With Ramadan just around the corner it's time to start thinking about the tedious, yet oh-so-necessary, task of Iftar logistics. And if your family is anything like mine, they'll be avidly discussing the evening's breaking-of-the-fast by noon. With growing kids who have voracious appetites and a husband who swears he's hypoglycemic (he's not), tummies and tempers tend to get on edge the closer we get to the evening meal, and the further we get into the fasting month.
With the business of the day and the fatigue that inevitably follows during the fast, the last thing anyone wants to do is scramble around trying to find something to make. Let's face it - when it comes to Ramadan, we don't plan things out very well. In order to reap the blessings of the holy month, this year I'm planning on planning everything: from food, to ibadah, to extra good deed accumulation. Learning from my experiences over the years, I tend to get more out of my day when I plan out the details. The same practice proves essential in Ramadan, when time is tight and goals are high.
First things first, lets get food arrangements out of the way before we delve into how we'll break up our worship time and accrue extra good deeds (coming up in later posts).
1. Intend not to make "special" Ramadan food. Anything complicated, time consuming, and/or fattening gets thrown out of the window. The focus of Ramadan is not food, but Ibadah (worship). So it stands to reason that when we spend all of our time and energy cooking, preparing and eating the Iftar meal we'll have less motivation to do the important work of prayers and remembrance that comes after the meal. Food comas are not part of the Ramadan spirit. Eating fried and fatty (the bad fatty stuff, not the good kind) sends your sugar levels into a tail-spin and you'll be sleeping where you stand during Taraweeh prayers. We've all been there. This year, make a commitment to not overdo the Iftar meal. Keep it simple, nutritious, and un-fried.
2. Gather your recipes. Grab all those tried-and-true recipes you keep in your back pocket and add them to a few new ones you might want to try during Ramadan. Make a board on Pinterest, or create a folder on your computer to house all the recipes you love. There are so many good sources out there for delicious and easy dinner ideas, but you might want to check out the following:
www.oursoufra.com - My friend Rand is a blogger and total foodie. She has amazing baking and cooking skills and is always trying out something new. I have yet to taste a creation that wasn't insanely delicious. With beautiful photos and spot-on recipes focused on Palestinian cuisine this blog will soon be on your favorites list.
www.cookinglight.com/food - The site and the magazine are all about healthy cooking and eating. I've found so many great recipes and tips here over the years that it's changed my cooking game dramatically. If you're in need of healthy inspiration, you have to check them out.
3. Make a meal plan for the month. This is so incredibly helpful throughout the year, and more so during Ramadan when your brain is in a fog. Grab a sheet of paper (or do it on your laptop/phone if you're so inclined) and plug in those easy recipes. If it's too overwhelming to plan at this detailed level for the month, then do it for one or two weeks at a time. The idea is that you plan as much as you can now, so there's less to do later. I'm not one to make something fresh on a daily basis and my family has no issues eating leftovers, so I always aim to make enough food for two (sometimes three) nights. Make sure to add whatever sides you plan on having too. Include suhoor options that are easy and filling in addition to kids school lunches if necessary.
The first set of dinners #1-7 in yellow are for weeks 1-2, the second set #8-14 in green are for weeks 3-4. The second set of numbers correlate the same way, except these are school lunches for the kids.
Our Fave Suhoor Options:
- Overnight low-carb "oats" - Pic below (Recipe here)
- Fava beans (Arabic "fool") + eggs
- Protein-packed pancakes and/or waffles (Tons of recipes here)
- Dates, nuts, and cheese
4. Make your shopping list. Run through your meal plan to make a list of what you need and stock up on those necessities. Remember that pre-planning for Ramadan is all about efficiency so you don't want to waste time running to the grocery store for forgotten items.
5. Prep as much as you can. Marinade the meat. Chop and bag the veggies. Puree fresh herbs with olive oil and freeze them in ice cube trays so they can be thrown in when needed. Do as much you can now and iftar will go so much smoother later. To keep track of everything I like to make a checklist of all the items that need prepping or cooking. I've color coded what needs to go in the freezer and what will be in the fridge because I have limited space in both.
Tip: When you're freezing food like meats, try to lay them flat in a single layer on a baking sheet. This way once they're frozen you can stack them neatly or stand them up like a filing system.
6. Make it prominent. I put my meal plan front and center on my fridge. Food is a big part of my action plan this month and making it prominent will keep me on track. I also made sure to label my frozen and refrigerated items to make them easier to see and help me remember what I have.
Because my prep list was long, I opted to break it up into chunks over a period of several days instead of trying to do it all in one day. Now my freezer is stacked with marinated chicken, spiced meats, cut veggies, and herb cubes. And my fridge is stocked with prepped fruit, veggie starters, and easy-grab suhoor options like low-carb oatmeal, and protein pancakes. Yes it was work, and no it wasn't a party, but I can honestly say that I'm ready for Ramadan to arrive (at least food-wise).