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Nopales or Prickly Pears


Either name you use doesn’t matter as they are commonly known as cactus.  I’m sure you’ve seen them – flat cactus “pads” growing every which way, producing flowers that are brilliant in colours, yellow, red, purple, orange, some produce flowers and some produce fruit.  Nopales is the plural word for nopal.

Nopales - Cactus Pads

Today was my first experience consuming prickly pear cactus but it’s been on my mind for quite some time, back since I heard about using the pads in a burger.  I planted a cactus in my front yard in the hopes that one day I would be able to use my cactus as a food source but it’s still quite small so one day while I was showing properties there was a prickly pear cactus in my journeys so I grabbed a couple of pads to bring home to try.    It’s been here for a couple of weeks with little to no deterioration but I’m sure, given enough time, it will deteriorate to the point that it can’t be consumed.

Today I decided to cook it for breakfast and since I really have no clue as to what I’m doing with prickly pear pads I turned to a well-used resource – YouTube.  I found some videos on how to cook them and of course after I got started on one recipe I lost track of the video and couldn’t find it again so found another one.  The first video

Nopales - Boiling with Vinegar

has us cooking the nopales pads in water with vinegar.  According to the woman recording the video the vinegar tenderizes the nopales so that is what I did.  Then I lost this video and had to find another one which didn’t include cooking them first in water with vinegar.  So I put the two together and came up with my own.

Nopales have a texture similar to green peppers, crunchy skin on the outside and crunchy “meat” on the inside, however the “meat” of the nopales has a slipperiness we usually associate with okra.  Don’t worry if you don’t like this sliminess as the cooking process seemed to eliminate it.

After my nopales were cooked, I drained them, rinsed them then added back to the frying pan with a bit of olive oil, added more onion, more garlic, and cabbage, thinly sliced, and fried the whole mess together.  It wasn’t bad for a first time, enough so that I will do something again with them.  I only hope that I can find some with fruit because from what I saw the fruit looks pretty good too.  And there are even more recipes available for sweet things made from the fruits.Nopales - Finished Frying

The fried dish was quite mild in flavour and slightly crunchy and we had it as a side dish to scrambled eggs with toast.

According to the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/prickly-pear-cactus/faq-20057771) the prickly pear cactus can be part of a healthy diet and is promoted to aid in treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers.  One cup of prickly pear pads is approximately 60 calories, and because it’s high in fibre you could have minor intestinal issues, like with other high fibre foods.  Start slowly, which is what I did today, small bits just to see how we would respond to this food.

If you see prickly pear cactus pads in your local grocery store don’t be afraid to try them – you may be pleasantly surprised.  We were.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Moving - in progress...

 

Residency Application – Steeeerike 1


Thursday June 9, 2016 – definitely a memorable day, and not of the good kind of memorable.  This was the day we made the drive from Hopkins Village to Belmopan to submit our application for residency.  Much time went into obtaining the appropriate documents for the application, writing and re-writing the application based on our circumstances and still I came away unsuccessful.

My husband and I arrived at the Immigration office by 9:30 a.m. and got my number card – orange 39.  There had to be 25 people waiting to see an immigration agent, either for nationality and permanent residence, or passports.  Most of the people were waiting for nationality and permanent residence, a.k.a. orange cards.  In some cases people were just waiting to see if they were approved to obtain their nationality cards ( meaning their parents were Belizean).  In other cases, people were waiting to put in applications for their passports.

So after sitting for a bit of time I went into the Immigration office to ask what number we being served – #6, and at that time I knew it was going to be a long day.  Finally about 3:30 my number was called.  And here is where the story turns.  In the Belize law men cannot be dependents.  It is written very specifically – women, children, infirm and seniors – are written as dependents.  Not men.  So the first time I wrote the application I put it as me applying with my husband as dependent but I figured it wouldn’t fly.  So I rewrote the application with my husband being the applicant and me the dependent.  But, and here is where the story really turns, because I have the work permit and my husband isn’t employed he is still seen as the dependent and the residency application has to be submitted for me.  Only.

One of the requirements for residency is a work permit.  My husband needs a work permit.  Until he obtains a work permit he cannot apply for residency.  And this is because his name is on a registered business.

So I need to redo the application with my name on it only, I have to make sure that all the submitted documents are originals and then head back to Belmopan and take another number.  And sit and wait.  Oh, and one other thing – no whiteout allowed.

Oh, and to make the day more of a non-success than it already was, I had an appointment scheduled with the eye doctor – who, due to car problems, didn’t make the appointment.  And he only gets to Belmopan on Thursdays and Fridays, as he works mainly in Belize City.  So all around, a strike out day.

Some days life in paradise is like life anywhere else.  There are ups and downs.  I will keep you posted about the trials and tribulations of the residency application process from my perspective.  The process is different for people depending on their circumstances.  We will see how my process pans out.

For those of you who are planning on submitting your own application here is a picture of the checklist that is used by the agent at Immigration.P.R. Application Checklist

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Moving - in progress...

 

2016 Mango Festival


The Mango Festival is over for another year and much thanks goes out to the Belize Tourism Industry Association of Hopkins.  The event lasted for 2 days and from what I hear it was a successful event.   Unfortunately I couldn’t attend but I did prepare a small recipe booklet for my colleagues to hand out at the festival.

Image result for picture of mango

 

Mango Festival in Hopkins is a time to celebrate the abundance of this delicious, healthful, wonderful fruit.  It lends itself to such a variety of mixed uses that I think it’s near impossible to exhaust the possibilities.

From pesticide, to medicinal uses, to hygiene care, to alcoholic, appetizer, main course, desserts and accompaniments, the mango provides delightful flavours for many people.  Its leaves are used for Puja purposes (Hindu Devotion), its twigs are used for brushing teeth and it is considered of high regard to be cremated using mango firewood.  Another interesting fact on the mango is the longevity of the tree.  It has been known to live 400-500 years.  Can you imagine how many mangos that tree will produce?

And then that fruit, that delicious, light orange, pulpy fruit.  From the first cut of the skin to the last slurp off the pit, the mango provides such delectable tastiness that sometimes one just isn’t enough.

Mango has also become an important consideration in the treatment of cancer, reducing the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and it also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

The village of Hopkins has so many mango trees lining the streets, they are there for the picking.  Last year my husband picked almost 300 pounds and we turned them into chutney, jam, and a lot of good eating.  This year he hasn’t made it out yet to pick but I seem to have a really good friend here in the village.  He has a tree in his yard so each morning he picks up what has fallen and brings a bunch to me.  Thanks friend!

 

One of the things that used to puzzle me was how to cut a mango properly and then I found some instructions.  Now it’s a piece of cake.

How to Cut a Mango

  1. The mango has a large oblong-shaped pit that is relatively flat in the centre of it.
  2. Holding the mango with one hand, stem side down, try to imagine how the pit is placed inside the mango.
  3. With a sharp knife, cut from the top of the mango down one side of the pit. You may run into it, but with practice you will get good at it.
  4. Repeat with the other side.
  5. You will end up with 3 pieces, the two halves, and the middle section which contains the pit.
  6. Take a mango half and use a knife to make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in it, but try not to cut through the peel.
  7. At this point you may be able to peel the segments right off of the peel with your fingers. Or, you can use a small paring knife to cut away the pieces from the peel.
  8. Take the mango piece with the pit, lay it flat on the cutting board. Use a paring knife to cut out the pit and remove the peel.

 

 
 

Belize Real Estate Equity


Chances are, if you’re looking for real estate in Belize you aren’t thinking of equity.  Typically, when we think of equity we think in terms of monetary benefits, how much of a financial improvement our property has made which contributes to extra dollars towards our net worth.  Generally it is considered as the value of an ownership interest in property, and is the difference between the market value and unpaid mortgage balance on a home.  However, equity can also be thought of in non-financial terms.  In a more non-structured expression, equity can be considered as the value, or the benefit received from owing or participating in a particular activity.

This is where Belize equity comes in.  Don’t think of the equity received in owning your own piece of paradise as the difference between paid price and value increase.  Instead, consider the equity as the value added of actually owning a piece of the jewel, Belize.  Many people will attest to the relaxing holidays spent in this gorgeous small country, and still speak highly of their vacation months and even years later.  We buy cottages in locations several hours away from our homes because of the relaxation that we associate with vacationing in this single spot year after year.  Much time and resources are spent maintaining summer cottages.  And yes, in many cases, there is an increase in financial equity.  But the owners don’t usually consider this when deciding to purchase a cottage.  Now, take this same thinking and apply it to a property purchase in Belize.  You have the potential for financial equity, and for health and welfare equity, which, in the long run may be even more of a value than improving the bottom line.

Image

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Moving - in progress...

 

Belizean Gastronomy – Flour Tortillas


Hello Friends,

It’s been a while since my last blog post but I wanted to get back into the swing of it and reach out sharing my Belizean experiences including recipes I prepared.  I learned how to make tortillas, black beans and rice, rice and beans, salsa and more. These sound pretty standard, especially the salsa but I learned to love it in a new way.

The food I could find in Belize was pretty varied and in many cases different than I was used to. Callilou? What is that? Dragon fruit – that’s interesting. Cilantro – not on my menu list previously. So definitely I ran into some challenges.  And it is some of these challenges I will share with you.

The first recipe I want to share with you is flour tortillas.  I found some recipes online and tried them and while they weren’t too bad, they weren’t great.  They were tough after they cooled down. But I think I figured out what my problem was – not rolling them out thin enough and not cooking them in a hot enough pan.  I don’t have a comal (smooth, flat griddle typically used in Mexico and Central America to cook tortillas, toast spices, sear meat, and generally prepare food.), just a non-stick frying pan, which I certainly don’t get hot enough to properly cook tortillas.   So that’s advice #1.

220px-Comal2

Here’s the recipe I followed, and I found it on http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Homemade-Tortillas.

After I found this recipe I use it all the time.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10-12 times, adding a little flour or water if needed to achieve a smooth dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into eight portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 7-in. circle.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook tortillas over medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Keep warm. Yield: 8 tortillas.

I love using these tortillas to have peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or to use stuffed with chicken and salsa.    I’ve also cut them into wedges, coated with olive oil and then seasoned them with a chili powder, paprika, cumin, pepper, salt, garlic powder mixture that I put together.  I’ve then baked them in the oven at 325 degree F for about 10-12 minutes or so (I think..)  Watch them and you will see when to take them out of the oven.  Put these tortilla chips together with home made salsa and you have a tasty healthy treat.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Cooking in Belize

 

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Critters and More Critters… cont’d


Last year I wrote about the critters I had encountered in my life here in Belize.  There was one I didn’t write about last year and I have had a new one this year.

The first critter encounter I am telling you about involves a scorpion.  I know I wrote about scorpions last year but those were just impersonal encounters but last September I had a more personal experience, although I wasn’t stung.  I was doing some house-sitting for some friends at the outskirts of town and I noticed that I had a friendly visitor inside the house in the form of a scorpion.  I tried to trap it but it was too quick and it hid out under the island in the kitchen.  The critter was able to get under the cabinet by following the grout lines of the tiles – I honestly didn’t think they could fit under that small a space but just goes to show what I know….

Anyway, one morning about 6:00 I woke up and sat up on the bed with feet dangling over the side.  I felt something weird on my back at the top so I reached around and flicked at my pyjamas. Something fell on the bed behind me, making a bit of a thudding sound.  I turned around and it was a scorpion.  I’m making the assumption it was the same one that went under the kitchen island about 2 weeks prior but I can’t say for sure.  I grabbed the trusty fly swatter, picked up the scorpion from the bed and took it outside.  I didn’t get stung and I have no idea how long the creature was with me in bed.

I have come to learn that most of the scorpions that reside in Belize are not toxic to humans.  The venom and sting may hurt and you may end up with a red area where stung but unless you are allergic to the toxin you likely won’t have too severe a reaction.  I’m glad I didn’t have to learn this the hard way.

Encounter # 2 was more recent – just about 3 weeks ago.  My husband wanted to go swimming in the sea, and he encouraged me to join him.  In all the time I had been here last year I didn’t go into the sea once and I did kind of mention this point to my family and friends so it didn’t take much to convince me to go into the water.  The water was a bit murky from the sand being churned up but with my trusty shoes on I figured I was safe, so I trod carefully into the water.  I got in as far as 2 feet from the shoreline and up to about 6” up my leg when I felt something on the bottom of my foot.  Startled, I think I jumped, and then I felt an extremely sharp pain on my foot where it becomes a leg.  I got out of the water, blood pouring down my foot and oh, man, hurt.  At first I thought I maybe was grabbed at by a crab but the shape of the wound didn’t look like claws made it.  Good thing we had the car with us that day or the walk to the hospital would have been extremely agonizing.  Turns out I was stung by a stingray.  The barb didn’t stay in but it did penetrate almost down to the bone with severe tissue damage surrounding the wound entry.  Let me tell you, this is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.  The venom burns and it burned for just about 6 hours.

The staff members at the local hospital were very good.  The downside is that their experience with stingray stings is very limited so the knowledge on how to treat the venom is also limited.  Much research over the next few days showed that stingray venom is unable to withstand heat so the initial treatment is to submerge the affected area into water as hot as one can stand it for up to an hour.  This breaks down the venom which, I would guess, reduces the pain and probably the surrounding tissue damage.  Barring this unknown information, the wound was cleaned and treated, pain shots given, anti-inflammatory medicines, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and antibiotics were provided, all at no cost to me.  Over the next week the wound proceeded to get worse so I had to visit the hospital daily for penicillin injections, bandage changes and I was given another oral antibiotic, again all at no charge to me.  The staff members were wonderful and helpful and I’m actually pleased that I can give a good review for my experience.

On a final note, I have also learned about doing the stingray shuffle when entering the water.  Apparently the vibration made from shuffling your feet will be felt by the stingray and it will move off.  They aren’t aggressive creatures but they will protect themselves.  And I guess when you are stepped on you use whatever tools you have including a poisonous barb.

Do you know anybody who has been stung by either a scorpion or a stingray?  What did they do to stop the hurt?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Flora and Fauna

 

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Sharing the Experience – IXCACAO


This week, February 4, 2013, I had the pleasant responsibility to show my husband some of what I love about the Toledo District, here in Belize.  We visited Cyrila’s Chocolate, now known as IXCACAO, a business run by a delightful husband and wife team, Juan and Abelina Cho.

Arrangements were very easy to make.  I contacted Juan via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Ixcacao) and he replied within a short period of time to discuss the details with me.  After all the plans were arranged I was pretty excited to go with Bob and to see his reaction.  I remember mine from a year ago and even wrote about it in the local tourism paper called the Toledo Howler.  My closing comments when I left was “Wow” so of course I was eager to see my husband’s reaction too.    Our agenda was to meet with Abelina, who has now been dubbed the Chocolate Queen, a promotion from the Chocolate Princess, for lunch, an overview of the process, and then a tour of the farm where the products are grown.

Abelina prepared chicken mole (pronounced molay), curried rice, black beans, boiled plantain, mashed yam, fresh hot chocolate made from local grown beans and for dessert we tasted a sampling of the chocolates produced at IXCACAO.  Portion size for the meal was fine as it was a self-serve setting.  He loved the plantains, “very good” the chicken wasn’t overly spicy, and overall he quite enjoyed it.  The chocolate dessert was a big hit.  The hot chocolate was unsweetened and he tried it that way just for the experience.  Eating or drinking chocolate without sugar isn’t for everybody and it may be an acquired taste but it definitely is something to try.

Plate of Nibs

Plate of Nibs

Next on the agenda was the overview of the chocolate making process, both historically and now.  Abelina started out with roasting some beans that had already been fermented but there was a skin on the beans, similar to that of peanuts, which needed to be removed.  She brought a plate to us to remove this skin and to break up the beans.  The beans broke pretty easily into smaller pieces called nibs.

It was these nibs that we ground up into chocolate using a mano and metate, a tool used historically for the grinding of chocolate.  In older days chocolate was used by the Maya for ceremonial purposes and not as an everyday sweet and in this way the mano and metate process would be efficient.  It took a while for the little nibs to be crushed into a fine paste that could be processed further.  We each took turns crushing the nibs and then Abelina took over to make the paste even smoother.  When it was pretty smooth we opted to have unsweetened dark chocolate treats, but I would guess that it is at this stage the sugar would be added if sweetened chocolate was desired.  After about 10 minutes in the refrigerator the chocolate had set up and we were able to enjoy the fruits of our labour.  Because the chocolate wasn’t perfectly smooth our chocolate had texture from the tiny bits of nibs that remained in it.  My husband thoroughly enjoyed learning about the process and has a greater appreciation for the amount of work and processing that goes into making a good quality chocolate bar.

Young Cacao Pod

Young Cacao Pod

The next phase of our day was a tour of the farm where the cacao is grown.  Abelina and Juan also grow ginger and sugar cane, both of which are used to flavour the chocolate.  Trekking through the jungle, up into the hills that surround Punta Gorda, climbing and climbing, we got a bit of a workout.  When the trees opened up we could see for miles around us, over the top of the jungle, what a vista!  Bob was rendered speechless with the view.  On the way up Abelina chose a cacao pod for us to open to see the beans in their natural state.  It’s not what you would expect, I’m sure….  In the picture to the left are the beans from inside the cacao pod.  The white substance that surrounds the beans is edible and tastes like so many of the fruits that are grown in the area – pineapple, mango, citrusy, and this is quite a surprise because there is no hint of chocolate flavouring at all.  The chocolate flavour comes out after the fermentation/roasting process has been completed.

Cacao Beans

Cacao Beans

At the top of the hill was our destination – the sugar cane pressing machine.  Abelina took her machete and cut down several stalks of sugar cane, peeled it and gave us a small piece to taste in its natural state.  Sugar cane eaten this way is good but the best (in my mind) was to come.  Abelina took the rest of the stalks that she had chopped and put them through a press to squeeze to release the cane juice.  This was good, and yes it was as sweet as you might expect.  I had my water and lime with me and poured some of the sugar cane juice into my bottle.  This was a tasty, tasty treat.

Squeezing Cane

Squeezing Cane

And we were both surprised at how much cane juice came from a stalk of sugar cane.  The next step in the process is to carry the buckets of cane juice back down the hill to where Juan and Abelina refine the cane juice to remove much of the water in order to use it for sweetening the chocolate.

Cane Syrup

Cane Syrup

The whole tour took approximately 4 hours beginning with lunch and finishing with the hike down the hill at the farm.  What an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  And I can tell you, my husband enjoyed the experience as much as I did.

This is just one of the activities that are available in the Toledo District that you can enjoy on a regular basis when you make Belize a permanent destination.  For more information contact me at wendy@belizepropertycenter.com.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in Flora and Fauna

 

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