9 Crazy Things I Ate Around the World

Hello! Hola! Sawatdee-ka! As I am sure you’ve all noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus during the course of this past year. Why, you may ask? I volunteered to take an 11-month long journey to 11 countries to serve in orphanages, villages, and churches. My travels took me from Central America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. This chapter will certainly be one of the most rewarding and heart-transforming of my life.

If you’d like to read more about my travels and epiphanies I experienced, you can check out my other blog here! If, however, you’re more interested in all things strange, traditional, and delicious, then stick around here on The Thrive Life!

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Those coconuts were on those trees behind us about 30-seconds before we drank them. #nowthatisfresh

To kick-off the mouth-watering and mesmerizing array of foods, here’s a fun list of some of the crazier things I ate around the world:

1. FRIED TARANTULA // Siem Reap, Cambodia

12743616_10156562348180525_5798225656330473208_nThis was one of my more surprising foodie adventures. Known for their affinity for creepy crawly delicacies, Cambodia offers various bug cafes where you can push your palate’s limits. Tarantulas, scorpions, and crickets are widely available on the streets of Siem Reap via market stands and carts.

One bite into the tarantula and I was totally freaked out by the eight hairy legs within view.  After a few crunchy bites, it actually proved to be pretty yummy– salty and crunchy, with a slight furry texture.

2. JICARO HORCHATA // San Pedro Sula, Honduras

12346456_941518082608957_5650511031471855666_nIn Honduras, you’ll often find the traditional Horchata made with jicaro seed as the primary ingredient. Our lovely host whipped up a batch of horchata for a birthday party we were attending and the results were as follows, from the words of my friends:

“I feel like I’m drinking a plant.”
“This tastes like we’re sipping on dead leaves”.
“You guys, I just threw mine out the window.”
“Well, I like it.”

A number of things could have gone wrong here. Jicaro is not something I would personally consider delicious, coupled with the fact that our host used water instead of milk, and I don’t think any sweetener was added. I would probably give horchata another try in other circumstances, but I’m with the girl who described it as “dead leaves”.

photo source: beedeephoto

3. SNAILS // Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese SnailsMy lovely Vietnamese friend walked in our hostel with a bag of shells in her hand. It looked like she had just gone shell collecting by the ocean, until she doused them in chili sauce and took a little twig to start pulling out the meaty insides.

As a good Vietnamese friend, she quickly offered my friends and I some snails of our own. The challenge of yanking out the snail, paired with the spicy, salty flavor– I was hooked. Best described as, “They taste pretty oceany.” And the ocean is pretty freaking delicious.

4. SACHA INCHI // Battambang, Cambodia

12715834_10156562224270525_5943915734925880358_oAlso known as the “mountain peanut” from South America, sacha inchi seeds grow on beautiful vines and are now cultivated all over Southeast Asia. As part of our volunteer program, our team spent hours cracking open the shells of these beautiful pods of happiness.

Literally, I had these things stuffed in my pockets, I could not get enough. All day long I dreamt of a day I could smash these seeds down into sacha inchi butter (Is this a thing yet, Internet?!). Smooth, nutty, and creamy, these seeds blew my taste buds’ minds. The only downside: too many = diarrhea. Nosh with caution.

5. FRIED CATERPILLARS // Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean CaterpillarsEven with channelling my inner “Hakuna Matata” and envisioning Simba gobbling down a delicacy of assorted bugs, Disney magic couldn’t help me here. My friend Anna picked up a small bag of fried caterpillars from the market to share with our group.

I stuck to my “you-gotta-try-it-once” policy and went in for the kill. No surprises here; it was as horrible as I imagined. They basically tasted like crunchy, burnt twigs that disintegrated in your mouth. Thanks for trying, Anna.

6. FRUIT ROJAK // Sungai Petani, Malaysia

Malaysian RojakOn return from a day at the waterfalls, our Tamil friend grabbed this Malay treat from a roadside stand. Pineapple, cucumber, green mango were all tossed together with a BBQ-like sauce and topped with crunchy peanuts.

Overall, the dish was pretty tasty and a suitable cool, crunchy snack after a day roaming around nature. We split the dish between the four of us and I could only have a small amount due to the richness of the sauce. This could be a fun dish to try to recreate for a BBQ or pool party!

7. RAPE // Blantyre, Malawi

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“Yes, rape… like the crime.” — My Local Malawian Friend

As odd as it sounds, I could eat rape for days. Rape greens were served to us daily while in Malawi. The best way to describe the taste was like a mild version of kale, or more potent version of spinach.

We had them served steamed with diced tomatoes and onions, and occasionally minced garlic when we were getting fancy. A super easy dish to make and eat. This will be a side dish I try to recreate at home.

photo source: beedeephoto

8. NSHIMA // Lusaka, Zambia

13737523_10157253084290525_8172068603041058735_oPop. Sadza. Nshima. You’ll hear all kinds of names in Africa to describe this cornmeal staple. Often eaten with greens and a protein, you cannot walk too far in a Zambian village without setting your sights on some nshima.

At first glance, I thought it was mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, besides first glance, it’s nothing like our beloved mashed spuds. The amount of sadza, nshima, and nsima I ate ranged from grainy to smooth, and salty to bland. Quite honestly, it didn’t taste much like anything other than the sauce or foods it was paired with. I’m not going to miss this.

9. BALUT // Manila, Philippines

balutBalut is a duck egg with a partially formed fetus inside. It is also EASILY the most horrendous food item to ever make contact with my stomach. We purchased a few at the market and from the outside, it looks completely harmless. Crack it open and suck down the warm, salty broth and you’re still thinking, “Man, this can’t be that bad. That broth was delicious”. Dive into the peeling process, take one bit of that parboiled egg and if the mini duck beak and small hairs don’t freak you out at that point, gobble it up!

It’s one of those, “you-gotta-try-it-once” situations. So, I’m officially on the Been There, Done That team as far as balut goes. #neverforgetneveragain


The amount of incredible foods this world has to offer is outstanding. Trying new foods was one of my favorite ways to experience new people and their cultures. Now, back in the States and there’s a lot of fun food ground to cover! Let’s do it!

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I’m also fairly confident I ate my weight in Pad Thai in Thailand. #noshame

Race Review: The Color Run

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining a group of my friends for the “Happiest 5k on the Planet” — The Color Run!IMG_5393

As described on The Color Run website, this race is “Less about your 10-minute-mile and more about having the time of your life, The Color Run is a five-kilometer, un-timed race in which thousands of participants, or “Color Runners”, are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer.”

The Color Run Graphic

We made it to the start line around 8:15am, which I was a tad worried about since the Race Start was scheduled for 8:30am. However, no worries necessary because since the Color Run is such a large event, they sent off groups of people in waves to run the race.IMG_5399This was my only real dislike about the event. I heard that last year they had sign ups for your Race Start time, but this year it was more “free-flowing”. There were people who were finishing the race by the time we crammed our way up to the Start Line at 9:30am. It felt quite unorganized.

Once the race because we were all quite enthusiastic over the matter. I have run a few races in the past, but there is something special about just getting outside, doing something active (and sparkly) with your friends on a Saturday morning. Sure, you might not be setting any PRs or blowing away the competition with your 7:30 min/mi, but if that’s what you’re going for, you’re missing the unique experience offered by the Color Run. This is about your friends and family joining together for some fitness and FUN.image1The color stations were spread out over the entire course: pink, orange, yellow, blue, and SPARKLEYes, I know sparkle isn’t a color, but it should be. I’m still not 100% positive as to what the concoction is for the color, but we imagined it being something like cornstarch or really fine chalk. (GOOD NEWS: It comes out of clothing really easily. Not so much the glitter, though I didn’t mind!)image2image3The course was jam-packed due to the overwhelming amount of runners/walkers. I loved seeing so many people together laughing, jogging, and enjoying their time along the race. 🙂IMG_5451Once we crossed the Finish Line, we were greeted with a sparkle packet, a color packet, and a Color Run medal! There was a huge party at the end with big color throws, sparkle tosses, and fist-pumpin’ music!image1 (1) Team DyeHard had a BLAST! We crushed the race, doused ourselves in color and glitter, and enjoyed our time together.


definitely recommend this race to anyone who wishes to enjoy an exciting, fun race with their friends and family. If you’re looking for a more solo-running, competitive atmosphere, then you might want to skip this one. However, I encourage you to gather your friends and give it a go.

After all, this truly is the #Happiest5k on the PLANET 🙂
Thank you, Color Run!

Happy [Paleo] Friendsgiving!

Happy FRIENDSgiving!

 My heart is so overjoyed to have spent Saturday evening accompanied by friends, laughs, and gratitude! We had the pleasure of hosting a Friendsgiving event at our home. This meant LOTS of scrumptious foods and desserts to share, so I made sure to add some to the menu that were delicious and nutritious.

Our lovely friends arrived and everyone channeled their “inner Picasso” and drew on little index cards all the things they’re thankful for! Kudos to Austin to thinking of this awesome ideas! 😉Thankful Wall Thankful Wall Thankful Wall

Do I have a creative group of friends or WHAT? 

After a round of games, the turkey was finally done! This, by the way, was the first turkey I have ever cooked so I was truly elated when… “Guys!! The red thing finally popped up! It’s done! And I think it actually looks good too!”Turkey Time

Thank you men for handling it from here...
Thank you men for handling it from here…

There were a variety of foods that friends brought, but again, I made sure to sneak in some healthy Paleo options to share. Let’s start off with a delicious Sweet Potato + Pumpkin Casserole. It’s so good that your friends won’t even miss those marshmallows– well, maybe. It’s worth a shot. 😉Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole

Paleo Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Casserole (serves 9)
Ingredients:
4 large sweet potatoes
1 16-oz can 100% pure pumpkin
3/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 tbsp cinnamon, divided
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp pumpkin spice
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Honey, for drizzling

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees and fill a large pot with water. Chop all the sweet potatoes into large chunks and place in pot. Place the pot on high and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Once finished, remove from heat and strain all the excess water.
2. Return sweet potatoes to pot and add 1 tbsp of olive oil (for dairy-tolerant folks, you may use butter instead). Mash sweet potatoes until smooth. Then, add in your can of pumpkin and mix together thoroughly.
3. Add in pumpkin spice, coconut milk, vanilla, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon to mixture. Mix thoroughly once more. Next, transfer mixture to casserole dish (I used a 9×9 pan).
4. In separate mixing bowl, toss almonds with cocoa powder, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Toss until evenly coated. Garnish the top of casserole with chopped almonds.
5. Finish off your casserole with a drizzle of honey over top of the almonds.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. ENJOY 🙂

Paleo Sweet Potato CasseroleHow is that for a mouth-watering Paleo spin on a classic? Well, we’re not done yet. A fresh salad came to mind while I perused the grocery store on that Fall morning and then it hit me: Dino Kale + Cranberry Chopped Salad. I love when the grocery store inspires you! Also, this gem is Whole30 Compliant!Dino Kale + Cranberry Chopped SaladDino Kale + Cranberry Chopped Salad (serves 8)
Ingredients:
1 bunch Dino kale
3 cups spinach
1 small gala apple
1 green bell pepper
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Coat a oven-safe dish in coconut oil. Place washed cranberries in dish and stick in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, chop up kale, spinach, apple, bell pepper, and walnuts into bite-size pieces. Try to make everything about the same size. Place all ingredients in large bowl.
3. Once cranberries are finished, add them to the bowl. Toss all ingredients together.
4. If desired, add your favorite dressing (I suggest a balsamic) or top with some of that Thanksgiving turkey! EAT UP 🙂

Okay, so my salad is more "layered" than "tossed", but it was all for the photos, people!
Okay, so my salad is more “layered” than “tossed”, but it was all for the photos, people!

Other food items included green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce, and a plethora of desserts. I will admit, I sampled a bit of everything. I will also admit that due to this I had a major sugar-induced headache for the next two days (Is a “food hangover” a thing? Because I think it is). Sometimes you pick your battles and choose to indulge every once in a while. Just choose wisely, then get back on track!

This is the "Remember to Make Wise Choices" Face.
This is the “Remember to Make Wise Choices” Face.

Happy Friendsgiving

I am so thankful to these wonderful people in my life (and those who couldn’t make it too) and I am happy to have celebrated Friendsgiving while sneaking in Paleo recipes at the same time. Thank you all for being my guinea pigs!


Happy Friendsgiving!
Maybe you can try some of these, or be inspired to find more Paleo Thanksgiving dishes for this year’s feast!Give Thanks

 

Fall Flavors: Produce of the Season

Welcome to Fall!
Okay, I’m a little late to the Welcome Wagon, but hurray, its HERE!

In other parts of the world, people are putting on scarves, boots, and sweaters. Florida still thinks its summer, as per usual. In protest, I wore a scarf today, but only made it to 11:30AM till the heat around my neck was causing my skin to melt. Well, at least I tried.Fall ProduceFall is probably my favorite season. This is mostly due to the food situation. Warm ciders and pies. Cozy coffee beverages. Sweet apple & cinnamon scents. Are ya picking up what I’m throwing down?

A new season means NEW PRODUCE! This list includes some incredibly tasty and fresh produce that you can add to your meals  or make them the star for some festive fall flair.Fall Fruits + Veggies from Suja

1. Apples
2. Beets
3. Broccoli
4. Brussel Sprouts
5. Cranberries
6. Figs
7. Pears
8. Pomegranates
9. Pumpkin
10. Squash
11. Spinach
12. Sweet Potatoes

Pumpkin Patch

This is just the short list– Some personal favorites of mine. If you would like a more extensive list, check out what else is in season here. Now head to the kitchen and make those pumpkin waffles, cranberry chutneys, roasted brussel sprouts and figgy puddings before the fall produce is gone! 🙂

Paleo-style, of course!
Paleo-style, of course!

 

Food Adventures: Artichoke + Beet + Starfruit

Artichoke. Check!
Chioggia Beet.
Check!
Starfruit. Double Check!?Funky Produce

Are these the kinds of things on your grocery list? Yeah, me neither. Alas, they somehow made their way into my basket. Something about these foods shouted, “ADVENTURE AWAITS! TRY US!” (What do you mean your food doesn’t talk?! :P) I went for it. I grabbed them and brought them home. My next thought: What in the world do I do with these things?

Artichokes can help lower cholesterol, aid in digestive health & liver function, and act as a cancer preventer. Artichoke BeautyI knew that they were “healthy”, but I always thought of them to be intimating to cook and eat. Turns out, it’s pretty darn simple. Here is a link that gives you a very basic method of how to cook and eat and artichoke. I wanted to do something a little “extra” so I roasted my artichoke with fresh garlic, sea salt, and pepper as recommended by @amazon_ashley. I’ll tell you what– it was easy and tasty! I can see myself buying artichoke when on sale and using it as an interactive snack during a Criminal Minds binge-watching fest an evening cuddled up with a quality read. 😉Roasted Garlic Artichoke

Chioggia Beets are gorgeous. Seriously, will you just look at the inside of this thing? Beet Chip BeforeTalk about not judging a book by its cover… Beautiful pink and white ribbons spiraling through this incredible root. Other variations include sunset orange and yellow rings! Wow! Every time I envision beets I think of the pickled ones in the jar, so picking up a beet without it in this glass container was quite and unusual move for me. I decided beet chips would be an EXCELLENT idea, so I gave this recipe a try from Minimalist Baker. They turned out okay, I think my oven was a little too hot, but I am definitely willing to try it again. I saved a few chunks of my beet to roast with some broccoli and that was amazing– Great flavor from such a beautiful root!Beet Chip After

Starfruit! Oh, how I have been missing out! The StarStarfruit has the texture similar to a grape (you know that slight “crunch”?) and similar flavor to a green apple or pear, depending on its stage of ripeness. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, this gem of a fruit can be eaten completely raw, including its somewhat waxy skin. I thought I would give it a try and I bought two– one for a raw snack and the other to be roasted alongside my roasted sweet apples. Both ways turned out to be awesome; the flavor profile became more rich after roasted. This fruit will be frequenting my shopping basket more often! Plus, it just makes me smile having stars scattered around my plate. 🙂Starlight BreakfastStarfruit Beauty


Have you tried any unique foods recently?
Be on the lookout for more “Food Adventure” posts about the new foods I’m giving a go!