Home Made Anise Flavoring

Another item not easily found here is Anise Extract. A dear friend from Florida, Joe,  brought me three bottles a few years ago when he visited but the long-term answer is not bringing it from the states but to make it yourself.

To that end, my son-in-law, Isaac gave me this recipe. Clean and serialized a jar then fill with vodka and a few star anise pods. Let the pods sit in the vodka until the anise flavor is infused, this took several weeks but will last indefinitely.

12.20.2015 (1) I have read where it is better to keep in a dark bottle and not a clear one as it protects the potency of the extract.  It actually worked and I will be trying it with my first batch of Italian Anise Cookies. Thanks Isaac!

12.20.2015 (2)

Coconut Cream Pie – Yum!

Saw a great photo on Facebook one day last week. The pie looked so good I just had to attempt it. Recipe below.

IMG_2330IMG_2331IMG_2335Coconut Cream Pie


  • 4 T white sugar
  • 5 T flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 C milk
  • 3 lg egg yolks (slightly beaten – set the whites aside for the meringue)
  • 1 C shredded coconut (used dessicated coconut which does not contain additional sugar)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 t coconut extract

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a double boiler. Add milk, and egg yolks. Cook in double boiler until filling is thick approximately 10 minutes. Stir in coconut, vanilla and coconut extract.  Set aside to cool.


  • 1 1/2 C cookie crumbs (I used coco cookies)
  • 4 T butter melted
  • 1 whole egg
  • 4 T white sugar

Mix melted butter, egg and sugar into the cookie crumbs. Press into the bottom of a pie pan, push up the sides. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10-20 minutes. You want the crust to be pretty hard when you bring it out. Set aside to cool.


  • 3 egg whites
  • 4 T white sugar
  • 1/4 C dessicated coconut

Place egg whites in a clean dry bowl, beat with a hand mixer until soft peak stage, add one tablespoon of sugar at a time and beat until well incorporated.

After the crust is cool, pour filling into crust, top with meringue and put under the broiler for just a few minutes to brown lightly.  Keep a close eye on it, as you can see I did get it a bit too brown….but it still was darn good. Enjoy!


Panela – Brown Sugar Cakes

I have used the panela brown sugar granules, well more like a powder for many of my recipes. Recently I decided to use it in place of the molasses called for in my baked bean recipe. It worked rather well so I went out and bought a few of the cakes of the solid panela and cooked it into a syrup.

San Clemente 1.9.2014 005 It has the consistency of molasses and is very dark compared to the powder form I have purchased. Now lets see what it does for my cooking.

San Clemente 1.9.2014 011The locals have said that using panela is not like using white sugar if you are a diabetic. There is some wonderful thing in panela that you do not find in processed “to death” white sugar. I am sure my friend and resident scientist Keith Daniels can give me a good lesson on the reasons.  Come on Keith, I know you are out there help me out here!

The day after I cooked this into a syrup it started to solidify again so I added about 1/4 cup of water and put the jar in a pan of water heating it again to get it a thinner consistency. It worked, it now pours like syrup and I used it on a batch of french toast. This will replace the pancake syrup we can only find in the bigger stores in Portoviejo, we can buy this at the tienda right down the street for $1 for two big cakes.

Budin (Puerto Rican Bread Pudding)

I had several days of stale rolls that we did not eat this past few days so I thought of making them into bread pudding. I am not really into traditional bread puddings but, so much bread, what to do?

Found a great recipe at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Budin-Puerto-Rican-Bread-Pudding/Detail.aspx?prop24=hn_slide1_Budin-%28Puerto-Rican-Bread-Pudding%29&evt19=1

It is called Budin which is a Puerto Rican Bread pudding. Unbelievable. It is excellent, I made a few changes, like I always do, adding 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, cut the amount of sugar in the recipe to 3/4 instead of 1 1/2 and it is still very sweet – next time I would only use 1/2 cup – also I did not cut off the crusts, I would be here all day cutting the crusts off rolls.

San Clemente 1.3.2014 001It is nice enough for company and if you really want to be even more decadent pour a bit of cream over it before you serve…oh my goodness!!!

Sourdough Starter and the End Result – Sourdough Bread!

In an earlier post I talked about starting to make kefir. Now that I have, I am interested in learing about using my kefir in other recipes. I have made batidos (smoothies) and pancakes. It was time to try something different and that is sourdough starter.  This will be a first for me but I really am tired of just white rolls and white bread so making a homemade loaf with that sourdough flavor and part of the flour being whole grain wheat flour would make for a more interesting loaf.

San Clemente 8.18.2013 009To make the started you need 1 cup of kefir and 1 cup of regular white flour. Mix together and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

San Clemente 8.18.2013 011This is what it looked like after three days.  Now find a sourdough recipe like this one and get started:


I like this step by step recipe with pictures showing each phase of your sourdough process. It makes it easy to follow along.

San Clemente 8.18a.2013 002This is what the dough looks like before the last rise.

San Clemente 8.20.2013 002here the dough is ready for baking.

San Clemente 8.20.2013 005And here is the finished product. It has a crusty crust, great texture and a beautiful sourdough taste: an excellent bread for sandwiches and I even used it last evening for brochetta and it worked out great.

San Clemente 8.20a.2013 002You only need to make sourdough started once. I read that families pass it down from generation to generation.  I added 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of white flour to the remaining starter and kept it at room temperature until it was ready to overflow the container. It is now in the refrigerator waiting for the next use. I will let you know how it does. This bread is going fast!!

US Consulate, Guayaquil

We have visited the Consulate here in Guayaquil a few years ago about Joe’s social security. Today was my turn. The Embassy in Quito handles the submission of the paperwork to Social Security but you can turn in your paperwork in the Guayaquil office. It was the most painless process that I have had with any government agency in many many years. They only accept Social Security paperwork between 8am and 11am Monday thru Thursday in the Guayaquil office. So we were on the road by 8am this morning and at the checkpoint outside the building before 8:30am. After having our belongings searched, removal of the battery from our cell phone and being wanded we were searched a second time inside the building and had to go through a metal detector. We had most of our belongings put in storage and were on our way to the second floor to submit the paperwork.

The entire process took less than 10 minutes.

We walked across the street to the Hotel Oro Verde to their exquisite bakery for a breakfast of cappuccino and almond croissants.

1157_13053104580012591456_STD 3259921955_d31e01c86a Hotel Oro VerdeHonestly the best experience with a government office in my memory and the most beautiful pastries I have had in all of Ecuador, it was a great morning. Sorry I did not take my camera as we were going to the consulate – the above photos are from the internet but give you an idea. This place is a must try as the baked goods are just so darned good.


Sal de Mar

The local salt that you buy at SuperMaxi or Hipermart contains fluoride.  I am not happy to have extra additives in our table salt and have searched for sea salt for ages.  In the meantime I have made my own by getting sea water and boiling it down until all you have left is salt. This is a time-consuming job and after boiling down 1 gal of sea water you get about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of salt.

A few days ago my neighbor Ivan was going into Charapoto and I hitched a ride looking for some good potting soil and DMSO at the local veterinarian store. I found that the veterinarian doctora had never heard of DMSO and the place where you can buy soil was closed. But on the way back to San Clemente I struck gold…sea salt. Our neighbors call it sal grueso or chunky salt.

San Clemente 4.24.2013 002

A huge bag looked to be 75 pounds was selling for $5. It will take us forever to use that much salt so I asked for two dollars worth and honestly it looks to be around 40 pounds.

A Tale of Unhealthy Bread Pans

Our local pan man has moved away from San Clemente leaving us breadless. Not that we eat bread every day but it was just so convenient to stop him as he bicycled by our house each morning at around 7am and buy several rolls for the day. Well without him I have started to bake my own bread again. So on Sunday evening I made the dough for my 5-Minute Artisan Bread Recipes (see earlier post by the same name for recipe) and early on Monday morning I got them ready for the oven before I left for my walk. I baked them and was so disappointed when I removed them from my loaf pans and saw that the coating on the pans came off on the bread.

San Clemente 4.9.2013 001

I was so upset, what the heck happened???? Then I got angry, this could not be happening, these are the best loaf pans I could find and I am livid…first we will probably die from eating this coating, but friend Bethany said just cut it off and use the bread that was still good. I made mini-French toast this morning and Joe and I have not keeled over yet so her suggestion was a good one.

NOW where am I going to find good loaf pans that won’t do this. Until I can get new ones I am going to line these with parchment paper for everything that I bake from now on…

And by the way a new bread delivery has already started. Almost the same as with Jesus, a young man named Luis has started to deliver each morning a little before 7am. Life is good. And his rolls are a bit bigger and fluffier. So we have a new pan man, or should I say pan joven.

Chocolate Brownies

I was on Facebook yesterday morning when I came across this post by my cousin Steve Kowalczyk. I don’t think Steve likes to cook or bake but I think he likes eating brownies so I decided to try the recipe.

Below is the actual post:

Never buy boxed brownie mix again!   Follow the recipe below and make brownies for approximately .30 a mix!  Be sure to save this by clicking “SHARE”! You will be able to find it on your own timeline later! So simple, so easy. Not just frugal but cuts out the unknown ingredients. 1 Cup Sugar, 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour, 1/3 Cup Cocoa, 1/4 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp Baking Powder. At Baking Time Add: 2 Eggs, 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil, 1 teaspoon Vanilla. Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.  OR use the amazing Pampered Chef brownie pan and bake it in much less time – depends on your oven, check after 12-15 minutes of baking and remove when brownies are done! Put mix in plastic bags or mason jars.
LOVE THIS TIP and want to hear more?  Be sure to LIKE my page so get some fabulous recipes, cooking tips and super secret FAN SALES!  Also visit my website at www.pamperedchef.biz/rachaeloSee More
I was confident that if Steve posted it on his timeline that it must be good and it is. And I made three batches of the dry ingredients and stored two of them in one of my new jars.
San Clemente 3.22.2013 001
Of course I needed to change the recipe a little so below is my recipe.
Chocolate Brownies
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder

the following can be added with the wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/4 Cup chocolate buttons or chips or chunks
  • 1/4 Cup desiccated coconut

At Baking Time Add:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan. Remove when brownies are done!

Put dry mix in plastic bags or mason jars.

San Clemente 3.21.2013 016

Thanks Steve it is a very easy recipe, it came out moist and chewy and was a hit with Joe and our friends Libby and David.
Extremely delicious!

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

It is a wonderful feeling to look in my “pantry” and find fabulous ingredients like poppy seeds, baking soda, cardamom pods, curry, curry pastes, turmeric, smokey paprika, tapioca, fish sauce and an assortment of pickling spices right at my fingertips. This is due totally to all you wonderful folks who for the past several years have asked if you can bring us anything from the States.

Today’s treats include eight jars of Garlic Cucumber Spears made perfect with mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric and coriander seeds all delivered to my door by some of my new friends. I added a bit of garlic, some hot pepper flakes that I previously made and the balance of the dill weed from Mary MacDonald’s garden.

San Clemente 3.13.2013 001

I was in a mood today and so I also made Lemon Poppy Seed Bread/Cake. Oh my it has been a very long time since I have had poppy seeds in the house. These breads did not last very long. Joe and I ate a few pieces even before it was a bit cool, so I started handing out pieces to my neighbors or we would have eaten them totally ourselves.

San Clemente 3.13.2013 003

I guess this afternoon Joe and I should go to the beach. I have done all that I wanted to accomplish today so the beach sounds like a great choice for this afternoon.

Thank you again to all of you lovely folks that have packed spices and herbs, roots and seeds and all other sort of special item in your luggage to deliver to our door. I cannot express my appreciation for your kindness in making room in your luggage for these items. It truly makes a difference in our daily lives.