Sunday, 29 June 2014

Homemade Almond-fudge Clif Bars

Ramadan has begun this year, and our family started fasting today. Well, there's still another half hour till iftar, so IIIIITS POSTING TIIIIIIIME!
As some of you may know, my sisters are here from Boston to visit for three months, so they're fasting with us. One of them had a total meltdown when she figured out that Ramadan was near and she had finished her two crates of Clif bars. Ouch.
While I was whipping a up a batch of granola bars for myself, I thought, hey, why not transform these into Clif bars for her?

Perfect.

I was microwaving the honey and was about to add peanut butter, but subbed with some cocoa and chocolate. I also increased the amount of chopped almonds. And, voilĂ , I had myself Clif bars after 30 minutes in the freezer!
If you'd like, you can use Nutella instead of chocolate.

Ah. Fifteen minutes left till Iftari.


Ingredients
1 cup packed pitted Medjool dates
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup melted chocolate or Nutella
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
Optional additions, such as chocolate chips or more nuts

Directions
Pulse the dates in a food processor until they become dough-like and sticky. Place the date paste, oats, and nuts in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the cocoa, chocolate, and honey and add into the oat mixture.
Press into a foil-lined square pan and freeze for 30 minutes until harder. Cut into rectangles. These can be stord in the fridge for 3 weeks or in the freezer for months.

oxoxoxoxoxo,
Zoya

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

'How To Train Your Dragon 2' + 'Maleficent' Review

Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Disney's Maleficent are quite the rage movies this year, HTTYD 2 being a sequel of the first hit movie, and Maleficent one of the many, many twists on Sleeping Beauty. Today, I'm going to give you guys reviews from sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 

This movie was extremely 'waited-for' by me because I was a huge, huge fan of the first movie. Back in January, when it was confirmed that the second movie was going to be released, I (along with a few other fanatics) went completely ballistic. Everyone waited and waited, and finally, on the 13th of June, it was released.
I later checked the ratings online and while Metacritic (which I have only now heard of) rates it with a 77%, IMDb gave it a 8.6/10 and Rotten Tomatoes gives a 92%.

Hiccup Horrendus Haddock III with his faithful dragon, Toothless.

Today, with no jam-packed theater, me and my sisters finally went to watch it (tip: avoid sitting in the first 5 rows). The movie moved me and quite a few others in the cinema to tears many, many times. Deaths are made very dramatic and sad (I cried more than I did during and sad scene, including The Hunger Games' Rue scene) , while during a cheerful moment, you have the urge to punch your fist into the air and scream "YEAH!".
Overall, I think this was an amazing movie, and if you decide to watch it, beware the tears! :')

Maleficent

I hadn't heard of this movie until a week before it was released because I was totally out of contact from the world because of my finals (ha!), I saw an ad for it on a billboard with the caption "SLEEPING BEAUTY WAKES UP". How could I resist? We booked our tickets in advance; time flew by.
Of course, I checked the ratings - not good at all for Rotten Tomatoes or Metacrtic with a 50% and 56% respectively, but reasonably OK for IMDb with a 7.4/10.

Angelina Jolie nails the part of Maleficent. Don't you love that background?
(Why is there a camera set in the middle of the woods? Aurora thought.)
Though the reviews were rotten, the movie was amazing for our family. The twist was amazing, and the best element was (SPOILER ALERT!) betrayal. The only thing is, Prince Philip's scenes made me super uncomfortable... (no offense, Philip!)
A very good movie, the role of Maleficent was one-hundred-percent-perfect for Angelina Jolie. No question, she pulled it off perfectly, the looks, the taunting, the evilness.

*                    *                  *

Well, to me, and, evidently, many other people, How To Train Your Dragon 2 was among the best movies ever, I would suggest it for ages 11 - 18; my sisters did not enjoy it that much. Oh, well!

Maleficent is amazing, too, though, but given the ratings, not many enjoyed it. This movie is good for most ages, if a bit loud.

Being a fangirl, well, I preferred How To Train Your Dragon 2 by juuuuuust a few dekameters. 
What can I say? I'm hooked.

I hope this encourages you to watch these movies of you haven't yet! 
I'm off to watch Dragons: Defenders of Berk. (You should watch that, too, of you enjoyed the movie.)

xoxoxoxoxox,
Zoya

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Hunger Games District 11 Crescent Rolls

Hey guys!

With the celebration of NO MORE SIXTH GRADE (woo-hoo!) comes the planning of my twelfth birthday in November. I know, I know, it's in November, so why am I planning now? Because I want this to be the best birthday I've ever had. It's going to be Hunger Games themed with a CAKE ON FIRE with NIGHTLOCK and mockingjay pins and Catching Fire cupcakes and, best of all, (wait for it...) District breads!

Though Katniss doesn't name the breads from Districts One, Two, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten, the four districts that she does name are the small cloverleaf-like rolls from Three, the fish-shapes green-tinted ones from Four and the ones she described as "the ugly drop biscuits that are our standard fare at home", Twelve, and finally, the one most described with throughout appearances, the dark crescent rolls dotted with black seeds. This is the bread that most appealed to me (maybe because of Rue) of the four breads.

At first, I was sure that the "dark ration grain", tesserae grain, would be some kind of rye grain/flour. Please tell me why I would have rye grain on hand? I know! I use it on cupcakes all the time! Just as much as Thresh is a midget! Of course!! So with no rye flour or grain, I had no choice but to use whole wheat flour. And using whole wheat flour instead of white flour in a regular bread is a bad idea, a lesson I learned the hard way. I found a recipe for whole wheat bread in The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook (thanks to my brother-in-law; big shout out! Thanks for the book!) which was AMAZING.

The original recipe called for 1/4 cup each of chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds, which I easily replaced with other, darker seeds. All the recipes online call for poppy seeds for the "black seeds", but I decided to change the game, half because a recipe said they tasted quite plain, half because the poppy seeds in Pakistan are white. I used a mixture of Nigella seeds, white poppy seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and rolled oats. These nuts add flavor and texture rather than simply poppy seeds, so I suggest this blend of seeds.

Good luck,
And may the odds be ever in your favor.



The Hunger Games District 11 Crescent Rolls
by Zoya Mir

Ingredients
• 1 1/2 cups warm water (112°F)
• 1 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp honey, molasses, or maple syrup
• 1 tbsp yeast
• 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
• 2 tbsp poppy seeds
• 1 tsp nigella seeds
• 1 1/2 tbsp whole flax seeds
• 3 tbsp sesame seeds
• 3 - 4 cups whole wheat flour
• 3 tbsp olive oil

Directions
In a small bowl or ramekin or large mug, stir together the first four ingredients. Set aside for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the seeds and the oats in a pan for 2-4 minutes until golden brown and your entire kitchen smells like heaven. If you hear cracking and popping, definitely remove it immediately.

In a large bowl, stir together the toasted seeds and the flour with the oil. Add the now puffed up yeast mixture and stir. Form into a dough and knead for ten minutes until smooth and elasticy. Place in an oiled bowl and cover. Leave it for an hour until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into halves and roll out into rounds. Cut into halves, then quarters, and finally eights, into triangles. Take the wide end of each one and roll it towards the tip. Keep rolling. Place it seam side - down on a lightly greased cookie sheet and slightly bend the edges into the center, forming a crescent. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Place the rolls in the oven for 10 -15 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Zoya >_<

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

DIY: How To Make Butter

Hey guys!

So,  finally my exams are (technically) over. All I have left is English and Social Studies, no big deal, much, 'cause there's no need for studying. So, exams are OVER! The day of our last exam, social studies (open-book) I'm throwing an end-of-school summer party with a water fight. Then I'm done for the year.


Back to posting. Butter. You know how the cell is the basic unit of structure and function in all living organisms? Just like that, butter, sugar, and flour are the same for all things baked. Obviously, I'm not so idiotic as to actually attempt to make sugar or flour (but hey, why not?), but butter ain't outta question.


I remember once I went to my sister's best friend's house and I was with her sister, Kareena. She wanted me to try to teach her how to make whipped cream. She handed me some heavy cream and a KitchenAid mixer (well, she didn't hand me the KitchenAid) so I gave it a shot.
While we were whipping up heavy cream and powdered sugar (which was working!!), Sanya and Kara walked in. "You know, Kareena, if you whip heavy cream it turns to butter," said Kara after taking a gander at the mixture. I knew that from the Internet, but I had never tried it.


When me and Sanya got home, my mom had put out some fat from the fresh milk and yogurt we got every day. She told us that she was going to make butter out of it. I watched as she beat the fat, known as malai, into a stiff, watery substance with a wooden whisk-like spatula. A few months later, I tried it myself, and it yields an amazing, fresh butter, salted or unsalted, whichever you prefer. If you can,  suggest using malai, which is milk or yogurt fat, if not, simply use heavy cream.


DIY: How To Make Butter by Zoya Mir
yields about 2 cups of unsalted white butter

Ingredients
3 cups heavy (double) cream or malai (milk or yogurt fat)
1 cup ice-cold, freezing cold water

Directions
In a large metal pot, begin to whip the cream or malai on a high speed with an electric mixer. It will start to get fluffier after about 45 seconds (picture 2) . If you'd like, you can set aside a portion of the stuff now for whipped cream when it looks like the third picture. Keep whipping until you see a bit of water coming out and the cream is stiff, about 3-5 minutes. Pour in the water and leave for 30 seconds to chill. Using your hands, form a ball out of the butter (fourth picture) and then into 1/2 or 1/4 cup logs (pictures 1 and 5). Use immediately or wrap in parchment or waxed paper and refrigerate or freeze until use.

Zoya :)





Friday, 6 June 2014

Cheesecake Brownies

Posting on this blog is getting harder and harder as my exams go by. Even now, it's six A.M., an awkward time to post as my science exam starts at ten-thirty. Why am I awake, anyway?

Along with posting, chances for getting in the kitchen are scarce, too. Help!
Not much is going on, either. Oh, wait, yeah, now I remember...

Me, Anusha, Tahira, and a bunch of guys (no names shall be given, hint: it includes Andres and Tim but not Tutor) have gotten into an EPIC CHALK FIGHT TO THE DEATH (ha!). I think I'll call it The Chalker Games (Catching Chalk, MockingiPods (because Anusha and I bring our iPods to school and play them while we fight)).

Oh, Serena wanted me to mention her in this post. So, here you are, Serena, an entire paragraph about you.

That's about it. Down to the recipe, now...


Cheesecake Brownies from epicurious.com 

Ingredients

For the brownie batter,
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup flour

For the cheesecake batter,
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
A splash of vanilla extract

Directions

For the brownie batter:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
Heat butter and chocolate in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.
Cheesecake batter and bake brownies:
Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula.
Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Zoya :)