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Shazia

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MIDDLE EASTERN INSPIRED CHICKEN 

platter of chicken and rice

Delicious bold flavors infused with yogurt, sumac, paprika, lemon, garlic and warm spices. Brushed with saffron butter that takes chicken to the next level. All of these flavors are incredibly delicious and create a tender and juicy chicken. Prefect for the grilling season right round the corner. 

This recipe is quite simple and easy to make with minimal ingredients. All you do is whisk the marinade together, add the cubed chicken and let it marinate. I always prefer to marinate chicken overnight if possible but for a minimum for a few hours. Add the chicken to skewers and grill or pan sear. 

INGREDIENTS YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE THIS MIDDLE EASTERN CHICKEN

CHICKEN

I used chicken tenders for this recipe. You can do chicken thighs or chicken breast. If using chicken breast, I recommend letting the chicken marinate overnight. The yogurt and lemon juice will help to tenderize the chicken. Before cooking, always take the chicken out of the fridge and leave it on the counter covered so it can come to room temperature. Cooking cold chicken can make it chewy and tough. 

YOGURT AND LEMON JUICE

I use full fat yogurt for marinades. Yogurt and the lemon juice will help tenderize the chicken. 

POWDERED SPICES

Sumac-An essential in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a fruity and citrusy flavor.

Paprika

7 spice blend-This is a very common Middle Eastern blend of warm spices. Allspice, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg

Turmeric

Salt

Black pepper

SAFFRON BUTTER

In a mortar pestle grind the saffron to fine powder and add about 4 tablespoons of hot water. This will bloom the saffron. You will use few tablespoons to add to chicken marinade and rest to mix with butter and brush on the chicken once its cooked 

SIDE OF CHARRED TOMATO SLICES ON THE SIDE

SERVE WITH

Saffron Rice

Full Video of recipe

bowl of yellow rice

MIDDLE EASTERN SAFFRON RICE 

Fluffy and fragrant, this easy saffron rice is the perfect side to your favorite meals. Basmati rice is cooked in olive oil, butter, onions and chicken broth. This will become one of your staple side dishes. 

This saffron rice is very commonly served at Middle Eastern restaurants. It’s served along dishes like Chicken shawarma, different types of kebabs and much more. 

I am not sure if this is close to authentic flavors, but I can say it tastes just like the rice I have had at many Middle Eastern spots. It’s my take on it and its very beginner friendly and I know you will enjoy it. 

INGREDIENTS YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE THIS SAFFRON RICE

This type of rice has very minimal ingredients, but the flavor impact is amazing. 

BASMATI RICE

Basmati rice is fragrant and fluffy when cooked. I rinse and drain the rice 3-4 times until the water runs clear. This will wash out the starch and will prevent the rice from sticking or turning into mush. I used the Zebra basmati brand. 

ONIONS AND CHICKEN BROTH

You don’t want to skip these two ingredients. We will not brown the onions, that will give you a strong onion flavor. Cook the onions just until translucent. The chicken broth will also give you a delicious subtle flavor. I have not made it with vegetable broth, you can certainly try it. 

OLIVE OIL AND BUTTER

Butter is another key ingredient you need for this flavor of rice. It is amazing!

SAFFRON

The star of this rice is the deep aromatic flavor and color of Saffron. I would highly recommend you get your hands on Saffron. 

 

MIDDLE EASTERN SAFFRON RICE

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 8
Fluffy and fragrant, this easy saffron rice is the prefect side to your favorite dishes. Basmati rice is cooked in olive oil, butter, onions and chicken broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Basmati rice (rinsed and soaked for about 20 minutes)
  • 3 cups Chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon Saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on how much salt is in broth)
  • Extra butter for garnish

Instructions 

  • In a medium size bowl, rinse and drain the rice, until water runs clear. Add clean room temperature water and soak the rice for about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  • Add the saffron to mortar pestle, grind into fine powder. Add 3-4 tablespoons of hot water, mix and set it aside.
  • In a medium size nonstick pan. Heat up oil and butter. Add the diced onions and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Drain the water from the rice and add rice to pot. Add the chicken broth. Mix and give it a taste to see if you need to add salt. Depending on how salty the broth is. I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt here.
  • Keep flame on medium. Cook uncovered until most of the water has evaporated, surface will be bubbly this will take 5-8 minutes. Add the saffron and gently stir to coat all the rice. Turn heat to the lowest setting and cover with a lid that is wrapped in foil or a clean kitchen towel. This will help keep all the steam in. Let the rice steam for about 15 minutes. Turn heat off and gently fluff rice with a fork.
  • When serving garnish hot rice with 3 tablespoons of butter. This will just melt into the rice and adds delicious layer to the flavor.

 

 

pot of chicken curry

EASY WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN CURRY

A quick and simple delicious chicken curry prefect for the entire family. You will find this chicken curry using chicken tenders is so easy to make without using ready-made pastes or sauces. With minimal prep this will be ready within 30 minutes.

CHICKEN CURRY USING TENDERS

When I started to make chicken curry for my kids I used chicken tenders. Chicken tenders are naturally more tender than other parts of the chicken due to their location. When you cut these into small bite size pieces, they are so much easier for kids to have them in a curry dish.  

RECIPE NOTES 

This recipe is not complex at all, it’s very straightforward. It has fresh aromatics and basic South Asian spices. I will go ahead and give detailed notes as possible to make sure it comes out perfect for you. 

  • CHICKEN- This recipe is using chicken tenders. You can use chicken breast or boneless chicken thighs.  If you find chicken breast are little tough after cooking, look for smaller chicken breasts.  You can also cut up the breast into small cubes and marinade with some lemon juice for a few hours before cooking. Always let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking.  This will ensure it cooks evenly and will be tender. 
  • WHOLE/POWDER SPICES– I have used a combination of some whole spice and powder spices. This recipe is mildly spicy, if you prefer a heavy spice curry you can add more of the same spices. Just adjust the salt and red chili. 

HOW TO ACHIEVE A SMOOTH GRAVY 

  • Puree tomatoes. 
  • Finely chop onions and sauté onions to a medium brown color

WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS CHICKEN CURRY

Because this curry has luscious gravy you need homemade roti, paratha or naan to go with it. My kids really enjoy it with delicious basmati rice 

ALSO TRY CHICKEN KARAHI-BONE IN CHICKEN CURRY

EASY WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN CURRY

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Here is a quick and simple delicious Chicken Curry recipe prefect for the entire family. This is a Pakistani and North Indian style traditional style Chicken Curry. You will find this Chicken Curry using chicken tenders that makes a melt in your mouth moist chicken. This recipe is very approachable made without using ready-made pastes or sauces. With minimal prep this will be ready within 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. chicken tenders, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon each of fresh ginger and garlic
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil or a neutral oil

WHOLE SPICES

  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds

POWDERED SPICES

  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust )
  • 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust)

GARNISH

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • fresh cilantro

Instructions 

  • Use a medium heavy bottom pan. Heat oil on a medium low flame. Add fenugreek seeds, once a deep golden brown color add cumin seeds. Let these sizzle for about 10 seconds.
  • Now add the onions and you can turn up the flame if you feel like it's very low. Saute these onions, occasionally stirring to keep from burning. You want the onions to a medium brown color, about 6-10 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and saute for another 30 seconds, again careful not to burn.
  • Add all the powder spices, stir well and just let these spices sear for about a minute. Add few tbsp. water and deglaze the pot, this will keep the spices from burning. Add tomatoes, stir well and cook 3 minutes and add the chicken. Stir everything together and cook on medium high flame for about 15 minutes uncovered.
  • The gravy should be thick and most of the water should have evaporated. You may hear a searing sizzling sound because it has less water. Turn flame little lower because the gravy consistency will continue to thicken and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. At this point you should see the oil separating from the gravy masala base and rising to top. You won't see this much if you have less oil. You can also add few more tbsp. of oil if you prefer more oil rising to top. You can leave as it is or add 1/2 cup of water for more gravy.
  • Taste and adjust the salt. Add butter, some crushed fenugreek leaves, lemon juice and chopped cilantro.

tray of roasted chicken

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH CILANTRO SAUCE

I’ve got the perfect sheet pan homestyle dinner option today. This chicken is marinated in fresh garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, oil and spices and then oven-roasted. It’s roasted until the chicken thighs are moist on the inside and crispy seasoned skin on the outside. Accompanying green sauce is so easy to make with the fresh color and flavor from cilantro. It’s fresh, tangy with little heat from jalapeno pepper. 

SOME NOTES ABOUT THIS RECIPE 

I love sharing a recipe that my family loves and is kid approved. We really enjoy ordering rotisserie chicken but many times I am not satisfied. What I find in takeout rotisserie chicken is that it’s very salty. Roasting chicken thighs is less intimidating especially if you are new to cooking. 

This recipe is so easy and is very hands off.  All you need to do is just marinate the chicken, throw it on the sheet pan and let the oven do the work.  I added some potatoes but you can add other vegetables as well. 

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS 

CHICKEN THIGHS– Chicken thighs tend to have a lot more taste than bland breast meat and are more economical. The meat tends to stay juicy and tender after cooking. It’s also very hard to overcook chicken thighs. If you accidentally leave them roasting a little longer that won’t result in meat that is tough. I like to trim off any excess fat and leave the skin on. Make sure to get the marinade under the skin. 

GARLIC- For this much chicken I used an entire head of garlic. I always make sure to use fresh garlic for marinades. 

POWDERED SPICES- I used garlic & onion powder. Cumin, oregano and paprika that go really well together. I also used cayenne red pepper, which is not very spicy. This was the right amount of flavor. If you like a heavy or more spice flavor you can easily double on the same ingredients, except the salt. Once you have your marinade ready, give it a taste and adjust. 

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE- This flavor is savory and sweet with a distinct tang from vinegar. If you don’t have this you can certainly leave it out. 

OIL- I used light olive oil. You can do any neutral oil of your choice like vegetable, canola or avocado oil. 

GREEN CILANTRO SAUCE 

This is a garlicky, lemony, cilantro creamy sauce made with sour cream. I’ve only added a small piece of jalapeno pepper but you can certainly add more. 

 

 

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH CILANTRO SAUCE

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Ingredients

CHICKEN MARINADE

  • 1 large pack chicken thighs, skin on (about 10 thighs)
  • 1 whole head of garlic (minced or grated )
  • 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. dry oregano
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste )
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red cayene pepper
  • 4 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • chopped cilantro
  • 3 medium potatoes, sliced into wedges

CILANTRO SAUCE

  • 1 cup full packed cilantro
  • 1 inch piece of jalapeno (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

ROASTING METHOD

  • Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and combine very well.
  • Place chicken thighs in a large bowl. Trim off any excess loose skin using kitchen sheers. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Rub the marinade very well on the chicken and under the skin. Cover, refrigerate and let it marinate overnight if possible.
  • When you are ready to roast, preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • Place the chicken thighs skin side up in an even layer on a sheet pan. Add the potatoes and spread some oil or same marinade on the potatoes. Roast for 1 hour basting with pan juices once or twice.
  • Keep close eye on it towards end of cooking time. If chicken is browning too quickly cover with foil. Chicken is done when internal temperature is 165-175° F on a thermometer. Remove the chicken and potatoes from the oven, keep it covered and let rest for about 10 minutes. Serve with cilantro sauce.

CILANTRO SAUCE

  • Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and add to a food processor or blender. process until the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust for salt, lemon juice or jalapeno. Cover and place in fridge until ready to serve.

Tray of rasmalai dessert

HOW TO MAKE RASMALAI AT HOME

WHAT IS RASMALAI?

Rasmalai is a classic festive delicacy that is very popular in South Asian Cuisine. This dessert is actually a Rasgulla only it’s soaked in a sweetened cardamom milk. Both are sweet but Rasmalai is very creamy and light in texture and fragrant.  It’s made from curdling whole milk to make cheese, which is the first component. The cheese is drained and kneaded then shaped into small discs. These cheese discs are boiled in sweetened water to double in size and to change the texture of the cheese. Finally these Rasgullas are soaked in sweetened and cardamom scented milk and heavy cream that has been simmering, this is called Rabri. Rasmalai is definitely enjoyed chilled with a variety of crushed nuts. 

a pot of yellow curry

KADHI WITH BOONDI AND BUTTERMILK

Taking a spin on the traditional Kadhi Pakora recipe today.  Kadhi is a very popular Pakistani and Indian dish and I’m sharing a slightly easier version. The curry is spiced, savory, tangy sauce made with buttermilk and gram flour. Instead of traditional pakoras I used premade snack boondi which are made from fried gram flour. I have made this recipe a few times already and it has come out so delicious. 

WHY IS THIS VERSION AMAZING?

I am just so excited to share this recipe with you all. I had a few things in mind when I came up with this recipe. 

  • I didn’t have yogurt on hand, but had a lot of buttermilk that needed to be used up.  Buttermilk is fermented milk that is thicker, lumpy and has an acidic tangy flavor and smell. 
  • I also did not want to fry up Pakoras because that is an extra step when making Kadhi.  That extra step kind of keeps me from making one of my favorite dishes often. So using Boondi which is made from gram flour was the perfect idea.  The flavor is very similar to Pakoras and you can find plain or masala seasoned boondi. 
  • Lastly I wanted this to be a smaller batch, because usually Kadhi is made in a big batch and you have a lot of leftovers. 

RECIPE DETAILS 

The recipe is pretty straightforward but like always I am going to cover some details that will help you when making this dish. To make your cooking experience go smoothly, have everything ready before you start cooking. 

  1.  You will start off by making the masala base with the aromatics. Adding tomatoes and powder spices that will cook down to a nice thick masala. 
  2. Then you will add the gram flour and buttermilk mixture. This gravy will cook for about an hour on low to medium flame. It should have a thicker consistency that coats the back of the spoon. 
  3. Then you will add boondi. Keeping in mind the boondi will absorb liquid, so the gravy will continue to thicken as it sits. 
  4. Lastly you will add a tempering tarka made with oil, cumin seeds, curry leaves and some dry fenugreek leaves. Once it’s done garnish with some fresh cilantro. 

INGREDIENT DETAILS 

    • OIL– I used a neutral oil that has no flavor. You don’t want too much oil because the tempering tarka will also be with oil. 
    • FENUGREEK SEEDS- This is a must for the distinct flavor and aroma for kadhi, called methi seeds. I rinse the seeds in a small sieve then add to the hot oil to bring out the flavor. 
  • ONION/GARLIC- The choice of aromatics in South Asian cuisine. 
  • GREEN CHILI- I just added one. If you like more spicy add more. 
  • TOMATO- I used 1 small tomato because I don’t want the gravy to get very thick. 
  • POWDERED SPICES- Red chili powder, turmeric, cumin powder and salt. 
  • GRAM FLOUR/BESAN- If you can sift the gram flour to get rid of lumps and make sure it’s not expired. 
    • BUTTERMILK- This will give us the same flavor as using yogurt in my experience. I used full fat. If the buttermilk has passed a few days expiration date it is still ok to use.  Use room temperature buttermilk. Keep in mind that buttermilk has more sodium than regular yogurt. So I would start by adding 1 teaspoon of salt and adjust accordingly. 
  • BOONDI- You can find plain or masala spiced boondi. I have used masala boondi. It gives the kadhi extra flavor. Keep in mind Boondi like Pakoras soak up liquid. This will alter the consistency of the kadhi. You can soak the boondi in water for a bit, once it has doubled in size, squeeze the water from the boondi then add to the kadhi. 

TEMPERING/TARKA 

There are different variations of ingredients to use for this technique. For this recipe I used: 

  • OIL
  • CUMIN SEEDS
  • CURRY LEAVES- Use fresh or dry
  • DRY FENUGREEK LEAVES 

a bowl of yellow curry

 

COMMON MISTAKES WHEN MAKING KADHI

  • Adding too much gram flour. As you cook this thickens the kadhi early on which may seem like it’s done. 
  • Not adding enough water. Adding enough water with the long cooking time will ensure it’s cooked properly. 
  • Kadhi splitting. The change in temperature is one of the main reasons why kadhi splits. Make sure you are using room temperature buttermilk. Add warm water to the gram flour and buttermilk mixture. Turn the heat down when adding this mixture to the masala. 
  • Not cooking it long enough. Kadhi is one of those dishes that has a long cooking time. If it’s not cooked long enough there will be a raw taste to the Kadhi. 

WHAT TO SERVE WITH KADHI

Keep in mind this dish tastes even better as leftovers. It will start to thicken as it sits and especially after refrigeration. I actually love Kadhi served with roti, naan or rice

 

KADHI WITH BOONDI AND BUTTERMILK

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
The Kadhi curry is spiced, savory, tangy made with buttermilk and gram flour. Instead of traditional pakoras I used premade snack boondi which are made from fried gram flour. Easy version that you will love.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup gram flour (sifted to get rid of any lumps)
  • 2 cups full fat buttermilk (room temperature )
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup neutral cooking oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green chili, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt (taste and adjust later)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2-1 cup boondi (start from adding 1/2 cup)
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

Tempering/tarka

  • 4 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • few fresh or dry curry leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves sukhi methi

Instructions 

MAKE KADHI

  • In a medium mixing bowl whisk together gram flour and buttermilk. Batter should be smooth without any lumps. Add 1 cup of lukewarm water, mix and set aside.
  • Rinse the fenugreek seeds using a sieve and set aside. In a medium size pot heat the oil on medium. Once oil is hot carefully add the fenugreek seeds. Cover with lid until crackling stops. Add onion and green chili and cook for about 6 minutes till light golden brown. Add garlic and just cook out the rawness, about 20 seconds.
  • Add tomato and powder spices, saute until tomato has cooked down and this masala is thick. You may have to add few tablespoons of water if this mixture is sticking to pot. Turn heat low and slowly add the gram flour and buttermilk mixture, continuously mixing so mixture does not split. Add 2 cups lukewarm water, once it's all mixed turn the flame back up and let it come to a boil. Now turn flame to a medium simmer. Cook this mixture for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring often. Keep close eye because this mixture does overflow. End of cooking time the gravy should be bubbly and thick enough to coat back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the salt.
  • Add in the boondi. Start by adding just a 1/2 cup. The boondi will absorb excess water and Kadhi will become thicker. Add more as needed upto 1 cup.

TEMPERING/TARKA

  • In a small saucepan or frying pan heat oil. Once hot add cumin seeds and let these crackle and brown. Add the curry leaves, these will also crackle if fresh. Add dry fenugreek leaves. Turn heat off and right away slowly pour over the Kadhi. Top with some fresh cilantro.

 

 

bowl of basmati rice

EASY ZEERA RICE (Cumin Rice)

Fluffy, perfectly cooked rice with all the flavor but super simple to make. Rice is flavored with cumin seeds, cumin powder, garam masala and salt. This is a great way to quickly elevate boring white rice. 

There are many different variations of zeera rice. Each time I make a side of rice I use a variety of different whole spices, powder spices and aromatics. The way I am showing here is very simple with few ingredients

RECIPE DETAILS

This recipe is very straight forward. Few things to keep in mind when cooking rice. 

  • Use good quality basmati rice. I used a brand called zebra basmati rice.
  • Always rinse basmati rice to get rid of excess starch. Rinse till water runs a little clear. This will ensure rice is not sticky. 
  • You can soak them for about 15-20 minutes. Each brand of rice is different, some have instructions on how long to soak that particular rice. When I am in a hurry, I have cooked rice without soaking. 
  • If you have stock or broth on hand, add instead of water. Just adjust the amount of salt. 
  • When steaming the rice, always cook on low flame. 
  • Always always check the rice towards the end of cooking time. 

MORE RICE RECIPES

CHICKEN PULAO

EASY ONE POT TEHRI

 

EASY ZEERA RICE (Cumin Rice)

Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Fluffy, perfectly cooked rice with all the flavor but super simple to make. Aromatic basmati rice is flavored with cumin seeds, cumin powder, garam masala and salt. This rice will surly replace boring white rice.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice (rinsed, soaked and drained )
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 water

Instructions 

  • Rinse the rice about 3 times until water runs clear. Soak the rice room temperature water for about 20 minutes or follow instructions on rice bag.
  • In a nonstick medium size pot heat oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot add cumin seeds. Let these crackle for about 10 seconds. Careful not to burn the seeds.
  • Lower flame to medium and add cumin powder, garam masala and salt. Mix and let these spices sear for 5-7 seconds. Keep a close eye because these spices can burn easily.
  • Add the drained rice and 2 cups water. Let it come to a boil and continue cooking rice until some of the water has evaporated and you start to see the rice. Wrap the lid with foil or clean kitchen towel and cover the pot. Turn the heat to the lowest flame. Put on a timer for 25 minutes. Once cooking time is over let the rice sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Fluff the rice with a fork.

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY FAVORITE CARROT CAKE RECIPE

This recipe is perfect to try for a homemade carrot cake. It is so easy to make, perfectly spiced and topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting. 

Usually you tend to see carrot cakes making their appearance for Spring, Easter, baby or bridal shower celebrations. But this spiced cake should be enjoyed throughout the year. I have made this recipe many times for different special occasions for my family, and it’s a hit each time. 

RECIPE NOTES FOR CAKE

There are many different recipes for carrot cakes, but all are usually very straightforward. There can be some variations in some choice of ingredients. This is a very simple recipe but with depth of flavor and a great crumb that is soft. 

    • Cinnamon/nutmeg: I have had some carrot cakes that just lack flavor.  I love the addition of warm spices. If you really want more of the warm spice flavors, add ginger and cloves, ¼ teaspoon each. 
  • Vegetable oil: A cake such as this already has a lot of flavor so there is no need to use butter. Use a neutral flavorless cooking oil. 
  • Buttermilk: Buttermilk improves a cake’s texture and tenderizes the cake. It also helps leavening and the flavor. 
  • Carrots: Shred fresh carrots at home. The prepackaged shredded carrots can be very dry and large. For 2 cups shredded carrots you may need about 3-4 large carrots. 

RECIPE  NOTES FOR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This is a very basic delicious cream cheese frosting. I recommend you follow this recipe exactly to understand how this frosting is made. Once you are comfortable then you can adjust it to your liking. If you like a more buttery or cream cheese flavor, adjusting the quantities is very easy.  This type of frosting that has cream cheese is not for cake decorating, it will not hold the shape. Once you have made or frosted the cake with this, it’s best to keep it refrigerated. 

    •  Butter: Butter needs to be softened to room temperature for this type of frosting. Sit the butter out 1-2 hours before starting. It will be slightly cool to the touch. It should not be too soft or warm. If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the frosting while mixing. 
  • Cream Cheese: Please make sure this is full-fat cream cheese that comes in a block. Not the whipped cream cheese in a tub.  This also needs to sit out so it becomes soft. 
  • Confectioners Sugar: Also called icing or powdered sugar. Sift the sugar before or after measuring to get rid of any lumps. 

MAKE IT AHEAD

I think this cake really develops its flavor so it’s perfect for making ahead.  Bake the cake, wrap the layers individually really well and keep refrigerated 1-2 days. Make frosting and keep in a covered container refrigerated. Once you are ready to frost the cake. Take out icing, let it come to room temperature and whisk and it’s ready. If the cake is frosted ahead, cover and keep refrigerated. Let it come to room temperature or serve cold. 

GENERAL BAKING TIPS

  • Always preheat the oven before placing the cakes to bake. 
  • Line your pans with parchment paper. Place the pans on the parchment sheet and trace the bottom of the pan, then cut out the circles. Grease the pan and parchment. 
  • All cold ingredients  need to be at room temperature. This will ensure all ingredients mix well and bake well together. 
  • Don’t overmix the batter, this can result in a cake that is tough. 
  • Don’t open the oven door in the middle of baking. 
  • Allow cakes to cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before taking them out to prevent cracking. 
  • Don’t frost or decorate a warm cake. The frosting will slip off. 

My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Easy homemade carrot cake with warm spices and a luscious cream cheese frosting. This is truly one of my favorite cakes.

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 2 Cups All-purpose flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 3 Eggs (room temperature )
  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable or Canola oil
  • 3/4 Cup Buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 2 Cups Granulated sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Peeled and grated carrots (3-4 large carrots )
  • 1 Cup Coarsely chopped walnuts (optional. Also need some for garnish )

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 1 1/2 Block Full-fat cream cheese (softened at room temperature )
  • 1 1/2 sticks Butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 4 Cups sifted powered sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions 

MAKE THE CAKE

  • Turn oven to 350°F. You can make this cake into 2 or 3, 8-inch layers, but baking times will vary. Prepare the pans by greasing the cake pans. Line with parchment paper and grease again. Parchment paper will help release the cake.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla until combined. In another medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg until combined. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a spatula fold the ingredients together until combined. Don't overmix. Add the carrots and walnuts and mix again.
  • Using a measuring cup, evenly pour the batter into the pans. If you are using 2 pans bake for about 35-40 minutes. If using 3 pans cake layers will be thinner so bake for about 20-25 minutes. Center of the cake will set and should spring back with gentle pressure. You can also insert a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean with dry crumbs cake is done. Sides of cake will also pull away that is a sign it's done. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack in the pans. Let the cakes completely cook before frosting and decorating.

MAKE THE FROSTING

  • Make the frosting in a large bowl. Using a handheld mixer beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Start adding the powdered sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt. Start beating on low speed to prevent a sugar mess. Once all sugar has been added turn speed to high and beat until frosting is creamy and smooth. If it's too thin add more powered sugar tablespoon at a time to get desired consistency. Keep the frosting refrigerated until ready to use.

ASSEMBLE AND FROST CAKE

  • If the cakes have a dome, using a serrated knife level the tops of the cake. This will give you a flatter surface. Take off the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.
  • Place the 1st layer of cake on a serving plate and evenly cover the top with frosting. Place 2nd layer and frost again. Once you are done with layers, frost the top and sides of cake. Decorate sides or top with walnuts. Refrigerate the cake, this will help set the frosting and make it easier to cut the cake.
  • Carrot cake tastes delicious served cold. Leftovers of this cake should be covered to prevent drying and keep refrigerated.

 

glass of healthy juice

Homemade healthy juice not only tastes better but preserves all the nutritional value from fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh juice has more fiber, vitamins and minerals and the possibilities of flavor combinations are endless. This juice is a simple combination of beets, carrots and apples. Addition of lemon, fresh ginger and turmeric roots makes this fresh juice highly nutritious with health promoting properties. 

HOW TO MAKE BEETROOT CARROT AND APPLE JUICE IN A BLENDER

I find beet juice to be very overwhelming on its own especially for the kids.  It has a very earthy flavor that can resemble dirt. I like to scrub, rinse and peel the beets. Mixing it with different fruits and vegetables like carrots and apples makes it more appetizing. Always think of juice recipes as a blank canvas, add more or less of any ingredients. 

Blend all ingredients with water till it’s a fine puree consistency. Depending on how concentrated or diluted you like the flavor of juice, adjust the water. Strain the blended produce through a filtration bag, cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.  You don’t have to strain all the pulp. 

healthy beet juicing

healthy beet juicing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

healthy beet juicing

healthy beet juicing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CARROTS: Scrub and rinse the carrots well. I don’t peel carrots.  Cut into small chunks.

RAW BEETS: I used red beets. Scrub well and peel. 

APPLES: Apples add a slight sweetness to the earthy flavor of beets without adding too much sugar. Scrub, rinse, core and cut the apples with skin on. 

LEMON: This adds a natural preservative to the juice

GINGER: Scrub, rinse and peel if you would like. 

TURMERIC ROOT: This is optional for juicing. I always have some on hand and like to use it in juices and smoothies. Looks similar to ginger. 

JUICER OR BLENDER?

JUICER

I had an inexpensive juicer while back that I never used much and ended up selling it at a YardSale. It had too many pieces to wash and just took up extra counter space. There are different options of juices to fit your space and budget. Juicers usually extract most of the fiber from fruits and vegetables so the juice can lack dietary fiber and produce more waste. If you were using a juicer for this recipe, you would not add the extra water, so juice will be in less quantity. 

BLENDER

I love using my Vitamix blender to make different combinations of fresh juice for the kids. A powerful blender will blend and juice making it easier, healthier and ecofriendly. For juice all you have to do is blend all the ingredients then run the mixture through a filtration bag, cheesecloth or mesh strainer. This will separate the juice from the pulp. By using the blender, you have the option to extract as much fiber as you like in the juice. Blenders also have multipurpose use in the kitchen. So having a small appliance that does so much is more economical for me. 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUICE & SMOOTHIE

JUICE:

  • Pulp of juice is separated from fruits and vegetables
  • Usually requires a juicer appliance 

SMOOTHIE: 

  • Made in a blender
  • Thick and creamy consistency
  • Has whole fruits & vegetables, fiber keeps you full longer
  • Addition of yogurt, milk or juice as the base
  • Addition of grains and nuts 

WHEN HAS JUICE GONE BAD?

It’s best practice to consume fresh juice right away. Because the juice has not gone through a pasteurization process, it does not have a long shelf life. If you have to store it, store it in a glass container in the refrigerator and consume within 1-2 days. Also check for signs of spoiling before consuming. Try adding some citrus like lemons, lime or orange as a preservative. 

There are different ways to tell if your juice has spoiled. Check by smelling and checking for discoloration and mold on the juice. If you see any of these signs it’s best to throw it away. 

TIPS FOR JUICING

  • Wash your produce well to avoid dirt, pesticides and bacteria in your juice. Spraying with distilled vinegar, soaking produce in vinegar and baking soda works very well. 
  • Consume fresh juice right away. Because the juice is raw and is not pasteurized 
  • Make juices with more vegetables to provide nutrients and leave some fiber.
  • Add some citrus like lemon, lime or orange to prevent some oxidation. 
  • Try out different combination of fruits and vegetables.

In addition to eating fruits and vegetables adding some fresh juice is a great way to add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Juicing: What are the health benefits? – Mayo Clinic

BEET CARROT APPLE JUICE

Prep Time 10 minutes
BLENDING AND STRAINING 10 minutes
Servings 4
Homemade healthy juice not only tastes better but preserves all the nutritional value from fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh juice has more fiber, vitamins and minerals and the possibilities of flavor combinations are endless. This juice is a simple combination of beets, carrots and apples. Addition of lemon, fresh ginger and turmeric roots makes this fresh juice highly nutritious with health promoting properties. 

Equipment

  • High powdered blender I use Vitamix

Ingredients

  • 4 small red beets, chopped (rinsed, peeled and quartered)
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped (rinsed, chopped into small chunks)
  • 2 apples, chopped (rinsed, cored and quartered )
  • 1 tablespoon size fresh ginger (rinsed)
  • small piece of turmeric root (rinsed )
  • 2-3 cups cold water

Instructions 

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Then place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the juice over. Use a large spoon or spatula to press the pulp and squeeze all of the juice out. Leave the strainer for a few more minutes to make sure you get most of juice out.
  • Disregard the pulp. Pour the juice in a glass container or served in individual glasses and serve immediately. Store in fridge for 1-2 days.

 

 

 

close-up of a bowl of vegetable soup with a slice of sour dough bread.

EASY HOMEMADE VEGETABLE SOUP

This garden vegetable soup is perfect for a cold-weather dinner.  If you are craving something warm and need to use up veggies sitting in the fridge, then you got to learn how to make a basic soup. Using some aromatics, spices, kid friendly vegetables, tomatoes and stock gives you the best homemade soup.  It’s hearty, full of vegetables, flavor and you just can’t go wrong with a soup recipe.

WHY I LOVE MAKING HOMEMADE SOUP

Honestly, I love soups but don’t often find myself ordering soup from a menu. I find premade soups usually very salty and not fresh. Not to mention kids always end up picking out ingredients that they complain about.  Homemade soup is so versatile, you pick what you want to add. Great way to use up any vegetables or ingredients. If you have fresh stock, this will elevate the soup’s flavor. 

WHAT VEGETABLES TO ADD TO A VEGETABLE SOUP

Vegetable soup is so versatile you can add any vegetable you like. I would keep the combination to 2 or 3 vegetables. But if you have picky kids, start off with just adding 1 vegetable, you really can’t go wrong. 

I used onions, garlic, carrots and celery as aromatics to start a flavor profile. If you want to disguise these for a picky eater, just blend these up before sauteing.

Other vegetables I used

  • Frozen corn 
  • Potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Handful of spinach 

It will depend on what type of soup you are making and how many vegetables you would like to add.  If you have roasted vegetables those can be added to the soup. A soup that has starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn will continue to thicken.

Chopping all the vegetables for your soup will really enhance your knife skills. You can buy precut vegetables from the grocery store. Using a food processor to chop the vegetables will work great. Make sure to chop or dice the vegetables to the same size. This will ensure everything cooks at the same time and will also look pleasing to the eye. I use fresh and frozen vegetables; it really depends on what I have on hand. 

STOCK

I had chicken stock on hand. If you want this to be a complete vegetarian soup, then you can use vegetable stock. Adjust the salt depending on if you’re using salted or low-sodium stock. Canned tomatoes also have added salt. Start off with less salt and taste and adjust. If you like more of the tomato flavor from the canned crushed tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes, you can use less stock. 

CANNED CRUSHED TOMATOES AND FIRE ROASTED TOMATOES 

The soup liquid in this soup also came from the tomatoes. I like the body the crushed tomatoes give to this soup and the roasted tomato flavor. This in combination with the chili flakes there is a slight kick to the soup but not spicy. Canned tomatoes also come pre seasoned. I look for canned tomatoes that have no added salt. So just think about if you will need additional seasoning. You don’t have to add the same amount of tomatoes I added if you don’t like the strong tomato flavor to come through. If you would like you can use fresh tomatoes.

ADDITIONAL FLAVORINGS

This soup has plenty of flavor. But if you like your soup heavily seasoned you can always add more of the same seasoning. If you have some fresh herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro on hand they would make a great addition. Also, a fresh squeeze of some lemon juice would be delicious. 

HOW TO SERVE SOUP

Soup can be a meal on its own, especially if it has a combination of protein, grain and some vegetables. We like to enjoy soup with salads, sandwiches or bread. 

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS

Soups make great leftovers because the flavors have enough time to develop.  Soups can be stored in the fridge in airtight containers for about 3-4 days. But always smell and taste stored food to check for spoiling. 

If you would like to freeze the soup, you can divide the soup in smaller freezer safe containers. Once the soup has come to room temperature, place it in the freezer. Soup can last about 3 months in the freezer, depending on the ingredients and how it was stored. You can defrost it in the refrigerator or the microwave. 

FEW MORE GREAT SOUP OPTIONS TO TRY

HOMEMADE CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

EASY HOMEMADE CHICKEN RAMEN

EASY HOMEMADE VEGETABLE SOUP

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 6
This garden vegetable soup is perfect for a cold-weather dinner. It’s hearty, full of vegetables, flavor and you just can’t go wrong with a soup recipe.

Equipment

  • a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on how salty the stock is )
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can fired roasted tomatoes
  • 8 cups stock (I used chicken stock)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • handful spinach

Instructions 

  • Before you start cooking, make sure to have all ingredients ready and prepped.
  • Preheat a heavy soup pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat with oil. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery and about ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté for about 8-10 minutes or until light golden.
  • Add garlic and the rest of the spices, continuing to sauté for about 40 seconds. Stirring frequently, just until the rawness of the garlic cooks out and becomes fragrant
  • Add both cans of tomatoes, stock, corn, potatoes and green beans. Raise the heat and bring it to a boil. Then partially cover the pot and keep the heat to medium low and keep a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for about 35-45 minutes. Cook until the ingredients are cooked through and to your liking.
  • Add spinach towards the end and let it wilt. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Serve warm.
Author: Shazia