No Can Do – Masala Mushrooms

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 22nd, 2011 | 11 Comments


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

Growing up, the only mushrooms I ever had were the ones my Mom drained out of a can to spread on pizza. It may sound completely appetizing, but I loved it. So much so, that I would actually fish out and pieces I could find on leftover slices of the pizza. And yes, sadly, pizza was the only time my Mom opened the can of mushrooms. It wasn’t until I actually moved to Canada that I had my first taste of a real, fresh mushroom. One bite, and I was blown away. The canned stuff felt like rubber and I was instantly obsessed. Still am, to this day, mushrooms remain a favourite vegetarian option for me. Only second to the humble eggplant, of course!

When my parents were visiting during the early months of Baby Dear’s birth, my Dad had a craving for mushrooms. Like many people from Indian households back home, where mushrooms were a very rare sight at the dinner table, he wanted to know what they were like. He had often heard and read of recipes where mushrooms were cooked in a thick, almost dry masala base. He asked me to cook up a batch for him. I was more than than eager too!

It was almost too simple to put together. Like most Indian recipes, I started with a base of onions and tomatoes, slowly sauteing it till all moisture evaporated and the flavours of the various spices had a chance to deepen. Next came the mushrooms, a few more minutes of slow cooking, and voila! Dinner was ready. My Dad had waited a long while to eat mushrooms cooked this way, and his expectations were pretty high. He took a bite, looked at me, and said that I HAD to teach my Mom this recipe. My Mom’s retort – they didn’t sell mushrooms at the vegetable market she shopped at!

This is a recipe I often fall back on on days when the heart desires something meaty, rich and lip-smackingly good! I’ve made it for fancy dinner parties, used it as an extravagant side for a simple Dal-Chawal, and also as a filling for sandwiches and wraps. I chose white button mushrooms since they easily take on robust flavours and shine through. I suspect creminis and oysters would also work well, but honestly, I have yet to try them this way.

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This Week for Dinner: #2 Giving Thanks!

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments


Happy Thanksgiving!! With this being the long Canadian Thanksgiving weekend here, we had a chance to put in some great family fun time. Although I didn’t go all out put together a big feast (we have been crazy busy with some commitments and had to really let a big dinner pass by this year, but I’m planning on doing a big family feast in the next few weeks – American Thanksgiving weekend maybe!), we did enjoy a lovely family meal of simply Indian Home-style Chicken Curry and Biryani.

This coming Friday, Baby Dear turns a milestone – he turns one people, ONE!!! I can’t even believe how quick this past year passed us by! It’s been a fun journey so far, and with the ‘lil dude just fresh on his feet, I’m looking forward to a gazillion fun experiences more! We also got a chance to unpack all our sweater and warm, comfy blankets, so Fall in on my mind. Which can only mean – soups, stews and curries!

MONDAY: Leftovers from Thanksgiving long weekend
There’s Biryani, Chicken Curry, some delicious Dal and bit of Baingan Bharta. And for dessert, some yummy leftover Cherry Pie from Whole Foods!

TUESDAY: Mixed Bean Soup & Crackers

WEDNESDAY: Honey-Garlic Chicken, Stir-fry Veggies, Rice

THURSDAY: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Salad

FRIDAY: Chicken Marsala with Sauteed Mushrooms, Roast Potatoes, Salad. And homemade Chocolate Cupcakes with rainbow icing for Baby Dear’s first b’day!! Yes, my ONE year LOVES Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms & Roast Potatoes on the side. I may have hit the jackpot! 

SATURDAY: OUT!!!

SUNDAY: Potato & Egg Curry, Rice, Raita, Salad

Menu Plan Mondays hosted by Orgjunkie.com



A Change of Heart: Black Bean Chili

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 7th, 2011 | 4 Comments


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

The past weekend we had some of our closest friends and family join us to celebrate Hubby Dear’s b’day. It was a surprise party I managed to pull off for him at the very last minute. And that was after I sent him 3 big, fat helium balloons and a box of chocolate covered strawberries to his workplace. Yes, I know, I AM the most awesome wife there is. But don’t worry, I more than let him make up for it on my b’day by making sure I am showered with a boat load of presents! Ladies, if you want to know how I do it, it’s simple – give him a list of all the things you want and make sure to let him know where to get them at. And if your hubs is super busy trying to get multi-million dollar deals for his company like mine is, then just give him a hand by shopping for yourself. With his credit card. Like I do.

Anyway, where was I? Right, awesome wife! Who gave him a fabulous surprise party! And might I add he had no clue. Even with a fridge full of food. But most importantly, even with a clean, pristine home on a Saturday. With Baby Dear around. Yup, he sure didn’t see it coming! Needless to say, it was fun and of course, a tad bit tiring for me too. But to see a large crowd gathered in our home, over delicious comforting food – I’d do it again, in a heart beat!

There was a time when we would have large dinner parties like it was nobody’s business! I would cook a lavish buffet of food, making sure there were at least a few of everyone’s favourite dishes. I have been told that some skip their lunch knowing that sitting down for dinner at our table would totally be worth it. I have also been told (by Hubby Dear, of course) that when I entertain, I turn into this crazy cooking monster who has all the burners on her stove working at once while the food processor’s running and the oven on full steam! Yes, I admit, I do tend to go a bit overboard – most times making twelve different dishes for ten people. And that’s not including appetizers and dessert! But alas, that was all pre-Baby Dear.

Which is why I have no idea what possessed me to send out that email ten days before D-day to a collective group of fifteen. And the fact that I actually pulled it off, has me even more stunned. What I have learnt from it though, is that I have in fact, changed. I’m no longer the Kitchen Hitler who shuns away anyone wandering in while she’s cooking. I do however, blame that on the tiny apartment kitchen we had. Our kitchen now, in our new home, is literally the center of it all. It’s bang in the middle of the main floor, connecting both, our dining and family rooms. It’s open, with an island in the middle where Hubby & Baby Dears often sit while I rustle up something yummy. The island is also where some our friends sat and munched while I continued getting dinner ready at the b’day party, all the while making me feel part of the festivity and not a short order cook!

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, and while there will be some among us who won’t let anyone tip-toe into the kitchen until all the food is perfectly set in their respective serving dishes on the table, I encourage the rest of you to accept all the help you can get and be thankful for those hands that do. As for me, I’m making a large pot of spicy chili in my beautiful red dutch oven, and serving it up alongside some chips, roast potatoes and fixin’s. After all, I’ve never been one to serve a turkey. It just takes too much time!

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This Week for Dinner: #1 Baby & Me

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 3rd, 2011 | 4 Comments


I need to confess. I have a love-hate relationship with menu planning. There have been weeks where I find myself all put-together: completely balanced meals planned for the entire week in advance, a grocery list filled with healthy food choices and snacks, and my grocery budget in check. Then there are weeks in between where I endlessly stare at my open fridge and pantry slowly shaking my head at the lack of options to throw down a good dinner, Baby Dear wailing and tugging at my pants for attention, and a frantic call is made to Hubby Dear to pick up something, anything on his way home for dinner. And most often than not, it’s the dreaded tasteless fast food that walks in the door with him in tow.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to slowly get the HoH household on track. Since Baby Dear is now a regular at our dinner table, I’ve been forced to plan meals ahead that are not only nutritious, but also a delight to eat. Thank heavens, Baby Dear has been a trooper thus far – eating anything and everything we put in front of him. Except for bananas that is, the mere smell of us peeling one makes him gag. Can someone please enlighten me on how an 11-month old who can scarf down such gourmet creations as Chicken Marsala (which by the way, is delicious at Olive Garden!!), Lamb Biryani and Malaysian Chicken Curry feels like throwing up just looking at a banana? Well, I can’t really complain. I mean, how many 11-month olds do you know that happily eat such strong vibrant flavours anyway?

This is exactly why I’ve decided to give this weekly meal planning gig another whirl. A little more seriously this time around. My philosophy is simple: plan well balanced dinners, include a variety of flavours & textures, leftovers for lunch, and enjoy a night out on the weekend! Hubby Dear is away on business for most of this week; Monday to Friday, to be exact. So it’s just Baby Dear and me. But we gotta eat too, and there no reason why we can’t enjoy a good meal on our own now is there! So here’s what Mommy and Baby plan to gorge on while Daddy’s away…

MONDAY: Leftovers from Hubby’s surprise b’day party
There’s Tandoori Chicken Wings, Kebabs, Rosemary Roast Potatoes and Eggplant Parmesan to choose from. Not to mention, a Chocolate Mousse Cake and Pineapple Trifle too!

TUESDAY: Soy Ginger Fish, Sauteed Bok Choy, Fried Rice (brown)

WEDNESDAY: Chicken Noodle Soup with Veggies

THURSDAY: Homemade Pizza

FRIDAY: Chana Dal Masala, Sauteed Peppers & Potatoes, Rce (Basmati)
Hubby Dear’s back, and there’s nothing like a big comforting bowl of Dal and rice after a week of restaurant meals!

SATURDAY: OUT!!!

SUNDAY: Indian home-style Chicken Curry, Rice (Basmati), Salad

Menu Plan Mondays hosted by Orgjunkie.com