Holiday Cookie Baking

The holidays are upon us sooner than I would like to admit. And with that, decisions need to be made about what cookies I will be baking and who will be getting “cookie care packages”. Each year I have a very hard time making up my mind about the cookie recipes, number of batches and finally how to pack and who to give them to. I love the baking part but totally dislike trying to find the right container to pack them in. I think I found some great containers this year with the biggest cookie recipients being the children’s Christmas party. This party is being given to our neighborhood children and will be held on Saturday, December 26th.

I love bar cookies, they are quick easy and one tray takes the place of standing in the kitchen for hours. The standard size oven here is much smaller that a standard oven in the states so bar cookies make my job faster.

salinas-12-18-2010-012This picture is a few years old but it has most of the standards that I make each year. I have all the ingredients so Monday and Tuesday will be cookie days. Wish me luck!


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.


Social Security – Expat Information – Part 1

This will be a several part post about old and new requirements from the Social Security Administration as it relates to those of us living outside of the United States,

A form, Proof of Life, will be required from Social Security for folks living outside of the United States and receiving social security benefits. I will cover that form in the next article because it is such an important topic for those of us who rely on those funds for our existence, that I am not going to rush over the guidelines as they apply to us living out of the US.

First please read what Social Security has to say about using addresses in the United States if living in a foreign country for over three months.

Social Security Online  POMS Section: GN 02401.080


Effective Dates: 04/20/2004 – Present

TN 17 (04-04)

GN 02401.080 Use of United States Address by Beneficiary Abroad


A beneficiary abroad may use a U.S. mailing address when the beneficiary:

  • Has an APO/FPO address;
  • Has a representative payee in the U.S.; or
  • Will be abroad for 3 months or less.

The beneficiary must keep SSA advised of his residence address at all time for beneficiary contact and foreign enforcement purposes.


A beneficiary abroad may not use a mailing address in the U.S. when the beneficiary is:

  • In a barred country (RS 02650.001); or
  • Abroad for more than 3 months.

Checks for beneficiaries abroad more than 3 months may not be sent to a relative or friend in the U.S. except during interim periods while developing a proper mailing address.

A beneficiary living outside the U.S. may have a foreign address and direct deposit to a U.S. financial institution (FI). See GN 02402.110. See also International Direct Deposit, GN 02402.201.

See GN 02402.080 for the use of a Power of Attorney when International Direct Deposit is not available in the country of residence and the beneficiary wants checks mailed directly to an FI in the country of residence.


Guava Jelly and Marmalada

The guava tree in our yard has dropped several pieces of fruit each day for the past several weeks. I wanted to make jelly and talked to my friend Eva about what I need to do. First you need a great deal of fruit for jelly, I must have had 30 guavas and Eva gave me 5 more from their farm. So I washed them, cut them into quarters and added several cups of water to the pot and brought them to a boil. First the most unusual thing is the fruit from our tree is cream-colored inside while Eva’s fruit was the most beautiful shade of pink. I am jealous for sure!!!

San Clemente 4.7.2013 003

Now I want you all to know that I cheated, yes, Nancy Levin cheated when I added 5 drops of red food coloring to the jelly recipe and 20 drops of red food coloring to the marmalada recipe, Oh I feel so much better after that confession, you know us Catholic Girls it is all about the confession! So back to the recipe.

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Guava Jelly and Jam

  • 35 Guava, washed and cut into quarters
  • 2-3 cups of water

Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes until the fruit is tender and falling apart. Let cool for a few minutes and then pour the fruit mixture into a clean pillow case over a colander with a large bowl underneath. Hang the pillowcase to allow the juice to drip out into a container for about 5 hours.

for jelly.

  • use one part juice to one part sugar
  • I had three cups of juice and added about 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

bring to boil and allow to reach 220 degrees f. Put in sterilized jars, clean the rim and put on the lid and set aside.

for marmalada.

  • remove the fruit from the pillow case and place in blender
  • add some water
  • blend until smooth
  • push through a sieve
  • discard the seeds
  • add about 1 cup sugar to 1 cup fruit purée (I used less sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • you can add cinnamon and cloves (I completely forgot)

Heat until it comes to a very thick consistency, CAUTION this mixture bubbles and shoots hot fruit into the air…I needed to clean the walls and the floors after I was finished

Place in sterilized jars, clean the rim and seal with lid

Put both the jelly and the jam jars into a water bath allowing the water to boil for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on counter.

San Clemente 4.7.2013 008

Water Pump (bomba)

One of the first things that we replaced in our house was the bomba. What came with the house was a concrete tank that was standing high above our cistern. It leaked, had pieces of concrete falling off it so Patricia and Fredy put in an electric pump system. Well actually Serrano put in the system, Patricia and Fredy purchased it.

They installed it in a small closet that they built on top of the cistern. It has worked perfectly since moving into the house. But…it does depend upon having electricity. For the past several days we have lost power every morning around 4am and it is not restored until mid morning. We can use the water but you should not use a great deal. For the past several days I have noticed that the pump would pump water for just a few seconds and then shut off, a few seconds later it would start up again. I know that that is not good. So I put a call into Patricia and later in the afternoon yesterday Serrano showed up to take care of the situation.

San Clemente 1.8.2013 006

He did something to turn off the pump under the grey cap on the top right hand side of the unit then he drained the tank by turning on our garden hose and pumped the water back into the cistern. Then he opened the valve at the bottom of the tank and attached a PVC pipe and drained the balance. I was just amazed at how much water was in that tank.

He closed everything back up and restarted the pump. It refilled and has been working properly since.

Obviously this is something that happens with an electric pump and having someone who knows how to handle this problem is invaluable. Thanks again Serrano, fine job!

Fruit in Season Right Now

We are so fortunate to live in an area that has both the abundance from the sea, with an assortment of fish, shrimp, lobster, clams, squid, octopus and many other seafood choices for a seafood lover to revel in.  And so many choices from the land, meats, vegetables and fruits.

Last week our friends made a trip into Guayaquil and on their way back stopped at a roadside stand selling mangoes, yes big juicy ripe mangoes. They, out of the goodness of their hearts, dropped off a few for our enjoyment. They made another trip earlier this week and dropped off a bag of ripe and another of unripened beauties, along with mangosteens and these cute little ciruelas (not prunes but a variety of plum).  OH MY what great friends to be kind enough to think of us while they are out and about.

Mangosteens are very creamy and have some amazing healing properties, I am currently rubbing the peels on any blemishes, age spots (yes, I do have them) and other imperfections, I will let you know how that works for me…

The ciruelas above are sold in little bags on most of the buses. It has a huge pit and they normally salt them when you buy them or in this case give you a little baggie of salt. Very yummy, I have had them before but they were really unripe these are ripe and sweet and a bit soft, I like them better.


It was a perfect morning to take a walk into town. The tide was not too high and we were able to walk the beach the entire way. We had high hopes to find the pharmacy open, not at 10:00am, 10:30am or even at 11:00am. Next stop was to see if Pinoche had any shrimp, not this morning. And then to see if the encebollado was available on Saturday mornings in town.

As you can see from the picture above we were successful in finding a restaurant open and one that serves that special breakfast soup encebollado. This soup is a fish broth, packed with onions and potatoes (I have been sent a comment from Andy saying that encebollado is made with yuca, I stand corrected, thanks Andy you need to keep me honest here okay) served with fresh cooked albacora or similar fish. I never though in my wildest dreams that I would be eating fish soup for breakfast but you really need to try it. Excellent hardy flavor, delicious flaked albacora, thin sliced onions  in a fish broth…excellent.

This restaurant is located one block past the San Clemente mercado going towards San Alejo. You know how they call a place a hole in the wall, well this is exactly that, two tables with six stools, a small closet type kitchen, one woman cooking and a young man taking orders and serving. Now hold onto your hats, this cost $1 a serving and it came with a bag of fresh plantain chips.  Both Joe and I loved it and will be going back our next morning trip into town. By the way, the bowl was already half eaten when I remembered to take a photo!

El Jardín de Árboles Frutales

One of the many projects I have planned over the next several months includes the garden.

There are several sticks holding up limbs probably when they were laden with fruit the last time. It really makes the yard look unkempt, they must go!

With its 13-14 fruit trees (I am not sure if the palm tree happens to be a coconut palm that is why I am not sure about the number), in a space 33′ wide by 21′ deep. Some trees have so much dead wood the tree actually looks like the entire tree is dead, then you look at the branches that are so intertwining that you don’t know where one tree stops and another starts. For all of that they are all bearing fruit, are flowering and actually look like they are doing pretty well. What will happen when they are fertilized, watered and trimmed regularly, I should have more than enough fruit.

This is the cherry tree, my one neighbor goes crazy for these little fruits.

The pomegranate has several fruits as well as flowers.

Look at the bunches of mandarina on just this one limb, I hope my neighbors are willing to help eat these when they get ripe, because it looks like there will be way too many for Joe and I to eat.

So many flowers, if all of these flowers become limons I will be able to supply the entire neighborhood for months.

I have started a garden plan in my mind, so far it looks like we will be trimming up the trees to be able to walk underneath them, top them off so that we can reach the fruit without having to higher a cherry-picker ha ha. Next we are considering removing all the grass and amending the soil with soil from the mountains and manure.  Then the real fun part starts, I would like to put gravel and winding paths made from brick like a little garden under and around the trees, plant flowers around the tree trunks, add a table and chairs to the septic cap and put a herb garden in on the one side and plant azaleas on the road side of the yard. One of my biggest dilemmas is whether I should plant several different colors or just pick one fabulous hot color for this spot. The herb plants that I brought up from Playas don’t seem to be doing that well, but I have seen many plants at the market in Charapoto so hopefully I will be able to replace those that don’t make it. And I know my friends Mary and John (hint hint) will help me with some seeds or fledgling plants because their choice of dill, rosemary, chives, hot peppers and so many more are just doing beautifully in their patio garden along with their exceptional assortment of tea and miniature roses.  I think both John and Mary have green thumbs, I just hope my garden looks half as nice as theirs when we have done some work on it.

What a Fabulous Neighborhood

This weekend I finally had the time to bake what is supposed to be Crane House Pumpkin Bread. Well I have never seen pumpkin at any of the mercados here in Ecuador so often I have made it with squash. But I was unprepared and had no squash on hand so I went to the tienda and bought six large carrots. Hey they were orange and when you put all the spices and stuff in with all the other ingredients who is going to know it’s carrot…just me!  I made two separate batches one with sugar and one with a sugar substitute.

This was my small way to begin to pay back all my neighbors for their thoughtful and wonderful gifts that they have been dropping off at our house since we moved here 8 weeks ago. You have seen the pictures of the shrimp, several different types of fruit, one day last week I heard the little girl across the street yelling my name her mother had made llapingachos, this is a potato cake that she stuffed with a beautiful beef filling, they were hot from the stove and crispy and they did not last 3 minutes once I showed them to Joe. Then the next day the one young woman from the tienda wanted to know if I had any limons she could have, I invited her into the yard so we could pick some from the one tree and she spotted the cherry tree. I told her to go ahead take what she wanted and she started picking even the ones I did not think were ripe and popping them in her mouth, next thing I knew she was back with a paper bag with four corn balls filled with fresh queso.. Sorry no photos they went toooooo fast! This morning yet another neighbor yelled over the fence while I was watering the trees and handed me a plastic bag and came back with this big ripe papaya.

Yes, they are lobster, eat your hearts out, Joe and I had Petite Lobster Tails served with drawn fresh Cream Butter as our appetizer and our entrée was sautéed Filet of Fish served with a Garlic and White Wine Sauce.  Don’t I sound posh!

A vendor on a bike came by a few days ago at the urging of one of my neighbors, I bought beautiful heads-on shrimp for $3.50 per pound. I told him I would love some filet of fish, Pargo, Corvina whatever he could get. He was at the gate this morning with several pound packets of fresh filet for $2.50 a pound.

This is the nicest neighborhood we have ever lived in, not the fanciest, not the richest in money but neighbors that have taken two strangers in as part of this close-knit community. We feel blessed every day that we found such a beautiful pueblo and hope to be able to pay these folks back by being good neighbors and friends. Right back at ya amigos.

Smoked Pork Sausage

Last weekend the tienda women sent a vendor to our gate. This is the man who brings the fresh-made chicharrones to the tienda each week and because Joe just loves those little piggy morsels and eats them with almost anything even as a snack we go through quite a few bags. The vendor proceeded to show me some of the most beautiful fresh sausages I have seen here in Ecuador. After eating one bite I knew I was hooked and I asked them to order me several more pounds for this past weekend. Early Saturday afternoon he came by with these smoked sausages. I bought four. I packed them up triple bagged and put them in the freezer except for one which we gave as a gift. I also purchased a few bags of chicharrones

and he gave me a gift of a beautiful fruit salad as a regalo,

We are not eating a great deal of fruit now so I gave this to our friends Becky and Keith, I hope they enjoyed it because it sure looked good.

I did cook a tiny piece of the sausage up for Joe to test, it got his approval so we will need to make a nice Polish dish of sauerkraut and sausage, but first I have to make some sauerkraut…This home shopping stuff is great – almost like QVC!