By Ginnee Hancock
I am a recipe developer and off-grid cook. At Finca Quijote we use whole foods, fresh, local, organic, make do, and reinvent. We cook with native ingredients purchased locally, not imported goods. I try to add healthy options to all recipes. More fruit, less oil. I add lots of flax seeds to most everything. If it calls for nuts, it gets flax seeds instead. Doesn’t call for nuts, gets flax seeds anyway. See how that works? I am always thinking, I don't have this, but I have that. What if....? And so my kitchen is the source of many proto types. I am known for serving up new creations to guests and family with the announcement "this is a proto type, no guarantees". I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. The first time, company was coming and I thought "are you crazy?" Not every proto type is a keeper; that’s just how it is. Some need tweaked, and some will never be seen again.
Did I subtract flour because of the additional fiber of the coffee? No, never have done that. It works, no one has ever said, "Did you put ground coffee in this?" Most folks never guess that coffee is in chocolate anyway. Most use a box of stuff and call it cooking or baking. We cook from scratch. Use what you got, be creative, substitute, and learn to love it.
So, I think I am on to something here. Turns out that coffee grinds have more nutrients than drinking coffee. The mucus membranes in our mouths quickly absorb those nutrients and the beans give us all of the nutrients, not just what drips through the filter.
The healthy benefits of coffee.....the #1 source of antioxidants for most Americans, boosts memory, relieves post workout muscle pain, reduces skin cancer, liver disease risk, cardiovascular disease, lessens symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, reduces cognitive impairment and immune dysfunction.
Have to run, the world's best brownies are fresh out of the oven and the coffee is pouring! Let me know if you want the brownie recipe!
By Ginnee Hancock
This is just one of the many Tropical Rainforest leaves that can naturally cure what ails you. Nature gives us free medicine, so powerful, if we only knew....
By Ginnee Hancock (aka: Duck Mom)
Living off-grid comes with lots of manual labor for the woman of the house. No dishwasher, just our hands scrubbing away. Not many 1st world conveniences in my house, so I look for things that bring me joy.
It is wonderful to see them maturing and becoming more independent. They are beautiful and I am thankful for the joy they bring to my life each day. It is the little things in life that I have learned to appreciate on the farm.
“This time” it was my fault, again. It’s been quite a few years since my last bad encounter and maybe I got over confident. Friday night I made mango smoothies, I was super careful in the preparation and I have gotten away with this many times before. Well, I flubbed up somehow and got some on my face and in my eye without knowing it. Saturday morning I woke up to a swollen eye and mild rash on my face, by Sunday morning my face was on fire and itchy with my eye pretty swollen, and by Monday morning it was affecting my vision and the muscles in my face. My worst reaction thus far, I was desperate for relief. I googled home remedies and every website said go to the doctor or hospital, so I rushed to find medical attention in town. After a quick look over by a nurse, I was given a painful shot in the rear and a series of pills to take over the next three days. The shot made me all goofy feeling, noodles for legs, and just plain out of it. Thankfully, I began to feel relief within just half an hour. The pills did a number on me, feeling tired and yet ready to run a race all at the same time. They also made me extremely thirsty and greatly diminished my sense of taste. Hopefully I will be back to normal in a few more days.
So, you are asking yourself “I eat mangos all of the time, how on earth can someone be allergic to mangos?” Mangos are in the same family as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac and are the most impactful of the group because of the sheer volume of the chemical that makes them poisonous. Urushiol is contained in the sap and rind of the mango, so we are not allergic to the flesh, but actually the sap found on the tree and in the skin of the fruit. Contact with the sap causes a form of contact dermatitis and each reaction is more severe than the previous.
By Ginnee Hancock
Katuk is a plant that few people had or knew about where we live. The leaves are 49% protein and contain twice as much calcium as milk does. It tastes like a cross between almonds and fresh garden peas. The first leaf I tasted had me exclaiming...WOW! It was love at first bite. We had to have rows of Katuk for our farm. Our friends, who introduced us to Katuk, gave us some cuttings and my husband rooted them in the nursery. We waited patiently for the plants to grow and resisted the urge to sample the leaves; we did not pluck one delicious green leaf from our precious new crop. We knew where we wanted our new edible hedge and carefully planted the young plants. A few days later, much to our horror, the leaf cutter ants had stripped every single leaf from every plant. A bit of a bummer, I really was in love with this leaf and its awesome fresh flavor. Thankfully, the leaf cutters finally tired of the Katuk and moved on to strip the young citrus trees of their leaves. The naked little plants survived and new leaves emerged. Worried that I would run out of Katuk to eat, I planted more and more that blossomed into a small forest of Katuk. I planted our edible hedge along our road thinking that it would be food for people walking by. Most folks don't forage as they walk about and although they may be hungry, they pass on by these tasty leaves.
I am known to be obsessive at times, so they say. For a while my obsession was Spinach and it was part of every meal, sometimes a big part. It took hours to clean massive amounts. I even thought about cleaning it in the washing machine on a low, slow, cold water cycle. Seriously, I came close to proto-typing this technique. Katuk is easy to clean and grows clean, unlike spinach. Fortunately the Katuk went wild and I can strip the leaves and edible flowers off in seconds, a quick rinse and we are ready for fine dining. I changed my obsession to Katuk and now give most of the spinach to the ducks. They don't have my gourmet pallet, don't yet have the appreciation for Katuk that the leaf cutters and I have. Too bad for them, we have an unlimited supply.
As I have stripped the leaves off, I have replanted almost every stem. I gave stems and instructions to everyone who crossed my path. We also had the stems planted at the local school. I know some folks were saying, OMG she is eating the hedge. I was. I am. So many stems, so easy to grow, so much nutrition, so delicious... I love Katuk!
By Ginnee Hancock
At this time we have just one variety of fish, tilapia. As a cook my goal is to make this fish every way possible, but not recognize it as tilapia. If store bought tilapia is your idea of tilapia, you would not recognize our fresh from the tank, farm raised fish. Sweet, flaky, white meat, it is perfect. I pan fry it whole, coated with corn meal, Cuban style and I make New England fish chowder with it. Fish tacos, fish salad, ceviche, the possibilities are endless. I will smoke some this weekend when we smoke pork bellies for bacon. Think smoked fish dip, perhaps Finnan Haddie. I also want to salt tilapia, think salted cod, anchovies and other salted or dried and slightly salted fish, like fish jerky. The salted tilapia pizza will be awesome.
I know our fish are raised with kindness in pure fresh water, no chemicals, no antibiotics, and with love. That is as good as it gets in life for them and for us. I prepare them with love, cook them superbly, and honor them at the table.
By Ginnee Hancock
by Ginnee Hancock
By Erika Hope Alvarado
The river is fascinatingly powerful and during rainy season, it is just straight up destructive. The image below is the latest picture of the Rio Oro (Gold River) crossing where we have a little more pasture land on the other side. It’s the main route to reach other properties and the indigenous reservation way up in the mountains. We’ve seen this crossing too deep for vehicles, so shallow that you could easily drive across and so rocky that you literally could only climb across the giant boulders left by rushing waters.
Why is there not a bridge here? There have been a few constructed over the past 100 years. However, giant trees, bus sized boulders and the shear energy of the water have taken out the bridges that once helped folks across.
We are constantly amazed by the river, after each big rain event, we go down to see what it’s done and left behind. We’ve benefitted by finding cool driftwood and rocks for our landscaping as broken trees and other materials tossed about are nature’s “cracker jack” prizes. What will we encounter next time?
By Ginnee Hancock
Ducks, aren't they beautiful, sweet, graceful beings? We have a beautiful little pond with banks of wild grasses and Malanga on the edges. We got the ducks as babies and after they got big enough to fend for themselves, we introduced the little beasties to their new environment and they love it. They love eating mud and seeking bugs like we thought they would. They stay busy rooting, pecking, and .... destroying every plant they come into contact with, including the Malanga (Cassava). Who knew?
Do they know it takes a full year to grow that Malanga? No, I don't think they care. They ate the leaves, destroyed the plants and then they dug into the tubers and ate those. The beautiful expensive Lilly pads that were prospering and the tilapia liked......gone. Because they had never lived in the wild fending for themselves, we make sure that they have grain available to them, so it is not that they are super hungry with nothing to eat; it is just what ducks do. They muck up their environment. Although a bit surprised, we now know what to expect and can plan accordingly. No more fancy water plants for a while.
We have more ducks to release, a different kind, but I expect the same results. They will be set free in a different pond. We tried to integrate them with the beasties, but the beasties attempted to kill the new guys, looked as if they were trying to drown them, it was ugly. So much for pond peace....it’s my dirt, my pond, my water, my mud, my bugs…..little narcissist ducks.
The ducks smell, we expected that, but the tilapias who share their pond are thriving on the algae that are helped along by the duck poo. The smell does not affect us as they are far enough from the house in their natural environment. If you plan on doing ducks yourself, although you may think that eating breakfast and watching the ducks is pretty cool, you really do not want the pond close to your home or to be up wind from where you dine.
The green season is just beginning and the 240 to 300 inches of rain that we receive should help to clean the air, refresh the ponds and make ducks happy.