Archive for the ‘Private Cooking Lessons’ Category

Costa Rica at a Glance – Interesting Stats & Facts

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

In the context of memorable vacations,costa-rica-map Costa Rica evokes images of palm-fringed beaches, sultry rainforests brimming with wildlife, and the delighted yips of zip-line adventurers as they hurl their bodies from one platform to the next. But did you know that Costa Rica is also a model of environmental stewardship and boasts a long history of pacifist policies? Read on for interesting tidbits about Costa Rica’s people, history, and culture.

The people of Costa Rica

As of 2016, the population of Costa Rica hovers just under 5 million, with the majority of residents centralized in the San Jose metro area and Central Valley. More than 95 percent of “Ticos” are of European descent, and less than 2 percent of Costa Rican residents are of indigenous ancestry, many of whom live in the country’s remote mountain regions. More than a century ago, legislators declared that education was to be mandatory and free for all citizens, accounting for today’s high literacy rate of 97 percent.

No longer a cash crop nation

Formerly a cash crop nation reliant on coffee, sugar, and bananas, Costa Rica is now a major exporter of software technology and medical instruments. The country’s growing economy is driven by tourism, electronic exports, and some agriculture, and it enjoys robust foreign investment, thanks to highly incentivized free-trade zones. Compared to its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has a large middle class, largely comprised of working class, highly-educated professionals.

Green policies and environmental focus

In 2012, Costa Rica was rated the planet’s 5th Greenest Country by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This tiny nation has demonstrated what many have found inconceivable: achieving nearly 100 percent renewable energy through natural resources. A winding river system and substantial rainfall provide hydroelectric power, which accounts for 80 percent of all energy production. The remaining is made up of geothermal, solar, and biomass power. With renewable-energy targets being met, Costa Rica continues a steady path toward becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2021.

costa-rica-no-armyNo army since 1948

You’ve probably heard (or learned first-hand) that Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse nations, housing an astounding variety of flora and fauna. Biologists claim that you’ll find more than 600 species of animal for each 10,000 square miles—compared to 104 in the U.S.! But did you know that Costa Rica abolished its standing army in 1948? This bold feat was ordered by then-President Jose Figueres Ferrer, who announced the country’s military spending would be directed toward education, health care, and environmental protection. Nearly 70 years later, it’s obvious that this bold decision has paid off.

Recipe for Sweet Plantains, a Costa Rican Favorite

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

A larger and starchier cousin of the banana, plantains are a staple in most Central American homes. In Costa Rica, plantains are enjoyed in a number of ways, and at different levels of ripeness. One time-honored dish in many households is “platanos maduros,” which literally translates to ripe plantains. The dish is so deliciously sweet it could be served for dessert, but usually ends up as a side for lunch or dinner. This simple recipe can be adjusted according to personal preference and yields 6-8 servings.

Ingredientscosta-rica-ripe-plantains

4-5 ripe plantains (the skin must be black)
1½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
½ cup of unsalted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 lime

Directions

    1. The blacker and riper the plantain, the sweeter it will be. Platanos maduros is wonderful on its own, but is great served with salad, mashed potatoes, rice and beans or an accompaniment to any meal.Cut the ends off the plantains, then peel and cut evenly into one inch slices.

    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and slowly saute the plantains until they take on a golden color.

    3. After the plantains are golden brown, flip over gently with a spatula  repeating on the other side.

    4. Add 1 cup of brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and juice from one lime. Stir together and let sit for one minute.

    5. Add water and slowly sprinkle remaining half cup of sugar over the plantains.

    6. Turn down the heat and let the plantains simmer until the liquid has reduced and the sugar has caramelized.

    7. Serve immediately while hot!

      Platano Maduros

 

Nutritional value of plantains

Pound for pound, plantains are higher in calories (about 125 calories each) compared to bananas, but are still considered very healthy. Rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous, plantains are also an excellent source of fiber and B complex vitamins. In Costa Rica, plantains are sold year-round in grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and they are becoming more widely available in the United States.

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Ceviche Festival Returns to Manuel Antonio This November

Friday, August 14th, 2015

ceviche-festival-manuel-antonioA memorable weekend bash will celebrate the many flavors and varieties of ceviche this November, in the second annual Ceviche Festival. The event is scheduled to take place November 13 – 15 at the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, where locals and tourists are welcome to stop by and enjoy some mouthwatering food along with plenty of family-friendly activities.

Manuel Antonio looks forward to Ceviche Festival

The festival is the brainchild of the Costa Rican Institute of Pacific Ports and the Travel Show Expo, which saw great success with last year’s event. Besides plenty of ceviche to sample, guests can expect live music performances, games and activities for children, and stands selling locally-produced wares and goods. The festival brings focus to cultural identity through food and aims to celebrate cuisine in Costa Rica, particularly the Central Pacific’s abundant fresh seafood.

Event highlights the region’s numerous seafood offerings

Ceviche, traditionally made with fresh fish, is a light, refreshing dish common on many restaurant menus. In Costa Rica, this popular seafood cocktail may feature any one of various types of locally-sourced fish (snook, mahi mahi, white seabass) but may also be made with shrimp, octopus or squid. The seafood is marinated in lime or lemon juice for several hours, which “cooks” the meat, and is served with diced bell peppers, mixed spices, cilantro and onions. Ceviche variations and recipes are virtually endless, with some chefs adding ginger ale for added zing, and others spicing things up with tabasco and hot chili peppers.

Innovative ceviche creations feature green banana, mango

The event will also feature ceviche dishes made with green bananas, mangoes, peaches and other ingredients that are vegetarian-friendly. The festival will culminate in a ceviche competition, in which a panel of select judges has the distinguished honor of awarding winners in one of several categories. So bring your appetite and head over to the Marina Pez Vela for an afternoon of delicious eats and family fun.  Organizers hope to make this an annual event for many years to come!

ceviche-festival-quepos

Traditional ceviche recipe

To make your own ceviche at home, try this traditional recipe and don’t be afraid to make substitutions or changes according to taste.

Ingredients:
1 pound of white sea bass (corvina)
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 small white onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional – 1/4 cup ginger ale )

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and let fish marinate for at least 2 hours. Hint – the longer the fish “cooks” the more intense the flavor.
2. Serve cold on a bed of lettuce with tortilla chips or crackers. Garnish with cucumber or avocado slices.

 

Traditional Christmas Tamales in Costa Rica

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

December is a spectacular month to be vacationing in Costa Rica – a time of holiday celebrations, sensational horse parades, family gatherings, seasonal fiestas and delicious Christmas foods. Nearly every home and building is adorned with twinkling lights, elaborate nativity scenes and beautifully-decorated Cypress trees and wreaths. Traveling in Costa Rica during this time of year is a culturally enriching experience, and a chance to sample some of the country’s typical Christmas cuisine.

Traditional Costa Rica tradition is the Christmas Tamale

More About Costa Rica Here

Tamales – a time-honored holiday food among Costa Rican families

Tamales are a bit labor-intensive to make, but the results are so worth it! These tasty little pockets of goodness are usually made over a period of several days, as family members pitch in to complete various stages. Made of corn meal and filled with a savory combination of shredded pork, beef, or chicken combined with carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, bell peppers or peas – tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and boiled until ready.  Every family has their own unique recipe and shares them as gifts with loved ones and friends. Look for them in grocery stores everywhere, or try your hand at home with this traditional recipe. (more…)

Plantains: a Costa Rican Delicacy

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Commonly mistaken for an oversized banana, the plantain is one of Costa Rica’s unsung culinary heroes – a starchy treat that is both versatile and delicious. So what is this fruit and how do you eat it? Indigenous to India and Southeast Asia, the plantain is in the same botanical family as its smaller cousin, but is typically cooked before being eaten. Fried, boiled, baked or grilled, plantains – or platanos as they’re known locally – are a rich source of Vitamin C, potassium and dietary fiber, and are served up a number of ways on Costa Rica’s tables.

Costa Rican Plantian Central America

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Bananas vs. plantains

Unlike the banana, which is much sweeter and meant to be eaten raw, plantains are used more like a vegetable in most Latin American recipes. They are longer than bananas, have thicker peels, and thanks to their high starch content, are potato-like substitutes in terms of texture and taste. Green plantains are often turned into patacones – delightful fried fritters that make for a tasty appetizer.  Ripe yellow plantains, called platanos maduros, are typical accompaniments to a Costa Rican lunch. (more…)

Mahi Mahi Ceviche

Saturday, March 1st, 2014
Mahi Mahi Ceviche served with salted chips

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Ingredients:

2 lbs. Mahi Mahi
1 handful or roll of freshly chopped cilantro
1 diced red pepper
1 diced red onion
1 cup of Ginger Ale
Juice of 10 limes
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse the fish and dry it with a paper towel, dice it in small pieces.
  2. Put the fish in a bowl and add lime juice until the fish is completely covered.  Be sure to add the lime juice immediately before it gets bitter as it could spoil the recipe.
  3. Add the onion, chopped cilantro and red pepper.  Leave it to marinate for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Season with salt and pepper before serving.  If it is very acidic you can add Ginger Ale and some hot pepper.

Serve with saltine crackers.

Free Cooking & Dance Lessons for Escape Villa Guests

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

A quick glance on TripAdvisor and you’ll understand why so many travelers rave about their Costa Rica vacation experience with Escape Villas! Luxurious ocean view homes, 24-hour concierge and friendly customer service are always top on the list of compliments, but the recurring praise for our gourmet chefs and their inspiring cuisine has prompted a new guest engagement program we are very excited to launch this month, which marks the beginning of the tourist high season.

As if there weren’t enough compelling reasons to consider a vacation rental for your Costa Rican getaway, we’re about to give you a few more – that is, if you book your beach or jungle villa with us!

Free cooking recipes and lessons offered by Escape Villas

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Learn to cook like a master and dance like a Salsa king – for free

A vacation rental home affords tons of advantages, especially when traveling with children. At Escape Villas, all of our properties come with fully-equipped kitchens, making meals on the fly a snap. Dining out for breakfast, lunch and dinner can really add up, and cooking in not only saves money, it can be a great time to relax and enjoy time with loved ones.

Our pre-trip concierge can now schedule a free cooking class for guests staying in our main properties in Manuel Antonio! This is just one facet of our new program which was designed to add more value to your Escape Villas vacation. Our master chef will teach you how to prepare a couple of dishes that will make your taste buds do the happy dance. Infused with tropical ingredients, these recipes are both easy to follow and will truly impress (more…)

Traditional Costa Rica recipes

Friday, December 27th, 2013

One of the wonderful aspects of traveling in Costa Rica is sampling the nation’s diverse selection of traditional foods. Many recipes rely heavily on fresh produce, which is complemented by staples like rice, beans and tortillas (both corn and flour). The unofficial national dish – gallo pinto – is a meal that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and often accompanies scrambled eggs, farmer’s cheese and homemade tortillas.

Picadillo (pronounced pee-kah-DEE-yoh ) is another  favorite regional dish made of seasoned vegetables, onions and peppers, with non-vegetarian varieties incorporating ground beef or sausage. Our top pick is made with chayote (chah-YO-tay) – also known as the vegetable pear. Part of the gourd family, chayote is bland like a potato, and achieves a delectably soft texture when boiled or fried.

We hope you enjoy these two traditional Costa Rican recipes, both of which can be tweaked for an original spin on authentic flavors.

Gollo Pinto a Costa Rica traditional breakfast dish

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Gallo Pinto recipe – Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 cups (day old) cooked white rice
  • 2 cups of canned or cooked black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 4 tsp. of fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3-4 tablespoons of Lizano sauce (Worcestershire sauce can be used in a pinch) (more…)

Pineapple Carpaccio with Crystallized Ginger

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
Pineapple Capaccio by Escape Villas

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Ingredients:

½ fresh pineapple – sliced into rings (more…)

Chicken Breast in Honey, Soy, Cashew and Pineapple Chutney

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
Cashew Chicken By Escape Villas

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Ingredients:

200 Grams Fresh Pineapple – chopped into small cubes
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 red onion, finely chopped
100 grams macadamia nuts (no salt) (more…)





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