Leftoverlicious Lunch

Im one of these people who hates to waste food, the sight of fluffy veg in the fridge or that dinner from last week always makes me cringe! So today, I was very proud of myself! Last night we had pasta Bolognese for dins and I had cooked far too much pasta. While the Bolognese part of the dinner, along with the majority of the pasta, was scoffed last night, a lunchbox of pasta still remained in the fridge this morning.

Sticking to a mainly gluten free diet I have always found lunchtimes a bit awkward, especially when on the go. So I am always on the lookout for simple gluten free alternatives to the typical sandwich lunch. Having pulled the lunchbox of leftover pasta from the fridge, I continued to search the chilled jungle for anything that looked like it was close to running away. Broccoli, a few tablespoons of sweetcorn swimming in a bowl of their own natural  juices, a couple of spring onions and a half of a red chilli.

The chilli had to be reduced to a quarter and I plucked a clove of garlic from the bulb on the shelf, I finely diced the two. Broccoli was cut into small florets and put on a baking tray with a generous glug of olive oil and the diced chilli and garlic. It spent 18 minutes roasting in the oven at which point I drained and added the sweetcorn and the pasta from the lunchbox. Left to roast for another 5 mins and then mmm mmmmmm it was perfect! Just added a little grated cheese to the top. I hope this gives some inspiration  for some epic leftover lunches, would love to hear of any left over creations people have made, feel free to share and leave a comment x

Leftoverlicious Lunch-

Not Your Average Bliss Balls

Back on a food buzz, this time inspired by my visit to San Marcos by the beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. San Marcos is a quaint little village buzzing with nature, there is a strong yoga vibe here too, it was the perfect place to relax for a few days. It was here that I had the best hot chocolate ever ( blog post to come on this) but also stumbled upon some probiotic bliss balls on sale in one of the small supermarkets there. I snapped up a few of these as thy made a super alternative to dry crackers on the many long bus journeys we had throughout our travels. What I really liked about these bliss balls was that there were no dates in them, Im a little bored of dates being used in so many recipes so welcomed the change. So here is my recreation, taste wise I have got pretty spot on however I have never used Kefir in anything before so I excluded that in this recipe.  The result, a deliciously textured and satisfying snack full of protein, fibre and minerals to nourish your beautiful body!

I N G R E D I E N T S

4-6 heaped tbs smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup of sesame seeds

1/4 cup of linseeds

I cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

1 tbs chia seeds

2tbs honey

1-2 tbs melted coconut oil

2-3 tablespoons Raw Cacao powder

1/4- 1/2 cup of gluten free oats

Ingredients

R E C I P E 

This recipe is so so simple, you will be sitting down to a cup of tea and a bliss ball in no time!

Get out a baking tray and evenly spread the sesame, pumpkin and and sunflower seeds out , turn the grill on to 180 degrees and toast the seeds until you can smell that delicious aroma of toasted sesame and hear the sounds of the pumpkin seeds split their skins. Keep an eye on them as they do toast quite fast, I had to give the seeds a bit of a mix around to get them to toast more evenly, they should be slightly browned when toasted, this releases the flavour too.

Toasted mixed seeds

Once toasted, leave to cool, spoon the peanut butter into a blender and add the oats, linseeds, chia, cacao powder and honey. Once the seeds have cooled add most of them into the blender, reserve about 2-3 tbs worth for dusting after.

Blend, the mixture will get quite dry and you may have to stop the blender to give it a good stir around, I added 1tbs of melted coconut oil at this point and gave it another blitz, stirred, another spoon of melted coconut oil, blitzed again and the mixture was a good consistency for making into bliss balls.

IMG_9783

Get your hands dirty!! Yep get your hands stuck into the mix. I mentioned earlier to keep some of the seed mix aside, I just played around here with rolling some of the bliss balls in the toasted seeds and also some into raw cacao powder just to give them a coating.

You will get about 10 bliss balls from this mixture, once made, pop them into the fridge to chill for a while. I’m actually keeping mine in the fridge, they seem happy in there although their numbers are declining quite fast!

IMG_9787 Multi Seed Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Voila there you have some amazing and not your average bliss balls. These Multi Seeded Nut Butter Bliss Balls are full of essential minerals such as Magnesium, Copper, Calcium, Iron , Zinc and Selenium to name but a few. They are perfect with a cup of your fave tea or even a piece of fruit, apples in particular. These beautiful little apples here, come all the way from Simon’s dad’s amazing garden in Tipperary, he was a multi prize winner at this years Iverk Show in Piltown, yep these are prize winning apples, he is also the All Ireland Potato Champ, we are super proud of him and also very lucky to get regular deliveries of his fresh veg, Happy out!! Hope you enjoy the recipe and have some messy fun in the kitchen 🙂 x

Epic Adventures in Central America- Costa Rica, Cerro Chato

July 25th – The Ascent and Decent of the Cerro Chato Crater

Oh how we earnestly hoped that it would not rain today, but standing in the doorway of our hostel we could see that the jungle rain had hurled itself over the ever invisible apex of the Arenal volcano and was now bouncing itself off of the asphalt grey streets of La Fortuna. We wandered down the streets to My Coffee, a small café on the main street that served excellent coffee and dished up a darn good brekkie. We ate a typical brekkie of eggs, gallo pinto and fried plantain which was much needed fuel for the eight hour hike which was ahead of us.

As the time ticked towards 10.30, we strolled back up the street towards the Red Lava Tours base and met our cheerful guide Eric who we had met briefly the day before. Soon we were on the steep bumpy road to a private park land, a twenty minute drive where we would then hop out of the shuttle and get the chance to use the last toilet available for the next seven hours, we would be at one with nature for the rest of the trip! On many occasions during those twenty minutes in the shuttle I pondered how the vehicle actually made it to its destination. The road consisted of large rocks and even larger holes that made the shuttle rock back and forth as if it were swanning over the crests of waves on a choppy ocean.

After the brief bathroom bathroom stop we began our hike up the side of the volcano, our first twenty minutes was a steep climb through private land which was quite open although, with the heavy grey mists lurking around there was not much to see apart from the ghostly silhouettes of trees and leaves. Soon we entered the mouth of the Jungle, Eric had paused to give us some Jungle advice, “if its colourful, don’t touch it, if it moves, don’t touch it, watch your step and don’t stray off the path” “just for you to know” that last phrase completing all of Eric’s sentences. Eric was a great guide, he had so much knowledge on the flora and fauna which included the medicinal properties of the many surrounding plants, so of course, we had to test them out! We stopped on may occasions to learn about the plants, insects and other creepy crawlies that for some reason, I found not so creepy, I have to say I went to a new level of brave on this holiday! Our group was a small one, seven in total which was nice as we all formed a bond, we became a sort of multi cultural family, telling tales of where we lived and where we had traveled and of course later in the trip helping each other out with some mild jungle gymnastics which were necessary to complete some parts of the hike. As soon as we set foot inside the Jungle  I can certainly say our adventure truly began, the rain decided to really come down with force but as we were under a thick canopy of waxy forest green umbrellas we were stayed reasonably dry.

The Jungle Ascent to the Cerro Chato Crater

The Jungle Ascent to the Cerro Chato Crater

The climb was a challenge, certainly not for the unfit, we stopped occasionally on the ascent to catch a breath and learn more about the local trees, we also got to hold a giant centipede, it was interesting to feel its shiny shell like body and look at all its legs, I guess it would have made a nice snack for another jungle inhabitant but not us! After about three hours we made it to the top of the Cerro Chato crater which was over 1,200m in height. It was here that we stopped for some lunch, the rain had now died down to a heavy drizzle as we ate some of our packed lunch of chicken salad rolls, fruit and cereal bars which was lovingly packed by our tour. A  few bites into our sandwiches, Eric kindly informed us of the flies that were buzzing about near us, they were Bot Flies. I was well informed, I believe from Michael Palin’s travel documentaries, of what a Bot Fly can do to you, kindly using your body as a toasty host for its eggs, the thought alone had us hop from the rotting log on which we sat to a safer distance away from the Bot Flies. It was not long before the rain began to plump up again and I packed away my half eaten sandwich for fear it may disintegrate in my hand. To our right, a handful of rather wet and sorry looking people had emerged from the steep down hill path that led to the crater lagoon. I could not really understand their rather dismayed facial expressions as although it was lashing rain and we began to get rather mucky, I felt like a kid at Christmas, the only thing in my mind that could possibly change that would be the Bot fly giving me a present of its eggs. The tired trio of explorers told us that there was very little point in descending down the waterfall of mud that was the path to the crater lagoon as you could not see anything due to the heavy mist and rain. My heart sank a little as I really REALLY wanted to see and swim in the lagoon. All of the brochures for the trip will show you this amazing azure blue lagoon encircled by the lush green jungle, a paradise pool if ever I saw one! However I knew in my mind that today, this was not what we were going to see,my mind seemed to forget to conjure up another expected image of the lagoon. We soon left the Bot Flies behind and began our tricky decent into the inside of the crater, this part of the hike became even more challenging as there was not as much shelter on this part of the crater. I do believe that there is a general rule that going down can be more challenging that going up when it comes to climbing, there was plenty of sitting on our arses and scooching off of branches, muddy ledges and rocks. There was no point in worrying about getting too wet at this stage as our clothes were now clinging to us like semi translucent vacuum packed plastic sans its waterproof capabilities. My new gore-tex lined hiking shoes now provided interior puddles for my feet to squelch around in, yes, it rained both inside and outside of my shoes, my earlier self musings of ‘ah at least my feet are dry’ changed to internal giggles at how ridiculously saturated they were. Red mud licked the outsides of our shoes and slurped up our calfs as we edged along the path by the crater lagoon. The trio of explorers were right, there was nothing to see except the silent waters lapping around natures debris by the paths edge the rest of the lagoon fading to mist. After a few more minutes we came to a small clearing which opened out onto the lagoon, I did not think it possible but the rain got even heavier at this point. All I wanted to know is if we could go in for a swim, my mind tried to convince me otherwise telling me that I could not see the bottom of the lagoon and that I would not know what could be lurking around by feet, the eerie branches looming up from the lagoons surface filled my imagination with even more ideas of slimy lagoon creatures that would tickle my toes while out there.

Swimming gleefully in the Cerro Chato crater lagoon

Swimming gleefully in the Cerro Chato crater lagoon

An eerie looking crater lagoon at Cerro Chato

An eerie looking crater lagoon at Cerro Chato

Those thoughts did not last all that long as I was soon struggling to modestly peel off the wet clothes that stuck to my skin like clingfilm in order to put my bikini on. Some of our little group stood hesitantly by the waters edge until one of us finally braved it and dived in, I quickly followed enjoying the jungle rain on my face as the lagoon encircled the rest of my body. I loved how the heavy rain pock marked the lakes surface, its sound was so refreshing to my ears. I had left my phone with Sarah who stood with another couple from our group by the waters edge. I have to say at this point I was praising my waterproof phone cover as the rain was far too heavy to use my digital camera,so my phone, with its new waterproof outfit came in very handy for taking photos! Sarah soon came and joined us in the lagoon and I took the opportunity for a selfie while trying not to drown, I had to put the phone cover to the test! A short while later we clambered out of the water like a bunch of wet seals and tried in vain to dry off some what despite the fact that our clothes were already as wet as ourselves. Eric gave us a quick holler as the heavy rains had drawn the curtain of mist apart momentarily for us to see the other side of the lagoon. The words of the trio from earlier came back into my head ‘ there is no point in going down there’ I smiled to myself as it was a truly beautiful site, full of awe and mystery, it was so other worldly. We embraced the moment for a while longer before beginning our ascent back out of the crater. Our path had now turned into a waterfall which we had to trek through to get back up to the top, many parts of the hike required that I occasionally had to put my foot up beside my face to climb up some of the steeper parts of the slope, hanging on and weaving my body in and out of the roots of the many trees that had anchored themselves on the craters slopes. I momentarily thanked my yoga practice and seemingly flexible genes but became distracted at Eric’s ability to hop and leap up the side of the slope with such great ease. I hollered out to him, calling him a Jungle Gazelle which delighted Greg who was from New Orleans. The rest of our ascent was then encouraged by thoughts of magical creatures such as the Jungle Rainbow Unicorn and of course the Jungle Rainbow Dolphin too, both of which you could miss quite easily if you blinked! What can I say, we must have been hiking for six hours now, were soaking wet, full of adrenaline, and some jungle berries from the start of our trip and in great company!

Climbing out of the Crater, it got pretty muddy!

Climbing out of the Crater, it got pretty muddy!

Once again we had reached the top of the crater and wandered to a small clearing for another nibble on our packed lunch. I took out the remains of my sandwich only to find that it was now a sponge that had absorbed enough rain for it to disintegrate so I hit the fruit bowl for some much needed fuel before heading back down the outside of the crater. The trek down did not seem so long and the rain had actually eased off at this point! We rested again for a bit when we finally got to the bottom of the crater, the guys provided some entertainment trying to hit a sign post with some stones and balancing sticks on their chins while we waited for the last of the group to get down. It was here that Eric hollered at us again as a peculiar creature slinked out from the near by bushes, this was the first animal that we had seen on our trek, a Coati! It seemed quite cute and cautious as it edged around us, its eyes keenly focused on our backpacks which Eric tried to protect as the Coati quickly gained celebrity status within our group. All it wanted was our food but Eric explained to us that this was a bad thing as if we fed it, it would get used to our food and not hunt for its own in the jungle. Eric was very good like that, he kept us well informed and was really mindful of everything we did in order to have little impact on the natural environment around us, that was a big bonus in my eyes.

Sheepish Coati

Sheepish Coati

Finally we got to the bottom of the crater

Finally we got to the bottom of the crater

Needless to say cheeky Coati managed to get to my backpack and turned into a frenzied zombie Coati as it tried to savage my bag open, so much for cuteness! that went out the window but quickly returned having been scolded it gave us the ‘puppy dog eyes’. As we walked down a laneway we looked back at the Coati who had some how managed to lift off the lid of a bin and climb in side. Our eyes had now wandered up to the highest branches of the trees to a pair of Toucans who’s large yellow bills clacked together as they talked to each other. We continued our wanderings down the lane way passing some beautiful cows on the way. Yes, cows, we have them at home but these cows, they were not your typical Friesians, they were beige, sandy coloured, red and grey and a lot leaner than our Irish cows too! Our cows look like they are pumped up on steroids in comparison to these ones, makes one wonder?! We were nearing the end of our adventure day, we had stopped off at the Arenal Lodge Observatory for a view of not the top of the Arenal Volcano, again we joked that if you blinked you would miss it erupt, we did spot some spider monkeys in the trees though! Soon we were all packed back into our little shuttle for a spin to our final stop, a hot spring river and some cocktails!

It was just after six in the evening when we pulled in at the side of the road, it is dark at here at this time and as we waddled along the side of the road in the evenings blackness in our swimwear and bare feet I wondered how comical we must have looked to the passing traffic. Perhaps we were just a mere common sight to them at this stage. We were on our way to the Tabacon river which is a naturally hot river flowing from the Arenal volcano and the same river that feeds the Tabacon hot springs. Treading carefully and quite blindly down a slippery pathway we could see the river flowing forcefully down a small weir into a pool of bubbling water. Eric stood, bracing himself against the current as he beckoned us to sit  at the edge of the weir. I watched, slightly on edge, as the guy ahead of me sat down and Eric proceeded to give him a good shove off of the weir and into the pool below, I had no idea how deep that pool was and no idea what to expect when I landed in it. I braced myself, held my breath and slid off of the weir into the warm pool, as I emerged to the  surface I was spiralled around by the rivers strong current, the choice was, hold on to what ever you could or get carried down stream into infinite darkness. Sarah soon splashed in beside me and we grappled at the rivers bed to find a rock large enough to hold on to. We were soon semi comfortable on what we christened arse crack rocks ( not very polite, I know) but that is what we had to do in order to stay in the one place as the current was so strong! Soon our entire group was wedged on various rocks drinking cocktails of Costa Rican Rum and lemonade, myself and a few others being lucky enough to finish off the bottle of rum neat. Central American rum is good, I have to say that! While we indulged in the haze of our cocktails our guides went upstream to find some volcanic mud, this was the finale part of our trip, volcanic mud masks, could my skin get any luckier or softer for that matter. We took turns in perching to a rock to get our faces slathered in the smooth mud and continued to to sip on rum as the mud dried on our skin. With the bottle of rum empty it was now time to wash the dried mud from our faces and head back to our hostel. At this point we were exhausted from all of the days fun and also quite hungry. We quickly washed the mud from hour hiking shoes and got into some dry clothes and headed to the Lava Lounge for a final feed of their amazing nachos on our last night in La Fortuna. Tomorrow, we head for Liberia for a night before catching the Tica bus to Peñas Blancas where we would cross the boarder to Nicaragua.

Epic Adventures in Central America (Part 1- Costa Rica)

Oooh, it has been a while since I have posted, my intentions were to blog about my travels while I was away, but with dodgy internet connections and being out and about doing so much exploring I found it impossible! I did keep a written travel diary though, that in its self was hard to keep on top of but I did it! Now I am back home in a rather cold Ireland, it seems Summer has forgotten to visit us here, so revisiting my travel adventures is a great way to forget about the not so warm weather we have in Ireland at the moment! I will post about each country as we visited them  and a final post on reflections. For me this is important, the trip away allowed me to see things in a different light, I found that I learned a lot about my self and how I see the world around me, its good to reflect on these thoughts and try to maintain an awareness of them. Any how first up is Costa Rica!

Getting There

Excited and with sleepy bug eyes, my friend and I perched ourselves in the downstairs dining area of Cork Airport at 05.30am on June 22nd waiting for some much needed coffee. As much as I love this stuff I was keen not to over do the caffeine, as today we would be beaming across the globe on three separate flights in the space of 24hours. Too tired to put food in our mouths we waited to arrive at our first lay over, Heathrow for some breakfast, where we dined on yet more coffee ( it was good ) and some only ok poached eggs. Our three hour wait here flew by, so much for having to kill time! We were soon on board the United Airlines flight to Houston, Texas. I had not been on such a big plane or indeed on such a long flight since I was last in America, which was when I was 11. Back then, as a child the long flight did not bother me, I vaguely remember my brother and I sleeping for most of it, however now, I have grown into quite the anxious fidget,  this was going to be a bit of a challenge. Believing I would get through the entire of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on the 9hour 15minute flight was a bit of an   overstatement to myself, ironically I was too fidgety to read so after watching a movie on the tiny monitor less than two feet in front of my face, I reverted to gazing out of the window and identifying the various creatures that I could see in the clouds, those giant marshmallow like cloud creatures looming above the cloud carpet below them. We were delighted to finally touch down in Houston, my friend Sarah was over the moon to be in Texas as she has always wanted to see the place, unfortunately, we were only going to see the airport. The staff here provided mild illumination to our weary souls, we giggled to ourselves as a staff member placed one BBQ pringle after another carefully on her tongue as she scanned and stamped our passports, she even had time to stack a few up on the lid and bring the whole lid to her mouth and pluck pringle by pringle into her mouth were her chameleon style tongue. Our momentary amusement soon ended as we joined a long multi lane mash up of a queue for yet another security check. We didn’t mind though, despite our exhaustion we were more than half way to Costa Rica, only one flight to go! We fed ourselves reluctantly on Ruby’s, (it was a bit like Eddie Rockets but not as nice) it filled a gap but I really did not feel too healthy after it. Sitting semi lobotomized at our check in area, darkness had cloaked the skies and it was finally time to board our final flight to San Jose, Costa Rica!

Costa Rica

The plane touched down in Juan Santamaría International Airport  just before midnight. After all of the hassle we experienced with onward bus tickets which we were told we needed to enter the country, I was a bit annoyed when we were not asked for these vitally important documents at the airport, we could have saved seventy dollars each on that! That being said, we did contact the Costa Rican embassy and were told that we needed these tickets to get into Costa Rica, better be safe than sorry we thought. With it being so late we decided to stay in Alajuela for the night which was only 3Km from the airport. Once outside the airport terminal we were swiftly surrounded by locals wanting to know if we needed a taxi, this became a common occurrence throughout our whole trip. The official taxis here are red with a yellow triangle on the side of them so we made sure we hopped on to an official one and made the mysterious journey down the warm night time streets of near by Alajuela. We soon arrived at Alajuela Backpackers where the receptionist checked our sleepy heads in and showed us to our 6 bed dorm, we had the room to ourselves so we were delighted. We strolled down the corridor and out onto the balcony to absorb our new surroundings before going to bed. The next morning we awoke  at 6.30 to the sound of heavy traffic , re emerging onto the balcony we could see that the tiny streets had come to life, it was all go here in this little corrugated tin town which sat in a basin of lush green mountains in the distance. Taxi’s,  cars and busses were bumper to bumper while people also strolled about to get to their daily destinations. We too, had to make a move for out next destination as we had to catch the 11.30 bus to La Fortuna.

La Fortuna June 23rd

After a 4.5 hour bus journey driving through the winding snake bellies that are the Costa Rican roads, never again will I complain about an Irish road not being straight!, we arrived in the town of La Fortuna. The Costa Rican country side was so beautiful, lush forest greens and rusty red oxides painted the landscape which was dotted with more corrugated shacks, some in small clusters while others stood alone. La Fortuna itself was not very big, it has a very modular, grid like lay out, (again something Im not used to seeing at home) with one main street and many avenues leading off of it. The people in this little town are very polite, friendly and helpful, as were all of the Tico people we met. We were surprised at the amount of locals that spoke English here  but we still needed our pigeon Spanish to help us out! We stayed in La Fortuna Backpackers Hostel for the three days we were here, our 6 bed dorm was tiny and full, it was ok until I saw some strange bugs that looked like baby cockroaches crawl up the wall by my bed one night!!

It had been a long day travelling and we needed some food and also wanted to book some tours too. Just down the road a little from our hostel was an interesting looking place called The Lava Lounge. Its wooden exterior decorated with hand made local crafts including the coolest lamp shade made from egg cartons of all things. That night we stuffed our tired faces with the most AMAZING nachos ever! The light and crispy corn nachos were topped with sour cream, grated cheese, freshly made guacamole, finely chopped tomatoes, lime, coriander, grilled chicken and steak, it was savage! After our feed we went to book a tour for the next day. There are plenty of places here that offer various tours from hiking to zip-lining and hot springs to white water rafting! It is a good idea to shop around as prices do vary, we went with Red Lava tours, they were very friendly and helpful and we were able to do a deal on the price of our tours too.  So we booked our selves in for an afternoon at Baldi Hot Springs the following day and the day after, a hike up to the Cerro Chato Crater Lagoon! We prayed silently to ourselves that the weather would be kind to us on those days. It had been dry and warm that day but we were told that this was the first dry day in quite some time, perhaps we brought with us some form of reverse Irish weather syndrome with us?

 

 

A rare bright sunny day in La Fortuna, you still cannot see the top of the Arenal  volcano though!

A rare bright sunny day in La Fortuna, you still cannot see the top of the Arenal volcano though!

Breakfast at the Lava Lounge

Baldi Hot Springs- June 24th

After a lazy morning wandering around the grid like streets of La Fortuna we hopped on board our little shuttle bus to Baldi Hot Springs. I have to admit I looked this place up on line before we travelled and did not feel it was the right place for us, although more expensive I was originally keen to go to the Tabacon Hot Springs, they just seemed a bit more lush and a place where you could relax in style. Needless to say, we were on a budget so Baldi it was and we were not disappointed, this place was lush. The various hot water pools varied in temperature and sat staggered on a slope which at the very top loomed the mist topped Arenal volcano. Although a man made structure in itself, the pools of varying temperatures come the Arenal volcano. The hot water from these springs along with the naturally occurring minerals in the water provide an incredibly revitalizing and healing experience for the body. We relished the silky waters of the various pools, dipping in and out of the sauna, ducking under hot waterfalls and braving the waterslides for a good three hours. The slides provided some giggles, although having seen people shoot out of the middle slide at some uncomfortable awkward angles we decided that we had been brave enough having tried the other two slides! By this time our skin was irresistibly soft, you would not get skin like this from any salon procedure at home! We decided to spend our last half hour in the bar with a cocktail before heading up to the restaurant for some dinner which was included in our tour package. At a tenner a pop the cocktails here were expensive but sitting in a volcanically heated pool, beside a bar, feeling super revitalized, we did not ponder this thought for long and enjoyed the delicious moment of slurping the freshest made piña coladas through a straw while our brains warmed to the temperature of our bodies. It was now getting close to 5.30pm, the rain had decided to come down in an apocalyptic manner and the place had become uncomfortably busy which transformed the rather relaxing atmosphere into more of a pool party one. Having dried off and dressed we slowly ambled up the slope towards the restaurant for dinner. If I had to note anything here it would be the alluring nature that surrounded us, as I cringed at the giant ants that scuttled around my feet, my eyes averted to the bushes where I saw for my very first time, a hummingbird darting from flower to flower, drinking from their  freshly rain filled cups. The hummingbirds fluttering wings held me in captivation for a second or two until its tiny body evaporated back into the green from which it came. A short stroll further up the path my eyes were drawn to yet another hummingbird and the most spectacularly structured flowers I had ever seen, they seemed to have their own architecture, I imagined them to be the palaces for tiny royal insects of the bug world. My Friend Sarah at this point blurted out that Costa Rica was like ‘nature on crack’ we both giggled, it was true. It was like the nature we have at home but faster, bigger, more colourful and far more abundant and spectacular. Sitting down to dinner, I paused to absorb the many sounds of nature around us, there were crickets for sure but so many other new sounds that  mingled together to create an evening orchestra as the heavily misted skies inked a Prussian blue into night.

Architectural structures of the  bug world

Architectural structures of the bug world

Well, as its getting a little late here as I post, I think I will wrap it up for the evening, I will post more on Costa Rica super soon! I hope you enjoy this post and as ever I would love to hear your comments! x

Neapolitan Nice Cream with Complimentary Chia Pudding Cups

This particular Saturday in June we find ourselves in the beautiful coastal town of Kinsale, it was bustling as it always seems to be at the weekends, come rain or shine, I have never really known this place to be quiet. Simon and I took a spin out to meet the lovely Stephanie Ayres of Iswari Ireland, who gave us some wonderful Iswari superfood goodies to experiment with in the kitchen. Since it is supposedly summer here in Ireland I thought about making some vegan ice cream, the well known nanaicecream. I love to make this as it is so versatile and easy, you can make almost any flavour that you like and the best bit…..its good for you! None of those saturated fats or processed ingredients that your tongue cant quite get around to pronouncing, just good old bananas and your fave superfood ingredients. The times I most like to eat ice-cream are on hot summer days when no amount of water can cool you down and on cold winter nights, curled up with a blanket, the fire (an imaginary one in my case as we don’t have one!) and a good movie or book.

So I decided on a classic Neapolitan, traditionally this is strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream. I think we all have memories of this sandwiched between wafers as kids! For the healthy version I used Iswari açai, lacuma and cacao powders.

I probably mentioned in a previous post that my own personal switch to Iswari superfood products was to supplement my diet in a bid to lead a healthier lifestyle. Like most people I have an awful sweet tooth and my old habits had me filling up on empty calories, munching my way through plenty of chocolate bars a week which had no beneficial nutritional value at all. As a result my daily intake would leave me short on essential nutrients and my body knew all about it! It’s no surprise that  Raw Cacao Powder went down a treat with me! This was one of the first Iswari  superfood products I began exploring when I embarked on my healthier lifestyle, there is always a pouch of it sitting on top of the fridge nestled in among other pouches of exciting powders! I have to say Iswari raw cacao powder is one of my faves as it is tasty, good value and really versatile! So far I have used it to make cacao porridge, hot chocolate, chocolate sauce, chocolate brownies, nut butter cups and chia pudding! Although the cacao powder is not sweet in itself I find that adding some Iswari Coconut Sugar helps to add some sweetness to it, this is low GI in comparison to regular granulated sugar and also contains zinc and iron! So why cacao powder over chocolate? Well, adding raw cacao to my food provides a source of Iron and fibre as well as minerals such as zinc, magnesium and potassium. It is also antioxidant and vitamin rich so I know that any time I am indulging in this product that it is actually giving me something my body needs!

 Lacuma and açai are both a new experience for me so I was quite excited to experiment with these products. It is easy to fall in love with the rich vibrant purple hue of açai powder, the colour alone made me want to eat it out of the packet! Don’t do this though, I wouldn’t recommend it on its own, although, while making the ice creams I did knock a spoonful of it on to the floor. Cursing, I then laughed as Alfie (dog) came in and licked it up off the floor, he loved it! Açai powder comes from the açai berry and has a very high antioxidant content and a great source of vitamin C making it great for the immune system, the perfect winter supplement I would say! Finally  lacuma powder is also a mineral rich food which has a source of iron,calcium and carbohydrates. Its also known for regulating hormones and aiding digestion too!The colours of these superfood products not only gave me a close match to the traditional Neapolitan colours but also gave some wonderful textures and flavours too! So here is everything you need to make your own super healthy Neapolitan ice cream………….and complimentary chia pots too if your really in the mood for food!

Ingredients

You do need a good blender for the nana ice cream, my blender from Argos didn’t quite cut it but i used a stick blender instead, this can be a little messy but it does the job just fine :). These ingredients will make two rather moorish and very satisfying pots of Ice cream. Make sure you have a plastic jug if using the stick blender and also, 3 jars with lids for the chia puddings.

Ingredients

For the Nana Ice Cream (3 flavours)

6 Frozen Bananas (chop them up before freezing it makes the easier to blend)

50-100 ml almond milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbs almond butter

2tbs Iswari Raw Cacao Powder

1-2 tbs Iswari Lacuma Powder

1 tbs Iswari Açai Powder

Handful of frozen blueberries

Handful of Almond slivers toasted

For the Chia Pudding  (one portion- just repeat for each flavour)

3 tbs chia seeds

3/4 cup almond milk

1 tbs of either Iswari cacao, lacuma or açai powder depending on which flavour you make

1/2 tsp Iswari Coconut Sugar or vanilla essence (Optional)

Chia Puddings

For the Chocolate Sauce

1/8 cup of Iswari  Raw Cacao Butter

2-3 heaped tbs of Iswari Raw Cacao Powder

1 tsp Iswari Coconut Sugar

Pinch of Salt.

Method

Get all of your ingredients together, don your apron or just your comfy trackie ends and tee shirt as I did and put on some of your fave music, I like to move when I do things 🙂

For the Chia Pudding Pots  Make these the night before or at least 6/8 hours before you want to eat them)

Take out your three jars, to make a small batch of each chia pudding but 3 tbs of whole chia seeds into each jar, then put one tbs of Iswari Raw Cacao powder and 1 tsp Iswari Coconut sugar into one jar, 1 tbs Lacuma powder and a 1/4 tsp vanilla essence into another jar and 1 tbs Iswari açai powder into the last jar. Add 3/4 cup of  almond milk into each jar. Just to note, I always use unsweetened almond milk, if you use the sweetened kind, well, your puddings will be sweeter and you may not need the coconut sugar. Give each jar a very thorough stir, screw on the lids and then give a vigorous shake. You want to make sure the seeds are well mixed with the liquid, if they don’t you will get a large gloopy mess in the middle of your pudding and you don’t want that. Put the jars in the fridge and leave to set giving a stir after about 3 hours or so.

Ice cream

I made one batch of Ice cream at a time, putting each one into the freezer while I made the next one. First up Lacuma Vanilla Ice Icecream! I am not apoligizing for the musical pun there, gotta love puns. So take two frozen bananas, If using a stick blender but the bananas into a plastic jug, then add a dash of almond milk, 1 heaped tbs of Iswari Lacuma Powder and a tsp of vanilla essence, I use Nielsen Massey brand because its real! None of that fake vanilla stuff in there. The benefit of using a stick blender is that it gives your biceps a good work out too, I suggest alternating arms for an even work out, so yep blend un till you get a smooth ice cream consistency. You do not want it to be too runny, keep it quite thick. Have a little taste and add either more Lacuma or vanilla depending on your preference, the lacuma powder gives a wonderfully creamy and sort of biscuity texture and flavour, it really is great for ice cream! Scoop into a container and put it straight into the freezer. Clean out the jug and get ready to make you next batch. So this is pretty much the same, put your bananas, dash of almond milk into the jug, add 1 tbs Iswari açai powder and a handful of frozen blueberries, this is just a lovely compliment to the colour and flavour of the açai powder and blend, you may need a little more almond milk for this one as the frozen blueberries will make the ice cream thicker. Again scoop out of the jug and into a small container and stick it straight into the freezer, nearly there. Save the best till last, this is my fave, the choconut ice cream! So, two frozen bananas, 2tbs Iswari Raw Cacao powder, 2tbs almond butter and a dribble of almond milk, again you may need a little more milk here as the almond butter thickens up the icecream, if your chosen nut butter does not contain salt, add a tiny pinch to the ice cream mix, blend, taste, and put in freezer.

For the Chocolate Sauce

 I posted this method in a previous post Devilishly Dark Nut Butter Cups but here it is again anyways.  Bring a small pan of water to simmer, pop the Iswari Raw Cacao Butter into a bowl and place over the simmering water to melt. Use a fine sieve to sift in the Raw Cacao powder and  the Coconut sugar, add salt to taste. Keep tasting the mixture until it is as sweet/salty as you want it.The coconut sugar will not completely dissolve so if your using this as a chocolate sauce you may want to give it a good stir before you pour as the sugar will settle to the bottom.

Finally, you are ready to serve! Take the chia puddings out of the fridge and put into little pots, you can put one flavour into each pot or be adventurous and put all three in together! Get the ice cream from the freezer and scoop into little tubs, we used these adorable tubs and spoons from Tiger Stores. The ice cream may be a little melty, I could have left mine in the freezer for a bit longer but I was too excited, sprinkle with toasted almonds, drizzle on some raw cacao sauce and get stuck in! I really can’t say how tasty these were, the three flavours compliment each other wonderfully as the rich creamy texture melts in your mouth, hints of nutty chocolate and smooth biscuity vanilla merge with the slightly zingy fruitiness of the açai and blueberry. Oh so good! I really hope you enjoy, you can find out more about Iswari and their wonderful products from their website at www.iswari.net  and www.facebook.com/pages/Iswari-IrelandUK/140976672602672?fref=ts

_DSC5619

Travel Planning for Central America

Oh its nearly here!! Less than two weeks to go until my good friend Sarah and I travel to Central America for a month! Admittedly I have, and still am trying to hold in the excitement as things generally never seem real to me until they are right in front of me. It still does not really feel real except for the fact that we are now fluttering about the place doing some last minute organising for our little adventure.  Growing up, my dad always travelled to different countries as part of his job, each time he would bring me back some unusual trinket typical of a certain culture or country, these trinkets along with his stories always stirred my passion for travel.  A mixture of motherhood and college took over my life in my twenties as I dedicated my time to both my son and my education, but now that my son is a bit older and, I am finished college  I have a bit more time to go exploring the world.

So yes, Central America! this is my first time traveling so far and going through a number of countries in one trip. We will be flying into Costa Rica and making our way into Nicaragua, hop (still have to figure out how) to Guatemala and then across to Belize from where we will stay on the cayes before flying back home. We have been planning this trip for a while now so thought I would share with you some our travel planning necessities to date, as I mentioned this is my first time going on such a big trip so there may be some important things I forget. However, if anyone has traveled to this part of the world before and would like to leave a comment, please feel free to share your tips and experiences, I would love to hear them!

Im just going to make a list, I like lists!

Passport- make sure its at least 6 months in date for travelling to Cen Am, you do not currently need a visa ( depending on your nationality) if you are staying for less than 30 days in each country. Keep in mind that Guatamala and Costa Rica require that you have proof of leaving the country before you enter it. Basically this means you need to get an onward bus ticket or other mode of transport that shows you are leaving that country, apparently a plane ticket showing that you are soon flying out from another country  (for us Belize) will not suffice, you need to prove that you are leaving the country directly. You can find more information on this on websites such as this one http://www.ticketbuscr.com/. In saying this I am sure that you can book any kind of  bus ticket such as Tica Bus as long as it takes you directly out of the country. Make sure that you photocopy your passport and any other travel documents as you may need these at boarder crossings.

Other documents- travel insurance is a must, particularly being away for so long and backpacking through so many countries, be sure to shop around as prices can vary and of course that extra twenty quid is always better in your own pocket! You may also need an ESTA, this is a visa waiver for landing in the US, this is needed if for example you are stopping over in the US to change flights, they are hassle free to apply for and cost about €14. Oh and of course any bus/plane/train tickets, don’t forget them!

Medicines and Vaccines- Anti malaria tablets are recommended for this part of the world, personally I am still on the fence about which ones to take, I have a prescription for three different  kinds, Malarone, the most common one, Chloroquine, which you can take in Central America as the mosquitos have not yet become immune to it and finally Doxycycline this one is an antibiotic. At the moment I am leaning towards Chloroquine as I have heard that there are some unpleasant side effects from Malarone, with Doxycycline an antibiotic there is a greater risk of getting thrush due to antibiotics tendency to get rid of the friendly bacteria in the body, this is the last thing you need to deal with while you are away in a hot country so this one is out for me.  Other recommended vaccines are Hep A and Typhoid, these are a must, I was also told that I could get Hep B and Rabies vaccine but these were only precautionary and not necessary. I would advise a bit of research on these as you may want to get them depending on what you are doing while away. Finally any other medicines you might need such as prescriptions, painkillers, starters and stoppers as we call them for the belly, rehydration salts and maybe some plasters, they are always handy. On a cleanliness note, I am also bringing with me lots of mini bottles of hand sanitiser, dirty hands are one of the main causes of food poisoning so keep em clean, even if it becomes a bit OCD, I would rather be safe than sorry on that one.

Bags- Main backpack aside I wanted to bring a comfy day trekking backpack that I could use for the plane journey and any day trips we make while we are away. Ideally I need my back pack to hold all of my cameras, travel documents, water, snacks and a jumper, phone and wallet. Many traditional camera bags are designed to hold the cameras and lenses securely in compartmentalised padded sections leaving little room to put other necessary items. After plenty of on line research I ended up going into my local sports store, I much prefer to see something in the real and have a proper look at it in order to get an idea of whether it will be suitable or not. Here I found the Lowe Alpine LightFlite 25, this is a light weight 25 ltr backpack, its hip belt pockets and removable bottle pockets were appealing but most importantly it fits everything I need, the padded straps along with the hip and chest straps remove any weight from the shoulders make the bag very comfortable to carry. While it does not specifically have any internal padding to protect cameras, I am going to keep a scarf at the bottom of my bag to wrap my cameras in, also I am considering bringing some of the detachable padding from my actual camera bag to add some flexible protection.

Clothing- It will be rainy season when we travel to Central America, I have seen mixed reviews on this, some people say that it only rains in the morning and the evening while others say it never rained while they were there. Well, according to my phone at the moment Central America is enjoying a lot of rain and thunderstorms, I do hope that it is not as bad as it looks! Best to be prepared anyhow I will be bringing a light raincoat with me along with a couple of jumpers, if you are going to climb any volcanoes it will get colder at the higher altitudes so best keep warm. On a note of climbing I am bringing two pairs of shoes with me, trekking sandals- these will do for the beach and walking around towns and villages and trekking shoes. I recently invested in a pair of Merrels with Gore Tex lining to keep the wet out, its important that your shoes have a good grip and protect your feet, remember if your feet are comfy then so are you! Other clothes I am bringing are a couple of pairs of leggings, shorts, t shirts, a dress, a couple of items that would be suitable for wearing in a church or sacred place. In many places you must cover you shoulders and ankles as it is seen as disrespectful otherwise. Hat, ankle socks, scarf, a microfiber towel- these are quick drying oh and bikini, I think thats about it!

Must Haves-For me this is my camera, or cameras, oh it is so hard to decide which ones to bring! After many mini mind explosions I have decided to take three cameras with me, my digital SLR, my beloved Minolta XD7 and finally my Fuji Instax Mini 90 just for fun. Lens wise again I am going to just keep to two, 50mm and wide angle, sometimes I think if you have too much choice you end up doing nothing, so its good to keep it simple. Oh and a gorilla pod too, these are really handy. Another thing I would really like to do while away is to keep a travel diary/sketchbook. I bought a book and designed a cover for it, so far i have used it for planning the trip but would love to do some travel sketches in it too and write about my experiences, don’t worry, I will be blogging about them too!

Other Essentials- Suncream,  Deet, you still don’t want to get bitten! I have heard of people taking vitamin B before going away as the mozzies supposedly don’t like the taste, my own experience, I take a vitamin B complex every day and I am currently being nibbled at by the Irish mosquitos that have emerged due to the lovely warm spell we are getting at the moment. Plug adaptor so that you can charge batteries, phone, i pod etc, a needle and thread and small scissors, these will come in handy in case any of your clothes get a tear or a button goes missing! Plastic bags, yes, I have heard that these do come in handy while away, what for exactly I dont’t know yet but I am going to pack a couple anyway, wet wipes too these are always handy.  A good book for the plane trip along with any other things that can occupy you for long flights and a pair of ear plugs! Finally, its good to try and learn some of the local language. I have read that taxi drivers in Central America can pretend that their meters do not work and then over charge you for your journey, so it is important to be able to agree on a price before you journey starts, the local language will also come in handy for asking directions or buying things in markets. I found a really good pod cast on line called coffee break Spanish, you  can get free lessons from this site and I am finding it really easy to learn from which is great, you can find other free language lessons here too at http://radiolingua.com  . One last thing, it is worth while investing in a travel guide, we bought the Lonely Planet travel guide, Rough Guides also do one but they are great to give you a low down on what to expect in each county, where to stay and places to see.

Well, I do hope that this is a helpful read, again, if any of you who have  been to Central America before and would like to share your experiences and tips please feel free to leave a comment.

Raw Cacao Brownies

Happy June!! Oh its the start of summer, although be it a very wet and grey one here in Cork and its also exam time for all those Leaving and Junior Cert students! This year I take the seat of the nervous mum as my son Jake will be starting his Junior Cert exams on Wednesday. I have such clear memories of my own Junior Cert exams, each lunch time I munched my way through tuna, sweetcorn mayo rolls in the hope that the so called ‘brain food’ would help me do well in my exams. It is nice though, to have that chocolate hit along with your healthy lunch during exam time ( or any time for that matter) chocolate seems to make things that little bit better, a sort of kindness that momentarily takes your mind away  form the mundane task in front of you and brings you to a cosy little world of mmmmmmmmmmm…….

Well, to the point, the last experimental Sunday of May was spent concocting a brownie recipe at my sons request. I wanted to make them somewhat healthy so that he would get some nutritional value while munching on them in between exams, I didn’t tell him that of course, healthy brownies ppft! Its been a long time since I made brownies so I went in search of a recipe on line that was close to the ingredients that I wanted to use, I adapted my recipe from  withfoodandlove.com where I spotted a recipe for pomegranate brownies with sea salt which also looked really nice! I used raw cacao powder in my recipe as it contains lots of antioxidants , minerals and iron. Coconut sugar was used instead of regular sugar, as regular sugar  just contains empty calories with no nutritional value. I chose coconut sugar as it is low GI and also contains minerals such as zinc and magnesium, chia seeds too add a source of fibre, minerals and protein, all adding to the healthy little punch I gave to these brownies,  so, here goes!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
  • I cup of Iswari organic coconut sugar (or any other brand0
  • 3/4 cup of Iswari organic raw cacao powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup gluten free flour ( I used Doves Farm white flour blend)
  • Handful of chopped nuts of your choice, I used hazelnuts and walnuts
  • 1 tbs Chia seeds
  • 2 Eggs
Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease a baking tray with coconut oil, the recipe I looked at recommended using an 8 by 8 size baking tray, I don’t have a baking tray….yet so I just used a square oven dish.

Melt the coconut oil over a pan of hot water, when melted, sift in the coconut sugar, this will help it mix better as it can sometimes form large clumps in the packet and you don’t want them in your mix. Sift in the raw cacao powder and pop in a pinch of salt.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Add the vanilla essence and the eggs, mix, then add the flour and nuts and chia seeds and continue mixing until you have a smooth batter. Pour into baking dish. I forgot to add my chia seeds to the mix so I just fired them in on top of the batter after I had poured it into the dish and gave them a little stir in. They add a wonderfully crunchy texture to the brownies!

Bake for about 25 minutes or until  the edges are slightly hard hard and formed and the middle is soft and spongy. Remove from oven, leave cool, cut, serve and eat!!

Enjoy! x

cecilyandthecosmonaut

cecilyandthecosmonaut


IMG_9218