December 29, 2010

Jalapeno Cheese Pull-Apart Bread

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

SubhanAllah, there's something about food that has a way of evoking memories. There are times I'm making a dish, trying my best to follow in the footsteps of the relative who may have taught me, and all of a sudden I'm taken back years ago to when I was a new bride and learning my mother in laws prized techniques. Or lifting the lid of a pot to take a whiff of whatever is simmering away and I can hear my mothers voice in my head, detailing to me the next direction.

And then there are those times you spent with your loved ones, laughing and just being happy. I had one cousin who always went out of his way to special order a jalapeno cheese loaf from a local store and without fail, there'd be a couple loaves on the kitchen table when we'd all assemble at his family's house. Back then, it was just one of many treats we'd all devour over funny stories and late night talks. Now, looking back, that loaf of bread was so much more; it was part of the memories we shared as a family, and of relatives who went out of their way to do those kinds of things for each other. It was love.

I no longer live anywhere near that store, or my family for that matter, and it's been years since I've had the original thing. But the other day I saw a recipe for jalapeno bread in a magazine that took me back to those family dinners so many nights ago, and I knew I had to try my best and recreate it. I stuck to my new favorite bun recipe and improvised, and though its not quite perfect, it is really good! The recipe in the magazine was a pull-apart bread and I went with that thinking it'd be easier to layer in the jalapenos and cheese. But I'm still experimenting on the perfect loaf-version. In the meantime, this is good enough  perfect to break off a big chunk and dip into a bowl of steaming chili.

This recipe is for my big cousin, who always ordered an extra loaf of jalapeno cheese bread just for me, jazakallah khair Abu L !

 Jalapeno Cheese Pull-Apart Bread

1 recipe 40 Minutes Buns
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup pickled jalapeno, diced (less if you want to keep it mild)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 and butter a casserole dish.

2. Divide dough into quarters. Divide each quarter into 1" cubes.Carefully place a layer of cubed dough in bottom of dish. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese and 1/4 cup jalapenos. Continue layering until all the ingredients are used up, ending with the dough. Reserve a little cheese to sprinkle on top.

3. Bake 30 minutes on the middle rack until the top is hard and golden. Then cover with foil and continue baking for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before digging in!

December 27, 2010

Sisters Who Blog Nomination - Voting is Now Open!

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

I've mentioned the Sisters Who Blog (SWB) network before and I have a feeling this won't be the last time either. Sister Amber has put together this whole place for Muslim women of the blogosphere to come together and truely connect. There are sisters from every part of the world blogging about everything under the sun, it seems, masha'allah! I was so amazed at the talent of our sisters that can often be lost the sea of blogs these days and have made a lot of new friends through that site. Even if you don't have a blog, its still a great place to hook up with other sisters over the same interests.
And while you're there, you can have a looksie at this nomination page: 2010 Best Blog Award. Please take your time to go through the many wonderful sisters who are nominated for the different categories and vote for whom you think is the most deserving of that category. Beleive me, its a touch decision! My blog was also nominated for Best Food blog but I have to say, I'm up against some pretty tough competition! Happy voting y'all!

December 26, 2010

Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Last nights dinner plans were easy: chicken terriyaki and shrimp egg rolls. I had everything defrosted, marinated and had even pre-cut my veggies before hand. I was on the ball! So naturally I took it real easy as dinner time approached and about an hour before we usually eat, I casually strolled into the kitchen to throw everything together last minute. So you could imagine my surprise (read: freaking-out) when I realized my egg roll wrappers were really samosa wrappers which are exactly the same thing except the samosa wrappers are about 1/3 the length of an egg roll wrapper and what the heck kind of egg rolls can I make with those?! This is right about the time I started to really freak out and then remembered my mom.

She's a big proponent of wingin' in, just planning as she goes and if one thing doesn't work out, she always manages to make something else better than the first plan, Allahumma barakfeeha. I, on the other hand, resort to freaking out (did I mention that yet?). But I did my best to channel my mom and decided to toss the egg roll filling into my fried rice and there you have it, (impromptu) spicy shrimp fried rice.

Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice
(I am in no way whatsoever claiming this to be anything close to an authentic Asian fried rice, but rather my take on it ... and also a way to use up left over veggies. I left the traditional scrambled egg out to suit my family's taste and upped the heat factor too. As with anything, use spices to your liking)

1 lb raw shrimp (I prefer the 22/25 size, wild caught and already cleaned variety)
2 cups cooked white rice
3 stalks celery, julienne
2 medium carrots, julienne
1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
2 table spoon seaseme oil (regular vegetable oil is fine)
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice (if you don't have this, substitute with ground cumin, ground fennel and a dash of ground cloves. Or whatever spice flavor you like)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red chili powder

1. In a bowl, toss shrimp with five spice seasoning and garlic and ginger paste. In a frying pan, heat sesame oil on medium low heat in pan. Add shrimp and cook 3 - 4 minutes until no longer pink, under cooking  slightly(they will be returned to the hot rice at the end and will continue to cook then. Remove while they are still slightly undercooked to avoid tough, rubbery, overcooked shrimp). Remove from pan and  give them a rough chop. Keep aside.

2. Add carrots and celery to the hot pan (add more oil if necessary) and cook until starting to soften. Throw in the rice, soy sauce and chili powder. Toss everything to coat. Allow mixture to cook for a minute or two to absorb any extra liquid and giving the rice that 'fried rice' texture. In last 3 minutes of cooking, add shrimp pieces to hot pan and mix well. Serve hot.

December 25, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Something about pecan pie has always seemed so intimidating to me. I don't know if its because I'm from the south and the south has a reputation for THE best pecan pie (pronounced "pee-can", by the way). But then I saw this bar version and it had chocolate chips in it, and that was it. I took one look at that title and new this was a pecan pie I could do.

It was a crumbly (and ridiculously easy) shortbread base that isn't too sweet; perfect for the decadent topping. And it all comes together so easy! Use your fingers to make the crust and while it browns in the oven, mix all the ingredients for the filling in one bowl and pour over the warm crust. The only hard part is allowing it to cool after baking!

Note: The first time I made these, I used light corn syrup and chocolate chips. The second time I used half light and half dark corn syrup and left out the chocolate chips and now I'm in a dilemma as to which version I liked better!

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

For the Crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs
¾ cup corn syrup
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chunks in a bag!)
1½ cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar until crumbly. Press into the baking pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown.

3. For the filling, beat the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla extract with a wire whisk. Stir in the chunks and pecans. Pour evenly over the baked crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.

4. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cool completely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the refrigerator if you live in a warm/humid area with no air conditioning).

December 23, 2010

Train Cake

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

First, I wanted to tell y'all about this cake when I first decided to make it, but that that'd be jumping the gun a little bit. Then, I made it and was itching to run to the computer to post it right away but seeing as I made it for an Eid party I had some party details to attend to (namely: hosting the crazy thing!). And now it's been over a month since Eid ul Adha and that means I'm one month late in telling you to GO MAKE THIS NOW because it's so gosh darn cute and so easy!

You can easily just make one car of the train or chose the colors/candy you want. I'm almost certain that everyone (young and old alike) will bust out into a silly, goofy grin 'cuz thats just what fun cakes are meant to do!

Train Cake
One recipe chocolate cake, divided and baked into three loaf pans
double batch of frosting tinted with preferred food coloring
1 pack of colored Twizzlers
1 pack of large sized Smarties (or round cookies) for the wheels
extra candies for decorating

1. Bake and cool three loaves of cake. Cut two loaves in half and trim about 1" off a third loaf. 3 of the halves will be train cars, stack the 4th half on top of the trimmed loaf as the front engine.

2. Apply a thin layer of frosting to each cake and refrigerate (this is your crumb topping) at least one hour. Then apply another layer of frosting on each car. Decorate with candies to your liking.

3. Using a large spatula (or two!), carefully lift each car onto a large flat surface (I flipped a baking sheet, covered with foil, upside down ).Enjoy!

December 12, 2010

Fudge Frosting

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

I hope by now you've all tried these chocolate cupcakes at least once (and if you haven't then, seriously, whats wrong with you?!). But did you know about these simple yet oh-so-sweet vanilla ones? I'll admit, I only made them that one time because we have a house full of chocolate lovers, but the other day I was in the mood for something a little different.

Don't get me wrong, I still had to have chocolate, but I wanted to sink my teeth into something fudgy and rich but not overly sweet. Chocolate frosting atop chocolate cupcakes would just be over-kill for me. But a soft, tender vanilla base was perfect! This frosting was everything I wanted and more: fudgy, creamy, and easy! Warning, it does set up harder and thicker than when you first mix it, so you may want to add more milk than you think you will need taking the thickening-factor into consideration.

Fudge Frosting 
(this comes right off a box of Bakers chocolate)  

    • 4 unsweetened chocolate squares
    • 2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine
    • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1 dash salt
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Add sugar mixture to chocolate mixture, blending well together.
  4. Let stand, if necessary, until of spreading consistency, stirring occasionally.
  5. Spread quickly, adding a small amt of milk if frosting thickens.

December 7, 2010

Cream Biscuits

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

If the thought of making home made biscuits conjures up images of pain-painstakingly cutting cold butter into flour or slaving away for hours to get them just right, then you've obviously never made cream biscuits. These come together so ridiculously fast that you'll really have no excuse not to make them.

 These are soft, tender biscuits best served straight out of the oven and slathered with butter or some good jam.But don't restrict it to just breakfast, try making a batch with your spaghetti dinner or a steaming bowl of chili. They're that good, and that easy, you'll be finding reasons just to make them!

 Biscuit Making Tips:  Handle the dough as little as possible! I know you've heard that everywhere, but there's good reason. Over handling the dough yields hard, little hockey puck-type biscuits, and no amount of jam can make a hockey puck taste good. Just mix your dough until the ingredients clump together and then stop! Don't touch! Also, when cutting out your biscuits, don't twist your cutter but rather do a quick, straight down motion. This will get you the highest possible rise out of your biscuit insha'allah. And speaking of biscuit cutters, don't worry if you don't have one. A can (like from a can of veggies) with both sides removed with a can opener, works just fine!

Sweet Cream Biscuits
(from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Makes about 12 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 to 11/4 cups heavy cream

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat ( I used a non-stick baking sheet and all was fine).

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Pour about 1 cup of the cream over the dry ingredients, grab a fork and start tossing the ingredients together. If necessary, add more cream, a spoonful at a time, until you’ve got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick, gentle kneading – 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour and pat the dough out with your hands or roll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t completely even – a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of this first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet.Brush the tops with melted butter, if you like. (The biscuits can be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting – just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14 to 18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

December 6, 2010

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

I'm not afraid to try a new recipe. I'm also not afraid to admit it sucked and keep trying more until I find the one that's just right. Once I find that "master" recipe of a certain dish, I stick to it for years. That's how my favorite pizza crust and cupcakes have stuck around for so long. But when it came to sugar cookies, I just never found the right one.

Since they're one of my husbands favorite type of cookie you can imagine how many recipes I've tried. Everything from cut out ones that turn out too crispy, to drop cookies that end up being bland and cakey. I basically gave up on searching for that delicately sweet and chewy sugar cookie that seemed to exist only in my dreams (and supermarket shelves!) and hadn't tried a recipe in at least a year. Until today, that is.

This is it, folks. My, and your, search is over (cuz I'm sure this was high on your list of priorities too). Alhamdulillah, we've found the perfect sugar cookie! It's sweet and flavorful, even without any frosting. Soft and chewy with the slightest crispy bottom. And they come together so easy too, no need to refrigerate for hours and hours like many recipe suggest. 20 minutes in a cold fridge, or 10 in a freezer, and you're ready to go!

The Perfect Sugar Cookie


    • 2 3/4 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups butter
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • colored crystal sugar (optional)


  1. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Gradually stir in dry mixture just until blended.
  5. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls then roll in colored sugar.
  6. Refrigerate balls for at least 20 minutes or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Place cookies 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
  8. Bake in a 350°F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned at the edges.
  9. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire rack.

December 3, 2010

Triple Chocolate Muffins

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Yes, you read it right: triple chocolate. Thats three types of chocolate, people! But don't worry, this isn't some super heavy, over the top treat. In fact, it's pretty light and not all that sweet. Really, its the perfect cross between a chocolate lover cupcake and a tea-drinkers dainty muffin.

And it doesn't hurt that these were ready in no time and tasted even better the next day! Just make sure not to over stir your batter to get these out of the oven as soon as they set up (or a moment before!) to ensure tender and delicate muffins. Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Muffins

makes 12

- generous 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- generous 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- generous 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- generous 3/8 cup brown sugar
- 3 oz melted butter

1. Preheat the oven 400F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with muffin liners. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the semisweet and white chocolate chops and stir.

2. Place the eggs, sour cream and sugar and melted butter in a separate bowl and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined,

3. Using two spoons, divide the batter into the muffin pan and put into a preheated oven. Let bake for 20 minutes or until risen and springs back to the touch.