Hello Spring: Orange Ricotta Muffins

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So this morning I woke up at what I thought was close to 7 a.m. The husband promptly and gleefully (!) reminded me that daylight saving had started and it was actually 8 a.m. Grr…

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I am really looking forward to the Easter break, though I have so much to do at work in the next 3 days, it does not bear thinking about. And I need to start waking up 1 hour early each morning, hmmm…

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If daylight saving has begun, spring is here, damn it, even if it is grey and rainy outside!! A quick rant on Facebook and breakfast later, I wanted to make something to cheer me up.

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The husband had just made freshly squeezed orange for us from these sweet organic oranges he had bought last night and a little was left over.

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The orange rind was also all collected on a plate to go into the compost bin and I remembered I had ricotta in the refrigerator. Sounded like the perfect ingredients for some fresh, sunny muffins :D

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These are super moist because of the ricotta and full of lovely citrus notes from the orange juice and zest. Also, there is no butter in them. I used olive oil instead.

DSC_0323To make it even more citrusy, I topped the muffins with a quick glaze of lemon juice and icing sugar and a few bits of lemon and orange zest.

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And on the munchkins orders, added blueberries…Super delicious, super moist and a perfect welcome to spring.

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When I was getting ready to photograph these, I realised my backyard was also slowly waking up. I collected a few of these little wild flowers to pretty up the presentation.

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What is happening in your part of the world? Can you feel that it is spring yet? And how are you celebrating its arrival? I would love to know :)

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Here’s the recipe.

Orange Ricotta Muffins

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 & 3/4 cups All-purpose Flour
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 & 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
250 grams Ricotta Cheese
1 tablespoons Orange Zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 large Egg
1/2 cup Blueberries (optional)

For the glaze:

1/2 cup Icing Sugar
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, orange zest, orange juice, olive oil, and egg until well-blended.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet.
Stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. The batter will be thick.
Divide batter evenly between 9 to 12 paper muffin cups.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (not wet).
Remove from oven and set the muffins on a wire rack. Let them cool.
In a small bowl, mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice till well blended. Drizzle a teaspoon of the glaze over each muffin.
Top with more orange or lemon zest, if desired.

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Holy Smoke: Baba Ganoush

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If you have been with me since last year, you may remember from my Begun Bhaja post that I became an eggplant convert as a grown up. As a child, liking eggplants was unthinkable to me. Who would want this bitter, gloopy vegetable?

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Well, as an adult, I like to think I know better. Eggplant is one of those veggies whose taste is completely dependent on your treatment of it. Add it to a stew and let it cook to a slimy mess and trust me, it will taste as bad as it looks!

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But roast it, fry it or grill it and season it with spices and you will wonder where it has been all your life!

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Add the magic of smoke to eggplants, though and you will be in pukka gastronomic heaven. It is true for the Indian Baingan ka Bharta and it is equally true for the middle eastern Baba Ganoush.

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A few year ago, one of my Turkish friends introduced me to a fabulous dip that she made by roasting eggplants over a fire. Looking for that dip led me to Baba Ganoush. It is slightly different from the Turkish version, but equally delicious.

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Smoky eggplant, garlic, tahini and pine nuts! Doesn’t that sound delectable? Have some pita chips or sea salt crackers on hand and dive right in :D It doesn’t get much better than this!

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I hope the fabulous bloggers at Angie’s Fiesta Friday love this delightful dip as much as I do. This week’s party is being hosted by two absolutely wonderful ladies, Selma @Selma’s Table and Margy @La Petite Casserole and I’m really looking forward to it :D

Here’s the recipe.

Baba Ganoush

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 large Eggplant
2 tablespoons Tahini, plus more as needed
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup fresh Lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 pinch ground Cumin
1 pinch Paprika
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
1 tablespoon Pine Nuts

Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.
Preheat an oven to 180°C.
Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches from the fire.
Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake in the oven until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.
Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl.
Using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste.
Add the tahini, the garlic, the lemon juice and the cumin and mix well.
Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well.
Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley and pine nuts.
Sprinkle the paprika over it.
Serve at room temperature.

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Curry in a Hurry: Quick Chicken Masala

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There is something vaguely therapeutic about making a curry. The chopping, the frying, the slow build-up of myriad layers of flavor, the addition of the same ingredients in three different forms, at three different times, the occasional overnight marination…

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It teaches you patience, it teaches you perseverance… it teaches you that good things come to those who wait. There is nothing more satisfying than digging into a curry that you have been prepping for a couple of days and finding that it is a true culmination of all that was promised when you began :)

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Sometimes, just sometimes though, one does wish for a curry that can be made in the time it takes for your favorite curry shack to deliver! Something that is not too complex and fast enough to whip up for a quick weeknight dinner.

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Well, this Chicken Masala is just the ticket! No marination needed, simple ingredients and it all comes together in 20-25 minutes. Succulent morsels of chicken cooked in a tantalising tomato sauce. Light and delicious!

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Serve it with some steamed rice, chapatis or even whole grain bread and you are in for a treat!

DSC_0135  I am bringing over a large helping of this deliciousness over to Angie’s Friday Fiesta! Did you know there is a very special surprise at this week’s party? Join us and find out what it is!! It is BIG, I’ll promise you that :D And this week’s co-hosts Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends are sure to make it an affair to remember. See you there!

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Here’s the recipe.

Quick Chicken Masala

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 kg boneless Chicken, cubed
2 tablespoons cooking Oil
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
4 large cloves Garlic, chopped
4 large Red Onions, chopped
3 medium Tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon Ginger, chopped
2-3 Green Chillies, chopped
1 sprig Curry Leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon Red Chilli powder (reduce as per level of heat desired)
1 teaspoon Black Pepper, crushed
1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
Salt to taste
A small bunch Cilantro

Directions:

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add cumin seeds and fennel seeds.
Once they release flavor, add chopped garlic. Saute for 30 seconds.
Add the chopped onion, tomato, ginger and green chillies.
Stir fry until the onion turns brownish.
Add the curry leaves and the dry spices and mix well.
Add the boneless chicken cubes and salt and stir for a minute.
Cook on a low flame, with a lid on top for about 10 minutes, or till the chicken cubes are cooked through.
Serve the dish garnished with chopped cilantro.

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Me, Myself & Pi: Nutella Pie Pops

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Hello!! How have you guys been? God, it feels so good to get back to blogging after 3 weeks! No, I wasn’t away on vacation, nothing as exciting as that…

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2 weeks ago, on my birthday to be exact, I came down with the nasty bout of flu, which more or less cemented my love-hate relationship with my birthdays. I managed to even pass it on to my husband and the munchkin and we had some very interesting (ahem!) days at home.

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I can’t say I have recovered completely. Walking up two flights of stairs tends to leave me breathless and I’ve been falling asleep way earlier than usual every evening…

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But… there has been sunshine this week, lots of it! The crisp, cold air and the gorgeous sunshine have certainly been helping me feel better. Spring is finally here <3

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And this morning, I realised it is ‘Pi’ Day! The 3rd of March, i.e. 3.14, but this year, it is especially significant, because today’s date is 3.14.15, so the first 5 digits of this magical number are reflected, something which will not happen again till 2115!

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I could not let such a special day pass without making, well, what else, but pie! But recovering, as we all are, I wanted to keep it quick, easy and lot of fun, with a bit of whimsy thrown in.

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These little Nutella Pie Pops sure fit the bill, don’t they? And you need 2 ingredients to make them: shortcrust pastry and nutella, that’s it! Well, you can make the pastry from scratch, but I have no illusions of doing that at this time, so store-bought it was for me :D

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I also added black currant jam and peanut butter in some of them, for variety, so simple, yet so delightful! These are perfect for Pi day or any special occasion. Imagine giving these to kids at a party. The munchkin helped me make these… stamping them out, inserting the lollipop sticks… and she loved gleefully devouring them, of course. 

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A bouquet of these are coming with me to Angie’s Friday Fiesta, an event I’ve missed for the last two weeks. This week’s party is being hosted by two wonderful ladies,  Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook and Mila @milkandbun. Can’t wait to catch up with everyone!

Here’s the recipe.

Nutella Pie Pops

  • Servings: 10-20, depending on size
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 sheet store-bought Shortcrust Pastry
4-5 tablespoons Nutella
2 tablespoons Milk

Directions:

Cut out desired shapes from the shortcrust pastry, 2 pieces to a pie.
Add about a teaspoon of nutella to a cut-out, brush the sides with milk.
Place a lollipop stick (make sure it is heat-proof) and cover it with another cut-out of pastry. Press the sides to seal.
Similarly prepare more pie pops.
Place the pie pops on a baking sheet, brush the tops with milk and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for about 15-20 minutes or till the pops are golden.

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Sweet Virtues: Chocolate, Chia Seeds & Dry Fruits Pudding

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Growing up, one of my favorite activities, undertaken about twice a year was Mom and Daughter outings with my mom. We would go down to South Bombay and do all our favorite things.

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Shopping for thrifty yet chic clothes at the aptly named ‘Fashion Street’, hitting Crawford Market for foodie goodies, stopping at Flora Fountain for the latest paperback additions to my ever-expanding home library…

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Those days were full of laughter, long talks, lots of shopping and stops in between to catch quick bites to eat and drink from a fabulous array of street food. One of our favorite haunts on such days was the Khau Galli: a narrow lane connecting Fashion Street to SNDT University. ‘Khau Galli’ literally means Food Lane :D and it really is a street-food lover’s dream!

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First, it is a lane that thousands of people pass through everyday, since it is smack in the middle of the commercial district and also close to colleges and universities. So the food here is quite fresh, lip-smacking and affordable, like street food should be!

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Rows and rows of vendors selling the most scrumptuous Vada Pav, Chaat, Misal Pav, Tava Pulao and of course, Pav Bhaji. And plenty of stalls selling freshly squeezed fruit juices and milkshakes to wash down all the spicy food! Oh, Sugarcane Juice, how I miss thee!

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One of my favorite meals was piping hot Pav Bhaji (a spicy ragout of vegetables, served with hot buttered & toasted rolls, so good!) followed by a luscious Dry Fruits Milkshake.

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Pav Bhaji deserves a post of its own (soon!), but in the meantime, let’s talk about that Dry Fruits Milkshake. It was so thick, you could barely swig it through the straw, so the vendor also gave you a spoon. It was full of figs, cashew nuts, raisins, almonds and dates blended with milk and ice to velvety goodness and then topped with loads (and I mean loads) more nuts.

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Absolutely delicious and re-energizing, so we could continue on our quest for the next bargain :D Mom and I both really loved that shake, so we also started making it at home all the time.

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I developed a craving for it this weekend, but wanted to serve it more like a pudding. So to thicken it even further to pudding consistency, I used that most extolled of superfoods, Chia Seeds.

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This is one of the easiest puddings you can make. There is absolutely no cooking involved. All you need to do is soak the ingredients and then blend the heck out of them. That is it! This treat is creamy, nutty, delicious and so, so, so good for you! And did I mention it is sugar-free?

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You can top it with anything: naughty or nice, your choice :D Nuts, granola, chocolate chips, berries, puffed rice… You can even layer it up with some chopped fruits for a gorgeous breakfast parfait. Health never tasted this good :D

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I am bringing over some tall glasses of this goodness over to Angie’s Friday Fiesta. This weeks co-hosts are the wonderfully talented Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmande and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

Here’s the recipe.

Chocolate, Chia Seeds & Dry Fruits Pudding

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 5 minutes (plus soaking time)
  • Print

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Chia Seeds
2 cups Milk (or Almond Milk)
2 tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa
10 Dates, pitted
10-12 dried Figs
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Almonds
1/4 cup Cashew Nuts
Honey or Maple Syrup (optional)

Topping Options (Mix and Match!):

Puffed Rice
Granola
Berries
Nuts
Chocolate Chips
Chocolate Curls
Chopped Fruits
Toasted Coconut
Goji Berries

Directions:

Soak all the ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Blend together in a heavy-duty blender, till smooth. Check sweetness and add honey or maple syrup if desired.
Serve chilled with any combination of toppings.

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A Danish Carnival Special: Fastelavnsboller (Cream & Marzipan-filled Shrovetide Buns)

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Fastelavn er mit navn,
boller vil jeg have.
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
så laver jeg ballade.
Boller op, boller ned
boller i min mave.
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
så laver jeg ballade.

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That is a song that children in Denmark sing, late January onwards, when Fastelavn draws near. It roughly translates to English as:

Shrovetide is my name,
buns I want.
If I get no buns,
I will make trouble.
Buns up, buns down
buns in my tummy.
If I get no buns,
I will make trouble.

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Now imagine little toddlers singing it in super-cute, cherubic voices and you will understand the charm :D The munchkin was two when she first sang it; first shyly, then real loudly, but so adorably that, it used to make my heart skip a few beats <3

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Fastelavn is the Danish Carnival, the Danish Mardi Gras, kind of a Nordic Halloween and this year, it’s on the 15th of February. Children dress up in cute costumes and go around collecting treats. There are also Fastelavn celebrations in all day-cares and some very interesting activities.

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Cats are an important symbol of Fastelavn. Cat-themed decorations abound (the ones in the photos were made by the munchkin in years past) and one of the traditions is slå katten af tønden (“hit the cat out of the barrel”), which is basically a piñata consisting of a wooden barrel with candy inside. In the old days, there used to be a live cat inside the barrel, but today, thankfully, only a picture of a black cat is pasted on the outside of the barrel.

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The child who makes the candy spill out by breaking the bottom of the barrel, is named the kattedronning (“queen of cats”) and the one who knocks down the last piece of the barrel becomes kattekonge (“king of cats”). And crowns are handed out, of course :D

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Now, remember the buns in that little ditty above? Well, they are not just any old buns. They are very special buns called Fastelavnsboller, made specially around this time.

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I have found them in two main variations: the ones made with yeast dough and the ones made with choux pastry. The ones I made this year are with yeast.

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Super soft, buttery, cardamom-scented buns with lovely vanilla crème pâtissière and marzipan tucked into them. And topped with melted chocolate and sprinkles! Treats fit for little kings and queens, don’t you think :D

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And as you will see from the recipe, these adorable goodies are super-easy and quick to whip up! So, do give them a try. You won’t be sorry!

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Here’s the recipe.

Fastelavnsboller (Danish Shrovetide Buns filled with Crème Pâtissière & Marzipan)

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 60 minutes (plus cooling time)
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the Buns
200-250 grams All-purpose Flour
75 grams Butter
1 teaspoon Sugar
25 grams fresh Yeast
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 nos. Green Cardamom
1 Egg
75 ml Milk

For the Crème
3 teaspoons All-purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Sugar
1 Egg
200 ml Milk
Seeds from 1 Vanilla pod

You will also need:
100 grams Marzipan
Melted Chocolate, to decorate
Sprinkles/ Crushed Nuts/ Freeze-dried berries, to decorate

Directions:

In a saucepan, heat milk and butter together till the butter dissolves. Keep aside to cool down.
Place the yeast in a large mixing bowl and add the lukewarm milk-butter mixture to it (make sure the milk isn’t hot, otherwise it will kill the yeast).
Dissolve the yeast in the milk.
Next add sugar, crushed cardamom seeds, egg and salt. Mix everything well together.
Start adding the flour in batches and start mixing. Add just enough flour till the mixture is supple and can be kneaded without sticking.
Knead well for a couple of minutes, cover and keep aside to rise for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the creme.
Take all the ingredients for the cream in a saucepan and cook on a low flame with constant stirring, until it thickens. It should thicken to a smooth, lump-free paste.
Take off the heat and set aside to cool. It has to cool completely before it can be filled into the buns.
Divide the marzipan into 8-10 small pieces.
When the dough has risen, roll it out on a non-stick or slightly floured surface and divide into 8-10 squares.
Place a teaspoon of the creme on each square and add a piece of marzipan.
Bring the four corners of the square together and seal them together so that the filling does not seep out.
Place the buns with the sealed flaps down, on a baking tray.
Brush with a little milk or egg wash and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C, for about 10-12 minutes or till golden.
Take out of the oven and let them cool.
Top them with melted white or dark chocolate and garnish with sprinkles, crushed nuts or freeze-dried berries.

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Treats from the Heart: Marzipan & White Chocolate Love Cakes

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Brace yourselves! It’s that time of the year again! Heart-shaped everything is coming :D

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As in wrote in my last year’s Valentine’s Day post, I don’t believe in making much of a fuss over this day. Romance is wonderful, but I like a bit of it everyday, a look, a touch; it isn’t something that’s packed away for a whole year and bubbles up in the form of pink and red mush, one day of the year.

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At the same time, a day celebrating love is not all bad, so long as you don’t feel the compulsion to spend big bucks, egged on by all the commercial hoopla, just to show your loved ones that you care.

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I like showing my love in little ways, something homemade, something DIY-ed.

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I remember this one year, just before the munchkin came along, I gave my husband a basket of fruit for V-day, with these funny, fruity love stickers. You know, the ones that say ‘You are the Apple of my eye’ or ‘We make the perfect Pear’ or ‘I’m going Bananas over you’! We had a good laugh that day <3

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Well, I am not one to let a perfectly good excuse like V-day go by without baking some goodies. These cuties were inspired by some lovely little, red foil cupcake cases I found a few months ago.

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The ingredients were inspired by what my loved ones love: the munchkin loves marzipan, the husband loves white chocolate… Voila! Little marzipan and white chocolate love cakes were born!

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Just for added effect, I stuck in strawberry halves in some of them. I love the red peeking through and they too look a bit like hearts, don’t they?

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These little cakes sure do spread the love! They are super moist from the marzipan and still wonderfully light and delicious from the white chocolate. You can really taste each ingredient.

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They also met with the high standards of li’l Ms. Picky Eater, who couldn’t stop smiling when she saw them. The strawberry ones are her favorite <3

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How are you guys celebrating? Do you go all out or keep it on the down low? I would love to hear all about it :)

Meanwhile I’m bringing a basket of these goodies to Angie’s Friday Feista, where the fabulous Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @birgerbird are co-hosting today! Can’t wait to see everyone at the party!

Here’s the recipe.

Marzipan & White Chocolate Love Cakes

  • Servings: 16
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

150 grams good quality White Chocolate
150 grams Butter
100 grams Marzipan with minimum 60% almonds
150 grams All-purpose Flour
3 large Eggs
100 grams Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking powder
A few Strawberries (optional)

Directions:

Melt the butter on low heat in a saucepan.
Chop the white chocolate and add to the melted hot butter. Mix well till all the chocolate dissolves into the butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes.
Grate the marzipan into the egg mixture and whisk until mixture is fluffy and creamy.
Sift flour and baking powder into the mixture. Add the chocolate butter mixture to the batter and mix everything together gently.
Grease muffin cups and pour the batter into them till half full.
If desired, you can stick in half a strawberry into each muffin, with the cut surface facing up.
Bake for 20 minutes at 180°C. Cool and dust them lightly with icing sugar.
You can decorate them with sprinkles or more chocolate if desired.

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