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Dominican Republic (DR) Chronicles 2019: Food

For my blog readers, my son, Caleb and I are finally on our mission trip in Santiago, DR. We arrived in the middle of the night to the Mission of Hope (MOH) Santiago Campus Sunday morning, June 2. I’ll be blogging about this experience while I can on the trip and for the next several weeks. I’ve shared pictures on my Facebook page, but I really want to unpack this experience through blogging. Update: This is the only blog post I’ve managed to type thus far. I intended to post more, but I think several things are at play: I’ve been more tired than usual, been getting settled into my normal routine, and still mentally and spiritually processing this trip.

This particular post is focused on the food. These almond butter packets I brought have saved me to a point.

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At the time that I posted this, I only had one left. So what have we been eating? Well, we’ve been roughing it, for sure, at least Caleb and I think so. MOH has many interns and most of them appear 19-25ish. They’re pretty thin and may not mind the food. Our mission group has a range of ages. I was worried about what the food would be on because I eat pretty healthy at home. We were allowed to bring our own snacks, so I brought a bunch of healthy items: Kashi cereal & cereal bars, kind bars, pistachios, organic applesauce, dried fruits, green energy packets & electrolytes, organic soups, peanut butter packets. I only ate a fraction of what I brought (electrolytes, pistachios, dried fruits, peanut butter packets) and ended up donating the remainder to the MOH interns and staff.

As a church group, we brought on the flight with us some items from the states since it would be cheaper: Peanut butter, jelly, cereal, powdered milk, condiments, etc. For every meal, there have been ample carbs. For example: white bread for sandwiches & macaroni salad. Dinner usually entailed rice and more bread. Neither Caleb nor I are particularly like sandwiches, but we’ve been making it work. Caleb was really hungry on the second or third day when he realized we would be eating the same foods and he said, “I’m going to have to make this work”. He made a macaroni salad SANDWICH!

Dinners was made by Haitian and Dominican cooks.

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Beef stew with rice/beans and cake

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Stewed chicken and peas with not just white rice, but also graten, which is a delicacy! Strawberry cake on the side.

Each night featured a different meal…all tasty. The pictures do not give the food justice. Although he acknowledged it was good, Caleb wasn’t too impressed because I make Haitian food at home along with many other types of food. I think he thought he was going to eat something he never had previously. I’m thankful that my mom taught me how to cook, even though I vividly remember not wanting to learn. I get to share that part of my heritage with my family.

One of the Haitian cooks has been working with MOH Haiti for a while. Her brother was sponsored by the organizer at our church for some years, then he was sponsored to attend college by someone else. He’s since graduated college. I introduced myself to her as she was serving our food, but hope to have a good conversation with her before I leave. Update: I didn’t get a chance to have a conversation with her with all of our activities. I hope we cross paths again one day….perhaps on another mission trip?

I didn’t eat much breakfast. I embraced my almond butter sandwiches for lunch, but I’ve especially looked forward to dinner. I’m surprised we’ve had fresh salads most evenings. I was told in Haiti there is rarely fresh greens so this is a treat. We’ve also had cake the last 2 nights. Our team lead managed to get us some avocados. They were huge. We also had mangos as there were several mango trees on the property where we stayed. It’s not everyday that I eat fruit that falls off a tree. I do remember growing up in Chicago, my aunt and uncle had a pear tree on their property. The pears never seemed to be ripe, even after they had fallen.

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Avocado

This trip isn’t about me having all the comfortable, familiar foods I want when I want it. It’s about sacrifice and service, so I can deal for a week. Speaking of service, each group was assigned dish duty, which we participated in as a group. Also, Friday was beach day and we got to eat some local food as noted in the cover photo: fried red snapper, rice, beans and plantains (not pictured). It was so good! My impression is that Dominican food is just about the same as Haitian food. Rice and beans, plantains, and protein. More stories to come from this experience.

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Glowed Up

It’s been 13 days since I’ve been on a vegan journey and it’s been amazing. I’m all GLOWED UP from the inside out and I want to tell everybody about it. I started to type that “no, I’m not going to be a vegan for the long haul”, but that’s mostly because the whiff of french fries and broiled steak still gets my mouth-watering and stomach churning.  I’m more than half way through this cleanse. When the 21 days is over, I may very well decide that I’m a convert. I’ve definitely entertained the idea of becoming a vegan. However, this has been a lot of work. It’s a commitment to better eating habits. It’s a commitment to myself. 

I’ve been on the fence about doing this particular cleanse, Fresh Start 21, Spring Edition, partly because I’ve completed 2 and started a 3rd one with Simple Green Smoothies earlier this year.  I completed Simple 7 and Thrive: 7-Day Reset. I attempted Fresh Start 21 (fall edition) back in February 2017, but at 5 days in, my dear friend took me on a weekend spa adventure. The great recipes in the Thrive cleanse opened my eyes to the vegan possibilities. I didn’t know vegan food could be so filling, delicious and creative. In addition to the cleanse guide which included a meal calendar, a shopping list and the recipes for smoothies, snack, and meals, there was a very supportive, Facebook Live group – the icing on the cake. It was so helpful to read daily posts from participants from all over the world. To know that I wasn’t alone was comforting and encouraging. It was a fun experience, which is why I was very interested in joining the most updated Fresh Start cleanse. The format is very similar to the Thrive 7-Day reset.

So why did I need a Fresh Start? I’ve been wanting to kick my sugar habit for a while now and my bout with breast cancer was good motivation. The main reasons why I wanted to do the cleanse was to develop the habit of being more deliberate about food choices, gain more energy and focus, to feel lighter, kick the sugar habit, and lose a few pounds. I’ve been open to learning new recipes and incorporating more whole foods into my diet.  Most people in my circle know that I’m all about green smoothies, but I wanted to go further. I frequently post pictures on my Facebook page of green smoothies and healthy ingredients/meals.  I even wrote a blog post about my love for green smoothies (you can read about it here). I attempted to do Fresh Start Fall Edition on my own in early February, and as I typed earlier, I got through 5 of 21 days. I had been receiving emails about the Fresh Start Spring Edition, so it was on my mind.

What led me to ultimately take the challenge was that I knew the Live Facebook group would be supportive, and let me tell me you, it’s been amazing. I’ve enjoyed communicating with fellow Rawkstars (cleansers) from around the world. The orchestrator and co-founder of the Simple Green Smoothies movement, Jen Hansard, and the recipe creator, Lindsey Johnson, communicate with us frequently by answering questions, offering tips and encouragement, and checking in to see how we’re doing. It’s been entertaining and refreshing to see how honest folks are as we complete the cleanse.

Fresh Start: Spring Cleanse

Fresh Start: Spring Cleanse

So how am I doing on the cleanse? The first week was the honeymoon phase. The recipes were great and filling. I wasn’t hungry during that week at all. It was exciting communicating with other cleansers. The prep was grueling, but I soon found out how helpful the prep actually is during the week, especially as a busy working mom. What I like about this plan is the flexibility to move snacks & meals around and rotate the ones you really like into your schedule. 

The second week (which I’m in now) has been more challenging because this is where the cleanse really kicks in. Calories and proteins are drastically reduced and grains, legumes, and bananas are omitted. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been hungry all week and not all of the recipes appeal to me. However, I’ve been sticking to it despite having a small cheat meal yesterday.  My husband and I took my daughter shopping for Easter. While out and about, we naturally got hungry. My husband suggested burgers for himself and the kids and I began to panic. What is neat about the restaurant he chose is that they have fresh vegan burgers. I ended up having a quinoa vegan burger, green style (lettuce as the bun). I know…I wasn’t supposed to have quinoa this week, but I took the plunge.  I also had 6 french fries (they were ok).  When I got home I enjoyed my cheat meal, but got right back on track and ate one of my avocado lime popsicles. My scale let me know this morning that the cleanse is doing its job, which has encouraged me to keep going.

At day 13 (of 21), some of the benefits of the Fresh Start: Spring Edition cleanse that I have personally experienced are:

  • Clearer skin (The GLOW)
  • More energy
  • More sound sleep
  • Feeling lighter
  • 4.5 pounds of weight loss

This has been a success thus far and I plan to keep going. I’m all GLOWED UP from the inside out and I’m glad that I’m doing this for myself. I saw my oncologist this week and he told me that I was healthy, looked great, and to keep doing what I’m doing. That put a smile on my face. Regardless of whether or not I decide to become a vegan, eating more whole foods and less processed foods is the way to go for me. 

I’ll soon write another post of this experience. Stay tuned!