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Hearts and cookies: a Valentine’s day tutorial for Catch my Party!

Chocolate cookie heart wreath

Good afternoon dear friends! How are you today?

These past weeks I have been absent from the blog, and I apologize for that. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had been preparing two surprises for you. The first one, was the dessert table for Chinese New Year, and here is the second one: A tutorial for making the chocolate cookie heart wreath pictured above, which I designed for Catch my Party!

When my Christmas breakfast table was featured as Catch my Party’s Party of the Day, Jillian mentioned that she was going to pin the holly wreath to make it next year and I offered to prepare a tutorial for her. She loved the idea and suggested, instead, a cookie wreath for Valentine’s day! So  I set myself to work!

If you would like to know how to do this, including how to decorate each type of cookie, hop over to Catch my Party!

I will show you how to decorate tons of cookies…

image01 hearts and milk to put together a wreath like this one:

Chocolate cookie heart wreath

or like this other one…

image 11 another option

…how to draw hearts with royal icing…



…how to outline with sprinkles…


…and how to outline with sanding sugar.


And if you have remaining cookies after assembling the wreath, you can enjoy them with milk…

image0 Table setting

Or even prepare cute Valentine’s day presents for your loved ones!

Another gift option, with remaining cookies

I have also included templates of the cookies I used, so go to Catch my Party now and happy baking!

Happy Year of the Dragon! Gung Hay Fat Choy!


Good morning dear friends! Happy Year of the Dragon!

As those of you who follow me on facebook may know, these past weeks I have been really busy, firstly, with my children’s start of nursery school, and secondly with two surprises for this blog. This is the first one, a dessert table for Chinese/Lunar New Year! I hope you like it!

The first time I learnt about Chinese New Year was 24 years ago, in another Year of the Dragon, 1988. A friend of my mother had lent her a book on Chinese Astrology by a very famous Argentinian artist and astrologer called Ludovica Squirru, and I started reading it out of curiosity and because I have always been fascinated with Asian cultures. There I discovered, to my delight, that I had been born myself  in the year of the dragon and, loving mythology and fairy tales as I do, I was hooked. For many years I wondered what kind of rituals were involved in a proper celebration but it wasn’t until fairly recently, and thanks to the internet, that I could put together a real Chinese New Year celebration. If you are curious about some of the rituals involved, here is a great article by Mini Manor Blog about them.

So, this year, we have been thoroughly cleaning the house, getting rid of the old to make space for the new and, in general, reflecting on what we want to leave behind and what we hope for the new year to bring. I always reach occidental New Year in such a rush that I don’t manage to do all this by January 1st, so celebrating Chinese New Year feels like a second chance.

We did a lot of research on what was considered good luck, and my dear friend Laura, from amazing design company Delicious Tea designed this fabulous set of FREE printables, which are available on her facebook page, to welcome the year of the Dragon.  I printed them on cardboard paper and, using some remains of red ribbon and red cardboard paper that I had left from Christmas, I assembled the decorations. Here is the backdrop I prepared (I used a frame I already had, and I glued the ribbons to the wall with double-sided tape)


And then there were of course, the sweets, which were a combination of store-bought and home-made.


IMG_0209 IMG_0208

I baked a red velvet cake, frosted it with home-made swiss meringue buttercream, and carved it into the shapes of a dragon guarding its treasure cave. Everything in the cake is edible, even the coins and the wings, which were made with fondant and painted with Gold Dust.


The cake stand was propped by the I-ching and, in front of it, I placed two Chinese balls with a Dragon and a Phoenix. In order to prevent them from moving, I placed them on top of votive candle holders that I got from Ikea.


I tried to keep the colour palette simple, and I made sure that all sweets were red (happiness) and gold (wealth), to give some vibrance to the black of the furniture and plates (which we brought from our years in Africa!). Sweets included chocolate truffles wrapped in gold paper (Ferrero Rocher), which we called “Chocolates of abundant wealth”…


and dark chocolate truffles wrapped in bright red paper…




We also included candied oranges and pineapples, both considered auspicious food for the New Year.


Aren’t these printable food labels a real beauty? I carved the head of the dragon with a craft knife for it to pop and, I must say, I am in love with them. Laura is such a talented designer!


I also dressed a bit some chocolate covered oreos, by drawing a dragon in red royal icing (I tried to imitate Laura’s food labels)




We also included red envelopes, filled with chocolate coins for the kids and with real money for the adults. I attached the FU symbol from Laura’s printables  to them, because it means wealth.


We also served candies (for joy and laughter) and,  of course,  fortune cookies…or  “Good Fortune Cookies”, as we calledthem 😉


All sweets were present in 6 or 9, both auspicious numbers.

We kept the table setting very simple, with bowls full of oranges and tangerines (symbolizing a wish for happiness and abundance) and a Happy New Year sign by Delicious Tea, a couple of glittered golden votive candles, bamboo place mats and a “fortune cookie place card”made with a golden cupcake wrapper.


Our dinner consisted of spring rolls, grilled fish with tangerines, served on top of lettuce leaves, rice, a brocoli and pine nuts salad,  and an assortment of nuts, seeds and coconut flakes. You can read more about Chinese New Year good luck foods HERE.


On our doors and windows (from the outside) we placed this banner that reads “Wealth is coming to you”


And on the inside, this one that reads “Safe Trip wherever you go”, to greet the old year goodbye.



May you have a prosperous, healthy and happy Year of the Dragon!

A "Santa and Rudolph" Christmas breakfast


Good morning dear friends, and Happy New Year!!!

How are today? How were your celebrations? I hope you all had a really great time and that you started 2012 in the happiest of ways.

Today, as first post of the new year, I wanted to show you the Christmas table I prepared for our children. Since they are still very young, we do not do big celebrations on Christmas’ eve, but rather, we celebrate on the 25th, together with the opening of presents.

This year, I had an “Amy Atlas moment”  and decided to prepare a few special treats to surprise Luka and Zoe for breakfast, together with a decorated table, with backdrop and all. It was really fun to do it! I baked and decorated everything at night for a week, and hid all treats in our study room for the kids not to suspect anything. On the 24th, we set up all decorations and we left the table ready for Luka and Zoe to find it when they woke up. They were so happy!

The inspiration for the table came from a set of window stickers that we brought from Argentina, which featured Santa Claus and its reindeers, and with which the kids had been playing since we had arrived back to Cyprus ( they didn’t survive, so I have no photos of them!). Around the time when I was preparing the treats, I also saw a BEAUTIFUL set of Free party printables from Bird’s Party, offered at Catch My Party, featuring a super cute Rudolph reindeer, so I decided to use them, and to adjust the colours of the reindeers to match them. I also used the printables for the backdrop:  I made several red and green paper fans in different sizes, glued the party circles to them, and attached them to a frame that I already had.

dessert table7

The desserts themselves aimed at reflecting us, as a multicultural family, and at incorporating flavours from our different traditions. There was Pandoro, which is common in Argentina and Italy  (store-bought), gingerbread cookies (in the shape of Santa Claus and Rudolph’s faces), gingerbread houses (the flavour of which reminds my husband of his own childhood in Kosovo), kourambiedes and melomakarona (from Greek Cyprus, where we live), as well as chocolate cookies in the shape of holly and of a Christmas wreath, “Rudolph” cake pops and vanilla bean macarons with chocolate hazelnut cream.  For drinks, we served hot chocolate, and coffee for the adults.


 I made all cookies (including the cookie wreath) using the gingerbread cookies and chocolate rolled cookies recipes from Glory, of Glorious Treats, and 2 sets of Wilton cookie cutters. For the macarons, I used the recipe and the method I shared inhere, and I made the mini-gingerbread houses according to the templates and instructions shared on the blog Not Martha. For glueing the gingerbread houses , I used Sweetopia’s recipe for Royal Icing, which I then thinned to decorate the cookies. I LOVE that recipe, it worked really beautifully.

Here are a few more pictures of the details:

dessert table4




rudolph 3



dessert table14

dessert table11

little houses1

ginger little2

dessert table13


dessert table9-2

dessert table12

And here is how the dessert table looked next to our Christmas Tree, in our living room:



I hope you like it!

Have a wonderful week!





A recipe to say goodbye to 2011:Whole Kitchen’s Chocolate and Pear Mousse pie

Tarta de choco y mousse de peras 3

Good morning friends! How are you? Are you ready to say goodbye to 2011? I know I am.

It is funny how the simple act of changing one tiny little number can make us feel like the days ahead are full of possibilities, that new beginnings are possible and that wonderful things await us. I embrace that feeling every year, even if it may be just an illusion for some. I like making time for pausing and reflecting and planning and hoping.

We also have a small tradition for New Year’s eve: we try a new recipe each year. We search old cookbooks, trusted blogs and the internet in look for yumminess and we prepare that. Alas, we still haven’t decided what to prepare this year! Mole Poblano is a strong contender…I’ll let you know next year whether we made it or not! And iIf you would like to give it a try, check Amanda’s blog.

When we started looking for recipes for New Year’s eve, I also started thinking about new recipes to share with you. And I remembered that this recipe, which appeared in Whole Kitchen Magazine back in September, could not be read by those of you who do not speak Spanish and that I had received several requests to share it in English. The problem was that the recipes were exclusively for Whole Kitchen, so I couldn’t publish them here without authorization (and, being a lawyer, everything related to authorizations, copyright, etc, etc is pretty much sacred to me!).

I contacted Silvia, one of the lovely editors of Whole Kitchen, and asked her whether I could publish it or if they would be interested in publishing the recipe in English in their blog. And she, very kindly, made an exception to the general rule due to the fact that my blog is  not in Spanish, and authorized its publication here.  So, my friends, here is the recipe for Chocolate and pear mousse pie that I submitted to Whole Kitchen Magazine (and remember that if you want it in Spanish, you can read it here)


For the crust:

100 grs de butter

100 grs icing sugar

180 grs self-raising flour

60 grs cocoa

1 egg yolk

1 egg

For the filling:

4 medium-sized pears

100 grs  sugar

50 grs melted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon natural lemon juice

1 envelope of unflavoured gelatin, diluted in 1/2  cup warm water and 1/4 cup cold water

2 egg whites, beaten until stiff

200 cm3 whipped cream

For the chocolate ganache:

200 grs dark chocolate (if you don’t like the bitterness of dark chocolate, you can use half dark chocolate, half semi-sweet chocolate)

200 cm3 cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pie de choco y mousse de peras 6


1)      Prepare the crust:   In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa and sugar. Make a whole in the middle and add butter, incorporating everything with your fingers  until it reaches an sand-like consistency. Add the egg and the egg yolk and integrate until you have a dough that you can form into a ball. Cover the dough with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Grease and flour a 30 cms pie pan and preheat the oven to 150C/300F.   Remove the dough from the fridge, roll it and cover the pan with it. Bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the dough separates from the borders of the pan. Remove from the oven and let it cool down while you prepare the filling.

2) Prepare the filling: Peal the pears and cut them into medium-sized squares. Place them in a saucepan together with butter, sugar and lemon juice. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the pears become soft.

Once the pears are soft, remove from the heat an let them cool down for about 10 minutes. Place the preparation in a food processor or blender and pulse until having a purée. Add the vanilla and let it cool completely (you may place the purée in the fridge to accelerate the process if you so desire).

Dissolve the unflavored gelatin and add it to the pear purée. Let it rest for 5 minutes so that the gelatin starts to add consistency to the purée.

Whip the cream until firm, being careful not to over do it (we don’t want to make butter!), and add it to the purée once it is ready.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and add them to the purée. Your pear mousse is now ready!

3) Add the pear mousse to the chocolate  crust and place the pie in the fridge until the filling is solid (about 4 hours)

4)      Prepare the ganache. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a heat-resistant bowl. Put the cream in a saucepan and put it on the stove, on low heat. Once the cream starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it on top of the chocolate. Once the chocolate starts to melt, start beating until it reaches a creamy consistency and until firm enough to cover the pie with it.

5)      Pour the ganache over the pie, making swirls with the back of a spoon. You may also put the ganache on a piping bag and decorate the pie with it.

6) Let the pie rest until the ganache is firm and serve.


If you don’t want your pie to be too chocolatey, you can omit the ganache and serve it uncovered (just crust and filling). It is delicious either way.

Also, if you want to start the New Year with a traditional Cypriot flavour, you can make Vassilopita, a traditional cake  with a coin inside, to be eaten on the 1st of January, the day of Saint Basil.

I hope you like the pie and, most of all,  I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration and a fantastic start of 2012. May all your dreams come true next year, and may you always have illusions to create new dreams!

See you in 2012!

Christmas in Nicosia


 Good morning dear friends!

I hope you had a very happy holiday celebration! We had a quiet, relaxing long weekend at home, which was great.

I prepared a small dessert table for the occasion but I didn’t finish editing the pictures yet, so I thought that, in the meantime, I could show you a few pictures of how Nicosia (my city) was decorated for the holidays. Earlier this year, in November, I took a Christmas photography course with Montréal-based photographer Jackie Rueda  and it inspired me to register some of the beauty of the holiday season with my camera- or, at least, to try!

Here are some of  the pictures I took.

























I will be back before the end of the year with a yummy chocolatey recipe. Have a wonderful week!

Flavours of Christmas II: Kourambiedes


Hello my dear friends!

It is almost evening time here in Nicosia and we are getting ready to start cooking our Christmas dinner. Since we are expats, with no nearby family, this is generally a very quiet moment for us, far from the running, shopping and cooking craze that December generally brings.  Family is always missed, but there is comfort and joy in knowing that we are together is our hearts.

One of the advantages that I see in this way of living, is that we get to choose the traditions we love and we want to incorporate into our own celebrations as a little family, and to change them and adopt new ones as it pleases us. So, when it came to choosing how to spend our Christmases, we opted for a quiet dinner at home on the eve, and a bigger, yet intimate, celebration on the actual day of the holiday. Our kids are still rather small, and they haven’t started school yet, so they don’t have many expectations about these dates…so they are doubly surprised and overjoyed when they discovered their presents and special treats on the 25th!

One of the treats that I make since we live in Cyprus are some special Greek cookies called Kourambiedes. They were the first sweet I had when I arrived in Nicosia and I loved them immediately.  They are eaten on Christmas day, and at other celebrations, such as weddings. They have cinnamon, almonds and rose water, and they melt in your mouth!

So, if you feel like baking something different these days, do try them! They are very easy, and fun for baking with kids!


Here is the recipe:


{for the filling}

30grs almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sugar


{for the dough}

1 egg

1 teaspoon brandy/cognac

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100grs butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 cups all purpose flour


{for dusting}

rose water (1/4 cup, approximately)

icing sugar  (approximately 3 tablespoons)

Diciembre 201068


1)Preheat the oven at 150C/300F

2) Process the almonds, sugar and cinnamon until the almonds are coarsely ground (do not over do it, you don’t want them to turn into powder)

3) Beat slightly the egg, vanilla and brandy. Cream butter and sugar with a wooden spoon and add it to the egg mixture. Once they are integrated, start adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a workable dough (see picture 2)

4) Shape a piece of dough into an oval. Make a hole in the middle, put 1/4 teaspoon of the almond and cinnamon mixture in it and close it, as shown in  picture 3

4)Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until barely golden (Keyword: barely! Do not let them brown!)

5) Put the rose water on a glass and get a brush ready. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, paint them with rose water. (The difference in temperature will allow the rose water to be absorbed by the cookies, so do not let them cool down).

6)Let the cookies rest for about 3 to 4 hours. After they are dry, dust  icing sugar over them and they are ready!

They taste delicious with a cup of tea and they last for a couple of weeks if you keep them in an airtight container.



May you have a wonderful Christmas, full of love, peace and joy.



Este post está dedicado a mi amiga invisible, y compañera de andanzas fotográficas, María. Feliz navidad!!!!!!

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