Most families don't get to add a stamp to their passports during spring break, but that doesn't mean the time off from school should be spent devoid of the culture and learning that travel that can promote. We suggest letting your children get a taste of worldly traditions from the comfort of your own kitchen. Convert the canteen to a classroom by pinning up a map of the world and diving fork-first into the world of international cuisine. To help with geography lessons, explore country-specific information from the CIA's World Factbook at www.cia.gov.
To get you started, we picked six regional recipes (one for each night of this week's break!) from Matthew Locricchio's The International Cookbook for Kids (Marshall Cavendish, $18.95) and The Second International Cookbook for Kids (Marshall Cavendish, $18.99).
Happy eating -- or should we say: buon appetito, sihk faahn, bon appétit or kalí óreksi!
The big boot of a country isn't just known for its pizza and pasta -- Italians also know their desserts.
Landmarks: The Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City
Food from the world's most populous country -- and also the fourth largest geographically -- was made famous in the U.S. for takeout and fortune cookies. Make this classic dish at home, but don't forget the chopsticks.
Landmarks: Mount Everest (on China's border with Nepal), Great Wall of China
Dress to the nines in horizontally striped shirts and berets to honor this dish that, while simple, is très delish.
Landmarks: Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Louvre Museum
The small country -- its landmass is slightly smaller than Texas -- is known as a melting pot of Asian culture and food. Rice dishes are common here, as the grain is one of its major exports.
Landmarks: Wat Pho, Grand Palace, Bridge Over the River Kwae
Be sure to have a glass of water ready -- India is known for its curry with a kick, and this chicken is sure to clear up your sinuses.
Capital: New Delhi
Landmarks: Taj Mahal, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate
This Greek dessert is easy to whip together but still unforgettable. Step up the authenticity by opting for Greek yogurt --usually made from whole sheep or cow milk for a creamier blend.
Landmarks: Acropolis of Athens, The Agora, Temple of Poseidon
Cold sesame noodles, or liang mian
1/2 pound angel-hair pasta
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 green onion
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander, then toss with 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Place the ingredients for the dressing in a quart jar with a lid, and shake until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Mince the green onion, measure about 1/4 cup, and refrigerate. Measure out the chopped peanuts, and toast the sesame seeds in an oven or a toaster oven 4 to 5 minutes.
4. To serve, arrange the cold pasta on a serving platter. Pour the dressing over the pasta and sprinkle the green onion, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds on top.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 345 calories, 18 grams fat, 36 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, no cholesterol, 649 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber and 46 percent of calories from fat.
Yogurt and honey with strawberries, or yaourti me fraoula con meli
2 cups fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups plain yogurt or Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or whole shelled pistachios
1. Wash the strawberries and drain them in a colander, tossing lightly to remove excess water. Cut away any dark spots or soft brown sections from the berries. Remove the stems. The tip of a teaspoon works well for this.
2. Slice the strawberries in quarters and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes. Combine the yogurt and honey in another bowl. Be careful not to overmix. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Remove the fruit and yogurt. Stir the fruit to combine the strawberries and their juice together. You will need 6 individual serving dishes or tall dessert glasses. In each one, spoon enough strawberries in the bottom to fill 1/4 of the serving dish. Add a tablespoon of the yogurt mixture. Add more fruit and another layer of yogurt.
4. Top with nuts and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 204 calories, 5 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 60 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber and 19 percent of calories from fat.
Chocolate and walnut cake, or torta al cioccolato con noci
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter
3 teaspoons plain breadcrumbs
1 cup chopped walnuts
8 to 10 ounces milk chocolate with almonds
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar plus 1 tablespoon for decorating
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the bottom of the pan. Tip the pan and slowly rotate in a circle, allowing the breadcrumbs to evenly cover the entire surface, sides and bottom. Carefully tap out excess breadcrumbs and discard. Set the pan aside.
3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside.
4. Pour the chopped walnuts onto a sheet of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, crush the walnuts into a coarse powder, but don't overdo it. You still want chunks of walnut left. Empty the walnuts into a bowl.
5. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and add to the walnuts. Add 1 1/3 cups of the confectioners' sugar. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well.
6. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and add the vanilla and orange juice. Beat the eggs on high speed for about 30 seconds, using an electric hand mixer.
7. Add the walnut-chocolate mixture to the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Add the melted butter and give the batter a few more stirs. Do not overmix.
8. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes. The cake is done when the middle is firm to the touch and the sides have just begun to pull away from the pan. (After it is baked, the cake will settle to about 1 inch thick.)
9. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack. Let cook for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the sides. Place a dish that is larger than the pan on top. Using hot pads, if you need them, turn the cake pan and dish upside down. The cake should slip down onto the dish. Place the cooling rack on top of the cake and turn the cake over again. Now let it cool completely.
10. To decorate, place the remaining 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar in a hand strainer. Lightly tap the strainer over the cake and let the sugar snow across the top. Or use a shaker and lightly sprinkle the cake with the confectioners' sugar.
11. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 6 servings: 525 calories, 31 grams fat, 55 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 145 milligrams cholesterol, 124 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber and 51 percent of calories from fat.
Spicy chicken, or bhooni murgh
3 1/2 pounds (about 10 pieces) of skinless drumsticks and skinless thighs, preferably organic
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
The spice mix:
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (available at grocery stores)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. Wash the chicken pieces and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place the chicken in a bowl large enough to hold all the pieces.
2. Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl. Add the spice mix to the chicken and, using a large spoon, toss well to evenly coat the pieces.
3. Slightly crush the garlic by laying the flat side of a chef's knife on the clove and pressing firmly to break open the skin. Remove the skin, cut off the stem end, and discard. Chop the garlic, measure 1 teaspoon, and add to the chicken.
4. Cut the lime in half, squeeze the juice into a small bowl, measure 2 teaspoons, and add to the chicken.
5. Toss the chicken pieces a second time with the spoon and marinate for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
6. Lightly oil an ovenproof baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces and set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
7. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Using a pair of tongs, place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle the oil over the chicken and roll the pieces back and forth until they are evenly coated.
8. Place the chicken in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked to the bone. Serve hot or cold.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 398 calories, 21 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 45 grams protein, 171 milligrams cholesterol, 901 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber and 49 percent of calories from fat.
Ham and cheese crunches, or croque-monsieur
8 slices thin sandwich bread
4 slices smoked or boiled ham (1 ounce each)
4 ounces Gruyère or Swiss cheese
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut away the crusts of the bread with a sharp knife. Discard the crusts. Lay 4 of the slices on a small baking sheet.
3. Cut the ham so it neatly fits on the slices of bread, with none extending over the sides. You will probably have more than one layer of ham, but that is OK.
4. Grate the Gruyère or Swiss cheese into a small bowl. Add the milk and combine with the cheese.
5. Spoon one-quarter of the cheese mixture on top of the ham on one sandwich, and cover with a slice of bread.
6. With a pastry brush, butter the top slice. Carefully turn the sandwich over and butter the bottom slice. Repeat these steps to assemble the other sandwiches.
7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the sandwiches for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the bread just begins to brown.
8. Turn the oven to broil. Brown the sandwiches under the broiler for 1 minute on each side. If necessary, reshape the sandwiches with a spatula after you turn them, tapping in the sides like a deck of cards. Be careful not to let them burn.
9. Lift the finished sandwiches off the baking sheet with a spatula to a serving dish. Let cool for a moment, cut into quarters and serve hot.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 324 calories, 19 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 71 milligrams cholesterol, 775 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber and 55 percent of calories from fat.
Coconut rice, or khoa mun
1 1/2 cups jasmine or other long-grain white rice
2 cups (1 14-ounce can) canned unsweetened coconut milk, regular or light
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Place the rice in a bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water and, using clean hands, swirl the rice around to help remove the starch. Carefully pour off the water, but not the rice. Repeat this step 3 times.
2. Drain the rice in a metal strainer and shake off excess water. Pour the coconut milk, water, sugar and salt into a 4-quart pan. Add the rice and stir well to combine all the ingredients and help dissolve the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and let the pan stand, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 329 calories, 16 grams fat, 43 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 34 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber and 43 percent of calories from fat.