Welcome to my food blog! I am your average home cook and I want to share my love of food with the world. I'll divulge my recipes as often as possible. Feel free to comment or to email me at nodessertpodcast@gmail.com! Don' forget to come by often for new posts... I love having you visit me!

December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012 Special

For Christmas this year, my sister-in-law and I spent the Saturday before Christmas making sweet treats.  We made 3 different types of cookies, and she made an easy fudge.  I wanted to share the recipes and pictures from our day of baking Christmas treats.  I do not have pictures of the fudge, but it looked like standard fudge.

Easy Fudge
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 bag (12oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
1tsp vanilla
2 tbs butter

Lightly grease a 9 inch pan.  Heat the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Chill until firm. Lift out of the pan and cut into small squares.

Sugar Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
***items for decorating - we used canned vanilla frosting and a variety pack of Christmas sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375.  Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl mix together sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until well combined.  Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, combine well.
Drop teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 bag (12oz) milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking, soda and salt.  In a separate bowl combine butter, eggs, both sugars, and vanilla.  Mix wet ingredients into flour mixture and combine well.  Fold in bag of chocolate chips. 
Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

White Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup white chocolate chips
***These baked all lumped together, they were still good but very sweet and not so easy to separate.  Next time I will reduce the sugar and space them farther apart.

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.  Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing well.  Fold in white chocolate chips.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Also, I got a really cool cooking gift for Christmas, a pie maker!  It molds for mini-pies, and I have included the picture so you can see what it looks like.  My recipe for next week will be for something I make with it!

I've also included a picture of our Christmas dinner buffet, the theme was all Italian dishes this year.  It included lasagna, stuffed shells, shrimp primavera, a chicken in white wine sauce with pasta dish, as well as grilled sausages, salad, and garlic bread.  There was a 3-layer Devil's food chocolate cake for dessert.


December 20, 2012

Restaurant Review 12 - Panera Bread

Store Front at night
This post is truly a special one!  I am part of a program through DailyBuzz Food that allows me the opportunity to opt in to be a part of special tastings and trial products.  Recently I got picked to be part of a panel of people who will be reviewing soups from Panera bread.  I was really excited about this as I am a big fan of Panera in general, and this adventure would allow me to try some of the soups that they offer at Panera Bread.
Gift Card
Before I actually went to the restaurant, I checked out their website, which you can find at Panera Bread, to see if they had anything new going on.  Turns out, they have a lot of new stuff, including a whole section dedicated to their soups! 
They have several videos where you can see how some of the soups are made or what ingredients they use and why.  The chef in the videos talk about how they dedicate themselves to layers of flavor and use top notch ingredients.Quality is also an emphasis, such as making sure all the sand is removed from the clams they use in their New England Clam Chowder.  The food at Panera is made with love, and they talk about making your food fun such as by serving soup in bread bowls that you can tear apart and eat with your soup.  There's a page that lists what soup they will be serving that week, sorted by day, and there are certainly a lot of varieties to choose from!  There's a page dedicated to their partnership with Feeding America, and you can learn all about their charitable ventures.  These include the PaneraCares community cafes, and the food banks that now deliver Panera soups, plus their monetary donations.  Best of all, there's a game!  You can have fun on the site as well as learn about all Panera has to offer.  Check it out at
Panera Bread's motto is "Good Goes In" and I could certainly tell this on my visit to the restaurant.
Now lets talk about my visit!  I went to Panera on a Monday night.  There's a stand alone location in Apopka, FL which was five minutes from my house, That was convenient, and I noticed that even more convenient is that this location has a drive thru!  There are several locations in my area, both by my house and my office.  I chose to dine in at this location by my house because I wanted to see the layout of the restaurant.  The restaurant was clean and well lit, without being overly bright.  There was soft Christmas music playing (tis the season!).  There were people going through the drive thru, and several people eating inside.  There was one person ahead of me in line, but a cashier stepped up immediately as soon as they saw me and my order was taken quickly. 
I used my ten dollar gift card to order the You Pick Two combo.  I perused the soups they had available that day and saw I could choose from All-Natural Sonoma Chicken Stew, French Onion, Vegetarian Creamy Tomato, Low-Fat All-Natural Chicken Noodle, Broccoli Cheddar, Baked Potato, Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable with Pesto.  I chose the Creamy Tomato Soup (because I had never tasted it before and wanted to try something new) and the Greek Salad.  I also ordered a bowl of the Broccoli Cheddar soup to go.  The only mistake in service was that I had ordered the You Pick Two to eat in, and the Broccoli Cheddar to go, but my whole order was bagged to go.  This was remedied later, and I'll get to that in a minute.
Greek Salad
I received my pager (everyone gets a pager when ordering from the Cafe menu to tell them when their order is ready to grab).  And went and waited by where they get your order ready.  The girl working at the pass was very friendly and greeted me warmly right away.  The customer who came up behind me seemed impatient, and the girl was calm and patient with him explaining the process in which she was working and excatly when his order would be ready.  I found this to be a very nice touch.  My order took about 5 minutes to be completed and then I was off to try my food!
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
I found a table in the back to eat at where there weren't other customers because I wanted to be able to grab my readers some good photos without disturbing the staff or other patrons.  I unloaded my bag, and took some pictures of the food.  While I was settling in to try my salad, the manager came by and asked if I would like a real bowl for my salad.  Because of the "to go" mix-up my salad was in it's little take-out container.  I assured the manager I was fine with the container, no need to dirty another dish.  He asked what happened, and I explained how I wanted one soup to go but was dining in with the rest of my order.  He again said he would be glad to grab me real dishes for my soup and salad, but I declined, just touched with the offer by itself.  It's obvious that the staff at this location really does care about their customers, and I find that to be a relief in a time where so many places are worried about the speed of their service and not necessarily the quality of their products or their customers comfort.
Doesn't that look delectable?
But let's talk about the food!
I started with a few bites of the Broccoli Cheddar soup.  I have had this soup before and consider to be my favorite that Panera offers.  It was as good as I remember, with a creamy texture dotted by small and large chunks of real broccoli florets and carrot shreds.  It is cheesy and comforting and a perfect kind of comfort food.  I placed the soup back in the bag, to save for my boyfriend to eat with his dinner later.
Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup
Then it was on to the the Vegetarian Creamy Tomato.  I was looking forward to trying a new soup, and tomato soup is a classic.  Panera's version was warm and comforting, creamy without being too rich.  There was tons of fresh tomato flavor, a nice balance of salt, a good blend of herbs, and a hint of black pepper.  The soup was smooth with some small onion and tomato chunks to make the texture interesting.  It was a good version of tomato soup, and next time I would order it with a grilled cheese sandwich (which coincidentally is a new offering they have, the Big Kid Grilled Cheese!).  It is a good tomato soup for eating alone or dunking a sandwich in to.  Panera's soups are served with pieces of baguette (unless you get the breadbowl) and I was definitely dunking my bread into both the tomato and broccoli soups!
Spoonful of goodness!
Both soups are exactly what you want soup to be.  Creamy and satisfying, comforting and warm (which is especially good in these winter months, even in Florida it gets a little chilly!).  I believe both soups would also be good as sauces for meats or pastas, you could use them to make up your own recipe at home!  To me, versatility is key with food.  I love that Panera's soups can be eaten alone, as part of a combo for a good lunch or light dinner, or that you could take them home and use them in part of your own cooking to invent new dishes!
Baguettes that come with the soups
And I didn't know there is so many varieties of soup available at Panera!  A lot of restaurants may only have two or three choices available, but Panera Bread offers 7 daily, and there are 5 standards that are always on the menu, with two that rotate.  The Sonoma Chicken Stew, French Onion, Creamy Tomato, Chicken Noodle, and Broccoli Cheddar are your regular choices, but depending on the day of the week, Baked Potato, Garden Vegetable with Pesto, Cream of Chicken and Rice, Black Bean, and New England Clam Chowder may also be available.  Check out Panera's Soup Calendar to find out what's available!
I want to talk briefly about my salad too, as I had it as part of the You Pick Two option.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I love Greek Salad and I like that Panera has this available.  My salad had lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, black olives, and a pepperoncini, and came with a side of Greek dressing.  All the veggies were fresh and tasty, the feta was creamy and salty, and the dressing was a good blend of oil, vinegar, and herbs/spices.  Definitely a nice option!
I enjoy that Panera Bread has vegetarian and meat options.  Their emphasis on all-natural ingredients is also a plus, because when you're eating soup, you want it to be fresh and delicious, but also good for you.  Having options with protein that aren't meat based (example, the Vegetarian Black Bean soup) makes this restaurant a good place for taking eaters with different dietary needs/wants. 
I am so glad I got the chance to visit Panera and write this post for you.  I can't wait to go back, in fact I may go there again today for lunch (although it will have to be at a location closer to my office).  I urge you to go try Panera's soups, the ones that I had were delicious, and you might find a new favorite!

Cafe Menu

Bakery Menu

Where you pick up your order

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Tomato soup

Greek Salad

December 17, 2012

Food Truck Adventures 12 - Return To Apopka Food Truck Roundup

I have not visited/written about any food trucks in a LONG time.  I still love them and think they're a great concept, but my time has dwindled and I haven't had much of a chance.  I decided to embark again on trying all the ones in the Orlando region, and started by attending the Apopka Food Truck Roundup on 12/6/12.  I had attended the monthly Apopka event once before, last year, and now that I live closer to that area and haven't been in a year I thought it was a good place to renew my Food Truck Adventures.
There are SO many new food trucks!  All different types of cuisines are represented, from diner food to Italian to Thai and beyond.  I noticed there's a new seafood truck (TJ's Seafood Shack - excited to try them soon), plus many many more.   Attending this event were old favorites such as the Yum Yum Truck, Treehouse Truck, Monsta Lobsta, C&S Brisket Bus, The Crooked Spoon, Korean Taco Box, and The Crepe Company.  The three trucks I had heard of recently but hadn't eaten at yet included Simply Divine, Curbside Chef, and the Mangia Mobile. 
While I would have loved to try all four trucks I hadn't been to yet, I had a bit of a time truck and would only be able to eat at one.  I chose the Mangia Mobile, because that's the one I had heard the most about, and I've been really excited to try an Italian food truck after seeing them on shows such as The Next Great Food Truck Race.
As always at the Apopka Food Truck Roundup, there was live music and I wish I could have stayed longer because I really thought the band (Jeffery Lareau and The Waverlys) was doing an excellent job and playing a lot of songs I liked.  It was very festive for the Christmas season, with Christmas lights everywhere.  This event is family-friendly, and I noticed there was a troop of police officers and EMT's standing by to make sure everyone had a safe and fun time.  Kit Land Nelson Park, which is where this event takes place has plenty of table and chairs so you can sit and enjoy your food, and you can alos bring your own if desired.  Another big plus is that there's plenty of parking.  I really recommend attending this event if you get a chance.
Another great thing about this event was that they were accepting donations for toys to be used as Christmas presents for children in need, in the welfare system around central Florida.  As someone who works in the social services industry, I'm always in support of events that give children a chance at a better life. 
But back to the Mangia Mobile!  It is a very cute truck, and Christmas lights adorning it.  There was a good list of dishes they were serving including appetizers, soup, pastas, and desserts.  Everything sounded good, and I would like to go back to them soon to try their soup, alfedo, and desserts. 
Appetizers included fried ravioli, french fries, stuffed rice balls, and cream of potato soup.  Pastas included marinara, alfredo (to which you had an option to add chicken for $1 more), shrimp alfredo, gnocchi, and a special pasta that had sundried tomatoes, alfredo sauce, and sounded pretty yummy.  Dessert choices were cheesecake and tiamisu.
I went for two appetizers (again because I was in a rush) that sounded good and one was something I've heard a lot about but had not tried yet.  The first was the fried ravioli, which were round cheese ravioli that are breaded and deep fried and served with marinara sauce.  The second appetizer I ordered was stuffed rice balls which you could get stuffed with either beef or cheese, I chose cheese.  These were also served with marinara.
Note to self, as I get older, do not get only fried food for dinner, it's not so good for my stomach even if my mouth enjoys it!
The fried ravioli were done well.  The breading was crisp and flavorful, but the pasta was still tender, just the way you'd want it. Sometimes when I order fried ravioli out they are cooked too long and are too tough.  Not these, they were done correctly.  The cheese was a standard ricotta filling, and the ravioli, paired with a nice fresh marinara would be a good start to a meal.
The rice balls are interesting.  They are leftover rice formed into balls and have cheese stuffed into the middle.  They are then dredged in breadcrumbs and fried to a golden perfection.  They were crispy, creamy, and cheesy all at the same time, with added texture from the rice.  I enjoyed the cheese, although I'm not exactly sure what kind it was because it tasted slightly different from the mozzarella I was expecting.  The marinara also made a good accompaniment to these.
I would definitely try the beef stuffed rice balls the next time I vist the Mangia Mobile.  I'm also looking forward to trying their alfredo as well as their gnocchi, and I would also like to give their desserts a try. 
As always, the Apopka Food Truck Round Up was a good experience.  I highly recommend attending. 
You can find more information regarding Apopka's event at Apopka Food Truck Round Up on Facebook.
To find more information on the Mangia Mobile, visit Mangia Mobile website and keep in mind you can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter, the links to these are on their website.

December 5, 2012

Cranberry Cake - We Made Room For Dessert 6

If you're a regular reader of this blog you know I am not much of a baker, or a dessert maker (hence the name of the blog).  But around Thanksgiving time a friend brought me some pieces of Cranberry bread they had made for the holidays and it was so yummy that I thought it would make a perfect breakfast treat.  I researched some recipes, and decided on one I could tweak a little, and make it more like a breakfast cake.  I recommend either spreading it with cream cheese when ready to have a piece, or spreading the whole cake with a cream cheese frosting (extra calories, but extra delicious and filling!).

Finished cake

Cranberry Cake

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 4 tbs melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or you could mix it up using another extract, for example, almond or orange extract would lend a delicious and interesting twist to the cake)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 8x8 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Whisk together dry ingredients; flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk together wet ingredients; butter, milk, egg, and vanilla (or other extract).
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well until combined. 
Fold in cranberries.
Pour into greased pan and bake for 1 hour.
Let cool (and then top with frosting or cream cheese if desired).


Add wet to dry and combine

Fold in cranberries

Pour batter into greased pan