Apple Tarte Tatin

The weather is cold and Winter is officially here. Coincidentally, cold days in are the best time to stay at home baking and cooking tasty holiday meals. What’s better than enjoying a hot drink and some homemade cake you just whipped up on your own?

I would like to share one of my favourite French desserts – Tarte Tatin – a delicious dessert made with apples. You can have Apple Tarte Tatin for your afternoon tea or as a dessert.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Picture courtesy of the BBC

Ingredients:
Pastry
320g flour
225g butter
110g icing sugar
3 egg yolks

Filling
6 apples cut into 8-12 wedges
Juice from ¼ lemon
110g caster sugar
110g butter

Preheat the oven to 250C/Gas 9

Pastry
• Mix butter, flour, sugar until it becomes like breadcrumbs. Add eggs yolks and mix it to form dough (it should not be too hard) – use a food processor for homogeneous dough.
• Divide dough in two pieces. I like using a silicone knife for cutting pastry. Wrap the pieces in cling film and place in the freezer for one hour.

Filling
• Put the apple wedges in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Don’t forget to toss them gently for better coverage.
• Place sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. I like using Tefal pans because of the non-stick surface. Just wait until sugar becomes a pale golden colour and remove from heat.
• Place the apples in a tart pan in a single layer.
• Put the tart pan in the oven for 10 minutes, until apples are softened.
• Remove tart pan from oven and add butter to the top.

Combining the two
• Remove the pastry from freezer. With a cheese grater, grate pastry over the apples to cover the filling with a 2.50 cm layer.
• Turn the heat on the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Return the tart pan to the oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes.
• Remove the tart from oven and let it rest for 2 minutes.

Serving
• Flip the tart on a heatproof serving dish, the apples will now be on top and pastry on the bottom.
• Serve the tart warm with a vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appetit!

-Lisiane Ndong

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Party frocks are in the house tonight!

The Christmas and New Year’s party season is around the corner, so it’s time to think about shopping for a special frock or two. You should consider something special that can pull double duty at an intimate gathering with friends and family or at a formal office event.

This is the best time of year for true fashionistas to show off a dramatic fashion sense with colour, sparkles and bold accessories. Don’t be shy with your picks! When it comes to Christmas and New Year’s, splashing out on a special occasion outfit is perfectly acceptable.

Here are some of our top picks for holiday dresses:

SEQUINS
Sequins are a big trend for Christmas 2012. Those dresses evoke the perfect mood for celebrations and it’s no coincidence that these are amongst the most sought after style this year. They are great with dark tights and mid-height heels.
Sequin dresses1. T by Tadashi Off the Shoulder Sequin Mesh Dress – £91 from Nordstrom
2. French Connection Moonray Sequins Colour Block Dress – £197 from Bloomingdale’s
3. Kay Unger Sequin Lace Sheath Dress – £296.50 from Nordstrom
Shop for deals on sequin dresses.

LEATHER
Leather has no doubt owned this year’s catwalks and pavements alike. Why not consider wearing leather well into the Winter party season? You can find leather dresses to suit a variety of shapes and tastes. As a rule, try to avoid leather jackets or leggings for more buttoned up affairs. For a chic look, pair leather with a blazer, bright tights and pumps.
Leather Dresses1. Oakwood Leather Dress in Brown- £241 from MonShowroom
2. One Teaspoon Fear and Loathing Dress in Gold – £204 from Revolve Clothing
3. Rebecca Faux Leather Bandeau – £20 from Oasis
Shop for deals on leather dresses.

LACE
Lace dresses are always great options for a romantic and retro style, plus lace is very trendy this year! For a stylish look, pair these dresses with flesh-coloured tights and high heels for a modern take on an old favourite.
Lace Dresses1. Kimberly Metallic Lace Top Strappy 2 in 1 Midi Dress – £25 from BooHoo
2. Slash Neck Floral Lace Shift Dress - £45 from Marks & Spencer
3. Lace Dress With Scalloped Neck – £40 from ASOS
Shop for deals on lace dresses.

VELVET
Velvet is soft, shiny and keeps you warm. This year’s designers have been able to offer us trendy pieces made from this classic textile. There are many colours available, just pick your favourite! For the perfect holiday look, pair a velvet dress with a structured blazer and high heeled pumps.
Velvet Dresses1. Devore Burnout Bodycon Dress – £50 from Warehouse
2. Minkpink ‘Snow Palace’ Cut Out Velvet Skater Dress – £68 from ASOS
3. Calvin Klein One Shoulder Draped Sleeve Velvet Dress – £98 from Nordstrom
Shop for deals on velvet dresses.

-Lisiane Ndong

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Delicious decadence: cake pops and lollies

If you’re big on baking and desserts, then you’ve most definitely seen and heard about the trend in cake pops. Cake pops and lollies are a close relative to the fairy cake. They’re easy to make and decorate, even more fun to eat, and they make great gifts!

There are two ways to make a cake pop: by hand or with a specially designed cake pop maker. Handmade cake pops involve mixing together a binder, such as pre-made frosting, plus a cake that has already been baked. You then dip the lolly in chocolate and decorate.

For a video tutorial on handmade cake pops, we like the instructions from the Divas Can Cook website.

As we have attempted to make cake pops by hand before, we found that this method resulted in a moist, yet dense cake similar to a brownie or a cake-like truffle. Whilst it was very tasty, we longed for a cake pop that was lighter, fluffier and more like a real cake.

Here is where a cake pop maker steps in. A cake pop maker looks very much like a sandwich maker, yet it allows you to make perfectly round spheres from raw batter and dough. What we like about using a cake pop maker is that you can go above and beyond just cake. You can use pancake and muffin batter, doughnut and bread doughs, you could probably even use a scone recipe if you wanted. The ideas are limited only by your imagination.

Cake pop makers range in the amount of wells they provide (between seven and twelve), so if you’re making a large batch, you might find the process a bit tedious. Although, because cooking times are shorter than a traditional oven, whipping up a few dozen cake pops should be a snap.

The most fun in making a cake pop comes from the decorating and is something that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Most cake pops are covered in white, milk or dark chocolate and are then embellished with edible sprinkles and glitters. We’ve provided a few photographs to get you started with your inspiration.

So for your next birthday party, baby shower or holiday celebration, consider whipping up a batch of cake pops. You’re sure to impress your friends whilst tempting their taste buds.

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One kitchen tool to rule them all

Do you love cooking, but hate the mammoth task of cleaning the numerous mixing bowls, pots and saucepans afterwards? Or maybe you are tired of all that chopping, whisking and kneading you have to do.

If you are forever looking for this blade or that attachment for your multi-function food processor, or your kitchen cupboards are full of the latest gadgets and useless gizmos that you are probably going to use only once in a blue moon, then, we think we may have found the perfect solution.

We present to you the Thermomix. This is not your typical kitchen gadget. This incredible machine can replace all other kitchen appliances like your bread machine, slow cooker, steamer, juicer, coffee grinder, electric whisk, scale or food processor.

You may have seen it in action on programmes such as MasterChef or the Great British Bake Off. It is becoming a huge asset even to professional chefs. One massive benefit is that you will have pretty much no need for any other appliance. You can replace it with the beautifully compact and efficient Thermomix.

This piece of kit can:
Weigh
Cook
Chop
Crush
Emulsify
Whip
Mix
Mince
Steam
Blend
Knead
Grind
Simmer
Grate
Mill

Pretty impressive, eh? If you had a Thermomix you could all but get rid of your oven!
Designed by Vorwerk, it has all the finesse, detail and quality typical of German engineering. With that said, you can feel assured that this is a sturdy and reliable little tool before you go throwing out all of your other machines.

So how does it work? The operating unit comes with one sturdy stainless steel jug. You can buy additional jugs, but we warn you they are not cheap!  For chopping, stirring and mixing, a double pronged blade sits in the middle of the jug and rotates. To weigh, cook or steam, just use the touch controls on the main unit which control the function and temperature around the jug. You can even cook a soup whilst steaming something above it. This thing can really multitask!

Unlike a food processor, the Thermomix does not come with fifty different blades and attachments, just simple accessories such as a two-layer steamer (called VAROMA), a butterfly whisk and a spatula. This amazing kitchen gadget even has a setting to wash itself. But for times when you need to remove the blade, it simply takes one click of a button to detach the jug unit and blade.

I have rambled on about this gadget as though it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but what about those tasks which are not listed in its extensive repertoire? There are still a fair amount of techniques this super-cool tool has not yet mastered.

While you can’t bake, fry or roast food in the Thermomix, you can steam, boil and simmer. You can’t use it as a pressure cooker or for making preserves. You can’t actually freeze ice-cream in it, either. While you can watch the Thermomix sales team demonstrate how to make a sorbet, it is made by adding frozen ingredients to the jug, which are then blitzed. To make ice cream or gelato involves chilling and churning at the same time to prevent large ice crystals forming and to give a smooth consistency, a process that really necessitates a devoted ice cream maker.

The biggest downfall with this amazing bit of equipment has to be the price.  The unit, which comes with one stainless steel jug, costs around £1000 with each additional jug costing around £225. For such a high price, you really do get your money’s worth in terms of functionality and versatility. However, I think the amount you use it will dictate its worth.

Currently, Thermomix units are available to purchase through group demonstration tours and home visits. There are alternative products available, such as the ThermoChef Natura made by NewWave Kitchen Appliances. It is available for a considerably lower price than the Thermomix, but is only on sale in Australia, unfortunately. It is only a matter of time before there will be a cheaper equivalent available in the UK.

- Alison Wright
Kelkoo UK

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Gothic fashion is back!

As Halloween is tomorrow, I think it‘s the right time to talk about gothic fashion. Yes, it’s “Black is back” this season, and any good fashionista worth her Gucci bag will already have her closet filled with this latest trend.

Even though the word “gothic” has always been tied to mystery and romance, it’s now getting more and more interest from the fashion industry. Vampire style is back with True Blood, Twilight and other movies and TV shows related to the gothic mystique. Moreover, this year during Fashion Week, designers have shown us the best way to adopt this style with a fresh spin on the classics.

So here are some great ways you can incorporate the gothic look into your wardrobe this season:

GLAM


1. Oasis stitch detail leather jacket – £135 from House of Fraser
2. After-Death On The Nile ankh necklace by Alchemy Gothic – £29.95 from The Gothic Shop
3. Pleated black silk & roses gothic handbag by Sinister – £28.50 from The Gothic Shop
4. Spiderweb tights – £9.78 from Kate’s Clothing
5. Lipstick in Liable range red, matte finish – £1,755 from Net-a-porter
6. Yves Saint Laurent leather and stretch-wool crepe dress – £75 from Sweaty Betty
7. Goth corset with lace – £44.95 from The Goth Code
8. Sapphire Blue Immortal Cross nn llack lace gothic choker – £19.50 from The Gothic Shop

SOFT

1. Jist womens’ 1-inch white stripe jeans – £28.99 from Kate’s Clothing
2. Heart & Roses red tartan mini dress – £29.99 from Kate’s Clothing
3. Pure wool bustle jacket – £125 from The Dark Angel
4. Underground Creeper wedge black leopard suede – £110 from Office
5. Lipstick in Pristine pure black, matte finish – £12.80 from Illamasqua
6. Black Taxi nail polish – £11 from Nails Inc.

EXTRAVAGANZA

1. Long black lace gothic pagan dress – £59.50 from The Gothic Shop
2. Rock Rebel Lily Munster purple bowling bag – £21.45 from Hot Topic
3. Triple row spiked wrist band – £4.99 from Kate’s Clothing
4. Spatz style high heels – £59 from Dracina Box
5. Punk Rave Demons Kiss gothic choker – £19.99 from Kate’s Clothing
6. Voodoo Vixen button coat – £49.99 from Blue Banana

-Lisiane Ndong

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Have glue gun, will travel

A trusty glue gun is the foundation to most craft projects. A hot glue gun can, in many instances, fill in for a needle and thread, pins, tacks and tape and requires not a lot of skill. More often than not, a glue gun is the preferred method for creating your own decorations, party favours, homemade gifts and can even fill in on small home fix-it jobs.

It is here where we should implicitly state that glue guns are not appropriate to be used around children for kiddie craft hour. The tip of the gun and the glue itself is very hot and can cause a nasty shock if you’re not paying attention. The utmost care and attention to proper glue gun handling, including unplugging the gun when finished, is extremely important.

A decent glue gun doesn’t have to be expensive with many models costing under £10. Glue guns comes in two sizes: mini and standard. Mini glue guns are perfectly serviceable for not only craft projects, but can also handle the odd small repair job around the house or car with ease. Most glue guns have a dual temperature control, so make sure you know if the gun you are buying is low, high or dual.

Photo courtesy of sugarandcloth.com

Mini glue guns use 7mm glue sticks while standard guns use 11mm sticks. Make sure you are purchasing the right size sticks when it comes time to replenish your stocks. When selecting glue sticks, you also have the choice of low-, high-, or combo-temp. What type you choose depends on the type of gun you have and the type of job you are using it for. Low temp sticks are good for papercraft, foam projects and fabrics while high temp sticks are for more heavy duty projects involving jewellery, artificial flowers, millinery, metal, leather or plastics.

If you’re not sure where to start and need a bit of inspiration, we’ve provided some links below to get you started:
Umbrella Bat Costume – MarthaStewart.com
Spoon Lamp Shade - missflibbertigibbet.com
Baby Shower Nappy Cake – Hostess
Christmas Yarn Ball Wreath – Country Living Magazine
Paillette Flower Headband – MarthaStewart.com
Ruffle Ice Cream Cones Party Decorations – Sugarandcloth.com

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A plus-sized Fall

There’s no reason why you should miss out on some of the hottest trends this season just because you wear a size 18, 20, 22 or larger. Today’s retailers have heard the call from their plus-sized customers by adding extended sizes to their clothing, shoes and accessories stocks. Popular clothing store Evans occasionally carries limited lines from a rotating list of designers, while ASOS has the very popular Curve line offering sizes 14-26.

Below, we’ve put together some of the trendiest looks for Fall 2012 in items that are flattering, fashionable and affordable.

Leather
1. Black Leather Trousers – £99.99 from Bon Prix (available in sizes 10-22)
2. Grey Wrap Coat – £49.50 from Evans (available in sizes 14-32)
3. Teal Leather Gloves – £15 from Yours.co.uk (one size fits most)
4. Etrusca Earrings – £80 from Yoox.com
5. Classic Collection Leaf Print Blouse with Camisole – £29.50 from Marks and Spencer (available in sizes 8-24)
6. Metal Bar Detail Envelope Clutch – £18 from ASOS
7. Ted Baker Kelmat Black Court Shoes – £100 from ASOS (available in sizes 3-9)

The Cigarette Trouser
1. South Skinny Pants in Black – £29 from Very.co.uk (available in sizes 8-24)
2. Pieces Bleur Earstuds – £6 from ASOS
3. Lyne Patent Leather Tote Bag – £325 from L.K. Bennett
4. Coccinelle Bracelet – £18 from Yoox.com
5. Swan by Clements Ribeiro Contrast Trim Toggle Coat - £125 from Evans (available in sizes 14-32)
6. Prior Pointed High Heels – £40 from ASOS (available in sizes 3-8)

Gothic Elegance
1. Oval Rhinestone Knuckle Ring – £4.90 from Forever 21 (available in US ring sizes 6-8)
2. Swan by Clements Ribeiro Metallic Kimmy Blouse – £55 from Evans (available in sizes 14-32)
3. Feather Clutch – £25 from ASOS
4. Wide-leg Trousers – £22.95 from Bon Prix (available in sizes 12-30)
5. Miss KG Florrie Mesh Platform Ankle Boots – £80 from ASOS (available in sizes 3-8)
6. Cutout Fleur-De-Lis Earrings – £5.65 from Forever 21

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A fashionable work out

Fashion and sport don’t usually fit together. Fashion is more about aesthetic and fine materials – it’s very different from sportswear which tends to be more about practicality and technically advanced materials rather than detailed and colourful features.

However, fashion designers are more and more interested in sportswear, so both worlds are coming together to meet in the middle. In fact, Stella McCartney has designed a range of sportswear for Adidas and Alexander Wang’s casual line, called T by Alexander Wang, contains many pieces that can be worn for working out or a quick trip to the market.

They offer us well cut clothes and have interesting design features and yet are still very wearable. You do not need to sacrifice your style when you train. You can still look stylish while practicing your favorite sport and don’t have to wear colourful and dull designs anymore. Finding clothes that reflect your personality and style is a breeze!

Find shoes with sleek designs, and tops or trousers made from luxurious materials.

Here are some suggestions to dress up for your favourite sport activity:

YOGA


1. Skinny Seamless Headband in Peach/Flame – £8 from Sweaty Betty
2. Pilates Socks in Charcoal in Charcoal/Marl/Plum – £12 from Sweaty Betty
3. Wellicious Yoga Wrap Top – £19.95 from Harrods
4. A Postcard from Brighton’s ‘Ruthie’ Leggings in Pink – £30 from Zalando
5. Upaya Yoga Vest – £55 from Sweaty Betty
6. Citta Yoga All in One – £75 from Sweaty Betty
7. Vibram FiveFingers Classic Ladies in Chilli/Peach – £95 from SportsDirect.com

RUNNING


1. Speed Run Shrug in Magenta – £50 from Sweaty Betty
2. Under Armour ‘Great Escape Running Shorts’ – £34.99 from Bare Necessities
3. Element Half-zip running shirt in Silver – £40 from Nike
4. Lunarglide 4 Women’s running shoe in White – £100 from Nike
5. Commit SQ sunglasses in Polished White – £135 from Oakley
6. Strut 3/4 Workout Tight in Black/Berry/Blue – £50 from Sweaty Betty

WATER/BEACH SPORTS


1. Nookie Beach Knitted Beach Throw – £149 from ASOS
2. Statement Down Gym Bag – £69 from Sweaty Betty
3. Zena Women’s adjustable goggles – £9.99 from Zoggs
4. Seafolly Shimmer Frill Front Swimsuit in Denim – £80 from ASOS
5. Vintage Style Flower Petal Swimming Hat in Coral – £28 from Fine Saratoga
6. Arena Meyer Costume in Red/White/Blue – £27.99 from Arena Swimwear
7. Adrina Strappy Women’s sandal in Espresso/Bronze – £29.99 from Crocs
8. Sailor Bikini top and bottom (in blue) – £35/£35 from Pinup Girl Clothing

-Lisiane Ndong

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Organic skin care

As more people are becoming aware of the harsh effects chemicals in skin products have on our skin, some are looking for fragrance- and dye-free alternatives that won’t break the bank. Let’s take a look at some easy-to-find, natural substitutes that you can incorporate into your skin care regimen.

Witch hazel plant

Witch hazel is a variety of shrub found in North America. The leaves and bark are processed and distilled to produce the grade of witch hazel found in most chemist’s shops. Because witch hazel is used to treat skin inflammations and swelling, it has a variety of applications. Witch hazel can be used to treat acne, sunburns, insect bites, bruises, rashes, psoriasis, eczema and can be used as an aftershave treatment.

While many over-the-counter skin care products boast as having witch hazel as a main ingredient, be sure to read the list of ingredients. You will find many of these items contain preservatives, alcohol, artificial fragrances and dyes that can exacerbate sensitive skin or acne.

For a quick and easy, natural insect repellent, we recommend trying the following simple recipe:
100 mL of witch hazel
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon lemongrass oil
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon eucalyptus oil
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon citronella oil
Put mixture in a spray bottle and shake contents before applying.

If you suffer from dry skin, we can’t recommend enough the virtues of items you may already have in your own pantry. Olive oil and avocados make fantastic conditioners for hair, feet and hands even though their topical uses are sometimes overshadowed by their sheer deliciousness. Olive oil and avocados also factor heavily into popular, home-made exfoliants and scrubs.

The following recipe is an example of an inexpensive, yet easy body scrub that will leave your skin feeling buttery soft afterwards:
200 g brown sugar
90 g raw oatmeal
235 mL olive oil
Mix and gently apply to skin letting sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse off in the shower or bath.

Coconut oilAnother great, albeit hard to come by, natural oil is coconut oil. Coconut oil can be found in most health food stores and ethnic supermarkets, is relatively cheap and will last you for ages. Try mixing fresh, grated ginger to a little coconut oil for a sweet-smelling and cheap, summery moisturiser.

You can also use coconut oil on your hair in the following recipe for a beachy hair spray:
235 mL hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon hair gel or conditioner (optional)
Put mixture in a spray bottle. Shake bottle before each use. Spray on wet hair. Twist individual sections of hair and let sections air dry.

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Gifting the host

In the UK, warmer weather means more outdoor entertaining. If you’re lucky, you’ll be receiving more than your fair share of invites to a get-together or barbecue on a lazy weekend afternoon.

While we at Kelkoo are far from being considered purveyors of social etiquette, it is a thoughtful gesture to bring the person hosting the party a gift. If you’re like us, you leave the host/hostess gift to the last minute and end up picking up a cheap bottle of plonk or flowers at the corner shop along the way.

With a bit of pre-planning, thoughtfulness and savvy you can be sure to pick up a great gift for a valued host or hostess that won’t break your bank! Here, we have some suggestions to get you started.

Patriotic champagne

Pommery Pop Union Jack Champagne, 20cl £15 from John Lewis

Bringing a bottle of wine, champagne or cava always goes down well as a host gift. If you’re quite familiar with your host(s) tastes, you can bring their favourite type of wine be it red or white. If you’re not sure what would be appreciated, we recommend something based on what food will be served with dinner as it is possible the entree’ is something the host likes and makes often. The general rule of thumb with wine is white for fish and poultry, red for most meats and champagne for dessert.

Most importantly, don’t expect the wine you bring to be consumed while you’re there. Social etiquette in this case does say that gifted wine is to be consumed at the host’s discretion and they aren’t obligated to share.

You don’t need to go overboard on the price, but it’s always nice to find something that can’t be bought with a 2-for-1 voucher at Tesco. It at least shows you’ve put some thought into your gift and that gesture alone will be appreciated.

Gift hampers are a great host gift as they can be tailored to the receiver’s tastes. Are your hosts foodies and really enjoy trying new things? A hamper full of oils, sauces and hard-to-find items from foreign countries would go down well. If your host likes coffees and teas, a hamper of some unusual picks they wouldn’t normally choose for themselves could serve as a gateway to trying new and exotic drinks.

Fishy cookbook

Fishy Fishy Cookbook £12.41 from John Lewis

Some other great host gifts are flowers and plants for the greenthumbs in your life, candles for the romantics, lawn games such as croquet or boules for those with a spacious garden and cookbooks for the budding Nigella Lawsons and Jamie Olivers.

If you are into cooking, baking or crafting, you should consider a homemade item as a gift. Edibles like fresh, homemade jam or honey, fresh baked breads, biscuits, even fairy cakes will prove to be popular with your friends.

Regardless, you should never spend more on your host gift than you feel comfortable with. There are many fantastic ideas for under £10 that anyone would be thankful and appreciative to receive and will ensure you get invited back for dinner again and again!

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