Monday, April 10, 2017

The Beginning of International Night

Over the years, our blog has gone through a few changes, and I'm here to tell you that it's changing again.  I used to use this blog as my personal recipe box and a place where I could direct family and friends to my favorite recipes.  As Pintrest became more popular, I realized that it was a much less time consuming way to store and share recipes; and so, I stopped using this blog.

But now I'm back and I'm excited to share with you the new experiment in our kitchen.

I was sitting at my computer, trying to plan my menu for the week, when I realized I was bored with every recipe I have.  And to make it worse, searching Pintrest for dinner ideas wasn't helping at all.  I started thinking that it might be fun to try different meals from around the world. To include my family in this I told my kids that they would each get a turn to choose which country the meal came from.  J (my 7yr old) piped up "China", M (my 11yr old) "France", C (my 8yr old) "Iowa".  Wait .... what?   Guess we will be teaching geography as well.

We have been trying this for a month now and we are having so much fun.  I have never considered myself a picky eater but as I'm searching for recipes I find myself looking for the ones that look "Americanized" and I am trying to branch out and choose recipes that are more traditional.  That being said, I hope that I'm finding authentic recipes but really this is just dinner so I'm not going to do tons of research on the meal.  If it says it's chinese, I'm going to assume that it is.

One hangup I'm finding, as I search for recipes, is that every country eats food from other countries.  If someone asked me to cook an American meal, I would have to throw out half my recipes because they are Mexican or Italian, etc.  As I searched for Ukrainian dishes, I kept running into Russian and Polish recipes because they are also eaten in the Ukraine.  So again, I'm trying, but hey at least we are trying new and unique meals.

For our first International Night meal, J chose Chinese.  I thought "this is going to be easy" but I wanted to make something I hadn't made before so I chose General Tso's Chicken.  I'm not sure if it was the Hoisin sauce or the recipe or if I just messed it up but it did not taste like the chicken I've ordered at chinese restaurants.  Because I'm not sure if the problem was me, I'm not going to post the recipe.  Let's just say, it wasn't our favorite and I'm sure this won't be the only International Night that isn't a huge hit.

Doesn't this look delicious!  

The following week M chose French!  I was totally excited for all the pastries that I was going to make until I remembered that I shouldn't serve my kids pastries for dinner.  I searched online for hours but wasn't willing to make escargot or ANYTHING with duck liver (I at least want a chance at getting my kids to eat it) and finally settled on Croque Madame.

Croque Madame is more or less a very cheesy grilled ham & cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top but it was oh so delicious.  Everyone in the family loved it!  I also made French Beignets for dessert.  They tasted delicious but the dough didn't rise like it should have (I blame my yeast) so they were pretty flat.  Next time I make them, as long as they puff up, I'll try filling them with custard.

Look at all that cheesy goodness!


For our next International Night, C chose Egypt!  This one had me worried.  What in the world do they eat in Egypt?  Turns out, really delicious and pretty food.

For this one I made Oven Roasted Chicken Schwarma, that I served on thick pita bread, along with hummus and Tabbouleh salad.  The Tumeric made the chicken a beautiful yellow-orange color and my house smelled amazing.  I wasn't sure how the cinnamon would taste with the other spices but it really was delicious.

I did have to alter the Tabbouleh Salad a bit.  Mint is not in season here so I had a really hard time finding it fresh so I just left it out.  I know it's not a "real" Tabbouleh salad without it but it was really good none the less.  I also couldn't find bulger wheat but the recipe said it could be substituted with Couscous.  I didn't have and couscous but I had quinoa which I've substituted for couscous so that's what I used.

For dessert I made a Basbousa Cake.  I used Cream of Wheat enriched farina in place of the semolina.  It was good but very sweet.  I think if I make it again I will only use half of the simple syrup recipe.

Okay, so now we're caught up to last night's International Night.  Being the kind wife that I am I told Trent that he should get to choose a country, too.  Of course, he decided to be difficult and chose Ukraine.

I did struggle with this one a bit because all the recipes I found were actually recipes from the surrounding countries.

I finally settled on Cabbage Rolls and Yabluchnyk (Apple Layer Cake).

I didn't want to do the cabbage rolls because we aren't big cabbage fans but I couldn't find much else and over and over I read that cabbage rolls are served at every big Ukrainian family function so I gave them a try.

They turned out really good.  The cabbage was really mild and the bacon, along with the filling, was tasty.  We did end up adding some salt and pepper but that's because of our American tastes, I'm sure.

The Apple Cake was delicious.  I could just snack on it all day.  The orange juice in the batter was a great contrast to the apples and cinnamon.

So far we are having so much fun with our weekly International Night meals.  I printed up a current list of countries for the kids to choose from and they all immediately chose their countries for the next 4 weeks.  Currently, there are 195 countries so this experiment is going to take us about 4 years to get through.  There are a few countries that I'm a bit worried about but it's going to be fun figuring it out.

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