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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cookie Butter Marbled Brownies

Okay, okay, I know I am waaaaaay behind on jumping onto the cookie butter bandwagon, but it isn't my fault!  It turns out it is super hard to come by delicious products like that when you're residing on a tiny island, but I finally did in my local Target one day last week.  Because I'd never tasted it before, that was literally the first thing I did after I brought it home from the store.  Is that terrible of me or what?  But I had to experience it, and I am happy to report that I loved it!

After coming down off my initial cookie spread high, I started thinking about what exactly I could do with the rest of the spread that was taunting me in the jar (rather than stuff it in all my face).  I thought about how Mr. L's most favorite dessert in the world is a pan of deliciously fudgy, chocolate brownies, and it hit me -- I should make some cookie butter brownies!  I've always been a fan of marbled cheesecake brownies, so I figured instead of using cheesecake, I'd use a little melted Biscoff spread instead.

Holy moly, you guys.  These brownies were rich, dense, and above all fudgy!  These are the kind of brownies that you absolutely must eat with a tall, cold glass of milk.  I knew it would be very unwise for me to keep all these brownies around, so I basically forced them on Mr. L to take to work.  He said they were devoured almost instantaneously, but I could tell he was sad we gave the majority of them away haha. Be sure to check out the recipe below and make them for yourselves!

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com


Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cookie butter spread
Directions

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease an 8x8 baking pan.  In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and water and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil.


Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth.


Mix in the eggs and vanilla.


Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and then stir into the chocolate mixture.


Spread the mixture evenly into the greased pan.  Heat the 1/4 cup of cookie butter in a microwave for about 20 seconds or so until runny and able to be easily spread.  Drop the cookie butter by spoonfuls into the brownie batter and marble with a butter knife while being careful to not overmix.


Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the brownies are set.



Cool in the pan and cut into squares.


Serve with a cold glass of milk and enjoy!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seven for Sunday

1.  Thank you for driving when you can :)  I appreciate it!

2.  I can't wait until this weekend!  It's going to be a blast.

3.  I'm excited for you to start your new medicine.  I hope it has less side effects!

4.  I think this week will be a blast too.  Busy, but a lot of fun!

5.  You're awesome for helping me get the mutts taken care of in the morning.

6.  Hope you're ready for a cinnamon roll this week!

7.  You're so cute when the pups are snuggled up next to you :)

ily <3

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting to Know Hawaii: Lanikai Pillboxes Hike


The Need to Knows:
  • The Lanikai Pillboxes Hike trail head is located at the end of a private driveway off of Kaelepulu Drive, Kailua, HI 96734.  It's exact location is here:
  • Parking is definitely an issue here, as it is with the whole neighborhood of Lanikai.  Please obey all parking laws and be respectful to the homeowners who reside here when you're hunting for street parking and when you're walking through the neighborhoods (basically don't be loud or toss trash).  I suggest parking around Lanikai Park if none of the handful of spots are open at the trail head.
  • This trail can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours to complete, depending on how far you go or how long you soak in the views.  Next time we go I'll use GPS to figure out how long it is.
  • I would rank this hike as somewhere between beginner and moderate.  It's not as easy as Manoa Falls or the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, but it isn't too tough either.
  • I definitely recommend hiking or running shoes with good traction, especially if it's been raining -- I bet it can get very muddy!
  • Once you make it onto the ridge portion of the trail, the sun will be beating down on you, so wear sunscreen and a hat and bring water to stay hydrated.
  • This hike is dog-friendly as well as child-friendly, but definitely not suited for strollers.  Just be sure to keep an eye on your kids and keep your dog on a leash!
The Lanikai Pillboxes Hike is a short but semi-tough hike that not only will get your blood pumping, but will also reward you with stunning views of the windward coastline of Oahu.  It starts in the very popular and ritzy neighborhood of Lanikai in Kailua and overlooks the gorgeous Lanikai Beach as well as the picturesque Mokulua Islands, two of Oahu's many offshore islands.


Mr. L and I have been itching to do this hike for a long time, so we were thrilled when a friend came into town to visit and gave us the perfect excuse to go check it out!  We headed out pretty early one morning to make sure we didn't get overheated and to also ensure that the trail wasn't too crowded.

Looking back onto the country club from the trail head (See all that red?  Definitely do not park there!  Haha)
The first 15 minutes or so of the climb is basically all uphill.  You definitely need to be wearing shoes with good traction, particularly if it's muddy (thank goodness the day we went wasn't!) since it can be very easy to slip and fall.  Keep your hands free as well so you can grab on to rocks, tree trunks, and sometimes rope to help pull yourself up.



When you make it to the first lookout area though, you begin to appreciate what all your effort will get you!  You can already see some delicious views of the Moks and a sliver of Lanikai Beach.  But don't break for long -- you've got to make it to the first pillbox now!

The Mokulua Islands and Lanikai
View of Kailua behind you

Part of the trail and the first pillbox
The first pillbox is probably another 15-20 minutes away, depending on how quickly you hustle.  However, there's definitely a lot less climbing and instead ridge climbing now, which means more time to enjoy the views around you!  And then before you know it, you'll have reached the first pillbox on the trail.





View looking back on stunning Kailua Beach
We only ended up hanging around here for a few minutes.  Itt was already pretty crowded (as you can see), and we knew the second pillbox awaited us, so we decided to charge on!

Path to second pillbox
Long way down!
Second pillbox
I felt like the views were definitely a lot better at the second pillbox, so I highly suggest pushing on until you get to that point.  Your legs may be feeling it but I promise it's worth it!



Gorgeous Lanikai Beach
View of the rest of the Lanikai neighborhood and Bellows and Waimanalo Beaches beyond
I actually sat at the second pillbox for a long time because our friend and Mr. L decided to go try to find the elusive third pillbox.  After about an additional 30-45 minutes, they came back and informed me that the third pillbox had no view and was really just a concrete block.  They declared it wasn't worth the extra effort, but I didn't mind.  I enjoyed hanging out at the second one and probably would have stayed there longer if I could have.  Watching the colors of the water shift and change with the sunlight was just so gorgeous!



Mr. L and our friend GC farther down the trail
This was probably one of my top hikes we've done on Oahu so far.  It gave me a workout but we were practically instantly rewarded with jaw-dropping views.  You can't beat that!  I definitely cannot wait to head back and to bring more friends and family to experience this beauty for themselves.

You can actually kayak out to this island, Moku Nui, and explore it; the other island, Moku Iki, is a bird sanctuary that is off limits
Looking back on the trail, Kailua, and K-Bay in the background
 What's your favorite hike with amazing views?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Friday

1.  You ready to help me clean this weekend?!  I hope so!

2.  I'm sorry we haven't been really playing together on the game.  I've been trying to work as much as I can this month!  We'll get back into it soon, I promise.

3.  I know I've already said it, but I really do appreciate the increased compliments on meals.  You rock!

4.  I'm so glad we bit the bullet and are going back to Maui!!  The government better not shut down this time because we are going to Haleakala no matter what!!

5.  It'll also be really nice to get away and just relax with each other.  We both need it!

ily <3

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Baked Cream Cheese and Chicken Spaghetti

Mr. L is a huuuuge fan of spaghetti.  It's one of his favorite meals and definitely a go-to comfort meal, but I'll be honest -- I kind of get tired of eating it the same old way.  I'm always on the hunt for new twists on an old classic like this, so when I came across this recipe for Baked Cream Cheese and Chicken Spaghetti, I knew I had to try it out.

I'm already a fan of a recipe similar to this with ground beef instead of chicken, so I pretty much knew it would be delicious.  And I mean, come on, there's cream cheese right there in the title!  Can't go wrong with that, right?  It definitely is a rich dish, so I'll probably keep this one limited to once a month or so in our menu rotation, unless Mr. L specifically requests it.  Which he probably will!  :)



Ingredients
  • 12 oz spaghetti noodles
  • 1 large jar of marinara sauce
  • Either 1/2 of a shredded rotisserie chicken or 2 cooked chicken breasts
  • Extra herbs if you prefer (I added more basil and garlic powder to my taste)
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Directions


Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions.  After draining, put the cream cheese on top of the hot noodles and mix well until the cheese is fully incorporated.  Then add the shredded chicken and marinara sauce and stir together.


Place the spaghetti mixture in a greased 9x12 baking dish and top with the grated Parmesan cheese (be sure to save some for garnishing later).  Pop into a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until bubbly and the cheese has thoroughly melted.  Top with more parmesan and a little basil and serve!





Friday, April 11, 2014

Five for Friday

1.  I'm starting to get excited about more family coming in!  We're going to have a blast over the next couple of months :)

2.  Thank you for taking into account what we talked about regarding dinners/cooking in general.  You rock!

3.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed with all this doctor business.  We need some good news!

4.  Hope you're ready for me to make some treats with that Biscoff spread!  Haha.

5.  Regardless of what happens in the coming months, I'm so thankful and happy that we took a chance on Hawaii.  It's been amazing living here and I hope we continue to eagerly soak up what time we have left!

ily <3

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Getting to Know Hawaii: USS Bowfin Submarine


The Need to Knows:
  • The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park can be found within the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center complex, the same place in which the USS Arizona Memorial is located.  Here is the Bowfin's exact location:
  • The Bowfin is open daily from 7AM to 5PM with the last admission to the submarine being at 4:30PM.  It's closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
  • The cost of admission for the USS Bowfin and the USS Bowfin Museum is $12 for adults, $5 for children 4-12, and $8 for military, seniors, and kama'aina.  Museum only access is $5 for adults and $4 for children.
  • Children under 4 are not permitted onto the submarine itself, although they may visit the museum at no charge.
  • Because the Bowfin is within the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, no bags are allowed on the premises.  Lockers are available for use for $3 each.
  • Audio tours are included in the price of admission for the submarine and the museum.
  • Be sure to wear closed toe shoes (especially if you are also going to see the USS Missouri) just so it's easier to maneuver inside the submarine and successfully avoid the "kneeknockers"!
  • If you'd like to know more about the Bowfin or even make a donation, check out their official website at Bowfin.org.
The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is a Pearl Harbor historical site that's part of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, the complex that also houses the USS Arizona Memorial.  The Bowfin commemorates the submariners and submarines lost during World War II by offering a waterfront memorial, a wonderful museum, and the opportunity to board a WWII submarine, the Bowfin, to allow visitors to have a feel of what it must have been like to live on one of these technological marvels.

One of the Bowfin's engine rooms
The aft torpedo room complete with enormous torpedos
Torpedo tubes in the aft torpedo room
The Bowfin, nicknamed the "Pearl Harbor Avenger" when it was commissioned one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, is one of only 15 surviving WWII submarines left in the United States.  The rest unfortunately ended up as scrap metal or even target practice.  After an extensive restoration effort from civilian and military personnel, the Bowfin was moved to its present day location in December of 1980, and in 1981 she officially became a museum ship.  The Bowfin has actually been used in numerous television productions for the History Channel and PBS and even the popular show LOST.  The Bowfin still retains a great amount of significance to the history of WWII and beyond, and now, because of a connection to my own personal history, the Bowfin will always hold a special place in my heart.

Aft end of the Bowfin, facing the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri


While my parents and I were visiting the Bowfin during their Oahu trip last year, they remembered that my stepgrandfather's brother, Ira, was lost on a submarine that foundered off the coast of Oahu during WWII, killing all 49 men aboard.  We searched for his name at the Waterfront Memorial in Bowfin Park that is dedicated to lost WWII submarines and were thrilled to discover not only his name, but also exactly which boat he served on.  My mom then told me about some pictures that my grandmother had back home of Ira and even of the other submariners from his boat.  From the Bowfin's own website, I also eventually learned of OnEternalPatrol.com and the amazing efforts put forth to remember all of our lost submariners before, during, and after WWII.

My relative's boat's memorial in Waterfront Park
It wasn't until I went back to Alabama a few months ago that I was able to see these pictures for myself, and my family, Mr. L, and I knew that we had to bring them back to Hawaii and donate them to the Bowfin Museum.  The museum would be so much more capable of keeping these photos in good condition as well as putting them to better use than if my family just kept them stored in a closet somewhere back home.

My relative Ira, on the left, with a friend, taken sometime in 1943 and probably here in Hawaii
The crew of the USS S-28, date and location unknown
A couple of weeks ago, while we were already visiting the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center with a friend who was in town, I went ahead and set up a meeting with the Director of Education and Outreach at the Bowfin Museum, Charles Hinman.  Charles gave us a quick tour of the museum and then brought us back into his office to talk some more and to see the pictures.  He even gave us some small souvenirs of the Bowfin, which was incredibly kind of him.  It was such a good feeling to know that these pictures were going to be kept in great hands and safe for decades to come.  And to top it all off, we even received some unexpected news regarding Ira's submarine, which has yet to be located since it foundered on July 4, 1944.  Hopefully I'll have something concrete to share on that later!

The Bowfin Museum
Model of the USS Bowfin
Area of the museum showcasing the use of deep sea submersible vehicles to discover underwater wrecks
For now, however, it's enough that a relative of mine will no longer have "Picture needed" by his name on the On Eternal Patrol website and in the USS Bowfin Museum.  Now he has a face attached to that name for everyone to see and remember, and although I never got a chance to know him, I feel proud to be related to him, however distantly that is.

Screenshot of my relative's page from the OnEternalPatrol.com website
For me, each visit to the USS Bowfin is very special, but even to the average person, I still think the Bowfin is absolutely worth visiting.  It gives you a glimpse into another side of the war -- the submariners' side -- that can sometimes be overshadowed by the great tragedies of the Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, and the other ships that were stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Submarines were an essential asset during the war (and especially today), and the men that served aboard them even more so.  The Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park honors their memory and ensures that we'll strive to remember them and their sacrifices always.

View of the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri from Bowfin Park
Are there any museums, historical or otherwise, that hold personal significance for you?