July 015The end of an era.

If I had been pulled over by police on Monday afternoon, I surely would have gone straight to jail. By no small miracle, we managed to cram twelve whole children into the Rav4 and there was not a pocket of space to spare. Somehow we chugged our way across Mariscal Lopez unnoticed and made it to the warm enclave of the C family home to celebrate the very last day of Lo’s Kitchen.

I always knew it would feel this incredulous in the moment, but it truly is hard to believe I am finally on the tail end of my Paraguay commitment, reflecting back on a year and a half of cooking workshops. As a token of my enduring love for my faithful crew and a last ditch effort to ensure they won’t forget me too quickly, I compiled two years worth of recipes into a keepsake cookbook for each individual. Prior to space formatting, the tome was fifty plus pages. That is not only a lot of paper, but also many weeks of developing culinary skills and seeing the Lord’s goodness manifest in the establishment of deep rapport and trusting friendships.

What a blessing it has been to take something I deeply enjoy (food and consuming it) and turn it into a ministry opportunity, which against all odds blossomed into one of the most fulfilling aspects of my time in Paraguay. The Lord has been gracious over the last month in generously giving me glimpses of the fruit resulting from seeds planted over the past two years. This cooking class clausura was one such instance, and I am thankful for the affirmations that this season has not been in vain.

After lunch and an exhortation to my students to keep up the cooking, I started packing the kids back into my car. Just before T squeezed in, she thanked me for the cookbook. She sheepishly continued, whispering in the same breath like one big, hurried hashtag, “I-didn’t-like-the-fried-rice-but-lasagna-was-my-favorite-you-changed-my-life.” and dashed into the car for cover.

I could not ask for anything more.

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June 067A rowdy crowd.

“This is the first time in my life that I have been in the kitchen actually doing anything. I usually only go in to ask my mom for food or make my sister get me a drink,” nonchalantly said the 23-year-old Paraguayan male, who showed up to my cooking class on a whim. Twenty-three years and he had never lifted a finger inside the culinary room of the house. These sorts of things really shouldn’t shock me, but they always do.

Naturally, I put him right to work—slicing onions, frying bacon, and doing dishes, and I was so proud to see my nine-year-olds schooling him in his tasks. He did not come back to class the following week and perhaps it is no wonder, but at the very least he notched that first on his belt and even got to sample bacon while doing it. A pretty sweet (or savory) deal I might say.

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May 055A faithful crew.

Kids can be so easy to impress sometimes. It’s great.

Tonight in cooking class, not only did the lesson feature instant ramen as its main ingredient, but I actually stumbled upon the recipe on Buzzfeed of all places. I really don’t impress myself sometimes.

Considering this venture was high-risk for repulsive results, the actual outcome was pleasantly delicious. I even convinced my students to try a flavor-concentrated sauce with their crunchy cakes and half of them loved it. They were most impressed (lots of oooh’s and ahhh’s and even applause) by my one-handed pan flip, so it was a pretty good day all around.

You know you want to try it.

Pan-fried Ramen Cakes
From Aunt Peg’s Recipe Box
Serves 5

1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium zapallito (looks similar to zucchini), shredded
4 green onions, chopped
2 packets of ramen
4 Tbs. flour
3 eggs

Cook the ramen in boiling water for just two minutes and drain. Place the ramen in a medium bowl, and add the carrot, squash, green onions, flour, and noodle flavoring packets. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the eggs to the noodle mixture, stirring quickly to avoid clumpy cooked eggs.

Heat oil in a pan, and when hot, plop down a small cup of noodle mixture. Flatten into a pancake and cook until crispy. Flip the cake over and fry until golden and cooked through.

Serve with a sauce made of equal parts soy sauce and red vinegar (I used about 2 Tablespoons each), and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Enjoy with the nostalgia of college days.

May 047May 048May 046May 053May 054The girls were making him giggle. :)

Having spent many a day in my childhood twirling egg beaters and licking batter spoons, I sometimes forget the basics of cookery can be quite astounding. I had the privilege of growing up in a food family where something was constantly being concocted in the kitchen and plentiful good eats always abounded.

When I pulled the moist and puffy chocolate cake out of the piping hot oven yesterday, the kids gasped. “I don’t understand! If the batter starts out white, how does the cake come out black?!” I explained the wonderful agent of cocoa powder and likened the transformation to that of mixing chocolate milk. They gaped in awe.

In past workshops, I have also gotten many amazed comments about cookies that went into the oven as balls and came out flattened discs of delight. A miracle nearly paramount to the mere existence of sprinkles. They LOVE sprinkles. Sprinkles are their golden tickets in life.

Prepping the magic chocolate elixir.

Reading the recipe.

Whipping butter and sugar without a beater.

Her exact words: “I feel like a gorilla. And my arms are tired.”

Simon, my first male participant, giving it a whirl.

Teaching them how to crack eggs.

Voila! Brown batter!