Double Chocolate Biscotti

The first time I tried a biscotti, I was probably 6 or 7, and needless to day, I thought it was pretty awful. It hurt my teeth and it’s taste had a slight resemblance to cardboard, there just wasn’t enough sugar for my juvenile taste buds.biscotti3 biscotti2

Now, on the other hand, I love biscotti, but I pretty much love any excuse to eat a cookie for breakfast. The stark contrast of hot, full-bodied coffee and sweet crunchy biscotti is just so satisfying. So what if it’s not a balanced meal, so what if I ate 10 3 with my coffee this morning, who cares, we all die at some point right? Eat the darn biscotti! biscotti4

Double Chocolate Biscotti

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 and line a sheet pan with parchment (or spray with coconut oil cooking spray).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until evenly combined. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl in between each addition.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter/egg mixture in 3 stages, making sure the dry and wet ingredients are evenly combined each time.

Add the chocolate chips. Eat some of that mouthwatering dough.

Shape the dough roughly into the size of a 12×4 inch log and place of prepared sheet pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the biscotti into 1/2 inch pieces and lay flat on sheet pan. Bake again for 5-10 minutes. Flip biscotti and bake once for for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and let the biscotti cool completely. Grab a big ole cup of joe and enjoy the world’s best morning.

original recipe here!

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How to Make Your Summer Glow Last

Remember when you were little and you would steal your mom’s clothes and shoes to play with? Well, now that we’re older and more mature… we can still do it and get some real use out of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my eye on the St. Tropez Gradual Tan shower gel but held out because I didn’t want to spend $25. The reviews for the product were about 50-50, good and bad, so I decided to opt out for a while. But then, guess who pulled through? 

You guessed it. My mom. When I saw the newly purchased product in her shower, I reached for it instantly. That might explain the currently sun-kissed skin, formerly known as fair skin.

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The thing that drew me in about the shower gel is the simplicity it promised. The bottle states five easy steps: rinse off in the shower, apply the gel (in circular motions) to clean skin, let it soak in for three minutes (away from the water), rinse it off and gently pat dry. Knowing I had nothing to lose, but pale skin, I decided to give it a try.

Before: 

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To prep for the tanning shower gel, I used the Pretty and Perky sugar scrub in Watermelon Lemonade scent to exfoliate. I then applied the gel to my freshly smooth skin. As promised, the product is easy to use. The gel itself is an off-white color, it didn’t give me Oompa Loompa hands, but I did wash the product off my hands before I let it soak for three minutes, as directed.

Before the three minute way time, I scrubbed my Macadamia Conditioning Hair Mask into my hair, so I could kill two birds with one stone, as I let both products sit. This is embarrassing, but I’ll share it with you guys anyways. I actually did a few squats one day while I waited. Is that weird?!

After: 

Now, this product is gradual so I didn’t notice results right when I got out of the shower. I used the product three days in a row and although I didn’t notice a difference, my coworkers did. I had about five people tell me that I looked tan. And my mom noticed that my legs looked a bit darker, as well.

The Bad: 

-One frequent con mentioned in reviews is the strong cologne scent of the product. I did notice a clean, cologne smell to it and, unfortunately, I still smelled like it after drying off. However, a few pumps of sweetly fragranced lotion and a spritz of Pink Sugar perfume, and I was good to go.

-Somehow, I dropped a small glob on my toe and didn’t notice. I now have a small tan smudge on my foot, but it’s not too noticeable and I know it’ll wash off eventually. I also have a small streak on my inner arm from where I didn’t massage the gel in enough. Although these spots are annoying, those are the only two I have and it made me feel reassured that: yes, the product works and  that I should be careful and thorough when applying it.

The good: 

-The product adds a gradual color that doesn’t wipe off on your towel, sheets or clothes.

-Because the tan is gradual, it’s believable. Did you use a self tanner or did you spend a few days in Cabo? No one knows ;)

-Quick and easy at-home method of tanning that won’t dye your hands (wash them before letting product sit), make a mess or leave streaks if you massage it in with circular motions.

I would give this product a four out of five star-rating and recommend it to anyone willing to spend $25 to try out a new product. I’ve tried the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs before and found this to be easier to use with better results.

What’s your favorite self tanner? Let me know!

Bye for now, XO- Ashley (@ashleysita)

Mom’s Carrot Cake

Every year on June 1st, my father’s day of birth, my mom would make carrot cake. He really loves carrot cake, which was great because so do I. My moms carrot cake is unlike other, boring, bland carrot cakes that, if you’re lucky, might have a few walnuts. No, her’s is packed full of delicious little surprises at every bite.cc3cc7

Probably the best part about my dad’s yearly carrot cake was the the left overs. I would get up the next morning, hungry for one thing and one thing only. You guessed it: carrot cake. Holy moly, if you though carrot cake was good for dessert, try eating it for breakfast. Superb!cc1 cc2cc5

Mom’s Carrot Cake (kind of)

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extracts
1 1/4 cup oil of your choice (I used olive)
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, canned or fresh

Cream Cheese Icing

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered cugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces
12 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease three 6 inch cake pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, spices, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and vanilla.

Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Add in the carrots, raisins, walnuts, coconut and pineapple and mix until all of the fun stuff is distributed evenly, but do not over mix.

Pour the cake batter evenly into each cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when cake is poked. Let cool completely.

For the Icing, place the cream cheese, butter and vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer (or hand mixer) fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium until combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add in the sifted powder sugar and continue to mix. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, by hand mix in the remaining ingredients.

When cake is completely cooled, de-pan and slice each cake in half to get a total of 6 layers. Plop a little bit of icing on the first layer, spread it around and repeat. For the the top cake layer, use the underside of one of the cake layers to get a nice flat top. Ice the cake and viola!

The best part about this recipe, is because of all of the chunky goodness on the icing, no matter how you ice it, it will look great! I finished mine off by covering three quarters of the outside of the cake with left over walnut pieces. Coconut looks great as well.cc6 cc4

California BLT

I’m sure most people have tried a California burger: juicy burger patty topped with guacamole, bacon and usually everything else that goes on a burger. If you haven’t, go try it now. Better yet, make a California BLT instead.blt5

Growing up in California, guacamole and avocados have always been a staple in my diet. I could literally eat chips and guac for dinner every day. Taco Tuesday? Taco everyday! As long as there’s guac.blt1blt2

My sister planted an avocado tree in front of our house when we were young, but it took 3 seasons of teenage rebellion, two dogs and one divorce for that thing to finally start producing the sweet, sweet fruit that is an avocado. And man, they were they perfect.blt4 blt6

California BTL

1 avocado
2 tablespoons pico de gallo
salt

1 slice country bread or sourdough
1 tomato
4 bacon strips
romaine lettuce

Start by frying the bacon strips.

While the bacon is cooking, make your guacamole: cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Slice both sides of the avocado into cubes and scoop out into a bowl using a large spoon. Add the pico de gallo and salt to taste. Mix well, but leave some chunks, texture is everything!

Toast your bread and slice your tomato. When bread if toasted, slather all of that guacamole goodness on it. Top with slices of tomato, bacon strips and romaine. You can add another toasted slice of bread on top of you wish; I prefer open faced BLTs because the top toast scratches the roof of my mouth.

Enjoy!blt8 blt7

13 Items You Should Always Carry in Your Purse (Or Backpack)

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We all remember the iconic scene from Mary Poppin’s as she pulled countless items from her magic purse. There is truth in that scene, that’s for sure- women come prepared. So whether you’re headed back to school or off to work, here’s a list of necessary goodies to toss in your own bag.

And I didn’t list any lady products, because those are a given!

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Don’t Sweat It

Ever rush out of the house and remember that you forgot to put on deodorant?! That’s the worst. But with a handy travel-sized deodorant, you’ve got nothing to fear.

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Freshen Up

Whether you forgot to spritz on some perfume, or you’re just looking to freshen up, rollerball perfumes are the way to go! Find your favorite scents in these convenient travel perfumes, like Pink Sugar ($20 at Kohl’s). Britney Spear’s rollerball is especially great because it’s double-sided perfume and lipgloss!

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Tissue for Your Issue

You never know when you’re going to have a sneeze attack, runny nose or an accidental spill. These cute travel-size tissues will ensure you’re prepared.

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Lipstick Fixes Everything

If you hit a midday slump on your appearance, toss on a coat of lipstick and you’re good to go. One of my favorites is the NYX Lip Butter because it gives the same moisture as a lip balm. For a cute travel size lipstick, grab Kat Von D’s Lip Vixen Duo: palm-sized lipstick and gloss, $18 at Sephora.

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Pain Free

Cramps, headaches, earaches, etc. Advil’s got you covered.

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Silence is Golden

Pop ’em in and forget about the world. You can turn on some Missy Elliot for a little pick me up or classical music if you’re busy at work and need to focus.

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Emergency $20

You don’t want to be without cash if your card breaks, demagnetizes or glitches out. And while we’re not all ballin’ like Jamie Kennedy in Malibu’s Most Wanted (he stores an emergency hundred in his Coach wallet), an emergency twenty will do. The hardest part of this task is not spending it on a Starbucks Frap, but hey, sometimes that’s an emergency, right?!

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Tie it Up

This is the cutest, most organized way to carry hair ties without losing them! Hair Ties are always convenient.

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Clip it Back

Bobby pins are great when you need to fix your updo a bit or put a loose hair back into place. They even help with wardrobe malfunctions!

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Kill the Germs

Hand sanitizer is a must. Always.

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Stay Smooth

Grab a 2-for-1 deal at Bath & Body Works with a smell-good sanitizer and lotion, and leave everyone in the room drooling over the sweet scents.

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Charge Up

Sometimes you use your phone more than expected and since it seems that phone batteries last all of 3 minutes at times, a quick charge helps!

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Power Boost

Feeling like your own batteries running low? Combat drowsiness and hunger with a delicious granola bar or snack. My favorite is the BelVita “Brown Sugar Cinnamon” snacks, they taste like graham crackers and provide steady energy.

What’s in your purse that you can’t live without?

Bye for now, XO- Ashley (@ashleysita)

Strawberry Shortcake

When I was a kid, I longed for the hot summer days when my mom would let us buy ice cream. It wasn’t often, but when it happened, there was no happier kid on the block! I guess from an early age I just always knew, I was different: I am in love with food. ss7 ss6

My ice cream preferences would change, depending on setting, practicality (no one wants a drippy ice cream cone) and of course, what my big sister was getting. Even though she used to push me down the stairs in laundry baskets, toppling me to my premature death, I still looked up to her, for whatever reason. I copied her unfortunate taste in anime on everything, and boy did my sister love strawberry shortcake. I don’t mean the delicious, real strawberry shortcake you get at a restaurant, I’m talking the pre-packaged, food color-laden, Good Humor brand crap.ss4 ss5

Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a little childhood nostalgia now and then, but I think I’ll leave that to saturday morning cartoons and ingest food that I know all of the ingredients to.ss2 ss3

Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup half & half
1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened

4 pounds strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

Remove the ends of the strawberries and quarter them. Place them in a bowl with the sugar, mixing to coat eat strawberry piece in sugary goodness and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

In the bowl on a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and butter and mix on medium/low speed until the mixture takes on a course, sand-like appearance.

Slowly add the egg and half & half, mix until just combined. The cake comes together very quickly, be careful not to over mix.

Spread the cake mixture out into the greased baking dish and set aside. Using the same bowl and paddle, mix the second amount of flour, sugar and butter together to make the streusel topping. When crumbly and evenly combined, top the cake batter with the streusel.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean when poked.

Let the cake cool, top with strawberries and ice cream or whipped cream (or both) and enjoy!ss8 ss1

3 Minutes to a Beautiful Complexion

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One part of my makeup that I struggle with is blush and bronzer. I often do the “little bit to this side, little bit to that side” in attempts to even it out until patting some of the intense color away.

This week I finally realized the reason– and it’s not the makeup products or brushes that I use. It’s my skin. 

I stared at the dark patch of makeup on my left cheek and cursed it for not matching my right. After taking a closer glance, I noticed a light dry patch of skin on my cheek. This dry patch made my bronzer darker and stripe-like.

Not wanting to look like the tiger, that I sometimes am (rawr), I reached for my July Birchbox and grabbed out the Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel.

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I’ve never done a peel before and I was a bit intimidated. But, the box assured that the product gently exfoliated skin.

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I applied the product to target areas: cheeks, forehead and chin. The box said to apply it to the neck as well, but that’s easier in the shower. Immediately after dotting the product on my face and gently rubbing it in, small white solids formed– the gel combining with my dead skins! Goodbye icky patch of dead skin! The other benefit of seeing these solids form? I knew it was working!

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During the two minute massage, my skin felt normal– no stinging or pain. The small solids were a little difficult to remove, so it took about two minutes for me to make sure it was thoroughly washed off. The peel left my skin feeling smooth and bright, and my bronzer looked great that day!

This product is a great addition to my face mask collection and I recommend trying it. You can sample two 5mL bottles of this product for free (usually $5.75 each) on the Real Chemistry website, with a $6 shipping fee using the code “freesamples.” It doesn’t say how long this deal will last, so if you’re interested in trying it, don’t procrastinate!

Bye for now, XO- Ashley (@ashleysita)