November 25, 2014

tomato caprese soup | cozy day in.

in my opinion on a cozy day in you just need to have some heart, soul and body warming comfort food. oh and something you don't have to put too much effort into because you are in relax mode and you don't want to spent hours and hours in the kitchen - well at least most of you won't. i love baking and cooking so i don't mind some kitchen time on cozy days in.

one of my go to comfort foods is tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. i just can't help but love it. but i wanted to give that simple dish a little twist and italian-ize it a little and this is what i ended up with- a tomato caprese soup that is just perfect for a cozy day in - or after a long day outside in the cold - or whenever you fancy some. 

tomato caprese soup 

[serves 4]

2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 glove of garlic, minced

5 dried tomatoes, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 tbs tomato paste 
28 oz. canned tomatoes
2 c + extra vegetable stock,
1 bouque garni (thyme, bay leave, parsley - tied together with some bakers twine)
1 tbs sugar
salt & pepper
1/2 to 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 bunch fresh basil
mini mozzarella balls
ciabatta bread

in a large pot heat olive oil on medium and sauté onions until translucent. add garlic and dried tomatoes and celery sauté for another 3 minutes then add tomato paste and sauté for one more minute.

pour canned tomatoes into your pot and bring to a boil, add 2 c veggie stock, bouquet garni, salt, pepper and sugar, stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.

remove bouquet garni then puree soup with an immersion blender. add more veggie stock if soup is too thick.

add balsamic vinegar and cream, season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

divide soup into 4 oven safe soup bowls, top each soup with a couple basil leaves and place a couple mini mozzarella balls on top. place bowls under the broiler of your oven and broil them for about 4 minutes or mozzarella is melted and golden - keep an eye on them.

serve with some toasted slices of ciabatta bread.

this soup freezes easily. i like to cook a big batch and freeze the leftovers in portions to have some on hand for a quick bowl of hot soup on a lazy day or to warm up after being outside in the cold. 

if you can't find any mini mozzarella balls, just either dice or slice a regular mozzarella cheese. 

want to go the extra fancy route, drizzle soup with some balsamic reduction. 

now my mouth is watering and i wish i had some leftover soup but as i shared it with my loved ones after i took these pictures, there is none left.

November 24, 2014

cozy day in

the days are gloomy, the sun only makes an appearance every once in a while... actually more like only once a week..., it gets dark around 5:30 pm and it is freaking cold outside. yes, that's what novemer looks like around these parts of the world. i am jealous about ever one who already has snow. seriously. i am so ready for winter and snow. every time a snowy picture pops up in my instagram feed or my feedly, i am like ... ahhh, i want that too. every one thinks i am crazy. am i really alone? isn't winter just wonderful? and snow? oh my, i just love snow and i really really hope that we get more than we got last year. i want bundle up and get outside, take a walk in the snow and hear it crunch underneath my boots, breath in the fresh cold air, feel my nose getting cold, ... it is just the best. yes i am a winter person and if i had to choose between all the seasons i would seriously pick winter. early fall is not so bad either. but this nasty novermber weather - no thank you. i don't need that! those grey days... what can you even do on these days?

all i want to do is having a cozy day in. just hide from this weather and not even think about going outside at all. just like this morning, when i opened my blinds i could hardly see my neighbors' house because it was that foggy. i wanted to crawl back into bed. i dread days like that specially when i have some food photo shoots planned for the day, the lightning is just off and horrible. but i faced the day anyway. i always try not to let the weather let me down ever - and i didn't today. but i wouldn't have minded a cozy day in anyway ;) so this week is dedicated to all things i need or want to do on a cozy day in.

i know it is thanksgiving week for all my american friends out there and i actually wish i could have a thanksgiving feast with you - thanksgiving food is just the best. but we don't celebrate thanksgiving over here... maybe i should change that in my family. but no one is actually off on thursday so... guess it won't work out too well. anyway, today i am kicking off my cozy day in themed week. i guess some of you might have black friday off and maybe sneak in a cozy day in and just relax. or are you planning on going to hit the stores and catch some amazing deals? i am actually hoping for deals on cyber monday and hope i will get some online xmas shopping done.  maybe i will get all my presents before the day before xmas after all.

anyway... so this week is supposed to be cozy and relaxed before all the xmas craziness starts. i will have a yummy soup recipe, a fun diy that is perfect for diy xmas presents too, some yummy treats to treat yourself on a layed back day and a couple more things... just essentials to get cozy. what are your essentials for a cozy day in?

hope i will see you tomorrow.

November 10, 2014

dairy free sweet potato tarte flambée | tpa.

i mentioned in my last post that i was and kind of still am on a dairy free diet. seriously, this is harder than i had ever imagined. i did it very strictly for a little over two weeks. now I am just trying to cut back on dairy and not have dairy products included in every meal or not even have dairy on a daily basis. when i was on those two weeks not having any dairy at all, i still wanted to have some "pizza". but pizza without any cheese? seriously? just didn't sound right! so i thought tarte flambée has no cheese and it kind of is like pizza. yeah! i started making some pizza dough or rather half of it as tarte flambée crust is much thinner. after waiting for the dough to rise i found the error in reasoning - tarte flambée has no cheese but a huge dollop of crème fraîche. shooooot! now i had my dough but what to top it with? so i just raided my pantry and fridge. i found a jar of ajvar - a relish made from roasted red bell peppers, eggplant and red chili peppers. so that's what i used as a spread/base/sauce for my tarte flambée. not the real deal but that stuff is good after all so why not give it a go. while looking for an alternative for the crème fraîche i also found half a sweet potato left over from last nights dinner. as i had potato on pizza before i thought why not try sweet potato as well. i got to say, it was delicious. it was so delicious that i made it again when i cooked for my parents. i made the dairy free version for myself and a dairy version for them. they told me it was great as well.

sweet potato tarte flambée

[makes one 12-inch | 30 cm pizza]

1/2 batch of basic pizza crust
2-3 heaping tbsp ajvar
1/2 small sweet potato, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 oz bacon, diced or sliced
some olive oil
1 tbs parsley, minced

preheat oven to 230°C | 450°F.

brush your pizza pan with a little olive oil and sprinkle it with some flour or prepare a baking sheet with some parchment paper.

roll out dough super thin and place it in prepared pan.

spread dough with ajvar.

place sweet potato slices on top, sprinkle with sliced onion and diced/sliced bacon. drizzle everything with some olive oil.

bake tarte on the lowest rack in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until golden and sweet potatoes are cooked.

sprinkle with minced parsley and serve.


for all you dairy eating people out there...

dairy version

for the sauce: mix 2 heaping tbsp of crème fraîche with 1 tbsp ajvar and spread it on your dough.

have you ever tried to eat dairy free or do you even have to be on a dairy free diet because of allergies? in that case, what are your favorite dairy free pizza toppings?


this post is part of my the pizza adventures series. i want to try a new to me pizza topping  [almost] every week and share it with you.
come join the pizza adventures. let's travel the world - a slice at a time. 

November 06, 2014

currently | october.

oh boy, i seriously can't believe october is over and we are six days into november already. i don't know what it was this year. it seemed like it was only two weeks long and gone in a blink. how could that happen. anyway... i haven't posted me monthly currently post as i usually try to do at the end of the month. so here you go, that is what's currently going on around here/with me/on my mind/in my universe.

currently i am...

october was a pretty busy baking month. there were a whole lot of birthdays. i think i baked at least 14 different cakes/pastries including 6 birthday cakes, 1 baptism cake, 5 different french pastries and at least 2 sunday cakes.

way too much tea. due to being sick twice in the last couple of weeks, i was basically living on cool mint tea from higher living. i love that stuff but my abundance of cool mint tea went down to only two tea bags left and that's so not good. i need to restock but my whole foods store doesn't carry that brand and the other ones just ain't as good as that one.

oh, will you believe me if i told you that i had my first coffee today since 1.5 weeks? it's true. i was on a non dairy diet for 2 weeks [except for my birthday] and only could have soy milk or almond milk with my coffee. usually i don't mind either of these but when you are only allowed to have them it is just different. at least for me. it is different if you choose to have soy milk or if you have to have soy milk, trust me on that. all i wanted was regular cow milk ... well actually lactose free milk but still. so after a couple of days i didn't want my coffee in the morning anymore. i prefered tea - which does happen every once in a while but not on a daily basis. i am a latte macchiato girl. but latte didn't sound good with any other milk than regular milk.

the bad news are that the non dairy diet might have helped but i just don't want to admit that right now. i need to figure it out though and maybe find a middle course. an all time non dairy diet is just not working for me. but let's ignore that right now. thank you.

is it weird to say that i am reading cookbooks? i got two of rachel khoo's cook books for my birthday - the little paris kitchen and my little french kitchen. i love rachel's recipes. she gives classic french recipes her own little twist and all of the pictures in these books are just mouthwatering. my little french kitchen is devided into chapters for the different regions in france and there is a little intro to each region and i love reading these and learning a bit about the country along with the recipes. i know, i am weird like that. 

while tied to bed i was re-watching the o.c. and catching up on once upon a time. both of them are just way too addicting. in fact as i am typing this, i am watching once upon a time too. i was actually never really into fairy tales but somehow i just love that show.
what are your favorite shows?

lots of catching up on my emails. they have been neglected due to sickness, being busy catching up on work stuff, birthday stuff and baking for a ton of birthdays. i am almost through and i hope i haven't missed anyone or anything important.

to see my friends newest addition to the family very soon. she has a little baby girl and i can't wait to see her. oh and of course i can't wait to catch up with friend either. we haven't seen each other in way way waaaaay too long. i can't even believe that we let it get that far. does that ever happen to you guys too? you always want to call or meet and somehow never actually get around to do so. i really hate when that happens. please tell me i am not the only one.  

working on...
some fun blog project/themed weeks. i loved doing the birthday recap week and now have a couple fun ideas for other themes. i hope they will all work out. also i am thinking about doing the xmas workshop again this year. it has always been one of my favorite blog projects to do.

thinking about...
xmas stuff already. like every year i want to start on xmas stuff early so there won't be any stress right around the holidays. but i already know now that this won't happen. those holidays always come sneaking up on you so quickly every year. i have no clue how they do it.

going to...
catch some sleep now. i have a busy and probably exhausting day ahead of me tomorrow and i still don't have all my energy back to normal.

night night.

ps: thanks danielle for the inspiration to these currently posts.  
picture - death to the stock photo 

November 03, 2014

pistachio macarons | café de paris.

oh macarons... aren't they just too good to be true? especially pistachio ones?! pistachios are my favorite nuts so i guess it is no surprise that i love pistachio macarons. they are my favorite macarons of all time. but making macarons for a party freaks me out though but i just had to take that risk and make some. they just fit the party theme perfectly. there just couldn't be a café de paris party without macarons. but even though i conquered the art of making macarons, there are still some failure batches every once in a while. good thing they turned out ok this time. i had a couple cracked shells but well - you win some, you lose some. i still had plenty to fill the top of my étagères with them.

there is one big rule about making macarons that i have learned about my macarons making journey - don't stress about them too much. i don't follow that rule all the time. specially not when the just have to turn out perfect. and that is the problem. anyway, like i said, they did turn out ok.

pistachio macarons

[makes about 12]

20 g pistachios [unsalted, no skin]
30 g almond flour
75 g confectioners' sugar
45 g egg white [aged in fridge for 3 days]
1 pinch salt
20 g caster sugar

measure out all ingredients and let them come to room temperature, especially the egg white. 

in a mini food processor, grind pistachios until fine, add almonds and confectioners' sugar and mix everything together until well combined and ground super fine. sift everything through a fine mash sieve.

whisk egg white and salt until stiff. add sugar little by little while whisking. continue whisking until stiff peaks form.*

add 1/2 of the almond mixture and slowly fold it into egg white using a spatula. add the rest of the almond mixture and fold it in too. don't over fold but don't under fold either - the batter should just fall off your spatula in ribbons.

pour batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. now pipe little equal rounds** onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. tap baking sheet onto counter or tap it with the balm of your hand to release any air bubbles that might have formed and to even out the macaron batter.

time to let the macaron shells rest. this might take 15 minutes up to 30 minutes depending on the humidity in your kitchen. they will form a little skin and shouldn't be very sticky anymore when you touch them. but don't wait too long either or they won't form any feet or even crack when baking. just touch them lightly and if they don't feel too sticky anymore they are good to go into the oven.

bake macaron shells in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes [depending on size] at 300°F | 150°C. they should not brown.

take them out of the oven and let them cool on baking sheet. when cool slowly peel them off the parchment paper.

*if you want them to be a more vibrant green, you can add some green gel food color. just add a tiny bit to the stiff egg whites and whisk it in. i personally prefere the natural light green color with these ones.

**i like mine not too big so i pipe mine about 3 cm in diameter. i made myself a little template by drawing little circles on a big sheet of paper using a small cookie cutter and a sharpie. i slip it under my baking parchment to pipe even circles every time. after i am done piping i carefully pull it out from underneath. 

pistachio butter cream filling

[for 12 small macarons]

2 tbs butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1-2 tbs ground/chopped pistachios

in a small high mixing cup cream butter, add 1/4 c conf. sugar and beat for about 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. add rest of the conf. sugar and beat for another 3-4 minutes. add pistachios and mix until combined.

fill pistachio butter cream into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. pipe some butter cream onto 12 macaron shells. top each one with another shell pressing them together lightly in a twisting motion.

store them in an airtight container in the fridge in a single layer [or with parchment paper in between each layer] for a couple hours or over night. take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. they keep well in the airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

i know they are not the easiest but the cutest little things to make.
give them a go and don't give up after the first time. it takes a couple tries to get them right. but don't stress about them too much. follow your instincts and it'll work best - at least that is what works best for me.

alright, this is the last of my birthday series for this year. hope you enjoyed it.

October 31, 2014

mini tarte au citron | café de paris.

i always wanted to try tarte au citron but somehow never made it before. i usually preferred making key lime pie because it is my favorite citrus-y pie. so when i picked the pastries for my birthday party i took this as the one opportunity to finally bake tarte au citron - or actually 24 mini ones. so i should call these tartlettes au citron. they are so cute and so delicious.

tartlettes au citron

[makes 24]

for the dough
200 g all purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
115 g softened butter
100 g caster sugar
1 egg

for the filling
2 eggs
2 egg yolks [safe the whites for making macarons or meringues]
4 tbs sugar
4 tbsp heavy cream
1 lemon, juiced

for decorations
heavy cream
chopped pistachios

to make the dough, combine flour, salt and baking powder, whisk together and set aside. in a mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add egg and mix until well incorporated. now add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. wrap dough with some plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

preheat oven to 350°F | 175°C.
prepare a mini muffin tin [24 molds] by spraying it with some baking spray or grease it with a light coating of butter.

divide dough into 24 equal pieces and roll each piece into a small ball and drop one ball into each mold of your muffin tin. now use a mini tart shaper* to press dough into the tin so it goes up the sides and it creates an even "cup" to hold the filling. for an even rim use a knife to cut off any excess dough. place muffin tin in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

for the filling, whisk together all ingredients and fill the mixture into a jug or a measuring cup with a mouth for easy pouring. pour filling into each "dough cup" to just below the rim.

bake tartlettes in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes or until filling is just set and the crust turns golden. take them out of the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack before removing them from the tin carefully by slowly twisting them out of the molds.

whip some heavy cream, sweeten it to your liking with some sugar and pipe it onto each tartlette au citron. for the final touch, sprinkle some chopped pistachios on top. refrigerate until ready to serve.

* if you don't have a mini tart shaper you can also a shot glass, your thumb, the side of a small rolling pin, a cork, etc. use whatever you can find and fits the size of your muffin tin. dip it into some flour each time so the dough won't stick to whatever you are using.

you can easily bake these tartlettes au citron the day before. if you do so, refrigerate them over night and decorate them just before serving.

i am glad i tried these. and i will definitely make these again.

October 30, 2014

café de paris birthday party decorations.

like i told you in my last post, today i am shaing how i made my simple café de paris party decorations for my birthday party.
as it was pretty much a last minute decision on the party theme, i didn't have much time to hunt for party decorations. which i don't usually do anyway because i don't want to spent a lot of money on stuff that i probably only use once. so i used what i had on hand. i kind of wanted to create a table that pretty much looked like if you are in a little café. with that in mind i went through my stuff and found that silver rectangular plate, some black little napkins, a candle jar with pretty black ornaments, some small vases/bottles that i recently got on sale, washi tape with black ornaments that match the candle jar... and of course my little glass cake stand with its lid and two étagères. oh and not to forget, i also borrowed my grandma's old gold rimmed china from my mom [not pictured].
i wanted to create a little logo for my café de paris. so i did and that's what i came up with. just a really simple circle with the eiffel tower and the name. by the way, the font name is parisienne, i just had to use it when i found it while scrolling through my font collection.


you need:

black dessert napkins
parchment paper
scotch tape
café de paris logos [download printable here]
white printer paper [160g/m2]
scissors, 2" circle punch or circle cutter*
roller adhesive

how to:

fold your little black napkins in half.

cut out some strips of parchment paper, wrap them around the napkins and fix them in the back with some scotch tape.

print out your logos on some white paper, cut them out and stick them on the parchment paper strip using some roller adhesive.


* i designed the circular logo to fit my 2" circle cutter - unfortunately the little knife broke off so i had to cut it with scissors. note to myself: buy a 2" circle punch when at the craft store next time ;)

vases and jars

you need:

café de paris logos [download printable here]
white printer paper [160g/m2]
scissors, 2" circle punch or circle cutter
roller adhesive
washi tape
vases and jars
flowers and tea light candles

how to:

print and cut out your logos.

stick them to your vases and jars using some roller adhesive and washi tape.

cut and arrange your flowers in the vases and place your tea light candles in the jars.

big glass jar candle

you need:

printable parchment paper
café de paris logo [download printable here]
scissors or exacto knife and ruler
big weck or mason jars [or any other jar or glass you can find]
scotch tape
tea light candles [or any other little candle that is suitable to sit in there safe]

how to:

print out the logos on parchment paper [or regular printer paper] and cut into long strips.

wrap these strips around your jars and fix them in the back with some scotch tape.

fill the bottom of your jars with some sand and place a candle in each jar.

eiffel tower

you need:

printable from here
white printer paper [160g/m2]
scissors or exacto knife
roller adhesive

how to:

print template and cut out all 4 sides.

fold and assemble as directed on template.

i used the silver plate with an eiffel tower, a vase and some napkins as a center piece on my table and placed a little glass jar with a candle on each side. all the other jars [big ones and little ones], eiffel towers and vases with flowers where placed all over the room - on the side table, on the window sills, on the kitchen counter... everywhere.

it really looked like in a little french café with all the pastries on the étagères on the right and left of the center piece and candles.

you really don't need much to make a cute party table. just look around what you have.