Sunday, November 27, 2016

Baker's Corner: Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Coconut Buttercream

Off late, I've gotten into the habit of making cupcakes whenever I have guests at home or have been designated as the person to bring a dessert during potlucks. They are not only universally liked but also look so dainty and come together without much effort. I have a go-to recipe for vanilla cupcakes which I follow with minor tweaks depending on what I feel like and then play around with the frosting (usually buttercream or whipped cream).

My girls love flavoured yoghurt and one of their favourite flavours is raspberry-coconut. This unusual combination has been stuck in my head for a while and I've been meaning to extrapolate it in a dessert. This time round when I made cupcakes to take to a friend's house, I decided to go with a raspberry-coconut buttercream. In general, my gripe with buttercream is that it is overly sweet so I figured using tart raspberries and an earthy creamy unsweetened thick coconut cream would be a good way to mask the sweetness. 

This frosting is definitely sweet but it isn't too much to handle. The consistency of the buttercream is a little on the runny side because of the wet ingredients that are incorporated into it. Yet it does hold its shape during piping (not obvious from the photograph of the finished cupcake because I took forever to do the job and it was so unbearably hot that day that the frosting started to melt). But I really did like the flavour combination and will be making it again for sure. My little ones will also be waiting for another chance to greedily sink their teeth into it! I did not adorn the cupcakes with toasted coconut flakes because children were among the dinner guests and I didn't think they would fancy it but I do recommend it for additional flavour and texture.

You can see for yourself how simple the recipe is so go ahead and color the day a pretty pink 😊

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Club Med Experience (Cherating Beach, Malaysia)

It's been a while since I did a travel post. Our last overseas holiday was to Taiwan over three years ago when it was still just the two of us. I was not allowed to travel during my pregnancy 😢 so rather than a much-anticipated babymoon, we had to make do with a staycation in Singapore. After the kids were born, passports, tickets and suitcases were the furthest thing from our minds. I'm not complaining about the lack of traveling (aside from trips to India) since it was intentional. With two under two, I didn't really think that going on a holiday was going to "feel" anything like a holiday. When I travel, I go to unwind, to get a change of scene, to explore a new place and embark on a new adventure. But with worrying about schedules, mealtimes, naptimes, diapers and motion sickness, not to mention, keeping a very watchful eye on two overzealous toddlers, I didn't think I could check any of the boxes (yes, selfish I know). Most people naïvely think that handling twins requires the same amount of effort as it is with one baby, times two. In my opinion, that is not true at all. It's actually more than twice the effort which probably only fellow parents of multiples will understand. So, I did the only thing that I could do....grit my teeth and wait patiently till the time was right!

The perfect opportunity presented itself recently. The kids were on the brink of turning two in the first week of November and we decided it was time to awaken the holiday spirit in us. Our little ones had reached an age where they were more independent, were curious about everything around them, had really begun to enjoy going out and were able to communicate their basic needs to us. My parents were around too which meant two additional pairs of eyes and hands (that always helps!).

I've been going on and on like a broken record about taking a road trip to Malaysia. There are so many places of interest to visit that can be reached by car but every time, my childrens motion sickness (times two remember!) threw a spanner in the works. We knew that the only option we had for a vomit-free holiday was to take a flight. So after a lot of research, we decided to fly to Cherating beach in Malaysia.

Cherating is a popular beach resort area in Pahang located about 30 km north of Kuantan on Peninsular Malaysia's East Coast. Being the monsoon season and given Cherating's notoriety for rain, we did wonder if we would end up cooped up indoors but we braved that chance. The main motivation for our choice was not the destination itself but in fact, the resort that we had picked. 

Club Méditerranée SA, commonly known as Club Med, is a French company specializing in premium all-inclusive holidays at its chain of resorts in exotic locations around the world.

Club Med staff are called "GOs", or Gentils Organisateurs (Gracious Organizers). Clients are "GMs", or Gentils Membres (Gracious Members). Each resort is known as a village. The resort manager is called the chef de village (Village Chief). The special feature of Club Med is that the GOs and GMs play, dine, drink, and dance together every day and night. Outdoor buffet dining (usually on tables of eight, mixing GMs and GOs), daytime sport-playing, and evening shows with extensive audience participation, are part of the holiday experience.

On arriving at the Kuantan airport after a short 1 hour flight, a spacious bus awaited to shuttle us to the resort located 45 mins away. As we approached the resort, we saw a group of spirited GO's gathered at the lobby, smiling, waving and ready to welcome us.

We were given refreshing towels and a welcome drink at the reception and since we were famished, we and our fellow travellers headed off to lunch. After that, we gathered at the lobby as instructed and the GO's welcomed us to the resort and gave us a introductory briefing. 

The resort is nestled in the heart of 80 hectares of tropical forest; and if that isn't enough to warm a nature-lover's heart, there are also two pristine beaches. 

I went exploring for a bit on the manicured lawns and was lost admiring the lush greenery around the property and the calmness of the secluded beach. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Letter To My Daughters On Their Second Birthday

It's funny how the month of November never held any special significance for me until two years ago. No birthdays or anniversaries in the family or hardly that of close friends, no festivals (unless Deepavali arrived late that year), no public holidays or annual events and thus, nothing to look forward to. Not to mention, the usually depressing weather. To me, November was just 30 days of blah. The only good thing about it was that the end of the month marked the beginning of December (my most favourite month of the year!). But I feel much differently now. After the birth of my twin girls in November 2014, the previously dull month has obviously gained considerable favour! I look forward to November because it is when I celebrate the two miracles that have changed my world for the better 😊

Last year, on the occasion of the girls first birthday, we went with the flow and threw a party for them in India amidst our close friends and family. This year, we thought of changing gears. Last week, we took them both on a holiday along with their grandparents to a beach-side resort in Malaysia. They were thrilled to bits! Seeing them have the time of their lives made us feel so content.

Today, they celebrated their birthday in their playschool and also had a casual outdoor poolside party which all their playground friends attended. I made the effort of baking two cakes for them (even though they turned out looking dreadful). It was quite evident to us that they were excited by the ongoings and had a blast so it's safe to conclude birthday week a success!

Continuing with my annual tradition of writing birthday letters, here is the second one dedicated to my girls. I hope that they do get to read these letters when they are older so they can get a peek into the window of their mother's soul. Like I said last year, I can't rely on my failing memory to tell them all the cute stuff (and the not-so-cute stuff!) that they did when they were little. I do send them emails with photos, snippets of daily life, highlights of special occasions plus of course their birthday letters but who knows if that'll still be around when they are older. On second thoughts, maybe I should even make hard copies of these memoirs for safe-keeping (lol!). There is always the off-chance that they think their mother is a lunatic with far too much time on her hands but I'll take that chance!