Friday, August 30, 2013

Cafe Britt Tour ~ Heredia, Costa Rica

I rarely do touristy things when I go to Costa Rica. If I go with Tom, I am more likely to go outside the box but when I am just with the family, I tend to stay close to home. Sure we always go to the beach but never the tourist places.

This trip, however, I did one touristy thing which I really enjoyed. I wanted to learn how coffee is grown, processed and then packaged. I was fortunate that Cafe Britt was willing to host me, my sister and my mom for the tour.

I was not sure what to expect. Basically Cafe Britt buys coffee from growers and then processes, packages and sells the coffee. They have great coffee. But then again, all Costa Rican coffee is very tasty and we drink nothing else as home. I have even tried the famous Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee and I still like Costa Rican coffee better.

The tour started out with some basic coffee information and the history of coffee. Then we headed to a little hut where we were shown coffee beans after they have been processed and before they are roasted. Coffee beans start out green and then change color when they are roasted.

We then walked around the garden area where they had real coffee plants and even a cocoa plant.  In between all this, our guides gave us useful information about, what else, coffee. The guides were great. I liked that they did the tour in Spanglish. That way the tourists and locals alike could understand.

After the tour outside, we went to see the coffee roasters that are used to roast the coffee. I had no idea that the way you classify coffee by roast is due to the time it is roasted. I also have to mention that the smell  was amazing!! There is nothing like fresh roasted coffee.

We then went into a little theater area where our guides again gave us more coffee information. I will put some of the facts I learned below but these are facts that I remember. I have the memory of a gnat so don't expect too much!

The guides put on a little show. It was a little cheesy but fun. Plus, it was totally entertaining. I loved the guides. They made learning fun. We learned the best process for making coffee. Use a french press machine. We learned the best way to grind coffee. And other random information.

And, of course, all roads lead to a gift shop. It was a great tour. We got to taste coffee samples and candy samples as well.

If you ever go to Costa Rica, I totally recommend the Cafe Britt tour. It is a great way to learn a lot about coffee in a short period of time. It is also a great place to taste different types of coffee. The tour is fun and you will love being able to sample the wares! The cost is $22 for adult and it is well worth it. There are discounts for kids and students. You can also get a tour with lunch for $37. We didn't do the lunch but the food looked good.

You can buy Cafe Britt products on the online store. Not only do they sell coffee but they have merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, coffee presses etc. They also have cookies, candies and chocolate!

I want to thank Cafe Britt once again for hosting my family! We had a blast.

Some random Coffee Facts (from my demented notes):

April is flowering season for coffee. November is growing season. December to February is harvesting season

You have to pick coffee by hand

25 pounds of ripe fruit equals 3.5 pounds of coffee

The coffee fruit is put in tanks of water to remove the pulp. Then it goes into another tank to go through the fermentation process. The it is put outside to dry on concrete patios. it is raked every hour to ensure it gets dry. It has to completely dry or else it gets bitter. Then what is left, the beans, are roasted. Coffee beans are green and as they roast they turn brown. The difference in the roast of coffee is how long it is roasted. 

Never store coffee in the freezer or in paper bags. It will lose its oils and its flavor.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Costa Rica Trip ~ Italian Cooking Class

My sister takes cooking classes in Costa Rica so she invited me to go along to one. I am a great cook but I am always open to learning more. The class was an Italian cooking class and we were going to make fresh pasta, so I was excited.

I really enjoyed the cooking class. Now there were a few hiccups though. We were supposed to start at 5:30pm but two of the students were late. There were only 6 of us in the class and 4 of the students knew each other or had taken a class together. That caused some issues. Because they knew each other there were a lot of shenanigans going on. These shenanigans made the class go on for 2 hours more than it should have.

We ended up eating after 9:30 pm which is really late for me and my sister. Plus, it was tiring. But the good food made up for the length of the class.

Our teacher, Marina, is from Italy and she happens to live in Costa Rica. She gives classes I suppose to make a little money and because of her love of cooking. I totally understand that. I know if I ever move to Costa Rica, I will give classes in making good American classics like burger, fries, meatloaf, roast turkey etc. That would be fun!

Marina gave us some great tips but since I know how to cook, I knew a lot of what she talked about. But I did learn how to make fresh pasta and panna cotta. The class was well worth to learn how to make fresh pasta.

Our class started with a recipe for panna cotta. I had never made panna cotta but it turned out to be quite easy. It was much easier than I thought it would be. I have the recipe but it is in Spanish so I won't write it in the post. I have to go back and translate it before I even attempt to make it. But basically it was heating up cream and milk and vanilla and gelatin sheets. Then you have to put it in ramekin into the fridge to set and cool down. We also made a fresh berry sauce with yogurt and sugar.

The next recipe was finally making the dough for the pasta. Again, the recipe was so easy. We used regular flour, semolina flour, eggs and water. You mix it all up and then knead it to get the right consistency. Then you roll it out a little and then run it through the pasta machine. I felt it was one of the easiest recipes you can ever make. But you definitely need a pasta machine. I can't imagine rolling the dough out by hand and then continue doing it by hand.

Luckily, the pasta machine made it so much easier. We ran the dough through a few times and once it was the right width. Then we ran it through again to cut into strips. Once cut, we hung it to dry. Some of the other pasta was saved to make ravioli.

In the meantime, we made fresh tomato sauce. I make this all the time so it was easy. Marina also grilled some eggplant. We stuffed the eggplant with ricotta and other things. The rest of the eggplant was marinated in a balsamic vinegar sauce. We made potato and broccoli stuffing for the ravioli.

Once the stuffing was made, we made ravioli by putting dollops of the stuffing on the pasta and then either folding over the dough or adding a top sheet and squeezing it together. It was fun. Then we cooked up the pasta. We also made a simple butter and sage sauce for the pasta. We served the ravioli with the tomato sauce.

All the food was delicious. There is NOTHING like fresh pasta. The ravioli were tasty but I think i would have used a different filling. The eggplant was delicious. I definitely need to make this recipe again. I never thought of stuffing eggplant and they made a nice little appetizer. Yummy.

The panna cotta was delicious as well. It was not too sweet and the fresh berry sauce was the bomb. Our teacher, Marina, was so nice and she was patient and knew what she was doing. I liked that. We had some good wine and, even though the evening was wicked long, it was a great experience.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Doth the Little Crocodile ~ Wordless Wednesday

There is a bridge in Costa Rica where you can stop on the side and see crocodiles. I have done this a zillion times. Because we were on the road on this last trip, we stopped and I went to see the crocs again. They are not little. In fact, they are huge. And they are always there.

The scary part is that every year some crazy person, always a tourist, decides to go down to get a better look. Then they get eaten. Let me tell you that their heads are as big as half my body. This time, there were quite a few sunning themselves.

They scare me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Costa Rica Trip Recap!

I have to say that people think when I go to Costa Rica it is a vacation. But I am not a tourist when I head down there. My trips to Costa Rica involve fun stuff but mainly I go to visit my parents and sister. I do manage to sneak in some fun stuff especially when I go with Tom. He is my excuse to head to the beach or sneak away from the family for a while.

This trip was fun and I was so glad to be able to see my parents and hang out with my sister. As my parents get older, I realize that it is important to see them as much as I can. I am going to do a quickie recap on this post and share some photos and then I will highlight some of the trips and food on the trip.

I always stay with my mom and my sister lives next door so it is convenient. My dad lives further away so we always have breakfast with mom, lunch with dad and then dinner again with mom or other family members. On Wednesday, we just hung out with the parents. On Thursday we did the same thing as well. But on Thursday night, me and my sister headed out to take an Italian cooking class.

It was really fun. I am a pretty good cook so I already knew a lot of the tips she was giving. But I had never made panna cotta or fresh pasta before so it was an adventure. We made fresh ravioli as well. I will write more about the class and food we made in a later post.

Friday, we went over to the Cafe Britt. That was a lot of fun. It was one of the few touristy things I have ever done in Costa Rica. The tour was a lot of fun and it was interesting. We had some tasty coffee and learned how coffee is grown and roasted etc. I will have a post on this as well.

The weekend was low key except on Sunday we made tamales. A lot of tamales and it was grueling. We mad over 100 tamales and then my mom made more the next day. It was crazy but the tamales were delicious. I wish I could have brought some home so I could eat them here. I will post the recipe and pictures later on.

Monday we headed off to Puntaarenas with my dad, my cousin and my dad's best friend. Believe it or not, they have known each other for over 80 year. That is pretty amazing. It was a good drive and we ate at a nice beachside restaurant. Later that evening a cousin and his daughter's came to visit while we pawned off some tamales on them.

Tuesday we headed over to the beach near Manuel Antonio. We stayed there for a few days at a resort called the Clandestino Resort. It was a drive to get there but overall it was a nice place and we got in some pool time. And all I wanted was a little pool time. I will also have a post just dedicated to that trip as well.

Friday, we did our usual routine and that night we headed out for dinner and drinks with my cousin. It was nice but along the way I ate or drank something that caused my stomach to rebel. I catch everything. I was real careful about drinking bottled water although most of the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. I didn't eat tons of food but I bet I got something at the beach and by Friday it just went nuts. I also had 2 mojitos and I usually don't drink.

Saturday was my last day there and it was the usual visiting my dad and then hanging with my mom and sister. By then, I didn't want to eat or drink anything because I wanted to be well for my flight on Sunday. Luckily, I survived the flight and the 4 hour layover in Atlanta before I came home. My luggage survived as well which was a good thing because I had tons of coffee, beans and candy all stuffed into the bag. My bag was overweight by 2 pounds but the cute airline agent in Costa Rica let it pass. And I swear, only 4-5 pounds of that 52 pounds was my clothes. The rest were goodies!

More stories and pictures to come!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Curried Zucchini and Squash!

On my quest to use up as much of our harvest this year, I have been trying different recipes. I am also trying to present recipes that anyone can make and are easy to make.

My new recipe involves our endless supply of zucchini and yellow squash. It is all I can do to find ways of making anything with zucchini and squash. This recipe came to me when I was making Chicken Curry. I realized that I could add a little curry powder to the squash and make it spicy and delicious.

This recipe cannot be any easier. Just grab zucchini and squash or both. Cut them into bite sized pieces. I also had some fresh onions from the garden so I minced them and then I sauteed the squash and onions in butter and a little olive oil. I added a pinch of slat and pepper. Once the squash looked cooked, I added a teaspoon of curry powder. That's it. It took less than 20 minutes and made a delicious side dish!

I used zucchini, yellow squash, onions and curry powder

Chop the onions

Cut the squash

Butter and Olive Oil. Tip: Always use a little olive oil with butter so it won't burn

Saute onions

Saute squash

Add curry powder



Buen Provecho!