Category Archives: Dinner

East to West, India is the Best!

Whenever anyone mentions India, this ^^^ is literally the first thing that pops into my head! It’s a chant that I’ve heard so many avid cricket fans sing simultaneously while they watch their home team play a match. It’s dorky but super catchy, you’ve got to admit.

Ok, super random, but seeing that today is India’s Independence Day, I thought it would be fun to do a post on the Indian food the husbo and I (ok, who am I kidding, it’s really just him) have been cooking. It started out with him making his mother’s mattar paneer recipe, and then he wanted to make one of his favorite’s: lamb keema.

My major participation was ensuring we ate yummy parathas with our meal, and also making sure we had some great rosé. The parathas are the ones that I used to eat as a kid – they’re super flakey, frozen parathas from Malaysia, and I was beyond excited when I realized you can find them at any Asian grocery store (hello, HMART!)  

A few weeks ago, randomly on a weekend, we were craving samosas (that makes me laugh out loud!) so we turned to Yelp and found out that IndAroma – a place that we almost used to cater our wedding – is so close to our home, like 10 minutes down the road! So we drive over, stop at Starbucks for iced tea, and then I suggest that the husbo race me to the other side of the parking lot (me walking, him driving at “parking lot” speed, ha!) I win – duh – so while I wait for his little turtle butt to drive over, I discovered I was standing next to this cute little Indian grocery. I was so excited about it! No more driving 13 miles to the dinky, not so cute, other Indian store. I immediately spotted the dhokla mix and picked up a bunch of packets, took it home, and whipped up that deliciousness, complete with sauteed mustard seeds & cilantro to garnish #yummmm

Fast forward to a couple of nights ago, the husbo was craving mushroom sabzi and so he made it. It turned out great! I made dhokla again, but this time messed it up a little (I didn’t grease the dish properly so everything crumbled and stuck to the bottom, noooo.) The cilantro & mint chutney was super easy – it’s literally cilantro, tomatoes (from our herb garden!), yellow onion, jalapeno, mint, salt & pepper to taste, and lime juice. Then you mush with a hand blender and ta-da!

just realized I spelled dhokla wrong. oops.

I’ll be honest, the husbo & I don’t consider ourselves to be very traditional when it comes to a lot of things Indian, but it turns out we’re kind of obsessed with the food. Go figure.

Israeli Couscous

Israeli_Couscous

The greatest thing about food is all the “togetherness” that it brings. Families & friends bond at the dinner table. They laugh, argue (not just over who gets the last piece of garlic bread!) and learn new things about each other with every meal. New family members are celebrated with fancy dinner-dances, and who can forget the comfort you get from devouring your grandmother’s signature dish. Mothers’ show their love through a well thought-out meal after a long day, and little kids have the chance to experience new ingredients & flavors, all while secretly expanding their palates.

Do you see what I mean? SO much happens when food is involved.

One other thing that I love about food, is being able to share & swap recipes with my loved ones. Not only does the recipe you’re given instruct you on how to recreate a dish, but it also allows you to reminisce.

That being said, this particular recipe was adapted from one of my favorite dishes by Mum Khaneja. She introduced the hubso & I to Israeli couscous this past summer (during our trip home for her birthday weekend) and we automatically hit it off! Because of the instant attraction, I so eagerly wanted to share this recipe with my mum… and finally got the chance bring her some couscous when we  recently visited HK. She hasn’t gotten round to cooking it though, because – funny enough – I forgot to give her the recipe. Hah.

Anyway, this one’s for you, Mum!

Israeli Couscous w/ Veggies

1 pkt Roland’s whole wheat Israeli couscous – I use this one in particular
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, julienned
3 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup carrots, shoestringed
1/2 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4-8 oz sugar snap peas, washed & trimmed – I love them, so tend to go overboard here!
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Prepare the couscous as directed on the packet. After this is done set the pot aside, covered, and grab a wok/ non-stick sauté pan. Heat the oil and sauté the garlic over medium-high heat for about 1 minute, but not until it’s browned. Add the onions and cook until slightly browned & translucent. Then add your carrots, sugar snap peas & mushrooms, and cook thoroughly for about 3-4 minutes (you’ll want the sugar snaps to become a bright vibrant green!) Season with salt/ pepper as you see fit. Next, combine the couscous with your sautéed veggies and make sure you leave any remaining liquid in the mix (this is where all the flavor is). Sauté for another minute or two, until all components are well incorporated, and turn off the heat. Fold in the spinach so that is just begins to wilt.

Serve & enjoy hot. You can have this as a side dish at a BBQ (think lamb chops, sausages, etc.) or throw in your choice of meat to create an entree-size meal.

This recipe makes about 4 (side) servings.

Curry-Mustard Salmon

Curry Mustard Salmon

Oh man, it’s been quite a while since I last posted a recipe! I promise you won’t be disappointed with this one; it’s one of my most favorite ways to prepare salmon!

This is a recipe that I’ve adapted from something my sister’s husband makes. He does most of the cooking in their home, and he’s really good at it (side note: he makes the most delicious open-face enchiladas, suuuper yum!) so I can totally see why the sister sticks to baking. So, not too long ago when I was over for dinner at their place, the brother-in-law cooked up this killer salmon entree, and I was all like ‘OMG, best salmon ever.’ Seriously, it was so good that I still remember the meal: what we drank, what he made as sides, etc. (oh, and still have the photo I took of the table!) That night I distinctly remember going home thinking I could totally make my own version of his recipe… and that I did! So here we have us some curry-mustard salmon a la Kirti.

This recipe is good for 2 people, but if you’re cooking for 1, or for 3+ you can always use your judgment & modify quantities accordingly.

Curry-Mustard Salmon

2 6oz. salmon fillets
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp deli mustard – I like to use Grey Poupon
1 tsp curry power
1 tsp honey
a pinch of paprika
a pinch of garam masala
1 tsp sesame seeds, ground
1/2 pkt kraft shake’n bake extra crispy
salt & pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine oil, mustard, curry powder, paprika, garam masala, sesame seeds & honey. Mix well – before you add the honey the consistency will be a little bit grainy, but afterwards it should smoothen out a little.

Position an oven rack about 6″ from the top broiler and preheat. Place the salmon fillets on a foil wrapped baking tray (this is more for a speedy cleaning process than for the salmon. I mean without the aluminum you’ll be scrubbing the pans like you’re Cinderella). 

Place the salmon fillets on the tray and generously coat with the marinade you just whipped up in the bowl. Let the salmon marinate for about an hour, covered, in the fridge, on the bottom shelf. Once this is done, sprinkle your shake’n bake over the tops to coat each fillet.

Broil the salmon until golden brown and just opaque in center, about 10-12 minutes tops. You want to keep a close eye on your fish, though, since it’s so close to the heat you don’t want the breadcrumbs to burn, or even worse, your salmon to dry out from overcooking!

Ok wait… I have a confession: I don’t actually use the broiler when making my salmon! The husbo & I have a NuWave Oven, gifted to us by his parents, so I use that and cook my salmon to perfect in a mere 7 minutes! If you’ve ever wondered if that thing works, trust me it does, like wonders~~~ and nobody paid me to say that!

Now the salmon is ready to serve with a side of your choice. I did a mixed green salad tossed in a sesame dressing, and oven roasted butternut squash & sweet potatoes, which I have so kindly included the recipe for.

Oven Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled & cubed
1/4 butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – I think… I usually do a generous drizzle so use your discretion
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 375℉.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss, until the squash & sweet potato cubes have been generously coated with olive oil and seasonings. Allow to marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Cover a baking tray in aluminum foil and spray with baking spray (this will prevent the cubes from sticking to the foil & burning as they cook.) Evenly spread out the cubes on to the tray & place onto the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 25 mins, or until soft in the center and brownish on the outside. I would suggest you check in at the 15 mins mark and rotate the pan. At this point you can also toss the cubes around a little, to get as much of an even cook as possible.

Remove from oven carefully and scoop onto your plate. Enjoy while hot… but please don’t get so excited & burn the inside of your mouth.

Veggie Chili

A bowl of chili is another one of those foods that I had never tried before moving to the US. I guess even if they did have chili in Hong Kong I still wouldn’t have tried it, seeing as I used to be a vegetarian until the age of 16.

Because of my veggie roots (totally didn’t realize that would be a pun… until I typed it, ha.) I prefer to make my chili sans viande. I substitute the ground beef with Smart Ground, and honestly don’t even realize the difference! The soy protein has all the substance ground meat brings to the table, even a hint of that delicious smoky flavor.

Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili

1/2 packet smart ground
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1/3 jalapeño, minced
1 tbsp cayenne (optional)
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp  paprika
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper (to taste)
2 tbsp mexican blend cheese (optional)
sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, occasionally stir & allow the onions to cook until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño and garlic, cook for another 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add the smart ground and crumble while incorporating it into the mixture. Let it brown for 3 minutes. While stirring you will notice that the smart ground is drying out, so add the water and continue to stir. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, black beans, and season with a little more salt & pepper. Add the cumin, paprika and cayenne; stir to fully incorporate the seasoning throughout.

Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low – at this point, I like to fold in 1 tbsp of cheese to thicken. Gently simmer, covered, until the vegetables are soft and the flavors have fully developed, about 15 minutes.

Make sure you taste the chili and season with more salt & pepper if you think it needs it. Serve and garnish with cheese, sour cream and thin slices of jalapeño. Obviously the jalapeño is optional (depending on your spice tolerance) but if you’re looking for a great photo-op, it really makes the colors pop.

Chicken Parmigiana

For my first post, I thought I would do one of my most favorite things to eat! All my friends know that I generally prefer Asian cuisine over anything, so to not have an Asian dish as my first entry is going to shock you all. Hah!

When I crave Italian food, this is always my go to choice.

This dish reminds me of when I first moved to the US for college; I didn’t experience the “culture shock” that our high school college counselor eagerly prepped us for. I did, however, experience food shock. There were so many different types of foods that I had never eaten as a child growing up in Hong Kong. Until this day I’m still not sure if it’s because I was an incredibly fussy eater, or because we just didn’t have that much of Italian/ American spread over in Asia.

For the longest time I couldn’t remember that ‘Parm’ was not an abbreviation for parmesan, though I really don’t know anymore – there are so many Chicken Parmesan recipes out there. Anyway, I was first introduced to this dish at a little Italian joint in Providence’s infamous Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill.  I liked the description on the menu and ordered it. I was so excited when it arrived because I just knew it was going to be good… and OMG, it seriously was. I immediately fell in love with the different textures (soft, crispy, juicy) – I’m big on a variety of  textures, that’s really important for me in a dish – and needed to figure out a way to replicate the plate for myself.

So here’s my take on this Italian favorite. It involves a pseudo-homemade tomato sauce (I like to make things easy for myself, when I can), whole wheat spaghetti, a deliciously baked chicken cutlet, and most importantly fresh basil leaves, which the husbo & I grow in our little balcony garden.

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Chicken Parmigiana

1 lb 99% fat free chicken breast cutlets (thinly sliced)
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pasta sauce (I prefer classico’s red pepper)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 packet of shake’n bake
1 egg, beaten
pinch of cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 – 6 leaves basil chiffonade
whole wheat spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 cup italian blend cheese, grated
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 tsp italian seasoning
extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

Preheat the oven at 400℉ and begin by prepping the chicken. Wash thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle each side with salt & pepper. Do the same with the cornstarch, being sure to really massage it in.

Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Pour the packet of Shake’N Bake into a shallow dish, and the beaten egg into a separate dish – creating a little assembly line. Dip the cutlet in the beaten egg, and then dredge in the Shake’N Bake. Place on the baking tray.

The baking tray goes onto the middle shelf of the oven, for 20 minutes… or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. If you don’t have a thermometer (I don’t) you can just check the color of the meat, making sure it’s not pinkish (this is super important, because let me tell you: Salmonella is friends with no one!) and check it’s juiciness by piercing it with a fork.

Coat a medium sauce pot with extra virgin olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 5 minutes until the onions are browned, soft & fragrant. Carefully add the tomatoes (they enjoy splashing everywhere), stir and cover for 3-5 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to get mushy. Add the Italian seasoning, tomato paste, and pasta sauce – stir thoroughly. As the sauce thickens, I prefer to keep the tomatoes chunky, but feel free to use a hand blender to smooth it out – if that’s what you like. Season with sugar, salt & pepper. Stir thoroughly, lower the heat, cover, and keep warm for later.

Don’t forget to prepare the pasta while the chicken is cooking! I’m not a huge fan of plain pasta, so I keep a little bit of the tomato sauce on the side and mix it into the spaghetti before serving.

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Ladle the tomato sauce over the baked chicken cutlet and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and garnish with the basil chiffonade.

Serve hot with spaghetti and enjoy!