Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Break Ramadan Activities



Summer break is here and kids are home. Every year we plan some exciting local trips to keep the little ones happy and busy all summer. This year is different since its Ramadan and our older kids are fasting consecutive days. I know it’s a matter of time before they start the “I’m bored” routine, and I most definitely don’t want them to spend all their days watching cartoons and movies. The only problem is that if I pull the plug on screen time, chaos happens. Just today, there were 3 time-outs, 2 yelling matches, 2 cleaning supplies “science projects” and of course one toilet water bathing [but that’s a daily thing so not a biggie].

Thankfully, this year I have the pleasure of being part of a great network, called the Creative Muslim Women, which is basically an organization of Professional Muslim Women, including entrepreneurs and hobbyists supporting each other through the creative process. It was started by Emma Apple [Author of “How Big is Allah”] and Hafsa Taher [Creative Genius behind HafsaCreates] who are now dear friends. [Yay I know celebrities!]

Anyhow, being part of this network has given me the privilege of discovering a treasure trove of Muslim talent and resources.  A lot of suggestions were made and after careful review I have come up with a list of great selection of videos [and one audio] you can enjoy with the kids during summer break. Here they are [in alphabetical order]:


Adam’s World by Sound Vision

Adams World series is the very first set of Islamic learning DVDs we ever bought for our kids. Modelled after Sesame Street, kids learn the letters of the Arabic alphabet, Islamic teachings about kindness, goodness to elders and parents, "visit" different Muslim countries worldwide with Adam and his trusty transvisualizer. In every episode they learn great songs and stories about different aspects of Islam. And now with the newer videos released [ Meem for Muhammad, Qaf for Quran, and Ba for Bismillah] that are more engaging for the kids, these videos are a favorite among teenagers and young’uns alike!
You can buy a complete set of Adams World DVDs from here [Psst! Its on sale!]

Ahkam al Quran [Arabic Cartoon]

Ahkam al Quran is a long-time favorite in our house. It has good quality animation and even though my kids don’t know Arabic, the message in each video is easy to understand and remember. There are 30 short videos covering various tarbiyyah topics like jealousy, backbiting, parent’s rights, etc. Click here to watch all of the 30 short episodes on YouTube.

Alif is for Asad

Another oldie but goodie is Alif is for Asad. Produced in the early 2000s by Suhaib Al-Barzinji, this 30 minute video is focusd on introducing kids to the Arabic Alphabet through Sesame Street style of musical and visual education. There is a light emphasis on Islamic Concepts too. You can buy the dvd from Darussalam here, and watch it on YouTube here
PS: Shout out to my pal Priscilla Martinez of salammama.com who did voice over for the space segment in Alif is for Asad! Told you I knew celebrities! :D

Creative Kids

Creative Kids is an amazing series of stories written and narrated by Muslim children. What would it be like to perform the pilgrimage to Meccah? What happens when two hockey teams just can’t get along? These stories capture the innocence of children and their ability to formulate basic moral principles. Creative Kids tells of the joys, struggles and accomplishments of Muslim children today. Episodes like I Hit My Sister, How My Mom Became a Muslim, The Best Eid Ever, My First Fast, Facing My Fears focus on life lessons for kids. You can buy Season 1 DVD here

Hurray for Baba Ali

Well-known Muslim comedian Baba Ali is back in an all-new series for young children! Hurray for Baba Ali will teach your child basic Islamic manners in a fun and refreshing new way. Let your child learn alongside Baba Ali as he is coached by his young friends to be the best Muslim around! Buy Season 1 and Season 2 on DVD here

Miraj Audio

Audio books are huge in our house. I love books and there's nothing like the feel of a new book in your hands, turning crisp pages or reading aloud to your child. But when you are busy with a million things at a time, audiobooks are a great way of engaging your kids AND fueling their imagination, a perfect two for one! The best way to really enjoy a good audiobook IMO is when we’re all together in the car. I mean I can truly say that car rides have turned from war zones into peaceful sit-ins!
Although Geronimo Stilton audiobooks are a big favorite in our house [crusty cheese chunks anyone?] a very close second favorite are Islamic audiobooks by Miraj Audio. Through the power of storytelling, Miraj Audio has successfully created audiobooks for children with stories about Islam, its history and culture. The stories are narrated in an exciting tone, very professionally delivered with an option of “without music narration” for those who prefer no music. The storylines are easy to follow and I just love the healthy discussions we have in the car after the story is over! Priceless!
For more information about Miraj Audio, check out their website here

Zaky

Zaky is a character developed by One4kids. He is a positive role model who loves reminding children to be well mannered, respectful and honest. Much like any other cartoon on TV, Zaky and his friends go through various situations where they learn important life lessons.  The animation quality is great and easily comparable to any kids tv show. Highly recommended!
You can learn more about Zaky here and to watch the videos click here

So there you have it, a collection of Islamic videos you can watch with your kids during the Summer Break. If you know of any other great videos out there, please do comment in the comment section below! 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gluten Free Living: My Personal Story

gluten-free-living

Gluten Free Living: My Personal Story


Six months ago, while getting an adjustment at my chiropractor’s, I  was complaining about how much pain I’m in all the time and that no matter how little I eat, I always seem to be bloated and lethargic plus losing weight is such a battle for me. After hearing me out, my chiropractor said one word that changed everything:
Gluten!
Yup, he said gluten was the reason I was so inflamed inside and in pain all the time. He advised I stay away from wheat to begin with and replace it with quinoa and sweet potato. To be honest it made no sense to me at first and I continued following the “healthy diet” I was on, you know, whole wheat this whole wheat that along with lots of veggies, protein and fiber. Being a runner I felt there was no way I could give up wheat and continue running the way I did, I thought I wouldn’t have the energy!
But the bloating started getting worse and it was getting harder and harder for me to recover after my runs and so I said that’s it! I’m giving up wheat and all things that have gluten and see where that takes me. Trust me people, after the first few days of withdrawal symptoms [headache, moodiness], it was like coming out of a sandstorm! I was, for the first time in my life, pain free!
Going Gluten free was difficult at first. I had to look into filling alternatives for bread which was hard but after trying and testing many things I was able to find a nice balance in my carb intake and energy levels.
Don’t be intimidated by all the new flavors and recipes you might have to try. Just push through it and soon enough eating gluten free will come naturally to you.

I’m sharing my tried and tested go-to sides/bread alternatives below. Give them a try and be on your way to eliminating gluten from your life!
Gluten-Free Sides/Bread Alternatives

Quinoa

Just cook according to package instructions. There are millions of ways you can switch it up. My favorite is to add toasted and chopped almonds and peanuts, a little bit of sesame oil, a dash of soy sauce and finish it off with Siracha in the end. I prefer Red Quinoa over the regular kind as it tastes nuttier.

Sweet Potatoes

Boil, steam, bake, however you choose to make them, they taste delicious with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a light brushing of butter on top.

Flax meal wraps

Let me start by saying that flax meal is an acquired taste. I found it to be a little bitter at first but after trying many recipes, I came across one that, because of the addition of spices and ingredients, doesn’t taste bitter.
Rosie of glutenfreerosie.com created this wonderful Recipe and I love it particularly because it’s so pliable and easy to wrap
Ingredients 
  • 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill, All Purpose Flour or a 1/4 of 70% chickpea flour with 30% tapioca or potato starch
  • 3 tbs milled flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp: cumin, ground coriander and tumeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl using a whisk.
Mix in the egg, before gradually adding in the water, bit by bit. Leave for half an hour to thicken.
Put a frying pan on a medium heat for a minute. Remove from the heat and after about 30 seconds cooling time, grease the pan with a thin layer of oil.
Add half the wrap mixture to the pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula.
Put the pan over a low heat for about 30 seconds. Edge the spatula around the edges of the wrap and then flip. Cook for about 30 seconds.
Cover with fillings of your choice and enjoy.

Lentils

Cook them light and fluffy. Mix your favorite salad dressing right before serving.

Beans

Beans come in second in my list of favorite bread substitutions not only because I love the flavor but also because how convenient they are to cook and how much protein they pack in!
What are your favorite go-to bread alternatives? Share in the comments section!
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor or a Medical Professional. I do NOT have celiac disease [atleast it hasn’t been diagnosed yet]. These are my personal experiences and observations only. I share them to help other people who might be suffering from inflammation and a gluten free diet might help.


                                                           



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deerhurst Resort Review - March Break Fun with the Family

Fun March Break Getaway at Deerhurst Resort


Ahhh, March Break, the time of year most parents look forward to taking a break from their daily routine and just relax. Most parents, Not me, I dread it! Just one day into the break and I know my kids will start the “I’m bored” song.  We have spent so many vacations at home that we have even run out of “fun” activities for the kids to do at home. The Idea of spending one more vacation cooped up in an endless routine of “push, cry, complain, time-out” made me frantically search for an escape. I was looking for someplace fun and affordable where a 3-4 day getaway won’t make a big dent in the wallet. That’s when I came across the Deerhurst Resort.
Embracing Peninsula Lake, Deerhurst Resort is a year-round retreat in Muskoka, one of National Geographic Traveler Magazine's "Best of the World 2012" recommended places to visit. It is also just a short 5 minute drive from downtown Huntsville and 45 minutes from Algonquin Park which makes it easy for you to check out the area.
It was just a short 2 and half hour drive from our home in Mississauga which was great for my family as I have four kids ranging from 10 to 1 year old kids. Short trip also means less pee pee breaks! Score!

The resort offers Hotel style rooms that are located in the main building or condo vacation rentals, which are one bedroom suites complete with a working  kitchenette that includes a two-burner stovetop, microwave, mini-fridge, dishwasher, toaster, kettle, coffee maker, pots, pans, dishes and cutlery. They also have a separate living room, complete with a fireplace, TV and convertible sofas for family time. For our family of six, this was the best option.
We got there a little before check in time [4pm] and the staff was courteous and efficient and all our keys and towel passes[ you need those to access the pool area] were ready for us. Once we entered the suite, we were pleasantly surprised to see the suite looked exactly like the pictures we saw on the website. The view over the golf course in winter was very pretty.

A concierge called us promptly to ask if everything was ok and if we wanted any help. She also let us know about all the activities and events happening at the resort that day which I found to be very helpful. In the coming days we also received daily emails keeping us up-to-date on daily March Break activities. Being a busy mom I really appreciated that.

March Break activities included:
  • Indoor rock climbing [Need to make reservations – included in March Break package]
  • Dance classes [ Pay extra]
  • Kids and Critters[ Pay Extra]
  • Kids and Ponies
    My kids did the Pony program at the Stables and we were so impressed with our guide Stephanie. She was really great with my kids and took extra time with us. Well worth the money
  • Dog Sledding [Pay Extra]
  • Snow shoeing [Free Rentals]
  • Horse Sleigh rides [Pay Extra]
  • Decades – The Musical [Pay Extra]
  • Use of 11,000 sq. ft. holiday playzone including a variety of giant inflatables [slides, jumping castles, ball pits, army style obstacle course], Xbox stations and much more.
  • Indoor Pool
  • Daily family movie night
My kids had a blast! We spent most of our days at the playzone or in the pool. Both were not too crowded and were considerably clean.




For food we passed on the Eclipse Restaturant located right at the resort, instead we got Pizza from Ginos one night, made sandwiches from patties I had brought from home the second night and had Dinner at Kelseys the third and last night. We also did breakfasts [ eggs, omelettes, toast] and lunches [pasta, sandwiches] at the suite. It was a little bit of work for me, but the nifty little dishwasher made it easy for me to clean up.

The highlight of my visit was the Decades Musical Show presented right within the resort! Oh what a marvelous production!


Canada’s longest running musical variety show and also renowned as the show that helped launch Shania Twain’s career, Decades mixes chart topping hits from the 50s to present day incorporating a wide range of artists from Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga. The 2014 line up has been revamped with more new content and current hits than ever, including songs by Pharrell Williams, Mumford & Sons, Lorde, Katy Perry and Robin Thicke to name a few. The theatrical performance features over 65 songs and300 costumechanges in 90 minutes, all delivered by an incredibly talented cast. It was a feast for my eyes and ears and I totally got Jiggy With it when a cast member pointed at me!

All in all it was a great stay, one we will remember for a long time. Infact we will be back soon in fall to check out the amazing Muskoka fall colors and go hiking along the Algonquin trail.









Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Black Magic Cake



So we had some people over the weekend, well Saturday to be exact and for dessert i made a fruit trifle. It was a huge hit but thats beside the point. Our baba (Abdur) as you all know is lactose intolerant and although i made jello to compensate, I was blackmailed into making a chocolate cake on sunday, LOL!
So here it is, divine, decadent, rich BLACK MAGIC CAKE! I used the same chocolate butter cream frosting I used here to ice it.


Black Magic Cake Recipe



Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda (i know it seems a lot but trust me its ok!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp strawberry/raspberry jam, diluted in half cup water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans or one 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
     
  3. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and finish cooling on a wire rack.
  5. Now turn one of the cake layers upside down and evenly pour the jam sauce over it. Keep in the fridge for 10 minutes to soak in.
  6. Now layer with frosting and place the second layer on top.
  7. Ice all over.
  8. Allow to get cold in fridge for at least an hour before serving.
  9. Enjoy with a warm cup of espresso! :)


PS: If you find that the cake batter is getting too runny, you can use less amount of coffee, may be half cup instead of one cup. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Checker Board Cake instructions

Something interesting i came across recently. Very helpful! Enjoy!









Friday, October 7, 2011

Back after a looong hiatus...with cakes! :)


Hey peeps, finally i have some time to blog about a few cakes i made during the last few months. This one is a yummy white cake (recipe i found on joyofbaking.com ) filled with chocolate butter cream frosting and covered with wiltons new edible decorating paper.

White Butter Cake:

2 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Method
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour two - 8 inch (20 cm) round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease and flour parchment paper.
  • Separate the eggs and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using.
  • In a mixing bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.Scrape down the sides of the bowl.Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  • With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  
  • Now in a separate bowl beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 -25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.


Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting (found on wilton.com)


 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
Makes about 3 cups


In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.


Now that cake and frosting are cooled and ready, ice the cake into 2 layers, and cover the cake completely. Now use the edible paper [http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=pg_patternss ] and cut in whatever shape you want and simply stick on the cake. Its that simple! Viola! your fine looking cake is ready! Here is what it looked like from inside:




Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Road trip, Zucchini Bread Recipe and More!


I havent been too good at keeping up with the blog, have I? But Ive been visiting family! :D Was pretty amazed to see my sister in law's savvy dress making skills!

I have traveled a lot in my life, but this is the first time I was so aware of my surroundings. Every time I saw a forest, every time I saw lush green plains, I thought about Allah's words in the Quran "these are signs for those who have intellect". SubhanAllah!

I verses 2, 3 and 4 of surah Ar Ra'ad (Thunder) Allah says,
"And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two: He draweth the night as a veil over the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider!
And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighboring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees - growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand!"
How can you look at all this beauty and not acknowledge that something mighty brought it into being?

Ok so now Im gonna post my zucchini bread recipe, I intended to take a pic when I baked it, but by the time i recharged my camera battery, it was gone! Yup, thats how delicious it was!


Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans.
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cardamom together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Then remove from the pans and let cool completely before cutting into it.
  5. Enjoy!
Please let me know if you try it. Your comments encourage me to carry on! :) 

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