Garlic and Fresh Thyme Scalloped Potatoes

Every year for the Holiday Season, I bake my famous Garlic and Fresh Thyme Scalloped Potatoes! These potatoes are always a huge hit at Holiday potlucks from Thanksgiving through New Years. I usually bake around 5 to 7 batches of these potatoes every Holiday season. So since so much effort, time, & love go into perfecting every single batch, I proactively retire the recipe for the rest of the year.

As a home chef, I always use my taste buds as a guide for every meal I make. I’ve actually never taken the time to break down any of my recipes until my ULTIMATE BANANA BREAD recipe a few months ago. And after the huge success of that blog post, I think it’s time to finally share my Garlic and Fresh Thyme Scalloped Potatoes recipe with the world!

Garlic & Fresh Thyme Scalloped Potatoes Recipe

  • Prep Time: 25 min
  • Bake Time: 55 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 20 min


  • 1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 5 Fresh Sprigs of Thyme
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic (Minced)
  • Nutmeg
  • Garlic Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
  • Paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 2 lbs of Russet Potatoes
  • 1 Cup of Shredded Parmesan

Baking Tools


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt
  3. Peel & rinse potatoes
  4. Add potatoes into water & boil for ~10 minutes (Or until you can stick a fork into a potato with minimal effort)
  5. Strain the potatoes from the water using a colander & let sit for 5 minutes to cool before handling
  6. Cut potatoes into thin, circular slices & set aside
  7. Melt Butter at Low to Medium heat then add garlic, bay leaves, & 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  8. Slowly add heavy cream followed by garlic salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, & nutmeg to taste, keep warm on low & stir occasionally
  9. Ladle 2 scoops of your white sauce to the bottom of the pan
  10. Place potatoes on top of the sauce in an overlapping, circular formation
  11. Season layer with garlic salt & pepper
  12. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese over the potatoes
  13. Add another layer of potatoes, ladle 2 scoops of sauce, season with garlic salt & black pepper, sprinkle with 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan (repeat)
  14. Use all remaining parmesan on the top layer & sprinkle with paprika for color
  15. Bake covered with foil for 45 min at 400° F
  16. Remove foil & bake for an additional 10 min to brown
  17. (Optional) Garnish with remaining sprigs of fresh thyme before serving

So that’s it! It’s a lot of prep work, & it’s definitely time consuming. But if you take the time to make a batch of your own, be sure to let me know in a comment below. I promise they’ll be worth all the time & effort! As I mentioned, this is my staple Holiday recipe that has never failed me over the years, so I hope you enjoy my Garlic & Fresh Thyme Scalloped Potatoes with your loved ones this Holiday Season!

XO Denise

bed with cushions reflecting in mirror in bedroom

How I Deal With My Body Dysmorphia

Last March, I mentioned my Body Dysmorphia in the blog post: Learning to Love Myself. Anyone who also struggles with a Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) has a unique experience. We will all learn to deal with it in our own way. By sharing how I deal with my body dysmorphia today, I hope to inspire & help others who are still struggling on their personal journey with BDD.


Years ago, I would weigh myself & measure my arms, hips, thighs, & waist every Sunday. Unlike my current self-care rituals, this eventually became a self-hate ritual. I would hate myself & became frustrated & irritated if I gained weight or didn’t lose enough weight. I’d obsess over my flabby arms & thighs & constantly suck in my stomach with all my core strength. Because despite any change in the numbers on the scale or loss of inches, I never saw a leaner, sexier, or stronger body in the mirror.

All my obsessions did was justify depriving myself of things that I loved to eat. I was obsessed with hitting 10,000 steps every day, even on days that I took a barre3, RUMBLE, or SoulCycle class. With my FitBit & Noom, I obsessively record every single calorie that I eat, every calorie that I burn off, & shame myself for being weak & having a chocolate peanut butter cookie.

I was thrilled when I was sick & lost my appetite altogether. Or better yet… when I got the stomach flu because it would guarantee around 7 pounds of weight loss with minimal effort. It took a long time for me to finally self-reflect that my actions, despite not refusing to eat outright or making myself throw up, were unhealthy. Why would a sane person wish illness on themself?

Now, I do not allow myself to stare & judge my body. If I must look at myself in the mirror or look at a full body photo, I only compliment myself. I also do not take my measurements unless absolutely necessary. I no longer constantly wear a FitBit or check my Health app on my iPhone. It’s how I track my daily step count & the calories that I consume & burn throughout the day. But I know that obsessing over those numbers isn’t healthy.


Instead of counting calories, I eat colorfully. I always make sure my meals are a mix of protein, veggies, & whole grains. I love fresh fruit & veggies! If I can count at least 5 natural colors that I’ve eaten for the day, I know that I’ve done my job of nourishing my body with healthy foods. For example, banana (yellow), spinach (green), baby carrots (orange), bell pepper (red), & blueberries (blue).

Instead of obsessing over calories or steps, I keep track of how many times I move in a week. Right now, I dance every day for 25 minutes by playing the Nintendo Switch video game Just Dance. Three times a week I lift weights. And once or twice a week, I stretch my body & do yoga. As long as I’m moving & strengthening my body in a way that I enjoy & love, I’m doing my best to be healthy.


I am fully aware that acceptance of my BDD is just the beginning. There will be good & bad days when it comes to my relationship with my body & food, but that’s ok. I know that I can potentially struggle with my BDD for the rest of my life. There will be days that I slip up & eat a McDonald’s two sausage burrito breakfast meal with hash browns & an iced caramel mocha followed by Taco Bell as a late-night snack, but I am now more aware that I am human. We all make mistakes. Instead of punishing myself by walking around my apartment late at night until I hit 10,000 steps or skipping meals the next day, I accept what I did, forgive myself, & move forward.

I hope that sharing how I deal with my body dysmorphia helps you or someone that you love. Do you or someone you love have BDD? How do you or they deal with it? Let me know in a comment below.

XO Denise

beige and black hat near swimming pool

How To Stay Healthy This Summer

If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that the real “hot girls” are actually “healthy” girls. Getting lots of attention from guys, having a ton of options, & partying all Summer long is not on my personal Summer bucket list. But being happy & healthy is always my top priority. Here’s how I plan to stay healthy this Summer!

How To Stay Healthy This Summer

Watch the Sunrise

It’s a well-known fact that it’s a good idea to start your day early. While I don’t necessarily mean that you need to wake up every day before the sun, taking the time to get up earlier than usual to watch the sky change colors as the sun peeks over the horizon is good for your mental health.

Drink Water

With the warmer temperatures, you’re going to be sweating a lot more. Drinking water will help replenish your body as well as give you glowing skin. It’ll also curb your appetite so that you can stay on the go without getting hungry before your usual mealtimes.

Eat Fresh Fruit & Veggies

When you do get hungry, I highly encourage you to eat more fresh fruit & veggies. They’re packed with healthy nutrients as well as water to help you refuel throughout the day, without being calorie-dense or high in salt or processed sugar.


Summer is a great time to try new recipes! With lots of popular cooking methods, such as baking, grilling on a BBQ, using an air fryer, or the classic stove, there are so many delicious, healthy recipes on Pinterest! I try to cook at least one new recipe a week, so I can continue to flex my cooking skills.

Go to the Beach

Nothing says Summertime like the beach. I love feeling the sand between my toes, & saltwater does wonders for my hair & skin. I always feel like a beautiful, ethereal mermaid at the beach.


If you can’t make it to the beach to swim or spend some time splashing around in the water, I recommend going to a public pool or finding a friend with access to a pool. I’m lucky enough to have a rooftop pool at my apartment building in Oakland, CA. On the warmest days, I find myself always taking the time to go swimming whenever I can. Not only is it a great way to cool down, but it’s also a fun way to work out. I love swimming laps for cardio as well as other pool-friendly exercises for strength!


Hiking is one of my favorite ways to work out as well as spend time out in nature. I have a few hiking vlogs on my YouTube channel with a couple of local, East Bay hikes. One of the best things about the Bay Area is the mild climate & different terrains. There are so many different hikes available on All Trails, & you can filter them by difficulty & length.


I love giving back to my local community. In the past, I’ve volunteered with the San Francisco Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity East Bay, as well as local homeless shelters & senior care homes. During COVID-19, I also signed up for Letters to Seniors to help combat social isolation by writing letters to senior citizens.

Watch the Sunset

Just as important as waking up early to watch the sunrise, it’s equally important to slow down at the end of your day to watch the sunset. I’m always in awe at how the colors of any sunset are never the same. That’s why with these long Summer days, I always take a quiet moment to myself to watch the sunset & the sky change colors over downtown Oakland, or wherever I happen to be that day.


It’s hard to see the stars when you live in Downtown Oakland. But when I’m visiting family or camping, I always have to look up at the stars & think about how we are also just a tiny sparkling speck in the universe.

It’s time for us to forget about “Hot Girl Summer”. Summer isn’t about dieting so you can take pictures in a bikini to get likes on Instagram. Summer is about enjoying the sunlight & longer days while they’re here. Summer should be a celebration of who you are & what you love.

What are you doing to stay healthy this Summer?

XO Denise

My Favorite Healthy Snacks

COVID-19 lockdown was very impactful on my diet. First off, to be clear, when I talk about my diet, I mean it as a noun, not a verb. I think about my diet as simply the kinds of food that I habitually eat. While in the past, I ate Paleo, intermittently fast, ate low-carb, etc., dieting doesn’t work for my mental health. Instead, I constantly keep my favorite healthy snacks in my fridge & my pantry to ensure I always have healthy options on hand to snack on, instead of eating chips or candy.

Mixed Nuts & Dried Cranberries

The first time I had this snack was in the waiting room at a spa. It’s the perfect combo of salty & sweet in my opinion. I even make my own trail mix sometimes for long hikes by mixing Craisins with my two favorite nuts: Almonds & Cashews.

JIF Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter & Fuji Apples

Because of my mom, I’ve always loved Fuji apples. They are the only type of apple that my mom would buy growing up, & I still do not love any other type of apple just as much. When I still worked at IPSY, I LOVED that our office manager always kept single packs of JIF Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter & apple slices in stock. Nowadays, I put a huge scoop of peanut butter on a spoon & bite in a whole apple.

Baby Carrots & Hummus or Ranch

I owe this favorite snack to my sister. She buys two giant bags of baby carrots from the grocery store every week, & every week, we finish every last carrot. While I’m fine eating baby carrots on their own, I do love dips & sauces. Hummus & ranch are my favorites ones to pair with my baby carrots when I’m feeling saucy.


I love Japanese cuisine, & I love going to restaurants that offer edamame as an appetizer. Costco has huge packs of edamame that you can quickly heat up in the microwave. Edamame is high in protein, can help lower cholesterol, & reduce the risk of breast & prostate cancer.


I don’t recall when Cuties came onto the scene, but I’ve loved them since the first time I picked up a bag from the grocery store. I must eat at least two at a time, if not more. They are my favorite snack when I’m craving something juicy & sweet.


Whenever I need a piece of fruit that’s going to keep me full for a significant amount of time, I reach for a banana. Unlike cuties, bananas keep me feeling full if I have a long meeting before lunch, or I get hungry in the afternoon with several hours to go before dinner. Another plus to bananas is that if I ever forget about them, I have an excuse to bake my ultimate banana bread.

Do you share any of my favorite healthy snacks? Do you have anything that you always keep on hand in your fridge or pantry that you want to recommend? Let me know in a comment below!

XO Denise


This Bread is BANANAS

Bananas are one of my favorite healthy snacks, but I will shamelessly admit that I love to eat a couple then “forget” about the rest so I can use them for my ultimate banana bread recipe instead. Three years ago, when I was in the San Francisco Pride Parade, the company I worked for at the time bought a ton of fresh fruit as a snack for our team. As an end result of buying in bulk, we were left with a ton of apples, bananas, & cutie clementines. They completely overwhelmed our break room. We did our best to eat the fruit, but by the end of the week, our office manager offered the overripened bananas to the team to take home. I wanted to try baking banana bread in the past but never had the opportunity, because my family usually devours bananas within a few days. So that very night I was eager to finally have overripened bananas to try baking banana bread.

I’ve tried many different banana bread recipes in the past few years, & I’ve enjoyed tweaking my favorites ones in hopes of creating my very own banana bread recipe one day. Today, I’m going to share my ULTIMATE BANANA BREAD recipe, because I’ve finally perfected it. After three years of trial & error, let me tell you… this bread is BANANAS!

My Ultimate Banana Bread Recipe

  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 1 hr 10 min to 1 hr 15 min


  • 5 Overripe Bananas
  • Butter or Non-stick spray to grease
  • 2 cups of All-purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp of Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp of Salt
  • 1 tsp of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 stick of Unsalted Butter
  • 3/4 cup of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Optional: 3/4 cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts, and/or Chocolate Chips

Baking Tools


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Grease loaf pan with butter or nonstick spray & set it aside
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon together in a mixing bowl
  4. Mix the butter & brown sugar together until creamy in a separate bowl
  5. Add eggs to the butter & brown sugar mixture one at a time; continue to mix
  6. Mash your bananas in another separate mixing bowl or using the stand mixer bowl
  7. Add sour cream, vanilla extract, & butter & brown sugar mixture to the mashed bananas; mix until well combined
  8. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture
  9. Optional: Fold in nuts and/or chocolate chips
  10. Spoon the batter into your loaf pan & bake uncovered for 30 minutes
  11. Remove from oven then cover with aluminum foil to prevent from over-browning then bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes
  12. Use a toothpick or a fork to poke the center of the loaf. It should come out clean when fully baked.
  13. Allow bread to cool before serving

Tasty Tips

  • Banana bread is best, while served warm!
  • Top your slice of banana bread with:
  • Store at room temperature for up to 2 days
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Over the past three years, I’ve baked banana bread loaves for my close friends & family, because my secret ingredient to any of my recipes is LOVE. With three years of tweaking my recipe, I love to customize it for the person I’m baking for because not everyone has the same preferences. While I love putting pecans & chocolate chips into my banana bread for myself, my sister hates chocolate. I’m not opposed to pivoting & tweaking my recipe so that she can enjoy the banana bread too. I encourage you to adjust my recipe as needed for your own loved ones. Either way, I hope you enjoy my ultimate banana bread recipe! 🙂

XO Denise

10 Random Facts About Me

The best thing about you is your uniqueness. Even if you’re a twin, there’s no one else on the planet who is YOU. I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block lately, so today, I’m going to share 10 random facts about me. To stay inspired, I find that reconnecting with who I am & what I love is always the best solution to get my creative juices flowing again. These facts are completely random & in no particular order.

When I was in preschool, I pulled the fire alarm, despite being specifically taught that it was not a toy & only for fire emergencies.

When my brother was born, I started to act like a little rebel to get attention. While I was only 3.5 years old, I have a clear memory in my head of asking the yard duty during morning playtime if I could go inside to get the dollhouse that I brought from home that day. As I grabbed my dollhouse from my cubby, I distinctly remember pausing & looking up at the red metal fire alarm. I set my dollhouse down, then climbed on top of the cubby shelves & pulled the alarm trigger. As soon as the alarm sounded, I grabbed my dollhouse & ran out of the side door to escape the scene of the crime. No one knew that I was the one who pulled the alarm, but we had another group discussion about not pulling the fire alarm later that afternoon.

I love learning & school so much that I cry when I’m sick & not able to attend.

From Kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended a private Catholic school, St. Robert’s. I excelled in every subject & was consistently at the top of my class. We had hot lunches every Wednesday, & each grade would rotate computer day, library day, & PE day. In the 5th grade, I had computer class, library, PE, & hot lunch all on Wednesdays. It quickly became my favorite day of the week. This particular Wednesday morning, while my parents were on vacation in the Philippines, I woke up feeling terrible. Ultimately, I threw up & ugly cried to my older cousin, who was watching us while my parents were out of town, about NEEDING to go to school that day. Thinking about all the fun I missed that day still haunts me because I maintained perfect attendance every year that followed.

I didn’t realize that choosing to not do your homework was an option until high school.

I’m a proud nerd who always did her homework, reading, & class projects as soon as she got home from school. The only thing I procrastinated with was writing essays, but I’ve always been a good writer. I usually form a general outline of what I want to write in my head then bust out a paper in as little as 30 minutes the night before the writing assignment was due. Other kids proactively choosing to not do their homework was foreign to me, until I went to a public high school. The way teachers would publicly shame kids for not doing their homework in front of the entire class still irks me to this day.

I love BRUNCH!

It’s a favorite weekend pastime of mine to skip early morning breakfast to combine breakfast & lunch together while drinking bottomless mimosas, foamy cappuccinos, or spicy bloody marys with friends. If anyone wants to grab a meal with me to catch up, brunch is ALWAYS my first suggestion. I’ve even hosted themed brunches for my friends.

If there’s a breakfast burrito available on the brunch menu, I’m ordering it.

My love of breakfast burritos starts with my memory of getting McDonald’s breakfast with my paternal grandmother. I used to sleep over at her apartment over the weekend with my siblings, & on the mornings that we’d go out for breakfast, I always order the two sausage burrito meal with a hash brown & a small orange juice. In fact, if I’m ever getting McDonald’s breakfast now as an adult, I still order the same thing. Brunch menus can be overwhelming, especially when I’m trying out a new place. As a rule of thumb, if there’s ever a breakfast burrito on the menu, I think of my grandmother as if she’s helping me make a decision & order it in her memory.

My favorite breakfast meat is a circle sausage patty.

When I used to live with my brother, he used to always wake up early to cook us breakfast. Over meals, my brother & I would always get into random topics & deep conversations. One morning we discussed our favorite breakfast meats & that’s how I discovered that I love sausages, but even more so when they’re shaped in a circle rather than the standard sausage link. I even prefer to buy a sausage roll to create my own circle sausage patties to create that perfect sear on each side. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I love deep conversations & hate small talk.

Piggybacking off of my previous fact, I hate small talk i.e. “How’s work?” & “What are you up to this weekend?” Instead, I’d rather talk to people about things with real substance, so that we can get to know each other on a deeper level. Once, my brother & I discussed which level of hell we belong in based on Dante’s Inferno, while I watched him play the Dante’s Inferno video game on PlayStation. I love learning about another person on a deeper level. I love how everyone thinks & sees themselves in a different way, so I prefer to get a glimpse into a person’s true nature by seeing the way their mind works through a deep discussion.

As a former bank teller, I organize the cash in my wallet by aligning the president faces in the same direction.

I hate when someone hands me cash & the bills are unorganized & facing every which way. I immediately restack the cash that I’ve been handed before placing it in my wallet. I’m also usually the go-to when combining cash when planning to pay for a large group at a restaurant. I’m always able to quickly collect everyone’s cash, reorganize the bills, count the bills effortlessly, & give anyone change with ease as needed. If anyone is considering being a bank teller, I say go for it! I learned so many valuable professional skills in my three years as a bank teller.

I always fold my laundry straight out of the dryer & put it away immediately.

While I prefer to keep my spaces clean & tidy, I tend to get lazy when it comes to my laundry.  Washing & drying is not the problem… it’s folding, hanging, & putting my clothes away that gets to me. In the past, when I didn’t fold my laundry straight out of the dryer, my clothes would end up staying unfolded, wrinkled & sitting in a hamper for a week or even worse, until my next laundry day came around because I would just pull whatever I need from the clean hamper. By folding & putting everything away straight out of the dryer, my clothes are always wrinkle-free & neatly organized.

I prefer the aisle seat when traveling.

Most people love the window seat, but the aisle seat has so many more perks in my opinion. I’m a very light sleeper, & I have sleep apnea. I’m usually not able to sleep on long flights, so I love that I can freely get up to use the bathroom or stretch my legs without disturbing anyone. I also have more legroom with the aisle once drinks, snacks, & meals have been served.

I hope these 10 random facts about me give you all a deeper look into my mind & allow you to feel like you know me better. Personally, I feel like I have the best meditations, readings, & sound baths with people that I feel I really know as opposed to a stranger that I’ve never interacted with.

When you exchange energy with someone, it allows them to feel more connected with you & you’re both able to effortlessly tap into each other’s energy. With that said, I hope that this glimpse into my past, who I am, & what I love compels you to book a personal reading because you feel closer to me. Always embrace who you are & what you love. No one else gets to tell your story, so share it as often as possible to anyone who will listen.

XO Denise