Hidden Christmas Tree cupcakes (Secret Recipe Club)

It is that time of the month again… the first monday of the month … which also means that it is Secret Recipe Club’s Group A reveal day!


I was graced with Searching for Dessert (perfect name, eh?) as my chosen blog for the month …  a former pastry chef with a Le Cordon Bleu College bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management… I was impressed (seriously impressed!). Not only is Shannon an ace in the kitchen – but she is also wife & mother (to 2 furry & 2 non-furry children :))  – and I automatically love people who love food, cooking and animals as much as I do!

searching for dessert header

I was blown away by the recipes on her blog… and um-ed & ah-ed over 2 in particular… Her hidden Christmas tree cupcakes & her cheesestraws - with HIM’s immense enjoyment in eating anything sweet – the cupcakes won out!

I “attempted” to use green food colouring to make the trees – but once baked… they in no way resembled the gorgeous green that Shannon had managed… therefore I decided that I loved the idea of a “retro” Christmas tree (as you do)… and we all know someone who owns one of THOSE Christmas trees… right?

why should a tree be green... right???
why should a tree be green… right???

I also opted to use a basic cupcake recipe – instead of a box-mix option… but I did use ready-made frosting (aka icing) and LOADS of sprinkles (aka “hundreds & thousands”)

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Hidden Christmas Tree Cupcakes

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110g butter at room temperature
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
110g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
food colouring

cupcakes 5

  • Beat together butter & sugar
  • Add 1 eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition
  • Sift in the flour & baking powder & using a metal spoon, fold into mixture
  • Place 1/3 of the mixture into another bowl & add the food colouring – mixing well to get an even shade
  • Pour onto a piece of greased baking paper on a baking tray, add sprinkles &
  • Bake for 10min at 180C
  • remove from oven & use 3 (or 4) different sized rings to cut your tree pieces out (I used one cutter the size of the base of the cupcake tray, and the other 2 were just about using what I had in the kitchen – with the smallest piece being made from cake decorating tips… but you can use whatever you can find!)
  • cupcakes 4
  • Stack in your greased cupcake casings
  • cupcakes 3
  • I added red food colouring to the rest of my cupcake batter (to make sure that there was sufficient deviation in colour between the 2 areas)
  • Pour rest of cupcake mixture around the “trees” leaving the top still visible
  • cupcakes 2
  • Bake for 17-19minutes at 180C
  • Decorate…..
  • cupcakes 1

Printable recipe



Linking to the HOST


Upside down berry cake

I love reading food magazines…. but it also means that there are normally 3-5 new food magazines for me to leaf through each month…. this also means that they start to build up to a decent tower over time…

solution…. I spend copious amounts of time poring over each issue and then ripping out the page of a recipe that appeals to me most… and keep a pile (it really is a pile) of these 1pagers – just waiting to be “re-created”.

This particular recipe comes from the Olive Magazine (issue: April 2009)… and I loved the simplicity of it – especially since I still had quite a few additional tasks & goodies to make prior to HIM’s birthday tea…

I adapted the recipe by omitting the ground almonds & using fresh blueberries & strawberries (in hind sight – the strawberries were not as “beautiful” after baking as the magazine image had promised…so I would rather keep with raspberries & blueberries in future) – the result was a delicious light sponge cake with the tartness of the berries breaking down any overtly sweetness – making it my type of cake to turn to. (HIM however declared it ‘not sweet enough”)

Upside down Berry cake

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200g butter
200g sugar
4 eggs
250g self-raising flour
200g mixed berries
2 Tablespoons of golden syrup

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  • Beat the butter & sugar together
  • Add eggs one at at time, beating between each addition
  • Fold in flour
  • Add enough water to make mixture spoonable (a dash of milk was sufficient for me)
  • Place berries (patted dry) into the base of greased cake tin
  • Add the golden syrup over the berries

upside down berry cake 2

  • Spoon cake mixture on top of syrupy berries
  • Bake at 180 C for 1hr (or until done)

upside down berry cake 4

Moms Meatballs

It was HIM’s birthday recently – and we hosted about 20 people in our place for afternoon snacks & cakes….

This is a recipe that I remember my mom making in the past & I loved them… I have adapted her original basic recipe by adding the apple & the fresh coriander… but they still remain *awesome*

Moms Meatballs

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250g Mince
2 slices of white bread (crusts cut off)
cup of milk Milk
2 garlic cloves crushed
1/2 apple, grated
coriander, finely chopped
oil (for shallow frying)
flour (enough to coat the meatballs prior to frying)

meatballs 1

  • Soak bread in milk
  • Crumble into mince (works by binding the mixture) along with grated apply & finely chopped coriander & mix together
  • Shape into balls
  • Roll in flour
  • Fry in a bit of oil

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Kabuki Restaurant in Brussels

It was my 2nd time returning to Kabuki… and the 2nd time we got told that we could not sit at the sushi train (conveyor belt) because we didn’t have a reservation… you think that the first time would have been enough for me to remember to make a reservation right? Well – in all fairness – the first time we went, it was a Saturday evening and the restaurant was pumping… but the second time was a Wednesday evening at 7pm, when the seats around the sushi train were half empty and remained this way.

This is what I call – clever tactics – on the restaurants part – because only if you sit at the actual sushi train can you partake in their “all you can eat sushi buffet” for 21,80€ per adult  – however if you are seated in the rest of the restaurant, then you need to order directly off their menu.


that will teach me to make a proper reservation next time!

anyhoo - Michelle (of Very Hungry Explorer) and I made our way through the restaurant to our table – and settled down to decide on what to eat. Interior decor is what you could expect in a large Japanese restaurant – with teppanyaki tables interspersed between normal dining tables (with the obligatory kimono at the teppanyaki stations for patrons to wear)

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I ordered some GYOZA (5 dumplings that have been fried on one side = 7,30€), plus a portion of TEMPURA ROLLS (tempura prawns, avo, cucumber & mayonnaise in a california roll = 8.40€) and finally – a portion of EDAMAME BEANS (soya beans = 4.80€)

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While Michelle opted for one of their BENTO box offerings – Miso soup, sushi plate, tempura prawn/veggies, rice, and a selection of skewers (calamari, veggie, chicken) followed by green tea ice-cream.

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Would I go back? Hmm… only if I remembered to make a reservation for their sushi train – otherwise, I find them a tad on the expensive side. Even though the food is tasty – there are loads of other Japanese restaurants in Brussels with better value offerings. Service is a bit hit & miss – the staff are friendly & speak multiple languages (including English) but once you place your order – the food arrives almost instantaneously & then the staff seem to disappear… so trying to get someones attention for a drinks refill or to ask for the bill becomes a bit of a hide-n-seek game.


address: Rue de Marché aux Poulets 32, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 218 8696


Soul (Bio Restaurant in Brussels)

Recently – I got the chance to visit SOUL restaurant (near Grand Sablon) in Brussels for dinner with 5 wonderful friends…

“Soul is an organic fusion restaurant offering tasty food, fresh, creative and above all proof that healthy food does not mean boring! Their goal is to remind people of the importance of food and especially its influence on our well-being. Most of our products are organic and free of toxic substances, and our kitchen is no butter or cream.”

And I can hear you thinking – “no cream or butter”??? What would Julia Child say??? :)

The actual restaurant is quite small – but still remains cozy. With gorgeous teal painted walls on one side – showcasing local photographers work.

(I apologize in advance – as the lighting wasn’t great and using the camera flash in a restaurant is a bit of a no-no for me – so the pictures are somewhat fuzzy in some cases and not the best effort… but enough with the excuses…:) )

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Menus arrived along with some homemade breads & some delicious dip with olive oil & balsamic dressing

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Mr Draper & G both ordered the ENERGY MENU 29€ – which included a LES BOULETTES DE RAMSèS (Carrot & nuts falafels with nuts salad, beetroot, avocado and yoghurt-mint sauce) as a Starter – and LE COCORICCO (Spicy organic steamed chicken filled with feta & spinach, cashew nut sauce, quiona with zucchini, broccoli, coriander and rocket salad) as a main.

the stuffed chicken breasts
the stuffed chicken breasts

The birthday girl ordered the LA SHRIMP’S PARTY 13€ as a starter (Shrimps ceviche with coriander & mango served with melon & rocket salad) and LA DORADE AU SAUNA 20€ (Steamed sea bream with slices of lemon served with feta tzatziki, lentils, grilled eggplant, green beans and green salad) as her main course.

the seabass looked amazing...
the seabass looked amazing…

Miss America opted for LE CôTE COTTAGE 11€ as a starter (Lentils & Cottage cheese salad with pear, basil & gomasio) and to be honest… I can’t remember the main – except that it was one of the fish choices (nor did I get a picture of it – as we were all starving at this point)

this was the cottage cheese starter ... amazing...
this was the lentil & cottage cheese starter … amazing…

Señorita ordered the LA MOZZA à MA FAçON 11.50 as a starter (mozzarella, beetroot, avocado & eggplants with pinenuts, sauce vierge, rocket salad and balsamic reduction) and the LES BOULETTES DE RAMSèS II 16€ (Carrots & nuts falafels on a bed of quinoa, grilled eggplant, feta tzatziki, green beans, a mint-yoghurt sauce and green salad) as her main course.

another winning starter....
another winning starter….

and Moi – the LES BOULETTES DE RAMSèS 11€  (Carrot & nuts falafels with nuts salad, beetroot, avocado and yoghurt-mint sauce) and the LA VOYAGEUSE 19€ (Marinated Prawns in Asiatic vinaigrette with sesame seeds served with lentils, sweet potatoes, grilled zucchini, coriander and green salad) as my main course.

carrot falafel starter
carrot falafel starter
My prawn main course...
My prawn main course…

Seriously – it was delicious… every mouthful packed with flavour! My only negative (if you can even call it a negative) was that although each item on my main course plate was delicious and flavoursome by itself – I really didn’t feel that the courgettes and sweet potatoes worked with the prawns & lentils. (Plus – I must also point out that we did wait a bit of time for the feed – but the wait was worth it)

Would I return – yes, the food was delicious, the service was friendly… price wise – it was a tad on the pricey front (40 euros each – with only one bottle of wine shared amongst some and water for the rest)


address: rue de la Samaritaine 20, 1000, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 513 52 13 (Reservations only by phone)

website: http://www.soulresto.com

Belgian Beer Tour: Trenches and Trappists

This past sunday, HIM and I got to joined 2 other couples (William of Hopnieuws along with Breandán & Elisa of Belgian Smaak) on one of Jan’s Belgian Beer Tours!

Belgian Beer Tours is a small, family run, fully licensed tour operator in Dranouter (a small village in West-Flanders near the French border) offering tours in English. These day trips offer great insight into the role that Flanders Fields played during World War 1 while also providing the opportunity to taste some of the local well-known beers!

They provide 2 different tours over weekends:
1. Hops & Poppies: Discover the battlefields around Ypres and the hopfields around Poperinge on Saturdays
2. Trenches & Trappists: Discover the trenches of the Salient, and try a trappist beer in Westvleteren on Sundays

Both tours start at 10h30am and end at 18h30pm and include collection/return drop off at Ypres Station, a full days tour in an air-conditioned minibus, lunch & more than 1 beer :).  At a completely reasonable price of 50€ per person!

How easy is to get from Brussels to Ypres Station? SUPER easy!! There is a direct train that takes just under 2hours departing from Midi station! (We took the 08h36 IC train there & the 19h39 IC train back in the evening).

So what did we get up to on the Sunday Trenches & Trappist Tour?

In the Morning – the Trenches portion

  • We started off at the Essex Farm Cemetery, where John McRae wrote his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’

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  • Then we grabbed a beer at Bar/Hairdresser combo (not normally included in the tour – but considered a Plan B if the weather isn’t great!) – yes people, you can get your hair cut, while you drink your beer and play cards… multi-tasking at it’s best! (it takes “honey, I am off to the hairdressers” to a whole new level!)

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  • We meandered through the Trench of Death, which played a key role in the 1st Battle of Ypres (and the weather played along – giving us deep ominous clouds that hang low, making the green fields even more vivid and the impact of where we were, so much more sobering)

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  • and paid homage to the statues of the Grieving Parents, which is a war memorial by German artist Käthe Kollwitz at the Vladslo German War Cemetry (I have to confess that this memorial site hit me the most …. not sure if it was because it contains more than 25,000 soldiers with each stone representing a group of them – or because the headstones were so understated and the surroundings were so quiet and serene – whatever the case – It left me deep in thought.)

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Then the afternoon was all about the Trappist Beer!

  • A full brewery tour (in English) at De Dolle Brouwers, “mad” brewing pioneers of the Belgian Beer revival – where the brewer is not only into beer – but loves to paint as well!

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  • After the tour – we got to enjoy lunch in their onsite pub (a gorgeous home-made paté that I literally inhaled it was so good) and one of their beers

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  • And finally, we settled onto the terrace at Sint-Sixtus abbey to enjoy a Westvleteren beer while the sun started to set… (and a nibble of their cheese – something that HIM enjoyed so much that he bought a whole ROUND to take home with us!)

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By the end of the day – we hugged our new friends goodbye (remembrance memorials & beer will do that) and HIM and I enjoyed the experience so much – that we are already looking into plans to go on the Saturday tour… Will we see you there?



email: info@belgianbeertours.be or via their website

website: http://www.belgianbeertours.be

More photos of the day can be found on our facebook page

Lemon and Lime Squares (Secret Recipe Club)

It is Secret Recipe Club Reveal time again…


And this month – I got allocated The Saturday Evening Pot – a blog about Faith, Family & Food! Chef John, his (lucky) wife, Anne & their 2 children share a passion for food – which can easily be seen through their recipes, reviews and updates!

the saturday evening pot

I found the following recipe and just KNEW that it was something that I would not only enjoy making, but also eating! (Particularly because I love lemon/lime flavours in sweet treats!)

I adjusted the recipe somewhat – but mixing lemon & lime zest/juice, and unlike Chef John – I used normal flour, not gluten-free as well as full fat Irish Butter instead of soy-free/dairy-free version that he did. Basically – I made the full fat version – while his is definitely the “healthier” option :)

Lemon & Lime Squares

squares 3


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

base ingredients


  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 tablespoons grated lime/lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime/lemon juice
  • (for sprinkling) confectioner’s sugar

filling ingredients

Cooking Directions:

  1. For the base, mix flour & sugar and then add butter and mix until dough comes together
  2. Press the dough gently and evenly over the bottom of the greased baking dish


  1. Bake base on center oven rack until lightly golden, about 15 minutes at 180C
  2. Cool base
  3. Meanwhile, Gently whisk eggs & add the remaining topping ingredients and continue to whisk gently until they are blended.


  1. Pour the topping evenly over cooled base.
  2. Bake until top is set and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes at 180C.
  3. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Sprinkle surface with confectioner’s sugar (a light dusting) and cut into squares with a sharp knife, that is dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each cut.
  5. If you plan to keep longer than one day, keep in air tight container and refrigerate or freeze to preserve crispness of base.
  6. Makes 9 to 12 bars.

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Linking to the HOST


Brussels Food Friends 3rd Event….

Just in case you hadn’t heard…

Brussels Food Friends (a community of Brussels (and Belgian) based food bloggers) are hosting their 3rd Event!

The first event was at The Hotel… and boosted an introductory talk by Alison of Cheeseweb regarding the thing she wished someone had told her when she first started blogging… cube cake tasting that was sublime… and a goodie bag overflowing with amazing stuff (speculoos from Maison Dandoy; canvas bag & tea from Dille & Kamille; chocolates from Laurent Gerbaud; scrapers from International Home of cooking, jam from Un altro colore & goats cheese from Ging’s Artisan Goats cheese)

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The second event was at Hotel Bloom - with the popular Miss Foodwise sharing the secrets of creating your visual identity - and reminding everyone about the importance of community building (exactly what BxlFF is all about!)… this lead to exploring the waffle truck & networking – before digging into the glorious cake from La Cucina Delle Zie… and jam tasting with Un altro colore - Each blogger walked home with a goodie bag of awesomeness (Luster E-gift voucher (€5), 15% Discount on a baking or decorating class at La Cucina Delle Zie, La Cucina Delle Zie biscuits, Nibbles from Olivetus, 50% off voucher from Bia Maria, Chocolero chocolate bar, Belgian Beer & Food magazine & Visit Brussels pocket-sized discovery guides)

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Now the excitement is on… The 3rd event has been launched for Saturday 1st November 2014 at Maasmechelen Village… and includes starting the day with coffee & a pastry from VROOMVROOM before boarding the luxury bus for transfers there & back, a cooking demonstration with Le Creuset, Lunch at Ellis Gourmet Burger, shopping, champagne & hot chocolate… AND MORE!) – you can read more about it here


Ticket sales have already been booming – but there are a few precious tickets still left (a mere 20€ per person for a day of food, fun & blogger-ness.)

Will we see you there?

Déjeuner sur l’herbe (Pop up Restaurant in Glaverbel)

I am lucky enough to work in the Glaverbel building … so having a pop-up restaurant right on my doorstep is a Godsend! Especially for weekday lunch time dining! No wasted time travelling… and great food! Woohoo

I thoroughly adored the concept of 2013 – “Bowery goes South” which was held in the centre garden of Glaverbel last year – so when I heard that there would be another “secret garden” type event happening in September 2014… I waited eagerly to hear more!

From 11-26th September 2014, the interior garden at Glaverbel is transformed. Not only with a make-shift tent, but because the whole feeling around the building has changed – an air of excitement and mystery!

The glorious tent… is beautifully created by well-known designer Penneman Michel – those hanging “leaves” had me feeling like I was enjoying some outdoor dining… and the pots of herbs on the communal long tables went a long way in making dining companions feel private & secure.

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The very original menu (“luncheon on the grass” or “déjeuner sur l’herbe”) is from French chef, Yannick Alleno, – although I have to confess that when asked, the waitress had no idea who he was and what influence he had on the actual cooking of the menu items (?!?)

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The food promises to be aromatic, natural & fun – all of which is not only promised, but also delivered.

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All 3 of us ordered the Eggs as a starter… crunchy chopped green vegetables set in jelly and topped with 2 perfectly poached eggs & sauce… OMG… delicious!

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I went for the Skate Fish dish (aka Ray)… served with boiled potatoes, capers and slices of grapefruit (whereby the citrus tang really set off the beautifully smooth and rich fish taste….) – another 10/10 from me.

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While my 2 companions ordered the vegetarian option – a whole Celery bulk cooked to perfect and topped with edible flowers…(I managed to steal a slice and I can verify that this was enough to make any meat-eater consider being vegetarian!)

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A delicious way to spend Friday lunch… the only problem is wanting to enjoy a few glasses of wine with your lunch… but still having to work… neither of which go well together :( (sadly).

Pricing wise – it is a bit steep for lunch. 37€ for 2 courses (you can choose between starter/main or main/dessert) or 47€ for all 3 courses – and the starter/main courses provide more than one option – while there only seemed to be one type of dessert.

If you haven’t tried it out yet – you still have until Friday 26th September… not only for lunch – but they have been so popular that they have extended their hours to include Thursday & Friday night. (Plus we heard that their menu changes each week …)

Telephone: +32 2 479 720 711

Address: Chaussee de la Hulpe 166, 1170 Brussels, BELGIUM


Olivetus (Taste of Puglia)

After one particularly busy weekend – which included EAT! Brussels & hosting a Murder Mystery dinner, amongst other things – HIM and I also attended an open house “End of Season” sale hosted by Olivetus.

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Started by 2 very passionate folk (Anna & Alessandro) - Olivetus, a Taste of Puglia - provides wines & nibbles from small, regional & family run businesses which are guaranteed to be 100% Italian and straight from Puglia!

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We spent a bit of time tasting some wines (every mouthful so delicious that we landed up going home laden down with bottles!!). Starting with the rosé, then some white and finally HIM went onto red, while I taste-tested 2 different olive oils.

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