This is one of my favorite things to make a big batch of over the weekend and eat throughout the week. The base is a nourishing homemade chicken broth, and the soup is full of anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric, ginger, and garlic. One of the great things about this soup is that you can really add any vegetables you have on hand. I’ve made different versions of this soup with ingredients such as cauliflower, leafy greens, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. If you choose to experiment with ingredients other then the ones I’ve listed, make sure to add a variety of vegetables to give the soup a more robust flavor. In Nicaragua, I make this soup using chayote, which is a type of squash that resembles a firmer summer squash when cooked. You can substitute zucchini or other types of summer squash if chayote is not available to you.
The abundance of inexpensive and fresh fish is a major perk of living in a coastal Nicaraguan town. Each morning, local fisherman haul in their catches to sell to restaurants and at the local fish market. We have regular access to fresh caught dorado (mahi mahi), pargo rojo (red snapper), corvina (sea bass), pulpo (octopus), langosta (lobster) and a variety of other types of seafood. We eat fish once or twice a week and simply searing it in coconut oil is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.
In this dish pan seared mahi mahi is paired with a tangy and spicy calala (passion fruit) sauce. I love the sour and slightly sweet flavor of calala and it makes a unique addition to sauces, salad dressings, or in smoothies and juices. If the sauce is too sour, you can add in a little bit of sugar or agave. I personally like the sour flavor, but some may find it too intense (calala’s also can differ in there sweetness or sourness, so whether or not you add a sweetener may depend on the fruit you end up with).
Lately I’ve been incorporating more autoimmune diet recipes into my regular cooking regime. The autoimmune diet is similar to the Paleo diet and is focused healing, nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods. As someone who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, this type of diet is ideal, although slightly difficult to commit to in Nicaragua due to the limited access to ingredients. I’d like to do a full month on this diet, but I started with a commitment of just seven days and I have to say, I felt great eating this way. Even though it’s not a far stretch from my regular diet, I had no flare ups and felt healthy and energized all week. I’ll be sharing more autoimmune recipes, which are healthy for anyone, but especially good for any sufferers of autoimmune diseases.
Earlier this week I got my hands on some good looking red leaf lettuce (a rarity here in San Juan del Sur), and decided to make one of my all time favorites: Caeser salad. Normally I’m a sucker for a classic no-frills caeser (romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and dressing), but today I decided to make a meal out of it and load it up with extra veggies and top it with grilled steak.
Whenever I make this salad for friends they beg me for this recipe, which is really quite simple. It’s one of my main go-to’s when I’m in need of a quick and crowd pleasing side dish, or a light, simple dinner.
Gallo Pinto is a traditional Nicaraguan dish, which is also found in Costa Rica and different versions of it can be seen throughout the America’s.
Both Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans lay claim to Gallo Pinto (which translates literally to spotted rooster); a dish that consists of rice and red or black beans. The debate of where Gallo Pinto originated has raged on for years; in fact, the two countries have been battling for the world record title for the largest batch of Gallo Pinto ever made. The record is currently held by Nicaragua, where in 2007 a batch Gallo Pinto was prepared that is said to have fed nearly 20,000 people. While both countries claim this dish as their own, the preparation in the two countries is slightly different. Nicaraguan style Gallo Pinto is simple, often just rice and red beans; while the Costa Rican version sometimes incorporates Salsa Lizano, a tangy, smoky sauce, along with onions, sweet peppers, and other spices and herbs such as cilantro. Continue reading
I’ve been making chili for years, so this recipe has evolved over time to use more fresh ingredients: homemade black beans instead of store bought; grilled vegetables instead of canned diced tomatoes; making this a fresh, healthy, and hearty meal. In Nicaragua it can be difficult to get canned goods (they’re overpriced and imported), so we’ve been slowly phasing out anything we used to get in a can and simply subbing in fresh ingredients. This way we’re eating healthier, locally, and saving money!
I love making big batches of chili since it makes wonderful leftovers. My favorite applications for leftover chili are to serve it for breakfast with fried eggs, as a filling for stuffed peppers, or on chili burgers. When I made this, I was limited by the ingredients I had on hand- double the recipe and you’ll have plenty of chili for several meals. Chili also freezes very well.
Plantains are something I’ve always enjoyed in my travels, but experimented with very little in my own kitchen. Now that we live somewhere where plantains are a staple (as they are in many tropical locations), we’re learning some unique ways to incorporate them into our diet.
Plantains are in the same family as bananas. In addition to being plentiful and cheap, plantains are gluten free and paleo friendly. They contain less sugar then bananas and have plenty of fiber, potassium, which promotes muscle health, and vitamins A and C.
I love being able to walk out into our garden and pick a big bunch of plantains to use for dinner. These tortillas are stable enough that you can wrap them up like a burrito. They’re also much healthier then many gluten free tortillas, as they only contain three simple ingredients: plantains, water, and olive oil.
This week I found some cauliflower; I won’t go as far to say that it was the highlight of my week, but it was pretty exciting. While I make an effort here to buy locally grown produce rather than imported foods, not having access to the range of vegetables I’m used to has been a huge challenge for me since I eat a mostly plant based diet. Occasionally I cave, and in this case, the idea of making a cauliflower pizza was irresistible.
We do not have a working oven, but we do have a nice grill, so I used some aluminum foil and improvised. This dish is surprisingly simple and is a great for anyone who is on a gluten free or paleo diet, or simply wants to cut back on carbohydrates and grains.
When I used to daydream about moving to Nicaragua, I imagined eating avocados- lots and lots of avocados. You can imagine my disappointment when, for the first couple of months, we were hard-pressed to find an avocado which wasn’t overly ripe to the point where it turned to mush, or rock hard on the inside, despite its deceivingly perfect looking exterior.
We finally seem to have turned a corner in our quest to find edible avocados- the trick is to forget everything you think you know about avocados and simply listen to the ladies at the market. Avocados are not only delicious, but great for you. They are full of potassium, vitamins, and healthy fats (including oleic acid, which is great for treating inflammation- i.e. great for anyone who suffers from an autoimmune disorder). This recipe combines sweet mango with creamy avocado for a great light lunch. You can add thin strips of tofu or chicken for added protein.