Monthly Archives: February 2014

St. Kitts and Nevis

The warm glow of the mid-day sun caressed our faces as we disembarked the American Airlines flight that had brought us to St. Kitts.  It was winter in Boston and the surrounding countryside had been blanketed in deep snow drifts. when we departed. We peeled off layers of sweaters and our down jackets to embrace the 80 degree temperatures.  After we cleared customs and immigration, we took a taxi to the public ferry terminal along the waterfront and awaited our departure for Nevis.

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St. Kitts and Nevis comprise an island nation of approximately 47,000 people, mainly of African descent.  It is one of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies and is located 1,300 mi southeast of Miami, Florida. Formerly known as St. Christopher Island, St. Kitts was discovered by Christopher Columbus and claimed for Spain in 1493. The first English colony was established in 1623, followed by a French colony in 1625. The island alternated repeatedly between English and French control during the 17th and 18th centuries, as one power took the whole island, only to have it switch hands due to treaties or further military action. Parts of St. Kitts were heavily fortified, as exemplified by UNESCO World Heritage Site at Brimstone Hill and the now-crumbling Fort Charles. It was in 1783 that the island became British for the final time. The island originally produced tobacco, but changed to sugar cane in 1640 due to stiff competition from the colony of Virginia. The labor-intensive farming of sugar cane was the reason for the large-scale importation of African slaves. The importation began almost immediately upon the arrival of Europeans to the region. Sugar production continued to dominate the local economy until 2005, when, after 365 years as a monoculture, the government closed the sugar industry.  Tourism is the primary industry today and the islands are a destination for major cruise lines.

Crossing the two-mile channel between the islands took about 45 minutes. Nevis is less developed that St. Kitts.  Goats and donkeys run wild and an occasional Green Vervet monkey can be seen crossing the 19-mile road that rings the island.

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Nevis is dominated by the volcanic peak of Mount Nevis in the center and is fringed on its western and northern coastlines by sandy beaches that are composed of a mixture of white coral sand with brown and black sand which was eroded and washed down from the volcanic rocks that make up the island. Nevis is of particular historical significance to Americans because it was the birthplace and early childhood home of Alexander Hamilton. For the British, Nevis is the place where Horatio Nelson was stationed as a young sea captain, and is where he met and married a Nevisian, Frances Nisbet, the young widow of a plantation-owner.

We transferred to a taxi in the port town of Charlestown and headed for our hotel, the Nisbet Plantation, childhood home of Fanny Nisbet.  Palm trees and brightly-colored cement homes dotted the roadside and flowering trees and shrubs complemented the landscape. We were greeted at the hotel, which bills itself as the only plantation resort on the beach, by the manager and complimentary rum punches. Nisbet Plantation boasts the Great House with its wide porch and formal restaurant, 38 duplex-style cottages with Caribbean decor, beach bar, surrounded by palm-thatched cabanas along the beach, pool, tiled hot tub, and the pool side cafe where breakfast is served. Although our cottage had air-conditioning, we opted to open the plantation shutters and enjoy the sea breezes.

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The beaches on Nevis are not renowned for snorkeling, although snorkeling equipment was available at the hotel where we stayed.  The surf is rough and coral reefs are few and far between. Places to rent bicycles, kayaks and small catamarans are plentiful, but our goal was to relax and read on the beach or to venture inward and do some hiking in the rain forest.

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We discovered that the meals at Nisbet Plantation were outrageously expensive and every place on the island added 22% that comprised a 10% service charge with 12% government-mandated fees. As we were not participating in the meal plan because we enjoy exploring and sampling the local fare, we were free to roam and discovered that Oualie Plantation Resort just up the road offered a delicious and more-reasonably priced breakfast which featured a sumptuous Calypso omelet (peppers and onions in a spicy tomato-based sauce) that we preferred. Another option for breakfast was the Fancy Jamaican Bakery in Charlestown which served hot “patties” or crispy turnovers filled with beef, chicken or cheese.

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Our hike up Mount Nevis, a dormant volcano in the rain forest, was the most challenging we have ever done – slippery, muddy trails only a foot wide on the edge of plunging cliffs! We rappelled down one steep slope with a rope that was tied in place, did some nearly horizontal rock climbing to keep from falling off the hillside, traversed old stone steps and rickety, corroded iron ladders. Took us 5 hours and we returned to the Golden Rock Plantation Inn for a much-deserved rum & ginger at the end of the day.

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The iron ladder on the Mount Nevis hike

The iron ladder on the Mount Nevis hike

The Golden Rock Plantation Inn  was surrounded by luscious gardens with a majestic view of Nevis Peak. The cut stone sugar mill, since converted to hotel accommodations and an open air restaurant, dated back to the early 1800s. It was magnificent and we enjoyed our most memorable meal there a few days later. We wish we had discovered it sooner and would definitely consider staying in one of their 19 unique cottages should we ever return to Nevis.

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Mahi Mahi in an orange citrus sauce with coconut rice

Mahi Mahi in an orange citrus sauce with coconut rice

Reluctantly, the week ended all too soon, although it was a wonderful vacation and a great break from a New England winter.

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Thai Chicken Curry

Spicy and filling, this chicken curry is great on a cold winter day!

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Ingredients:

2 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 t. minced fresh ginger

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips

1 1/4 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

2 T. curry powder

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

3 c. boneless chicken breast or thighs, cut into one-inch cubes

Salt

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2 T. fresh  cilantro, leaves and stems chopped finely

Directions:

Saute garlic, ginger and bell pepper in olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until softened. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk, curry paste and curry powder and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Stir in chicken, remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Cook about 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring often. Season with salt.  Serve over hot rice. Garnish with scallions and cilantro.  Serves 4-6.

Week 17: Milk Alternatives

Milk is the best source of calcium and vitamin D for our bodies.  It promotes healthy bones and teeth too. But what if you’re lactose intolerant? Lactose intolerant means you can’t digest lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. What can you use on cereal in the morning or for baking? Here are some solutions for milk alternatives.

Almond Milk

almond milk

Almond milk is a beverage made from ground almonds. It does not contain any animal products, is cholesterol and lactose-free. It is slightly beige in color and often has added vanilla and sweeteners.  Historically, almond milk was used in medieval kitchens because it had a long shelf life and did not spoil.

Almond milk has less protein than cow’s milk, but it is rich in nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus, tryptophan, copper, and calcium. Almond milk is available in unrefrigerated cartons with the Blue Diamond or Silk brand label.

Coconut Milk

coconut milk

Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from grated coconut. Coconut milk is used in many tropical cuisines and as a base for curries.  Coconut milk works well in baked goods and can be found canned or in cartons in the milk aisle. It has a high saturated fat content, but is rich in vitamins C, E, B vitamins, and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

Rice Milk

Rice milk

Rice milk is usually made from brown rice and comes unsweetened. It is generally thinner in consistency than nut milks or soymilk, and it has a lighter, sweeter flavor that is good for use in cereal or coffee. Compared to cow’s milk, rice milk contains more carbohydrates, does not contain cholesterol nor lactose and does not contain significant amounts of calcium or protein. Commercial brands of rice milk are often fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Soy Milk

soy milk

Soymilk is not technically milk, but rather a beverage made from soybeans. It is the liquid that remains after soybeans are soaked, finely ground, and then strained. The earliest existence of soy milk is evidenced in a kitchen scene on a stone slab from China that dates to 25AD.  Soy milk is very prevalent in Asian households and is used to make tofu. “Sweet” and “salty” soy milk are both traditional Chinese breakfast foods, served either hot or cold, usually accompanied by steamed buns. One cup of unfortified soymilk contains almost 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 4½ grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Although soymilk supplies some B vitamins, it’s not a good source of B12, nor does it provide a significant amount of calcium.

Resources

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com

http://www.dairyfreecooking.com

http://www.fitday.com

http://www.latimes.com

http://www.supercow.com

http://www.wikipedia.com

Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus

The prosciutto adds saltiness and the asparagus spears are still a little crunchy.

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Ingredients:

20 spears of asparagus

20 slices of prosciutto

Hollandaise Sauce

2 egg yolks

1 T. lemon juice

4 T. butter

Directions:

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick baking spray or mist with olive oil.  Wrap each spear of asparagus with prosciutto, spiraling the prosciutto up the spear.  Arrange the asparagus on the baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400o F oven for 15 minutes.  Using tongs, carefully turn the asparagus spears over and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes.  For hollandaise sauce: Combine egg yolks, lemon juice and salt in blender on medium speed.  Place butter in a microwavable container and heat on high for 1 minute until melted and bubbling. Drizzle the melted butter a little at a time into the egg yolk mixture with the blender still on medium speed.  If the sauce should separate, reduce blender speed, add a little bit of lemon juice and continue mixing until it is creamy.  Serve prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears warm with hollandaise sauce for dipping.