budget kitchen

Ever wonder what a (mostly) wheat-free, lactose-intolerant, produce-addicted, mostly vegetarian health nut eats in a foreign country?

I am fortunate to cook for myself even though I live with a host family, but navigating nutrition in this coastal culture is an adventure in and of itself.

People sometimes ask for the recipes to my Instagram food snapshots, so I’ve decided to post a few of my favorites!


New Mexican Black Beans 

My mama grew up in New Mexico and brought the green chiles, black beans, enchiladas and avocado to our family. I got a can of green chiles in a care package (THANK YOU!) so I cooked up a pot of home! 

3 c. black beans, boiled and drained

1 c. diced green chiles

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 red onion, chopped

1 can of corn

1. tsp. cumin

1 tsp. turmeric

salt to taste

Additional toppings: salsa, avocado, diced red onions, diced bell peppers, sour cream or queso cotija, fresh limes

Bring the main ingredients to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Give it time for the spices to settle in (this is better in a crock pot, but I don’t have that luxury!)

Garnish with toppings of your fancy and eat it fresh!


My first batch of blender hummus, after a year of cravings!
My first batch of blender hummus, after a year of cravings!

Blender Hummus

1 cup boiled garbanzos, drained

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

water to desired texture

Blend it all and serve fresh! Keeps in the fridge a few days.


dream bars, Colombian substitutes included
dream bars, Colombian substitutes included

Dream Bars 

(note: I eyeballed the measurements–plan enough for your baking pan needs.)

1 c. chocolate chips

1 c. butterscotch chips (don’t exist in Colombia, so I substituted candy)

Shanna Clause in the holiday spirit!

1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut (I had to hunt all over the stores for this; turns out, it would have been easy and cheap to pick the coconuts in my town–next year!)

1 c. chopped nuts of your choice

1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand in the US of A)

Graham cracker crumbs (I used nilla wafers-style cookies)

Melted butter


Combine the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs to lay down a crust (it should be moist.)

Layer the nuts, chocolate and coconut over the crust

Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk over top

Dream Bars, packed and ready to be delivered

Bake at 350 degrees (or, in Colombia, at some indeterminate, overly hot temperature) for about 40 minutes (or, in Colombia, until the edges are burned and the middle is still gooey.)

Cool, cut and share!


Squash Oatcakes (a varation on Shanna Banana Oatcakes)

An inevitable part of living abroad is digestive issues. This week, I’m on a low-fiber diet and I’m not allowed to eat fruit! This travesty led me to an important discovery, though: butternut squash can be a sweet substitute in several recipes. Here, I subbed it for bananas. 

This recipe serves one, so it’s a small portion! I suggest doubling or quadrupling for two!

1/3 c. rolled oats

1/4 c. flour (helps it stick together; I use gluten-free all-purpose)

1 egg

1/2 c. boiled squash, in blender-sized chunks

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon

additional fillings (chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)

1/2 c. unsweetened original almond milk (or any milk)

water to desired texture

Blend all ingredients until smooth, adding water for consistency of a thick pancake batter.

Cook like pancakes: watch for the bubbles to flip! They’re not going to be golden brown, so don’t be alarmed if they’re a little darker.

I served them with a little margarine and agave nectar on top.


strawberry piña colada
what to do when you’re dying of heat? Whip up a frozen fruit-based lifesaver. The frozen pineapple helps you avoid canned fruit’s sugar traps while also serving as ice cubes!
1/2 frozen banana
3 frozen strawberries
1/2 frozen pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1 c. Unsweetened original almond milk
1 scoop soy protein
Ice and cold water as needed

Blend, baby, blend!

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La Vida Colombia as a Peace Corps volunteer

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