Me Encanta Horchata

I'm back on the grid! Living in a little Mexican town, on a tropical lake, with a lovely fresh produce market, in a sweet little casa with wifi and a gear-laden kitchen. Soy muy afortunada. The jungle was awesome, but I was ready to move on. The rainy season is just starting, which means even more bugs, and I was getting eaten alive out there. Serves me right. ;)

There's so much that I've learned, and so much I want to share...

One amazing drink I discovered is an elixir of the gods called horchata. Every now and then, I'd see vendors at the side of the street selling it, and wonder what it was. Really, I wasn't that curious because the name didn't sound that appetizing. I even noticed it in the grocery stores, as a thick white substance sold in bottles. I ignored it, since to me it looked like mayonnaise or something creamy, yuk. One day, I noticed a bottle in an otherwise empty fridge of a kitchen palapa where we were staying. I picked it up and read the ingredients, which were: rice, sugar, water, almond, cinnamon, vanilla. What?! That sounds awesome... The directions said to mix some of this syrup with water, and enjoy over ice. I tried it. ¡Fantastico!

I learned that Mexican horchata is basically a sweet aromatic rice milk, usually made with raw rice and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, served on ice. Originally from Spain, it's traditionally made with tigernuts (chufas), so Spanish horchata probably tastes quite different than Mexican horchata. It's also made with ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley. I'd love to try all the differnet kinds.

Mexican horchata makes a great drink on it's own, or spiked with rum. I like adding horchata syrup to coffee or black tea as a dairy-free creamer/sweetener - or mixed with hot fresh ginger tea. Adding a teaspoon or two of concentrate to an agua de fruta (fruit blended with water), or smoothie is awesome too. Here is one of my favourite combos:

Recipe: Papaya Horchata Smoothie

Generally, the commercial horchata concentrates you can find here are mega-sweet, so I recommend using a lot less than the directions call for. You can find the concentrate in most grocery stores down here, the quality varies and different brands have different ingredient ratios, and some are less sweet. Of course, it's best to make your own! This rice and almond Yucatecan horchata recipe sounds awesome.

I'd eventually like to concoct my own horchatas, like: almond honey horchata, sugar-free brown rice horchata, sesame ginger horchata, chocolate spice horhchata, maple walnut horchata, agave jicama horchata... and of course, a traditional Spanish horchata de chufa.

The little bit of reasearch I did revealed some fascinating history, and that people are very passionate about this drink. I'd love to learn more - please share your horchata info, recipes and links - gracias!

Thanks for the pic Crispin!

Mi Vida en La Selva


Getting some vitamin D on the dock, surrounded by clean fresh water and mangrove jungle.

¡Hola amigos! Been thinking of you all, from my little jungle casita by the lake in the southern Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. My partner and I have been getting by quite nicely, living off the grid without a car. Of course there are many challenges, like: getting ice and food, getting online, getting to town generally - which means catching a ride with a neighbor, the hot and humid +35C (and rising) days, the voracious insects: biting flies, mosquitos, hoards of ants, scorpions, tarantulas...  Otherwise, life is splendid and serene out here. Here are a few random travel pics to enjoy.


Fantastic feast at our favourite family-run restaurant in Cozumel: fresh fish with garlic, enchiladas with chocolaty mole, guacamole, hamaica to drink (hisbiscus flower ice tea)... ricisimo riquisimo! (Spanish for very rich/delicious!)


Mmm, more guacamole. The avocados here are buttery and divine. We make variations of guacamole, depending on what we have available. Additions include: lime, salt, garlic, onion, jalapeno, cilantro.


Sapote. This fruit is new to me: peachy flesh that's delicious, mild, soft and sweet. Great in an agua de fruta (a blend of fruit with some water and ice).


One of my favourite sweet treats is this chocolate amaranth cookie. They have a lot of amaranth treats out here in the Yucatan, though they are hard to find in the rural areas. I stock up when I go to the city.


Two Yucatecan molcajetes (mortars) - one for sweet spices, the other for savoury. I had to venture to the city (the old market of Chetumal) to find stone (piedra) molcajetes (they're actually cement). I'm not sure why these are always shaped like dogs pigs down here.


Lovely local spices: cinnamon, star anise, allspice, black pepper, cloves - ready to be pulverised in the molcajete. These are some of the flavours I've been adding to my thick spicy hot chocolates. I'll share my recipe when it's just right - or when I'm back online, and in civilization. Sigh.

Hasta pronto!
See you soon!

PS - I've noticed a lot of new visitors checking out my blog - hi, welcome, and thanks for all the great feedback! It's truly a pleasure connecting with other healthy fine foodies out there.

Photos: Thanks for the pic of me on the dock, our Cozumel feast, and the sapote Crispin - te amo!

¡Bienvenidos a la jungla!


Every day, we devour stellar tropical fruit salads made with fresh local pineapple, papaya, bananas, mangos - or whatever's in season.

Greetings from the jungle! I'm in a little cafe with wifi in town right now, and have 5 minutes to post this, so here goes. I'm having a fantastic time and learning so much about nature in the tropics, and how to live off the grid here in Mexico. Cooking with all the fresh local ingredients is a joy. I've even managed to bake-up some sweet healthy treats in the frying pan - stay tuned for Steamed Banana Cakes with Chocolate Black Bean Paste... It's fun being creative and resourceful out here.

¡Disfruta! (Enjoy!)
Patty


La cocina. (The kitchen). We managed to borrow most of the wares, including the "fridge" and gas stove from generous neighbours who had extra stuff.


Vanilla custard rice pudding with papaya pan-seared in butter with freshly toasted pepitas.

piña con tequila, limon y sal

I´m currently off the grid, on a lovely tropical lake, surrounded by jungle in the Southern Yucatan, Mexico. My posts will be very sporadic for the next little while... I´ve been experimenting with the wonderful fresh local ingredients down here - here´s a sweet little recipe:

One lovely (and simple) way to enjoy fresh pineapple (which is abundant in these parts) is this:

piña con tequila, limon y sal
(pineapple with tequila, lime, and salt)

cut a fresh pineapple into large bite-sized chunks
place in a shallow serving bowl (or plate)
sprinkle with 1 shot of fine sipping tequilla (choose a reposado, or añejo)
squeeze the juice of 1 small lime all over
sprinkle a bit of fresh sea salt on top
enjoy right away!

...and be sure to drink the juice that´s left in the bowl after. :)

Sweet Treats from the Merida Market

I'm back on the grid and enjoying the island life and food in Cozumel: fresh fish, pineapple, papayas, avocados - I was made to eat like this. I also started an intensive Spanish course here, so I'll be inserting little bits of it into my blog entries...

Not too long ago, I visited the big beautiful bustling colonial city of Merida. The highlight for me was the enormous Yucatecan market. (That's me in the market surrounded by spices, seeds, fruit, honey... Thanks for the photo Crispin!) Local goods from pineapples to machetes to sandals made from old tires are all for sale in this vibrant downtown market. To me it felt like a curios mix of Mayan, Mexican, Cuban, and Spanish. (Martha Stewart has some great pics from the same market here.) Here are a few of my scores:

Pumpkin seed marzipan (Mazapan de pepita). As far as I know, this is a Yucatecan specialty. They shape and colour it to look like miniature corn cobs, hot peppers, and other produce. Some pieces are dusted with wonderfully aromatic cinnamon (canela). Amazing to nibble on while sipping a dark coffee or espresso.

Another score from the confection stand were these 3 sweet treats (left to right): toasted pepitas with sugar and honey, toasted amaranth with raisins and seeds and nuts, pepita nougat. I'm not sure what these are called - so please let me know if you do - but they are all incredibly delicious. (Since they're packed with healthy stuff like pepitas and amaranth, they're pretty good for you too!)

More to come mañana... ;) Stay warm amigos!

In the Tropics

I've been off the grid, somewhere in Mexico for the last couple of weeks enjoying the jungle, beaches, and aromatic Mayan honey - si si! Tropical posts coming once I'm back in civilization...

Whole Almond Bread

Here's my new favorite protein-rich quick bread, made with whole ground almonds, eggs, and yogurt.

Recipe: Whole Almond Bread

It's a really substantial and dense loaf, having 2 1/2 cups of whole almonds. Grinding the almonds is pretty easy too: just pulse them in a blender or food processor.

I based my recipe on this one. It's taken me several delicious experiments come up with my own version of this satisfying bread - note the summer photo!  The last one I made domed very nicely on top - wish I took a photo - oh well. ;)

Great for slicing and toasting. You can also pan-fry slices in a bit of
butter, then serve topped with fruit and maple syrup "french toast"
style - yum!

This healthy satisfying (delicious) bread is wheat-free, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, yeast-free, and sugar-free. (You could probably make it dairy-free by using soy yogurt.)

Enjoy ♥

Festive Persian Cookies


Nan-e Nokhodchi (Roasted Chickpea Four-Leaf Clover Cookies). Image from Vegtarian Times

I'm back on the scene with some great recipes to share. (Selling our condo + (moving x 2) = super busy...) I have a couple of killer recipes to post before taking off for Mexico too - but first, Persian cookies!

I love Persian cookies. They're aromatic, pretty, and wonderfully flavoured with awesome things like rose water, cardamom, cinnamon, honey, saffron, pistachios, almonds, walnuts... perfect for festive cookie season. Here are some classics from the web, all wheat-free, beautifully flavoured, shortbread-like, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Nan-e Gerdui (Walnut Cookies with cardamom, topped with pistachios)
A fantastic cookie recipe + a history lesson.

Persian Rice Cookies
A traditional aromatic and delicate little cookie flavoured with rosewater, cardamom, and adorned with pistachios.

Another recipe for Persian Rice Cookies from an accomplished traveling food blogger. Included on this page are 3 other stellar cookie recipes from around the world. I love the sounds of the Ricciarelli (Sienese Almond Cookies): "Snow-white outside and meltingly soft inside, they're a fragrant, cloudlike version of the best marzipan you've ever eaten." Yum!

Rice Flour Poppyseed Cookies (naan-e berenji)

A middle eastern shortbread-like cookie flavoured with orange blossom water and poppyseeds. Super step-by-step photos. Check out this recipe for Rice Flour Butter Cookies from the same blog. (I'd up the rosewater to 3 tsp - I'm a freak for aromatic cookies.) Good stuff.

Nan-e Nokhodchi (Roasted Chickpea Four-Leaf Clover Cookies)
I LOVE these cookies, and like this recipe because of the easy directions, flavourings, and great photo. Here's another recipe for the same cookie made with half ghee and half oil, rather than all oil. (I prefer the addition of ghee, and the extra cardamom in this recipe.)

Gluten-Free Cardamom Shortbread
Here's a wonderful sounding treat, made with rice flour and inspired by Persian cookies. I'd increase the cardamom to at least 1/2 tsp.. I can't help it. ;)

Please share your favourite Persian and Middle Eastern cookie recipes in the comments. Happy festive baking!

Inspiring Elegant Flourless Cakes

I was so happy to come across these elegant and inventive cake recipes by Jacqueline Mallorca. Each cake has a wonderful balance of fine ingredients, and they all happen to be wheat-free and gluten-free:

Flourless Carrot Cake Recipe
Flourless Zucchini Cake Recipe
Portuguese Almond And Potato Cake Recipe

How inspiring - I'm looking forward to trying these out!

Jacqueline Mallorca is an accoplished chef and baker with several highly acclaimed cookbooks - as well as a super-cool name. Thank you thank you Trish for sharing these recipes online. 

Fresh Baked T-Shirts!


This just in: fresh baked goods!

Just in time for Christmas too! After creating many designs, working with 3 different apparel printing companies, and doing multiple test prints, I finally have a really cute t-shirt design to share with the world. The printing company I chose was Skreened, because they only print on ethically produced apparel, have a great assortment of American Apparel shirts to choose from, and they do a super job with the printing. They even allow you to choose a different shirt style or colour if you want.

Besides getting a cute original design that will look awesome on you and garner all sorts of compliments, you'll be supporting my site too. :-) Order one for your sister, your mom, your little niece, that special guy...

Another cool thing about Skreened is that you can order several shirts, even different styles and sizes, and they will only charge you the cost of shipping one. (Most other companies charge a shipping fee for each item, so if you buy 2 shirts, they charge you double - ouch!)

PS - Skreened is based in the US, so the rest of us need to order early as it takes a bit longer for the goods to arrive. Order 3 weeks ahead of time to be safe.

Let me know what you think!