Monday, October 31, 2011

Pakistan Celebration Part I-The Food

As we started to prepare for our end of the month feast and celebration, it all felt like it went by so fast. How could we already be at the end of the Pakistan month? Some months seem to last a long time and by the time we finish the month off with a celebration of food, music, and trivia, we feel like we have actually visited (well almost). Other months, feel like they fly by and we are adding our construction paper flag to the folder with other flags from countries gone by, and we are already starting to shift gears to the next. Pakistan was one of the latter months. This doesn't mean that we didn't have a chance to enjoy it at all though, because we had a great time making the beautiful flag, listening to several different genres of Pakistani music and eating the food. The food was so absolutely delicious and will be made (and eaten) again by this mamacita. 

As I briefly mentioned in the last post, this month we did something different. We took our "show on the road." My brother and my sister in law whom I have mentioned before here, were visiting and so we decided it would be super fun to have our celebration while they were here (really, the celebration was already on the calendar, but we were excited to learn that they would be here for it). Since they were going to be in town, they were staying with my parents and since my parents have a nice big house, with a nice big table and plenty of plates (read: more than seven, yes seven. We had eight but one got broken), we decided to bring the celebration to them. 

I had done some searching and found some free Pakistani radio here. There were a variety of genres, which I really liked so we could change it up to suit our moods and still get the exposure to new music, but I could only get it to play four or five songs at a time before it would stop. We listened to this while we created the flag and made the napkin rings, but I knew that while prepping and eating dinner it wouldn't be convenient to have to keep pushing play in order to listen to the music. So I asked my brother (who is not only our family technological guru, but he is also our family music guru and can find any kind of music at any given time) to either fix it or find some music for our dinner. He created a play list that was mostly of the Qawwali variety and we were set for the night.  

We started off with punch and appetizers. 
 I asked my friend from Pakistan, "What is a good quick and easy appetizer?" She replied with, "Buy some puff pastry sheets, then make the filling with mashed potatoes, add some chili powder and other spices if you want and fill the puff pastries then fold them to make little triangles." I added chili powder, salt and pepper, I was afraid to add anything else for fear of messing them up. They were so delicious! So, yeah, you guessed it, that is what you get for a recipe on this one.
The appetizers that were so good I could have eaten 25 of in one sitting.  
Preston and I getting the food ready. 
We had appetizers left over, so we put them on the dinner table.
In the basket, in the middle of the table, is Naan.
Dinner is served. 
While we ate, as I always do, I asked the trivia questions. This is fun because it sparks conversation over dinner and educates us as well as our guests while we take in the delectable flavors and music.   
Pakoray made with eggplant, potato, cauliflower, and onions. A.K.A. One of the most delicious foods you will ever put into your mouth. (Also, In case you are curious, I did deep fry them, and no, I don't feel bad about it and I will totally do it again).
For the meat eaters, Beef Tikka with our version of Mint Chutney. 
Fruit Chaat
Dessert, Ras Malai.
With the food eaten, we had one last thing to do for our Pakistan Celebration. Wednesday I will be posting about it... Do you think you can guess what we did? I'll give you a hint, it's something we have done before.  

This week (Nov.2)  is the Dia de los Muertos holiday. This is a holiday that is celebrated in Mexico. It is a time to honor and celebrate deceased loved ones. In our house, we will be eating some Mexican food and celebrating some of our loved ones whom have moved on. We will also be pulling out the Dia de los Muertos decorations that we made last month. We might even create some more. Check back next Monday for a post about it. Until then, if you want to have your own celebration, you can learn more about Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) here

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crafting Pakistan

Next up... you guessed it, craft time. After our flag it was time to create something that we could use for our final celebration that is somehow relevant to Pakistan. As I often do, I found myself wandering through the craft store looking for an idea. After consulting a friend that is from Pakistan, I decided that we should make beaded napkin rings. Since the colors of Pakistan are green and white, those are the colors that we chose. We used a gold colored wire that is a 20 gauge, strong enough to hold it's shape, but soft enough to be able to bend.

Aiden focused on beading his napkin ring.
Eliana's little hands working hard to get the bead on the wire.

With the completion of our flag and our craft, it was time to finalize the details for our upcoming Pakistani Celebration. Do you think it will be as yummy as all of the others have been? Do you think that I will find music that speaks to me like I have in the past? Check back on Monday to find out. Also, find out why we had to take our show on the road. 

(In case you missed it, you can check out the flag here)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Flag Of The Crescent And Star (Pakistan)

We have moved on to another country. It's hard to believe that we are done with Mexico already, just when we started to feel like we belonged there, it was time to move on. Even though we are sad to leave one, we are always eager to begin learning about a new country. This time, if I had put a line straight through the globe from Mexico running parallel to the Equator, we would have ended almost exactly where we are now, Pakistan (I said, "almost"). 

The first thing we do at the start of each new "trip" is recreate the flag. In proper flag making tradition, I pulled out the construction paper, the scissors, a glue stick, a straight edge and opened up my computer with an image to look at of the Flag of Pakistan. This time after looking at the picture, Aiden thought that I should use my x-acto knife to cut the shapes. 

A & E preparing for flag making. 
Aiden starting with the first cut.
The remnants of our flag cutting.
Eliana gluing the green layer on to the white background.
Our completed construction paper version of the Pakistani Flag. 
The kids comparing ours to the photo.
To see a photo of the Pakistani Flag and read more about it, click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Magic of The Music

One of the very first things I do each month is start looking for music that is native to the area that we are learning about. You may have noticed that I have provided links for each one. As soon as I find music that we find enjoyable, whether it be a radio station or a specific artist, I make sure that I bookmark it. When we are making our flag, I put the music on. When we are doing our crafts, I put the music on. I often put the music on when we are just doing our normal day to day. I find the music enjoyable, partly because it is something different, but partly (probably mostly) because I feel like just by this simple act of listening to music we are learning. Music of various cultures can work wonders and for me the most important part, the most magical, takes place while I’m cooking.

I know it sounds odd, and perhaps you’d take it a step beyond odd and say crazy. Either way, I feel like the music pours into my soul while I am cooking. I discovered this immediately with our first country, Greece. I put on Greek radio and I was in the kitchen cooking, preparing for our celebration and even though I don’t know even one word of the Greek language, I believed that I could feel exactly what the musician was feeling. With the smell of the food cooking and the music flowing around me, I could almost feel my kitchen filling with Greek women who were smelling and sampling my food to judge whether it was good enough or not. I felt like I was a part of it. I felt like some part of me was Greek. As it turns out, I have no Greek heritage, but I would be happy to pretend, especially if I could stay with your Greek Grandma someday when I get it together to visit.

After our Greek Celebration wrapped up, I wasn’t sure if something so beautiful could ever be recreated. Then, when we listened to Arabic radio while learning about Morocco, I felt the beat find it’s way into my soul. Country after country, all the way through to Mexico, where I felt like I could do the salsa like a pro without ever having had a lesson, because the salsa had worked it’s way into me through the smell of the chimichangas and the rhythm of the music. In the midst of cooking the dinner for each country that we were “visiting” at some point or another I felt myself travel to that country, even if only for a moment.

Month after month, we visit a new country and every time the music makes me feel like I am getting closer and closer to the destination. Every month starts out the same, I head into the journey, feeling like a displaced tourist complete with fanny pack and camera, and leave at the closing of the month, feeling like I am supposed to be there and sad to see it go. Wishing I could join the locals for music and good cheer. I am certain that it is the music. The music of each destination has it’s own beats, it’s own rhythm and most importantly it’s own soul, one that will wrap around you like a warm blanket and make you feel like you belong there.  Next time you are cooking something up, don’t forget the music.

(Read the posts with links to the music here, here, here and here)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fiesta Part II (Mexico)

After we ate, it was time to break into the piñata that we had worked so hard to create. I felt a little bummed that we were about to destroy our creation, but this is the purpose of a piñata, and I knew from the time we started making it that it would ultimately end up in the trash. 

Eliana got the first whack and Aiden followed her. The piñata was swinging fast and furiously before it came crashing to the floor and busted open. 

The Loot: Fruit Nuggets, Gum, Smarties, Chick-O-Sticks, and stencils.
Gathering the loot.

So concludes our Mexican Month. Yet another country behind us and another country added to the list of places that we want ahead of us. Someday, I hope we will narrow it down to the Top 10 and then actually go to those places, but for now we have bellies full of sugar and spice and we look eagerly forward to the next month's "destination".

Many, Many Thanks to Miss Celina for helping guide us through Mexico, we are incredibly grateful! 

* If you are looking for a great book to read to your littles we read Elena's Serenade by Campbell Geeslin. It is about a girl who lives in Mexico and wants to be a glass blower. After being told by her father that glass blowing is for boys she sets out to prove him wrong. It has a nice (easy to read and follow) mix of English and Spanish and has really nice art work.*

In case you missed them, you can check out the making of the piñata here and the decorating of the piñata here and Fiesta Part I here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fiesta Part I (Mexico)

The time has come. The end of our learning for now. After we have made a flag, and a piñata, decorated the piñata, and created sugar skulls it is finally time to enjoy the yummy flavors of Mexico. Once again, Miss Celina helped us out here and loaned us some Mexican CDs to listen to and some cookbooks to be inspired by. I thought about doing a Taco Bar, but decided against it in favor of a dish that we love and rarely eat. Although, a Taco Bar might be in our near future, just because. 

In Mexico the main meal of the day is eaten around 2:00 in the afternoon. Even though we usually have our celebrations around 5:30 in the evening, we thought it would be best to try to be authentic and eat at 2:00 in the afternoon. 

While I prepped the food we listened to this and while we ate we listened to Alejandro Fernandez and I asked the trivia questions.

For drinks we mixed up some margarita mix with ice in the blender, we skipped the tequilla, it *was* only afternoon for crying out loud. 

My plate. Yum!
Chicken And Tomatillo Chimichangas.
Guacamole with chips and salsa.
Mexican Rice.
Dessert: Garbanzo cake with fresh pineapple. 
I know it sounds weird and I was reluctant to try it but Garbanzo cake is surprisingly delightful.

Usually I post a link to the recipes, but this time you are in for a treat, I am typing them up because they came from a book not a website. See the bottom of this post for information on finding the book (Please note *These are NOT my recipes*, I borrowed them from the book).

2 Skinless chicken breast fillets
1 Chipotle chili, seeded
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Onions, finely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp Ground coriander
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground cloves
Scant 2 cups drained canned tomatillos
2 1/3 (14 oz) Pinto beans
(8) Flour tortillas
Oil for frying
Salt + Pepper

1. put the chicken fillets in a large pan, pour over water, add chili. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes (until chicken is cooked). Remove and chop the chili. Shred chicken.
2. Fry onions until translucent. Add garlic and spices. Cook 3 Minutes. Add tomatillos and beans, cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add chicken and chili pepper. 
3. Spoon filling in middle of tortilla. Fold in all sides.
4. Fry in oil until crisp. Drain on paper towel. 
After we ate it was time to break the piñata. Eliana got the first whack, then Aiden. It was pretty rugged, two layers of paper maché worked well. They really wanted the treats that were inside and they eventually got it. 

2 x 10 oz Cans chickpeas, drained
4 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Superfine Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange

1/4 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon

1. Preheat oven 350˚. Tip chickpeas into a colander to drain them thoroughly, then rub the peels off. Put skinned chickpeas in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Spoon the puree into a bowl and stir in the eggs, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, orange rind and juice. Grease loaf pan.
3. Pour the cake into the pan. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until skewer comes out clean.
4. Remove cake from oven, let stand in pan for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Remove the cake from the pan, place on a wire rack and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Leave to cool completely.
*Serve with fresh pineapple

Check back on Monday to see the breaking of the piñata and the final wrap up of our Mexican tour. 

** The recipes posted above are from the book "Mexican, Best Ever Recipes" by Jane Milton. It can be purchased here.  (Chicken and Tomatillo Chimichangas p.95. Garbanzo Cake p.159)**

Monday, October 10, 2011

El Día Del Decorado Muerto (Mexico)

After completing the Piñata (Part I and Part II), our next project was to make Sugar Skulls. These are typically a decoration for Dia De Los Muertos (The Day Of The Dead), but since we were learning about Mexico we decided that it was appropriate, and of course lots of fun, to make these decorations now. We started with skull shapes that I cut out of a piece of white poster board and a bunch of supplies, including glitter glue and markers.

Then I drew circles for the eyes, and marked out the teeth and noses. I was going to let the kids do that part, but they didn’t think they could handle it and asked me to. After that, we got started on the decorating.

The starting point.
Aiden getting started with markers.
Eliana starting on the eyes.

Important lesson #1
When doing a craft with a four year old, it is not wise to hand them glitter glue and expect them to use a certain level of moderation. In the mind of a four year glitter glue is so fabulous that less is definitely not more. 

Eliana's well glittered creation.
After Eliana was done, I think she was a bit disappointed that she had covered hers entirely. She looked at mine and asked me to make one for her. I explained that I was making my own and that hers was beautiful.  She asked if she could make another one and decided that this time, she would not use any glitter glue, only markers.

Important Lesson #2
After seeing how the glitter glue looks when applied in a nice thick layer as Eliana so adeptly demonstrated, I decided that I should use a cotton swab to apply mine, so that it would be in a thin sparkly layer.

Since Eliana made a second one, I figured I’d make another one as well. Aiden had lost interest and decided that he was done after making one.

Aiden's sugar skull complete.
Eliana's first and second. 
My two sugar skull creations.

Some Dia De Los Muertos decorations that were loaned to us by Miss Celina, for our Mexican Celebration. 

(Translation: El Día Del Decorado Muerto- Day Of the Dead Decor)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hacer Un Parte Dos De Piñata (Mexico)

Three days. Three days is the amount of time that it took to get from part one to part two of making the piñata.  After the first day I was surprised that it was still as wet as it was, but mostly it was wet on the side that was “down” on the table (I knew I should hang it to dry, but it was so wet and heavy that I was worried it would tear). I turned it so the wet part would be able to dry and assumed that the next day it would be ready to decorate. The next day it was drier, but still moderately damp. I had these visions of the paint bubbling up as the last bits of moisture tried to make their way out, so I decided that we should wait one more day. Day three was the magic day, it was bone dry and ready to be adorned with paint, glitter, streamers and pom poms.

He's working hard to get that glitter glue out of the tube.

Aiden wrote his name.

I have heard of making piñatas and adding cardboard and decorating it to look like other shapes (animals, stars, etc). I briefly considered trying to make a star, but I decided that with my kids being the ages that they are, it made sense to keep it simple this time. Have you ever made a piñata? What shape did you do? Were your kids helping? 

*If you missed Part I of making the piñata, you check it out here. Also, see how we made The Mexican Flag here*

(Translation: Hacer un parte dos de piñata- Making a piñata part two)

Most Visited