eat well, travel often, dream big!

We are almost through the first week of Ramadan, and I’m not sure about you but time is going a lot faster than I thought it would!  Today I want to share a few articles from the internet that I have found interesting and beneficial during this Ramadan.  If you’ve been overloaded with all this Ramadan talk as a non-Muslim I wrote an article for Multicultural Familia talking about the basics of this holiday.

If you are observing the fast or are just a curious person Productive Muslim is a great resource and has a sister site of Productive Ramadan.  I’ve enjoyed many of their articles so far this Ramadan and will stick around after the month is over for more great content.  How to Survive a 16 Hour Fast has some great tips to help get through the day.  Many of the tips I’ve previously mentioned here.

For families with children who are old enough to fast or who are thinking about beginning to fast American Muslim Mom put together a list of 99 Tips to Help Kids Fast.  It’s really a great list even for adults and converts who are new to fasting and need a little help or encouragement.

Now you’re ready to meal plan!

Suhoor: Tonight while preparing iftar toss a fast and easy quiche into the oven for suhoor tomorrow.  My Daily Recipe has several different quiche recipes to try.  If you’re looking for something really simple, buy a frozen crust and thaw.  Break 6 eggs and whisk together with 1/4 c milk, 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.  Mix in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and 1 cup of fresh broccoli.  Bake on 350F until eggs are set.  You can store this in the fridge and heat up a piece in the morning for suhoor.  As always fruit is a great accompaniment.

Iftar: Splurge a little today with some fresh falafel, wrap bread and a Moroccan salad or two on the side.  The Picky Eater has a good recipe for baked falafel making it a little healthier than the traditional deep friend version.

Dinner: Keep it simple tonight especially if you’re prepping for suhoor tomorrow.  Grilled Chicken is very fast and easy (and a good way to get your husband involved in the cooking).  Two of my recipes you may want to try are Grilled Chicken with Preserved Grapefruit and Lemon Grilled Chicken.  Some simple steamed veggies can round out this meal.


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Eat Your Veggies!

Ramadan August 3, 2011 0

If you’re fasting this month are you making sure to eat enough fruits and vegetables?  Last month American Muslim Mom posted a story that many Muslims actually GAIN weight during Ramadan.  How can that be?  For many after a day of fasting the foods that fill the table are fried or sugar laden.  The recipes that I have selected to share this month in meal planning I have attempted to balance so that they are not only the treats that many associate with Ramadan.

Make sure your suhoor and iftar table are full of fresh fruits and veggies!

Suhoor – A great breakfast item that holds up well in the freezer and for re-heating are scones.  These Healthy Lemon-Blueberry Scones from Gimme Some Oven are a great choice and a good way to take advantage of fruits that are in season right now! Blend together a smoothie with some natural protein such as peanut butter, Greek yogurt, or milk fortified with Vitamin D to sustain you through the day.  Here are some suggestions for smoothies from Eating Well.

Iftar –  Make use of the leftover soup that you have by serving either one (or both) along with some Thai Lettuce Wraps today for iftar.  Don’t forget the dates and water!  These lettuce wraps are a take on PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps (I LOVE them!) I like this recipe because there are plenty of vegetables and good protein with the chicken.

Dinner – These are something you can prepare ahead of time and throw in your slow cooker  all day long.  With just a little bit of prep-time this recipe for Beef Ribs from A Year of Slow Cooking is a winner!  I would throw together a quick side pasta salad of cooked pasta, chopped veggies and  Italian dressing to round out the meal!

Don’t forget to enter to win the Kusmi Tea assortment too!  Last night we made the Green Tea with Mint and served it hot — I’m in love with it!

I’d love to hear from you — how are you liking this meal plan?  Would you prefer a recipe daily instead or mixed in as I have been doing?

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Today is the first day of fasting and I hope that suhoor filled you up!  If this is one of the first times you’re fasting, it does get easier as the week goes on.  Because Ramadan is in the heat of summer this year make sure that you are drinking a lot of water in the mornings and at iftar.  Hydration is even more mportant than food.  Remember I’m posting menus one day ahead but feel free to use them as you see fit.

Suhoor:  Omelettes with vegetables (leftover from dinner last night or freshly cut).  You can add cheese and cut up meat as well.

Reminder: The fast is broken traditionally with dates and water.  Make sure to have plenty of dates on hand to get you through the month.  MY favorite are Mejdool but Neglet or another variety is fine. 

Iftar: A lovely soup from Dinners and Dreams (a great website for more Moroccan food ideas). Chicken Couscous Soup, tea sandwiches, and dates.   This soup is not too heavy for summer but has some good lean protein included as well.  Remember protein keeps you full!  Freeze any leftovers for another night.  An easy accompaniment to this soup are tea sandwiches.  Some suggestions are cucumber and cream cheese on pumpernickel bread or roast beef and swiss with a dijon mustard on rye bread.  Reminder: Steam about 2 cups of extra couscous and set aside for suhoor tomorrow.

Dinner: Beef Tajine with Apricots.  A little more time consuming but worth it.  If you start this right after iftar it should be ready to go in a few hours.  Finish cooking the meat and then after isha prayers cook the prunes/almonds and serve.  Of course if you’re like me and iftar is your big meal you can swap the order of these two around.



Don’t forget to join me tonight at 8pm CDT on Twitter for a chat about your favorite summer entertaining ideas!  Use the hashtag #olivesummer
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For as long as I can remember the only thing on my bucket list (the list of things to do before you die) was to have a passport full of stamps.  That technically means there’s more than one thing on the list because gathering all those stamps would involve a few trips.  I got my first stamp at 15.  I can remember when my passport came in the mail, and this just goes to show how big of a dork I am, I must have opened it and gone through the pages 20 times.  When I went through passport control for the first time it was really really exciting for me.  Boarding my first international flight – oh the excitement!  As our plane touched down in Athens, one of the oldest cities in western civilization, my stomach was loaded with butterflies.  This first international trip was all it took to hook me as a travel addict and I haven’t stopped since.  As much as I’ve loved every place that I have visited since, the food of Greece has always stuck with me.  I can still taste some of those meals even though they were 10+ years ago.

I recently have been looking over soup recipes to prepare for Ramadan.  One soup that I had sort of forgotten about was Greek Avgolemono a Greek egg and lemon soup.  Then I thought, I bet that would be even more filling with some little meatballs added in.  It was.  After the first sip I closed my eyes and felt like I was back on that first trip sitting in the Grecian sun.


For Soup

  • 6 c (48 oz) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 c. (140g)  orzo
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 c. (8oz) lemon juice

For Meatballs

  • 1/2 lb (225 grams) ground veal
  • 4 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic


Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs and roll into very small meatballs, the smaller the better.  Set aside.  In a medium to large size pan add the chicken broth and begin to cook on medium high.  Once the liquid boils add the meatballs and orzo.  Allow to cook about 8 minutes.  In a large bowl beat the eggs until they are foamy.

Next, add lemon juice, a little at a time. When all lemon juice is incorporated take a ladle and add a scoop broth at a time to the eggs (usually 2-3 ladels will be plenty).  The purpose of this is to combine the eggs slowly.  If you just dump the eggs into the hot liquid they will cook right away and form egg chunks.  This is not what you want.   Once the temperature of the eggs has been increased add it into the larger pot.  Do NOT allow the soup to boil.  Serve immediately.


Think your kids won’t like this?  Think again – my 4 year old ate three bowls full!

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Whew!! I have spent a better part of the weekend working on a little blog makeover.  So…what do you think?  (PS if you say you hate it I will ignore you…just kidding!)  I think my eyes are crossed but I am happy with how things look, although I’m sure to make tweeks as I go.  But seriously I do want to know what you think!

Now that I’m all set up it’s time to get back to posting.  The weather here is still dismal at best and I’ve found myself continuing to make the staples of warm winter comfort food even though deep down I’m craving light, fresh food.  One of these meals is traditionally eaten during Ramadan in Morocco.  I shouldn’t say eaten, I should say consumed in massive quantities.  Even MarocBaba who doesn’t do soup eats this EVERY DAY during Ramadan.  I’m not sure if it’s habit, tradition, or what but he does.  I’ve shared the recipe here before, but I’m re-sharing with images today.

The Table Setting

Looking at this picture again I realize it looks like a copious amount of boiled eggs.  M literally will eat 4 boiled eggs in a sitting, plus I knew whatever was left he’d take to school – the kid is an egg freak.  In the bottom right corner is a plate of dates, a standard accompaniment with harira.  The very small tajine in the upper left is actually a dish that holds spices; salt, pepper, and cumin are on the table for this meal.  Also you can’t see it, but rest assured there was a basket of bread to eat too.

I really love the contrast in this picture.  There is something about brown eggs that just makes me smile.  To my international readers, most eggs in the US are white, not brown.  We buy free-range organic eggs that always come in the brown hues.  Makes them feel much more natural to me.

Finally the harira.  If you want to cook up a batch tonight, here’s my recipe!


  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 5-6 tomatoes
  • 1 to 1-½ cups beef, lamb or chicken cubed (optional)
  • 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 handful chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • 1t Salt
  • 1½t Black Pepper
  • 1T Paprika
  • 1T Turmeric
  • 1 small pinch Saffron crushed (if desired)
  • ½ c garbanzo beans (soaked overnight)
  • ¼ c lentils (washed)
  • 1/2 c Vermicelli pasta (broken to small pieces)
  • 1/2 c Flour
  • 4 cups water
  • Food processor


  • Heat olive oil in large stockpot.
  • Puree onion and garlic in food processor. Add to pot and sauté.
  • Add meat and brown until almost cooked.
  • Puree tomatoes and add along with another dash of olive oil
  • Either finely chop or puree parsley and cilantro (w/ tomatoes) and add Add salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric (and saffron if desired)
  • Add water and can of tomato paste
  • Add the flour to 1c of water in a seperate bowl, mix and allow to sit while soup is cooking, mix occassionally to seperate any clumps that might occur.
  • Bring the soup to a boil and add lentils and beans
  • Once beans are cooked, add pasta and let simmer
  • When beans are cooked through, begin to stream the flour mixture into the pot. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the soup, all while mixing to ensure it combines. The soup should begin thickening halfway through.
  • The harira should be thick but still have a soup consistecy.


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Cheese Briouats

Moroccan Food September 9, 2010 2

It would be highly unlikely to find this recipe on a table in Morocco.  It’s origins are in the Middle East, mostly Turkey or Greece where there is plenty of cheese consumed!   This is a fast and easy appetizer or great accompaniment to a big bowl of soup.  As the weather here turns cooler I am looking forward to lots of soups.

2010-08-22 13.30.26


  • 1 package of filo dough (I love this one)
  • 8 oz Greek Feta
  • 8 oz shredded mozzerella
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • melted butter to brush between layers
  • 1 egg yolk beaten for brushing on top before baking


Preheat the oven to 375F.  In a large bowl combine the feta, mozzerella, 2 eggs, garlic and pepper.  Mash to combine and break apart the feta.  The result should be a thick filling. 

Thaw and roll out the filo, and cut in half by the width.  Remove one sheet of filo, and brush the layer with butter.  Add another sheet of filo on top of this and repeat.  Do one final layer (3 total).  When the 3rd layer is down, place a tablespoon of filling along the bottom. 

2010-08-22 12.53.05

Fold over the side ends and then small lip on the bottom and make a 1/2 roll.  Make sure to keep the sides tucked in as you roll.  (just like a burrito). 

2010-08-22 12.53.22

Continue to roll until the end and use a little bit of butter to seal the end of the briouat.   Place onto a baking sheet.  Repeat the process until you’re out of filo, or out of filling.  This recipe should make about 15 but it depends on how much filling you are adding.  Brush the tops of the briouats with egg yolk before placing in the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and starting to flake. 

You can also bake these part way, cool, and pop in the freezer.  When you want to use them simply remove from the freezer, thaw and finish baking them! 

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Moroccan Food August 22, 2010 3

A staple in Morocco for Ramadan is the chebekia a flavored cookie that is fried and then soaked in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  I love these cookies but they are a little difficult to make.  I attempted to extract the exact recipe from my mother in law but they don’t measure anything and they also make these in HUGE batches – and by huge I mean about 10-15kg at a time.  Because they are so time consuming many families will get together to split the work and then share the bounty.   I’m going to use Christine’s recipe to share with you because it’s really good and why re-invent the wheel?  This recipe will make about 2 kg of cookies (or a little over 4 pounds). 

  • 1/2 kg (about 4 cups) flour, plus additional if necessary
  • 1 soup bowl full (about 200 g or 7 oz.) of golden unhulled sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon ground anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon Moroccan yellow colorant
  • pinch of Gum Arabic grains (gum acacia, mastic) – mix with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and crush to a powder
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup orange flower water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • ———————————————————————-
  • 1 1/2 kg (about 3 lbs.) honey
  • 2 tablespoons orange flower water
  • 1 1/2 liters vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup golden unhulled sesame seeds, toasted, for decorating


Ahead of time, pick through the sesame seeds to remove any debris. Spread them on a baking pan and toast the sesame in a 400° F (200° C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sesame seeds are crunchy and nutty-flavored. Allow them to cool thoroughly, and then store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Make the Chebakia Dough

Grind one bowlful of toasted sesame in a food processor until it turns powdery. Keep grinding until the powder becomes moist enough to press or pack.
Mix the ground sesame with the flour and other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with your hands to form a dough. Add more flour if necessary to achieve a dough that is rather stiff but pliable.
Knead the dough by hand for seven to eight minutes or in a mixer with dough hook for four to five minutes. Divide the dough into four portions, shape each into a smooth mound, and place the dough in a plastic bag to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Roll and Cut the Dough

The rolling out and folding process is described below, but if you’ve never made Chebakia, it will be helpful to see the photo tutorial How to Make Chebakia.
Take one of the portions of dough, and roll it out to the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard. Lightly flour your work surface if necessary.
Use a pastry cutter to cut the dough into rectangles approximately the size of your palm. Make four evenly spaced cuts lengthwise in each rectangle. These cuts should be almost the length of the rectangle, but should not cut through to the edges of the dough. The resulting rectangle will have five strips of attached dough.

Fold the Chebakia

Take a rectangle, and thread the middle finger of your right hand through alternating strips of dough. This enables the rectangle to drape over your finger.
With your left hand, pinch together the outer corners of dough which hang over the tip of your finger. This will form the center of the flower shape.
While holding the pinched corners with your left hand, allow the strips of dough to slide down off your right finger while gently turning them inside-out around the pinched portion. Gently pinch the opposite corners closed once the dough is turned inside out. If done correctly, you’ll have formed the dough into an elongated flower shape.
Place the folded piece of dough on a baking sheet or tray. Repeat the process with the remaining rectangles and mounds of dough. Gather together the scraps of dough as you work, mold them together into a mound, and return them to the bag to rest before you try rolling them out again.
Use up all of your dough in this manner. Cover the trays of folded dough with a towel until ready to fry.

Frying the Chebakia

Heat one inch of oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. At the same time, heat the honey almost to boiling in a large pot. When the honey is frothy but not bubbling, add the orange flower water to the honey and turn off the heat.
When the oil is hot, cook the chebakia in batches. Adjust the heat as necessary to slowly fry each batch of chebakia to a medium brown color. This should take about 10 minutes if the oil is the correct temperature. If the oil is too hot, the chebakia will color quickly but the insides will not be cooked crispy.

Soaking the Chebakia in Honey

When the chebakia are cooked to a medium golden brown, use a slotted spoon or strainer to transfer them from the oil directly to the hot honey. Gently push down on the chebakia to submerge them in the honey, and allow them to soak for 5 to 7 minutes. They’ll turn a rich, glossy amber color as they absorb the honey. In the meantime, you can begin frying another batch of cookies.
Note: The longer you soak the chebakia, the more honey they will absorb, and the sweeter and less crispy they become. How long to soak them is a matter of personal preference. However, too short of a soaking will result in pale-colored chebakia that eventually lose their glossy coating.
When the chebakia have finished soaking, remove them from the honey to a strainer or colander, and allow them to drain for only a few minutes. Gently transfer them while hot to a large platter or tray, and sprinkle the centers with sesame. As you finish soaking other batches of chebakia in the honey, simply drain and add them to the platter in a mound, garnishing each batch with sesame.

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I usually prepare a big iftar meal for my husband during Ramadan.  We would eat plenty of haraira, briouats and other tasty traditional Moroccan dishes.  This year I’m alone and going through all that trouble just doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

Instead I’m opting for light and healthy meals.  This was one of those meals.  Basic.  Kefta meatballs in tomato sauce, diced mangos, avocados, a cucumber and yellow tomatoes.  No dressing, just healthy, yummy summer goodness.  The meatballs were especially good.  They weren’t as heavy as most meatballs and I add some cayenne pepper for an extra zing.

Kefta Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


1/2 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/4 c bread crumbs
1 large tomato halved and the inside grated
3 tsp olive oil                                                                                                    


Using a large mixing bowl, add the meat, egg, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper, and bread crumbs.  Combine well and shape the mixture into ball shapes.

In a large saute pan heat the olive oil and garlic.  Add the grated tomato and 1/2c of water.

Place the meatballs in and cook on medium heat until the meat is cooked through.  Serve hot and eat with bread or over rice. 

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