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Planning my weekly menu

Meatless Monday: Mattar Paneer  Cheese and Peas Curry ( can substitute Tofu for Cheese)

Tuesday: Chicken Palow, Raita & Kachumar

Wednesday: Pan Roasted Steak with Toasted Broccoli Sunflower Seeds

Thursday: Boneless Chicken Pasta with Spinach in a Bechamel Sauce, Salad

Friday : Still planning this -I have to cook a fabulous dinner b/c my sweet sister in loves (inlaws) & brother in loves are coming for the RIS Conference. InshaAllah. I am soo excited about this conference, finally my kids are old enough to attend one. Will be writing about it through the week iA.

Between our weekend school graduation, planning our Road to Jannah Summer School for our masjid, organizing a family oriented Islamic Camp/Retreat for our community, waiting to become an aunt (first one from my hubbie’s side) and RIS this is going to a crazy week- Allah taa’la help me. Pray for me.

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Planning my weekly menu

In an effort to getting back to being more organized I am going back to weekly menu planning- It saves me time, money and since I know what’s on the menu I can shop and order the halal meat more efficiently. I ask each kid except LF#4 what they want to eat each week, Boss gets to pick one and Mondays are Meatless.

  • Meatless Monday- Fried Okra- Bhindi Do Pyaza with Chappati
  • Tuesday- Ground Beef  Lasagna with Herb Salad
  • Wednesday- Chicken Bombay Biryani with Raita ( Yogurt sauce)
  • Thursday- Whole wheat pizza with grilled chicken & veggie toppings
  • Friday-  BBQ Tandoori Chicken with Naan
  • Saturday- the kids are going to a party-so leftovers
  • Sunday- I’ll grill extra tandoori chicken breast and make a tandoori chicken pasta because I teach at the masjid on Sunday so it has to be an easy dinner inshaAllah-

Since this is the first time I am doing this on my blog I will post the recipes as I go. Go make yours now 🙂

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Day of the week to honor Meatless Mondays, when my family made a commitment to go veggie one day a week. So Boss found fresh, crisp okra at the desi store. We all love bhindi.

I am going to use my Ammi’s Bhindi Do Pyaza recipe, this is quintessential U.P. style cooking. You use a lot of onions to give the okra that sweet- salty taste. If made perfectly, its crunchy . When you chop the okra it seems like a lot but like spinach it tends to shrivel up. I make enough for a family of six.

  • 1 lb fresh okra, lady fingers, bhindi   (wash and pat dry BEFORE chopping into 1/2 inch pieces, don’t use tops, check out the picture for size)
  • Olive oil (or canola)
  • 2 med onions sliced finely ( I like using my trusty slicer @ .75mm)
  • few whole dried red chilli peppers
  • 1/2 tsp safaid zeera (cumin seed)
  • 1 tsp lal mirch (red chili powder) This is SPICY so adjust to your taste.
  • 1 tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • salt to taste
  • Lemon to cut the viscosity of the okra.
  1. Heat oil in a wok or chef’s pan-I have anemia so I try to use cast iron pans as much as possible
  2. Add zeera (cumin seeds) until  they pop
  3. Add onions until they turn color, adding salt at this point help make the onions crispier
  4. Add the okra
  5. Then the spices
  6. Stir fry till the okra is crispy
  7. Give it a good squeeze of lemon
  8. Serve with chappati

All the scraps go in to the compost pile. Hope you can make it an easy habit. Happy Eating!

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Seven years ago, when we moved to the lovely city we call home,  I was on a even greater environmental high-these were the pre-gas guzzler in my driveway days. I was planning my irrigation system, so I signed up to attend the water agency’s free class. They were hosting a composting workshop on same day and  were selling these composting bins for CHEAP! Check you local sources. I bought a worm composting bin too; that was too much work for me then- may be now that the kids are a little older, I should try it again.

Our trusty compost bin

We save the scraps and dump it in here. I have the gardener put the grass clippings in it. I  used to turn it myself the first year but it is hard when you are perpetually pregnant, so I have the gardner turn and water it for me.  The soil that your harvest from it is so rich and smells so good, like EARTH.  I  don’t ever have to buy soil amendments.

Its great! got my in laws hooked too. At first they thought I was crazy but now Mr. LF’s uncle has a lovely little orchard that he amends with homemade compost too. Don’t put in meat, or bread become you don’t want rats or too many bugs- there will be bugs but when you turn it once in a while its not that bad.

This is where the kitchen scraps go

Layer it with old newspapers

Doesn’t this remind of of the ayah in the Quran:

See you not, that Allah sends down water (rain) from the sky, and causes it to penetrate the earth, (and then makes it to spring up) as water-springs and afterward thereby produces crops of different colors, and afterward they wither and you see them turn yellow, then He makes them dry and broken pieces. Verily, in this, is a Reminder for men of understanding. Surah Zumar

Turns into rich humusy earth

Use it as mulch, as soil amendment or fertilizer.

See the eggshells they prevent snails- double goodness


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We have decided to do Meatless Mondays in our home, from now on. Meatless Monday is a movement to cut out meat one day a week from your diet. At first the LFs were like “aww what no chicken!” So we talked about how we do it already, like spaghetti night ( they love meatless marinara). This way it will be a conscious effort. I told them how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not eat meat every day- that this is closer to Sunnah. Its healthier, better for the environment. Then I got a thumbs up.

The boss was surprisingly more motivated. I was expecting some ‘are we becoming vegans’ quip from him. But Alhamdulillah it went over quite well. I cooked Dal Chawal (rice and lentils), a desi staple and a household favorite.

Dal

Dal with tarka

Dal Chawal Rice with Lentils

Recipe: This will make enough for a family of six- we had leftovers

  • 1 1/2 cups kali dal (moong/urad lentils with skin) Soak overnight or at least 2 hours

  • 1 tsp Red chili powder (Lal Mirch) less if you don’t like spicy

  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • a pinch of ground cumin

  • 1 tsp Amchur/Kahtai  (dried mango powder) a bit of tamarind works too

  • 1 heaped tsp crushed garlic

  • Salt to taste

  • 6 cups water

Tip: I cook this using a pressure cooker, it is quicker- a pot works fine. Use 1 cup dal:4 cups water ratio

  1. Get the water boiling

  2. Add the drained lentils, salt, garlic & spices.

  3. Close the pressure cooker and cook for 1 2 minutes after presure come on. Cooking time for dals vary. ( 1 hour in a regular pot)

Tarka or Baghaar ( Flavored oil to temper the lentils )

  1. 3 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)  or butter/ghee/canola oil

  2. 1/2 clove garlic (sliced)

  3. Fresh cilantro 1/2 bunch (washed and chopped)

  4. 2 green chili peppers (jalepenos, thai whatever is on hand)

  5. 1/2 tsp cumin seed

  6. some people like sliced onions too

Tip: Use a cast iron frying pan.

  1. Heat up the oil- make sure it doesn’t start to smoke

  2. Toss in the cumin seeds and after it pops, put the garlic in,

  3. Add the green chili peppers. Don’t over brown them.

  4. When the green chilis & garlic start turning color and smelling divine, turn down the heat and add the cilantro. The cilantro should crisp up.

  5. Pour this over the dal. Be careful.

  6. Serve with Basmati Rice.

Basmati Rice-

  • 4 cups rice

  • 1 tbsp Butter

  • Stick of Cinnamon

  • Ample water for boiling the rice

Salt to taste

Tip: Use basmati rice ( Zebra brand is my favorite)

  1. Soak the rice for atleast 1/2 an hour. Drain and wash.

  2. Heat the water to a rolling boil in a stainless steel pot, add the stick of cinnamon.

  3. Add rice and salt.

  4. Cook for 12 minutes.

  5. Check the rice – press a kernel between your thumbs. it should give way but not be squishy.

  6. Drain the in colander- this way you get rid of all the starch.  Don’t run water over it. Return to pot and let it set on low heat. Cover the pot.

  7. Add the butter. Happy eating.


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Friday is a blessed day for Muslims. And this Friday is my day to cook and ‘sell’ lunch boxes at our masjid.

Women who don’t have an income, often wonder how they can contribute to their masjids, especially monetarily. This is a simple way to give sadaqah.  Our tiny masjid was in massive need of donations, as some of our donors had lost their jobs due to the recession. They could not keep up with their monthly commitments. Larger masjids and Islamic centers often have caterers or restaurants sell food to make money for the centers. So we started a lunch box program.

I rallied together  a few women who like to cook and volunteer. We have about 30 volunteers; so each woman only has to cook once in 4 months.  It is a simple and humble effort but Allah (swt) blessed it. Alhamdulillah, we made up the deficit and it is growing every week. We started with 30 boxes and this week we will  make 50.    So far we are averaging  a $175 profit. Alhamdulillah.

How to set up a LUNCH BOX PROGRAM for your masjid:

  1. Get permission from the board or the committee in charge of social/fundraising
  2. Sell during Jumaah, after weekend school
  3. Organize volunteers to cook each week – set up teams of 2-3 so it is not a burden on any one person
  4. Have back up in case of emergency
  5. Make a calendar for the volunteers and post it in the masjid
  6. Ask volunteers to turn in their menu ahead of time
  7. Place the menu in a prominent place
  8. Set the amount of boxes to be made
  9. Advertise- get the word out through your masjid email list and posters
  10. Set a price but ask for suggested donation as it may be illegal to ‘sell’ homemade food in your county/state*
  11. Email/call with a reminder the week before their turn and update them on the number of boxes sold
  12. Set basic rules but give the volunteers creative space-micromanaging turns volunteers off-these are ours:

a) Use proper containers

b) All food should be fresh and zabihah

c)  Include utensils

d) Include dessert and a salad. The lunch boxes are $ 5.00 and  drinks are extra

e)  Be on time

f)   Inform the coordinator at least 2 weeks in advance if you can not cook or arranged a substitute

g) Turn the money over to the treasurer

h) Make dua for the success of the program

For organizational purposes, having one person organize and delegate responsibility to team members makes for less drama and more productivity. The feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie for the ladies is an iman high.  We didn’t realize how many brothers/sisters we were providing a service for. For five dollars, they get a home cooked halal meal. We live in an area with out any halal restuarants nearby, the closest one is 30 minutes away. Some of our customers have sick or pregnant wives at home and they take these boxes home on Fridays as a ‘gift’; to give them a break. Others are bachelors and would have eaten out at a restaurant.

Our masjid is not officially a ‘masjid’, it is a center with a musalla. It is not open for all five salats yet. InshaAllah one day it will be. So the rules of not buying/selling in the masjid don’t apply to us. Check before you all start a program. If any other sisters have suggestions or have run a similar program, I would love to learn from them as well.

*Under California Retail food code a “Food facility” does not include any of the following: (1) A cooperative arrangement wherein no permanent facilities are used for storing or handling food. (2) A private home. (3) A church, private club, or other nonprofit association that gives or sells food to its members and guests, and not to the general public, at an event that occurs not more than three days in any 90-day period.

*A 1996 federal law that, as reported in a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “protects all donations made in good faith . . . . The only exceptions are gross negligence or intentional misconduct. A plaintiff would have to prove that a company or individual intentionally tried to harm another person by making a donation of food it knew to be unsafe.”

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As you have probably read before that I am an avid supporter of a whole food, traditional food lifestyle- it is closest to the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW), so I  leap at any chance to eat more nourishing food.  After my recent visit to the Middle East and Pakistan, I came back and nothing here tasted good. I had a hard time eating anything. Then I realized all the meat that my father handpicks from his neighborhood butcher in Islamabad is grass-fed- the goats roam the valleys searching for grass as do the cows. They are not fed corn or grain. That is not Allah (SWT) met for them to eat.

Albalagh’s article on animal feed and hormones in ‘halal’ animals prompted more research. Then found an article about how zabihah meat could be rendered un-halal based on the feed of the cow.

I asked my butcher “Uncle’ at Asia Spot and at first he was offended, then he bought out the box from his slaughter house, which said grain fed. So I’m satisfied but still hungering for the taste of meat from the old country. As Nourished Kitchen.com says,

Grass-fed, pasture-raised and wild caught animal foods are deeply nourishing.  Indeed, for thousands of years prior to the advent of industrial agriculture, these were the only animal foods we knew.  The manner in which an animal was raised does make a difference, not only to your health but to the health and vibrancy of your local economy and environment.  Grass-fed beef and red meat is a richer source of conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene and retinol than the meat of conventionally raised animals. Moreover, grass- and pasture-based ranching provides environmental benefits as well – nurturing the local fields, improving the diversity and proliferation of native flora and fauna.

I started researching grass fed options- so I looked in to greenzabihah.com. They are based in Virginia so are a great source for East Coasters. But shipping here wasn’t cost effective, so you ask Allah and viola- a local option for So Cal.

Zabihah Grass Fed Beef is now available at Farmers Markets in OC and LA.  Frank (the rancher) is at Farmers Market selling Halal Grass Fed Beef. He will start some time in mid April… if you need further information about this you can visit him at any of the farmers markets listed below..starting the week of April 12th. The plant does not  handle pork. Frank is not doing the slaughtering. His cows are slaughtered by  Paradise Ranch where Muslims do the slaughtering and packaging.

The prices are different depending on what you want. There are halal/zabihah labels on the meat as well.

You can get it at the following  four Farmers market locations:

San Juan Capistrano- Wed 3-7pm

Laguna Hills Farmers Market- Friday 9-1 pm

Irvine UCI Farmers Market-Saturdays 8-12 pm

Beverly Hills- Sundays 9-1 pm

Northern Californian have a great resource at Nature’s Bounty All Halal Farm in Vacaville, CA.

On a side note-NRDC estimates that if all Americans eliminated just one-quarter pound serving of beef per week, the reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to taking four to six million cars off the road. Meatless Mondays anyone?

OK, this is the kind of boring part, but for those of you who are interested in your health or the health of your children, it may be compelling. Many studies have been done on the impact of eating meat from grass-fed vs. grain fed beef.

For expectant mothers and their babies:

Doctors indicate that Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital nutritional contributor to enhanced pregnancy health.

Omega-3 fatty acids play a key part in pregnancy health, and in the healthy development of babies in the womb. The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are clear. To summarize recent research conclusions, Omega-3s:

  • Offer critical nutrients for babies’ neurological development.

  • Promote the development of the fetus’s cardiac and respiratory systems.

  • Support the development of the fetus’s brain and eyes (development of visual centers).

  • Have been shown to increase the learning and cognitive functions of children, with effects measurable to age four.

  • Increase the attention spans of young children (a measurable component of intelligence early in life).

  • Support the pregnancy health of the mother, possibly reducing chances of toxemia (or pre-eclampsia).

  • May help prevent pre-term labor and premature delivery.

Studies have shown that babies are more likely to put food in their mouths when they see a parent eat it, and toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school kids are more likely to accept foods their parents like. Food preferences are initially formed in the womb and through their mother’s milk as well.

For those of us between 10 and 100:

Some of grass-fed beef’s benefits, in comparison with the grain-fed version, are:

  • 500% more CLA (Conjugated linoleic acids)

  • 400% more Vitamin A

  • 300% more Vitamin E

  • 75% more Omega-3 fatty acid

  • 78% more Beta-Carotene

Eleven out of eleven studies to date have found that CLA decreases cancer

  • Four out of five have found a decrease in body fat.

  • Two out of two have found decreases in heart disease.

  • Six out of six have found increased immunity to disease. Two out of two have found increased bone density. And three out of three have found a decrease in adult diabetes. While artificial CLA is now available in a pill form, natural CLA from animal products is 600% more effective in fighting cancer.


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