Persian Love Cupcakes

These Persian Love Cupcakes will enchant you with their looks and flavor.  With a hint of halva flavor, salted pistachios on the top, and rose in the flavor, shape, and to garnish on top, these beautiful cupcakes are every bit as tasty in each bite as they are to make.
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Kashmiri Pink (Noon) Chai

If you know me, you know I love my chai.  I love exploring different types of chai flavor combinations.  When I had this Kashmiri Pink Chai the first time many years ago at a friend’s house, I became obsessed.  I had tried intermittently over the years to recreate this delicious chai but was unsuccessful.

A few months ago, I was talking to my friend, R, and she and I relived memories of us drinking this Kashmiri Chai at her place.  She gave me a few tips to make this chai successfully, which I will be passing on to you.  Check out the recipe card below, as I’ll include the tips in the notes section.

As I practiced and made this chai, I adapted the chai recipe a little.  For starters, I cut down the amount that is traditionally made.  Since it takes up to an hour and sometimes more to boil the tea leaves and each ingredient added at a different stage, many people tend to make a large quantity of the Kahwa (the boiled tea before the addition of milk which many people also drink), I cut down the amount.  Being the only tea drinker in my house, I didn’t see the need to make so much.
Also, I put my own little touch on this delicious chai by adding rose petals to the chai at the end after serving it into teacups.  Usually you will find the chai garnished with nuts, almonds or pistachios.

WHERE DOES THE PINK COLOR COME FROM?
Believe it or not, from the reaction of baking soda added to the green tea leaves.  What I found is that the color became deeper when I added the sugar to it.  This was absolutely the highlight.  So much fun to see the chemical reactions (science lover in me).

The first sip that I took reminded me how decadent it is, that I instantly knew this had to be one of my Valentine’s specials.  This is a very creamy chai but a little savory too.  As I’ve been taught, a bit of salt is added to the chai towards the end.

From my kitchen to yours, I hope you enjoy this delicious Kashmiri Pink Chai!

Here are the tools that I used to make this recipe:

How to Build a Cheese Board

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Cheese boards are so delicious, easy to pull together and fun to share with friends, on a date night, or sometimes, even for a simple dinner with some wine!  Yes, I have eaten cheese boards for dinner, though it hasn’t happened much lately and I just found out of one my closest friends does the same with her husband!  A cheese board for dinner is actually fun!

Building one takes less than 10 minutes and you can make it as fancy or simple as you want.

TYPES OF BOARDS:
There are many different types.  One of my favorites that I use is my slate board, but I also have a wooden and a marble one.  To build a cheese board for the hubby and me, I use the slate one or the marble one for just myself.  When we are hosting a dinner I like to pull out my large wooden one so that there is plenty to go around for everyone.  If I have a party, I’ll pull out all three and save the smallest one to create a kid’s cheese board (more to come on that one).  There are some cute individual slate boards also if you want to do a social distance cheese board so each person has their own.
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Cheese knives are also important and I like this set which also tells you which is to be used for the type of cheese you are serving.  A simple set like this one is also handy to have.

THE CHEESE:
Think variety with texture and type of milk.  I like to have about 3-4 different cheeses on my board.  My favorite is goat cheese, so I will always have that on my boards.  This takes care of my soft cheese but if you want a different type of soft cheese, try Camembert, Feta, or Brie.


Move on to the semi-hard cheeses and there are so many options!  One of my favorites is a wine soaked cheese that my cousin Sweetu introduced me to.  This is available in most grocery stores now so just check out the cheese section and look for one!  Some of my other favorite semi-hard cheeses include Gruyere, Manchego, and Gouda.  Pick 1 or 2 of these and add them to your cheese board.

Finally, the hard cheeses that are waiting for their turn!  Asiago, Parmegiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Cheddar are some of my favorites.

Once you have picked out your cheeses, try spreading them out around the board so that you have space to include other foods.

THE SIDES:
This is the perfect time to get creative.  I always add the basics of crackers or bread and sometimes both.  You can also add in some breadsticks if you have.  Those always taste good!

Add in some fresh fruit – anything you have on hand.  Grapes are a traditional choice you can always bet on.  Other options include thinly sliced apples or pears, strawberries and raspberries.  Think color when you are adding these to your board as you want it to pop!
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A little sweet is always welcome to the board.  My favorite go to includes fig marmalade or honey.  Pair them with any of the cheeses and it’s sure to become an instant hit!

If you have something sweet, there has to be space for something salty too!  I love having some nuts on the board and to add the salty to my crunchy, I include Roasted Chili Almonds.

There will be times when I want some extras.  A really good option is roasted garlic (recipe to come soon…check back!) and/or some artisan bread.  In the cheese board pictured for this post, I included an artichoke focaccia bread.  A little of the roasted garlic butter spread on the focaccia is simply divine!
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Don’t stress when you build your board and just have fun.  I like to build the board about 20-30 minutes before serving.

Finally, sit back, enjoy your cheese board and have fun!

How to make a Nutty Granola

Homemade granola is the best!  It’s healthy, you know exactly what ingredients are going into it, and there is so much room to play around with it!
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Can you tell I made this one all about the nuts?  I added chopped almonds and pistachios to this granola and it tastes so delicious!  Crunchy and scrumptious, and the girls an I couldn’t stop eating it.

My favorite part of this granola recipe…. it takes 5 minutes to toss the ingredients together and only 20 minutes in the oven!  Yep.  Granola in less than 30 minutes.  It’s possible people!
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If you like this granola recipe, check out my “Date” with Granola recipe.  That is a huge hit in our family too!

What to use in a Nutty Granola?

OATS:  always a basic ingredient, I use the old fashioned as these are the best to bind.  I don’t recommend using the quick oats as they are thinner and (as the name suggests) cook faster which can lead to other ingredients in the granola being partially cooked.

NUTS:  any of your favorites will do.  Cashews, pecans, and walnuts taste great too!  Lately I’ve been on a pistachio and almond craze hence that’s what I used in this one

SWEETENER:  traditionally honey or maple syrup is used.  In this recipe, I changed it to agave.  Any of the three sweeteners work, just substitute it out for a 1:1 ratio.
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What can I eat my granola with?
Make a YOGURT PARFAIT with it

Sprinkle it on some vanilla ICE CREAM

Eat it as CEREAL for breakfast with some milk

Indulge in a little bit as an AFTERNOON SNACK

What do I need to make this granola?
Besides the ingredients, all you need is a mixing bowl, spatula, and a baking sheet.  So simple!

If you like how simple and delicious this granola is, try out some of my other easy recipes:
A “Date” with Granola
Spicy Garlic Hummus
Berry Bake
Breakfast Oat Muffins




A “Date” with Granola

This recipe has a couple of stories behind it.  The most simplest, my toddler was having issues and I need to find a way for fiber to be in her diet and her to like it! The second story is a bit cuter.
We had been invited for breakfast and a playdate with one of her dearest friends, E.  Her parents had laid out a delicious breakfast for us and part of it was Granola.  I know you’re thinking, this is nice, but cute?  Mmmmmm…… well let me tell you.  E calls granola Crunch Crunch.  My toddler, (like most toddlers), is a monkey see monkey do.  She ate quite a bit that day and a couple weeks later, when I ran into a dilemma of how to incorporate more fiber, I had just the perfect solution.  Yep, her new favorite word – crunch crunch!
Dates is my new fave thing.  I like to snack on that and nuts throughout the day so I don’t eat enough chocolate to get a tummy ache.  Plus, it is loaded with fiber so I knew I needed to include this in my recipe.  The rest, well, was trial and error.  This is a very simple recipe.  Try it!
No seriously, try it! Our house eats it alone, with milk, yogurt, in any form basically because it is that good!
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Chop up some dates

Add in the oats, walnuts, and coconut.  (if you eat a bit of your ingredients along the way – don’t worry! I won’t tell because I’m doing the same!)

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Add the salt, vanilla extract, and olive oil and mix well.  Finally, add in the honey and mix really well.  You want the honey to mix evenly so all the ingredients combine.
Be careful! I got greedy the first time and added too much honey.  I definitely regretted that decision!

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Line a 2inch baking sheet with a silicone mat and spread the granola evenly.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.

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Look at how beautifully golden that looks!
Let it cool for about 5 minutes then gently scoop it into an airtight container.  Or, if you are impatient like me, just eat it as soon as it cools and make excuses about tasting it!

I’m hoping my “Crunch Crunch” recipe will join you for breakfast soon!

Here’s the full recipe:

Date Granola

Ingredients:
2c chopped dates
3c Old Fashioned Oats
1c shredded coconut
1c chopped walnuts
2Tbsp honey
3tsp vanilla extract
3/4tsp salt
3/4c EVOO

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a 2inch baking sheet with a silicone mat.

In a bowl, combine dates, oats, coconut, and walnuts.  Add in vanilla extract, salt and EVOO.  Mix well.  Add in honey and mix until honey combines with granola.

Spread evenly into baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

When it’s golden brown, pull out of the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.  Store in an airtight container for future use.

Enjoy!

Grilled Avocado and Peach Salad

Summer is here which means so many things in my household.  Getting the grill out for bbq’s, eating all the fun fresh summery foods, and trying to eat healthy to get in shape for a beach body (this is always a struggle!).  Typically in the past, the hubby and I have done standard bbq’s – burgers, corn, potato salads, chips and dip, etc. etc. etc.  This year, we have been inspired to grill almost everything we eat.
One of my husband’s favorites is Peaches.  So I of course go out to Costco and buy a whole case (or 2) then realize, how are we going to eat so many?!  Well, I promised him we would grill some since he fell in love with the idea of it last year.  I also love avocado and have recently seen them grilled in my dishes in restaurants.  Hey, why not add it in?  If anything, it’s a good source of protein and adds a little meatiness to the plate.
Summer also means that I can harvest some of the vegetables, herbs and fruit in my garden.  I am so excited about my garden that I literally watch it like a hawk every single day and get so happy over the tiniest fruit growing.  Well, we have an abundance of arugula growing as well as Basil.  Oh how I love the peppery smell and taste of both of these leaves!  So delicious especially when they are fresh!  I put Basil leaves in my salad?  Yep.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  I used the leaves but …. I made a basil vinaigrette to go on my salad.
When I told my husband about all the different components of this salad – he was a little skeptical.  How can so many different flavors work together?  Won’t I overshadow the grilled peaches for which this salad was created in the first place?  I decided to find out.  Am I so glad that I did!   The sweetness of the peaches with the peppery arugula and basil was the most divine combination.

Quarter the peaches and avocados and brush with some EVOO.

Heat up the grill (or griddle) and place all the fruit down on one side.  After a couple of minutes, flip to the other side.  Oh I love those grill marks.  And the peaches smell so delicious, I can’t wait to try them!

To assemble the salad, lay down the arugula first, then add some raw cashews.  For the goat cheese, use a fork to crumble it into the salad and finally, add the grilled fruit.  Then, a drizzle of the basil vinaigrette and you’re ready to enjoy a fun, healthy, summery salad!

Ingredients:
For the Salad:
2 c fresh Arugula
1/3c raw cashews
2oz goat cheese
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and quartered
2 ripe peaches, pitted and quartered
EVOO to brush on the fruit

For the Basil Vinaigrette:
3/4 c fresh basil
1/4c red wine vinegar
1/2c EVOO
2 garlic cloves
salt
freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
Brush fruit with olive oil and set aside.  Heat the grill on high heat.  When it is heated through,  place the fruit side down on one side and keep for 2 minutes.  Flip to the other exposed side of the fruit and grill for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Assemble the salad with the arugula at the bottom, followed by the cashews, the fruit and the goat cheese crumbled in.  Drizzle with Basil Vinaigrette.

In a blender, add all the ingredients for the Vinaigrette and blend to a smooth texture.  Store in an airtight bottle in the fridge.

Enjoy!