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)