In My Active Kitchen

Having fun in the kitchen and out

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Paneer Tikka Masala


Back when we first moved to BC, we were living in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond.  While Richmond wasn’t our ideal city to live in, it did have Tandoori Kona– the best Indian restaurant we’ve ever visited.  On their menu, is one of my all-time favorite Indian dishes, Paneer Tikka Masala, or as Tandoori Kona calls it- Chili Paneer, which is essentially paneer served in spicy tomato-based gravy.  I know, it sounds terrible, right?


Indian cuisine can be a tad intimidating at first, mainly because of the encyclopedia of spices you feel like you need to learn.  While I wish I could say I was an expert in this field, I am far from it.  So, I usually need to outsource this knowledge to produce decent Indian food that doesn’t involve take-out.

One of my favorite online resources is Manjula’s Kitchen.  Her website specializes in vegetarian and vegan Indian cuisine and boasts so many tips, tricks and videos to help you along if you get lost.  While I did make some changes and substitutions to her original recipe, I never would have been able to produce this mouth-watering dish without her guidance.  



Before we get started, I will warn you that this is a bit more time intensive than other recipes I typically like to prepare.  Basically, this is a weekend recipe, not a 30-minute week night meal.  So consider yourself warned.


So let’s get down to it, shall we?


Paneer is a firm Indian cheese that is made using milk and lemon juice.  Manjula actually has a recipe that shows you how to make your own.  Personally, I prefer to visit the dairy section in my grocery store. For you B.C. locals, I purchased mine from Save On Foods.  But you could also try specialty shops and most likely Whole Foods.


If you can’t find Paneer or you’re too lazy (or pressed for time) to make your own, feel free to sub in extra-firm tofu- just make sure you press the moisture out, first.  If you’re a non-veggie, I actually used chicken thighs for Dustin’s.  So I’ll give you the run down on both.


Aren’t I nice?

As previously mentioned, spices are integral to Indian cooking as they create that pungent and aromatic scent that is synonymous with their dishes.  With that in mind, you may want to make sure your vent is running or at least have a window open to keep the air circulating.  If you don’t have some of the whole spices, feel free to use a smaller amount of the ground variety.  However, I do recommend that you at least get the cumin seeds. I find they add a better flavor than ground cumin.


Same goes for the ripe tomatoes, if you can’t find any that look nice enough, sub in 1 large can of whole tomatoes- preferably one without salt added.

I’m also going to strongly recommend that you also make the rice dish to go along with it.  Plain basmati rice is good, but the sweet-savory spice blend in this recipe really complements the Paneer.

Have I convinced you enough to make this recipe yet? Ok, here it is:


Paneer Tikka Masala
Serves 4


1 lb. Paneer, OR 1 lb. chicken thighs

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

½ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground coriander

2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Tikka Masala Sauce

1 jalapeno pepper

5 medium, ripe tomatoes

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 ½ Tbsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

Aromatic Basmati Rice

½ tsp ground cinnamon OR 2 whole cinnamon sticks

½ tsp. ground cardamom

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

2 whole cloves

½ small onion, thinly sliced

1 ½ c. of brown basmati rice

2 ½ c. of water


Paneer/ Chicken:

If using paneer, slice the block in half, then slice each half in half, then slice those slices in half so you have eight equal squares.  Slice each square diagonally so you have triangles.  If using chicken, leave the thighs whole.

Combine yogurt, lemon and spices into a small bowl and then add in your paneer or chicken.  Cover and place it in the fridge for at least one hour to marinate.

If using chicken, preheat oven to 375 and bake for 20-30 minutes until cooked so the juices run clear.  While chicken is baking or paneer is marinating, start on your gravy:


Combine tomatoes, jalapeno, and tomato paste into your blender and blend until you have a smooth puree.  Pour into a bowl and add in your spices.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add in your paneer (if using) and stir-fry it for 5 minutes until slightly browned.  Remove from pan then add a touch more oil if needed.  Toss in the peppers and onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes until onion is softened.  Pour in your gravy and use a whisk to scrape any of the browned bits from the paneer on the bottom- this will add more depth of flavor to your gravy.

Allow the gravy to simmer for 15 minutes until slightly thickened then toss in either your paneer or chicken.  Cook for another 5 minutes then remove from the heat and cover to set for another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice.


It is important that you soak your rice prior to cooking.  This allows the starches to rinse out creating fluffier, lighter rice.  To do this, simply pour your rice into a bowl and cover with water.  Soak for 20 minutes then drain.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or pot over medium-low heat.  Add in your onion and spices and cook for 2 minutes- watch that your spices don’t burn! Add in the rice and let it cook for 2 minutes then add in your water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes, then remove whole spices and serve with your paneer.



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Golden Ears Provincial Park

Yesterday we drove out to Golden Ears Park for some hiking.

Golden Ears Park 3

Golden Ear Park 8

Gorgeous, right? We thought so, too.

More than anything else, we’ve enjoyed exploring our new home province.  Whether it’s skiing Cypress and Whistler, long runs on the Seawall or hiking on the North Shore and the interior, we’re always up for anything.

Golden Ear Park 1

Today was no exception.

Golden Ear Park 2

This hike was relatively short for us due to a blister situation on my part.  Following our participation in the Sun Run and then a longer run on Thursday, I got some really bad blisters.   Like, wearing flats caused me pain.

Thank goodness for Elastoplast bandaids!  By the time Sunday rolled around, I was ready for a hike- but we kept it to 6km on the Lower Falls trail.  Honestly, if you’re wondering what to do with your kids on a sunny afternoon- take them here.  We brought our fur-child, Ashe, and she absolutely loved it.

Golden Ear Park 6

We’re not above making her the pack-mule.  You may not want to try this with human children, though?

Golden Ear Park 4

Golden Ear Park 5

After our hike, we also decided to check out Alouette Lake that’s a part of the park.  All I can say is, wow.

Golden Ear Park 9

The views are just stunning.  I really hope that we can come back in the summer, perhaps rent a boat?

I envision BBQ’s in our future here, too.

Ok, back to reality.  Check back tomorrow for a kick-ass Indian dish. You won’t be sorry.

Jess xo

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It’s a Lemon

Lemon 2

As a vegetarian, quite often I get asked “what do you eat??”

As a vegetarian, quite often I get annoyed when asked this question.

My response? This delicious salad packed with kale, fresh veggies and delicious Greek-inspired tofu.

Lemon 7

Tofu can be kind of off-putting for some people; there are those who love it and those who simply hate it. My personal favorites are those who hate it without having ever tried it.  I get that some people just don’t like the “idea” of something, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, alright?

Lemon 1

The key to tofu is that you need to add flavor to it.  You also need to make sure all the moisture is pressed out of it- this allows your tofu to soak up the maximum amount of flavor.  There is a new brand of tofu on the market that is pre-pressed. If you can find it, it looks like this and it will save you an hour of your prep time.

Lemon 5

I love using lemon and citrus when I cook.  Not only do you get that acidity needed to balance out your savory elements, but it gives such a bright flavor, too.

Lemon 4

This recipe is a simple and quick way to inject flavor into your tofu and pairs really well with a kale salad or in a pita wrap with tzatziki sauce.

Lemon 6

Want the recipe?

You will need:

Greek Style Tofu

Serves 2

200 g extra-firm tofu, pressed

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon- zest and juice

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste


Slice your tofu into ½ inch by 2 inch long sticks.  Place in a medium bowl.  Using a grater or micro plane, add in the zest from your lemon, then squeeze in your lemon juice.  Add in your garlic, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Mix well then set aside and prepare your salad.   Let the mixture marinate at least 20-30 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat half the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add in half the amount of your tofu and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until you get a nice golden colour.  Remove and drain over paper towel, add the remaining oil and tofu to your skillet and cook.  Remove and drain, allow them to cool.

Top with your salad.  You can use the leftover marinade as salad dressing or make up this simple dressing:

Lemon Vinaigrette

¼ lemon juice

½ c. olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp dry mustard

½ tsp oregano

¼ tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients, except for the olive oil, together in a small bowl.  While still whisking, slowly add in your olive oil until it emulsifies.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

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Taco Tuesday on Wednesday

Spicy Veggie Tacos

Spicy Veggie Tacos

Dustin and I are big believers in Taco Tuesday.   Actually, I’m just a big believer in anything that includes guacamole.  So what could be better than for me to share a delightfully spicy veggie taco recipe as my first ever blog post?

Rather than use the sodium-ridden spice mixes you find in those store-bought kits, I like to make my own.  So not only can I make it as (excessively) spicy as I want, but I can also control how much salt actually goes in there.

I basically did a mixture of chili powder, cumin, coriander, smoked chipotle spice, smoked paprika, a smidgen of cayenne, and tiny bit of salt to bring it all together.

Oh and then, because I’m an idiot, I figured it would be a good idea to add in a chopped jalapeno, cuz you know, the chili powder, cayenne and smoked chipotle spices weren’t enough.  Word to the wise, you may want to forget I mentioned a jalapeno… with seeds.

What was I thinking?!

What was I thinking?!

Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, yes I will “cheat’ every now and then and use the Yves “Veggie Ground Round” or in this case, “chicken”.  It’s quick, easy and works.  When I’m really motivated, I will sometimes use plain tofu as my starting point, maybe get crazy and add in some black beans and corn.  Today, you get the veggie stuff.

Are you really going to object to these guys?

Are you really going to object to these guys?

Since the “chicken” flavor is a bit lighter than traditional beef or mock-beef filling, I decided to make a mango salsa for a bit of sweet and fresh flavor.  Oh and guacamole, because you don’t serve tacos in this house without guac.

Tacos 6

Look good? Here are the recipes:

Taco Seasoning (you will have leftover, store in an airtight container)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp smoked chipotle spice

smidgen of cayenne

dash of salt

Combine ingredients together, adjust according to your preferences.

Taco Filling:

1 lb Yves Ground Round

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp Taco Spice Mixture

1 jalapeno, diced (optional!!!)

1/4 c. tomato paste

1/4 c. water

Juice from 1 lime

8-10 taco shells and all the fixins (lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc…)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in your onion and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add in your spice mixture, jalapeno, and tomato paste.  Allow to cook down for another 3-5 minutes, until fragrant.  Add in the ground veggie meat, water and lime juice.  Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium low and allow to cook through.  Assemble tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, mango salsa, guac and maybe some cheddar if you’re feelin’ in the mood.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Juice from 1/2 lime

1/2 tsp white vinegar

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to marinate.


1 ripe avocado

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice from 1/2 a lime

Dash of salt

Mash the avocado with garlic, lime juice and salt.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.