Plan ahead for simpler Ramadan meals

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An image of several plates of food for Ramadan Iftar

Ramadan isn’t really about food, but cooking can easily consume a lot of time we’d rather put elsewhere.

Here are some time-saving tips:

1. Cook in advance. Emira Mustafa, of Tampa, Florida, spent five to six days over several weeks cooking for Ramadan this year. She ended up with about 90 meals ready to go for her family of six—freeing her to focus on organizing community events.
Even if you spend just a few hours one afternoon and put a few meals in the freezer, you’ll feel like you’ve received a gift the days you pull them out and heat them up.

Some ideas:

Classic meals that freeze well include soups and stews, meatballs, and casseroles like lasagna.
Freeze ingredients like chopped onions and peppers (pro tip: freeze them on a tray and then put them in a bag already frozen) and cooked ground beef to make meal prep faster.
Buy fresh meats, marinate them, and freeze them in the marinade. Then take them out of the freezer at suhur to thaw in the refrigerator, and grill.

Tips:

Don’t freeze in glass containers—the contents can expand and break the glass. Don’t freeze in plastic containers either—they’ll hold in air and cause freezer burn. Buy foil pans to freeze casseroles in so your regular pans aren’t tied up, and cover them closely with plastic wrap.

1. Freezer-quality zip top bags are another good storage alternative, and they make it easy to remove all of the air to avoid freezer burn. Just start sealing, squeeze out the extra air, and finish sealing. Then stack them flat in the freezer and they take up very little space.
Don’t freeze anything with potato, yogurt, or mayonnaise in it; fried foods; or fruits and vegetables with a lot of water like cucumbers and melons. The consistency won’t be good.
Refrigerate cooked foods before freezing.

2. Plan meal ideas. Even if you don’t cook ahead, plan. Get the family involved in coming up with their favorites. Better yet, recruit kids to help with their favorite meals.

3. Shop for staples ahead of time. Consider favorite spices, aluminum foil, storage containers. Buy your family’s favorite bread and freeze it. If you’ll be having guests, buy any extra plates, bowls or silverware you’ll need. (Remember tea supplies and soup spoons!)

4. Organize your kitchen. Put away appliances you won’t be using, and move the ones you’ll use a lot to easy-to-reach locations.

5. Keep it simple. In many cultures, Ramadan meals tend to be elaborate and exhausting. But foods in Islamic tradition are simple. Free yourself from unnecessary expectations and burdens, so you can focus on feeding the soul.

Instead of hosting huge, exhausting gatherings, consider having a few people over at a time and just make a little extra. You’ll have more time to talk with the people you love.

Remember—the blessings do not lie in fancy meals and preparations but rather in sharing something with others.

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