5 Sweet Excuses

Om Cake

There comes a time for every blogger when the days go by and the posts don’t seem to publish themselves. I had 31 of those kind of days in July. This month was beyond busy and frankly, I kind of just went with it. I still cooked, baked, and photographed, but decided to only write a post if I felt compelled to share. And that time is now :)

July offered up some fun “excuses” to explore the sweet side of my kitchen and dive into baking. I try to avoid baking unless I’m certain there will be others around to eat whatever I make. Because living alone + baked goods = DANGER. So here are the five excuses that brought me a little closer with my stand mixer this month:

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We just turned one!

Call me sentimental, but I certainly love to celebrate a good old-fashioned milestone.

One year ago today, I anxiously clicked “Publish” and shared my very first post on The Simple Fare. And then I not-so-patiently waited, refreshing my browser constantly. Putting myself back out there was scary, exciting, and well, anti-climactic. Crickets…

I mean, I just poured my heart into writing a recipe, taking photos, and bundling it all with a nice little story. Where is everyone? Hello? Anyone out there?

Over the last 365 days, you all showed up. And for that, I have to say thank you :)

But in the last year, I’ve gained far more than just page views, email subscribers, and followers. While I love checking metrics and am a sucker for numbers, that’s not what inspired me to start this blog, and certainly not what keeps me going today.

So what’s it all about?

It’s about being open to experiencing and sharing unique adventures, from mushroom foraging in Sonoma to making green curry in Thailand. It’s about getting a proud photo of a roast chicken from your friend who’s just getting into cooking. It’s about documenting the cherished Persian recipes of my childhood, so that one day I can cook half as good as my Mom. And it’s about using the incredible support of the people around you (physically and virtually) to pursue that crazy new business venture.

Thanks to each and every one of you for coming to The Simple Fare from all over the world. 147 countries to be exact :) Here’s a little GIF I created with some of the highlights of year 1. You better believe there’ll be plenty to celebrate next year too.

One year ago today! | #foodie #blog #birthday #gif

A video posted by Cynthia Samanian (@cynthia_samanian) on

Persian Meat Patties: Kotlet

Persian Meat Patties aka Kotlet

FINALLY.

I found the recipe that makes my apartment smell just like home. Honestly, if I close my eyes right now I might even believe I’m back at my parents’ house, waiting for my Mom to finish cooking dinner.

That recipe, my friends, is kotlet – a Persian meat patty made up of ground beef, potato and oats, seasoned with onion, garlic, turmeric and Italian parsley. The Persian kotlet recipe I’m sharing with you all has gone through years of evolution and testing by my Mom, so frankly, it’s absolutely perfect. Juicy and flavorful, but not too rich or spicy. And, similar to the Persian Herb Frittata recipe on the blog, this is a Persian recipe that is surpisingly simple to make.

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Wedding Gift Tips + Cooking for Two Giveaway!

Bridal Shower Balloons

Love is in the air! Yes, it’s officially summer wedding season. You know, that time of year when your Instagram is filled with wedding photos and hashtags, and you’re scouring registries for the perfect newlywed gift.

I recently went to a bridal shower, and had spent weeks trying to find the perfect gift for the bride and groom. I had already ordered off the registry for the wedding gift, but I wanted this gift to be a bit more thoughtful. After lots of research, I bought her this wood and marble serving platter with a custom engraving of their wedding location coordinates. Practical yet personal. And, the bride loves cheese and sushi – two great things that she could serve up on this platter!

Gift giving can kind of be a stressful experience, especially if you want to give a personal and unique gift. My advice? Read More »

Chicken Waldorf Salad

Chicken Waldorf Salad

Don’t be fooled.

Yes, I know you see the s-word in the title, but trust me – this is legitimately filling. Packed with chicken, Granny Smith apples, celery, grapes, and walnuts, this Chicken Waldorf Salad is loaded with protein and nutrients.

I threw this salad together on Sunday morning for a Whole30 potluck at Barry’s Bootcamp. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know that I eat just about anything, so I didn’t participate in the Whole30 challenge. Instead, I consider myself a Whole30 enabler! Over the last few months, I’ve posted some recipes here and there that I love to eat…and happen to be Whole30 friendly.

The key to this recipe is to make your own mayo using egg and olive oil, along with dry mustard, lemon juice and salt. It gives the salad a creaminess that’s all-natural and binds the salad together. I used this homemade mayo recipe from the Whole30 website since I was being extra careful not to break any rules for my #fitfam who worked so hard to stick to their eating plan! Could you use store-bought mayo? Sure. But it usually contains sugar and a bunch of hard to mention ingredients (read: chemicals), so try making your own!

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Panko-Crusted Baked Tilapia

Panko-Crusted Tilapia

Once upon a time, I used to be pretty scared of the seafood counter at my grocery store. Staring at the large chunks of tuna, piles of shellfish, and stacks of whole fish was a bit intimidating as I pondered what to make for dinner. Ultimately, I would scoot myself about 10 feet over…right in front of the chicken breasts. SAFE.

Since then, my love for seafood eventually took over and I convinced myself to give home cooked fish, shrimp, and more a try. What’s my secret? Go in with a gameplan!

Before I step foot in the grocery store, I decide what it is I want to make. Then I think about what I have at home. And THEN, I go to the store. This means that I’m not overwhelmed when I get to the store and I end up with ingredients for an actual meal, instead of a shopping basket full of parsley, cereal and ice cream.

Panko-Crusted Tilapia-2-v2

Earlier this week, I knew I wanted to make a baked breaded fish to go with a salad. I already had salad mix, lemons, and panko crumbs (more on what you should always keep stocked in an upcoming post!). So all I needed to buy was the fish. I didn’t even need to know what kind of fish. Just ask the person working at the fish counter, and they’ll be happy to help.  I went with tilapia fillets because it looked good and was on sale. With this Panko-Crusted Baked Tilapia recipe, you could use dover sole, snapper, and other kinds of white fish.

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Pan-Roasted Chicken

Pan-Roasted Chicken

I’m seriously on a major chicken kick these days. I don’t know what it is, but I can go weeks without eating chicken and then all of a sudden it’s all I’m craving for an entire week or two. I tend to go through these phases when I’ll binge on a specific food for a week or so before moving on to something else. Like cacio e pepe. Or spaghetti squash. And right now…it’s chicken.

Pan-Roasted-ChickenOver the last week, I’ve made this Pan-Roasted Chicken recipe a few times, and served it with a mixed green salad*. This recipe uses chicken thighs and legs, seasoned with just salt, pepper and garlic powder. If you don’t have garlic powder on hand, no worries. You can use pretty much any fresh herbs or lemon zest, if you have it. Just be sure to finely chop the herbs and sprinkle over the chicken right before it goes in the oven.

*Sidenote – I’m currently loving this salad blend which includes baby kale, chard, spinach, and more. It’s the perfect combo for practically any salad, and you can even saute it for a veggie side.

Here are a few tips to help you out with this trusty, go-to recipe:

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Cherry-Almond Chia Pudding

Cherry-Almond Chia Pudding

If you’re a child of the 80s like me, then you’re probably wondering what’s the ch-ch-ch-chia seed doing in a pudding? I just discovered it last fall from a coworker who eats super healthy, but apparently its been popular for the last few years. So yes, people are now eating the same seeds used to grow these little guys.

I created this simple Cherry-Almond Chia Pudding recipe last weekend and it immediately came to my rescue! After hours cranking away on projects, I needed an mid-afternoon boost of energy. Fortunately, I had made this pudding the night before, so it was waiting in my fridge ready for me to dig in. It was the perfect afternoon treat – substantial but not too heavy, sweet but not too sugary. Chia pudding makes a great weekday breakfast too; it actually keeps you full longer than you might expect. Packed with Omega-3s, protein, and fiber, chia seeds are incredibly nutritious and satisfying. We’re not the first to realize the health benefits of chia seeds; they were used to fuel the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. (Fun fact: chia is the Mayan word for strength.)

Cherry-Almond Chia Pudding

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Spring Cobb Salad

Spring Cobb Salad

Searching for a healthy recipe to celebrate a special mom in your life? Well, look no further!

This Spring Cobb Salad takes 40 minutes to pull together and makes an impressive side salad or main course – perfect for Mother’s Day brunch. I was inspired to create this recipe when a co-worker asked me for some Mother’s Day salad ideas earlier this week. Why not take a traditional Cobb and give it a spring update? Plus, with just a few modifications listed in the recipe, you can make this Whole30 approved!

Spring Cobb Salad

This salad includes seasonal veggies including asparagus and radishes. I think radishes are totally underused – I mean, how can you resist that bright fuschia color and peppery bite? If you’re with me on this radish kick, check out this salad recipe too. Avocado, egg, and bacon are my favorite Cobb salad staples, so they made the cut in this salad.  For a Whole30 modification, make sure you use sugar-free bacon. I added chopped dates to this recipe and mixed them with the cooked bacon bits, because sweet + salty is exactly what any Mom wants.

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Cooking in Kauai + 15 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

Poipu BeachAloha!

I know it’s been a bit quiet here lately, but there has been plenty going on behind the scenes (keep reading!). Well that…and I just returned from vacationing in beautiful Kauai :) My parents invited me to join them in celebrating my birthday and more importantly, their 40th wedding anniversary. Yep, FORTY. It was by far one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever taken; Kauai is just so scenic and serene. Even as I write this post in SF, I’m listening to Hawaiian reggae to keep the calm island vibes lasting as long as possible.

While in Kauai, I spent plenty of time surfing the blissfully warm waters – 77 degrees F to be exact! It was a real gift considering I practice in the super frigid Bay Area waters. We also explored Hanalei Bay, checked out some waterfalls, and drove through Waimea Canyon. We’ll have to come back for the Na Pali Coast; sadly it was too rainy to hike and many of the boat cruises were cancelled due to choppy waters.

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