A Non-Processed Ramadan!

A Non-Processed Ramadan! June 27, 2016

Protein balls! All images source: Zahra Suratwala
Protein balls! All images source: Zahra Suratwala

This is Day 22 of the #30Days30Writers 2016 Ramadan series.

By Zahra Suratwala

Ramadan is here! In fact it’s almost done! Which means everyone is focused on goals. It happens every year — people seize the month as an opportunity to focus inward and better themselves.

And, the goals they make are substantial and noble and usually have something to do with reading Quran; memorizing Quran; praying namaz more slowly or mindfully or completely.

So this year, I made a goal also. Although I could really work on my Quran and namaz, my goal is a little less noble:


Which, in its way, is what Ramadan is about too … right?

Or, put another way: My goal is about mindfulness, as it pertains to food.

I decided to cut 90 percent of the processed food out of my family’s diet (when we are eating at home). Which, in the weeks leading up to Ramadan, seemed like it might be difficult to do, given that our pantry and fridge contained plenty of processed food and that my kids snack on fruit but also granola bars and other packaged snack items.

And, that I dislike cooking.

So. Armed with very little knowledge about the world of non-processed food, zero recipes and no preparation, I set this goal for myself and decided it would all be fine. Because, Ramadan!

I had about two weeks before Ramadan began, so I started reading. I found a couple of blogs and started collecting recipes. I started buying ingredients and experimenting. And slowly, I realized that I don’t dislike cooking after all. Motivation is everything, apparently.

Although the chances are good that someone reading this right now is probably hungry, I feel like sharing some recipes. Here are some kid-friendly recipes that are successfully distracting my children from noticing that there are no teddy-bear-shaped graham cracker snacks left in the house.

Protein Bites – let the kids help you make this one!


Yields: about 15 balls depending on how large you make them

2/3 cup peanut butter (look at the ingredients and choose a brand that isn’t full of *ahem*)

1 cup quick oats

1.5 tablespoons honey (choose raw if possible)

¼ cup mini chocolate chips

½ cup ground flaxseed (gets the omega 3s into your kids)


Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes

Put some oats, flaxseed, and chips in a small bowl and set aside

Cover your hands in cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil and roll the mixture into small balls.

Roll each ball in the oats/flax/chips dry mixture until coated

Store in the refrigerator- these disappear quickly so be ready to make more in a couple days!


Chocolate smoothie
Chocolate smoothie

Chocolate Smoothie – full of hidden goodness


1.5 cups frozen strawberries

1.5 cups frozen or fresh spinach leaves

1 overripe banana (I like to over-ripen several bananas at a time and then freeze them)

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup raw honey (this amount can vary widely depending on how sweet you want your smoothie to be)

3 tbsp chia seeds (omega 3s!)

(If you don’t have chia seeds, you can use ground flaxseed instead)

5 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder – you can use more or less of this as you prefer. I love the Trader Joe brand because it’s slightly more of a dark chocolate.

3 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract

2 drops of alcohol-free mint extract

Optional: protein powder, which will make this smoothie a great post-workout food


If you have a Vitamix or other powerful blender, you can make this into an ice-cream-like consistency and eat it with a spoon from a bowl. That’s what I do.

If not, or if your blender can’t handle the strawberries frozen, just let the concoction sit for 20 minutes before blending.

Drink up! Tastes like chocolate but it’s full of spinach. Yay!



Addictive Broccoli – no, seriously



Rock salt (I like the brand “Real”)

Extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Do not wash the broccoli- you need it to be very dry, and the roasting will kill any bacteria anyway

Chop the stalks off the broccoli so you only have florets left

Avoid having large clumps of florets – separate as needed

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the florets out

Drizzle oil over the broccoli

Sprinkle salt over the broccoli

Bake for 45 minutes

What comes out will be so crunchy and flavorful that you won’t be able to stop eating it. Enjoy!

These recipes have gotten us eating better. I feel good. So good, in fact, that I am now the proud owner of a binder full of recipes that I have printed out, and fully intend to try.

Look mom, I’m cooking. It’s a Ramadan miracle!

Zahra Suratwala is co-founder of the “I Speak for Myself” book series. She is also a Professor of English at Elgin College. When she is not writing or teaching, she can be found causing a ruckus with her husband, son, and daughter in the leafy suburbs of Chicago.

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