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Since we eat tacos, burritos, and enchiladas on a regular basis in our house, I wanted to make something that was perhaps more authentic. I found a recipe for pork carnitas that sounded (and looked) delicious, so I tried it out.

Mostly it was a success. I served the pork more or less as shown in the video linked to above: on slightly fried corn tortillas with chopped avocado, salsa, and lime wedges. I didn’t do cilantro because we don’t care for it, and I did put cheese, sour cream, and tomatoes out for those who wanted them.

We talked about Spanish (Lego has had some exposure to it thanks to Dora and Diego), found Mexico on our new-to-us globe (thanks, Granny and Grampy!), looked at some pictures of Grandma O’s trip to Mexico last spring, listened to some Mexican music on youtube, and talked about Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos. I wanted to make a Mexican dessert too, but I had made gingerbread earlier in the day and just didn’t have the energy by the time dinner was over. Maybe in a day or two. We’ll see.

Language explosion

December 5th, 2009 | Posted by Brinestone in Kids - (1 Comments)

In the past few weeks, Duplo has had a major breakthrough in terms of speech. He had made almost no noticeable progress since he turned one—and he’s now eighteen months old. I wasn’t really worried because he seemed fine developmentally in other ways, and because he did have a “vocabulary” of about twenty words or so if I was generous and included words he used once a week or more (and to be fair, a lot of them fell into that category). I was more concerned that for a long time, he wouldn’t point to objects, or even people, when we named them; he seemed to understand about as much as he said, which wasn’t much. Again, he seemed to fit the textbook definition of how a toddler should be progressing, but Lego had been such a talkative little guy that Duplo’s development was surprising.

About two or three weeks ago, though, Duplo started learning about ten words a day, and using the words he already knew much more often. After about a week of that, he started stringing words together—all done, there (you) go, uh oh car, etc.—something Lego didn’t do until he was about four months older than Duplo is now. He talks often now and tries to learn the words we are using if he doesn’t already know them. His pronunciation isn’t perfect, naturally, but it’s good enough that we’re not usually struggling to understand him. Anyway, I guess it’s proof that every child develops differently. They gotta keep their parents guessing, I suppose.

Well, I decided to go with pasties (they’re Cornish, and my roommate’s dad brought the recipe home from England years ago). They’re basically pie crust with a dry meat and vegetable mixture inside. The recipe I used called for ground beef, but elsewhere I saw that beef cut into tiny cubes was more traditional, and since I had a roast, I did that instead. You mix your beef with tiny pieces (or gratings in the case of the turnip and carrots) of potatoes, carrot, turnip/rutabaga, peas, and onion, and season it a little. I used beef bouillon, salt, pepper, and sage. One thing I didn’t do but wished I did was to add a little of the beef drippings so that the pasties weren’t quite so dry and dense. I made my own pie crust, but the recipe actually suggested buying refrigerated; you could do either. Since I didn’t really stick to one recipe, I’ll post what I did for the filling.

  • 1 lb. beef roast, finely diced
    1 large carrot, shredded
    1 small turnip, shredded
    1/2 onion, finely minced
    3 medium potatoes, cut into pea-sized cubes
    1/2 cup frozen peas
    1/2 cup beef drippings
    2 tsp. beef bouillon
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2–1 tsp. black pepper
    1/2 tsp. ground sage
    1 egg
    1/3 cup milk

Mix beef, vegetables, drippings, and seasonings in a large bowl. Place 1 cup of mixture on one side of a rolled-out circle of pie crust dough. Fold over the other side and fold the bottom edge over the top and roll under to seal. Mix egg and milk and glaze the top of each pasty with egg mixture. Cut vents in the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves about 6. (Mine made two large pasties and a full-sized beef pie that I froze for later.)

We had British bread pudding with lemon sauce for dessert, a recipe Jon Boy got somewhere, and which go the stamp of authenticity from a British guy his family made it for once. It’s not at all like any bread pudding you’re thinking of. The essential difference is that it uses bread crumbs instead of small pieces of bread. The result is a “pudding” that’s actually more the consistency of a sweet bread, such as zucchini or banana bread, but somewhat moister and denser, seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg. The lemon sauce is superb with it.

We also had “tea” this afternoon. Hahaha. It was about the least authentic thing ever, but for the purposes of educating a three-year-old, it was great. Being Mormon, we had apple juice instead of tea in our tea cups, and I served animal crackers, saltines, and cheese with the “tea.” We sat at a little table on little chairs (me on the floor). I spoke in a terrible British accent the whole time and called the animal crackers “biscuits,” which had Lego in fits of laughter pretty much nonstop. Afterwards, he asked me to keep talking like I was while we were having our tea party.

This is fun.

I just realized I never blogged about this. I made bi bim bop, which most of us didn’t like a whole lot. As for me, I thought it was okay—I ate everything on my plate—but I don’t think I’d choose to eat it again. Lego ate a decent amount of his (though he didn’t eat much or any spinach or sprouts, I’m guessing because they were too salty), Duplo ate very little, and Jon Boy didn’t like it much. So, not as much of a success as Brazil was. I’m sure we’ll have some major hits and some major misses. I think on a scale of 1–10 I’d rate bi bim bop as a 3 for our family. I wonder if we’d have liked a different recipe better (bulgogi maybe).

As for the educational part, there wasn’t as much I could find about Korea that a 3-year-old would understand. I mean, really, much of what’s notable about Korea is its history and political climate, which I couldn’t really touch on much. Mostly I showed him some pictures, including one of the flag and a map, after which he kind of squirmed away.

Next week is England, though, and I’m almost sure that the kids will do fine with English cuisine. I can’t decide whether to do a roast with Yorkshire pudding or pasties. I definitely want to make Jon Boy’s bread pudding with lemon sauce for dessert.

A couple weeks ago I read this blog post about learning about one country per week for a whole year. One day a week, the blogger planned to research a country and teach her children about it. For dinner, they would eat a meal from that country.

I loved the idea and decided to do it too. Yes, my kids are younger than hers and may not remember much or anything from it. Still, it’s an excuse to try lots of new recipes from lots of different places, and since I’ve always felt that I’m not as strong in geography as I wish I were, I look forward to learning something myself.

We did our first country yesterday, and it was Brazil. I know a couple guys who went to Brazil on their missions years ago, and they highly recommended that I make feijoada, which is mostly black beans served over rice, with lots of meats in the beans. After looking up several feijoada recipes online in order to find one that a) looked tasty and b) did not contain meats that are hard or impossible to find in the United States, I finally decided to kind of mix some of the highlights of each recipe and make my own version. Every recipe has black beans, marjoram, green pepper, onion, garlic, and lots of meats, which varied by recipe. Chorizo sausage was a constant, and I also saw varying combinations of the following: pork loin, pig ear, pig feet, salted cured beef, other Brazilian sausages, and bacon. Some even called for kielbasa, which is actually a Polish sausage, because apparently it’s somewhat similar to Brazilian chorizo. The dish is served with sliced oranges and pickled jalapenos (I didn’t buy the latter because no one would have eaten them).

For those who are interested, here’s my “recipe”:

1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 lb. kielbasa, sliced
1 precooked pork chop (or any other cut of pork), sliced
1/3 lb. chorizo

Fry meats together in a deep frying pan or dutch oven. I didn’t add any extra fat, instead frying my vegetables in the (plentiful) fat from the meats. Add vegetables and fry until they are somewhat soft and fragrant. Add two cans of black beans with 1/2 to 1 cup water. Season with 1 tsp. marjoram and a bay leaf or two. Serve over rice with slices of orange and/or pickled jalapenos. Serves 4.

Maybe not extremely authentic (no pig’s parts or salted, cured beef, and no dry beans), but it got the point across.

As for the geography lesson, I pointed out Brazil on a world map, showed Lego a picture of the flag, showed him a picture of a huge and incredibly ornate Carnaval float, showed him a picture of the Christ the Redeemer statue, watched a video of capoeira, and taught him about the Amazon River and the Amazon Rainforest, looking at pictures of each. I told him they speak Portuguese there, which is like Spanish. I think all he remembers is the food and the capoeira.

I’d call it a success. Stay tuned for next week: South Korea!