Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ramadan Tips



Asalamu Alaykom,




Ramadan Kareem!

Whether this your first Ramadan or your fortieth, I'm hoping that it is meaningful for you inshahallah.

I would like to share a few ideas that have worked for me in Ramadan.  As I think of more helpful hints, I will add them to this same post.  Check back later for additions.

You can also read through my extensive Ramadan postings from previous years.


NEW!
Using Time Wisely

If nothing else, Ramadan teaches us that we are not limitless bundles of energy.  We slow down from our lack of water and food and we WILL slow down in our lifetimes.  We have got to use our time wisely.

One of the beauties of Ramadan is that you can see the stupidity better than at any other time of the year.  This doesn't happen right away---because materialism and the mainstream are flowing through our veins.  It takes a couple of weeks for those feelings to drain from us, but if you've been connecting to Allah in prayer and through the Quran, it happens.

In the last days of Ramadan, the time you waste becomes apparent.  The energy you could have directed better abso-freakin-lutely hits you in the face and makes you think differently.  The amount of clutter you've hoarded trips you up and forces you to ditch it immediately.

Use these days of clarity to see how your little corner of the world could be better.  If you want change DO IT NOW before dunya pulls you back down like so much gravity.  You really don't want to be stuck in exactly the same spot you were in before the month begin.  What's the point of being alive if you're stagnant?  Remember how to be organic and changing with a new outlook to match this new time in your life.

Get rid of whatever no longer serves you---be that clothes, emails, friends, social apps, bad habits, or unhealthy feelings and actions.  Ramadan is many things for us---a boot camp, a vision quest, a deep cleanse---it would be a shame if the month ended without us having met the challenge to change.

Imagine:  It's the first day of Eid.  Looking back on your month-long fast, what do you wish you'd accomplished?  What did you hope to achieve but didn't?

Now WAKE UP!  It's not Eid yet.  Just like Ebnezer Scrooge realizing that the future has not yet come to pass, you have time to make a positive difference NOW.



Suhour
Sandwich Maker

I gifted myself a sandwich maker on my last birthday.  I couldn't get my husband to see the value in an appliance because he reasoned, "You can just heat up sandwiches on the stove."  While he is right, I am so glad that I bought this time-saver.  I can make food quickly for us in the morning faster than if I was using the stove or a toaster over because the heat is so concentrated into such a small space.  Mine has two modes:  pocket sandwich or grilled sandwich.

Today, I heated up foul medamnes, the Egyptian dietary staple, with left-over rice and half a slice of cheese inside half a pita bread.  I added a little bit of seasoning and olive oil.  It went onto the grill plate and came out steaming hot; an Egyptian burrito, if you will.

It's hard to get children to eat suhour, but if it's a sandwich it goes down easier and faster.  This one sure did!


Smoothie

Big straw in a tall glass of orange juice and vanilla yogurt goes down quickly!  My favorite brand is Activa because it has live cultures and that aids in digestion.


With Children

Book Making

It's not to late to sit down with your child and make a book to chart their Ramadan experience.  Project learning is one of my favorite ways to teach so the information sticks.

Decorate the cover however you wish, but keep it peaceful.  It's OK to tell your child that Ramadan can't let everything in.

Inside, leave the first page for your index page.

At the top of the second page, write Ramadan and then both years----with Hijrah calendar dating and Gregorian dating.  Explain how both count from an important time in history.  This year marks 1436 years since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) took his followers from Mecca to Medina.  This year also marks 2015 years since the birth of Prophet Jesus (pbuh).

Use a ruler and a pencil to make a graph for their chart on fasting and prayer.  Mark in pen the days of Ramadan and explain how we can't know for sure how many days Ramadan will be.

Write tally marks for each prayer they do on time.

Write a comment for any Islamic knowledge gained that day, for instance which surah you read from or memorized.

Have another page for good works.  On our first day of Ramadan, El-Kid went through his old clothes and readied a bag for the boy whose mother sells produce on our street.  We had a good conversations about the poor.  Even working people can be poor and we need to free up our unusable blessings to those who actually could use them.

For sure it's proactive to set goals.  "Begin with the end in mind," is one of Stephen Covey's effective quotes for successful people.  What does your child want to accomplish over this Ramadan?  If there are no hopes, then instill some dreams.  It can be something as simple as having their friend over.

Decorating Drink Bottles

Drinking is a key to Ramadan's success.  The day before, we bought some expensive yogurt drink in very non-ecological bottles.  I almost didn't buy them because of that.  However, some of our packaging is re-usable and these were.  I washed out the white, sturdy plastic bottles, peeled off the plastic sleeve, and my son then took permanent markers and decorated each one with our names.  He wrote "Ramadan Kareem" on them as well.  He was very creative!  I like crafts if they are practical and this certainly is.


Finding Apps  

Browsing the app store for Islamic apps brings the love for technology into Ramadan.  For us, we are using two different apps to help memorize the 99 names of Allah Al Asma Husna.


Making Dawah 

In multi-cultural settings, like my son's international school, there are many different religions.  It's important for our children to share who they are without preaching who someone else has to be.  My son's best friend has two Christian parents.  I'd like to invite them over to share iftar with us.  Sharing iftar dinner with your child's non-Muslim friend is a way to demystify your family for those whose opinion really does matter.  Yes, you do want your child to have friends whose parents understand that the generosity and acceptance you teach your child is a part of your Islam (not an exception from it).

If you're not able to have dinner guests, then still have a play date.  It's easy to think that your fasting child can't have friends over, but then YOU become the friend.  A short time together breaks the monotony.

Study Quran Together

Have time to read aloud the Quran and to discuss it so that it is alive for your child.  It's not enough to hear the words, they have to be understood.  I have been having the most amazing conversations with my son about faith, which we wouldn't have had except for Ramadan re-focusing our lives.


Iftars

The iftar is the dinner meal after the fast is over.

Be Proactive

Many of us are used to thinking about what to make for dinner when we become hungry.  During Ramadan, there needs to be more forethought.  The meal planning has to start from the night before with thinking what you DIDN'T eat that night.


Menu Planning

Balance is key to everything in life and your diet needs to have a variety during a month-long fast or you and your family will suffer physical repercussions.  It will be hard to get everything in during the meal, so see the whole day, from suhour to iftar, and later the dessert, as needing to be planned.  We tend to overdose on carbs while neglecting fruits, vegetables and protein.  Think of what hydrates and helps with hydration.

Great Meals

Vegetarian Night

As much as Egyptians believe that every iftar needs an animal protein, I can't handle it.  Islamically, we are not to make our stomachs an animal's graveyard.  One night, I had to take a break from the spread downstairs.  I planned a meal of wild rice and lentils with sauteed veggies along with a fresh fruit drink.
     






After fajr, I soaked brown lentils in one bowl and wild rice in another.  I love wild rice!  It's got a lovely, earthy flavor which makes me feel so healthy from the first bite.


I also made the drink.



I already had the apricot drink "amar al deen" made and refrigerated and I added the thickest gloop at the bottom.  I did NOT add any sugar.  It doesn't need it!  I peeled two apples and cut them up into small, bite-sized pieces.  I added cut up dates and dried figs.  I also put in raisins.  Both the figs and the raisins can have tiny stems, so I carefully removed those.  It got to chill during the day in order to get ready for breaking the fast at magrib.


An hour before iftar, I sauteed the wild rice in a glob of butter and a vegetable bullion cube.  I then added the lentils and enough boiled water to cover the mix and covered the pot.  While that was cooking, I washed white rice and let it sit.  After I could see that the wild rice had started to expand, I added the white rice and more water and stirred.  I brought it back to a simmer and then cooked it as I would white rice (letting it steam for 20 minutes on low heat).

While the rice and lentils were cooking, I cut up veggies in an angled way into large, thin strips.  I used a small eggplant, two zucchinis, two small green peppers, a large carrot, and a small onion.  When the rice was done, I put on a large fry pan of oil on to heat and sauteed the veggies along with a bay leaf, a ton of rosemary, some oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper.  When the veggies were tender, I turned off the heat.

While the rice stayed hot, I left the veggies to cool down.  After breaking the fast with dates, water and prayer, I plated the food easily.  We enjoyed the meal while watching the last episode of Colin Firth's Pride and Prejudice.


Pig is not at the Table

Don't be the pig at the table and eat until you're full.  That moment when you feel comfortably full is better than the I-can't-move full.  It is Islamic to push yourself away before you are fully engorged.



Keeping Hydrated

This year, Muslims in the Northern Hemisphere will be seeing the longest fasting days possible.
Since it's summer, staying hydrated and keeping children hydrated is really important.



Frozen Grapes

Love this!  Wash them and freeze them.  It's that simple!  Smaller is better and of course seedless is important.  To make it easier, freeze in portions.  I have a set of small, plastic bowls with lids which I separate the portions into before putting them into the refrigerator in the morning.

While you can certainly eat frozen bananas, I don't recommend it during Ramadan because it's so easy to become constipated during the fasting season.  Bananas do not help with this problem---in fact they make it worse!  Children, who love bananas as much as monkeys, don't understand the correlation yet of what we eat affects how we feel and might overindulge.  It is best not to offer this alternative, in my opinion.

Frozen Yogurt Drops

This is another winner.  Get yogurt that it's too sweet and blob dime-size portions out onto a plastic tray or plate.  This gets frozen for a short time.  Pull it out and use a fork to pry them off the plastic bottom.  You might have to let them thaw just a bit.  Have individual containers ready to portion off the amounts.  They stay in these cute, little drops and they stay very cold.  The key is not to make them too large because the coldness is really too much with the larger blobs.  Smaller is actually better.  I have tried using plain yogurt and it isn't good.  Some fruit flavor is a nice ending to the day.

Jello 

Of course, the danger is in buying jello from the regular supermarket in the West and then you run the danger of eating pork gelatin.  It's worth a trip to a halal market to stock up on all the flavors.

Jello is one of the best deserts to serve after iftar dinner and prayers.  It is so refreshing.  You can serve it either alone, or layered up with yogurts or fruits.  You can even put fruit into the jello.  I froze mine the other day and it was fun to eat that way too.  I use those same small, plastic bowls with lids (which I used for the grapes) for this too.  It saves me time later to organize the after-iftar while I still have my wits about me in the morning.

Popsicles

Buying popsicles is a good idea.  It's fun to make your own.  I've got Nesquick and oatmeal cookie popsicles in the freezer now.  The key is having a REAL set of popsicle forms---forget about propping some stick into a cup covered with tinfoil.  The form that I have now is connected in one unit (like an ice cube tray but deeper).  I put that on top of another tray in the freezer just in case there might be spills.  Take it out once frozen, let it thaw enough so you can release it from the form.  Then, you can place them in a container until you're ready to eat it.




Tang

In America, Tang only used to come in Orange.  Is that still the case?

We are so blessed in Egypt to have Tang in so many flavors.  Currently, we've been busying Mango Delights---both the Mango, Orange and Strawberry combo along with the Mango and Watermelon combo.  I love the variety!  What's cool is that the company comes out every Ramadan with special flavors.  We've been buying them all:  Tamarind, Hibiscus, and Apricot.

I make a liter of Tang and separate it into small plastic bottles I've washed out.  They then get popped in the freezer in the morning.  Later, after we've eaten dinner, they come out again for whoever is thirsty.  What's nice about preparing them in the morning is that I can forget about them all day.  After dinner, I can take them out again so they thaw a bit before offering them.  Ice cold Tang is better than any pop or sweetened juice for quenching thirst.  The low sugar is the key.

If you want to be fancier about serving it, then keep it in a pitcher, but pop it in the freezer until it's slushy.  Having it icy is really the key.


Stay Away from Dehydrating Drinks

Not all drinks are getting you hydrated.  Take a look!  Some drinks are classified as diuretics, like coffee, black tea, and sodas.  Your body needs to flush their toxins out, which means eliminating them through urine.  The sweeter the drink is, the more need to send it out of your body---with that water you thought you were getting.

Eat Your Water

It isn't only drinks that keep you hydrated.  Some foods are really excellent in that regard.  It isn't just watermelon---although, that has a 92% water content.  Cucumbers have even more with 96% and they are great with yogurt for suhour in the morning and with salad at iftar.

Click the links and read up on what you could be adding to your Ramadan diet to keep hydrated.



Desserts

Pancake Pockets

I just made up that name.  If you can find a better name, let me know.  I used the aforementioned sandwich maker like a griddle for cake batter.  I used two eggs instead of three, the melted butter, milk, and only about a third of the package.  The trick is to not over-fill the cavities in metal plate.  While the first batch of four individual little cakes is cooking, I took out some raspberry jam and chocolate spread.  When the timer light turns green, I could take the cakes out with a tong and place them onto a plate to cool a little.

I then took two tiny teaspoons and put a dab each of raspberry jam and chocolate spread onto each cake before folding them over.  I kept doing this until the batter was used up.  Arranging the completed pancake pockets in a ring around a circular plate looked pretty.  The report from the guys was all good---alhumdulillah!  I served these with a cold coconut drink.


Reaching Out




Writing THOSE emails

After being shown the Holy Quran by Angel Jibreel/Gabriel, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not get to stay in the cave.  He had to leave and commune with others.  That's a lesson for all of us because we all have a friends and family on our contact with whom we are NOT in contact.

Ramadan is the perfect time to reach out---for the sake of Allah.  Wish every Muslim on the list, "Ramadan Kareem" and tell every non-Muslim that you were thinking about them during Ramadan.  Ask for forgiveness from anyone who stopped speaking to you because of some falling out.  Thank anyone who showed you kindness in your life.  Some people are inspirational to you but you haven't really told them---do it!  If it's someone who has moved away, let them know you miss them and ask how they are doing.  Make it simple and short but above all---heartfelt.

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