Even though it’s more difficult to find organic options in Puerto Rico, I still am committed to my daughters’ nutrition as my first priority. But I’d also like for them to get some of that good comida típica that tourists are over here drooling about!
Puerto Rican markets tend to have the same items: Caribbean root veggies (yuca, malanga, yautia, batata, ñame, taro); plantains/bananas; pumpkin; chayote; eggplant; recao; star fruit; passion fruit. There are also usually sprinklings of mangoes, coconut, quenepas (I previously assumed I’d find more of these!)
Back home I was used to buying kale and the like by the large bunchful, fresh snow peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, apples, and berries–staples of our health. But finding greens or apples is quite the feat here, and if you do find them, they may not be fresh, or very expensive, or both 🙄.
Against my desire for sustainability, I get most of my produce from Costco. That’s the only place I’ve found organic mixed greens, and at a decent price. I can purchase avocado oil, organic riced cauliflower (frozen, along with other frozen organic produce), sprouted sandwich bread, organic one-ingredient apple sauce, organic eggs, chicken and yogurt (though I know these items to be subpar than what I was used to in PA).
Uriah can bring me food when he comes: lots of dry goods like sprouted popcorn, various flours, beans, seasonings, supplements; random treats he finds at discount grocers (think Rx Bars and dark chocolate); and even frozen items he can pack in a lunch box (SO thankful for the frozen pure açaí he can bring from home).
The only thing I know what to do with all those Puerto Rican roots is make pasteles, which are great but they are time consuming to prepare, I don’t have the freezer space for extras (a requirement for pasteles making!), and I have no idea how to find pasture-raised (etc.) pork.
Oddly, even though many of the plantains are grown here they cost 2-4X as much than in the States, but they are wonderful! I use them to make tortillas, thickener for soups (like how you might use potato), for grain-free baking (I have a go-to plantain donut recipe that is amazing!), and of course tostones (crispy-chewy flattened green plantain slices you dip in garlic sauce 😋). The girls love when they get tostones in their lunch and all the other Puerto Rican kids know exactly what that mojito (garlic sauce) is for!
I had no idea eggplant was such a staple here, and I still need to figure out how they are traditionally eaten. But I have been making a “sauce” from the roasted flesh that I think is pretty tasty as a sandwich spread! I got the inspiration from an Israeli dish, sort of like baba ganoush, but not.
I am excited for chayotes! I’ve never eaten them in the States, though I was already aware of their existence. Another veggie I had no clue was a staple in Puerto Rican cookery, but am now going to incorporate into our meals. You can eat them raw or cooked, they’re like a firmer, sweeter more pear-like summer squash. So far I’ve made soup of it and the girls were fans!
I make whole chickens only, using the carcasses to make bone broth. The broth is usually used to cook my sprouted beans in, which are served any which way–on a tortilla, with sprouted rice, over salad, as a dip, made into patties…we eat beans a LOT.
After the main eight portions of chicken are eaten, I will pluck every.last.remnant of meat left on the bones (which is usually a fair amount! Stretching meals 101 😉) and often make chicken salad from this (with yummy homemade ranch dressing), or soup or enchiladas.
That same ranch dressing I often use with canned bone-in sardines (very nutrient dense food that I brought from home, but I’ve found is available here at Costco!) for something similar to tuna salad. The girls aren’t the biggest fans of sardines TBH, but I’ve been feeding it to them since they were babies, and I will continue to because it’s just that good for them.
I’m still getting used to packing school lunches, since the girls have never been to school outside of home, but it’s fun for me to come up with balanced meals (in their cute little tiffins 😍). If I should talk more about what I’m packing them, or add recipes, or if YOU have any suggestions for me on how to use some of these local ingredients, leave me a comment and let me know!!