Archive | August 2013


“… among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing.” [22.5].

Dementia. I don’t know whether it’s nice to hate something, but I do. I hate dementia. With every ounce of me.

It’s taken away my maternal grandfather mentally from us, and that is something that breaks my heart. The signs were there for so long, but I can’t begin to explain to you the rapid changes in just one month’s time. You just had to see it to believe it. I don’t think I would have believed it if I wasn’t experiencing it in front of my very own eyes about someone so near and dear to my heart. For someone with so much worldly knowledge and experience, to now suddenly succumb to something like this and so rapidly… I can’t put into words how much I detest it.

I don’t say this because our family can’t handle it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Each person in the immediate family has stepped up their game and done more than their share. And done it because they want to.

Even when in your heart you already know [and we knew], when it was finally confirmed by medical professionals: it was so hard to digest and believe. Or even fathom. How could this be?

This too is a test from Him above, and together we will conquer it. It hasn’t been easy, and I know it won’t. But for someone that I have looked up to from day one? I would do anything I possibly can for him.

In some ways, it truly is like having a newborn/toddler around. You learn to have patience, and sooth their mind. You can’t leave them alone at all, and your senses need to be at the top of their game 24 hours a day. Yes, even at night when sleeping. You do things for them, and help them with other stuff. They lose their independence and they become dependent on you. Worse, they feel like a burden. How in the world do you explain to, no scratch that… not just explain, BUT show them they are anything but? We would go to the moon and back without a second thought.

And just like when a child’s toy is broken and they bring it to you to fix, you wish you could fix this for him just as easily. But you can’t. It’s broken and we can’t do anything about it. We can, only, help him physically, but that will never seem to be enough.

Amongst the family we have been talking about how so often we remember in our prayers our physical abilities, but how often do we pray to retain our mental abilities? Each part of the human body, plays such an intricate role and together makes the human body whole. Even with one deficiency, it’s as if the whole person is effected.

I’ve thought a lot about dementia lately, and every time I see Papa react a certain way, I wonder if he feels it. If he feels confused or senses something isn’t right. We, obviously, know things aren’t right. That he is confused to say the least. But we can deal with it. But I hope to God that to Papa, inside, he doesn’t sense that.

I pray to Allah SWT to make it easy on Papa. To give his mind peace. To give us strength to take care of him in the hardest of days. And that we continue to do it whole-heartedly.

What’s for Dinner: Chicken Tikka Masala

Doesn’t happen often, but I do cook Pakistani food sometimes.

Monday was one of those days.
But then, I turned it into a sandwich. Mainly because I had subs sitting at home that needed to be used up.
I roughly cut chicken into bite size pieces and marinated it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, yogurt and a little of this chicken tikka masala that my family seems to love every time I use it in anything. It’s potent and a lot stronger than the typical Shan masala… a little goes a long way. Trust me.
I cooked it over medium heat [with the top covered], and just when it was almost cooked through: I added strips of bell peppers in various colors. It softened with the heat, and the smell of the dish? Mouth watering.

You could serve this with rice, naan, whatever… I just made a sub out of it because I needed to use up the sub. On the top, throw in cucumbers [mine were fresh from our veggie garden in the backyard!]. Sauce wise, a mayo spread is what we used today. I take mayo and season with black pepper, garlic, and paprika… and sometimes whatever else I feel like adding. Be creative, have fun.

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.

What’s for Dinner: Nutella Cheesecake

This past Friday, I made a Nutella Cheesecake for a potluck on Saturday night.

With a very busy weekend, I needed something I could make in advance and a cheesecake was perfect for that. The whole making a day in advance and letting it cool [which I NEVER do] finally was done this time around… mainly because I had no choice.

I used the same recipe as my Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Cheesecake , the only thing I did differently was: I didn’t do the swirl. I mixed in the nutella with the whole cheesecake batter.

To decorate, I topped the cheesecake with a thin layer of nutella, and then sprinkled hazelnuts on top!

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.

What’s for Dinner: Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookies

Usually when I make homemade cookies from scratch, I simply make chocolate chip cookies because those are the only kinds my brothers will eat. This afternoon, I wanted something sweet but had no milk chocolate chips [my favorite kind], but had some leftover combination of peanut butter and milk chocolate morsels that would do.

I pretty much used my usual cookie recipe [makes about 16-18 good sized cookies]:

You need:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 a cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 a cup of [packed] light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 cup of milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels [combined]

To make your Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line your baking sheet [with foil, etc.] for easy cleanup.
  2. In a bowl, add your butter along with the granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Beat on low to medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Next: add in the salt, vanilla, and egg. Beat until everything is well mixed together. Add in your flour and baking soda and mix to combine everything. Lastly, add in the chocolate chips.
  4. Take even sized amounts of dough, and roll into a ball. Place on your baking sheet, leaving space in between each one.
  5. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

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.

What’s for Dinner: Popcorn Chicken

Slowly, but surely, working on posting old family favorite recipes that are a staple around here. These popcorn chicken are a must throughout Ramadan for iftari in our house.

To make the popcorn chicken (the following quantities are for about two pounds of boneless chicken cut into tiny bite size pieces):

I marinate the bite size pieces of chicken with 4 eggs, salt and pepper (to taste), 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 3/4th cup of flour and 3/4th cup of cornstarch. All the quantities are very approximate as I just eyeball them.

So after you marinate it, just check its consistency – it should be a thick gooey consistency.

All that’s left to do is is fry the chicken until they are a light golden brown color [in batches].

It’s perfect as is, but sometimes I add cayenne pepper for a little spice into the marinade.

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.

Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

The fact that this verse is repeated 31 times in Surah ar-Rahman [#55]… I don’t think that is by accident. It’s without a doubt, one of my favorites ayats [verses] from the Qu’ran.

The verse reminds us time and again for the many blessings we take for granted on a daily basis [and to be thankful for them]. Whether it be in terms of money, food, wealth, health… or anything and everything else: tangible and intangible.

If there’s anything I’ve learned through life experiences over the past several years, it’s let go and let god. Everything happens for a reason. You just don’t know it [yet]. By that, does it mean that you live carelessly and expect greatness? Absolutely not, of course. It means: you live following the right path, and when unexpected hurdles fall your way- you keep faith that this too shall pass.

In the beginning, several times, the inevitable why is this happening to me popped up in my head… but now I am quick to brush that though away if it does occur. Why not me? What makes me better than the next person to make me immune? And there’s always that belief that He, the all-knowing, doesn’t throw more at you than you can handle.

But this isn’t about the hurdles. It’s about the blessings [in disguise].

Like I have talked about several times over the course of time, why do we so easily ask “why me?” in difficult times, but not in good times? How often do we truly stop to be thankful for everything we take for granted on a daily basis? Just look around your own circle of network because you won’t have to look to far to find an example of someone that has it much worse than you, yet is [probably] handling their circumstance(s) a lot better.

If we truly took the time to count the blessings, we’d realize it’s impossible because it would be endless. They are infinite. But we don’t. This theme is repeated in various Surahs in the Qu’ran. Several examples:

  1. From Surah Ibrahim: “And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.” [14:34]
  2. From Surah Nahl: “And if you should count the favors of Allah , you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [16:18]

Just think of the basics that we consider necessities that not everyone has the luxury of: roof over our head, food on the table, clothes. I’ll be the first to admit, that I, wait cross that…not just me, we are spoiled.

Even down to breathing, seeing, hearing walking, talking: most of us take it for granted because it’s just a natural part of life to most. Those with issues pertaining to any of the above will tell you otherwise. It irks me to no end when in the public, you come across someone with a limb missing and people just stare. If anything, it should be yet another reminder for gratitude.

NoteI don’t blog about religion very often, because I don’t think I’m by any means qualified to do so, but this is a good place for me to express my thoughts- and thoughts alone… that’s all they are. Other topics I’ve done in the past: Halal vs. Zabihah (Meat) and Organ Donation. Adoption is a topic that weighs heavily on my mind a lot, so perhaps I’ll tackle my thoughts on that next.

What’s for Dinner: Chocolate Chip/M&Ms Cookie Bars

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies [in any way or form]? I’ve done chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cookie pie, chocolate chip cookie bars, chocolate chip cookie cups one way, and then a second way and let’s not forget the chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake! Did you figure out I LOVE chocolate yet?!

… and so when I came across an idea online for making chocolate chip cookie bars using a cake mix, well… it’s been on my mind since. I couldn’t wait to try it. Using a cake mix and pudding to get the moistness in the bars? Love it. I added my own twist with adding [mini] M+Ms to it.

It didn’t disappoint. It helps that I’ve been having a major sweet tooth issue lately…

What I used:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix [I used Betty Crocker today]
  • 1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup of mini M+Ms

Not a big fan of cooking with oil [and don’t very often], but I keep forgetting to get applesauce and use it as a substitute in baking since I rarely cook with oil. I did, however, use a lot less oil than what is usually called for [similar ideas usually suggest at least 3/4 cup of oil]… Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

What I did was:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray your [9 by 13 inch] non-stick pan with non-stick cooking spray for extra precaution.
  2. Mix together all of your ingredients– the cake mix, pudding, water, oil, eggs, chocolate chips and mini M+Ms.
  3. Move your [thick] batter into your baking pan.
  4. Bake, in your preheated oven, for about 20-25 minutes. I took it out at about the 23 minute mark.
  5. Let it cool, slightly, before cutting them into bars. The hardest part, for sure!
The end result? Moist, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Have fun with it: change up the flavor of the cake, the M+Ms (or use something else) and the chocolate chips… add nuts… whatever you want! Other combination suggestions:

  • milk chocolate cake mix, chocolate pudding mix, and Reese’s peanut butter chips [hmm, I have all these ingredients in my pantry right now…]
  • chocolate cake mix, chocolate pudding mix, chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • yellow cake mix, chocolate pudding mix, M+Ms, chocolate chips, and toffee bits.
  • yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, Reese’s’ mini peanut butter cups
  • What I’ll probably use next: yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, 1/3 cup each of [milk chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and toffee bits].
Whatever you like would work!

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.

What’s for Dinner: Eggplant and Tomatoes

Last Saturday, for an iftari party, I quickly assembled a plate of grilled eggplant and roasted cherry tomatoes. My dad had been asking me to make something with the eggplant and I had some fresh cherry tomatoes from my aunt’s backyard vegetable garden. 

They turned out great, and I especially loved the seasoned tomatoes straight out of the oven!

I sliced the eggplant and seasoned it with a little oil, salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, and rosemary. Grilled these in my George Foreman grill machine.

I took the roasted cherry tomatoes [whole] and seasoned them with a little oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, and basil. Roasted these in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, I’d say? Just until right before they were ready to burst. Juicy and delicious!

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.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I cried [plenty of times… but that shouldn’t be surprising], I laughed, but so many times I just paused… to reflect and to ponder.  The choice of words are brilliant. I think that is what captivated me the most.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a quick, easy, articulate and captivating read. I finished it in a few sittings in a less than a 24-hour time frame. I love how beautifully honestly it is written. How honestly sarcastic the teenager is portrayed. It is what it is.

What’s it about you ask? Literally: two teenagers with cancer who fall in love [depicting their inner struggles, etc.]. My take? It makes you think. Deep. Not just about death and dying, but life and living.

There are many memorable quotes in the book, but that struck me the most? This:

My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as brain and heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Grace, with a predetermined winner.