Cinnamon Soy Milk Pancakes

Soy milk recipes seem to be in demand these days, as my other soy milk alfredo sauce recipe has been found a lot recently. I’m not sure I’ve really discovered the intricacies of using soy milk instead of regular milk, but so far it just seems to be a similar substitute with a little more reduction time needed and perhaps some flour or corn starch.

However, for recipes such as pancakes, fluffiness is really important especially if you’re swapping out ingredients like soy milk. You need to play with the consistency of the batter a little bit and thicken it up in order to get them fluffy. Just as crepes need more eggs and milk to make the batter thin and very runny, thick fluffy pancakes need more flour and baking powder. Here is the recipe I used with soy milk instead of milk from a cow and coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

CINNAMON SOY MILK PANCAKE INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour, sifted (or double sifted if you’re adventurous)
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1+ cup vanilla soy milk

CINNAMON SOY MILK PANCAKE DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, preferably with a spout, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.Cinnamon-Soy-Milk-Pancakes-3
  2. Add the eggs, coconut oil, vanilla and milk and stir for 3-5 minutes until well mixed and not clumpy (but the batter shouldn’t be lumpy if you’re sifting the flour first).Cinnamon-Soy-Milk-Pancakes-2
  3. Heat a large pan or skillet on medium-high heat and put a small amount of butter in the pan.
  4. Pour in batter to any amount depending on how big you want your pancakes. Wait until you see small bubbles appear on the top of the pancake and then flip.Cinnamon-Soy-Milk-Pancakes-1
  5. After about 30 seconds, check the bottom of the pancake with a spatula to see if it’s golden brown.
  6. When it’s reached optimal color, remove from pan and repeat step for and 5 until the batter is gone.
  7. Top with 100% pure maple syrup, not that fake stuff in a shaped bottle.

Wasabi Cold Pasta Salad

As I’ve mentioned in a few other cheap pasta salad blog posts, like roasted walnut and broccoli pasta salad, tuna pasta salad, and southwest chicken stew, I’ve got an affinity for finding anything I can in the cupboard and  refrigerator and tossing it in some pasta. It’s a great way to make a salad heartier than if you just use lettuce as the base. This time I was inspired by the star-shaped pasta that I found recently and the wasabi paste that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few weeks (okay, months…). So, before heading out for the day with the dogs to a waterfall park about an hour out of San Jose, I put together the following pasta salad.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Feel free to tweak this pasta salad recipe for more or less kick.

WASABI COLD PASTA INGREDIENTS

• 1/2 of a 500 gram bag of small pasta (spirals, stars, orzo, etc)
• 1 Cup of blanched fresh broccoli
• 1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and diced
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• 1 Cup of frozen peas
• 1 Tbl fresh cilantro
• 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove of minced garlic)
• 1 Tbl wasabi paste
• 1/8 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 Tbl Sesame oil

WASABI COLD PASTA DIRECTIONS

1. Bring a medium sauce pan filled half way with water to a boil
2. Stir in pasta and cook to al dente, drain and rinse with cold water
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until well-coated and properly combined
4. Chill combined Wasabi Cold Pasta Salad for an hour and serve.

Sweet Potato Chips (aka Boniato or Batata Chips)

A food that everyone else seems to love that I never really got into growing up or even as an adult was sweet potatoes. It’s not something that I ever ate at Thanksgiving, even if it was full of brown sugar with marshmallow topping. Call me crazy, but I never liked it. However, not too long ago a friend of mine made sweet potato fries and I’ve had them as well at restaurants before, and the sweet and salty combo was really delicious.

It wasn’t until my recent order of delivered organic groceries that I considered making sweet potatoes of my own. Plus, the version here in Costa Rica is called the Boniato or Batata, which has a purple skin and is white inside and with a different type of sweetness. When I came to them on the NaturaStyle list, I remembered the fries I had in the past and my friend’s affinity for Costa Rican coconut oil and decided now was the time to try them.

I decided on chips instead of fries and I absolutely loved them. It was a perfect sweet/savory snack and will be a regular on the list of party snacks. Here is how the recipe went:

SWEET POTATO CHIP INGREDIENTS

• 1 Kilo of sweet potatoes, boniatos or batatas
• 2 Cups of Coconut Oil
• 1 Tbl of coarse sea salt
• 1 Tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley

SWEET POTATO CHIP DIRECTIONS

1. Pour coconut oil into a large, deep skillet and heat on medium to medium-high heat (the oil should glisten and send up a slight wisp of smoke when properly heated.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-3
2. While the oil is coming to temperature, peel the potatoes and slice them to 1/8″ thick.
3. Place the slices of potato in the pan until no more will fit without overlapping.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-1
4. Cook for 4-6 minutes, turn with a set of tongs and cook for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown. For crispier chips, allow them to come to a rich brown color, but be careful not to burn them.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-2
5. Remove the cooked slices and place on a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and allow to cool.
6. Repeat steps 3–5 until you’ve used all of the potato slices.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-4

How to Slice and Eat a Star Fruit

CHOOSING THE RIGHT STARFRUIT

Seeing a star fruit (or starfruit) in the grocery store can be a little intimidating or seem ‘too exotic’ if you’ve never sliced and eaten one your self, but don’t be scared, it’s delicious and easy. The best looking star fruit may not be the most ripe and delicious, so choosing the right one is important. Your best bet is to find the fruit with the least amount of green on the edges and the richest orange color. This could mean there are some brown edges, but if they are small, that indicates it’s at its optimum ripeness.

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Arepas with Beef, Bean and Cheese Filling

I was introduced to arepas for the first time while living in Charlotte and eating with my friends Juan and Caty. Caty (Catalina) is from Venezuela and loves to cook arepas. She has an arepa-maker, which makes cooking them easier, but I was told how to prepare and cook the dough on the stove top. I have had a failed attempt at making papusas because I used the wrong dough, so it’s very important to have the good starting ingredients or you’re doomed to fail.

A LITTLE AREPA HISTORY

Latin America has a million and one uses for corn. Some examples include bread, tortillas, tamales, empanadas and buñuelos, as well as to prepare drinks such as atole, champurriada, guarapo, mazato, champus and chicha. It is also used in soups, ajiaco, guisos, masamorra and polenta. With all of the options for corn, I’m convinced the arepa is the winner.

Back at the turn of the 20th century, the indigenous people of Columbia would beat the corn on the inside of a hollowed out tree trunk (called a pilón) so that skin would break away and be discarded. Then the insides would then be boiled and ground on a concave stone and formed into a dough. Luckily a Costa Rican friend of mine gave me the arepa dough and a few tips on getting the consistency correct as well as cooking them on the stove top.
Check out the arepa recipe below and enjoy.

AREPA INGREDIENTS

AREPA DOUGH
2 Cups of Arepa Flour
2 Cups of warm water
1 Tablespoon of softened butter
1/2 Teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
A pinch of salt

FILLING
1 1/2 Cups of cooked ground or shredded beef seasoned with chipotle peppers.
1/2 Cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 Cup of cooked and seasoned black beans

AREPA DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the warm water slowly into the arepa flour, pepper and salt until it’s well mixed and a firm dough.

How to Make Arepas

2. Fold the softened butter into the dough until well blended.
3. Break the dough into four equal parts and form rounded patties.
4. Heat a non-stick or stainless pan on medium-high heat and place in the four arepa patties, cook for 6-7 minutes on each side until golden brown and slightly crisp on both sides.

Arepas in the pan

5. Meanwhile, in two other pots heat the beef filling in one and the beans in the other.
6. Cut the arepas in half and fill with beef, cheese and beans. ENJOY!

Arepas Assembled

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Homemade Crackers

We’ve been living in Costa Rica for just over a year now and we have been feeling much healthier than we’ve ever felt in the United States. That’s not to say the food here is more healthy all around but fast food and unhealthy snacks are not available in every color, shape, size and flavor imaginable like they are in the States. We have McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, etc but they aren’t on every street corner, so it’s not nearly as convenient as it is in the US where there are 5 within eyesight at any given time.

We’ve tried taking as much unhealthy, processed food out of our diet as possible, but it’s difficult finding snack foods that are healthy. We eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, but we seem to be missing that potato chip replacement. I love crackers and in the health food stores in the US there is a glorious variety of whole grain, non-MSG-laced crackers, but there are none to be found here in Costa Rica (except maybe in the over-priced AutoMercado, but as you know from my very first post on this blog, I try to stay away from those types of stores.

So, I set out to make some crackers and my first attempt was a successful one. I used Whole wheat flour (also, very hard to find and there’s only two varieties, I opted for the imported variety from the US), olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, ground cayenne and parsley. My mind was racing with cracker flavors but I wanted to keep the first batch simple. Here is the recipe:

HOMEMADE CRACKER INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (extra for topping)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (extra for topping)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

TOOLS

rolling pin
medium-sized stainless steel mixing bowl
wooden spoon
whisk
pizza stone
brush baster
fork

HOMEMADE CRACKER DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and sea salt until mixed.
2. Add the water and olive oil and stir together until the dough is not too sticky or dry (add extra water or flour if the consistency is wrong).
3. Knead dough for 2-4 minutes on a floured countertop and then break dough into 12 small dough balls and set aside with a towel or plastic wrap to rest for 45 minutes
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a pizza stone inside (if you are using cookie sheets instead, preheat them as well)
5. Take the rested dough balls and use the rolling pin to flatten the ball into a long strip about 1/4 to 1/8″ thick, brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and fresh chopped parsley.
6. Slice the strip into pieces of your size preference and poke holes in the dough with the tines of the fork several times (to keep from puffing)
7. Place slices (and any other extra toppings you choose) on the hot pizza stone and cook until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Cook in small batches. Yields 24-36 crackers.

Healthy, Cheap, Homemade Dogfood

Recently we have looked closer at our dog’s food. We have two dogs, Toby and Bailey, who are about 60 lbs each. Bailey is getting older and thus has arthritis in her back knee, which significantly cuts into her ability to run after the tennis ball. She ignores it but limps most of the time, especially after a long play session or lake swimming.

Toby&Bailey

Not too long ago, we were turned onto a sure-fire ‘cure’ to her arthritis in the form of homemade dog food packed full of nutrients that are supposed to help reverse the affects of arthritis. We had tried glucosamine and anti-inflammatory pills, to no avail, we thought it was worth a shot. It had to be healthier for the dogs than the bagged dry dog’s food anyway.

We’ve had the dogs on the food for over two weeks now and have been giving Bailey extra vitamin C to help her immune system and we’ve seen a lot of progress. Her limp is almost gone except for after play, in which case it is short-lived. Both dogs’ coats are shinier and they don’t seem to be shedding as much, however that might just be coincidence this time of year.

We are hoping for more progress and two extra-healthy dogs for the rest of their years. The food is also reasonable to make, only about $6 per batch, which lasts our two big dogs 7 days when mixed with a little dry dog food. We give each dog 3/4 of a Solo cup full of the homemade dogfood and top off the cup with the dry food, twice per day.

Here’s the recipe:

HOMEMADE DOG’S FOOD INGREDIENTS

3 cups of uncooked brown rice
2 cups of uncooked barley
2 cups of chopped raw carrots
2 cups fresh chopped beet root
1 cup fresh chopped beet tops
1 cup fresh spinach chopped
2 cups chicken livers
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dry or fresh sage
12 cups of water

HOMEMADE DOG’S FOOD DIRECTIONS

1. Combine ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil.
2. Simmer for 1 hour.  Keep pot covered, stirring every 15 minutes.
3. Add water as needed.

Homemade Dog food-grainsHomemade Dog food-carrotsHomemade Dog food-cooking

Carrot on FoodistaCarrot

Cheap Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Walnuts and Parmesan

So, i was looking to jazz up our lunch options last Sunday and had just visited the organic food market in Escazú (as you read in the last post). I have seen recipes call for roasted garlic before, but never tried it. So, I decided now was the time. I looked for other ingredients to make a good pasta salad to last for a few extra days this week, and came up with some walnuts and Parmesan cheese. A perfect mix. The salad turned out great, and roasted broccoli has a more hearty flavor than steamed, which was nice for this recipe. Enjoy!

broccoli mixture roasting in the oven

broccoli mixture roasting in the oven

ROASTED BROCCOLI PASTA INGREDIENTS

12 oz Small Shell Pasta
1 Bunch of Fresh Broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 C. Walnuts coarsely chopped
1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, pan seared and smashed
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1/4 C. Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper

ROASTED BROCCOLI PASTA DIRECTIONS

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Cook pasta according to package and reserve 1/2 C. of water when draining.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, toss broccoli, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until coated.
4. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, turning once.
5. Toss broccoli mixture with pasta, butter and reserved pasta water until well-coated and add the Parmesan cheese.

Broccoli on FoodistaBroccoli

Cheap Southwest Chicken Stew

The rainy season finally showed up here in Costa Rica, which is the only chance of simulating any type of winter. And with winter, comes soups, stews and chili. This is when I started thinking about cheap food that I could make last a couple of days, and out came the southwest chicken stew. I’ve had some chipotle sauce in the fridge I’ve been eyeing the past few days and my husband made some blackbeans for gallo pinto, so I coupled that with some fresh sweet corn from the organic market on Wednesday in Escazú, added a little ‘this and that’ for an ultra successful TexMex dinner.

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Cheap Food – Burgers with Pineapple Salsa

Finding a good burger joint in Costa Rica has proven difficult even though ironically, one of the country’s major exports is beef. One place we’ve found in our neighborhood is Jettsy, which has a great bacon cheese burger with fresh french fries. They are good, almost great, but not extraordinary like so many places you can find in the US (Big Daddy’s Burger Bar, Fuddruckers, etc.) who have more toppings than you could ever imagine.

After considering opening a burger place just to have class A beef and all the toppings Costa Rica has to offer, this weekend toiled with a few recipes and cooked a batch on our grill with Willingham’s seasoning of course. We topped them with pineapple-jalapeño salsa, some fresh farmer’s market tomatoes, sauteed green beans and grilled plantains.

Pineapple Jalapeño salsa is an awesome sweet-spicey kick that ordinary burgers need. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 Cup of chopped fresh pineapple (canned if you MUST, but fresh is way better)
• 1 Fresh Jalapeño seeded and finely chopped (do NOT used canned/jarred, it’s just not the same)
• Juice from 1/2 a lime
• 1 large garlic clove, minced
• 1 Tsp Kosher salt
• 1 Tsp fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:
1) Mix all ingredients into a small bowl
2) Let mixture sit for an hour
3) Serve atop your favorite burger