Meet Yvonne Maiffei from "My Halal Kitchen"

Posted on: Jul 7, 2012 By: editor In: General

By Sameea Kamal

Yvonne Maffei has been cooking and writing since her pre-teen years. When one of her recipes was published in Cooking Light Magazine, Maffei - who had been teaching Spanish, English language and literature for 10 years - switched careers. 

She created the popular blog "My Halal Kitchen," and now writes about food, travel and healthy, halal living. Her Facebook page has more than 13,000 fans.

Maffei lives in Chicago and teaches cooking classes, gives lectures on healthy eating, and consults schools on how to source healthy, halal ingredients and create tasty healthy and halal recipes for their school lunches.

What first inspired you to create and cook recipes?

I grew up with a pretty creative family who really cherished food and the beauty of food. When I was very young my dad gave me a camera to do what I wanted with it and one of the first things I got really excited about was taking pictures of food on the table. That sort of led to my love affair with food magazines.

Why did you decide to write about halal food?

I became Muslim in 2001, and that's also when I started eating halal. I had been dabbling in halal before that, I just didn't realize to what extent it required in terms of cooking and eating until I fully embraced Islam.

I realized, "This is part of my life now, but halal is not limiting. It's actually abundant with flavors that we can have." I'd had tons of different experiences I wasn't willing to give up just because I was eating halal. 

How do you think this helps explain or reinforce Islamic principles, whether that's to Muslims or non-Muslims?

I think it serves to give a visual idea of what Islam represents, what halal really is. I was recently at an event in Washington, D.C., and one woman told me, "I really didn't know halal meant so many things," - that it was more than just religious, it was also taking care of the animal, the environment, where the food is coming from, what the animals are eating.

How do you come up with the recipes?

I’m not really a planner until Ramadan comes -- that's when I’m a real stickler for what we’re going to have because otherwise I’m in big trouble! But when it comes to other days, I go to markets, farmers markets or the store, and find what looks good and think about what I have at home already … I get so elated by figuring out how to put them together. I go by how I feel and what I’m craving.

I think everyone can do that, because cooking is not an exact science like baking. With cooking you can go to the market and see what looks good, what’s fresh and what’s in season. If it’s locally grown your chances of having a good outcome are better than working with old, out-of-season, stale ingredients.

Yvonne Maffei is partnering with Azizah Magazine and Fit Muslimah for tips on fitness and nutrition during Ramadan. 

Recipe for Pearl Couscous with Ground Veal, Almonds and Raisins