Cheap Homemade Pumpkin Puree Recipe

Homemade pumpkin puree from a leftover pumpkin

We are just a few days after Halloween and haven’t gotten around to carving our pumpkin. It’s tough in Florida because once you carve the pumpkin, you might have two or three days of a jack-o-lantern before it turns black and rots. So, waiting until the last few days before Halloween is crucial. This year, we let the holiday pass us by without carving the thing so I made sure to have a back up plan for it.

It just so happens that I was invited to a girls night at a friends house with an all-pumpkin theme. At the ladies-only shindig there was pumpkin turkey chili, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin spiced sangria, and we made pumpkin biscuits to go with the chili and roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack. We needed 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree for the biscuits, so onward with the home made kind! We ended up with 10 cups of pumpkin puree using a medium-large pumpkin. There are smaller pumpkins that might work better, but this is what we had already.

Homemade pumpkin puree a great alternative to canned pumpkin and without all the preservatives or steep price tags. You can spice it up or leave it plain until you’re ready to cook all of your pumpkin creations this holiday season.

The process for cheap pumpkin puree is very simple really.

Pumpkin Puree Instructions

  1. Slice off the top of the pumpkin with a butcher knife, just like you do when carving a Jack-o-Lantern
  2. Scoop out the seeds and funk and set aside for cleaning and roasting later
  3. Slice the remaining pumpkin in half and then in half again so you have four pieces that fit on an extra large baking sheet or roasting pan
  4. Cover the cookie sheet with foil and cover the pumpkin pieces in foil as well
  5. Then, bake on 350 degrees for 1.5 hours or until completely tender
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes
  7. pumpkin slices after they are baked

  8. Gently remove the skin with your fingers, using a small paring knife to help if needed
  9. In batches, place pumpkin meat into a food processor with the regular blade attachment and pulse a few times to break up the pieces
  10. Puree in the processor on high until just smooth and there are no lumps
  11. pumpkin puree in the processor

  12. Measure out 2 cups and place into zipper bags or containers for the freezer
  13. Write the contents and date with a permanent marker and place in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or the freezer for up to 3 months
  14. pumpkin puree in 2 cup batches

5 More Ways to Save Money on Food

5 more ways to save money on the food budget

In case you didn’t catch my first post about 5 ways to save money on food, make sure you go back and check it out too. There are plenty of ways to save money on food, and below I have focused on five very important things to keep you on the straight and narrow when you’re in the grocery store. This doesn’t mean boring food, but it could potentially encroach on some of your food crutches that are driving up your monthly food budget and aren’t a requirement for your health. Take a look and feel free to comment any other ideas you have or feedback with your experience with any of the 5 more ways to save money on food.

1. Reduce expensive meat consumption

This is a true sacrifice for most. Americans love meat. There are advertising campaigns for Beef just so you’ll keep craving cattle. And while eating meat at every meal isn’t exactly healthy, it’s a habit the US culture has fallen into. A lot of people are of the belief that you need to eat meat to get the proper amount of protein. But remember, you can get plenty of protein from legumes like beans or lentils and they are a fraction of the cost. When you are looking to control the food budget, meats are one of the easier parts to cut out. But, if you still want to keep it in the meal plan, you can stretch the dollar when buying meat by getting a low-end cut of beef or pork and cook it for half a day in the slow cooker. The Crock Pot is a miracle-worker on tough meat and turns it into a tender morsel after the 10th hour or so.

2. Make homemade snacks

More often than not we find ourselves cruising down the chip or cracker aisle looking for something to throw in a baggie and take to work or to send the kids to school with. However, you need to resist the urge and really look at how much money you spend on processed foods especially snacks. There are healthy recipes all over the internet for home made snacks. For example here is a home made cracker recipe and another more simple cracker recipe that goes great with cheese, hummus dip, garbanzo flatbread, roasted red pepper spread and the list goes on. Taking whole foods as snacks will sustain you much better than processed foods, so when you are making your shopping list, think ahead about what you can buy to make at home or grab that’s as easy as cutting up some apples.

3. Eat in groups

A weekly tradition in our old neighborhood in Charlotte was to have everyone over to someone’s house each week for a pot luck dinner. The host made the main course and everyone else brought a side dish or dessert. Sometimes we’d set a budget limit on the dishes which had the tendency to be the most creative. Themes work well for group dinners and inspires the cooks to branch out of their comfort zone. The key here is to eat in bulk and thus spend less money. It’s far easier to cook for multiple people than just yourself and it’s a lot more interesting to share a meal with a group of people.

4. Eat a healthy, decent-sized breakfast

This tip I can’t stress enough. In order to give yourself the energy you need to be sustained throughout the day, a full healthy breakfast is absolutely necessary. Some people I know eat two breakfasts, one when they first wake up that includes mostly fresh fruit and juice and then once they are up and moving or after their morning workout, they eat a second breakfast of eggs, gallo pinto (beans and rice) with whole grain bread or a bagel. The first breakfast helps you wake up and get moving, while the second breakfast will sustain you until the afternoon when lunchtime rolls around. It’s amazing how much better your day can be and the energy you can find when you’ve filled your body with the fuel of fresh fruit, a protein and whole grain. This keeps you from needing unhealthy, expensive snacks and sodas to give you the false energy you need to make it to lunchtime. Fill yourself up early in the day and you won’t have to eat a huge lunch or snack in between.

5. Use dried goods instead of canned

A little research goes a long way with the cost of dried goods versus canned. When you can find it, the fresh or frozen goods are the most healthy, but in the case of beans or legumes, dried will beat out canned any day of the week. A bag of dried beans will make as much as 5 times more than the same price of beans in cans. BigLots is a great resource for dried goods. Just the other week we found bags of garbanzo beans marked down to $0.25 per bag. It was a rare, but excellent find.

It’s a little more labor intensive to soak and then cook the beans, but you can control the flavor better, avoid weird canning preservatives and of course see an immediate price savings. Our house is full of dried goods including split peas, lentils, garbanzos, black and red beans, etc. A crock pot is also a miracle on dried goods so you can set it to low and come back in a few hours to perfectly cooked beans or lentils.

5 Ways to Save Money on Food

What’s the best way to save money on the food budget?

With food being one of the largest parts of the food budget, we often struggle with how to make cuts without feeling like you’re not feeding yourself or your family properly. This is definitely not the case and I have proved it in my $100 Cheap Food Challenge I wrote about in 2010. This case study does some quick interviews with people to discover that, not only do people have no clue how much they spend each month on food, they think it’s impossible to survive on just $100 per person per month. Now, granted, it is more difficult to live on $100 per month when it’s just one person, but it gets easier as you add more to the household. If you have five members of the family that you’re feeding, it’s easier to limit your food spending to $500 than for the single person to keep it under $100.

While it’s not easy to change your habits, it is easy to reduce the cost of food for the month by following a few simple guidelines. These guidelines aren’t going to suggest you eat off of the dollar menu at fast food restaurants or simply eat rice and beans or Ramen noodles. While those foods are in fact cheap, they end up being expensive in the long run when considering how unhealthy you’ll become and have to pay more for doctors, prescriptions, etc. So remember, just because it’s cheap now doesn’t mean it’s the most cost effective way to eat and live long term.

Most people look at the way they eat as a necessity in life, but it’s amazing how much you can save if you plan, eat the proper diet and take the time to cook at home. The choices you make at the grocery store or convenience store (*gasp!) really affects your budget, even if it’s just $10 at a time. Let’s take a look at the suggestions Cheap Food Here has put together since being on their mission to eat creatively on a modest budget.

1. Don’t eat out!

Believe it or not, eating out is the fastest way to blow through your food budget. It may seem convenient and delicious and trump anything you could make yourself at home, but it’s amazing how much you can save by staying out of restaurants. If you do decide that taking a break from cooking is a must, do it sparingly and don’t order drinks if you can help it. Drinks end up costing as much or more than an extra entree.

Another way to save money is to share an appetizer and an entree. Typically that is more than enough food to satisfy you and you’ve saved the loot from the extra box of carry-out you would have let go bad in the fridge later that week.

2. Ditch the bottled drinks

It goes without saying that you should already ditch the smoking habit if not for the health concerns but for the cost. But in comparison, drinking soft drinks or bottled juices, waters, etc are driving your food budget through the roof! Not only are most bottled drinks unhealthy, they are extremely expensive.

The sale of bottled water dropped by 9% in 2008 and I imagine it’s been going down since then and for good reason. Why not just carry your own water with you when you’re out and about. This cuts back dramatically on cost as well as help reduce trash.

3. Stick to your grocery list

There isn’t anything the retailer wants more than for you to act on impulse during your entire shopping trip. But hey, I know it’s hard to avoid the fancy packaging, the end caps and aisle violators that just insist on having their products jump into your cart. But make sure you know what you’re up against and have a clear objective in mind. Get only the items on your list, put the blinders on and get in and out as fast as possible.

4. Make sure your coupons are actually saving you money

A lot of times it’s not cheaper to use a coupon. If you know which stores to buy your staple items from and check the prices before even leaving the house, you’ll save more money than if you had a brand-named coupon for a product you don’t normally buy. Those manufacturers want you to buy their expensive products, so they try to make you think you’re saving money with a coupon. Most likely there is a different brand without a coupon that will cost less than the brand-name with a coupon, so be careful how you price out products and really look at the end price.

5. Reduce pre-packaged meals

Although it might seem smart at the time to buy the box of macaroni and cheese or the frozen Healthy Choice meal, there is hardly any nutritional value in most pre-packaged meals and considering the portions, you could easily make the same meal from scratch for less money. Buying the ingredients and making it yourself with the proper type of seasonings and salt will be more delicious and healthy. It’s good to make meals in bulk and then freeze them in separate containers when you’re ready for them throughout the week. Be careful when you see pre-packaged meals that look quick and easy; a cost comes with the convenience.

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 flouers 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.

Here’s how the process went for grinding chick peas into flour:

Dried Garbanzo beans

dried garbanzo beans in the food processor

finely ground garbanzo beans

finely ground dried garbanzo beans

The decibel level of sound coming from my food processor was something I’d never heard before. I know dried chick peas are hard, but these little suckers hit the side of the food processor off the blade at a blazing speed and it took a good 5 minutes to pulverize them into a flour. I had to do them in 30 to 45 second bursts because I could feel how hot the plastic and the machine were getting during the process. Overall, if you could choose between making your own garbanzo flour and buying a bag already made, I would suggest skipping the hassle and buying the pre-ground beans. I haven’t ground the beans myself since this initial try. It was just too loud and too much work for me and my food processor.

The first recipe I used the homemade garbanzo flour for was a thick flatbread, which was more like a pancake batter than a cracker. I roughly followed this recipe from Dining and Wine section of the NYTimes. Here’s how my cheap food here version of skillet garbanzo flatbread recipe went:

Skillet Flatbread with Garbanzo Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Garbanzo flour
  • 2 Cups of Water
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1 extra Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp mix dried herbs and spices (rosemary, basil, oregano, cayenne, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into the pan and coat the bottom. Place into the oven while pre-heating.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, pour garbanzo flour, baking powder, spices and salt. With a whisk, mix well.
  4. Add the additional 1 TBSP of olive oil to the dry mixture and blend in.
  5. Pour in the water and whisk until well-blended. Allow batter to sit for up to 12 hours or use immediately, whisking just before pouring into the hot skillet.
  6. Garbanzo Flatbread Batter

  7. Pour into preheated skillet and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges are browned and pulling away from the sides of the skillet.
  8. Skillet Flatbread

  9. Cool for 10 minutes, cut and serve with butter or seasoned olive oil.
  10. Garbanzo Skillet Flatbread

A More Sophisticated Garbanzo Flatbread

After the first attempt at the flatbread we were hooked. It was a copy-cat of the delicious bready carbs we were missing, but without the carbs. Genius! So, once we moved back to the US and landed ourselves in St. Petersburg, FL and could find all kinds of bean flours, I began my next adventure. We settled on the Garbanzo and Fava bean flour made by Bob’s Red Mill in the Gluten-Free section of the grocery store. We are still learning how to properly use these bean flours and haven’t used any gums yet to help bind the flour at this point so bear with us here. The next garbanzo flatbread recipe to come out went like this (adapted from our foodie friend at Smitten Kitchen):

Garbanzo and Fava Flatbread Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups garbanzo and fava bean flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil
  • Approx 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 Cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Approx 1 Tbsp Coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven with pizza stone to 450 for 30 minutes
  2. Pour the garbanzo and fava flour into a medium-sized bowl and mix with the baking powder and salt.
  3. Make a well in the center and pour in the olive oil and water.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon until it is well-integrated and then knead onto a clean work surface 4 or 5 times. The dough should feel oily, but to keep it from sticking to the work surface, sprinkle extra garbanzo flour on the rolling pin, dough and work surface.
  5. Divide the dough into four pieces.
  6. Roll the dough out into long, irregular shapes onto parchment papaer. There’s no need to be precise here just flatten out the dough to about 1/8″ thick.
  7. Baste with extra olive oil and gently press the thyme into the dough so it sticks into it. Stab several times with a fork and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and Asiago cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
  8. Drizzle lightly with honey and cut into pieces.
  9. Devour.

This round of flatbread was to die for! I’m super happy with the way they came out and did devour all but the 4th batch of flatbreads we made that night, and they only lasted until the morning the following day. But don’t worry, we’ll be making more. I hope you try this recipe out and don’t be afraid of the bean flour, everything turns out okay in the end. Plus, this is an extremely low carb snack if you leave off the honey.

Empanada Dough Recipes

Making empanada dough correctly is the hardest part about the whole process of putting together the perfect empanada. I spent some long hours trying to get the dough just right; looking at every recipe on the internet I could find, and then some. I tried recipes with yeast, baking powder, corn flour, butter, shortening, spices, eggs, etc. None of them turned out the way I wanted. To save you time, I have put together a list of empanada mistakes so you can read them without actually experiencing the same problems I had.

Then, it just so happened that I spent some time with an Argentinean chef at one of the beaches here in Costa Rica that we know. I don’t know why I didn’t call him first without bothering with internet recipes. Once I talked to him about my recipe woes, my whole empanada world changed. If anyone knows about preparing those little pockets of heaven, it’s an Argentinian.

He explained a few things to me. First, depending on whether you’re going to bake or fry them, you need to prepare them differently. Fried dough should use solid shortening while baked dough uses butter. If you use butter in a fried dough recipe, you’ll most likely end up with it opening in the hot oil and making a crumbly mess. Shortening works okay in a baked dough, but it changes the consistency of the dough once it’s cooked so it’s best to stick to the rule of cold butter for baked and shortening for the fried variety.

The next key to the baked version of empanada dough is to keep all ingredients ice cold. So, use all purpose flour that has been kept in the freezer, butter that is fresh out of the fridge and ice water to mix. After it’s all mixed it’s crucial to keep the dough in the fridge for at least three hours before using it. This insures that the dough is the right texture and doesn’t become too elastic to work with.

Once you master the empanada dough recipe, you’ll want to explore the filling options for your taste. We have chicken empanada filling recipes, beef empanada filling recipes, pork empanada filling recipes, fish and seafood empanada filling recipes and vegetarian empanada filling recipes.

Here are the two no-fail recipes I use to get the restaurant-quality empanadas you can find at Argentinian steakhouses.

Baked Empanada Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups of Flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1-3 Tbsp dried herbs and/or (non-salted) spices as desired
  • 1/2 Cup cold butter
  • 3/4 Cup ice water

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl mix flour, salt and 1-3 tablespoons of herbs/spices to taste.
  2. Cut the butter into small squares and place in bowl with flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until you have a cornmeal texture. If needed break up large pieces of butter with your hands, but don’t bring up the overall temperature of the mix.
  3. The mixture should be slightly lumpy and look like a coarse cornmeal with the butter well incorporated.
  4. Slowly incorporate 3/4 cup of ice water, adding a little at at time until a dough ball forms. The dough should not be sticky and should be kneaded about 10 times. If needed, add more flour or water to reach the appropriate consistency.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 3 hours).
  6. When you assemble and are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden, but not brown on the underside or the edges.

Fried Empanada Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups of Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1-3 Tbsp dried herbs and/or (non-salted) spices as desired
  • 1/2 Cup room temperature solid shortening
  • 3/4 Cup luke warm water

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl mix flour, salt and 1-3 tablespoons of herbs/spices to taste.
  2. Cut the shortening into small squares and place in bowl with flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until you have a cornmeal texture. If needed, break up large pieces of shortening with your hands.
  3. The mixture should be slightly lumpy and look like a coarse cornmeal with the shortening well incorporated.
  4. Slowly incorporate 3/4 cup of water, adding a little at at time until a dough ball forms. The dough should not be sticky and should be kneaded about 10 times. If needed, add more flour or water to reach the appropriate consistency.
  5. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.

Common Empanada Mistakes

I have been inspired lately to explore empanadas and master the Argentinian style pastry. Traditional empanadas from Argentina are baked or fried with white flour and, when done well, come out with a beautiful flaky texture and have plenty of filling without being hollow or greasy.

I have had empanadas in many restaurants in Costa Rica, such as Donde El Ché, and have been enamored with how beautiful and delicious they turn out. This post is to fill everyone in on the mistakes I’ve made and discovered throughout my exploration in search of the perfect dough and filling recipe. I’d like to share with everyone some tips and tricks as well as things to avoid when making empanadas. Has anyone else had as much trouble as I have getting things right? Once you’ve read the tips below, make sure you try out the recipes I’ve posted for vegetarian empanadas, chicken empanadas, beef empanadas, seafood empanadas or ham empanadas.

Empanada Dough

• Never, never, never use processed doughs if you want true empanadas. This is a shortcut that’s not at all worth it in the end. Once you make your own successfully, you’ll never seek out Pillsbury again.

• When using a recipe with baking powder, know that your empanada will grow in size, but will be very hollow inside. I prefer to have a pocket full of filling rather than air.

• Never use more than one stick of butter or 1/2 cup of shortening for every three cups of flour or you’ll end up with dense, crumbly dough.

• Know that when you have a dough recipe with yeast, you’ll end up with a different texture more like pita bread. If you like this type of dough, great. But don’t expect a recipe with yeast to produce authentic results.

• Jazz up the dough by adding your favorite fresh, dried or powdered herbs and seasonings to the flour before mixing. My favorites include fresh cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, ground oregano, cumin and garlic powder.

• For baked dough use very cold butter and for fried dough use solid shortening.

• Never use oil as this will create undesirable texture of the dough before rolling it out.

• For baked dough, always use ice water, never lukewarm or hot.

• For baked dough, always refrigerate the dough ball for at least 3 hours before assembling your empanadas.

Empanada Filling

• Make sure your filling in not too watery or juicy or it will make the dough soggy.

• To reduce the moisture of your filling, place it in a fine mesh strainer for at least an hour.

• It is a good idea to let your filling cool or even refrigerate it before assembling. Using warm or hot fillings will degrade the dough before baking/frying.

• The best fillings use high quality meats, produce and cheeses. Don’t skimp on quality.

• You need about 2 cups of filling for 12 empanadas.

• Only place 2-3 tablespoons of filling in each.

• Filling ingredients should be in small or fine pieces for best results.

• Slow-cooked fillings are no-fail. Remember to let the filling cool before using it.

Empanada Assembly

•  Roll out the dough on a floured surface without using plastic wrap, parchment or waxed paper. It’s easier to work with the dough on a simple cutting block or countertop.

• Extremely large circle cutters make it difficult to assemble, I stick to 6-8″ circles.

• If your empanada dough is correct, you don’t need to wet the edges to seal them.

• It’s always a good idea to roll out a new piece of dough if you put a hole in it by accident.

• There are many different techniques and styles for closing empanadas and here is a great video that demonstrates many. The family is Latin-American so everything is spoken in Spanish, but she does a great job showing a variety of ways to form the final empanada.

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

Organic Groceries Delivered in Costa Rica- NaturaStyle

We’ve been toying with the idea of getting our groceries through NaturaStyle for several months now (okay, about 9 months) and remembering our delivery service in Charlotte (Absolute Organics), I’m not sure what took us so long.

WHEN DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

NaturaStyle only delivers on Saturdays, so planning is essential. We placed our order the Sunday prior and just survived off of the fridge leftovers in anticipation for the motherload to come the next Saturday. It was very easy to get in touch with Silvia, the one in charge of orders, to verify the time of delivery. They make the delivery schedule the Friday before, so make sure you don’t have plans for Saturday until you know your delivery time.

Ours was scheduled for 10:30am and the guys were less than 30 minutes late, which is considered early here in Costa Rica. Tico Time usually means everything happens around 2 hours after it was scheduled, so we were in great shape. The delivery guys came and were very friendly and helpful to put the groceries in the house. Here is what we ordered, and keep in mind this is all organic:

WHAT DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

• bunch of 4 ripe bananas ($0.30)
• 4 Whole fresh beets with tops ($2.70)
• 2 Large heads of broccoli ($2.73)
• 1 Whole coconut ($0.35)
• 18 pk of eggs ($3.80)
• 1/4 Kilo Goat Cheese ($4.47)
• 1 large bunch green onion ($0.68)
• 8oz jar of Honey ($4.96)
• 6 misc lemons and limes ($1.39)
• 1 bunch lemongrass ($0.75)
• 1 head boston lettuce ($0.90)
• 1 container of whole white mushrooms ($3.23)
• 4 heads of garlic ($1.63)
• Medium Pineapple ($1.25)
• 250g (approx 1 Cup) Raw Butter ($3.79)
• 1 liter Raw Milk ($2.38)
• 3 Bunches of spinach ($1.63)
• 1 Kilo Star Fruit ($0.75)
• 3 Sweet Red Bell Peppers ($2.28)
• 1 Kilo Roma Tomatoes ($4.61)
• 2.3 Kilo Whole Chicken ($13.31)
• 1 loaf whole wheat and herb bread ($1.86)

TOTAL: $64.30

So, as you can see the prices vary. Some items are surprisingly cheap, like the kilo of Star Fruit or a bunch of lemongrass for $0.75. However, some of the other items you would expect to be cheaper, especially here in Costa Rica, like the bell peppers at $2.28 for three. But, the rest is reasonable especially for organic. If you shop at the markets you’ll find better prices, but you can’t beat delivery and the quality is spot on.

The best items we received, when considering flavor, were the bananas, which had a richness we had never tasted before, the star fruit, the bread, and the raw milk. We’ve been reading about raw milk and the benefits of not drinking pasteurized milk, but this stuff is delicious. We’re not too picky about some food but we’re not into buying our garlic from China, because who knows what they’re doing over there and who is regulating what. So, although the organic garlic is expensive, we definitely prefer it.

Check back here for more posts about NaturaStyle and their products.

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.

I have tried buying green star fruit and letting them ripen to a bright orange color, but they are always much more bitter than finding the fruit at the stand that has spent more time ripening on the tree. It really is hit or miss, so if you find a good source for them, stick with it. In Costa Rica there is a farmers market in the Pavas area of San José that has a lot of stands with star fruit, which they call carambola, but we have our favorite of course. You can find the market extending down about 500 meters along the street running beside the Palí in Pavas every Saturday morning.

A great way to use star fruit that I’ve noticed here in Costa Rica is to juice them and combine with sugar and cinnamon for a sweet little cocktail. If you then take the juice and blend it with ice, it’s even better for the summer.

HOW TO SLICE A STARFRUIT

1. First choose the best, most ripe starfruit with slight green edges and rich orange color

Starfruit-How-to-5

2. Using a sharp butcher knife, slide the blade down the green edges of the star fruit being careful only to remove the non-orange edge.

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3. Once the edges are removed, slice off the two ends. Only remove about 1/2 inch, not too much. At this point your fruit should have no more green or brown areas.

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4. Next, slice the trimmed starfruit across the broad side, into star shapes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick

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5. You’ll notice that your slices have seeds in them, mostly in the middle pieces. These should be removed with the tip of the knife.

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6. Star fruit is a very fun-shaped fruit, so get creative with how you plate it. It also makes a great garnish, and in Costa Rica (in Spanish is called ‘carambola’) they are plentiful and cheap. They are a great snack with a little sprinkle of cinnamon, as a juice drink, or to use in salads. They are versatile, so find your favorite way to use them and enjoy!

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ADDING STARFRUIT TO YOUR DIET

You can add star fruit to your diet in a variety of ways. My favorite is in a fruit salad, but it is also a great compliment to a green garden salad or a chicken dish that uses coconut. Anything dish that combines sweet and savory is a great one to garnish with starfruit or use within the recipe.

Here are a few starfruit recipes to get your started:

Starfruit, Orange and Mango Smoothie

serves 4

INGREDIENTS

• 3 Cups of fresh orange juice
• 3 Ripe starfruit, trimmed and de-seeded
• 4 slices of starfruit, trimmed and de-seeded
• 1 mango peeled, pitted and cubed
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 Tablespoon of honey (optional)
• 2 Cups of ice cubes.

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into 4 large juice glasses and garnish each with a star fruit slice. Serve immediately.

Herbed Green Salad with Starfruit

INGREDIENTS

• 1/4 cup sliced almonds
• 1 head romaine lettuce, leaves torn (6 cups)
• 1 starfruit seeded and diced
• 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
• 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
• 10 chives, chopped
• 4 to 5 tablespoons Italian vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 400° F. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, star fruit, parsley, cilantro, chives, and almonds with the vinaigrette.

Coconut and Starfruit Baked Chicken

INGREDIENTS

* 4 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
* 1.5 cups chicken stock
* 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
* 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
* 1 teaspoon salt
* juice from 2 starfruit (clean and de-seed fruit, blend and strain)
* 1 starfruit sliced into thin stars
* 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 325° F. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the garlic, cayenne, and lime zest; set aside.
2. Place the rice in the baking dish. Combine the chicken stock, coconut milk, cilantro, salt, and starfruit juice and pour onto the rice. Arrange the chicken on top of the rice. Cover with foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through.
3. Remove the foil, sprinkle the coconut on top, and cook 5 minutes more or until the coconut is browned. Dish out and serve with starfruit garnish.

Star Fruit on FoodistaStar Fruit

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Farmers Market Pavas

Until about a month ago, we had been buying all of our groceries at the local supermarkets. We tried AutoMercado, Perimercado, Mas X Menos, Saretto, MegaSuper, PriceSmart, Palí and Hipermas trying to test out which has better quality of food, price per unit/measure and variety. I haven’t given my full research post yet, but it’s in the works. However, for now, we are realizing that some items, certainly not all, are cheaper at the markets. But, don’t be fooled, not everything is cheaper at the ‘ferias’.

Our regular shopping list includes onion, bell pepper, garlic, chicken, fish, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, broccoli, green onion and various fruit items. Finding cheap food in Costa Rica is much harder that it would seem and unfortunately for the citizens of this country, the cost of living has been rapidly rising for the last 5-10 years. So, the cost of food items is high along with the luxury and imported items we North Americans are used to. The grocery stores range in price on all items, as do the markets around San José.

Farmers market Costa Rica 1 Costa Rica Farmers Market 2

We have become regulars at the Saturday Pavas feria in our neighborhood adjacent to the Palí. The market runs from sun up to late afternoon and stretches about 500 meters down a through street (other than on Saturdays) with vendors on both sides. The people are friendly and the food is fresh, but do make sure you are getting a good price, specifically on eggs. I have found that they are no less expensive here than at any of the supermarkets. Buying frozen fish is certainly priced fair, as well as most of the produce. We can walk in with c 10,000 (about $18) and fill four reusable grocery bags. The flowers are beautiful as are the artisans handiwork available.

Grilled zucchini

Grilled veggies over coconut rice

When we got home after the second or so visit, we knew the best option for dinner was grilled zucchini and bell peppers over coconut rice. I don’t know what the open flame does to food but it always takes things up a notch. We’ve got a few other cheap grilling recipes on the site like grilled potatoes with onions and jalapeños and burgers with pineapple salsa. Also, check out the Food Costa Rica category to where you can find cheap food in Costa Rica.