Mom’s Keer (Pakistani Rice Pudding)

1 litre homogenized milk (whole milk if you’re in the US)

1 litre half and half

¾ cup of dry basmati rice, wash and soak over night

7 green elachi (cardamom pods)

¼ cup white sugar (then adjust to taste while cooking)

handful of slivered almonds

8-10 green pistachios, cut up into small slivers (garnish)

 

Put milk, half and half, and elachi pods into a pot and bring it to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer (lowest heat possible, so as not to burn the milk) and let it cook away for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally to move the milk fat that forms to the side.  Once the colour of the milk changes from white to off white/pinky, you need to get your rice ready.

Rinse the soaked rice and drain all of the water.  Take a mug full of the hot milk and put it into a blender. Add the rice and blend up the rice so that it becomes teeny tiny pieces, but not completely pureed.

Increase the heat to medium-low (you don’t want to boil the milk..more like a strong simmer) and stir the milk while adding the blended rice mixture. This is where you have to stand for a looong time and stir the milk mixture frequently*. Otherwise, the rice will clump and burn.  Once the rice-milk mixture thickens (should not slide off the spoon), add the sugar and almonds. Stir continuously and once the sugar has melted, taste the milk. The trick to getting the right sweetness is to make the hot milk sweeter than usual, so that when it cools, it’ll have the right sweetness. I added about 3 extra tablespoons of sugar to the hot milk.  Once the keer has thickened to a pudding like texture, remove from heat and spoon it into a dish. Garnish with pistachio slivers. Cool before serving.

*Tip, if you want to avoid the looooonng stove top cooking, you can turn your oven on to 350C and cook the rice-milk mixture in there.  Put the mixture in a oven-safe roasting dish and put it on top of a cookie sheet. Cook the mixture, uncovered, in the middle of the oven. Stir it every 5-10 mins to ensure the milk on the sides doesn’t burn.  Once the milk thickens ((should not slide off the spoon), add the sugar and almonds. Stir continuously and once the sugar has melted, taste the milk. The trick to getting the right sweetness is to make the hot milk sweeter than usual, so that when it cools, it’ll have the right sweetness. I added about 3 extra tablespoons of sugar to the hot milk.

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Good for You Apple Crumble

Firstly, I want to apologize for the large gap between this post and my previous one.  If you’re a parent, a stay-at-home parent, you know that there is no such thing as “me-time.”  That oh-so-precious “me-time” where you could do anything your heart desires like, watch TV, blog, shower, exercise or sit down and have a quiet moment with a book and steaming cup of coffee..well it doesn’t exist anymore.  Gone are the days where I could play with a recipe and blog about it in the same day. Now weeks and sometimes months go by before I can get few minutes to myself (usually I have to skip a bathroom break) to write anything down here.  I’m going to type as fast as I can to get this recipe up before a little someone decides she doesn’t want to sleep anymore!!

This recipe comes from The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon.  I came across Angela on Instagram a while back and when she announced that her cookbook was coming out, I knew I had to buy it.

I never intended to tweak the recipe, but ended up having to because I didn’t some of the ingredients she used.

Good For You Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble

Apple filling:

6-7 heaping cups of peeled and sliced organic Honey Crisp apples (you can use any apples you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch (Angela uses arrowroot powder)

1/3 cup coconut sugar (Angela uses Sucanat sugar)

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (not bottled..yuck!)

Crumble topping:

1 cup quick oats (Angela uses gluten-free rolled oats)

1 cup thinly sliced almonds

1/3 cup almond flour or almond meal

1/4 cup organic grade B pure maple syrup

1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease an 11 x 9 inch baking dish.

Put diced apples, cornstarch, coconut sugar, chia seeds and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add lemon juice and stir. Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish and smooth it out until evenly distributed.

In the same bowl, stir together the oats, almonds, almond flour, maple syrup, melted coconut oil, cinnamon and salt until well combined.

Sprinkle the oat mixture over the apples evenly.  Cover the dish with foil and use a fork to poke holes in the foil.  Bake for 40 minutes or until apples are fork tender.  Uncover dish and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the top is golden.  Serve by itself or with some frozen yogurt.

Dried Fruit

This Eid went by in a blur. We flew in to TO, blinked our eyes, and bam it was over! Seriously, as soon as we got off the plane, it was like we hit the ground running. Every single day there were things to bake, gifts to buy, home to clean, clothes to iron, people to call, and appointments to go to. It almost felt like we didn’t have a chance to sleep, eat, or breathe. I still don’t know how I managed to get to the gym to work out.

And because everything was a blur, I didn’t get an opportunity to blog about the treats I made until now.


First, I must inform you that the pictures in the next few posts were taken from my iPod and tweaked using Instagram.  I left my camera back in LA and had to make due with some grainy shots.  Oh well….

This first treat is so easy to make, you can do it blind folded (but you really don’t want to do that because you might burn yourself and/or the chocolate).


Dark Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots


20-30 dried apricots
1 bar Lindt Excellence Madagascar 65% Dark Chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds, crushed into small pieces
Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.  Place the crushed almonds in a bowl and set aside.

First, get a large pot and fill it with 1 to 2 inches of water and place it over low-medium heat until the water begins to simmer. Take a glass or stainless steel bowl that has a diameter larger than the pot and place it on top.  Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the simmering water. Place most of the chocolate (three-quarters worth) in the bowl and let it melt, while stirring occasionally. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until melted.

Take the dried apricots and dip them half-way into the melted dark chocolate.  Then roll the apricots in the crushed almonds and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Once the chocolate has set, about 20-30 minutes, place the apricot pieces into cellophane bags and tie with ribbon if you want to give them as a gift, or place them in an air tight container. 

A breakfast time saver!

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that I don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done. It seems like I blink my eyes and three hours have gone by!  There is so much to get done: I have a stack of books to get through, some unit plan designing to complete, prayers to read, and online classes to attend. Not to mention the daily household chores that must get done after work and daily trips to the gym.

 I know if I manage my time a bit better ( I blame it on no longer having a steady work routine!!), I would be able to complete many of these tasks.  From the minute that I wake up to the time I go to bed, I have to make sure I am not wasting any time.  I’m hoping to start off with a simple breakfast routine on days that I know I will be extremely busy.  I whipped up a really simple breakfast parfait this morning to kick start my day.  Since there is a lot of protein in the Greek yogurt, I felt full and satisfied. If you think this isn’t enough for you eat a boiled egg on the side.

Breakfast Parfait

2 scoops PC 0% Honey Greek Yogurt
1 large stem of Seedless Organic Coronation Grapes
3 tbsp PC Blue Menu Raisin & Almond Granola

Place a scoop of yogurt in the bottom of a wide-rimmed glass.  Layer on some grapes and 1 tbsp of granola. Create a second layer of yogurt, grapes and granola.

Ramadan # 3 Spinach and Almond Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella and Garlic Shrimp

O Allah, I seek your forgiveness for every sin that leaves grief in its wake, that causes remorse, that holds back sustenance, and that prevents acceptance of [my] prayers.

I really enjoy creating pasta-based concoctions in my kitchen. I usually stick with one type of pasta in my dishes, but lately I’ve been mixing different flour-based or vegetable-based pastas, trying to find combinations that work and that my family will eat.  One combination that I like is an equal blend of white and whole wheat pastas because you get the heartiness of the whole wheat pasta without having the dish become too heavy and dense.



A while back, I came across a blog post on pesto. The recipe was surprisingly easy and didn’t require Parmesan cheese (it’s hard to find Parmesan cheese without rennet in it). I tagged this recipe under “Recipes to Try ASAP” and let it be.  A couple of weeks ago, I came back to this recipe and thought I would test it out.   I changed the recipe by using almonds instead of walnuts, mixing up the pasta and adding fresh mozzarella and shrimp.

Spinach and Almond Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella and Garlic Shrimp

 

2 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach, stems removed and washed and dried
1/4 cup of almonds, skin removed
4 tbsp freshly minced garlic,
10 basil leaves, washed
4 tbsp olive oil
6 small fresh mozzarella balls, drained of liquid and sliced into quarters
15-20 frozen raw peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed and washed
1.5 cups dry whole wheat rotini pasta
1.5 cups dry white rotini pasta
salt and pepper to taste

In a food process,  mix together spinach, almonds,  3 tbsp garlic, 8 basil leaves, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper until a gritty-like texture is formed.  Taste for salt and pepper.  If a stronger flavour is desired, add more spinach, basil and almonds and give the mixture a spin in the processor.

In a frying pan, add the remaining olive oil, 1 tbsp of garlic and the 2 basil leaves (torn up into small pieces).  Saute on low-medium heat for 1 minute.  Add in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp have curled in a bit and are pink all the way through.  Season with some salt and pepper before removing from heat.

Cook the dry whole wheat and white pastas (SEPARATELY) according to box instructions.  Strain the water and mix the pasta in a large bowl with the pesto. Gently mix in the mozzarella quarters and shrimp. Taste the pasta for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for a later time.

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.

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