Food availability and marketing in Cuba: a quick look

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When I was in Cuba in 1992, the only food available to tourists was at the hotels: no restaurants, no street carts, no corner groceries, no family garden plots, no urban agriculture (for FAO information on Cuban food security, see this link).

On this Food First sovereignty trip, the big surprise was that restaurants were everywhere. An outdoor restaurant in Old Havana’s cathedral square!

Plenty of restaurants serve terrific food.

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Some chefs, like Alejandro Robaina, at La Casa Restaurante (on the left), seem poised for a wildly successful TV career.

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Cuban food invariably comes accompanied by lively music.

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We saw farmers’ markets throughout Havana.

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These are explained as part of the revolution.

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We saw specialty food shops in Old Havana.

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Street sellers peddle food from carts.

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But Cuba doesn’t have much in the way of food manufacturing. Small bodegas and even the large suburban Supermercado do not sell many products. What they do have is mostly imported. I saw some Cuban mayonnaise but couldn’t find Cuban coffee anywhere except at the airport.2015-06-19 15.47.45

Even this Supermercado sells only one kind of item. The oil is soy, bottled in Cuba from U.S. soybeans.

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Many of the shelves are empty because of the U.S. embargo and for general lack of money.2015-06-19 15.49.11

A couple of anecdotes about how the Cuban economy is changing:

The revolution made everyone equally poor, although with excellent free education, health care, and a basic food ration (the libreta) that kept everyone from total starvation, even during the worst of the 1990s. This created a relatively classless society.

First change: Remittances. Many families who left Cuba to get away from the Castro regime did well and sent money (“remittances”) to their relatives back home. We were told that these amounted to $2 billion last year in total and that the money is transmitted via Western Union and couriers (“mules”).

The average Cuban salary and pension is $20 per month. A remittance of $100 a month makes that person rich.

Second change: Deregulation of real estate. One of our speakers told us that when private ownership of housing was first permitted a decade ago, he bought a house for the equivalent of $650. As soon as the rules changed and allowed market rates, he sold it last year for $150,000.

Cuba’s contradictions are interesting to observe. Go see them while you can.


4th of July Weekend Adventures

washington dc 4th of july fireworks

Hello my friends! I hope you all had great weekends – and for my American readers, great long weekends for the 4th of July holiday! (Also – how about that Women’s World Cup?! ) We watched the fireworks from a friend’s roof deck in Adams Morgan this year. Beautiful as always – my camera phone didn’t do it justice.

4th of July washington dc

As for the rest of the long weekend, Matt and I spent it socializing, which is always my favorite way to spend a weekend. I had a ton of friends in town because on Friday my good friend Lara from high school got married!

lara jim wedding

Loved seeing my girls again! The wedding was gorgeous and so was the bride, and it was wonderful to be a part of their special day. <3 I was too busy dancing and celebrating to get any photos – thank you to my friend Melissa for sharing these!

lara jim wedding 2015 va

On the fitness front over the long weekend, I was feeling in need of a break so I kept things pretty low key and enjoyed sleeping in/the holiday festivities! I took Saturday completely off and on Sunday afternoon Matt and I just did a short HIIT workout with weights in our basement. On Friday, though, we got in a nice run together! I had taken Thursday off, too, so I was feeling strong and energized.



3.25 speedy, hilly miles. Felt good!


As for some food highlights for the weekend, the folks at Tessemae’s All Natural sent me some of their salad dressing to sample for a sponsored review, so we had fun testing them out. On the 4th, Matt and I went over to my parent’s place for lunch and brought them along for a little taste test.


I normally steer clear of bottled salad dressings because the ingredient lists are a hot mess (full of additives, things I can’t pronounce, sugar, cheap oils, etc.), but I was intrigued when Tessemae’s reached out because their products are not the norm. Tessemae’s dressings are all real food – no weird additives on their ingredient lists at all – and they are gluten-free, sugar free (as in no added sugar – not any weird fake sugars), vegan, and non-GMO, too. I also like that they weren’t packed with salt – just enough for flavor.

They sent me 4 dressings (which also work as marinades) to sample – Green Goddess (an olive oil based vinaigrette), Soy Ginger, and Ranch and Caesar, which are two of their newest dressings. I was surprised to find they are vegan and made with coconut milk – how creative! Just an FYI that they are meant to be kept in the fridge but will harden a bit, so you’ll want to pop them in a warm water bath for a couple minutes to soften them up again quickly while you’re making your salad.


Matt loves the Green Goddess dressing, my mom’s favorite was the Ranch (she said “I will totally buy this”), and my favorite is the Caesar! Delicious – and I really like that it’s not something I’d normally throw together myself at home. I enjoyed some of the Caesar on my salad along with one of my mom’s delicious ham and cheese omelettes – and some unpictured fruit.


I’ve been rocking the dressings for my salads at home a lot lately, too. Yum. The ranch and caesar are both really good with kale, in case you were curious.


As for the soy ginger, Matt and I thought it would make a good marinade, so we marinated some chicken in it on Saturday before throwing it on the grill.


So good! This would make an awesome sauce on an Asian dish or stir fry, too.


Tessemae’s made an appearance at a BBQ we went to last night at our friends Tom and Janice’s place as well! We brought a big salad with the Green Goddess dressing for everyone to enjoy with it.



Delicious spread! I love summer.


Anyway, final verdict, in case you couldn’t tell, is clearly two thumbs up! I will absolutely continue to buy Tessemae’s dressings now that I know they are awesome. I still love my homemade vinaigrettes, but for the Caesar and Ranch options and for bringing to friend’s places/parties, these are perfect! Thank you again to Tessemae’s for the opportunity to try them out for this sponsored review. They have a TON of dressings beyond the four we were sent to try, which you can see (along with their ingredient lists) on their website. They are available online as well as at Whole Foods, Kroger, Safeway, The Fresh Market, and Costco. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other products soon!

Have a great day, my friends! Which city’s fireworks did you watch?

4th of July Weekend Adventures originally appeared on fANNEtastic food | Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian | Recipes + Healthy Living + Fitness on July 6, 2015.

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Protein Waffles + Aloha Giveaway


Get a whopping 16g of protein from these delicious and healthy Protein Waffles made with 100% whole grains and no added sugar! Want to know the best part about this recipe? It makes 4 GIANT waffles, which means that for the next 4 days you are guaranteed to get 16 grams of protein in your…

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Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides | @naturallyella

I had no intention of really cooking much for the fourth since we were hiding inside (our dog really hates fireworks and it’s easiest just to watch a movie). However, Mack was cool with hanging out with M for the day so I took advantage, went to the farmers market, and got inspired to do a bit of cooking.

Instead of a recipe, I thought I’d share four ideas that I made yesterday. Each one is extremely loose and can easily be adapted to flavors you may like. Summer is the best time to take produce and have fun.

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides
Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Farmers Market Summer Vegetarian Sides

Breakfast Radishes | @naturallyella
Armenian Cucumbers

Grilled Radishes | @naturallyella

Grilled Radishes with Armenian Cucumbers and Pearled Couscous

Ingredients I used: Pearled Couscous, Armenian Cucumbers, Breakfast Radishes, Scallions, Feta, Lemon Juice, Champagne Vinegar, Olive oil, and Salt/Pepper.

Saying I love Armenian cucumbers is a bit of an understatement. While these beauties aren’t actually straight cucumbers (just related), the flavor is of a sweet cucumber. I could easily eat grilled radishes with these cucumbers without the couscous (but the couscous makes it more substantial). I already had leftover couscous and just tossed everything together with a drizzle of the vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. Keep it vegan by ditching the feta or for gluten-free, use quinoa or sorghum.

Grilled Radish and Armenian Cucumber Couscous Salad | @naturallyella

Grilled Corn | @naturallyella
Grilled Corn | @naturallyella

Grilled Sweet Corn

I have a particular way I grill corn that I think is worth the bit of extra effort. I peel back the husk, remove the silk, butter (or olive oil) and sprinkle with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic. Toss is on the grill until the husk is charred and the yellow of the corn has perked up. You can easily eat the corn now, but I peel back the husk and return it to the grill to lightly char.

Grilled Shisito Peppers | @naturalyella

Grilled Shisito Peppers

Toss the shisito peppers with olive oil, soy sauce, honey, and sesame seeds in a cast iron skillet. Cook on the grill, stirring occasionally. (I would typically roast the peppers in this mixture but it’s been 100˚ and I wasn’t about to turn on the oven except to make pie, because pie did happen). I eyeballed the drizzle of each liquid but any extra thickens into a nice sauce.

Tomatoes | @naturallyella
Tomatoes | @naturallyella

Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil

It’s the beginning of July which means I’m starting my overeating tomatoes. This is about the easiest way to serve tomatoes: slice, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh basil, salt, and pepper. Done and done.

grilled vegetarian sides | @naturallyella

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Summer SWEAT Series: Week 4 Nutrition Plan

It's week 4 of the Summer SWEAT Series. Download the meal plan and grocery list and don't forget to checkout Ambitious Kitchen for the workout plan!

Anyone else still sore from last week’s workouts? I seriously got my butt kicked. That tabata workout, though. I’ve done a quite of bit of traveling over the past couple of weeks and I’m not going to lie, sticking to the Summer SWEAT Series 100% has been impossible. The great thing about this program, is…

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Throw a Paleo Summer Shindig!

Throw a Paleo Summer Shindig! by Michelle Tam

Are you unsure of what to make for a summer get-together? Never fear: I’ve got tons of ideas for your own Paleo-friendly party!

Here are my favorite recipes for summer party fare:

Nibbles & Bites


Main Dishes

Drinks & Treats:

Looking for more ideas?

Happy Fourth of July! Eat well and stay safe!

Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel, December 2013).