Eid Mubarak loves! It was a crazy month of fasting, and now it’s time to celebrate! As you may or may not know, Muslims all around the world spent the last 30ish days fasting from sunrise to sunset. Here in the US that’s more than 15 hours of fasting, in the middle of Summer. I had been dreading it honestly. Crazy NYC summers, feeling stifled by the humidity and the heat that seems to ooze through the very concrete of this damn city. Not being able come out from the under the weight of it all with a freezing cold glass of iced coffee or chocolate milk. Dread. But it wasn’t too bad! The weather has been mild to say the least, and I feel truly blessed. I know this season could have been so much worse, but through the mercy of Mother Nature / God, I made it through and I feel renewed. And speaking of renewal, have you noticed the new site design? I decided to go for a more minimal look with clean lines. Ramadan (the month of fasting) is the perfect time to simplify, to take a step back and reflect on where your life is and where you want it to be. I haven’t been posting much lately and I’ll go into why a bit more in the coming weeks, but there has been a common theme – minimize, let go, and be happy. This icebox cake is actually the first kitchen project I took on in quite a few months. I was inspired by my friend Farhana ‘Biny’ who made one for her daughter’s birthday a few months ago. A simple concoction of chocolate cookies, whipped cream, and my own touch of strawberries, this honestly couldn’t get any simpler. It was a great way to ease myself back into the kitchen, and I loved the therapeutic repetition of the layers. A great project for those without an oven, or something you can do with the kids in your life. Just try it out. Continue reading
As kids, I’m sure all of us felt we were invincible. Jumping off flights of stairs, whizzing down hills at manic speeds on our bikes, or launching ourselves into the sky while swinging at the playground, daring gravity to pull us back down to earth. Scrapes, gashes, and blood were all part of life. We’d simply dust off the dirt caked onto our grazed knees and elbows, and hurdle right back into whatever destructive activity we were caught up in.
Even when we caught those epic colds, the ones where we couldn’t breathe because we were so stuffed up, and our fever had us sweating bullets through the sheets, we rode it out. We cried, whined and complained, but we usually (hopefully) had someone there to make and feed us soup or daal khichri (a mix of rice and lentils cooked to a soft mush that was easy to eat and packed with healthy goodness), to rub Vix on our chests, and to change our sheets regularly. The sickness always passed, and out we were again, rushing into life with everything we had.
We were not thinking about vitamins, or healthy living, or how drinking the right amount of milk would benefit us thirty years down the line. It never occurred to us that pizza for every single meal for an entire month doesn’t make sense. We were kids, and had our whole life ahead of us. We were superheros and gods.
Fast forward to my early 20s and not much had changed hah. The activities were a little different, but probably no less destructive. I still hadn’t learned to eat right, still wasn’t really exercising regularly, and the only time I took vitamins was when I binge bought bottles from GNC, swearing I was going to get on track. Sure I was sneezing a bit more when Spring arrived, but I was sure I was ok. I’d never had allergies before, how could I just develop them overnight? And sure I wasn’t as quick as I was before, but it was probably because I wasn’t always in sneakers. Those particular flats weren’t meant to run in you see.
Now here I am in my 30s. I have come to terms with the fact that I definitely have allergies, and that my inability to sprint has more to do with my wonky thyroid condition and age than it does with my shoes. Never have I felt older than I did after my daughter started to walk / run. Was I ever that young? Did I ever have that sort of confidence? My God, did I have that level of energy? It feels like a lifetime ago.
If you are a regular reader / browser, you know this is not the healthiest blog out there. This blog is about stories and indulgences. But as I look at my parents’ health fraught with heart attacks and high blood pressure, I have to wonder, should I at least try to make some healthy desserts? This was my first real try of subbing whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. The next iteration of this recipe might make use of honey rather than sugar, but we’ll see. Do I like this cookie more than, or even as much as my regular chocolate chip cookie? Or my Almond Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie? No. But would I be willing to sub in this cookie now and then? Sure, why not. There’s a satisfaction that comes from the heartiness of the whole wheat flour. It adds a sort of nutty undertone. The cookie is also sturdy, so although I didn’t like it on its own, I loved it with milk. Somehow it seemed to hold more milk, so when you bit into the cookie, it was incredibly satisfying. I’ll let you guys bake up a batch and decide on your own. Definitely let me know what you think.
- 3 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces or about 1 1/3 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
- Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
- Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown.
- Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with the remaining dough. Enjoy with a large glass of milk. They'll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days
I miss my friends. All the ones that have had to move away, and all the ones that are still around but either I’m too busy to see them or (more often) they are too busy to see me. I miss not having responsibilities and just hanging out. I miss feeling like I belong. I hate that Facebook makes me feel like I’m always on the fringe; sitting on the outside looking in with glimpses of other people’s lives and all the fun they are having. I hate having the nagging feeling in my heart that people only call me when it’s convenient and they have no one else to hang out with, but won’t invite me to the regular parties. I just miss my friends.
I know I’m an adult and these feelings are very high school. I know I’m independent and live in one of the most amazing cities in the world. A city that has a million and one things to do if I just made the effort to do them – great film houses, theaters, dance shows, culinary spaces, classes from pottery to photography to painting. And yet I feel awkward doing these things on my own. Well everything except films that is. When the theater darkens and the screen flickers to life, I am perfectly content in losing myself in the story playing on the screen. But when the lights come back on, I want to be able to discuss what I just saw with someone. To duck into a café for a quick dinner or coffee and go over everything we had just experienced.
Years ago, hah back when I didn’t really have close friends, going to films and shows and the museum were fantastic ways to spend an afternoon or evening. I’d wander in, take my time, and just soak it all up. I’d stare and reflect, take it all in, and let it wash over me. I’m not sure what happened in the past 10 years, but what used to be my solitary mode of escape somehow started to make me feel more alone. I still enjoy the actual process, but now I crave doing it with someone else and being able to talk about it. I miss the discussions.
Wow 2014 is really flying by! Can you believe half of January is already over? I originally sat down to write this post on New Year’s Day and next thing I know, it’s the 14th. It’s been a whirlwind of work, finishing up tasks that have been sitting around forever, and getting my to do lists in order. But mostly work hah. Year end at a finance firm is not a fun time. Now why can’t I get a job where I can just relax, and they still pay me? The dream right?
So back to lists. If you know me, you know I love lists. I blame the math side of my brain. Even if I don’t finish every task (which, honestly, who ever does?) it still helps to have things organized and noted down. It also makes things feel so much more manageable, don’t you think? There, on this sheet of paper, are all the tasks I have to finish. And as I finish each one, I giddily draw a nice thick line through each item. So. Satisfying.
My love of lists goes into over drive when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. I know I know… I barely keep up with my resolutions and abandon a huge majority of them before Summer even hits, but it’s still fun for me. It’s also such a great way to reflect. What was important to me last year? Is it still important? How have things changed? What do I want to accomplish this year?
Earlier this month, my husband and I got to take our first real trip alone together since we were placed with our daughter. We are usually go-out-and-see-things-rent-cars-to-take-random-roadtrips-hop-on-buses-to-go-exploring sort of people, but this time we decided to take a different approach. I’ve been incredibly stressed at work, and my husband is working through (what feels like) miles upon miles of paperwork for job applications. We didn’t think we’d have the energy to do our normal exploring thing. So we decided on Mexico. Water its own special shades of blue and soft sand, we got a room with a view you couldn’t look away from. I bought a pile of books to catch up vacation reading, downloaded a bunch of movies / shows, and we were ready to go.
We were bored in less than a day, and missed our munchkin even before then. It’s strange how things change when you become a parent. I never thought I’d be the mom type, and even made my husband swear that we would do just a couple vacation once a year to get away from the little rugrat. Never did I think I’d be calling and skyping with her daily, or thinking about her at every turn. “Oh look at that kiddie pool.. Razia would have loved that! Aw look at that sweet little dress… should we buy one for Razia? Can you imagine if Razia was here?” Daily. Hourly. Strange. The whole trip made us reflect on family, and how lucky we were that we even had the option of taking this trip without her.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes. For example, when I first met my mom in law, she was just my friend’s mom (or, more accurately, the mom of the guy I had a crush on hah). Then my husband and I got serious, got engaged, and finally got married. This woman who I thought was pretty cool, who would always bust my husband’s chops, and who was such an awesomely strong woman, became my mom in law. But it’s more than that; she’s also become my rock for so many things, including helping us raise our daughter; she’s someone I can’t imagine my life without. I’m sort of an oddity in my own family. I’m too loud, too head strong, too obnoxious, and too demanding in comparison to my mom and my sisters. I’m also not as well kept as they are, and wasn’t as social as they were growing up. All these things that caused me to be the odd one out, are actually things that my mom in law loves about me. Strange.
The chocolate world is quite a divided one. You have the snooty dark chocolate lovers that crave the bitter and complex flavor profiles, the average Joes who want the simple flavor of milk chocolate with the caramel undertones, and those in the white chocolate camp that just want something smooth, light, and barely sweet. I usually fall into the hoity toity dark chocolate world, whereas my husband and mom in law lean more towards white chocolate.
For the most part, I’ve never bothered to waste money on white chocolate so I’ve only ever been subjected to the overly sweet mass produced kind. You know the ones I’m talking about. The white chocolate that you find in cookies from Subway or your local grocery store bakery, or the stuff that they layer with peppermint for peppermint bark during the holidays. I don’t know what it is, but it just tastes like sugar to me, and that’s not what chocolate is about.
Then something happened. My husband and I have a few fancier-than-the-local-takeout-spot date night dinner spots we like to visit. I usually always go for a crème brulee (because nothing beats crème brulee that uses real vanilla beans mmmm) and my husband will favor a tiramisu. One night we ended up getting a slice of vanilla cheesecake, and it arrived as a cheesecake and white chocolate mousse combo. I was skeptical, squinting at it with distrust, hoping it didn’t overpower the cheesecake portion.
Does anyone else feel insanely overwhelmed sometimes? Like no matter how many to do lists you make, or no matter how you try to keep to a schedule to try and get everything done, somehow there just aren’t enough hours in a day? Lately I feel like I’ve just been play catch up; just trying to stay afloat. My to do lists are just about useless because even if I try to do just ONE thing, that one thing seems to suck up the entire evening.
About a week or two ago, NY finally started feeling winter, and I had no winter jacket to speak of. So Monday after work I decided that I would leave work on time (hah.. hahah… oh stupid me) and go to the store with my husband to pick up a jacket. I had a very definite idea of what I was looking for – a generic puffy jacket that hit mid thigh or lower. In my mind, I’d go to the store, buy this jacket, then come home in time to feed my daughter dinner and spend time with her before bedtime. What ended up happening is that I left work 40 minutes late, caught the absolute worst train delays, got to the store tired, and by the time I got home it was my daughter’s bedtime and I was exhausted.
Years and years and years ago, I had my first Cinnabon. We had just moved to Arlington TX (a suburb in the Dallas Fort Worth area) and I had just transferred to a brand new high school near the end of my Sophomore year. Within of a few months of us settling in, my dad actually got transferred to another state to work on a project there. It was a hard time for me – I missed my friends, I missed my dad, and the feeling of not belonging in this blonde-blue-eyed-football-loving-expensive-bag-toting-every-kid-gets-a-car-when-they-are-16 sort of world was painfully real. I know I made life difficult for my Mom, who was essentially bringing up me and my sisters by herself while my dad was away. We would fight about curfews, getting a car, grades, getting in trouble in school, and everything else under the sun. Looking back now, I see how much stress she was under and how she was trying her best. But explaining that to a teen angst filled 15 year old would have been impossible.
I also see now how she tried her best to give us all the things she could, in her own way. She would cut back on some non-essential groceries so we could get season passes for Six Flags (an amusement park close by), or a new jacket that was a pretty good knockoff of what all the other girls in my high school were wearing, or taking us all to a matinee movie . And then there was the time she were at the mall and we got Cinnabons. In that moment I was “normal”. I was doing what all the other kids were doing, and it felt nice.
The other day my Aunt called to tell us that my cousin had gotten engaged. Yeay! Awesome news! Of course, immediately we started making plans of when the wedding would be, which members of the family would fly over (the wedding will be in Pakistan), and how much fun we’d have. It’s been a while since there’s been a really close family friend / family member’s wedding and I miss it. The craziness that leads up to it, all the organizing, hah even all the drama. It’s just so much fun.
And of course within all these discussions, was a key component – what are we going to wear?? Normally I’m a jeans / top / semi-sneaker flats kind of gal. I don’t really think about bags or shoes or coordinating anything. My wardrobe is simple – everything works with everything else so it’s easier for me to grab whatever is clean and get dressed in the morning so I can head to work. But a wedding is different. These are fancy outfits that cannot be bought the day before. And I’m South Asian, so these fancy outfits are always decked out with embroidery, jewels, and all things bling. So I started looking up potential outfits to get made and started taking measurements.
Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. And every year, I break them This year’s list included the usual – exercise more, eat better, read regularly, don’t waste time, grow as a person, etc etc etc. It also included blog / baking related tasks – post regularly without stressing myself out, bake a cake a week and decorate as practice, try recipes that scare me, etc. I’ve been pretty good about posting regularly in my opinion. Well, as well as can be expected
The whole “baking a cake a week” thing sort of fell flat though. But, looking on the bright side, it’s not like I didn’t bake ANY cakes! I ordered myself a few 6 inch pans, and have managed to tackle about one a month. Pat on the back for me. Hah, the thing is, I’ve been sticking to my staple chocolate cake and vanilla cake recipe, and have only been branching out when it comes to frostings. And it is totally dependent on the mood I’m in.