I hope you’re all having an amazing summer. I’ve been busy readjusting to life here in the United States while we’re visiting. The weather is much cooler and my boys are loving lots of open green space to run and play. We’ve had plenty of bike accidents already and K even got to visit a friends house and help out with their chickens! He came home full of stories about how he got the eggs and the families Amish neighbors and their horses. I keep thinking how wonderful it is that my kids will know so many different ways that people live from a young age. Really I am so happy I’m able to give them this life.
As we’re away from Morocco, Ramadan has gotten away from us. I’ve had a coming to terms with my feelings about the holiday. I wrote about them on Multicultural Kid Blogs today. It took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my feelings, but I’ve also learned I’m not alone.
To celebrate the end of Ramadan and upcoming Eid I’ve decided to do a big Eid giveaway. I haven’t done any in a while and since we’re having such a good time I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things. There’s something in this giveaway for the family, something for the kids, and something for mom!
Let’s start with the kids
I don’t know about you but I always struggled to find great books for my kids about Islam, Morocco, and Islamic holidays. Our libraries were lacking and what I found online was just poorly done. Thankfully this is changing. I had the opportunity to review the book Ilyas and Duck Search for Allah a few weeks ago. The book is really well illustrated and written in clear, easy to relate to English. Yes, this sounds like it should be obvious but I’ve been disappointed in plenty of books for this reason.
My kids were a little old for this book, though my youngest was interested. It’s a great read for kids in the 2-6 year old range. Really one of the best picture books I’ve seen when it comes to Islamic topics. So one lucky winner of this giveaway will get their own copy of the book! If you want to follow as new books are released be sure to like Ilyas and Duck on Facebook and Twitter.
For the Family
If you’ve been here for awhile you’ll know about my continuing partnership with Saffron Road Foods. They’re one of my favorite food companies and I’ve been a fan since their line launched. I always have dry things like their simmer sauces and chickpeas in my suitcase to restock my kitchen. I was thrilled to find a box of their newest frozen entrees on the porch shortly after I arrived in the US.
The first thing I tried were the Korean Style Tacos. Don’t you love the food truck packaging? I loved the detail of the founder Adnan as the bus driver! I usually think anything heated in the microwave is subpar but was really happy with how good these were. You know it’s good when your 10 year old is asking for his own!
Even though these products are convenience food they’re made without chemicals and “food” items that can’t be pronounced. Just to show you an example I snapped a picture of the ingredient list (it’s the top image) and then dug through my mom’s freezer to find something else with a label to compare. Now you’re wondering what’s that other label for? Bread. It’s for flatbreads. Crazy isn’t it?
So to share my love of Saffron Road I’m giving you a basket to make dinner time with your family more enjoyable!
What’s in the basket?
- coupons to pick out your own entrees at stores around the country that carry Saffron Road
- Lamb Broth
- a package of Falafel Crunchy Chickpeas and Chipotle Crunchy Chickpeas
- 6 assorted Simmer Sauces
- an apron and;
- wooden cooking utensils
This is a gift from me to you. Over the last year I’ve heard a lot about Stitch Fix. If you haven’t it’s basically a mail order personal shopper. As frequently as you’d like (as much as every 3 weeks) a personal stylist selects 5 pieces of clothing or accessories based off a profile you fill out. You get the box, try everything on, and choose what you’d like to keep. What you don’t want you mail back in a prepaid envelope. What you do want you simply pay for. If you don’t want anything, no problem – mail it all back. Each shipment has a $20 styling fee that is automatically applied to any purchase you make. If you decide you want to keep everything in the box, you get the $20 credit plus 25% off your total.
I was hesitant to try this for a few reasons. First, I wear modest clothing. Surely to be fashionable they’d have no idea what I could or couldn’t wear. After filling out my profile and leaving detailed feedback (including a link to my Pinterest style board) I was absolutely thrilled to discover everything that was sent to me met my needs. So yes, if you wear hijab, they can send you cute, fashionable clothes. Second, how expensive was this going to be? I’ll be honest, I hate shopping. I tend to stick to the same things and since I’ve lost about 100 pounds I’m just unsure about what does or doesn’t work for me. I automatically gravitate to larger sizes that aren’t flattering because they’re just too big! So yes these clothes are more expensive than the Old Navy or Target clearance rack but they’re very well made and high quality. At this time in my life I’m more interested in investing in several pieces that are better quality than lots of cheap things.
So if you’re on the edge, here’s your chance. The winner of the giveaway will get a $20 Stitch Fix gift card to schedule your first fix!
One optional entry (that actually gets you 5 entries!) in the giveaway is to sign up and schedule your first fix – if you win you can use the gift card to cover your first purchase. If you already get Stitch Fix you can use the gift card for your styling fee or to purchase a piece.
There you have it. One lucky winner takes all!
Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter entry form below to put your name in the drawing. Wishing you lots of luck and a blessed final days of Ramadan!
Disclaimer: This giveaway is open to those with a US address. Signing up for Stitch Fix is done through an affiliate link. I’ll earn a small credit if you decide to sign up.
Is it just me or have the last five months gone by incredibly fast? I can’t believe that June is part way through. Last year I was so organized and prepared for Ramadan way ahead of time and this year I feel like I’m grasping for straws. This will be my first Ramadan in Morocco. It’s hard to believe that MarocBaba and I have been together for 10 years and I’ve never been in Morocco during this time. We’ll be staying through part of July and then the boys and I are returning to the United States to spend some time with my family. Sadly MarocBaba won’t be joining us, instead he’ll be staying in Marrakech to run food tours and hold down the fort.
I know that I won’t have to do much this year as my sister in laws have the food department largely under control. In fact I’m kind of relishing the fact that I might be able to enjoy it without being exhausted. But I will try to help out and offer at least some appetizer type things to include on the table. I’ve got a pretty standard list of “things to make” ahead of Ramadan – I’m almost professional at this food prep thing pre-Ramadan. One is meatballs. Man these little guys are versatile and amazingly helpful in a pinch. Some things I make with them ;
- meatball sub sandwiches
- spaghetti and meatballs
- meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy
- Moroccan meatballs and eggs
- sweet and sour meatballs
The list could go on and on. The best thing is they’re easy to make a lot and freeze. Just mix them with basic seasoning; salt, pepper, some garlic maybe and onion. Roll them out and partially bake them – about 20 minutes. Then let them cool and put in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When you want to use them just pull them out and finish cooking. Now I can add these meatballs to the list of possibilities too. It’s hot, no one wants to be over a stove all day so be sure to put your slow cooker to use! These meatballs are a great appetizer/snack for a crowd or stuff them in a sandwich, or on top of some rice. Yummmmm…
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 package Saffron Road Foods Harissa Simmer Sauce
- Add 1/4 of the contents of the simmer sauce to the ground beef and mix well with your hands.
- Roll the meatballs out into bite sized balls and sear on all sides. In a small slow cooker add the remaining simmer sauce along with 1/2 of a pouch of water.
- Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 3-4 hours until the meatballs are cooked through.
- You may want to check once or twice and move the meatballs around so that all sides are well covered with the sauce.
- To serve, skewer each meatball with a toothpick and arrange individually or on a large serving platter.
- Place the sauce remaining from the slow cooker on the bottom of the plate, and the meatballs on top.
For Moroccans, harira soup is a Ramadan ritual. Every evening families sit down to bowls of steaming harira – even when daytime summer temperatures soar about the 100F mark. I love soup, but the last thing I want to do is leave my stove on for hours during the hottest part of summer. Instead, I created this quicker version to satisfy the Ramadan ritual but keep my house at a tolerable temperature.
Traditional harira is made with dried lentils, dry chickpeas, rice, vermicelli noodles, a potpurri of herbs and spices, vegetables, and meat – most often lamb. If you’ve ever cooked with dry chickpeas you’ll know this part of the cooking process can take hours, just to soften the beans. I really prefer this soup without meat (but that’s kind of every food lately!), and omitting meat automatically cuts off cooking time. My next shortcut is to use a pre-made broth.
I rarely ever reach for a vegetable broth when cooking, mostly because I’ve never found one that tastes good. Often I find them bland, with the only flavor of salt coming through. I really love Saffron Road’s Vegetable Broth because it’s the opposite of every other brand I’ve tasted. If I were taking the traditional route for this soup, I would chop up a bunch of vegetables to create a broth, but really there’s no need when using this broth. It has all the flavor I was looking for. More time saved!
I wasn’t sure how this short-cut soup was going to be received but surprisingly MarocBaba actually preferred this version to others that I have made. I know that this is one recipe I’ll be holding onto for a long time to come. When the temperatures drop I’ll be wanting a big giant bowl of this harira to warm me up.
**Great News! Saffron Road products will be on sale at Whole Foods August 6-8th. Also, if you’re a fan of their frozen entrees the are increasing distribution! They are now selling family sized Lamb Saag at Costco in AZ, NM, CO, UT, NV & CA. Also, starting around August 9th they will be selling family sized Chicken Tikka Masala at Costco in ME, VT, NH, CT, NY, NJ, PA (some), MD, DE, VA. You can always check out the store locator on their website to find a store near you.
- 1 medium to large onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 3-4 tomatoes as fresh as possible
- 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 handful chopped cilantro
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1½ tsp Black Pepper
- 1Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Turmeric
- 1 small pinch Saffron crushed (if desired)
- ½ c canned organic garbanzo beans
- ¼ c lentils (rinsed)
- 1/4 c rice (I use long grain or basmati)
- 3 cups water
- 1 carton Saffron Road Vegetable Broth
- Food Processor
- Heat olive oil in large stockpot on the stovetop.
- Finely chop onion and garlic, and saute in the stockpot.
- Wash and core tomatoes and then puree in a food processor along with parsley and cilantro.
- Add tomato and herb puree along with salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric (and saffron if desired) to the pot.
- Next, add water, tomato paste and 1 carton of Vegetable Broth to the mix.
- Bring the soup to a boil and add lentils, rice, and garbanzo beans and reduce heat to medium. Cover.
- Once the lentils and rice are tender (will vary but about 20 minutes) turn down the heat.
- You can thicken the soup by adding a flour roux or leave as is.
- The harira should be thick but still have a soup consistency.
This soup took about 1 hour start to finish to make. Traditional harira takes several more. You might not be making this every night, but by making one big pot you’ll be guaranteed leftovers. To preserve, transfer soup to smaller sized, freezer safe containers and allow to cool completely. Cover the containers, and pop into the freezer. When you want to use it again, transfer to your refrigerator until the soup can be removed from the container. You could also submerge it part way in warm water. Heat through in a pan on the stove top.
Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Saffron Road Food. I do receive compensation for recipe creation as well as product to use. My opinions and creations are my own.
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Chebakia and Ramadan and synonymous in Morocco. You simply can’t have one without the other. This presents a big problem for us. Chebakia are cookies made of flour, spices, honey, and sesame seeds. It’s the flour that is problematic. It’s safe to say that Moroccan families eat dozens and dozens of these cookies every Ramadan. They are made (or bought) in huge quantities and are time consuming to make – which makes it very clear to me why they’re a special holiday treat.
Last year I decided I would try to make a gluten-free chebakia to serve with harira during Ramadan. Traditionally these cookies are a very unique shape. The dough is rolled flat, cut into rectangles, then sliced 3-4 times in the middle of each piece of dough. It is then inverted to create a shape that reminds me of a flower. While this can be tricky to master, traditional dough has enough elasticity to make it possible. I tried and tried to get a gluten free dough elastic enough to recreate the shape but sadly I couldn’t do it. It has been one of my lessons in gluten-free cooking. It’s possible to almost replicate the taste of most things, however it’s not always possible to get them to look the same. Instead, I used a pastry cutter with a rippled edge to cut these into strips and I then twisted some of them as I put them in the fryer to create a different shape. This is totally optional, they’ll still taste great if you just cut into strips!
That being said, I am happy with how these turned out. A few things to keep in mind; the dough is much softer than traditional chebakia dough, they must be kept in the refrigerator or they will turn to a ball of mush, and they tend to brown much faster when frying. If you’ve got a celiac in the house, or are just cutting back on wheat, I hope you’ll enjoy these cookies as much as the original.
- 1 1/4c almond flour
- 1 1/2c rice flour + extra for dusting
- 1 1/2c corn or tapioca starch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- a pinch of saffron
- a pinch of mastic + pinch of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c melted butter
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1/4c white vinegar
- 3 Tbsp orange blossom water
- 1 tsp yeast + 1/4c warm water + 1 tsp sugar
- sesame seeds
- vegetable oil
- 2-3 cups honey
- In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/4c almond flour, 1 1/2c rice flour, and 1 1/2c corn or tapioca starch along with baking powder, salt, anise seeds, cinnamon, and saffron.
- In a separate bowl, or ideally with a mortar and pestle, crush and blend the mastic and sugar. If you don't have a mortar and pestle you can use the back of a spoon to break it down. When you've formed a powder add this to the flour mixture.
- Prepare the yeast by adding 1/4c warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Leave to activate 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slowly add the butter, olive oil, vinegar and orange blossom water to the dry ingredients. Combine with a wooden spoon or your hands. Once the yeast has activated (bubbling) add it to the dough.
- The resulting dough will be a bit sticky, but should hold together in a large ball. Cover with a towel and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes.
- On the stovetop begin to heat vegetable oil for frying the cookies. The oil should be deep enough to submerge the cookies. In another pot, add the honey and turn the heat to low.
- When the dough has completed the resting time, dust a cutting board or surface with rice flour and pinch off a piece off a palm-size piece of dough. With a rolling pin (or a glass!) roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness.
- Cut the dough into 1/2" width strips using a ribboned pastry wheel. Alternately, you can cut with a pizza cutter you just won't get the fluted edges.
- Gently drop pieces of dough into the oil and fry until light brown in color. If you notice your cookies are falling apart in the oil, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. If the dough gets too warm I found it tends to fall apart when cooked.
- Strain cookies with a slotted spoon after frying and place into the honey. Allow to sit in the honey for 30-45 seconds and then move to a drying rack or plate.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the cookies before they dry.
- Store in a sealed container, in the refrigerator. Cookies will keep for 1-2 weeks. You can also freeze them for longer storage time.
Today is the 4th day of Ramadan in the United States and the hottest Ramadan I’ve experienced – and I’m not fasting! Unfortunately my surgeon would not clear me to fast, preferring me to wait at least a year after having gastric sleeve surgery to attempt fasting. Truthfully I’m not sure I would be able to do it even if he were to allow me. We begin fasting at 3:15am and the fasting day ends around 9pm. I simply wouldn’t have the space or ability to eat enough food or drink enough water in 6 hours to be safe. Right now, it takes me all day to eat 800-1000 calories and drink enough liquid not to dehydrate. There have been times when I have not eaten enough and it’s immediately apparent to MarocBaba. He says the color drains out of me and my eyes start drooping. I can feel it, I get very tired, dizzy, and unresponsive, but I didn’t realize it was physically so apparent.
Just because I can’t fast doesn’t mean I’m withdrawingfrom all Ramadan activities. I’ve been trying extra hard this year to be more patient and understanding. I’ve been extra “wifely” preparing special iftars and dinners. But, I am also keeping things a whole lot healthier. Summer means lots of fresh produce and I am taking advantage! I am not sure if this is a general trend or one of those “if you are looking for it, it’s what you’ll see” things, but it sure seems to me that a lot of people are adopting a healthy Ramadan experience.
When I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers what kinds of things they wanted to see this Ramadan many answered healthy recipes and/or traditional recipes made healthier. I think it’s great that people are more aware of not just the act of not eating during Ramadan, but also thinking about the foods they are choosing to eat.
Here are my tips for helping you have a healthy Ramadan;
Use Seasonal Fruit
I mentioned this above but take advantage of the produce that’s available in summer months. I’ve made a fruit salad every night. This is a good way to replenish natural sugars and liquids in the body. Chilled fruit is refreshing and a much better “dessert” than a big plate of cookies.
Modify Portion Sizes
There’s a tendency to “put out a spread” for iftars, I think it’s cultural to some extent, but it also encourages over-eating and waste. Instead of putting out a large plate of sweets, opt for a smaller plate. Cut back the amount of meat that you use, and replace it with vegetables.
When I think of summer I think of grilling. If your house is anything like mine, it’s hot to turn on the oven or the stove top. Grilling meats, vegetables, and even fruit is an excellent way to keep the inside temperature down and eat more healthfully. Grilling brings out the natural flavors in foods, and like baking, requires very little added fats to cook food through. Kababs, grilled corn, mixed grilled vegetables, burgers, or grilled chicken pieces are all excellent options. Not to mention, it’s a great way to get everyone (by everyone I’m thinking oh…husbands) to help with meal preparation.
Water is of course incredibly important when fasting, but having a smoothie or protein shake for iftar or suhoor is a great way to add nutrition without “eating” it. Avocado smoothies are a big favorite here, and I simply mix in a tablespoon of protein powder when mixing it. You could do something similar with fresh mangos, bananas, or even dates. Mix in some full fat Greek yogurt for even more protein.
Protein for Suhoor
This relates back to the previous tip. Eating protein keeps you full longer. A protein smoothie, eggs, yogurt, and lean meats are all good sources of protein. Aim to get 20g+ of protein at suhoor to keep you fueled and full.
Links and Resources for More
Here are some of the other links and resources I’ve found on eating healthy during Ramadan.
5 Health Benefits of Fasting – from Nour Zibdeh featured on My Halal Kitchen
5 Tips for Healthy Eating During Ramadan – Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen
Staying Healthy During Ramadan - from Holly of Arabic Zeal
Iftar Day 1 – Follow Henia of Teal Tadjine for her healthy Ramadan iftars!
Date Nut Bars – Nourition has a great recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth without empty calories.
Chicken B’stila Soup – Swap the traditional Moroccan b’stilla for this soup
Cauliflower “Popcorn” – A great low calorie, low carb snack!
Pindi Chana - from Veg Recipes of India, I love this vegetarian dish that would be great with brown rice and grilled chicken.
What are your tips for keeping Ramadan meals healthy?
For Ramadan this year I decided to re-make several traditional Moroccan pastries. Usually MarocBaba’s mom sends us a big box of Moroccan cookies. The problem with that is they all have gluten. Between MarocBaba’s celiac disease and my difficulty eating gluten after gastric sleeve surgery we’re pretty much a non-wheat home. The only thing to do is to make all of our favorite sweets gluten-free. I’ve shared my recipes for vanilla, almond, and preserved lemon ghriba and pistachio rosewater ghriba – they’re our favorites. These are a little different.
Ghriba are traditionally made a lot of different ways. There are many different variations depending on region of the country, country (they’re made all over the Middle East and North Africa), and family. That being said, I’ve never seen or heard of the variations I’ve created. With this cookie, I wanted to make something that incorporated ginger. When I first started making Moroccan food I was very light-handed with ginger – or omitted it completely. I learned that it’s one of the most important flavors in Moroccan cooking. So this cookie is really an homage to that experience.
- 2 c ground almonds
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
- pinch salt
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds + extra for coating
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp butter
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- In a food processor, blend the almonds until they are broken down to almost a powder.
- In a large bowl combine almond flour, granulated sugar, salt, and baking powder.
- Add to the dry ingredients the grated ginger, sesame seeds, and egg yolks.
- Break up the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter and begin working into the dough.
- Using your hands or a pastry cutter mix all of the ingredients until everything has been combined, the dough will feel slightly sticky.
- Form small balls with your hands, about 1" in diameter.
- Roll the balls in sesame seeds.
- Place the balls onto a cookie sheet or plate.
- Refrigerate the cookies for 30 minutes, or place in freezer for 15 minutes.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat sheet.
- Arrange cookies on baking sheet. Do not flatten the cookies, they will naturally shape.
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.
- The cookies should still be a pale color.
- Leave on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes to allow the cookies to finish setting, then transfer to a cooling rack.
- When the cookies are completely cool, transfer to an air tight container. Cookies can be stored on the counter for 1-2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To serve, remove from the freezer and allow to warm up before serving.
Do you struggle to find meal ideas for your family during Ramadan? Not this year! Today my first Ramadan meal plan is available to make your Ramadan meal planning easier.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from women during Ramadan is, “I have no idea what to make!” I know meal planning isn’t for everyone. It’s a big process to find meal ideas, create a list, shop, and then either prepare one evening, or nightly meals. Whew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Last year I created a cookbook titled Ramadan Nights, this cookbook is still available but this year I wanted to take it a step further.
This meal plan has 6 recipes for suhoor, iftar, and dinner. Several of the meals have multiple variations for more than 25 recipes. I have also created a shopping list that covers the basics. I think you’ll like that many recipes can be customized for your taste. Perhaps the other most important aspect of this set is that all of these recipes are either;
- made in 5-10 minutes
- can be made in the slow cooker
- can be pre-made and frozen, needing only to be heated up the day they’re served.
The recipes all include gluten-free adaptations or are gluten-free to begin with. These are recipes that I make in my home and for my family, they’re not just random ideas I’ve had!
I plan to create two more meal plans that are of similar length. You can mix and match these recipes or you can make them all one week. I’ve included a basic shopping list. You will need to customize this based on how you choose to vary those multiple option recipes.
Now you’re probably asking how to get this meal plan. I’ll be releasing two more meal plans over the two weeks and I can’t promise how long I’ll be offering them at this price. Each meal plans takes me over 10 hours to put together, adapting for slow cooker and freezer preparation, shopping list creation, and editing.
Right now this meal plan is available for just $8!
If you want to pick up this meal plan and my Ramadan Nights cookbook, I’ve got a special deal. Bundle them together for $13.50! You’ll be getting over 50 recipes including lots of Moroccan holiday favorites for a great price. Get the Bundle Now.
When you’re checking out, select add to cart (it’s cut off a little – sorry about that I’m trying to figure it out!) Then using the top navigation bar select checkout under Shop. Let me know if you have any problems – I don’t want anyone to miss out on this!
Looking for more Ramadan meal planning ideas? Make sure to join me Thursday with my special guest Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen for this week’s Ramadan Revealed webinar series. Be sure to visit the webinar page and sign up if you haven’t so that you don’t miss access information.
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