California World Music Festival

Music from everywhere this summer in California, a fun event from  July 14-17th, 2016, in Grass Valley CA!  Check this link for more information and the schedule.

Here are some of the artists playing:

The Artists of WorldFest 2016
Awa Sangho
Banana Slug String Band
Boz Scaggs
Caleen Sisk
Dana Louise & the Glorious Birds
Dead Winter Carpenters
Delhi 2 Dublin
Desirae Harp
Dirty Revival
Dustin Thomas
Earth Guardians
Elage Diouf
Emel Mathlouthi
Eva Salina
The Fearless Kin
Grass Valley Taiko
Joe Kye
Johnny Moses
Joy and Madness
Kimberley Shiningstar
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
Little Thunder
Liz Vice
Los Pinguos
Lyla June
Ma Muse
Mariachi Flor de Toloache
My Bubba
Nahko & Medicine for the People
Nano Stern
Neena McNair Family Singers
Pamela Ames
Peter Mawanga & the Amaravi Movement
Rita Hosking
Sahba Motellebi
Salt Petal
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Southern California Aztec Dancers
Tara Evonne Trudell
The Suitcase Junket
Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience
Third World
Winnemem Wintu



Playing games in other languages

What do you do when you really want to have fun speaking other languages?

Play games of course!

Why games?
Playing games in another language incorporates all of the best attributes of language instruction by utilizing  the most desired qualities of communicative language lessons—language support (scaffolding), purposeful communication, motivation, the development of linguistic competence, extensive participation opportunities for all language levels, just the right amount of repetition, feedback processing, authenticity and, lest we forget, they are fun too! All of this is incorporated into the simple activity of playing a game? Wow– perhaps playing games really isn’t so simple after all. :-)

We have done this in Spanish and French (and would love to do this in Arabic!).

Usually what we have done is to review the phrases used most during the game, create some sort of short discussion using these phrases and then jump into playing.  Sometimes we review the grammar, sometimes we don’t–it depends on the group.

Some of my favorite games to play in Spanish and French are: I doubt it,  and Resistance–both great games to use for  practicing the subjunctive, High Society, Monopoly, Apples to Apples, Timeline (absolutely love that game) Uno, Wits and Wagers–known in French as Quitte ou Double,  and an art game that I invented.:-)

The How to’s of playing these games are listed on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

My favorite game store for French games is Le Valet d’Coeur in Montreal.




Two super flavorful and easy international recipes.

Anytime children come home to visit (like this Mother’s Day weekend)  is a good time to teach them a few  simple recipes that they may not be familiar with.  Here are two quick and easy recipes that will help them explore useful flavor combinations so they can begin their own creative culinary discoveries!

This first recipe takes only 15 minutes of prep and baking–manakeesh, or also spelled manaqueesh, and pronounced like  manaeesh.

 You can make your own dough, which  everyone should learn how to make  because it is so satisfying, or to save time, just use frozen naan bread!

Warm up some frozen naan bread for 30 seconds in the microwave, then just spread a mixture of Za’atar and olive oil on top of the bread and bake at 425 for 5-10 minutes– depending on how brown you want them to be.

You can buy Za’atar in any Middle Eastern grocery store, or make your own.  It is a mix of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and sometimes a few other spices depending on who makes it.

I use equal portions (plus one or two extra teaspoons of olive oil) of Za’atar and olive oil.

bread with zaatar and....

Here is some more information about manakeesh from someone who writes beautifully about Middle Eastern food and culture


The second recipe is called Northeastern Chinese spicy and sour potatoes

A woman I knew from Manchuria taught me how to make these.  They are super delicious and introduce people to the  many uses of vinegar as a major flavor ingredient!

(Prep and cook time ½ hour—serves 2-3 people)


Northeastern Chinese Spicy and Sour Potatoes (Prep and cook time ½ hour—serves 2-3 people


2- 3 peeled potatoes, chopped into thin matchstick size pieces (any kind)

Vegetable oil

Two two-three inch small pieces of ginger–sliced into matchsticks (baby ginger is preferable, but any kind of fresh ginger will do.)

2 cloves garlic

Two-Three tablespoons Rice or White vinegar

Two-three green onions, chopped in half then sliced into thin matchstick type pieces

Two-four small dried red chili peppers (optional, but they add flavor and look good)

1 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt


Peel Potatoes and cut potatoes in matchstick sized pieces and place in bowl of cold water.

Peel ginger and slice into matchstick sized pieces.

Heat two tablespoons vegetable oil in pot.

Put peppers into pan and heat for thirty seconds.

Carefully add potatoes, (be careful of oil splashing.)  Cook for 4-5 minutes; add ginger slices and green onion and garlic.  Continue cooking (while stirring) until slices are tender—another 10 minutes.  Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar.  You want them tender.  Some of them might brown, don’t brown all of them.  Add salt and sugar mixture.  Remove from heat and eat—delicious!

Super simple international snacks revisited–with an addition!

Having had a couple of visitors with us for a recent stay reminded me about how useful it is to have some easy and delicious snacks on hand…so we’re revisiting this post for others who also might need to come up with some flavorful snacks for groups…


If you’ve ever tried Ethiopian Berbere you will understand why so many bloggers and cooks try to  sort through every food combination in their imagination to concoct new recipes that call for this special spice mix! This one works perfectly and  adds a twist to that well known cereal snack recipe.  Here is a link…  I have tried it without the soy sauce, Siracha sauce and green peas and it is still delicious.  It’s the combination of the Berbere and the honey that make it truly addictive.  Add  whatever amount of Berbere you can handle; one teaspoon might be better for those who can’t handle the heat, more for those who can. Bowls of this mix go  quickly.:-) Although the recipe here calls for microwaving the mix; baking the cereal mixture on a cookie sheet or cooking the ingredients in a large saute pan work just  as well.  Add the honey after it has been removed from the heat.

Another easy and addictive snack is the well known Chivda/Chevda snack very common in India.  There are many recipes on line for this delicious snack.  In India the ingredients used are slightly different, but the idea is the same–it is a cereal like snack.  The combination of citric acid or amchur/mango powder, tumeric, mustard seeds,cayenne and sugar is the essence of this flavor combination that makes this snack so delicious.   Who knew that  Corn flakes, Rice Krispies, and Chex cereal  could be so flavorful?

Here is a  link to give you the basic idea, but many kinds of  cereal and nuts work just as well…

Another super easy snack  to make is a simple Persian plate full of Lavash bread, French Feta, and herbs like tarreh or green onions, fresh dill,  tender green baby lettuce and other greens…Here is a link to a wonderful Persian food blog that gives you more information about this delicious and healthy appetizer.  If you live near a Middle Eastern market ask for the French Feta; it isn’t as salty and goes beautifully with these herbs….

An Iraqi breakfast combination  offers a great snack  throughout the whole day.  Get some Date syrup–Moomtaz is a good brand, although  there are many others, and Sarshir/Gaymar cream–it’s known by either name in Middle Eastern stores, and smother a piece of good warm Persian Barbari bread or warm round Arab flat bread.  And drink it down with some black tea with a hint of freshly ground cardamon and your day is complete! If you live in San Diego you can buy Barbari bread at some of the Persian markets; if you live in El Cajon head over to Valley Foods and go to the back of the store and ask for the large round freshly baked bread!

For a great Afghan snack try serving a  *Rote with green tea and cardamom.  Rote is a dry sort of snacking cake with Kalonji seeds.   A flavorful  green tea and a pinch of freshly ground cardamom makes a welcome afternoon treat!

*If you live in San Diego Rote is available at Balboa International Market; I’m not sure about it’s availability in other markets.


 Ethiopian and Persian inspired Meatball appetizers.

Use your favorite recipe for small cocktail size meatballs, but omit the seasoning (or purchase frozen meatballs and cook according to package directions), then fry them in a little vegetable oil until cooked and add one of the two sauces below.

For Ethiopian meatballs add the following ingredients to the cooked meatballs: 1/2 or more diced onions and  one small can of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water and as much *Berbere as you can handle.  Maybe 1 teaspoon for people who don’t like  their food too spicy and more for those who do.  Continue to warm cooked meatballs in sauce for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool for a few minutes then place in refrigerator and cool for several hours.  Then reheat for a minute or more in the microwave right before serving.  These meatballs are better when they have had time for the flavors to meld together while cooling in the refrigerator.

*I’ve never made my own Berbere spice mix, as the Berbere mix for sale at  Awash Market/2884  El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego, is so delicious.  But for those who don’t have a Berbere outlet in their city (how sad) here is a link to a Berbere recipe by Marcus Samuelsson, the well known Ethiopian born chef. (Once you start using Berbere you’ll want to sprinkle it on everything.)


Persian inspired cocktail sized meatballs

Use your favorite recipe for small cocktail size meatballs, but omit the seasoning (or use  frozen purchased cooked meatballs and cook according to package directions), then fry them in a little vegetable oil until cooked.  Add a few handfuls of chopped parsley and dill to the meat mixture if making your own meatballs.

To the cooked meatballs add 1 small can tomato paste, 1 teaspoon tumeric, juice from 1 lime (or more), 1/3-1/2 cup water,2-3 strands of Saffron–optional, and 2 teaspoons of *Adiveh. (I used this recipe minus the rose petals as I didn’t have any handy.) Continue to warm meatballs in sauce for 20 minutes.  Then remove from heat, cool for a few minutes, then cover and place in refrigerator for a few hours.  Like  the Ethiopian inspired meatballs above these meatballs are better upon reheating after they have cooled for several hours in the refrigerator;  they are  even better heated up the next day.

* Go to this blog of a well known Persian chef for a great Adiveh recipe as well as other wonderful Persian recipes.

 Moving on to main dishes 

For a great and speedy main dish idea…try putting the  ingredients for a Persian stuffed dolmeh/dolma into a lasagna instead!  It is easier, can be made more quickly and is still delicious–because  of the outstanding Persian flavor combination of tumeric, tomato paste,  and herbs! This dish can be made as a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish!  This should work for almost any dolmeh recipe that uses a tomato base for the sauce: Persian, Iraqi or Greek! (One of the Iraqi/Palestinian versions  uses a few pinches of citric acid in the tomato base to give the flavor just the right amount of zip.:-)  Just chop the cabbage in half and boil first until tender–about twenty minutes; then separate the leaves and use them for the lasagna base, just as you would with noodles. Try putting a little  sauce on the bottom so the cabbage leaves don’t stick; then cook  with the rest of the sauce covering the cabbage and rice and/or rice, meat and split pea layers  if making the Persian version. Cover with foil for about twenty minutes; then cook uncovered for another twenty minutes at 350 degrees.

The same idea works with the Afghan dish called Ashak or Aushak.  Gather the essential ingredients to make Ashak, and put them into a lasagne form instead of a ravioli form–this saves hours of prep time and is still delicious.   Instead of shaping and stuffing the Afghan raviolis boil the wonton wrappers separately until they are soft, delicately remove them from the boiling water; and boil the diced tarrey separately until the they are soft–this will take some of the strong bite out of the raw tarrey (or gandana as it is also called in Afghanistan.)  Then just layer the ingredients and bake until ingredients settle, maybe just fifteen minutes or so.  Add the yogurt and kashk mixture after  the dish  is removed from the oven.

Here is Farida’s original Ashak recipe  .

Aushak (also spelled Ashak;1 pan for beef, 1 pan for tomato sauce, 1 large pot for  boiling raviolis, bowl, serving platter, servings for 6—about 50 raviolis, prep and cook time 1-1/2 hours)

Ingredients for filling, tomato sauce, meat topping and yogurt sauce.


Gyoza round wrappers (2) (Hong Kong brand is the best/Ranch 99 market/far right aisle, near the produce section)

1/2 bunch cilantro

5 bunches gandana/tareh/onion chives or chopped green onions(North Park Produce, Balboa International Market on Balboa, Sahel Bazaar on Cuvier in LJ)

½ or 1 serrano chile

1  teaspoon Salt

Smashed garlic

Coriander seed ground—1 tablespoon

1 teaspoons Black pepper

½-1 teaspoon Cayenne

1/4-1/3 cup corn oil or veggie oil

For meat (optional)

1/2 pound ground beef

½ bell pepper

½ yellow pepper

½ orange pepper and Chopped tomato


For tomato sauce

5 tomatoes

Olive oil

Spices (optional cayenne, coriander, smashed garlic)

Yogurt sauce

1/2 jar dry yogurt (Another name for it is Kashk—it is sort of like a very thick liquid that comes in a jar; the Sadaf brand is very good, but I prefer the one without the cow on the front.)

1 small container of Lebne

1 teaspoon smashed garlic

A little water

Two tablespoons dried mint (or more to taste—an essential ingredient)

Directions for Ravioli filling, beef toping, tomato sauce and yogurt sauce

Chop tareh/gondena/green onions

Mix veggies up with your hand, add spices and ¼-1/3 cup oil and smashed garlic; place in large bowl.

Cook beef in oil, add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, add chopped peppers to meat and set aside

Make tomato sauce. Grate tomatoes. Add oil to pan; add tomatoes and then let them cook gently for 10- -15 minutes or so—until the oil separates from the tomatoes and add spices

Make yogurt sauce

Whisk ingredients and set aside until ready to spoon over raviolis.

Assemble raviolis/Aushak: place a teaspoon in the middle of the ravioli wrapper and fold into a half circle; moisten the edges with a tiny bit of water, and seal.

Boil water with salt and oil in water

Add raviolis to water.  They float and then they sink a little.  They are finished in 5-12 minutes—it depends on your al dente preferences. Check on them. Do not let them overcook!

Place boiled raviolis on a nice platter. Spoon yogurt sauce and or tomato sauce on top of raviolis.  Spread meat mixture on top (optional)

Enjoy plain or with good Persian bread to soak up sauce.



Cakes and cookies with flair!

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the Balboa Bakery earlier…

Gluten free is all the rage now and American bakers are working overtime to come up with new recipes for gluten free this and gluten free that. They ought to take some tips from the masters of gluten free baked goods–the Persians.  They have been baking with all sorts of flours for centuries!

The delicate rice flour cookies that melt in your mouth at the Balboa Bakery are proof that gluten free can be delicious and sophisticated.

But the rice flour cookies are just a tiny part of the large repertoire of delicious Persian baked goods–with or without gluten. The baked goods at this bakery have a nice subtle and not overly sweet bite that melts in your mouth.  They are the perfect dessert to serve with a fancy or simple dinner; or just with a cup of good cardamom tea–which is what I’m about to do right now.:-)

The very nice bakers here will help you figure out the perfect dessert choice for any occasion.

5921 Balboa Ave. San Diego, CA


Some fun and useful international gift ideas!


Looking for some fun and useful international gifts with a difference?  If you speak a language that any of your friends are studying buy a game, translate the words on the game and give it to your friend!  Or, buy a game that doesn’t contain many words and just write out the language used for the game so your friends can play and practice the language at the same time!!!

If you are looking for a French game go to   They are a wonderful game store in Montreal.  They speak English, have great service and can mail a game to you lickety-split!

If your friends and family like to cook food from other countries, buy them a cook book, make them a CD of tunes from that country, and buy them some of the spices they need to make a perfect meal! Check out the music on our web site for some music ideas!

Falafel with zip!

Falafel sandwiches--who hasn’t had one? Falafel with tahini, falafel with tzatziki–in pita bread, on a plate with lettuce and cucumber etc. etc. etc., sure they are nice–but why settle for nice when there is fantastic?  An Iraqi falafel in the hands of a food-loving Iraqi chef is perfection in a roll!  Iraqi falafel is slightly greener, slightly crispier and served smothered in amba in a fresh baked roll.  Amba is a tangy sauce made from a mango base with a curry zip.

And if you are in San Diego the perfect place to grab one of these is in El Cajon at a little restaurant called  Al Alzayem.  This is a link to their web site.  I’ll drive half an hour for one of these sandwiches!

(And–full disclosure ,I know the chef; he taught some fun cooking classes for Culture and Cuisine–but I developed a hankering for these sandwiches long before I met Chef Mazin and his wonderful family.)


Good Iced Coffee


Long before today’s coffee merchants started selling their versions of iced lattes, iced coffees and iced mochas the Vietnamese were brewing up a deeply flavorful, rich and satisfying iced coffee drink with condensed milk.  Once you try one of these versions of iced coffee, you just might want to make this your morning stop instead of you know where.:-)

In San Diego you can find these delicious coffees at most Vietnamese restaurants and sandwich shops.  My favorite place to buy this truly flavorful iced coffee has always been the Sau Voi Deli.  It’s the little sandwich shop inside Ranch 99 Market on Clairemont Mesa Blvd.–7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.  It is a little shop directly on the right as you walk in the front door. (They happen to have great sandwiches too by the way.  The vegetarian version is my favorite.)

(And long before there was the frappucino there was the New England Frappe, but that’s another story.:-)