Category Archives: Site News

The Miracle of Baby Turtles

The Miracle of Baby Turtles

Ron and I had the most amazing experience the other week! I mentioned to our dear friend, Gabriela, that we had never witnessed the release of baby turtles here in Baja. She cleared her calendar and took us out to San Cristobal Ranch in the late afternoon to ensure that situation was remedied and that we had a hands-on education as to the work they are doing on their property.

Her husband, Rene, owns the land and is the President of a non-profit organization called Asupmatoma, which started their environmental protection back in the early 1990’s. The organization was formalized as a marine turtle center in 1995 and they focus their efforts on protection and conservation of marine turtles.

In addition to the protection and conservation aspects of the work that Asupmatoma is doing, their vision is to promote and increase the active participation and technical training for the local and foreign communities. They have one full-time biologist on staff, and dedicated volunteers come to work on the project from Mexico and far beyond.

Meet the biologist for the project, Fernando.

The Sea of Cortez and Baja California are home to five species of sea turtles (there are only eight in the world!): Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green and Olive Ridley – all of which are endangered. It is believed that each mother turtle returns to lay her eggs on the same beach where, at least a decade before, she was born. The males, on the contrary, never set foot on land again and live their entire lives in the ocean.

Under the cover of night, the females leave the sea and search for a place on the beach where they were born (an absolute miracle they are able to find their birthplace!) to lay their eggs. With their powerful fins, they dig holes in the sand and make a nest into which they lay up to 150 eggs, one by one. Once the eggs are deposited, the turtles cover their nests with sand, erasing their trace, and return to the sea.

The team at Asupmatoma patrol the miles of beach to spot the mothers or find their tracks to the nests where they lay their eggs. The eggs are moved to incubation areas to protect them from man, predatory animals, and natural phenomena (Rene and Gabriela recounted moving the incubation nests during one hurricane to protect the turtle eggs!). Each new nest is carefully marked to show the species, when the eggs were laid, how many eggs were moved, etc. which makes it almost appear like a little cemetery and not a birthplace.

After 45 days or so, depending on the species, the baby turtles begin their difficult struggle for life. Still in the nest, buried a foot to two feet under the surface of the sand, they emerge from their shells one by one. Then, they crawl to the surface and begin their trek to the sea to begin the next phase of their lives.

We got to be part of the “cleaning” of the nests the day we visited. The vast majority of the babies made their way to the surface and had been released earlier in the day, but some did not. Our job was to carefully dig out the nests and find any babies that were still alive, and clean out the broken eggs and dead turtles that didn’t make it. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to find a baby and feel it wiggling in your hand! With a “Hi guy, welcome to the world!”, I found fifteen in my nest and Ron found three.

Because these little fellows hadn’t crawled up to the surface themselves, it was important to let them move around in the plastic container we put them in to get them strong and to “imprint” them as to their surroundings so the females could find their way back to lay their eggs in a decade or so (amazing!).

After a half-hour or so, we took the babies we’d found to the shore and released them so that they could hurry to the sea to begin their new life.

It’s a miracle that they’ve made it this far, but even more incredible to realize that of one thousand baby turtles, probabilities predict that only one will reach adulthood. Good luck and God speed, little ones! You are truly a miracle and we feel honored to have witnessed a small part of it.

To learn more about Asupmatoma, how you can participate or to donate to the important work they are doing, please contact asupmatoma@hotmail.com or visit their website at www.asupmatoma.org/en/.

My New Favorite Seasoning!

The best thing that a recent visitor from California brought down with him was a spice mix from Trader Joe’s called “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend”. It is delicious on so many things, from fried eggs, to sliced tomatoes and avocadoes and any cooked or roasted vegetable. The sky is literally the limit. I sprinkle it on my homemade sourdough roasted garlic and Kalamata olive bread before I bake it, on toast or a bagel topped with cream cheese, guacamole, salad, popcorn – you name it. BUT, it comes in a small container that empties quickly.

What do you do when there’s no Trader Joe’s down the street when you’re living in Cabo San Lucas for the season and, because of COVID, we have few visitors this season as well. The answer is that you read the label and MAKE IT YOURSELF! Here’s the mixture I came up with:

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

4 tbsp. white sesame seeds
3 tbsp. black sesame seeds
3 tbsp. poppy seeds
3 tbsp. dried minced garlic
3 tbsp. dried onion flakes
2 tsp. Maldon salt (flaked sea salt)

Store in an air-tight container or jar. Make extra and give it away – whoever you give it to will LOVE you for it!





My New Favorite Sauce!

My New Favorite Sauce!

My Lunch Today – Quesadilla with Zhoug Sauce and Cherry Tomatoes

Ron and I were introduced to a delicious new sauce called zhoug (pronounced zoog) when we were visiting our friends, Bonnie and Don, in Long Beach, California early this year – just before COVID-19 changed the world.

Bonnie is the queen of making fabulous food – FAST! I treat cooking as an exercise in meditation and I putter and play while I create. Bonnie, on the other hand, has learned the art of getting meals prepared quickly so she can move on to do other things she’d rather spend time on. She picked the zhoug sauce up at Trader Joe’s and Ron and I absolutely fell in love with it. We picked up extra to bring home to Mexico, but the supply didn’t last very long. The answer, then, was to figure out how to make it myself!

Zhoug originated in Yemen but is now enjoyed in many other parts of the world (our friend, Henry, remembers having it while living in Israel). I’m a huge fan of chimichurri, but find that zhoug is brighter, spicier, greener and fresher. I use it on and in everything, literally, and it makes the BEST guacamole when mixed into mashed avocado. Using a food processor, this literally takes 10 minutes to make and clean up. Give it a whirl – literally!

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed and cut in big chunks
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, washed and dried
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried crushed chile flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Place all ingredients (except olive oil and lemon juice) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Add olive oil and lemon juice and blend into a coarse paste.

Store in a sealed, glass jar in your refrigerator for up to a week (if it lasts that long!).

It Takes A Pandemic, For Heaven’s Sake!

For the longest time, I was struggling with why I would continue to write a blog for my website. My posts were becoming fewer and far between. My three books, Fire ‘n’ Ice, Light the Fire and The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook, are all out of print now and I have no immediate plan to reprint any or all of them. If my site was no longer supporting the sale of books or some other direct “purpose”, why then would I continue writing blogs?

Then COVID-19 struck! Let’s face it, the pandemic has forced everyone to look at the world differently and I am certainly no exception. It FINALLY occurred to me that I should make my books available in electronic format! So, the process is underway to do exactly that so that people can still enjoy the books and order them online for immediate download. Voila – the solution!

So, stay tuned as I continue to get the ebooks set up for online sales, which gives me the inspiration to begin writing more about our adventures and “cooking with fire”!

Instant Pot Chili Colorado

Instant Pot Chili Colorado

I bought an Instant Pot last season and brought it down to Cabo. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it and experimenting with foods and recipes.

Ron has told me often about a recipe he used to make that he absolutely loved called Chili Colorado. The name has nothing to do with the State of Colorado, but rather the color of the sauce (literally colored red). This is a traditional Mexican stew made with either pork or beef and is wonderfully flavored with the combination of dried chiles used to make it: ancho, pasilla, and guajillo. Please note that these dried chiles should be pliable to ensure maximum flavor – if they are dried out, they will have far less to offer this dish.

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock

5 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (beef roast may be used as well), cut into 3/4” pieces

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

8 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp.  fresh sage, chopped

2 tbsp.  fresh Mexican oregano, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 – 14 oz. can of pureed tomatoes

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 bottle of beer

Method:

Heat chicken stock in a saucepan. When boiling, add the chiles, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for about half an hour to allow the chiles to soften. Put the chiles and all of the soaking liquid into a covered blender and purée until very smooth.

Season the pork pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the Instant Pot using the Sauté function. Add the meat and brown. Add garlic, cumin, oregano. bay leaves, tomatoes, brown sugar and beer. Stir in the chile purée, cover and cook for 30 minutes using the Pressure feature and Pork selection.

The first night that we had this chili, I served it over white rice with a dollop of sour cream on top. The second night, I added some cooked kidney beans (many chili aficionados would baulk strongly at that!) and served it over baked potatoes, again with a dollop of sour cream on top. Neither of these treatments is authentically Mexican, as it would be served with Mexican rice, flour or corn tortillas and perhaps some beans a la charra on the side. However you like to enjoy it, this is a delicious dish that is prepared rapidly with the use of the Instant Pot.