Archive | April 2014

The Most Premeditated of Murders

Way back in my freshmen year of college, I had to write a ten page paper against the death penalty. If I had to do it now, ten pages would have seemed nowhere near enough. I could go on and on. Fittingly, I chose to title it: “The Most Premeditated of Murders”.

Evidence aside, in the court of law what usually happens is this: whichever side of the case has the better lawyer wins. Because let’s face it, besides the victim and assailant, typically no one else knows the 100% truth. It’s a whole lot of speculation. You can never with 100 percent conviction and without a shadow of a doubt fully prove a person’s intent.

But what happened tonight in Oklahoma? That’s a [premeditated] murder in every sense of the word. Murder is, after all, the deliberate act of killing someone. If you aren’t familiar with what happened, here’s the short of it: a man was being put to death via lethal injection in Oklahoma using a new combination of drugs, and his execution was “botched”. End result? The man ultimately died of a heart attack forty minutes later.

Never mind the fact that the inmates, lawyers and advocates had argued that this new and untried [and untested] protocols could cause “levels of suffering” that would violate the prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Never mind the fact the states were in this limbo because the traditional drugs were no longer being sold to the US on the basis of humanitarian grounds.

Never mind the fact that states have developed secrecy laws that basically allow them to keep hidden the source of their supplies and the content/combination of drugs being used… which is fishy enough to raise red flags.

The following is an excerpt from my aforementioned college paper, and I still believe it to be completely true:

Capital punishment is essentially a murder committed by the state. In a society that condemns killing, it is ironic that this country executes people as a punishment, which is without a doubt just an official murder. In no civilized society can society punish an act by participating in the very act that the condemned is being put to death for. Moreover, it definitely sends the wrong message because there is no logic to killing people who kill people to show that killing is wrong.

I am not saying the guilty shouldn’t be punished. What I am saying is this: a) you can never be 100% sure of guilt and you can’t undo death. With the number of stories you hear of the guilty being proven otherwise decades later, I can’t even fathom how many people have been put to death wrongly for crimes they didn’t commit; you can release them from jail, but certainly not bring them back to life, b) the system is racist. Let’s not kid ourselves and actually believe that the system treats each of them equally: the disparity between those who are given harsher treatments for similar crimes amongst Caucasians and those of color is ridiculous, and to tie into today’s unfortunate events c) the constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” which definitely played a role in today’s execution without a doubt.
Every time we take one step forward as a nation, we seem two take two steps backwards in the wrong direction.

What’s for Dinner: Shrimp Linguine

For dinner tonight, I put together a creamy white sauce shrimp linguine.

What you will need:

  • Seasonings/herbs: salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, basil, and parsley
  • 1 pound linguine20140428-185041.jpg
  • 1-2 tablespoon of  unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 2 cups of grated/shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Boil your pasta as directed on the box.
  2. Season your shrimp with salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and dried thyme.
  3. I have better luck cooking shrimp in the oven than on the stove since it cooks so fast, so I prefer that method. What i did was: bake the shrimp in a 400 degree preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile to start the sauce: over low to medium heat, add in the butter. Once it’s melted, add in the flour and mix it well.
  5. Next, add the heavy cream to the  pan. Season the heavy cream with the same things you seasoned the shrimp with [in step one].
  6. On medium to high heat, let the heavy cream reduce a little bit.
  7. Add in about a cup of the shredded pepperjack cheese and 1/4 cup of the parmesan [it doesn’t have to be precise, I just eyeballed it].
  8. Add the shrimp back in with the heavy cream sauce.
  9. Add in the cooked pasta. Mix well before removing from the heat.
  10. Mix in the remainder parmesan cheese along with the pepper jack cheese.
  11. Add in some basil and parsley. Toss well.
  12. Serve immediately! I garnished mine with a little more parsley.

By the way, if you like this, I’m sure you will love my Cajun Chicken Pasta [good with chicken as is or substituted in with shrimp!]

One of the only things I don’t like about these white sauce pastas are that they tend to dry up fast and it’s only for the most part if you are serving them fresh. TipLeftovers aren’t usually that great unless you take the time again to make more sauce to make it creamier again.

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: Chipotle Chicken and Potato Wedges

Tonight for dinner, I made a chipotle [whole] chicken alongside potato wedges.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a whole chicken and first poked holes in it with a fork [so the marinade seeped through to the inside]. Next, I seasoned the chicken with the following:20140423-185255.jpg

  • salt
  • black pepper
  • paprika
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • chipotle chili powder [lots of it]
  • onion powder
  • ground mustard
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • lemon juice
  • yogurt

I let the chicken marinate a day.

Today, when I was ready to put dinner together: I let it cook on low heat for several [3] hours on the stove in a deep pan. Just like I did with the chicken back on this postI love how juicy and tender the meat is on the inside [and prefer this method over roasting it in the oven and having the chicken dry up easily].

Alongside, I roasted some gold potato wedges [seasoning it based off what I put in the chicken] with:

I cut the potatoes into wedges before transferring all of the cut potatoes onto a foil-lined baking sheet. I drizzled EVOO over the potatoes before I seasoned the potatoes with: salt, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder, oregano, and rosemary.

I baked it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes all together [flipping them over half way through the baking time].

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.

 

Local [Halal] Thai Food

I don’t like Chinese food, so I just always [wrongly] assumed I wouldn’t like Thai food either. Similar taste profile and all. Chinese food is way too salty, for the most part, for my liking… and I don’t particularly like that distinct taste.

I hesitantly tried Thai food last November when a bunch of us cousins went to a local [halal] place, called N’ Thai Palace, and I was pleasantly surprised that a) it didn’t taste like Chinese food and b) I actually liked it! It was flavorful, visually pleasing and delicious. I had been meaning to go back but didn’t get the chance to… except for the one time I got all the way there only to find out that the restaurant was closed on Mondays!

All of us got different meals to try and we each loved everything. Which is rare– usually some are good while others… not so good. I especially liked their drunken noodles and Mango Chicken and Shrimp.

Last week, I tried another local [halal] Thai place with a friend– this time to Pan Asia [also closed on Mondays]. It was just as delicious; so much so that I got the family to try it for dinner last night. I love their Pad Thai with chicken and the rest of my family also liked their Hakka Noodles [with chicken] and Chicken Fried Rice.

Hajj Friends

Saturday night, several of the local NJ families from our hajj group finally got together. I say finally because we have been trying to make it happen since we got back from hajj six months ago but life kept getting in the way. Alhumdulillah for a huge and close-knit family, but sometimes that makes it nearly impossible to meet with other social circles. Not to mention, my life has been nothing but chaos this first quarter of the year.

Over the course of the past six months, I can’t tell you how many people have told me how nice it is how we have stayed in contact with people in our hajj group– that they don’t even remember most of who were in theirs, etc.

I have stayed in contact with several people over the phone, texting and of course Facebook… but to see them after so long? Joyous. Alhumdulillah, we picked up right where we left off. Reflecting, reminiscing… and recounting the many funny stories of course.

The friendship/bond I have with a select few of them is indescribable. It’s like we have known each other our whole lives, except for the fact that they were mere strangers six months ago who have become like family since then. No formality, no fuss: just plainly and simply a fun time with down to earth people.

I don’t know if our paths would have ever crossed, even though so many of us are from New Jersey, had we not been in the same hajj group. What I do know is this: they were [and are] a huge part of the “hajj experience” for me. I am thankful for their friendship and I am thankful we shared the experience(s) of hajj together. I hope no matter what the distance between us may be, that our friendship surpasses that.

We met and became friends in one of the greatest ways possible. Not to mention in the greatest place possible. The stories, memories and experiences we share are like no other.

And for that, they will always hold a special place in my heart. May our friendship grow even stronger over the years.

InshAllah, I can’t wait  to have the group gather again soon [and hopefully it won’t take another six months this time around]… you know, before I leave for the other end of the world… 🙂

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  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

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: 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.

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.