Friday, November 25, 2011

Champurradas, a Guatemalan "pan dulce" to eat with your hot chocolate or "champurrado"

Pan dulce, (translated literally "sweet bread,") is traditionally eaten with hot chocolate and is a dense, cake-like bread with a sweet topping. These are common throughout the year, and are served at breakfast and dinner with coffee. If you visit a Guatemalan throughout the day, chances are you’ll be served a plate with pan dulce on it. There are several types of pan dulce and one of these is the champurrada.

For more Guatemalan recipes and traditions, check out the ebook here.

While I haven't seen many of varieties of cookies in Guatemala, one that is present in almost every situation is the champurrada. These were at staff meetings at the school, classroom parties, parent conferences and just about any other occasion you could think of. They are traditionally a crunchier version of what I'd call a sugar cookie, sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds or made with corn flour.

You can make your own at home with the recipe below:

5 ounces of shortening
5 ounces of sugar
A handful of soft flour (not the normal gold medal kind)
Sesame seeds
Mix the first three ingredients, make a ball and flatten the ball to the size and thickness you want the champurrada to be. Sprinkle with sesame seed.
Bake for 25 minutes at 350F. This recipe courtesy of

Another blogger:  has another recipe using the corn and healthier coconut oil option:

Yield: 3 dozen cookies
3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
¾ cup coconut oil, softened but not melted
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup brown sesame seeds

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Supposedly, chocolate is a pre-columbian discovery beginning in 1200 b.c. in Central, South America and the Amazon regions. It has been found in an ancient Maya "teapot" which "...reopens the whole debate about who first invented chocolate," said Jonathan Haas, curator of the mouthwatering "Chocolate" exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago. Whether the Maya were the first to invent chocolate or not, they definitely used it. It is even found in the Popol Vuh, a ancient book of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic Quiché kingdom in Guatemala's western highlands.

There are many different recipes of the hot chocolate, or hot cocoa, drink; which are apparently not the same thing. In Guatemala, you will find round chocolate disk-shaped patties ready to be prepared into a hot drink. These disks are put into boiling water where they dissolve into this typical drink. This kind of chocolate is different from the hot cocoa people are used to in the States. It has more of a cinnamon-like flavor and isn't as rich. If prepared with milk, you might get different results. Green & Black's , a UK chocolate company, touts their Maya Gold chocolate has some of the same spice flavor you would find in Guatemalan/Maya chocolate. "Traditionally the Maya Indians in southern Belize flavoured their cocoa with spices. We recapture this by blending rich, dark chocolate with a refreshing twist of orange that is perfectly balanced by the warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of vanilla."

While researching the history of chocolate, I found this story pretty funny:

"Thomas Gage (1603-1656), an English Dominican friar and traveler, tried to intervene with the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico over the congregation drinking chocolate during services. The women were fond of chocolate and turned church services into a coffeehouse. The Bishop tried to end this, and was consequently found dead. Poisoned chocolate was sent to the Bishop and Thomas Gage fled Chiapas. The rumor was that the women, who so hated the Bishop for this restriction, poisoned him with chocolate, hence the proverb "Beware the chocolate of Chiapa."

There are, of course, many claims that hot cocoa has curative powers, especially for high blood pressure due to a study done with the Kuna Indian tribe. "Studies show the flavonols in cocoa stimulate your body's production of nitric oxide --boosting blood flow to your heart, brain, and other organs. In fact, one study found cocoa thins your blood just as well as low-dose aspirin" It is also claimed to help treat blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, stroke, dementia, and impotence.

But, did you really need an excuse to enjoy chocolate? Have you tried the Guatemalan version?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Benefits I Find Walking in Nature

While we are visiting in the States waiting on Little Man to be born, I've been walking every morning on a trail I've created in the back of my parents property. Since they live outside of the city limits, there are not leash laws and dogs all around the neighborhood bark and chase anyone who walks by. Instead of fending them off every morning, and since not walking is not an option, I decided to walk around the (large) back part of their property. I was surprised to find benefits to this besides just avoiding pesky dogs.

Walking between trees means I get to see lots of colorful birds every morning. Blue jays, cardinals, finches, mockingbirds, hummingbirds and wrens are common with an occasional rarer sighting of a painted bunting. Besides seeing them, hearing them can be therapeutic. Julian Treasure, a sound expert says "We are losing our listening." In a short talk, below that I think is more than worth your time to listen to, he shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening -- to other people and the world around you. In this speech he mentioned listening to birds, wind and water as healing forms of sound- two of which I get to experience every morning while walking. This morning time without loud sounds is so nice.

Going along with the lack of loud sound, comes the ability to think, pray, and analyze things. I'm not very good at sitting still and just thinking most of the time. There always seems to be way too much to do. I need to keep my body moving in order to think. If I'm walking, just the fact that my body is moving and that there is relative auditory peace gives my brain the freedom and time to meditate. Everyone needs some sort of time to do this. I don't realize how badly I need this until I miss it during the weekend and the contrast is stark.

Another benefit has been developing stronger ankle muscles from walking on uneven terrain. This means I have had to be more cautious, especially in the beginning, but now I appreciate that. I like the hills that are almost unexpected. It makes walking on a road or a track almost boring and harsh. :D (Not to mention treadmills, which have a different set of benefits.)

The (heightened-during-pregnancy) sense of smell also benefits. Have you ever walked around a neighborhood when all of the trash cans were out for trash day? Enough said. The trees and grass and even occasional dog presents still smell better than any roadside experience!

In the mornings, especially, I can also sense the changing seasons stronger than at any other part of the day. In our triple digit summer, walking outside not long after daybreak was the only cool time of the day... it was also the first time I could sense the gradual fall-like cooling of temperatures that quickly heated up to our normal, hot summer days just prior to autumn.

Though I normally walk before anyone else is up now that the school year has started, when I had to walk with Talia during vacations, walking outside was great because she could play while I was walking. I could see her at any point on the trail since she usually played in the middle and she loved getting to be outside. For us, it was a win-win.

Something that has been challenging is knowing distance, but a pedometer would make that simple.

Do you prefer walking outside, at a gym, on a track, on a road or is hiking more your style? I see benefits to all of them. Most of all, I love the privilege of being able to walk and intend to do it for as long as I'm able.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Bee-Bim Bop!" Beginning Reading Outloud with Homeschooling

Sometimes when I'm tired and reading out loud to Talia is sounding like more than I can handle, we like the stories that are read out loud online. One of our favorite places is found at PBS Kids Stories. Since this website wasn't available in Guatemala, this is one of the advantages of being back in the States for a bit, especially since pregnancy and being tired seem to go hand-in-hand!

An online story Talia has preferred since she was 1 year old, and still enjoys, is called "Bee-Bim Bop" and tells the story of a young Korean girl trying to help her mother make a dish called Bee-Bim Bop for supper. It's very simple and the rhyme and music make it fun. I think she also appreciates watching other little girls helping their mamas in the kitchen like she likes to do.

Something, then, that was really neat, was to see (spelled differently) Bi Bim Bop at a local restaurant lunch special menu. My mom remembered the name of the book and took this photo when she saw it on the menu.

It sounds delicious and is something we both want to try! If not at the restaurant, maybe with a good recipe.

Have you ever made Bi Bim Bop? I'd love for you to share your recipe and help this story come alive even more for Talia!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Brilliant Blue Indigo Bunting Birds Winter in Guatemala

Our neighbor is very good with animals and fond of birds in particular. She has shared her love of birds with Talia through books and feathers and stories of birds that come to her feeder and what they do. As a result, Talia really likes birds too. One of their favorite birds is the Indigo Bunting, a brilliantly blue bird that is not often seen around here.

They are usually found "in brushy and weedy areas along edges of cultivated land, woods, roads, power line rights-of-way, and in open deciduous woods and old fields. Winters in weedy fields, citrus orchards, and weedy cropland."

While looking for it online to show Talia a picture and let her hear his song, (her favorite part,) I found a map that showed the Indigo Bunting wintered in Guatemala! (As well as many parts of Central America.) This map shows where they have been spotted in Guatemala:

Some cool facts about the Indigo Bunting from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

"* The Indigo Bunting migrates at night, using the stars for guidance. It learns its orientation to the night sky from its experience as a young bird observing the stars.
* Experienced adult Indigo Buntings can return to their previous breeding sites when held captive during the winter and released far from their normal wintering area.
* The sequences of notes in Indigo Bunting songs are unique to local neighborhoods. Males a few hundred meters apart generally have different songs. Males on neighboring territories often have the same or nearly identical songs.
* Indigo and Lazuli buntings defend territories against each other in the western Great Plains where they occur together, share songs, and sometimes interbreed."

Something I love about homeschooling is the flexibility for Talia to learn about things that she finds interesting. I know we've both enjoyed learning about this bright blue songbird.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Childhood Artwork

My daughter, like most kids, has always loved drawing. She is constantly creating pictures on her magnetic drawing board, in the dirt with a stick, with colors on her paper or any other way she can figure out. I love it when she draws because it shows me a little bit more what the world looks like through her eyes... and most of the time, her depictions make me laugh in appreciation!

One of her favorite things to draw are bugs, spiders, butterflies and bumblebees. Once, a little, smiling bug appeared on the lid of her laundry pail (below.) He was so jovial and full of character, it was hard to explain how it wasn't appropriate to draw on the furniture with a straight face.

I think it's interesting that her pictures always involve characters from nature at this point in time. I like that she has enough contact with nature to feel that it is the natural thing for her to draw. However, it always has her own twist, like the spider (below) who looks quite startled!

At first, she would only use one color, when she used colors, to draw the entire picture. But as she has matured, she has begun to use multiple colors together to create a picture, like this picture of ducks in a pond:

Also, instead of drawing just outlines of things, she has recently begun coloring in some of her picture. Here, she was making a picture of a painted bunting for our neighbor as a thank you card for a book about birds for her birthday. I thought her bird turned out cute and had all of the right colors. He made me smile! :)

Do I think my child is a genius artist in the making? Not really... but I love seeing her art develop and appreciate all of the laughs and smiles she brings me with her whimsical pictures.