Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fall Recap & Playlist

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(Pretty pumpkins galore at the Central Market & Whole Foods in Austin last month.)

I can’t believe that tomorrow is already December 1st! So crazy how fast fall came & went, isn’t it? While I’m so ready to start decking the halls and enjoy my favorite holiday, I must admit I’m a little sad to see fall go. So I thought before I officially go Christmas crazy I would recap some of the lovely & fun moments of the season.

And in true me fashion… below is a very late, totally last minute fall playlist lol. I couldn’t help myself… so just indulge me, okay? ;) These songs were my fall in music form.

Fall 2013 by Krystal Rodriguez on Grooveshark

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In October my family and I took a trip to Le Cordon Bleu in Austin (where God willing, I will be attending in the very near future). They were having a fall cooking demo & open house. We got to watch the chefs make food, hear them talk about cooking & the school, ask questions, and sample the food! Then afterwards take a tour of the school. This was so fun for a foodie like me!

The first chef made breaded & fried goat cheese with fig preserves… which I ate every bite of before I even thought about taking a picture lol. But trust me, it was delish! The next chef made the soup pictured above. I honestly do not remember the name of it lol, but it had butternut squash in it and cilantro… it was really good! The food was great and everybody there, the chefs included, were so friendly. I loved just walking around & looking at the awesome Halloween cakes the students made! I kinda love this place!

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Also from our trip to Austin: a guy outside the Central Market carving these crazy awesome pumpkins (very impressive). Pretty & yummy pumpkin spice cupcake from the Central Market. Dinner at Magnolia Café (really liked this place, will do a review soon). And owl cookies from Whole Foods (how cute are they?!).

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Lots of fall baking (pumpkin rolls, pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes), fall crafts (wreath, glitter pumpkins, & painted pumpkins), way too many pumpkin spice lattes, and our Halloween spread (chicken salad sandwiches, dip, my dad’s traditional green punch, popcorn balls, cupcakes, and turtle apples).

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My sister just got to come visit all the way from GA! We were over the moon happy she got to come, we miss that girl like cray! She stayed for 6  days, which went by way too fast, but somehow we managed to fit in just about all the things we had planned. We celebrated my birthday with lunch at The Cheesecake Factory (tamale corn cakes… amazing!) and cupcakes & macarons at The Sweet Boutique (my favorite bakery) in Sugarland.  We watched tons of Gilmore Girls, did some crafting, baking, cooking, shopping, and smashbooking.


The Christmas bulbs my sister, my mom, and I painted and decorated! Such masterpieces, aren’t they? lol They were a lot of fun to make… mostly cause we made them together.


So yes, ladies and gentleman, they laughed, they scoffed, they said it couldn’t be done… but we did it! We made tamales!! My family (namely my sister & dad) have been talking about making tamales for at least a couple years now, but everyone we would talk to would try to talk us out of it. Telling us how hard & awful the whole process was. My grandma & aunts used to make them all the time on New Years Eve when we were growing up. It was a family tradition. Now that my grandma is gone we usually just order them. But using an amazing recipe from my aunt, we decided to give it a shot while my sister was here.

It was a family affair. My sister and I were spreading the masa on the corn shucks while our parents filled them with the meat and rolled them up. We were nervous about the outcome but they could not have turned out better! They were so flavorful and delish! And... easy! I honestly don’t understand what all the fuss is about. They were a little time consuming but one of the simplest things I’ve ever made. Will definitely be making them this New Years Eve instead of ordering them!

My sister and I may be half breeds but we felt like true Mexican's that day (or Latinas :D)... but then we made Creme Bruelee for dessert (yep, now that's our white side coming out ;)).

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Family photos! Some of my sister and I, a family photo outside the mall in Sugarland, my sister, my mom, and I in our front yard, and one of my favorite photos of us with our cousin Pam and her adorable son, Elijah! 

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And last but not least, our Thanksgiving spread! My mom and I cooked the feast… we were so tired, but it all turned out amazing… so I guess it was worth it.

Turkey, my grandma’s recipe for dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rice & broccoli, and homemade cranberry sauce! And my dad made his traditional dessert… it’s his creation he’s been making since I was a kid. There’s no name for it but it has strawberries, Chips Ahoy Cookie crumbs, cream cheese, whipped cream, and marshmallow cream. It’s no bake and really good!

This fall season was not without its stresses and anxieties but there were also so many good moments that made up for it. All in all, it was a time of making a lot of happy and fun memories. Hope you all had a really lovely fall season as well! Now may the Christmasing commence! :D

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

A holiday or special occasion is just not complete in my family without a cheesecake. A delish cheesecake will always make an appearance at least a couple times a year either on our Thanksgiving or Christmas table or for birthdays. Sometimes all of the above!

This Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake is a family favorite and is always our first choice. We got the recipe from a Christmas edition of Taste of Home magazine years ago and have been making it ever since. This year, like many previous, it was my birthday cake. Yes, I made my own birthday cake… cause that’s just how I roll (it’s more fun that way… & that’s the crazy obsessed baker in me talking).

I think I’ve mentioned before about my insane love affair with cookie dough. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I could eat it by the spoonful. Luckily, this cookie dough is eggless… that way you don’t have to deal with that pesky salmonella in case you want to take a bite or two.

Since the holiday season is now upon us it’s the perfect time for this lovely cheesecake to grace your table. If you or your guests love cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie dough, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser! :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake -
(Recipe adapted from


An Oreo cookie crust, creamy cheesecake filled with pockets (yes, pockets) of chocolate chip cookie dough. This recipe says to garnish with mini chocolate chips and whipped cream, which I’ve done before, but now I prefer to go a little crazy and drizzle it with chocolate and finish it off with crushed cookie crumbs (Chips A’Hoy). I just like the way it looks and it tastes amazing!


The rich cookie dough (my favorite part) pairs perfectly with the creaminess of the cheesecake, the Oreo crust lending a crispy texture.


It’s a rich and decedent dessert that no one with a sweet tooth will be able to resist!

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I always use Oreos)

4 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream

Cookie Dough:
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoon water or milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
An additional 1 cup mini chocolate chips to fold into the batter with the cookie dough balls

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks (add 1 tablespoon powdered sugar while whipping if you like a bit of extra sweetness)
Mini chocolate chips, for sprinkling

For the cookie dough:
In a medium bowl, combine the butter and sugars for the cookie dough. Add the water (or milk), vanilla and blend. Mix in the flour, salt and the chocolate chips. The dough will be fairly soft. Gently roll the dough into small balls (about a teaspoon size, maybe a bit larger) and place them on a wax paper lined plate or baking sheet. Place them in the freezer to harden while making the rest of the cheesecake.

For the crust:
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch spring form pan. In a medium bowl, combine the butter with the chocolate cookie crumbs (you could easily use a food processor to crush the cookies and incorporate the butter). Press onto the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the prepared pan.

For the cheesecake:
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and flour until smooth. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix just until blended. Be careful not to over mix – incorporating too much air into the batter can contribute to a cheesecake cracking on top during baking.

Pour half the batter into the prepared crust. Gently stir in the cookie dough balls and the additional 1 cup mini chocolate chips into the remaining batter. Pour into the pan, spreading the batter to the sides of the pan and evening it out across the top (it is ok to see bumps of cookie dough here and there, smooth it the best you can). Bake the cheesecake at 325 degrees for one hour. Turn off the oven and prop the door open several inches. Let the cake sit in the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Refrigerate until chilled (ideally, overnight). To serve, cut into slices and top with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips.

Sunday, November 24, 2013




I rarely ever write in my journal anymore... I blame blogging for this, but that's a different subject for a different time. But every now and again when I do open up one of my many (mostly scribbled in) journals I like doing this little writing prompt. It's basically like the "Currently" posts you see on a lot of blogs. But I actually got it from a blog full of writing & journaling prompts some years back. It's a fun & easy way to journal and remember what you were doing & thinking on a particular day and season in your life.

I thought I would share this one that I wrote a couple days ago. It was a beautiful and breezy fall evening and I was all cozy in my room with the window open, coffee in hand, and some good music playing. So it seemed like the perfect time for a little journaling!

Seeing -  The tree outside my bedroom window, leaves falling and blowing in the wind.

Hearing – Music: “Perfectly Aligned” by Milo Greene playing on my stereo. The wind blowing through my open bedroom window. 

Tasting – Pumpkin spice coffee… been making it constantly this fall using International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee creamer. So delish!!

Smelling – The pumpkiny scent of the coffee I’m sipping.

Feeling – The cold breeze… feels like heaven! Peaceful right now, though I’ve been rather anxious lately.

Loving -  This beautiful fall weather! The season in general, fall foods & baked goods, crafts, ect.

Reading – Been trying to re-read “Black” by Ted Dekker… but haven’t gotten very far.

Anticipating – Thanksgiving next week! Shopping for all the ingredients for the big feast. And all the cooking & baking I get to do! Holiday cooking & baking is one of my favorite things in the world!

Making – Memories. Cookies for the Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

Wishing – That the future wasn’t so scary & uncertain.

If you decide to do one of your own on your blog leave the link in the comments, would love to check it out! :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Impactful Christian Music Videos

This is actually a re-post of a blog I wrote a few years ago for The Waking (a blog I had with my sister & our friends). While we don't write on there any more, I've noticed when I check it every now and again this post, "7 Impactful Christian Music Videos", still gets a lot of hits. And for good reason, these really are some great videos and songs. As I was watching them again the other night, I realized that they still impact me in a really powerful way. And so I thought I would go ahead and share it on this blog since for some reason I never have.

I’ve always been a fan of songs and music videos that are honest, real, and not afraid to explore real issues. I thrive on music that makes an impact, songs that are more than just background music. Some people say that Christian music is very “happy clappy”… and some of it definitely is. But there are those artists out there that aren’t afraid to broach difficult subjects in a song and music video.

Below are 7 music videos that are some of the most impactful and powerful I’ve ever seen. Although I am sure there are many more out there, these are the ones that have made an impact on me and have stuck with me through out the years. I find it encouraging that more and more Christian artists are talking honestly about the reality of issues that we face everyday. I hope you find it encouraging as well.

Zero by Hawk Nelson

My sister and I have been long time fans of Hawk Nelson and “Zero” is one of our Hawk favorites. This song, written by lead singer, Jason Dunn, was actually inspired by a friend of his who committed suicide. The lyrics explore the feelings and questions he had about the tragedy,“The question without answer is, am I the to blame?”. What impacted me most about this video was how at the end each kid lies beside a message they wrote on the ground. Messages like “I stopped cutting myself” and “I started talking to my dad again”. “Zero” is a video that shows the pain of suicide and how there’s a better way to deal with life.

The Way She Feels by Between The Trees

This song and video hold a very special place in my heart. It had a huge impact on me when I first saw it years ago but now it means even more. And without sounding like too much of a basket case (although I probably do…& I’m okay with that lol), I have a hard time getting through this video without tearing up. If you’re familiar (and just about everyone is) with the non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms you might know that this video and song were inspired by the story of Renee Yohe, who also makes an appearance in the video. The guys in the band, namely the lead singer, Ryan Kirkland, is a friend of Renee’s and played a huge part in her recovery from addiction and self injury.

I’m so very glad that the issue of cutting and self injury is something that people are opening up about now. One of my favorite lines of this song is in the bridge when he sings,“The deeper you cut the deeper I hurt. The deeper you cut it only get worse”. I get chills everytime. I thank God that self injury is no longer such a hush hush issue. We’re realizing that pain is a human issue and that there is hope. Rescue is possible.

Stitches by Haste The Day

This is possibly the best video Haste The Day (who sadly disbanded recently) ever made. “Stitches” is a very intense video that’s so full of meaning. Honestly the first time I saw it I remember telling my sister that I was just a little freaked out by what was around the guys’ mouths in the video lol… until I understood the meaning.

The song and video are about watching people you love deal with addictions and issues, and standing by and saying nothing. How being quiet when we should speak up is like having stitches over our mouths. I think it’s something so many of us can relate to.  It’s so symbolic in the video when the guys finally rip the stitches from their mouths and speak up. The line in the middle of the song says it all, “Five words, is it really that hard to say, your worth more than this”. Hats off to this former band for this one. Everytime I see it, it stays with me, lingering in my mind and making me think.

Constance by Mr. J Medeiros

This video by hip hop artist, Mr. J Medeiros, so touched my heart. “Constance” is a song & video about a 13 year old girl from the Philippines that’s sold into sex slavery. This is a video that my eyes were glued to and one that I couldn’t soon forget after. Mr. J deals with the issues of  sex slavery and pornography in such an honest, direct, yet beautiful way. The line of the song that sticks with me the most is when he sings, “Trust me girl, God has not forgotten. He knew Mary Magdalene, and the woman at the well. He knows everything that happens, and in his arms she fell”. It’s the type of song that not too many Christian artists would be brave enough to tackle but I’m so glad he did. Read below about some of the impact it’s had:

“It has spread like wildfire via YouTube, and has inspired an international human rights movement called the “Constance Campaign.” Mr. J spearheaded the movement and has partnered with Non-Profit’s like, XXXChurch, and In May 2007, Constance was featured on CBS Evening News in an expose’ on internet pornography.”

Vices Like Vipers by Oh, Sleeper

Okay, not gonna lie, this music video is a little freaky lol, but trust me it makes a definite impact. When I first saw it some years back I was not quite sure what I was watching, but I couldn’t deny the powerful words and imagery. The song and video are about vices that destroy our lives. For those of you who don’t like harder music it may not be your cup of tea. The song is very loud and intense and the video is dark. But because of that, I feel it so perfectly portrays the dark nature of vices.

One of my favorite lines of this song, the one that made me really love it is when they sing, “And to the girls, You’re worth more than the cheap words. You see your body as beauty, but your pulse is worth more.”  It makes a real impact hearing a band of guys sing that line. If you’re not a fan of hard music just go look up the lyrics, they’re really amazing.

“Take my lust, this world’s Love. Great Councilor, take what’s left. Great Councilor, take what’s left of me.”

Runaway by Manafest

This video by rapper, Manafest, starts out by flashing these words on the screen, “1 in 7 youth will run away from home before the age of 18″. This video breaks my heart everytime I see it. Manafest just seems to capture all the emotions I would imagine a teen who’s ran away from home feeling. It made a huge impact on me just by making me think, making me more aware that this is a scary reality for many teens out there. Teens who ran away from family problems but just long to go home and make a mends.

“So I run, and I run, and I ran and I ran praying maybe someday we might meet again. Cause it hurts when you hurt, and I hurt and I feel like I’m healed, can we all just make a mends?”

Faithful by The Kry

My sister and I saw this video one night a few years ago when we were watching a Christian music video channel. We were really intrigued by the story in it and by the end, both of us were in tears lol. Some of you may remember The Kry as they were popular in the CCM scene back in the early 90′s. I remember hearing of them when I was younger but never really listened to their music. This song is off an album they released back 2004 entitled, “God of Infinite Worth”.

The song has a very worshipful feel to it with the lyrics“You are faithful. Always faithful. Faithful as the sun”.  The video is very symbolic of what Jesus did for us on the cross, symbolic of how he was faithful to make a way for us even though it cost him his life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Best Brownies w/ Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I honestly can’t believe in all my years of blogging I have yet to post this brownie recipe. I have no idea why it’s taken me this long. This was the very first recipe I ever baked all on my own and basically the one that got me into baking in the first place. So it’s kind of special.

My mom use to make these brownies for my sister and I all the time when we were kids and we loved them! I don’t know why but I never really helped her make them until I was in my teens (maybe around 16). And soon the torch was passed down to me and I was making them all by myself.

It’s such a simple recipe that it’s perfect for the newbie baker. I really started to love the process of baking them. It was relaxing and therapeutic. So much so in fact, that I became so good at making them that I probably could’ve done it with my eyes closed. Just goes to show how often I made them, ha! And even though I don’t make them half as much as I used to it’s still a recipe I know by heart.

Best Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

(Recipes adapted from here)


These brownies are rich and fudgy all on their own but the addition of the fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting makes them a little more decadent. They are also so quick and easy to whip up.

Over the years I have tried many brownie recipes on a quest to find the perfect brownie. But somehow I always come back to this one. Now I know that some people feel really passionate about how they like their brownies. There are some that turn their noses up at a brownie with frosting and wonder what you are trying to hide. Some people like them super gooey and under baked while some like them cakey (that’s a pet peeve of mine actually, it’s like, just make cake! Brownies are meant to be fudgy! Ok, rant over).


Fudgy, cakey, chewy, with frosting or without… oh what’s a baker do do?!

This is the great brownie debate, my friends. It’s a debate that is as polarizing as politics and religion. Well at least to crazy obsessed bakers and foodies like myself. For me personally, it just depends on my mood. In the interest of full disclosure, I really think that Starbucks makes a great brownie and it would just be wrong to frost it. But when I make them at home and I want something a little rich and extra chocolaty, I need the frosting.



But you have to do what is right for you. These brownies are just as good without the frosting really. So which ever side of the great brownie debate you land on I just hope you give these a try! These are the brownies that started my love of baking and it’s a recipe that will always be my go to. Finish them off with some pretty sprinkles and you will be in brownie heaven! :)

1 stick butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
chocolate chips (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan. In a large bowl cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. In a small bowl stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until incorporated. Add in chocolate chips, if desired. I never measure the chips but I probably add in maybe a 1/4 cup. Spread into pan and bake for 20 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool completely and spread on frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Hands down my favorite go to chocolate buttercream. It’s always so creamy, rich, and fluffy. I want to put it on everything.

1 stick butter (room temp)
3-4 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. heavy cream or half & half

In a medium bowl beat butter till light & fluffy. Add in cocoa and beat till incorporated. On low speed, beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add in vanilla and heavy cream and beat 2-3 minutes till fluffy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Birthday Wish for Myself…

To be brave.

To have the bravery, courage, confidence, & strength to let go & take a leap of faith. Letting go of all that is comfortable, familiar, & easy to take a risk.

To have an open hand & open heart to what's ahead.

To receive all that God has for me.

To let go of the past & embrace the present & the future.



This has been my song lately. Something about it makes me feel brave and challenges me to live. It sort of sums up what I want from this next year of my life. To find my voice…

“Believe, that you can change the world. Your dreams, have been living in a code of silence. So let them out. Find your voice, find your voice. Make a noise."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Wish List

Since my birthday is right around the corner on the 5th (woot!!), I thought I would throw together a fun little wish list! A list of a few things that I’ve been wanting lately. Now, even though I know my family won’t believe this, it’s not meant to be a hints list lol. I truly am happy with whatever they get me. Though something off this list would be nice… just sayin’. ;)

1. French Press

Bodum Chambord 8-Cup French Press Coffee Maker

It doesn’t have to be this exact French press but I do love the gold and black on this one. Plus it seems like really good quality and got great reviews. For the coffee lover I am this would be great to have. Especially since I will soon be getting up super early to make it to a 6 am class everyday… & I am counting on lots of prayer & coffee to get me through & keep me conscious. ;)

2. Q and A a Day: 5-Year Journal Diary by Potter Style &/ or One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book Diary by Chronicle Books Staff

Q and A a Day 5 Year Journal Diary by Potter Style 

One Line A Day

I love these one line a day journals! Perfect for easy memory keeping. Not sure which one I want, they’re both pretty cool! The Q & A a Day is a 5 year journal that basically asks you a different question everyday of the year. After that year is up you start the book over again answering those same questions. It would be cool to see how your answers change over the course of 5 years.

The One Line A Day is also a 5 year journal but instead of questions it gives you a few lines to write on everyday. Both of these would be a lot more practical for me as I can no longer seem to keep up with journaling on a regular bases.

I really want to start one of these when I move in the beginning of next year. It would be a great way to quickly record all the new details of my life.


3. Tapestry from Urban Outfitters (Tree of Life or Monkey Garden)

Tree of Life Tapestry 

Monkey Garden Tapestry 

These tapestry’s from Urban Outfitters are just too pretty! Would love to have one of these to hang on my bedroom wall. Especially moving into an apartment soon that I’m almost sure I can’t paint, this is a perfect & paint free way to liven up the walls.

4. The Real Girl’s Kitchen by Haylie Duff

Real Girls Kitchen 

Her recipes always look so delish & healthy! Been hearing great things about this book.

5. The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings by Nathan Williams

The Kinfolk Table

Oh Kinfolk… I don’t know about you, but their lovely photos and videos always make me swoon. They make me want to throw an amazing dinner party! I know some people think their stuff is over rated but I’m a total sucker for it. (Here & here…  just too much lovely!) There’s something very relaxing about their videos. They now have a cookbook out and I desperately want it! Delish recipes, beautiful photography, and some great stories. Sounds like my kind of cookbook! :)