Persian Tea

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It’s serious business.

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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Okay, okay. I know this post is much overdue. But I have a good excuse! I was getting ready for Norooz and couldn’t post this… for three months. Sorry!

Now that I’m here and posting and all, I will tell you that you will not be disappointed. This is a foolproof dessert, one that I have made over and over with a variety of cream cheeses and fruits… and all of which turned out splendidly. I can, in all confidence, guarantee that yours will too!

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The above picture shows two batches of this “salad”. One with pomegranates in a 9″ x 13″ pan, and the other with mandarin oranges in a 9″ pie dish. I’ll list both the original recipe meant for the 9″ by 13″ with the adjusted recipe meant for the pie dish for your baking pleasures.

Fabulous Pretzel Salad

9″ x 13″ version:
1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
4 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) regular salted butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 (8 oz)  packages cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping, thawed
1 (6 oz) package flavored Jell-O (I like to match the flavor to the fruit I’m using)
2 cups boiling water
About 1 1/2 cups fruit of your choosing

9″ pie dish version:
1 cup crushed pretzels
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1  stick) regular salted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 (8 oz)  packages cream cheese
2/3 of an 8 oz container whipped topping, thawed
1/2 of a 6 oz package flavored Jell-O (I just make a full package and just pour the leftovers into another bowl and eat it later)
1 cup boiling water
About 1 cup fruit of your choosing

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a good handful of pretzels into a ziplock baggy.

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2. Crush ’em. Crush ’em good.

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3. Now, take the pretzels you’ve so painstakingly crushed and throw ’em in a bowl.

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4. To the crushed pretzely goodness, add in your sugar and stir around to incorporate evenly. This is going to help caramelize the outsides of the pretzels and get that wonderfully toasty taste.

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5. To your wonderful pretzel-sugar combo, add in your melted butter. Yes, all of it. Don’t be shy. You need every drop! Stir to coat all the pretzels evenly.

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6. Now, dump the whole thing out into your dish. This time, I’m using my trusty 9″x13″. Who knows what I’ll do next time. I live on the edge like that.

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7. Now, using your fingers or the bottom of a cup, press down the pretzel mixture firmly to form an even crust. This will ensure that your crust will be more crust-y and won’t fall apart as easily when you cut into it later.

Also, lose a diamond off your ring and have to send it in for repairs so that, for a month, you get to feel awesome in just your wedding band. Go ahead, all the cool kids are doing it.

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8. ta-da! Your crust should be nice and smooth. Place that sucker into the oven for 10-15 minutes. I like to leave it in for 15 to get a nice toasty taste, but 10 minutes will do the trick in not having it fall apart.

Once you remove it from the oven, let it cool COMPLETELY. I stick it in the freezer because I’m impatient as I assemble the rest.

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9.  Take out your two softened packages of cream cheese and place them in a bowl.

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10. To that, add in your sugar. I promise you, despite what you may be thinking,  this dessert isn’t that sweet. I’ve used full fat cream cheese as well as the low fat stuff. It doesn’t make a difference in the end.

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11. Mix those two until smooth.

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12. To the cream cheese mixture, add in your whipped cream. I’ve used homemade whipped cream and regular whipped topping from a container and I can honestly say that  the difference was negligible. Do what feels right.

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13. Spread the cream cheese mixture over your totally cooled crust. Then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set.

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14. Prepare your Jell-O according to the package instructions. I know I wrote 2 cups of boiling water, but I always use 1/2 cup boiling and 1 1/2 cups cold water to make mine since the Jell-O sets a whole lot quicker that way. Place in the freezer to quicken the solidifying while you chop up your fruit.

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15. Today, I am using strawberries to place on top of my pretzel salad. You could just as easily use any other fruit. Just cut them up to your desired thickness.

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16. Take your Jell-O out of the freezer and drop in your fruit. You may need to set it back into the freezer to let it set a bit more. Just don’t let it set all the way. You want it cool but still runny for easy spreading.

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17. Spread the Jell-O right over the cream cheese mixture and try to get them as evenly dispersed as possible. Put it in the fridge and let the gelatin set all the way and the instant that happens, remove and enjoy!

Happy eating!

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Oven Chimichangas

Have you ever had a chimichanga?? It’s a fabulousity.

A chimichanga is a fried burrito. Duuude. Burrito’s are already awesome. Fry ’em up and they become your one and only.

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However, seeing how I have very clearly earned the reputation of cooking full-fat meals, I decided it was time to calm things down a bit. Give my hips and thighs a break for once. These lovely chimichangas are indeed baked and, get this, may actually be healthy!

Another disclaimer, we eat vegetarian normally in this household. So you will see that the recipe is vague for this reason. Replace my vegetable-y, non-meat-containing nonsense (aka “schmoosh”) with the meats of your choice my friends. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Let’s get started.

Oven-baked Chimichangas

1-½ cup cooked schmoosh of your choice (ground beef, cubed chicken, or in my case, leftover lentil “meat”balls and some mushrooms)
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoons black pepper
5 scallions, finely chopped (I love all things oniony so you can reduce the number if you’d like)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¾ cups salsa (see, this was my plan, but I was all out. So I substituted with a large tomato and a good dash of lemon juice)
1/2 cup (or more!) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Flour tortillas
Oil for brushing
Optional: garlic salt and smoked paprika

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1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start off by heating your pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Or, if you’re being snooty today, olive oil. It honestly doesn’t matter that much.

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2. Toss in your “schmoosh” of choice and cook to desired done-ness.

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For me, that included drowning my schmoosh in stock to redistribute the seasonings throughout. I added all my spices here because I felt like it.

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3. When the schmoosh is ready, drop in your scallions and cilantro.

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4. Next, add your salsa. Or, if you’re like me and constantly unprepared, your big ol’ tomato and a generous dash of lemon juice. Let it incorporate with the schmoosh for a minute or two. I left it in a bit longer since I wanted the tomatoes to soften up a bit.

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5. Because you’re awesome, throw in your cheese, disperse them throughout your filling and turn off the heat. My grater was dirty so I diced up my cheese. Again, be more prepared than I am.

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6. Now, take out your tortillas and add a good dollop of filling right in the center and fold ’em up. I will microwave my tortillas for maybe 30 seconds next time. They’ll be less cracky. But hey, who’s judging!

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7. Set out, seam side down,  on a baking pan sprayed with your favorite oil sprayer.

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8. Brush the tops of your chimichangas with olive oil or melted butter. I’m awesome and used melted butter.

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9. If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with smoked paprika and a bit of garlic salt. It adds a little somethin’ somethin’ to the end outcome.

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10. Set in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

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Yes, I take awful pictures when I don’t have natural light anymore. I promise I didn’t burn the tops of these. They were actually very delicious thank you.

Serve warm with guacamole!

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Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

I always thought biscotti was a super hard treat to make. It comes in those fancy schmancy packages at the store afterall. But when it was explained to me that it’s simply a twice baked cookie, the doors were opened for me to BiscottiLand.

It doesn’t get any easier than that now does it?

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Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa (I used Hershey’s)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts
milk, dark, or white chocolate for drizzling. Or some combination of all of them.

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1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter with the sugar.

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2. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined.

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3. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add it to the wet ingredients.

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4. Drop in all the walnuts and stir to combine.

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The dough will be tough and sticky. And look something like this.

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5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or this handy dandy silicon thing I have. Divide the dough into two batches and set them out on the baking sheet in log form. They don’t have to be perfect.

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6. Set in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove, and let them cool for about 15 minutes.

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7. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on a diagonal.

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8. Set the slices side-by-side back on the baking sheet and set in the oven for 8-9 minutes. Remove, flip them over and bake another 8-9 minutes.

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9. Let the biscotti cool completely and then drizzle with some chocolate.

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and because I couldn’t just leave it alone after one drizzle, I also drizzled them with white chocolate. That part is entirely up to you!

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Pizza Dough

Who loves pizza?

I, Zahra, do not love pizza. I LOVE PIZZA. In all caps. That’s how much I LOVE PIZZA.

However, no matter how awesome the toppings on your pizza, it’ll fall short of your expectations if you don’t have an equally amazing pizza crust. I once made the mistake of not taking the dough seriously. Oh what a mistake that was. The internet offered many recipes for yeast-less pizza dough (as I did not have any yeast at that moment and really wanted pizza), so I thought since so many people had tried this method, it was just as good as a regular yeast-full pizza dough. Boy was I wrong.

True, it looked just fine, but it made the list of Worst Things I Have Ever Cooked. It’s actually up in the top three.

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So although other people have had these apparent successes, I beg of you, find your yeast packets and make this pizza dough. It’s delicious!

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt (about 1 teaspoon)
4 cups all-purpose flour

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1. Start by measuring out your yeast and salt in a little bowl.

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2. Pour in your warm water. Try not to pour as violently as I do and splatter all the yeast everywhere.

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3. Stir it just a little and let it sit until nice and foamy. It’ll look something like this.

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4. Pour mixture into a bigger bowl and add in olive oil and stir around.

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5. Dump in your flour and stir stir stir until a well-incorporated ball forms.

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6. Dump out the dough unto a lightly floured surface and knead knead knead.

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Until you get a pretty dough ball.

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7. Coat the outside of your dough ball lightly with olive oil.

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8. Cover tightly and let it rise for about 2 hours. Then, use your pizza dough for all your pizza needs! Or calzone needs! You’ll want to bake at a fairly high heat, 400 degrees or so.

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