Arvinda’s Indian Spice Blends Help Me Cook Like Raj’s Mom!

You know an Indian spice blend company is the real deal when their masalas taste like Raj's mom's home cooking!

You know an Indian spice blend company is the real deal when their masalas taste like Raj’s mom’s home cooking!

Raj’s mom, who is from Kerala, India, makes the most delicious Indian dishes (dahls, sambars, curries, etc.). She always cooks with the perfect combination of spices. Indian cuisine involves such intricate blends of complementary spices (also known as masalas) and I am slowly learning about all the different kinds of masalas from her. To Raj’s mom, knowing which spices go well together and in what ratios is second nature (no measuring is necessary). Since my Indian culinary skills are nowhere near her level, I am always on the lookout for ready-made Indian spice blends with flavour profiles that remind me of Raj’s mom’s home cooking. Thanks to the CHFA East trade show this year, I discovered Arvinda’s awesome Indian spice blends, which allow me to cook like Raj’s mom effortlessly! Yes, this line of Indian spice blends tastes that authentic.

Arvinda's Butter Chicken Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Curry Masala are my favourites!

Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Curry Masala are my favourites!

This past Thursday on World Vegetarian Day (October 1st), I was craving butter chicken for dinner, but I wanted to satisfy that craving with something vegetarian, healthy, and quick. Thankfully, I had some Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala to make myself a deliciously satisfying “Butter Cauli-Kale”. This yummy and hearty vegetarian alternative to butter chicken satisfied my craving and I think Raj’s mom would have approved! This dish was so good that I have already remade it two more times since Thursday! Since it is Vegetarian Awareness Month, I thought I should share this tasty and nutritious vegetarian recipe. It is so quick and easy too thanks to Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala.

This vegetarian dish does not look like butter chicken, but it is much more nutritious with the same spice and flavour profile as that of butter chicken!

This vegetarian dish does not look like butter chicken, but it is much more nutritious with the same spice and flavour profile as that of butter chicken! It definitely satisfied my craving for butter chicken!

Butter Cauli-Kale (Vegetarian Alternative to Butter Chicken)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, puréed
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 small head cauliflower or 1/2 head large cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 5 kale leaves, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon 100% all natural and smooth cashew butter (unsweetened and unsalted)
  1. In a frying pan (that is large enough to fit all the vegetables) over medium heat, sauté the diced onion in the coconut oil until soft and translucent.
  2. Add in the puréed tomato and Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala. Continue cooking and stirring the mixture until most of the moisture has evaporated and the consistency becomes thick like tomato paste.
  3. Mix in the low-sodium vegetable broth, chopped cauliflower, chopped kale, fine sea salt, and coconut sugar. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and let everything simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables have cooked to desired tenderness. If you prefer a drier consistency with little to no sauce like I do, let everything simmer without a lid and stir often to ensure nothing sticks to the pan.
  4. Turn off the stove and mix in the cashew butter. Serve and enjoy!
Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!

Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!

If you get cravings for Indian food and want to satisfy those cravings with delicious and nutritious food, I highly recommend alway having your favourite Arvinda’s spice blends on hand! I am still slowly learning about Indian cooking from Raj’s mom, but for those times when I am in a hurry, there are always ready-made spice blends in my pantry!

XOXO,

Addy

Our One-Year Anniversary Dinner at Maiko Japanese Restaurant (in Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an)!

Maiko was my favourite restaurant at the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya!

Maiko was my favourite restaurant at the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya!

After a family night dinner at Le Gourmet and a girls’ night dinner at Arlequin, it was time for Raj and I to have a just-“Raddy” dinner together, celebrating our one-year anniversary. Since Japanese cuisine is my favourite kind of cuisine, Raj (the thoughtful boyfriend) made reservations at Maiko, one of the only two Japanese restaurants on the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort. Unlike Mikado (the other Japanese restaurant), Maiko is located in the Sian Ka’an area, which is my favourite area on the resort and adult-only. This dinner at Maiko ended up being my absolute favourite dining experience on this trip! It had the best menu selection, the best food, the best apéritif cocktail, and the best service. Raj did a fantastic job at selecting a restaurant for our one-year anniversary dinner. Here is a recap/review of my special dining experience at Maiko

When Raj made the dinner reservation, he informed them that it was our one-year anniversary celebratory dinner. When we arrived, they surprised us with the best window seats in the restaurant and rose petals all over our table! What fabulous service! We were definitely impressed.

When Raj made the dinner reservation, he informed them that it was our one-year anniversary celebratory dinner. When we arrived, they surprised us with the best window seats in the restaurant and rose petals all over our table! What fabulous service! We were definitely impressed.

They also surprised us with a complimentary bottle of sparkling white wine! This Chatonier Brut sparkling white wine from Spain, which was only 10% alcohol, tasted drier than what I normally prefer, but it was not too dry for me. It arrived chilled in an ice bucket and our server popped open the bottle for us. What a nice, festive surprise! Thank you, Maiko!

They also surprised us with a complimentary bottle of sparkling white wine! This Chatonier Brut sparkling white wine from Spain, which was only 10% alcohol, tasted drier than what I normally prefer, but it was not too dry for me. It arrived chilled in an ice bucket and our server popped open the bottle for us. What a nice, festive surprise! Thank you, Maiko!

I was so excited to look at their menu and see what kind of Japanese cuisine would be offered at a Japanese restaurant in Mexico. I was distracted for a bit by all the beautifully scattered rose petals on our table. Ha ha ha.

I was so excited to look at their menu and see what kind of Japanese cuisine would be offered at a Japanese restaurant in Mexico. I was distracted for a bit by all the beautifully scattered rose petals on our table. Ha ha ha.

Before we could open our menu, we were surprised once again with a complimentary apéritif. This cocktail was called "Shanghai" and it was THE BEST cocktail we had on the trip! Unfortunately, no other bar on the resort managed to recreate this cocktail exactly during the remainder of our trip. :( This cocktail tasted like a delightful blend of tropical fruit juices in your mouth. We absolutely loved it!

Before we could open our menu, we were surprised once again with a complimentary apéritif. This cocktail was called “Shanghai” and it was THE BEST cocktail we had on the trip! Unfortunately, no other bar on the resort managed to recreate this cocktail exactly during the remainder of our trip. 😦 This cocktail tasted like a delightful blend of tropical fruit juices in your mouth. We absolutely loved it!

The appetizer menu.

The appetizer menu.

Before any food came out, we were each given this assortment of condiments to accompany all our savoury courses. From left to right: a sweet sesame sauce, soy sauce, and a spicy mayonnaise sauce. The sweet sesame sauce tasted like a lightly sweetened tahini sauce and it was my hands-down favourite of all three condiments! I added some to every course except dessert. The soy sauce was definitely sushi-grade and not the lower quality cooking-grade. The spicy mayonnaise sauce was just a mixture of Sriracha chili sauce and mayonnaise, so it was not anything unique or spectacular.

Before any food came out, we were each given this assortment of condiments to accompany all our savoury courses. From left to right: a sweet sesame sauce, soy sauce, and a spicy mayonnaise sauce. The sweet sesame sauce tasted like a lightly sweetened tahini sauce and it was my hands-down favourite of all three condiments! I added some to every course except dessert. The soy sauce was definitely sushi-grade and not the lower quality cooking-grade. The spicy mayonnaise sauce was just a mixture of Sriracha chili sauce and mayonnaise, so it was not anything unique or spectacular.

After placing our orders from the menu, they surprised us yet again with a complimentary amuse-bouche. I loved this palate teaser! These thin, bite-sized slices of tuna steak were seared to perfection (thin cooked crust on outside, but still completely raw on inside). The outer cooked crust was so flavourful and it tasted like it was seasoned with shichimi tōgarashi (the Japanese seven-flavour chili pepper spice mixture). The tuna was so fresh and not fishy at all. Also, the presentation was beautiful! I am not sure what the three drizzled sauces were, but when you coat the tuna slices in all three sauces and then put it in your mouth, it was such a wonderfully balanced mixture of salty, sweet, and spicy flavours!

After placing our orders from the menu, they surprised us yet again with a complimentary amuse-bouche. I loved this palate teaser! These thin, bite-sized slices of tuna steak were seared to perfection (thin cooked crust on the outside, but still completely raw on the inside). The outer cooked crust was so flavourful and it tasted like it was seasoned with shichimi tōgarashi (the Japanese seven-flavour chili pepper spice mixture). The tuna was so fresh and not fishy at all. Also, the presentation was beautiful! I am not sure what the three drizzled sauces were, but when you coat the tuna slices in all three sauces and then put them in your mouth, it was such a wonderfully balanced mixture of salty, sweet, and spicy flavours!

For the first course, I ordered a vegan version of the "California Sushi". I am not vegan by any means, but that is what I felt like having that night. So instead of having "tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, and sesame" in my maki roll, they just put fresh cucumber and blanched carrots in my roll and then they topped it off with thin mango slices. As a self-proclaimed "sushi snob", this does not make my top-five-vegan-maki-rolls list, but it was definitely better than what I was expecting for sushi in Mexico. I enjoyed the nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in this roll, which I had with soy sauce and the sweet sesame sauce, of course.

For the first course, I ordered a vegan version of the “California Sushi”. I am not vegan by any means, but that was what I felt like having that night. So instead of having “tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, and sesame” in my maki roll, they just put fresh cucumber and blanched carrots in my roll and then they topped it off with thin mango slices. As a self-proclaimed “sushi snob”, this does not make my top-five-vegan-maki-rolls list, but it was definitely better than what I was expecting for sushi in Mexico. I enjoyed the nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in this roll, which I had with soy sauce and the sweet sesame sauce, of course.

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“Misoshiro Soup – with tofu cheese, seaweed wakame, scallions, and Somen pasta.” The “tofu cheese” was just plain tofu pieces and completely dairy-free. This miso soup was not anything spectacular, but it was good. It was not too salty and contained a good amount of tofu pieces and seaweed. I was glad that there were only a few strands of Somen noodles, because that kept this dish nice and light for an appetizer.

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The menu for the teppanyaki, main course, and dessert. You could order a teppanyaki dish along with your main course before dessert, but Raj and I opted to order just a main course and dessert since we did not want to overindulge.

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“Seafood with Curry – sauce made with eggplant and onion confit.” My main course was absolutely delicious! The coconut-milk-based curry sauce was so creamy and flavourful. Also, there was a generous amount of seafood (mussel, shrimp, scallop, fish, etc.) and it was all so fresh! This seafood curry was served with a small bowl of short-grain white rice and the rice was perfectly cooked. My only criticism is that I wish this dish was spicy, because I like my curries quite spicy! I would reorder this dish as is though. It was just so aromatic and tasty!

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“Halo-halo – tapioca and lychee with coconut cream.” Halo-halo is a Filipino dessert that is mainly shaved ice and evaporated milk topped off with fruits, sweetened boiled beans, jello, and/or other sweets. That was what I was expecting, but instead, this halo-halo was more like a Thai coconut tapioca pudding. This dessert was mainly made of small tapioca pearls that were suspended in thick, sweetened coconut milk. I could not taste any lychee. Although this was not your traditional Filipino halo-halo, I enjoyed this gluten-free dessert, especially with the scoop of coconut ice cream on the side.

I ended up having only a small bite or two of that halo-halo dessert since I wanted to save my sweet-tooth splurge for the Sian Ka'an bar lounge next door. It is all about moderation. At the Sian Ka'an bar lounge, I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and ended my fabulous night with a Cosmopolitan and some dancing. What a fun night!

I ended up having only a small bite or two of that halo-halo dessert since I wanted to save my sweet-tooth splurge for the Sian Ka’an bar lounge next door. It is all about moderation. At the Sian Ka’an bar lounge, I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and ended my fabulous night with a Cosmopolitan and some dancing. What a fun night!

If you are visiting the Bahia Principe Riviera Maya resort and are at least 18 years of age with no kids (or have someone to babysit the kids), I highly recommend having dinner at Maiko and then hitting the Sian Ka’an bar lounge afterwards for post-dinner drinks. This night out was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Thank you, Maiko (and Sian Ka’an)!

XOXO,

Addy