Thursday, January 31, 2013

On the Menu: Peruvian Food

Guinea pig anyone?

I'm not being very culturally sensitive am I?  I'm sure that Cuy, the national dish of whole roasted guinea pig (head and feet intact) is very tasty.  I just can't wrap my spoiled American head around it. To me,  Guinea pigs are pets not party food.  So scratch one recipe off the list, hmmm, what should we make?  The cuisine of Peru has many diverse influences - the Incas and other native peoples, the Spanish, Africans and the European traders and Chinese and Japanese immigrants to name a few.  The main staple of the diet is potatoes, or "papa", which are native to Peru and have been grown in the Andes for thousands of years.  They have thousands of different varieties.  They also eat a lot of rice and hot peppers called "aji".  If you really want to recreate an Incan dish you could cook it "pachamanca" style.  You put meat, potatoes, some vegetables like Peruvian corn and some REALLY HOT rocks in a cooking vessel and let the rocks do the cooking!  The Mongolians had a similar dish with hot rocks in a goat.  I do have a lot of rocks left over from Zimbabwe's balancing rocks but that seems like a lot of work.  So I found a recipe on the internet.  I love the internet.  Here it is.............

Lomo Saltado
For the recipe you will need:
  • 2 lbs. tender beef- cut into strips. The butcher recommended a top sirloin and even sliced it for me :)
  • 1 red onion- cut into strips
  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes- drained
  • 1 jalapeno or, if you can find it, aji amarillo pepper - sliced and seeded.  I found them frozen at the Latin market.
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro- chopped
  • 4 potatoes- cut into strips like fries
  • 1 tsp paprika
For the marinade:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
1.  Combine the ingredients for the marinade.  Divide it between two bowls and put the steak in one and the onions in another.  Let sit for at least an hour in fridge.
2.  Heat some (about 2 tsp) oil in a large fry pan and cook marinated steak until browned. 
3. Add tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes
4. Add marinated onions, cilantro and hot pepper to the pan and cook until everything is cooked though.  It smells so delicious!!
5.  While that is cooking, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika and a little salt and fry in a separate pan.  That's the traditional way- I coated mine with oil and roasted them in the oven.
6.  Combine the crispy potatoes with the other ingredients.  Traditionally this is served with a dish of white rice as well.

Ok, I know I claim that every dish is really good, but this is REALLY GOOD! The marinade is awesome and the meat was so tender.  I love onions so they were delicious, but my husband and kids picked them out.  The tomatoes kind of melted into the sauce and the aji amarillo peppers had a bit of heat but I think a jalapeno would have been hotter.  The carbs seemed a bit overdone and I personally would have like it better with the rice instead of the potatoes.  The paprika on the potatoes was yummy- never tried that before. 

We found some frozen Peruvian corn at the market too.  Have you ever seen Peruvian corn?  It's huge!  A normal kernel of corn is about the size of a tooth, right?  Well, a kernel of Peruvian corn is the size of a dime.  It had a much different texture though, it was more starchy and not as flavorful.  I personally didn't care much for it.  We also had a very interesting dessert - Purple Corn pudding, called Mazamorra Morada.  I'm sure the version we had was not very authentic since it was boxed like jello and used a lot of artificial flavors, but it was something different to try. 
 And boy was it something different - it was like warm purple slime with pineapple chunks.  I know that sounds disgusting but it tasted good.  It had clove and cinnamon flavors and pineapple (suggested on the box).  My son loved it and ate two small bowls.  I would love to try the real thing to be able to compare!  And I was so excited to find another purple food - apparently only America has this purple food shortage!  I'd love to hear your comments if you try some of the dishes.  Don't let the multi-step recipe scare you - I would skip the potatoes and just serve it with the rice, or vice versa.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Animals of Peru and an Art Project!

The Animals of Peru-

Well, I could probably write a very large book about the amazing animals of Peru, and I'm sure there are already many of them, so we focused on the two cutest- the Llama and the Guinea Pig.  Let's start with the little piggy.

The Guinea pig (also called a Cavy) is a large rodent.  It's not related to the pig at all and they've never come from Guinea so why they have that name had a few different answers on different websites.  The one I'm going with was that when the Europeans brought them to Europe they said they were from "Guinea" which is both a place and a term for "far -off place" that the sailors used to use.  That and the little grunts the animal makes is probably how they got that name.  In Peru they are called "cuy" and are an important part of the culture of the native South Americans as a food source (eep!) and in their traditional folk medicines.  The ancient Moche people worshipped the chubby little things and they are featured in some of their art.  Guinea pigs are also used by folk doctors, called "curanderos", to diagnose disease.  The guinea pig (black ones work best) are rubbed on the body of the sick person and then dissected for clues to the disease.  Hmmm, that would be an interesting doctors visit.  Most of the guinea pigs in Peru are eaten though, in fact, it's the national dish! 
Don't worry- we're not making it though!  We did go visit our friends guinea pig - it's a cutie and totally tolerant of the kids (unlike some hamsters I know)  That's probably why the European traders brought them back as pets in the 16th century! 

I have a riddle to introduce our next animal- What do you call a camel with no humps?   A llama.  Ok, that was a lame riddle but it is a fact.  Camels and llamas are related.  And like camels, llamas are handy animals to have around.  They have been used for centuries by the people of the Andes Mountains as pack animals.  They can carry up to 75 pounds over 20 miles in a day, they eat the plants along the way and require little water! What a blessing for the people.  But wait! There's More!  Llamas can also be used for their wool, which can be made into many things, and their skin to make leather. They can be eaten although they aren't very often. Even their poop can be used as fuel for fires!  I think we all need a llama, y'know, just in case.  Well, as cute as they are, I don't think my area is zoned for llamas, so we'll just have to make our own pretend ones!

The Llama Project-
For the project you will need:

  • cotton balls
  • cardboard
  • lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks or chopsticks or even just sticks from the yard!
  • glue
  • scissors, tape and pen
1. Cut out a llama body shape from the cardboard.  Trust me- you don't need to be an artist.

2. Cut a slit on the top of the head and cut a small piece of cardboard to make ears.  Insert ears in slit.

3. Tape the sticks to make the legs.  Make sure they are equal or you'll have a very wobbly llama.

4.  Cover the sucker in cotton balls.  We pulled the balls apart a little so they covered more area.  Also leave the face and most of the legs bare.

5. Draw a face on your cute little llama

6. If you want to go the extra step, you can also make it a dress and have it "fall in love" with the other llama.  But that's totally optional.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Week 27: Peru

Hola from Peru!

Well, not really from Peru, but you know what I mean :)  This week we'll be learning what we can about this diverse country.  Here are a few things that you might find interesting-
  • The capital is Lima (also it's largest city) and the coordinates on the map are 12.04°S/ 77.02°W.
  • The official language is Spanish but the native languages of Quechua and Aymara are also spoken.
  • Peru was a part of the Incan Empire and also the home of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the Norte Chico.
  • The great Incan temple, Machu Picchu, is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Peru was once a Spanish colony (wasn't everything it seems?) but gained it's independence in 1821.  It was the last Sout American country to do so.
  • Lake Titicaca (I can't help but snicker a little) is shared with Peru by Bolivia and is the largest lake in South America.
  • Peru is one of the top producers in the world of Zinc, copper, silver and lead.  They are also one of the oldest petroleum producers.
  • Sunflowers, tomatoes, potatoes, and avocadoes are all native to Peru (although some websites disputed that).  Potatoes have been grown in the Andes for over 7,000 years.

  • The country of Peru has many different climates from desert to rainforest. 
  • The Amazon River, the largest river (by volume) in the world, starts in Peru.
Whew, there's a lot to learn.  This week we'll learn about the animals of Peru, of course, the food and we'll hit up the local library to find some great books!  I'm ready to learn something new, are you??

More Filipino Food and Fun!

Oooops, I almost forgot!

We had such a busy weekend I almost forgot to finish our week on the Philippines!!  Sorry.  I'll keep it short because I have to START our week on Peru today also!  First let's start with the fun!

Kids in the Philippines spend a lot of time outside playing games.  Basketball is very popular and so are many versions of tag,  Here is a version of tag that also includes "hide and seek".  It's called...

Tagu- taguan
This game is probably best played outdoors in the park or schoolyard, or if you are lucky enough to have a big backyard you can do it there.  One player is designated "IT" and a spot is designated "HOME".  The rest of the players hide while "IT" counts to whatever number.  Then "IT" goes on the hunt.  If he spots someone he/she says "BOOM and the name of the person" and has to try to tag them before they make it back to "HOME".  If the player makes it to home, "it" keeps looking, but if the player gets tagged, he/she becomes "it" and looks for the others.  Sounds like fun and I hope to play it one day but we haven't had the chance yet!  It would be great for a school recess :)

Now for the feast we had to celebrate the end of a busy week!  I wanted to try cooking one more dish and since beef brisket was on sale I made a dish called Pares.  Pares is, apparently, a famous street food traditionally served with garlic rice.  One of the spices in the dish is star anise.  I have seen that at the store and always thought it looked so interesting but have never tried it before.  Well, I should have because it is a super-food!  It has both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is supposed to be really good for coughs and asthma.  It's also supposed to be a natural sleep aid and give you fresh breath! (Which you will need if you eat the garlic rice)  So now I need to find more recipes that use this wonder herb!!  Anybody have any they'd like to share???  Well here is at least one...

Beef Pares
For the recipe you will need:
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2-3 lb beef brisket - cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic - crushed
  • 1 lg. onion - sliced
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 pieces star anise
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 1 stalk of celery - whole
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger - crushed
1.  Boil the beef with the water, star anise, soy sauce, vinegar, celery, brown sugar and pepper.  Boil about 45 minutes.
2.  Set the pot aside and let it cool so that you can remove the fat that comes to the surface.  I did the first step in the morning and put it in the fridge.  When you remove the fat discard the celery too.
3.  In a saucepan heat the oil and cook the ginger, garlic and onions until onions are soft.  Add Hoisin sauce and then add whole shebang to the beef pot.
4.  Bring the beef pot back to a boil and cook until sauce is reduced and the beef is tender.
5.  Serve with rice. 

Garlic rice is the traditional pairing so we ordered some from our local Filipino restaurant, along with some pancit (a noodle dish) and a vegetable dish made with squash, green beans and coconut milk.  My husband and the kids really liked the meat.  It had a great flavor from the star anise and the ginger.  It wasn't all that tender but it was yummy.  The kids and my husband didn't care too much for the garlic rice or the pancit and the kids didn't even try the squash and green beans.  For dessert we had some assorted cakes from the Red Ribbon bakeshop, a famous Filipino bakery chain.  We tried both a butter and ube mamon. They were delicious- sweet, light sponge cake!! 

 All in all, Philippines week was great!!  Now onto Peru!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Philippines Flag Art and Language Lesson

The Flag of the Philippines-

This flag is a symbol of the independence of the nation from the Spanish and has been used in the Philippines since 1898.  It is full of symbolism that shows the values of the Filipino people.  The white, equilateral triangle sumbolizes equality and fraternity among the people.  The blue stripe stands for peace, truth and justice while the red stripe symbolizes patriotism and valor.  In the center of the white triangle is an 8-rayed sun said to symbolize unity, freedom, democracy and sovereignty.  The number of rays (8) represent the 8 provinces that started the Philippine Revolution against Spain.  The 3 stars that are in each corner of the triangle are meant to represent the 3 main regions of the Philippines - Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  An interesting feature - when the country is at war the flag is flown upside down with the red band on the top.    What a beautiful flag for a beautiful country!  So we made our own renditions of the Philippines Flag for our art project :)

Art Project:  Philippines Flag
For the project you will need:
  • white construction paper
  • blue, red and yellow paints
  • brushes
1.  Fold your paper in half lengthwise to determine the center.
2.  Draw triangle on right side from each corner to meet on center line. 
3.  Draw sun with 8 rays in center of triangle (or let them do it)
and a 5 pointed star in each corner of triangle.
4.  Explain what colors should go where and let 'em at it.

My daughter too it another step further and painted the flag for her own country!  She will be a great dictator one day :)

Time for a language lesson-

The people living in the Philippines speak over 500 different dialects.  Tagalog is the most commonly used, so when the government wanted to create an official language for the land they used Tagalog as the base.  The official language is called Filipino and here are a few words.  I capitalized the syllable that is stressed so that your pronunciation will be better :)

Hello/How are you? = kumuSTA     Welcome = maBUhay
Goodbye = paALam     Thank you = saLAmat
Delicious = maSArap     I love you = maHAL kiTA

one = iSA     two= daLAwa    three= tatLO     four= Apat
five= liMA    six= Anim    seven= piTO   eight= waLO
nine= siyam  sounds like "sham"   ten= samPU

and this phrase:
Salamat sa iyo para sa pagbabasa at magkaroon ng isang mahusay na araw!  Which means "Thank you for reading and have a great day!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On the Menu: Filipino Food

Do you Adobo?
So we are halfway through our trip around the world.  I have made food from 26 different countries and my kids have eaten the food of about 15!  Well, this week they ate the food!!  Filipino food, like the people, is a mixture of many cultures.  There are influences from China, the Pacific Polynesian Islands, Spain, the traders from the Middle East, and America.  All these influences have made for an interesting mix.  The flavors of many of the dishes mix tangy and salty and sweet with different textures but the main staple of every meal is white rice.  They also don't waste any part of the animal.  I like to try many different foods but I will admit to being very particular about my meats, and because of that I will be very cautious whenever I order food in a Filipino restaurant.  Many of the recipes had ingredients like pig ears or blood - I guess I've just been spoiled and they probably do taste good but I'm too much of a chicken!  So I made a very simple yet exotic tasting Filipino recipe- Chicken Adobo (and the kids loved it).  

Chicken Adobo
For the recipe you will need:
  • 4 lbs Chicken.  Thighs were recommended but I only had boneless breasts.
  • 1/2 cup Vinegar.  I used real Filipino vinegar from Asian market (99cents!) but apple cider or regular is fine too.
  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce - I used a low sodium one.
  • 4 cloves garlic - crushed
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (this might not be very traditional but was in quite a few of the recipes I saw)
1. Combine all the ingredients in large pot.  Cover and let marinate for 1 to 3 hours.
2. Bring ingredients to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Since I was using boneless chunks of chicken I only went for 15 mins.
3. Uncover and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced and chicken is cooked through.  Maybe another 15-20 mins.
4.  Serve with steamed rice and a veggie.  We had ours with bok choy stirfried with garlic and chili sauce.  The kids had corn.

This is yummy.  Super tangy sauce that gets soaked up in the rice and gives the chicken such a great flavor.  We liked it so much that we had Pork Adobo for lunch at a restaurant today.  I actually think I liked the pork better (or maybe they had a different recipe).  Both my kids really liked the sauce and when we were making it (before I added the raw chicken) I couldn't keep their fingers out of it.  I served them their chicken with a bowl of the cooked sauce for dipping and they were in heaven.  I will definitely make this again!!
It would probably be great in a slow cooker!

There are so many different recipes that sounded really good and I will have another food post later in the week but I have one more for tonite.  It's purple, creamy but firm, sweet, but not too sweet, and it's made from a vegetable.  It's called ....

Halayang Ube
For the recipe you will need:
  • 2 cups grated ube (found in frozen section of Asian markets)
  • 1/2 cup butter and a little more for greasing bowl
  • 7 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1. Melt butter in large pan.  When melted add milks and combine.
2. Turn to low and add ube.  Cook for 40 mins stirring often to break up the chunks.
3.  When mixture transforms into a sticky blob (about 40 minutes) transfer to a greased 9" dish or mold or 8x8 pyrex
4.  Let cool completely and either unmold or leave in dish. 
5. Top with toasted coconut (I didn't have any) and cut into pieces

        It looked more purple in real life :)
This was fun, easy and it made PURPLE food :)  There isn't enough purple food!  Most of you are probably not familiar with ube, a.k.a the purple yam, and I wasn't sure I would be able to find it, but it was all over the Asian market.  Now if you live in rural WI and don't have an Asian market you might not be able to try this- I am sorry.  I will post another recipe Friday that has easier ingredients but I wanted to try this ube.  Ube is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins B6 and C, and loads of antioxidents. The dessert ended up being good but "different".  We all ate it and actually thought it was pretty good but no one would probably ask me to make it again.  My brother brought a chunk to work so some Filipino co-workers could try it and they said it was exactly the way it should be.  If you are in the mood to try something exotic give it a whirl!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 26: The Philippines

The Beautiful Philippines

It's week 26!!  We are halfway through our 52 weeks and I can honestly tell you it feels like it's taking forever!  Don't get me wrong, I'm learning A LOT and I hope the kids and you the readers are enjoying the trip too, but it seems like this project is losing some momentum.  Anyway, enough whining!  You didn't log on to hear me complain, you want to learn about the Philippines, right?  Let's learn some fun facts -
  • There are more than 7,107 islands that make up the archipelago that is the Philippines.
  • Luzon is the largest island.  Batanes is the smallest.
  • The capital is Manila.  The latitude and longitude is 14.58°N, 121.0°E on the map.
  • The official languages are Filipino and English.  There are more than 500 different dialects - Tagalog is the most used.
  • There are more than 200 volcanoes on the islands.  Most are inactive but 22 are still active - um, scary

  • Karaoke was invented in the Philippines because the Filipino people love to sing!
  • The smallest living primate in the world, the Tarsier, lives only in the Philippines.  Isn't it cute?

  • The oldest university in Asia is the University of San Carlos, it was founded in 1595 by the Spaniards
  • Speaking of Spaniards, the Philippines were a Spanish colony from 1521 - 1898 and many of the names of the people and places have Spanish influences.
  • The Philippines was a U.S. Territory from 1898 until after WWII in 1946 when the country gained independence.
  • The people of the Philippines are a mixture of Chinese, Spanish, Arab, and Polynesian and so is their food.  Filipino food has flavors that are unique and different than many other "Asian" foods. 
We have a lot to learn this week so we'd better get on it.  The plans are to try some interesting new dishes and foods which means a field trip to the Asian market and a Filipino restaurant!!  We'll, of course, learn some phrases and words and I found a fun game for the kids and I (and you at home) to play.  I'd love some ideas for art projects if you have any - I'm having a hard time and that's usually the easiest part for me!! I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions.  Thanks for checking us out!!!!

    A few amazing pictures of a beautiful country!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Be a Tourist and Learn some Lingo

Prague Castle

There are about 2,000 castles (some just ruins) in the Czech Republic.  You probably can't throw a rock and NOT hit a castle, but only one of these castles is impressive enough to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records - Prague Castle!  So, of course, that's where we have to go. 

Listed as the biggest castle complex in the world, Prague Castle has been the home to the Kings and Queens of Bohemia (what the are was called long ago), the Holy Roman Emperors, and the presidents of Czechoslovakia and now the Czech Republic.  Since 880, it has been built, destroyed, rebuilt, burnt, restored and added on to according to the whims of the monarchs.  Because of that, the Prague Castle is a great example of many different types of architectural styles.  The castle includes many different buildings- St. Vitus Cathedral, Basilica of St. George, a monastery, several palaces, towers and halls, as well as, formal gardens.  Many of these are now museums or public areas that can be visited. 

The castle is also home to the Czech crown jewels which include the Crown of Saint Wenceslas.  The crown was made for the coronation of George IV in 1347 which makes it one of the oldest in Europe.  But don't get any ideas about trying it on, an ancient Czech legend says that anyone unfit who places the crown upon his head will die within the year.  Just legend you say? Well when the Nazis occupied Prague and took over the castle, Nazi govenor Reinhold Heydrich tried it on as a joke and was assasinated within the year.  Sure, he probably would've died anyway but I'll still keep my hands off the jewels just in case!!

A few Czech words....

If you are going to be travelling around you might want to learn a few words in the native tongue.  I might suggest a more comprehensive lesson then the one I'm about to give you :)  The Czech language has it's own alphabet and many different sound combinations than we are used to but give it a shot!

hello - ahoj    good day - dobry den     good bye - na shiedanou
thank you - dekuji    you are welcome - neni zac     please - prosim

1- jeden      2- dva     3- tri      4- ctyri       5- per
6- sest        7- sedm   8- osm    9- devet    10- deset

We hope you enjoyed our visit to the Czech Republic.  My kids have really been playing with their puppets and, in fact, we have our own "Puppet Museum" in the living room.  It's just like visiting Prague (no, not really).  If you make the pot roast recipe I can tell you that the leftovers make a great hash for breakfast and the dumplings are great with gravy! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

On the Menu: Czech Food

Dobrou chut!!

It's even on the ketchup!
That's the Czech version of "bon appetit" or "enjoy your meal" and I hope you enjoy the recipes I have for you today! My husband was all gung-ho to try some Czech Republic food when I told him how most of the dishes are either meat and sauce over dumplings/potatoes or sweet and fruity.  He especially thought it was great that the country is the #1 consumer of beer in the world.  Meat, potatoes, donuts and beer (!!) makes this my dear husband's dreamland.  I think he's talking to a travel agent tomorrow :)  Actually, the food did sound pretty good.  Lunch is the main meal in the Czech Republic and it typically will include a soup, the main dish of pork or beef served with a sauce and side of dumplings or potatoes, a salad that has a sweet dressing or a dessert.  As I mentioned earlier, the Czechs love beer and the also have hearty snacks to go with the beer, like utopenci a.k.a "drowned men", which is a pickled sausage, or syr smazeny, fried cheese (yum.) I found some good blogs that have tons of delicious sounding recipes they are and , I am positive there are many more to explore but these two looked good!  With all the choices of recipes I had to chose from I picked 2 that sounded like something my kids would eat.  I don't always pick the right ones as you can tell from previous posts and I suppose I could just only pick cookies and cakes and be a winner but I TRY to put healthy food in them too.  So I chose a dilled pot roast that I could cook in the slow cooker and some dumplings because who doesn't like dumplings!!!

Koprova (Dilled Pot Roast)

For the recipe you will need:
  • 3lb chuck roast (or any roast?)
  • 1 T fresh dill - chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill - chopped
1  Coat both sides of roast with salt and pepper and dill.
2. Put in slow cooker with the water and vinegar and cook on low for 8 - 10 hrs. Mine was actually done in 7 !
3. Remove the meat and keep warm while you make the sauce. 
4.  Turn cooker to HI and add flour (mixed with a little water to make paste). Cook 10 minutes.
5.  Add sour cream and dill and serve with meat and dumplings.

Knedliky (Czech yeast dumplings)

For the recipe you will need:
  • 4 cups flour sifted (or not, I never sift)
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup milk - warmed to about 105°
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
1. Mix yeast with 1/4 cup of the milk and the sugar in a sm. bowl.
2.  Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
3. When yeast has dissolved and bubbled up (10 mins.) add to flour mixture.
4. Add rest of milk and eggs and combine to make dough.
5.  Knead dough into ball and place in bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for 1 hr.  It should double.  Mine did not really double and I'm not sure why!  I think my milk was not really warm enough?  Or I kneaded it too much? Or the yeast was old?? Who knows?
6. Divide the dough into 3 loaves and set them on a platter to rest (covered) for 30 minutes.
7.  Boil some salted water in a large pot and when boiling put the big ol' dumplings in the water. 
8. Cook (covered) for 7 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 7 minutes.
9. Remove the now HUGE dumplings and let them cool a minute or two and them cut and serve.  The traditional way to cut them is with string.  Put the middle of the string under the dumpling and cross your strings and pull to pinch off a piece of the dumpling without mushing it.  Personally, I found a sharp knife worked fine.

This meal was filling and pretty good!  I think my dumplings should have been fluffier and it was probably because they didn't rise properly.  The meat was really tasty. I was worried the dill would be overpowering but it was very nice.  I always have a problem getting a thick sauce from anything crockpotted - anybody else have this problem?  My dill/sour cream sauce was delicious but I think it should have been thicker.  Whatever!  My kids ate this!!!  YEAH!! They skipped the sauce but liked the rest so I am a happy Mommy with a happy Husband and two wonderful kids.  Life is good. 

P.S. The leftover dumplings are delicious the next morning with butter and jam!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The Puppets of Prague

Well, not just Prague, all of the Czech Republic loves puppets!  But really, who doesn't love a good puppet show right??  Ever since the string marionettes were introduced to the region, around 1563, the people have really made them a part of their culture.  Early puppet shows travelled from village to village performing for the people.  The audience was mostly peasants because the shows tended to make fun of the monarchy and nobles.  It was a way of commenting on the world and the news of the day in a friendly and joking way.  Also, it told the legends and folk tales that carried on the Czech tradition to the younger generations.  The families of puppeteers would pass on their beloved puppets to the next generations and many of these original puppets are now featured in museums.  Puppeteers are now headliners in theaters and no longer roam the countryside and every June the city of Prague hosts the World Festival of Puppet Art!

We're going to have a go at making our own puppets- both the marionette and hand puppet!  Hand puppets I've made but the marionette is a new one - wish me luck and read on to see how it goes.....

A String Marionette

For this project you will need:
  • sticks for controlling wand
  • cardboard tubes
  • styrofoam ball
  • string or yarn
  • glue or stapler
  • markers
  • skewer or something to make holes in head
  • felt
1. Using a skewer, chopstick or something similar poke a hole through the styrofoam ball.
2. Cut a slit about 1 inch from top of cardboard tube.  This is one arm hole. Repeat on other side and slip a piece of felt through both holes to make arms.
3. Get a long piece of yarn and wrap that around the piece of felt that is inside the tube with the ends coming out the top.

4. Use the skewer to push that yarn through the styrofoam ball and out the top of the head.  Tie a knot and now the head is attached to the body.
5. If you are using a short tube, cut out some legs from another piece or cardboard and attach to finish the body.  If using a longer tube, make a long slit and staple the legs at the bottom and top of the slit.
6. Tie the two sticks in an X shape to make the wand and wrap string to hold it together.  Tie the string from the head to the middle and a string from each hand to the controller.
7. Draw faces, clothes, whatever you want on the puppet and HAVE FUN!!

We named it Peppy the Puppet :)
The marionette was a little involved but fun.  We also made hand puppets out of white paper bags and markers.  Then my kids and some friends put on an impromptu puppet show!
I wished I had thought to videotape them!  For some reason the puppets all had high-pitched fancy British accents!!