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: 

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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!

Monday Meal Plan (on Tuesday)

I’m not sure how I fell behind since I only seem to blog on my “gimmicky” days lately. I feel stuck in a rut when it comes to blogging lately and everything other than pictures or food seems to be mundane. I’m hoping that our Belize post later this week for Eat the World helps to lessen that fog but I’m not honestly all that confident. So…we’ll see.

Dylan’s home this week so I get to play with a few more “daring” recipes than if it was just me and the girls (since they generally won’t be convinced to eat it by just myself). Ada’s been chomping at the bit to “eat a country” since we re-booted last week with ETW, so that makes me happy. I’m hoping it’ll pull her out of this everything-is-icky phase we seemed to have begun.

Has anyone else had that issue when their kid(s) started daycare/school? Ada used to eat anything and everything we put in front of her, albeit not peas, but pretty much everything and now that she’s eating lunch at school turns her nose up at things she used to love. I know this is a developmental stage too but it’s driving me near bonkers. Especially when I’m really trying to plan out meals and provide a variety of foods for them to taste. She already has to eat what’s on her plate, we offer a small amount of anything new or things we know she doesn’t necessarily like just so she can keep trying it. Do you have any other tips or tricks to help with this? 

OH, and on an AWESOME note, one of my BFFs (seriously, I still use that term) is coming to visit me in early August!! She is flying into Fargo with her husband and going to spend FIVE days with us. I am over the moon!! Hopefully the weather will be beautiful and we’ll spend time at the lake and just putzing around town together. This summer is gearing up to be epic!!

Bert and the girls on the beach a year and a half ago...too long ago.

Bert and the girls on the beach a year and a half ago…too long ago.

Me and Bert. She loves me for me, can't you tell?

Me and Bert. She loves me for me, can’t you tell?

Bert & The Hubs with her Goddaughter.

Bert & The Hubs with her Goddaughter.

Monday Meal Plan : 1.14-1.20

1.14 Monday

Dinner: Leftovers

1.15 Tuesday

Breakfast: Homemade granola bars

Dinner: Salmon w/crispy edamame and lemon souffle pudding cake (Ada’s been dying for a dessert lately)

1.16 Wednesday  

Breakfast: Granola w/yogurt & honey

Dinner: Fully loaded baked potato soup w/crisped sausage

*Extra*

I made a sourdough starter last weekend and I’m hoping to try baking with it this night. We’ll see how it goes. It is still nameless which I hope to correct shortly as I want to hand it down to my girls someday (yeah, I’m cheesy like that). 

1.17 Thursday 

Breakfast: Cereal w/fruit & milk
Dinner: Eat the World: BENIN

*Extra*

Apple cinnamon scones from King Arthur’s recipe files. These can be made ahead and popped into the oven for a fresh brekkie…I’m in. 

1.18 Friday 

Breakfast: Apple cinnamon scones

Tea Time: Ada will be at Terry’s…

Dinner: Dachtler Pizza Night!

*Extra*

Peanut butter cup popcorn. The girls missed their Daddy mucho this past week while he was working, so I think, barring anything pressing that may come up, we’ll have a movie night. Shut ourselves in with some Red Box/Netflix, good pizza and popcorn, and just veg out together. My favorite kind of family time. 😉 

1.119 Saturday

Breakfast: Pumpkin cranberry waffles w/Cool Whip. Cool Whip? Yes. Cool Whip. 

Lunch: Beer cheese macaroni. I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time…here’s to hoping it’s delicious!

Tea Time: Assam w/milk & sugar and fruit snacks

Dinner: Spiced black bean, avocado & goat cheese tacos

1.20 Sunday 

Breakfast: Granola & almond milk/leftover scones

Lunch, Tea & Dinner: @ Terry & Sheila’s for Sunday, although if we come home for dinner I’ll make caramelized mushrooms & dumplings. I saw this recipe and my mouth instantly started watering. 

Christmas was, Christmas is

Christmas was…

Lovely and well-fed.

Filled with warmth.

Blessed in all ways.

Peaceful and joyous.

Christmas is a reminder of…

The sacrifices given.

The beauty born from healed scars.

The preciousness of life.

The amazing husband that loves me.

The perfection hiding in our imperfection.

I didn’t take many pictures of our week-long whirlwind of Christmassy happenings. Instead, I chose to try to stay in the moment, savoring this holiday and this time together as a family. The regular updates on Sandy Hook splashed across the televisions and on the radio were a morbid, albeit succinct reminder to enjoy the moments given to me with the littles. So I hugged them a little tighter and repressed my disgruntled-too-many-presents-I’m-drowning-in-wrapping-paper attitude a bit longer.

It certainly wasn’t without its bumps and frustrations (and I am infinitely glad that Dylan is as patient as he is). I’ve struggled with whether or not to write about it, it doesn’t seem very Christmassy or seasonally joyful but I think that, just in case there’s one other person like me out there, that I will. Because as much as I love Christmas and as much as I loved spending it with my family, this Christmas was probably the hardest one I’ve weathered through. Because this was the first holiday that I have celebrated post miscarriage.

I hate that word.

Every gift that I opened, every token of love and goodwill from family and friends, was a brief reminder in itself. No onesies, no blue or pink, no congratulations, no baby toys or books or invasive questions or belly touching. Just piles and piles of dolls, play foods, and coloring books. All of which I am very thankful for, and yet, my heart can’t help but twinge a bit at the lack of joy over the coming of a new life. We would’ve been telling people now about the pregnancy. Maybe even Pinteresting a clever manner in which to reveal the news. Facebook posts, blog posts, Instagram and Twitter…

All silent. Save for a Happy Christmas here and there.

I’m struggling to find words to explain my general dourness this Christmas season, which hopefully had enough Santa facade for my girls not to notice, so that I can continue on this journey of healing and growth. But it’s hard. Way.Hard. Hard enough that I’ve been mulling over this post for quite some time and still, after hours of deliberation, are at a loss for words. Which is a strange realization since I felt that I had dealt with the majority of my grief earlier this fall upon hearing the news. Apparently not. Apparently it takes time and continues to hit you in waves days, months, years? afterwards. So much grief for a life never fully realized.

And though I know this matters naught to you, know Mommy and Daddy love and miss you in the fullest sense. Happy Christmas little one.

Weekend with the cousins

This post isn’t completely about the cousins, I have to admit. This weekend was…full. Truthfully, I’m not sure what other word would best describe it. Maybe I’ll just explain in pictures, I think images are often the best descriptors when words fail anyhow.

Ada and Nellie were reunited with their cousin-BFFs, Lael and Lucy.

@ Grandma Sheila's house.

@ Grandma Sheila’s house.

My Grandma Sue was welcomed into the arms of God on Saturday.

Grandma Sue, the way I remember her as a child, at the lake cabin.

Grandma Sue, the way I remember her as a child, at the lake cabin.

Nellie contracted another round of pink eye and was kind enough to share with Dylan again. We’re still on the fence as to when/if Ada or I am going to get it.

Waiting at the ER for pink eye drugs on Sunday morning.

Waiting at the ER for pink eye drugs on Sunday morning.

I labeled and packed up Ada’s suitcase for her big Florida weekend adventure with Grandpa Pete. (And yes, you did read that right. The Florida trip has been postponed due to recent events and will regain excitement steam this spring when Mom speaks again in March.) There’s just a couple of other things I’ll have to throw in last minute tonight to send with.

Packing for Mayo, again.

Packing for Mayo, again.

And I packed suitcases for the rest of us for our week-long trek to Rochester/Twin Cities.

There is a prayer service on Friday and then the funeral will be on Saturday. I was asked to sing–weddings and funerals. Times for family to come together and celebrate but utilizing different emotions. Meh.

Prayers, I’m sure, would be appreciated.

The Ever Ongoing Job Search

This is the photo that we sent Tahquitz Pines Conference Center on our resumes. We realized that this is probably our first photo all together (that we orchestrated) since being in the hospital recovery room. And it’s amazing how big Ada’s already gotten.

This week has gone by extremely fast, not only have we conferenced more with Alan from Tahquitz about the job there in California, but Dylan started his new job at LM Glassfiber and Ada spent her first night away from Mommy and Daddy (there were only a few tears…none of Ada’s however). It doesn’t seem like just a week ago that we were feeling discouraged that no one was interested in what we could offer and then, BOOM, God opened a door for us.

Katie and Dylan will be flying out to California on Tuesday morning to see the Conference Center and also talk some more with Alan and his wife, Linda. Ada and Moses will be staying at Grandma Sheila and Grandpa Terry’s. We would appreciate your prayers for safety, wisdom and peace as we embark on this part in our job search journey. It will be a time of bid decisions and it is our hearts’ desire that God would be leading when and where we choose to go. If this is the place that God wants to cultivate us as a family and as believers, this is where we want to be…please pray for the wisdom to be able to discern whatever it is that God puts on our hearts while we are there and for the peace that whatever decision it is that we make, is the right one.