Legend has it that those who share this dish fall in love.  Ok...not really, but that is how our love story began.  According to the HUBS, he was enamored when I shared my Tom Yum soup with him the weekend we met almost 6 years ago!  It is definitely true that great dishes and homemade recipes can really bring people together.  Naturally this soup is one of our favorites, but in truth my love affair with tom yum soup began wayyyy back in the day.  I think I first tried it at my best friend's thai restaurant in Nashville.  We would go as a family and stock up on hearty, savory oh-so-spicy and vegetarian friendly dishes each weekend.  As a family, our standard order ALWAYS started with tom yum soup.  The way the lemongrass, kaffir lime & thai chilies danced together in the soup excited our taste buds - it was guaranteed satisfaction.  I always loved saving some broth at the end to add to my red curry & rice.  So the HUBS and I finally decided to give this dish a shot. 





  1. 6 c vegetable stock (I used ~ 50 oz of vegetable stock)
  2. 8 kaffir lime leaves (fresh/frozen)
  3. 6 two inch slices of galang root
  4. 6 two inch slices of lemongrass stalk
  5. 15 oz can sliced button mushrooms
  6. 2 tsp adu marcha (or minced thai chilies to taste)
  7. 1 limes (juiced; half added while cooking, half added fresh)
  8. 1 yellow onion (julienned)
  9. 1/2 c of fresh coarsely chopped cilantro
  10. 2 tbs tom yum paste 
  11. 1 bunch of green onions (diced on bias)
  12. 1 tbs vegetable oil
  13. tofu (optional)
Vegetarian vegan gluten free authentic thai tom yum soup recipe charisma shah


  1. In a medium - large pot over medium-low heat, sauté the adu marcha/thai chiles in the oil.
  2. Add the tom yum paste and sauté.
  3. Add the sliced onion and lightly sauté.
  4. Add in the stock and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galang root.  Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until very aromatic.
  6. Add soy sauce, tomatoes, and green onions.  Cook for an additional 3 minutes at a boil.
  7. Just before serving soup add the fresh lime juice & cilantro.  For extra heat, garnish with chili garlic oil (😋).


I have a sweet tooth.  I love chocolate (obsessed) and I can eat an entire pan of chocolate chip cookies in about 2 minutes.  Cookies are absolutely my kryptonite (besides frozen kitkats).  In fact, that was how I started getting into cooking...via baking!  

I have tried an abundance of GF recipes for cookies primarily in an effort to decrease the carbs and eliminate the use of all-purpose flour.  I have tried baking with quinoa, brown rice, whole white wheat, oat, and bean flours.  Yep.  All of them.  Believe me when I say in cookies the flour really matters.  Or at least I thought so until about a week ago, when I tried some meringue cookies.  To my absolute surprise they were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  If I had not been told these were GF without any flours at all, I would have just assumed they were normal cookies but thinner!

The entire experience inspired me to whip up some of my own, so I did some research and fused some recipes, added a touch of my own flair and incredulously on my first attempt they turned out excellent!  If you have baked before you know how precise of a science the entire process is and how unlikely successful first attempts are - cue macaroon failures.  




  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 1/8 cream of tartar powder
  3. 6 oz + 2 oz of chocolate chips
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1/4 c sugar
  6. option 1: pinch of powdered coffee + chopped hazelnuts
  7. option 2: 1 tbs peanut butter



  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Melt 6 oz of the chocolate chips in the microwave (or double boiler).  If melting in microwave - melt in increments of 30 seconds to prevent the chocolate from burning!  Allow the chocolate to cool for 30 minutes.
  3. While the chocolate is cooling, whisk your egg whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar while continuously whisking.  Then add the sugar.  
  4. Whisk until stiff peaks form (aka removing the whisk creates peaks that stay firm and don't disappear at all).  In my experience it is best to whisk eggs at medium high until this happens on an electric mixer.  
  5. Gently fold (not whisk) in your chocolate, adding a little bit at a time to the eggs.  
  6. At this point I divided my batter into two batches:
    1. Option 1: add a dash of finely ground coffee powder, chopped hazelnuts, and  chocolate chips.  Fold in thoroughly.
    2. Option 2: add peanut butter and chocolate chips. Fold in thoroughly.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown/crisp on the outside.
  8. Eat fresh or store in air-tight container (eat within a week).


Finding something cooked & ready in the freezer is like finding money in your pockets!  Suddenly your not dreading having to cook because you have a tasty, spicy FLAVORFUL meal ready to go.  With that being said, pretty much anytime we make Indian shaaks/subjis (aka veggie entrees) we make double and set it aside for later.  Well earlier this week we happened to come across some Chole in our freezer so we decided since we didn't have fresh baturas on hand we would make popovers out of it.  Y'all.  This might be the best decision we made this week.




  1. leftover chole (see homemade recipe here)
  2. 1 roll of puff pastry (cut into 12 even pieces)
  3. 1/2 c fresh pico de gallo
  4. 1/2 c of mozzarella cheese
  5. eggs (optional) whisked 
  6. oven cooking spray
cheesy chole popover recipe charisma shah vegetarian


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prep a cupcake pan with nonstick spray
  3. Thaw 1 roll of puff pastry as instructed on the box (about 20 minutes).  Cut roll into 12 even pieces.  Roll each piece into 4 inch squares.
  4. Place pastry squares into cupcake pan.  Lightly mold to cupcake pan shape.
  5. Spoon 1 tsp of cheese into pastry "cups" to create the bottom later.
  6. If using eggs, evenly pour into cups.
  7. Remove EXCESS LIQUID from the chole before spooning.  Allocate into cups (about 1.5 tbs/cup).
  8. Add 1 tsp of cheese on top along with pico de gallo (again, remove excess liquid before).  
  9. Bake for 15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.  



When the HUBS and I travel we love to try new dishes from other cuisines, but inevitably about after a week, we start really missing good ole' indian food.  For vegetarians, nothing seems to be easier, as nutritious, and satisfying.  That being said, after about a week of poutine in Banff, we just NEEDED naan, shaak, and dal.  We decided to check out Masala, a restaurant that came highly recommended by our family in India.  Y'all:  it was phenomenal.  We do not give out 5 stars  to just anyone - in fact the HUBS and I have a strict rule.  Restaurants only get a 5 star review if we would happily hop a flight just to eat there.  To date I think we only have a handful that have met this criteria - but Masala definitely earned this honor.  We decided to venture out and try their Tava Paneer.  I was honestly expecting a dry roasted paneer dish, but was more than happy when instead the dish was saucy, savory and finger-licking good.  

In accordance with our plan to eat healthier, higher protein meals, I decided to try my hand at this dish.  The result was a good second to Masala's - it'll have to carry us over until we can make it back there for the real deal.  We decided to eat this with homemade low carb kati rolls (recipe here).  

tava paneer kati roll recipe vegetarian low carb indian charisma shah





  1. 1 pack of frozen paneer (ingredients should just be whole milk & vinegar)
  2. 2 large green bell peppers (diced)
  3. 1/3 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
  4. 2 tbs butter
  5. 1 tsp jeera
  6. 2.5 tsp minced garlic
  7. 1 1/2 tsp adu marcha
  8. 1 yellow onion (diced)
  9. 1 1/2 tsp mirchi
  10. 1 tsp dhana jeeru
  11. 1 tbs tomato paste
  12. 1/2 c cream (or substitute with homemade cashew cream)
  13. 1/2 tsp garam masala
  14. 1/4 tsp amchur powder
  15. 1 tsp kasoori methi 
  16. pinch of ground cardamom
  17. 1 tsp sugar
  18. salt to taste (about 1.5 - 2 tsp)



  1. Melt the butter over medium low heat. 
  2. Add the jeera and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds (you should see tiny bubbles form around each cumin seed).  Do not over cook these otherwise you will have a strong roasted flavor.
  3. Add the minced garlic and saute until golden brown.
  4. Add the adu marcha and let saute until aromatic (about 1 minute).
  5. Add the diced onions and saute until translucent (about 3-4 minutes)
  6. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, dhana jeeru, and red mirchi.  Cook until tomato smell goes away (about 5 - 7 min).
  7. Add the kasoori methi, amchur powder, sugar, and garam masala and bring to a light simmer.
  8. Add the fried paneer and bell peppers.  Cover and cook until paneer is tender (about 3-5 minutes).  Do not overcook the bell peppers.  These should still be bright green and have a little bit of crunch to them.  
  9. Serve with low carb kati rolls (click here for recipe), fresh naan, or parathas.  
 *please note that these values are an approximation and are for just the tava paneer (not the kati roll)

*please note that these values are an approximation and are for just the tava paneer (not the kati roll)


With new years, come new resolutions.  This year the HUBS and I are trying to be more mindful of pairing our meals with our workouts.  On weight training days we try to eat high protein, low carb meals, and since every Indian dish tends to be pretty carb heavy, we created these: low carb kati rolls.  These are a great alternative to naan (plain or garlic), have a decent amount of protein, and like the name states: low carb 🙌🏽.  Scroll down to the bottom to see the complete nutrition information.  

low carb kati roll naan roti paratha recipe charisma shah





  1. 1/2 c greek yogurt (2% fage)
  2. 1/2 c full fat cottage cheese
  3. 1/2 c quinoa flour
  4. 1/4 c vital gluten wheat flour
  5. 3/4 c whole white wheat flour
  6. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  7. 1/4 cup of milk (we used protein nut milk)
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 1 tsp sugar


  1. Mix all ingredients with electric mixer.
  2. Place dough in a warm place and allow to rise for at least 1 hour (I usually try to do 2 hours)
  3. Flour a surface for rolling.  Pinch dough into smaller 1.5" round balls.  Flatten and roll out into 6" diameter rolls.
  4. On a skillet/tava cook the dough on both sides until lightly browned.  
  5. Lightly spread with ghee (optional).
 *please note that these values are an approximation

*please note that these values are an approximation


One of my favorite things to eat growing up was Petro (aka tennessee chili).  Petro was this incredible fast food joint founded in Knoxville, TN that made vegetarian chili (and meat chili) topped with fritos, green onions, and sour cream.  Its seriously delicious, but unfortunately the one near my home closed down well before I learned to cook.  My mom & best friends mom did their best to recreate the dish (and they did a pretty amazing job) that it became one of the first dishes I made for the HUBS when we were dating.  He loved it so much that he made it for his parents...and well we got married.  Coincidence?  I think not 😂.  Fast forward 20 years, the HUBS and I recently came across a Petro and tried the real thing again.  It was as delicious as I remember.  

After trying the dish again, I was inspired to try recreating the dish fused with the Fresh & Easy canned vegetarian chili (which is delicious and unfortunately no longer exists).  This recipe is the result and was designated with the name "petrini" by the HUBS.

All this being said, if you are looking for a 5 min or less sort of dinner, than my Petro recipe is a better go to.  This requires marginally more effort but is delicious (and freezes well too!).  Enjoy!

vegetarian vegan gluten free paleo raw chili recipe instapot slowcooker 10 minute dinners lunch charisma shah marie sharp




  1. 1 tbs butter (substitute with olive oil for vegan)
  2. 2 tsp minced garlic
  3. 1 tsp garlic powder
  4. 1 tsp onion powder
  5. 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  6. 2 tsp red mirchi (or cayenne pepper)
  7. 1.5 tsp hot chili seasoning
  8. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  9. 1/8 tsp cream of tartar powder
  10. 1/2 tsp Williams Sonoma chili lime seasoning (optional)
  11. 1 (15 oz) can of Bush Chili Beans (pinto beans in a mild chili sauce)
  12. 1 (15 oz) can of Kidney Beans (drained)
  13. 1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  14. 1.5 tbs tomato paste
  15. 1.5 c of frozen corn kernels
  16. salt to taste (about 3/4 tsp)
  17. 1 tbs lime juice
  18. hot sauce of choice for garnish (we ♥️ this one)
  19. sour cream, chopped red onions, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro for garnish
vegetarian vegan gluten free paleo raw chili recipe instapot slowcooker 10 minute dinners lunch charisma shah marie sharp


  1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the minced garlic.  Saute until golden.
  3. Add all the spices & seasonings.  Stir until aromatic (~1.5 minutes).
  4. Add the tomato paste.  Mix well.
  5. Add the canned beans & tomatoes.  Cook until simmering.  
  6. Add the corn.  Stir well, cover and bring to a light simmer (about 5-7 minutes).  
  7. Serve with garnishes of your choosing.  We love to add lots of hot sauce, tortilla chips and fresh red onions!
 with our favorite hot sauce,  Marie Sharp's , that we picked up when we visited Belize earlier this year!  its soooo good y'all!  you must try this hot sauce - not too acidic, garlic & tomato based.  

with our favorite hot sauce, Marie Sharp's, that we picked up when we visited Belize earlier this year!  its soooo good y'all!  you must try this hot sauce - not too acidic, garlic & tomato based.  

NOTES:  This recipe can be adapted pretty easily for the instapot or slow cookers.  For the Instapot users: simply use the saute setting and proceed with the instructions as above (do not cover).  For slow cooker users: add all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook covered for 6-8 hours.  

 these nutrition facts are an estimation

these nutrition facts are an estimation


The holidays can be expensive, especially when you are the host.  Food is pricey on its own but decor can sometimes be quite frankly unaffordable.  This year the HUBS and I spent most of our funds buying (slash somewhat DIY'ing) our new dining table.  We desperately needed an 8-seater, especially since we were hosting thanksgiving for our family!  Turns out even DIY'ing a dining table isn't cheap! 

So I had to make some pretty drastic modifications to my thanksgiving decor budget aka DIY the entire thing.  I LOVE decorating, especially for the holidays.  It really brings warmth & personality to the home but more than that I love when my creations inspire others to create!  So I set out to create a marvelous Thanksgiving table setting without buying readymade decorations.  

First, I waited until Halloween was over, and scoured the city for some pumpkin varieties.  My friend and I went on a mini scavenger hunt to four different grocery stores before we found the jackpot at Tom Thumb!  They had tons of mini gourds of all shapes and sizes at a fraction of the cost since Halloween was over.  Score!

We purchased about 25 pumpkins, getting a good assortment of sizes and shapes (color didnt really matter since we were going to spray paint them).  We came home and immediately removed any labels before adding two coats (in some cases three) of white spray paint with primer.  We thoroughly let these dry (between layers) in the sun before marbling.  

To marble the pumpkins we used this tutorial.  We were able to apply the same principles and selected three different shades of blue, one light gray, and one pastel teal nail polish.  The more refined your color selection the more elegant the overall result.  Choose colors that compliment or can be found in your place setting - in my case my plates were white and blue and my accent color for thanksgiving was raspberry.

 In love with the way these pumpkins & gourds turned out 😱

In love with the way these pumpkins & gourds turned out 😱

marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)

It took about a full 24 hours for all of the pumpkins to dry (the smaller pumpkins dried MUCH faster than the big one).  After these were done, I arranged them on our dining table (I did put small paper towel coasters under each pumpkin just in case the paint wasn't completely dry). 

I was originally planning on buying table/placemats but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.  Instead, I ended up printing cheap paper mats with a fun original watercolor print in my selected colors.  I figured white placemats were bound to get dirty so why spend the time or money to make fabric ones when I would likely have to throw them.  Boy am I glad I went this route, because half the mats post dinner had severe stains.  

I designed this print in Photoshop and had it printed on 24 X 36 inch cheap paper at Office Depot.

thanksgiving table setting tablescape decor DIY tutorial (charisma shah)
marbled pumpkin chinoiserie table setting thanksgiving DIY table decor tutorial (charisma shah)




I also decided to design hand-lettered menus and name cards that were also printed at Office Depot.  I wanted our table setting to be inspired without being too much going on.  The key in making this happen is dialing back and restraining from uncensored color use.  Everything involved the same three main colors: blue, white and my accent raspberry.  Initially I was really nervous about how everything would come together but it really turned out beautifully!

I purchased some blue, white and teal floral napkins on clearance from Anthropologie last summer.  Unfortunately, at the time they only had 4 left and were completely sold out online.  I had some leftover fabric from making my sister-in-law a floral watercolor lehenga, so I used the rest of it to make 4 more napkins to complement my Anthro ones.  Both sets of napkins went perfectly with each other and the rest of the table.  

Lastly: the actual flatware and dinnerware.  When the HUBS and I got married we purchased these really nice organic shaped ceramic table setting from West Elm (plates shown above).  Then a couple weeks ago, we spotted this watercolor bowl at Ikea.  When the HUBS saw it, he knew that I would be buying them.  He didn't even contest at all!  We are obsessed with this flatware (the HUBS calls them the "fancy spoons" 😂) which can be found here.


I hope you found this tutorial helpful and informative.  Happy Thanksgiving!! 




Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner 8-Course Menu With Recipes

Being a first generation American, Thanksgiving is not the most traditional but definitely the most easily adoptable Western/American holiday.  Due to the likely overlap by lunar calendars, Thanksgiving was usually masked by the tremendous amount of celebration surrounding Navratri & Diwali, but on occasion - our family would celebrate Thanksgiving.  Its pretty easy as an Immigrant family to be thankful for the opportunities and happiness each year brings.

That being said, this year was the first family Thanksgiving that the HUBS and I hosted.  Since traditional menus are not that filling for vegetarians, or that flavorful compared to ethnic cuisines, we decided to deconstruct and create dishes that capture the essence of Thanksgiving without being trite.  

We also wanted to be fancy 😂 and serve each dish as a separate course in a plated fashion.  I just have always wanted to recreate the experience of dining out at farm-to-table restaurants in my own home and what better occasion than a holiday?

Keep reading to find out more about how we prepared for the HUBS' entire family to come visit, decorated our thanksgiving table, and created new classic dishes that were a tremendous hit!  


As you can see above, the HUBS and I hosted and served our Thanksgiving meal by plating each dish rather than having a buffet.  I was really determined to make sure our vegetarian thanksgiving dinner would be just as good if not better than its turkey counterpart, so creating a captivating and exciting menu was a challenge.  I was on a mission to make sure my non-vegetarian guests wouldn't even miss the turkey, and apparently they didn't!  Yay!  🤗

After we found out we were officially hosting Thanksgiving, I started planning the menu.  I knew I wanted to serve this Macaroni & Cheese (one of my favorites!) but that was basically it.  I also knew that I wanted to really hone in on the colorful veggies that make thanksgiving so festive, so I set out to imagine some dishes.  Eventually, I ended up with the menu above: homemade root chips with charred fennel dip, cranberry canapés, herbed mashed potatoes, delicate squash salad, calabrian chile & date mac & cheese, and truffled portabellas served with leek quinoa dressing and herbed béchamel.  Each dish was such a big hit that there was very little rinsing of the plates needed before dishwashing 😂.  #goals #cleanplateclub


 creamy roasted fennel dip served here with a baked baguette.

creamy roasted fennel dip served here with a baked baguette.

In the past I have tried to make vegetable chips myself without really any success.  The chips were always to thick to bake all the way through - and there is nothing more annoying than soggy chips.  That being said, I really wanted to recreate a dish I had tried at this great little restaurant in Nashville called 5th & Taylor (if you haven't been you should go!).  They make some seriously good eats including a creamy fennel appetizer dip that is incredible addictive.  Instead of serving the dip with store bought root chips, I tried my hand one last time at making baked chips at home.  The HUBS, his mom, his dad, and I used this slicer to cut carrots, parsnips, apples and sweet potatoes into 1.5mm thick pieces - the thinner the piece, the better it will bake.  The slices were then tossed in olive oil with a pinch of salt and sugar.  You can find the full recipe for this dip here:

 baked sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and apple chips served with creamy roasted fennel dip.

baked sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and apple chips served with creamy roasted fennel dip.

For the second course the HUBS and I wanted to serve a Thanksgiving spin on one of our favorite recipes.  We bought some wonderful mini french baguettes from our local market, and topped them with goat cheese, fresh arugula and cranberry compote.  We used this exact recipe, however substituted the cherries with 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, halved.  

The third course, our herbed mashed potatoes, is actually a recipe from one of my friend's.  After college, I attended my first traditional thanksgiving meal with an actual turkey.  I was such a fan of his herbed mashed potatoes that they have become a mainstay in our household with some slight variations.  You can find our adapted recipe here:  

 homemade garlic & herb mashed potatoes garnished with chives.

homemade garlic & herb mashed potatoes garnished with chives.

So at this point we had already incorporated sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cranberries.  Our next dish focused on squash.  As much as I love squash soups, it just has not been cold enough here to warrant a warm soup.  Instead we opted for a baked squash salad with arugula, pickled onions, parmesan, dill creme fraiche, toasted pepitas, and pomegranate.  The recipe for this dish can be found here:

Since the portions of each course were becoming larger and larger, we started to slow down a little - taking and giving longer breaks between each course.  For our next dish we decided to serve our absolute FAVORITE macaroni and cheese recipe ever.  Really this mac n cheese can not be topped.  I'll spare you from my excessive & obsessive love for this dish.  Since mac n cheese is a Thanksgiving staple, we just HAD to make this rendition.  To see the full recipe click here:

 When making this dish we suggest using radiatore or toscani pasta to really sop up the sauce.  

When making this dish we suggest using radiatore or toscani pasta to really sop up the sauce.  

At this point most of our family was pretty stuffed.  Actually I was completely stuffed (that macaroni is very filling and rich)!  I was so full I didnt even get to try this last dish.  In lieu of turkey, I needed something really filling.  The last thing my menu was missing was dressing, so I decided to make a vegetarian truffled quinoa dressing served on marinated portobello mushrooms with an herbed béchamel sauce.  This was the dish I was most worried about since A) I hadn't even tried it and B) was completely made up haha.  It ended up being a huge hit!  So much that the little nephew loved it too 😀.  To view this recipe click here:

Finally the best part, dessert!!!  I am not the biggest fan of pie, so I opted to make a Churro Pumpkin Funnel Cake topped with Vanilla Bean ice cream and toasted oats.  Yummmm.  I could've eaten this all day 😋.  To see this recipe click here:

 dipped in cinnamon sugary goodness.  

dipped in cinnamon sugary goodness.  

The last course was simply mulled wine.  The HUBS and I took two bottles of Rioja, added some chopped granny smith and red delicious apples, oranges, 6 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, pinch of nutmeg and let this slow cook on the stove over low heat for 4 hours.  Immediately before serving, we topped off each glass of mulled wine with a splash of sugar-free orange soda.  Delicious and not too sweet! 

We had such a wonderful time celebrating our first official Thanksgiving with our family.  We are so thankful that it worked out for everyone to come together from all over the country for this holiday.  It could not have been more perfect!



P.S.  I will be posting a tutorial tomorrow on how to we created our tablescape! 




Churro Pumpkin Pie Funnel Cake Recipe Charisma Shah


  1. 1 pint olive oil (for frying)
  2. 1.5 c all-purpose flour
  3. 1/4 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 2 tsp cinnamon (ground)
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  9. 3/4 c canned pumpkin pie filling
  10. 1 c milk
  11. 1/3 c granulated white sugar
  12. 1/3 c granola
  13. 1 tbs vanilla extract
  14. vanilla bean ice cream 


  1. Heat the oil for frying.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt.  
  3. Beat the egg, brown sugar, pumpkin pie filling, and milk together until well blended.  
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients until all has been well mixed.  
  5. In a shallow wide plate, mix the remaining 1 tsp of cinnamon with the granulated white sugar for dipping. 
  6. Pour the batter into a plastic funnel.  Cut open a 1/2 inch hole at the tip of the funnel.  Squeeze into the frying oil.  
  7. Fry until golden brown on both sides (flip).
  8. Dip into the cinnamon sugar.  Top with vanilla bean and toasted oats.


Vegetarian Thanksgiving Entree Alternative

Marinated Portobella Mushrooms, Truffled Leek Quinoa Dressing, & Herbed Béchamel Sauce Recipe




  1. 8 portobella mushrooms (stems removed)
  2. 10 springs of thyme
  3. 2 tsp minced garlic
  4. 1/3 block of boursin cheese
  5. 2 tbs butter
  6. 1 tbs olive oil
  7. 1.5 tsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  10. 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper


  1. 1 pint cream
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 3 tsp minced garlic
  5. 1.5 tsp freshly (finely) chopped parsley
  6. 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  7. 2 tsp salt
  8. 1 cup grated parmesan
  9. 2 tbs butter


  1. 2 cups of quinoa (cook as per instructions on package)
  2. 3 tsp freshly chopped parsley
  3. 2 tsp minced garlic
  4. 2 tbs butter
  5. 3 tbs truffle oil
  6. salt to taste
  7. freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 leek (washed & finely chopped)



    1. Thoroughly wash the mushrooms (remove the stems) in warm/hot water.  Pat dry and place in ziplock bag.
    2. In a small saucepan, heat the oil & melt butter (medium low).  Add the minced garlic and saute until golden.  
    3. Add the crushed red pepper and saute until aromatic (about 1 minute).
    4. Add the thyme & boursin cheese.  Mix well until cheese in completely dissolved.  Cook on low for 5-7 minutes.  
    5. Remove the thyme and add the parsley.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  
    6. Add to the ziplock bags with the mushrooms.  Marinate overnight.
  2. The next day bake in oven at 300F for 15 - 20 minutes or until tender.  


  1. Cook the quinoa as per the instructions on the packet.
  2. Heat the oils and melt the butter in a large wok or skillet.  
  3. Add the minced garlic and saute until golden brown.  
  4. Add the finely chopped leeks.  Saute until translucent.
  5. Add in the quinoa once cooked and mix thoroughly.  
  6. Add the salt, pepper, and parsley.  


  1. Melt the butter.
  2. Add the minced garlic and saute until golden brown.
  3. Add the cream and bring to a light simmer.
  4. In a bowl thoroughly mix the whole milk with the flour.  Add to the cream.  Stir well.
  5. Add the parsley and cook for 2 minutes. 
  6. Add the parmesan slowly while constantly stirring.  Allow each batch to melt completely before adding more.  




Baked Delicata Squash Salad Recipe Charisma Shah


  1. 2 delicata squash (halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch rounds)
  2. arugula
  3. pickled red onions (recipe here
  4. pumpkin seeds (toasted)
  5. 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  6. 3 tbs dill (finely chopped)
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 1 tbs dijon mustard
  9. 2 tbs olive oil
  10. 1 tsp white vinegar
  11. 1/4 tsp salt
  12. 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  13. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper/red mirchi
  14. pinch of cinnamon
  15. 1 pomegranate


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone mat.
  3. Lightly spray with oven cooking spray.  Set aside.
  4. Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.  
  5. Cut the squash into 1/2 inch rounds.  Place all rounds in ziplock bag.
  6. Toss in 1 tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp sugar, cayenne pepper/red mirchi, cinnamon in the ziplock bag.
  7. Place on baking sheet in 1 layer (do not overlap).
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove and allow to cool.
  9. In a squirt bottle, mix dill, ground black pepper, salt, white vinegar, olive oil and dijon mustard.  Add water until desired salad dressing consistency is reached.  
  10. Create salad by placing a couple squash on a plate with arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds, pickled onions, parmesan, dill creme fraiche, and pomegranate seeds.  





  1. 6 - 8 Yukon Gold small/medium potatoes
  2. 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  3. chives
  4. 3 tsp minced garlic
  5. 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  6. 4 tbs butter
  7. water


  1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil.  Add the garlic and saute until golden.
  2. Add the cream and the thyme.  Bring to a light simmer and then remove from heat.  Set aside. 
  3. Place the potatoes in a large pot.  Add water until all potatoes are covered.
  4. Bring to a light simmer.  Cook until tender/steamed (approximately 15 - 30 minutes)
  5. Once potatoes are completely cooked (if you can't tell, stick a knife in them.  The knife should easily go in and out of the potato without friction) allow to cool.  Remove the skins.
  6. Using a masher, ricer, or fork - mash the potatoes until smooth and whipped.  
  7. Remove the thyme from the cream mixture.  Add the cream into the potatoes.  Whip/stir until well blended.  
  8. Garnish with chives before serving.  

What I Am Stocking Up On At Sephora's Beauty Insider Sale

Its the most wonderful time of the year.  The Sephora Beauty Insider sale!!  😂  Seriously though, the holidays are usually the best time to buy goodies for others but also treat ourselves.  I wanted to share some of my personal favorites that I will be repurchasing to renew my stash, but also the products I am most excited about trying.  Keep reading to see my favorites, must buys, and must trys!  Also keep reading to find out how to score 15% off your total purchase from today, November 10-15!  


HOLY GRAIL LIPPIES aka stay put, nondrying formula, vibrant color, matte lipsticks that can outlast an Indian wedding or night out with limited if no reapplication necessary.  Umm, Yes Please.  🙌🏽


There really is just something about a good red lipstick...or in this case stain.  When I went for my makeup trial for my wedding, I talked to my makeup artist about using a classic red.  He suggested several different looks that we tried.  I wasn't really impressed with any, so I suggest I just wear what I already owned and had in my makeup bag.  I have been in love with this stain for so long, but the fact that it outlasted my wedding ceremony, dinner and a night of dancing afterwards without a single reapplication makes it EXCEPTIONAL.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Oh, and its pretty affordable.  🙌🏽  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTAIN.



There is just something about this shade.  I am constantly drawn to it and it seems to go really well with basically my entire closet.  I happened upon this shade one day at Sephora and purchased it then and there without knowing too much about the line or lasting power.  Turns out its pretty amazing.  It stays put after being set with translucent powder for hours (one of my favorite tricks for making lipsticks matte or keeping them in place!).  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTICK.



Classic Berry Lip Stain Sephora Beauty Insider Sale Picks


Anyone else a fan of The Holiday.  I love that movie so much, especially the two girls Sophie & Olivia.  Theres this one part of the movie where Sophie wants to know what lipstick Cameron Diaz is wearing.  Ever since then, I have been searching for a great berry colored stain.  Y'all.  This one is amazing.  Non-drying, very pigmented, beautiful color, stays put.  CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIPSTAIN.


Ok so this was probably the hardest color to find for me.  It seems for Indian women, nude lipsticks need to have a slight purple undertone to match our natural lip color.  Why doesn't anyone tell you this?!  I always wanted a great nude lipstick/stain but could never find one, until I pickup up my birthday gift at Sephora a couple years ago.  This lip pencil was the perfect nude for my lips.  It goes on like a smooth balm, the color has a hint of sheer, and has a slight shine all of which make it look really natural.  Its also my go to shade if I want to blend lipsticks to create more multi-dimensional colors.  FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS LIP PENCIL HERE.


Many of you know I am extremely picky about scents.  I have the nose of a blood hound and get really bad headaches from strong scents.  My go to's tend to be florals and citrus based scents that are light and airy.  I absolutely hate vanilla (aka migraine maker) and anything "spiced" (aka pumpkin spice, pie, apple spice, cinnamon, etc).  Get them away from me.  That being the case I have just one signature scent that I absolutely love, and its the Chloe perfume.  My parents gave it to me as a birthday gift several years ago.  The only problem is that I can't travel with it, so this year I am stocking up on some Chloe rollerballs (one for my toiletries & one for my purse).  These also make excellent stocking stuffers along with this really affordable Chloe gift set.

If you are looking for a more affordable but similar scent, I would suggest Coach Poppy as a great alternative (not a dupe, but still fresh light and floral).  


and by post workout hair, I mean day 3 just ran a couple miles and I really should wash my hair but my ClassPass cycle is almost up and I got to use those classes so how about I just go another day of not washing?  Sound familiar?  Yea thats me all the time now.  So I rely pretty heavily on this stuff to get me through the week so I don't need to wash my hair as often and I still looks good!  I have tried A LOT of dry shampoos (Batiste, Living Proof, you name it).  This is the only one that actually lifts my hair at the root, absorbs the oil, and smells good without being overpowering.  Seriously, go grab some of this (and while your at it get the travel size too!).  You'll thank me.  

Also sometimes can be found in a two pack here for cheaper!


My mom bought me this primer before we got married, and I love it.  It adds this really natural light dewiness to any foundation, and TBH can be worn alone as a highlighter as well.  It just has such an amazing subtle sheen.  Its been a mainstay in my makeup bag for about 3 years now.  Definitely worth considering if you are shopping around for a primer or highlighter.  


Lets start off by saying I have been purchasing these two products for several years now and have bought too many bottles to count.  Each lasts about 6 months, are my skin saviors, and are absolute must haves in my books - especially in winter.  Oh, the HUBS can't stop using them too.  Click the pictures below to find out more information!


These are the handful of items that I have been dying to purchase (I have already tried them out in the store) but have just been waiting for the perfect opportunity aka 15% off using the code "INSIDER15".  🤗  

Click the pictures for more information about each product.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week!  Happy shopping!



The Skincare Products I Keep Buying Again & Again.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am skincare obsessed, so much so that I have even gotten the HUBS to care about his grooming routine.  And after extensive research that stemmed back to my anti-wrinkle crusade back in my twenties, these are the products that I use. 

Every.  Single.  Day.  Year.  After.  Year.


This product was a life saver in college.  I had terrible cheek, t-zone, face, back & neck acne.  I would hide from the camera because my face would look swollen from all the zits back then.  I tried everything (except Acutane) back then multiple types of antibiotics, salicylic acid products, creams after creams.  I was already a hairy Indian girl with glasses - acne just made it SO MUCH WORSE.  I couldn't hide because the acne created this radioactive glow about my face.  JK but seriously it was bad.  I had pretty much accepted defeat when my junior year my mom found this at COSTCO.  Deal breaker.  I have been using it ever since everyday.  So that makes about 10 years of using this cleanser.  Yep.  10 years.  

After about a year of using this cleanser my skin stabilized.  I wasn't breaking out at all with the occasional exception (maybe like 6X/year).  The best part is now you can readily find it at most grocery stores, target, walmart, and amazon!

Occasionally I will get a random pimple here and there (ladies, you can relate).  If I am able to catch it early, I just treat it with some of this spot treatment and it goes away within 24 hours.  One of my roommates in college introduced me to this stuff so again I have been using this product for about 10 years now.  I keep a tube in my travel toiletries bag, on my counter, and even in my parents house (just in case!).  

Again this product is readily available in most drugstores, grocery stores, Target, Walmart & Amazon.  

If you haven't read about Hyaluronic acid you should.  This amazing skincare saver has been around since the 80's, helps skin absorb up to 1000X more water (aka more hydrated skin) and has been one of the most effective injectables for a LONG time (hello Juvaderm & Restylane).  

Although HA can often be found in many moisturizers, I have found it to be more effective when used prior to and independent from moisturizing.  Initially, I tried a couple different less expensive products before finally pulling the plunge on this one.   

So why do I consistently buy this more expensive HA?  First, its the only product on the market that is 75% HA in solution - meaning 75% of the serum is PURE 100% HA.  All of the other HA formulas I had previously found were super deceptive by saying they were 100% HA, but in the fine print the percent of HA in solution of the serum was 5% or less.  🤦🏽‍♀️

I have been using this product for 5 years now.  One bottle lasts about 4 - 6 months.  I apply it in the morning right after washing my face and before applying moisturizer.  Sometimes I just apply this alone.  It leaves my skin feeling SO supple and hydrated.  I usually buy it from here, but you can also find it here at Sephora.


As many of you have read at this point, I am not a fan of conventional sunscreens.  I hate the oily feel, and white ghostly residue they leave behind on darker skin tones.  I didn't wear sunscreen until my mid-twenties because I could never find a product that worked for me.  I did some research of products on google.  Basically I was looking for a moisturizer that had hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, and at least an SPF of 30.  That may seem like a lot of demands, but there are so many skincare brands these days, I thought well surely this exists, right 🤷🏽‍♀️?).  Turns out this moisturizer meets every last demand, and more

This moisturizer is the consistency of a gel-like lotion, 1 tube used daily lasts about 4-6 months, and it doesn't leave behind that annoying white film.  If it could get any greater, its ingredients include an impressive amount of great skin savers including Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins A, C, E, and SPF45.  Boom.

I have been using this for 3 years now.  It is the only face sunscreen I use ( the HUBS uses it too!). I always buy it here, but you can also purchase it here or directly from PCA.  


my daily skincare regimen charisma shah

Occasionally I find myself needed a deeper moisturizer than the one above.  This primarily happens during the winter months, or in extreme climates (like PHX for instance) or chill wind like NYC/BOSTON/CHICAGO during winter.  I got it as a free sample from Sephora right before I moved to NYC.  I tried it out one morning post shower.  The next day post workout, my skin was still hydrated!  From one application!  Oh and it smells like cucumbers 🤗.  When I was living in NYC, this moisturizer was my saving grace during the winter months.  People warned me to be prepared for cold weather by stocking up on leggings, thermal underwear, lots and lots of tights.  But no one told me that you NEED a thick moisturizer for the wind tunnels that will literally cut your cheeks in the cold.  To this day this is my go to winter moisturizer.  


If I am planning on staying in and do not need sunscreen, I tend to use this moisturizer.  Its cost effective (hello drugstore steal), has ceramides & hyaluronic acid (yes please!), and comes in an easy pump bottle (necessary for the HUBS).  I've been using this product for about 3 years now, since my mom introduced it to me.

This moisturizer can be purchased at most drugstores, Target, Walmart, and Amazon.  

**I am NOT a fan of the sunscreen version of this product - I find it to be sticky.


I am absolutely in love with Facial Oil.  I really find it to be a game changer in the brightness, dewiness of my skin.  Every morning I take one drop of this facial oil and mix it in with my moisturizer before applying to my face.  Similarly, 1 night a week I apply this facial oil to my face before I sleep.  When I wake up, my skin has a "glow" according to the HUBS.  


After all my exhaustive research about skincare, the one thing I missed was that nights are the perfect time to let your skin catch up & renew.  For most of my 20's I wasn't utilizing nights, but a about 2 years ago I really started regimenting my nightly routine.  Though its not nearly as thorough as my morning routine, these are the products I find myself continuously buying and using.  


I try to use Vitamin C once week at night.  I find it to really brighten & refresh my skin while noticeably reducing the fine lines I have on my forehead.  I love to really seal this in with my facial oil and seal that in with the cream below haha.  It seems excessive, but my skin is SO radiant in the morning.  When it comes to Vitamin C there are some products that are more pure and effective.  I really loved the Body Shop vitamin C pods (which have been discontinued).  These are the only brand that I have found similar (with similar ingredients) to the body shop ones that I love.  

OMG.  A couple years ago I read this article about how Sephora had a hard time keeping this item stocked.  Naturally I was curious.  I went to Sephora to try the product out for myself.  It felt so good, I immediately purchased the jar.  Let's just say I have a hard time sharing this product with the HUBS.  It smells like roses.  Its a gel cream with small capsules of ceramides in it.  One application made my skin so bright that I have been using it for 2 years now.  I use it about 2X/week.  I probably should be using more, but I am still working on consistency at night.  


I have had so many friends ask what I've been using I figured I'd share.  The best part is that several of these (ceramide cream, deep moisturizer, and the hyaluronic acid) are on sale starting tomorrow at Sephora by using the code INSIDER15!  🤗

As always, be mindful of allergies by testing a product first on a test spot like your forearm.  I have normal to oily skin - these recommendations are based on my skin type.  Hope this helps and is informative!

What are some of your favorite skin care products?  I'd love to hear your recommendations below👇🏽! 

This Must Have For Healthy Youthful Skin

I am a self-proclaimed skincare nut.  It started when I was in my mid-twenties.  I distinctly remember a co-worker saying that, "One day you just wake up and Bam! Wrinkles."  She was so right.  When I turned 25, I started noticing all these lines that wouldn't disappear.  Blah.  So I decided to start taking care of my skin.  

First, I visited a dermatologist.  Based on her recommendations, I tried the most popular items (including RoC, prescription strength retinol, sheer fluid sunscreen, etc).  The RoC and prescription strength retinol made my skin feel itchy, dry and splotchy.  So I stopped that.  I tried an assortment of everyday sunscreens none of which were meant for darker skin tones, so I'd look like a ghost with that whitish filmy residue on my face, or in the case of Neutrogena's fluid sheer sunscreen made my skin feel oily and was only really appropriate for sports.  


I was basically back at square one, so I decided to ask my mom.  We were at that stage in life (still are TBH) where people keep asking her how she can have a daughter my age.  She eats it up.  But in all fairness, she has some pretty amazing skin, so besides just genetics, I asked her what she was doing.  Turns out growing up in a extremely polluted city in India, and never wearing sunscreen a day in her life was working for her.  As she got older she did admit to using moisturizer at least (good job mom! 👏🏽).  

With very little to go on, I was feeling pretty clueless.  And then I discovered the most important part of my skincare routine - PubMed.  Seriously.  Knowledge of the products being used, their ingredients and tested results have really helped guide my skincare regimen.

Anytime you walk into a makeup or skincare aisle, all these terms are thrown at you, each seemingly a must-have, but in reality most are unreliable.   So I started PubMed'ing skincare buzzwords like Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, CoQE10, etc.  There are so many of these terms that sound dazzingly scientific it can be overwhelming (and 💰💰), but I use my trusted tool to teach me where to start and what the best products were to invest in.  Below is what I have read & learned so far with links to the original article.

 Anyone else have too many products to count.  Well much like fashion, I believe its better to have a few power players in skincare, than a completely covered vanity of vague products.  

Anyone else have too many products to count.  Well much like fashion, I believe its better to have a few power players in skincare, than a completely covered vanity of vague products.  


CERAMIDES:  fatty acids that make up the outer most layer of skin.  when they get depleted --> wrinkles start to form (more info here, here, here, here, and here).

COLLAGEN:  oral intake of collagen can increase skin moisture which in turn diminishes signs of aging including dryness.  See here!

GLYCOLIC ACID:  topical use of glycolic acid can increase Hyaluronic Acid and Collagen gene expression.  Check out this article for more info!

HYALURONIC ACID:  when topically applied or oral ingested, hyaluronic acid can help skin absorb water/moisture significantly better which in turn promotes collagen production and thereby can decrease the appearance of wrinkles.

VITAMIN A:  in the form of retinoids and beta carotene can make your skin brighter but also diminish hyper pigmentation (which is more common in darker skin tones) and diminish fine wrinkles.  caution though it can be drying!  Check out this great article about VitA! And this one!

VITAMIN C:  Big freaking deal.  Helps promote collage production which in turn helps fill wrinkles.  It can also make your skin look brighter (here).

VITAMIN E:  comes in lots of different forms both natural (α-Tocopherol) and synthetic (dl-tocopherol).  It provides photoprotection and reacts with free radicals to protect the skin.  it also is anti-inflammatory.  Check out this article for more information!


There are countless skincare products that claim to reverse aging and improve skin quality.  I don't really believe that you can reverse the aging process but I have tried & actively use several products that help keep my skin bright, tight, youthful, and supple - basically keep it stuck at 25 (🙌🏽).  Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about each of favorite result-driven products & exactly how long I have been using them, some of which might even be on sale later this week at Sephora!

Transitional Maxi Dresses for Fall

As the months get cooler but before it starts becoming full on fur-insulated boots & arctic jackets weather 😫 (can you tell I'm not a fan of winter?) transitional pieces take over my wardrobe.  My absolute favorite time of year is Spring, but the Diwali - Holiday season are a very close second.  That being said, I love dresses too much to stop wearing them, SO I just start transitioning to earthy tones with berry accents.  Its just so comfortable and easy to gravitate to these colors during the fall season.  

 case & point - olive + berry

case & point - olive + berry

When I saw this dress, I absolutely fell in love.  I usually do not gravitate to smaller prints, but the colors, embroidery and silhouette just make this maxi SO easy to wear.  As many of you know, I am not for the trendy but rather classy staples.  This is definitely a staple.  

The way I see it, invest in classic pieces that can remain in your closet for many years to come, like this one (bonus perk: since this piece is Indian inspired, I can definitely wear it for Indo-Western events too!  yay!).








Halloween is almost here!  Although, thanksgiving is more my decorating game, halloween is still tons of fun especially for those with kiddos and a sweet tooth (like me!).  Last year for Halloween the HUBS and I roped our friend to have a Minion party - and guess what.  We all dressed up like minions, duh.  But the most fun part was having 15 some odd adults dressed up as minions making their own minion for the wall, eating minion cupcakes on a table with minion pumpkins, in a house with great BIG minion doors.  It was a yellow & black explosion, but soooo fun.  It was like an adult craft party with sweet treats (yay!).  

Now, I apologize in advance, I do not have high quality images of these, but seriously, these doors are the easiest way to decorate in a BIG way.  

 haha don't you just love the 7 hairs on mr.minion on the left.  Maybe we should've left him a comb in his pocket 

haha don't you just love the 7 hairs on mr.minion on the left.  Maybe we should've left him a comb in his pocket 


  1. roll of yellow kraft paper (measure your doors to make sure 1 roll is enough)
  2. blue poster board
  3. black & white poster board
  4. scissors
  5. glue (stick or gun)
  6. packing tape or painters tape 


  1. Its pretty self-explanatory, but roll the yellow paper over the door (completely covering the front of the door).
    1. tape the yellow paper to the door on the inside or back of door
  2. tape the blue poster board where you want the minions "pants" to be
  3. make an eye + goggle piece using the white & black poster board.  Adhere this to the door.
  4. Add personality to your minions by adding hair, mouthes, etc.

SIDE NOTE:  We used our remaining craft supplies from this project to let everyone make their own wall minion (see picture below).  I thought that the guys would skip out on this but turns out it was a fun activity for everyone!  

 can you guess which wall minion is mine (bet its not the one you think)?  Also how funny are those pumpkins??  

can you guess which wall minion is mine (bet its not the one you think)?  Also how funny are those pumpkins??  

 Standing in front of our #DIY minion doors.  The HUBS wanted to be a "lumberjack" Minion 😂. Leave a comment 👇🏽 if you want me to post a tutorial for how to create the HUBS goggles and my minion tshirt.  We DIY'd basically everything at this party haha.

Standing in front of our #DIY minion doors.  The HUBS wanted to be a "lumberjack" Minion 😂. Leave a comment 👇🏽 if you want me to post a tutorial for how to create the HUBS goggles and my minion tshirt.  We DIY'd basically everything at this party haha.

 We ♥️ our friends.  

We ♥️ our friends.  


Ok.  So this is my absolute favorite Punjabi dal.  Its got a long history with our family.  Growing up, my brothers and I LOVED eating black dal.  I used to always think it was too involved for my cooking capabilities and patience.  But I finally caved and asked my mom and Devi to teach me how to make this, turns out its pretty easy!  OMG.  Y'all.  I feel like its #adulting to make it myself.  

**I still maintain that being fed Black dal is better than making it yourself - mom cooked food is ALWAYS better (right?).  BUT this is a really really close second.**




  1. 1 c whole urad dal (soaked overnight)

  2. 1/4 c rajma (soaked overnight)

  3. 3 3/4 c water (for pressure cooking)

  4. 2 tbs olive oil

  5. 1 whole bay leaf

  6. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera

  7. 1/8 tsp hing

  8. 2 tsp kasoori methi

  9. 1 small white onion (finely chopped)

  10. 1 stick of butter (unsalted)

  11. 1 large sandwich tomato (blended)

  12. 3 tsp garlic (minced)

  13. 1 1/2 tsp adu marcha

  14. 1/2 tsp haldi

  15. 1 1/2 tsp mirchi

  16. 1 tsp dhana jeeru

  17. salt to taste

  18. freshly chopped cilantro


  1. Soak the dal & rajma overnight in hot water.

  2. Pressure cook the dal & rajma with 3 3/4 c of water for 45 minutes (use manual mode, high pressure & venting when using this cooker).  If using a traditional pressure cooker please adjust your cook time accordingly - dal should be soft & mashable with a spoon when done.

  3. Heat oil on medium.

  4. Add the bay leaves, sauté for 1 minute.

  5. Add the cumin seeds, sauté for 1 minute.

  6. Add hing, sauté for 1 minute.

  7. Add methi, sauté for 1 minute.

  8. Add garlic, ginger, adu marcha and sauté til golden.

  9. Add 2/3 stick of butter.  Melt.

  10. Add onion and sauté until translucent.

  11. Add mirchi & haldi.  

  12. Add tomato and salt.  Bring to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 8 minutes.

  13. Add the pressure cooked dal and bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes.

  14. Add the remainder of butter on top.

  15. Using an emersion blender, blend half of the dal in the pot and add water until desired consistency is reached.

  16. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with my personal favorite - aloo parathas!  

 Black dal (dal makhani) garnished with yogurt, freshly chopped cilantro, lassan chutney.

Black dal (dal makhani) garnished with yogurt, freshly chopped cilantro, lassan chutney.

Vegetarian Indian Black Dal (Dal Makhani) Recipe Charisma Shah
 please note that this is an estimate

please note that this is an estimate


About a year ago, I came across a picture of what I assumed was of some exotic lake in Switzerland.   Turns out it was Lake Louise in Banff National Park just outside of Calgary, Canada. I have been pushing the HUBS to go ever since.  The mountains looked perfect, the water was the unimaginable shade of blue and the proximity was undeniable.  

Fast foward to this past Labor day weekend - we were scrambling because we booked a trip to Costa Rica that was cancelled because of the devastation to Houston by Hurricane Harvey.  We were about to cancel our plans entirely, but desperately trying to find another great getaway.   The first option we considered was Puerto Rico but then we turned on the news and it appeared that Hurricane Irma was headed straight there.  We then considered the sunny beaches of Mexico but Hurricane Lidia was en route.  We just about gave up, when I realized that Banff was an option, especially since Canadian parks have free entrance this year in honor of the national parks' 150th anniversary (about a $20 saving per day per entrance to the parks).  Granted the HUBS had already been (when he was 10), but it was pretty safe from all the tropical storms and a great use of our vacation time.  We literally booked our tickets 32 hours before our flight!

Banff definitely did not disappoint - even with forest fires (146 to be precise) and heavy smog it was still super pretty and a wonderful time!  Keep reading to see all the places we visited during our 6 day stay in Banff and maybe even a little drone video at the end.

Happy Wanderlust Wednesday y'all :)




Before visiting, we got some great recommendations from our friend who lived in Calgary.  Calgary is about an 1 - 1.5 hour drive to Banff.  Since we landed somewhat late, we decided to stay the night in Calgary and explore the town. 


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  close to the airport, free breakfast, good gym, quick drive to downtown, really good music playlist, good customer service (random I know but seriously true lol!), spacious suites, awapuhi shampoo (one of my faves!)
  3. CONS:  meh decor, generic, breakfast is pretty standard


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  delicious food, amazing cocktails, great ambiance, very kind staff, extremely vegetarian friendly
  3. RECS:  cocktails - asno cavalo (port + gingerbeer + lime) ah-mazing.  My favorite dishes were the yam tortilla, grilled asparagus and the gigli.  Pass on the gai lan if you don't like acidic asian flavors


The next morning we had a late start.  It was a little cooler in Banff than we had anticipated (specifically the nights) so we woke up and shopped for some layers and then drove to Banff (~100km/60mi).  En route to Banff we stopped at Cascade Ponds and Johnson Lake (an extension of Lake Minnewanka).

 Aerial (drone) photo of Cascade Ponds.

Aerial (drone) photo of Cascade Ponds.


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  really pretty, very clear almost stained glass like water with green hues.  Not too touristy (even at mid-day), canoes/kayaks welcome, no hiking necessary for views
  3. CONS:  hard to see the real colors when the sun isn't directly overhead
  4. RECS:  go during morning or early afternoon for best views.
 Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake


  1. RATING: 3/5
  2. PROS: no hiking necessary for view, not too touristy, en route to Banff, serene and quiet, picnic tables 
  3. CONS: view is ok
Banff International Hostel Itinerary Tour Guide Canada Charisma Shah


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  cost effective option for staying in Banff town center, clean rooms/bathrooms, 8 bunks/room, co-ed/family/single sex rooms available with en suite bathroom, free breakfast, young professionals, safe, great location
  3. CONS:  can be noisy, front desk is open 24/7 so people can arrive in the middle of the night


  1. RATING:  3.5/5
  2. PROS:  really good veggie poutine with cheese curds, friendly staff, no reservation needed
  3. CONS:  pizza hut style pizza, too cheesy, not enough sauce (I love neapolitan style pizza, so take this with a grain of salt)



On Wednesday morning, we woke up early so we could head out to Emerald Lake first thing (about a 1 hour drive from Banff).  Technically Emerald Lake is not in Banff, its in Yoho National Park.  This lake came highly recommended by several other sites, the views looks beautiful, and it definitely did not disappoint.  From there we drove up through the Icefields parkway to Peyto Lake.  

 Emerald Lake (Yoho National Park, Canada)

Emerald Lake (Yoho National Park, Canada)

Emerald Lake Yoho Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah
Emerald Lake Yoho Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  no hiking necessary for view, incredibly serene, very well maintained, beautiful, minty seafoam green water, canoes available ($95/hour), wonderful 5 mile trail that goes all the way around the lake, good cliff jumping spot, great reflections.
  3. CONS:  canoes are quite expensive, gets busy starting at 10 AM.
  4. RECS:  definitely take the trail that goes around the lake - very worth it for beautiful views and evolving scenery.
 Drone footage of Peyto Lake (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada) from the Bow Summit.

Drone footage of Peyto Lake (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada) from the Bow Summit.

 These two goofballs, almost scared me to death with this shot (thats a cliff right there!!)

These two goofballs, almost scared me to death with this shot (thats a cliff right there!!)

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah

PEYTO LAKE (elevation 6100+ ft)

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  beautiful views, short walk to lookout or and long hike to summit
  3. CONS:  lots of people at the lookout (during mid-day), not as well marked as we would have liked
  4. RECS:  The longer hike (4 miles roundtrip) to the summit is definitely worth the incredible views.  Summit is at ~7000ft elevation.  Hiking shoes aren't necessary but highly recommended since rocky.


  1. RATING:  3.5/5
  2. PROS: nice staff & service, comfy chairs, lots of veggie options, eclectic bar/pub food
  3. CONS:  taste was good not great.  the p'zookie was a little dry and crumbly.  quinoa beet bowl was good.  not memorable to visit again.


During the 24 hours between booking and actually taking our flight we were definitely scrambling to figure out exactly what all we wanted to see.  The plight of the constant wanderluster is going somewhere and missing something epic or beautiful.  SO each one of us researched to find the best spots and most beautiful locations.  Lake Morraine seemed to pop up on every site's list as the most beautiful lake in Banff.  Obviously we had to see it for ourself.  

Lake Morraine at Sunrise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah


  1. RATING:  4.5/5
  2. PROS:  beautiful, perfectly flanked by mountains on all sides, bright blue water
  3. CONS:  super touristy now (much like Louise), lots of people (even at 5:30 AM for the sunrise), canoes are really expensive to rent ($95/hour), the hike for the best views is literally a pile of strewn about lumber and massive rocks (a little daunting)
  4. RECS:  if you go during high season (april - september) expect lots of people no matter the time of day, sunlight doesn't hit the mountains in september til late morning/early afternoon so sunrises are not really worth it.  Lake is absolutely beautiful though, bring hiking boots
Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah
Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah


  1. RATING: 4/5
  2. PROS:  really nice paved path around half of the lake, pretty, flanked by mountains, restaurants and nice bathrooms
  3. CONS:  way too many people (even early in the morning), hike can be pretty rocky 
  4. RECS:  bring hiking boots, lots of water, cash if you go to the teahouse
 Waterfall along the Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike

Waterfall along the Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike

Plain of 6 Glaciers Hike Lake Louise Banff National Park Canada Tour Guide Itinerary Charisma Shah


  1. RATING:  3/5
  2. PROS:  cute teahouse (with veggie options) at the top, 10 miles (round trip) with elevation gain of ~2400ft, alongside beautiful waterfalls,
  3. CONS:  extremely rocky, horse poop, lots of people (you can feel rushed sometimes which is dangerous on this hike at points), view is ok.  
  4. RECS:  hiking boots, water, snacks for the top, cash to pay at teahouse, do the beehive hike instead for better views (there is another teahouse here as well).


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. COST:  $$
  3. PROS:  outstanding lick-your-fingers good food, great service, really friendly staff, walk-ins welcome
  4. CONS:  sometimes they get large tour groups so reservations might be beneficial
  5. RECS:  seriously if you like Indian food then this is a must visit - it is undoubtedly one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to outside of India.  Get the Tava Paneer and chili naan (delish!!!).  Oh the Tadka/Yellow daal was amazing too!  


The guys were considerate of my lack of hiking stamina, so we decided to only do one major hike per day.  Each of these hikes were about 10 miles long round trip so multiple in one day was not really an option for me.  Johnston canyon is a hike that runs along a creek to two waterfall (Lower and Upper).  The Lower falls is about a 1.5 mile hike while Upper is about a 3.5 mile hike with a pretty gradual increase in elevation.  Just beyond the Upper falls, is a hike to the Ink Pots, a series of brilliant blue green ponds that appear to be straight out of an asian garden and can only be reached by hiking (no road access).  In total the hike is about 5 miles (oneway) to the Ink Pots.

 Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

 Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon

Waterfall between the Upper and Lower falls at Johnston Canyon


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  well shaded by the trees, paved trail with rails, great views of the waterfalls, beginner level for hikes to both falls, great clean bathrooms.
  3. CONS:  lots of people, can't get in the water.
  4. RECS:  go early in the morning to avoid crowds (we started the hike at 8:30 AM)
 Aerial (drone) photo of the Ink Pots (Banff National Park).

Aerial (drone) photo of the Ink Pots (Banff National Park).


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  well shaded hike, along water, definitive trail with signage
  3. CONS:  long hike to see ink pots, several people even in early morning
  4. RECS:  bring water and snacks, the earlier the better, hiking boots not necessary.


After three days of hiking 10 miles each, we just felt like relaxing the remainder of our trip so we decided to venture a little bit south of Banff to the little town of Invermere.  


  1. RATING:  3/5
  2. COST: $$
  3. PROS:  great free breakfast with lemon blueberry ricotta pancakes, nice staff, in-room keurigs
  4. CONS:  typical drab decor, not too many young professionals


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. COST:  $5.95/person
  3. PROS:  inexpensive, natural hot spring with minerals, locker rooms, towel rental (and swim suit but that seems weird to me haha), spa on site for facials/massages/etc, really beautiful during the winter, biggest natural hot springs in Canada
  4. CONS:  lots of people, typically do renovations from september - november so regular spring is not open during that time, no drinks or food available for purchase, spa is very expensive, hard to compete with the Blue Lagoon (Iceland)


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. COST:  $$
  3. PROS:  board games available to play at table, really nice staff, clean bathrooms, good food, large tvs
  4. RECS:  try the green chile mac n cheese!


  1. RATING: 3/5
  2. COST: $
  3. PROS:  nice friendly staff, fresh food
  4. CONS:  food was under salted and bland.  Too much paprika and just not very good.  Not a good example of Mexican/TexMex


  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. COST: $$$
  3. PROS:  eclectic menus with lots of vegetarian options, pakoras were actually amazing (this Indian approves!), every dish was well made and tasted great, charming atmosphere
  4. RECS:  make a reservation


  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  great pies, really nice family establishment, staff was warm and welcoming, seems to be a locals spot, great pies (with ice cream!), golf clubs & carts available for rent, can drink on course (when purchase at course's restaurant)
  3. CONS:  no driving range
  4. RECS:  get the blueberry rhubarb or apple pies with ice cream on top!

Unfortunately, due to forest fires in the surrounding area, most of the hikes in Invermere were closed.  We had an absolutely amazing time in Banff even with the smog.  The hikes were incredible and empowering for me haha because I have literally never hiked so much in my life.  The views are amazing but if I could go again I would avoid this forest fire season and try to go when there is still snow on the mountain tops!  The smoke and smog definitely affected our ability to take photos and drone footage, but it could hamper Banff's beauty!  Below is our drone video from this trip.  Enjoy!!

 Our 6 day tour of Banff (and Yoho) National Park, Canada.

Our 6 day tour of Banff (and Yoho) National Park, Canada.

  1. Calgary
  2. Johnson Lake
  3. Cascade Ponds
  4. Banff (Town Center)
  5. Johnston Canyon
  6. Ink Pots
  7. Lake Louise
  8. Lake Morraine
  9. Emerald Lake
  10. Peyto Lake