Simple pleasures

The rowdy ruffians are positively addicted to cooking these days. It is true that the stove gives comforting warmth that my tropical offspring miss. However, they also enjoy the process itself and it pleases them to no end to see others appreciating their concoctions. The other day, Bear made applesauce and Mars prepared her specialty – omelette with homegrown garlic sprouts – for a guest’s breakfast.

I remember one of the girls’ early culinary attempts. They decided, one day, to make their own lunch and conspired gleefully in the kitchen. They later invited me to sample their meal – I’d thought it was something elaborate or out of the ordinary considering their blissful expressions, but I was mistaken. It turned out to be a simple dish of boiled potatoes seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. :) It was delicious though and quite healthful and it made me realise that I had a lot to learn from my children. One of the most important things that they have taught me is to find joy and contentment in the littlest things. Indeed, when it comes to food, frugal and easy need not mean compromising on flavour or quality.

I’ve been inspired by Kate’s blog (she has tips on frugal living and back-to-basic meals), discussions with my friend Tea (you guys MUST pester her to blog about the amazing things she has learnt about healthful eating!) and meals my friend Umm Aymun prepares (she makes the simplest things so mouthwatering that it is amazing, I kid you not!). We’ve made a conscious effort to eat more homecooked meals and to use more organic foods. We are fortunate in this respect – raw milk, pure butter/ghee, free range eggs and organic meats and produce are more easily available and affordable here than in my home country.

We have been enjoying making hearty meals that require minimal ingredients and preparation. I’m not against elaborate meals – it is a blessing to present the best to your family and guests – but it is not something sustainable or even necessary on a daily basis. Eating simply can mean savings that can be used for more useful things and charity. It also inculcates self-restraint – all too often, we indulge our nafs and throw moderation to the wind. We would do well to be the sort of people who can make do, people who know the difference between “needs” and “wants”. The Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “A human being has not filled any vessel which is worse than a belly. Enough for the son of Adam are some mouthfuls that can keep his back straight, but if there is no escape, he should fill it a third with food, a third with drink and a third empty.” [at-Tirmidhi]

For us, easy meals allow us all to be involved in the preparation. The girls feel a great sense of participation and achievement. What is more, not slaving over the stove means that we have more time for reading, crafting and of course, worship. I’ve begun a little notebook of easy-peasy recipes for the girls that I’ve stuck onto the refridgerator door – they can refer to it any time they feel like cooking in shaa Allah.

We’ve been having lots of fruit and vegetables. Pomegranates are a favourite – they are so gorgeous truly! Lunches are often our version of Subs – sandwiches of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum and cottage cheese with little dollops of mayo and mustard – they are so appetizing ma shaa Allah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing beats the taste of produce here – they are so fresh and the flavours just burst in your mouth.

Here are some other dishes we’ve been doing recently…

We revisited Mars’ baked pasta… this time with minced beef … with only five ingredients and 3 pairs of hands working on it, it took less than half and hour to make…

… made a 20-minute curry… one of those chuck-everything-in-the-pot-and-let-it-stew dishes this haphazard housewife likes…

… a variation of my children’s potato dish … boiled potatoes cooked with onions, garlic and minced chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper. I used the kids’ homegrown garlic sprouts to garnish and they were delighted! Another 20-minute dish that was much appreciated, alhamdulillah…

… we have cut down on fried foods so these are becoming a rarity (honest, Tea!)… I made my version of pakoras as we had left-over bread and crusts. I just chucked them all in a bowl with flour, eggs, onions, coriander and spring onion greens and spices and fried the crazy mix up :)

It will be a busy week – the kids have to hit the books and I have to tidy our living area once again – a mammoth task, believe you me! I hope it also means another week of simple pleasures… in shaa Allah :)

Made by Mars

My first-born turned ten a couple of months ago and at the risk of sounding maudlin, I’ll say, oh, how time has flown! I can’t believe this spunky, cheeky little girl who stole my heart with her precocious ways has grown up so much. She’s always had an old soul. I remember that when she was about two, I pinched her cheeks after a joke and said, “You know, you are so cute ma shaa Allah!” She answered in all earnestness, “No! No! I’m not cute. I’m too big to be cute!” Her serious pronouncement made her look even more adorable, but I didn’t tell her that :) She had always objected very strongly to “being treated like a kid”.

My little big girl is full of grand schemes and shennanigans. She has been growing garlic and onions in her bedroom (we used the sprouts for our tuna sandwich filling!), made a bow (not the sort for your hair… the kind you shoot arrows with) and is planning to make bone needles (because you never know when you need to stitch deerskin for moccasins!).

Two days ago, she made us all lunch – baked pasta with minced chicken, sauce and cheese. She was a little daunted at first but with Bear’s support and much encouragement, she rolled up her sleeves and got into it like a pro. It was delicious ma shaa Allah. I only wish I’d remembered to snap a photo much sooner because this was all that was left once we had attacked it :)

I still don’t have my camera so this grainy photo is all we have… bah…

I remember thinking when I first had Mars that motherhood just didn’t come naturally to me at all. Maybe it did and I didn’t know it or maybe it really didn’t and I somehow grew into it. Whatever the case, Allah gave me a funny first-born who made it easy for me, alhamdulillah.

Mars, you’ve come a long way, ma shaa Allah. Baba and I are so proud of you! :)

Another freebie – Activity TV

Activities for Kids

Find lots of fun activities for kids, with video instructions and printables. There’s a selection of craft ideas including gifts, games and easy kid-friendly cooking recipes. Check out the simple, safe and fun science experiments or very cool paper airplanes. Other categories inlcude cartooning, cheerleading, juggling, origami, jewlery, puppets, and more. Just follow along with the setp-by-step videos.