Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pumpkin Cacao Muffins + A Giveaway!

Yesterday was the first day of fall and I wasn't going to get excited or anything until I walked outside and there.was.a.BREEZE. A real, cool, dare I say chilly breeze. Can we just ignore the middle part of the day that lapsed back into summer? Because the evening was cool and perfect as well and let's be honest, breezes are a clear sign of fall. And fall = pumpkins. And pumpkin = all the baking things. 

Now, you may be wondering....can this girl spell? Doesn't she know it's cocOA, not cocAO powder? Well, you'd be right, except that cacao is actually chocolate in it's raw, unprocessed form. It's basically the same thing as unsweetened Hershey's cocoa powder but with a TON more nutritional value. Filled with magnesium, fiber, calcium, and loaded with antioxidants.  It's classified as a super food. Just tell yourself: I'm eating a superfood muffin this morning. 

Now don't you feel better about the day already? 

Not that you had to convince yourself that pumpkin and chocolate were a good idea. 

Yields: 12 muffins


1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch of nutmeg

2 eggs
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 f 

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together. 

In a stand mixer* with the flat beater attachment, add eggs, coconut oil and
vanilla and mix on medium speed until completely combined. Turn mixer off and add
pumpkin purée. Turn back on to medium and blend until smooth. 

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time. Use a rubber spatula to push
down any ingredients that lifted on the sides of the bowl. Mix on low speed until smooth. 

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and using a 1/3 measuring cup fill the tins with batter.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the muffin. If it comes out clean, it's done!

*you can also use a hand mixer or whisk if you don't have a stand mixer. 


In the spirit of loving food I am teaming up with some lovely ladies and giving away 2 cookbooks and a copy of a recent favorite book, Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrieder. I'll admit, I'm drooling over these two cookbooks myself. They have the most beautiful stories to accompany their show stopping recipes!

The winner will be announced this Friday so stay tuned and play fair! All entries will be verified. Have fun!! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Favorite Things

Since the month is rolling to a close, it's time to share some of my favorite things I've been crushing on this month. 

1. This bag //
Personal Creations was incredibly sweet and gifted me with this amazing bag. It's soft quilted on the outside and lined on the inside to protect the bag from food, water, sand, etc. It's the perfect weekend bag and grocery bag alike. I've used it to pick up our produce from the co-op, bag groceries on a weekly basis, and even pack up Reaghan's things for an overnight stay a couple weeks back. It's functional, classy and the sorority girl in me loves a good monogram! Check out their site for some great personalized gifts. They have super cute costumes and decor for Halloween up right now as well as Christmas gifts! 

2. Podcasts // 

I'm absolutely loving podcasts right now. From The Splendid Table to the Influence Network to the If:Gathering, I love being inspired by other creative people. I often like to cook with a little music on and this has been a great time to listen to podcasts. I try to make the time I'm straightening up the house or cooking an encouraging and helpful time, and these three have done just that. Here's a recent favorite that will challenge + inspire you.  

3. Elf Lip Stain //

I posted on Instagram a couple of days ago about lip products and got some great suggestions! I checked this product out at Target and picked up two colors, nude nectar and "crimson crush" (a more berry tone). I've always wanted to venture into lip products but find it hard to stray from good old Burt's Bees lip balm. I'm craving some color these days though, so I'm giving them a try. They are definitely a stain, and are matte, so I add a little lip balm on top for moisture. They are by far the least expensive of any lip stick/crayon/tint/stain I saw but still great quality with rich pigment. 

4. Freezer Meals //

Because let's face it, every mom (or busy college student?) needs a week full of slow cooker meals in the freezer ready to go every once in a while. This week was definitely one of those times for me. I'm going out of town on Thursday so every free moment I can get during nap time and after bed time is devoted to checking things off my list to get ready to go. Let's just say going out of town is a lot more time consuming than it was pre-kids. Plus, my husband never said he was a chef, and I wont be here to feed him, sooooo.....easy, quick and husband proof meals fit the bill for us this week. 

What are you loving this month?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Happy Little Saturday Giveaway

Happy Saturday! It's that time again for the My Cooking Spot and contributors giveaway! We want to share our love of cooking by hosting a fabulous giveaway every month. This month we have a sponsor who has graciously provided the prize! And it's a prize pack! Not just one, two, but three different kitchenware items in the prize pack to win!

Here's more information about the products that are being provided: 

GreenPan: Maker of the original GreenPan, healthy ceramic non-stick cookware. The perfect gift for the cooks you love, the I LOVE Cooking and I LOVE Baking Collections (photos available upon request). Easy cooking, easy cleanup, perfect results. Some of them even have a 3D surface ideal for the specific types of foods that are meant to be cooked in them. 

Fiesta Dinnerware: The colorful iconic American brand recently introduced its new color of the year, Poppy (joining 14 other vivid colors). And for entertaining, consider the new Square Handled Serving Tray. 

Tervis: Tervis insulated drinkware makes something for everyone. With more than 8000+ designs to choose from, including license agreements with more than 60 brands, and even an online Customyzer to design your own.

Below are the contributors who helped put this giveaway together. Check out their beautiful blogs and see all the amazing recipes these ladies have done.

Enter today in the Rafflecopter entry form below.

Meme: Meme Inge - Marcella: Marcella Roses - Rachel: Oh Simple Thoughts
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've never paid much attention to buying foods within the season that they are the freshest. Call me crazy, but I never even knew that was a thing. Actually, you can call me an American, because this is one part of the world where we have that type of convenience. Though I appreciate the ease American grocery stores bring, there really is something to cherishing food in it's time.

Lately I've been looking for ways to slow down the food we eat at home. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. As I dive into new food co-op's and get to know local farms where our food comes from, I've noticed a deeper sense of gratitude for the meals we make. When staples become treats, doesn't it push you to savor them even more when you do get the chance to enjoy them?

The same can be said for seasons. Here in Texas the weather doesn't know which way it wants to go. The cool breeze grazes our cheeks, only to return to 90 degree temperatures and 80% humidity the very next day. Monday marks the first official day of fall, and while Texas may not know how it feels about that, many other parts of the country do. So, let's savor the last days of the sun beating on our backs and celebrate the freedom of wearing flip flops just a little bit longer so that when the cool comes and the leaves change, we will receive it with joy. 

For those of you who have been blessed by fall weather already, I encourage you to warm up with a bowl of this savory soup and basque in the newness of the season. 

Find the recipe at My Cooking Spot today! What's your favorite seasonal meal? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mom's Baked Shrimp // Paleo + Gluten Free

Growing up my dad was always the one to cook. I remember my mom stepping in every now and again with rice stuffed baked chicken (ah-mazing) or Puerto Rican fare, but by and large my dad was in charge of dinner. Now that I've left their little nest, I think they really enjoy working together in the kitchen and my mom has wowed us with some pretty awesome meals lately. This is one she created and wanted me to try -- and we loved it! I did tweak the recipe a bit. She used Panko bread crumbs which I subbed for almond meal. They of course wont have the same crunch but are still just as fabulous. She also adds a little grated parmesan cheese to her bread crumbs, which you are welcome to try, we just opted to leave it out!

These go so well with a little honey mustard, so I've included a simple recipe below. We had some fermented ketchup leftover from a couple weeks ago, so I went ahead and dipped away in that. I love this recipe for fermented ketchup or this recipe for homemade ketchup if you're interested. 

Serves: 2


14 jumbo size shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 egg
1-2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup almond meal 
Garlic powder
Old Bay Seasoning
Chili powder
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray

Honey mustard dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raw honey

Prepare your shrimp by peeling and deveining them. To devein, take a paring knife and run along the inside where the black line is showing. Once opened, you can wipe out the vein with your finger. I like to have the water running in the faucet just a bit to wash the vein away as I'm peeling and deveining the shrimp. Throw shrimp in a large bowl and season with a bit of Old Bay, set aside until ready to cook. This can be done ahead of time, up to 24 hours in advance. If done ahead, simply cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator. 

Preheat oven to 425 f

Prepare an egg wash of one egg and a splash of water (about 1-2 teaspoons worth). Add some salt and pepper and whisk well.  

In a shallow dish combine almond meal, garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning, chili powder, and some salt and pepper and mix well with the back of a fork. (My mom likes to stick her finger into the mixture to taste, adding more seasoning as needed).

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray a broiling rack (can also use a cooling rack) with cooking spray and place it on top of the baking dish.

Use a fork to dredge shrimp in the egg wash, then the almond meal mixture so they are well coated on all sides. Place on top of the broiling rack and spray and with cooking spray to give them more of a crunch while they bake.  

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  

While the shrimp are baking, whisk together Dijon mustard and honey in a small bowl and set aside for dipping!

Serve with a side of oven roasted sweet potatoes or tangy coleslaw. Hmmm...I think I need to come up with a healthier coleslaw recipes soon. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#influenceconf [Meet + Greet]

The Influence Conference is hosting a little online meet and greet for all those attending to get to know each other, so I'm joining in. I'll be honest, I'm getting really nervous to leave my daughter for 4 days, but so so ready to see what this network is really all about. I've gained so much from this network already and I feel like I've barely dipped my toes in. Going to the conference is really a "jump all in" moment for me and I couldn't be more ready. 

I'm Natasha, married to Jordan, and we have a 10 month old daughter named Reaghan, seen below ;) I was on staff with Cru as a campus missionary for about 4 years before transitioning to my new role. I'm lucky enough to get to work from home and be with our daughter every day. 

My big dream, though, is to free up more of my time to focus on writing. I started this blog not too long ago as a motivation for myself to create recipes and share them. If cooking was a love language, it would definitely be mine. Something about the folding, mixing, sautéing, and savoring that puts my heart at ease while igniting a fiery passion inside me all at the same time. 

Since becoming a mom God has been faithful to bring to the surface a few different desires and dreams that I didn't even know I had before. I've been sitting in them, praying about them, and letting them get me excited. One major pull on my heart (and a big reason for clicking "purchase ticket" for this conference) is to write a book. It'll be a compilation of recipes and stories with the hope of encouraging women to get in their kitchens and bless the people in their lives by feeding their body and their soul. It's a crazy wild dream that I have no clue how to accomplish, but I know my God will direct me in it. 

What I'm most looking forward to //
Really? What am I not looking forward to?! Spending sweet time with my friend Jenn would top the list. I am so looking forward to being around other like-minded women who are placing their passions at the feet of Jesus and striving to live a life of influence. These women are so inspiring, genuine, creative and wise and I cannot wait to soak up all their wisdom and LEARN. Can I add just one more thing? I really hope to use this conference as a spring board for my writing goals, and meet people who will spur me on to make these dreams a reality. 

What I wont leave home without // 
Aside from what feels like 80 million breastfeeding supplies? My journal, phone charger, and courage. 

Will you be there? I can't wait to meet you. 
Linked with The Influence Network 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Capsule Wardrobe // The Pieces

I guess you could say I have a somewhat boho style. I've always felt that I bounced from preppy to boho depending on my mood. However, since becoming a mom I definitely have leaned more toward all the flowy, loose fitting shirts and tighter pants, very boho. They are just so comfortable and look stylish as well :) I was lucky enough that I had several of these types of shirts while pregnant. Because they are looser, they actually fit for a majority of my pregnancy! This is why I had the idea of investing in the pieces I did. If I was going to be more intentional with my wardrobe and invest in a few new pieces, I wanted to make sure they were clothes I could wear throughout the year and would transition into those "in between" times of pregnancy and postpartum I talked about in part one of this blog in the future. 

After giving most of my clothing away, I felt like I was left with a good selection of brightly colored tops, many that were a little nicer, silky materials that I wouldn't want to wear every day around the house with a little one. These go in my "I'm feeling preppy" category :) But before I show you my clothes, here was my inspiration board:

Loose neutrals that can be easily layered and go with any type of pant for versatility through the seasons.

I decided to stop by Old Navy to see what they had going on. Turns out their style has drastically changed since I last shopped like, middle school. All I remember is "Old Navy" t-shirts for the 4th of July that about gave me a stomach ache. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked basically everything in their store and they were having major sales! Old Navy, Gap, Loft, etc. always seem to be having good sales, and constantly send out email alerts for 40% off, etc.  So you can snag a great price for new or even clearance items!

THE (mostly) NEW
2 (TJ Maxx)
3 (TJ Maxx)

1 (Old Navy in store only)
3 (Old Navy circa early 2000's?)
5 (Target, several years ago)
6 (Target, several years ago)

THE (mostly) OLD
1 TJ Maxx
2,3,5,6 from Target several years ago
4 Ann Taylor Loft clearance last year

1 & 4 Target a couple years back
2 Pretty sure I picked this up from Wal Mart a couple years ago, score
3, Loft several years ago
6 garage sale find ;)

*Not pictured: black leggings, pink jeans, and faded black jeans to round out my new mama wardrobe.

That's 18 tops, 4 pants, and 5 cardigans or jackets. I think I can make some pretty cute outfits out of all of these. 

I'd also like to point out that I strategically have more short sleeved tops with cardigans for a reason. Instead of having multiple wardrobes for each season, I will layer in the fall and still use some of those tops I wore in the summer under scarves, sweaters and cardigans. So, where as many capsule wardrobe posts out there go by season, this is kind of what I'm working with in general. I will say there are a few other pieces that didn't get the boot originally but aren't included in my capsule here. Mainly because they are things I will wear sparingly like those dresses I was talking about, shoes, scarves, etc. 

TIP: For nursing mom's, I wore a nursing tank under regular tops for months after giving birth. The nursing bra I had just didn't fit me right until recently and it was just easier and more comfy to do the pull up, pull down move. Target has some really great ones if you want to try that out. 

Okay, one last thing about Old Navy. As I was browsing their site to put this post together, I noticed that they also have a great little section of their website that shows you what to wear for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters as well as clothes that will be functional and cute after baby is born. Love that!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lime Pie Pops!

We got a little bit of the exotic along with some staples in last weeks produce co-op basket and absolutely loved it. We had potatoes, cauliflower and (surprise!) prickly pear. Oh, and about 15 limes....So what does one do with all those limes? Well you make chicken curry with lime and then treat yourself to a fabulously tart and sweet dessert -- lime pie pops!

Find the recipe today at My Cooking Spot. Happy Friday! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Capsule Wardrobe // The Plan

I stored away all my pre-maternity clothes last summer in preparation to save space when we moved into our new house. A couple months after my daughter was born I started going through them. I was faced with bags full of clothes I had completely forgotten about and a closet that was equally as full. I was overwhelmed and dissatisfied with my collection and just wanted to throw everything away. I knew that wasn't possible but needed a plan.

I started thinking about how I could simplify my wardrobe and tailor it towards this new phase of life I'm in. I hope the next few years will be filled with pregnancies and young babies, and I knew my old clothes just weren't cut out for that. 

I've also done a lot of thinking about the "in between" stages of your body as a mom. I'm not about to go out and buy a new wardrobe for each of these stages, but I wanted to find a way to make my wardrobe versatile enough to last through them all. For example, there's the in between time when you kind of just look chubby rather than pregnant...none of your jeans fit and you just need a loose fitting t-shirt that still makes you feel cute because, let's face it, you feel like death. Maternity shirts don't quite suit you yet but maybe your old form fitting ones make you feel more bloated than you already are. 

Then there's the in between time after birth where you're still wearing maternity jeans (though you thought you'd be in regular jeans a month out...ha) and not quite sure where you stand with the rest of your closet. 

I know not every mom will go through the same stages because we all have different body types AND I know not every mom will have the same thought process as me, but as I searched online for some help with styling my body in this new lifestyle I wasn't finding what I was looking for. My hope in writing this is to give you a starting place if you are finding yourself in a similar situation. 

If you are pregnant or just gave birth, you are a strong woman, and should be confidant in what your body is capable of. There is so much beauty in you and it doesn't come from clothing. That beauty comes from the inner strength that has been given by God to grow and nourish another human life. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Whether we have gained more weight than we wanted to in pregnancy, are naturally petite, stuck somewhere in the middle, or dealing with something else entirely, it doesn't matter. We all deserve to feel beautiful internally and adorn ourselves externally in a way that reflects how we feel on the inside.  

Because I know these truths, by God's grace I really haven't struggled with body image very much since giving birth. I have chosen to accept the gift of bearing children with my body and am excited to continue to do that in the future if the Lord allows. As of now, I really have no plans to try to lose a ton of weight. Nor do I think I'm overweight. For me the number on the scale doesn't matter all that much. 

Being physically strong and feeding my body the right nutrients has been more important and what I choose to prioritize. I spend a lot of time making sure we eat healthy, and I go for walks pushing a stroller almost daily. If I want to give my body anything, it's not less pounds, it's strength, so I try to practice holy yoga when I can as well. Breastfeeding along with walking has brought me pretty close to my "pre-baby" weight, and I'm good with that. 

Okay, so somewhere along this journey I was introduced to the Un-Fancy blog. Her idea is to simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of all the fluff and only keeping a limited number of pieces.  None of us like the feeling of thinking "what am I going to wear?" while staring at a closet bursting at the seams with clothes. You can read more about the what and how of building a capsule wardrobe here. I used her free wardrobe planner, donated almost all of my clothes, and got to work. 

*80% at home, 20% out with friends in casual settings, running errands, etc.
*A few special occasions (holidays, showers, weddings) not included in capsule. 
*Pregnant and/or nursing 

*All new clothing will be neutrals (grey, black, cream, white), with pops of color from old clothes

*Stay within budget
*Simplify wardrobe to pieces that are only functional for nursing, comfortable, and could get me through the early pregnancy stage and early postpartum stage. 
*Put together but relaxed; cute but comfortable

My Go-To Pieces: 
*dark denim skinny jeans
*loose tops and tanks that are long (hit the end of the zipper on jeans)
*long sleeve loose knit cardigans

I started by purging my closet of everything that met this criteria: 
  • didn't fit
  • wasn't a piece that could last through the "in between" times of early pregnancy and early postpartum
  • I didn't feel beautiful in it
  • wasn't easy to nurse in
  • had holes or other wear and tear 

For me this also meant no skirts, maxi dresses, etc. I love a good maxi dress but these two items aren't in my capsule wardrobe right now because I can only think of one or two times when I would wear them. Maybe a shower or a wedding where I'm without my baby, but these two things happen too infrequently for me to justify stocking my closet with any new dresses. I kept a few that I liked and would feel comfortable in and will save them for when Reaghan is weaned :) 

Since this is getting exuberantly long already, I'll save showing you my pieces for another post. 

How about you, was this helpful for any mom's out there going through the "in between" stages with their bodies? What other issues have you come across? I'd love to hear!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Prickly Pear Chia Jam

So you know by now that we ordered our first basket from a local produce co-op in town last week. Part of the fun in these baskets is that you are introduced to new fruits and vegetables that you would never have normally tried had you just ran into it in the produce section of the grocery store. In our basket was a slew of prickly pears. 


I had fun trying to figure out what this fruit was at first (since I had never seen one) and with the help of some friends figured it out. I decided since there are an abundance of seeds inside I would just use the juice for something else. 

They're called "prickly" pears because straight off the cactus they have lots of tiny thorns on them. Most found in grocery stores are already cleaned of these thorns and should be safe to handle. They are most commonly found in Mexican grocery stores, natural grocery stores and farmers markets. 

Now, making jam with chia seeds has got to be the easiest thing on this planet. If you haven't had chia seeds, you need to pick some up on your next trip to the grocery store for sure. They are a superfood seed that becomes gelatinous when wet, making them perfect for smoothie bowls, custards, and they show up in quite a few paleo desserts and breakfasts. We love to use them as a substitute for bread crumbs these days, throw them on top of a salad or in with granola before baking. I love easy nutrition, don't you? 

Yields: About 1 cup jam


6 ripe prickly pears (the more red the better)
3 tablespoons chia seeds

Start by slicing the ends off each prickly pear. Take your knife and slice the skin long ways, not penetrating the entire fruit but just through the thick skin. Peel back the skin until all of it is off -- it should come off pretty easily. 

Holding a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, place the prickly pears into the sieve. Use a potato smasher to mash them up, squeezing as much liquid out as possible. If you're having trouble with getting all the liquid out, try simmering on low heat in a small pot. Heat loosens up the flesh and brings out the juices. :)

Discard the seeds and pulp and you're left with a deliciously sweet juice! I thought about adding sugar, but the juice was just so sweet, it didn't need any at all. Add juice to a small mason jar along with the chai seeds and stir. Allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight. 

So far we've enjoyed this in our oatmeal and on english muffins! It'd be fabulous in a smoothie as well! Enjoy your exotic little treat and let me know if you have other easy jam favorites! I'm kind of liking making my own. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Goals with Grace // September

A new month! Hooray! I mentioned earlier this week that I'm excited to begin this new season, both in life and literally, with the weather. It'll be great to not be forced into a 30 minute window of time in the early morning for a walk. The temps will get cooler (I hope!) and some fun and exciting things are around the corner.... 

I want to look back at August to see how I did. Again, I love this link-up because it's not about accomplishing every little thing on my list, though I do make small lists ;) Rather, we give ourselves grace. 

August Goals //

1. Finish reading "Nourished Baby" and "Will Write for Food"
Yes and no! I finished "Nourished Baby" and am implementing the things I learned into Reaghan's diet as we continue to introduce new foods to her. I haven't finished "Will Write for Food" mainly because it's somewhat of a workbook for me, and I'm working through it slowly. Each chapter is so heavy with lots to think about, so I'm biting off small bits, and chewing on it for a while :)
2. Replace all our household cleaners with natural alternatives 
Yes! So excited about this one. I replaced all our household cleaners with safe, non-toxic versions. I can barely handle walking down the cleaning product aisle at the grocery store anymore, so this was a huge YAY in my book. 
3. Start Reaghan's 1st birthday party crafts 
Yes! It's a slow process but I'm really excited about how everything is coming along. Gold and sparkly everywhere! 
4. Take more social media free weekends Mainly I just forgot about this one. Though I will say that it is more natural for me to pull away from social media on the weekends. It's not a true "I'm not opening up these apps on my phone" weekend, and I'm okay with that for now. The point of this being that I want to focus my attention on family, friends, rest and creating. I think those things are happening.

1. Order blog business cards //
So weird for me since I'm new at blogging, but definitely needed. My friend Jenn and I are going to The Influence Conference at the end of the month and will be meeting lots of new people!

2. More crafties for Rae's party //
You'll just have to wait until November to see what I'm up to!

3. Find new ways to live a slower paced and more intentional life // 
This isn't anything new for Jordan and I. It's been on the radar for years and I'm happy with where we've come on that journey. BUT we still have a ways to go, fighting against the current of our culture and our own internal biases. While I'm at it, I want to finish reading "Notes from a Blue Bike." I'm really loving it. Get yourself a copy and read it, I promise you'll be blessed. 

4. Blog 3 times a week //
As opposed to 5x a week, see goal #3. 

And now some good reads from August in case you missed it!

Let's Connect!