Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snack on the go!

The one thing we love about living in Nicaragua is how portable food is. Just about everything you can think of is sold in a plastic bag. For instance, one of our favorite snacks is rice pudding. Yep, you guessed it - it is sold in a bag too! For only 5 pesos (cordobas) you can get a small bag of freshly made rice pudding. We like to buy ours from the lady who sells it on the southwest corner of the central market. If you go there early in the morning it will probably still be nice and warm. Heading out to the beach? No problem. Just grab a bag and go. Bite off the corner and enjoy! Be careful of the small sticks of cinnamon.

Rice Pudding in a bag - León, Nicaragua

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

El Mediterraneo Restaurant in León, Nicaragua

The other night we joined some friends for dinner at El Mediterraneo here in León. El Mediterraneo is one of León's higher end restaurants set in a beautiful colonial building.

We had some questions about the menu and asked if any of the staff could speak English. Fortunately, one of the young fellows spoke English and was able to answer our questions and then he became our waiter.

The food at El Mediterraneo was good, but not spectacular. Service was efficient but they didn't check to see if we would like coffee or dessert. This seems to be a problem with most of the higher-end restaurants.

All in all - we enjoyed our meals and we would recommend a dinner at El Mediterraneo.

Ave 2 NO 2 1/2 blocks north of Parque Ruben Dario, across from Lazybones HostelLeonNicaragua

Chicken cordon blue at El Mediterraneo in León, Nicaragua

rice and salad served with the main plates

Chicken Pimiento with fries, salad and rice - El Mediterraneo, León, Nicaragua

Large Pizza at El Mediterraneo Restaurant - León, Nicaragua

Shrimp Pasta - El Mediterraneo - León, Nicaragua

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fruit Salsa - A refreshing change from the original.

Fresh fruit and vegetables in Nicaragua
Salsa made with fresh veggies is like no salsa I ever ate in Canada. With all the fresh fruit and vegetables here in Nicaragua it was only a matter of time before we started experimenting with various combinations.

Our personal favorite is a combination of pineapple, mango, tomato, garlic and onions. Add a splash of lime and some fresh cilantro and the flavor combination is beyond enjoyable. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you want to add a little heat be sure to include a jalapeno pepper or two.

Serve the salsa with nacho chips and wait for all the praise from your friends. If you have some left over you can use it to accompany grilled chicken.

Fruit Salsa - Nicaragua

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crazy Parents in Nicaragua is now on Facebook!

After receiving multiple requests we have setup a page for Crazy Parents in Nicaragua on Facebook. Please be sure to "Like Us" - it will make us feel wanted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fritanga with a difference - Shawarma

Colton and Indira
We are always on the lookout for new places to try for dinner and friends told us about a new fritanga that is open on Saturday and Sunday nights right in the Guadalupe neighbourhood. We were interested right away because it isn't the usual deep fried empanadas and gallo pinto. No, Colton and Indira are making Shawarmas.

What are Shawarmas? They are a favourite snack in Arabic countries with slow roasted meat served on pita bread with a variety of toppings. Toppings could include: tomato, cucumber, tahini, hummus and pickled turnip (according to Wikipedia).

The Shawarmas that Colton and Indira served were made with marinated BBQ chicken, fresh tomato and lettuce with a "secret" sauce.... ok, it's only secret because I didn't ask what it was made of...

piling meat onto warmed homemade pita bread

next comes fresh lettuce

then you add the tomato

finally - add the sauce for a delicious Shawarma - Fritanga, Nicaragua
 The final product was fantastic - we will definitely be back next week.  If you want to join us the address is: 2 1/2 blocks west of Guadalupe Park. They start serving at 6 p.m. and continue until they run out...

UPDATE February 6, 2013: New address to get your shawarma- go to Barrio San Felipe, from Sueño de Meme (listed on most tourist maps) 1 block North.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tostones con Queso - An easy Nicaraguan appetizer or light snack

A very simple and easy to prepare snack in Nicaragua is Tostones con Queso. Many times you will find this delicious treat under appetizers when you head to your favorite restaurant. For a variety, some restaurants serve Tostones con Carne - which basically is the same as the cheese variety but they substitute a small (cocktail size) meatball for the cheese.

Personally, I don't like such big hunks of cheese as some restaurants prepare them. The last time we made them we added a slice of tomato beneath the thin slice of cheese - truly delicious.

Tostones con Queso - Barca de Oro, Las Penitas, Nicaragua

Tostones con Queso with a slice of tomato
How to make these at home:

Choose green plantain. Peel your plantain and slice into sections about 3/4" to 1" . Put into hot oil. After about 2 minutes turn the cooking plantains over. Cook another 1 to 2 minutes and remove from oil. Squash each of the cooked plantains and put them back into the oil to cook until they are a nice golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Salt lightly. To serve - place a slice of cheese on top of each Tostone. You can add a slice of tomato or avocado if desired.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How do I pay for my garbage pickup in León, Nicaragua?

As part of our Rental Agreement we are responsible for paying for the monthly garbage pickup. Sounds easy doesn't it? Well, we have been here for 9 months already and we have only just received our first billing.

The invoice came from "Alcaldia Municipal de León" stating it was "Aviso de Cobro de Tren de Aseo". When I read that through the translator it came up with a crazy result and so I thought this invoice was for the sewers. However, my landlord assured me that it was for garbage collection.  When I went to pay the invoice the receipt does read that the money received was for "Garbage and Cleaning".

Where did I pay my invoice? You pay for the garbage collection at City Hall which is on the north side of the central park. With renovations going on in the park you enter the building by the west side door and go into the office that says "Caja" (the right side of the foyer). After you enter the office you take a number which is located on the back wall and then you sit and wait for your turn to pay.

What if I don't receive an invoice? You are still required to pay for the garbage pickup monthly. If you go to the office at City Hall and give them the account number and name then you can make the payment.

How much does it cost for garbage collection? Garbage collection only costs 40 cordobas per month - so it is extremely reasonable with pickup 3 times a week. Our pickup time is 5 am so we have elected to take out our garbage only once a week. It isn't wise to put your garbage out the night before because there are too many dogs (and unfortunately people) that will tear your bags apart and leave you with a mess to clean up in the morning.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tsunami Taco Bar, Las Peñitas

After spending a fantastic day on the beach in Las Peñitas we were waiting for the bus to go home when I noticed a sign outside of the Tsunami Taco Bar - Pan de Banano.

Banana Bread! I hadn't had any in ages and since I LOVE banana bread we thought we would grab a piece for the road - are we glad we did. It was melt in your mouth fantastic! We have always wanted to try this little place for their tacos but somehow the timing has never been right. However, we figure if the banana bread is this good then we have got to get back to try the tacos.

If you want to find the Tsunami Taco Bar it is located on the main road when you enter Las Peñitas, across from Playa Roca. If you decide to try it out - please leave a comment for our readers.

another beautiful sunset in Las Penitas

Friday, December 7, 2012

Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve

Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve is an amazing 22 km island on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua and is part of Nicaragua's National Park system. You can reach this Reserve through an organized tour (via motor boats or kayaks) or you can arrange with one of the local fishermen to take you.

We visited this nature reserve on Monday, December 3rd, 2012 - a bright and sunny day (as they all are). We had arranged to meet up with our guide, Nelson, at Barca de Oro Beach hostal/restaurant at 9:00 am. Our tour was not arranged through any Tour Company, but was made directly with Nelson from recommendations from friends.  Before we could embark on our tour we were required to register with the Nature Reserve and pay a 50 cordoba per person fee to enter the island.

local transportation using dugout canoe

Traversing the mangrove swamp - Isla Juan Venado

Soon we were on our way. We traveled through the mangrove swamps between the mainland and the island to a landing on the southern end of the island. On the way we saw a variety of birds (egrets, herons and pelicans) and enjoyed the winding waterway with a new scene around every corner.

 tour through the mangrove swamp at Isla Juan Venado

Enjoying Isla Juan Venado by kayak

Mangrove swamp - Isla Juan Venado

We arrived at a part of the island that has a beach that perhaps isn't what you would call a sandy beach. What there was however, was an amazing amount of small sea life in the nooks and crannies of the rock that lined the beach. Even though the shore is lined with rock formations it is possible to swim here - so don't forget your bathing suit.

First stop on Isla Juan Venado

Hermit Crab - Isla Juan Venado

Rocky shore - Isla Juan Venado

Tidal Pools - Isla Juan Venado
Fish left in the tidal pools - Isla Juan Venado

After about 1/2 an hour scouring the rocks for all it's treasures we got back on the boat and started our return. However, another delight was in store for us because Nelson had whispered the word "turtles". In no time at all we were stopping at the first "dock" that we had passed earlier in the morning. This is a wider section of the island and you walk through an area with many hungry mosquitoes - so be warned you should bring some insect repellent.

walking through tall grasses - Isla Juan Venado

The beach at this part of the island is beautiful. If you have time be sure to paddle in the water.

Beach - Isla Juan Venado

We, however, opted to view the baby turtles that were being reserved for the tourists to see. We were asked to put on a glove before we picked up any of the turtles in order to protect them.

Chelsea showing one of the baby turtles - Isla Juan Venado

 After an enjoyable time visiting the baby turtles it was back on the boat for the final leg of the return journey to Las Peñitas. The tour lasted about 3 hours and was well worth the cost.  I would suggest anyone who is visiting this part of Nicaragua to take the time to enjoy the beauties of Isla Juan Venado. Thanks Nelson for an unforgettable tour!

Nelson - our captain - Isla Juan Venado

Sea shells - Isla Juan Venado

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beauty Shop Time

Like many women I'm very particular about who cuts my hair and because of that it took me a long time to finally settle on who to go to. It's not that I hadn't seen good looking shops around town - there are many! No, I kept asking my friends for recommendations. One place kept coming up - Helen's Sala de Belleza. So, when I was visiting a friend and she told me that she was getting highlights at Helen's I immediately decided to join her and get my hair cut (I was in desperate need since I hadn't had it cut since I left Canada).

When we arrived at Helen's the following day I was happy to find out that she had time to fit me in while she was waiting for the colouring on my friends hair to set. The shop was quite modern and I was happy to recognize some of the products that are popular back home. Helen gave me some books to look through to pick out a hairstyle - this was crucial since she speaks no English and my Spanish isn't up to the challenge of describing what I wanted done with my hair. Helen doesn't wash your hair (much like Haircutters back home) she just wets it down before she starts cutting it.

I was very happy with the results and the price - only $50 cordobas which is a little over $2.00 CDN - very budget friendly.

In desperate need of a haircut

Lot's of great hair products to purchase


blow drying

selection of nail polish and hair clips

washing station

The final results

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Making Munchies for a Horde!

Recently we had a fiesta and decided to make our own plantain chips - so easy and economical! A small bag of plantain chips will cost you 26.95 cordobas for a 155g bag. You can make your own for way less. We bought 10 green plantains at 3.5 cordobas each and it produced a large bowl full - enough for the whole crowd.

All you have to do is heat some oil in a pot. Skin the plantain. Slice the plantain very thin. Cook the plantain slices in the hot oil until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and a little Chili pepper. These are a real crowd pleaser!

As an alternative you can peel and thinly slice yucca - also very economical and tasty!

use green plantain

peel and slice thin

cook in oil until brown

drain on paper towel - lightly salt

you can use Yucca too - peel and slice thin

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sutiava Market (El Mercadito), León, Nicaragua

Vegetable stand at the Sutiava market
A short distance away from the city centre - on the west side of León  - you will find an indigenous neighbourhood called Sutiava. It is here that you will find a small market - the smallest of the four in León - nicknamed El Mercadito. If you like fresh seafood then this is the market you want to visit - early in the morning is best time to get the freshest fish, shrimp, crab and other goodies from the sea.

From the south side of the Central Market you can find either a bus or camionetta that will take you to Sutiava. Heading to the beach? It is from El Mercadito that you will find the bus that will take you to the beaches of Poneloya and Las Peñitas.

Fresh fish at the Sutiava market

Restaurant at the Sutiava market

Fish stand at El Mercadito in Sutiava

Fritanga at the Sutiava market

The market in Sutiava

The bus to Las Penitas and Poneloya, Nicaragua

The market in Sutiava, Nicaragua

Sutiava market, Nicaragua