January 23, 2009

Costa Rica

I've been back in the land of ice and snow for one week now, and let me tell you, it has been a very long week.  I greatly enjoyed having a reprieve from the weather, and the fantastic food I was able to enjoy on a daily basis.  I must admit, the company was splendid, but I still keep thinking of the food.  I have been delaying on creating this post, for the specific reason that I failed to take pictures of the food, and have been hoping that one of my relatives did.  Alas, I was not the only one having too much fun.  

My family stayed at a lovely all inclusive, that we all gave rave reviews.  Being my first resort, I honestly have no idea how it stands up against others, but the Occidental Grand Papagayo, was fantastic.  I had no problems eating, and were I still a vegetarian (not for 4 or 5 years now) I would still have been able to eat well and without pitfalls.  Of course there were foods that I couldn't even hazard a guess as to what was in them, and getting an answer could be challenging due to the language barrier.  The wait staff spoke excellent English, while the kitchen staff often did not.  Therefore there were times I would ask, and it would take a little while to find someone who undestand the specifics of my question, and be able to answer it, but everyone always seemed genuinly happy to help out.

Now, a little about the food.  

Never have I enjoyed so many choices of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Every time I looked there was always someone enjoying some pineapple, and I have been informed that it was some of the best tasting pineapple - sadly I am unable to eat it.  While I have never been one to enjoy papaya, I was consuming it at least once a day, and more often than not, twice!  There were citrus fruits, that tasted like a mild orange, and several different exotic fruits.  Some of which were a guessing game on just how you were supposed to eat them, but they always tasted delicious.  And the best part, was the mango's.  They were sweet, juicy, and tasted just like sunshine.  I could easily have lived on the fruit alone.  Of course, I didn't.

Every morning I was able to enjoy Gallo Pinto, the national Costa Rican dish.  It's a dish of rice and beans, and to my understanding is often served at each meal.  I had memories of it from my last trip down, 8 years ago now, and almost jumped for joy when I say it at breakfast.  By the end of the week, everyone in my family had tried it and loved it - minus my brother, who likes his "normal" food for breakfast.  I will make it and post about it at some point, I promise.  While everyone else was filling themselves up with gluten filled goodies, I was enjoying steamed veggies, fresh fruit, and this wonderful chicken dish that I never did get the name of, along with my Gallo Pinto for breakfast.  It all tasted wonderful, and I never felt heavy or weighed down after.  I'm thinking I should start eating that way more often.

My other favorite thing while I was there, was something I actually didn't try until leaving, but brought back with me.  In the little gift shop my cousin and I found little bags of chocolate coated nuts, coffee beans and fruit.  We both picked up a couple different flavors and little presents, and I have to admit, I tried the ones I bought, and then couldn't even consider giving away the other.  They were made by Cafe Britt and I am considering trying to order some all the way to Canada.  While I am not a coffee drinker and can not comment on the coffee they produce, the rest of my family is, and everyone really enjoyed it.  I have heard that Costa Rican's make some of the best coffee.  And I do remember bringing home a bag of it for my Grandfather last trip, and that it was very well received.

After all these glowing comments, I do have to mention that there was large pitfall.  The flights.  While snacks are no longer standard fare on Air Canada flights, the buy on board program is pretty scary to someone with a gluten intolerance.  I survived the flight there thanks to a few snack bars that "Santa" had left me, and the flight back, but bringing a little bag of cheese with me from breakfast.  The only times the entire week that I went hungry, were then.  

My final thought on food in Costa Rica for anyone who is considering going, enjoy their traditional dishes as they seem to much less dependent upon gluten containing products than our Western dishes are.  But most of all, just enjoy all the naturally gluten free produce they have, because trust me, that fresh banana will taste so much better than the ones you get at home!

January 16, 2009

Apologies and Potatoes

It's been a little while, and for that I am sorry.  And while I'd like to lay all the blame on my cousin's wedding, that would be rather unfair of me.  Though to be truthful, the majority of my absence is the direct result of them getting married in Costa Rica, and me having to "sacrifice" my self by going.  The part of the blame that lies with me, is in that I had a recipe which I forgot to write down and post to publish while I was away.  

Since I have unpacking, cleaning, and well over 700 photos to sort through, I'm going to give you my everything has already been eaten minus a few staples recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  And let me tell you, it's great for if you've been eating through your food, or just got home from vacation, or even just desperately need to do a grocery run!  

Enjoy the food, and soon enough I'll be posting about my trip and how I made out eating gluten free.  Bueno Dias!

Eggy Bake

2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
3-4 medium potatoes
3-4 medium-small onions
4 eggs
1/4 milk, or milk substitute
good sprinkle garlic powder and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Dice potatoes into very small and thin pieces.  Slice onions into thin rings. 

Heat butter or oil in a large pan, add potatoes and onions and slowly until onions begin to caramelize.

Transfer potatoes and onions to a lightly greased casserole dish.  In a bowl beat eggs with milk, garlic powder and pepper.  This is the time to add any other spices or herbs you might be feeling like, or need to use up.  Pour egg mixture over potato mixture.

Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until centre is cooked through.  If desired serve with grated or shredded cheese over top.

January 6, 2009

New Beginnings

The new year has arrived, and with it, hopefully some new beginnings.  I have decided what I'm hoping for, other than a fresh slate, but I think I like it that way.  This way, if something doesn't come to pass, I won't disappointed, and whatever goes well, will just be an added bonus.  

Out this way 2009 arrived with a bang.  Lucky us, we were hit with a blizzard.  Not just some flurries, or even a decent amount of snow.  No, there was snow, and there was wind.  Lots of wind.  Near hurricane force wind.  Amazingly enough, I didn't lose power!  I did however, huddle inside, drinking lots of lovely tea, and reading a book.  Sadly, I have already forgotten what book it was, but I know it was good.

Back to the new beginnings.  I have a simple and delicious one right here, a satisfying bowl of popped amaranth.  In my case I used blueberries as an add in, and almond milk as the liquid, but use whatever you have on hand, or prefer.  Any milk or milk substitute would be fine, and any berry or cup up fruit would be fantastic.  With this leading the day, how can you not be hopeful for new beginnings?

Popped Amaranth Cereal

1/4 cup amaranth
handful of berries or fruit
milk or substitute for serving

Bring a large empty sauce pan to heat over medium-high.  Pour in amaranth and stir constantly.  After a while it will begin to pop, much like popcorn.  Don't stop stirring!

Once most of the amaranth has popped remove from heat, and pour into bowl.  Top with fruit and milk/milk sub.  Serve and eat as you would any other bowl of Cereal.  Yummy!!

December 31, 2008

Sugar and Spice...

...and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of. 

And so are these great cookies I whipped up!  My friend and her little girl came over, and I swear neither of them could keep their hands off, or their mouths empty.  They're that good!  

These sugar cookies are beyond simple to make.  I believe they are going to become my go to cookie whenever I need something and I don't have the spare time to make up a batch of my beloved Basler Brunsli, after all, these take a fraction of the time!  

These have a wonderful mouth feel.  They are like little sweet clouds that just melt in your mouth.  They give easily, but they don't crumble.  And right in the centre, there is this wonderful chewy surprise.  What a joy to eat, and I can't wait until next cookie season when I can offer these up to everyone and watch people smile as they eat them.

Spiced Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 cups arrowroot starch

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cream together butter, sugar, spices and salt until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla, and beat/cream until fully incorporated.

Mix in xanthan gum.  Finally add arrowroot starch, in 1/2 cup increments.  Beat until a smooth dough forms.

Using a teaspoon place heaps of dough on cookie sheet.  Bake 10-13 minutes, remove from oven and cool.  

Makes 32 good sized cookies.

December 28, 2008

Leeks and Potatoes

After a long week, I am finally beating that cold that hit me Monday.  Why I tend to get sick at the Holiday's is a complete mystery, but with very few exceptions, every time I get really sick, it's Christmas.  Needless to say, I was not doing quite as much in the kitchen as I would have liked.  Thank goodness I wasn't hosting a Dinner!

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I finally felt well enough to make something, to stand in my tiny little kitchen and create something.  Nothing to crazy mind you.  

Just before the darn cold arrived, I had found several yummy looking items in the produce section of our local Planet Organic, and decided that it was time to put it to good use.  Originally I was crazy enough to pull out leeks, potatoes, cabbage, kale, carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic and green peppers to throw together a simple meal with few flavors.  Yes, I quickly saw the problem with the few flavors versus my multitude of goodies.  Therefore I decided to pick on item, and then choose a few things to go with it.  The Leeks were calling my name, and from there the potatoes and garlic were a given.  I dug around in my fridge for a moment to locate my homemade chicken stock, and a little bit of heavy cream.  As I was putting everything else way, I was hit by a last minute need to keep out an onion.  From this my new favorite soup (yes, a soup that I actually adore!) was born.

Potato and Leek Soup

If you want more servings, just increase this recipe as need be.  I think it would double, triple, or even sextuple (X6) very well!

1/2 small onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup chicken stock, or other mild flavored stock
3 medium potatoes, diced small *I used Yukon Gold
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In large sauce pot, heat butter and olive oil.  Saute onion, garlic and leeks until fragrant, and golden.  

Add chicken stock, and potatoes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer until potatoes are soft.  Mash lightly, leaving most, and stir in cream.  Heat through, and serve.

Simple, yet amazingly delicious, and all that garlic actually isn't over powering!  Of course, if you don't like garlic, leave it out!