Fresh basil makes this tomato soup perfect

The cool days of fall are slowly approaching, and that means pulling out the light jackets, long sleeves, and soup recipes! 

I love a nice, piping hot bowl of soup! Complete with croutons or garlic bread. Or a BLT. 

My kids love soup, too. And I’ve found a few recipes that offer plenty of taste and nutrition. 

This cream of tomato soup I adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten. 

And the best thing about this soup is the fresh basil. Go to the store and get some. You cannot substitute the flavor with some dried basil from a jar.


5 medium sized tomatoes (chopped)

1 small onion (chopped)

1 small carrot (chopped) 

1 small potato (chopped)

1 clove garlic minced

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp tomato paste 

1 1/2 tsp of sugar 

3 cups of broth or just water 

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil 

2 tsp heavy cream 

Ground black pepper and salt to taste

1. Heat up oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add garlic, onion, carrot and potato. Let cook until translucent. 

2. Add tomatoes, paste, basil, broth/water, sugar, and salt/pepper. 

3. Let boil once and simmer until soft. 

4. Puree soup with immersion blender 

5. Put back in pan, add cream and let heat through.

6. Serve with croutons or garlic bread

Chocolate chip cookie cake

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.

Melty chocolate chips!


  • 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!


  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.

My baby is turning 9

It’s come up way too fast. God willing in just a couple months, my eldest will be 9 years old.

Where did the time go? I still remember those funny conversations and fears of balloons popping. But when I open my eyes, I see a beautiful girl who loves to read, who always wants to help me in the kitchen and asks thoughtful questions.

With the coming of age, comes responsibilities. In Islam at the age of 9, a girl becomes baligh, or capable to undertake religious duties, like praying and fasting. We have been preparing FZ for this day for a while now. Slowly we started her praying once a day, and fasting for a half a day. While it was hard at the beginning, now she has approached these responsibilities with maturity and grace.

My husband and I are keen on communicating the importance of these obligations first and foremost. Instead of talking about all the “rules,” we talk about why and what these duties mean to us as Muslims. Sure there are times I just don’t have the answer, but I am grateful to God for helping us ease our way through this transition. I have found that if I keep it real, instead of dodging the question, my kids understand.

I am proud of being Muslim and while many things in life are difficult, I try to show my daughter that there is a certain beauty to working hard for God’s pleasure. Because our existence is owed to Him, these acts of worship bring us closer to Him, especially when we undertake these obligations purely for Him.

We are looking forward to celebrating this big day with our daughter, and we will definitely be doing it up big. When you take time to care about the things that matter, then your child will also give it priority above everything else.

Watching our children grow up is hard. With growth comes independence, and for parents, that means learning to let go. Learning to let our children make their own decisions and mistakes. It means standing on the sidelines and secretly cheering them on, and if they fall, it means lovingly giving them guidance to continue on. But through it all, we must stand firm and communicate with love and understanding. Sometimes tough love is necessary for helping mold our children into successful adults. But if we don’t keep the doors of communication open, we only stand to create barriers between ourselves.

Here’s to a new milestone, and praying for many more wonderful memories, under God’s protection and mercy.

My dear daughter, it has been a pleasure watching you blossom into a beautiful, mature young woman. May He protect you always, and guide you.

Yes, one more lollipop does matter

We love visiting home for the summers. We love hanging out with grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. But I’m not going to lie – the routines going upside down, soda up the wazoo and the spoiling makes me want to pull my hair out. 

What happened to 8 p.m. bedtime? What happened to no soda? What happened to limited screen time?

I think I’m pretty flexible when it comes to my kids. On vacation mode I let many things fly. Bedtimes are the first to go. I start mixing water in their sodas. You get the picture.

But there are a few red lines, and I think I’m not asking for a lot if I stand by a few rules. Like sweets before dinner. Or getting what you want after throwing a tantrum. No way.

I think some in my family might see me as a meanie while denying my child ice cream at dinner time, but to me it’s unacceptable to give in. It means my child is hungry and he/she needs food, not empty calories. 

And as parents I think we can’t always be strict, especially among extended family. We have to pick our battles. And I don’t mind letting elders spoil my kids, within limits. 

But I should be there to supervise and step in. I’d like to just hand over my duties so I get a vacation, too. But then I’d lose my title as Mama the Great. 

We’ve been entrusted with taking care of and raising a generation, and I’d hate to screw it up because I was lazy.

I like the power I have to deny a lollipop or another cookie. I just hope it doesn’t go to my head….

5 reasons why a good parenting partner is really important

1. You can hand them off – it’s nice to know that right when that little whistle is about to blow in your mind, you can say “I need a break!” and run away!! I’ve often added this part: “Just letting you know I might not come back. Dinner’s on the stove.” Don’t worry – I always go back.

2. They help ease parenting stress – You love your kids and you know them best, but there are plenty of times when you feel like you’re at a roadblock. Your kid is lying. Or biting. Or talking back. What’s next? How do I go from here? A good parenting partner really knows when to ease your worries and give useful advice. 

3. They know how to play good parent/bad parent – When you have to always be the bad parent, it stinks. A good parenting partner is essential in keeping the balance between fun parenting and party-pooper parenting. Lord knows I’ve been on both ends and because of this balance, it’s nice to know my kids don’t consider me the “always no” parent. Not yet, anyway.

4. They know how to work around kids – A hands-off parent is a real killjoy. When you’re cooking dinner and breaking up a fight simultaneously, you need a good parenting partner to notice your kid is doing the potty dance and guide him/her to the bathroom. Not one who says, “Uh, I don’t do number 2.” 

Or during those days (you know those days) when you’re tired, haven’t had dinner, and now it’s bedtime, it’s a relief to have a good parenting partner swoop down and take over bedtime so you can grab a bite. 

5. They know how to enjoy those beautiful moments – When the tantrums subside and the food fights stop, and you’re left with those cute smiles, warm hugs and funny sayings – who better to share those moments with?? A good parenting partner will relish in those wonderful times with you, and make your heart feel very full.

5 reasons why yelling at your kids is no use

1. You sound like a monster, not a mom – No one ever yells “I love you!” or “You’re so wonderful! Come here and let me give you a HUG!!!!!” Since living with kids means you repeat something like a million times a day, yelling all the time will only turn you into a fire-breathing monster parent. And turn your house into a hostile environment. Ever seen a TV show depict the inside of a prison? Enough said.

2. Yelling doesn’t make anything happen faster – Oh, I’ve tried. Yelling only makes kids resent you and the action you want done.

3. It makes your throat hurt – And that’s no fun.

4. You raise a ‘yeller’ – If you teach your kids that yelling is the way to get things done, they will eventually yell at the spouses and then, their kids. Soft, yet stern words, go a long way in getting your point across.

5. It teaches your kids to tune you out – Yelling and shouting are ineffective ways to communicate. The saying ‘kindness kills,’ is really true. If you go toward your kids with compassion and firmness, they will see you mean business. I once simply showed my daughter I was disappointed with her actions. I didn’t yell or shout. And it made her understand quickly, without tears and drama.

A home should be a safe place to learn and grow. The same reason why we wouldn’t want our kids’ teachers yelling at our kids, we should instill in ourselves. There are times when you need to give a good shout, and that’s fine. But it should be reserved for those instances – a toddler running into the street, a child going toward a hot stove, etc.