Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Our Sofia the First #DisneySide party

My little princesses were swept off their feet by the magic of Disney as we hosted our Sofia the First themed #DisneySide @Home Celebration last Saturday.

Ever since we received our #DisneySide @Home Celebration kit last month through BSM Media we had been planning excitedly for D-day. We were helped by two GTA based companies - Henna Decor and Wishes Princess Parties who added some more pixie dust to the event.

My modest little home was transformed into a fairytale kingdom with all the party supplies from my #DisneySide @Home Celebration kit along with those provided by Henna Decor, a GTA based event decor company. We also got a few party supplies and favors from Party City.

Sofia the First Dessert Table and Candy Buffet by Henna Decor
Sofia the First Dessert Table

Ayesha from Henna Decor also set up a candy buffet at the dessert table which was a big hit with the kids. Every kid received a treat bag to fill with his/her choice of candies to take home.

 I made chocolate cupcakes and Tres Leches cake filled with whipped cream and pineapple tidbits for the dessert table.

Sofia the First Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla ButtercReam Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Sofia the First Purple Tres Leches Rosette Cake
Tres Leches Layer Cake with pineapple tidbits

We had purple (grape) Kool Aid as drink and some savory snacks at the snack table. For main course we had the eternal party favorite - pizza.

Sofia the First Party Snack Table
Sofia the First Snack Table

We had a special guest at our princess party - Ice Queen Elsa from Wishes Princess Parties , a GTA based company specializing in Princess character entertainment for children's parties and events.

 She enthralled the little princesses with some fun games and princess etiquette lessons.

Princess Visit - Ice Queen Elsa from Wishes Princess Parties
Queen Elsa from Wishes Princess Parties

She also posed for pictures with the little guests and gave them autographed coloring pages. The kids just adored her.

Princess Visit - Ice Queen Elsa from Wishes Princess Parties
Ice Queen Elsa giving princess etiquette lessons

We filled the mini snack pails from my #DisneySide @Home Celebration kit with Sofia the First lip balms, stickers, badges, hair accessories etc. to give out as party favors. We also had paper tiaras for the little princesses.

There were a few princes too at the party for whom we had light up swords and paper crowns.

Sofia the First party - Favors Table
Sofia the First Favors Table


Sofia the First Party Favors
Sofia the First Favors

Sofia the First Party Tiaras
Sofia the First Paper Tiaras

Every corner of our house was decked up in purple and pink.

Sofia the First Party Decor by Henna Decor
Pink Hanging Lanterns

Sofia the First Party Decor
Stairs decor

We used one of the paper place mats from my #DisneySide @Home Celebration kit for making a door sign for our front door. I downloaded the Waltograph (Disney) font for printing the message.

Sofia the First Party Door Sign
Sofia the First Door Sign

We had also designed our own invitations using a free template available online. We got them printed from the Walmart website - fast, cheap and easy way to make professional looking party invitations.

Sofia the First Party Invitation
Sofia the First Party Invitation
My daughters loved their Sofia the First costumes purchased from Disney's online store.

Sofia the First Costumes
Sofia the First costumes

The little princesses and princes are still talking about all the fun that they had at the magical celebration.

A big thanks to Disney, Mom Select/BSM Media, Henna Decor and Wishes Princess Parties for a memorable party.

Disclaimer: I received free products and services as a host for Disney Side @Home Celebration. All views and opinions expressed are my own. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post.

Friday, 30 January 2015

I'm a #DisneySide @Home Celebration Host once again!

My girls and I are thrilled to be chosen as a #DisneySide @Home Celebration host once again. Like last year, a select number of bloggers were chosen to receive a wonderful party planning kit for hosting a magical Disney Party as part of the 'Show your Disney Side' campaign.

Show Your Disney Side


Last year we had a great time at our Mickey and Minnie themed #DisneySide party. This year we received an awesome Sofia the First themed kit. My daughters were delighted especially since my elder one is named Sofia.

 The kit contained:
Party supplies -  Plates, cups, napkins, party decor, table cover, snack bowls,cupcake stand, coloring book, snack pails, sandwich bags, paper tiaras, toys, games, favors etc.
Baking Supplies- Tie Dye Cake Mix, Wilton Sprinkles, Mickey Mouse Cake Pan
Classic Disney Paraphernalia - Luggage Tags, Vacation Planning DVD, Chore chart
Hostess gifts -  All detergent mighty pacs, Wisk and Snuggle sample packs, Twinings herbal tea.
HP Photo Card packs

Sofia the First themed party supplies

A big thanks to Disney, Mom Select/BSM Media, HP and all the sponsors. Time to start planning a princess party for my princesses! Stay tuned!


Disclaimer: I received free stuff as a host for Disney Side @Home Celebration. All views and opinions expressed are my own. I did not receive any other compensation for this post.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

My little one turned 6 yesterday and as has been the tradition in my half-chocolate half-vanilla lover family, I made a simple vanilla cake filled with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream for my vanilla cake lover.


It's a 2 layer 9 inch cake which required about 5 cups of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I added about 3/4 cup of fresh strawberry puree to 1/3rd the frosting to use as a filling between the two layers and also for the crumb coat. However, as it was my first time piping ruffles I decided to do it with plain vanilla swiss meringue frosting rather than strawberry flavored. The ruffles didn't turn out to be as neat I would have liked them to be but as they say practice makes a man perfect.

After I finished piping the entire cake I realized that I didn't have any space to write the birthday girls' name. What good is a birthday cake without the birthday girl's name, so I decided to go in for a DIY bunting banner with my girls' craft supplies. All it took was a couple of straws, some construction paper, scissors, ribbon, stickers and marker and I had a beaming 6 year old, Alhamdulillah (all praises to Allah).





Sunday, 11 January 2015

Pomegranate Soufflé

After a long hiatus I finally found the time to return to blogging and decided to start the new year on a sweet note.

Pomegranate Souffle

This is another one of my quick and easy dessert recipes which can be whipped up in under 15 minutes. It's not exactly a soufflé in the strict sense of the word but I decided to name it thus since it has a light and airy texture like a soufflé. You can say it's a no-bake, eggless soufflé.

Pomegranate Souffle

The recipe can be easily tweaked to make other fruit flavored souffles. I have tried it with orange juice and orange jelly crystals to make Orange Souffle and it tasted equally delicious.

Ingredients for souffle



Ingredients:

For souffle

1 tbsp gelatin
1/4 cup water
1 cup (200 ml) pomegranate juice
1 packet (3 oz) red jelly crystals (strawberry, raspberry or mixed fruit flavor)
1 tin (370 ml) evaporated milk
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.

For garnish

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1tbsp icing sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Method:

1) Soak gelatin in water for .5-10 minutes
2) In a sauce pan add pomegranate juice, jelly crystals & soaked gelatin. Cook at low heat until gelatin and jelly crystals dissolve and the juice looks clear. Keep aside.
3) In a blender add evaporated milk & sugar, blend it for few minutes. Then pour jelly juice mixture and blend . Lastly add cream and blend until combined. Pour in bowl. Keep in refrigerator. Cool till set.
4) For garnish beat the heavy cream with icing sugar and pipe it on the souffle. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Caffe Demetre: Restaurant Review

Whenever my husband and I are craving something sweet especially if it's late at night, the first place that comes to mind is Caffe Demetre. We have been a regular patron at their Courtney Park location for several years now and continue to be even though they opened up another location a couple of years ago near Square One which is much closer to our place. 

A couple of months ago I came to know that Demetre had launched a new menu on their 25th anniversary. I was eager to check it out but since I had been in Houston for the last couple of months I didn't get the chance to do so until last weekend.

The long lineups especially at the Courtney Park location vouch for the popularity of the place. Demetre is primarily known for it's artisanal ice cream which is churned daily, in-house in small batches. However, there's more to it than just ice cream. Now with the new menu they have introduced an even wider variety of exquisite desserts which include crepes, waffles, cakes, pies as well as beverages.

Toffee Snob at Caffe Demetre
Toffee Snob

This time we opted for Toffee Snob (Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Honey Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Anglaise) and Tongue Depressor (Cocoa Chanel Ice Cream, Brownies, Belgian Dark Chocolate Sauce with Belgian White Chocolate Buttons). 

Tongue Depressor at Caffe Demetre
Tongue Depressor

 As always the portions were huge and the plating was elegant. I often skip dinner or have something very light if I am planning to go to Demetre for dessert.I loved the Toffee Snob even though by the end of it I felt that it was a bit too sweet for my taste. My chocoholic daughter loved the Tongue Depressor but it was impossible for her to finish it off alone and her little sister was happy to help her out.

The ambiance is nice and cheery, casual enough to satisfy a craving without bothering to dress up and formal enough for special occasions. The service is good too though it might be a bit slow when the place is packed but that's understandable.

Caffe Demetre

I had contacted Mr. Gary Theodore, Founder and President of Caffe Demetre to know whether the items on the new menu were halal or not and he confirmed the following:

  • "None of our menu items contain gelatin or animal based mono and di glycerides or any other animal by-products other than dairy and eggs.
  • · The following cake items are Halal Certified (from the manufacturer): Plain Cheesecake; Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake; Salty Caramel Fudge Brownie Cheesecake.
  • · Alcohol (Ingredient): In the new menu, we intentionally sought to eliminate alcohol (in all forms) from all of our ice cream flavours except one. Our new Honey Madagascar Vanilla Iced Cream (and our Dessert Crepe Mixes) contain a pure Madagascar vanilla extract which contains a small amount of alcohol.* As you may or may not be aware of, all high quality vanilla extracts require a small amount of alcohol to properly process the vanilla flavour in its purest and most concentrated form- this unfortunately cannot be avoided. In our research and development we did experiment with alcohol-free vanilla powder, however we found that it greatly compromised the flavour of the finished product and therefore could not use it. All of the other new ice cream flavours in the new menu (other than Honey Madagascar Vanilla) contain no alcohol. Our Dessert Waffle Mixes contains no alcohol as well. You should also note that for both the Honey Madagascar Vanilla Iced Cream and Dessert Crepe Mixes, Pure Vanilla Extract is used in the smallest quantity and only accounts for 1% of the total ingredients of both those products.
(*Regarding the issue of whether products containing vanilla extract are halal or not please refer to my previous post)
  • · Alcohol (Liqueurs): Currently, 3 of our 12 locations also offer patrons the following 3 Liqueurs: Grand Marnier, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua. These limited liqueur offerings are not however, offered on our main dessert and coffee menu and are not usually promoted unless patrons specifically ask for them. Those locations offering Liqueurs are the Uptown, Whitby and Kingsway Caffe Demetre cafes. The rest of our locations (nine to be exact) are alcohol (liquor) free."
I am looking forward to try other items in the menu such as their shakes, smoothies, floats and coffee.I would definitely recommend this place to anyone with a sweet tooth.



Caffe Demetre on Urbanspoon

Vanilla Extract: Haram or Halal?

I often receive questions about whether it is permissible to use vanilla extract or consume products containing vanilla extract. When I bake myself I do have the option of buying vanilla extract labelled as halal or use substitutes like vanilla bean, vanilla sugar etc. However, while buying packaged desserts like ice cream or baked goods or while eating out it is very difficult to find the kind of vanilla flavoring that has been used in that particular product.

In one of the issues of Halal Consumer, a publication of IFANCA which is a leading halal certifying agency in North America, there was an article on vanilla flavoring. It was mentioned that products containing vanilla in any form are permissible. However, to get further clarification I wrote to them and this was the response that I received:
Vanilla: Haram or Halal
Vanilla Pods

"When it comes to consuming any product, it is a personal decision. Everyone has to make up their own mind as to what is permissible and what is not permissible. Of course, not everyone is an expert in fiqh or food science, so we all find ourselves seeking information from authorities in each field. I say information rather than guidance, because we each have to decide for ourselves what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and we must feel at peace with our decision. After consultation with Islamic scholars, understanding the food science, and testing we have concluded that products containing less than 0.1% alcohol that is not sourced from an alcoholic beverage can be certified halal. That is to say, the alcohol cannot be beer, wine, hard liquor, etc. or anything that is a consumable alcoholic beverage. It must be alcohol used in the food industry as a processing aid for technical reasons. At less than 0.1%, our testing has confirmed it is not detectable by sight, smell, or taste and it is not intoxicating in any quantity (i.e., eating 10 gallons of ice cream with less than 0.1% alcohol in it will not intoxicate the consumer). On that basis, a consumer product such as ice cream containing less than 0.1% alcohol used for technical reasons would qualify to be halal certified. Now, the vanilla flavoring, which contains 35% alcohol would not qualify for halal certification but its use in the ice cream or other product does not automatically disqualify the ice cream or other product from being halal certified. Also, ice cream may contain other ingredients that are haram, so just because the alcohol may not be a concern, it should still be halal certified. If we certify an ice cream product, it means if it contains any alcohol, it is less than 0.1%, the alcohol did not come from an alcoholic beverage, and all the other ingredients are halal."

Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi in his seminar on Fiqh of Food and Clothing has also stated that it is permissible to consume food items containing vanilla extract in minute quantities. And of course, Allah knows best.




Monday, 8 September 2014

My interview on Sulekha.com

A few weeks ago I was contacted for an interview by Hamida who is the Content Manager for Sulekha US. For those of you who don't know, Sulekha.com is India’s leading online platform that enables millions of transactions in the country. Sulekha US-Canada helps NRIs connect with fellow Indians across the US and Canada.


As I sat down to answer the questions for the interview it was interesting to reflect upon my journey as a food blogger and ponder upon topics such as  my favourite cuisines, spices and even cooking disasters. Please head over to  Sulekha.com  to read the interview and let me know your valuable comments.
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