Friday, May 31, 2013

Roots, Rock, Reggae

First, the roots...

When you think of Jamaican music you think of Reggae.  Even if that term doesn't come to mind, that music that's playing in your head is probably reggae!!  It's a rhythm and a beat, an easy- going, be-bopping around kind of music that makes you want to move slow and easy.  The lyrics can be hard to understand sometimes because of the thick Jamaican patois (accent) and the unique phrases that Jamaicans use, but a lot of early Reggae music was political- mostly about the corruption and inequality in Jamaica during the 60's and 70's. 

Haile Selassie
Another main concept in Reggae is the Rastafari Movement.  Rastafari  is a religion that is very prevalent in Jamaica - I believe (and I have only a very minor understanding of it) that the followers believe that an Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, was the next coming of Christ (he denied his divinity).  Some of the main tenets of the religion are resistance of oppression and pride in the African heritage.  Rastas usually avoid unnatural foods and follow a vegetarian diet, avoid alcohol, and wear their hair in dreadlocks. From a few quotes I have read it sounds like a very interesting religion, but it is discounted by many as just an excuse to smoke marijuana.  The Rastas  use marijuana (ganja) as a sacrament, similar to the Catholic communion, as a way to get closer to Jah (God) and be open to hear his communications.  It's like meditating, and very similar to some of the Native American traditions.  But enough religion, let's get to the music.

Bob Marley is the most well-known Reggae musician.  Many of his songs are about political themes but even with this dark subject matter they are still catchy and fun.  His music strikes a chord with many people because of his messages of redemption, freedom, and peace.  When he died of cancer in the early 80's Reggae music was just becoming known around the world- since then it has been an influence on many bands of today.  I chose a couple of my favorite Bob Marley songs for you to listen to - enjoy!!!

Redemption Song by Bob Marley and the Wailers - an acoustic recording of a song.  Beautiful and powerful political message.

3 Little Birds by Bob Marley and the Wailers- I love this song and it's positive message.

One Love by Bob Marley and the Wailers- This video was made after Bob's death and a lot of the stars of the 80's make cameos.  Another powerful but simple message - One Love.

The reggae world is now rocking with many of Bob's children.  The next song is by his eldest son, Ziggy (real name David)

Tomorrow People by Ziggy Marley

I hope you enjoy the tunes- peace.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On the Menu: Jamaican Food

What a jerk!

No, I'm not talking about my husband- he's the greatest guy around.  I am talking about the Jamaican recipe of Jerked chicken/pork/goat that is one of their most famous dishes.  It's a dish that has been made for hundreds of years.  Basically the meat is marinated with garlic, herbs, allspice and one of the hottest peppers, the hot scotch bonnet.  The meat is then grilled.  In the time of the Arawak tribes, this would dry out the meat and help to preserve it, now it's just a delicious, flavorful way to prepare meat. So, of course, we had to try it.

Ackee fruit
  I would've tried the national dish, Ackee and Saltfish, but ackee (a fruit/vegetable that resembles scrambled eggs when cooked) isn't easy to come by and is supposed to be poisonous if not prepared correctly.  I don't like dangerous food so I went in search of a homemade jerk sauce.  I found this one on and liked the fact that it used rum in the sauce. 
The Scotch Bonnet Chile Pepper- BEWARE!
I couldn't find scotch bonnet chile peppers (and probably couldn't handle the heat) so I used a serrano.  Anyway here is the recipe, in Jamaica it is used on every type of meat or fish you can imagine, but I used chicken and pork.  It makes a lot of marinade, BTW, if you mix the dark rum with some lime juice and diet coke it makes a very tasty beverage :)

Jamaican Jerked Chicken and Pork
For the recipe you will need:

  • 3 oz. dark rum
  • 6 oz. beer or other liquid (orange juice would probably be good)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 T minced ginger
  • 1 scotch bonnet chile pepper or other pepper- minced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram (I used dried)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • chicken pieces
  • pork chops
1.  Put all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and add the meat.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight if you plan ahead like that- I never do.
2.  Preheat your grill.  The chicken was much thicker than the pork so I put that on first and when it was halfway cooked I added the pork chops.  Grill the meats until cooked thoroughly.  I boiled down the leftover marinade and served it with the meat.

We served ours with some Jamaican coleslaw (which has an oil and vinegar dressing instead of a mayonnaise based one) and some sweet potato fries.  When I was tasting the marinade (before I put the raw meat in), I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  I'm not a big fan of nutmeg it seems.  However, after it was grilled and the sauce was all caramelized, it was really good.  I was afraid to make it too spicy so I used a Serrano pepper and left it rather large, but I wish I had made it a little spicier.  Also, while the rum gave it a nice taste, the beer wasn't noticeable, I think maybe some orange juice would have been really good!!  All in all, it was good but I don't know if it's one of my all time faves.  I must admit, though, that I am really enjoying the rum!!  Yah Mon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Week 44: Jamaica

We be jamming...

... to Jamaica!!  Woo hoo :)  Hi everyone, we're back from our week off.  We spent a few days camping and then had a great birthday party for my son who turns 4 today!!  So, because he loves warm weather and going to the beach, and since his name starts with a "J", we picked Jamaica, a place I've always wanted to visit, but, like so many of these countries, one I'll probably never see! 

So lets just pretend that we are sitting at a beachside restaurant eating some jerk chicken and sipping some rum drink with a little umbrella (no rum for the kids of course).  Or, we could be hiking in the Blue Mountains looking for Giant Swallowtail butterflies and enjoying the cool breezes. 

Or sitting under a waterfall in Ocho Rios (and, since this is a fantasy, I'll have lost a bunch of weight and look great in my swimsuit).  There are so many fun things to do in Jamaica, it's no wonder that it's such a popular tourist destination.  But here are a few facts about the island nation...

  • The capital of Jamaica (and also the largest city) is Kingston.  It's coordinates are 17.99°N/ 76.80°W.
  • Jamaica is one of the islands in the Caribbean Sea.  It is south of Cuba and west of Haiti.
  • The island was inhabited by native people called the Arawak Indians when Columbus claimed it for Spain in 1494.  It was called Santiago until the British took control of it in 1655.  They changed the name to Jamaica.
  • Jamaica became the first island in the Caribbean to become independent in 1962.

  • They were also the first country to commercially export bananas, which along with coffee and sugar, remain one of it's main exports.
  • Jamaica is also known for it's great athletes.  They have won many Olympic medals and were the first tropical country to enter the Winter Olympics.  The Jamaican Bobsled team entered in 1968 and, although they came in dead last, were so popular that a movie was made about the team- Cool Runnings.

  • Jamaica is known for it's music too.  Reggae is a popular form of music all over the world and the "King of Reggae", Bob Marley, is known world-wide.  More on him to come :)

Jamaica looks so incredibly beautiful, the people seem so nice and friendly, add to that great food and fun music and we've got a fun new country to discover!  Can't wait :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Talking Turkish

Gobble, Gobble?

That's what my daughter said when I asked her if she knew any Turkish words- she cracks me up sometimes.  Anyway the real answer to my question would have been a big N-O !!  I'm not even sure if I've heard it spoken before, but here are a few words for your foreign language lesson this week.....

Hello- Merhaba    Good Morning- Gunaydin    Goodbye- Gule gule
Thank You- Tesekkur ederim    No - Hayir   Yes- Evet
Happy Birthday! - Dogum gunun kutlu olsun!
I Love You - Seni sevi yorum
1- bir   2- iki     3- uc    4- dort     5- bes
6 - altl   7- yedi    8- sekiz    9- dokuz    10- on
black- kara     white- beyaz     red- kirmizi     blue- mavi   
yellow- sari    orange- turuncu    green - yemyesil    purple- mor
pink- pembe
The Turkish word for delicious is "Leziz" and I apologize that I didn't make a recipe for you all this week but it's been so busy around here.  If you are interested in making some of the delicious Turkish food like we ate at Aspendos please check out these web pages- ,,
 they all look pretty good!!

We are going to be out of town for a few days and so next week we will be taking a break from our "travels" and just enjoying ourselves. 

 Have a great week and we'll catch up where we left off!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mid-week Field Trip!

Aspendos Restaurant

We had a rough day yesterday, my daughter found out she's going to need glasses and was really bummed about it.  I told her glasses are pretty cool but she wasn't buying it (really, I had glasses at her age and I hated them too, but I had to try, right?) So, we had to cheer her up by going out to a new restaurant!  I know my kids will always enjoy Mediterranean food- whether it's Middle Eastern, Greek, or, as we found out, Turkish.  I'll be honest and tell you that I find many of the dishes from these countries are pretty similar, especially Greek and Turkish food.  There were, however, a few delicious differences. 

The restaurant we dined at was named Aspendos.  It's on Peninsula Ave. in San Mateo if you are from the area and up for some deliciousness.  It is named after an ancient amphitheater and town in Turkey of the same name.  The amphitheater , which was built in 155 A.D. with seating for 7,000, is still standing and has been deemed the best preserved theater in the world.  In fact, until recent times it was still being used. 

The restaurant features a painted mural of it's namesake along with other beautiful Turkish items.  The TV was even playing the newscast from Turkey (just FYI, it's going to rain tomorrow in Demre).  It's definitely a casual restaurant- paper menus and you order at the register, but when you've got 2 kids, casual is best.

Here is what we dined on-

Hummus and flat bread-  hummus is hummus the world over it seems.  It was good but the bread was better.  A fluffy flat bread with some spices sprinkled on top.  Yes, I ate it.  It was research :)

Zucchini Patties-  these were delicious even though I thought a little underdone.  They were served with a yogurt and dill sauce and all the grown ups REALLY liked them- the kids? well they were too busy with their bread to eat vegetables!

Lamb and Beef Gyros- I'd have to say that this is one of my children's favorite things to eat.  The meat is really flavorful and was served with fluffy rice, some marinated onions, a grilled tomato and salad with lemon and olive oil dressing.  I noticed no flatbread- maybe that is the difference between a Greek gyro and a Turkish gyro?  Who cares?  They were in heaven!

Adena Kabob-  this was ground meat (lamb and beef) seasoned with garlic and spices and then cooked on a skewer.  So tasty and moist!  Served with small pieces of flatbread under the meat to soak up all the yummy juices- delicious!!  They had a "Turkish burger" on the menu also and I wonder if this is the same meat they use, it would be soooooo good on a bun with some cacik (tzatziki) sauce and tomatoes and the marinated onions!  My mouth is actually watering as I am writing this!

Pida with meat and cheese-  this was a flat bread with a delicious mixture of meat and cheese on it and baked in the oven.  It looked simple but it was super tasty!!

Turkish Pizza (Lahmacun)- this was very different than American pizza.  It was super thin and had a mixture of red peppers and ground meat spread all over the top.  It was served with lettuce, tomatoes, marinated onions and lemon.  The owner (who was super busy and so we didn't bug him too much) said you put the produce on top of the pizza, squeeze some lemon and eat it rolled like a wrap.  I only tasted a piece before the "wrap", it was very red pepper-y, which I liked but got mixed reviews from the kids and my husband.

Surely you'd think we were full by now, and we were, but we trudged on in the name of research and ordered dessert.

Baklava-  again, very similar to every baklava you've ever had.  We had walnut and pistachio and they were both very sweet and flaky.

Rice pudding- the menu said it was oven baked so I thought it would be warm, but it was regular ol' rice pudding.  Delicious, but we too full to really enjoy it.

Turkish tea-  the tea came in an awesome little glass tea cup and was made with real tea leaves but other than that I couldn't really see the difference between Turkish and American tea.  The cup was cool though.

We left, too full to move, with the thoughts of new glasses far from our mind.  It's hard to be told you are going to need glasses for the rest of your life, but, we shall overcome this small inconvenience- hopefully.  Wish me luck :)
Hopefully these aren't the frames she picks out!! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Man of Morals

Aesop- a man of morals

Ok, so before I begin the story of Aesop and his fables, let me say that there are many conflicting stories about Aesop, some even that he wasn't even a real person.  The consensus is that he was born in the region now known as Turkey around 620 BC.  Then it gets a little iffy- he was either a slave on a Greek Isle who was freed from slavery because of his quick mind, an Ethiopian traveler, or a dwarf with deformed features.  Really, I supposed all of them could be true- maybe he was a deformed Ethiopian dwarf traveler who was taken as a slave to a Greek Isle but then freed because of his intellect?  Sounds plausible.  Anyway, I don't know what's true or not, all I know is that there is a huge collection of stories that are credited to Aesop.  No written records of the stories survive but they have been passed down through the millennia and still stand strong.  The stories all have 2 things in common- they all feature animals (or insects) as the main characters and they all have a moral.  At the end of the story a lesson has been taught.  A lesson on how to be a GOOD HUMAN BEING!   Even when times are tough.  Even when life is hard and you are the underdog.  I think I found some new bedtime stories for the kids!! 

I picked one story to illustrate a science project for the kids-  

The Crow and the Pitcher- a science project
as paraphrased by me

A very thirsty crow was flying one day when he spotted a pitcher of water.  He flew down to the pitcher of water and tried to get a drink but the neck of the pitcher was too narrow and the water level was too low for him to reach it with his beak.
(note:  It is hard to see the water level in the pics with my daughter.  My son's water I dyed red and it is much easier)

So he thought and thought.  While he was thinking, he spotted some pebbles on the road.  He picked up a few pebbles and dropped them into the pitcher.  The water rose higher as the pebbles displaced the water.  As the crow dropped more and more pebbles, the water rose higher in the pitcher until the crow was able to dip his beak in and get a drink.  When he was satisfied, he continued on his way

The moral-
Persistence pays off, or, where there is a will there is a way!!

The science lesson-
2 objects cannot occupy the same space.  The rocks displace the water, and since it has no other place to go, it rises in the pitcher.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week 43: Turkey

Let's talk Turkey...

No, not the poultry, the wonderfully historical country on the border of Asia and Europe.  In fact, the country's largest city, Istanbul, is the only city in the world that is in 2 different continents.  Cool fact.  Istanbul has also been the capital at one time or another of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire!!  Sometimes, though, it went by the name Constantinople.  These days the capital of Turkey is Ankara (39.91° N/ 32.85°E), the second largest city in the country.  Because of the importance of Istanbul in the course of history, the who's who list of famous people born in or having lived in Turkey is very impressive. 

Here are just a few-
St. Nicholas
  • King Midas - the same one with the golden touch? I'll check.
  • St. Nicholas - the one and only Father Christmas was born in Demre on the Mediterranean coast.
  •  St. Paul the Apostle
  • St. Peter - built the first Catholic church (in Antioch)
  • Aesop- the famous storyteller and fable writer
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived in Turkey in her later years.
Turkey has also been the setting for quite a few historical and biblical happenings.
  • It is said that Noah's Ark landed on Agri Dagi (Mt. Ararat)
  • Mark Antony is said to have given his new wife, Cleopatra, a section of the Turkish shore as a wedding gift.  Supposedly, he even had Egyptian sand imported for the beach.
  • The oldest writings have been found on clay tablets from 1950 BC and the oldest human settlement, in Catalhoyuk, dates back to 7500 BC.
  • 2 of the 7 wonders of the ancient world are located in Turkey.  They are the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. 
The Temple of Artemis
  • The legendary city of Troy and the site of the Trojan Horse battle was in western Turkey.   
On top of all that history, the country of Turkey is also responsible for introducing the world to one of my faves- COFFEE!!  Thanks Turkey- I owe you one!!

The Netherlands can also thank Turkey for introducing tulips to them and we can all thank them for producing over 70% of the world's hazelnuts.  Unless you don't like hazelnuts. 

All in all, Turkey is proving to be a pretty awesome country to learn about this week!  I can't wait to get started :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On the Menu: Argentinean Food pt. dos (2) & tres (3)

Happy Mothers Day!

I have to say that being a Mother can be very difficult.  The worries and stress (and attitudes) can be hard to handle some days, and some days I handle it better than others, but I wouldn't trade my two little munchkins for the world!!  And I bet you feel the same way!!  So give your babies (no matter how old they are) an extra big hug today and enjoy the treats, flowers and cards you (hopefully) get - we deserve it!!  And while they feel all helpful and lovey, get them to make dinner tonite - here are a couple recipes :)

I found this one on

Pork and Sweet Potato Guiso (stew)
For the recipe you will need
  • 2 lbs pork cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 t cumin
  • 2 T flour (I used garbanzo flour)
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 onion- thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes - peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 packet Sazon Goya with cilantro and achiote (optional)
  • 3/4 cups raisins
  • salt and pepper
1.  In a heavy, deep skillet heat the butter and 1 T oil to cook the onions until soft and golden.
2.  While onions are cooking season the meat with the cumin, flour, and seasoning packet. Throw in some salt and pepper too.
3.  Remove the onions from the skillet, add the rest of the oil and fry the meat until it is browned on all sides. 
4.  Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and deglaze the pan (scrape up all the bits stuck to the pan).
5.  Add the onions back and add enough chicken broth so that the meat is just covered.  Simmer gently (covered) for one hour.
6.  Add the sweet potatoes and raisins and simmer about 30 minutes or just until everything is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper

This was pretty tasty.  Not a lot of spice going on - I might add some more cumin next time.  My husband liked it more than he expected to - in fact his direct quote was "this isn't bad at all" and my brother scoffed at the fact that it was served with quinoa but actually said it was really good with it.  The pork was super tender and actually the best part, but the sweet potatoes were good too.  I wish I had cooked them a little less than I did.   All in all, it was a pretty healthy meal that everyone enjoyed.  I did have leftovers though, so I decided to use them in another South American treat...

For the recipe you will need:

  • empanada dough (homemade or store bought)
  • leftover guiso from above or cheese or whatever strikes your fancy.
  • chimichurri sauce  for dipping
1.  If you are making your own dough you are going to want to roll it out very thin and cut it into 4 inch circles.  I would really suggest buying the frozen dough from a Mexican produce store if you can.  Then all you have to do is let it thaw :)  Or frozen pie dough would probably work too.

2.  I was making these for a party and I didn't want them too big so I cut each circle in half.  Put about 1 tsp. of filling or a cube of cheese in the middle them fold it over and crimp the edges.  We used a fork to press the edges together- my daughter got pretty good!

3.  Put on a parchment lined baking sheet (probably not necessary but makes clean up so easy) and bake in 400° oven for about 10-15 minutes until golden.
4.  Because I made 2 different kinds and wanted people to be able to tell them apart, I sprayed a little cooking spray on top and for the cheese ones I sprinkled parmesan on the top and for the sweet potato ones I sprinkled some cumin and smoked paprika.  I think it made them look a little fancier too.
5.  Serve with some chimichurri sauce (I love that stuff)!!

These were GONE in about 15 minutes at the party.  I even sent my husband home to get a plateful that didn't fit on the original platter.  The dough was nice and fluffy and not too greasy.  Apparently there are different doughs for frying or baking, so remember that if you are buying the premade dough.  These made a great finger food, looked like they took all day but were, in fact, super easy to make!!  Enjoy!