About Me

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San Diego, CA
Self-taught baking goddess takes on the world, armed only with her kitchen-aid mixer.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pomegranate Cookies

Over the years, I've developed the tendency to build a community every where I go. Perhaps it comes from my small-town, everyone-knows-your-name upbringing that I navigated for 18 years. Maybe I'm just co-dependent. Who knows. Either way, I've cultivated a sense of family in some of the most unlikely places.

At the gym, I've managed to befriend those that see me at my worst--tired, sweating and grunting my way through a strenuous workout. Or, even worse, watching me air punch my way through complicated choreography that I can never seem to get down, no matter how many times I do it. We've gone from just casually waving as our paths cross to running races together, having happy hours and even celebrating a wedding.

At volleyball, again, a time when I look beyond terrible, I've created a network of fun, supportive ladies. Outside of Queen of the Court, our paths would never cross--we are unlikely friends, but all manage to cheer on and support one another on Wednesday nights. Our mix has a little bit of everything, from spunky college students to our everyone's favorite sassy grandma, Jean.

At school, I've built an army of minions in my yearbook and newspaper staffs. You walk into my classroom at any given point during the day and there are dozens of kids who call Room 516 "home." It's standing room only at lunch and I have to herd students out the door at the end of the day to be able to go home. Who would have thought that a classroom was THE PLACE to hang out at school?

Beyond that, my coworkers have become family in leui of my actual family, which is over 1,000 miles away. They question my sanity. Test my baked goods. Laugh at my stories. Tease me endlessly. And, most importantly, care about and support me. In return, I bring in a weekly rotation of treats to keep their sweet tooths satisfied. 

A few weeks ago, my on campus mommy brought in a box of pomegranates that one of her neighbors had given her. I was thrilled with the possibilities and set out to find recipes to put the fruit to use. After hours of research (damn you, pinterest), I decided to modify a cookie recipe and see what happened. The result? Deliciousness.

Chocolate Chip Pomegranate Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils (about 1 pomegranate)

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chunks, then gently stir in pomegranate arils.
  4. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for a couple minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quinoa and Asperagus Chicken

It's official--Pinterest has taken over my life. I resisted for so long, convinced that I'd find myself pinning for hours and accomplishing nothing. While the former part of that statement is totally true, I've actually found some incredible recipe resources through Pinterest.

I rarely follow a recipe to a T, I'm always able to find solid inspiriation in the posts from other Pinners. It's always a great chance for me to try lots of different adaptations and find stuff that works. Plus, finding quick and easy recipes has been a godsend during this busy school year.

This recipe, for creamy quinoa, chicken and asperagus has become a weekly rotation on our dinner menu. It's easy, delicious AND you can make it ahead of time.

Quinoa and Asperagus Chicken

  • 4-6 chicken breasts, depending on size
  • 1 bunch of asperagus, trimmed
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced
  • 1/4 milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the cooked quinoa on the bottom of the dish.

2. Make a layer of asperagus on top of the quinoa.

3. Wisk together soup, milk and vegetables. Pour of half of the mixture over the asperagus.

4. Salt and pepper the chicken breasts and place them on top of the asperagus.

5. Pour the rest of the soup mixture on top.

6. Sprinkle with cheese.

7. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

No Recipe Potato Salad

Pretty much every gathering I attend during the summer, I bring a heaping pile of potato salad. My friends come to expect this contribution and are always asking for the recipe... The problem is, I don't really have an exact recipe for the magic. I usually just wing it with whatever I have on hand and it comes out delicious every time.

This response, though, is not well received. I get an eye roll. I get a deep sigh. So, I've done my best to try and make a list of the staple ingredients that I use to make this magic happen. It's not exact. The measurements aren't really very precise... but it is so good each time. Feel free to tweak it and adapt it however you see fit!

No Recipe Potato Salad

2 lbs. of rainbow potatoes, cut into half inch chunks
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 onion, diced
1 can sliced black olives, drained
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup sweet corn (off the cob)
1 bunch rainbow carrots, diced
1 can garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/c cup white wine
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano

1. Boil the potatoes and carrots until they are tender, but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

2. Wisk together the wine, vinegar, mustard and spices.

3. Stir together remaining ingredients. Mix with potatoes and carrots.

4. Toss the wine mixture in with the vegetables.

5. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthday Cake Cinnamon Rolls

To me, birthdays are always going to be synonymous with Funfetti Cake. Oddly enough, I can't remember a single birthday where I actually had a Funfetti Cake... But for some reason, that is the flavor profile that prickles on my taste buds when I think, "Birthday."

I love Funfetti so much that, despite my prowess for baking and my love for all things cupcake, I will insist that my wedding cake be made of Funfetti. And none of this hipster, "I came up with my own deconstructed version of Funfetti," stuff. I want: From the box. Pillsbury. Funfetti. Cake. Seriously--this is a non-negotiable.

The flavor of Funfetti has been something that is popping up all over... Of course, they just call it Birthday Cake, or Sprinkle Remix or whatever, but it's the same flavors. The OG Funfetti is always the best, but these other attempts sometimes come close to hitting the mark.

Recently, we were preparing to entertain a group of friends for the morning US game during the World Cup. The menu? Easy stuff--chips, salsa, fruit, crackers... and, you know, cinnamon rolls. When the request was made for cinnamon rolls at 8 PM the night before, I was tempted to just say no. But I went to pinterest and found a solution. A no-yeast, no mix, no fuss recipe for (drumroll please) BIRTHDAY CAKE CINNAMON ROLLS.

Funfetti Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from a hot mess of recipes on Pinterest.com

For the Rolls:

  • 1 tube of crescent rolls
  • 1 box Funfetti Cake mix
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Candy sprinkles

1. Dust your workspace and rolling pin with cake mix.
2. Open your crescent rolls carefully and roll them out onto your workspace. Pinch together the seems from the crescent shapes on the rolls. Flip over your sheet of dough and pinch together the seams on the other side.
3. Melt the butter and mix it with 2 T of cake mix to form a runny paste.
4. Using a pastry brush, evenly spread the cake paste all over the sheet of dough.
5. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the paste.
6. Toss sprinkles on top of your brown sugar layer.
7. Carefully and tightly roll your sheet of dough up, leaving it to rest on the seam.
8. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
9. Remove your dough from the fridge and slice your cinnamon rolls into 2" spirals.
10. Place the spirals into a greased muffin tin, or crowd them together in a baking dish.
11. Drizzle any remaining paste over the tops of the rolls and add more sprinkles.
12. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.

For the Icing:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted Funfetti cake mix
  • Powdered sugar, as needed
  • 2 T whipping cream
  • Candy sprinkles

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Slowly add the cake mix.
3. Add in the whipping cream.
4. Add the powdered sugar, as needed, to form a creamy consistency.
5. Stir in the candy sprinkles.
6. Dollop the icing on top of your warm cinnamon rolls.
7. Toss some more sprinkles on top.
8. Enjoy!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tuna Noodle Casserole

It's not uncommon that people ask me where I learned to cook and bake. And when I try to think back, to my earliest memories in the kitchen, there isn't a distinct moment that stands out as the, "oh, I've got this..." point in time.

When I was a kid, I always LIKED to bake... mostly because I liked to eat. I remember getting a cookie cook book and a stand mixer for Christmas one year. It was a Mrs. Field's cookie book, filled with a variety of recipes for drop cookies, bars and fancy treats. I was eager to try them all, but it wasn't about the process of learning to bake--I just wanted to eat cookies.

In terms of cooking, I always watched my dad in the kitchen. He never followed recipes. He never really seemed like he had a plan. He just threw things together and they were good--most of the time. The left over Chinese food omelet was not good. I remember that. Perhaps it was because most of his meals consisted of a big slab of meat that there wasn't much to them. But I learned to trust my instincts and try things from watching him in the kitchen.

We have a top secret recipe for Chex mix that we make every year at Christmas. While the ingredients are scrawled on a faded notecard, they are more of a guide than an actual recipe for success. My dad maintains that you know the sauce is done when you take a big whiff and you choke on the aroma.

I also have vague memories of baking with both my grandma's. I remember being fascinated by my Grandma Doris's chocolate chip cookie recipe--which she had memorized. As a kid, this always shocked me. Her cookies were unlike any others, too. They were chunky and lumpy and full of chocolate chips and nuts. And they were delicious. They weren't the cookies I would have picked out myself, but I had no problem devouring them.

I have even earlier memories of sitting at the kitchen counter (usually with a coloring book or dolls) and watching my Grandma Dorothy scoot around the kitchen. I don't remember specific things she used to make, but I remember watching her confidence and being impressed that she seemed to know exactly what she was doing, even without a recipe or a box to follow.

One of the first things I remember cooking on my own was Tuna Helper. I remember carefully following the directions on the box, standing on a rickety watermelon painted stool in our avocado green kitchen. I remember carefully plunking each of the ingredients into a pan that was way too big and stirring everything together and crossing my fingers it was edible. But let's be real--I was a fat kid and very little in my world was actually INedible. But Tuna/Hamburger/Chicken Helper became my specialty. I was a pro at dinner from a box.

As I've grown up, I've pooled these experiences and let them shape my kitchen practices. Sure, I use recipes. And yes, I taste things along the way and don't necessarily believe that choking on aromas is a good barometer for flavor. I've gotten to the point where I know a flavor I want to experience and I can gauge the ingredients I need to make that happen.

So, to recreate my first foray into the kitchen, I have concocted my own version of Tuna Helper. It's like a grown up, healthier and tastier version, made from things you probably have in your kitchen anyway.

Tuna Noodle Casserole


  • 1 can tuna, in water, drained
  • 8 oz. elbow pasta, cooked
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 diced onions
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced potatoes
  • 1/4 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1 T italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1/2 shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 10-15 Ritz crackers, crushed

1. Cook the pasta until al dente, set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a round casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, soups, milk and spices.
4. In a large pan, cook the onions, garlic, mushrooms and carrots until softened (but not mushy).
5. Add the cooked vegetables and remaining ingredients and 1/4 cup cheese to the soup mixture.
6. Stir the pasta into the mixture.
7. Transfer to the baking dish.
8. Sprinkle the top with the crushed crackers. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
9. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, covered with foil.
10. Remove the foil and cook for 10 more minutes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Turkey Meatballs (And a winery adventure)

Another installment in the "Mo's Kitchen Escapades" lead me to crafting my own meatball recipe. After a day of wine tasting in the Temecula Valley, I needed something simple and easy to tackle for dinner. And as I mentioned before, I am also trying to systematically stock the freezer with easy to reheat meals.

Our adventures in wine tasting were incredibly successful. We visited three different wineries, definitely peaking at our second stop, which also included lunch. Lunch, though, if you could call it that, was exactly the reason why I needed something for dinner that would not wrek havoc on my very confused tummy.

The winery that we grabbed lunch at offered an amazing concoction--a sourdough breadbowl filled with melted brie. It may not sound that amazing, but let me tell you--this concoction was incredible. The amount of wine we had consumed may have also contributed to my awe, but I don't think my tastebuds were lying. They were rejoicing.

When we first walked into the winery, we walked by baskets that were brimming with fresh, hot and steaming loaves of sourdough. The three of us looked at each other, reached out and touched the warm bundles and instantly agreed that that bread needed to be a part of our visit. Generous pours of fruit-flavored sparkling wines (think: pineapple, raspberry, peach, etc.) and five tastes apiece that turned in to more like 10, we decided it was time to explore our sourdough future.

For $16, we received what I have concluded was bread and cheese nirvana. The sourdough was warm and the crust was crispy and perfect. Peeling back the top layer of bread revealed a buttered garlic bread layer, which thinly veiled the gooey cheese perfection below. The three of us had no problem putting away a bread bowl that was roughly the size of a soccer ball. And we were not ashamed.

We followed this winery stop with an impulse detour into a winery that boasted chocolate wines. We were intrigued when we had initially passed this winery on our way to our other stops. So, as we were headed home, we decided it was necessary to explore this chocolate option.

And necessary doesn't always mean good. We tried them. And they were chocolate. We weren't entirely sure they were "wines," but we did have a good time creating our own tasting notes. From spiked chocolate milk (or Bailey's), to stale Dollar Store chocolate, to Cherry Dimetapp and Boone's Farm and finally Chocolate Mouthwash, the samples were... eclectic? Needless to say, these flavors, on top of the bubbly, real wines and pounds of cheese and bread we had consumed, did not sit well. Turmoil was definitely taking hold in our tummies.

After some serious napping and several gallons of water, I emerged from my chocolate-cheese-carb coma and began fumbling around the kitchen to try and scrape together something for dinner that would not send my already unhappy stomach into further sickening spirals.

The fridge boasted onions, eggs, milk and ground turkey. The pantry had ample spices. It was an easy choice---meatballs were easy to make and the flavors were mild enough that my tummy ache would subside. Plus, I could easily make a large batch and put together some little pasta dishes for the freezer. Added bonus: I could take another power nap while the meatballs baked.

Turkey Meatballs


  • 1 lb ground turkey (lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian style)
  • 1 T garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 T red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. If the mixture will not hold it's shape, add more breadcrumbs.
4. Shape the mixture into golf-ball sized mounds and place them on the baking sheet.
5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
6. Toss your meatballs on top of your favorite pasta and sauce!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kitchen Pantry Enchiladas

Every where I go, I inevitably make a home for myself. Growing up in a small town gave me a need to connect with my surroundings and find friendly faces in any crowd. While I found this smothering when I was in high school, my move to San Diego for college suddenly left me craving the familiarity of my tiny hick town.

So, naturally, I became a part of the Residential Education program (working in the "dorms," for those of you who don't speak ResEd). I started out as a Desk Assistant and eventually applied to be a Resident Adviser... Before I knew it, I had recreated my small community, more than 1,000 miles away from home. Again I had the friendly faces in the crowd, the constantly available resources and the support system that I didn't know I would miss so much.

When I finished college, I was at a loss. No longer was I living in the residence halls, surrounded by other students who relied on me and needed my assistance. I hadn't anticipated that graduation would leave me feeling lonely and abandoned (again) and I quickly resorted to my old ways to try and recreate my community. I became a property manager for graduate student housing, keeping my connection to SDSU alive and working adjacent to all my friends in the Residential Education office. I stayed active in the halls, working as an assistant to Hall Coordinators and I was never far from my old ResEd friends. Additionally, starting my credential program (along with another ResEd graduate and vet) exposed me to a whole new community to connect with. While I didn't form as many bonds in my teaching credential program as I had during my days as an RA, I became fast friends with a small group of fellow teacher candidates in my cohort. I also found a family of my own within the school communities I started working in.

I learned quickly during my time student teaching that the connections you create with your colleagues can have a huge impact on the quality of your teaching experience. Sure, the kids are a part of the equation, too, but having other teachers to vent to, laugh with, talk smack about the students with, etc. is an important outlet as well. I was very lucky to be in two different schools that had create cooperative working environments among the staff. The Matador Pride program at Mount Miguel demonstrated an entertaining, good cop/bad cop, tough love approach to team teaching. My cooperating teacher team taught at-risk students in English and Social Science. When I was at La Presa Middle School, the grade level teams that the school modeled showed me how great of a resource other teachers could be, outside of the classroom. I loved the banter between my cooperating teacher and her peers during "Lunch Bunch," and I had so much fun being a part of the ladies circle that was actually our official "prep" period--even thought it was often a group of four or five english teachers gabbing while grading.

When I completed my student teaching, finding a school with an outstanding faculty community wasn't exactly at the top of my list. At the time, I just wanted a job. Any job. And what would I know about camaraderie among the staff based on a job posting or interview?

But it didn't take me long after being hired at Orange Glen to begin to build my own family. First and foremost, I found myself an on-campus mommy. My department chair, and coincidentally one of the people on my hiring panel, took me under her wing early on and made sure that I felt supported and had resources whenever I needed them. From day one, she's been on of the people that I know has my back, believes in me and is proud of what I have been able to accomplish at OG. As such, we've become more than just work friends.

Sitting and typing this now, I am snuggled up between her two lab puppies, while she treks across the world on a European adventure. I'll be calling Rainbow home for the next several days, as I house sit and dog sit while my on-campus mommy gets to have a much-needed vacation. And while I'm here, I'm making sure my biggest supporter is taken care of. My plan for the next four days? Prep meals that are easy to freeze and reheat and leave a freezer full of delicious dinners when I go!

The first on the list are "Throw in whatever I find in the pantry" enchiladas---and they were a hit! They are exactly what they sound like. I opened the fridge, saw some tortillas, an avocado and cheese. I stuck my head in the pantry and spied some enchilada sauce and chiles and black beans and I instantly knew what was on the menu. I'd venture a guess that the items I included are found in MOST pantries... So, you don't think you know what to make for dinner? Think again.

Kitchen Pantry Enchiladas
Inspired by  Mo's Kitchen Pantry


  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 1 T taco seasoning
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can green chiles
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can sliced black olives
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Cook the chicken, seasoning with the taco seasoning (or a mixture of cumin, chili powder and garlic salt). Once it cools, shred the chicken into small pieces.
2. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
3. Pour about 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl.
4. Drain all of the canned ingredients (except the enchilada sauce).
5. Transfer the drained ingredients into a bowl. Add the avocado and onion.
6. Take one tortilla, coat both sides with enchilada sauce (by dipping in the bowl).
7. Spoon about two tablespoons of the mixture down the center of the tortilla. Add about a table spoon of chicken. Top with cheese.
8. Roll the tortilla tightly and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
9. Repeat steps 6-8 until all the tortillas are filled and the dish is tightly packed.
10. Pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas.
11. Sprinkle any left over ingredients over the top of the enchiladas.
12. Top with cheese.
13. Cover with foil.
14. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, removing the foil with 15 minutes remaining.
15. Enjoy!