Walking through molasses

We generally reckon that if we can achieve one major thing a day we have done well. Life here in Nicaragua can be like trying to walk through a vat of molasses.

My computer has given up, but I won’t bore you with the details of what we are going through to get it fixed – except to say it is going to take at least six weeks for the part to come and be replaced, and that the bank stopped our cards (due to potential fraudulent use after Tim bought an off the road motor bike, more of that another time), so a trip to Managua yesterday to pay for the computer part was a complete waste of  time.

Much of the time our Internet connection is not good so it takes me double the time to achieve the simplest of things, including post a simple blog like this one. Now we have the added problem of the lack of computer – so, the bottom line is I will still try and post blogs, but forgive me if they are intermittent.

You may recall we recently bought 10 gallons of molasses, well not all of it went to making the oven. Before the builders got their hands on it I decanted some into jars for use in the kitchen and have been experimenting with it in various ways.

If I am able, my intention is to give you next a recipe for a delicious cake that contains bananas and molasses and very little oil, it is ideal for slicing up and freezing, ready for unexpected guests.

Banana and Molasses Loaf

Banana and Molasses Loaf

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Newsletter

Just a quickie to let you know that I have started a newsletter, via email. The first one went out yesterday. The purpose is to highlight special offers on our products. If you live in the UK and have not received the letter but would like to sign up for it please send an email to:  tina.8020@yahoo.co.uk

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Sticky Black Goo and Bricks

Last week we took a road trip along with our builder, Aurelio, in search of tiles and bricks for our Nicaraguan kitchen and oven.  Although they can be bought locally at the builders merchants we wanted to go directly to the manufacturers which we knew to be on the road to Leon.

The day proved to be both interesting and productive.  It took us a couple of hours to reach the area where there are many makers of clay construction materials and we took our time choosing the one where the quality was good and fine.

A clay tiled roof is built at a steeper angle than a zinc roof, to get the rain water off more quickly, but clay tiles can still be inclined to let the water through, especially if the quality isn’t very fine. We learned this to our cost with the workshop roof.

The Firing Oven

The Firing Oven

We were able to have a good look around the businesses and watch tiles and bricks being made. The one above is where we bought the majority of our needs – here we watched a big burly bloke making the roof tiles, by hand would you believe, at a rate of 1300 per day. He was ably aided by a man with one eye and a very happy and obliging little chap (both of whom you can see below, busy at work.)

Roof Tiles Drying in the Sun

Roof Tiles Drying in the Sun

They put the tiles out in the sun to dry before they are then transferred to the kiln to bake. I never knew before that the clay starts off as good as black and turns the familiar terracotta colour once baked, did you?

After buying the tiles and bricks and negotiating transport we drove half a mile up the road to buy 10 gallons of molasses. We found this on the roadside being sold from 40 gallon drums by a man with one leg. First you buy the buckets and then he somehow balances himself and tips the sugary goo out without spilling a drop, or getting down the side of anything.

Next stop was something to eat since we had all worked up an appetite. On our way home we had to go through a very pleasant town and on the side of the road a lady was selling enchiladas, they were more Nicaraguan than Mexican, but nevertheless excellent at filling the gap.

By the time we rolled back into Santa Clara the lorry carrying our roof tiles, bricks and bags of clay was also arriving and the builders were clearly excited to get going on the next stage of the project.

Now, you might be wondering, like I did, what would we be doing with 10 gallons of molasses?

Ramon in a Sticky Situation

Ramon in a Sticky Situation

Not long after us getting back home a rough wooden trough had been knocked together and the gofer, Ramon, was set to trampling the dry clay with water to soften it and then they tipped in the molasses, which was also trampled underfoot. The whole back garden smelled like an old fashioned sweet shop and the dogs were sorely tempted to eat it, but this gooey mess was destined for the oven – not for eating but to make the clay bricks stick together and then to cover the whole dome with a layer.

After that it was all trussed up like a turkey, in foil – this to prevent the rains soaking into the oven, after which it was covered in a layer of concrete.

Wrapped up Like a Turkey

Wrapped up Like a Turkey

Our oven design has been a challenge for the builders since an Nicaraguan bread oven doesn’t have a chimney, but we wanted to have one, following the more European idea of a pizza oven and the chimney encouraging a flow of air around it.

The great big hole I mentioned to you once before, that had been dug as water storage is all finished and sealed over with brick coping stones around the bucket entrance and today when it started to rain we all stood and listened as it fell to the bottom, big smiles on our faces. Bit by bit our Nicaraguan kitchen is taking shape.

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Fruit Smoothies and Super Skin

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit receives very mixed reviews – some highly for and some avidly against eating it, but, at the end of the day I am going to leave you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions – and obviously suggest you not only listen carefully to what your body is telling you, but that you don’t go over the top, too much of any one thing is not good.

Fruit here in Nicaragua grows in abundance and many times a week we are given fruit by neighbours and those we call on.  I naturally therefore started to think of ways that we could benefit from it and still try and maintain as alkaline way of life as possible.

Traditionally a fruit smoothie contains things like yoghurt, bananas, honey, even peanut butter – besides the fruit of choice. The problem with these is that all of the former things are acid forming.  Fruits naturally contain sugars in the form of fructose which too is acid forming on the body.

To achieve the creamy consistency of a smoothie without the acid forming ingredients is made by using avocados and/or almond milk, both of which have an alkaline effect on the body.

All you do is add the ingredients to your blender and whizz until smooth. The smoothie above is made largely from pineapple with a little mango and a whole, large avocado.

Raspberry and Almond Milk Power Smoothie

Raspberry and Almond Milk Power Smoothie

This Power Smoothie was made with frozen raspberries, almond milk and TNT (to give me the extra boost of energy I needed for the day.)

Papaya and Pineapple Alkaline Smoothie

Papaya and Pineapple Alkaline Smoothie

To combat the over sweetness of the papaya and pineapple I added the juice of a large lemon along with a large avocado to make this delicious tropical smoothie.

The making of a smoothie is not an exact science, hence I’ve not put quantities. Depending on how thick you like your drink will depend on how much water you add to the blender. About a cup of almond milk per person is a good guide and/or half an avocado, to these add your favourite fruits and blend away. Other additions can also be made like some natural vanilla, powdered cinnamon or ginger.

Super Skin

The connection with fruit smoothies and super skin quality will be revealed very shortly, but firstly I would just like to touch on the obvious link between what we put in out mouth and our overall health. Since we truly are what we eat (and drink), unless we put in sufficient high quality, nutritious food we are not going to look, or feel the best we can.

Drinking sufficient, alkaline, water daily and cutting to a minimum the highly acid forming drinks of tea, coffee and alcohol will make a difference to not just your skin quality, but also your digestive system. Unless we regularly flush out the acidic, toxic waste that the body naturally produces it will show up in obvious areas like skin and eyes, preventing them from looking clear and bright.

The wonderful thing about raw fruits and vegetables is their enzyme content. You will know, for example, if you have a compost heap in the garden, that raw garden and kitchen waste in the form of peelings and such like in a short time will rot down to produce compost that you can return back to the soil to enrich it. Cooked food on the compost heap doesn’t do this as the natural enzymes have been killed by heat, stopping the break-down process.

When we daily eat enzyme-rich food in the form of raw fruits, vegetables, salads and soaked nuts we are not only benefitting fully from the nutrients, but also the ‘cleaning’ action of the enzymes as they go through the digestive tract.

So, if enzymes can clean the inside of the body so beautifully, guess what – they can also clean the outside!

The next time you make a smoothie, remove a large spoonful to one side and after tying your hair off your face use your fingers to apply it to face and neck area. Each fruit and vegetable has its own beneficial and unique properties, so depending on which combination you have used will depend on the effects you can expect – all however will, to some degree, do the same magical thing, remove dead skin cells that get trapped on the skins surface and in the fine lines we accumulate. It is these dead cells that contribute to our skin looking tired and dull and lines looking more obvious than we would like.

Please do not underestimate the effect that something so simple will have. If you feel tingling and burning (which you might with fruits like pineapple and papaya), use common sense and wash the face pack off, it is not a case of the longer it’s on for the younger you will end up looking!

If you really want to go a step further use some Himalayan Salt in the mix to gently exfoliate (please, don’t rub frantically with this.) Or take more of the fruit smoothie and, while standing in the shower, rub it all over your body; this really is great for perking up arms and legs for summertime exposure, leave for up to ten minutes before showering off.

Have fun!

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Posh Fish and Chips

When we return to UK for a visit one place I just have to go to, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, is the Fish and Chip Shop. For me there is nothing quite like eating out of the paper; I do though find that a whole portion is too much now and I’ll happily share with someone else.

Here in Nicaragua the fish is plentiful and good and I have discovered how to make an excellent batter for the filleted fish I buy in the market; so even here fish and chips is on the menu. As long as this part of the meal is balanced with 80% of the plate consisting of salad and steamed greens it can be considered a healthy dish and worthy of being part of 80/20living.

Here is an example of how a plate could look:

Posh Fish and Chips

Posh Fish and Chips

For this, my posh version of fish and chips, I have prepared roasted sweet potatoes and ten minutes before they are ready to come out of the oven I have put in the salmon, covered with foil, in a dish rubbed with oil.

To roast the sweet potatoes, peel and cut into chips then toss in about a tablespoon of olive oil, place in a roasting tin and cook at 200c for about 40 minutes, turning with a spatula half way through.  The chips can be spiced up a little by adding half a teaspoon of paprika to the oil before tossing.

This is delicious served with home made tartar sauce; I love to make the sauce really chunky, it is a world away from even the best of the jarred varieties and absolutely worth making.

Vegan Almond Mayonnaise/Tartar Sauce

Vegan Almond Mayonnaise/Tartar Sauce

Follow the recipe for making almond milk, but make it thicker by using less water. The size of the chunks of gherkins and capers is entirely your choice, as is the amount you add, I have given a rough idea below.

Almond Mayonnaise

The Almond Mayonnaise can also be used in making coleslaw, but only make enough for the meal you are going to eat as this tends to go watery and not keep.

Now for something entirely different – how do you get super quality, more youthful skin without spending a fortune on dermabrasion, peels and expensive creams? The answer is simple and I will share it with you, in the next blog, along with a recipe for a fruit smoothie that is more alkaline than your average fruit smoothie.

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

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How high is your aim?

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 19.13.09

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Courgette and Pesto Pizza

Outside my kitchen window is a huge hole in the ground – well, to me it’s big, twelve feet deep by six feet square. By Nicaraguan standards a twelve meter deep hole in your garden is much more likely, and even that could be considered shallow.

Our hole is being kitted out with reinforced concrete to turn it into a rainwater storage tank – the neighbours holes are used to get rid of waste and generally have a concrete ‘throne’ sat on top. (There is no local sewage system in place here.) Sadly these holes can become death traps and there is at least one  child we know that disappeared down the hole and didn’t come out alive.

The pila in our garden, rather than having a throne on top, will have an outside kitchen/dining area with a wood fired oven.

In the past I told you about our neighbour, Norma, who runs the local bakery and has a huge wood fired oven. Well, she’s not the only one, there are several of these ovens around us and likely thousands in the country. Add to that the hundreds of ovens used to fire the terracotta for roof tiles, floor tiles, kitchen ware and the pretty ceramic ornaments that are all made here.

Anyway, my oven, rather than being industrial size, should be more homely and ideal for making pizzas. And before you get the idea that pizzas can’t be good for you, not least since they are not alkaline have a look at this one:

Pesto and Courgette Pizza

Courgette and Pesto Pizza

Pizza base before the courgettes are added

Pizza base before the courgettes are added

If you have a bread maker the dough can be set to mix and rise in this, and using the timer means you can have the dough ready and waiting when you get in.  Otherwise, it’s just a matter of mixing everything together by hand and giving it a good knead and setting aside to rise.

I personally have found that pizza dough is very forgiving and following too many rules just takes the spontaneous joy out of making something that at the end of the day is very simple.

Sometime soon I will post another ‘green’ pizza that is equally tasty.

Just got to dash… there’s a rather big blue lorry just arrived with several strapping blokes atop plus a load of building materials, the trouble is they are in danger of taking out the front hedge and are in need of some directing…

Materials arriving outside our house

Materials arriving outside our house

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How to stop spam being sent from your email.

I just wanted to share something I recently discover quite by accident.  Some of you, I know, are driven mad by the spam that arrives from me after I send you and email.

I have spent some considerable time trying to resolve this by following the suggestions posted by other troubled unwilling spammers – from deleting the account and then reopening it, changing the password regularly, running antivirus checks to removing all cookies off the computer – none of these resolved the problem.

However I finally go to the root of it today when I was looking up how to set up an auto-responder for when we go on holiday, and there, hiding in my auto-responder box was the ‘nasty little spammer’ message!! Meaning that every time someone sent me a message my auto responder sent out a message automatically about cheap electrics, or some other such rubbish.

So, if you are one that has been receiving these annoying messages, please accept my apologies, I have been trying to get to the bottom of it for a long time and now thankfully it is over for all of us.  If you have been hacked and someone is sending unwanted messages to all of your contacts it might be worth checking out your auto-responder.  

This is how to do it:
1. Sign in to your email account
2. Go to your mail page
3. Click on options – on my account it shows up top right of the page as a cog/wheel symbol
4. Click on mail options
5. Click on holiday response
6. Have a look in the ‘response’ box, delete any contents, change the dates and click save.
7. Check frequently to make sure you have not been infected again.

I’m afraid I only have experience with Yahoo, if you can’t find the above options for your email provider then just search ‘how to set up auto responder in…..(name of your email company)’ and that should give you instructions to follow.

 

 

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Gallo Pinto – Nicaraguan Rice and Beans

Gallo Pinto and Fried Bananas

Where does the time go? I can hardly believe it is now over two years since we packed up our lives in UK and settled into life in Nicaragua. Settled though is probably the wrong word to use right now since we have spent the last three months here in the cold and altogether we have slept more nights here, in UK, than there, this last twelve months.

Our time on The Mountain of Flowers is, however, drawing to an end and tickets are booked for our return to sunnier climes once again. It is a strange thing having another life in what feels like another world and for the most part the only way I can cope with it is to not think about it. Every so often though, I just have to cook something that connects me to my other life and generally I turn to Gallo Pinto (Painted Cockerel).

In Nicaragua everybody eats frijoles at least once a day. They are red beans, smaller than red kidney beans, but larger than adzuki. Since it is unlikely you will find frijoles in the UK I would suggest you could use either of these other two beans. Cook several portions since it costs the same in gas to cook one cup full as it does to cook several; then freeze in bags ready for a future time to make a quick meal. Don’t drain off the cooking liquid, this too is needed, and for this reason tinned beans don’t work.

I have to say that before moving to Nicaragua the idea of eating fried banana with a savoury meal did not appeal to me, I have, however, come to appreciate it, so don’t be put off, it really is worth trying.

gallo pinto

Next time: Green Pizza – Courgette and Pesto

Pesto and Courgette Pizza

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Next time: Something Nicaraguan – Gallo Pinto and Fried Bananas
Gallo Pinto and Fried Bananas

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