7.8 Earthquake Coast of Ecuador April 16, 2016

Well it has been an unusual welcome back to San Clemente. We left Manta on Thursday April 14th getting back to San Clemente in the early afternoon.  Our wonderful neighbors David and Helena had our home spic and span ready for us to just unpack and be totally settled in.

Then Saturday early evening we were shocked with a horrific earthquake of a 7.8 magnitude.  We are still shaking from the experience.  Again our neighbors came to our rescue by arranging for us to be transported up the hill to higher ground because of the possibility of a tsunami.  There were many aftershocks during that evening with one at about 2:30am that sent Joe and I running for the driveway once again.

Well Sunday found us without power, low cell charge…I made one quick call to our daughter Jennifer who lives in Tokyo to have her get the word out to our family that we were fine just had no power.  It took the electric company almost 5 days to get the power back on which I felt was amazing and we started to get back to normal. But because we had moved our phone and internet to Manta while we were away our internet was not hooked up prior to the earthquake. We just got it back earlier today so now we are fully operational, ha ha

Sunday morning I took a few photos of the mess in our house but unfortunately it looked like I was shaking the camera and the pictures are really blurry. Our house came through great, no damage. Some concrete damage to the wall around the garden but it needed some work anyway.

Here is one picture of a house just one block away from ours.IMG_2855

We thank God for our many blessings.

Easy Pirogi Recipe

The only bad thing about making pirogies is rolling the dough. So I have found an easy way to make them using empanada wrappers.

12.21 (6)Easy Pirogi

  • one package empanada wrappers (24 individual wrappers)
  • a few small potatoes
  • 3-6 ounces of a hard cheese like cheddar
  • one small onion chopped fine for filling
  • 4 t butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

First I boiled a few potatoes in their skins, grated some hard cheese (it should be Sharp Cheddar but use whatever hard cheese you can find). Saute an onion in butter until the butter is infused with the onion flavor, if you have a ricer, rice the potatoes, if not mash the potatoes with a fork, adding cheese and cooled butter onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Take one of the empanada wrappers and add a teaspoon of potato mixture, with your index finger add a small amount of water to the entire edge and then fold the wrapper to cover the potato mixture. Set aside until all empanadas are filled.

Bring a large pot with water to a boil adding a tablespoon of salt right before you add your pirogies. Drop 6 to 12 of the pirogies into the boiling water. Allow to cook for approximately 8 minutes. They will rise to the top during cooking. Drain and serve with more onions sautéed in butter.

12.21 (9)These can be filled with almost anything from sauerkraut, farmer cheese, fruits and even cooked meat. And you can top the savory ones with sour cream and the sweet ones with whipped cream for a very nice dessert.


Or, add the potato pirogies to your favorite soup – yum! This is something I learned from my friend Eva. What a heavenly and filling soup with pirogies.

Cookie Baking – Christmas 2015

It would not seem like Christmas without just a few of our favorites – cookies and a Christmas tree. So last Monday I made all the batters for several types of cookies and Tuesday it was marathon baking.

On Monday I did sneak in a few batches of the bar cookies and baked the Black Bottom Cookie Bar and Triple Layer Cookie Bar.

12.21 (11)I also made something I have never tried before. These are made with vanilla cookies on the bottom, covered in caramel, baked and then topped with chocolate chips sprinkled with chopped nuts.  Fast and easy and the kids will love them. All chocolaty and sweet.

12.21 (10)Then I made Crane House Pumpkin Breads.

12.21 (14)Here are some of the batters chilling in the refrigerator. These are the Cherry Nut Cookies in the foreground and the Italian Cookies in the background.

12.21 (13)Here are the final cookie trays ready to go

12.26.2015It was a very Merry Christmas.

Italian Anise Cookies

I really love this  – it’s the best of all the cookies that I make – first it is wonderful with a cup of coffee and they can last a good while in a tightly closed container plus if you put some of the batter in the freeze a month later you can have fresh cookies.

Italian Anise Cookie

  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 C Margarine
  • 1 C regular sugar
  • 3/4 bottle of Anise 1/2 oz. *see note below
  • 8 T Baking Powder
  • 6 C Flour

Dip fingers in oil and roll dough into meat ball sized balls.
Bake ungreased cookie sheet 12-15 minutes 375 – 400 f


  • 1/2 bag confectionery sugar
  • add a bit of hot water, start with 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 bottle of anise flavoring 1/4 oz. or to taste
  • add food color as desired

Mix well

Right after the cookies are baked dip just the tops in glaze – let cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

This year I am making a batch with almond flavoring in both the batter and the glaze.  I don’t think kids like the anise flavoring so I am trying something a bit different.

* I have not found anise flavoring on the store shelves here so I have taken star anise and add them to vodka – let stand for a week and strain though a coffee filter or cheese cloth.  This is a good substitute for store-bought anise flavoring.

Let’s put on a pot of coffee and get this party started!

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)

Pot Stickers My Way

IMG_2283  IMG_2281Well again you can see the Asian influences on how and what we eat. Today’s treat will be pork pot stickers. I started out with small empanada wrappers that you can buy in Mi Comisariato or Super Maxi. The wrappers come 24 to a package, more than enough for a few meals. They do sell large ones – I use those to make pirogi…and will share my recipes the next time I make them.

Pork Pot Stickers

  • 1 package small empanada wrappers (24 individual wheat flour skins)
  • 1/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 spring onion (white and green chopped fine)
  • 1/4 t hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4 green pepper chopped fine
  • 1/2 small red onion chopped fine
  • small piece of ginger cleaned and grated fine
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 t Sesame Oil
  • 1 t sesame seeds (roasted in a hot dry pan for just a minute)
  • 1 t fish sauce (if you have it) just adds another dimension to the flavors

Set aside the wrappers, be sure you keep them covered with a damp towel so they do not dry out before you can fill them. Mix other ingredients together and put in refrigerator for the flavors to blend. Normally at this point I bring out my “Tester” Joe and fry up a small patty of the meat mixture and have Joe taste for seasoning.  I am too close to the cooking process to be objective. ha ha

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 C fruit juice (orange juice works great, but you can use lemon or even grape or pomegranate).  It needs to be a pleasant flavor as if you were going to drink it, so sweeten as you would a juice drink.
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T rice wine or white vinegar
  • 1 T chopped onion (spring onion or red onion)
  • 1 t grated ginger
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 1 t sesame seeds
  • 1 T sugar (brown or panela)
  • 1/4 t hot pepper flakes

mix all together and set aside, taste for seasoning, it should be sweet, spicy and a bit sour.

Now is the time to fill those little empanada wrappers. Have a large dish handy to place your filled dumplings on. Sprinkle a small amount of corn flour on the plate so the wrappers do not stick. Put 1/2 cup of cold water in a shallow bowl.  Take one wrapper and place 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the middle. Using your index finger run a small amount of water onto the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half sealing the edges together and crimping just a bit to hold in the filling.  Place on the dish until all the wrappers are filled. Squash it a bit so it has a flat bottom and kind of stands up. Take a large frying pan with one tablespoon of good vegetable oil in it place on high heat. When the pan is very hot reduce the heat to medium and place each wrapper flat side down to cook until crispy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Take a peek and it should have a brown crust now it is time to add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the pan and cover with a tight fitting lid for 10 minutes. The wrapper should be soft like a noodle and the filling should be perfectly done.

Serve with the Sweet and Sour Sauce and a nice salad. You are ready to enjoy great pot stickers…



Another one of my favorite ingredients, sauerkraut, is something you can not find canned here. I have seen it in specialty stores in Guayaquil for over $5 a large jar. So again I have taken it upon myself to make my own.

It is the easiest recipe of everything I have ever done because it has only two ingredients, fresh cabbage and sea salt. That’s it.

First thing I did was purchase a wonderful large enamel pot with a lid. Not easy to find and not cheap but I did find it in a small store in Bahia de Caraquez. It would also work with a crock or large glass container best if it had a cover but use your imagination to cover it. Do not use a plastic container, it could leach into your sauerkraut or vice versa. Clean the container and set aside.

IMG_2359Sauerkraut (this recipe will make 6-8 quart sized jars)

  • 2 large heads of cabbage, cleaned, core removed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup of course or sea salt

Shred your cabbage in a food processor using the disk that has only one large blade. This will cut your cabbage into nice thin strips just right for any sauerkraut dish. Place the cabbage in the processor cut side on the blade. If you do not have a food processor use a sharp knife and slice into thin strips. This of course will take some time. It is much easier with a food processor so if you do not have one ask one of your neighbors if you can use theirs.

With each batch of cabbage you remove from the food processor sprinkle a half teaspoon of sea salt over the shredded cabbage. Continue layering until you have used all the cabbage. Now is the time to get your hands into this and massage the cabbage to release some of it’s juices. Pack the cabbage tightly into the container. Using a plate upside down with a weight on top (I use my heavy mortar from my mortar and pestle to weight the cabbage down). Cover with the lid and clean dishtowel. Look at it after about 1 hour, thoroughly wash your hands and arms because you really need to get into this cabbage and massage it again – do this a few times over the next several hours. You should see a dramatic change in the packing down of the cabbage, it should wilt a bit and when pressed down will take less room in your container and you should start seeing liquid at the bottom. Press down hard with all your weight, I do this with the container on the floor to get more weight behind it.(none of you make a joke about the weight behind me). hee hee

Cover and set it in a cool place, out of the sun. I put it under my sink because every time I go to the sink which is 50 times I day I can smell the cabbage and pay more attention to it that way. Over the next 2 weeks, check the cabbage each day, if there is a foamy scum on top clean it off and repack the cabbage. After about 5 days taste the cabbage for a flavor change, it should start to taste like sauerkraut and not fresh cabbage. It should get limp and create a nice liquid, with a tart bite to it. If it tastes right to you at this point you should can. Always use clean, disinfected jars and lids. This is where I add a few sprinkles of caraway seeds – not necessary – just like that bit of flavor. Place in a canning jar water bath. Boil for 10-20 minutes, bring out and cover with a dry dishtowel. Over the next several hours you should hear the jars pop, the lids should be concave after several hours or the next day. If the lid is not concave place in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.

Over the next month or so I will share some of my recipes that use this sauerkraut, I even have a recipe for a sauerkraut chocolate cake, yes you heard me right. .