Monthly Archives: September 2012

Costa Rica Cooking …

For the last 4 months, my food choices here in Costa Rica have centered on fresh products and creative cooking, thanks to my son Gabriel who has an allergic digestive system that must be catered to or all hell breaks loose! I learn something new about fresh-ingredient cooking every time I watch him cook. So here are three results of rapt attention to detail that you might enjoy trying out your own self…

Fried Rice with Seafood
You know those little packets of chilis that come with pizza? Put a packet of that, along with a T butter, in 2 cups of water, add 1 cup rice, bring to a boil, turn down to simmer until the water is cooked off. The trick in warm climates is that rice NEVER goes into the refrigerator. Use of a lid on the pot is enough, and if you eat all the rice in various ways within a couple days, you’re good to go. Just like bread, putting rice in the refrigerator changes the chemistry and it becomes just a lump of starch without any redeeming gastronomical value.

Now finely dice 1 stalk celery, 4 cloves of garlic, half a red onion and half a package of mushrooms. Finely chopped is the key here. To 1 T each of butter and olive oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, add half of the finely chopped items. Stir fry until the garlic begins to get a bit browned. Add 1 cup of your choice of mixed shell and regular small-sized diced fish. The fish I used included octopus, bass, salmon,  calamari and muscles. Stir until fish begins to cook, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp of Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce, kosher or sea salt/pepper/dried basil to taste, then transfer everything in the pan to a bowl and cover it with aluminum foil then a plate. It will continue to cook as you finish up with the fried rice.

Now put another 1 T each of olive oil and butter into that same pan and heat on the high side of medium until melted, then adding the rest of the finely chopped items. Stir fry the veggies until they’re looking pretty cohesively warmed with the mushrooms giving off their juice. Now add a little more than a cup of that cooked rice that is at least at room temperature, if not just finished cooking. You want to brown the rice now, so let it cook, then stir, then cook, then stir, until you see the rice has some nice browned pieces throughout.

Pour the rice onto a plate, pour the fish over it, sprinkle half a lime’s juice over it, then about 2 T of chopped cilantro. Fantastic!!! Enough for 2 people, although I became so enraptured with the taste, I ate it all in one sitting.

Believe it or Not: Spicy Pasta

Boil the pasta in salted water with a T of butter until al dente. Leave pasta in water, put a lid on it, then do the sauce.

Coarsely chop half a red onion, as many cloves of garlic as you like (I use 5), and brown in 1T each butter and olive oil. After garlic and onion are beginning to brown, add a small fresh diced tomato and stir until it begins to get limp, then add some meat of your choice – I used about half a cup of hamburger – and cook until the meat’s done. Add salt, pepper, dried basil, dash of cayenne and about 1/2 tsp of Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce, stir well. Butter (or not) several pieces of baguette and place atop the sizzling sauce, cover, take off the heat and let the bread warm up for about 2 minutes or so.

Drain pasta, put on a plate, put small slices of some kind of cheese atop the pasta, pour the sauce over the cheese, the slices of bread around the plate and there’s your momma! Again, enough for two, altho if your taste buds govern the “full” meter of your tummy, you might overeat… just sayin’

Fresh Fruit Granita

In a blender, put juice of  2 oranges and 2 limes. Add 1 pint of fresh strawberries and 6-8 packets of Splenda. Blend well. Pour into shallow plastic container or pan , cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Take out of freezer and let sit for about 5 minutes before dragging/scraping a spoon over the top of the frozen concoction, gathering sweet mouthfuls of guilt-free deliciousness whenever necessary.

One last thing… consider a fresh peeled beet placed in the midst of cooking red beans. If you use canned red beans instead of making them yourself, dice the beet – fresh beet, fresh beet – into chunks and cook them in the sauce provided with the beans from the can until the beet is cooked. Yummy! Add spices of your choice, keeping the beet in mind… perhaps some processed horseradish and cooked sausage? Double yummy!

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It’s Raining…

 

ImageThis image is courtesy of: http://goinglikesixty.com/2012/09/visit-costa-rica-in-rainy-season-sure-why-not/

The REAL rainy season has begun. Up until now the mornings were warm by 7am and my clothes would dry on the line within 2 hours. Now I can’t predict each day like I had been since I arrived in late May. Now if I’m lucky enough (?!) to wake up with the sun around 4:30-5 am I get to see a landscape reminiscent of Portland at the turn of a purely clear brilliant day when Fall is in the air and school is going to start soon… When there’s a certain look to the sun on the trees and an occasional cool breeze. That beautiful landscape  lasts now for maybe a couple hours, because by 7 or 8 am the clouds start rolling in, the wind picks up, it might sprinkle at any time, usually there’s a real downpour by noon and the rest of the afternoon is overcast and windy, accompanied by showers, sprinkles or downpours, again, and then it all might repeat, again.

Now… I’m not sayin’ that it’s like this every day during the rainy season. Just most days during September and October, tapering off in November when it begins to get really hot and dry for the next three months. (That’ll be a blog in and of itself!)

The official rainy season in Costa Rica is said to begin in May, the dry season in November. One of the folks who has lived on this property for three years told me the other day that he’s never seen it be so wet. The guy who writes the blog where I filched the picture above has details he logged about the rainy season; one of which was that the most amount of rain he received on his property in a 24-hour period- last year – totaled 2.5 inches. And that in one month the total was something like 13 inches of rain. And it’s wetter now than in the past three years? Gaaaaccckkkkk!

These details were recorded during either September or October… two months during the year when you’d better have an inside hobby that doesn’t need an electrical outlet for tv, radio, phone, or computer. Thunder and lightening haven’t been discussed thus far, but suffice it to say, when they do arrive at this time of year, they are magnificent and induce whimpering in the best of us at times.

A Busy Time in a Relaxed State of Mind…

 

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Here’s the story of what happened this week: It’s Wednesday, right? Okay, I’ve had three conversations about a potential volunteer position in the school system, rode my living room chair during an earthquake, been invited to an Expate Conversational Spanish Coffee Clutch, gone to the Central Market in Heredia with a new friend for an incredible lunch,  and walked up the hill home from Santa Barbara twice! I can now step out of my slacks at the end of the day without unzipping them! WooHoo!!

I was told by The Women’s Club that there was an opportunity to assist English Teachers at the preschool level by having scripted conversations with their students.

When I went to meet the man who oversees English Teaching in the province of Heredia, he told me that the volunteer position entailed actually teaching English to first graders and following them through sixth grade. No syllabus, no rules… just go and play for an hour with a class of four students. What he meant was that I needed to create the class goals and assignments, plus the plans for each class, on my own, but that I had total latitude about how I wanted to approach the task. He would be willing to help, if I needed it.

This gentleman is a very persuasive and enthusiastic individual. I told him that his idea was different than that given to me originally and that it sounded intriguing but that I’d have to think about it. I asked about supporting tools, books, flash cards, etc. He gave me a couple of procedural handbooks to read and we made an appointment to meet this morning to go out to the school and meet the principal and the English teacher (who he told me he’s not to happy about) along with the woman who referred me from The Women’s Club.

After the earthquake yesterday Senor called to see if I was alright and how I was feeling about the opportunity to teach. I told him that I was not feeling that I had the experience or willingness to be the volunteer he needed for this project. That I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work it would entail to do the job correctly for the kids.

Last night he texted saying I was going to love the kids and I’d be a great addition to their experience with English. I replied that I remained concerned about my ability to be as effective as his need for this volunteer position, and that perhaps it would be better to consider me for other options that weren’t so difficult from my perspective.

So, we met this morning and now I’m his personal assistant for 2 mornings a week in his office instead of the teacher he was most insistent I should be. Whew, you might ask… how the heck did that happen? Well, he wants me to go with him to proctor English teachers and give him feedback on their ability to connect with the children and to determine how well they understand the language itself. Also, since I’m proficient on the computer, to do research for him on the web and whatever else he comes up with that’s office assistant related.

So, there you have it. It’s only Wednesday and now I have a volunteer job with the School District. Jeesh. And the woman from The Women’s Club offered to have me join a discussion group she’s been going to for the past 12 years where Expates speak Spanish over coffee once a week. I have to learn basic conversational Spanish before I go, so that’ll happen in a couple of months.

So, it all turned out great! I’m happy! And I’ve made sure to have my afternoons available for babysitting cuz that’s my primary goal here.

I just have to add that I found myself coming up to the property after my uphill trek this morning, realizing that I’ve become one of the seniors that simply stroll for the unabashed pleasure of it…. because I can. I’ve slowed down so much that I’m shocking myself. I am totally into the not doing much of anything mode.