Almond-Raisin Pound Cake

"Calmness is the cradle of power." - Josiah Gilbert Holland

Have you been bitten by the travel bug yet? Maybe it's a mid-20s thing, but most of my friends are just now discovering the world and how awesome traveling can be. Actually, let me rephrase that. Most of my friends that have outgrown the crazy "I just want to party" phase are now traveling the globe and adding the phrase "wanderlust" to their Instagram bios. Some of them are road tripping throughout the USA, others are cruising around the Caribbean, some are hiking through South America, and others are hitting the main European cities in full splendor. I love seeing everyone's pictures, so I'm living vicariously through their Swarm check-ins and their Instagram posts. Like, I follow a girl I met a few years ago during Winter Music Conference. She's a nurse from Canada, but travels the whole world and has the best adventures. She's gone to every Asian country, bunked with Tibetan monks, had a safari in Africa, rode camels past the Great Pyramids, met with Indian shamans in South America, and even went to Burning Man recently. It's like her posts could easily be pictures seen throughout National Geographic magazines. I have another friend who a few months ago traveled through the whole of France and Belgium with her boyfriend for a month and everything she'd post looked as if they were a part of a Travel Channel special. Seeing all those pictures has given A and me serious travel-envy, to a point that we've decided that one of our goals for 2015 is to travel, whether it's to Washington DC or to Australia, some kind of traveling is going to happen next year, mark my words. We've already started looking into traveling websites and travel agencies. All we need to do is set a budget and set a travel destination. Any recommendations would be much appreciated! In the meantime, baking and cooking will tide me over until then. This post's featured cake is pretty good when accompanied with coffee or hot chocolate. The texture is a bit crumbly but still tasty. If I were to remake this, I'd add some amaretto into it or almond extract in order for it to pair well with the almonds that are in the batter.

Almond-Raisin Pound Cake
adapted from: CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown

*yield: one 12-cup Bundt cake*

13 oz unbleached all purpose flour
4 oz almond slices
3.5 oz California raisins
1 tbsp all natural unmodified potato starch
1/4 tsp pure baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/2 cup ultra-pasteurized half & half
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream
2 tsp "Crush" pure vanilla bean extract
5 oz unsalted butter
12 oz extra fine granulated sugar
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
4 large eggs

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Set out the ingredients and equipment.
- Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring.
- Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside.
- Measure the liquid ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Measure the butter and sugars into separate bowls and set aside.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl and set aside.
3) In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on the lowest speed for 4 to 5 minutes.
4) With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
5) Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don't wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
6) Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don't miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter's structure.
7) Prepare the pan. Spray the pan well with a nonstick spray.
8) Fill the pan about three-quarters full by depositing the batter with the rubber spatula in small clumps around the prepared pan instead of by pouring it into one spot. Level the batter with the rubber spatula.
9) Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
10) Once the top of the cake doesn't jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of the cake. When the skewer shows just a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.
11) Once the cake has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, remove the cake by inverting the pan onto a flat surface.
12) Store under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store longer, label, date, and store the plastic-wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.


Salsa Chicken with Brown Rice

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius

The other day at work, I realized how quickly the co-workers in your department can practically become as close to you as your friends and family are. Everyday you get to work, and if you have open and friendly co-workers, you get asked about your weekend or the previous night, how everything went, if anything cool happened. As time passes, you share your contact info with them, and your co-workers cross over the line into being your friends. Going to work turns into something fun where you can be with your new friends, and joke around, all while working and doing something you (hopefully) love. Having friends in your workplace can be relaxing and can make working an 8 hour shift seem like nothing. What's great about it too is how their habits tend to rub off on you, such as eating healthy. Most people at my job are extremely healthy. Seaweed chips are almost a daily snacking staple throughout my department. At lunch, you'll see everything being served from kale salads, to kale chips, to quinoa, to people strictly abiding to a paleo lifestyle. Heck, there are even a few Herbalife followers at the workplace. Since they know I love to bake and cook, they come up to me to talk about new healthy recipes that they've found, and they ask me if I know any that are great-tasting and easy to make. I've even had to branch out and suggest some gluten-free or even flourless dessert recipes. So, every time I try something healthy out, such as the recipe in tonight's post, I make sure to make extras and take some to the office, which is a lead-in into getting to gush about how great it was. This recipe was a big hit at the office. The combination of the brown rice with the carrots and the cream cheese-based sauce made this a definite go-to recipe for dinnertime. I've heard of several people even changing it up to make it even healthier (and at times unhealthier, but shhh that's just our secret). Since cooking with carrots was a first for me, I wasn't able to get the carrots to a perfectly tender texture, so I suggest really cooking your carrots well in order for them to absorb all the flavors and not end up as a potentially crunchy mess. I'm pretty sure this recipe can be adapted to fit healthier lifestyles and dietary restrictions, so feel free to play around with it.

Salsa Chicken with Brown Rice
adapted from: Comida y Familia Otoño 2009 by Kraft Foods

*serves 6*


6 slices original center cut bacon, chopped
6 small boneless & skinless chicken breast halves
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb baby-cut carrots, thinly sliced
14 oz fat free & lower sodium chicken broth, divided
4 oz 1/3 less fat Neufchatel cheese, diced
3 cups natural whole grain instant brown rice, cooked & hot

1) Stirring, cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove from skillet; drain on paper towels. Discard the fat from the pan. Add the chicken then cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden. Cover the pan and cook for 8 minutes or until it is cooked. Transfer to a plate; cover it.
2) Saute the onion in the pan for 5 minutes or until it is tender. Stir in the carrots and 3/4 cup of the broth. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Separate 1/3 cup of the vegetables.
3) Blend remaining broth, the 1/3 cup of vegetables, and cheese until smooth. Add the sauce along with the chicken into the pan with the original vegetable mix. Cover with lid and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Put the rice in a bowl; crown with the chicken mixture, sauce, and bacon.



"Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it." - Richard Whately

It's definitely sports-season on TV and everywhere you look. Whether it's football, or basketball, or soccer, or baseball, you can probably find some kind of game playing on a TV channel at any time of day. With sports comes tons of loyal fans gathering together to watch their beloved teams go for the victory. There will be tons of tailgating, group gatherings at bars/restaurants, and home reunions with matching team jerseys to boot. Usually, if you're not playing host or hostess, it falls on everyone that teams up (sports pun ja!) to bring a plate for the watch party, and finger food or quickly-made recipes are most definitely the go-to's. One food that's super beyond common are chips and dip as well as nachos, either with cheese dip or salsa dip that's usually poured straight out of the jar or can that it comes in. What if there was a way to reinvent the wheel? What if reinventing the wheel ends up in stellar nachos that are a far cry from the typical gas station ones we all have eaten at one point or another? Then, boy, you're in luck tonight. I can't even tell you how many times I've had to remake this recipe and share it out with friends and family. These nachos are sure to be a giant hit anywhere you decide to make and take them to. The flavors melt together in the oven and end up in these nachos being an addictive part of any great potluck. A plus-side to this recipe is that it can be adapted to meet vegetarian dietary restrictions by omitting the beef, which you'll see below at the end of the main recipe, and the beef-omission won't compromise the amazing flavors that star in this snack.

adapted from: New Cook Book 14th Edition by Better Homes and Gardens

*serves 8*

10 oz Tostitos Scoops!
1.22 lbs ground sirloin beef
15.5 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned mild thick & chunky salsa
8 oz sharp cheddar shredded cheese
snipped fresh cilantro
all natural sour cream

1) Spread half of the tortilla chips on a 9x13" ovenproof platter; set aside.
2) In a large skillet cook beef over medium heat until brown. Drain off fat. Add beans and the 1 cup salsa to beef. Spoon half of the beef mixture over chips. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
3) Bake in a 350F oven about 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven. Top with remaining chips, beef mixture, and cheese. Bake about 10 minutes more or until cheese melts. Top with cilantro and sour cream.

Two-Bean Nachos

10 oz Tostitos Scoops!
15 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15.5 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned mild thick & chunky salsa
8 oz sharp cheddar shredded cheese
snipped fresh cilantro
all natural sour cream

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