Passport to Fun - Africa

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You'll remember that I came up with a pretty awesome idea for G's Christmas gift this year.

If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, then feel free to wander on over to this post to read all about it.

I'll wait.

For our fourth "trip," we headed not to a country, but a continent - and not just any continent, but the second largest one in the world, one that has more countries that we have states!

I know it's crazy to lump all those countries into one trip like this - I mean, I haven't been there (yet), but I am pretty sure that there's more diversity in them all than I can even imagine.

But to be honest, I think getting just a taste of the whole vast area right now is all my little brain can handle.  I'm pretty creative, but we just don't have a ton of resources hanging around at the moment (mainly specialized spices and such) that would make breaking the continent down further really possible.  (Not to mention, my cooking abilities!)

April:  Africa

Set the Stage

I added the next stamp to G's passport so he'd see where we were going, then left it out where he'd find it the next morning before he went to work:

What to Decorate With

The flag thing seems to be working out pretty well for us.  It's something fairly simple for Gv and I to do together, uses supplies we already have, and still lends an air of the locale.  

This month, we made a couple of different banners to greet G as soon as he got home from work.

The flags from all the countries our food was from.

I also created a tiny bit of a safari feel, by scattering Gv's relevant stuffed animals around.

Okay, so maybe only one of these animals was really all that relevant, but they got the point across.

What to Dress Like

I went with a safari theme for G (khaki pants and shirt, hat, and binoculars) and a more traditional kanga skirt and head tie for me and Gv.

Oh, G.  Those looks.  And he has the binoculars in his pocket, instead of around his neck.  Meanwhile, Gv insisted on holding her toy sword in this photo, thus making her bandana "head scarf" look more pirate-like than African.  We're both rocking authentic batik-print fabric, though, so that should count for something...

Gv and I also made a set of tribal necklaces and bracelets to complete our ensemble.

It took just one paper plate and one empty toilet paper roll to make these, since Gv's neck is smaller than mine and I could give her the portion of the paper plate I'd just cut out.  I hacked the TP roll in half, so we'd each have a bracelet.  Gv decorated hers all by herself, but then asked for me to add circles and lines to her necklace so it'd match mine.

What to Listen to

I've got over 3 hours of African music on my ipod.

My favorites are from the music label I talked about here:
 (African Playground, Africa, and Women of Africa).

But we also really like this album and of course this one seemed mandatory, as did this song and this one, both of which I've always loved.

What to Eat

One of our favorite restaurants in town is an Ethiopian place, so I planned to model most of the food after their menu, but ended up discovering some interesting new dishes from other parts of the continent to try instead.

I did still consider making Doro Wat (Ethiopia's signature dish) using my own Berbere spice, but then went a different route.

And even though we love this Tunisian Sweet Potato Dip that I've shared before, I wanted us to have the chance to try new things for this trip, so I left it off the menu.

I started off with a snack course of Akara (from Nigeria) and Tanzanian Samosas, then served Moroccan stew with some Injera (from Ethiopia) for the main, finishing things up with two desserts from South Africa: Bar-One Cake and Pampoenkoekies.

This was definitely my most ambitious menu to date (it took pretty much an entire day to prepare all of these dishes), but luckily, it was all worth it (that doesn't always happen when you try new recipes, you know!)

We'd never had the starter and dessert dishes before - and I must say, they were some of the yummiest things I've ever made!

Akara (Nigeria)

These little balls of deliciousness were my absolute favorites and I will definitely be making them again!

What You Need

1/2 pound black-eyed peas (although I discovered we were out of them, so I substituted chick peas & it turned out fine)

2 onions

salt & pepper

oil for frying (I used this palm shortening, since it's good for frying)

2 tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup fresh parsley

What You Do

1.  The beans need to be peeled, which is a pain, but an easy-ish way to do this is:

  • Soak the beans in water 5 minutes.
  • Put them in a blender with enough water so the beans can move around.
  • Pulse everything 10 seconds at a time for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour it all into a big bowl with enough water so the bean coat will float to the top.
  • Skim this off with one of these (my bean skins didn't float all that well, so I'd stir the mess up and then catch the coverings that swirled around).

2.  Soak the remaining bean pieces in plenty of water overnight (in the fridge).

3.  Pulse one onion in something like this, then add the drained beans and process it until it turns into a thick paste.

4.  Fry ping-pong-sized balls of this paste in hot oil until golden brown.

5.  Process remaining onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley and some salt and pepper to make a dipping sauce for these little balls of yumminess.

Samosas (Tanzania)

Another winner - thank goodness I at least took this fuzzy photo right before we ate them - because we gobbled up all 16 right away!

What You Need


2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 Tablespoons oil

pinch of salt

warm water


1 diced sweet potato

1 diced onion

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

3 minced garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon curry

oil for frying (I used this palm shortening, since it's good for frying)

What You Do

1.  Make the wrapper:  mix the flour, oil, and a pinch of salt, then add a little water at a time until it forms a pliable dough.

2.  Cover and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, make the filling:  boil the potatoes until they're soft.

4.  Cook the onion, carrot, ginger and garlic in a little oil until soft.

5.  Stir in the chili powder and curry and allow to cool a bit.

6.  Divide the chilled wrapper dough into two pieces, then roll one piece out onto a floured surface and use the backside of these to cut out disks.  Repeat with the other hunk of dough, which should give you about 15 disks in all.

7.  Drop about 2 Tablespoons of the veggie mixture onto a circle of dough, then clamp down the dough press to seal.

8.  Fry the samosas until crispy and golden brown.

Injera (Ethiopia)

What You Need

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

4 teaspoons baking powder (are you making your own?)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups water (preferably soda water, but I just used plain)

What You Do

1.  Mix up all the dry ingredients, then add in the water.

2.  Heat a skillet (I coated the bottom with a thin layer of oil, which I highly recommend) and then pour enough batter in to just cover the bottom (although I suggest making your circle slightly smaller than the diameter of your pan, just to make it easier to get the bread up when it's done).

3.  When you see bubbles on the top and it doesn't seem completely wet any more, it's done.  Unlike pancakes, you just cook these on one side, not both.

Moroccan Stew (Morocco)

What You Need

1 chopped onion

3 minced garlic cloves

1 can butternut squash

1 cup chunked carrot

1 cup crushed tomato

4 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups dry (but pre-soaked overnight) chickpeas

1 cup couscous (although I used millet)

1/2 teaspoon salt

What You Do

1.  Dump everything in a crock pot and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

2.  Garnish with parsley, if you're feeling fancy.  After cooking up all this food, I was over fancy and just slopped it all into a bowl.  

It tasted just as good that way.

Pampoenkoekies (South Africa)

We did not finish all of these in one sitting...but that's only because we decided they would make the perfect breakfast "donuts" the next morning!

What You Need

1 cup pumpkin

2 eggs

1 cup whole wheat flour

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (did you make your own yet?)

1/2 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon lemon juice

oil for frying (I used this palm shortening, since it's good for frying)

cinnamon sugar mixture

What You Do

1.  Beat the eggs, then add in the pumpkin.

2.  Mix in everything else (except the oil and cinnamon sugar) to make a thick batter.

3.  Fry tablespoon-sized balls of batter in hot oil, flipping when golden brown on the bottom.

4.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bar-1 Cake (South Africa)

What You Need

A batch of my Coconut Milk Caramels

1 pound chopped chocolate (divided)

1/3 cup water

1 1/2 sticks soft butter

1/2 cup honey

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (here's another chance to make your own)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 chopped Milky Way bars (although I used 8 mini Snickers)

6 Tablespoons milk

What You Do

1.  Cook up the caramel recipe, but instead of sticking it all in the fridge to cool, just leave it out until you're ready to add it to the cake.

2.  Melt 3/4 pound of the chocolate and the 1/3 cup of water until smooth.

3.  Beat the butter and honey until creamy, then add in eggs, one at a time.

4.  Stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla.

5.  Gently fold in the flour, cacao, baking powder, and salt.

6.  Coat two 8x8 baking dishes with butter, pour half the cake batter into each one, then bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.

7.  Cool 30 minutes and then spread the top of one cake with the caramel mixture.

8.  Invert the other cake on top of this.

9.  Melt 1/4 pound of chocolate, the chopped candy bars and milk until smooth, then pour over cakes.

What to Do

We started off by each creating a tribal mask (see ideas here, here and here).

This is the mask I made. G and Gv made one together, but now I can't find it to take a picture of...

Next, we beat some drums.

Then, we played a couple of games.  

One was Mancala (find out how to play here).  We used an egg carton and pompoms to create our own game board and playing pieces.

Then, we got out our Othello game and followed that up with a round of checkers, since those both seemed similar to the traditional Egyptian Seega game that I read about.

What to Watch

I gathered three movie selections for G to choose from this evening:  Out of Africa, The African Queen, and Madagascar

We watched Madagascar first, then Out of Africa after Gv went to sleep.  We're planning to watch The African Queen in a couple of days.

Other movies you might want to watch (if you're doing this for a date night) are The Last King of Scotland, Hotel Rwanda, or The Constant Gardener.

And, of course, there's always this movie or this one, too.

And that wrapped up our fourth "trip" together for the year.  It was another huge success and we can't wait to jet off to someplace new next month!

Travel all over the world, without leaving your living room!  Come back each month to see where we head next.  Can you think of any other ideas to add for a trip to Africa?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Also, if you don't want to miss a single minute of great tips like this and all the fun around here, be sure to sign up for free updates and then look forward to having each post delivered right to your inbox.

Want more?  Check out some of our other trips:

Italy - India - France -  Ireland - Switzerland - Canada Greece England Germany Thailand - Russia China - Jamaica Egypt - Mexico - Japan - Brazil Cuba Scotland - Australia - Scandinavia

Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version?  Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!

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