Sunday, March 29, 2015

SEMANA SANTA IN SAYULITA: Stocking Up for the Holiday with a Batch of Healthy Carnitas

Semana Santa in Sayulita 

One of the Busiest Holidays of the Year

Sayulita Beaches are Crowded with Tourists Enjoying Sunshine & Waves

     This week is Semana Santa, Holy Week in Mexico, the last big holiday before the rainy season begins. Sayulita, where we are living in our motorhome during the winter, will be crowded with Mexicans on holiday and international tourists visiting this surfing town. The restaurants and beaches will be packed and the rumor is that the groceries stores sometimes run out of food or simply close to allow the employees to enjoy the holiday. So, we stocked up on supplies last week in preparation for eating at home most of the time. 
     I decided to make a batch of carnitas knowing that we would get four healthy meals out of it. That way, if downtown Sayulita was too busy for us or the stores ran out of supplies this week, we would have plenty of food right here at home at Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows.

     Carnitas is a delicious Mexican pulled pork dish, originating in the state of 
Michoacán. The word carnitas means "little meats". Traditionally, carnitas are prepared by simmering pork butt roasts in lard and seasonings for several hours until tender. In the past we have purchased prepared carnitas in Mexico and from Costco in the United States and enjoy the flavor but find the fat content higher than we like. So, I have developed a leaner, healthier pork carnitas recipe that retains the wonderful traditional flavor.


     Living in a motorhome in Mexico changes how we cook. We usually cook outdoors to keep the steam and cooking oils out of the motorhome, helping to keep our tiny home clean and dry inside. The crock-pot full of broth and seasonings, set up on our outdoor table, bubbling away through-out the day, has become my favorite way to tenderize the tough beef and pork available in Mexican meat markets (carnicerías). So, I start my carnitas by slow-cooking in the crock-pot to tenderize the pork roast. This step also boils away some of the excess fat, making the carnitas more lean and healthy. Finishing the browning step in a cast iron pan set on top of a cast iron griddle on the barbecue gives the carnitas a crisp outer layer. The pork is then juicy and tender, ready to be pulled apart and shredded for use in tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. The aroma surrounding our motorhome while we prepared this delicious dish had our mouths watering for hours, and probably our neighbors', too.

           Jon and Bella, Our Dachshund, Watch the Barbecue: 

                                  ARE THEY READY YET?

     When the carnitas were finished baking inside the barbecue, we attacked the brown, juicy meat, shredding it with our forks and loading our corn tortillas. We enjoyed our tacos immensely! Plus, we put three additional portions into the freezer, ready for quick lunches later in the week. Yum!

Pork Carnitas are Finished in a Cast Iron Pan on the Barbecue Grill

     Below is my recipe, which usually takes me two days to cook. I complete the crock-pot stage the first day and then store the strained broth and pork in separate bowls in the refrigerator overnight. The second day, about two hours before dinner time, I fire up the gas barbecue and complete the browning process while I chop vegetables to add to the tacos. The aroma during browning is even better than during the crock-pot step, making Jon and I hungrily anticipate that first bite of our carnitas tacos. Semana Santa in Sayulita means to me it's time to make carnitas!
Another Beautiful Day in Sayulita Ends with a Perfect Sunset

Pork Carnitas, From Crock-pot to Barbecue Grill

Prep and Cook Time: 8 hours
Servings: 8
  • 1 boned pork butt or shoulder, about 3 pounds
  • 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in eighths 
  • 2 stalks celery, including leaves
  • 3  tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bottle of beer, 12 ounces
  • 3 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 6 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup milk
Day One: Crock-pot Step
  1. Disinfect celery by washing and then soak in a Microdyn®-water solution for 10 minutes. Cut into chunks.
  2. Rinse pork and put in crock-pot. Add onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, beer, and orange juice. 
  3. Add more beer if needed to just cover pork with liquids. Cover crock-pot with lid.
  4. Turn crock-pot to high heat setting and cook for 2 hours.
  5. Turn crock-pot to low setting and cook for 4 hours until meat is tender.
  6. Transfer pork with a slotted spoon from crock-pot to a glass bowl, reserving cooking juices. Use two forks to pull pork into large chunks. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Pour reserved cooking juices through a strainer into a separate bowl; discard residue. Cover juices and refrigerate overnight.
Day Two: Barbecue Grill Step, Beginning Two Hours Before Serving Time
  1. Place cast iron griddle on barbecue grill and close lid on grill. Turn grill on high heat for 10 minutes to heat griddle.
  2. Divide chunks of pork between two medium-size cast iron skillets. Pour milk over meat. Place both skillets on hot griddle and close barbecue lid (even if the lid does not close completely, this is okay). Turn barbecue grill heat to low with the goal of creating an oven at about 325 degrees. 
  3. Bake the pork for about one hour, stirring and scraping the pan occasionally. If the meat appears too dry, add 1/8 cup of reserved cooking juices to each pan.
  4. Meanwhile, skim fat from reserved cooking juices and discard fat. Pour juices into a saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to one cup, about one hour.
  5. When pork drippings are browned, add 1/4 cup of reduced juices to each skillet of pork. Scrape drippings free and stir meat, breaking into smaller pieces. Bake until juices are evaporated and drippings are browned, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Repeat step, using remaining juices, and cook until edges are crisp and browned, 15 to 20 minutes longer. 
  6. Remove skillets from griddle to cool. Season with salt if desired.
Serving Carnitas Tacos
  1. Warm corn tortillas on griddle over barbecue grill.
  2. Using forks, shred pork and pile on tortillas
  3. Serve with toppings as desired. Options include chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, grated cheese, avocado slices, sour cream, and salsa.
  4. Enjoy with a cold beer or other beverage!

I invite you to "Look inside" my new eBook  on at: "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" on

Saturday, March 28, 2015

YOGA WITH JIM AT MEXIFIT IN SAYULITA: Wonderful Class, Beautiful Setting

Yoga Classes Overlooking Sayulita

Talented Instructor, Amazing Setting

MexiFit Yoga Studio Overlooks Sayulita
     In my search for "Healthy Living in Mexico", I have avoided yoga. Not once in the 20-plus years that I have been traveling in Mexico have I attended a yoga class...until last month. Why? I had a fear of doing yoga. It started with beginner's intimidation, the usual fear of learning a new healthy activity. I avoided yoga classes simply because I was afraid of looking like a fool, not knowing how to perform the poses while everyone else had mastered them. A couple of years ago, I finally got brave enough to attend a few yoga classes in my home town of Ashland, Oregon. Then I injured myself while doing a new position and it was several months before my body healed. I now know that, as a yoga newbie, I was probably pushing beyond my comfort level, holding a new pose for too long, and possibly performing it incorrectly. The result was that I had developed a fear of doing yoga.
MexiFit's Palapa Also Overlooks the Ocean
    Last month, I was invited by a fellow physical fitness enthusiast to attend Jim Gallas' Yoga class at MexiFit in Sayulita. When I admitted my fear of doing Yoga, she suggested that Jim's class might be just the one for me because he is very good at teaching proper positioning and helping people of all levels learn yoga in a healthy way, without physically stressing their body. I decided to give Jim's class at MexiFit in Sayulita a try and I'm glad that I did!
View of the Underside of the MexiFit Palapa While Lying on my Yoga Mat
     My first impression when I arrived at MexiFit was that the setting was amazing, overlooking the ocean, the beach, the mountains, and the village of Sayulita! The yoga studio is under a giant palapa set on top of a hill at the south end of Sayulita. The 360 degree view alone is worth a visit to a yoga class at MexiFit, with the blue Pacific ocean below on one side and the beach town and palm trees below on the other. As I settled onto my yoga mat to do some stretching before class, I gazed far above, appreciating the ingenious construction of the beautiful palapa roof. 
Jim Observes and Gently Assists in Proper Yoga Postures

     When Jim began leading the yoga class, I felt immediately comfortable with him. His manner was confident, yet humble, respectful of each student regardless of the level of expertise. His classes include people of all levels of yoga practice, from beginners to expert. I appreciated his teaching technique, first demonstrating a pose, then methodically walking us step-by-step through the body movements to achieve the pose. I'm sure it was obvious to him that I was a yoga newbie, not knowing the difference between "Downward Facing Dog" and "Child's Pose", trying to mimic his examples and peeking at the yoga expert next to me to see if I was doing it correctly. But he never made me feel inferior. Jim treated each student alike, giving words of approval for achieving the proper position and an occasional gentle suggestion for improving posture.
Jim Demonstrates the Use of a Block & Doubling the Mat for Comfort

     I felt encouraged by Jim's instructions in proper yoga technique. His classes left me feeling empowered to learn this "Healthy Living" activity, yoga, that I have avoided while living in Mexico. I especially appreciated his encouragement to use props such as blocks and blankets to improve stability and comfort in a pose. He often said "Comfort is King...or Queen" and he gave tips on adjusting a pose to fit the individual's body. He has helped me not only to overcome my fear of doing yoga, but instilled in me a love and respect for the yoga practice. 
     Jim Gallas has been teaching yoga for over 25 years. He teaches ongoing classes in Santa Cruz, California and Sayulita, Mexico. He will take the week of March 31 through April 2 off from teaching. His last two classes at MexiFit in Sayulita this season will be Tuesday, April 7 and Thursday, April 9. Jim will teach yoga and meditation classes at the Yoga Retreat at Harbin Hot Springs May 15 - 17, 2015. For more information, contact him at .

I invite you to "Look inside" my new eBook on at "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" eBook 

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Sunday, March 8, 2015




     If you check out TripAdvisor, you will see the list of 90 restaurants in Sayulita, all rated pretty high. There really are many great restaurants in this town. That is probably one of the main reasons I enjoy staying in Sayulita for several months each winter. I love good food! How will we ever get to all of the great restaurants here? Well, this year we are staying in Sayulita for two months. Next year, we decided that it will be at least three months! Sayulita may end up being the town we decide to settle in in our motorhome for five months each winter. We have to work our way through that list of 90 restaurants, but for now, these are our favorites that we regularly enjoy. If I only had one week in Sayulita, these are the 10 restaurants that I would be sure to visit.
Lattitude 20 Restaurant /Bar Sayulita
1. Latitude 20: This is currently our favorite restaurant in Sayulita (admittedly, we haven't tried even half of the restaurants yet). The variety on their menu is diverse enough that we can go once a week during the two months we will be here and try something different each time.  This year, we have enjoyed an order of sushi and a salad on one visit and found it to be delicious and fresh. Then we had the BBQ Ribs, mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables on a Sunday afternoon when there was live music by Bordertown Roots, an enjoyable Reggae/ Blues band. Last year we had the Phad Thai with Shrimp on two different occasions and couldn't get enough of it. We hope when we try it again this year that it is just as good! The atmosphere is comfortable and cozy, with an outdoor patio garden including bamboo and palm trees and an indoor restaurant / bar with a new dark green paint color that is rich yet comforting. Located at 79 Manuel Navarrete.
Reggae / Blues Music by Bordertown Roots on Sunday From 2:00 to 6:00
The Wood-Fired Pizza Oven at La Rustica
2. La Rustica: Voted "Best Pizza" in the "Best of Sayulita 2014". We agree. While there are at least five great restaurants in Sayulita that we like for pizza, our favorite is La Rustica. We enjoy their salads, too, made with fresh ingredients in tasty combinations. The Cheese and Wine salad, containing grapes is unique in this area and a real treat. Located at Avenida Revolucion 40 R.
Jon and I Are Happy to Return to La Rustica for Pizza and Salad
3. Cafe Arte: We enjoy the pizza so much that we want to have it every time we go to Cafe Arte. We always start with the Caprese Salad; each time it is very fresh and tasty. We resisted the pizza this week and had the Beer Battered Sea Bass and we thought it was excellent. The slice of chocolate cake for dessert was unbelievably chocolaty, rich, and large. Jon and I shared one piece and could not finish it. We are so glad that Cafe Arte moved from San Pancho to the corner on Av. Del Palmar next to the Sayulita Trailer Park where we stay!
4. Alas Blancas: This is our favorite restaurant on the south end of the beach. The only requirement for parking ourselves there all afternoon, sitting on their comfy lounge chairs under their sturdy umbrellas, is that we spend at least 200 pesos (per table). We have no problem with that. We usually order one chica-size Margarita each and lunch. We loved the Shrimp Quesadillas listed in the appetizer section of the menu. They were more like tacos as they were served on small corn tortillas with melted cheese; an order of 3 was enough for a meal. The chipotle sauce and very fresh shrimp made these a hit with us. We had to go back the next week for more Shrimp Quesadillas even though the special of the day was Fish Tacos. Located at Delfines Centro #219 A Col., we find the restaurant by their name on the brown umbrellas. Their little store, facing Delfines street at the corner of Navarrete St., has a very good selection of specialty items including organic products such as peanut butter, granola, soy milk, rice crackers, and more.
Calypso's Pretty Sign at the Entrance
5. Calypso: This is our favorite upscale restaurant, so far. Calypso won “Best Restaurant” in the "Best of Sayulita 2013", the annual contest. We always treat ourselves to dinner here once each year. The quality of food and the service is consistently excellent. The flan for desert is the best in town (so far), in our opinion. The upstairs open-air seating is perfect for watching the action on the plaza. Located at Ave. Revolucion #44 across from the main arch on the plaza.
Romantic View at Sunset From Don Pedro
6. Don Pedro: The beachfront setting and Palapa dining room can't be beat in Sayulita. It is romantic, peaceful, and a good place to watch the surfers at sunset. Don Pedro was voted "Best Restaurant" in the "Best of Sayulita 2014". Once each year we go for a dinner of pizza (yes, we love pizza), salad, and cold Chilean wine at least once each year. The seafood, beef, and salads are exceptionally good, also. We found the Filet Mignon to be an excellent choice the last time we visited. The waiters are always polite, prompt, and attentive. Located at Calle Marlin 2, Centro.
7. Paninos: I love their pastries! Paninos was voted "Best Deli/Bakery" in the "Best of Sayulita 2014". I pass their walk-up counter on mornings when I go to Zumba at Estudio El Jardin or Yoga at Mexi-Fit.  I go to fitness classes to get healthy and keep my weight down. How am I supposed to stay fit and healthy eating those rich, buttery pastries? Well, once a week I succumb to the temptation. I stop on the way home after class and purchase one pastry to share with Jon. Yum! I'll just work a little harder in my fitness classes and do a little more boogie-boarding to burn it off. Located at Calle Delphine near the Iguana Tree.
Always a Crowd Waiting For Ice Cream at Wa Kika
 8. Wa Kika Ice Cream: This family owned and operated ice cream stand was the busiest business in town some evenings and for good reason. The homemade ice cream was the best we have ever tasted in Mexico! They also have Popsicles in many flavors. I tried the Rum-Raisin and really enjoyed it! Located on Avenida Revolución near the central plaza.
Entrance to Miro Vino is Warm and Inviting
9. Miro VinoWe are always looking for a new pizza restaurant. When we got to this restaurant, we looked at their menu by the door and there was no pizza listed on it so we were about to leave when the manager approached us. We asked him if they had pizza and he said “Oh sure, with anything you want on it. But the house rule is NO HAM AND NO PINEAPPLE”, and he laughed. They had a wood-burning pizza oven visible from the dining room. We watched the pizza-maker create our pizza, beginning with rolling the fresh dough with a rolling pin. Our first course was the Arugula, Goat Cheese, Cherry Tomato Salad which was fresh and tasty. The pizza was delicious and we couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the menu. Plenty of other people ordered it too, so it must just be one of those things that “everyone knows”. Miro Vino was one of two winners of the “Most Popular Restaurant” contest in in the January 10, 2014 newsletter.  Located at Calle Mariscal #15.
Ruben's Distinctive Sign and Red Paint Let Us Know We Have Arrived!
10. Ruben's Deli: We find Ruben's by watching for their distinctive red paint and sign. The word from some of the locals is that Ruben’s makes the best sandwiches in town and we would add that they have the best french fries, too. Ruben's won 2013 “Best Cafes, Delis, and Bakeries” in the annual contest. Located at: Avenida Revolución #D,

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