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Arham Turns One

Arham beta, I can’t believe you are ONE!

I can’t believe my baby is a one year old, mashAllah.

A year ago today, at 9:44 AM, you came into this world and forever made mine infinitely better alhumdulillah.

To say anything but that this past year [and the pregnancy] has been anything but a roller coaster ride would be a lie… but it has been worth every second of it for you Arham beta. And to be quite honest, this past year flew by. I truly wish I savored every second of it for a moment longer.

You are, mashAllah, the biggest blessing of my life.

You are perfection, and I can’t imagine my life without you. What you bring to my life, I wish I could put into words for you but the following sentence will have to suffice: you are a pure joy and I am so lucky to call you my beta.

It truly is impossible to put into words the unconditional love a mother feels for her child. Your joy is mine, your sorrow is mine. There is nothing like motherhood, and rightfully so. If there was a way to protect you from the undeniable evil of this world, I would.

Because of how complicated and scary the pregnancy was, and how this past year in general has gone: I have not only cherished each moment, but also tried extra hard to celebrate every milestone, every new thing. Watching you explore your surroundings and learn new things each day have truly been the highlight for me. Watching the world, and our life, through your eyes has brought such an unique perspective that I cherish daily.

From the moment I found out I was expecting you Arham beta, I haven’t stopped thinking of you. Every decision I make, I make with the intention to have your best interest in mind always… and I pray you realize and appreciate that in the future. You have been first on my mind, and my priority, since day one of even knowing I was pregnant with you.

Your wellbeing and happiness is mine.

I may not be a perfect mama, but I am trying my best… and will always try my best to give you everything you deserve and what is rightfully yours. I will protect you from harm’s way with every ounce of me, but sometimes we have to leave things in the hands of Allah SWT.

Don’t ever let anyone wrong you. Don’t ever let anyone decide things for you. Don’t ever take no for an answer. You matter. Your opinion matters. I will always be your biggest cheerleader, but know this as well: I will also always be there to guide you when things get tough so you know what is right and wrong and for anything you need Mama for.  Always do the right thing, no matter how difficult it is. Never go down the wrong path, especially because it was the easy way out. Especially not because others encouraged you to. And definitely not because others were doing so.

Lately, I have thought often about why life gave you the short stick, and how unfair things have been for you because of other people but inshAllah it will be a blessing in disguise as Allah SWT is the best of planners. 

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. I pray Allah SWT protects you always, that He guides you in the right direction, gives you health and happiness, that you are a source of joy and happiness to everyone around you, and above all else… that He protects you from the evil (eye).

I am sure every mother feels like their baby is very smart, but I truly believe in your capabilities… and I pray you use your intelligence in a positive way always. You light up a room with your smile, and have from day one, and inshAllah you will light up the world with your talents in the future.

Mama loves you Arham beta!! I have loved you since the moment I found out about you. I will love you always.

Your proud Mama,

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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.

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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.

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25th Birthday

A quarter of a century old. That’s me today.

Where has the time gone and why is it going by so fast?! Sheesh. Can it slow down just a bit? I feel like 2013 just started and it’s already more than half over.
Back to the birthday. Did I post here about how I lost a year? Really, I did. For the longest time (or since my last birthday I suppose), I kept thinking I was 23. That’s the answer I gave when people asked me, and that’s the answer I whole-heartedly believed.
Then my brother’s birthday came around in April. And when people asked how old HE was now, I told them 25. After calculating he is 15 months older than me.
Then, he overheard someone asking me. His response? “I’m 26 you goofball!”
Aaah, it couldn’t be. That would mean I am was 24… and worse, about to turn 25 in a few short months (today!) How could I really not know how old I was?!

 

So that brings me to today.

A quarter of a century old. And apparently already effecting my memory. (Just kidding – thank goodness my memory is as sharp as ever. Sometimes too good in remembering unnecessary details).

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What’s for Dinner: Yellow Confetti Cake

So the day of Sabih’s graduation party? It also happened to be my cousin Naairah’s birthday! Thursday we head off to Virginia for her graduation ceremony that day followed by her graduation party on Saturday.

For her, I made a confetti cake. I used the same homemade yellow cake base recipe as I did for the basketball cake for Sabih, except I threw in some sprinkles into the batter.

Here’s the end product:

I made a homemade yellow cake as the base [that was absolutely delicious]. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups of [all-purpose] flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 stick of [unsalted] butter, softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of [1%] milk
  • [about] 1/4 cup of sprinkles*
*Note: I wasn’t sure how well my decorating sprinkles would work inside the batter for the cake once it baked off — whether they would stay whole and clump, whether the colors would fade, whether it would just ruin the inside of my cake… you get the picture… so I tested out the sprinkles in one cupcake first and it worked wonderfully.

The no oil part in this cake? Love it!

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a [non-stick] 9-inch spring-form pan with non-stick cooking spray for extra precaution.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Next, cream your softened butter and sugar together until they are nicely incorporated together. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until completely combines.
  4. Combine your wet and dry ingredients together into one bowl. Add in the milk. Beat your mixture together until the batter is mixed together and smooth.
  5. Add in the sprinkles. Fold/Mix into the batter.
  6. Transfer into your baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes back clean.
Tip: Make sure to let the cake cool completely before you attempt to frost. Makes a world of a difference, I’m telling you.
For the frosting? I used store-bought creamy “classic vanilla” frosting today. From the [Oreo] Buttercream Frosting from this post back in April I learned my lesson the hard way: no more homemade frosting UNTIL I get a stand mixer. Why are they so darn expensive?! Would make my life so much easier!

I used this fun decorating kit I bought a few months [called “Wilton’s Dessert Decorator Pro“] ago to decorate the top of the cake. I think my right hand and arm are still sore from it.

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.

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What’s for Dinner: Homemade [Vanilla] Cake with [Oreo] Buttercream Frosting

Happy Birthday Faraz! We sure are getting to the age where I don’t even want to say the age anymore!

For Faraz’s [my brother] birthday today, I narrowed down the dessert to something either to do with chocolate chip cookies or Oreos relatively quickly because those are his favorite [cookies]. Ultimately, Oreos won over simply because I came up with more ideas for it.

I made the following cake: Homemade Vanilla Cake with Oreo Buttercream frosting.

I starting off by baking a white [yellow?] cake and butter-cream frosting. I changed up the frosting, however, by mixing in Oreo cookie crumbs [the white cream center portion and all].

For my cake, you need:

  • 10 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 2 [large] eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of milk, room temperature
To make the cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray your [non-stick] pans with non-stick cooking spray to be on the extra cautious side.
  2. Cream together your butter and sugar in a [large] mixing bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy [I’d say it takes about 3-4 minutes].
  3. Next, add in your eggs and the vanilla extract. Beat your mixture until everything is combined.
  4. In a separate bowl: combine your flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Alternate adding in the milk and your dry ingredient combination to your wet mixture. So add in some of the flour mixture, and then some of the milk. Keep repeating until everything is incorporated in. Mix just until combined.
  6. Pour the batter evenly into (two) cake pan(s). Bake for about 30 minutes (for 2 nine-inch round cakes) [or until a toothpick, fork, etc. inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean].
  7. Let the cake(s) cool for around 10 minutes before removing them from the pan to a wire rack [and letting them cool completely].

Cupcakes would probably bake for around 18-20 minutes [only fill 2/3 of the way up as they will rise!].

For the frosting you need:
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

To make [just] the buttercream frosting without the Oreos incorporated:

  1. Put the softened butter in a bowl, and cream it on medium to high speed for several minutes.
  2. Reduce the speed of your mixer to low, and gradually add in the powdered sugar. Two cups of powdered sugar was plenty for me, but you may want to taste it and add some more if you want it sweeter.
  3. When all of your powdered sugar has been incorporated, increase the speed to medium before adding in the vanilla extract. Mix well until everything is incorporated.
I needed 2 and a half times the amount listed above to frost in between and around a two layered cake, but it was much easier to do it in batches as I don’t have a stand-mixer… and was using my hand-mixer!.

For frosting the cake for my brother, I wanted to incorporate in Oreos, so what I did was: I took a little frosting [ about 1 cup or so?] and set it aside for later use. Next, for each batch of frosting, I crumbled about half a cup of [normal sized] Oreo cookies, and folded it into the majority of the frosting [not the one I set aside for later use]. The frosting was absolutely delicious as is without the Oreos, but incorporating the Oreos into the frosting itself took the cake over the top.  I wanted to incorporate the Oreos into the cake batter itself as well, but out of a abundance of caution I decided not to experiment with that. I did need a cake for the night, after all.

Tip: You can store any unused frosting in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Just let it come to room temperature before using it again.

To assemble everything:

  1. Tip: Line the bottom of the platter [or whatever you plan to serve the cake in] with parchment paper along just the corners. This will help keep the platter edges neat and clean while you frost. The mess will remain on the parchment paper, which you can easily remove when you are done.
  2. Place one of your cake rounds on the platter and frost the top of the cake with your frosting. Do this liberally, as it will also serve as the binding layer between your two layers of cake!
  3. Put your second layer of cake on top of the first one. Frost the rest of the cake [the sides and the top]. You could choose to just stop here, but what I did next was:
  4. That frosting I set aside earlier? I used that to decorate on top of my Oreo-frosted cake along the top of my cake, leaving some space in between each. Finally, I added a bite-size Oreo in between each of the decorated star on top.
When you are done decorating the cake, don’t forget to pull out the parchment paper along the bottom of the platter! Like I mentioned in this post: it is much easier to have smaller pieces of parchment paper, instead of one large one, when you are ready to remove the parchment paper at the end.


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.

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M&M and Kit-Kat [Birthday] Cake

A few days before Ayaz’s birthday, I came across an image of a cake that was decorated with smarties [the English version of M&Ms?] and chocolate covered biscuits. It immediately made me think of replicating the idea using M&Ms and kit-kats! With Ayaz’s birthday around the corner, I had a perfect excuse to try it out with my twist to it.

Here’s how it turned out:

After frosting the cake, and adding kit-kats all around the sides of the cake, I started adding the M&Ms. This is when my dad suggested I spell my brother’s name out on it.
I did so:

But, it would have worked better, I suppose, if I was working with only two colors of M&Ms. Very quickly, it was apparent that it wasn’t going to work out too well in the end. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts (and the above photo).

Here’s a look at the inside of the cake:

On the inside: layers of milk chocolate cake and french vanilla cake (separated by vanilla frosting which is making the white part of the cake look thicker).

I took help from the grocery store for the cake, and used cake mixes, since the process in itself to put the cake together was going to take several hours… and I had to wait until Ayaz left for work to start. It turned out to be a good thing I decided to do that, because I wasn’t planning on making Biryani that day either. That took quite some time in itself. Next time, however, I’d probably use my own cake recipe.

Anyhow, I contemplated having an ice-cream layer to the cake, but decided against it because of the messiness factor and wasn’t sure how well it would work with the M&Ms and kit-kats. I wanted to include both chocolate and vanilla cake portions in it, so I used Milk Chocolate and French Vanilla [he got both vanilla and chocolate out of it… and I got my favorite of the each].

Now on to how I put together the cake:
From each box mix, I used half of the cake batter to bake off a round 9-inch pan worth of a cake. For the other half of the batter that was left over, I just used it up to make 12 cupcakes. So in the end, I had two 9-inch cakes and 24 cupcakes: half being french vanilla and half milk chocolate.

The vanilla and chocolate each have their own baking time. I wasn’t counting on that and was hoping to bake both of the cakes together to quicken the cooling time. Instead, I baked the milk chocolate cake and the milk chocolate cupcakes in the first round, followed by the french vanilla version.

After they were done cooling completely, I took my cake dome out (only used the bottom plate part). I lined the edges of it with four small parchment paper pieces and flipped out my milk chocolate cake onto it.

Side note: I lined the plate with the parchment paper so that when I frosted the cake, the mess would be on the parchment paper, not the edges of my platter. You can see the parchment paper in one of the pictures above (where the M&Ms spell out Ayaz’s name). When I was completely done with the cake, I just slid the pieces of parchment paper out from each end. Note that it is much easier to have smaller pieces of parchment paper, instead of one large one, when you are ready to remove the parchment paper at the end.

With my first layer of cake on the platter [the milk chocolate one in my case], I frosted the top portion of the milk chocolate cake as an adhesive [and creamy center] before adding the second layer of cake [the french vanilla] on top.

Then, simply frost the top and sides of the cake, covering every visible part of the cake with frosting.

I used vanilla frosting throughout the cake because I thought it would be a nice balance and offset the chocolate in the rest of the cake [the chocolate cake, chocolate M&Ms and, of course, the kit-kat bars). While it was the perfect balance, and I don’t think I’d change that, if you look at the picture that shows the inside of the cake: it seems as if the vanilla portion of the cake is twice the size of the chocolate cake; you can’t really tell that the middle of it is actually frosting. Oh well.

Once you have completely frosted the cake, add the kit-kats all around the cake. Keep them as close as you can, leaving no space in between them. The frosting on the cake makes the kit-kats adhere without any problems.

I used 2 packs of the 4.5 ounce package of kit-kats [it has 3 regular sized 4-piece bars], which equaled 24 individual kit-kat pieces… and it was the perfect amount to go around my frosted 9-inch cake.

Tip for you: the fun-size kit-kats would work perfectly for a two-layered cake. I had originally bought them, and was convinced that they would be too short, height wise, for the size of my cake once I had layered the cakes. I returned the fun-sized kit-kats and, instead, bought the regular sized kit-kats. Guess who had to cut all the kit-kats in half?

Once the kit-kats were added on, I added M&Ms on top. One 12.60 ounce bag of M&Ms was perfect. 

A top-down view:

Now, any ideas for how I beat this for when Faraz’s birthday rolls around?
Check out another one of my recent recipes:

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.

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Ayaz’s Birthday

Tonight, we had an early birthday celebration for my brother Ayaz.

I made Biryani:

and Cupcakes:

French Vanilla and Milk Chocolate cupcakes, with vanilla frosting and sprinkles.
Recipes to follow soon!

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

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Joke

I love jokes… and am pretty easily amused most times. So I thought I’d share a joke today:

How do you make gold soup?

Give up?


Put 14 carrots in it.

Get it? Carrots, karats. Oh, forget it! 🙂

P.S. Happy Birthday Faraz!

P.S. Don’t forget to leave me a comment below on your thoughts! As always, I’d love to hear from you.

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Customized Chocolate Wrappers

So remember how in this post I mentioned that we ordered sponge-bob themed chocolate wrappers to use as favors for my cousin’s birthday party?

So the whole time (from the time my mom suggested it to the time the chocolates arrived) I was picturing in my head that we would take the paper wrapper off of the chocolate and leave the foil wrapper on – and use our custom wrapper to wrap the chocolate (on top of the foil) like its always done.

Of course things were running too smoothly because would you believe Hershey chocolates (and Nestle) now wrap their chocolates in plastic wrappers instead of the paper on top of the foil like they have ALWAYS done?

Apparently it is to keep the chocolates fresh, but I would think it would be kept more fresh with the foil since you could just wrap it back if you don’t eat the whole thing.

I ordered the wrappers online and when I contacted them about the issue – they suggested I open each individual chocolate from  their plastic wrapper and use foil to wrap it and then use my customized wrapper on top of it. Who in the world would eat open chocolate like that that has been handled? That’s just plain weird. and not normal.

Because we really didn’t have much time (or any other ideas), we ended up just using our customized wrappers on top of the plastic wrapper. It looked okay, just not what I had imagined.

P.S. Don’t forget to leave me a comment below on your thoughts! As always, I’d love to hear from you.

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