For the past couple of years we started giving our family one big gift instead of small individual gifts.
We still buy them a book for their own personal library and the pajamas continue to be a yearly tradition (really the only time they get new pajamas!) along with stockings on Christmas day.
But, as for individual gifts?
A family gift is much easier on me, the shopper.
It is usually something big that we could not otherwise justify spending money on.
The family gift is usually something that will make family memories which last a lot longer than a toy!
This year we bought tickets to go see the broadway version of
The Lion King.
It was playing at the Orpheum in San Fransisco during the months of December and January and so I bought us seats in the Mezzanine and enjoyed a night on the town.
So, why the picture of rice at the top of this post?
That is no ordinary rice!
That is a traditional Liberian (actually well known throughout West Africa) dish called Jollof.
My recipe is a variation of a few different online recipes that I have found for Jollof.
It is mainly rice that is added to a simmering pot of tomatoes, veggies, spices, and meats.
Very easy to make and very good when I tell you what makes it so beautifully orangish-red.
But, first, let me tell you what we liked about The Lion King!
The Lion King was not my first choice. I really wanted to take the kids to see Wicked but it is so 'popular' (pun intended!) making the price to see this musical way out of our budget.
Did you not get the pun? Well, visit here and find out what I'm talking about!
So, The Lion King was our next choice and Foley and Brown Sugar in particular really wanted to see this musical.
Have you heard about it yet? Have you seen the pictures of the animal puppets?
That pretty much sums it up.
I walked away from the production having an appreciation for the art of puppetry.
These actors and actresses not only sang and danced, which is hard enough, but also had to move around with a puppet attached to them.
The sets were beautiful and very African.
Of course, the experience of taking BART under the bay to San Francisco and walking up to the street level and seeing the Orpheum marquee is quite fun in and of itself.
Enjoying the architecture of the old building is another treat.
But, when the stage fills with 'animals' of every shape and size and you hear familiar music you can't help but get excited and be amazed at the artistry before you.
I like themes.
I like staying within a theme and creating a fun event for my family.
So, I was looking for all sorts of creative ways to keep the African theme going for our special trip.
I tried to find some African restaurants but we have a limited budget and
with the cost of the tickets and BART we decided to forego spending money eating out.
So, I made a big pot of Jollof rice and as a snack during intermission we had dried mangos and bananas. Plantains would have been preferred but I couldn't find any already dried.
Here is the recipe for the Jollof.
By the way, I use Red Palm Oil from Liberia.
Here is a link to Tropical Traditions where you can find out more about the benefits of this particular oil. Red Palm Oil is a rare (in the U.S.) but beneficial oil.
So, if you are wanting to add a healthy supplement to your family's diet please go and read.
2 lbs cooked meats (chicken, fish, smoked pork, shrimp, or a combination)
1/4 cup Red Palm Oil
1/2 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ginger
1/4 cup Red Palm Oil
1 16oz can diced tomatoes (at least 2 cups)
2- 6oz cans tomato paste
2 quarts water
1 Tb salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups white rice
5 cups chicken stock or water to cook rice in
Sauté cooked meat in 1/4 cup of Red Palm Oil
In a 4 quart pot saute' the onions, peppers, and ginger in a 1/4 cup of Red Palm Oil.
When onions are soft add tomatoes and simmer for five minutes.
Add tomato paste, water, salt, black pepper, thyme, crushed red pepper, and meat.
Simmer for twenty minutes or longer.
In a 2 quart saucepan cook rice in stock until tender.
Combine meat sauce with rice when rice has cooled a bit.
Add seasoning if needed.
I will add that the fish really adds a wonderful flavor to this dish.
I made it with chicken, fish and bacon combined for my meat choice.
Such great flavors.
Obviously, for our family, all of the above were organic.
It was not hard to find all of these ingredients although Red Palm Oil isn't just something you find on the shelf of your local grocery store.
Your health food store might not even carry it!
Before we brought Foley and Brown Sugar home we met a Liberian woman who lives in our area.
She made us a Liberian feast and used Red Palm Oil in almost every part of her cooking.
She said that when they are not using it for cooking they boil it down, cool it off, and use it as a moisturizer for their skin.
The shelf life of Red Palm Oil is pretty much indefinite if it is kept in a cool, dark place.
I am still using some from six years ago!
It has a very interesting odor to it and is an orangish-red color.
I hope you will try it out sometime...it is a great way to add some spice and color and vitamins to a dish.