Calabaza Squash Pie (with homemade evaporated milk)


I know I tend to talk about my Sunday cooking sprees but I don’t want to give the impression that Sunday is the only day I cook. I find right now that all my free time is spent either cooking or looking at recipes. Whereas before I tended to read books now I cook and if I am reading it tends to have some relation to food. For example, I just today finished reading “Under the Tuscan Sun.” It’s about a woman remodeling an old Tuscan villa and her experiences building and exploring the cuisine in a foreign country. Hmm, wonder why that appealed to me. I think it probably inspired me to make the No Knead 5 Minute Rosemary Artisan Bread that is rising right now. Probably the herb infused Olive Oils I plan to start when I finish this blog.

However this blog post is not about Rosemary Bread or Infused Oils. Nor is about the cheese I made yesterday. (I finally got some milk fresh from a cow and made some Queso Blanco- a vinegar cheese common in Central America.) I’ll save cheese making posts for another day. Today is about Squash Pie. So down here they have all kinds of crazy squash. I’ve mentioned this before in my posts about pumpkin and other side dishes I’ve made. One of the squash we have here is Calabaza. It looks a lot like a Butternut Squash but bigger. Tastes a lot the same too. The big difference is that the skin is much harder to cut on a Calabaza. Anyway, I roasted some the other night with a Rum Balsamic Glaze- super yummy, but I still had over half the squash left. So I decided to turn it into Squash Pie.

This Squash Pie was a bit bigger of an under taking than I initially expected. First I had to roast half the squash. I did that earlier in the week and it had been taking up space in my fridge for a couple of days. So yesterday I finally made the pie. Unfortunately the only recipe I had open on my computer yesterday (and the internet wasn’t working) required evaporated milk. Having just completed my first cheese making experience I dove right in to evaporating the milk. That took a bit longer than I anticipated. I also had to puree the roasted squash which I accomplished, despite the erratic power outages, with my trusty immersion blender. There is also the pie crust, which is always a pain in climate this hot. In the end the squash pie was made. And it’s super yummy. The recipe I used is calls for butternut squash, so it would be a great alternative to pumpkin pie for the holidays if you can’t find a pie pumpkin (I never managed in the states) and don’t want to use canned pumpkin puree. I’ll also include how to make evaporated milk so you don’t have to buy the can stuff of that either. I figure if you’re cooking “from scratch” it should be from scratch. Can’t wait till the squash come from my garden. Hopefully next year.

Evaporated Milk

For 3/4 cup evaporated milk slowly simmer 2 cups of milk of low heat using care not to scald the milk. Stir continuously to prevent the milk from burning to the pan. Takes approximately 30-45 minutes. Canned evaporated milk has had 60 % of the liquid evaporated.

Basic Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 stick (1/2 c) frozen butter

1/4 ice water

Stir together flour and salt. Cut in frozen butter with pastry cutter. When mixture resembles small peas slowly add water 1 TBSP at a time mixing until mixture forms a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes or over night. Make one 9 inch pie crust. Double recipe for a closed crust pie.

Calabaza Squash Pie

(adapted from Southern Food)

1 9 inch Basic Pie Crust

1 1/2 c Pureed Calabaza Squash (Roast Squash at 450 degrees for 45 min – 1 hour, puree when cool)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

3/4 evaporated milk

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger

2 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat pureed squash and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, spices, butter and vanilla and beat until well blended. Pour into chilled pie crust and bake 45-55 minutes until filing is set.


Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper


Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

One of the many things I love about living in the tropics is how easy it is to get ingredients that are “exotic” back home. My last post was about banana bread (which isn’t really very exotic). I’m going to continue the banana theme but use something that back home is a bit more exotic- Banana Leaves. One of the largest crops grown Isla de Ometepe, the island where we live, are bananas of all varieties. Everywhere you look are banana trees. I know in the states you can sometimes find banana leaves in the supermarket, but here we just cut them from the yard. And they weren’t the only ingredient in this recipe that came from our yard. The lemongrass was fresh from the garden as well. This was actually my first experience cooking with lemongrass and I was very pleased. I’ve only ever used it before in tea. We also have ginger growing on our property but it’s so cheap here right now it isn’t worth the trouble to dig the roots out of the ground. It costs me less the 50 cents a pound so I use it A LOT. Homemade ginger ale is great (and even better with Flor de Cana, the Nicaraguan Rum). The tumeric and limes we used were also locally grown.

Anyway, the inspiration for this dish was the banana leaves. We had the fish and I’m always trying to come up with different ways to use the same ingredients (we may get what’s exotic back home but we don’t get a lot of variety). Once we decided we wanted to cook the fish in the banana leaves I started looking for some recipes to get some interesting idea. I ended up adapting this recipe for Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper from Martha Stewart. In the end it’s quite the adaptation because I didn’t have a good number of the ingredients so I used it more as a guideline. I didn’t have the fish sauce or shrimp paste, nor did I have tamarind pulp (though I can find that here). So I added the coconut and sesame oils and the soy sauce for the some richness and Asian flavors. I added the curry powder instead of chilli and I think we got sufficient kick. We did bake the fish instead of grilling it. I can’t say that I’ve tried the original recipe for a comparison but we were very happy with the end result.

We served the fish over a bed of veggie egg fried rice with a side of local squash. Yum yum yum.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

2 Snapper Fillets

Banana Leaves

1 Piece Fresh Ginger Peeled and Chopped (about 2 inches)

3 cloves of Garlic Chopped

1 Stalk Lemongrass Chopped (only the white part)

1/2 Onion Chopped

1 tsp Tumeric

1/2 tsp Curry Powder

1 TBSP Coconut Oil

1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce

1 Lime Quartered

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees. Mix onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, oils, soy sauce and spices using a blender or food processor until a paste is formed (I use an immersion blender).  Place each snapper fillet on a prepared banana leaf. Spoon a generous portion of the prepared paste on each fillet and spread. Garnish with a lime slice. Close each banana leaf around the fillet and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I recently got my hands on a loaf pan and I have been dying to use it. I’ve had for about a week and a half now and haven’t had the time to do any serious baking since I bought it. In fact the only time I’ve used it so far is with some left over batter from some Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes I made using my Pumpkin Puree.  Let me tell you that was delicious. Anyway, this week has been a nightmare of transportation problem and I just haven’t had the time (or gas for my stove) to do much cooking. However, knowing that our car won’t be fixed before Monday at the earliest, Friday we stocked up on lot’s of fruit and vegetables and all the stuff we’d need to get through the weekend without leaving the house. I might have been a little over zealous in my shopping. I’ve had a bunch of bananas sitting around for a few days now. We’ve eaten a few but they’ve begun attracting the fruit flies. Perfect for making banana bread, which is also super easy. And seeing as we planted over 50 banana trees on the property I figure I will need something to do with all those bananas.

Banana Bread

3-4 Bananas (I used 6 Bananitas they are much smaller than the standard stateside banana)

80 g butter melted

3/4 – 1 cup of sugar

1 egg beaten

1 TBSP rum

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 c flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash bananas leaving some chunks. Melt butter. In large bowl combined mashed bananas and melted butter. Cream in sugar. Add beaten egg, rum and spices. In med bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir with wooden spoon until mixed well. Pour into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour or until skewer comes clean.

Coconut Bread French Toast with Caramelized Pineapples in Sauce

Coconut French Toast with PineapplesWell, it seems like a lifetime since I last blogged here. For a while there I wasn’t cooking and then as they say, life just kind of got in the way. Since I last wrote we have bought property out here on Isla de Ometepe and finally started on construction of our dream, an organic farm with an Eco Bed and Breakfast. Part of the plan is to have a restaurant that will ultimately feature food grown on the property and locally. We’d like our menu to feature a fusion of American comfort foods re-envisioned with tropical flare. You can check it out at

To that end I have been experimenting a lot with tropical fruits lately. Guava Balsamic Reductions for our steaks, Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak Stirfry, Sesame Encrusted Bass with Mango Salsa, that kind of thing. We have a guava tree on our property and currently we have guava coming out our ears, so I’m trying to master guava jam. When I get it figured out I’ll share it with you. Anyway, the other day I bought some fresh coconut bread from a small comedor (local restaurant) and I had been dreaming of putting guava jam on it. Unfortunately after four long hot in the kitchen I wound up with guava paste as opposed to guava jam. So the coconut bread has been sitting on my counter for a few days. Last night we sliced off a little to eat with the Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak but it was getting pretty stale.

So I decided this morning I would use the last of it to make some french toast. Since I can’t get real Maple Syrup here and I’m out of honey at the moment I thought I would fancy it up a bit. So I chopped up some pineapple and whipped up a syrup and viola- we have coconut bread french toast with caramelized pineapples in syrup. We enjoyed a lovely Saturday morning breakfast on the patio watching the butterflies.

Coconut Bread French Toast Recipe

I used half a loaf of local coconut bread for this. I would say in size and shape it most resembled a baguette but a bit denser. I sliced the loaf in half lengthwise and then in half again so I had four slices.

For the french toast batter I mixed two eggs, a splash of milk, about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Whisk together. Dip the slice in the egg mixture one at a time until saturated. Make sure you coat both sides of the bread. Then cook on hot skillet. Cook each side until golden brown. When ready put on a plate, add caramelize pineapples and drizzle with syrup.

Caramelized Pineapple in Sauce

1 in slice of fresh pineapple cored and diced

2 TBSP butter

3 TBSP sugar

2 TBSP water

2 Tsp cinnamon

splash vanilla extract

I just added everything to small sauce pan and cooked it down until the pineapples were soft and the syrup was a beautiful golden color. I think next time I’ll melt the butter first, then add the sugar and pineapple and judge how much water is needed based off how juicy the pineapple is. However it turned out great just dumping it all into a pan.

I started the sauce and then made the french toast and both were ready at the same time. It was super quick, super yummy and it looks really pretty.