BetterBody Foods Recipes That Are Nutritious and Delicious

Like many others, I filled my quarantine time with baking goodies, making ice cream, and binge-watching all my streaming subscriptions. However, with school starting in a month, I’ve decided it’s finally time for me to start working out and eating healthy again. Luckily for me, summer is the best time to explore new recipes because many fruits and veggies are fresh and packed with flavor. However, while I am enjoying the best vitamins and nutrients from fresh produce, I also want to be mindful of the ingredients in staples like flour, sugar, oils, and more. By using organic, natural ingredients, I learned that I can make food taste great and still be good for the body.

BetterBody Foods

Online health food store, BetterBody Foods sent me some samples of their products to try, including their Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, Organic Coconut Flour, Virgin Organic Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, and Organic Quinoa. The following contains my genuine experiences and opinions about the products.  

BetterBody Foods was founded by Stephen Richards who saw the devastating consequences of diabetes on his family. He wanted to make healthier food choices with “better for you” ingredients that he could share with his friends, family, and community.

I too wanted to explore how I can transform my everyday cooking into healthier alternatives with BetterBody Foods sustainable and organic products. By choosing to use natural and nutritious ingredients, I was able to still make great tasting food and meet my health goals. 

Breakfast: Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

I typically wake up hungry and ready to eat, so I decided to make a big breakfast of buttermilk blueberry pancakes. Using BetterBody Foods Organic Coconut Flour, Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, and Virgin Organic Coconut Oil, I was very curious as to how these ingredients would affect the taste and texture of the pancakes.

Healthy alternatives that can be a staple in any dish you make!

Pancake Ingredients

Even though the coconut flour created a thicker batter than normal, once cooked, the pancakes came out surprisingly fluffy. The coconut oil added a delicious coconutty flavor that was offset with plump and juicy blueberries I added. The pancakes also had a subtle dried coconut texture, so you know the coconut flour is made from natural ingredients. Finally, the coconut palm sugar has almost half the glycemic index as regular sugar – this means our bodies digest and absorb it more slowly which reduces our risk for diabetes and heart disease. These yummy pancakes are gluten-free and vegetarian friendly. Therefore, we can enjoy them guilt-free!

Crispy, fluffy pancakes that are guilt free too

Fluffy Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients:

  •  2/3 cup light coconut milk, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp BetterBody Foods Organic Coconut Flour, sifted
  •  2 Tbsp BetterBody Foods Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
  •  2/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  •  3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp BetterBody Foods Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • BetterBody Foods Virgin Organic Coconut Oil for frying
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
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Steps 1 – 4

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Steps 5 – 6

Instructions:

  1. To make the buttermilk, mix the apple cider vinegar with the coconut milk and let it sit for a minimum of 5 minutes.
  2.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the sifted coconut flour, coconut palm sugar, tapioca flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut buttermilk, eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Make sure your coconut oil is in a liquid state but still at room temperature. This is very important, otherwise your coconut oil will clump together!
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in small batches into the wet ingredients. Scrape down the sides and make sure that the coconut flour is thoroughly mixed in. The batter will be thick because of the coconut flour.
  5. Heat up your pan at a low/medium heat and add the coconut oil. Pour your batter in and slowly circle the pan to help spread the batter. Drop blueberries on top of the batter.
  6. Once bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, flip and continue to cook until they’re golden brown. Continue until you’ve used all the batter.
  7. Serve with fresh blueberries and maple syrup or honey.

Lunch: Crispy Korean Vegetable Pancakes (Hobak Jeon)

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Homemade Hobak Jeon using Betterbody Foods ingredients

Kimchi, Squash, and Zucchini Korean Pancake

For lunch, I tried my hand at Korean pancakes that I learned how to make from Chef Jiyeon of Heirloom Market BBQ. She partnered with Go Eat Give in a live cooking demonstration during lockdown. You can find the recipe and the recorded video on Go Eat Give’s Facebook page. My first attempt was not particularly successful – my pancakes weren’t crispy and they reeked of vegetable oil. I was on a mission to improve my Korean pancakes!

I knew I had to change my oil. So I replaced the generic vegetable oil with BetterBody Foods Avocado Oil because of its neutral flavor and health benefits. To create a very crispy texture, I had to use a LOT of oil. This makes it even more important to use an oil that is good for you. Since avocado oil is a monounsaturated fat, it can help reduce the bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Next, the oil must be very hot, since we’re pan frying the pancake to make it crispier. Another great benefit of avocado oil is that it has one of the highest smoke points at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, I spread out the batter to make the pancake super thin – this allows the pancake to cook through without burning.

Making each of these changes, I was able to make perfectly crispy Korean pancakes.

Watch as Chef Jiyeon Lee teaches us how to make amazing Korean pancakes!

Dinner: Citrus Quinoa Salad 

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A easy yet healthy meal for anyone to make at home

Fresh Citrus Quinoa Salad

At the start of quarantine, my friends started an old school recipe exchange to inspire ideas for new dishes. Quinoa was a popular ingredient, likely because of its versatility and health benefits. One of the recipes I received was a fresh and healthy citrus quinoa salad, which I wanted to make for dinner.

Since BetterBody Foods Organic Quinoa includes 6g of protein and 11% of the daily value of fiber per serving, I could have a salad that was light yet filling. Here’s a salad recipe, that’s simple and customizable to your personal taste.

Citrus Quinoa Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup BetterBody Foods Organic Quinoa 
  • 3-4 cups of spring mix
  • 3 fresh mandarins, peeled
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing:

  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed mandarin juice
  • 1/3 cup BetterBody Foods Avocado Oil
  • 2-3 tbsp BetterBody Foods Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Sea Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa to remove any residual bitterness. Following BetterBody Foods instructions – combine the quinoa with 1 cup of water, bring it to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until the water is absorbed. This will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Fluff and set it aside to cool.
  2. While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a mason jar. Add the salt and black pepper to your taste. Close the jar and shake to mix the ingredients. Put the dressing in the fridge to cool while you prep the salad.
  3. In a large bowl, add the salad mix to the quinoa. Add the mandarins, pistachios, and feta cheese. Shake the dressing before pouring it over the salad. Add fresh salt and pepper to taste. Keep the salad and dressing separate if you don’t plan on eating the entire salad in one sitting.  

Final Thoughts 

Between diet and exercise, changing what we eat is most important to being healthier. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I never want to sacrifice the taste of my food. But with BetterBody Foods, I was able to make simple substitutions to improve the nutritious value of my meal while still keeping the delicious flavor. Try your hand at creating your own meals with BetterBody Foods or follow them on Instagram to see the fun and healthy recipes they’re cooking up. 

Go Eat Give Recipe Contest With Betterbody Foods

Are you interested in eating healthier and cooking more nutritiously? Go Eat Give is hosting a BetterBody Foods recipe contest from August 1-10, 2020. Tag #GoEatGive in your public Facebook story or post with a photo of a healthy dish you made for a chance to win the following BetterBody Food products:

PBfit Protein Peanut Butter Powder

Oatsome Organic Oat Milk

PBfit Protein Peanut Butter Spread

PBfit Protein Almond Butter Spread

Be sure to be on the lookout for our Facebook announcement of the start of the BetterBody Foods recipe contest! 

~By Melissa Ting, Marketing and Communications Intern at Go Eat Give. Melissa is an MBA student at Georgia Tech. She has a passion for discovering new foods and exploring new countries. 

Varuni Napoli: Take A Slice of Pizza Pie History

Head chef and owner of Varuni Napoli, Luca Varuni

Luca Varuni is a master at his craft. As head chef and owner of Varuni Napoli he swears by the freshest ingredients and uses traditional Italian techniques to create the best Neapolitan pies. Growing up in Naples, Italy, he studied under renowned chef Enzo Coccia, head chef of the only Michelin rated pizzeria in the world. After years of experience, he settled in Atlanta with the goal of showing everyone what real Italian food should taste like.

New Updates

As of June 5, 2020, Varuni Napoli has reopened its Midtown and Krog Street location in Atlanta. While guests can still order through curbside pickup and delivery, limited dine-in seating alongside touchless menus will also be offered. With new spaced seating, plexiglass installations, and sanitizing stations, guests and employees can easily maintain social distancing guidelines while enjoying their Neapolitan pies. To further ensure the health and safety of their customers, Varuni Napoli will also be doing temperature checks and wearing proper protective equipment.

Alongside the new updates, the Midtown location still offers pizza and cannoli kits for the family to appreciate the fresh ingredients and authentic Italian techniques at home. For more information regarding new policies and store hours, check out their Instagram at @varuninapoliatl or their website.

Who should come?

Inside Varuni Napoli you will notice large family-style tables as well as conventional seating for smaller parties with the aim of creating an atmosphere best fit for your desired experience. Don’t be afraid to go alone, sitting at the bar gives you a firsthand experience and a direct view of the chefs at work. Since Varuni Napoli is based on the idea of tradition, we must travel back in time to see where these traditions originated to appreciate how pizza has ended up on our dining table.

Why Pizza?

Pizza has a complex history. Some suggest this dish started in Greece, others say Egypt, but the pizza we are familiar with today, got its start between the late 1700s and early 1800s in Naples, a city filled with the poor and working class.

The majority of the population required a quick and inexpensive meal during the day, before returning to work. Street vendors sold these flatbreads made with different toppings to satisfy the needs of workers. They were not looking for a rich or high quality meal, just a little something to tide them over during the long work hours.

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The History

Raffaele Esposito, the father of modern pizza, serves the most delicious pizzas all across Naples. After Italy was unified, King Umberto and Queen Margherita requested Esposito to make pizzas for them. During the meal, Queen Margherita expressed her delight with the flatbread covered with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes (to represent the three colors of the Italian flag) so much that they named the pizza after Queen Margherita. After approval from the queen, the popularity of pizza grew and expanded beyond the borders of Italy.

Similar to Queen Margherita, Luca Varuni is also passionate about margherita pizza. He says here in this interview, “You can tell the quality and authenticity of a pizza place by the quality and authenticity of the margherita.” He proudly explains that the cheese, sauce and olive oil for his pizzas are all from the region of Naples.

During the late 19th century, many Europeans moved to the United States of America searching for factory jobs where the Neapolitans started family-run pizzerias. Americans couldn’t get enough of this Italian novelty as it spread quickly all over the country. Once pizza made it’s way to the U.S., Gennaro Lombardi opened the first documented pizzeria in New York City in 1905, which still operates today. Though pizza was a simple dish that started as a snack for peasants, it is now devoured by young and old people all over the world. There are hundreds of pizzerias all over the United States, but the Gayot Guide recently named Varuni Napoli as one of the top pizzerias in Atlanta for 2015.

This Country Has the Best Olive Oil & You Didn’t Even Know It!

When you think of good quality olive oils which countries come to mind – Italy or Spain? But did you know Croatia is emerging as the best olive-growing region in the world? Total Croatia News reported that Flos Olei, the first and most respected guide to the best olive oils in the world premiered their 2018 edition where over 500 world producers from 50 countries participated, of which 75 producers were from Istria, the peninsula located at the head of the Adriatic.

Yes, I picked up a bottle of olive oil during my last visit to Croatia!

I was also fortunate to meet one of these award-winning olive oil producers at A Taste of Croatia with Chiavalon Extra Virgin Oil hosted by Drusk Trading Company at Oro Restaurant in Long Island City, NY. The founders of the olive oil company, Tedi and Sandi Chiavalon shared their interesting story with the attendees over fine Croatian food and wine.

Sandi was only 13 years old when he got into his grandfather’s olive groves. After his grandpa passed away, he decided not only to tend to the 50 olive trees left behind, he learned everything there was to learn about olives. He worked odd job and used his savings to buy 100 trees, graduated from the Agricultural Secondary School in Poreč, and enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. As business expanded, his brother joined in and they have over 7,500 olive trees producing more than 20,000 liters of olive oil.

What sets this first generation family-run producer apart is their dedication to quality. They harvest and process the olives the same day and produce certified 100% organic extra virgin olive oil from Istria. In 2016, the World’s Best Olive Oils included Chiavalon among the TOP 25 organic olive oil producers in the world!

“Our great advantage in the production of high quality olive oil. The secret lies in lower temperatures, thanks to which olive trees have a shorter vegetation period and the oil accumulation in its fruit begins later than in southern regions. When summer heat waves strike southern areas, the fruit already contains oil, so the high temperatures cause a considerable decrease in its quality. On the other hand, here in Istria, the accumulation of oil begins after the period of high temperatures has passed and can no longer have a negative effect on oil quality. This results in high quality extra virgin olive oil of an intense flavor and aroma, and elegant notes of various herbs,” say the Chiavalons.

Now to the taste test. How do you tell when a olive oil is good? Just like wine, olive oil has color, flavor and aroma. Good olive oil is generally more green in color than yellow. Take a sip, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. When you push the olive oil to the corner of your mouth, you should taste grass, artichokes or something spicy, bitter and earthy, never sweet. There may be fruity characteristics, nutty, buttery and elegant notes of various herbs.

Good olive oil when paired with the right ingredients, can enhance a dish significantly, as I found out through a 5-course dinner prepared by chef Djani Barbis, a notable NY chef of Croatian descent.


Dishes featured from the Croatian coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia, included seabass tartare with lemon foam, octopus salad, seafood pasta with squid ink, filet mignon with champignon mushrooms, and delicate fruit crepes stuffed with fig-ricotta and wine-walnuts. Each dishes complimented very well with Chiavalons’ world-renowned extra virgin olive oil, and took me back to memories of being in Croatia.

If you can afford to take a trip to wander around the historic city of Zagreb, interact with the friendly locals of Samobar, or drive around the coast near Dubrovnik, then you won’t be disappointed by the scenery or the food! Personally, I will be dreaming of having olive oil, wine and truffles in Istria. In the meantime, click here to order Chiavalon olive oil online.

Tunisian Lunch with Chef Lotfi

Join us for a special Tunisian lunch prepared by Lotfi Chabaane, a Tunisia born chef/ caterer/ consultant. Chabaane was owner of owner of Couscous and Perla Taqueria in Atlanta, chef at Atlantis Restaurant and consultant to Art Smith (former Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef).
Hear about Chef’s life growing up in Tunisia, and his travels around the world. There will also be belly dancing!
Menu includes traditional dishes you would eat at home: omeok hooray (spicy carrots), slata michiya (grilled salad), Tunisian tagine, chicken and vegetable couscous, baklava and mint tea.
Come early & serve the community! We will be putting up a talent show for the elderly residents of Parc at Duluth. Bring your instrument, prepare a song, dance, magic show or any other talent you have to entertain seniors. Best in show will receive prizes 🙂
Volunteers arrive at 11am
Lunch will start at 1pm
Tickets $30 include lunch, entertainment, speaker and donation to Go Eat Give. The event is limited to first 40 attendees.
We thank Chef Lofti and Parc at Duluth for sponsoring this event! Serving families since 2003, Parc at Duluth is the premier lifestyle choice for active seniors. From elegant fine dining in the warm company of friends, to state-of-the-art wellness programs that support vibrant lifestyles, Parc at Duluth affords active seniors the opportunity to live better, now.  At Parc at Duluth we believe, above all, life is meant to be stimulating and enjoyable, and we look forward to welcoming residents who feel the same way.

You Have to Eat and Drink This in Croatia

During the 10 days I spent in Croatia, I ate about 10,000 calories worth of wine, pastries, pasta and seafood per day! I know you are thinking, Where does the food go? I actually walked about 10 miles a day through historic squares, cobblestone streets and parks filled with spring flowers, so everything evened out!

While its hard to include all the delicious things you can find to eat and drink in Croatia, here are my favorites. Trust me, you will not be doing justice to yourself if you leave the country without tasting all of them!

Baby asparagus salad with boiled eggs at O’Zalata Restaurant (now closed) was located inside the walled city in Split. During spring, wild asparagus are found along hillsides and people pick them up while hiking. These are much thinner than what you find in the American supermarkets and have a lovely crunchy texture.

Mushroom soup made with 20 different kinds of mushrooms at Gabreku 1929 Restaurant in Samobor. Named best restaurant in this part of Croatia, the chefs collect mushrooms from all seasons, preserves them, and use them in this amazing soup that is famous in northern Croatia. It is serve with mushroom trumpet powder and pumpkin powder. Even the bread is made fresh daily using local grains and corn.

When I saw people lining up to get a piece of this pie at The Riva (Split waterfront), I had to taste it. Soparnik is a Swiss chard stuffed savory pie and is the most famous speciality of the Dalmatian region. It originated from pizza as a poor man’s food. You can find many street vendors selling their own recipe of soparnik.

The island of Hvar is famous for Peka, which is usually made with veal or lamb and potatoes, cooked under an iron bell filled with charcoal. My hosts, Borivoj and Zeljka Bojanic, who run Konoba Maslina Restaurant in the village of Vrisnik, cooked me a tender grilled octopus peka. It was tender, juicy and so flavorful. I’m sure they got the fresh catch earlier that morning. Even if you are not an octopus fan, this would make you one!

Most tourists stay inside the walled city of Dubrovnik, which can get very crowded specially when cruise ships dock. My guide, Tomi from Viator Travel, drove me to Pelješac peninsula near Dubrovnik, where we took a small boat into the sea accompanied by an oyster and mussel farmer. He picked up oysters straight out of the water, shanked them open, drizzled lemon juice, and handed them over to us. A bit raw and live for my taste, but could it get any fresher than this?

Zagreb has a lot of good restaurants serving Italian, Croatian, Middle Easter, Mediterranean and European cuisines. Though I had many delicious meals in the capital, the best place I ate was Vinodol Restaurant in the heart of downtown Zagreb. The ambiance was beautiful, but the Fuji pasta with fresh black Istrian truffles, and a glass of Istrian wine – were to die for!

Why would you travel to a place to eat fruit? Because it the sweetest organic farm fresh strawberries you can find for really cheap! At Dolac Farmers Market in Zagreb, I bought a pint of giant organic sweet and juicy strawberries for $1.50, and devoured them sitting in the park surrounded by tulips. Heaven!

Croatians make all kinds of homemade brandies (called rakia or raki) using fruits, nuts and honey, often using what’s growing in their own backyards or gardens. These home brews are had at home (before and after dinner) or sold at local farmer’s markets. One of the best raki’s I tasted was at a simple kiosk located in the Craft Square in Varaždin. The lady who produced the honey brandy even raised her own bees for the honey that she used in the brandy. Talk about knowing the source of your food!

Another amazing dinner I had was at the family-owned upmarket Restoran Palatin in Varaždin. The meal was scrumptious, but the icing on the cake (literally speaking) was the Palatin Cake for dessert. The owner told me that  this 6 layers of rich chocolate and chestnuts pastry was a 100-year old family recipe.

No visit to Samobor is complete without Kremšnite or Kremšnita, a local pastry made with cream custard. It is served warm in the northern part of Croatia, and eaten for breakfast and dessert. Sign me up! In fact, many people come to Samobor on the weekends, only to grab a slice of this comfort food.

I also visited many wineries in Hvar and Dubrovnik that are worth visiting. Croatia produces excellent quality red and white wines, my favorite being malvazija (malvasia) from Istria, plavac mali from Dalmatia, and Dingač from Pelješac peninsula.

If you need something to bring back home and remember the flavors of Croatia, food markets and souvenir shops across southern Croatia sell packets of candied dry fruits. Arancini are traditional homemade sweets made with candied figs, orange or almonds, that are crunchy, long lasting and taste amazing with a shot of rakia.

5 Reasons Why I Could Live in the Philippines

What did I like most about the Philippines? Well, a lot of things! Beautiful beaches, quiet islands, fresh fruits, friendly people, to name a few. Each day, I thought about what it would be like to live here and thought about the five most compelling reasons I would want to move to the Philippines.

Mangoes Grow Year Round – Mangoes, undoubtedly, are my favorite fruit. I have been known to eat a lot (record 15 in one sitting)! Growing up in India, I use to anxiously wait for summers when mangoes were available. In the Philippines, there is no one season for growing mangoes. The tropical weather allows good quality production year-round. As a result, you can get fresh mango juice, fruit, yogurt, desserts and anything else you can think of. Dried mangoes from Cebu are world famous and even available in grocery stores across the US.

Coconuts Are Everywhere – Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts in the world. It is a spectacular sight from an airplane to see rolling hills full of coconut trees on many of the islands. Whether you are driving, walking or visiting a home, there’s a pretty good chance you can find a fresh sweet coconut readily available. Coconut water is good for circulation, blood circulation, skin, provides energy, healthy for the heart and helps with weight loss. Where else in the world can you find a superfood for only $0.20?

coconuts in philippinesFilipinos Have The Fountain of Youth – Well, not a fountain as such, but most Filipino look at least 10-20 years younger than they actually are. I asked a few people I met about the reason for their young appearance, and they replied that it was staying happy, always smiling and not stressing too much. “You must exercise your face muscles a lot” one lady told me. In fact, all of the Filipinos I met were very friendly and smiling all the time.

philippines travel

Freshness in Seafood is Redefined – I have turned into a pescetarian over the years and when I walk into a restaurant, my eyes go straight to the seafood section of the menu. In the Philippines, many of the restaurants would display your choices of fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, sea shells, etc. (live in tanks or on ice). You simply pick out what you want and how much of it, and the chef does the rest. I ate the biggest king crab of my life (at 4 pounds), which was still alive when I placed my order.

seafood in manilaBudget Friendly Spas – Self care in the Philippines is a priority. Every mall, hotel and street corner has a spa, and most of them are no frills but offer really good service. Skilled professionals can do deep tissue, Swedish, or a local version of head to toe massage, leaving you totally relaxed. At $20 a massage, you can definitely afford to hit the spa a few times a week.

philippines spasPhilippines is an English speaking country. Even in the most remote places, people speak very good English, which makes it relatively easy to get around and interact with the locals. Other factors that make Philippines an attract place to live include – affordable cost of living, ease of finding domestic help, and year-round tropical weather. There’s also option to live in the bustling western capital of Manila with beautiful waterfront high risers, golf courses, international restaurants, and some of the biggest malls in the world; or at some of the isolated islands where you can enjoy quiet beaches, surf, swim, snorkel, and karaoke with the islanders at night.

 

What to Expect at the Mongolian Dinner Table

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is a huge country with vast open grasslands, mountains and deserts. Harsh cold winters and gusty winds make it difficult to grow much here. Therefore, the nomadic Mongol diet relies mostly on animal products, such as meat, cheese, yogurt and milk.

So what to expect to eat as you travel through Mongolia?

The capital city of Ulaanbaatar (UB) is comparable to any metropolis in Central Asia. Here you will find all sorts of restaurants, cafes, bars and grocery stores. There are traditional Mongolian places, as well as tourist-friendly international restaurants serving American, Russian, Irish, Japanese, and Italian food. Korean cuisine is perhaps the most popular as many Korean tourists visit Mongolia (it is an easy 3 hour direct flight from Seoul). I even found a few Indian/ Hazara restaurants in UB.

Indian food in Mongolia

A visit to the State Department Grocery Store in UB gives a good perspective on the produce that is imported from abroad. There is generally a small section of fresh organic Mongolian produce, which is more expensive than it’s Chinese counterpart. The variety of fruits and vegetables is plentiful, though not as appealing as I am use to. Think overripe bananas, pale red apples, softening grapes. Isles of sausages and cheese from Russia can easily be found. There are plenty of packages food though – cookies, chocolates, nuts, chips – practically everything you can think of. The cooked food section boasts kimchi, fried snacks and noodles, favoring the spicy tastebuds of the locals.

Outside of UB, there are supermarkets selling all of needed essentials. In some of the smaller towns that I visited, the amount of produce diminished significantly. Here street vendors could be found selling freshly harvested green onions, peaches and watermelon.

While staying at luxury tourist ger camps, we were served three meals daily. Breakfast typically consisted of an assortment of bakery items (bread, cakes, pancakes, waffles), cheese, yogurt, cereal, tea, canned fruits and eggs made to order. I don’t think Mongols are very good bakers as most of the cakes were very dry and flavorless. Some of the places only had instant coffee.

breakfast at ger camps

Lunches were generally picnic style as we were out sightseeing at remote areas. The hotel would pack a lunch box – wraps, salads, sandwiches, noodles, etc. that we carried with us.

picnic lunch in Gobi desert

Sometimes we went to traditional Mongolian restaurants, which I really enjoyed. At the 13th Century National Park, we sat on the floor, watched live performances, while eating delicious Khuushuur stuffed with ground beef (and a vegetarian version for me). This is also the most popular thing to eat (like a hot dog) at the Naadam festival.

Modern Nomads in UB is always packed with visitors who want to try traditional Mongolian dishes in the city. Buckets of grilled meats (Khorkhog) along with chilled beer is the perfect campground treat. Strangely they had chewing gum listed as a snack on the menu!

It is important to note that the Mongolian diet consists mainly of meat (beef, horse, goat, sheep, yak, marmot and camel) as it helps retain fat and heat during the long winters. Though vegetarians wouldn’t have survived here in the past, today there are many meat-free options for those traveling through the country.

mongolian bbq

When we were out visiting nomadic camps, we were offered hot milk tea known as Süütei Tsai (made from horse, camel or cow milk), along with local fried cookies, Boortsog and dried cheese, Aaruul. It is customary to accept the offerings from your hosts, even if you are not hungry.

mongolian snacks at Naadam

At dinner, we enjoyed international dishes, such as fresh salad with tomatoes, olives and cheese at Dream Terelj Lodge; pizza at Peace Pub Restaurant; grilled chicken or fish with roasted potatoes or french fries at Dream Gobi Ger Lodge.

All the restaurants served alcohol, beer and wine; vodka being the most popular drink. There are many Mongolian brewed vodkas (many of them named Chinggis) and they are actually very good.

I discovered that there are no Mongolian dessert except for sweet dried fermented cheese, but with the international influence, bakeries have popped up in the city. One that I frequented was Caffe Bene that served gelato, cakes, coffee and juices, and Grand Khaan Irish Pub for drinks and desserts.

Read Mongolian Cuisine Is a Carnivore’s Dream Come True on MilesAway blog.

We’re Bringing the Puerto Rican Food Party to Atlanta

The coast, the mountains, and the home: that is the landscape of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine painted by Atlanta-based renowned Chef, Hector Santiago. Known for his stint on Top Chef, Santiago has made a name for himself through his restaurants Pura Vida, and his most recent foray in the Atlanta food scene, El Super Pan.

INSPIRED BY THE WORLD – El Super Pan boasts traditional dishes from all around the Spanish Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic), some of which have very non-traditional fusion elements from other international cuisines, particularly flavors from East Asia. One would never see pork belly buns, fish sauce, or anchovies in Puerto Rican cuisine, but Santiago is a firm believer in the expansion of what we know about food. He is inspired to create by the fresh ingredients grown in whatever environment he happens to be cooking in.

El Super Pan's pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine
El Super Pan’s pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine

Santiago, along with other Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chefs, Julio Delgado and Andre Gomez, will be planning a menu for Go Eat Give Destination Puerto Rico that provides a true glimpse into the everyday food in Puerto Rico; a real slice of life. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing “run-of-the-mill” about everyday Puerto Rican food. It is full of layers of spices, textures, and strong flavors, because food and eating is such a big part of Puerto Rican culture. Santiago said that when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, cooking at a young age was extremely common, and all of his friends used to come to his house to cook together, laugh, play, and eat. 

Two staples of Puerto Rican cuisine that you will see as a base for just about every Puerto Rican dish are Sofrito and Adobo. Sofrito is a rich mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper that serves as a starting out place for much of Puerto Rican cuisine. Adobo is a complementary mixture of spices that one would be extremely remiss to leave out of their Puerto Rican dish: cumin, corriander, oregano, black pepper, garlic, etc. These spices and vegetable bases make cuisine so flavorful and bold, it’s easy to take for granted. Santiago recalled the first time that he tried oatmeal in the mainland United States, and he thought, “what is this?” “Puerto Ricans hate bland food,” he laughed “at home oatmeal has vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, sugar, a little salt. It’s one of those big differences.”

YEAR-ROUND FOOD FESTIVALS – Santiago explained that there is an immense festival culture in Puerto Rico. There is always something going on and with that, comes the food. He joked, “If you’re not drinking Cerveza in Puerto Rico, you’re probably eating!” There is truly a festival for every occasion on Puerto Rico and for the harvest of every possible staple food you could think of. There are coffee festivals, banana festivals, taro festivals, corn festivals, tomato festivals, orange festivals and more than five different festivals dedicated to crab. Puerto Rico is also a growing home to very large, internationally recognized culinary festivals, like Saborea (savor) where over 70 chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas come together to celebrate the best the country has to offer.  I’m not sure there are many other places in the world where food is SO central and so celebrated–that’s how you know it’s going to be good. 

Bacalaitos--fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack
Bacalaitos–fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack

THE COAST – To start, the chefs will present a taste of the coast. Attendees will taste bacalitos, which are fritters of salted cod. Santiago says bacalaitos are a very traditional Puerto Rican dish, despite the fishes’ natural cold water habitat. They are a food tradition left over from Spanish influence, so they import the cod to keep the tradition alive. There will be a variety of empanadas and alcapurrias. Alcapurrias, unlike empanadas, are made with a batter of mashed root vegetables like plantains and taro, and are often stuffed with fish or crab. This is the food people think of and crave in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico: little, deliciously crunchy, fried seafood snacks that are easy to grab and go.

An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine
An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine

THE MOUNTAINS – For the main courses, Santiago, Gomez, and Delgado will prepare a taste of the mountains, a frequent weekend escape destination for many Puerto Rican families. One of the dishes include Mofongo. Although you will find similar cuisine throughout the Spanish Caribbean, mofongo is thought of as originally Puerto Rican. It features green plantains mashed, fried, and served with crispy pork chops spiced with, of course, adobo and garlic. Pork is a common and celebrated form of protein in Puerto Rico. So, we will also get to taste Lechon Asao, pork slow roasted until the skin is thin and crispy, which will be served with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas).

Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding
Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding

THE CASA – For the final course, we’ll get to taste Puerto Rican desserts commonly served at home such as flan, arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon, coconut and raisins, and a Puerto Rican favorite: papaya con queso. As I was speaking with him, I could tell Santiago clearly favored the latter as he nodded and said, “It’s amazing.”

All of these thoughtfully planned out and expertly prepared dishes, combined with the live music and dancing always present at Puerto Rican food festivals, we are all going to feel as if we are actually there. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazingly rich culture than through a fiesta of food, one of the things it holds most dear. So let’s eat!

GET YOUR TICKETS TO DESTINATION PUERTO RICO TODAY!
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Read more about Hector Santiago and El Super Pan

Read more abut Julio Delgado and JP Atlanta

Read more about Andres Gomez and Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Dine Out for Go Eat Give

Bring your family & friends for an evening of good food and feeling good. Yeah! Burger is going to donate 10% percent of all sales from 6-10PM to your favorite charity, Go Eat Give.

Yeah! Burger – West Midtown prides itself in serving real food with ingredients sourced from local farmers who pride themselves in raising animals that are humanely treated. Make your own burgers, salads and hot dogs. Get a crafty cocktail or High Road Craft Ice Cream ice cream. They also offer gluten-free and vegan options.

Go Eat Give is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness through food, travel and community service.

Top 10 Must Eat Food and Drink in Chile

I have to say, I had very little knowledge of Chilean food before going there. Though Chilean wines have found their fame in international markets, authentic Chilean restaurants are hard to come by. During my two-week trip around Chile with Yampu Tours, I ate at many great hotels, restaurants, and cafes.

One thing I concluded was that chefs in Chile are hugely influenced by European cuisine. Not only do they use French cooking techniques, many focus entire menus on French, Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

The second most popular cuisine in Chile is German, specially in the southern part. In the cities of Fruitillar and Puerto Varas, you can find traditional German bakeries selling all kinds of kuchen, and restaurants specializing in German style sandwiches. There is also the popular Kunstmann brewery in the town of Valdivia, where German settlers arrived first in early 1800’s.

So what exactly is Chilean cuisine?

There are few traditional dishes that the Chilean people still enjoy for casual meals and at home. As a tourist, I felt I had to seek out for these places. Most tour companies feel that they are too rustic to take international visitors to. But what good is visiting another country if you haven’t tried the local food?

  1. Empanadas – Chilean empanadas are 6-8 inch long rectangular doughy pastries, stuffed with mainly beef, onions, raisins, and boiled eggs. These are baked in traditional brick ovens and known as Empanada de Orno. Fried empanadas are also common, and stuffed with cheese or meat. When cooked well, the crust is flaky and crisp, while not too greasy. Try it with ají verde (green chili pepper sauce).

Where to eat empanadas: Marmoni restaurant in Pucon, Quillay outside Santiago.

Chilean empanadas2. Pisco Sour – The Chilean version of pisco sour generally doesn’t contains eggs, due to salmonella contamination. There is some excellent quality pisco that is produced in the northern region of Chile. You can order your pisco sour in different flavors such as mango, pineapple, cucumber-ginger, etc.

Where to drink pisco: Vira Vira Hotel in Pucon. The bartender, Luis Mariano Cerda Monsalve is a well known mixologist who has published his recipe book on cocktails, as well as written about extensively.

3. Sopaipillas – There are two versions of this deep fried bread that is often served as an appetizer. The first one is made with white flour, animal fat and water, and another in which pureed pumpkin is mixed to the dough. In each version, the dough is formed as disks and then deep fried. It can be eaten sweet, with icing sugar or a sweet caramel sauce, or as a salty snack, topped with a chili sauce or mustard.

Where to eat Sopaipillas – Marmoni restaurant in Pucon and Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
 Sopaipillas at Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
4. Cazuela – If there was a national dish of Chile, this would be it! The rustic stew is simmered for hours with chicken or beef broth, corn, rice, potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, green beans. It is served piping hot in a clay pot, and is the best comfort food on a cool evening.
Where to eat Cazuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago is a good place to try authentic Chilean food. It is always packed with locals and they don’t accept reservations.
Casuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago
5. Humitas – Similar to Mexican tamale, Humitas in Chile are prepared with fresh corn, onion, basil, and butter, wrapped in corn husks, and baked or boiled. They can be made savory, sweet, or sweet and sour, served with added sugar, chile pepper, salt, tomato, olive and paprika.
6. Pastel Del Choclo – Chilean version of the Shepherd’s pie, this corn pudding is layered with beef, chicken, whole olives, onions and hard boiled eggs. The dish is delicious but also heavy in calories.
Where to eat Casuela: Galindo Bar Restaurant in Santiago.
Pastel Del Choclo
7. Quinoa – Harvesting quinoa in northern Chile dates back 7,000 years. These protein packed seeds are integral to survival of the Mapuche people. It is still used to make drinks, sides and desserts.
Where to eat quinoa: Awasi Atacama hotel serves a delicious vegetarian quinoa dish with tomato sauce and baby vegetables for lunch.
Quinoa dish at Awasi Atacama
8. Seafood – Chile’s long coastline is abundant with species of fish, mollusks, crustaceans and algae. Local seafood that I tried during the Fall season included abalone, hake, corvina, salmon, reineta, congrio, giant mussels and razor clams. The fish is simply prepared on the grill, with very little seasoning.
Where to eat seafood: Ibis Restaurant in Puerto Varas with a great view overlooking Lake Llanquihue, and Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery.
Locos at Hotel Casona at Matetic Winery
9. Asado – BBQ parties are a favorite pastime of Chileans over the weekends. Friends and families gather in backyards, drinking wine, grilling meats, talking and enjoying the beautiful weather. While beef and pork are common, the Chilean speciality is cordero al palo (whole roast lamb) grilled for 5 hours and accompanied with pebre, a local condiment made from pureed herbs, garlic, and hot peppers; in many ways similar to chimichurri. The dish is typical of southern Chile and is served hot accompanied by salads.
10. Dulce de Leche desserts – My sweet tooth went on a field trip once I discovered the different desserts made with caramel across the town of Pucon. Brazo de Reina is a Swiss cake roll layered with homemade dulce de leche. Torta de Mil Hojas is a Napolean style flaky pastry with a big chunk of dulce de leche. Alfajores are chocolate discs filled with caramel, similar to moon pies. Of course, the Kuchen (German cakes) are amazing too!
Where to eat Dulce desserts: Pasteleria Mamacelia is a hole in the wall bakery next to a gas station, where the locals go to eat empanadas and pastries. Other sit down sweet shops are Suiza Pasteleria and Cassis in Pucon. Winkler Family Kuchenladen in Frutillar is a must stop for German cakes.
Torta Mieloja
This is no way the complete guide to Chilean cuisine. They are just some of the dishes I ate and highly recommend you do it!
Do you have a Chilean recipe you really like? If so, share with our readers below…