Author Archives: Moozler

Cayman – quite probably the culinary capital of the Caribbean

In the words of Dorothy, there’s no place like Cayman………

When I first saw the title for the competition, I thought “Nah. That’s not for me. I don’t blog about restaurants.” I mean, that’s what the competition is about, right? But then I thought, no it isn’t and off I went to google the word “culinary” and what did I find? I found “connected with cooking or kitchens”. Well, you know, I’m all about cooking and kitchens and I’m all about supporting our Island and businesses and eating as much local produce as I can get; so here goes. I’m Virginia aka Mrs Moozlers, aka Coach V, aka mum and warrior woman and author of Moozlers health and wellness blog. I’m a woman on a mission to change the way we eat and think about food: to change the way we live our lives and to create a tribe of super well, healthy, fit and happy people and I’m doing pretty well at achieving my goals.

So what do I have to share about the culinary capital of the Caribbean? Quite a lot actually. I’ve learnt from the ground up, haha excuse the pun! I remember when I first arrived in the Cayman Islands 12 years ago. I left behind my local fisherman and butcher and my weekly delivery of local (Scottish) produce. I loved that box. I remember my very first purple sprouting broccoli tart. I then arrived here just after Hurricane Ivan and oh my goodness. Here I was on this Caribbean Island and I had no idea what to eat………..Ivan had had a good go at the Island and you basically took whatever you got from the grocery store. Supplies were not in abundance and that time, there was no such thing as the farmer’s market that we’ve grown to love. The stores here were not loaded with the local produce I was used to. My worst fears were being realised. I thought that I was now faced with shipped in GMO produce and cans and packages……but was I? I had no idea about the vast quantity of culinary delights that I would embark upon. My trained legal mind told me to investigate.

When you are in Cayman, go find local and that’s exactly what I did and wow, how many amazing foods. If I ever leave Cayman (which I sincerely hope only happens for trips as I love this place), I will definitely miss my local finds.

So let’s explore all the produce that I think makes Cayman the culinary capital of the Caribbean and let me tell you how to enjoy it.

How it all began.

I came home from work one day to find this large, slightly spiky green honeydew melon shaped thing on my doorstop and I thought, what is that. Well it was a gift from my neighbour and it was a breadfruit. I had no idea what to do with it. In comes my Jamaican child minder who shows me to how to bake and boil it and the rest is history. Now I teach others how to perfect this local delicacy. These are amazing fruits, starchy and fluffy like potato but so much more flavoursome. I like to bake them, slice them, fry them in local coconut oil and then add salt or cinnamon. (PS. You can buy local salt). You can add them to salads or just eat them as they are (cooked of course).

My 7 year old daughter (she reminded me that she’s not a dog and doesn’t smile to command so excuse the cute but po face) taught us to eat the fried slices with apple cider vinegar. So very delicious. The fluffy centre of the breadfruit absorbs the vinegar and for that little added extra, add hot sauce or pepper jelly to the vinegar. There are a whole slew of health benefits associated with breadfruit but that’s for another post; suffice to say that I love them so much, I planted my own tree (acquired at the annual Agricultural show). Fingers crossed that I’ll have my first crop within the next 12 months.

Being she of healthy living, I am very conscious of gut health and very much feel when things aren’t right. I was an avid oatmeal eater but I found it was making me bloat. So what does a Scot who grew up on Scot’s porridge oats eat when she doesn’t want oatmeal anymore? Enter the humble green banana.

Back in Scotland, we would have left them to ripen but not here. Bring on green banana porridge. Oh goodness! It’s thick and filling and super tasty. I’m sharing my recipe with you. These are also fab fried but we can’t fry all of our foods. So for all of you healthy bods out there, switch up your morning oatmeal for green banana porridge and guess what, it’s gluten free. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Yes, I will tell you about jerk chicken, but not yet.

As I write about the local produce, my mouth waters as I don’t know where to go next. How about the amazing guava, or papaya (which my youngest child loves) or the rose apples. It’s funny how we try something and when it’s delicious, you never quite forget the first taste. I remember talking to one of my colleagues and he was eating an odd looking fruit that resembled an apple. He gave me one and that was it. I was hooked. I search down rose apples when they are in season. I will get myself to the farmer’s market and I will buy them all up and savour them. A bit like local guava. I keep meaning to juice them but no. I can’t. I love everything about them from the unusual smell, to the crunchiness of the flesh to the grittiness of the seeds and BTW, the seeds are an amazing colon cleanser! If you must cook them up though, how about some guava duff? What? I hear you ask. Yes. Guava duff…….think stodgy pudding tasting of guava. So delicious and another local find!

For those of you who follow my Moozlers site, you’ll know that I love to experiment with food. I’m that kid who nearly set the house on fire as a 4 year old. My parents found me trying to fry what I told them was pancake batter. I’ve since discovered that frying up your pancake batter is known here as Johnny cakes. Dip them in butter and you’ll be smitten.

I’ve taken a whole slew of my favourite Scottish foods and I’ve Caymanised them. I love Scotch broth soup. Who needs nutrition-less white potatoes in your soup when you have yellow yams and local sweet potatoes. My kids love them and try roasting up those sweet potatoes with coconut oil and thyme. Think heaven on a plate.

I mentioned Scotch bonnets. You can find all sorts of peppers at the farmer’s market. Did I tell you that I regularly make my very own sriracha…..Nooooo……yes!!!

And another noooooo……yes…….is lion fish. I had the most amazing lionfish at Vevo café a few weeks back when I went to a function. Did you know that many vegetarians eat lion fish. I was surprised to learn that but it’s due to the fact that the fish is a predator. So keep cooking and eating it but whatever you do, if you see one, don’t touch it. You must experience the waters here though. We have the best diving even if I do have a problem staying down. I remember going diving with my husband. He had to keep pulling me down. I ended up holding on to his finger and I pulled off his wedding ring. All I saw (as I was floating back up) was him heading down to grab his wedding ring (yes, I had pulled it off) as a fish was swimming to get it. Shame he subsequently lost it in the grass at Camana Bay when he was doing Crossfit.

Talking about grass brings me onto greens

We have the most amazing greens here. You can find collard greens, kale, salad greens and my very favourite callalloo.

I first tasted callalloo in Michaels at Camana Bay. They had braised it. Me being me set about making my own and it’s become a firm family favourite. I like to braise it with bacon and when I’m not feeling like eating meat, I add my facon to it (that’s fake bacon) which I make using my own dehydrated coconut which I toast with coconut aminos and smoked paprika. You can find these recipes on my Moozlers page at www.moozlers.com.

Now when I think about braised callalloo, I think about jerk chicken and pork and rice and beans (or peas). I swear I could live on rice and beans. I make it with my own coconut milk, local thyme, local scallions and garlic. I patiently await a more abundant supply of local garlic. I know that it’s on its way via Charlito’s greenhouse. Andre at Charlito’s greenhouse is one of our many young local farmers. A true inspiration helping us all become more self sufficient without the need to eat mass produced fruit and vegetables.

I’ve learnt to jerk my own meat; plenty of thyme and scotch bonnets.  There’s nothing like a jerked spatch-cocked chicken.

It’s amazing how it all rolls together. When I think about jerk chicken, I also find myself thinking of plantains. When I was first introduced to plantains, I just kind of looked at them and thought “guess I better fry them”. I mean, what else do you do with a tasteless banana: never confuse them with bananas and eat them uncooked. Gut ache extraordinaire. You need to fry or boil them. Did you know that if you boil them, you can add coconut flour to them and some seasoning and make then them into nachos, tacos shells and pizza bases.

Oh yes you can. You can also do that with boiled breadfruit and I’ll tell you, they taste way, way better than any shop bought pizza base and so much cheaper!

Considering jerk chicken and pork takes me to limes. I love my limes so much that my kids bought me my very own lime tree for Mother’s Day. I patiently await the fruit but I hear you asking, what do you do with your limes Virginia. I make juice hahaha. No………I squeeze them into mashed local avocados to make guacamole and I squeeze them over my jerk chicken and pork to season the meat and tenderize it. Cook those pork chops in the sous vide, pop them on the grill and them squeeze lime juice on top. Amazing!!!!

What else can you do with limes………why ceviche! The lime essentially cooks your raw fish. You want to use plenty of juice and allow the fish to turn an opaque colour. This is a great place to add more local avocado, mango, scallions and peppers. I love my ceviche made with conch (make sure it’s in season), mahi, wahoo, swordfish, snapper, tuna…..get the drift?

You regularly find me adding my favourite fish to curry sauce and over arrabiata sauce which I make with delicious local tomatoes, basil and scotch bonnets. My mouth is watering especially given that right now is tomato season.

The local farmers are producing all varieties of tomatoes and they are delicious. Some are so sweet and juicy you would easily chose them over candy. I buy big bags and make my own salsa (which I love with fried breadfruit. I feel a snack coming on!), tomato and basil sauce and arrabiata sauce, pulping up those tomatoes in the blender. I like to make my arrabiata sauce a little funky and add okra to it.

Okra (aka “ladies fingers”) is one of those misunderstood vegetables; misunderstood because people don’t know what to do with it. I was one of those people. I’d never heard of it until I came here. I say buy it and cook it boys and girls. It grows here and it’s nearly always in the grocery store. I love the texture. It’s chunky and filling and did you know that recent research is suggesting that okra could help manage blood sugar in cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Wow and we have it on Island. I’m having one of those “duh” moments as if, why wouldn’t you. You can grill it with a little oil and garlic or chop it and add it to stir fried veggies. It is so yummy in gumbo which incidentally, I like to make with local tomatoes and fish and I often replace the actual rice with riced cauliflower. Yes, seriously!

There’s so much produce here that I could be writing for ever but I’m going to stop now. However, I can’t stop before mentioning the humble mango. You haven’t tasted mangos until you’ve eaten a nam doc . There are no words to describe the taste. I buy them in bulk and stand over the sink as the juice runs down my face. If there’s any left, I chop them up and freeze them and make mango chia pudding and mango lassi. To make the mango lassi, you blend up those mangos with fresh coconut milk and a pinch of grated nutmeg or turmeric. You have to try it to understand how totally amazing it is.

I always fill 2 drawers of my freezer with chopped mango to keep me going in between seasons and if I ever let any get too ripe (which doesn’t happen that often), I make this utterly delicious mango bread http://www.moozlers.com/yes-you-its-okay-to-be-fed-up-sometimes/

As you all finish up reading this, I hope you are salivating and ready to get yourself out to experience everything the culinary capital of the Caribbean has to offer. You’ll need to fight me for the nam docs though!

Surviving the next 10 days

How to survive the festivities…..

 This is it…….the festivities really begin now. It’ll be food, food and alcohol and more food and alcohol for the next 10 days. Don’t despair. Here are my survival tips. Continue reading

It’s the sides

carrots and parsnipsWe’re on countdown at my home. Quinny keeps asking how Santa will get in and if she can stay up to watch. Santa has become her new favourite person but she still loves me. Eva on the other hand, is really excited about Christmas dinner and I’m getting my orders. i don’t mind though as I love Christmas dinner too.  Continue reading

what to do with those turkey bones

brothSpent a lovely evening this evening with a friend chewing the fat over some Mexican food and a beer. It was an evening of carb heaven. Nacos with guacamole and salsa and a burrito stuffed with chicken, rice and beans, more avocado and more salsa. Life is way too short to deprive yourself of the things you enjoy. Everything in moderation!

Anyway, how many of you are having turkey for Christmas dinner? What will you do with the bones? Stop. Don’t throw them away, make stock aka,  bone broth. I’ve posted this before but well worth sharing again.

Bone broth is a staple in my house. Why only this evening I made chicken noodle soup for the family using broth which has been cooking away in my slow cooker for the last 48 hours. It’s full of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. It also contains gelatin and collagen which are great for the skin and joints.

How to make bone broth

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey carcass
  • 2 litres of water
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • a half dozen chicken feet or a tablespoon of good quality gelatin
  • 1 large chopped onion (skin and all)
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Thumb sized piece of grated turmeric (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 peppercorns
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Dissolve the gelatin in water if using.
  2. Place turkey carcass and chicken feet or gelatin in a large pot with the water, vegetables, bay leaf and peppercorns (not the parsley, garlic and turmeric). If you haven’t soaked the carcass in vinegar water, add the vinegar now. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to the lowest number and cover. You can either pop the liquid and carcass into a slow cooker over night or simmer it on the stovetop. I like to leave it simmering for a minimum of 10 hours usually close to 48 hours.
  3. Ten minutes before cooking time has finished add parsley, garlic and turmeric. Strain the broth and you’re good to go. You can store in the fridge or divide into freezer bags when cool and freeze. Great mid morning snack! You can also put it into ice cube trays and add it to puréed vegetables for a great grab and go lunch.

When you put the broth in the fridge, it will turn into a jelly with fat on top. Up to you whether you use it or spoon it off.

Enjoy!

Scottish shortbread aka power cookies

spelt shortbread squareI’ve had a few folks comment in the last few days that my recipes aren’t all paleo. Yip. That’s right. I’m not paleo. I do however do Crossfit workouts and I do eat food that could be classed as paleo, but I’m not paleo. Continue reading

System on overload?

Gini is stupidEven I, the energizer bunny, am feeling the pace of the holiday season. Parties, kids at home all day, shopping, kids parties, all of my favourite cakes in the store, baking galore, mulled wine, work, fighting a cold. It goes on. The one thing I always make sure that I do at this time of the year, is fuel my body with nutrient rich juices and smoothies (with my food, not instead! I don’t do juice and smoothie only diets!!!!) Continue reading

Perfect potatoes – the countdown continues…….

IMG_5415I love potatoes. I’m sure it’s to do with my peasant background. I did go through a period a few years back where I read too much Facebook and convinced myself that white potatoes were “bad”. I then realized what a stupid coo I was and reintroduced them.

Christmas dinner wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without tatties. I like some roasted hasselback (accordion) style and I like some scalloped. Hmmmmm……I’m grinning as I write this. I like to make these dishes at Christmas using the works, white potatoes, butter and full fat milk. When I’m on track and macro counting, I go a bit easier on the fat and I often switch up the white potatoes for sweet to get the benefit of the slower burning carb.

IMG_5413

Scalloped potatoes (white and sweet potato options)

FullSizeRender

Serves: 6-8 as a side

Ingredients

  • 8 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 Onion finely sliced
  • 2 cups of full-fat coconut milk  or normal whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch or other thickener 
  • 2 lbs of sweet or red skinned white potatoes, thinly sliced 

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large frying pan over a medium/high heat. Cook the onion until golden brown and soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add 2 cups of milk and bring to a boil. While you wait for the liquid to boil, whisk together 1 tablespoon of corn starch or other thickener in 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Once the milk mixture boils, whisk in the starch mixture, stirring constantly and boil for 2 minutes, again stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, add in the salt, pepper and chopped garlic, and cook the sauce for an additional 5 minutes until thick, stirring frequently.
  5. Once the sauce has cooked, add in the thinly sliced potatoes to a baking dish and cover in the sauce. Mix it around to coat the potatoes.
  6. Cover the dish with tinfoil and place into the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Uncover the pan, press the potatoes down so they really sink into the sauce, and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender and the top is browned. 
  7. Let the potatoes stand for 10 minutes before eating.

Feel free to replace one cup of milk with double/whipping cream. If you do this, omit the thickener. You can also cover the top of the potatoes with cheese. do this 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time to avoid the cheese burning.

Try adding some grated nutmeg too!

Hasselback potatoesIMG_5414

The Kitchn has a great demo on hasselback potatoes at http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-hasselback-potatoes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-199763

No point in me reinventing the wheel.

If all else fails, mash them up with butter, whole milk, salt, pepper and garlic ?

It’s okay to be gluttonous…sometimes

Everyone seems to be talking about getting fit and going on a diet in January. I’m a believer in “there’s no time like now”. Instead of stuffing your face on the premise that you’ll stop stuffing your face 1 January and go cold turkey on everything that facebook tells you is “bad”, why not start being mindful of what you put in your gob now.   Continue reading

Day 3 of our Christmas countdown – magnificent mince pies

DSC_0708As well as my fabby recipes, I’m going to share my holiday season survival tips. This one I’ve been doing for years and it’s so simple you’re probably screwing up your face and saying “really?” Before you head out for the office lunch or party or other function, eat! Have something like a protein shake with protein, oats and banana or how about rice cakes with banana and peanut butter or even a couple of boiled eggs on English muffins. Why? If you’re not hungry when you go out, chances are you’ll drink less and be less inclined to nibble. Okay, boring but you’ll thank me the next day when you don’t have a hangover and you don’t feel crap from all the junk you ate. Try it!

Now for today’s recipe. Mince pies. I’m sharing my healthy spelt flour version and gluten free version. I can’t decide which one of these I like most! What do you think?

For the mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 2 apples (cored and chopped into small pieces)
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of apple or orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of grated orange rind (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of rum (optional)

Method

  • Place all of the above ingredients in a pot and let them simmer for about 30 minutes until the apple is soft.

Whilst the mincemeat is cooking, prepare your pastry.

Ingredients – spelt flour pastry

  • 160g of spelt flour
  • 120g of butter (unsalted) straight from the fridge and cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of cold water

Method

  1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cubed butter to the flour mixture. Rub butter in carefully with your fingertips until your mixture looks crumbly.
  3. Add a splash of water then mix into a soft dough.
  4. Rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

Ingredients – almond flour/gluten free pastry

  •  250g of almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract

DSC_0677Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl using your hands to form a pliable dough.
  2. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
  3. Roll out the pastry carefully between 2 sheets of baking paper.
  4. Cut out stars for the top and set them aside.
  5. Cut out circles, large enough to cover the base and sides of your muffin tin. You can also mould the pastry into the individual cups if you prefer.

Once you have the pastry (either spelt or gluten free almond) ready:

  1. Heat the oven to 180/350 degrees.
  2. Place the tray of crust bases in the oven for 8 minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Take them out and allow them to cool while the mincemeat mixture finishes cooking.
  3. Once the mincemeat has cooked, start assembling the pies.
  4. Add two heaped teaspoons of mincemeat into each baked pie case before placing a star over the middle of the mincemeat. Return the pies to the oven.

If using the spelt pastry, bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden. If using the almond flour pastry, bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before turning out of the tin.

Enjoy with mulled wine!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

IMG_5398I might be having Cheeky Weeky for Christmas dinner. Being the mug I am, I agreed, at the request of my son, to look after a baby chick that he found. Little did I know that that chick would come to know me as mum. It now lives in my garden and eats with the 7 stray cats I feed. That’s all good, but it’s taken to roosting in my welly boots and it hunts them down, finds them, manoeuvres itself inside and then uses my boot as a toilet. Not impressed. It’s really wet here just now and I need those boots for the stables.IMG_3500

Anyway, I’m sorely tempted to cook it up but I won’t even though it has been fed on oats, buckwheat and Greek yoghurt. Don’t ask. You find all sorts of useful info if you do a google search. My search was “baby chicken lying on back with legs in the air”. That’s for another day.

So we’re on day 2 of my 12 days of delicious recipes for Christmas. Today’s recipe is bacon wrapped stuffing. If you’re a vegetarian, skip the bacon. This traditional sage and onion stuffing is equally good without the bacon and check out the added walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 400g of onions, coarsely chopped
  • 75g of butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 60g of crushed toasted walnuts
  • 230g of breadcrumbs (gluten free bread crumbs works fine too and if you’re paleo, I can vouch for Julian Bakery paleo bread)
  • 12 to 14 slices of streaky baconIMG_5397

Method

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the onions. Simmer for about 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Drain the onions and add all other ingredients other than the bacon.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Line a baking sheet and spoon out the mixture onto the tray into 12 to 14 portions.
  5. Grease your hands and form each portion into a ball.
  6. Wrap each ball of stuffing in a slice of bacon securing the bacon with a toothpick/cocktail stick.
  7. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes until crisp.

You can cook up the basic mixture the day before and store in the fridge.

Tada! Super easy stuffing!

Check back tomorrow for my spatch-cock turkey. Easiest way to cook turkey and it’s fool proof. Super moist and tasty. I’ll post the recipe up here but you can also get it on Cayman Parent.

Remember to follow me on facebook and instagram.