Natural Burgers

13521956_773978376072578_5929627160954739733_nNatural Burgers!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Living a natural life is getting so much easier. I have to admit that simply removing our life from the “World of Convenience” aka USA, really has been a huge help in this quest of mine. It’s a lot easier to live a natural life, when, life IS natural. What I mean, is that, when convenience foods are not available, it really pushes one to live outside the box. To try new ways, and to forget the old.
Yes, we can get Oreo cookies and Ruffles potato chips if we really want to. But, when the serving size is half of a single serve in the USA and costs triple the price…it’s a lot easier to just pass on by. Besides, while you’re standing at the tienda window: you can smell fresh plantain chips cooking at the restaurant across the street and as well as fresh-baked Manabi cookies out of the oven…pretty much all day long. They both cost LESS than the spoken of America “treats”. Why on earth would anyone choose the latter?

Yesterday, I really wanted to make hamburgers. Sometimes, we do crave a little bit of “home”… I just didn’t expect to make the best burger I’ve had in my life, with my own two hands in my own kitchen…in Ecuador!13509118_773978452739237_1796620028821910230_n
Since hamburgers and spaghetti and meatloaf are not typical foods here, buying ground beef took a bit more effort than simply running to the Super Market. We actually do not have a Super Market. There is no such thing. There are about 20 shops here in town. They each have their specialty, and yes, you must visit each one to get what you want at a fair price. When you want something like beef..especially with a certain request, typically you need to ask 1-3 days ahead of time. Why? Because they don’t store it packaged and waiting in coolers. It is literally ordered straight from the source..the farmer..and when you pick it up, it was likely butchered that morning. You need to take it home asap, they don’t have any preservatives or red dyes to keep it pretty. If you leave it in the fridge, it starts to stink in a little over a day. So, you buy it, and then eat it or freeze it immediately.
As for hamburgers buns and pickles..when you ask for a pickle, you get a fresh sliced cucumber drenched in lemon juice. Buns..you get a funny look unless you ask for bread, and you are pointed to the same baker who makes those heavenly cookies. He gives you a loaf of bread. Ketchup and Mayo…find them if you want, the Ecuadorian versions are delicious, they are not made with sugar or corn syrup, and are often without vinegar. But, really, they are not necessary. And don’t forget the cheese…or do! American cheese can’t be easily or affordably found here. You can get basically 1 kind of queso. It would be weird on a burger, and we didn’t miss it anyway.
13510927_773978422739240_1410957367436698571_nAt home, I mixed the ground beef up with 1/4 cup of chopped red onion, 1/2 cup of chopped spinach, and 1 egg. I threw them on the skillet and let them cook on low heat while I prepared the buns. I sliced the loaf of bread in half, lengthwise and put the inside face down in a second skillet, drizzled with EVOO, oregano and parsley. I left the bread long enough for it to toast.

When I flipped the burgers, I was amazed to see just a tiny bit of grease in the bottom of the pan. There was not even enough to bother with pouring it out! I did not order “lean” meat. You can’t do that here. You get what they give you. But, something worth noting…every cow we’ve ever seen here, is skinny. They are grass-fed, free range cows. I’ve never seen a barn here, but I have seen many a cow alongside the road. This way of raising cattle is the only way. Farmers here wouldn’t dream of caging or fencing their animals, giving them “feed”, or pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones to make them produce more milk or softer meat. Cows here, eat grass and plow fields. They are “naturally” healthy. 13533130_773978409405908_4842434331562955704_n

The tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, and onion…they are organic. I buy them weekly from the back of a truck that just came from the fields, or maybe from the neighbor’s garden. They are usually dirty, and sometimes I pick through to avoid any that are over-ripe or moldy, and is not uncommon to find a bug or other garden pest. We do not pay extra for Organic. Organic is the only way. Pesticides and fertilizer are unknown and unnecessary. Fruits and Vegetables live in nature. So do bugs and worms. They are mutually exclusive.

These are our delicious burgers! FULL of flavor, low on grease, locally sourced, AND 100% unprocessed. Even our picky toddlers gobbled them up. They like “healthy” choices, too!

Tomates de Arbol(Tree Tomatoes)

13508918_771086876361728_4464546865536280257_nThese are “Tomates de Arbol”, or Tree Tomatoes. They are, as you guessed it, tomatoes that grow on a tree! They are similar to other tomatoes, except that the exterior is generally not eaten. Locals eat this fruit by gently rolling and squishing it between their palms, and then biting off the end where the stem is. Then, they suck the pulp out with their mouth while pushing it through the top of the fruit. These eating methods are still a bit strange to me, but I am learning that this is a fairly typical way to eat many of the regional fruits.13465963_771086843028398_764684638461852988_n
This is a very popular fruit for juicing, and this is how we consume it most of the time. It can be boiled first or blended raw. It is often paired with water or milk and sugar or honey.
The fruit has a deep red or purple skin, yellow or orange flesh and black seeds. It is actually not a tomato at all, but gets the name for resemblance in taste and appearance.
13533035_771086893028393_7894933264664909689_nIt is not mass-produced or exported, and is mostly cultivated in gardens and local orchards. It is native to the Andean regions of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. It is unique a tree in that it grows in the Subtropical regions of the Andes Mountains.
We see the fruit more often now than in previous months, as we have recently entered the cool season that promotes the growth of the fruit with chilly overnight temperatures.
We love this unique and delicious fruit, and we buy it fresh every week now from the food truck that delivers to our neighborhood. 13494945_771086863028396_1792158478547247095_n

Mixed Rice with Shrimp & White Fish

Mixed Rice with Shrimp & White Fish

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Our 3 year old daughter “buying” the shrimp we cooked for lunch.

It’s such an experience to buy your fresh shrimp straight from the back of a truck.. take it home, and cook it with garden fresh ingredients. It just can’t get any more natural than this. Forget hormones, preservatives, and additives. This type of food comes straight from the source, just as if you caught it or dug it up with your own bare hands. Only we didn’t! We bought it on the street for a fraction of the price of its evil alternative in the USA.

I’ve never made “Mixed Rice” before, but it’s a typical option on any restaurant menu in our neck of the woods…yesterday seemed like the right day to try, as I already had white fish fillets at home marinading for lunch.
This is one the best and most flavorful fish dishes I have ever made. It was so good, I think we’ll make it again today!

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This is how we made it:

Ingredients:
2 large carrots (diced)
1 medium red onion (diced)
1 bunch of garlic (minced)
3 TBSP of Olive Oil

2 cups of rice
5 cups of water
2 white fish filets (marinated over night in lemon, garlic, onion and parsley)
10-15 large shrimp (peeled, deveined)
1 green bell pepper (chopped into quarters)

1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1/4 lime/lemon juice
(Mix these together and set aside)

In a large skillet: heat the olive oil and add carrots, red onion, and garlic. Cook about 4 minutes on medium heat
Add the rice and the water. Let it come to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Lay bell pepper quarters on top of the rice.
Then, add shrimp and fish by laying them on top of the rice. Cover.
Let simmer until shrimp turns pink and the fish flakes.
Remove from heat.
Remove and discard pepper.
Remove shrimp and cut into bite size pieces.
Return to pan and then drizzle the cilantro lemon mix over the top.
Mix everything until well combined.
Let cool and serve in bowls.

Habichuelas: Lima Beans!

May 8, 2016 13178637_748860751917674_1918250882112523315_n

What an awesome time we had today shelling Lima Beans! 😀
I’ve never had or seen fresh Lima beans before.
Yesterday, the man we bought them from was carrying them on the back of his motorcycle. As he passed us, driving down the dirt lane to our house… he was shouting “Habichuelas! Habichuelas! Habichuelas! “13139205_748860641917685_5578129395673549702_n
I had no absolutely no idea what he was saying or selling.. but, we stopped him anyway. It’s always fun to see what these street sellers are hiding in their buckets. At first I hoped they were peas, but quickly realized they were something else: baby Lima beans!

I particularly enjoyed these moments, as it was reminiscent of days from my own childhood.. when we would spend the mornings shelling peas on the back step.
We all enjoyed a breezy morning sitting outside at the table, practicing counting the beans in Spanish and being enlightened by our daughter’s accurate and in-depth explanation of how to make a compost pile, using the shells of the beans!

We enjoyed a portion of the lima beans, cooked Italian style with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and oregano. I poured them over our favorite veggie based noodles and served them as a side with grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts.
Yum!

*Spanish Tip: Habichuelas = Beans

Jaiba Crab Tacos

April 11, 2016

Jaiba Tacos…Homemade! 😀
These came out soooo good, we can’t wait to make them again!
Jaiba is a type of blue crab found in Ecuador. We bought it locally for $15 for approx. 2.5 lbs of fresh, shelled meat.

I cooked the 1 lb of crab meat for 5 minutes in a saucepan with the juice of 3 limes, 3 TBSP of chopped red onion, and 2 TBSP of chopped pineapple.
I removed it from the heat and tossed in 4 TBSPS of green onion and 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro.
I placed this mixture onto empanada dough discs (they are similar to a pastry dough) that I cooked on one side only in a light olive oil/sunflower oil mix. Cooking them on side only left them pliable enough to fold for “tacos”.

Then, I topped them with diced pineapple and red onion.

Fresh ingredients are everything! And these delicious tacos were full of fresh flavor 😀

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