Tag Archives: kids

Halloween Round-up

It’s finally here!

Whether you’ve had your costume ready for months or are still scrambling to put something together, the big day has arrived.

Hopefully, you and your family will have a safe and happy Halloween.

While you’re digesting your Halloween candy, you might like to read some past KidCulture posts about Halloween.

From learning about the cultural origins of Halloween where it is celebrated around the world to learning about some Halloween-themed kids’ books you might like to read, there’s still plenty to learn about the holiday.

Halloween Celebrations Around the World

Halloween Book List

Most Popular Candies Around the World

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Every Kid’s a Critic

Kid Food CriticIn the June 2011 issue of Disney’s Family Fun magazine, I came across a great idea to get my child to sample new food.

An article in the magazine suggested encouraging kids to critique the restaurant as if they were a professional restaurant critic.

The kids graded the restaurant’s food, service, menu, and decor and they had a great time doing it.

Not only did it get kids excited about trying new foods, it also helped them develop critical thinking skills and practice their writing.

I thought it was a fantastic idea – after all, school-age children are nothing if not critical!

If your budget is tight and you can’t splurge on restaurant meals as often as you’d like, you can easily modify this activity for meals at home.

First, set up the ground rules. I suggest NOT making every meal an exercise in criticism. I know my cooking confidence would deteriorate. Set aside one night or one meal when the kids will play professional critic.

Second, use the meal as an opportunity to try a new recipe or food item that you’d love to have the kids try. You can develop the meal around one country or culture or cuisine. But give yourself plenty of time to put it all together.

Third, I recommend taking decor and service out of the equation. Let the kids judge you on your menu – for added fun, type it up on the computer and add some clipart – and the food itself. No one wants to hear their child/restaurant critic complain that there are dirty dishes in the sink, ruining the ambiance.

Finally, after a few times when the kids play critic, turn the tables on them. Instruct them to develop a menu that you’ll help them prepare and that you will critique. It’s a great way to teach the kids how to give and receive constructive criticism.

The best part of the activity is that the meal is in the house, even if it’s not exactly on the house.

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Russian Kasha

Russian FeastKasha is one of the oldest Eastern European foods. For more than a thousand years, Russians, as well as other Eastern Europeans, have enjoyed kasha, or buckwheat groats, in a variety of ways.

Originally conceived as a food for ceremonial events such as weddings and celebratory feasts, kasha came to be a staple of the Russian diet.

Long before Americans began to incorporate whole grains into their diets, the Russians habitually enjoyed a plate of kasha as part of their meal.

Although there are many ways to enjoy kasha, I cannot promise you that your children will fall in love with it unless it is slowly introduced and – probably – heavily camouflaged by things they do like.

You can try this recipe from AboutKasha.com that sounds intriguing, or modify the recipe I created below.

Kasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and SpinachKasha with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Spinach

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 c. spinach

1 c. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the kasha according to the directions on the box. In a sauce pot, add olive oil and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes at medium high heat. Add tomatoes and cook for about 3 more minutes. Finally, add spinach, stir and cover. Remove from heat. After 3 more minutes, stir and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the kasha. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

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Martyrs Day in Madagascar

Antananarivo, MadagascarMarch 29 marks the anniversary of Martyrs Day in Madagascar, a day when 11,000 people lost their lives while opposing French colonial rule in 1947.

On this day, their sacrifice is remembered and honored.

Families celebrate by spending time together and enjoying activities together such as going to the movies or relaxing in a park.

Elected officials make speeches at special events and lay commemorative wreaths to honor those who died.

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Cherry Blossom Festival Unites Japan, USA

DC cherry blossomsOn March 27, 1912, American First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first two Japanese cherry blossom trees near Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin.

Mrs. Taft was an excellent advocate for bringing the Japanese cherry trees to Washington. For three years, she lived with her husband and children in the Philippines while her husband served as the Governor-General of the Philippine islands. She was considered remarkable at the time because she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the language and culture of the Philippines and to befriend the Filipino people.

In addition, Mrs. Taft enjoyed traveling to Japan and China and she brought a respect and appreciation for other cultures to the White House when her husband was elected in 1908.

Ninety-nine years after the two ladies planted the first cherry blossom trees, visitors to Washington still enjoy them, as well as the 3,000 others that subsequently joined them.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is being conducted while the original givers of this beautiful gift – the people of Japan – are struggling with unbelievable challenges and tragedies.

More than two weeks after an earthquake and a tsunami changed life for people of Japan and set off a nuclear crisis in their country, many Americans are using the National Cherry Blossom Festival to reinvigorate American donations to help the people of Japan.

For more information about the history of the cherry trees in Washington, DC, check out the National Park Service’s website.

More information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26-April 10, click here.

The American Red Cross is one of the best options for donating funds to help the people of Japan.

 

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A Cookie By Any Other Name

palmiers

Photo: Real Simple

Known as palmiers in France, palmeritas in Spanish, ventaglio in Italian, and elephant ears in English, these little cookies have a devoted, global following.

It is believed that they are French in origin, where their name translates to “palm leaves.”

They are widely available in bakeries and from companies such as Goya, but they are also easy to make – so long as you don’t try to make your own puff pastry!

Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten that was posted on www.foodnetwork.com. Try it and let me know what you think.

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What Kids Should Know About Libya

Libya has been in the news recently as the United States and other nations enforce a “no fly zone” to help protect Libyan citizens who do not agree with their current government.

Without going too deeply into the situation in Libya, which may be overwhelming for children, it is an opportunity to teach kids about Libya and its place in the world.

Libya – whose official name is Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – is located in North Africa. It is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 17th largest in the world.

The country is mostly covered by the Libyan Desert, which is one of the driest, hottest places on earth.

Some parts of the desert have not had rain for more than 13 years. The highest temerpature that has been recorded in the desert is 136 degrees Fahrenheit!

The majority of people live in cities and are primarily concentrated close to the coastline with the Mediterranean Sea.

Islam is the major religion in Libya. While most people practice Sunni Islam, there are also Coptic Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

Arabic is the primary language spoken in Libya but there are many people from other countries living in Libya, including people from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy. Italian and English is sometimes spoken in the larger cities.

Libya is a very young country – half of the people there are 15 years old or younger.

Fortunately, every child in Libya has access to a free education through secondary (high) school.

In fact, Libya has the highest literacy rate in Africa. More than 82 percent of the people can read and write.

Family is very important to Libyans and they are accustomed to living close to each other. There are more than 140 tribes or clans and people strongly associate with their tribe.

Libyan food is very similar to the rest of North Africa. Staples of a Libyan diet include: couscous, olives, soups, dates, grains, and milk. Following the meal, most people consume several glasses of black tea.

Libya is a beautiful, historic country facing many challenges but hopefully the Libyan people will soon be living in peace.

Libyan Desert

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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Purim Cookie: Haman’s Ears

They go by many names – and many spellings – but the Jewish festival of Purim has one standout sweet treat in this cookie.

Hamantaschen are triange-shaped cookies that can be filled with a variety of ingredients such as poppy seeds, prunes, dates, apricots, or even chocolate.

They get their name from the villain of the Purim story, Haman, who convinced the king of Persian to allow the murder of all the Jewish people in his kingdom. The Jewish people were saved by Esther, the king’s wife, who was also Jewish, although the king did not know this until she bravely came forward.

Here’s a recipe from JewishRecipes.org that you might like to try.

There are so many ways to make these cookies that the possibilities for filling, folding, and displaying them are nearly endless. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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I also found a great article in the New York Times about one woman’s history with Hamantaschen, and her quest to make the “perfect” Purim cookie. You might enjoy reading it here.

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The Festival of Purim

EstherPurim has been described as a Jewish mash-up of Halloween and Mardi Gras. The story of Purim is well-known to readers of the Old Testament. The Book of Esther tells how Esther, the Jewish wife of a Persian king, saved the Jewish people from the plot of an evil advisor to the king, named Haman. 

Haman had a grudge against Mordecai, who happened to be Esther’s cousin. Haman convinced the king to send out a decree that called on the rest of the kingdom to kill all the Jewish people. This decree would have included Esther but the king did not know she was Jewish.

Esther – knowing that the fickle king could easily have her killed – asked the Jewish people to fast for three days and then she went to the king and informed him that she was Jewish and that Mordecai was her cousin.

The king promised to give her anything she wanted. Haman was hanged for his evil plan and Mordecai became the king’s advisor in his place. Although it was too late to rescind the order to have the Jewish people killed, Mordecai amended the order so that the Jewish people could defend themselves. The following day the Jewish people celebrated and it is this celebration that is known today as Purim.

Jewish people typically observe Purim by publicly reading the story from the Book of Esther, giving to the poor, and sharing food. Some people produce plays, dress up in costumes, hold beauty contests, and have parades.

One popular food on Purim is a cookie called hamantaschen. It is translated to mean “Haman’s pockets” or “Haman’s ears,” and their triangle shape is said to mimic Haman’s triangle hat. Check back tomorrow for a post on this awesome – and fun – cookie.

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Food and Fun for St. Patrick’s Day

St. PatrickIrish or not, St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to have a laugh, eat some good food, and chase the snakes out of Ireland.

If you can’t make it to Ireland this year (which would be a relief for the snakes), you might as well settle for the first two tasks.

The laugh part is easy. The Irish are known for their wry sense of humor and genial wit. And no doubt your children are just looking for an excuse to repeat all the great knock-knock jokes they’ve heard on the playground. In honor of the day, check out some websites with great, kid-friendly jokes that you can use to get your kids into the spirit of the day. Here’s one to get you started:

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Thistle who?
Thistle have to hold you until dinner’s ready.

Corned Beef and CabbageWhile you’re laughing, take some time to cook with your children. One of my favorite recipes for St. Patrick’s Day is a slow cooker version of corned beef and cabbage. The corned beef you purchase in your local grocery store comes with a flavor packet. Put the corned beef in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add diced cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Empty the contents of the flavor packet on top of the ingredients and pour either a 12-ounce can of beer or 12 ounces of a liquid such as water or beef broth to the slow cooker. Set the slow cooker according to the directions and in about 6 hours you have a fork-tender Irish meal to enjoy!

But if – like me – you’ve exhausted the allure of corned beef, why not try something new?

Cooking Light has several recipes for entrees your family may enjoy. As a soup lover, this is the one that caught my eye: Irish Colcannon and Thyme Leaf Soup.

At the end of the meal, recite a real Irish blessing or make up one of your own. Here’s one I thought was a good fit.

An Old Celtic Blessing

May the blessing of light be on you—

light without and light within.

May the blessed sunlight shine on you

and warm your heart

till it glows like a great peat fire.

 

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