Tag Archives: moldova

Sylvia’s Plăcinte

Mmm… plăcinte.  Having to give these up has been one of the hardest things about going gluten-free in Moldova.  The flaky crust, the warm oozing filling… you just really can’t beat a good plăcintă.  Today, I’d like to share with you the recipe that Sylvia, our school cook, uses and shared with me.

But first, let me pause for a quick Romanian lesson.  Plăcintă is singular for pastry and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tuh.” Plăcinte is plural and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tay.”  Actually, the most common translation of plăcinta is “pie,” but I am here to tell you that plăcinte are NOT pies!  They are pastries!  Let’s see some examples:

This is a pie:

My first (and possibly only) apple pie. Made to impress my starving fiancee.

These are pastries:

Assorted pastries

These are plăcinte:

 

Beautiful plăcinte with sesame seeds.

You tell me which word is the more accurate translation.

Anyway… back to the recipe.  There are probably as many ways to make plăcinte as there are Moldovan gospodinele (housewives), which is why I call these “Sylvia’s Plăcinte,” and not just “Moldovan Plăcinte.”

Ingredients:
1 liter (about 4 ¼ cups) water
25 grams (or one packet) yeast
3 grams (about half a teaspoon) salt
flour*
oil
desired filling (I’ll get to this in a bit)
sugar (granulated or powdered, see step 10)

*Sylvia didn’t tell me exactly how much flour she uses because she doesn’t know.  She just adds flour until it looks right (as described in step 2).  I’ve made these once but didn’t measure my flour either.  Other recipes I’ve seen say 8-12 cups… so… use your best judgment.

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Combine all ingredients, adding as much flour as needed until dough feels sticky but not too dry.
3.  Cut dough into baseball-sized pieces (my description, not hers), generously flour your workspace, and roll out pieces very thinly with rolling pin.

Rolling dough for plăcinte

4.  On a different workspace, cover the counter with oil and stretch dough until very, very thin.  It’s okay if it tears a little.
5.  Take ahold of the end of the dough closest to you, and bring it up and away from you to fold it in half.

Iuliana folding the thin plăcintă dough.

6.  Place a generous spoonful of filling on one end.

Folding a plăcintă with brînza filling.

7.  Fold triangularly until it is all folded up into a nice little triangular pocket.

Sweet little raw plăcintă ready to be baked.

8.  Place evenly on greased cookie sheet.
9.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.
10.  Boil sugar and water to make a glaze and brush on top while plăcinte are still warm, or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I can’t believe I’ve never taken a picture of freshly baked plăcintă.  You’ll have to trust me, they are so flaky and golden and amazing!

There are several different kinds of fillings that Moldovans use in plăcinte.  The most common are potato, brînza (a soft, salty homemade cheese), cabbage (which is better than you’d think- it’s Josh’s favorite), fruit butter or jam, and pumpkin.  My favorite would probably either be apple butter or pumpkin.  Below are some instructions for making your own plăcintă fillings, borrowed from a 2005 Moldova Peace Corps cookbook, or you could just use your favorite store-bought fruit butter or jam.

Potato filling: Boil 4 peeled potatoes and 2 chopped onions.  Mash and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Cheese filling: Mix 2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 egg, chopped dill, salt, and pepper.

Cabbage filling: Sauté 2 cups shredded cabbage and 2 chopped onions in oil until limp.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Apple filling: Peel and grate 4 apples.  Sauté over medium heat with ¼ cup sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Let cool.

Cherry filling: Mix 1 pound sour pitted cherries and ¾ cup sugar.

Pumpkin filling: Boil and mash 500 grams (about 4 1/3 cups) of raw pumpkin.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger… or just pumpkin pie spice) and sugar to taste.

You can find another good plăcintă recipe at the Gourmandine blog (the link is to the google translate version of the website, since it is written in Romanian).  There, she has also posted a lot of step-by-step pictures that are similar to the way Sylvia makes plăcinte, except that she doesn’t stretch her dough out so thin and then fold it in half.  If you want to do it this way, it would be a lot easier, but your final product will just be thicker and not as flaky.

Well, I hope this is enough to get you going on some authentic Moldovan plăcinte!  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me.

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I Have a New Addiction

So, at the local market, there is a very sweet, very beautiful older lady (which I have to say is rare in Moldova… women here just don’t have gobs of money to spend on anti-aging stuff like women in America) who has a booth full of used aprons imported from Germany.  I stop every time I pass by and chat with her while I look through the piles of beautiful vintage patterns and designs.

Here’s the thing, for a long time I thought that the full aprons were 50 lei (which is currently $4.32), and had only bought one.  It was a justified purchase because I am a messy cook and didn’t want to get the one I made dirty because it’s more for cuteness than for work.

It's a little wrinkled from being in the drawer.

It wasn’t until today when I offered her 40 lei for another one that I figured out that they are actually 15 lei ($1.30) for a full apron and only 10 lei ($0.86) for a half apron!  Wow!  (In my defense, 15 and 50 sound very similar in Romanian, just like they do in English.)  So of course I bought two.  Another full apron for cooking:

Seriously... look at that gorgeous pattern and piping!

And a half apron for cleaning.  It’s hard to tell in a picture, but this one has two pleats under the waist band on each hip, which gives it nice shape, and it has two huge, deep pockets on the front.  Perfect for toting random things from room to room while I clean:

Half apron

A great half-apron for cleaning.

And, because I know it’s hard to see in the above picture, I took a close-up picture of the red apron to show you what REALLY sold me on this one:

Sailboats and windmills! How am I supposed to resist that??

Oh my… now that I know they are so cheap, I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop myself!

 

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Foxes Have Holes…

October 20th (I know, I’m a little behind in posting this) officially marked a milestone in Jude’s life.  It was the longest that he has ever lived in one house without moving.

For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with our lives, we decided before Jude was born that we were going to follow God’s call to serve in the country of Moldova for two years following Josh’s graduation from Bible college.  Jude was born in February 2009, and four months later we moved to live back and forth between our parents’ houses for three months before leaving for Moldova in September.

Because of Moldova’s visa requirements, before we got our green cards, we were only allowed to stay in the country for three months, and then we had to be out of the country for three months.  So in December, we packed up and moved back to our parents’ houses for three months.   Back to Moldova in March, we lived for three more months in our tiny apartment on the camp property where the school is.  Then, on May 20th, we moved down the road into our current residence where we are house and dog-sitting for an American family we work with who are back in America on furlough for eight months.  We have now lived here for five months.

Whew!  That made me tired just typing all of that, much less living it.

So why have we put our son (and ourselves) through so much moving and instability?  Because Josh and I resolved a long time ago to follow God’s call no matter what, and we know that this is what he has called us to do.  Throughout it all, we have clung to Matthew 8:20- “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”  When we follow Christ, he doesn’t promise us a life of ease and stability.  What he does promise us is that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

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Is It Really Almost Thanksgiving??

Wow, the weeks just FLY by here!  We leave for America in just 11 short days and it is crazy to think that we have already been here almost three months.  In many ways, it feels like it has been just three weeks.

We are preparing to spend Thanksgiving next Thursday with two other American families: Eric and Stephanie, and Keith, Marla, and their 5 children.  Even though we will miss spending the holiday with our own families, we are so thankful to have these two wonderful families here to celebrate with.  I think we are eating at lunchtime, which means that we will have already polished off the pumpkin pies (and Josh is making a chocolate chess pie, Janice!) before most people in the States are even out of bed.

Josh and I were talking the other day about how it is difficult to communicate how excited we are about coming home.  We are just beside ourselves with anticipation over seeing our families and friends again, but not because we don’t like it here.  We do.  We really love it here, actually.  We felt the same way when we lived in Louisville.  We loved living in Louisville, but we still missed seeing the people we love.

In other news, we have gas!  Haha, no we didn’t have beans for dinner last night (although, as we learn Romanian, Josh has entertained the students with profound statements like, “fasole face gaz,” or, “beans make gas”), the gas company turned on our natural gas!  Now the radiator company is scheduled to come today and inspect our radiators and, if all goes well, we should hopefully have heat by tonight!

I don’t think we have adequately explained how much more uncertain this whole process has been than it would be in America.  They were originally supposed to have gas by this past spring (these are brand new lines, there has never been gas in our village before).  Then they have been saying it would be on in two weeks ever since.  Two different gas companies (the big company out of the capital, Chișinău, that is in charge of all of the gas, and the local company out of Orhei that is over our area) have been out here numerous times doing work and inspections.  There has never been a list of, “this is what we need you to do to pass inspection,” rather, every time someone came, there was a new list of things that needed to be done, sometimes even contradicting things that had been done before.  Bribes are common here, and we have suspected that they may have been dragging their feet hoping we would give them some bribe money, but of course we weren’t going to do that.

In Jude news, I don’t know that he will be walking by the time we get home, as many predicted, but he can stand by himself now.  He doesn’t like it though, I think because the floor here is hard tile and he knows how bad it hurts to fall and hit his head, and he is scared.  So whenever he feels me trying to wiggle my fingers out of his hands, he just sits down!  He does walks all over the place holding onto furniture, though, and is so much happier now that he can do that and crawl.

I guess that’s about it… we can’t wait to see everybody when we get home!

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2/3 of the Way Through our First Term!

Sorry, I’ve been so bad at blogging since we moved!  In my defense, it is hard to find time to blog when your internet time is so slow most of the time, and the one day a week that we go to use fast internet, it is very brief.

During the week, we can get online via dial-up internet in Josh’s office.  It usually connects at around 30 megabytes per second,  which is sloooooowwwwwwww.  On Fridays, we go to another missionary family’s house in Orhei to use their fast internet.  We Skype with our parents, upload pictures and videos, download a few American news podcasts, manage some online finances, and maybe one or two other things.  Just to do those few things, we are usually there about three hours.  We take turns entertaining Jude while the other does what we need to online.

Anyway… I cannot believe that we have already been here two months and only have less than a month before our 3 month “forced furlough” (as I’ve been calling it in my mind).  We wouldn’t have planned it that way, but there is a 3 months in, 3 months out rule until we get our living permits (which, Lord willing, will happen next spring).  It is a blessing though, because we are eager to see our family and friends again, and we need that time to raise some more monthly support.

I am particularly excited about the two weeks that we will be spending in Louisville for Josh to take some J-term classes at the seminary.  Jude and I will have all day each day to visit friends and places that we have missed since we left in May.  Josh and I are already planning out the different restaurants we want to eat at—Moe’s, Mark’s Feed Store, Great Wall, Thai Smile… yum!

Life here has been going really well, and going really quickly!  It seems like the weeks just fly by, honestly.  We are very blessed to have such an active little man, and he keeps us busy busy busy every minute of the day.  I was actually bored for a couple of minutes the other day (the house was clean, Jude was asleep, and I don’t have a current knitting project) and it felt so strange because I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’d slowed down long enough to be bored since we got here!

I don’t know if I’ve said this in a blog yet or not, but I have been quite the chef lately, and I really enjoy it.  I’ve made (completely from scratch, of course) pizza, sweet-n-sour chicken, roasted broiler chickens, meatloaf, soft tortilla shells, doughnuts, snickerdoodles, chocolate chunk cookies, chicken fettuccini alfredo, spaghetti with meat sauce, and more.  It is so fun!

I’d better wrap this up.  Please continue to pray for us and for what God is doing here.  There is much, much, much kingdom work to be done in Moldova, and these students will hopefully be just a small part of that work.  Also, please pray specifically for our church in Vatici, that we would be obedient to the Lord in all we do, and that we would actively engage the people in the village with the Gospel, and that the Lord would change people’s lives for his glory.

On a practical level, please pray that our natural gas will get turned on soon!  It is very cold now, dipping below freezing most nights.  The students are crammed into just a few rooms with electric heaters, and we have one small electric heater in our apartment as well.  We are not freezing, but we are not exceptionally warm either (especially when the hot water heater stops working… which is pretty frequently).   The gas heat will also be more cost-efficient for the camp than running the electric heaters.  They are saying it should be on in two weeks, but they have been telling us two weeks since we moved here two months ago!

Thanks to everyone for reading and praying!

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Moldovan Culture and Health

Moldovans have some ideas about health that seem, to Americans, to be very outdated.

One of the most amusing things we have encountered is that the Moldovans are afraid of wind getting in their ears because that is, of course, how a person gets sick.  They would rather sweat to death in a hot car, house, or classroom than open a window.  Many women wear scarves over their heads not out of religious modesty convictions, but because they tie the scarf over their ears and it keeps the wind out.  And what happens if you do get wind in your ear?  You draw it out by putting the mouth end of a lit cigarette in your ear… of course.

It was actually a team from our home church who rode, in the blazing July heat, in a van with no air conditioning from our northern camp to our central camp.  The Moldovan who rode with them, knowing that the Americans would want the windows down, sat in the backseat with a winter coat and toboggan on, afraid of getting sick from the wind.

Moldovans also do not generally eat or drink cold things, and especially don’t give them to children, because they believe it will make them sick.  If they get some juice out of the fridge for a child, they will warm it up in the microwave.  At camp, there is a night where they give out ice cream, and we are told that one mother asked her kids to be sure and let it warm up before they ate it.

Children here are generally dressed very warmly.  The first few times we took Jude to the market, it was very hot and we had him in his usual t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.  It seemed like half of the people there stopped us and would talk to us in Romanian, motioning toward Jude.  I don’t know what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure it was something along the lines of, “Your kid is going to die because you don’t have enough clothes on him.”  Similarly, Josh has been chastised twice already in grocery stores for getting Jude too close to the refrigerator section.   Josh summed it up well when I mentioned needing to get Jude some warm winter clothes and he said, “I don’t think there is much of a difference between warm winter clothes and warm summer clothes for babies here.”

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Daily Life in Moldova

I can’t believe we have already been living in Moldova for a month now.  By now, we have settled into a generally predictable routine and our week days have a busy rhythm to them.  Here is a sample of what most of my days look like:

5:30am- Josh wakes up

between 5:30-7:00am- Jude and I wake up

We take turns playing with Jude while the other eats breakfast, drinks coffee, and gets ready for the day

8:15am- Josh goes to his office to prepare for class at 8:45

Jude is not a morning person and is usually pretty grumpy until his morning nap, so I play with him until he gets tired.

9am- I start trying to get Jude to fall asleep.  He fights sleep ferociously, so this is not an easy task.  I put him in the backpack carrier and either go for a walk outside if it is nice or sing and pace around the house.  This may take anywhere from 5 minutes to… the rest of the day.

(Assuming Jude falls asleep within 30mins-1hour.) I have my second cup of coffee and rest for a minute.   I then do the morning dishes, straighten up the kitchen/living room, put in a load of laundry, and try to make myself clean something.  Jude usually wakes up by now, but if he doesn’t, I may take a moment to rest and knit.

Jude wakes up from his morning nap usually in a pretty good mood, if it was a decent length.  I let him play in his walker and I clean/do laundry for as long as he will play happily.  Then we play together for a while.

11:45am- I do a quick straightening of the house.

12:00pm- Lilia comes for our Romanian lesson

1:00pm- Lunch in the cafeteria.  We take Jude’s walker and a bib and give him some bread while we eat and he just walks around the big open space so happily.

1:30pm- After lunch Josh will usually play with Jude for a while so I can get laundry off the line or fold laundry or take a shower or something.  Laundry is a lot bigger job when you have to put it on and off a clothesline!

2:00pm- We start the afternoon nap ritual, which is like the morning one.  While he sleeps (if he sleeps), I usually clean/do laundry/knit/nap with him depending on how much I was able to do in the morning (a.k.a. how long his morning nap was, if he napped at all).  Sometimes I will keep him in the backpack and go downstairs to Josh’s office to do my “internetting” while he sleeps.

Jude wakes up and, while it is still nice outside, I try to take him outside to play.  I may put him in the backpack and put more clothes on/off the line.

Josh usually finishes in the office around 4 and plays with Jude while I prepare dinner.  If dinner doesn’t take so long to prepare, sometimes we go for a family walk around campus.

6:00pm- We usually eat dinner around this time.  Then I play with Jude while Josh cleans up the kitchen. (Josh chooses this!)  We used to go for family walks after dinner, but it is already getting dark too early for that now.

8:00pm- Jude usually goes to sleep around this time.  After he’s asleep Josh and I can sit down and enjoy some hot chamomile tea, read, knit, and study Romanian.  We are usually in bed by 9:30 most nights.

Whew!  I know that makes it look like I spend my entire day cleaning and doing laundry, but I don’t usually get that much free time because Jude doesn’t usually nap that well (at least not recently since he’s been cutting teeth).  Some days I literally spend my entire day trying to get him to fall asleep or at least to not be grumpy.

I don’t really know why I felt like my daily schedule would be interesting to anybody except maybe my mom J, but I just felt like sharing.  It feels good to have a busy rhythm to my days, but man, it can be exhausting.

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