Friday, March 26, 2010

The Miracle of Chicken

This past week has been very interesting. I'm sure the Lord is using it to prepare me for the years of medical school and residency that are ahead. Since last Sunday, Ryan has been incredibly busy with projects, papers, presentations, and quizzes. He has been up well past midnight most nights this week and then has 6-9 hours of class every day. Usually he comes home for an hour at lunch and dinner (between classes), but this week was so busy, he often didn't even do that. So that meant we had a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and either a quick spaghetti dinner or a sandwich on the run for supper. One night we had the sirloin again.

Tonight we had about a 45 minute window for dinner. Ryan had a paper due at 5, so he spent the day in the library. Then at 6, he played in a 4 on 4 soccer tournament. But I was determined to actually cook dinner tonight and was craving Lemon Chicken. The only problem was I had already been to the grocery store twice this week and they didn't have any chicken breasts.

I've started grocery shopping on Wednesday evenings. Ryan is in class from 5-8pm, and our friends, Ben and Karen, invited me to come to the store with them. This is a huge help because when I go with them, I can carry more back with me. But the store doesn't stock their produce until Thursdays, so I usually go back Thursday afternoon as well. Yesterday they had a huge selection of fresh produce - eggplants, portabella mushrooms, asparagus, and leeks. I bought a leek. I've never cooked a leek before (or even tasted one, that I know of), but I thought it was time to try one. I checked the meat department again and still no chicken breats (they had plenty of feet, necks, and backs, though!).

This afternoon I decided to run by the store again and see if they had gotten any more chicken today. Also, I forgot to get Ryan some yogurt at the store the past 2 days, so I needed to go anyway. Before I left, I actually prayed that there would be chicken breasts, mostly because I was sick of having the same 2 kinds of meat all the time.

On a side note, on my way to the grocery store, I met a lady whose husband teaches marketing in the undergrad program here. We started talking and I found out her daughter actually lives in Greenville, SC!! I told her I went to Bob Jones University for college, and she said she visited the Museum & Gallery recently, and was so impressed by it and the campus in general. She told me she's a Christian, too, and asked where we went to church in Grenada. I was able to tell her about the Neptune's church, although I couldn't give very good directions about how to get there. We talked the whole way to the store, and I was so thankful to have a connection with another Christian, let alone someone connected with Greenville!

Anyway, so I got to the grocery store and went directly to the back and looked in the case where they keep the chicken. I again saw plenty of other unappetizing parts and could tell they hadn't stocked it since yesterday. But then in the corner, I saw 2 packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts! I think I might have cheered out loud! The Lord must have been saving those just for me, because there's no reason why they should have been there. I was so thankful for such a direct and undeserved answer to prayer! I remembered to buy some yogurt and another gallon of milk before I left.

Back at home, I decided to make potato leek fritters to go with the lemon chicken. The fritters were just mashed potatoes and leeks mixed with 4 beaten eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. I fried them in a little bit of oil for about 2 minutes on each side. For the chicken, I cut the breasts into 1" pieces, coated them with flour, and seasoned them with garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. I browned them in butter until they were cooked, and then added lemon juice and let them simmer for a couple more minutes. Both dishes turned out well, and were pretty easy to make. Plus, we have a ton of the potato mixture left, so I'm going to try frying up a couple more for breakfast tomorrow morning with eggs. We also had what Ryan calls Pistachio Fluff. I have no idea what the real name is. I found the recipe on the side of a box of pistachio pudding. It's just 1 1/2 cups Cool Whip, I package pistachio pudding, 1 can crushed pineapples, and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. I love it because it tastes like summer!

I'm on my way to watch Ryan play soccer now. After that we'll probably continue our Friday night tradition of watching a movie and eating popcorn. And if I'm lucky, maybe he'll have time to come to the beach with me tomorrow! Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You Win Some, You Lose Some

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my food/kitchen situation, and afterwards I received so many recipes and ideas from my sweet friends. I can't wait to try lasagna in the microwave one day soon! They inspired me to think outside the box and be a little more creative in my meal selections. So today I spent some time online finding recipes that used things I already had on hand. I was lucky to have a good meat selection at the grocery store this week, and decided to use the boneless chicken breasts tonight. I came up with 4 recipes, described them to Ryan, and we decided on one to try.

After dinner, I asked Ryan if this should be something we put on the regular rotation. His response, "I'd probably try another recipe before we had this again." Haha! Of course, he also said it was very good and there was nothing wrong with it. But coming from the man who is probably the least picky eater in the world, I could tell this wasn't a favorite. I asked what he didn't like about it, and he said there were too many different flavors going on.

For my part, I thought it was pretty good. The chicken came out juicy and not overcooked. I served it with brown rice and broccoli. But that's okay - I'm more than happy to move on and experiment with a different recipe next time! In case you're curious, here is the recipe (with the changes I made, in case one of those was the problem):

• 3 to 4 boneless chicken breast halves, cut in 1-inch pieces or strips
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 leeks, white part, cleaned and thinly sliced (I used green onions)
• 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used more chicken broth instead)
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (I didn't have any, so I cut up a fresh tomato)
• 1 jar or can (about 15 ounces) artichokes, drained and cut up (I didn't have this)
• 1 can (3 to 4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained (I didn't have this either)
• 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and leeks; sauté until leeks are tender, stirring frequently.
Add mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer.
Add the broth and wine; simmer briskly for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until reduced by about 1/2.
Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two longer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Weekend

I know that basically my life right now is one long weekend. But the difference between that and the real weekend, is that Ryan has a little more free time Friday-Sunday and we actually get to spend some time together. Here is a little bit of what we did this weekend.

This semester Ryan doesn't have class on Fridays, so I count that as the start of the weekend. However, this past Friday, he had a field trip to the nutmeg factory, so he was gone most of the day. Did you know that Grenada produces 20% of the world's nutmeg? And in case you were curious, Grenada is called The Spice Isle because it is a major exporter of additional spices such as cinnamon, ginger, mace, allspice, and cloves. Here is a picture he took of a nutmeg.

He spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening studying and then went for a run. For dinner, we got a pizza from the snack place on campus. It's about a 2-minute walk from our apartment. They have a really good Hawaiian pizza that we like. We watched a movie while we ate, which was something we haven't done in quite a while. Also that night, some friends of ours had a housewarming party, so we went there from about 9-11pm.

Saturday morning we slept in a little bit and then went to the beach. Ryan hasn't been to the beach in a couple weeks, so this was a nice break for him. On the way back to campus, we stopped at the grocery store. I usually go to the store during the week by myself, but I can only carry so much with me. So I always appreciate when Ryan can come and we can bring a little more back with us. The nice thing is that it doesn't cost me anything to make an extra trip to the grocery store - the bus from campus to IGA is free, so I could go every day if I wanted to!

That afternoon Ryan worked on a group project for a few hours and I relaxed in the room. Around 6:30 we met some friends and headed to La Luna, one of the nicest resorts in Grenada, to celebrate a couple birthdays. Although it was dark when we got there, the resort looked amazing! I've heard it's right on the water and the view during the day is incredible. They also have an outdoor lounge with a pool, couches, and a bar area.

The restaurant is open-air and is under a thatched roof. The food was expensive, but so good! I had a pumpkin soup appetizer and the sea-crab linguine entree. Ryan had the sirloin and the best tasting tiramisu EVER! There were about 30 of us there, and at the end of the meal, the waitress handed us the total bill and made us split it up among everyone. We were responsible for adding in the tax and tip and then bringing them the total amount. I thought that was interesting. It definitely took about 45 minutes to do all that. After dinner we took a drive with a couple friends and scouted out banquet locations for the MPH dinner in July. Never hurts to get a head start on planning!

Today we again attended Westerhall Berean Bible Church. But this time we drove with our new friend Roy. He is a member at the church and also works on the maintenance staff here at St. George's. He lives just a half-mile or so from school, so he volunteered to bring us to church each week. We've really enjoyed our time with him. The service this morning was a blessing. And we were able to observe the Lord's Supper this week. After church, Roy drove us through Westerhall Point, a gated neighborhood with some huge homes. I wish we had brought our camera with us!

We got back to school around 2:00, and Ryan again met for a group project at 3:00. I was able to get our laundry done this afternoon. I also had plenty of time to make dinner tonight.

On the menu was a sirloin tip topped with sauteed mushrooms and red onions (not pictured), garlic-cheddar mashed potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and spinach salad with green onions, caramelized walnuts and fresh raspberries. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting a little bit and cooking a real dinner! The raspberries are usually around $9 for a little container like we would buy at home. But yesterday, for some reason they were on sale for $1.10! I couldn't pass that up, so I bought a couple containers, and they were delicious! We also had chocolate pudding with whipped cream for dessert.

And so ends the weekend. Tomorrow it's back to reality. For Ryan that means 9 hours of class. For me, going to the pool, working out, shopping, and cooking dinner. I love medical school!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No Oven, No Problem. Well...

So today I started making a list of all the things I want to eat when I go home in July (things like steak, coffee, chocolate cake, and Caesar salad). Not that I couldn’t buy or make those things here, but without an oven or a grill or even an outlet in my kitchen, it’s probably not going to happen. I was thinking about this today as I made my grocery list for the week and tried to think about tonight’s dinner (should we have spaghetti for the 5th time or Mexican for the 4th time?) and a meal plan for the rest of the week.

There are a couple factors involved in my choice of meals. First, my selection of groceries is somewhat limited – not only by the lack of variety in the store, but also by the prices of certain items. I’m thankful to have an IGA in town. They have a lot of familiar brands of food, such as Kraft cheese, Mueller’s pasta, and Prego spaghetti sauce, and a lot of American cereals. And I recently discovered a store called Food Fair, where the prices are a little lower than at IGA. But after spending a couple hundred dollars on our first few trips to IGA, I decided we would be frugal and just buy necessities and whatever was cheap. Plus, we needed to be on more of a healthy diet anyway. So for the first few weeks we had Kashi Go-Lean cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch (I broke down and bought deli meat), and some sort of pasta or Mexican meal for dinner. However, after more than a couple nights of me complaining because I was STARVING at 8:00 at night and Ryan wanting something to snack on most of the day, I had to rethink our supply of food. Let me say, though, that I am blessed to be married to a wonderful guy who really is okay with eating the same thing every day. He is not the least bit picky about what we eat – as long as there is something to eat, he’s fine. He asks for spaghetti almost every night, anyway. So a couple weeks ago we stocked up on some snack food during our normal grocery run. He got some crackers, juice, and apples. I bought popcorn, hot chocolate, and pudding. (Can you tell how my diet is going so far?) But the good thing is I can make things last a long time – I’m not eating it all in one week. I’ve only had one cup of hot chocolate so far! It just makes me feel better knowing those things are in the cabinet.

The other problem, though, is the cost of the food. Here is a sample of our receipt:
Yogurt - $1.10 each
Kraft Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese - $4.91
Prego Spaghetti Sauce - $5.36
Florida’s Natural Orange Juice - $7.44
Mueller’s Spaghetti – $2.90
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Liter) - $14.32

On top of that, Grenada now charges a VAT (value added tax) of 15% on everything except things like milk, bread, meat, and most produce. And they don’t have buy one get one sales like I’m used to at Publix! At IGA, they only stock the store once a week, usually Wednesday. And things like milk and the good kinds of bread go fast! They’re usually gone by the next day or so. I think produce may be stocked on Thursday – I haven’t quite figured out the routine yet (if there is one). With that said, even shopping on Wednesday doesn’t guarantee they’ll have what you are looking for. So my meal planning has kind of been non-existent. I’ve tried to stock up on non-perishables when they are available and then supplement with what is in stock. But even buying meat has been a problem. One time I saw dolphin (which someone told me is actually Mahi Mahi) and chicken feet. On occasion I find something I can use. We have had hamburgers, chicken breasts, and beef tips.

Even if I could buy all sorts of good food at amazing prices, I think our meals would still lack variety and creativity. The reason for this is my kitchen. We have a two-burner stove and a microwave . . . and no oven. I have exactly 6 cabinets and 1 drawer. And a total of maybe 8” of counter space. Here are a couple pictures of my little kitchen:

So preparing meals has been a challenge, to say the least. In addition, we have 1 sauce pan and 1 small skillet. If I want to make anything involving more than one pan, I have to put the food in a bowl, wash the pan, and then reheat all the food when we’re ready to eat. After scorching a couple chicken breasts in the skillet and over-cooking pasta (because it cooked in about 5 minutes on medium-high heat), I finally realized my stove is a lot hotter than I’m used to. But tonight’s meal was somewhat more of a success, mostly because it didn’t involve spaghetti or salsa. I had some beef stew meat from the store and found a recipe online that used things I already had on hand. I sautéed some onions, browned the meat, and then added water, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. After bringing it to a boil, it was supposed to simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours. I had it on low, but after about an hour, the liquid was almost gone and the bottom of the pan was turning black. So we ate a little earlier than I was planning. And since I didn’t have time to scrub the pan before dinner, I cooked the brown rice and broccoli in the microwave. It turned out pretty good. Ryan already wants it again, which is always a good sign.

So my goals for the next few weeks (months) are to plan more creative meals, try new recipes, and try to find the best prices on groceries. Someone told me they baked brownies in their microwave last week. Maybe I should give that a try!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Worshiping in Grenada

Out of all the things we left behind when we moved to Grenada, I think I miss our church the most (besides our family, of course!). I miss the routine of our service - the music, preaching, and fellowship. Yes, John, I even miss choir! And I miss being home during the construction of the new building and seeing the changes that will take place. But more than that, I miss each and every person at church. Some of my dearest friends, and a lot of the most godly people I know are at Cornerstone.

So I knew that trying to find a church family while we are here was not going to be easy. The first Sunday we were here we attended a service on campus with others in the Christian Student Association. Over 100 students, faculty, and staff members assembled in an auditorium for about an hour. An African team led the praise and worship and a lady introduced the speaker who was from Venezuela. It's a very non-denominational service.

The next week, however, we were able to attend a local church. Ryan went to school with a guy who grew up here in Grenada. His father pastors a church just 15 minutes from campus. We contacted the pastor and he graciously volunteered to give us a ride on Sunday morning. We met him at one of the bus stops, and climbed into his car . . . along with his wife, daughter, son Philip, his wife Marva, and their four young children. In Grenada, apparently there are no laws about how many people can ride in a car at one time. Also in Grenada, start times for events are just suggestions. The service is scheduled to start at 11. We didn't get to church until 11:05, and the service started around 11:15. Every person we met at the church was warm and friendly, though. I think we shook hands with the whole church on our way to find a seat. They have about 60 people at their Sunday service.

The service began with singing a few choruses and some familiar hymns. Psalm 100 best describes the enthusiasm and sincerity of these dear people.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into His presence with singing!

Each person sang with joy and from a heart overflowing with gratitude. The song service lasted for about an hour. It included the offering, Scripture reading, and a time for public prayer focusing on the character of God ("Let's take time out to give praise.") We all stood with our heads bowed as various people thanked the Lord for Who He is and what He has done. Each phrase is ended by a chorus of Amen's from the congregation. Then they welcomed visitors, and Ryan had to stand and introduce us. The preacher of the morning was visiting from Trinidad, I think. As Pastor Neptune introduced him, he told him to "Take lots of time. We're not in a hurry." How convicting! After sitting in church for an hour, these people were more than happy to sit for another hour and a half and listen to God's Word preached.

I think what I love most about the church is the openness of the people. The service closed with Pastor saying that anyone who needs prayer can come to the front. So about 7-8 people walked to the front of the room and stood in a circle as Pastor prayed out loud for them (in general, not by name). But the rest of us just stood there silently while this was taking place. There is no pretense among these people, which is very refreshing.

After church, the Neptunes showed us the rest of the building. The roof of their building was torn off by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They are still in the process of rebuilding it. So right now they are meeting in the basement of the building. It is a small, concrete room with wooden pews. There is no nursery, so all the children are in the service as well. They have a keyboard that someone brings each Sunday and a small podium. The doors are left open, and the windows do not have panes, so there is a nice breeze throughout the building. Here is a picture of the inside of the auditorium upstairs under construction and the outside of the church.

On our way home, they were eager to take us to their favorite bakery for a drink and pastry and then show us the new home Philip is building. By the time they dropped us off at campus, it was after 3pm. There's no evening service at the church, so we spent the rest of the day at home and were able to call my parents before they left for church.

The service today was very similar; the music was worshipful and energetic. The message focused on Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King. During the announcement and welcome to visitors time, they insisted on hearing from "Ryan's wife". The women in the church are all very vocal in giving testimonies, so this was not unusual for them. I gave in and just said how we counted it a privilege to worship with them and told them a little more about us. At the end of the service, we were supposed to have Communion, but the person responsible for bringing it, apparently forgot and left early. So we'll have it next week.

We are truly looking forward to being a part of this church for the next couple years and getting to know the people here. And I love the fact that we can move thousands of miles away and live in a different country, yet have an instant bond with these people through Christ. However, Cornerstone is, and always will be . . . home.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Limes is an after-school program for some of the underprivileged kids on the island. It's sponsored by the SOs (Significant Others) and runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 3-5pm. Last Wednesday I joined them for the afternoon and had such a great time! (I wasn't there today because I sat in on one of Ryan's classes - Maternal and Child Health.)

So here's what typically takes place at Limes. We rent out the upstairs of a building not far from one of the schools in the area. I'm told there can be anywhere from 20-60 kids, depending on the day. When I went, we had about 30 children. At the beginning, one of the SOs has the kids sit in a circle and talk about their day - basically just getting them to calm down. Then we usually have some sort of craft or project for them. The day I was there, they were celebrating all the January/February birthdays the next day, so we made party hats. Here's a picture of two sweet little children as they decorate their hats.

After craft time, we get them together in a circle again for snack time - today it was bread and juice. You can tell that most of these kids are in desparate need of attention, love, and good nutrition. I loved the fact that after being there for maybe a minute, the kids instantly love you and want to hug you. It broke my heart to see the little ones that come in bare feet and walk home the same way. But thankfully we have this opportunity to spend time with them, show them love, and provide a safe place for them to spend a couple hours after school. What a privilege!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pool Day

Mondays are an exciting day here in Grenada. Not only do I get to enjoy this beautiful, sunny weather, but I get to spend the morning at one of the nicest pools I've ever seen. The school owns a resort-like area about 15 minutes from campus, called The University Club. It's used to house visiting faculty members and give faculty/staff members a nice place to relax. On Mondays and Thursdays, spouses of students (or Significant Others, as they are known here) are allowed to use the pool free of charge for the day. So this morning, my friend, Kelsey, and I headed over there around 9:30. The pool is on a hill overlooking the beach surrounded by palm trees.

We were the only ones at the pool for most of the morning. Although we just stayed for a couple hours and I applied lots of sun screen, I definitely got burnt! The sun must be more intense down here for sure. When I got back home around 12:00, Ryan had already finished his morning class and made himself a sandwich. I ate a quick lunch and then headed down to the bus stop with Kelsey again. This time we took a 10 minute ride to a grocery store I hadn't been to yet - Food Fair. This grocery store is reported to have better prices, although not as wide of a selection, as the IGA where most students shop. I found the prices to be a little bit cheaper than IGA - enough for me to buy a few things, like salad dressing, juice, cucumbers, spices, and a loaf of fresh yeast bread. There was a also a housewares store next door. They have everything from skillets and drinking glasses to car parts, plants, and sharpies! I need to come back to this store after I make a list of things I actually need.

After our shopping excursion, we waited over 45 minutes for the bus to come. I got a little hungry and ate some of the loaf of bread I had just bought. Eventually the bus came, and we got home a little before 3:00pm.

Tonight Ryan has class from 5-8pm and a soccer game at 8:10. So we ate an early dinner - around 4:15. He requested pasta, which he wants almost every night. At least I had good bread and salad dressing this time! I'll probably go the soccer game and take some pictures for Ryan tonight. He hadn't been here more than a couple days and was already captain of one of the intramural socccer teams. Most of his friends from the MPH (Masters of Public Health) program are also on the team. Last week the African team beat them. Tonight they play the Cuban Raft Riders (yes, that's really their team name). Wish them luck!
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