Only a Week Left? Final Ramadan Reports

Checking in to you live from the last week of #ramadiet2k17 and y’all, it’s hot! We were in the midst of a heat wave last week, which promptly followed a cold snap that I was not at all complaining about. But here we are, nearly at the home stretch. It flies by every year. Let’s finish strong!

I’m going to tell you about what I’ve been making and eating. Because of this diet where I’m avoiding simple carbs and added sugar, I get to be creative not only about my savory meals but how I stay content with some alternatively sweet treats.

One of my favorite ways to break my fast (after a date or 3) is with a smoothie. Bananas, peanut butter, frozen blueberries, almond milk. It’s easy and full of good stuff, and sometimes I even freeze it for a frozen dessert.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

A great breakfast hack I’ve been doing all month is making French toast with Ezekiel bread. This idea also comes from my friend Rebecca, healthy eating extraordinaire. I soak slices of bread in almond milk, egg, vanilla extract and cinnamon. I don’t like almond milk on its own, but when it’s being used for something like a smoothie or French toast, you can’t taste it anyway. And when I say soak, I mean it – the bread isn’t ready until you can squeeze it in the center and batter squishes out. This will take around 30 seconds. I make the batter in a shallow tupperware the night before to save time in the morning. I put peanut butter, maple syrup, and sometimes fruit on this French toast, and satisfies my sweet tooth just fine. Yes, I’ve allowed myself maple syrup as my one sweetener for the month. Frankly, this French toast kinda needs it.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

I always make sure to keep oatmeal in my suhoor (pre-dawn meal) rotation to regulate my cholesterol and stay fuller longer in the morning. Don’t be discouraged by oatmeal. There’s so much you can do with it. Add fresh fruit, honey, toasted nuts, coconut oil, nut butter, dates and other dried fruit…the possibilities are endless. Think of it as a vessel for things you like instead of just morning sludge. Get creative – I know you can do it, I promise.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

 

As we approach the final days of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get focused on their worship with prayer, reading the Qur’an and more. In the last ten nights is Laylatul Qadr, or the Night of Power. This is the night that the Qur’an was brought down for mankind. It is believed that this night has the strength of 1,000 months, so any good deeds (prayer and charity, for example) done on this night are considered as if they were done for 1,000 months. As you can imagine, it’s a particularly spiritual time for Muslims, and many spend longer hours at the mosque at night praying. In a week will be Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, full of food and festivities. Check back in soon to see how we throw down in NYC and some final reflections. Stay cool, friends!

Advertisements

#notevenwater? Dispatches from Ramadan 2017

We’re already a third of the way through Ramadan, and I’m thanking God for the mild weather in New York City thus far. When it’s hot, chugging hella water is just as important, if not more important, than what you eat for suhoor, the meal you have before dawn breaks – because you can’t eat or drink when fasting. The first thing I grab when I get up at 3 am is my big Nalgene bottle and I fill it with water, making sure to finish it before I go back to sleep. When breaking my fast, either at home or with others at the Islamic center, I have the same bottle by my side, and I’ll usually try to have another glass before I go to bed. Yes, our bodies can do amazing things under some duress, but water plays a very important role in their general functionality (think muscles – that means the brain!). So don’t stress it if you don’t have to. Stay hydrated folks, fasting and otherwise.

As far as this diet goes, I will say it’s been exciting to cook both hearty and tasty food for myself. And I was feeling great about avoiding sugar and empty carbs, appreciating life and all, until yesterday when I was arranging those jam-in-the-center sandwich cookies on a platter for the bake sale at my Islamic center and started considering a weekly cheat day for the rest of the month. But then I thought about how amazing the first cookie to hit my tongue will taste, and how impressed and content I will be with myself for my self-restraint. To make up for the lack of sugar, I’ve been eating sweet strawberries from the market straight from the pint, and popping back dates like chocolate chips. Dates are the traditional food to break one’s fast with, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to do so, around the 6th century. Lucky for me, dates have a lot going for them: fiber, potassium, magnesium and copper. I used to dislike dates like I dislike figs, but now I love them. Besides, when you haven’t been eating for 16 hours, there’s an extra dimension of taste once your lips touch food again.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset

One dish I learned to make from my friend Rebecca is chicken and bulgur. It sounds unfortunate, but Rebecca fed it to me for dinner a couple weeks before Ramadan, and I asked for seconds. It’s super easy, filling, and good to boot. Here’s my adaptation; check Rebecca’s wellness blog for the original recipe!

 

Chicken Bulgur
Makes over 4 servings

Ingredients
3 cloves of garlic
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 lb ground chicken or other meat
Oregano, garlic powder, and other Italian seasoning to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup bulgur
24 oz pasta sauce

Heat cooking oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the chicken and season with the spices/herbs, salt, and pepper. Add the bulgur once the meat has browned, a few minutes. Stir the bulgur and the pasta sauce. Season again to taste. Let simmer until the bulgur turns soft, about 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

If you’re wondering why this month’s photos have some questionable lighting, recall that I cannot eat during the lovely daylight hours #nothingisstaged #reallife #realdark 😛

Come back later for more communiqués, vis-à-vis fasting in this blessed month of Ramadan!

The Only Cookie Recipe You Need to Feed a Crowd

This is the easiest cookie recipe, hands down. It’s also the fastest cookie recipe, and my favorite to make. You read that right: oat and date cookies are my favorite cookies to make. It’s the most no-stress cookie recipe you can get without getting into the “3-ingredient recipe realm”. That said, it seems like you can count the number of ingredients on one hand. I love making these for friends, because they never fail to impress, and they take 10 minutes to put together.

On top of all that, it’s Ramadan, so of course I have an abundance of dates in the kitchen. This is really the only time I have dates around at all.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

Speaking of Ramadan, I wrote an article at work about what to eat to stay healthy during Ramadan. Check it out here!
I love these cookies so much that this is the second time I’ve written about them in a year, but I’m sure your friends will rejoice when you show up to the party with these in tow. Enjoy!

Oat and Date Cookies
Makes about 25 small cookies
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups  flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mejdool dates

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs, and when it sticks together when molded into hands. Add the egg, beating until just blended. Mix in the sugar, oats, and dates. Drop tablespoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. This dough should be very firm.
Bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes, at 350 degrees. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Enjoy warm or at room temperature!
Ramadan Mubarak! Do you have any date recipes you’re cooking this month? Leave them in the comments!

Oat and Date Cookies

I saw a post on Buzzfeed that read something along the lines of “20 treats to make with all your leftover dates from Ramadan” and that inspired me to share my beloved oat and date cookie recipe. It’s super easy and gives you chewy sweetness in one bite.

Oat and Date Cookies
Makes about 25 small cookies
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups  flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mejdool dates

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs, and sticks together when molded into hands. Add the egg, beating until just blended. Mix in the sugar, oats, and dates. Drop tablespoons of the dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. This dough should be very firm.
Bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes, at 350 degrees. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature!

A Day in the Life: Ramadan

We’re over halfway through, but Ramadan Kareem! For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is the holy month in the Islamic calendar of fasting and religious reflection and focus. You may not think it at first, but generally speaking, it’s something that is looked forward to every year. You fast from sun-up to sun-down for 30 days. Back in the day, before everyone moved, it was fun for me to see friends on the weekend at the mosque to break our fast together and catch up. Now that I’m constantly around good food and fewer fellow fasters (alliteration originally an accident), things are a little different. I’ve never really written about it in depth, and I thought it would be cool to take you through an average day of Carmen, fasting at Food52 – as I sit on the train home at 9:30pm. The following is somewhat of a combo of days to show different details of my last week or so. Welcome welcome…

3:07am
Did my alarm go off…? I’m certain that I turned it on for 3. Was I so out of it that I turned it off without remembering? Good thing my body figured it out (I totally missed it once). Ok, time to eat!

3:15am
Putting together suhur/sehri/sari, (depending on your language of choice) or the meal before the fast starts. Several cups of water? Check. Fiber, protein? Check! You want to be able to make it through the day, no simple carbs to get used up before the morning ends. I needed some vegetables in my life, so I made a fun salad.

Spinach, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, cheddar, sunflower seeds, blueberries, sautéed zucchini. Hahaha that’s weird right? It worked out. When I’m eating that early in the morning, I just tend to eat whatever I put in front of myself/whatever I think is a good idea at the time. Other go-tos include oatmeal and omelets.

4:00am
Back to bed. If you’re wondering why I’m eating so soon before sunrise it’s because the time we go by is kinda like the last moment before the sun starts its ascension to the horizon. So it’s well dark when I’m done.

5:30am
Get woken up by full bladder, run to bathroom.

6:30am
Wake up again for work. This part is interesting because my body gets confused as to why there’s food in the belly so early. Must use train nap as incentive to leave bed.

9:00am
Get to work. Do not pass go, do not collect $2.00 coffee or pastry.

Noon
Doing okay, keeping busy with work, sneakily packing away free-for-all food in ziplocs or tupperwares 😉 our test kitchen manager might ask if I want to pack something away before he brings it to the team kitchen.

3:00pm
Power through the slump of the day and the last few hours of work, fantasize about dinner choices, consider removing fasting-breath by brushing teeth but don’t.

7:00pm
Leave work (#startuplife), stop at Chipotle/halal food cart in anticipation for breaking my fast on the train (the time I went for Chipotle was satisfactory, but the lamb gyro tonight was somehow the best one I’d ever had ever).

8:30pm
Wade through backpack for the dates I packed in the morning to break my fast with (traditional), and the edible goods packed/collected throughout the day. Time to eat!

Goodies for home: bbq chicken, lone blueberry scone, squished galette slices, chocolate truffles. These all sound great when you’re fasting, but as soon as you begin to eat, you start reconsidering the options (example: it’s been 48 hours and I’ve yet to try the truffles).

IMG_7845

This day was rosemary shortbread, shortcake + berries, a jar of goat cheese caramel, and mini brownie bites.

10:00-11:00pm
Go to bed and do it all again!

After the first week I’d say Ramadan goes by pretty quickly. Before you know it, you’re on the last week and making all efforts to “cash in”, as it were, on all the extra blessings of the month before it’s gone for a year. Every (Gregorian calendar) year, Ramadan moves up a few days, with the rest of the Islamic calendar, which is lunar. This also means we’re never 100% sure of the day Ramadan starts or ends until a night or two beforehand. For me, Ramadan is not only an opportunity to reflect spiritually, but also to evaluate physically what is going into my body on a daily basis, when it’s getting there, and how. At least for a few days after Ramadan, I am far more conscious of my eating habits and I become a more mindful eater, and, hopefully, person in general.

If you’re wondering if people lose weight during Ramadan, the answer is…mostly not. If you’re not paying attention, you could easily overeat and gain weight, especially in the evening when it’s time to break the fast and you want to eat everything in sight (see-food diet). Ever heard that it’s more healthy to eat six small meals a day rather than three big meals? This concept applies here: if you’re only eating twice a day, your body will hold on to anything it can to help conserve energy, so the metabolism slows down. This also makes it harder to lose weight. But with some attention and diligence, you can continue healthy eating habits during Ramadan.

This year has been a first in many ways, from working, to being in the hot city and more, but it’s been very exciting and eye-opening. Hope you learned a little something about Ramadan/me/both; and feel free to leave a comment about your own fasting/abstaining experience or with a burning question. Until next time!

Oatmeal Date Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

As seen on “Foreign Food on Photos“, my Nigerian food blog
If you look closely you can see the SURPRISE

     EVERYONE GUESS WHAT! I made cookies.
     Duh, I made cookies…I mean I created cookies. How is this the first time I’ve made a cookie recipe, you ask? I’ll get back to you on that. But it looks like it took traveling 5000 miles from my kitchen to do it. Don’t worry, it will happen again! And it’ll only take me 300 miles. But here’s what happened.
     My uncle bought a good 3 kilos of rolled oats after giving up on the instant lifestyle (darn). He kindly asked if I would be willing to help him make some cookies with them (or something like that). So what does bored old me do with a clean kitchen in the dead of night when everyone’s gone to bed? Get cReAtIve. And too creative, by the sounds of it, right? Don’t worry, read on!
     With a half full tub of peanut butter waiting for me to make my lunch sandwiches, some questionably-sourced dates returning from I’m-not-sure-where in my cousin’s hand, no chocolate, and those darned oats, I had some interesting flavors to work with. And work I did. I wanted to go all out after the chocolate chipless cookies I’d made some weeks before, so why not use all these things, and if no one likes them, more for me! Haha kidding…
     ….yeah. So I had the basics: butter, sugar, flour etc. I decided to try the dark brown sugar that was around, which was a successful first. It’s also expiring on Thursday. Here was my “logic”, if I had been thinking rationally (I think it’s all subconscious at this point): peanut butter cookies are a norm, and so are oat and date cookies (soo good, you can actually check “my” recipe here!). Oats and peanut butter could be easily paired together. This combo might need something sweet to cut the thickness/nutty flavors. Dates are sweet. In they go!

Dark brown sugar for extra molasses chewiness and color

     Of course, right after adding some knife fulls of peanut butter, I decided I wanted to be like those fancy gourmet bakers who stuff shenanigans into their cookies. In my ideal cookie, this would be chocolate. Just an eruption of melted chocolate everywhere. But I had peanut butter. And peanut butter is what I used. So peanut butter cookies became stuffed with peanut butter. And it was an excellent choice. If you’re not so into PB, you can skip that part, but don’t skip the PB in the dough because it’s mild and lovely. I made some normal cookies so I wouldn’t overwhelm with the decadence, and they were good too.
     Alright, enough of the blog banter, let’s get y’all baking these. And I must warn you that some of these instructions and measurements are approximate, for I guesstimated a temperature from the knob on the gas oven and kept adding more of stuff. Who goes exactly by the recipe, though? They’re more like guidelines, anyway.
     Also, if you think of a better name for these cookies, do tell! I’ll bake you some for free. So far my other candidate is “Oatmeal Date Cookies with a Heart of Peanut Butter (or gold??)”

How innocent-looking

Crazy Oatmeal Date Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies
Makes 25 stuffed cookies, or 35 regular cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 dashes of salt
6-8 mejdool dates, coarsely chopped
1 cup rolled oats
Several more spoonfuls of peanut butter

  1. Preheat the oven whenever you want, but it will be at/around 360 degrees. Butter two cookie sheets and set aside.
  2. Combine your softened butter and sugars in a large bowl until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well, then add the peanut butter.
  3. Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the dates, making sure they separate in the dough. Gradually stir in the oatmeal.
  4. To make stuffed cookies, make small balls of dough, using just over half the dough, and place on the cookie sheets. Use a spoon to make a small well in the dough. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to stiffen. Place a 1/4 teaspoon of peanut butter in the well of the dough. Use your hands to flatten small tops to cover the peanut butter. Diligently seal the sides of the cookie so the peanut butter doesn’t escape.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean/with just peanut butter.

You can make bigger cookies to add more peanut butter,
but they’re already fairly large
I suggest finding your milky beverage of choice before
finishing the batch