Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

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With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!

Horchata

You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice

Directions:

1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)

Directions:

1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt

Directions:

1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.

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The Day I Almost Lost Him

The place where Carlos almost lost his life.

The place where Carlos almost lost his life.

I didn’t know if I would write about this publicly but I think doing so will help me process everything, and that is something I’m struggling to do. Also, I think this story can teach at least two important lessons.

We woke Sunday morning before the boys. Carlos headed out to the driveway to work on the car and I headed to the kitchen to work on breakfast.

There wasn’t much of a plan that day. As we lay in bed with the sunlight streaming through the blinds I had mentioned that it might be a good day to go swim in the river, but had the day progressed normally, we probably would have stayed home. I had already done the grocery shopping the night before and planned several recipes I wanted to make and photograph to share here on my blog.

As I set to work in the kitchen I heard Carlos call my name from the driveway. I don’t know how I heard him and today I’m plagued with the thought of what could have happened if I hadn’t. Carlos often calls my name from outside and I often don’t hear him – but yesterday I did. Yesterday, the way he said my name, it was urgent, strange. My first thought was that he wanted to show me something, but I knew that couldn’t be right. Why was his voice like that? I’ve never heard his voice like that before.

If I could have flown to him, I would have. I ran so fast that my chanclas came off my feet and I abandoned them, running faster barefoot. Halfway to the car I knew what I would find but I didn’t want to believe it.

Carlos had jacked the car up and was working under it. He’s not sure if the jack simply failed, if he bumped it, or if the car rolled, but when the jack fell and the car fell on top of him, he somehow managed to get enough air in his lungs to call my name.

I crouched down. I thought I said, “Oh my God,” over and over but I realize now that was in my head. Carlos later reminded me that what I actually said, is “What happened, baby?” in a weak, strangled voice. Carlos responded, “Tracy, I can’t breathe.” I remember that he said that very clearly because that is when I began to tremble. Even today, twenty-four hours later, my hands feel weak and begin to shake when I think of how I tried to work the jack and I couldn’t. Even if the jack wasn’t jammed, I don’t know if I could have made it work. My hands were trembling so much that I couldn’t hold onto it.

As my hands fumbled, I began to scream like I’ve never screamed before. “Help! Help me!” … I was hoping one of the neighbors would come get the car off Carlos – I was failing. Carlos was dying and it was going to be my fault. I replay it in my mind – why I didn’t call 911 but that would have meant leaving Carlos’s side when he couldn’t breathe. I wanted the car off him, I didn’t want to abandon him for even a minute. The screams that came out of me sounded like another person. Carlos managed to tell me “Calm down,” and even reached a hand down to try unsuccessfully to turn the jack. I kept screaming over and over again.

Inside the house, our dog, Chico, began to panic. He scratched frantically at the door and barked in response to my screams. It was Chico who woke our sleeping sons. My older son came outside when he heard the screams. He looked about wide-eyed, “Mommy, what’s happening?” he said.

When I spoke, I stuttered. I couldn’t speak clearly. “The car fell on Daddy,” I said, “I can’t get the jack to work.”

My older son grabbed the jack but he couldn’t work it. “I can’t work the jack! I don’t know how!” … He began to panic, too, and I started to scream again as a big, black pick-up truck stopped in front of our house and a man I’ve never seen before, ran to us. He later told me that he lives down the street, that he heard my screams. He thought it was kids playing at first, but decided to check. I wonder today if he hadn’t heard my screams or if he had ignored them – what would have happened.

The man tried to lift the car, my son and I joined in. I still don’t understand how we couldn’t lift it even a little. My son’s head left a small dent in the side of the vehicle – that’s how hard he thrust himself against it as he lifted. We cut and scraped ourselves, our bodies are sore today – but the car didn’t budge. Assured that my son and the man were actively trying to save Carlos, that Carlos wouldn’t be alone, I ran to the house, dialed 911, and brought the phone back with me outside.

The dispatcher told us not to attempt to move the car. I had worked very briefly as a dispatcher-in-training myself many years ago, and knew the dispatcher knew better than I did – but the man somehow managed to get the jack working and Carlos’s voice and breathing were weakening. I told the dispatcher we were going to jack the car up, that we had to, that my husband had a thick chest and the car was low to the ground, that he couldn’t breathe. The dispatcher told me again that she was advising me against moving the car in any way and that the ambulance and fire truck would be there soon.

The man worked the jack and the car lifted enough to take the pressure off Carlos’s chest. Fearing that the jack might fail again if he jacked it up enough for Carlos to get out, the man said we better just stop there. A minute later, my younger son flagged down the ambulance and fire truck. Within a few more minutes the first responders had used a tool I don’t know the name of to lift the car the rest of the way.

At one point the car started to slip again because a rock at the rear tire wasn’t doing a good enough job to keep it immobile. Carlos didn’t wait for the EMTs to slide him onto the board while he was under the car – he says he doesn’t know how he did it but he didn’t want to be under there anymore and he pulled himself out. An EMT grabbed his legs and pulled him the rest of the way onto the board and put a neck brace on him.

Carlos was airlifted to a hospital with a trauma center. I gave the boys some instructions, grabbed a few things and drove to the hospital. Because it wasn’t our local hospital, I got a little lost and that is when I finally started to cry actual tears. I had barely held it together until that moment but it’s usually Carlos who drives – he’s so good with directions, and I often get lost, and he wasn’t there to help me and I couldn’t find my way to him. When I finally arrived at the hospital, he was in for CAT scans and x-rays to check for internal injuries. The nurse reassured me that he was still conscious and talking, soon I was able to see him.

When I came into the room, Carlos was hooked up to all kinds of things. He still had the neck brace on, his shirt had been cut away and he wore a hospital gown. He had tubes in his nose for oxygen, IVs taped to his arms and hand, little electrode-looking things stuck all over his chest, a blood pressure cuff on his bicep, and a heartbeat monitor on his finger.

In the end, the test results revealed that not a single bone had been broken and there was no serious internal injury. Carlos was discharged within hours and even requested an ice cream cone on the way home. He will be very sore and is not working for at least a few days, but the doctor said he is either “very lucky or very strong.”

The only things I’m certain of today – I love Carlos with all my heart and I’m incredibly thankful that I’m not facing the rest of my life without him.

The two lessons for everyone:

#1. Do not ever use a car jack to raise a car up to work under it. That is not what they’re meant for. People often do this and end up dead or severely injured. Either go to the mechanic or find out the proper way to work under your car and do not take shortcuts. It’s not worth the risk you’re taking.

#2. It sounds cliche, but show your love for your family every day and in all your words and actions. You don’t know when your last moment together will be.

Carlos had to wear the hospital gown because his shirt got cut off him, but he was alive and home, and that was all that mattered.

Carlos had to wear the hospital gown because his shirt got cut off him, but he was alive and home, and that’s all that matters.

Señal de la Santa Cruz

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Ayer pasé muchas horas mirando las fotos digitales desde la niñez de mis hijos. Encontré unos videos cortos también que yo ni siquiera sabía que existían. Aquí es uno de los videos. En este video mis hijos están practicando cómo hacer La Señal de la Santa Cruz. Ni creo que ellos entendieron lo que estaban diciendo en español.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Yesterday I spent many hours looking through digital photos of my children’s childhood. I also found a few short videos that I didn’t even know existed. Here is one of the videos. In this video my boys are practicing the Sign of the Cross. I don’t think they even knew what they were saying in Spanish.

$panish $ummer

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

money

Estoy completamente rendida. Esta semana decidí motivar (o sobornar, depende tu perspectiva) a los niños para que hablen español. Usé dólares del juego Monopoly para representar dólares reales y por cada día que ellos intentaban hablar español la mayor parte del día, recibieron un dólar. (Ellos saben que en una fecha posterior pueden cambiar el dinero del juego por dinero real.)

Suena como una buena idea, ¿verdad? El problema es que mi hijo menor está obsesionado con ganar tantos dólares como sea posible. Me habla todo el día hasta que me vuelvo loca. (Si no me conoces bien, necesito mi espaciocito y silencio.)

Peor, a mi hijo se le ocurrió un nuevo esquema. Primero él me preguntó: “¿Puedo ganar un dólar si hago tres páginas en el libro de español?” Estuve de acuerdo para que me dejara en paz.

Después mi hijo me preguntó si él mira una hora de televisión en español iba a ganar otro dólar. Estuve de acuerdo otra vez para que me dejara en paz.

Haciendo la historia más corta, estoy en deuda pero el español de mi hijo está mejorando.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

I’m completely exhausted. This week I decided to motivate (or bribe, depending on your perspective) the kids to speak more Spanish. I used Monopoly dollars to represent real dollars and each day that the boys tried to speak Spanish the majority of the day, they received a dollar. (They know that at a future date they’ll be able to trade the play money in for real money.)

Sounds like a good idea, right? The problem is that my younger son is obsessed with trying to earn as many dollars as possible. He talks to me all day long until he drives me crazy. (If you don’t know me well, I need my personal space and quiet.)

Even worse, my son figured out a new scheme. First he asked me, “Can I earn a dollar if I do three pages in the Spanish workbook?” – I agreed so he would leave me alone.

Then my son asked if he watched television for an hour in Spanish would he earn another dollar. I agreed again so that he’d leave me alone.

Long story short, I’m in debt but my son’s Spanish is getting better.

A Quince Party… (for my boy)

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

Image source: Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I’m planning a quinceañero party for my son, and I promised to give details at a later date – so today I’ll tell you how this all came about. Below is an excerpt of the story as I wrote it for latinamom.me, with a link to read the rest over there.

When I first suggested the possibility of a quince to my husband, whispered one night in the dark as we fell asleep, Carlos waved me off like a lost and confused moth that had mistaken a porch light for the moon. I wasn’t surprised that it took awhile for Carlos to open his mind and warm up to the idea—after all, quinceañeras are traditionally coming-of-age celebrations only for girls and Carlos is a very traditional-minded person. However, over time I explained my intentions and little by little, Carlos came to support the idea of throwing a quince for his son.

[Read the rest on latinamom.me HERE]

Would you ever consider a quince party for your son?

Verano de Español: Chucho

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

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Hoy tenemos una semana haciendo el “Verano de Español” en nuestra casa y va bien. Mis hijos tienen 14 y 11 años y este es el cuarto año de “Verano de Español” – (por no hablar de que hemos estado hablando más español en general desde el primer año, no sólo durante el verano.) O sea, todos sabemos qué esperar y no es tan difícil este año.

Mi hijo mayor es más reacio a responder en español espontánea pero cuando lo hace, su vocabulario siempre me sorprende. Un día quería hablar conmigo sobre la bolsa de valores y le instruí intentar lo en español. Él puso los ojos y suspiró, pero luego lo hizo excelente.

Mi hijo menor me habla en español espontánea pero todavia está aprendiendo vocabulario. Me pregunta muchas veces al día qué significa una palabra, o cómo decir algo en español. Ojalá está absorbiendo todo como una esponja.

Anoche, jugamos un juego que es casi una versión de Scrabble en español. Mi hijo menor quería jugar y dijo: “Vamos a jugar en español” – a pesar de que se puede jugar en inglés. Sonreí cuando se deletreó la palabra “vos” – pero me reí cuando en su siguiente turno se deletreó “chucho.”

Parece que su vocabulario salvadoreño está bien establecido.

chucho

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Today we’re a week into doing “Spanish Summer” at our house and it’s going well. My sons are 14 and 11 years old and this is our fourth year doing “Spanish Summer”- (not to mention that we’ve been speaking more Spanish in general since the first year, not only during the summer.) In other words, we all know what to expect and it’s not as difficult this year.

My older son is more reluctant to speak Spanish without prompting, but when he does, his vocabulary blows me away. One day he wanted to talk to me about the stock market and I instructed him to do it in Spanish. He rolled his eyes and sighed, but he did an excellent job.

My younger son speaks Spanish without prompting but is still learning vocabulary. He asks me many times each day what a word means or how to say something in Spanish. Hopefully he’s absorbing everything like a sponge.

Last night, we played a game which is pretty much a Spanish version of Scrabble. My younger son wanted to play and said, “Let’s play in Spanish” – even though it’s possible to play it in English. I smiled when he spelled the word “vos” (a word commonly used in El Salvador to mean “you”), but I laughed when on his next turn he spelled the word “chucho.” (“Chucho” is slang for “dog” in El Salvador.)

It looks like his Salvadoran vocabulary is well established.

Madagascar Culo

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I’m trying to kick off “El Verano de Español” (Spanish Summer) a little early this year and yesterday I made a very concentrated effort to stick to Spanish with the boys.

I’m not sure what happened this year. At one point I was in the habit of speaking Spanish with the kids the majority of the day, then one day I realized I was speaking a lot of English to them and had been for some time. Each night I went to bed feeling guilty, promising I’d go cold turkey the next day but I’d wake up exhausted and forcing my brain to stay in Spanish was like trying to baptize a cat.

Anyway, Friday I managed to speak to the boys in mostly Spanish and they even responded to me in Spanish several times. To keep the momentum going, after dinner I decided we’d watch a movie in Spanish together, having recently discovered a bunch of bootleg DVDs from El Salvador I had forgotten we own. (To be very clear: We didn’t purchase these DVDs and haven’t even watched them – they were sent as gifts from one of Carlos’ tíos many years ago.)

My younger son popped some popcorn and I put the DVD for Madagascar in. Here’s a little video I made about the surprises that awaited us. (And as hilarious as this was to me, let this be a word of warning for anyone buying bootleg DVDs for their kids in El Salvador… They aren’t exactly rated G! This may be a good reason to buy the real thing.)

Ah yes… Spanish Summer is off to an excellent start.

Club Glee

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

clubglee

Hoy quiero introducirles a mi nueva causa favorita en El Salvador. Glasswing International es una organización independiente, y tienen muchas valiosas iniciativas que estoy planeando apoyar con mi dinero – y ojalá un día cuando regresamas a El Salvador, con mi tiempo. De las iniciativas que tienen, Club Glee es una de mis favoritas. En Club Glee, los jovenes aprenden como cantar y bailar – pero es mucho más que esto. Los jovenes que participaron aprenden cooperación, se sienten aceptados, hacen amigos, y ganan confianza. Al final, programas así no sólo ayudan a los niños, pero también el futuro del pais porque está creando mejores ciudadanos.

Aquí hay un video que realmente me llegó al corazón. Chécalo.

Si quieres apoyar a programas como Club Glee, aprender de sus otras programs, (incluyendo programas en Guatemala y Honduras), o seguir sus perfiles de medios de comunicación social – dale una visita a Glasswing.org [en inglés], o en español AQUÍ.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Today I want to introduce you to my new favorite cause in El Salvador. Glasswing International is an independent organization, and they have many worthwhile initiatives that I’m planning to support with my money – and hopefully one day when we return to El Salvador, with my time. Of the initiatives they have, Club Glee is one of my favorites. In Club Glee, the youth learn how to sing and dance – but it’s much more than that. The young people who participate in the program learn cooperation, feel accepted, make friends, and gain confidence. In the end, programs such as this not only help the children but also help the future of the country because it’s creating better citizens.

Here is a video that really touched my heart. Check it out.

If you want to support programs like Club Glee, learn about their other programs (including programs in Guatemala and Honduras), or follow them in social media – give them a visit at Glasswing.org [English] or in Spanish HERE.

Tu mamá

Día de la Madre (Mother’s Day) – is fast approaching in the United States. (In Latin America, as many of you know. it’s on a different day.) Are you ready to show your love to your mami on Sunday, May 12th? If you need a little help brainstorming gift ideas, here are some great guides, crafts, and recipes other blogueras have put together.

Image source: craftingeek.me

Image source: craftingeek.me

Craftingeek has dozens of crafts you can make para tu mamá. My favorite is the album scrapbook pictured above.

latinamomme2

Check out latinamom.me for their Mother’s Day Gift Guide and their gallery of Stylish Accessories Para Mamá.

Coffeecake con Frambuesas - Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Coffeecake con Frambuesas – Almuerzo con Mamá // Image source: Ericka Sanchez

Almuerzo con Mamá is a beautiful, bilingual collaboration of free recipes to make for Mother’s Day from several of my favorite foodie blogueras, like the Coffeecake con Frambuesas pictured above.

3amigasguide

The “3 Amigas” strike again with another gift guide bien bella just in time for Día de la Madre. Check it out HERE.

DIY_tissue_flowers_craft-modernmami

These Tissue Paper Flowers by guest contributor Lisa Renata on ModernMami.com almost look like the real thing. So pretty!

picmonkey

Online photo/image editor, PicMonkey, has some really creative ideas for gifts you can make with the help of a good printer. Check those out here on the PicMonkey blog.

How are you remembering your mami this Mother’s Day?

Olores y Cultura

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Image source: Marie Hale

Image source: Marie Hale

¿Cómo afecta tu cultura a tu sentido del olfato y las cosas que crees que huelen bien y las cosas que crees que huelen mal?

En un artículo que leí, hacen el argumento que aprendemos nuestras preferencias olfativas. ¿Qué interesante, no?

Unos ejemplos puedo dar de mi vida: A mi, me gusta el olor de zorrillo y también el olor de gasolina. Yo sé que son olores muy ofensivos para mucha gente, pero estos olores están ligados a buenos recuerdos de mi niñez.

También, olores que normalmente se consideran agradable en una cultura, pueden convertir en ser ofensivos para otros. Por ejemplo, el olor que llamamos “cherry” (cereza, pero cereza artificial como usan en paletas y chapstick), me encanta. Tengo bastantes buenos recuerdos con el olor “cherry” – pero mi suegra odia el olor y el sabor de “cherry” americano. (Digo “cherry americano” porque ella le gusta cerezas naturales.)

Siempre cuando hice una jarra de jugo sabor “cherry”, mi suegra empezó a quejarse de “el tufo.”

“Hiede a sapuyulo!” ella me decía.

Yo no sabía lo que era sapuyulo pero es una fruta, también conocido por el nombre “zapote” o “mamey” en algunos países. Mi suegra me explicó que cuando era niña, tuvo que tomar sapuyulo por un remedio casero o usar lo en forma de jabón, no recuerdo exactamente pero de cualquier manera no le gustó – y por eso el olor de “cherry” le molestaba mucho.

¿Y tú? Cuáles son tus experiencias entre olores y cultura? Cuáles olores te gustan? Cuáles olores no te gustan? Y cómo afectan tus buenos o malos recuerdos a los olores que te gustan o no te gustan?

Nota: Mil gracias a mi amiga Claudia quién me dijo como deletrear “sapuyulo.”

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

How does your culture affect your sense of smell and the things you think smell good and the things you think smell bad?

In an article I read, the argument is made that our olfactory preferences are learned. Interesting, right?

Some examples I can give from my life: I like the smell of skunk and the smell of gasoline. I know these are very offensive odors for many people, but these scents are tied to fond memories from my childhood.

Also, scents normally considered to be nice in one culture may be offensive in others. For example, the scent we call “cherry” (cherry, as in the artificial cherry scent used in popsicles and chapstick), I love very much. I have many fond memories of the “cherry” scent – but my mother-in-law hates the smell and taste of American “cherry.” (I say “American cherry” because she likes natural cherries.)

Whenever I used to make a pitcher of cherry-flavored juice, my mother-in-law would start complaining of “the bad smell.”

“That stinks like sapuyulo!” she’d say.

I didn’t know what sapuyulo was but it turns out it’s a fruit, also known by the name “sapote” or “mamey” in some countries. My mother-in-law explained to me that when she was a child she had to take a home remedy made of sapuyulo or that she had to use it as a soap, I can’t remember exactly how it was, but either way she hated it – and that’s why the smell of “cherry” bothered her so much.

And you? What are your experiences with smells and culture? Which scents do you like? Which scents do you dislike? How do your good or bad memories affect the scents you like or dislike?

Note: Many thanks to my friend Claudia who told me how to spell “sapuyulo.”