Learning to serve the Lord and my family one day at a time.

Learning to serve the Lord and my family one day at a time.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Barefoot Contessa's Chocolate Cake Recipe

My friend Cheree sent me this recipe that I used for Daniel's birthday cake and it was one of the best cakes I have ever eaten let alone make. I did it without chocolate frosting for his birthday and made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream  but I would love to try it again with the chocolate frosting. This recipe is originally from The Barefoot Contessa and makes two 8 inch round cakes or 24 cupcakes. 

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Optional- extra chocolate chips or chunks 
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

MAKE THE CAKE Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess. 

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated. This will be a very runny batter, don't worry it will be delicious! 
  2. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment. 
  3. MAKE THE FROSTING In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool. 
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. 
    At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined. 
  5. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Daniel Tiger Themed Party

We celebrated Daniel's second birthday yesterday with a Daniel Tiger party! My parents were so sweet and flew in from Austin to help celebrate. I just realized I didn't get a picture of them with the birthday boy but I will have to get one on Daniel's actual birthday in a few days. I kept the food simple and put way too much effort on the decorations and the cake. Thanks Chere for all the cake guidance and recipes. I will post a rewritten recipe of her chocolate cake soon.  I often cheat on birthday cakes and either order cupcakes from the grocery store or do a box cake but I decided to go for a fancier style this time and made from scratch cake. It was (mostly) fun and a learning experience. 

Daniel Tiger Trolley directions from PBS Kids

Simple Bunting that will go in the playroom 
Note the totally crooked cake! 

Daniel Tiger Five Layer Cake. Figurines from Amazon

Laura's Daniel Tiger doll from her 3rd Birthday 

Handsome little 2 year old! 

The heat of the kitchen started melting my icing right before the party 

Grandpa holding Buddy during "Happy Birthday"

Playing with his new favorite trucks for the Castleberrys. He didn't want to open anything else. 

Sissy "helping" open gifts 

Silly Kids 

Daniel Tiger printable from Child at Heart Blog edited on PicMonkey

Playing with new car garage from the Grandparents

How could I not put this on the bathroom door?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hiking in the Clouds

10 days in a hotel with not much to do, two kids and a dog. I'm going insane. That's our life as we wait to move into our new rental home here in El Paso. Now that the dust has settled on the chaos of finding a house we decided to take a day trip on Monday up to the cool, New Mexican mountains.

Cloud Croft, New Mexico is about 100 miles northeast on Highway 54. The drive was through the serene flat desert with rugged mountains along the horizons. Countless miles of Fort Bliss artillery ranges stretched out along the eastern side of the road. Once you past the town of Alamogordo the mountains begin to climb and you leave the desert behind for the cool, piney mountain air of Lincoln National Forest.

From the lookouts in the forest you can actually see White Sands National Monument which was formed from gypsum deposits from the mountains. It's an odd thing to in the desert one minute and amongst pine trees just a few miles later. The air smelled amazing and it was only 70 degrees! It was 100 back in El Paso.

El Paso sits at about 4000 feet about sea level and Cloud Croft is at 8600 feet. I was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude and not drinking enough water by the afternoon.

Laura completed her very first hike all by herself and we were very proud (and relieved we didn't have to carry her) We hiked the Osha trail for about 1.5 miles while Daniel napped in the Ergo.

Next we drove further into the forest looking for a trail I had found online. We got lost so we stopped at the rangers station for a map with directions. Unfortunately, we turned the wrong way out of the rangers station but after about 5 minutes realized we were going to wrong way. The drive was gorgeous and the kids weren't crying so I didn't mind being lost too much. David called it "car hiking." That's where you see beautiful scenery from the car.

I just love a man babywearing
We finally made it down a long dirt road to Bluff Springs and it was well worth the trip. There was a small stream at the bottom of the creek. The kids wadded in the freezing water for over an hour and Daniel especially was in heaven. This boy goes crazy for all thing "wa-wa" We were even brave enough to let Lilly off her leash. She was a good girl and did some exploring but quickly came back to us. Long hair dogs and thick grass don't mix and I'm still working on getting burs out of her tail!

As the afternoon clouds rolled in for a rain shower we pilled back into the trusty Honda Odyssey and headed "home" (to the hotel that it).

Little D is saying cheese here

Credit to David for this shot of the valley

Even Lilly got in on the fun of the stream

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

12 Day Menu

I'm so boring (and exhausted) the only thing I've been writing on here in our menu. I was excited to hit up Sprouts last Wednesday after BSF and get about two weeks worth of produce for all around a $1 per pound or less. They also had boneless thighs for $1.69 so I stocked up on those as well. I was pretty excited to be able to plan out all our meals until after our next payday and still have $80 in grocery cash left! I cheated somewhat since there was a bit on meat in my freezer to start the month off.

When buying large quantities of produce, it can be tricky to ensure that nothing goes to waste. I check the drawer everyday and plan to eat the softer, more delicate fruits and vegetable first and save things like sweet potatoes, carrots and apples for later in the two week cycle. It was a challenge to get this much food to all fit into my refrigerator.

Monday 4/6 Herbed grilled chicken with grilled cauliflower and red peppers (I have a grill basket)
Tuesday Cobb salad with grilled chicken from freezer
Wednesday Grain free peanut butter pancakes, sausage and strawberries
Thursday Beef kabobs with pineapple, green and yellow squash
Friday Chicken tacos in the crockpot (new recipe) lettuce wrap or salad for me.
Saturday Lunch- leftovers/grilled cheese,
Sunday Lunch- chicken salad Dinner- cream cheese peppers, salads or to be determined veggies
Monday  Egg roll bowls with fried rice and small amount of breakfast sausage tossed in
Tuesday soy sauce and honey marinated grilled chicken
Wednesday egg bake with sweet potatoes
Thursday Herbed grilled chicken
Friday I'm going to attempt to make a healthy from scratch and grain free version of chicken, broccoli and rice casserole and sub in cauliflower rice

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eating from the Freezer Menu Plan

I have not being doing a very good job at sticking with our grocery budget lately. I blame rising food prices and two small hungry people and one very tall man with a hollow leg. Needless to say, I have got to start being more strict so I think I may have to go back to cash this month.  I have been using a debit card that is linked to a checking account solely for groceries but doing cash again might make my shopping trips a little more realistic on how much I spend.

This week I'm planning on only buying a few dairy items at HEB, bread from the Dollar Store and stocking up on super cheap produce at Chicho Boys Fruit Market. Did you know that Dollar General sells Nature's Own breads for just a dollar? They have whole wheat bread and sometimes english muffins and bagels. The store is right on my way to the gym so I go once or twice a month and stock up. The selection can be hit or miss depending on when they've gotten a shipment in.

Target has eggs on sale this week for 99 cents a dozen plus an additional 5 cents off with the Cartwheel app so I stocked up with six dozen yesterday.

Here's my menu for the next few days. We will be gone for Easter weekend so this is a loose menu for about 7 dinners. I will fill in with whatever veggies I get at the produce market tomorrow.

Monday - Cobb salads with leftover grilled chicken
Tuesday - BBQ chicken in the crockpot with brown rice for David and the kids. Side of broccoli salad. Let's see, it's currently 2pm and my chicken is still frozen so I should probably get a move on dinner soon!
Wednesday- Muffins of some sort, kale sweet potato and egg hash
Thursday- Left over grilled chicken topped with avocados, cole slaw
Friday- At my parents for Easter weekend.

Meal ideas for next week with current food from freezer
Homemade pizza. I have a fantastic grain free pizza crust I will share soon. I cannot find the original link anywhere but I did print a copy.
Egg Roll in a bowl with fried brown rice
Beef and vegetable kabobs

Thursday, March 26, 2015

First VoxBox Review

I received my first Influenster VoxBox a few weeks ago with three full sized hair products to sample and review. If you are not familiar with Influenster, it is a social media website that allows users to rate and review products. They also send VoxBox occasionally to users to allow them to try out full sized products for free!

I was supposed to write about this product weeks ago but the week I got my box was the week Laura had four days of the stomach bug and then I got a double ear infection which ended up with a perforated eardrum in my left ear and temporary hearing loss. I wasn't doing much of anything that week. I'm lucky we were fed and clothed most days. Thank you Trader Joe's for frozen meals and Kali for keeping the kids one morning.

I was sent the Dessange Paris California Blonde Shampoo, California Blonde Conditioner and Brass Color Correcting Cream. These products are specifically designed to protect, nourish and blonde hair. By the way, if you thought I was a natural blonde, you'd be wrong.

I have about four different bottle of shampoo in my shower currently because I am always hunting for the perfect shampoo that doesn't weigh down my baby fine and very thin hair. I have't had highlights in probably five or six months so I'm not sure how well this worked to protect my color since it has already faded and grown out some over the last few months. It didn't weigh my hair down or feel greasy even when I use the conditioner. Colored blonde hair can turn brassy over time or if not done properly in a salon and I like the results with the color correcting cream. It made my color look better and my hair super shiny and soft.

*I received free products to test and review, however all opinions are solely my own. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This Week's Menu

Here's my tentative dinner menu plan for this week. I say tentative because something always seems to come up or I forget to start a crockpot meal and I suddenly realized it's 3pm. For instance, today's meal was supposed to be Buffalo Chicken Salad and I made Egg Roll in a Bowl instead. I will link up to recipes from online and I plan to slowly create a recipe page here on my blog.

Monday- Buffalo Chicken Salad  Egg Roll in a Bowl - this was pretty good. I think David liked it better than I did and the kids didn't eat much of it. Next time I will serve it with fried brown rice. It certainly is a frugal and healthy meal. I only used half a pound of ground turkey in it.

Tuesday -I prepped these while making last nights dinner. Veggie and ground turkey stuffed red pepper with cheese. Red bell pepper loaded with sautéd shredded carrots, spinach and kale blend and red cabbage. Green salsa from Trader Joe's and half a pound of ground turkey sprinkled with cheese on top. I added white beans to a few of the peppers for the kids and David and a lower carb version sans beans for me.

Wednesday- Buffalo Chicken Salad. I eat the buffalo chicken out of the crockpot and burn my mouth because I am obsessed with spicy Buffalo Chicken flavors. It's not David's favorite but I made it up to him with steaks last week.

Thursday- Company over- Maple Pork Tenderloin on the grill from Danielle Walker's newest cookbook- Against All Grain Meals Made Simple Pork loin marinaded with maple syrup, olive oil, garlic and dijon mustard.

Friday- Bean and ground beef chili. I cheat and use canned beans. David loves the "chili magic" starter beans so that's what I buy.

Saturday-  Easy Peasy Grilled Chicken. I have started making this once a week. I am a picky eater and generally don't like eating a recipe more than once or twice a month but this one is a winner and the kids like it (with ketchup of course). Chicken thighs marinaded in soy sauce, honey and splash of olive oil. Sides- steamed veggies and sweet potatoes. If I have time/energy I like to make a little sauce in the Magic Bullet of mayo, soy sauce, honey and Sriracha sauce. The soy sauce makes the mayo clumpy if you try to simply mix it in a bowl instead of blending it.

Sunday- Company over- Hamburgers and sweet potato fries. I splurged since we are having a family from church over for dinner and bought the frozen pre-made sweet potato fries.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Photos

I have been wanting a few pictures of all four of us together especially now I no longer have braces (!) so yesterday evening we loaded up the minivan and headed down to a park near our house.  It was about an hour before sunset and I was pretty happy with how well I timed it because the lighting was fantastic. My camera remote didn't seem to work more than two feet away so we were stuck using the self timer "hurry up and get in the picture" method. Daniel wasn't too keen on David holding him so it took several attempts with the self timer to get one good photo. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Paleo Brownie Cookies

Recipes courtesy of Heather at Home To Heather Blog
These are delicious and super easy to make. I've gained a few pounds after weaning Daniel and have been back on a relatively strict low carb diet but these were my one bit of carbs and sugar this entire week.  They also only have coconut flour instead of almond flour which is significantly cheaper.
Paleo Brownie Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10
  • ⅓ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F
  2. In a large bowl stir coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together with a fork, breaking up any lumps.
  3. In a medium bowl, mash the banana, add the eggs, honey and vanilla and stir well with a fork.
  4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well until incorporated. Add the chocolate chips.
  5. Drop batter by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper.
  6. Bake 12-15 min until bottoms of cookies have slightly browned.

I have calculated the nutritional information for the recipe using Spark People. Take this with a grain of salt but here's the lowdown. Definitely still a treat if you're watching carbs. 

Nutrition Facts

8 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 144.0
  • Total Fat 5.2 g
  • Saturated Fat 2.7 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.6 g
  • Cholesterol 46.5 mg
  • Sodium 22.5 mg
  • Potassium 117.6 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 24.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber 4.0 g
  • Sugars 17.2 g
  • Protein 3.0 g

Jan's Spicy Chicken

Here's a simple, freezer friendly recipe my Aunt Jan sent to me that we have enjoyed several times now.

Sriracha Chicken


  • 8 boneless chicken thighs - about a 1.25 pounds
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 2 T Sriracha sauce (adjust or leave out for kids)
  • 2 T lime juice 
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cumin (could use more if you like cumin flavor)
  •  3 T honey (I have reduced this for our low carb diet, the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup brown sugar)
  1. Mix together last five ingredients and toss chicken in marinade.
  2. Wrap with bacon, you can secure with toothpicks but it's not really necessary 
  3. Allow to marinade if you're well prepared and thinking ahead. If not, through them in the oven now! 
  4. Bake 350 for 25-35 until chicken is 165 degrees and then broil 5-6 minutes to crips bacon. 
*Alternatively, this is great grilled for about 6 minutes per side, medium heat. Keep an eye on the fire because the fatty thighs tend to flare up the grill fire. I speak from experience. 

* This can be prepared and placed in a 9x13 or similarly sized pan and frozen for an easy meal. Allow 24 hours to defrost in fridge. We had this a few weeks ago when I was knocked out sick and I was so thankful to have a meal ready to go. 

*I will sometimes toss a few pieces meat in the marinade without the Sriracha for the kids to eat, then add the Sriracha after I have prepared a few pieces of meat for them. Or just bake them plain chicken, they always want ketchup anyways! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

This Week in Pictures

      It was a somewhat slow and dragged out week here at home with the kids taking turns at having colds. This kept us from our usual morning trip to the gym so we enjoyed some long walks with the stroller instead. We meet Daddy at the "work park" for lunch one day and enjoyed story time at our neighborhood library.  David treated me to a delightful Valentine's day starting with getting up early to fix me chocolate covered strawberries and coffee served in bed! Dinner was at Cafe Ensley and the main course consisted of wild caught Salmon and two of my favorite veggies; sautéed brussel sprouts and asparugus with amble servings of bread and olive oil. 

Sorry of the terrible formatting, blogger is not friendly when it comes to adjusting the layouts.                                         

Daniel's first drink out of a water fountain

Overcast day at the Missions

 I love wearing L's backpack

Applesauce is my favorite snack! 

Enjoying some beautiful weather