So as some of you may have noticed I’ve been in hibernation from blogging for a while… the end of 2013 was a bit more hectic than I anticipated and unfortunately some things had to be put on the back burner, though I missed this space a lot!
But now that we’re already well into 2014 and things have finally settled down a bit on my end, one of the things high on my priority list is to share my knowledge with you more frequently, along with listening and learning more. So I hope I’ll be providing you with interesting content this year and in turn I always look forward to your feedback and suggestions.
There are some other changes you may notice – for one thing I’ve updated the look of the blog, part of freshening things up for the new year. (I hope you like it). But more importantly I’ve changed the tag line from Skinny Food Addict to Skinny Foodaholic. That’s because food addiction has recently started to become recognized as a medical condition, and I definitely do not want to misrepresent this blog nor do I want to make light of a serious health concern.
But enough with the updates, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… and while it’s not such a big deal for me since I’m happily single at the moment – I know I will definitely be making some time to pamper myself and my loved ones on the 14th (as I think all of us, in a relationship or not, should do)!
And since you guys are part of my extended family in a way, I thought I’d share this great little recipe for making your own chocolate dipped strawberries from All Recipes. I love it because it’s so easy (it takes less than 30 min to make), the kids can get involved too and it’s a great way to get 1/2 a serving of fruit in while you’re enjoying dessert!
To make this recipe a bit more wholesome I would suggest using dark chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa) and either coconut oil or real (unsalted) butter instead. And rolling your strawberries, or any other fruit of your choosing for that matter, in nuts or coconut flakes rather than drizzling them with white chocolate adds a bit more nutrition as well.
For those of you who are curious, this recipe makes 12 - 1/4 cup servings (which is about 2 large or 3 medium size strawberries) and contains about 190 kcal/serving.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
As many of you who are acquainted with Muslims know, Ramadan is our month of fasting. It’s also a time for developing patience, will-power and discipline that is meant to benefit us throughout the remainder of the year. And a time of solidarity between all human beings which naturally translates into a time of generosity, good will and charity.
Fasting, of course, is not unique to Islam – it plays a predominant role in many religions/cultures. And while modern medicine is still on the fence about whether or not it is good for your health, ancient/holistic wisdom embraces it as an essential way to flush out the toxins we’ve accumulated in our systems over time. This is a concept that’s also been picked up by mainstream culture as juice or water fasting has become a popular way to jump start weight loss or embrace a healthier lifestyle.
While it sounds pretty straight forward, anyone who’s fasted before knows it isn’t quite as simple as it seems. More importantly not everyone who fasts necessarily benefits fully from the detoxification that should naturally come from this process.
Considering most of us are on our 10th fast today (depending of course on the time zone and day the month started in your area), and are therefore already 1/3 way through Ramadan, I thought this would be a good time to share 3 key strategies that will ensure that your fasting (whether its for Ramadan/Lent/health reasons, etc.) results in effective detoxing:
1) First and foremost, don’t forget to nourish yourself - If you are fasting for Ramadan than you know that this is a time that is filled with many traditions especially ones that involve food. It is also a time when families and friends often gather around the table together. So it isn’t uncommon for many of us to cycle between short periods of feasting on delicacies like samosas, pakoras, atayar, baklava, kunafa, etc. (you get the picture), before and after our fasts. However, not only can this practice actually increase hunger and cravings during the day as our blood sugar levels go for a roller coaster ride, it can also hinder our body’s ability to cleanse itself as energy is directed back to the digestive process instead. The truth is, you don’t actually need to eat like a lion as much as you need to eat smart in order to stave off hunger during the day. So instead of focusing on “quantity” (which would be important if you didn’t actually know when your next meal were going to be), the key is to think “quality”. Keep in mind that different foods get converted into energy for our system at different times. As we all know, simple carbs get burned right away (within 1-3hrs) while proteins, fats and complex carbs get digested and converted into energy at a slower pace (between 3-6 hrs). Therefore having normal sized meals that contain a good mix of all of these elements works best. For Ramadan, this means:
- having a Sahur with staying power (eggs, foul, yogurt, nuts, whole grain breads and cereals are all good choices),
- keeping Iftar light (focus on rehydrating your system with soups, 100% fruit juices, and plenty of water),
- having a nourishing dinner (while Ramadan is filled with not so healthy but delicious delicacies it also has a host of healthier foods like adas, lisan asfoor, harira, chole, lassi, fruit chaat etc. that do more than just tantalize your taste buds) and
- snacking through the night (nature has created some of the most perfect desserts in fruit- and with summer in full swing there is no shortage of sweet choices like mangos, melons, cherries, figs, etc to indulge in)
Similarly, if you are undertaking juice or water fasting, it is important to make sure the meals you have a few days prior to starting and finishing the process don’t simply provide calories but are also nutrient dense (i.e. rich in essential vitamins and minerals) as this will ensure that your body has all it needs to cleanse itself and then stay healthy in the long run.
2) Embrace your hunger (and everything that goes with it from the low energy, to the dull headache, easy irritability, etc.) – it’s all part of the experience. Whether your fasting for spiritual or health reasons, one thing is for sure – you WILL feel hungry. But embracing this idea will allow you to redirect your thoughts from your growling tummy to appreciating the why, what and how of your fast and the benefits you are gaining from doing it. From building will-power to banishing health issues (like gastric upset, fatigue, recurring allergies, etc.) to building solidarity with the millions of people on the planet who go hungry every day, there are many perks that come from giving your GI tract a bit of a break.
3) Take time to meditate - thanks in part to Hollywood, we’re all familiar with the young Brave who embarks on a hunger quest to seek higher understanding. Though it seems contradictory, fasting actually does give us a sense of greater clarity such that problems that might have felt unsurmountable before seem less intimidating. Whether its in the form of prayer, yoga or simply sitting quietly, fasting helps you to slow down, reflect and be more contemplative as you shift your focus from the daily hustle and bustle to introverting within and focusing on healing.
If you are detoxing well this is the time you should start noticing subtle changes to your body composition (i.e. those love handles and/or belly chub look a lot better) even without any exercise or weight loss.
Ramadan Kareem everyone!
So yeah summer is in full swing here in Dubai – anyone who is still in the city knows exactly what I mean when I say this…
Generally speaking the city goes into quiet hibernation around this time of year as schools come to a close and most of the population goes off on holiday… not a lot of us choose to brave out the intense 50++ heat.
While I’m usually one of the many vacation-goers around this time of year, due to many reasons including the fact that Ramadan is just around the corner and I’ve been thinking about snow lately (WEIRD I know – the heat must be getting to me), I’ve decided to spend this summer here.
That said, the oppressive humidity and the sweat on my brow as I make the short walk from the apartment/work to the car and back are not lost on me. STAYING INDOORS and IN THE AC as much as possible is one of my few missions for this time of year.
So what can one do indoors? Hey this is Dubai so pretty much anything from skiing to skydiving in a wind tunnel to visiting the world’s largest aquarium or going to the top of the world’s tallest building are all viable options!
But if you’re like me and want to equate quiet summer in the city to a few more dirhams saved, then there’s always strolling the malls doing some window shopping, stopping into Borders, enjoying a summer block buster and frequenting the many restaurants around while catching up with friends.
Considering these activities, though pretty cheap, can get a bit monotonous at times, the question remains – what (more) can one do on a fil in a city that is known for lavish spending? And you know me – I LOVE EATING but even I want to do something more than tickle my tastebuds sometimes…
So after much research I’ve come up with a list of 5 fun things to do in the city that don’t involve any calories or many dirhams either. The added bonus for the more exercise challenged (like myself) – we might even develop a muscle or two in the process!
1) Mall Walkers @ the MOE – Most of us throw in the towel when it comes to our regular walk during the summer months, and while walking the length of any of the many vast malls would be a suitable alternative, wearing my sweats and speed walking by my lonesome makes me feel a bit like a red herring. The solution? Join the Mall Walkers group at the Mall of the Emirates – it’s absolutely free and you get to join a group of like-minded Dubians.
2) Bowling – From Switch Bowling in Ibn Battuta to the Bowling Centre on Sheikh Zayad Road, the city is quite literally littered with bowling centres (there’s one in almost every mall – and we have a lot of malls). Did you know it costs as little as 10 AED a game or 60 AED for an hour of lane time? You can also get additional perks by getting a membership or get really serious (or have even more fun with it) by joining a league! Your best bet is to do a google search for the centre located closest to you.
3) Rock (wall) climbing – It’s no surprise that Dubai is home to one of the region’s highest rock climbing walls. While its an outdoor wall located at the WTC and features a 10m World Cup standard speed wall section, we also have a couple of indoor rock climbing facilities. In fact both PlayMania at Mirdiff City Centre, which by the way is home to Soccer Circus Dubai (indoor as well), and Adventure HQ on Sheikh Zayad Road offer a half hour climb for 50 AED.
4) Ice skating – I think most of us are familiar with the ice rink in Dubai Mall. If you’ve ever passed by it you’ll notice it’s a happening place. And its no wonder considering two hours of public rink time only costs 55 AED. What a great way to cool off, right?
5) DUCTAC – I don’t know if you know about it, but the DUbai CommuniTy & Arts Centre is a little gem located right next to Mall of the Emirates (same parking lot). And it’s actually a great place to attend live productions (like Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), art exhibits and dance productions some of which only cost a little more than a movie ticket at 80 AED. They also offer classes for both children and adults (though these are more pricey of course).
BTW Dubai’s Mohdesh initiative was pretty sad for the past few years but they seem to have pulled their act together this year. So don’t forget to check out the summerisdubai.com website for great summer offers, events and discounts.
I hope you guys find some of these ideas helpful. Do you have any other suggestions to add to the list? What do you do to stay entertained in the city?
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I think most of us are looking forward to this year’s summer block busters. After all there really is no better reprieve from the Dubai heat than a cool dark theatre.
And for a lot of us, a trip to the movies just wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the concession stand. The only problem is, these seemingly harmless snacks can really pack on the pounds!
While neither Grand nor VOX have published nutrition information for their movie theatre munchies, I imagine its no different than that found around the world (granted you probably can’t find samosas at every theatre, but I’m sure you get the picture ).
So what kind of calories are we talking about anyways? Did you know that the healthiest item you can buy at the movies is a hot dog which has a reasonable 300 calories and offers a tiny bit of nutritional value. That’s actually not all that bad… but what about some of our other favorites?
- A supersize pop has 240 calories,
- a bag of M&Ms has 750 calories,
- a plate of cheese nachos has a whopping 1100 calories,
- and what we usually think of as a low calorie snack – popcorn – can have as much as 1200 calories even without the butter/hydrogenated oil poured over top (you can add another 120-130 calories per tbsp. for this!).
Compare these numbers to the average:
- daily meal which should run you between 400-600 kcal
- while your entire daily intake should run you between 1800-2200 kcal;
and that’s a heck of a lot of calories in one go!
But honestly, if you only go to the movies once in a while and the concession stand is your treat – by all means don’t let these crazy numbers ruin your fun. If you are a die hard movie fan on the other hand (or become one in the summer months) simply cutting back on your weekly concession stand trips might be enough to lop 9 kg a year off of you!
A much better plan for movie night at the theatre in my books is to grab a more nourishing dinner (I love the California Pizza Kitchen at the MOE or Zaatar Wa Zeit in Ibn Battuta) before heading to the show. Delicious? Check; Great overall experience? Check!
Now considering theatre popcorn can be a calorie booby trap, enjoying “movie popcorn” as part of your “home theatre” experience makes a lot more sense (especially considering the average 4 cup serving or about 1/3 of the microwave bag usually is a little under 200 kcal) – I know I absolutely love this!
The only sad thing is most of the microwave popcorn you get at the grocery store has a lot of hidden additives in it. For e.g. the label off an Orville Redenbacher microwave bag reads:
Wholegrain Popping Corn, Palm Oil, less than 2% of: Salt, Potassium Chloride, Butter, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Color Added, TBHQ and Citric Acid (For Freshness). CONTAINS: MILK.
I’ve scoured the grocery shelves of Dubai only to find that most of the brands available to us are pretty much the same. So here’s how you can make movie style popcorn at home in less than 10 min minus the microwave (and the additives)…
Yes it REALLY is that simple! All you need is:
1/2 cup Popcorn Kernels
Pinch of Sea Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. 1st cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Other calorie-free seasonings of choice – like fresh black pepper, chili, garlic or cinnamon
Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a 5L heavy bottomed pot at high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and stir so they are coated. Turn stove to medium heat and cover leaving one side slightly open. Watch until all kernels have popped – popping should be 1-2 seconds apart. Turn off. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 tbsp. oil and salt. Season as desired and serve hot!
Makes 2 (6 cup) Servings
Calories per serving: 126 (or 233 if you add 2 tbsp. low fat parmesan)
Now that you know the basics, check out some of the great ways Redbook magazine has come up with to really take your popcorn to the next level (though some of these ideas do add more calories…):
PS. I know I said you don’t need the microwave, but if you are a die-hard microwave fan, you can actually make regular popcorn in the microwave using a paper lunch bag:
So Derek made a really great comment on my last post about Jared and how he was able to lose an astonishing amount of weight by eating fast food – in this case Subway sandwiches – every day. The key to Jared’s success didn’t simply lie in the fact that he chose subway over any other fast food, but also in what went on and in his sub!
That being said, you can totally eat subway every day and gain weight if you make the wrong choices as well. My point is, while it is possible to eat healthy even when you’re eating out, for most of us, when it comes to managing our weight (and our health through nutrition), eating out can be a mine field! So I thought I’d share five places here in the city that not only tantalize the tastebuds but also do good for the body! I’m not listing them in any sort of ranking because I think all of them are great depending on what you’re in the mood for
1. Category: Ethnic Cuisine – Zaatar W Zeit
Hey as Dubains we all want to have great Middle Eastern fair, but most places serving up local food in the city don’t really think about it from a health angle. However, I have noticed recently that a few of the chain restaurants like Just Falafel, which now offers a baked option with whole wheat Saj bread, are starting to come around. Still the options are far and few between. That’s exactly why when it comes to healthy Middle Eastern fair, Zaatar W Zeit, tops my list! Their menu is littered with ways to make your favorite choices just a bit healthier. But more importantly, those choices do not sacrifice anything when it comes to taste – in fact in my opinion they enhance it. In fact they are one of the very few (the only one I know of in fact) places in town that actually gives you the option to get multi-cereal versions of your favorites like manakeesh, along with baked falafel and quinoa tabbouleh. Did I mention that all of it is DELICIOUS?! The one draw back is that they still don’t have a nutrition breakdown for their food. Hope that’s coming soon
2. Category: Chain Coffee Shop – Costa
As a Canadian, I LOVE my Tim Hortons, but I must say that Costa out shines all others when it comes to great sandwiches, salads and light lunches that are both healthy and yummy. The best part is that most of their fair has nutrition info right on the package so you can take a look at ingredients and calories while your waiting in line. In fact there are several choices that fall into the 300-400 kcal range and are made from wholesome ingredients, take for example their Free-Range Egg Mayo Sandwich or Tuna Melt both on multigrain breads and under 400 kcal. But they also have excellent TREAT day desserts too!
3. Category: Independently Owned Coffee Shop – Urban Bistro
Well this is a little gem I stumbled upon very recently, located in Media City this place serves free-range farm fresh eggs, gluten-free options and a lot of organic, local fair and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either! Not to mention that the decor and overall feel of the place is SOOO inviting you never want to leave! Warning though – their portion sizes are overly large so if you want to stay within healthy portions, plan to share your meal with a friend.
4. Category: Pizza – N_K_D Pizza
If you haven’t tried this pizza yet, you are seriously missing out! While from a calorie perspective, both Pizza Hut and N_K_D come out to about the same (a 63g large slice of pepperoni pizza is 303 kcal at N_K_D vs Pizza Hut’s 75g slice which is 370 kcal) they are hardly the same when you compare them from a nutrition perspective. That’s because N_K_D prides itself on having a whole grain bread that is finished off with organic/local toppings. I’ll tell you after eating a slice of this pizza, I didn’t have the usual symptoms associated with that heavy doughy feeling in my stomach that I usually get from enjoying fast food pizza. Overall though, unless you like the thinner crust, this should still be a treat meal unless you can manage to stop at 1-2 slices, which is kind of hard to do when it tastes so great :)!
5.Category: Burgers – Shake Shack
Have you noticed that new HEALTHier burger joints are cropping up around the city? Just in the last month I’ve been to Elevation Burger, Burger Fuel and Shake Shack. But in the health department, New York Fries extension – South Street Burger Co. comes out on top with their small burger on a whole wheat bun weighing in at only 289 kcal. Compare that to Shake Shack’s single cheese burger which has 470 kcal and there really isn’t much in terms of competition. But if I’m being honest with my taste buds – I would have to go with the Shack. Everything they serve, including their concretes are simply delicious. Considering they take a lot of care in selecting their ingredients, I’m not too worried about the negative effects that this burger will have on my overall health either. If you want to stick within a healthy calorie range you may be able to get away with a single burger with a bottle of water. That or make it one of your treat meals – it definitely is one of mine!
Yay – it’s finally happening, Dubai is slowly getting onto the healthy restaurant food wagon! It is truly nice to see that what we, as consumers, are asking for is getting converted into better meal choices available to us when we eat out. Let’s face it, in this fast paced world that we live in, this trend is not likely to change much. So it’s great to know that restaurants are willing to cater to us by providing the healthy foods we want to see more of.
As a closing, I want to talk about Jared, and the picture I put of him on this blog post. I’m not posting a picture of an article looking at his recent weight gain just to be mean, but more because it really is about our overall choices in the long run and how they impact our health. Jared didn’t simply lose weight because he switched to Subway, but more because he changed how he was choosing to eat. I’m glad to see that he’s recognized that he’s slipped into poor eating habits and recommitted to his health. That being said, keep in mind that enjoying delicious food and eating healthy don’t have to be concepts that cannot co-exist. It all comes down to finding that healthy balance!
Happy 2013 everyone! Yes it is that time again – the New Year’s resolutions have been made, many of which have to do with weight loss of course, so it’s no wonder that the web is littered with advice and promotions to help you drop those additional pounds…
But now that the month has kicked off with the kids back in school and the holidays officially done with for a while, many of us are already struggling to get started OR maybe even thinking about throwing in the towel! One of the biggest problems with dieting is the simple fact that it DOES NOT WORK. For as long as Fad Diets have been around, to be honest, in the 10+ years that I have worked in this profession, I have yet to come across 1 person who went on a diet, lost a ton of weight and then managed to keep it off.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of people who have lost weight and kept it off – but these people DON’T do it by DIETING, they DO IT by making changes to their eating and activity habits which become a permanent part of their lifestyles (whether or not their success involves incorporating practices from popular diets like Atkins or South Beach or DUKKAN).
Take my sister Ayesha for example, she was always picked on for being the chubby kid in school – but that all changed when she hit High School – because the prior summer she finally decided to change her eating habits (choosing to eat healthier and watching her portions) – and blossomed into this extremely beautiful teenager. Ayesha maintained a healthy weight up until her pregnancies when she again gained a LOT of weight… and low and behold, with the weight gain came the fad diets (in fact she recently told me about all the crazy things she tried – like the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet and the South Beach Diet – behind my back because she knew I would disapprove). But a few years ago, she recommitted to eating healthy, walking and taking on yoga and again she is back to a healthy weight and is maintaining it.
So my advice to you this year is to SAY NO to DIETING! I know it’s enticing when you see weight loss supplements and diets that promise to help you drop 10 pounds in just 2 days, but I can guarantee that you will be much more successful if instead of investing in these marketing ploys, you take small steps in the right direction that you think you will be able to maintain for at least the next year.
I want you to think long term because as much as we all want to lose 5 pounds every week; or think we will make it to the gym for 2 hours everyday – being unrealistic about our goals is a sure way to guarantee failure as well.
1) Focus on making healthy choices over worrying about the scale – It’s actually the things you do everyday (like choosing more wholesome foods and making sure your not skipping meals) that cause the shift on the scale after all.
2) Set realistic goals – It is important to think about the time you have and make health commitments based on these. For e.g. walking for 45 min 5 days a week beats going to the gym for an hour for 2 days and then not being able to make it the rest of the week.
3) Take baby steps – Like they say “A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step”. But more importantly, if say you have a goal of losing 20 lb, you also need to have a plan of how you are going to get there. If you think baby steps on a week by week basis and get the tools and support you need to achieve these goals, in 5 months you’ll have reached that goal!
Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy Year!
‘Tis that wonderful season once again. And as always this time of year means visiting friends and family and eating to our heart’s content… and then some ;).
You know although I don’t celebrate Christmas, I have always enjoyed the holiday cheer that accompanies it and having additional days off to laze around with family and friends is always a welcome change. And of course, considering I am a self-proclaimed food addict – a lot of the cooler winter days off often revolve around food!
Now granted that in Dubai our winter is more like a very pleasant summer (think Florida)… it does actually get quite cold in the buildings around this time of year (considering nobody seems to remember to turn up the thermostats on the ACs). So I like to think that all that cold air (even here) warrants a few additional calories that are burned to keep body temperatures in line. And of course if you live in a cooler climate than you know that we are naturally inclined to want richer foods during this time of year to help us with this – maybe a bit too much of it, which tends to be at the root of the weight yo-yo we put ourselves on between Christmas time and our New Year’s Resolutions.
So I thought I would share 3 tips that I apply during this time of year to help me stay at status quo in the weight department even when I’m indulging on great big mugs of hot beverages and the delicious desserts that absolutely must accompany them…
1) I know it might not sound like it, but one the funnest things I do is to try and incorporate some form of activity in with my social eating – When I was in Halifax, a bunch of us would bundle ourselves up and walk about 45 min to the “Perks” on the waterfront. It was a great way for us to catch up and that hot mug of Joe along with a slice of the best lemon cake in town tasted so much better when you’re also thawing out (and we DEFINITELY burned the calories in advance). In fact after the first time we did it, it instantly became a tradition :). Our Dubai tradition? Walking to the Saravanaa Bhojan Shala for stuffed parathas and dahi vadas on rainy days. Honestly, whether it’s a brisk walk to a favorite destination or a fun game of touch football with family/friends – I can guarantee that the food will taste that much more delicious when you finally get to it!
2) I also tend to pick my treats wisely (something I do throughout the year but definitely more so during holiday season) – You know, as a skinny food addict I like to think that I can eat what I want when I want to, but I don’t usually treat myself to lavish meals every day either. Considering this time of year is littered with temptations for the tummy, I tend to plan ahead of time about what and how much of a particular something I want to indulge in. This is especially true for me on the hectic weeks leading up to a busy celebration (this might not be Christmas for me – but I can tell you Eid tends to feel the same). For e.g. if you know you are invited to Aunty Fatima’s house for South African style Biryani which is something you absolutely LOVE – then it makes sense to go easy on the other stuff So think about what it is that really makes a gathering special – is it that great bottle of Bordeaux that you’ve been waiting to share or maybe it’s a slice of Nanna’s homemade mince meat pie that you’ve been dreaming of all year long… You get the idea right?
3) Last but not least, I also try to focus on enjoying the quality – what I mean by this is I take my time to savour every bite and take in the many elements that go along with good food and good friends/family. By doing this I avoid mindlessly scarfing down large quantities of my favorite dish without even having my taste buds register what it is that I am eating. This actually is one of the biggest challenges of social eating! The simple fact is that we more often than not get so lost in conversation that we don’t remember to really savour the food on our plate but end up over-eating. In order to prevent this from happening I tend to start with a smaller size plate whenever possible so I don’t get too greedy at the buffet; and then I take my time to enjoy the conversation before going for seconds. This works even better when I’m at my family’s/close friends’ place because I know I can always stop in for seconds the next day (yeah my family/friends are used to it;))…
I want to end by reminding everyone to remember to take some time in these hectic weeks to steal some time for yourselves – whether that’s by grabbing a catnap in the middle of the afternoon or stopping for a warming green tea and catching up on that page turner while your shopping for gifts at Barnes & Nobel or simply stepping out onto your deck to savour the moment and meditate – finding some time to de-stress will help keep holiday cravings at bay.
And with that I want to wish everyone Merry Holidays!
Eid al Adha is just around the corner – this is the Eid that celebrates the end of Hajj. In India and Pakistan we also call it Bakri Eid (which literally translates to Eid of the Lamb) because as a symbolic remembrance of Ibrahim’s (R) willingness to sacrifice his son (R), whom God replaced with a lamb, one of the highly recommended acts of worship for those who can afford it is to slaughter an animal and give a portion of the meat to the poor along with a portion to family, while keeping a portion for one’s self.
Considering that every year, millions of animals are slaughtered, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the importance of eating what Muslims call “tayyab” food. The Arabic word tayyab means pure/clean. And when it comes to animals, there are strict requirements for not only how they should be slaughtered but also how they should be kept/treated in order for their meat to be considered tayyab to eat. Most of us Muslims know that for e.g. animals cannot be slaughtered in front of each other, nor should they be aware that they will be slaughtered:
When Muhammed (S) saw a man sharpening his knife in the presence of the animal he was to kill, he said, “Do you intend inflicting death on the animal twice – once by sharpening the knife within its sight, and once by cutting its throat?”
They should also be treated with kindness and respect, allowed to rest and be offered water prior to slaughtering. At the time of the slaughter a very sharp knife must be used:
A hadith reported by Muslim states, “[W]hen you must kill a living being, do it in the proper way – when you slaughter an animal, use the best method and sharpen your knife so as to cause as little pain as possible.”
And God’s name must be taken, which is meant to calm the animal as well as remind us of the great sacrifice we are asking of it in order for us to eat:
But unfortunately these days with the industrialization of our food system, very few of us relate eating meat with the tremendous sacrifice of the living animals that it comes from. Sadly, not much of the meat we consume these days, including that coming from the halal meat industry (especially that slaughtered in parts of the Middle East and Asia – like Indonesia or India), can truly be considered tayyab either.
So this is an appeal to all Muslims who are planning to slaughter an animal this year, please make sure that your animal is treated with dignity and slaughtered according to the rights God has prescribed for it. I know as a child, when we used to visit India during Eid al Adha, our animals were very poorly treated. And unfortunately at the time none of us knew any better. What I do know is that this event was disturbing enough that none of my sisters could consume the meat of the animals we slaughtered.
To be honest, I really didn’t know any better until I celebrated Eid in Singapore in 2008, where I was pleasantly surprised to see how gently and respectfully 100′s of sheep were slaughtered in my sister’s neighbourhood. And then it wasn’t until last November when my brother shared the Mercy Slaughter video (above) with me, that I realized the importance of taking God’s name in the correct way at the time of the slaughter.
While it is important for us to make sure that all animals slaughtered during Eid al Adha are treated correctly, it is even more important for us to make sure that the meat we consume all year round also comes from well treated animals who are slaughtered in the right way.
Another thing we need to remember is the GRAVE SACRIFICE that animals make in order for us to have meat on our plate. So many of us (including myself) don’t relate throwing away that half eaten burger or those extra chicken wings to the animals that this meat came from.
And while I am a person who believes that physiologically we are meant to eat meat, we sure can enjoy vegetarian fair some days of the week as well! Has anyone heard about Meatless Mondays?
Wishing everyone a blessed Eid al Adha!
Ah October, while for us Dubaiyans who have just lived through the sweltering heat of summer, we are now excited about a little cooler version of summer, for those of you living in cooler areas this month means falling leaves, crisp air and everything that symbolizes the heart of autumn. October is also Breast Cancer awareness month, Canadian Thanksgiving and of course Halloween. Luckily for me I have PUMPKIN on my mind – the perfect gourd to represent all of these things!
I bet not a lot of you knew that gourds, including the pumpkin, are not only good for the prostrate (pumpkin seeds have been found to be helpful in treating Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH) but also for staving off cancers including breast cancer – you can read more on this topic on Food for Breast Cancer. In fact, this year you can even support breast cancer research when you pick up the new variety of porcelain doll pumpkins, which have been bred to be pink in color courtesy of the Pink Pumpkin Patch (they aren’t GMO – they are a hybrid much like seedless grapes or watermelon – and they are still orange on the inside) from your local farmer/store. And how could we possibly leave out pumpkin when it comes to Halloween or Thanksgiving?
So of course I had to go out and get myself some pumpkin – not an easy feet in Dubai mind you. In fact all I was able to find was 2 tiny little butternut squashes from France (that cost 10 AED a piece!)
But I am determined to share a wonderfully simply way of making pumpkin (ok butternut squash) pie filling with you, which you can than use to make a dessert that’s quite guilt free:
Easy Pumpkin Pie Filling From Scratch
1 large (or several small) pumpkin(s)/squash
1 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mace, clove or pumpkin spice
1 tbsp. natural maple syrup or to taste
Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds (you can roast these by simply rinsing them in a strainer, spreading them on a baking sheet, seasoning and roasting in the oven @ 325 for about 25 min, make sure to stir them after 10 min – but I digress ).
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the pulp – since I had a small butternut squash I used a teaspoon and a knife – and place in a microwave safe bowl with your preferred seasoning. I only had cinnamon at home so that’s what I used.
Microwave covered on high for about 8-10 min (about 2 min per 1/2 cup of pulp) or until it’s soft enough to mash with a fork. Add maple syrup and mash with a masher - or in my case I used a fork for the 1/2 cup of pulp I had.
Viola you have homemade pumpkin pie filling! If you want to make this into a pie all you need to do is add 2 eggs and 1 (12 oz) can of low fat evaporated milk to 2 cups of the pulp and bake in a pie crust in a preheated oven @ 400 for about 40 min. But since this is Dubai and it’s so hot here, I decided to enjoy mine with some walnuts and a scoop of natural vanilla ice cream instead
And don’t forget to use the pumpkin shell to make a jack-o-lantern!
It’s that time of year again – when the kids are back in school and the routine also includes packing healthy lunches, which by the way can be a major challenge what with the usual time constraints that are now compounded by the tug-of-war on what should get packed!
Considering the fact that childhood obesity is a major concern of our times, and eating healthy really is a habit that should be developed at a young age, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about how to win the healthy lunch battle with your kids (or maybe not win as much as come to a good compromise).
Although I don’t have kids of my own, I do remember being one of the few kids of our generation to get a healthy lunch growing up – mom, being an early childhood educator, always insisted that we take one item from each food group and NO we could NOT have chocolate milk (actually this is an acceptable and healthy option) and yes we had to eat warm cucumber sticks – yuck!
As much as I hated it at the time, not to mention rebelled against it when I finally got into university and could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, I do still thank her for instilling a love for vegetables (that for the longest time I never even knew I had) that I have slowly come back to over the years. But I know, times are changing and kids of our generation are much more independent than we were at their age. I see this with my niece and nephew who are just getting into their teens now and who, when they were little ate everything, but are now the most picky eaters in the world – Sulmaan won’t even look at anything that has tomatoes…
So how do you get your kids, possibly super picky eaters who also want to assert their independence, to take a healthy lunch with them to school? The best way to do this is to get them involved in packing their own lunches. But it’s not that simple – because we all know a lunch packed by your kids would be nothing more than potato chips and a chocolate bar. The fine-print here is you offer them a choice from 2 healthy options like an apple or a pineapple cup; a turkey sandwich or spaghetti; and a Gogurt or a 100% juice Caprisun… you get the idea right? Letting your kids decide whether they prefer a hot lunch like Sabrina (who is overly pleased with Dim Sum and edamame) or a cold sandwich like Sulmaan (he’ll have 2 slices of turkey and cheese most days) allows them to assert their independence while still staying healthy. To get some great lunch ideas check out some of these tips offered by Dietitians of Canada.
But to make it a little easier on your self – keep in mind that:
- you don’t need to re-invent the wheel – it is a very good idea to make extra portions at dinner time so both you and the kids’ main meal is taken care of for the next day.
- you’re kids healthy snacks are also perfect snacks for the adults in the family!
- planning a menu on the weekend will also make shopping a snap and save you time during the week.
- you don’t need to feel guilty – getting the kids to pack their own lunches (and yours) teaches them to be responsible and learn what it means to be a part of a family.