Tag Archives: Peru

Making the most of that morning smoothie…

8 Nov

Since last year, I’ve been training for ½ marathons… This weekend I will run my 4th half-marathon – the Run Like a Diva Half Marathon in San Juan, PR.

Half Marathon Collage

Training for a running event is exciting… and might seem kinda challenging for a vegetarian. People talk soooooo much about the importance of proteins when you’re training for a sporting event. And always, people concentrate on animal-based proteins. That’s all they know!!! I already mentioned a few ideas on the snacks I usually have when I am training to make sure I have the energy, stamina and recover as quickly as possible to continue my training successfully.

Smoothies Mix Ins 2

Something I have learned is to add certain boosters to my morning fruit smoothies… mix-ins that will provide me with protein, energy, strengthen my immune system and keep me injury-free. Some have become fads, some not so much, but I want to share them with all of you and a little of what they can provide:

  •  Maca – Maca is a plant that grows in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. It has been cultivated as a vegetable for the last 3,000 years and most Peruvians consume the root as a boiled or roasted vegetable in soups, just like we eat potatoes or taro root. I use maca in powder form.

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Maca is used for anemia, to increase stamina and athletic performance, to improve memory and fertility. When I learned about this fertility fact I was not too excited, but… oh well, the other benefits outweigh that minor detail. It’s also used for osteoporosis, depression, leukemia, HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, to arouse sexual desire and to boost the immune system. When used in conjunction with a good workout regime you will notice an increase in muscle mass.

Maca is rich in Vitamins B, C and E. It provides calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and many fatty and amino acids. If you are pregnant or lactating you should avoid taking maca. There are no known side effects of maca but like any other supplement it should not be taken in large amounts. I usually add a tablespoon of maca powder to my morning smoothie. It has a peculiar taste… kinda like butterscotch, but mixed in with your favorite smoothie the flavor blends very well.

  • Chia Seeds – Yep… these are the same ones… Chi-chi-chi-chia!!! If you were around in the 80s, you might recognize and even be hearing the jingle in your head right now. They became infamous via the Chia Pets of the past, but nowadays chia is becoming better known as a great health supplement and food.

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Chia seeds are relatives to the mint plant and they’re native to Mexico and Guatemala, suggesting they were a very important food crop for the Aztecs. Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorous, and protein. They are known to help with controlling Type-2 diabetes, fight belly fat, making teeth and bones stronger, improving blood pressure and increasing levels of healthy cholesterol.

I add a tablespoon of chia seeds in my morning smoothies. But I prefer to plan a little in advance… I add the chia seeds to my Magic Bullet mug with a splash of juice. Wait about 15 minutes for the seeds to bloom and form a gelatinous coating. Afterwards, add the rest of your smoothie ingredients. The seeds will bloom… and they’ll either bloom in the mug or around your teeth if you get some of them stuck when you drink your smoothie. So I prefer to bloom before I blend.

 

  • Goji Berries – Berries are good for you… they’re considered like the “fountain of youth” by many. Blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, , cherries, açai berries… they’re all filled with powerful antioxidants. But what’s so special about the goji berry?
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Photo courtesy of http://www.gojigrow.com/

Goji Berries are a bright orange-red and come from China, where they’ve been eaten for generations in the hopes of living longer. People have enjoyed goji berries raw, cooked or dried to treat many common health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and age-related eye problems. It’s also known to benefit mental well-being, promote calmness, athletic performance, happiness, and improve quality of sleep and feelings of good health. Goji berries are rich in Vitamin A.

I also add a tablespoon of Goji berry powder to my morning smoothies.

  • Hemp – You’re thinking it…   so let’s address the pink elephant in the middle of the room.   Hemp seeds come from the same hemp plant renowned for its durable fiber and also it’s a variety of Cannabis, the plant grown for marijuana. This particular variety contains extremely low levels, or none at all, of THC, which is what’s considered a drug in most countries and what give people that “high”. Something very similar to the amount of opium found in poppy seeds. It is not possible to use industrial hemp as a drug.

Hemp is considered one of the world’s most nutritious plants. Hemp contains all of the essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, potassium and fiber. It also contains Vitamin E and antioxidants.

Hemp can be consumed in many packaged products nowadays – hemp milk, ground hemp flour, hemp oil, hemp ice cream and hemp protein powder. I add these hemp hearts in my smoothies too.

I hope that you can appreciate you can supplement your training diet by simply adding a few scoops of these add-ons to your morning smoothies. No need to depend on the eggs or other animal-based protein sources to build muscle and to strengthen physically. I have noticed how I perform better during training and even recover better afterwards when I add these powerful add-ons to my diet.

What has been your experience?? Do you like any of these supplements?? Tell me your story…

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The Vegetarian Professional Jet-Setter Strikes again…

24 Sep

I’m here!!! I’m here!!! I have not fallen off the face of the Earth!!!

The first part of 2013 has been incredible to me… I had the chance to visit so many places – India, Panama, Peru, Miami… those you already knew about. But I just got back from a trip to Spain doing the Camino de Santiago and a week in Paris. Collectively, I think in the first 8 months of 2013, I’ve only been in Puerto Rico for about 3 months total. I told ya once… be careful what you wish for, because just like the Daughtry song says, “you just might get it all… and then some you don’t want”.

Travel 2013 Collage

I have been craving some normalcy… some time at home, by myself to write and share with you all the wonderful experiences I’ve had. But doing 3 spiritual trips in less than 6 months takes a toll on you. My mind has not been in the writing mode. That’s why I’ve been kinda quiet lately. If you follow me on Facebook, at least you’ve gotten a chance to check out some of KarmaFree’s recipes from our archives… But my spiritual guru told me it would be like this for a little while. Trying to get a grasp of normalcy while all the experiences and blessings of all these spiritual trips actually sink in.  Please bear with me…

I’ve already shared with you some things about Peru – what to buy when you visit and my experience drinking Coca Tea in Cusco. I’ve also shared some of the experiences in India – about sugar-coated fennel seeds or the many ways Indians eat their lentils. But I have not had the chance to tell you about the awesome natural treatments we did in Panama, some of the great vegetarian restaurants we went in Peru or some of the delicious recipes I learned while in India. Let me tell you… I got sweets you will looooooooove!!!! You’ll hear about the experience and the recipes in the weeks to come.

Panama Collage

 

You’ll also learn about my experience of walking the Camino de Santiago or St. James Way… If you’ve seen the movie The Way with Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, you know what I am talking about. This was my 3rd trip to Spain and I keep learning so much and discovering this country’s gastronomy has to offer. I will also try to show you how I handled walking 114kms in 5 days on a vegetarian diet!!!

España Trip Collage 2

And Paris!!!! My lovely, lovely Paris!! If I was in Spain, how could I not hop over to visit my beloved Paris?? This time around I went by myself and got to eat and experience some of my old favorites, but also got a taste of some new things I have been meaning to try… like those lovely falafels at L’As du Falafel that everyone raves so much about.

Paris Trip Collage

Thanks for sticking around… thanks for being patient with me. I promise I had all you guys on my mind wherever I was… India, Paris, Spain, Miami, Panama, Peru and even here in my lovely kitchen in Puerto Rico. I will try to make you all feel like you were all there with me…

Bon virtual voyage!!!! Bon Appetit!!!

Coca Tea to avoid altitude sickness…

18 Jul

It’s tradition… it’s what people tell you immediately after you say you’re traveling to see Machu Picchu… so, will you be having coca tea??

As the word says… coca leaves are the raw material to make cocaine. Yep… cocaine, the drug. But coca leaves are also the natural remedy of choice to acclimate to the 11,000 feet above sea level altitude where Cusco resides. For centuries, Peruvians have chewed on coca leaves to help them deal with the side-effects of being so high up in the sky, no pun intended.

Altitude sickness can be very debilitating – headaches, difficulty breathing, disorientation, dizziness, among others. For perspective, you only reach 10,000 when traveling on an airplane. When you’re traveling to Cusco, you need to incorporate some down and easy time to get used to the altitude and not allow it to get the best of you and your trip.

I was not sure if I would have coca tea or not… I’ve never been in the presence of the drug and have no interest in ever trying it. But because of the novelty, and because I did not want to bring down my group my feeling sick on a trip, I gave it a try. This will be the closest I’ll ever be to getting a hit in my life… so let’s enjoy the experience, no??

Coca Tea 2 Collage

 

Coca tea tastes very similar to linden tea. I sweetened it with brown sugar and it was a very enjoyable experience… one that I could certainly get somewhat addicted to. 😉 I only had it twice… as our Guruji told us it really has a substance that hinders your spiritual growth. After we had the experience and acclimated well to the altitude there was really no real need for it anymore.

Coca remedies for altitude sickness come in various presentations – the raw leaves, in traditional tea bags and even in candy form. These are only to be enjoyed in Peru. I do not believe any of these are permitted to bring into the US, for obvious reasons. So this is something that can only be experienced when you visit these parts of the world.

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After a few days, we also learned there is yet another remedy for altitude sickness which is sometimes even more effective, but not as notorious as coca tea… it’s Muña Tea. Muña is an Andean mint leave, very pretty and very fragrant. Cusqueños offer muña tea as a welcome drink to visitors. I had the chance to taste muña tea a few times and it’s a delicious, caffeine-free way to deal with altitude sickness and the cold up in the Cusco mountains.

Te de muña Collage

Have you ever visited Cusco? Have you ever had coca tea? What was your experience?

 

La Gran Fruta – Great fruit franchise in Lima, Peru

15 Jul

I love finding hidden gems… and in Lima, Peru I think there is one.

If you love fruits salads, natural juices and smoothies look no further than La Gran Fruta. They are a fruit based establishment that offer great alternatives for vegetarians. It’s not a vegetarian place, but we had some wonderful breakfasts thanks to them.

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La Gran Fruta offers various sizes of fruit salads, all accompanied by yogurt, granola and honey.

La Gran Fruta - Fruit Salad

Some of us were more adventurous than others. I ordered the largest salad only because I wanted to try a few new fruits I was not familiar with (and hey, I shared with my mom and a few others who also wanted to try):

  • Granadilla – very similar to a passion fruit in texture, but the taste is sweet and not tart like a passion fruit.
  • Chirimoya – very similar to a soursop but much creamier and sweeter. My friends went bonkers for cherimoyas and were seeking them out everywhere we went.
  • Lúcuma – this fruit is very similar in taste and texture to a mamey or sapote. It’s dense in texture and a tad bit grainy. Makes a wonderful juice but I think it would make an even better milkshake or smoothie.

Lucuma Juice

New fruits to me

In this plate you also see soursop… this one I was familiar with, but this one was super tart… in my opinion, it needed a few extra days to fully ripen.

At La Gran Fruta, they not only make awesome fruit salads and juices… they also have these awesome cookies made with only a few ingredients – oatmeal, sugar and fruit pulp. My favorites were the ones made with passion fruit. Imagine a tart and sweet cookie?? I am telling you it’s something to taste to believe… They also have them with apples, figs, mango, strawberry and a combination of several fruits. These cookies are gluten-free and egg-free… perfectly vegetarian!!!!

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Because we went in wintertime, we did not get to try something everyone was recommending – Raspadillas. I am sure this is something very similar to our piraguas, shaved ice doused in pureed fruit pulp. Yum… something definitely to look forward to in the Summer, no?

La Gran Fruta has several locations throughout Lima… check them out if you’re ever in Perú.

Apologies from a vegetarian professional jet-setter…

24 Jun

I want to apologize if you feel I have not been able to share as many recipes as I usually do… I just have been very busy traveling the world in the first half of 2013. I have told you before… be careful what you wish for. I have wished to become a professional jet-setter and the Universe has heard me loud and clear. And even when I may have been inspired to cook and create recipes for you, sometimes the schedule of a traveler, without having a kitchen of my own presents its own set of challenges.

Travel 2013 Collage

This is why in many upcoming posts you’ll get to see the result of some of the traveling I’ve done in the last few months… As you already know a little bit, I went to India in February/March. I’ve been to Florida a few times as well…. For the birth of my little niece, the Miami ½ Marathon and my brother’s in law birthday. Now, I just returned from a trip in Panama and Peru, where I got the chance to fulfill a life-long dream to visit Machu Picchu.

Now that I am planted at home for the next few weeks, you’ll get the chance to do a little virtual travel thru my pictures and posts. A big part of my travels is the flavors of the places I visit. So you’ll get to see some of what I got to enjoy and some recipes I’ve developed inspired by those wonderful dishes. I also will be sharing some of what I brought back with me to remember the trip and to recreate those flavors I enjoyed while visiting.

I hope you get to enjoy it as much as I did… and inspire you to travel the world as well.

Bon voyage and Bon appétit…

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