We had to buy her

It’s easy to see the women and men that we meet in the bars and automatically judge them, jumping to conclusions about the lifestyle they are living or the choices they are making. But what I’m learning is that behind every painted face is a story. A story full of joys and struggles, laughter and tears and everything in between.

I had the honor of getting to know one of these painted faces this month. Her name was Blue. We connected with Blue a few times at the bars, and one night, we invited to take Blue out to dinner. We had to buy her for the evening – 400 baht (approximately $13 USD).

She was the same age as me – 27. But as we sat down to dinner together, I discovered that the 27 years of her life were so starkly different than my own.

Blue grew up in a small village far from Chiang Mai. For reasons unknown to her, her parents treated her poorly throughout her childhood, whereas her sister was loved and cared for. Her mother sold her when she was eight, to a man whose home was in Bangkok, where she spent seven years cooking and cleaning and molested by the man she worked for. She was not happy, so she broke something in order to get sent home. When she returned home, her mom blamed her from not making enough money and sold her again as a cleaning girl in a new city. When she was fifteen, she returned back to her home village, upon which her mother calls her stupid and told her she had to get married to a young man in the village.

Blue and her new husband then moved to Chiang Mai and started a clothes washing business. Not long after they arrived in this city, she got pregnant and had a daughter named Honey. Soonafter, Blue’s husband suddenly died in an accident, leaving her to raise Honey alone. The laundry business was not doing well, so she worked in a restaurant in a hotel to make money for her family. She was still struggling to make ends meet, and a friend told her that she could make a lot of money working in the bars.

Feeling like she had no other options, Blue decided to try this out. On only her second night of work, she met a man from England and they ended up falling in love. They lived together and conceived her second child. Six months later, she returned home from work one evening to a completely empty apartment. He had left her, without an explanation. This hurt her so bad that she said she cried every day for a year.

Despite the number of people in her life that had hurt her, Blue was so willing to talk to us about the tough things. Yet, I did notice that her view of the world was definitely skewed because of these experiences that she had gone through. She asked us “Do you think men are good?” After we answered, she said she did not, and that her definition of a good man was one who will sit and talk to her a few nights before sleeping with her. She said that she didn’t believe in love, because love has always failed her.

Blue has expressed how much she detests working in the bars; so she and her friend started a restaurant. They borrowed money from the bank and remodeled an old garage to form the kitchen and dining area. She is hoping that as the restaurant takes off, she will be able to quit her job at the bars. “I don’t like wearing tight clothes like they make me wear, and the heels hurt my feet,” she admitted. I think all of us women can relate to that! She explained, “I want to live a quiet life now. It doesn’t matter how you look. All that matters is that you have a beautiful heart.”

Here is Blue standing in front of her new restaurant. How proud she is!

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Blue and her friend have a lot of fun cooking together!

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I am slightly biased, but I have to say that their food is some of the best Thai food I have tasted.

Here is a recipe for Gui Tiew Hang – Thai noodle salad. This recipe will serve 2-3. It’s sweet & spicy and absolutely delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound flat rice noodles (cooked)
  • 2 T oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 T crushed peanuts
  • 1 T salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound beef or chicken, seasoned and cooked
  • 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, stems removed
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1/2 lime squeezed
  1. Cook garlic in oil until slightly browned
  2. Mix garlic oil with noodles
  3. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, sugar, and crushed red peppers
  4. Layer the salad as follows: lettuce (bottom layer), noodles, meat, soy sauce mixture, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, with a lime squeezed on top.
  5. Toss and eat. Mmm!

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So what’s next? I can see God’s law written all over her heart in the way she lives and the dreams she has for her life. The great thing is that a YWAM team just arrived for a 3-month outreach here during their Discipleship Training School; I took three of the YWAM girls to meet Blue yesterday so they will be able to continue showing God’s unconditional love to her. It’s amazing for me to see how God has already worked in her life and I know that this is only the beginning! (Did I mention that Blue’s oldest daughter Honey is going to a Christian school and has decided to be a follower of Jesus?)

In our conversations, everything in me wanted to tell her about Jesus’ love for her, a love that never fails, but the Holy Spirit told me to just listen and be an example of God’s love. What she needs most right now is not a lecture but a friend, and by being there for her I’m incarnationally living the love of Christ in a way that words cannot describe.

As we said goodbye and parted ways, she said three precious words, “I love you,” which I know mean so much more because of the life she has lived.

When you make this salad, please pray for Blue and her two daughters –Pray for provision and that God would continue to bring people in her life to love her.

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Asian Momos (Recipe)

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One of my favorite meals so far on the Race has been momos – they will probably be the first thing that I cook from scratch when I go back to America. Momos are traditionally a Nepalese food, but are also made all over Asia as dumplings filled with spiced vegetables and meat. They take a while to make, but I promise you, they are totally worth it!

This recipe makes approximately 80-100 momos and will serve 8-10 people.

Ingredients:

For filling:

  • 1 large or 2 small red onions, diced finely
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 pound+ raw ground beef or pork
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 4-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1 beef or chicken bullion cube, crushed into powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder or fresh chilis (adjust to your desired spice level)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  1. Crush/mash diced garlic and ginger together in a small bowl
  2. Place in large bowl, then add diced onions, cabbage, and meat, and stir well
  3. Add bullion, salt, chili powder, and mix
  4. Finally, add fresh coriander and vegetable oil and mix thoroughly by hand

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For dough:

  • 2 pounds flour
  • 2 C+ water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Slowly add water to flour, mixing by hand until dough-like consistency. Let sit for a few minutes

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  1. Take cherry-sized dough balls and roll them out individually on a floured surface.
  2. Place 1 spoonful of filling inside, then fold closed and pinch the ends. It’s a tricky technique to describe, but basically you fold one end in, then push pinch, push pinch until you get to the other end. The important thing is that it is sealed shut. They should be in a half-moon shape, and look something like this:P1040921
  3. Steam a single layer of momos for approximately ten minutes. To check if they are done, press the sides to see if they are tight. Momos are also tasty fried in a frying pan. The most important thing about making momos is that you have fun doing it!

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Serve with chutney as dipping sauce. Chutney can be made from any number of ingredients, and is usually made from whatever vegetables are leftover in the house (tomatoes, sesame, cucumber, etc). An example chutney is below:

  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed and chopped
  • 6-inch long piece ginger, chopped
  • 20 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp chili powder or fresh chili
  • 3 tsp white vinegar

Crush ginger, garlic, coriander together in a small bowl. Add tomatoes, chili powder, and white vinegar. Adjust to taste.

Eat momos Asian-style by sitting on the floor without silverware. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Russian Pelmeni Dumplings

Pelmeni are dumplings with a filling wrapped in thin dough. Pelmeni originated in Russia and are one of our team’s favorite foods these past two months since we’ve arrived in Western Europe. Seriously, every time we go out to eat, at least one person orders pelmeni. I found a great recipe for these online at the Natasha’s Kitchen website. This recipe will make enough pelmeni for about six dinners.

Ingredients for Pelmeni Dough:
2/3 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
7 cups plus 6 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Pelmeni Filling:
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce, optional

Ingredients/ Ideas for Toppings:
Butter, melted
Sour cream, vinegar, ketchup

How to Make Pelmeni Dough:

  1. Using a whisk, mix together: 2/3 cup buttermilk, 2 cups warm water, 2 eggs and 1  1/2 teaspoons salt until well blended.
  2. Add 4 cups flour and switch to a dough hook if you are using a mixer. Mix on medium speed until well blended
  3. Add 3 more cups of flour (one cup at a time and wait for the dough to become well blended with each cup)
  4. Add the rest of the flour 1 tbsp at a time, until the dough is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. Once it is no longer sticking to the bowl, continue to mix 5 minutes. (Total mixing time is about 20 minutes from the time you start adding flour).
  5. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.

How to Make Pelmeni Filling:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and saute until golden and soft. Add garlic and saute another minute.
  2. Mix together pork, turkey, onion & garlic mix, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper and 1 tsp hot sauce (optional).

If making pelmeni by hand:

  1. Shape a portion of the dough into a 1 to 2 -inch thick log. Cut off 1 piece at a time (about gum ball sized) and roll into disks to form a 1.5-inch circle with rolling pin. Sprinkle rolling pin and surface with flour if needed.
  2. Place 1 tsp pelmeni filling in the center,
  3. Lose the edges and pinch together.
  4. Pinch the corners together to form, well… a diaper shape.
  5. Place pelmeni onto a well-floured cutting board. Arrange pelmeni evenly on the cutting board, sprinkle with flour and place in the freezer.
  6. Once they are fully frozen, put them in large ziploc bags, sprinkle with flour and freeze them for future enjoyment.

To Cook Pelmeni:
Bring a pot of water to boil (add 1 tbsp salt for a large soup pot, or 1 tsp salt for a smaller 4 quart pot). Add FROZEN pelmeni and return to a boil. They should float to the top, then boil for 3 minutes longer (or until meat is fully cooked). Drain pelmeni and place them in a clean bowl. Toss pelmeni with butter and sprinkle with dill (optional). Serve them warm with ketchup, sour cream or vinegar.

A traditional Moldovan woman cooking yummy pelmeni!

Eat Like A Ukrainian

When we stepped off the plane in Ukraine, it really started to feel like we were in a different country. Ireland was so similar to my home in Boston economically and socially that last month it was easy for me to forget that I wasn’t in the States. Ukraine is a whole nother world, though, and I think this is mainly due to the language. I’ve been in countries where I don’t speak the language, but it’s a whole different ballgame when the entire written alphabet is foreign. For example, on our second day here, we went to a restaurant, looked at the menu, and not only did we have absolutely no idea what was on the menu, but we also couldn’t sound out the words to order. It’s humbling when you need an interpreter to do things as simple as ordering food, because without one you can only stammer and point stupidly, hoping that you don’t end up with something like raw alligator eggs.

Snapshot 1 (8-12-2012 10-16 AM)

A snapshot from our menu. What would you order?

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The ladies of Team Doulos, joined our three lovely Ukrainian friends (in the middle)

When you travel country to country, you begin to see how cultures compare to one another. From our stay thusfar in Ukraine, the one word I would use to describe Ukranians is “welcoming.” After our plane arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, we sat on a six-hour bus ride to Rivne, where we were welcomed by three of the most welcoming, kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. They spent hours with us over the next few days, showing us around the city, teaching us the Ukrainian language essentials (“Hello,” “Goodbye,” and of course “Where is the toilet?”) It seems like every word in Ukrainian has about a dozen syllables, and they patiently worked with us so that saying “thank you” sounded more like “dee-yaku-yoo” rather than “dracula.” They helped us with our cross-cultural assignment to talk with a local Ukrainian and learn about the way they think and act. If that wasn’t enough, they volunteered to help us maneuver the confusing Ukrainian bazaar (market) so our team could pick up some groceries.

I love tasting local cuisine, and one of the most well-known Ukrainian dishes is borsch. Borsch is essentially a meat and vegetable stew, and usually comes in either red or green. Our first Sunday after church, Tanya and her husband invited our team and others over to their home for local Ukranian cuisine. It was SUPER tasty, so I wanted to pass along the recipe for the delicious Ukranian Borsch and holubtsi that we so readily consumed. Yes, even you can eat like a Ukranian!

Ukrainian Borsch

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This recipe makes one big pot of borsch, which will serve about eight people.

  • 1 pound of meat (chicken, beef, or pork)
  • 8-10 potatoes
  • 3 middle-sized beets
  • 1 large carrot (or two smaller carrots)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  1. Cut the meat into small pieces, place in a large stock pot. Fill pot halfway with water, add salt, and boil for twenty minutes.
  2. Peel, slice, and cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add to the stock pot.
  3. Chop the beets, carrots, and onion into small pieces. In a separate frying pan, toss them with some water for about ten minutes until soft. Then add them to the pot with the bay leaf.
  4. Boil everything for about twenty to thirty minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add a bit of vinegar.  Great topped with a dollop of sour cream.

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This recipe makes approximately sixteen holubtsi, which will serve about eight people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mid-sized cabbage
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound of meat (usually beef or pork)
  • 2 big carrots
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp butter or oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a frying pan, chop the onion and cook with the meat until browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine with rice to form the stuffing.
  2. Place cabbage in a big stock pot, then fill with water until covered. Heat water on medium, until leaves peel easily off of the cabbage (take care not to heat cabbage too long)
  3. Fill individual cabbage leaves with the stuffing. Fold and pinch the ends of the rolls to close them securely.
  4. In a large stock pot, add butter or oil. Cover the bottom with any extra plain cabbage leaves (to prevent burning). Place a layer of holybsti on the bottom, then cover with grated carrots, pepper, and ketsup. Repeat, layering holybsti and vegetables until complete. Add 1 cup water, cover, and steam for two hours.

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I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did!

Recipe: Irish Stew

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This is Margaret. She’s a traveler here in Ireland. It’s a bit hard to describe travelers, but generally they are a tight-knit community of people who live in trailers without a permanent residence and make money by doing odd jobs such as collecting scrap metal. Travelers are characterized by their unique culture and set of laws by which they abide by, largely due to the fact that their traveling nature makes it difficult for authorities to enforce rules and regulations. Travelers also tend to have limited education and be a very spiritual group of people. 

In one moment, this past week feels like a whirlwind – and in another moment it feels like we’ve been here for more than a month. We’ve been spending a lot of time with our teams, getting to know one another and growing together in God. There are three teams (21 people) staying at this one big house in a coastal village called Graystones, which is about an hour south of Dublin. Our role this month is basically to do whatever we can to serve and help the church we have been assigned to work with. Thusfar, we’ve been asked to pass out flyers with scripture in malls, neighborhoods, and city plazas. One day we passed out 5,000 of these in downtown Dublin! We’ve attended a few church services where we have had the opportunity to share our testimonies, read scripture, and lead the group in song (there are some very talented musicians amongst our squad!) Below is a picture of our team at the traveler’s meeting on Sunday. Lo and Bryan are at the front singing their hearts out in beautiful chorus.

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Steven is a local traveler here in Ireland, and he has been leading us on some of our evangelism escapades during the day. Margaret is Steven’s wife, and last week, we were blessed to come home to a potful of Margaret’s homemade Irish stew! It’s my joy to pass along this recipe, so you can travel with me to Ireland from your kitchen. This recipe will fit in one big pot and serve about eight. It’s simple, but super tasty.

Authentic Irish Stew

  • 2 pounds stewing beef or lap of lamb
  • 5-6 carrots
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 8-10 potatoes
  • other vegetables (optional) – peas, parsnips, etc
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 thyme leaf
  • salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large pot of water, add the raw lamb or beef. Turn on medium heat and boil for about 25 minutes.

2. Add all of the vegetables and bring to a boil

3. Add beef stock and thyme leaf, then simmer for three to four hours.

4. Take out thyme leaf, salt and pepper to taste.

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Coffee Hour Recipe – Almond Flour Scones

Churches are always looking for delicious recipes to serve during coffee hour. It’s always great to have something special to serve as congregation members fellowship together after the Sunday morning service.

I came across this recipe for almond flour scones which are delicious and ridiculously easy to make. Best of all, they are very allergen-friendly – containing no gluten or lactose. Not only that, it’s a great recipe for lent because there is no added sugar!

Almond Flour Scones

2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 C fruit (I used blackberries) but also you can use dates or raisins
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1. Mix almond flour and baking soda, add caramom
2. In a separate bowl, whisk egg with honey or maple syrup and vanilla
3. Stir whisked egg and syrup into almond flour, then add fruit
4. Let batter sit for about 5 minutes to thicken
5. Drop onto oiled cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool before removing from tray, or they may break apart.

When I made them, I made a single layer of the batter, then cut it into triangles about halfway through the baking process so they looked more like scones

Other variations:
1/2 C chocolate chips and a pinch of cinnamon
1/2 C frozen blueberries and a tsp of organic lemon zest
1/2 C chopped frozen cranberries/raspberries and a tsp of organic orange zest
dollop of fruit-sweetened jam in the middle of each scone

They’re super easy and super yummy. Enjoy!

The fastest and easiest bread recipe ever!

Since I baked my first loaf of bread last November (see my blog on this here), I’ve really gotten into baking homemade bread. I’ve decided that there’s truly nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread filling your house in the morning.

The wonderful thing is I’ve discovered that baking a homemade loaf of bread is a whole lot easier than I first imagined. In fact, there are recipes where you don’t even need to knead the dough! My favorite bread recipe I found on Sweet Savory Life (http://savorysweetlife.com), a collection of Alice’s fast, easy and delicious recipes. Every single thing I’ve tried from her site I have loved – check it out!

Here is the bread recipe that I wanted to pass along. If a bread recipe can change a person’s life, this one did for me :-) The wonderful thing about this bread is that it’s crusty artisan rustic bread with yummy deliciousness in the middle, with no fuss! You just mix the four ingredients together, let the dough sit overnight, then move the dough to a pot, place it in the oven, then an hour later it’s done. It almost sounds too good to be true. I’ve modified this recipe time and time again (whole wheat flour, white wheat flour, sunflour seeds, flax meal) each time thinking, I don’t think this is going to turn out, and then it does. It’s truly glorious!

Alas, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 packet active rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
Instructions
  1. In a medium large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and yeast together. Pour the water over the flour mixture and mix with a spoon until the flour is absorbed and the mixture resembles wet sticky dough. Cover the bowl with either plastic wrap, foil, or a clean, wet, kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm place.
  2. Allow the dough to rest overnight.
  3. Spread olive oil on the bottom of a large oven-proof pot or dutch oven to prevent dough from sticking.
  4. Sprinkle just enough flour on the dough to be able to scoop the dough out with your hand without being too sticky. Place the loosely form dough ball in the center of the pot. Place a oven-safe lid on top of the pot and place it in the cold oven.
  5. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees F and set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the lid from the pot and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove loaf from the pot.
  7. Allow the bread to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into slices.
Feel free to post a comment below about how this recipe works out for you!