Bitter Almonds

Kaia Mortensen

Favorite Party Nacho Bake

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 20 minutes

Every party needs its salty snacks, and this recipe is always a hit! I’ve made these savory goodies for years, and they’ve never failed me. It took some trial and error to get them just right, but now they’re finally perfected. I can tell you with full confidence that this is a winning recipe! 😜

The first time I made this recipe, I was fresh out of college and on my way to a potluck at my new office job. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I was sooo desperate to win people over. I’d tried making cakes, cookies, brownies—you name it! But nothing was up to my standards, and definitely not good enough to impress the bigwigs I wanted to if I had a chance at rising up in the business world. Suddenly, it occurred to me—I was going at it all wrong! Everyone’s going to be bringing sweets, right? And trust me, I love a dessert as much as anyone else with a baking blog, but there’s only so many sugary snacks someone can eat in one day without getting a toothache. Somebody’s gotta bring the salt, and I took it upon myself to do it!

When I got to the party, it was an immediate showstopper! I’m glad I made two, because the first one seemed like it disappeared as soon as I set it down. It was so good, my coworker came up to me to compliment my cooking. We got to talking, and now the two of us have just gotten married!

The issue anyone who has ever eaten nachos knows is that the cheese develops a film if you ignore it for even a second, which is why a bake is better for longevity. No one wants to pull
lukewarm cheese off of soggy chips. A bake with easy-to-serve portions eliminates this problem while making you stand out for creativity. Just ask my husband! 😄


Easy Coffee Cake

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 45 minutes

Coffee is an essential in today’s world. I drink it every day, and sometimes even more than especially once lately, ha ha. It always feels like a shame to have coffee without something to eat, though, so here’s a low-effort coffee cake recipe to pair with your drink. Pay no mind to the amount of time it takes to make it—only about five minutes should be spent putting it together. Then you can spend forty minutes waking up and brewing your coffee, or if you’re smart, you’ll make it the night before you need it. I usually forget to, but I make this so often, I almost always have it on hand anyway.

I figured this recipe out a few years ago, and it’s been a real rock in my life ever since. All good recipes are either passed down or stem from a moment of desperation, and this definitely falls into the second category. Every baker knows what it’s like to be startled with news of surprise guests coming to visit and realize you’re low on ingredients. It’s a nightmare! There’s only one thing to do: dig out whatever ingredients you have and cobble something together. Sometimes this ends disastrously, but other times it ends in a delicious accident.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when my husband told me one Sunday mid-morning that his mom would be coming over after lunch! I was in desperate need of a shopping trip, and everyone knows I couldn’t very well send him to pick up ingredients, LOL! But with some basic ingredients I always have on hand no matter how dire my cupboards are, I managed to scrounge together this recipe. With a few tweaks over the years, it’s turned into a favorite of mine.
To any coffee snobs out there: I’ve been playing around with what to use to really make this recipe shine, and I’ve found out that Guatemalan and Colombian beans pair really well with the cinnamon taste! I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until recently, so I’ve had to learn this on the fly, but I’ve grown very fond of it! Happy coffee drinking!


Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 30 minutes

Life’s hard sometimes. I’m not making any bold statements by saying that, I know, but it’s true. Sometimes life really gets you down in the dumps! When that happens, I always find myself craving something simple, soothing, and familiar. It can be fun to lose myself in a complicated recipe to destress, but I’ll admit I don’t always have the energy for that. That’s where this recipe comes into play—it’s just as easy to make as it is tasty, and that’s exactly what I need some days.

I’ve said before that all good recipes are either happy accidents or family heirlooms. This one falls firmly into the latter category. When I think about growing up, I always remember my mom making me this chicken noodle soup when I was sick. My grandma made it the same way when I visited on cold winter days. If I had to give childhood a taste, it would be this soup.

Of course, it wasn’t only reserved for when I was missing school for sickness or for snow. My mom had this knack for knowing just when things were getting hard. Before I even began to express my anguish, there she’d be: soup in one hand, box of tissues in the other. I’ll admit, I spent many evenings crying into the bowl, my mom’s hand a firm, soothing presence on
my back. I was always grateful for it, but I feel like I never expressed it enough. I definitely should have appreciated it more when I had it.

I’ve only made this soup for other people a handful of times. It is by no means a go-to for entertaining guests, and my husband always complains that the broth is too creamy (what does he know about cooking, though, really?), so I don’t get a chance to break it out regularly at all. More often than not, I only make it if my husband is out with his friends at night, because if I say I’m making it for him, he orders delivery, ha ha. Men, right? There’s no winning!

Anyway, it doesn’t matter who I make it for, because now I’m sharing it with all of you. I hope this recipe can bring someone the comfort it always brings me. Thanks, Mom, for sharing.


Egg Roll in a Bowl

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 25 minutes

Before I begin—I’m terribly sorry for the impromptu hiatus! I had all sorts of plans for a recipe for a creamy guacamole that complements any Fourth of July barbeque perfectly, but it just wasn’t working out for me. I’ll post it as soon as I can, but unfortunately, it might end up being more suited towards Labor Day at this point. I hope this isn’t too much of a disappointment to anyone!! I know I received a couple comments asking after it, which I appreciated. It will come!!

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping most food down. Combined with completely nonsensical cravings (seriously, who thought bananas and bacon would be a good combination? Me, apparently!), I’ve been having a heck of a time coming up with anything that sounds appealing to anyone who doesn’t happen to also be pregnant. My husband has been
complaining about my “creativity” in the kitchen, but I don’t see him cooking! Though I don’t mind doing it myself. I have a funny feeling that he might just burn the house down if he tried, LOL.

This recipe solves all of those problems, while still being tasty and easy to put together. A quick meal of an egg roll in a bowl makes for a good source of protein, all while being tame enough on the taste buds that it isn’t too upsetting for my queasy stomach. Of course, the spice level can be adjusted for taste—Lord knows I make it spicier than this when I can stomach it—but this recipe has it with juuust enough included so that it still has flavor while still being gentle on the stomach. Next to the combination of rice, chicken, eggs, carrots, ginger, and cucumber, this is the perfect meal for anyone in need of easily digestible protein-heavy foods!

Here’s a little tip, from one cook to another: if you’re short on time or patience, try using a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store instead of cooking one yourself! It’s just another way to take a load off your shoulders, rather than getting everything together yourself.


Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 2 hours 30 minutes

Sometimes, the tastiest recipes have a big time commitment. A mousse can easily take upwards of five hours once time spent waiting on things to set is taken into account, and while it could certainly be worse (you’re not actively baking the whole time!), it’s a lot to ask for. This recipe is by no means quick, but it’s much more doable in my busy evenings than a 5+ hour time commitment. By cutting a few corners, the time can be functionally halved—but don’t worry, the taste won’t be compromised!
I know a mousse can be complicated and scary, but trust me when I say this one will be a piece of cake—literally! I usually enjoy a glass or two of red wine as I’m making it, and another two once it’s done, ha ha.

I was not at all a dark chocolate person until my early-to-mid-twenties. “Why would I eat chocolate that isn’t even sweet?” a 20 year-old Anna might say. I preferred milk through and through, and would sooner have picked a white chocolate over a dark chocolate. While I still love a good milk chocolate, I’ve definitely changed my tune since then. The introduction of various wines to my palette certainly had a hand there! I’ve spent countless evenings with a glass of wine in one hand and dark chocolate in the other. It is splendid.

This is another recipe I don’t make often. Thanks to the long prep time and my husband’s embarrassingly unrefined palette, it’s more of a hassle than it’s usually worth. He doesn’t seem to have ever moved past the barrier I did into liking foods with a bit of bitterness, and he’d much rather I spend my time on things he deems more “worthwhile.” Joke’s on him, because any girls’ night I have features this as a staple! Sometimes I’ll even make it for myself on evenings when he’s out, just to have a little treat to pair with whatever I’m surely drinking that night. Whether it’s for celebration or consolation, it hasn’t failed me yet.


Pan-Seared Filet Mignon

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 40 minutes

Steak is a staple of any good date night. I swear, there’s something in the way men are wired that makes them crave it like nothing else. They’ll be rooted firmly to the couch,
complaining about how long dinner is taking, their hard days punching numbers at their cushy desk jobs (even though you work the same hours!), and just about everything else under the sun, but put a steak on their plates and they’ll be all, “yes, my beautiful wife, thank you, I appreciate you so much, I’m so sorry I’ve been a total piece of work, I know it’s not your fault that the Eagles lost, let me make it up to you and take you to Paris/Rome/insert-romantic-city.”

Or, well, maybe not. My steaks aren’t quite that magical. A girl can dream, though, right?

Even if they aren’t actually miracle workers, these steaks come pretty darn close! Paired with a good side of veggies, it’s easy to forget you aren’t actually in a fancy steakhouse. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s all about the marinade. Searing it with olive oil, a blend of spices, and those side vegetables I mentioned ties everything together beautifully. It makes it juicy and absolutely decadent, I promise. Bonus tip—stick it in the oven with the veggies for just a few minutes if you’d like it cooked a little more thoroughly! Nothing too long, of course, but it does make a difference. If you’re like me and don’t necessarily want your steak to bleed like it’s still got a pulse, I’d recommend it. 😉

On the note of other red liquids you hope to see with any good steak, pairing this with a good red wine does wonders! If you’re interested in that, I might recommend my Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake uploaded last month for dessert. Talk about another good pairing! If you try the two together, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. For that matter, if anyone sees any real magic from these steaks, I’d love to hear about that too! I’ll be sure to do the same. I’m hoping this time I might see the miracle I’ve been missing. Cross your fingers for me!


Perfect Gingerbread House

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 3 hours

I’d like to start this recipe by stating that no, your gingerbread house might not take quite three hours. Honestly, you shouldn’t expect it to, unless you’re as much of a perfectionist as I am and are determined to turn each gingerbread house into your dream house. I’ll be blunt—this recipe takes time, patience, and practice to get right. That being said, I always feel like the end result is worth it. It’s both beautiful and tasty—what else could you ask for?

Growing up, I made plenty of gingerbread houses with my family. They were never nearly as elaborate as the ones I make now are, but the sentiment remains. I always made sure to put a little gingerbread family inside the house, even though they wouldn’t be seen with the roof on. The windows were nothing more than squares of icing marking the impression of a window, but that didn’t matter to me. I loved the idea of a perfect family enjoying their beautiful house, even behind closed doors where people couldn’t see them. I made sure to decorate with all the care and tenderness a child could muster just to make the perfect house for each and every gingerbread family. I always liked to imagine the gingerbread house was my house, in a way. I suppose I have never quite grown out of that.

Once you really get into building a gingerbread house, it’s easy to lose yourself in it. It’s a science, in a way; you have to make sure the walls are all firm enough to hold their own weight, as well as the weight of the other walls, the roof, and the decorations. If you’re planning on doing what I didn’t as a kid and make a see-through window, it’s a better idea to cook the gingerbread with a cookie cutter in the middle than to attempt to cut it. (Tip: fill these with melted sugar for a glassy look!) Striving for perfection is never-ending, but the result can be worth it.
The saddest part of a gingerbread house is how it ends. There’s two options: break it apart and eat it, or let it grow hardened in the air. I can never bring myself to break it. My husband has never seemed to have a problem pulling off the pieces, though.


Mug Cake For One

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 10 minutes

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and this individual mug cake is the perfect treat for a night alone. Not only is it the perfect size to keep to yourself, it’s easy enough to make a second if your sweet tooth is out for vengeance. You can vary the number of white chocolate chips for a sweeter effect, too, or leave them out entirely if you want to focus on the lemon’s tang. All in all, it’s the perfect individualized dessert.

I know, I know. This is way simpler than most of my recipes, and there are hundreds of other mug cakes on the internet that are much more efficient to make than this one. Even so, I can’t keep myself from making things from scratch when I can, and I feel like the few extra minutes of effort makes a big difference in the end. Take the lemon peel on top, for example: it’s not necessary, per se, but it certainly adds a little flair that really brings it to life. Plus, why not put in that effort for yourself, right? A little indulgence never hurt anybody, and if that indulgence also adds a bit of a zing, well… All the better, right?

Despite being a staple in many kitchens, I feel like lemon is an underutilized flavor, which is a real shame! It can go on meat dishes just as easily as it can be a component in a cake. Its sour tang and sweet flavoring makes it a tool that’s incredibly flexible. It’s multidimensional, you know? There’s a lot going on with lemons that goes terribly underappreciated.
When I make this for myself, it’s usually on an evening when my husband has gone out with friends and I’m left alone at home. It’s the perfect treat for times like that, and even better: it’s so easy to clean up that no one ever needs to know. Just a few little measuring cups, a grater, and a mug, and you’ve got a dessert that’s delicious—and deliciously private. If you’re worried about any comments from certain people in your life regarding your eating habits when those people have a much more severe proclivity towards sweets, this is a great option. I’d definitely recommend it.


5-Alarm Chili

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 45 minutes

This is a little out of my comfort zone, but it’s a recipe I made recently, and I found it to be exactly what I was craving. Sometimes when you’re just seething, all you want to do is scream. The second best option, in that case, is to eat some extremely spicy food. This, my friends, is exactly that. If you aren’t crying by the end of this, you haven’t done it right. If you’re lucky, it can mask your real tears of anger in a pinch!

I rarely have a chance to make spicy food, because my husband refuses to try it and then becomes grumpy with me when I have nothing else prepared. Sorry, I didn’t realize I’m supposed to cater to his whims and his alone! More often than not, I just make whatever he likes and learn to like it myself. I find ways to make it interesting, of course, but it can be dull and repetitive to follow someone else’s tastes when I know I’m capable of making so much more.

Today, I’m not paying any mind to his tastes, though. He can suck it up, quite frankly. 🙂
Usually, I give recipes a few more test runs before I post them. I haven’t had a chance to try this before, though, and I’m not sure if/when I’ll be able to try it again, so it’s going up now. I might upload an updated version of this recipe in the future if I make it again and decide it needs changes. As it stands, this recipe is pretty @!$#ing solid for a first attempt, if I do say so myself (which, of course, I do).

Another definite benefit to this recipe is that I was able to make it without much struggle even despite my freshly-broken wrist. Stirring is not too difficult with my non-dominant hand, and if that’s really all I need to do, it’s easy enough for beginners in my book. I’m certainly looking forward to the removal of my cast, even though I’m sure it’ll change very little in my life. Ah, well. Life happens, I guess. Hopefully, I’ll post my next article on something I’ve got a little more experience with and after I’ve had my cast removed.

Fingers crossed! (To the best of my ability right now, of course.)


Cheesy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 50 minutes

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m not usually one to take requests for posts unless I already have a recipe prepared. It’s nothing against any readers, though, I promise! I’m just a busy woman, and cooking for two is enough work without cooking for two hundred, ha ha. But I received many sweet comments on my last post asking for some sort of comfort food, and… Well, I wasn’t exactly going to say no, was I? Especially because they all seemed to come from a place of concern for me. I appreciate the gesture!
I’ve posted one of my mom’s recipes before, but here’s another one inspired by her cooking. It’s not quite how she makes it (it’s just impossible to make things the way we remember, isn’t it?) but I think it serves its purpose well enough. Because I can’t make it exactly the way she did, I’ve put my own little twist on it. Let me tell you: roasted garlic makes all the difference. I’m serious, you can’t go without it.

Despite the long recipe time, the prep time is really only something like ten minutes. The rest of the time is spent cooking the potatoes, so you don’t have to actively look over them as it’s happening. You’re welcome to attend to them, though—it’s easy enough to look busy while standing in the kitchen, even if you’re not actually doing anything. If you’re like me and the kitchen becomes something of a safe haven while you’re cooking, it can give you a full hour’s excuse to stand around with little more than your own thoughts for company. Sometimes that’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s nice to have that time to think, you know?

Once again, I’m sorry this recipe took a while to post. I received many worried comments, and I really appreciate them, but I’m fine, I promise. My wrist is healed enough now that I can comfortably attempt this, which was really what caused the delay. Mashing potatoes can be pretty strenuous, huh? Don’t worry, though: it’ll all turn out well, I’m sure of it. I’m hopeful, at least.


Raspberry Almond Blondies

Recipe by Anna Jackson

Make in 30 minutes

Friends, please join me in a recipe that I’ve been looking forward to a long, long time. It’s something I’ve made on many occasions, but this particular instance, I’ll be using a special, secret ingredient. I won’t say what it is, but you all are a batch of smart cookies. I’m sure you can figure it out. 😉

These raspberry almond blondies are a surefire hit every time. They’re easy to make, and they’re just the perfect level of sweetness. In fact, they’re sweet enough that you can add small but potent amounts of other ingredients, and all anyone will be able to detect is a hint of bitterness in the almonds. I love almonds, and you absolutely can’t go wrong with raspberries in any dessert. It’s just a shame I won’t be able to eat today’s batch!

I’ve been making this recipe for nearly a decade now, and I’ve only ever adjusted it slightly to taste. It’s hard to screw up! If you’re a big fan of almonds, you can add a little extra without overbalancing it. If you’re a raspberry person, a little raspberry puree on top after it’s out of the oven can do wonders. If you’d like to really go beyond and you have it accessible, marzipan can elevate it in fresh, unexpected ways. There really isn’t a way to go wrong with it! Today, along with my special ingredient, I’ll be working in all of these ingredients to some extent. I’d like to make the flavors really burst. I think I might add a little extra sugar to taste as well, though that is by no means an expectation. The sugar content is typically perfect—it’s only when the almonds are especially bitter that a higher dosage might be necessary.

These are one of my husband’s favorite desserts, and it’s one of the few things we agree on. It’s the only thing that makes me a little disappointed that I won’t be able to try this super-charged batch, but I can’t stay upset for too long. I’m afraid I don’t particularly want to try this secret ingredient. I’ll ask him how it tastes, but I’m not sure he’ll answer. Usually he just won’t ever shut up, but I have a funny feeling this time he might. I won’t complain.


Angel Food Cake

Recipe by Anna Carter

Make in 1 hour

Is there any food more satisfying than angel food cake? Its light, fluffy quality just feels like a victory, and I’ve always been fond of the fact that it’s rarely glazed or decorated with anything beyond a simple dusting of powdered sugar. There’s something so inspiring about a cake that doesn’t feel the need to hide behind the excessive sweetness found in icings. The dessert speaks for itself, and it says, “I know exactly what I am.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Angel food cake always felt very “adult” to me as I was growing up. It was only ever served at big events, and so it became something of a delicacy to me. It’s for that reason that I bought myself an angel food cake the day I moved into my first apartment. It wasn’t anything fancy; it was from a grocery store bakery, so it wasn’t mindblowing by any stretch of the word. Even so, I sat there on my floor surrounded by moving boxes and ate every last crumb! For the first time, I felt like a real, proper adult.

That experience, as well as the openness of angel food cake, is what motivated me to make it now. I’m in a bit of a transitional time in my life, and as I found myself surrounded by moving boxes in my new apartment, it just felt fitting!

Also, I’d like to apologize for my absence over the past few weeks. I have been just so busy! Living single for the first time in the better part of a decade takes some getting used to, and I’ve moved far across state lines. It’s all very big and exciting! If you follow my blog, you might know my latest recipe before this was for some nice raspberry almond blondies. I’ve had a few comments ask how they were received, and I’m pleased to announce they served their purpose beautifully. I still won’t reveal the secret ingredient—you know what they say about magicians!—but I now know I can keep that in my back pocket in case of an emergency. You

never know when you might need the support of a dessert that’s absolutely to die for. In that case, have no fear—they were killer!

About the Author

Kaia Mortensen is a senior at Oklahoma State University. They are majoring in Theatrical Design and Technology and minoring in English. After graduating, they hope to create costumes for professional theatre companies. They are from Flower Mound, Texas and currently live in Stillwater, Oklahoma.


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Frontier Mosaic Copyright © 2023 by Kaia Mortensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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