My husband and I have been on the prowl for cheap restaurants in St. Pete ever since moving here this time last year. We’ve discovered a few gems that I have yet to post about, but will soon. We recently discovered that a new diner opened up close to where we live, just down MLK from us and there was always a packed parking lot on Saturday and Sunday mornings, which is a good indication of how the food is.
Here’s a quick recipe based on a great recipe post for the best buttermilk biscuits from a fellow foodie, Pinch My Salt. I wanted to whip up a batch of my famous biscuits with chives and cheddar that I usually make, but this time I had buttermilk (powder). It’s actually not that difficult to make your own buttermilk from scratch and there’s a great article here that can show you the way. All the better my biscuits have become with the addition of buttermilk.
We hit another cheap food destination while on the Caribbean side last weekend. In case you didn’t see our other cheap breakfast post about La Botanica Organica, make sure you check it out. This particular Sunday was rainy on-and-off, which is typical Caribbean weather, but we didn’t care much. We had our sites on this little well-known breakfast nook in Puerto Viejo.
The restaurant and bakery is on a rustic porch similar to most restaurants in the area and unlike the usual weekend morning, there was a table open for us when we arrived. The place was filled with friendly faces and delicious food and coffee in front of most. To be honest, before even going in, our friends had told us the best part of the selection is the homemade chocolate brownies, so we were looking every which way to catch a glimpse before sitting down. And we found them, on a bamboo display not far from our table.
Our friends, whom we were visiting, work at a nearby hotel and thus know most other hotel and restaurant owners, so immediately upon arrival to Bread and Chocolate, the Maryland native owner came over. He was a great guy and being a born-and-raised Marylander myself, we reminisced about blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning before we ordered. The menu itself wasn’t huge, but it was full of meal descriptions that made me want to try them all. I was absolutely torn as to what I should order, so I of course asked my husband to split two (out of 6) of the dishes we were both curious about.
We settled on a fried egg sandwich (fried hard to my liking of course) served on a bagel with homemade home fried potatoes and an order of biscuits and gravy. Keep in mind we’re in Costa Rica here and biscuits and gravy isn’t something you can really find anywhere, so we were psyched about the prospect. The fried egg sandwich was served on our choice of an everything bagel, which was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be. Not the way Bagelman’s makes them in the city. To our delight the potatoes were seasoned perfectly and while the biscuits were slightly dry, the unique mushroom gravy that topped them more than made up for it. My husband and I divided both plates in half and devoured our servings in no time flat.
So, after breakfast and another two cups of joe, we grabbed our brownies to-go. I chose the mint variety while our friends got the walnut type. When we got back to our friend’s Bali-style house on the beach we hung out with the dogs and later dove right into our mint brownies heated and topped with chocolate ice cream. It was bliss, I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint chocolate brownie before, knowing my affinity for mint chocolate chip ice cream, but this was awesome. The outside had a slight crust and the inside, extra fudgy. Heaven.
We can’t say enough positive things about Bread and Chocolate. We wished we could have tried everything on the menu and each dessert in the glass case, but our budget didn’t permit, so we’ll just have to wait until the next trip down there. Pura vida Bread and Chocolate!
La Botanica Organica
On our recent trip to the Caribbean side, we discovered that the best restaurants are the breakfast ones. There aren’t a ton open before 9am but there are a few that we went to and fell in love with. The first morning we were there our local friend brought us to a little place called La Botanica Organica (make sure you like their Facebook page), who has the freshest, most organic produce you can find around Puerto Viejo.
From their page:
Breakfast and Lunch Menu:
Super Goji Berry and Hemp Seed Granola…Whole wheat Pancakes.. Whole Wheat French Toast, Organica Eggs.. Organica Coffee and tea.. Lentil Burgers.. Hummus Sandwiches.. Fresh Salads.. Lunch Specails.. Vegan, Veggi and Raw and Gluten Free Options!
In the Shop: Everything from Tea Tree Oil to Natural Deodorants and Toothpaste.. tinctures.. natural Medicines.. Essential Oils.. Incense .. Crystals.. Special Ordering available
While most small farms in Costa Rica can’t afford the official certification for organic status, some are abiding by all best practices and with a tour of the farm you can see it for yourself. These small farmers are sought out by the owner of La Botanica Organica and they have an open and honest working relationship. One of the goals of the restaurant is to help the local economy so they don’t grow the food themselves, but rather support those in the area. It’s a great concept.
When we walked in we immediately noticed the concrete floors (mainly because my husband is now doing decorative concrete) with imprints of Costa Rican flora. It was rustic, yet modern, just how we like it and it fit in perfectly with the foliage creeping in from all sides of the place.
The rest of the charming decor included rustic wood benches and tables with centerpieces poised with local flowers and verigated leaved plants. They had their morning delivery of produce spread out on a back table which allows you to see just what your prepared food is made of. The kitchen is open where you can see a few locals running around putting together everyone’s orders. The macrobiotica on site is just off of the main patio for easy access after you eat.
We started off with cups of rich organic Costa Rican coffee and for me (a ‘coffee-only-in-case-or-emergencies’ drinker) a cup of hot herbal tea with dried tropical fruit, lemon grass and other local herbs. We quickly moved on to our breakfasts of organic whole wheat pancakes with fresh pineapple topping, a free-range egg scramble with broccoli, onion, bell pepper and feta cheese with fresh baked whole grain bread (amazing!) and a bowl of fabulous granola and local yogurt with goji berries. The three of us tried each others food and agreed that we picked a place that will become a regular stop for us. We live in San Jose, but plan to make it back to the Caribbean side more often.
When we were done we felt satisfied and reminded again why we live here. The owners are from California and have adapted well to living the pura vida life. They contribute to the local economy, make delicious food which is sometimes hard to find here, and have cheerful, attentive waitstaff. Thanks for a great start to an amazing weekend in Puerto Viejo, Talamaca, Cocles. You’ll be seeing us again soon.
After visiting the restaurant we moved on to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center just down the road to play with some monkeys! Make sure you support them, it’s totally worth the $15 per person for the tour.
Egg sandwiches are an easy and cheap staple breakfast food since you’re more than likely going to have eggs in the refrigerator on any given day. Everyone has different preferences on how they like their eggs cooked; from fried over-medium to scrambled with tomatoes and onions to fried hard, this type of sandwich allows for almost any type of cooked egg.
When considering breakfast recipes to start off your day, remember to include portions of fruit as well as protein and fiber. These will give you the nutrients you need to get moving in the morning and sustain you until lunchtime or your mid-morning snack. Although this breakfast sandwich doesn’t seem to have fruit in it, it does have tomato, which is technically a fruit, but I prefer to make a fruit juice shake to go with it.
Recently we purchased a waffle iron with removable plates that reverse as a flat surface, which is ideal for sandwiches, reheating burger patties or making tortillas. Using a toaster is great, but there’s something about the press that gives the bread the perfect crisp without drying it out or risking toasting for too long. Cheap Food Here loves kitchen gadgets and those that have a multi-purpose.
Okay, so here’s a basic recipe for a pressed egg sandwich. The ingredients and instructions are for two sandwiches. Let me know what you think.
Egg Sandwich Ingredients
- 1/2 Baguette, sliced in half horizontally
- 4 Eggs
- 1/4 C. finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 Medium-sized ripe tomato
- 2 Large leaves of lettuce
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp powdered cumin
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Egg Sandwich Directions
- Heat a small frying pan with 1/2 tsp of oil on medium heat for 2 minutes or until hot. Preheat the sandwich press.
- Crack 2 eggs into the pan and place 1/8 C. of chopped onion on top of egg and 1/4 tsp of cumin sprinkled evenly.
- Depending how you like your eggs cooked, flip the egg over and cook to temperature
- Cut sliced baguette into two pieces, one for each sandwich. Remove egg from pan and place on sliced baguette, smeared with dijon mustard and add two thin slices of tomato on top.
- Close the sandwich and place on the heated sandwich press (or use a large, flat skillet). Pull down the lid and press for 1 minute or to desired crispness.
- Reopen the sandwich and place a piece of lettuce inside, re-close and enjoy.
This breakfast burrito post is to compliment the previous post about jalapeño and onion frites, which is actually just a fancy name for home fries. I wanted to make a breakfast burrito with frites inside, and after trying out this new creation, it will stay on the menu at our house. This will be a quick post but I wanted to give each part of the breakfast it’s own, well-deserved, glory.
Start by making the frites:
To complete each breakfast burrito:
BREAKFAST BURRITO INGREDIENTS
4 ripe cherry tomatoes (from the garden are the best)
2 eggs (free-range of course)
1 medium flour tortilla
1 tsp Tapatio (or your favorite hot sauce)
1/2 C fresh frites
BREAKFAST BURRITO DIRECTIONS
1. Slice the cherry tomatoes into 4 thin slices
2. Heat a fry pan to medium high heat and cook the tortilla until slightly browned on both sides
3. While the tortilla is cooking, fry two eggs in a tsp of oil to temperature (over-medium, over-hard, etc)
4. Assemble burrito on a place by placing the tortilla on the bottom, next the eggs, followed by the frites and then topped with tomatoes and Tapatio.
5. Make as many breakfast burritos as you need and serve immediately.
This morning I woke up with an unusual clarity about what to make for breakfast; frites with jalapeños and onions. Some call them hashbrowns or homefries, but the French call them frites. I’m going to stick with that so they sound fancier. My husband and I have tried to make breakfast potatoes a number of times and can never quite get them right. We had no problem grilling potatoes with jalapeño and onion in foil, but for some reason the frying angle is a bit tougher.
After many a trial and error, we’ve figured out that it’s very important to dry out the pieces of potato before trying to fry them. So, this morning, it was like I already knew what to do. All I could think of was how to get the frites to turn out like our very favorite ones at Lulu in Charlotte, NC. I couldn’t post about their delicious French food, because it’s outside the realm of ‘cheap food‘ but they have the absolute best breakfast frites known to man, I’m sure of it. So, with Lulu on my mind, I set out for a nice knock-off. Here’s how to do it:
3 small/medium white potatoes (about 1 per person)
1 small yellow onion – coarsely chopped
1 fresh jalapeño – diced
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp seasoned salt (Old Bay or blackening season will work)
2 Tbsp of flour (I used whole wheat flour)
2 C. peanut oil
1. Place a cookie sheet in the oven at 375, or tray in the toaster oven. Preheat oven with sheet inside.
2. Dice the potatoes with the skin on and place on paper towels. Pat dry.
3. Move the potatoes to the cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes until dry to the touch. You may want to move them around every few minutes so they don’t stick to the tray, but don’t use oil or cooking spray, as this defeats the purpose of this step by trapping in the moisture.
4. While the potatoes are in the oven, preheat the oil in a small pot on medium-high heat.
5. Remove the potatoes from the oven and place into a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle with flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder and toss to coat.
6. Test the oil with one small piece of potato. When it’s bubbling steadily, it is ready, however if the oil is smoking, it’s too hot and you should let it cool slightly.
7. Add the potatoes and let fry for 4-6 minutes until there is a slight color/texture change, but not fully cooked.
8. Then add the diced jalapeño and onion. Fry for an additional 4-6 minutes until golden brown.
9. Remove everything from the oil with a slotted spoon or similar, and place on a new bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and serve your jalapeño and onion frites immediately.
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
- In a large mixing bowl, preferably with a spout, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.
- 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).
- Heat a large pan or skillet on medium-high heat and put a small amount of butter in the pan.
- 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.
- After about 30 seconds, check the bottom of the pancake with a spatula to see if it’s golden brown.
- When it’s reached optimal color, remove from pan and repeat step for and 5 until the batter is gone.
- Top with 100% pure maple syrup, not that fake stuff in a shaped bottle.
Costa Rica translates to ‘Rich Coast’. Christopher Columbus, the Great Navigator himself, was the first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica in September 18, 1502. As he was setting anchor off shore, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region’s inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica.
No matter what the history books have said, I think the real gold wasn’t discovered until I walked into the Waffle Place in Escazú. This gold mine is located in the Golden Plaza close to Multiplaza Escazú. Talk about rich, delicious food. And affordable to boot! My husband claims that I’ve acquired a knack for choosing the best thing on the menu the first time, and in this case I did. Now, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been there and I have been lazy about posting, so I’ll let the pictures and descriptions do the talking.
The owner spent two years in Belgium studying the intricacies of waffles and the cuisine specific to that country and region. The menu is probably bigger than it should be, but I have yet to find something I didn’t love. I always get the waffle with creamy bacon and mushroom sauce over a fried egg. The first time ordering, not having seen the actual waffles themselves, I imagined something completely different. But, to my surprise the flavor was bursting and the richness unrivaled. Also shown here is a waffle with bacon and a fried egg over hashbrowns and topped with honey mustard for the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
They have a great lunch menu, as you can see from the soup in sourdough bowl (not uncommon in the US, but very scarce here in Costa Rica), there is more than just waffles here. Shown is a creamy tomato soup with avocado and a side salad. It’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll leave The Waffle Place more than just full, but completely satisfied.
A great post made by a fellow foodie.