Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hands On Schooling: Themed Dinners

We love our schooling to be hands-on. In past years there have always been suggestions for theme meals in our school curriculum but we'd only make one or two and then the year would speed up and we'd shuffle it to the side and not do it again... even though we really enjoyed it. This year I vowed to myself we wouldn't be slackers in this fun hands-on experience. We have truly loved the great way these theme dinners have enhanced our learning and involved Daddy more deeply as we center our dinner table conversation on sharing factoids and trivia from that particular time period/theme. 

We’ve had 4 theme dinners for school as we studied The Ancient World this year:
Ancient Roman

Ms. Books was in charge of the first and third meals and Sassafras was the chef for the 2nd and 4th meals. We have been lucky that there was something to like about each meal so that no meal was inedible by our plebian standards… However, the Egyptian meal has been voted our least favorite… we just aren’t accustom to such heavy spices as coriander and cumin in such copious amounts. I bet the chicken would have tasted a lot better if we’d halved their amounts for the spices.
Our Greek meal

We weren’t all huge fans of the Greek lasagna from our 3rd meal either… that was a lot of feta in that recipe and it made a gianormous amount (we share the leftovers with neighbors)...

Our Greek Meal:
3 different Greek Pasta salads
Spanikopita (cheese pies)
fresh fruit
The cheese pies were delicious, even if we didn't buy the right pastry dough. The youtube videos we watched on how to make the Spanikopita were very helpful and informative. We omitted the spinach though. We even shared the pies with our friends when they came to dinner the next night-- they deemed the pies a Ms. Books cooking success.
We loved the kabobs for our Jewish Dinner and thanks to that evening, Ms. Books and I have become hooked on hummus… yum.
Hands down though- we all vote the Roman Meal the best…
This may have just a teensy weensy bit to do with the fact that we tweaked the main dish… we made shredded pork.
And Sass put BBQ sauce on the table… our favorite way to eat shredded pork is Pork BBQ Sandwiches.
We also put strawberries on the cheesecake… we weren’t sure if they had strawberries or not in Ancient Roman times but they were on sale at the store and our weekly supply of fresh fruit is determined by sales more than theme dinners…. Upon coming home with said berries, we did a Google search and found the following: Wild strawberries abounded in ancient Rome and are mentioned in the writings of Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny the Elder….. Yay!

The school book where most of our meal ideas came from:

Our Ancient Roman Meal:
Shredded Pork
Salad (with Sun-dried Tomato Basil vinaigrette)
Hard boiled eggs
Cheesecake (known as Libum)

 At dinner the girls regaled us with factoids they’ve learned about Roman meal times: Romans ate little during the day- the morning and midday meals were very light. The evening meal, which was eaten in late afternoon, was the main meal of the day. Romans ate with their fingers— there were knives and spoons but these were used mainly for serving or you shared your set with those sitting next to you. They put pepper on everything—even dessert (we did NOT do this). Romans sweetened dishes with honey as they didn’t have sugar. Romans reclined while eating—the custom being you lean on your left arm and eat with your right hand. There were no plates- you just grabbed food with your fingers as the serving dishes came around and you may have to wait for a favorite dish as it made its way all around the table before coming back to you for another handful.
Sass enjoyed sharing this one—Roman feasts would last for hours and hours… guests would get so full that they would go outside and make themselves throw up so they could come back in and continue eating. Ick!

Roman Meal Ideas…

Please note… Sassafras is a beginner cook and she very much wanted to be in charge of the meal so instead of the following recipe- we used a boxed easy-peasy cheesecake mix- with yummy results. But if you want to be more authentic try this:
Modern Roman Libum Recipe
(serves 4)

1 cup plain, all purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it's soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg. Form a soft dough and divide into 4. Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover the cakes with your brick* and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown. Warm the honey and place the warm cakes in it so that they absorb it. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving. 


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