No Can Do – Masala Mushrooms


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!


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


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


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



Begging for Mercy: Lamb & Potato Curry


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

Let me start by saying that I love receiving your comments and emails. And although I try to respond to them as frequently as I can, many do manage to slip through the cracks – and for that, I apologize. However, although I may not reply to some of your comments, requests or suggestions, you can be assured that I do take each and every one of them into consideration. Well, almost all of them.

Of all the legitimate requests I get for recipes, Lamb & Potato Curry has to be one that most frequently occurs. But not just any lamb curry, many of you want to know how to make this rich and creamy restaurant classic a tad bit healthier, simpler and quick enough for a regular weeknight meal. Well, my friends, I hear ya! This may come as a surprise, but I’m not a fan of restaurant lamb curries myself. I find most restaurant versions too bland and not to mention, oily for my taste. So when a craving of something rich and sinful hits me, I head to my kitchen instead of the Punjabi take-out next door. I created this recipe on one such day when I was desperate to find something that feed my need. I wouldn’t call this a classic Lamb and Potato Curry recipe, but it does come fairly close to feeling rich and creamy, without the added dose of extra fat. On days when I’m feeling extra healthy, I also throw in a bunch of chopped spinach for some added green. Blasphemy yes, delicious – you bet!

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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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Confession time: Honey-garlic Noodles with Shrimp & Greens


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

The second I panic that I’m running out of ideas for a blog post and rattle my brains to think of a quick, funny tale to tell you lovely readers, up pops a story opportunity that’s often quite hard to resist. Take today, for example. I’ve been driving myself up the wall since I woke up (read: woken up by a starving, wailing Baby Dear!) this morning for content for a post. I knew I wanted to update today at any cost and I had the perfect recipe for this dreadful weather to boot; but nothing I came up with sounded even the least bit interesting. That is of course, until I logged on and checked my emails. There it was – a lovely note from one of you!

I’m often asked by readers, friends, and even family, if I ever get embarrassed putting myself and my life “out there” for everyone else to read. Truth be told, I rarely ever think of my life as something other than juicy material for this lovely ‘ol blog! A day hardly goes by without me beaming and declaring that a certain incident would make a wonderful precedent to a recipe I had planned. I honestly believe my mind works this way for TWO main reasons:

  1. I was painfully shy and the biggest introvert I know as a teen, and was easily embarrassed even when I was complimented on anything I had done well. As an adult, I now know who I am as a person and am confident enough to show my true self more often. I am still a bit of an introvert, but trust me when I say this is a huge improvement of what I once was!
  2. Hubby Dear LOVES, and I use that word strongly – hence the caps and bold font, having a post revolve around him. Even the mere mention of him in a post makes him beam! And since he does play a MAJOR part in my life, it’s hard to not have an anecdote without him.

Talking about this has inspired me to share some of my not-so-embarrassing-to-me things that I do often. So here goes:

  • I talk to myself ALL THE TIME! And not just a word here and there – I mean I have real conversations with myself, two sided ones even. Which I why I’m rarely ever bored when alone. I am awesome company, if I may say so myself!
  • Every now and then I imagine myself being a rock star and rock on to my own tunes in the bathroom with a shampoo bottle as my mic!
  • Even though I grew up and spent the first 16 years of my life in Kuwait, I never tasted Hummus till I moved to Canada when Hubby Dear took me out for Lebanese food on one of our initial dates. I decided to give it a try to make him stop looking at me funny when I told him about it and found it delicious! Growing up, Hummus was a once-a-week show at our dinner table, but I always thought it looked gooey and honestly, how could a mash of beans EVER taste good? I kick myself every time I take a spoonful now for having to miss out on all those years of Hummus heaven.
  • When I wake up in the middle of the night and Hubby Dear is snoring away to glory, I always whisper “I love you” into his ear – just so he never forgets!
  • I love to dance. Not at a club or a party like all normal people do – but in all places considered odd; like at the mall, on the street, or in the car. I’m always doing a jig when I’m happy; and I try to be that most of the time.
  • I sometimes lightly kick Hubby Dear when he snores at night, keeping me up because of it. Then when he wakes up with a jerk, I pretend to be asleep. It almost always works and he goes back to sleep without snoring again!
  • Although it’s been over five years since I started this blog, I still get overly excited and gush every time I receive a comment.
  • I must’ve erased at least three more confessions that I wrote before publishing this post. See, I told you I was still a bit introverted!

My, confessions sure make me hungry and I have just the thing for you today. Hubby Dear is away on business, and Baby Dear and his lovely Mama have been cuddled up in front of the fireplace in their jammies all day. One look at the dreary, snowy weather outside, and I knew I needed a big bowl of something warm and comforting! I’ve had a lot of you ask me for this recipe after seeing the pic posted on my header. Try it, and you won’t be sorry!

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A whole new world: Easy Enchilladas


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

Oh hi! Happy New Year!!

It’s me. Yes, I know I promised to be back a while ago. Well, what can I say – life happened! I won’t go about making any excuses for my absence ‘coz there’s so much that I’m dying to share with you! And really, who actually cares why I was gone? The important thing is that I’m back – and I’m here to stay!

Okay, so where do I start? How about that I finally have my own cookbook? I know, right! I was contacted by The Globe Pequot Press asking if I was interested in writing an Indian cookbook for the Knack series. Was I ever! That was Spring 2009. The rest for the year whizzed by under piles and piles of paper with recipe ideas and actual recipes that made the cut, draft deadlines, edits, edits and even more edits, and of course, the cherry to top it all (especially for Hubby Dear!), each and every recipe tested and re-tested for perfection! I’m not kidding when I say we had food coming out through our noses. The fridge was full, the freezer was full, and the stove was always on high gear! We even had friends come over and take weeks worth of meals for themselves. Needless to say, it was a summer where I was blessed well by friends who could manage to take a few days off cooking thanks to my new project! The book finally came out on the stands early 2010, and although I haven’t been able to update my blog about it since, I do have a few copies up for grabs. But more on that later!

So well, my childhood dream of being an author finally saw the light of day. And as much as I still gush every time Hubby Dear tells an acquaintance about my book, I just can’t get over the fact that we now have something even more sweeter to brag about! Our little munchkin! Yup, we had a cute little chubby boy exactly three months ago. So while I know for a fact that one of the things you enjoy most reading about on my posts are the antics of silly ‘ol Hubby Dear, I’m sure that from now on Baby Dear will have his own fan following! With only three measly months of life under his belt, the little guy has already started to show signs of becoming a foodie soon. Neither me nor Hubby Dear, or for that matter, anyone who eats anything good around him, can get away without him drooling and giving us the evil eye! Show him a bowl of cereal or a banana and he won’t bat an eyelid. But have him look at you enjoy a large platter of nachos and spicy wings, or a plate of Biryani, and he’ll make you want to crawl to a corner and hide!

As much as I’m enjoying exploring this new role as a mom (of a budding food enthusiast, I might add!), I’m also limited to the amount of time I can spend cooking our weeknight dinners. Weekends still have me whipping up a big batch of spicy Chicken Curry and Pulao when both my boys are busy entertaining each other. But weeknights, oh don’t ask! Quick cooking has taken on a whole new meaning! But I’ve learnt to tweek some of our favourite dinner meals to incorporate easy short cuts and substitutions so that we can still enjoy them without having me bawling on the floor while Baby Dear looks on amusedly! This recipe is one of those that’s pretty much assembly only and delicious enough to fall back on any day.

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Hello… anybody there?


I know it feels like I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth, but let me assure you that I’m still here. Barely have any time to breathe, but living nonetheless! The past months seem to have just flown by what with me being knee deep projects – from writing the cookbook, to it getting published and now moving to a much bigger, lovelier house. While my days are taken over with selecting furniture, my kitchen is humming as usual.

Currently I’m in the midst of unpacking my kitchen and looking forward to set up shop in a much more bigger, brighter and open concept one. And along with all the opening of boxes I’m also doing a ton of shopping and decorating my eat-in kitchen with adjustable bar stools. So while it does seem like I haven’t cooked at all, I can assure that I have – just not anything I would deem blog-worthy. But I do promise to bring you a steaming pot of delicious curry soon. Very soon. It is afterall, a promise!



Warming tones: Make-your-Own Chicken Noodle Soup


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

Colder weather means more time indoors. More time indoors for me can only mean ONE thing: Cooking. And lots of it! The last few weeks saw me hover from one ethnic market to another lugging back bagfuls of spices, sauces, condiments and flavourings, amidst baskets of colourful fresh produce. Yes, you could definitely say that the Holidays bring about the creative cook in me. I find myself waking up with my head full of ideas and flavour pairings. Then, a few minutes later, I’m dressed in my warmest layers running off to the store to pick up the items needed for my experiment.

This of course, has got Hubby Dear beaming with pleasure. Our dinners for the past few days have included the exotic flavours of various cuisines, fused together in a style that I deem myself an expert of. Warm velvety curries with hints of hot, sour, salty and sweet tones tease our palate. Vegetables have found new tasty ways to welcome themselves on our table. And soups, oh what can I say about the soups!

As I kid, I always connected soups to the kind of food one has when you’re sick in bed with a pounding headache and a runny nose. Our winter meals, although consisting of richly warm comfort food, somehow failed to include this food group altogether. As a busy working student stuck in the cold Canadian winter devoid of a mother’s culinary touch, I found throwing in a can of beans with some veggies and spices in a pot full of bubbling chicken stock made for a fairly quick, nutritious and decent enough meal. Over the years, my soup repertoire has grown immensely from the sorry state it once was, and now I can’t imagine going a week in the cold months without a bowl or two of soup to comfort me.

This chicken-noodle soup is as simple as it can get. And yet, has the ability to carry flavours as complex as you wish it to. My favourite way to serve this dish is to lay out all the ingredients in individual bowls to enable each of your guests to design their own meal. Add in what you like, as much as you like; and no matter how you do it, there’s no wrong way to enjoy it.

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