Tag Archives: family

Primavera en Costa Rica

¡Hola amigos! Lo siento que…Oh, wait–I’m not in Central America anymore! I mean: I’m sorry that I’ve been absent so long (it seems like I start a lot of posts like that, which probably isn’t a good thing!), but I have a good reason. I spent my spring break in the lovely country of Costa Rica with mi familia!

Luckily, we found this article on Jeff Probst’s travel “must-haves” our first day there, so we were prepared!

Okay, just kidding, but my family does love Jeff Probst and Survivor (we’ve watched all twenty seasons!), so we were pretty tickled when we found this.

We stayed in the small town of Uvita, on the Southern Pacific Coast, about 15 minutes from the surfer town, Dominical. The small resort we stayed at–Rancho Pacifico–was absolutely gorgeous, sitting atop an extremely steep hill, er, mountain. We got stuck driving up the first night in our non-four-wheel drive car, and had to be rescued by the staff in their SUV! Oh, and this was just after we’d driven a couple of densely foggy hours on what we later learned is called “the ridge of death.” But the important thing is that we made it, and were promptly greeted by a tray of strawberry smoothies. :)

This was our bathroom at Rancho Pacifico. Check out that view!

The plunge pool had a similarly breathtaking view:

If you’re looking for an easy place to be vegan, look no further! Beans, check. Avocado, check. Plantains, check. Papaya, check. I’m pretty sure 80 percent of my diet consisted of those four foods while in Costa Rica, which, believe me, was NOT a problem.

A typical breakfast in Costa Rica is gallo pinto, a dish of sautéed seasoned rice and beans, often with onions or peppers. In fact, gallo pinto–which means “painted rooster,” referring to the speckled appearance of the rice when colored by the black beans–is Costa Rica’s national dish!

Gallo pinto was my first meal in Costa Rica, at our Bed & Breakfast in San José (okay, that’s only if you don’t count the Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered pretzels I ate while we argued with the people at Thrifty Car Rental the night we arrived…):

Here’s a slightly more upscale version from Rancho Pacifico, complete with avocado, fried pantains, homemade tortillas, and a spicy dipping sauce:

¡Qué delicioso!

And if you thought appetizers were just for lunch and dinner, think again! At Rancho Pacifico, every breakfast starts off with appetizers: mini muffins, sadly not vegan. But don’t worry–I wasn’t left out! Actually, I think I came out on top, as I was served my own specially-made vegan empanada each morning. These cornmeal pastries were filled with whatever the jam of the day was. This particular day, it was spiced papaya. Perfect with a steaming cup of café costarricense!

On days when I desired lighter fare, fruit it was! Pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, you name it!

Always served with a glass of fresh juice, of course. My favorite was papaya-mango. This was watermelon, I believe:

I only had one lunch at Rancho Pacifico, but it definitely hit the spot. They replaced the mayo in their vegetable wrap with hummus, and voilà!

Avocado, onions, olives, lettuce, and mango, all nestled in a homemade tortilla. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Alright, so you’ve seen some plantains already, but the best kind were the ones that were fried into fritters. Like these ones my dad and I had for lunch after our mangrove boat tour in Sierpe:

Served with refried black beans, naturally.

If you haven’t noticed yet, many meals in Costa Rica–or the best ones, at least, in my opinion–are those served casado-style, which basically translates to a medley of small dishes, such as beans, rice, plantains, salad, tortillas, etc. Think of it as the Central American version of the mezze platter.

Such was the style of one surprisingly good meal we had in San José. I say “surprising” because the restaurant was a chain called RostiPollos, a.k.a. “Roasty Chickens.” I know, I know.

We got the buffet, which included chicken and a few dairy-containing items, but I made out pretty darn well as a vegan (I’m pretty decent at Spanish, so I had no trouble telling people I don’t eat “productos lácteos”). I ended up with refried black beans, seasoned rice (there was a separate chicken rice), shredded lettuce, salsa, yuca wedges, and sautéed plantains.

I really like that fries/chips in Costa Rica are more often made with yuca than potatoes. What a nice change. I piled all the elements of my casado onto a corn tortilla, and ate it like a soft taco.

For a chain, semi-fast food joint, I was really impressed with this meal. Never thought I’d say this, but score one for RostiPollos.

That’s pretty much it for food. We found a great, mostly vegetarian restaurant in Dominical called Maracatú. The food was great, and we ate there twice, but it was too dark for decent photos. They even had vegan-tailored drinks. I got an “orange creamsicle” vodka-based drink made with soy milk there, and if I wasn’t so sensitive to late-night caffeine, I would have ordered the “vegan mistake maker,” a vanilla-vodka, espresso, soy milk concoction. If any of you end up in Dominical, please do yourself a favor and hit up Maracatú!

But of course there’s more to Costa Rica than food! There’s also great beaches.

My mom, looking as young as ever! (And she’s only gonna get younger given that, after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer on our trip, she has dropped her pescatarianism and become a full vegetarian! Congrats, mom! Even though you’re only just now a true vegetarian, I owe my veganism and love of healthy food to the values you’ve always held and instilled in me as I grew up!). My sister, Olivia, is in the background, picking at her peeling skin from the awful sunburn she contracted our very first day. Poor girl. She really was purple by the end of the trip.

My dad coated himself in sand. He was really proud of himself. Good job, dad.

And of course, the lovely Lauren–or as I’ve always liked to call her, Laurenzo!

One of the highlights of the trip was playing soccer on the beach with four Costa Rican boys, who had jammed some sticks into the sand as goal posts, and were playing two on two. My sister, Lauren, my dad, and I joined them, making it four on four (we split up so that there were two of them and two of us on each team). It was a pretty evenly matched game! I played soccer for ten years (my first year in college included), Liv and Lauren played club together their whole life (and Liv plays DI now at Colgate), and my dad played in college as well, so we all loved getting out there, just playing in our bathing suits and bare feet.

There go nuestros amigos, walking off into the beautiful sunset!

Other adventures we had include zip lining through the jungle (um, if you think I brought my camera with me for that, you’re INSANE), and a mangrove boat tour that I went on with my dad. Our tour guide, Oscar, and the boat driver (¡se me olvidó su nombre!):

Here’s Oscar showing us a mangrove seed!

The tour included beers. :)

It’s hard to ask for more than being with the people you love in an exotically gorgeous place, so I won’t!

I hope this post was enjoyable enough to make up for my extended absence! In my next post (soon, I promise!), I’ll be introducing you to some of the animals of Costa Rica!


Good ‘Ol Tempe(h)

So last week I was home in Tempe again for less than 24 hours. Why, you might ask? Well, I was lucky enough to get a cancellation appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to address my general malaise of the past seven months, and if you’re the Mayo Clinic, you know you don’t let three or four hundred miles prevent your attendance. In the world of doctor visits, that there is prime real estate, yo.

Of course, the whole thing was a hassle, but I certainly ate well during my short visit home. First of all, my dad is super adorable, and prepared an Indian feast–both of our favorites–for just the two of us. He made two dishes, along with brown rice.

Ginger chickpeas

And a potato/cauliflower/pea dish.

The chickpeas were phenomenal. We both agreed that the second dish was just mediocre, but my dad said the recipe was weird, and he had to doctor it up. Still, it was Indian food, so it can only be so bad, right?

P.S. The only thing cuter than my dad making this dinner for us was that, when I was about to take the above shot, he was like, “Wait, wait!” and made sure there was enough cilantro garnish. :) Oh, dad.

We scarfed down our meal in order to make our 10:30 showing of Avatar in IMAX 3-D. I loved the movie, and even though it was just my dad and I, I sort of felt like my sister Olivia was there because she looks exactly like Neytiri:

I’m sorry. I got carried away. She’s going to KILL me when she sees that.

Before I flew home the next day, I hit up my favorite (and Tempe’s only!) vegan restaurant, Green! My Mayo physician had just told me to eat a lot of gluten in the next month to make sure that my upcoming tests for gluten intolerance would be accurate, so I knew I was getting a sandwich. I chose one that I’ve always avoided because it seemed boring: The “Green” Burger. House ground and packed oats and barley veggie burger with fresh lettuce and tomato, vegan mayo, ketchup and pickles.

Lots of gluten! :) Oats and barley in the burger, and wheat in the bun.

To spice things up, I requested Cheddar Daiya and caramelized onions, and got it on an Ezekiel bun. Unfortunately, they forgot my onions, but I was able to forgive them since the Daiya rendered this sandwich one mean vegan cheeseburger.

Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Thanks for all the good luck wishes, everyone! Apparently, they were effective because I ran my half marathon in 1:57:21, a full 13.26 minutes faster than my first one in September. That’s basically a minute less per mile!

It was an awesome experience running a race in my hometown (well it started in Phoenix, but ended in my hometown, Tempe). Fun fact: the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Phoenix is the largest same day marathon/half marathon in the United States! This year, there were over 30,000 runners!

This race was also special because I was running for Team Tempe to help raise money for local charities. Of course running is highly personal and when it came down to it, I ran for me; but it was nice to help others in the process!

I’m really proud of my time since I was only able to train intensively for two and a half weeks. Out of the 1,144 in my division (F 18-24), I came in 154th!

I loved running the Disney one with my good friend, Chelsea, but it was also really nice having my parents there to greet me at the end (my dad took the photo).

Wonder what the perfect post-race vegan meal is?

Oats in a jar, of course! Well banana-vanilla-cinnamon-date oat bran in a PB jar to be exact. Normally, I can’t eat this much, but I was really hungry for obvious reasons. :) This baby really hit the spot.

Hot, gooey, lovely mess. Taken with my new Canon 60mm macro lens!

Is running 13.1 miles really that hard when you have this breakfast waiting for you at home?

Lean, Mean, and Nineteen

So my baby sister turned 19 a few days ago! We went shopping during the day, and to her favorite restaurant, Pita Jungle, for dinner.

We don’t do birthday desserts at restaurants though.

Instead we come home to homemade cake–in this case, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

This cake is quickly becoming our go-to birthday cake recipe. It’s perfectly moist and sweet (and the icing ROCKS), but, making it with whole wheat pastry flour as we always do, not totally unhealthy.

In decorating, I decided to go for the “Alice in Wonderland” look, because, if you know me at all, you know that the only thing I like more than peanut butter is Alice. :)

I also made a raw carrot cake for me to have since I’m trying to go easy on sugar and gluten right now (of course, everyone else had a little of it too, but they were mostly too full of the baked carrot cake to really have a slice). I’ll post about it soon (maybe with the recipe!) when I review the cookbook that it’s from.

I bought Olivia an intense Phoenix Suns plush blanket for her birthday. This girl is obsessed with the Suns (I’m talking watches-all-the-press-conferences and often-cries-when-players-get-traded obsessed), and is always complaining about the cold at Colgate, where she goes to school in central New York, so this blanket seemed like the perfect gift to both appease her and shut her up. ;)

To Olivia: a year older, but as weird as ever.

Second Thanksgiving, 2009

Well, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally gotten around to my actual Thanksgiving post! So here it is–Thanksgiving, Part II.

I drove back to Phoenix from LA with some friends on Wednesday, and stayed until Sunday night, so not only was it a lovely holiday, but a nice mental vacation from school as well (Yeah, I worked on thesis at home, but it just didn’t feel as painful…)

I didn’t get a chance to plan my menu until Wednesday night, which kind of stressed me out (not the least because I’m still trying to avoid gluten and sugar for digestive problems), but I eventually got a good group of recipes together!

First, my sister and I made Dreena’s Festive Chickpea Tart. Well, Liv made the filling, and I attempted my first gluten-free pie crust to go with it. I used the Cornmeal Pine Nut Crust from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book, which I acquired recently. I used coconut oil instead of palm oil, but besides that stuck to the recipe. It was delicious, with a delicate, crunchy texture, and, surprisingly, the corn/coconut/pine nut flavor combo really complemented the chickpea/spinach/cranberry/walnut mixture. Sadly, we burned the outside of the crust and had to scrape it off, but it still looks pretty, I think. Kind of? Maybe?

I also made the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Garlic from Vegan with a Vengeance. Prior to these babies, my mom actually had the nerve to think she didn’t like Brussels sprouts. and Liv hadn’t even had them before! I was glad to be able to remedy both of these unfortunate situations.

I loved the crispy, just-burnt enough-to-be-amazing stray leaves–kind of like mini kale chips, no? Liv ended up liking them, I guess. :)

I also made two tester recipes for Celine & Joni’s new book, Vegan Substitutions. Pumpkin Sage Bread “Rolls” and Green Beans with Toasted Pecan Gravy.

I wasn’t able to taste these “rolls,” but they were very well received! The pecan gravy for the green beans was delicious though. You can see the green beans next to the mashed potatoes a few pictures down.

An entire wall of our living room is a sliding glass door, which connects it to our backyard and pool area, so, given the lovely mild weather we had in Arizona that evening, we had a slightly alternative table set-up. Half in, half out!

Here’s the spread! (Oh, did I mention that we had 9 people over besides the 4 in my family? That explains the giant table above and the buffet style arrangement below). Our entire Thanksgiving was vegan except for the turkey and gravy (oh, and my mom’s pumpkin pies) that our friends brought for the omnis. Of course, it sucked to have a turkey there, but I count it as a win that every single side dish was vegan–and that there were THREE vegan gravies! (two that I made and the Tofurkey one).

Here’s my poorly lit plate! In front: Garlic Mashed Potatoes from the Real Food Daily Cookbook (my mom made ’em) with Rich Brown Gravy (that I made) from Vegan Vittles.

We had a wonderful time–as usual, we went around the table to say what we were thankful for, and then we dug in! Here’s my dad enjoying the company:

Even though I couldn’t have dessert, I still had to make some vegan ones for everyone else! I chose the Pecan Pie from Real Food Daily and the Gingerbread Apple Pie from VWAV.


Not as pretty baked, but still:

What’s the BEST part of Thanksgiving though? Um, leftovers! Brunch next morning:

In the front you see the Caramelized Onion-Butternut Roast with Chestnuts from Veganomicon, which was definitely my favorite thing I made (I didn’t mention it earlier because there were no good pictures of it on my actual T-day plate). I followed the recipe, using gluten-free brown rice bread crumbs for the topping! This dish was kind of heaven on earth. Just pure comfort food. I think I ate like 1/3 of it myself. I’ve never had chestnuts either–it was really quite fun to roast my own! One of them actually exploded in my mom’s hair, and she made a gross joke about it. ;)

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, squash.

Anddd, obligatory sister shot. My dress = thrifted. Score.

Ruper De Duper!

So, I know I’ve mentioned my dog Rupert before, and his handsome countenance has already graced my blog a few times, but I want to dedicate a post solely to introduce him to you all, because he is my little gentleman, my Rupabaga, and maybe the only thing I’m more excited about coming home to next week than the Thanksgiving feast itself! (Oh, and my family, I guess…) Oh, and tomorrow is his birthday! Happy birthday, boy! Another year seven years older!

And how fitting that, minutes after finishing this post, I received an email from Molly at It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life notifying me that I’ve won a shiny, new blue collar for–guess who?!
Rupert’s an English Bull Terrier, like the Target dog, or Spuds MacKenzie.

He has a lot of very unique physical qualities, like his bumpy underlip and his perfect spot.

Of course all bull terriers are kind of funny looking given their egg-shaped heads, giant bat ears, and muscly build (we always say Rupert is like a giant sausage), so Rupert’s no exception. Though he may be cuter than every other bull terrier in the world. Just throwing that out there.

Like everyone else in our family, Rupert has an obsessive personality. First of all, we’re all obsessed with Rupert himself. Then my mom’s obsessed with politics and the Red Sox, my dad’s obsessed with the Eagles, Phillies, and fantasy football, my sister’s obsessed with the Phoenix Suns and Harry Potter, I’m obsessed with veganism, cooking, and peanut butter, and Rupert’s obsessed with his black Kong toy.

He used to have a blue one, infamously known in our house as “the blue wheel,” but after two years, Rupert finally killed it. But these are seriously the only dog toys Rup won’t destroy in under 15 minutes.

Rupert is the most annoying dog ever. As a daily ritual, he drops his black Kong into the pool, and barks at it in a piercingly high pitch that belies his manly frame until you fish it out for him. Once it has been fished out, he then proceeds to drop it in the pool again. Ad infinitum.

Another special bond I have with Rupert is our love of peanut butter, and the fact that our family members often put it on both of our noses to keep us busy and quiet (okay, maybe not so much the second part, but I have been known to find peanut butter in weird places on my face…).

If Rupert’s been a good boy, I’ll fix him up a special peanut butter-carob panini. Dog’s LOVE carob, dontcha know. It almost tastes like the forbidden chocolate.

Anddd, he usually expresses his appreciation by looking like this when he eats it:

Don’t let all their shenanigans fool you–Ruperts get tired too!

Sometimes he picks odd napping places though…

He enjoys long walks on the beach, or, if he has to settle, just through the neighborhood.

But since we live in AZ, he overheats pretty easily. We usually need to cool off afterward with some ice cold water. He looks like Shamu!

He can go commando for short walks, but when he goes on real hikes, he has to wear THE BOOTIES.

Rupert, despite your ridiculous behavioral problems, earsplitting yelp, and alpha dog complex, you are loved. :)

A Little More Hamilton Love

First of all, I wanted to thank all you guys for your incredibly nice comments, especially on my last post! I really want to take a photography class, but so far I’ve just been teaching myself, so it means a lot to hear that I’m doing something right! You guys made my day.

Consider this post “part two” of my fall break visit with my sister.

I think “part one” adequately conveyed how beautiful Colgate’s campus is, so I think I’ll focus on how delightfully adorable the town is.

The town basically consists of a café, a chocolate shop, a movie theater, and an apothecary.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still, they have an apothecary!

So getting back to how I lied, there are two coffee shops in town. My sister’s favorite is the Barge, and being the coffee shop connoisseur that I am, I must say that I approve her choice.

Not only is the Barge super cozy, with tons of tables and squishy armchairs, and a wide selection of tea (including desert sage!) but they have vegan sandwiches and vegan cookies!

I didn’t get one, but aren’t they cute?

We spent a lazy Monday morning studying there–Liv reading, and I thesising.

And alongside my cinnamon-cardamom tea I had two brown rice cakes with a packet of Justin’s Classic Almond Butter and a sprinkling of nutmeg. Perfect.

The chocolate shop I mentioned is called Maxwells. It’s your classic candy shop & soda bar. It even had vegan milkshakes (chocolate and vanilla!), though, again, I didn’t have the pleasure. Sorry!

That night we saw Where the Wild Things Are at the Hamilton Movie Theater.

It was a long, cold walk to and from our 8:45 showing, and I may or may not have looked like a wild thing in my ridiculous–yet beloved–Betsy Johnson faux fur-trimmed velvet coat, but I enjoyed reliving a childhood classic with my little sister, even if it couldn’t possibly capture the book’s magic.

Speaking of magic, I thought this house on the way into town looked like it was full of it. It’s like my Victorian-inspired dream haven.

And now I want a pink house. With a blue door.