December 15, 2010

Easy Peasy Shrimp Salan (Curry)

Earlier this week I had discovered some kosher fresh mozzarella balls at the store and thought they would be interesting to work into a pasta dish.  I didn't have any meat ready or seafood on hand, so I ended up making a vegetarian pasta with Smart Health spaghetti, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, the fresh cheese with the sauce it came with and salt and pepper.  My husband, ever the carnivore, thought it tasted good, but would taste even better with shrimp or shredded chicken.  Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to pick up some shrimp to make the pasta again, but I forgot to get the cheese. Instead of making the pasta, I ended up throwing some ingredients together in a pot and came up with this easy shrimp salan/curry. It involves a small list of simple ingredients and about 20-30 minutes of cooking time. What you are left with is a curry that you can eat with pita or over rice.

Shrimp Salan


20-30 raw white shrimp, thawed, deveined and shell removed
3 tsp minced garlic, reserve 1 tsp to the side
1/4 tsp salt
4 Roma tomatoes, cut into half and then chopped
2 small onions, diced
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup of water
1 tsp chopped coriander
cayenne chili powder and salt to taste

In a medium pot add the oil and onions. Soften the onions over medium heat until transparent.  While the onions are cooking, prepare the shrimp and marinate in the reserved garlic and and 1/4 tsp salt and set aside. Once the onions are ready, add in the minced garlic and chopped tomatoes.  Cook this mixture until the tomatoes begin to break down.  Add in the turmeric, salt, chili powder and water. Continue to cook the onions and tomatoes over medium heat. Taste the curry base for salt and heat. Add more salt and chili powder as necessary.
Once the mixture resembles the picture to the right, add the shrimp.

Watch over the pot and stir occasionally.  The shrimp will start to curl and turn pink. Once all of the shrimp have turned pink (2-3 minutes), taste the mixture, adjust for spices and stir in the chopped coriander. Remove from heat immediately. Serve with pita or rice.

December 9, 2010

Slaw it up

I don't know about you, but lately I've been getting tired of the typical dinner salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and bottled dressing.  To get some inspiration, I headed to the produce section of the grocery store after my gym class and came out with carrot slaw, broccoli slaw, cherry tomatoes and pomegranates.  What resulted was a colourful salad filled with crunch and tang. 

Broccoli Carrot Slaw Salad


1/2 bag of broccoli slaw, washed and drained
1/2 bag of carrot slaw, washed and drained
10-15 cherry tomatoes, washed, drained and halved
seeds from 2 pomegranates
juice of 4 key limes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1- 2 tsp dried oregano

In a medium bowl, mix in the broccoli slaw, carrot slaw, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, juice 4 key limes and mix in the olive oil and oregano.  Pour over the slaw salad and mix gently. 

Enjoy!

December 8, 2010

My mom's Hajj send off

Last month, my mom, accompanied by my aunt and cousin, went for Hajj, the once-in-a-lifetime obligatory pilgrimage that every Muslim must make to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Prior to her leaving, I decided to have a small, all-female gathering at my place so she could meet some people before leaving and for those same people to give her well wishes before embarking on this spiritual journey.  The dinner portion of the evening turned out to be a pot luck set up in a buffet style.  Dessert was all mine.   I decided to stray away from some of the more healthier desserts out there and tried two recipes that caught my eye. For plating, I used a three-tier display tree that my mom had given me way back when.

The first one I'm going to share is a sour cream chocolate cake with minimal adaptation.  This recipe I got from Lynn's Kitchen.



Sour Cream Chocolate Cake



1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour ( You could also use a nutri-blend flour to get more health benefits)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch-round cake pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan lightly. In a medium bowl, stir together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, use a hand mixer to cream butter and sugar together until light and airy. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in vanilla and reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture in two batches, alternating between the sour cream.  Make sure you start and end with the flour.  Pour mixture into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the toothpick test comes clean.
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cook completely on a cooling rack.

To ice the cake, I melted 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips with a pat of butter over a double boiler. Once melted, use an off-set spatula to spread over the cooled cake.   Once the icing has set, cut into small pieces.


The second dessert item was blackberry jam bars from Elissa at 17 and Baking.  Some of the adaptations I did were cutting down the sugar from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups, reducing the sugar in my drizzle and using milk for my drizzle.



Blackberry Jam Bars


2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
4 eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup seedless blackberry jam**

Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons 1% milk
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a half rimmed sheet with butter.
Using a hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Add in vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add flour and salt, and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix!

Using an offset spatula, spread the batter into the pan. The batter will spread when baking so do not fret if the pan corners are free of batter.  Drop teaspoonfuls of jam over the top of the batter. Try to distribute the drops of jam evenly.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown.

Cook in the pan and the cut into small pieces using a pizza roller.  Mix the icing ingredients together and lightly drizzle over the bars using the tines of a fork.

**In this recipe, seedless blackberry jam is required. I searched high and low for such jam, but couldn't find it. What I ended up doing was warming up blackberry jam (with seeds) in a small pot on the stove and then straining it/ pushing it with a spoon through a fine metal sieve.

December 1, 2010

My Kind of Pizza!

I've finally got wireless Internet access in my home in Canada!  As strange as it seems, I am oh so excited...let me explain.  Usually I have my laptop stationed in our home office and that's where I surf the net, watch tv shows I've missed and blog. However, whenever my husband comes into town, he sets up his work laptop and I unplug my laptop and it stays unplugged for several days. His work laptop is off limits so that means no Facebook, no watching tv shows or blogging...it's so painful being cut off like that- cut off like cold turkey.  I wasn't coping well, so I went and got everything I needed to create a wireless zone and now I'm the happiest hijabi blogger on the block!

This recipe that I'm going to share with you is a mish mash of flavours- Chinese and Italian with a twist from moi.  Adapting the ingredients can easily be done because it's a very simple recipe.  For this pizza recipe, I used  freshly made, store bought, whole wheat dough. You can make the dough at home if you wish- if you do, please share the recipe with me!!

Whole Wheat Chinese Eggplant and Baby Bok Choy Pizza



1 store bought uncooked whole wheat pizza dough (not the already bake one- I find those to taste like cardboard)
1 can of pizza sauce (I only used half the can on this pizza)
1 Chinese eggplant, washed and sliced
4 baby bok choy, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup of vegetarian marble cheese (mozzarella and cheddar), shredded
salt and pepper to taste
5 asparagus stalks, washed (optional decoration)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Lightly grease the pizza sheet or pizza stone with some olive oil.  Place the dough in the centre of the tray and being to pull and stretch it so that it covers the base of the tray. It may start to pull back, but continue pulling it back in place and eventually it will hold.
Spread the pizza sauce over the dough and begin to lay down the Chinese eggplant coins and baby bok choy.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper on top of the vegetables and then layer the cheese over top. Just for kicks, I created a star like pattern on top of the pizza with leftover asparagus stalks I had in my fridge. You can omit that if you like.  Put in the oven until the pizza bottom has a nice crust and the dough is cooked at the centre of the pizza. 











November 17, 2010

Eid Tins

Eid celebrations consist of going for a congregational prayer, receiving guests at your home, and of course, house hopping to and from people's homes. Whenever my family and I would "house-hop," we would take a hostess gift of either sweets or flowers.  For this Eid, I decided to make Eid Tins filled with dark chocolate almond cranberry bark.


This recipe is a variation of the one in Kraft Foods "What's Cooking" magazine.


Dark Chocolate Almond Cranberry Bark

18oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped into medium sized pieces
6 oz white chocolate, chopped into medium sized pieces
1 cup - 1.5 cups of chopped almonds, skin on**
1/3 cup of dried cranberries **

In two separate double boilers, melt both the white and dark chocolates over low heat.  Stir occasionally to assist in the melting process.  In the meantime, chop up the almonds.  Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the almonds into the dark chocolate and the dried cranberries into the white chocolate.  First spoon out the dark chocolate mixture onto a large, parchment lined baking tray and smooth out with an offset spatula.  Next, pour the white chocolate cranberry mixture over the dark chocolate. Using the offset spatula, start creating wave pattens in the chocolate so you get a marble-like look.  Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm and then use a sharp knife to break into small pieces. Line small cookie tins with wax paper and fill them up with the bark.

** rough estimates

On this Eid...

First and foremost, I'd like to wish everyone an Eid Mubarak or Happy Eid. May it be filled with joy, spirituality and remembrance of God the Almighty. As I prepared for today, I remembered Eids of the past- shopping for Eid presents for my family and friends, watching my mom and grandmother make traditional sweets for us and guests to eat, getting mehndi (henna) on my hands, stringing green twinkly lights around the windows and banisters of our home and of course, getting Eidi money from my grandparents and parents.
This Eid, and the one prior, has been a somber time because of the recent passing of my father.  It will be one year since his passing in December- where does time go?  May his soul be showered with God's Mercy and be at peace.

October 28, 2010

Sandwiches for a Road Trip

I know I've been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks, but I have a good reason for it- I didn't have time.  I recently flew back to Canada and it's been go go go since I got off the plane. I've been spending my days seeing family, catching up with good friends, supply teaching at my old school and a few new ones, reading, picking up an old knitting project and going to the gym 5 to 6 days a week.  See...I have a good excuse!

Anyhow, lets backtrack to a few weeks ago.  My husband and I were finally able to make our way up part of the Pacific Coast Highway, otherwise known as PCH. Along the way, we stopped to explore places people had recommended to us.  Our first stop was Solvang, a quaint Danish town about 1.5 hours north of Los Angeles. As we exited off the highway, our surroundings had transformed and it was as if we drove right into a fairy tale. The cottage-like structures and cobble stone paths reminded us of stories that we had read as kids.


 
We visited Paula's Pancake House for breakfast and then continued to walk through the streets, exploring hidden squares, fountains and windmills. Solvang's streets are lined with bakeries, antique shops, restaurants, book stores and gift shops. Really, there is something for everyone.

Once you have explored Solvang to your heart's content, there are surrounding towns in the area that you can visit. There is one town that has a lavender farm. We never had a chance to explore it, but next time it will be on my list of things to see.

After our walking tour of Solvang, we headed down south to Santa Barbara.  Because we got there in the afternoon, we only explored one tiny pocket of downtown Santa Barbara.





According to our research, Leadbetter Beach was one of the better beaches to visit and since it was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, we decided it was the place we wanted to check out.  I have to say, I love the beach!  I could sit there, fully clothed (hehe!) for hours.  We watched the waves for a while and then ventured out into the water, only to run back onto the beach when big waves rolled in.  We walked along the cliffs to a quieter part of the beach where the only sounds to be heard were of the waves crashing on the beach.  It was calming. It was peaceful.

Along the other side of the beach we hung out at the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival. There were crab stands, oysters on the half shell, clam chowder, live lobster cooked to your specifications and so much more.  We decided to try some lobster bisque.  It was creamy and chunky and full of flavour.  I think one of these days I'm going to have to try making clam chowder and lobster bisque at home.



Now when it comes to a road trip, it is important to have the all the necessary food items: drinks, water, sandwiches, fruit and some snacks.  A good road trip sandwich is this roasted chicken breast sandwich with tangy, crunchy cornichon.

Roasted Tandoori Chicken Breast Sandwich

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed and butterflied
1.5 cups of 2% plain yogurt
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp of minced ginger
3-4 tbsp tandoori spices ( you can pick up a packet of blended spices from any Pakistani or Indian grocery store or you could create a blend by mixing salt, red chili, ground coriander, turmeric, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, garlic and ginger powders, and ground cumin.)
6 whole cherry or grape tomatoes, washed
salt and pepper to taste
red chili powder to taste (optional)
1 tbsp light mayonnaise
5-6 large red leaf lettuce leaves, washed
5-6 baby cornichon, sliced
slices of whole grain bread
1-2 tbsp sweet and sour chili sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


 
In a medium bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients.  Let the chicken breasts marinate for 1-2 hours in the fridge. At this point, you can bake off all of the pieces of chicken or you can bake a couple and freeze the rest. You can roast the chicken breasts either on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a roasting pan. I used a baking sheet lined with parchment paper because I found it easier to flip the chicken pieces over as they baked.   Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken breasts have cooked through.

Toast bread slices once the chicken has come out of the oven. Once they're out of the toaster, wash and pat dry the red lettuce leaves and then smear some mayonnaise onto the toast.  Take two slices of toast, mayo side up and begin to layer a few lettuce leaves on the bread. Then add your roasted chicken breasts. Next, spoon a little of the sweet and sour chili sauce on the chicken breast. Add the sliced baby cornichon and top it off with the other piece of toast.



 


October 5, 2010

For the love of bananas!

I love bananas! Mixed in with crunchy flakes and cool milk, bananas are a perfect companion to my morning cereal. They are also great on their own and prove to be a refreshing snack if eaten cold. 

We were going to go on a short trip to Santa Barbara a while back, so I picked up a few ripe bananas to take along with us. The trip got delayed and the bananas quickly began to show their brown spots.  I couldn't consume all of them in one shot, so I decided to try another banana bread recipe that I found on Gina's site. I didn't want to bake two loaves, so I cut the recipe in half.  The bananas I had were far from being over ripe. They had brown spots on them, but were still firm so when I mashed them, I had little chunks of banana. The banana chunks baked in the cake created tiny, moist pockets of sweetness that I just love.

Banana Walnut Bread


I couldn't resist eating a slice before taking this picture.
 4 ripe bananas (not over ripe), mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment or grease the pan with butter.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl mix melted butter and sugar. Add eggs, mashed banana, apple sauce and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in chopped walnuts.  Pour into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Cool for another 10 minutes before enjoying.

October 2, 2010

A Refreshing Salad

I came across an old post by Heidi at 101Cookbooks where she talked about a trip to Mexico. This trip inspired her to create a lime and peanut salad. The salad sounded mouth watering and led me in a direction to create an adapted version of her salad.  This salad has the tang of fresh lemon juice, the spice of a serrato chili and the creamy texture of a ripe avocado.

Broccoli Slaw Salad


half a bag of broccoli slaw, washed and drained
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, washed and sliced
1/2 a serrato chili, finely diced
1/3 cup cilantro/coriander, washed thoroughly and roughly chopped (you can use parsley instead)
juice of one small lemon
1-2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of cumin
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized bowl, add the serrato chili and cilantro. Add the broccoli slaw and give a good stir so that they are combined. Add in the tomatoes and avocado. Stir gently.  Pour in the lemon juice and olive oil and add the cumin, salt and pepper.  Mix so that everything is coated, especially the avocado. 

Some thoughts:  If you want you could add in diced English cucumber, slivered almonds and bean sprouts.

September 28, 2010

Cravings of Chocolate Equals a Brownie Recipe Fit for A Swirly Scoop of Pinkberry

I've begun to notice that the days I am fasting is when I crave chocolate the most.  It's this urge that won't go away until I've had some chocolately goodness.  I missed two fasts during Ramadan because of traveling, so now I have to make them up. I started today and honestly the chocolate cravings were crazy.  I just knew that once I broke my fast I would have to have a chocolate fix. So I went through my "Chocolate" section under My Favourites and came across Two Peas and Their Pod's Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies recipe.  Bingo!  I didn't have all of the ingredients the recipe called for, so I decided to adapt it to what I had on hand. The end result was a fudgey brownie with a smokey, dark chocolately taste.  Yumm!  Instead of consuming the brownies on their own, I believe because of the texture and flavour, the brownies would be better as a topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt.  And since I got my husband to pick up some of Pinkberry's Original swirly goodness, I had to test my theory.  Yup....it was a perfect pairing!

 Brownie Topping


3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, sifted
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic almond butter, room temperature
1 tbsp crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9" pie plate with parchment paper. You should cut the parchment paper to fit the bottom of the plate.

In a bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Add in the sugar and espresso powder and mix to combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla extract and oil until blended.


Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and lightly mix together until just blended.  Add in the almond butter and crushed walnuts.  Stir until combined. Using a spatula, evenly spread the brownie mixture in the pie plate until it reaches the sides of the plate.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean.  I found that my brownies were ready in 10 minutes, so be careful and watch those brownies.

Cool and serve on top of ice cream or frozen yogurt.

September 27, 2010

A trip to Little India and Gobi (Cauliflower Curry)

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to check out the Little India of LA. It's not as big as the Little India on Gerrard Street in Toronto, but the lack of "dinginess" was very appealing to me.  Now I consider myself a Canadian through and through, however there's nothing like going to an area where your community congregates to; the sights, sounds and smells make you feel like you've just come home.

We walked around the entire neighbourhood and discovered Saffron Spot, a drinks and snack stop tucked away in a corner. It's decor reminded me of Demetris. The bright pops of colour on the walls and the ice cream and falooda display cases. We didn't end up getting anything, but because the menu had ice cream flavours like Badam Pista, Fig Walnut, Kulfi Kreme, Lychee, Masala Tea, and Saffron Silk and various kinds of falooda, we knew we'd definitely come back.  After making our way back onto the main street, we checked out a few movie stores, some interesting eating places and a grocery store that, from now on, will supply my needs for spices, dals, rice, flour and fresh vegetables. We were pretty giddy when we walked into Pioneer (it's the Iqbal's of LA). The quality and freshness of the produce and spices was easy to spot. Also, the fact that they had everything you could possibly need to make South Asian cuisine was amazing.  I have had trouble locating certain spices and vegetables, but thanks to Pioneer, that is no longer the case!
We ended our tour with a stop to Ambala's, a desi mitae shop. It has nothing on Brar's in Mississauga or Al-Karam in Scarborough, but it will have to do.

Speaking of fresh vegetables, the recipe I'm going to share is a Gobi (Cauliflower Curry) salan.

Gobi

1 head of cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
1/2 tsp of garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped and browned
1/3 tsp hyde (turmeric) powder
1/4 tsp ghara mirch (red chili powder), adjust as necessary
1/4 tsp salt, adjust as necessary
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 serrano chili, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp fresh kotmeer (cilantro), washed and chopped


In a stainless steel pot, add minced garlic and oil. Slightly brown the garlic and then add the browned onions. Cook the garlic and onions for a minute or two and then add the hyde (turmeric), ghara mirch (red chili powder), and salt. Add in the chopped cauliflower florets and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Stir frequently.  When the cauliflower is tender, add the chopped tomato and serrano chili and cover the pot.  Let the flavours meld for a few minutes.  At this point check the flavour of the cauliflower- add more salt and ghara mirch if necessary.  Add the lemon juice and put the lid on again. Turn the heat down so the cauliflower is cooking on a low simmer. When the cauliflower is just about cooked through, add the chopped kotmeer (cilantro) and stir into the cauliflower.  Check the spice level one more time, add spices if necessary.  Turn off the heat and keep the cauliflower covered, the kotmeer will steam in the residual heat.

Serve with warm rotis.

September 24, 2010

A great appetizer: pin wheels

I'm still exploring the various ways I can use puff pastry.  I know it isn't exactly healthy (think of all of those buttery layers of pastry...yum!), but it is a pretty handy thing to have lying around in the freezer. If guests are coming around you can quickly whip up a few snacks with stuff in your fridge and a sheet of puff pastry. 

 I've always loved the way pin wheel sandwiches look because you can see all of the different layers of food. I've never tried making a pin wheel sandwich, but recently I made some pin wheel snacks using puff pastry.  The recipe was on the back of the box and the picture of this perfect pin wheel was too hard to resist.

Now before I actually show you the pictures of my finished product, I wanted to tell you about a couple of mistakes that I did while making these. If you keep these in mind, I promise you pin wheel perfection!

1. Make sure you finely dice your stuffing. If you are using big chunks of meat or fruit, they will ooze out while baking.
2. Put a small amount of stuffing half way up the puff pastry sheet.  If you fill it up too much and to the edge, leakage will occur.
3. Ensure that you have a sharp knife so that you can cut through the puff pastry log with ease.

Spinach and Chicken Pin Wheels


1 puff pastry sheet
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup of mozzarella and cheddar cheese mixture
1/2 cup of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid
1/4 cup of cooked chicken, shredded
2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature for 20-25 minutes or until easy to handle.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Stir egg and water in a small bowl.  Combine cheese, spinach, chicken, chili and salt in a bowl.
Unfold pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Top with cheese, chicken and spinach mixture. Starting at the short side closest to you, roll up pastry like a jelly roll.  Cut into small slices.  Place slices cut-side down on the baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

September 21, 2010

The beginnings of a cookie extravaganza

As a kid, my mom and I would watch Sesame Street together while my sister and brother would be at school.  My favourite character was the big, blue, cookie-crazed Cookie Monster.  His inability to resist a plate of cookies is quite hilarious and reminds me a bit of myself.  If there are cookies near me- on a plate, or on the shelf, they call out to me. I'm not joking!  I can hear them call me over to take a bite into their sweet bodies and savour the feeling of having a mouth full of cookie goodness.  My brain tells me to resist the temptation and be strong, but my tummy takes over and that's when I believe it is my duty, as a fan of Cookie Monster, to enjoy the cookies that are around me.  It is only after the fact, that I start to feel guilty about my sweet consumption and think about how I'm going to burn off those extra calories.  As Ina Garten says, "You can be miserable before you have a cookie and you can be miserable after you eat a cookie but you can't be miserable while you are eating a cookie."

Hmm.   I know I can't give up cookies, or chocolate, or cookies that contain chocolate (yum!), so the next best thing that I can think of is to start making my own cookies. The good thing about this is that there won't be any preservatives or artificial ingredients in my cookies. They will only contain fresh, wholesome natural ingredients.  I think this another way achieving a healthier lifestyle...(yea...right...sure...who am I kidding?). 

This cookie recipe that I'm sharing with you today is a twist on my Cardamom Shorties recipe. A swap of ingredients and a change in measurements gave me these wonderful Cashew Cardamom Shorties.


Cashew Cardamom Shortbread Cookies


1 tsp cardamom powder, finely ground
1/4 cup cashew meal, freshly ground (to make cashew meal, take some raw or roasted cashews and grind them up in a food processor. Stop grinding when the cashews are finely ground- just before you make cashew butter)
1 2/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup of brown cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix together the flour, cashew meal, espresso powder and cardamom powder.

In large bowl using rubber spatula, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended. Pour into flour mixture and stir until combined.  Using your hands, create small balls out of the cookie dough, about the size of a small meatball and then press down gently so a round cookie forms into a coin shape.

Bake until the edges of the cookie are lightly golden. Cool completely on the cookie sheets.

September 17, 2010

A way to handle leftovers

I always misjudge how much food will be consumed during Ramadan and Eid. It's never too little, but always too much.  I think it has to do with the fact that I was making food decisions while I was fasting.  You know, they always say never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.  This rule also applies when you're fasting. Your tummy is telling you that it wants all of these rich goodies and savoury treats to eat after iftar. However, when that time does come, there is no space or desire to eat all of that stuff. Instead, you are left with an overflowing fridge. 

What to do?

 I can't whip up a casserole, because well people of South Asian heritage don't eat casseroles. In fact, many of us don't know what a casserole is. The only way I learned about it was from a friend of mine at work.  I still have a good laugh when I think back to that conversation.  We were talking about leftovers and she asked me what I did with them...my reply was that I ate them..as is.  As the discussion continued, some of my students and fellow teachers of South Asian heritage came into the conversation.  We concluded that people of South Asian heritage don't make casseroles (most of the people we talked to didn't know what they were!). We make curries, and stews that involve several steps, and most of the cooking does take place on the stove top.

So, to address my problem of the overflowing fridge, I took to the Food Network for inspiration and came up with some flaky, delectable treats that traveled with me on a 5 and a half hour flight down south. 

Stuffed Puff Pastry


1 package of puff pastry ( I like the ones that are already rolled into sheets), thawed according to package instructions
1 cup of shredded roasted chicken (I love this because you can roast up chicken with any blend of herbs and spices you desire and change the way these puff pastry treats taste),
2 or 3 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup of shredded vegetarian cheese
10-12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut into slices

**Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

**On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, lay down a sheet of puff pastry.  Using a knife, cut the puff pastry sheet into squares or rectangles.

My puff pastries in different shapes before heading to the oven
For plain chicken puffs:
Take a tablespoon of the shredded chicken and place it in the centre of the puff pastry. Take another sheet and put it on top of it and press down the sides so the filling doesn't leak out.

For cheese, onion and tomato puffs
Combine the three ingredients and place a spoonful of it on one end of the puff pastry.  Start rolling the puff pastry into a roll by rolling the side with the stuffing away from you.

For a combined puff:  Mix all of the ingredients together and fill in puff pastry.

For this batch of puff pastries, I did not brush them with an egg wash (egg mixed with water), but you can choose to do so if you wish.  If you want to save these for another day, place the unbaked and unwashed puffs into a freezer Ziploc bag (don't forget to put a piece of wax paper between layers!) and put into the freezer.
If you want to enjoy them right away, bake until lightly golden brown.  Serve with chutney or chili sauce.

**I made these puff pastry treats in my toaster-oven, but they can also be made in a regular oven.
** You can create the puff pastries in any shape you desire. Be creative!

September 4, 2010

A rustic, yet delectible cookie

Eid is just around the corner and I know people are starting to think about what they are going to make. Eid is a day to celebrate with family, exchange gifts and eat lots of great treats.  Also, in between the house hopping, is the oh so important Eid nap where your tummy prepares itself for the next round of eating.
When I was growing up, my mom and grandmother would always make a traditional Sindhi sweet dish called keer karkoon. It comprises of full fat milk flavoured with cardamom pods and sugar, slowly cooked over the stove for a few hours. When the milk turns a pinky colour, the rehydrated dried dates are added to it and cooked together.  Unfortunately I have not had any experience of making this dish- mom, it's time for a cooking lesson!

Since there will be no keer karkoon cooking in my kitchen for Eid,  I have decided to bake some cookies instead. The cookie recipe is from Heidi Swanson's site 101 Cookbooks. Heidi's site is the first food blog I followed. It's full of mouth-watering recipes that use a variety of healthy ingredients to tantalize your taste buds. Do check it out when you have a moment.

Now let's get to this cookie recipe. It is rustic, hearty and oh so delicious! It's a combination of old fashioned rolled oats, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and bitter sweet chocolate. Just thinking about them is making my mouth water! Heidi's recipe calls for the use of 2 cups of sugar. I found that to be a bit much, so I cut it in half.  I also decided to add a bit of cocoa powder for more chocolaty goodness. The original recipe was to make these cookies over sized to make ice cream sandwiches, but I decided to make them a lot smaller and used a small ice cream scoop to shape them.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup coconut/palm sugar
2 tsps cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I baked these cookies on the top rack because my oven distributes the heat unevenly. Use your judgement when placing the oven racks.
In a bowl combine the oats, flour, wheat bran, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Mix well.
In another bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar for 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture and combine until everything just comes together.
You do not want to over mix the batter.  Toss in the chocolate chips and mix well. 

Use a mini ice cream scoop to scoop out the batter in round balls and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Make sure to leave space in between the cookies. Once on the sheet, gently pat down the tops of each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on a cookie sheet.



September 2, 2010

Blog photos

Slowly, but surely I find myself improving my photo-taking skills.  I'm figuring out the different settings on my point-and-shoot digital camera and am not relying on the user manual as much.  However, there are some days where I think I've gotten a great shot, and only learn later that it totally sucks. I have trouble with angles, and shadows. I'm also struggling with the use of flash.  Let me know if you have any tips on how I can improve on these areas.

 Here are some shots (unrelated to food) that have turned out to be pretty successful.Or at lease I think so!


At the Grand Canyon

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier
The sky above my balcony in Mississauga

My Timmies and novel of the moment

A rose and spider at the Niagara Falls Rose Garden (Canadian side of course!)

August 31, 2010

A bite of sweetness to tide you over

As the days of fasting continue, I find myself having chocolate cravings- Snickers, Twix, Crunchie. Oh so yummy, but oh so bad for the waistline. I've been holding back, but last night was just too unbearable.  I had to have a chocolate fix right then and there.  I quickly scoured my kitchen cupboards to find something and I came across a bar of Lindt's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate bar. Perfect!  I also came across a box of Baker's Secret Semi Sweet baking chocolate. Even better! I wanted to have some texture to my chocolate fix, so I threw together a dash of this, a handfull of that and came up with bite sized crunchy chocolately goodness.

Crunch Chocolatey Bites


1 Weetabix biscuit, crushed
2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tsp almond slivers
4 squares of Lindt's 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate bar (should be about an ounce)
2 ounces of semi-sweet baking chocolate

Crush the Weetabix biscuit in a bowl and mix in the coconut flakes and almond slivers. Set aside.  On the stove, create a double boiler- put a small pot on the stove with some (don't fill it up all the way because you do not want the water to touch the chocolate) water and let it simmer. In a small steel bowl, break the chocolate into pieces and place on top of the small pot. Stir until the chocolate has melted.  Pour the melted chocolate into the Weetabix, coconut and almond mixture. Stir well.  Using a round 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, scoop out the mixture onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Set aside to firm up. Once firm to the touch, put the tray in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

August 18, 2010

Sisters Who Blog Magazine

I forgot to mention in my two previous posts that I'm doing a Ramadan series for Sisterswhoblog Magazine.  It's a great site to check out. You can connect with sisters from around the world, do a little shopping and reading interesting stuff. Do stop by and check it out.

Lebanese Tabbouleh with a twist

Slowly but surely all of us are getting used to the Ramadan routine.  This year, the fast day is longer and the time between iftar and suhoor is much shorter.  I don't know about you, but I find myself feeling very full when I wake up to eat my suhoor because it's only been like 4-5 hours since iftar and dinner.  Keeping this in mind, I thought I would take a recipe Nutrition Unplugged posted and change it up a bit. It's a light dish that's chock full of healthy benefits.  Feast your eyes on a a not so traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh.  Instead of bulgur, I've used red quinoa. Quinoa is a seed that is protein rich and contains all 9 amino acids that our bodies need.  Try this for iftar or as a side with your dinner, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Lebanese Tabbouleh with a Twist




1/2 cup of cooked red quinoa (see note below)
juice of 3 limes
1 bunch of parsley, washed thoroughly and diced finely
handful of mint leaves, washed and diced finely
2 medium tomatoes, diced into cubes
3 scallions (green onions), sliced thinly
1 Tbsp good olive oil
salt to taste

Quinoa note: Take a 1/4 measuring cup and pour in dry quinoa until the cup is just half full and give it a good rinse. Put it into a pot with 1/2 cup of water. Boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer until quinoa is cooked. Cool before adding to the rest of the ingredients.

Another Quinoa note:  If you can't find red quinoa, switch it up with any other variety.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

August 14, 2010

A simple suhoor/sehri (early breakfast) for Ramadan

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims worldwide wake up before sunrise to eat their suhoor/sehri/early breakfast.  Depending on the region of the world, this meal can be comprised of porridge, curries, eggs, sandwiches, rotis (plain or stuffed), juices, tea, milk, water, or in my case, plain old cereal out of a box.  I find that if I eat too much in the morning, it does not agree with me the entire day, so my routine since childhood has been to eat cereal for sehri.  This Ramadan, however, I have decided to try something different- fresh muesli (pronounced moose-ley), cereal that doesn't come out of a box! Muesli is a Swiss breakfast cereal made up of uncooked rolled oats, either soaked in water or juice, fruit and nuts. It was created in the 1900s by a Swiss physician and was given to his patients who were on a diet of fruit and vegetables.

My recipe includes fruit yogurt and 1% milk.  If you want to try something light, yet filling, try some muesli!

Muesli




1/2 cup of raw slivered or sliced almonds
1 cup of 1% milk
2 small strawberry fruit yogurt cups, Balkan style
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
a drizzle of honey
1 cup of mixed berries, fresh or frozen ( I used frozen black berries, blue berries and strawberries)

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, until golden in colour.
In a bowl, mix together milk, yogurt, oats, honey and fruit. Stir in the almonds.
Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.  The muesli will keep for 3 days

August 10, 2010

Ramadan


God Willing, Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting will begin in the next day or two.  Many people believe that abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset is what this month is all about.  But there is much more to this holy month than that.  It is a time to reflect on one's relationship with God and how one can achieve closeness to the Creator.  It is also a time to gain patience, perfect good manners, practice charity (not only monetary), and improve one's character.

During this month, I might not be as active on the blog. For one, I can't taste anything during the daylight hours so I won't be cooking that much. Also, I will be busy trying to achieve all the things listed above. 

Take care readers,

Ramadan Mubarak!

August 9, 2010

A healthy cake that I can eat on a regular basis!

I'm really excited about this cake. It's a healthy, hearty and absolutely delicious quinoa and carrot loaf cake!  The combination of ingredients is quite unique and may put people off from making it, but I do recommend trying it out once. If you like it, keep making it. If not, move along.  I tweaked Bakeaholic's recipe to suit my needs.  The only one thing I regret tweaking is the amount of sugar. I cut the amount of sugar from 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup and I found that there was some sweetness missing. If you don't want the cake to be sweet, use 1/4 cup of sugar. Otherwise, stick with 1/3 cup of the sweet stuff.

Quinoa Carrot Loaf Cake


2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cooked red quinoa **(see note below)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup low fat, plain yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened apple sauce (instead of oil)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Quinoa note:  Take 1/4 cup of dry quinoa and give it a good rinse. Put it into a pot with 1/2 cup of water. Boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer until quinoa is cooked.  Cool before adding to wet ingredients.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine eggs, shredded carrots, yogurt, apple sauce, vanilla and cooked quinoa.  Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Pour mixture into a parchment paper lined loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes. Double check using the toothpick method.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

August 5, 2010

A fruit blend enjoyed on my balcony

What do you do when you have fruit that's over ripe and turning brown? Make a fruity juice blend.  If you have a Magic Bullet or a blender, you can whip this up in no time!  I dressed it up by pouring it into a lead crystal goblet and used a sprig of mint for garnish.

A Simple Fruit Blend


1/2 glass of mango juice
1 over ripe, very mushy banana
4 sprigs of current berries
splash of 1% milk

Throw in all of the ingredients above into your Magic Bullet or blender and whip it together.  Pour over ice in a glass and add a sprig of mint for garnish.

Tri-Pepper Beef

There are some days where you just want to make something simple to eat but not have to slave over the stove all day, especially when it's summer. This is a very quick and easy recipe that I'm sure you'll enjoy.  You can serve it with naan, roti, roll it into a wrap or eat it on its own.

Tri-Pepper Beef



1lb beef, cut into strips
handful of chives
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced
1 cubano pepper, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
1 tsp paprika
red chili powder to taste
1 Tbsp ground coriander
salt to taste
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup of water

Wash the beef strips and drain away the water. In a bowl, combine beef, chives, tri-peppers, paprika and garlic. Mix well and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. 

Heat up a wok and pour in the olive oil. Add in the meat mixture and begin to stir-fry.  As the meat begins to cook, add in the salt, coriander and red chili powder to taste. Continue to stir-fry.  To tenderize the meat, reduce the heat to medium-low, add a few tablespoons of water and cover the wok.  Continue to cook this way until the meat is tender.

August 3, 2010

What started off as a cookie recipe...

So I got inspired by a cookie recipe my cousin had posted up on Facebook. It was Alton Brown's The Chewy cookie recipe. I had some ideas on how to tweak the recipe and what resulted was a really nice chocolate cake- yes cake, not cookie recipe!

Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup of butter, melted
1 1/4 cups of almond flour or almond meal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 egg
2 tbsp 2% milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients and put into an 8.5" tart pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy on its own or with a scoop of frozen yogurt.

August 1, 2010

A Summery Salsa

A couple of weeks ago I flew back home to Toronto from LA to spend some time with family and friends and get my Umrah visa. God-Willing, my family and I will be going for Umrah during the 2nd half of Ramadan.  Since I've been back, I've been going to my old gym 5 days a week to continue my exercise routine.  My gym, Goodlife, is on the top floor of a grocery store, and because of that, I usually find myself browsing through the produce and Joe Fresh sections on a regular basis. Recently I discovered some organic berries and peaches there! I've recently made the transition from non-organic berries and peaches to their organic counterparts because I've read that because these fruits are very delicate and are eaten with their skins, the non-organic variety have the highest pesticide contamination. So..I was really excited to grab these peaches and take them home with me!
The peaches were juicy and delicious and I wanted to eat them all by themselves, but then I came across a post from Gina about an avocado and mango salsa.  Luckily I had both of those ingredients in my fridge and when I saw those glorious peaches sitting on my counter, I knew I had to add them into this recipe! 
This recipe is refreshing and can be eaten on it's own or with chips or Mebla toast rounds. Yum Yum!

Mango, Peach and Avocado Salsa

1 Pakistani mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
1 medium-to-large size organic peach, diced with peel on
1/2 Hot House tomato (should be on the large side), diced
1/4 cup of corriander/cilantro leaves, washed well and roughly chopped
1/2 lime, squeeze out the juice
1/2 medium sized onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

After preparing the fruit, combine all ingredients. Refridgerate before serving.

July 30, 2010

Who cares if it's the summer? Let's make a cinnamon loaded apple crisp!

Apples and cinnamon is a classic combination. Usually it appears once the leaves change colour and the weather is crisp and cool. Imagine sitting by the window, watching the grey clouds swirl around while enjoying a warm apple pie or apple crisp with a scoop of melting vanilla ice cream. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water and crave something with apples and cinnamon.  It's probably my second favourite dessert out there, after anything chocolatey that is!  Sadly, I don't eat apple pies and crisps that often because even though they are loaded with apples, they aren't completely healthy. 

To my delight, Gina posted a wonderful recipe for a healthier apple crisp dessert.  I wanted to try it badly and fortunately we had friends coming over so I had the perfect opportunity to make it! It was a hit!

Cinnamon Apple Crisp




5 medium apples, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup agave nectar
-------------------
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant!)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup (half stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the apples, cinnamon, lemon juice and agave nectar until well coated.  Toss this mixture with corn starch and put into a lightly greased glass pie plate.  For the topping, combine the rolled oats, WW flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Spread the topping evenly over the pie plate, making sure that all the apples are covered.  Bake, uncovered, until the topping is a golden brown colour and the fruit inside is tender. Depending on your oven, this could be 30-40 minutes. 

Serve right away or leave to cool on the kitchen counter. When you are ready to enjoy it, warm it up in the oven for 10 minutes at 150 degrees. Serve with vanilla ice cream.