Vida Huancaína

Our adventure in the Andes

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Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!


Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!  Wishing you and yours happy holidays and a prosperous New Year! 

We’ve had a wonderful 2014 exploring Peru’s culture and sights.  From hiking up to 16,700 feet to touch a glacier, to seeing the 3rd tallest waterfall in the world, to dancing in traditional costumes, we couldn’t have imagined a more diverse and fun experience.

A special thanks to everyone who has stopped by the blog to check in us and read about our crazy experiences here in Huancayo.  It means a lot to us to be able to share this time with you all!

We’ll be taking a break from the blog for a few weeks while we visit with family for the holidays and explore the wonders of Chilean Patagonia!  Check back in 2015 to read all about it and see lots and lots of photos.

Happy holidays,

Karin & Chris

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Adventures in Pressure Cooking: Did you know you can cook a whole chicken in a pressure cooker?


Well, you can!  And we did it!  And it was delicious!


The recipe, Whole Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Sauce, came from our trusty America’s Test Kitchen’s Pressure Cooker Perfection.  It was simple and full of flavor, as per usual with ATK’s recipes.  You start by browning the chicken on both sides, then removing it and making a gravy sauce, then replacing the chicken to the pot and cooking it under pressure for 25 minutes.  Easy peasy.  The chicken comes out supremely moist and tender, almost to the point of falling off the bone.  And the sauce is rich and heavenly.

Luckily the recipe made enough for a round of leftovers so we could savor the dish more than once.  On the first night we served it up with quinoa and roasted broccoli and zucchini.  The second night I made some quick drop biscuits (which narrowly managed to finish baking before the power went out during a huge electrical storm, which resulted in an unexpected romantic dinner by candlelight!) and they were sooooo delicious dipped into the gravy sauce.  Yum, yum, yum.

This photo doesn't even begin to do the finished product justice

This photo doesn’t even begin to do the finished product justice

And, now slightly off-topic, but still related to the act of cooking…  As I’ve mentioned before, the stoves here have to be light with a match.  As a result, we’ve ended up trying a variety of different match brands, all with lovely lids with Peruvian design elements.  This week’s favorite is Inti, with it’s Incan-esque geometric design.


So, to wrap up, the whole chicken was yet another delicious surprise from the pressure cooker.  I am so glad that we were forced to start using a pressure cooker when we arrived up here at 10,000 feet and I think it will remain a staple piece of equipment in our kitchen even when we return to sea level!

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San Jerónimo

A town known for its beautiful handmade jewelry?  Sign me up!

San Jerónimo is a small town about a half-hour trek from Huancayo.  Its main street is lined with little jewelry shops that are filled with a variety of styles from traditional motifs to modern designs.  The shops have display rooms in the front and workrooms are often visible in the back.


San Jerónimo’s main plaza, complete with statue of an Avelino dancer!

The shops were doing a brisk business on the Saturday morning that we stopped by.  There were locals flipping through catalogs and ordering wedding bands and other custom jewelry, as well as tourists filtering in and out.  After stopping in a few shops, it became clear that we were most drawn to the silver and stone work, usually done with local influences.  From condors to llamas to replicas of Nazca lines to scenes from Machu Picchu, the designs really run the gamut of Peru’s most well-known symbols.  I picked out a lovely turquoise ring reminiscent of a coca leaf and a couple pairs of earrings with geometric shapes (not to mention a few gifts that will remain a secret!).


Beautiful silver and stone jewelry

The town is also beautifully decorated with murals on the buildings that line the main street and surround the central plaza.  The murals look very similar to those done by Josué Sánchez inside one of the rooms at Santa Rosa de Ocopa, with flowers, birds, and other typical designs from the region.  There were also a few traditional dancing scenes depicting costumes like those we had seen in Hualhuas (the next town over) during the Festival San Roque.


Chonguinada and Avelino dancers!

Chonguinada and Avelino dancers!



What a lovely little town.  I can’t believe it’s taken nearly 10 months for me to get there for a visit, and I have a sneaking suspicion we will be back again before our time here in Peru is up!  I definitely recommend making the trip over to San Jerónimo if you’re nearby!



Adventures in High Altitude Baking: Blueberry Bread

I spied some blueberries in the big supermarket downtown the other day, which is a rarity here in Huancayo, and just had to buy them!  I hadn’t a clue what I would use them for when I picked them out, but then, coming off the success of my high altitude banana bread, I had a brilliant stroke–blueberry bread!  Because I can’t easily get any of the things I would’ve normally added to spice up the bread (almonds, walnuts, or lemon), I came up with a super simple recipe using the guidelines I’ve accumulated for baking at this extremely high altitude.  And, voila!, delicious blueberry bread.  Perfect company for a cup of tea.

We shared the blueberry bread with our host family last weekend for the first weekend of Advent.  Can you believe they’d never tried a blueberry before?  They don’t even have a word for blueberry because they’re all imported; the ones I bought at the store said blueberry in English on the plastic case.  The host family all really enjoyed the bread though, so I am glad we introduced them to this new fruit!



  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).  Butter a loaf pan (9×9 pan also works fine) and line with wax paper so that it covers all sides, bend extra paper over edges of pan to secure.
  2. In mixing bowl, stir together egg with the sugar until egg is just incorporated. Add milk and melted butter.
  3. Mix in flour, salt, and baking powder until just incorporated. Carefully fold in blueberries.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes at 375°F (190°C), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Remove the banana bread from the pan by lifting up the wax paper. Slice and serve.


Hopefully some of you out there will be able to try out this high altitude recipe as well! Enjoy!

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It’s not Christmas in Peru without panettone

Imagine our surprise when there was not only a huge Christmas tree erected in the mall downtown at the beginning of November, but that it was also completely decked out in panettones?!  Panettone is everywhere here this time of year.  According to the local newspaper, Peru is the second largest consumer of panettone after Italy.  Who would’ve guessed?!

Panettone tree!

Now that’s a BIG panettone tree.

There are about a dozen or more different makers of panettone, stacked in huge piles all over the grocery stores. (According to our host family, D’Anafrio is the best.)  You can get it in a tin (most expensive), a box (middle expensive), or a bag (least expensive).


Stacks of panettone at Casa Sueldo


We counted 11 different brands of panettone at Plaza Vea!

We had our first panettone experience over the weekend when our host family celebrated the first weekend of Advent.  We lit a candle, said a prayer, and then feasted on huge slices of panettone, as well as chocolate chip cookies and blueberry bread that I had baked (full post on the blueberry bread, including recipe, coming shortly!).

We tried the traditional panettone with little dried fruits baked inside, which was definitely sweet with a slight hint of rum or some other spirit baked into it.  We’ve seen that there are also panettones filled with bits of chocolate, which I think I might like a little better than the traditional one!

Yes, the napkin holder is a guinea pig.  :)

Yes, the napkin holder is a guinea pig. :)

Now that we’ve had our first panettone, it’s officially Christmas season.  Because, it’s not Christmas without panettone in Peru!

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I’ve been bitten by the winter accessory knitting bug…

…and I mean really bitten by it.  I took advantage of the extra time this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend (which we observed while the rest of Peru continued about its normal business) to whip up a few new winter accessories (some to keep, some to give).  So far I’ve knit one scarf, one shawl, and five hats, with at least three more hats in the queue and possibly a pair of fingerless mitts if I can find the time!  I love that these smaller projects knit up so quickly; you can knit a whole hat in an afternoon! I’ve used exclusively yarns that I’ve purchased here in Peru and also from our quick trip to Cuenca, Ecuador. Here’s a few sneak peeks until I get all the way through my queue and take proper photographs!  (P.S. Those are Peruvian lilies that we got at the weekly market, aren’t they so cheery?)

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And, if I wasn’t already deeply entrenched in small project knitting lately, I decided to participate in November’s NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater Month!).  I started a little bit late, but I did manage to get about half of the body of another Fort sweater done for Chris!  The yarn is lovely, slightly silvery gray undyed alpaca from Hualhuas, Peru.  It’s the same type of yarn that I used the last time, except that it was brown and the quality of the fiber was not nearly as nice as the gray is.  I can’t wait to see how the sweater will knit up!


Winding up a pile of alpaca goodness by hand


Stay tuned for proper finished object photos once I’m all done!




Thanksgiving in Huancayo

We had a very successful Thanksgiving here in Huancayo.  We whipped up as many comforting fixings from home as we could, live streamed both the Thanksgiving Day parade and the Seahawks/49ers game on our laptop, and chatted and emailed with friends and family back home.

For the main event we managed to track down turkey parts to roast up in our little oven.  We had even found a full, frozen turkey in the freezer section at the big grocery store downtown, but there’s no way it would’ve fit inside our oven!  For sides we made stuffing, skillet green beans, gravy, and the easiest mashed potatoes ever using our pressure cooker (it only took 11 minutes!).  For dessert we made an apple crisp, which was a perfectly adequate substitute for the pumpkin pie I was dying to make, but for which I could find neither ready-made pie crust (and I was not about to attempt my own at this altitude) nor pumpkin (either in a can or a real one).

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All in all, it was a lovely little Thanksgiving that almost felt like home.  Now, to enjoy all those yummy leftovers!

Hope your Thanksgiving was just as wonderful.

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