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!!

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

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. 

 

 

 

 

My favourite Beetroot Salad


I know beetroots are not everyone’s favoured choice of eats, but I absolutely love them! I love their earthy taste and bright colour which adds diversity to any meal. I made one of my favourite beetroot dishes this weekend at the braai – Beetroot, Mint & Red Onion Salad with a Dijon Mustard dressing. Although the salad was initially scorned by some; I think I may have just converted a few anti-beetroot-eaters into realising that beetroot isn’t just some soil-ridden root, not fit for human consumption…needless to say the dish did get polished off by the end of the evening.

This salad is a kind-of impromptu dish for me and comes straight out of my head, so be creative and use quantities that work for you. My salad is made from FRESH beetroot – this is then boiled so as to cook the beetroot through. Fresh beetroot is not always easy to find, but I know that most fruit & veg shops stock it as does the Pick ‘n Pay in Hyde Park.

 

Once cooked through (~40min), take off the boil and peel off the skins (these will slide off easily once boiled). Wait for the beet’s to cool and then slice very finely and lay out on a platter.

 

Thinly slice 1 red onion (for a less-sharp taste marinade the sliced onions in some red wine vinegar for 20min) & finely chop a handful of mint and scatter over the beet’s. Make the Dijon dressing by combining 2/3 oilve oil to 1/3 red wine vinegar, add 1tsp Dijon mustard, freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 a lemon & 1tsp brown sugar – you can alter quantities depending on taste. Pour the dressing evenly over the beet’s, onions and mint and then finely top with large chunks of danish feta.

Happy beetroot eating…

Lazy Sundayzzz


Woke up with a slightly heavy head (to say the least) on Sunday morning, thanks to indulging in one too many Cosmo’s with the girls…. always a great idea at the time! Anyhow the good-old Sunday remedy was close at hand, and as per usual it never ceases to let me down.

Remedy #1: 1 x greasy fry up.

Remedy # 2: Do not stray far from the couch and maybe more food?

Remedy # 3: Maybe take a drive, relax, and dare I mention, more food???

#1: Tick.
My greasy breakfast was hosted by the fabulous Nice on Fourth Ave, Parkhurst. We were fortunate enough to get a table at the quaint bookshop, come coffee shop and as always they never fail to disappoint! I went for the scrumptious egg basket (basically two poached eggs, cradled in toasted bread baskets, topped with some good garlicky roasted cherry tomatoes and crispy bacon, mmm…). Their home made lemonade flavoured with coffee beans is also delish! And both of those; combined with some good coffee left me starting to feel semi-normal again, even quite good!!

#2: Tick:
Couch time was well received in order to let the food slowly digest – lets say two to three hours of maxing out on the couch and dare I say it; watching the Idols Extra channel, ok yes I admit; I am sort-of a closet fan… However the stomachs were once again grumbling, so yip, more food time. Lunch: Koi in Sandton for sushi, amazing and piggy!!

This is for real, demolished between two of us

#3: Tick.
Just a little coffee and something sweet was needed to top off the day of indulgence, so swung by Corner Cafe on the way home where we picked up some takeaway coffee’s and a giant choc-chip cookie. WOW; the cookie was amazing, jam-packed with pecans and real chocolate and still managing to have that silky goey texture in the middle, yum! So we found ourselves relaxing in the Craighall communal park, watching the bypassers and scoffing cookies and coffee. What a way to end a perfect day….