Posts Tagged With: cooking

Russian Food in Ecuador? Why Not?


Ok, last food post for awhile…I think. There has still been a little rain, but not nearly as bad as last week. This week we’ve met two couples with young girls, new playmates! I’ve been doing some preparations for Miss P’s birthday. With our new friends we’ve doubled the amount of people coming so I am working on some fun stuff. It’s been difficult without a printer. I’m hand writing plenty of things I’d rather do on the computer. Miss P won’t remember it but we’re gonna have fun anyway. I can’t wait to post photos!

So, back to the subject…Russian food, Borscht to be exact. I brought back two very large beets from my father’s farm. Now, I’ve not had much experience with beets. It’s one of those vegetables that tends to be overlooked and shunned by many. My mother swears she loves them, but I don’t recall her ever eating them. Her mom, however, loves pickled red beat eggs. I’ve seen my grandma eat several at one sitting! But me? I’ve maintained my distance from the root vegetable. So why bring them home with us? I was going to serve them up to the kids, of course.

Well, I thought of just roasting them, but then I had the crazy idea of making them into the one thing I knew had beets in it (other than pickled red beet eggs), Borscht. My only experience with Borscht was in middle school while visiting my Russian friend’s home. Her mother had made Borscht and offered to ladle out a bowl for me. I politely declined and ran far away from the strange magenta soup. But now I’m a bit more adventurous and I figured if we don’t like it, we can walk down the road to a restaurant for pizza. So began my culinary adventure.

I searched on Pinterest for some recipes. There were many different variations so I made my own version with what ingredients I had on hand. One of the most important steps to making a good Borscht is to make a good stock from beef or chicken (unless you’re a vegetarian, then a veggie stock will have to do). The more flavorful, the better. My Lithuanian friend, Kristina, gave me this great advice.

Did we like it? No, not all of us, but we all tried it, including my picky toddler. Miss P liked it the first day, but would not eat it after that. Cory ate a small bowl, but I think the look of it turned him off. I enjoyed it, but can say I didn’t like it enough to be the ONLY one in the house eating it. It was a very flavorful soup, not as sweet as I thought it would be, especially with the good stock I made. If you like beets, get some in a CSA batch and don’t know what to do with them, or are just feeling adventurous, I encourage you to try it out. It really was pretty good. My sister-in-law was inspired to make a batch from my recipe. She said it was delish.


2 large beets – peeled and chopped (I think next time I will chop them smaller) then toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper
About 2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 small red onion (or two shallots) chopped
1 carrot cut it into matchsticks or coins
2-3 garlic cloves crushed or diced
5 cups stock (beef, chicken or veg) – the richer the stock, the better
1 tsp thyme
1TBSP tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
I roasted the beets at 400 F for 45 minutes. You could also roast them along with the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic (if you do, I’d leave the garlic whole and toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper too). If not roasting all the veg, sautée the onions and garlic for a few minutes in olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add potatoes and carrots. Stir around for a few minutes. Add the broth, thyme, beets and tomato paste. Bring to a boil then simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender. If you roasted the veggies then that shouldn’t take too long. Salt and pepper to taste. I puréed some and left the rest chunky, but pureeing is not necessary. Some people strain out all the veg and serve the broth only. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, heavy cream or goat cheese. You can also top with chopped chives and/or parsley.

Several recipes also used 1/2 a head of shredded cabbage. It was sautéed for about 15 minutes before adding it to the broth mixture.
You can also add coriander and parsley.
Several recipes called for red wine vinegar to be added just before serving.
I was lacking all the variation ingredients and Cory doesn’t like cabbage or vinegar. So I didn’t add them.




20140117-213511.jpg Baby Borscht face.

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Huevos de Aji


I was wanting something a little different for breakfast the other day so I looked through my large breakfast Pinterest Board the other morning. I found a spicy Arabic recipe but it used peppers I could never hope to find here, but it was my inspiration for a new creation. I had plenty of tomatoes that needed to be used before they went bad and tons of potatoes and eggs from dad’s farm and a jar of Aji peppers to add that spicy kick. And the bonus ingredient, pesto sauce, I bought at an artisan’s fair. I’m sure you could omit peppers or use ones that aren’t so spicy. Aji peppers are common around here but I can’t say I’ve ever seen them in the states. You could sub jalepeños, bell peppers, banana peppers or pepperoncinis (or any other favorite pepper). The outcome was a delicious, spicy breakfast dish I will keep with me forever. This summer, I recommend trying it with heirloom tomatoes and homemade pesto!

Huevos de Aji
Makes 2 Servings

1 medium potato
1 Tbsp olive oil
1Tbsp pesto
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced (you may omit this if pesto is garlicky enough for you)
1 Aji pepper (fresh or pickled) finely diced (increase or decrease amount of pepper or try different types of peppers to adjust heat to your liking)*
1 large tomato chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs

Scrub the potato, pierce a few times with a fork and then microwave for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft. Alternatively, you could use leftover baked potato. Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces.
Add the oil and pesto to a small nonstick pan (this would be perfect in a cast iron pan) over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are slightly browned. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper and stir. Cook for about a minute then press the mix down to a flat layer. Crack both eggs atop the mixture, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to steam cook. Cook until the eggs are the desired consistency, about 3-5 minutes. Delicious served with pita bread, but really any type of bread would work. Try it with fresh basil or a little more pesto atop it.

*Removing the seeds and pith (soft spongy inner tissue)from the peppers helps to reduce the heat. Also, be careful after chopping peppers to not touch your eyes (or face). You think onions make you cry…

20140113-203628.jpgChopped Ingredients

20140113-203803.jpgSautée the potatoes, onion and garlic in the olive oil and pesto.

20140113-203912.jpgAdd the tomatoes and cook a minute longer.

20140113-203959.jpgCrack 2 eggs on top of the mixture and cover and steam until desired doneness. You can test the consistency by putting gentle pressure on the yolk.

20140113-204206.jpgServe with bread of your choice. I chose whole wheat pita bread.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Torta de Chocolate


Today was fairly boring. I am in the process of trying to find a house/apartment to rent in Cuenca so I spent the day online searching. It looks like we’ll be heading to the city this weekend and searching for a home. I hope we find what we need, a furnished, reasonably-priced, short-term rental. I thought I’d found the perfect home on one post until I read the end.

This comfortable, furnished two-story home close to El Centro features custom-made woodwork, an open floor plan, an enclosed patio and a backyard with fruit trees. Located in a quiet neighborhood near Tres Puentes, the house has an enclosed garage, a finished attic that can be used as an office and two fireplaces. Includes washer / dryer and an alarm system. Rent includes once-a-week maid service and once-a-month gardener service. Includes Wifi Internet. Tenant pays electric and water. Two month deposit required. Minimum three-month rental. Pets and children not accepted. 2 months´rent required as a Deposit. AVAILABLE NOW.

Womp womp! But there’s a maid! Oh well, it was out of our price range anyway. After all, we are unemployed for at least the next 5 months so we need to stay on budget! I’ve even considered renting an unfurnished place for $200-300 a month and just buying a couple mattresses, a couch/chairs, and a cheap table to fill it with, but I think the little things are where it would add up…linens, dishes, cooking supplies. If we knew we were going to stay here I would totally start building up a home full of stuff but we still don’t know our plans 6 months from now.

Anyway, I figured I would share my chocolate cake recipe so that I don’t forget. That’s more entertaining than house hunting. So here it is with some tips if you are cooking in a high altitude region.20130925-224345.jpg20130925-224353.jpg

Mom’s Chocolate Cake borrowed from Food & Wine
© Julie Craig

This is a real old-fashioned American chocolate layer cake. It’s very moist, very chocolatey, a snap to make and best baked the day before serving. Marcia Kiesel acquired the recipe from her friend Joyce Cole, who got it from her mother.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Chocolate Icing Recipe (I used a different recipe then the one they link you to)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 8-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with wax paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves; then pour into a large bowl. Add the chocolate and butter and let sit, stirring occasionally, until melted and slightly cooled. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Beat the eggs into the chocolate mixture at medium speed until combined. Add the dry ingredients all at once and beat at medium speed until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed lightly and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for about 25 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely.
4. Set one cake, right-side up, on a serving platter. Using a metal spatula, spread one-third of the Chocolate Frosting evenly over the cake. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting.

Variation: I actually baked the cake for 35 minutes in a buttered and floured bundt pan to achieve the 3 shape. My inspiration was this post from If I were having more people over to eat cake I would have done the same thing she did and bake two bundt cakes but ain’t no way I need that much cake in this house! We’re trying to be more healthy for crying out loud.
To make the 3 I cut the bunt cake in half and cut the cake again where the two pieces met to flatten it out. I then used those two pieces on the top and bottom points of the 3 so it stuck out a touch more. Does that make sense? I did use some icing to stick all the pieces together just like enchanted mommy did.

I can’t say enough how moist and delicious this cake was! I was eating a slice today and I was thinking it would be a good boozy cake too. Maybe sub a little Irish cream for the water? I may have a St. Patrick’s day cake to try out.

For high altitude cooking I followed All Recipes recommendations and decreased the sugar and baking powder and increased the water and baking temperature (which is a whole other issue since ovens are in centigrade here and the temperature increments have nearly worn off my dad’s gas oven). I have always lived at sea level so this is all new territory for me.

Creamy Whipped Chocolate Frosting
I started with this recipe from but modified it because it was too thick and firm for my delicate, moist cake. I also used heavy cream (crema de leche) I had opened for a soup I’d made rather than opening a can of evaporated milk only to use a small bit of it. I saw someone commented they used 2% milk so I think most any milk will do but to make my version you need cream.

2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter, softened
5 tablespoons + 1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with the 5 tablespoons heavy cream. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
3. In the empty sugar/cocoa bowl beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream into the icing to make it light and fluffy. You can adjust consistency of the icing by adding less or more cream.

I then spread the icing on the cake and decorated it with m&ms. Voila!

Categories: Ecuador, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!


Since E’s first birthday we have had special breakfast pancakes for her in the shape of the number of the age she is. I decided the night before to try something a little different, a pop tart. It sounded good and we had delicious strawberries from the Sunday market to fill them with. Cory made the pie crust the night before and I woke early on the morning of the 24th to assemble them and set up balloons in the living room to surprise her too. She woke up and came running into the house to see me. It was a little too early for all the attention (me with my camera) but she got excited once I showed her the balloons.


I made the pop tarts while she played with the balloons in the living room. I rolled out the pie dough. We used a double crust recipe that made four pop tarts. I filled two with just strawberries and the other two I added some Nutella. Decadent, I know! I was so excited about them I iced E’s before it cooled and that made the 3 I piped on it melt into an unrecognizable mess. I put some star sprinkles on it too. She ate the stars off and barely touched the rest. That’s a shame since they were amazing! The crunch of the pie crust and the sweet, gooey strawberries, oh my!

fun with balloon-generated static electricity
We hung around the house and then headed back to the Saraguro restaurant we’d visited before. This time Luzbia had called them up the day before to be sure they had cuy (guinea pig) for us. Yes, my husband watches too much Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare Foods! I settled on the churrascos again, E had papas fritas con queso (French fries with cheese) and Cory had half a cuy served with potatoes, rice, choclos (local corn, similar to hominy) and habas (a large Lima-like bean). They were roasting the cuy when we arrived. A woman was standing at the fire turning the two little creatures, fanning the fire and occasionally painting something on their skin. I think Cory was a bit underwhelmed by the lack of meat and over-starchiness of his meal. E and I really enjoyed ours though. And, no, I did not try the cuy.






tired out after lunch
We returned and I made icing for E’s birthday cake. I am quite proud of how it turned out. I made a delicious, and moist, chocolate bunt cake that I cut in half and shaped into the number 3. Thanks, Pinterest for the idea! I was going to make an egg white icing but realized we didn’t have cream of tartar, so chocolate is what I made. I started with a recipe I found online but had to add whipped cream to soften it up to prevent the cake from crumbling. It was so light and yummy and the cake was super moist and rich thanks to a few changes I made to the recipe because of the altitude here (about 7,00 feet). E then helped me separate an m&m-like candy (Rocklets) into colors and I placed them in rainbow order on the cake. Not quite as pretty as my Pinterest inspiration, but nice nonetheless. We then had Luzbia’s boys over to help eat it up. It was a nice, intimate time and I think E really enjoyed herself.





Birthday Morning Pop Tarts (inspired by this lovely Rainbow Pop Tart recipe.)
Dough for a double pie crust
Fruit of your choice, chopped and lightly sweetened if desired
Nutella, chocolate chips, marshmallows (optional)
Icing (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk
Food coloring (optional)

Make the pie crust as directed if making homemade. We can’t find pre-made here so homemade it was. On a floured surface roll out into a large rectangle. Cut into 8 equal sized rectangles (I cut six then rolled out the uneven edges to make the final 2 rectangles).
Place fruit and/or any other desired fillings on one rectangle leaving about 1/2 inch of crust exposed around the rectangle. Place another rectangle of crust atop the fruit and seal by pressing down with a fork.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (they leak sugary goodness) and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until edges are golden brown.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Add more sugar or milk to get it to the desired consistency. Place into 1 or more sandwich baggies adding food coloring, if desired. Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and pipe the icing on to semi-cooled pop tarts. Or do like me and pipe it on while they are hot and enjoy immediately.

I’ll share the cake and icing recipe later. I don’t want to bog this down with too many recipes for today.


Categories: Ecuador, family | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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