One-bowl chocolate chip scones

You need to save this recipe under the “pressed-for-time-and-have-guests-coming-over” file. Or under the “I’m-hungry-and-need-a-snack-pronto” file. It works both ways.

I have made these scones many times and cannot get over how easy it is to make these! I especially love that you only need one bowl to mix the ingredients, and the recipe has room for flexibility – which wins me over every time. Because we all have those days when we are out of chocolate chips, or only have 1 cup of cream. Or need to use up some raspberry jam.

This recipe, originally from Brown Eyed Baker, has been adapted just a bit, but yields the same wonderful, delicious results. (You can also halve the recipe, if you don’t want to make too many scones, or don’t have enough cream.)

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Ingredients:

Scones:

  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (or to your liking) chocolate chips (semisweet or dark)
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Optional: You can sub the chocolate chips and add cranberries, raisins, cinnamon, toffee bits, chocolate chunks, raspberry jam, etc.

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a silicone baking mat. (If you don’t have one and regularly bake cookies, scones, etc – GO OUT AND BUY ONE NOW!)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. (Or cranberries, raisins, toffee bits…)
  3. Using a spoon, stir the heavy cream into the flour mixture, stirring just until ingredients are moistened. (You can add a bit of more milk if it seems to not pull together easily)
  4. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms (about 2 minutes). Divide the dough into two equal balls. Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into triangles. Place the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. Optional: You can also drizzle with caramel sauce after they come out of the oven – IT’S THE BEST.

Ramadan through the eyes of a child

This year is FZ’s first Ramadan of fasting as a newly-minted baligha, or one who has reached the age of responsibility, according to Islam.

Even though we had her try some half-day fasts, and even full-day practice fasts, the month of Ramadan was a whole new thing altogether. Can someone ever really be prepared for the daily fasting, change in routine and lack of sleep? How could we help our daughter get ready for the holy month, full of its spiritual benefits, while not letting her get dragged down physically?

Fortunately my husband and I surrounded FZ with positive messages about the holy month of Ramadan. The days she fasted we treated her with her favorite iftaar, or meal to break the fast. And as a mother, I prepped myself with plans and activities for the month — things to keep her busy, occupied and not focusing on food.

Plus, there are lots of great resources out there for daily activities to keep kids entertained during the holy month. Here are just a few.

Tips on helping young ones reap the rewards of Shahr Ramadan

Too often as adults we let ourselves get caught up in the physical aspects of Ramadan – i.e. the hunger, thirst, fatigue, lack of energy, etc. But in reality we are actually doing a disservice to our young ones.

There are some ways on helping our young fasters turn the physical drain into spiritual growth, and thus redirecting our attention to the positive versus solely focusing on the negative.

  1. Plan a special daily activity: It doesn’t have to be big or grand. Even something as simple as going to the library, or taking a walk outside to discover a new flower or bird can recharge a fasting child. Even take your child’s help to prepare an iftaar snack or meal.
  2. Encouraging naps: Young kids who are fasting don’t usually understand the physical limitations of fasting and often get overtired doing their regular activities. Help them wind down and relax to not burn out.
  3. Getting closer to the Holy Qur’an: There are plenty of ways to help kids get more acquainted with the Holy Qur’an. See how many animals you can find mentioned among the names of chapters? Or learn about a new prophet.
  4. Focusing on prayer and dua: We can make prayers a little sweeter during the holy month of Ramadan. Help your child remember the poor, orphans, homeless, and oppressed.
  5. Volunteering and helping others: If there are any food banks or soup kitchens near you, try to spend a few hours a week and help out. Or even at the local masjid or center, have your child get involved with serving or clean up. This will help link the holy month to worthwhile activities.

Chocolate chip cookie cake

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Fresh out of the oven. Let the slicing begin!

It’s one of my best go-to dessert recipes for potlucks and get-togethers. And not only is it easy to put together, but it is oh-so flexible! On my best days this cake is loaded with peanut butter chips, mini M&Ms and chocolate chips. But since my kids don’t like peanut butter (don’t ask; I get teary-eyed just thinking of all the desserts I don’t make), I usually make this cake with plain ol’ chocolate chips or chunks.

This recipe is adapted from the one on Brown Eyed Baker and it makes a nice thick, chewy cake of chocolate chippy goodness. Mine is baked in a 9×13-inch pan so there is plenty to go around.

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Melty chocolate chips!

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2-3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, M&Ms, etc, or leave it plain! Whatever your heart desires!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch pan; set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed (or your hand if you don’t have a mixer), beat the butter and sugars together until blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan and press the dough into an even layer. Bake until the cookie cake is light golden brown and the outer edges have started to harden, 20 to 25 minutes.

This is one GOOD pasta/pizza sauce

When you are a mom, recipes with too many steps don’t cut it. You need recipes that are easy, quick and uncomplicated.

After a bit of tinkering I mastered a sauce recipe that is wonderful on pizza and delightful on pasta! It’s easy, and chock full of veggies.

Have I gotten your full attention yet?

Save this recipe, and memorize it. It will come in quite handy for those weekday nights! And it can be easily frozen in 1 cup servings for those busy days when all you have time for is boiling the pasta!

The BEST pasta/pizza sauce:

Ingredients:

1/2 a large bell pepper (chopped)

1 large carrot (chopped)

1/2 a large onion (in chunks)

2 medium tomatoes chopped (optional)

1 cup tomato paste

Fresh basil leaves

Italian seasonings

2 cloves garlic (minced)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp sugar

Salt/pepper to taste

*1/2 cup cauliflower florets optional

*1/2 cup butternut squash chunks optional

Directions:

  1. Start by boiling the bell pepper, carrot and onion. (And if you have some cauliflower or butternut squash, you can add that too). Don’t put too much water. You want just enough to boil the veggies and to puree.
  2. In a separate pot add the tomato paste (and tomatoes, if you are using them), butter, salt/pepper, basil, Italian seasonings, and sugar. And enough water to cook. Put on low heat.
  3. Once the veggies boiling are tender, puree the veggies and water with the garlic.
  4. Then add the puree to the tomato mixture and turn the heat up to medium-high. Watch for splattering. Add a little more water, if needed.
  5. Let boil for about 5-7 minutes, then let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add or boil off water for desired consistency. A pizza sauce should be more thick, and some like a thinner pasta sauce.

5 tips for a successful road trip

Since buying a car here in Iran, we have traveled to the north and south of the country, and it’s been a great experience.

But we never thought about driving to Mashhad, which is about 10 hours away from Qom by car. For one my kids love the train ride experience. We always rent a koopa, or a cabin, so the kids get to climb up and sleep on their own bunk. It kind of looks like a slumber party, except we don’t have the freedom to leave.

This year, however, for the days of Arbaeen, (the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Holy Prophet) both my husband and I were off from school so we thought why not drive to Mashhad?

I was a bit hesitant of the 10+ hour car ride with 3 kids, my mom and us. But praise God, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Here are a few tips I thought of for anyone gathering the strength to make a road trip with the littles:

  1. Leave early: We made it a point to leave right after morning prayers. We let the kids stay up a bit later at night, and dressed them in casual clothes. So when it came time to leave, we just took them to the bathroom, and put them in the car. They slept until our first gas stop break, where we stretched and ate breakfast.
  2. Combine rest stops with food/gas/bathroom breaks: We stopped a few extra times on our way to Mashhad, turning our 10 hour trip to a 14 hour one. But on the way back home, we were strict to combine our stops for prayer, food and bathroom all at one time. It helped save time, and frustration. *Important note: Make sure kids get out of the car during your breaks: Sometimes it’s easier to just keep everyone in during a rest stop, but it actually helps to get kids out to release some energy before being stuck in the car again. We would park our car in a more open place to let the kids run around a bit before heading back in.
  3. Entertainment: This summer I bought a new 2-screen DVD player for the car. I only pull it out for road trips, and then put it back in storage when we come back. It helped keep the kids entertained, and after 1 movie, we would turn it off, then use it again later. If you can, try to invest in something like this for your car, but be sure to only pull it out during special trips. Otherwise it will lose its value.
  4. Get a couple of new things for the trip: The night before we left I bought the kids small magnet kits that they could use on their steel snack tray for the car. They played together and it kept them occupied. A small new game or toy works wonders for taking the edge off.
  5. Keep lots of snacks: We kept lots of healthy snacks on hand for the kids to munch on during the trip. Fruits that are easy to peel and eat are best. Small, simple sandwiches also help ease their appetites if you are out looking for a place to eat. I also packed a few small lollipops and fruit snacks for those stressful moments.

Road trips can never be pulled off without a hitch. And even on ours, we were bombarded with the “Are we there yet?” a billion times, but the more prepared you are helps you maintain patience for those moments 🙂

Do you have any more tips to add to this list? Would love to hear about things that worked for your family during road trips!

Don’t take a break from your kids

I’m not going to deny it. Some days being a parent can feel like someone drilling a jackhammer into your skull. With no off switch.

But it is some days. There are those nice moments, too.

Often you won’t get a break from your kids. And, I say this with a big sigh, you really shouldn’t want one.

I don’t mean one of those 10-30 minute “me time” breaks. We all need those. And by need, I mean like a how fish needs water.

When I say break, I mean turning off the “parent” switch and being “you” again. Once you are a parent, and blessed with a little one, you are always a parent. You can switch gears, change the topic, enjoy a new hobby, but you will always be Mom. Or Dad. Or Mama. Or Baba. (Fill in with your name of choosing).

Should one really want to turn off the “parent” switch? Some might argue, but I was “me” first. I should be able to enjoy those simple things and hobbies without a diaper falling out of my purse or finding play-doh in my shoe.

Yes, I see your point. But once you had a child, this new duty fell into your lap and to embrace it with dignity is your responsibility. To complain and run from it, is really quite immature.

I know that for my kids I am the person (along with their father, of course) responsible for turning them into healthy, well adjusted adults. Do you really want to throw that away?

I see some parents who have to work and when they finally come home, they want nothing to do with their children. In essence they want a “break.” That’s fair enough.

But what about your kids? Isn’t it fair for them to want their mom or dad to play with them? To love them? To snuggle with them? To be there for them?

Instead of taking a break from our kids we need to start considering children our priority and putting our hobbies/work/leisure activities on break.

When tired moms and dads come home from work, each should give the other a 5-10 minute space to regroup before resuming parental duties. There should not be a “blame game” or “who worked the most hardest today?” competition.

These kids are ours and a gift from God. Today they are 2, tomorrow they will be 12 – do you really want to think back to their toddler years and only remember how you stuffed food down their throats so you could send them to bed so they could wake up early for daycare?

It might seem like you have no options, but there is almost always an option. It might take some sacrificing on your end, but there is always an option. It takes some real meditation and prayer but more than anything, it takes honesty. Be honest with yourself/your spouse and your family.

Yes, we have been ignoring each other. We have been ignoring the kids. We have been ignoring our home. To build a successful society we need to realize that our future generations are here ready to be groomed. Where are we? Why are we lost behind making money and making appearances?

The children we have are in the here and now. What they will become is how we raised them while they were young. How much attention we gave them, how much love we showed them, how much time we spent with them. I know I have been guilty of not slowing down for my children, but I realize now that if I don’t make it a priority, I will lose this time in an instant and regret it for the rest of my life.

Please take a moment and really think – what matters to me? What would I do if it was all gone?

Nothing beats Nano

Mothers are such a blessing. You never really think about it growing up, and you certainly don’t think about it when you are busy in your life. It’s sad, really, how sometimes we only think about our parents and how they raised us, when we become parents, or when we, unfortunately, lose them.

Through God’s mercy and love, my mom was recently able to come and visit me. We are really enjoying her company, and my kids, of course, are over the moon. My eldest, especially, is quite close to her Nano. While I worked (full time, and then part time) during the first two years of FZ’s life, my mom was the one who took care of her.

Once I moved away from home, away from the constant pop-ins, and caretaking… it really hit me how much my parents bring so many blessings into my life and home.

Where something simple as a “dropping by to see how you are” can be (at one time) taken as: “Again? I am really busy,” to “I really, really wish I could see my mom and dad. I miss them.”

I can safely say that moving away was the wake-up call I needed to appreciate my wonderful parents. Now I don’t take anything for granted. Every minute I can speak to them or see them (thank you FaceTime), I cherish it. I really, really miss those pop-ins and casual evenings.

Now that my mom is here, though, even my kids know Nano means business. She only has to say something once. And I am learning so much more about how to be a good mom. How to approach this issue differently with this kid, because she’s more sensitive. How to organize this part of my life so I am not so burdened. Plus, she takes them out on walks. My mom is the bomb.

Dear Allah, you are so truly merciful for giving me another chance to serve my mother, learn from her, and to have her presence in my home and with my kids. I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity. But I am so grateful.

Just a small bit of advice: Please, please don’t ignore your parents’ presence. If they are near you, you are blessed. Look at them with kindness, and you will be reap the benefits. Treat them with gentleness, and you will be rewarded. Sure, parents get old, it gets hard, but tuck a small reminder in the back of your mind of those days when you were just a small, ball of flesh and bones, and your parents did everything so you could live. Just think about their lives; they aren’t getting younger. Try to help them, ease their problems. You won’t regret it.