Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaff

No matter what I share with you, I have realized that I must be pushed into a mental realm of compulsiveness because a new fresh idea is floating in my head is worthy enough to be scribbled into this blog.
After a nearly three week hiatus, I finally thought of a topic that wasn't mindless and repetitive, but is beneficial to share with you. I think you've caught on to this fact by now, I love food, but what I haven't given much due to is nutrition. I adore nutrition. I would not spend years studying the subject matter if I was not happy doing so. Particularly, I love studying about nutritious food. But I'm not talking about the holy trinity of diet food like grapefruit, saltines, and water. When I write "nutritious food", I mean food that is in unison with the body, mind, and most importantly, the soul.

It's hard to convey in words how much I love what I am learning, but I jubilantly wait to experience what is in store for me after graduation. Scrutinizing the latest nutrition research for my Dietetics program is sheer joy. Not only because my mind remains curious, but also because I have the prerogative to be exposed to the countless views, opinions, and logic that other people have-- apart from my own. So let's see if I can continue to the key point without babbling.

I confess, and proclaim, that I do fancy staying home and wallowing in a stack of cookery books rather than going out to spend money I do not have. I consider that a holiday.
Surely, I am not that only one who finds gastronomy alluring.
If you like to eat, and you believe taking care of yourself isn't a colossal burden, but more of a virtue, then I speculate it is safe to say that every now and then you must be huddled into a corner reading leaflets, brochures, periodicals, magazines, books or other things in fine print that packed with a wealth of nutritional information. Do you have a particular interest in "diets"? Please remember that I do not like the word "diet"...people start acting looney when I say it. But, since it is a word that is commonly borrowed and registers in everyone's mind, from air-head beauty junkies to belligerent pubescents and all the way to esteemed physicians, I will use it here.
Maybe you do not believe everything you read or hear about diets (Thank God. You have a lovely mind of your own), or perhaps you like busting myths for diets that are based on the false and frequent garbage the media presents to us. Even if you like to read about diets,
or if you simply like to be educated about them, then hear me out.

I finally stopped procrastinating and decided to do a bit of light clearing up in my room. And while I was rummaging through my pile of plump textbooks, past homework assignments, and scrappy notes stained of food from last semester, I discovered my personal nerd notebook. A sacred tree-killing notebook where I collect and record any pertinent nutrition information that I find interesting enough to go back and research later. I jotted a myriad of information on various diets. Many of them listed were dubious. Some of the most infamous diets, not to mention unsustainable, like the low carbohydrate diet, low-fat ONLY approach diet, and even novelty diets like the "Beverly Hills Diet" were among my list. I sense quackery is what distinguishes these fad diets from, well...real FOOD. Or a "normal" diet. I won't continue to rave about this, because then I will not be able to shut-up.
Anyway, I found a
snippet of information on Mediterranean diets and this is where the entire idea for a topic on "diets" was sparked for Verve Is Served.

For those of you who are geographically challenged, the term "Mediterranean" actually tackles several countries, rather than just one single country. May I add that these are some of the most beautiful and picturesque countries. Spain, Italy, Croatia, France, Greece, Malta, Egypt, Morocco, and Israel to name a few. When it comes to the food, each of these countries holds it's own rare identity. However, I am confident in saying that collectively all Mediterranean foods can be immensely robust, refreshingly light, intensely delicious, and overwhelmingly aromatic. Disappointment is scarce when swallowing this category of flavors.

In a Mediterranean diet, many base ingredients are rich chestnut-brown delectable whole grains like bulgar, brown rice, couscous, polenta, pasta and potatoes. Not to mention the fresh green, sunny yellow, hot crimson-red, and pallid white colored vegetables, which are virtually part of every meal and plate. Also beans, herbaceous legumes, earthy nuts, and an extensive inventory of delicious fruits are extremely ubiquitous. Fresh hits of green come from cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, dill, fennel, oregano, and savory come add a finish to a meal. I mean, the list is endless.

Just to give you a sense of the contrast that exists between a Mediterranean and North American food pyramid I'll attempt to give you a brief educational stint.
The Mediterranean food pyramid, starting from the bottom are the grains, and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and fruits I mentioned occupy the second tier of the pyramid. In the third section of the Mediterranean pyramid, is for me, the best cooking medium, olive oil. Next, in fourth place is cheese and yogurt. Fifth on the pyramid are our lovely comrades from the marine, fish. Sixth, we have poultry, seventh is for eggs, eight is sweets, and lastly, tier number nine is where you will find red meats. Basically what I want to tell you is that the Mediterranean way of eating is heavily dependent on fruits, vegetables, and legumes. All of which are abundant in antioxidants which are cancer fighting agents, fiber that helps by sweeping through your large intestine and picking up "debris", vitamins that aid in metabolic activity (your cells use vitamins to work) and maintain your skin and hair, and minerals that also help cells (your red blood cells need iron to be able to carry an oxygen molecule to another cell) but also body structures like bones (your bones use phosphorus and calcium).

Now, red meat is consumed sparingly in a Mediterranean diet, but I'm not going to preach to you how you need to cut out your stews, pot roasts and other tasty red meat choices you eat. I'm just saying, Mediterranean food is taste bud pleasing AND the added bonus is that the food is eminently nutritious. It is good for you. If you try some dishes from any of these countries, the thought of the food being "good" for you may not be your first intuition, because it is so delicious. What can you take away from this? One point is that eating well may have just gotten more exciting, but I want you to know that you can eat this type of food and commit to a healthier lifestyle. Without it being, well, a job.We already have jobs. Mediterranean food is nutritiously sound and I urge you to be confident to scarf it down (not literally) because I know you will be pleased. Not to mention, your double-chin, saddle bag thighs, or jelly rolls might just melt away easier when eating the Mediterranean way.

S a f f r o n S c e n t e d C h i c k e n P i l a f f
Sweetness. Saltiness. Sourness. Bitterness. Every appetizing morsel you have devoured and felt compelled to go back for another bite is because you have had these four tastes dancing on your taste buds. When all of these flavors come in concert you have one heart melting and sumptuous meal. Speaking of sumptuousness, this lavish Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaff will make you feel as if you should be dotted in turquoise georgette and jeweled slippers tainted of honey. Succulent chicken thighs smothered in yogurt, lemon, and cinnamon which are then piled on a mound of citrus noted Basmati, flecked with toasted cashews, pistachios, almonds, and brightened with a heap of vivid green parsley. This Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaff is a concoction of warm, tart, soothing, and calming flavors rolled into one dish. Hats off to Nigella Lawson for her creativity. I just love her.You just have to try this.



1 pound of chicken thighs, skinless, cubed into 1 inch bits
1 cup of greek yogurt, low-fat* ( See my suggestion)
1/2 of a lemon, juice only
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the rice:

4 cups chicken stock, low-fat, low sodium* (See my suggestion)
1 tablespoon butter (salted, unsalted, whatever)
2 tablespoons canola oil (peanut oil is great if you have it)
1 pound Basmati rice (Don't fret, use ordinary white rice. Basmati can be expensive.)
3-4 cardamom pods, bruised to get the flavors to leech out
1 whole lemon, zest and juice. Zest it before getting the juice out.
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads ( I know, I know. One of the most expensive spices. There are no rules. Leave it out if you please. I used real saffron here. This was a birthday present to me, because I'm a dork and that is what I asked for.)
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cups slivered almonds
1/4 cup pine nuts ( I left these out. Pricey in Chicago. Broke college student anyone?)
4 tablespoon pistachio nuts ( I purchased them whole, then cracked the shells out. Not extremely time consuming, I found it therapeutic. But the price is kinder to those who are near burning a hole in their wallet.)
1 small bundle of fresh parsley, chopped


1.) Marinate chicken in yogurt, cinnamon, and lemon. An hour is all it needs. I left it for six, but leaving it in the lemon too long will cook the chicken. Soak the saffron, if using, in the chicken stock. Set aside.

2.) In a large pan, over medium heat, melt the butter along with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add cardamom (The Indian way, whole spices into the butter or oil to infuse the rest of the dish). Add the rice, stir to coat. Pour in saffron and chicken stock, lemon juice and zest. Clamp a lid on, bring it to a boil, and when it's brought to a boil crank the heat down to low. Let this simmer for 10-15 minutes. The rice should have absorbed all the liquid. Adjust cooking time as needed.

3.) While rice is simmering away, pour in the remaining oil into a non-stick pan and fry the cubed chicken thighs. Be sure to shake off any excess marinade before searing in the pan. If you need more oil, then you can always add more. You may need to do this in batches. This ensures beautiful browning on each side of the chicken. Cook the chicken until it is pallid white color.

4.) When the rice is cooked, use a fork to lightly fluff the rice. Run the fork through it. By doing so, you will avoid ending with rice mush but have nice separated grains. Toss in the bronzed chicken thighs.

5.) Using a separate small skillet, toast the cashews, almonds, and pine nuts (if you're using them) over medium heat. No oil needed here. Plenty of oil in the nuts to brown them up. Do this until they are colored. You'll know they are done because you will have a waft of their nutty scent going up your nose. When they're done, add them to the pilaff.

6.) Add in the chopped parsley and toss everything to combine. Sprinkle with the pistachios.


I didn't have Greek style yogurt on hand, but I had a tub of low-fat but watery yogurt. And most yogurts are like this, they have a lot of water in them. You can easily thicken up the yogurt. Do so, by lining up a sieve with dry paper towels, hang it over an empty bowl, and throw in the watery yogurt. Keep in the fridge overnight, or at least 1-2 hours if you have the time. The liquid will have leaked out into the bowl and you are left with thick yogurt that works especially good for a marinade. I recommend doing this because the flavors in the marinade ( which really make the chicken flavorful) can swim around in the water from runny yogurt rather than going into the meat itself.

The one liter of chicken stock in this recipe can be too much liquid, it really depends on what type of rice you are using. Short grains, and long grains have different soaking capabilities. I wish I could tell you exactly how much you need, but because I'm not in the kitchen with you generally the rule of thumb is a 1:2 ratio. For every cup of rice, you add two cups liquid. I remember my grandmother telling me an old trick, two inches of water should be above the rice grains that have settled into the bottom of the pan. Truth be told, I don't measure. So kudos to Grandma for making the process easier.

Italian "Quesadilla"

Rather than pursuing some sort of gratification by means of shopping for clothes, jewelry, or make-up; I would much prefer shopping for food to satisfy my personal indulgences.
For me, food is all about the color, the intensity, or the glow. I feel that an ambiance generous with fresh greens, hot reds, earthy browns, and glittering yellows are a private and exclusive thrill. Don't get me wrong. Although I love buying clothes, make-up, and jewelry (I am a girl), I feel emancipated from worries such as searching for the "perfect" color or finding the "right" fit when buying these materials. None of these burdens exist when you are in a food market.

What does exist, is the favorable circumstances to have a stab (sometimes quite literally) at becoming an innovator, or a pioneer when you create food that captivates your taste buds. This brings me to the point, why would you ever sacrifice that opportunity by telling yourself that you cannot have certain food?
I find the whole idea zany and ludicrous.
I won't be embracing the idea of cutting specific foods out of your diet and quite frankly I neglect it. So, please allow me to babble on.

One of the most voluptuous ingredients I love buying and experimenting with is (cue harmonious melody) cheese. Whoever told you cannot have cheese in any shape or form on a healthy diet should be arrested. I adore the gorgeous silky, creamy, and salty taste and texture that cheese can add to a mundane dish. There aren't very many ingredients I know of that have all three flavor components enveloped in one ingredient like cheese.
Yes, it is true that cheese has fat (stop being a girl and eat it). Here's the real problem, you must be thinking that the fat in cheese is such a colossal amount that it just might send you to the E.R., if you happen to snag a bite.
Let me present you my solution. Add this to your food I.Q. Chant with me, "Yes I will eat cheese, and I promise not to eat the whole wedge." For me, that's really what it's about. Enjoy the so called "forbidden" foods in rational yet pampering amounts. Please stop telling yourself you cannot have a particular food. That is disgraceful.

I am not too fond of the term "portion control", but it really does boil down to this. I feel it causes people to think primarily of their limits. I allow portion control to be of importance because I choose to eat well--but I don't allow it to be the ultimate factor or final decision when I choose what I want to eat. It is a negative way to think and you cannot possibly live that way. Think of the more innocent age when people didn't commit all of their energy into calculating calories or worrying about fat content in their food. Since this age is more informed and curious, have fat content on a pedestal in the back drop, but put your appetite center stage. I believe you can do both and still eat well.

Satisfy your cravings. Take the mystery out of the various cheeses available in the market by trying them. A recommended serving size is one ounce of cheese, it sounds like a miniscule amount, but I truly believe that the asset of cheese is that it melts beautifully and is able to hit a vast perimeter of your dish. And of course the same effect goes for your taste buds as well.

Now that I got that philosophical rant off my chest, you and I can now lie back and guzzle on this next recipe to our hearts content.

Italian "Quesadilla" serves 1
Americans definitely did not wait to swindle this fantastic recipe from the food loving Latinos. For me quesadillas are toasted cheese sandwiches such as you might eat in heaven. This recipe is adapted from the lovely Giada de Laurentiis. I love her books, her food, and her. These Italian Quesadillas are full of bright red fire roasted bell peppers, sweet caramelized white onions, a hit of fresh green from the parsley, and gooey Italian Fontina cheese all encased in a brown crispy griddled shell. The fantastic thing about quesadillas is that the options are pretty well endless, and they leave room for personal embellishment.

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium size white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 (8-inch diameter) Whole Wheat tortillas
1/2 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, take them out of the jar, and dry them with paper towels to soak the jar liquid off
1/4 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon flat leaf Italian parsley
Salt, and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Add onions and sugar, and cook until the onions are golden brown. About 5-7 minutes. They could be done earlier, just check to see if the onions are translucent and brown on the edges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out the tortilla on the cutting board and sprinkle one half of it with the half of shredded Fontina cheese. Arrange the bell peppers over the cheese. Next, add the sauteed onions on top of the bell peppers. Sprinkle over the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Next, add the remaining Fontina on top. Fold the other clean half of the tortilla over and gently seal the tortilla. It won't completely seal until the cheese melts in the pan.

Using the same pan you used to carmelize the onions, either drizzle some more olive oil or spray non-stick cooking spray and cook the quesadilla. Until the cheese melts and each side is golden brown. 3 minutes per side. This is rather quick so be careful--I almost burned them. Same heat as before, medium high is good to cook them. If you find they are browning too fast to your liking, crank the heat down to medium-low. After 3 minutes, flip over and brown the other side.

Transfer to a plate, and cut in to half if desired.

Scarf away.

Shopping note:
Fontina cheese is quite expensive in Chicago, but I found fantastic prices at Aldi's. If you have an Aldi's in your area, I suggest you go and see their selection first. I spent $2.99 each on a wedge of quality Fontina and aged Parmesan cheese. Compared to other grocery stores here, $2.99 is a very attractive price. They have several choices. From Gorgonzola all the way to Gouda. I was definitely cheesin' when I saw that much cheese. You can call it a frugal decadance. Enjoy my friends!

All things in moderation...

English Muffin Breakfast "Pizzas"

I never ever skip breakfast. Perhaps one of the reasons I don't skip it is partly because my glucose supply would shoot down to nil and cause me to pass out. At this point, I would become a road hazard on my early morning drive. I'm joking. I do not skip breakfast because I love food too much. I wake up and look forward to nibbling on something.

Many individuals plea that setting time aside early morning to prepare a wholesome and nutritiously sound breakfast diverts their much needed energy to finish important tasks. Energy that is intended to be spent screaming at the children to chart the school bus on time, scramble into a fresh pair of clean clothes, or even rush to find essential belongings before venturing out on your nine-to-five shift. It doesn't have to be this way with breakfast. Fast food (not McDonald's or Taco Bell, although delicious, but not the type of fast food I'm talking about) is an obvious necessity in all of our lives, and I want you to know that you can whip up a savory breakfast that is loaded with verve! Remember, breakfast can be made in a brisk and efficient manner that will not compromise quality and flavor. You and I know that if it doesn't taste good, it simply won't work.

That is why this recipe has become my most regular solitary breakfast. English Muffin Breakfast "Pizzas". Toasty rounds of brown whole-grain English muffins are piled with lush bright red tomatoes, meaty Canadian bacon, and gooey Mozzarella cheese. The credit for this recipe is given to one of my most favorite people, Ellie Krieger. I just love her. She is the reason why I am studying Human Nutrition. More about her later. I think it's a lavish concoction of Californian heart plus a bit of Italy's Tuscan flavor. But of course it's easy. Make some over the weekend and freeze them so you can start munching a lot sooner in the morning. If you choose to do this, add 1 to 2 minutes extra to the baking time. A glass of skim milk is great with this.


1 whole wheat English muffin, sliced in half
1 small roma tomato
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 slice Canadian bacon, diced
1/4 cup (4 tbs) shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
1 tbs. fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees (A mini toaster oven works serves as a perfect instrument here). Line a small baking sheet with foil.

Set the halved English Muffins cut side up on your baking sheet. Use a small bowl to toss the diced tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pile these dressed tomatoes on each English muffin slice.

Sprinkle Canadian bacon over the tomatoes, and scatter the shredded Mozzarella on top.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is brown and melted.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Time to devour.

Method of Contact

If you have just spotted this blog, I welcome you! I said I would generate a new e-mail address where food lovers, everyday readers, individuals thirsty for verve, college students, or even the curious have a way to contact me. I urge you to e-mail me with any questions you may have about food, nutrition, health in general, fad diets, myths etc. Do not be shy. On Verve Is Served, you have a voice!

A Clever Grocery Shopper

The subject matter of gas and grocery prices swelling up have now become a standard topic. This topic hits number one on the American nagging list (My honest opinion.) It's as if it has become its own specialized language. I call it babbling.
I have no desire to sound like a lame-brained individual who isn't the least bit aware of what is going on in our world. But it stands to reason that you cannot control the economy you live in. You can, however, certainly control how you live in it. Despite the mental misery you deal with today, do not let it ban how wise you can be with your money. Particularly when you buy food. I did mention that I will share tips to save money when purchasing groceries. Here is a very wise suggestion that should administer financial therapy to your spirit, and allow more money to creep back into your bank account.
Create a Price Book
Grocery prices constantly change. Let me provide you with a recent example. One week I spotted jarred roasted red bell peppers (I love them) for $3.49 per jar. The next week after, the price plummeted down to $2.19. Okay, I admit the word "plummet" overstates the decrease in price but if you are a clever grocery shopper than you may have guessed my next sentence. Stock up. Indeed, I did purchase an excessive five jars of lovely red fire. You may be reading this and thinking, "Eh, okay Priyanka you're not a genius. I would have done the same thing." Fantastic! Kudos to you. I am not being sarcastic either. If this was you, you could either spend $17.45 or $10.95. I prefer to choose the latter price of $10.95. You need to respect your hard earned money here. You buy food to feed yourself, not the grocery store's revenue.

This is the point where creating a price book will come into your favor. I came across this tip on I highly recommend paying it a visit. A lot of resources are available to you for free because of her dedication and hard work! I created a very lazy version of Coupon Mom's Price Book example, much of it was due to being at work for nine hours, I shamefully confess. Regardless, it will prove to be useful. It may look something like this:

Woodman's Fresh Market

Common Items:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast





Low-Fat Milk





Canned Tomatoes










TOTAL per Week





The highest total: $9.13 (Week 2 Total)

The lowest total: $7.62 (Week 4 Total)

Clever Shopper's Total Bill: $5.96 (buying each item at its lowest price)

CouponMom's description goes into more extensive detail, but my compressed version has highlighted all of her important points. Do remember that if you buy groceries from multiple stores, create a separate price book page for each grocery store. Take some time to transfer prices from your grocery bill and record them in your price book over the course of several weeks. By doing so, you have just created a beneficial yet personal amenity.

I hope this suggestion brings back some peace and tranquility to your grocery shopping ventures.
You are the reason I blog, so tell me what you think.

Welcome to Healthy Eating 101!

Food. An essential necessity required to thrive. Food satisfies your palate, knocks wind into your soul, and adds spunk into your step. It contributes to your mood. A puddle of lavish bittersweet chocolate mousse can turn a gloomy moment into bliss. The food you consume ultimately disintegrates into numerous vitamins and minerals that have one mission--to radiate throughout your entire body and nourish. These vitamins and minerals are a warehouse jam-packed with VERVE, meaning energy.

You are the master of your own body. You decide what goes in it. Chances are you are still contemplating whether you can eat healthier because:You buy groceries on a budget, you believe that healthy and savory food do not mesh, you think you do not have sufficient time to eat better, or your mind is flooded with the latest food claims, health facts and fad diets that it is sitting like a mammoth task in your brain desperately waiting to be sorted out.

As a Senior college student working on my Bachelor's in Human Nutrition I have a desire to transform anxieties of eating well into positive perspectives about food. This is the reason why I have created this blog. I will address your concerns, questions, and requests related to food, weight-loss, eating well, or even questions on how to shave your grocery bill down. Also, the recipes in this blog will keep you well, and motivate you to take better care of yourself because the food is easy to make, it is decadent, it allows you to be frugal, and it is packed with VERVE.

If you have any feedback, questions (about a healthy diet, weight-loss, myths) or requests please comment. I am waiting to hear what you have to say! I am working on generating a new e-mail address, for the time being comment away!


If you're looking for a general overview on how to start eating better, check out the "Healthy Eating 101 Basics" tab.