Friday, April 20

A twist on Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies!

 There is no denying the pure delectability of tollhouse cookies, but using prepackaged mixes for baking is simply unorthodox to me.   I have nothing but praise for whipping up a batch for family and close friends, but I scoff when someone brings these types of treats (especially funfetti cupcakes - come on! I know they are delicious, but talk about effort-less) to a party.  

So you can imagine my dismay when the Boston Cream Pie cake with ganache frosting I was planning on making for my last day at the office didn't pan out. (pan out, heh heh).  My pup came down with pnemonia and rather then acting reasonably, the Gilsons paniced and turned to hysteria.

Out of options I turned to the easiest tollhouse pack i could find - literally all you do is add a stick of butter and 1 egg.  To trick everyone in the office... I mean to make the cookies unique... I added:

-2 big tablespoons of cream cheese frosting (that I had from my red velvet cupcakes - recipe below!)
-2 tsp cocoa powder
-handful of white chocolate morsels
-topped off with dark chocolate morsels

Other options include: craisins, orange zest, walnuts, chocolate protein powder, toffee pieces, mint pieces, 3 tablespoons of oats or grape nut cereal or any type of granola you have in the pantry!

I mixed all the ingredients together, rolled them into golf size balls and cooked for 9-10 mins (i like them really goey) - if you want crunchy bottoms cook for 12 mins

When they came out I added some nice dark chocolate pieces into the middle then sprinkled with confectioners sugar and Wah-lah!  

Tuesday, April 17

Temezcal Review

The sophisticated hotspot Temezcal in Seaport truly has an unbeatable atmosphere.  From the bamboo beam tunnel entrance to the completely open dining area overlooking the harbor, you couldn't ask for a better place to unwind with friends.

When seated, each member in your party receives an ipad instead of a menu.  A little unnecessary, but I did enjoy having access to all of the ingredients as well as a vibrant image for each menu item and drink.  A more practical use for the ipad menu would be replacing the waitress with ordering straight from your ipad. But then again, I can only imagine the stress my dad would feel trying to navigate the "computer board".  He'd end up ordering a $100 shot of tequilla while trying to get a plain cheese quesadilla.

The food is fancy mexican, which never fails to disappoint me.  The guacamole was too healthy and lacked flavor.  An order of 18 dollar tacos came with two measley hard shell tacos and no accompanying rice or beans.   When I am craving mexican I want to stuff myself with cheese, salty meats and creative sauces, not daintily nibble on a grilled chicken breast lightly drizzled with mole sauce.

Food aside, the margaritas are something to rave about. I would come back everyday of the summer for these 16-18 dollar delights.  The raspberry marg is made with fresh squeezed lime and raspberry puree in place of triple sec and sugary prebottled mixes.  The white sangria, while very sweet, was absolutely delightful as well. 

Skip the food, and go for the margs (and possibly an order of ceviche) and you will feel the weight of the work week melt off your shoulders in no time.   :)

Wednesday, April 11

Paint Nite: Boston's BEST date idea!

So I discovered something so amazing that if my blog had any followers (really even just one) I wouldn't post about this hidden gem.

Drum roll.  Keep it rolling..
Ok. Paint Nite.

Expecting nothing more a few paint brushes and pieces of paper, you can imagine my delight when I walked down the stairs of Clerys bar toting my glass of red sangria.  Three rows of easels with large blank canvases propped made me so giddy I nearly bumped into the girl handing me my bundle of well kept paint brushes.  Giggling like school children, Sarah and I let ourselves be guided over to the paint station where we pumped the appropriate squirts of acrylic paint onto our palate (ok the palate was just a white plastic plate, but I'm claiming 100% accuracy for the rest of my description).  We chose a seat next to the little radio pumping out Michael Buble and anxiously awaited our first instruction.

I immediately wished the instructor was my bff with her stark humor and calming sense of assurance as our brave leader. (ok that was dramatization too - but she was wicked cool).  She had painted a brightly colored depiction of flowers shining in the moonlight - something that seemed completely impossible upon first glance.  Step by step she walked us through our painting, all the while cocktail waitresses buzzed about refreshing our palates (heh heh).

I can't say mine was the best, but the sense of accomplishment was beaming off all 30 of our faces after the two hour class was through.  I truthfully would have bought the painting for $35, which makes the class fee much more than justifiable in my eyes.   While everyone's painting came out a little different, the camaraderie felt among the group was unparalleled.

Paint Nite is the perfect date or the perfect place to reconnect with a friend.

Tuesday, April 10

The 2 week super skinny diet!

In lieu of binge eating easter candy to the point of self hate, I've decided to start seriously dieting and exercising first thing tomorrow.
It's exactly two weeks until I'll be filming "Hit the Road" a Weather Channel travel show with my pen pal Jenny.  Exciting, I know.  But frightening that we'll be driving down the coast of CA donning bikinis (cringe).  It's one thing to snap a photo in Miami and delete it if my love handles are protruding, It's another thing to have a camera man following as I clumsily fall off a surf board in a bikini.  yikes.  
So starting tomorrow I'll be daily posting my weight, eating and exercise schedule.  Feel free to join me on my way to super skinny!

Summary 4/8; 
 Exercise: None
Eating: Refusing to publish that, but picture what 3000 cals & 200 g of sugar would look like

Summary 4/9
Exercise: AM Spinning &  PM Pilates
Eating: 1 scoop care 1 protein powder with 1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese || 1 cup mixed veggies with 1 tsp olive oil and garlic || 2 small apples || 2 adora dark choco calcium supplements || baby carrots & 4 tsp garlic lover hummus || 1/2 cup fresh fruit || 1 scoop care one protein powder || grilled brussels sprouts and broccoli with balsamic vinegar || 2 glasses of sweet red wine
Damage: Cals 1069 Fat 34 g Cholesterol 19 mg Sodium 967 mg Carbs 98 g Fiber 13 g Protein 44 g Sugars 53 g
Reflections: ok, happy about the cals.  happy about the 2 gym appearances.  Happy that for the first time in probably 2 months i didn't dive into the peanut butter or a bag of nuts (my addiction).  At pilates I was rather unnerved by the bulging of my stomach in C-curve, and I'm mad I got the sweet red wine to bump up my sugar intake, and that I couldn't have just one dark chocolate ... but all in all, I had a pretty good day!  I even said no to homemade coconut vanilla cake at work! 

Summary 4/10
Exercise: AM Cardio and Core class
Eating: 1/2 cup old fashioned oats with fresh cranberries, raisins, 1 scoop care one protein, cinnamon || fresh strawberries, blueberries and watermelon || Spinach salad with grilled veggies and balsamic vinegar || 2 adora dark chocolate calcium supplements || baby carrots || apple || mimosa || 2 glasses of sangria || white wine || garlic lovers humus
Damage: Cals 1246  Fat 14 g Cholesterol 11 mg Sodium 432 mg Carbs 189 Fiber 18 g Protein 35 g Sugar 31 g
Reflections: hm. welp didn't need the mimosa.  or the sangrias.  or the 2 dark chocolates.  or the glass of wine when I was already very buzzed.  Fail.

Summary 4/11
Exercise: PM pilates, 20 minutes of free weights/strength training, 10 min elliptical
Eating: banana || apple || spinach salad with grilled veggies and balsamic || fresh berries and watermelon || baby carrots || grilled veggies with mrs. refrenos mango habanero salsa || 5 olives || cantaloupe slices || 1 adora dark chocolate 
Damage: Cals 534 Fat 10 g Cholesterol 0 mg Sodium 1023 mg Carbs 101 g Fiber 14 g Protein 4 g Sugars 66 g
Reflections: Victory, right? With only 534 cals and not a rumbling belly?  Wrong.  Not nearly enough protein and way too much sugar and sodium (the salsa and olives are the culprits).  Happy that I didn't waste half my calories on alcohol today though.  success! 

Summary 4/12
Exercise: AM Spinning class
Eating: 3/4 cup fat free cottage cheese || 1 scoop care one protein powder || apple || egg white omelet, 1 tsp olive oil with spinach, mushrooms, jalapenos, tabasco sauce || watermelon and berries || baby carrots with miso dressing || adora dark chocolate calcium supplement || 4 tsp garlic hummus with carrots || cantaloupe 
Damage: Cals 752 Fat 16g Chol 25mg Sodium 1257mg Carbs 82g Fiber 13g Protein 58g Sugar 43g
Reflections: Way too much sodium again, but that's what you get with fat free cottage cheese.  I'll have to make sure to go no added salt next time. Other than that.. boo yeah! What an amazing day chock full of protein! And I really am super full! And killed it in spinning. AND said no to reeses pieces at work. 

Summary 4/13
Exercise: Absolutely nothing.
Eating: fresh fruit cup || apple || grapefruit slices || spinach salad with balsamic dressing and grilled vegetables || cucumber slices || baby carrots || forty spices hummus || a few baked tortilla chips || 4 glasses of Sangria
Damage: Cals 1037 Fat 9g Chol 77mg Sodium 515mg Carbs 150g Fiber 9g  Protein 10g Sugar 33g
Reflections: HATE that I didn't lift a single weight or break a sweat. Other than that, not feeling too guilty about throwing back the Sangria, it's Friday after all :)

Summary 4/14
Exercise: Hiked Blue Hills Mountain with the girls
Eating: Apple || guacamole, salsa and nachos || Raspberry Margarita || White Sangria || sampling of protein bars at the Boston fitness expo || mimosa || vodka soda cran || salad with avocado, grilled chicken, greek dressing || Kashi dark chocolate and coconut bar || 2 vodka sodas
Damage: Cals 2119 Fat 80g Chol 39mg Sodium 1287mg Carbs 119g Fiber 19g Protein 34g Sugar 31g
Reflections: WOOF.  so upset with myself for today.  drink after drink washed down with greasy chips and sugar ladden protein bars.  And i didn't even work out! Epic fail.

Summary 4/15
Exercise: weight machines, jogging outdoors
Eating: Apple || cooked broccoli || salad with greek dressing and avocado || baby carrots with spicey mustard dip || chocolate vitamin chew || 2 cups of red grapes || grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar || 2 glasses of sweet red wine || walnuts
Damage: Cals 874 Fat 33g Chol 15mg Sodium 864 Carbs 87 Fiber 13g Protein 9g Sugar 51g
Reflections: Well I drank so much yestd that I am surprisingly happy with how I stayed strong despite a dreadful hangover.  My exercise was pathetic, and i could have done without the wine ..but oh well, at least I'm back on track a little. Pitiful protein intake to top it off.

Summary 4/16
Exercise: AM spinning class
Eating: 3/4 cup cottage cheese || 1 scoop protein powder || grapefruit || apple || spinach salad with grilled vegs || cucumber and pepper slices || mai tai || 3 glasses of sangria || grilled vegetables || baby carrots with spicey mustard sauce
Damage: Cals 1036 Fat 3g Chol 23mg Sodium 1130mg Carbs 158g Fiber 8g Protein 38g Sugars 45g
Reflections:  I'm embarrassed about posting how much I've been slugging 'em back!  But yestd was Marathon monday and the entire city was out celebrating an 80 degree day.  Plus my boss surprised us with office Mai Tais, can't really say no, it'd be rude!   I need to cut back on my sodium bad. I'm holding on to water weight and looking puffy.  My goal for the next 5 days is to keep carbs and fat low, cals around 1000 and protein up around 30 or 40.   The day before I leave maybe I'll skip fruit (even though I lOVE it) to keep carbs and sugar at bay.

Summary 4/17
Exercise: AM cardio & core class
Eating: Cottage cheese || 1 scoop protein powder || 1 small banana || grapefruit and pineapple || trader joes trail mix || spinach salad with grilled veg || watermelon || mrs renfros mango habanera salsa || cucumbers || bell pepper || walnuts 
Damage:Cals 672 fat 20g chol 13mg sodium 705mg carbs 86g fiber 11g protein 30g sugar 54g
Reflections: Nice not putting any alcohol in my system. could've done without the sugar laden trail mix, but I've been seriously lacking in solid protein, so nuts are a plus!

Summary 4/18

Exercise: AM interval class, PM pilates
Eating: cottage cheese with protein powder, cinnamon, handful of Post cranberry crunch || orange || pineapple chunks || spinach salad with balsamic || cucumber and pepper slices || grilled chicken with onions, mixed vegetables and tomato salad || cucumbers with spicey mustard dip || glass sweet red wine
Damage: Cals 832 Fat 20g Chol 88mg Sodium 698mg Carbs 84g Fiber 10g Protein 58g Sugars 50g
Reflections: LOVED enjoying a sit down dinner with my mom and dad tonight. Especially a healthy one! Today was a great day of eating and exercise.  I didn't need the post cereal, but it just tastes so good!

Summary 4/19
Exercise: AM spinning
Eating: a little cottage cheese || small grilled banana || 1/4 cup post cranberry crunch cereal with 1/4 cup skim milk || apple || orange || grilled chicken breast with mixed veg and sliced tomato salad || cucumbers, pepper slices, carrots || 5 pickled jalepeno slices || 2 glasses of moscato
Damage: Cals 923 Fat 17g Chol 76mg Carbs 118g Fiber 12g Protein 40g Sugars 61g

Reflections: Feeling bad about breakfast and eating more of that dreaded sugar laden cereal, but I made cookies tonight and did not even eat one! (hence the glasses of wine).  Talk about will power - I've don't work on cookie dough before, so I deserve a pat on the back AND 2 glasses of wine.


Monday, April 9

Best of Los Angeles: Food

I'm constantly on the hunt for 'the best of LA' ...but I've quite exasperated the internet with my quest.  My searches for "best steakhouse" "most romantic"  "bottomless mimosas" etc. elicit a 'top 10' list from the generic conglomerate websites like Yelp, Gayot and Urbanspoon.  And while I don't necessarily think their lists would lead you astray from enjoying a delectable meal in Los Angeles... I also don't trust their motives behind rankings.  I mean, lets get real.  If someone wanted to throw me some cash - or heck a few free meals - I would have nothing but nice things to say regardless of my dining experience.

So, without further adieu, here are my very favorite LA spots, by category.  Over the next few weeks I'll dedicate separate posts to each place and give you a proper review.  But this should give you a good starting point:

All-Over, Never-Fail Favorites:
Spago - duck breast
Litte Door & Little Next Door
Pace - cedar plank salmon
Bottega Louie 

Little Next Door - Croque Madam
The Ivy - white sangria

Beverly Hills Hotel, Polo Lounge -Lobster Benedict

Apple Pan
Umami Burger - truffle burger, cheesey tatter tots

Frito Misto - raviolis

Urth Cafe - Honey Vanilla Spanish Latte & almond croissant

Canters - Pastrami on rye

Maestros -  Butter cake

The Bazaar - Cotton Candy Martinis
Churchkey - Jidori Chicken
Runners Up: Nics Martini Lounge, The Stinkin Rose

Food Truck:
Lobsta Truck

Little Door
Le Petit Four

Toppings in Pacific Palisades

High Tea: 
Chateau Marmont

Hotel Bar:
Four Seasons Beverly Hills
Parq at the Montage

Runners Up: Angelini Osteria, Il Pastaio, Ago

Late Night:
Bossa Nova - plantains, Chicken in gorgonzola sauce app
Il Tremezzino - Chicken Special, nutella croissant dessert

Fig and Olive - crostinis
Sunin - garlic hummus with carne asada

El Compadre - guacamole
Red O - fried plantains

Tomato Pie 
Slice Truck

Il Cielo 
Mari Vanna
Runners up:  Perch, Geoffrey's, Pace, Little Door

Mari Vanna - Borscht

Crustacean - garlic noodles & roasted crab app
Santa Monica Seafood Company - candied salmon

Maestros -petite filet & butter cake dessert
Cut - pork belly app, sirloin tasting menu (or just the wagyu)
Runner Ups: Lawrys

Runner Up: Katana (atmosphere)


Moonshadows - go for oysters and hawaiian spicy tar tar for lunch
Maestros Oceanclub 

Wine Bar:
A.O.C. - bacon wrapped dates

And now for my 'worsts' list:
Restaurants that I think are overrated and not worth the calories or price tags:  Eveleigh, Hakkasan, Bagatelle, Culina, Blanca, Connie & Teds, Luna Cafe

Sunday, April 8


Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I love the baskets, the painting of the eggs, the anticipation of spring weather.  But going to my cousin Kristen's house was always the best part. As kids, the cousins would stuff ourselves with candy then sneak away to play for hours on end.   As we got older, I absolutely relished in catching up and sharing laughs over mimosas ..and of course still stuffing ourselves with candy.

With my cousin Kristin's recent passing, the Gilsons collectively decided not to observe Easter this year.  To fill the void looming in my heart, I tried to self medicate this year with chocolate after chocolate.  8 reeses eggs, 2 cadburrys, a bag of starburst jelly beans and a dark chocolate bunny later and I was ready for my egg cheese (and extra cheese) and bacon sandwich. Still feeling hollow, I have since got into the pub cheese, the cheese itz and gasp, more candy.  

My lesson learned from this is an obvious one.  Eating is not the answer, and will ultimately make you feel even worse; even more out of control.  But the real kicker is that Easter isn't about the candies.  It's about the people who give them to you.  The mom who stresses to fill your basket with all your favorites.  Who empties her wallet to see the excitement ooze out of her kids as they rip through the plastic grass.  It's about the people you share the cadbury eggs with.  The family members, the friends, the boyfriend, the husband, whoever you deem special enough to indulge in something you would feel extremely guilty about eating alone.   

I'm hurting.  I'm so mad at Kristen for taking her life and leaving me with no one to share my jelly beans with.  I'm so deeply saddened that I wont get to drink too many mimosas and share my latest embarrassing moment.  Alas-  I would have never realized how important my family is to me, never stopped and contemplated what these holidays really mean to me, if I didn't lose Kristen. 

With that, I wish everyone the Happiest Easter.  I hope that you get your fill of candy, but that you get your fill of family and love as well.  Family is the most precious and beautiful thing, but as I have learned, it can be all too fragile. 

Tuesday, April 3

Boston: Spring Fashion Donts!

Oh spring.  What a beautiful time.  Everyone stretches their arms and comes out of hiding.  The lilys start blooming, birds start singing and smiling becomes more commonplace.

Despite the magic of the birds and the bees, spring in Boston makes me downright cringe.

 Eager to kick off their uggs, Bostonians make spring fashion faux paus to the highest degree. And while I have fallen victim to these same critiques time and again, I'd feel a lot better venting my biggest spring fashion peeves.

Lessons Learned from my stark observations:

1. Don't be afraid of sunless tanner. Or maybe some tinted jergens.  I can't compliment your skirt if I'm gawking at the paleness of your legs.

2. If you're going to wear peep toes, commit to it.  Please don't jam your feet into tights then let your covered toes slink through the sandal opening.

3. Beach bags are for the beach.

4. Buy a spring trench, or a rain jacket, or a cardigan - anything to get you to stop wearing your winter wool or down jacket with a dress and flip flops.

5. Don't wear flip flops unless it's predicted to be 70 degrees.  This is still New England and we all know the weathermen are right less than 10 percent of the time.

6.  Again, it's New England, and it's windy.  We live on the water, remember?  Flowy skirts are not wind resistant.

7. White is see-through.

8.  Plastic sunglasses should not have jewels glued to the side of them.  You know who you are.  Suck it up and buy some Ray bans, you'll thank me later.

9. Platform flip flops can be thrown out now, they're not coming back.

10.  Lets not kid ourselves.  No one's dieting.  No need to write, "getting ready for bikini season" on facebook and make the rest of us sweat it.  I know you posted that while waiting in line for your 1000 calorie coolata and everything bagel from dunkies.

11.  No self respecting woman should start spring without a pedicure.  Or at the very least, please take off the left over dark red from Christmas that is only still visible on a corner of one big toe.

12.  Ok big guys.  Tevas will never be ok.  If you happen to wear flip flops, fine.  But your feet aren't getting by my scrutiny.  Please trim your toe nails, it's the least you can do.

13. Embrace color, smile more, wear a silly spring hat, try coral lipstick, go neon for your nails, get an extra scoop of ice cream, smell the flowers and sip a margarita - it's spring in Boston, and we deserve to give it a proper and long over due welcome :)


Monday, April 2

Moist and Delicious - Easy Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting!


Normally I take a few recipes and put them together to make my own version, which I in-turn post.  This recipe is really too good to change.  I made a few little tweeks to make the cupcakes a little more goey, but this is straight from the internet.  And as a recipe review it really does get 5 stars.  I'm not even a cake eater, and I could not believe how delicious these cupcakes came out. 

This recipe is sure to make inlaws fall in love with you, friends accept apologies or even men propose.  They're really that good.

                    2 1/2 cups flour
                    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like to do a little more cocoa and a little less flour)
                    1 teaspoon baking soda
                    1/2 teaspoon salt
                    1 cup butter, softened
                    2 cups sugar
                    4 eggs
                    1 cup sour cream                    
                    1/2 cup milk
                     1 bottle or tube of hot pink Food Color (i use pink instead of red, I think it gives a                          nice color, but if you only have red go for it)
                    2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

                    Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:   (Don't you dare buy the frosting!)                   
                    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
                    1/4 cup butter, softened
                    2 tablespoons sour cream
                    2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
                    1 (16 ounce) box confectioners' sugar
                   Some of those really pretty sparkly crystals or pearls for decoration.  Also red frosting!

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.               
2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.            
3. The recipe calls for 20-25 minutes, but this is entirely too long.  Cook regular sized cupcakes for 16 minutes, take them out and leavem them in the pan for 15 minutes.  This will help cook the outside of the cupcake still while leaving the middle moist and goey.  For the mini cupcakes 10 minutes was perfect.
4. While their cookin', mix the frosting.  Beat cream cheese, softened, butter, sour cream and vanilla extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.
4. Frost the cupcakes once they're completely cooled - Use the back side of a spoon to help smooth the frosting nicely over the cupcakes.  Add sparkly doodads! :)

Runway Walking Tips

On Sunday I taught a runway modeling seminar to 50 students at Emerson for their annual Spring fashion show.  I scoured the internet searching for a worksheet of sorts I could print out, but came up empty handed.  So I created my own.  Enjoy.


FACE & HEAD: Keep your face loose, and your lips slightly parted. Your head should stay facing straight, but it can have slight movement to evoke more attitude.

POSTURE: Stand up straight with your head high and your neck elongated

EYES:  focus your eyes straight ahead of you, looking into the distance. 

o   Focus on something on the back wall

SHOULDERS: Keep them still while you walk, and keep them back.

ARMS: A natural swing, using mostly the lower part of your arm

o   HANDS: keep hands open and fingers visible

POSING: It doesn’t matter if you put one hand on your hip or both, swing a jacket over your shoulder, or do the T pose.   All that matters is whatever you chose to do, do it with confidence.

o   You need to “hit your mark”, not hesitate at the end of the runway

o   Hands should hit your smallest part of your waist, not your hips 

WALKING: Walk with a natural flow, but put one foot slightly more in front of the other than you normally would.  This will help your hips swing without looking too exaggerated

o   Pick up your feet, do not let them drag. And do not walk with your knees bent.  straighten out your leg before placing each food down.

o   Practice walking in the shoes you will be wearing prior to the show

*It’s important to be mindful of the designer and the type of clothing you’re wearing.  Try to channel the “feel” of the clothing.  If you’re wearing edgier clothing, play with an attitude.  While if you’re modeling prom dresses you should be smiling and bubbly!  It never hurts to ask the designer how they would like their line portrayed if you are unsure.

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