Last year I must have made a list of 70 some dishes for ideas because I knew I would get bored of cooking daily something new and appetizing for the family especially when they were fasting. However, even with such a list, I would look down it and say oh, no not today, oh no not in the mood or I don’t have the ingredients, or hmm too heavy or too salty.
So what is there that is good to eat in Ramadan? Well, I will share with you some of our family favorites and some of the mistakes we have found out. I will start out with those first! Things that are high in salt like snacking on chips or nuts or crackers are things to stay away from. Foods which contain MSG or monosodium glutemate, also listed as flavor enhancers, or those of you who eat out at Chinese, fast food places, or restaurants such as Fridays, the foods usually do contain this ingredient which will increase your level of thirst. Foods which are dense in tomato paste or sauce such as pizza, spaghetti, lasagna and so on may also make you very thirsty all through the night and into the next day. Pickles and other types of condiments should be used sparingly of course.
Those of us who like to eat Mediterranean foods especially manakeesh with zatar, may suffer from heartburn in the morning so eat is sparingly. Drinking anything with caffeine at night and then sleeping may relax the sphincter muscle leading from the stomach to the esophagus also causing heartburn.
Now on to the good foods. Water, fresh juices, fruits, dates, nuts, and any fresh vegetables. In the mornings we have found that “drinking Laban” with some dates is great, as well as wholesome cereals like muslix, bananas and honey, and we especially love lebni or kefir cheese with whole wheat peta bread, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and fresh mint with a small cup of tea.
For iftar we like a simple meal, the best is a great lentil soup, and a full mixed vegetable salad with homemade lemon and oil dressing. Some like a dash of apple cider vinegar. Other dishes that can replace the soup, are simple baked chicken with mashed potatoes, beefsteak with carrots and potatoes, stuffed zucchini, chicken kabsa with rice ( sooo horribly easy the kids can make it), grilled fish with steamed vegetables, and sometimes when in a pinch I take out chicken breasts, sprinkle just a little bit of oil in a frying pan, flatten the breasts with a heavy mallet or spoon and sprinkle with Mrs. Dash, or a mixture of herbs and a little salt, and gently brown in the pan, adding in chopped onions for more flavor, served with a nice green salad and baked potatoes ( microwaved, 6 minutes per potato) and its so tasty your mouth will be watering for the next time you cook it. Want a new salad dressing?? Mix a spoon of honey with a spoon of brown mustard and a little mayonnaise, its deliciously different!
Many people also like different kinds of soups like the meat and oatmeal soup which not only nourishes the body but is easy on the stomach. Ask around and I am sure someone can suggest the recipe or look only for oatmeal soup. Also adding barley to a vegetable soup adds flavor and health benefits and is filling along with a simple green salad. It is not important to stuff ourselves during Ramadan, it is important to replace the fluids and the nutrients that the body needs.
So, as we say here in the Middle East—-Sahtain!