What’s an Hornado Anyways?

This past weekend, MPI Ecuador hosted its annual Hornado Solidario in Rumiloma.  What’s that, you ask? No need to be ashamed.  Just a few weeks ago I, too was an hornado newbie. The quick answer to your question is: a lunch fundraiser with traditional Ecuadorian food.  But don’t get it twisted; this ain’t your typical Firehouse Pancake Breakfast fundraiser.  A LOT more goes into an hornado than you’d think.  What follows below is an explanation of everything that required for a successful Hornado.

1.    The Hornado

Hornado, a signature of Ecuadorian cuisine, refers to a full, roast pig.  And I mean full: head and all. It is to be cooked by a skilled Ecuadorian person (usually a grandmother) and to be served by a skilled Ecuadorian person (usually a grandmother), who has no qualms about ripping off pieces of meat with her hands to serve on plates during the event (see Clemencia below). If you’re lucky, your hornado will come decorated, like ours.

2.    Las Tortillas de Papa (the potatoes)

We bought 200 pounds of potatoes for our Hornado.  For sizing help, 200 pounds of potatoes is enough to fill 3 large garbage cans.  We enlisted the help of our adult English students to help us peel all of them… and were able to finish in less than 2 hours!  We outsourced the boiling and mashing of the potatoes to another skilled Ecuadorian señora, so all that was left to do was to take the 3 garbage cans of mashed potatoes and make them into patties by hand to be fried on the day of the Hornado.  Luckily patty-making is grunt work and doesn’t require Ecuadorian skill (so most PDs and local volunteers were put on patty duty).  The frying of the potatoes, however, was spearheaded by Clemencia’s sister, Blanca.

3.    Mote

It’s a rule that a balanced Ecuadorian plate must contain at least two types of starches.  Simply putting a serving of white rice, corn, verdes (bananas) or potatoes is not sufficient.  You’ve gotta have a combination of them.  Mote is type of corn kernel (much bigger than those that we’re used to in the US) that fits the bill for the second starch of the plate.  It is boiled and cooked before serving.  

4.    Salad

We must have chopped at least 8 heads of lettuce, 50 tomatoes and 30 onions for the salad.  Agrio, or salad dressing, is made from tomatoes, onions, limes, cilantro and brown sugar loaf.  As another sizing estimate, we had enough agrio to fill a medium-sized garbage can!

5.    Great Company!

We served about 300 plates at the Hornado Solidario, before we began running out of food.  We raffled off some prizes that were donated to us, sang karaoke, painted kids’ faces and had a mini bake sale.  None of it would have been possible without the beautiful weather and all the help from community volunteers.  Below are just a few pictures of the great day we shared.

You can also contribute to the fundraising efforts of our Ecuador community by donating here! Type "Hornado" in the comments section. 

The Scoop on Ecuadorian Junk Food

I’ll admit... this title is a bit misleading.  Most of the junk food that exists in Ecuador is the same junk food that exists in the United States.  What makes it Ecuadorian is the experience of choosing and buying it, AKA the ridiculously low price of it and the fact that it is (dangerously) available on practically every street corner. Lucky for you, you’ve got me to help you navigate through all your future guilty Ecuadorian junk food purchases.  Let’s dive in.

Pictured below is your typical corner store. There’s usually a fridge for ice cream, a fridge for drinks, racks for cookies, crackers and chips and shelves for the 18+ items (mainly boxed wine – which tastes like the box itself - and the occasional bottle of liquor). To avoid early onset diabetes (which is a serious impending doom many tourists face upon arrival because of the prevalence of such corner stores), I’ve detailed some do’s and don’ts, some price ranges and some tricks and tips to help you out.

Perhaps what makes junk food purchases the most difficult here is that nutrition facts are fairly nonexistent.  Some products contain nutrition facts, but the majority of them just have labels in red, yellow or green that tell you that a product is alto, medio or bajo (high, medium or low) in sal, grasa or azucar (salt, fat, sugar).  Kiss your concrete numbers good bye; Ecuador only gives you a rough idea of how much damage you’re doing to your arteries.  I know it’s hard, but you’re going to have to exercise all the self-control you promised yourself you’d have…from all your New Years’ Resolutions combined.

Ice cream:

Topsy Bars

Your typical vanilla ice cream and chocolate shell.  Particularly dangerous because it can be finished in about 5 bites and only costs $0.30… which naturally begs the question… why not just buy two?  Sixty cents and 10 bites? That math totally adds up.


These are a splurge. Think designer ice cream bars.  Comes in either coffee-chocolate or strawberry.  I have yet to hear praise for the strawberry bar, so if it’s a treat yo’self day and you’re willing to drop the $1.25, pick the former.

Bon ice

These might single-handedly be fueling the energy of the youth of Ecuador. $0.15 ice pops.  All flavors… and practically all you can eat because of the price. Perfect for if you need a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ that’s cold.

Topsy Cones

One-buck-chuck’s. Fairly fancy: cone with ice cream and chocolate syrup, sometimes with M&Ms on top. Sometimes get soggy in the packaging and never truly fills me up. Not sure about the calories, but I tend to think it’s more economical to get two of the Topsy Bars instead… and still have change to spare!



Usual suspects are available.  250mL bottles all the way up to the 2L bad boys.  You can feel less guilty and quench your caffeine cravings all for $0.50!


Hardly ever more than $0.50, unless you’re in a particularly touristy area.  No excuse not to hydrate.


Carbonated water.  When you ask for water it’s important to specify “sin gas” or “con gas.” Don’t forget that detail!

Manzana Soda

(Apple Soda).  Step awayyyy from the bottle.  It’s a horrendous combination of sugar and DayQuil and food coloring.  They love it here. I guarantee you won’t.


Energy drink.  Also tastes like liquid candy.  Far better flavor than Manzana, though.  Chances are, if you need the energy that badly, you’ll endure the sugar overload.



Ritz are available, as are Salticas (think Ecuadorian Ritz knock-off).  Prices are usually about the same…Salticas are slightly healthier (smaller in size, less buttery).  Of all the snacks to buy at a tienda, I recommend staying away from crackers.  You will inevitably come down with a stomach bug in your time here and end up on a strict cracker diet.  Best not to get sick of them before they’re all you eat for a week straight.


Rather dangerous because they are only $0.50.  Almost never Doubled Stuffed, so in my humble Oreo connoisseur opinion, no sense in bothering with plain old Oreos, even if they are only fifty cents.

Chips Ahoy

Hard to come by! If you see them, don’t think twice! Buy them!!

Amor Wafers 

Never a bad choice.  You can have your pick from vanilla, chocolate, lime and strawberry.  Solid impulse-buy.


Banana chips. Probably one of the best purchases you could make from a tienda. They come in personal bags as well as family size bags.  Be prepared for the addiction. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Picante (or spicy) chifles are the move if you want a little more zest in your life.  

Yucca Chips

Stay away from these. They are merely a constant disappointment when compared to the magic of chifles.


Essentially cheese doodles.  Stable party snack.  Great to munch on on long bus rides.  Majority of the time we only buy them because we like saying “K-Chitos.”


Comes in small packages (think Danimals) or bigger containers with granola or cookies on top. Great idea if you’re in a hurry and want to pretend you’re being healthy.  Just be warned that these containers come with a plastic spoon (a VERY TINY plastic spoon), so it will certainly take you longer than you’d like to finish this yogurt.



$0.50 chocolate and peanut bars.  Life-changing. Ecuadorians like to hold them in their hands for a while until they melt and then eat them like Go-Gurt. I prefer my chocolate bars solid, but if you’re feeling adventurous, I say go for it. As if a $0.50 chocolate bar wasn’t problematic enough, Manicho also comes in King Size boxes with at least 10 bars in them, for about $2.  Self-control, people.

Lollipops (Chupetes)

Another $0.15 purchase.  Generally only available in flavors like cherry and grape. Unless you’re a lollipop addict, need to use up the 15 pennies you have lying around or have a small child to please, you can generally stay away from chupetes.

Kit-Kats and M&Ms

They exist, but taste different.  If you’re really missing chocolate from home, buy it, but chances are you’ll be slightly disappointed.  Stick to Manicho.


If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on how you see it) many tiendas double as panaderias, or bakeries. It is nearly impossible to walk by a panaderia and not stop in to make a quick, guilty purchase after being unwillingly subjected to the heavenly scent of the sweet, fresh bread.  What’s worse, almost every piece of bread costs a mere $0.30.  Better start lovin’ your love handles.  Below is a quick list of the usual carbolicious teases you’ll encounter:

Standard rolls

Come in white or wheat.  Always soft and warm.  Sometimes come in other shapes (braids, buns, etc.)  

Pineapple or guava bread

More like a pastry (on the flakier side). Has a sweet yellow filling (can be pineapple or guava).  Both are delicious… if you’ve got allergies to either one, make sure you ask before just blindly grabbing something!

Cheese bread

These are usually called empanadas (even though they look like your standard roll).  They come with sugar on top, which is an incredible combination with the salty cheese. This is highly recommended!!


Flakey, buttery, soft and warm.  There is really no better combination of adjectives.  Croissants are obviously delicious, but for the sense of practicality, I’d avoid staying away from them because there’s no neat way to eat a croissant.  If you grab one to eat on the bus, only 50% of it will end up in your stomach… the other 50% will end up on your stomach.

Chocolate bread

This is a bit of a disappointment.  It always looks better than it tastes.  I’m not sure what it is about the chocolate that’s used for this bread… but it usually lets me down.

Corn muffins

It’s not very often that you see these, so if you do stumble upon it, by all means BUY IT AND EAT IT!

Consider spending some time in Ecuador to try these tasty treats yourself! Learn more about Manna Project's volunteer opportunities on with our upcoming online info session on Monday, November 21st at 8PM EST. Join the Info Session here: 

Top Chef: Ecuador

I’m happy to report that all nine PDs are back in Ecuador and accounted for. After spending our Thanksgiving holidays globetrotting to Nicaragua for the MPI 5-year reunion, Argentina, Venezuela and the good old US of A, we’re all glad to be back in the country we call home. Though we only have two weeks from today until winter break, there’s a lot to be wrapped up and more importantly, lots of brainstorming to be had envisioning new projects to start in January.

One such project is building a kitchen on the third floor of our library. As you may have read in previous posts, this space is now being used for English and natural science classes as well as women’s exercise. The focus groups that we’ve held have emphasized the importance of nutrition education in our community. Last year’s PDs also hosted two different cooking classes for the women in our exercise classes.

The goal of these classes is to increase the extent of which Ecuadorian produce is cooked with as well as how to maximize their nutritional value. In order to accomplish this goal, we plan to install a kitchen on our third floor.

We’ve compiled a wish list, in order of necessity below. Sonia and Krysta have spent the past month running around the valley pricing these items and compiling a comprehensive budget for this project.

Our Wish List:

  1. Stove
  2. Gas tanks (2)
  3. Gas hose (6m)
  4. Wood for gas tank cover
  5. Plastic table
  6. Water filter
  7. Dish rack
  8. Set of knives (2)
  9. Pans (3)
  10. Plastic mixing blows (4)
  11. Peeler (3)
  12. Measuring cups
  13. Measuring spoons
  14. Forks (12)
  15. Knives (12)
  16. Spoons (12)
  17. Oven pan (2)
  18. Metal grater
  19. Whisk
  20. Wood spoons (3)
  21. Strainer
  22. Rubber spatula (2)
  23. Laddel (2)
  24. Pot (26cm)
  25. Pot (22cm)
  26. Wood cutting board (2)
  27. Plastic cutting board (2)
  28. Metal spatula (1)
  29. Rolling pin
  30. Fine strainer
  31. Plastic shelves (3)
  32. Pot hooks (7)
  33. Spice rack
  34. Oven mits (2)
  35. Plates (10)
  36. Bowls (10)
  37. Plastic cups (10)
  38. Cake pan (2)
  39. Towel set

In total, our wish list items add up to an expense of $735.20. We plan to cover food costs from inscriptions or from asking our students to bring in items. Our short-term goal is to get this class up and running as soon as we obtain enough donations to cover our basic expenses. Any support that you would be able to give towards this project would be so appreciative; we literally can’t do it without you!

Checks can be made out to Manna Project International, with “Ecuador kitchen” in the memo. Checks should be mailed to the MPI headquarters in Nashville:

Manna Project International

P.O. Box 121052

Nashville, TN 37212

Additionally, support can be given online at Please click "donate here!" and when prompted, fill in “Ecuador kitchen” designated on under the‘support for.’

We're no strangers to the kitchen, cooking for each other 6 days a week

Only fresh from the local market produce in our kitchen!

If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to learn more about this project please feel free to e-mail me here.

Stay tuned to our side bar as we keep you updated on our fundraising status and project process!

Cheers, Jackie

Live by the Sun, Love by the Moon

Not only do Sarah and I tag-team the blog, but apparently, we also combine forces to christen our grill for the first time living here as new PDs.  While standing on the roof staring at our panoramic view, I was immediately brought back to almost two months ago when last year's PDs welcomed us with a barbeque on the roof.  I remember thinking "I can't believe I'm living here for the next year."  Although we're all getting used to the idea of being here for the long haul, I don't think a day will go by without looking out into the Andean distance in awe of what surrounds us.  
Sarah and Jackie get excited about the grill 

Haley kept us entertained as she steps into a pile of residue from the door installation 

Not even going to pretend to be normal for this picture
 (from left to right: Sarah, Mike, Chet, Erik, Krysta, Haley, and Sonia)

Highlights for this week include: 
  • An investigative look at our new library policies
  • A guest blog from former Country Director, Mark Hand
  • An interview with Executive Director, Lori Sharffenberg

Cooking Delights

This past Friday, the girls held our first (of hopefully many, hint hint next year's PDs) women's cooking class. Advertised as a class focused on natural ingredients, healthy recipes and new cooking techniques, we found willing participants through Serena's women's exercise group.

When Priya and Mari (summer volunteers) were down here, they worked hard with Serena to pull together a cohesive menu of appetizing, inexpensive, and nutritious foods whose ingredients we could actually access down here. All the women agreed that they more than accomplished their goal. Below you'll find the menu of foods we made, along with one of the recipes. If you're interested in any of the other recipes, please feel free to email me! holland.c.ward at gmail dot com.

The Menu
Homemade Soy Milk (from the beans!)
Iced Chi Tea

Tomato-Corn-Avocado Salad
Grilled Vegetables and Pasta Salad
Drunken Beans

Rosemary Honey Roasted Chicken

Banana Nut bread
Zuchinni Muffins

(Preparing the corn-tomato-avocado salad in the dining room for lack of space in the kitchen!)

(Our taste testers, just making sure we got the flavors right.)

(The whole cooking crew with satisfied bellies and zuchinni muffins in hand)

(Of course, I can't currently find the cookbook we used, but here's a delicious variation of one of the salads we made, a house favorite whenever we can find mangos!)

Avocado, Tomato, Mango Salad

* 1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced
* 1 avocado - peeled, pitted, and diced
* 4 medium tomatoes, diced
* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1/4 cup chopped red onion
* 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Easy and delicious and summery. Which works basically year round down in these parts.