Featured

Layover in Copenhagen

I used to dread layovers. In my early travel years I used to think of layovers as a waste of time to my destination. Disembarking the plane just to wander around the airport aimlessly awaiting my next flight. After a few years and more travel knowledge, I have found a new appreciation for layovers. If I have a few hours in between flights I usually head to a lounge to eat, refresh and literally recharge my batteries. For an extended layover, I make my way outside of the airport to enjoy the fruits of the city.

I have learned over time to definitely take advantage of extended layovers. During some previous extended excursions I have been blessed to see Madrid, travel to Munich during Oktoberfest, visit Hong Kong and most recently, Copenhagen. During this past trip to Paris I actually booked my flight purposely to spend a night in Denmark. My overnight layover in Copenhagen was such a fabulous time. In the 14 hours allotted, I was able to get a good night rest, tour the city, swim and enjoy a wonderful traditional breakfast. I arrived back to the airport refreshed, well-fed and with plenty of time to catch my flight.

I encourage you during your next international trip to take advantage of that extended layover and explore a new city!

Please see some of my Copenhagen highlights below

Copenhagen highlights

I arrived at Denmark’s Kastrup Airport, which is located outside of Copenhagen. The good thing is public transportation is easily accessible at the airport. I took the Metro airport station for about 20 minutes to my stop to my hotel. The metro line was about a 5 minute walk from my hotel as well. For more information on Copenhagen’s public transportation click here.

Indoor pool at Manon Les Suites

I discovered this hotel after seeing the gorgeous pictures of the indoor pool on social media. After I discovered that Manon Les Suites Hotel was sustainable/ eco-conscious, I was hooked and my stay was booked. I am an advocate for Mother Nature and being as eco-friendly as possible. I try my best to consider and continue to reduce my carbon footprint even through my travels. This five start hotels has all the amenities needed to enjoy the ultimate experience:

  1. Rooftop restaurant with breakfast buffet including unlimited mimosas.
  2. Indoor pool and jungle
  3. 100% cotton robe and slippers in room
  4. Spa/ lounge
  5. Full gym/ fitness center
  6. Bike Rental
Manon Les Suites Hotel highlights

This hotel, as I mentioned above, is walking distance from the Metro station. It’s also located a few minutes walk from the iconic Copenhagen lakes, Tivoli gardens and city center, Torvehallernes gourmet-food market, the lovely green inner-city parks, design shops, and restaurants. I highly recommend staying at Manon Les Suites during your stay in Copenhagen. I know I will be returning to spend more time in the luxurious indoor pool and enjoying the city.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Although I didn’t have much time to explore some the wonderful well known tourist spots above. I did enjoy waking up well rested and walking around the quiet peaceful city. As most of the city slept, I wandered around and made my way over to Nyhavn, Copenhagen. This waterfront district is known for its cobblestone streets lined by brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants. I recommend going in the AM if you want to get those perfect Instagram photos before it gets too crowded.

Featured

Updated Paris Travel Guide

Paris in September has become my new favorite! Who am I kidding? After a two year hiatus from my absolute favorite city in the world, almost everything about Paris is my new favorite. The City of Love is now forever ingrained as my city to love. One day while I was casually strolling amongst all the Parisians and monuments I asked myself, “Why do you love this city so much?” There are so many answers that bubbled to the top of my head like a fresh bottle of champagne. Paris is all about people, culture, food and love! There are of course all the fabulous, fashionable locals, but the city is also one of most visited in the world. It provides a cornucopia of languages to listen to and immerse in. It also provides the perfect backdrop for my favorite activity, people-watching. Parisians seem to effortlessly incorporate people-watching into their daily routine and I live! Whether it be meeting up for friends, going out to eat or just being. Before I get ahead of myself and continue to obsess about Paris, I thought I would share the highlights of my latest trip so hopefully you can experience the Parisian magic for yourself!

Where I stayed: When I visit Paris I always stay at a hotel. Why? I just adore local, cute and quaint boutique hotels and admiring all the interior designs. I feel that is a part of the Parisian tourist experience. This time I decided to stay at La Maison Favart Hotel. The hospitality was wonderful! My stay also came with a complimentary continental breakfast including fresh pastries and coffee, all I need to start my day. The location was absolutely perfect! I mean my room was literally adjacent to the Opera Comique.

I had the opportunity to hear live opera from my room. The location is also amazing because it’s in the middle in the Opera district, which is known for its fabulous shopping. The biggest and baddest shopping store in Paris, Galeries Lafayette , is a short walking distance away. It made me regret not bringing an extra suitcase, but I will definitely be returning to stay at this magnificent hotel gem. The hotel also has spa, indoor pool and sauna which I thoroughly enjoyed one afternoon.

Sounds and views from my hotel room

Covid Rules/ Regulations: As a physician let me go ahead and put my disclaimer in. This travel information is only for those who are vaccinated from COVID-19. I am all for making choices for your own body, but that also means being responsible and staying home as well. France is only allowing vaccinated travelers into the country unless there are emergent means for travel. You must show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival if you are NOT vaccinated. France has also implemented a health pass. This pass is required to enter all public places with the capacity over 50 persons, including museums, restaurants, pretty much everywhere except for shopping malls. There is an application online to receive your pass but it’s not guaranteed you will receive your pass prior to your arrival. I personally filled out the application one month before my arrival to Paris and received an email that my pass would not be available. There is an easier way to receive your health pass once you arrive. All you need to do is take your COVID vaccination card to the nearest pharmacie and for about 10 euros you can get your health pass certificate. The process took me all of 10 minutes, including walking to the pharmacy from my hotel.

Food– When it comes to Parisian food simplicity always works best for me. Pretty much everything you eat in France is going to taste good because of the freshness, less preservatives and European butter. I’m not one to make reservations for Michelin star restaraunts unless for a very special occasion. I have a tradition on my Parisian tours, where my first stop once I get settled in, is to the grocery store (see video).

I always take my travel shopping tote with me to the local Franprix or Monoprix and stock up on water, cheese, wine, chips, produce and sweets to stash in my hotel room for a quick snack. As the locals do, in the mornings I usually stop by a local boulangerie/ patisserie (bakery/ pastry store) for a fresh baguette for the day. In the afternoon if I’m not looking to eat at a local bistro or sit down restaurant I either go back to a boulangerie or grocery store for a quick sandwich or salad. See below for other food recommendations:

Hank Burger (vegan)
  1. PAUL– chain boulangerie that has good salads and pastries
  2. Hank Burger (see video)- vegan burger joint that is bomb
  3. L’as du Fallafel– best falafel place in the city
  4. Magnum ice cream– Le Marais- custom ice cream bars
  5. Ladurée– macarons of course!
  6. Cafe Du Centre (see video) – Great Nicoise salad and good spot for people watching.
Lunch at George V restaurant

Culture: Honestly every time I visit Paris I have absolutely no itinerary in mind. There may be a few places I what to check out, but I usually go where the spirit leads me. During this last visit the only places I knew that where a must see were the Arc de Triomphe and a day visit to Bordeaux.

I originally bought my tickets to Paris months earlier in the year. It truly was destiny for me to be there at the same time of the wrapped art exhibit of the Arc de Triomphe. I usually do see the Arc every time I visit just because of its location on the Champs- Elysees, but this was a once an a lifetime experience indeed. This visit I decided I wanted to visit the city of Bordeaux because the last time I visited Paris I did a tour to Champagne and had an amazing time. I love wine so why not visit the original locale and learn a little more. (I’ll be dropping my Bordeaux Day Guide soon I promise!) Here are some things that I did during my last few trips that I recommend:

My last night in Paris
  1. Opera Comique (2nd arr.)- see video
  2. Centre Pompidou (3rd arr.)- for the new Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. There is also a contemporary art and modern art floor full of exhibits.
  3. Luxemborg Gardens (6th arr.)- Just a gorgeous garden where you can literally sit and people watch all day.
  4. Monmartre (see video)- Best views of the city. There’s also a huge cathedral, great places for photos and art.
  5. Shakespeare & Co. (5th arr.)- bookstore and cafe. Quaint place to relax and read.
  6. Musée Yves Saint Laurent (8th arr.) – one my absolute favorite museums in Paris. Fashion, Fashion Fashion! You actually get to see the inside of YSL’s office and studio.
  7. Pretty much any museum in Paris.- (I’ll be dropping my favorite Paris museums guide in the near future.)
Monmartre

Transportation: Paris is a very walkable city, especially if you’re centrally located somewhere like the Opera district. I always bring very comfortable shoes and get my miles in. Walking is the absolute best way to view all the monuments and people watch in my opinion. It also helps me feel less guilty and burn off all those calories from the pastries, sweets and wine I usually consume. If you’re not into trekking the entire city like myself, Paris also has a great public transportation system. The Metro offers bus and train stops everywhere within the city and beyond. You can easily buy a day/ week pass and go everywhere you need to for 2 euros each way or more. There are also other options like a river cruise down the Seine river, Uber car/ scooters and there are also city bikes dispersed throughout the city.

*Bonus– For those of you wondering how I take such amazing photos on my solo adventures it’s all down to using my phone and this amazing selfie stick/tripod. This device is the absolute best since its compact (it fit in my Dior bag in my videos), it has a built in bluetooth camera shutter and phone holder. (Click here to purchase)

Featured

Antiguan Coconut Rum Cake

Summer, summer, summertime! It’s that wonderful time of the year where the beach and a tropical drink are calling my name. I’m not going to lie, living in L.A. leaves me with this feeling the majority time of the year. The land of eternal sunshine is more synonymous with smoothies now but summertime is different. People want to be outside and enjoying the best parts of life even more, including me.

Last month before it was officially summer I was able to enjoy an incredible vacation in the Caribbean. I had the opportunity to delve into Antigua, land of 365 beaches. This beautiful country is not only known for its array of beaches, it’s also known for its rum. (See my Antiguan Travel Guide.) Rum, of course derived from all the cropped sugarcane, is a staple in Antiguan cuisine. I was able to sample some great rum while I was there and of course bring some home.

I actually created this tropical cake recipe 10 years ago after visiting another Caribbean paradise. I decided to slightly remix my original recipe to make it even more flavorful and satisfactory for summer. Check out my upgraded recipe for coconut rum cake below. It’s the perfect cake to bake ahead of time and take to the beach.

Coconut Rum Cake

Antiguan Coconut Rum Cake.

Ingredients

Cake:

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. rum extract (optional)

2 ¾ cup AP flour

1 ¼ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup of rum ( I used my Antiguan rum of course)

1 cup coconut milk

¾ cup shredded coconut

Filling:

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup rum

Glaze:

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup half and half

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. salt

2 cups confectioners sugar

Shredded coconut for topping

Directions

Butter and flour bundt pan.

In a large sized bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment cream together butter, oil, sugars until light, fluffy and double in size (approximately 10 minutes. ) Add eggs one at a time to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla and rum extract. Add half of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Add rum. Combine last of the flour mixture. Add coconut milk. Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in shredded coconut.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Transfer to unheated oven. Bake at 325F for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Bake until tester comes out clean). Let cake cool on wire rack until slightly above room temperature.

While cake is baking make the filling. In a small saucepan melt 4 tbsp. of butter and coconut milk. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

Poke cooled cake with fork or skewer, pour butter/ coconut milk mixture over cake. Allow mixture to soak into the cake at least one hour (overnight preferably). Invert cake onto wired rack.

For Glaze: Stir all ingredients together, except confectioners sugar, in a small saucepan over medium-heat heat until brown sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add confectioners sugar. Whisk until glaze is smooth, about one minute. Remove from heat. Allow glaze to cool to room temperature. Pour glaze onto cooled cake. Top with shredded coconut.

Devour and enjoy!!

Featured

Antigua Travel Guide

It’s Gemini season! This not only means that summer is vastly approaching, but it also means it’s time for my birthday celebration. I am an early Gemini. Last month I had the fabulous opportunity to finally escape the US and travel internationally for my 38th birthday. After doing some research and planning I decided to celebrate my Mamba year in the amazing Caribbean island of Antigua. I have gotten several questions from different people on where and why I chose Antigua as my first destination out of the country since COVID. I thought I would provide more information in my travel guide to clear up any questions that may still be floating around. Keep reading for all the details on Antigua.

Hammock Cove Bay

COVID requirements: Antigua only requires a negative CPR COVID test within 7 days of arrival to the country. Antigua does NOT require any self-isolation or quarantine upon arrival. As far as COVID within Antigua, they take it very seriously as far as precautions. You MUST wear a mask at all times in public places. While visiting the town all stores required proper hand sanitization before entering their facilities. The main grocery store in St. John has a hand washing station outside the store. There is also still a curfew in place of 11pm in Antigua.   

Antigua does not play about COVID

At the resort where I stayed required wearing masks at all times unless eating or relaxing on the beach.  My resort was fortunate enough as well to provide a departure COVID test for entering back into the US. The rapid test was performed at the cost of $69 and was completed within 72 hours of my departure. 

Where: I stayed at the unforgettable Hammock Cove Resort located in St. John’s area of Antigua. To get to the resort from the airport took a $48 taxi drive (one way) which lasted about 40 minutes.  The resort is conveniently located directly across from Devil’s Bridge National Park.  This amazing resort is one of the most recent constructed resorts on the island and completed construction in 2019. 

What I love most about the resort is the amazing staff! Everyone was absolutely so kind and personable. Upon arrival at the resort, after checking in, you are assigned a personal concierge team. You are also given a personal phone for direct contact to your concierge team 24/7. I had the pleasure of having Sheldon and Mark as my concierges. They were super generous and amazing at providing anything needed within minutes.  

The resort is set up with approximately 40 private individual villas. The resort is adults only which I thoroughly enjoyed. . Each villa comes with privacy, an infinity pool, and patio with a mini bar. The resort also has its own beach, a huge community infinity pool, gym and very nice spa. I definitely took advantage of the full gym with a wide array of weights, exercise and cardio equipment. The resort has two main restaurants but no nightly entertainment.  I would say that this resort is definitely catered more for couples, but I enjoyed my solo vacation to the fullest! I will most hopefully be returning to Hammock Cove soon for a baecation. 

My Villa at Hammock Cove Antigua
Gym time

Food: Hammock Cove Resort is an all inclusive resort. I loved the cuisine that was served from the main restaurants. I can honestly say that I was served a different type of fish every night I was there and they were all delicious. 

Antigua is known for its local rum so I would recommend you sample as much as you can. Hammock Cove actually has a rum bar for said occasion. 

There are some local restaurants that were recommended to me during my stay as well;

  1. Roti King (Roti/ Caribbean fast food) 
  2. Fred’s Belgian Waffles and Ice Cream (Belgian waffles/ dessert) 
  3. Sandra Beach Shop Bar and Grill (Seafood) 
  4. Cutie’s Bar & Restaurant (Carribean food) 
  5. The Larder (International) 
What to do in Antigua

Activities: 

I highly recommend doing a boat tour and a separate land tour to enjoy all the great spots on the island. Below I listed some places I highly recommend visiting during your visit to Antigua. 

Standing in front of Hell’s Gate
  1. Devil’s Bridge National Park- This place is located in the Willikies area of Antigua. This limestone arch is a gorgeous overlook of the Atlantic Ocean. It has the unfortunate history of being the place where enslaved Africans would commit suicide to prevent continuing life in the sugarcane fields. 
  2. Great Bird Island- This spot is a great place to snorkel, take photos and swim but there is not much else around. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. This island is only reachable via boat tour. Hammock Cove had its own boat tour I was able to purchase. (You can purchase other recommended boat tour here.)
  3. Fort James- British fort built in the 17th century to protect the entrance of St. John’s harbor. This is a must see historical site. There are also some nice beaches and places to picnic nearby. I’m blessed to actually have friends on the island of Antigua who served as my personal tour guide. (Here is a recommended tour guide you can purchase here.) 

Please see my video for other activities available on the island of Antigua. 

To summarize my week in Antigua, I had an absolutely amazing time relaxing, reflecting and living my best life! I am very glad that I did my research before deciding on this West Indian paradise. This place was everything I needed: colors, calmness and culture. I was able to recharge my batteries to the fullest and simultaneously live my life to the fullest. I can’t wait to return to Antigua because I definitely will be coming back.

Cheesing on Great Bird Island
Just casually enjoying my drink on the beach

Cuban Black Bean Stew

Three years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba for a week of vacation. That year was definitely a world wind of travel, as my Cuba trip was sandwiched in between my visits to England and Morocco. I am so very grateful for the small window to time I was able to visit the once restricted country. Cuba being so close and full of culture was definitely a must to explore. I encourage everyone to visit Cuba at least once in their lifetime. I am trying to make my way back soon myself.

This Caribbean island is of course known for its fascinating 1950s colorful aesthetic seen in the architecture and classic cars. The fusion of Spanish and African is apparent throughout Cuban music, dance, history and cuisine! While I was in Cuba I definitely enjoyed the flavorful, fresh dishes. Every morning I looked forward to my Cuban breakfast made of fresh fruits, Cuban bread and the strong full bodied coffee. It was during my second evening of my Cuban adventure that I first discovered the best tasting black beans I had ever experienced.

I decided to walk a few blocks from where I was staying in Old Havana to enjoy an authentic Cuban dinner. I ordered this amazing fresh grilled fish dinner that came with a side of some savory legumes. The beans were so delectable and full of flavor. You could tell with each bite that some serious love and time had gone into these beans. I just had to discover how I could recreate such full flavor once I returned home.

I purchased my authentic Cuban cookbook prior to my departure back to the States as tradition. Once I got back to Los Angeles I perused through my book and found the source of Cuban black beans flavor. Cuban sofrito is the base of many Cuban recipes. It’s that umami flavor you taste when eating Cuban food like beans, rice and stews. The primary ingredients in Cuban sofrito are onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Common secondary ingredients include tomatoes, dry white wine, oregano, bay leaf, cilantro and other spices.

I decided to take my newly discovered culinary skills and create my own recipe for a delicious and palatable meal. My Cuban Black Bean Stew is made with my own sofrito recipe and some other unique flavors. It is completely vegan but I promise you won’t even miss the meat. This stew can be made and served at any time of the year as well. This is honestly one of my favorite recipes because it’s so versatile. I usually like to eat alone with garnishes I mention below. I also like to serve it as nachos, tacos, enchiladas, etc. This recipe makes a large quantity, but it also freezes very well so no worries.

Check out my recipe below and make sure you save this one!

Cuban Black Bean Stew

Step-by-step video Cuban Black Bean Stew

Ingredients

1 medium onion, quartered (about 1 cup)

10 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large bell pepper or 4 miniature peppers, cut into large pieces

1 Anaheim (or large mild pepper), seeded and cut into large pieces

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. cumin

1 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. ketchup

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 quart (32oz.) reduced-sodium vegetable broth

1 can (1 ½ cups) canned chopped tomatoes

1 ½ cups of water

32 oz. dried black beans or 8 cans rinsed but not drained

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 bunch cilantro, for garnish

juice of ½ lime, for garnish

Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Vegan grated cheddar, for garnish

Directions

Make black beans. In a large pot add black beans and triple the amount of water. To the pot add 3 bay leaves, onion scraps and peppers scraps and allow beans to soak overnight. Once beans have finished soaking overnight, cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, an hour or more. Remove vegetable scraps and bay leaves from the beans. Add salt to taste after beans have finished cooking. Allow beans to cool.

Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Add onion, garlic cloves, bell pepper and Anaheim pepper to food processor or blender. Pulse vegetables until they are finely chopped, almost a paste consistency. This is your sofrito.

In a large heavy pot or dutch oven add vegetable oil and cook on medium heat until oil begins to smoke. Stir in the sofrito and continue to stir until fragrant and begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 4 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cumin, chili powder and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Stir in ketchup and Worchestershire sauce and cook for another minute. Deglaze bottom of the pot by adding the broth, tomatoes and water and scrapping of bits off bottom. Cover pot and allow stew to simmer for approximately 5-10 minutes. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow stew to cool to above room temperature.

Place stew in a bowl. Garnish the black bean stew with vegan cheese, cilantro, green onions and fresh lime juice.

This stew gets better the longer it sits, so its even better the next day!

Mardi Gras King Cake

I absolutely love New Orleans! I mean how could you not love a city full of such history, culture, music and amazing food? This is the birthplace of Jazz and the epicenter of melodic cuisine. I was fortunate enough to spend four years here during undergrad and I try to get back there as often as I can.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, New Orleans and Louisiana culture runs deep in my blood and spirit. Both sides of my families have roots in Louisiana so I don’t play when it comes to representing the authenticity of its traditions. Every year during Mardi Gras, whether I visit the boot shaped state or not, a King cake is an absolute must. The further I travel outside of Louisiana the harder it becomes to obtain one of these delicacies. I took my frustration and turned it into a recipe. I have been tweaking my King cake recipe over time to keep it fresh and also classic. Check out my King cake recipe below that comes with the options of two fillings: the customary cream cheese filling and also banana foster praline filling.

If you are frustrated in the ability of getting your Mardi Gras King cake or have never had one, definitely give this recipe a try. Nothing beats a fresh King cake! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Finished traditional King cake

Original recipe Blog post from: Confections, Crafts, Couture

Mardi Gras King Cake

Dough:

2 (¼ oz.) packets dry active yeast

½ cup of warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup of warm milk (110 to 115 degrees)

2 eggs yolks

1 ¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. lemon zest

½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

3 to 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour

½ cup of light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

Bananas Foster Praline Filling:

3 medium ripe bananas

½ cup of bourbon or whiskey

1 tbsp. AP flour

½ cup of prepared caramel (see recipe here)

¼ cup condensed milk

1 cup chopped pecans

Glaze:

2 to 2 ¼ cups confectioners sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. milk

2 tsp. water

dash of salt

*optional traditional cream cheese filling:

8oz. cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups of confectioners sugar

2 egg whites, room temperature

Mardi Gras Sprinkle Mix for decoration, optional

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Using hand and stand mixer, add sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon peel, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

While dough is resting, make your filling. Cut up bananas into ½ inch cubes. In a large skillet cook bananas on medium heat until they began to soften. Turn heat down to low-medium heat. Remove pan from heat and add your bourbon or whiskey. Flambé bananas by lighting liquor on fire. Continue to cook until flame has extinguished. Whisk in flour. Cook until sauce begins to thicken.  Add the prepared caramel and milk. Lightly stir together until caramel is incorporated and smooth. Allow filling to simmer for approximately 5 minutes until it tightens. Turn off heat and fold in pecans. Allow filling to completely cool. Set aside.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar; sprinkle over dough over all of dough. Do not leave a border. Fold dough in thirds lengthwise (like a letter). Roll out dough again into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Place filling on top of dough, leaving a ½ inch edge. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with beaten egg.

Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. For glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, milk, salt and enough water to achieve desired consistency. (Glaze should be tacky glue consistency). Spread over cake. Sprinkle with Sprinkle Mix while glaze is still wet. Allow glaze to set. 

Devour and Enjoy!!

*for optional cream cheese filling: In a medium size bowl whisk together cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar and egg whites on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Set aside. Once cinnamon and brown sugar have been applied to dough and dough has been rolled out again into a 16 x10 inch rectangle, place cream cheese filling on top of dough. Smooth out cream cheese on top of dough evenly leaving a ½ inch border. Continue to roll up dough jelly-roll style. Continue remainder of directions above. 

Joshua Tree, Just for Me

Last time around this year I was preparing for the trip of a lifetime. I had recently resigned from my position of 5 years and had planned this elaborate three week solo Asian excursion. It was a much needed trip after dealing with a beyond stressful job and relationship. I just had to escape to re-center myself and regain the mental strength I needed to start my new year off on the right foot. While across the world, I had the opportunity to bathe elephants, eat amazing food, pamper myself, pet a tiger and swim in the most known infinity pool and hotel in the world. Little did I know that that trip to Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore would be my last international trip for at least another year. Last December prepared me for more than I could have ever expected to happen in a matter of the next 365 days. The enlightenment I gained on my previous December trip also provided clarity on the importance of self time and care. When I arrived back to the States safely, I decided to make my own holiday tradition. I would go somewhere every December by myself to ready for the next year to come.

Hanging with elephants in Thailand

A few months ago I requested my time off for December thinking it’ll definitely be safe to travel somewhere by then. As my vacation time grew near and the pandemic got worse I slowly begin crossing possible travel destinations off my mental list. By November I knew that wherever I decided to go I didn’t want to depend on air travel. I also did not want to consider quarantining for 14 days or worse illness on my trip because of exposure. My travel list got smaller and smaller until it eventually dwindled down to nothing. There was no way I was to going to spend my week off at home after working from home for the majority of the year. Where was I going to go? Then I thought to myself, “you live in California. There are plenty of places to go and feel like you’re on the other side of world.” In the back of my mind I had always wanted to visit Joshua Tree, CA. I had read about it multiple times in several travel blogs and magazines. I finally decided to give Joshua Tree my time and attention. I booked my AirBnB and started researching how I was going to spend my little window of time. In the few days I was able to spend in Joshua Tree, I loved every bit of it! It was the perfect escape that I needed to accomplish my mission. You can read about the highlights of my trip below.

Joshua Tree Travel Vlog

Where I stayed: I stayed at the cutest and quaint AirBnB located in the city of Joshua Tree, CA. Joshua Tree is definitely as small and secluded as it seems. My country dwelling was literally located on a back dirt road, so all-wheel drive is recommended. I appreciated the tranquility of being in the middle of nowhere and the silence and peace that accompanied it. I honestly have never seen as many stars at night as I did in Joshua Tree. This house was great because it had all the necessary amenities and then some. I truly took advantage of not only the full kitchen and the fireplace but also the hot tub, the fire pit and barbecue outside. I loved all the huge windows in the home that let in all the natural sunlight in the morning. Although secluded this house is in a prime location. The Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum is less than a mile a way and right up the street. Also the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park is about a 20 minute drive away.

More information about the AirBnB here.

What I did: I honestly enjoyed my time disconnected from the world and with myself. I let Jhené Aiko be my soundtrack for the week. I sang and danced like no one was watching because I knew no one could if they wanted to, being in the middle of nowhere. I soaked in the hot tub until I looked like a California raisin and literally drank Rosé all day. I brought one of my books I have been trying to finish forever to read. I also brought my travel journal I purchased last year. I dusted it off and replanned my travel and life goals for next year. I did have a chance to venture out as well. I enjoyed my quick trip to the Outdoor Museum one afternoon. Joshua Tree apparently has a happening art scene so I tried to soak up as much as I could.

Of course I had to visit Joshua Tree National Park. I am definitely a morning person. I like to get my day started with the sun. I highly recommend getting to the park early as well as it really got crowded the closer it got to the afternoon and I was there on a Wednesday. I decided that I wanted to check out the Barker Dam Trail, which was recommended to me by my AirBnB booklet. As I mentioned above it took me about 20 minutes from where I staying to get to the park entrance. It then took me another 20 minutes inside the park to get to the trail. The drive inside of the park is so picturesque. You get a chance to take in all the desert life forms that rarely are seen. I also appreciated that once inside the park you may return using the same fee/pass for 7 days. I will be returning and taking advantage of this offer next time to check out some other hiking trails.

More information about Joshua Tree National Park here.

I stopped by Art Queen, which is located on the main road in Joshua Tree, on my way back to LA. Art Queen has a world famous Crochet Museum and also places to pick up some eclectic pieces and gifts. Apparently I stopped by too early as they were still closed. I will definitely be attempting Art Queen again on my return to Joshua Tree.

I am so very grateful and thankful for the time I was able to spend with myself in Joshua Tree. It was an amazing experience and I will be doing it again soon when I need to recharge my batteries. I am not going to say that I am all together prepared for what is in-store for next year. What I can say is that I am in better place mentally, physically and spiritually from my Joshua Tree tour. I’m still looking forward to the finale that is 2020.

Thanksgiving in L.A.

Here we are winding down on the year 2020. It has been 11 months of social distancing, catastrophes and no international travel. Despite all the disasters this year has thrown at me, I still remain with a smile on my face. I am truly happy and blessed that have the opportunity to work from my fabulous Mid-City home and I’m healthy. Although I may not be able to do all the traveling that my soul thirsts for and I am thankful to live in one the world’s most sought after travel destinations, Los Angeles. I am grateful to take advantage of the great weather and backdrop that defines Southern California.

Of course Thanksgiving and the remainder of this year’s holidays are going to be different than the normal. Most of the expected socialization and traditions will have to be postponed at least until the new year. Usually my California family on my mom’s side hosts a huge Thanksgiving pot luck where everyone brings their assigned dish and we all eat like kings and queens. I, like many others, will be celebrating at home with a much smaller crowd this year. California is the land of perpetual sun and produce. Being that it is November and I am still holding down the 213, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to try some new, healthy, plant based recipes for Thanksgiving. 2020 has given me perspective and motivated me to put myself and my health first. I spent some time deciding on how I was going to be able to enjoy all the taste of the traditional food feast but keep it fresh and hearty. I came up with this menu below for my plant based Thanksgiving dinner. You can also find my step by step video and complete recipes below.

MENU

Directions

For the Lentil Loaf: Place the lentils in a large saucepan of cold water. Bring the water just to a boil over high heat. Carefully drain the boiling water and rinse the lentils. Meanwhile, in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice and return the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover the rice, and gently simmer without stirring for 10 minutes. Stir in the shallots, onions, carrots, bell pepper, celery and lentils. Cover and continue cooking without stirring until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes longer. Turn off the heat. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and let stand for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile the rice and lentils are cooking, make the greens.

For the greens: In a large pot or dutch oven heat up 2 tbsp. of olive oil on medium heat. Add finely diced onions and cook until fragrant and translucent, for approximately five minutes. Reduce heat to medium/low and add vegetable stock, chorizo, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and allow stock to simmer for 20 minutes. Add greens to the pot and place lid back on. Allow greens to cook down for additional 25-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread butter/ olive oil (vegan option) over a 10 by 4 1/2 by 3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, gently mix the lentil mixture, spinach, breadcrumbs, eggs/ flaxseed gel (vegan option), poultry seasoning, sage, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake uncovered until the loaf is heated through and the top is starting to brown, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile the lentil loaf is baking, make the cranberry sauce glaze.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan on low heat, add cranberry sauce, juice of fresh squeezed orange, juice of fresh squeezed lemon, honey/ agave nectar (vegan option), two sprigs of thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan and allow sauce to simmer until sauce is heated through. Using hand or stand mixer, blend sauce until smooth. Remove sprigs of thyme. Allow glaze to cool and thicken slightly.

Once lentil loaf has browned on top, pour on cranberry glaze and cook for an additional five minutes. Allow to cool.

Turn greens off and remove plant based sausage. Allow to cool.

For the sweet potato tart:

Crust: In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar and salt. Add in vegan butter to the flour and combine using your hands to rub butter into flour until mixture is texture of wet sand. Next add enough flaxseed gel until the dough comes together in a ball and peels off the side of the bowl. Take the dough out of the bowl and lightly knead dough into a smooth disc. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Take dough out of the refrigerator. Let the dough rest for at least 20 minutes. Roll dough out into a 12″ diameter circle about 1/8″ thick. Place dough into 10″ tart pan and blind bake (cook dough weighed without filling) crust at 350F for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile making the sweet potato filling: Using a hand or stand mixer, in a large bowl whip together sweet potatoes, avocados, brown sugar, flaxseed gel, vanilla, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until complete combined and smooth. Spread filling evenly into tart pan over crust. Bake tart at 350F for 30-35 minutes. Allow tart cool in fridge until time for dessert. When breast to serve tart, top with coconut oil whipped cream or nice cream.

Devour and enjoy!

I hope you have a safe and fabulous Thanksgiving!

Happy World Vegan Day

Another Fall month is upon us which means another chance for change. The leaves on the trees change from greens to reds, oranges and golds. I look at November as another opportunity for improvement in my life and health. I may not be able to travel, but that just provides me more moments to work on self care and my overall happiness at home.

Today just so happens to be World Vegan Day. Since I shared so many delicious but not necessarily healthy baked goods last month, I decided to balance that out by sharing more nutritional recipes this month. Check out my outright favorite Fall soup recipe, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I absolutely adore this soup because its so easy to make but full of delicious flavors. The vegetables roast and caramelize in the oven which provides the perfect Autumn palate. This recipe is vegan but you don’t even notice because its so hearty and so good.

Recipe is below.

Roasted Butternut Squash soup
Music: Bed Peace- Jhené Aiko

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed.

1- 16oz. bag of baby carrots

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 purple onion, peeled and half diced/ half chopped

1 quart of vegetable stock

½ quart of water

2 sprigs of fresh sage (approximately 7-8 leaves)

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.

Using a large roasting pan, toss butternut squash, carrots, garlic cloves and half onion in olive oil to coat. Add salt and pepper to vegetables. Roast vegetables in oven for approximately 30-35 minutes until vegetables are soft and caramelized.

While vegetables are roasting, in a large pot or dutch oven and olive oil on medium heat. Add other half of onion that has been chopped to pot. Add pinch of salt. Cook until onions are translucent and fragrant. Add vegetable stock and water to pot. Cover pot and turn heat down to low to allow stock to simmer.

Once vegetables have finished roasting in the oven add them to the stock. Add sage to the pot and stir. Using a hand blender or standard blender, blend soup until smooth but not completely pureed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add croutons (optional)

Devour and Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash soup

A Safe Staycation

It’s October of the longest year ever recorded in history and it was time for a break! I was at a point where I needed a change of scenery. I was beginning to feel like I was starring in Groundhog Day, waking up to the same four walls and same routine. Aside from visiting my mother last month and the occasional trip to the grocery store for supplies, I was feeling as though I was stuck. It was time for me to get away. I knew I needed some personal time to just disconnect from the weight of 2020. I required relaxation, nature and to de-stress. I decided to book a few days somewhere close by but feeling as though thousands of miles away, Terranea Resort. I spent Thursday through Sunday here for a little staycation and left feeling refreshed and renewed. I decided to spill my little secrets into why I cherish this place so much!

My Terranea weekend highlight reel
Music: Pink Matter by Frank Ocean
  1. Location, Location Location- Terranea Resort is located approximately 20 miles outside of Los Angeles right on the Pacific coast in Rancho Palos Verdes. The Palos Verdes Peninsula to me feels like being transported to Eastern Europe. Check in time is 4pm, so even with traffic you’ll be arriving in about an hour from the city. This leaves plenty of time to settle in your room and walk the grounds before sunset. You’ll never want to miss a sunset here. Who can resist watching the Autumn colors slowly fade into the liquid abyss of the ocean? Every sunset I’ve witnessed has been absolutely amazing. The sunrises come in a close second. I love being able to leave my patio door open and fall asleep to the sounds of the waves crashing to shore. I also love just being able to wake up, step outside and be encompassed by the ocean.
  2. Nature comes first- Terranea Resort prides itself on keeping the essence of California as close to authentic as possible. This extremely eco-friendly resort was founded on the philosophy of ecological sustainability. I love coming here because you truly see the beauty of Mother Nature and are reminded of how important it is to keep her that way. They also offer several nature activities like kayaking, archery and fishing. Terranea’s minimal impact ideology “is dedicated to protecting the valuable coastal resources that define the Palos Verdes Peninsula and make this singular destination one of the most valued natural locations in the world.” Only at Terranea do you get to see so many different plant and animal species while relaxing by the pool, meditating or my favorite, going for a hike. Which brings me to my next point.
  3. Exercise- Terranea has been a favorite of mine since my first visit a few years back because of its hiking trails. There are several hiking trails incorporated into the landscape of this resort. Not only that, every hiking trail comes with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The trails are clearly marked and as easy to follow. There are also several pools to choose from to get a nice swim. The pool at the gym actually has one of the best views and is literally adjacent to the ocean. Although the gym is technically closed at this time because of Covid, the staff is still there to provide cleaned equipment outdoors for use. There are also sanitized spin bikes set up outside the gym that overlook one of the nature trails and the ocean as well.
  4. Health and Safety is priority- Terranea Resort opened up after the COVID hiatus in June of this year. They spent time making sure that when re-opened they would follow every CDC / LA County guideline, but still allow for optimal relaxation. From my personal experience I felt extremely safe here. From my first step on grounds all staff were masked up. The reception area had a thermal infrared temperature check in the lobby before check in. At the actually reception desk, after a thorough check in with safety updates, you are given a sanitary pack with wipes and a fresh mask. While on grounds you are required to where a mask at all times except when eating, lounging at the pool or in the pool. There are signs posted throughout the resort grounds as reminders as well. It was mandatory to wear masks to the pool bar and bathroom. Even while poolside and in the pool, social distancing was maintained. Because Terranea was built with nature first, maintaining social distancing was easy and didn’t require much change to the traditional atmosphere.
  5. Pink for October- This was my first visit here since COVID and during the month of October. I wasn’t ready for the surprise. Terranea has several efforts in store during this month that support the breast cancer community with proceeds benefiting Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They have specialty pink food items at the restaurants and the coffee shop. I recommend the pomegranate hibiscus margarita featured in my video that tasted incredible! They also have proceeds from spa treatments and rounds of golf. The hueless highlight of the weekend was the main fountain in the foyer turned a perfect shade of pink. I genuinely appreciate every effort made to continue the fight against this disease that affects us all in some way.

I truly do enjoy this property every time I visit. I am in no way being compensated for this blog post. I want to share this information so everyone will hopefully get a chance to enjoy as much as I do. Especially if you’re like I was and desperately need a change of scenery. One day here can make a difference. Even if the resort is too pricey and not in your price range, you can always make reservations for dinner.

More information on Terranea Resort click here.