Sunday Driving: Found Farm Fresh Eggs AND Free WiFi at La Flor de la Calabaza in Ensenada!

It's not easy going back to store bought eggs after a year of farm fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens. It took me about a month after moving to Ensenada to finally break down and buy a carton at the store.

The first egg I cracked made me sad. Unlike the robust orange-yellow I was used to, the color of the store-bought yolk was pale. The taste was just as bland. I have to admit, I had to choke back a few tears. I missed our chickens and I missed their eggs. I knew that the feed I gave the girls had a lot to do with the eggs, as well as letting them roam around the yard, playing in the sun. They were happy little birds. We were also eating eggs that had been laid that week, so the freshness contributed to the taste, too.

And those fresh eggs were so delicious!!!

Last Sunday, Mr. Jones and I went out exploring another part of Ensenada, just north of the ships and south of the toll road entrance. We drove over to a surf spot I've been wanting to check out and walked around a bit. We were too late for breakfast at the little kitchen nearby, so we drove over to a nearby hotel and marina to walk around and maybe get some lunch. The staff was late setting up because of a concert the night before that had them all working until 4 that morning. We were as patient as we could be as they set up, but after about an hour of sipping our beer, they still weren't set up, and I was done being patient. We decided to drive up the road to see what we could see.

La Flor de la Calabaza

La Flor de la Calabaza

It was the beautiful flower on the sign of La Flor de la Calabaza that caught my eye. I thought it might be a gardening store, but then I saw "Mercado/Cafe" and thought we might find a bite, but it was too late to pull in, so we had to turn around and go back. Right at the entrance of Las Playas resort was a tiny metal shack of a market that was too inviting to pass up.

Inside, we found local and specialty food items, like honey, jams, olive oils, lavendar, vegetables. We walked over to the xounter to see what we might order for lunch. They were out of a few of the items we wanted, but before I got completely frustrated, I said "What DO you have that we can order?" She smiled as kindly as she could at my hungry, impatient face and sweetly told us our choices. We decided on a sandwich that we both liked and asked if they could split it and add a salad. They were more than happy to do so.

While we waited, I walked around and explored the other side of the market. That's when I found the eggs. I asked the girl at the counter if they were fresh, and she said that they had just been delivered the day before from a local farm.

Happy Sugar!!!

 

La Flor de la Calabaza Mercado in Ensenada

Lunch took a little while, but like they said on their menu, everything is made fresh upon ordering and they appreciate our patience. It was completely worth the wait. Inside the panini was a thick piece of cured ham, thin slices of salmon touched with smoke, and a fried egg, seasoned to perfection. It was served with natural chips and a fresh salad, drizzled with a light dressing that was tangy and sweet. Mr. Jones and I both agreed, it was one of the best things we'd tasted since moving here.

Did I mention the free wi-fi?

My sweet heaven... my patience had been rewarded ten fold.

How to Make Ceviche

There is nothing like spending a day at the beach in Mexico, laying on the soft white sands, jumping in the warm waters, and eating the delicious appetizer, ceviche.

Ceviche is a relatively simple dish to make and everyone has their own way of making it. Essentially, it's white fish, "cooked" in lime juice, accompanied by an assortment of vegetables, and seasoned to one's own liking. 

A few days ago, my husband went out to the beach and caught a week's worth of halibut. I made two dinners and saved a few filets for ceviche. You can use any white fish. Tilapia, snapper, or cod, whatever is fresh and available.

This is how I prepared my ceviche today: 

How to Make Ceviche.jpg
  • 4 small fillets of Halibut
  • 3 large limes
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 1/4 c. finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 c. finely diced white onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Cut the fillets into small cubes and place them in a large bowl. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice onto the ceviche. I like to use a lemon squeezer to get the most juice out. Toss the fish and lime to make sure the juice gets onto every bit of meat. This is when I like to do the dicing of the onions and tomatoes so that the fish has lots of time to soak up the juice of the lime. Toss the veggies. Chop up the cilantro and add that in, as well. Sprinkle salt to taste. 

Buen Provecho! 

It's Not That I Don't Like Cooking...

My mother was not what you would call a good cook. Her strengths lay more in sweeping and dusting and the occasional art project for our Blue Bird troupe. 

My grandmother love to cook, but we didn't always love to eat her food. She was great at the staples, but then she started experimenting in the 70's (I blame Julia Childs) and our regular meals started to taste... weird. 

As a young woman, I learned to make Top Ramen really really really well. I learned a few other things when I married my first husband like lasagna, meatloaf, and baked chicken (you can't really screw up baking a chicken).  It wasn't until I was working in a restaurant at a boutique hotel in Orange County that I finally learned to cook.

Chef Mark didn't really teach me how to cook so much as he impatiently answered my questions when I bugged him enough. I watched him and his line cooks, asking annoying questions as they went along. He would also answer my questions about the menu ("Chef? What the hell is a burr blank?") and he would explain the techniques listed in the cookbooks that I had started to collect. Eventually, I was inviting friends over for dinners, showing off my culinary talents.

I very much enjoyed small intimate dinners. It's easy to cook a meal for a few other people while still sipping and chatting. And it's just so nice to get to know friends over a quiet meal. But over the years, even small intimate dinners went away. Having couples over for a quiet evening turned into semi-disastrous events.

One time, a couple came over for dinner. They were on time. I was ready for them on time. My husband, however, had passengers that weren't, and so his flight was delayed. The whole time we waited for him, I was apologizing to the husband as his eyes were welling up. He forgot to ask if we had a cat (we did) and he was allergic. Rather than canceling the evening and setting a time for a do-over, we pushed on through. I forget what I served, but by the time hubs arrived an hour late, it was cold and dry.

Then there was the New Year's Eve that we invited a lovely couple and their daughter over to celebrate. We had just gotten to know them at church and I really wanted them to like us. I planned to serve Beef Bourguignon, which I kick ass at. I put so much energy into that meal. Unfortunately, the wife didn't mention, until I served dinner, that she didn't eat meat. I had to serve her the only thing I could quickly heat up...

Chicken Dinos. 

Then there's the general lack of good cooking tools. I don't have a standing mixer or even a hand mixer. I lack a good, sharp set of knives, partly because I'm cheap and partly because I watched too many horror movies. I almost bought a dutch oven... right before I didn't care about cooking anymore. 

Last weekend, a foodie friend of mine came over. She teased me about the knives. Ten years ago, I would have been mortified, but I was only slightly embarrassed. I don't know when I stopped caring, but I know I did. Maybe it was what I told my friend... that I've been at this mom/wife gig for a quarter of a century now and I'm over it.

But now that I'm in the middle of so much fresh food here in Ensenada, and the smell of home cooking wafts through the air every where I go, I'm starting to feel that desire... the desire to create a beautiful meal from scratch with flavors from memories and techniques I've long since forgotten. I feel like I want to cook not because of the obligation to feed my family (not that it isn't important), but to cook for the mere act of creating something delicious and savory. 

Hand me my apron... I'm ready to get cooking! 

Go Bananas! Follow Dole's Peel the Love Food Truck

Bananas are my absolute favorite fruit. I never leave the grocery store without grabbing a bunch. They're great alone, in a smoothie, on top of cereal, or fried. (FYI: You haven't lived until you've had fried bananas with a little bit of whipped cream on top. Mmmmm...the best!) 

We all know that bananas are high in potassium, and that's really good for you, but did you know that bananas are packed with all kinds of goodness to help the body in so many ways? It's true! Here are just a few bananalicious benefits:

Bananas have high levels of tryptophan, which converts to seretonin, and seretonin makes you happy! They also have high levels of Vitamin B6, which reduces swelling, protects against Type II Diabetes, strengthens the nervous system, and help with the production of white blood cells. Bananas act as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of friendly bacteria that aids in digestion. And bananas are high in antioxidants, providing protection against chronic disease.

Dole Peel the Love Food Truck Tour.jpg

This past Sunday, we caught up with the Dole Peel the Love food truck tour at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. We got to taste some smoothies (made with tour partner, Almond Breeze) and other Dole fruits, as well as a chilled banana treat with chocolate chips, and my previously drooled over favorite dessert, fried bananas. 

Mmmmmmm... 

They're also giving away tour t-shirts, hats, and recipe books filled with plenty of recipes so you don't have to even think about how to add the happy-inducing fruit into your daily diet. 

The Peel the Love truck will be driving around SoCal through June 24th before moving on to Phoenix and across the country. You can follow their tour stops on Twitter with #PeelTheLove. If you aren't able to catch them on their tour across the country, you can still get some tasty banana recipes on line.

Thanks to Dole for tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific. We had a blast! 

3 Small Space Gardening Ideas

Live in an apartment? Or do you live in a house that doesn't have much of a patio? You can still grow tomatoes, vegetables, and aromatic herbs in any small space, such as a balcony, small patio, or even your rooftop! If you can find just a few square feet of space that gets some sunlight, you can grow your own fresh food.

Garden Towers

If you can't spread out... stack up!

This "Stack-a-Pot" option is perfect for the front porch, small patios, or little corners of the house that could use some natural color. Imagine walking over to your very own herb garden to clip some fresh oregano or basil for your special sauce. And when not in use, the pots stack into each other for easy storage.

BUY: Akro-Mils Stack-A-Pot

Earth Box Garden Kits

Although we now live on half an acre, I've come up against a few gardening challenges. Mainly, gophers. I've tried every natural remedy to get those little guys to go away, but they like it here. So I decided to use container gardens to grow my veggies in. There are plenty of options, but the one I've decided on is another great Small Gardening solution: The Earth Box.

Unlike other raised bed gardens and planters, the EarthBox is self-watering, easily moveable and portable, and can be used to grow indoors, as well. So even in areas of the country that aren't as mild year round as San Diego, you can still grow your own leafy greens and root vegetables through the fall and winter months. Earth Boxes also make it easy to garden in urban settings because they're portable and compact and allow you to grow healthy, fresh, organic food where it never grew before.

Another reason I decided on the Earth Box is because it's low-maintenance. (Can I get an AMEN?) The growing system controls soil conditions, and is supposed to at least double the yield of a conventional garden with less fertilizer and less water. With more land comes a higher water bill, if we're not careful. Being able to grow my own veggies while using less water in a concentrated area was a big plus for me.

AND BONUS!!! The gophers can't dig in. :)

Buy the Earth Box Gardening System.

Vertical Gardening with Pallets

I got this great idea from the author of Small Space Container Gardens. It's a really cool way to reuse the trendy pallet (if you can find one before another DIY'er snatches it up), and also a great solution for tiny spaces like an apartment balcony. Veggies, herbs, and flowers are so much nicer to look at than stucco or brick, don't you think? She has so many other great ideas for patio planting. If you're an apartment dweller that is in need of some foliage in your life, you've really got to check her book out.

BUY: Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage, and Herbs

And for more bang for your buck... or rather, to maximize your small garden's nutritional potential, you'll want to grab a copy of this book:

BUY: The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food