Friday, January 30, 2009

Gasless Beans?

Those who know me are doing a double-take - *Julie* is writing about *beans?!?* But she *hates* beans!

Well, they are still not my favorite food, but - since Gallo Pinto is practically the national food of Costa Rica, and I do live in Costa Rica, I decided a while back that I needed to investigate this bean phenomenon a bit more.
I found a good Gallo Pinto recipe, and then found a whole bunch of tips on how to cook beans so that they aren´t quite so musical...
So, I cooked a batch of beans the other day, and used *all* of the tips that I could. And here´s the result!
and it seems to work...

Gasless Beans

Clean beans, and rinse
Cover beans with water, add 1T baking soda
Bring to boil, simmer for 15 minutes
Drain and rinse
Cover beans with water (~ 1 inch above top) and soak overnight in fridge
Drain and rinse
Beans should be a little slimy
Cover beans with water (~ 1 inch above top)
- ginger (1 joint, ~ 1 inch)
- garlic powder
- 1 onion
- 1/2 chili dulce
- 1T honey
- 1 medium potato
- 1 jalapeño pepper

Bring to boil, reduce to simmer approx 1.5 - 2 hrs. A cooked bean should squish to a paste when you squeeze it with your fingers.

- all the additions don't really flavor the beans.
- I probably used too much water to cook them.
- Next time, I will try cooking w/ less ingredients, then adding them to the cooked beans along w/ the rice, etc. for Gallo Pinto.
- Definitely add salt! but later - if you add it before the beans are done, they will stay hard.

And, believe it or not, I am becoming a bit enamored of the humble black bean...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Internet Issues...

We're having issues with internet right now, so bear with us if we don't respond to emails, etc. very quickly.
I'll probably post the entire saga once it is resolved :-D.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cutting a Mango

Cutting a Mango
No, it's not like cutting a rug :-D.

Long ago, I saw a Poirot movie where he demonstrated how to cut up a mango. I've used that method ever since, and thought I'd share it here. It maximizes the amount of fruit you get from the mango - the only way to get more is to eat the skin (which many people do, but only when it is "tierno," literally "tender," "young," or "fresh," but also is "unmarred" colloquially).

Poirot's Mango method:
- cut mango along edge of pit

- insert spoon, scrape along sides of pit - both sides, freeing the pit

- remove pit (eat any fruit left on the pit - this is the cook's tax)

- cut a grid in each side of fruit; don't cut through the skin
- invert the half by pushing the center of the skin side

- scrape the flesh off the skin (use a knife or your thumbs)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another Reason to Go to the Feria

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go...

Sure, if "downtown" means the Feria in Guadalupe!

You can forget all your worries, forget all your cares, and go...

If you want to boost your ego, go to the Feria!

*Everybody* loves you at the Feria - you are their Queen, their Love, their Friend!

January 17, 2009 - Saturday morning in Guadalupe

The available fruits and vegetables in our local supermarket are just *not* up to snuff - definitely not what we are used to seeing in Costa Rica!

So we quizzed our landlady, and she said there was a Saturday Feria (Farmer's market) in Guadalupe (North of us about 1 mile) and a Sunday Feria in Zapote (South of us about 1 mile).

So today, I went to Guadalupe! I took my carrito (little rolling, fold-up metal cart), and caught the 10:30 Periferica bus (ruta L1) in front of the Outlet Mall in San Pedro (c295), and got off in Guadalupe - one of these days, I'll walk it, but I want to be sure of my route first :-).

I first went to the post office (across the street from the North-West corner of the park) and checked our mail - nothing yet!

Then I walked North about 2 blocks - I wandered around a bit, seeing a lot of people with carts (full and empty), so I knew I was close. But I finally had to ask La Señora con el carrito - I ended up following her (west 1 block) to the Feria :-D. It looked small at first, but then - turn a corner, and it explodes! It is *big!* It is probably a bit bigger than the Alajuela Feria - a bit more dense, and not covered.

It is hard at a feria to not buy before looking around - I compromised and bought some stuff; waited on others. By noon, I had a pretty full cart, and had tried two new fruits!

The "caimito" looks a bit like a fig on the outside.

A nice gentleman shared one with me - he broke it open like you would a fig, but then we ate the white-ish part around the seed (spit that out), and scraped the flesh (purple) off the skin with our teeth - we tossed the skin and seed on the ground. It left a sticky feeling on my mouth. The same gentleman took a leaf (from the same bin), and folded it so that the underside was exposed, and rubbed it across his lips. He found a leaf for me, and I did the same - the sticky stuff was rubbed right off! I was just picturing myself walking around with sticky purple lips...

After that, I guess I got a bit more brave - I saw what looked like small plums at another stall, and asked what they were. These fruits are called ciduela, and they do have a plum-like texture. I tried one - ate the skin but not the seed.

After the Feria, I went to a butcher that was recommended - the "Union" butcher, just South East of the church. It was *crowded!* There were at least a dozen lines, all about 4 deep! By this time, I only had about c5,000 left, so I was a bit nervous. But then I saw someone pay with a credit card - ahhh - gotta love plastic! Sooo many people were buying *huge* amounts of meat! bags and bags of it - you knew they were doing their weekly meat shopping. Well, so was I...

I got out of the butcher's in less that half an hour, and expected to walk back to San Pedro. But, as I was turning the corner, I saw the 12:37 Periferica bus (ruta L2), and thought I'd take a chance. The driver didn't bat an eye (well, not that I could see) when I lifted my carrito up the steps and handed him a c5,000 note. He made change, I got a seat - another chance to study the route home in relative comfort :-D.

On the way, I was sitting next to a mother and young child - he was a bit fussy, and I offered her one of the ciduelas for him. He liked it! Then it was gone, and he went back to fussy. Oh well - still, it felt good...

I was home, and putting away my haul by 1:00 - a very productive morning!

You can compare these to last year's prices in Alajuela: January 5, 2008, Farmer's Market. Note that the government released the inflation figures for last year - nearly 14%!

Feria ITEMS -
cost in colones (current rate is approximately c560 = $1; note that this is up 11% from last year)
weight is in kilograms:

chili dulce - 100 each; 250 / small bag
ciduela - 1200 / kilo
cheese (Turrialba) - 2800 / kilo
cheses (Turrialba, aged) - 3000 / kilo
cheese (smoked) ~ 3800 / kilo
lettuce - 200 / head
celery - 400 / small bunch
bananas - 350 / kilo
green beans (mature) - 400 / bag (1/2 kilo)
green beans (young) - 700 / bag (1/2 kilo)
pineapple (large, ripe) - 600 each
broccoli (finally, some that looked good!) - 1000 / kilo
carrots - 300 / bag (1/2 kilo)
mango - 1500 / kilo
tomato - ranged from 200 - 450 / kilo
avocado - 1000 / bag of 6
potatoes - 1400 / kilo
strawberries - ranged from 600 / bag (1/2 kilo) to 1500 / kilo
zucchini - ranged from 100 - 300 each
camote - 200 / bag (1/2 kilo)
tacaco (green grenade-looking thing, good in soups) - 200 / bag
jalapeños - 200 / bag of 5
caimito - 1500 / kilo
mandarin oranges - 200 / bag of 6

Tacaco picture (boil whole in soup, then peel. Discard the peel, Eat the flesh and seed):

Butcher items (these might be mixed up a bit):
beef steak (2) - 2240 / maybe half kilo
ground beef - 1450 / half kilo
bacon - 1920 / quarter kilo
pork chops (4) - 1540 / half kilo

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Earthquake Info

Fellow blogger and e-friend Saratica has a great summary of the current earthquake news. *Some* people actually have TV and in-house internet - hmmph! Well, ours is on the way - mañana...

Post Office Box!

Friday, we stopped off in Guadalupe on our way home from lunch. And we got a Post Office Box!

We had tried to get on at our local Correo, but they were full up - no room at the inn (at least until March). So, we asked around, and found out that a nearby town had some available.

Signing up was pretty easy (of course, Rick dealt with all the Q&A...). All they needed was a copy of the boxholder´s cedula (or passport), fill in a form, pay c11,000 (más o menos) sign-up fee, pay c5,400 annual fee, and get the key - what could be easier?

Now all we do is test it out, and wait - we´ll probably check our mail once per week. Maybe combine it with a trip to the Guadalupe Feria (Saturday mornings, North of the Central Park) and trip to the recommended butcher...

Mango Crisp - Yum!

So we´ve been in our apartment in San Pedro for a month, and I´ve been eyeing my OVEN all that time. Yes, I have an OVEN! The apartment is furnished, so the kitchen is equiped with the basics. Did I mention I had an oven?

Well, I decided the time had come to try it out. I found some different recipes for different Crisps - I modified, tweaked, and tried out one for Mangos (I just can´t get enough of these fruits here!).

Mango Crisp

3 graham crackers, crumbled (1 pkt Fibra y Miel)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

3 cups peeled and sliced Mango and juice (5 small/med)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Granulated SPLENDA®
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c pecans
juice from 1/2 lemon (skip this next time)
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
dash nutmeg

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
- Mix filling ingredients.
- Coat an 8X8 inch (or similar) baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Add filling.
- Blend all topping ingredients in a bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.
- Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes or until browned and bubbling around the edges.

I have to use a combination of the 140 C and 210 C settings on my oven (it isn´t a continuous dial). I slightly preheat and use a glass dish. Start on 210 for 20 minutes, then switch to 140 for 15 minutes.

Notes for next time:
- skip the lemon juice
- add more nuts
- try covering with foil for a while to cook, then remove to brown the topping
- can use raisins instead of cranberries. Note that either of these burn easier than the rest.
- can try either corn flour or pancake mix instead of flour

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shake It up, Baby!

January 8, 2009

Shake It up, Baby! Yeah! Twist and Shout - What a way to start off the new year!
We had a doozie of an earthquake today - 6.1, and only about 20 miles away; 1:21 pm CST.

We are fairly used to earthquakes (California gets plenty), but this one was a little different. First, we are in an apartment on the first floor of a concrete building. Fundamentally, I know reinforced concrete is a reasonable material, but deep down, I just *know* that brick (and therefore all brick-like material) is not good for earthquake country. Our place weathered it well tho - no cracks, no falling pieces... Second, the earthquake wasn't sharp - it sort of rolled and sloshed. And it lasted a while!

When it was over, we were in the doorways (conflicting "wisdom" abounds - go for the doorway, or go for a triangle space) - as were our neighbors. We did the usual "wow, some earthquake, huh?" and guessing game as to how big it was. I guessed waaay low (4.5).

The electricity was on for about 15 minutes afterwards (long enough to get the details online), then - off!

Wait! no INTERNET!?!

Oh, what a fragile thing it is - I just now got a connection. I've been out of touch a lot lately...