Quick & Easy Salmon Zoodle Bowls

I’ve been on a health kick recently, but with all my recent travels and the start of wedding season, it’s been tough to stick to a steady routine and diet. So many decadent distractions everywhere! That’s why I love super simple recipes that are easy to whip up in the kitchen, but still good for you. Salmon is my go-to protein for weeknight dinners, and I’ve recently been pairing it with a little bit of pesto, garlic, tomatoes and zucchini noodles. So light, refreshing, and packed with a ton of flavor.

Here’s my recipe for Salmon Zoodle Bowls – everything you dreamed of for those busy weeknights. What are some of your tips and tricks for eating healthy with a busy schedule? I’d love to hear from you!

When you’re off your blogging game and Instagram Story is the best picture you have…

Ingredients (serves 2) 

1.5 tbsp olive oil
4 zucchinis – washed, peeled and spiralized into noodles
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves of garlic, diced
2 small salmon fillets, cut into three pieces each and marinaded in a little bit of olive oil, s&p and the diced garlic
1/2 a tomato, diced
2-3 tsp of pesto, depending on your taste
Grated parmesan cheese

Recipe

First, prep your zoodles. Lightly fry the spiralized zucchini noodles in 1 tbsp olive oil and garnish with salt & pepper and any other spices to your liking. I usually add some onion powder and parsley flakes, but you can also add red chilli flakes for an added kick. This should only take a few minutes – avoid frying for too long, or the zoodles will become mushy and let out moisture. Keep em’ crispy! Once this is done, arrange the zoodles in a bowl.

Next up, take your salmon pieces (already marinaded in olive oil, s&p and garlic) and lightly pan-fry them for a few minutes on each side in half a tbsp of olive oil. As you’re frying them, drop in the diced tomatoes and add pesto over the salmon pieces. Stir this mixture so that the pesto combines with the tomatoes and coats the salmon. Cover until the salmon pieces are completely cooked (this should taken around 5-10 minutes longer depending how thick the salmon pieces are).

Spoon the salmon, pesto and tomato mixture over your zoodles. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese, freshly cracked pepper and a little more pesto if you please. Enjoy! Guilt-free and delicious.

Southeast Asian Adventures II: Angkor Wat

If you haven’t read part I of my Southeast Asian adventures post, make sure to check it out here first.

Part II: 

Our whole trip to Southeast Asia was such a surreal and incredible adventure, I’m still not over it. My only regret is not spending more time in Cambodia, which in a mere 24 hours, completely stole (and broke) our hearts. There is so much to say about the strength and grit of the Cambodians, and I’d really love to spend a longer time learning more about this beautiful and resilient country. While things in the United States were sort of unraveling while we were away, being in Cambodia gave us a lot of perspective and taught us so much about acceptance, diversity, and generosity of heart.

Even though we weren’t in Cambodia for long, I’m so very glad that we got to spend a day at the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, beginning at sunrise. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, with Hindu and Buddhist influences. The various temples in the complex have been damaged and deteriorated over the years, but you can still get a sense of the incredible art and architecture. Some parts of the temple have literally been taken over by trees and plant overgrowth, and somehow this intersection of nature & religion just makes Angkor Wat even more magical. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures.

Angkor Wat at sunrise. Even though we didn’t get the clearest sunrise, there was something so spiritual about marching into the complex along with hundreds of other tourists vying for the best sunrise spot. We weren’t alone by any means, but I’ve never felt so serene and at peace.

 

Tales of daily life on temple walls


The Bayon temple, with morning light shining on the spectacular faces of past kings, was my absolute favorite. Unbelievably beautiful. 

The Tomb Raider temples! Nature crawling its way through temple ruins. 

Thank you, Cambodia. We’ll be back! 

Southeast Asian Adventures: Thailand

Thailand & Angkor Wat in Cambodia have been on my bucket list for years now. I spent a good chunk of my adolescent years growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia and did an internship during college in Kuala Lumpur. I’m completely obsessed with Southeast Asian culture – the food, the rich history, the people, the weather, the energy is just all so ridiculously amazing. I’ve been blessed to live in many cities around the world – eight to be exact – and nowhere else in the world have I met such genuinely warm, hospitable, loving and generous people. Southeast Asia is just mesmerizing, and I’ve been dying to explore more of it.

I finally had the chance to experience Thailand & Cambodia last month and I’m so happy that my trip reaffirmed my love for the region. I was worried that Thailand would be too touristy and overrun by Full Moon party-seeking backpackers, but it truly did not disappoint. Sure, there are parts of Thailand that can be crazy touristy, but there are so many different experiences that you can choose to have in this diverse country. We began our trip in bustling Bangkok (which for some reason gets a bad rep for being too busy and overwhelming, but I loved it); continued onwards to the lush, beautiful, boho-chic Chiang Mai; spent three days soaking up the sea and sunshine in Krabi; and ended our trip taking in the unbelievably magical Angkor temples of Siem Reap.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Thailand leg of the trip – Angkor Wat will have its own post soon!

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Sunset over magnificent Bangkok from Lebua at State Tower (of Hangover 2 fame) – definitely one of the most luxurious hotels I’ve ever stayed at! Beautiful balconies and views. 

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Day 1: Exploring Bangkok’s Chatuchak (weekend) market which was such a fun experience. We spent hours walking around the different souvenir, food, and clothing stalls, completely mesmerized by all the beautiful antiques and souvenirs. We had to buy an extra suitcase for all the souvenirs we bought home!

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The Grand Palace – a must see when in Bangkok. It was hot and incredibly crowded, but beautiful nonetheless. 

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Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

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We stayed at the Khum Phaya Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai, which was a bit far from the old city and the tourist attractions but such a gorgeous sanctuary. I mean, just look at all that greenery. This was our breakfast view for four days straight. HEAVEN! 

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One of our most memorable experiences in Chiang Mai was a cooking class, where we made a delicious assortment of fresh Thai dishes. It was so much fun grinding up all the spices and making all the food from scratch!

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Another experience I will never forget: playing with elephants at Chai Lai Orchid, an elephant sanctuary that also serves as a social business with a mission to serve women at risk of human trafficking. A one-day trip included a three hour hike (more like a leisurely walk) through the jungle, bamboo rafting, feeding elephants, riding elephants bareback, and bathing a baby elephant in the river. Yes, it was as fun and surreal as it sounds. I was squealing the entire time. 

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Such a precious moment! 

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Meeting the grandmama of the sanctuary ❤ She was so sweet and gentle. 

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If you’re too scared to try street food in Thailand, you’re seriously missing out. We only had one ‘nice’ sit down meal on our whole trip, because we were determined to eat our way through all of Thailand’s amazing night markets and street food. They say the cheaper the food in Thailand, the more delicious and we found that to be so, so true! One of our FAVORITE meals was Anthony Bourdain-approved khao kha moo (pork leg & rice) from ‘The Cowgirl’ stand in Chiang Mai. We ordered two small plates first, which we devoured within seconds, and promptly ordered another large plate to share. YUM. Chicagoans, make sure to check out JJ Thai Street Food for a pretty solid version of khao kha moo. 

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Another favorite meal – khao soi from Khao Soi Khun Yai. Spicy & flavorful, we INHALED these little bowls of happiness.

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Ahhh, Krabi. Truly PARADISE. We stayed at the gorgeous Amari Vogue resort on Tubkaek Beach, which was so serene and utterly beautiful. The Andaman Sea is so still and warm as bathwater. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Every morning, we would venture out to Ao Nang to get our fill of local seafood – the best places to eat were the little halal street stalls with amazing chili crab, coconut shrimp curry, crab fried rice, garlic squid, and more. So delicious. 

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Venturing out on a snorkeling trip to the Hong islands. 

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Crystal clear perfection. 

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More snorkeling views on Hong Island.

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Quite possibly my favorite picture of my entire trip. They say that sunsets on Tubkaek Beach are pure magic. They weren’t wrong. 

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My husband and I had a moment of immense gratitude during this sunset. Hope to be back here with our kids some day. 

Authentic Thai Green Curry – straight from Chiang Mai!

Even though we’re in the thick of winter here in Chicago, my mind is still in beautiful Thailand. My husband and I recently got back from an incredible adventure to Thailand & Cambodia (blog post coming soon) and my heart still aches for the beautiful people, culture, and FOOD of Southeast Asia. It continues to be my absolute favorite part of the world.

One of our favorite memories of the trip was a half-day cooking class in Chiang Mai through Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School. We had such a great time exploring Thai markets, picking up fresh ingredients (still can’t get over the fragrance of kaffir lime), and then spending a few hours in a gorgeous outdoor, bohemian-style kitchen whipping up over six dishes. Such a delightful experience for a couple who loves to cook together.

I’m excited to share the recipe from our culinary adventures for Zabb-E-Lee’s chicken green curry. It was absolutely delicious and SO easy to make (well, once all the spices were ground up). I made it once at home too with store-bought green curry paste, and it was still pretty damn good. Obviously not as fragrant and fresh as the Chiang Mai version, but still a great recipe to quickly whip up when you’re craving some curry. Got my hubby hooked on Thai food now. Enjoy!

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Starting off the day picking fresh ingredients from the market with our awesome instructor

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Literally the cutest space for our cooking class. So boho chic! 

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So proud of our culinary creations!

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Silky smooth green curry. Nothing like that fresh taste of coconut cream and kaffir lime. 

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My version at home – more veggies, low fat coconut milk, and store bought green curry paste. Sorry for the poor picture quality – alas, not much natural lighting in Chicago right now. Still delicious, and SO easy to make! 

Thai Green Chicken Curry (recipe adapted from Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School)

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 

2 tbsp canola oil
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can coconut cream (highly recommend the Aroy-D brand)
1.5 tbsp green curry paste* (I used the Thai Kitchen brand, but see below for the recipe to make this from scratch)
1 eggplant, cut into squares
1 zucchini, cut into squares
Handful of green beans (per your liking)
2 tbsp sweet basil
3 leaves kaffir lime leaf, torn in half
1 tbsp pea eggplant (optional – I didn’t use this)
2 red chilis, sliced diagonally
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce

Recipe

Let the oil heat on a wok or non-stick pan on medium high. Stir the green curry paste for a few minutes until fragrant and the oil surfaces. Add the chicken thighs and stir until fully cooked. Gradually add the coconut milk and add in the eggplant, zucchini, and green beans. Cover and let simmer. When the veggies are cooked, add palm sugar, fish sauce, sweet basil, kaffir lime, and red chilis. THAT’S IT – you’re done! Enjoy with rice or noodles.

*Green Curry Paste (from Zabb-E-Lee’s cookbook)

Ingredients

10 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp galangal finely chopped
1 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots, sliced
1 tsp kaffir lime ride, finely sliced
1 tbsp coriander roots, chopped
1 tsp fresh turmeric or turmeric powder
1 tsp shrimp paste (this is the secret sauce!)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp roasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp roasted cumin
1 tsp ginger

Directions

Combine coriander seeds, cumin, black pepper in a mortar, pound well. Add chilies and salt to the mixture and continue pounding. Add remaining ingredients (except for the shrimp paste) and pound again. After everything is smooth, add the shrimp paste and continue pounding until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Two-Week Itinerary for Italy & Santorini

Ever since my husband and I got engaged, we’ve been dreaming about an extended honeymoon somewhere in Europe. We’ve both traveled to Europe separately, but couldn’t wait to experience its magic together. I spent four years in Paris growing up and planned a trip to Barcelona after graduating from college, while he had studied abroad in Madrid. With our hectic schedules, we couldn’t make a honeymoon work right after the wedding, but boy was it worth the two-year wait.

We explored a couple different countries while researching for our trip, and almost decided against Italy. We were worried it would be too touristy, and it just felt so cliched to travel to Italy for our honeymoon after seeing so many of our friends doing the same. We’ve both also been to Italy during our younger years, and considered traveling somewhere more off the beaten path. Alas, our love for fresh pasta, vino and Italian culture was too strong, and I’m SO glad we decided to spend the majority of our trip in Italy. It’s simply exquisite. Santorini has always been at the top of my bucket list, so I convinced my husband to spend the last few days of our vacation there since we were going to be so close. I definitely need to plan a separate trip to Greece to experience its culture in its entirety, but we’re incredibly grateful that we got to spend a few days in Santorini during our honeymoon. It is beyond words.

Here’s how we laid out our two weeks in Italy & Santorini. September is the perfect time to visit Italy, because it’s at the end of tourist season and the weather starts to cool down ever so slightly (but still warm enough for beaches). We wanted to get a good feel for the country by visiting a variety of different cities, but we also didn’t want to be overwhelmed by packing our bags every 1-2 days. We wanted a good mix of beach towns, wine country, big cities, culture and adventure with things to constantly do. We like to be on the go when we’re on vacation rather than beach bumming for a week straight, so this itinerary worked really well for us and gave us a sense of places we want to visit again for a longer period of time. We also LOVED all the hotels/B&Bs that we stayed at, so I’ve linked details to our accommodations. Okay, enough rambling – here we go!

  • DAY 1: Fly into Naples, rent a car (with a driver – you don’t want to be driving on your own here) and drive directly to the picturesque town of Positano for two days. We’re not huge beach people and wanted to spend more time in other places in Italy and in Santorini, so we decided to spend all our time in Positano rather than town-hopping around the Amalfi Coast.
    • Positano accommodation: Villa La Tartana  (cute little no-frills B&B steps away from the Spiagga Grande)
    • Tip: Visit Le Sirenuse for a gorgeous view of Positano’s colorful homes. Rent a private speed boat at Spiagga Grande (super affordable for just an hour or two) for the most breathtaking and luxurious views of the Amalfi Coast. You can drive around the coast with a bottle of Prosecco, visit private beaches, and go swimming. The views of Positano from the boat just can’t be beat.
    • Foodie highlights: We weren’t super adventurous with food in Positano because we were there for such a short period of time but we liked Chez Black for fresh seafood and a stellar waterfront view. Yes, it’s super touristy and on the pricey side, but worth it for one meal.
  • DAY 2: Positano – sight seeing, beach bumming
  • DAY 3: Positano in the morning, then take a car back to Naples and a train to Florence
    • Florence accommodation: Le Stanze di Caterina (steps away from the Duomo with beautiful, art-inspired rooms)
  • DAY 4: Florence – sight seeing (Uffizi Gallery, Scuola del Cuoio – Florence’s leather school with amazing leather products, and sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo)
    • Foodie highlights: Osteria Santo Spirito for a more local feel and Trattoria ZaZa for unbelievable truffle pastas.
  • DAY 5: Florence – sight seeing till the late afternoon (Mercato Centrale for fabulous lunch options and Accademia for the gorgeous David), then rent a car to drive to Tuscany
    • Tuscany accommodation: Fonte de Medici (We got an incredible deal through Jetsetter– the most gorgeous Tuscan villas EVER! A little remote, but totally worth it for the property)
    • Foodie highlights: Lamole di Lamole. Must visit for the most mouthwatering Florentine steak ever. Amazing spot.
  • DAY 6: Tuscany – wine tasting and visiting little Medieval towns
  • DAY 7: Tuscany/day trip to Siena
  • DAY 8: Tuscany, then drive to Rome
    • Rome accommodation: Augustana House (Super clean, no-frills B&B located on a quieter, less touristy part of the city. Nicest staff!)
    • Foodie highlights: We arrived in Rome with pretty low expectations (“It’s too hot! Too touristy!”) but we absolutely LOVED the city. The food in particular was absolutely stellar; the best we had in the country. Highly recommend following Romewise.com for restaurant suggestions and making reservations EARLY – I’m still dreaming about my pasta dishes from Osteria del Sostegno and Roberto e Loretta. Rome is heaven for pasta, bacon and tiramisu lovers. Mmm!
  • DAY 9: Rome – sight seeing (Trevi Fountain and the Caesar Shuffle – Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon)
  • DAY 10: Rome – sight seeing (the Vatican – absolutely incredible)
  • DAY 11: Rome in the morning, then flight to Santorini
    • Santorini accommodation: The Majestic Hotel (just outside Fira)
    • Tip: Best way to explore the entire island is by renting an ATV! So much fun, and you come across so many lovely little private beaches with family-owned seafood restaurants. Some of the spots we stumbled upon were just magnificent. Santorini is too beautiful for words.
  • DAY 12: Santorini – sight seeing (Sunset Cruise)
  • DAY 13: Santorini – sight seeing (exploring the towns of Fira, Imerovigli, and Oia)
  • DAY 14: Santorini, then flight back to the U.S. via Rome

Sigh, can I please go back already? Hope this itinerary was helpful for your planning – leave me a comment if you have any questions! And just so this post isn’t ALL words, here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip:

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The adorable town of Positano in the Amalfi Coast

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Sunset in Florence from the Piazza Michelangelo 

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View of Firenze from the Uffizi Gallery

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Rolling hills of Tuscany. View from Fonte de Medici. No words. 

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Trevi Fountain, Rome

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Santorini views from Imerovigli 

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Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Holiday Gift Guide: For Food Lovers

Happy post-Thanksgiving holiday bliss, everyone! Just like most of you reading this post, I spent an embarrassing amount of time this weekend online, scouring websites for the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday fashion/tech/everything deals. While perusing all the amazing sales (sorry, credit card), I came across a ton of super cute gift ideas that would be so perfect for food lovers, cooks, hosts & hostesses, so I decided to put together a little gift guide for my readers. These gifts range from cookbooks to barware to kitchen items and even Indian-themed foodie gifts, so I hope you enjoy! I own about half these items and certainly wouldn’t mind owning the rest…hint hint, nudge nudge 🙂

All product links below

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SHOP: Date Night In Cookbook, Anthropologie || Cast Iron Fondue Set, Crate and Barrel || Sabyasachi Print Round Tray, Pottery Barn || Atlas Marcato Red Pasta Machine, Sur La Table || Flavors of America Salt Collection, Uncommon Goods || Traditional Indian Copper Dinner Set, Amazon || ‘Cravings’ 5-Piece Cheese Board & Utensil Set, Nordstrom || Handwoven Macrame Runner, Anthropologie || Glencairn Whiskey Glasses, Crate and Barrel || On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Amazon

Moroccan Feast: Slow-Cooked Lamb & Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Chicago’s bout of unseasonably warm fall weather is finally over, which means it’s time for some major winter hibernation in the Gupta household. And with that, comes some delicious, wintery slow-cooking of course. Last Sunday, hubby and I decided to try this Moroccan Lamb recipe from Epicurious and it was absolutely scrumptious. Flavorful, comforting and not as complicated as I would’ve figured–especially if you have a Crockpot on hand. We’ve always been a little hesitant to prepare lamb, but after this, can’t wait to try out some more lamb or goat recipes!

We paired the lamb with some couscous and this Roasted Cauliflower and Arugula Salad with Sumac Dressing from Finecooking.com, which is hands down THE most amazing salad I’ve ever tasted. The combination of roasted cauliflower, spices and feta is absolutely perfect. Definitely going to be a regular in our household.

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The lamb simmering away in a sauce of tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken broth, and dried apricots. Right before we transferred the mixture to a Crockpot for two hours of slow cooking. 

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Roasted cauliflower and arugula salad with sumac dressing from Finecooking.com 

Here’s our version of Epicurious’ Slow-Cooked Lamb recipe – more spice, and we used a Crockpot to get more tender lamb. Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6) 

3 tbsp cumin and coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala (optional, but adds more flavor & spice to the original recipe) 
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cayenne pepper or red chili pepper (the original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon, but it wasn’t nearly enough spice for us so we added more)
2.5 pounds leg of lamb, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 cup dried apricots
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp grated lemon peel
Fresh cilantro and mint leaves for garnishing

Recipe 

Marinate the the lamb in cumin & coriander powder, salt & pepper, fennel seeds, and 1 tsp of cayenne pepper or red chili powder. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil on a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the lamb pieces in batches until they’re browned on all sides. Add more oil as necessary. Transfer the lamb to a new bowl as they’re done browning – each batch should take around 7-10 minutes.

Fry the onions and tomato paste in the skillet until the onions soften. Add the chicken broth, chickpeas, apricots, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, garam masala, ginger, and lemon pool and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. At this point, you can add in the lamb pieces, bring to a boil, cover and cook for an hour OR you can now turn to a Crockpot.

If you’re using a Crockpot: Transfer the sauce to your slow-cooker and add in the lamb pieces. Cook on high for 2-2.5 hours, until the lamb is tender. At this point, you can add more spices and salt depending on your taste. Once you’re satisfied with the tenderness of the meat, remove your Crockpot from heat (keep warm) and let the sauce thicken. Garnish with cilantro and mint leaves and serve with couscous or rice. Voila – you’re done! Sit back and enjoy.