Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

It is a wonderful feeling to look in my “pantry” and find fabulous ingredients like poppy seeds, baking soda, cardamom pods, curry, curry pastes, turmeric, smokey paprika, tapioca, fish sauce and an assortment of pickling spices right at my fingertips. This is due totally to all you wonderful folks who for the past several years have asked if you can bring us anything from the States.

Today’s treats include eight jars of Garlic Cucumber Spears made perfect with mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric and coriander seeds all delivered to my door by some of my new friends. I added a bit of garlic, some hot pepper flakes that I previously made and the balance of the dill weed from Mary MacDonald’s garden.

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I was in a mood today and so I also made Lemon Poppy Seed Bread/Cake. Oh my it has been a very long time since I have had poppy seeds in the house. These breads did not last very long. Joe and I ate a few pieces even before it was a bit cool, so I started handing out pieces to my neighbors or we would have eaten them totally ourselves.

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I guess this afternoon Joe and I should go to the beach. I have done all that I wanted to accomplish today so the beach sounds like a great choice for this afternoon.

Thank you again to all of you lovely folks that have packed spices and herbs, roots and seeds and all other sort of special item in your luggage to deliver to our door. I cannot express my appreciation for your kindness in making room in your luggage for these items. It truly makes a difference in our daily lives.

Homemade Hot Pepper Flakes

Both Joe and I just love adding hot pepper flakes to our food. I buy it in a huge 12 oz container but go through it so fast that I decided to make my own. First I must give credit to John MacDonald who did this with his own hot peppers and gave me the idea to make my own, thanks J0hn!

The young man who delivers fresh fruits and veggies to our gate had these beautiful yellow hot peppers a few days ago.

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After washing them and removing the stems, I used the scissors to cut them up into smaller pieces. Don’t allow your fingers to touch these because it is very painful, I use plastic gloves or plastic baggies to keep my hands safe.

I put these on pizza trays and then into a preheated 275- 300 degree F oven for about 1 hour. Every 10 minutes I would toss them and move the pans around.

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The jar on the left is red pepper flakes I made about a month ago, the jar on the right is todays’ batch of yellow pepper flakes.

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Yummy! And as Jacques Pepin would say, FLAKE!

Making Cheese

Several times a week a gentleman drives around our neighborhood selling fresh milk. He has a motorbike with two 5 gal insulated jugs on the back. I have made rice pudding with this rich milk and even shared it with the neighbors. This week I decided to make some fresh cheese or queso fresco or farmers cheese with my purchase.  I know your asking why in the world would you make your own cheese, first our tienda does not carry any meats or cheeses, I haven’t seen even yogurt so the only way to get cheese is to go to Portoviejo which is not always convenient for me. The other choice is to buy cheese from the truck that comes around once a week and I have found that to be way too salty for my taste, I buy it if I have to but it is not my first choice.

No paper or plastic cartons, he just measures out what you want into your pitcher for .70 cents a quart.

Making fresh cheese is very easy, you bring your milk up to 195 degrees F add two tablespoons of white vinegar and a dash of salt,  stir it around until the curds are formed and strain it.  Allow the cheese to sit in the strainer for one hour to be sure all the whey has drained out. Then I added some very finely chopped fresh herbs. Today’s combination is plain with just a dash of salt shown on the left and rosemary, mint, basil and a dash of red pepper flakes and salt shown on the right. Glad I already took the photos, cuz here comes Joe!

The Plantman Cometh

He has been one of my best friends since moving to Playas along with the Fishman, the fruit and veggie man and of course my new-found friend the Herbman.  I have probably purchased 10 plants from him as well as bag after bag of soil.

Today’s find was too beautiful to pass up. Most of what I have purchased from him has been herb plants but today this beauty caught my eye.

He is located behind the Public Mercado. He does have some beautiful flowering plants, vines and even trees..My problem is I am living in a rental so if it cannot fit it in a pot I cannot bring it home. One day we will find the “little beach hut” of our own and I will fill it with all these fabulous plants.

The Mercado’s Herbman

This morning I went to the mercado for albacora for our dinner tonight. I am getting a bit tired of serving it blackened so I decided to visit the Herbman and see what wonderful concoction he has for albacora. He has a very small kiosk area filled with dried whole and ground herbs, seeds and spices. Small plastic bags containing ingredients for your seco de chivo or seco de pollo or whatever you are feeding your family today. As well as flour, bread crumbs and even peanut butter.

This man is so proud of what he does and the entire area where his stand is located went crazy when I asked to take his picture, hooting and whistling like a bunch of teenagers. It was so funny to see his neighbors supporting him in such a wonderful fashion.

I asked him what he would suggest to make my albacora, first he opened my bag to be sure it was albacora and then he proceeded to tell me to make ceviche with it. If I want ceviche I will go out to eat it, I would prefer to have someone else do all the work, ha ha and I told him that. He then suggested this bottle of garlic and onion sauce he told me it was all natural and that I should put it on the fish after I had coated the fish with a little flour.

This was packages in a used juice container. We have never had any problems with buying in a recycled container as these folks know that it is their livelihood if someone gets sick they would be out of business. I used it this evening and WOW it was so flavorful, a bit salty for me as we do not use a great deal of sal, but exceptional. I will use it again but probably only a small amount unless I can get my friend the Herbman to make it with less salt.  Tomorrow I will see what magic he has for shrimp!!!!!