The 2022 Great Blogger’s Bake-Off – Baking On A Budget

Mel and Gary are hard at work planning our upcoming Great Blogger’s bake-Off for 2022. This year, one of the themes is “Baking On A Budget”.

HOW TO BAKE ON A BUDGET

During 2022 we have heard certain phrases over and over in the media:

  • the cost of living
  • the energy crisis
  • do we eat? or heat?

Horrible – isn’t it! Anybody who has tasted anxiety knows that sometimes mounting worries can eat into our joy of life. The 2022 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF has a special theme:

The Joy Of Baking

Although there is a completely open choice with regards to your baking – bread, cakes, biscuits, pastries, sweet or savoury – this year we are going to be drawing attention to three areas that will help us to taste the JOY OF BAKING throughout the dark, cold winter ahead.

One of our special features this year is:

BUDGET BAKING

BUDGET BAKING

We would absolutely love to see your budget friendly recipes. If you have a bake that you know is cost effective, please do send in your photos. We are giving out special accolade badges to any bakers who can show us how to taste the JOY OF BAKING without spending a fortune.

Please send in your photos to:

cushedcaramel@gmail.com

We are already preparing the posts to feature our GREAT BLOGGERS on WordPress which will be paraded on BAKE OFF weekend:

15th & 16th October 2022

Bonaire – The Island Tour – Part 1 – The Northern Part Of The Island

I have a couple more posts about Bonaire, and then just like our vacation, it will soon be gone. As you know, we had a fantastic time, and did mostly diving. We could not dive on our last day however, because you have to wait about 24 hours or even more sometimes, after diving before flying. Because we could not dive on our last full day on the island, we took an island tour instead.

We started our island tour by going up to the northern part of the island and took the tour of the Washington Slagbaai National Park. Washington Slagbaai National Park was opened to the public on May 9, 1969, and was the first National Park in the Dutch Antilles. A veritable bird-watcher’s paradise, Washington Slagbaai National Park’s nearly 14,000-acre desert oasis plays host to more than 200 different types of birds. Several beaches, outdoor exhibits, and snorkeling and diving spots are also available. The park also offers ample hiking trails suited for both amateur and expert trekkers. 

The views are incredible in Slagbaai. It truly is a place where the desert meets the ocean. The whole island of Bonaire is basically a desert, with dry, arid weather, but the northern part is even more of a desert. Big beautiful cacti are everywhere. Many of which were just about ready to bloom as well, and would have been beautiful to see, but we were a couple of weeks to early for that.

A large piece of driftwood we all liked.

At the entrance to the park there is a large skeleton of a juvenile Bryde’s baleen whale that had been impaled on a cruise ship in 2000. It was about 11 meters long and weighed about 13 metric tons before it met its unfortunate demise. A local youth group reconstructed it and it is now on permanent display at Slagbaai.

We saw lots of birds and here is where we saw the bulk of the flamingos too. Bonaire – Pink Flamingos

Other than the flamingoes, we also saw a couple of Bonairian ducks, I believe these are called Lesser Grebes, as well as some sandpipers too. I thought I had some pictures of the sandpipers, but apparently I don’t.

This is the lighthouse at Slagbaai, which is at the highest point of the island.

As we were driving around through Slagbaai, we felt as if we had been off-roading because of all the bouncing around we did on the bumpy dirt roads. Once we left the park region, we were on a mission to find a place to eat, of course still taking in all the sights along the way.

This is the Piedra Krus. Legend has it that as the island was emerging from the seas, a large coral T shaped cross was formed in the rocks. Villagers from nearby Rincon would come to worship at this cross, however in 1966, the original coral cross was destroyed by some drunken non-believers and the cross was replaced by a wooden cross, that is constantly maintained by the locals. The locals believe the non-believers who destroyed the original coral cross were struck down by a bolt of lightening and were punished right on the spot. The custom is to remove your hats and to make a sign of the cross as you pass by the Piedra Krus.

We also came across a land sailing course as we were driving down, venturing further south. This looks like so much fun. I would definitely do this.

Eventually, we found something to eat, back in Kralendijk. One of the local churches was having a big BBQ as a fundraiser, and the smells were so inviting, we just had to stop. So not only did we get a fantastic lunch, all for only $12, but we helped out for a local cause too. Our local feast was comprised of some Caribbean BBQ chicken and pork, a macaroni salad, rice and beans and a peanut sauce. It was delicious!

We took our street side lunch to our local beach and had a seaside picnic. This is our friend Nancy proudly displaying a big smile after lunch.

We were watching the local kids play in the water

as well as the birds feasting alongside us as we dined on our local delights.

After lunch, we were able to check into our hotel for one last night on the island. After checking in, we were off and running again, this time exploring the southern parts of the island.

Our last digs for the this trip. We stayed at the Ocean Breeze just for one night, but it was a beautiful little two-bedroom apartment located on the marina. I wish we had more time to to enjoy it.

I will end this piece here and continue on with more later. Believe it or not, you have already seen most of the southern parts of the island from my other pictures and posts, but I do still have a bit more to share.

Stay cool, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

The Great Blogger’s Bake-Off – 2022

OK all you great bakers out there. Get ready to bake once again. It is that time of year once more. it’s time for our annual Great Blogger’s Bake-off. It just keeps getting bigger and better every year.

Once again, Mel from Caramel and Gary are hard at work putting the contest together. All YOU need to do is do your baking and submit your pictures and/or recipes to Mel at crushedcaramel@gmail.com. We will take care of all the rest. Good luck to EVERYEONE! We look forward to seeing all yourdelicious creations.

MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW

 CARAMEL 5 COMMENTS

I have a feeling that time is going to race by over the next few weeks. You are going to see lots of promotional post sharing the news that the 2022 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF is right on the doorstep…and lots of details will follow. But first of all, it seems right to share the date has been set…as it is baking season already, we would love you to take photographs of anything and everything you are baking.

This years’s GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF will be….

15th & 16th October 2022

We have a wonderful theme for you, and also some special features that we are hoping might influence your baking choices.

But if you have already baked and snapped photos of your creations, by all means start sending your pictures in to:

crushedcaramel@gmail.com

I have a recipe ready…and the ingredients…I am just waiting for Jack’s return as it is exactly the kind of cake he will love! It is a Swedish cake and I cannot wait to bake and photograph the results (I can see that it has potential disaster written all over it!)

I have been reminiscing about my bakes over the past three years…and I am so keen to excel myself! As for Gary….there is already hazard tape around the entire county of Yorkshire and his town are being asked to keep their doors and windows shut tightly until the danger has passed. Thank goodness Jeanne is ready for the challenge of perusing all of our baking photographs and awarding the STAR BAKER accolade.

Bonaire – Lizards, Iguanas And Geckos

We see all three, lizards, iguanas and geckos all the time, almost everywhere we travel. We see small ones and very large, colorful ones too. They are always cool to see, at least to me. The iguanas come in so many different colors, and many of them change colors to help camouflage themselves as well. They are all over the island of Bonaire just as you would expect too.

Lizards have around 5,500 species all over the world where gecko has about 1000 species, and iguana has approximately 30 species spread over the region. Lizards can be found all over the world. Geckos are typically found in the southern United States, northwest Mexico, southeast Asia, North, Central and South America, the Caribbean islands and the Mediterranean area of southern France to north Africa. One can see Iguanas in southern Asia, Australia, North and South America and the islands of the West Pacific. Lizards can be found all over the world. Lizards can be tropical, nocturnal or ideal for any region depending on the nature of the species. Gecko is mainly nocturnal Lizard. Iguana is a tropical lizard. Lizard has four legs, external ear openings, and moveable eyelids. Gecko has soft, smooth skin, thin tail, short, stout body, large head, and well-developed limbs with adhesive pads on toes. This particular pad helps gecko to climb in the glass and makes gecko unique among the others. Iguana has a thick, scaly skin, sharp nail and teeth. It has spines down its back. Its size is larger compared to others in the same suborder. The females weigh half of the males.

This colorful iguana was just chilling and hanging in the shade outside C’est La Vie. Bonaire – C’est La Vie I went walk-about with my camera, playing tourist, as I was waiting for our lunch to be prepared. These are different iguanas and lizards.

This big guy was listening to our initial mandatory dive briefing, at The Divi.

These are the geckos we tend to see most often on our travels.

And of course, we see all kinds of fun pictures of these critters as well.

Keep it real. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bonaire – C’est La Vie

During our visit to Bonaire, they were supposedly having the Bonaire Day celebrations, to recognize their independence. We tried and tried, though unsuccessfully, to find all the festivities that were “supposed” to be taking place, but other than seeing a large bike parade (motorcycles), we didn’t really see anything. Better luck next time I guess. However, during that time, we did discover a fabulous little restaurant called C’est La Vie. What caught our eye about this restaurant at first, was they were advertising they had lionfish ceviche. If you have never had lionfish ceviche, you should definitely try it if you ever get the opportunity. It is so good!

Lionfish are beautiful fish, but they are NOT indigenous to the Caribbean waters and one lionfish can kill a whole reef if left unchecked. In recent years, there has been a lionfish pandemic in the Caribbean waters so the locals were coming up with creative ways to eliminate them. One of those ways was by creating cooking contests on how to cook them. Lionfish ceviche is a definite winner, though there are many other ways to enjoy this fish too. We have been fortunate enough to try lionfish prepared in many different ways, all of which have been delicious.

We dive all over the Caribbean, and for quite a few years, lionfish were a huge problem everywhere from Mexico to the ABC’s, and everywhere in between. Though we saw quite a few of them, and every time I saw one, I pretended to spear it with my imaginary spear gun, it seems as though the problem is in control and is not nearly as problematic as it used to be, which is very good news.

We went to C’est La Vie the next day, still hoping to dine on some delicious lionfish ceviche, only to find that they only had it for the one day of Bonaire Day, and even then they ran out of it within a couple of hours. But we were not disappointed in the slightest. The lunch we had was scrumptious, and we could see everything, as the chef was preparing it right in front of us.

C’est La Vie is a little tiny restaurant located just outside the main part of Kralendijk, closer to where the cruise ships dock. It was within walking distance of where we were staying too.

C’est La Vie is a charming little restaurant with a big personality. This is it. This is the whole restaurant. But don’t let its small size deceive you. There were a lot of big flavors coming out of this tiny little kitchen.

The menu is written on the chalkboard. Once we made our choices, we cozied up to the counter and could see everything.

The chef and has assistant were hard at work preparing our delicious lunch.

As our lunch was being prepared, we were given some delicious French bread with a tomato tapenade and the creamiest butter I have ever tasted to hold us over until our lunch arrived.

Nancy and I both ordered the scallops en papillote (cooked in paper). The scallops just melted in our mouths. They were cooked to perfection and served atop some julienned vegetables.

Larry ordered the fresh catch of the day. I think it was mahi mahi, but I don’t really remember. I was too focused on my scallops. His was every bit as good as my scallops were though, and it came with some roasted potatoes and sauteed vegetables.

We walked around a bit and let our lunch settle, then it was once again time to get wet again and go back to our diving. The water was definitely calling out to us.

I just love being a tourist. The things we see and the things we learn is just oh so fascinating. 🙂

Never loose your sense of adventure. Be open to anything and everything and you will have some amazing experiences.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bonaire – Pink Flamingos

Pink flamingos are the national bird of Bonaire. They are known as both the American Flamingo and the Caribbean Flamingo. They are also the only flamingos that are native to America. Bonaire is one of four places that these flamingos breed. They tend to breed more in Bonaire than in other parts of the Caribbean, but they flock over to close-by Venezuela often since there is more food for them them over there.

Flamingos are big, beautiful, pink birds. They can also live to be about 40 years old. We saw so many flamingos in Bonaire, both down in the south and also at the Washington Boka Slagbaai National Park up in the northern part of the island. We don’t see flamingos here at home, unless at the zoo, so we were real excited to see them and to see so many of them. Needless to say, we were tickled pink. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. 🙂 There used to be more flamingos than people on the island, but that is changing with more people coming to live in Bonaire.

The flamingos can breed up to three times a year, but their main breeding season is from March-July. Usually only one egg is laid and both parents take care of the baby chick, which is born grayish white, until it is ready to go join the other juveniles in “pre-school”. Flamingos have the same mate for one year, then off to the next mate for another year. And so continues their mating pattern. The gestation period is between 27-31 days. It is estimated that about 1000 chicks are born each year in Bonaire. The flamingos are born white to grayish white and turn pink from their food, but there is also an occasional black flamingo seen as well.

What makes the flamingos so pink? Carotenoids give carrots their orange color or turn ripe tomatoes red. They are also found in the microscopic algae that brine shrimp eat. As a flamingo dines on algae and brine shrimp, its body metabolizes the pigments — turning its feathers pink. Flamingos – both male and female – can lose their pink pigments outside of breeding season. That’s because the breeding is so intensive and so much of their food is used for their chicks. During this time their white color basically means “Please leave me alone. Don’t bother me”.

Do you know what a group of flamingos is called? It’s called a flamboyance. The name flamingo means fire and brilliance. The word “flamingo” comes from the Latin and Spanish for “fire” referring of course to their bright pink feathers.

So when in Bonaire, keep your eyes open for these big, beautiful pink birds. They can be seen most everywhere on the island and are the official island bird. You too will be tickled pink. 🙂

Stay pink and stay cool and stay safe and well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bonaire – Kite City

The first time we went to Bonaire a few years ago, we discovered this fabulous food truck called Kite City. The name of it is Kite City, but it is also located in the area that has been fondly dubbed as Kite City because of all the wind surfers. Kite City, both of them are still around today, still doing great.

Kite City, the food truck is known for its delicious food, specializing in their outstanding fresh fish burgers. We went there a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. They serve whatever the fresh catch of the day is. We all enjoyed fresh mahi mahi, wahoo and barracuda, with a picturesque view of the ocean. No pictures of the food though, since we did not have our cameras with us on the days we ate there. Once again, you will just have to trust me.

Kite City the food truck was inspired by all the wind surfers who “surf” the area when it’s the season. It was not in season here, at this location, this time, but we did see a lot of kite surfers further south. It looks like so much fun, and they all make it look so easy. I know it is really difficult though. Doesn’t this look oh so inviting?

Maybe one day I will be able to do this. One can hope at least. 🙂

Bonaire – The Salt of The Sea

Salt is something we all need but never really think of. We never think of where it comes from, or how it is mined, or even why we need it. But need it we do in order to survive. Salt plays a crucial role in maintaining human health. It is the main source of sodium and chloride ions in the human diet. Sodium is essential for nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body. Sodium also plays a role in the body’s control of blood pressure and volume. In severe cases, low sodium levels in the body can lead to muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Eventually, lack of salt can lead to shock, coma and death. But rest assured, severe salt loss is very unlikely to happen because our diets contain more than enough salt. Our body needs about 100 grams of salt for every 40 kilos of weight.

Salt and its many uses has been around for 1000’s of years. It was first discovered by the Egyptians, but was mined by the Ancient Chinese, in northern China, around 6000 BC, if not even earlier. China is the world leader in terms of salt production, with 64 million metric tons of salt produced in 2021. That same year, salt production in the U.S. amounted to 40 million metric tons. Many other countries around the world also produce salt. Rumor has it that some of the best salt comes from Wales.

There are four types of salt:

  • Kosher salt. Kosher salt is a coarse-grained flaky salt.
  • Table salt. This is the most common type of salt, and the one most used in home kitchens. …
  • Sea salt. Sea salt refers to unrefined salt that is sourced from — appropriately — the sea. …
  • Coarse salt.

The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in their tastes, texture and processing. Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater and is minimally processed, so it may retain trace minerals. The minerals sea salt contains depend on the body of water where it’s evaporated from. And this brings me to the salt mines and salt pyramids of Bonaire, which is of course, sea salt.

The salt pyramids of Bonaire are part of the history of the island. Salt was once a critical element in the complex trade relations that tied together the original 13 American colonies with the Caribbean and West Africa. Bonaire has been the center of the Dutch trade in salt since 1581. From the very beginning, Caribbean salt would be exported all over North America, as well as back to Europe. The salt mines are are all located in very close proximity to the open sea, for obvious reasons of easy transport.

One of the most notable features of Bonaire that greets arriving visitors, both by sea and by air, is a distinctive line of white salt pyramids at the southeastern end of the island. Each pyramid, roughly 50-feet high, contains approximately 10,000 metric tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Depending on the time of the year, there can be upwards of 200,000 metric tons of salt neatly stacked in long rows awaiting shipment.

We were lucky enough to dive at Salt Pier one day, but unfortunately, every other time we tried to dive there, there was a ship loading up and we were not allowed to dive anywhere near the ships when in port. The diving is great there too. It is so full of of colorful sea life and is very vibrant. We were able to dive a little further down the road though at Tori’s Reef, which was one of our favorite dive sites.

But I digress. When I start talking about diving, it is hard for me to stop. To get back on track, I am talking about the salt mines here. Stay focused JJ (I often refer to myself as JJ, short for Jeanne Jones, when in the 3rd person mode), stay focused. 🙂

The salt mines are a beautiful pink shade, which is a stark contrast to the vivid blue/turquoise waters just across the road. They also have a beautiful foam layer on top. When the sun hits at the right angle, it looks like a sea of beautifully colored crystals, also known as sun gems. The salt produced in Bonaire is in crystal form rather than rock form, which is created by a special brine.

The solar salt facility, one of the largest in the Caribbean, is today owned by Cargill, the Minneapolis, Minnesota based conglomerate. The facility covers approximately 13 percent of the island, about 16 square miles of land on the flat, southeast corner. The entire location is only a few feet above sea level.

When the brine reaches between 25 percent and 30 percent salinity it is moved into crystallizer ponds. As the evaporation of water increases the salinity beyond 37 percent, the salt begins to crystallize and precipitate out of the brine solution. Eventually it will form an 8 to 10-inch layer of virtually pure salt. The entire process takes 10 to 12 months, depending on the prevailing temperature and wind, as well as the precipitation and the degree to which dust and other contaminants in the air provide the nuclei that spur the crystallization of the salt. The washed salt, more than 99.6 percent pure, is then stacked into Bonaire’s iconic and unmistakable salt pyramids. This facility can produce between 300,000 and 500,000 metric tons of salt annually. It is exported all over the world in roughly equal portions to Europe, Asia and North America. Bonaire (the Netherlands) produces about 2.36% of the world’s salt.

As the salinity of the salt ponds increase, they each produce a distinctive ecology. Various kinds of algae and Halobacteria, an archaic precursor to bacteria, thrive in the super salty water giving the ponds their distinctive pinkish coloration. This high content of salinity and algae have also made this area a very large flamingo reserve as well, but more on that later. We did see tons of beautiful pink flamingos, both here and elsewhere on the island.

And just right across the road, is the beautiful blue ocean.

Salt mining is very hard work and is very labor intensive. Originally the salt in Bonaire was mined by the slaves who were brought over from Africa, but that ended in 1863, when the Dutch outlawed slavery. The slaves lived in these tiny little huts by the sea. These little huts housed 2-6 people. They are so tiny that a normal sized adult cannot even stand up in them. Larry is 6’4″ and he had to get on his knees to get inside.

The huts were colored to match the pyramid towers. Most of the people could not read at the time, so the colors identified the owners and where the ships were supposed to load and unload.

These were the “red huts”, even though they look orange. There were four colors, meaning four companies – red, white, blue and brown.

So next time you add a little salt to your dish, now you know a bit more of how it came to you. We all need to be a little more salty. 🙂

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bonaire – A Pair Of Parrots

In between dives, we also took in a lot of the sights that were close by to our diving. For the most part, we did not have our cameras with us, especially if we were diving at different locations. We never took anything of any value with us when diving because there was no way to secure anything. But on our rest intervals that were close “to home” we could easily run in to our room to grab the camera. We were lucky this time and saw a bunch of very brightly colored parrots, and even a mating pair. I think we were “voyeurs to some parrot porn”.

Enjoy your day and make it as colorful as you can. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Bonaire – El Mundo

We did experience other restaurants and food while in Bonaire other than the Chibi Chibi, even after our night dives. Bonaire – The Chibi Chibi Restaurant. There is a wide variety of restaurants to be found around the island, though mostly in Kralendijk. As with most places, there are the quick, inexpensive restaurants and the upscale, fancy restaurants and everything in between. For dinners, Larry and I tend to go to the “somewhere in-between” restaurants. One night, after yet another night dive, we ventured into town and went to El Mundo, in Kralendijk.

After we ordered, we were given a delicious little appetizer of bread with an olive tapenade to hold us over until our meal came.

Larry and I tend to split a lot of dinners and/or appetizers when we go out, in order to give us a wider variety of foods to try. This time was no different. We ordered the specials for the day, starting with El Mundo’s version of ceviche and the snapper topped with garlic butter calamari. Both were delicious!

It was just the right amount of food and every bit was gone by the time we finished our meal. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole meal, but the calamari was excellent. Every version, no matter where we eat it, is completely different from the next version. We eat calamari in many different counties around the world, and they all have their own unique personalities. So far, I haven’t found a ceviche I didn’t like. 🙂

Enjoy what’s left of summer and all the days ahead. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

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