Ceviche, What is Ceviche?

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 What is Ceviche?

 
In case you have ever asked what is ceviche the answer is a seafood salad where  the seafood has been cooked in citrus acid instead of by heat.  

Ceviche
An elegant preparation

Lemon and lime juices are the most common citric acid juices used in making ceviche, but some sweet orange juice is a nice addition as well.

In traveling through Latin America my wife and I have discovered there is no one preparation of ceviche, rather it is a catch all term for many different preparations.   Ceviche is normally some sort of raw seafood that is cooked with lime juice.  We have had conch, fish (several types), shrimp, octopus and off theme, cheese ceviches.

As mentioned earlier lime, lemon and orange juices are used in various combinations as the cooking agent and an important warning is to bathe the raw seafood completely submerged in the juices while being cooled in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  In addition to the seafood the combinations of vegetables and

a shrimp ceviche
a shrimp ceviche

herbs are endless but onion seems to be always be included and cilantro is often a part of the salad as well.

What else have we seen and you may encounter in the varios ceviches.  Picante?  Habaneros, Jalapeños, and birdseye hot peppers are often included and for those who can stand food that burns a bit it is a really nice offset to the strong sour base provided by the citrus juices.

Savory?  Fresh corn, olives, green beans, sweet pepper, celery and tomato are often included but it is easy to imagine cauliflower and broccoli being a part of the salad.  The important thing to focus on is the sour base of the salad, the key to making it an exceptional salad is to determine what you like to combine with sour to make it exceptional.  Some like salt, think margarita, some like sweet, does sweet and sour appeal to you?  Think picante, think ceviche!

 

 





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Plantains not your everyday banana

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You may have been among those who have asked what is a plantain

You should not feel embarrassed if you have asked what is a pantain

ripe plantain
Not your everyday banana

because it is not commonly available in north American supermarkets.  We find  this surprising because it is such an integral part of tropical foods from Thailand across Africa to Latin America.

Plantains are a member of the banana family but unlike the banana most are accustomed to eating the plantain is too fibrous to be eaten raw.  They need to be cooked to be enjoyed.  Fried, twice fried, baked, stewed or boiled are all preparations used for plantains.

Green or ripe is another distinction to consider in how to prepare your plantain.  Like all  fruits the plantain sweetens as it matures

patacone
twice fried plantain

so green plantains are used more as a vegetable style preparation and ripe ones more as a dessert.

One of the most popular preparation of plantains is a twice fried preparation that goes by several names including patacones and tostones .  This is a simple yet delicious preparation of green unripe plantains where they are sliced and fried in oil.  After the first frying they are smashed as close to flat as possible and then refried. They are typically salted and served like a french fried potato most often with ketchup.

Adding a bit of sweet to savory soups, stews and vegetable dishes is another classic use of plantains because they are sweet but not overbearingly so they add a unique twist of flavor.  They are most commonly found in bean, chickpea, lentil and pigeon pea stews where they add just the right amount of sweetness to brighten up these savory dishes.

Ok so I held the best for last like everyone does at dinner, desserts!

fried plantains
Sweet goodness

For these plates the riper the plantain, the better.  The first question that you need to answer is how sweet is sweet enough?

Simply frying a ripe plantain caramelizes the natural sugars and makes a tasty sweet dessert by itself but if you sprinkle  a bit of powdered cinnamon on top be prepared fo enjoy a whole new sweet delight.

 

 





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Do Critters Give you the Jitters?

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I don’t like spiders and snakes and that’s not what it takes to love my new home.

One of the things many of have to adapt to in the tropics is the abundance of unfamiliar wildlife. Some if it is actually dangerous but much of it is just, well, different.  Probable the animals most of us are afraid of are spiders and snakes so we will discuss these first.

top 10 Dangerous reptiles

The most dangerous things you may encounter, hopefully not but it is possible, are snakes. They are among the top 10 dangerous reptiles in the world.  Pit vipers are everywhere in the tropical rain forests and farmlands

Palm viper
Notice the eyes and the arrowhead shape of the head

that are in many areas of the tropics and they come in many shape, colors and sizes. The critical thing to understand is, most do not want to mess with you any more than you want to mess with them.

 

Recognition is the most important skill needed to avoid them

Since there are so many types of vipers the easiest way to recognize one is by the shape of its head, the pupils of its eyes and the pits on its snout. Those are the 3 things they all have in common. The shape of a pit viper’s head is basically that of an arrowhead, almost triangular in form. Their eyes have pupils that are not round rather elongated, but you really do not want to get close enough to look into their eyes, you will see no love there. Finally the pits near their nostrils can be seen from a fair distance but your best indication will be the shape of their head.

While we are discussing dangerous snakes Constrictors such as the Boa or

Boa Constrictor
Too big to mess with

a Python can be dangerous also but more to children and pets. Large ones have been known to kill adults as well. The easiest way to know not to mess with one is its size, if it is big, leave it alone.

Crocodiles, Alligators and Caiman are similar looking animals that are dangerous to pets and humans. Crocodiles live in fresh or salt water and are the most aggressive of the 3.  Alligators can also be deadly and both Caiman and Alligators live in freshwater.   Caimans are the least aggressive of the 3 but are still dangerous to children and pets.

Scorpions and Tarantulas are all over the tropics and while they most

Taranchula
If it stings, you will hurt

likely will not kill you their sting is very painful and will most definitely ruin your day and the next few to follow. Avoid them.

Venomous toads are common in the tropics.

Yep you read that right. Tropical toads produce a poison on their skin that is absorbed through your skin or directly ingested if eaten. They have been known to kill your dogs and cats so stay away from them.

Big cats

Yes Mountain lions, jaguar and Puma exist in the tropics but they do not like human contact. Should you see one, back away slowly.   Less common but also a part of the fauna are ocelot, jaguarundi and margay.   The last 3 are smaller cats that pose little danger to humans.

Canines

In addition to feral dogs which pose little or no danger, coyotes are rampant through the American tropics.  They are dangerous to small pets and even bigger dogs if they are hunting in a pack. They are not a danger to adult humans.

Insects that aren’t Tarantulas or Scorpions

The mosquito is a carrier of countless diseases and every step should be taken to minimize the chance of being bitten. These include eliminating all standing water on your property, staying inside at sunrise and sunset and wearing repellant if the occurrence is high. One natural repellant is burning a bit of rosemary, they hate the odor it produces.

African honey bees swarm and attack if you bother them and they can be deadly.  If you encounter a hive on or near your property call an exterminator, do not try and eliminate them yourself.

Wasps, a whole lot of pain but not often deadly.

Nasty but not dangerous.

Rodents

Mice, rats, guinea pigs are all present in some locations, but mice and rats are present everywhere

Insects

I am not sure which is worse the beetle, the cockroach, the termite or the fly but be prepared all are abundant in the tropics. Flies, termites and beetles are seasonal while the infamous cockroach thrives year round. Both beetles and termites reproduce in the early months of spring which in most of the tropics is also the beginning of the rainy season. The fly, or should I say the horde arrives with the late spring or beginning of summer which also coincides with the fresh tropical fruit season, they seem to love mangos.

Cool reptiles

Iguana
Iguanas are cool

Salamanders are everywhere and they eat insects so let them live, they are helping you.

Finally the coolest of all is the Iguana.  It looks like a dragon from the prehistoric ages and does not hurt anything except the vegetables they eat.

 





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Do you miss your former home? Here are a couple of ways to stay in touch

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Adapting to our new home can be a challenge.

Once we settle in and develop our daily routines, we often find, and you may too, that there are a few basic things from home that we miss.  This is not unusual, nor a thing to feel bad about.  We have our own personal background, and we are accustomed to having things available.  My wife and I have come to depend on several items than make our new home a little less foreign and a lot easier to adapt to.

Home Entertainment Systems

The Kodi enabled Android smart TV player. is a set top box that is connected by HDMI cable to any flat screen TV.   It arrives with a streaming TV interface named Kodi which helps you acces

Can not adpt
Wow I really miss ESPN in English

s many streaming services such as USTVNow and Sling TV.  You can set up a free USTVNow account and watch ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC free of charge anywhere in the world with internet download speeds of 2Mbps or greater. If hanging on to part of your culture in your new home is important this is the best thing available.  You can read our review of the set top box here.

Help for the Asking

The Amazon Echo family of products are trend setters in voice controlled home entertainment, information and home automation that continually evolve as new cloud services are enabled.

As a quick overview the Echo is only 9.3 inches tall and 3.3 inches in diameter.  Amazon manages to pack a 2.5 inch reflex woofer, a 2 inch tweeter and a 7 microphone array as well as wifi and bluetooth connectivity in this small tower.  In practical terms this design means the Echo can hear you from many feet away, respond to your commands or questions connect to the internet and play music with surprisingly good fidelity while occupying very little space where you choose to put it.
I know many of you are thinking something with that much power sounds cool but it must be hard to set up and use, and you would be wrong if you are thinking that.  Setup is simple comprising only 3 steps.  First take it out of the box, attach the power cord and plug it in.  Second, download the free Alexa smartphone app for IOS, Android or Fire OS from the Appstore, Google play or Amazon depending on which phone you own.  Third, use your Alexa smartphone app to connect to the internet. Enjoy!
To use the Echo you use the wakeup word Alexa.  Upon hearing it being called a pretty blue light around the top  of the Echo lights up to signify it is waiting for your command.   The Echo does many activities but for organization I will group them into the following categories.

 

  • Entertainment
  • Organization
  • Information
  • Assistance

Echo is not a high end stereo system but the sound quality is surprisingly good.  To read more about the Echo family of products and how they assist you in the areas listed above read our full review here.

Year round access to seasonal foods

There is another area that requires a North American to adapt to life in the tropics and it is produce, fruits and vegetables, are not available year round.  They are seasonal, when they are harvested they are everywhere, 4 months later they cannot be found.

If you are a foodie like my wife and I you will find this troubling like we did.  Well we did, but we no longer do because we purchased a food preservation system that vacuum seals fresh fruits and vegetables for long term storage.  Viola we now have fresh lemons year round.  To read our review of an excellent product we love click here.

 





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Review of the Alexa Enabled Echo Family of Products

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Amazon.com is pioneering how we interact with technology with its Alexa enabled voice activated Echo product line. Read our review of their various products designed to help you in ways you may not thought were possible.

 





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Review of the Kodi Enabled Android TV Set Top Box

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Are you sad that your new local TV is sorely lacking? Would you give anything to see TV from your former home? Read our review to see how you can watch shows you know and love anywhere in the world.

 





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Foodsaver 2100 Product Review

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Fresh Food Year Round

If you are like us and are accustomed to seasonal fruits and vegetables year round, the Foodsaver 2100 may be a product for you. Read our full review here.

 





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Pimsleur Language Courses Review

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Tried and True Pimsleur Works>/h3>

Pimsleur is an oldie but a goodie, especially for those who learn best by listening. Read our full review.

 





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Earworms Language Courses Review

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Earworms is a Different way to Learn a Language

Earworms is a different approach to learn a new language. Read about it in our full review here.

 





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Functionally Fluent Language Courses Review

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Functionally Fluent is an Excellent set of Courses for the Beginner

For those of us who retire in the tropics, knowing the local language is a huge plus. We review several language courses, the first is Functionally Fluent

 





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