The Family Practice

family life is a practice in balance and flow


Chocolate Stout Cake

We had an incredible weekend and I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but first things first I promised you a chocolate cake recipe (via Facebook).

You guys know that my recipes are all about using real ingredients that are easy to find and that you can use in your every day cooking – I try to avoid hard to find ingredients that you’ll end up buying once and have lingering in your pantry awaiting another purpose. This cake is no different, I combined three of my favorite things: dark coffee, dark beer and dark chocolate.

I used Roosters Junction City Chocolate Stout which has rich notes of cocoa and even espresso which I think pairs perfectly with the addition of coffee and chocolate – this cake has been nagging at my brain since my first sip of the stout when we first paid visit to Roosters on 25th Street. If you’re in Utah, stop in at Roosters in Ogden, Union Grille at the Union Station or stop in at the Roosters location in Layton and grab a growler of the good stuff. You’ll need less than 1 Cup for making the cake but I guarantee you’ll want some extra to pair with your dinner or to enjoy after a long run or bike ride. Speaking of bike ride, check out Roosters Biker’s Edge Cycling Team and you’ll find a crew of cyclists that are equally enthusiastic about their bikes as they are about their beer. My kind of people :)

You may remember Roosters from Small Town USA: Ogden, UT where we talked about the history of Ogden. I included Roosters in my “must see stops and shops” collection.

Not in Utah? You can sub in your favorite porter or stout instead.

Let’s get started shall we?

Roosters Chocolate Stout Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes Bake Time: 30 minutes at 375* Makes: 2 9” cake rounds


  • 1/2 Cup Butter, room temperature
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Cup Junction City Chocolate Stout, room temperature and flat
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Roast Brewed Coffee, room temperature (I used Starbucks Verona)
  • For the frosting: 2 Cups Whipping Cream, 2/3 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, 1/2 tsp Orange Extract, 1/4 tsp Sea Salt


  • Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined.
  • Add the two eggs and continue mixing.
  • Melt the 1/2 cup chocolate chips. I did this by putting them in a coffee mug and microwaving for 45 seconds, stirring and heating an additional 20 seconds.
  • Add the melted chocolate to the sugar mixture.
  • Once the chocolate is fully incorporated, add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and baking powder).
  • Slowly add in the coffee and beer mixture. Mix until the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Pour into well-greased baking pans. Note that your baking pans will only be about 1/3 of the way filled with cake batter – the yeast in the beer will cause it to rise quite a bit. Just something to keep in mind if you decide to use something other than 2 9” rounds. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
  • While the cake is baking, prepare your icing. Start by combining the 2 cups of whipping cream and the 2/3 cups of chocolate chips in a microwaveable container. Heat for 1 minute, stir and heat an additional 30 seconds. Stir until all chocolate is melted and well incorporated. Refrigerate.
  • After baking, let cake fully cool to room temperature.
  • When the cake is at room temp and the chocolate whip cream is fully chilled, you are ready to ice your cake. Prepare the whipping cream by adding the orange extract and sea salt, then beat until small peaks form. Spread over cake and serve. If preparing this cake in advance, you will want to keep the frosted cake refrigerated until ready to serve.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Okay friends, I have to run to work so the weekend update will have to wait. In the meantime, I wanna hear what YOU were up to this weekend?


At Home Sushi

Good morning! Today I woke up to find another five/six inches of snow of the ground. That puts us just about two feet in the last 48 hours. Luckily, I’m happily tip-tapping my way across the keyboard as I type up this post from the comforts of the train – passing by the freeway that is at a complete standstill. Now, if only this train had a dining car – or even just a coffee stand at one of the stations. Dreams…

It was so busy over the holidays that I didn’t really get to touch base on our day-to-day activities and this is one of those things that I really wanted to share. So even though this little sushi party took place nearly a month ago I wasn’t about to forget about it. This is a great “date night in” option and it is also really fun to do with a group. And it’s cheaper than you might think; we spent just under $100 (including beers and snacks) and had 8 people that were able to eat till we were all completely stuffed and we still had leftovers!

So, wanna know how you can make sushi at home?

Sushi Making Party

Books and Tools


The first book is great for recipes, including sauces and side dishes as well as some unique and interesting roll ideas. The second book I’ve shown is great for the traditions of sushi – preparation, technique and even etiquette for eating – this book is choice for someone who is starting with little experience because it shows the very basics of sushi preparation, even how to fillet your own fish (which might come in handy if sashimi grade seafood is hard to come by in your hometown).


Shown here, I have a knife specifically for sashimi – you do not have to have one of these specifically but a sharp, thin blade knife is pretty essential. You will also want a rolling mat – the one I’ve shown happens to be the set that Nick and I have at home – however, pretty much any variety will suffice and you can find these fairly cheap. Actually, when we had this sushi party, we grabbed the wrong thing and ended up with bamboo placemats rather than rolling mats. It all worked just as well and the point is, you don’t have to get any fancy equipment.

In Washington, you can easily find  all of the things you’ll need (including groceries) at either Uwajimaya or H Mart. In Utah, you can find fish at Caputo’s in SLC or try one of the Asian Markets in Sandy.

Sushi Party Grocery List - Make at Home Sushi

The first part of making sushi is making sushi rice.

My Super Easy Sushi Rice


  • 1 1/2 Cup Rice
  • 1 3/4 Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar


  • Rinse rice, combine all ingredients in rice cooker – cook as usual.
  • Alternatively, you can prepare on the stovetop by bringing water, vinegar and sugar to a boil and then adding the rice. Cover and reduce heat to low for about thirty minutes until rice is fluffed but sticky.

There are lots of sushi rice recipes available online that are a lot more complicated. In fact, many sushi restaurants have a “secret recipe” that is unique to their sushi. I say, try something easy, play around with the sushi rolls and find something that works for you – you may like more sugar and less vinegar, etc.

While your rice is cooking, prepare your veggies and fish. Thin slices work best. Remember you will be rolling this all up and the goal is neat and tidy rolls, not a bulging burrito of a sushi roll.

Sushi Ingredients

For the rolls, get your mat in front of you and lay the nori out widthwise and shiny-side down. Spread a thin layer of rice of the nori, leaving about 1/4 inch gap which you will need in order to “seal” your roll.

About 1/4 inch into the rice covered portion, lay out your fillings – your tuna, avocado, etc – then roll, using the mat to keep things tight as you roll away from your body.

Roll Sushi

Make Thin Lines for Sushi Rolls

Dip your fingers in rice vinegar and seal the end of your roll by wetting the portion of nori that is not rice-covered and attaching it to the the rest of the roll. Lay the completed roll seam-side-down and slice with a wet knife. Keeping the knife wet and clean between cuts will ensure that you get a nice, clean slice and you don’t smash up your roll in the process.

Cut Sushi with Wet Knife

Top the slices with roe, or roll in sesame seeds, or drizzle with sauce as desired.

You can really do just about anything that you can come up with! My suggestion is to buy a few key ingredients that you like and then play around with the combinations.

Tuna Salmon and Cucumber

One of my favorite rolls from this party was a “mini roll” I decided to make with a broken piece of nori. Using a half sheet and lining with rice just as before, I made a thin line of salmon and roe as well as a thin line of wasabi paste – then rolled tight. I liked this because there was a lot less rice and the spice came through quite nicely.

Homemade Sushi Rolls At Home Sushi Sushi Making Party

Again, you can do anything. One of our favorite sushi places has a secret menu that is full of wild and crazy combinations like lobster and steak (the surf and turf roll), grilled bell peppers, one even has basil and cherry tomatoes! We’ve had a few of these sushi parties over the years and we’ve tried all kinds of things as well – mango, spinach, tomatoes.

What will you make?!


Cabbage Soup for the Soul + Health Benefits

Brrrrr! As I sit down to type up this morning’s post it is 10* – the high today is 23*. I guess I can’t complain too much seeing as a friend of mine posted on FB that where she is at in New York is currently –8*, yuck. I absolutely hate being cold. The book I’m currently reading, The Light at the End of the World, is about an Indian civilization at the end of the last ice age. I can’t help but wonder what weather like what we are facing now, would have meant for them. Just imagine life without our GoreTex, synthetic long johns and these fancy coats we have. Pretty hard to even fathom life like that.

Anywho… I have a perfect recipe for these cold winter days, cabbage soup! Apparently Janetha and I are on the same wavelength because I noticed that she had a cabbage soup recipe up yesterday and I already had it on our meal plans for last night. She goes about it totally different than I do so if you’re looking for some variety, check out her recipe which is an adaptation from something she found on pinterest.

Mine is a bit of an adaptation from the Cabbage Patch in Snohomish, WA as well as the cabbage soup my mother-in-law makes.

Cabbage Soup for the SoulCabbage Soup


  • 1.5 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Large Head of Cabbage (I could only find small ones so I used two), chopped in about 1/2 inches pieces
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Cans Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained*
  • 2 Cans Black Beans, drained*
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp Better Than Bullion Beef
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil


  • In a large stock pot combine garlic and onion with olive oil. Sauté over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes, then add ground beef. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Add in 1 Tbsp of the Beef Bullion. Increase heat and cook meat thoroughly.
  • Add to this the diced tomatoes and beans, stir to incorporate fully.
  • Add the remaining 1 Tbsp Beef Bullion and water.
  • Lastly, add the cabbage. Stir once and let simmer on medium-high heat for about ten minutes.
  • Serve hot!

*I had meant to make this soup using dried beans, which I stocked up on over the weekend. Sadly, I forgot to put them out to soak the night before and there was no way they would be ready in time for dinner – so canned beans it was.

WP_001742You can let this soup simmer for much longer than ten minutes and in fact, the longer it cooks down the better it gets. Like chili, the soup is even better the next day – though we enjoyed it quite a lot this first night :)

So the soup will keep you warm, obviously, but what are some other benefits of cabbage soup? Let’s break it down by ingredient:

Cabbage is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K (potassium) and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is important as an antioxidant because it fights free-radials – those things that have been linked to cancer – and they improve circulation, clear our skin, the list goes on. Cabbage also contains manganese which helps our body use calcium – especially important for women since we are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Kidney Beans should perhaps be called Brain Beans because of their high levels of Vitamin K. Vitamin K helps power our brains and nervous systems. Kidney beans are also a source of thiamin which is necessary to the production of acetylcholine – big name but basically this is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory function. A lack of thiamin or acetylcholine is related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The beans are also a good source of calcium, protein and iron. Iron is really important because it helps our blood vessels move oxygen, increase metabolism and boosts our bodies energy production.

Black Beans are widely recognized for their protein and fiber values but did you know that they are also a good source of folate (Vitamin B6)? Folate is used to produce amino acids which help our bodies use protein. Pretty nifty that they pack protein and the folate necessary to put that protein to use!

Garlic contains allicin which is “nature’s antibiotic” – commonly believed to help prevent and treat the common cold as well as flu.

Onions help to reduce blood pressure and control cholesterol levels. The phytochemicals found in onions work along with Vitamin C to help strengthen the workings of our blood vessels and decrease inflammation in the body.

To recap, this soup has a ton of protein, we’ve got antibiotic qualities which will help especially during this “flu epidemic” and we have all kinds of good stuff to help improve our metabolism, circulation and overall body functions.

I packed a jar of the soup leftovers for lunch today and I’m already looking forward to lunch time!

Lucky for me, this soup is super quick and easy to make. I had met up with Nick right after work and we headed straight to the gym. Yesterday was our first day “training for a marathon” and we needed to put in three miles. I alternated walking between each mile so I ended up with 4.04 miles in all. After that my belly was ravenous and I knew I needed to get a healthy meal together quick.

This is one of the many good reasons for meal planning. Had I not already had a meal lined up and ready to cook at home, I probably would have asked Nick to stop and get a sub sandwich or something. Trying to come up with dinner plans when you’re already starving is a near impossibility – at least for me. Once I’m hungry my brain stops thinking about what I could make and starts thinking up the easiest way to get food in me immediately – like a handful of these goldfish, or that granola bar, how bout a bowl of cereal, or a run through the drive through? Yeah, its a good thing I had a real dinner already in the works.

Alright friends, my train is just pulling in to Salt Lake so I better say goodbye. Have a wonderful day!

Question of the Day: Can you come up with meal plans once your hungry or do you simply snack your way out of it? Do you meal plan?


Tegu Blocks

I have a fun new toy to talk about today but first let’s talk about our evening and dinner.

Yesterday Nick and I had lofty plans to come home and whip up dinner before heading to North Fork Trail and go snowshoeing. We were also planning on going to the gym together afterwards.

Well, I whipped up dinner but Nick still wasn’t feeling great and decided against going snowshoeing (major bummer!). Our dinner was a stand-by favorite – Chicken Cilantro Tacos. I originally made these tacos by following a recipe from Cooking Light and making a few changes: namely, chicken in place of pork.

Superfast Weeknight Dinners

Pork Cilantro Tacos

I’ve had this magazine and recipe marked for nearly five years now. Even though I have the taco recipe memorized, I love flipping through this magazine and finding other recipes to try – five years later, it’s still a good resource. I make the tacos by memory now and I often add a little of this or a little of that to change things up a bit. The basic gist of things is to sauté diced jalapeno with half of a yellow onion – add in long-sliced chicken breast seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin. Once cooked, add in some diced tomatoes, a little chicken broth and simmer. Just before serving add in chopped cilantro and some lime juice.

Last night, I only used half of a jalapeno because I know Gary has a strong dislike of spicy foods and I omitted the chicken broth, using additional tomatoes to form the “broth” instead. I also subbed out a tortilla for a fold of flat bread – and topping the “taco filling” with some shredded lettuce and cojita cheese. The cheese and lettuce really brought the meal to a whole new level and I think that’s one change that will be sticking around.

Taco Bowl with Flat BreadOnce dinner had settled and we had sufficiently tickled and worn out Spencer –magoo, my father-in-law, Gary, went to the gym with me and Nick stayed home. Nick and I are (supposedly – if he is feeling better) starting our marathon training today so I thought it would be best to do a non-running day last night and stuck to just the circuit workout.

This was my first time completing the circuit without doing any cardio beforehand. I still really like the circuit, but I definitely favor the cardio/circuit combo. Reading through the training materials for this marathon plan – which I’ll share soon enough – I am wondering how my overall fitness plans will come together. There is an awful lot of running and I am just hoping that I’ll have time/strength/energy to pursue other types of fitness while I’m doing this plan.

Anyway, after our quick mini-workout we came home and watched the Biggest Loser. Eating ice cream while watching that show? Irony. At. Its. Finest. The mini Haagen Dazs were on sale at Harmon’s 10 for $10 so naturally, we bought ten of them. I tried the Rum Raisin flavor last night and it was really, really good. The guys were kind of making fun of me because my ice cream had much more fat and calories than theirs – but I could read all of the ingredients on the label. Sometimes I wonder – do the nutrition facts labels mislead us? Certainly real food is better than processed food that is tweaked so much it comes out with less fat and calories? I think so… And anyway, the ice cream was my treat! I didn’t want a calorie-judging-committee raining on my parade.

Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin Mini

New Toys

Just before Christmas, I got an email from a friend about Tegu Blocks. I guess he is on their email list and got a discount offer because it was Christmas time – he forwarded it to me thinking I might have needed a present for the kids.

I had never heard of Tegu Blocks but the photos really caught my eye.

Tegu BlocksDon’t these little blocks just look fun?

Tegu makes wooden blocks that have a small magnet inside of them so little hands can build all types of imaginative creations. I have long been a fan of wooden toys so I immediately started reading over their product information, reviews, etc. Turns out, there’s a lot more going on here than just a fun new toy.

Tegu Blocks BusinessTegu was founded in 2006, by brothers Chris and Will who have really created something wonderful. The toys themselves are fantastic, but in setting up shop in Honduras, the company has provided jobs and taught craftsmanship to their employees.

Tegu Blocks BusinessThey harvest wood sustainably and work with a reforestation group, donating a portion of every sale to replanting efforts.

After reading through the about sections and looking at some of the projects kids have submitted to their online gallery, I was totally fascinated. I immediately emailed the company, asking for more info and if they could help me in writing a blog post about what they were doing. Their response: “ask us anything but first let us send you some blocks.”

I was really shocked at this offer and I was really excited when the blocks arrived in the mail. They sent us a pocket set in the natural finish.

Pocket Pouch Tegu Blocks Now, most parents are thinking two things right now – a magnet, is that safe? and also, are the colors safe? Yes, and yes. The magnet is completely enclosed inside the block (you can barely find the seem it is so well hidden) and the colors meet all US safety standards. Also, should the magnet ever become exposed, say your dog chews up a block or you drive over it, you can send the blocks back to Tegu where they will recycle them for you (all at now charge to you) and they can get a replacement out to you.

The kids enjoyed the blocks but to be honest, the set we got is a little too small to really get building with. I think the pocket size is much more apt to be a feature on my desk, something to fiddle with when my brain is stuck on a math problem or I have writer’s block. Though on my desk I think I’d like these colors much more :)

imageI think for Mack or Spencer to really show a long-term interest in the blocks, we will need a larger collection. I’m going to order one of the larger set for the kids.

Original Set Tegu BlocksEither this “original set” or…

Explorer Set Tegu Blocks

this “explorer set”

I will admit to you that the blocks are rather pricey. The pocket set that was sent to me retails for $32.00 and the two sets I’ve shown are $140 and $110, respectively. But here’s my thing – Mack has a Brio train set and the pieces and parts for that are just as expensive. The starter Brio set runs about $145 depending where you buy it from. Mack is actually still playing with the train set that was Nick’s when he was a kid (plus added sets and additional pieces Mack has) – over twenty years later. I think quality, and quality wooden toys especially, are worth their weight in gold. So why not spend a little more money now and have something that my kids can hand down to their kids eventually? And in spending that money, I can feel good knowing that I’m supporting a company with a business model I can really get behind.

You can order the blocks and car sets from the Tegu website. And believe me I tried to find them cheaper.They are available on Amazon but for just about the same price as buying direct from Tegu*

Alright friends, I’m off to tackle the work day and I’m really looking forward to hitting the gym after work. Marathon training day 1: I’m comin for ya!

*I was neither paid nor requested to write this post. I did receive free product – the pocket pouch of blocks – from Tegu. Thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. I will add the blocks to my Amazon Associate store and any purchases made there will result in a small commission paid to me, from Amazon.


Sunday is for Everything Under the Sun

Unfortunately Sunday started out with Nick not feeling well at all. That meant breakfast was up to me – as you all know the men in our family make breakfast – but I figured I could whip up some waffles and that would be easy enough.

Pear Waffles Not too shabby eh? To make this waffles simply combine 2 eggs, 6 ounces Chobani Pear, Pancake Mix (roughly 1/2 Cup – depends on your mix), 1/4 Cup Water, 1 Tbsp Oil. Add pancake mix to desired consistency and cook as usual. We enjoyed our waffles topped with some of the pear butter we made for Christmas and a bit of syrup.

Though it was quite an important day in football, Mack spent a good chunk of our time working on a pottery project. One of Mackenzie’s Christmas presents was a big block of clay, a set of pottery tools and an idea/how-to book.

Mack RobotI’d say our first project turned out pretty darn great! Mack was involved and interested the whole time – even asking to do another project as soon as we had this one in the oven. I have to admit that I kind of put off getting started with the clay because I thought it was going to be a messy project and a big hassle. It really wasn’t bad at all though. We set up in the kitchen and I used a cutting board and a silicon non-stick pad to roll the clay out and make our cuts. When we were done I just rinsed everything in the sink and ran through the dish washer – ta-da all clean!

The “robot jar” project was included in the idea book with simple instructions and we made our own little shapes as best we could. After letting it dry out on the counter for about twenty minutes, we baked the robot in the oven. Later this week we will paint the little guy and fill him up with something fun – Mack said he wants it to be a jelly bean container.

Since we missed most of the 49ers game, I thought we better make a run to the gym before the Patriots game started. I put in about 2 miles on the treadmill (increasing both my pace and my incline) before hitting up the circuit.


I am in love with the 30-minute circuit you guys! I love not having to think about what to do – just follow the steps and push myself harder each time. I’ve done circuits before but this one just seems so much more “rounded out” and I love the step-aerobic stations in lieu of more typical cardio stations like a bike or jump rope.

WP_001648Back home, Mack, Spencer and I all prepped dinner together – Spencer is going to be a good little kitchen helper. He’s not even two years old and he loves being in the kitchen, finding things in the fridge, putting wrappers in the garbage, helping get utensils and stirring. He’s not a whole lot of help (in fact it’s a lot harder for me) but I love that he is interested and wants to be a part. Both Mack and Spencer helped with our yummy dinner.

Dinner came together in a snap thanks to some pre-made raviolis from Trader Joes and a little planning on my part. Before we went to the gym, I had sliced a butternut squash lengthwise and put in the oven to bake. The baked squash was the base for the green sauce you see…


Kale Butternut Non-Alfredo Sauce

Prep Time: 5 min (then bake 80 minutes) Cook Time: 5 min (excluding baking time)


  • 1 Medium Sized Butternut Squash (roughly 2 Cups pureed)
  • 3 Leaves Kale
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Button Mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp Asiago Cheese, shredded (add more if desired)


  • Slice Butternut Squash lengthwise and remove any seeds/pulp just as you would with a pumpkin. Place skin-side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 80 minutes.
  • After baking, remove cooked squash from peel and place in a blender (or large food processor, if you have one)
  • Add kale, garlic, milk, mushrooms and cheese – blend until smooth.
  • Add your sauce to whatever cooked pasta you are using and sauté together in a large skillet until thoroughly heated*

*We used one package of Trader Joes Lobster Ravioli and one package of TJ’s Butternut Squash Triangoli. You could easily use any ravioli, tortellini or even plain noodles.

Chef Mack

Mack is demonstrating how to use the garlic press – one of my Christmas presents :)

Blender for Food ProcessorRemember I said I wanted to get more green veggies in our diet – this is one of the many ways to “sneak” them in – muah ha ha!

Our Sunday had pretty much everything under the sun – trying out our snowshoes, football, workouts, pottery, cooking, reading… so many things and all of it was wonderful (except the Nick not feeling well part, that part sucked).

Okay, I’ll also admit that I’m a little bummed about football. None of the teams I care about made it through and now I am just feeling meh about the Superbowl. I’m looking forward to the food though and getting together with friends. That being said, we need to figure out what we’re doing for the big day. Do you know what you’re doing? If you need ideas, or want to make your Superbowl party a little healthier (but just as tasty) make sure you order a copy of Know Your Line Up! Last day to order and have guaranteed delivery by the big game is THIS FRIDAY, Jan 25th. Email me at with your order request or click the Know Your Line Up link on the lower right of this page which will take you directly to the ordering information and a link for paypal payments.

Alright friends, I’m on the train back from work and headed home to make a quick dinner and hit the trail for our first snowshoeing adventure!

What are you up to tonight? Will you be watching The Biggest Loser??

Tweet me @fampracticeblog using the hashtag #BiggestLoser so we can live-chat during the show.