Dip for veggies

Looking for a delicious dip for your chopped vegetables? Try Tzatsiki, a Greek inspired dip that can be made many different ways. Start with plain Greek yogurt. Add salt, white pepper, garlic powder, a little lemon juice and some dill. Seeded and chopped cucumber, bits of toasted onion, crushed garlic and cayenne pepper (which I added to the dip pictured above) can all be added to customize this versatile dip.

The Savory Spice Shop, a Colorado company, makes a blend which is a mixture of spices and herbs that I love because it has a flavor that is similar to ranch dressing. This dip can also be made with sour cream, but with Greek yogurt it is lighter on the palate. Enjoy!

Question about asparagus

Irma, a student in one of the community’s nutrition classes, asked me about asparagus. She has seen this vegetable in grocery stores but needs ideas on how to cook it. I admit that I had never eaten asparagus before I moved to the United States. Have you tried it?

My favorite way to cook asparagus is to steam them just like broccoli. It gives the asparagus a great flavor and it helps to preserve the nutrients. Another simple way to prepare it is on the grill or in the oven. For either of these ways, place the asparagus on foil with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It is excellent if you pair it with grilled fish. Cook it until it is ‘al dente’ – soft but still crisp. You can drizzle fresh lemon juice over it, and also add it to salads and stews. What is your favorite way to cook asparagus?

Mashed black beans

Here is an easy and fast recipe if you don’t have time to make beans “de la olla” (of the pot). They are a healthy and delicious food typical in Latin cooking. The seasoning used in Costa Rica is Lizano sauce but it is something I don’t have. Instead I season them with Mexican chile adobo and the result is perfect. Half a cup of black beans provides 114 calories, 8 grams protein, 0.5 total fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 7.5 grams fiber. (USDA National Nutrient Database).

1 can black beans (I use the seasoned kind because later I don’t have to add more salt)
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted (optional)
1 tomato, chopped or 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes with flavor such as fire roasted
1 chile chipotle in adobo sauce (these comes in a small can)
1-2 garlic cloves

In a skillet over medium heat, pour the beans and tomatoes and heat for about 5 minutes. Start mashing the beans with a spoon or masher. Reduce the heat if it starts to stick to the pan. Add butter, this will give it a good consistency. Keep mashing the beans and stir for another 10 minutes until most of the water has evaporated but not all. Meanwhile, take half the beans from the pan and one chipotle in adobo and garlic in a blender and pulse a few times. Return this mixture to skillet and mix well. Serve with cotija cheese and tortilla chips. That’s it!

Recipes: Papaya surprise

Growing up in Panama, I ate a lot of papaya. The best papaya is the one that is cut at the right time when the skin is soft but still firm. I have memories of eating it in the morning for breakfast cut up with granola and yogurt or in the form of “jugo”. It helps with constipation. One cup of cut up papaya provides an excellent source of Vitamin C. It also has iron, vitamin A, folate, potassium, fiber, vitamin E and other antioxidants. One cup counts as 1 carbohydrate choice. The price can be high for us in the West but it is all worth it.