Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thi Lien - Vietnam (Part 2 - literature)

This go around we are trying to tie in some relevant literature.  I am searching for books primarily by going to websites written by someone of that nationality who is trying to inform ____-Americans of their heritage. So, in this case for example, I went to a bunch of websites where Vietnamese people were recommending books for other Vietnamese being raised in America to give those kids some insight into their heritage. Then I see if the library has it. This is by no means exhaustive.

Some books we checked out from the Library:

Grandfather's Dream by Holly Keller (part of which is on google books for preview).  Good for the young kids.  Ansley read it to the 3 littles. It's about Vietnamese who stay in Vietnam through and after the war, and the hope they have.

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam.  This is a memoir of the author, Quang Nhuong Huynh.

Also Water Buffalo Days by the same author.  These two books have the same introduction.  Water Buffalo Days is for a younger reader.  Ansley is reading Water Buffalo Days, Colin is reading The Land I Lost. After they finish we are going to compare and figure out if it's the same story just told at two different reading levels or if there is actually different content. 

 The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland.  Ansley read to the littles. This one was about a family who left Vietnam after the war and their way of remembering their heritage. 

Even though they know about the Vietnam War, at their age I'm trying to stay away from anything too graphic.  I know some kids their age had to live through it, but it's not something I wanted them exposed to yet.  Maybe next time we do this they can read more books on the actual war.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thi Lien - Vietnam (Part 1 - food)

Since the missions conference we went to was focused on Southeast Asia, we decided to start there.

Thi Lien is a 9 year old Vietnamese girl who lives in a rural mountain village with her family. They are farmers and their village is self sufficient. Ansley picked her out; she is the only girl with 2 older brothers.

We did not really start talking about Vietnam with the food, but we finished the food portion first so that's what the first post will be about.

Most of these recipes came from an Asian cookbook that I have.  It appears to be authentic, because you can't find a lot of the ingredients in a normal grocery store.  Plus is isn't loaded full of sugar and other stuff which would lend to a more American palate.  I didn't check the translation of the dishes, this is what was listed. Everything except the traditional Bahn Mi was from the cookbook.  

We ate (not all in the same meal):

bo nuong vi - Lemongrass Grilled Beef.  This was tasty, but no veggies.  Just the beef.  But the marinade was really good. 

goi cuo'n - Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  Apparently traditional Vietnamese Spring Rolls are fried, and have the vegetables on the side.  So these are an unfried - veggies inside version.

pho- Beef Noodle Soup.  The broth for this soup was amazing.  I had never made stock with anise, clove, and cinnamon, and the spices totally perked up an otherwise plain dish.  This is the dish that is highlighted as the traditional meal that Thi Lien eats with her family.  Not sure if they put all the spices in it or not. This soup has a wide rice noodle, and I'm not a fan of noodles, but I loved the broth.

bahn mi chien tom - shrimp toasts.  These were really pretty good.  I think at least one person in the family really like at least one of the dishes that we made, this one had the highest score.  I have no idea how traditional it is, but you sort of chop the shrimp with some spices until it's kind of a paste, and then spread it on a baguette and fry it.  The baguette is a french influence.... since Vietnam was once a French colony it's possible. In the picture, there is one sort of burned one, and one that wasn't burned :)

bahn mi - Head Cheese Sandwich.  This wasn't that bad.  I may or may not have made the head cheese right, but my daughter ate the entire sandwich and asked for seconds, I would have eaten all of mine if I hadn't filled up on the shrimp toasts, and R.  says he ate 3 big bites of his and it "wasn't bad."  The other boys did not like so much. We put dijon mustard, sauerkraut, and cucumbers on the sandwiches.

Even though I love cooking new and different foods, I am glad that we are done with this for a couple of weeks.  The Philippines are next up and I have some organs I need to get out of the freezer. Thankful for a little break.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Virtual File Cabinet

I'm going to switch gears (sort of) for a little bit on the blog, and use it to store some ideas for school-related activities.  Mainly because I deplore the amount of space that a file cabinet takes up, and then once you need something it takes forever to find it, even if it's filed, which who has time to do that anyway?  If I save it to the computer, and the computer dies, it's gone.  So here we are.  

In case you are interested in the back story, because there is always a very long back story, a few years ago we were gifted this fabulous book: 

This book profiles children in countries all over the world, telling about their typical day, families, school, religion, games they play, food they eat, etc.  At the time, none of my children were school age, and it was too nice a book to let them rip the pages out of, so it sat on a shelf for a while.  Then when my oldest started Kindergarten, we got it out and just sort of read through it together.  We read almost every kid, and took several days to do it, so that we ended up going through one or two kids a week and we would talk about it.  Towards the end of this little endeavor I started trying to cook some of the dishes from other countries.  Mainly because I was tired of them complaining about food, so when we would study a kid who was from Africa and ate hot mash 3 times a day, I'd point that out and serve hot mash for dinner one night and then hope to drive home a point.  Evidently this exercise did not stick. For long. 

Fast forward to now ending 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and another Kinder, plus two 4-year olds, and the book has resurfaced; due largely to the fact that we will be done with our 2014-2015 curriculum in exactly one week (at which point I am throwing myself a party). Since it's not summer yet, I didn't feel like we could quite call it a wrap, but didn't want to start next year already.  After attending a missions conference a few weeks ago, I was inspired. So here we are.  

I had the kids go through and pick out 10 (which may be expanded at a later date) kids whose culture we will try to study a little more in depth than last time.  I'm going to keep track of what countries we study, any reading material, recipes, art projects, etc.  that we do related to said countries so that if the book should resurface in yet another 3 years, I'll have some record of what we did, what worked, what didn't, etc.  If you follow this little series of posts, I hope you find it informative and inspirational.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The meal

The Menu

Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

White Truffle Oil Infused Custards with Truffle Ragout (and Chive Chips)

Linguini with  White Clam Sauce

Salad of Haricots Verts, Tomato Tartare, and Chive Oil

Venison Chop with Pan Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Shallots

Tete de Moine with Sauerkraut and Toasted Caraway Seed Vinaigrette

Apple and Blueberry Kuchen

And if you have 5 kids who don't get to come to the birthday dinner, you get these on your actual birthday.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Final Prep

We are not quite in panic mode yet... more like "I don't have much time to spare mode".
But here are some pictures from yesterday.  I had never made clams before, and the kids are very much getting in to this years preparations.  So this was exciting, and we had to get out an encyclopedia (yes we still own some) and look up clams after this.  Now every child has their own personal clam shell and I'm hoping my house doesn't smell like a wharf in a few days.  

The chips worked this time!  Well most of them.  I only need 6. I think I have 8.

Our last butternut squash from our garden (sniff).  The only biscuit cutter I own (which is actually on permanent leave from my mother-in-law) is fluted, so this will have a little added flair than the dish calls for.  

My frenched-new-zealand-venison-chops all tied up and ready to be cooked.

This thing.  Oh my.  My house smells divine right now.  And this was super easy.  I might have to make it a little more often.

I have approximately 2 hours to get ready, throw in some laundry,  and do a last run through the house before I confine myself to the kitchen for the rest of the day;  but it's all coming together nicely and I am looking forward to the adult conversation along with the meal tonight!

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Sometimes days start like this:

A perfect little cheese cup.

  You plan ahead for it, but are pretty confident that it's going to turn out alright because you've done this before.  Then somewhere along the way, the day turns into this: 

This is where white goat cheese (with minced parsley, that is supposed to have a texture similar to whipped cream, because it's mixed with whipped cream), that you are later going to pipe into a beautiful little floret into afore mentioned cheese cup, turns into a green soupy mess.  Un-pipable. Except that you've made this before, too.  You were equally as confident.  
This is where you learn that no matter how many times you do something, how many kids you have, there will always be some different variable that could affect the end results.  Stop being so self confident.  This isn't about you. Pay attention to what very specific thing you are working with (like brand of goat cheese, cream, temperature of your kitchen, birth order of your child, etc.) Fortunately with goat cheese, we get another try.  And, another, until on the 3rd try and a second trip to the grocery, it works.

Then there's this:

Do those look like potato chips?  Yeah, not to me either. There was a hole in the middle of my potato.  Putting a hole in every.single.chip. Plus my mandoline didn't slice them quite "paper" thin, so they were supposed to cook in 25 minutes and after 50  minutes, weren't quite done yet.   This is where you learn that the first time you do something, you will probably mess it up.  You figure out what works, what doesn't, and are grateful for the grace to have a second chance. 

And then you reflect over what you learned on this day.  How you can internalize these things, not panic over boots that have just been buried about 4 feet deep in the sandbox because your child asked his siblings to bury him, and be grateful for another day.   Another day that starts out like this:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

 So, aside from roasting tomatoes, 

finishing the kraut (unfermented much to my dismay), and making dressings, all which keep for a week in the fridge, this very exciting thing happened today:

This is the rack of venison chops, already frenched no less. Since we can't buy this sort of thing in the states, and I don't hunt, this particular deer was raised in New Zealand.  I hope it's delicious.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's that time of year!

The cooking officially started last week! I'm excited/nervous about this year just a little, because of the 7 dishes that we're having, 5 of them are new, and there are not nearly as many things that I am able to do in advance.  All this really means is that I'll be doing a lot more cooking on the actual day than normal, which means I have to clean my house ahead of time.  I hate cleaning.  I normally put it off until last.

We thought we would try to make it a little more "homesteady" this year, and use anything we could from our house.  The rabbits aren't quite big enough to serve yet, but I did save one butternut squash from the garden, and we have eggs (chickens finally went off strike!), and the rest of the dinner was sort of themed around that.

Even though the real fun stuff doesn't start until Wednesday (all I've really made so far is stock, and I started making kraut, because it's takes 5 days to finish), I had to share a super exciting find from Kroger a couple days ago.  As I previously mentioned we are serving eggs.  In egg cups.  I did not own egg cups until approximately 3 days ago.  I had been trying to figure out how we were going to serve these things without egg cups, and lo and behold the perfect number of these little things were on SALE in Kroger.  It was by far, the best $9 I have spent in a long time.  

Now I just need to practice my technique.  Pretty sure this is not gonna cut it.

We may be eating a few eggs for breakfast this week.