Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fruit Platters - How To

Today, I'm excited to share the newest video addition to my blog. I shared this iftar dinner party a few months back and a few of you requested a how-to for the pretty fruit platters I made for the event. Since I learned how to make them from my younger sister, Hajerah, I decided it was best for her to show you how to make them herself. Keep reading for a guest post on these scrumptious and eye-catching from the woman herself, my talented baby sis!

Hey all!
It's Hajerah, Wardah's younger sister. Today, I'll be sharing my method of cutting/arranging fruits with you all. Growing up, my older sisters were always the ones in charge of making beautiful and delicious baked goods for family gatherings. That left me with the one task they knew I wouldn't mess up (lol), which was cutting. Whether it was prepping the veggies for a dinner item, or cutting fruit to serve with dessert, it was always my job. 

And it was something I enjoyed. I'm really meticulous and somewhat of a perfectionist by nature (my closet is organized by style AND color), so I found satisfaction in slicing fruits to equal widths and chopping up veggies in uniform cubes. I also realized I could line them up on the serving plate and they wouldn't look half bad. Over the years, I got better at making fruit platters, and a lot faster at it, too. Now, even though I've learned how to bake a cake or two, most of our family and friends still know me as the cutting expert. 

Which brings me to today's post. When Wardah was visiting CA a month ago, she convinced me to let her film the process of making a few platters. Let's just say, it was an agonizing hour of sitting on the kitchen floor right in front of our backyard doors (for better lighting, apparently) and working really slowly (so she could capture what I was doing, change angles, etc). Wardah actually did the most work though, including filming, putting up with my complaining, and then going home to edit and create this wonderful video. 

I hope you all enjoyed the video and are motivated to create a fruit platter of your own. Your guests will ooh and aah at your elaborate presentation while you'll smile inside, knowing it wasn't hard at all. And who knows, maybe you're like me and will find the process to be therapeutic!

'Til next time, folks (maybe I'll teach you how to organize scarves, another one of my specialties haha).
Watch the video here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Visiting the Maui Ocean Center

Maui Ocean Center is one of the highest rated attractions in Maui, and it's obvious why. From the moment you step in, the immaculate decor and the eye-catching exhibits speak volumes about its excellence. My family and I stopped at the Maui Ocean Center on our last day in Maui for a short, hour-long visit. We were greeted by Evan who gave us a brief tour of the center and his recommendations.

It was exciting to be at the Ocean Center and see colorful fish unique to Maui. We were able to find out the names of most of the fish we saw earlier that week while snorkeling in Molokini Bay! The exhibits were beautiful, full of interesting facts, and the naturalists were so knowledgeable and helpful. Visiting the Ocean Center would be a great way to reinforce some marine science in a fun and exciting way for young kids after a snorkeling adventure or even after watching the movie "Finding Dory".

My favorite experience at the Ocean Center was the underwater dive presentation in the Open Ocean Exhibit. At 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm everyday, a diver with a special mask that allows for  communication with the audience swims with the sharks, rays, and large fish in the exhibit. On the day we were visiting, the diver was in the tank with 19 sharks! I'll never forget the sight of blood swirling in the water as she fed the cutest, ginormous sting ray a fish (entertaining for adults and children, hahaha).

Though we didn't have a chance to try it, Shark Dive Maui is another unique and exciting experience that Maui Ocean Center offers. At 8:30 am everyday, the center offers a chance to dive into their open ocean exhibit with over 5 species of different sharks! What an incredible thing.

It would be tiring to spend more than an hour or two in these exhibits, but fear not, the aquarium is equipped with a restaurant and an amazing gift shop! We spent close to half an hour browsing the huge gift shop, a great stop to grab souvenirs from your trip. A side note - the Ocean Center gift shop is pretty expensive, as is everything else on Maui, but there is a small shopping plaza attached to the ocean center with a more affordable gift shop and some more restaurants.

Overall, we had a blast at the Maui Ocean Center and would recommend it to anyone. The picturesque little marina, the view, the food, and everything else that the center has to offer are definitely worth it. Thank you to the Maui Ocean Center and Evan for making our experience in Maui all the more exciting and enjoyable!

Be sure to see some footage of our entire trip, including our visit to the Ocean Center, below. :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MAUI | Travel Diary

Join me as I travel through the Hawaiian Island, Maui. Maui is a beautiful and serene place, a fascinating island that is vibrant and beautiful in its sights and culture. Visiting Maui is a treat for the senses as you are welcomed with a flurry of sights, smells, sounds, and sensations. From wild chickens on main roads and waterfalls at every bend to waves crashing at shorelines and colorful reefs full of vibrant fish, the island is a little piece of heaven on Earth.

As you all know, my family and I practice "halal" eating. I won't go into too many details, but a vegan lifestyle falls perfectly into our dietary habits. When we're traveling to a city where we know we won't find many halal options, we turn to vegan food. And Maui's vegan scene was hopping! I reached out to the manager of Down to Earth Organic, a fully vegetarian store with a food bar and deli, about our travels and I was honored to receive a gift card to spend there during our trip! Read more about my wonderful experience here -

The Maui Ocean Center was one of the top attractions on our list of things to see and do. We were given complimentary admission to this gorgeous aquarium and it was well worth the visit. It was especially interesting to learn about Maui's sea life after we had been snorkeling and were able to see it firsthand. Read more about this adventure here -

We enjoyed many other activities while in Maui, including zip-lining, hiking, swimming, and I would love to share our experience with you.

Mahalo to Down to Earth Hawaii and Maui Ocean Center, The Hawaiian Aquarium for adding to our wonderful experience in Maui.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bloggers Do Burgers at Famous Hamburger - Dearborn, MI

Last week, a group of Michigan bloggers and I had the wonderful opportunity to have dinner together at Famous Hamburger - a local, halal restaurant in Dearborn, MI. Though the restaurant was kind enough to host us that night, all opinions on the food and service are my own. Many of my readers and I follow a specific, religious dietary restriction of eating only "halal" food. Let's not go into all the details, but "halal" food pertains to meat and certain animal byproducts that Muslims cannot consume unless prepared a certain way. Believe me when I say that there is a severe lack of halal food in the food service industry! But then, once in a while, a gem of a restaurant pops up and all is right in the world (for the duration of your meal ;D ).

The owner of the restaurant, Moe, gave us a little history of the restaurant. It was established 35 years ago by his grandfather and is now 3 restaurants strong with more on the way. There was nice ambience and snazzy decor.

The restaurant has a fully halal menu with variety of items, including vegetarian and gluten-free options. We were seated by our very helpful and courteous waitress and didn't have to wait much for anything at all. Now I'm sure you're anxious to know more about the food!

We decided to order some appetizers as a group - ultimate beef nachos, veggie nachos, and "mac 'n' chzzz" bites. Despite the somewhat ridiculous name, the mac and cheese bites were definitely the crowd favorite - deep fried mac and cheese bites.

The nachos were topped with a delicious cheese sauce that was spot on!

A bunch of us ordered milkshakes to go with our dinner. Here is my Oreo chocolate milkshake next to vanilla bean milkshake with caramel. I ordered an additional Oreo topping which I thought would just be on the top, but was actually layered throughout the drink. I didn't really like the texture of the soggy cookies mixed into my shake so next time I'll get the shake without the cookies.

Our burgers arrived next and my oh my, the sight of us bloggers photographing each others food was probably the silliest thing any of the other diners had seen that day. But those burgers were glorious looking too. I can't really stomach too much red meat (or any meat for that matter) in one sitting so I opted to go for a vegetarian burger. I was hoping to try the falafel burger but they didn't have any so I ordered the black bean veggie burger. My burger was so delicious, the perfect blend of spices and veggies in a bean mixture. Even my meat loving husband approved of it!

Let's talk about these sweet potato waffle fries for a minute. Sweet and crispy with the perfect amount of spice. I ate mine with ranch - a match made in heaven.

Overall, I really had a great experience at Famous Hamburger. I was impressed by the cleanliness and open layout of the restaurant, the great, friendly service, and the wonderful menu and great tasting dishes. Thank you, Aly, for organizing such a wonderful event! I'm looking forward to our next meet up.

Now, excuse me while I go and plan next trip to Famous. Writing this post really has me drooling. (Hope I can try the falafel burger this time!)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Creamy Mango Crepe Cake

An (early) Eid Mubarak to all of my lovely readers, new and old! If you've been following me for a few years, you may remember Eid Eats 2014 - a virtual Eid party hosted by My Ninja Naan, Flour & Spiceand Chocolate & Chillies. Well, Eid-ul-Fitr 2016 is almost here and it is once again time to join an awesome virtual Eid party full of delicious food items and eye-catching desserts. If you know me, I love to bring a dessert to any gathering. In fact, it is pretty much a tradition for me to bring a dessert every time I visit my in laws. So of course, it was a given that I would bring dessert to this party.

Today, I am sharing the recipe for this dreamy creamy mango crepe cake. Actually, there is a story behind this beautiful, 30 plus layer cake. It's mango season, and chances are, if you're Desi and celebrating Ramadan, you have a huge box full of mangoes sitting in your pantry. With only two adults in the house, and both of us fasting, that meant a surplus of mangoes leftover and not enough mouths to finish them. As the mangoes started to reach their peak ripeness, I really needed to figure out what to do with them, and making them into a dessert seemed like the best option.

Luckily, I was invited to an iftar a few days later so I had the opportunity to give a mango dessert a try and share it with some friends as well. The only problem was that this cake did not fold out exactly as I had planned. The creamy mango filling never set and it turned into a little bit of a lopsided cake when I added whole pieces of mango fruit in the center. The top half of the cake slid right off the bottom half! Nonetheless, the flavor of the crepes and mango cream really was a great combination. While the cake recipe needs to be tweaked a little, I would recommend the filling recipe to anyone. A huge thank you to all my family and friends who support my baking endeavors and are such good sports with my successes and not-so-successful desserts.

I also took a batch of my popular kulfi, on request, and coincidentally, that is the recipe I shared for Eid Eats 2014! Here it is if you would like to take a gander, here is the link: kulfi (Indian ice cream). Without further ado, we revisit this same dish 2 years later for a mango crepe cake.

Here is a crepe cake I have made in the past that turned out beautifully - complete with recipe and steps for assembly. :)

Enjoy and good luck in the kitchen!

Mango Crepes

Make a batch of my classic sweet crepe recipe here

Mango filling:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 cup fresh mango puree (blended and strained flesh of 2 mangoes)

2 mangoes, diced
1/4 cup mango puree

To make the filling: mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until well combined. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl to ensure that everything is combined. Add in the heavy cream and whip on high speed until medium peaks form. Add in the mango puree and whip till stiff peaks form.

To serve, fill a crepe with a few tablespoons of mango filling and top with mango pieces. Drizzle mango puree on top of the crepe and serve.

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