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Story and Photos by Carla Rodriguez

Growing up in a house overflowing with family members, Anastasia Zavala needed a form of escape that eventually led her to a devotion for pastries. As a biology major at St. Mary’s University, Zavala doesn’t have a lot of time to work on her beloved hobby.

“I love the school, it’s so small and quaint. Whenever I’m sitting outside with my coffee, I can’t help but be just as relaxed as I am when I’m baking,” she said.

“It’s a nice trade-in, but I still wish the school had a kitchen students can go to.”

Aside from reading and painting, Zavala taught herself how to keep busy in the kitchen by baking.

“One day, I was craving some cookies. As everyone was off to work, at soccer practice, or running around, I walked into the kitchen and just so happened to find all the ingredients I needed to make some.”

She began small, slowly making her cookies more complex.

After about one month, Zavala had prepared nearly a dozen different forms of cookies and wanted to venture off deeper in the world of baking; today, she now is able to turn any ordinary dessert into a mouth-watering piece of joy.

Awkwardly enough, if you give her a spatula and tell her to cook dinner, you’re more than likely to become good friends with the neighborhood fire department than end up with a delicious plate.

“Food in general is too complicated, or at least I’ve subconsciously tricked my body into thinking so,” she says. “Sweets can help any day turn into an even better one, so I would much rather bake a brownie than, say, meatloaf.”

Zavala considers flan as her favorite treat that requires a little amount of ingredients and effort.

She first taught herself how to make flan for a Christmas dinner with her family.

Since then, she realized how a delicious-caramel-dripping plate could come from such an easy recipe; it has become her go-to dessert for all sorts of dinner events with friends and family.

Although she has only recently begun conquering the world of sweets and chocolatey delights, one of Zavala’s goals for the future is to become the wonderful grandmother everyone sees on television: cookies always in the cookie jar, along with the main reason why her grandchildren have a mouth full of cavities.


  • 1 1/2 c of sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 13 oz cans evaporated milk
  • 1 T of vanilla


Preheat oven to 325°F. Pour 1 cup of sugar in warm pan. Stir sugar until brown and caramelized. Quickly pour 2-3 T of caramel in bowl. Blend eggs together with wisk. Mixing in milk slowly. Mix in 1/2 c of sugar, then vanilla. Pour custard into caramel bowl. Place bowl into a larger bowl with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bake for 45 minutes. Makes 3 medium sized servings.

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