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Dark Decadent Feast

21 Oct

Hello and happy Fall/Autumn/Halloween and if you’re in the Sounthern hemisphere Happy Spring and if you’re in the tropics Happy End-of-Rainy-Season.

THE INSPIRATION

This post is about creating a tablescape and some menu ideas for a dark themed dinner. It’s not too Halloween-ey, not overly Autumnal but rather a bit in between. I imagine this as a romantic dinner for two thrown together by a sophisticated witch who enjoys long walks crunching fallen leaves as much as she enjoys online shopping at Pottery Barn.

TABLESCAPE

I began by layering a traditional white lace tablecloth underneath a black netted material purchased at a Halloween decor store.

I then decided to cluster some synthetic and organic elements including a cast pumpkin, a white fake pumpkin interdispersed with fall/Halloween appropriate fruit and vegetables: turnip, beet and pomegranate.

I also added a battery operated off white medium pillar candle placed in a cloche for some lighting effect and to add some interest.

To complete the tablescape and add some height variation I place a clear vase with some beautiful fresh hydrangeas. The white adds the perfect classy touch but the burgundy brings the dark decadence.

The table was complete by adding two place settings of black and white dinnerware and simple clear glass flatware.

MENU

For the menu I decided on a salad, soup, light main and dessert.

DARK SALAD

This salad is a simple combination of mixed greens (I chose one with lots of purple and brown leaves) and purple (or red) cabbage. It would pair well with a balsamic based vinagarette.

To make this salad simply chop, mix and plate!

SWEET POTATO AND BEET SOUP



This thick delicious soup is made from yellow sweet potatoes and a bit of beets to deepen the colour. It can be served warm or cold.

To make the soup : Boil sweet potato and beets, blend or mash into a puree, sautee onion, garlic and spices then add puree and vegetable stock to make thick flavorful soup.

BRAISED EGGPLANT

This is the light main course: an umami fueled flavour trip. The thick meaty texture and deep flavour makes this a fantastic menu option.

To make this braised eggplant: Chop the eggplant into thick wedges

Mix the braising sauce; molasses, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, miso paste and white granulated sugar by whisking ( Mix according to your taste preference)

Using a little bit of olive oil, sautee the eggplant then add braising sauce, turn down heat and cook until thickened.

MERLOT POACHED PEAR

This one gets a chef’s kiss because it’s so good yet so simple. This is a sweet after dinner treat that requires no advanced dessert making skills.

To make the poached pears: Peel and core the pear

Bring merlot, white granulated sugar and spices (I used cinnamon, clove, bay leaf) and vanilla extract to a boil.

Add pears and let simmer until cooked and absorbed the mixture.

Let it cool and serve. This goes well with chocolate as well as a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Have a beautiful decadent autumn !

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Snapshots of : MIAMI

6 Aug

These are some snapshots of a visit to Miami. Miami is a vibrant city with a kaleidoscope of cultures and warm beautiful weather. There is something for you whether you love to eat, shop, party or explore. I hope my photos bring just a speckle of the richness that is Miami, some spots to check out and tips.

Room with a view

My hotel room offered me this view onto a fairly busy street with ongoing construction and opposite a fairly new and modern apartment complex. At various times of the day I would see people walking to go grab lunch, heading to the gym with their yoga mats and popping in and out of the nearby Whole Foods supermarket.

THE SALTY DONUT

Local hotspot.

I checked out a local donut shop called “The Salty Donut” for breakfast. This place is so popular that they are rumoured to sell out of products each day. I made sure I got there super early to avoid lines and have a peaceful morning.

The display case.

This shop boasts interesting flavour combos year round such as maple and bacon, guava and cheese and brown butter and salt as well as seasonal options. Additionally, they sell some delicious coffee offering up familiar hot options such as cappuccinos and macchiato as well as cold brews and iced coffee.

 

Coffee and donut

 

My selection was raspberry and rhubarb donut, a sweet take on both fruits paired with brioche dough along with Japanese iced coffee with tangy fruity notes.

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Raspberry rhubarb donut.

 

THE SHOPS AT MERRICK PARK

 

Shopping up a storm

Miami hosts a myriad of shopping options from outlet malls to well loved off brand retailers as well as beautific outdoor malls. I visited The Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables where you can find US mall staples such as Sephora, Francesca’s and Pottery Barn as well as some luxury options such as Gucci and Jimmy Choo and a favourite of mine; Anthropologie.

View of the steps at Merrick Park

There are a few dining options at Merrick Park one being Brasserie Central which serves French cuisine set at moderate prices.

 

French lunch

Clam chowder

 

Oysters

 

LA CENTRALE

Street view of La Centrale from the bridge.

This is described as an Italian Food Hall where diners can experience anything from casual deli style to al fresco to fine dining. The restaurants offer a plethora of options from meat based to seafood not to mention gelato and other desserts. There is also a bar situated in the centre of the fine dining hall and the kitchen where they offer classes in Italian cooking.I was able to take in the Neopolitan Pizza making class. Chef was thorough and very nice.

The kitchen.

Aprons for class.

 

Pizza

 

Outdoor seating at La Centrale.

 

In addition to the pizza making class, I had breakfast at La Centrale on a Sunday morning. There was “limitless” Prosecco for two hours.

Breakfast delights.

 

Bombolone: Jelly filled donut.

 

Delicious brunch at The Caffè.

 

Apertivo and Cocktail bar.

 

Negroni fountain (no you didn’t actually drink from it, but it looked pretty!)

 

Negroni: This stuff is strong! 

 

BAYSIDE

This plaza is a staple in Miami at this point. An outdoor mall with well known American eateries such as Bubba Gump, Five Guys and Chillis as well as more authentic cuisine stalls selling Cuban and Caribbean food as well as a more run of the mill food court. There are also lots of stores selling clothing, art and jewellery and more as well as an open air theatre with a view of the ocean hosting local performances both day and night.

Bayside by night.

 

Bayside by day: Here boats taking passengers out on day trips.

SUGAR (EAST HOTEL)

 

This decadent Asian inspired restaraunt is located on the top floor of Brickell Centre. On the outside is a beautiful outdoor bar called sugar where there tends to be standing room only. However, on the inside there is this beautiful eatery with a live DJ.

” Bottomless Champagne”- We got to drink as much as we could stomach within 2 hours.

Tasting Menu

The prices in here are on the higher side without a doubt, however a fantastic option is their “tasting menu” where you can select one item from each segment of a menu and it gives you about four or five different things to eat including dessert as well as Moet for 2 hours.

Trying a tasting menu is a bit of a pro-tip for eating at a more expensive restaraunt especially if you are there in a group because then everyone gets a little taste of everything usually at a more affordable price.


Some of the dishes and the view from our table.

 

BRICKELL CENTRE

This is a shopping and lifestyle centre located in Downtown Miami. Here you can find luxury shopping stores such as Gucci, more affordable ones like H&M and Zara, makeup shops like M.A.C and Sephora not to mention some amazing restaraunts including the aforementioned La Centrale and Sugar rooftop bar and restaraunt. Surrounding the main centre are also more shops and restaraunts. This is a great place to spend an afternoon as well as finding something to do at night.

A view of Brickell City Centre from a bridge.

 

Brickell Centre is partially open air making it more relaxed.

View from across the waterway of Brickell City Centre.

 

OUT AND ABOUT

Just out and roaming Miami City you get to enjoy a lot of unique architectural designs from the Art Deco buildings on South Beach, the sunny sky scraper apartment buildings with beautiful windows and glass balconies and of course, the flyovers curving and weaving like a 1960’s artist’s rendition of ” The Future”.


Flyover going across the water.





A view of the buildings .





A metro station.




View off Brickell Centre from across the water.




View from beneath.


Waterway and apartment buildings.



A mural

 

SOUTH BEACH

If you go to Miami, you have to at least check out South Beach, Miami Beach. It’s definitely one of the more popular spots in this city and that does mean it’s often crowded but I still reccomend. On South Beach you can find restaraunts galore, museums, shops, bars and clubs meaning there is definitely something for everyone there. If you are interested in architechture you will be amazed by the Art Deco buildings dispersed around this area with an actual Art Deco district for your viewing pleasure.

Street view of South Beach, Miami Beach.

The beach.

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Delicious seafood pasta at a restaraunt in South Beach.

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Dining out on South Beach.

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Art Deco style building.

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Shops in South Beach.

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A shot of Collins Avenue.

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Bustling nighttime in South Beach.

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The famous Ocean Drive and the Art Deco welcome centre.

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The clock: people take photos here as proof that they’ve been to Miami Beach.

 

Those are some of my snapshots of Miami, obviously this city has so much more to offer but these were some highlights for me. If you’re thinking of visiting definitely do it!

 

Lunch at La Centrale

19 May

Lunch at La Centrale restaurant: Carne

I recently visited Miami and decided to have lunch at La Centrale. La Centrale is an Italian food hall located in the Brickell Complex in Downtown Miami offering everything from deli style food, brunch, lunch, dinner and cooking classes. I ate at the “Meat” Ristorante (even though my meal had no meat)

La Centrale as seen from the street

La Centrale’s three floors as seen from Brickell Centre

I ate the “CRESPELLE AI FUNGHI” described as porcini and oyster mushrooms , crepes and parmigiano fondue.

Menu

It was delicious. It was like a casserole of crepes, mushrooms and cheese. The crepes had a dense, slightly sweet milky flavour which contrasted well with the umami flavours of the mushrooms and cheese.

La Centrale is moderately priced and offers a variety of food fare all day. If you are in the area, 10/10 would recommend.

Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

10 ECO-Tips (that will be great on your wallet too)

15 Jan

We all care about the environment (I assume) and would love to do whatever we can to be a bit gentler to our planet. Sometimes, being environmentally friendly can be costly, time consuming and bothersome (still worth it though). However, sometimes it’s actually really easy. Here are some eco-friendly tips I have compiled to help us on our quest to go eco.

1.Wooden toothbrush

This particular tip isn’t necessarily cheaper than purchasing a regular plastic toothbrush but it costs about the same as a good quality regular brush and it’s a super easy swap to make.

2. Menstrual Cup 

For persons who have periods, the paper products widely peddled throughout the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st century do not come cheap and result in waste due to their one time usage. I suspect it will be a long while before we can completely get away from disposable paper products, but this is a good start.


The most popular brand I would say is the “Diva Cup” although there are others available. I have a close friend who has used a menstrual cup for over two years. She currently uses the Diva Cup brand and caustions that there is a bit of a learning curve but once you get into the … flow of things (ba-dum bum ching!) it works out fine.

The Diva Cup menstrual cup costs around $38 US which does sound a bit steep but for comparison, a woman can spend around $100 US per year in paper menstrual products while some women report their menstrual cups last 2-3 years.

3. Shorter showers

Or…less showers. I know. I KNOW! This one seems weird and well gross. However, many of us waste a lot of water in the shower just standing there letting it run over our bodies for minutes on end. In fact, many suggest that no shower should last more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Shorter showers can save water and save you money on your water bill.

4. Less Laundry

I KNOW! First, I tell you to wash your body less then I tell you to wash your clothing less! Yes, it seems odd but again, we wash a lot of our clothing far too often resulting in faster wear and tear which leads to more clothing being discarded and filling up landfills. Additionally, many persons will wash just a few pieces of clothing at a time. This wastes  a lot water, a lot of electricity and a lot of money. Any clothing that can be re-worn such as jeans, jackets etc. should be and wait until you have a full load before turning on that washing machine.

5. Cloth makeup Remover

Take a stroll to the cosmetics section of any drug store or even a high end makeup counter and you will see every company peddling their disposable makeup removers. A thick piece of tissue impregnated with some cleaning solution usually lavender or lemon scented, requiring that you use one or two a day and repurchase every couple of months. Well… what if I told you that there was a way to remove your makeup without destroying the earth! What if I told you it was super easy and affordable too!

There are plenty of brands out there making makeup removal facecloths that you wash and reuse. Most are made of microfiber which has great propensity to absorb oils and doesn’t scratch. I have been removing my makeup this way exclusively for about 18 months. Right now, I have 5 cloths that I use about 4 times each (I use half of one side at a time) then wash. With this number of cloths, I always have a clean cloth I can grab and I haven’t spent a dime on disposable makeup removers for ages.


6. Reusable bag

This is an oldie but goodie. By now, I hope that we all have a stash of sturdy reusable bags in differing shapes and sizes for all our shopping needs. Whether its one of the woven plastic ones or my personal preference; canvas (more durable and long lasting), you can really cut back on your plastic bag use by including these bags in your repertoire.

7. Reusable food wraps/covers

Cheese wrap by Bees Wrap

This is a new concept to me. There are food wraps made of cloth and infused with bees wax and tree resin. Because of the wax, the cloth is easily folded and molded to the shape of the item it is covering whether that is a piece of cheese, half or a cucumber or the top of a bowl. The wax also makes it somewhat waterproof. The best part is that these cloths are washable hence reusable. Goodbye aluminum foil, cling wrap and wax paper.

I first saw this product when browsing in Sur la Table, a cookware,dinnerware specialty store and the brand I saw there is Bees Wrap but there are a number of companies that offer this type of product.

8. Reusable glass/plastic containers

Another oldie but goodie. Again, instead of wrapping unfinished foods with disposable materials such as foil and plastic wrap, place your edibles in containers for storage. A good quality plastic container can be reused for years and glass is eternal (unless broken)

9. Dish rag/cloth

Instead of a sponge (which depending on your appetite for risk can last you’re a couple weeks or a couple months), a cloth used to wash your dishes can give you years of service. After a few days/weeks change to a new dish rag, then wash and reuse.

Stainless steel Insulated Travel Mug by ZAK

10. Reusable water bottle/mug

This one is a no-brainer. Many of us drink plenty of water/coffee/tea every day. If we were to drink those things while in our own homes we would use a glass or ceramic mug, because we can wash them and reuse them. Well it doesn’t have to be every different when we go out. I have a mug which keeps things either hot or cold for hours at a time and I do NOT leave home without it. I have had everything from coffee to cocktails put into this cup in order to avoid using a disposable one.

These ten tips are easy to incorporate into most lifestyles. They help your pocket and they help reduce your footprint on the planet. Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

Easter Tea Cake

31 Mar

Hello and Happy Easter to all who celebrate! Today I’m asssembelling a cake that I think is perfect for Easter. It’s a Victoria sponge with the traditional strawberry jam and iced and decorated to add a little Easter flare.

Victoria sponge is a well known English teatime staple. It comprises of two layers of sponge cake sandwiching strawberry jam and often times, whipped cream. It can be served in typical cake slices or in rectangular finger sandwich style slices.

For this cake, I used the jam but not the whipped cream and topped it with icing rather than the usual dusting with icing sugar.

WHAT YOU NEED

1) Sponge cake– I used a Waitrose package mix but use whatever recipe or package you prefer.

2) Strawberry jam– Or any other flavour jam you want.

3) Icing– This is plain old icing sugar and water mixed to a fairly thick consistency. I chose to dye mine the faintest pink.

4) Toppings/ Decorations– I used fresh strawberries (sliced) to go with the strawberry jam and Cadbury’s mini candy coated chocolate eggs.

Sponge cake, strawberry jam and pale pink icing.

Fresh strawberries and candy coated chocolate eggs

WHAT TO DO

1) Slice the cake crossways in half to create two layers.

2) Spread a generous layer of jam over the surface of the bottom layer– The cake will absorb some of the jam so use enough to take that into account but not so much that it leaks out the side of the cake.

3) Place the top layer over the jam and place in fridge for at least 15 minutes to let it “set”

4) Spread icing over top of cake allowing it to naturally run over edges.

5) Place iced cake in the refrigerator and let the icing fully set.

6) Once icing has set proceed to adding decorations– I used a very thin layer of icing to stick on the eggs.

And there you have it! A delicious Victoria sponge with a little twist. This is perfect for Easter Tea, (or brunch or lunch for that matter). Also, with a different topping it’s great as a birthday cake or a cake for any other occasion.

Have an awesome day and an awesome Easter!

Galentines Day Bash!

4 Feb

It is often said that art imitates life. Sometimes however, the reverse is true. Galentine’s Day was first born on an episode of sitcom “Parks and Recreation” in 2010. Since then Galentine’s Day has become increasingly well known and celebrated with 2017 bringing it a trending spot on Twitter.

This holiday is celebrated on February 13th (the day before Valentine’s day) and it is seen as a day for gals to celebrate and uplift each other in a social scene where girl on girl hate is so prevalent.

This is right up my alley. An excuse to celebrate anything but especially something as positive as friendships between women.

I came up with a few very Pinterest inspired ideas to throw a Galentine’s bash for you and your gals.

Pizza Heart Bites

This is so darn cute. Heart shaped pizza bites are tasty and great party food to pick up and nibble on.

WHAT YOU NEED

Pizza crust -I used ready made flatbread crust

Cheese

Tomato sauce

Other toppings- I used mushrooms and Italian herbs

Heart shaped cookie cutter

WHAT TO DO

1) Cut out heart shapes from crust.

2) Top crusts

3) Bake until cheese is melted and you’re done!

Pink Love Donuts

WHAT YOU NEED

1) Donuts

2) Icing– I dyed it three shades of pink

3) Toppings– sprinkles

WHAT TO DO

1) Dip each donut into the corresponding glaze

2) Top with sprinkles, nuts etc and set into fridge to harden.

Sorbet Fizz Cocktail

For the cocktail portion of the evening, we combine a refreshing dessert with some fizzy wine.

WHAT YOU NEED

Sorbet– I chose black cherry to stick with the pink theme

Sparkling wine– Prosecco, Brut, sparkling rose etc.

WHAT TO DO

1) Place a scoop of sorbet in glass.

2) Pour sparkling wine over it and serve!

Guest gifts

I feel as if no celebration is quite complete without a little something for your guests to leave with. I also like giving gifts that are useful. I am also mildly obsessed with succulents…

Succulents are affordable, beautiful and hard to kill. To seal the deal I stuck a little label with a love note on the pot.

I hope this post can give you some inspiration for your own Galentine’s party or Valentine’s party or whatever party you have!

Have an awesome Galentine’s Day!

Make 2018 Great!

7 Jan

Hello and Happy 2018! Something about the calendar switching from December 31st to January 1st incites thoughts of change and resolve to be a new and improved version of yourself. 

While some resolutions can be a bit far reaching and cause undue stress I do believe setting some realistic goals can help you become a more effective, efficient and fulfilled individual. Here are a few of my tips for making 2018 great!

DRINK MORE WATER

What nutritionist/doctor/lifestyle guru hasn’t mentioned this at some point? There’s a reason for that, water is life! It’s our gift from nature. It is good for you because it keeps you hydrated, quenches your thirst and helps with pain. Drinking more water definitely makes you feel more alert and better.

I want to sidebar to point out that there is no minimum amount of water you should drink per day. I also want to point out that I mean regular water not water that has been electrolysed or ionized or galvanized.

BE ECO FRIENDLY

I’m a self proclaimed environmentalist. I feel that each of us can do a little something everyday that will have a positive impact on our environment. I know it isn’t realistic for most people to build a home in a forest and only live off the land. However, there are some things we can incorporate into our daily routines. Some things you can do are ; turn off lights whenever you leave a room, unplug appliances whenever they aren’t in use and use reusable bags.


PREP

Meal prep it and you won’t regret it! I did meal PREP relatively consistently throughout 2016 and I can’t find a good reason as to why I fell off in 2017 because meal prepping is awesome! Here’s why:

It saves time- By planning all, most or just some of your meals for the upcoming week you shave off hours in the kitchen. You spend a couple hours making multiple meals instead of slaving away morning and evening daily.

It saves money- By making all of your own meals, ahead of time no less you avoid having to buy those meals which will invariably be more costly.

It’s healthier- Whenever you make something yourself, you can control what goes into it and hopefully that means you whip something healthy or at the very least less UNhealthy than the stuff you pick up at drive thrus.


PLAN

I’m an unapologetic list maker. Having some plan creates order and makes it easier to keep track of what you need to do. You can invest in a beautiful designer planner and follow along with the planning community on YouTube or you can scribble on a notepad or you can type up on your phone. 

Whatever method you chose, chose something. You can get very detailed planning down to the half hour or maybe you just create “to-do” lists for the week but have a plan!

MAKE A LITTLE TIME FOR…

This one is a bit wide. I think we need to find a little time to do things that make us feel human or normal or happy. The emphasis is on a little. In our busy lives it can be next to impossible to anything apart from work, sleep and eat but if you just set aside a small pocket of time to focus on yourself, you will, feel regenerated and inspired.

Here are a few things I want to take a little time for:

READING
 

I used to be a book a week type of reader but somehow I lost that. And I hate it. I love to dive into the world that an author creates and I plan to find more time to incorporate more reading.

PAMPERING

You may not have time to book in a massage and pedicure on a weekly basis but you can put on an overnight hair mask or a 15 minute face mask, or you could do an at home foot bath, or paint your nails or…you get the idea.


EXERCISE

Regular physical activity is super important for everyone yet it’s something we can easily neglect for lengthy periods of time. Sneak in a mini early morning YouTube workout or get your squats in at night before bed. Skip, but dont skip exercise.

HOBBIES 

Painting, writing poetry, horseback riding…whatever tickles your fancy embrace it and spend a little time with it.


RELAXATION

Light a candle, put on Enya and relax or meditate or pray. Just find some time for reflection and regain some mental balance.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, fruitful and successful 2018.Thank you for reading and have an awesome day!

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