moro

On a recent trip to London I got to have dinner with a good friend from NYC. It's funny that with our busy travel schedules, sometimes it ends up being easier to get together when we're away from home! She knows London better than I do, and also appreciates really great food, so she suggested we dine at Moro. This place is a true classic (it's been around for 20 years!), and after trying their food, I totally understand why. The chefs focus on the flavors of the Southern Mediterranean- think Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara- which leads to some truly vibrant food. Everything was flavorful and delicious, from the seasonal special we shared to start (which we ate too quickly for a photo!) to the charcoal grilled halibut. I think the highlight, for me personally, was the mixed vegetable mezze- it's everything I want on a plate and truly how I love to eat on a daily basis. Not to mention the fresh bread was baked to perfection!

A few nights later I also got to dine at their sister restaurant, Morito Hackney Road, which was equally impressive and totally up my alley. Think a similar vibe but offered in more a small plates setting. Super tasty and great for a group! I really cannot say enough good things about Moro and Morito, and I definitely look forward to returning to both spots on my next trip to London!

vanilla cupcakes

Everyone needs a good 'ol vanilla cupcake recipe, and this one is a tried and true favorite. It's the perfect blank canvas, making it super easy to customize based on what you're in the mood for! Whether it's with fillings (strawberry compote and salted caramel are both great), or toppings (I love nuts, chocolate, or sprinkles), the options are endless! Swiss meringue buttercream is the best frosting option, in my humble opinion. It's super pretty and glossy, less sickeningly sweet than traditional American buttercream, and holds up well at room temperature and even outdoors! You can also add flavor to the frosting if you want to mix things up, but the vanilla is a great classic that goes with many flavors. Whatever you end up with, you'll almost always be guaranteed a delicious treat! Now get to baking!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups cake flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed & softened
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with liners, and spray them with nonstick spray. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the base of a stand mixer fit with whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, beating well and scraping down the bowl to ensure they are fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low, then mix in buttermilk until just combined. Don't be alarmed if the mixture looks curdled at this point. 

Add flour mixture until just incorporated, careful not to over-mix. Pour batter evenly among cupcake liners, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then completely on a cooling rack. Makes about a dozen cupcakes

While cupcakes are baking, make the buttercream. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a bowl over a double boiler until sugar is fully dissolved. Transfer mixture into the stand mixer (make sure it's clean & dry!) fit with paddle attachment and whip until it turns white glossy. Add the vanilla, then the butter and continue to whip until buttercream comes together. This may take a good 10-15 minutes, so don't worry if things look curdled or soupy at the start!

Once cupcakes have cooled, you may add filling if desired. Scoop out a small bit of cake from the top (using a knife or melon-baller), add the filling, and replace the cake on top. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes using a pastry bag fit with an icing tip, and finish with toppings if you choose! Enjoy!

*Adapted from Best Birthday Cake by Smitten Kitchen.


top shop byron bay

Byron Bay is truly one of the most magical places. I got to spend a few days there with friends on my trip to Australia, but I'd gladly return at the drop of a hat! It's a picturesque beach town, with tons of cute shops and places to eat. I've raved about my love for Aussie food culture before, but it's seriously the best. I love the idea of going out for a leisurely breakfast or lunch, sitting outside, and enjoying all the fresh flavors the season has to offer. Top Shop Byron Bay is a popular little corner store and café (super close to where we stayed!) that focuses on local and organic produce, and makes some really great coffee! We stopped in multiple times on our three day getaway from Sydney, and practically everything on the menu is right up my alley. The acaí bowls come topped with tropical fruit, dried coconut, and granola, and are the perfect refreshment after a morning in the sun. I became particularly obsessed with the maca-mango smoothie, made from mango, macadamia nut milk, and macadamia nut butter. Oh my glory it was so delicious, and I cannot wait to recreate it at home! My husband was a fan of the breaky burger, which comes fully loaded with egg, bacon, and avocado! All the homemade baked goods are laid out on display to tempt you as well, and they are absolutely worth the indulgence. Top Shop is totally my kind of spot, one that I definitely wish there were more of stateside!


deliciously ella

I've been following Ella Mills (@DeliciouslyElla) for a while now, and was super excited when she opened The MaE Deli (now called Deliciously Ella) along with her husband, Matthew. Now with multiple locations around London, the delis offer natural, seasonal, and delicious food. While I (luckily) don't have any allergies or need to avoid any specific ingredients, all the food at The MaE Deli is free from wheat, dairy, additives, and refined sugar, making it the perfect, healthy spot for breakfast or lunch for just about anyone. On a recent trip to London, I visited twice, and loved all the fresh, colorful options to choose from. I created my own "MaE Bowl", with miso broccolini salad, sweet potato with coriander tahini, cauliflower & broad bean falafel, and grilled vegetables with sorrel pesto, all topped with avocado pesto dip! Talk about a mouthful, but this is my favorite kind of lunch. Veggie-based, full of flavor, and super healthy and satisfying!

You know me- I rarely pass on the sweets, and this occasion was no different. The fudgy brownie tastes sinful and indulgent, but is far from it. I love when a dessert still tastes rich and decadent, but isn't full of a bunch of processed crap! Win-win! And how pretty is the hot pink frosting on that red velvet cupcake?! You can now also buy Ella's energy balls in various stores around London (like Whole Foods!). These bite-sized treats, made from nuts and fruits, are great, quick sources of energy and protein, and delicious to boot! I like keeping a few in my bag for whenever I start to get hangry. Here's hoping a NYC location opens soon! 


modern love

Whenever my vegan bestie comes to town, she always has a long list of veggie places she's dying to try. And although her trips typically last only a few days, we manage to cram in tons of delicious plant-based eats (see Double Zero and Vedge for examples). Modern Love comes to Brooklyn from famed vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who describes the cuisine as "swanky vegan comfort food", and I tend to agree.

Some highlights from our meal included the za'atar pretzels with babaganoush (what's not to love about freshly baked bread?!) and the root vegetable chickpea korma. The rutabaga parsnip coconut curry was so flavorful, and the persimmon chutney was the perfect complement to the rest of the dish! Click through the photos for more details on our swanky homestyle meal. Modern Love may not be my favorite vegan spot in the city, but if you're craving some good 'ol veggie comfort food, it's definitely a great bet! 


key lime pie

I'll be the first to admit, I've never been a key lime pie person. There are very few desserts that I don't love, but key lime pie, along with lemon meringue pie and flan, have never been at the top of my list for whatever reason. I would just typically choose something chocolate, caramel, nutty, or spiced over a citrus-based dessert. Not one to hold a bias, I decided to whip one up for a good friend (who happens to love it!) for her birthday! I can safely say after making one myself, that I thoroughly enjoyed this pie. I love a graham cracker crust, and I personally think toasted coconut is a wonderful addition to almost any dessert. It ends up complementing the fresh, tropical flavors in this pie perfectly. Because I was transporting this pie into the city for dinner, I baked it in a disposable pie dish. But it ended up looking so bright and pretty that I really wish I baked it in one of my pretty ceramic pie dishes! Next time ;)

Key Lime Pie:

Crust:

  • 10-12 full graham crackers (or about 1.5 cups crushed graham crackers)
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 12 key limes or 4 regular limes)

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut, toasted
  • lime zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine graham crackers, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse until combined. Pour in coconut oil, and pulse a few more times until mixture is uniformly crumbly and moist. Press crust mix into the bottom and up the sides of a standard 9-inch pie dish. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set on cooling rack while you prepare filling. 

Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 2 tablespoons (reserving a bit for topping). Beat zest and egg yolks in a stand mixer (or use an electric hand-held one) until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until well incorporated, about 3 minutes more. Whisk lime juice into yolk mixture until combined. Pour into graham crust and bake pie for another 10-12 minutes, until center is just set. Let pie cool completely before adding topping.

In a medium bowl of stand mixer, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks are formed. Spread over top of chilled pie. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and extra lime zest. If possbile, chill pie for another 2-3 hours so that topping can fully set. Slice and enjoy! Pie will stay fresh in the fridge for 5-7 days.

*Adapted from key lime pie by Smitten Kitchen

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messina gelato

 
 

Long before my husband and I ever stepped foot in Australia for our recent vacation, I started to research places to eat. Food is such a big part of our lives, and eating at new exciting places is one of the best parts of vacation in my humble opinion! Messina Gelato came up on several lists I'd read as a must-visit place for ice cream! Their made-from-scratch, unique flavors created with high-quality, natural ingredients yield some seriously creamy and delicious gelato. Messina has 35 signature flavors, plus 5 specials per week, so there's always something new and unique to try! Many of their flavors contain lots of tasty mix-ins, which are the key to my heart when it comes to ice cream. It was super difficult to narrow it down, but after much deliberation (and several taste tests!), I finally decided on pandan & coconut (which was dairy-free) and monoffee pie, one of the daily specials- caramel gelato with banana jam, whipped cream & pie crust! My husband went his usual chocolate route, but they had so many tempting chocolate offerings, his cup was anything but boring. Think milk chocolate gelato with chocolate peanut fudge, peanut butter gelato with chocolate brownies & dulce de leche jam, and chocolate hazelnut tiramisu gelato with mocha soaked biscuits! I could go on and on about all the over-the-top flavors, but just trust me and definitely stop by if you're ever in Sydney or Melbourne. I only wish we had more time to try them all! 


sweets by chloe

I obviously love a baked good, vegan or not. But when a bakery can whip up delicious treats without using butter or eggs, it's pretty impressive. I'd been wanting to try Sweets by Chloe for some time now, and finally stopped by during fashion week on a quick break between shows with a friend. The daily menu consists of several types of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and breads, all of which are baked from scratch daily. Although the banana cream pie, carrot cake, and cinnamon espresso chocolate chip cookie all looked tempting, we decided on the peanut butter everything cookie and a slice of the matcha chocolate babka. The cookie was super peanut buttery with a nice texture from all the various mix-ins (oats, nuts, raisins), however it could've been baked just a bit less for my taste. The babka, however, was amazing! The subtle hint of matcha paired perfectly with the melted chocolate. I loved pulling it apart layer by layer to reveal more ooey gooey pockets! Doughy and delicious! I can't wait to go back and try the Chill by Chloe ice creams too. How good does coffee ice cream with homemade cinnamon rolls sound, or what about a push pop of salted caramel ice cream with homemade banana bread? Yum!!!