When I first got to my site in Fila Naranjo, I was really trying to work on this whole “integration” thing. I went to church with my host family, I played soccer on Wednesday nights, I worked on a farm, I cooked side-by-side with women in the community kitchen, and I ate everything my host mom cooked for me.
I mean, everything.
Piles of rice, bowls of beans, breads, fried foods, sugar-filled juices, empanadas…all of it.
Pretty soon my body started to feel awful. My skin got greasy, my hair was dry and I felt bloated and tired almost all of the time. I just wanted to sleep and eat. And sleep and eat…
Well I guess I still want that…
In a country and community where a huge emphasis is placed on food, I saw eating the way my host community and family ate as a big part of integration. In Costa Rica, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Ask any surgeon here, they’ll tell you.
But after my marathon in September, I knew something needed to change. My pants were feeling REAL tight and I just couldn’t go on feeling so uncomfortable and sluggish.
I had an honest conversation with my host mom (sort of) and told her the fried food and bread was upsetting my stomach (I might’ve mentioned an allergy) and that I wanted to do some of my own cooking. She said she understood (don’t think she did) but still offers me sugary cookies, white bread, fried empanadas, and mounds of rice. I just finally got the balls to say “no gracias” and scoop some of that rice back in the rice cooker.
At first, I felt like I was un-integrating myself. I was declining to fully embrace a big part of their culture (food) in exchange for my health and well-being. I felt a little selfish.
But then I started to view integration differently. I realized that integration was having my host family, friends and community accept me for who I am: a non-religious terrible soccer player who eats weird things like fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal in the morning.
Laugh it up Jose it’s not that weird!
Don’t get me wrong, I love food. But I love healthy foods (the majority of the time) that make my body, skin, and mind feel good. So this month marks the start of my new search for delicious, healthy, accessible, and affordable alternative snacks and foods that I can share with my host community and hopefully inspire them to ditch the sugary, fried foods in exchange for something a little more nutritious. At least some of the time.
Now, these coconut covered raw carrot cake balls are going to blow your face off.
This recipe is adapted from Joyous Health. Because let’s face it, almonds are insanely expensive here and ain’t no one heard of a shelled hemp or medjool date.
Don’t ever take your local Whole Foods for granted.
Raw Coconut Covered Carrot Cake Energy Balls
Peace Corps Cookin’ Style
- 1 cup shredded coconut (½ for mixture and ½ for rolling)
- ½ cup raisins (great alternative to dates, thanks Katie!)
- ¾ cup salted peanuts
- ½ cup oatmeal (instant or “mosh” style)
- ¾ cup shredded carrots (one large carrot)
- ¼ chia seeds (native to central america!)
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cinnamon (i really like cinnamon so be your own judge)
~ 100 calories per ball
- Shred them carrots
- Chop up them peanuts and raisins into smaller pieces
- Mix it all up
- Form balls
- Roll balls in coconut
- YA DONE.
Makes ~16 balls
- 1 carrot = 100₡
- 1 cup shredded coconut = 250₡
- ½ cup raisins = 300₡
- ¾ cup peanuts = 500₡
- ¼ cup chia = 300₡
- ¼ cup honey = 200₡
- ½ cup oatmeal = 200₡
- 1 tsp vanilla = 50₡
- 2 tsp cinnamon = 50₡
Total: 1,950₡ = $3.55 per batch / 121₡ per ball. That’s only 22¢ per ball!
Now get out there and make these cuties before your next Christmas cookie exchange!