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

Sweet Potato + Bacon Hash

The school year is coming to a close, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve always been told that as a first year teacher, your main goal is to survive. “If you finish with your head above the water, you’ve succeeded!” as they say.

Well… I MADE IT! On top of that, I feel confident that I got to show lots of love to my students, aid them in their learning, and challenge them on their way of thinking and doing life. Does this mean I get extra credit?

The downside, however, with “just surviving” the school year is that I let many of my healthy habits slip. Exercise was a nice treat once a week, if I was that lucky. Healthy eating only happened if I meal prepped on Sunday– and if I didn’t? Well, let’s just say the people over at Wawa started saying “See you tomorrow, Victoria!” as I walked out of the store with my usual breakfast order. #whatamidoingwithmylife

Here we are now. I’m getting back on track after falling off the wagon a bit. I might as well celebrate with a new mouth-watering breakfast dish! Which brings us to the star of this post…Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash (serves 3-4)
Ingredients:
– 2 small sweet potatoes
– 1/2 yellow onion (about 2 cups diced)
– 1 green bell pepper
– 3 slices Maverick Ranch Sugar-Free Bacon
– 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp rubbed sage
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakesSweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Directions:
1. Peel sweet potatoes and finely chop. Also, finely chop green bell pepper and yellow onion roughly the same size for more even cooking.
2. Heat 3 tbsp EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in potatoes, onion, and green bell pepper.
3. Add in all spices listed and stir to coat veggies.
4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet to medium heat and cook bacon to desired crispness. Once bacon is to your desired crispness, take off pan and blot extra grease with a paper towel.
5. After the 10 minutes has passed, lower the temperature to medium-low and pat down hash into the skillet. Let it cook for another 5-6 minutes without stirring to allow potatoes to crisp up on one side.
6. Check potatoes for tenderness. If ready, give one last stir and take off heat. Then, chop bacon into similar-sized pieces and sprinkle onto hash.
7. ENJOY!

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Today, I enjoyed my hash topped with scrambled eggs, chopped scallions, a dash of hot sauce, and an extra sprinkle of chopped bacon 😉
Hash & Egg BreakfastSweet Potato & Bacon HashNow if this doesn’t inspire you to a healthy breakfast, then I don’t know what will! The tenderness of sweet potatoes mixed with the salty crunch of bacon will make you rejoice! The best part about this dish too is it’s Whole30 compliant! (As long as you use approved bacon) BAM! Now get cooking–you can have this dish anytime of day! 🙂

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

 

Quick & Easy Whole30 Meal Ideas

See these two lovebirds? They’re my adorable parents…
Everybody say, “Awwwww“.LovebirdsThese two embarked on their first Whole30 today! And now it’s on the Internet Mom & Dad, so you have to stick to it. The people know! My mother asked about some quick & easy Whole30 Approved meal ideas. As I was typing I got to thinking that just maybe this would be of interest to some of you. So, in honor of Bob & Jen… Let’s do it:

Breakfast:
– Scrambled Eggs (3) + Sugar-Free Bacon (3) + Roasted Broccoli
– Breakfast Frittata with assorted veggiesCheery Breakfast– Roasted Hash: sweet potatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, onion, and garlic; roasted in olive oil + Sausage – all chopped and tossed together in a bowl!
Coconut Milk & Chia Seed Pudding (without sweetener) + fresh berries
– Spinach Banana Smoothie: 3 cups spinach + 2 tbsp almond butter + 1/2 cup unsweetened Almond Milk + banana (but eat something else with it!)Strawberry-Banana-Spinach Breakfast Sausage Patties over a bed of Kale + Roasted Sweet Potatoes
– Omelets filled with whatever vegetables you’d like! 🙂
– Egg Cups: Bacon + Egg + Veggies; all baked together in one cupcake pan in just 20 minutesEgg Cups

 Lunch/Dinner:
**I put this category together because I almost always make dinner for two and save the extra for lunch. 2-in-1 meals for the WIN! :)**
– Tilapia + fresh salsa + steamed veggies (TIP: Tilapia takes 5 minutes at 500-degrees in the oven AND you can steam veggies in the microwave.. no excuses)
– Beef Burger over Spinach + slices of Tomato & Onion + Sauteed MushroomsDelicioso– Spaghetti Squash + meatballs + tomato sauce (check the label for sugar)- Taco-seasoned Ground Beef over lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper… instant Taco Salad!
– Applegate Farms Prosciutto wrapped around Apple Slices + small side salad
– “Zoodles” (zuchinni noodles) tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper topped with Grilled Chicken and Diced TomatoesRoasted Veggies & Squash– Hard Boiled Eggs + fresh veggies + handful of almonds or cashews
– Shrimp Kebabs: bell pepper, squash, zucchini, and shrimp coated in olive oil & grilled + squeeze of lime
– Stir Fry: chicken + any veggies + coconut amines + hot sauce; cook in sauté pan and DONE
Lazy Man Plate: protein + veggies + fruit + nut/seed (no cooking required)Lazy Man's Lunch Lettuce Wraps: Romaine Lettuce Leaves + Ground Chicken + Cucumber + Tomato + Balsamic Vinaigrette (check labels)
– Soup in the Crockpot (or anything in the Crockpot, really); just set it and forget it! 😉
French Onion Soup


I hope this helps you in your Whole30 journey! This is by no means an exhausted list, but just an option for you to glance over when you’re short on time and in need of a “real food meal” that’s Whole30 Approved!

For more recipes for Whole30, check out my recipes page for more ideas & tips!

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

 

What I Ate Wednesday #3

Florida was a chilly 48-degrees when I walked out the door this morning. And in the words of one of my Kindergarten students, “Miss Baxter, this is SOOO unusual outside!!” Today was especially delicious due to my meal prep for the night before. Meal prep saves the day! Although, I may or may not have had to eat breakfast in the car due to my lack of desire to pry myself from my warm, toasty bed this morning.

Breakfast: Three scrambled eggs with a side of roasted broccoli and two slices of mouth-watering sugar-free bacon. Not to mention the fresh, tart taste of red raspberries. Mmmm. And it tastes even better in the car… NOT.Egg Breakfast

Tea Time: The chilly weather made me crave some warm Chamomile tea, which tasted lovely. I also paired my hot cup with a festive, Fall-flavored Pumpkin Pie Larabar. This thing is like a Fall party in your mouth people. Get on it!Tea Time Pumpkin Pie Larabar

Lunch: I decided to go Raw today for lunch. I made my own version of Raw Pad Thai filled with Dino kale, broccoli, carrot, green onion, cucumber, red cabbage, and green bell pepper. Plus a Spicy Jalapeño Coconut dressing made from coconut milk, jalapeño, ginger, lime, and green onion, which was all blended to creamy perfection.Raw Pad Thai Raw Pad Thai

A delicious gala apple and GT’s Enlightened Hibiscus Kombucha made this lunch extra special.

Dinner: I actually wasn’t very hungry this evening, so I went really simple. A Tessemae’s Cracked Pepper marinated chicken breast with good ‘ole fresh spinach.Tessamae's Cracked Pepper Chicken


In other news: My roommate and I just signed up for The Color Run – Orlando and we are SUPER excited. We’ll be reppin’ Team DyeHard so the training will be starting ASAP! The Color Run is the self-proclaimed “Happiest 5k On The Planet” and can you see why?!

How AWESOME does THAT look?! Plus, if you’re in the Orlando area and interested in joining our team, let me know! Or if you just want to run the race as an individual, I also would like to let you know that the PROMO CODE: “ORLANDO2” will give you $5-off your race fee! Baller on a budget! 😉

Color Run StrongOh I cannot WAIT for January 31st to arrive! Time to get running!