Spaghetti Squash “Pad Thai”


I am not a cold weather person. I love sun and warmth and frolicking on warm sandy beaches. But now it is winter. Initially I was shivering under my down comforter waiting for the sun to come back, but slowly I have come to appreciate certain things about the cold season. I love feeling the crunch of leaves under my new boots while walking on the sidewalk, the sound of crackling sparks from the logs in the fireplace, and curating my ever expanding winter wardrobe of gorgeous scarves and coats and sweaters. But most of all, I love to eat all the “comfort food” that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Things like hot chocolate with melty marshmallows, hearty meaty stews, creamy soups in flaky bread bowls, and any big bowl of pasta with plenty of sauce. Unfortunately every food I am craving is a giant carbohydrate overload. I am living in paleo, gluten free, vegan, low-carb California, and eating all the typical comfort food is often looked upon with judgement from my fellow health conscious Californians. Luckily there are alternatives. Instead of eating spaghetti and meatballs, I can use spaghetti squash for the pasta which several of my paleo friends have been advocating for some time now. To be honest, it does look like spaghetti and meatballs, but it definitely does not taste like it. My comfort food seeking side was not too happy with this substitution. I just couldn’t mess with a classic.

But actually,  my paleo peeps were on to something. I like the idea of substituting the spaghetti squash for noodles: Low-carb and an additional serving of vegetables (win-win!).  I needed another option besides a tomato based sauce, and found a recipe with a peanut sauce and Asian flavors similar to Pad Thai.  I also loved the crunch of the crushed peanuts and the option to add any other vegetables such as chopped red peppers or vegetable sprouts. In fact, I liked this dish so much that I am considering buying a spiralizer to make noodles out of zucchini. But will be saving that for another winter day though…

Spaghetti Squash “Pad Thai” Recipe



For Squash:

  • 2 medium spaghetti squash
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantro
  • ¼ cup crushed peanuts **Note: Blend in food processor. Do not leave this ingredient out, it adds nice crunch and texture

For Peanut Sauce:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  • ⅔ cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter **Note: You could probably use regular peanut butter, but if you do, omit the sugar/agave
  • ¼ cup sugar or agave
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon Sri Racha chili sauce (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Half the squash and scoop out the seeds.

2. Drizzle inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast for 45 minutes or until soft.

3. Remove squash from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Take fork and scoop out the squash. It should come out in little strands that look like noodles. Set aside.

4. While squash is roasting, place all sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then turn down to low and simmer for 5 minutes while stirring almost constantly.

5. After sauce thickens a bit, take off heat and set aside. (I liked mine on the thicker side so let it cook for awhile longer).

6. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add minced garlic, and cook for a minute. Add spaghetti squash, ½ -¾ cup of the peanut sauce pan, chopped cilantro, crushed peanuts. and combine. Stir to combine and cook until heated through (about 2 minutes).

7. Plate and garnish with a little more crushed peanuts and chopped cilantro. Can also add some bean sprouts or other vegetables if desired. Add more sauce if needed. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3-4 servings as main (5-6 as a side)

Based on this recipe from Leelalicious.

Fruity Chia Seed Pudding

20140821_091601_1Growing up in America in the 1980’s, if you heard the name “chia” you would automatically associate it with Chia Pets, which were terracotta pots shaped like animals. The concept was to rub moistened chia seeds on the pot and after awhile, they would sprout and grow chia “fur” on the pet.

Remember this?

chiapet I never thought that decades later I would see chia seeds in my kitchen again. Thanks to their high nutritious content (being packed with fiber, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids among others), chia seeds’ popularity grew and are a household name once more. I especially love them in smoothies or my favorite: chia seed pudding.

So easy, delicious and nutritious…try it for breakfast today! Ch-ch-ch…Chia!

Fruity Chia Seed Pudding


2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds

½ cup almond milk

1 teaspoon agave syrup (optional, to taste)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Toppings Ingredients:

Option 1: ½ cup blueberries and raspberries

Option 2: 1 small diced mango and 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts


  1. Add in bowl the night before eating: Chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla and agave if using. Mix well.
  2. In morning, mix chia pudding and top with any topping you like such as berries or nuts.

Notes: Makes 1 serving. Easy to double. Great make-ahead recipe for busy mornings.

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Chocolate Avocado Truffles


In parenting, some moments you just want to last forever. And others you just want to forget. The funny thing is that the line between the two is often blurred.

This week my two little boys made me this beautiful heart “sculpture” with their toy cars while arguing over who loved me more. I must say I was enjoying the conversation. At least initially. It went something like this:

20140812_124640_1– I love mommy.

– No I love mommy more!

– Well I love mommy’s hair. It’s so pretty!

– Well I love mommy’s tummy. It’s sooo soft. Just like a big pillow!

Hmmm…not the best comparison I thought, but I didn’t want to lose this loving moment we were sharing. So I justified it to myself…I mean, who doesn’t like a nice comfy pillow?

But the conversation was on a downward spiral and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It completely hit bottom when my younger one chimed in, “Awww I love it! It looks like there is a baby in mommy’s tummy!”.

And just like that, happy mommy time was officially over.

Actually I am thankful for my little guy’s astute observation of my waistline, for he forced me to realize I need to get back to my healthy eating habits which are currently on hiatus thanks to summer vacation.

Every summer we come to California to see my family and I always go overboard with all the yummy food. Vacation for me means no schedule and over indulging in everything. (Mint chocolate chip ice cream at 1am? Why yes I will have 3 scoops please!) In just 4 weeks I have seen the scale steadily creep higher and higher and my tummy get bigger and dare I say, more pillow-like.

So I decided to compromise. I will add more vegetables and make healthy choices but not deprive myself. And that is when I discovered avocado chocolate truffles. Yes, that is correct… Avocado Chocolate Truffles! All the nutrients in avocados plus all the antioxidants in dark chocolate combine to make a decadent and arguably healthy, treat. Although I won’t be on vacation forever, these truffles let me feel like I always am!



6-8 oz (Almost 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips (or use dark chocolate if you want less sweet)

½ cup mashed avocado (about 1 small avocado)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup cocoa powder, for coating. *Substitute any other coating such as ground almonds or pistachios, coconut or chocolate sprinkles


  1. Melt chocolate on stovetop or in microwave. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Mash avocado and vanilla with fork or handheld stick blender until smooth. (I prefer to use the hand blender so it is completely smooth)
  3. Mix avocado mixture and chocolate together with spatula and cool in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Scoop out bite size pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each piece into a ball and drop into bowl of cocoa powder. Roll around to coat. ( Instead of cocoa powder, you can use shredded coconut or chopped pistachios, rainbow sprinkles or anything you like.) Store in the refrigerator, but you can eat them at room temperature.

Pantry Diva Notes:


Use a handheld blender to get the avocado really smooth


Mix the avocado, vanilla, and chocolate well before chilling in refrigerator.

**By the way, these are super easy to make and fun to make with the kids! Just try not to eat them all at once!

Recipe inspired by the Detoxinista

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Rolled a few truffles in rainbow sprinkles which were a big hit for the kids.

Restaurant Review: Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar

I am one of those people who get intense food cravings, and cannot be satisfied until my craving is fulfilled. Just yesterday, I needed to have baked brie with green apple slices.  And the day before, it was red velvet cake (specifically the red velvet with cream cheese frosting, not the whipped cream frosting). My food cravings happen pretty often, but the thing I crave for the most is by far: chocolate.

The urge to eat chocolate strikes unexpectedly at any given time, and this time happened as I was at Mall of the Emirates.  Just as my chocolate craving hit, I looked up to see a restaurant called Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar. With the word Chocolate in the title, I knew I couldn’t  go wrong.

store front

I walked inside and noticed their bright interiors, smiling staff, and delicious chocolate displays, and had a good feeling I was in the right place. There was ample seating and we immediately got our menus and started perusing what chocolatey goodness to order.

After flipping through the pages complete with mouth watering pictures, my chocolate craving was on overdrive and we decided to order dessert first.  First to arrive was the molten chocolate cake, a warm moist cake with chocolate syrup and served with vanilla ice cream. I felt pure bliss as my spoon pierced into the cake and released the steam and chocolate syrup inside.

molten lava

The next dessert to arrive was the chocolate fondue, a chocolate dipping sauce served with fresh berries, brownies and bananas. The fondue was not only delicious but also fun to eat!

choc fondue

Dinner time was approaching, so I decided to stay and eat there.  In  addition to the many chocolates and desserts on offer, there is also a selection of savory foods such as salads, pastas, sandwiches and more.  I was a bit hesitant to eat anything but dessert as I always thought of Chocolate Bar as a dessert place only,  but the staff recommended the tagliatelle pasta and I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived. It was creamy and flavorful, with grilled chicken, veggies, and chopped herbs, and although it wasn’t amazing, it was tasty.

In addition to the menu, there is also a range of chocolates and truffles, gift boxes, candy bars, and other fun paraphernalia such as t-shirts available for purchase.

I finished my meal off with a cappucino, content that my chocolate craving was satisfied…until next time!


Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar has several locations in Dubai including Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Center and Mercato Mall.  For a full list of locations and more information check here


Disclaimer: I was a guest of Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar.

Thai Stir Fried Beef and Vegetables with Coconut Rice


When I literally have no time to make anything, I often make hamburgers.  Just season the ground meat, form it into patties, cook it on the grill, stick it in between two buns, add some cheese and condiments and voila! Dinner is served! A perfect easy meal.

But sometimes the perfect meal doesn’t fit into life’s social schedule. This weekend I was in a total dinner dilemma as we went to a barbecue the day before and were invited for another one the day after.  Not only was I sandwiched in between two hamburger events, but also had chicken burgers at a birthday party earlier in the day.

Then evening rolled around, the kids were starving, and I had to do something with the ground beef that was staring at me from the refrigerator.  I needed a non-burger solution.  I found this Thai inspired beef dish online and it really hit the spot. I would not say this is an authentic Thai recipe, but it is easy, fast, delicious and does not resemble a hamburger…a perfect easy meal!

Thai Stir Fried Beef and Vegetables with Coconut Rice



1 1/4 cups jasmine rice or basmati rice

1 can (14.1 ounces/ 400ml) coconut milk

Coarse salt

2 tablespoons fish sauce (can use less, to taste)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (can use less, to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 cups broccoli, chopped in small florets

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 thai red chili or 1 jalepeno pepper, deseeded and chopped (Optional – Can omit chili if don’t want to be spicy, or just use less chili, or add a few red pepper flakes instead).

1 pound  or 500g ground beef sirloin

1 cup loosely packed torn fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon chopped frozen basil leaves

Lime wedges, for serving


1.  In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.

2.  While rice is cooking, combine fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl.  Set soy mixture aside.

3.  Heat a cast-iron skillet or wok over high. Add oil, and garlic and chilis (if using). Cook, stirring constantly until garlic softened (about a minute).  Add veggies and cook for a few minutes.  Remove vegetables and set aside.

4. In same pan, add beef and cook until completely browned. Add soy mixture and cook 30 seconds. Add basil and veggies  and cook for a couple minutes, stirring to combine.  Check for seasoning. Serve beef over coconut rice with lime wedges. Tastes yummy with some fresh lime squeezed on top. (I didn’t have limes on hand so used lemon and that works too).

Pantry Diva Logo1PANTRY DIVA TIP: You can use ground chicken, turkey, or pork in this recipe.  Also feel free to add other spices or seasonings…ginger, onion, etc.

You can add any vegetables you have on hand.  Good way to clean out the veggie drawer in the fridge!  Also, I have noticed that if I am making this for kids, the smaller I chop the veggies the better.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Thai Beef with Chilis and Basil over Coconut Rice. See original recipe here.

The Entertainer App Giveaway – Sign up to Win a free 2014 Entertainer Mobile Package!

As the first giveaway I am doing on my food blog, I thought it would be appropriate to do one for The Entertainer, a company that gives great value on so many dining venues across Dubai.  In fact, the Entertainer books currently offer nearly 2,000 buy one get one free vouchers to many restaurants, cafes, water parks, golf courses, hotels and attractions all over the UAE and many new locations across the world.

preorder ent app image

As I have lived in Dubai for 8 years now, I am quite familiar with using the Entertainer vouchers.  And as they have packed more deals inside the books, I am also familiar with how heavy the books that hold the vouchers have become.  Fitting a huge book in your tiny clutch bag when you are going out isn’t always convenient, and the worst feeling is if you go out spontaneously and you realize you’ve left your Entertainer books at home.

But now those little inconveniences will disappear, as the Entertainer has found a way to bring both spontaneity and mobility to all their offers. They have launched the Entertainer App which you can download for free and access directly through your smartphone. You can search for a location nearby, redeem your e-voucher instantly, and also see how much you saved.


First download the Entertainer App on your smartphone.

Show your server your e-voucher from your Entertainer App.  Redeem instantly!

Show your server your e-voucher from your Entertainer App. Redeem instantly!

See how much you have saved! You can even share with your friends.

Available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, you can download the Entertainer App for free and after buying an Entertainer mobile app package, can redeem all the buy one get one free offers.

As a December 2013 promotion, the Entertainer app comes preloaded with some great offers valid for this month, so you can download it and try it out now. For more detailed information on how to use the Entertainer App, click here.

And now for the giveaway.


For a chance to win a FREE Dubai Mobile App 2014  you must:

1. Sign up HERE on the Entertainer facebook page (full name & email required) – Like the page and share the competition with your friends!
(If the link doesn’t work use this:

2. Like the Pantry Diva Facebook page to get more updates, offers, and of course recipes.

Winners will be chosen on Monday December 9, 2013 so sign up today!

Good Luck to all my Pantry Diva followers! Some great savings in the new year await you!

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Gaeng Ped Thai Chicken Curry and Dinner with DinnerTime

Do your weeknight dinners look like this? 


Not only did I make these dinners at home (in 30 minutes) with healthy and organic ingredients, but all ingredients and corresponding recipes were delivered right to my door!

This amazing service was made possible by DinnerTime, a company that takes all the hassle out of meal planning and cooking at home.


This is how it works: You place an order by Thursday, and then you receive a delivery on the following Sunday for 4 meals. You get all ingredients and all recipes (except a few pantry staples which are mentioned in the recipes) in your delivery so you do not have to go grocery shopping or stress about what to make.  All recipes are easy to prepare and take around 30 minutes to make, so you can make a healthy meal at home both quickly and easily.


Here is what my delivery looked like after I unpacked it…complete with ingredients, recipes, and measuring cups.

Here is what I prepared for the week:

Gaeng Ped – A Thai Coconut Curry with Chicken and VegetablesImage

This was the favorite of the week, and I have also included the recipe at the end of this post. I timed it, and all the meals really do take around 30 minutes to prepare. An added benefit is when you make the dish again, you are more familiar with it and can make it even faster the next time. My family actually asked for this curry again and the next time I made it, I shaved about 5 minutes off my time! Woohoo!

Another plus is that I had some of the ingredients left over from the initial DinnerTime order, such as the red curry paste and fish sauce, so I did not have to buy them again, which was great value for money.

 Smoked Salmon with Zucchini CakesImage

Surprisingly the kids liked the smoked salmon but not the zucchini cakes. It could have also been that I did not cook them properly as they were a bit soggy, although the taste was delicious. I also want to mention the good quality of ingredients; the smoked salmon was from Salmontini and the vegetables were from GreenHeart Organic Farms.

Veggie Skewers with Quinoa Salad

ImageThis day was very hectic, and I just did not have time to skewer the veggies. Instead I just stir fried them in a wok and also pan fried the halloumi cheese. I still made it within 30 minutes, so was happy about that! I also loved that the recipe was flexible enough so I could make last minute changes and still manage to get a good meal on the table!

 Italian Cavatelli with Lamb SausagesImage

This was another favorite of the week. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser, but sometimes pasta can be boring if you make it the same way all the time. But this pasta had chickpeas and spices and other ingredients I hadn’t associated with Italian cuisine, so it was totally new to me, and the sausages went perfectly with it.

Overall, I had a great experience with DinnerTime. To get a nutritious meal on the table without the hassle of shopping and meal planning is a great service for these busy times we live in. But even for someone like me who cooks a lot, it introduced me to new ideas and new dishes I would not have tried before. If I had to give any critique, I would only say that if you have very picky eaters, you may have issues with them eating or trying a new meal. I must admit, my kids did not love the veggies and quinoa meal, and I had to make a quick mac n’cheese for them to eat, but I still had a great meal for my husband and myself to enjoy. We would definitely do this again. Try DinnerTime for yourself!

For more information about DinnerTime and how to order:

Place order on or by phone +971 55-790-8733 by previous Thursday for Sunday delivery. Deliveries are for either 4 person or 2 person meals.
A Gluten Free option is also available, which has the same recipes but uses gluten free ingredients.

Pricing is as follows and are paid cash on delivery:
4 meals for 4 persons (16 servings total): 420 AED /  520 AED Gluten Free
4 meals for 2 persons (8 servings total): 300 AED / 400 AED Gluten Free

There is currently a promotion going on now if you would like to have a weekly subscription:
4 meals for 4 persons (16 servings total): 380 AED /  480 AED Gluten Free
4 meals for 2 persons (8 servings total): 280 AED / 380 AED Gluten Free

DinnerTime UAE LLC
P.O.Box 128110
Dubai – U.A.E.
Phone 055-790 8733

Here is a sample recipe of what you can expect if you order. My family loved this one and we have already made it again!

Gaeng Ped – Thai Curry recipe by DinnerTime  

Chicken fillets, bell peppers, and red curry in coconut milk, served with rice


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

4 servings Rice (H), (about 300ml or 1.2 cups) *Note: (H) denotes an ingredient you use from your home pantry
500 gram Chicken Fillet, cut into bite size pieces
1 can Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon Red Curry Paste (amount to taste)
1 ½ tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon Sugar (H)
3 Lime Leaves
100-150 gram Green Beans, rinsed and cut info half
1 Red Bell Pepper, rinsed and cut into pieces
½ box Fresh White Mushrooms, sliced
½ bunch Fresh Coriander, chopped, amount to taste

1 deciliter = 100 milliliter = little less than half a cup (125 milliliter)

Start boiling 4 servings of rice according to the package instructions.

Cut the chicken fillet into bite-size pieces.
In a large frying pan, set coconut milk and red curry paste to boil.
Add the fish sauce, sugar, and lime leaves.
Add the chicken fillet and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Rinse the green beans and cut them into halves and cut the bell pepper into pieces.
Wash and slice the mushrooms.

Add in the green beans and mushrooms when the chicken is just about done.
Let it simmer for a few more minutes.

Add the bell pepper and simmer for another minute.

Chop the coriander.

Serve the chicken with rice and garnish with coriander.

Vegetable Khichidi Recipe

I have a confession to make. I call myself the Pantry Diva but there are times when even my pantry is bare. We were on vacation this past week and were eating out often, and I did not do my usual grocery shopping. Of course my lack of meal planning had no impact on my family’s incessant daily hunger pangs. One evening, we just returned from the beach and everyone was starving. I needed to make something fast and with literally no ingredients on hand. I decided to make khichidi, which is a one pot meal of rice and daal and vegetables and spices.


I use basmati rice and masoor daal for my khichidi

You can throw any veggies or spices you have on hand, but usually less is more as it is a simple dish and you don’t want to have too many flavors competing with each other. So, while everyone showered I soaked the daal and rice (as I am too paranoid to buy a pressure cooker) and then quickly cooked the khichidi. I usually rate any dish’s success not by its taste or ease of cooking but instead by if my kids eat it or not…and they devoured it! (OK they were starving but hey I take any cooking successes I can get!)

As everyone was scarfing down my khichidi, I was putting all the spices back in my cupboard and I noticed one in particular: Hing.


Hing (Asafoetida) can be bought in Indian grocery stores.

Hing? Although I have been using it for years, I realized I didn’t know much about it. I wondered what exactly is this strange spice and why does it make the khichidi taste so good? After some googling I found out Hing (Asafoetida in English) is a dried and ground resin extracted from a plant. Based on its unpleasant smell in its natural form, hing has been called such names as “Devil’s Dung” or “stinking gum”. This initial information was not encouraging me to find out more about hing. But I kept reading, and it got better: We usually buy hing from the supermarket in its commercial form not fresh form, so the flavor and smell is much more mild. It adds a savory flavor to the food similar to sautéed onion and garlic. In addition to being a flavor enhancer, it also has some health benefits such as aiding digestion and reducing gas. You can find more information about Hing here and here.


Because the khichidi recipe is so versatile, you can add any combination of veggies and spices. I have made it both with and without hing and trust me, you need it. Although it has a subtle flavor, hing is the one spice that is essential in a tasty khichidi. You don’t notice it when it’s there, but you definitely miss it when it’s gone. And remember, a little hing goes a long way…you don’t need to use much. You can find it in any Indian grocery store if your local supermarket doesn’t have it. Apparently it is used in many other Indian dishes too so feel free to experiment. Add Hing (Asafoetida) into your pantry today!

Pantry Diva Tip: This khichidi recipe required grated fresh ginger, and I had no time to go shopping. Store your fresh ginger in the freezer, it keeps for a really long time. When a recipe calls for fresh ginger, just take it out of the freezer, grate what you need, and put it back in. No need to run to the store each time you need ginger!

Vegetable Khichidi Recipe



1 Cup Basmati Rice

½ Cup Masoor Daal

2-3 cups water 

NOTE: I tend to add more water (about 3 cups water) as I like the khichdi texture kind of “goopy”and stuck together, not like separate grains of rice. Feel free to reduce amount of water. But, if you have NOT presoaked the rice and daal, you can add more water and increase cooking time.

2 teaspoons cooking oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

1 bunch coriander, chopped (optional for garnish)

1 teaspoon Hing (Asafoetida)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

½ teaspoon turmeric

Red chili powder,to taste

Salt, to taste

¾ cup peas (frozen ok)

Yoghurt (optional – to serve with khichidi)

NOTE: My recipe above is just a guide. You can add any vegetables you have on hand such as grated carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, etc. You can also add different spices, such as coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala, black pepper, ginger, garlic. Just remember that this is a simple dish and you don’t want too many flavors competing with each other. Less is more!


1. Wash rice and daal and soak for 20 minutes. Note: You do not need to soak beforehand but then you must increase water and cooking time.

2.  Heat oil in a pot, and when hot add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and hing and stir for a minute.

3. Add chopped onion and stir until very light brown.

4. Add ginger, chili powder, turmeric, and salt and sauté for a few minutes.

5. Add drained rice and daal and mix.

6. Add water and peas and any additional vegetables. Heat until boils.

7. Cover pot and and cook on low heat until rice is done. It is usually done when there are little holes on top of the rice and the water has evaporated.

8. If desired, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with yoghurt or raita.

Barbecue Delights in Downtown Dubai and Banjan Borani (Afghani Eggplant) Recipe

Being a food blogger definitely has its perks, and one of them is receiving invitations to fabulous foodie events around town. Barbecue Delights, a restaurant specializing in Pakistani, Afghani, and North Indian cuisines, was hosting a lunch at their newest location in Downtown Dubai, and I was one of the lucky food bloggers invited.


Barbecue Delights downtown location


Upon walking into the restaurant, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful artwork on the walls, inspired by the colorful way in which trucks are designed in Pakistan. The restaurant had commissioned an artist from Pakistan who makes “Truck Art,” and he flew all the way to Dubai to see the panels fitted together and mounted on the wall. The finished result is striking.


Beautiful “Truck Art”

On a side note, my husband is Pakistani. When I visited Pakistan, I loved seeing all the colorful busses and trucks driving around, and was constantly pointing out how beautiful they were. I even bought a postcard with the colorful trucks on it, much to the amusement of my local Pakistani family. So seeing the “truck art” on the wall was a fun (and beautiful) reminder of those memories.


So back to the meal. After being seated we were welcomed with a refreshing beverage of green mango blended with cumin while we perused the menu’s selection of appetizers which were about to arrive. The starters were a Rocca Salad, both Aloo and Keema naan, and an Afghani Mutton Rosh, which is a hearty stew of mutton, vegetables and aromatic spices.


Afghani Mutton Rosh

After the appetizers, came a selection of naan and barbecue items such as Malai Boti, Gola Kabob, and Hara Fish, boneless cubes of fish marinated in fresh herbs. But the real star of this course was the Mutton Ribs, a fall-off-the bone tender rack of mutton steamed and grilled in a rich and spicy marinade. I was told Barbecue Delights sources all of their mutton from Pakistan from the best high quality suppliers. The ribs were a testament to that quality.


Malai Boti, Boneless chicken marinated in cream, milk, and herbs and spices


Although I was stuffed at this point, I realized the main courses still hadn’t been served. Before I knew it, Chicken Karahi, Prawn Masala,  Afghani Pulao, Daal, and Banjan Borani was placed before me. The Banjan Borani seemed to be the blogger favorite of the afternoon. It is an Afghani eggplant dish, with a garlicky yoghurt and tomato sauce. It has simple yet bold flavors and an elegant presentation. I have written the recipe at the end of the post so you can create your own Banjan Borani at home.


After the mains we finally moved on to dessert of jalebi, kheer and pistachio ice cream. I cannot end any meal without dessert, even a very very large filling one, so I gobbled a few jalebi before leaving, loving the sticky sweetness of every bite. As we left, we received a beautiful parting gift of a colorful little rickshaw so I can showcase a little “truck art” style at home.


Barbecue Delights Locations:

Downtown Dubai-Clarens Building

Mohd Bin Rashid Boulevard (formerly Emaar Boulevard)

Tel: 04 4343 443

 The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence

Adjacent to Sofitel Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 4230632

Lamcy Square, Oud Mehta Road

Near Movenpick Hotel, Dubai

Tel: 04 3359868/69

Note: I was a guest at a lunch hosted by Barbecue Delights. Some of the images in this post are from Barbecue Delights

Barbecue Delight’s Banjan Borani – Afghani Eggplant RecipeImage


500g (About 1 pound) Eggplants, cut into round slices

500g (About 1 pound) Yoghurt

15g (1 tablespoon) Garlic paste

5g (½ teaspoon) Cumin seeds

5-10g (1-2 teaspoons) Olive oil

100g (about ½ cup) Tomato paste

15g (1 tablespoon) vinegar

Salt and Pepper for seasoning

Coriander for garnish

Olive oil/Cooking oil for frying


1. Fry OR bake eggplant slices until cooked.

If frying, heat oil in pan and fry on both sides for a couple minutes until cooked.

If baking, brush each side of eggplant slice with olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt. Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes each side or until done. Remove and cool.

2.  Add garlic paste into yoghurt. Saute cumin seeds in oil and add into yoghurt. Mix well.

3. Mix tomato paste and vinegar in a small bowl.

4. Spread a layer of yoghurt on serving dish. Place cooked eggplant slices on yoghurt. Spread the tomato paste mixture on top of eggplant slices. Add a bit of yoghurt on eggplant. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Spinach, Feta and Onion Quiche


When I first moved to Dubai, it was all about brunch. Friday brunch is an institution in Dubai, and since I was not yet a mother, Friday brunch had soon become my weekly tradition.  I had endless hours to eat, drink, and be merry. (I also had endless hours to recover the next day, as I used to do this thing called “sleep.” ) But now that I have two very rambunctious boys, I cannot just laze around for hours doing brunch. With my new time constraints, I have now moved on to breakfast or shall I say “brekkie.” It fits into my current lifestyle well as breakfast is so early in the day, an essential quality for my little early risers, as well as being a relatively quick meal so we can go out and do other things.

At first I was not accustomed to eating much at breakfast. In the past, I never had much appetite early in the morning (probably because I was still sleeping). But if I did happen to be awake, I would eat some cereal at the most. Soon, as my brekkie dates got more regular, I noticed I would always order the same thing: quiche. I loved how no matter what type of quiche I would order, it would always taste good…smoked salmon and chives, artichokes and onions and cheese, roasted red pepper and feta…the delicious combinations were endless.

The funny thing is that I always thought of quiche as something I could only buy at a restaurant, and not something I could make at home. Homemade crust? I thought that must surely take ages and won’t be easy to do with my little monkeys running around.  It was not until I went to my friend’s place for breakfast (who has 3 kids) and served me homemade quiche at 9:30am straight out of her oven that I realized quiche was a home made brekkie possibility. I did try one version here, but I have since simplified it and have an even easier, tastier and healthier version I make now. I am constantly trying to get my kids to eat more veggies, and they actually like this!

This recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare so it is definitely something you can throw together quickly (and clean up while it bakes), or even make ahead and rewarm later. I would love for you to try it and let me know how it turns out. I would also love to hear your favorite quiche recipe or flavor!

Pantry Diva Tip: Feel free to use up any veggies or cheese you have hanging out in your fridge, quiche is a great way to clean out that veggie drawer!

PS. Hubby eats this too…yes men do like quiche, they just don’t always admit it!

Spinach, Onion and Feta Quiche


Crust Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ cup melted unsalted butter OR 1/4 cup olive oil  OR 1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup ice  water (I use refrigerated water)

Filling Ingredients:

1 red onion

2-3 cloves garlic

2 bunches fresh spinach, chopped, thick stems removed, or baby spinach (6-8 cups)

4 eggs

1  ½ cups lowfat milk OR ¾ cup whole milk and ¾ cup heavy cream if want a denser and creamier consistency (I use lowfat milk and it tastes great!)

Reduced fat low salt feta cheese, or any cheese you prefer

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crust Preparation:

1. Mix flour and salt with fork.

2. Beat oil (if using) and water with fork to thicken and pour into flour and salt. If using butter, just pour directly into flour with water.  Mix with fork until the dough holds together.

3.  Press dough into 9″ round pan OR roll out dough on silpat liner with rolling pin and press into 9” round pan. (I prefer the roll out method as it is faster and more uniform, although it does compromise on the flakiness of the crust. Either method is fine!)

Filling Preparation:

4. Chop onion and garlic in chopper.

5. Heat olive oil in pan and sauté onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add chopped spinach and sauté until it is wilted. Season with salt and pepper and let cool. Add spinach mixture into the prepared crust.

6. In separate bowl, beat eggs, milk ( and cream if using) with salt and pepper with mixer. Pour over the spinach mixture in crust.

7. Top with crumbled low fat reduced salt feta cheese, or any cheese of your choice.

8. Bake at 200C/400F until done, around 35-45 minutes. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting.