Beet & Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

beet and red cabbage kraut

Beet & Red Cabbage Sauerkraut especially when paired with avocado is a food often touted in the same respect as cheese *both have probiotic qualities—and since the advent of the raw vegan sauerkraut phoenomenon—both have a veil surrounding them regarding the fallacy of their difficult-to-make-yourself psychological red tape [we think we can’t make it ourselves, or aren’t supposed to]. Continue reading

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Roasted Acorn Squash Seeds

Acorn squash seeds roasted

Roasted Acorn Squash Seeds

Of all the things to look forward to in the Fall/Autumn months, winter squash is high on my list. Butternut, spaghetti squash, pumpkin…the list goes on. One of the best (in my opinion) and most commonly found in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, etc. is acorn squash. Continue reading

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But, Beans Aren’t Paleo!?

fava_beansI’ve recently received a lot of messages and comments regarding how “un-paleo” my recipes are.

Yes, I cook with beans. No, I’m not sorry. Nor do I claim them to be “paleo”, because nothing we eat today is actually paleo as in “things people ate during the paleolithic era”. The concept of a “paleo diet” in popular culture is not informed by anyone familiar with the archaeological record.

Here’s the SparkNotes version:
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Sesame Broccoli with Sautéed Scallions

broccoli with scallionsThis recipe might just win the award for Most Sustainable Paleoveganista Recipe to date. I would call it radical, but then again most of my recipes fall into that category. Continue reading

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How to stay vegan at camp #camplife

I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile now. I’ve spent the past month at a camp for kids as program assistant and manager of the camp store. At the store, campers can spend cash $ or bring $ and hand it over to myself or a counselor/unit leader during registration. Parents can also set up accounts prior to camp, and some campers have $ left over from the previous year or have funds earned via credits earned during the year. The camp shop also accepts credit cards and checks from parents and camp staff. I assume campers could use credit cards and/or checks as well, though most utilize the account system.

After breakfast on the last day of a week at camp, before they return home on the bus or their parents pick them up, campers frequent the camp shop to ask for their account balance and/or receive a refund of $ not spent. Yesterday I panicked because I thought I over-refunded one kid’s account. I remember this because when I informed her of her account balance on the second-to-last day of the session, she made a comment along the lines of “great, then tomorrow I can buy a hamburger when we stop on the way home”. The next day, when this camper asked for her refund, it perplexed me that it amounted to $9. I could have sworn she had $6 left, because I’d associated her hamburger comment with the Carl’s Jr. “six dollar burger” commercials aired on TV in the late ’90s. Later, when I “counted out” for the evening and calculated the sales/factored in the refunds, it appeared that I hadn’t given her 3 extra dollars after all. Who knows, perhaps the price of burgers has risen significantly since 1999. Or maybe the camper in question planned to stop at an overpriced hipster establishment on the ride home. Maybe somewhere in the town nearest to civilization, the irony is thick enough to have one. When the camper said “burger”, she could have meant “kobe beef slider”. Whatever the case, over-refund I did not—so the reason for the prevalence of this experience on my psyche escapes me.

Here I now sit, just outside a mountain town town I practically grew up in due to its significance as a stop along the way toward family vacations every summer. Its familiarity comforts me, I think. I sip coffee with almond milk and a glass of pineapple juice, my lungs rejoicing in the increased availability of oxygen from the lower elevation. I recall last night, and the heirloom tomato I enjoyed with sliced red onion and a glass of “Unruly Red” California red wine. I hadn’t tasted wine in a long time. I now either appreciate it more, or my acceptance of the “wine hype” has waned. I can’t pinpoint this heightened sense of critiquing social norms and things humans in “society” consider fun or recreational, but I must admit I don’t dislike it. Moreover, this feeling or “sense” (which in this context might seem analogous to jadedness) is not new. An important component of my personality, I have repressed and questioned it the more I develop a self-consciousness of “being an adult”, looking back on my gypsy-vagabond life path and serendipitous decision-making. In the past year I have wondered “am I crazy”, thinking of the airstream trailer and 1985 motor home parked in the field behind the house situated between the two radio towers and deemed by my grandmother as a “meth house” (not so, but her statement did not surprise me based on its appearance to the outside world/drivers on the 1-5). Currently I reside in a raised platform tent, on a cot with a mattress and ultralight REI sleeping bag. I use a flannel/canvas sleeping bag underneath it, which helps the plastic “mattress” to not seem as such—and a pillow I picked up at WalMart at the last minute after realizing I’d forgotten the luxurious one my Nana so graciously lent me, despite the frequency of her reminding me to pack it in my car so as to not leave without it in the morning. Sure enough I left without it, an action that I justify to myself daily under the pretense that “sleeping on a WalMart pillow builds character”.

The camp has a salad bar, so my diet consists mostly of sliced black olives, beets, iceberg lettuce/red cabbage/carrot mix and sunflower seeds. On good days it includes broccoli or cauliflower, cucumbers, and sliced onions or tomatoes. Due to dietary needs by gluten-free and vegetarian campers, the weekly menu includes things like vegetable stir-fry, curry, tacos, pizza, and pasta. For me, this means beans on taco night, stir-fry or curry over lettuce minus the rice, marinara over steamed broccoli on pasta night, or a slice of gluten-free thin-crust cheese-less pizza on pizza night. Sometimes the vegan or gluten-free option has nothing to do with the meal served to the majority, and/or involves raisins (strongly dislike) or pecans (allergic). In general, the adaptability of the kitchen staff to accommodate vegans has impressed me thus far. At first it perplexed me that on some days the vegan or gluten-free option contained no protein (usually on pizza or pasta nights), but the availability of sunflower seeds at the salad bar has allowed me to avoid requesting additional “special food” from the kitchen. On certain days the salad bar includes a plastic 9-pan filled with three-bean-salad. In a bowl or a cup filled with hot water from the carafe across the dining hall, the salty-sweet, vinagre-y syrup strains out, leaving only chickpeas, wax beans/string beans, and kidney beans.

*Disclaimer: I love washing dishes. It’s my favorite chore. I’ve also been paid to do it, even at the camp. Something about scraping things I don’t eat from a plastic plate and arranging them in a plastic rack, or rinsing the forks, knives, and spoons and separating them into separate containers and pass through the sanitizer really gives me a zen experience. I don’t think it’s crazy to enjoy certain meaningless tasks. I hate dusting, for example. It mainly bothers me that professions such as dishwashing are stigmatized, and influence social strata among social and work relationships alike.

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Cooking Smart: Brussels Sprouts + Greens

brussels sprouts green kale

One thing you can do to significantly reduce your bill = cook smart. Whether your stove is gas or electric, or if you’re in a tent in the woods with only one match: here’s how you do it.

Object Lesson A: Brussel sprouts and greens
Let’s say you have brussels sprouts and some greens that have wilted slightly and/or would taste much more satisfying cooked. You have a pot to cook in with a lid, and a knife of some sort.

Trim brussels sprouts of any soiled leaves. If you have a knife, chop off the base of the sprouts (which can tend to be dirty).

Boil sprouts in enough water to cover them. Cover with lid to bring water to a boil more quickly. Once the water begins to boil, lift the lid and add a few shakes of salt if you have it. This will help tenderize the sprouts and reduce overall cooking time. Boil covered for 6-12 minutes. If you like them a bit softer, err on the side of 12.

Turn off heat and remove sprouts with a spoon or strainer, leaving the vegetable water in the pot. Immediately throw your greens into the pot. Cover with lid, allowing the heat from the water/vapor to cook the greens. The salt in the water will also tenderize the greens, allowing them to cook quickly and serve while the brussels sprouts are still warm. Serve with the broth/leftover water to warm your insides and to maximize nutrient intake. The brussels sprouts and broth taste taste delicious as is, but also when lightly seasoned with lemon juice and black pepper.

brussels sprouts greens brussels sprouts and kale brussels sprouts and greens

More Cooking Smart recipes to follow…

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Romaine and Cucumber Salad with Pepitas, Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

pumpkin seed romaine cucumber salad
To follow my 5 Salad Dressings ≤ 5 ingredients post, here is a salad ≦ 5. Most ingredients can be found at your average run-of-the-mill grocery store, and the salad as a whole tastes great with my oil-free balsamic vinaigrette.<--more-->
I just now realize how holiday-ish this recipe is. Pumpkin seeds, cranberries…Thanksgiving, anyone? Bookmark it for next fall. Tell your friends.

for the Balsamic Vinaigrette:


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried basil
Juice of 1 meyer lemon

This should make enough for two to three meal-size portions of salad. Ingredients in the salad i.e. dried cranberries and garlic have distinct flavor profiles and are meant to stand out. In other words, excess dressing might throw off the balance.

for the Salad:


1 head romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
2/3 cup shelled pepitas/pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 tsp granulated garlic, or more to taste.

Mix. *Tip: throw all ingredients into a large pyrex container with lid. Cover tightly and shake. Remove lid, add dressing, and shake again. This method works well, and doubles as an arm workout.

*Things to consider: The recipe calls for granulated garlic, not garlic salt. Be sure to observe the difference. Granulated garlic is sold for under $1 per ounce, on the spice rack at Mexican markets or the “Hispanic Foods” section at grocery stores. Look for ajo in 1 or 2 oz plastic packets.

If you buy unsalted pepitas/pumpkin seeds, you might want to add a bit of salt to taste. I used salted pepitas for this recipe, so naturally I didn’t need any extra. To stay on the safe side, avoid the task of determining the perfect ratio. Just provide a salt shaker and everyone can doctor the salad to their liking.

I think this salad is genius, but I’d like to hear other opinions. If you try the recipe, please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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5 Salad Dressing Recipes ≤ 5 ingredients

perfect salad
I’ve traveled a lot, in many situations where access to a blender was nil. Whether it was a motel room with a mini fridge, or a hospedaje with bars on the widows; a hostel dorm with a shared kitchen, a tent, or my car, I’ve managed to make every salad dressing on this list with as little as a pocket knife and a mason jar. That’s not to say they’re simplistic. These recipes can transform something as basic as shredded cabbage into a flavorful and satisfying meal.
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Backpacker’s Guide: Hair Care

cooking-oilWhat’s the best hair product in Guatemala or Mexico? Vegetable oil, hands down.

Usually canola mixed with soybean or sunflower oil, it’s the most commonly sold and works the best. Seriously, forget coconut oil. Before I lived in Mexico for the first time, I was in a staunch raw-food phase and only in the rarest of circumstances would I go so far as to eat steamed vegetables. During that phase I made a lot of raw chocolate with agave nectar (at this point, I had yet to discover stevia).

To make the raw chocolate I used extra virgin coconut oil, which cost something like $13 with my Whole Foods employee discount. I have a distinct memory of attempting to sell coconut oil to a customer when they asked me where to find moisturizer, eye makeup remover, and a natural alternative to the silicone hair serums used at salons. Coconut oil works for all of those things. The body care department manager at the store I worked at stepped in to inform the customer that eye makeup remover, hair serum, and moisturizer are three very different things. Lesson learned. Or not.

I loved working at Whole Foods. I worked there for 6 years, from high school through college. I would have stayed a seasonal employee had transportation complications not prevented me from returning to California to fulfill my shift. Without a doubt, I really loved working there—but this isn’t about that. The point I intend to make concerns the multi-functionality of coconut oil as a body care product, eye-makeup remover, and all-around genius alternative to any hair product I’ve tried. If that sounds cool, just wait. There’s more. When in Mexico, or Guatemala, or anywhere else in the world for that matter: should you happen to come upon the unfortunate realization that your suitcase landed in an entirely different continent much to your inconvenience—take a deep breath. There is no need to fret. If you’re in Latin America, don’t go to the Superama for hair serums and moisturizers. Go to the Superama for canola oil and eucalyptus oil. I would recommend tea tree if you’re in the states, but 70% of my travel experience pertains to Mexico and Guatemala—and I have never found tea tree oil in a Superama. Eucalyptus is similar and slightly milder, but has the same effect on things like acne and has a similar scent. It’s an astringent, that I guarantee will render obselete all of your Proactiv bottles of “toners”, “cleansers” and “pre-cleansers”, or the Proactiv spin-off, X-Out. I know acne can be genetic, or something you can “grow out of” but unless the universe played a significant trick on me when I was 13 I imagine that tea tree (or Eucalyptus) can legitimately cure acne. Unless it was just stopping meat-eating or dairy consumption. I imagine those were also influential factors. Only buy the pure kind, steam-distilled from leaves of the Eucalyptus or Eucalipto tree. It also works as a repellent for most insects, almost as effectively as DEET—minus the threats to your genetic makeup and that of your future children.

Finally: canola, or sunflower, or combonation-vegetable oil (and even safflower oils) literally function just as well as coconut oil, as an eye makeup remover, hair serum, or body moisturizer. The effects of ingesting specific types of oils might have differences among them, but in terms of hair care and body care–trust me. Anything sold as an “edible” oil or otherwise sold for food with the word “vegetable” in the title will work perfectly. I can see how this might seem sarcastic, but trust me. It’s not.

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Backpacker’s Guide to Guatemala: Hydration


To stay hydrated when backpacking in Guatemala, think like a local. In most municipal towns, you will find a central park or square with large tubs of free agua potable (filtered water suitable for drinking) from which you can fill your water bottle. When you run into situations that deny access to a source of free water, you have a few options.

Bags of Agua Potable

For less than 1Q or 50 cents USD, you can generally find purified water in 12oz plastic bags. If you lack a water bottle or container to pour it into, bite a small hole in the corner and drink it the way the locals do. To be safe re: avoiding germs, use a bit of rubbing alcohol to sanitize the bag beforehand. A 2oz container of rubbing alcohol is always ideal to have on hand, in cases such as this and also as part of the mini first-aid kit you should carry with you at all times.

Portable Water Filter

I carried a portable water filter while backpacking in Ecuador, but found I didn’t need it. In Ecuador they treat the tap water with iodine, which makes it safe to drink. In Guatemala, I’m fairly certain my travel companion brought one. However, I never used it and I don’t think he did either; from prior experience backpacking through Latin America we learned that tap water, when boiled, is perfectly safe to drink. That aside, when I researched water filters in 2010 in preparation for Ecuador, I found limited options in terms of portability and convenience. Five years later, the google search results instantaneously pointed to the LifeStraw, which boasts that it allows you to procure drinking water from “virtually any source” without the aftertaste characteristic of other portable filters. Also, for every LifeStraw water filter sold, a child in Africa receives clean water for an entire school year.

Iodine Tablets

You can buy these in Guatemala, but they’re not very expensive in the states i.e. at REI or online. It’s never a bad idea to have some on hand, should you run into a sticky situation e.g. you arrive at a border crossing and can barely speak to the guard because you’re parched, having run out of water—and with no tiendas in sight, all you have to work with is the questionable cup of tap water offered to you so you can speak up and explain that it is you in the passport photo, despite the fact that your signature has changed significantly since you were 16 and you are now blonde with a very short haircut as opposed to a brunette with dreads.

Clearly, brands other than Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets exist. I have thorough experience with this brand however, and endorse it over other brands I’ve tried.

Boiled Water

Boiling is the safest, most tried and true method of water purification. Buy a lightweight metal pot from an open-air market in Guatemala, and carry it with you when you travel. Keep the iodine tablets on hand for times when you don’t have access to a stove or flame. If you’re in the highlands and it’s freezing, and you spot a woman selling a hot beverage reminiscent of water—typically a very weak coffee with sugar or panela—drink it. It’s boiled to a temperature high enough to melt the sugarcane. It’s purified liquid that will hydrate you, so be prepared to bite the bullet and ingest some sugar. If made traditionally, the sugar is pure sugarcane juice added to water. When you find yourself in a situation like this, without the convenience of tiendas and with a crowd of angry locals behind you screaming in Spanish to the guard that you’re a imposing tourist wasting their time…as you collect yourself, nervously awaiting a sentence of 5-10 in a Mexican prison, the dietary consequences of boiled panela water will seem insignificant.

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