Monday, December 31, 2012

Food That Looks At You

Call me crazy, but I much prefer my food to not "look" at me. Apparently, the people of Spain think different during the holiday season. As I walk through markets and grocery stores I am beginning to become paranoid, cause the food is looking at me all the time.

A bird and some rabbits - yep, these not only are
"looking" at you, they are still dressed.
Look Closely, the chicken on the top
right still has his head.

Sheep Heads (and some other
internal organ)
Yep - These chickens have their heads
(look up against the metal grate)
AND their feet.

I think this is a sheep (or maybe a goat)-
 no head, just neck.

It is custom to hang the meat in the front of the store to
allow customs to see what is available, and
to highlight the freshness.

Can you tell shrimp is a traditional food for Christmas?

 And yes, even the fish still look at you.

Roasted Baby Pig is traditional
for this holiday season
You can buy it frozen (like previous picture)
or buy a part of a cooked one.
When I imagined all the cultural adaptations I would have to make, this wasn't one of them.  Oh, how life is never boring!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve and Some Finger Foods

Hannah is home, Christmas is here, relationships are budding and blogging has fallen aside.  But by no means has that mean I haven't continued to reflect on God's promises.  In fact, it is only through those promises that I am able to enjoy this holiday season.  No one told me the second Christmas in Spain would be as hard as the first one.  I thought we had "survived" the new and were treading into traveled waters, but no - this holiday season is just as hard as the first one.  We have been incredibly blessed with time with our teammates, Spanish friends, and having Hannah home - yet, traditions take years to establish, and I guess, years to stop "missing," if ever.

Before moving to Spain I worked on staff of a church that celebrated Christmas Eve with two services. One for children and another more traditional service.  Being the children's minister meant this was a day of "work."  Christmas Eve morning was filled with last minute tasks at home, cooking all kinds of finger foods, making a bed for my parents (who would join us at church), and of course, trying to be sure I remembered to buy everything on my list and where I had put it.

Christmas Eve afternoon was last minute preparations for the service and the laying out of costumes.  Every year was different - one year was even a Birthday Party for Jesus (complete with noise makers).  Then the noise began.  The church first began to be filled with the families of the children in the program.  For you see, each year we chose children to play the parts of the true Christmas story.  Every year we tried to choose children who had not been chosen for other parts that required singing or speaking.  One of my favorite years was when one of our shepherds was a young man who struggles with a form of autism.  He radiated from ear to ear.  I sat back and imagined he was truly representing what the shepherds experienced.  Awe and excitement to be at the foot of the manger.

My parents always came to town for this service.  The service ended with the lighting of candles and the singing of "One Little Light in the Darkness."  Never did I imagine I would one day be living in a country filled with so much spiritual darkness.  After the service my parents would help clean up from the manager and then head to our house (and sometimes take a child with them - even one year taking a bird with them which was a gift for Zachary) to finish up dinner.

After the rest of us stayed for the second service, we went home for a very unbalanced meal of finger foods - chicken wings, ham rolls, cheese dip, meatballs, texas sheet cake, ... - now I am hungry.  When we arrived home, we ate until we would pop and then gathered around the tree for the opening of ONE very important present.

Although we all acted surprised, no one was surprised with what that package held.  It always held PAJAMAS.  Why pajamas?  I don't know why my parents started the tradition, but I always got pajamas on Christmas Eve.  So, my kids always get the same.  But I decided this tradition meant the picures on Christmas morning had the kids looking somewhat "decent."

This of course was followed by lots of laughter, shaking of presents that were off limits, and finally a long discussion of what time everyone was allowed to get up the next morning.

The interesting thing is that gifts were saved for Christmas morning, and thus in the world's standards, the more important day of the process.  But it was Christmas Eve we looked forward to and the day we miss the most.

This year we are blessed that Hannah is here.  I can't imagine Christmas Eve without her.  But Zach and my parents are not.  Definitely a hole.

We'll celebrate tonight with friends by staying up way past midnight, eating lots of our traditional foods as well as theirs, and having our own Christmas Eve service.  We'll laugh and enjoy the moment, and yet yearn for years past.

But all this reminds me of one of my favorite (and most comprehensive promises) of all...

Isaiah 9:6
"And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Without this promise there would be even more tears and sadness, yet I can truly say HE has been all that HE has promised, even in the midst of missing the traditions.


Some of my favorite finger foods....

Ham Rolls

  • 2 pans Pull apart rolls (you know, those rolls that come in a metal pan, pre-cooked, and little rectangles)
  • Lunch meat ham
  • Provolone cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 Tbsp dried mustard
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 Tbsp dried onion flakes
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  1. Slit open the rolls and return the bottom half to the pans.
  2. Lay ham and cheese over bread to cover them entirely.
  3. Return top half of bread.
  4. Pre-slice into servings (I usually consider two rolls a serving)
  5. Melt butter
  6. Add mustard, poppy seeds, onions, and worcestershire sauce.
  7. Pour the butter mixture evenly over the two pans.
  8. Cover with foil and refrigerate anywhere from 1 hour to a whole day.
  9. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until warm.

Cheese Dip
(so simple, yet everytime I take to an event people ask for the recipe)
  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 1 pound velveeta
  • 1 can rotel
  1. Brown sausage and put in crock pot.
  2. Add velveeta and rotel
  3. Occassionaly stir
  4. Cook on low until melted and hot all the way through.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips.

Meat Balls

I don't use a recipe for these, so no idea how much of each ingredients....
  • Ground beef (depends on how many meatballs you want)
  • Finely chopped onion - for one pound meat I use about 1/2 onion
  • Bread crumbs - enough to make texture for molding balls
  • Egg - I use one egg per pound and a half (or so)
  • Spaghetti Sauce - my secret ingredient - add a splash to the meat - gives all the flavoring you need and a great texture
  1. Mix well - saving bread crumbs to be last ingredient added.
  2. Put on 9 x 13 pan 
  3. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes (no need to worry if they are totally cooked)
  4. Place in crock pot (if you don't have a spare one, you can use a sauce pan) 
  5. Cover with spaghetti sauce (I always used jarred for this recipe)
  6. Simmer for an hour or so.
  7. Christmas Eve we eat just as meatballs and later in the week as meatball subs.

Friday, December 21, 2012

#21 Forever and Criss Cross Apple Crowns

It's Friday evening in Spain.  Two of my children are sitting here on the couch eating a grocery store bought pizza.  We are getting ready to watch a Christmas movie online.  This morning we had chocolate and churros with our Sara (our tutor) and Santi.  I got a two hour nap (will regret that later tonight since I slept from 4 - 6 PM).  Our home is warm (although quite expensive to keep really warm so we are all under a blanket).  

We have new friends and we are beginning many new relationships.  Our Spanish improves a little every day (or at least we are praying that it is).  

Scott got his driver's license yesterday.  I have prayed since October that he would get it before Christmas, although everyone told us it was highly unlikely.  

Although we are feeling the results of the financial crisis, both in Spain and America, today we are cared for.  We have had some financial partners have to stop giving, but so far, we are holding on.

One of our children is in the United States and not with us for Christmas.  Our parents are far away and family and friends are definitely missed at this time of the year.  Traditions are just not the same in Spain and our hearts feel that twinge of missing the familiar.

Yet, we can count on the promise of God that "His love endures forever." 

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
and killed mighty kings
His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan
His love endures forever.
and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.
He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.


Criss Cross Apple Crowns
A favorite recipe from my Pampered Chef days
(first in English - makes 12, then in Spanish - makes 6)

In English
  • 4 small Granny Smith apples 
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • 12 grand-size flaky or buttermilk biscuits (will have to buy 2 packages)
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • Optional - ice cream, cool whip, caramel ice cream topping
  1. Peel, core, and slice apples.
  2. Combine apples, walnuts, raisins, flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Microwave on high 3 minutes, or until hot.
  4. Roll each biscuit into a 5" disk.
  5. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Using 1/4 cup of the cinnamon and sugar mixture, sprinkle over biscuits.
  7. Divide apple mixture into the center of each biscuit.
  8. Gather up edges over filling, pinching to seal.
  9. Holding each biscuit at sealed end, dip into butter then cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  10. Place biscuits, seam side down, into a muffin pan.  Do not press down.
  11. Using a serrated bread knife, cut an "x" into the top of each biscuit.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until gold brown.
  13. Dump from pan while hot.
  14. If desired, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.

In Spanish
  • 2 manzanas pequeña
  • 35 g pasas
  • 14 g harina
  • 85 g azúcar
  • 15 ml canela
  • 15 g mantequilla
  • ½ coja Masa de Hojaldre

1.     Precalentar el horno a 1750 C
2.     Pelar las mazanas y corta en pedazos pequenos.
3.     Mezclar las manazanas, pasas, harina, 30 g del azúcar, y 5 ml de la canela en un recipiente apto para microondas.
4.     Calentar en micro por 3 minutos o hasta caliente.
5.     Extender la masa y cortar  en 6 piezas.
6.     Mezclar el resto (55 g) del azúcar y el resto (10 ml) de la canela en cuenco pequeño.
7.     Derretir la mantequilla en cuenco pequeño.
8.     Pon una cucharilla de azácar y canela en el centro de una pieza de masa.
9.     Pon una cucharada de la mezcla de manzana en el centro de una pieza de masa.
10.  Reunir borde de la masa y pellizcar para cerrar.
11.  Mantener la masa ocupada por los bordes y mojar en mantequilla y mezcla de azúcar y canela.
12.  Colocar la masa en un molde para hornear.
13.  Hornear por 25 minutos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

#20 Birthplace and Banana Pudding

We are loving living in Illescas.  We had mixed feelings about moving from a large city to what we fondly call "puebloville."  We are making friends, finding our favorite stores and store keepers.  Hannah and I even spent the day wandering the streets and doing some Christmas shopping today.  Found a little hamburger shop I can't wait to go back and actually try. 

So many memories are attached to the different places we have lived.  I was born in Tampa, Florida, lived in Lewisville, North Carolina, moved to other cities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan, and have finally landed in Spain.  When town names are mentioned that were near where I lived favorite memories pop into my mind. 

Cities were important in the Bible as well.  So important, that God even promised hundreds of years before it happened that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. 

Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Matthew 2:1
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem."

Banana Pudding
(always a hit at covered dish meals)
  • 2 small boxes of Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 6 - 8 bananas, sliced
  • 1 large Cool Whip
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  1. Combine pudding and milk.  Mix well.
  2. Fold in sour cream and 2/3 of Cool Whip.
  3. Layer in 9 x 13 dish or punch bowl cookies, bananas, pudding mixture.  If using a 9 x 13 dish, make two layers.  If using a punch bowl, make 3 or 4 layers.
  4. Ice with remaining cool whip.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Birthday Celebration

I just had to post some of these pictures.  It was too much fun not to share with you guys!

Last night we went to a seafood restaurant in Madrid (El Timon del Terraza) with some friends here in Illescas.  It was her birthday and we were honored to be invited to celebrate with her (it is a big deal to be included in such personal celebrations).  They chose the restaurant, a quaint little marisqueria (shell fish restaurant) that was owned by friends of theirs.  We left our house at 9:15 PM, drove into Madrid (about 30 minutes), and were the only people in the restaurant for the first hour.  Later another family came in.  They say there is no room to sit on the weekends.

Maria (the birthday girl) and Enrique ordered for us.  We ate family style.  Two big plates in the center of the table to share!

Alex didn't think he liked shell fish, so they ordered him a steak.
It was at least a pound!  It tasted great!

Two plates of all kinds of mariscos.  Some I had never
tasted before.  And halfway through the meal,
the waiter took the platters and our plates back to the
kitchen.  They reheated the seafood (cold mariscos are not
good) and brought us clean plates since the first ones
were covered with shells.

It was a party just to eat the food.  We laughed as
they taught us not only how to eat, but how to
enjoy eating!

Maria was excited that Hannah would be home to help
celebrate her birthday.  She has never met Hannah,
but they became friends quite quickly.

I don't know the name of these little things, kind of
a clam, but not quite.

Razorback Clams - different texture for sure!

Alex finally decided to give it a try.  Maria had a tremendous
amount of patience (and fun) in teaching him how
to find the meat.

And of course they insisted on sucking
the juice out of the heads.  Alex liked this, not sure
if it was because it was fun or because he liked
the taste.

I wasn't so much into the head sucking activity -
they coerced me until I gave it a try, but
you should see my face after trying it.

Meet Pablo the marisco - yes, Alex and Maria were
having so much fun he named his food.

Homemade desserts with sparklers.  No candles
to blow out here.  Chocolate brown with ice cream
and a thick chocolate glaze, cheesecake, and
a rice and milk cake.

We gave Maria a bowl from Talevera (a pottery town nearby),
but it was much more fun to pretend it was a helmet.

#18 and 19 - Details, Details and Sock It To Me Cake

I am a detail kind of person.  I make lists that are VERY specific and I ask a thousand questions about everything.  I need to understand things to the most minuscule detail and then I turn around and plan in the same fashion.  I don't just make a grocery list, I divide it by departments and put it in the order of the grocery store (or now, in order of the indoor market where I shop at a variety of meat stores, chicken stores, fruit and vegetable stores, ...).  At one point in my life I actually had a computerized grocery list of my favorite grocery store ordered not in only in order of the store, but in the direction I always walked up and down the aisles.  I know - a little compulsive, huh?

But what I think is cool is that I serve a God who is into details too.  He doesn't just throw out this general plan to save the world and sit back and see if some team can make it happen.  He has every tiny detail under control.  Whew!  For someone like me, that is a huge relief!

#18 Genesis 12:1-3 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, I will make your name great,and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse;and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

And sure enough, Matthew 1:1 says "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David,the son of Abraham."

#19 Isaiah 9:7  

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

And guess what, somewhere between 500 and 700 years later (I know 200 years is a big gap, but scholars don't know for sure when each chapter was written and it took almost 200 years to finish Isaiah), Luke 1:31-32 reports this:  "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David."


Sock It To Me Cake
(this cake works great as both a simple dessert or as a coffee cake)

  • 1 Butter Recipe Cake Mix (any boxed cake that is yellow and known for being super moist will work) - reserve 2 Tbsp cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cake mix 
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 c pecans (optional)
  • 1 c confectioner's sugar
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp milk
  1. Combine all cake ingredients.
  2. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour 2/3 into greased and floured tube/bundt pan.
  4. Combine all streusel ingredients.
  5. Sprinkle on top of cake mix.
  6. Spoon remaining cake batter on top.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 - 55 minutes.
  8. Cool 25 minutes.
  9. Invert onto cake plate and cool completely.
  10. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over cooled cake.

Monday, December 17, 2012

#17 A Baby is Coming and Texas Sheet Cake

No, I am not pregnant!  

But we are drawing close to celebrating the birth of the most important baby every born.  Not an ordinary baby, but a baby that would change the world.  A baby that represents the fulfillment of some of the greatest promises of the Bible.  So with Christmas only a week away, I find myself drawn to the promises that have been fulfilled with the coming of a baby!

Isaiah 7:14
"The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."


Texas Sheet Cake
My absolute favorite chocolate cake!

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 c water
  • 4 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c sour cream 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beater
  1. Put butter, water and cocoa in saucepan.  
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Take off heat and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Grease and flour 9 x 13 pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 - 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. When cake is almost done, prepare icing, because you want to ice while the cake is hot.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 tbsp cocoa
  • 6 tbsp evaporated milk
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine butter, cocoa and milk in saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat and add additional ingredients.
  4. Pour over cake while both cake and icing are hot.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

#16 Unchanging and Tetrazinni

As I was singing in church this morning I realized that one of the greatest advantages (and one of the greatest obstacles) is that in Spanish there are two verbs that mean "to be."  "SER" is used for things that are unchanging and "ESTAR" is for things that are temporary or opinion.  As I was reading the words to the hymn and in scripture it struck me that in English we don't distinguish the difference.  When speaking of things related to God in Spanish you always use SER.   He is unchanging and He is faithful.  He is and always will be.  It is neat that Spanish allows for that distinction.  He isn't just "is," he is "permanently and always is."

Matthew 28:20b
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Chicken Tetrazzini
(quickest and easiest tetrazzini that I have ever made)
  • 3 - 4 chicken breasts (uncooked and diced)
  • 1 small can mushrooms, drained (optional)
  • 2 -3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 pound package spaghetti (cooked)
  • Grated Cheddar cheese
  1. Saute onion and celery in butter.
  2. Add soup, broth and mushrooms.
  3. Season with salt, plenty of pepper, and a dash of Tabasco sauce.
  4. Add chicken and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Place cooked spaghetti in a 9 x 13 dish.
  6. Pour chicken and sauce over spaghetti.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
  8. Top with grated cheese and cook a few minutes more until melted.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

#15 - Comfort and Chicken Casserole

All over facebook and other social media sites are words of comfort, personal opinions, and political views in regards to the terrible events in Connecticut yesterday.  I have felt torn as I considered how many families were mourning and yet I was celebrating Hannah's arrival today.  And as I processed the stark differences I was reminded that although events in life may cause great hurt, hurt that cannot be understood, I know the one who is able to comfort beyond all measures.  The circumstances may not change, but He is able to hold my heart in His gentle and merciful hands.  I may not have experienced the losses that the families in Connecticut are experiencing tonight, and I pray that I never have to, but I can testify without a doubt, that in each and every circumstance where my world has felt like it was falling down around me, He kept his promise to "comfort us every time we have trouble."

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. 4 He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.

Chicken Casserole
(this is a favorite family recipe, a favorite for covered dish meals, a favorite to take to someone who is sick, and easy to freeze - unbaked)
  • 1 whole chicken, stewed and deboned - reserve broth
  • 1 small package of Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  1. Combine stuffing, onion, and butter.
  2. In a 9 x 13 baking dish (or two 8 x 8 pans) spread 1/2 of the cornbread mixture.
  3. Shred the chicken and place over the cornbread mixture.
  4. Mix celery soup with 1 can of chicken broth.
  5. Pour over chicken.
  6. Top with remaining cornbread mixture.
  7. Mix chicken soup with 1 can of chicken broth.
  8. Pour on top.
  9. If you want to freeze - at this point wrap well with foil and place in freezer. When ready to prepare, allow to defrost completely before baking.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and browning around the edges.
*I have used left over turkey to prepare this recipe as well as only stewed chicken breasts.