Monday, August 4, 2014

My Experience Surviving in the Kitchen during Ramadhan

As we are celebrating Aidilfitri, I still want to write about Ramadhan =) 

Well, this post serves as a reminiscence for me to manage my time wisely and to be a better home manager =) Well, you see, it's not easy to run a household. I even think that it's easier to run an office, because you have all the resources to assist you - when you want to solve an issue or to make an important decision you can call for a meeting and discuss about the options and what not.

But when it's totally a different story when it comes to your own household. Decisions have to be made almost all the time and it must be very quick. One of the most frequent decisions to make is "What to have for dinner?" And MH, being a thoughtful person that he always is, will answer my question with a simple "Tak kisahlah, you masak je apa-apa". Thaankkksss...

So you can imagine my nervousness as we enter Ramadhan, where time is scarce and (good) food is expected to be on the table, on time. The fact that I'm not only an amateur in cooking, but also slow in the kitchen was not helpful at all! I like to call my style of cooking like a host of a cooking show - I'll put every ingredients on the table, then only I will start cooking. I will also look up to the recipe from time to time, just to make sure that I do it right. Cooking under the pressure of time is really not my kind of stuff!

So, I have to find ways to make the some-what impossible, become possible. Getting organized is the key here. I knew that I had to start somewhere. My aimed was to provide home-cooked meals as much as I could because it is cleaner, healthier and also economic =) 

My tip #1, is to to use Weekly Meals Planner. I'd been meaning to use it since forever, but for some reasons, it had always been a 'projek terbengkalai'. No commitment. But last Ramadhan, I made it a point to do the planning every Monday during lunch break. It was just a simple spread, but little did I know that it could be very useful! 
Sahur & Iftar for Week 1

found that a simple practice of preparing my family weekly meals' planner has saved me a lot of time, energy and not forgetting some money! First, was because I didn't have to think of what to cook everyday. I needed to do the 'thinking' once a week (when I was making the plan) and stick the planner on the fridge. For the rest of the week I just follow what was written on the planner. Secondly, with this practice I managed to avoid wastage because I know exactly what was in my fridge, especially the perishable item. So, when I cook, I gave the priority in cooking it earlier. Thirdly, the planner also help to guide me when I did my grocery shopping because I knew exactly what to look for at the market. Otherwise my shopping basket would be full with so many things that sometimes ended up being in the trash bin because I forgot that I had them in my fridge! 

Tip #2 is preparation As I mentioned earlier, I'm an amateur in cooking, so preparation also mean getting the recipes ready and studied the recipe before hand =) 
I usually Google-d for recipes & ol'skool recipe books

And also because I know what to cook in advance with the help of the planner, the preparation came easy. Before I went to sleep, I already did some preparation for sahur. Like removing the items from the freezer to the chiller, cutting the veggies, take out the steamer from the storage etc. I usually woke up for sahur at about 4.30 - 5 a.m. to cook simple dishes. Alhamdulillah, even though it was very simple, we didn't missed sahur this year. 
However, my prep work didn't stop there. After sahur, while waiting for Subuh prayer, I started preparing for iftar. I did the cutting & marinating part, put it in small plastic containers and put it in the chiller. So that when I got back from work, I didn't need to wait for it to defrost. All I need to do was to take it out from the fridge and put it in the pan. Real time saver!

I shared my daily cooking in my Instagram for motivation
I also learned that left overs were very useful! Here comes tip #3, to make full use of the left overs! There were times when I over estimated the amount of sambal for ikan berlada for instance, so I kept the left over sambal in the fridge and use it next time by turning it into sambal telur. Just put in the boiled egg and voila, you got yourself a different menu already! I also 're-cycled' left over curry from iftar to be eaten with instant roti canai for sahur. Who knows one can be very creative with left overs!

Alhamdulillah, I could say that except for a few eating-out for iftar invitations, family gatherings and 3-4 visits to Bazaar Ramadhan, almost 80 percent of our sahur and iftar meals are #homecooked and I managed to get everything ready by the time azan Maghrib! Hooray for beginner like me! But, I had to admit that it was quite tiring doing all this day-in day-out. Plus I'm a full time working mother. But the satisfaction that I got was priceless especially when I noticed that the price of some food at Bazaar Ramadhan was ridiculous and some food were even tasteless. So it is always better to cook =)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ramadhan Boot Camp

Salam Ramadhan semua! Diam tak diam hari ini masuklah hari ke-16 kita berpuasa. Alhamdulillah.Memang entri ini tertinggal keretapi, tapi masih juga saya ingin mengucapkan Selamat Berpuasa dan Selamat Meningkatkan Ibadah di bulan Ramadhan ini.

Bercakap tentang berpuasa ini, memanglah semua pun tahu yang bulan ini kita dilarang daripada makan/minum dan melakukan perkara yang membatalkan puasa dari terbit matahari sehinggalah terbenam matahari pada hari tersebut. Begitu juga dengan ibadah eksklusif bulan Ramadhan seperti membayar zakat fitrah, menunaikan solat sunat terawikh dan sebagainya. Itu boleh dikirakan satu kelaziman untuk dilaksanakan dalam bulan ini.

Tetapi tahun ini, mungkin disebabkan faktor peningkatan usia (sob! sob!)saya ada perspektif tambahan tentang ibadah berpuasa yang ingin dikongsikan di sini.

Jika kita perasan, semasa bulan Ramadhan ni, kebanyakan daripada kita akan jadi extra cautious dengan setiap pertuturan, sikap dan tindakan kita. Contohnya, "Tak boleh cakap tipu. Puasa!" Atau kalau ada yang mengajak kita melakukan perkara lagha kita akan jawab "Eh, mana boleh. Kan puasa!" Nak marah-marah pun terus tak jadi bila teringat "Eh aku kan tengah puasa". Begitu juga dengan aktiviti bergossip dan lain-lain yang akan dijauhi atau dihentikan serta-merta semasa berpuasa. Semuanya kerana kita tak mahu mengurangkan kualiti atau pahala puasa kita.

Photo courtesy of Google Image
Tapi kalau difikir semula, menipu, mengumpat, marah-marah bukannya termasuk dalam perkara yang membatalkan puasa, kan? Lagi pun, bukankah kita memang tidak boleh menipu/berbohong/mengumpat dan melakukan perkara-perkara lain yang sewaktu dengannya sama ada semasa kita berpuasa atau tidak? So kenapa dalam bulan Ramadhan saja kita berhati-hati dengan tidak melakukan perkara-perkara macam tu dan tidak pada waktu lain? 

Begitu juga semasa Ramadhan, dengan kurang makan/minum, kurang tidur dan sebagainya, tetapi kita masih gigih untuk cari masa untuk baca Al_Quran, solat sunat serta ibadah lainnya yang mungkin (bagi saya sendiri) agak sukar untuk diamalkan secara istiqamah dalam hari-hari biasa kerana alasan yang cliche - tak sempat atau cukup masa. Tapi boleh je kan buat semasa Ramadhan? 

Pada saya, Ramadhan ibarat bootcamp untuk bantu kita kembali kepada fitrah sebagai manusia. Ramadhan is a training period to make us a better person, physically, mentally and definitely spiritually. Secara asasnya, memang puasa melibatkan larangan fizikal, tetapi hikmah daripada menghadkan keperluan fizikal seperti makan/minum itu ialah kita dapat 'membangunkan' deria keenam kita yang mungkin 'tidur' selama ini kena terlebih makan, minum, hiburan dan perkara-perkara lagha yang lainnya.

I think we make better judgement when we are fasting, because we let our conscience to lead ourselves instead of our nafsu. We are more aware of the way we carry ourselves, the words that come out from our mouth, our thinking, the way we act and react etc. This is only my humble observation. But let's continue the good practice that we've been doing during the 30-days of Ramadhan boot camp for the rest of the year =)

Monday, June 2, 2014

My #LunchboxMonday Experience

Today marks the 5th week that I joined this campaign "Lunchbox Monday"I came across this campaign as I was surfing the Net to get more info on healthy lifestyle. You see, I've always wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle, but bringing home-cooked meal to work was not really in my plan. But as soon as I read this short entry in Jewelpie, I got all excited and decided to join the pledge the next Monday. Here's my first #luncboxmonday: Grilled chicken burrito.

Believe it or not, it took me less than 5-mins to assemble this meal! No, I'm not a Master Chef what-so-ever who can cook amazing food over the short period of time under lots of pressure. In fact, I'm sort-of-a-marathoner-rather-than-sprinter when it comes to cooking. I prefer to take my own sweet time in the kitchen. That was why I never thought of bringing my own meal to work. Talk about the pressure to get everything's ready on time plus having to deal with my two clingy+cranky angels in the morning!

However, I also learned from the above-mentioned websites that the trick is in the preparation. Tips #1, decide what you'll bring to the office the night before. What are the ingredients needed? What type of cooking process is required? Is there anything that you can prepare beforehand? That is why it is easier to pack the lunch for Mondays as we have the weekend to do some prep. For this first meal, I grilled the chicken and cleaned the veggies the night before, so I would not rush for time in the morning.

Tips #2, prepare easy-peasy meal. Avoid preparing elaborate meal, meaning food that requires lots of time to cook and need to have sides like gravy, garnishing etc. My mantra is fast and healthy food. For instance, this morning I was rushing for work and hadn't done any preparation the night before, so the solution was this simple crispy salad that requires no cooking at all! 
Another dilemma I must say, is to prepare food that is suitable and will last (the freshness) until lunch time. So when in doubt, Tips #3go for sandwich! I think you can never go wrong with a good sandwich. It's wholesome, easy to prepare and usually requires minimum or no cooking at all. I brought egg sandwich to work a few weeks back. 2 slices of whole-meal bread + lettuce + crushed hard-boiled eggs + a dash of black pepper  = wholesome meal that kept me full until evening!

The availability of all the ingredients in hands are also an important part of this exercise (wow, sounds like a movement already hehehe). So it will save you from the headache to go to the store to get it, etc. For me, Tips #4, the must-have or basic items are as follows: 

  • Onions - I love onions!
  • Black pepper - to me, this is the greatest seasoning in the world-it'll make everything taste 'edible'
  • Veggies - preferably those that can be eaten on its own like lettuce. Any kind of lettuce: romaine, icebergs are great
  • Eggs - an egg-ceptional super food that is also versatile!
  • Carbohydrate - bread / wrap to keep everything together. 

I use Mission wraps to make burritos. My personal favourite is onion & chive flavour. It tastes good and the texture is light enough to my liking. I made this tuna-burrito for one of my lunchbox-es, and the only thing that required cooking here was the wrap! I pan-grilled it for a few minutes, laid all the fresh ingredients on it, put the canned tuna and voila!
So far, I'm very happy with my new 'obsession'. I started this habit with the aimed to eat healthily, but there are also some other positive results (good side effects?) that I experienced through out my (short) journey so far. I shall share them with you in my next entry. Anyway, confession time. There was this one particular week that I was too lazy to do any prep, but I still want to bring my lunchbox to work. See, this is this campaign is all about - it encourages you to make a commitment (to bring lunch to work), so your inner self will push you to stick to it =).

So what I did was - I skipped my Sunday dinner and packed the meal instead for my #lunchboxmonday. Talk about commitment =) Call it cheating (well, I wished not to repeat this again!), but I'm glad that I still have the courage to stick to my pledge, because I know that once I skipped the habit, the chances that I'll stop doing it all together is pretty high!