Clam Chowder

 

I don’t make soups all that often at the apartment. Usually, I throw down some tacos or a quick old-fashioned chicken curry with all the Pakistani spices to get myself out of a pickle on a work day. Honestly it’s more out of sympathy for my poor brother than anything. But when I make something good, I make it a lot of times until I tire from it. This Clam Chowder proudly simmers about twice a week in my apartment. Yes, I use canned clams for convenience and yes I cut corners, but I would totally scrub scrub scrub 3 lbs of fresh clam shells, boil it in salted water if i didn’t work and read books all day with bottomless mimosas…eh coffee in my case. But I’m being practical. Regardless, this chowder is delicious and thick and smells wonderful.

Clam Chowder

You are really just opening some canned clams, chopping some veggies, pouring some juice, adding some cream and before you know it, you’ll be chowing down on this chowder! But I don’t know which of my soups I like the best because I have a killer Chicken Tortilla Soup here that will knock your socks off.

Clam Chowder
 
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A few ingredients will whip up the best clam chowder!
Author:
Serves: 6-8 bowls
Ingredients
  • 3 cans of clams in clam juice
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 cups potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup half and half (or cream if you like a really thick chowder)
  • Croutons for garnish
Instructions
  1. Open the can of clams and drain them. Reserve the clam juice.
  2. Dice the vegetables.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter and saute vegetables for five minutes with the spices.
  4. Next, add 2 more tbsp of butter and let it melt.
  5. Sprinkle flour and stir really well to incorporate.
  6. Add in the reserved clam juice. Give it a quick stir then pour in chicken stock.
  7. Add bay leaves and let the soup simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.
  8. Next, add half and half or cream.
  9. Finally, throw in the clams and simmer only until clams are heated through. If you cook the clams for too long, they will get tough.
  10. Serve hot, top with croutons and enjoy!
 

 

Best Chicken Tortilla Soup

At the time of filming this video, it was 80 degrees outside–temperature that definitely doesn’t warrant standing before a hot stove to cook soup. But if weather deterred me from making soup on a hot day, I wouldn’t take my coffee extra hot at the coffee shops I frequent. So my solution is to turn up the AC to full blast and get cooking. And just to be in the spirit of the changing “season,” I’ll throw on the coziest knitted sweatshirt because there is nothing like holding a warm bowl in hands gloved loosely with the sleeves of your sweatshirt. If the weather is particularly overcast, I would pull away my blinds, turn on some nostalgia-evoking classic movie and enjoy this bowl of comfort.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
  Now about this soup, I must admit with a great deal of humility that this chicken tortilla soup is very different from the ones I have tried at restaurants. The roasted pepper adds a wonderful smoky flavor and the tart tomatillos balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and sweet onion. And of course, the spices are there to bring all these flavors together in holy matrimony... or something like that. Also, I am happy to report that the heat is finally letting up now. My a/c is turned off, so aside from me clicking way on my laptop and the fridge slumbering away in the kitchen, the night is pretty quiet and cozy. I've slipped on that cozy sweatshirt for real this time, too. The only thing that makes sense right now is to pour some of that amazing soup and build a canopy of tortilla strips!
Best Chicken Tortilla Soup
 
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A chicken Tortilla Soup that will make you want to cozy up in front of the TV watching some classics!
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Ingredients
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • ¼ tsp each cumin powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper (roasted on stove and chopped)
  • 4 tomatillos, husk removed and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in jalapenos (OR diced tomatoes in chilli, OR just diced tomatoes if you can't find the other two AND ½ of a jalapeno pepper deseeded and chopped)
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2-3 corn tortillas
  • cheese (optional)
  • coriander leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle chicken breast with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and rub evenly.
  2. In a saucepan with high sides, add about a tbsp of oil and cook the chicken on high flame until brown on both sides. Remove to a clean plate. *The chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked right now.*
  3. To roast the green bell pepper, simply place it directly on the burner with the flame on. Rotate the bell pepper until the skin is charred and you get black spots around it. Remove from burner. Let cool for a few minutes, then chop.
  4. In the same saucepan in which you seared the chicken, throw in chopped onion, bell pepper and chopped tomatillo. Sautee the vegetables until soft, about 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Next, add garlic, stir, then add in cumin and cayenne pepper.
  6. Stir the vegetables really well until they're coated in the spices.
  7. Next, tip in the can of diced tomatoes in jalapeno along with the chicken stock and black beans.
  8. Squeeze the juice from one lime and let the soup come to a boil.
  9. Once the soup is bubbling, immerse the half-cooked chicken breast into the soup and turn the flame to medium-low and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken from the soup to a clean plate and shred it thinly.
  11. To thicken the soup, ladle half the soup into a blender and puree until smooth.
  12. Pour this back into the soup along with the shredded chicken and let the soup simmer for about 5 minutes.
  13. To make the tortilla strips, cut corn tortilla length wise.
  14. Next, heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a pan for frying. Add in your tortilla strips and fry them until they are golden brown and crispy. Remove them to a kitchen towel.
  15. To assemble, ladle the soup into a bowl, add shredded cheese, crushed tortilla strips, and a few cilantro leaves. Serve warm and become a couch potato!
  16. This easily serves 6-7 people!

Jalapeno and Cheddar Focaccia Bread

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I always say that the smell of bread baking in the oven adds warmth to a home. If you’re selling your home, get baking and you would turn a couple people into potential buyers. Heck, I’d buy a house that smells of baked goods. You know where I’m going?

 

I love baking bread for this very reason. While making this Focaccia bread, my apartment smelled like a pizzeria. My brother said this bread is a “winner.” It’s crispy, chewy and just plain perfect with any dip you fancy. I like it with pizza sauce. And why not? It is an Italian bread after all.

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Crostini Three Ways

Crostini

A cup of hot latte is remarkably satisfying. This past week I was feeling under pressure, under weather… really just “under” the world. Between editing videos, developing content, working a full-time job AND working out, I realized I missed my favorite coffee shop. One hot Con Leche at Tierra Mia and I was back on track. If you like coffee, you definitely need to try their Con Leche. Slightly frothy half and half swirled into two shots of espresso, this coffee really perks me up. So ridiculously good. God knows how many times I snapchat the same coffee with the same latte art every single time I go there (at least twice a week). Also, I’m just going to say this now: Frappe is not coffee. It’s one scoop of icecream away from becoming a milkshake. So get yourself a cup of Con Leche there!

 

Chickpeas, olives and grape tomatoes crostini

I made these Crostinis right after I got back refreshed from my coffee dose. They are such a fun way to add color to your party table. I make these three different ways with a creamy and delicious cheese base made from cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sour cream. They are the perfect appetizer for summer get-togethers.

Crostini

The best part is that once you have prepped the toppings, you can lay everything out on the table so that everyone can assemble their own Crostini and pick their favorite toppings. The toppings I use are spicy chickpeas, roasted olives and grape tomatoes. Once you get those tomatoes in the oven though, you’ll know why they are a must!

Chickpeas Crostini

 

If you’re more into visual, check out how I make this!

Crostini Three Ways
 
Crostini made three ways with a creamy cheese base and a variety of toppings. A must for summer parties!
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: ½ loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ loaf Italian bread
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (sliced in half lengthwise)
  • 1 cup pitted olives (any kind you prefer)
  • Oregano (I used dried oregano but use fresh if you can)
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ a lime
  • Herbs for garnishing (I use cilantro, parsley and basil)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lay olives and tomatoes in a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and oregano (canned olives are already salty so don't sprinkle more salt on them).
  3. Roast for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes burst and start to wrinkle.
  4. In a pot with a touch of oil, cook chickpeas with chilli powder and coriander powder on low heat (we are only trying to warm up the chickpeas and cook off the spices). Roughly chop cilantro and toss it in and squeeze in half a lime.
  5. With a potato masher (preferably), mash the chickpeas roughly making sure that a few still keep their shape. (Watch my video to see how I do it.) Remove from stove and keep aside.
  6. For the cheese base, mix ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  7. Once toppings are ready, slice the bread into 1¼ inch thick diagonal slices. Brush olive oil on both sides of the bread and lay on a baking tray.
  8. Stick the tray under the broiler for two minutes on each side until both sides are toasted and nicely browned. Don't leave them unattended because they will burn! Ask me how I know.
  9. To assemble the Crostini, spread a generous amount of the cheese mixture, then top with your favorites toppings. Following are my favorite topping combinations:
  10. -Olives and tomatoes topped with parsley (I think of these as Greek)
  11. -Just tomatoes topped with basil (on the Italian side)
  12. -Spicy chickpeas topped with cilantro (Pakistani/Mexican flavor)
  13. Double the quantities to use an entire loaf. Enjoy!
 

5-minute Zesty Honey Cumin Shrimp

Honey Cumin Shrimp

I’ve been pretty relaxed these past few days. My parents are in town, so like a good daughter, I have taken two weeks off from work. I guess that is working well for me just right! Despite being jet-lagged, my parents agreed to a trip to San Diego. I want to make sure that their trip is fun and my vacation days are worth taking off for. But just between us, I actually really wanted to go to Extraordinary Desserts, where I swear that I consumed 1000 calories (or more) in one sitting.You believe me right? Just for the record, don’t order decadent chocolate cakes that make you salivate because usually they end up being too heavy. I need to sit my sister down and explain this to her.

 

Being the type of eater that I am, I felt obligated to finish the damn, I mean Dame Chocolate Cake on the plate without much help from my party of four. And then as soon as I came back home, I ran to the gym. I had the most delicious dulce de leche cheesecake there though, which I must recreate in my kitchen.

Honey Cumin Shrimp

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Cuban Stuffed Potato Balls

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No food hits home like Hispanic food. The heavy influence of cumin and coriander remind me of Pakistan because this particular spice and herb are added in every traditional Pakistani dish. At times when I walk down the streets of LA past food carts selling tacos and burritos, I imagine I’m in Karachi. The familiar smells wafting in the air punctuated by the occasional traffic and honking of cars (it is downtown after all ) are enough to wake up nostalgia.

Cuban Stuffed Potato BallsCuban Stuffed Potato Balls

Sure, there are differences between the cuisines but at the base of it all is cumin and coriander. I almost wonder why Hispanics don’t make curry.

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Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard Dip

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Fingers
I don’t eat deep fried stuff anymore, or  limit them to a bite (which is usually of something my sister would be eating– one french fry, one shrimp, one Lays potato chip. I know I’m weird. Often times when I go out to eat with friends, the appetizer just inevitably ends up being deep fried and I’d be damned if I even request grilled shrimp over deep-fried shrimp because “nobody wants to eat grilled shrimps, Izza!”  In those heated moments, I question our friendship.

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