Tag Archives: New Jersey

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan 2010 began today – so Ramadan Mubarak to the 1.6 billion friends, neighbors, and relatives around the world celebrating the holiest month of the Islamic calendar.

If you’re interested in reading more about Ramadan and sharing what you learn with your children, check out these books on Amazon.com or ask your local librarian for recommendations.

If you’d like to know how Muslims are celebrating around the world, read this article from the Christian Science Monitor and see how Muslims from New Jersey to Israel to Indonesia are marking the month. In New Jersey, school administrators in ten districts are canceling classes on the final day of the month of Ramadan.

And, if you’re like me and curious about attending services at a mosque, you can watch Friday services online at www.alhikmatlive.com, and watch other video content provided by an imam in Miami. (For more information on the project, read the Miami Herald article about it.)

The important thing is to expand your knowledge about Islam and Muslims and share that with your children. Because we all have to share this one planet, so we’d better find ways to get along. And that’s a worthy project for the holiest Muslim month of the year – no matter what religion you practice.

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Gotta Try It: Korean Barbecue

Recently, a good friend of mine whose family is Korean took a group of us to a Korean barbecue restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ. The food was fantastic! And I got over my long-held aversion to Kim Chi (which was delicious).

Take a look:

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So Tell Me About Peaches

Last night in the grocery store I was half-listening to the TV they had set up at the checkout. I was rushing to arrange everything on the belt just the way my mother had taught me (cold stuff together, heavy stuff together, chemicals for cleaning together, etc.) when I heard the fascinating fact that peaches originated in China.

As a devotee of New Jersey’s peach crop (it was the only food I can recall missing when I lived in Burkina Faso for two years), this was news to me. But it’s true (I confirmed it on Wikipedia).

The peach fact reminded me of a new show I caught on the Cooking Channel called Food(ography) hosted by Mo Rocca. I will say it here and now: I love Mo Rocca. And I love him even more after watching this show in which he talks about food in the context of culture.

The episode I caught was called “Noodlerama” and it talked about pasta and how different cultures have adapted it. The show airs Sundays at 9 p.m. and the only criticism I have of it – and this is minor and probably part of the charm of the show – is that I have a hard time believing Mo Rocca. Something in his sardonic delivery just makes me wonder if he’s making the whole thing up.

But if you – like me – enjoy getting a history lesson along with a tour of food and culture delivered in a way that will make you laugh out loud, then this might be the show for you.

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Grow a Global Garden

Growing up in the Garden State, I was always around family gardens. My paternal grandparents usually had a large plot cultivated and I most distinctly remember the corn they would harvest.

My maternal grandmother gardened on a smaller scale and chose more delicate vegetables, such as asparagus.

My father has been an avid gardener for as long as I can remember and I am envious of his ability to grow green peppers, a skill I sorely lack.

My own garden – like my cooking – is a bit more eclectic. I’ll try to grow anything.

In previous years, I have grown eggplant, eager to replicate the clear Sauce Aubergine my friends prepared when I lived in Burkina Faso.

I also have tried to grow habanero peppers, or piment, a staple in our West African diet.

I looked eagerly at the peanut plants in the Burpee and other seed catalogs, hopeful that I could grow a crop of fresh peanuts and once again enjoy one of the staples of my diet in the Peace Corps: boiled peanuts, nice and salty.

I have even toyed with the prospect of growing the West African eggplant, a vegetable I really didn’t enjoy when I first moved to my village but grew to love.

But thanks to the climate, I had to abandon a few of my more ambitious ideas.

Instead, I’m focusing on herbs, such as lemongrass, which is found in a lot of Asian cuisine, and finding new ways to cook with familiar vegetables, like pumpkins.

Pumpkins are a common food in southern African foods. If you have read The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, you have no doubt come across a description of pumpkin stew that made your mouth water.

So far, pumpkin appears to be my most promising crop. Look at these gorgeous plants!

But as a Jersey gardener, I know better than to anticipate a glut of any other vegetable except zucchini. Even if you don’t plant zucchini, your neighbors will throw their unwanted extra crop over your garden fence (that you built to keep out zucchini, not rabbits or deer).

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Sowing a Global Garden

Growing up in New Jersey, the “Garden State,” my family always had a garden.  We grew the staples:  green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, corn, lettuce, and sometimes pumpkins or watermelons.  The foods we prepared from these fresh fruits and vegetables was always pretty standard.

As a mom, I’ve tried to keep up the family tradition of growing a vegetable garden, but I’m also interested in using familiar ingredients in new ways.  For instance, reading The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith about a lady detective in Botswana has piqued my interest in preparing pumpkin soup – Mma Ramotswe’s favorite dish. I can’t get her recipe, so I’m thinking of trying this one.  

Atarodo_Hot_Peppers_SeedsLiving in West Africa (and coming from a hot pepper-eating family), I knew I had to plant habanero peppers, thought by many to be one of the hottest peppers on the planet.  We usually add one pepper to spice up stews.  Seed the pepper first to prevent a habanero overdose.  If you’re daring enough to try what is thought to be the HOTTEST hot pepper on the planet, buy some seeds here.

Finally, I’ve been experimenting with growing kitchen herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, and dill.  But my new favorite flavoring has got to be cilantro. In the mood for a tangy recipe for rice, guacamole, or salsa?  Learn how to grow cilantro here.

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What’s More Global than Earth Day?

I admit it – I’ve never watched “An Inconvenient Truth.”  It’s not that I don’t care about the environment or that I don’t realize how critical it is that we all do our part to reverse the damage humans have done.  It’s just that the whole environmental movement can seem so intimidating.  Where do you start?  Well, one way to get the recycled ball rolling is by participating in an Earth Day activity this year.  

Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22 in the United States, is a great opportunity to take a first step toward a greener Earth.  If you live in the New Jersey area, be sure to check out GreenFestearth on April 3-5 as a precursor to the actual holiday.  There are lots of kid-friendly activities and if you’re an educator you can even get ideas for ways to incorporate “green” activities into your classroom.

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The Year of the Ox

180px-dihuamarketrat2My family’s first experience with Chinese New Year was when my son attended pre-school in central New Jersey and one of his classmates distributed Barney-themed red envelopes filled with a crisp new dollar bill.  I thought it was so cool – a cross between Valentine’s Day and Halloween – and I wanted to learn more.

One of the things I like best about the holiday is the communal spirit.  Family members work together to prepare treats to help welcome in a prosperous new year.  For example, fish, dumplings, mandarin oranges, and noodles are traditional staples in the meal. 

To help teach my son about the holiday, we read My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.  The pictures are vivid and the story focuses on how one young girl prepares for the new year.  The best part is getting to yell “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” at the end of the book.  51rebrkxaxl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_1

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