Posts Tagged With: food

Oh, The Places She’ll Go!


Friday was Miss P’s first birthday. Ever since Miss E had her first birthday I have been obsessed with planning fun parties. I totally blame Pinterest for this. I have been thinking about the party for about 6 weeks now. I get so excited when I settle on a theme and start planning out everything. For Miss E’s first birthday, the theme was hippos because we called her our hungry hippo, but Miss P hasn’t really inspired any nicknames like her sister. But, she has had a very adventurous first year, traveling to 3 continents and 5 countries! So I settled on a travel/Dr. Seuss Oh, The Places You’ll go theme.

Decorations included a map bunting, hot air balloons, globe balls, map flowers and Dr. Seuss quotes. I wish I had a printer here but I had to settle on handmade signs. The gifts were left at the baggage check-in table and favors were picked up at baggage claim. I had a little art corner for the girls to design their own hot air balloon and we ended the party with a canned snow fight. The only decoration I forgot to make was mile markers of places we’d been. Oh well, Miss P didn’t notice.

For food I made hot air balloon sugar cookies with buttercream icing and chocolate ganache details. I made a globe smash cake with stars placed in the locations she visited this year. With the rest of the cake batter I made matching vanilla cupcakes with marshmallow cream icing. I put flag toothpicks in each as a simple decoration. We had vegetable crudités and chips with a sour cream and onion dip, sun dried tomato, spinach and salami pin wheel sandwiches, and fruit salad in a hollowed out watermelon hot air balloon with yogurt and homemade granola. Get the granola recipe here.










Miss P thoroughly enjoyed her cake. She took awhile to get into but in the end she demolished it and once she removed it all from the platter, she signed for more. At the end of the party the kids took home favors of travel stickers a globe beach ball, a few chocolates and a foam puzzle of South America. We had a great time with new friends and their children. It was another party success if I do say so myself!







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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.

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Roasted Garlic Hummus


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).
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


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


20140110-145410.jpgHuevos De Aji

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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Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup



*Photo from Petit Foodie. Check out this recipe for Balsamic Asparagus. It sounds simple yet amazing!I have no photos so you’ll have to take my word for it, but I just made the most amazing soup tonight! I had planned on making cream of asparagus soup tonight and had the recipe picked out on Pinterest, but our internet was down all day here so I had to improvise. So here is the recipe and when I make it again, which will be soon, I will add photos.

Cream of Roasted Asparagus Soup

2 lb Asparagus, ends trimmed
1 onion (I used red because that’s what is available in the garden), quartered (or smaller)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 c white wine
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 F. Arrange onion and asparagus spears (after making this a second time I think adding a couple cloves of garlic would also be a delicious addition) in a single layer on a shallow baking pan. Coat them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them for about 10 minutes or until tender.

Remove them from the oven and when cool enough chop the tips off of the asparagus. Reserve about a quarter of the tips. Add the remaining tips and asparagus ends to a pot. Add in the chicken broth, wine and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer until the asparagus and onion is soft. Using a blender or immersion blender purée the soup. Return the soup to the pot. Add in the heavy cream and adjust seasoning to taste. Warm the soup through and serve with the asparagus spears on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.



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El Día de Gracías

We headed back to the farm for a good old American Thanksgiving. Our friends, Rich and Jenn, with their daughter, Miss C, joined us as well. We met them at the school when we picked up Miss E on Wednesday so we could load up their luggage since they were taking the bus to Oña. We had a great time showing them around when we arrived at the farm.





On Wednesday night poor Miss P seemed feverish and by Thursday morning she was tugging at her left ear. It looked like Thanksgiving dinner would be postponed. We met Tulio and Luzbia in Saraguro and they took us to the pediatrician. Dr. Julio was a very nice indigenous man and he diagnosed Miss P with an ear infection and el gripe (the flu) for a mere $6! And all 4 medications from the pharmacy cost me $20. We returned home and after her medicines she passed out and I commenced to cooking dinner. Rich and Jenn are vegetarians so we opted for a chicken rather than a larger turkey. Cory caught some trout for them. Besides chicken and trout, we had macaroni and cheese, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls and green beans almandine. We enjoyed pecan pie for dessert. All was delicious but it was difficult getting everything done at the same time with the small oven and stove.







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Exploring the City

20131110-214050.jpgSo I know I’ve been lax on posting since moving to Cuenca. Truthfully, we don’t do a ton during the week other than cleaning and laundry. Plus, we now have Netflix so I’ve found something to suck all my free time. I promise to post at least once a week though!

So last Saturday was Cuenca’s Independence Day and Dia de Difuntos/Muertos/Santos. While Americans were celebrating Halloween thousands of Cuencanos were visiting the graves of their relatives. We did not visit any cemeteries as we were busy playing at a park and checking out an art festival but we did eat guagua de pan. I totally forgot to get som colada morada to drink with it. These are both traditionally consumed on the Day of the Dead here in Ecuador. Guagua is a Quechua word for baby and pan means bread. They were made to represent the children that have died. Colada morada is a sweet, dark purple drink made from fruits and spices. It reminds me of sangria without the wine. Our guagua de pan was a mildly sweet yeast bread with a delicious chocolate filling. It came with icing packets so we could decorate it ourselves. Please don’t judge my decorating abilities. The icing was thick and difficult to work with and Miss E was more interested in sucking it directly from the packet. That was fine with me since it distracted her while I found the yummy chocolate-filled spots.


This week we took a couple walks, exploring the city a bit more. We walked to the store and on the way back took some lovely photos of a church, the city, a small park nearby, and our snack, salchipapas. Salchipapas are a popular, cheap food here. They are fried hotdogs (salchichas) and French fries (papas fritas). A lady that lives across the street from our apartment sets up a little sidewalk cafe every weekday afternoon and sells salchipapas. That container cost us $1.25! We need to try her weekend lunches of roasted chicken and pan de yuca. I’ll be sure to let you know how they are.







Another day we decided to walk a few blocks and try out a place called Chatos. The serve chocolate dipped fruit. Miss E had marshmallows and strawberries while Cory tried the bananas. It was quite good! Miss E even had a chocolate facial. 😉



This weekend we walked over to the old town (El Centro) to see The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I have admired the blue-tiled domes from afar and was excited to see the rest of the church. To be honest, I appreciate it’s beauty from afar much more than up close, but it is still a lovely cathedral. Building of the cathedral began in 1885 and took nearly a century to complete. The domes are adorned with tiles of blue and white from Czechoslovakia. We stopped and had brunch across the street from the cathedral and strolled through the nearby Parque Calderon. On the way home we stopped to sample (and buy) some local cheese. They just happened to be set up near an heladeria (ice cream shop) so we, of course, had to have some too. Miss P thought she might like some but big sis was not interested in sharing! My final photo is proof that Miss E does eat other things than chocolate. It amazes me that she will not touch any other green vegetable but broccoli! She is not, however, as enthusiastic about it as she is about chocolate.



















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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!

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Esta Viento

Here I am up with the rooster again today. It’s better than the night before where I was up, most of the night, BEFORE the rooster. Miss P is working on her two top incisors so sleeping can be difficult. I think they will have worked their way through by her 8 month (and her sister’s 3 year) birthday on the 24th.

Yesterday it was very chilly, cloudy, and windy with bouts of misty rain. The farm house is drafty so sometimes it’s even warmer being outside if the sun is shining. Yes, there is no heat or air conditioning here. I’m very thankful for the electric blanket! I did get out my father’s seed collection and E and I planted a pot of flowers. I plan on sowing some vegetable seeds today once Luzbia shows me where there is free space in the garden. I am also going to plant an herb garden off the back patio, perfect for cooking.

I wish I could move civilization a little closer than 2 hours away so we could just stay here but I know Cory is itching to get out and explore and find some English speakers and cable television! I am also very excited about the Montessori school E will attend. The children are taught in four different languages, English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. I have also met via email a few contacts from the US whose children have just begun or will be starting the program. It’ll be nice to meet some younger Americans and not just hang out with retirees while we are there. Not that there is anything wrong with retirees, it’s just that it’s nice to have friends that are in the same stage of life as yourself.

Last night we had a nice family dinner. E read us a story while I cooked and P enjoyed listening to it. I made spaghetti with a delicious tomato sauce full of veggies (zucchini, carrots, Swiss chard, and onions) from the garden. Maybe I should’ve shredded some radishes in it too but I forgot about them. I also made a fresh salad with the lettuce and carrots from the garden and the rest was from the Saraguro market. E loved the noodles with butter, Parmesan, and pepper while P had her first try of spaghetti noodles. They were very sticky and difficult to eat but they kept her entertained. She really wanted my spaghetti and sauce but I wasn’t interested in cleaning up the extra mess last night. Perhaps today she can try some of that delectable, chock-full-of-goodness sauce today. It will be followed by bath time me thinks. 😉








*I was going to upload the video of E reading her book to us but I am not paying $60 for video capability on my blog so if you are my Facebook friend, it will be there for you to enjoy the cuteness overload.

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