Archive | August 2012

Halal Food Festival

Yesterday (Sunday) marked the first annual Halal Food Festival here locally in Central New Jersey.

Did it run smoothly without any hitches? No. But you know what? An event at that scale almost never does. And for all those complaining (there seems to be quite a few of them), how about appreciating the event, and the time and effort the organizers put towards it… and if you must be a complainer — this one’s for you: how about some constructive criticism that the organizers are welcoming and actually REQUESTING. Or how about pitching in? They did ask for volunteers and such, did they not? It always surprises me that the first to complain are the last to pitch in.

I think the idea of the Halal Food Festival was brilliant, and I’m sure the organizers have learned a lot from this year for future such events. At the end of the day, there is no better way to learn than through experience.

Basically local halal restaurants set up shop, providing samples (some for free, others for $1 or $2)  and selling meals ($5-$7). The cuisines present were diverse — Mexican, Chinese, Afghani, Pakistani/Indian, and Italian to name a few. While some of the restaurants present I had been to previously, there were a few that I hadn’t heard of/been to before.

I actually ended up going twice: the first time, near the start time of the event, with my brothers and than once more several hours later with my dad and one of my brothers. The first time, it was a lot less crowded, everything seemed to be running smoothly, and I was able to walk around and see what restaurants were participating, and sample from several different places without a problem or much chaos.

When I went back later, it must have finally been DST — that’s Desi Standard Time (late to everything but expect everything) because there was a line of people waiting outside to get in. I overheard a bunch of these people complaining of the craziness inside, the lack of organization, and how most places inside were running out of food. I’m sorry but if you are showing up at an event that was expecting around 1000 people but 4000+ people actually showed up around (or past) 4:30 PM which was scheduled to run from 12 to 5 PM, you shouldn’t be complaining about any of this.

And you know what? I’m sorry, but I’d rather they run out of food than have an abundant supply of leftover that is gone to waste!

Another major complaint I heard? Parking. Tell me where parking wouldn’t be an issue for such a huge crowd? Let’s say if they do decide to rent a hall for next year, like the Expo Hall where we have had Eid prayers many times, I am sure not many would be happy to help contribute towards the rent cost.

At the end of the day, I think people need to stop complaining and learn to enjoy things. Life happens. It was a great event, and unless you are giving 100% of yourself in to the event and helping out, don’t just sit there and complain… help!


For the most part, during taraweeh in the month of Ramadan, we weren’t distracted or disturbed by kids because they had set up babysitting in the basement for the young ones.

Most obliged, and left their young kids there. Of course, there were some who must have though that their “angel” of a kid wouldn’t bother anyone… and it couldn’t be farther from the truth for the most part.

One particular night near the end of the month, during prayers, and trying my hardest to not get distracted, I couldn’t help overhear a little girl crying and wandering back and forth calling out for her mother.

Mid-prayer a young boy crosses over from the divider between the men and women section. The girl notices him and with a whimper asks “can you help me find my mom? I’m lost”. The boy, in turn, asks “what does your mom look like?”

The girl’s innocent response? “She wears a hijab“.

For those that don’t get it — a hijab is a head-covering Muslim females wear. Even those who don’t wear one regularly, would indeed be wearing one in the mosque.

What’s for Dinner: Dirt Pudding Cups

It tastes a lot more delicious than it sounds. Trust me!

It was so simple to make, and it. was. scrumptious! I don’t know if I’ve ever used that word before. But it was.

The “dirt” (cookie crumbs) become soft, and melt in your mouth… so combine that with the pudding, and all I can is: scrumptious.

I made this the same day I tested out the Cheese Pizza Monkey Bread for the first time (which everyone LOVED)!

You need:

  • 1 [15-ounce] package of chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos)
  • 1 [3.9-ounce] box of chocolate instant pudding… I like to use the light version.
  • 2 cups of cold milk
  • 1 [8 ounce] container of Cool Whip… I like to use the light version.

Now on to putting your Dirt Pudding together:

  1. First step is to make the dirt. Can’t have dirt pudding without the dirt, now can you? 🙂 To do so, take your sandwich cookies and put them in a large resealable [Zip-loc] bag. Use a rolling pan (or something similar) to basically crush all the cookies into tiny [crumb-like] pieces… into “dirt” basically. By the way, don’t worry about removing the cream center of the chocolate cookies… once all the cookies are crushed, you can’t even tell they are there.
  2. Your next step is to make the pudding: with the powder pudding mix in a bowl, add in your cold milk. Mix it together until it is smooth, there are no lumps and all of the powder mix has dissolved. You want a consistent mixture. If you are feeling extra adventurous, make your own pudding instead of using the store-bought mix. 
  3. Now, let your mixture sit for about five or so minutes while it thickens [to a pudding-like consistency].
  4. It’s thickened? Great. Now add your cool whip and above half of the cookie crumbs.
  5. Stir, gently, your mixture together until everything is mixed nicely and you can’t see any white parts of the whipped topping popping out [and the cookies are mixed well into the mixture].

I’ve served this two different ways. In individual serving size cups, and also in one big dish. Process is similar for both, but I’ll write out both anyhow. For both ways, I like to serve them in a transparent way, for presentation purposes.

For the individual serving size cups:

  1. Divide the pudding mixture evenly between your individual cups. Don’t fill them up all the way to the top, obviously, because you still have to sprinkle the “dirt” on top. Tip: I like to gently tap the cups against the counter-top a few times to level the pudding.
  2. Sprinkle the cookie crumb “dirt” over the pudding [so that basically the entire top is covered with “dirt”].

For one big dish:

  1. Pour all of your pudding mixture into a serving dish.
  2. Sprinkle, evenly, your cookie crumb “dirt” all over the top of your pudding mixture.

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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: Cheese Pizza Monkey Bread

So I’ve had this recipe saved for a while, but I didn’t own a Bundt pan.

So I made this today to test out for Eid-ul-Fitr and made some changes along the way to my liking… and with a lot less butter! The original recipe called for like 5 tablespoons of butter. Yeah, not happening. I cut that down to 1 tablespoon pretty much. I think the idea of that much butter in anything that’s not dessert… is way too much!

It tasted great, looked amazing… and I’m happy with the way it turned out.

The family thought it was great as well, so that’s always a plus.

The best part? It’s easy (took me about 10-15 minutes to prep and about 15-20 minutes to bake) and delicious!

Here’s how I made it:

You will need:

  • 1 Tube Pillsbury Grands Flaky Biscuits (the 16.3 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (to grease the pan and brush on top of the bread)
  • Grated or cubed mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 8 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • Any other topping you would like to add, (peppers, chicken, etc.)
  • Bundtform Cake Pan

This porportion makes 8, so you can adjust according to how many you want to make.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To prep the bundt pan, I spread butter on the pan and then sprinkled 1/2 tablespoon of dry Italian seasoning along the sides and bottom. Make sure the seasoning is even and spread out throughout. Melt the remainder of the butter, and keep on the side for later.
  3. Then take each of the biscuits, and at the top of the biscuit pull it apart. Make sure it’s the flaky one because it makes pulling them apart a lot easier. Then stuff the inside with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce, cheese and any other toppings you prefer. Once you have your fillings inside, [inch the top back together to seal and secure the biscuits back up.
  4. Place the biscuits seam side up on its edge in the pan.  Once you have all 8 of them stuffed, and set in the pan, brush on the melted butter on top of each of the 8 biscuits. I also then sprinkled more Italian seasoning — this is optional since when you flip the bread, this part will be at the bottom.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is a rich golden brown color.  Once it is out of the oven, flip onto a serving platter. With a non-stick pan, it should easily slide out.

About the Bundt pan, I’d say a good non stick one would make all the difference. I was nervous about it falling apart or something once I tried to flip it right out of the oven, but it slid out so easily thanks to the non stick pan! I got mine from a local store, but I’ve linked to the same one online.

Side note: is it just me or does everyone test out recipes before serving others? I love cooking and all, but I always make a test run of any new recipes and have my family try it first. Today, I made this but made dessert first: Dirt Pudding Cups. Doesn’t sound too good, but it was also a hit!

Like my recipes? Click the below link to purchase my cookbook “What’s for Dinner”:

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.