Thursday, September 27, 2012

Zucchini Hazelnut Bread!

Today I made a loaf of bread. This is a big deal.

I'm gluten-intolerant and lactose intolerant, and I have a lazy intestine. That mother doesn't want to work. I shouldn't eat meat, peanut butter, chocolate, and other hard-to-digest-but-delicious-foods. At the end of the previous school year, I wrote what I consider to have been a very inspirational blogpost about the matter: "I'm taking control of my digestive system!" and "Nothing will get me down, by golly!" were the highlights, in case you were unlucky enough to miss it.Well, that attitude was fairly easy to keep up with this summer while I was at home in High Point, on vacation, straight chillin'. I had nothing to do but eat well, exercise, and hang out with my friends and family, and my mind and body loved me for it!

I came back to the DR, so happy to be with the fiancé and my friends here, but to be honest, going back to work has been a complete bitch. Being in the classroom is so gratifying and fun for me that it's like free therapy - I leave at the end of the class more relaxed and more in tune with myself than when I began. But the grading! And the new classes! My workload feels like it's doubled and I've been completely exhausted, stressed out, and contemplating quitting my job and working in retail. I mean, whatever. Any mindless job will do.

My day-to-day life has consisted of school, napping, boiling some tubers, and going back to bed. The days that vary are the days that I get so sick of this routine that I freak out about how every day is the same and the fiancé and I go to a movie or go out to dinner. And then I set my alarm to begin again.

Y'all, this is ugly. On top of feeling way overworked, I've been neglecting exercise and my strict eating routine. In the past few weeks, I feel like I reversed so much of what I worked so hard to improve in the last few months. I know it's a vicious cycle - eating poorly and not exercising also zaps energy, but being a work zombie has given me a tunnelvision that directs me straight to my bed.

But then I went away last weekend to Puerto Plata, and I connected with my inner voice again. Friends. The beach. The sun. An absorbing book. It's amazing what rest and silence and laughter will do for the soul.

I reminded myself that I really am in control. I am the only one that can bring life back into my life! Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk that has gringo-fied many Buddhist teachings (Thanks Thich! ;) We're on a first name basis now), said something that connects with my weekend away: "The greatest miracle is that you are alive. And one breath can show you that." We are alive! Living! Breathing! Swimming! Laughing! Sharing! Listening! Shit that's good!

I'm embarrassed that I've been letting work, stress, and the proverbial "man" keep me down, but I'm feeling reenergized to start fighting back! For the millionth time, I want to be better today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Because, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' (Mary Anne Rodmacher)

So I tried again today.

And I worked efficiently at school (check), I exercised (check!!!), and I made an incredible loaf of Zucchini Hazelnut Bread (check check check!!!!!).

Wow! My first loaf of bread! It's moist, spongy, and the flavors are so perfect together! Really, it's exactly how I remember gluten-full bread to taste like! It was love at first sight/taste/smell. I wouldn't change a thing. (But if you want to, walnuts is a good substitution for the hazelnuts.)

Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Hazelnuts

1 cup hazelnut halves (about 4 oz.)
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt**
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

**I am very sensitive to any and all lactose products, but I tolerate Greek yogurt. It has less lactose than normal dairy products, and it's full of probiotics. Some of you lactose intolerants may not tolerate Greek yogurt at all, and in that case, you could substitute the yogurt for applesauce in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch metal loaf pan. 

Chop the hazelnuts in half. Then spread the hazelnut halves in a pan and toast them for about 8 minutes, until you can smell them. Take them off the heat and reserve them for later.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and fat-free greek yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, along with the grated zucchini and toasted hazelnuts.  Stir until the batter is evenly moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

a buen tiempo!

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Mom's Spaghetti: My Comfort Food

I'm in North Carolina for the summer, hopping between High Point with my parents and friends, and Charlotte, where my sister and brother-in-law are raising their brand-new baby, Travis Winston Beglin. This baby just happens to be the sweetest, most precious little smiling bundle of, as cliché as it sounds, joy. He's 3 months old and, well, perfect. His flawlessness, I'm sure, is due to my sister's unfailing dedication as a new mom. 

I've learned that the key to "happy baby" is an on point sleeping schedule. Baby eats, plays, and the second you see an adorable baby yawn, get that booger to sleep! In his cute little crib with his adorable little animal mobile. As long as his sleeping and eating schedule is always on time, Baby T rarely fusses and only plays. It's great for my Mom and I, the visitors, because we have the honor of playing with the baby bunny while he's awake, and just hanging out while he's asleep. My sister, Caroline, on the other hand, doesn't have many moments to herself, but you'd never realize it because she never complains. It's more than impressive, it's honorable. Being a mother seems to be some scary shit, and she hasn't skipped a beat. Kudos to you, mi hermana!

Look at that baby smile!
You are welcome.

Love this baby bunny!

Now that I'm on summer vacation, I've been spending my days incredibly lazily. While I'm home, I've been getting my fix of the Food Network, particularly because the fiancé and I are TV-less (by choice!) in the DR. Knitting, looking for recipes and DIY projects, scanning Pinterest and Facebook - these are all worthy activities of Food Network or TLC's Say Yes to the Dress as back noise. Anyway, my Mom tends to join me while I watch, and she gets very upset that most Food Network hosts credit their mothers for their culinary "skillz." My Mom is patient, kind, funny, and quirky, but she is not a woman who enjoys being in the kitchen. I started my cooking prowess independently in college, and I've gotten serious about it in the last year and a half. Putting the pieces together, you'll see that I was not living at home while I was learning how to cook. But it's ok, Mom! You taught me too many other things. I need to be able to figure out a few things by myself!

My Mom's Spaghetti is her signature meal that, despite her magnetic pull away from the kitchen, has marked many special moments in my life, both before and after being gluten-and lactose-free. It has, what the fiancé calls, the 3 B's: it's bueno (good), bonito (pretty), y barato (cheap). Are you tempted yet? No really, this spaghetti is incredible. Most, if not all, of our family birthdays and other days of celebration were spaghetti days. Many a Sunday while my sister was in college, she came home for dinner with a few of her cronies, and those were always spaghetti days. When I come home from wherever I've been, spaghetti is normally what we eat first! My Mom's Spaghetti is my own personal comfort food, I know it's my sister's, too, and I've taken this tradition with me to the DR.

One cool November evening, we had a few of our best friends over for dinner, and My Mom's Spaghetti was on the menu.

I added some sliced mushrooms to this spaghetti, plus all the goodness you'll see in the recipe below.

Look at all those smiling, full faces!

After that night, our friend Juanddy talked about this spaghetti all the time! The next time I knew he would be over for dinner, I planned for spaghetti again, and then invited everyone else to try it! It was a huge hit, and nothing was left over! 

Not gluten- or lactose-free! But I didn't eat these!  

I think something intimidating about discovering you have food allergies is that you imagine your life without the foods you love. Yes, you'll find new foods that mark moments and people that are meaningful to you, of course. But I've found a way to eat My Mom's Spaghetti no matter what, by making slight changes, whether in my choice of pasta - whole wheat to gluten free - to eliminating the 1/2 pound of cheese I used to add on top. Obviously, these tweaks are easy ones, but I bet you can find a way to adapt the most important recipes in your life to your new diet. For example, since I found out about my recent digestive issues, this meal has been been adapted to be meat-less. We ate it without the ground beef at my sister's house last week! Do your best not to write off those breakfasts, lunches, dinners, or muffins that make you the happiest! You can find a way to keep them in your life!

You can always send them to La Buena Fe and I'd be happy to help you adjust your favorite recipes, too!

The most important thing you should take from this post is that when you make this recipe, you must share My Mom's Spaghetti on a special day or with people you love! Or, in other words, pay it forward!


My Mom's Spaghetti

(Cooking time: 15-20 minutes)

1 package of gluten-free, and lactose-free (don't forget to check for milk!), spaghetti noodles

2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1 pound of ground beef, or substitute with ground turkey (But if you're going to do it, you might as well go with ground beef. It's so much better this way.)
1 package McCormick Thick and Zesty Spaghetti Sauce Mix
1 3/4 cups of water
1 6 oz. can tomato paste

** Leave out 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the ground beef or turkey for a meatless option.**

First, cook your spaghetti according to the package's instructions. 

While your spaghetti is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauce pan. Brown your ground beef until it is brown and crumbly. Then, stir in the McCormick sauce mix, water, tomato paste, oil, and ground beef until well blended. Bring the sauce to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Serve over pasta and add parmesan cheese (if you can!). Serves 4-5. 

a buen tiempo!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins with Almonds and Cooking for Love, Not for Money.

I'm obsessed with these Pumpkin Muffins with Almonds (or cashews, or pecans, or walnuts - whatever you have!), and I'm not the only one.

But I'll get back to them in a second. 

As an update, my health is in tip top shape right now. I'm eating what my body needs and I'm exercising regularly. And just as importantly, I'm not working like a crazy person.

Let me fill you in on a little secret: I love to work. It's embarrassing, really. When I was at one of my worst moments this year, in terms of my physical health, I also technically had three jobs: high school English literature and language teacher, after school SAT prep class teacher, and I started a tiny side business selling gluten free goodies, aptly named La Buena Fe.

I started selling the Peanut Butter Cookies by accident. One day, I brought a few batches of these bad boys in to school as Thank You's to a couple of fellow teachers. These ladies passed the cookies around the teacher's lounge, and by the end of the next day, my business cards were made and the orders were flowing in. As you can see, when I sense an opportunity, I run as fast as I f'ing can with it. After about a month, I was making 100 cookies a night. Plus teaching during the day. And teaching SAT prep in the afternoon. I also was not eating dinner, exercising, or doing anything else, including cooking and writing. 

I was exhausted! Burnt out! After a couple of weeks, I hated those f'ing cookies! And I had to shake myself - hadn't I been here before? Really, Lizzy, how did you let this happen? 

Looking back over the course of my life, I realize that I've always bitten off more than I can chew, I've maintained a stress level that normally equals to exhaustion, and just because I tend to pull off everything in the end doesn't mean it's good for me. Or for you, for that matter. Does this sound familiar? Or do I just sound neurotic?

It's important to have goals and push yourself blahdy blahdy blah, etc. etc. etc., but we put too much pressure on ourselves to make our life based around climbing invisible ladders. 

I'm lucky -  I love my job, the first one, teaching high school. I work very hard at it, I'm learning everyday, and it's nothing short of satisfying. But life is not work. Shouldn't there be time to enjoy our friends, family, and food? And isn't there some reflecting that's supposed to go on in there? Shouldn't we have time to develop personal interests? When did these important parts of our lives become so low on our list of priorities? 

I quit selling the cookies, and the SAT class ended. I'm exercising and reading and cooking and napping in the afternoons instead. It's liberating and it feels like I'm in control of my own life. We all know how special that feeling is. Am I right or am I right?

And finally, one last philosophical bite: F cooking for money (for the time being)! One day I would love to have a bed and breakfast or a small café, but right now, I want to make amazing food out of love. I'm trying recipes for gluten- and lactose-free baked goods for my friends and for the fiancé's friends and for whoever gets lucky enough to be here when I'm making a batch of heaven and honey (I'm trying to cut out sugar). A lot more edible Thank You's and Just Because's have been given out. It feels good. It feels better.

These Pumpkin Muffins have been shared with many, and everyone raves about them. The fiancé and I have coffee and muffin time just about every afternoon, and for 3 weeks, these have been the stars.  I can't take all the credit though, because this recipe comes from the Gluten Free Goddess website. Schedule a couple of afternoons just to flip through the Gluten Free Goddess's recipes - there are tons! And all that I have tried so far have been outstanding. 

The flour mix I'm using is based on the ratio from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. The article attached again here perfectly explains why it's important to weigh your gluten free flours instead of measuring them by cups. It's the best article I've found on gluten free baking. 

Buy these flours, weigh them according to the list below, and mix them together. You will be tapping into the individual bags of flour very little. It seems expensive, but one batch of this all purpose mix lasted for about 4-5 batches of muffins. 

It's worth it! Trust me. These muffins do not taste gluten free in the slightest, and you can use this mix any other time your recipe calls for a gluten free all purpose flour mix. And you can proudly say you made it yourself! Congratulations!

200 grams superfine brown rice flour
150 grams sorghum flour
50 grams potato flour
250 grams sweet rice flour
150 grams potato starch
100 grams arrowroot powder
100 grams cornstarch

Pay this post forward and make these muffins for someone you love! Cheers to finding time for you!

2 1/3 cups of the gluten free all purpose flour mix above OR if you cannot or do not want to make your own flour, King Arthur's Gluten Free All Purpose Flour mix is the best I have found so far!
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add in: 
1 and 1/3 cups packed coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree 
1/3 cup light olive oil
2 eggs, beaten, or Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup warm water for vegan
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract

Then add in:
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk or coconut milk

Beat the batter to incorporate the ingredients. If it needs a little more liquid, add up to 1/4 cup almond or coconut milk until it is a smooth consistency.

Stir in by hand:
1/2 cup almonds, pecans, walnuts, or cashews.

Spoon the batter into twelve muffin cups, filling them close to the top. Top the muffins with whatever nut you chose as a filler: almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pecans.

Bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees, for about 22-25 minutes, or until golden and firm, yet springy. Test them with a toothpick to be sure that they are done.

Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes and then remove them from the pan to prevent the bottoms from getting soggy.

The Gluten Free Goddess website says that these muffins freeze well, but I haven't tried it yet. If you do try it and like the results, let me know!

Makes around 12 muffins!

a buen tiempo!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A New Lifestyle and Carrot and Pineapple Muffins

It's not like me to put it all out there on the internet.

But my blog is about health and sticking to a gluten-free lifestyle, so I've got to be real with you. Y'all, I wasn't feeling well. I've been so caught up in my health that the blog, and imaginate, a lot of other things, have been put on the back burner.

Stomachaches, bloating, irregularity, fatigue and exhaustion, headaches, and irritability have been plaguing me for months. First, we thought it was a variety of parasites. I was put on antibiotic after antibiotic to kill those motherf'ers. No change. In December, my doctor discovered I had appendicitis and cut that bad boy out. I was great for a few weeks, and then back to the same painful and exhausting symptoms as before. More antibiotics and still nothing changed. Blood tests, urine tests, sonograms showed that nothing was wrong. A final CT scan showed I had a sad colon and intestine, and by process of elimination, my doc told me to cut out lactose and see what happened.

Magic happened, that's what. The bloating and pain were gone - I could eat without my stomach blowing up to the size of a bowling ball. It turns out that the lactose intolerance was the main culprit. Half of my diet was lactose-based - I ate milk, yogurt, and cheese daily. And a lot of ice cream and froyo. Also, all the antibiotics I took were killing the good bacteria that keep the intestines functioning correctly. On top of that, my diet consisted of other digestion-stoppers - bananas and chocolate being the top two. Pretty much, everything I consumed was preventing my intestines from digesting what I ate.

Say whaaaat?

It's been a shock. I prided myself on how healthy and careful I was about what went into my body while I'd been hurting myself unknowingly. The worst part is that in the last few weeks, I was sticking to my new diet about 70% of the time. It felt like I was in mourning. I was angry about my body reacting this way, so I was still eating some no-no's and not really exercising.

Anyone with a food intolerance knows that this period of "why me?" is typical but that it can't last forever. So enough's enough. I'm lucky that these are issues that I can fix! It will just take a little elbow grease and time. Planning my meals more carefully is a must, and I have to make the time to cook and to exercise just about every single day. Nap time will have to be cut short! Sacrifices, sacrifices.

So, here's what my new lifestyle looks like:

1. Low fat: Fat digests slowly. -

That means tubers, vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, and fish are going to be my go-tos.
I need to stay away from meat (for the fat content), dairy (obvi), and anything fried.
(Aka the delicious guilty pleasures that I splurge on a couple times a week. Sorry world, it's the truth.)

2. High fiber: 30 grams of fiber a day -  Fiber aids digestion, promotes colon health and keeps you fuller longer. Smoothies with added fiber and flaxseed are a great way to sneak it in there, too.

3. Vitamin Supplements: Omega 3/6/9, Vitamin B complex, multivitamin, acidophilus (probiotics for digestive health), and fiber supplements

4. Strengthening my core: Pilates and Yoga mixed with some cardio.

Easy enough, right? And for when I get discouraged....

...The food blogging universe truly picks me back up. So many people out there live this lifestyle, and they are much stronger and healthier than I am. Inspiring and healthy women writers are necessary role models to have.

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef was the first gluten-free blog to steal my heart a little over a year ago. As Shauna shares with us her daily celebrations and struggles, her words seem to dance off the page and into my kitchen.

My favorite Gluten Free Girl recipes are for baking and putting together my own all purpose flour mix. It's wonderful! Check it out.

Elana's Pantry is gluten-free, and much of the time, sugar- and lactose-free as well. Her ingredients and cooking are as natural as it gets. Elana's Pantry also seems to be covering many recipes for the Paleo diet. It's an interesting idea that claims that eating like our ancestors, the hunters and gatherers, brings with it a million and one health benefits. Check out this site, too, for more Paleo diet reading.

Finally, Gluten Free Goddess has been making my mouth water for weeks! I'm learning how to bake gluten- and lactose-free, and this website has been torturing me with it's ridiculous amount of gluten free baked goods and desserts.


Carrot and Pineapple Muffin: The finished product! 

On that note, my first recipe back is a gluten- and lactose-free muffin that is so full of flavor and texture that you won't even notice that it is also incredibly good for you. The fiancé and friends loved them without realizing that they were indulging in a food tolerance friendly nutritional bundle!


3/4 cup organic coconut sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup gluten free flour (King Arthur's All Purpose GF Flour is the best I've found that is store bought)
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (don't use this if xanthan gum is already in your GF flour mix)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (toast them if you feel like it for more flavor!)
2 1/4 cup grated carrots (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 cup diced fresh pineapple

So delicious.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tin or line it with muffin cups. Beat together the coconut sugar, eggs, and oil, and then add the applesauce and vanilla. In another bowl, mix together the flour, xantham gum, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir in your raisins and walnuts, and then fold in the grated carrots and diced pineapple. Mix well, but don't over mix!

Bake for around 25 minutes! Enjoy! And don't tell them it's gluten- and lactose-free until after they try them! These are bakery worthy.

P.S. This mix can be used for a cake as well! (8x8 inch square pan or 9 inch round pan)

a buen tiempo!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fish and Chickpeas...and The Love of My Life, Cabarete (Internal Tourism, anyone?)

A h, C a b a r e t e - also known as Cab, the North Coast, or to the fiancé, simply, "la costa" (the coast). He doesn't have to clarify; I already know which one he's talking about. One day our wedding will be there, and until then, it is our getaway. When I think of Cabarete, the name cartoon-ifies with glitter and stars and small-shaped hearts. My mind relaxes, and I remember what it feels like just to be. It's that intense.

Where is it, you wonder? Cabarete is on the Northern coast of the Dominican Republic. By plane, it's about 2 hours from Miami. You can fly directly to Puerto Plata and after a 15 minute taxi ride, or public car, you will have landed in a very magical place. 
Luscious.  It's a beautiful drive from Santo Domingo to Cabarate.

Cabarete has always been one of a kind, but the fiancé tells me that up until around 2007, it was undiscovered. He and his friends spent their weekends in the sand all day, at the barcitos all night, and when it was time to rest, they slept on the beach. Can you imagine? It sounds like a dream.

Even with Cabarete’s recent popularity boom, the atmosphere is open and laid back  - the perfect surfer’s paradise. Depending on the weekend, the beaches are sprinkled with foreigners, particularly surfers and kite boarders, from all around the world. The people that live there and those that visit have one special quality in common – their free spirit. Stress is prohibited and a Presidente or two are encouraged. It is the perfect spot to go with friends and family to unwind, eat (good lord, the food...) and drink well, and truly to enjoy each other. Speaking of food, my next Cabarete post will have to be about the grub. I'm already on it.

However, sleeping on the beach is no longer advisable – a rise in tourism comes with it’s inevitable moochers…as in, don’t leave your schmit alone, and don’t be an idiot and sleep on the beach. It’s important to note that I’ve never felt slightly unsafe in Cab, so just use common sense.

The Beaches: Cabarete Bay, Kite Beach, Playa Encuentro

Cabarete Bay:

Footprints in the sand. I mean, really?
Some of my favorite meals have been on the beach in Cab -
Restaurants line the beach and they are amazing, and not just for the view.

Cabarete at Night

Our favorite restaurant in Cab.

Where to stay in the town of Cabarete:

Winding our way to the bungalows,
Hotel Kaoba
Hotel Kaoba: Our hotel of choice, Hotel Kaoba is in the center of town and it is also the most economical choice the fiancé and I can find. For 35 dollars a night, we have our own bungalow, which includes a double bed, a twin bed, and our own bathroom. Hotel Kaoba’s bungalows wind around what feels to be a palm tree forest, with a charming pool in the center.

Hotel Villa Taina: For a more luxurious option, Hotel Villa Taina is the ticket. Still right in the city center, Hotel Villa Taina also has a gorgeous beachfront property. Highly recommended, this charming hotel starts at around $80 a night, and it might be where we reserve rooms for our wedding!

There are literally tons of other options. Apartments and condos can be extremely affordable, and if you are looking for a resort, there are a couple options for that as well (particularly the Velero Beach Resort). This is one of the best list I have found of places to stay in Cabarete.

Kite Beach:

Still technicially in Cabarete, but a ways down from the bars and restaurants, you are close to the action while still feeling remote. One of my favorite images of Cabarete is the view of Kite Beach’s hundreds of kites in the sky at sunset from Cabarete Bay.

Cabarete Bay looking into Kite Beach in the distance
See that beach across the way? That's Kite Beach.

Playa Encuentro:

Part of the North Coast’s new found popularity is the prime opportunities to surf, windsurf, and kite board. Playa Encuentro is just a bit outside of Cabarete, and this beach is one of the best surf/kite boarding spots. Devoid of hotels and other manmade anything, Playa Encuentro is all beach, all the time. It’s bareness takes you far, far away from the real world. It's also what attracts international surfing, kite boarding, and wind boarding competitions, like the Master of the Ocean, featured below.

Ah, there it is.
Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012
Playa Encuentro
Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012

Master of the Ocean Watersport Competition, Playa Encuentro, Feb. 2012
Riding in the back after a long day at Encuentro.
Tough life.

Cesar and Mariela - Our partners-in-crime in Cabarete

Do you see it's magic, too? It feels like a home away from home. We have a routine that is comforting - our breakfast spot knows us, we go to the same restaurants at night, and our days are split between Encuentro and Cabarete Bay. And it's always a teary goodbye when it's time to leave. Maybe La Buena Fe will have it's own café there one day. A girl can dream, right?

Speaking of beach-related things, I thought a fish recipe would be fitting for today's post. Fish and Beans (in my case, Chickpeas) is a traditional Spanish dish, and it is easy and absolutely delicious. The best part about this dish is it's versatility. Change up the type of fish, type of beans, or add roasted potatoes or chopped greens. Use this recipe as a starting point for greatness.

Thank you, Mark Bittman, 
for an endless array of simple, beautiful recipes.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four 6 oz. thick white fish fillets (I used cod)
cornmeal, for dredging
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 cups cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans (I used canned, but if you cooked them, which is recommended, save the cooking liquid.)
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves (I went in a different direction and used cilantro. It worked, but parsley would be a better fit.)
dash of hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or cayenne (optional)
juice from 2 limes (1/2 lime per fish)

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan, large enough for the fish to fit in one layer, and make sure it is over medium-high heat. Dredge the fillets in cornmeal and when the oil is hot, add them one at a time. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cooked side is browned evenly. Turn the fish onto an ovenproof dish, browned side up, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the fish in the oven for around 8 minutes.

While the fish is in the oven, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and the onions to the large skillet for 1-2 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the skillet (with about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, only if they were not canned), cook, stirring, for around a minute. Add all the white wine except for 1 tablespoon, and raise the heat. Cook, shaking the pan a few times, until the liquid is almost evaporated and the chickpeas are starting to brown. This should take around 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for around 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining olive oil and white wine. For a kick, add a dash of hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper!

By this time, the fish should be done. If not, keep the chickpeas on low heat until the fish is white and flakey. Serve the fish on top of the chickpeas, and squeeze juice from 1/2 lime on top of each serving.
Serves 4.

a buen tiempo!