Category Archives: Health & Nutrition

Cheese Workshop

By Shaista Tariq

Cheese workshop

Cheese is a nutritious food made mostly from the milk of cows as well as other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, reindeer, camels and yaks. Cheese has been around for thousands of years, when people first started to breed animals and process their milk.

In the Muslim milieu, cheese and dairy products raise a lot of questions about whether or not some of their ingredients are derived from a halal source. Rennet in particular, is a mushbooh ingredient that needs to be investigated further.


Rennet is an ingredient used to make cheese coagulate quicker. The primary enzyme (chymosin) found in rennet is most often collected from the lining of the fourth stomach of a newborn calf where the enzyme is produced to help baby cows digest milk. A secondary source of rennet is piglets, which also use the enzyme in the digestion process. This can be a problem if you are a vegetarian who eats cheese or are looking for halal cheese.

Vegetarian Rennet

Enzymes collected from vegetable sources are harvested from plants in the making of vegetable rennet. These plants include fig leaves, melons, safflower and wild thistles. The enzymes produced by these plants will also curdle milk.

Microbial Rennet

These are enzymes derived from the growth of cultures and mold such as Mucor miehei, Bacillus subtilis or Bacillus prodigiosum. Since these enzymes are not taken from an animal and because their cultures are easy to grow, microbial rennet is becoming increasingly popular.

Genetically Engineered Rennet

In some cases the enzymes labeled vegetarian rennet are manufactured by using genetically altered rennet. In this case, the chymosin DNA is taken from a calf’s stomach cells and altered. However, this is not always the case with manufactured enzymes. They can also be bio-synthesized without the cells of an animal. Genetically engineered chymosin has no relation to the animal. This makes it suitable for vegetarians, although stricter vegetarians and vegans may still prefer microbial or vegetable -based cheeses.

Make your own cheese

If you want to try something simpler and halal for sure, this is a recipe for goat’s milk or Feta cheese that you can easily make at home.


1 quart goat’s milk (pasteurized is fine, but don’t use ultra-pasteurized)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
salt to taste


First, gather these things:

Non-reactive pot:  A non-reactive pot is important because certain metals, such as aluminum, will leach into the milk. Use a stainless steel pot to avoid this.

Thermometer: You can get away with not using a thermometer by knowing what the milk looks like when it reaches 180 – 185 F. It will be nearing a simmer, with bubbles forming. However, you’re more likely to have consistently successful results if you use a thermometer.



Wood or stainless-steel spoon with a long handle


Slowly heat the milk on the stove until it reaches 180 – 185 degrees. Gentle bubbles should be forming and the surface will look foamy. Turn off heat at this point.

Stir in the lemon juice then let the milk sit for 10 minutes. The milk should curdle and become slightly thicker on the surface.

Line a colander with two layers of cheese cloth. Gently pour the milk into the cheese cloth then gather the cheesecloth up around the curds and tie it into a bundle. Secure it with an elastic band or clip to hold the cheese cloth together at the top.

Hang the bundle over a pot or jar so the liquid can drip out. (You can do this by attaching the bundle to a wooden spoon or a ladle and setting the spoon over the top of the pot or jar.)

Let the cheese drain for at least 1 1/2 hours. Scrape the cheese into a bowl. Stir in salt and/or other ingredients to taste.

Use your hands to pat and shape the cheese into a small wheel or log. You can also use a cookie cutter as a mold to shape the cheese. After the cheese is made you can add herbs, spices or garlic to enhance its flavour

The flavour and texture of the cheese usually improves if you refrigerate it for a few hours before serving. The goat cheese should stay fresh in the refrigerator for one week.

Enjoy some homemade goodness!

About the author:

Shaista Tariq is an M.Sc., B.Sc. in Applied Science in Nutrition and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

Benefits and Types of Milk

By Ghazala Khan

Milk is a very important part of a healthy diet. As a child, many of us were forced to drink milk by our parents but as adults we forget how important it is to continue drinking it. Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2 servings of milk products for women and men aged 19 to 50 every day, yet studies show that two out of three Canadians are not getting their recommended servings. More on Health Canada’s Nutrition guidelines can be read here.

There is so much more to a glass of milk and that is what we will discuss here: the many benefits to including milk in your daily diet, the different types of milk and alternative choices to cow’s milk.

Why Is It Good For You?

There are 16 essential nutrients found in milk. The most important of these are calcium, choline, potassium and vitamin D.

Calcium contributes towards the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It also helps towards wound healing, preventing blood clots, maintaining normal blood pressure levels and muscle contractions including heartbeat. It is important to take an extra source of Vitamin D with foods which are calcium-rich to help small intestine absorb all the calcium.

Choline is a nutrient which helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.

Potassium reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and formation of kidney stones. It also protects against loss of muscle mass.

Vitamin D helps with formation, growth and repair of bones. It absorbs calcium and strengthens the immune system.

Other minerals found in milk are phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin along with A and B vitamins.

Types of Milk

There are four main types of milk: Whole milk, reduced fat milk, low fat milk and skim milk, the difference is in their total fat content.

Whole milk contains 3.25% fat which comes straight from the cow before being processed.

Reduced fat milk contains 2%, 1% or 0% fat and undergoes processing to remove extra fat which comes from the cream found in whole milk. Aside from the obvious difference in taste they also differ in fat, nutrient and calorie content.

By skimming the cream, vitamins such as A,D,E and K are lost as well. Many companies have now developed ways to add these vitamins back in however some argue that fat-soluble vitamins are not as easily absorbed without the milk fat.

Many debates, research and studies have been done to try and determine if milk with reduced fat is a healthier choice compared to whole milk. Dr. Walter Willett, Chair of Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, argues there is little data to support the idea that low fat milks are better than whole milk. Research shows milk fat gives the immune system and metabolism a boost. This allows whole milk to be a source of physiological benefits like a decreased risk of infertility in women, preventing colorectal cancer in men and helping build muscle throughout the body.

Low fat milk does not lower calorie consumption in fact it increases saturated-fat calories. A study done by University of Virginia School of Medicine actually shows that children who drank skim or low-fat milk were heavier than those who drank reduced fat or whole milk.

Another study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed scientists found kids who drank low fat milk were actually likely to be overweight later on. This may be linked to the fact that drinking higher fat milk leaves people satisfied longer so they do not crave for other fatty foods. Also anything reduced in fat will have an increased level of sugar and sodium which can be detrimental if trying to lose weight.

Milk Alternatives

For some, milk can actually be a cause of serious discomfort. If a person is lactose intolerant, they lack the enzyme to break down the sugar found in dairy products for proper digestion. For years those who were lactose intolerant didn’t have much of a choice except to completely remove dairy from their diet. This is no longer the case as now there is lactose free milk available. How to tell if you are lactose intolerant? If you experience bloating, gas or diarrhea after consuming dairy products chances are you are lactose intolerant. It is best to see your family doctor to have yourself tested and to discuss your options.

Alternatively other options such as Almond, Rice or Soy milk are also widely available. Many nutrition experts will argue that these choices are not as healthy as cow’s milk, but if taken with a balanced diet (where you are consuming extra vitamins or nutrients these types of milks lack) it can actually assist in losing weight or living a balanced lifestyle.

The Choice Is Yours!

Choosing which type of milk is best for you is a matter of personal choice. Diet, use and preference helps to determine which would suit you best. Personally I believe balancing different types of milk is the way to go. For example with cereal I may choose to use skim milk considering cereal alone has a high content of calories, sugar and carbohydrates. In a protein shake or milkshake for my family I would rather use whole milk as the point is to get as much calcium and vitamins into us as I can. For tea or coffee I may choose to use 2% milk especially if I know I will be having more than 3 cups in one day. Balancing is the key for everything. What we eat, drink, do should all be balanced to provide a healthy lifestyle.

Whatever you do, make sure you are getting your daily milk and dairy requirements to stay healthy and active.

About the Author

Ghazal Khan is the mother of an 11 year old boy who recently became a stay-at-home mom and is loving every minute of it!

So, do you get your intake of milk and dairy products on a daily basis? Or have you shifted to dairy alternates? How do you make sure you and your family are getting enough dairy in your diet?

Introducing Solids to Your Infant

By Shaista Tariq      

Image source: freeimages

Image source: freeimages


Infant nutrition means making sure your baby is getting enough nutrients during her first year. Feeding your baby is one of the most important things you do as a parent. Making sure your baby has good nutrition can protect her against diseases. It also helps her stay healthy as she grows older.

Breast milk or infant formula are the only nourishment needed by most healthy babies until they are 4-6 months old. Cow’s milk or other dairy products should not be given until at least one year of age. Your baby’s kidneys cannot handle the high protein and mineral content well until that age.

Daily servings of milk for an infant diet are as follows: 0-3 months: 18-32 ounces/2-4 cups 4-6 months: 28-40 ounces/3.5-5 cups 7-9 months: 24-36 ounces/3-4.5 cups 10-12 months: 18-30 ounces/2-3.75 cups

Cinnamon – A Natural Healer

By Kiran Asif

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Cinnamon is a spice found in most kitchens. Whether in a sweet or savoury recipe, it is equally loved. Cinnamon is the outer bark of a tree scientifically known as Cinnamomum, native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.