Wordless Wednesday: Why hello there Blizzard Cooper!

Watching big sister play outside.

Watching big sister play outside.

Enjoying the nice weather.

Enjoying the nice weather.

Revisiting Childhood

I was looking through old photos on our computer, trying to wrap my head around the fact that Ada is going to be five next week and came across a folder full of pictures that she took last summer. Some of them are blurry, over-saturated, movement filled snippets and others are amazingly accurate and clear.

As a parent it’s hard to remember to think about what our kids’ point of view is. Sometimes I forget entirely (<–mother of the year award here!) and find myself grumbling over the next bit of spilt milk here and forget to pay attention to the extraordinary imaginations that my kids are emitting. Carelessly, yes, but at least enthusiastically enjoying themselves and thus being the cause of the spilled milk. I truly couldn’t be more blessed that such a root cause exists. *grumble*grumble*

Anyway, I wanted to share some of these pictures with you. I think it’s interesting (probably only because I’m her mom) to think about what she actually sees and how she sees it throughout her day. Do we really look that blurry? Do we speak in wah-wah tones like all the adults in Peanuts cartoons? Who knows.

Wordless Wednesday: So this happened yesterday

Someone got a visit from the tooth fairy!

Someone got a visit from the tooth fairy!

Eat the World 20: Bolivia

Last Wednesday we sampled the cuisine of our 20th country on our Eat the World adventure. If you are wondering, we did indeed skip Bhutan but will be coming back to it later next week.

Bolivia is a South American country surrounded by Peru, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Brazil. While Dylan or I have never been there,we were familiar with the cuisine and culture since we lived in Ecuador for a year. In fact, looking through the pictures and answering Ada’s questions brought back a flood of fond memories such as this:

Rainy season fun.

And this:

Alabanza!

And this one too:

The square.

Basically, Bolivia brought so many memories still so fresh in the mind, and it’s been eight years past since our time spent there. EIGHT years. I can’t believe it. Bolivia was indeed a nice reminder of our old home.

At the time I was planning this meal I think that I was feeling a bit industrious, much more so that what I actually felt last Wednesday, so we ended up limiting my four piece menu down to two. I think that the avocado salad would’ve been pretty delicious but it was just one extra step and I don’t think that it would’ve tasted outrageously different than anything else we’ve ever sampled. I’m still a bit sad that we skipped out on baking the Cocadas (coconut candies, think macaroons), so I’ll probably attempt those sometime later this month just for fun. We’ll see.

The two recipes that did make the cut were Aji de Lentejas con Sarsa (Lentil stew with salsa) and Saltenas (Meat and potato hand pies). I opted to cut the stew servings in half because I wasn’t sure the girls would eat it…and I was right, except that Dylan and I definitely could’ve eaten more than the small bowls that it made. Ah well, proxima vez. It was a fairly simple, quick cooking stew (due to the lentils) and a great vegetarian option. I’d make this again for sure. You can find the recipe here.

The saltenas were a LOT more work. Dylan and the girls made the dough while I prepared the filling. Ada and Nellie loved the dough part because they got to play with their own piece of it. Rolling, shaping, squishing, all that good stuff. They were good, but I’m not sure that I’d remake these. They were just really large and quite dense. I’m a bigger fan of Ecuadorian (think crispy-fluffy fried) and Argentinian (think flakier-more pie-crust-like) empanadas. When the saltenas cooled they were like light dumbbells. Big, heavy, and SUPER filling. You can also find the recipe here.

I think the general consensus was that dinner was good but that it wasn’t necessarily something that we would repeat again out of craving. The stew might show up again because it’s cheap, healthy, and light…but if I’m going to put a lot of work into something, I’ll make mandu or biryani or something much else.

And just a fun video to round everything out: 

Picture dump in 5…

4

3

2

1…

Bright and shiny

Goodbye Redrum!

Goodbye Redrum!

I am pleased to announce my departure from the REduRuM that I once called my office. Hurrah for me! No, I am not leaving my job but rather participated in a fairly large, inter-office switcheroo today. I am over.the.moon about it.

Before I had about a large, walk-in-closet space and would have to crawl/shimmy/awkwardly decide front or back when passing over my clients to retrieve papers from the printer during enrollments. I would constantly bang into the two drawer filing cabinet behind my chair because it stuck out an average amount and I had a not-meant-for-my-desk-hutch that took up more than its fair share of my work area. Not to mention that I shared my little RedRuM with interns as needed. And clients were constantly waiting for their appointments by just sitting in my office or peering into my door over my side shoulder as I tried to work. Not ideal.

This move is great. Great for us all. The women who moved back into our old office space now have room for the new supervisor they’re hiring by taking the two main offices open and the traveling, once-a-week supervisor will re-home in the RedRuM. (And truthfully, it is a small space but if we wouldn’t have moved and I would’ve stayed, I would’ve just dealt with it because I like my job.)

Goodbye inconvenient and insufficient work space!

Goodbye inconvenient and insufficient work space!

Bright and shiny! And very messy...

Bright and shiny! And very messy…

Which brings me to my new, bright and shiny office! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! I may be teensy bit excited. 

I know it looks disastrous at the moment but my space has nearly tripled by this switch and now I have great space for paperwork and computer work (105+ application questionnaires may be the death of me) AND I have adequate space for clients to sit comfortably and work on applications, etc; AND I have comfortable space for an intern! AND, if that’s not good enough, I’ve got space to store kid supplies for little clients that aren’t in school yet. Needless to say because I’ve all but bashed your brains in about it, I’m excited. And happy. And excited.

Now it only they could get my NEW (didn’t I mention I also get a new, full-functioning) computer and phone line hooked up, we’d be golden…

Wordless Wednesday: Feeling Nostalgic

Image

Eat the World 19: Benin

Introducing: Benin, country #19 on our Eat the World adventure!

Benin’s Flag

Benin is a small, West African country that is landlocked by Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger. It was colonized by the French and thus you will find the French language predominately throughout. I am lucky to have a co-worker who is West African, he is officially Liberian, but was able to shed some very helpful advice on the general cuisine found throughout West Africa. The information he shared lead me to plan a light-on-meat, heavy on peanuts and starch meal of Peanut Sauce over coconut rice with Akkra Funfun (fried bean fritters). I bought peanuts to make sugared peanuts, a common street vendor food found throughout the country, but I was short on time and hungry. So I scratched that idea and will be snacking on them for the next few weeks…

Peanut Sauce
Makes enough sauce for 4 servings
3 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 -1 tsp of your favorite piment/hot pepper i.e. Cayenne pepper in our case. I only added a pinch, a fair amount less because I wanted my children to try it without hating me. Dylan and I added generous spoonfuls of sambol oelek to our helpings. Admittedly that’s not very African but Asian, but what can you do? The heat was a perfect foil to the fatty peanut butter and oil in the sauce.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 beef bullion cube
1 cup water-or more depending on the density of the peanut butter you’re using
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter (the mix before use stuff)
1/2 cup diced onion
1.) Saute tomato paste, hot pepper, salt, onion and bullion cube in oil for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
2.) Add peanut butter and water.
3.) Mix and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Be careful to stir occasionally as you do not want the peanut butter to burn! Serve over rice.

Coconut Rice
Serves 6
1 can coconut milk
1 ½ c. water
1 ½ c. rice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.) Bring water and coconut to a boil over medium heat.
2.) Add rice, salt and pepper. Lower heat and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Careful to keep an eye on your pot so the liquid doesn’t boil over. Makes a mess on a glass stovetop—not that I’d know…
3.) Uncover and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve with peanut sauce.

Akkara Funfun (Fried Bean Fritters)
Makes around 16 medium-size fritters
1 small onion, finely minced
1 can of white beans (we used Northerns)
1 large egg
1/3 cup of flour
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Oil for frying (Peanut oil, palm oil or a combination of the two make for a more authentic flavor. We opted to use only peanut since I’m not crazy about palm.)
1.) Blend the beans, cayenne pepper and salt together until they form a smooth, firm paste. Dylan just whirred them together in our food processor for about a minute.
2.) Add the minced onion, egg and flour to the bean paste and stir to mix well.
3.) Add enough oil to a saucepan or wok to reach one or two centimeters up the side, and heat until hot enough to sizzle when a little batter is dropped in.
4.) Drop tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil and fry in batches on both sides until golden. Drain cooked fritters on a paper towel. Take care to watch your oil so it doesn’t get too hot and burn your fritters before cooking them.
5.) Sprinkle with extra cayenne pepper and serve hot. The girls dipped them in the peanut sauce.

Ada was all about the akkara funfun before she learned that they were made out of mashed up beans. :-/ Dylan and I actually really liked them but MAN, are they filling! We had a lot of leftover rice (which generally never happens) because of those little fritters. Knowledge for the next time I suppose.

Eat the World 18: Belize

We finished this country a few weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting the recipes and pictures (which are, admittedly, quite few and grainy–hey, I’m no professional!).

Official flag of Belize

Our menu was as follows: Belizean Beans & Rice with Fried Plantains (+ Donuts)

DONUTS!

DONUTS! (Please excuse the flash.)

I know, donuts? Ada has been on a big dessert kick lately, if you couldn’t tell by my meal plans, so I thought if the dinner was a major flop, I’d at least reward the kids for trying everything. I was skeptical of the recipe since it’s simply frying up pre-made biscuit dough from the can in donut form but I seriously shouldn’t have been. <–(To all English teachers: I apologize for that atrocious sentence but I’m not going to fix it.) Here’s the “recipe” I followed.

Now onward to the actual Belizean food! While I was cooking Dylan and Ada looked up information on Belize. I think that this really connected our actual eating with the point of why we are doing this culinary travel for her. In fact, she seems to really have embraced Eat the World and now asks to “eat a country” every other day. If only her ambition lined up with my ability (or energy)!

Belizean Beans & Rice serves 4
Usually this will be served alongside chicken or some other common protein but Dylan and I wanted something lighter so we just prepared this. I did tweak some of the recipe to fit our work.school schedule and I noted that in italics, it’s possible that it did affect the end flavor but our whole family still loved this dish and it is going to find it’s way into our typical food lineup.  
1 cup red kidney beans or 1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup coconut milk or you can simply use the whole can
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
2 cups rice
1 onions, sliced
1 piece of salt meat ( cut into small pieces) I omitted this for a vegetarian meal.
Directions
1.) Soften beans (soak first) with garlic. We skipped this step since we used pre-cooked, canned beans.
2.) Boil until tender and whole, adding salt meat (previously boiled to soften) when almost tender. Again this step was skipped since we had a vegetarian meal.
3. Add the milk, onion and seasonings. This is where I added the beans and garlic. Meaning, I just dumped all the ingredients except the rice together into a pot.
4.) Wash rice, then add to the beans. I know this seems tedious, but washing the rice removes the excess starch that makes the rice so sticky/mushy/icky. Rinse until the water runs pretty clear.
5.) Cook over gentle heat until liquid is absorbed.
6.) Stir gently with a fork, and add a little water from time to time until rice is cooked. I didn’t need to do this since I used the entire can of coconut milk.
Serve hot with a meat dish. Or not.

Fried Plantains One plantain serves 1-2

Fried plantains can be on the table in less than 5 minutes. It’s a tasty and easy side dish for South American/Caribbean countries and a go-to where our family is concerned. The girls gobbled up most of these before I even sat down for dinner.
1 plantain 

Vegetable oil for frying
Salt
1.) Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Meanwhile, cut plantains into long, oblong slices.
NOTE: Choose plantains that are yellow to black in color, not green. The green plantain in the photo was still under ripe and inedible. Green plantains behave like green bananas, after a few days the bland astringency gives way to a mildly sweet flavor.I opted to use my cast iron for this and it worked out great. I heated the oil over medium heat, just be careful that it doesn’t get too hot or you’ll burn your plantains!
2.) Fry in the oil on both sides until browned. I’d guesstimate that it’s probably about 3-4 minutes per side.
3.) Sprinkle immediately with salt. Serve hot.

Happy eating…next up 19: Benin!

Pondering an anniversary

2 Loves

2 Loves…how I miss those chubby chins.

My Facebook feed was blown up yesterday due to a 40th anniversary. I read an article from Eugene Cho: To whom it may concern: Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the life that could be lived out. because of it. I’ve read many articles about it, on it, the whys and why nots for and against it. And I have to be honest with you.

I’m a fence rider.

Not because I don’t believe in the sanctity of life. Not because I don’t believe women shouldn’t have a right to determine what happens to their bodies. Not because I don’t believe that God intended humanity to be filled with beauty and life. Not because I believe that church and state are mostly and should be separated.

Not because I am sinful…or maybe because I am.

But truthfully, where is the argument or at least the point, when at the end of the day both sides are hurting? Woman, baby, families, broken in two by the loss of love? The loss of compassion? The loss of grace?

I’ve been reading a book that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. It’s focus on grace, on thanksgiving…I think is a genius answer to the hatred and pain that is felt throughout this argument. It’s exploration of the basis of sin and evil in the world being rooted in our ungrateful hearts, in a lack of thanksgiving. Through these reflections on faith and practice she connects the pieces together a little bit more for me on my own beliefs. Grace. What is grace?

I’m not looking for a debate or a fight or really anything, mostly I’m just shifting through my thoughts. I realize this won’t make sense to some and maybe will to others. As a mother, as a daughter, as an adoptee who doesn’t know her birth parents, as a child of God, and more simply as a player in humanity…I don’t dare to profess I have all the answers. I long for the goodness, the gratefulness that we once had as perfectly created and perfectly seeing, and in that longing I attempt to make a life and a belief that emulates what could have been. What is if we humble ourselves to embrace grace.