International Dinner Week

Part of having children means (eventually) school holidays.

In our home, March break is usually highly anticipated by my youngest as it is the week that his uncle comes to stay with us for a week. At fourteen, he is old enough to be cool to his nephews, but not so old that he won't play with them and have fun.

Last March break I began cooking lessons with my brother, which I've recently heard has paid off with him cooking at home (though usually against his will.) Rather than continue with lessons this year, we took a different track. We traveled the world instead, all from the kitchen.

There aren't going to be alot of recipes in this post, or pictures of every night, but instead just a view of how you can travel without leaving your kitchen!

Our journey began in India with Biryani chicken, using a recipe I first saw at Kalyn's Kitchen.
I was taking a risk making this - first I had no naan bread, or time to make any. Second, I'd never made Indian for my brother before. Turns out he liked it alot, but wished I'd had naan! I served it with steamed jasmine rice and sauted vegetables.

There was no picture taken that night - at that time we didn't know we were going to go on a food aventure.

Sunday night found us in Thailand eating Pad Thai, whose recipe I found at a fellow Daring Bakers' Blog, La Mia Cucina. Pad Thai is not hard to make, provided you remember to do you mise en place! (Which I sheepishly admit I missed a step of on mine and almost ended up with no noodles being ready to go in!)

However with (nearly) everything ready, I dove in to my first time Pad Thai making (just like Lis!) head first!

Everything comes together quickly and looks great when it is done. Unfortunately this was not as well received by everyone as Indian had been. My husband and I have had really good Pad Thai at a Thai restaurant (I even blogged about the restaurant way, way back somewhere in the archives.) I found this flavorful and filling, but not Pad Thai. Not sure what was missing, but something was.

At least everyone was willing to try it though - which is a major accomplishment for my children (and my husband ate the left overs for lunch the next day.)

The next step on our journey was a little less exotic, but no less flavorful than the first two - off we went to France, to enjoy crepes!

I've made crepes for my children before for dinner. But I admit, I served it to them filled with pudding, strawberries and bananas. They LOVED it! (Well, what child wouldn't like pancake, pudding and fruit for diner?)

Tonight's dinner needed a bit more healthful twist to it, however, so the pudding was replaced with and assortment of cheeses, (cheddar, monterey jack, havarti and provolone), some thin sliced deli ham, green onions and baby spinach.

As with Pad Thai, prep is key here - you have to have your crepes ready in advance, separated by sheets of wax paper, your skillet hot and ready (melted butter and brush nearby), and your filling ready to go in. If you are okay with a bit of advanced work, this meal actually comes together in minutes and is only limited by your imagination.

Crepes were made to order, sorta. The children got to pick their cheese types but Mommy required a bit of veg and ham in each one.

I admit - the children liked the dessert style crepes much better than the savory (and I wished I'd had some sauted mushrooms and red pepper strips.) They certainly didn't say no a few days later when I offered them left over crepes with strawberries and whipped cream.

Crepes are a worthwhile make - they last several days in the fridge and are easily frozen, provided you remember to keep them separated, for future crepe fun. I have a few left over in my freezer still, waiting for a day when I want a quick and simple lunch or breakfast.

Leaving France, we headed to Italy, but not our Italy. Instead we were invited to a friends birthday dinner (who's party was inspired by my husband's January cake party,) and enjoyed a homemade lasagna. Sorry, no picture of the lasagna, we were too hungry and enjoyed it too much to stop and take a picture. For a picture of one of the cakes I contributed, see here. (Oh and don't forget to vote for your favorite cheesecake!)

Since we were close by, our next stop was in Greece, for souvlaki, tzatziki, pita and feta. Perhaps our Greek meal wasn't very authentic, but it was so good that I'm sure the Greek's wouldn't mind too much!

This was my brother's first introduction to good feta and tzatziki sauce. He liked the dip, did not like the feta. I admit, when choosing my feta, I had chosen a nice, sharp, tangy one. It may have been a little strong for him but I felt it balanced nicely with the mild Greek dressing of the salad and the creaminess of the dip. It sure tasted good sandwiched in a pita with pork, sauce and dressed lettuce!

Since we had done alot of exotic cooking, for Thursday evening we decided to stick a little closer to home and "normal" and had a visit to the South-West for Tex-Mex.

Taco's may not be authentic, but again, they are flavorful, and fun to eat. I served mine with a combination of lean ground beef and lean ground chicken, a choice of hard corn taco shells or soft flour tortillas and a variety of toppings, including two choices of heat level for the salsa. At the end of dinner clean up, I had left over lettuce and meat mixture. Oh and two very depleted jars of salsa sauce. And three very happy boys!

The last stop on our journey was by request of my brother, who had always wanted to fry a fondue. By his choice we tried a cheese fondue. I guess you could say we went a bit multi-cultural with this one as I didn't choose a recipe for a traditional cheese fondue, knowing that Swiss cheeses were too strongly flavored for the children and husband (I learned this the hard way.) Instead I chose a recipe that had cheeses I knew they would like; cream cheese, cheddar cheese and monterey jack. I used this recipe here, from Allrecipes, but adjusted it by leaving out the spinach and onions.

I'm afraid I had to nix the fondue pot as well. My four year old is still a bit too curious and too bouncy to be allowed near the open flame of a fondue pot. He's not too young, however, to have his own little bowl of cheesy dip and a plate full of yummy things to dip in it.

This plate had a variety of blanched veggies, asparagus, yellow beans, and broccoli, along with a cheese bread stick, some kielbasa sausage, a raw carrot and onion. I also had available some fresh baby spinach (yum dipped in the spicy cheese!), and blanched cauliflower. So again, another prep-intensive meal, but again, another fun one!

I plan to make this recipe again, but will reduce the mustard and cayenne as the children found it a bit too spicy, and will include the chopped spinach.

When my mom came back from Mexico the next day, my brother raved to her about how much fun he had eating around the world. And my mom swore my brother had grown at least a full inch in the week she was gone (seems she was right), so I guess all the work was well worth it!

While my children also had a good time, they were perfectly happy to return to their favorite spaghetti the next night. Think maybe they had "jet lag?" hehehehe


I have no idea where I got this recipe from - it is something I had written down on a card in my recipe box.

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix together the flour, sugar, eggs and milk and beat until smooth. This mixes very well, and fast, in a blender. Lightly stir in the oil. Let stand for 10 minutes before starting to cook.
Heat a small skillet and coat lightly with melted butter. Use about 1/3 cup of batter per crepe, swirling the pan around to spread the batter out. Cook for 2 minutes or so on the first side, flip carefully and cook another minute on the other. The crepe will be a light golden color and will have dried out. Keep crepes separated by sheets of wax paper until ready to use.

Makes about 8-10 crepes.


Kalyn Denny said...

Sounds like a yummy week of international cooking. I'm glad you liked my very easy way of making Chicken Curry.

Brilynn said...

That sounds like it required some serious planning! You can take me around the world anytime!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What a wonderful sister you are! That was really a great tour of the world for a 14 y/o and your younger ones!

Elle said...

Around the world, pretty healthy food AND a selection of meals that are appreciated by 'the boys'. A tour de force for sure. Lucky boys.

Lis said...

What a fantastic way to spend the week! You've made me want to try something Greek and to make my own crepes! Woo! hehehe

Am sorry you didn't like the Thai Pad - for me I'd never had the real thing so I just knew I loved it.. I see I used the wrong type of noodles completely. lol Anyhoo.. thanks for trying it and kudos to the kids for trying these dishes!! That's wonderful that they are so willing to try new things. =)


Freya said...

That is a lot of wonderful food! I think I enjoyed the crepes most of all! I could eat them everyday!

Sara said...

Wow what amazing food! Your brother is lucky to have you introduce him to such great stuff.

Helene said...

Wow! That is great! What a cool mom and sister you are...That was one creative week!