Verily with Hardship comes Ease

2014, in essence, thus far has proved to be the worst of times and the best of times.

It started off as [relatively] horrible as it possibly could, with the c-word scare and surgery soon thereafter [and the not so fun recovery]. It started off with the many “what if’s”, “how could this be” and “why” questions. Not to mention the most stressful months of my life.

I often had to remind myself that this, too, shall pass.

And in the midst of all this chaos… in the way both spectrums intertwined at the same time… there is truly no other way to explain it in my mind other than: He, above, once again proved: Verily with Hardship comes Ease - [94:5-6]

Most of my family and friends, by now, know that  I am engaged as of early March.

In the days after, someone jokingly said to me that I apparently don’t do anything the normal/typical way. But that is my life. So why would this be any different? For the first time since leaving Pakistan 19.5 years ago, I will travel back to Pakistan mid December. And not just to visit, mind you; to get married there. Why not, right?!

Never in a million years would I have imagined traveling back to Pakistan, let alone to go back for the first time after so many years to get married AND move to Australia immediately afterwards.
But alhumdulillah. He is the best of planners.

Last year at the this time, it was all about planning/preparing for hajj. This year? Wedding/Pakistan Trip.

What’s for Dinner: [Individual] Donut Cakes

For my brother Faraz’s birthday on Friday, I made individual cakes in the shape/form/appearance of a donut… because he loves donuts. I made his favorite kind: chocolate frosted with sprinkles. I left the sprinkles off of mine.

You will need, of course, a [non-stick] donut pan.

Use your favorite store-bought vanilla, yellow, or chocolate cake recipe [store-bought or homemade].
I used a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Tip: I have a “cupcake pen” that helps you fill cupcake or muffin and it makes it so easy [without a big mess]. I basically just used it to swirl around each donut hold three times until each was filled two thirds of the way. They will rise!

I baked mine in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes each. As you can imagine, I had to do a number of batches since each donut pan makes six. I think my batter made 24 individual “donuts”.

Once the individual “donut” cakes were out of the oven, I let them cool before frosting. Once they were frosted, I added the sprinkles for the finishing touches.

The possibilities are endless with this technique: use your favorite combination! Such as:

  • chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
  • vanilla cake with vanilla frosting
  • red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

What’s for Dinner: Chicken Taco Twist

For Faraz’s birthday dinner, tonight, I made this chicken taco twist. I saw this idea for a twisted bread sometime ago, I think on Pinterest, and changed it up to my liking.

Cut them as small or large of a serving as you would like.

What you need:

  • ground chicken
  • taco seasoning
  • bell peppers, diced
  • 2 tubes of [refrigerated] french bread
  • Egg, lightly beaten
  • Oregano
I doubled the recipe and made two twists today.

What I did was:

  1. Season your ground chicken with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Cook it over medium heat before adding in the [low sodium] taco seasoning. Mix well.
  2. Add in the diced bell peppers [I used red and yellow ones today] and mix it with the chicken for a few minutes before removing it from the heat.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil [for easy cleanup].
  4. Meanwhile, with the french bread dough: score the top from one end to the other [in both loaves]. Next, using your fingers, spread open the dough a few inches to create an indent in the middle for the filling.
  5. Add in the chicken mixture. Now, using your fingers again: pinch the dough together to closing around the mixture completely. Repeat the process with the second bread.
  6. Transfer both loaves onto the lined tray [seam side down], one next to the other. Next, twist the two bread dough with one another as if you were creating a braid.
  7. Brush on the beaten egg on top of the twisted bread. Create score marks/slits on top of the bread dough [for ventilation].
  8. Sprinkle some oregano on top.
  9. Bake in your preheated oven, for about 30 minutes. Or until the top is golden brown and the bread is completely cooked through.
  10. Since I was making two sets, I repeated the process of steps 4-9 a second time.
  11. Slice and serve!


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

What’s for Dinner: Barbecue Chicken

BBQs are a favorite around here from spring through fall [and often even in the midst of winter]. In fact, we have already done a barbecue a handful of times in the mere few weeks the weather has been nice. Not to mention I love how healthy it is the way I make mine.
Typically I take scored chicken [leg and thigh pieces] and marinate it with black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, lemon juice, yogurt, raw papaya, some tandoori masala and some tikka masala. Working with scored chicken does wonders for the marinade to seep inside. Some days, I use my homemade tandoori masala mix instead, which you can find by clicking here.
Let the chicken marinate before cooking it over the charcoal on the barbecue grill outside.
This recipe is so versatile and I have used this recipe in many ways: cooked slowly over low heat on the stove, in my George Foreman grill, in the oven, with boned-in meat and boneless: it’s a fail proof go-to recipe. Not to mention I have used the chicken in many things: on top of pizza, in wraps, burgers, and pita pockets to name just a few from the top of my head. The possibilities are endless. 
Serving this chicken barbecued alongside the raita I mentioned on this post is absolutely delicious and a perfect pair.


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

What’s for Dinner: Baked Boneless Chicken Wings

I turned my boneless chicken wings recipe into a healthier version today [Friday night] by baking them. Full of flavor, without the oil/frying factor.

Here’s how I made it today:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil. Spray non-stick cooking spray over the foil.
  2. I seasoned boneless chicken cubes with black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and onion powder. Mix in an egg.
  3. Meanwhile, [in a ziploc bag] season your flour with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili powder.
  4. In batches, coat all of your chicken with the flour mixture. Just add the chicken into the ziploc bag and shake well until it’s nicely incorporated.
  5. Transfer your coated chicken onto the lined foil tray. Before transferring it into your preheated oven, spray non-stick cooking spray over the top of the chicken.
  6. Bake the chicken, in your preheated oven, for about 10-12 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, mix your [heated up] hot sauce and about a tablespoon of [melted] butter.
  8. Let your chicken cool for a few minutes once it is out of the oven before coating it with the sauce.


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

What’s for Dinner: Sweet Chili Shrimp

For dinner tonight, I recreated the Sweet Chili Shrimp appetizer from Red Lobster. I made a homemade version of Sweet Chili Shrimp [and served it over a bed of lettuce]… and it tasted spot on. By the way, click here for my version of their Cheddar Bay Biscuits which would be great to serve alongside this shrimp!

What I did was basically make my popcorn shrimp recipe to start off. Minus the salt, since I was adding sauce. And I added chili powder and onion powder to the shrimp.

  1. So: I took [small] shrimp [peeled and deveined] and seasoned it with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder and chili powder.
  2. Next, add in an egg [amount depending on how much shrimp you are working with... just enough to "wet" the shrimp so the breading sticks].
  3. When you are ready to fry the shrimp: in a ziploc bag [for convenience and easy cleanup], add in flour [amount depending on how much shrimp you are working with] and season the flour with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Shake well to make sure the flour is thoroughly seasoned.
  4. Add in the shrimp, in batches, to the flour. Shake well.
  5. Finally, fry the shrimp until they are golden brown!

Meanwhile, for the Sweet Chili sauce, I just used a store-bought sauce today. I wanted to make sure the taste would be accurate, and it was, so next time I’ll experiment with making the sauce completely homemade too. That’s not to say, the store-bought wasn’t a great help/alternative: I’m all about semi-homemade/getting some help from the store when I can, but I do like controlling the quantity/quality of ingredients in my food which is why I prefer homemade when I can. 

 
Today, I used the Sweet Chili sauce from the brand “Frank’s Red Hot”.

  1. After allowing the fried shrimp to cool somewhat for a few minutes, toss the shrimp with the sauce. Coat all the shrimp with the sauce.
  2. Once your shrimp is coated, transfer it on top of the [chopped] bed of lettuce.
  3. Optional: for presentation purposes, adding a sprinkle of chopped scallions on top would be a great touch.


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

What’s for Dinner: Cajun Roasted Potatoes

To serve alongside my Cajun shrimp, I made these Cajun roasted [red] potatoes.
I cut my red potatoes into small pieces [first I halved them, then quartered each half]. I transferred all of the potatoes onto a foil-lined baking sheet, Next, I sprayed the potatoes with non-stick cooking spray before I seasoned the potatoes with black pepper, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, paprika, and of course Cajun seasoning.
I baked it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes all together. For the first half of the baking time, I had all the potatoes facing skin side up. For the second half? Skin side down.


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

What’s for Dinner: Cajun Shrimp

I seasoned my shrimp with black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, Cajun seasoning and lemon juice. In a preheated 400 degree oven, I baked my shrimp for about 12 minutes.
I served these alongside my Cajun roasted [red] potatoes.


P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

Janaza

This past Sunday, I attended a janaza prayer [AKA salat-ul-janaza] for the father of one our family doctor’s. Janaza prayers are the Islamic funeral prayers.

Now I’ve attended quite a few funeral prayers. My first memory of attending one, unfortunately, [for a close family member] is back in 2001 for my 15 month old baby girl cousin Aliya. And before today, that was the most packed one I remember attending. The day of Aliya’s was also  jummah-tul-wida so the crowd was a combination of family/friends and mere Muslim strangers that happened to be at the mosque for the holiday.

This past Sunday, at the very same mosque, subhanAllah, there was the same large crowd, if not an even larger crowd. All the side rooms, the offices, and the library were packed with people besides the main congregational prayer area, yet there was still not enough room to accommodate everyone– there were still people outside the mosque.

It hasn’t left my mind since.

I had never met the person who passed away. It speaks volumes to me, however, to see the community turnout for this man’s funeral prayers. Including several imams from local mosques. It says so much about this man’s character and how he must have lived.

We so often let the daily mundanes get the better of us and worry about the frivolous tangible possessions. We focus so much on the now– the this very moment in our lives. We worry about the past. Janazas are just the very real throw-in-your-face reminder that we all need more often that everyone must die one day. It should make you refocus and think about what is important in your life, and let go of the trivial nonsense. It should make you want to better yourself and your iman [faith].

It’s inevitable that we must all die one day. But what do you want to be remembered for? Are you maximizing your good deeds while working on improving yourself in the areas you aren’t too happy with? Are you leaving a lasting impression? Is it a good one? Are you making a difference with your life? 

What’s for Dinner: Chocolate Chip Cookie a la Mode

For my parents’ 30th anniversary last night, for the dessert, I made this individual sized chocolate chip cookie [mini pie sort of things] that I served with french vanilla ice cream. A la mode means to be served with a scoop of ice cream.


Click here for my homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe. I baked them in a muffin pan, in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

To garnish? Drizzle chocolate syrup or hot fudge on top followed by a sprinkle of walnuts.

Click here to see the recipe for the chicken and roasted potatoes if you missed it yesterday.

P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.