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Ramadan Journal 2016

Sunday, June 5, 2016

It's that time of the year again. We get to witness one more Ramadan. In sha Allah. I went back and forth several times about keeping a journal this year. Then I went to my Instagram feed and checked the hashtag #njramadanjournal. I went through several photos from last year - both mine and of people whom I have never met. I realized I would love to add more to the hashtag and look back next year. It's not going to be easy but then it is Amina's first Ramadan (we were blessed with a baby girl in April) and I would definitely love to document it. So here we go!

What should you do to participate? Simply click a photo related to the prompt and use the hashtag #njramadanjournal. You could also link to your blog post by leaving a comment on mine. Please do not over think and spend precious time on photos/prompts. It's Ramadan. We need to spend as much time as possible in Ibadah. :)

Ramadan Kareem! 

End of an Era?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

As I sit here irritatingly answering people’s constant ‘are you done, is the baby here yet?’ questions, I feel a bit melancholy. More than everyone else, I am eagerly waiting to meet the new baby. I cannot wait to feel his/her hair, ten little toes and fingers, In sha Allah. At the same time, I wonder what life would be like for TnA. They were born three years apart and are growing closer to each other every day. I remember feeling the same way before Aisha’s birth. Would Talha adapt well? Would he feel left out? Would I be able to handle mothering two children? How's Aisha going to feel being the second child? The worries were endless. 

Now I feel pretty similar about the third one. Would he/she feel left out with two older siblings? Are we all going to pamper him/her endless? That thought makes me chuckle. I remember being a bit apprehensive about the age gap between the first two and third. I worried whether it was too much of a gap. However, as days passed by, I realized it is indeed the best time if not the perfect one. Life has a way of calming you down and telling you that things will fall in the right place at the right time, you just have to be patient. 

The fact that Talha is quite independent now, can take care of himself and Aisha is almost there gives me a lot of peace of mind. What puts me at ease the most is their excitement and impatience to see the baby. Talha has been hoping for a baby brother since the beginning. Aisha on the other hand keeps fluctuating. When she is in good terms with Talha she wants a baby sister and when they aren't, she wants another baby brother. 

Conversation between Aisha and a friend of mine
They constantly make us laugh with their serious, albeit silly remarks. They have been telling pretty much everyone about a baby in their mommy's tummy and how they don't know whether it is a boy or a girl. Recently, Talha who is actually the patient one of the two, tells me - enough waiting Umma, let's give you an injection and get the baby out. That made me laugh out so loud! Alhamdulillah for two sweeties who has made this journey enjoyable. 

It is definitely going to be an end of an era – era of just T and A – but a happy beginning of a new one, In sha Allah. Do remember us in your prayers. :)

Salted Caramel Pretzel New York Cheesecake

Monday, February 8, 2016

When you make salted caramel for the first time and bake a cheesecake for the first time, it calls for a blog post, right? They say if you have sugar cravings you are going to have a baby girl. In that case, I should have both girl and a boy as my cravings switch between sweet and savory like the London weather. 

Few days back while browsing through Instagram, I came across salted caramel cheesecake. As you might be aware, Instagram has this inexpiable power over you when it comes to food. I knew I wanted some salted caramel cheesecake pronto! So my recipe search led to this particular one by Kitchy Kitchen. Aisha and I watched the video together that night and next day while she was at school, I was at the nearby Spinneys looking for the ingredients. 

Since we had plans to invite J's cousin over last Friday, I thought I will bake the cheesecake by Thursday and keep. I will have my cravings sorted and my guest will have something different for dessert. One stone, two birds. We clever Malayalees! 

Unlike the red velvet cake I baked couple of weekends before, this time I was better prepared. Dinner was done and I had my mise en place ready. Once the cheesecake was in the oven I prepared the salted caramel. 

Though everything went as planned and looked good the ultimate test is always the taste test. So on Friday while topping the cheesecake with salted caramel (and sour cream), I realized that the caramel was a bit too thick and found it difficult to manipulate it while decorating. I should have taken it off the stove a bit earlier. 

Then while cutting into the cake, I realized that the crust was over baked and had become biscuitish - a very tasty one though. I was really looking forward to tasting the crust as I had nibbled on it while pressing it down on the pan and really loved the contrast of sweet and salty - the crust has pretzels in it! 

I wouldn't say the recipe had issues. Our ovens behave differently and with practice we learn where to make corrections - mine is a small convection oven compared to a regular cooking range. So next time I bake this cheesecake, I will take it out maybe ten minutes earlier. 

It is a really simple cheesecake and quite easy to put together. I think I would top it with some berries or a thin layer of salted caramel next time and call it a day. 

For Salted Caramel Pretzel New York Cheesecake recipe video, please visit Kitchy Kitchen's You Tube channel
For Salted Caramel Pretzel New York Cheesecake recipe, please visit Kitchy Kitchen

Red Velvet Cake + Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

Monday, January 25, 2016

This motherhood business is purely a balancing act. Everyday I have to make a choice between a myriad of things. Do I do this or do that? If I do this, would it affect my children in any way? Maybe it’s because I am a woman and we women are wired to think and overthink.

It was Aisha’s birthday last Saturday. I had no idea that the my mom and TnA had made plans to spend the weekend together. So when she called asking to send them after school last Thursday, I was more than happy to oblige. I was going to get a weekend all to myself. Hurray!

But then that hurray turned to silent tears at night when for some reason I couldn’t go to sleep. I kept tossing and turning. It has been a while since TnA spent nights away from us and it seemed daunting. Add pregnancy hormones to the mix and things get ugly.

My initial plans were to bake some chocolate brownies for her birthday and call it a day. Now that I had some unexpected time on my hands, I thought why not bake a cake as well. I thought I will finish the baking Friday evening to give myself some time to frost and photograph on Saturday. I haven’t picked up my camera to do any major food photography since Ramadan and I was itching to try things couple of things.

But then, there’s always a but, I forgot to double the recipe for the cake and ended up baking one 9” cake. It was too tiny. So I had to bake one more cake first thing on Saturday. Then I go to the studio, get my orders out, rush back to the kitchen and start frosting. Frosting the brownies were easy and done quickly. But with the cake, I made mistakes again. This isn't the first time I had baked Red Velvet Cake. What was happening?! I had to make three batches of frosting to have enough to cover the cake. I am going to be blame this on my pregnancy hormones as well!

While the cake was cooling, I decided to photograph the brownies. I had seen this tutorial on shooting moody photographs by Turmeric and Spice a while ago and really wanted to give it a try. I started out patiently by getting the background and required items ready. I tried various angles but I was just not happy with the outcomes. I have slowed down quite a bit thanks to my growing tummy which means it takes me longer to finish.

Not happy with the photo of the full brownie that I baked in a loaf tin, I decided to slice them up and layer them on top of each other. While trying to balance the pieces, it strikes me, I have been trying really hard to balance my life especially the past few months.

I wouldn’t say this pregnancy has been hard on me. Compared to what some of my fellow pregnant mommy to be’s have been going through, mine has been relatively calm, Alhamdulillah. But there has been few hiccups here and there in my personal and work life which added extra load on me. These were all unexpected – as they always are – and took me quite a while to get adjusted to.

If you have noticed, I haven’t blogged since Ramadan. I miss blogging, taking food photos with my DSLR, crafting and writing in general. That said, I did manage to strike off few things off my list last year – Arabic Language Classes and a short trip to Amritsar are top on the list.

Coming back to where I started, I was photographing the brownie slices and one of them fell. They were so delicate and scrumptious! You really got to try the recipe by the way. Don’t even think twice about beetroot being an ingredient. J had no clue!

So yes, while photographing and trying to balance the brownie slices, I realized how difficult motherhood tends to get at times. There is constant choosing between what I would like to do as a person and what I would like to or have to do as a mother. Does it have to be that way? Can’t I bake my cake and eat it too? Well in this case, I did just that. I am still savouring the leftover slices of both brownies and cake. Ha! 

Talha is into chocolates. It’s his absolute favorite. Aisha? Not so much. So to make sure both are happy and neither felt left out, I baked chocolate brownies and a red velvet cake. Balance.

Both were at grandma’s house, which meant I had some extra time for myself. So I decided to do some baking and frosting – which was therapeutic even with the mishaps – along with some food photography. A bit for my children and a bit for my creative self. Balance.

We are not really into birthday parties and choosing between deen (faith/religion) and dunya (worldly matters) is always the hardest. So no party but there’s cake and brownies. Hopefully that will also be a balance – I am not the Judge here.

You see what I mean? It’s a constant struggle. Choosing between what you want to do and what you need to or got to do. There are so many things I want to do! I want to continue my work with Pretty Paper Studio but I also want to start a small business consultancy for women. I want to continue blogging, photographing and crafting and there’s also one thing that I have been wanting to do for almost two years – start a small business related podcast. Will I ever?

For Chocolate Beetroot Brownies recipe, please visit Sorted Food
For Red Velvet Cake recipe, please visit Joy The Baker

Edit (01/02/2016):
Couple of my friends had asked what the cake looked like inside, so I have included phone pic of a slice. 

Eid Mubarak!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eid Mubarak! Taqabbal Allaahu Minna Wa Minkum - May Allah accept it (worship) from us and from you. 

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