Food & Nutrition

5 Energizing, Plant-Based Dishes This R.D. Relies on During Ramadan

With each passing day that brings us closer to Ramadan, I become more excited to mark this holy celebration with my family. The annual month of fasting from dawn to dusk, engaging in spiritual worship, and helping the less fortunate is a way for me to re-center my spirituality and grow closer with my husband and two daughters. It also requires a lot of energy, which can be hard to maintain due to the whole fasting component. But, as a registered dietitian, that gives me an exciting opportunity to experiment with the best ways to power my body and mind.

This year, Ramadan takes place approximately from May 6th to June 5th—I’ve always loved how the date can change slightly as it’s based on the lunar calendar—and I’ve decided to take a more plant-based approach to the holiday. I like to classify myself as a flexitarian, meaning I eat approximately 50 percent vegetarian. I’m not giving up on meat, poultry, and dairy completely (cheese, I’m looking at you!). But I do enjoy saving money by eating more plants and fewer animal products, and the sustainability angle is important to me, too.

My focus on plant-based meals started when I tried going vegan for a week a few months ago. I realized that I could optimize my nutrition by adding so many more vegetables and plant-based proteins to my meals, but that I also didn’t need to sacrifice taste in the process. Yes, even as a registered dietitian, it took some experimenting for me to figure out exactly how to do this. It’s still a learning process for me.

If you’re also interested in trying a more plant-based eating approach this Ramadan, I hope a sampling of the vegetarian meals I plan to prepare for my family provides some inspiration.

Recipes

Suhoor

Anyone who’s ever skimped on suhoor before a day of fasting knows how important this pre-dawn meal is. Eating substantial, nutritious food during suhoor is essential for making it through the day of fasting.

One of my favorite suhoor meals is overnight oats, which has a great balance of whole grain carbohydrates for energy along with filling protein and fats. People often make overnight oats in individual jars, but I like to make big, family-style batches. That way, my husband and I can have some at suhoor, and my daughters can enjoy their own portions when they wake up in the morning.

Nazima Qureshi, R.D.

Family-Style Overnight Oats

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups large flake oats
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • 4 cups cashew milk
  • Toppings: fruit and nuts of choice

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix oats, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and hemp seeds. Add milk and cover. Place in refrigerator overnight.
  2. When ready to serve, top with fruits and nuts of choice.

Iftar

Coming together after a long day of fasting to eat with our loved ones isn’t only physically nourishing. It’s emotionally fulfilling as well.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a variety of foods at the table every night for iftar. That is a tradition I want to carry forward for my family, but I’ve tweaked the menu a bit. Traditionally, I had iftar foods that were deep-fried and high in refined carbohydrates, which often led to a lack of balanced nutrients that quite easily drained my energy.

To combat that post-iftar inertia, I like to have at least one type of fruit (like dates), a fresh salad, and the main meal, like a coconut curry with tempeh, a protein-rich fermented soy product. I typically serve this with a pre-packaged grain mix that has sprouted black beans, daikon radish seeds, hulled millet, and wild rice to up the protein and fiber content.

Depending on my energy levels (working and looking after two girls under three while fasting isn’t always easy, to say the least), I may also prepare an appetizer, such as quick and delicious samosa tarts.

Nazima Qureshi, R.D.

Arugula Salad

Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries

Salad dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp dried basil
  • Pinch of black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix salad dressing ingredients.
  2. Place arugula in a larger bowl and top with veggies and dried cranberries. Before serving, drizzle with salad dressing.
Nazima Qureshi, R.D.

Samosa Tarts

Makes 24 mini samosa tarts

Ingredients:

Tarts:

  • 5 phyllo sheets
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

Filling:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 medium-sized russet potatoes, boiled and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. Lay a phyllo sheet on a large piece of parchment paper. Brush on coconut oil and place another phyllo sheet on top. Repeat layers for all 5 phyllo sheets, but do not brush oil on the top sheet. Cut into squares and push into the mini cupcake pan.
  3. Bake phyllo sheets for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned and crispy.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and add cumin seeds and onion. Cook for 2 minutes, until onions have softened and cumin seeds are slightly brown.
  5. Add ginger garlic paste, spices, and frozen green peas. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until peas are fully cooked through.
  6. Add diced potatoes and lemon juice. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  7. Shortly before serving, spoon potato mixture into tarts.
Nazima Qureshi, R.D.

Coconut Tempeh and Vegetable Curry

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Two 8-oz packages of tempeh, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 acorn squash, cubed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 2 cups mushroom, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil at medium heat and add tempeh pieces. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until tempeh is browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil at medium heat and add onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until onions have softened. Add ginger, garlic, carrots, and acorn squash. Add spices and mix well until vegetables are evenly coated with spices. Add 1/2 cup of water, increase heat to medium-high, and cover. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until carrots and squash have softened.
  3. Once carrots and squash have softened, add broccoli, mushrooms, and an additional 1/2 cup of water. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes at medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer. Add tempeh and coconut milk. Let curry come to a boil.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Add cornstarch mixture to curry in a steady stream while continuously mixing. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until curry has thickened. Remove from heat and serve over brown rice.

If you’re open to non-veggie options for this curry, you can swap out tempeh for a pound of boneless chicken breast or thigh, cut into cubes. I do this when preparing this curry for my husband, who eats a lot more animal-based proteins than I do. This is great for my two daughters because they get to choose between a plant-based or animal-based protein. I find my 18-month-old is a bit more adventurous and enjoys my plant-based meals, while my 4-year-old loves her chicken and rice with her dad.

Post-Iftar Snack

After iftar, my husband goes to the mosque to pray. I pray alone at home while the kids are asleep. I cherish this time on my own to read the Quran and pray uninterrupted, which doesn’t happen often. Then, my husband comes home around 12:00 A.M., and we settle in for a snack. Energy bites are an easy and nutritious option, and I love that I can meal prep a big batch at once.

Nazima Qureshi, R.D.

Mango and Goji Energy Bites

Makes 20-25 energy bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup oats
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped cashews
  • ¼ cup dried mango without added sugar
  • ¼ cup dried goji berries without added sugar
  • ½ cup almond or cashew butter without added sugar
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add nut butter and maple syrup, and mix well.
  2. Using damp hands, form 1-inch balls. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

As much as Ramadan is about fasting, what I eat during the small window of non-fasting hours has a significant impact on my productivity. It also influences how much I’m able to focus on my bond with my community. I’m so looking forward to fasting—and especially breaking my fast—with loved ones in a way that will help us feel energized and more connected with each other.

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