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December is here! My most favorite time of the year.

It’s cold, which means it gets cozy.

There are sales, which means gifts for everyone.

And there’s delicious food (and drinks!), which means stretchy pants 😀

 

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Here’s a peek at our tree 🙂

 

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Hope you’re enjoying December!

 

Now like I promised in my last post, I wanted to share my top 10 list of things to eat in France. I have to admit we stayed in Paris for the most part, traveling out to a vineyard and to sightsee but the food is Paris is as varied and wonderful as you’d imagine. We stayed in darling AirBnB apartment and had a chance to really soak in this timeless, romantic and stunning city.

 

paris-group

 

So here’s my Top 10 things to eat in France!

 

1.Baguette – This crusty, hole-y bread is the snack of choice for all Parisians. Most locals have their favorite, local bakery to pick  up their morning baguette from, but I loved them everywhere! Plain bread has never tasted this good!

 

1-baguette

 

2. French onion soup – This classic soup is done very well in many restaurants in Paris, and if you’re craving something rich but not elaborate, this is a perfect choice. The browned onions give this soup an almost meaty flavor, while the stringy, gooey cheese solves all the world’s problems.

 

2-french-onion-soup

 

3. PĂąté – I must say, this is what I was MOST looking forward to eating in Paris. PĂątĂ© is the French word for “paste”, and you get many different kinds. The best ones are typically made from liver. The crĂšme de la crĂšme of pĂątĂ©, is foie gras, which is a paste of goose or duck  liver. Usually eaten with hard toast, it tastes even better with something sweet like a compote or marmalade of some kind. I can’t describe it, except to say it’s like meat butter and that you must eat some right away.

 

3-pate

 

4. Escargot – Snails, yes. But wait. They’re cooked in butter and then baked with breadcrumbs and parsley. So elegant, so French, so delish.

 

4-escargot

 

5. Steak and potatoes – France sure has some tasty cows. The beef was excellent, usually served with fried potatoes, that made the dish so much better. Often in restaurants, the best cut is served for two, so it’s perfect for sharing. Remember to wash down with good Bordeaux! (Note: The steak will come to the table almost bloody if you don’t specify that you’d like it to be medium to well-done. The server won’t seem happy, but your meat won’t be moo-ing!)

 

5-beef-and-potatoes

 

6. Truffles – France is known for its black truffles from Perigord, and any dish that features (good) truffles should be expected to be a bit on the pricier side. If you’ve never tried truffles, I’d suggest starting with oil (think truffle fries!) and then build up to actual shavings. Here black truffles have been shaved over tender lamb shank and lentils.

 

6-truffles-with-duck

 

7. CrĂšme Brulee – What can I say about this iconic dessert that’s not already been said? The heart-warming crack of hardened sugar? The creamy vanilla-spotted custard nestled below? The gentle sweetness that slowly envelops you with each spoonful? The perfect end to a Parisian meal. Make some at home today!

 

7-creme-brulee

 

8. Macarons – Home to both LadurĂ©e and Pierre HermĂ©, Paris is the best place in the world to eat macarons. Multiple flavors and colors to choose from, I would suggest getting a box with one of each type and then eating them till you have a stomach ache.

 

8-macaroons

 

9. Pastries – French pastry is famous world-over, and why wouldn’t it be. I ate a croissant every day I was there (sometimes two) with zero regrets. The French certainly know their way with flour, butter and sugar. There are many types to choose from of course, but once you find your favorite, try it from as many little bakeries as possible!

 

9-pastries-and-coffee

 

We also tried this adorable little sweet bun being sold on the street – filled with Nutella and dusted with sugar! No idea what it’s called but so very good!

 

10-sweet-buns

 

10. Grapes – If you visit a vineyard in France, and I think you should, taste some grapes fresh off the vines. Chances are they won’t be juicy, maybe even slightly tart, but the experience in itself is so memorable, you won’t be sorry. I have to note that this may not be legal (eeks!) but so much fun! Here is a picture of the grapes in Chablis , a wine district in Burgundy.

 

extra-vineyard-grapes

 

We also brought back some food, to continue experiencing the food bliss! Below are items from both Italy and France, including truffles, risotto, pistachio paste, squid ink pasta and foie gras among others!

 

food-loot

 

In this wonderful season of overeating decadent and delicious things, I also wanted to share one of the simplest desserts I’ve ever made. This pound cake is easy to make, has no frills and fancies but tastes of comfort to me. In the spirit of Christmas and to remember to find joy in the simple things, here is the fluffiest and simplest pound cake you will ever make.

 

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Fluffiest Pound Cake

 

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour, 30 mins
Serves: 10-12

 

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Ingredients:

340g/ 1 and 1/2 cups unsalted butter

285g/ 3 cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting

1 pack (8oz) pack of cream cheese

675g/ 3 cups caster sugar

6 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

sliced almonds (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Grease a 10-inch bundt tin with butter and then dust with some flour. Using a stand mixer mix the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Then add the sugar and mix until well combined.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition, and then add the cake flour and vanilla extract before combining everything thoroughly.
  3. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in a cold oven at 160ÂșC/325ÂșF for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely before decorating with sliced almonds (optional) and slicing to serve.

 

fullsizerender-6

 

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and an amazing year ahead!

Love,

Storm 🙂

 

Hello hello!

 

I’ve taken a looooong hiatus but I’m back to make you drool at your screen again. Yay!

 

I recently went on a wonderful holiday with friends to Italy and France. Yes, I saw all the sights, but you’ll know I was there mainly for the food 😀

 

group-rome

 

Both countries had incredible food, so I’m dedicating the next two posts (this one and the next) to share some of my favs so that you know what to stuff your face with when you visit!

 

First, a little bit about Italy – all the different cities we visited (Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi coast) had their own distinct characteristics. The common thread was that in every place, we had a sense of walking through history – in Rome it was magnificent, in Florence, artistic; in Venice, crumbling: and in Amalfi, breathtaking.

 

The food was incredible, and my list isn’t city-specific. Most of the items mentioned are available all over Italy quite easily, but will obviously vary depending on where you choose to eat.

 

So here’s my Top 10 things to eat in Italy!

 

1.Caprese salad – If you’ve only ever eaten mozzarella that’s been imported or came out of a box/packet, please eat this in Italy. It’s such a simple dish, but it’s the freshness of both the mozzarella and the tomatoes that make it an instant winner!

 

mozarella

 

2.Carciofi alla Romana (Braised artichokes)- I know it looks ugglesome, but trust me on this. So tender, so flavorful and so delicious! It’s the quality of olive oil that makes the difference.

 

artichokes

 

3.Cacio e pepe -Literally translates to: cheese and pepper. This pasta dish usually uses long thin spaghetti-type pasta, fresh cracked black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Sinfully cheesy!

 

cacio-e-pepe

 

4.Assorted cured meats and cheese – While we ate a lot of pasta and pizza throughout our trip, there were days when I didn’t want the heaviness of carbs. Most restaurants offer beautiful antipasti platters that come with delicious salami, soppressata, prosciutto, as well as a variety of cheeses. This is a fantastic light meal, or appetizer to share. Wash down with lots of wine!

 

meat-platter

 

5.Pizza – Like pasta, we ate pizza almost in every city, but there was one clear winner. A small but immensely popular joint in Naples called Pizzeria Da Michele. Despite their super efficient pizza-making (I think they make one every minute or so!), there were long lines and no seats when we showed up ravenous one evening. We literally begged them to give us our order to go, which we then proceeded to inhale standing around the back of our car. Seriously guys, BEST margherita pizza ever.

 

pizza

 

6.Risotto – Creamy rice? How can anyone say no? The difference between the risottos I’ve eaten before and the ones from their birthplace is that the rice has more bite and the sauce is loaded with flavor. This seafood one in particular, was insane. Like you needed a legit nap after eating this.

 

risotto

 

7.Crema di Caffe – This delicious coffee dessert masquerading as a drink was my guilty pleasure throughout the trip. Like a soft-serve, it’s a cold blend of espresso, milk, cream and sugar. And only because my friends will kill me, I have to add that regular espresso (caffe) in Italy was outstanding and totally recommended as well.

 

cafe-crema

 

8.Spritz – When in Venice, please try this delightful orange-colored drink. A mix of wine, a bitter liqueur (like Aperol or Select) and sparkling water, it’s usually served as an aperitif , garnished with a slice of orange.

 

spritz

 

9.Tiramisu – While I make a pretty decent Tiramisu myself, it was such fun trying the different renditions of Italy’s most popular dessert in all its different cities. Although presented differently, they all had that unmistakable creamy coffee flavor we know and love.

 

tiramisu

 

10.Gelato – Did you honestly think a list of things to eat in Italy would be complete without Gelato? Like Tiramisu, this was something we ate everywhere and it did not disappoint. My favorite flavor was Nocciola (hazelnut). Stay away from the shops in the touristy places – they look great but are often 5 times the price! The smaller gelaterias are just as good and very reasonably-priced.

 

gelato

 

While those are my top 10 general things to eat in Italy, I want to add two specific recommendations.

 

1. In Venice, I ate my favourite meal of the trip. It was lamb-shank with potatoes and salad, but the meat was so tender and flavorful, I devoured it and remember it fondly. The restaurant is called Enoiteca Mascareta – the food is amazing, the Tiramisu is even better, you can buy bottles of wine to take home AND the owner is a gin connoisseur so if you love gin, this place can’t be missed!

 

lamb

 

2. If you are ever in Florence, and want a romantic restaurant with a rooftop view and fantastic service, please head to La Scaletta. It’s a hotel with an amazing rooftop restaurant. The food is great but what makes this place amazing is the view and the service. In particular, our server Rafael, made our night immensely memorable with his charming, funny manner. Here is the bill he gave us as a joke at the end of the night.

 

bill

 

Italy was incredibly memorable and even more delicious. Plan a holiday soon! 🙂

 

Now, Halloween is coming up and I wanted to share something I made because I can’t get over how adorable they look!

 

monster-1

 

These too-cute-to-eat Halloween monsters are the perfect sweet treat for this holiday! They’re good for you too – I used almond butter and almond flour to make them.

 

Take a look inside! The candy eyeballs make all the difference, and I got them here.

 

monster-3

 

Almond butter monsters

 

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: None! But needs about 1 hour to set
Makes: About 20

 

Ingredients:

225g/ 1 cup almond butter

200g/ 1 cup almond flour

75ml/ 1/3 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

140g/ 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

edible candy eye-balls

 

Method:

  1. Line a tray with parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl, mix the almond butter, almond flour, honey and vanilla extract together. The mixture will be quite sticky but use your hands to mix it thoroughly.
  2. Form small balls by rolling the mixture between your palms and place on the tray.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second blasts and stir between each blast, until smooth and melted.
  4. Using a spoon, dip each ball into the melted chocolate and coat well. Place on the tray and top with two candy eye-balls. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least one hour before eating.

.

monster-2

 

Boo! Happy halloween 🙂

Almond cupcakes

Earlier this month, a group of us friends headed to a lake-house in the Poconos.

 

We took food to be grilled, drinks to be shared and a healthy appetite for horror stories. The setting was perfect fodder for our gruesome imaginations so we collectively created a story where we all are murdered by a psycho killer in a lake-house. Such fun!

 

Here’s the lake-house. Perfect setting, right?

 

lake house

 

It wasn’t all scary though. There was bright sunshine and gorgeous sunsets, and food that ranged from grilled chicken to mini eclairs!

 

collage

 

A holiday with a large group of friends is often hard to plan, but it’s almost always worth it!

 

We came back to more crazy fun weekends, one of which included my birthday!

 

Cake

 

With all this celebrating and my sweet tooth on overdrive, I needed to make something sweet that wasn’t altogether terrible for me.

 

I decided on these gluten-free, paleo almond cupcakes and they were perfect!

 

almond cupcake 1

 

I used almond flour for the main cupcake, but to enhance the nutty flavor I also added cashew butter to replace frosting and pecans to decorate! Aren’t they lovely?

 

What I love about them is that they are incredibly moist and just sweet enough, without having an unhealthy amount of oil, sweeteners or eggs!

 

almond cupcake 2

 

They still taste pretty decadent and I wouldn’t have more than one at a time, but they’re the perfect sweet treat if you’re trying to be a bit healthy! Super easy to make too! Give it a go 🙂

 

Almond Cupcakes

 

Recipe adapted from: Cook Nourish Bliss

 

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Makes: 12

 

Ingredients:

 

600g/3 cups almond flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

60ml/ 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

120ml/ 1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp cashew butter, for the frosting

4 tbsp almond milk, for the frosting

24 pecan halves, to decorate

 

 

almond cupcake 3

 

Method:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ÂșC/325ÂșF , and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cups. In a large bowl, mix the almond flour, baking soda and salt together.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the melted coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla extract together. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  3. Scoop into the paper cups and then bang the tin on a hard surface a few times so the batter settles into the cups. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 20 minutes. Then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Mix the cashew butter with almond milk to thin out and then place one teaspoon of the mixture in the center of each cooled cupcake. Top with two pecan halves and enjoy!

 

Love you guys! ❀

 

 

All due respect to Ned Stark (bless his soul), but summer is coming.

 

I love summer for many reasons – not having to wear 5 layers before stepping outside, drinking coconut water instead of plain water all day long, more sun-lit hours, gorgeous flowers everywhere, and the beautiful, colorful produce.

 

Fruits are aplenty and in all shapes, sizes and color – tart, sweet, and juicy, the dessert possibilities are endless.

 

Raspberry Lemon bars 3

 

These raspberry lemon bars are a mouthful of summer. The shortbread base is crumbly and buttery, and the lemon-raspberry topping is fresh, citrusy and sweet all at once.

 

Raspberry Lemon bars 1

 

These are very easy to make, and they look quite spectacular don’t you think?

 

Raspberry lemon bars

 

Recipe from: Lovely Little Kitchen

 

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Serves: 9

 

 

Ingredients:

 

For the shortbread:

12 tbsp/1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

75g/ 1/3 cup caster sugar

170g/ 1 and 1/2 cup flour

For the topping:

3 eggs

225g/ 1 cup caster sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 cup fresh raspberries (crushed)

juice of 2 lemons

icing sugar, for dusting

lemon slices, raspberries, mint leaves or green sprinkles for decorating

 

Raspberry Lemon bars 2

 

 

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC/350ÂșF , grease a 9 by 9 inch baking tin, and then line with parchment paper leaving the edges to over-hang. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together, then add the flour and knead gently until a smooth dough is formed.
  2. Press into the prepared tin, spreading with your fingers so that the dough is evenly distributed in a uniform layer in the tin. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Using an electric whisk, mix the eggs, sugar and flour together. Add the raspberries and lemon juice and mix again. Pour over the baked shortbread crust and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
  4. Dust with icing sugar, and decorate with lemon slices, raspberries and mint leaves or sprinkles if you wish. Cut into 9 squares and serve.

 

Happy summer-ing!

 

This is a picture from the week I first landed in the US, exactly one year ago.

 

First week in NY

 

I was jet-lagged and yet crazy excited to begin my new life in a new country with a new husband (only husband 😛 ) and new everything!

 

And here I am one year later.

 

Easter

 

What a whirlwind this year has been. It’s had its ups and downs but I would have never guessed how perfectly things would come together in the end.

 

I won’t lie – it’s been a BIG adjustment. Moving away from everyone I know and love, from friends and family, from a wonderful job, from all things familiar. The furthest I been away from Mom and Dad is a four hour flight. Now that’s 18 hours. That is still the absolute hardest thing to stomach.

 

But this has certainly been a year touched by magic. Setting up a new home, learning what it means to be married (it means sharing bacon and blankets and it can get tough), finding a job I love, travelling to some gorgeous places I’ve never seen before and meeting amazing people.

 

magic

 

This year has taught me that making that big change can be terrifying, but if you take the leap, whatever comes of it, you will be better, stronger and happier at the end of it.

 

There’s magic to be found in the most unlikely places.

 

Like even in this cake! It has some relatively basic pantry ingredients but once you bake it, it magically becomes three delicious layers – light and fluffy top, custard-y center and dense, cake-y base! Whaaaa?!

 

The cake itself isn’t very sweet, and is rather light. It’s not egg-y either! Just make sure you use good quality vanilla extract.

 

Here’s how you pull the rabbit out of the hat 🙂

 

Magic Vanilla Cake

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Serves: 8-10

 

Magic Cake 1

 

Ingredients:

 

115g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus a little more for greasing

4 eggs, separated

150g/ 1 and 3/4 cup icing sugar

115g/ 1 cup flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

475ml/ 2 cups milk, slightly warm

 

Magic Cake 2

 

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ÂșC/325ÂșF and grease a 8 by 8 inch baking tin with butter. Using an electric whisk, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form and then set aside.
  2. In a different bowl, beat the egg yolks and icing sugar until pale and well combined. Add the melted and cooled butter with a tablespoon of water and mix again. Add the flour and combine well.
  3. Add the vanilla and then gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the time. Now gently fold in the reserved egg whites a little at a time. Once everything is well combined, pour into the tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes. The center will be slightly wobbly once done but will harden as it cools once removed from the oven. Serve warm.

 

Happy weekend! Love you’ll! 😀

Easy CrĂšme Brulee

Anticipation is delicious. Isn’t it?

 

So very often, I feel like waiting for something wonderful, is better than the wonderful thing itself.

 

vorfreude

 

At this moment, Dennis and I are packing for our first trip back home to India together.

 

Our past few weekends have with filled with manic shopping – picking out the right presents for everyone in our families, right down to the doggys btw!

 

There is such joy in waiting to see everyone, to be able to spend time with family and friends, and just be with the people you love the most in the world.

 

And I know that this time will just fly by. So I’m soaking up the anticipation as best I can and prolonging this happy feeling  🙂

 

In preparation of going home and being fed till we burst, we decided to stretch our stomachs with this creamy, velvet-y, silken smooth beauty called CrĂšme Brulee.

 

Creme Brulee 4

 

 

If I see Crùme Brulee on a restaurant menu, I always order it. It’s one of my favorite desserts. We’ve never made them at home because of the lack of a blow torch.

 

Creme Brulee 2

 

But we finally got one and now, well, it’s a bit dangerous how easily we can whip one of these decadent yellow bowls of heaven up!

 

They taste like a mix of home, sunshine and happiness.

 

Make a few and treat yourself 🙂

 

 Easy CrÚme Brulee

 

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins, plus cooling and chilling
Serves: 4-6

 

Creme Brulee 1

 

Ingredients:

1 egg

5 egg yolks

100g/ œ cup caster sugar, plus more for dusting

700ml/3 cups heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp Grand Marnier

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150ÂșC/300ÂșF. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the egg, egg yolks, and Âœ cup of sugar together on a low speed until just combined.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan until hot to the touch but not boiling. With the mixer on low speed, gently pour the cream into the egg mixture in small batches. Add the vanilla and Grand Marnier and combine.
  3. Pour into CrĂšme Brulee ramekins (I got about 4 medium, 1 large, and 2 tiny ones) until almost full. Place the ramekins in a baking tray and place in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the baking tray so that the water reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.
  4. Before serving, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of caster sugar over each ramekin and use a blow torch to caramelize the sugar until golden, brown and slightly burnt in parts. Wait for a couple minutes before serving.

 

I even made a baby one! 😛

 

Creme Brulee 3

 

 

 

Christmas is a time for family. And this year, for the first time in my life, I’m not spending Christmas with mine.

 

There will no Christmas cake made by Dad, no Christmas wishlists, and no Christmas craziness with my family.

 

It’s always hard being away from family. But it’s almost unbearable at Christmas.

 

As the days build up to my favorite time of year, I’m trying to focus on all my blessings. There are SO many!

 

My first “real” Christmas tree!

 

Christmas tree

 

The cutest Baby Jesus ornament. I say hello to it everyday.

 

Christmas ornament

 

My first Christmas in New York.

 

Rockerfellar tree

 

My new job that promises a full and exciting year ahead, and wonderful colleagues! (SO grateful about this one!)

 

New work place

 

Friends who share, and eat, and laugh together.

 

christmas party

 

The most fun Advent gift exchange, where everyday is a surprise, a laugh and a beautiful memory!

 

Advent gifts

 

And this guy – who reminds me everyday, that this, right here, just us, is also a brand new family ❀

 

Dennis and me

 

I miss everyone at home terribly, but there is so much to grateful for, to celebrate and to love.

 

Family

 

I wish I could be with this crazy family right now, and I’m sending them all so much love.

 

And while we’re talking about Christmas, just in case you haven’t baked a Christmas cake yet and need a super quick, no-fuss recipe, I’ve got you covered. No chopping, no soaking fruits for hours – just lots of rum 🙂 (Look below!)

 

Wishing you all a joyful Christmas! Hope you’re spending it with the ones you love the most. It’s the most wonderful time of the year ❀

 

A Lazy Girl’s Christmas Cake

 Christmas cake

 

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 2 hours, plus soaking and resting
Serves: 12

 

Ingredients:

2 cups assorted nuts (I used cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
2 cups assorted raisins
11/2 cup spiced rum
170g/1 and a 1/2 sticks butter, softened, plus more for greasing
200g/1 cup light brown sugar, plus more to dust
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon powder
170g/1 and a 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

 

Cake on the cake stand

 

Method:

 

1. Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC/350ÂșF and grease a loaf tin with butter. Place the nuts and raisins in a medium bowl. Heat the rum until it gently simmers and pour over the nuts and raisins. Let cool, then cover and leave for 15 minutes. Strain out the nuts and raisins and reserve the liquid.
2. With an electric beater, whip together the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs (one at a time) and beat again. Add the vanilla extract, orange zest and cinnamon powder, mixing again. You should have a smooth batter. Now add the flour and baking powder and beat until it’s all incorporated. Toss in the nuts and raisins and mix by hand until evenly distributed.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, dust with some more sugar, and bake for about 2 hours, or until dark brown on top and cooked through. Remove from the oven, and while still warm, use a spoon to gently pour the reserved liquid all over the cake. Let it sit, allowing it to absorb for 4-6 hours or overnight. Slice gently, and serve.