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

Inspiralized

BIG NEWS! I officially am the owner of a spiralizer, thanks to my wonderful mother and her willingness to part with hers. SCORE!

Before I move forward I would love to answer that question you’re pondering: Yes, “spiralizer” is a word and no, it is not a special weapon made up in some action-comicbook series. Seriously, Google it. I’ll wait…

See? Good, now back to the spiralizer and all its glory. Ain’t she a beaut?SpiralizedPasta used to be one of my favorite meals. Though, I’m not talking about your average spaghetti and red sauce here… #basic. I’m talking about the what seemed to be endless combinations of delicious sauces, proteins, and vegetables all intertwined with ribbons of wheat & gluten-filled goodness. Mmmm. I was always coming up with new creations when making pasta; plus, it was an easy meal for a college kid to throw together and make a “one-pot wonder meal”.

Now that the pasta days have basically come to an end, I have been hankering to get my hands on one of these spiralizers to make ribbons of veggie pastas. ZOODLES FOR ALL!Ooodles of ZoodlesMy original thought was to dazzle you with a ton of Paleo-friendly spiralized pasta recipes, but then I realized one awesome lady, by the name of Ali, over at Inspiralized.com has an entire BLOG dedicated to all things spiralized. Seriously, look at how mouth-watering some of these photos are:IMG_4282-copy IMG_4477-copy Turnip Noodles

I mean… TURNIP NOODLES? I don’t know that I would have ever thought of that. Dang, she’s good. But wait, there’s more! We need not limit ourselves with pasta over here, friends. I have started to experiment in the chip-department with my regular Sweet Potato Chip recipe, but with using the spiralizer rather than the mandolin. Which, for me, is safer since I my fingers constantly seem to gravitate towards the blade when using a mandolin. Safety, for the win!Spiralized Sweet Potato ChipsSpiralized Sweet Potato ChipsAll this being said, I am super excited to add this gadget to my kitchen and I can’t wait for more recipe-creating opportunities it will bring! Maybe it will inspire you as well to test one of these out!

Do you own a spiralizer? If so, what is your favorite thing to “spiralize”? If not, then what is your favorite go-to kitchen gadget? 🙂

Pumpkin Seeds: Three Ways!

STOP! Wait! Don’t throw out those pumpkin seeds! YES. I’m talking to YOU.

Okay this post may be a tad late after all that pumpkin carving happened over Halloween, but I have been sick for the past two weeks (cold AND flu, yuck) so I fell off the grid for a while. AND NOW I’M BACK: Heerrrreeee’s Victoria!!! So, if you happen to still be scooping out pumpkins during the rest of the fall season, or would like to save this post for next year, here is a delicious healthy snack so you can get more bang for your buck with your pumpkins!Pumpkin Seed SnacksOh, they are just waiting to be all roasted up, seasoned, and snacked on!! 😉

First and foremost, make sure you clean off all your seeds and pull them away from the pulp. Then, wash thoroughly in colander and drain. Finally, dry out your pumpkin seeds. I placed mine on a baking sheet (as pictured above) and let them sit out all Saturday afternoon. Once your seeds have had a nice tan, you can proceed with the recipe. Onward…Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300-degrees.
2. Toss seeds in olive oil.
3. Season to desired taste (pick a blend below!)
4. Toast seeds for 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy! Then, chow down!

Season Blends:
Sweet – cinnamon + coconut sugar
Salty – sea salt
Italian – garlic powder + basilCinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

Sea Salt Pumpkin Seeds

Italian Pumpkin Seeds

You can snack on these alone, sprinkle on salads, or use to top on some creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup for a warm meal on a cool Fall day! Oh just think of the possibilities! How else do you enjoy pumpkin seeds?

Again, sorry for being away for a while. I hope this recipe fills your house with a delicious Autumn scent and your tastebuds are left tingling! Be on the lookout for more recipes and healthy tips with The Thrive Life!

7 Fall Recipes from Paleo Pals

You probably have already heard of some of these incredible Paleo bloggers. If you haven’t, then my oh my are you in for a treat! These marvelous friends have whipped up some delicious Fall-themed recipes that you must try!


I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite Paleo Fall Recipes from my favorite Paleo Pals! Well, I wish were my pals. Maybe one of these days we’ll hang out. Until then I’ll just continue to creep all over their blogs…

1) Pumpkin Waffles from PaleOMGPaleo Pumpkin WafflesOMG is right! I have sampled this recipe on numerous occasions, even during the summer —going against all that is sacred about pumpkins and Fall. But you just can’t get enough of these delicious things! Get on this recipe, people!

2) Pumpkin Cinnamon Muffins from the Civilized CavemanPumpkin Cinnamon MuffinsIf you’re ever lucky enough to run into George, all you need to do is shake his hand and say, “Thank you”. This recipe is out of this world and he should be thanked often for his genius brain that came up with it.
Thank you, George. Thank you.

3) Brussels Sprout Chips from NomNomPaleoBrussel Sprout ChipsFor some reason brussels sprouts freak people out. Now you can eat this lovely in-season vegetable in a non-threatening form: CHIPS. How scary can chips be right? Give brussels sprouts a chance! Eat the chips! Michelle from NomNomPaleo seems like she knows what she’s doing. I’d trust her.

4) Pumpkin Spice Coconut Latte from Cook Eat PaleoPumpkin Spice Coconut LatteStarbucks will no longer own your life during the months of September-November. Finally. ::insert sigh of relief:: Now you can simply foster your PSL-obsession from the comfort of your own home! All is right in the world. Sit down, relax, enjoy a cozy sweater and sip away on your Paleo-approved version of this warm Fall drink!

5) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars by Yours Truly The Thrive LifePaleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie BarsI wonder who the brilliant mind behind this genius-of-a-recipe is. She must be pretty awesome. I’d like to hang out with someone who can come up with a great food item like this one. Seems like the kind of person you could just spend hours with, ya know?
Oh… and the recipe is awesome too.

6) Warm Beet, Kohlrabi and Watercress Salad from Rubies & RadishesBeet SaladBeets are BEAUTIFUL. How about that gorgeous ruby color, eh? This seasonal vegetable is perfect baked into chips, roasted, juiced, or spiralized as shown into a warm, mouth-watering salad.

7) 10 Minute Apple Crisp from Real Food Liz1Paleo-Apple-Crisp_blog1.jpg-e1403484129809Do you have a need for something sweet? Do you have 10-minutes? Liz to the rescue with this 10-Minute Apple Crisp. Apples, cinnamon, and crunchy maple-nut topping. Whoa. You can pass on Grandma’s Famous Apple Pie during Thanksgiving this year and not even feel bad about it.


Do you hear that sound? Yes, your kitchen is calling. It wants you to create one of these recipes ASAP. And I’d listen if I were you. 😉

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars

I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT!!!Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars

I cannot express how happy I am about this recipe. Fall is my favorite food season. As I mentioned earlier, anything pumpkin or apple flavor from September-November and I am all about it. My Pinterest is filled with various pumpkin-cinnamon-apple-spice recipes. Muffins, pies, cookies, bars. Now that I have dramatically shifted my diet. The majority of those recipes are, sadly, off-limits. 😦

Or are they? Well, I was going to find out. Starting with this recipe: Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars. Oh, but that ingredient list! Brown sugar? Butter? All-Purpose FLOUR?! No bueno, folks. What’s a girl to do? Why, MAKE IT PALEO, of course! 🙂Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie BarAnd that is exactly what I did. Not only that, but I got it right on the first try. Oh yeah, check me out.

They are incredibly soft and moist. Full of pumpkin pie flavor. And similar to their original non-Paleo counterpart, they taste even better after the second day after all the flavors have combined more. Enjoy every second of these little beauties as they dance across your taste buds.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars
(makes 12 bars)
Ingredients:

1 15oz-can pumpkin
2 large eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup EnjoyLife mini chocolate chips + 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1/2 cup pack coconut palm sugar, packed
1/2 coconut flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted + extra for greasing
2 tbsp vanilla extract
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a 9″x 11″ with aluminum foil, grease with coconut oil. Set aside.
2. In a large, microwave bowl, melt coconut oil for about 30 seconds on high.
3. Wait a bit so the eggs won’t cook. Then add eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, vanilla, coconut palm sugar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and whisk until smooth.
4. Add coconut flour and still until combined.
5. Stir in 1/2 EnjoyLife mini chocolate chips.
6. Pour batter into pan and smooth lightly with spatula.
7. Evenly sprinkle extra chocolate chips on the top of batter.
8. Bake for 34-35 minutes, or until cooked. Check doneness with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie BarsPaleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars   Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars
Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BarsI truly love Fall recipes. I am so proud of the way these turned out and I hope that I will be able to transform more delicious Fall treats into Paleo-approved delicacies! Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pie Bars


What are your favorite Fall treats? What festive snack should I turn Paleo next?!