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Ramadan Starts and Cheese n’ Thyme Dinner Rolls Recipe

Today marks the beginning on Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims fast by abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset.

Sounds like a tough task to do, but for the many Muslims who do it every year, it’s a celebration and a month to look forward to. First there’s the spiritual aspect, then, there’s always the amazing food people only make during this month.

The dinner meal at sunset, called iftar, in my family has always consisted of soup, salad, finger food appetizers, and a hot meal. Yeap, it sounds like a lot of food, but when you’re hungry and can’t eat, you have time to cook! In reality, we tend to eat much smaller portions than our usual dinner because it feels like our stomachs have shrunk!

If you want to know more about this month, how meals look like, and some cultural aspect, read this article I wrote for Today’s Dietitian last year. I think you will find it of benefit if you are a dietitian working with Muslim clients or patients and want to be more culturally competent.

Last night, I baked these cheese-filled rolls made with thyme and whole wheat dough. They are one of my mom’s favorites at iftar. Plus, when we wake up before dawn to have our breakfast, called suhur, we have something filling and quick to eat. The cheese I used is a Middle Eastern type called Nabulsi cheese that you can find in ethnic stores. Other options are haloumi cheese, a mix of shredded Mozzarella and crumbled feta, shredded cheddar, or any other hard cheese that you like.


  • 7.5 cups whole wheat white flour (or mix equal amounts of regular white flour with traditional whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tsp active dry yeast (2.5 packages)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 c fresh or dry thyme (if dry, soak in warm water few minutes before using)
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 1-1/2 c lukewarm low fat milk
  • 4 cups shredded cheese

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the egg and with a large wooden spoon, incorporate into the dry ingredients. Stir in the thyme. Make sure the leaves are separated before adding so they won’t clump together.

Stir in the olive oil. Then add the water and knead until it forms a dough. Leave for at least an hour to rise.

Coat a baking sheet with a generous amount of olive oil. Divide the dough into balls roughly the size of table tennis balls. You should have about 50 to 55 of them. If you end up with way less, then your dough balls are too big. Spread each ball on your palm, place some some shredded cheese in the center, then bring the edges together to enclose the cheese. Secure the dough and place on the baking sheet.

Bake on 350 F until the bottom is gold. Broil on low until the top is gold.

I’m going to ask my friends for their traditional Ramadan recipes and hopefully post some healthy ethnic meals for those of us who like to have an international flavor every now and then!

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • rebecca subbiah August 12, 2010, 6:16 pm

    looks great love the cultural awareness you bring to the profession

  • Mo'Betta August 12, 2010, 6:22 pm

    Very interesting, and those rolls look amazing!

  • Afnan August 13, 2010, 1:53 pm

    happy Ramadan to you n the family. Loved the way you express n the way you bring an idea for having those yummy cheese n’ thyme bites for suhur. Good luck Nour

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD August 19, 2010, 10:45 am

      Thanks Afnan. Ramadan kareem to you too šŸ™‚

  • Brooke Schantz, MS, RD, LDN August 16, 2010, 11:19 am

    Hi Nour, Ramadan Kareem! Your recipe looks like it turned out great! I also enjoyed reading your article šŸ™‚

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD August 19, 2010, 10:42 am

      Thanks Brooke!

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD August 19, 2010, 10:50 am

    Thanks Rebecca and Mo’Betta for the comments!

  • Maryam Mohammad August 31, 2010, 1:27 am

    I can’t believe I found your website! This is so exciting! I just started a dietetics program a couple of weeks ago (eventually leading to a Master’s Degree in Dietetics after three years). Your blog is really beautiful, I love it. I completely agree with what you said about feeling like our stomachs shrink during Ramadan. I think its crazy that after fasting for 14 hours, I can eat only half the amount that I would eat normally. Anyway, I hope you’re having an amazing Ramadan! Thanks for the great posts!

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