Monthly Archives: May 2018

Plum Crisp and Quetzal Birds

Plum Crisp.jpgIn Costa Rica the plum season and the quetzal bird season overlap- how lucky is that? If you’re not familiar with either the quetzal bird or Costa Rican plums, you’re missing out. The quetzal is an amazing creature and has been a fascination of mine since my parents used to frequent Guatemala back in the 1980s. We used to have plenty of handmade little quetzals on our Christmas tree because, as my mother told it, my father could not resist buying the little handmade birds from any kid who approached him on the street. Full disclosure, I have not yet seen a quetzal in the wild, although one of my fellow teachers posted a picture of one that was hanging out in our school parking lot. April and May are reportedly the best months to spot the quetzal- due to mating habits. To learn more about the Quetzal and its Costa Rican habitat, click here.  quetzal

Back to the plums and the crisp. The plums (las ciruelas) in Costa Rica are small, sweet, and delicious. PlumsTheir small size makes prepping them (peeling and de-pitting) a bit of a pain, but it was well worth it. I’ve made quite a few crisps, cobblers, buckles and the likes in my years of cooking, but what I like about this version is that it is firm and can be cut and served in a bar or square, which also means that it travels well (it would be great for a picnic dessert…maybe for when you are on a quetzal spotting hike), and it is made with coconut oil, so it’s vegan. You could substitute any stone fruit, as long as it’s not too juicy (if you use something really juicy, mix in a sprinkling of flour or corn starch to your fruit before layering it).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups Diced Stone Fruit (skin and pit removed)
  • 2 1/2 Cups Oats
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 3/4 Cup Coconut Oil (in solid form)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F (190c). In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar and salt- mix well. Add the solid coconut oil and work it into the dry mixture using a fork, pastry cutter, or your hands- mix until it resembles large crumbs. Crisp Topping Ingredients

Add half of the mixture to the bottom of a 9×9 pan and use your fingers to press it down so it forms a firm layer.

Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned. In the meantime, prepare the fruit by removing the skins and the pits and cutting into small dice. If your fruit is very juicy, add a sprinkling of flour and mix through. Add fruit to top of bottom layer of crisp mixture and then top with remaining crisp mixture- gently pat down top layer to firm it up a bit.

Middle Fruit Layer

Bake for an additional 25 minutes (fruit should appear bubbly and top layer should be lightly browned). Allow to cool entirely if you want to cut into bars. Enjoy while birdwatching. 🙂

 

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Easy Multigrain Bread

Mulitgrain bread 5.jpgI love homemade bread, but I often don’t plan far enough in advance to allow for all of the multiple rises and the kneading in between; it can really be quite demanding, though almost always worth the effort. This recipe is easy, adaptable, and made with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. You can make it start to finish in 4 hours, but it’s even better if you give it extra rise time which will put you at 6 hours. My photos don’t do much justice to the finished product (poor lighting, using my iPhone as my camera, and I couldn’t wait for the bread to cool entirely before I had to cut off a hunk).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Packet (3/4 TBS.) Fast Acting Yeast (I think I used regular this time, and it came out fine)
  • 1.5 Cups of Warm (105-110 degrees) water
  • 1 TBS. Honey, (use Maple Syrup or Agave to make Vegan)
  • 1/2 TBS. Salt
  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour (plus up to 4 cups extra)
  • Vegetable Oil (for coating bowl and greasing pan)
  • 2 TBS. Rolled Oats
  • 2 TBS. Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds (no shells)
  • 2 TBS. Flaxseed**You can use whatever type of seeds you have around. Flaxseed is high in Omega3, so I like it (note: it’s also called linseed- especially here in Latin America). You could use chia seeds, or you could skip the seeds all together, but I think they are what makes this bread have such a great texture.

    Multigrain bread 1.jpg

INSTRUCTIONS:

Dissolve yeast in water in a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer if using. Add honey (or sweetener of choice, salt, and measured flours to bowl. Mix until well combined, but it will still be very sticky. Add additional flour in batches (I add about 1/2 cup at a time) and knead it by hand (or with paddle attachment if using a mixer) until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. When the dough is elastic, no longer sticky, and can be formed into a nice ball, remove it from the bowl and set aside. Clean and dry the bowl and lightly coat with oil or non-stick spray. Return the dough to bowl, cover with a clean dish towel or loosely with plastic wrap (remember that the dough will rise and increase in size) and allow to rise in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or, if not pressed for time: allow to rise 2 hours at room temperature and another 2 hours in the refrigerator).

Multigrain bread 2.jpg After allowing dough to rise, add your oats and seeds to the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead about 20-25 turns while working in the seeds/oats. Form the dough into a loaf shape and place in a lightly greased loaf pan (or just on a baking sheet if you’re not picky about the shape). Sprinkle a light sifting of flour on the top of the dough to keep the top from drying out and getting crusty. Cover loosely with plastic warp and let it rest at room temperature for 45-60 minutes (it will rise again). Multigrain bread 3.jpg  Toward the end of the resting time, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a metal (do not use glass) pan (cake or extra bread pan) on the lowest rack in the oven.

When the oven is heated, remove the plastic wrap from the loaf and slash the bread (about 1/4 inch deep) a couple times on the top. When you are ready to put the bread in the oven, get 1 cup of hot water ready.  Place bread pan on middle rack of oven and quickly add the hot water to your empty heated pan on the lower rack (be prepared for bubbling and steam),  and quickly close the oven door. (The goal here is to create a luxurious sauna for the bread). Bake the bread for 28-38 minutes until it is light golden brown and has risen. Remove the bread from the oven and let rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes. After resting, carefully remove bread from pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing. (If you’re impatient like me, and insist on cutting into it before it’s completely cooled, it will still be a bit doughy, but darn good anyway). Multigrain bread 4.jpg

Nutritional Information:

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 167
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0.2g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 292mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 33.9g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1.5g 5%
Total Sugars 1.6g
Protein 5g
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 76mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.