Thoughts on What We’ve Been Eating

With the difficulty of getting water each day, I’ve been trying to economize on our water use, both in cooking and dish-washing. So typical breakfasts and lunches are low-maintenance, while dinners tend to be more extensive. If we can, we eat our meals on cloth napkins rather than plates, and usually, though Marc and I prefer our own plates, the children eat out of a communal pot or bowl (this is actually customary in Kenya). In order to economize, and secondarily for health reasons, we’ve continued to reduce our intake of meat as well and now have it only once or twice a week. Here, in no particular order, are some random meals we’ve recently enjoyed:


Stir-fried bananas, sweet potatoes and peanuts with a side of fresh fruit (something Jane gave us which I can’t remember the name of, but couldn’t find in the Swahili/English dictionary and have never seen before)

Pineapple breakfast cake

Cream of Wheat

Bread and butter with a side of mango

Whole wheat pancakes (no syrup, with a sprinkling of raw sugar–love being able to get cheap, raw sugar here!)


For lunch, we use up any dinner leftovers from the previous night. Beans or greens get mixed into a big batch of rice, or we eat plain rice with some garlic and salt. A couple of days, lunch was popcorn, nuts and fruit. (I found it surprising that Kenyans consider popcorn a main course! Not that any of us are really complaining about adopting the practice…) Another day we added coleslaw as a side to our rice, which was a nice change from the usual.


Chili and cornbread

Tilapia with mashed potatoes and spinach

Tortillas with refried beans, salsa, and guacamole and a salad of mixed greens with homemade dressing, accompanied by wheat bread with butter

Beef stew with cabbage and carrots, a side of fried potatoes, and ugali

Sweet and Sour Beans with cornbread and a side of boiled greens


We only have dessert a couple of nights a week, and for our first couple of weeks we had cookies, which had been given to us as a treat when we first arrived. The other day, I made made a modified “Shoofly pie.” It calls for molasses but that is not to be found here, so I substituted thick sugar-water and it turned out to be a pretty good “sugar pie.”

Miscellaneous Thoughts…

One of our neighbors recently gave us a large bag of avocados, which will likely all be ready to eat in a couple of weeks (and all at the same time). So I’ll be looking for recipes with few ingredients that include avocado (besides guacamole, of course!)

Even though we *think* we’re eating relatively simply, we’re still pretty American in our cooking. Kenyans eat for function. They typically cook over a single (wood-fired) burner, so their options are, by default, a little more limited than ours. (I have to admit, though, that I love having an oven!) For the average Kenyan, most things are boiled in a single pot and eaten with very little (if any) seasoning. Plain roasted squash, plain mashed sweet potatoes with corn, bean and corn mix. We, however, still like “taste,” and prefer deep fried and salted. We even make our greens “fancy” by cooking them with onion, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. So, in the overall scheme of things, we still have a ways to go if, while in Kenya, we’re going to do as the Kenyans do.

What’s been on your menu lately? Have any ideas for simple meals that we might try?



12 thoughts on “Thoughts on What We’ve Been Eating

  1. Hello! I have been following your posts for almost a year, and praying for your family! Your parenting, organizing, and homeschooling tips have been such a blessing to me and my family! I visited Kenya on a mission’s trip in 2002, and I know of a few families who have lived there, or are currently living there (near Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe). After reading this post, I immediately thought of some suggestions for cooking in Kenya. One of the recipes I enjoyed most was making chapati (flour tortillas), and after you fry them on each side, you sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar quickly, before the oil dries. These were great for breakfast, lunch, or even dessert with a little homemade whipped cream.
    Also, if you can find (or have a friend send a care package of) boxed cake mix, you can just add 8 oz of soda (cola to devil’s food cake, sprite/7-up to yellow or strawberry cake). The cake turns out nice and moist and fluffy! This will save $ and time, since soda is much cheaper than eggs, oil, milk, etc… at least when I was there it was 🙂
    Also, I didn’t see any mention of Kenyan Chai… that was my absolute favorite drink when I was there, and it still is now! You can make it with mostly water, but it’s extra-special (and nutritious) when you make it with mostly milk. A little raw sugar, and you’re good to go! When I was there, some mornings we just had Chai and some buttered bread for breakfast or lunch.
    One more suggestion/question: Do you know if you can make puffed rice (rice crispies cereal?) by preparing them the same way you prepare popcorn? I’ve heard that you just have to steam the rice, so they have moisture inside. Not sure of the details, but that could be a great (cheap) and familiar breakfast option!
    I hope this helps, and God bless you and your family as you minister to His people in Kenya!

    1. Thanks for the great ideas, Aileen!! I’ve made chapati for dinner but I LOVE the idea of adding cinnamon/sugar for breakfast! And e tip about soda in place of eggs and oil will come in handy some day, I’m sure. Eggs are actually pretty expensive here (almost as much as in US, which is unusual). Dairy is equally expensive, but we find it funny that folks make tea with milk instead of water. Still getting used to that. We often don’t have milk, because of our distance to market and because it spoils so quickly without refrigeration. So I think we’re occasionally perceived as rude that we don’t offer guests tea. 😛 Still trying to work that one out…

      While still in the US, I tried puffing rice but was unsuccessful…knew it was something to do with moisture content. Maybe I’ll try again. 🙂


  2. I’m interested in the breakfast stirfry! Sounds great! We are def making more simple lately. Lots of rice and beans! 😉 learning to make my own refried beans which have turned out really good!

    1. The kids loved the stir fry! I decided to do it that way because Kenyans actually eat green bananas rather than ripe; they boil and mash them like potatoes or fry them in butter/oil. So we had a bunch of green bananas brought to us and the breakfast stir-fry was born! 🙂

      We like refried beans, too…glad you are making good use of the stockpile of rice and beans! 🙂

  3. Hi Cindy,
    You can cook up a pot of rice in the am and serve with mashed bananas and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it. Or do it just without the bananas.
    Perhaps if you could find some powdered milk and then jsut mix up however much you need for the day.
    When the avocadoes ripen, mash them up with mashed banana, good in teh evening meal for dessert as it has a calming nutrient in there somewhere and is filling.
    Whne making tea use the water and then sweetener- only serve with a few tblsp milk. powdered milk does not taste good in the tea by the way. I had it many times that way when camping!
    Hope this helps. Guess you have no fridge so no way to keep bugs out of cooked food and have to eat it all in one day.

    1. No fridge, so eating food same day or next morning. No problems so far, but I would like to have fresh milk to offer tea to guests when they stop by. Hate to offend…Good to know that powdered milk isn’t same as fresh–was going to look into getting some to have on hand just for tea.

  4. Oh yes – could you add mashed squash to your pancakes for breakfast- if you can make those there – would be yummy and filling too. Do you have any access to flax seeds to use instead of eggs in your pancakes – maybe!
    Hope that you are enjoying Africa- you hopefully will get some cooler weather soon!
    love Julie in Indy! 🙂 We are here at 81 degrees today btw! Fells like Africa – windows and doors open- bugs flying everywhere!

    1. I will have to check on flax seeds–not sure, but a good idea! We sure are enjoying Africa–weather is beautiful. Heard that it has been warm there in Indy this week. Must be a nice change. 🙂

  5. Hmmm, I don’t know, but avocados have a lot of good fats/oils in them. Perhaps they could be mashed and used in baked goods, as we would use pumpkin or bananas? When we have lots of avocados here in Texas, I like to make fresh salsas with chopped avocados, herbs, and various other things–tomatoes and basil is one favorite. I don’t know exactly what other fruits and vegetables are available! Orf course, ripe avocados are also soft and spreadable and can be used like butter! And once I had a delicious pie that looked like chocolate fudge but had avocados in it. Amazing! Enjoy!

  6. Oh, now I see you have pineapple, mango and oranges. Use those with the avocado to make a wonderful salsa–red onion and garlic if you have it, maybe some black beans, even jalapenos? or some vinegar for “bite”. You could even add corn. This is a rough description of something I’ve made for parties and been complimented on! Hope it works for you.

  7. If you are able, go to and type avocado into the search. You will find many delicious sounding recipes that have ingredients which are available to you. All simple and healthy. If you can’t get to the website, let me know and I will email you the recipes.
    Blessings to you!

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