The complexity involved in putting together a beautiful, wholesome, delicious meal requires an understanding of the food and ingredients being used. There must be balance and everything on the plate should complement one another.

Women are complex beings, we have so many layers that make us who we are, yet we are expected to look beautiful, be in the best moods, say the right things and be perfect at everything. In reality, a lot of women “mask” their true persona behind a façade…..not a sustainable way to live by any means.

 Like a great meal, women should be free to be themselves, be comfortable in their own skin and free to be accepted just as they are.

Today’s recipes will focus on the beauty of naked cakes. Think shabby chic, elegant yummines….yes I know…..that’s a lot of paradoxes but when you try these recipes, I know that you will come round.

The Classic White cake:
This cake is simple and unpretentious with mild hints of vanilla and almond it envelops you in its subtle fluffiness. It’s quit easy to throw together too.  You can find full directions here

To garnish you can use some whipped cream and any assortment of preferred fruits or chocolate scattered over the top.

   
   NOTE: You may opt to halve the recipe and make just one cake.

Orange Syrup Cake

This baked yummy appears to be plain but is packed with flavour and texture. This dense moist cake will pair well with a generous scoop of ice cream or can be enjoyed on its own. Addiction alert: Be sure not be left alone with this cake! Find the full guide for making this cake here

NOTE: If you have orange syrup to hand already, then like I did, you may decide to skip making the candied oranges and use fresh oranges to garnish your cake.

   
   Let’s take a walk on the spicy side, shall we? How about a Spiced Apple Caramel Cake? Dense, dark, moist and riveting, it will be way to Hoover this cake unaided! You have been warned, follow this recipe and adjust the quantities accordingly. Omit the butter cream frosting, drizzle salted caramel over the cake and voila!

   
 
Chocolate, Rum and lemon cakes are not to be left out. Great recipes for these can be found here, here and here.

   
   

   
 

   

 These cakes are distinct, bold, gorgeous and delicious. They are not fussy in how they are presented but remain true to what they are.

Enjoy unmasking the inner cake in you.

It was exciting to embark on trip to New York sans lil’uns in tow. The prospects were endless, first of all I didn’t have to worry about inconvenient, unexpected bathroom breaks, nor did I have to schedule my activities around nap times, melt downs and everything else in between. More importantly my meal selections will be devoid of worries about allergies; real & perceived and disdain for anything green.

Summer was in full swing, my brother was graduating from university, everyone was happy; it was the perfect time to eat and be merry! And we did just that!

   

      

Rochester is not a bustling city but I felt that it would yield surprising delights. Our first meal there was not memorable at all. We went to a steak house called “Sticky Lips”…..I imagined that It would be like those hidden diners that Guy Fieri uncovers on his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. I even imagined that we might meet his crew there filming or something. Well no such luck. No crew and no Guy Fieri. But I still had hopes for the food. I mean the place was ok. It ticked all the right boxes for quaint furnishing, classic American bar type set up etc., but the food fell flat. I am sorry, everything on my plate felt dry and under seasoned……..not unlike cardboard……..from my previous post, by now you know how I feel about such meals……

   
 I felt a bit anxious and hoped that there would be some redemption for this city and boy was there ever!

So after the grad ceremony in the morning, the girls (Aile, Osi, Uzzie) and I decided to hangout and have a good “natter”. Our hangout of choice was Carrabas. An awesome little Italian restaurant and grill. I had the Mahi Wulfe which was beyond delicious. The fish was cooked to perfection, the basil lemon butter was sublime and the artichoke hearts and seared tomatoes were to die! I was replete and very happy! Things were really beginning to look up!
  

There was deliciousness all around, the steak, the focaccia, the pizza, the soup, everything was lovely and we all enjoyed our choices.

   
         

Stuffed, pleased and expectant, I returned to my hotel to prepare for the dinner my dad was hosting in honor of my fresh faced, bright eyed, bushy tailed, brand new graduate brother (Lawrence if you read this, you know I love you 😀).

Dressed, and a few selfies after, I was ready to meet my dinner and fellow diners of course 😄. 

  

Dinner was grand; I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was laughter, there were tears as moving speeches were rendered by family and friends. The food lived up to its billing. We had diner at Black and Blue Steak and Crab. This restaurant had just the right ambience, it is modern and urban chic but not in an OTT way. And the food? So fresh and so delicious! 

 

  

The waiting staff were courteous and attentive so I was never tempted even for a moment to rotten fish slap any of them. Having said that, I would have been hard pressed to find rotten fish in that location….

For starters, I had the crab cake. Let me tell you, the avocado lime aioli made this dish! The touch of watercress just added the right amount of freshness and pepperiness without overwhelming the crab.

  
For my main course, I had a beautifully cooked ahi tuna. It was light, fresh and filling all at once. I didn’t want the meal, to end……but you know what they say about every good thing…….
  
We all had very good meals. Everything was beautifully presented and there was not a complaint around the table.

   
         

I assure you that I left in a state of food coma. Complete stupor! But I have NO regrets! None!

After the excitement of all the activities, we decided that Rochester had yielded all it had to offer us and so we packed up and embarked on a road trip to NYC! I was humming with excitement! Although after 6.5 hours I wasn’t  feeling much like humming. We did have one pit stop to be fair…which gave ample opportunities for more selfies 😀 And to fill up on the road trip food of choice – junk food.

   

  
 Refilled and refreshed, we entered New York City (NYC) just before sunset. It was quite beautiful to observe the city bathed in golden glow with Crimson and amber streaks in the sky.

My hotel was right on Times Square; The Westin. You know what that means right? 😀 Let’s just say we trawled the length and breath of the vicinity as much as our tired legs would allow us.

   

   

The absolute highlight of the evening was our shameless stint at Juniour’s. Please, if you love decadent desserts, more specifically cheesecakes, then you absolutely must go to a Juniour’s. I will let the pictures do the talking. 

   
   

  

  

  

  

  I justified my slice of cheesecake by telling myself that I would walk it off…..yeah right! 😂 I fell into bed at 1 am feeling extremely happy and mischievous. I just broke all my mealtime rules and I didn’t care! Liberating!

In the morning, I had breakfast with my dad at the Gourmet New York Marketplace. It’s a tiny little deli, buzzing with activity and filled all sorts of wholesome yummies. I settled fora a chicken Swiss cheese wrap, with a yoghurt and granola parfait (Topped with fresh fruit) and pepper mint tea. 

  
I couldn’t down it all at once. So I saved half the wrap and munched on it later in my room, between, you guessed it! Taking more selfies! 😀

   
   

That was my last meal in NYC as I was scheduled to fly out a few hours after; of course not before a quick traispe around. From the garment district to 48th street (and beyond if I remember correctly). 

I enjoyed drinking in the sites and sounds of the city.  I hasten to add that I could have done without the assault to my olfactory lobes but I guess you can’t have it all.

   
    And then it was all over, I packed up, said my farewells, got in a cab, took my last selfie and prepared for the long journey back home to my hubby and munchkins. But the best part of it all, was that I left feeling like I got a good taste of New York especially since I spent only 72 hours there.

 

Generally speaking, I can be quite nit – picky about where I eat and what I eat. From issues with mismatched cutlery, to horribly prepared food to less than courteous waiters; all these factors make me a very reluctant diner. I remember once, I went to a 4 star hotel in Abuja for dinner and as I sat down, I instantly noticed that the cutlery on the table was mismatched; I was baffled! Couldn’t a hotel of this “caliber” get place setting right? Don’t even get me started on a popular hotel in VIctoria Island, who’s meals I can barely put in my mouth.

Airline food? That’s a whole other set of problems! The rep is ……well…..lets just say……it’s legendary for being generally unpalatable and underseasoned.

So on a recent trip to the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” I decided to chronicle some of the meals I had while airborne.

 In no particular order, on the first leg of my trip, there was a nice fresh salad with seasonal vegetables and a good mix of dressings and vinaigrettes. My favorite though was the ensuing mezze. You will find out, in subsequent posts (and in a new book 😉) all about my entanglements with mezzes.

This one didn’t disappoint; it was so fresh! The tabbouleh was on the money. The stuffed grape leaves were amazing. I loved it all.

Lovely salad and an even lovelier mezze

 I then decided that I wanted a light main course and opted for the seared tiger prawn in parsley & garlic butter and Mediterranean vegetables. The prawns were moist and chunky. Everything was perfectly seasoned and all around delicious and fresh. So far I was a happy camper.

King prawns are KING!


 On another leg of the trip. I opted for another salad as a starter and a main of veal and potatoes. To be frank this meal was not memorable. The salad was fine but the main! What a train wreck! It look like pig’s slop and tasted like seasoned card board which is not saying a lot because it was just awful. I didn’t bother to eat the meal.

But the service was somewhat redeemed by the dessert…….  

Blech!

  
The dessert was a dark chocolate fondant in caramel sauce. Give me dark chocolate any day and I will be happy. So that was nice to have after eating cardboard.

Dark Chocolate!

One of the breakfast meals consisted of a grilled egg and bacon panini, cinnamon roll and Greek yoghurt. Everything was fine save that I found the cinnamon roll to be a tad dry.

  

The next series of meals came up with top marks; I enjoyed them thoroughly!

  

 The seasonal salad was great but the real star was the asparagus with Burford brown egg and truffle dressing. It was earthy, fresh and delish.

simple ingredients +. complex flavours = gastronimic heaven

 
The main was surprisingly delicious. I say surprising because it was a chilled meal and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy cold cooked salmon. Also, I hadn’t ever eaten two of the ingredients described in menu. Well I was amazingly surprised. What a delicious plate of happiness. It was a dish of roasted salmon with Turkish spices, fregola, pomegranate seeds, parsley, mint and sumac.

Fregola is a type of pasta found in Sardinia and sumac is a wonderful tart spice used mostly in Middle Eastern  cooking.

The marriage of flavours was nothing short of magical! Can you tell from my empty plates? 😀

A delicious meal choice!

  

Evidence of a well enjoyed meal

  

The magic flowed seamlessly into dessert of Somerset Camembert and Barber’s cheese served with fig relish and biscuits.

Dessert of biscuits, cheese and relish

 At the end of the meal, I was well and truly stuffed, so much so that when the next meal was offered before we landed, I waved it off contentedly for there was no room. But more importantly, I didn’t want to ruin, what in my opinion, was a perfect gastronomic encounter.

I cannot wait to tell you all about the highs and lows of my food adventures in New York.

it is incredible that I have not posted in over 2 months! Where does the time go? Goodness knows that I have tonnes to share. 

Anyway, today is the 4th of July; a day set aside by the United Sates of America to celebrate their independence as a nation. So I thought to whip up something in the spirit of the occasion.

Again, I DO NOT have an identity crisis; I am fully aware that I am Nigerian 😀. However I have loads of family and friends who are American so I celebrate with them 😀

This is very simple recipe; simply follow the guidelines in this post. Instead of folding the fruits into the custard just lay them out in your desired pattern; in this case the flag of the United Staes of America. 

After it has baked and cooled you may topped with extra fresh fruit!
Look out for posts on my recent sojourn to a concrete jungle 😉   

     

Being pear shaped can be good or bad depending on your “situation”; if you had Oprah Winfrey’s pear shaped body and corresponding access to a super amazing wardrobe & a personal trained AND private chef then it is a wonderful thing to be pear shaped. If on the other hand you’re pear shaped, stand at 6 foot 9 inches and are permanently domiciled in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland then well, you’re not in such great shape (pun intended). 

I bid thee glad tidings as today’s post has nothing to do with the persistent, pesky body shape matter or remote towns with no retail therapy prospects. 

Let’s take a good look at the fruit; juicy, sometimes crunchy, some times mushy but always delicious – the pear. It is not a fruit that is indigenous to West Africa but it is widely available regardless, in most shops and even open markets. As a child I marveled at its mildly sweet grainy texture and wondered if the fruit was some sort of sibling to the apple which I equally loved (please don’t try to rationalize this 😀)

I have rarely incorporated pears in my meal preparations; seeing as I am usually too preoccupied with eating the, I am sure you appreciate why this is. But recently I have applied them to two dishes; a starter and a dessert and let me tell you! It’s a winner! A surprise winner at that!!

I present to you a vertical pear salad and pear tartlet; a perfect way to start and end a meal if you ask me.😀

I can not take the glory for the idea of this salad; I was inspired by a recipe on Pinterest from this blog  and essentially, this is my version.

Ingredients (To serve 4)

4 medium – large not-so-ripe pears ( I prefer my pears with a slight crunch to them)

200 g creme fraiche

4 tablespoons runny honey

1 pack of fresh rocket aka arugula (rinsed and patted dry)

1 teaspoon Olive oil

1/2 cup pecans

1 Lemon (juice)

I made this starter last December on Christmas Day and our friends were delighted by it. It’s a must try especially if you’re trying to impress 😉

The ‘How To’

Fear not! Be still and know that I will guide you through this. No, we are not building the tower of Pisa and yes, it is likey to topple over, as my first attempt did. Please study the picture below, it crashed shortly after the picture was taken. There are no words to express the frustartion I felt; I mean it was still delicious in a messy non-gourmet kinda way……….So basically, you want a squat, sturdy pear, not a long lean one. Also you don’t want too many sections in each pear. Ok, so moving swiftly along.

  

Obviously, you need to rinse and dry your fruits. Then carefully slice them horizontally; I would advocate for no more than 3 to 4 sections for each pear depending on the size and this includes the bottom and top bit. Ensure that your pear will stay balanced on a flat plate and if it seems slightly wobbly then carefully slice a thin sliver off the bottom to create a flat surface at the bottom (we don’t want a delicious messy non-gourmet starter, remember?).  Now brush some lemon juice on the cut surfaces to prevent browning. Next, core the pear slices so that you end up with doughnutty type slices ie pear slices with a hole in the middle. You can achieve this with a paring knife or if you are like Inspector a Gadget and I then you will have one of those apple coring devices that we never really use ; NOW is a fab time to whip it out.

It helps to keep each sliced and cored pear together so that when you assemble it it mainagunas it’s natural shape.

Ok, now place your creme fraiche and olive oil in a bowl and with a fork or hand whisk, whisk it vigorously until well combined. The creme fraiche should still be a bit thick but lose enough to coat the pecans easily. You may opt to toast your pecans before tossing them into your creme fraiche; I couldn’t be bothered because I sweaty anxious mess with 4 hungry people at the table quickly losing their Festive cheer! 

Place aragula (you won’t need the entire pack so measure out maybe two handfuls) in a bowl and empty the creme fraiche mixture on it. Now with your hands carefully toss the salad.

Now comes the fun part, assuming you’re still keen to proceed.😁 Basically place the bottom part of the pear on your serving platter, take some of the arugula mixture and carefully mount it on the middle of the slice. Place the next slice on it, pressing down slightly, top with more salad and repeat till you get to the top. Then drizzle each stacked pear with honey. This will not only and an amazing glazy finish to your salad bit will also counter the tartness of the creme fraiche.

Say a prayer or two as you walk gingerly to the table with your awesome creation. When I appeared at the table, all Christmas grinchiness lifted as everyone whipped out their camera phones to take documentary evidence of what they were about to inhale! 

  

All hubby had to do was step away from the table for a second and our youngest swooped right in to help himself! Lol! 😄 As you can see, he’s a demolition expert and wasted no time in knocking it over! This time though it was ok😀

  

You will recall my recent infatuation with apple rose tarts. If you don’t, please get acquainted here.

Well, I have since scaled down these yummy tarts and now make them as tartlets! Evidence below.

   

   

It is the exact same recipe as the one here but this time  they are made in muffin pans so that you end up with the most adorable delectable treat.

Essentially when you follow the recipe, at the point where you roll out the dough, using a circlular cutter that is at least 1/2 wider than the muffin bowl, cut out circles of the dough, place in the muffin tin and follow through as you would if you where making a whole tart. 

This recipe is so easy, I even have my dear friend, Maria, all the way in Denmark making it! She sent this delightful picture to me! It is officially a global movement!!

  

Anyway, getting back on track, it didn’t take long before I wondered if I could sub the apples for pears and there was only one way to find out! Thankfully, I had just made some apple tartlets and had left over dough and lemon curd in the fridge so making these took no time at all.

All I did was bake the crust, filled with lemon curd and made the pear roses or should we call them proses? 😀I am witty aren’t I?😀 and guess what? This time, I kept the pears fresh! Yep! Didn’t cook them or bake them! Just spritz with lemon juice to keep the colour nice and fresh looking.

The down side, is that they will not be sitting around forever (as if something this beautiful and delish should sit around forever!!! Perish the thought!!) but the upside is that it gives you a legitimate reason to polish it off promto!! Which is exactly what the boys and I did! They were back from school, and they were hungry…..can you see where this is going? Needless to say that was their dinner! They loved it! Washed down with some juice and they were happy little campers! 

Please don’t judge me😀 I mean who says that dessert cannot be a main course? 

     

And thus ends my tale of two pear recipes. I hope you enjoyed it 😀

PS: Ittoqqortoormiit is an actual place. But please don’t ask me to pronounce it! 😅 Emmmmm, Maria, some help please! Educate us!

FFF Tip of the Day

If you decide to try the pear tartlets, it would be ideal to use pears that are just ripe enough to have lost their crunch but not so ripe that they are mushy. It’s a fine line I know 😀 but so worth it if you get it right!