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
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Tips for Being a Dinner Guest on a Special Diet

Whether you’re Paleo, or following the Whole30 program, or just trying to stick to healthy eating habits, it can be daunting when someone invites you over and you immediately go into a tizzy about what you’re going to eat and if you’ll be tempted by all the deliciousness that is sure to be available at the party/dinner/bbq/etc. WILL THERE BE CARROT STICKS AVAILABLE?! Ah!Autumn Party

Fear not, friends. You can do this AND enjoy your time with your friends and/or family.
This just calls for a little preparation.

1) Ask the host about the menu.
My lovely friend Lauren, from The Thinking Closet, had our church’s children’s theater team over her house for a fun Fall Party & BBQ. I LOVE seeing the words “BBQ”. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be a plain hot dog, hamburger, or chicken breast available. She included some food details in the invite, so I didn’t need to ask further questions, but don’t feel embarrassed about asking the host if needed. It’s also a great opportunity to sneak in a question about what to bring: “I wanted to know what was being provided so I make something different to bring for our dinner!” See? Not frightening, nor hard.Thrive Life & Thinking Closet

2) If you feel comfortable, tell the host about your dietary restrictions.
This is just if you feel close enough to the host (maybe it’s your mother or your best friend) and you want to just double-check about having something available to munch on. You don’t need to do this, especially because of my next step, but if you feel okay doing so… go for it.Dinner Table

3) Bring a dish to share that you can eat too!
This is a win-win. Not only are you being all courteous and whatnot by bringing a dish to said dinner/bbq/party/whatever, but you also now have provided a healthy addition to the meal that you know, without a doubt, is perfectly suited for your diet. Generous and nutritious, look at you go!

4) BYOC
Seriously. Bring your own chocolate. There is a 99% chance there will be some type of sweet available to you at the party. Most likely cake, brownies, cookies, or cupcakes. There is also a 99% chance that these items are not Paleo-friendly, unless you brought them. Trust me, those stats are all legit. With all that being said, get yourself some Paleo-approved chocolate and use it to satisfy the sweet tooth that is sure to come your way while everyone else is enjoying cake and eating it too. This particular evening Eating Evolved’s Mint Creme Dark Chocolate Coconut Butter Cups were my sidekicks while cupcakes were being consumed by other guests.Mint Creme Coconut Butter Cups5) Be present.
Don’t get consumed with what you can and cannot eat. Enjoy the time with your family and friends! Meet someone new! Get in on the games! Laugh! Talk! Have fun and don’t fix your mind on food. 🙂Party 1 Party 2


Thank you Lauren for having us all over to celebrate the Fall season and enjoy some laughs, great food, and wonderfully entertaining games + conversations!

What are some things you do to stick to your healthy eating habits when enjoying outings & events?

 

Happy National Coffee Day!

If there is free coffee I WILL FIND IT.
And now I will share it with you all!

Happy National Coffee Day!
Here’s where you can get the goods:EXCITED!!

Caribou Coffee
Customers can get FREE SAMPLES of their newly released Amy’s Blend coffee on Monday, September 29. Plus, ten percent of Amy’s Blend purchases through October 31 will be donated to the CancerCares organization.

Dunkin’ Donuts
Guests can walk into any participating Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant across the country and receive a FREE medium cup of Dunkin’ Donuts hot Dark Roast Coffee, with a limit of one per guest. Also, starting September 30 through October 5, customers can purchase a medium cup of Dunkin’ Donuts hot Dark Roast Coffee for the special price of 99-cents.You're Cute

Eight O’ Clock Coffee
Visit Eight O’Clock Coffee’s Facebook page to participate in a Coffee With Friends Scratch & Win game. Enter every hour for a chance to instantly win a coffee & Friends themed prize pack and be entered to win the grand prize – a trip to the Warner Bros. studios in L.A.!

Kangaroo Express
At any Kangaroo Express location, get a hot, fresh cup of Bean Street Coffee for just ONE-CENT between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. One per guest, while supplies last.Productivity

Krispy Kreme
You can get a FREE 12oz cup of Krispy Kreme® House, Decaf or Dark Roast coffee, or treat yourself to a 12oz Mocha, Latte or iced coffee for $1 at participating Krispy Kreme locations.

McDonalds
Guests can get a FREE small McCafé coffee during breakfast hours at participating McDonald’s restaurants.

Addicted?Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Buy 1 bag of Peet’s Coffee and you’ll get your second bag FREE.

Wawa
Sign up here for an emailed Wawa coupon for a FREE 16oz hot coffee.Multiple Cups


And I hope you do get multiple cups of FREE COFFEE today! I mean, after all, this is a celebration, right?! Don’t forget to cash in on these awesome freebies! Enjoy your day and stay caffeinated!

#NationalCoffeeDay

East End Market

Call me Captain Jack because I just found treasure.
That line was disgustingly cheesy, I know, but you need to understand how incredible this place is.East End Market

Rejoice! Calling all foodies, yoga moms, and business men on lunch! Plus, everyone in between. East End Market, located in Audubon Park District in Orlando, Florida, is absolutely a hidden gem.

The Market showcases some of Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists, and chefs. The two-story structure is home to a dozen merchants, a large event space, a demonstration kitchen, an incubator kitchen, offices, retail shops, a full-time, award-winning caterer and a world-class restaurant.

East End Market is not only a hub for local food and culture, but also a community space fostering creativity and collaboration.

Inside the MarketThe entire property was stunning. There seems to be something for everyone: coffee, sushi, smoothies + juices, a bookstore, craft beers, local farm produce, bakery items, floral + plant gifts, and MORE. Seriously, something for everyone!

Of course, I had a few of my own favorites that I would LOVE to share with you all.

Skyebird

SkyebirdSkyebird 2This place was my favorite (with a close runner up). Skyebird captured my attention immediately– the colorful display of produce and teas, the mouth-watering menu, and the fresh atmosphere. I simply had to give it a try. After checking out the menu, and getting a few recommendations, I went with the Skye’s Favorite Smoothie. Skyebird's FavoriteNot only do you get the opportunity to pull up a chair and watch the magic happen, but the beautiful part about the “magic” is that they actually are slicing and dicing the fruits and veggies in front of you! How many smoothie/juice places have you seen that just pull out a container of pre-sliced produce that makes you wonder how long it was sitting there? Now that is fresh. I would also love to add that the adorable glass jar it comes on is your to-go cup! If you bring it back for a refill, you get $0.50-off your drink!All Things DeliciousThe staff was amazingly friendly and happy to help with decision-making, which I often need help with. My smoothie tasted wonderful and from some of the “regulars” I talked to agreed that the menu items were always fresh and delicious. I highly recommend swinging by Skyebird when visiting the East End Market.

Lineage

LineageIf there is good coffee, it will be found. I am a coffee fanatic and as soon as I walked into the market, Lineage was the first place I stopped. Lineage serves all kinds of coffee in various styles: French press, cold brew, pour over, and Chemex. Fresh BrewTheir incredible roasted coffees take on an art form when being brewed. The aroma lures you in as your walk by and begs of you to stay. When you stick around you’ll meet wonderful staff and down amazing brew. Relax and enjoy the experience. ahhhhh. 🙂

 Porch Therapy

Outside PorchSucculentsWhen first arriving to the market, I was greeted by the loveliest of plants and flowers sprinkled throughout the patio area. I noted the signage that indicated Porch Therapy was responsible for the beautiful display and that customers were welcome to pick any plant of their choosing and bring it inside for checkout. The abundant array of plants and flowers were such a colorful greeting into the market and Porch Therapy’s interior was no different. I had a wonderful conversation with the owner, chatting about her business, along with the ins and outs of the market. This place makes my “Top 3 of East End” with ease.Indoor Porch Therapy


East End Market was an experience. I love when places capture all your senses and allow you to enjoy the present moment! This is a place where community gathers, feasts, and learns. Speaking of learning, East End also has fun events and cooking classes for the public, if you’re interested! I highly recommend you check out East End if you’re local. If not, whenever you happen by Orlando and are sick of the theme parks, a stroll over to East End Market will not disappoint!East End Outdoor 2

I hope you find a local gem of your own! And if you have a favorite in Orlando (or anywhere really) leave a comment!

Cheers! 🙂

Whole30 at McDONALDS

Usually, I would recommend keeping McDonalds at bay, but if you find yourself in the situation where everyone in the car wants McDonalds and you lack your bag of snacks, then this post is for you.

I’ll tell you right now: There aren’t many options, but there is somethingAnd we will take something!

Side SaladFood:
[or as I like to call it: The Short List]
– Apple Slices
– Side Salad
– Beef Patty (McDonalds has taken out their fillers, hurray!)

Drinks:
– Minute Maid Apple Juice
– Minute Maid Orange Juice
– Dasani Water (surprise, surprise)
– Unsweetened Iced Tea
– McCafe Hot Coffee, black
– McCafe Iced Coffee, black

Coffee BreakTricky Foods:
[these foods may look like Whole30 or Paleo; but they’re hiding something…]
– Eggs & Egg Whites; contain liquid margarine
– Grilled Chicken; contains sugar & rice starch
Applewood & Canadian Bacon; contains sugar
– 
Sausage; contains sugar, corn syrup & dextrose…geez!
– Pickles; contains food dyes

Stay strong on your Whole30 journey!
See? You can even tackle a McDonalds with ease!