Costa Rica 5, Fauna


Costa Rica continued to surprise me.  I did expect some of the animals, photos of which are posted below,  but did not expect so many cattle, especially the dairy cattle, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins,  that populated the steep mountain slopes.  They grazed everywhere up to their tummies in grass on even the steepest mountainsides.  I kept wondering how they learned to balance themselves and why they did not fall over, catapulting down the mountain.  Everyone in the group commented on the fat, happy cows.  Such abundance resulted in fabulous steaming milk for morning coffee, rich cheeses, and the creamiest ice cream imaginable.

A cow pen near the top of a mountain on the Caribbean side next to the restaurant that sold cheese and where I ate the raw turtle egg.  Most of the cows roamed free up and down the mountainsides.

In the lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, Brahma cattle relaxed or grazed in the lush grass.  It reminded me of the landscape near Veracruz, Mexico, where I lived many years ago.

The most common meat besides fish, most of which is talapia, is chicken.  Near the mountain top where the Jersey cow above was photographed, I saw a huge shed and when I asked about it, was told it was a chicken farm. However, pork is frequently served as well and occasionally beef.  I took the following photograph at a small place on a dirt road.  We stopped there to drink coconut water.  The spotted, pregnant pig was due soon.  However, the fate of the black pig remained less lovely–food.  Their girth resulted from eating coconuts; they constantly gorged themselves.

Birds abound, from the protected scarlet macaws on the Pacific Coast to tiny hummingbirds.  Hundreds of species I had never seen before and many I had seen rather often like various egrets and herons. And then there were the monkeys which I did expect to see but found difficult to photograph with my ordinary camera.

These white faced monkeys roamed everywhere near the beaches at Manual Antonio National Park, begging for food and if that did not work, actually stealing it.

While the white face monkeys remained highly visible, the howler monkeys could be heard easily but were much harder to locate because they tend to stay high in the tallest trees.  Without a good telescoping lens, this was the best I could do.

Look for the dark blob in the middle of the photo.  They also move fast so hard to locate and follow and even harder to photograph under those conditions.

Just as we arrived, walking, at the entrance to Manuel Antonio, a downpour began.  Not fond of drenchings, I stayed back, hoping it would stop, and suddenly saw a small sloth, the grey spot in the nearly leafless tree in the middle of this photo.

Lizards of many varieties abound.  The tree near my hotel room in Jaco contained four iguanas that appeared nearly lifeless since they never seemed to move.  Again, without a better lens I could not really photograph them.  However, at Manuel Antonio many other kinds of lizards ran here and there only slightly afraid and relatively easy to photograph.

When I think back as to what I expected, it never occurred to me that huge, brackish (salt) water crocodiles existed in such abundance or even existed there at all.  Near Jaco, on the Rio Grande Tarcoles the Costa Ricans created a preserve to protect the endangered scarlet macaws and crocodiles.  We arrived early in the morning and floated around the river, into a mangrove swamp, watching birds and crocodiles.  The list of common birds included 58 species and we saw others that the guide referred to as “bonus birds”.  The following photos come from this lovely, relaxing river ride.  Truly, I loved this part of the trip.

Entering the mangrove swamp.

Two months old.

Where the Rio Grande Tarcoles enters the Pacific Ocean.

The boat captain feeding the crocodile in the mud barefoot.  I thought about touching this one he was so close until I was told they could swim as fast as 55 miles per hour.  It occurred to me that he could turn around really quickly and snap off my hand so…

Pie: A Story of Mothers and Daughters


My mother usually viewed the world from a black and white perspective.  She had a lot of guidelines for how to live a productive and “good” life.   Neighbors and friends saw her as a “good” woman who cared for and did “good” in the rural community in which we lived.  Above all she was a good cook!!

I rarely think about her “rules” for life.  Suddenly I realize I actually “follow” a substantial number of these rules and have passed many on to my own daughter:

This is how you make butter with an electric mixer.

This is how you make a cake:

-grease and flour the cake pan(s)

-cut our circles of waxed paper to put on top of the greased and floured surface–you

do not want the cake to stick

-sift the flour

-soften the butter

-mix the ingredients in exactly this order.

This is what you wear.  You want to look presentable!!

-clean underwear in case you are in a car wreck

-matched clothes

-polished shoes

-purse and shoes that match

-no white anything before May 1 or after September 1.

This is how you present yourself to the world:

-well groomed

-clean fingernails

-self assured

-nice, but not too nice

-polite

-brushed teeth

-lotioned body

-clean hair.

This is how you wash your clothes:

-separate whites and colored items–you want the whites to stay white.

This is how you ride your pony:

-keep your heels down

-don’t lean too far back.

This is how you neck rein.

This is how you hold the reins.

This is how you get your pony to trot.

This is how you get your pony to canter.

This is how you get your pony to stop.

This is how you clean the house:

-vacuum first, dust second

-if you don’t do it right the first time, you will have to do it over.

This is how you work:

-hard

-persistent–never ever give up

-smart.

This is how you breathe to sing

This is how you practice well.

My mom could barely sew and only could play the piano by ear–two lifelong regrets.  I had to learn these things no matter what.  I do not like to sew much, but still play the piano and I love, love, love to sing!

She could cook, especially pie.  Her crusts were tasty works of art.  At potlucks people would get her pie first to make sure they got some.  At potlucks now, people get my pie first to make sure they get some.  My daughter does not even eat pie, but people love her pie and get a piece to make sure they get some.

Raisin Walnut Pie

This is not my mother’s recipe.  She mostly made black raspberry and other fruit pies and coconut chiffon pies.  This is the pie I make every time there is a potluck.  If I do not make it, people ask me about it so I gave up and just usually bring this pie.

3 eggs

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup raisins, golden or dark

3/4 cup walnuts, broken

1 unbaked pie shell

Stir corn syrup and brown sugar into melted butter.  Beat eggs slightly and stir into the butter/sugar mixture.  Add vanilla.  Mix raisins and walnuts and sprinkle into the pie shell.  Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the walnuts and raisins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until pie crust is golden and mixture is set.  Cool.

If you goof and do not have vanilla, stir in 1 tsp. of cinnamon instead.

Enjoy!!

Vegetarian Chorizo Casserole and Roasted Vegetables


Last night 12 people were at my house for dinner, including a friend who is Muslim so no pork.  I created this dish in order to feed both my Muslim and vegetarian friends. You could use regular chorizo, but after trying soyrizo, I quit using anything else and even my Mexican friends love it.  Tastes the same, but not so greasy so probably healthier.

I package soy chorizo, removed from casing

Enough small red potatoes to cover the bottom of a 13 X 9 casserole dish when thinly sliced

3 large poblano peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 medium purple onion, chopped

10 cherry tomatoes

2 cups half and half

4 TBS flour

1 TBS chili mild chili powder

Several TBS olive oil

Cover the bottom of the casserole with olive oil.  Layer the sliced potatoes so that they totally cover the bottom of the dish.  Remove the soy chorizo from its casing and crumble it over the potatoes.  Layer the sliced poblanos over the chorizo.  Sprinkle the chopped onions over the top of the peppers.  Scatter the cherry tomatoes on top of the onions.  In a blender, combine the half and half, the flour, and the chili powder.  Pour evenly over the casserole.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees until the potatoes are tender.  You may uncover the casserole and continue baking for the last ten to fifteen minutes if you would like the top a bit browned.

I served this with roasted vegetables seasoned with cumin and ground coriander and Egyptian basil:

Cover the bottom of a heavy casserole with olive oil. Place thinly sliced potatoes–I used purple ones–to cover the bottom of the pan.  Continue layering your choice of vegetables, spices, and olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees until the potatoes on done, stirring occasionally.  About ten minutes before the casserole is done, add kale leaves. The potatoes take longer to cook than any other vegetables I have ever used.  Last night I used these vegetables:  purple potatoes, yams, baby carrots, brussel  sprouts,  chopped onions, beets, kale, red jalapeños (seeded and halved), and whole garlic cloves.  This is also good with garbanzo beans added just before the kale.

I was going to take photos but was too busy entertaining to take them.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce


This recipe is dedicated to my grandson, D’mitri, who recently became a very serious vegetarian.

1 lb. soy “hamburger” (I used Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style Veggie Protein)

1 15 oz. can salt free chopped tomatoes

I medium onion, chopped

1 can tomato paste

1/2 -1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine

1 heaping Tbls. each of basil, oregano, and marjoram

Saute the onion in large skillet or sauce pan in 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil.  Place sautéed onion in blender with the chopped tomatoes and spices.  Blend.

In the meantime, in the same saucepan or skillet, place broken pieces of the hamburger in heated olive oil.  Use a wooden spoon to break up the “hamburger” into small pieces and brown.  Pour the onion/tomato/spices mixture over the browned “hamburger”.  Cook on medium low heat for 5-10 min.  Add one can tomato paste and the red wine.  Stir thoroughly.  Cook on low heat for a minimum of one hour.  Serve over organic, Italian pasta of your choice.  Serves four.

This is very delicious.  It is almost impossible to tell the difference between this and spaghetti sauce made from meat and it is considerably cheaper.  It is yummy leftover because the spices blend.  I use Egyptian basil because I prefer it.  Any type of basil will work.