Learning to Trust Yourself.....

“What is that?” Her voice raised to a pitch of surprise and confusion. I looked down at my desk and saw the obvious culprit. A piece of paper with large hiragana symbols. I couldn’t find my pen and had to use my daughter’s fat crayola marker. It was supposed to be black but it was running out of ink so it looked like a child's scribbles. I looked down at the faded attempt to not fail my upcoming Japanese quiz. I pushed it towards her, dropping my head on the drafting table in quick defeat and grumbled. 

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We both started giggling at the same time.

She was the only one in my class older than me.

I met her the day of orientation. I had been dreading the day and was also overwhelmingly excited. I didn’t think that I would be “going back to school.” I knew I wanted to, but never accepted that it could be possible. One of my best friend’s described it best on the phone. “What the heck do I look like sitting next to kids fresh out of high school….I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it!” She proceeded with the theory that even though she was alive and well, her brain had died long ago and was no longer functional.


I feared the same. Had my brain turned to mush? Was I going to stand out? Would they smell “the old” on me. How can I make friends with classmates the same age as my own students? When I walked into orientation I had a quicker step, imagining that everyone would stop speaking and sense the intrusion before pointing at the hag who didn’t belong. There is something about becoming an adult and fearing not being good enough to start all over again. 

I sat next to her and mustered a fake smile. She began opening up and we were close ever since. 

A week later in our ideations class I couldn’t help the giddiness I felt. “Look at my daughter in this video!” I leaned my phone over to her. She and several other girls turned around. Wide-eyed they laughed and complimented my child’s dance in the grocery store. 

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“YOU have a daughter?” One of them shouted. “How old ARE you?” another asked in surprise.

I snickered slyly. I exposed myself and felt ready to tell my secret. They were all shocked. The teacher started speaking and break was over.

After school, she came to me. I told her I always found it refreshing being around her. 

“Yeah, because our perspective is different and we don’t have anymore time to waste.. I’ll turn 40 in 4 years, girl!” 

My mouth dropped. She was older than me?! I felt my whole body relax. Within a few minutes we poured out our life stories leading us up to this point of starting over. We both had the burning desire to bet on ourselves despite the pricking self doubt that comes with age. We had to make this work.

It was pivotal realising how I needed to erase the doubt of not being good enough I finally accepted that I belonged as much as anyone else. 

Back in class after I pushed the Hiragana paper towards her. She chuckled. “Why are you learning this?”

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“I don’t know! I just want to.” 

“Girl this is hard. I couldn’t do this.” 

I raised my head looking at her directly. “Yes you could.” 

Mofongo for the soul.

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A year ago the island of Puerto Rico was devastated by a powerful hurricane. The response from the government was lackluster, to say the least. However, the people of Puerto Rico, “Boricuas” came together and have been striving to raise awareness and rebuild ever since.

Today we feature a recipe from Pamela, a student from Puerto Rico. She chose this recipe as she felt it would show the tastes and variety of her island. She also wanted to share her grandmother’s favorite dish. Pamela wants everyone to keep Puerto Rico in the news. Even though she lives in NYC, her island is never far from her mind.

Gracias, Pamela, your recipe is truly delicious.

INGREDIENTS (for the chicken filling)

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  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and 1/4 cup minced fresh culantro (they are different herbs)

  • 1 teaspoon salt and 3 garlic cloves chopped up. and 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

INGREDIENTS (for the Mofongo)

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  • 6 green plantains, peeled and cut into small pieces

  • 2 teaspoons salt (sea salt is best)

  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (drained)

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 3/4 cup of chicken broth

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

How to Make It

Make the filling:

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over a medium heat.

Add half of chicken; sauté for 8 minutes or until browned.

Stir in onion and add the other ingredients.

Bring to the boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done.

Making Mofongo:

Place the plantains and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large Dutch oven.

Cover with water to 1 inch above plantains and let the pot stand for 20 minutes.

Drain the plantains, and return to pan.

Cover plantains with water and bring to boil over a high heat.

Reduce the heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender.

Drain the plantains and return to pan.

Mash plantains with a potato masher then stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, bacon, garlic, and broth.

Shape plantain mixture into 24 (1/2-inch-thick) patties.

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Finally……

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add 8 patties; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Serve chicken mixture over patties and enjoy!

Straddling two cultures is not an easy path...

An essay by Vashnee Ramharak

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To purposely forget your culture is like living in a sin. It’s the part of you hidden from everyone except your family. You can’t help that your parents are immigrants who don’t feel ashamed to speak whatever language they want, who don’t feel ashamed to eat their native dishes, and proud to listen to their cultural music while dancing in the kitchen singing on the top of their lungs. The traditions your family have brought from their homeland, the stories, the songs, and the food has been hidden in a box where no one can find it. It’s the one part that makes you special, unique, different, and gives you a sense of belonging that you can’t recreate in other circumstances.

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But the word different has morphed so people react with disgust when they hear it. That one word has the ability to cut you like a knife, because you let it. “She’s not like us, she’s different” is what you hear when you go out sometimes. It’s disgusting, it sounds like someone’s spitting it at your feet and accusing you for being yourself. Why can’t I be myself? Why do I need to fit in? But most importantly, why do you judge me for it? I don’t care about you, so you don’t deserve to look at me like I’m a cockroach that crawled on the table during a fancy dinner party.

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Of course, you never say these things out loud. You give a fake smile and duck your head while your cheeks heat up with embarrassment. You can feel your heart hurting and wishing your mother was here because she would never stand back while someone talked about you right in front of her. The need for acceptance amongst those who shun you blankets the feelings of homesickness, and you try harder to be someone you’re not, in a place where you don’t belong, with no one willing to help you.

So when your mother calls this weekend and asks if you’re okay, what do you say? The words are at the tip of your tongue filling up your mouth with all the hateful words that have been directed to you. Instead you forcefully swallow them, and down they go to the depths of your stomach, hitting the bottom like a large rock.

Deeeeelicioso... a tasty treat from Guatemala!

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During the holidays, tostadas are a traditional Guatemalan appetizer or snack. Nothing brings families and friends together like traditional foods that reunite us and reconnect us to our roots. Some of my favorite family memories consist of a full kitchen with everyone pitching in to create our delicious meals. While my mother worked on our dinner, my father and I would get started on the tostadas to snack on while we played Lotería. We’d gather the ingredients for the guacamole while my sister would fry the tortillas. My abuelita would slice and dice the vegetables while telling old family stories about our family members back in Guatemala. These tasty tostadas are a flavorful treat that I hope you will enjoy with your friends and family.

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Tostadas are usually topped with guacamole, refried beans, or red sauce with onions and cilantro. To save time, you may buy most of the ingredients ready-made at the supermarket. You should be able to find plain corn-tostadas instead of frying your own corn tortillas. I also recommend buying Ducal refried red or black beans which come directly from Guatemala and can be found in most grocery stores. I do, however, recommend making the red sauce from scratch as nothing else will taste quite the same.


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Ingredients
• 12 cold thin tortillas (or 12 toasted tortillas)
• Oil for frying them (I prefer olive oil)
• Red sauce
• Refried beans

• Guacamole
• Queso seco (crumbling cheese)
• Onion thinly sliced and chopped Cilantro

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Ingredients for the Guacamole
• 3-5 avocados
• ½ onion finely diced
• 1 teaspoon of oregano
• 2 limes
• salt to taste
• pepper to taste


Directions for Guacamole
Place the pulp of the avocado in a bowl and mash it with a fork until it becomes a puree, add the onion, lime juice and the rest of the ingredients.

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Ingredients for Red Sauce
• 6 large tomatoes
• 1 garlic clove
• 1 sweet pepper
• 1 small onion
• 1 tablespoon of Adobo seasoning
• 1 tablespoon of oil (veg. or olive)
• salt to taste

Directions for Red Sauce
Boil the tomatoes, onion, garlic and sweet pepper in 3 cups of water. After they are cooked remove the pan from the fire and let it cool. Blend all of the ingredients and put them through a sieve.
In a large pan heat the vegetable oil, add the sauce, the adobo and salt to taste and bring it to a boil stirring it until it thickens.

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Ingredients for Refried Beans
• 2 cups of cooked black beans
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

• 1 finely chopped garlic clove
• 2 tbsp. of oil (veg. or olive)

• a pinch of black pepper

• salt to taste

Directions for Refried Beans
Heat a little oil in a large skillet. Reserve a couple tbs of the chopped onion and add the rest to the oil in the skillet. Cook until the onion is just becoming translucent and add the chopped garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions become well-browned or golden, then transfer to a blender. Add the cooked beans and their liquid and puree. Heat a little more oil in the skillet and pour in the pureed bean mixture. Cook on medium heat and stir until they acquire the desired consistency.


Fry the tortillas in oil until crispy. Transfer to paper covered plates to absorb any residual oil. Once they have cooled down spread some with guacamole, some with refried beans and some with salsa. Garnish with thin slices of onion, queso seco and cilantro. Enjoy!

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Yummy Yemeni Saltah

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Lasmia comes from Yemen,  the city of Ta’iz to be precise, but war and famine drove her family out.  Her once proud city lies in complete ruins, all semblance of a normal life gone. Having to flee for their lives, Lasmia and her family left with very few possessions. In reality, she thought she would be home again within a few months.  That was 7 years and 5 countries ago.  Now she has accepted that her home is gone, and that NYC is where she must rebuild.  Lasmia is grateful to America for opening a door to her, but is also scared and saddened that it has now closed the doors to many of her family and friends.

lasmia loves to cook, for her it is a link to her past, to her heritage and country.  She says that a cook is lucky, because traditional recipes are part of your soul and one can steal them from you. Here Lasmia shares a favourite dish with you.  Please enjoy!

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Ingredients: 

1lb of ground beef or lamb

1/4 cup of vegetable oil.

2 chopped onions and 2 chopped tomatoes 

4 potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

5 cups of broth with added salt and pepper

2 large eggs, beaten

A handful of cilantro and fenugreek seed paste and zhug (a Middle Eastern pesto) 2 tbps

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  1. Heat the oil in  a pan that holds 3 quarts saucepan at medium heat.
  2. Add all the meat and onions into the oil, stirring often for approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Add  the cubed potatoes,  chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and broth.
  4. Bring to boil and then turn it down and let it simmer  for 1 hour or until meat and potatoes are well cooked, add water if it is needed.
  5. Stir in eggs and cilantro, making sure to mix them well..
  6. Cook for a few minutes more and then remove from the heat. Finally add the zhug and fenugreek paste.

Enjoy your taste of Yemen!

 

Back to School Mama!

The heat may continue, but for many, back to school has started. Kids have shiny new back packs and new haircuts. They are eager to go back and see their friends, and parents are so excited to gain back some time.

This year, however, FeLT is excited to be sending more mothers back to school. we will be opening more classes in NYC, of course keeping the cost for students at ZERO. As educators we are excited to meet our new students and to start on a journey into the unknown, because that is what language and literacy learning is!  This year we want #NoMamasLeftBehind we want to celebrate immigrant and refugee learners.

Want to help? Pop over to our donation page and give a buck or two, or pop to our contact page and leave a message of hope or good luck!

so, welcome class of 2019...... we cannot wait to meet you all!

Daigaku Imo... yum!

My name is Azumi and I am from Kagoshima Prefecture. It’s the southern most part of Japan and  used to be called Satsuma Prefecture. 

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Back In good ol’ Kagoshima we have a distinct and rich food culture. We are known for fresh fish  and some of the best meat and poultry in the world. One of my favorite foods, that first comes to mind when I think of home, is sweet potatoes or as we call them "Satsuma Imo (Satsuma is the former Kagoshima prefecture and imo means potato in Japanese)" .

We produce varieties of sweet potatoes and are the largest producer in Japan. We use Satsuma Imo in so many different ways - tempura, Japanese and Western sweets, alcohol, snacks and much much more.

Today I am going to introduce you a receipt using sweet potatoes called "Daigaku Imo - candied sweet potato". Daigaku means university and there are a few different stories about the origin of why we call it “Daigaku Imo”. I challenge you to discover this for yourself. Let’s Enjoy Satsuma Imo!

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  • 500g Sweet Potatoes  (preferably Japanese type)
  • Toasted Black or White Sesame or both - 1tsp
  • Frying Oil
  • Candy Syrup
  • Sugar - 5 tbsp
  • Soy Sauce - 1 tsp 
  • Rice Vinegar - 1 tsp

1. Wash sweet potatoes and cut diagonally into 1 and a half inch chunks.

2. Soak the pieces in the water for about 10 minutes. 

3. Pour enough oil to cover the sweet potatoes into a sauce pan. 

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4. Heat oil to a 350 F. or until oil is shimmering.

5. Meanwhile dry the potatoes with a paper towel

6. Carefully spoon chunks into oil and deep fry until cooked through (about 8-10min)

5. Heat all the candy syrup ingredients in a separate  pan over  medium heat and stir until thickened.

6. Strain  potatoes, pat them dry with paper towel and add to syrup to coat.

7. Remove to serving plate or bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot or cooled to room temperature 

 

Tanoshii!!! (Enjoy!!!)

Bourekas, the perfect small snack.....

Noga came to the US when she was a child, it was a big change for her.  She had to adapt to a new country, a new language and all kinds of new foods.  It took time, and was not always fun filled, but she eventually thrived in her new life.

Noga has been an immigrant twice, first as a child, but then as an adult when she moved to Colombia for many years.  The experiences of travel and language learning have given her a unique insight into multiculturalism and she directs the academics at FeLT with this at the forefront.  Noga, is a proud American, but also a proud Israeli, and when she thinks of Israel, she thinks of food.... here she shares her favorite recipe with us..... a simple, but stunning dish from the middle East.

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Bourekas - Ingredients:

4 sheets of puff pastry (2 boxes)
1 packet baby spinach
1 packet cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 egg or olive oil
Sesame seeds

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  • Defrost the puff pastry. 
  • Sauté the baby spinach until soft.
  • Mix the cooked baby spinach with the cream cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut each puff pastry sheet into 6 rectangles.  Place a dollop for the spinach/cheese mixture in the middle of each rectangle.
  • Close each rectangle and pinch the sides closed.  Use cold water to make sure each rectangle is closed tight.
  • Place on a greased baking sheet.  
  • Brush each boureka with a bit of egg wash or olive oil.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  • Bake on 420 degrees Farenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Cool and enjoy!
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The Future is Female

Last week, our founder took part in an amazing panel at the Immigrant Arts Summit in Manhattan. Speaking alongside amazing company, Ruth Messenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mickela Mazzolli, Aizzah Fatima and Lindsay Beyerstein.  Together the women discussed how immigrants and women are changing the landscape of activism, and taking their own destiny into their hands.

Photo credit: David Anthony Photography

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My Decision as a Young Person To Volunteer with FeLT by Julia Majesky

As my eighteenth birthday is a year away, I am no stranger to feeling helpless in such a tense political climate. For many young people and undocumented people alike, it is frustrating to have to stand by idly and watch those who are ‘allowed’ to take political action as well as elected officials make decisions about the future of the country that we live in. This being said, the remorse that I felt as I watched things in our country escalate to the harshest of extremes, and I watched people being mistreated more and more everyday. So, when the opportunity to help volunteer with FeLT, I was beyond ecstatic.

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Today, more and more young people are taking advantage of the resources they have around them to help impact change. These young people, these teenagers, are helping people like myself to realize that just because they can’t vote, they can still do things to help make a positive change. As a young person, I’ve made it my job to start early, to take action when action must be taken, and that starts with FeLT.

Earlier this year, I went on a school trip to Nepal, where we taught photography lessons to children in a small village off of Khathmandu. While I was there, I saw how eager students could be to learn, as opposed to those who sit beside me in my SAT prep class.

Education (in it’s many forms) is one of the most important things that this world has to offer, and whatever I can do to support, and provide whatever skills I may have in supporting those who wish to educate themselves.

Because it's all about the Bouillabaisse............

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In America people think that French food is fancy, but to me it is about quality and freshness.  It is also about the beauty and nature of my country.  Fresh vegetables from the fields and fresh fish from the seas.  I love to cook food that reminds me of home,  food that takes time and needs love to make it delicious.  Here I share my favorite recipe from home, Bouillabaisse..... I hope you take the time to cook and enjoy it!  Vive La France... oh, and if you like wine, a nice cold white wine from France will make this dish sing.

 

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2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 finely chopped onions, and fennel

Crush garlic, 2 cloves

1 full tbsp of tomato puree

of dry white wine

750ml of fish stock

6 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped

Pinch of saffron & Shredded Basil

I small orange (zest and juice)

1kg of mussels (cleaned)

350g of Cod and two filets of sea bass

200g of crayfish (without shells)

Salt and Pepper

 

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  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add the onion and fennel and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato purée and stir for half a minute. Add the wine, stock and tomatoes. Bring up to the boil, add the saffron, basil and orange. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. Add the mussels, turn in the pan and cover with a lid. Boil for about 4 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. Throw away any that have not opened. Take the pan off the heat. 

  3. Carefully take out the cooked mussels. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a small bowl. Throw away the basil stalks.

  4. Blend the soup until completely smooth, transfer to a saucepan and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes to reduce.

  5. Season with salt and pepper and add the juice from half the orange. Add the cod and seabass, cover and gently simmer for 3–4 minutes, then return the cooked mussels, reserved mussels in shells and the crayfish tails and heat for another 2–3 minutes, or until piping hot and all of the fish is cooked.

Inspiring Immigrants.... Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to become Secretary of State in 1996 and remains a strong voice in politics and public life.

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Her family came to the US from Czechoslovak in 1948 when she was only 11 years old. They fled the communist government that had taken hold of their country. However, this wasn’t her first time living in a strange country. During WWII, she spent 2 years as a refugee in London, escaping Nazi aggression in Europe.

On arrival in The US, the Albright family lived in Long Island, before relocating to Denver, where her father was offered a job.

in spite of all these moves, she was able to earn many academic degrees, including a PH.D. Her professional achievements include being U.S Ambassador to the U.N, the aforementioned Secretary of State and a whole host of board chairmanships, advisory roles with prominent officials and organisations.

for more information of this incredible immigrant women, go to www.biography.com

Stuffed Grape Leaves, a real Turkish delight....

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Dilsemi comes from Turkey, but her desire to expand her horizons and become an English teacher led to her seeking pastures new.  She still misses home and knows that food is a great comforter.  Dilsemi kindly shared her story and recipe with us, so that you could also have a taste of this wonderful dish.

This dish could be made with cabbage leaves or with meat as well, but this one is my favorite dishes, and since I left Turkey, I miss it so so much. I promise you’ll roll your eyes with enjoyment. I hope you’ll make it and enjoy it as much as I do!!!

 

Ingredients:

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  • 1 package of vine leaves

  • 2  & 3/4 cups white rice

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided

  • 1 tablespoon pepper paste or additional tablespoon of tomato paste

  • 1 lemon, sliced

  • Fresh parsley

  • Paprika powder

  • Dried mint

  • Pepper and salt

  • 1 vegetable stock cube

 

 

  1. Rinse the rice well.

  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the rice and fry quickly. Add the tomato and pepper paste and stir everything together well. Fry for about a minute.

  3. Add parsley, paprika powder, mint, pepper, and salt. Use a bit more than you would usually do because in the boiling process, part of the flavor will evaporate. Stir well and take the pan off the heat. You are going to fill the vine leaves with uncooked rice. The rice will be cooked later with the vine leaves. Leave the mixture to cool down.

  4. In the meantime, take the vine leaves from the package and carefully take them apart. Rinse them one by one.

  5. Put all the leaves in a pan with boiled water (not on the stove) and leave them for five minutes. Drain.

  6. Take a large pan and put some olive oil on the bottom. Put a few broken vine leaves on the bottom of the pan. This will stop the sarma from sticking to the pan.

  7. Now you can start rolling the vine leaves. Use a cutting board to put the vine leaves on. On one side of the board, put the pan with the rice mixture and put a plate with vine leaves and on the other side to put the sarma in.

  8. Take a vine leave and put it on the cutting board with the veins up. Cut or break the stem off carefully. Put a little bit of the rice mixture onto the bottom of the leaf. Make sure you leave some space between the rice and the end of the leaf. Take the two lowest ends of the leaf and fold them over the rice. Do the same for the left and the right end of the leaf. Then roll up the leaf tightly from the bottom to the top. The first ones will be a bit difficult, but after a few you will know how to do it.

  9. Put the sarma into the pan and repeat the same steps for the other vine leaves. Make sure that you put the sarma close to each other in the pan. If they are too loose, the rolls can open while cooking. If the bottom of the pan has been filled, you can put the next sarma on top of the others.

  10. When you have finished all the sarmas, cut a lemon into slices. Put the slices on top of the sarmas and put a plate, turned upside-down on top of that. This will prevent the sarmas from opening while boiling.

  11. Mix boiling water with a tablespoon of tomato paste and a stock cube. Pour the water into the pan until the plate is just under water. Put the pan on the stove and bring to boil.

  12. Leave the sarmas to simmer for 45 minutes on low heat. It is important that you use a pan that is big enough because the sarmas will get bigger while boiling. The rice increases in volume when it is cooked.

  13. Turn off the heat after 45 minutes and leave the sarmas in the pan with a lid on (without draining the water) for at least 30 more minutes.

 

 

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Building Communities, not Walls!

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Team FeLT stepped out in the scorching heat this weekend, to stand in support of #FamilyReunification . FeLT believes that immigrants enrich our lives and that families belong together.  We are proud to live in a city that welcomes immigrants, migrants and refugees.

Kara-age (Japanese Fried Chicken) 唐揚げ

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Mami is from Japan and she wanted to share a favorite recipe from home. Kara-age!

For Mami, this was a favorite dish when she was a kid and now she cooks it for her kids, and of course they love it!  For Mami, this is a dish that reminds her of home, even though she is oceans away.

Mami's mother would make the dish on special occasions, such as birthdays, sports days, Christmas or New Year.  Mama says that the best thing about this recipe is that you really don't need special ingredients to cook it!

 

Ingredients:

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  • 500g of chicken (thighs or, for taste, wings)
  • A dash of white wine
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 cm of ginger
  • 5 tbsp (or more as needed) soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil.
  • cornflour

Marinate the chicken in the wine, soy, garlic, ginger and sesame oil for a minimum of 2 hours. If you can leave it overnight, even better!

Put the oil into a deep pan and heat until bubbling.

Coat the chicken in cornflour and carefully place into the oil to lightly fry.  

Serve and enjoy! See, simple, or as they say in Japan, 簡単, easy!

 

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And that’s a wrap!

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On Tuesday we held our final graduation ceremony, that is a total of three!  Our students proudly accepted their certificates and beautiful gifts (kindly donated).  There were smiles, tears and cheers of joy as each student celebrated passing their first Literacy class.  The students made us an incredible feast.... really tasty!

so our classes are now officially on summer vacation, but we have huge plans, so watch this space! 

Graduation 2018

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This weekend we celebrated a major milestone.  We had the first FeLT students graduate from their classes, English Language and Literacy Empowerment.  In three separate ceremonies, 52 FeLT students graduated.  Our students come from 12 countries and are all immigrants, refugees or Dreamers...... or, in our words, heroes!

It was a wonderful celebration, with certificates for the students, amazing backpacks stuffed with gifts, from books to soaps to chocolate to pens... so many presents the students were overwhelmed by the love.

FeLT is so proud of each and every student and we cannot wait until our classes return in fall!

From Russia with (yummy) love..........

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When I first came to America I had three jobs.  That was just what I needed to do.  Making money in America is not like the movies.  My language skills were very bad and I didn't know any skills.  I got a job with an agency as a home attendant in Manhattan.  I worked with some very friendly ladies but they all spoke Russian, this was not helpful for me.

I would come home from work and spend a little time with my children, but they were fast becoming American.  Sometimes they forgot Russian words, and they were often frustrated with me because I didn't know English well enough.  It was a new battle, my children didn't want to be immigrants, they wanted to be American.  I wanted them to love both countries.  It was a bad time.

I used to remember visiting my grandmother each winter, just before the New Year.  We would sit in her kitchen and together we would make Pelmeni, this is a dumpling from Russia and one that we eat for the New Year celebrations.  My grandmother would tell me about her life, not just the history, the gossip, she always knew everything about everyone, while we rolled and filled the dumplings. This was a favorite way for me to connect with my grandmother, I don't know if I appreciated it at the time.  Now I take one afternoon every two weeks, and with my children, we sit at the table and roll Pelmeni.  They tell me about their lives and I tell them of life back home.  It is a time of peace and new traditions mixed with old.  So, for me, Pelmeni transports me back to Russia, my Grandmother's table, but also connects me to my new American life.

Here is my recipe.  Pelmeni is a cheap and warming food....I make mine with beef, but other people use other fillings.

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Ingredients: (dough and filling)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water or milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

 

  • 18 ounces ground beef
  • 1 white onion
  • icy water

How to make it!

  1. Mix the egg, vegetable oil, and salt in a measuring cup; top up with water (milk) to fill to 1 cup. Pour the whole mixture into a bowl, add the 3 cups of flour, and knead into a smooth, stretchy dough. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust a baking tray with flour.
  3. Mix the ground beef, onion, water, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix vigorously by hand.
  4. Roll  the dough very thinly on a floured surface and cut out 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter, if you do not have one, use a shot glass. Keep the rest of the dough covered with a towel to avoid drying out. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling on the dough. Fold the dough over and seal the edges using fingers, forming a crescent shape Join the ends and pinch them together. Place on the baking tray. Keep repeating until you have used all the dough and then freeze pelmeni for  about 30 minutes. 
  5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer and drop a few  frozen pelmeni into simmering water. Cook and stir until the meat is cooked and pelmeni float to the top, this should take about 5 minutes. Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. 
  6. Serve with sour cream and herbs for added flavor.

ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

Team FeLT go to Washington!

Last week, members of Team FeLT went to DC to talk Education, Immigrants and Leadership at the #WinWithWomen conference. This conference was inspirational and highlighted such talented, passionate and intelligent female voices from an array of skills.

Here is our panel (filmed on a phone, so please excuse the quality)

and all that jazz.....

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I came to the US from Germany in 2000 to study jazz, an American art form. I am now a permanent resident. I found the whole visa process emotionally and economically taxing--paying immigration lawyers,and not knowing whether I could stay in the country. Long term planning was not possible. After obtaining the Green Card, New York felt more like home, although even that can still be taken away. 

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Also, finding an identity between two countries, my home and my chosen home, is a challenge. Recognizing traits of my origin country country of origin in me, good and bad, is sometimes the source of frustration and embarrassment. For example when I feel like my actions confirm common stereotypes about Germans, for example when I am very punctual and people are not.  To me, time is important and being on time can say a lot about a person. At the same time, realizing that the positive parts of my cultural heritage can add to the immigrant experience in the US is a great feeling. All this shapes our identities and is something we often deal with after the initial struggle of finding work, a decent living situation, and a social circle.

My advice is not to forget that you came here because you thought that you will have a happier life here than in your home country. For me this has been a sustaining source of strength, knowing that I can realize my potential in my professional field here better than at home helps me in the face of adversities adversity,and difficulties dealing with the system.