Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Christmas preparations

My Christmas preparations have continued quite successfully over here. I have just baked another batch of gingerbread as well as a soft gingerbread cake with added banana (for the exotic touch) and kicked off the Christmas food shop earlier on with the help of my sister. Two days ago we wrapped up the final Christmas present purchases and tomorrow we will add the final touches of frosting to the cookies we are just baking.

Having been this good with all the preparations, tomorrow we are also heading down to the beach for almost three days of sunshine, surf and as much sleep as possible… 🙂 I think I have deserved that now. Especially after my big Christmas party debut yesterday. It was the second time I was out in months and months. I had popped by my department’s Christmas party last week, but that was nothing compared to this. Basically, last time I was in jeans, flat shoes and in and out of there in an hour and a half. This time was a proper dress, high heels and make up party and I must admit I was rather excited about it all. What I hadnt taken into account was how long it had been since I last wore heels. And how much half a glass of champagne can get to you…

Having floated around the party yesterday like the after dark social butterfly I used to be way back in my youth, today was a complete opposite to that. I woke up with a slight hangover from the half a glass of champagne and with knees, calves and throat aching from having stood around chit chatting with dozens of people for three hours. I was just not used to a) high heels, b) talking that much to people, c) staying up past 8pm

But I had a wonderful time. It was so nice to be out and about a bit instead of just at home with the little one. Although, I must say I was soooo looking forward to cuddling up in bed with little E and big J after these three hours out. Just like I am now. The last batch of gingerbread cookies are almost done and I have enjoyed the first slice of my soft gingerbread – banana cake, almost fully my own design 🙂 But now it is bedtime for this little lady. Hooray!

And we are one day closer to Christmas eve.

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Gingerbread Cookie Workshop in the Sun

Gingerbread CookiesThis is somewhat absurd but here I am in our kitchen in shorts and a t-shirt, baking gingerbread cookies while looking out over the sunny, green central valley of San Jose. The Christmas tree is up, Christmas songs playing in the background, the sweet smell of Christmas in the air from the cookies that are already in the oven, and an even sweeter taste of Christmas on my lips from all the dough I have already eaten… But it still just doesnt feel exactly right. Its amazing what a difference it makes that its sunny and warm outside at Christmas time.

Today E and I have had a lovely morning once again. We got up around 7am, had breakfast, had another little snooze, had some tummy time and some general playtime, had a walk up our mountain and now we are on to the gingerbread baking mentioned above. Little E seems to be liking her bouncy chair more and more nowadays. She can actually sit in it for many minutes now without getting bored and screaming. Such a relief for me to at least be able to put her down a few minutes, and once those minutes have passed in the bouncy chair there is always the bed with the exciting mobile hanging above it that will give me a few more minutes of freedom.  I don’t know what I would do without mr. Elephant and ms. Giraffe (the bouncy chair toys) and mr. Octopus (the main character in the playing mobile).

In time for Christmas I have been glancing at lovely little toys for Emmie anywhere I see some, unfortunately she seems to still be quite limited with regards to what she will actually bother to play with. She doesnt pick things up yet, she just observes them if they are deemed worthy of observation (i.e. are they colourful enough, is there anything more interesting around). So unfortunately I think this Christmas she will still just have to settle for an extra helping of breastmilk and the excitement of looking at all the lovely colours Christmas brings with it.

I would love to show her a white Christmas, but I guess it is much easier this year to just be here in the warmth instead of in a colder country. At least here I dont have to worry about lots of clothes and if she is warm enough etc. And after all, she will appreciate the snow much more once she is a bit bigger and we can actually play in it. I cant wait to take her sledge riding! (Not sure who will be more excited then, mum or baby!) But for now I think a tropical Christmas is not too bad. After all, I can still have gingerbread cookies, a tree, fairy lights, presents, Christmas songs etc etc etc…

But best of all, a tropical Christmas means the new years day surf will not be freezing!

***

Oh, one more thing.. This is the fantastic recipe I used for the gingerbread cookies! Thank you mum for sending it over!! Its super easy and absolutely delicious…

Boil the following ingredients in a saucepan:

1,5 dl Sugar
1 dl Syrap
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsk Ground cloves
Add 125g butter chopped into smaller bits and keep stirring.
When the mix has cooled you whisk in one egg
Leave to sit while you mix 1 tsp of baking soda with 5dl of flour.
Mix it all together and leave to sit in the refrigerator over night.
Use a tiny bit of flour when baking the cookies so they dont stick to the table (surface).

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s actually beginning to look a lot like Christmas over here. The ticos have started to put up Christmas trees, lights, nativity scenes and all kinds of things on their houses, in the streets and most of all in the shopping centres. But whats different this year is that we are joining in!

On Monday we ventured out Christmas tree hunting in Escazu. J had spotted a possible tree seller along the route he usually runs so we headed up the hill towards the little tree farm in question. Unfortunately we got there a bit late. More than a month late actually, the guy selling the trees informed us. Apparently we should have dropped by at the beginning of November at the latest to reserve a tree if we wanted one from there. Having realised the situation I asked the guy if there was another place that sells trees anywhere nearby. Three kilometres past the monastery restaurant was the reply, so off we went.

Now this sure turned into quite the adventure. Almost as soon as we had passed the monastery the road started to turn into gravel, which then turned into sand/clay and then into large boulders only on some parts of it as it slowly crept its way up the mountain. Higher and higher we went, past small houses, steep drops and little coffee plantations and small fields. The views were amazing but the narrowness of the road, chopped into the side of the mountain was at times a bit alarming. I was very pleased we didnt meet another vehicle while climbing upwards.

After having driven a bit too far down the road, we finally decided to ask a guy on the side of the road who was trying to get his moped going where we could find some Christmas trees. He told us we had gone a bit too far  so we turned around and headed back down the mountain until we saw the little house on a small hill, surrounded by Christmas trees. I am not sure how we missed this on the way up, possibly because I was looking down at the tricky road and not up towards the side of the road where all the trees stood.

As soon as we parked two boys ran out of the house, one teenager and one young boy, eager to show us their trees. We picked one larger one for the living room and one smaller one for our porch and tied them onto the roof of our poor car that had been through so many bumps during this exciting adventure and headed off home with our trophies.

* * *

Back home and I am writing this next to the Christmas tree in the living room. I keep looking at it and all its glittering baubles we have just hung up on its branches, thinking that it does bring a bit of Christmas into the house. However tropical the climate might be over here, this year I decided that that is not going to stop me from trying to get into the Christmas spirit and I think we are succeeding.

Banana Muffins on a Rainy Saturday

Yesterday we did our weekly supermarket shop. Obviously I forgot a few essentials as I dont seem to be able to get my act together and make a list, but I got most of the stuff I wanted when it comes to supermarket stuff and today is our market day so today we are picking up the fruit and the vegetables for the week. I didnt really think I would be a fan of weekly shops, I like popping in now and then to pick up stuff, but I must say it is growing on me..

Anyhow, one of the things I forgot to top up was my flour reserve. We had some old bananas kicking about from last weeks fruit shop and I really wanted to use them to make some banana bread. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a shopping list I didnt have enough flour at home to make banana bread. I also realised I didnt have an oven form for loafs, so I had to come up with something else. Roaming around on the internet I found a lovely Swedish food blog with a delicious sounding recipe for banana muffins! And fortunately, the flour I had at home was enough for half a batch of delicious banana muffins!

I whipped it all up and had the first part of my small batch in the oven when J came home. It smelt lovely… Second batch was coming up as well, but I decided to do mini muffins instead of normal sized ones. Unfortunately thanks to my wonderfully short memory and attention span, I left them in a tiny bit too long and they gained a bit too much colour for my liking. 😦

But we ended up with 7 delicious, golden brown muffins to enjoy while the doggies could have the semi burned mini muffins I thought. I shared one between them and my gosh did they like them! I have since then been followed around by two little doggies, looking up at me with sad puppy eyes, begging for more of the deliciousness I had before.. Extraordinary. This reaction is right up there along with empanadas and chicken, possibly even higher!

In summary, take a look at this simple recipe for banana muffins, its perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon when you need some banana sunshine in cupcake form. Dog approved as well.

16 normal sized or 8 large ones

You need :
150 grams soft butter
2 dl sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
3 bananas (ripe, ripe, ripe)
4 dl flour (I used coarse wheat flour)

This is how you do it:
Use an electrical whisk and mix butter and sugar to an even paste. Mix in the vanilla sugar and the baking powder. Add the eggs, one at a time while whisking. Mash the bananas and mix them in with the wheat flour. Fill the cupcake shapes so they are 3/4 full. Place in the oven at 200 degrees C for approximately 15 min. If you make American sized cupcakes, again, fill the shapes to 3/4 only. They will rise a bit. Add 1o mins to the cooking time.

Grinders, Blenders and Mills

I found a grain mill!! How amazingly cool and fantastically fun, I cant wait to get to use it! But before that I will have to get rid of some of the rust on it, I guess “antiques” like mine don’t come without a price to pay.

I drive past this old man and his shop of randomness every day on my way home from work and today I finally thought its time to actually go have a look what kind of treasures he has lying around. I spotted a fantastic vintage metal Jerry can that I couldn’t help but get and when I got to his whole collection of grinders and mills I was sold. He had grain mills and meat grinders of all kinds of shapes and sizes but the one I fell for was a Corona grain mill that seemed to be the least rusty.

I piled my treasures into the car and drove home very pleased about my findings. Now I will be able to buy grains and not flour and make my own fresh flour instead of just settling for the shop’s flour!

***

Now its been almost two weeks since the purchase and I still haven’t removed the rust. Then again, I guess its understandable with all the other things we have had going on. But now with our guests gone there are no more excuses… I’ll let you know how it goes.

I Dream of Chickens

Lately I have been fighting the urge to steal some of the adorable chicks that hang out down by the guards house at the entrance to the area where we live. Partly because they are just so cute, and partly so that I can expand my self sufficient empire to include egg production in addition to my other attempts of food production.

This interest to grow my own vegetables started innocently enough with a few plants on the terrace (currently they are sadly just surviving rather than thriving plants..), but has little by little grown into a greater want to actually be more self sufficient. To be more exact, I want to get “back to basics”, to learn more about how to actually grow my own food, raise my own chicks and simply to be aware of what I put in me as well as how much effort actually goes into producing what you eat.

After months of googling and trial and error on my terrace, I decided its time to get some proper books on the topic. Since my sister was buying some holiday reading for her trip over here, I decided to put in a small order as well and decided on two books, “The Backyard Homestead” and “Homesteading” – Both comprehensive books on how to turn your little lot of land into a self sufficient paradise.

“The Backyard Homestead” seems absolutely wonderful. I read a few pages on Amazon via their excellent “Look inside” feature and that was the one I also started skimming through as soon as I got my hands on it. And just like the back cover already demands you to, it seems to be a fabulous all-round guide to putting “your backyard to work”, almost however small it is.

From its claims that a quarter of an acre could actually give me 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork and 75 pounds of nuts, I am now greedily eyeing up our garden to see where I could set the chicks up and where I could hide the pigs so that our landlord (or our lovely little jealous dog Sofia) wouldnt be too upset about the new family expansion.

I guess all I need now is a supportive partner, and at least a quarter of an acre of land to get this little project off the ground. Judging by the teasing I am getting about this, I think the quarter of an acre of land will be the easy part…

New Years Resolutions

2010 was a year of changes. The biggest changes came from me changing my work as well as us changing the country and continent where we live, but along the big changes there were also a lot of other small things that changed. I purged a lot from my life (mainly in the form of foods); I reduced my drinking, I ate less sweets and sugars, I stopped drinking coffee, I reduced my intake of white flour and fast foods, I stopped drinking diet sodas…

I also added a lot to my life (partly in the form of foods and partly in the form of adding new habits to my life); I started walking 30mins almost every morning thanks to Sofia, I started eating linseed/beepollen/fresh fruits/protein powder, I started sleeping at least 8hrs each night, I started drinking lots more tea, I started working my lats more (pullups!), I started working on my emotional responses to everything that happens as well as dealing with frustration in a more productive way… The list goes on and on and on.

Change can be difficult and possibly much less fun than just sticking to what you know and enjoy, but it can also be very rewarding as you see how well you do and how well you feel following the implementation of the changes. Most change comes from yourself and from within, you have to want to change, which I guess I did since I managed to include so much into my past year. But most of all Id like to thank my lovely J for all the support he has given me in going through with it all. x Anyways, here is my list of new years resolutions for 2011:

1. Eat Clean

Eating well and with the aim of eating as healthily as possibly will be my top goal this year. This resolution gets the first position since it is almost like the main idea from which a lot of my other resolutions have arisen from and in the end this resolution will help me achieve many of my other resolutions.

During the last two quarters of 2010 I have been massively inspired by Oxygen Magazine as well as Tosca Reno‘s ideas about eating clean, so this year I finally feel ready to grab the bull by its horns and to finally start to eat according to her advice. I will start slowly, doing my first week of clean eating from the 10th January till the 17th January to see how it goes. If it goes well Ill keep going for another week but adjusting for any learnings and improvements I have found during my first week of clean eating.

If all this goes well I will do two more weeks of clean eating in February and a full month of it during March 2011 in order to celebrate the month when I turn 30!

2. Cooking more

In order to support my clean eating I want to cook more. I want to reduce my intake of preservatives, sugars and food additives, chemicals and colorants in general and clean up my diet. I have already started slowly with this, Ive made my own strawberry jam last year but want to make papaya jam and try making a chutney as well this year. I havent yet tried making my own cordial but that is also on the list of things to do this year.

3. Handicrafts Galore

I started knitting again last year, and I really want to keep this up. I am currently knitting a bedspread (yes that’s right, I started with a “small” project – a 1.2m x 1.8m bedspread…) but Id like to make myself a knitted scarf as well by the end of this year. Something to keep here at work for moments when the air conditioning goes mad..

Id also like to buy an electronic sewing machine… I am not yet 100% sure what I would do with it, but I think all that would dawn on me as soon as I got one… So gotta keep my eyes on Craigslist to see if I could find a cheap one on there. I also want to go to more garage sales and flee markets this year. Didnt manage many last year, and I bet Costa Rica is full of treasures…

4. Keeping Fit

This goal is divided up in to three separate sections: Light, Medium, Hard. Just to keep me challenged throught the year.. 🙂 Having been inspired by Jacqueline Kothbauer’s goal of 150 work out sessions a year, I have also tried to set up quantifiable goals so I can actually properly make myself accountable for my actions… Let me run through them one at a time:

Light: A 30 minute morning walk five days a week (preferably mon – fri) will be my aim for all this year. That means 260 tmies 30 minutes. Maybe a bit ambitious but my little lovely doggy Sofia will definitely support this resolution! Any extra weekend walks will be a bonus (both for me and for Sofia!)

Medium: I will try to go to the gym five times a week as well for a minium of 30 mins. I havent decided yet how this 30 mins will be divided up between aerobic exercise and weights training, but I definitely need to add more weights to my sessions this year. I would ideally like to be able to do 10 pull ups by the end of the year (I can currently do about 1 and 2 semi ones or three semi ones or.. well you get the point, not that many) and to do 3 x 12 sets of proper sit ups (properly using and targeting my “dead zone” as my pilates teacher calls it).

Hard: Put all this together and use my improving fitness level to surf better. (And hopefully also dance a bit.. The hard part with that will be finding a place where I can practice my belowed Salsa en Linia over here.) I would also like to lower my fat percentage.. I just need to find out what my current one is and then burn fat to reach my ideal level (which I assume will be around 15%)

5. Improving my Patience

This one is a difficult one. Then again, I have already improved it massively during this year and I think I am definitely better at it now than I was even just a year ago. But I want to be even less influenced by external factors and not allow them to stress me, frustrate me or make me feel like I have “ants in my pants”..

6. Heirloom Gardening

I want to do much more gardening this year. And I really have to remember to water my plants twice a day instead of my miserable “every now and then” strategy that has been predominant over the last few months.

Really got to change that if I want to actually get any tomatoes from my poor dry plants on the terrace. (I might post a picture later on of what they look like now.. Just to turn the usual idea of before – after pictures on its head)

Anyhow, this year I want to get my hands on some Heirloom Seeds (as well as a proper gardener hat like this guy has in the image from Rare Seeds) and plant real vegetables, mainly tomatoes and zucchinis. Yum, yum, yum!

(This resolution is actually just a way to practice before doing it on a bigger scale once I have a little farm…)

7. Improve and excel at work

This year I want to be able to show great numbers from my work. The first year I feel has just flown by and I dont really feel I have had the time to properly perform, mainly since everything has just been kicked off, its been slow to begin with, we havent had the right partners to work with etc. But this year I want to be able to show great KPIs from my work and to really begin to build up my professional reputation over here.

And I think I should stop here, otherwise a year wont be enough for all of my ambitous goals and plans, and most importantly I do want to leave something up to chance and let life surprise me.