Take-out Cooked-in: Vegetable Hakka Chowmein

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

Until a few years ago, I adored Indian-Chinese cuisine. So much so, that I would gladly stop by our nearby Hakka joint to pick up an order of Chowmein, Chilli Chicken and Spring Rolls, every other week. But over the past two years or so, nothing I’ve tried from their menu has seemed to tantalize my taste buds. I don’t blame the particular restaurant however, since I’ve had the same disappointing feeling no matter which Hakka restaurant we go to – and no matter how highly recommended it comes. Almost anything we’ve ordered has been a flavourless, salty plate of mush. I’ve come to realize that since I’ve started to reduce our salt intake through healthier cooking and eating habits, a lot of the take-out options we used to love don’t quite appeal to us anymore. Just goes to prove that if you reduce the amounts of oil and salt in many of these fast-food items, there’s not much left to be desired.

Now that Baby Dear is an independant ‘lil brat who chooses to entertain himself by nosying around the house, I find myself with enough time to whip up a delicious wholesome dinner almost every evening. Almost. The last couple weeks had been a whirlwind of hot summer days outside, impromtu BBQs, and lawn maintainence. So when this past weekend rolled by as a long one for Canada Day, we were delighted to take it slow and make full use of the heat advisory warning by chilling indoors with the AC cranked up and a bunch of fun movies. It was the perfect excuse and occasion for me to spend some quality time in my kitchen. Baby Dear is a big fan of noodles made anyway, and we were craving some Hakka food ourselves – that definitely called for some wok time!

This recipe is simple, quick and delicious. It’s a definite crowd pleaser and can surely be catered to suit your tastes. I kept it vegetarian since I had a wonderful stock of fresh veggies in my fridge and served it along side some Honey-Garlic Chicken Wings. If you’re up for it, toss in some sliced chicken or shrimp to take this a step further. I’ve also kept the heat level on the mild side since Baby Dear was eating it as well; but if you’d like a slight kick, then add in some finely chopped green chillies. On a lazy weekend afternoon or a busy weeknight, this would make a wonderful meal served by itself. Try it, and I hope you enjoy it as much we did.

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Savouring Summer: Mediterranean Chicken Burgers

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

Hooked on Heat has always been more than just a hobby for me. Since the fall of 2005, when I wrote my first post, this blog has been my outlet to voice my creativity. What started out on a whim one lazy day, gave me the opportunity and freedom to finally realize my dream that I had been nursing since I can even remember. As it grew in readership, I grew along with it; breathing in every slice of good fortune that it brought my way. The icing on the cake of course, was my first cookbook published in the spring of last year.

Then, life took it’s toll. I was creatively burnt out for a while after creating over a 100 new recipes for the book. Then we got busy planning for Baby Dear’s arrival. And once the darling ‘lil monster was here, well, let’s just say that I now consider a 5 minute shower every morning to be a luxury! I’ll be honest here, life has been a crazy roller coaster the last few months. And it’s only just getting started. We recently found out that Baby Dear is severely allergic to wheat. We have yet to test his tolerance to gluten on the whole, but wheat and it’s by-products for now are absolutely off limits! We’ve been told that most kids grow out of these kinds of allergies in a few years, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. This has dramatically changed the way Hubby Dear and I look at food now. So where does this leave the blog, you ask?

Well, for starters, a huge change in on the menu. Hooked on Heat, like our home, will officially be GLUTEN-FREE from this day forth. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy scouring speciality food stores and trying many new gluten-free products. If you haven’t already realized, most of my recipes are naturally gluten-free; save for any bread and baking related ones. I’ve also been busy coming up with creative dinners that would create a wholesome, balanced meal. I’m not a fan of eating rice with every meal, and since we have completely eliminated Indian breads (or ANY bread, for that matter!) from our dinner plates, it’s been a fun challenge to come up with comforting, satisfying results.

Although I have so far taken a positive outlook to this one drawback in Baby Dear’s diet plan, I find myself sometimes saddened by all the delicious goodness he would miss that I enjoyed as child. Crispy puris dunked in a rich potato curry, piping hot samosas and stuffed parathas; all the delicacies he won’t be able to savour. To this, all Hubby Dear says is that everything happens for a reason. And he truly believes that’s the reason I do what I do, so that Baby Dear won’t be deprived of any flavour in life. Because his mama will create all that and more for him. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Ever since Hubby Dear invested on a great BBQ grill last fall, we have been basking in its glory. I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve gotten outside and enjoyed our dinners fresh off the grill. While most times we love having friends and family over for deliciously grilled dinners, we also love to indulge ourselves with some quality together-time, just the three of us, by the fire. We’ve had some yummy taco/fajita nites, evenings filled with kababs and spicy tikkas, and even the not-so-usual-but-surprisingly-delicious grilled corn on the cob! But one of our personal favourites just has to be our big burger nights. Deliciously thick and juicy burgers, sandwiched between toasted buns and topped with your choice of veggies. Sounds good? Then what are you waiting for? Hop on and let’s get grillin’!!

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A ‘no-recipe’ recipe: Garlic Tofu Noodles

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

Today I have for you what I like to call one of my ‘no-recipe recipes’. These are a class of recipes that I often come up with at the spur of the moment – they have no reason, no inspiration. Just a bunch of ingredients thrown together in the hopes of creating something edible. While a few of such of my creations have turned out perfect to go into the trash, many of them have become a family favourite over the years and continue to make their appearances on my dinner table. Most of them are throw-it-all-into-one-pot-and-hope-for-the-best kinda meals, while others are quick assembly ones. But they each have one thing in common: a few starving mouths waiting to be fed.

I remember this one time when I tried cooking spaghetti with some leftover meatball curry, spaghetti bolognese a la Indian, which did not work out much to our liking. Nethier is combining paneer with green curry paste in hopes of creating a Thai-Indo fusion fried rice such a great idea. But I digress, a ravenous tummy = brains cells on holiday! But sometimes, the lack of time, energy and a frighteningly increasing hunger can create the most delicious meal.

Take today for example – I woke up with a strong will to bake. And bake I did! A bunch of sorry looking carrots found its way into my baking pan and turned into the most deliciously moist treat, a perfect pairing for my evening cup of coffee (but that’s a recipe for another day!). Then I slowly crossed off things on my to-do list one after the other. I was on a roll and nothing was going to stop me. Except, of course, my screaming stomach who knows nothing about keeping its cool when hungry. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that I was past my regular lunch time, and I had to act fast! So I did what I could – picked a bunched of that, chopped a few of those, boiled a pot of this, and stir-fried them all together. And might I add, as hideously simple as it sounds – it was a great meal. Or maybe that’s just my tummy talking!
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The girl and her peas: Mushroom & Peas Pulao

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

Let me tell you all a little story. Once upon a time, there was a pretty little girl who absolutely loved peas. She loved them so much that she would even unquestioningly eat steamed broccoli if it was served with a side of peas. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Nothing, not even serving them with deliciously sweet peas would make her eat broccoli, least of all if it was steamed! She would simply devour all the luscious peas and probably slip the broccoli chunks under her seat when no one was watching. Yes, that’s undoubtedly what she would do. But nonetheless, let’s get back to the story shall we?

So yes, this girl loved her peas. She begged her Mom to add them into anything and everything they could possibly be added to. And if it weren’t for her two evil green pea loathing siblings, her Mom might have even given in to some of her hideously bizarre ideas. But then, like every fairy tale, good things started to happen to her. She grew up, moved out of home away from the evil siblings (okay, they’re not all that evil, but they do bug her some all of the time!), and began to cook for herself. Like the ugly frog who turned into a handsome prince on the very first kiss, her peas lusciously flavoured her food. They graced every dish they were added into and touched it with their sweetness.

On days like today, when the clouds darken the sky, and drops of rain fall helplessly on the ground, all she can think of cooking for dinner is a one pot comforting meal comprising of rice, mushrooms, and oh yes, most definitely, peas. The meal was a breeze to make, and the girl and her peas continue to live happily ever after, much to the chagrin of Hubby Dear. If only there was a law forbidding one to hate peas!
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A perfect bite: spicy honey garlic spring rolls

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

As a child, I remember giving out handmade gifts often. Be it friends or family, I almost always had something made out of my own creativity to hand out to them on their special day. I especially remember making gigantic heart-shaped cardboard cut-out greeting card smothered with glitter and little silver star stickers, to give to my teacher when I was in the 3rd grade. I could swear her face lit up with joy, or maybe it was from the sheer pleasure of seeing one of her favourite students suck up to her. That moment stayed with me in my memories and I began making a point to always create something to gift as often as I could.

Even after all these years I still try and continue to keep up with the practice I started eons ago. A few weeks ago, I had a gang of girls over from our book club meet. I always look forward to these all-girl meetings, especially when it’s my turn to host. I get to experiment with fun menus and love the fact that we girls can totally agree on chocolate cake as a filling dinner option.

For the past few months I’ve been toying with the idea of throwing an appetizer sampler party. According to me, it’s probably the best party you could get invited to, second of course only to a chocolate themed night. This book meet was the perfect setting for what I had in mind. We were meeting to discuss the book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, and though I enjoyed the read, I knew that planning the party was going to be even more fun.

It was obvious that I was going to serve tiny bites and mini morsels of divine finger food, in all shapes, sizes and forms. My centerpiece comprised of a huge platter flavoured oven-roasted pita chips and deep bowl overflowing with cool creamy hummus. It was to be the decoy for those health conscious skinny ones. Neatly arranged around that were the actual sinners. Melt-in-your mouth Tandoori wings, my simply-to-die-for Ginger-Chilli Shrimp, and to mention petite little squares of a rich dark chocolate almond fudge cake that I had baked for the first time in my life, among many other delicious treats.

The cake was delicious, to say the very least, and if I were locked alone in a room with it, you’d probably find me digging into it with my bare hands and stuffing large chunks of it into my face. I also made sure I catered to every palate by dishing out a variety of sweet and savoury treats, including, mini quiches, spiced potato wedges, and spiked hot chocolate in mini espresso cups for that something extra after dinner. But the highlight of my evening had to be the warm crisp rolls that simply had me wishing I were in the Orient somewhere, digging into a bowl full of slurpy noodles to go with it.
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Potato passion: Potato Parcels

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

Me and Hubby Dear are what some might call munchers. You know, the kinds that could live on finger foods alone. Yes, now that I think back a little, we most certainly are one of those kinds.

The first time we went out, ever, we unsuccesfully tried to share a plate of french fries. I say we tried, because truly, I was was the one trying my best to get my fork into the plate while Hubby Dear conviniently walked at a much faster pace covering it with his arms. (Walking, since unlike the tradional way of going out to dinner for a first date, we chose to spend a day at the CNE.) Yes, the guy does like his fries, sometimes, I believe, even more than his pretty little wife. We spent the rest of the day bouncing between samosas, popcorn and fiery wings.

When we’re not having friends over, our Friday nights usually turn out the same each week – a bunch of movies enjoyed over a platter of assorted mini treats. As much as our choice of movies may differ, the only variable constant to our evening would be the finger food. Constant, because they mostly always find themselves to be potato-based. And variable, because they almost never taste the same.

I love experimenting with different flavours, and what better way to try a new flavour than to toss it over a bowl of plain boiled and mashed potatoes. From chat masala to chipotle-lime, the list of flavourings is endless, and the combinations one can come up with is overwhelming. We made this a couple of weeks ago. We, because while I fried, Hubby Dear ate, much to the dismay of his burning tongue. The things men do for food, or should I say, potatoes!

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Intro to Indian Food, Part 4 – Indian Street Food: Tandoori Chicken Pops

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

Growing up, I seldom remember a weekend where we had the house to ourselves. While few weekends were spent hosting visiting family and friends from far off places, most of our Saturday nights was spent amidst mighty morsels of succulent bites of food. My parents, like most true-blood Indians, love to shower people with their hospitality and feed them till they’re almost ready to burst. We Indians are known for our need to treat our guests with the utmost care and generosity, and one common way we all seem to achieve in doing so is through our food. Food holds a very special place in any Indian household. No festivity is complete without a table laden with colourful dishes end to end, enough to please a king. It’s no wonder that out of all the rooms in a home, many Indians take the most pride in showing you their kitchens. Truly, we love food, and our life surrounds it. Our conversations, no matter how they begin always seem to divert to the food related with the topic in question. A simple wedding announcement would automatically lead to the designing of the menu. Even meeting up with a long lost friend would be done over lunch or dinner, over food they could reminisce about.

While our meals may be laced with rich aromatic flavours, what I look forward to the most at any Indian-inspired party is the platter of appetizers. Indian hors d’oeuvres range from savoury street food, like the most loved samosas (deep fried pastry filled with potatoes) and pakodas (spiced fritters), to the ever famous tandoori tikkas (marinated meat grilled in a clay oven). They are steamed, grilled and fried. They come in various sizes and shapes, some that can be daintily picked by two fingers, and others that require a spoon and lots of napkins. No matter in what form, they each have something special to offer, and no cocktail party would regret having them.

Ask any one who has ever walked the streets of any major Indian city, be it Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore; and they will attest to the fact that no evening stroll is complete without making a stop at one of the many hawker stalls that surround every busy area in these cities. Street after street, stall after stall, you will be greeted by smiling faces and tempting plates that urge you to come and give it a try. Smothered with spicy and tangy chutneys, yogurt and tons of other fixings, each plate creates a whole new tale in your mouth. My fondest memories of my days spent in India involve sneaking out of the house on the pretext of an evening walk while I actually skipped to hawker next door and enjoyed deep fried savoury chips drowned in tangy yogurt and sweet tamarind chutney, running through the rain to buy a big batch of jalapeno fritters, and waiting in long lines to savour a bite of the best kebabs I had ever tasted on the face of this planet.

A friend recently asked me to make a list of some of my favourite food joints that I strongly feel she should try on her visit to Delhi. My response was simply: if she could stomach it, nothing beats the spicy street food.

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For the love of Food: Edible Cigars

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

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a muncher. You know, the kinds who can nosh through meal times over little bites of delicious finger food. Growing up in a home where tea-time was treated with the greatest pleasure must have had something to do with it, I’m sure. I clearly remember warm summer afternoons, or even cold winter ones for that matter, where we would often substitute our dinner for a platter of the most guilt-ridden snacks. Lovely fritters deep fried till crisp and drowned in a tangy chutney, smokey char-grilled tikkas and kebabs, scrumptious sandwiches with the most amazing toppings, and of course, my personal favourites of deliciously spiced street foods.As I grew older, my love for noshing grew wider, incorporating in it varied flavours, from every cuisine I ever had a go at. Friday nights for me meant junk night – wherein, strictly avoiding a proper 3-course meal for dinner, I would instead opt for a plateful of wings, fries, or on many occasions, samosas. It was the only way I knew how to have a Friday night meal. Anything else seemed totally hideous.

When I first met Hubby Dear, my excitement knew no bounds to find that like me, he too grew up in a household where good food, and especially noshing was of high priority. I’ve heard of many stories from friends on how marriage makes one change ones habits and adapt to the other’s way of life. For me, it was a matter of simply combining the two. It wasn’t hard for me to fuse my love for all things spicy with Hubby Dear’s undying addiction to all things edible. Truly, matches are made in Heaven, but I’d like to believe that ours was cooked up in a 5-star kitchen filled with all things a culinary goddess could only dream of having.

And while our friends and family could happily attest to how different we are from each other, our Friday nights would easily prove otherwise. For in a home where one finds it hard to understand how the other can own a few dozen purses, and still find the need for more, the large platter filled with bite-size crispy treats is always something the two will always look forward to.

On the very note of food, I’m glad to announce that for those living in the GTA area, you will now be able to get my Indian 101 series right at your doorstep. Yes, as crazy and wonderful as it sounds, I now have my own column in the Mississauga News’ monthly food supplement, Nosh. Unfortunately, for those of you eagerly waiting for my next installment on the series, I apologise for the delay. While I already have the next part fully planned out, I will have to restrict myself from putting it up here until it gets published in my column. But fear not, just a few more weeks, and I’ll be back with the next part. I sincerely thank all of you wonderful readers without whose support and encouragement, my work would not have gotten the recognition it has. And for those of you far away and not able to subscribe to the paper, don’t feel left out. The series will surely continue on this site as well. Thank you all again, and happy eating!

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The Weight Issue: Paneer Pockets

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

There comes a time in every one’s life when getting into shape takes the top most priority, and eating healthy seems the only thing you can thing of. For Hubby Dear and me, okay, just me, not surprisingly, these times always seem to prefix a big event – the annual vacation, that special dinner party, family coming for a visit, or the slowly creeping summer! This time, same as years past, my will to get into shape (read: lose some weight!!) is strenghtened by the fact that our 2nd wedding anniversary is coming really close.With just over 6 weeks to stick to my plan, things may not be too easy, considering that I haven’t made that plan as yet!As I walked through the fresh produce aisle during our weekly grocery trip a few days ago, taking in all the wonderful shapes and colours of some not-so-crazy-about vegetables, I caught Hubby Dear wincing as I picked up a perky looking cauliflower.

HD: What’s that for?

Me: Ummn, we need to start eating healthy. I need to lose some weight to fit into that new dress I want to buy for our anniversary.

HD: What new dress? Wait, our anniversary is coming? Do I need to buy you a gift?

Me: Of course you do! It’s our anniversary!

HD: Yes sweety, but I just got you that wonderful thing for Valentine’s remember? I thought it would cover both occasions.

Me: Pity, but yea, you still have to buy me a gift.

HD: Okay, but can we atleast not start eating cauliflower? You know you don’t like it either! Besides, I’ll only eat cauliflower if it’s in the form of Gobi Manchurian.

Me: Yes, but I saw some really fun recipes on many blogs that I’d like to try out. And besides, we need to get more veggies into our diet.

HD: But we already do! Look at the tons of tomatoes you just picked up! Now come on, could we just have Paneer Pockets for dinner tonight?

Me: Do you know how much butter goes into that dough? You might as well eat a whole slab of butter! No, I’m making us a healthier dinner.

HD: Okay, but then if we get into this healthy eating binge you’re dreaming of, then you do realize that we have to cut down on munchies, right? That means our Friday night ritual of movies and finger-food is gonna change. Which also means that World Cup party you’re planning to host can’t have those little treats you’ve planned. And that means you won’t be able to blog about them. I’m sure they’ll taste great, but your readers will just have to do without them. Well, I guess they can surely look forward to your boiled cauliflower recipe!

Me: Wait, I won’t be able to blog about them?

An hour later, I couldn’t help but notice the mile long smile on Hubby Dear’s face as he bit into his Panner Pocket. We were nestled on our couch in front of the big screen TV watching our favourite movie. The cauliflower, if you’re wondering, is happily sitting in my fridge waiting to be turned into a lip-smacking snack in coming days.

And the weight thingie? Eh! Who says I’m out of shape? Round is a shape!!

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Resolving Resolutions: Macaroni with Peas & Carrots

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

With December finally having dawned on us, one can’t help but reflect the year soon to pass us by. I automatically begin with the setting and tackling of my annual resolutions. The most daunting for me of course, is knowing that skipped out on a few of the resolutions I made with gusto at the stroke of midnight eleven months ago.

I frown ever so mildly at the slightly chubbier version of me since a year ago. Needless to say, managing and catering a food blog to ever-indulgent foodies did not play a good part in keeping word to “weight” issue. I twitch my nose and curl my lips at the thought of the next weeks finding me drowned in flour over my over-ambitious Christmas baking plan. The list is being made as we speak, a perfect blend of the sweet, savoury, melt-in-your-mouths, and of course, chocolate choices of the best cookies ever to grace the human palate.

For those who are familiar with my culinary skills, can vouch for my lack of interest to baking. I celebrated my last Christmas with a huge bill of delicous confectionaries, much to Hubby Dear’s dismay. This year, to begin the glorious month with a new resolution, I decided to finally tackle the baking fairy. This I’m guessing, will be no small feat, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Getting back to the topic of concern, I decided to tackle it as best as I could on short notice. With the weather Gods warning us of a cold wintry week ahead, I decided to bring in a little comfort to my very lazy Sunday evening. And I tried my absolute best to make this as healthy as per my earlier resolution demanded. I promise.
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