Cute cupcakes


I am compiling a mini recipe book for a friend of mine and came across these cute cupcake recipes that I was sent, they are so gorgeous and love the photography and styling. Check out some of the recipes below and try not to drool all over your keyboard, yum!!

Pictures and recipes courtesy of Ming Makes Cupcakes.

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Birthday dilemma’s


What to make, what to make?? I am hosting 15 of my girl friends over for my bday dinner in approximately 36 hours and still have no idea what I am cooking….aahhh dilemma’s!! I know two things for sure, firstly that I do not want the evening to involve any formalities, ie: I want it to be a chilled evening and let the wine flow, I do not want to have to seat all 15 of us, this means that my dinner will need to be some sort of finger food that we can pick at and eat whist milling around. Secondly, I do not want to be slaving over the stove at my own birthday party, so this involves making something that can be prepared beforehand.

I have a few ideas that have come to mind, but can’t seem to really get excited about any of them? I thought of doing loads of different snacks, however this could make the evening feel more like a cocktail evening (hmm although cocktails are a great idea that I have just thought of) and the other thing is that no matter how many snacks I seem to eat I just never seem to feel satisfied. So have ruled out the snack option.
Thought of  doing an Italian style al-fresco meal, ie, caprese salads, meats and cheeses with bruschetta, olives etc, I love this option although it does seems more of a lunch time meal?
Then I came up with the idea of mini hamburgers? great for dinner time, substantial, tasty and can be made in advance…

I have a great Italian meatball, basil and pine-nut recipe, so was thinking I make these but turn them into patties instead of round meatballs… pre-cook these in the afternoon so they can be warmed up beforehand and then serve with mini buns and an assortment of burger toppings; camembert, grilled bacon, caramelised onions, brie, fig, gherkins…. hmmm this is sounding good, low admin and it allows for everyone to mingle around and help themselves as they please. Think I have solved my dilemma, just need to find the damn meatball recipe that has got lost somewhere down the line… What do you think? Good idea?

Phad Thai


I am an absolute sucker for thai food, I love the unique combination of flavours that they fuse together to create anything from noodles to satay’s and curries, which are all so delicious, fresh and healthy. Thai food encapsulates fusion food, combining flavours such as lemon grass, tamarind, coriander, peanuts, chilli, basil and coconut, which all work well together to create brilliant rubs and sauces for noodles and rice, to which just about any meat or veggie can be added.

Mmmmm, Phad Thai

I backpacked around Thailand a couple of years ago with two girl friends of mine, it was an amazing experience and I definitely attribute my love of thai food to this trip. My all-time favourite dish that I took away from Thailand was Phad Thai, you can literally buy Phad Thai from street vendors off the side of the road for the equivalent of about R20 a bowl, absolutely delicious and dirt cheap. I loved this dish so much that I even had a local teach me how to cook it, however the fact that neither of us could communicate in each others respective language was a slight hindrance and think may be the result of the fact that I have now attempted to make Phad Thai on 6 occasions and am yet to be successful?
I am not quite sure where I go wrong, but I think it’s somewhere between obtaining the right ingredients and the order in which I add them, my last Phad Thai turned out more like a noodle omelette, with fish sauce and tofu, fairly inedible to say the least!

Anyway, so you can imagine my delight when I came across this step-by-step guide from Aaron on how to make Phad Thai,  going to attempt this tonight, please may Mr Aaron be my Phad Thai saviour this evening…Seventh time lucky?

Click here for the recipe, and see below for some essential steps to ensure a good Phad Thai:

Ingredients

Adding the eggs to the cooked noodles – I think this is where the omelette mishap started…

So this is what is actually meant to look like…

Good luck and may you all have better Phad Thai luck than me

Buttermilk & Stamkoring Salad


Had my parents and their friends over for a relaxed Sunday night braai, I wanted to accompany the meat with a slightly more exciting side-dish than the usual bland salad and hot dog rolls. So I turned to 101 Cookbooks – which is an amazing online recipe journal created by Heidi Swanson. Heidi focuses primarily on natural and whole foods and ingredients that are healthy and nutritious. Have a look at her website to be inspired to create yummy vegetarian foods.

101 Cookbooks presented me with an abundance of choices of unusual salads to make; the one I went with was a Buttermilk Farro Salad. Farro is a pearled barley and is the equivalent of a grain called Stamkoring that we use in SA. Its delicious and this is what I used in place of the farro. The dressing is very unusual, a vinaigrette combined with buttermilk and loads of fresh herbs. I was not convinced at first, but believe me this works, the sharpness of the vinegar combined with the sweetness of the buttermilk and herbs is delicious and also blends well with the clean veggies and stamkoring. This salad comes highly recommended, everyone loved it (even my meat-eating boyfriend!) See below for the recipe and pics…


Buttermilk Farro Salad Recipe

I used semi-pearled farro here, but you can certainly substitute whole farro, wheat berries, barley, or other plump grains. I say to serve this at room temperature, but actually, I like this salad warm, room temperature, and chilled. It’s good the day after, and for a couple days after that. Just revive with a splash of the leftover dressing.

2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / 240 ml buttermilk
1/2 cup / 120 ml good-quality white wine vinegar
1/2 cup / 120 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped thyme

7 small radishes, sliced paper thin
3 small zucchini, sliced paper thin
1 medium head of fennel, trimmed and sliced paper thin

4 cups cooked farro, cooled to room temp
chopped chives for garnish

Combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board. Mash into a paste using the flat side of your knife. Place in a medium bowl or jar, then add the buttermilk and vinegar. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the herbs.

In a large bowl gently toss the radishes, zucchini, and fennel with the farro grains. Add 1 cup / 240 ml of the dressing and toss again. Let sit for ten minutes, taste, and adjust with more dressing, if needed, and salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Serves 8.

So delicious!! included one last pic below that I love. You can see my “bland” green salad in the forefront but this was a great accompaniment to the stamkoring salad. I also did Marge’s delicious, creamy potato bake as a substitute for hot-dog rolls. All went together beautifully! You have to love the onset of summer with this weather and braai’s, gets me so super excited for December holidays, woohoo!!

Apple-Baked Cheesecake


My Sunday mission was to attempt something slightly out of my comfort zone, and seeing that baking is not really my forte; I thought that I would try a Brown Sugar-Apple Baked Cheesecake (yip mouthful…)which I found on the delightful blog of Joy the Baker.
There is something about baking that  scares me, not sure if it’s the precision and rigmorale of sticking to the exact quantities and ingredients of the recipe as I love the freedom of cooking out of my head and going on taste, which is a definite taboo in the baking world! But whatever it is I think my fear was slightly quelled by my Sunday Cheesecake expedition, which actually turned out surprisingly well and was a real crowd pleaser!
This is not the simplest of recipes, it definitely involved quite a bit of effort and time, but was fun and well worth it. I went on the authors recommendations of doing the cheesecake in a rectangular dish and halving the recipe for the filling so that the dish has an equal focus on the crust and the filling. This worked perfectly for me (although I will give you the original recipe with, you can choose to half the filling, if desired).

BROWN SUGAR-APPLE BAKED CHEESECAKE

INGREDIENTS:

For the Crust:

30 ginger snaps

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples:

1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter

3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eights.

2 Tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling: (original recipe):

1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

6 Tablespoons sugar

3 Tablespoons apple cider

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy cream

METHOD:

To make the Crust-

1. Butter the bottom and the sides of a 10 inch spring form pan. (I had no idea what this was, but figured its a pan that bakes in water, so I made my own and baked the dish in another dish and surrounded it with boiling water)

2. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs. Pulse in the sugar and the cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.

3. Turn the crumbs into the spring form pan and, using your finger tips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F

1. Butter the bottom and the sides of a 10 inch spring form pan.

2. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs. Pulse in the sugar and the cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened.

3. Turn the crumbs into the spring form pan and, using your finger tips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To make the Apples-

1. Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

2. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 Tablespoon of sugar and cook them, turning until just coated, for another minute or so.

3. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet, and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

To make the Filling-

1. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fit with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping the bowl down often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth.

2. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes . Beat in the cider, vanilla extract and cinnamon.

3. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs, one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the heavy cream and sour cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

4. Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. (I used a foiled lined 9 x 7 inch baking pan. Also, I didn’t add apples into the cheesecake itself, I added the apples on top of the cheesecake once out of the oven and cooled.)

5. Cover with the remaining batter, and if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top.

6. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour enough boiling water in to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

7. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30-45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent ath e 45- minute mark. (I baked my cake for 45-50 minutes). The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possible, in the very center- if the center shimmies, that’s just fine.

8. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours, overnight would be better.

9. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pans latch and release and remove the sides. (I lifted the cheesecake out with the overhanging foil flaps and gently removed the foil from the sides of the cheesecake, then I cut the cheesecake into 8 bars and topped with the apple mixture.)

If you can’t stand the heat…


So I am a self-confessed Bikram yoga addict, I have been practising for just over two years now and it is my little obsession and stress-outlet. For those of you who are not quite on the same page as me; Bikram is a one and a half hour class where the studio is heated to 40 degrees. The practise is great, it really allows you to experience a deep awareness within your body whilst at the same time granting you humility, boundaries and patience.

Our class yesterday evening was taught by Sally (the owner of the studio) who has been the sole inspiration for me to continue and grow to love yoga. Sally is currently 7 months pregnant and looks incredible, she was prancing around the studio in minute hot pants and a crop top with this gorgeous protruding belly, too cute!

For those of you interested in trying out yoga, I practise at Bikram Yoga Jozi, an awesome studio in Illovo in the Thrupps centre, click here for details.

Cooked dinner after class last night, with my fellow yoga class-mate and bride-to-be best friend! We made ourselves roast chicken with a baked ricotta, chickpea, basil and pepper salad, was delicious and healthy (definitely “yoga-approved”). so for those of you interested, see the recipe below:

INGREDIENTS:
 – 1 can good quality chickpeas
 – 1 chopped red pepper
 – 1 block ricotta cheese
 – 1 handful shredded fresh basil
 – 1 lemon
 – dried chilli flakes and origanum
 – olive oil and red wine vinegar for dressing

METHOD:
 – Preheat the oven to 180 degrees; crumble the ricotta onto a baking tray, sprinkle with chilli flakes, origanum and S&P and bake until browned for approximately 15 minutes.
 – In a salad bowl; drain the chickpeas and add the chopped pepper and basil, mix well.
 – Make a quick dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar and pour over mixture.
 – Finally add the baked ricotta and mix well.

Trying out the Wolves music evening tonight, can’t wait for some good music, a few drinks and a catch up with the night-hawk, will report back tomorrow!

Tuna, mushroom & roasted cherry tomato pasta with rocket


This pasta has to be a winner for the simplicity vs taste factor. It can be whipped up in a matter of 20 minutes and it’s super easy. Its fresh, healthy and delicious, see below for pics and the recipe. Enjoy ♥

INGREDIENTS:
 – 1/2 a packet of pasta (penne or shells)
 – 2 tins solid tuna (in oil, Woolies has tuna in soya oil which works well)
 – 1 large punnet cherry tomatoes (halved)
 – 1 punnet mushrooms (sliced)
 – 1 packet wild rocket
 – 1 lemon
 – garlic (optional)
 – white wine for cooking

METHOD:
 – Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, when ready, place the halved cherry tomatoes under the grill (add garlic if want) and roast until the skins have softened (~10min)
 – Whilst this is on the go, get the pasta ready, cook as per cooking instructions. Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil in a large frying pan & start to fry up the mushrooms.

 – once they have started frying, add some squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon, some grated lemon zest & some white wine. I go on taste for quantities, just don’t drown your mushrooms!

 – When the majority of the liquid is absorbed by the mushrooms, add the tinned tuna (do not drain all of the oil, as it is nice to have a bit of the oil in the pasta to prevent it from being too dry) and add the roasted cherry tomatoes.

 – Finally add in the cooked pasta and rocket and toss quickly. Serve immediately.

Ciao Bella xxx

Texas does Hermanus


Ok sorry have been a little quiet of late, but what with the long weekend, 5am flights and being back at work I have not yet had the chance to touch base with myself, let alone my computer… So all-in-all the weekend was an absolute blast, spent it in Hermanus at the Whale Festival, Hermanus as always was on best form, with buzzing streets, packed bars, festivals, markets and of course frolicking whales everywhere. There was enough on show to keep anyone entertained, from train rides to music to acrobatics, you name it, it was there. Lots of eating, drinking and fun was had and am now completely knackered, a lot of sleep and rest is very much needed at the moment!

The local acrobats doing their thing, amazing!

Spent a large part of my Saturday day sitting in one of the local tapas bars, sipping on some chilled Sauvignon and being highly entertained by what the crowd had on offer; I was most bemused by the local fashionista’s doing their thing and noted that a common theme slowly started emerging throughout the day – TEXAN STYLE, clearly Hermanus locals have hit the checked shirt, cowgirl craze, not quite sure what was going on here but Texan style is clearly the way to go in this little town, yeehah! Have a look at some of these beauties that I spotted.

Cause you never know when you are going to need that black leather moon-bag?

 

 Very strange happenings to say the least – and no, this is not a joke?

Choc-chip, walnut & oat cookies


Felt like a real house-wife this Sunday, but I just couldn’t resist baking these delicious cookies that I found on Farmgirl Fare’s blog… I baked choc-chip, oat and walnut cookie’s and the trick with these is to bake them quickly and keep them raised, ie: do not flatten the batter before you bake it, keep the batter bunched into a ball, this ensures a perfect blend between a typical choc-chip cookie and a crunchie, hmmm yummy… See below for the recipe and some pics, happy baking  

CHOC-CHIP, OAT & WALNUT COOKIES 
1 cup butter, melted*
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch-flavored chips**
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut***
 

   

 

  

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the melted butter in a large bowl and stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in the flour, salt, and baking soda (combine these together before adding in if desired), mixing just until combined. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, and coconut. The dough will be soft, and the cookies will spread while baking. For slightly thicker cookies, chill the dough for about 30 minutes. Use a 1/4-cup scoop or measuring cup to form cookies and place on a heavy baking sheet. (Six cookies will fit on a half-size sheet pan.)
Bake at 350 degrees until the centers are set, about 15-17 minutes. For crunchier cookies, increase baking time. (You can also make smaller cookies; just reduce baking time.) Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with glasses of very cold milk. Personally I think they taste even better the second day. And, as with nearly all cookies, they freeze beautifully. Just put them in a zipper freezer bag and toss it into the freezer. Makes about 18 large cookies (recipe may be doubled).
  

**If you can’t find butterscotch chips, you might try substituting peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips. Or probably anything else you can think of–this recipe is versatile! 

***I use unsweetened, organic coconut in any recipe that calls for flaked or shredded coconut, and have always had great success. It is tasty, inexpensive, and can usually be found in the bulk section at natural foods stores. 

 

 

 

 

Some Salvation Please…


Woke up feeling utterly shattered on Saturday morning…my body has decided that it is not into sleeping-through-the-night mode of late, very frustrating and tiresome, to say the least!! And so it was that a strong cup of coffee & some sustenance was in order, to get me through the day and sleeping again. Went on down to 44 Stanley; this little quarter is just blossoming at the moment, every time I go to this place another little oasis seems to have popped up, offering patrons more variety and drawing in new crowds. I took a peek into Vovotelo, a beautiful, new, artisan bakery that has opened up, the aroma’s of freshly baked bread mingled with coffee can’t help but draw one in. Both the vibe and the produce looked great, can’t wait to give this little place a try.

For brekkie I opted for the quirky Salvation Cafe, where they serve delicious homemade, soulful and down-to-earth food, which is exactly what I needed. I had the homemade granola with fresh fruit. My usual, but I adore muesli’s and granola’s (weird I know, but I do get excited when I see such things as homemade granola on the menu as I despise those pre-made, flavourless muesli’s that you get in supermarkets). Anyway mine was delicious and very tastefully presented.

F had their parmesan & basil open omelette with toasted beetroot ciabatta – also very good, plain and simple. Could have done with a little something else, maybe some bacon or caramelised onions? something to add a little fat and flavour??

 

Yet still this cafe is still an all-time favourite, draws a great genre of people, instills a relaxed atmosphere, provides the standard service and delivers great and wholesome food. Always a pleasure, Thanks

LOCATION: 44 Stanley Avenue, Milpark