Archive for October, 2010

Strawberry Jam!!!

Finally!! It is in the saucepan!! I am finally making strawberry jam after god knows how many weeks of procrastination, being ill, not having any strawberries, having them but just eating them instead and yes, like I said just plain procrastination..

Anyways, as usual with my cooking I am doing this slightly off the top of my head. I read that the ratio for jams is 1 to 1 for sugar and berries – so lets hope that is right!

Ingredients

2 cups of sugar

2 cups of mashed strawberries (I hulled the strawberries, cutting out the leaves and then just mashed them in the saucepan)

2 tablespoons of lime juice (This should be lemon juice according to the recipe, but there are no lemons here! Only lots and lots of variations of lime…as far as I can tell.. )

So, as commented above, I rinse the strawberries and then hulled them. I mash them up coarsely (or more finely depending on how chunky you like your jam.) using a potato masher. A good tip that I read about (and obviously forgot while doing it) is to spoon the mashed strawberries into a measuring cup to see how much you have.

Pour them into a large saucepan. The recipe warned me that the mixture will bubble up big time as it cooks and that I should leave TONS of extra room. Well I did, and nothing happened! I dont really know why they didnt boil up then, but my strawberries behaved very nicely! So then you pour in the sugar.

Then you set a very large pot of water to boil, and place your jars and lids inside to sterilize them.

Back to the strawberries while the jars are sterilizing.. Cook them on medium heat, occasionally skimming any foam, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This can apparently take from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on how wet the strawberries were my recipe told me. And listen to the rest of this wise piece of advice: “It can take a very long time to get from 215 to 220 degrees, but reaching 220 is key to having the right consistency. That is the magic temperature when the water has boiled away.” So patience is a virtue once again.

When the jam mixture is at the right temperature it will be ready to spoon into the sterilized jars. Leave a quarter of an inch of space from the top of the jars and be sure to wipe the tops of the lids to remove any spilled jam that could prevent a good seal. Actually, you want to remove any extra jam from EVERYWHERE as it is damn sticky! Put the lids on the jars and tighten the rings around the lids.

If you are using metal lids (and not plastic ones as I am) return them to the water bath and boil the jam jars for 5 more minutes to seal and process. Remove and place on the counter overnight upside down to set. Hopefully I have done this more or less the right way and my jam will keep at least for a few weeks in the fridge. Since I havent properly sealed them due to the plastic lids I guess I should get my hopes up that they will keep in a pantry for months and months like my mother’s.. But I don’t have that many jars (4 small ones in total) and I think I am going to give away two. So that should be quite sufficient for the two of us for a few weeks..

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Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho

I was reminded of this Costa Rican saying this weekend when once again I had compiled a long to do list but actually managed Β to get so little done… Anyways, it seems like the Costa Ricans, just like the rest of the world, are writing a lot of verbal checks that they are not willing to cash in the end..

I have always been an advocate of “Actions speak louder than words” but this month I (well, my big mouth) have put myself to shame even more than usual. I have had big plans to make home made preservative free strawberry jam for weeks now and it just hasnt happened. (Although, to be a bit less harsh on myself, at least I got the strawberries sorted this weekend from the Santa Ana Farmers Market.) So tonight I have decided that since I am not doing the gym due to my cold I will finally have the time to do something about this. Or well, thats the plan. Ill let you know how it goes or if once again I have written verbal checks that wont be cashed…

But at least I have learned that its the same wherever you go. Humans in general just dont seem to be able to shut up. So therefore I think for the last few months of this year I will work on this and especially on promises made to myself and rather than continuously overpromising and then underdelivering, I will try to do the opposite and for a whole two months underpromise and then overdeliver to myself!

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Home made Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

In addition to my lasagna I finally tried out this recipe for Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits for little Sofia. They were super easy to make, but I had to import the unsalted peanut butter all the way from England as I just couldn’t find any over here. I was also going to use puppy milk (“Lactol”) instead of normal milk but of course I forgot about that in the midst of my baking. Oh well! Next time!

Ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup natural peanut butter (Imported from the Healan Centre in Crouch End, London, UK)
1 cup skim milk (I was going to use puppy milk but d**n it I obviously forgot to do that!)

How to make Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits:
Preheat oven to 220degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in one bowl, and in another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk. Add wet mixture to dry, and mix well.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out shapes. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

The original recipe by “Dog is my Sous Chef” says this should make about 100 dog biscuits, depending on size. I managed to squeeze out about 30 in total. Oh well, Sofia will have BIG BISCUITS! (Actually, they turned out to be about 2cm in diameter, so not that bad)

Home Made Lasagna

Home made lasagna (with a tiny bit of help from Gordon Ramsay)

Today I made a delicious lasagna (with a tiny bit of help from Gordon Ramsay..) The reason for this outburst of the kitchen goddess in me came from the fact that I want to keep my food costs down while at the same time eat more healthily and basically know what I put in me. I found the recipe on Channel 4’s website under Gordon Ramsay and simply modified it slightly to fit my purpose, i.e. adding many more vegetables for nutritional benefits, crushed linseed for fiber and beans as an added source of protein next to the ground beef.

My modifications to the recipe means that this will now feed a Costa Rican family of about 10 people instead of just feeding the typical UK family of a measly 4..

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled (half grated half chopped)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 600g minced beef
  • Half a courgette (in thin slices)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tbsp Hot Chilli sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed red pepper
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 50ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 150g Random Costa Rican cheese, grated
  • 6 sheets of ‘non-cook’ lasagne sheets

Method: How to make Linda’s Lasagne πŸ™‚

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/ gas mark 7.

2. Heat the olive oil in a hot pan. Grate the onion and carrot and add some garlic salt before frying together. Season with a pinch of oregano, Hot chilli sauce, crushed red pepper and a little salt and pepper. Allow the onion to soften before making a well in the centre of the pan. Place the mince in the middle of the pan and stir to break it up. Mix the tomato passata with the black beans, add the mixture little by little while letting the sauce simmer. Continue until all the meat has browned nicely. Leave to simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Finally add the milk, turn off the heat and set aside.

3. To make the cheese sauce, first melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and using a wooden spoon, stir to form a paste. Over a gentle heat add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent any lumps forming. Add the rest of the milk a third at a time, whisking as you go. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Allow the sauce to cook out for another minute before adding the Cheddar cheese. Stir and remove from the heat.

4. Spoon half of the meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish and place pasta sheets on top (break the sheets if necessary to avoid any overlapping). Next, pour in just under half of the cheese sauce, and spread evenly using a spatula before spooning the remaining meat on top. Add the sliced courgettes and the thinly sliced peppers so they form a layer on top of the white sauce. Add the final layer of pasta and use the spatula to pour over the remaining cheese sauce.

5. Finish with the grated Parmesan and sprinkle with another pinch of oregano. Add a light seasoning of salt and pepper before cleaning the edges of the dish and placing in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

YUMMY! πŸ™‚ And yay for making it all by myself!

And the home made lasagna is finally ready!

Danza Kuduro

And its Friday!! I am so excited about the weekend! I am going to sleep so well tonight and tomorrow we are off with our new GPS to explore Tortuguero National Park over on the Caribbean side. I still havent been to the Caribbean side so I am very excited about seeing that, but also about seeing the beautiful park! Apparently you might even see manatees there! Oh I hope we get to see that! And I hope there will be some baby turtles out on the beach as well so that we can do a night tour to see them.. Ah so many exciting things to look forward to!

This day started so well, I had a lovely walk in the morning with the little Sofia, I slept more or less ok even if somebody was hogging most of the bed and the blankets ;), I drove to work to the sound of Don Omar’s “Danza Kuduro” and arrived at work knowing that I have an exciting end of the year in front of me with various marketing opportunities available now thanks to my new budget having been approved!

Im working on various things at the moment, I feel inspired and excited about all the possibilities but also challenges ahead and I cant almost decide what to do first from all the ideas that are popping into my head!

But Im going to take it easy today still, I have taken a few baby steps in the right direction with regards to a few of the campaigns I want to do and I have sorted the newsletters for today and Monday, so I can actually just relax now over the weekend. Yay!

Plo plo plo ploooooooooo!!! Like they say in the above video!! Bring on the weekend!

* Today is also J’s birthday.. Excellent! Actually, I dont think anything can make this day any better! πŸ™‚ I hope everyone gets as fabulous a start to the weekend as I have gotten!

Patience

Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Once again today I was starting to feel slightly impatient with everything and anything, especially related to work. Things are going at their usual slow pace over here, with nothing really happening again with regards to my projects – Meaning that I sit here and do whatever I can to a) keep things rolling as usual, b) keep the money coming in to pay my wage and c) try to keep myself somewhat entertained.

But then the occational “chi chi chi le le le” chants started making me think. The TV is showing the rescue of the Chilean miners, also known as “Los 33”, who have been trapped under ground for god know many days already and I started realising that maybe a slightly boring work day during which I dont have that much to do that interests me isn’t that bad really.. At least I can get out of here if I really want to, I can move around quite freely and even if I have a tendency to complain about the lack of light in my office – I am put to shame by the darkness of a 2000+ ft deep mine..

But just like life tends to have a way of sorting itself out, so did my day as soon as my boss arrived back to the office following his week traveling. With a few words (and a wave of his wand) I suddenly found myself with what seems to be my own office as well as a new (and only) member to my team. I think I will need a few days to let this all sink in.

I guess that has been the saving grace over here. Even if working in Costa Rica has meant I had to slow down massively from what my usual work pace was while in London (and high on caffeine most of the time), it has also meant that there are no real rules and when things start happening they are not bound by bureaucracy and paperwork. Rather, once you hit that tipping point it is very much a situation where my old boss’s commands “Take the Ball and Run!”Β seem to fit like a glove.

Guess!

Today I have been shopping πŸ™‚ I was planning to do a massive shop when we went back to Europe, but unfortunately time was not on my side and due to all our other plans, my shopping just didn’t materialize. Well, I did manage to pick up a few of the things I wanted, in fact, so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to fit much else in my suitcase anyways, but it would still have been very nice to have gotten more things ticked off my shopping list.

So here I am then back in Costa Rica without half the things I had planned to buy. I was in desperate need of jeans as well as underwear, not to mention “work clothes” i.e. anything slightly nicer and more professional than just the tshirts I work in at the moment. I have not been overly keen on going shopping here before since everyone says its terribly expensive and that its definitely worth while going abroad for that. Then again, most people head over to the US for their shopping and if you are used to US prices then of course Costa Rica is going to be expensive. Europe is very expensive then as well.

Anyhow, I decided I would give the outlet stores just outside of Santa Ana a shot and that I would then head over to Multiplaza to have a look over there. On my shopping list were (still) jeans, flannel/checkered shirt, Van’s shoes and possibly something else just to complete the outfit. I found two very nice Nike t-shirts and to my own great surprise, two pairs of Levi’s jeans that actually fit very nicely in the outlet shops! It might have been the last traces of my hangover from Thursday night’s dinner that was playing tricks on me but I felt quite shocked by this fabulous shopping fortune!

Over at Multiplaza we strolled around, had some food and then set off on a more determined hunt for flannel shirts and Van’s for me. While strolling around some of the skate shops I came to realize (once again) how many fabulous clothes and shoes are on offer to men while the women’s department, especially in these shops, is just sad. Same thing with flannel shirts, tens of different styles on offer, and that’s only in ONE shop! Hmpf. And have you noticed how difficult it is to find anything that is not in the current season’s collection?

When we finally stumbled across a few very nice shirts in Guess I almost did a little skip out of happiness! Ironically I have always commented on the fact that I never find anything interesting in Guess when passing by the Guess shop in Covent Garden in London, while now I was in shopping heaven! I bought two lovely shirts and skipped out of there feeling like it had indeed been a very successful shopping trip!

I can’t wait to get to wear them to work next week – or like this lovely lady is wearing them in the Guess ads for this fall’s collection. I would like to find a nice pair of denim shorts though just like she has, just to complete the look. That’s actually the only thing I would really like to have to complete the look – I already got the handsome man by my side πŸ˜‰