Happy girls are the prettiest girls

2.25.2014

Tasty Tuesday: Strawberry coffee cake

As always, giving a shout out to my girl Cassie for creating Tasty Tuesdays :)

While the family was visiting last week, I wanted to give them a really great breakfast to welcome them to Texas. They flew in late Wednesday, so I knew I could take advantage of a late wake up to put together something yummy. I had no real plans in place, but wanted to bake up a coffee cake of some sort to go with the scrambled eggs and bacon I was making. I searched through a bunch of recipes, and ended up throwing this together with what I had on hand, and it was well received! The cake was moist and slightly sweet, while the strawberries were bursting with flavor and gave a juicy touch to a dish that can often dry out. The topping was crunchy and deliciously buttery. It actually took just a moment to throw together, and baked while I put together the rest of the meal. Definitely bookmark this for your next lazy Saturday morning, or when you want to impress guests at brunch. 
Sorry for the bad photo! I put this on the table and it was gone quicker than I could snap a nice photo!
Strawberry Coffee Cake
Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk {I had vanilla soy milk on hand, so that's what I used}
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
Topping
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 
  3. Add milk, egg, and butter. Beat for 2 minutes. 
  4. Fold in chopped strawberries, then pour into a greased 9 inch pie pan or 8x8 square pan. 
  5. Combine remaining flour, oats, and sugar. Cut in chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon evenly onto the batter.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  7. Serve hot and let everyone pat you on the back for a great recipe!

2.24.2014

Family in town

Happy Monday! Hope your weekend was restful and lots of fun. 
I got a little quiet last week because I had family in town, yay! 
Billy's mom, sister, and our nephew Tyler came to visit for a few days. I was happy to play tour guide around Austin, even though I am pretty new to the area myself. My brand of guidance is the "eat your way around Austin" kind, and while it's delicious, it's not fabulous for the waistline. I am definitely in need of a cleanse, lots of greens, and to stay away from sugar for a bit.

Thursday we visited the Austin Zoo
We discovered it is not your typical zoo, but an animal sanctuary and rescue facility that functions as a zoo. All of their animals were either gifted from another zoo, or rescued from random, and often sad, situations. My favorite story was the leopard that was bought by a truck driver at a truck stop. I mean, seriously? You can buy a freaking big cat at a truck stop? Why have I never been approached by some nefarious character who opens his coat to reveal a baby tiger or something? 
Even though most of the animals were sleeping the afternoon away, Tyler was in heaven, running around and checking out all of the animals. I have to say, we had the most fun feeding the goats! Kids really like being able to get up close and personal with animals. I guess I do too! Seriously, that Llama? I need it.
We finally managed to tear Tyler away from the zoo, quite unwillingly. We headed to the Salt Lick Barbecue in Driftwood, a Texas institution, and something that has to be had while in Austin.
Friday I had to work, so B took them to Round Rock Donuts for a sugary breakfast, then to the Round Rock Outlets for a little shopping. They had lunch at Rudy's BBQ, and I finally met up with them that evening for pizza delivery and couch time. 
Saturday I went on a bike ride, then came home with breakfast tacos from Torchy's Tacos. I love me some Torchy's, but hadn't had the breakfast tacos before, and oh man they were yummy! Since this was their last day in Texas, and we are desperate for family to move out here, we took them to a few model homes in the gorgeous Crystal Falls community that is right next to ours. Crystal Falls was voted best master planned community in Austin, and we knew it would shine pretty nicely and help convince the family they need to move out here. Even Tyler had fun wandering through the beautifully decorated homes. My favorite was the Jimmy Jacobs home. The master bathroom and closet were the total kickers, but I loved everything about it, including the 17 foot ceilings with dark paneled wood inserts, the gourmet kitchen, and the outdoor kitchen and entertaining space.
After dreaming of fancy pants houses, we headed into downtown Austin and found ourselves at Gordoughs Donuts, which is a food trailer on 1st st that is very well known for their delicious donut creations. I ordered the dirty berry, which was chocolate and grilled strawberries, and I was in sweets heaven. Tyler got the baby rattler, a chocolate donut topped with chocolate Oreo's and gummy snakes.
We wanted to go to Home Slice Pizza on South Congress, but it was so stinking busy, and there was no parking anywhere, so we just drove around to show them the So.Co area. We did the same thing to show them 6th st, since the traffic was nuts, and it's not exactly kid friendly with the plethora of bars. We wanted to get dinner at Chuy's's, but were stymied once again by a busy Saturday evening, and didn't want to wait over an hour to be seated. We ended up grabbing some Mexican food from Rosa's Cafe, but the only thing I can say about them is they had good tortillas. 

We all piled on the couch and hung out, enjoying each others' company on our last evening together. We had a super early wake up time of 4am to make sure they got to the airport for their 6am flight. Yeah, none of us were happy about that part. I guess that is what happens when Dad is the one to book the flights and is looking for a deal. 

It was so sad to drop them off. Billy hadn't seen his family since he moved to Texas in September. Normally, we would see them once a week at least. I was lucky enough to stay with them both times I've been back to California, but B has missed them quite a bit. We are trying to figure out if he will be able to take some time off in April and come back with me on one of my trips back for weddings, but nothing is for certain. Not being around family has definitely been the hardest part of moving to Texas, and it doesn't seem to get any easier with time, just more tolerable. So hug your family if you are lucky enough to have them around, and if not, count your blessings when you get to see them.

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2.18.2014

Tasty Tuesday: creamy chocolate cake balls

I like to give Cassie the credit for starting Tasty Tuesday, whether or not she happens to be posting her own recipe. It's just nice blogger etiquette.

I says balls a lot in this post. If it makes you giggle, welcome to the club, you can be my new bff. If it bothers you, well, come up with another word to replace balls with, like bluffs, or something like that.

I posted a little teaser of my cake balls on Instagram the other day, and mentioned that I used a new secret ingredient as the binder. You guys, this is so simple, yet ridiculously delicious. 

I have no doubts that you have had a cake ball, made them yourself, or at least heard of them in the past few years. Starbucks even sells them, so I know I would be hard pressed to find a person unfamiliar. The typical cake ball recipes I have seen and used say to mix in most of a can of store-bought frosting to your crumbled cake. Not bad, and quite delicious. But I really am not a fan of store-bought frosting, and when you are using so much, it makes cake balls a little less appealing to me. I say a little because, let's face it, I will eat pretty much any baked treat, good or bad, and I'll eat it all, too.

So imagine my delight when I found a suggestion online that did not use frosting at all as the binder for the cake balls. Color me impressed. Who knew you could use a liqueur, half and half, or whipping cream, in addition to the usual frosting option? However, I only had coffee creamer on hand, so I figured I would give it a shot. Um, best decision ever!
Creamy Dark Chocolate Cake Balls
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 cup Bailey's coffee creamer. I used vanilla brown sugar, but the Toffee Almond Cream sounds great!
Directions:
  1. Bake the cake according to box instructions using a 13x9 pan. 
  2. Allow to cool, then crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl. I cut the cake into 8 pieces, and rubbed them against each other over the bowl, then used a fork to break up the bigger pieces. I also ate the edges that were not crumbling, hah!
  3. Add 1 cup of creamer {or other liquid of choice} to the crumbs, and use a spoon to mix together. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little more creamer by the tablespoon until it all sticks together well. 
  4. Using a small ice cream, or medium cookie scoop, grab a bit of the mixture and pat it together into a ball shape. Place balls on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet. I had a little trouble with consistent sizing, and my mixture was on the dry side, but I still managed to make 32 balls when all was said and done.
    Freshly rolled cake balls
  5. Chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes so the cake balls can be handled without breaking apart.
  6. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions. Drop a ball at a time in the chocolate, rolling until it is coated, then set back on the waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
    All 3 stages of balls, uncoated, freshly coated, hardened coating 
  7. Chill in freezer again until the shells are hardened. Transfer to a resealable container and keep in the fridge until ready to eat. 
Disclaimer: These are really good. Like "eat them all in one weak moment" good. Or "Can't stop thinking about balls" good. I suggest having a destination for the finished product before you set to making these, as you won't want to part with them unless you have a very good reason. Like making your significant other worship you, impressing the heck out of your friends, being very popular at a bake sale, or to console your PMSing sister, as just a few very worthwhile options.

Happy baking!

2.17.2014

Valentine's Blogiday meet up

On February 8th, 12 lovely ladies converged on Waco, Texas for the very first #TxValentineBlogiday hosted by Stephanie of the Vintage Modern Wife, Casey of Real Suburbia, and myself. 
L-R top row Nancy, Jessica, Laurie, Carol, Sarah, Tiffany
Bottom row: Me, Rachel, Casey, Stephanie and Amber, Jamie not pictured 
I was quite honored to be asked to help host this event, because, well, I don't feel like I have quite earned my blogger stripes to be hosting a meet up of any kind. But Stephanie wanted my help and I would never dream of denying a friend, and fellow blogger, anything! Stephanie was really the master mind behind the whole thing, but I pitched in to help put together some Valentine's themed gift boxes for the attendees. 
We're, like, totally cute.
Then I made us do crazy faces so we wouldn't get too full of ourselves.
Our super cute table at The Olive Branch

Stephanie contacted the Confetti Bar for the cutest confetti poppers and custom hash tag confetti for our tables, HomemadexoJoules for a perfectly festive tassel garland, The Olive Branch Bakery and Cafe to let us host our meet up at their restaurant {and provide the sweetest cupcakes!}, and Grae Apparel to donate really cool gift bags for everyone. 
care of HomemadexoJoules
Care of The Confetti Bar
We used our poppers as place cards by writing everyone's names on them
We definitely had our own hashtag ;)
Our table of bloggers, from each end
Casey and Sarah from Real Suburbia
Jessica and Laurie from Ruthie & Rose
Nancy From Haus to Home and Stephanie of the VMW
Casey, Sarah and Jamie from Real Suburbia

I completely failed to get into more of the photos, since I was the one with the camera happily snapping away. I felt a little uncomfortable in my chosen outfit {um hello, ill-fitting shirt that I didn't realize was bad till the morning of haha}, and was more content getting to know more of the bloggers I hadn't known of before. I missed photo ops of the rest of the girl, but you can click on their name links from the group photo and get to know them all better yourself.

After our delicious brunch, we all trekked upstairs to Spice, which is a whole indoor open-air market of little shops to do some retail therapy. Grae Apparel was our host shop, and all of us just loved the boutique style clothing, adorable accessories, and beautiful home goods. Grae had an awesome reusable tote bag with a chevron infinity scarf, adorable necklace, a perfume roller ball, and a sample of lotion for every one of us. They made us feel very special, and I hope if you ever find yourself in Waco, you will stop in there and do a little shopping for yourself.

I consider this blogger meet up an incredible success, with the best part of it being the new friendships I made! We have already started discussing future meet ups and what fun things we could put together. All I know is, if Stephanie is involved, it's going to be super adorable!

2.12.2014

My Ginger Siren

Last week I posted a teaser photo of the shoot I did with Casey on my Happies and Crappies post. I can't even contain myself any longer, I have to post the rest! 

Casey is one of the easiest people to be around. She somehow effortlessly encourages you to just be yourself, and in the short time I have known her, we have reached a level of friendship that contains no TMI zones. I know she will giggle along with me at a dirty innuendo, won't bat an eye if I mention a bowel movement or gas, and cracks me up daily. "I'm dying" is a phrase we volley back and forth like a hot grenade, because we are laughing so hard the phrase just fits. She is filled with movie quotes and uses them perfectly in every day situations. She is a great mom who acknowledges that raising a child is hard. She is fun, big hearted, and incredibly giving. 

I wanted to bring all of these things that I feel about Casey into the photos. I wanted her to see them and feel comfortable. To feel beautiful. To wonder if that person was really her, because she had never felt so pretty. I started with simple makeup that flattering her perfect pale complexion, and gave her a ton of Texas volume and curl to her hair. She had brought over a selection of outfits, so I let her pick what she wanted to wear while I dragged my big peach wing back chair to the backyard and sat her down to pose. I swear you would have thought I was having a heart attack while snapping photos, because of all my gasps. I was delighted with what was popping up on the LED screen of my camera. 

Now, I am not in any way a trained professional when it comes to photography. I am quite comfortable with my auto setting, and don't dare set it in manual for fear of RUINING EVERYTHING. I am capable of taking some decent shots using natural lighting and hoping for the best. I don't even have any professional fancy editing software. Just Picasa to change the color and contrast, crop, and do a little retouching in the most basic sense. Hopefully knowing that my skills are limited shows you just how lovely Casey is.
We started Casey out with what she affectionately termed "Housewife hair", in a cute blue patterned dress. Her adorable son Wilder was hanging out with us, and I happened to catch him with a smile in this one.
Casey was effortless in front of the camera. She would smile, I would snap, it would be fabulous. She took direction well, and even laughed when I modeled the poses I wanted her to get into.
This is Casey in a nutshell. A bombshell with a spirited side. You can see the fun in her eyes.
"It seems my soul is a gypsy"
This is my favorite. We had gotten to the "magic hour" where the sun was just buttery perfection. I had thrown her hair up into a messy side bun and pulled tendrils down to soften the look. She wore the style like it was meant for her. This was the very last photo I took, and it was after I had already said I was done. Good think I kept going.
 I am so happy Casey agreed to let me use her as my muse for what I call my Ginger Siren shoot. It was fun to play with makeup and use my often neglected camera with a girlfriend. It's been awhile since I have had any kind of photo shoot action, and I needed it. I am now going to update my beauty website to include a "Lifestyle" portfolio from my four amateur shoots, because I want my clients to be able see these and get inspiration for their own shoots.   

Thank you Casey, for being an awesome friend!

2.11.2014

Tasty Tuesday: spicy chicken noodle soup

It has been a bit since I have posted a recipe. Thankfully, I got to cooking the other day, and actually made something worth mentioning! 

My favorite meal as of late has been to bake a bag of frozen breaded chicken, dump the accompanying sauce over it, heat brown rice in the microwave, throw it all together in a bowl with some broccoli, sweet chili sauce and call it dinner. It's a cheater version of real cooking, where you would actually make the chicken yourself, rather than opening a bag haha

Being sick and having super cold weather last week, made me want a satisfying warm soup. I had nothing of the canned variety to turn to, and was seriously limited in my ingredients to make my favorite tortellini soup recipe, or even a basic chicken noodle soup recipe, so I made up something else entirely. I was skeptical as I threw the ingredients in my crock pot, but a few hours later I was thrilled. Spicy, warm and all together delicious, this soup hit home and made me feel better, just as I had hoped it would. 
Spicy chicken noodle soup
Ingredients:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 14oz can mild green enchilada sauce
1 14oz can black beans, rinsed
1 14oz can Rotel, or just chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp each salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin
2 cups water
2 cups pasta of choice, mine was farfalle{bow tie}

Directions:
Place all ingredients except pasta into your crock pot, stir, and cook for 2 hours on high, or 4 hours on low. Use two forks to shred the chicken pieces a little. Add in pasta and cook 30 more minutes, or until pasta is tender. Eat as is, or serve with sliced avocado, tortilla strips, or cheese as optional garnishment. 

This really helped to clear my sinuses, and made my throat feel a little better. I'd say that is a successful soup for a cold winter day when you are feeling under the weather!

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