Dinner Diary: Chop, Chop, Dump

Dinner Diary is a series of posts I write that include quick, simple, everyday recipes that I whip up on most days for my family. In most cases, they can hardly be called recipes since I just go with the flow and dump things into a hot pan. Through this series I’ve tried to show you that no matter what your level of expertise is in the kitchen, making a good healthy meal for yourself and your family is actually quite simple. All it takes, is a whole lot of love and a bit of practice.

Dear Dinner Diary, You know those kinda days when you wake up with a smile, birds chirping outside, and the slight nip in the air makes you want to snuggle under the covers even more? When your day begins with a ton of inspiration and you realize that it’s actually Friday, so you start to plan a fabulous Tex-Mex inspired feast for dinner that will be enjoyed while watching that latest movie you’ve been so looking forward to? Well, today was NOTHING like that! I woke up with Baby Dear whining of a tummy ache and bad cough – so school’s out for the day! I managed to calm him down after what seemed like an eternity, and stumbled into the kitchen for that much needed cup of coffee – only to find two measly drops of milk left in the carton. I knew skipping grocery day yesterday would come to bite me. Now I have a sick baby, and not much food! Once breakfasts were done, we somehow shuffled into the car and rushed to the store for a quick grocery trip. Baby Dear was a riot and insisted on buying bananas, even though we have a few of them already rotting on the kitchen counter. Shopping seemed to take ages, I found out that I forgot my coupons and sales flyers on the dining table, and the cashier couldn’t seem to scan any item without breaking down the machine. The day miraculously passed us by with a much needed nap included in between. Baby Dear was finally back to his cheerful self. Hubby Dear called to say he would be home early, so that we could do a family dinner and movie night on the couch. And when I looked at the clock, it said 6PM. Dinner was no where in sight and I was done for the day. I felt a slight cough catching on – I may have caught Baby Dear’s bug. But I wanted a warm comforting meal. I needed a warm, comforting meal. So I did my favourite thing – dumped things into a pot and called it a day. The chili was delicious and oh so welcoming! Hubby Dear decided we needed some chips along with it and whipped up a big batch of his special Nachos. He stuck it into the oven just as I started to ladle out the chili into our bowls. Warm, gooey, cheesy nachos were ready by the time I laid our bowls on the table. All in all, dinner was a breeze to prepare and totally worth it. Which just goes to show, that good food doesn’t have to take much effort. Remind me that, the next time I start to whine at having no set plans for dinner time. Good bye for now Dear Diary, my movie awaits!

Recipe for No-Fuss Chili taken from www.hookedonheat.com

No-Fuss-Dump-It-All-In Chili Sauté 1 large finely chopped onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic in some cooking oil. Add in 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp oregano powder, 1 tsp paprika powder and 2 tbsp tomato paste. Fry the spices for a few seconds, and then mix in 1/2 lb minced chicken to coat with the spices. Dump in 1 large (28 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, 2 cups cooked/canned black beans, and 1 cup frozen corn. Season with salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir, and let it simmer for 15-20 mins. Check for seasoning, and serve warm with your choice of toppings.

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Something Sweet: Low-fat Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

Recipe for Raspberry Yogurt Muffins taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Diwali came and went in a blur this year. We had just moved a few weeks earlier, and were deep in the midst of settling down in our new neighbourhood. In the midst of unpacking, getting Baby Dear adjusted into his new school, Hubby Dear’s new work schedule and all, a lavish celebration was the last thing on our minds. All we wanted to do was take the time to be thankful for everything that we had. A nice quiet meal, family time together, and lots of love and laughter were all we needed to bring in the festival of lights. And sweets of course. Loads and loads of sweets. After all, what is Diwali if not for the sweets?

While traditionally, people tend to make the classic Indian desserts loaded with ghee, milk and dried fruits, I for one, never cared for them. I find them cloyingly sweet for my taste and often just give them a pass after a bite or two. This year, however, I wanted to try something different. So I decided to make do with something unconventional. What can I say, fusion is definitely my thing and love what a mix of cultures can bring to the table. I got started on the baking, and by the time I was done, I had managed to pack neat little baskets filled with an assortment of Brownies, Muffins and Chocolate Cake that I could then share with our new neighbours and friends.

This muffin recipe is a simple and delicious one. What makes it a definite keeper in my book it surely the fact that it contains hardly any fat or sugar, and makes a sizeable batch for our family of three! Since I first tried it, I’ve made it a few times already, each time changing up the berries; and they’ve all been equally good. I now make sure I have a batch in the freezer, ready to warm up in the microwave and serve with a cup of steaming coffee on cold, lazy Staurday mornings. Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!

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A Hearty Start: Sukhe Kaale Chane

Recipe for Sukhe Kaale Chane, taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Hubby Dear and me have always believed that sleeping is a sport, and ever since we got married, we have tried to outdo the other on how long we can sleep in over the weekends. Well, that was, of course, until Baby Dear was born. What can I say, the kid HATES to sleep – always did, and continues to do so. So while our entire neighbourhood wakes up leisurely on a Saturday morning and slowly begins their day pouring a glass of cold orange juice from the fridge, the three of us would be in the midst of planning out our lunch.

Baby Dear wakes up beady eyed at the crack of dawn, jumps out of his bed and sprints to our room yelling, ‘It’s the weekend!’. And then THUD! He plops himself comfortably under our sheets, rubs his tummy and asks the dreaded question, ‘What’s for breakfast guys?’

Breakfast has never been my thing. I wake up each morning with the desire of only a freshly brewed warm cup of coffee, and I’m roaring to go. Weekends, on the other hand, are slightly different. The three of us love starting our Saturdays with a big breakfast. Almost every other week, we find ourselves at some quaint little café digging into buttered toasts and eggs or warm maple syrup poured over pancakes, with copious amounts of coffee for us and milk or fresh juice for Baby Dear. Treating ourselves to breakfast out is definitely something we look forward to and cherish.

But on days like this past weekend, where the slow pitter-patter of raindrops splashed on our window and the gloomy weather made us want to put on warm fuzzy socks and snuggle on the couch, I love digging into my repertoire of special hot Indian breakfasts. Breakfast in India is always a big deal – be it any day of the week, and there is no dearth of options when it comes to a plate of piping hot healthy meals to start the day with. One of our family favourites  is this spicy stir-fry of tiny brown chickpeas, quite different in taste and texture from their larger white counterpart.

This is a perfect dish to make ahead and keeps well in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for a month. When ready to eat, simply heat it up and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Add your favourite hot beverage of choice, surround yourself with your favourite people, and you have a wonderful start to the perfect weekend!

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A Simple Feast: Paneer Methi Matar

Recipe for Paneer Methi Matar, taken from www.hookedonheat.com

The Indian festive season has begun, and kitchens all over the country have been buzzing with activity. Mine is no different. I’ve spent the past few days planning and re-planning our menus. I remember a time when not too many years ago when Hubby Dear and I would throw lavish Diwali parties. We’d have an extensive menu which would have me begin the cooking process a day or two in advance. Those were the days!

For the last few years however, we’ve both seem to have wanted to slow down a bit during the holidays. It’s not that we do not make a big deal about celebrating, we just prefer to have it low-key with family and some of our closest friends. But does this mean we skimp on the food? Of course not! I could never live with myself if I did. The cooking still continues in full swing. We generally tend to have a very light breakfast, and I cook up a storm for our Diwali lunch. Dinner will typically vary between different kinds of snacky or finger food while we all sit down to a competitive game of cards.

Last year I went a bit nuts in trying to create a buffet of various Indian street food. Although I turned into a headless chicken trying to get a dozen things on the table at the same time, each piping hot and ready to serve, it sure was fun experience. On the menu, we had Samosas, Corn Chaat, Dal Kachoris with Chana Masala, Ragda Tikkis and Dahi Puris to simply name a few. (Yes, there was much more than this on our table. Much, much more.)

This year, I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of having everyone huddled around the buffet table, I want us all to sit down to a nice, homely, festive family meal. So on our Diwali menu this year will be: Methi Matar Malai (recipe follows), Dal Makhani, Bharwaan Bhindi, Baingan Patiala, Jeera Pulao, Garlic Naan, Beetroot Raita and Salad. Simple, wholesome, and absolutely delicious! So… what’s on your Diwali menu this year?

Here’s wishing all my wonderful readers a very happy and tasty festive season!

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Quick, Simple Meal Ideas: Shrimp Sambal

Recipe for Shrimp Sambal taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

I recently received an email from a mom who wanted a few well balanced meal ideas that would cook in 30 minutes or less. When it comes to prepping and planning our weeknight dinners, here’s the guide I follow – pick a veggie, a protein and a carb. Then follow tried and tested family favourite recipes, that you can cook with one hand tied behind your back and you will never fail at putting a delicious meal on the table.

Our weeknight dinners are for the most part, simple, quick meals. For our protein I generally opt for a quick curry style wherein I know that after the initial 8-10 minutes of chopping, sautéing and seasoning, I can then leave it to simmer and trust that the dish will come together with no more baby-sitting on my part. Veggies are great roasted or as a quick stir-fry, or just chopped and thrown into a salad. Top this with some rice, bread or any other grain of choice and you’re done! Here are few meal combinations that I often fall back on, that come together with minimal effort and time:

Meal Option A:
Dahiwali Chicken Curry
Alu Palak
– Rice

Meal Option B:
Roast Veggie Pesto Pasta
– Salad
– Garlic Bread

Meal Option C:
Egg Curry
Mushroom & Peas Pulao
– Salad / Raita

Meal Option D:
Tadka Dal
Matar Paneer
– Rotis / Rice

Meal Option E:
Chana Masala
Jeera Pulao
– Salad

Meal Option F:
Chilli Tofu
Nasi Goreng

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (and if you’re not, then what are you waiting for?), you’ll know that I often post pics of what we eat for dinner. You’ll also notice that at least once every 7-10 days, our dinner includes some form of Sambal (mostly egg or shrimp), a stir-fried veggie and rice. And the sole reason for this is because it is one of Baby Dear’s favourite meals. What can I can say, the kid loves robust flavours.

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Crunch for Time: Potato Masala Melts

Recipe for Potato Masala Melts taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

A grilled cheese sandwich was one of the first big people finger foods I introduced to Baby Dear when he started to show an interest in feeding himself. I figured that if I could stuff a bunch of veggies, protein and some healthy fat in the form of delicious cheese between two slices of whole grain bread, and have him eat it with gusto, then it was win-win for us both! Of course, it worked like a charm. Even today, these kinds of warm sandwiches are always my fall back option when I’m in a crunch for time and need to get something healthy and filling on table, pronto.

I personally love a grilled cheese sandwich for the fact that they can easily fit into any meal of the day – as Rachael Ray would say, they’re a perfect candidate for B-L-D. They’re also so versatile – fill in anything and everything you have, top it off with cheese and grill till warm and crisp. I always have a few different kinds of cheese and bread in my fridge/freezer, and you’ll find us enjoying sandwiches fresh from the griddle at least once a week.

It’s funny that now when I look back and think about it, I seem to have served some form of warm sandwiches every time I had a crowd to feed and a short notice to do so. We busted out the griddle when my bff decided to spend the night with us on a whim after her husband left on a business trip. We had to make a quick run to the corner store at midnight once when we all craved something warm during a movie marathon weekend. And I also remember making an insane number of them at Hubby Dear’s 30th Indian street food themed birthday bash.

A few days ago, as I did some cleanup on the site and started to organize my recipe list, it suddenly occurred to me that in all of these years of cooking and blogging about it, I had, not even once written about this humble and yet, amazingly satisfying dinner option. I made a mental note right there that I just had to get it done soon. This recipe is one of my personal favourites. It uses everything you might have in your fridge, freezer or kitchen pantry. To get more creative and introduce Baby Dear to new lunch ideas for when he starts school soon, I left them open-faced and shoved them into the toaster oven to melt and crisp. Do as  you please and add/omit ingredients as you like, keep it open-faced or slap another slice of bread on top. Afterall, a sandwich is nothing if not flexible. So here it is, as promised!

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A Walk down Memory Lane: Chocolate Chip Oats Cookies

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Oats Cookies taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

As I was cleaning up my archives and updating my recipe list with new links and pictures, it just dawned on me that this month, 8 years ago, was when I sheepishly logged online and typed up one of my first recipes. Its been a wonderful and fulfilling journey so far and I’m so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had through this blog. I can’t wait to see what the upcoming years have in store for me and I’m super pumped to get back into my kitchen and cook up lots more delicious goodies to share with you all!

Like I’ve said time and time again, I was never one for baking. I love my cakes and baked goods – but have always preferred them store-bought. There’s something about becoming a mom that just makes you want to jump off your seat and bake THE best cookies in the world! The day I fed Baby Dear his first solid meal was the same day I knew that no matter what, I wanted to be able to bake one of the best Choco-Chip Cookies, Chocolate Cake and also a mighty fine Pizza for my wee one to enjoy whenever he wished. I wanted to be able to make these things in my own kitchen with as many healthy and fresh ingredients I could gather – and I wanted him to enjoy them and have pride in his mom’s delicacies. And so, this is mostly what I’ve been upto the last few months: baking, tasting, and baking some more. I do believe I have a Chocolate Cake recipe that we absolutely love; so much so, that even my not-so-crazy-for-chocolate Hubby Dear has requested it a few times.

I’ve tried out a few pizza doughs but have yet to pick out the one we all like best. But until then, this cookie is everything that I’ve ever dreamt of baking and more. And as Baby Dear walks in his Big Boy shoes into his first day of school this Fall, I say bring on the play-dates and birthday parties, the school picnics and field trips, the class parties and celebrations – I’m ready to don on my Class Mom hat and carry in baskets full of yummy treats!

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Indian Food: E is for… Egg Curry

Recipe for Egg Curry taken from www.hookedonheat.com

Over six years ago when I first introduced the Intro to Indian Food series of this very blog, I had no idea I was about to start a cult following. What started as a simple desire to help a few of my friends and readers learn the basics of Indian cooking, enabling them to enjoy good food cooked in the comforts of home using fresh, readily available, and healthy ingredients, turned out to be one of THE best decisions I ever made in my writing/blogging career. The series was soon picked up by The Mississauga News as a monthly feature in their food section. Over the years, I’ve received a ton of emails and comments on those posts from folks eager to learn more, much more, about Indian food. And it has been a true pleasure for me responding to each and every one of those queries.

I’ve been reading through a lot of feedback from you guys on the kind of content you’d like me to showcase more of on HoH. Let me just say that I have a couple of fun features/ideas that should take off soon that I’m sure you’ll enjoy very much. One of them that makes me giddy with excitement is a spin off from my Indian 101 series. I know that a lot of you have asked me to bring that back, but I think I can offer you something a step further. Join me, as I cook my way from A to Z of Indian Food. Each post in this series will showcase a recipe of a dish that begins with a letter from the alphabet. I’ll try my best to pick a variety of vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan recipes – both restaurant favourites, and simple home cook secrets.

MORE POSTS ON INDIAN FOOD: A-Z

POSTS ON INTRO TO INDIAN COOKING

On days when I am absolutely out of groceries (which is very, very rare – I must admit), you can still find onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and eggs in my kitchen. This is because I go in panic mode when I’m running short on any one of these items and stock up on them regularly. I consider these ingredients to be my holy grail of cooking and with them in tow, a quick, nutritious and tasty meal is never far behind. Eggs are as versatile in Indian cooking as is the humble potato.  It takes well to any kind of flavor combinations and is the perfect solution to a time crunch. There are as many versions of Egg Curry as there are home cooks – each with its own special touch.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is nothing out of the ordinary. But trust me, it is good. Really good! Its one of the simplest ways I make a curry – everything blended, no chopping required, and ingredients thrown into a pan one after the other and left to create its own magic. I can’t even begin to count the number of times this very recipe has come to my rescue. Be it as a broke college student who needed some homemade nourishment, a busy freelancer strapped for time, or a frazzled mom of a sick, clingy toddler who needed to get dinner on the table pronto. Throw in a couple cups of rice in the rice cooker or a few naans in the oven to warm up, make a huge chopped salad and call it a balanced meal. Last minute guests? Crack open that bottle of Chardonnay and you have a party!

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Our Meal Plan: Week 12

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

Hubby Dear is off early Monday morning on a week-long business trip. He gets back Friday night and then we all take off on a road trip Saturday morning for the long weekend! I have a busy Monday and Wednesday that’s been booked for cooking and photographing pics for the blog. Our (Baby Dear’s and mine) dinners this wee, needless to say is going to be all over the place. What are you having for dinner this week? Please share your menus!

MONDAY:
– Shrimp Sambal, recipe very similar to Egg Sambal
– Rice

TUESDAY:
– Mommy and Baby’s day out at the mall, so will grab dinner there

WEDNESDAY:
– Chicken Shawarma
– Oven Fries

THURSDAY:
Nasi Goreng topped with Fried Egg
– Peanut Salad

FRIDAY:
– Pizza & Movie night!
– Ice cream for Dessert

SATURDAY:
– VACATION!!

SUNDAY:
– VACATION!!

Menu Plan Mondays hosted by Orgjunkie.com



Kids Lunchbox Idea: Chicken Croissants

Recipe for Chicken Croissants taken from www.hookedonheat.com.

A few weekends ago, I found myself alone at home with Baby Dear and a potluck invitation waiting for a response. Hubby Dear was away on a longer than usual business trip, and I was at my wits end trying to entertain an energizer-bunny of a toddler. I’ve always considered myself an introvert and going to a party without my better half to meet new people is not really my cup of tea. But I was desperate. And so was Baby Dear. We each needed to get out and about – and interacting with someone other than each other seemed like a welcome option. So I immediately texted a YES to the invite and started to prep my contribution to the party.

When given an option, I always like to volunteer bringing an appetizer. Its the perfect chance to get creative and think out of the box. Bite-sized finger foods are usually my preferred way to enjoy a meal and I love experimenting with different flavours and textures. I was short of time and needed to come up with something quick and easy. One long stare at the contents of my fridge and I knew just what I was ready to get to work on. I had half a rotisserie chicken from the previous night to work with. Armed with a can of store-bought croissant dough and some veggies and spices, this came together in a breeze. Its delicious fresh out of the oven or eaten at room temperature. I suggest taking this idea and running with it! Experiment with the filling. Change it up to what you and your family enjoy eating. It works great any which way.

As I was working on this recipe, it suddenly occurred to me that this would be perfect for a kids lunchbox. With September right around the corner and schools all set to open up their doors to eager parents and kids after a long summer, back to school sales and lunchbox recipes are hard to look past. My tiny tot is all excited to begin a new phase in life and can’t stop talking about going to a big boys school! Aside from picking out a new school bag, lunch box, clothes and shoes imprinted with his current favourite cartoon character, I’ve been keeping myself busy working on lunchbox recipes for him. Baby Dear has never been a fussy eater and cooking for him is always a pleasure. If the food is tasty, he’ll relish it. If it has chicken, he’ll dive right in. And if it has tons of garlic, then in his own esteemed words – its a party in his tummy!

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