Friday, December 13, 2013

What's for Dinner: Chocolate Chip Squares

One of my favorite desserts [and one of my go-to desserts] are my Seven Layer Bars. Today, I did a very simple version of that by just using chocolate chips-- not nuts, coconut flakes or peanut butter [for my picky brother!]

What I used:
  • 2 and 1/2 cups [approximately] of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 [14 ounce] can of condensed milk
  • [about] 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mini [semi-sweet] chocolate chips
What I did was:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. I took the graham crackers and put them in a large ziploc bag and crushed them (you can also just get the crushed graham crackers). Once it is all crushed, mix the graham crackers with the melted butter well (I did it with my hands because it was the easiest way to mix it and keep it from clumping).
  3. I used a 9 by 13 dish to make this in (spray with non-stick spray). So in it, I put in the graham cracker mixture and pressed it in well covering the whole bottom of the dish in a thin even layer.
  4. I sprinkled mini chocolate chips all over the graham cracker layer.
  5. On top of the chocolate chips, I evenly poured a can of condensed milk all over.
  6. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, let it cool before cutting them into bars/squares.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What's for Dinner: Not Baked Nutella Cheesecake

Yesterday I made a [not baked] Nutella cheesecake [pie] type of thing.

It's a super easy [as always] dessert to make and it was a crowd pleaser [young and old]. The best part? it takes mere minutes to put together!

What I used:
  • Oreo pie crust [store-bought or homemade]
  • 1 [8 ounce] package of cream cheese, softened
  • [about] 2/3 cup Nutella
  • 1 (8 ounce) contained of cool whip, softened [more if you want to decorate the top like I did]
What I did was:
  1. Mix your softened cream cheese and nutella together until they are well combined.
  2. Fold in the cool whip, making sure it is incorporated in well [and there are no white streaks visible].
  3. Transfer your mixture onto your Oreo pie crust.
  4. This part is optional, but if you want to garnish the top like I did: use whip cream to decorate and add chocolate shavings or grated chocolate on top. Adding chopped hazelnuts would be the icing on the cake!
  5. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
By the way, you can see my [baked] version of my Nutella cheesecake by clicking here!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's for Dinner: Homemade Oreo Truffles

Back at the end of August, when we had the party at our house, Nadia made and brought her homemade Oreo truffles [that she had mentioned to me in the past several times]. It was my first time trying them, and let me tell you: absolutely delicious. I may or may not have consumed most of them...

I asked her how she  made them, and for some reason or another didn't get around to making them until today.

Making Oreo truffles at home are incredibly easy [not good for someone like me who has a major sweet tooth], and take no time at all. Although there are a few steps involved.

Not only is it easy to make, but only requires three ingredients.

What you need is:
  • Oreos [or any cream filled chocolate cookies]
  • 1 [8 ounce] package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 [7 ounce] containers of Bakers dipping chocolate [milk chocolate]
What I did was:
  1. Take about 4-5 Oreos and finely crush them [in a food processor]. Set aside for later: you will use these to sprinkle on top of the truffles.
  2. Finely crush the rest of the Oreos [in a food processor]. Add your cream cheese and mix the two ingredients until they are combined well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  4. Take about a teaspoon of the mixture, roll into a "ball" and lay on the baking sheet. I made 36 truffles, but quantity will vary and depend on the size you roll the truffles into. When the baking sheet[s] are full, set it in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes so they are easier to work with. Once you take them out of the fridge, they will be easier to roll them into balls if you couldn't before because of the gooey texture.
  5. Melt the dipping chocolate as per instructions. It took about 90  seconds to melt for me I'd say.
  6. Using two teaspoons [or a toothpick], dip each of the balls in the chocolate, and lay back on the lined baking sheet. 
  7. Immediately sprinkle them with the Oreo crumbs you set aside before. Tip: sprinkle the truffles right away because the dipping chocolate hardens fairly quickly. Don't wait to do this part at the end once all have been coated.
  8. The truffles can be eaten right away [which is  of course, what I did], but I'd set them back in the fridge to firm a little more.
I used a food processor for everything, but you could just as easily crush the cookies in a ziploc bag and then just mix the cream cheese and Oreos together.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Monday, November 25, 2013

What's for Dinner: Frozen Oreo and Chocolate Pudding Pie

Early November, I made a frozen Oreos and Chocolate Pudding Pie... yum!

I made this one frozen, because without a second thought I put it to set in the freezer instead of the fridge in the chaos... but it would be just as good [and I plan to try it next time] cold, but not frozen.

You need:
  • Oreo pie crust [store-bought or homemade]
  • 2 [small] packages of instant choco­late pudding
  • 2 + 1/2 cups of milk
  • Oreos
  • Cool whip container [large container]
What I did was:
  1. Combine the milk and pudding mixes and mix well. Add about half of the cool whip and fold until the mixture is a smooth and consistent color.
  2. Pour about half of the pudding on top of the pie crust.
  3. Add a layer of Oreo cookies on top before adding the rest of the pudding.
  4. Freeze until set [or overnight] before decorating the top with the rest of the cool whip. And more Oreos.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Thursday, November 21, 2013


See, it is the next task I took on... just six months later. And by accident.

Some a long time ago, like back at the end of August two days before a party at our house when I had a million other things to be doing, I decided that I needed to reorganize the way I organize my hijabs because they currently use up 4/6 of my dresser drawers. Not that I had other priorities at the moment or anything with 80+ people invited.

When that plan failed in under 60 seconds, this happened:
This door pocket organizer [that I've had at the bottom of my closet for the almost three years I've lived in the house] now houses some of my clutches, wristlets, small purses etc.

The main reason I didn't end up storing some of my hijabs in this pocket organizer? The pockets weren't opaque. I couldn't see them unless I pulled them out, and that defeated the purpose. I wasn't about to pull out each hijab trying to find which one I wanted to wear. I'm an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of person for sure for things like this.

Any ideas for the larger purses and bags? I'm thinking of just throwing them in a basket like container and storing it inside my closet, but let's see.

...and while we are it, any ideas for organizing hijabs? I'd like my 4/6 dresser drawers back...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's for Dinner: Blackberry Cobbler

I've done Blackberry Crumble Bars in the past, and early November I made something similar: a blackberry cobbler.

What you need is:

  • 1 stick of [unsalted] butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of self-rising flour
  • 1 cup of [1%] milk
  • 2 cups [fresh] blackberries
To make the Blackberry Cobbler, what I did was:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together your sugar, flour and milk.
  3. Melt your butter in a microwavable dish. Combine your butter with the other ingredients and mix it well.
  4. Pour your batter into your baking dish. Sprinkle blackberries over the top of the batter. Sprinkle a little extra sugar over the top.
  5. Bake, in your preheated oven, for  about 50 minutes [or until golden brown].

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Monday, November 18, 2013

What's for Dinner: Kulfi

Very similar to the mango ice cream ingredients, and just as easy. Once again, you just pretty much combine the ingredients, and freeze!

You need:
  • 12 ounce whipped cream
  • 1 14 oz condensed milk
  • 1 evaporated milk
  • 1 bread, grinded
  • Almonds and Pistachios, to taste, grinded. 
For the almonds and pistachios, for the above quantities, I'd say I used about 3/4 cup of each.

Mix everything together and freeze. Either in Popsicle molds or something similar. 

Tip: if it's being made for a party, we divide them into small singled-serving-sized cups before freezing for convenience. It's easy to serve, and eat!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What's for Dinner: Oreo Turtle Cheesecake

Cheesecakes. I love them. As it is isn't apparent by the number of different kind of cheesecakes I have made in the last several months. To think I always thought cheesecakes were so difficult to make makes me laugh now.

Anyhow, for Shazia's bridal shower yesterday, I made a Turtle Cheesecake with an Oreo based crust. Turtle? What's a turtle you ask? Not exactly sure why, but it's the combination of chocolate, caramel and pecans. And that's exactly what my cheesecake this day was. And the Oreos? Well, that was just for fun.

What you you need:
  • Cream-filled cookies [like Oreos]
  • 2 packages of [8-ounce] cream cheese, softened
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • Mini chocolate chip morsels
  • Chopped pecans
To make the cheesecake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Crumble the [Oreo] cookies and press onto the bottom of your [springform] pan. This is your crust!
  3. Combine the other four ingredients [cream cheese, vanilla extract, eggs and sugar] until it is a smooth mixture. Then pour over your Oreo based crust.
  4. Sprinkle the top of your cheesecake batter with mini chocolate chips and pecans. Two out of three of the "turtle". The third, the caramel, will be drizzled on top right before serving.
  5. Bake, in your preheated oven, for 50 minutes. Let it cool completely before removing it from the [springform] pan and cutting into it [to give the cheesecake time to settle].
  6. Right before serving, drizzle the top of the cheesecake with caramel.

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What's for Dinner: Mango Ice Cream

I love mangoes, but ironically not anything made out of mangoes. This mango ice cream, however, is something the rest of my family loves [and everyone else]. Weird side note: my brother Ayaz won't eat mangoes but loves mango juice!

You need:
  • 1 can of Mango pulp
  • 12 ounces of whipped cream, softened
  • 1 [14 ounce] can of condensed milk
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
Mix everything together, and freeze. Can it be any easier?

Tip: if it's being made for a party, we divide them into small singled-serving-sized cups before freezing for convenience. It's easy to serve, and eat!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Friday, November 15, 2013

What's for Dinner: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

A few days before leaving for hajj back in the beginning of October, it became a "use everything up in the kitchen that could potentially go bad" night.

Which meant it was a seafood night. My mom made fried fish and I made my Bang Bang Shrimp.

Oh and I made cheesecake. What better way to use up cream cheese?! A chocolate chip cheesecake with a pistachio based crust to be exact.

I'm finally getting around to typing up the recipe, so here's how I made it:

For the crust, what I used:
  • 1 stick of [unsalted] butter, softened
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of pistachios, roughly chopped
What I did:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees for the crust.
  2. Roughly chop your pistachios, and set aside.
  3. Cream together your stick of butter and 1/4 cup of sugar.
  4. Add flour in small batches until it is just combined, with your mixer on the low speed [to avoid getting flour all over you].
  5. Mix in your chopped pistachios and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  6. Press the crust, gently, into the bottom and along the sides somewhat [I'd say about 1/4 of the way up] of a greased/non-stick springform pan.
  7. Bake in your preheated oven, for around 10 minutes until the crust turns barely golden brown.
Next, for the cheesecake filling portion:
What I used:
  • 2 [8 ounce] packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of mini chocolate chip morsels
What I did:
  1. Lower heat to 300 and bake cheesecake for an hour. 
  2. Cream together your cream cheese and the condensed milk until it is smooth.
  3. Next, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Do not over beat the mixture, just until it is all incorproated.
  4. Pour half of of your cheesecake batter on top of the crust.
  5. Sprinkle half of your chocolate chips on top of the cake batter before pouring the remainder of the cheesecake batter on top. Sprinkle the remainder of your chocolate chips on top.
  6. Bake [in your preheated 300 degree oven] for about 60 minutes.
  7. Let it cool [and completely set] for at least several hours [if you have the will power] before cutting into it. 

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's for Dinner: Strawberry-Mango Fizz

A family favorite fizzy beverage is a strawberry and pina colada combination that we have done often. For our family party at the end of August, however, I wanted to make something different.
This time, I did a mango and strawberry combination. To sprite, add a splash each of mango and strawberry margarita mixers. Add ice. Mix well.

When I made the party size version [for the one at the end of August] in the dispenser, before mixing all the ingredients together, the combination of the strawberry and mango mixers looked like a sunset... so I decided to call it the "Sunset Fizz".

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hajj Packing List

Before I went, a lot of the reading I did [which was A LOT] told me that everything is readily accessible to purchase upon my arrival. That may have been true, but I wasn't going there to shop and wanted to utilize my time as best as I could. With me, I took along things I foresaw a need for.

But I'll be completely honest: packing was stressful. I had never been before and didn't know exactly what I would need and kept a lot of things 'I thought I may possibly need' but didn't actually need. I guess you can say I wanted to be prepared?

I didn't end up finishing my packing until the morning of my flight, which is very unlike me. For days I kept putting things in only to take them right back out. SO not worth the trouble/headache it caused me. The end result was that I packed a suitcase comprising of some things I didn't necessarily need to bring along. What I would have loved was to have someone who had gone for hajj before tell me exactly what I would need and what was unnecessary.

First and foremost, like I have mentioned several times thus far in my hajj posts, you need to have patience. And lots of it.

Tangible items wise, below is what I would recommend you keep:

Hajj Packing List:
  • Photocopies of travel documents. This goes without saying, but don't forget your passports, etc. and I would suggest you keep photocopies of them in your luggage just as a precaution [considering your passports are taken from you for the duration of your trip].
  • Comfortable walking shoes [and socks].
    • Wearing socks, whenever possible, during tawaf and sa'ee helps in avoiding dry and patchy/blistering skin. Keep in mind that men can't wear socks during the state of ihram [but women can].
  • Flip-flops: most convenient for the masjid. 
  • Vaseline. All the walking [barefoot for men during ihram] [in the tawaf and sa'ee especially] leads to patchy and dry feet.
  • A [drawstring] bag. If your group doesn't provide it for you [ours did]. Convenient to hold your flip-flops inside the masjid so you can keep it with you at all times. 1] Storing it outside doesn't guarantee you'll find it afterwards with the enormous crowd you are dealing with. 2] You may not leave from the same gate/door you entered from.
  • Disposable gloves
    • for public bathrooms. You'll thank me for it later.
    • they are also great for when you are picking up pebbles for rami/jamarat.
  • Prescribed medication that you take on a daily basis. Keep these on you at all times.
    • Also, keep a list of all the medicines you take [along with their doses] and any medical conditions you may have in case of any emergencies that may arise there.
  • Precautionary medicine. In case you fall ill. There are three million plus people there, mashallah, which means there are three million people's worth of germs around... enough said.
    • Pain relievers, antibiotics, cough drops, etc.
  • Comfy and modest clothing. There are plenty of long days so you want to make sure your clothes are comfortable, but don't forget the modesty part!
  • Abayas [women]. I originally wasn't sure if I was going to keep any and I ended up wearing them the majority of the time. They really are the easiest thing to wear.
  • Bathroom slippers. These especially come in handy when taking a shower in Mena.
  • TSA approved locks that don't require a key. The last thing you need is another thing (keys for the locks) to be carrying/keeping track of.
  • Snack bars. Our program, Dar el Salam, provided ample food but the snack bars I kept as a precaution came in very handy during the long bus rides when stuck in traffic.
  • Disposable underwear. Laundry isn't readily available and I found it easiest to purchase ample underwear from home and dispose of them after use.
  • First aid kit essentials. Band-aids, anti-septic wipes, gauze, etc. just in case you need any of them.
  • Hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer wipes.
  • Travel converter/adapter [for your electronic devices].
  • Cross-body bag/purse. Keep this on you wherever you go to hold your essentials -- medicines, dua books, etc.
  • [Concealable] money belt [men].
  • Face mask. It will help with the dust/smog/pollution/whatever you want to call it that you will inevitability face there outside.
  • Toiletries. Basic toiletries are provided in the hotels, but you will need them for the duration of your stay in Mena [see below].
  • Scissors [women]. To cut your hair in order to get out of the state of ihram.
  • 7-beaded string. This can potentially be helpful in keeping count during tawaf or sa'ee if you think you'll have a hard time keeping track-- we took one, but didn't end up using it.
  • Eyeglass cords. If you wear glasses, it's a good idea to attach one of these cords. There's a large crowd and it becomes very congested during tawafs-- this way, if your glasses are knocked down, they are still around your neck!
For the duration of Mena, space is very limited, so pack light! I definitely over-packed! You need:
  • unscented toiletry items since you will be in ihram for a part of it [so I would recommend just packing only unscented items to save space]. Shampoo, toothpaste, soap, lotion, deodorant, flushable wipes, etc.
  • 4 sets of clothes [one for each day]. Women may need more based on their discretion.
  • Bath towel.
  • Water-Proof bag to hold essenials/clothes during shower that has a handle that fits around shower handleA family friend suggested this for the duration of our stay in Mena and I can't thank her enough for it! While our camp had hooks behind the bathroom doors, I am pretty sure most don't. Since the shower and toilet are unimaginably close, your best option is to have a bag that fits over the shower handle.
Now for specifically for when you are in ihram [during umrah and hajj]: a whole lot of unscented/fragrance-free.
  • unscented deodorant.
    • for females: I was able to find a 'Secret Outlast' brand that was unscented [online].
    • for males: I found a 'Dove Men+Care' product that was unscented [online].
  • unscented hand sanitizing wipes
    • the brand 'Wet Ones' carries fragrance free [and alcohol free] hand wipes.
  • unscented soap/shampoo/body wash
Some other helpful tips:
  • Once you arrive, and you realize you forgot an essential or need something, chances are you can find it at a store called Bin-Dawood there. Someone called it the equivalent of Wal-mart... and I agree: just about everything can be found there!
  • Take a picture of all of your luggage and make a note of it's color, size, company, etc. in case it gets lost. In hindsight, it's almost impossible to remember the details and it is just helpful to have handy.
  • One last suggestion: keep your ihram [and items you need for Mena too I suppose] in your carry-on and don't check-in these items on your flight. If, for whatever reason your luggage is misplaced, the last thing you want to lose is your ihram, etc.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's for Dinner: Strawberry and Pina Colada Punch

Today's date? 11.12.13! Yes, things like that amuse me! But that's besides the point...

I have SO many recipes to post, I don't even know what to type up first. Not to mention that this month is very hectic.

This one is definitely another one of my "I can't believe I haven't already posted this on the blog already recipes". It's something I've been making for several years and everyone always loves it.

Anyhow, I find that fun [non-alcoholic] beverages are one of the hardest things to come up with sometimes for parties. A family favorite fizzy beverage is this strawberry and pina colada combination that we do [very] often in our family. Too often.

What I do is: to sprite, add a splash each of pina colada and strawberry margarita mixers. Add ice. Mix well.

Quick, easy, refreshing and delicious... and a crowd pleaser for sure!

P.S. This post is a part of my "What's for Dinner" series, where I share what I've been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dar el Salam [Hajj]

We came back late last night from our short weekend trip to Canada for Nanna and Nana's 50th anniversary celebratory party, and I wanted to wrap up my hajj posts. I can't complete my Hajj posts without talking about the group we went through: Dar el Salam.

I can't even imagine the amount of planning and behind the scenes work that must happen yearly [or even how long it takes]... but I can assure you one thing: I would recommend Dar el Salam for anyone planning on going for hajj.

Logistics wise, we pretty much registered with one of their programs, paid... and showed up. They took care of everything else. Even during the trip, they would ask for our luggage [the night before traveling or the morning of depending on our travel times] and they took care of its transportation. They provided us with a carry-on for Mena, a backpack for Arafat and Muzdalifah, a drawstring bag [which made storing items at the masjid very easy], a prayer rug [for women], ihram [for men], dua pamphlets, etc. 

Their seminar before hajj? Informative. Their online forum to ask questions prior to leaving? Beyond helpful. I can't forget the nightly seminars/lectures plus the Q+A sessions we had throughout our trip. And Sister Naz? I can't even begin to tell you how helpful she was throughout the trip. And I absolutely loved the little tidbits of islamic knowledge she passed on to us throughout the trip at random times. 

Mid-trip, I was quite surprised to find out that a lot of the group leaders [including the imams] are, in fact, volunteers. Dar el Salam simply pays for the travel expenses [tickets, food, accommodations, etc.]

A few more specific people to mention? Qari Basit [also our group 19 leader], Shahid Uncle, and Basant.

The proximity of Dar el Salam's camps/hotels, etc. can not be beat [for its convenience]. Many make smart remarks about the premium we supposedly pay for the "luxurious hajj"... but how many stop to think about how much more time we got for ibadaat because of said proximity? Not to mention that the price differences weren't even that much in comparison.

One of the things I found most helpful, in hindsight, was the Dar el Salam staff in the yellow shirts I have mentioned a handful of times. They traveled with us by bus, helped with some of the logistics, and just guided us. They were so helpful in times where the crowd was intense-- not only were they easy to spot in their yellow shirts with tall orange signs... but they were everywhere.

I have mentioned this before too, that one of my biggest worries were the bathroom situations [as many had scared me with their stories... I didn't even know what to expect]. Dar el Salam exceeded my expectations as they had hired help around the clock to clean the bathrooms in Mena and throughout the day we spent in Arafat. I don't ever remember not seeing the cleaners present.

Did everything go smoothly? Of course not. Did they try their best? Absolutely. And for that, I sincerely thank them. All of their help, especially for us, did not go unnoticed.

May Allah SWT reward them for all of their efforts.

Click here to read my final hajj-related post -- what you need to pack!
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