Roasted Garlic Hummus

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So I’ve been craving hummus. In the US we always seemed to have some store bought hummus in the refrigerator to snack on. It’s such a healthy snack and really very easy to make. I made a plain hummus for a snack when we went to the waterfalls in Oña and we liked it so much I decided to try another recipe. I chose roasted garlic. I love roasted garlic plain on bread as well as in foods. I got the recipe here. The only things I would say to add to the recipe is:
1. You can make this from dried garbanzo beans, which I did. They are super easy to make. Just clean them, soak them (use plenty of water as they soak up a bunch) overnight or during the day while you’re at work, then rinse, cover with water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until done. Start checking at 30 minutes. These beans don’t take long to cook.
2. This hummus is best eaten the next day. As hard as it may be, stick it in the refrigerator until the next day. It soaks up that delicious garlic flavor and tastes oh so much better the next day.
3. You will smell like garlic if you eat this. It’s the price you pay for eating such a delicious snack!
4. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil atop it before serving. Serve with pita bread, vegetables (celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers…) or crackers (if I could find some of those nutty crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers I’d totally eat this with those).
Enjoy!
PS My kids love hummus and it’s a great way to get them to eat veggies and to eat healthy!

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Rainy Season

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Oh how I’m going to miss the fresh fruit here!

We’ve been told several different things about the rainy season here. I was told, October, December, February by 3 different people. Well, how about January? It’s rained every day this week, sometimes quite heavily. The Tomebamba river is higher than we’ve seen it since we got here. So what is one to do when it rains so much? Cook! At least that’s what I do. I took some photos of the outcome so I’ll share a few recipes with you since it’s been to rainy to explore and photograph. Here’s what to expect:

20140110-145343.jpgRoasted Garlic Hummus

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I’ll post the recipes as I write them up. You’re welcome!
Hopefully I can make my Blueberry, Coconut, Banana Batido (Smoothie) and some more Homemade Granola to add to the photos and recipes. They are definitely recipes worth repeating too!

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Feliz Año Nuevo

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We decided to head to my father’s farm for a more tranquil New Year’s celebration than the city could offer. With the amount of fireworks in the trash, I think we made the right decision. Our friends joined us again and we had a great time.

We arrived a day before our friends. Luzbia invited us into Oña where they were having a bit of a celebration. They had piñatas made of clay pots filled with treats and toys. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we missed that, but we did get to see a wooden car race down the Oña mountain road, a kids’ bicycle race and even a dog race. Well the dog’s were on leashes, so really a human race. Miss E enjoyed sitting on the donkey. When we arrived Tulio was driving away with everyone but Luzbia stayed with us. Miss E was heartbroken and began to cry because she wanted to see Elkin. The others returned before the wooden car races and she was so delighted she held Elkin’s hand for as long as he let her.

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Rich, Jen and Miss C arrived the next day. The girls were very excited to see each other and Elkin was happy to have some play mates. I think he enjoys having the attention of the two girls. We scheduled an excursion to see some waterfalls in Oña the following day. We met the guide in Oña and he took us on a bit of a bumpy drive past many indigenous farms to the river. We then had to hike along the river through some brush to get to the falls. The first falls was a fairly easy hike but to get to the second was a bit trickier. The guys headed up the tougher route. Cory said it was fairly steep and he slipped a couple times. The women and children headed along the water. Our route was also not easy. There were some hairy moments for me hiking with Miss P in my pack. In fact, on the way back, a piece of rock broke from the guide’s hand while navigating our route, and he plunged back first into the river. Thankfully, he was okay. It was terrifying to watch it happen! The second falls was in a beautiful spot. We stopped and picnicked and soaked our feet in the frigid water. Miss E got a little bit daring and fell in one of the icy puddles, getting her pants wet. She decided it was the perfect opportunity to strip to her birthday suit. She is her father’s daughter!

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The rest of the stay was relaxing. We ate good food, enjoyed each other’s company and savored the quiet country atmosphere. The mist would come in the evenings, completely enveloping the surroundings, then slowly retreat after the sun rose. It was rather mystical to watch but not so great for drying clothes on the line. The mora (blackberries) were ripe and plentiful and the garden was full of green beans and cauliflower. This country is a gardener’s paradise with a constant growing season. I love it!

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Well, Feliz Año Nuevo. May 2014 be a wonderful year for you and your family. I know, for us, it will be hard to top 2013!

20140105-215027.jpgI’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever have a family photo where E actually looks at the camera!

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Cuenca Life

Christmas morning Miss E woke to find Christmas gifts galore under the tree. Most of them were from their grandparents. The big hits were a stuffed bunny from my mom, a bike my dad got Miss E that he left at his apartment in Houston, and a shirt Cory’s mom embroidered a Princess Merida on. Both girls really liked an activity cube we got for Miss P. Miss P has learned how to get very vocal about her big sister stealing her stuff! I am sad to say I cannot seem to find any photos from Christmas. Luckily, Cory got some video. I guess my camera ate the photos or I was taking pictures without a card or with a full card? Who knows but it makes me sad to have lost some good photos!

We went a little stir crazy after being in the house all day on Christmas Day so we took a walk downtown one day and another day we met Miss C at the park, getting our Vitamin D. We explored some streets of el Centro we’d never seen before and enjoyed lunch at the Wunderbar. Miss P had a blast at the park, crawling all over the place and making plenty of attempts to eat the acorns, rocks and bits of trash she found. The girls enjoyed the bubbles Miss E received for Christmas.

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We spent the New Year holiday in Cuenca…post to follow soon.

Edit: The lost Christmas photos were found after I decided to look one more time. They were somewhat blurry because our living room light is not working. The end of the memory card also included some photos from our walk.

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Miss P is 11 Months Old. How Did That Happen?

My Christmas Post was so long I thought I would do this one separately. We missed the 10 month birthday because she was either snotty or had a rash from the amoxicillin when I was going to take photos. Here are a few photos of the cutie pie herself on her 11 month birthday, Christmas Eve. The age sticker didn’t last 5 seconds!

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Feliz Navidad

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¡Feliz Navidad! While Christmas is a bit sad without our families we enjoy experiencing the holiday in a foreign country. Retailers have been capitalizing on the holiday for a couple months now so in that aspect we feel right at home. While they have the normal Christmas decorations, Santa, reindeer, snowmen, lights, and trees, the major focus is a Christian one. There are many special masses held and most every home has a nativity, some being very large and ornate.

The Christ child is the most important part of the nativity, as He should be. He is often much larger than the other members of the nativity scene and always ornately dressed. In fact, since Christmas items have been up for sale in Cuenca I have seen many a shop or stand selling wooden cribs or ornately decorated clothing for the Baby Jesus.

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The events leading up to Christmas culminate in a parade, El Pase de Niño Viajero, on Christmas Eve. The main attraction of the parade is an 1823 sculpture of the Christ child. The sculpture was taken to Rome in 1961 to be blessed by the Pope and since it’s journey there has been an annual Christmas Eve parade. The parade includes Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, angels, as well as Santa (or Papa Noel as the jolly elf is known here) and his elves. The parade is an all-day affair with people coming from all over the country to watch and participate. People come dressed in their finest and the children play a major role, dressed as angels or in extravagant indigenous clothing. It really is a spectacular site and I’m so glad we went. The temperatures rose to about 80 with a very intense sun so we only lasted for about an hour before taking a scenic stroll back home, complete with a stop at the cathedral and then for ice cream to cool off.

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Miss E is off from school for two weeks. She had a Christmas program at her school last Friday. It is apparently very traditional here to have Christmas programs at the schools where the children learn songs and dances and perform. Parents were asked not to stay since the teacher felt we may be a distraction to the children but our friend, Rich, filmed the production. Miss E has been singing her own version of Campana Sobre Campana. I love hearing her sweet little off key voice making up words to the song.

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My father came to visit for about a week. His luggage didn’t quite make it with him but a couple days later we went to the Cuenca airport to pick it up. Thankfully it did arrive as it contained Christmas gifts for the girls and birthday stuff for Miss P’s party next month! We enjoyed my dad’s brief stay. We tried a Spanish restaurant (El Mesón Español) Cory and I have passed several times, stopping to drool over the menu and reminisce about our trip to Barcelona. The food and drink were phenomenal. We enjoyed a jarra of sangria and a rich and creamy potato and chorizo soup as well as a very large paella. I was so inspired by our visit that I went to Pinterest to find sangria recipes. I have tried twice to make it in the past and it always tasted like red wine to me, not the sweet, refreshing drink I fell in love with in Barcelona. I found a guide for making sangria and came up with this recipe that has since changed my mind about homemade sangria. Daniel, the owner of El Mesón Español, explained the basics of sangria to us: a little vino tinto, Fanta, whatever fruit you like and un poco magico (a little magic). Well, I think I discovered the magic!

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Sangria
1 bottle (or box) red wine (you can also make this with white wine or champagne or even sparkling cider)
1/2 cup of juice (I used orange, but pomegranate, grape, or blackberry juice would be delicious too)
1/4-1/2 cup Triple Sec and 1/4-1/2 cup rum (omit if making a spiritless version, but you may want to increase the juice added if that’s the case
1-2 cups fruit (apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, berries,etc. I’d stick with fruits that aren’t too soft since they may dissolve)
1/2 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, stevia, agave)
1/2 to 2 cups of lemon lime soda
Mix all the ingredients except the soda in a pitcher and allow it to set overnight. Add chilled soda just before you are ready to serve. Pour into glasses with ice. Be careful, these can be super dangerous!

Well, the cookies have been left for Santa and he has come to drop off gifts for the girls. I’m not sure how well we will all sleep as it seems tonight will be a night of singing and fireworks. Miss E is super excited about tomorrow and I must say, Christmas is even more fun now that we have children!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Fiesta!

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This past week we took another walk around the city, exploring some places I’d not seen yet. We found a beautifully mosaic staircase some interesting art and a Panama hat shop. We also joined some friends on Saturday to celebrate Miss C’s 5th birthday. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking on this post.

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20131217-221351.jpgCory’s found a friend, at least his leg has. 😉

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20131217-221600.jpgWe stopped and had empanadas and a pineapple batido (fruit blended with milk, sweetened condensed milk and ice).

20131217-221738.jpgMiss P has started making the cutest squinty-eyed smile.

20131219-162409.jpgI thought it was so neat that they put china in the adobe walls at this curiosity shop we found.

20131219-162415.jpgAn unfortunately common site of a baby, this one about a year old, on a motorcycle. Her mother had just stepped out of the photo after catching her from falling off. Baby will end up sandwiched between the two parents when they are ready to go. Notice mom’s helmet is cracked.20131217-221848.jpgMiss E and the birthday girl, Miss C.

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20131217-222105.jpgMiss E and her classmate Mr. R opening their favor bags.

20131217-222226.jpgMiss P checking out Mr. L, Mr. R’s little brother. He’s just a week older than Miss P.

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Muffins del Jardín

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Today was our turn to provide the snack at Miss E’s school. I want to be sure that the snacks I send are healthy yet fun. The first month I sent fruit in a pizza pan in a rainbow (arco iris in Spanish) pattern and some yogurt (which is in beverage form here in Ecuador). Last month I made homemade granola and sent it with yogurt again. It was delicious and I followed this Basic Granola Math Recipe to make my own version. I look forward to making different flavors. I even made some coconut vanilla almond granola for Christmas gifts for Miss E’s teachers. I do find it odd that some of the acceptable snacks at the school are cake, hot dogs, and salchipapas (fried hot dogs with French fries) but if you bring juice it must be homemade. I don’t worry too much about it but aim to provide healthy options when it’s my turn.

Today I sent muffins filled with zucchini, apples and carrots. I followed this recipe for Zucchini Muffins except I cut the zucchini by 1/3 and replace 1/3 with shredded apple and 1/3 with shredded carrot. Had I thought about it, I should’ve replaced some or all the flour with whole wheat flour and butter with apple sauce or coconut oil (which is hard to find here) and maybe cut the sugar some. You could also add hemp seed and/or flax to make this even healthier. I doubled the recipe and got nearly 3 dozen muffins. They were moist and delicious with raisins (and a small batch with chocolate chips). I think they’d be great with walnuts or coconut too and I may play with the seasonings as they could’ve had a touch more spice.

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Puerto Lopez, Machalilla and Ecuador’s Rich Coast

Just south of Puerto Cayo lies Puerto Lopez. It was a larger, busier town than Cayo, which seemed like a ghost town. We enjoyed walking along it’s beach (also peppered with litter) and it’s very nice pier and eating at our favorite cabaña, Cafe Normita. Each little cabaña had hammocks to lounge on and enjoy a cocktail or fresh jugo (juice) or batido (a fruit and sweetened condensed milk smoothie). We went to Cafe Normita so many times the waitress knew our names and they enjoyed passing Miss P around. The girls are quite popular wherever we go in Ecuador, and the Pacific Coast proved to be no different. I even saw several Ecuadorians snapping photos of our little muñecas (dolls).

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We also explored some of the area between the two towns, specifically Los Frailes and Agua Blanca. Los Frailes is a crescent shaped beach that is part of the Machalilla National Park which meant it was a much cleaner beach. I sat with the girls on the beach while Cory further explored the rocky shore below the cliffs. There were colorful sea urchins, crabs and coral. The entry to this part of the park was free and it is definitely worth visiting just to enjoy a nearly litter-free beach.

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20131213-152210.jpgMiss E briefly went for a swim with dad but she was unimpressed with the waves. As she came running back to me she stopped and seemed to spit on her arm. I was puzzled by this action until she told me daddy was going for a quick ‘spit’. I said, “I think he meant a quick dip.”

The other stop in Machalilla was at Agua Blanca, a natural sulfur spring. Now, I’m not much for bathing in a stinky pond, no matter how much it helps your skin, but there was much more to this place. The cost is $5 per person (the girls were free). Our first stop was a small archaeological museum. The are is rich in archeological findings dating back to 1500-2000 B.C! At the museum, Julio, our guide greeted us and explained many of the artifacts to us in Spanish, some of which I actually understood. He then stayed with us, guiding us across somewhat difficult terrain, including steep dirt steps and a nearly dry riverbed. Of course I picked that day to forget Miss P’s baby carrier! We also got to see some of the excavation site, the local village of bamboo huts, and the sulfur spring. Cory and Miss E took a dip while Miss P and I rested in one of the hammocks. There were many animals to see that Julio pointed out to us. From local farm animals, like chickens, horses, goats and cows to wild animals, like lizards and birds galore. If you’re a bird watcher, this is the place to go!

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20131213-152759.jpgAccording to our guide this cactus is at least 100-125 years old!

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20131213-152918.jpgwe had to explain to Miss E this cow may not be as friendly as grandpa’s vacas. She seemed to have no fear of the giant beast!

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As you can tell, the coast is rich with history, culture and scenery beyond just the beach. There was so much for us to explore and enjoy.

Here are a few more photos from the surrounding coastal areas.

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20131213-153733.jpgMiss E is just like her mommy, leery of public restrooms. We have a portable potty and she will ask to use it sometimes in favor of the public bathrooms. Cory happened to pull off at this lovely overlook when she requested a bathroom break. Not too bad a view.

On our way home we took a different route down the Ruta del Spondylus, formerly the Ruta del Sol. I’d say my favorite was the area surrounding the hip surfing village, Montañita and the Ayumpe rainforest. I wish we’d had time to stop and photograph and explore the area but eight to nine hours is a long enough trip! Further south it felt as if we were in a dessert. There was nothing but the brown of the dirt, a few yellowed leaves on the plants and the contrasting blue ocean, that disappeared behind us as we drove east toward Guayaquil.

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Puerto Cayo

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20131212-212543.jpgOur “Casa Blanca”, the red-tile roofed house.20131211-083230.jpgOur view from the bedroom balcony.

Puerto Cayo is a small, sleepy fishing village on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. It is just west of Jipijapa (hippy hoppa) and between Manta and Puerto Lopez. The house we stayed at was two blocks up from the beach. Our first morning there we decided to spend on the beach. Miss P slept in so we didn’t make it out until around 10 am. I was concerned the beach may be busy but there was no need to fear. It seemed the only people on the beach, and there were only a few, were fishermen and a couple cops patrolling.

20131212-212044.jpgYes, the water was that blue!

The beach was nice, except some litter in the area just before the sand became moist and packed. I was rather unsettled by the amount of syringes I saw. I’m not sure if they were from local medical trash or illegal drug paraphernalia. Either way, I dint want to find any needles with my feet. We found that despite the many signs discouraging dumping trash it was a common and unfortunate occurrence.

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We spent the rest of the morning playing in the waves. Miss P squealed with delight as they crashed against her legs. She also enjoyed digging in the sand with her fingers. She’s quite the opposite of her sister who has always had a dislike for dirt (and sand). Much to my dismay she also tried eating the sand and rubbing it in her eyes. I had to fight the urge to keep her completely away from the sand and allow her to explore the world, but I am the one that will have to change that sand-filled diaper soon enough.

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There were several cabaña restaurants lining the beach and we frequented those during our stay. I brought food to cook but found the desire to dine on fresh seafood outweighed my desire to cook (or even throw together a few sandwiches). We sampled the ceviche (calamari being my favorite), fried seafood rice (calamari being Cory’s favorite), and pescado (fish) dishes (apanado/breaded and fried being Miss E’s favorite, though she thought it was chicken, and al ajillo/in garlic sauce was my favorite). The dishes were served with chifles or tostones (thin and thick fried green plantains, respectively). We even went out for breakfast one morning and sampled the local cabaña’s 3 breakfast dishes, two of which featured bolones, a large, round fried cake made of mashed cooked green plantains with queso fresco that is fried. Of course, I forgot a photo, but it was quite delicious served alongside fish in a pepper and onion sauce.

20131211-153717.jpgTypical cabaña menu.

20131211-153728.jpgAll the cabañas had seashell wind chimes. It was so relaxing to listen to them ‘chime’ along with the ocean waves.

20131211-153605.jpgCeviche de calamar.

20131211-153613.jpgArroz mixto (Fried rice with shrimp, king prawn, crab, octopus, fish and calamari.

We went to my father’s friend’s hotel (Los Sueños del Mar) the same evening to get some wi Fi and we watched the sunset over the ocean. Miss E enjoyed playing with the sweet hotel kitty and swinging in the hammocks. On the drive to the hotel I was struck by the simple houses we passed. I can’t fathom how poor some of these people must be, but then I thought of how rich they were in their landscape, the seaside, and that perhaps the life of simplicity truly was a richer, more fulfilled life.

20131211-154438.jpgI love her beach waves!

20131211-154458.jpgThe hotel kitty.

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And a bit more of the town:

20131212-212707.jpgA grazing burro near the town center.

20131212-212733.jpgI loved the seaside chapel.

20131212-212645.jpgThe stone work looks like a whale’s tail. Whale watching is a big tourist attraction in the area. Unfortunately, we were a bit late for whale watching season.

20131212-212628.jpgThe local meat market? It’s difficult to see but that stuff hanging was meat/tripe/pork skin.

Categories: Ecuador, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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