Friday, September 27, 2019

Eating Internationally: Country of the Week Recipes

As I've mentioned on the blog before, in January we started a Country of the Week (COTW) pilot project. It was started by a friend of a friend and he was looking for a small group of people to test out the idea and provide feedback. Being a family who loves to travel and explore other parts of the world, we enthusiastically jumped on board!

Every week the coordinator sends out a country sheet for the week's country and writes an e-mail introducing the country to us. He also sends out links to some videos to watch. These are all found on YouTube. (We have been specifically asked not to share resources, so I'm sorry I can't, but I want to respect the coordinator's time and work that he has put into this. Otherwise I would share some of our favourites here. The idea of adding food to the COTW project was mine and I found almost all of the recipes on Pinterest. You can see my COTW Pinterest board here.)

The first week, we were introduced to France and the video talked a lot about yummy French foods -- brie, baguettes, Napoleans, etc. The kids were curious about some of the food so that week at the grocery store, we picked up food for a French-inspired meal. The kids loved it.
Thus, the idea of eating food from the country we were exploring that week was born. Truthfully, the kids have not loved every meal, and neither have I, but it's been really good to expand the meals we eat from week to week. So I am going to share our favourite COTW meals here in hopes that maybe some of you will find some new interesting foods to add to your menu plans.
Turkmenistan Plov -- you can find the recipe here. I used veggie ground round because I think I also found a version which said ground beef could be a substitute. I also used olive oil because I didn't have any sheep's fat on hand. HAHAHA!!! I remember this meal being fairly easy to make and we all really enjoyed it. Plus there was the fun factor of dumping it upside down on the plate. I definitely want to make this again, although I haven't done so yet.
Mansaka and Oven Pancake from Denmark -- You can find the mansaka recipe here and the pancake recipe here. Mansaka is basically a potato-meat (ground round) - pasta sauce casserole. The oven pancake is one of the best things I've ever eaten. For the Mansaka, I don't like Swiss cheese so I substituted cheddar. The oven pancake I made as instructed.
A few weeks later we made this meal for friends of ours and while a little complicated, it worked fairly well as a company dish. And we made one meat one and one veggie ground round one. This would be a really amazing cold Winter dish. I would not make this in summer -- it's too filling and rich (in the case of the pancake).
Australian Meat Pie -- You can find the recipe here. This was a fairly time consuming recipe to make (and I used store bought frozen pastry dough) but, except for Sam, we all loved these. And they totally transported me back to Australia so there was that. Again, I made them with veggie ground round (and used boullion instead of vegemite - yuck), but other than that I made them as instructed.

I will definitely make these again when I have time and Sam can just eat a peanut butter sandwich. Ha!!!
Norwegian Potato Soup and Apple Pie -- The recipe for the soup is here and the pie is here. For the soup instead of making the meatballs, I bought veggie "meatballs" and added them in at the last minute so they could heat up. For the pie (which is really more of a cake than a pie) I did not add the optional raisins or pecans and I halved the recipe. It was delicious!
Brigadeiro from Brazil -- The recipe is here. I didn't change a thing. These are in the shape of a "10" because Sam was having his church friends' party and I realized I had not thought about any cake type item. The boys were playing outside and I whipped these up in about half an hour. They were a big hit.

Rachel wanted an "Around The World" theme for her birthday party and all the party attendees made these when we "visited" Brazil. I would highly recommend not trying to make these with a group of seven and eight year olds unless you have another adult present to help. Ha!
Rwandan pancake -- The recipe is here. This was a little time consuming to make, and Dave and I rarely deep fry anything so that was an adventure, but these were delicious! I don't know that I would make them again (due to the time and deep frying) but you might want to try them once. So worth it!
Jamaican Beef Stew -- The recipe is here. I LOVED this recipe which is why my bowl was almost empty before I remembered to take a picture. Now I don't have a slow cooker so I just made mine on the stove. I used vegetarian beef tips and added extra beef boullion for a "beefier" taste. I did not use hot sauce (or a Scotch bonnet pepper) and I only had regular paprika. This reminded me of a traditional beef stew but the spices were what made it amazing! It was sooooo good!!!
Snapper Barbados -- The recipe is here. In the background is a Barbados corn pie but I didn't really love it and the kids didn't either. However, the fish was ah-mazing!!! Sam ate as much as he could. I couldn't find snapper so I used tilapia and I didn't add the cayenne but the combination of parsley and lime was incredible. I would totally make this again.

So there you go, some new international recipes to add to your menu. Sadly, Dave and the kids have decided that they no longer want me to pair meals with our COTW nights so they are going to be a lot more boring. I might sneak a new recipe in now and again though, especially if I think it's going to be a keeper.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

What's Up Wednesday: September 2019

Welcome to the September edition of What's Up Wednesday. I wasn't sure I'd have all that much to say this time around, and considered skipping it completely, but as I sat with the questions longer, I realized I had some things to share. I really do like doing this monthly reflection.
image from here

What we're eating this week... I often answer these questions by the month, rather than by the week so this month we've been into...
...overnight yogurt-oatmeal-fruit in a jar breakfasts from Rachel's Chickadee magazine. They are delicious!
And to me, for some reason, the start of school always means muffins. In the past few weeks I've baked lemon blueberry and orange chocolate chip muffins.
Last week, Rachel baked banana chocolate chip muffins all by herself. I was very impressed.
Sam, meanwhile, has decided that life isn't worth living if we don't constantly have dill pickles on hand. We ran out last week, and there were no pickles in the house for a whole five days. I bought three jars when I grocery shopped this week to make up for the shortage!

What I'm reminiscing about... I'm reminiscing about October 2015 and 2016 when the Blue Jays played October baseball. We're not currently the worst team in baseball but we're not far off. I'm really hopeful the young players will come into their own in the next few years and we'll get back on top.
Cheering the Jays on (left) in September 2016 (when they won the AL Wild Card game to advance) and (right) in September 2015, the day they won the AL East!!!

What I'm loving... We dropped the hammer and told the kids they had to start making their own lunches this school year. We've tried to institute this in the past, to varying degrees of success, but we are starting the fourth week of the school year and I think Dave has made the kids' lunches once (when we had a super-busy after school/evening so they didn't have time). We try to get them to do it at night but they are also good at getting it done in the mornings too. I am so happy about this, I couldn't decide if I wanted to put it under "What I'm loving" or "What I'm excited about!"

What we've been up to... We've been having some serious conversations about climate change around here and trying to figure out how to make our life more earth friendly. Back in June, I talked about the LRT in our city finally opening so we bought passes (last week) and are trying to take the ION when we can. (ION is the LRT's official name.) Last week we took it to dance and to the mall on Friday night to buy a birthday gift. This Sunday we're going to take it to church.
Honestly, it's less convenient, and takes longer, than driving our car but I'm willing to put up with some inconvenience if it helps our planet. I've just been feeling more and more convinced that we need to make some serious changes, and this is one small thing our family can do.

We also decided to add Hebrew lessons to our schedule this fall. Normally the kids would get this on Saturday mornings at the synagogue but this year Rachel is doing Saturday morning dance and we'd have to get to synagogue an hour earlier just for Sam. Dave's dad is going to teach us -- Sam, Rachel, and I are all learning.
First up was learning the alphabet and above is an example how you can be trying to write your name but accidentally write a swear word instead. Oooops :)

What I'm dreading... I'm so spoiled but Dave has an overnight work commitment next week and I am dreading it. The last time he wasn't home for the night was about five years ago so this will be fun... Yuck. And it will be a dance night so I'm trying to decide if I force Sam to come on the ION with Rachel and I, drive all of us to dance, or leave Sam home alone (and then do I drive so his time alone is shortened or do we take the ION still???). See how it's easier when Dave is just at home. Ha!

Also, on Sunday is the Blue Jays last baseball game until February 22. That's 145 days without Blue Jays baseball. Boo :( 

What I'm working on... This morning Dave and I are speaking to the seniors' group in our church about our inter-faith relationship and how we've navigated that, especially with our kids. So I've been working on that.

Also, what with our big summer road trip, I haven't done a Daily Photo 2019 post since July 23 so I'm trying to get back on track with that. Hopefully, I'll have one for you next week. Hopefully...
The last Daily Photo 2019 picture I posted -- from July 22, 2019.
What I'm excited about... I promise this is (probably) the last time I'll mention our big summer road trip but last week, in one ten hour marathon, I got our Shutterfly photo book done. I wasn't intending to do it in one day but it was a lazy Sunday, Rachel was sick, and Sam had a play date and I just sat down and did it. Janice is going to the States this weekend so we'll have it on Tuesday! Whoooo hoooo!!!
This picture of us with our friends in the Yukon is the cover photo. Yay!!!

What I'm watching/reading... I haven't been watching much of anything this month. However, with the movie coming out, I was reminded that Dave and I never did watch the last season (series?) of Downton Abbey so I have it on hold at the library. Once we've watched it, I'll try to see the movie while it's still in theatres...

I wrote a post earlier this week about the books I've read lately. You can read it here. I think my favourite book of that batch was one of the two below. You should check them both out.
As for what I'm reading next, well, I have some rather large piles of library books to get through. Yikes. Somebody suspend my library card (but not really or I'll start hyperventilating!).
PS. Dave had to cull his TBR the other day because he "was starting to get twitchy about how big it was." He got rid of three books so now it's down to... three books. (You can pretend I inserted an eye roll emoji here!) As he pointed out, "Hey! At least I read." 

What I'm listening to... Ugh, the factory at the end of our street is being demolished and they're building townhouses and apartments. I can hear the sounds of crashing and banging all day long. I'm just glad we don't live any closer.

What I'm wearing... I bought a pair of pajama pants when we were doing back to school shopping for the kids at the end of August. I have been a committed vegetarian for nineteen years but they are covered in bacon and are my new favourite item of clothing. Also, I am absolutely not a breakfast person so can you please explain to me why I love these pants so much?!?!

What I'm doing this weekend... It's going to be a busy weekend -- besides the regular dance/synagogue/church routine, we also have a birthday party, I'm a sponsor for the Sr Youth at church and the first event is this weekend, and it's the beginning of Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. And Rachel wants to play a family game at some point -- ha!

What I'm looking forward to next month...

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is on October 26!!! I can't wait!!!

What else is new... I think that's enough for one post. If you made it to the end, congratulations :) 

Monday, September 23, 2019

A Bunch Of Books I've Read Lately

Life is in a weird space right now and I don't really know what to blog about. However, I have read quite a few books these past two weeks so I thought I'd give you some mini reviews. You can always count on me to blather on about books :)
I've decided it's time for a re-read of the In Death series. It's always fun to go back to the beginning and see how the relationships formed. And I don't just mean the romantic relationships but all of the relationships which make up Eve and Roarke's community. These are quick, mindless, fun reads which I can always count on to keep me entertained. There are about sixty books in the series and this is my third or fourth re-read of it.
A writer I'd heard a ton about but had never checked out was Louise Penny. A lot of people I know rave about her Inspector Gamache series. It's mostly set in a small Quebec town and this is the second book I've read. I've got another one on my TBR. I find these books a slower pace and I sometimes wish she'd get to the point. Plus, this is unfair, but I struggle with books set in Canada. It just seems so... normal... when an author is writing about Toronto or winter or Tim Horton's and I realize I read books to escape. A book that basically takes me somewhere I'm really familiar with (like Tim Horton's) doesn't really do that in the same way. Does this make any sense at all???
This was a teen book written from two points of view. One of the points of view was an autistic boy and the other was a girl dealing with the fallout from the death of her dad. It reminded me again how cruel high school kids can be and how it's amazing to find someone else who might just understand. This book made me cry but it was also so very lovely. 
I know a ton of people who LOVED this book. Spoiler alert: I am not one of them. I think because I lived in the Middle East and saw people, women especially, who didn't have many choices, this book did not entertain me. I didn't feel like there was any redemption for some of the main characters. It just made me sad and was really hard to read. I know there are people who loved it so if you've read it, and loved it, please let me know why. What did I miss??? 
This was one of those books that came in on my library holds and I can't remember why I put it on hold. Who recommended it? Why did it intrigue me? I put off reading it for a bit (I had to renew it and hadn't touched it yet) but then I devoured it in one sitting. There was just something about the story which sucked me in and I wanted to know more. Basically two sisters trade life for about a week and discover the secrets they've been hiding from each other. There was romance involved, but it really felt more like the relationship about the sisters.
This book was amazing! I devoured it as well although it's probably one of those books which should really be savoured. Samra Habib writes about moving from Pakistan to Canada as a kid and then discovering that she is queer. This book is about how she reconciles that with her strict Muslim upbringing. I loved how she wove her faith and her journey of discovery together. I highly recommend this book. I loved it.
This is a last minute addition to today's blog post. After a (way too) busy weekend, I picked this up last night as I crawled into bed. Supposedly it's a chick lit romance book but Emme's story, the thirteen year old who is now being raised by her brother, is the one which sucked me in. I loved how the friendship between Kailyn and Emme was just as central to the story as the romance between Dax and Kailyn. This book had me in tears way more than I expected. Even if you don't like romance, I think you should give this book a try :)

And I will end this post about books with two reading memes because there are way too many out there which so perfectly describe me and I couldn't choose between them. Ha!
images from here

Monday, September 16, 2019

Relaxin' In Saskatchewan

We've finally made it -- it's the last post about our summer vacation. Whoooo hooo!!! My apologies that this has taken so long but I really enjoy having the memories on the blog to look back on.

After we visited the dinosaur museum, we celebrated my aunt and uncle's 60th anniversary. Only one other of my cousins was there, besides the kids of my aunt and uncle. However, it is the cousin on my mom's side whom I was closest to when we lived in Edmonton. Sam and Rachel love and adore these older second cousins and it was so good to see them again!
 The last time these four kids were together was three years ago.
 from August 2016
The next we drove back to Saskatoon to spend a few days with Mom and Dad. We had to stop and get some pictures at the best provincial sign in Canada! :)
Rachel took some of Dave and I and this picture makes me laugh so much! Considering she took it on our DSLR, it's a pretty good picture but they were all slanted like this. I can't tell if it was Rachel's artistic vision or unintentional!
Being at my mom and dad's is pretty much like being in paradise, especially for the kids. My dad made bacon like twice in the four days we were there, my mom cooks all their favourite foods, and we have happy hour every day. Okay, it's kind of like paradise for Dave and me too!
I haven't mentioned this on the blog yet but, in the months leading up to our trip, my dad kept telling Sam, "When you come to Saskatoon this summer, you're going to get to drive" and Sam was super-excited. He got to drive my dad's truck (only on their yard or in the fields) on the one day we had in Saskatoon before we left on our trip, and got more driving in the week we were back. He LOVED it!!!
Rachel was sad she couldn't drive so Dad let her drive the lawnmower. She loved that but is still counting down to Summer 2021 when she'll get to drive the truck. Ha! (Sidenote: HOW is it that SAM is DRIVING already?!?!?! Ahhhhhh.)
Dave and I enjoyed our daily happy hours and it was quite the readjustment when we got home and no longer had a live in bartender -- also known as my dad! Ha!
Even the kids enjoyed their daily (non-alcoholic) happy hour :) And a weiner roast.
After barely reading any books during our road trip, I got quite a bit of reading done during our few days in Saskatoon. It was lovely!
The kids (and Dave) liked getting rides in the back of the truck too. This day, Dad and Sam (but mostly Dad) replaced Sam's tree. When Rachel was born, my parents took Rachel's placenta back to Saskatoon with them. About a month later, we planted a tree for Rachel and buried her placenta. Mom and Dad also planted a tree for Sam and we planted a tree for my cousin's son who had died in utero a few months before Rachel was born. You can read about the tree planting here.
Unfortunately, Sam's original tree got sick so Mom and Dad had to pull it out. Sam got to help Opa plant another tree. 
So that wraps up the end of our trip -- good, mostly relaxing time at Mom and Dad's.

Now we've been home for a little over a month and I will start blogging about some other things. Thanks for sticking with all these trip recaps though!