…and then on to Mauritius

After my stay in Madagascar, I moved on to its neighboring island of Mauritius. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to visit a grocery store. It’s really interesting to see what is locally-stocked, whether it’s a different region in the US or a foreign country. I always try the local cuisine, but I also like to shop and cook a meal or two. Last year in Bali, I bought a variety of fresh produce, spices, and freshly-made tempeh (fermented soybean cakes) at a local market in Ubud and took it with me to the coast where I cooked up a typical Balinese meal. It worked out well because the beach areas are much more resorty-type areas, so the restaurant options were limited and pricey.

In addition to trying out new foods, shopping and cooking is a nice break from eating out. I tend to travel for extended periods of time and get a bit tired of eating in restaurants and whatever portable food I have stashed in my backpack. Another plus is that it’s easier to satisfy my food preferences. I love to cook, so I get to try things that might not be on a menu (especially in countries catering specifically to Western tourists). Even when Michael and I travel in the US, we often stay at places with at least partial kitchens where we can eat at a meal or two after stopping at the local markets. For some, cooking during a vacation might not seem like a vacation, but in my opinion it’s worth the trade-off.

A unique fruit (or vegetable?) that’s a cross between a pepper and an apple

On my recent trip to Mauritius, the two places I stayed both had fully-stocked kitchens. It was a nice option after eating out for 2 1/2 weeks in Madagascar. I got to try two different varieties of vegan faux-meats (Schnitzel patties and sausages). Since fish is so important to island countries, I also found a wide variety of analog seafood and tried the vegan lobster. I chose this because I noticed from the first to the second time I was in the supermarket that the stock had reasonably dwindled, which I took to mean it tasted pretty good, and it actually did.

It’s been ages since I’ve eaten lobster, so I can’t guarantee it’s a good imitation, but it was certainly an enjoyable vegan substitute.

I was wishing I had some vegan mayo to make a lobster salad, but alas, that was not something I found. I tried girumon squash that I’d never had before, which was much creamier than firm after baking. I also got to try some veggie dumplings that were quite tasty (and which were a carbohydrate indulgence, but I realized I’d gone two days without a real meal).

My dumpling indulgence

Something I’ve found to be both interesting and consistent when shopping for produce in developing countries is the size of the vegetables and particularly the fruit. Much of the produce marketed in the US and Western Europe comes from larger, agribusiness production that has worked to maximize the yield per acre. Developing countries don’t have the same level of access to technology and inputs, so that produce tends to look closer to something that comes out of a garden. I’m always taken aback when I walk into not just a local weekly produce market, but even a supermarket in a place like Madagascar or Mauritius and see shelves and displays of what I’d consider single-serving size fruit like apples and oranges versus what seem to be verging-on-softball size equivalents at home.

Weekly market with ‘normal’ produce

Of course one of the best parts of traveling to tropical areas is the fresh fruit. Rather than being picked green to ship, await quarantine clearance, then be transported and stocked in the grocery store, eating tree-ripened papaya, guava, or passion fruit is a very different experience in the tropics .

Passion fruit

And I’ve had the opportunity every time I’ve traveled to Africa or Asia to try something unique to these places that, due to lack of international demand/recognition and/or is highly perishable, I wouldn’t have the chance to try otherwise. Most recently, I got to try sweet apple (it’s nothing like an apple, actually), fresh Mauritian olives, and something I didn’t even get an English or French name for, since my hosts only knew the Creole name. It was a cross between a sweet pepper and a tart apple.

Sweet apple

I also got to have a typical lunch. After a trip to the local weekly market for produce with a former student, I was kindly received into his home for lunch with his family.

My gracious host and me enjoying fresh coconut milk

Dhal puri is a yellow-lentil pancake filled with a variety of beans, sauces, chilis, and pickles, and folded sort of like a burrito. Even though each filling has a fairly intense flavor, they come together into a very satisfying combination.

Dhal puri

My favorite thing I tried was achard fruit de cythère pickle. It’s not of the fermented sort like sauerkraut or, well, what we call pickles, but rather Indian-style with fruit and/or vegetables mixed in a ground spice paste. I saw it in the produce section of the store and it resembled tapenade. I thought I’d like it, but I wanted to know what it was, so I asked a fellow local shopper who explained it was ‘little mangos’ in a spicy mix that would be used as a condiment, but not mixed into a dish. At my last grocery stop, I found it jarred and bought some to bring home, but I was sadly (but not too surprisingly) disappointed that it didn’t taste as good. Since I’ve never seen fruit de cythere in any store (even the amazing international food emporium of Jungle Jim’s), I’ll have to settle for the jarred variety since I can’t make it myself.

My very satisfying meal, including the amazing achard on the tiny plate

Even though I generally stick to my usual dietary choices when I travel, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to try something new, even if it means more calories or carbohydrates than usual, though there are two compromises I don’t make. I only eat vegan food and I only buy ethically-sourced chocolate (or else I suffer and go without it if I exhausted my emergency travel supply. After one time where I experienced a stretch without it, I got much better on subsequent trips of learning to ration). Even with these self-imposed restrictions, I don’t feel like I’ve missed the opportunity to experience local cuisines and a variety of unique food products.

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A Smoothie for the Soul


I’m not a fan of smoothies, by my spouse, Michael, sure is. And when I take a big trip, I’m pretty sure he mostly survives on a liquid diet. You have him to thank for this Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie.  This smoothie is a satisfying alternative to the sugar-packed ones you’ll find at the local joint, not to mention a lot less expensive. So for a healthier, wealthier you, check out this recipe.

Michael and I scored when my mom got us the Magic Bullet as a Christmas gift a few years ago. While I use it to make cashew creams and sauces, it gets the biggest work-outs from making smoothies. It’s the perfect size for one or two servings (if you’re so inclined to share with someone). But that’s not the best part: Clean-up is super easy. The mixing cup comes has an attachable handle, so voila!, it doubles as the drinking cup.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie Recipe

Put all of these ingredients, in this order, into a Magic Bullet or blender and blend until it’s the consistency of a thick milkshake. For the Magic Bullet, blend about 40 seconds, scrape down, and blend another 20 seconds. Blending time will vary by appliance.

For the right consistency, you’ll need to freeze almond milk into ice cubes before making this smoothie. I make a tray full and stick the rest in a zip-lock bag for later use.

6 almond milk cubes (150 grams)
½ c. frozen raspberries (70 grams)
12 oz. unsweetened almond milk (350 grams)
½ T. hemp hearts
½ t. stevia
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground dried ginger
½ t. vanilla extract
1 T. cocoa powder, like Equal Exchange cocoa baking powder
½ avocado
2 T. creamy natural peanut butter, like Santa Cruz or Krema
Serves: 1-2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Accommodates: Omnivores, Vegetarians, Vegans, low-carbohydrate, keto, and paleo regimens
Nutritional info: 522 calories, 26 gr. carbohydrates (3.7 gr. of sugar), 40 gr. fat, 15 gr. protein
Without raspberries: 489 calories, 19 gr. carbohydrates (1.2 gr. of sugar), 39.5 gr. fat, 14.25 gr. protein

A Healthy Carrot Cake? Not Impossible!

I remember a carrot cake recipe my mom had from the 1970s. It called for baby food carrots and a cup of oil. One whole cup! Even though I opt for a low-carbohydrate regimen, even I can’t fathom putting that much oil in a recipe! It reminds me of another cake that was popular around that time, the Watergate Cake, so named for the hotel that created it, rather than the scandal. It called for what I think of as a bunch of 1970s ingredients, the era during which every recipe started with some processed ingredient, like canned soup, Velveeta cheese, or (maybe ‘and’ in this case?) crushed saltines. The Watergate Cake included pistachio pudding packets, a cake mix, and 7-Up, along with a cup of oil. I guess that was the standard in those days…

A much more healthful version of the classic cake…

Fast forward to the 2017 when  I found myself wanting something different for dessert. Some voice in my head said ‘carrot cake’ and stuck there until I figured out how to make one. As usual, what would result in thousands of hits for a ‘normal’ person, finding a single recipe from the gazillion bits of information that make up the Internet didn’t yield a match for my admittedly unique combination of dietary choices. So off the kitchen I went with to figure out something to suit my low-carbohydrate, minimally processed, vegan needs.

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Blueberry Crumble Bars Recipe

Blueberry Crumble Bars

One of our favorite desserts at my house is the result of a few different bar recipes and a rugalach cookie recipe I cobbled together. We regularly ate these desserts before we moved to a low-carbohydrate regimen and I was missing them. One day I wanted to make something a bit different than yet another version of the one cake recipe for which I’ve now developed like 7 different varieties, including the Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. Blueberries are fairly low-carbohydrate dense, as fruits go, so I decided to use them for the filling. I’ve never tried other berries, though I’m sure many others would also be good-especially blackberries when they’re in season.

These are good any time of year. Michael heats them a bit and completely covers them in whipped cream. I’m more of a purist and go sans vegan whipped cream (yes, there is such a thing). In the summer, they’d be excellent with ice cream. And they’re really simple to make, despite having to cut the butter into the flour mixture. The bars make a light dessert, so if you’re looking for something a bit heartier, you might want double the recipe and bake them in a 9” x 13” pan.

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National Hot Chocolate Day: Recipe Addendum

In A Visit to Ghana to Make Hot Chocolate , I recounted my tale of surprising Michael at Christmas with a hot chocolate powder he could make anytime he liked. Without using melted chocolate, cocoa powder alone will never make an amazing cup of hot chocolate. Michael loved this gift so much that he ended up going through the container very quickly. He also discovered just as quickly how much he missed having it.

He was so desperate for more that one day he (i.e., my spouse who is about as adept in the kitchen as I am in a wood shop) decided to follow my recipe and make a single serving for himself. He quickly discovered the trials and tribulations of finely grating chocolate, prompting him to immediately and profusely express his gratitude for what he found was a much more valuable gift than he initially realized.

How much do I love chocolate? I gladly would have brought this bag of cocoa beans home with me if it didn’t weigh 50 pounds. I did, however, bring home a small bag that the guys bagging the beans very kindly gave to me.

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A Visit to Ghana for a Hot Chocolate Recipe

If you’re a regular reader, you know by now that we are a chocolate-loving household. So naturally, we also love hot chocolate. But it’s a rare treat for us because commercial hot chocolate mixes are too sweet. When I do make it, the good stuff requires melting chocolate. I don’t drink much besides water and some decaf iced tea that I make, but I appreciate the occasional hot chocolate. Michael, on the other hand, loves it and would drink it every winter day, given the opportunity. Unfortunately, he isn’t too adept in the kitchen and hates to bother me to make this for him.

The best hot chocolate you’ll ever have

A few months ago, I came across a recipe for hot cocoa powder, but dismissed it at the time since it called for loads of sugar and looked like a bit of work. When Michael suggested we exchange Christmas gifts this year, I thought about this recipe. I’d already given away the magazine (and VegNews doesn’t put their recipes online), so after some searching, I pieced together what has proven to be a most enjoyable hot chocolate powder mix so that Michael can easily make it anytime he’d like.

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Time to Break out the Cookie Jar: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Of course I had to make cookies today, since it’s December 18th, National Bake Cookies Day. Here is a cookie recipe I created that combines two of my favorite dessert ingredients: Chocolate and peanut butter. I love to bake cookies, as I mentioned in Is it *Really* Worth It? One of the biggest challenges I faced when moving to a low-carbohydrate diet was finding palatable cookie recipes. I came up with this recipe after trying out a few different types of cookies, then checking out the basics to put together the ingredients I wanted to use.

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Christmas in a Bowl: Quinoa Holiday Pilaf Recipe

A few years ago, I was trying to come up with something festive, yet healthful, to take to a dinner party. I really liked quinoa and wanted to use it as the base, as a change from rice or pasta. Since it was Christmas, I also wanted it to have red and green throughout, so I decided to use fresh cranberries and kale. The guests liked it so much that I have since made it every year for Christmas dinners.

Quinoa pilaf

Festive quinoa pilaf

Since I moved to a low-carbohydrate regimen, I don’t regularly eat quinoa, but I decided to make it for our office holiday party this year. It was a nice treat for me to have some and I made some extra for my friend, Nancy, who so kindly shares her garden grown vegetables with me during the summer.

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Facial Scrub: Or, if you’re my mom, a great topping for toast.

My spouse, Michael, had gone through a phase where he was putting 2 T. of coconut oil in his coffee (you’d have to ask him…). Since we changed to a low-carbohydrate regimen, we also had sugar just sitting in the pantry. Imagine my delight when I came across this recipe in a local grocery circular. (I looked for the recipe on Kroger’s website, but alas, it’s not there. I’m happy I cut it out when I saw it!)

I decided to mix up a batch and it was awesome! It smelled so good and when I used it, my face felt great. The sugar exfoliates while the coconut oil moisturizes. It’s perfect for me because I have dry skin, but it still needs the occasional scrub. I’d made it around Christmas last year, and liked it so much that I gave some as gifts in small pimento jars.

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Facial Scrub

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Facial Scrub

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Almond Joy Cookie Bars Recipe

When I moved to a low-carbohydrate diet, I tried some recipes that called for coconut flour. It seemed like no matter what I made with it–pancakes, cakes, cookies– I was never crazy about the end result. One day I looked for anything that sounded appealing to use up the rest. I came across a recipe for cinnamon raisin cookies. They sounded good, and I figured I’d just substitute nuts for the raisins, so I tried it out. Well, sort of…As I was putting it together, it seemed super bland to me. As I thought about how to salvage it, I got the idea for Almond Joy bars. Now it’s a favorite in our house. Maybe the reason I like this so much is because it only calls for ¼ cup of coconut flour…

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

Sometimes you feel like a nut…

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