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.

Strawberry Sauce

If you opened my fridge this past summer, the first thing you would see is the abundance of organic berries.  I would make a run to the grocery store for one or two things and I would almost always come back with 1-2 cartons of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries.  Most of the time, these delicious gems would end up in a smoothie, but one pint of organic strawberries had a different destiny.

A few weeks back, I came across a recipe for strawberry sauce (can’t remember where I got it from…will try to look for the blog to give credit). I wasn’t sure if I would want to make it or not, but after checking that I had the ingredients and of course, the Belgian waffles and chocolate gelato (ahem) that it would be drizzled over, I got Amina busy with an activity and started to make some strawberry sauce magic.

The sauce is straight-forward and will be ready in about 10-15 minutes.

Strawberry Sauce

Strawberry Sauce

1 pint of organic strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup, grade b

Place ingredients into a saucepan and cover. Simmer ingreidents and stir occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until desired strawberry mushiness is met.  Spoon over yogurt, ice cream or eat as is.

Hina’s (not Hinna’s) Toffee Bark

The title seems confusing right? I had to make it clear that this toffee bark recipe doesn’t belong to me, but to a friend named Hina. Hina with one ‘N’ and not two.  My friendship with Hina began in a bit of a strange way. My hubby and her father, worked together on a project at work. Hubby became good friends with Uncle and they used to have many conversations in their day-to-day interactions. In one such conversation, Uncle mentioned the Sacred Caravan Umrah tour with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and how his family goes every year. We jumped at the chance to go on the Sacred Caravan because we knew it would be a life-altering experience. To go for Umrah (small pilgrimage to Mecca) with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, get a behind-the-scenes tour of many historical sites that aren’t open to the public and more importantly, be taught by Shaykh Hamza is an intimate setting where we would be able to interact with him at a personal level was an opportunity not to be missed. We made our intentions and applied to go. Alhamdulilah, we were accepted and our family spent two beloved weeks in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina with our Shaykh.  We met many people on the trip, including Uncle, his daughter Hina and the rest of his family.   Since the trip was so jam-packed with activities, Hina and I never interacted that much. However, after getting home and adding each other onto Facebook, we’ve become friends.

In several Facebook posts, Hina mentioned this really special toffee bark she makes. Lucky for me, she was more than willing to share her recipe. Lucky for you, she’s letting me share it here. I made a few slight adjustments to the recipe. Next to my changes I will share what Hina’s original recipe uses.

Hina’s Toffee Bark

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The original picture I wanted to use was so much better than this one. Unfortunately it got corrupted and I didn’t back up the picture. And I ate all the toffee bark so no more pictures… :p

Parchment paper (Hina used non-stick easy-release foil)

Saltine crackers

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

10 oz 60% bitter sweet baking chocolate chips (Hina used 12 0z semi-sweet chocolate chips)

10 oz peanut butter chips

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (Hina used pecans)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Line a 12 x 17″ cookie sheet with parchment paper. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers from end to end. Break saltines in half to fill in any gaps.

In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring butter and sugar to a boil. Boil for TWO minutes. The colour should turn from white to light amber and be frothy and foamy.  Pour the hot mixture over the saltines and spread evenly over the saltines using an off-set spatula. Make sure the saltines are completely covered with the sugar-butter mixture- it is the “glue” that holds everything together and is the toffee layer.

Bake saltines at 400º for 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix bittersweet chips and peanut butter chips together.  Pour chips all over the hot crackers and return tray to the oven for 30-60 seconds, until the chips have softened.  Using an offset spatula, spread the softened chips evenly over the saltines. Sprinkle walnuts over the chocolate.

Place tray in fridge to set bark. Once the toffee bark is chilled, use your hands to break the bark into large pieces.

Let’s make dessert!

We don’t know a lot of people in the LA area, so we don’t entertain much. However, when we do get the chance to meet people, it’s always nice to have them then over for a meal or tea and snacks.  Last Monday, hubby’s colleague and family came over for dinner. Since it was a quickly planned meet up, we decided to serve a variety of kebobs with various fixings from Heidar Baba, an Iranian restaurant close to home, and make desssert at home. Along with pound cake, I decided to make Ina Garten’s Pecan Sandies from her cookbook Barefoot Contessa FoolProof.  The cookies are a variation on the traditional shortbread cookie, with ground pecans and demerara sugar in the cookie batter. My adapted recipe uses brown sugar instead of demerara sugar because I didn’t have any on hand. Truthfully, I forgot to pick it up from the grocery store. :o)

Pecan Sandies

 

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1 cup pecan halves

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsps vanilla extract

24 large pecan pieces or pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast 1 cup of pecan halves on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until toasted. Set aside to cool.

Grind cooled pecans and 1/4 cup flour in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Put ground nuts in a bowl and add remaining flour (1 3/4 cups), salt and baking powder. Stir to combine.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla extract and flour. Mix until dough is just combined.

Using a 1 1/3″ cookie scoop, scoop out the batter and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with some space between each cookie.  Press a pecan  piece or half halfway down into the cookie. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes on sheet before transferring to cooking rack.

Recipe Review: Trish Magwood’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I became a Food Network and HGTV Canada junkie in high school. Anytime I was home, the TV was turned onto either channel- Martha Stewart, Trading Spaces, Restaurant Makeover, Party Dish- you name it, I watched it.  One show that I really enjoyed was Party Dish with Trish Magwood. Author, Chef and Food Consultant, Trish would create these lavish, yet easy platters to set up at small and large gatherings and functions.  After Party Dish went off the air, I kind of forgot about Trish until I recently heard someone mention her name.  After Googling her, I found Trish’s website and began to go through her free recipes.  Like her, I am a fan of Starbucks’ Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf. I love the tangy flavour of the lemons with the sweetness of the powdered sugar glaze.  YUM!  What I don’t like is the number of calories in the cake.  In Canada, restaurants do not have to list the number of calories in food items, but in the US, by law, calories for every drink and dish has to be listed somewhere.  Guess how many calories are in a slice of that loaf? 410 calories!! Lucky me, Trish has come up with a slightly healthier version of the Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf that I desire to eat every time I go to Starbucks.  I followed her recipe with one exception- I did not dress my muffins with the lemon glaze because I didn’t have powdered sugar on hand.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

(pic below shows what happens when you over fill the muffin tins and then have to go sooth a crying baby which then makes you forget you have muffins in the oven!)

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2 cups  all-purpose flour

1 tsp  baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp  salt

1/4 cup  poppy seeds

3/4 cup  butter, softened

1 cup  sugar

2 eggs

1 cup  buttermilk

1/4 cup plain yogurt

Zest and juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup juice)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line standard muffin tin with paper liners. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each egg until the mixture is a light yellow colour. In a measuring cup, mix buttermilk, yogurt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add half the dry mixture to the batter, then half the buttermilk mixture. Repeat, stirring until just incorporated. Do not over-mix. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/3-cup measure, fill muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes.

My thoughts after making the muffins: 
1. Trish says this recipe makes 12 muffins…umm NO! This recipe made about 16 standard-size muffins. I followed her meausrements exactly, so I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I whipped too much air into the butter?
2. These muffins can easily become gigantic muffins if you fill the cup too much (see picture )
3. The cake has a mellow lemon flavour. I think if I added the lemon glaze, it would kick it up a notch. However, if I don’t want to empty calories from the glaze, I may just add more lemon rind and lemon juice to the mix.