. To be completely honest, I just spent the last couple of hours making lentil soup, vegetable beef soup, spaghetti and meatballs, and baked chicken! So bear with me, this post is going to be a bit on the shorter side compared to my more lengthy entries.

I almost didn't do the challenge this month. After looking at the long lists of steps, I was more than just a little intimidated. But then I got that adrenaline rush; when it took over, I suddenly forgot about my baking insecurities and saw this as an opportunity to further expand my skillz. Yes, skillz...I do have one confession to make, though. I cheated...a little. I didn't make this dairy-free. Because I know that pastries heavily rely on butter, I didn't want to use the non-dairy replacement and end up regretting it later. Thankfully, my husband loved this apple filled danish pastry, so it's all his :D...he deserves it, Jose's been my DB kitchen helper. He sits there and recites the instructions to me. For some reason, things like this always seem a little less scary when there's a kitchen helper around.

I decided to just make one pastry braid. I didn't have any vanilla or cardamom, so I used vanilla extract and apple pie spice. I decided to go ahead and use the apple filling that came with the recipe, but I tweaked it a bit, adding apple sauce instead of butter. What else? That's pretty much it, I stuck to the recipe as much as possible and was thrilled with the beautiful results. (Oh wait! I did sprinkle a bit more of that vanilla sugar on top, instead of making a fancy glaze :). Yes, this is by far the most daring baked good I've ever made; I dedicated a good amount of time to the pastry, and made sure to throw in enough love so that it would come out just right.

I really like the idea of the braid, it adds character to this special pastry. I'm not sure that I'm going to make it again any time soon, but I'll definitely put this recipe to use when friends and family come to visit. This smells heavenly when it's baking! Imagine visiting a friend or family member and waking up to the smell of a fresh baked danish pastry made just for you :). (I'm using this as a bribe to all my friendly readers out there who are considering paying me a visit when I move to it working?! ;)

"Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard's The Secret of Baking

A labor-intensive pastry filled with apple and flavored with apple ...

See "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard's The Secret of Baking on Key Ingredient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trail Mix Cookies

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
was one of my favorite books as a really little kiddo :). I have to admit, when my mom let me choose between the book with the cute little mouse and The Little Red Hen, I had a tough time deciding which one I wanted her to read to me at bedtime. Decisions, decisions!

To this day, I still remember how much I loved it when my mom would read to me. Not only was it a fun and relaxing experience, but it was more meaningful and memorable than watching a movie together. Next to that, I loved dancing with her; I'd stand on her feet and she'd lead.

I plan on doing all these things with my own children some day :). These moments instilled in me a deep love for reading and dancing - two of my favorite things to do, next to cooking and writing, of course :).

So I now own the cookie-eating mouse! He wears a Christmas hat year-around; he's definitely my kind of mouse. My mom actually gave him to me a few years back. He sits on a miniature vintage chair in my living room, next to all the other kitschy collectibles that help make my house a home :). I decided to feature him in the trail mix cookie 'photo session'. The Doughboy wasn't interested - he stuffed himself with so many of these cookies that he couldn't move! (But keep looking out for him, he'll be starring in one of my upcoming posts.)

Now that I've talked about one of my favorite early-childhood books, it's time to talk about my favorite cookie! I am a huge fan of Kashi's Happy Trail Mix Cookies, but I strongly believe that if you can make it healthier and cheaper at home, then make your own version of your favorite treat! So that's what I did. Of course, they don't taste exactly the same; I threw in a few interesting ingredients, like crushed cereal and coconut - but you probably know why. (Jose and I are in the process of clearing out our pantry and kitchen cupboards, so I used this baking adventure as an opportunity to get rid of quite a few random ingredients, like cereal and coconut.)

These cookies taste like trail mix and cereal bars, but they're much more portable....who doesn't love that? Check out the ingredients. Pretty healthy, huh? No butter or oil!

Trail Mix Cookies

Almost healthy trail mix cookies! :)

Made with whole wheat flour ...

See Trail Mix Cookies on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pork Ribs and Barbecue Sauce

Don't you hate it when you have plans to wrap up a 40 hour work-week by going out on a fun date with your husband but then the car breaks down...when it's 102 degrees outside?! I do! But at least it's a lot more interesting when it happens in Austin, even if living here does remind me of being trapped inside of a convection oven (not that that's happened to me...yet :).

So why is it more fun? Because getting stranded outside of a flower shop can be quite entertaining, especially when one of the locals decides to jump into the flower shop's dumpster and climb back out with a dozen red roses perfectly in tact for...who?! Before I could figure out who, the flower guy took off in his beat up but fully-functioning pickup truck filled with a variety of trash-to-treasure goods. (The saying here is Keep Austin Weird - we practice what we preach. :)

This is what happened on Friday evening. Thankfully, it happened when the hubby and I were together. We couldn't help but laugh at the abandoned-flower-arrangement rescuer and...our far from fully functioning VW Passat. (It might be a cute little car but it has plenty of annoying qualities.) With a busted alternator, our car helplessly sat there while we waited for the AAA tow truck to pick us up and take us home.

Because Jose's full of good ideas, he thought it'd be best to get ahold of a mobile mechanic. That way, we wouldn't have to spend a ridiculous amount of money and time at a dealership while missing work and losing even more money in the process. It was a great idea; the mechanic came to OUR house Saturday afternoon, and just a few hours later, our car was good as new! The other silver lining? Instead of going out Saturday, I had the chance to stay home and make the juicy ribs I'd been craving for a few weeks now. I also decided to go a step further and make the BBQ sauce myself! I made sure to spend some time 'studying' a few recipes beforehand, so I wouldn't come up with anything too crazy; the end result was inspired by this recipe.

Stuffing also sounded good; I tried remembering what my parents put in their stuffing, but I couldn't remember all of the ingredients, so I added a few of my own. Only thing came out a bit flat - sort of the way cookies taste when I forget to add the salt! Here are the components of the stuffing, or dressing :): Cornbread, bits of black forest bacon (and the drippings), cranberries, golden raisins, sweet onion, carrots, celery, savory, rosemary, sage, a pinch of butter, olive oil, and poultry seasoning. I know I could've added some chicken broth...but what else is missing? Salt? Next time, what can I do to take this recipe to a tastier level? I welcome any tips! I know I said that I'd be posting a 'Traveling the World One Plate at a Time' recipe at least once a week, but last week I went out of town and this week...well, I remembered that Texas is like another country (and we eat plenty of ribs here)! :) Is that a good enough excuse? ;)

Pork Ribs and Barbecue Sauce

A juicy cut of pork ribs smothered in sweet and ...

See Pork Ribs and Barbecue Sauce on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chile Relleno and Berry Picking!

There's nothing quite like waking up early on a Saturday morning to pick your own berries! Yesterday, Jose and I took a trip to Chickamaw Farm, where we picked enough berries to bake the tastiest blueberry pie we've ever eaten. Jose did most of the picking while I played the roll* of the photographer, but I did manage to sneak in a few blueberries and get a taste. Well, I shouldn't say 'sneak'; Bill, the farmer, was nice enough to let us try them.

*(It's Monday morning. I wrote this post Sunday evening. I just realized I typed roll instead of role. I read the entry before publishing it; obviously, I didn't catch the 'mistake' because my brain is now wired in such a way that I subconsciously use food terms in place of other nouns. This is what happens when your hobbies and job revolve around food. No complaints here, though :).)

Guess what the best part about Chickamaw farm is? Well, not only does it have a cool name (it means 'sacred land' in Choctaw, according to Bill) but the owners of the farm only grow organic fruits...and catfish! Catfish?! Yep! Bill and his family have a pond where they've established a mini food chain for their catfish; these fish only eat the finest foods - other fish, not the nasty fake stuff - so they get pretty large...think 11 lbs! HUGE! Sometimes, Bill and his family take a swim with the fish; imagine how fun it would be to ride a monster catfish :D! I got that image in my head as soon as he mentioned the gigantic sizes of these happy and healthy creatures. Jose asked if he could come back and fish some time, Bill said yes! We're not sure if we'll be able to do it before we leave Austin in two months, but since we plan on settling down here in the future, we'll definitely go back to fish and pick more berries!

Ok, so the berries were also huge. As soon as I popped one of these tasty berries into my mouth, I was shocked! I took a bite of half a blueberry and then a double-take at the remaining this really a blueberry?, I thought. It was juicy, full of more flavor than any store-bought blueberry, and it was rich - rich in blueberry goodness. It was a blueberry. In fact, it was more Blueberry than any other blueberry I'd ever tasted (note the capital 'B'). If you're ever in Texas, be sure to check out Chickamaw Farm, especially if you're craving fresh blueberries!

After a fun filled day of picking our own blueberries, grocery shopping at our favorite market, and dining at a tasty cafe here in town, we still managed to muster-up enough energy to spend a good portion of our weekend cooking. We prepare about 4 meals on the weekends because we don't have much time to cook during the week; Jose and I enjoy coming home to a nourishing dinner after a long day at work, so we really don't mind all the cooking. One of the meals we put together was my grandma's Chile Relleno. Thankfully, all our hard work paid off...and I mean, it was hard work! To make these, my grandma toasts the chilies (or peppers, I should say) over a direct flame (so that the skin wrinkles and comes off easily); she uses her gas stove to do this. Our apartment is completely electric, so I had to fry the peppers. This was a little dangerous and painful...but fun! I don't have the proper 'frying materials' so I got a little fried, too...oh, but the meal was well-worth it. It certainly wasn't perfect; the peppers could've been fried a little longer, but it was a fun first try. Initially, I was really concerned about the egg white sticking to the peppers, but, thankfully, it did! We also ate this tasty meal with some homemade rice, beans, and nopales!

From the blueberries we devoured, to the tasty peppers we inhaled, this was a very yummy weekend. Hope your week ahead is just as delicious and fun.

Chile Relleno

My grandmother's recipe for a delicious, classic Mexican dish ...

See Chile Relleno on Key Ingredient.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Blog of Distinction Award

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely Camilla from Enlightened Cooking awarded Flour Arrangements the Blog of Distinction Award. It was an unexpected surprise! I felt honored to receive this award from Camilla, considering she's such a talented cook. She creates healthy and tasty recipes that make my mouth water; nearly each post includes the nutritional value of the meal she blogged about that day!

Camilla mentioned that she liked the design of my blog, I was flattered, but I definitely can't take credit for it. Sharnee is the talented gal who created the perfectly pink, vintage-cookbook inspired layout for Flour Arrangements. (Can you believe she even offers really cute free templates?! You can check those out by clicking here.)

Thanks again, Camilla, for this sweet award!

There are two other awards I'll be passing along in the next couple of weeks, but I felt each award should have its own entry :) here are the 3 'Blog of Distinction' award winners:

Celine from Have Cake Will Travel. Her blog features healthy, vegan desserts that taste amazing! I've tested out her recipes and they're delicious. She has more than a knack for photography; every picture she takes is flawlessly delicious!

Grace from A Southern Grace. I love how down-to-earth her blog is! She has a fun and entertaining way of writing about the sweet treats she bakes up. Plus, she knows how to make great pink cupcakes!

Emiline from Sugarplum. She has a real passion for desserts; she only posts recipes she creates! That's pretty amazing. Emiline has an unpretentious approach to blogging; her sense of humor makes reading her blog entries a real treat.

Every day I come across another cool blog! Choosing the winners of this particular award wasn't easy; thank goodness I still have 2 more awards to give away :)!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chocolate Bliss

You've made it through the middle of the week! Celebrate! Bake yourself a chocolatey treat, you deserve it!

Funny, but Wednesday is my favorite day of the week. Why? Because I can look back at Monday and Tuesday and say to myself, "Hey, I've made it this far. I can do two more days. No problem! Just hand over the goods, the sweet treats, and I'm ready to go!". I'm not as grateful for Thursday, though; it doesn't give me the same sense of accomplishment. It's right smack dab in the middle of Wednesday and Friday.
Thursday is like the day before Thanksgiving, the kitchen smells like heaven but I'm stuck in foodie purgatory - where tasting is done with the nose and eyes, but never with the mouth. Know what I mean?! TORTURE!

French Silk Chocolate Pie Part II

Chocolatey and silky smooth, but still rich!

See French Silk Chocolate Pie Part II on Key Ingredient.

So let's celebrate Wednesday with these chocolatey desserts! Guess what? I've even included a 'light' recipe in this tiny collection of rich desserts! The Mondo Chocolate Muffins are quite huge; they're packed with chocolatey goodness...and applesauce, not butter! But, if you're having one of those days where Wednesday feels more like Thursday, then you'll definitely need some powerful ammo to get you through the rest of the week. The Chocolate Fudge or a French Silk Pie should do the trick!

Mondo Chocolate Muffins

Huge, moist, and chocolatey!

See Mondo Chocolate Muffins on Key Ingredient.

( the French Silk Pie isn't that traditional; I converted the chocolate filling into a curd-like substance because I wanted to expose the eggs to some heat. I feel so uncomfortable serving folks raw eggs! EEK. I used the fudge recipe for a work-project; I basically followed it to the T - just divided it in half and threw in a few extra spices. As for the muffins, they're a Flour Arrangements original recipe .)

Fantasy Fudge

Rich and fudgey; for the chocolate lover!

See Fantasy Fudge on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Apricot Chicken Tagine...and candy!

Before we even found out that we were going to be leaving Austin, Jose and I still tried to savor every bit of this city's quirkiness. But now we're trying to take it all in without being consumed by the unbearable heat! This coming week, temperatures will literally reach 100 degrees; this past weekend wasn't much cooler. So, with trickles of sweat dripping down our faces, we happily made our way to the Big Top Candy Shop. The promise of candy and too many sugary desserts to count was enough to get me out of the house, despite the blaring afternoon sun. This place was magical; with treats like old fashioned bubblegum 'cigarettes' and chocolate covered bacon, any fan of old fashioned candy and unique treats would find it hard to leave the Big Top Candy Shop.

Even though it's nearly impossible to leave room for dinner after visiting a place full of enough sweets to make an Umpa Lumpa jealous, Jose and I still managed to have an appetite for our Roast Apricot Chicken Tagine with Cilantro Couscous. Full of savory goodness from long hours of simmering, tagines are hearty North African stews named after the beautiful clay pots they're typically cooked in. Our 'quick' tagine included a few dried fruits and a variety of mouthwatering spices; we used chicken as our protein and served the stew over cilantro couscous. Cooking this meal was just as enjoyable as eating it, since the spices gave off a rich aroma that made us grateful we didn't have to wait very long to take the first bite, thanks to this quick tagine recipe from

Next week, we plan on exploring Mexico with our taste buds. Chile relleno sounds good to me; plus, I promised the hubby I'd make it for him (after making that promise, he then said he'd renew his vows to me, even though we've only been married for 5 months. It's one of his favorite dishes :)! I know the perfect person to ask for this grandma!

Hope you all have a lovely and COOL week ahead :)!

Apricot Chicken Tagine with Cilantro Couscous

A flavorful and aromatic dish that's healthy; recipe from ...

See Apricot Chicken Tagine with Cilantro Couscous on Key Ingredient.