Cooking Over an Open Fire

Our stove has been going through gas fairly quickly, but the last 25 lb canister ran out in just 10 days . . . and I wasn’t cooking for most of them, due to work! We figured something must be wrong and stopped using the stove while we figured it out.

Since the gas ran out in the middle of making chicken soup, we borrowed the grill from Irving’s dad and finished the soup up on there. Since then, we have been cooking on the grill for bigger meals, including breakfast and dinner today. I haven’t done a lot of cooking over a fire in some time, but it is kind of fun.

For breakfast, we had beans (cooked in the crock pot) with onions, sausage and eggs. It was delightful! Even the boys decided they liked beans this way!

For dinner, we enjoyed some grilled chorizos with soba noodles and a salad. Yum! Everything has a lovely smoky flavor to it, which adds a lot to the meal.

Irving and his brother took apart the stove today and cleaned it all out and replaced the hose and attachment. So our stove is working again, but we’ll keep cooking on an open fire for a while, because it’s a lot of fun.

Family Movie Night: Wall-E

I have been wanting to do something as a family that doesn’t involve spending much money. While visits to the park are nice and free, I wanted more fun factor. On a forum that I frequent, there was a discussion of movie nights with themed food and it was such a cool idea that we decided to make it happen.

I chose Wall-E for the first movie night. We hadn’t watched it since Dante was about 3 or 4, so it was a good choice. Plus, Dominic is really into robots at the moment.

To begin, I made some tickets for the movie night, based on the tickets found here.

We colored some planets and made a planet mobile and we cut out some Wall-E glasses that I printed from this site. The boys loved them!

Finally, there was food. It was all Wall-E themed!

The menu:

The table (I used metallic twist paper to give it a space age feel and cut out stars from colored paper, it wasn’t too fancy, but it used what I had on hand):

I made meatloaf in a brownie pan to get the cubes. Surprisingly, everyone liked them, except Dorian!

We also had a Build-Your-Own-Robot Salad, where I cut some veggies into squares and rectangles of varying sizes and everyone got to build their own robot with them. You can see Dante’s robot here and the cubed potatoes.

And finally, Galactic Jello for dessert! This was MUCH anticipated by the kids. They saw me making it and were dying to try it. I got the idea from this awesome Dr. Who galaxy Jello, but I didn’t have many of the things she did, including blue Jello. I used pink Jello with blue food coloring to give it that darkness and added an assortment of sprinkles. I didn’t have stars, so I put snowflakes in and they worked fine. Unfortunately, most of the sprinkles in the middle dissolved and there was weird sugary liquid seeping everywhere when I cut into the dessert . . . but the kids didn’t care!

Overall, the first family movie night was a big hit. We’ll be doing more, for sure, but I need to plan out the movies in advance so I can make sure to include the proper ingredients in our monthly shopping. It was hard to find something that we had the ingredients for!

Baking Up a Storm

I have been baking a lot lately, since the rainy season has hit and the oven can be on without roasting us. We decided not to buy bread anymore, though we’d eliminated “pan frances” which is white, from our diet when Irving was diagnosed with diabetes. We bought whole wheat bread still, but it gets pricey when you have kids scarfing it all down adn since I have a bread machine, I decided to try making my own again. It’s been going well, so last week, we got these:

That is a 25 lb bag of whole wheat flour and a 50 lb bag of white flour. It might seem like a lot, but I’ll be very surprised if it lasts longer than a month! We found a deposito near the market where we can get the flour for considerably cheaper by buying in bulk.

I mix my bread in the bread machine, then turn it out into loaf pans to get two one pound loaves. However, since the oven is on, I usually make other stuff, too. Like these delicious whole wheat oat rolls:

whole wheat oat rolls

These are so yummy and healthy. We use them for everything from hamburgers to sloppy joes!

black bean sloppy joes

The other day, I made baked “fried” chicken, which the kids loved. It’s healthier than regular fried chicken and MUCH cheaper than Pollo Campero.

baked fried chicken

We’ve also discovered that oven roasted broccoli is a HUGE favorite around here. Everyone loves it and I don’t even like broccoli! It’s soooo good though, that we buy three heads of broccoli every couple of weeks in the market to use this way.

roasted broccoli

I made potato crusted chicken nuggets the other day and the boys liked them so much that Dante said he was never going to Pollo Campero again. Which was kind of the point. I also made sweet potato fries, which everyone pretty much scarfed down. This photo was taken seconds before they devoured the food like a group of piranhas. It was a little startling!

Potato crusted chicken nuggets

Another favorite around here is bagels. Mmm, we love our bagels. I try not to make them too often, since we would just overdose, but I do make them from time to time. I usually do a batch of whole wheat ones just for Irving.

homemade bagels

And finally, we have been playing around with snack ideas that I can pop in the oven when I’m baking bread, to take up the extra room. A big favorite is the banana oat cookies I wrote about previously, but carrot crackers are also a favorite.

carrot crackers

What’s happening in your kitchen these days?

Toddler Hunger Strikes and My Zoku Quick Pop Maker

zoku quick pop maker reviewEarly this year, a blog reader brought down an Amazon order for me and in this order was a Zoku Quick Pop Maker. I had been waffling on whether or not to get one for a couple of years since they are pretty expensive, but finally, I bit the bullet. We like popsicles here, but I don’t have a big freezer and so making a bunch is not really easy. This popsicle maker lets you make three at a time in about 10 minutes, so it’s really handy to have.

Basically, you freeze the base and just leave it in the freezer all the time. When you want to make a popsicle or three (they have three different sizes, I got the triple pop maker so none of the boys would have to wait), you take it out, put the sticks in and pour in the popsicle liquid. Then you wait ten minutes and use the special handle to pull the popsicles out. Voila! You can do fancy things with this pop maker, like this:

zoku popsicles

zoku quick pop maker review

Since it freezes so fast, you can do layers and even special cores. We LOVE to make orangesicles. You pour orange juice into the mold, then wait a couple of minutes for the outer bit to freeze, suck out the middle liquid and fill it with strawberry (or any flavor) yogurt. This is a big hit with the kids.

Now on to the title. It might seem weird that I’m talking about toddler hunger strikes when I just posted about hungry kids, but a couple of months ago, Dominic decided he didn’t want to eat anymore. As in, virtually NOTHING. I know the experts say to let kids choose their food and such, but since I’ve had one kid who ended up with malnutrition and some very drastic side effects from that, we don’t really like to leave it up to the kid. So . . . enter popsicles.

Dominic wouldn’t eat real food but he loves “eye peem!” So I made popsicles for him every day. These were often smoothies that I mixed in the blender, so I knew he was getting some nice healthy stuff in his tummy. Some of the combinations used:

– banana, cocoa, milk
– strawberry yogurt, banana, milk
– strawberry yogurt, milk, spinach
– banana, orange juice, spinach
– banana, spinach, cocoa, milk
– blackberries, orange juice

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to come up with a healthy combo. I don’t add sugar unless the juice is really sour (we squeeze our own). And sometimes, he got just orange juice pops. He would eat several popsicles a day and we could use them as a bribe to get him to eat a bit of lunch. “Eat your cheese and ham and you can have ice cream!” It worked and after a couple of weeks, he was back to his normal hungry self, having suffered no ill effects.

We still do popsicles at least once a day and all the boys love them. I even make Irving some diabetes friendly ones with papaya and pineapple or fudgsicles with milk, cocoa and stevia. While you’re not supposed to use sugar replacements in the pop maker, I haven’t had any issues with it.

Note: This isn’t a sponsored post, I genuinely LOVE my Zoku Quick Pop Maker, but I do make a few cents if you click on the links in this article and buy something on Amazon.

Random Bits of Life

Dorian is learning about prefixes and suffixes in school, but he’s had a rough time trying to understand them. I did some research over spring break and found this fun idea. So I adapted it slightly and set up a prefix/suffix forest on the laundry room wall out in the breezeway. He got the concept quickly and Dante learned about word parts, too.

We’ll be adding new words to these trees and new prefixes and suffixes until I’m sure he fully understands.

Another project we worked on was chore charts. I drew a frame in marker on cardstock and had the boys decorate their own charts. Then I drew lines in the middle and we covered them with clear contact paper. I used Velcro dots to stick them to the fridge and magnets to attach a ribbon to hold the dry erase marker. Each day, I’ll fill in any new chores that need to be done and the boys check them off as they complete each task.

I’ve also been playing with food lately. Like these potato encrusted chicken nuggets with sweet potato fries. I had a tough time getting a photo because the kids were all over these! Dorian said they were the “Best chicken nuggets EVER!” and Dante said, “I never want to go to Pollo Campero again!” Pretty high praise from my picky eaters.

I’ll be adding links as I put the recipes up on Gourmet Mama.

Dominic has been obsessed with cookies lately and since we don’t usually have cookies in the house, I decided to try those two ingredient cookies with banana and oats. One cup of mashed bananas mixed into one cup of rolled oats and baked for 15 minutes at 350° and you have really delicious little cookies that the boys gobbled up so fast I had to make another batch!

I also made these carrot “cookies” which are really crackers. Again, big hit and they are good for you with whole grains, carrots and olive oil. Yum!

mini crackers

What have you been up to?

How to Make Guatemalan Carnitas

Irving’s brother has a little cafe in the entrance of our town. It’s the perfect location since it is right by the bus, but unfortunately, he hasn’t taken a lot of interest in it (his dad set it up for him) and rarely opens. He sells ceviches on the weekends sometimes, but only for an hour or two. So, he offered to let us use the space sometimes. I think he wants us to take it over completely, but I’m not quite ready for that big move. However . ..

We decided to try selling carnitas there on the weekend. Carnitas literally translates to “little meats” and is basically fried pork. I’m not a fan, personally, but carnitas and chicharonnes (pork rinds) are very popular here. Except . . . no one sells them in our pueblo. So we decided to give it a try. First, I needed a recipe, but there are a million recipes for carnitas online and most are Mexican and very complicated. I needed to try them for myself.

The other day, we stopped at a roadside stand to get some. As Irving put it while explaining to his brother why we needed some carnitas, “She’s pure bloodhound. Give her something and she can smell it, taste it and know what ingredients were used.” Thanks, dear.

Anyway. I tried the carnitas and was surprised to find that they were very simple! So we bought the ingredients, went home and I made carnitas.

Here’s how you can make your own:

2 lbs. pork leg
1 lb. lard
3 onions
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
salt to taste

Cut the pork into 2″ squares (they can do this in the market for you) and put into a pot, along with the onion and herbs. Add just enough water to cover and about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

Drain the pork and set aside. Put the pot back on the burner and add the lard. Let it heat until it is spitting. CAREFULLY add the meat and stir. Cook until it darkens and forms little hairs that stick out from the meat. Drain and salt lightly if needed. Beware, the salt gets MUCH stronger if you leave the carnitas, so only salt what you are going to eat immediately.

Serve with a squeeze of lime, tortillas, and picado de rabano (radish salad).

Where to Eat in Antigua: Casa de Las Mixtas

When I first arrived in Antigua, I found a job as an English teacher at a little school in the southeast corner of Antigua. My first day, one of my fellow teachers told me he knew the perfect place for lunch. He showed me this incredible little place that you would never look at twice if you didn’t know about it.

Casa de las mixtas, eat in Antigua

This sweet little restaurant is located down an alley that doesn’t show up on any maps of Antigua on 3ra calle Oriente (the second alley in the last block if you are walking toward the Calzada) and it is my favorite place to eat. Every day, from noon until 1 pm, they have a set lunch for Q20 or about $2.50. This includes bread and soup, a main dish with meat and a side, plus tortillas, a dessert and a pitcher of the day’s “fresco” or juice.

I took my sister twice to this place and the second time I used her awesome camera to take some photos. We had:

restaurant antigua
Baby acorn squash soup

eat in Antigua Guatemala
Baked chicken with salad

eat in Antigua
Fruit Compote

set meals, cheap food in Guatemala
Strawberry Coconut Juice

It was all delicious! The thing that really makes me love this place, though, is the people. It is a family owned restaurant and when I first started eating there, the oldest daughter had a baby. He’s now a tall, strapping young man and she’s had two daughters. The youngest daughter has only recently married and had a couple of little girls and they are frequently found in the restaurant, toddling around with their cousins. The grandfather passed away a few years ago, but the father and the grandmother are still there, working in the simple kitchen with their three daughters/granddaughters.

I also recommend this place to my visitors because in over a decade of eating there, I have never once been ill. Always a good thing. They do serve other things besides the set meal, but it takes a very long time to prepare (though it is also insanely good!), so we usually just go for the quick meal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. We had our celebration yesterday, like many Canadians, and we enjoyed it with some new friends. It was a lot of fun! We’ve never had guests for Thanksgiving before, so it was a nice addition.

This year, we had a whole lot of food! I made two pies, pumkin and lime. Here are a few shots of the other food that we enjoyed. I’ll add links to the recipes as I get them up on Gourmet Mama.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Butter Rolls

Caponada

Tangy Potato Salad

Paprika Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower

Herb Butter Turkey