Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

Chocolate cake with ribbons of zucchini... who thunk this up? I have made/eaten this cake a few times and I always forget how much I love it until the first bite. I think this cake makes for a great excuse to eat chocolate, why not? It's got my veggies too! =D

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 ts baking powder
1/4 ts cloves
1 ts cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 vegetable oil
1 ts vanilla extract
8 tbs butter at room temperature
1/2 yogurt at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325.
Stir together the dry ingredients.
Beat together the butter and oil until a nice cream has formed, about 5 minutes.
Add the sugar and beat for another five minutes or until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at time and beat well after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla.
On low speed gently stir in half of the flour mixture.
Stir in the yogurt.
Add the last of the flour mixture.
Fold in the chocolate chips and zucchini.
Pour into a 13x9 dish. Spread evenly and bake for about 50 minutes. 
The cake will be well risen and a toothpick will emerge pretty clean.
Cool the cake and cut into serving sizes of your choice.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Zucchini Fritters Also Known As Zucchini Pancakes

I love zucchini and fritters are great for lunch, dinner, a snack or with soup.

shredded zucchini
all purpose flour
teaspoon of baking powder
red pepper flakes
shredded onions
fresh chopped parsley

Add all ingredients together to make a batter.
This is really similar to pancake batter, so the thickness of the fritters are really up to you.
Brown spoonfuls of the batter in olive oil.
Serve warm or room temperature. 
A dab of sour cream goes well,  especially with a spoonful of harissa, but harissa is hot so it's not for everyone.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spicy Lentil Soup

I love lentil soup. I use lentils in a variety of different soups. Here is one that we eat often.

1 large onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped or minced
2 tomatoes chopped or minced
2 carrots chopped or minced
2 potatoes chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
2 zucchini chopped
1 bag of green lentils
2 bay leaves
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs salt
1 ts pepper
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tbs caraway
dried or fresh parsley to taste
1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 small can of tomato paste
1/8 cup quality olive oil

In a heavy pan brown the onions and garlic with the spices and olive oil.
Add all of the chopped vegetables and brown a bit.
Add the lentils and chickpeas.
Add 6 to 8 cups of water or broth, adjust for seasoning and bring up to a boil.
I pressure cook lentils for 30 to 45 minutes.
Add fresh chopped parsley and tomato paste, stir well and serve.
Sprinkle with hot paprika or cayenne pepper and eat with a warm piece of bread.


3 Soup For Winter Nights

This is a staple soup in my home. I used whatever vegetables I have on hand, which usually includes the following but not limited to. Sometimes I add pumpkin or butternut to this dish. Its a warming kind of soup, one that I really love with warm bread or boureks.

1 large onion chopped or minced
1 head of garlic chopped or minced
3 celery stalks chopped
3 zucchini cubed
3 medium to small potatoes cubed
3 carrots chopped
2 chicken breasts cut up into chuncks
1 tbs salt
1 ts pepper
2 ts cinnamon
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

    Using a heavy pot, brown the onions and the spices in extra virgin olive oil. 
    Add the garlic when the onions are almost completely caramelized.
    Add the celery when the onions and garlic are well browned.
    After the celery is wilted add the carrots and the potatoes and brown. Carrots are so sweet when browned.
    Add the zucchini and 6 to 7 cups of water or broth.
    Bring to a boil and add the chicken breasts.
    Check to make sure the chicken is well done and the vegetables are soft.
    Use a hand blender to make a silky soup. I never use my blender for soups because I have on many occasion burned myself. 
    As always taste for seasoning and adjust.


    Butter Dinner Rolls

    This is a dense, buttery, fat induced kind of experience.

    1 1/4 cups milk
    1 cup butter
    3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
    3 tbs sugar or honey
    1 ts salt if using unsalted butter
    1 tbs yeast
    2 eggs, lightly beaten
    4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    course salt (optional)

      Add the yeast to 1/4 cup of warm water and one tablespoon of sugar. Set aside to bubble up.
      Melt the butter, remaining sugar and milk together.
      When the yeast is bubbly add the lightly beaten eggs.
      Gently whip the mixture.
      Add the flour and salt.
      Slowly add the cooled off milk mixture.
      Beat by hand or with your dough attachment until a smooth silky dough has formed. It take between 3 and 5 minutes on medium speed.
      Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl, coat the dough and set aside covered in a dark and warm place to rise for two hours.
      Turn the dough around to coat with the olive oil.
      Break off golf ball size portions and shape as you like.
      Drizzle with olive oil and course salt if using.
      Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.


      Saturday, December 13, 2008

      Garlic Spinach

      I adore spinach. It's one of my favorite greens. I especially love it with really browned garlic and onions. In a hot pan with extra virgin olive oil brown a large diced onion.
      Add an entire head of minced fresh garlic when the onions are not quite done but are pretty golden. At this time I add my salt and white or black pepper.
      When you have found that your onions and garlic are well caramelized toss in your clean, whole leaf spinach. Occasionally give it a good stir. The spinach will shrink and all the water will release, don't be afraid if the pot looks overfilled you will have more than plenty of room in a few minutes.
      Keep tossing it around until all the liquid is evaporated and all that is left is the spinach, olive oil, garlic and onions. Serve warm!

      Grilled Lamb

      I just love fresh grilled lamb, I never really had eaten it before I became Muslim, it has never been something regular in our home.
      I took my favorite chicken seasoning and let it sit on the meat all day long in a plastic bag with a forth cup of extra virgin olive oil.
      Heat your skillet or grill pan to medium high heat.
      Place one piece of meat at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap and using a meat tenderizer give it a few wackes on both sides.
      You can see it has flatten out a bit which helps it cook at the same rate.
      Put it directly onto your pan. Make sure you pan is really hot.
      Let it cook a few minutes on each side, without moving it.
      The longer you cook it obviously the less rare it will be.
      Use you finger to test each side of meat for how done it is. Remember the softer it is the more rare it is.
      After removing the meat, set it aside and tent it with foil. Don't cut into the meat for at least ten minutes, otherwise all the juice will run out and you will have tasteless dry meat.


      Friday, December 12, 2008

      Lemon Squares

      This is a great Winter sweet. I am always thinking about lemons and limes during the winter season. Both are freshest in the Winter, full of Vitamin C and taste so comforting with a hot cup of coffee or mint tea!

      1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups) cold butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
      2 cups all-purpose flour
      1/2 cup packed brown sugar
      1/2 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter
      1/2 teaspoon baking powder

      Lemon Filling:
      7 eggs at room temperature
      2 1/3 cups sugar
      2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
      1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or lemon juice from a bottle
      1 cup flour

      Preheat your oven to 350
      Place butter first then the rest of the crust ingredients into a food processor and blend until crumbly.
      Of course, you can use two butter knives, or a pastry cutter in place of a food processor.
      Place into a 13x9 inch pan.
      Press out evenly with a flat spatula.
      Place into your preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
      While your crust is cooking prepare the lemon layer. 
      Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth.
      Pour the lemon layer onto the hot crust.
      Turn the oven down to 300 and bake until the middle is set which take between 25 and 30 minutes.
      Place on a rack and completely cool.
      Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or chilled, depending on your preference. 
      I cannot resist a warm slice. Store in the refrigerator covered.


      Wednesday, December 10, 2008

      Today ...

       Even though it's freezing outside the squirrels are still moving about gathering, eating, hiding food for later and chasing each other around. We even still have some leaves left to fall.



      Monday, December 8, 2008


      In this era when we have so many distractions, I think it is important for Muslims to keep reminding ourselves about the implicit and inherent simplicity of the Islamic faith.

      How did our beloved Prophet Muhammad celebrate this day? Through the following paragraphs I shall attempt to explore through relevant Hadith narrations concerning the Prophet Muhammad's practices on this day.

      A Day for Celebration

      A quick look at the books of Hadith indicates that Eid al-Adha is as simple as the other aspects of our faith. It is an opportunity to worship Allah and to offer him a sacrifice. It is also an opportunity to emulate the actions of the common father of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths: Prophet Abraham.

      There are many lessons to be learned from his story, here we shall highlight three.

      Lesson 1: When Prophet Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, it was a test of his faith. As believers we face many temptations and tests in this materialistic world. We must be ready and prepared for them.

      Lesson 2: When Prophet Abraham took his son to the sacrificial altar to sacrifice him, he showed us the strength of his faith and belief in his Creator.

      Lesson 3: God Almighty replaced the young son with a ram. We must therefore remember God is Merciful and God always rewards the patience and faith of the sincere believer. And He makes this life's journey easy for all who trust in Him.

      Humankind's purpose in life is to worship Allah. This may sometimes present a test, but it is faith, and faith alone that will see the true worshipper through life's travails.

      It is this strength of a human being's faith that we commemorate during our celebrations on Eid al-Adha. Millions of our brothers and sisters are on this very day completing the fifth pillar of their faith: the hajj.

      Perhaps we have family or friends who are travelling to Makkah as I write this, or maybe we know people who will be there on the day of the hajj. And we are joyous at their accomplishments.

      We may have many reasons for our celebrations, but it should suffice for us, that it is a day which Allah in His wisdom, commanded us to celebrate. It is a day that our Prophet Muhammad taught us to celebrate by his example.

      Though the sacrifice of an animal is a central aspect of Eid al-Adha, one must remember that there is much more to be achieved from this day: togetherness, spiritual upliftment, charity, and complete submission to the will of the Creator.

      The purpose of sacrifice is not fulfilled only by shedding the blood of an animal; it is really fulfilled when people submit themselves completely to the will and command of Allah.

      [It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right](Al-Hajj 22:37).

      The Prophet Muhammad once said, "I have been commanded to celebrate Eid on the day of sacrifice, which Allah, Most High, has appointed for this community."

      A man said: "If I do not find except a she-goat or a she-camel borrowed for milk or other benefits, should I sacrifice it?"

      The Prophet said: "No, but you should clip your hair, and nails, trim your moustaches, and shave your pubes. This is all your sacrifice in the eyes of Allah, Most High." (Abu-Dawud)

      Sharing in Prayers

      Our Prophet ensured that everybody should witness the Eid Prayer. This was a chance to worship Allah as a community and to gain some more knowledge. Women and children were encouraged to go to the outskirts of Madinah and witness the Prayer that was held there.

      This was a day of blessings which the whole community had a share in. Everybody was encouraged to participate in the Prayer and listen to the sermon.

      The Prophet Muhammad began his celebrations with two units (rakahs) of ritual Prayer followed by a sermon after which the congregation was asked to contribute to charity. After this, the Prophet always returned home from a different route from the one he used in the morning (Al-Bukhari).

      The Sacrifice

      The sacrifice is always to be done after the sermon. It is important to choose an animal that is healthy and without any deformations. The intention should be pure: the sacrifice is to please our Creator, He alone we worship.

      And the sacrificial animal should therefore be free from blemish and disease, and should be treated well. Our intention is to worship Allah.

      Fun Time

      Once religious obligations are done, it is time for merriment and joy. Time spent with family and with friends. The Prophet did so, and so must we. Young girls sang in his home with joy and the environment was one of happiness.

      On one occasion, the Companion Abu Bakr came to the Prophet's home while two young girls were beating the tambourine and the Prophet was lying covered with his clothes.

      Abu Bakr scolded them but the Prophet uncovered his face and said to Abu Bakr, "Leave them, for these days are the days of Eid and the days of Mina" (Al-Bukhari).

      It is therefore important to remember that Eid is a day for family and for fun. It is an occasion of tremendous blessing, but it is important to remember, the little ones, the children. Make Eid memorable for them too; make it an occasion to teach a little more about their awe-inspiring faith.

      In this article, through authentic Hadith narrations, I have tried to establish the simplicity of the Prophet's practices and specifically his celebrations on Eid.

      To end this article, I shall use words borrowed from the Prophet himself, when he prayed to Allah just before making his sacrifice on the day of Eid al-Adha.

      This supplication is the best illustration of the depth of meaning that this sacrifice holds for believers. It traces the history and lineage of the Muslim community and its commemoration of the Prophet Abraham. It indicates the power of the thought that should precede our actions:

      I have turned my face towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, following Abraham's religion, the true in faith, and I am not one of the polytheists. My prayer, and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the Universe, Who has no partner. That is what I was commanded to do, and I am one of the Muslims. O Allah, it comes from Thee and is given to Thee from Muhammad and his people. In the name of Allah, and Allah is Most Great. (Abu Dawud,)

      ~Written By: Sariya Islam whom is an Indian convert and has been a Muslim for more than 13 years. She holds a Master's in Business Management and is an experienced Human Resource Professional. She recently quit her career in HR and is now pursuing a PhD on the subject of 'Muslim Women and Integration' and is in the process of gradually making a career shift to Dawah and related activities.