Beet Salad with Yogurt

The experts say beets are a superfood, and greek yogurt is supposed to be good for you too – so what better than a creative salad that is creamy, tangy, robust in flavor, yet easy on your waistline? This is a Middle-Eastern recipe that I have had at an Iraqi restaurant. I fell in love with this dish so much, that I had to recreate it and I LOVE this salad! For me, this is a great one-bowl meal that works as a great lunch at your desk. However, This is also a great side-dish to kebabs, hummus, or anything else that has a middle-eastern touch πŸ˜‰

The hardest part of the recipe is getting the beets cooked, so a quick cheat on this is to go to a store like Trader Joe’s and buy their packaged, pre-cooked red beet (can be found in their refrigerated section near their cut vegetables). Or, you can take the longer route if you have the time!

Enjoy this recipe, my loves. And enjoy the health benefits, while treating your stomach to deliciousness!

Love,
Priyanka

Red Beet Salad with Mint PK
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 red beets, washed and leaves removed (or you can use pre-cooked beets that are available at many grocery stores)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (e.g. Fage or Chobani works great!)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
the juice of one lemon (or one tablespoon of lemon juice)
Fresh-ground pepper, to taste
Optional garnishes: sumac, lemon wedges, cucumber slices, pitted olives

Directions

Bring a large pot to a boil over high heat. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt once it is boiling. Add the whole beets and boil on medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, until fork tender (not mushy!). Tender, yet firm is the perfect consistency for these cooked beets.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and water; set aside.

When the beets are cooked, drain them and, while still hot, slip off their skins (if you are afraid of staining your hands, wear disposable gloves during this step!).

Place peeled beets in the ice water bath for 10 minutes. Drain and dry the beets. Chop the peeled and cooked beets into small, bite-sized cubes.

Add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and a pinch Kosher salt and pepper.

Mix gently with your glove-covered hands (or two spoons) until the mixture turns a fuchsia color. For a creamier salad, add more yogurt. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with sumac, serve with a lemon wedge and garnish with cucumber slices and pitted olives for an extra bite, if desired. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Can be kept in the refrigerator for one day.

Avgolemono (Egg-Lemon-Chicken Soup) with Orzo

This is by far my favorite mediterranean soup recipe – if I ever see this on a menu, I order it without blinking. If I am ever craving something rich, creamy, tangy, and yet healthy, this is my go-to recipe in the kitchen. The creaminess of this soup comes from the eggs and flavorful chicken broth. It is a light soup, that is decadent at the same time. It can also be made in under 20 minutes, thanks to store-bought rotisserie chicken that is hard to replicate in your every day kitchen! Why waste 30-40 additional minutes cooking or boiling chicken for this recipe when you can buy gorgeous, roasted chicken meat at your local Costco or grocery market? πŸ™‚

My favorite flavor in this soup is the citrus from the lemon juice – it is gorgeous against the meaty, starchy nature of the chicken and orzo. This is truly a one-pot meal that you can always accessorize with toasted bread and/or crackers to complete it. Perfect for that weeknight family meal, or as an appetizer for your worldly weekend dinner spread!

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Love,
Priyanka

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Yields: 6-8 portions
Ingredients
8 cups chicken stock (or to make vegetarian, use vegetable broth)
3/4 cup orzo pasta (optional)
2-3 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken (already cooked) – depending on how ‘meaty’ you like it (can omit to make vegetarian)
5 eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add orzo. Cook uncovered until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Five minutes before pasta is done, add chicken.

Meanwhile, place eggs in mixing bowl. Whisk eggs while adding lemon juice. Stir in zest. Whisking constantly, slowly pour a ladle of the hot stock into the egg mixture to temper (this is to ensure that your eggs don’t curdle – you have to keep whisking constantly so that the room temperature egg mixture does not cook!).

Reduce heat to very low. Then, while whisking the soup in pan, slowly pour in the egg mixture (continue to whisk constantly!). Soup should thicken slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with parsley or fresh dill. Serve hot!

Chipotle Marinade – Chicken or Tofu!

I know there has been a lot of recent buzz around ‘Chipotle’ food having a lot of sodium and calories – and being unhealthy, in general. So, what better way to tackle those cravings than to make your own, delicious ‘chipotle’ meats at home? πŸ™‚ Sites like LiveStrong.com, and others, have posted tips on how to keep your calorie count low while eating at a Chipotle (e.g. ‘How To Eat Healthy at Chipotle‘) too, in case cooking at home isn’t an option.

However, for those of you that can spare a few minutes, this chipotle marinade recipe of mine is AMAZING on proteins like chicken, fish, and even tofu! This can be a spicy dish, depending on how much chili powder you put, and how much spice you can handle, so try the marinade BEFORE you put the chicken into it to make sure you can handle it! This marinade keeps incredibly well in the fridge for up to a week in case you make a little extra and keep it away before you use it on the chicken. It’s also great to brush onto fish when on the grill! πŸ™‚

I hope you try this out – Enjoy!

Love,
Priyanka

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Ingredients
1/4 cup chipotle pepper, from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce, from the canned chipotles
4 tablespoons olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 large white onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water

Protein: chicken (cut of your choice: drumsticks, legs, thigh, etc) or cubed firm tofu

Directions

Add all ingredients a food processor or blender and process until well-combined and pureed.

Transfer mixture to a bowl or ziploc bag, add chicken (or tofu) and let sit in marinade overnight. [Note: if you don’t have time to marinate, no problem! It will still be delicious!]

Grill chicken for 6-8 minutes per side on a hot grill, or roast in the oven at 400 degrees F for approximately 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165 degrees F. Let it rest, covered with foil, for 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to settle (you will end up with a much juicier and tender chicken!)

Saffron and Cardamom Cupcake with Rosewater Frosting

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY EVERYONE!
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To me, Valentine’s Day is about love, but not only romantic love, but just as much about special friendships too. So I thought, what better way to celebrate today than with a SWEET recipe from my best friend B? πŸ™‚ She posted about these cupcakes that she had made and I literally could not resist trying to make them. She sent me the recipe and I am including it below. Boy, are these were delicious!! I have NOT, however, adjusted the recipe at all since it is my understanding that it was passed to her by other friends of hers and I do not want to change their recipe just out of respect πŸ™‚ The bold flavor of cardamom against the subtle creaminess of the saffron is incredible! These truly Indian flavors are completely transformed in this ‘American’ dessert and make for a winning recipe.

Do take the time today to tell your loved ones you appreciate them, and fill your mouth (and theirs!) with something sweet (like these cupcakes!) πŸ˜‰

Love,
Priyanka

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Ingredients
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole), room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Directions

Preheat oven to 350Β°F. Butter and flour a cake pan or 12 cupcake molds.

Add almond extract and a pinch of saffron to the room temperature milk. Set aside for 5 minutes then stir. If milk does not turn golden, add an additional 2 threads. Stir again after another few minutes.

Mix flour and baking powder together in a bowl using a fork and set aside.

Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.

Slowly add the sugar and beat on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Now, add eggs to the batter one at a time, beating for an additional 2 minutes.

Beginning and ending with the flour, mix 1/3 of the flour into the wet mixture at a low speed, then half of the milk, alternating until all ingredients are mixed. Add lemon zest, lemon extract and cardamom.

Transfer batter to cake pan filling until cavity is about 3/4 full and bake about 25-40 minutes (depends on your oven!) – until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon rosewater
1 drop red food coloring

Place the cream cheese, butter, rosewater, and food coloring in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed just until combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth. Top your cooled cupcakes with this delicious frosting and serve! πŸ™‚

Elegant Arugula and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Who said that we can’t get fancy in our own kitchens? I certainly think that it is a lot of fun to dress up a meal by simply enhancing the presentation. After all, if the eye likes what it sees, then it is more appetizing, and in turn, tastes better to us too!

One of my favorite seasons is heirloom tomato season, and right now, Trader Joe’s has these beautiful mini heirloom tomatoes that are perfect in every way. The blend of colors of these different-colored tomatoes creates such a beautiful salad that is anything other than one-note. The pepperiness of the arugula paired with the earthy cannellini against the sweetness of the tomatoes is delicious. And the crispy toast topped with the tangy, yet creamy goat cheese seals this dish as the perfect start to any meal, fancy or informal!

The flash fried bread (feel free to oven toast for a healthier version!) adds the perfect amount of crispiness and smokiness that I think lends beautifully to this dish.

Try this at home and you don’t regret it! Just don’t forget to serve it immediately after dressing your salad, or you’ll end up with a very soggy (and sad) salad! πŸ™‚

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Yields: 4 individual appetizer portions

Ingredients

4 slices of bread (can be wheat, white, whole-grain, whatever you prefer!)

Topping
1 cup grape, cherry, or small heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on their size
1.5 cups loosely packed baby arugula
1/4 cup of organic, canned cannellini beans, washed and drained
2-4 tablespoons goat cheese, depending on your taste
2 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive-oil, extra to drizzle if desired
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
Variation: Add thinly sliced red onion to the salad mixture for an extra crunch!

Directions

Cut out circles out of the slices of your bread using one of the following: a metal ring mold, the open end of a glass jar (the kind tomato sauces come in at the grocery store), or even an empty metal can (from the cannelloni beans!).

Heat olive oil in a small pan and when the oil is hot, flash fry the circles of bread for about 5 seconds on each side until golden brown. Drain and set aside on a napkin-topped plate to allow it to crisp.

Combine all of the topping ingredients EXCEPT the goat cheese, and toss well to coat.

On your serving plate, place the crisp bread and spread a dollop of goat cheese over it. Top with the salad mixture. If you like cheese a lot, feel free to add another dollop of goat cheese on top of the mixture! Serve immediately and enjoy! πŸ™‚

Spiced Grilled Carrots with Mint Yogurt

My husband and I recently discovered a DELICIOUS, new restaurant in Redwood City called ‘Vesta‘. All I can say is, WOW – their menu is creative, simple, yet delicious and fresh. We ordered a wonderful pizza, accompanied by some grilled carrots that were both a beautiful presentation and outright delicious. I had no choice but to replicate it at home for a get together recently, and they were a smash hit (and a healthy one too!). The natural sweetness of the carrots mixed with the paprika and cumin, dipped in a spiced yogurt sauce is perfect. Just when we almost forgot that grilling carrots in a beautiful manner was even an option, the perfect crispy, yet charred taste through this cooking method is divine. This is the perfect side dish to any meal.

I hope you enjoy this in your kitchen as much as it was enjoyed in mine! ❀

Love,
Priyanka

Spiced Grilled Carrots

Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

4 carrots, cut into strips (don’t worry about making these even – this is a rustic and beautiful dish!)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic paste
Kosher salt, to taste

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup of yogurt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt, to taste
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped mint

Directions

Heat up your grill or grill pan and make sure it is hot! Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the carrots, spices, and extra virgin olive oil. Make sure the carrots are well-coated with the spices.

For the yogurt dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Place in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Can be made 1 day ahead.

Once the grill is hot, place the marinated carrots onto the hot grill and let them get a nice char by not moving them for 2-3 minutes. Rotate them to allow beautiful grill marks all over them and serve hot with the yogurt dipping sauce!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This recipe is straight from the infamous Ina Garten, a.k.a. ‘Barefoot Contessa’. I didn’t change a thing from her recipe because quite frankly, it was perfect the way it was!!

Here is the link to her original post of the recipe.

If any of you know me personally, you know that my favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate peanut butter. My favorite candy bar is Snickers. I eat peanut butter straight off of a spoon as a snack during my work day. I don’t need an excuse to pop pieces after pieces in my mouth of chocolate at ANY time of the day, hungry or not. πŸ™‚ So, it must be little surprise that I am posting a chocolate peanut butter recipe, and more surprising that this amazing duo has not graced this blog until now!!! πŸ˜›

I made these creamy, chocolatey, and light cupcakes for the holidays and gave them to some friends. I know many people that have nut allergies themselves or there is an allergy in their home – in which case you are welcome to just use a different frosting! The actual cupcake is so delicious, you may not even feel the need to have a frosting at all!

Enjoy! πŸ™‚

PS – this is the perfect ending to an amazing meal. Just pair it with a good bottle of dessert wine or a glass of hot tea or cocoa and you’re all set πŸ˜‰

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Yields: Approximately 18 cupcakes

Ingredients
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing (recipe below) and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.