Episode 47 Delightfully combining eastern and western recipes with Zakiya Master (Blend of Spice)
Episode 47 Show Notes
Joining us today is Zakiya Master. Zakiya was a bio major interested in experiments before she became a spice enthusiast, recipe developer, food stylist and lover of all thing’s food. Zakiya uses her bio chemistry knowledge to combine her East meets West fusions, where mixing her Pakistani heritage with her birth and upbringing in the States gives a fusion of what would normally not be paired. She talks to us about what led her to a food specialist, shares prepping tips for food during Ramadan, touches on her food recipes and gives mom tips and lets moms know that
In this episode:
● Ramadan and food
● Keeping Ramadan food nutritious, healthy, simple but also tasty
● Free your time by prepping and freezing foods, making meals ahead of time
● Nutritious foods to keep you going through Ramadan
● Planning tips for Ramadan
● How did Zakiya turn to cooking and recipes?
● Using the knowledge of science with food
● Combining Eastern and Western recipes
● Zakiya gets inspired
● Zakiya on halal food shows
● Zakiya shares advice for moms
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Connect with Zakiya and find all her delicious recipes and let her know you heard her on the Naptime Is Sacred Podcast
Full episode transcription
FOUSIA: As-salāmu ʿalaykum everyone on today's episode I have with me is a Zakiya Master. Zakiya is also known as Blend of Spice which is the name of her blog and her social media platforms. Zakiya is a spice enthusiast recipe developer and food stylist and she loves all things food. She's best known for her East meets West fusions were mixing her Pakistani heritage with her birth and upbringing the state gives a fusion of what would normally not be paired. She's always been passionate about art and this might have helped her with this newfound medium of food. Zakiya is also the wonderful mother of amazing little boys. Three to be exact. So she's got a busy life and this is an outlet for her to continue being creative. Growing up different is what inspired and continues to inspire her. Learning the infusions of flavor watching her mother cook learning the roots of a dish is what keeps her going and wanting to continue learning and creating more. She's learned it's OK to be different and she's paving her own way through life. And while blending her own spices. Let's get right into today's episode of Zakiya
Fousia Hey guys. As-salāmu ʿalaykum. Thank you for joining me on another episode of The Naptime Is Sacred Podcast. If you guys haven't unsubscribed yet please go ahead and do that so we can get these episodes out to more Muslim women. On today's episode I have Zakiya Master you guys might know her as Blend Of Spice on Instagram as well as her blog Zakiya welcome to the show.
ZAKYA: As-salāmu ʿalaykum Fousia Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
FOUSIA: I'm super excited to have you on the show. Most people don't know this but there's very few people that have been on the episodes that I've met in person. And Zakiya happens to be one of them. Back in your Dallas days mashallah. I'm super excited to have been following your journey when you lived here and all the work that you're doing on social media. For those of the listeners who are not following you or who don't know you personally. Tell us a little bit about yourself so they can get to know you.
ZAKIYA: Sure. Definitely. I am a spice enthusiast. I'm a recipe developer and I'm a food blogger over at blendofspace.com. I kind of started out when I had two young toddlers and I just wanted to get them to eat some good nutritious food but still keep my heritage and my culture in it as well. And I kind of just mixed all the fusions and started experimenting and started blogging about it and it turned into this and it turned into something that everyone started liking and enjoying and you know listening and watching and reading.
FOUSIA: Definitely. So we've got a big month ahead of us right. And one thing that I love about the food that you post and the way that you curate your pictures and things like that is that it's simple and it's good for your food. It's always child friendly which is a big bonus for those of us who are raising little kids. Tell us a little bit about your thoughts with regards to Ramadan and food and how to keep being nutritious how to keep it simple but also kind of beautify your food.
ZAKIYA: Yeah definitely. So Ramadan is of course inshaAllah approaching us very soon. And you know it is a blessed time. But at the same time for mothers it becomes kind of chaotic you know especially if you have more than one child or if you're working or if you have something on you know you want some of your own me time you want something about that for yourself. And I really try to share recipes that you can freeze easily that you know take minimal meal prep. I'm really into the simplicity of a dish or simplicity of just getting dinner out there you know it doesn't have to be a crazy extravagant every time just you know look at the beautiful foods we even have you know like just the watermelon and you know the summertime is coming or like you know the dates like I feel like just keep it simple to not only just make bellies full but also for yourself. You know don't go over crazy. This is a time of just simplifying and just you know giving thanks and blessings for what we are given. You know not everyone these kind of blessings. You know people are looking around for food all the time and you know this is really a time to just say have love for what we have.
FOUSIA: Yes totally agree with you on that. You mentioned freezing and food that's easy for you to make. Tell us a little bit about your go to iftar and suhoor meals and how you've been able to make those child friendly.
ZAKIYA: Yeah so I'm a big freezer. So not necessarily like I freeze or you know like meals but like you know I like to freeze samosa I like to freeze like little finger foods for the kids I like to marinate meats and freeze them. You know who wants to be doing all the dirty work and cleaning at the same time right during Ramadan. Time is of the essence. So I like to pre marinate by my meat in bulk pre marinate. You know write down for he does write down you know what and three chicken write down my body and I just kind of freeze them into sections that I know is going to be good for our kids and let's be real like it's Ramadan you're going to have unexpected guests. If you live in a nice big community you're going to want to share your iftar with friends if you know someone fall sick or you know there's a new mom who just had a baby. You want to be able to help out during Ramadan. So these are great make ahead items that you can have ready so it's not like oh my gosh I have to make a whole other meal for somebody else but it's like Oh I'm already having something frozen and ready to go. And for kids especially like I just feel like you know you have kids who are fasting and who are not fasting. Kind of like in my home right. My eldest son will fast but my younger two don't. So you want to still feed them. Right. So you know pulling out a quick chicken bread or pulling out you know some chicken extra and just cooking for them and then having some leftover to just reheat or freshen up you know for iftar because it does run late and definitely condiments. I'm big on condiments and having dips and so who are I keep it simple. It's all about you know overnight oats it's all about you know my chia pudding all of these things are prepped weeks in advance I just all I have to do is take the dry ingredients put them in a jar and I just shake it up and stick it in the fridge and I have literally suhoor for the whole week. I don't have to worry about you know pulling everything out separate for everyone else and I like to do one part dishes. Yeah. And I like to do meal perhaps for the week so I'm not scrambling during the week.
FOUSIA: Yeah you can use that time sort of being in the kitchen. It's kind of like out of sight out of mind you've already prepared everything you can cook and or get food ready in like 30 minutes flat when you've batch already which is amazing. I kind of did the same thing when I had I guess my almost 4 year old now. He was born like three days before Ramadan and so I like I knew when I was pregnant I was like OK this is going to be crazy. I have a newborn who's going to be like eating like crazy and I've got to be nursing all the time and the kids and all like your husband everything and say OK you know I'm going to make all the food. So I pretty much just made all the meals. The only thing I had to make was like carbs day of and even that.. But generally you just kind of like throw this chicken I cooked on top of some lettuce and yell good to go. oh like really simple and we eat that for like even months after Ramadan. And so I can not stress enough the importance of making your go to meals ahead of time. So you have that like hour 30 minutes if you're working or you're home schooling to just sit and pray and do everything that you need to do. It really goes a long way.
ZAKIYA: Definitely I completely agree. I wanted to add that like you know a big thing for us in our home is not just simple clean eating but also like we don't want to eat too many complex carbs or like sugars that are going to slow us down or make us too thirsty. So we always do like some kind of fruit salad. I have a fruit chart recipe on my blog. I have overnight oats on my blog and I have like coconut chia putting. So those are all really big staples for us. I feel like chia seeds really help you keep hydrated and I feel like you know oatmeal keeps you full. And you know they're so easy to put together. I feel like you can make a big batch of them and I hope to come out with a slow cooker version for bigger families. Yeah. But right now I have like overnight ones and I just feel like you know just the simple foods you know like coconut milk or like you know the chia seeds as I mentioned or you know the natural fruits and you know dried fruits that we have using those as our main source of vitamins and ingredients will really help us push forward for 30 days. You know it takes a lot out of our bodies to be fasting and running around little kids and you know trying to stay hydrated.
FOUSIA: Yes. Totally agree with you and I mean even for the kids themselves they want these nutritious meals they want to roll out of bed at before suhoor eat something and pray you know and be on their way home and get back to sleep. So this is all really important stuff. I hope you guys are taking some notes and following Zakiya on Instagram and her Web site and checking out these cool recipes we still have some time left and you guys can you know even if it's some first week second week of Ramadan there's always time to implement something new if possible. So a Zakiya tell us a little bit about you know we spent a lot of time planning things. Everyone is planning their decorations and getting their house clean and organized. Tell us a little bit about how entertaining comes for Ramadan on eat for your family when it comes to planning for iftars and eat brunches or lunch or dinner whatever you guys do how you've been able to kind of streamline that as well.
ZAKIYA: Yeah definitely. So basically for a iftar what I like to do is as I mentioned I pre freeze a lot of marinated meats and things so I like to plan in advance if I'm going to be doing and iftar if I know I'm going to have the family over or some friends over. I know that I preplanned them in the first 10 days of Ramadan because I feel like that's when I have the most stamina. I like to leave and reserve the last 10 nights for myself and just trying to get as much rather than for myself. So I try to do it in the first 10 days or the first half of Ramadan because I feel like that's the time I still have energy everyone's in this spirit and like it kind of just flows and that's where I still have the bulk of my items that I have frozen and stashed in my freezer whereas near the end I'm kind of like getting lazy and scrambling like do we have enough samosas today. Yeah Go for something else. So I try to do it in the beginning of the month and I really find that it really helps because while it encourages and motivates the younger kids it helps them you know have this presence because like for my toddler who's 2 He is not going to be going in the Masjid. You know for it that we so I want him to be able to still have an embrace that you know Ramadan spirit that's supposed to be there. So you know this really encourages him and I'll show him like you know how we celebrate you know Eid you know how Eid is upon us. So Ramadan per say I do some decorations and.. but mainly we lead up Ramadan so that we can celebrate Eid so it is the bigger picture for us it's more of Ramadan being a countdown. But I like to prep in advance and just do what I have. You know again I my motto is keeping it simple if you even look on my blog I'm all about you know just using simple items that you have at home it doesn't have to be extravagant. You can use a sheet tray and just like put on a salad with some garnishes that you can keep it simple you know you don't have to use extravagant dinner where you don't have to use like you know the crazy silverware you can just keep it simple you know. So this style is eating with your hands right. Keep it fine keep it simple like have the finger foods for the kids. They'll love walking around with that girl you know. So I really think like just the motto of keeping it simple and making it easy on you like the whole point of having the iftar is blessings of feeding that other person who has fasted you know it's not about let me throw on like the biggest party I can. So keep it simple for yourself keep it nutritious so that your guests aren't feeling sluggish afterwards either you know.
FOUSIA: Yeah. So you really have to go to like Salah again.
ZAKIYA: Exactly yeah. And keep those heavier dishes for Eid and that's what we do is we pop out that Bihari and chia combine all those things during Eid usually Eid brunch is our biggest thing and we like to do Eid brunch with family or if we don't have family around if we... you know because I live out of town and from family. So, we get all our friends together and right after Eid that's like our big wow and you know like we accomplish something. You know we spend 30 days of fasting. Now let's feast and enjoy ourselves. And that's where I you know pull out all the heavier dishes that we enjoy. So like the Nihari, and the parathas, the sheer korma, Things like that but also keeping it simple sheer korma I would make like the night before and the nihari I'll throw into like the instant pot or crockpot you know keeping it simple still for myself that make it easy in piecing myself you know don't do too much where you'll burn out.
Enjoy that holiday. It's yours too.
FOUSIA: Oh yeah. I mean it's so well deserved especially for moms like we're not only worrying about our own Ibadah but we're worrying about like everyone else and if they're being... if they have you know the ability and the time to do everything else so I'm really glad that you talk about keeping it simple keeping it easy and just planning ahead for it. I'm so glad that we were able to talk about Ramadan and Eid. I want to kind of pivot a little bit because you know the podcast is always about Muslim woman and the things that they're doing and how we're always able to kind of recreate ourselves regardless of what time in our lives we're in. Well what season in our lives were and so let's talk to you a little bit about you getting into cooking and becoming a spice enthusiast and I know you said like you know prior to having kids cooking wasn't really your thing and it's not where you were focused but it's something that you taught yourself that you were able to learn from other people. So tell us a little bit about that experience and why it was so important to you.
ZAKIYA: Yeah for sure. So I got married pretty young and I moved away but I didn't know how to cook. I was a bio major and I was one of those science nerds who was into science experimenting but when I had my sign I realized you know I really have to learn to cook because this is not having any food. And my mom's not here to help. So you know I would get on the phone with her and I'd be like today we're going to make this. Like how are you going to make it. And she's like OK just a little bit of this and little about that and I'm like That's not how this works. I don't know what a little bit. Yeah. And you know that's where I pulled out my chemistry and science and I realized that cooking is like a big science experiment. If you want it to turn out good you have to keep trying. Do all your hypothesis and trial and errors and then you'll get there right. And that really is what got me going and then from there I kind of experimented with the different spices and I was like wow like you know these two paired together like turmeric and honey really helps you know with anti inflammatory or like you know the red chili really helps you know enhance the flavor of the cumin and coriander. So like that geeky side came out and I was like you know this is like I'm on to something something's going to happen. And then just having that Pakistan heritage of mine colliding with my Western upbringing you know I was born and raised in America and my parents are from Pakistan. But just mixing those roots together to really identify who I am you know I'm really into fusion foods and that's where it really actually started my blog is you know having things like samosa pot pie which turned into a BuzzFeed feature. It was like you know here's a chicken pot pie which is a classic American dish and I mixed it and I was like samosa is everything in Pakistan. So why not mix the two together. You know my kids. How many times are we going to wrap? I have three little boys. You know I got a rap all these samosas. Let's turn into one thing and give it a try and I was able to turn it into a vegan pot pie and it seemed like to become so big like BuzzFeed featured it and they reached out and they're like this is amazing and that kind of just started onto like other fusion foods right. I got into rest Malay cake and then I did glob jam and cheesecake and chicken sixty five and these are all recipes I have on the blog but really like it just turned into this big old science experiment and it really just made me proud to be able to mix the two together and share my version of my heritage and culture with my children and you know who are second generation in this country.
FOUSIA: That's amazing. I'm glad that you were able to combine the best of both worlds especially you know for our kids it's really important that they have these you know these dishes that they can reference in these flavors that they get to experience because they don't necessarily get to go back home whether that's Africa for me or Asia for you like it's hard right? Getting every plane and traveling for hours.
ZAKIYA: For them to get that full essence right. But that essence of knowing like what the real deal is. They're always telling me my boys are always like but what does Pakistan really like. I'm like There's no sense of direction there. There's so much traffic but the food's amazing.
FOUSIA: Yeah. And I hope it's all one day they get to experience all of that but in the meantime I'm glad that you're able to give them these delicious meals. So, you mentioned you know your mom is really a big deal for you when it comes to cooking and you love her food and you think that she's one of the best cooks if I remember correctly. Oh, talk to me a little bit about who else you look up to when it comes to like you know halo cooking and you know there's a lot of shows now cooking shows that have Muslim people on it. Tell us a little bit about who inspires you and who keeps you motivated.
ZAKIYA: There's so many good bloggers out there now. I mean I don't think I can pinpoint one I would think that most of my influence comes from my mom and just my aunts and just life experiences. I think a lot of travelling and just being able to like try different kinds of food and having a really mixed group of friends you know like I don't like to just be like oh I'm just going to stick with my Pakistani friends. I have multiple like different diverse groups of friends and I just am really thankful that they're able to help me experience but having people that really inspire me I would say is like Amanda Saab she was the first hijab woman on Master Chef, Abeer Najjar is another really dear friend of mine that I met through Instagram and I just love what she's doing. She's a professional chef but she's really bringing her Palestinian roots and really truly bringing back the flavors of the Arab world in a different light. And I just really love that background heritage and story behind where the olives are coming from or where that olive tree was and what that significance was to that specific family. You know like I just really like that history that comes with food and I feel like that's with any kind of cuisine. But I just I'm really drawn to the history or. You know the nature of you know how it was brought to life you know. So I would say those two are definitely big ones up there. I'm inspired by everyone. Anyone who tries a dish or you know comes in and brings me something or shares me a meal with me I'm always inspired on how I can recreate it or how I can make it but in my version. Like how I recreate something but make it my own.
FOUSIA: Tell us a little bit about your recent experience you went to like a halal food show where they had like you know a live demonstrations and competitions and all that good stuff.
ZAKIYA: Yeah. So we went to. iheart halal and they had reached out to me and I was able to demo my samosa pot pie again which was a BuzzFeed feature and I was able to share a questionably HI and festival I mean as more of a festival for a nourishing their soul and you know halal foods and really just recognizing that there is a place for us there as well. You know like we have this... we have products that are out there with the kosher sign or the vegan sign and really like it was an inclusive festival so that we could share that you know yes Muslims do exist in society and you know we have a dietary restriction and this would be a great way to showcase the different companies that are coming who are starting to bring awareness and you know bring halal certification to you know the public eyes.
FOUSIA: Totally I love the fact that you get like a diverse group of people and sharing all kinds of meals and you know really making halal food mainstream I know for a lot of Americans And depending on where you live that's kind of like an odd thing you know you don't go into your grocery store and find like halal meat or halal products or halal certified products. For me growing up in Toronto that was kind of like something that's been there for like at least the last 20 years I want to say at least 15 if I remember correctly where you could go to any grocery store and they had a halal meat section you know whether it was like how long fresh halal meat or the frozen section. So I think on this side of the border trying to normalize that and have it just like you have kosher meat is really amazing and I look forward to that. So I'm so glad that you've been able to be a part of that and all the other Muslim brothers and sisters. Just to wrap up a little bit you know if you could give one piece of advice to a new mom who is also like you know maybe struggling with figuring out healthy food or who lives like you. You know you and I do away from family. You know what kind of advice you would have for her to kind of you know make life easy for her and maybe share some tips that she can use.
ZAKIYA: Basically, my advice would be even if you think you're screwing it up you're not it just keep it simple and know that your baby and your child may be dependent on you. But all he knows is you he or she is going to love you regardless. Just do the best you can make amends. And you know you'll get through it. It's such a short period of time. I know the days are long but it's so short. They grow up so fast. And I still can't believe my eldest is nine. But trust me they love you for who you are and all they want is a happy mom who's going to give them a hug and say I love you.
ZAKIYA: At the end of the day you could make them a crazy huge feast and they'll be like Can I just have some boiled pasta like some butter I like can I have some mac and cheese and we'll go to a restaurant. Kids will be like we'll just order some plain pasta. Like we came to a restaurant I could have made you do this at home.
FOUSIA: People always look at me weird I'm like I don't want to order you pasta with butter. What is going on our mind my toddler will like I'll make chicken and rice and salad and stuff and he'll be like Can I have bread with butter please? and I'm like really? I could have saved myself all this time.
ZAKYA: Oh yeah you're not screwing it up I promise. It's just it's their way of exploring and yeah you know you'll laugh at it the way me and Fousia are right now but my biggest advice would be keep it simple. Don't overdo it and don't overthink sometimes. You know sometimes as moms or sometimes as the head household who deals with all the cooking and laundry and cleaning and you know a lot of that is put on us but you're not screwing it up. We're all struggling the same way you are. You may just think it's you alone but I promise you you're not. It's all of us together and just keep it simple for yourself and learn to say no. You know there are days where we will be like Oh yeah I'll do this this this and this. But you know there a time for everything. And you'll be able to do it all and it'll just take some time you know sometimes you know you have some setbacks, but Allah knows the right time for you to do what you want to do. And right now it's your time to just cuddle and hang out with your baby.
FOUSIA: Yes for sure. And there's always room and time later to be able to kind of have your own personal development and your own projects just like we see from a lot of the sisters that come on this show that you know there's different seasons of our lives and there's times where we're just full on stay at home moms or working moms and then there's times where we're able to concentrate on reading more or taking classes creating product creating content all those amazing things. So don't let social media make you believe that like you know everyone is hustling all the time. Everyone is doing the best they can in the season of their life that they're in with the time that they have. So in Insha'Allah I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. Zakiya real quick. Tell us again where people can find you on Instagram and your Web site. And if you're going to be in any events in the coming months Insha'Allah.
ZAKYA: Yes. So you can find all my recipes at blendofspice.com and I am on Facebook and Instagram as blend of spice. So definitely give me a follow and follow along. Stay tuned. I just came out with a feature contribution to the spice organics e Ramadan book. So definitely check my recipe out in there. And I've got some great giveaways coming up and some more collaborations coming up with some great talented people. And I'm so glad I was able to be on the show with you.
FOUSIA: Thank you so much again I really appreciate you taking the time.
YA: No problem. Thank you for having me
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Connect with Zakiya and find all her delicious recipes and let her know you heard her on the Naptime Is Sacred Podcast