Coconut Rum Layer Cake

For Lauren’s Sweet 16, I was inspired by the coconut cake served at Solace and the Moonlight Lounge (her favorite). The inspo: Coconut Cake with Rum Caramel Sauce, Sugared Macadamia Nuts, Cream Cheese Frosting.

I used the cake recipe from Beth Cakes Triple Coconut Rum Cake paired with the Homemade Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting from Living Well Spending Less. The whole cake turned out super dense, and I kid you not, probably weighed around 20lbs because I didn’t end up leveling the layers.  The flavor made it taste like a humongous coconut macaroon.

For decor, I used a big rhinestoned “16” Jen purchased from Amazon and a variety of pink roses. Fresh flowers have been my favorite decor lately. They dress up a cake without requiring a steady or artistic hand for some ingenious floral frosting.…

Spaghetti Squash Boats & My P.O.V.

If I was auditioning to be the Next Food Network Star and needed to have a P.O.V. (point of view) mine would be: simple, flavorful and healthy.  Short prep time, good.  Few ingredients, better.  Not laden with calories, most excellent!  This recipe is all 3: simple, flavorful and healthy.  Although it did leave me hangry for some dessert afterwards…my sweet tooth is a whole other story

 

Spaghetti Squash Boats
Adapted from Taste of Home circa 1997!
INGREDIENTS:
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb. bulk sweet pork sausage
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in a baking dish. Fill pan with hot water to a depth of 1/2 in. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  2. When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash, separating strands with a fork; set shells and squash aside.
  3. In a skillet, cook the sausage, broccoli and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add the mushrooms, basil, salt and pepper; cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes; cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Turn of heat and stir in squash.
  6. Fill shells; place in shallow baking dish.
  7. Turn down the oven to 350°. Sprinkle with cheese; bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Makes 2 main-dish servings, with enough filling leftover to refill one shell.

Where to Camp in Joshua Tree

Where do you camp when all the campgrounds are full in Joshua Tree?

With no real plans except for a few campsites in mind (e.g. White Tank, Jumbo Rocks) Kevin and I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park late on Saturday afternoon to a full park.

We were informed that the only campground with open sites was Cottonwood.  However, Cottonwood was 30 miles away within the park, basically at the South entrance/exit.  So instead, we decided to weigh our options and scout out the backcountry sites.

I had read of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping which is free and primitive camping outside the National Park (and from what I’ve read quite desolate).  However, we found out that you can do dispersement camping (pack-in, pack-out) at designated Backcountry Boards inside the park.  These are located throughout the park (look on the map for the blue B’s).  All you need to do is find the Backcountry Board, and fill out a free permit that basically provides the information for your car (so you can park overnight) and some accountability for yourself going out there.  The only real restriction to backcountry camping is that you must be 1 mile from the road and 500 ft from any trails.

After driving through the White Tank campground and realizing that even though all of the sites are divided by huge boulders, there is still a lack of privacy.  Going off the grid was exactly what we both wanted, needed and liked (camping is all about isolation!).  We ended up using the Twin Tanks location (you can see 12 other spots within JTNP here).  With just enough time to carry 2 loads from the car (we’ve worked on condensing since our first dispersement camping experience) and set up camp, we took a hike to the nearest …

Cioppino Recipe – November: Thing Three

I know it’s the 2nd of December, but let’s finish up the “Three Things: November.”  For my last thing, I wanted to “cook something new,” specifically, cioppino.  Originally, I thought this would be something that would take all day; that’s why I set my sights on Thanksgiving (side note: it didn’t take more than maybe an hour and a half).  As a result of this decision, my Thanksgiving was the most unconventional thus far.  No turkey. No stuffing.  No sweet potatoes.  No pumpkin pie.  However, it did produce the best leftovers known to mankind…or maybe just me, since I am the cioppino fiend.  Everything was amazing, and for once I didn’t feel stuffed to the brim, or sleep-induced by tryptophan.

Cioppino
by Giada De Laurentiis, slightly modified
INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
5 cups fish stock
1 bay leaf
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound scallops
1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as sole, cut into 2-inch chunks
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add

Chocolate Chip Streusel Banana Bread

For a while, I was on the Pinterest hunt for the best banana bread. And I think I just about found it. To me, the best thing in this world, on anything (besides ice cream), is a streusel topping. Pair that with a filling of layered chocolate chips and spiced banana cake, and you have yourself a win (or the best banana bread!).  Bake this in a disposable banana bread mold, wrap in cellophane and tie up with some bakers twine, and this makes the perfect holiday/housewarming/birthday gift!

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chip Streusel
From A Cook At Heart
INGREDIENTS:
2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
3 very ripe mashed bananas
3 tablespoons milk
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan.
  2. For streusel – stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Sift all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into medium bowl.
  4. Beat sugar, butter, and egg in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in mashed bananas and milk. Add dry ingredients and blend well.
  5. Spread half of batter in loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.
  6. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

The perfect gift for the girl-on-the-go

If you’re looking for a last minute gift for the traveler in your life, look no further than SeatDreamzzz. A new product solving for an old problem – the dreaded head-bob (and also drool, if you’re like me).  The extended “airline” strap wraps around the independent headrest, keeping your head stationed during the flight. For at home, or other traditional uses for a sleeping mask, you remove the extended strap to reveal the regular mask strap.

SeatDreamzzz is lightweight, waterproof and washable. Plus it’s compact and comes in an sidekick bag, allowing for extreme organization to keep all of your essentials in one place.

Plus you can get really creative and find other uses – like camping and hammock napping – in addition to traveling via plane, train and car, or using in bed.

My friend, Will, recently launched this Kickstarter campaign and I’ve been lucky to help him with his efforts!

And since SeatDreamzzz is still live on Kickstarter, if you wish to buy this product as a holiday gift, you can back this project and get instant access to a gift certificate to print at-home.…

Nothing Says Love Like Lobster Tails

When my boyfriend and I first started dating, I was obsessed with being the ultimate gourmet domestic goddess.  I would make everything from scratch; cinnamon ice cream, focaccia bread, key lime pies, etc.  Looking back I was a little ridiculous, because honestly, he would have been satisfied eating dinner from 7/11.  However, one of my favorite meals I cooked was from Valentine’s Day a couple years ago.  This dish includes two of the most over-advertised items this time of year: champagne and lobster tails.  It’s delicious, healthy and a little bit sexy.

 

Champagne and Orange-Steamed Lobster Tails en Papillote
from Cooking Light
INGREDIENTS:
8 orange slices
4 (5-ounce) lobster tails
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
3/4 cup dry Champagne or sparkling wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
DIRECTIONS:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°.
    2. Cut 4 (15 x 24-inch) pieces of parchment paper. Fold in half crosswise. Draw a large heart half on each piece, with the fold of the paper being the center of the heart.
    3. Cut out the heart, and open.
    4. Layer 2 orange slices, 1 lobster tail, 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds near the fold of each piece of parchment.

  1. Spoon 3 tablespoons Champagne over each serving.
  2. Starting at the top of the heart, fold edges of parchment, sealing edges with narrow folds. Twist the end tip to secure tightly.
  3. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes.
  5. Carefully open packets. Remove meat from lobster tails; coarsely chop.
  6. Return meat to lobster tail shell; place on plate.
  7. Drizzle 1 packet of juices over serving; repeat with remaining 3 lobster tails and 3 packets.
  8. Sprinkle evenly with salt.

Under Armour Speedform Apollo Vent – Shoe Review

“The Under Armour SpeedForm Apollo running shoe is so lightweight, you might even forget you’re wearing shoes! The new ArmourVent upper makes this shoe even more breathable, allowing for your feet to quickly dry on hot days and sweaty sessions. I find it’s the perfect performance shoe for neutral runners, ideal for any fast distance 5k or less.”

See what others are saying about the Under Armour Speed…

Hoka One One: what shoes I'm running in

Even though EVERYONE (namely Andy) loves to make fun of me for these shoes, Hoka’s are my number one, absolute favorite running shoe.

I’ve been wearing these shoes since I got my first pair last December for a gift. I was hesitant because the first time I tested a pair (around Summer 2013), they were super chunky, rocky and felt like a whole-lotta shoe (this was around the time that minimalist shoes were still pretty popular). Fast forward to 2014 and more styles had been produced for a variety of different uses.

From marathon training to marathoning for M2B, what started out as a long-run shoe for me quickly transitioned into my all-the-time shoe.

When I heard they were discontinuing the Huaka style (the “lower profile” Hoka– a mix between a trail and road shoe), I got a little bummed. That is, until I found several pairs in different colors available on Running Warehouse (so of course I had to stock up).  Eventually I’ll have to transition to another style (probably either the Clifton or the Speed Goat), but until then I’ve got a couple pairs of Huaka’s to last me a couple more trainin cycles…

Food Blogger Cookie Swap : Eggnog Snickerdoodles: December – Thing One

This year I learned about and decided to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  And while this blog is primarily about running and healthy living, food makes up a good portion, sweets and treats included.  I mean, it’s all about balance, right?

The Food Blogger Cookie Swap is pretty simple.  You sign up, donate $4 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, get matched with 3 food bloggers, bake, ship out your cookies, receive cookies from 3 different food bloggers and post your recipe!

And today is the day that all the participating food bloggers post their cookie recipes.

For the swap, I made some truly holiday-spirited cookies.  This is a go-to recipe I’ve been making for the past 2 years during Christmas time –Eggnog Snickerdoodles.  These cookies combine the soft and fluffy goodness of a Snickerdoodle with the subtle holiday hint of eggnog and its spices.

I decided to package my cookies in ½ gallon mason jars, which fit 1 dozen cookies perfectly stacked.  I also opted for flat-rate boxes so that the weight of the package wouldn’t matter.

I sent 1 dozen each to 3 different food bloggers (A Kitchen Addiction, Miss In The Kitchen, and Stay And Have A Cookie) and received cookies from Where Has All The Flour Gone, Nicki’s Random Musings and Tales From The Crumb Tray.  I had so much fun making, packaging, and sending out my cookies and it was really exciting to unexpectedly receive a box of mysterious cookies…three times!  I also haven’t baked in a really long time, so it was great to engage in a swap.

Below is my recipe for Eggnog Snickerdoodles if you want to try them for yourself.  You won’t be disappointed!…