Monday, November 30, 2009



My nephew Joe had a wreck in his car this weekend - slammed into a post. Messed up his car pretty bad - it's going to cost around $1500 to get it fixed. Fortunately no one was hurt.

About an hour after Johnny took off to go help Joe, Crash Bang!!! Right in front of the house, another accident! Some people in a VW bug crossed right in front of a taxi scooting down the street. The taxi took off hit n run style, I'm not sure why, because he didn't seem to be at fault. The passenger in the Beetle was definitely hurt though - it didn't take 5 minutes before cops, firefighters, ambulances and everything were crawling all over the place.

It was nice to see such a quick response. I felt bad for the girl, though. :(
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Papas a la Huancaina

04 Papa a La Huancaina sliced potato in spicy ...Image by jasonlam via Flickr

In the central highlands of Peru you'll find a province called Huancayo. This province is known for many things - the Cerrito de la Libertad, the statue of the Virgin of Concepcion... but it's most known for it's food. In particular, it's known for a potato dish called papas a la huancaina (huancayo style potatoes... clever, eh?) This is a delicious dish, usually served as an appetizer but sometimes as a side dish that consists of boiled and sliced potatos covered in a spicy cheese sauce. It's the first authentic Peruvian dish I ever tasted, and is one of my favorites still. And here's how you make it!

  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 aji amarillo (yellow peruvian pepper) - seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups queso fresco or queso blanco (farmers cheese - I've been told feta will do in a pinch)
  • saltine crackers
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute the onion, aji and garlic in 2 0r 3 tbsps of vegetable oil, until the onion becomes soft and translucent.
  2. Put the sauted mixture in a blender or food processer, and puree it with the cheese and evaporated milk.
  3. Add crackers as needed to make it thick - this should be a fairly thick sauce that sticks to the spoon. If you get it too thick, add a little more evaporated milk to thin it out
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
Boil whole potatoes until cooked through, but don't let them get real soft! (If you're in Peru, you'll want to use papas rosadas for this - do NOT use papas amarillas!) After they've cooked, let them cool enough to touch then take the skin off and slice in 1/2 inch slices.

Arrange each serving like this -
- 1 lettuce leaf or a small bed of shredded lettuce
- 3 slices of potato
- sauce to cover
- decorate with a quarter of a hard boiled egg and a couple slices of black olive


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Saturday, November 21, 2009

We went to the movies...

We started this new thing with the boys - a behavior chart where they get points for good behaviors and for doing their chores on time. The points they earn in a day dictate how much tv/computer/playstation they get, and if they get enough points over the course of the week, they get to go along on a family outing, if they choose to do so.

Last week, the weekly prize was going out to the movies, and we went to see 2012. Knowing that Franco has had 'end of the world' issues in the past ( he's been terrified with Christian imagery of the Anti-Christ), we talked about the story behind the movie some before hand, and I let them know that in my opinion, the whole 2012/end of the world thing is a load of hooey.

Anyway - the movie. OK, the movie is cliche ridden and has a ridiculous plot and so many completely implausible scenes it's not even funny. But on the other hand, the acting was all pretty good - and let's face it, you only go to a disaster flick for awesome disaster, right? And this had some AWESOME disaster going on! The effects were great, imo (if not often a bit unbelievable) and that's what it's all about. The kids LOVED it. David is a sucker for special effects, and here it is a week later and he's STILL talking about it. Also - we watched in English with subtitles, so it made both kids get some reading done, and helped them with learning English. They can both recite lines from the movie in English! After only one viewing!! That's freaking amazing to me - what is it about guys that they manage to memorize movie lines like that?

And anything that can have both my boys interested for over 2 hours, sitting there wide eyed and jaws dropped, literally on the edge of their seats - that's a winner in my book.

I'd recommend this movie for pre-teens, as long as they're old enoughto know the difference between movies and reality, they'll love this movie. Although there's a LOT of death (like, most of the people in the world) there's no blood and nothing gruesome to see. There are some pretty intense scenes, but nothing extraordinarily violent.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Is this a gorgeous French oven or what? (well, I'd call it a Dutch oven, I don't know what's the diff? if you know, tell me!) I want it so bad!! I think of all the things I could cook with it. Ok, mainly I think of a big pot roast in the oven, but it would be awesome for baking bread, too. This Le Creuset cook ware is expensive, but man, that's the stuff of my dream kitchen. I think if I ever start making enough money, I'm gonna buy everything they make! It's cast iron, which I love love love, but it's coated with a porcelain enamel, so it's easy to clean and looks so pretty! I'm telling ya - I'm gonna have this thing one day! As much as I like the red, I think the cobalt blue would go better with my kitchen...

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fast Breakfast Ideas

Cornflakes and pseudo-espresso (really just ve...Image via Wikipedia

Breakfast is the easiest meal of the day around here. Since the boys don't have school until 1pm, we're in no rush. Which is great - since I don't have to worry about them rushing to get out the door on time, I can let them be responsible for their own breakfast. At first it was easy, they were happy to have cold cereal with milk or yogurt every day. Yogurt is more common in a liquid, drinkable form here in Peru - perfect with cereal. But, although they said before that all they ever wanted for breakfast was cornflakes, they're now telling me they're a little bored with it. So I've started coming up with some things I can have ready in the fridge for them to do on their own. And I started thinking, most of these things are so quick and easy, they would also work for people who ARE in a rush in the mornings.

1) Have a piece of casserole. I'll make a breakfast casserole, like a quiche, during the day. When it cools, I can cut it up and put portions in freezer bags - the boys just take one out, dump it on a plate and microwave it for a few seconds.

2) Yogurt. Yogurt is a healthy, economical and fast. When you are eating on the run, grab a container of yogurt and some dried or fresh fruit. I like vanilla yogurt with bananas cut up in it, and then sprinkle it with some All-Bran cereal for extra fiber.

3) Breakfast shake. If you keep some cut up fruit in individual bags in the freezer, this is a super easy breakfast - even my kids can make it. I put frozen fruit, yogurt and honey to sweeten in the blender. Good choice if you're on the move, because if you put it in travel mug with a straw, you can take it with you in the car.

4) Pancake Rolls. Whip up a batch of pancakes and freeze them in short stacks of three. The kids can heat them up in the microwave later, spread them with peanut butter and jelly and roll them up. If you have some frozen sausage links (which I DON'T in Peru!!) you could make pigs in a blanket by microwaving a few sausage to go with it.

5) Breakfast sandwiches. In the evening, while you are getting things ready for the next day, grill up a few breakfast sandwiches. Choose whatever you like: turkey slices, ham slices, cheese, tomato, bacon, etc. When the sandwich cools, cut it into bite size pieces and put it in a container. In the morning, just grab a container; pop it into the microwave for fifteen or twenty seconds and breakfast is served.

My boys like being able to do their breakfast on their own, and it gives them a great sense of responsibility. And honestly, I appreciate the break - while they're doing their breakfast, I can work on getting a load of laundry in and making sure they have clean uniforms for school!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to make a chicken last 3 meals (at least!)

Red-cooked chickenImage by 3liz4 via Flickr

Chicken is probably the most common main dish around here. There are SO many ways to prepare it - arroz con pollo, seco de pollo, fried chicken and caldo de gallina (Peruvian style chicken soup), just to name a few. I've mentioned before how I can usually get 3 meals out of one chicken, and I thought I'd talk a little more about how I go about doing that.One of the best ways is to start out by roasting the whole chicken - you can do wonders with what you don’t eat for dinner. Here are some ways to make that roasted chicken appealing to the family.

Learn to slice a whole chicken. Slicing one properly makes it easier to remove the rest of the meat from the bone. The carcass can be used to create stock. Boil it in some water with a carrot, a whole onion and some celery until the rest of the meat falls off.

You can season the broth with herbs and spices - try garlic and a bay leaf. After it cools, pour it into jars for storage. Freeze it and have it ready to use for soups and casseroles.

Do your kids carry their lunches to school? Instead of buying lunch meat, slice leftover chicken breast for sandwiches. It will be a nice change from the usual lunch fare.

On the weekends, instead of ordering a pizza or going to McDonald’s, use that chicken. Cube a few pieces to toss on top of a salad with some cheese and croutons. Combine with peppers and onions in a skillet, then stir in some chili powder or taco seasonings to make filling for fajitas or soft tacos.

My guys don't care for the breast meat as a main dish, but will eat it up if it's cooked into a tallarin saltado (stir fry) or aji de gallina (chicken in a spicy sauce). Does your family like chicken pot pie? Add some of the chicken, along with vegetables (canned or frozen) and a can of creamed soup to a pie crust and you’ve got an instant dinner that takes less than an hour to prepare. It is a quick meal idea perfect for busy families. A salad on the side will make a complete and healthy dinner.

Chicken based casseroles can be made and frozen for future meals. The family may be all “chickened out” for the week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the chicken you have left for future weeks.

Make your own soup with juicy chicken pieces and wide egg noodles - or use spaghetti noodles for Peruvian style.. That broth you jarred up will serve as a nice base and best of all it's already seasoned. Add noodles and sliced vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions to your soup. When the noodles are tender, add the chicken. Since it is already cooked it just needs to warn up. Ladle up a bowl for a light weekend lunch, or for 'lonche' in the evening with some fresh pan frances from the panaderia.

What are you doing with your chicken after dinner tonight? Try some of these ideas to make that chicken do double and triple duty to save on your family’s grocery bill. The best part is that the new meals are just as tasty as the original dish.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con pollo y papa a la huancainaImage via Wikipedia

Today I cooked arroz con pollo for my guys - that's rice with chicken. It's a staple of pretty much every Latin American country, although they've all got their own special take on it. In Peru cooking style, it's sometimes called 'arroz verde' or green rice, because it contains a LOT of cilantro (also called coriander). It's usually served with papas a la huancaina, and often an avocado salad. Here's how I make my arroz con pollo.

4 chicken thighs (you can remove the skin if you like)
3 cups of rice
vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup of aji amarillo (yellow chili pepper - check your Latin market) finely chopped or liquefied
1 cup of cilantro/coriander - liquefied (see the recipe for seco de pollo for directions on doing this)
2 large handfuls of green pea pods - shell them, and use the peas, not the pods!
About a half a cup of carrot cut up into cubes
2-1/2 cups of chicken stock/bouillon.
1/2 cup of beer
Salt and pepper

Put about 1/2 cup of oil in a dutch oven or stew pan.
Salt and pepper your chicken thighs, then brown them in the oil.
Remove them from the pan, and then add the onion, garlic, cilantro and aji.
Stir it around a bit until the onion starts to turn golden and translucent.
Add the chicken back in and pour in the beer. Let it cook until the chicken is cooked through.
Take the chicken back out and set it aside covered where it will stay warm - in a very low temperature oven or on the back of your range top is good.
Put the rice, shelled peas, carrot and chicken stock into the mix.
Add salt and pepper as necessary here, then cover tightly to cook the rice.

Serve the rice together with the chicken.

Ok - now for the truth - I can NEVER cook rice right on the stove top, so I do my chicken on the stove top, then throw everything into the rice cooker at the end and let it all cook together there. It comes out perfect every time.

If you are opposed to cooking with beer, just replace it with chicken bouillon. If you're short on time, don't feel bad about using a small can of peas and carrots instead of fresh. For more Peruviness, (that's like grooviness, only Peruvian) throw in a handful or two of Andean corn (choclo) if you can find it.

You might also want to add a little bit of thinly sliced red bell pepper. I don't because everyone in my house just picks it out - but if you look around on the internet, you'll find that a lot of recipes and pictures show it.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

reBlog from Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Backlinks

I found this great source for anyone who's looking for ways to get backlinks to their blogs/lenses/hubs etc:

This page is going to be a great resource to find all the information you need on how to build backlinks. I will keep adding to it as more linking resources are created. Remember ~ this is a comprehensive resource ~ not all of these ideas will be right for what you are doing. If you have questions about whether something in particular will work for you feel free to ask in the comment section of the particular post or resource. (make sure you bookmark this page so you can find it again ~ and hit the retweet button to share with your friends), Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Backlinks

You should read the whole article.

I know this is a really bizarrely off-topic post for me - but the above website has been so much help to me in learning my way around the internet, I wanted to share it with other people.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Strawberry Smoothie Recipe

Strawberry SmoothieImage by Poldavo (Alex) via Flickr

I love smoothies. I love strawberry smoothies the best. Especially with banana. I like to make them for me and the boys for breakfast because it's so yummy, and so healthy. And so easy!

For your strawberry smoothie, start with a pint of strawberries. I rinse them, cut off the stem and then cut them into smaller pieces - it doesn't have to be real small, because it's going in the blender anyway. I put them all in a tupper and then sprinkle a little sugar over the top - just a dusting. Then, I put them in the freezer and let them freeze solid.

Meanwhile, I peel a couple bananas, cut them up and put them in a plastic bag and freeze them too.

Next day, everything's ready for breakfast!

Get the blender out, drop in all your cut up, frozen fruit. Add enough drinkable yogurt to come to the same level as the top of your fruit (I hope that makes sense!) And then blend! If it's too thick, you can add more yogurt or cut it with a little skim milk to thin it down.

If you don't have drinkable yogurt, you can make your own. Or, add in a 8 oz cup of regular vanilla yogurt, and add skim milk as necessary. Or instead of milk, add a little orange juice.

If your smoothie isn't sweet enough, add a little honey.

I like to put my smoothie in bowl, and sprinkle it with some muesli or puffed wheat.

If you love smoothies like I do, you'll want to check this out - Amazing Smoothies

AND - Speaking of strawberry smoothies, MAN - I want this so bad!!

Vita Mix 1300 Turboblend 4500

It looks so awesome - We make a lot of smoothies and fruit drinks, and I'd LOVE to be able to sneak in some veggies like spinach or kale. I know the boys need more raw foods and green veggies, but David in particular just doesn't like them, and I refuse to force them to eat things they really don't like. (I make them take a forkful, but no more than that) My blender is a good little Oster, but it's just not strong enough to really blend in tough green veggies. I'd love to get a Vita Mix, and give my kids some SUPER powered drinks before school!

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seco de Carne - Peruvian Beef Stew

Purple Peruvian potatoesImage by chez pim via Flickr

I'm gonna cheat here today.

I was checking out the search phrases that have brought people here, and it seems that about 99% of the people who find my blog on Google find it after doing a search for seco de pollo or Peruvian chicken stew, or some variation of that.

So - for all of y'all that have shown up here and tried my recipe for seco de pollo - thanks, and I hope it was delicious!

And I'm going to give you an extra bonus on that today - If you like the seco de pollo, you can do seco de carne also. It's the same recipe - just substitute stew beef for the chicken! My boys prefer it to the chicken, actually.

So - click on the linkie here and go to the seco de pollo recipe - and instead of browning chicken, lightly flour some stew beef and brown it. Then follow all the rest of the directions just like they're written. It's yummy!

I couldn't find a picture of any seco de carne, so I put a picture of some pretty Peruvian purple potatoes. I'll cook up some stew this week or next and put up a picture of it.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Lima, Peru

Last year at Halloween, we were still living in Surquillo. Surquillo is one of the poorer districts, as far as residential status goes - but it's still a nice place to live! Now we're living in Miraflores, which is one of the best residential areas in the city. The difference it made in trick or treaters was huge!

Last year, I had two groups of mostly teen-aged kids come by - no costumes, just plastic grocery bags and yelling 'Halloween! Halloween!' They haven't quite got the 'trick or treat!' part down yet.

This year, we went through two bags of candy! We had group after group of little kids with their moms - in all sorts of adorable costumes. We had a lot of princesses, some ghostface masks, an awesome dinosaur - and even a Teletubby!

We had carved our little pumpkin and put it out on the front step, hoping to let people know we were giving out candy. It was very popular with the little kids. My husband said we were the only ones that had a jack O Lantern out - not really a surprise, since it's not a custom here.

The truth of the matter is, Halloween itself isn't a custom in Peru. When I first arrived, there was no sign of Halloween. But each subsequent year, I've seen more and more Halloween goods in the stores. Some people don't like it - they say that it's an American custom and is usurping Peru's own culture. But I think, if people like it, and adapt to it and make it their own, it becomes their culture. The United States didn't invent Halloween, it was a mixture of customs from various cultures that came together and became what we have now. Just in my lifetime, Halloween culture has changed in the US. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for it to change in other cultures. As more North Americans move to Peru, we - as immigrants, just like our forefathers were up north - are bringing our cultures here, and our new home is adapting to us.

I think that's an awesome thing!
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