Brunch 101: The Perfect Menu

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Brunch is by far my favourite meal! There’s nothing better than combining breakfast and lunch foods, and if the occasion warrants, a nice chilled glass of champagne to go along with it.

My hubby and I just moved to a new place, and for our housewarming party we decided to do a brunch. I stuck to finger foods for the menu, and had a large assortment of cheese, fruit, olives, bread and dips to compliment everything else.

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The 4 recipes that were the biggest hits are also some of my favourite things to eat, and they are so easy make! Keep scrolling for the delicious recipes for Brie & Blackberry Tarts, Devilled Eggs, Caramelized Onion Tarts (my personal favourite) and Smoked Salmon & Herbed Cream Cheese Bites!

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Brie & Blackberry Tarts

Ingredients:

  • I sheet thawed pastry dough
  • 1/4 cup blackberry jam
  • 1/4 cup cherry jam
  • 1/2  cup Brie cheese
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Sea salt

Method:

  • Thaw pastry for at least half an hour
  • Pre heat oven to 200 degrees C
  • Lay out thawed pastry dough on parchment paper, and use pizza cutter to slice dough into approximately 1 and a half inch squares
  • Grease mini muffin tin, and place each cut pastry square in individual muffin cup so that the top corners are slightly outside
  • Mix blackberry and cherry jams together and spoon about a heaped teaspoon into each muffin cup
  • Sprinkle with sea salt
  • Trim the skin off the Brie and add about a teaspoon on top of the jams – you can adjust this depending on how cheesy you want the tart to be
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown
  • Once out of the oven, place a fresh blackberry on top of each tart
  • Serve immediately or when they are cool, they are delicious either way

 

Devilled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 20 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon very finely diced shallots
  • Paprika – for garnish

Method:

  • Slice hard boiled eggs lengthwise and remove  yolks into a bowl
  • Set whites aside
  • Combine the yolks with the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, salt, pepper and shallots and mix well
  • Spoon mixture into a piping bag and carefully pipe into each of the hollow egg white halves
  • Sprinkle with paprika
  • Refrigerate until you serve

 

Caramelized Onion Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 kg red onions – finely sliced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar
  • 1 stick butter
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 sheet thawed puff pastry

Method:

  • Melt butter in heavy bottomed pan
  • Add garlic and stir
  • Once garlic is fragrant (2-3 mins), add onions
  • Stir until all onions are coated with butter and keep stirring periodically for about half an hour or until you really see the onions breaking down and going from translucent to brown and jammy
  • Add chilli flakes and dried thyme
  • Cook while stirring for another half hour (you can shorten this time but I really think you need at least a full hour to properly coax all those gorgeous sugars out from the onions – the depth of flavour increases and I really think this is worth the time)
  • Once onions achieve a jam-like consistency, pour one tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan (I use red wine because I feel it gives the onions a more full-bodied flavour)
  • Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Cook for another 10 mins while stirring (yes, I know there is a lot of stirring involved, but it is so worth it)
  • Remove onions from heat and let cool for about 15-20 minutes
  • In the mean time, cut circles out of the puff pastry dough using a cooke cutter, and place each circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Spoon around one tablespoon of the caramelized onions onto the centre of each pastry round
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden brown
  • Serve either warm or cold

 

Smoked Salmon & Herbed Cream Cheese Bites

Ingredients:

  • Smoked salmon
  • 1 baguette – cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 and a half cups of softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/8 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 roughly cut garlic cloves
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Capers

Method:

  • Pre heat oven to 180 degrees C
  • Toast baguette rounds to desired levels of crispiness
  • In a food processor, pulse the cream cheese, garlic, chives, parsley, salt and pepper together
  • Finely slice the red onion
  • In a separate bowl, add vinegar and red onions together, and let onions soak for about 5 mins
  • Spread cream cheese mixture on each baguette round
  • Place 3-4 thin slices of red onion on each
  • Fold desired amount of smoked salmon over cream cheese and onions
  • Top with a caper

2 AMAZING salads to serve at your next dinner party!

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These salads are beyond yummy! They make the perfect addition to a fancy dinner party menu. They both have bold, deep flavours but are light and refreshing at the same time.

Roasted Squash & Beet Salad

Ingredients for salad:
  • 3-4 beets, peeled and chopped into medium-sized cubes
  • 1/4 of a pumpkin or squash – deseeded, skin off and cut into thin strips
  • 2 cups of mixed greens of your choice (arugula, regalia, frisee, butter lettuce)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Ingredients for vinaigrette:
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Garnish with pomegranate rubies
Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 200 C. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and wrap beets tightly in aluminum foil. Roast for about an hour, or until tender with a fork. Place squash/pumpkin in a shallow dish and season. Roast for about 15 minutes. Take out and drizzle maple syrup on top. Put back in oven for 10 minutes. Let it cool.
Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.
To assemble salad – place beets in the middle of a round salad dish, surround them with greens in a circle. Place the squash/pumpkin on greens.
Pour vinaigrette, and garnish with pomegranate rubies.
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Pear & Walnut Salad
Ingredients for salad:
  • Lollo rosso leaves
  • Frisee greens
  • I pear – finely sliced
  • Crushed walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Pomegranate rubies

Ingredients for vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Add lollo rosso leaves and frisee salad greens to a large bowl. Place finely sliced pears on top. Add crushed walnuts, crumbled feta cheese and pomegranate rubies. Lightly toast sliced almonds on a dry pan, add to salad.
Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Pour vinaigrette on top  right before serving.

Bar Cart Styling 101

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I think bar carts are such an amazing accessory to any party, and when styled well they are a decor piece in themselves. They add a special something to any living room, and are super convenient too! Why not invest in one for your next party or soiree? Here are some tips to help you get started.

First, you need to invest in a bar cart. There are so many out there as they are currently very trendy. You can go all out and get a fancy, vintage looking cart, or if you are like me, you can invest in something more modern and simple. The reason I like something a little more contemporary looking is because this way it can be styled to look really feminine for when I am entertaining, or when my husband has the guys over for one of their poker nights, it could be made to look masculine as well. I feel simpler designs are more versatile.

I LOVE glassware and couldn’t ever have too many different kinds of glasses and tumblers. I feel they add a touch of elegance to any bar cart. Also invest in a few good decanters. They are great for storing whiskey and scotch, and they are so beautiful to look at.

I’ve added some art books for variety, and a tall Chinese porcelain urn for height. Don’t be afraid to play with different colours and textures; injecting your own personality into the styling is what will make your bar cart unique. I also think some fresh, beautiful flowers are a must!

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Lists of bar essentials:

Glassware:

  • Martini glasses
  • Tumblers
  • White wine glasses
  • Champagne flutes
  • Shot glass set
  • Decanter
  • Pitcher

Barware:

  • Serving tray
  • Ice bucket
  • Bar tools
  • Bottle stopper
  • Ice scooper
  • Bar spoon
  • Corkscrew
  • Stir sticks
  • Bottle opener

Accessories:

  • Coasters
  • Books
  • Candles
  • Cocktail napkins
  • Straws
  • Prints/Artworks

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Periwinkle Tea Party

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My cousin Shandana just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and a couple of months ago we threw her a tea party baby shower. It was held at my parents’ villa in Umm Sequim, and we wanted to stay away from the traditional all pink theme, yet still keep the decor feminine. Since it was to be a tea party, I created the invitation using flowers to border the text.

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We used the dining table as the main focus, and used an assortment of baby toys, wall plates, tea cups and desserts to fill it up. Here are some detail shots:

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We also decorated a little bit of the living room with flowers and balloons. The main focus of the living room was a vintage looking dresser we got from Ikea. We used it to add many other little details, and to display gifts for the mommy to be and baby.

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As you can see in the picture above, we created a clothes line to display some of the baby’s new clothes and accessories.

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Here are some other photos from the event:

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Desert Blooms

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I’ve always been quite intrigued by the idea of using cacti and succulents together for a tablescape, so I decided to have a  desert themed lunch for a few friends. I used an old orange and white striped tablecloth which I’ve had for ages and never got a chance to use.

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I’ve used variety of different kinds of cacti, the smaller of which have their blooms still attached. I thought it made for a fun and vibrant setting. I used gold and white plates to offset the colours a little bit, and to add some dimension to the table.

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Along with the cacti and succulents, I used coloured twill balls which used to be hanging lights. I removed the lights and wires, and used them individually to add brightness and another level  of texture to the table.

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I loved the effect in the end, this turned out to be one of my absolute favourite tables I’ve ever done!

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Creative Gifting

My mom and I were recently invited to a wedding, and we wanted to present the bride with a beautifully put together gift. We went to Zara Home and picked out a few things; a gorgeous blue and white tray, some glasses,  espresso cups, plates, printed and plain napkins and these stunning teacups. We also bought a beautiful glass jar.

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We set everything up on the tray, added some chocolates and flowers, and tied the whole thing together with a gorgeous Waterford crystal candle stand. For the flowers we used purple gypsophila, yellow tulips and purple and pink carnations. We kept the tulips with their leaves in a tall vase, and used the other flowers all over the tray, tucking them into crevices and open spaces. I love the way the gift tray looked when we were finished!

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Blue Hydrangeas & Baby’s Breath

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Last summer, my dear friends Hassan and Maha asked me to style their tables for their baby shower. I couldn’t have been more excited! Firstly, Hassan and Maha mean the world to me and I was SO thrilled they were having a baby, and secondly because baby showers are so much fun to style!

They were looking forward to welcoming a baby boy (and since then have!), and Maha wanted to stick to the traditional blue theme for the shower. The shower was a brunch at the beautiful Traiteur at the Park Hyatt Dubai, and we had the whole private dining room reserved for our party. The room had stunning views of the water through gorgeous French windows, it was light and airy and was furnished with beautiful wooden furniture.

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For the look of the event I went for baby blues and white, soft textures, and desserts, I used blue and white hydrangeas and jars full of baby’s breath along the tables. Interspersed with these were baby’s toys, beautiful stuffed animals, blue and white desserts and jars of candy.

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Picnic With Prints

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Winter in Dubai is the most beautiful time of year. With clear blue skies, bright sunshine and cool breezes, everybody wants to be outdoors all the time. So when my sister wanted to have a little get together with her friends, we thought it would be a great idea to have a little picnic in my parents’ garden.

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My mom has the most amazing collection of textiles she has gathered from her travels, and I mixed and matched different prints and fabric textures to create a bright, colourful effect. For food we had cucumber, radish and cream cheese sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches and lots of fruit. By scattering around lots of pillows and magazines, a comfortable, lounge-around-all-day vibe was created. Here are the rest of the photos:

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Show some love on…

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LOVE COOKIES

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These bright and yummy cookies make a perfect gift! Method below:

Ingredients:

Cookies:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup softened, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Icing or powdered sugar, for rolling out dough:

Icing:

  • I cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into heart shapes using various sized cookie cutters, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.

In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.

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IMG_7200(Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, Food Network)


CANDY POPCORN GIFT JAR

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This delicious mix is so good for your Valentine with a sweet tooth! It is filled with yummy white chocolate coated popcorn, mini MnMs, Nerds, marshmallows, and best of all, cake batter!

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups popped salted popcorn
  • 2 large bars of Lindt white chocolate
  • Yellow cake batter mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • Pink and purple Nerds
  • Mini MnMs
  • Mini marshmallows

Directions:

Pop your popcorn and remove half into a large bowl. In a double boiler, melt white chocolate after chopping it roughly with a knife. Add 2 tablespoons of cake batter mix when chocolate is completely melted.

Pour melted chocolate over popcorn in large bowl, until it is completely melted. Spread chocolate covered popcorn onto large baking tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the various candies and sprinkles on top, and allow chocolate to harden. Once cooled and hardened, break up into smaller pieces and add to a jar or container of your choice, mixed with the uncovered popcorn (doing this ensures a delicious sweet and salty combination of flavours).

Decorate jar as you please.


PRINTABLES!

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I created these printables available for free download. They’re great to use on your V Day envelopes and gifts, or when you just want to show your love for no reason.

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VDay Printables – Click on link to download
(Created using Rhonna Designs)

 

Blue Birds & Orange Roses

A couple of nights ago my husband and I had his parents over to our place for dinner. I had some  bowls of gorgeous orange roses left over from an event I styled the day before, so I decided to use them on the table.

I recently bought these beautiful printed place mats with blue birds and flowers on it and a table runner from a popular Pakistani store called Khaadi (they have some really lovely home ware pieces). I used the place mats and table runner together, and added the orange roses down the centre of the table. I absolutely loved the effect!

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Here are some close ups:

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