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Preparing for Ramadan

Yvonne Maffei is a food writer, recipe developer and publisher of www.MyHalalKitchen.com, a blog showcasing culinary tips and healthy halal recipes. Throughout the month of Ramadan she’ll be hosting giveaways for Whole Foods Market gift cards and Saffron Road coupons on her blog. Here, Yvonne shares the purpose and traditions of Ramadan and how she celebrates this holy month. Ramadan is fast approaching, and I’m getting my kitchen ready for a month of celebration with my family and community.  In case you’re not familiar with Ramadan, it is an incredibly important holy month for Muslims. For us, it is a time of reflection — a time to develop compassion for those who live with hunger and thirst as a way of life, and to do something to help them. It’s a time to practice self-control and willpower in the face of numerous temptations; and to purify one’s self by taking time to focus on character and purpose. During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. Since the fast is not for a full 24 hours, we still eat twice a day — suhoor, a meal eaten before the sun begins to rise and iftar, the meal that breaks the fast at sunset. In my home, we typically start the day with a hearty, healthy breakfast that has lots of protein: eggs, beans and meats. We avoid carbs and sugary foods since our next meal is 15 hours away, and the last thing we need is a sugar crash! The iftar often starts light, with soup or an appetizer, to transition from the fast. A cherished tradition of Muslims around the world is to break the fast by eating fresh dates. Here’s a simple way I add a fresh spin on the date tradition. I prefer to use Medjool dates because they’re thick and meaty and easy to stuff. Dates with Crème Fraiche, Pistachios and Lemon Zest

3 large Medjool dates 9 whole roasted almonds 3 tablespoons crème fraiche Lemon or orange zest Several pistachios, roughly chopped

(I show how to make crème fraiche and how to preserve citrus peels on my blog, My Halal Kitchen.)

  1. Wash and dry the dates. Make a clean cut to open the date and remove any pits.
  2. Stuff each date with 3 whole almonds and close it gently with your fingers.
  3. On a plate or platter, arrange the dates nicely in a row.  Dollup the creme fraiche on top of each one. Finish with lemon or orange zest and chopped pistachios.
  4. Serve at room temperature. Serves 3.
Whole Foods Market has been integral to the meal planning I do for Ramadan.  As a bonus to the organic and natural foods, there are so many items I feel comfortable using because they’re either halal-certified (like Saffron Road’s frozen entrees, chicken products and new broths) or they’re alcohol-free, such as some of the flavored extracts commonly used in baking. This makes my life a whole lot easier. If you’d like to try these offerings out too, every Wednesday during Ramadan (which falls right around the month of August) I’ll be giving away a $100 Whole Foods Market gift card and coupons for five delicious frozen entrees from Saffron Road on my blog My Halal Kitchen. You can also check my blog throughout the month for tips on organizing your Ramadan feast, additional recipe suggestions and more. As for me, I plan to invite some friends to break the fast with me at least once during Ramadan. I view this opportunity as an offering of food and friendship and a chance to bond at the special moment when we’re finally able to put something in our mouths and savor it with those we care about. My guests usually don’t stay long, though, as there are evening prayers at the mosque that everyone wants to attend. To eat and run after iftar is totally acceptable in Ramadan! Ramadan is a special time and we see it as a gift, not a burden. We’re happy to fast and happy to enjoy the foods we’re blessed to put on our table.  Many people like to make their family’s favorite foods during the month of Ramadan, perhaps because when one breaks the fast, the food is just so much more appreciated than any other time of year. I also think it tastes better, maybe because I’m hungry by the time I eat iftar, but more likely it’s because during Ramadan I’m reminded that food is a miracle and that nothing as sacred as food should ever be taken for granted. What’s on your shopping list at Whole Foods Market this Ramadan?