Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Black Bottom Cupcakes

This may be my favorite cupcake. It combines my love of cupcakes, chocolate, and cheesecake. The all important 3 C’s! My recipe is adapted from, with just a few minor changes. Mostly that I add plain yogurt to the recipe, and omit the vinegar. I don’t know why, but it just made sense to me when I did it. It tasted great, so I’m sticking to it. You can also make this into a cream cheese filled cupcake by layering: cake mixture, cream cheese mixture, cake mixture. This way allows for frosting, whereas with the method below, the middle of the cupcake sinks a bit making an uneven frosting surface. Try baking these in a mini cupcake pan for extra cute cupcakes.

Factoid: Cupcakes have also been referred to as “fairy cakes” and “patty cakes”.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
Servings: Makes 24
Prep & Cook Time: 1 hour

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

This is a batch I made for my friend's bridal shower. The cream cheese mixture is in the middle, and I made this frosting recipe and then topped each one with an M&M.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake in a Jar

Yes you read that right; this is a recipe for strawberry cheesecake in a jar! I’ve recently discovered that you can bake cake in a jar (go figure!) from reading someone’s comment on AllRecipes about sending home baked goods baked in jars to their husbands overseas. Seriously great idea!
I took it one step further and decided to make a layered cheesecake since you can see the different layers so well in a jar. Once I had the idea I thought about it for two days straight until I finally got a chance to try it out (I’m pretty sure strawberry cheesecakes were flying around in my dreams).
After searching around the internet for recipes of cheesecake in a jar I only found one that I really liked and unfortunately my browser would kick me off the website because it was infected! Bummer. So I did the next best thing I combined advice from different websites on baking cakes in jars, and then I found a cheesecake recipe I wanted to try. I found this Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake recipe on, and just omitted the steps for the crust. I kept the crust nice and simple using a common ration: 1.5 cups crushed graham crackers: 2 tbsp butter. Finally, to give the cheesecake a pretty layered look, I used two jars of strawberry topping that you normally find in the ice cream isle at the grocery store. This is definitely a semi-homemade recipe, but you can of course make it a full homemade treat by just making a simple strawberry (or any fruit) sauce.
On a side note, cheesecake originated in Greece, but “cheese molds” have been dated back to 2,000 B.C!!

Strawberry Cheesecake in a Jar
Servings: 12 Servings (8oz. mason jars)
Prep & Cook Time: 1 hour 30minutes +refrigeration time

2 ½ cups crushed graham crackers
3 tbsp melted butter


3 -8oz packages cream cheese (at room temp)
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 large eggs (at room temp)
16 ounces sour cream (at room temp)
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (at room temp)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (at room temp)
Strawberry Topping:
2 jars strawberry topping

1- Prepare your jars as you would for canning mason jars. Set aside being sure they do not become contaminated
2- Preheat oven to 325F
3- In a medium bowl add the melted butter to the crushed graham crackers. Mix and set aside.
4- Keeping your mixer on a low setting throughout the beating and mixing process, start by beating the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
5- Add the sugar a little at a time and continue beating until creamy.
6- Add one egg at a time and beat after each egg.
7- When eggs have been mixed into the cream cheese add flour, vanilla and lemon juice, mix well.
8- Add the sour cream last and beat well.
9- One jar at a time, begin layering the crust, cheesecake filling, and strawberry topping. I chose to do from the bottom up: crust, cheesecake, topping, crust, cheesecake, topping so you can see the layers all throughout. I did about 3-4 tablespoons of the crust, 4-5 tablespoons of cheesecake filling, and 2-3 tablespoons of strawberry topping for each jar, split into two different layers. But you can do any amount you want for each layer, just be sure to leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar since cheesecake does puff up a bit when baked. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean paper towel when finished layering.
10-Place the jars in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with boiling water, careful not to splash any water into the jars. (I also placed the roasting pan on a large cookie sheet to make it easier to move around)
11- Place the roasting pan with the cheesecake jars in the oven and bake until they no longer jiggle in the middle, about 1 hour.
12- Once finished baking, turn the oven off and leave the oven door slightly ajar.
13- After 30 minutes take the pan with cheesecakes out of the oven and begin placing the lids on the jars. Be careful to use oven mitts as the jars are still hot and you need to get the tops screwed on nice and tight. You may hear the jars make a pop noise when they seal.
14- Let the jars cool on the counter for about 2 hours, and then place them in the fridge overnight.
15- Open a jar when you’re ready to eat and ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Irish Mashed Potatoes

Holy Moly August was busy! I'm sure you can tell by the complete lack of posts. I started a new job, went on a 10 day cruise to Alaska, and my best friend got married... yup... pretty busy month.
So I thought I would ease myself back in with a simple yet comforting food: potatoes!
Irish Mashed Potatoes are super easy, creamy, with little kick. Pair this with some seasonal vegetables, and a nice protein like sirloin. MMMMMM. It's 1.50am, I want sirloin and Irish mashed potatoes...

Irish Mashed Potatoes
Servings: 3-4
Prep & Cook Time: 30 minutes


2-3 pounds potatoes (I used Yukon gold)

11/2- 2 cups milk

1 stick butter

1 tsp. salt

4-6 scallions or green onions


1- Wash and halve potatoes, then cook about 30 minutes in a large pot of boiling water, or until you can easily insert a fork. Drain.

2- In a medium pot bring to boil milk, then add butter, stirring to melt.

3- Add scallions and continue to cook another minute.

4- Place the potatoes back into the pot used to cook them. Mash potatoes while adding the milk mixture until smooth. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zereshk Polow

Yes, another Persian food recipe. I can’t help it. It feels home to me so I always return at least once a week. One of my favorite and all time easiest recipes is Zereshk Polow, which is the Chelow (rice) recipe with Zereshk

Zereshk is the farsi word for barberries. I have yet to see barberries sold at a regular grocery store, but if you go to Persian or International supermarkets you can usually find some. Don’t take my word on that though because quite frankly I have never bought them in the U.S. because I’ve always had a steady supply from Iran. Any time family visits from Iran they usually have two things in bulk: Saffron and Zereshk, so I’ve never had to buy them from a grocery store in all the 20 years I’ve lived in California. But if you want to make some I don’t mind sharing.
Variation: I usually add some cooked and shredded chicken and extra saffron water to the zereshk mixture at the very end.

Zereshk Polow
Servings: 3-4 Servings
Prep & Cook Time: 1 hour
Recipe for Chelow (rice)
1 cup zereshk
4 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp saffron water (saffron threads diluted in hot water)
½ cup slivered almonds
1. After you begin the steaming process for the Chelow recipe, wash the zereshk thoroughly by soaking it in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes, then drain. This allows the dirt and rocks to the fall onto the bottom of the bowl.
2. After 10 minutes before the rice is done, in a small pan heat 2 tbsp of the oil and 2 tbsp of the saffron water on low heat. Add the zereshk. Be sure that the stove is on the lowest possible setting (1-2) as zereshk will burn quickly if even on low-medium heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
3. Add the sugar and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 3 minutes.
4. Add the slivered almonds and the last tbsp of saffron water and cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the zereshk mixture on top the rice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta

Have you tried the fresh pastas from the Farmer’s Market? If you answered “No” I feel sorry for you ;) . This weekend, try not to sleep past noon and get yourself over to the Farmer’s Market for some seasonal zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and of course some fresh pastas. My personal favorite is the lemon fettuccine. I could eat this stuff all on its own it’s so lemony and fresh! I remembered my boyfriend making zucchini ribbons once using a peeler, and I thought that would look great with the long strands of fettuccine. This was another one of those “easier said than done” things because I (honestly) can not use a peeler. I grew up using just a knife to peel and with 20 years of practice I can peel with a knife like no one’s business. The few ribbons I managed with a peeler looked pathetic, so I went back to using a knife to cut the long ribbons of zucchini. And it worked just as good as if I was using a peeler.
This is a recipe you can really make your own by adding different veggies, or spices, but looking at the pictures I’m sure your mouth is watering for my recipe ( right?).
Zucchini Ribbon Pasta
Servings: 4 Servings
Prep & Cook Time: About 1 hour
1 garlic bulb
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
Variety of zucchini
Extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs of green onion
2 tbsp of freshly chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 lemons
Sea salt and pepper
1- Heat oven to 375 degrees F . Slice about ½ inch off of the pointy side of the garlic bulb. Put bulb in the center of a piece of foil making a bowl with the foil around the garlic. Drizzle on some olive oil and a dash of sea salt. Rap the bulb in foil.

2- Cut cherry tomatoes in half or into thirds, squeezing out some of the juice from the core, and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, then mix to coat. Spread tomatoes onto a cookie sheet and roast, along with the garlic bulb, for 30 minutes. Set both aside once finished cooking.
3- Slice zucchini thinly lengthwise using a knife or peeler to make ribbon like pieces.
4- Place in a bowl and add the juice of one lemon, about 2 tbsp of olive oil, green onion, cilantro salt, and pepper. Mix to coat and set aside.

5- Slice the red onion and sauté on medium heat with some olive oil until soft. Set aside
6- Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. While that is coming to a boil, unwrap the garlic bulb from the foil and squeeze out each clove into a small bowl. They should be soft enough to slip right out.
7- Smash the roasted cloves until it looks almost like a paste. Then add the juice of the remaining lemon, and 2-3 tbsps of olive oil. Set aside.
8- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour 2 cups of cold water over pasta to stop it from further cooking. Put back into the medium put and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking
9- In a large pan sauté the zucchini mixture on medium heat. Cook for about 3 minutes stirring often. Add roasted tomatoes and sautéed red onions, and cook for another minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss. Finally add the roasted garlic sauce and toss to coat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pico De Gallo

It was about 11pm, maybe even later, when I became very motivated to make pico de gallo. The tomatoes I had bought at the Farmer’s Market earlier that day were calling to me. Actually, come to think of it, all the ingredients in this recipe are from the Farmer’s Market ( minus the salt and pepper). If you have access to a Farmer’s Market I highly recommend taking advantage of the summer produce. In fact, take two minutes and find one right now: Find your local Farmer's Market! Consuming in-season fruits and vegetables gives you the most nutrition for your money since the vitamin content in the produce are at their peaks during in-season. Not to mention they are much tastier during in-season.

Pair the pico do gallo with some tortilla chips and you've got yourself a healthy midnight snack.

Pico De Gallo

Servings: 3-4

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes


4 tomatoes

1 small red onion, diced

1 green chili, finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 lemon (or lime if you prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste


1- Cut the tomatoes in half and lightly squeeze out most of the juice and seeds. Dice

2- Add tomatoes and the remaining ingredients to a small serving bowl.

3- Top with lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Vegetable Samosas

I usually treat myself to at least one samosa at the Farmer’s Market every week. Some weekends I end up buying 5+; for $1 each it’s a bargain! Today I felt inspired to try and make them myself. I mean, how hard could it be? Well, let me tell you, if this is your first time with a samosa recipe, it will be difficult. Let me rephrased that, if this is your first time working with filo pastry, it will be difficult. Filo pastry is thin, dries easily, and can rip with the slightest push.

I found this recipe in The Best Ever Indian Cookbook by Baljekar, Fernandez, Husain, & Kanani (2004). Though their recipe calls for only using filo pasty and baking the samosas in the oven, my first batch of the oven baked samosas did not quite satisfy my craving for the greasy, thick breaded samosas I usually get at the Farmer’s Market. So for the recipe below, I chose to fry the samosas instead of baking them. Healthy Shmeathly, right?

Special thanks to my housemate who let me use her cookbook and spices!

Vegetable Samosas

Servings: Makes 28

Prep & Cook Time: 1 hour- 1 hour and 30 min.


14 flour tortillas, or 14 sheets of filo pastry thawed, or a mix of both

3 large potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped

2 tbsp coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

½ cup of vegetable oil


1- If you are using tortillas, cut each tortilla in half to make two equal halves. If using filo pastry, using one or two sheets at a time, cut each sheet(s) in half lengthways giving you 28 strips.

2- Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl (everything except the vegetable oil).

3-Heat up the vegetable oil in a large pan on medium heat.

4-One at a time using either the tortillas or filo pastry, place about 1-2 tbsp of the filling mixture at one end and fold the tortilla/ pastry dough diagonally over. Continue to fold to form a triangle, ensuring that all sides are sealed. The tortilla is not as long so don’t be afraid to use your fingers to fill the samosa full and seal the sides. As you fold each samosa, gently place it in the hot vegetable oil to fry.

5-Fry samosas on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sopa De Fideo (Con Pollo)

My friend makes the most amazing and simple noodle soup. The fact that I initially tried the soup when she made it for her 3 year old daughter is a compliment to how this simple recipe can satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Though my initial attempt of this recipe a few months ago failed miserably (I blame it on being sick at the time!), I was able to dust myself off and try again. This time, it was delicious. I did a little bit of research and found out that what I had been calling Mexican noodle soup, is actually known as “Sopa De Fideo”. Sopa De Fideo, which translates to noodle soup, is an essential recipe of Mexican cooking, right up there with rice! While I have already mastered Persian style rice, I’m sure I’ll be playing with the Sopa De Fideos recipe to make it my own. Like you would with tomato soup, add a garnish when you serve the soup, such as sour cream (or the drained yogurt!), salsa, cheese, jalapenos, or as I did, green onions and cilantro.

Sopa De Fideo Con Pollo - Chicken noodle soup

Servings: 5-6
Prep & Cook time: 30 minutes

2 tomatoes
1 small onion
1 package of Fideo (you can find these tiny noodles in the Hispanic aisle of the supermarket) or vermicelli noodles broken into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts or 3 chicken thighs
2 cartons chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to taste


1- If you are adding chicken to the soup, then in a medium pot boil the chicken in 3 cups of the chicken stock. Flip halfway through cooking.
2- In a medium skillet, saute noodles in the vegetable oil on medium-low heat until lightly brown. Set aside.
3- In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes and onion. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4- In a large pot add the tomato/onion puree, noodles, and the rest of the chicken stock. Bring to boil.
5-Reduce to medium heat, and cook with the lid on until the noodles are cooked through. If you are adding chicken, do so at the end and cook for 1 minute longer.
6- Remove from heat. Serve with your favorite garnish.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Rice, you are my weakness! Maybe it's because white rice is such a staple of Persian food, or maybe it’s because growing up I was sure to have white rice at least 5 of the 7 days every week. As much as I read how great brown rice is for you, I just cannot pull myself away from white rice. Especially long grain basmati rice made the Persian way: steamed aka “Chelow”. You have never had steamed rice!!?? Well it’s a good thing I learned my mom’s recipe, because you are in for a treat with this new method of cooking rice. Once you learn how to make “Chelow” you can move onto making “Polow” which is rice that has been cooked the same way as “Chelow” but has either meat, vegetables, beans, or fruit in alternating layers with the rice. But we’ll learn more about that later.

Persian style steamed rice gives you soft loose grains, and the best part is the “Tahdig” that forms at the bottom. Tahdig is the rice at the bottom of the pot that becomes crunchy, but many Iranians place a layer of "Lavash" bread on the bottom of the pot as well. Both forms of tahdig are delicious, and of course the more butter you use to fry that first layer of rice ( or lavash bread) the better it will be. Yes I said it, deal with it. You can find lavash bread at Persian stores, international food stores, and sometimes even local organic stores carry a version of lavash. Another variation of “Chelow” is using saffron. Yes, I know saffron is quite expensive at $500 to $5000 a pound depending on the quality, but if you really want to indulge just buy a few strands from your local market, like Whole Foods. A few strands can go a long way.
For the below recipe though I left the lavash bread out, but I did use saffron.

Chelow ( Steamed Rice)

Servings: 4
Prep & Cook Time: About 1 hour 30 min.


2 cups long grain basmati rice
1 tbs. salt
½- ¼ tsp. ground saffron, dissolved in 3-4 tbs. hot water. ( optional)
½ cup butter


1- In a large pot wash the rice several times in water gently with your hand, pouring out
the water after each wash.

2- Once washed, pour water over the rice. Instead of using a measuring cup here is an easier way to measure the water. Put the tip of your index finger on the rice in the pot. Pour in water until it reaches the crease in your finger where is meets your palm.

3- Add the salt and a dollop of the butter.

4- Bring to boil, and boil for about 6-10 minutes, or until the grains are soft. Stir the rice once or twice to make sure the grains are not sticking.

5- Drain rice in a colander and rinse with 1 or 2 cups of cold water to stop the rice from continuing to cook.

6- Using the same pot, on medium melt the remaining butter and add the saffron water if you are using it. Let cook for about 30 seconds and then pour the contents into a small bowl leaving about 2 tbs. of the butter/saffron mixture in the pot. If you are not using saffron water then leave 1 tbsp of the melted butter in the pot.

7- Taking one spatula full at a time of the drained rice, place the rice back in the pot forming it into a pyramid. This helps with the steaming process and forming the Tahdig at the bottom.

8- Place the lid on the pot and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

9- Reduce heat to medium-low, remove the lid and pour the remaining saffron water/butter mixture ( or just the melted butter) over the rice.

10- Place a couple layers of paper towels, or a clean dish towel ( I prefer the paper towels) over the pot and then put on the lid, making sure the lid fits tightly so that no steam is released.

11- Cook for about 45-50 minutes.

12- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes so that the Tahdig can separate from the pot.

13- To serve, you can either just scoop out of the pot onto each plate leaving the Tahdig intact till the end. Or you can invert the pot onto a plate so that it looks like a cake with the Tahdig on top. In Iranian homes you will most likely see the rice served on a large platter with about a spatula full of rice on top which has been mixed with saffron water to give it that golden yellow/orange color.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Borani Esfanaaj

Now that we have the yogurt draining technique down, let’s put that yogurt to use. My favorite way is to mix the yogurt with cooked spinach, onion, and garlic, in a Persian dish called “Borani Esfenaaj”. Most Persian restaurants serve this as an appetizer with some pita or lavash bread, however, traditionally Persian cuisine is not split into different courses. Instead everything is served at the same time on the “Sofreh” or a cloth/spread on the ground.

Usually I have this dish on the side with a main dish, but I also recommend it as a spread or dip. For those of you looking to cut some calories throughout the day (like me!) this is a healthy alternative to the traditional spinach dip made with mayonnaise and/or sour cream.

Borani Esfanaaj (or Yogurt with Spinach)
Servings: 3-4
Prep & Cook time: 15 min. + at least an hour of cooling

1 tsp of olive oil, or any oil you have on hand
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups fresh spinach or a package of frozen spinach, washed
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1 ½ cups of the drained yogurt (see previous post)

1- Drizzle the oil into a medium pan and sauté the onion and garlic on medium-low heat until tender and the onions are almost see-through.
2- Add the spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Add salt and pepper
3- Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
4- In a small bowl mix together the drained yogurt and cooked spinach. Add any salt or pepper to taste.
5- Cool in the fridge for at least another 45 minutes. Then enjoy!