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Snack time!

“Get your snack attack on.” 
At this point, you’ve probably gathered that I. love. food. Love eating it, love preparing it, love shopping for it. Love it love it love it! My dream job would be to make and eat food all day every day. 

For now though, I do need food I can take to work and snack on at those 12.15 pm and 3.45 pm points when my tummy begins to rumble. Almonds, carrot sticks, raisins and yoghurt pots have been great so far but I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making my own Chevra or Bombay mix. Chevra is a Maharashtrian snack that combines rice flakes, raisins, cashews, peanuts and a couple of spices to make this sweet salty spicy mix that really is quite addictive. 

I whipped up two batches today – one with raisins for me and one without because The Husband loathes raisins for some incomprehensible reason. There’s loads of versions of this snack, but this is how I prefer it. Here’s what you need: 

(Some of these ingredients are only available in Indian food specialty stores so I’ll list the Indian names for these in brackets alongside):*

10 Cups thin rice flakes, (poha)
¾ cup peanuts (I used red peanuts)
¾ cup cashew nuts
½ cup raisins
¼ cup curry leaves 
¼ dried coconut flakes
3 tbsp toasted fennel seeds 
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric
4 tsps sugar
2 tsps salt (or to taste)
5 tbsp cooking oil 
Fry the rice flakes in batches in a large wok. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, add a teaspoon of turmeric and immediately add 5 cups of the rice flakes. Stir so that all the rice flakes are evenly covered with oil and turmeric. Fry them on medium flame keep stirring to ensure you don’t burn them. When they are a lovely golden mustard color, remove them and place them in a big bowl. 

Repeat the same steps for the second batch of rice flakes. Add these to the bowl.

In the same wok, toast the cashews, peanuts and the curry leaves in a teaspoon of oil. Once the curry leaves are aromatic and the cashews are a light golden brown color, remove these and add them to the bowl with the rice flakes.

Dry toast the coconut flakes (I just used dessicated coconut) and fennel seeds and add it to the bowl of rice flakes.

Lastly add the raisins if you are using them, red chilli powder (we like our food spicy, use less if you prefer this mid), salt and sugar and mix everything together thoroughly, making sure you don’t break the rice flakes.

You’re all done! Pop the chevra into an airtight container to store! Happy snacking! 

*Recipe adapted from Padma’s Kitchen

The M word.

“Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come 90 percent of all your happiness or misery.” 
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Every so often, I receive emails from a certain group informing me of and inviting me to Islamic marriage events that are being held in London. I’m already married and so I’ve never been to one of these events. The latest email I received from this group listed upcoming marriage event sessions like this:


A few people I know think that I’m only really frustrated at the above because I’m already married and therefore do not know how hard it is to find a partner and they argue that these events are helpful. While the above format of marriage event clearly works for some people, I think this method is flawed on so many levels.

For one, look at the division of the community into converts, divorced and widowed, ‘practicing’ (whatever that means), student and under 25 (because young people, who are meant to be focused on pursuing an education, need to find a spouse), and Bengali professionals?

If I wasn’t married, I’d fall into NONE of those categories. I take issue with the ‘practicing’ session most because I looked up what ‘practicing’ is meant to mean on their website and this was the definition they came up with:

The PRACTICING Muslim Marriage Event is especially geared towards those Muslims who actually observe the faith i.e. wear the hijab, have no issues with special needs, race, age, status, wealth, occupation, siblings pecking order and their parents will not be an obstacle to whoever is introduced and else. 

What does that even mean? How does this organisation see fit to judge that people that do not wear a hijab aren’t ‘practicing’ or that people that would prefer to marry someone in relatively the same age bracket as them aren’t observing their faith? 

The Student and Under 25 category description reads:

Due to the lack of opportunities at university and the loss of contact afterwards, where it may be  the last time you see your friends and classmates, to avoid the issue of finding compatible spouses  in later years, this event has been arranged. This event is open to all Muslims who are still
in university or and those 25 and under.

To ‘avoid the issue of finding compatible spouses in the later years’ – i.e. to not get to 26 and still be single because God forbid you’re over 25 and still looking.

Women in the Muslim community are struggling to find partners – there’s no doubt about that – but to do it in a way where you almost segregate the community into Bengali professionals marrying each other and converts marrying converts, completely defeats the purpose of finding a spouse that is from a different background and has different experiences. If the ‘practicing’ Muslims are ones that are not concerned with race or occupation and that is observing the faith – then why hold any other marriage events – surely all the rest, like the Bengali professionals session for example, are not observing the faith if they prefer spouses from a specific racial and occupational background (going by the website’s descriptions).

Some of the best and worst marriages that I’ve seen or heard of have been ones where the partners are from very different backgrounds and the same applies to marriages where partners are from the same background or even the same family. It is far better to concentrate on the actual character and the potential that someone has to be ‘the one’ rather than where they come from or what background they’re from. Take Half our Deen for example, who focus on understanding what a person’s personality is like and what the chances of them being a great match for someone else are.  THAT’S the kind of ‘Muslim marriage event’ we need if any!

10 years down the line, it’s not going to matter that you hit it off at a ‘Bengali Professionals’ Muslim event. What is going to count is the kind of respect, love, mutual understanding and positive energy that you invest in your relationship, because success in marriage does not come “merely thorough finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”- Barnett Brickner 

*Are you following And then she said. by email? If not, just enter your email address on the top right hand corner of the page and click ‘follow.’ You’ll only receive email updates when something is posted. If nothing is posted, no email – simples!* 

Cookie gorging – ’cause I can!

“Some of us aren’t afraid to eat cookies.” 
From a beautifully random picture I found on Facebook

For as long as I can remember, and even more so now what with how popular plastic surgery is and how important it is for 14 year old girls to go on diets, women have obsessed over how much they weigh.
It starts when you’re about 12 and you start caring about how you look and start comparing yourself to others and then continues into your teenage years and then into your twenties (where your body never does what you want it to for some reason) and so on and so forth amplifying as you attempt to diet your way through life. There’s always just one more kilo to lose, or a few pounds you want to drop, or that dress size you’d love to fit into. Then there are ‘those’ women. You know the ones who are about a dress size or two thinner than you and feel that they should take it upon themselves to point it out to you at every possible opportunity. I think obesity is a problem that needs addressing, but at a size 10, I don’t need your patronising  “you should work out more” garbage. Some of us aren’t afraid to eat cookies, thank you very much.
In the spirit of saying “pffftttttttt” to people like this, I’m sharing with you a recipe for Oreos (yes, cookies. shock horror) that I tried last week! Before you make these though, I must warn you the process does take a while and you do need to allow time for the cookie dough to rest in the fridge for two hours before you can work with it, but if you’ve got a quiet Saturday evening and a craving, you will make it work! 
For the cookie dough, you will need:
2 packets of chocolate fudge cake mix (Betty Crocker’s mix is great, but if you’re in the UK, I’ve used the Tesco and Sainsbury’s version and they both work just as well)
3 tablespoons of shortening, melted (I used Trex)
1/2 cup of plain flour, sifted 
1 egg
3 tablespoons of water
For the filling, you will need:
3 and 3/4 cups of icing sugar
1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening, melted
2 tablespoons hot water

Start with the cookie dough – remember you need this to rest for two hours so I’d get started on these about four hours before you want to serve them. Combine all the cookie dough ingredients, except for the water, in a bowl with an electric mixer. Add the water a little bit at a time until the dough forms (you may need more than three tablespoons). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator to chill for two hours.

An hour and a half  later, come back and start working on the filling. Combine all the filling ingredients, adding a little water at a time to bring everything together, much in the same way you did the cookie dough. This should only take you ten minutes. Spend the next twenty minutes thinking about the awesomeness that you are. Haha!

Preheat the oven to 350 F, 180 C or gas mark 4.

Cut the chilled dough into three portions.* On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough to just about 2 cm thick. Use a cookie cutter with a 1.5 inch diameter to cut. Arrange the cut rounds on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake these for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other two portions. If you have a large enough oven, you may be able to do these once. But if yours is like mine, you may need to do this three times (hence the long, quiet Saturday evening)

Once cooled (they need to be cooled completely), roll about half a teaspoon of the filling into a ball and press in between two cookies. Make sure you do this carefully and with even pressure so you don’t risk breaking the cookies. Do this until you’ve used all the cookies and filling. This should make about 50 cookies. If you use a larger cookie cutter though (and I did) you’ll get less.

*If the dough seems too tacky to work with, work some flour into the dough to make it workable. Just make sure you’re not putting too much in as that will then make it tough.

Now all you need is a glass of milk and some nonsensical TV! Go on, you know you want a cookie!

Recipe courtesy: Todd Wilbur

Religion is not a competition.

“… for you to just pick up the Bukhari (hadith collection) and use the translation of a hadith to start arguing with someone, this is a disservice to the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).” 
 Nouman Ali Khan

Everyone’s got a pet peeve; something that never fails to irritate, frustrate and/or annoy them. People that think religion is a competition are my pet peeves.

These are people that use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spout their disrespectful, inaccurate, judgmental opinions about things that are open to varied religious interpretations or religious debate. Nouman Ali Khan talks about intellectual humility and warns against spewing fatwa (religious rulings) and interpreting Hadiths (teaching of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) without having sufficient knowledge. Take a look:

I rarely engage in religious debates on social media platforms such as Facebook because I often find that all people do is look up an issue online and post lengthy hadith and tafaseer (explanations) that they get off some website or the other. Most people aren’t sure if the source is credible, and some aren’t even concerned about it relating to the actual thread or discussion, they just enjoy the sound of their own voice. 
Recently, I had the misfortune of engaging in a discussion with someone over whether or not you should wish people a ‘Happy New Year.’ This individual insisted that we not wish anyone a ‘Happy New Year’ because the Islamic new year does not begin on January 1. He then went on to insist that this was a practice of the kuffar (disbelievers) and that we should not partake in it. He concluded with a statement that is beginning to be used widely in such debates by these ‘intellectuals’ who think they are winning some sort of High-Level-Imaan (faith) race – “May you be guided, God willing.” 
My argument to the above was simply that, despite the fact that the Islamic calendar should take precedence over the Gregorian calendar, we do use the Gregorian calendar in day to day life and the fact of the matter is that it IS a new year and people using ‘Happy New Year,’ simply hope that you have a happy one! It is grossly unnecessary to begin to over-think such a trivial matter, let alone spend time debating it. 
The Muslim community has many strengths, but its biggest weakness lies in the inability to identify what is important and what warrants debate and discussion. Sexual abuse, mental health issues, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment – all these are issues that exist widely in our British Muslim community and what we choose to do is brush these under the carpet. All because, arguing that wishing people a ‘Happy New Year’ is haraam or the way you wear your hijab is wrong is much more important than addressing pertinent social issues. 
The person responsible for this video, for instance, should really be ashamed of themselves. They have divided the video into two parts: one depicting ‘Fake Muslim girls’ (because of their dress code) and the other depicting ‘Real Muslim girls.’ How this person could find it in them to post a video accusing fellow Muslims of being fake and using different types of music/ nasheeds to differentiate between women that observe different dress codes is beyond me. That goes against the very basis of what Islam is about and what we, as Muslims, are required to practice. 
I sincerely hope that we all make an effort in our daily lives to be more tolerant and less judgmental. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Should you become eager to mention another’s faults, recall your own.” (Ar-Rafi). Each individual is at a different point on their religious journey, from the scholars, to those that have stumbled along the way and are trying to find their footing again, to the ones that are just beginning to learn about their faith, and that’s okay, because religion is not a competition. 

The year that was

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
 Howard Thurman 
As the first day of the new year draws to a close, I’m reflecting on the year that was and using that to shape the year to come. A lot of people seem intent on making resolutions and although I’ve done that myself in the past, I often find that resolutions are just added pressure to just follow through on something that often is a short term change and when you don’t follow through on a resolution, it leads to this morose feeling at the end of the year when you start to think about resolutions again, so I’m doing things a little differently this year. 

2011 was a challenge in many ways. There were huge changes I wasn’t even near ready for, some relationships were ended, my physical strength was tested with a health scare and it was incredibly difficult reading page after page of heartbreaking news stories from around the world. On the plus side though, there were anniversaries, new friendships, marriages, new homes and lots of other things to be grateful for.

A couple of things 2011 taught me:

Relax. Don’t take yourself too seriously – no one else does. Work, family and friends are important, but so are you. All too often, it can be easy to forget that you need you-time. Factor time into your week where you just do things for you and stick to it.

It’s okay to say no. I’ve a chronic illness – one where the symptoms are exhaustion and disappointment because I can never say no and as a result end up doing everything and anything for everyone BUT myself. It’s wonderful to be helpful and I strongly believe that if you can do something that will really help someone out – you should. Even if it means going a little out of your way. But that’s where you draw the line – at ‘a little.’

Find something you’re passionate about and run with it! I’m turning the dial up on all things food this year. I’m not sure where this passion for food came from, I know I definitely had a passion for eating it when I was younger (just ask my waistline) but I put the capital L in lazy when it came to helping out in the kitchen. Now I cannot go one day without cooking, my kitchen is my favourite room in the house, my mother cannot figure out how I learnt to cook, and have about 340 earmarked recipes I want to try and I’ve worked them into my weekly schedule 🙂

Make time for family and friends. I’m usually good at this, but events over the last year left me consumed with my problems and anxieties and as a result, the last thing I wanted to do was socialize. Going out with friends or even just visiting family lifted my spirits though and it was often just what I needed. Not all of us have the time and I struggle with that but that’s when texts, emails, tweets and facebook walls/ messages come in handy! I do a lot of my catching up with people on the train to and from work and that’s time well spent when you otherwise would just be staring at dark train tunnel wall after dark train tunnel wall. Invest in your relationships with family and friends. Try to remember birthdays and anniversaries and other milestones in their lives – it means a lot to them – even if they don’t always say it does.

– Never lose faith. It’s extremely easy (even if you’re really religious) to lose faith when you feel like life is dealing you a particularly awful hand of cards. Life can be deceiving though and even when you think there’s a situation you see absolutely no way out of, there’s always a way. There’s also always a lesson. Always. You may not see it at the time, but eventually you’ll learn that there was a reason and it will all then make sense, so keep the faith.

I started this blog on this very day a year ago and I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to but this is the year that changes. Keep reading and follow And then she said on Facebook, Twitter or sign up to the newsletter (to the right of this piece) to receive email alerts every time a new piece is posted.

Here’s to the lessons from 2011 for a beautiful 2012. 

I’ve died and gone to cupcake heaven

“When you look at a cupcake, you’ve got to smile.”
 Anne Byrn

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an Eid present I bought myself and I finally got to give it to myself today! We colored buttercream and marzipan, learnt how to pipe swirls, traced out alphabets and patterns and then got to decorate four little cupcakes of our own to take home with us (I can’t bring myself to eat them).

When you look at decorated cupcakes bought from a store, it looks as though someone’s been slaving over them for hours on end but really, if you’ve got the right equipment and get the technique down right, it’s just as easy to do yourself at home! They’d make great gifts and I can’t wait for the holiday season to start churning these out and packaging them in little gift bags.

Our instructor gave us a handy vanilla buttercream recipe that I thought you would find useful. Cream 225 grams of unsalted butter with 450 grams of icing sugar until fluffy and pale. Add 4 teaspoons of hot milk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence and mix thoroughly. You could create other flavors by replacing the vanilla essence with some lemon juice or using peppermint extract for example.

Here’s what my buttercream looked like after I mixed a tiny amount of purple gel coloring into it: 

 Those are my sloppy attempts at tracing out alphabets and numbers and practicing swirls. How delightful does that buttercream look?

My little beauties!

Here’s a few closeups – we used marzipan (which we colored too) and edible glitter to create these: 

Here are some tips the instructor gave us for successful cupcakes:

1. Weigh out all your ingredients before you start mixing the batter.
2. Use ingredients that are at room temperature.
3. Add eggs slowly and always scrape down to ensure all ingredients are combined.
4. Don’t over mix your batter after adding flour – this will result in a tough cake as gluten strengthens with agitation.
5. Get to know your oven.

If you’re based in London, check out Craft Cakes for a variety of cupcake decorating classes!

Happy baking!