Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Albums & Music Discoveries of 2012

Can’t believe we only have hours of 2012 left. Crazy! Hope you are all having a fun and happy New Years Eve! This year just seemed to fly by. There’s a lot to reflect on when thinking about this year but right now I want to talk about one of my favorite things of 2012: the music.

It has definitely been a great year for music. Some of my favorite bands released some killer albums and I felt like I was just discovering new favorite bands left and right. Here is a list of some of my favorite albums and music discoveries of 2012.

Also, I would love to know what albums and artists made your list this year so please feel free to share! Happy New Years, friends! :)

Favorite Albums of 2012 -

Milo Greene – Self titled debut


Okay, so you might say that I have a slight obsession with this album… I’ve been listening to it almost everyday since it’s release. But I can’t help it, I simply need my daily Milo fix. This 5 piece CA band released their self titled debut album in July to much anticipation. Especially for those like me who discovered their music in 2011. But it was totally worth the wait as they created an album that is absolutely stunning from start to finish. You will fall in love with the beautiful harmonies and haunting melodies.

My favorite tracks are … well, every track, but if I had to choose a few: “What’s The Matter”, “1957”, “Take A Step”, “Autumn Tree,” and “Wooden Antlers”. If you haven’t checked out Milo Greene yet what are you waiting for?!

To purchase album click here

The Lumineers – Self titled debut


“Keep your head up. Keep your love.”

That’s a lyric from what is possibly my favorite song of 2012, “Stubborn Love” by Denver based band, The Lumineers. Their self titled debut album, which released in April, stole my heart. This album is pure joy, let me tell you! Everything about it makes me feel incredible. You can’t help but dance around to their foot stomping folk sound, beautiful harmonies, and heartfelt lyrics.

Even though without a doubt “Stubborn Love” is my favorite, with the lyrics making a permanent place in my heart; some of my other favorites include: “Ho Hey”, “Big Parade”, “Flowers In Your Hair”, and “Dead Sea”. 

To purchase album click here

Kimbra – Vows


Pop music made by someone with real talent is sadly an oxymoron. But Kimbra proves that it’s actually possible. For someone so young she truly has talent well beyond her years. When this album is on I simply cannot help but sing and dance along to every track. Her music is just too fun! The fusion of pop, dance, and jazz is infectious.

My favorite tracks are, “Good Intent”, “Something In The Way You Are”, “Two Way Street”, and “Posse”. “Vows” is on constant rotation in my cd player, it’s an album that I don’t even think it’s possible for me to get tired of.

To purchase album click here

Anberlin – Vital


Anberlin just released their 6th studio album, Vital, in October. When I heard a few songs from the album on YouTube last month my first thought was, “Yes! Finally! This is what I’ve been waiting for from them!”.  I seriously haven’t loved an album from them this much since “Cities”, which is my favorite Anberlin album. “Cities” set the bar pretty high for me not only because every song is amazing but also because it walked with me through a very tough time in my life. So it means a lot to me. And in my opinion their last two albums just weren’t quite up to par, but this one… is. so. awesome.

Though I just received this cd as a Christmas gift from my sister it hasn’t left my cd player since. I can’t get enough. My favorite tracks are “Self Starter”, “Someone Anyone'”, “Modern Age”, & “God, Drugs, & Sex”. Be sure to give Vital a listen, it’s truly Anberlin at their very best.

To purchase album click here

Sucre – A Minor Bird


Three incredible musicians whom I’ve loved individually for a longtime came together and recorded an album and it’s, in a word, breathtaking! Stacy Dupree King (Eisley), Darren King (MUTEMATH), and Jeremy Larson make up the stunning combination that is Sucre. With Stacy’s angelic vocals, Darren's crazy beats, and Jeremy’s beautiful string arrangements they have created one of the most dreamy, ethereal, and magical albums I’ve ever heard,

My favorite tracks are “When We Were Young”, “Chemical Reaction”, “Stampede” and “Say Something”. Be sure to pick up “A Minor Bird” if you haven’t already.

To purchase album click here

Favorite Music Discoveries of 2012:

The Lumineers


Though there were a lot of good music discoveries made in 2012, I think these guys may be my favorite. Here’s the song that made me a fan: “Stubborn Love”.

St. Vincent


Even though St. Vincent has been around for a while I just discovered her music this year and was blown away. The first time I watched the incomparable Annie Clark play guitar my jaw was on the floor. Seriously, this girl can shred! Watching her play, her fingers flying across the fretboard, is thrilling but also fills me with a deep sense of regret… like why didn’t I lock myself in my room for ten hours a day practicing guitar just so I could play half as good as Annie? And yet even after taking lessons off & on during my teens years and early 20’s, here I sit only remembering like 4 chords. Ugh! But I digress.

She has become my favorite female artist not only because of her mad guitar skills but also because of the diversity of her music. It ranges from pretty and ethereal pop, to gritty rock, to almost ambient & electronic in sound. If you’ve never heard St. Vincent check out this video of her performing her song “Surgeon”. The guitar riff in this song is insane… I can’t even.

The Paper Kites

the paper kites

Oh what to say about The Paper Kites…you just have to experience them for yourself. And it is an experience. Just put on their music, close your eyes, and prepare to be taken to a far away land. They make some of the most magical music you will ever hear. Check out my favorite Paper Kites song: “Bloom”.

The Vespers


Two sisters and two brothers meet at a camp fire jam session and the rest as they say is history. They make bluegrass/folk music with faith tinged lyrics that you can feel in your soul. Plus, these girls can sing! Check out their their rendition of Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face".

The Head & The Heart


These guys are seriously so good! I fell in love with their music after hearing the song “Rivers & Roads” on YouTube one night. This song is not only beautiful but I just felt like it summed up everything I’d been thinking and feeling throughout the year.

Kimbra -


I keep forgetting that I just discovered her music this year after seeing her in, what else, Gotye’s video for ‘Somebody That I Used To Know” last January. Feels like I’ve been listening to her forever. I actually ended up becoming more of a fan of hers than Gotye’s. Can’t remember when pop music sounded this good. Here’s one of my Kimbra favorites: “Good Intent”.

Family of the Year -


Just discovered this band from Los Angeles in the summer and have been loving their music ever since. Their song “St Croix” was the song I pretty much wore out all summer long… my summer jam, if you will. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Saltine Cracker English Toffee & Christmas Playlist #2

Yes, English Toffee with saltine crackers! I know it may sound a bit strange but it’s seriously so delish! Every Christmas I attempt to make toffee and every Christmas it turns out chip your tooth hard. So I was excited when I saw this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a shot. It’s the easiest toffee I’ve ever made! And the best part, it’s so good and you won’t break a tooth while eating it (which is success in my book). It has the perfect chewy yet slightly crunchy texture.

Hope you give this a try before the season is over. It would make a lovely Christmas gift! :)

Saltine Cracker English Toffee -



(Recipe found @

40 salted saltine crackers
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used peanuts, you can use whatever kind you like)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a large jelly roll pan (mine was 15x10") with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Lay the saltine crackers evenly on the pan (I put mine really close together so that they were touching).

In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and let it boil for three minutes without stirring. After three minutes, pour the hot brown sugar mixture evenly over the saltine crackers.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips across the toffee. Let them melt for a couple of minutes and then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly across the toffee (like frosting).

Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of the melted chocolate. Let the toffee and chocolate cool completely (I put mine in the fridge to help it set up quickly). Break the toffee into bite-size pieces.

To store, keep in an air-tight container for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for a couple of months.

Christmas 2012 Playlist #2 -


Christmas2 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Desserts – Tiramisu

My first foray into Tiramisu making was a few years ago on Christmas Eve when my sister and I decided to take on this lovely dessert. It had become a favorite of ours and was the only dessert we would order anytime we ate at Olive Garden. And well, we were audacious baker’s and thought if Olive Garden could make delish Tiramisu so could we… yeah, not so much. Oh how naive we were! Let’s just say it didn’t quite turn out like theirs. Though they have access to all the right ingredients… we did not (yep, that’s my story & I’m sticking to it. ;))

I would say that the espresso is one of the most important ingredients in Tiramisu, wouldn’t you agree? Well we did not have any espresso nor any way of making espresso. So we did the only thing we could think to do at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve … we went to Sonic &, much to the utter confusion of the car hop, ordered like 7 or more shots of espresso. Yes, we used Sonic espresso in our Tiramisu. There’s a dirty little secret for ya!

We also accidentally bought chocolate mascarpone cheese and used the spongy type ladyfingers that got soggy & fell apart the second they touched the espresso. Thus the espresso leaked out into the pan and made the whole thing a soggy mess. Needless to say, after that we decided to leave the Tiramisu making up to the experts.

I did however make a Tiramisu Trifle last year and while it was good you just can’t beat the real thing. So a few months ago while out grocery shopping I serendipitously stumbled upon the right kind of lady fingers I needed for Tiramisu and decided on a whim that it was time. I actually ended up using the recipe on the back of the lady fingers (Alessi Savoiardi Cookies) and it turned out so beyond amazing!! Just as good if not better than Olive Garden’s, in my opinion. Yes, it was a Tiramisu to be proud of!

Tiramisu -


This dessert may take a little more time and effort than others but it’s totally worth it! And yes, it may seem just a bit intimidating but as long as you follow the directions and have the right ingredients you should be just fine.

The Zabaglione Cream (I always feel so Italian when I say that, so Giada De Laurentiis, if you will) is the base for our filling and starts by cooking egg yolks in a double broiler. Combining this with the mascarpone cheese and egg whites whipped until stiff peaks is what makes for the amazingly rich and creamy filling.

We then make our espresso and line the lady fingers in a pan. And instead of dunking each lady finger into the espresso mixture, which could cause them to fall apart (a major problem for me last time), you just pour a tbsp. full on each lady finger. Then it’s the easy part, as you just layer and then dust with cocoa powder or shave on chocolate curls (or both). Refrigerate and voila, a luscious and fancy dessert!

Lady fingers soaked with espresso, creamy mascarpone cheese filling with a light dusting of cocoa powder on top? Yes, please! It’s an elegant dessert that would be perfect for this time of year… or any time of the year for that matter. :)

Zabaglione Cream -
5 large egg yolks, from large grade eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup marsala
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
4 tablespoons sugar
1 lb. mascarpone cheese
2 cups freshly brewed espresso or 2 cups strong coffee
1/2 cup brandy or 1/2 cup marsala
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 (14 ounce) packages Alessi Savoiardi cookies
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
chocolate curls or fresh edible flower (to garnish) (optional)

Zabaglione Cream: In the top part of a double boiler, beat eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow in color.

In the bottom part of the double boiler, bring water to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Place egg yolk mixture over water and gradually add Marsala, beating continuously. Scrape bottom and sides of pan occasionally and cook 6 to 10 minutes or until soft mounds can be formed. Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Whip cream with 2 Tbsp. sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in Mascarpone and Zabaglione and mix until well blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

In a separate bowl, mix espresso, 2 Tbsp. sugar, Marsala and vanilla. Arrange cookies on the bottom of a 9" by 13" pan. Carefully spoon about 1 Tbsp. of the coffee mixture over each cookie so they are well saturated but not falling apart. Spoon 1/2 cheese mixture over cookies and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. cocoa. Repeat one more time ending with cocoa.

Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight so that cookies can soften as they absorb moisture. Garnish and serve. (Serves 12)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas 2012 Playlist


I don't think there's anything about this time of year that I don't love. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. There are just so many special things to enjoy about the season; the decorations, the food, movies, hot chocolate, time with friends & family, celebrating our Saviors birth... and of course, the music. I admittedly am one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music in October. I just can't help it... and by that point, I think I've waited long enough. There are so many favorites; from old staples to originals that have become yearly traditions. These songs hold special Christmas memories and always make the season brighter.

Below I have put together a playlist of some of my very favorite Christmas songs to share with you guys! Hope you enjoy listening and that you have a very merry Christmas! :)

Christmas 2012 Playlist -

TW Christmas Playlist 2012 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark


Friday, December 14, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday–Holiday Edition


Linking up with Lauren from The Little Things We Do for Fill In The Blank Friday! :)

1. When it comes to holiday shopping, I am usually a last minute-two days before Christmas shopper. But this year I’m happy to report that I’ve actually gotten most of it done early! Just a few more things to pick up next week & I’ll be done. Which is good because I honestly think that nothing can kill your Christmas spirit faster than trying to navigate through a mall on Christmas Eve.

2. A few things on my Christmas wish list are... this lovely drawing to hang on my wall done by the very talented Sherri Dupree Bemis of Eisley. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen by Molly Wizenberg. And Anberln’s new album “Vital”.

3. An intangible gift I would like to receive is courage.

4. A gift I would like to give this year is my time, love, forgiveness, and friendship.

5. My Christmas will be spent at home with my parents! My mom & I will be doing the cooking and I can’t wait. Cooking for the holidays is one of my very favorite things in the world.

6. My most favorite Christmas gift of all time was a pink acoustic/electric guitar my parents bought me like 5 or 6 years ago. It‘s so beautiful, I still love it. Okay, so I really never learned to play it that well lol (wonder if Santa is giving out guitar lessons for Christmas ;)) but it was still the best Christmas gift I ever received.

7. The best thing about the holidays is everything. There is nothing about this holiday I don’t love. The music, the movies, the decorations, the food, the cold weather, hot chocolate. Time with family and friends. And of course all that this holiday means to me as a follower of Christ.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Desserts - Cookie Dough Crème Brulee

Oh yes, you read that right! Let me tell you, this is one evil dessert! The first time I ever tried Crème Brulee was at a cute and cozy café in Sugarland, TX after Christmas shopping with my family when I was about 17 years old. Sitting by a warm fireplace with Christmas music playing in the background, and eating lovely Caramel Crème Brulee felt so fancy shamcy. Yes, this French dessert made my goofy 17 year old self feel so sophisticated…ooh la la. But the best part? It was so crazy delish!

After that I became somewhat obsessed with wanting to make Crème Brulee at home but was a little nervous because such a fancy dessert had to be super complicated, right? Plus it involved using a torch… yeah, me + a torch = potential disaster.  So there it sat on my “To Bake” list (yes, I have one those…don’t judge) for years. Revered. Honored. Feared. I knew it would take something special to come along one day to give me the push and courage I needed to finally step out and conquer the almighty Crème Brulee.

And it came, it came in the form of a recipe. A recipe I found on Pinterest (where else?) a few months ago for (drum roll) ... Cookie Dough Crème Brulee!

Crème Brulee that involved one of my ultimate guilty pleasures in this world?! Yes, please! This was the push I had been waiting for, folks, and I knew I had to attempt it a.s.a.p. Turns out Crème Brulee (which means burnt cream in French) is actually one of the easiest desserts you will ever make… and you don’t even need a torch to make it. Though I must admit, I have a crazy urge to use one next time (insert evil laugh here). ;)

Cookie Dough Crème Brulee - 005

(Recipe from

So I don’t know about you but I will eat just about anything if the words “cookie dough” are present. Though this was not always the case. I will admit I used to think that people just ate cookie dough because it seemed like a “cool” thing to do. This for some reason seemed like a very “trendy” & “popular” thing to do in the 90’s  … right along with those silly tiny backpacks that every girl had to have and wear over one shoulder. Remember those? A trend that much to my mom’s disappointment I would not take any part of, no matter how hard she tried to get me to. Because I was an anti-conformist. And anything that was supposedly “cool” was something I wanted no part of. Yes, I was one of those kids. But anyways, I digress.

But now I think I may be making up for lost time… because whenever I make chocolate chip cookies it takes all the self control I have not to eat all the dough. (I’m serious, it’s like freakin’ salmonella feast…it’s bad.) So needless to say, this was the Crème Brulee of my dreams. And the cookie dough in this dessert is eggless so feel free to go to town… just leave some for the Crème Brulee. ;)

A thick & gooey layer of chocolate chip cookie dough on the bottom, a luscious & creamy custard in the middle, and a crispy layer of caramelized sugar on top. Getting all three layers on a spoon is the only way to experience this wonderful flavor combination.


Like I said it’s super easy to make and fast as well. The longest part of this whole process is the baking and cooling time. If you are using your oven to caramelize the sugar like I did, know that it works great, but be sure to keep a close eye on it as it can go from caramelized to burnt rather quickly.

This dessert would make a lovely addition to your Christmas dinner and a great way to wow your guests. I hope you try making Crème Brulee for yourself… way sooner than I did. Bon appetite! :)



4 (3oz) creme brûlée ramekins

For Cookie Dough -

1/2 stick unsalted butter- room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For Custard -

3/4 cup of heavy cream

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup of turbinado or granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 300. Grab a pot and bring about 2 cups of water to boil, this will be used as a water bath for the brûlée later.

Ready for dough? Using your beater attachment, beat the butter & sugars together on medium until light and fluffy. About 2-3 minutes. Then add in the milk and vanilla. Turn it down to low speed, and add the flour and salt. Take a spoon and enjoy a taste. Now spread thin layer of 1 heaping tablespoon of the dough on the bottom of each ramekin. Press 1/2 tablespoon of chocolate chips on to the dough of each ramekin. Set aside.

Custard Time! Grab a sauce pan and heat the heavy cream until it starts to steam, do not let it boil. In the meantime whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light in color. About 1-2 minutes. Now, carefully pour the warmed cream, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking vigorously until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla, and skim off any foam from the mixture. Pour the foam free custard into the ramekins.

In a deep baking pan arrange the ramekins, they should be spread apart with room for the water bath. Carefully pour enough boiling water unto the side of the baking pan so it fills up about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the custard is almost set. The centers should be a little jiggly. Remove them from the water bath and let them cool at room temperature. After they cool completely, cover each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hrs or overnight.

That crunchy topping Remove from the fridge, unwrap, and sprinkle 1 generous tablespoon turbinado or granulated sugar evenly over the custard.

If using kitchen torch: Caramelize the sugar by moving it evenly over the sugar. Torch until the sugar is melted.

If using oven: Turn your oven on to broil. Move the oven rack to the top position; the closer the creme brulee gets to the broiler, the quicker it will burn. You want it to burn quickly without cooking the custard inside. Place the creme brulee dishes on a cookie sheet; this will keep your oven clean in case anything bubbles and spills over. It also makes for easy and quick removal when the sugar is finished burning.

Watch the creme brulee in the oven. It will take between three and five minutes to burn appropriately, so don't walk away while they broil. Remove the creme brulee from the oven and allow it to sit for ten minutes to allow the sugar to harden. Serve warm or place back in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving chilled.

Serve immediately. (Serves 4)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fall Bits & Pieces & Playlist

Can’t believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away! Crazy! Where did the time go?  I must say, as much as I am ready to deck the halls and let the Christmas-ing commence, fall has been such a fun season I’m sad to see it go. It’s truly my favorite time of year for so many reasons. The cool, crisp weather … which finally moved into Texas (thank God), leaves falling & changing colors, lots of Pumpkin Spice Lattes (way more than I should have had), pumpkin baked goods, Halloween, and… my birthday!  So I thought I’d share some fun fall memories with y’all today as well as a fall playlist! :)

Halloween ~


Spent Halloween with my family, watching "It's the great Pumpkin Charlie Brown", and enjoying our traditional goodies we make every year. Like my dad’s green punch! It simply wouldn’t be Halloween without it.


Yummy chicken salad sandwiches & buffalo chicken dip! 


Popcorn balls are a Halloween must! And I also couldn’t resist making some Pumpkin Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Buttercream. They were delish if I do say so myself!


A fairytale pumpkin! These are my favorite, so pretty!

My Birthday ~


I’ve always loved that my birthday is in the fall! On Nov. 5th I turned 28, and to celebrate the day, I went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with my parents.  And even though I begged them not to, they told the waitress it was my birthday … so moments later I was sung happy birthday by the Cheesecake Factory staff. Isn’t that always oh so awkward? Or maybe that’s just me. But on the upside, this peanut butter cup cheesecake was to die for!!

It’s funny though, not only did they spell my name with a C instead of K, but they left out the S. Ha! Didn’t realize that until later. So apparently to them I am Crytal. Nice, huh? ;)


After cheesecake, I did a little shopping and stopped off at Williams Sonoma… oh how I could freakin’ live in that place! It’s like a baker’s dream. I picked up some cute cupcake liners (can never resist them) and some really pretty sanding sugar.


Yummy chocolate cupcakes I made a few days later just so I could use said cute cupcake liners and sanding sugar. ;)


And to top off the birthday festivities…oh yes, my awesome parents bought me this beauty!! It came in the mail a few days before my birthday and I was freaking out! A stand mixer has been on the wish list for some time now, so I could not have been happier. Isn’t it pretty?! The best birthday gift ever!

Though when I used it (ahem, like an hour after I got it) I realized a slight problem with it. Don’t know if any of you who have stand mixers have the same issue, but it doesn’t mix everything evenly. It mixes what’s in the middle of the bowl but misses everything on the sides. I googled this problem and apparently it’s pretty common, it’s called beater to bowl clearance. They said that at the factory they adjust the beaters to clear the batter from the bowl (which makes no sense to me) so that’s why it doesn’t mix properly. I read how to re-adjust it yourself but am a bit scared to do it. If any of you have had this problem would love to know what you did about it.

Fall Crafts ~


Finally did a few little fall craft projects! Like these glitter pumpkins! They were so fun and easy to make! Messy (was covered in glitter) but fun! They made for a really lovely fall display.


This super simple leaf garland; just made out of some fall scrapbook paper and yarn.



And last but not least, I made these jar lanterns! I made 12 of these things for my sister’s wedding last month, so I could pretty much make them with eyes closed now lol. So I made a few to put around the house but this time slipped in some scrapbook paper to give it a fall touch.

Fall Playlist ~

Here’s a fall playlist I put together of all the songs that sound like the season to me and have been keeping me company on these pretty autumn days. May I suggest listening to this with your windows open letting the cool fall breeze float in while enjoying a pumpkin spice latte? Hope you enjoy, loves! :)

Fall 2012 Playlist by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo

I’m always on the look out for good pasta dishes and this one has become a fast favorite. Pasta is definitely my go-to meal when I’m looking for something quick and easy to whip up because it’s so versatile, there’s so much you can do with it. I’ve already made this delish pasta dish twice just within these last few weeks…and I can’t wait to make it again.

It has the sweet taste of roasted red peppers; which you can roast on your own or buy in a jar to save time. I opted to take the extra time and roast my own, which is super simple. The herbed goat cheese and half and half make it really creamy. Top it off with some parmesan cheese and parsley and then devour! Bon appetite, friends! :)

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo -


(Recipe found @

2 whole red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fat free half & half
4 oz. garlic & herb goat cheese
2/3 cup grated parigiano reggiano cheese
1/2 cup artichoke hearts (optional)
1/2 lb. linguine, cooked to al dente
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place red peppers on baking sheet and bake 20-30 minutes until peppers are charred. Remove from oven and cover with foil 10 minutes.

In the mean time, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil 7 minutes or until tender. Pour in half & half, goat cheese, salt & pepper. Stir to melt goat cheese into sauce and keep warm over low heat.

Uncover peppers, peel off skin and remove stem and seeds. Chop into large pieces and place into sauce along with parmesan cheese. Stir to melt cheese and remove from heat. Pour sauce into food processor and puree, or use an immersion blender. Place back into hot pan and toss with cooked pasta. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Top with more parmesan cheese, pepper, salt and parsley, if desired. Yield: 2 large servings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Scary Little Thing Called “Christian Culture”…

Seeing as how today is Halloween I thought I’d have a little fun and repost this blog that my sister and I wrote together a few Halloweens ago in 2010 on our e-zine, The Waking! This is one of my favorite blogs we did together, trust me, we had a lot of laughs writing this one! So if you grew up within the awesome but admittedly sometimes odd world of Christian culture, you may be able to relate! ;)

I (Cecily) was a paranoid and terrified little child all because of a scary little thing we call "Christian Culture". In light of Halloween, we thought it seemed fitting to address the many ways Christian culture scared the "hell" out of us as pun intended lol. Okay lame joke, but it had to be made. If you too were subject to any of the things we mention in this blog please feel free to share your story. We Christian culture kids have to stick together. ;)

It all started with .... Carman.

"No Monsters" music video by Carman ~

So this is one of the many Carman videos that scared the "hell" out of Cecily. Some people might laugh when thinking that someone as harmless as 90's Christian musician Carman could instill such fear in a person but trust me, you didn't see the fear in her eyes. "No Monsters" was a song and video that was supposed help kids conquer their fears through Jesus...but it REALLY had the opposite effect on Cecily. Poor wasn't his fault. He had the best of intentions. Carman if you're out there...just know....we don't blame you.

When this music video would come on I (Cecily) would cower in the corner. The video shows monsters coming out of places and terrorizing people! As you can see, this is still a very sensitive subject lol. It scared me as a kid. It's like my eyes caught the visual but my mind missed the message lol. I would stare at my closet at night and wonder if and when the monsters were going to come out. I would always look for the closet door to just all of the sudden open. It never did. But to this day, I still make sure my closet door is closed when I go to bed...out of sheer habit I tell you!

Left Behind ~

Ah, Kirk Cameron, what can we say? Let us first confess our undying love and affection for you. Mike Seaver will forever and always live in our hearts. However Kirk, we must admit you lost some serious brownie points with us for the end time’s thriller "Left Behind".

UPDATE: Just found out from Relevant Magazine that a remake of this movie is in talks and will be reportedly starring none other than…Nicolas Cage. As much as I know you hope I’m joking I assure you, I’m not. World gets stranger everyday.

The Power Team ~

For those of you who’ve never heard of The Power Team before, let me explain a bit; they are a group of really strong men that do things like break bricks and lift really heavy things, and give their testimonies on stage of how God’s broken the chains in their lives. Pretty cool, but when you’re a kid sitting in a big church watching these men pour gasoline on bricks and set them on fire, and then try to smash the firry bricks with their fists, it's pretty scary!

Before they would do these stunts they would preface it by saying that we should not be afraid of the smoke and fire and the intensity of the stunt, we weren’t in any danger. Well, I’m sorry, but when the whole place is filling up with smoke and there are scary flames, and the veins are popping out of the red faced man’s head and neck as he tries to break the bricks as people yell “help him!”….yeah, it doesn’t feel very safe! I (Cecily) would cower in my seat and uncover my eyes only to look for the emergency exits!

"Satan Bite The Dust" music video by Carmen ~

Yes, Carman strikes again. If you saw this video as a child you probably understand where we're coming from. "Satan Bite The Dust" is the equivalent to a spiritual western. Complete with a gun slinging saloon standoff between Jesus, demons, and devil himself. No folks, we're not making this up. Cecily always hated the devil voice.

"I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb" music video by Ray Boltz~

To a 6 year old, talk of religious persecution is never a fun thing. In Ray Bolt’s video for “I Pledge Allegiance to The Lamb”, a father has to explain to his son how he is going to have to die because of His love for God, and says his goodbyes to him. The video shows images of persecution that has happened to Christians in the past, and what is thought to happen to them in the future. To my (Cecily) 6 year old mind, these images meant immediate impending doom, and thoughts of having my parents carted away to get their heads chopped off, leaving me stuck in a prison cell to fend for myself would race through my mind…so not cool yo, so no cool!

"Witches Invitation" by Carman ~

Okay Carman, three strikes and you're out! .... maybe. A song and music video based on a true story of a minister being invited to a warlock’s house to "talk" about God. The warlock challenges the minister’s belief in God. The minister rises to the occasion and leaves the warlock speechless with the word of God. As a kid I (Krystal) thought the song and video were pretty cool but Cecily was absolutely terrified of it! And would even run out of the room if the song or video was on, therefore never making it to the very dramatic ending line... "Next time think twice before you rumble with a man of God!!! And by the way thanks for your.. uhh... witch's invitation."

The Thief In The Night ~

Oh the horror! If any of you saw this movie when you were kids you know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, I don't even have to say another word because just the very mention of the title is enough to elicit shivers up your spine. Yes, I (Krystal) too was subject to this creepy 1970's classic, in which a girl dreams the rapture has happened and she has been left behind. Throughout the movie she is being chased by people trying to get her to take the mark of the beast. She wakes up at the end of the movie relieved to find out that it was only a dream...until she realizes... that in fact the rapture has just occurred and she really has been left behind. The movie ends with her screaming in complete terror as the song "I Wish We'd All Been" ready by Larry Norman played (we'll tackle that song next).

"I Wish We'd All Been Ready" by Larry Norman ~

Now for the song...the song that gave us butterflies at the very sound of the opening notes...the song we dreaded hearing whenever it played. Much props and respect to the late Larry Norman, who paved the way for Christian rockers everywhere, but man did he write a creepy song! “The Father spoke, the demons dined, how could you have been so blind? There's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind." ' nuff said... "I Wish We'd All Been Ready” sung by Larry Norman or DC Talk .... it doesn't matter; it freaked us out either way. Oddly enough we're actually going to use this song in an upcoming church play ... gotta love irony! :)

Carman's Riot movies ~


For their real and intense depiction of gang violence. I (Cecily) would always get so scared while watching these movies because T-Bone was so ghetto and scary, and had guns and drugs and i didn't want him to shoot Carman! But, thankfully, Carman always showed so much bravery when taking on a drug lord... he was da bomb!

Kevin Max (formerly of DC Talk) ~

Oh Kevin Max, what can I say? He used to scare me! Kevin has always had a very gothic style, which now, I (Cecily) flipping love and admire, but then as a youngen, I would hate watching his video for his solo song “Existence” because in it he wears angel wings and I thought he was trying to be the anti-Christ. Sorry Kevin! I don’t think that anymore! And I now dig the angel wings! :)

We hope you enjoyed our look into a scary little thing called "Christian Culture".... or rather the many reasons why we need therapy! :) But we know we are not alone. There are many of us out there who have been holding this inside since maybe 80's...and just looking for a safe place to find solace and hope. It is our prayer that we have provided that for some of you today. But in the event you need more moral support feel free to share your stories about how Christian culture scared the "hell " out of you here! ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Playlist!


Hey friends, thought I’d stop in today and share a fun little Halloween playlist with y’all!

I don’t know about you but there’s just something about Halloween that always makes me feel like a kid again. And maybe that’s because it makes me feel very nostalgic. It makes me nostalgic for trick or treating with my sister and cousins, dressing up in cute costumes, for family gathering at my grandparent’s house for sandwiches, chips, popcorn balls, and my dad’s special green punch (as was our every year tradition).

It makes me smile to think about how serious my sister would be about her costume every year. It makes me smile to remember the couple times my parents decided as Christians we shouldn’t be trick or treating… then later on feeling so bad that we missed out on all the fun. And it makes me laugh to think of Halloween 2001 when my dad would not let my sister trick or treat because of the whole anthrax scare…yeah, she was not a happy camper. ;)

It was always such a fun time of year and as an adult I still enjoy it! And even though times have changed, my grandparents are gone and my sister has moved away, tomorrow I will still be enjoying sandwiches, chips, popcorn balls, and green punch with my parents. Hey, ya can’t buck tradition, right? :)

Halloween Playlist -

Halloween 2012 Playlist by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark

Here’s a playlist of songs, Halloween jams if you will, to rock out to tomorrow as you pass out candy or you know, toilet paper a house or two.  Happy Halloween! :)


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wedding Recap!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since my sister’s wedding. It all felt like such a crazy whirlwind but it could not have turned out more beautiful!


(Photo courtesy of Blackbird Photography) 

My sister is a Georgia peach now so we were basically helping her plan this wedding long distance through many phone calls and Skype sessions. Yeah, not easy. Her & her husband (they were already married but never had a ceremony) came down a week before the wedding and it was non-stop chaos getting everything ready. Luckily we had a lot of help with family willing to pitch in left and right. Such a team effort! My cousin even came all the way from PA to be a bridesmaid and help out with everything. She was such a life saver, even stepping in as a wedding coordinator of sorts. Seriously we all kept telling her she should do it professionally.

One week isn’t a lot of time to get things together but somehow we all made it happen. We did wedding crafts (as it was very much a DIY wedding), threw my sister a bridal shower complete with great food, cupcakes, and bubble tea (first time making bubble tea, so easy, will post recipe soon!), wedding rehearsal and dinner.

Then the night before the wedding my cousin and I basically stayed up all night long baking treats for the dessert table and making cds to play at the reception. I got three hours sleep, woke up, finished making chocolate truffles, headed straight to the wedding venue to decorate, get ready, take pictures, and head down the aisle. So I may have been a bit delirious from lack of sleep lol but I suppose my sister is worth it. ;)


(Photo courtesy of Blackbird Photography)

It was an outdoor wedding held at a nature center close to our town where they said their vows in front of a pretty wooden arch. It was a lovely place that fit their woodland/rustic theme perfectly. And after a minor mishap that made us a little late getting down the aisle (so inevitable, right?) everything was quite a success! It was a small but beautiful wedding and I think everyone had a great time.


My sister took this photo of us on her phone after the wedding as we were all getting ready to leave. I think it might be one of my favorite photos of us. I don’t know if you can tell in the photos but she dyed her hair blue, green, and purple…looked so awesome! So my cousin and I surprised her by putting blue streaks in our hair last minute so we could match; she loved it!

This photo was also taken about ten seconds before I basically lost it and dissolved into a puddle of tears lol. The reality just set in that those were my last few minutes with her till her and her hubby left back to GA that night. I swear I’m such a basket case sometimes when it comes to the people I love … no really, maybe it was also the sleep deprivation, but I was still in tears when I got home lol.

She moved to GA in March, and while I hate living so far away from each other, I’ve adjusted and am fine most of the time. We call and Skype as much as we can. But spending a week together and then saying goodbye all over again is still heart breaking. I guess it probably always will be. We were always so attached at the hip that it’s so hard saying goodbye not knowing when you’ll get to see each other again. I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling.

But I’m so glad that we had that week together and that I got to see her walk down the aisle. The wedding was so lovely and she made the most gorgeous bride ever (though I may be somewhat bias ;)).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bits & Pieces

Hey loves! Thought I’d stop in tonight to share a few photos of bits & pieces of life and what I’ve been up to lately. Hope you enjoy! :)



Craft projects for my sister’s upcoming wedding: hanging mason jar lanterns and chalk board labels for the dessert table. It’s been fun and I think they’re turning out good, if I do say so myself. And let me just say, I now have a love affair with chalk board paint…I want to cover every surface of my house with it. :D

007 - Copy

Love lettering. If you haven’t heard of the amazing organization The World Needs More Love Letters, please check it out. To get involved is simple, write a sweet and encouraging “love letter” to a complete stranger and leave it in places such as cafes, stores, libraries, dressing rooms, ect. for people to find. Sometimes we all need a sweet letter to brighten up our day and give us hope, that’s exactly what More Love Letters aims to do.

I’ve been meaning to get involved for a while now but kept putting it off, until these past couple weeks. I have finally started writing and leaving love letters and I can’t tell you how much I love it! There’s something so joyful and fun about writing letters of encouragement for someone you’ll probably never meet. Leaving them in random places like the makeup section at Wal-mart (the location of my first letter) and taped to the bathroom mirror at Hobby Lobby…hoping that just the right person who needs that letter will find it. I really have fallen in love with doing this and I hope you’ll check it out and start spreading the love yourself! :)


A pretty new journal I bought last week. No, I did not need it … I don’t know about you but I have a really hard time resisting cute journals. There’s just something about a brand new journal with all it’s pretty blank pages that feels full of possibilities.


One of my favorite cool weather meals, Chicken & Dumplings. We had a few really amazing fall weather days in the 50’s & 60’s, felt like heaven! So I took advantage of it by cooking this up for lunch on Sunday after church. Sadly, the fall weather has gone bye bye for now and we Texans will be seeing the return of 90 degree weather for the rest of the week…ugh! I swear, TX, sometimes you really disappoint me.


A homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte! Yes, I have been in pumpkin everything mode. I made this last night…and after a little bit of tweaking, it was rather delish! Recipe to come soon! Now, if that cold weather would just hurry back…it’s no fun drinking hot fall drinks in 90 degree weather. ;)

Hope you’re having a lovely week so far! And enjoy your fall weather if you are lucky enough to have it! :)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m happy to report that fall baking has commenced in my kitchen! There’s just something extra special about baking in the fall as well as around the holidays. With all the lovely seasonal ingredients you get to use such as pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves (this recipe has ‘em all, btw), baking takes on an even warmer aromatic experience. And as bakers we all know that by the time your done baking your treats, not only does your kitchen take on these aromas, but so do you. And that’s perfectly fine with me as I don’t really mind smelling like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Ah, the signature scent of a baker, right? ;)

I had bought a can of Libby’s Pumpkin for a recipe that I didn’t end up making and I of course just couldn’t resist finding another use for it a.s.a.p.. But what to make?…I mean on Pinterest you can only find like, oh say thousands of pumpkin recipes. There’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin roll, pumpkin donuts, even pumpkin ice cream sandwiches! And I don’t know about you but I tend to have an incurable case of indecisiveness if given too many choices.

But I had the itch to make something with pumpkin and chocolate so when I saw these cookies on Pinterest I just knew, that was it. And I was ready to bake my pumpkin lovin’ heart out.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies -


(Recipe found @

These cookies are the taste of fall, let me tell ya! They are so light and chewy… and I’m told healthy (hmm, wonder if that still applies after your 3rd one in a row ;)).

First, start out by mixing your dry ingredients together; including all the lovely spices that will make it seem like fall is having a party in your mouth…mhmm, ignore that lame description. But really, just do something for me… take a whiff of each spice as you put it in; your cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Then mix it all together! You have to savor the scents of the season, after all. :)


Mix your eggs and sugar together till smooth and light in color; then stir in the pumpkin. And watch as the whole mixture surrenders to the beautiful orange hue.



Stir in the dry ingredients and last but certainly not least, add the chocolate chips! Always the best part. Drop your cookies by 1/4 cup measurements and bake!



The pumpkin with the warm flavors of the spices, and chocolate chips is the perfect fall taste combo. Really pumpkin and chocolate were just meant to be. The texture of these cookies are almost like a cross between a cookie and a cake. They’re not cakey though just really light, airy, and soft.



If your looking for a great pumpkin recipe to bake on a breezy fall day, give these lovelies a try! :)


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola or corn oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips, or any chip you like


Position a rack in the middle of the oven . Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. You could also simply use a 1/4-cup measuring cup if you don’t have a scoop. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar, if desired. The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.