Ramadan

Ramadan, the month of fasting, is just a few short days away. The time has come for Muslims to return to God and begin the process of cleansing the mind, body, and soul.  It is a time where the worldly desires are put away and the focus becomes strengthening the spiritual ties to God through many acts of worship including, prayer, acts of charity, guarding one’s character, and the abstinence from food and drink.

Ramadan is the time to turn to God and seek forgiveness of past and present sins, mend strained relationships, and forgive those who have transgressed against you. It is also a time to thank God for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon you and your family.

Right now is a good time to prepare yourself for the physical and spiritual cleansing that is about to start.  Here are a few links that can help you refresh your memory on the importance of Ramadan and its guidelines:

It is also vital that children are educated on the importance of Ramadan.There are many child-friendly resources available on the Internet and in print that can help kids understand what Ramadan is about and why certain acts of worship happen during this blessed month.  A great way to help kids, and even adults for that matter, celebrate Ramadan is to decorate your home.  Children can create posters or paintings with Ramadan greetings, banners can be made that can be put around the house etc.  Here are two articles by Hina Khan-Mukhtar that talk about getting your home and your family ready for this spiritual time:

Here are some ways my family and I would spruce up the house during  Ramadan. In my parents’ home, we would string green twinkly lights along the windows in the family, living, and dining rooms. We would also put out some fancy candles and candle holders and light them up at night.  I have also done this in Ramadan pasts at my own home. This year, I’ve put up a small Ramadan banner that came with my Ramadan calendar from Barakah Life and I’ve also made some velum luminaries that will light up a dark corner of the family room.  I may also add some twinkly lights just for old time’s sake.

I will be posting a few recipes during the month of Ramadan. They will be really simple to replicate and will be a great addition to your Ramadan table.

Ramadan Mubarak!

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How To: Marinate a Whole Chicken with a Dry Rub

There are some kitchen basics that everyone should know how to do. So, for my first “How-To” blog post, I’m going to show you how to marinate a whole chicken with a dry rub.

I never had any experience cooking with a whole chicken until a friend of mine shared her Sprite-can chicken recipe. After talking to her about the marinade and the whole process, I went to my local halal meat store and picked up a whole chicken and attempted to make my own soda can chicken.  Success!

Before I continue, I want to let everyone know that when you go to a halal butcher shop, the meat is generally not pre-packaged into neat, plastic-wrapped portions that you see at the grocery store. Instead, you have a display case full of different kinds of meat- chicken, beef, veal, lamb, goat- and various parts of animals- legs, side cuts, ribs, ground meats, steaks, trodders, organs etc. You pick the pieces of meat you want, get it cut the way you want and then bring it home to prep it- clean off extra fat and gunk, wash it, and away you go.  So knowing that, when I tell you that my mom taught me how to clean meat when I was a teen shouldn’t seem odd.  One time, she handed me a rubber glove, a whole chicken that she got from the halal meat store, and made me stick my hand up the backside of the chicken to take out the heart, lungs and any other stuff that shouldn’t be there before we cooked it.  From that day on, I felt somewhat traumatized and to this day I tell her she scarred me by making me shove my hand up a chicken’s butt. hehe   Between you and me though, I’m kind of glad she gave me that experience because now when I work with a whole chicken, it’s no longer a daunting task and I can take care of it in a minute or so.

 Dry Rub Marinade for a Whole Chicken

2 heaping tbsp chicken tikka masala  (if you want to avoid a lot of spice, substitute the chicken tikka masala for another blended chicken spice)
2 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp each freshly minced ginger and garlic
2 key limes (you can use lemon or lime wedges if you can’t find key limes)

Rinse the inside and outside of your whole chicken thoroughly.  Lay it down on paper towels and pat-dry the chicken with more paper towel.

In a small bowl, mix together the chicken tikka masala, ground coriander, paprika and salt.  Set aside.
Take the minced garlic and ginger and rub them into the chicken-inside and out.  Make sure you get in between the legs and wings.  Take your rub, a tsp at a time, and begin to rub it into the chicken skin, once again making sure to get into every nook and cranny.  Repeat the process until you have used up the entire rub.

Take the two key limes, and place them inside the chicken cavity. When you roast the chicken, they will explode and release all of their flavour.

If you are going to roast the chicken later in the day, put the chicken inside a roasting pan and put it in the fridge for a few hours.  If you want to make the chicken at a later date, but the entire chicken into a freezer bag and stick it into the freezer. 

So excited!

It’s finally here! The last installment of the Harry Potter movie series.  It has been a long journey for Harry Potter and the millions of fans out there.  I became a fan back in 1999 when I was drawn to a display of books in front of the cashier at the Indigo book store at Scarborough Town Centre. Unbeknownst to me, I picked up a book that ended up launching a global reading revolution. Although the book seemed to be recommended for kids, the blurb at the back of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone drew me, a first-year university student, in and I quickly passed it to my older sister, who read the back of the book, and then proceeded to line up and buy it.  And so our love for “the boy who lived” began and has continued for the past 12 years.

My sister and I eagerly waited for the new books in the series to be released and watched the first two movies in the series together.  Shortly thereafter, we both got married and life moved on.  At that point, I carried my love for Harry Potter into my new life and began going to midnight book release parties and movie releases with my two sister-in-laws Z and S. And sometimes my husband and brother-in-law would come and join in the fun!
My husband hasn’t watched all the movies, so before going to the movie yesterday, I had him read a summary of all the movies on Wikipedia, and we watched the first part of The Deathly Hallows in 30 minutes- I had to forward through some parts- just so that he would understand the second part!

I wish the recipe I’m going to share with you is one related to Harry Potter, but instead it’s my lemon poppy seed disaster of a cake that I managed to salvage.

When I went back to TO in June, my close friends and I scheduled our monthly meet up at Shiva’s house.  Right away I said I would make dessert because this gave me the opportunity to test out a few recipes on my friends.  Normally when I make a dessert-style dish, I end up with so many left overs because my husband and in-laws enjoy more savory things then sweet.  This girls’ night guaranteed me no left overs!

The first recipe I made was the Double Chocolate Cupcakes and the second was Sprinkles of Parsley’s Lemon Poppy Seed Cake.  The two changes from the original recipe that I made were that I used cake flour instead of all purpose flour because I wanted a lighter texture to the cake and I added more lemon juice to the icing. The mistake I made was using the same all purpose flour measurements for the cake flour when in reality one cup of all purpose is equivalent to 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour. Another mistake I made while making this cake was not greasing and flouring the bunt pan enough. I only realized this when I was trying to release the cake from the pan and half of the cake got stuck while the rest came out, resulting in a horribly broken up cake.  The way I managed to present this cake was to slice it in half width-wise and serve the “half-slices” on muffin tin liners.

Lemony Poppy Seed Cake

Cake:
3 cups cake flour  (So that you don’t repeat the same mistake I made, add 6 tbsp to this, so it’ll be 3 cups and 6 tbsp cake flour)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs (I used vegetarian feed, hormone-free eggs)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fresh baking soda

1/2 tsp salt
grated lemon peel from 2 large lemons, make sure you wash and dry the lemons prior to using

Lemony Icing:
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
juice of two lemons

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Mix together all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl using a hand mixer. Mix on medium speed until the dry and wet ingredients are combined to create a smooth batter. Butter and flour your bunt or cake pan liberally. Pour in your batter and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 1 hour or so.

Remove the cake from the oven when it’s ready and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Use a small knife and run it around the edges of the pan, say a quick prayer and flip the cake over onto a cooling rack. Hopefully, the cake will release and you will have a beautiful dessert.

Stir together the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth.  Taste the icing to make sure it’s not too tart, add more icing sugar if necessary.  Drizzle over a cooled cake, and slice and serve with a cup of coffee.

Red and White

Before I start blogging about my lemon poppy seed cake disaster, I thought it would be wise to wrap up my Canada Day posts.  Since Canada Day fell on a Friday, we had a 3-day long weekend that proved to be jam packed with things to do.  It started off with me prepping for the roasted steak lunch with vegetable and pasta sides for my in-laws.  A couple of weeks prior I had gotten some flank steaks and marinated them in some masala, and minced ginger and garlic, before sticking them into the freezer for a rainy day. That so called rainy day turned out to be a sunny Canada Day!  I thought I would make some fancy dessert, but didn’t have time, what with my husband flying in from a business trip, the sides to make for lunch, and a commitment to make dessert for my mom’s barbecue. So I opted for something that would be simple yet would fit the colour scheme of the day.  I decided to mix fresh Ontario strawberries with California raspberries on a white dish that one of my students had given me and sprinkle them with powdered sugar!
Strawberry and Raspberry Medley
1 pint Ontario strawberries, washed
1 pint raspberries, washed
1 tbsp powdered sugar
2-3 mint leaves (optional)
Wash and drain the strawberries and raspberries. First, layer the strawberries on the bottom of a white dish and then place the raspberries around the strawberries and in the crevices.  Put the powdered sugar in a small sieve and begin to “dust” the sugar over the berries**.  Tuck in a few mint leaves for garnish.  Serve plain or with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.
**  Make sure your berries are dry before dusting them with powered sugar.  I hadn’t drained all the water off the berries when I sprinkled them with the sugar, and so the sugar was sucked into the berries…that’s why my berries look naked.

Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes!

Lately I’ve been feeling like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.  The weekends are a blur, and the weekdays are packed with gym classes, family stuff, appointments, meeting friends, and everyday errands. I’ve also been taking an online Qur’an class that involves listening to two lessons a week, doing homework and then partaking in a live session with a TA. And just because I wasn’t busy enough I went to a two-day board workshop on reading assessment!

I have also found myself connecting with the arts and crafts scene online.  There is this really cool iPod app called CraftGawker that tracks interesting craft projects people have created. It gives you a new selection of projects everyday and you can “heart” them and go to the artist’s blog to learn more about the project.  I have already added 150 projects to my favourites in the hopes that one day I will be able to sit down and make them.  I did start a few Ramadan and Eid projects, but I’ll save that for another post.
And now for this wonderful recipe from My Baking Addiction.  Jamie has a plethora of interesting recipes and I have more than one recipe from the site tagged as a future kitchen adventure. I decided to try out this recipe on my UNO friends as we were gathering at Shiva’s house for our meet-up.  There was a lemon poppy seed cake in the mix, but that definitely is another story because it involves a cake falling apart and me trying to come up with a creative way to salvage it!
Although the recipe gives you exact measurements for the frosting, I decided to be more free-flowing with the confectioners’ sugar measurements and just kept tasting the icing until it was “just right.”  I made these cupcakes a second time for Canada Day and instead of using the cream cheese frosting, I used melted chocolate. Pictures and the alternative icing ingredients are below.
Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup of cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks), unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup 1% sour cream
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.  (Dark or white chocolate chips would also work well here)
a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips for decoration (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup regular-sized muffin tin with liners.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the consistency is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla.  Mix in the flour in two batches, alternating between the flour and sour cream.  Begin with the flour and end with the flour.  Fold in the chocolate chips.   Since I wanted my muffins to roughly be the same size, I used a 1 1/8″ ice cream scoop to fill my cupcakes-each muffin had exactly 3 scoops of batter.   Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to completely cool.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3 oz bitter sweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled  ( I melted the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave.  I set it on high for 30 seconds and repeated this until the chocolate was melted.)
confectioners sugar to taste, sifted.
In a bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until well blended.  Add in the vanilla and salt and mix well.  Pour in the melted chocolate and gradually begin to add the confectioners’ a little at a time until you reach your desired sweetness.  Once your icing is ready, spread over the cooled cupcakes using an offset spatula. Top each cupcake with a semi-sweet chocolate chip.
 **Alternative icing
I made another batch of these cupcakes for a US and Canadian family reunion barbeque at my mom’s during the Canada Day long weekend.  Since the cupcakes were going to be devoured mostly by kids under the age of 12, I thought it would be best to swap the cream cheese frosting for plain melted chocolate.  Following the same procedure from above, I melted 15 milk chocolate wafers in the microwave. Once the melted chocolate was slightly cooled, I spooned it over the tops of the cupcakes and added a toothpick Canadian flag as decorations