raspberry cheesecake

The Prettiest Raspberry Heart Cheesecake

Most people don’t know this about me, but I used to be an Ad Girl. Creative office, client meetings, cute heels and my own little cubicle. My career started in advertising handling all kinds of brands, from beauty care to real estate, waterparks and banks. I am one of those rare people that love ads, I laugh, I cry, sometimes raise my eyebrow – but I never skip them. I know the hard work and long hours that goes behind each campaign… I’ve been there and done that! Admittedly, few ads leave a lasting impression but when I saw “Like a Girl” video by Always I was blown away. It reminded me what I loved about being an Ad Girl, how a simple message can create such an impact.

And like a lot of girls, I’m proud to say I like pretty things. I like pink and raspberries and hearts. This cheesecake has it all. Rich, creamy and sweet, sitting on a crumbly biscuit base. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make the heart swirls: all you need is a pastry bag and a toothpick. And if you make a mistake, just cover it with raspberries and serve – it’ll taste just as sweet!

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curry

Roasted Sweet Potato, Lentil & Coconut Curry

Since starting my blog a little over a year ago, keeping a regular posting schedule has been my biggest challenge. Sure, some will say a blog is meant for fun and don’t apologise for being busy (or a little lazy). Can moving to Canada be a good excuse? 🙂

Dubai has been my home for a long time… I mean 16-years-high school-uni-work-marriage-long time. While my blog has kept me busy and gave me the start of a fulfilling career, my husband and I felt it was time for a change. Vancouver, BC is now my new home, close to nature, a new group of foodies and some of the best sushi I’ve ever had.

And right now, I feel the pages and regularity of the blog has escaped me for far too long. I think about the ah-mazing chicken barley soup I made and didn’t photograph. My first (and successful) attempt at meatloaf. The 150 cupcakes I baked for an event and not yet posted. So here is it: “Sorry folks if I am not here as often as I would like it to be”. I promised lots of great recipes in 2014 and I intend to keep my promise.

 

sweet potato

A couple of weeks ago I received the sweetest email from a reader in London, looking for a simple and healthy green curry recipe — not from a packet or jar. I shared with her my favourite recipe, which got me craving curry. With the blender still on the “things to buy” list, I got a little creative and came up with this insanely delicious roasted sweet potato and lentil coconut curry. I’ve had a crush on sweet potatoes for years, but roasting them with the skin on and a drizzle of olive oil and S+P elevates them to a whole new level. I was fortunate enough to find organic coconut milk which is lighter and very subtle, creating a perfectly creamy curry. Feel free to make this your own and add chicken or more veggies like squash, green beans or carrots. I added frozen green peas right at the end and served with a dollop of yogurt, chopped parsley and squeeze of lime juice. It’s so warm, flavourful and delicious. Please make it happen in your kitchen.

coconut curry

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photo

One Year!

I can’t believe this is the one year anniversary of A Food Affair. I look back and I don’t even really know why I started it… or what to expect. I just thought, hey, why not? And now, this blog has opened doors for me that I never knew existed.

I love what I do. I love to cook and style and create recipes that add a little excitement to your dinner table. I love how a simple cookie cup recipe became a party favorite for so many friends or how an easy chicken lettuce wrap recipe has been repinned over 300 times. I learnt I have a passion for food styling and have met so many fabulous bloggers, chefs, photographers and food writers. And to celebrate, I gave a Food Affair a makeover. A little nip, a little tuck and a whole new fresh look! It has been hard. And fun. And very challenging at times. But I’ve never been happier. So thank you for making A Food Affair a part of your lives sometimes.

I’ll be posting a lot of great recipes for the holidays but in the meantime, I wanted to share a great project I worked on with Lurpak team for their Baking Studio event taking place next month. I created 10 short vidoes with simple baking tips. If you’re interested in attending, you can sign up here to participate.

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Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake

The beauty of baking is not just that intoxicating smell that fills your home, or that first sweet bite that wakens childhood memories. It’s sharing the recipes and exchanging ideas. Passing down creations from generation to generation and filed away in your “go-to” recipe collection.

We didn’t always have cake when I was growing up, but when my mom baked, she always made coffee cake. Not exactly a 6 year old’s favorite so to satisfy our sweet cravings she made an orange cake and used olive oil instead of butter. Served warm with Nutella or chocolate sauce, my siblings and I always looked forward to it. And like everything else, we evolved, and favored triple chocolate cakes, pistachio cake, berry, white chocolate and  jam cake, and unique creations like lemon and black pepper chocolate. The orange cake tucked away in our memory.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by the BBC Good Food Middle East team to create a celebration cake for their 6th birthday edition. They wanted a cake that reminded me of my childhood and of course, orange cake was the only thing that came to mind. And I realized, I haven’t eaten or made that cake in years. I packed my KitchenAid and headed to my mom’s kitchen. We modernized the recipe and created grown-up layer cake with milk chocolate ganache and an orange frosting to make it even more fragrant. While my piping skills are far from perfect, I frosted the cake in an old fashioned way with orange gel coloring… it is a celebration after-all. And was completely blown away when I found out my cake is on the cover of their October issue. Thank you BBC Good Food ME! I’m truly honored to be part of this feature 🙂

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quiche lunch

Roasted Tomato & Feta Quiche

I don’t know if it’s an Arab thing or something I picked up from the neighborhood kids, but when I was a little girl I was obsessed with salt on my tomatoes. No joke, every day at 4pm I was plopped in front of the TV with a salt shaker in one hand and a ripe tomato in the other, eating it like an apple.

Tomato juice running down my hand, all over my face, in my hair, on the couch… ya, I was a cute kid.

And to this day, I love tomatoes! Especially when they’re used outside the salad. This recipe gives fellow tomato lovers inspiration for tonight’s dinner, made in under an hour with grocery list and instruction manual included. If you haven’t had quiche lately, it is time to fix that. These mini roasted tomato and feta cheese quiches are simply perfect! And it’s that first bite that’s always so good: crunchy, creamy, salty and the cherry tomato just bursts in your mouth. Make it quick by using frozen shortcrust pastry and if your feta cheese is salty, don’t add extra salt. And play around with the herbs, I used fresh zaater, but it tastes amazing with mint, parsley or basil. Paired with a light salad, your grown up dinner is served. No fuss, no mess.

cherry tomato

quiche mix

roasted tomatoes

tomato quiche

lunch quiche tomato

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pizza

The Making of an Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita

There is one thing you should know before this whole pizza extravaganza begins: there is no such thing as gourmet pizza! Truffle oil, pesto and figs? The people of Naples, Italy are definitely not OK with this.

Pizza was born as a food for the poor, and once upon a time in the 19th century, the King of Italy and his wife, Queen Margherita di Savoia visited Naples for a holiday. Legend has it that the queen got bored of French gourmet food which was generally served to the royals at that time. She summoned the most famous pizzaioli (pizza-maker) in Naples, Raffaele Esposito, and had him bake her three pizzas in the palace kitchen. She did not like the one with garlic (pizza marinara) or anchovies (pizza Napoli), but she loved the pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella and a sprig of basil. Esposito dedicated his invention to the queen immediately named it after her, and that’s how “Pizza Margherita”  was born. There, that’s your fun fact of the day.

So it was pretty cool when Brandi Pizzeria opened in Dubai Mall, bringing with them their fine, hot Italian men to knead, roll and toss their fine, hot and absolutely delicious pizza. And it’s even cooler when the owners invited me for a class to learn the art of making authentic Pizza Margherita plus giving away their secret recipe!

Shall we begin?

Actually first, make sure you tie your hair back and put on an apron or your husband’s old t-shirt. It’s going to get messy. Oh and of course, you have to read the instructions with your best Italian accent… it’s more fun I promise!

the making of pizza

 Mix the flour, salt and yeast. Pour in the water and mix until it’s a sticky mess. Now knead the dough for 10 minutes or until your hands fall off… whichever comes first. It will look a little lumpy but once you let it rest it will be smooth and elastic.

pizza dough

pizza

 Roll out the dough in a circle with your hands – don’t use a rolling pin. and try to get the edges thin so it’s not too doughy. Top your pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and a few fresh basil leaves.

pizza before baking

Bake your pizza in a super hot even (the highest temperature it can go) for 10 minutes. It cooks so fast so keep an eye on it. And here it is, the simplest and most delicious pizza of all time!

Neapolitan-style pizza

 As to how to eat a Neapolitan pizza, there is tradition to adhere to as well. First, pizza is not meant to be shared. You order and eat your own individual pizza because they are dinner plate size and very thin. Fold the pizza into a libretto, a little book, take a huge bite!

Brandi pizzahttp://sovetneg.ru/kod-915-kakoj-operator-eto/

date brownies

Skinny Brownies

There is something important that you all need to know about what comes out of my kitchen: it ain’t always pretty. While it may seem every creation comes out perfect, polished and ready for its blog appearance, the truth is I have my fair share of flops. Flat cakes, raw salmon, crunchy potatoes (believe me, your potatoes should never be crunchy), runny cheesecake… you get the point. Did I mention the mountain of dirty dishes my husband absolutely adores cleaning? Yup.

Luckily, that doesn’t stop me from experimenting in my kitchen and try new recipes. And I’m so glad I made these skinny brownies. They are shockingly amazing! How could an environmentally friendly, no-bake, no flour, no sugar, no butter or oil brownie be so delicious? It’s simple: dates. The good kind of dates that are sweet, sticky and taste like caramel. Mixed with cocoa powder and ground up walnuts gives it that crumbly cake-like texture. But it’s the toasted almonds that truly make this the best healthy snack that satisfies the sweetest tooth. I should warn you that while these brownies are a much healthier option, portion control is important because dates are full of, well, natural sugar plus almonds and walnuts are calorie dense.

I will make these skinny brownies again and again and again. Flourless, butterless, eggless, and only four ingredients. The world just got a step closer to perfection.

ingredients

walnuts and cocoa

skinny brownie micture

no bake brownie in a pan

date brownies

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berry and cheese salad

Strawberry & Halloumi Summer Salad

You know what’s not a good idea? Shopping for a party dress after a 4-day Eid weekend.

And what happens during the Eid weekend? We eat, and eat, and eat… breakfast because we miss it, coffee, ohh glorious coffee, chocolates, cakes, sushi, ma’amoul, mid-morning and post lunch snacks – you name it, I ate it.

So today I made a salad.

A fresh, wholesome and healthy strawberry summer salad. Have you seen all those gorgeous blood red strawberries at the supermarket? Summer is something like a culinary heaven. For a few months we’re blessed with nature’s most expressive colors, textures and flavors. I inventively paired my strawberries with spinach, grilled halloumi cheese and toasted pine nuts. All of this goodness gets tossed with fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, salt, and pepper. Very simple.

This is the sort of salad that you can eat and feel like you’re indulging in a good life, not like you’re on a diet. This salad is a treat in itself… and totally makes up for the 4-day indulgence.

strawberries

strawberry halloumi salad

berry and cheese salad

 

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cookie cups

Nutella Lava Cookie Cups

Pie takes time.

Cake demands love and attention.

Cheesecake requires patience.

And sometimes your KitchenAid needs alone time… and this dessert is ok with that. This recipe is inspired by my awesome friend Dana Al Adham, who made a similar dessert for an iftar last week. It disappeared in seconds, some people even licked the cookie crumbs (I was one of them), but Dana made the cookie cups a little differently. She turned a muffin tin bottom side up and placed the dough so when it baked it shaped into a cookie cup. Hers looked awesome, mine looked something like this:

cookie-cups-1

So… plan B. Thanks to Pinterest, I learnt another way to make pretty, elegant looking cookie cups with zero cleaning time. Feel free to use your favorite cookie recipe, I used a Betty Crocker cookie mix and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Bake them inside the muffin tin or use individual silicon muffin holders.

cookie cups

Bake the cookies half way through until just soft then use a measuring spoon to make the cups by gently pressing it into the warm baked cookie. Return back to the oven to get the cookies crisp and golden brown.

cookie spoons

cookie cup

Now the fun part. I used straight up Nutella, right out of the jar. Dana filled her cookie cups with chocolate mascarpone. You can use peanut butter, cream cheese, caramel, ice cream, whipped cream and berries… ahh the possibilities! Then you bite into the little, gooey cookie cup, the filling oozes out and it’s chocolate heaven in your mouth.

nutella love

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kiwi summer rolls

Zespri Golden Kiwi Summer Rolls

With Ramadan you get a lot of time. For family, prayer, the kitchen and Instagram. As I scroll through images of your lives, my mind wanders through pictures of your perfectly decorate cake for sohoor, chilling at the airport lounge, the sheesha you’re about to enjoy and (my favorite), a top view shot of your iftar spread. Zaater roasted chicken, eggplant fatteh and perfectly plated plates of hummos, moutabel and fattoush. One thing that seems to be on everyone’s table this year are fried spring rolls. Meat, cheese or vegetarian, they always make an appearance – crispy and golden brown.

I can’t imagine 30 days of fried spring rolls being kind on your waistline, why not swap them with these light summer rolls. It’s like a salad packed into an edible container – in this case, paper-thin rice sheets. They’re a big win for the health-conscious because the roll is almost fat-free and taste incredible with sweet & sour sauce. One bite creates an explosion of flavors and textures that’s guaranteed to excite any palate. The secret? Zespri golden kiwis! They have a beautiful sweet and tropical taste – kinda like a mango and pear had a baby. They’re now my absolute favorite fruit.

Stuff, roll, click… Instagram. Then stuff your face.

summer rolls

summer rolls pyramid

kiwi summer rolls

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eggplant and chickpea salad

Moroccan Eggplant & Chickpea Salad

The kitchen. It’s where I do a majority of my thinking.

Standing and thinking.

… and staring.

At my can of chickpeas. Then the fridge. Then the pantry. Back to the can. I consider myself very resourceful. I like to use what I have at hand to create something edible. The truth is, I’m kinda lazy too – and it’s just too hot outside! But I find it so fascinating how you your fridge and pantry can cater to so many different cuisines. When I came across this easy Moroccan salad dressing, everything kind of just came together. Eggplant, chickpeas, red pepper and onions, add some spinach and this may become your go-to vegetarian salad for the rest of the summer.

salted eggplant

vegetables

eggplant and chickpea salad

chickpea saladya-zasnyal

chocolate mousse

Mousse in a Teacup

I’m dusting this recipe off, spicing it up and throwing it in your direction.

Chocolate mousse? So 1980s I know. Remember those wineglasses filled with layers of different flavored mousses, sometimes interrupted with sliced strawberries for color? Every fancy sit-down restaurant had it on their menu, but now it’s replaced with poshy creme brulee, little miss cupcake and some molten chocolate mess that… oh no wait, I love that dessert.

But seriously, this should be archived in your recipe box. Once you learn the base of the mousse, the flavors and toppings you can add are unlimited. In-laws coming over? Boom: Mocha chocolate mousse with raspberries. Romantic night in? Pow: Chili chocolate mousse. Your girlfriend dumped by her boyfriend: Hazelnut chocolate mousse…. and some of that molten chocolate mess! In the spirit of Ramadan (Ramadan Kareem btw!) I added coffee and cardamom to satisfy my cravings after iftar. And to make it a little bit prettier and not a dessert of the 80s, serve them in vintage teacups or mini jars.

Note: the recipe uses eggs and yes they are raw. If you find that icky, you can whip some double cream and fold it with melted chocolate but it wont be the real, thick, feel-good chocolate mousse.

cardamom

chocolate & Cardamom

mousse in a teacup

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choco chip banana muffins

Love, Sugar & Banana Muffins

When I was a little girl, I was super excited to grow up. Wear make-up. Stop doing homework. Stay up past 9pm. Watch Married with Children (uhmm… don’t ask! I really don’t know why). Do my own hair. Be a dancer, doctor or actor. Eat chocolate for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, and cotton candy for dinner.

I turned 30 last April.

I scare people if I’m not wearing concealer, eyeliner and gloss. I’m pretty sure that email is the new homework. I stay up as late as I want… but honestly most night I’m in bed by 11pm.  Married with Children has been replaced by re-runs of Friends. My hair has a mind of it’s own. I realized I really like to think I can dance (but I can’t), the sight of blood makes me nauseous and I’m camera shy. If I ate ice cream and cotton candy everyday, I’d be diabetic.

But!  but but… I can totally have chocolate for breakfast.

Friday mornings are made for breakfast in bed with freshly brewed coffee and something warm and sweet. Using the 3 over-ripe bananas on my counter, I decided to treat myself to a moist banana muffins with gorgeous AVEEM brown sugar, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds and semi-sweet chocolate chip. These muffins are soft and flavorful.  The banana flavor is subtly and the almonds add a nice crunch.  They’re like little cupcakes you can totally get away with enjoying in the morning. It’s just good breakfast eating.

*Thank you Irene for helping me with these gorgeous pics!*

banana muffins

morning!http://sovetneg.ru/kakoj-operator-s-kodom-931-8931-ili-7931/

kiwi tacos

Kiwi Marinated Chicken Tacos

When life gives you lemons it’s simple: make some lemonade, dress your salad and use the zest to flavor your cheesecake. But when Zespri sends you a box of kiwifruit, then make dinner look a little different.

Bright green, sweet and fresh, I wanted to challenge myself by infusing kiwifruit with savory dishes. Vitamins, minerals and tons of health benefits, kiwifruit has it all, but it also makes an amazing marinate for protein, adding lots of flavor and tenderizing meat. So I got adventurous and made kiwi marinated chicken tacos with a kiwi guacamole.

I know about 10% of you read that and thought “oh cool, I like Kiwi.”  And the other 90% of you read that and thought “OMG CHICKEN & KIWI?!?” These tacos can be described in one word, amazing. I have to admit I was slightly hesitant to take that first bite but was amazed at how delicious they tasted – takes your taste-buds to a whole new level. We (I cook, my husband eats = teamwork) generally make a lot of fajitas at home but I was in the mood for something crunchy and found these delicious white corn tacos at the supermarket. Heat them in the oven for 5 minutes to bring out the corn taste and get them crisp.

kiwi

I made the marinate by blending kiwifruit with coriander, garlic, lime juice, cumin and green chili for heat. The color is so gorgeous and I love the little black seeds from the kiwi.

kiwi marinate

Marinate the chicken for at least one hour in the fridge. I let mine sit overnight. Once marinated, the chicken is quickly seared in a hot pan until browned, and stays juicy and moist. So delicious.

I love making my own guacamole – you really should never buy it ready-made. So easy to make, just mash a ripe avocado with juice of half a lemon, chopped coriander, chili and season with salt and pepper. Since I had a massive box of kiwifruit, I added a chopped kiwi to give it sweetness and texture – you can’t imagine how heavenly it tasted.

kiwi guac

kiwi chicken tacos
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eat me jar

Delivering Joy by the Jarful

There are two things I can’t be trusted with: Nutella and peanut butter. And spooning it straight out of the jar is the only way I enjoy eating them (who needs those 2 slices of extra carbs). Scraping the sides, licking the spoon… then my knuckles, it’s happiness in a jar.

That’s what got me really excited about Jarful. Rama Al Jundi took desserts to the next level and introduced a creatively new concept to Dubai. She’s taken mason jars, emptied out the jams and pickles, and filled them with delicious desserts. Now you can have your cheesecake and eat it too, the whole thing, just you! And not just cheesecake… cakes and pie are beautifully layered and decorated for individual servings, with a cute tag that gives you instructions: Eat Me! Flavor combinations vary from classics like vanilla and chocolate to favorites like red velvet and Nutella.

She invited me to her lovely home and shared a few tips and tricks behind her jarful of treats. Her recipe is a secret but I can assure you it’s one of the tastiest dessert I’ve had. They’re adorable for kids parties, family affairs and wonderful for weddings (she’s already catered for a wedding, building a wedding cake with 400 jars!) For more information, check out her Facebook page and make sure to follow her on Instagram @Jarful_ae

Someone… pass the spoon!

red velvet

cake mix

cream cheese frosting

more cake

frosting

with and without sprinkles

the label

eat me

eat me jar

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NYC taxi

Gourmet Travel: New York, New York

I once read somewhere: “New York is made up of millions of different people, and they all come here looking for something”. When I booked my tickets to the Big Apple, I knew what I was going for: Inspiration. You see, what’s great about NYC is you can go 2 blocks and there is a whole new neighborhood, a whole new group of people, new eateries, bakeries… new inspiration.

People generally travel the world to find themselves, but they come to New York to become someone new. That’s why the city is filled with creativity and ideas, love and passion, friendly strangers and welcomed guests from all around the world. With so much to see, eat and do, you can never feel lonely or get bored. You’re in New York. And here is how I experienced the city.

Central Park: Acres of Green

When friends ask me what was my favorite part of NYC, it was my daily morning stroll in Central Park. It’s a man-made urban oasis that really takes your breath away: lush lawns, cool forests, flowering gardens and glassy lakes providing the dose of serene nature right in the middle of a buzzing city. This visual masterpiece was created by landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux in the 19th century, and today, the “people’s park” is still one of the city’s most popular attractions. When you find the Boathouse, you must try their freshly brewed coffee, toasted bagels and spinach omelette. And you might stumble upon a man who makes big bubbles, just join the fun.

Central park walkway

central park

fountain

city view

Bubbles

Street Strolls

Manhattan is a small city but it’s filled with hidden gardens, secret gems, historic attraction and popular icons. And to explore every corner of NYC, we took the hop-on, hop-off double-decker and toured Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn and Bronx. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, learnt about Macy’s and checked out Harlem. The rest of the trip was spent sitting on the sidewalks with a cuppa joe, salted pretzels, and people watching (it’s like bird watching except with people… and more exciting).

city

NYC taxi

Times square

coffee

New York Eats

With so many restaurants in New York (some reported 26,000 in the state), it’s not uncommon to enter most eateries, stop dead in your tracks, look around and say “Wow!” From high-end haute cuisine and celebrity hangouts to hole-in-the-wall ethnic eateries and everything in between, NYC is a foodie’s dream. Armed with a detailed list of highly recommended award winning eats (which I will happily email it across if you’re every visiting NYC), I indulged at every meal, and was never disappointed. Here is just a small sample of what I ate:

crab toast

Crab Toast with Lemon Ailoi – ABC Kitchen

carrot salad

Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crunchy Seeds – ABC Kitchen

veal meatballs

Veal Meatballs with Bowtie Pasta – ABC Kitchen

roast chicken

Roast Chicken with Mushrooms – Balthazar Restaurant

burrata

Burrata and Cherry Tomatoes with Basil – Serafina Restaurant

pasta

Spaghetti Bolognaise with Beef Ragout – Serafina Restaurant

mini cupcakes

Mini Cupcakes – Baked by Melissa

strawberries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries – Godiva

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steamed bananas with cocoa nibs

Seed to Table: Organic Cooking Classes

Given the choice between two bananas that look identically the same, would you be willing to pick the one that’s 2 dirhams more just because it’s labeled organic?

Buying organic might seem like the latest food trend, but there is more to it than a higher price tag. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water. In simpler words, organic food is better for you (and has a higher nutritional value plus it tastes better) because most conventional pesticides are not used in growing the product.

While I still haven’t tapped into organic produce, I was excited to attend an organic cooking class at Top Chef. We were introduced to Unifrutti – The Green League who have partnered with the cooking studio and supply fresh, high-quality, fully-certified organic produce. They basically gave a basket of organic fruits and vegetables to the Chef and he created a fascinating 3 course vegetarian meal. The recipes are easy and require very little cooking, so you really get to taste the unique flavor of each ingredient. And just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s super healthy. The chef sneaked in some butter, sugar and love to ensure you’re satisfied at the end of the meal. It’s a class I would definitely recommend to anyone who is looking to go organic, or just want to learn something different and new.

You can register for the Going Organic classes here and you will take home your own basket of organic fruits & vegetable, courtesy of The Green League. Isn’t that so sweet?

broccoli

zucchini gratin

zucchini gratin before cooking

steamed bananas

broccoli and cauliflower tabbouleh

Broccoli & cauliflower taboule on a beetroot carpaccio

zucchini main

Baked zucchini clafoutis served with crunchy mushroom & fennel salad and orange vinaigrette

steamed bananas with cocoa nibs

Roasted banana with vanilla & cocoa nibs

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chicken lettuce wraps

Thinking Outside the Wrap

I would file this under my best copycat, fake-out recipe. It’s a dish I make quite often for dinner because it has zero carbs and loaded with protein and veggies. You’ll love the crunch of the lettuce, the slight saltiness of the soy sauce and the brightness from the lemon and ginger, in these tasty wraps. The best part is the crunch from the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds.

One pot is all you need. Forks are optional. Avocado, coriander or chilies make great toppings. A quick note about lettuce, I have found the best lettuce for wraps to be Butter or Iceberg. It’s nice and crisp, holds up well to folding and wrapping plus the leaves are perfectly shaped like cups.

This is a crowd pleaser. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love it… yet.

Cook note: Did you know you can add the avocado seed with sliced avocados to keep them from browning? Try it.

lettuce

mix

avocado

lettuce wrapsgoogle адвордс

final tarts

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

If you’re on a diet, look away now. Seriously!

Raspberries + cream + white chocolate = bliss.

These creamy, fruity tarts are so good they’ll look like you’ve bought them from a patisserie. The tart is actually really simple to make but if the idea of making pastry from scratch scares you to death (it scares me too sometimes), then you can simply buy pre-made pastry found in the freezer section or a ready-made shell (I found some at good old Spinneys). And the recipe is so versatile, you can replace the white chocolate with milk or dark chocolate. Strawberries, blueberries or blackberries can be used instead of raspberries.

How can you say no to these beauties?

pastry rolling

trimming

fitting pastry in tart

baking beans

finished tart shells

melted white chocolate

filling tart

decorating the tarts

final tarts

in fridge
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Spring Flowers with an Edible Twist

Nothing says Spring like fresh flowers, but you can forget taking a trip to a florist for a fabulous arrangement. You only need to go as far as the nearest grocery store to create this unique, eye-catching floral design.

My dining table is incomplete without some sort of centerpiece, but an arrangement can be expensive and it’s nice to change it up from the typical glass vase. I fell in love with this asparagus vase and did a super quick demonstration at the cooking class I hosted last week. It’s quick, easy, fun and under AED 100 (depending on the flowers you choose). Asparagus is the vegetable of the season right now and it looks beautiful combined with flowers. This will be stunning at a BBQ or brunch in your garden.

Materials needed: 2 bunches of thin asparagus (you can find them at Spinneys for AED 25 /bunch), any flowers you have growing in the garden or whatever combination you like, I choose mini roses, white flowers and baby’s breath, natural brown shabby string (AED 7 from Daiso) and scissors

Step 1: Keep the sticker around the asparagus, wrap the string around the bunch and tie a secure knot.

step 1

step 2Step 2: Wrap the string around the asparagus – don’t worry about being too neat, you want a rustic look.

step 3Step 3: Secure the string by either tying a knot or tucking it inside then cut off the sticker.

step 4Step 4: Now prepare the flowers by trimming the ends and arrange them on top of the asparagus bunch. There is no floral “recipe” here, just get creative and arrange the flowers until it transforms into a gorgeous arrangement.

step 5

step 6

step 7

step 8Within a day or two, move the flowers to a more conventional vase and enjoy the asparagus for your dinner that night.

step 9видеоняня купить в екатеринбурге

pans

A Spring Affair: Cooking with Friends

It’s no secret that my dream is to see everyone cooking good food, and not necessarily completely from scratch. I love helping and teaching friends new things in the kitchen, whether it’s recipes, tricks or shortcuts to make fresh, healthy and great tasting food. Sure ordering take-out is easy, but most people are surprised to know that you can whip up a fast delicious dish in that 45-60 minutes you’re wait for the food delivery. Cooking is one of the most important things a person can ever learn. Once you understand the basics, the sky’s the limit.

And so you can imagine my excitement when the lovely ladies from De Dietrich Cuisine Academy contacted me to host a cooking class with them. The French premium academy opened its doors recently at Dubai Ladies Club and offers exciting class from bread making to sushi, cupcakes and tea time favorites. With it’s sleek design and stylish appliances, De Dietrich Academy was the prefect place to hold a ladies lunch.

Chef Gabrielle and I came up with a Spring inspired menu, a three course meal using fresh local ingredients. The guests were friends and friend of friends who shared a love for cooking… and eating! Our lunch menu started with a refreshing grilled shrimp and mango salad that requires very little cooking. Main was a choice of beef or fish, served on a bed of Mediterranean potato mash topped with a tangy virgin sauce. And dessert was a beautiful white chocolate tart with fresh raspberries… the highlight of the afternoon and the only thing that was able to quiet down 15 enthusiastic ladies. The girls walked away with full tummies, and a goody bag of goodies including a jar of my homemade granola.

Thank you De Dietrich Cuisine Academy for this wonderful opportunity and big love to my dear friend Anna Maria Aoun for designing the invitation and recipe cards. Finally thanks Fishfayce for the stunning photography and Moushii for the giveaways. Applause. Exit stage left.

inviteThe gorgeous kitchen at Dubai Ladies Club 

kitchen

knife

cutlery

pans

Let’s Get Cooking! We started with dessert…

pastry rolling

tart making

the girls cookingLuscious white chocolate…yummm!

making the tarts

making tarts

decorating the tarts

final tartsAnd  some were too hungry to wait

licking the bowlNow for the main course

ingredients Peeling, Peeling

peeling

peelingChopping, chopping

mango slices

chopping

mango salad beforeYes it’s as good as it looks

mango salad

instafood

shrimps

grilled shrimps

olives

sauceMediterranean potato mash with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Heaven!

for potato mash

onionsAnd ta-da! the final beauties

mango shrimp salad

mashed potato and fish

white chocolate tartMore beauties 

girlsOh and this stunning centerpiece, stay tuned for next post

flower arrangement

goody bag

 ссыль

healthy granola

Feel-Good Morning Food

The cereal aisle is a long one, full of contradictions. You’ll find cereals made with refined grains with nearly no fiber, and cereals that are pink and blue, with no artificial coloring added. There are cereals with so much sugar, I’m pretty sure Tony the Tiger and the Trix rabbit have diabetes by now.

cereal isleMy breakfast of champions consists of hot oatmeal with milk, sliced bananas, cinnamon and walnuts. And on those busy days when I have to rush out I like the standard cereal and cold milk, but it’s tricky finding a breakfast cereal that is healthy, low in sugar, has no saturated fat and trans fat — and still tastes great.

After doing some research and consulting with several dietitians, here is what I learnt:

  • Read the label: the first ingredient on the list should be a whole grain, so literally look for the words “whole grain”
  • Choose a cereal that is high in fiber, at least 10% fiber, or 3-6g of fiber per serving
  • As a general rule, avoid cereals with over 9% fat (or over 2.7g of fat per serving) and over 27% sugar (or 10g per serving)

And then there is granola, which my absolute favorite, but the problem with store-bought granola is that it always seems to skimp on one ingredient or another — the one that happens to be your favorite, of course. Me being me, I took a shot at making my own and adjusted the proportions to my liking. I was inspired by this recipe and loved the fact it only uses 2 tbsp of oil and mostly natural sweetener. Make a big batch then store in an airtight container, or gift it in a jar. After all, everyone loves food gifts. Stay healthy and enjoy!

oats

oats for granola

dried fruit

homemade granola

granola
skorost internet

caramel upside down cake

Brown Sugar Apple Upside Down Cake

Utter the words “upside-down cake” and everyone’s thoughts immediately turn to a sticky catastrophe saturated with canned pineapple and maraschino cherries. While the American pineapple version continues to be made, thankfully a variety of updated and (frankly) more appetizing creations are out there – and this is my absolute favorite one. I must have 20 recipes for apple desserts; I think I collect them because nothing makes a kitchen smell more heavenly than baking a cake full of fragrant apples and cinnamon.

Earlier this month I was asked to participate in the AVEEM challenge, asking me to whip up a signature and personal creation with the bags of their fine grain Brazilian white and brown sugar and eclectic spices that was sent to my home. A brown sugar upside down cake  popped into my head when the contest was announced. Brown sugar and apples are partners in cake crime, add a pinch of nutmeg, ground ginger and cinnamon for the easiest piece of cake you’ll ever make.

Consider this the lovable anytime cake — breakfast, snack, and show-stopping dessert all in one. Serve it with coffee for breakfast or with ice cream for dessert, just make sure you take a few minutes to arrange the apple slices neatly on the bottom of the pan — when the cake is baked and inverted, you’ll find them decorating the top. Warm gooey apples, caramel, cinnamon and crunchy walnuts… it’s love at first bite!

AVEEM spices

apples

sugar and apples

upside down cake

caramel upside down cake

apple walnut cake

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island life

Gourmet Travel: Mangenguey, Philippines

White sands, warm sun and nothing but miles of aqua as far as the eye can see… an island vacation always sounds good. And that’s where I have been the last couple of weeks.

Traveling with my husband and in-laws, we were looking for a vacation that is packed with adventure, relaxation and vibrant culture. Philippines was the perfect getaway. After a quick stop in Manila, we headed to Borocay, voted as one of the most legendary beaches in the world. The water is shallow and the sand is fine, it’s a beautiful island where you can just lay down with a drink in hand and take in the nature. After four days of hanging out with the crowds on the public beach (which isn’t really our thing), we ditched the masses and headed to a remote Virgin island in Palawan, a private resort called Mangenguey.

It was truly like no other place I’ve ever been to. It is intimate and private, owned and managed by a passionate New-Yorker and his talented Spanish wife Helena. We were in the wilderness, sharing the island with creatures of all sorts… and no TV. Amazingly the fresh air, peace and sea isn’t the main highlight, it was the food that made it for me.

island life

Mangenguey island

photo 2 (2)As a fashion designer in her previous life, Helena and her crew run the kitchen, making 3 meals a day for the guests. The menu is a daily surprise, with a fabulous 3 course meal in the evening. And Helena was kind enough to let me in the kitchen as they prepared dinner. The meal started with a fresh tomato and marinated feta salad served with Spanish olives. It was tangy and light, a great start to the meal.

kitchen

marinated feta

tomato and fetaThe main course was a twist on Bihon Guisado, a popular noodle dish in the Philippines. The sous chef fried the spaghetti and broke it in pieces, she explains frying gives the dish a nutty taste. It is then cooked with vegetables, shrimp and clams in stock and simmers until the liquid evaporates. Absolutely delicious! (I begged for the exact recipe but she wouldn’t share her secrets).

fried pasta

shrimp and pasta

shrimp main courseThe sweet finale was a red wine poached pear, simmered in a syrup flavored with cinnamon, bay leaves and star anise, and topped with Helena’s signature homemade honey ice cream. It was a little too sweet for me but I loved the spice combination. It’s definitely an inspiration for my next dessert.

pear in wine

poached pear

poached pear with ice cream If you’re looking for a vacation that’s nothing short of spectacular, the Mangenguey is worth the bucks. After all, who else at the office can say they spent their vacay on an exquisite remote island where the owners cook your meals? Bon voyage!ya-zasnyal

Quinoa

Spicy Chicken and Quinoa Patties

Until a few weeks ago I had never made quinoa. I’d read a lot about it, tried it in salads at some of my favorite restaurants, and seen it on Pinterest but hadn’t gotten around to trying it out myself. I’m always a little skeptical of trendy grains, worried it’s not going to taste good enough for the extra money or effort. But I’ve learnt that cooking quinoa is one of the easiest, most rewarding exercise you can indulge in your kitchen. It’s a gluten-free nutritional powerhouse, a complete protein source containing 9 essential amino acids – and if you don’t know what that means – they’re just super healthy and good for you.

And while it’s great on salads, I wanted something heartier and more savory. The marriage of chicken and quinoa is a happy one, and when you add chilies and coriander to the mix, the party really begins. The flavors in these patties start out soft on your palate but slowly grow and delight you. They’re great for a quick lunch on weekends, when you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen and sick of ordering take-out. Need just 15 minutes to make, 8 minutes to cook and in your tummy within 30 seconds. Enjoy!

Quinoa

chili

parsley

chicken and Quinoa cakes

spicy chicken quinoa patties

chicken quinoa cakes - healthyescorts agencies in Paris

meatballs appetizer

Now That’s a Spicy Meatball

I love to entertain and love to cook. But I don’t necessarily like to cook with entertaining. This is a meatball recipe I like to make ahead of time and keep warm while waiting for my guests. I generally associate meatballs with Italian-American food – satisfying, rich, comforting and always served with spaghetti. But for a recent dinner party, I wanted to change my meatball style completely, from the meat to the spices and even the sauce. After hours of searching online and browsing through hundreds of meatball recipes (I’m not complaining), a recipe on Gourmet.com caught my eye and I instantly knew: this is the meatball!

It’s a Turkish spiced lamb meatball served with yogurt and pomegranate sauce. Lamb is something that you like more the older you get. The fresher it is the less it has that “lamby” taste. It gives the meatball a totally different taste to the familiar beef meatballs. You will fall in love with this recipe as you’re mixing the meatball mixture, which sends up wafts of cinnamon, all-spice and garlic. And the yogurt pomegranate sauce adds a subtle sweet and sour tang.

These Turkish meatballs are so juicy, light, and flavorful – not to mention easy, oh and how can I forget… they’re baked. The yogurt pomegranate sauce is a keeper – I’m tempted to use it on everything. To get it really creamy you need to strain the yogurt overnight but if you’re short on time, labne or Greek yogurt is a fine substitute.

And the leftovers? Toss them in tomato sauce, add pasta and that’s dinner.

Cooks Note: Meatballs can be formed 1 day ahead and kept chilled. They can also be cooked 1 day ahead then chilled once cooled completely. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

spices

Turkish Meatballs

minced lamb for meatballs

meatball army

meatballs appetizer

Turkish meatballs and yogurt dipопределение тиц и pr

edamame frozen

Spicy Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-meh)

In the battle of the munchies, I’m destined to lose. Salted peanuts, popcorn and chips: I’m one of those once I pop I can’t stop snackers.

So allow me to introduce you to my new favorite healthy snack: spicy edamame. They’re exactly like the ones you get at every Japanese restaurant, but these are spicy, salty, lemony and finger-licking good. And you can have a huge bowl to yourself (because “Joey doesn’t share!” — did you watch that Friends episode… no? ok), as edamame is loaded with fiber and contain just 100 calories per half-cup serving. I love eating them in the pods, slurping the sauce clinging to the outside while stripping out the beans with my teeth. Next time you’re craving salty, reach for the edamame — trust me, your waistline will thank you.

edamame

edamame frozen

soy chili sauce

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welcome sign

Celebrate Life with Moushii

There are two significantly important dates for a 6-year old: the first day of grade 1 and their birthday.

I’m sure teachers are equipped to make the first day of school a memorable one, as for the birthday party – that’s where super parent comes in. And we all know there is no such thing as an ordinary birthday, that’s why Moushii dedicated a website to provide a cure for the common, ho-hum birthday celebration.

This fabulous online store creates unique party pieces that help give every celebration a beautiful look and feel. They arm individuals and party planners with ready-to-go, customized and personalized party packs – which include all of the supplies and decorations needed to complete that special event.

And they do more than just birthdays: baby showers, weddings, private dinners even anniversary celebrations, Moushii has everything you could ever wish for. Create your own or choose from their ready available fun themes: Vintage Manly, Fluttering Butterfly, Bee-utiful Bumblebee, Dance & Twirl Ballerina and so much more. They coordinate everything from party packs, invitations, bunting and banners through to cupcake toppers, party labels, favor tags and table decorations.

Celebrate every occasion, every milestone and every celebration with Moushii. Check out their website and Facebook for more info or shop on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/moushii

*Images provided by Moushii

Vintage Manly Theme welcome

Vintage Manly Theme set up

Bee-utiful Bumblebee Theme

Bee-utiful Bumblebee Theme popcorn

Dinorrific Dinosaur Theme

thank you card

Dance & Twirl Ballerina Theme

Dance & Twirl Ballerina Theme cupcake

Fluttering Butterfly Theme

Funtacular Carnival Theme

AHOY.... Nautical Theme

AHOY.... Nautical Theme popcorn

Pitter Patter Girl Theme

Pitter Patter Boy Theme

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final chicken pie

Modern Chicken Pie

Growing up, the only pie I ever remember having was apple pie, and not even one made from scratch. You see in the Middle East, we’re not pie fans. We have our own creation: the fatayer. Delicious savory fillings of spinach, cheese, zaater or cheese, stuffed in dough that’s super easy to prepare and equally super easy to mess up. And I loved the fact that my mom made them from scratch, and only on special occasions. We’d come down in the morning and find my mom kneading, rolling, stuffing and forming these delicate pastries in triangles (for the spinach),  balls (for the cheese) and squares (for the mince lamb & pine-nuts), and we’d help by eating the leftover fillings.

I guess now, who has the time to spend all day making something that’s eaten in two bites. So my mom genius-ly combined the traditional pie crust with her own creation of savory stuffing and came up with this modern chicken pie. There is no gravy and mushy peas, and you can forget the plates and forks (but not the napkins), this is the best way to eat pie.

The ingredients are all prepared separately so you can really taste the caramelized onions and the chicken isn’t mushy and tough. And for the crust (since we’re no pie experts), we use this wonderful pâte brisèe that’s natural, buttery and the perfect amount of flaky – you can get it at Carrefour. Sa7tein!

chicken pie ingredients

chicken mince

chicken pie

chicken pie in the making

chicken pie

final chicken pie

slice of homemade chicken pie
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lover's cake

Lover’s Cake

I totally understand the allure of a steak dinner on Valentine’s Day: It’s indulgent, it’s special, and it’s nice to feel fancy every once in a while. But with 30 other diners similarly hoping for an intimate experience, the special V-Day fancy dinner doesn’t feel so romantic. So this year we’re skipping the white table cloth fare and instead I’m cooking a decadent, steakhouse-worthy dinner at home. Sure, my husband is going to have to do the dishes, but my appetizer of coconut shrimp and beef wellington main will make it all worthwhile.

And for dessert, well… let’s be real, a heart shaped chocolate cake is the best part of Valentine’s Day. Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel’s Pastry Chef Sunil created a magnificent raspberry mousse and chocolate delight he calls: Lover’s Cake. With 14 delicious years of experience under his belt, the sweet toothed mastermind combined his two favorite ingredients, raspberries and chocolate, and whipped up a magnificent dessert you can share with your sweetheart. The chef was kind enough to share his recipe and artfully demonstrated the decoration and final touches on his Lover’s Cake.

So you can dust off your apron, warm up your oven and give the recipe a go, or pick up the Lover’s Cake at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel February 13 and 14 for just AED 140.

Forget the fancy dinner. Forget the oysters. Forget the caviar. And prepare a Valentine’s Day dinner for that special someone. It can seem daunting but if you can chop, slice and stir-fry, you can pull off an elegant meal. Hey, and if all goes wrong, there’s always champagne… and cake.

macaroons and raspberries

raspberry mousse

raspberry glaze

glaze

red heart

valentine day cake

decoration cake

decorating

valentine cake

flower decorating

gold decorating cake

gold leaf cake

lover's cake

sheraton pastry chef

Lover’s Cake by Chef Sunil, Pastry Chef

Ingredients (for 10 people)

Raspberry Ganache

240 g Raspberry Puree

660 g Chocolate Milk

55 g Glucose

155 g Butter

5 pieces of Gelatine

 

Raspberry Mousse

1,000 g Puree

500 g icing sugar

72 pieces of Gelatine

1500 g crème

 

Red Glaze

1400 Water

1500 g sugar

120 g Yellow Pectine

135 g Glucose

25 pieces of Gelatine

14 g red colourant

 

Chocolate Sponge

40 Eggs

1000 g Sugar

1000 g Flour

40 g Baking Powder

200 g Cocoa Powder

10 g Mixo (emulsifier)

 

Décor

1 Fresh Rose Leaf

15 Fresh Raspberry

 

Method

Sponge chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 180C (356F).
2. In a mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar. Beat at high speed for 10 minutes or until batter is thick and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla essence and beat more until fully mixed. (If batter does not sink immediately, it is then ready)
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder with the soft flour. Fold into the batter slowly.
5. Add in the melted butter and fold into the batter.
6. Grease the sides of the heart shaped mold and pour the mix into it ¾ full.
7. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until top is firm to touch.

Mousse raspberry

1. Pour water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle gelatin over top and set aside for 5 minutes to bloom. Add the raspberry puree into the bowl and then add sugar. Bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

2. Whisk cream to soft peaks. Whisk 1/3rd of the whipped cream into mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until light and fluffy

Ganache raspberry

1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl;

2. Place puree raspberry in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to boil. Pour over chocolate and let stand until chocolate has softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add butter and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly before using.

4. Put in heart shaped mold 1.5cm height and refrigerate for at least 3 hours

Glaze

1. Bring the sugar, glucose and water to a boil.

2. Dissolve the pectin with liter sugar. Add to the boiling juice and cook till thick.

3. After put in the gelatin and red color.

Montage

Put in the heart shape mold of a slice chocolate biscuit
After put a bit of raspberry mousse and ganache raspberry center.
Finish with smooth raspberry mousse.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours

Then transfer the cake to a serving plate. Brush the top of the cake with a glaze

Décor.

Put fresh leave rose and fresh raspberrydubai exclusive escort

chai spice cake

Sugar, Spice and Everything Iced

As a loyal drinker of coffee (skinny cappuccino to be exact), I was skeptical about chai tea, with its flurry of spices and blast of sugar. Until I learnt about the ingredients and was surprised that all my favorite spices are here: cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I decided to make my own and followed this easy recipe: boil black tea for a minute or so before whisking in a cardamom-infused milk and a whisper of sugar. It’s now my favorite pick-me-up that I save for special occasions.

Now imagine all those spices in a cake. Think of a hot cup of chai tea with vanilla and cream cheese icing… mmmm. That is this cake.

Not a huge fan of cupcakes (shocking, I know), I decided to make mini cakes. Last year I discovered these great square baker molds from LakeLand. You don’t need to grease or line with parchment paper. Just pour in the batter and bake. The cake turned to be moist, buttery, very fragrant. Topped with the cream cheese frosting… ahhh. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Chai Spice Mix
1.5 tsp. ground cardamom
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

chai tea spices

mini cakes

cake and frosting

chai spice cake

cake spices

chai spices

tea and spice cake

tea and cake

cake bite
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Zucchini, Pine Nuts Carpaccio

Veggie Romance

Every time I entertain, I feel like I am at a loss for side dish ideas. I generally rely on the good old potato: roasted or mashed, sweet or white, they’re delicious in every way and lend themselves to easy, satisfying side dishes. Until one day I came across a recipe for raw zucchini carapaccio by Tyler Florence. A side dish with zero cooking time? This, I had to try.

You’ll be surprised at this recipe’s big flavor — with only a few ingredients. You just have to respect the zucchini, or it will ruin your dinner. It’ll weep liquid and turn soggy. It’ll be bitter if you don’t watch out. But pamper this little garden diva and the zucchini will return the favor and make a dish to remember.

My only advice is not to make this too far in advance or it will lose its natural crunch. I let mine sit in the fridge for just an hour and it turned out perfect. Serve in a flat plate for a stunning presentation – even zucchini haters can’t resist.

Zucchini ingredients

Zucchini and lemon zest

Zucchini Carpaccio

Carpaccio vegan

Zucchini, Pine Nuts Carpaccio Abu Dhabi escorts anal

cake decoration

Butter Me Up: Lurpak Baking Studio

I’m in love.

With a little place I soon want to call home. You wouldn’t expect it, a homey villa transferred into a cooking studio right on Beach Road. And it’s all thanks to Lurpak for introducing me to Top Chef. I was so delighted when I was invited to the Lurak Baking Studio cake decorating session last week.

We were welcomed with coffee and biscuits as we waited for everyone to arrive. Aprons on, camera in hand – and we were ready to bake! The task was simple: a creamed butter cake (and we’re talking about a LOT of butter), decorated with white fondant and edible flowers. Easy right?

We worked in pairs, quickly finished making the cake and took a small break while they baked. Back to the dining area with of course – more baked treats. This time the cutest Lurpak red velvet cupcakes you’ve ever seen. Way too pretty to eat and well worth ruining the diet 🙂

We went back to the studio and our friendly cake decorating instructor taught us all about butter-cream icing, flower decoration, cake filling and fondant. It took me back to my days at Cordon Bleu, the little details, pastry equipment, delicate method and the satisfaction of making something really pretty to take home.

Thank you Saha W Hana, Lupak and Top Chef for such a beautiful morning. Oh and the giveaways: 12 packs of butter. Cake, anyone?

welcome

Lurpak Butter

getting started

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cake batter

ready for the oven

Lurpak cupcakes

cupcake

flower deco

flowers

my flowers

cutting the cake

filling

add the top

cake fondant

final cake

purple cake decoration

purple cake decoration

cake deco

cake decoration

cake flowers

flower cake

cake decoration

leaf cake decoration

flower cake

flowers cakes

cake flowers

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chickpeas and lime

The Chick and The Peas

Hands up if you’re addicted to Pintrest.

It’s my therapy session, the first thing I check in the morning and last thing I do at night (with a few hits throughout the day). Most of my cooking inspiration comes from here, so I when I saw everyone repinning roasted chickpeas recipes I knew I had to try it. And while I was shopping for the ingredients, I thought I would get creative and add fava beans. I love foul so I thought “of course they’re going to taste amazing!”

Boy was I wrong – they looked wrong – just wrong. And tasted weird. So my advice – don’t try it and stick to the original recipe. As for the chickpeas – best snack ever! It’s like eating chips without all the extra salt and calories.

Just remember when you take them out of the oven, they are little nugget of 400°F heat so don’t eat them straight away. When they have cooled enough to eat, enjoy with a drink and a squeeze of lime. Store any leftovers in airtight container. Leftover?  … Yah, like that’s gonna happen.

chickpeas

chickpeas and kidney beans

in pan

roasted chickpeas

chickpeas and limeзаказать продвижение сайтов

DIY salad dressing

Dressed to Impress: 3 DIY Salad Dressings

Calorie for calorie, spinach has more protein than a cheeseburger. Gram for gram, watercress has more calcium than milk. Fruit and vegetables have so much to give. But when they’re drenched in butter and coated in oil, their nutritional benefits kinda go down the drain.

For those who know me well, know I’m the salad queen. Over the years my friends and family have taken a special liking to the way I spontaneously create salads. Always unique and creative, with toasted nuts, different kinds of cheese and a little sweet twist like seedless green grapes or mango slices. But I have to admit it’s the homemade dressings that make all the difference.

A dressing can make or break a salad. Too much and it becomes a soggy mess, too little and it’s tasteless, too acidic and you pucker with every bite. If you just made a green salad chocked full of vitamins and nutrients, why ruin it with a store-bought dressing when it takes just 5 minutes to make your own? The payoff is more flavor, more health-promoting ingredients, and – for a bottle’s worth of dressing – more than a thousand calories in savings. Here are three simple DIY dressings which will get you on your way to more exciting salads.

salad dressing

salad dressing

olive oil

Dijon Vinaigrette

This is my go-to salad dressing. It’s delicious over any kind of salad and the ingredients can always be found in your pantry. 

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Pinch of salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Store in fridge for up to 1 week.

 

Chili Balsamic Vinaigrette

Stunning with beetroot, lovely on a salad with crunchy leaves, but also works really well for flavoring cooked or grilled meats and vegetables.

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Store in fridge for up to 1 week.

 

Sesame Ginger Lime Dressing

Drizzle this gingery-sweet beauty over crisp lettuces, avocado, toasted cashew or grain salads. 

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Store in fridge for up to 1 week.проверить пр

K_Grapefruit Cologne_017_noknife_a

Feast for the Senses

Like ice-blue Tiffany’s box, or a package in Godiva gold, my heart can’t help but skip a beat when I see Jo Malone’s signature cream box, tied up with a black ribbon, because I know I’m in for a very luxurious treat.

And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of inhaling one of these fragrances, you know that what’s inside the box is even better. Quintessentially British fragrance brand Jo Malone London is renowned for its iconic fragrances and luxury lifestyle products. And what I love is how she moved from fragrances for him/her to your home. Dinner parties, afternoon tea and outdoor entertaining are given a burst of enticing scent of unique combinations of fruit, flowers, herbs and spices. Best news of all, you can express your personality by combining fragrances, so you can add that special touch with a signature fragrance. My favorite is the Orange Blossom layered with Nectarine & Honey – it’s a seductive marriage of crisp citrus and sweet peaches.

Here are some of Malone’s secrets for a perfectly scented gathering:

Dinner Parties 

  • Burn scented candles, in carefully chosen blends, throughout the evening. Start with a warm, welcoming fragrance as people arrive for drinks, like the Amber & Sweet Orange Home Candle and choose something a little fresher as you go into dinner, Wild Fig & Cassis would be perfect
  • Spritze table linen with sweet smelling Nectarine Blossom & Honey
  • Fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme and sage, can be positioned around the room in bowls of water for an amazing subtle appetizing smell as you come into the dining room
  • Careful you don’t over do it because too much fragrance can put people off their food

Outdoor Entertaining

  • To set the scene for a family barbecue or dinner al fresco, bathe the garden in candlelight. You can buy great low-cost ones from Ikea
  • For the table, burn a summery scented candle from the Orange Blossom collection, a delightful aroma of orange blossom and water lily
  • She also suggests burning fresh herbs, such as rosemary and lavender or cinnamon sticks on a log fire

*Images provided by Jo Malone

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Nectarine Blossom & Honey

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roasted celery soup

Green Goddess Soup

The last few weeks were pretty great, right? From Thanksgiving to Christmas, National Day and New Year’s Eve, it seemed like the feast would never end. Now it has, the parties are over, leftovers are finished and now it’s time for the resolutions to kick in.

Every January, the New Year rings in and every year, the vows ring out: “This year is the year.” A fresh start, new beginnings, promise to change for the better. I like resolutions that are easy to keep, and that can be accomplished rather early on in the year. Every year I vow to take better care of myself: eat better, travel more, have fun, but with balance in mind.

So I’m starting the year with a body cleanse. Not going extreme with a juice detox, just want to eat healthy and cut back on meats and sweets. Enter: Green Goddess Soup. I’m a fan of all things leafy and green. And lately I’m obsessed with soups. While lentil is my all time favorite, every once in a while I like to take my tastebuds to new territories. I was immediately attracted to this recipe because I love celery, I love fennel, I love roasting my vegetables, and well… I love soup. It’s super quick and easy to prepare,  and if you make a big enough pot, you’ll have leftovers to come home to all week. A little lemon juice totally brightens the flavor, and you’ve got a perfect healthy everyday (green) soup.

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Oreos cheesecake

Black & White Affair

It appears as if my sweet tooth is calling the shots these days. Maybe it’s the holiday spirit, friends and family visiting from out of town, resulting in long lazy lunches or the fact that my trainer is on vacation. Whatever it is, I’m going to enjoy these last few days before making my New Year resolutions.

I’m a sucker for anything Oreo, anything mini, and lately, anything cheesecake. So when my sister asked me to bake for her office Christmas party, mini Oreo cheesecakes naturally came to mind.

My mom actually introduced me to Oreo cheesecake. She would make it for dinner parties, top it off with raspberry jam and crushed Oreos. It was always a crowd pleaser, and my sisters and I would be so excited when we found a slice in the fridge the next morning. I used her recipe and adapted it to make mini cheesecakes, they’re cuter for a party. My recommendation is to make them the day before the event and refrigerate overnight – they taste so much creamier when they’re cold.

Oh… and definitely have a few extra Oreos to snack on while you make these – trust me, they’ll come in handy.

Warning: these are cute and unique. May cause mouth to water.

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pink baby shower

A Princess is Coming

It’s a girl!

Well, not quite yet. But a pink-themed shower was the perfect way to help Vitalia, the mother-to-be, prepare for her little princess. Having planned just one other baby shower before, my friends and I decided to keep it simple… and splash the whole house in pink!

We called event planners Baby Bling, and they decked the house with pink and white balloons. From top to bottom, and every corner of the room, we had balloons and pink baby decoration.

Taking a cue from the fabulous Amy Atlas (the dessert buffet queen), we recreated a pink dessert table with homemade sweets like strawberry cheesecake bites, cupcakes, and rich chocolate mousse. We also had a self-serve sundae bar with buckets of store-bought ice cream and lots of toppings to choose from. The cake was a delicious Russian honey cake, one of the yummiest cakes I’ve ever tasted.

The best part of the evening was the masseur. As guests walked in, they were treated to a quick 10 minutes shoulder massage. The poor guy never got a break, I walked by at least a dozen times for my turn but it never came.

To give everyone a special keepsake of the party, we put together a manicure set with all the essentials for pretty pink nails.

Congrats Vitalia! Can’t wait to meet your beautiful baby girl.

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chocolate chip cookies

Hugs & Cookies

The one is hard to come by, but it’s out there somewhere. The ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe that creates a perfectly baked, perfectly formed cookie loaded with divine chocolate pieces. Despite the simplicity, I am always amazed at how many different recipes and techniques there are. To melt the butter or keep it room temperature, refrigerate dough before baking or not, bake for 6, 9 or 11 minutes? Whetever recipe you prefer, making them yourself is always so much better than buying them.

Why, then, does everybody say they prefer homemade to store-bought? It’s the warm factor. I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie, when it’s straight from the oven.

I found the recipe for that dream cookie on the back of the Nestlé chocolate chip bag. It’s a reliable recipe and makes cookies that are chocolatey and chewy in the middle, nice and crisp around the edges. Just what you want from your chocolate chip cookie, right?
You’re welcome.
Just some tips I learnt:
  • use room temperature butter
  • cream the sugar and butter really well (until pale)
  • don’t over-whisk the flour mixture as it will make the cookies tough and
  • under-bake the cookies – otherwise they get really crisp
Now, let’s bake and share.

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vintage key

The Key to Love

When I was younger, one of my favorite movies was The Secret Garden. Ever since then I’ve always thought that there was just something magical about old skeleton keys… what do they open? To whom did they belong?

It’s exactly that mystery and magic that make them one of my absolute favorite details. So when my dear friend Maya Itani shared with me her wedding photos, I fell head over heels for their gorgeous and unique decor. The outdoor setting, purple and white color scheme and vintage theme set the tone that was very elegant and whimsical. And I absolutely adore the ‘advice keys’ idea where guests share what they think is the key to a happy marriage. LOVE all the little details that really made this wedding about the two of them. Big thank you for sharing this and best wishes to the happy couple!

Event planner: Cherry on Top

Venue: Ociel, Dbaye, Lebanon

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Berry Awesome Cobbler

While I dearly love food: eating, cooking, baking, shopping, ogling and so on — desserts have a special place in my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t put down a good crusty bread, I can slurp a giant bowl of lentil soup without pausing to breathe and will try (to a certain extend) scary looking seafood dishes. But sweets? Freaky or cute, I can never pass.

Yesterday I found a basket of blackberries in the fridge desperately holding on to dear life. It’s a bad habit, but every time I see fresh berries, I grab a box thinking: “these will be great for breakfast” or “a healthy snack when sugar cravings hit”. But omelettes and kitkats always win and I’m left with a bunch of expensive berries sitting around.

And the only thought that came to mind was cobbler. It’s like an upside-down pie: you still get the juicy fruit and crunchy crust/topping – but takes a quarter of the time to make and always always always turns out amazing. Here’s the recipe from my favorite blog The Pioneer Woman.  You can use fresh or frozen berries – if you’re using frozen make sure they fully defrost. Enjoy!

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cheeseboard1

Say Gouda!

Latest purchase: French oak cheeseboard and accessories. The perfect serving piece for Goudas and Gruyères galore, this gorgeous wooden board is made from wine barrels and comes in different shapes and sizes (prices start from AED 110). Each piece has its own unique character, some are stained a subtle hue of burgundy whilst others have lingering aroma. The cheese markers add a chic touch (AED 20/each). Can’t wait to use it at my next dinner party.

Check out more French inspired home décor and kitchenware from the awesome VintEdge Décor

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icecubes

Shake Up Boring Ice Cubes

Ladies and gents, the holiday season has officially begun. And this is your year to shine as you host a series of exquisite feasts. You’ve taken care to create the perfect meal, spectacular pie and a collection of delicious sides that will put those old green beans to shame.

So keep the ball rolling with festive cocktails and don’t dull it down with boring ice cubes. Dress up water glasses or these tasty drinks from Martha Stewart with 3 cures to the common ice cube.

Blood Orange PunchApple Ginger Sparklers, Sparkling Pear & Cranberry Cocktail 

Creative Ice Cubes

Ingredients:

– cucumber and lemon
– rosmary and orange
– mint

Tools: ice cube tray

The marriage of citrus fruits with herbs is so refreshing and the flavor of orange with rosemary is unbeatable. The combination is apparently very traditional in Italy.

Dice up the lemon, cucumber and orange into small pieces. Pull sprigs of rosemary and leaves of mint off their stems.

Place a little bit of everything in your ice cube tray. Feel free to mix and match if you’ve got extra ice trays.

Pour water into the tray and be careful not to overflow, you don’t want to lose ingredients. I read somewhere that boiling water and cooling slightly makes clearer ice cubes (try and let me know if it works)

Freeze for several hours then you’re ready to jazz up your drinks.

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alphabet birthday cake

Easy as ABC

A birthday party isn’t complete without eggs, sugar and butter… in the form of cake of course. I’m a fan of homemade birthday cakes because even if it sinks in the middle or the icing melts, it’s a declaration of the baker’s affection. And willingness to devote time and a messy kitchen to make someone happy.

Last night at a casual BBQ birthday dinner, guests were asked to help decorate the birthday cake. Each person had to find the letters of their name and place them on the iced cake. Such an easy and fun idea to get everyone involved.

Thanks Meredith Tuqan for sharing – I’m totally stealing this for my next birthday!

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ricepudding_final

Like White on Rice Pudding

They say you should never cook when you’re angry. You may think it’s because the kitchen is a hazardous place – all those knives, forks and wooden spoons, but it’s not. When you’re angry, 9 out of 10 times the secret ingredient is missed: love. Cooking with passion, emotion and enjoyment transforms a simple dish into something magical (and following the recipe correctly helps too).

When I’m having a bad day, I stay out of the kitchen. But most of the time, I like to cook alone and at sunrise. Nobody understands it (it’s probably a habit I picked up from my mom), but i’ll happily swap sleep for cooking any day. Some days I want to tackle big projects, like bake a German chocolate cake. Sometimes when I want to clear my head, I make something clam and comforting.

Last week was one of those days, and I just had rice pudding on my mind. The beauty of this recipe rests in its simplicity. Milk, rice and sugar. That’s it. I combined them together and stirred, for a long time. It gave me time to mentally go through my to-do-list, dad’s birthday present and what I’m going to wear to that party. Thirty minutes later and it’s done; thick and creamy.

Then I went on with my day and ran my errands, knowing that I have a nice bowl of rice pudding waiting for me in the fridge. I guess that’s why they call it comfort food.

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loveboat1

The Love Boat

We got engaged in an aquarium. It was the first time I was truly surprised, and not because of the shark right by my side.

I had no idea the ring was coming. We’ve known each other for a short time, but there was something about him that felt… comfortable. He knows me better than I know myself, and his little gestures of love is what won me over. He surprised me with a gift: 20-minute dive inside the Dubai Aquarium (an activity he swore he’ll never do). And at the bottom of the tank he popped the question. I was scared and having trouble controlling my breathing, yet managed to make one of the best decisions of my life.

“Yes!” Well, I couldn’t say it but I signaled ok with my hands.

Staying with the water theme, we planned a small dinner cruise wedding and found the perfect venue: Bateaux Dubai on the creek. It’s so beautifully designed, so we kept the decor simple and elegant. Layering different hues of purple and pink, the incredible florist paired the arrangements with white and natural greens to create stunning centerpieces. The three course set menu was impressive. A gourmet twist on surf and turf, but it was the dark chocolate fondant that was the star of the night. Rich, decadent and sweet, we still have guests telling us it was the best dessert they’ve ever had.

After the wedding, Faris and I made a pact to each other to return to the Bateaux every anniversary. And every June 11th, we take a cruise down memory lane… and a bite of that delicious chocolate fondant.

Venue & Catering: Bateaux Dubai

Photographer: Rebecca Hobday 

Florist & Decor: Olga Amelina from Wild Flower Events

Wedding Cake: ChoCo’a 

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roasted veg

Autumn in a Baking Dish

Tomatoes in summer, radishes in spring. Every season has its vegetable glories. But I feel that vegetables in fall are the most satisfying, from glorious beets to sweet parsnips. With a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, this is autumn in a baking dish.

Roasting vegetables changed my relationship with veggies forever. We were just friends when they were sautéed or steamed; mild, soft and gentle. But after a roasting, the hot oven brings out the natural sugars and the caramelization intensifies the flavor. They get a little singed around the edges, all hot and sexy.

I used a combination of colored carrots, asparagus and sweet potato. You can use parsnips, turnip and butternut squash. Red onion adds a little kick. Tart apples would be nice as well; you decide. This is a great seasonal side dish served with simply grilled chicken. Who said healthy has to be boring?

Cook’s Note: Use shallow pans (such as baking sheets) and don’t overcrowd vegetables. This allows vegetables to brown rather than steam.

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spaghetti & meatballs

A Bowl of Red

I’m not Italian – which makes me kind of sad. What’s not to love about a country where pasta is served as a first course, where you can try a new flavor of gelato every day of the year, and everyone’s mom is the world’s best cook?

The truth about Italian cuisine is that… well, it’s kind of messy. But there is something about a heaping platter of spaghetti and meatballs that evokes a feeling of comfort – perfect for a family get-together. With a savory blend of ground beef, flavorful cheese, red chilies and garlic, these meatballs are sure to be an instant favorite. The beauty of this recipe is that the meatballs are baked (not fried) then simmered in the hearty sauce made with crushed tomatoes. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread to soak up all the sauce at the bottom of your bowl.

 

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Fancy Flavors: Infusing Olive Oil

My cooking usually starts with smashing and mincing garlic for most savory dishes and ends with a handful of fresh herbs for garnish. And my fridge has peeled garlic and every herb that exits: parsley for kofta, coriander for fish and mint that seemed like a great idea for one dish, but not so much for the rest of the week’s meals. From a financial point of view it didn’t bother me; herbs are cheap. But for someone who hates to waste food, it hurt to throw out bunches of herbs and shriveled garlic. So I grabbed the olive oil and experimented.

Infused olive oil shines in marinades and salad dressings, roasted vegetables and is perfect as a simple dip with warm bread. Making it yourself is super easy – and they’re great DIY wedding favors or house warming gifts.

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 fresh Rosemary springs
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red chili
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Mason jar & lid (or some kind of sealing jar)

Oil can be infused cold or warm. With this DIY, I used the cold method and just bruised/sliced the ingredients and placed each in its own bottle, covered each ingredient with olive oil, sealed the bottle, then let them sit in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks before using it. The oil will slowly infuse over time. You can also heat the oil and ingredients in a saucepan on medium-low heat (cook to 180°), let the oil cool, and then strain out the ingredients before bottling the infused oil. This makes the oil infuse more quickly and reduces some of the risk of bacteria growth.

Infused olive oil will generally keep for up to one month and should be kept refrigerated. If the oil start to show any signs of spoilage, just get rid of it immediately – better safe than sorry.

There are so many great ingredients you can try like citrus zest, crushed peppercorns or sun dried tomatoes. The Kitchn has a cool idea to freeze and preserve herbs in olive oil ice cubes.

Important note: When infusing oil, please be aware of the dangers of botulism. This link provides more info: Heating Kills Botulism for Infused Oils

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amuse beet

Amuse Bouche

Canapé, hors d’oeuvre, antipasto, fingerfood, mezze, tapas – no matter what their origin, these little dishes share a tantalizing similarity: they’re tiny. But nothing delights me more than an amuse bouche. It’s a relatively unknown feature of French culinary tradition which simply translates to: little bites of food served before the meal to excite the tongue, delight the eye and whet the appetite. I recently dined at Table 9 and was completely charmed by the green pea mousse with Parmesan and cocoa dirt in a plant pot.

Ever since, I’ve had an obsession with serving teeny tiny bites of delight to my guests. It’s my way of saying: “Welcome! Hope you enjoy your meal” – plus it’s fun just saying amuse-bouche. And the best ones to make use only two ingredients, look elegant, are easy to make and taste awesome – like this beetroot and goat cheese amuse.

I made this once with roasted beets but preferred the pickled ones as it gives it more punch. And if you’re not a fan of goat cheese, any soft cheese will definitely work.интернет продвижение

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Beyond the Pumpkin Pie

Cans of pumpkin purée are flying off the shelves… soon to become gorgeous pumpkin pies. Like most people, every fall I stock my pantry. This year though, I found a couple of cans hiding behind the flour, expiring a month from today. Make another pie? Nahh – I’m craving creamy, soul-satisfying comfort food: mac & cheese. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. But the pumpkin created a velvety smooth sauce and the cinnamon and nutmeg add such a unique flavor and incredible aroma. Serve this as a side dish with roasted chicken and a simple green salad.

As an added bonus, pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. So you can eat three servings and feel good about it – kind of.

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gold wedding

Love Sparkles

Last night I attended a magical wedding in Beirut that was straight out of the storybooks. Inspired by fabulous fairytales and superheros, the table setting was shimmering with spray painted golden snow white, the seven dwarfs and dinosaurs. Even Batman and Robbin made an appearance. There were bowls of glitter and scrabble pieces spelling “I Love U”. The event planners did an amazing job… it was simply stunning! Be prepared to be inspired.

Wedding & Event Planners: Cherry on Top Events

Venue: Four Seasons Hotel Beirut

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The contrasting sweetness of the caramelised onions with the tartness of the goat cheese makes this a stylish and simple starter, perfect for fall.

Hello, October!

Strawberries and chocolate, chickpeas and tahini. Some ingredients are better with a partner. Caramelized onions and goat cheese? Now that’s just magic. This is one of my favorite quick and impressive appetizers to make. The buttery shortcrust, tenderly caramelized onions, and of course the tangy goat cheese topping (because everything tastes better with goat cheese) is an exquisite combination.

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