Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Spiced Apricots & Prunes

I’ve been waiting for a day off work to finally get a moment to finalize and post this unreal Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Spiced Apricots & Prunes recipe, well the day has finally arrived and I’m going to spoil you with this recipe! If you acquainted yourself with my last post, (sorry it was long, I had so much to rant about!), you’ll know I took a cooking class while in Fes, Morocco, and I was fortunate enough to inherit the chef’s passed down recipes from generations in her family. We created a heavenly Chicken Tagine recipe, I am gong to keep it fairly raw and original to its form, with only a few tweaks of my own, because it’s just so damn tasty and it would be a sin to fool around with the flavors too much. Oh and don’t you worry, you don’t need a tagine to make this masterpiece, I’ll tell you how to make it with an everyday french oven/slow cooker!

I have had a lot of people ask me what a tagine is, a tagine is a traditional Moroccan two piece clay pot in which most Moroccan dishes are made and served in, the peaked top allows for rising steam to stay within the pot while cooking, this makes the dishes tender and full of flavor. I did haul one back home from Morocco, I couldn’t leave without one, not this time around! I’m guessing a tagine wasn’t on your to buy list for kitchen pots… so I’ve tested this recipe in my french oven as well as my slow cooker and both turned out magnificent, so don’t panic, you’re not missing out if you don’t have a tagine, you’ll get full tenderness and flavor with a good ol french oven or slow cooker, even a pressure cooker!

When you think of Moroccan food, you think of heavily spiced, fragrant, rich and protein heavy foods, but I was taken aback during my cooking class in Morocco on the simplicity of the spices used and letting the simple flavors meld together to make one scrumptious dish in the end. Let the ingredients do the work and shine on your plate in this recipe, sometimes less is better! With only a few spices, fresh chicken, savory onion and those delicious dried apricots & prunes infused with a little cinnamon, you’ll be making this over and over because it’s irresistible. I’ve made this for M and I at least four times since getting back, we never get sick of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with this Moroccan Chicken Tagine recipe, I bought an organic fresh whole chicken and cut it into its varied pieces, I love white meat and M loves dark meat, a perfect blend of both! Now this spice blend for the chicken does call for a lot of cilantro, I know cilantro is an acquired taste for many but I am telling you now, with the slow cooking and blend of other spices, it does not have that earthy cilantro taste in the end! My husband hates cilantro and he scarfed down the whole dish before I could even tell him it was a cilantro based spice mix! If you are adamant on wanting to try this recipe (why wouldn’t you, straight from the medinas of Fes!) but dislike cilantro that much, use parsley, but just give the original cilantro spice blend a try! Typically this dish is eaten with a giant piece of wood fired oven bread which is seen and baked all over morocco and the smell of freshly baked bread wafts up your nose everywhere you turn, but as I don’t eat gluten, I have tried this recipe with brown rice, chickpea pita, steamed kale and once I even threw in carrots and butternut squash into the recipe which was equally as delicious and I got my serving of veggies as well!

Alright let’s get cooking, the recipes comes together in just minutes, the secret to the layers of sophisticated flavors and tender fall off the bone chicken is from the length of the cooking time, I know we all don’t have time to wait two hours for dinner, but I promise you, this is worth the time if you get a moment on the weekend or have everything ready in the pot the night before and throw it in the oven/slow cooker to cook while you settle down after a long day!

Finally, here is the recipe I’ve been wanting to share since I got back!

Ingredients: 

1 fresh organic chicken – your favorite cuts of chicken, no skin (I use a whole chicken cut into pieces)

1 large red onion – peeled and thinly sliced

1 heaping cup of cilantro – finely diced

8 cloves of garlic – finely diced/crushed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp dried ginger

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

3/4 tsp cinnamon – divided

1/3 cup water

10 dried apricots

10 dried prunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

Heat oven to 315 degrees Fahrenheit.

In your french oven add your sliced red onion and fill with enough water to just barely cover the onions, place on high heat and boil for 10 minutes while you are prepping the rest of your dish.

In a large bowl add your finely diced cilantro, the rest of your spices, oil, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/3 cup of water, mix well until mixed thoroughly. add chicken pieces to your marinade and toss in marinade until well covered.

Take your onion & water mixture off the heat, half of your water should be left, add your marinated chicken and the spice marinade to the onions and water, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours. Let the aroma fill your house!

If you are using a slow cooker, add all your raw onions to the pot, add 1 cup of water, add marinated chicken and spice marinade and slow cook on low for 4-5 hours.

When you have 30 minutes left on the chicken, add your apricots and prunes to a small pot with 1.5 cups of water, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp cinnamon, bring to a boil and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed and the apricots and prunes are re-hydrated and slightly caramelised.

Top your delicious chicken with the apricots and prunes, serve with your choice of side, salad, mop up the sauce with bread, or steamed veggies!

 

You’ll be craving this recipe all the time, it’s amazing and coming straight from the tables of Moroccans to your home! I hope you guys love this recipe as much and we do, let me know what you think! Thanks as always for following and reading along, I love sharing the amazing food our worldly cultures have to offer as much as the Moroccans love sharing their food with others! XOXO

A Moroccan Proverb: Amrek ma tkoul ndemt dima koul t3alemt. “Never say I regret, always say I learned.”

 

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The Food of Fes – Smokey Aubergine & Pepper Salad

Food is the center of all in Morocco, food is love, it’s family, it’s gathering, it is celebrated and artfully prepared. Flavors are melded together to create masterpieces and dishes are unveiled before your eyes in those stunning tagines. Food is a way of life. I set out to learn more and share with you, The Food of Fes and a Smokey Aubergine & Pepper Salad recipe! I signed up for a cooking class in Fes which was the highlight of my stay and highly recommended! I will share with you the knowledge I obtained during the class, as well as some local recipes and a couple of my favorite spots to grab a meal where you won’t be disappointed! I will continue to share over the next few weeks the many types of Moroccan meals I tried, recipes with my twist of course! I really can’t wait to share these with you guys and I know I need to get on it because you guys keep asking for them!

I knew I wanted to do a cooking class prior to getting there and I researched endlessly on where to take the class, they are offered quite readily throughout Fes, all with pretty good reviews. I stumbled upon raving review of a restaurant called Café Clock, located in the medina. The reviews across the board were phenomenal for the restaurant food as well as the cooking class. I decided before I booked I would try the food out, what better way to know what you’re getting yourself into than to test it out. Well, I was blown away by my meal of cous cous chicken and vegetables with caramelized onions and raisins so beautifully draped over the perfectly cooked piece of chicken, after my meal I marched downstairs and booked the class for a day later (these classes are popular and in high season you have to book much further in advance!) Not only was the food crazy good but the restaurant is a tantalizing 4 leveled restaurant with patios strewn across levels and views over the medina. I sat in the sun with a smile on my face as I cleared my plate.

The other memorable meal I had at, The Ruined Garden, another restaurant lost in the maze of the medina, it was worth searching for! This is a modernized tapas style Moroccan food concept of  fresh and local ingredients landing on your table that hit your taste buds in every direction. When I read tapas style, I jumped to the get 2-3 plates that should be small in size “tapas”, should have known, they were Moroccan sized tapas and it kept me full for a day and half! I ordered a bowl of zucchini soup, the rice and mixed pepper salad as well as the vegetable tagine. The soup was thick, creamy and a balance of spices that were so flavorsome but yet highlighted the zucchini perfectly. The salad almost reminded me of a paella, a little bit smokey and so yummy, then came the grand entrance of the tagine, slowly braised vegetables that were perfection. The setting here is a relaxing garden with laced white chairs and quirky Moroccan pieces. I decided to sit in the back of the restaurant cozied up beside the wood burning fireplace, you can easily spend 2 hours here without even knowing it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You want me to get on to the recipes… I know! I’ll be sharing many with you over the next few weeks as well as the tips and tricks on the Moroccan cuisine that I picked up!

My cooking class started at 1000 and I had an enthusiastic couple from California join me which was a blast! We started our day by taking our wicker shopping basket into the medina to start picking out our fresh ingredients and our chef Souad to guide the way and educate us on the food in Morocco and shopping etiquette! We weaved through the crowds, the shopping banter, wheelbarrow whizzing past us and we met an array of smells at every turn. Every shop unique and specializing in a certain product, from fresh local fruits and vegetables, to butchers, chicken shops, spice vendors, dates and prunes, beauty supplies…. The list goes on, but what was so incredible was they were all selling products local to Morocco, every last item! With a perfect climate year round and soil rich in nutrients they are able to grow everything they need, sustainable and local products all year round!


 

 

 

 

 

 

We made our way to the local bread shop where loaves were rising and a variety of breads were available all while right next door a sheep’s head was steaming in a giant pot… how intriguing. Next stop, the chicken coup. A sense of guilt overcame me as I stared into the little guys eyes I have to say, but this is the circle of life and that chicken was going to nourish our bodies! Chicken doesn’t get any fresher then this, in 2 hours it would be on my plate. Now that’s farm to table! We then learnt about some of the vegetables indigenous to Morocco that I’d never heard of and also watched some Argan oil being freshly pressed!

Argan Nuts
Argan Nut Casings After Being Pressed – The Argan Oil in The Bottle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After shopping we headed back to the restaurant to our own private gorgeous kitchen in which we had chosen 3 dishes to prepare! Our 3 course meal began with an aubergine pepper salad, our main course was a chicken tagine with prunes and apricots and we ended with a delicate orange blossom coconut macaroon! Souad went over every detail of the cooking process as well as how she creates certain flavors, as well as some tricks I had never thought of! Let’s start cooking! Below I will share our first recipe we created and a step by step guide, everything was AMAZING! Stay tuned for more Moroccan recipes coming your way that I’m just perfecting!

The Wonderful Chef and I

Now, I want to start you all with a recipe that I am keeping pretty untouched that I acquired during my cooking class! It is such a healthy and flavor bursting salad that I ate many times in a variety of forms. It’s great if you love eggplant and you just don’t know what to do with it! Here is the recipe for you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smokey Aubergine Mixed Pepper Salad:

Ingredients:

– 1 large eggplant

– 2 large peppers (red/orange)

– 1 large handful cilantro – diced (if you don’t like cilantro, I made it with parsley and just as good!)

– 1 small clove of garlic – finely dice

– 1 tsp olive oil

– half a lemon juiced

– 1 tbsp rice vinegar

– 1 tsp cumin

– 1 tsp paprika (I use smokey paprika)

– 1/2 tsp chili powder

– pinch of salt & pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make:

– Place peppers & eggplant over open gas stove flame or in your oven under high broil, watching closely, when skin starts to get charred well, flip until all sides of vegetables are well charred and remove. Place peppers in a sealed plastic bag to sweat, set eggplant aside.

– While your peppers & eggplant are roasting, chop up your cilantro and garlic, add to a medium bowl with the rest of your spices.

– Once your peppers have sweat in the bag for 5-10 minutes, pull out and with a spoon scrape the charred skin of the pepper, leaving some for that smokey taste! Peel your eggplant as well, leaving some charred skin.

– Chop your peppers & eggplant into bite sized pieces, add to your bowl and add lemon juice & vinegar, mix well and refrigerate until chilled, this salad can also be eaten as a warm side dish which is yummy on rice!

There you have it! Your first Moroccan inspired recipe, I know you will love it, the smokey char comes through and the sweet peppers and earthy eggplant are so delicious! I will be posting a chicken tagine recipe next, with a little o my twist on ingredients, I can’t wait to share! Thanks for reading and hope everyone’s week is amazing! XOXO

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Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad

Well September is here and I feel like I have permission to slowly return to my daily routine after an overly busy summer filled with change, a new home, numerous renovations, new adjustments, sporadic road trips, the company of tremendous friends, summer events, festivals and a lovely end of August vacation exploring Canada’s West coast. I’ve always found it pressing to have to let go of summer months and face another Canadian winter, but I’m learning to embrace what each season brings, as it is inevitable! With inspiration from the West Coast, a change in season’s, that brisk bite to the air in the evenings and a longing for the savory comfort foods that come with fall, I have created a dish that envelopes this all, Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek Mushroom & French Lentil Salad for my next recipe!

My husband and I spent over a couple of weeks via road trip with the good ol’ Flagstaff tent trailer not far behind, travelling and delving into the culture, food, seasonal produce, hiking and golfing scenes that British Columbia has to offer. We often try to stay off the beaten path and get recommendations from the locals on where we can find prime food, hiking, secret spots etc. I mean, sometimes you just have to do the touristy thing because it’s famous for a reason… but many times there is so much more to be found and treasured. Our countries beauty never ceases to amaze me and now more than ever I can appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of the bountiful produce Canada provides. I wanted my next recipe to be a representation of Canadian grown produce and I tried to captivate the beautiful seasonally available fresh picked mushrooms, fresh and wild caught cod as well as Canadian grown lentils. It all led to a healthy, earthy and nature inspired recipe that I know you guys will adore to celebrate the summer memories we created and to open our arms and minds to a hopefully warm and bright fall.

The Rainforest Loop outside of Tofino.

I’ve wanted to create a lentil recipe for quite some time now, than summer hit and the lentil inspiration fell off my radar! Then while hiking through the lush and green temperate rain forests on the West Coast Trail, my craving was re-ignited, after many kilometers of coastal forest and the salty ocean breeze, I was suddenly longing a nutritious, earthy, protein packed meal and I thought of lentils and the main fish catch at this time in and around Tofino and Ucluelet is white, flaky Cod. Then I was educated about the competitive and bountiful mushroom foraging scene near Tofino, chanterelle mushroom season (aka the white gold rush) starts in mid August, so I thought, why not throw some mushrooms in the mix as well, who doesn’t love mushrooms! I was able to get my hands on some chanterelle mushrooms while there for a pretty penny (I wasn’t brave enough to pick my own as apparently it is quite the competitive and territorial sport), but I wasn’t able to find them here in Calgary, so I went with lovely oyster and brown cremini mushrooms instead for this recipe.

The Lighthouse Trail in Ucluelet.

Lentils are particularly impressive you guys, so packed with protein that they count as a meat alternative on the Canada food guide! I chose French Lentils for this recipe because they are, what I think, the gold standard of lentils, they have a unique speckling in colour and they absorb flavor so well, they are a little peppery with an earthy flavour. I found them at Planet Organic in the Bulk section, for I believe under 50 cents/100 gram. I also love that they are locally sourced, did you know Canada is now the world’s leader in lentil export to the global marketplace, 99% grown in Saskatchewan and that 1% in Alberta, woohoo! They are truly complimented by the garlic, Dijon and sautéed leeks, it’s so delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad is ready in under 30 minutes, it’s hearty, filling, packed with protein, classic flavors and it’s great re-heated for lunch or dinner. You can make it a vegetarian dish by omitting the fish or swap out your favorite protein like chicken, it’s so versatile. Now let’s get to cooking this end of summer and intro to fall dish!

Makes 4 servings:

Ingredients:

2 cups dried French Lentils

4 pieces of fresh wild Cod – rinsed

1/2 tbsp avocado oil (or oil of choice)

2 cloves garlic – minced

1.5 large leek (white part only) – finely sliced (approx. 1 cup)

2.5 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme (or 1 tbsp. dried)

2tsp paprika

1.5 tsp salt

1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper

1 cup cremini brown mushrooms – sliced

1 cup oyster mushrooms – chopped

3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

3tbsp. seedy Dijon mustard

1/2 cup vegetable stock

For the fish (per fish fillet)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

course ground pepper to taste

Now, how to cook lentils, I personally soak my lentils prior to cooking, but it isn’t necessary. I find that when I soak them beforehand they cook quicker and I like to soak them in water with apple cider vinegar to help break down the starches, which then aids our bodies in digesting the lentils when cooked, it’s totally up to you whether you want to give these bad boys a soak beforehand. I soaked them for no longer than 8 hours which decreases the cooking time quite a bit. But again, this is not necessary. After the soak, I rinse them well and add them to a pot with salted water (3 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils) & 3 whole sprigs of thyme, let it come to a full boil then turn down the heat so a calm boil remains and cook for 20-25 minutes or until your desired consistency is met.

While you are cooking your lentils, in a large sauté pan add your leeks to heated oil, garlic, fresh thyme, paprika, salt & pepper and sauté over medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes until the leeks soften, then add your chopped mushrooms, sauté another 5-8 minutes until your mushrooms begin to soften. Add the Dijon mustard and lemon juice, mix well, then add the vegetable stock and allow it to simmer and develop the flavours. Your lentils should be done, strain and add them to your mushroom/leek mix, mix in well.

Take your cod and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and caraway seeds, make room in your pan and add your cod directly onto the heated pan over medium heat, cook cod for about 4-5 minutes per side or until opaque and flaking. You can cook your cod in a separate pan if you desire, but I’m all about less dishes… remove your cooked cod then dish out desired amount of warm lentil salad into a bowl and top off with cod! There you have it, your own Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad! I hope everyone’s post Long Weekend and intro into a new routine has been lovely, let me know what you think of this recipe! XOXO

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Two In One – Jicama Mexican Slaw & Shrimp Tacos!

Hola on this gorgeous day! You guys, all these recipes keep coming to me after experiencing Mexican cuisine and overwhelming my head (and grocery bill!). I’ve tried and tested quite a few of my recipe creations and this two in one idea of Jicama Mexican slaw turned into shrimp tacos were a home run, I must share with you this deliciousness and bring to your home some Mehicooo influence! A creation fitting for Taco Tuesday I’d say, a fresh Mexican Jicama Mango Slaw with a light Sweet Chili Lime Dressing, which makes for an impeccable base for a darn tasty Shrimp Taco with Jicama Mango Chili Lime Slaw. I love two in one, versatile dishes so darn much, creates two dishes for the week in one preparation, packs well for lunches and a perfect vibrant and light dish for all those upcoming gatherings and BBQ’s!

While in Mexico, every meal, buffet, market, side street served up Jicama (pronounced hee-cama), it is a Mexican root vegetable native to Mexico, a large light brown bulb, after one bite, I couldn’t believe I had been walking past this in the grocery store all my life. Jicama is similar to a turnip of sorts but has a much sweeter flavor, comparable to a mild apple, it has a tough peel which needs to be removed and a gorgeous crisp white flesh. It seriously is such a fresh and tasty snack, usually served simply, sliced into sticks with a dusting of salt, chili powder and a squeeze of lime juice, I had a plate a day! You can find it in almost any grocery store! I love slaws of any variety and had a light bulb moment, Jicama would make a far better slaw base than boring cabbage! Keeping the integrity of the Mexican simplicity in flavors, I brought together Jicama, ripe juicy mango, crisp red pepper, fresh cucumber, sweet carrots and a handful of fragrant cilantro for the slaw, delicious! The fresh Sweet Chili Lime dressing is a simple marinade of lime juice, chili powder, honey, garlic, salt, pepper, avocado oil and diced jalapeno! This Mexican Jicama Mango Slaw is a breeze to make, serve as a side, top with your favorite protein or enjoy my favorite way… shrimp TACO style!

Well, my lovely, spunky spin teacher always reminds me of Taco Tuesdays on Tuesdays and uses it (yells at us) as inspiration to get through a sweaty class… I’ve adapted naturally to this sort of persuasion through food (healthy food!) while dying on the bike. So let’s honor Taco Tuesday and treat ourselves to these well deserved, delicious, Shrimp Tacos with Jicama Mango Chili Lime Slaw. I was chowing down on the slaw one night and then BBQ’ed a skewer of Chili Lime Shrimp and threw it on top, then it dawned on me, why not have fun with my food and create a shrimp taco, lightened up with lettuce as the boat instead of tortilla, how Mexican of me… 🙂 So, I had some gorgeous butter leaf lettuce waiting to be filled with Jicama Mango Slaw, succulent shrimp and topped off with my favorites, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro and red onion. That’s the beauty of tacos, you get to play around with toppings and flavors to create your perfect little taco, mmmm. So simple yet looks like a Mexican fiesta on a plate! All in one preparation, make the slaw as well as extra Sweet Chili Lime Dressing to marinade your shrimp in, dinner under 30 minutes is served!

I hope I’ve inspired you and diversified your kitchen recipes on this Taco Tuesday! Thank you for everyone’s ongoing, incredible support of my creations and the feedback I receive everyday is invaluable. SO, why not make some shrimp tacos for you and the fam tonight! Also, a FYI, my husbands believes that food from the sea is not for him, I made these tacos for him the exact same way but added steak strips with the same Sweet Chili Lime marinade, he said it “was better than Mexico”! Go get your taco on! XOXO

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Mexican Style Chimichurri Grilled Shrimp

Long weekends rock, especially May Long here in Canada, camping commences, spring is in full bloom, and grills are a blazin’! Let’s get grilling my Mexican Style Chimichurri Grilled Shrimp this long weekend, it’s undeniably mouth-watering and freshly inspired by my recent jaunt in cuisine cultivated Mexico! I was exhilarated by Mexico’s vibrant food scene and distinct flavors, the unique market’s, fresh and wholesome produce, beautiful seafood, indigenous spices and ingredients. These items ignited a need to create a sauce that embodied their flavor culture through my eyes!

Everyday, even if it was dining at the resort’s buffet or meandering the streets and restaurants of Mexico and its island’s, I was exposed to their vastness of gorgeous produce as well as perfectly balanced and layered bold spice profiles. It quickly became apparent that seafood is abundant and fresh on the coasts, staples such as corn, beans, rice, avocados, tomatoes, squash and melt in your mouth tropical fruit was plentiful! The variety and multitude of preparation in chilies were inventive and the countless palatable spices had my taste buds dancing with every bite. For me the combination of fresh herbs and avocado over seafood was a combination I couldn’t get enough of, I had to create a sauce that embodied it all!

The concept of a Chimichurri sauce with a Mexican make over was exactly how I wanted to showcase the vibrant and earthy Mexican food culture in a dish. I mean who doesn’t love sauces! Chimichurri is traditionally an Argentinian sauce that pairs well with meats, I decided to amp it up with some Mexican flair.  This Mexican Style Chimichurri sauce is packed with fresh herbs, tangy acids, creamy avocados, spicy jalapeno, it truly compliments pretty much everything you smother it on… trust me, I explored it on many ingredients! From fresh seafood, to vegetables, chicken and steak, this sauce offers a real punch to anything you try it on. I have a major love affair with succulent, sweet shrimp (ask those that watched me mow down on shrimp in Mexico :)) and thought this bold and spicy sauce would pair beautifully well with shrimp, yep, sure did!

You guys, I have literally been basting all my meals in this Mexican Style Chimichurri, the outstanding part of this recipe is it takes no time at all to whip up, it keeps so well in an air tight container and flavors are even more elevated after a few days! It has been keeping my Mexican flavors and cuisine withdrawal symptoms under control I’d say, not to mention makes for a damn tasty and quick meal every time. I simply marinade anything I’m craving (of recent, Mexican Chimichurri eggplant and shrimp was my choice for dinner) in this mucho Mexican Chimichurri and the grill also enhances those flavors, lending a smokey hue!

I hope I delivered a little bit of Mexico to your May long weekend grilling plans, the perfect sauce to pack in that camping cooler! Happy May Long everyone, stay safe and pop those delicious Mexican Style Chimichurri Grilled Shrimp in your mouth! Let me know what you think of the recipe and showcase your creations by tagging your photos on Instagram @apinchofnurse. Watch for a soon to come travel blog post on my recommendations and ventures through Isla Mujeres, Mexico!

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