Glitter Map Art a la YHL

When I saw this super easy, super cute project in the Young House Love book, I knew I had to make it — especially because I had all the materials already.

I decided to honor my country of birth, my beloved Peru, and make a bit of glittery goodness 😀

I used an 8×10 canvas I had, a fat quarter and a piece of green glitter cardstock.
It is along the coast of Peru where my two favorite cities are located: Lima, the capital, where I was born and raised, and Chiclayo, the City of Friendship, where my family is from.

It has been far too long since I was last in my homeland, I long to have my boys get to know their relatives back in Peru. For now, this little piece will get a place of honor in my home.

Have you tried any of the projects in the YHL book yet?

Feliz Navidad!

A proper Peruvian feast is not complete without a refreshing glass of Inca Kola. Seriously, best tasting soda EVER. My husband is addicted.

Recently we went to a restaurant supply place with his parents and they had trays and trays of lovely, golden, beckoning Inca Kola. My husband made a beeline for the shelves and picked up two trays.

To honor those Christmas Eve dinners of long ago, surrounded by my Peruvian family, I am raising a glass of Inca Kola to toast the family and friends I hope to see again someday.

Felices Fiestas!!!

And Happy Holidays to my non-Inca Kola-drinking friends, too ;D

Our common ground

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard

My dear friend M decided to start a monthly tradition — a dinner party at her house, just for her girlfriends, where some new or interesting food would be prepared. The first time she made Thomas Keller’s fried chicken, from his Ad Hoc cookbook. My goodness, it was divine.

I volunteered to cook Peruvian food for the next dinner, M & I came up with a plan, a menu, and we split the cooking duties.

M knocked it out of the park with her cebiche (that’s how we spell it, btw):

It is raw fish marinated in lime juice for a few hours, served with sliced onion, sweet potatoes, corn and lettuce. So good! In Peru we also drink the milky marinade that is left, called “leche de tigre” or “tiger’s milk.”

I made some chicha morada (I am so sorry if you are Puerto Rican, my cousin who lives there told me what that means over there!) which is a refreshing drink made from purple corn:

We also had fried plantains, but I got no pics of those. Probably because each batch I made was gone by the time I was done setting the next batch in the skillet 😀

Nothing Peruvian about this, but how cool is this aerator?

A fellow Peruvian was one of the guests and she brought some dessert (more on that later) and ingredients to make the national drink of Peru, Pisco Sour:

She brought her own recipe but there are many similar ones out there, such as this one from Epicurious.

My compatriot also brought a Peruvian flag:

At this point a couple of people looked at my skirt and went, “aaaah.”

The ladies (except the momma-to-be, of course) get ready to toast with their Pisco Sours:


The main dish was Lomo Saltado, a quick stir-fry type dish that is, to me, the definition of a comfort meal. I made both beef and chicken versions:

The ladies helping themselves:

I was glad to see dishes coming back pretty empty ;D (the big pieces are leftover corn cobs):

But the best part, according to me, was dessert.

I made lucuma ice cream, and had to make two batches because if I had made just one it wouldn’t have reached M’s house intact. Lucuma is a fruit native to Peru, and the ice cream made with this fruit is the most popular flavor in Peruvian heladerias. I have heard the flavor described in many different ways, but the one I agree the most with is somewhere between a sweet potato and vanilla. In fact the texture of the ice cream is very much like a vanilla bean ice cream.

But we did not stop at one dessert – see those round cookies next to the ice cream? Thanks to our Peruvian guest, we also had alfajores, yum yum.

Alfajores, as I mentioned the last time I had them, are a dessert of Arabic origin, brought over from Spain. It is a sandwich type cookie made with shortbread dusted with powdered sugar and dulce de leche in the middle. As with many foods, the sandwich cookie is something enjoyed in various forms throughout the world, but the alfajor is definitely a favorite of mine. If you ever have the chance to try one, please do!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this little culinary experience – Peru’s cuisine is so varied that just talking about the dishes of northern coastal Peru, where my family is from, would take many, many posts, but I hope to have shared a little bit of my enthusiasm for the food of my homeland.

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Peruvian Pisco Drink

This week I am celebrating Peruvian Independence — yeah, I’m the lucky girl who celebrates three countries’ Independence in one month: 4th of July for my beloved America, Bastille Day for my home-away-from-home France, and Fiestas Patrias on the 28th and 29th for my homeland, Peru.

Today I bring you a little something-something to enjoy, the recipe comes from my brother, the awesome bartender at the Union Square Hyatt in San Francisco — thanks bro!

2 oz. Pisco
1/2 oz. Sweet & Sour
1/2 oz. Strawberry Puree

Enjoy as is or on the rocks!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Is your bar ready for summer?

So, first of all, we are wine drinkers. No beer for us, occasionally a mixed drink, hardly ever Champagne. We served a Moscato at our wedding so people could toast and enjoy their cake with it.

Our little bar was a wedding gift from dear Peruvian friends and it fits perfectly in the corner of our dining room. Recently I decided to go through it and restock it with some essentials for summery drinks.

Rose’s Grenadine Syrup for a Tequila Sunrise, lovely Myers’s Rum for mojitos and mai tais, although we get the Trader Vic’s mix which you can spot behind the red hibiscus. We served mai tais at my younger son’s Tiki party a couple of years ago and it’s everyone’s favorite party to day. I am sure it was because of the coconut shrimp, not the booze, ahem.

Behind the rum is a bottle of tequila, which I usually avoid except in mixed drinks where I cannot taste it. It does not like me and the feeling is mutual. Behind the tequila is a bottle of Castañeda sangria from World Market. I initially got the sangria because it happens to be my mom’s maiden name, so I brought it over and she and my dad loved it, then the rest of my Castañeda family here in the area liked it as well, so now it’s a staple in our house.

The leeeeetle bottle in front is Peruvian pisco. I have bigger bottles but our little bar top couldn’t handle it 😀 You can make a Pisco Sour, or a locally (SF) invented drink, the Pisco Punch. My brother happens to be a bartender at the Hyatt on Union Square and gave me a pisco recipe I will share with you next month. July is Peruvian Independence month and I will be sharing some recipes and tidbits about my homeland. If you’re REEEEEALLY curious, here are the pics that went along with the article on my brother.

On the right is a sweet mini chest of drawers given to me by another dear friend, on top are my favorite yellow napkins, wine bottle opener, and foil top cutter, along with some cocktail stirrers below.

We have tons of red and yellow hibiscus in our front yard, they are so festive!! The glasses are fleur-de-lis double old-fashioneds from World Market. I LOVE how they look, I HATE how fragile they are. I bought 6 and have three left, and while I can be pretty clumsy, the many reviews on the WM site will tell you that it’s not me, it’s the glasses. So once these three are gone I’m getting sturdier glasses.

There you have it, my summer bar — I look forward to good times with good friends, some mai tais, some Pisco drinks, and awesome food and company.

What are your favorite summer drinks?

Weekend Bloggy Reading

A Peruvian St. Patrick’s Day

I know, weird, right? But let me tell you how it happened.

Recently, I saw on Facebook that my brother was a fan of a Peruvian food truck called Sanguchon. The main locations are up in San Francisco, but, much to my delight, I saw that they were also in various places around the bay area. My husband, his parents and our oldest had business to attend to on Saturday – they would be gone the whole morning and part of the afternoon, so I decided to take my youngest to try a bit of Peruvian food. Our good friends J&M were free for lunch and live super close to where the food trucks would be, so we met up there.

The menu looked pretty good, many Peruvian dishes made into sandwiches or wraps, and lovely side dishes, dessert and drinks were also available.

The first offering on the picture above is Pan con Chicharron – a sandwich that includes the ingredients for the traditional weekend breakfast in Peru. The bread was crunchy but not hard, made specially for Sanguchon, and the meat inside was flavorful and moist. At home we would serve this on a plate instead of as a sandwich, the meat alongside the fried yams, with some red onion and spicy yellow pepper sauce. I was happy that the flavors worked all together in the sandwich, and my friends seemed to enjoy theirs as well.

My friend M holding up her Pan con Chicharron. Yum!

The next picture is of Lomo Saltado, which, again, we serve as a meal, but next time I would love to try it as a sandwich. It’s stir-fried pork or beef with fries, tomatoes and onions. My husband learned to make this for me 😀

Next are Yuca Fries, which, I will be totally honest, are not my thing. I find Yuca to be too dry and am happier with sweet potatoes or yams as a side dish.

Inca Kola is the national soda of Peru – back there we love to drink it with anything, but for some reason it really seems to work with Chinese/Peruvian food. Every Chifa (Chinese restaurant in Peru) says that their food goes great with some Inca Kola, and it’s true. It’s very sweet and crisp and I love it. They now sell it at my local Target (???) and I do my best to avoid it because there is no Diet Inca Kola.

The last item in the picture is Chicha Morada. Peru has many varieties of corn, including a purple corn that we use to make this sweet drink and a sweet pudding called Mazamorra. My dear friend K loves Mazamorra and calls it “purple stuff” ;D I’ve discovered that Whole Foods carries Purple Corn flour from Peru so I’m going to try and make some Mazamorra.

Our favorite part of lunch, however, were the Alfajores:

I love alfajores. Alfajores are so bad for me, because I can’t eat just one. My little man was chowing down on these and kept asking for more. Shortbread cookies with dulce de leche (or manjarblanco, as we call it in Peru) in between, dusted with powdered sugar. So good. These were excellent. The cookies were very tender and the filling just right.

A good friend of my family has a killer Alfajor recipe, and now I need to get it from her because I didn’t realize how much I had missed them! Who knew a dessert of Arabic origins, brought from Spain to South America, would become such an integral part of our cuisine?

And what on earth does Sanguchon mean? Well, in Spanish, the word “sandwich” became “sanguche” (SAN-goo-che) and a Sanguchon means a big sandwich. I ate only half of mine and saved the rest for later. It was a nice surprise to find Peruvian food and be able to share it with our friends. If you’re in the SF Bay Area, check out Sanguchon’s schedule to see if there a food truck near you!

Oh, and if you’re going to try the alfajores, please don’t wear black pants like I did – the powdered sugar went everywhere! ;D

Well, color me shocked

because the candidate I thought was going to win the Peruvian elections, didn’t win.

It’s a case of NOT going with the devil they knew, I guess.

If you’ve ever considered a trip to Peru, or if you’ve been and would like to go back, I would add to your Must See list of Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Nazca, etc. with the beautiful and friendly city of Chiclayo. It is this northern coastal area of the country where both my mom and dad’s families are from. I am lucky to still have lots of relatives there, so I’m always happy to visit.

In Chiclayo you will find warmer weather than in Lima, delicious regional cuisine, lots of historical interest, such as the Lord of Sipan, pictured here:

If you stay at the Gloria Plaza hotel, I should have you know that Gloria Plaza is my godmother, and my godfather is the owner ;D

The cathedral and main square:

If it’s beaches you want, the Chiclayo area has some of the best beaches in the world, the sand fine, the water warm and inviting.

It’s been years since I went to Peru, and I long to see this in person:

It is the Chiclayo airport. If I see it in person, then it means I am in for a great time with some of the people I love the most.

Tomorrow in Peru

is the second round of presidential elections – in my homeland, it is rare that a candidate gets the majority (50% + 1 of the total votes) so “runoffs” or second rounds are common.

I will be honest. I couldn’t vote for either candidate, if I could still vote there. One is the daughter of one of the many corrupt presidents in our history, and while I look forward (I’m pretty sure she will win) to a female President of Peru, I wish it weren’t this particular woman.

The other is a man with strong ties to the Chavez government in Venezuela. He actually got the plurality (most votes of any candidate) in the first round but has been losing steam since.

I feel so bad for this awful choice my homeland must make on Sunday. As our Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa said, “this choice is like choosing between cancer and AIDS.”

I hope that whoever gets elected has it in them to go past their own agendas and maybe, just maybe, put the well-being of the country and its citizens first. It’s about damn time.

Did you know . . .

that potatoes are originally from Peru? (just like me!)
Yep, they were first cultivated in the southern part of what is now Peru thousands of years ago. After the Spanish conquest, potatoes became known worldwide.

that you harvest potatoes when the plant part turns brown and dies?
True. You CAN get potatoes while the plant part is green but basically, as long as the plant is green, the potatoes are still growing.

that there used to be about 4,000 varieties of potato in a variety of colors?
Sadly, now the market has focused on a few varieties and even in Peru, there are less than 100 varieties grown now.

Our potato plants are doing great, I am definitely not patient enough to wait until the plants die so I will be feeling around the soil for some baby potatoes long before anything turns brown. My oldest wants lots and lots of French fries from our potatoes but I am longing for some homemade (and homegrown!) mashed potatoes. If all goes well I am going for some rare varieties next year!

Photo credits: Vantage Travel, SF Examiner, Fans del Espanol.