Favorite Chocolate Cake

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There’s nothing more elegant than a simple, moist chocolate cake. It is one of those sweets that everybody enjoys, unlike pies and tarts and even cookies, sometimes. I am not a fan of chocolate, but as long as there is a good balance of sweet and chocolate, this cake is my favorite baked dessert.

I adapted this cake from Ina Garten’s recipe (don’t we all just adore her!!). What I like about this recipe is that it is super simple and doesn’t require extensively precise ingredients or techniques. It is great for beginners and experts alike, and is really hard to mess up. Every time I’ve made this, I’ve ended up with a beautiful, moist end product that has been devoured instantly.

Hope you all enjoy baking this as much as I do!

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Chocolate Cake

A wonderfully moist cake with a hint of coffee topped with chocolate and coffee icing.


What you need:

For the cake:

All-purpose flour – 112 gms
Sugar – 128 gms (1 cup)
Cocoa powder – 48 gms
Baking powder – ½ tsp
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – ½ tsp
Eggs, extra-large – 1
Buttermilk – ½ cup
Vegetable oil – ¼ cup
Vanilla extract – ½ tsp
Brewed coffee - ½ cup

For the icing:

Semi-sweet Chocolate – 56 gms (2 oz)
Unsalted Butter (at room temperature) – 2/3 stick
Confectioner’s Sugar – ½ cup
Egg yolk (at room temperature) – ½
Cocoa powder – 2 tbsp
Instant coffee – ½ tbsp
Vanilla extract – ½ tsp


The Method:

Preheat the oven at 350 F.

Grease a 9” round cake pan and dust with flour.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of your Stand Mixer), sift all dry ingredients and mix well together. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except coffee.

Now with the paddle attachment on and the mixer running on slow, add the liquid to the dry ingredients.

Scrape the bowl and add the brewed coffee. Combine on low speed.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let it cool for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool.

For the Icing:

Whisk the butter in the stand mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for another 2-3 minutes.

Slowly sift in the sugar and cocoa, and whisk till smooth and creamy. Scrape the bowl and whisk well.

Dissolve the instant coffee in a teaspoon of warm water and add to the icing. Whisk one final time till well incorporated and you like the texture and taste. *Note: You can always adjust the ingredients if you want the icing more or less sweet or chocolatey.

Layer the icing on the cooled cake and enjoy!

Tip: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can add ½ tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to ½ cup of milk. Let it rest for about 5 minutes to get your buttermilk!


Happy baking!

The Best Shoes Ever!

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will kill for love shoes. Over the years, I have built up a huge collection of beautiful shoes. But as luck would have it, I have weird feet that pain all the time! I have naturally arched feet with hereditary bunions (my mother and grandmother have the same feet structure) that have become painfully magnified over the past few years, especially since I started wearing flats. I have learned the hard way that my feet are happiest when they have a little bit of heel on the shoe that I am wearing. Flats, no matter how pretty they look, always make my feet ache and have started to even disfigure my feet! I also feel I am most comfortable when I wear anything upto a 3 inch heel.

Another problem I have is that I have really long toes. And when you have long toes, any shoes that narrow towards the front pinch the toes so much that little painful corns start popping up between them. And at that point, pretty much everything hurts your feet! I used to feel I had “normal” width feet, but then I visited a podiatrist with all the above problems and she suggested I try wide width and non-pointy shoes.

I spend a lot of time at work, so my main concern was to be able to find professional looking pumps that were still attractive and that I could wear for long hours without hurting my feet. Not being able to wear pointy pumps made me so sad; I felt like I would have to wear boring, ugly round-toe pumps for the rest of my life. So I set out on a mission to find those perfect shoes that:

1) Had a 2-3 inch heel
2) Were non-pointy
3) Did not look ugly

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I scouted DSW and found the Dorotha pumps by Kelly & Katie that had good reviews online and felt comfortable when I tried them on. They were also quite affordable so I decided to buy 2 pairs – in beige and black, thinking I would try one out and only keep the other if it felt good. And boy did it feel good!

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I can safely say that these are the most comfortable pumps I have ever worn! The pumps have a rounded shape that is not too round, but just perfect to be quite attractive. They have a nice cushioning on the inside with a ¼ inch platform, the 2¾ inch heel feels very sturdy, and they didn’t even bite when I was breaking them in. The 2 pairs I have are made in soft faux-leather that easily conforms to the shape of my feet and feel soft and comfortable. I wear these for long days at work and don’t even change into something more casual when I need to catch my flights every week. I can walk around the airport in them, and easily spend close to 12-14 hours wearing these everyday!

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Kelly & Katie was an unknown brand to me and only seems to sell at DSW. But I am so happy with these shoes – I’m grabbing all kinds of colors in this style!

P.S. Note to all the younger people out there - do not wear complete flats if you have arched feet with natural bunions like mine; they will spoil your feet!

A Water Challenge

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While everybody around me is busy doing the ice-bucket challenge, I have decided to do my own water challenge of another kind, since dousing ice-cold water on myself is not really my cup of tea water. So instead, I have decided to drink the required amount of water for my body for at least one month from now and see how it benefits my skin and overall health.

Some background on that – there are some days that I drink absolutely no water, seriously. It’s crazy, I know, but sometimes you just are not thirsty or maybe simply forget to drink when you’re working! I also have this weird thing – sometimes the water just doesn’t go down my food-pipe that easily. Yeah, I have issues…

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So anyhoo, I think I need to set myself a challenge to drink more water and see the health benefits it gives me (mainly better skin, *wink* *wink*). Which is what this post is about.

We have all heard everyone recommend the 8-glass rule – that your body needs 8 glasses of water every day. But to me, this concept seems so vague! Does this mean that a 100 pound girl and a 300 pound man have the same water requirements? Considering about 60%* of the human body is made up of water, this doesn’t seem mathematically correct! After doing some research on questionable internet resources (no seriously, do you trust everything you read on the internet?), I have come to the conclusion that drinking 2 litres of water every day will be a great goal for me!

P.S. I only drank 500 ml today, so sad :( … But technically, the challenge starts tomorrow.

*Only an estimate according to various internet sources

Crazy Obsessive Haul!

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Sales are horrible, horrible things! They entice us into believing we can save money to buy something that we don’t really need in the first place. And we, being as innocent as we are, get sucked into these sneaky sales tactics. So I have been “saving” a lot of money with some of my recent purchases and have bought so much makeup in the past few weeks! Here is a little sneak peak of what I have spent my blood money on.

Going to a CVS for picking up prescriptions (when you have some coupons / ExtraBucks hanging around) is always a little bit dangerous…

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I went just a little crazy buying the iDivine palettes from Sleek MakeUP from their recent sale.

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HSN.com had an awesome deal for new customers – $20 off any one product worth $40 or more. And look what I found on there!

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Actually only the Lorac Pro2 is from HSN. The smaller palette is the Lorac Skinny in Nude, which was a really affordable neutral palette that I was lusting over. Damn you, Youtube!!

And then I made my husband buy me something else too!!

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Some other luxurious lip and nail products that I picked up from MAC and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. I love the packaging of this Proenza Schouler lipstick from MAC!

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Oh and my best for the last – some goodies from The Simpsons collection from MAC! Of course there was no sale on these, but I’m so stoked to be able to grab these before they sold out online!!

Processed with RookieJust realized – a few more things may still be on their way… Crazy much?

 

Sleek MakeUP Sale Alert!

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I have never tried Sleek MakeUP, but after hearing so many rave reviews about the quality, I have been dying to order some stuff for myself. For those new to it, Sleek is a UK-based brand that is extremely affordable but you can only order online if you live anywhere outside UK.

For those wanting to try some stuff from them, they have a 3 for 2 deal on their website that ends today (8/22/2014)! So go ahead and get some for yourself some Sleek!!

Me No Likey

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Hello hello!

During the course of my day, every day, I am constantly thinking of things I want need to write about, to review, to vent. But time, my dear, is a fickle thing. 24 hours have never been enough! So basically, I have been absolutely hating some products that I tried recently and wanted to vent out about them. It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions when you really, reallllly want to like something but it turns out to be such horrible quality (or to be a little less harsh – maybe just doesn’t suit you)!

Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser

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What do I say about this? My friend gave this to me to try and I have hated the icky mess it is from the very first use! It is a cleanser with a thick gel-like consistency with a strong smell of orange zest, which I do like. The bad part is the texture and the thick oily layer it leaves on the skin. It is a non-lathering cleanser with a ton of oils in its ingredient list. It feels like rubbing petroleum jelly on your face, without getting your face clean. The cleanser really doesn’t do anything except leave a thick layer on the skin. To top it off, it doesn’t help that I have a combination skin. Dry-skinned ladies (and gents) might actually like the texture and that it is non-drying to the skin, though I would still questions the product’s cleansing abilities. I have wanted to love the Burt’s Bees brand so much, but unfortunately it’s products never seem to work for me :(. Oh well…

Shiseido Cleansing Wipes

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I am not one for face wipes. For me, face wipes are never good for using during the day because I do want to keep my minimalist makeup on the face. As for when I want to wipe off the makeup at the end of the day, wipes never can beat a good face wash. But I decided to try these wipes anyway, just because you see wipes everywhere and everyone using it, you know… Well, long story short – these Shiseido ones are horrible! They don’t do a good enough job cleaning my face, and also cause a significant burning and itching to my skin. Is it just me? Has anyone else felt that too?

Anyways, suffice to say this is something I will never be re-purchasing.

Yves Saint Laurent Top Secrets Pro Removers – Demaquillant Micellare Tonique

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What IS the deal with micellar waters?? Provided I have not tried any of the others, but I don’t get the concept – is this a makeup cleanser, a toner, or just some glorified water? I tried the YSL Micellar Water via a super deluxe sample I got at Sephora. I use it according to the instructions on the package, but it just lends an icky sticky feeling to my skin. And then they tell you to leave it on there and not rinse your face! Is that supposed to be it?? I’m definitely not impressed.

Did these products work for anybody? I would love to hear your experiences.

 

 

Saturday Night Dining – Pasta Carbonara

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The Independence weekend was a nice relaxing staycation this year. Is staycation really a word??! I don’t mind this word that much, but some words really make me mad when I hear them. Like ‘Selfie’. Or ‘Yatch’. Does anyone else feel the same?

Anyway, I digress. We get an extra day off, so I had a good four days to relax and rejuvenate and get all my energy back. My husband and I had been contemplating moving to another apartment when our lease ended in about 2 months, but then a better decision was made to paint and redecorate! So it ended up being a not-so-relaxed, but fun weekend spent painting accent walls and buying new stuff for the home. We are so happy with the final outcome!

So one of my goals was also to do some nice cooking over the weekend, to make something other than our usual home-cooked meals. We had absolutely loved the Pasta Carbonara that we tried all over Italy this summer, so I decided to try it at home as well.

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Pasta Carbonara

A super easy and quick recipe to make this universal favorite! The ingredients can be adjusted according to personal taste. Even though, it traditionally does not have onions or veggies or cream, it can also be made extra fun with ingredients like mushrooms or peas.


What you need:

Spaghetti {or your favorite kind of pasta} – 16 oz (1 lb)
Thick-cut Bacon, diced – 6 strips
Medium Onion {white or yellow}, diced – 1
Garlic cloves, minced – 4
Eggs – 3
Parmesan cheese, grated – 1 cup
Heavy cream {or light cream for a lower calorie option} – ½ cup
Salt – to taste
Black Pepper – to taste


The Method:

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Keep it al-dente.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the bacon in a skillet till brown. Keep aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the excess fat.

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Throw out the bacon fat left in the skillet but use the same pan to sauté the diced onion and garlic on medium heat till light brown.

Whisk together the eggs, cream and parmesan till smooth. Add salt to taste and plenty of black pepper for seasoning.

photo 2Drain the cooked pasta and save the starchy water to use to thicken the sauce later.

While the pasta is still hot, slowly add in the egg and cheese sauce while stirring the pasta continuously so that the eggs get cooked.

Add in the cooked bacon and onions and mix well.

If the pasta seems too thick, add a little bit of the saved pasta water till you like the consistency.

Serve hot topped with extra parmesan!


Happy cooking!

Save my lips, Dr. Rescue!

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Some people bite nails, some (i.e. your’s truly) apparently like to peel the dead skin from lips with their fingers or teeth..gross, I know!! When you have extremely dry and flaky lips and bad habits such as the one just described, you want to try whatever remedy you can lay your hands on to resolve the problem. In this quest, I had tried the regular Maybelline Baby Lips moisturizing lip balm in Peach Kiss after hearing all the rave reviews for the product. I was, however, quite disappointed! The balm did not do anything for my lips. It felt like a heavy, slick layer that just lay on top of the lips without getting absorbed or making them any better. The texture just felt completely wrong! Enter Baby Lips Dr. Rescue in the shade Berry Soft.

According to Maybelline: “No more basic lip balm.
Medicated care + 12 HR hydration.
Soothes quickly with a hint of eucalyptus.
Cools sore lips with a touch of icy menthol
In 6 new natural tints to even out lip tone for healthier-looking lips

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Packaging:

The Baby Lips balm comes in a roll-up lip balm container with a white cover that snaps shut. The packaging is simple and cute with the name written across the cover in a fun font. It looks young and super vibrant. The packaging also seems sturdy and travel friendly, which is always important to me.

Product:

Baby Lips is a tinted product and gives a colorful sheen to the lips. It does not replace lipstick but is good to have for no make-up days to get some color and moisture on the lips. The balm itself is quite hard but easy to glide on. I like that it is one of those products that will not melt in the heat, unlike the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments which I love but they have that super soft and melty texture. I like that these are a little more sturdy, especially for the summer.

Also, even though the description mentions that it has “icy menthol”, I only feel a very slight hint of menthol on my lips. The color Berry Soft has a beautiful berry color that makes my lips look very pretty and naturally pink.

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Perfume:

When you open a tube of the Baby Lips Dr. Rescue balm, you really just smell menthol and not in a bad way. I don’t mind the smell of menthol and it also dissipates quite quickly.

Performance:

One thing that really confused me was the “Use” of this lip balm. It is made to sound very medicinal! I am not sure of its efficacy for fever blisters and cold sores, but I do know that I like the balm for use on a daily basis. It deposits a really thin layer on my lips (unlike the original Baby Lips) that absorbs quickly and feels moisturizing. My lips have been feeling so much better since I started using this balm. They’re less dry and flaky, so peeling them has been tougher (thankfully!). This is one balm I will keep going back to!

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Back from Vacation, and a Quick Organizing Tip

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Hello All! We are just back from a wonderful and super long vacation to India, Italy and Switzerland! I am so exhausted that I should be glad, but in fact am sad to be back. Having to go back to work has been tough! Italy is such an amazing country – the food, the people, the landscape – everything is truly exquisite. It has so much personality and the language is truly beautiful. SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

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SONY DSCWe also stopped over to take in some of the pristine, picture-perfect sights of Switzerland.

SONY DSC I’m back home after almost 5 weeks and feel totally exhausted. I think I need another vacation to recover from my vacation! On that note, my skin is completely out of whack. It has breakouts and is looking dull and tired due to an entire lack of pampering. The first thing I did when I got back was drench my hair is oil, scrubbed my face with my Eminence Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant, put on a cleansing face pack, and pampered my body with my home-made coffee scrub. I need to really look after it to get it back in good shape.

Since I’d been away from home for so long, it was a total mess when we got back. I’m going through an organizing phase and giving my OCD self some work to do. I tried to make a quick, yet effective solution to keep all my necklaces organized and in one place. Just stuck some thumb-pins in a soft board, and voilà!

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A Culinary Journey Through Japan

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When it comes to food, I usually play it very safe. I will always order the same sandwich, the same pasta or pretty much the standard tried and tested dish at a restaurant that I know I like because more often than not, I end up disliking anything new I try. Yes it is a surprise since I absolutely love to cook. But when it comes to cooking, I like to do it for others! I enjoy making interesting dishes for friends and family who enjoy food, rather than for myself.

On my recent visit to Japan, I was surprisingly experimental. I tried so many kinds of foods that really changed my perception of Japanese cuisine. My experience had been limited to sushi, miso soup and some kind of Japanese barbecue, and I hadn’t particularly been a fan of any of those (except that I completely love the Americanized sushi!). I also considered Japanese food to be too bland for my Indian taste buds that are used to a confusing blend of masalas in our meals.

But the food in Japan is incredibly flavorful despite the lack of any spice! It feels very fresh and light, and super healthy to eat. And the accompanying green tea with every meal is an absolute delight!

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Bento boxes and Set meals are very popular for a reason!

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Oh they do have a Japanized version of the curry, which was quite delightful as well! I am extremely amazed by the karaage (fried chicken) and katsu (fried pork cutlets) that are poles apart from the regular American fried-chicken. Even the fried Japanese stuff feels light and a delight to eat!

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One other thing in Japan that was my favorite was the vending machine on every street and corner. You can buy all kinds of cold as well as hot drinks from these machines at any time of the day or night. So convenient!

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There are some other absolutely wonderful things about the food in Japan – from the mouth-watering Mochi to the perfectly packed strawberries. I also experienced a community mochi-making session which was so much fun!

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photo 1 (1)And of course, there is no lack of western food, Japanese-style!

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photo 2 (3)I had so much fun trying food in Japan. Hopefully, I will get to go back and try some more of the local delicacies!

 

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