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{RAMADAN READY series #6} Tips for Ramadan Cooking

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
Marhaba - Welcome!  If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed, check out the Recipe IndexOr follow me on the socialnetwork FacebookThanks for visiting!
Today is our sixth installment of a series of posts {Ramadan Ready}. There ‘a lot of things going on here these days, with only about 10 days until we welcome Ramadan. If you havn’t subscribed to my newsletter, I invite you take advantage of upcoming posts about preparing for Ramadan. It's really easy, just click on this link and select your prefered subscription and enter your e-mail. 


If you've just joined for the installment of our Ramadan Ready series, you know we've talked about everything from what is Ramadan to how to prepare for Ramadan. I shared with you my Ramadan cleaning, menu planning and shopping tips. So today we'll continue with the actual cooking part.

While many Muslims around the world live in countries where the work day is shorter or where they can take off the whole month, not all Muslims have this luxury. Many Muslims are busy people with families to feed. The thought of reading through a lengthly and complicated makes many cringe.


How do you get a meal on the table in 30 minutes? But try to do that when you're fasting! Whoooaaah it's near impossible my sisters!


I know some Muslims out there take short cuts here and there, by premaking and freezing meals. Or buying packaged meals or components, but to me just the thought of eating a frozen meals makes me what to cringe with memories of my previous life - before living in Algeria where I worked 60 hour weeks and broke my fast with a diet Pepsi and heat and serve meal! I prefer from scratch homemade cooked meals with real food ingredients. And especially in Ramadan!




But for busy Muslims how can we have fresh, from scratch iftar 30 days straight?
Hm!
Let's see ...
Well, we looked through cookbooks, on the Internet and asked our family what they're favourite meals were. We took inventory of what we had. We planned out the month. We wrote it on our calendars. We went shopping. We took everything home and stored it properly ... Now we have to cook!

Optimal time:

Everyone's schedule and life is different, so it is a good idea to think about the optimal time to do all your cooking. Some prefer to cook everything early in the morning as they do their morning cleaning. Others cook their meals after asr to finish after maghrib. While others need more time and begin after duhr. And still others prefer to do their work after Tarawee. Mothers of small children, should take advantage of nap times to complete as much work as possible. Or get the kids in the kitchen to help out. For people who are working, preparing several meals at one time, that will last for a few days is a great option.

Pre-food preparations:

You could pre-cook all your meals for the whole month of Ramadan, but I think most people don't own freezers that large. So pre-mading meal components is the easiest and best way to prepare ourselves for the Ramadan kitchen.

We kept our Ramadan Menu simple, so bringing it all together should be a snap! But if you didn't have the time, energy, willingness or you just plain forgot here's a SUPER SIMPLE plan for you:

The simplest meal for the busy cook is a soup (that you can prepare in larger batches to stretch over several days), store bought bread, a fresh green salad, a small portion of grilled meat and a quick stir-fried vegetable side. Followed by fruit



     some tips fOR your RAMADAN kitchen 

  1. Intentions - Remember we talked about intentions. As you are prepping and cooking, say basmallah and remember Allah. Remember your intentions for preparing each iftar meal. Remember all your efforts and efforts can be rewardable with the right intention.
  2.  Mise en place - is having ingredients ready for cooking, anything that requires being chopped, cleaned, marinated…etc is done ahead in order to be ready for the actual cooking. This is a very good technique for time management and effective cooking. Effective mise en place is one of the first things chefs learn in culinary school, and one which you can deploy at home.
  3. Soups are one of the most nourish yet easy to prepare foods for Ramadan. Soups don't need much attention so you won't be chained to the stove. I usually prepare soups like Chourba hamra, Chourba frik or Chourba Beïda during Ramadan in larger batches so that we may enjoy them for several days. These soups stay fresh in the fridge for days. And even tastes better as the days go by. When needed, I just laddle out the portions I need then reheat on the stove.
  4. Bourek is a tasty soup accompaniment that is easy to make and versatile. You can either pre-made the filling, freeze into amounts you think you will need for each day. Then prepare the bourek right before iftar. Or optionally prepare the bourek start filling, stuff, fold and then freeze on a sheet pan. Boureks easily go from freezer to pan then table!
  5. Pre-chop all your vegetables that you think you will be needing. Store them in freezer bags. Label with them the date and optionally, meal you intend to use them in. Lay them flat to save space in your freezer.
  6. Chop and portion out your meats too. Place in freezer bags and lay flat in your freezer.
  7. Instead of using canned beans. Buy dry beans, soak overnight, then cook in the morning in unsalted water. Check out my tutorial on how soak and use dry beans HERE. Place in bags, label and lay flat in the freezer. Doing this you'll be using beans that contain more nutrients, have less sodium, no BPAs and preservatives, but you'll be saving a whole lotta  money too! Beans are also great economical protein to throw into sauces or salads on the fly!
  8. Instead of buying pre-cut meats, consider buying whole or larger pieces. These are more economical and easier to portion out.
  9. Use the odds and ends, like backbones to make stock. Stock make for more tasty meals and easy bases for soups.
  10. Save chicken wings in your freezer, once you have enough you can make these BBQ chicken wings for your family.
  11. Optionally a few weeks before Ramadan, come together with other Muslims to pre-make some Ramadan dishes that can be frozen. Take a portion of what you have made and trade it with another family. This is not only rewardable but good for having more options in your busy schedule.
  12. Optionally, you can pre-plan with another Muslim family to exchange dishes daily. 
  13. Puff pastry, pie dough, bread and pizza dough offer unlimited choices for quick and simple appetizer-like foods to serve. You can easily make these doughs up ahead of time, portion out and freeze. Thaw as needed the night before. Beware, store-bought puff pastry may contain alchohol. Thanks sister Asmaa for this tip!
  14. Making up a batch of the filling I use for Bourek Algéroise, you can easily use this to top pizzas, put into quiches, savoury breads or meat pies.
  15. The night before pre-cook oatmeal or other porridges, ladle into bowls, wrap and store in the fridge. Before suhour, reheat then serve.
  16. Prepare a tray with all your essentials for serving guests after Tarawee or for suhour, like coffee cups, sugar, creamer, napkins, etc.
  17. Thanks to all my friends and followers on Facebook I've learned that you can pre-chargrill or roast vegetables, clean then store them in bags in the freezer. To be used in summer salads like Hmiss, Chlada Felfel à la Mostagnémoise and Salade méchouïa. 
  18. Lean cuts of meat can be marinated days  ahead, then quickly grilled before iftar for an almost effortless meal.
  19. Organize your pre-made components in the fridge in a manner, which is easy and visible.
  20. Those with smaller kitchens should make food stations around the kitchen for ease of your "helpers" preparing the meal - what they need easily and without asking you where items are. 
  21. And lastly, as you are cooking, remem
    Easier suhour:

    Most of us sleep right after Tarawee, so waking up before suhour to prepare a meal is more  difficult :(. So here are my tips:
    1. After the clean-up of iftar, set the table for suhour. Assign your children this job if possible.
    1. Set all non-food items on the table like plates, cups, napkins, and bowls. You can also include dry food items like sugar, cocoa powder or tea bags.
    1. If you have a coffee kettle, fill it up with water ahead. 
    1. If you have coffee machine, preload the water and coffee in it. Optionally, if it has a time, set that. 
    1. I usually made time one day, when I have not much housework to do or to cook and prepare suhour baked goods like this Grapefruit bread or Whole grain date breakfast bread that will last us for a week. Then I wrap and freeze them. Thaw out the night before after Tarawee. And it is ready by suhour for us to eat.
    1. Serve only foods that you can pre-make for suhour for less work in this time.
    Setting up the iftar table:

    While there is no need to go out and buy fina china for iftar, it is nice to have a nice clean and pleasant iftar table. And essential to have all you need for the meal. In the pre-Ramadan preparations and reviewing of your tools, you should have reviewed all the dishes, serving platters, and sliverware you will be using to make sure you have enough to accommodate your family and guests. Make up a list of what needs to be on the table for iftar. This is helpful in saving time. Many smaller things like salt, napkins, or bread baskets are sometimes forgotten. Your children can be assign the job of preparing the table as it is a rather job. 



    Assign jobs:

    While in most homes the wife and mother does most of the cooking, that doesn't mean she should do it all! Assign jobs to family member according to ability. Smaller children, enjoy helping out Mum in the kitchen, kneading dough, making cookies, stirring pots, setting the table, or gather ingredients. Older children, can help chop vegetables, make simple salads, and maybe even do some of the shopping. And don't forget to ask your husband to help too!It has been said that even Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) shared in the task of preparing Sahour and Iftar meals. If you're a man, earn extra blessings over Ramadan by assisting your mothers, sisters and wives in this joyful duty.


    Guests:

    Sharing our iftar table is a tradition of Muslims around the World. Ask your guests if they have any special requests or have any dietary issues like allergies. If you are planning to invite guests for iftar, preparations ahead of time are essential. The host should be with her guests not fiddling in the kitchen, but with her guests joined in the worship and festivities. Easy steps like setting preparing the meal ahead, making sure there are plenty of prayer rugs, having some extra items that your guests may need make for a more enjoyable time. 

    The best time to do that is during your monthly period (menstruation). This has several advantages:

    1. You will be able to taste the food that is going to be served. 2. You won't be engaged in some acts of worship so you'll have more time for cooking. 3. You won't have guilt feelings for staying after 'Isha' with the guests and not going to the mosque.

     and don't forget ...

    • While many people invite family and friends over during Ramadan, we forget that more reward is gained from inviting the poor, travellers, and even non-Muslims to our homes. 
    • If you have small children who are not fasting, consider feeding them before iftar so you have more time to concentrate on your guests. 
    Ramadan is also an opportunity to renew relationships that may have been broken during the year and we should try and clear up any disputes or bad feelings with other Muslims so we may start this month a fresh.


    Unexpected guests and disaster management:

    During Ramadan, we should expect to have unexpected visitors drop in. Or you find yourself in the middle of a Ramadan distaster, you either having a bad day or emergency where you are not having the time or energy to be bothered  ...
    1. Don't forget to say the basmalah and ask Allah for help when unexpected guests arrive. Allah is the first and best to call on when we need help!
    2. For easy desserts, prepare a sablé (butter cookie) recipe. Roll into a log, then slice. Wrap with plastic wrap in the log shape. Then freeze. When needed, unwrap, pop on a baking sheet then bake for 10 minutes. Optionally decorate with nuts or chocolate.
    3. Using the same dough, form balls (not rounds), then freeze. When needed pop on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile melt some chocolate. And take out some jam and nuts. Once the cookies are baked, dip half of the cookies in the chocolate. And the other half in jam, then roll in nuts. 2 simple and easy cookies to serve in less in 15minutes.
    4. Pre-bake some cakes and breakfast breads for quick and effortless suhours and when unexpected guests arrive for tea and coffee after Tarawee. 
    5. I usually place what I call "nibblers" on the table to fill in the gaps when guests arrive, such as crudités, olives, dips, pickles,  salads, and nuts. Just be careful not to put out too many salty foods!
    6. Instead of serving a whole piece of meat like a chicken, cut it into small peices, and arrange on a platter of rice and vegetables. Small pieces tend to look like more.
    7. Fresh salads from vegetables you have in your fridge can easily be tossed together to stretch meals.
    8. Provide plenty of bread, as this also stretches meals.
    9. Take out some of your pre-made meal components from your freezer to use now.
    10. Puddings and creams are easy and very quick dessert to prepare in a rush.
    As you are enjoying your iftar:
    • Don't forget to say the basmalah. And thank Allah for this gift of food HE has given us.
    • Take the time around the iftar table to talk with your family about their day fasting; the joys and challenges. Try telling stories from the Qur'an to your younger children. Dawah around the table is the best machallah!
      Getting even more benefits from Ramadan:
      • If you have a garden or fruits trees, consider sharing the Allah's bounty with the needy or organizations preparing iftar dinner like the Red Crescent or local soup kitchens.
      • Before iftar, take a tray of various foods over to your local hospital or orphanage. These people usually are the most needy.
      • If you have the time, gain reward by giving away some of your pre-made food components to Muslims who are not able to prepare their meals like the poor, sick, new mothers, single mothers, labourers, widows, widowers, university students, single men, etc. These pre-made items will help them A LOT. These people are more worthy of receiving the food than exchanging food with one’s family, friends and neighbours.  
      • Zayd bin Khaalid Al-Juhani reported that the Prophet said: 
      “He who provides a fasting person something with which to break his fast, will earn the same reward as the one who was observing the fast, without diminishing in any way the reward of the latter.” 
                [At-Tirmithi]. According to this narration, a person offering food to others to break their fast            must give them enough food to suffice them.
      • Optionally, donate any food items to soup kitchen or organizations like the Red Crescent who yearly serve up thousands of iftar meals to the needy during Ramadan.
      • The purpose and intention should be pleasing and worship of Allah. All the health ascepts are just a byproduct of faith. Ramadan being the holiest of months, it is the prime time to ask Allah for guidance in our health goals as well. Ramadan is a time in which we are suppose to master self control. This self control and discipline is not limited to the day. This training during the day extends to all parts of our lives and our behavior. We can show the benefit of this training then sitting down to an iftar spread and NOT eating everything in sight. And also Ramadan throu fasting, if our intention are correct, we may see the errors of ways - for examples those who overeat and overindulge may notice this mistake when their faith demands them forego meals and feed the people. Ramadan also is a natural way that Allah give us for natural health realignment and detox. 
      The Prophet (saw) said in an authentic hadeeth,
      “He who gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will receive the same reward as him. And nothing will be subtracted from the fasting person’s reward.” (Saheeh by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and others)
      • While many of have our iftar dinners in our homes, we should consider instead sharing our meals with sisters/brothers in the mosque, helping out in a soup kitchen the poor and/or homeless, or even going to hospitals or orphanages sharing the blessing of Allah there.
      • There is no excuse in Ramadan for missing even a second for worship. While you are out driving to do your shopping, listen or read the Qur'an, while out give charity. Pick up friends or family, give them a ride too, if they don't transportion. Possibly buy groceries for people you know who can't make it out of their homes. At home, while  the onions are sautéeing for your meals, make dhikr (rememberance of Allah). While the bread or cake is baking, read the Qur'an. Or make dua (supplicate), ask for forgivness of your sins. The religion of Islam is a holistic way of life, that reaches to every part of our lives. And Islam is the only religion which makes such simple acts as eating into worship. Every act, even mundane ones like cooking and serving our families can be turned into worship by having the right intention. The basmalah -pronounced fully as Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem, this phrase translates to "In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Compassionate". It's a simple and short phrase that is highly spiritual and carries a lot of meaning, when carried out in the right way. And remember this as well, by having multiple intentions actions can have multiple aspects of worship in them, which can be double or triple the reward.  Cooking the iftar dinner - if you're cooking because everyone is hungry, that's one reward (you are nourishing your family to give them strength); if you're also cooking using healthy food, that's a second reward (you're now not only nourishing your family, but you are keeping them healthy); if you're only using the food that you need then that's a third reward (by not wasting God's creation); if you are cooking to share the food with the needy or even family, friends and neighbours this is another reward. You've now just taking the simple action of cooking dinner one night and transformed it into a multiple act of worship of the God. Imagine if you did this for most, if not all, of your actions during your lifetime!  Feeding others during Ramadhaan:

      ‘Abdullaah bin Salaam reported: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah saying:“O people, exchange greetings of Salaam (i.e., say: As-Salaamu `Alaykum to one another), feed people, strengthen the ties of kinship, and be in prayer when others are asleep, you will enter Paradise in peace.”[At-Tirmithi]. 
           

        {RAMADAN READY SERIES #2} What does Ramadan look like?

        {RAMADAN SERIES #3} How to Prepare for Ramadan

        {RAMADAN READY series #4} Ramadan Cleaning


        Are there any other things that you’d like me to focus on? Or any particular topics that you’d like me to address?



        BTW I've made some Pinterest boards to pin various Ramadan related interesting ideas I find.Ramadan ReadySuhour RecipesIftar Dinner RecipesEid al Fitr and Oriental Sweets.

        REMEMBER Ramadan is not about temporary change but rather a much needed jump start to a year of positive change, inshAllah! Bismillah.

        If you liked or benefited from any part of this site, please consider commenting and letting me know! Your comments really encourage me and make smile. And don't forget to remember me in your dua and prayers. 

        May Allah bless and guide us and help us grow closer to HIM in our plight.

        HOW ARE YOU PREPARING FOR RAMADAN? 


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        2. Thanks for sharing this great tips. Recently I came to read from article that it is best to avoid caffeine-based drinks such as strong tea and coffee during these ramadan season so as to stay healthy.


          http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Nutritional-Tips-for-Ramadan

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