Me Before You – a soul touching novel

I am one of the sucker for Game of Thrones, especially Khaleesi.  When I saw Khaleesi’s (Emilia Clark) picture on the book cover, I had to get the novel. Andy convinced me to get Kindle version. But I love to hold a book and read. Known fact that I am going to clutter by buying books, but I have a strong connection with the books that I collect. I have always had a hard time letting go of books. Little I knew that he surprised buying that novel for my birthday the very next week. Andy is not big on surprises, we went for a romantic dinner and when we came home he asked me to open the car dashboard. There it was, ‘Me Before You’. Totally surprised. I read this novel long back, but the narration stuck in my heart that I had to write about ‘Me Before You’. I am not going to review this book, just sharing how I felt while reading this book. This isn’t a new novel, it’s been there while. I would have never purchased unless for Emilia’s picture on the cover. I know there is going to be a movie and wanted to read it before the movie is released.

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Me Before You is one such book that makes you travel the whole story, page by page and line by line.   Mainly involves two characters Louisa Clarke and will Traynor. Louisa is fondly known ‘Lou’ in the whole novel.  Lou is a cheerful and zany caregiver for Will. Will was a successful banker who is paralyzed after an accident.  Cute story with a beautiful ending. You will know that Lou fell in love with Will, waiting to know when Lou will realize is something magical. There are only handful of stories that you don’t want to end, for me this is one of those novels. Am not going to give you any spoilers, this story will definitely make you cry at the climax. It is a feel good story, read it when you’re low or feeling lonely. Trust me you will feel good about yourself.

Buy here: Amazon

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Honey Cupcake

Yum! It brings back so many memories. Honey cake is a standard cake in all the bakeries in India. It is such an easy cake to make. You can make Honey Cake in big pans as well. I like making them as cupcakes. It is nothing but a twist to regular sponge cake or pound cake. You can either make this cake from scratch or you can use a store bought cake. Rest of the ingredients are so simple: Honey, rose water, strawberry jam and desiccated coconut.

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Ingredients for Cake,

3/4  cups all-purpose flour

1  tsp baking powder

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup milk

 

Prepping,

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Swift the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt together. Keep it aside.Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and aerated.

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and aerated.

Note: You can increase the amount of sugar you want. I am adding less sugar because of the syrup and jam that I will be adding later.

Add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat until all the ingredients are combined.

Add all-purpose flour and milk little by little. Do not over beat the batter.

Line a cupcake tray with liners. Scoop in the batter. You can fill 6 cupcake liners. Bake them for 15 -18 mins or until a toothpick comes clean.  While the cupcake is oven you can make the syrup and glaze.

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Once done. Transfer the cupcakes to cooling rack. Let them cool for 5 minutes.

 

Ingredients for Syrup and Glaze,

1/4 cup of honey

1 tsp of rose water

1/2 cup of water

1/4 cup of strawberry jam

1/4 cup of desiccated coconut

Prepping,

In a sauce pan just warm up the honey, rose water and water in a saucepan for about 5 minutes in a medium flame.

Melt the jam over the stove at a medium flame. It will take only 2 minutes or just microwave for a minute.

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Make few holes in cupcakes using a toothpick.

Spoon the syrup over each cupcake generously. Cupcakes should be soaked completely. Let it sit for ten minutes. Don’t worry if your cupcake liner is getting wet.

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Spoon the jam over the cupcakes like a glaze.

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Sprinkle desiccated coconut.

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Honey Cupcake is done.

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So moist and sweet!!! You have to try it. It’s one of a kind cake.

Cashew Macarons

Cashew Macarons is a piece of nostalgia for me. As long as I could remember I used to buy these macarons from our local bakery. It was the only biggest bakery (Lakshmi Bakery) in my hometown. For more than 25 years they have maintained their quality. I used to go there so often that I invited the owners for my wedding. They are really sweet people.

I have visited almost every french bakery in LA, searching for these cashew macarons. I gave up and made some by myself. Of course, it doesn’t taste like the one from Tuticorin but got the local bakery taste. I kept staring at the oven, for more than an hour. I just wanted to get it right. Waited till my husband came home and he did the taste test. First of all, he was surprised that I got it right. I know it is just a macaron but I was so pleased and excited that it tasted perfect.

Ingredients,

4 egg whites

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of coarsely ground cashews

Note:

I like my sweets less sweet. You can add up to 1 cup of sugar if you want. 

Prepping,

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In a bowl add the egg whites and start beating. Once the egg white started to froth, add sugar little by little. Continue beating the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.dsc_1054

Fold in the cashews.

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Fill a Ziploc bag or a piping bag with big round nozzle.  Start piping the meringue in a pyramid shape.

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Hey! don’t judge me, I have bad piping skills.dsc_1059Bake it for about 1.5 hours to two hours. Mine took 2 hours. Keep an eye on it. Once the bottom crisps and comes off easily from the parchment, then your macarons are done.

Let it cool down completely before tasting.

dsc_1063It is my memory, try it and let me know.

Breakfast at ‘Chocolatine’

Chocolatine is a beautiful and a very cute French Cafe. The second you open the door, you will be hit with the beautiful aroma of coffee and pastries. You will feel as if your walking in a lane with rows of bakery and coffee shop. Host was really great and the owners were creative to post the story behind their cafe.

Okay, am gonna start talking about the food we ordered. I had cappuccino and Andy had mocha. I don’t think have to explain, the picture speaks for itself. Look at the cup, it looks so pretty.

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Andy was so excited to have his mocha, he couldn’t wait until I took a picture.

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Of course, you got to order the crepe when in a ‘French Cafe’. I had the yummiest strawberry crepe. Crepe here had the perfect amount of sweetness, not too sweet.

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Andy had ‘Croque Roast Beef’, I am not a fan of beef in general. But Andy was persistent in me taking a bite. Yep it was yummy. One bite changed to two, three, four… Andy was happy that I was open to trying beef in ‘Chocolatine’. Thoughtful presentation.

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Apart from breakfast and brunch, they had petite pastries, chocolate, macaroon and meringue.

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My favorite Macaroon…20160813_103400

I picked up a few.20160813_181120

‘Chocolatine’ is like a Little France.

 

Chocolatine address: 2955 E Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

Menu: www.chocolatine.net

Chocolatine is an experience!

 

 

Almond Butter Toast

You want pretty, quick and filling breakfast. I got you covered. It is just a toast, but looks like you made an effort. Trust me, this toast will satisfy your eyes as well as your hunger. Am not gonna keep chatting. Will go straight to the recipe, cause it is so simple.

Ingredients,

2 slices of Bread (Preferably whole wheat)

2 Tbsp of Almond butter or Peanut butter

1 Tsp of Honey or Maple syrup (Optional if you’re using sweetened nut butter)

½ cup of sliced strawberries

½ cup of sliced bananas

 

I always use natural peanut or almond butter. The label of ingredients should say just almonds or peanuts. No nasty sweeteners of any kind. It helps me to control the amount of sugar in my breakfast or baked goods. It’s easy.

Put your bread in the toaster and slice the fruits needed.

Spread the butter evenly.

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Top the toast with sliced fruits.

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Drizzle the honey.

DSC_0263You have a yummy and pretty breakfast.

Note: For extra crunch and protein you can sprinkle some chia seed.

Breakfast!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Roasted Chickpeas

I need a crunchy snack. Chips!!! I would love to nibble some salt and vinegar potato chips. But I am going to feel guilty later. I need crunchy, spicy and guilt free snack. Have been trying few healthy snacks say, veggies with hummus, veggies with hot sauce and mixed nuts. I also tried the sweet versions, peanut butter, dried fruits and fruits with yogurt. I just wanted to have a cheat snack, need a crunch.

Finally I found it, since then its been my holy grail of spicy and crunchy snack. All you need is chickpeas and seasoning. Mix it and roast them. You can use all types of spices and herb. I am going with my roots, Indian Spices. Hot and aromatic is what I was going for.

Ingredients,

1 cup of Chickpeas, cooked

1 tsp of Chili Powder

½ tsp of Garam Masala

½ tsp of Garlic Powder

A pinch of Hing / Asafoetida

 A pinch of Turmeric

1 tbsp of Olive Oil

Salt to taste

Preping,

Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Use a paper towel or kitchen towel, pat dry the chickpeas. Let it air dry for 30 minutes.

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I used dry chickpeas and cooked them. I soaked dry chickpeas for 4 hours, pressure cooked (Medium flame, 1 whistle and let it rest). Drain, pat dry and also air dry.

Mix rest of the ingredients together. Line a baking pan with baking sheet or aluminum foil.

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Transfer the chickpeas to the baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, shake the pan every 10 minutes. Heat could vary for different ovens. Roast until golden and crunchy.

Suggestions:

Use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. Fresh garlic will burn quickly. 

Use lemon zest instead of lemon juice. Tastes better than using lemon juice. 

For easy spice, use just chat masala and salt. 

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Let it cool down and store in an air tight container. It will stay crunchy for a week. Crunch it away. Guiltless.

 

Spanish Inspired Quinoa

Yay!!!! almost weekend. Happy but less energized. The mid weekdays are always busy and exhausting. By Tuesday I will be longing for Friday evening. Even the very thought makes me feel exhausted. Thursdays are very busy and am on my feet all day. I try to eat more protein and keep my energy up. I need super food. So  I start my thursdays with a good smoothie, Strawberry-Banana-Yogurt smoothie. It was yum and cold for this freaking LA weather. Wish I could escape to a colder place every weekend. But  I am so afraid of the weather, all I want is to stay indoors all weekend. It is hot all day and the night breeze.

I was doing some prep work and organized all day, was busy and needed a power lunch. It was a late lunch around 2.30 pm. I charred a corn, half a red bell pepper and tomato in the oven, it was perfect. Skinned and chopped the tomatoes and bell pepper. Cooked the veggies with quinoa and seasoned well. While it was cooking I broiled Tilapia for myself and Andy. Now my lunch is ready. It was so yummy and filling. Kept me full until dinner.

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Ingredients,

1 garlic clove chopped finely

½ cup of chopped red onion

½ cup of chopped celery

½ roasted red bell pepper

1 roasted tomato

½ cup of roasted corn kernels

¾ cup of black beans, cooked

1 tsp of ground cumin

1½ tbsp of ground cayenne

1 cup of quinoa

½ lemon

1 tbsp of chopped cilantro

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Preping,

Oven roast red bell pepper and tomatoes. Skin and chop red bell pepper and chop them.

Char the corn on the cob in oven. Remove the kernels from the cob.

Sauté onion, celery and garlic in a wide pan over a medium heat. Now add in all the ingredients.  Sauté for a minute.

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Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Add two cups of water, cover with lid and cook at medium heat.

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Finish it off with lemon and cilantro.

Suggestion:

You can also puree the roasted tomatoes if you like your quinoa tangy.

Can also top it with freshly chopped cucumber and avocado.

You can cook everything separately and mix it just before serving, with some kale and lettuce. Just like a salad.

By itself is a great meal. I particularly like this recipe with fish. Eating healthy doesn’t have to taste any less delicious. During your busy weeks, make a big batch and portion it. Make it a day ahead, it tastes even better.

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Grill a fish and enjoy your meal.

 

 

Banana Foster – French Toast

Sometimes we all need a pick me up breakfast. By pick me up I mean, I want a treat. Yes! it was a treat. Andy was gleaming for every bite. For sure it has few extra ingredients than an original french toast. It is worth it. For an extra luxurious taste, I made banana foster. French toast tastes good by itself. By all means add any fruits that your heart desires. Maybe add some maple syrup. Go creative.

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I am using Challah or french brioche bread, you might find it in your local grocery store. You can also use any bread that you have in hand.

Ingredients for FRENCH TOAST,

4 slices of Challah

1 cup of crushed Corn Flakes

¼ cup of Granulated Sugar

½ tsp of Cinnamon Powder

1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

2 Eggs

1 cup of Milk

1 tbsp of Butter

 

Preping,

Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a cookie tray with aluminum foil or baking sheet.

Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and milk. Beat them until everything is incorporated.

Moist the bread in egg mixture, not soggy. Then press the bread with corn flakes.

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Heat a skillet at medium flame and add butter. Once the butter has melted, start cooking the breads on each side for 2 minutes.

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Transfer the breads to cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.

Now is the time to make Banana Foster.

 

Ingredients for BANANA FOSTER, 

¼ cup of Brown Sugar

2 tbsp of Butter

2  medium size Bananas

½ tsp of Cinnamon and Vanilla Extract (optional).

Preping,

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low flame. Add sugar to the melted butter. Let it bubble a bit and add the sliced bananas.

Keep shaking the skillet for a minute or until the bananas are hot.

Top the French Toast with Banana Foster and enjoy. I also added some chopped strawberries. It is totally optional. Just thought that they look pretty and tasted yummy as well.

I like my toast crunchy with caramelized banana. For more sauce you can also add more butter and sugar.

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Yum!

 

 

Duckie’s Chowder House, Cayucos

It’s been a month since our trip to San Francisco, but I had to post about the outrageous ‘Clam Chowder’. The other day I was scrolling down the pictures and saw the Clam Chowder photo. The very thought of it makes me want to have some Clam Chowder. Duckie’s Chowder House is located right at the beach, along Pacific Coast Highway.

IMG-20160411-WA0042I have never liked clam as it is, the only way I love eating clam is ‘Clam Chowder’. Duckie’s Clam Chowder is the best chowder I have ever tasted. Creamy, perfectly seasoned with chewy clam. The restaurant itself is quaint and has bar chairs to catch the view of the sea while having the creamy chowder.

IMG-20160411-WA0043 Ah! The best kind. I ordered the bread bowl, So so good.

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Stop here on your way to SFO, enjoy the view and have some Clam Chowder.

Love some Clam Chowder!!!

 

Duckie’s Chowder House address: 55 Cayucos Dr, Cayucos, CA 93430

Menu: http://www.duckieschowder.com/

 

 

Brown Butter Cookie Company

The much needed road trip to San Francisco. Ah! the beautiful scenic route via pacific coast highway. Absolutely breath taking. Along the route we saw a quaint little town, Cayucos. Of course we stopped to explore. You would never guess how a small town like Cayucos feel romantic. This is a kinda place you will want to visit again and spend a day or two.

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During our exploration we found a gem, ‘BROWN BUTTER COOKIE COMPANY’. The sales person gave us a sample, at first I thought that its going to be like any other cookie. I was wrong, it is the best cookie I have ever had. Pricey than your normal cookie but it is so worth it. Cookies are eggless! My favorite are Original and  Almond flavors. We brought a few cookies back home. Best treat ever!!!

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The sales person was so sweet and even gave me permission to take few pictures. For sure its one crowded store.

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Do stop by and buy some cookies. They do ship all over USA.

Brown Butter Cookie Company address:

CAYUCOS– 98 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA 93430

PASO ROBLES– 801 12th St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Website: http://www.brownbuttercookies.com/