November 12, 2015

11 Legit Life Lessons From My Mother + Garlic & Herb Marinated Mozzarella Bites

To my mother: Some women are born to shine. Others are born to blind you with their brilliance. I love you. 
Once you have kids, there are a couple of things you realize very quickly. 

Some are rickety cliches, but mostly true. There is no such thing as “alone time”. You’ll be astounded by your own capacity to love. Your children are your greatest strength and your greatest weakness.

Others realities are a little more esoteric. You know. Like that overwhelming impulse to try and instill 7.2 billion nuggets of earth-shattering wisdom into those little sponge-like minds before they venture out into this wild and crazy world because you’re determined to equip your babies with everything they’ll need to know in order to tackle the pain in the ass that is adult life.

The struggle is real, people. 

My mom insists I’m overthinking things. 

Easy for her to say. 

When it comes to imparting the secrets of life, she’s like some sort of Shaolin monk. Totally fierce,totally slick. Her “you move, you die” look is on point and her “doing trumps saying” game is seriously strong. 

In other words, she’s almost never had to verbalize any of these rules. Instead, she’s quietly lived by them, silently allowing us to choose between f*cking up or following suit. 

That’s some mad power, yo! You can read more about her championship-winning child-rearing skills here

Meanwhile, here are 11 of the most life-altering lessons she’s taught me. 

11 Legit Life Lessons From My Mother

#1 Love: Be generous, be kind, be vulnerable. 
#2 Relationships: Taking bullshit is never an obligation.
#3 Men: Equal.
#4 Vanity: The quickest way to confirm you’re an asshole. Yes, she actually uses that word. Yes, I’m as jarred as you are.
#5 Confidence: There will always be haters. You do you, baby girl. SLAY!
#6 Ambition: Shortcuts are for schlepps.  

#7 Experiences: Don’t be afraid. The good, the bad, the ugly — take it in and let it move you.
#8 Money: Don’t grow on trees — B.U.D.G.E.T.
#9 Patience: Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go. Yes, I just referenced my mom with a rap song.
#10 Empathy: Soul food. 
#11 Resilience: Roar, go apeshit, and always fight to win. 

Just so you know, I plan on passing every single one of these down to my own cubs. Thank you, Mama! I love you.

Because I’ve spent pretty much all of this post talking about my totally badass mom, it only makes sense to close with a recipe that sticks to the flavors I know she loves. 

I settled on marinating some pillowy bocconcini — delicate 2 inch balls of mild mozzarella cheese — in heaps of fresh dill, fiery chili flakes, citrusy lemon peel, thin slivers of garlic, and some good quality olive oil. Just throw everything in a jar or airtight container, refrigerate for a couple of hours, et voilà! 

What you end up is a bright, beautifully fragrant, delicately infused cheese that makes a heavenly healthy snack on its own, or an absolutely divine and effortlessly elegant light-bite served with some crusty bread and a side of fresh tomatoes. 

I know, I know. With cooler temps around the corner, this recipe is a tad summery, but I’m operating on the assumption that between all the fried food and generous libations you’ll almost definitely be consuming in the upcoming holiday season, a touch of cool freshness would probably be a welcome break. 

BTW, you can prep the cheese and stick it in the fridge up to a week in advance, but if you’re planning to hold it any longer, just make sure you skim over the health warning I’ve included below.

Bonus: Once you’ve run out of cheese in the jar, the leftover oil can be used to make salad dressings, tossed through pasta for extra flavor, or, if you’re shameless like me, grab a baguette and dive in. Seriously, no regrets.

A quick last word before you dig into the recipe: you’ll notice most ingredients aren’t listed in definite quantities. That’s because there’s tons of wiggle room for customizing flavors by swapping out herbs and spices or using a different variety of cheese, so I don’t want you guys to get too caught up with the recipe. Check out the recipe notes for some suggestions to get started and then go with whatever curls your toes.

Adapted from Marinated Feta by David Lebovitz

1 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced + 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, roughly chopped 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2-1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Peel of 1 large lemon, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, to taste
500 grams bocconcini (see recipe notes)

*HEALTH WARNING: As crazy-stupid addicted as I am to the zing of raw garlic, if you’re planning to store your cheese for any longer than a week, using it raw could potentially pose a serious health risk. You can find the science to back it up here. To extend the shelf life of your cheese and prep your ingredients for prolonged storage, skip the raw stuff. 

Place the roughly chopped garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan and gently heat over a medium lowish flame. Chopped garlic can burn and go bitter pretty quickly, so just keep an eye on it. You don’t want any color. When it begins to bubble gently, about 2-3 minutes, take the pan off the heat and allow the oil to cool slightly. 

While the oil is still  warm, throw in the dried thyme and chili flakes. Stirring them in at this point rather than of when the oil has completely cooled is important because the mild heat helps release the natural flavors of thyme and chili, infusing the oil quickly and deeply. 

Toss  the dill, peppercorns, lemon peel, vinegar,salt, and sliced garlic straight into the cooled oil.  

Place a quarter of the cheese in a jar or other airtight container. Now pour a couple of teaspoons of the infused oil over the cheese. Repeat this layering process to until the jar is nearly full. Slowly pour the remaining oil into the jar until the cheese is completely submerged in the oil. Make sure there’s at least a 1 inch gap between the surface of the oil and the mouth of the jar.

Pop it into the refrigerator to marinate overnight or up to a week. The oil might begin to solidify when stored in the fridge, but don’t worry. There’s a simple fix. Just bring it down to room temperature before serving.

To get you started on customizing your own nuggets of cheese heaven, here’s a quick list of some of delicious flavoring suggestions.

* HERBS: If you’re planning on using dried herbs, just remember they’re a lot more potent, so it’s important to adjust the quantity you use. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of the dried variety.


  1. Love how you described your mother, it's so good to see kids appreciating their mothers:). I wish my kids would talk just like this about me someday:) oh and the recipe sounds delicious and looks beyond amazing.

    1. My mother raised the three of us single-handedly, so she's kind of a legend :) I've said it before and I'll say it again, some women are born to shine, others to blind you with their brilliance. Try the recipe, for sure. Ridiculously simple and delicious. Thanks for dropping by. Your Instagram is lovely, btw xoxo

  2. Your mother sounds like a total coolio. Also, where did you find decent mozzarella in lahore?

    1. Thanks, Fatima! I got my bocconcini from Farmers Cheese Making They have an impressive variety of cheese that's fresh, hand-made, and delivered free in Lahore (when you order at least 1kg). They have a product and price list available on their page, so definitely check it out. I've tried their mozzarella, English cheddar, and Monterey Jack so far and I'm pretty happy with what they're offering. Let me know how your experience turns out and thanks for popping by the blog xoxo

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