Mar 30, 2011

Cooking Mei's Way: Chicken Tagine with Couscous

I'm going to let my sidekick do the blogging today.
Hi, I'm Mei Wei and I love to cook. 
I am studying about Marco Polo. The Silk Road was a trade route from Italy to "Cathay" (which we call China today) during the Middle Ages that was used for trading.  They traded silk, salt, pepper, spices, dyes, jewels, pearls, and gold. Europe needed the Silk Road to bring spices, salt and pepper which allowed them to store food without it going bad. Plus it tasted good!
A tagine is a stew from Morocco which is in Africa. The Silk Road did not go through Africa, but the ingredients in a tagine are similar to what Marco would have traded for to use at home in Venice, Italy.
When you eat this you can feel like you're Marco Polo! 
You could prep this in advance. Then just cook it the next day.

Chicken Tagine with Couscous
Prep Time: 20 Minutes                                                     Ready in: 2 hrs. 55 min.
Cook time: 2 hrs. 30 min.                                                 Serves: 6 adults


We left the carrots out of the picture. Sorry.
  • 1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs - cut into 1 inch pieces (We used thighs)
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
Make it!

Step 1: Have your mom or dad cut up the chicken. You can do the rest with help. My mom decided to brown the chicken, too.
I love to peel carrots.
Dad taught me how to use a knife. That is a tatoo on my hand.

 Step 2:  Make the sauce. Whisk the chicken broth, tomato paste, lemon juice, all-purpose flour (which we did not photograph), ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and black pepper. If you want you can add curry powder and cayenne pepper. We used the curry, but not the cayenne. Too spicy for me.
Grinding pepper is fun!

Whisk the sauce.

Step 3:  Dump, dump, dump the chicken, onions, carrots, apricots, and cranberries or raisins into a 4 quart crockpot. Dump the sauce in too. Cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes on High or 5 hours on Low.
Dump in everything.
Looks good!

Step 4: Make the couscous like it says on the package.Serve the tagine with the couscous.

We watched Cooking Channel and they said that in Morocco everyone in the family sits around the table and eats from one big dish. They take some couscous in their hand and make it into a ball. Then they eat it with their hands. 

Eat it!

Here is the tagine and the couscous!
It smells really good. Go to the bottom to see what my mom and dad said. And a surprise!!!
Can you smell it?
  We all really liked it, but I liked the apricots better uncooked. Mom and Dad added hot sauce. And Dad said next time it would be good topped with yogurt and with pita bread and hummus. I like hummus too!
Mr. Bingley even liked it, but he had to get it in the DISHWASHER!!!!

Let me know if you like this!! Leave a Comment!!

Mar 28, 2011

Nature Notes: Farewell Winter (I hope)

Thinking we're out of the woods weather-wise, I'd like to post a slide show of some of our favorite scenes from this past winter. For us in Maryland, we got off pretty easy, especially compared to New York New Jersey, and Boston. I shudder at the thought remembering our own winter hell last year.
Enjoy the show, and to Old Man Winter, maybe next year...

Menu Plan: Spring Is Here!

PhotobucketIn keeping with the first week of spring, I have planned some menus that take advantage of seasonal ingredients and spring-y flavors! 
Chicken with Asparagus and Roasted Red Peppers
Mediterranean Chop Salad

Tuesday BUSY DAY! Riding lesson, Pioneer Girl Club and Staff Meeting: Meal on the Run
Frozen entree

Wednesday Bible Study and Errands: Go with Slow! (cooked that is!)
Father R requested this. He loves it!
Sour Cream Pork Chops  
over egg noodles with applesauce

Thursday Vegetarian Day
Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
Green salad, Italian Bread

Friday "Light Night"
Lemon Rosemary Salmon 
Tangy Sugar Snap Peas
Norwegian Parsley Potatoes 

Eat Out!

Father R's Choice

Have a great SPRING-Y week (even if your weather doesn't feel that way!)

"Spring" over to Menu Plan Monday for more tasty ways to enjoy spring!

Got a fav spring recipe to try? Tell Mother all about it!

Mar 20, 2011

Sir Ken Robinson on Homeschooling

I recently stumbled upon Sir Ken Robinson's answer to tweets on homeschooling and knew this was something that was quite necessary to impart. (Look! I'm already starting to lapse into Brit-speak.)

Who is Sir Ken Robinson? I confess I didn't know until I was looking for people to follow on Twitter. But apparently I'm the only person in the education world who doesn't.
If you're the other person, here's what "they" are saying about Sir Ken. His mission:

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

And from the media, this urgent appeal:

"Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says. It's a message with deep resonance. Robinson's TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? "Everyone should watch this."
                                                                        ---BBC Radio 4

Educating creative thinkers. Indeed. A Charlotte Mason idea if I ever saw one.
As children of a creative God, I argue that we are mandated to develop creative thinking in our children, the kind of thinking that will find ways to enact change in our culture, thus honoring their Creator. With its ability to customize the educational needs of our students, we have a distinct advantage for our children's education and should consider developing creative thinking as a goal of every homeschooling  family.

In this video, Sir Ken speaks elegantly and thoughtfully on homeschooling and what public schools can learn from it. My thanks to SwitchedOnMom at "The More Child".
( You can silence this blog's background soundtrack at the bottom of the page.)

Mar 19, 2011

Cooking Mei's Way: Jim's Onion Cheddar Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 
I'm Mei Wei and I love cooking! This year for St. Patrick's Day my mom chose a new kind of Irish soda bread called Jim's Cheddar Onion Soda Bread  from to have for our dinner. And I want to show you how to make it!
Ingredients. There is NO baking soda in this recipe!


  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (we used Kerrygold Irish Cheddar)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Use a Pampered Chef baking stone or if you don't have one, you can use a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly greased.
You will need a sifter and a  large bowl. Next you combine the flour, salt and baking powder. 
Measure the flour. Level with a knife.
Be careful when you grate the cheese.

Use a pastry blender to add the butter. Then mix in the buttermilk. The dough should feel dry but not really, really dry or sticky. Kids, if you're helping your Mommy or Daddy make this, hand it over to them now because it's very stiff and extremely hard to mix. 

Add a little more buttermilk to make it soft but not sticky.
  Dump the dough on the counter without making a mess! Now make a well in the center of the dough and mix in the onions and the cheese. Mix it very GENTLY  "as if you're handling eggs" (as my grandmother says) because if you don't the bread will be dense and hard to eat.
Dump the dough and work it on the counter.

Divide the dough in half (kids can do this too). Next make them into ball shapes and gently pat them down until they are approximately 2 inches thick. Now you can place them on the pan and dust them with flour.

Handle like they have eggs in them: very gently.

 Bake about 30 minutes until they are golden brown. Let them cool on a rack for a few minutes. 


This is what they look like when they come out.
Cut it with a bread knife. It smells great!

The onion and cheese kept it moist on the inside but the outside was crusty. Eat it when it's warm. We had it with soup and then we had it toasted for breakfast! Yummy!!!

Don't wait until next St. Patrick's Day. Make some now!

Mar 16, 2011

Nature Note: Peepers at Last!!

It's all done with that very stretchy throat.
I realized only this last week that I had not heard spring peepers yet!! I usually hear them as early as mid-February and yet not a "peep" so far. But tonight, when letting Mr. Bingley in, I rejoiced at the chorus of little Hallelujahs coming from the neighbor's pond.
Have you ever seen 
a cuter amphibian?

Can't say what delayed them.  I don't think it was a lack of noticing on my part because with that pond close-at-hand you don't really have to try. Our bathroom faces that direction as does the back door so there's plenty of opportunity. 
Anyway, breakthrough.

   This observation does fly in the face of a study of changing animal habits attributed to global warming though.  
I was just reading the other night---in that bathroom---from the March 2011 edition of "Birdscope", a publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that long-kept nature journals by "citizen scientists" (normal people like you who don't get paid, they just like doing it) have pointed to a trend across many species of animals of ever-earlier spring habits such as migration, mating, and even peeping. Maybe my peepers are radical non-conforming peepers.

Here is a quickie fact page by The Department of Natural Resources on "pseudacris crucifer" that could help your child's (or your) nature notebook. Note the "false cross" on the back. See? A basic knowledge of Latin does pay off. I also like how this site describes the sound of many peepers peeping together like "sleighbells!" (Though at this time of the year I don't want anything to remind me of winter.)
No wonder they're hard to find.
Of course the really amazing thing about these little guys---and it is just the guys---is that peeping. I mean, look at the size of him and then consider that he can be heard so far away. That pond I've been talking about is a good hundred yards--close but not THAT close-- and I hear them clearly, even if just a few are calling.
Here's a more in-depth site that also has .wav recordings of their singing.

In the six years I've lived at this house I've never seen one and if you do, please tell me about it and how you did it. 'Cuz whenever I try to get close enough, they all go silent.  Drives me crazy. 

In the meantime, I'm ready to sleep with the window open to be "sung" to sleep!

How about you? Got Peepers?



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