la villa bonita – La Villa Bonita Mexican Culinary Vacations Mexican Culinary Vacation Packages in Tepoztlan, Sayulita, and Puebla, Mexico with Chef Ana Garcia Wed, 27 Sep 2017 16:41:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Recipe for Sopa de Lima or Lima Soup: Cozumel Thu, 21 Mar 2013 17:12:37 +0000 Day one #chefanaincozumel sopa de lima - lima soup with bell peppers, chicken and tortilla strips #lavillabonita

On occasion we will leave our comfortable confines at La Villa Bonita and cook in different environments or different parts of Mexico to add to my repertior and give guests a new and different experience.  This year we had cooking sessions on the island of Cozumel.  While big tourism has changed the cuisine offered in hotels, there is a local cuisine that is still delicious and good.  It needs to be elevated and learned.  I was amazed at the amount of Italian cuisine restaurants in both Cozumel and Playa del Carmen.  Such food is great but there is a wonderful local cuisine that is not being appreciated.  When we travel, we always try to elevate the local cuisine so that it is visible and accessible.  When we come back to Tepoztlán we integrate these elements into our repertoire for our culinary packages.

We had a great time with our guests in Cozumel, getting to know or fish providers and the wonderful variety of seafood available in the region and discovering these great local dishes.

This particular dish, sopa de lima,  is very popular in the southeast section of Mexico.  It calls for Limas which are a specific type of lime.  We have them in Tepoztlán in our back yard and they are a different type of lime.  If you do not have them substitute Key Limes and they will work fine but the Lima has a distinct flavor.

Sopa de lima (Lima Soup) 6 servings

1 chicken breast with skin and bone

10 oz. chicken feet or wings or backs

2 garlic cloves, pealed

½ medium white onion

1 clove

1 cilantro sprig

1 epazote sprig (if possible)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 quarts or 12 cups of water

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ cup red onion, finely chopped

½ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cups tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

6 Limas or Key Limes or 3 Persian limes, thinly sliced

4 corn tortillas cut into strips and dried for 2 to 3 hours or over night

1 cup of canola oil

1 avocado (optional)


My preferred method of making broth is with a pressure cooker but if you don’t have one you may use a regular stock pot.  Place chicken into the pressure cooker or the stock pot and add garlic cloves, the clove inserted into the onion (so they are not floating around in the pot), cilantro, epazote, dried oregano, water and salt.  Place pot over a high heat and allow for broth to come to a simmer.  Reduce the heat.  Take off the foam that will form with a spoon and repeat this procedure until the broth doesn’t produce any more foam.

If you are using the pressure cooker place the top of the pressure cooker and cook for another 45 minutes on medium high.  If you are using a regular stock pot, cook for 1hr and 30 minutes on medium high.  When chicken broth is ready take the chicken breast out. Allow it to cool enough to shred.


In your soup pot place the olive oil and red onion and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until transparent.  Then add the green pepper and tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken broth with slices of lime.  Save a few fresh slices for serving.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 to 10 minutes and take the lime slices out.

Corn strips

In a sauté pan add the canola oil on high heat.  When it is hot add the corn strips and then fry until golden.  Take out and place on paper towels to drain.

In a soup bowl place the shredded chicken, tortilla strips and a slice of avocado and a fresh slice of lime.  Ladle some of the chicken broth and enjoy.

If you would like to print out this recipes click here for the PDF version.

What makes Tepoztlán so different? Thu, 31 May 2012 19:14:00 +0000

Money Can’t Buy You Love.  In Tepoztlan, money doesn’t get you very much as far as respect is concerned.  Your position in the community, your standing with your neighbors and your barrio is everything.  Do you contribute to the local festivals? Do you lend a hand to a neighbor? Are you involved? I can’t tell you how many examples of people who have come to Tepoztlán thinking that money will get results.  That isn’t the case.  It is what you do that counts, not what you have.  
Buy Local.  There are very few non-local businesses here.  Apart from two banks, there are no franchises, department stores or big supermarkets.  As well, there are no big hotels, no golf courses (will get to that in a minute), and no big box stores.  People wouldn’t support them and the town wouldn’t allow it.  That makes things a little expensive here, but people are willing to pay the price to support local businesses.  Moreover, the daily market and the Sunday/Wednesday farmers market is a big attraction and a local staple in the economy.  People have engaged in buying local here as a way of life long before it was considered fashionable.

Someone to Watch Over Me.  About 20 years ago or so, there was a planned condominium golf course community to be constructed close to Tepoztlán in the National Forrest Preserve.   The town was vehemently against it.  It was believed that there would be a tax on the water table, chemical runoff, lots of outsiders, and tons of maid and gardener jobs.  The town basically said, “we like our life as it is” and began manning a blockade to earth-moving equipment for a couple of years.  The mayor was brushed aside.  The barrios took over the town to provide essential services such as security.  This caused citizens to take up the duty of monitoring their neighborhoods and keeping an eye out, making sure that things were safe.  The golf course development project came and went.  This community activism saved the town and put in place a sense of responsibility for your own neighborhood/barrio.

Contentment. This is important.  Contentment is everything in life, right? This is still primarily a subsistence farming community.  People produce for their own consumption on a plot of land outside of the valley and sell or barter the rest in the local market or among friends and relatives.  Many people have a local “tourism-related” business that they operate on the weekends when Tepoztlán receives its normal flow of guests.  If you have a roof over your head, enough food to eat, a nice and safe community to raise your kids, and a beautiful backdrop to your city, you can’t really ask for much more.  People are content here.

Sense of Community.  It grows on you.  Recycling has been in effect for decades and is almost obligatory with the snide look the non-recyclable garbage guys gives you when you have too much trash.  Daily people sweep their stoop in front of their house where through the hard work of members of the barrio streets are constructed and maintained.  Tepoztecos are involved in various projects to support the community but also just lending a hand to a neighbor when for example he is adding a second story to his house.  After being here for a while you want to contribute as others do.  It is infectious.  Robb was inspired to contribute and started the first little league baseball team here to offer kids a positive activity and many others offer the same type of service to the community.  As well, you are constantly enveloped in the sounds of the community – the rooster crowing, the newspaper headlines announced over the loudspeaker, the church broadcasting mass, next door neighbor kid practicing his trombone for the local children’s orchestra.  The community web around you is palpable and part of what makes it an enjoyable place to visit and live.

Adherence to Tradition.  If you don’t appreciate religious processions, fireworks day and night, an occasional traffic inconvenience, and lots of celebrations, Tepoztlán is not the place for you.  There is a something going on literally every week or weekend in this festive town. Sometimes (but not always) non-Tepozteco Mexicans see the strict adherence to local customs as inconvenient or backwards. Yet this is the glue that keeps the community together. As a result, locals are a little suspicious of other non-Tepozteco Mexicans, but do appreciate foreign tourists.  It is thought that foreign tourists visit Tepoztlán because they appreciate the local customs, traditions, and festivals.  As a result people are very nice and courteous to you as a guest in town. 
I am reminded of the slogan for Austin, Texas – “Keep Austin Weird.”  You want to keep what makes your community unique and Tepoztlán does this very well.  It is different than any place you will visit in Mexico.  These elements taken together as a whole certainly make Tepoztlan safe but also a very authentic and wonderful place to visit.   
Okay.  Off my soapbox for a while.  Next posts will be cooking related!
Peace, Love, and Good Food!
Chef Ana Garcia
Remembering a Good Friend Mon, 23 May 2011 16:55:00 +0000 Chuy with Agustin

I don’t ever think I would consider myself a “pet person.”  When Robb asked me to accept this rolly-polly big ball of a puppy after the return from our honeymoon almost 13 years ago,  I couldn’t help but say yes.  Robb made the classic pitch that ever “kid” makes to his parents from age 5 and up — “I will take care of him and feed him and he will be the best dog ever.” 

Chuy was really our first child.  He was a great dog and I grew to love him.  Chuy moved with us from Tampico to Cuernavaca, and finally to Tepoztlan.  I still remember in Tampico when Robb would take him to the golf course as he had trained Chuy to look for balls.  Of course, he also enjoyed finding other people’s balls which some people didn’t appreciate as well as chasing ducks but he did his job very well.  He would actually jump and bark towards the television screen when golf was on to try and find the ball.

As well, I recall how protective he was of children.  When Matias was young and learning how to swim, Chuy would jump into the pool and swim circles around him until Matias grabbed his tail.  Chuy would then pull him out.  He never was very comfortable with small children in the pool and would not relax until they were safe.

As many of our guests know at La Villa Bonita, Chuy was the first to greet you upon arrival.  He made lots of friends with our guests.  Chuy was with us on the first day that we opened and was a true part of our family. 

Chuy passed away this Saturday at almost 13 years of age.  He had recently been diagnosed with a couple of serious and inoperable conditions and things deteriorated rapidly from there.  This Saturday when the boys went to play baseball in Mexico City, I noted that he was not doing well.  I called Robb and informed him.  Robb said they would come home as fast as they could. 

When Robb arrived Chuy was not doing well.  He was still responsive but lying on the floor in the house.  Robb called the vet to put him to sleep as he didn’t want him to suffer.  The boys were very afraid and upset but Robb cleaned up Chuy so that they could stay with him for a while and say goodbye.  Chuy tried to get up but couldn’t.  After they said  their goodbye and hugged him, Robb felt that the boys should go over to the neighbors before the vet arrived, but Matias insisted on staying and stroked his head, telling him that he was a good dog and that we loved him very much.  Matias was very brave and comforted him until he passed away 20 minutes later.  By the time the vet arrived, he had left us.

I know that sometimes pet owners project their human emotions to their pets but I truly believe that Chuy stayed around just long enough to say goodbye to Robb and the kids.  It was just his character – faithful until the end.

We all will miss you, Chuy. 

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Bringing the Family Together Over the Kitchen Table: Tips on Getting Kids to Appreciate Good Food Wed, 09 Sep 2009 13:24:00 +0000 One of the things I am proudest of in my short 5 years of “parentdom” is getting my kids at a very early age to appreciate a wide variety of food. I was very proud of my 5 and 1-year-old on a recent family trip to Maine to visit our good friends, Cookie and Tony. As a family, we love eating the best local food or specialty dishes we can find. Of course, in Maine you must have lobster, blueberries, wonderful summer vegetables, and mussels. My kids ate everything with a passion along with harvesting their own mussels and devouring them for dinner.
I am not a child psychologist, expert or anything of the sort but I have made a few observations along the way that may be helpful. This blog entry is an introduction into what we will explore in upcoming blogs in more detail.

1. Its Up to You. Parents give signals to their kids all the time. Little facial gestures or unintended messages that you probably don’t even notice. Studies have shown that even small babies have incredible facial-recognition ability. Trust me, they are watching you! If you are picky eater as a parent, your kids will be too. If you express disdain about eating a particular food, they will copy you — especially young children. As a parent, you need to take the lead. If you expose your children to a wide variety of foods at an early age and express your enjoyment in eating something good, your children will pick up on it.

2. Start Young. Don’t limit your child’s palate at an early age. Expose them to fresh food. I see a lot of young eaters become picky when they first start on solid foods. I know it is convenient to purchase the supermarket baby food. After a long day of work, it is totally understandable. I have used them myself especially when traveling, but creating your own baby food ,even out of the simplest things, will start them out early on the right path. There is an early window of opportunity to get your kids to have an adventurous palate. In my experience, that age is between 1-3 years old. It is harder to change bad habits once they reach the age of saying “no” randomly and expressing their independence.

3. No Kids Menu. None of my children eat off the kids menu, but not because I say so. Chicken fingers, hot dogs, pizza or other dummied-down dishes for your kids are convenient pretexts for placating picky eaters but just plain bland. My husband and I have traveled with our 5-year-old since he was very young. When we would go out to a restaurant, Robb and I would order for ourselves and Matias would eat from both of our dishes on his own plate. Now at age 5, he refuses eat off the kid’s menu and actually cried when one of our friends ordered from it on his behalf. Kids enjoy good food too!

4. Cook with Them. Kids love to cook and they will appreciate the effort of preparing food if they have participated in making it themselves. My eldest loves to claim that he is “a good cooker.” Giving kids the opportunity to cook with you is an easy way to get them motivated to eat well and appreciate the effort. Finding small tasks and developing knife skills will give them the ability to actually help. The Montessori system in school helps a lot! This is my eldest helping Tony put the lobsters in the pot.

5. Show Them The Source. This is one of the most important elements. Kids need to understand that food doesn’t naturally come in shrink-wrapped plastic. Showing children where vegetables and fruit actually come from with the local grower is a great way to introduce them to the concept. It is fun for kids to pick their own produce in the summer or better yet when you have a little garden in your back yard. When we were in Maine, we went to the Lobster pound to see how they are harvested. As well, we waded into the mud to gather our own mussels. Both kids loved getting muddy, trying to find the right-sized mussels. It gave them context to what they were eating and a great story to tell.

6. Appreciate Where You Are. We try to go on a family vacation every summer and eating locally is one of our favorite things. Getting the best of where you are is important, not only to appreciate the joys of traveling, but to expanding your child’s palate. Don’t just plan what tourist sites you are going to see, talk about what you are going to eat long before you get to your destination. My son was talking about the mussels, one of his favorites, long before we arrived in Maine. He enjoyed his meal even more after he harvest, cleaned and helped prepare them.

Coming up! The recipe that we enjoyed in Maine — Lobster Enchiladas with Pipian (Mole Verde). It was so GOOOOOD! Picture below.

As always . . . Peace, Love and Good Food.

Chef Ana

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Kids and Cooking, Kids for Free at La Villa Bonita Fri, 24 Jul 2009 17:17:00 +0000
Coming Very Soon! My favorite topic: Kids and Cooking. This series of blog entries is very close to my heart. I firmly believe that if kids are introduced to the kitchen early, it can actually bring the family closer together and give them a great appreciation not only for food but where it comes from. No more chicken fingers, hot dogs or horrible children’s menu. They won’t want it!

To intoduce this new series to our blog, La Villa Bonita is offering an incredible opportunity. August has been declared a Family Month at La Villa Bonita. KIDS JOIN US FOR FREE FOR SELECT AUGUST DATES! Click for more information. Lets have fun as a family this August!

More to come!

Peace, Love, and Good Food,

Chef Ana

Mexico Meets Colombia: Guajillo Chicken Stew Thu, 16 Jul 2009 14:04:00 +0000
Okay, todays recipe may make no sense unless I give a little context. I am close to signing an agreement with a major cookware manufacturer in the US market. We met with them last week and saw their current products which have primarily focused on the carribean hispanic market in the US. The gave me a sample of their products to take home and use in relation to the type of cooking that I do. One of these pots is called a caldero.

The caldero is a traditional Colombian pot close to a dutch oven that is great for rice dishes and stews. A sancocho, which is one of the national dishes of Colombia, can be made in this type of dish. It is made of thick cast aluminium but it is very light. This dish in Mexico we would call a budinera and use for something totally different — a budin or custard in English.

So, I took on of the big calderos and decided to create a new recipe for our family lunch – Guajillo Chicken Stew. I have to admit it turned out great. I love stews even in the summer. It is great comfort food as I grew up with lots of rustic stews that we would have for a simple lunch. So, LETS PLAY WITH OUR FOOD!

Click for the recipe in PDF (Adobe) format. Ana’s Guajillo Chicken Stew.

Peace, love and good food,

Chef Ana

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Best Ceviche Ever (with Recipe) Tue, 09 Jun 2009 14:35:00 +0000

Last week we decided to take a break and visit some friends in Puerto Escondido. It is very easy trip from Mexico City with a short one hour flight. On the other hand, it is a 13-15 hour drive in car. With a one and four-year-old, that option was quickly discarded. We have been to Puerto before so this time instead of just enjoying the immediate surroundings we fished, surfed, dined, and enjoyed the town a little more.

My 4-year-old went with my husband and our hosts on an early morning fishing trip which netted great results: a 90 lb. Sailfish and two Mahi-Mahi or Dorados as they are called here in Mexico. Upon the return to shore, the local fish mongers prepared the fish right on the beach. I had the Sailfish prepared like thick salmon steaks and the Mahi-Mahi filleted. Immediately upon their arrival at the house, I decided to make a very simple ceviche with some of the Mahi-Mahi. I chose a simple ceviche because when you have fresh fish like this you want to taste it as much as possible and enjoy the great texture. This ceviche was one of the best I have ever had and the right-out-of-the-sea freshness made all the difference. Wow!

I took the Mahi-Mahi fillets and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes. This is important for a couple of reasons – first the fish needs to physically stand up to the lime. If you cut the fish too thin, the fish will disintegrate into a mushy mess. This is especially true with fish that is not very fresh. Second, you want to enjoy the full flavor of a fresh fish. Keeping it in cubes maintains the flavor in every bite as the lime doesn’t totally penetrate the fish. It is very popular in restaurants these days to have exotic ceviches with lots of extra or non-traditional ingredients which overtake the subtle flavor of fresh fish (it may also be a sign that you are not having fresh fish). When you have fresh fish, keep it simple. Don’t over complicate the delicate flavor. Everything else should take a back seat.

Okay, here comes my personal pet peeve — throw away those funny plastic lime concentrate bottles. I know they are there . . . in the back of your refrigerator. . . mocking me. Only use fresh-squeezed citrus as noted in the recipe. In fact, I don’t know when lime concentrate is ever needed in recipes. For this recipe, it is important for the acid in the lime to work as it should in “cooking” the fish. Concentrate just doesn’t do the job very well. Additionally, I prefer the smaller or mid-sized limes. We don’t have those big thick rind limes that you find in the States. I am sure they will work fine if you can’t find the smaller ones.

Is your mouth watering yet? Anyone up for a Mexican Coastal Cooking Week in Puerto Escondido? Red Snapper a la Veracruzana, local Rock Lobster in Pipian, Grilled Chile Encrusted Shrimp? Let me know and we will make it happen!

Here is the link to the PDF file for the complete recipe. Enjoy!

As always . . . Peace, Love, and Good Food!
Chef Ana

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Biggest Discount Ever at La Villa Bonita this Summer Mon, 18 May 2009 18:51:00 +0000

Have you wanted to come to La Villa Bonita but couldn’t quite find it in your budget? Your ship has come in. Now is your time. Pack your bags. Join us this summer! An offer like this will not be repeated.

Respected travel experts like Peter Greenberg are telling travelers that now is the time to travel to Mexico as hotels have a lot of space and are offering big discounts. As well, the timid and uninformed traveler will stay at home making you an even more desired and honored guest! You will be appreciated! La Villa Bonita is no exception.

Summer is a great time to join us at La Villa Bonita. Why? Because it is one of the most temperate seasons of the year. Crazy isn’t it? Everyone thinks Mexico has to be hot during the summer. April and the beginning of May are our hottest months of the year in this part of central Mexico. Then cooling rains begin at night in mid-May to make the temperature very enjoyable. The rains start at about 10 at night making for wonderful sleeping weather and the sun comes out during the day keeping it cool but not humid. As the summer progresses, the gardens and mountains become vibrant green with numerous waterfalls emanating from springs in the surrounding mountains.

Ten years ago when we started the culinary vacation packages, we based them on my Iowan mother-in-law’s desire to travel and actually learn about a culture instead of vegetating on the beach at some big box hotel. As many of you know, I married an Iowan and I appreciate the well-educated and well-traveled “gentleman farmers” (wink, wink). Phyllis is an incredible person! If you would like to meet her as well as other guests join us from June 21-28. It will be a very special week and we will have some fun “extras.”

As well, we have plenty of room for other dates this summer in June, July and August. If you cannot join us for the big sale this summer, you can still get a great discount but you need to make your reservation for post-August dates by May 28, 2009. You will receive a 20% discount but you have to act fast (click on the picture for full details). As usual, the informed person always gets the best deal!

We hope to see you this summer.

Peace, Love, and Good Food
Chef Ana

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Chef Ana’s Top Ten Reasons to Love Tepoztlan Mon, 11 May 2009 16:43:00 +0000
  • Tepoztecos do not support chain restaurants. Local producers and restaurants rule!
  • Tepoztecos are subsistence farmers who live comfortably and are very happy people. Stubborn, but happy. It is amazing what you can do with corn, chiles, beans, tomatoes and squash.
  • No rat race. Whether for better or worse, Tepoztecos work until they have “enough,” . . . then they go home and plan their next party. The social nature of your profession is almost more important than earning money. When I wanted to buy all of the masa for an event from the masa lady, she told me “If you buy everything, what the hell am I going to do for the rest of the day?”
  • Local traffic police remind me of a strange Mexican version of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry (yes, I have seen this show, there is one officer that actually looks like Barney Fife. My Photoshop abilities officially suck).
  • Excessive amount of fireworks for every festive event (not to be confused with bullets, only Barney has them in town and he drops them a lot)
  • Did I mention we have a lot of parties here? No one can stop a Tepozteco party, quinceañera, birthday, birth and death of historical figures, beginning and end of wars, every saint, every chapel, every day, party, party, party! Nothing stopped here over the past few weeks, not even for a moment.
  • In two seconds, you know everyone — La Casa Azul cheese house, Don Sergio the strawberry man, Doña Toña the butcher, the flower ladies from Tetela del Volcan, your favorite quesadilla stand, the tortilla and masa mill, the traffic cop, the mayor. They will know you long before you know them.
  • Absolutely courteous traffic. Did you read this one, Chilangos? Read and repeat, please. You are expected to let the other party go through on the narrow cobblestone streets. It is not only appreciated but you will receive the universal dictator’s wave in return.
  • Don’t Screw with Tradition — not only are you are expected to yield to any procession, celebration, or party going on, you are expected to participate. Party on, Wayne! Party on.
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    Filming Day Two — Now we are COOKING! Mon, 20 Apr 2009 17:40:00 +0000 Okay, now we are COOKING! My guests are here, we are having a great time and we are knocking it OUT OF THE BOX! Went to the market today with guests and crew to purchase ingredients for pollo pibil with banana leaves. We also went to the molina or mill for the masa we are going to use for our tortillas from corn grown right here in Tepoztlan. Will offer the recipe soon for those who want to try it. Hope you enjoy the behind-the-scenes pictures.

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