Asian Beef and Mango Salad

We’re a regular taco night family. It’s an easy meal that we often turn into taco salad night which just means our taco ingredients go over top of crunched up tortilla chips. This time we decided to give taco night an Asian flair.

Take away the tortilla chips and swap out a few ingredients to change up the flavor profile and you’ve got yourself a brand new salad that requires the same amount of prep and cooking time. This meal takes a total of 20 minutes from heating up the first pan to putting the fork in your mouth. Easy peasy.

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Flatbread with Garbanzo and Fava Flour

Low Carb Snacks Using Garbanzo Flour

You may have noticed with some of our low carb recipe posts that we were on the 4 Hour Body diet for about two months playing around with recipes and trying to get more fit. We love the idea of low carb and cutting out wheat/gluten specifically so we started experimenting with bean flours. At the onset of our curiosity we were still living in Costa Rica where you couldn’t find bean flours at all and I suspect if they did have them they would be cost-prohibitive (think $10 per bag of flour), but I was told you could grind your own dried garbanzo beans into a flour if you had a strong food processor or coffee grinder. I looked up a few how-tos on the Internet and just decided to go for it. Dried garbanzos are cheap in Costa Rica, so if I screwed it up it would be no big deal.

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Cauliflower Mashed Faux-tatoes

Experimenting with Cauliflower as Mashed Faux-tatoes

While my husband and I were testing out the 4 Hour Body diet, we started to get a little bored with the food we were eating. I’m sure this was because we weren’t accustomed to strictly eating foods without starch or a high amount of carbs, so we had to learn a whole new repertoire of recipes and understand the increase in amount of food consumed. One noticeable difference in how we were cooking was how much more food we needed to eat since there were no breads, potatoes, pastas, rices or other fillers accompanying the meats, vegetables and legumes.

The 4 Hour Body diet was a hard adjustment to make and we still wanted to make sure we weren’t overdoing the amount of meat we were eating, since this is a large part of the diet. We know the health risks in eating too much chicken, beef, pork and fish, even if they are organic, so we tried to eat a lot more vegetables and legumes instead of gorging on meats. This lead us to explore starch substitutes like garbanzo flour and other bean flours, making vegetable chips for snacks and mashing cauliflower to simulate mashed potatoes.

We wouldn’t be doing justice unless we analyzed the cost of our side dish and while we’re at it, we’ll do a health analysis as well. According to a UK publication: “At around 29p per 100g (roughly one serving), broccoli is rich in a plant chemical called indole-3 carbinol – or I3C – which significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer, according to a recent study. It is also a source of immune-boosting vitamin C.

But cauliflower, at just 18p per 100g, packs a more powerful punch with similar levels of I3C and higher levels of lecithin, a fatty acid that helps lower cholesterol.

It also contains vitamin C and folate, which helps to prevent birth defects, as well as dietary fibre, which aids weight loss. And it’s a native veg so clocks up fewer air miles.

Winner: Cauliflower by a knockout”

While they are usually similarly priced, cauliflower is almost always slightly cheaper and definitely cheaper by weight since they are more dense than broccoli and you’re paying by the head. The average price I’ve found on cauliflower is roughly $2 per head and with mashed faux-tatoes, you will need a medium-sized head for every two people. That’s a pretty sweet side dish and can get pretty close to satisfying your mid-week hankering for some real mashed potatoes.

I’m not sure who coined the term ‘faux-tatoes’ but it’s fun to say and definitely serves it’s purpose. We scoured the internet for low-carb recipes for alternative side dishes and came across a few for faux-tatoes that included chick peas in some, cauliflower in others but a lot of them used cheese, which is a no-no for the 4HB. Without much success in finding a high-quality recipe, I set off to create one of my very own.

Cauliflower Mashed Faux-tatoes Recipe

Cauliflower Mashed Faux-tatoes Ingredients

  • 1 large head of fresh cauliflower
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Cauliflower Mashed Faux-tatoes Directions

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Yes you can use the stem too.

  3. Put the florets into a large pot and fill with water until it just covers them.
  4. Add the mustard seeds, cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp salt to the water.

  6. Bring to a boil and cook until just soft. About 6-8 minutes.

  8. Strain the cauliflower and place back into the empty cooking pot.

  10. Add the butter, rosemary, remaining 1/2 tsp salt and pepper and with a potato masher (I used a submersion blender) and mash to the desired consistency.
  11. Serve hot.

Authentic Babaganoush

Authentic Babaganoush Recipe

Goal of today’s post: to find the most authentic babaganoush recipe possible.

While there isn’t too much authentic foreign food in Costa Rica, something you can find easily is Mediterranean or, more specifically, Lebanese food. With the Lebanese restaurant Sash within walking distance from my office, I am delighted to say we frequently have delicious, low carb, Mediterranean food. Why do I mention ‘low carb’? Well, because my husband and I have started the 4 Hour Body book and diet to see what we can do about toning up our bodies. The result has been great so far, and we’re about five weeks into it. Basically, this means we can’t eat any pastas, rices, fruit, sugars or other foods that are high in carbs (including beer…boooo) except on our cheat day once a week. So, Sash is a great restaurant for this type of diet because it’s all meat and veggies (just avoid the flatbread and desserts).

A typical starter for the table at Sash is the blissful triad of Tabbouleh, Hummus and Babaganoush served with homemade pita-ish flatbread. Tabbouleh is a dish whose main ingredients are cracked Bulgar wheat and curly-leafed parsley flavored with a bit of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Hummus is of course made from chick peas (garbanzo beans), tahini (ground sesame seeds), garlic, cumin, lemon juice and vegetable/olive oil. Finally, the Babaganoush is made from roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and garlic.

We’ll leave the tabbouleh and hummus for a different post, but for now we’re gonna dissect the babaganoush to find the perfect recipe. A few months ago, my co-workers and a few others met up at Sash for some drinks after work when the owner struck up a conversation with us. This then led somehow to the making of babaganoush and he quickly shuffled us back into the kitchen to watch how they made it. The quick version is: roast the eggplant until the skin is black, peel the skin off, pureé, add some junk and serve! Delish.

We’ll break down the recipe below and show you a little twist or two of how we made it our own. It’s a healthy dish that can be made on a budget.

Babaganoush Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 large, fresh eggplant (stem/leaves cut off)
  • 2 Tbsp tahini paste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra Olive Oil and parsley for garnish

Babaganoush Recipe Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to a high temperature broil, or preheat a grill
  2. Slice the eggplant in two length-wise (this step can be omitted, but I prefer this method).
  3. If you’re using the broiler, place the sliced eggplant skin side up on a cookie sheet. If you’re doing it on a grill, place the eggplant skin side down against the flames.
  4. Roast the eggplant for 10-15 minutes until the skin is just turning black, but watch it so the inside of the vegetable doesn’t burn or dry out. There’s no need to flip the eggplant with this method.
  5. Prepare an ice bath and plunge the roasted eggplant into the icebath for 2-3 minutes until it’s cool to the touch.
  6. oven roasted eggplant

  7. Peel off the charred skin, slice into chunks and place into a large food processor (I find a blender doesn’t work very well for babaganoush).
  8. Add the tahini, lime juice, cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin, coriander, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper (you can add more later).
  9. Process until smooth
  10. Serve in a small dish and add a few drizzles of extra olive oil. Best served with warm pita.

Purple Cabbage and Green Bean Salad

Not Just Another Cheap Salad Recipe

If there’s one thing Cheap Food Here is set out to do, it’s get as far away from the stereotype that cheap food is boring. Many think that cheap food is unhealthy or uninventive just because you don’t have the ‘luxury’ of spending an arm and a leg when you’re shopping. The truth is, salads, for example, CAN be boring and uninventive, but a lot of times you just need a great homemade salad dressing to jazz things up a bit. One of our passions at Cheap Food Here is with salad dressings that perfectly balance the oil and vinegar mix in vinaigrettes adding fresh fruit or herbs that provide a natural freshness bottled dressings can’t.

Figuring out alternative ways to make a great, healthy, flavorful salad often starts with a great base. Ice berg lettuce can be a bit tasteless, but has a great crunch, so someone along the way figured out that cutting the head into fourths gives it a fancy style and thus named it a wedge salad. What a perfect cheap salad that is marketed brilliantly. Green leaf and red leaf lettuce add great color and texture with a somewhat delicate texture to contrast the crunch of veggies like cucumber, bell pepper and onion. Romaine on the other hand has crunchy with soft and a whole lot of vitamins and have done wonders with the Caesar Salad.

But don’t forget about cabbage as an option for a base. There are a ton of health benefits of cabbage, but most importantly, Cabbage has more vitamin C than oranges do per serving, is high in fiber and helps with brain function because of it’s high iodine content. The texture is thicker and hardier than lettuce and has a great distinct flavor which pairs well with ingredients you might not expect to find in a salad.

The recipe below combines three unique flavors, giving the salad an Asian flair that pairs well with fish or chicken dishes, like seafood empanadas or chicken empanadas. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine and tell me your thoughts.

Purple Cabbage & Green Bean Salad Ingredients

  • 1/2 head red cabbage
  • 1 cup green beans, ends removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A splash of sesame oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Juice from one Lemon

Purple Cabbage & Green Bean Salad Directions

  1. Thinly slice the cabbage until you have a pile of shreds similar to coleslaw. Place into a large glass or wooden bowl.
  2. In a small pot with boiling water, blanch the grean beans for 2 minutes and then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  3. Then slice the green beans thinly into rounds and place in the mixing bowl with the cabbage.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, toss until evenly coated and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Cheap Salad – Broccoli with Orange Peel and Cashews

This is a great cheap vegan salad that was inspired by a recipe book created by a naturopathic doctor here in Costa Rica. The photos were nice in the ebook, but the recipes didn’t always call for the correct ratios or explain the directions very well. This could be a matter of translation issues but I decided only to ever use the book as a guide for myself. My first clue was that several recipes called for an insane amount of raw garlic, and believe me I love garlic, but I could tell it would have ruined the dish.

Salads are always a favorite of mine probably because of the rich, fresh taste of raw produce and the chance to play around with dressings. Plus, my husband and I have been on a broccoli kick as of late, which has shaped our dinners quite a bit. It isn’t unusual for us to cut up a head of fresh broccoli, steam it and throw some olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and just down it for a full meal. So, when I found this recipe for a broccoli salad, I was hooked. It reminded me of a previous post of a roasted broccoli pasta salad, which I love and make frequently.

So, here is the adapted recipe. It’s easy, quick and delicious so don’t hesitate to make it and let us know what you think. Is it better than the broccoli pasta salad?

Broccoli Salad with Orange Peel and Cashews


  • 1 fresh broccoli head cut into florets
  • Zest from one orange
  • 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Tsp of red pepper flakes
  • Toasted cashews
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Himalayan (or sea) salt and pepper to taste
  • juice from 1 large lemon or 1 small lime


  1. Heat a medium-sized pot to boiling and quickly blanch the broccoli for 1 minute and then plunge into an ice bath.
  2. Toss broccoli in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes to several hours and toss again before serving.

Whole Garbanzo Hummus Recipe

It’s rare for me to find a hummus that I don’t like and there are a million recipes out there for me to try. However, today’s hummus recipe is my very own, no recipe used, but inspired by a hummus I had when I first visited Costa Rica and found a Lebanese restaurant called Lubnan. This place is decorated in a very Mediterranean style, gives off a great vibe and has terrific food. It’s located on Paseo Colón just a few blocks down from La Sabana on the right hand side. On Thursday nights they have a belly dancing show, which is great to take visitors to before sending them off to the beach or canopy tour for the weekend. However, this post isn’t about Lubnan since the prices don’t fit in very well with but the restaurant plays a huge role in the backstory on the fabulous hummus we had there.

We were expecting a fairly traditional hummus when we ordered it, but once it came to the table we realized they left the chickpeas whole and added a few extra ingredients. The hummus was served warm, with whole garbanzos, raw onion and tomatoes tossed in just before serving. Based on taste there seemed to be tahini, garlic (a LOT of it), lemon juice and olive oil in there as well, but I’m not sure about the rest. I had never had hummus like this before with the whole bean used and served warm, but it was amazing. It was served with warm pita bread and I remember being so impressed with the hummus that I wrote down what I thought was in it on a cocktail napkin to refer back to later. This hummus is something that has stuck with me until today, two and a half years later when I needed to make lunch and just happened to have a can of chickpeas handy, but the cocktail napkin has long since disappeared. So, I was left with just my memory.

My husband has struggled lately trying to perfect his own ground hummus recipe. He’s tried dried garbanzos, canned, brining them, slow cooking them, and everything but deep frying them. Not to make fun, but there were a few times where he merely soaked the dried garbanzos without actually cooking the beans. Needless to say, the raw hummus was inedible, poor guy. Since then the hummus has slowly improved but he still hasn’t nailed it yet. So, I decided to take back ownership of the household hummus recipe and change it up a bit.

Here’s the recipe, it turned out fantastic and will definitely stay on the docket for future lunch, dinner or party recipes.

Whole Garbanzo Hummus Ingredients

  • 1 large can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh Roma tomato, seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp reserved chickpea water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • juice from half a lime

Whole Garbanzo Hummus Directions

  1. Drain garbanzos, reserving 2 tbsp of liquid, and pour into a small pot.
  2. Add reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and olive oil.
  3. Put on medium heat and stir until well-mixed and hot throughout.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add lemon juice, chopped onion, tomato and salt and mix well.
  6. Serve immediately with warm pita slices.

Seared Sesame Tuna w/Ginger Carrot Sauce

One of the consistent things happening in my kitchen is the exploration of Asian cuisine and this pan-seared tuna is no exception. The flavors and fresh ingredients used in Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese food have led me to explore the sauces and traditional dishes of East Asia. The Korean kimchi is also super-easy to make and here is a great kimchi recipe from a fellow foodie. One recent variation of a Thai Green Curry was part of an empanada series I did. Check out the recipe on the chicken empanada recipes page. You might also like the wasabi cold pasta salad I did awhile back.

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Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe for garlic roasted cauliflower is more of an extension of a recipe I’ve used with roasted broccoli in a pasta salad. I loved how the other recipe turned out and needed a quick, cheap dish to take to an Easter cookout. To me, cauliflower has a nicer texture to it and is more versatile than broccoli, so it seems natural to make the switch.

We took the dogs to a barbecue where they served up sausages, hamburgers and the staples: guacamole, pico de gallo and refried beans.  Our roasted cauliflower fit in nicely with the spread. Here’s how the recipe goes for 8-10 people:


2 heads of fresh cauliflower
5-6 Garlic cloves sliced into ultra thin rounds (think Goodfellas)
1 whole fresh jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/4 C. olive oil
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh ground pepper


1. Pre-heat oven to 400
2. Clean and cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a large mixing bowl

Whole Cauliflower Cauliflower Florets

3. In a small dish, combine oil, garlic slices, chives, salt, pepper, jalapeño, and onion and mix well.

Mixed spices in olive oil

4. Pour over the cauliflower florets and toss until well-coated.
5. Spread seasoned cauliflower in a single layer on two cookie sheets.

Seasoned Cauliflower

6. Place inside the preheated oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until slightly browned and tender. Stir halfway through cooking.


7. Cover your roasted cauliflower and take to any cookout, or serve immediately.

Cheap Dinner – Red Bell Pepper Frittata

Last night we had cheap food in the form of breakfast for dinner with a simple red bell pepper frittata. I’m not a huge fan of meals with eggs, but with this recipe it has a mixture of eggs and couscous, so it really lighted up the base. I would recommend using a cast iron skillet, but here in Costa Rica they use a heavy aluminum blend, which works just as nice especially if you let it get seasoned up nicely.

Please feel free to use and tweak the red bell pepper frittata recipe below. It serves four people.


  • 2/3  cup  water
  • 1/3  cup  dried quinoa
  • 1  tablespoon  water
  • 3/4  teaspoon  garlic salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  large egg whites
  • 3  large eggs
  • Cooking spray (optional)
  • 2  cups  red bell pepper strips
  • 1  cup  thinly vertically sliced onion
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3  cup  (1 1/2 ounces) shredded gouda with herbs (choose your favorite cheese)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring water to boil in a small saucepan; stir in quinoa. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine 1 tablespoon water, salt, black pepper, egg whites, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in couscous and egg mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until almost set. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.