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BESITO: actually legit mexican food

Stacey Oswald1 Comment

I'm a big fan of Tex-Mex. My parents lived in Texas back in the day, so I grew up eating guacamole and fajitas on the reg. Plus, my favorite chain restaurant is Chili's, and I pretty much exclusively drink margaritas (and wine- but I'm referring to cocktails here). So yeah, it's safe to say that I consider myself heavily immersed in the Tex-Mex game. This also translates to Mexican food, but I've discovered that it's pretty hard to find authentic Mexican food that isn't sketchy AF. 

Enter Besito, one of the best Mexican restaurants I've been to that just so happens to be next to a mall. Typically, you find a lot of shitty chains and generally sub-par spots by malls, but Besito is the exception to the rule. I was struck by the atmosphere upon walking in- their interior decor is on point, but sitting outside on the patio is equally pleasant, thanks to the greenery, fountain, and hanging lights. I would definitely choose to sit inside if I came to Besito on a hot date, but I went with my mom, so sitting outside was perfect for the vibe we were trying to achieve. 

Their cocktail menu is pretty solid- hello margarita de tamarindo with a chipotle salted rim. I'm also easily won over when a cocktail menu includes a tequila menu. In my opinion, it proves that Besito knows their shit and can actually make a decent margarita. However, when I went most recently, we chose to skip cocktails and go straight for nomz, because it was lunchtime and I was ravenous, per the usual. We started with the tableside guacamole, which is 100% the move. This guacamole is next level, and I'm a sucker for tableside preparation. You can just tell that this place serves fresh, quality food, right off the bat, and I love that (I rhyme). Then, we went ahead and ordered three different entrees, because we wanted variety and didn't want to choose. Obviously, this was way too much food for two people, but do I regret it? Def not. 

All of our entrees were bomb, but I have to start by raving about the Budin de Mariscos, AKA a tortilla pie loaded with cheese and stuffed with seafood. Our waiter described it as Mexican lasagna, and that is a perfect way to imagine this dish. I'm a huge cheese lover (aren't we all?), and after eating this, I was able to discover that I'm obsessed with queso chihuahua. It's salty, a lil sweet, and it lends itself so well to melting. I definitely went a little too hard in the paint when I was eating this dish, because I had very little room left for our other entrees, which were also great. But again, did I regret it? Still nope. 

Also on the table were the Mixtas Enchiladas and the Calabaza quesadillas. Oh, and a bowl of soup that came with one of our entrees, which was very pretty, but just meh in terms of taste. I'm actually not a huge fan of enchiladas- I don't love corn tortillas or enchilada sauce, so I tend to avoid them. But our waiter raved about them, so I decided to branch out. These were stuffed with skirt steak, grilled chicken, chorizo, and plantains, and man, they were great. I blame the guajillo cream salsa (whatever that is) for completely making this dish. The quesadillas are a great vegetarian option, as they're stuffed with squash blossoms (cool, right?), roasted green chiles, and mushrooms. Oh, and guess what? MORE QUESO CHIHUAHUA. I was in cheese heaven. 

The manager actually gave me a tour of their kitchen before I left, which was awesome. I got to see everything being prepared, and I was beyond impressed by the fact that they don't have freezers. Everything is made fresh, and you can tell by the quality of the food. This is not your typical shitty mall restaurant, and it's also not some random, basic-ass Mexican joint. This place is too good to be true for its location and its cuisine, and I will definitely be back. See ya real soon, Besito! PS- how cute are the complimentary churros? 

review of SPROUTS

Stacey OswaldComment

Sprouts just opened up in South Tampa (on Dale Mabry, ironically right next to the Publix), and it's a game-changer. Think of all the best things about Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, add in a dash of Publix, and then put all of that under one roof: now you have Sprouts. I was shocked to find so many of my favorite items, from Rebbl drinks to Perfect bars, all in one place. Typically, I have to hop around from grocery store to grocery store, hoping to find a majority of the items I like and ALWAYS over-spending. I can already tell that Sprouts is going to be my new go-to grocery store, though TJ's will always have a special place in my heart. Mainly for their wine selection. 

I spent $100 on a cart load of groceries, which included some high-priced items (think Slow Press Chardonnay and 5 different flavors of Rebbl). I was overall very pleased with their prices, and I was happy to see a great many deals being offered around the store- note the major savings on fish in the pic below. I'm not sure how many of these were related to their grand opening, but either way, it made for a pleasant shopping experience. 

I was most excited to see some high-quality produce, including CHERRIES (my fave) and peaches! Most grocery stores around Tampa aren't able to offer good produce on the cheap, so I was beyond excited to find cherries at a reasonable price. I'm used to spending $10 for a bag, though, so it might not have been alllllll that great. However, their produce is a huge step up from TJ's, and probably on par quality-wise with Whole Foods. 

They have tons of fun, healthy-ish items around the store, and I plan to sample a ton of them when I have more time (and money). This time around, I sampled the Cookie Dough Enlightened ice cream, and it blew my mind. A big improvement from Halo Top, which I also love dearly. And while I wanted to try to preservative-free versions of my favorite cookies, I decided to refrain. I'm planning on baking my world famous chocolate chip cookies tomorrow, and I didn't need to have two delicious sources of sugar sitting around. 

In addition, their cold meat selection is on point. Bacon Lover's Turkey Breast anyone??? I've tried this brand's Buffalo Chicken as well, and it's fantastic. The flavor is truly off-the-charts, and it's made similarly to Boar's Head, so you can't even feel guilty about it. I was also impressed by their case of prepared food, as well as their salad bar. I plan to utilize both in the near future, because ain't nobody got time for cooking every night. 

Overall, I give Sprouts an A+, and I can't wait to go back soon. Like probably tomorrow. No shame in my game. 

mary berry's CHERRY cake

Stacey Oswald1 Comment

First of all... am I crazy, or are "glacΓ©" cherries not a thing in America? 

I've heard of maraschino cherries (obviously), but glacΓ© was a new one for me. Apparently they're the same thing as maraschino cherries, except they're candied in sugar syrup. Honestly, they sounded disgusting to me, and Publix didn't have them, so I went with the always classic maraschino. Also disgusting, but hopefully less sugary. 

 
 

I'm glad that this was my first recipe- it was super easy, especially because I didn't receive the abbreviated instructions that the bakers get during the technical challenge. So I kindaaaa cheated, but there's really no way around it when I'm baking my way through the show. Oh well! 

To be honest, I was expecting not to like this cake. As mentioned, I hate maraschino cherries, and the recipe seemed bland and overall pretty boring. But the result was lemony, just sweet enough, light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. Mary Berry was on point with this one!

I ended up baking the cake for less time than it said in the recipe- more around 30 minutes. I honestly would bake it less if I were to try this recipe again, because mine could be a touch less dry. Also, the recipe doesn't tell you to cream the butter with the sugar first before adding the dry ingredients, but definitely do that if you're making this at home. 

 
 

I got a nice distribution of cherries by coating them in flour, so I was stoked about that. Next time, I would also like to give the cake more time to cool before glazing- my glaze ended up getting mostly absorbed into my semi-warm sponge. But I was rushing to get done before teaching a yoga class, and there's only so much a girl can do. 

Below, you can find my version of the recipe, with those little tidbits above added in. You can find the original copy here, via PBS. Stay tuned- my matcha swiss roll is coming up next! 

 
 

Mary Berry's Cherry Cake

Ingredients: 
a handful of maraschino cherries, pitted and quartered
1 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
3 large eggs
for decoration: 
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Flaked almonds
More cherries (I didn't do this) 

Directions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt tin (any shape is fine) with butter. I used coconut oil spray. No shame in my game.  
2. Prepare your cherries. Rinse cherries in a sieve, then pat dry with paper towels. Toss in flour. 
3. Cream butter with sugar, then add eggs. Slowly add lemon zest and flour, then beat for two minutes until fluffy. Fold in the cherries. 
4. Spoon batter evenly into tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack. Seriously guys, let it cool. This was my mistake. 
5. Mix powdered sugar with lemon juice until no clumps remain. Drizzle over cake and decorate! I didn't feel like putting a ton of almonds or cherries on my cake, so I didn't. You do you! 

 
 

PS... don't judge me for my messy kitchen. I can only bake if I'm allowed to leave chaos in my wake ;) Thanks for always cleaning up after me, Paul! 

the GREAT british baking project

Stacey OswaldComment

I'm obsessed with The Great British Baking Show. And I'm not afraid to admit it. 

I have spent entire evenings sitting on my couch, completely engrossed with this show. It's easily the most pleasant, joy-inducing program on Netflix, and as someone who loves to bake (or used to, at least), I'm not surprised that it's become a favorite for me.

Back in college, I had dreams of going to culinary school. During my senior year, I got blessed with the opportunity to co-found a macaron business. I loved it, and it taught me so much, but it also turned my passion into a job. As the orders came flying in, I became more and more stressed out about making the perfect fillings for these little French cookies, and I stopped wanting to bake in my free time. 

 
 

Before co-founding the business, I baked (and cooked) all the time, completely for fun. It was honestly one of my greatest stress relievers. So when I stopped wanting to bake at all, I lost that outlet, and it made the whole process of making food a lot less enjoyable. I started ordering more takeout, and while I'd have my cooking sprees, it was never the same. 

When my eating disorder got really bad, food became a major source of stress, which led me to stop cooking completely. I knew that even if I tried, I would just end up in an unstoppable binge/purge cycle, and it wasn't worth that pain. All of my cookbooks got dusty on my bookshelf, and the only time my kitchen got use was when my boyfriend cooked for me. 

Now, things are obviously a lot better, but it's taken me a while to get my cooking bug back. Recently, I've found myself in the kitchen a lot more, and I think part of it has to do with The Great British Baking Show. Watching it has helped me remember how much joy I used to find in the process of baking- it was never really about eating the food, at least not at first. It was just about spending time alone in the kitchen, and letting my senses guide my creativity. 

 
 

So why am I writing about all of this? I had an interesting thought last week, amidst one of my Netflix binges. What if I cooked my way through the show, just like that one woman cooked her way through Julia Child's cookbook? I want more than anything to rediscover my love of baking, and I know my boyfriend is dying to eat all the amazing food I used to make. 

Pretty much on the spot, I decided to commit myself to baking my way through the show: I'm calling it The Great British Baking Project. Everyone in my family probably thinks I'm crazy, because they know (and I do, too) that it will be hard and time-consuming in moments. But that's the thing- I want a challenge at this point in my life. Grad school doesn't start until the fall, and while I'm working at CAMP as a yoga teacher and a blogger, I have more free time than I feel comfortable with. So I'm ready to work myself a little harder than I'm used to right now, because I'm craving that sense of purpose I get from being busy. 

I'm going to start from Season 1 and work my way through all of the challenges. I'll do an entire episode per week, so next week is "cake week." It consists of a swiss roll, Mary Berry's cherry cake, and miniature British cakes. Unless it's the technical challenge, I'll only use recipes as starting points- I really want to make the recipes my own, just like I used to back in the day. Because I have some experience as a food blogger, I'll photograph the whole baking process, as well as the end result. Hopefully I don't suck! Fingers crossed. 

 
 

I'm starting the day I come back from Austin (AKA Tuesday). I'm planning on doing the swiss roll on Wednesday, the cherry cake on Thursday, and the mini cakes on Friday. Paul's dad comes in this weekend, so I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen while he's here. I think he might enjoy walking into a house full of baked goods, though! 

I won't be too hard on myself if I end up falling short on any given week- life happens, and I'm prepared for that. But I am excited to get back into baking (and blogging!) and I hope that y'all will follow my journey! You can find me on Instagram at @cupcakesnkaleshakes- I'll be posting there most regularly. 

So with that... talk to you all soon. Like super soon. 

Xo,
Stace

making SMOO-GURT bowls a thing

Stacey OswaldComment

I know we've all heard of breakfast for dinner... but what about breakfast for lunch? If cozying up to some pancakes in the evening is okay, why can't I have a warming bowl of oatmeal in the afternoon without judgment? Seriously, try it.  

The other day, I decided to make a yogurt parfait for lunch, but I wanted to add in some extra nutrients. I tend to feel a lil guilty if I haven't had any vegetables by dinnertime, so I always squeeze them into breakfast via a smoothie or lunch with a salad. Since I'm so used to making green smoothies, I started to wonder if I might be able to use yogurt in place of almond milk and blend the mixture extra thick to make a smoothie bowl of sorts. I was suddenly so excited by this idea that I had to try it right away, even though it was only 11AM. I eat like an old person, it's fine. 

 
 

The end result is an amazing hybrid between thick coconut milk yogurt and a creamy green smoothie, so I'm deciding to call it a smoo-gurt bowl! I swear guys, I'm going to make this a thing. 

Read on for the recipe, and let me know in the comments if you try it out! 

Avocado Smoo-gurt Bowl

 
 

Ingredients:
1/2 avocado
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk yogurt
1 cup spinach
1/2 frozen banana
1 tsp maple syrup
1 scoop vanilla Perfect Fit protein powder
optional toppings: coconut chips, fruit, granola, whatever you want! 

Directions:
Simply blend all ingredients together and layer with toppings! 
I like to keep things simple :)