Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Strawberry Cake

I wanted to share a picture of my recent indulgence. This cake takes me back to childhood late Autumn evenings, where adults sipped Chai with delicious cake and us kids just gobbled the cake down.

It also reminds me of my mums struggle on hot summer days to beat the cream into whipping cream and it still melted even with a double ice bath. Yes it takes time but just looking at it made all my hard work worth it and yes it is gluten free so i enjoyed every bit of it :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mahi Mahi Tacos-Gluten Free

                  This post is long over due and I wanted to share how happy I felt when I discovered glutenfree corn tortilla at my local safeway store. Make your way to the deli section and amidst many types of flour tortilla, you will find corn tortilla. As I found my canvas, it was time to find my paints. I have had beef tacos, chicken quesadilla but never ever tried fish tacos. My husband had tried them and was never satisfied with the taste of them at restaurants, so I decided to give it a go. We got Mahi Mahi fillets from costco; and avacados and red vine tomatoes from superstore. I started and we ate and they were delicious. If you are not a seafood fan and want to have fish in your diet, try this recipe. It has everything to brighten your tastebuds as well as your day.


2 Mahi Mahi fish fillet (cubed)
cumin                            1 tsp
corriander                      1 tsp
south west spice mix      2 tsp
paprika                          1/2 tsp
salt                                1/4 tsp
garlic paste                    1 tsp
oil                                 1 tbsp

Pica de Gallo

tomatoes chopped         1 cup
green pepper chopped    1/3 cup
red onions chopped        1/3 cup
cilantro                           1/3 cup
lime                                2 tbsp
sugar                              1 tbsp
salt                                 1/4 tsp
powdered cumin             1/4 tsp
powdered corriander       1/4 tsp
paprika                           1/4 tsp

Mix it all up 5 mintues before you cook your fish so it stays fresh.


Marinate the fish in all the spices and garlic after the fish has defrosted. Let it rest in fridge for 10 minutes with the marinate. Heat oil on a medium high-heat in a pan. Sautee/Fry the fish and seperate the cubes as much you can, this way the cubes get a nice spicey crust. The fish cooks within 5 minutes but my husband and I prefer well done cubes so I let it cook for 7-8 minutes. Mahi mahi uncooked has beautiful pink-white marble color that reminds me of a pink rock salt that I once saw in Pakistan near Kalabagh Damn (Mianwali). When it cooks it takes a beautiful opaque cream color.

Heat your torillas on a pan and assemble your tortilla with pica de gallo, avacado, and lots of julliene salad. It is one of my favourite healthy foods and this is the only way I have tried them. If you have a different recipe that you like or have suggestion please let me know, I want to try all variations

crush all the spices for the marinate

cook more for a blackened look/taste
The spicy fish and cold pica de gallo = perfect match

This is my cheese ( healthy)

Cattle Boyz Southwest Spice - Review

This is currently my favourite spice blend that is perfect for marinating and grilling. It is smokey and has sugar that balances well with the saltiness of the spice mix. The smokiness of paprika add a perfect heat to your dishes.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Celiac disease - Diagnosed (My Story)

Hi Readers,

        Today I would like to share my story of how I found out that I had Celiac disease. I considered myself pretty healthy. I ate everything that my mom made at home and she did a wonderful job of balancing vegetables, meats, grains fruits, desserts. I was a thin child growing up but had a little bloated belly right where the intestines are. I started gaining weight when we moved to Syria and I was introduced to Tang and Kraft cream cheese spread when I was fourteen.
I always loved eating rice with masala dishes or dry vegetable dishes. I loved eating tarka rice  (fried onions with spices), white rice with yogurt and biryani. I liked roti(bread) but with very few dishes like bhindi (Okra), Kerela (bitter melon) and Paye (Goat Feet curry). When I moved to Winnipeg, for University, I ate whatever I felt like eating. I avoided bread as much I could and started disliking pizzas, burgers and bread. I ate rice, poutine (best Canadian food ever ), fish o fillets, chicken fingers and lots of candy.  I gained quite a few pounds, again a sign i thought that I was pretty healthy.
Now, few things started to happen simultaneously. My teeth started to get very sensitive, I started losing hair, and my nails broke every chance they got. In summer of 2009, I lost a lot of weight and my diet consisted of salads and bread (which is weird because bread is all carbs). I thought that I was just working out really hard. Then fall of 2009, I started getting dizzy spells and high blood pressure. I talked to my doctor she took some blood tests and recommended iron and vitamin D.
My first year education practicum started and I got busy with work and studies. One day, I read an article about how cinnamon helped people with celiac disease to heal their intestines. I read the symptoms and got concerned and told my husband, who helped me get tested. My doctor took it very lightly but referred me to a blood specialist. The blood specialist tested my blood for tTG/IgA/IgG and EMA and it came back positive, which meant that I had celiac disease. Then, she recommended endoscopy to confirm that I had celiac disease. Here is a (Link) that can help you understand that testing process.
In addition to other symptoms I mentioned above, I had body aches and started losing skin pigment. I had a confused digestive system and regular migraines didn’t help either. After being tested, everything made sense. Why I lost weight when I ate bread? There were no nutrient being absorbed and that bloated belly was a clear sign of inflammation in my intestines.
It took me two years to completely take gluten out of my diet. I struggled with eating out, making food at home that I liked and over indulging in gluten free products (more calories than regular food). Finally, now I am at a place where I am educated about gluten free options and food. I finally cook and eat healthy. I use gluten free flour, products and eat at gluten friendly restaurants. I have recovered mostly, skin pigmentation is normal, my body doesn’t ache and I don’t get dizzy spells. I am absorbing nutrients like a healthy person. I believe that writing this blog heals me as well. I hope people find it helpful and get encouraged to get tested and see how easy it is to be gluten free.

I would love to hear your stories, please share. Thanks!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chicken Karhai - Lahore Style


It has been a few weeks since I last posted and to the readers that kept coming back, I appreciate your support very much. It feels amazing when you see the map on blogger, lit up in green all over; countries like England, Saudi, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Pakistan, India and so many more. I love writing this blog because I have realized that it focuses my unpolished creativity and my need to share stories in one place. 

I am very blessed to have been born in a beautiful country like Pakistan. I am more fortunate to have visited different towns and have tasted countless dishes, prepared differently in every region of Pakistan. The following recipe is called Chicken Karhai. It is a staple dish that is prepared in Pakistan to Welcome guests, to show appreciation to family and friends and to feed hungry Travelers on the road (Yes I am talking about those roadside restaurants that serve dishes like ghee loaded chana daal to an amazing karhai with soft and fluffy naans).

Now the name of this dish comes from the pot that this dish is usually cooked in. It is the same as a wok and is called Karhai in Urdu. At restaurants, the chicken karhai is cooked at high heat with variety of spices and herbs and is served in the same karhai it was cooked in. The consistent use of a wok blackens the surface and adds the blackened look of a restaurant karhai.  At home, my mum’s chicken karhai looks bright red with the use of extra tomatoes, no garam masala and a completely clean karhai ;)

I follow my mum’s recipe but add garam masala because I like the extra toasty spices in the karhai.


Oil                         3 tbsp if using non-stick wok, 5 tbsp if using stainless steel
Chicken               1 kg
Garlic                   2 tbsp minced
Cumin                  ½ tsp
Salt                        1 tsp and then according to taste add more
Cayenne:             1 ½  tsp
Black pepper      ½ tsp
Turmeric:           ½  tsp
Garam Masala:  1 tsp
Yogurt                  1tbsp
Tomatoes:           3 large
Ginger:                 1 tsp (julienne)
Cilantro:               2 tbsp
Green Chile         3-4

  •  Heat oil in a wok, add garlic and let it heat for 15 seconds on medium-high heat.
  •   Then add chicken, salt and cumin and fry the chicken on medium-high heat.
  •  Let the chicken get light brown from one side then flip it in the pan.
  • Once both sides of chicken are browned, add cayenne, black pepper, garam masala, turmeric and yogurt and Sautee everything together. The yogurt lets the spices, mix well without being burnt on the medium-high heat. 
  • Then turn the heat on medium-low. Cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes cook the chicken thoroughly. Turn heat back on medium high, this time to get rid of excess water. The more you cook karhai the better it gets.·    
  • Puree two tomatoes and add that to the wok, reduce the masala to half.
  • Chop the last tomato and add that to the wok. From this point you will need to stir so the beautiful masala does not stick to the pan.
  •  Let it cook and stir it until you see a layer of oil forming and the water reducing from the karhai. (Approx. 10-15 mins).
  •  Once it is ready, turn the heat off and add ginger, cilantro and green chile. Serve with naan or rice pilaf.

  •     If you eat mild spices, you can use less cayenne, green chile and black pepper.
  •    Garama masala and cumin add to the taste and shouldn’t make the dish spicy.
  •   Add more tomatoes for more sauce.(masala)
  •  Taste the salt before you add the garnish. Add more if you want to and cook and stir for two more minutes.
  •  Use any pan as long as the chicken can be fried with its masala.
  •  chop all the tomatoes if you want more of a body to their dish.
  •    If you don’t like cilantro add parsley :) 

Let me know, how it turns out for you. I would appreciate feedback, questions and comments.


Sautee Garlic 15 seconds

Add cumin with the chicken

Add spices and yogurt.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 min on medium-low heat.
Add Tomato Puree
Reduce the masala to half
Add chopped tomatoes
Reduce more if you want a roasted look

This looks ready, notice the oil on the top sides.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Haleem - Represents Pakistan's culture (Gluten free :))

Haleem: Threads of beef, a bite of lentils and oats and melody of spices with delicious garnishes. Haleem is a true representation of the subcontinent/Mughal heritage. It is a very well known dish in Lahore, Karachi (Pakistan) and Hyderabad (India).  It has a beautiful golden, dull yellow color, its consistency is very similar to creamy dish of risotto. It’s made with aromatic and hot spices. It is served with crispy fried onions for texture, ginger, lemon juice to cut through the spiced creaminess.

An original recipe of haleem requires 16-20 hours of cook time and if you have had that haleem you are one of the lucky ones. My mum used to start cooking it at night so we can have for lunch for the next day. She would brown the meats with garlic ginger and haleem spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Then she would add soaked lentils and wheat and lots of water in the big pot. She would put the heat on very low temperature, cover the pot and would stick wet dough (flour and water) around the edges so no moisture left the pot. Then it would cook all night. I remember once my mum opened the pot in front of me, the meat was off the bones and almost shredded. There used be a light layer of oil and lentils were just melted together. Then my mum would cook it more and add fried onions to the pot.  Imagine waking up to the smell of celebration, the expectation of company, love and happiness. Haleem was made at my parent’s home for Eid, Weddings and Birthdays. My mum always served it with Naan, however I loved eating it on its own. I want to add that my mum is the best cook in the world. I mean it.

I make haleem every month because it makes my husband and me very happyJ. Now my version of haleem cooks in 4 hours. Yes it is still a long time but so worth the work. It is a hearty meal with lots of nutrients and calories (Just go for a walk after). I do use tools like the pressure cooker, hand mixture/chopper and a spice mix etc.
The process of making haleem is very soothing, creative and fulfilling. You begin with a packet of beef, lentils, oats and spices and end up with this beautiful dish which makes everyone very surprised and happyJ.
  •        500 gms beef cubes
  •       1 cup of yellow split chana *
  •          1/2 cup of salmon colored masoor daal*
  •         1/3 cup of Red Mill’s Hot Cereal 
  •          1 tbsp of garlic paste
  •          1 tbsp ginger
  •          2 tbsp of yogurt
  •          A packet of Shan’s Haleem Spice Mix* 
  •          1 ½ cup of sliced onions (2 tbsp for garnish after fried)
  •          2 tbsp julienne ginger (garnish)
  •          2 tbsp chopped cilantro(garnish)
  •          3-4 green chopped chillies(garnish)
  •          2 small limes(garnish)
  •      1 cup of canola/corn oil

  •    Soak the lentils together for at least 2 hours (not the oats)
  •    Boil and cook the lentils in 7 cups of water for an hour on a medium heat.
  •   In a pressure cooker add ½ cup of oil, Sautee the beef with garlic and ginger paste, add ½ pack of spices, sautee for 30 seconds, keep stirring and then add the yogurt.
  •    Stir for 3 min and then add 6 cups of water, let it boil and then close the lid.
  •    Cook it for 15 minutes after the whistle of the pressure cooker sounds.
  •     You don’t need to have pressure cooker, follow the same instruction until adding the water. Your cooking time will increase from 15-30 minutes to 45-60 minutes. Until the meat is cooked.
  •     Add the meat mixture to the cooking lentils. If you think there is too much water, don’t worry that will change with time of cooking.
  •   Get 6 pieces of beef cubes out of pot in a separate bowl. Once they are cooled, shred them with your hands like thin threads.
  •          Let the meat and lentils cook together for half an hour on low medium heat, so it is simmering. Stir occasionally. Let it cool afterwards and mix it with a hand mixture like a soup. You can also use the chopper. Once everything is emulsified, add the shredded meat and simmer  the mixture for another 45 minutes.
  •  Fry onions in the remaining oil on medium heat until they are golden brown. Save 2 tbsp for garnish add the rest of the onions in the simmering pot. You will see the color changing from pale yellow to golden yellow.
  •  In the same oil, heat the rest of the spice packet for 30-45 seconds and add that to the haleem as well.
  •   From here the consistency of the haleem will change from soup-like to creamy thick sauce. Add the oats and cook it for another hour on very low heat.
  •  Now the more you cook, the better it’s going to taste. So if thickens before time, I always add a cup of water and cook it again on low heat. Once you start to the see oil spots while it bubbles, it is ready.
  •  Serve it with, gluten free bread (recipe link), and the garnish of fried onions, green chillies, julienne ginger, chopped cilantro and small limes.

  •    My mum in-law gave me a tip; to fry the onions on medium heat and add salt, so the water of the onions gets evaporates, leaving the onions extra crispy.
  •  *You can get these products from any South Asian, Indian/Pakistani Stores.
  •    You can use the store fried onions in packets, however they may have flour/wheat in them.
  •    It is a spicy dish, so eat with caution.
  •    You can use home spice mix for the haleem for the same measurement of meat and lentils.
        •  1 tbsp cayenne pepper
        •   1 tsp turmeric
        •    3 tbsp Garam Masala
        •    1/4 tsp black pepper
        •    1 grinded bay leaf
        • 2 grinded curry leaf
        • 1/2 tsp grinded mustard seeds
        • salt for taste (1-2 levelled table spoons of salt
If you have a different recipe for haleem or try this at home, let me know how it turns out.


Once the spices are sauteed for 30 seconds, add yoghurt.

Seperate few pieces of meat for shredded texture that is added later.
Dont worry about haleem being too soup-like. It needs this water to emulsify everything.

Stir if your pan is too wine, to brown everything equally.

when it bubbles by the end there should be small pools of oil , that means your haleem is ready to be eaten.

Garnish-Adds an extra dimension of taste to your delicious haleem

My version of Garam Masala

2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp corriander
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 black cardemom
1 tsp green cardomem
1/2 tsp cinammon
1 tsp cloves

Heat all the whole spices on a pan on medium heat until you start smelling it. Grind everything in a coffee grinder. I have one for just spices. You could increase the amounts mentioned above and store it in an air tight jar.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A snack from Damascus.

          I have had an amazing childhood. My dad was in the air force of Pakistan and because of that we moved to different cities and different countries a lot. My worldly experiences were amazing and always revolved around good food and beautiful people. This story is very dear to my heart. We moved to Damascus, Syria in 97’ from Pakistan. As a child growing up, I always heard stories from cousins who lived abroad, about how different Pakistan was from where they lived. The visuals in my head were grandeur and full of Magic. This probably also has to do with all the children movies we used to see i.e. Matilda, Aladdin, Baby Genius etc.
       My first thought when we landed at the Airport in Syria, my first thought was “that’s it”. Where are all the malls that people talk about in movies? Where are all the toy stores? I remember reading signs in Arabic, few in English. It was sunny and everything looked very desert like. It had the same street stores like Pakistan, same farmer’s markets. The cars were similar, the road signs were similar. There were hotels, roundabouts, and then we reached our Inn. That was green, there were tall building and children were playing outside. We got cleaned up and got ready for lunch. Have you ever been so hungry that you start to play eating with the utensilsJ? I was that hungry. Now remember I am from a place where spices of all kinds are a must in main dishes, salads are cut and mixed together. The curries are colorful and are cooked in a lot of oil for flavour with cilantro, green Chile and ginger.
          The food came as it always comes in Middle Eastern countries, Hummus, Muta’abal, Whole salad veggies, pickled purple green vegetables (Turnips, cucumbers, olives).  At that time, my face resembled someone who wanted lasagna but was served boiled vegetables instead. In my little head, all I saw were vegetables and different kinds of Pasty things.  My mum took the lead and cut the cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes and tried hummus with a carrot. She smiled and said nothing. My dad tried and talked it up. Then he started eating hummus with khubaz (bread). I tried hummus and didn’t like it. I felt it was bland and reminded me of mushy moist bread. I did like muta’abil though; the grilled eggplant with fresh parsley, tahini and garlic was a perfect salad dish for me. My initial disappointment was overcome with happiness when the server brought a beautiful grilled chicken on a bed of rice and some kind of nuts. My mum broke a piece, gave me some rice and nuts, I took a bite of the chicken, again bland and I could taste chicken ( which was weird for me as I liked taste of spices more than just plain chicken)………I had to eat so I took another bite, this time with rice and pine nuts. I think that was the first time I realised how important texture and natural taste of food is. It was grilled sticky chicken with skin with lightly browned rice and crunchy earthy nutty fried pine nuts. After this experience, I tried everything I could in Damascus and eventually started liking humus. However I still pick muta’abil or babganoush over hummus.
                We had been living in Damascus for six months when my parents decided to move from Mezza to Mezza Jabel. Mezza was an area for foreigners with western inspired restaurants and grocery stores. And mezza jabel was in the heart of Damascus, very close to a bazaar, authentic and local. I am glad we moved because that is when we met beautiful people of Syria, learned to speak Arabic, had my grandfather over and enjoyed delicious food.  During our move, my dad asked me to go with him to the market just to look around. My mum and my brother were at home I think. Anyways, we took a walk down the bazaar, there were fresh food markets, barber shops, clothing shops, electronics and right by the end was a shop that were making manakesh. They are mini pizzas where dough is hand tossed; topped with local ingredients like spinach, lamb eggplant or just plain za’atar (roasted oregano and sesame spice).  They were small and in shape of a palm, with corners twisted around. I remember looking at dad skeptically, before I took a bite of the spinach and pomegranate seed manakesh. It was hot, the bread was flaky and the topping was tangy and earthy at the same time. It was delicious. 
      We had so many different kinds of these delicious snacks when we lived in Syria and then again in Alain, where my parents live now. I think my favourite has to be Za’atar with olive oil topping. The flaky bread is a perfect canvas for roasted sesame and oregano spice with olive oil. When I went gluten free, I used to miss all the wheat products that I once loved eating.  I finally was able to make the dough for manakesh. In memory of my Damascus manakesh, I give you the gluten free version. This came out to be flaky, soft and stretchy. Perfect for pizza doughs as well.


2 tbsp Tapioca Flour
2 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp yellow corn flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1/4 cup of egg white (beaten)

  • Soak the yeast in 1/5 cup of water
  • Mix all the dry ingredients
  • Then add yeast, oil, and egg white(beaten) and beat until it gets to a cake batter consistency.
  • Then let it rest for at least an hour.
  • It will double in size, mix the batter with a spoon and let it rest again for half hour.
  • Grease a pan and spread a spoonful of batter on the pan. Spread it as wide as you want, it needs to be half an inch in thickness. 
  • Add the topping of za'atar and olive oil (1 tsp and 1 tbsp of olive oil)
  • Spread it over the dough.
  • Bake it at 350 F for 15 mins.

  • You can get Za'atar spice from any Middle Eastern market  or make it at home with equal parts dried orgenao and sesame seed grinded together with salt to tasted.
  • You can add an egg wash to brown your manakesh when it bakes.
  • I keep it like batter consistency to achieve flakiness and moist manakesh bread.
  • This recipe makes 4 snack size servings
  • Each serving has 130 calories

All the flours and xanthum gum

beaten egg whites

Dry and then wet ingredients

Beat it until a cake batter consistency

Let it rest, and double in size for an hour

15 mins in the oven and its ready.