The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

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If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

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Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Indian Spiced Chicken Korma

This rich Indian sauce is packed with enough spices and layers of flavour, you will want extra rice or naan bread to mop up every bit of sauce left on your plate.
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  • 2 white onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup ground raw almonds
  • 1 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 a small red chili, de-seeded and minced (dried or fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (packed)
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Key to making a dish like this is to have all your ingredients ready at hand.  Here I’ve blended all the dry spice together so it is ready to be stirred in at the moment I need it.

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Chefs call this “mis en place”, which simply means having everything ready to go, BEFORE you start cooking at all.  It sure does make things smoother!

Instructions

  • Place the onions, garlic, and 1 cup of water in the bowl of a blender. Puree until smooth.
  • Measure out the spices (curry powder through nutmeg) into a small bowl.
  • In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the pureed onion mixture and cook for a 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it begins to darken in color.

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  • Add the tomatoes, ginger, ground almonds, coconut milk, yogurt, red chili, pre-measured spices, and brown sugar. Stir well.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer 30 minutes. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan; simmer for an additional 15 minutes. 

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I had roasted a whole chicken the day before and felt like this Korma would be the perfect way to eat it all up the next day.  Use a rotisserie chicken for a quick dinner if you don’t have leftover chicken on hand.  Honestly, when we eat out, we usually order lamb korma, so you could just as easily use any protein of your choice – or go vegetarian and stir a bunch of fresh vegetables in.

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Served today with homemade naan and the best crispiest crunchiest vegetable pakora!

Miso Glazed Scallops and Greens

Scallops

Tender scallops, browned delicately and served over bok choy.  Yum.  In fact, you could use any greens, however the bok choy looked too good to pass by.

Ready for a 15 minute dinner?  This was so quick I couldn’t believe it.  If you want to make a full meal, just serve over rice.  In fact, by the time your rice is ready, the rest of this tasty dinner will be too. Dripping with the goodness of ginger and garlic the miso glaze adds the perfect amount of sauce to golden scallops.

  • 1 tbsp yellow miso
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 baby bok chow, quartered lengthwise
  • 10 large sea scallops, patted dry (make sure to remove the side muscle)

GARNISH

  • thinly sliced green onions
  • toasted sesame seeds

Whisk first 4 ingredients and 1 tbsp water in a small bowl to blend.  Set sauce aside.

Heat 1 tsp vegetable oil, and sesame oil in nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  Add bok choy and cook until just wilted and browned lightly in spots, turning often.  Remove bok choy to serving platter.

To the same skillet, add a bit more of both oils.  Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to skillet.  Sear scallops until brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Pay attention, there is nothing sadder than an overcooked scallop. :o(

Remove pan from heat and nestle the scallops in with the bok choy.

Add miso sauce to skillet, stir just until warm, about 3-5 seconds.  If it seems too thick add a bit more water.

Drizzle sauce over scallops and bok choy.  Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds.

I think it took about as long to type this as to cook it ……

CREAMY THAI PEANUT PRAWN & NOODLES

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Creamy, tangy and full of crunch this Peanut Noodle Dish is really a one pot wonder.  One of the few peanut sauces I’ve liked, that didn’t require cooking!

My BFF Jean made a version like this when we met up in Osoyoos for wine tasting, and it was just perfect.  She made it into a one pot meal by using quick cooking Ramen noodles, which cooked in a large pot of boiling water, adding veg and shrimp at the appropriate times to get it all cooked.  Drain it in a colander and pour the sauce over – presto, deliciousness!!!
Ingredients:
These are really just suggestions.  Tonight I used broccoli and sweet coloured peppers.
  • 2 servings of rice noodles
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • vegetables, such as :
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • ½ pound snow peas, ends trimmed and shredded
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • sweet coloured peppers
  • onions
  • garlic

Peanut Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • Toppings:
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped peanuts
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • lime wedges
  • sriracha sauce (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chicken stock and chili flakes in a bowl, puree and set aside.
  • Soak rice noodles in very hot water until just al dente, drain and set aside.
  • Remove the ingredients from heat and drain with a colander.
  • In saute pan, stir fry vegetables until just crisp tender.  Remove and stir fry prawns just until plump and tender.  Be careful not to overcook them – that can happen in the blink of an eye.

Noodles 1Return all ingredients to saute pan and stir to mix.  Add in enough noodles just to get the balance right.

Noodles 2

  • Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and mix well.
  • Top with cilantro, peanut, sesame seeds and lime wedges to serve.
You can use any noodle if you don’t want the rice noodles, just cook according to package directions.

Crispy Crunchy Fish Tacos

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Crispy, crunchy, spicy & creamy – fish tacos don’t get any better!

Flaky white fish (cod today), coated in the crispiest, craggiest of batters, and topped with creamy avocado, spicy chipotle cream, fresh & crispy peanut cabbage coleslaw and cilantro.    Our favourite fish tacos in Mexico are found in Puerto Escondido at this amazing spot we just had to return to.  La Olito, you do it best!  No, I’m sure these are not exactly the same, but once you’ve had them you will also want to either hop a plane for Puerto Escondido or try my version.

 

BATTER

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt
  • 3/4 cup beer (maybe more if necessary)
  • 1 egg

This works for about 1 pound white fish, (halibut, cod, snapper).  Cut into 2″ pieces  and dust with salt and pepper, then a light coating of flour.

Combine flour, paprika, pepper & salt and whisk to combine.   Transfer half the mixture to a bowl and set aside.  Add the beer & egg to remaining mixture and whisk until a smooth batter (it should be about the consistency of paint).  Add a bit more beer at a time until it does.  Set aside.

Heat oil in deep fryer or fry pan to 350.

Take fish that has been coated in the light flour and dip in the batter, then into the dry spiced flour mixture.  Cook pieces a few at a time so that you don’t bring the temperature of the oil down by crowding the fish.  Turn fish a few times so that the entire fish piece is crispy, crunchy and golden brown.

As fish is cooked, keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all the fish is cooked.

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Serve with:

Chipotle Aoili

To make chipotle aoili combine:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream (feel free to use plain yogurt)
  • 1 minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is a generalization really …… everybody has different spice tastes, and all products have different levels of flavour.  Make this your own!

Peanut Coleslaw

roast 1/ cup peanuts lightly, chop and set aside

1-2 cups shredded cabbage (add carrot and red cabbage if you like)

  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix dressing ingredients together and toss with cabbage and peanuts

Heat tortillas, and fill up with fish, top with coleslaw, crema, avocado and cilantro.

 

If you haven’t packed your bags for Mexico yet …. get out the napkins and try these fish tacos.

 

 

Beer Batter Fish & Chips

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It took me long enough to perfect my batter recipe.   Finally discovered the secret (well, for me anyway) and it was to add some rice flour to the batter.  This created a lighter batter that was bursting with flavour, and had a very satisfying crunch when you bite into it.  This may be a treat that we only indulge in once in a long while, but when we do we want it to be totally satisfying.

Another hint …… make sure you fry your potatoes twice to get a nice crunch on them.  Once you have slivered them, fry initially at 325 degrees, just until soft – barely cooked through.  Remove from the fry oil and allow to cool, on a drain rack.

Fries

Something so satisfying about home fries, fresh out of the deep fry and crispy.  Make sure to season with salt & pepper as soon as they are tumbled onto the draining paper.

My trick is to do the first fry, and while the fish is frying they cool down – then the oil will already be at your higher temperature and they can pop into the fryer for the final few minutes, which makes them golden brown and crunchy.  Keep your fish warm in a 225 F oven while the second fry takes place.

 

BEER BATTER

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

Beer battered cod fillets:

  • 4  thick cod fillets
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • 3/4 cup lager (or your favourite beer)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  1. In a large bowl, mix both flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. Add soda water & beer. (if not a fan of beer (?) just use all soda water)
  3. Mix together only until the batter binds together and is smooth. Be careful not to over-mix. (you may need to add a bit more liquid)
  4. Cover your fish with salt & pepper, as well as a dusting of plain flour, then drop into the batter and coat completely.
  5. Pre-heat vegetable oil in deep fryer to 350 F.
  6. Once fish is coated with batter, gently place into the deep fryer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  7. Remove from fat and drain.

Puerto Escondido feels like home!

We’ve spent a lot of time in beach towns along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and I think we’ve come to realize that Puerto Escondido provides everything we love about relaxing along the coast.  There is a bay to visit for whatever your activity; from calm waters to surfing the waves.  We’ve discovered Rinconada is our favourite area, quiet and calm, most residential and great restaurants.  Not only that, it is a great walk to Playa Bacocho.

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Playa Bacocho, 2 km long and a fantastic morning walk.  These waves and undertow can be treacherous, so watch the waves for 10 minutes or so before getting in.  We enjoyed swimming and bobbing in the waves every day here.

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Playa Carazalillo is perfect for playing in the water – safe and entertaining with snorkelling around the rocky areas, where turtles are often spotted.  This is also a great place for learning to surf or boogie boarding.  A popular spot with both locals and tourists, the entire bay is lined with palapa restaurants.

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It is difficult to figure out when it is going to be a “day off” in Mexico, but when it is the beaches are full of locals.  It is so much fun to watch the families arrive by the bus load, or truck bed, carting food and drink, swimming in clothes and generally having a fantastic time.  They laugh as they bob in the waves and their joy is contagious.  Who wouldn’t love to be hanging out on this beach?

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La Punta ….. a great beach for watching surfers, boogie boarding or body surfing.  Not for the faint of heart or weak swimmers.  Find a nice shaded palapa and relax with some guacamole or tacos while you are scanning the horizon for dolphins or whales.  We were treated to quite an amazing dolphin show here, with them leaping out of the water and playing for an hour or so.  I so wish either my camera or my skills had been able to capture that!

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Zicatela is the primary surf beach, and on a high surf day the waves will be packed with surfboards.

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dsc03459Our home in Puerto Escondido was amazing.  We loved staying at this small 6 unit complex with truly magnificient ocean views.

Take a peek at those ladders between our pool and the beach view …… The “ladder rep” wandered the streets with this push cart selling ladders.  Seems unlikely, but we watched that ladder carrier go from maximum capacity to these few over 2 days!

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Right across from our gate at Las Turquezas was a path winding down to the beach at Playa Bacocho, every day started with a trip down that path for a morning walk and bobbing in the waves.

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Okay, well maybe we didn’t manage to get Vivi out of her hammock EVERY day …

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Going local …. we had use of a wash machine so instead of taking our clothes to the lavanderia we washed them and hung them on the rooftop clothes line.  Now, that is my idea of laundry heaven.

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Sunsets were amazing here, so colourful and while the colours lasted for a while, it is always surprising how quickly that sun goes from just above the ocean to dropping off out of sight.

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sunset

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Puerto Escondido is a prime growing area for sesame seeds, peanuts and mango to name of few of the crops.  I’ve never seen how sesame seeds grow before so that was fun!

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Gina, the “information goddess” has a tourist information booth in Puerto Escondido, and she can organize pretty much any tour you’d like to take.  We did go on an agricultural tour with her, and while it was informative and entertaining, it was probably a bit overpriced at 600 pesos per person.

Loved the plants here, such vivid colour everywhere you look.

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One of the people we met on our tour is Gallo …. He runs a sanctuary for critters, everything from iguanas to turtles, to crocodiles and birds.  It was amazingly clean and well organized.  For years he did this on his own, from his own pocketbook, but is now partially subsidized.  Here he is, explaining that the reason he looks like Zapata is because that was his great uncle … or great great great uncle …. some things get lost in translation!

Once you leave the interior of Mexico, often the best food is also left behind, but not here!  We had some amazing meals here and can hardly wait to go back.  We usually mix things up quite a bit when we are away, cooking at home with local ingredients and eating out as well.  This time, I’ll admit, we ate out more than not, but it was an easy decision with such good restaurants within walking distance.

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Almoraduz Cocina Mexicana de Autor – OMG …… we ate here twice it was so good.  last year I also had back ribs here that I still dream about.

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Turtle Bay Cafe was also a real winner, this sesame crusted tuna was out of this world, and so were the prawns with saffron aioli.

popsicles

After day at the beach you just know you want a popsicle ….. we tried the lime, the strawberry with slices of kiwi and mango, and the fresh grated coconut popsicle, all were simply refreshingly perfect!

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I know, I know, the crowds are quite bothersome …..

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Thinking of this moment at home …. remembering the feel of the sun and the sound of the waves ….

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The nightly crib match kept Grant and Wilson competitive right to the trip home.

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Need a pick me up?  Juice water …. I love them all, from this pineapple water, to my all time favourite, green juice.

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Normally we eat at Mexican places ….. but the aromas drifting out of El Sultan finally dragged us in, and we had their chicken schawarma pita twice!  They make their own pitas fresh daily (about 4 times a day!) and it was fantastic.

The ultimate moment of the time spent in Puerto Escondido, of many fabulous moments, was the trip out to swim with bioluminescent plankton.  This is a spot you should visit after dark, preferably really dark, or raining.  Anything to avoid a bright moon.  A short drive from Puerto Escondido and you reach Laguna de Manialtepec, where boats are waiting.  Originally  the plankton was thought to be a curse by the fisherman when their nets were illuminated enough by the bioluminescence that the fish avoided them.  Only a short ten years later they no longer think of it as a curse as 20% of their income is derived from tourists to see this phenomenon.  If you are brave enough, you jump off the boat in darkness …. I wasn’t, but Grant, Vivian and Wilson sure did.  Once in the water the movement is totally illuminated by the plankton, and it is like your body is covered in sparkly jewels.  A few nibbling fish too …..   Another moment where I wish I could have taken a photo.

In many areas of the Pacific coast this is the time of year turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in droves.  We’ve participated in helping at sanctuaries, when the baby turtles are ready to make their journey to the sea, but this is the first time we have been around when the turtles make their way onto shore to begin that process.  It is pure magic.  Just take a moment to sit and watch the waves, and a turtle will suddenly appear, then another, then another.

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This entire beach is covered in mounds ….. how many turtle eggs are under those mounds is anybodies guess.  Each turtle lays between 80-150 eggs.

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With a determined pace they make their way up the beach.

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This same beach can see 2500 turtles appear on one night ….. and no, I didn’t take this particular photo, our driver had taken it on an earlier morning trip out there.  We went at dusk to watch them coming in.

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These poor mama turtles work so hard to get  up the beach, dig the hole with their hind flippers, drop in their eggs, cover them back up with sand and tamp the sand down.  It was amazing for us to watch the whole process, and listen to the sound of the weight she uses to tamp it all down.

eggs-dropping

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The eggs dropped out in singles and doubles until the hole was filled.  Once done, she makes her way back down the beach to return to the sea.

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We are usually in Mexico for the Revolution day parades, and they are so entertaining!

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Those dancers knew that Vivian and Wilson were tapping their feet, so they pulled them right into the street with them.

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Ahh, Puerto Escondido ….. love these beaches, the sunshine, the amazing food and I just know we’ll be back.

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Hasta la vista Puerto Escondido ……