Eat - Drink - Cooking - Recipes

Dinner at our house got a serious upgrade when Chef Brad Lloyd came on the scene. He doesn't use flours or starches to thicken his sauces other than the naturally occurring starch in carrots (who knew?!) This sauce has Panamanian chili, chapotle smoked jalapanos, poblano peppers, leeks, onions, carrots, celery along with Brad's homemade stock reduced and then finished with finely graded dark Mexican chocolate. Thrilling.
Guanacaste province is full of trees with long brown pods dangling from branches. This pod is actually guava, and you eat the white sac that surrounds dark black seeds. The sacks are as sweet as a lump of sugar and a bit tough to chew. We ate the whole thing and wished we had a few more.
We bought a new fruit at the farmer's market, gourd like on the exterior with a filling of sweet seeds. "Looks like mold," said Gary. "Don't sugar coat it," said Clay, "it looks like mold coated with snot." "Tastes like peaches," said Benjamin. Thumbs up from Lauren.
Since our arrival, Lauren has had her heart set on trying Guananabas, or as we like to say it, Guanananananananabas (jack fruit in English). They look like giant green pine cones on the outside and flaky white fish on the inside with very hard black seeds embedded in their flesh. They taste sweet and sour and have an odd texture that all of us found foreign and intriguing. I found this fruit to be something of a commitment, all 7 pounds of it, and made as many smoothies as I could pawn off on Gary. Maybe I should have added a shot of rum? Lauren was a willing participant even without the rum.
The Country Day School kids get a lesson in making empandadas.

Lauren's Queso de Tortilla -- as dictated by Lauren

About 2 cups of Maseca Harina

About 3/4 C Water

A pinch each of Salt, Paprika, Cumin, Chile Powder

About a Tablespoon Shortening

Shredded white cheese

Mix all ingredients except the cheese with your hands until the mixture looks like cookie dough.  It only takes a few seconds.  Take a wad and form it into a ball.  Flatten it.  Punch the middle of your flattened ball with two fingers.  Fill the hole with cheese.  Ball the dough back togther and reflatten it.  Put the cake into a skillet of hot oil.  Turn it when its brown.  When its cooked, split it open with a knife, not all the way, and stuff it with cole slaw, guacamole, etc.  Disfrute! (Enjoy!) yum!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This afternoon I made some corn tortillas, and Lauren asked me if she could have my left over dough so she could recreate a dish she made in her cooking club. To my corn flour, water, and salt, she added a little oil, shredded white cheese, cumin, chile powder, paprika, and a bit more water. She fried her little cakes in oil, then stuffed them with cole slaw we had made a few days earlier and served it with guacamole. This simple food was absolutely delicious -- I would be happy to be served this dish at any restaurant. For a hands-on how to, see Lauren Reporting Live.
Tamarindo juice is a flavor I can't yet appreciate. To make it, remove the casing from the pods and extract the seeds. Soak those seeds in water for an hour or so, strain, add sugar to taste and chill. Its beany and sweet, sort of like deserts you sometimes are unfortunately served at Chinese restaurants.
Its sweet, its tart, its complex, its Nancy! Nancis, or Nancitas, are small, cherry like fruit. Put them in a bottle with lots of sugar, and in 8 or 10 months, you'll have slightly fermented fruit in its own delicious syrup.
Our friend and new property manager, Walner Gutierrez, pours us a refreshing cup of Nanci juice.
Maria Jose and Lauren sample a manzana de agua, small pear shaped fruit that are sweet, sour, and a slightly chalky. It seems like they could make a good pie.
I'm always delighted when I find a new form of my favorite fruit, sugar. I admit that at times I have the palette of a 9 year old, but sugar is glorious, and with this rock hard mound of sweet brown goodness, I plan to grate it into milk, add a little cinnamon, a pinch of chile, some chocolate if I can spare it, and relax in the knowledge that the world is good.


Gary sprung for a box of Cracklin Oat Bran.  At $10 a box, its off limits for anyone but a true romantic.  Thanks, Bear!


We cut the top off a beat and rubbed it in a bowl full of sugar which rendered a lovely shade of pink.  That sugar decorated the tops of our hand carved heart shaped cookies, and the remainder of the beet was perfect side dish to barbecued chicken. I plunged the left over greens in water to make more beets if I ever get around to making a garden.

Weird seeds floating in tiny gelatinous sacks mixed with sweet water = chan juice. Chan is said to be an acquired taste but I thought it was tasty. If you google “chan seeds,” you can order some for your next dinner party!
A double banana!
Lauren's cooking club meets after school on Mondays.


Lauren, Henry, and Miss Kristin enjoy a “pipa” after surf camp on Friday.  Vendors typically from Nicaragua stroll the beach selling coconuts -- and lots of other things.  With a sharp knife, they whack off the top part of the coconut, pop a straw in, and hand it over.  The juice is ice cold and the flesh is soft and gooey.  Its surprisingly refreshing.  Jennea Combs said she paid 500 colones for hers, but we always get hit for a thousand (that’s $2).



One day last week, Gary and I got side tracked on our way to the car parts store and wound up at Coco Beach, about an hour from here.  We stumbled into a breakfast place, where I had, to my surprise, a goblet of beef stew -- and the best tortilla of my life, miserly portion though it was.  I had a long conversation with the waitress, and I’m pretty sure she was explaining how to make them.  On the way home, we bought some masa harina and I gave it my best shot in my own kitchen.  For my first attempt, it was okay, but I’m going to see if I can find a Tica to come over and do it with me some time.   In case you want to give it a try, here’s the deal:

Dump a generous pinch of salt and some masa harina into a bowl -- that's corn flour to you and me.  Don't use corn meal.

Add water, not too much.

When its crumbly but can hold together in a golf-ball sized lump, place the lump on a piece of plastic wrap.  Put another piece of plastic wrap on top and press it into a tortilla shape.  Get it as thin as you can but make sure it can still hold together.

Put the tortilla on a hot, slightly oiled skillet.  Turn it when it blisters up a little and has a satisflying color.  

There you go -- tortillas on demand.  


The inspiration: An empty pantry and a demanding sweet tooth is not a great combination.   Here’s what I came up with:

Toss a handful of flour, two handfuls of sugar, and a pinch of salt into a pan and stir it up.  Add about a pint of milk and bring it to a slow boil.  Temper in a couple of eggs.  Yearn for a teaspoon of vanilla.  Cook the mixture a couple more minutes and then add chopped ripe plantains.  If the sugar burns, you can tell your family that you “carmalized the pudding.”  

At the last minute, I had thrown a nutmeg in my purse before we left home in California, which I grated on top.  All in all, it was pretty tasty.


I’m not a waster, never have been.  As a kid, I watched my mom wrap up 20 cents worth of oatmeal to use later as a facial scrub or use her finger to scrape the last of the egg goo from the inside of a shell.  I watched, learned, and copied.  So its no surprise that while I’m in a country where food prices are jaw dropping, my frugality measures are in hyper drive.  My commitment:

We will eat all the food we purchase.  Nothing will be wasted.

I will find a way to plant a garden, although I have no pots, no soil, and no shovel.

I will trade cookies, bread, and other baked goods for food I cannot produce.

We will be grateful for all our food, even the nasty stuff like “Fud.”

I will not purchase “Fud” ever again.



Yes, Nancy did cook the fish head-Left from a meal out
Lauren locks the smoothie recipes in her diary
Maple Syrup $38 a pint
Weird celery, Weird kid
Outdoor on the Beach - Tamarindo

Grocery Stores

There are 3 Grocery Stores here, the MegaSuper, the SuperCompro, and the American style AutoMercado.  All have a limited selection compared with what we are used to, and prices on many items can run as much as double US pricing.  It is a shocker and remains a shocker each time we go.  My AutoMercado customer card seems to do nothing to the price when it is scanned at check out.

We did not get shampoo packed for our trip but brought Costco plastic wrap, Glad bags, Scotch tape, and lots of sun tan lotion.  After our first trip here, we knew suntan spray could run up to 20 bucks a bottle, and a lot of other stuff was just not available, so we packed it in.   But, after 3 days here Nancy said "I've got to get some shampoo," so I walked down to the SuperCompro and spent $12 for a $2's worth of Sauve shampoo. I could not bear to buy the conditioner - Nan bought it the next day...but that's another story.

The transition from the highway to the MegaSuper parking lot will swallow a small car.  Its a great place to looks for muffler parts.  Photos to follow.



Inside the Mega Super

Entrance to the MegaSuper
Tasty yogurt - worth the airfare!
Eggs sold by weight and not refrigerated
Deli Meat, aka "Fud" which I believe is meat
Mayo selection - sold by the bag, plenty of flavors

And Something a Little More Local

Lots of Tang available here
Tree sold separately
Hometown groceries
Chicken Feed Aisle One

If there is a lot of interest in the Food Page  I will write more about all the stores and take a lot of pictures.  Let me know below-Gary

Rebecca 24.02.2013 06:19

Nan u should be right at home, eggs in UK were never refrigerated & the yogurt in Europe is always so much better than the processed gelatin they make in the US

Rebecca 24.02.2013 06:17

I am sure Gary had some comment about that carrot! LOL!

Jim Kemp 21.02.2013 19:09

Love the pictures. The carrot is bigger than any I have ever grown.

jane 29.01.2013 06:06

I think Jim Kemp is right--you should start a grocery store! Remember: show it and sell it! People rave over.... Hi Jim!

Jim Kemp 25.01.2013 17:03

Think you should start your own grocery store. Find this very fasinating.

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