Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Rest of the (Yeast-Using Cooking Extravaganza) Story!

30/9/10

Kristen says...

Well, a while ago I said I would upload more of my cooking experiences, and I promised one of my students a new blog post tonight, so here goes...

Amidst the McDonald's drive thru experiences (apparently Chris and I are not the only people in the world who call/text the person sitting next to them?!), Rosetta Stone milestones, and other miscellany, I have been doing things. Many of them having something to do with the oven.

Our story begins after the pigs in a blanket were gone (and probably digested)...but before we lost power for over 24 hours, which killed the small amount of yeast remaining in my fridge. (That was MISERABLE!! Especially since it happened twice in the span of 3 days).

Anyway, after the spectacular outcome with the pigs I decided to make another recipe that was sent to me, pizza dough. Pizza is probably my favorite food, I really think I could eat it every day and not get tired of it. You would think that would be because I could have it a different way every time, but really (remember the plain family thing?) all I like is cheese. Thin crust, thick (or Felix and Oscar's Chicago Style...oh, heaven!) crust, brick oven or plastic-y mall court, I love love LOVE cheese pizza. (I have branched out slightly since coming to Honduras--the other day I ordered cheese and corn pizza--the lady looked at me like I was crazy ("¿Maiz y queso solo?") but I assure you, it was delicious.)

I have made my own home-made pizza before, but I've always "cheated"--either I've purchased a pre-made pre-baked crust and thrown on sauce and cheese and baked it for a bit, or I've used the Jiffy-brand pizza crust mix. Down here? It was from scratch or bust! :)

Here is a link to the recipe I used, courtesy of allrecipes.com (although it was originally sent to me by a friend).

And here is a picture of the final product:
Yep, I baked that on a 9x13 pan. Toppings: refried bean sauce (really, just the beans), quesillo, shredded mozzarella, tomatoes, onion, minced garlic, and sour cream 'n onion taquitos for some crunch. Spread a little melted butter on the crust and you're good to go!


Apparently I took zero other pictures of the pizza-making process, but fear not, this was not the only baking I did before the sad demise of the yeast.

On one of the days of my (lovely) 5-day Independence Day break, Chris and I were watching some morning television and saw an ad for Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme or something. Chris got a sudden craving for the sweets, and I was all ready to run to the Dunkin store (about 500 ft from our apartment), but he thought it might be fun to make them instead.

As he was working, and I was not [ :) ], it fell to me to make them. I looked online for a recipe, and found out a lot of things I didn't know about doughnuts before...like that you're supposed to use something called a doughnut pan to make them?! or fry them, which sounds 1) even more fatty than just a regular doughnut, and 2) dangerous. I ended up blending this recipe for baked doughnuts and this recipe for cake doughnuts based on the ingredients and pans I had on hand and what looked delicious.

First I set the yeast out to foam and mixed the dry ingredients. I don't like nutmeg, so we have none in the house. Therefore, I just used cinnamon. I was very happy with the way the dough rose...here is a pic of the fluffy dough:
After all that work, Chris came out and played with the dough...and then decided he wanted to help make the doughnuts after all...After we got the dough rolled out to the thickness we wanted, we realized the recipes called for some sort of cutter that we didn't have...so we used our Yankee ingenuity!
















The pilsner was my idea; the bottle cap his! What a great team we make! :)


The doughnuts rose quite a bit, and ended up looking pretty nice:Half of them I dipped in a glaze that I made from milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and the other half I dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Both were pretty good, although I think we both liked the cinnamon and sugar better...Don't be fooled by the pained expression--he is reacting to eating a too-hot doughnut, not the flavor (I think!) :)

After about 2 doughnuts apiece (ok, so maybe Chris had 2 or 3 (times) that many) we decided that we had WAY too many and took some down to the Hondurans who watch our door (I think they liked them, too). Chris had one the next day with his coffee and said it was ok the next day too.

There was one final yeast-based food I was able to make before the great electricity snafu of 2010. Remember at the beginning of last month when I asked if anyone knew of any Indian restaurants in the city? Well, I am sad to report that none of you did, but Chris and I did find a brand of pre-made Indian food that we LOVED to eat in the States (It's called Kitchens of India, and it is GREAT!) at Mas x Menos. (Side note: I wasn't overly impressed with MxM...I felt like a lot of the things you could get there were available at other stores like Stock or even La Colonia or Pais for less money, but having a wide variety of Kitchens of India goodness kind of redeemed them.)

So, armed with Indian deliciousness (Chris did try to make a lentil curry once before while we were down here...it was...green. And, ok. We can't really find most of the spices you need to make it taste authentic here) and rice we decided to make it the real deal and make naan. I used this recipe (thanks again, allrecipes.com!), one I hadn't used before (I used to make naan in the States, but I used yogurt or sour cream instead of yeast. It's easier! I have 2 Indian cookbooks sitting in a tub in my parents' basement in Osky...not much help to me now!)

One thing I have to say: if you are going to use this recipe and you're not going to have more than 10 people eating with you, halve it. It makes A TON of naan!

**UPDATE: We made naan again tonight, with the recipe halved, and we still got 12 pieces of bread out of it...SO, halving it is definitely suggested...maybe even quartering it (although, who doesn't like leftover naan!)**

Here is the naan in 3 stages...in the middle are the rising globs of goo that seemed to never end, all the way to the left is the rolled out naan ready for the pan, and to the far right in the pan is the delicious-smelling garlicy naan goodness:And here is a picture of dinner the next day (we stupidly started making the naan at like, 6pm, and it had to rise...twice...so we had day-old naan with our Indian...and, if you allow me to brag for a minute, it was still quite excellent!) Curry may not look like the most appetizing thing, but boy is it good! :)

Since the power outage (due to the much-feared and major blowout Tropical Storm Matthew and other unavoidable rain-related issues) I've stuck to more simple dishes: meatloaf, cake (I did make my own chocolate frosting for that...yum!) and baked potatoes. Certainly nothing worth blogging about.

Obviously I have done other things than cook...like a museum tour of downtown Tegucigalpa, for example, but it is getting late and I have to make sure that I'm totally ready for school tomorrow before I go to bed. I promise, I will get around to blogging that trip soon...it was GREAT! :)

"And now you know...the rest of the story!" (RIP Paul Harvey!)

KF

PS: If you have no idea what I'm referring to with the Paul Harvey reference above, do yourself a big favor, click on his name and listen to the genius that was his iconic radio broadcasting style, then leave me a comment to tell me how much you enjoyed it!

It will change your life.

Or at least inform you.

But seriously.

Just do it.

Now!

What are you waiting for? :)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

One of these days...

26/9/10

Kristen says...

...I am going to order from a Honduran drive thru and get EXACTLY what I want.

I thought today was going to be the day. I practiced my Spanish with Rosetta Stone for an hour and a half this afternoon (although, unfortunately I haven't come across a lesson on ordering food through a muffled black box) and was feeling pretty ok about it. At least, I figure I learned something today, even if it wasn't exactly what I needed to know.

And, really, that hour and half was the most I did all day...it was a VERY lazy weekend! After gearing up for "Hurricane Matthew" (which really ended up being Tropical Storm Matthew, and it completely missed us, so it was a big bust) at the end of last week, and having to cancel our planned trip to the orphanage this morning (more on that later) we just hung out with friends, ate, and slept this weekend. Yesterday I set up an intensive plan to help a local man learn English (yes, I am going to teach English lessons...I have a feeling that will be very interesting!) and...well, today I did a little RS and ordered from the McDonald's drive thu (or auto Mac as they call it here...yep, auto Mac).

The origin of this was that Chris wanted greasy food, a want which he conveyed to me by BB MESSENGER, when we were sitting approximately 10 feet away from each other in the sala...
Lazy, party of two! :)

So, being the nice wife that I am, I decided to venture forth in search of grease. As you might be able to see in this poorly-grained picture (my good camera is coming in just under a month!!!) my hair is looking pretty awesome today, a product of wet hair from a shower that hadn't been properly styled. (I do have naturally curly hair, despite my constant work to straighten it.) Chris wanted a burger, coke, and fries, so our options were "limited" (HAHA--Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonalds are not far away). I personally hate BK, so I chose Wendy's first (it's very close to home, and has a drive thru, which was important since I didn't want to get out and go inside a restaurant with my lovely hair and choice of clothing (Storybook Players t-shirt and "workout" shorts).

Unfortunately, Wendy's drive thru was closed??? so I had to go to Micky D's. I arrived, and I really thought it was going to be good. I actually understood when they guy welcomed me and asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted "un numero cuatro con un Coke regular" and then it got a little tricky...he asked if I wanted "papas", which I did (or Chris did, as I was ordering his food first). Then I ordered my food, a Happy Meal (I'm not actually sure what that is called in Spanish).

I don't like all the "fixins" on my food--in fact, I come from a family that we lovingly refer to as the "plain" family...whenever we go out, we always order our food plain. I wasn't sure how to say that, so I said I wanted "una quesoburguesa, sin todo pero carne y queso. Carne y queso solo." And of course papas. And then a Sprite, since I don't like Coke.

The guy seemed like we were on the same page, he offered postre (dessert) and I declined, and drove through to the first window.

This is when I should have started to worry.

There were two gentlemen waiting there for me, one the guy I had been chatting with, and one a managerial type, who questioned me about my order. (This happens a lot--apparently my Spanish isn't as good as I pretend it to be?) It still sounded right, so I happily paid and moved on to Window #2.

I was handed a bag, a box (my Happy Meal) and two drinks.

Right away I should have stopped and asked the guy for a change...I got 2 Sprites, rather than a Sprite and a Coke...but I was already pulling out when this registered, so I figured Chris could enjoy a refreshing lemon-lime drink rather than the stuff they use to clean blood off pavements.

I got home, started pulling out our food and realized...they had definitely left out the carne and the queso...because they gave me McNuggets!

Now, I am an equal-opportunity McDonald's eater ... ok, that's a lie. I'm not. I like plain cheeseburgers. Period. So the McNuggets were quite sad for me. But I ate them, and they were probably the best McNuggets I've had in a long time, so I guess it wasn't too bad.
Two "Mc"stakes...and a puppy who would like to eat them both!

So, all-in-all, not the best "Mc"sperience I've had at the drive thru. And I realize there is user-error, but I think the error was mostly on my part. I need to learn how to say EXACTLY what I want, and I think I need to slow down and enunciate a little better.

Hopefully next time will be better. :)

KF

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slow and Steady Español

9/22/10
Kristen says...

¡Hola!

Today I am quite proud ... er, ok, maybe proud isn't quite right, but ... today I passed Rosetta Stone Level 2!! :)

While I am happy to have reached this milestone today, it also makes me realize how far behind I am from where I thought I would be/want to be/think I should be at this point. Because, you see, we started working on Rosetta Stone in DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR!

If you remember all the way back to the beginnings of the blog, we thought we would be spending a bit more time on Rosetta Stone. I believe I even said I would practice two hours a day in the month of June...yeah, not so much. :)

Obviously, I have been getting in some non-RS practice with the Spanish ... Wilmer is Spanish-only, as are most of the service industry folks here in Honduras. If I am shopping at a store I (usually) need to be able to ask for prices, availability, etc in Spanish, and I don't think we've had a waiter yet who spoke English. So obviously I am using a bit of the language every day. I even purchased 3 history magazines in Spanish, hoping that they would get me more practice...sadly I haven't even really had time (or maybe I should say made time) to even do more than flip through the pictures...they are kind of intimidating me :)

Another thing I do to practice my Spanish is eat lunch in the teachers' lounge, something I didn't do a whole lot of in the States ... teachers' lounges are kind of known as griping dens, and are usually something (for me) to avoid. Here, however, the lounge is a pretty positive place, and all but one of the people I eat with on a regular basis speak Spanish as their first language, so it's a great place to soak up all the Spanish I can from their conversations. The best part is, it's totally ok for me to "interrupt" and say, "Wait, are you talking about ..." or sometimes they even ask me, "Are you understanding what we're saying?" It's been such a great place to relax and have some quality teacher-time. I enjoy it very much.

Still, only passing 2 levels of Rosetta Stone in 8.5 months...that is WAY past the "try it for 6 months and learn it or return it" policy. Obviously we weren't going to return the product, but still. The assumption is that you will finish the program in 6 months, and if you haven't learned the language by then, that is when you return it. What a slacker I am that I haven't even gotten half way through!

But there again, since I got the program I:
1. Finished my first full year of teaching
2. Moved out of my apartment
3. Moved into my parents house
4. Moved to Honduras
5. Started my second full year of teaching (in a foreign country!)
6. Have had lots of other things that have taken up my time

So, it's not like I've just been wasting my time (although, I have done my fair share of that, too...you know what they say about all work and no play...)

Anyway, I'm going to call this milestone a draw. I don't remember exactly when I passed into the realm of Level 2 (it really has been that long, sadly), but I seem to be averaging just over 4 months (eek) per level. So, it is September 22, which means we are just about exactly 3 months away from going home for Christmas.

My goal is to be through with Level 3 before I leave Honduras for Iowa in December.

There, you are my witnesses. I am REALLY going to try. Most days I do nothing, but today I've actually put in a solid 2 hours...and I really do think it helps. If nothing else, it puts the language at the front of my mind.

So, let's hope that I can make my goal...because really, if I'm only here for 2 years, I don't want to "waste" any more time than I have to learning the language...I'd rather be out there using the language to connect with people in this wonderful country!

KF

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wow, busy!

Chris says:

So, I haven't blogged in a long time! Sorry! Since the last time I blogged...things we (or I) have done:

*Played poker 3 times, and lost 2 times! I don't just mean I didn't win, I mean I was the first one out! I'm in a once a week league with the IT guy from school and some awesome local guys.....its been a great way to get more spanish practice.
*Made various baked and cooked goods from home. I'm not sure what was better, the pigs in a blanket or the beef and noodles...???
*Volunteered at an orphanage - we're going again this month!
*Made real papusas and all the fixins....
*Enjoyed both Honduran and American (from the States) beer. Miller Lite is down here...not too expensive. They also have Schlitz! My grandpa would be soooooo proud! We'll save the Shitz, I mean Schlitz for a special occasion.
*Enjoyed more Rum from down here....cuba libre is quickly becoming my drink of choice instead of beer. Its great too because of all the fresh citrus down here...real limes..yummy, very good.
*I've learned more Spanish and am doing ....not so bad. I've found that doing Rosetta Stone, even for 15 minutes once a day is something.......in a week, you've probably at least done a lesson.
*Enjoyed the first weeks of American football in Honduras! Although I haven't seen an Iowa game yet, they do re-broadcast the BigTen network on a Fox Sports affiliated network down here....I'm excited to be able to watch a Hawkeye game! We get U.S. affiliates (ABC, NBC, CBS) out of the east coast so I've been able to watch enough football to keep me sane.
*On the topic of sports, I'm learning to enjoy a bit of soccer. We went to an actual live game 6 or 8 weeks ago....it was a very cool experience!
*Enjoyed my first Labor Day in another country. Kinda weird.....
*Met more expats working for the State Department and Embassy down here...very cool people. Even invited to a Marine party this week which evidently is supposed to be awesome.....and full of Marines to keep us safe...best of both worlds!
*Got my first plant, Kristen bought it for me at Mayoreo.....its growing...I like plants! Not sure if it flowers.....
*and, much, much more....

Things are still pretty great down here. Weather is beautiful, all the foliage is great too...there are some awesome flowering trees around our place...I'll take some pictures and post to out Flickr account to the left. All in all, good stuff - still very happy with our choice to move down here and have this adventure.

That's all for now, time for Rosetta Stone.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Honduran Holidays, Crazy Cooking and Weird Weather

11/9/10
Kristen says...

September 11th. I hope everyone takes a minute today to hug the ones they love, and to remember those who lost and were lost on 9/11/01. Thanks to all those who are fighting the War on Terror...your sacrifice is appreciated.

I was surprised that it was September 11 today--had I been in the US, I would have been reminded that it was coming up on a daily basis. I think last year we even did a moment of silence or something at school. Of course, this year the day is on a Saturday, and so we would not have done anything at school, but still, I wouldn't have been surprised, halfway through the day, to realize to stop and remember that day...

As a transplant to Honduras, this week has been full of September 15, or Honduras' Dia de la Independencia (think July 4th, United Staters). Actually, pretty much the whole month of September is a celebration, because the country declared independence on the 15th, but received the official acceptance on, I believe, the 28th. We had an all-school celebration for Flag Day on Sept 1, and then yesterday, our Independence celebration.

We have spent HOURS over the last week at school getting ready for this. Each class was given some part of the country to represent by building a parade float. My homeroom class, 6th grade, was given Comayagua, a city and department (similar to the US States) between here (Teguc) and San Pedro Sula. Here is the float:
The kids worked really hard on it, building factories, billboards, roadside fruit stands (and the road), the Montagua (Tegucigalpan Soccer Team) practice field, and making wood-shaving "rugs" similar to those made in religious festivals in the cities. The large church in the background was made by a parent, but really made a difference in the float.

The celebration was great, full of student-led presentations, Honduran songs and dances, and some speeches. We were also served Honduran foods...yum!!


Of course, one of the best things about it was that we had just a half day of school, and are off on a break through the 15th!That wasn't the only excitement we had at school this past week...on Thursday afternoon I was working on my grades (Quarter 1 grades were due yesterday before we left for the break) when a loud thunderstorm hit the school.

This in itself isn't surprising--it rains at least once every day here, and often in the mid-afternoon. This particular thunderstorm was different, though...louder, and closer-sounding than any other. The elementary schoolers were actually outside for the first few claps, and they all screamed every time one hit. I was surprised the teachers didn't call them in sooner than they did.


They eventually got all the little ones inside, and within 5 minutes the rain came. It was rain, but it sounded different...harder. It sounded like hail! I had my back to the windows, so I didn't see it start, but I could hear it coming down. I went outside and watched as the precipitation turned from a hard rain to a hard hail.

Here is a video...
(it's kind of loud, so you may want to turn down your speakers...oh, and please ignore the dumb things I say...I was a little over-excited, I think!)


and a few pictures to prove it.

We had hail! (the coin is a 20 Centavo coin, about the size of a dime)















(and a flood at school afterwards!)
When I haven't been battling the elements or celebrating Honduran holidays, I have been cooking! Chris plays poker every Thursday with a group of Honduran friends (an excellent way to practice his Spanish, and fun for him to get out, too. The best part is they don't play for money, so it's all in good fun! The only rule is that whoever loses first has to host the game the following week...and guess who lost two weeks in a row... :)

So we had a group of 10 guys over two Thursdays in a row...of course I had to cook wonderful, US dishes. I didn't really mean to turn this blog into a cooking show-and-tell, but since it's what I'm doing a lot of...I thought I would share.


The first week (last week) I made beef and egg noodles...well, Chris made the beef, I made the noodles. I used my Grandma's recipe, and had to do a double-batch because Chris wanted them to be short and thick rather than long and skinny. (I thought I had pictures of this, but apparently not...sorry.)


Egg noodles aren't hard to make, but they are time consuming...you have to mix the "batter," roll out the noodles, cut them, then let them dry. Since mine were short-fatties, I just left them out all night, but they were still kind of wet when I cooked them. They turned out pretty well, though.

This past Thursday we hosted again, and we decided on pigs in a blanket (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls). Chris suggested them because they are an easy thing to make...well, they're easy in the States where Pillsbury and your local grocery store provides you with delicious, pre-made rolls. Here, you can get them, but it's quite expensive...more than $5.00/package. So I decided to make them the old-fashioned way, from scratch.

I was talking about this with a fellow teacher, and she sent me a variety of recipes for crescent rolls. (I actually have an awesome recipe from my aunt, but unfortunately, like all my other recipes, it is in my book in the States). I don't know where she got it from, or whose it is, but this is the recipe I used:
  • 2 Tbsp. dry active yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
Basically you put the yeast and water together to rise, then melt the butter and add the milk, then let that cool a bit, add the sugar, salt, and eggs to the foamy yeast, then start mixing in the flour until you can't mix any more.

Then you let the dough rise for a bit (it didn't rise too well, but well enough), then roll out half of it and cut it like a pizza:



Then you take the dogs and, beginning from the fat end of the triangle, roll them up tight. If you run out of hot dogs you can also just make delicious, buttery crescent rolls. Just butter one of the sides, roll them up, and tuck in the edges:


You have to let them rise for an hourish, then you bake them at 400° for 10-12 minutes:


or until they are golden-brown on top:


Serve with ketchup or mustard, or just eat plain. They are soooo good!! (Well, I assume they are good, I didn't get to eat any because the guys had them all.) You can also tuck 1/3 of a Kraft American cheese slice next to the "pig" inside the blanket if you so choose.

Anyway, that is what has been keeping me busy lately...now that I have some yeast in the house, I'm going to have to do more baking...I'll keep you posted, if you're interested :)


Happy Independence Day, Hondurans!! :)
KF

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is it really already September?!

8/9/10 (Haha didn't notice that until just now!)
Kristen says...

Well, I really apologize. I hope you haven't been logging on every day since our last post, feverishly hoping for an update, and being sadly disappointed...I thought I had warned you that I was going to be crazy-bad a updating once school began, but I think I left that important information out...I was probably too busy to remember to post it!

At any rate, the life of Chris and Kristen in Tegucigalpa has been pretty mundane lately, without much to blog about...

We are settling into our work-and-school-week routine quite well, with Chris getting up WAY too early (like, 5:30ish some days) and me steadfastly refusing to get out of bed before the alarm goes off at 6:05...Chris is in his office working by 6:10 (7:10 Iowa-time), and I am on the road to school usually between 6:45 and 6:55. (I don't have to be at school until 7:30, but I like my few minutes of quiet before the kids come!)

School is over for me at 3:30 most days, unless I need to stay to finish up some grading, a meeting, or my Wednesday night English conversation group, but I am usually still home by 4:30 at the very latest, if I come straight home. VERY rarely I'll pop over to Pais or La Colonia (grocery stores) to pick up something for dinner...more often, if we don't have much food in the house or need to go pick something up (for instance, tonight we needed to go buy a new cookie sheet) Chris and I will go out together to get dinner and whatever else we "need".

Yes, you read right, Pip is FINALLY settling down enough to spend time alone in his kennel so we can both be out of the house together. It was a tough battle, but he is finally relaxing! Yay!

Here are a couple other places he likes to relax:


















He picks some of the weirdest places! Under Chris' desk, on the couch like a cat, under my skirts in the closet (look for the white around his black nose) and, what I think has to be the most uncomfortable, on top of our shoes!?!















So now that Pip has gotten his Chi back, we have gotten our lives back...kind of...because really we spend most of the work-week, well, working (go figure! ) and most of the weekends sleeping!

For example, this past weekend:Aren't they cute?

Beyond the sleeping and working, we have managed to spend a bit of time with friends...most notably we went out with a group of US-citizens last Friday for dinner, and would have been to Tela over (Chris') long holiday weekend (Happy Labor Day week, those of you in the United States) if we'd had someone to leave Pip with...

Next week is my (first) long Holiday weekend (Feliz Dia de la Independencia, Hondureños!), but I don't think we're going anywhere for that one, either, because Chris will still be working. Maybe we will fit in a dog-friendly day-trip?

Anyway, that's about all the news that's fit to print in our lives. We passed the 2-month mark of our being in Honduras on Monday, and so far, I have very few complaints. We are both very happy here, and very much enjoying it. There are some things I know I am missing, but my sister Michelle is coming (hopefully!) to visit in October, so I know I can have her bring down the few things I "can't live without" until we go back home for a visit in December!

Hope your lives are going well...I know it has been very rainy both in Iowa and Honduras lately, so I hope everyone is staying as dry as possible!

KF