Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sweet Plantain Fritters

Those of you who know Joe probably know he isn't much of a cook, unless he's grilling. Well, being a "house husband" has brought out his abilities to cook. He specializes in plantains - they are cheap and generally all recipes involve frying the buggers.

He discovered a recipe for Sweet Plantain Fritters and has run with the recipe, it is a weekend staple. They are perfect breaded and fried plantain slices served with cinnamon and sugar.

To start cooking these one must find ripe or maduro plantains, the riper the sweeter. You want them yellow going on black, I know if it were a banana you'd be NO those are bad, but that is when the plantain has finally become sweet and ready for this recipe.

This plantain is actually a little less black than you would want, but luckily it was really sweet.

Recipe - Sweet Plantain Fritters

Mix -

1 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Teaspoon baking powder


1/2 Cup water
1 Egg (already beaten)

Cut the plantains into chunks like so...

Add the chunks into the batter to coat well.

Fry until golden brown and crispy in a pan (filled with enough vegetable oil to cover entire fritter).

Lay the finished fritters on a paper towel to drain, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar.


Oh and by the way - Joe and I are going to be parents!!

GOTCHA!! One of our geckos is pregnant! If you look closely you can see to little gecko embryos in her belly! It's pretty cool to see mother nature up close and personal. And we welcome our new little additions to the gecko family - the more bug eaters the better!!

Even if sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. Joe said our little Rosie was in a food coma for about 2 hours after eating this moth. He thought she might not make it, but she bounced back after a while!

We hope everyone is well! Go get some plantains and make some fritters! Joe will make you some if you come visit! Much love to you all!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

La Lavanderia Lassen

Well, we have made it!! We didn't have internet for weeks...something about how foreigners can't own internet access...well, that has been solved, so Skype us!!

We are all settled in. We have a nice apartment. It came furnished with 2 beds, one in the bedroom for us and the other, well it's actually dual purpose, it's a couch and a bed in the living room. It even came with tie-dyed sheets, so we can't complain and all of you have a free place to sleep!!

But, we don't have a laundry machine...well, we do but it is the "Joe Lassen" muscle power brand and a concrete sink on the patio called a "pila" (pictured above). The pila is a concrete basin and a connected concrete washer board.

The following is a demonstration of how to use a pila, by Jen and Joe...

First, you have to stuff a sock into the hole in the bottom so that all of the water doesn't run out of the basin. Then you fill it with washing powder, water and clothes.

And then, well, you scrub, scrub, scrub, on the concrete washer board...

After that, all that is left is to rinse and ring it out...

And hang it to dry on the patio, wait at least 24 hours if there isn't any rain that night and your clothes are clean and as dry as is possible in the rain forest!!

Oh yeah, and there's Scarlet Macaws that fly through town and roost in the almond trees. Eating the almonds and then dropping the husks on the tin roof of your room at like 5 am...

Also, just to make you a little jealous, we are 1 block off the beach and the waters of the Gulfo Dulce!!
We love you all and miss you all!! We send our warmest wishes from probably one of the warmest places on earth!! Can't wait for you to visit!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Southern Experience

I've been thinking about it and I believe I need to reflect on my experience in the South and share the story of how Joe and I can to live here and how we came to leave here.

Joe and I met about 4 years ago, really almost exactly 4 years ago. I arrived fresh from 2 years in Austria and was planning on simply renewing my E.U. Visa by staying in the USA for 90 days and then crossing back over the pond. Little did I know I would marry the man that I met my first night back in Boise.

About 6 months into our relationship Joe said to me that we would move to Nashville. Now it was late at night, late, like 3 am late, and I don't think Joe understood the repercussions of saying such a thing to me, Jennifer, the girl who moves when the mood strikes. We laughed, we hugged and we carried on with the rest of our night.

The next day I looked up Metro Nashville Public Schools website and found they needed Spanish teachers. At the time, living in Boise, I was struggling with the fact that I was working selling restaurant supplies and teaching adult education in the evenings, but not doing what I wanted to be doing, which was teaching full-time. So, I applied.

Within 2 weeks I had the principal of a school calling me on a Saturday morning. I took this as a good sign. Let me tell all of you newbies to the profession, this is NOT a good sign. This is a sign of desperation. They could not find anyone else. But, I was also desperate. I wanted to teach full-time.

I didn't get that job. But, Joe and I flew out to Nashville in April 2008 and I interviewed in 3 schools in Nashville, in Memphis and completed half and interview with Teach NOLA in New Orleans. I say half because I realized pretty much upon touch down of my airplane that I didn't want to live in NOLA. It smelled too much like San Juan, Puerto Rico. So, I left the interview early. They people from the organization understood.

I got a job offer at McMurray middle within 2 hours of leaving the interview. Again, this was desperation. I was told I would be teaching 3 Spanish classes and 1 English language learning class. Great I thought, that is exactly what I want to teach.

Joe and I packed up and moved to Nashville on July 6, 2008.

I'm not going to get into what happened in the 3 years that followed at the school. I will only present the positives and unexpected benefits of working there. Life is too short and I still need to pack.

3 years later, many wonderful things have happened to Joe and I. I was forced, when I say forced I mean I was told I would not have a job if I didn't, so it was get the degree or be out of work, to me that is forced, to get certified to teach ESL. So, I got my M.Ed. from MTSU. I really enjoyed studying and the coursework. It was a great experience, but I think I still have not recovered from working as a full-time teacher and studying masters level classes full-time in the mornings and evenings. No, I know I am still tired from that.

I have met some truly amazing people, most of them teachers. I met Cori on my first day at the "McMurray Family Retreat". Family - HA! We have been pretty much inseparable since. I honestly do not remember how Mr. Robin and I became friends but that doesn't matter. She's that one friend that every girl must have that never says "no". And in turn gets wrangled into all of my crazy ideas, and then we bully Cori into coming with us too. Olivia, well I met that gem of a woman by chance. She's just as crazy as me and moved in the middle of the school year to Nashville to be with her now husband. We just decided she was our friend, whether she liked it or not. We spent a lot of Friday evenings at Johnny's recovering from weeks from you know where at school.

Through the last 3 years we have bitched, moaned, cried, yelled and were beat down together. I would not have survived without those 3 women!

I also never expected to have my life changed by my students. I always heard of a special teacher who took students under her wing, they had her phone number, and she had theirs. She took care of them, bought them food, clothes, and did lots of other things for them. Sirci I am talking about you. I don't know if I ever expected that I would get this close with a student, or if I would need to. But, this last school year I did. A little Karen girl, a refugee from Burma, who had lived in a Thai refugee camp waltzed into my classroom and into my heart. I think of her as my first child, I don't have kids, but she is just about that to me. We exchanged gifts and spoke quite a bit. But, it really began when she needed help with medical stuff. I have advocated for that child, taken her to the eye doc and searched for used fridges with her and her father. Yesterday, we said good-bye. Her father was so kind and gave us pictures of the family and my little one just sat and translated. I still have to do a couple more things for them, so we will talk again, but that child made me realize why I teach and who I need to focus on. As I reflect on the faces of the family in the door, waving as Joe and I drove away, I get all teary eyed. But, I know if any kid is going to be okay, it will be her. She is really smart. She wrote in a note to me "thank you for making me like to read". My mom thinks the "making" part is really funny, like I just sat there and told her you will like to read over and over until she was so brow beaten that she submitted. That is not the case, I like to think I just imparted my love of reading to her. Either way, she reads all the time now, so mission accomplished!! That is all I ever wanted as a teacher, to share my love of reading.

My am I long winded today. This is cathartic for me, so deal with it! No one is "making" you read this ;-)

So, to sum it up:

Things I learned living in Tennessee - the South is poor, much more than anything I ever saw in Idaho.
Cicada bugs come out every 7 years and are weird and reek havoc on the area for weeks, people also eat them.
My students were not scared of anything in Nashville, they used to "play in the jungle with tigers in it. They can climb over a fence, it is no big deal, quit freaking out Mrs. Lassen."
That white stuff growing on your walls is not mold, it is just something that grows on areas that have been damp, it is not mold, and don't call the news about it.
Morons are running the education system here.
Getting a Masters degree isn't that hard.
Olivia can't find anything and thinks Boise is like Peoria, Illinois.
Core is allergic to everything.
Robin doesn't want you to touch her feet, under any circumstances.
Heather is the best baker EVER.
Sitting on hold for an eternity is common, and when someone says I will return your call shortly it means if pigs fly or hell freezes over, but it doesn't mean shortly like that day.
If it snows an inch school is cancelled for at least 2 days, if not longer.
Pickles are really good when fried and dipped in ranch and considered a serving of vegetables.
Bar-b-Cutie gives vegetarians free Bar-B-Que for a year and doesn't see the irony in that. Yeah, that actually happened to me.
A moment of silence every morning at school is not considered breaking that silly old separation of church and state clause.

I will miss Nashville and the friends I made here. I might even miss teaching here, maybe just a little. Now I have to pack and move to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica. I'm going to be the director of a school there. I am excited for what is next for Joe and I and am also blessed (that is a Souther saying) for the time I had here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Healthy and Delicious Applesauce Muffins

Healthy and Delicious Applesauce Muffins

So, I have applesauce in my fridge, I’m only eating it in small doses. My husband mentioned that I haven’t been making muffins lately, so I thought applesauce muffins would be good.

I found a boring recipe at:
And thought that would be a good base, but I would have to kick it up a notch to make it really worth my time and effort. Here are my changes to the recipe, I hope you make them and enjoy the benefits, as well as feel satisfied!!

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup buttermilk, or soy milk, or regular milk
2-3 apples chopped in small chunks
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg or 1 Tablespoon flaxseed and 3 Tablespoons water (mix and let sit for 2 minutes – this is a great egg substitute, if you don’t have any eggs, or you would rather clear out some cholesterol rather than add it to a dish.) You should be eating flax seed everyday, people!!


Place oats in a small bowl, pour in milk. Let sit for one hour at room temperature. Then add cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, stir it up really good. (I added a little ginger powder). Let it sit for another half an hour to an hour.

Chop up your apples.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar.

Stir in oat/milk mixture, applesauce and flaxseed egg substitute or egg; mix well.

Fold in apple chunks.

Pour batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

Eat and enjoy!!

Left-Over Frittata (2 recipes in one)

Sarah Cottle - these recipes are for you!!

Frittata is a favorite of mine because it is super easy and it can also be made from left-over beans and rice, so you get double duty from your meals.

I usually make beans and rice with kidney beans and brown rice. Just get the rice going, rinse your beans from the can, cut up some veggies (pepper, zucchini, onion) add some cumin, paprika, pepper, and garlic. Let it cook until the brown rice is done (forever…).

The next day you can make frittata with the left-overs.

Left-Over Frittata

Put 2 small pans on the stove. If they have plastic handles, cover them with foil.
Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Once the pans are warm, add some veggie oil
Add the left-over beans, rice and veggies.

Beat your eggs (around 3 eggs per pan)

Once the mixture is warm, add the eggs.

Cook on the stove until the eggs are firm around the sides.

Pop the pans in the oven for around 20 minutes until firm. You can add some cheese to the top, or in the mixture if you remember, I usually add it to the top….

I top with avocado and salsa. It’s really good!!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Mediterranean Quiche – on the cheap $$

Knowing how to cook a good quiche is like owning a good little black dress. You can whip up a good outfit in less than an hour and look impressive and stylish doing it, and no one will know it only took a short time to look so good.

There are also negatives associated with the quiche as well as the little black dress – cost. When most people hear quiche it sounds expensive and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, good ingredients could cost you well over $20, but like that little black dress that fits perfectly that we’ve all found on the clearance rack, a quiche can be a bargain and impressive addition to your repertoire. I cook mine for work breakfasts and when people are coming over.

The original recipe I found for this recipe and have cooked for this recipe requires sun-dried tomatoes easily $5, feta cheese another $5, fresh basil $3, eggs and pie crust, the basics are cheap, but the filling is a wallet buster for a teacher/grad student. So, with a few modifications I waited for the good sale and found a way to make a cheaper alternative work.

The major savings are here: sub out the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil for sun-dried tomato and basil pesto, you’ve gone from $10 to $1.09.

Originally, I did plan on buying fresh basil, I killed my little basil plant over the summer, but the basil selection was looking funky, and I’m not paying $3-$5 for a small amount of basil that is black and moldy for the few leaves that are still usable. So, I found the pesto and decided on spinach to add the green and vegetable component to the dish.

So, in total the grocery bill goes from around $20 to about $10, and you won’t use the whole package of eggs, or both of the pie crusts, so those are an investment in your groceries in general.
The best part about this recipe is the leftovers, and the leftover ingredients that you’ll have when you’re done. I used a package for frozen spinach and had about ¼ of the package left; I also had about ¾ of the jar of the pesto left, and about ½ of the feta. So, I’m going to add it to some noodles tomorrow for some lunch.

Here’s the recipe:

Mediterranean (Cheap) Quiche – just keep the cheap part only for your good girlfriends, the only one’s you’d tell that the cute dress everyone is swooning over was a clearance bargain.

1 frozen pie crust (not graham cracker – speaking from experience it makes for a weird quiche - whoops!)
5 eggs
1 package frozen spinach – thawed according to package (or a bunch of spinach rinsed and leaves rough chopped - no stems please!)
1 small jar sun-dried tomato and basil pesto (about 4 teaspoons from the jar)
1 package feta cheese (about ½ of the package)
2 cloves garlic

Pre-heat oven to 350

Pre-bake pie crust according to package; this usually involves poking the crust with a fork and baking for around 10 minutes or putting dried beans in the pie crust and baking. I go for the fork pokes, as I don’t want to waste perfectly good beans – those are for the crock pot.

In small sauce pan combine vegetable oil, spinach, garlic and spices, as much as you’d like for your taste. I actually don’t do the salt, the husband has high cholesterol, and he hasn’t noticed the fact that he hasn’t eaten anything with salt for over a month, so don’t tell. Also, feta is pretty salty itself, so go easy on it. Cook the mixture for a few minutes, this is just to combine the flavors, wilt the spinach and cook the garlic a bit.

Beat 6 eggs, once beaten add about 1/4 the jar of pesto (about 4 teaspoons) and combine. You may want to use a hand mixer for this to make sure the ingredients come together.

In the pre-baked pie crust add the spinach mixture and the feta in a nice thick layer, spreading everything evenly. You probably won’t use the whole feta package – make it as cheesy as you’d like.

It should look like this:

Pour the egg / pesto mixture into the crust covering all of the ingredients.

Bake for 25-35 minutes in oven. To check for doneness do the same as with baked goods. Stick a knife in it and open it up a little if it looks firm with no watery goo it is done. You can also shake it, if it looks firm throughout it is done.

Take it out and let cool for around 5 minutes.

Impress your friends! And savor in the wonderful flavors, bargain shopping experience and the fact that everyone is impressed that you made “French food”!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Veggie Soup

Winter Veggie Soup

So, yesterday I went to Target with no intention of making this soup, but as I wandered the veggie area, I discovered that either the fruit and veggie truck didn’t come that day or the employees were holding out on me. As I was perusing tomatoes, a hapless, aging Target employee asked me if I was finding everything. Which I know is not a question that I am not supposed to answer, rather one of those that you are supposed to nod, smile and walk away from. But, this poor veggie man did not realize who he was talking to. I said “Actually, I am quite disappointed by the selection of fruits and vegetables today. The spinach is rotting, and there are no zucchini.” At first he looked shocked, but recovered his composure, and gave me what seemed to be a prepared statement of “Well, it is winter and the fruits and vegetables have to travel a long distance to get to our shelves. Sometimes they don’t make it.” I stared at him for a moment considering reminding him that we didn’t live in Siberia, but quickly decided that would not make my mother proud, and I was wearing a sweat shirt with my employers name printed across it, so I took the high road said “okay”, and walked away before anything mean could slip through my lips.

I walked around the corner and found some interesting looking Idaho Klondike mini-potatoes and thought okay winter veggie soup. The potatoes are really cute. (Can vegetables be cute? I’m from Idaho, so I guess yes, potatoes are cute.) And there were purple ones in the mix. When I cut into the potatoes they are actually purple inside!! I was shocked and Joe suggested we google them to make sure they’re edible. They are and actually are full of more nutrients than regular potatoes. See

I grabbed some leeks, dried beans, carrots, and celery and decided that when life gives you lemons make lemonade, or more aptly when life gives you root vegetables make veggie soup.

And just one more gripe about Target, the checker girl asked me the name of every vegetable in my basket. Okay – I’ll give her the leeks, I recently figured out what those are, but broccoli and yellow squash, really? Am I on candid camera? Or is it true that Americans eat so little vegetables from scratch, that a checker at a grocery store cannot readily identify broccoli? What is this world coming to? At least, I know I’m doing my part, my students just did a lesson on fruits and vegetables in Spanish, so at least they’ll be able to identify them en espaƱol…

Enough complaining and on to the recipe ;-)

Winter Veggie Crock Pot Soup

½ bag dried bean soup mix (the bag with all sorts of different beans, but throw the “ham” flavor packet away. How could a white powder taste like ham? If you want ham flavor, buy a hock and put it in the soup, just take it out before you serve it ;-)

3 leeks
6 carrots
1 bunch celery
2 cloves garlic
5 mini-potatoes or 2 regular potatoes (preferably the purple kind, just because it’s fun)
1 vegetable bullion cube

Soak the beans according to the package.

Pre-heat crock pot at hot (you’ll turn it down later)
Boil some water (about 4 cups) in a pot with bullion cube and chopped garlic.

Chop up the veggies in bite sized cubes.

Once water boils, add beans and boiling water to crock pot. Add the veggies. Stir. Boil more water and add it, if you need to. By need to, I mean if there is not enough in the pot, you want it to be about ¾ full.

Turn the crock pot down to low. Clean the house, vacuum, plan some lessons, do laundry, go to yoga class. Try not to open the crock pot…I didn't the whole time it cooked!! I’m proud of myself! This should take about 6-8 hours until everything is ready to go.

Eat and enjoy!!

I was going to put some tomatoes in this to make it more minestrone like, but forgot to add them, and then used one for my breakfast, so it didn’t get tomatoes. But, you could add them, and leave a comment saying how that all was.

I asked Joe if he wanted either noodles in the soup or bread. But, he questioned why he had to pick just one. So, I cooked up some rigatoni noodles to add along with some toasted bread. YUM!