Most cultures have a pastry/hand pie like this one ….. empanadas are famous in many countries, but I’ve only had the pleasure of eating them in Mexico so that is what I have fashioned these after.  They can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them for fluffy, flaky pastry and creamy filling.  Extra bonus points for the way your house smells while they are baking!

Empanada 1

In today’s version I used chicken, onion & red pepper, topped with a chunk of jalapeño havarti.  The tomatillo salsa was delicious for dipping!

Empanadas are such a treat.  These will give you flaky pastry, and a creamy tasty filling.

Make sure when you roll out your dough that you do it a little thinner than you would for a pie – you want to make sure you have a good ratio of filling to crust.

Empanada 2

Saute onions and garlic until softened, then add red pepper and cook for only a couple more minutes.  Stir in cooked shredded chicken and season to taste.  In this version, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, and then topped with jalapeño havarti cheese for an extra bit of kick and creaminess.

Other suggestions for empanada filling:

  • ground meat seasoned with taco spices, topped with Oaxaca string cheese
  • leftover pulled pork and pickled red onions
  • wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese
  • go sweet with fruit, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla

I’ve included my pastry recipe here, but if you aren’t into making your own pastry go ahead and use a prepared frozen pie shell.  Just take it out and roll it a bit thinner.

Cut your pastry into rounds, brush beaten egg around the outside and then put about a tablespoon or two of filling in the middle, add some cheese on top.  You will want enough filling so that your ratio of stuffing to pastry is tasty.  Fold edges up together and press to seal.  Set them on a baking sheet and pinch/crimp the top to make sure it is well sealed.

Brush beaten egg over the top of the sealed empanada, and then poke a hole so steam can escape and the pastry doesn’t leak too much of your goods outside the shell.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet at this point and bake later, from frozen.  Just bake a little longer.

Empanada 3

Oh, these were G O O D.  Before baking season the tops with salt and pepper.

Everybody loves flaky pie crust – but people are divided on whether to use shortening, lard or butter.  Through trial and error, I think I have found the best of them all – by combining lard and butter.  Try it ….. so light and flaky – you will love it.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable lard or (if you prefer) shortening
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 5 tbsp very cold water
  • Lightly beat egg and vinegar

Whisk flour and salt

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard/butter until pea sized.  Add very cold water to egg and vinegar mixture.  Make a hole in the center of the flour blend and stir in the egg/vinegar/water combination.  Work just until pastry comes together – adding slightly more liquid if it doesn’t, and if it is too wet, add a wee bit more flour.  Work together just until it all comes into a solid mass.  Knead very lightly on floured surface.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Roll on lightly floured board until just thin enough to use for pie dough.

This recipe makes enough for 1 smaller pie (top and bottom) or a large deep dish pie crust bottom.

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.


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.


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.


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?


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!


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


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!


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.



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


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.


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.




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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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



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.


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.



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.




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



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



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


Hasta la vista Puerto Escondido ……


Oaxaca is a beautiful city, full of amazing restaurants and many beautiful buildings.  The zocalo always has something happening.  Whether it is families socializing or protests underway it is lively.  We’ve been a few times now, and will be a few more I’m sure.


The zocalo is the heart of all Mexican communities, big or small.  Families gather, young people “court”, vendors sell necessities like balloons and ice cream, and music is everywhere.  At any time of day the zocalo is entertaining, but Sundays are particularly lively.

We had a great place to stay in Oaxaca this time, loving AIRBNB for granting us access to these places – so nice to have a place that feels like home to relax and enjoy while being able to explore whatever area we are in.


We have explored the ruins of Monte Alban a few times, and are always amazed at the sheer size of it all.  Originally home of Zapotec people, these ruins are still being uncovered.  This visit we explored Atzompa, newly discovered!  Seriously, Mexican officials and archeologists must be suspiciously looking at every hillside and wondering what is underneath.


We took a collectivo taxi up to this area, about 8 km from Oaxaca itself, and then continued uphill to explore the ruins.  It is crazy that every time you think you have reached the top you only uncover more terraces.



From here you can look across at Monte Alban – they were all part of the same community, and the vantage point is incredible.dsc03249

dsc03241The ever present ball court …. maybe we find them so fascinating because of the soccer similarities … you can use any part of your body except your hands.  Authorities are divided on whether the loser or winner was sacrificed ….. it is a great honour to be sacrificed though so I guess it is all depends on your point of view.



The flora …… Honestly I don’t often take so many photos of flowers in Mexico but the flowers alongside the ruins and the road leading up to it were just stunning, and I couldn’t help myself.

From the site, we walked down the road (2 km) to the nearest town in order to get a taxi back to Oaxaca.  You really don’t ever know what you are going to encounter along the roads in Mexico.



From livestock to world renowned potter …. this roadside gallery was a real surprise.



It was only 2 km from the archeological site to the town, but it was hot!


Every year we try to bring back a couple of “Servin” mugs … the pottery is a marvel – wonderful to hold, perfect for coffee or tea and so beautiful.fullsizeoutput_4759



It seems like there is a cathedral on every corner in Mexico, and it is likely true.  They are absolutely beautiful, and regardless of your religion it is a wonderful spot to just sit and take a moment … maybe just to realize how lucky we are to travel.


We toured the Cultural center and once again, we marvel at both the building and the art it houses.  dsc03213


This is the ceiling …. seriously …. this much effort going into the ceiling.  dsc03221

dsc03212Yes, more ceilings …. how on earth did they do this?


Every floor had an area where they had outside space – no doubt to reflect and appreciate your environment.  This one overlooked the ethnobotanical gardens below.


As for the food ….. oh my goodness ….  eating in Oaxaca is a foodie dream.  We had outstanding food here.dsc03234

Origen Restaurant – the food here is without doubt picture perfect and the flavours live up to the image, I’d encourage anybody to eat here.

In fact, every meal we ate in Oaxaca was outstanding.  We kept saying “that was the best, I’d like to eat here again!”  We need more time in Oaxaca to do that.

However, it is time to move on ….. time for Mexico City!


Mercado del dia Zaachila & Culture Night 20 Nov 2014

Mercado del dis Zaachila means (I hope) that today is market day in the small town of Zaachila. We hopped a collectiva to get out there. If you haven’t ridden in one – basically a collectiva is any mode of transport that follows a set route, and you hop on and off as you need, but only on that specific route. It can be anything from a taxi to a truck!

Our first chore this morning was walking up to AeroTucan to purchase flights down to Puerto Escondido – we had originally planned to rent a car and drive down to the coast, staying in the rain forest along the way. However, after we stayed an extra day in Mexico city for Grant’s recovery we all thought it might be easiest to just fly down there. Vivian and Wilson were all for that, particularly as Vivian gets a bit carsick and that long trip along the ridge of the mountain would be a challenge. She thought it would be much easier to fly …. until she saw that we are going to be on a 9 passenger plane … ha ha – Vivi certainly has risen to a lot of challenges this trip – she’s a trooper though and both she and Wilson have been amazing at this different sort of trip.

On our way down to get the collectiva we saw so many cute kids – all dressed up as either Revolutionaries, caballeros (cowboys), Abuelitas (indigenous women) or Pancho Villa (hero). I did manage to get a couple of cute photos. Today is their national day of celebration of independence and all the preschool and primary school children regularly do this.

all ready for celebrating Independence Day

all ready for celebrating Independence Day

She was so cute, and happy to have her photo taken.

She was so cute, and happy to have her photo taken.

The market was fascinating. All the indigenous folk come in from the mountains to do their shopping, and their selling. So many fruits, vegetables, chickens, nuts, weavings, pretty much anything you can think of. They even have a lumber section – you can buy your firewood, or charcoal or even building material.

Most stalls are maintained by women, but there are a fair share of men doing the job also - you could buy anything here!

Most stalls are maintained by women, but there are a fair share of men doing the job also – you could buy anything here!

It was easy to imagine these old gals meeting up every week to chat.

It was easy to imagine these old gals meeting up every week to chat.

I've never seen black corn!

I’ve never seen black corn!

Every display is so enticing.

Every display is so enticing.

Chicken or turkey for dinner?  It doesn't get much fresher than this.

Chicken or turkey for dinner? It doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Picking up the weekly load of firewood.

Picking up the weekly load of firewood.


So delicious. Following dinner we went to a percussion concert – 6 amazing performers – all free.
[caption id="attachment_2501" align="alignnone" width="584"]Percussionists - amazing. Percussionists – amazing.

The most incredible aspect is that you are listening to such brilliant music in an incredible venue – all of a sudden you look up and the ceiling is elaborately finished and you realize you are in a first class art gallery!

And then – imagine our delight when we realized the opera house was hosting a free Shastikovich concert – I tell you that cellist had magic fingers and brought the audience to tears.

We attended a free Shastikovich concert here - stunning building inside and out.

We attended a free Shastikovich concert here – stunning building inside and out.

The inside of the dome. The inside of the dome.[/caption]
no flash allowed - but you get the idea of the grandeur no flash allowed – but you get the idea of the grandeur[/caption

Perhaps most Mexican of all was that throughout each concert we could hear the chants of protestors and the beat of their drums while indoors, in these incredible locations, it was a different world.

Things are heating up in Oaxaca – the protestors are all still here – and are setting up camp in many of the streets. It is hard to imagine in Canada that people would just arrive, string tarps across the streets and set up a tent underneath it – on major streets! Obviously they feel very strongly that it is time for a change.

Tomorrow we are off to En Via – this tour will take us to the homes of 3 separate women, operating on micro loans to help sustain their families, and hopefully break the line of poverty.

Oaxaca!! 17 Nov 2014

We made it onto the flight to Oaxaca – I tell you – Interjet airline is the bomb. Loaded on time, lift off on time, big seats (compared to Air Canada) – a quick beverage of any kind, along with snacks, refills, and boom – touchdown in Oaxaca. Love it.

The taxi bounced over cobblestone streets to find our apartment – Casa Del Barrio. Oh My Gosh. Love it!! Turns out to have 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms a cozy living/dining area and a fully functioning kitchen. Not to mention 3 little decks! One off the front entry way, another off the kitchen and a larger one with hammock and outdoor dining set off the living room. That may all sound huge, but it isn’t – just very well organized. We will easily spend our week here!

Waiting outside Casa Del Barrio in Oaxaca for our host - Ricardo

Waiting outside Casa Del Barrio in Oaxaca for our host – Ricardo

We no sooner hit the streets and I was reminded why I love Oaxaca so much – streets are clean, wide, smooth and sidewalks are not only existent but they are well maintained. This beautiful old Colonial city has it’s Centro Historico designated as a heritage site and they have looked after that very well. The old buildings are just beautiful – so colourful and completely kept in traditional ways.

Everywhere you look - beautiful, well maintained buildings with flowers

Everywhere you look – beautiful, well maintained buildings with flowers

Our wanderings took us into the central zocalo where they were in full long weekend festive mode – booths set up everywhere. Browsing the stalls we made our way to one of the mercados – and thankfully for us they still had a few vegetable vendors working – most were already in festival mode and closed down. We stocked up on fruits and vegetables for a couple of days as well as huevos (eggs), wine and beer.

The fruits and vegetables are just amazing - we can't get avocado this good at home, and the tomatoes only taste like this in the summer!

The fruits and vegetables are just amazing – we can’t get avocado this good at home, and the tomatoes only taste like this in the summer!

Naturally we also bought Oaxaca string cheese

Naturally we also bought Oaxaca string cheese

This morning Grant had us all on the road by 10:00 (yes, late for us) and we hailed a taxi to take us to Monte Alban – an archeological site first occupied around 500 BC – and at it’s peak probably around 350 – 700 AD. The Zapotec Indians occupied the top of a hilltop, and from that perspective you can see up and down all 3 valleys in the area, creating a Y. It is huge!

Monte Alban This incredible site just goes on forever - so beautiful

Monte Alban
This incredible site just goes on forever – so beautiful

No sooner do you climb a structure, and you see that it stretches out in front of you on another terrace altogether. Even at all sides of the developed or explored structures you can see remnants of ruins that haven’t even been touched. It is incredible to think of a nation of people that have still left such evidence of their existence that it can be pieced together all these years later.

Resting on top one of the climbs

Resting on top one of the climbs

Even Vivian is smiling after the climb!

Even Vivian is smiling after the climb!

Even Lonely Planet calls it one of the most impressive ancient sites in Mexico, and it is easy to see why, with it’s 360 degree views. Over 150 decorated underground tombs have been found in this site, although they aren’t available to view.

Just a few of the many carvings depicting the glories of battle wins.

Just a few of the many carvings depicting the glories of battle wins.

We waited for a taxi to materialize at the top for a while, without success. Eventually one of the vendors flagged down a young worker from Monte Alban, and he gave us a ride down to town, for slightly more than the taxi out – a great deal since we didn’t see a taxi all the way back to town. I guess everybody was in festival mode in the city!

On arriving back in town we decided to eat Mexican style – Comida. This was a full meal – tortilla soup, bisteca with onions or chipotle (thinly pounded steak) that was presented with beans and guacamole, watermelon water, and finished with coffee and a brownie. 65 pesos. Yes, that is the equivalent of less than $5.00 Canadian. After all that exercise, sun and food – we retired to our home for a siesta. I think siestas came about after eating their big meal at this time of day ….

After siesta we went to La Biznaga for dinner …. Grant and I had eaten there years before, and honestly – the only thing I could really remember was the flan with mescal sauce ….. it was still on the menu! We enjoyed it just as much tonight …. yum yum. However, the biggest surprise was Wilson ordering a chicken dish with chappulines! (yes, grasshoppers) He thought they were pretty good!

Wilson loved his chicken dish - in a guava sauce, served with a big bunch of chappulines (grasshoppers) - so good!

Wilson loved his chicken dish – in a guava sauce, served with a big bunch of chappulines (grasshoppers) – so good!

Only in Mexico ….. a fancy restaurant, fabulous dinner, followed by our favourite dessert - flan with caramel mescal sauce and crunchy pecans and coconut - then wash up in a bathroom that looks like this!  How can you not love this place?

Only in Mexico ….. a fancy restaurant, fabulous dinner, followed by our favourite dessert – flan with caramel mescal sauce and crunchy pecans and coconut – then wash up in a bathroom that looks like this! How can you not love this place?

More on Oaxaca to come – but be assured we are having a great time!

One of the many beautiful cathedrals - all lit up at night.

One of the many beautiful cathedrals – all lit up at night.