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< 5 ingredients, Budget, Cleanse, Culture, Detox, fermentation, fermented, Frugal, Herbal Healing, Medicine, sauerkraut, Sides

Raw Sauerkraut, Demystified

Why Make Your Own Raw Sauerkraut?

It’s cheap, relatively easy to make, and somehow since the mid 2000’s it has made hundreds of neo-hippies richer than the average human. One might ask, how did this phenomenon occur? How might cabbage, one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase, become a get-rich-quick scheme? The answer is simple: marketing, copy, and social media strategy. Explaining how that works might devolve into, erm, slightly unfocused and potentially threatening territory–as in, raw sauerkraut companies the world over might come knocking at my door with a cease and desist letter or I could perhaps get “served”, so…let us proceed with how to make the stuff, shall we?
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< 5 ingredients, Blogosphere, Broth, Budget, Cleanse, Culture, Detox

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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Budget, Guatemalan

Vegan Backpacker’s Guide, part 2

Or, how to cook your own food

meal guate 2

So, you’re not keen on making sandwiches with avocado, onion, and tomato on white bread. You know how said bread is made and what ingredients go into it. You know it contains chemical leavening agents in place of eggs, and that it’s dairy free (and therefore vegan). You might also have an awareness of the mutual exclusivity between white bread and paleo.

Whether you’re staying in a hostel or have rented an apartment, or you’re a PeaceCorps volunteer and made arrangements other than a homestay in order to avoid the awkwardness that would ensue when you pass on the soup because it’s cooked with chicken bones; or the breakfast, when it contains eggs bought with the host-family’s hard-earned money or laid by their family hen…

Scenario B

The money you have to live on consists of either a meager stipend or nothing at all. After searching far and wide to secure an apartment or a room in a hostel or hospedaje with a kitchen—with a dependable landlord and rent within your budget, you finally find it and obviously can’t live on your stipend or lack thereof when you spend most of it on rent. Your coworkers, peers, or most people in your age range go out to bars and clubs every night and dine at restaurants that cost 45 Q for an entree.

Your apartment, or the hostel or hospedaje you are staying in, has a stove. The town you are staying in has a market that caters to locals. You can either trek to the market every day to buy the fresh produce you need, or you can supplement it with a few dry goods. Namely, havas aka fava beans. These have 20g protein per serving and are reasonably priced. If they don’t taste delicious at first, you will eventually begin to crave them. When purchased fresh they cook a lot faster, but it’s a good idea to keep a stash of the dried variety at home (or in your backpack when between hostels, apartments, campsites, etc).  You can also buy purple corn, a popular “superfood” among the raw foodist community.  Like dried havas, it’s sold by the pound inside most local markets. When dried, it looks a bit like animal feed—especially when stored in large burlap sacks as it often is. That shouldn’t wig anyone out, however, since most cows are fed corn—as are most dogs and cats that eat commercial food.

But seriously, purple corn is good for you. Just ask Blythe. She loves it. You can also buy quinoa, which I personally don’t love for reasons similar to my general aversion to rice.  However, if you like grain—quinoa is most likely your best bet. Unless you’re gluten intolerant, wheat berries provide a nutritious alternative to rice. Another food considered a “superfood” in the states are cacao beans—also sold in markets in Guatemala with an astronomically lower price tag. Cacao tastes great in a trail mix with cashew nuts—another “superfood” that is sold in the states for $10 a pound. In the local markets of Guatemala, the price per pound is 4 or 5Q (under $1). You can also buy goji berries—another “superfood” in the states, known in other countries as “wolf berries”, for mere pennies when compared to the $20 a pound they sell for in the states.

cooked meal vegan guatemala

Cooking your own food is often possible at your average hostel. However, when traveling though Guatemala for the fourth time, the girl I was traveling with seemed a bit more hardcore than me. I thought I’d seen it all, but she suggested we stay at an hospedaje that looked straight out of a horror film. The room cost about 10Q for both of us, and we slept on a cot in our sleeping bags only to wake up to noises of 10 cockroaches scurrying on the floor. The shower was a definite no-go, since neither of us had “shower shoes” or flip flops, and all of the toilets were clogged. We peed in empty water bottles. The next night, we went to the hostel across the street for 100Q. At this hostel, unlike the previous, we had kitchen access and wifi. In the kitchen, we cooked the havas I’d purchased from a market months ago in a town I can’t recall the name of. I’d nearly forgotten about them, but the fact that I had them eliminated the need for us to trek 10 more miles into the next town to eat. Lesson learned: dried goods are good to have on hand in case of a crisis or otherwise.

havas purple corn

Good things to travel with, in case you stay somewhere with a stove, include:

1.) A metal measuring cup, to double as a drinking glass—from which you can drink a hot beverage or broth without the threat of melted plastic, and use for cooking. Don’t travel with glass, since your backpack will most likely end up strapped atop a bus with questionably-secure rope. Glass can easily break in situations such as this (thereby ruining many important belongings i.e. your laptop). This didn’t actually happen to me, unless you consider nightmares in a parallel universe an alt-reality, if you believe in the existence of alternative universes or dimensions and consider dreams a gateway into them.

2.) A small metal pot with a lid, that you can buy at most markets in Guatemala. The metal is thin, of a similar thickness/texture as the metal measuring cup. You can also buy one in your home country before you leave, but if saving $ is the goal—wait.

3.) A tupperware plate, such as these. If you’re traveling with a partner or a group—one person should carry them because they’re feather-light and stack in a very convenient way. In other words, it’s as easy for one person to carry 4 of them as it would be for 4 people to carry one each in their own individual packs.

4.) A knife, purchased when you land at your first destination. If you take a bus to Mexico en route to central america from the states, you might not need to worry about it being confiscated. I’m not sure. However, if you take something like a Leatherman Juice (which I loved, and nearly fought the security officer at customs to keep) or a swiss army knife, you need to check your bag. It’s ironic, since the first rule of backpacking is to pack less than what would necessitate a checked bag. So, either check your pocket knife or mini multi-tool device in your bag, and deal with baggage claim, or wait until you hit Guatemalan soil and purchase one at the market in the next town.

5.) A fork and spoon, or a spork (one that won’t be taken from you at customs) carved from bamboo, like this one sold by Bambu. Yes, it’s very hippie and was very hyped in 2009 at co-ops in Northern California and Southern Oregon—but it’s also very functional. I can’t hate on it; it was a gift from my former roommate in college. It fits in your pocket and you could even drill a hole in the middle and wear it as a necklace for convenient use. Otherwise, buy a metal fork and spoon at the market when you arrive at the town you plan to stay in. The fork can even double as a tool for self-defense, should you ever need it.

6.) Pepper spray or mace. If Belize is on your backpacking itinerary, a store in Belize City sells it. On a keyring. On my first trip to Mexico for work back in 2009, my then-boyfriend’s close friend gave me her pepper spray keychain as a gesture to keep me safe. Like the Leatherman in 2011, this was also taken from me at customs. When I found a near-identical one filled with bear mace in Belize, I bought it. There was a time, in fact, that I actually needed to use it.

What you don’t need, but might want:

1.) A bowl, made of plastic or metal. I recommend metal, since in most cases you’ll want to eat soup from it. If you really want to minimize—trust me, this is a good idea; less is more when it comes to backpacking—use the metal measuring cup instead. It’s totally versatile, and when you consider the odd shape of a bowl (and curse it each time you attempt to pack your bag) you will later rejoice in the versatility of the metal measuring cup. You will leave your plastic bowl at the hostel or give it to the homeless man on the sidewalk. You will not miss it.

2.) Glassware. If you stay in a place long enough i.e. if you work or volunteer there, you may want a glass or two. Ever wonder about that vintage pyrex your great-grandmother donated to Goodwill in the early ‘90s? It’s in Guatemala. Vendedoras use it to serve their Tang and arroz con chocolate. And as a side note, please: sit down and drink your beverage from pyrex as opposed to accepting a to-go styrofoam glass that will undoubtedly later manifest in the lake or the ocean, or on the streets of Guatemala City.

Vintage pyrex glassware is useful, novel, and more fun than drinking from a metal or plastic cup. Buy one in the market or from a used-appliance store. Can’t find one? Walk past the tourist-ridden main street and venture into the real part of town.

The point is, to cook havas or purple corn (or black beans, pinto beans, red beans, etc., if you so choose) you need only a cheap metal pot of a small size, in which you can pack clothing as well as your metal measuring cup/drinking vessel when en route to your next destination. Don’t buy glass unless it’s cheap and you don’t mind leaving it behind (since it’s likely to break, and could ruin the rest of your luggage i.e. your clothes). A knife is useful, but if bringing one from the states and your mode of transport is by plane—don’t be surprised when the customs officer pulls you aside and asks you to spread the contents of your bag across the surveillance belt.

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Your Grocery Bill & How to Reduce It

paleo vegan shopping

Is a paleo-vegan diet more expensive than a “conventional” vegan diet, or a lacto-vegetarian diet? Is it more financially straining to maintain a vegan or paleo-vegan diet than a lacto-ovo or ovo-vegetarian diet? Even though some people–myself included–don’t consider egg consumption “vegetarian”, I’m including it in the comparison here because many self-proclaimed vegetarians do eat eggs.

While I think it’s common knowledge that protein-rich and nutritious foods i.e. broccoli, or beans purchased in bulk, cost a lot less per pound than any cut of meat above grade D, the argument that “a vegetarian diet is expensive” continues to rear its head in all its irrational and outdated glory. So, this post will include certain rebuttals to that argument.

Moreover, the plethora of “meatless monday”-esque books circulated among mainstream audiences in the recent past e.g. Forks Over Knives and The Omnivore’s Dilemna lead me to believe those books and others of a similar genre at least kind of, sort of turned those readers (or readers of the hype surrounding those books) on to eating less meat and/or caring about where their food comes from. Meat, when raised “humanely” or “grass-fed”, or kept in something other than a cage or stall merely twice its size during its meager and miserable lifespan before slaughter, costs a lot more than broccoli, dried beans, or other vegan protein sources.

For resources and tips on maintaining a paleo-vegan diet without breaking the bank, keep reading.

1. Take advantage of the government

The USDA publishes reports on the cost of vegetables and fruits, per pound, per region, complete with spreadsheets, bar graphs, and pie charts. Here is a PDF of the most current report.

2. Shop with your inner skeptic

Buy in bulk, but do your homework first and think critically. Before buying 4lbs of raw cashews or almonds because they’re “on sale”, look at the cost per ounce. Sometimes sales can be deceiving. Do you typically rely on sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds as your main protein source? Are you drawn in by the $2 off nuts when seeds provide the same nutrients and cost $10 less per pound? Also, sales often happen because a product is nearing its expiration date.

3. Organic isn’t always the the answer

Eating organic is of course ideal, in most cases. I’ve learned, after living in various states and countries, to see the benefit in buying locally-grown vegetables and fruit (even when the farm in question hasn’t received a certification regarding its organic status) as opposed to organic produce from New Zealand sold at high-end, gourmet natural-foods stores in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. that cater to tourists. A local crop sold at the mainstream grocery store, open-air market, or direct from a farm is typically cheaper and fresher, with a significantly lighter carbon footprint.

4. Know what’s in season by month


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, kale, leeks, lemons, oranges, parsnips, rutabagas, tangerines, turnips


artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, pineapples, radishes, rutabagas, turnips


artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, pineapple, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas


apricots, artichokes, asparagus, cherries, lettuce, mangoes, okra, pineapples, radishes, rhubarb, spring peas, strawberries, swiss chard, zucchini


apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, corn, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, swiss chard, watermelon, zucchini


apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, apricots, blueberries, butternut squash, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, mangoes, okra, peaches, peppers plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash, zucchini


acorn squash, apples, beets, butternut squash, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, green beans, lettuce, mangoes, mushrooms, okra, peppers, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes


acorn squash, apples, beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cranberries, grapes, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkin, rutabagas, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, turnips, winter squash


apples, artichokes, avocado, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, chestnuts, cranberries, diakon radish, fennel, guava, kiwi, kumquat, lemon, winter squash


apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cranberries, dates, endive, escarole, fennel, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, leeks, lemoms, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, potatoes, radicchio lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tangerines, turnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash

5. When in doubt, DIY

Hypothetically, let’s say you really enjoyed certain foods as a kid or in the more recent past that you can no longer afford or don’t want to buy on principle because you consider them outrageously expensive. For example, the sprouted almonds that cost $16-$20 per pound, or the plastic containers of Just Peas that cost $17.79 per 8oz container. Raw almonds are easy to sprout, and cost a lot less than $16 a pound i.e. $5. Peas, for example, you can find for less than $1 per pound frozen, at many retailers in the states—and can be easily dehydrated in an oven to mimic the aforementioned Just Peas.

6. Ignore the hype

On the shelves at many mainstream grocery stores exists a vegan “cheese” or faux-meat section stocked with marinated tofu, seitan steaks, tempeh; boca burgers, garden burgers, etc. in addition to a lot of other renditions I assume are up-and-coming and I haven’t heard of yet—and I won’t knock until try. I’m generally of the opinion that pizza doesn’t require cheese or any commercial mock-version of it. From prior experience and attempts at vegan recipe development I learned that nutritional yeast, seeds, lemon juice, and a bit of finesse can make a cheese-like sauce or “cheez” that won’t break the bank—and tastes a lot better than the packaged, store-bought variety. To make your own (while saving $$$) you must bypass the pricy cashews and almonds, even if they’re on sale (see tip #2). Go for seeds instead. They’re cheaper, and nuts aren’t nutritionally superior.

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Brunch, Detox, Main Dishes, Salads, Sides

Thai-inspired Paleo Bowl

This post is inspired by the many Thai restaurants I have dined at in the United States. Of all the options available in those circumstances, I always felt torn between eggplant and peanut-based dishes. Since I’ve had great difficulty finding eggplant lately, I decided to invent a Pad Thai-influenced low-carb dish without the tofu (since it’s not sold in the proximity of my current abode) and obviously without egg or noodles. Green beans aka string beans work swimmingly as a replacement for pasta/noodles in my experience, and kale increases not only nutrition but also adds to the flavor profile of most dishes. I’d write more, but the WiFi isn’t exactly ideal.

thai-paleovegan (2)

Thai-inspired Paleo Bowl


1 cup green beans, stemmed and cut into thirds
1 cup dino kale, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, shelled
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/4 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp maple syrup or sweetener of choice
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 Tbsp thai-style chili garlic sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
thai-paleovegan (1)


Place shelled peanuts into a plastic ziplock bag and crush with the back of a can opener or similar device. Remove from bag and set aside.

Add chopped kale and green beans to a small or medium pot and boil in 3 cups water. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes.

Add crushed peanuts to a wok or skillet with the 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp minced ginger, diced onion, 1 tsp maple syrup, and 1 Tbsp thai chili garlic sauce. Heat for 1 minute on medium, to sauté.

Reduce heat to low. Add 1/4 teaspoon tamari and stir.

Add a portion of the kale/green bean mix to a serving dish. Top with the sauteed peanut/onion mixture. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and lime juice. Serve.

Nutritional Info

Per serving: 100 Calories, 10g Fat, 200mg Potassium, 3g Sugar, 3g Carbs, 3g Fiber, 5g Protein.

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