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Do you love children?


I do.


I remember a time when I didn’t, though – I found them snotty, and whiny, and tiny, and annoying. This was probably when I was a snotty, whiny, tiny being myself.


Having now matured into a (slightly) less whiny adult, I find myself rather happy in the company of children.


They’re quite wonderful, these tiny people. They say the funniest things, look at every single thing in wonder, and teach us to really live when we forget.


Also they’re so darned cute. And I happen to know and love some particularly adorable ones. I mean just look at these faces.


Sometimes they wear yellow glasses and eat cake. That makes me happy.


Niks


Other times they take a break from pillow fighting and smile for the camera. You can’t help but smile too.


Rishi chikki


When you’re stressed, they tumble over boxes and chatter with you non-stop until you forget your worries. You realise you want to tumble over boxes too. (It looks like so much fun, right?)


Ally


And then, once in while, they dress up and look so adorable, it melts your heart. You realise they’re growing up too fast.


Raya rahil


Children are quite wonderful. But when you throw cooking into the mix, they’re unstoppable.


They love getting their hands dirty, they aren’t afraid to experiment, and they will try anything once. Tell me that’s not the very definition of a fantastic cook.


Ally 1


Which brings me to an exciting announcement :)


There’s a fabulous new treat for all the young chefs out there.


Dorling Kindersley India and Vikas Khanna have created a one-of-a-kind cookbook for children that’s being released on 14th November, 2013.


The book is a fantastic mix of modern recipes, step-by-step images, and easy-to-follow instructions. It’s a wonderful book for any child who is interested in cooking – both for those who are already cooking and want to expand their skills, as well as those who’ve just taken a peep into the kitchen and like what they see :) This book will give them just the encouragement they need.


Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 1.50.56 PM


I’m giving away a copy of this book to one of you fabulous people. It’ll be signed by Vikas Khanna too! :) All you need to do is drop me a comment below telling me who your favourite little person is and why you love them. Entries will be accepted till 30th November, after which I’ll pick one winner by a random draw.


If you can’t wait to buy Young Chefs, go to Penguin India and get it now!


Thank god for children. For the silliness and the laughter and the fun.
There’s so much to learn from them :)


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At precisely 2pm every afternoon, post my lunch, I’m hit with an unavoidable sugar craving.


Usually there is a way to fix it – I take a quick walk with a friend and pick up a small pudding cup.
Or I remember there’s chocolate in my bag. Or maybe some blessed soul has brought mithai to office.


But on the days when there is nothing sweet around, I’m a little like this:


Grumpy cat


So I’ve always been on the lookout for something healthy + sweet that I can keep by my desk for those pesky sugar cravings.


And you’ll be please to know – I have found it, my sweet peas.


And here they are.


Mini chocolate discs 1


Made with just dark chocolate and an assortment of dried fruit and nuts, they’re the perfect healthy sweet fix.


Mini chocolate discs 2


You can experiment with what you want to put on the discs – I did coconut, almonds, cashews, prunes and raisins.


Mini chocolate discs 3


Once you have the ingredients, all you have to do is happily plonk the dry fruit and nuts over the chocolate. Or you could arrange them with precision and artistry. Just have fun with it!


Mini chocolate discs 4


Mix and match to make each one look different.


Mini chocolate discs 5


They’re the perfect size when you want a hit of sweetness.


Make some now! :)


Mini chocolate discs 6


2-ingredient mini dark chocolate discs
Adapted from: Undressed Skeleton


Prep time: 5 mins, plus setting
Makes: 12


Ingredients:


125 g dark chocolate
a handful of your favourite dried fruits and nuts


Method:


1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a double boiler. Line a tray with some grease-proof paper.
2. Using a tablespoon, scoop out melted chocolate and create small circles on the paper, flattening gently as you go. Add a mix of dried fruits and nuts over the circles and leave to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove gently from the paper and eat, or store in a sealed container in the fridge.


*GIVEAWAY ALERT*


Have you guys heard of Food Panda? A website that allows you to order food online, these guys have scouted your city and put together the menus of hundreds of restaurants in your area. It’s super easy to use, really fast and they’ve even listed places with discounts and special vouchers together for your convenience. Pretty cool, right?


Food Panda wants to offer 6 lucky readers a 150/- INR voucher to use the next time you’re hungry! All you have to do visit Food Panda, and tell me which restaurant you’d love to order from. Yup, that simple.


I’ll pick 6 winners by a random draw and announce them in my next post :)


Have a fun week ahead, lovelies!


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This is my 100th post.


That means I have sat down in front of a computer exactly 100 times, writing and sharing my recipes and life with you all.


This post is a big, big thank you to all of you for reading, and commenting, and chatting, and being so encouraging. I love you guys!


Now when I asked everyone what they want my 100th post to be about, most said a decadent recipe, others said an embarrassing story, and still others said a top ten list of something fun.


A 100th post is a pretty big deal right? So what do you say we do ALL 3! And I’ll throw in a giveaway for good measure! :D yay!


First up, since we’ve just had Valentine’s Day and all that, I present my romance-themed top ten list.


Here’s my top ten list on How to be irresistible to women. (Since I’m a woman, clearly, I am an authority on this subject. Men I hope you’re reading :P )


1. Cook us a meal. Even if it’s just once in a while. Men who cook are sexy.
2. Be clean. Like not just fancy clothes, but the parts you think no one notices, like your toes and behind your ears.
3. There is no such thing as too much cologne. There is however, a thing as too little.
4. We may pretend we don’t care about things like flowers and chivalry and little surprises, but we secretly do. So be a gentleman.
5. Be good at something. Writing, dancing, being funny, mountain biking. Anything. But definitely something.
6. Love animals. Especially puppies. Don’t cringe when they lick your face and give you kisses. Smile instead.
7. Be an excellent hug giver. Hugs are important. Hugs are crucial. Just hug. And lots. Okay?
8. Read. Non fiction, Game of thrones, Asterix, 50 shades of Grey. Just read. (Don’t pretend you’ve not been tempted to read that last one there.)
9. When we ask you to sing us song, just sing it. We know you’re not Michael Buble. Just sing anyway, won’t you?
10. Be honest. Bare, naked honest. There is nothing we want more.


Ladies, do you agree?


Men, are we asking for too much? No, right? :)


Okay, now for the decadent recipe you wanted. When my friend Stuti brought me back this divine Balsamic vinegar from Modena, I knew I had to do something special with it.


Balsamic vinegar


What did I do? I soaked some strawberries in it and used them to top this Chocolate cheesecake.


Chocolate cheesecake 1


The cheesecake has an oreo base, a chocolate cream cheese centre, is topped with cream, and then balsamic-soaked strawberries with their juices over that.


You ask for decadent, and I deliver decadent baby.


Chocolate cheesecake 2


Eat only one sliver at a time, unless you enjoy passing out from over-eating in the middle of the day.


Mostly I just stared at this gorgeous thing.


Chocolate cheesecake 3


It was sinfully smooth and creamy.


Chocolate cheesecake 4


And the slightly tart and sticky strawberries were such a wonderful foil to the rich, dense, cream cheese.


Chocolate cheesecake 5


Make it on a special occasion and watch it vanish before your very eyes.


Chocolate cheesecake 6


Chocolate cheesecake with balsamic-soaked strawberries


Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 65 mins
Serves: 10


Ingredients:


For the cheesecake


2 packets of Oreo cookies, cream removed
2 tbsp butter, melted
250 g dark chocolate
900g cream cheese
225g caster sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs


For the topping


200ml thick cream
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
about 15-20 strawberries


Method:


For the cheesecake


1. Preheat the oven to 160º C. Put the oreos in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin until you have crumbs. Pour into a bowl, add the melted butter and mix well. Layer the base of a 9-inch springform tin with the crumbs, pressing down well so they are packed tightly. Bake for 5 minutes.
2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or double boiler and set aside. Using an electric whisk, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate and continue mixing. Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until everything is well blended. Do not overmix.
3. Pour the cheesecake batter into the tin and bake for 1 hour. Switch off the oven and leave the tin inside until the cheesecake is completely cool. Run a knife around the inside edge of the tin to loosen the sides of the cheesecake and then refrigerate for 2-3 hours once cool.


For the topping


1. Thicken the cream by whipping it well.
2. Mix the balsamic vinegar and caster sugar together. Pour over the strawberries, give it a gentle mix, and set aside for a few minutes.


To assemble


1. Remove the cold cheesecake from the tin carefully and place on the serving plate.
2. Top with the whipped cream and balsamic-soaked strawberries. Pour the juices over and serve in slices.


Chocolate cheesecake 7


For those who wanted to see something embarrassing, I’m sharing this video of my colleagues and I doing the Gangnam style. We performed in front of the whole office and it was crazy amounts of fun. I’m the one in a dark pink tee :P


And now for the **GIVEAWAY**!!! I thought long and hard about what to give away this time, and I finally decided on this book by my most favourite chefs in the whole world.


Your Place or Mine Book


I still can’t believe I cooked for them a few months ago.


The book is full of easy recipes and really cute cartoons, and it’s written in George and Gary’s inimitable style.


To win this wonderful book, just comment below and tell me which is your favourite post on my blog. Yup, that’s it.


I’ll announce the winner by a random draw in 2 weeks time, so comment away :)


Now here’s one last look at the cheesecake. You know you want to.


Chocolate cheesecake 8


Thank you for being so wonderful. Have a happy, happy week ahead!


Love and hugs,
Storm


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Hello lovely people!


How’s the new year treating you’ll?


Have you made the resolutions you aren’t going to keep? :)


Isn’t it funny (and wonderful) how we make them every year anyway?


Here are mine:


*Get fitter (this includes regular exercise and attempting to eat healthier)
*Give my blog more love
*Spend more time with the people who are important to me
*Start playing the guitar again (this will be done with my very cool guitarist friend Aditi’s help)
*Learn to take better photographs
*Keep believing that the best is yet to come


I think the last one is the hardest. It’s difficult to believe that good things will come when you’ve had a spate of bad things. It’s hard to have faith in people, believing that there’s good inside them, even when they’ve let you down. It’s even harder believing that God has plans for you – the best plans.


But this year, I’m staying positive, and happy, and bright. Because good things will come. I know it. I just need to remember it :)
Will you remind me if I forget?


Here’s a look at some good things that happened over December when I was home. Each one is a blessing.


Dinner with my oldest friends in one of our favourite restaurants.


Old friends and dinner


This gorgeous flower that bloomed on our balcony.


Red flower


A funky new-age Christmas tree my brother put together.


new age Christmas tree


The freshest, greenest, tastiest lettuce ever – from my aunt’s garden.


Lettuce


A massive projector set up by my Dad and brother in our living room, so we could watch movies huddling together under blankets while sipping hot tea.


Projector


And this puppy soaking up the sun, who brings us all such joy.


Puppy in the sun


In the midst of some terribly sad things that happened, us cousins got together and decided we needed to make something sweet.


The result was this stunning Strawberry Pavlova.


Pavlova 1


Everyone helped.


Here’s my brother whisking the egg whites.


Whisking away


Baby cousin washed the strawberries.


Cleaning strawberries


Another added sugar and smiles.


Sugar and smiles


And this pretty one cut up the strawberries.


Cutting strawberries


Even the littlest one contributed. He kept the puppy busy :)


Puppy and baby


This dessert is show-stopper. Expect everyone to drop their plates and stare at it in all its wonder.


Just look at it.


Pavlova 2


And it’s the easiest thing to make. Have a go!


Strawberry pavlova


Largely adapted from: Step by step Baking


Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 80 mins
Serves: 8


Ingredients:


6 egg whites
pinch of salt
350 g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp lemon juice
300ml heavy cream
200 g strawberries


Method:


1. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Line a baking tray with parchment. Draw a 20cm circle on the parchment and turn it over, so the pencil mark is facing downwards.
2. Put the egg whites and salt in a large, clean bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until you have stiff peaks. Whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Mix in the cornflour and lemon juice as well.
3. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment, making sure you stay within the drawn-out circle. Flatten the centre slightly and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 160º C and bake for 75 minutes. Leave it to cool completely in the oven.
4. In the meantime, whip the cream until it thickens. Wash and clean the strawberries, then roughly chop them into halves.
5. Remove the cooled pavlova from the oven and take off the parchment. Place on a serving plate and crack the top slightly with a spoon. Spread the cream over and top with the strawberries. Serve in rough wedges.


Pavlova 3


Sorry I can’t offer you some pavlova, but here’s something fun!


*GIVEAWAY TIME*


CupoNation India, a website offering discount coupons for a number of leading online retailers in India like flipkart, snapdeal, homeshop18 and many more, wants to give one of you lucky readers a Flipkart voucher worth 500 INR. All you have to do is leave me a comment below telling me which offer you love the most on CupoNation India


I’ll choose one winner through a random draw and announce it in my next post. Comment away!


And have a wonderful, wonderful year ahead! Lots of love!


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Very often I’m asked: What do you do with everything you bake? Do you eat it all yourself?


Dear person who thinks I’m a dessert-inhaling monster, this post is for you.


I love baking. But you already knew that about me.


Here’s what I love more: happy people eating and (usually!) appreciating what I’ve baked.


When I bake something, I usually taste it, photograph it, and then put it into a big box to share with the happy people I work with.


The cookies/pies/cupcakes/tarts are tasted and I receive critical feedback, big smiles, bakery-opening advice, and general happiness in return.


It’s lovely sharing good food with wonderful people.


This is what happened when I handed a few people a peanut butter cookie on a dreary Monday afternoon. I call it the peanut butter cookie effect. (How very scientific of me, I know. Aren’t you proud Mom? :)) Take a look.


Glenda


Neha


Rupa


Navi


Chitra


Alicia


Simran


Vikas


Dorothy


If that’s not happy-making I don’t know what is!


Also happy-making- My aunt just sent me my Advent chain presents. Every year for as long as I can remember she gives me 25 presents – one to open every day from 1st December to Christmas. How amazing is that? I love her.
Take a look at the heap!


Advent chain presents


Now for some happy news for you all, my darlings.


The awesome folks over at Hilton, Mayur Vihar have some discount vouchers they want to give you!


Here’s what you could win:


1. 15% discount on the Sunday Brunch at Cafe On 3, DoubleTree by Hilton, Mayur Vihar
2. 20% discount at Roadhouse Bar and Grill, DoubleTree by Hilton, Mayur Vihar
3. 20% discount at Infinity, Hilton Mayur Vihar


To win, just leave me a comment telling me what’s your favourite thing to cook/bake during Christmas. So simple, no?
Entries will be accepted till 9th December, 2012. 3 winners will be announced right after.


Oh and if you’re in the mood for those delicious flour-less peanut butter cookies, made with only 3 ingredients (crazy, right?) that everyone is smiling about, then here’s the recipe :)


3-ingredient flour-less peanut butter cookies
Recipe (slightly adapted) from: Laura’s Sweet Spot


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 8 mins
Makes: 24 medium cookies


Ingredients:


255g creamy peanut butter
225g caster sugar
1 large egg


Method:


1. Preheat the oven to 180º C and line two baking trays with parchment.
2. Mix the peanut butter, sugar, and egg together in a bowl. Scoop out tablespoons of the cookie dough and roll between your palms to form rough balls. Place on the baking trays and then gently press down on each ball with the back of a fork (twice) to form criss-cross lines. Make sure there is enough space between each cookie, as they expand a bit while baking.
3. Bake for 8 minutes and then leave on the tray till completely cool before eating. This is important because the cookies are too soft to handle when they’re hot.



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There were 2 birthdays this past week.


I turned 28. The thing is, in my head I don’t feel a day over 18. Actually 15. Maybe 10.


And, (*drumroll please*) this blog turned 1! Can you imagine?


I’ve been blogging for a whole year! When I started, I really never thought the experience would be so rewarding and wonderful. It’s been the best thing ever!


That’s why I want to share 10 things I’ve learnt about food blogging over the past year.


1. Food bloggers are cool. You will be a part of a wonderful, friendly, lively community that’s always willing to share knowledge and teach you things. I have met some fantastic bloggers and they’re some of the nicest people I know. Here are some of them.



2. It’s easy at the start. When you begin writing you’re brimming with enthusiasm, excitement and the thrill of people reading your blog. The hard part is keeping it up. I think the trick is to make it a part of your life. I can’t go without writing a post for too many days.



3. Of love handles and pudginess. You will get fat. But wait! Only if you don’t exercise at all. (My exercises include kickboxing and dancing around my room) All those divine things you bake go directly to your waistline. So share! Everytime I bake something, I eat a little bit and pack the rest up for friends, co-workers or neighbours.



4. Failures are the best lessons. Blog about your successes, but also about your failures (like this one). One thing I’ve learnt is that failures in the kitchen make funny stories. And funny stories make great blog posts. And then the failure isn’t a failure anymore- it’s a success! :) Am I rambling? Okay I’ll stop now.



5. The curse of the camera. You will NEVER be able to eat anything exciting without taking a picture of it first. People will groan and complain as the food goes cold while you focus and adjust and take pictures from every angle possible till it’s right. We’re serious photographers, what can I say? :P



6. Interaction is a significant thing. Always comment on other blogs you love. And acknowledge comments on your own blog. You will gain loyal readers when you do this, and maybe even friends from around the world. When I initiated a foodie exchange program I had the chance to interact with some fabulous food bloggers from all over the country. I also got a pile of presents! So MUCH fun :D



7. You can find inspiration anywhere. Bake things that make you happy. Be inspired by everything you enjoy. From movies, like this and this, to books like this and this. Or just love :)



8. You will learn SO much. When I started I never imagined I would be able to bake/cook the things I can. I never thought I’d be able to make a kickpass pie or a monkey cake or chocolate eclairs. I never thought I’d be able to bake 100 cupcakes in a single day and I most definitely didn’t think I could pull off a seven layer rainbow cake. But I did. And you can too.



9. You’ll earn cool nicknames. Mine include Cupcake Queen, Baking Diva, and Psycho Baker. The last one is my fav :D



10. Be true to yourself. Write what you believe in. Write the way you’re comfy in. Do things your way. Do serious posts, or yummy posts, or posts about a wonderful friend, or your Mum or how you love instant noodles. But don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Your readers will be able to tell. And you won’t feel good. And that’s not fun, is it? :) Celebrate what you are.


But how exactly do you celebrate yourself? I have the answer my darlings.


Make yourself this cupcake.



I think it’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever made :)



One pretty cupcake


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Makes: 1


Ingredients:


3 tbsp plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 drops vanilla essence
1/4 tsp baking powder


For the buttercream rose


30 g butter, softened
50 g icing sugar, sifted, plus a bit more if needed
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 drop pink food colour


Method:


For the pretty cupcake


1. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Mix everything together in a small bowl, making sure it’s all incorporated till you have a smooth, shiny batter.
2. Line a cupcake tray with a single paper liner, and spoon the batter into it. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack.


For the buttercream rose


1. Mix all the ingredients together. The buttercream should be on the stiffer side so that when you pipe the rose, it holds its shape. If it’s too wet, add more icing sugar till it’s stiff enough.
2. Spoon the icing into a piping bag and use this tip.



I don’t know what it’s called so I took a picture :)
3. Now you’ll need an icing pin. Don’t worry if you don’t have one. I didn’t either. I created a make-shift one. Here’s how: Take an un-used pencil and stick a small piece (slightly bigger than your cupcake size) of cardboard on the even end of the pencil. Stick a piece of parchment paper over that. Now hold the piping bag in one hand, and the pencil with the carboard in the other. Pipe onto the paper, with the wide end of the tip facing downwards. Start in the centre and pipe a small circle, while twirling the pencil. This is the centre of your rose. Then keep adding strips of icing all around till you have a rose of your desired size, while twirling the pencil throughout. Once you’re happy with the size, carefully remove the parchment paper with the rose and pop it in the fridge for a few minutes. Once it hardens a bit, remove the rose gently and transfer it onto your cupcake. (Here is brilliant video by a brilliant blogger where I learnt how to make this fancy rose.)



And that’s how you celebrate what you are, friends! :) Please try it.


It’s been such a crazy, happy, yummy ride and I want to thank each and every one of you for reading. As a special thank you, I’m announcing my very first giveaway! One of my amazing readers will win a copy of this book:



It’s pretty and fun, and stuffed full of fantastic recipes! Go here to look inside it. If you want a chance to win this, just leave a comment below telling me what makes you happy. I’ll choose one winner through a random draw and send the book off to you wherever you are. I will also include a love note, ’cause I’m sweet like that ;) This giveaway is open till 15th July, 2012. This giveaway is now closed.


And just incase I’ve not said this enough- I love you all!


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