Most of us, when pressed to define what it means to eat Paleo, rattle off a list of foods we are not supposed to eat. I think it is best to think about what you should eat. Put yourself in the footwear of the hunter-gatherers that lived where you now live. They only ate what was within their ability to capture (or trade/transport). They didn't fly in crates of mango. Your environment, even ours here, in the harsh Sonoran Desert, has many interesting, sustainable foods to offer.
Ironically, I think that this area is where we get into a little bit of "grayness" in our knowledge of what our hunter-gatherer ancestors really ate. In the physical archeological record remains of hunting tools and animal bone are prevalent whereas remains of plants foods are not. We do know that many hunter-gatherers made significant use of the plant foods in their environment, not always for a primary caloric resource, but for nutrient and medicinal needs. We also know that the methods by which Neolithic (post-Paleo) traditional peoples prepared their nuts, seeds, legumes and grains was wise and deliberate. They soaked, sprouted, and fermented. Exactly when did humans begin these practices? We don't know.
We know that in modern times, non-agriculturalist Sonoran cultures used foods like the mesquite pod and its seeds.
So, if you are eating a non-agricultural diet here in the Sonoran desert, I think it is quite legitimate to use a food like mesquite, despite the fact that in general, the list of forbidden foods on a "Paleo diet" includes legumes like the mesquite.
For many people who care about their food supply, modern day dietary considerations such as the environmental impact of our food supply factor into food selection. Many conscious eaters are interested in the sustainability of their dietary choices. This is, after all, one of the primary ways the Myth of Vegetarianism was propagated. Local, native foods such as mesquite and chia here in the desert, are often the easiest to grow organically because they are in evolutionary harmony with their environment. Does it really make sense to eschew a food like mesquite that can be produced with very little (or maybe no) detrimental effects on the environment because it is a legume? If our ancestors learned how to prepare the foods so that their nutrients become bioavailable to us should we turn our back on that wisdom? If our current health allows us to ingest mesquite without suffering ill effects then perhaps mesquite can be a part of our diet.
Let's look for some mesquite tortillas at the Farmer's Market!!
I love fish, but hate cooking it in the house. The smell and the messy cooking pans are just not enjoyable for me. I cook it outside on the charcoal grill. Same for steak. Outside is better. We needed something easy for lunches this week. Second to last week of school for the kiddos and it seems busier than usual. Decided on Fish Salad Verde. Although it is true that cutting vegetables initiates their deterioration and loss of vitamins, I occasionally pre-cut things if I know the week will be busy. This Sunday I chopped a green cabbage, 5 baby zucchini and a bunch of cilantro. I wedged a couple limes too and bought some salsa verde. Store the vegetables separately so that they retain their individual flavor. I grilled two packages of tilapia. As long as you get the grate of the grill super hot before you put the fish on, and you don't try to flip the fillets until they are a little browned on the side, you don't need to add any oil. I avoid brushing the fish with oil because I don't really want to eat extra grilled polyunsaturated oil. After I took the fish off the grill I sprinkled it with cumin, Mexican oregano and lime juice before putting it away.
It is really easy not to just throw a handful of the vegetables, a piece of fish and a lime wedge into a travel container with a spoonful of salsa verde. If you are looking for some extra fat, avocado is delicious on this!
A green love note for all the Coaches at CrossFit Works. Ingredients for their own Green Smoothie.
Met with a certain amount of skepticism by certain people who verified that it all goes in the blender together...and, yes, you drink it. Less work than chewing up those interminable salads!
Many athletes and people who begin a fitness or training program wonder about what they should eat to aid in their recovery. People start talking about proteins or carbohydrates or purchase expensive powdered mixes or consume corn syrup in artificial coloring-filled “sports drinks”. Many performance oriented folks are very savvy about clean protein with a high percentage of their carbohydrates post workout. We can talk about branch chain amino acids and creatine and all those useful things. It is rare to hear mention of green vegetables in a conversation about sports recovery. Isn’t post-workout nutrition the one place where green vegetables don’t matter? Afraid not. Greens are especially meaningful in these days of increasing heat and profuse sweating.
Let's not let your stereotype of the yoga/juice bar crowd prevent us from developing a close relationship with the green smoothie for recovery. In fact we can even learn a little bit from some old school "doping"...soda doping. Athletes involved in high intensity, anaerobic sports have been shown, clinically, to improve speed by ingesting baking soda. Baking soda is a powerfully alkalinizing substance which is thought to assist performance by increasing the rate at which the acidic muscle waste products can be removed and the production of ATP kept high. Clinical studies are more in agreement about the performance boosting effect of baking soda than a lot of the other fancier, more expensive performance aids. Ummm, yes, unpleasant digestive side effects can occur, as well as the negative effects of ingesting large amounts of sodium (baking soda is sodium bicarbonate). OK, so I'm not suggesting baking soda for performance enhancement, I'm just providing a little background to get you to take the alkalinity of the body seriously with regard to training and performance.
Our ability to benefit from our workouts is determined by our ability to recover from them. Recovery involves the inflammatory process, the anti-inflammatory response, glycogen replenishment, muscle building and bone modeling/construction. There is a wide assortment of nutrients involved in these complicated metabolic processes, but one controlling condition for many of them is our pH, particularly the pH of our blood stream. Working out, and heavy breathing increases acidity in the body. Healing , recovery and rebuilding happens most effectively at a slightly alkaline pH. If we remain in an acidic state we risk breaking down muscle tissue and cannibalizing our bones and losing calcium. Your body tries to restore alkalinity by releasing calcium from your bones and nitrogen from your muscle tissue-exactly what you don’t want! We can easily use food to quickly restore alkalinity to the body. The best foods (those with the most basic-producing pH) to restore alkalinity to the body are the vegetables and some fruits. Spinach, celery, carrots and zucchini are all good. Blend them up in your blender with water, ice and a lemon wedge. Add mint, parsely or basil if you'd like. Raisins, black currants and bananas are also alkaline producing. If weight loss is one of your fitness goals choose the vegetables over the fruits.
Raw greens also provide lots of minerals (especially the more bitter ones like dandelion greens), plenty of electrolytes and a dose of heat sensitive vitamins like Vitamin C.
The effect of prenatal, pre-conception and lactational nutrition has always been at the center of my interest in food and health. The majority of health care practitioners are deathly afraid of discussing pre-natal and pre-conception nutrition with women because they don't want women to feel guilty if their child has a health or behavioral issue that might be related to Mom's poor nutrition. Health care practitioners are afraid to discuss issues of nutrition with breastfeeding Moms (lactational nutrition) for the very real reason that if Mom thinks her diet is bad for her baby she will quit breastfeeding rather than change her own diet. We have lost touch with an incredibly important aspect of reproduction that was a hallmark of traditional cultures: what you eat is directly correlated with the health of your child. Even the most "primitive" of peoples had special nutrition practises for newly married couples (preconception) or pregnant and breastfeeding women. Foods such as raw organ meats, fish eggs, and bitter herbs and weeds were carefully collected by the families and hunters of a group and reserved for members of the group who were in child-bearing mode. Gathering these special foods was performed at great risk to the group often involving trading with an enemy or treacherous expeditions. When asked why they take such risk to procure special foods traditional peoples don't say "because decades of research finally convinced us that adequate folic acid prevents neurologic defects". They say "because without these sacred foods for the parents the children are not strong". The reality of hunter-gatherers was that a child with a significant health issue at birth would die and even a small issue, which we don't even consider a disability today, like poor eyesight or crooked teeth, would likely mean that child did not reach adult hood or could not hunt or support the group. There is no room in this discussion for blame. Guilt is not powerful. Knowledge is power. With knowledge and power comes responsibility. Responsibility is certainly a heavy burden at times, especially when it comes to raising children. During the last few centuries of industrialization we have forgotten our sacred food practises, so we rely on research. Recent research finally is getting around to handing some of the power for healthy babies over to the Dads!! We mostly think of men as sperm donors who either are "good" husbands and fathers or "bad" ones. Our concept of the importance of preconception nutrition for men has been stuck at knowing that if men had really poor nutrition their fertility would drop and they would have trouble fathering a child at all. Slowly, slowly research is digging more deeply into the effect of a father's nutrition on his future children. A fascinating study just published discusses the relationship between the protein intake of males and the cholesterol and lipid synthesis of their offspring:
"The phenomenon, called epigenetic inheritance – where changes in gene expression not caused by changes to the underlying DNA sequence are passed from a parent to a child – may be relevant to a number of illnesses. Researchers fed different diets to two groups of male mice – the first set receiving a standard diet, while the second received a low-protein diet. All females were fed the same, standard diet. They observed that offspring of the mice fed the low-protein diet exhibited a marked increase in the genes responsible for lipid and cholesterol synthesis in comparison to offspring of the control group fed the standard diet – indicating an increased risk of heart disease. Previous studies have suggested a father's lifestyle can come back to genetically affect his kids – but were unable to rule out socioeconomic factors."
I look forward to the day when men and women will discuss freely and openly with their health care practitioner and their families, the impact of preconception, prenatal and lactational nutrition on the next generation. In the meantime, although my childbearing days are firmly behind me, I'm not going to be one of the low-protein lab rats. Did you know that a couple pounds of chicken sausage cooked up on a Sunday evening is better than an Instant Breakfast on Monday morning? Sometimes I have been know to run late and lack organization in the morning, so while finding homework, computer cords and packing lunches, I just throw my chicken sausage into the nearest appliance that provides heat (pan on the stove, toaster oven) and then I dump it in a bowl and it becomes travel food. You just never know when, at the stoplight during your morning commute, a movement in the car next to you will catch your eye, you will look over expecting to see someone sipping a syrupy "coffee", eating a "breakfast sandwich" or applying mascara while talking on the phone. Instead you will see a completely organized, saucy mother of two boys, eating sausage with her fingers out of a hand made bowl. Mother and boys might be singing along with some classic rock at the same time because eating sausage in the car just calls out for accompaniment by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I believe Lynyrd Skynyrd is also the proper way to prepare for Spanish quizzes and multiplication tests. Try it.
We have an abundance of citrus fruits ready here in Arizona. Go to the Farmer's market and get some. It is so important for food diversity and security of our food supply (as well as taking in a wider range of nutrients on a regular basis) that we try and eat more unusual plant foods. Many of the more unusual species are better suited to growing in your own local environment. Kumquats are a tiny little orange citrus fruit that are eaten whole (skin and all). Limequats are similar except they are yellow, larger and delicious! Unlike larger conventional citrus fruits the "quats" are actually eaten especially for the skin. It is the inside flesh that is the sour part.
I have encountered so many people who don't know what to do with these little citrus fruits even though they have a tree full of them! Aside from eating them whole you can use the zest to make delicious sauces. Using zest in recipes is lightening fast if you get yourself one of these cheap microplaners from the hardware store (see picture). Here is a ghee, parsley, limequat sauce that we had on grilled salmon for our Christmas dinner.
2/3c ghee (clarified butter)
1/4c finely minced fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
zest of 4 limequats
Let everything sit at room temperature for a couple hours so the flavors meld.
Gravy used to disgust me. I liked my turkey and potatoes dry as a kid. I'm not sure if this was a personal issue with stunted development or a commentary on the gravies I was served. Gravy is now the best part of any roasted meat meal, including the Thanksgiving behemoth, the turkey.
It is possible to get very sophisticated about terminology regarding gravy. "Gravy" is a thick, flour-based sauce. Potentially disgusting. A reduction sauce, or deglazed stock is thinner, more flavorful and all around more delicious, not to mention easily Paleo. Although we will serve this at our Thanksgiving table, and we will serve it out of a gravy boat, and we will call it gravy, it is not truly "gravy", it is a deglazed, reduction sauce. And it is better.
The first thing about making gravy is that if you are one of those super-stress freak type cooks who focuses more on the end result than on the process you need to get a hold of yourself. The gravy will be made after the turkey comes out of the oven when all the relatives and guests are peppering you with offers of "help" and/or asking when the food will be served. You will be tempted to rush and give in to this outside pressure. Don't do it. The final moments before a large meal with a roast of meat are sacred. Everyone but your true assistants steps aside. It is nice if the meat carver is a different person than the gravy maker. Do as my grandfather always wanted, and warm your gravy boat or dish on the back of the stove. Nothing takes a gravy downhill faster than pouring it into an ice cold dish.
If you begin the roasting process with that Holy Trinity of herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme) mixed in to softened butter, you will not have any worry regarding the flavor of your sauce. I slather this herb butter under the skin of my turkey as well as all over the top before it goes in the oven. Turkey skin is hardly attached to the meat, so this is easy. I use this melted butter as part of the pan drippings that I baste the turkey with during cooking. Once I remove the turkey form the roaster to the carving board I have a large pan full of delicous drippings. If the turkey was particularly succulent and there is a large amount of fat, I pour some of it off. I keep about 1 cup of fat in the roaster and all the other liquid and drippings. If you let your turkey get too dry during cooking you might need some additional stock or water. You can have additional stock on hand by simmering the "giblets", (the neck etc... that is in a little bag inside your turkey usually) in some water while the turkey is roasting. I like about 1 1/2c of liquid to 1c of fat, but to be honest, I usually just leave EVERYTHING in the roaster and get started. I take 1/2c of drippings out of the pan and put them in a pyrex measuring cup. I add 1/4c of arrowroot powder and I mix like mad until there are no lumps. Arrowroot is not as forgiving as flour about yielding up its lumps later on in the process. My grandmother's edition of The Joy of Cooking asserts that arrowroot will make the most delicate textured sauce! This gem of a book also reminds us that arrowroot has a neutral flavor and, unlike flour, does not need to be cooked to remove its "rawness". Arrowroot also has a calcium-base which makes it nice for the Paleo crew. Now, add your arrowroot mixture back into the roasting pan which you should have on a burner with the heat on medium. Whisk vigorously! At this point, your sauce is finished except for the addition of salt if you want it. I sometimes throw some onions, garlic, carrots, white wine etc... in around my roasting meat. You can use this as part of your sauce by removing all chunks of vegetables and blending them with stock before returning them to your roasting pan.
Combining new and unusual flavors is one of the most rewarding expressions of culinary artistry. Our global food world has opened up a whole new array of tastes and ingredients to us in the kitchen. This is exciting and makes for some delicious recipes, but it also allows us to engage in some eating habits that are extremely suspect in terms of sustainability. The presence of international flavorings certainly takes us a long ways away from the flavor experiences of our hunter gatherer forebearers. We are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday. There is no shortage of writings on the meaning of Thanksgiving, food and the politics of settling the United States. Personally, I am grateful for a day of family, food, rest and feasting and I believe it is a wonderful day for many of us. However, I also spent many years learning about the history and politics of European settlers and the Native peoples they displaced. This blog is also not the place for an evaluation of that shocking chain of events. This blog is about food and hunter gatherer food traditions. We have robbed the native people's of the United States of many of their food traditions, either by hunting their food supply to extinction, forcing them off the land that sustained them, or by wreaking ecological havoc with water usage practices and invasive species. On this Thanksgiving Day, when we are supposed to be honoring the eastern native peoples, the Abenaki and their neighbors, for saving the helpless, starving pilgrims let's take a moment to be true to the food traditions of those people. Today, we begin with that deep red staple, the cranberry. Cranberry sauce is on many tables only once per year. For some of us it comes jellied in a can and for others we get more adventurous combining cranberries with cinnamon, cloves, oranges and sugar. I'd like you to think about how cranberries would have been used by the Abenaki (or maybe the pitiful pilgrims). Cranberries grow in a swamp where there are nice cold winters. They are primarily a crop of New England. Gathering cranberries is a spectacularly fun activity. There are no thorns like raspberries, you don't have to bend over like strawberries and there aren't zillions of flies and mosquitos like blueberries. In my experience you paddle down a lovely blue river on one of the final brilliantly sunny warm days of the season in your canoe. You paddle up to the bushes alongside the river and you reach out and pick the cranberries and toss them into your basket. If you are brave and adventurous you might climb out of the canoe and cautiously pick your way into the bushes hoping not to misplace a foot and end up waist deep in really cold water!
If we put our minds to the ingredients available to the Abenaki or other early New England settlers (who had used up all their ship stores) we quickly realize that cane sugar would not be available. Citrus fruit was certainly not around, nor were the spices of Asia and Africa. However, gelatin was available in great quantities as well as three wild sweeteners: birch syrup, maple syrup and honey. I made mine with birch syrup.
The Roots of Cranberry Sauce
1 bag organic cranberries, washed
3T powdered gelatin (this obviously is not the form the original Thanksgiving kitchen would have possessed)
1/4-1/2c birch syrup
Cook cranberries in 1/4c water on low heat until they soften and burst (about 15min).
You can either press the cooked cranberries through a sieve (wait til they cool) or you can dump them in a blender. I used the blender because I want to eat all the skins and seeds. In my blender I added the birch syrup. Blend until smooth. In the pot you cooked the cranberries in add 1/4c water and heat so that you can dissolve your gelatin in it. Stir up your gelatin until it dissolves and then pour the blended cranberries and sweetener in with the dissolved gelatin. Stir well. Use any type of glass mold or dish that is smooth. If you are worried about removing the sauce from the mold you could line the mold with saran wrap, but let the sauce cool a little before you pour it in. Pour the sauce into the mold and refrigerate for several hours. The flavor of my sauce is deep, rich, and tart, but it is actually less sour than many of the overly sweet canned sauces I've tasted.
Honor the hunter gatherers that gave us this holiday.
I believe one of the single biggest flaws in the average Paleo person is the absence of bone stock in the diet. It is absolutely true that paleolithic people did not use dairy and that dairy foods are not required for optimal calcium intake. However, non-dairy eating, paleo person had an extremely good, frequent source of not only calcium, but every other mineral that is required to create strong bone in our body. They got these bone building minerals straight from...other bones. One early cooking method used by several indigenous cultures involved placing chunks of meat and bone into a vessel containing water and heating the contents either over fire or by adding hot stones to the mix. Bones were cracked open and the marrow eaten out and they were sometimes ground and eaten powdered. Fish bones from small fish were always eaten whole (which is why sardines with the bones in are such a good source of calcium whereas boned sardines are not). Even our great grandmothers fed their families bone minerals. A few generations ago no self respecting head-of-the-kitchen would have thrown away a chicken carcass or beef knuckle bone. It would have gone into the stock pot. Modern day Paleo folk who sustain themselves on salmon fillet, boneless chicken breasts and ground beef are missing out. Have your kids do the following experiment just to make it fun. Try to bend a chicken thigh bone. Feel that it is hard. Soak the bone in vinegar for 24 hours. Now check it out. It is rubbery. All the hard minerals like calcium have been dissolved by the acid in the vinegar and are now in solution in your water. Here is how to do it as a delicious stock instead of as a science experiment.
1 chicken carcass precooked. My family likes roast chicken so I use the leftover gristly pieces and bones from our roast chicken. I take any leftover meat off before this process.
Fill a large stock pot with non-chlorinated water. Add 1/4c of vinegar (you won't taste it in the soup). Add the carcass (don't add the leftover gravy or gelatin). Add a couple bay leaves, a few celery stalks, a quartered onion and a few hunks of carrot. Leave this pot at room temperature for about 2 hours.
Bring it to a boil on the stove and then turn it way way down, until it is just barely simmering. Leave it simmering for about 1-2 hours.
Let the stock cool just a little. I set up a large colander over a huge pot or bowl and I dump the contents of the pot into the colander. All the beautiful stock drains into the bowl and I get rid of the rest.
Now you have a plain chicken stock that you can use right away or freeze for later. All winter long you should be consuming bone stock daily. Soup for breakfast is my favorite in cold weather.
EAT BONES FOR STRONG BONES
Mayonnaise is creamy, delicious, rich and…Paleo. For those of you missing your creamy dairy, make some mayonnaise and it should make you feel like you ate something creamy and cow-like. Mayonnaise is not supposed to be sweet and cloying. It should be complex and delicious.
Homemade mayo will include raw eggs, olive oil, mustard, sea salt and an acid like raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The use of raw eggs calls for a conscious search for clean food. There is nothing dangerous about raw eggs if your own immune system is decently functioning, and if your eggs are from a farm that cares for its animals and grounds. Remember that salmonella bacteria is all around us. Kids and old folks or those with autoimmune diseases are the ones who suffer seriously from food poisoning. It doesn’t make sense for us to try to sterilize our food. It makes sense for us to repair our immune systems and to restore the microorganism populations that kill the pathogens in our guts.
Homemade mayo with raw eggs is an extremely enzymatically-rich sauce. Another way to improve your homemade mayo, to turn it into a super food, is to use liquid whey. Liquid whey is a blip in the Paleo approach since it is derived from dairy. Whey is the clear liquid you see on top of yogurt. Using whey enables you to create a lacto-fermentation process such as is used to make traditional saurkraut or Korean kimchi. Anybody who says hunter-gatherers did not eat fermented foods does not understand lacto-fermentation. This is different process from yeast-sugar fermentation which results in alcohol. In lacto-fermentation the process derives from lactic acid producing bacteria. These are many of the bacterial strains people pay money to get in a probiotic nutritional supplement. Lactic acid producing bacteria are the microorganisms that create an inhospitable habitat for pathogenic bacteria like salmonella. You can make your own lacto-fermented foods without whey, but it is an extremely hit-or-miss process which terrifies many people because we have lost the intuitive sense, as well as the food-crafting techniques, to recognize when our fermentation has gone correctly versus when we have cultivated the wrong types of microorganisms. Therefore, please keep in mind that you ABSOLUTELY CAN LACTO-FERMENT WITHOUT DAIRY. Using liquid whey makes the process easier.
Today I added 1 teaspoon of chipotle puree to my homemade mayo so that it made a creamy, spicy dressing for some mahi mahi chunks I had grilled the day before. Here is the recipe:
2 egg yolks + 1 egg at room temperature (or warm the blender jar)
¾ c olive oil (don’t use the extra virgin, green oil, use the cheaper variety or your may will have a decidedly olive oil flavor)
1/2t sea salt
2T raw apple cider vinegar
1/2t Dijon mustard
Place all ingredients except olive oil in your blender and blend on low until well mixed, drizzle in the olive oil extremely slowly while the blender is running and then do the same with the whey. Leave at room temperature for 6-8 hrs, then refrigerate. It will last a few weeks. If you don’t use whey, refrigerate your mayo right away and it will only keep a week or so.
To make your own whey you have two choices.
1. If you have access to raw milk, pour raw milk into a quart jar and leave it for 2-3 days at room temperature until it separates. The clear liquid is whey.
2. Purchase a large container of unflavored, plain, whole milk, organic yogurt. Dump the whole thing into a thin, linen dish cloth, tie the dish cloth up and hang it from a hook at room temperature over a large bowl. Over about 24hrs all the whey will drain into the bowl. In the dish towel will be a cultured , cream cheese that if you have anyone in your life who eats dairy , will be a lucky beneficiary.
This summer I had a chance to eat brunch with my sister at Amanouz Cafe, a Mediterranean- North African restaurant in North Hampton, MA. It was a great paleo brunch without any sense of loss and even with new things to try. The spicy lamb sausage links served with a little onion, tomato salad were unbelievably tasty. The eggs were spectacular. One plate of eggs had a buttery herb sauce over the eggs and the other plate of eggs had a spiced tomato sauce. The most noteworthy thing about the eggs was that although they appeared scrambled (my favorite) they were actually steamed. Most of us only think of poached eggs when we think of steaming eggs. Those of us who enjoy our eggs scrambled up and cooked in a skillet, are unfortunately ruining the eggs in the process. Scrambling the yolk and then subjecting it to the temperature of a hot skillet oxidizes the cholesterol in the eggs and damages the Omega-3 fats in the yolk as well. This is an issue many eaters of eggs are willing to accept, especially those of us who do not like egg whites separately no matter how they are cooked! However, scrambling the eggs and then gently steaming them prevents you from wrecking the delicate, beneficial fats in your egg yolks. You need to have an egg poacher or heat proof cups (ramekins) to put the eggs in and then the cups sit in a shallow water bath that is gently simmering. The pan containing the water bath is covered with a tight fitting lid so the eggs are cooked via indirect steam heat. First, scramble your eggs with some liquid. You can use water. A ratio of 1.5:1 will make silky smooth eggs. If you want them drier and firmer use less liquid. You can use broth too. They are moist and fluffy and delicious. And will essentially be "molded" (think jello mold) when they are done so they look extremely chic on the plate. Just in case you need to bust out that kind of impressive food skill. Caveman style...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Within the Paleo community and the traditional food ways community there is an on-going "conversation" regarding dairy. Strict Paleo followers obviously do not include dairy. In general, I suggest to my clients that they avoid dairy with the exception of butter/clarified butter which is an incredibly valuable, rare source of the short chain saturates. I also am intimately familiar with the work of Dr. Weston A Price and his nutrition research as well as the experience of thousands of present day families and individuals who have introduced raw dairy into their diets with profound health benefits. Where does that leave us with regard to what to do with dairy? It leaves us in the usual position when it comes to our food. How do you respond to it? How do you feel, behave, perform, look? How is your health? How is your body composition? What happens to you when you leave dairy out of your diet completely for six weeks? Be ruthless in your assessment. Don't make excuses for yourself. For example, dairy is impactful enough on my 12 year old son's acne that even he has begun to turn down ice cream on occasion. He doesn't say to himself "Well I'm a pre pubescent adolescent boy, I'd have zits anyway."
One thing is absolutely certain about dairy. If you are going to eat it you must consume it in it's original, nutritious form. Raw, alive and complete. No pasteurization, no homogenization, no skimming, no heating or cooking. You can culture it (raw cheese, raw sour cream and raw kefir). If you can't get your dairy in this form, DO NOT EAT IT.
Dr. Tom Cowan, M.D. is the author of The Fourfold Path to Healing, a brilliant look at many common illnesses with the adherence to Ancient Food Ways (although not Paleo ways) as one of the four healing paths. He likes to tell the following story: One day his son asked him, "Do you know the definition of an adult?" "What is it?" asked Dr. Cowan. "A person who likes vegetables" replied his son. Dr. Cowan uses this story to illustrate a vital point about nourishing a growing body-namely that human beings likely possess an intuitive sense about nutrition to which most of us have lost our connection. In the case of vegetables as fodder for children the issue of the necessity for fat-soluble nutrients is raised. When we reach adult hood our metabolism becomes more proficient at turning plant nutrients into forms usable by humans. As children, or when we are older, or if we have a metabolic deficiency, we are not proficient at using plant nutrients for our requirements. Dr. Cowan encourages parents (or those of us who are older or who have illness) to derive excellent nutrition by running the vegetables through a cow first!! Raw cream, butter, organ meat, bone broths come out the other side. For all you muscle-adding athletes out there you should think of yourselves as growing children. A child's body is in the process of building proteins, collagens, connective tissue, hormones, bone and muscle just like yours. All the original strong men knew this too. They ate raw cream, raw whole milk and raw beef and eggs (WITH THE YOLK).
Friday, October 15, 2010
Red palm oil has not had the rebirth that coconut oil has been fortunate enough to experience. It may be that the taste is more unfamiliar to westerners and a little stronger. Red palm oil is a nutrient dense fat. It is loaded with beta-carotene (hence the color) as well as coenzyme Q10 and other benefits. You can read the story of red palm oil here.
There is a legitimate concern amongst folks who take environmental stability and sustainability into account when they chose their food supply that the Paleo diet is not an earth-friendly diet. In its correct form, the Paleo diet should be the MOST sustainable diet. Including a variety of foods that are produced in marginal ecological zones where conventional agriculture is not possible should be a desire we all have as Paleo eaters. Red palm oil needs to be on our radar. You can read more about it here. I think that African cooking is not on our radar at all! It doesn't have the cache of Asian cooking or the popularity of other ethnic cuisines. We miss out on some very Paleo food concepts if we don't look at many of the food traditions of African nations. I purchase my red palm oil at our international grocery store in Tucson and it is very affordable. In the pictures is the brand I found, and the nutrition label.
A study from right here in our own home state, looked at the dietary intake of red palm oil and its effect on the nutrient intake of breastfed babies: "Dr. Canefield of the University of Arizona in the US discovered that mothers who nursed their babies provided their babies with more vitamin A and carotenes by pre- paring their food with red palm oil than the control group which took beta-carotene capsules."
For a recipe that includes red palm oil and is derived from several African traditions sign up for the mailing list at www.paleofoodlist.com!! This month's recipes coming soon...
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Green peas aren't really Paleo. They are legumes. But in my personal nourishing food universe, I try my best to eat freshly shelled peas once a year. My uncle makes fun of me, "You have to pay extra to get the peas that you have to do the work of shelling! Why not just buy the frozen ones?" He is right about the price actually, but I still don't care, because he didn't mention taste and effect on the soul. These days, if I get to New England at the right time of year, I take some money to Crossroads Farm and get a big bag of peas in the pod. Peas in their pod are a powerful reminder of the fact that there are some foods that just cannot be available all year around. There are only a couple weeks where gardens produce peas in their pod. As a kid we ravished the pea vines in my grandparents' garden gobbling them up right there in the row. We had to take turns shelling the peas on the front porch with my mother, grandmother and aunts so that they could be blanched and frozen. It was one of those tasks that was sort of boring, yet reassuring and peaceful. It was kind of a test to see how big a pea could get before, upon popping it in your mouth, you realized it had turned bitter instead of sweet. Eating peas from their shell once a year is a reminder to me that growing food is special, seasonal food is special, local food is special and family food traditions can be special. This past summer I wanted my sons to experience what I felt. The picture is my oldest son, shelling peas with my grandmother at her kitchen table. Eating green peas once a year may not be strictly text book Paleo, but it encompasses so many important aspects of eating well that I'm not throwing that baby out with the bath water just yet!!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
At our recent "In the Paleo House Event" we served up several different Paleo party foods. This one was a little skewer of marinated lamb, heirloom cherry tomatoes and cracked green olives. Traditionally, a Middle Eastern lamb with lemon and oregano would be served with a yogurt sauce. Ours was served with a tahini sauce. When I make a tahini sauce I don't like to use lemon juice. The flavor is too harsh. I put some sesame tahini in my Vita-Mix. If I use 1c tahini, I add about 1/4c water and 1/4c olive oil. Then I add the grated zest of about 2-3 lemons. That is a nice powerful lemon flavor without the sharp acid sourness of lemon juice. Tahini and olive oil take quite a lot of salt as well, so I would add about 1T of grey, sun-dried sea salt.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
It seems that lots of people find themselves stuck in a rut when they start eating Paleo. I think there are a bunch of reasons for this. The first one is that many people want any old excuse to go back to eating the same cereal/bagels/toast they were eating for the previous twenty years (although they never complained about having to eat the same thing every day then?!?!). Another reason is that many people think that breakfast is supposed to look a certain way. For example, when I tell people I eat stew for breakfast they think that is CRAZY because stew is for dinner not for breakfast. Why?? There is no good reason for that at all. In fact we should eat our most nourishing food earlier in the day. Another reason people feel stuck in a rut with their food is because we are so ADHD and overstimulated that we no longer notice and appreciate subtle differences in flavors and textures. Let's talk asparagus. During asparagus season I like to have it a few times per week, but it is different every time. Sometimes I grill it and then drizzle it with olive oil. Other times I make a little Hollaindaise sauce for it. Sometimes I steam it and serve it with garlic butter. Once in awhile I steam it with matchsticked carrots and make a little chili/miso sauce for it. The photo shows lightly steamed asparagus sprinkled with truffle salt. The truffle salt was a beautiful gift. It tastes nothing like regular salt, and asparagus with truffle salt tastes nothing like asparagus with olive oil and lime juice. Allow yourself the opportunity to see your food in all its wide range of beauty. Develop an appreciation for the more refined and subtle nuances of your food. My Dad had a stock answer for my sisters and me when we whined about being bored, "Only boring people get bored." Hmmm, I won't go so far as to accuse you of being boring if you are complaining about being bored with your food, but my father would.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Hello again. The long hot Sonoran summers drain me of all zest for life and creativity. The end of this inferno is in sight and I'm ready to write here again! As I've mentioned before, my definition of "Paleo eating" always returns to the hunter-gatherers. During the Tucson summer my spirit creeps north where it hides in a mossy, shady spruce forest near a cold little splashy brook. In those parts of the world we have three hunted/gathered sweeteners: raw honey, maple syrup and birch syrup. Almost nobody has had a chance to taste birch syrup. You have to order it from Alaska or Canada. This is not as unreasonable as it sounds unless you have made a commitment to eating locally because I'm sure you eat many foods every day that come from that far away. It would be better to order birch syrup from Alaska than to eat unfinished honey imported from China (see this NPR story).
Birch syrup is more precious than maple syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap from a maple tree to make one gallon of syrup. It takes nearly 100 gallons of sap from birch trees to make 1 gallon of birch sap. It can be done sustainably and without harming the trees. Check out the management of the sugar bush that produces Kahiltna Gold birch syrup. They let the trees rest two years between tappings! Birch syrup is less sweet than maple syrup and tastes faintly of molasses. It has a similar nutrient profile to maple syrup including manganese, magnesium, iron and some B vitamins, but birch syrup has more than double the nutritional content. The one drawback, as far as I'm concerned, about birch syrup is that it is primarily fructose as opposed to maple syrup which is sucrose. Isn't it fascinating that trees have different types of sugars!
Birch syrup is delicious and pretty soon I'll give you a couple recipes. The basket in the picture is perhaps my favorite possession. It was made by a Penobscot man in Maine using the traditional brown ash. It is strong as an ox and beautiful. I grew up watching my grandfather use his Penobscot-made pack basket for all his hunting and fishing trips. No plastic, no fancy fishing bags. I feel honored to have this beautiful, utilitarian basket. Brown ash trees, birch trees and sugar maple trees are found in similar ecological zones.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
It might have been easy for me to go Paleo because I've never really liked baking. I did the whole homemade wholegrain bread thing and mountains of "healthy" muffins for play groups. I never liked it. Didn't like all the stirring, the messy flour everywhere and the sticky dough in the bowl that has to be washed out. Give me vegetables to chop and meat to roast and I'll cook all day, but baking? Nahh. At this point though, it is really important for my household to remain grain-free (and potato starch-free and rice flour-free and free of all the other crap in gluten-free mixes). I also like to keep my troops happy (when appropriate) and I love to use food to celebrate important moments in life, SO baking delicious things has a place in my world.
If you read advice on cooking for others or hosting dinners I think it is generally accepted that busting out an experimental concoction is not recommended. I do get the good sense in that, having made some pretty disgusting stuff in my time. But I feel like it is a test of your friends and families' character to use them as guinea pigs. I feel as though if you have someone in your life that seems like "good folks" then they will tolerate and perhaps, on occasion, benefit from kitchen experiments.
Last week it was Crandall's birthday. Crandall absolutely qualifies as good folks, so I though it was safe to experiment on a birthday cake. Plus I had extra insurance because I knew he'd be worn out from lifting a whole bunch of heavy weights beforehand, so there was a chance his judgement would be impaired. Plus, Crandall then qualifies as a Power Athlete so full-fat dairy is in his Paleo cupboard which makes desserts a reasonable undertaking.
Experimental, Chocolate-Coconut Birthday Cake
1/4c coconut oil
1/4c coconut butter (I use half oil and half butter to cut the noticeable after-taste of straight coconut oil)
1 1/2T vanilla
1 1/4c Rapadura (this is a specific sweetener. It is dehydrated crushed sugar cane. Sucanat is NOT THE SAME.)
3/8 cup RAW (I used Vivapura brand) cacao powder
1/4c coconut milk
scant 3/4c SIFTED coconut flour
3/4t aluminum-free baking powder
Melt coconut butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cacao powder, Rapadura and coconut milk and mix together. Remove from heat and set aside. In a bowl, mix together eggs and salt. Stir in cocoa mixture. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk into batter until there are no lumps. Pour batter into greased 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.
This time when I made the cake I topped it with hard-whipped heavy cream (I add 1T Dr. Bernard Jensen's gelatin dissolved in 2T hot water to the cream) mixed with shredded coconut, and 6T maple syrup. However, it turns out this cake, because of all the eggs and coconut flour, is like a firm sponge cake. It is a little bit on the dry side (sorry Crandall). It has a firm, even texture and is not at all crumbly like a cake. Next time I will make a hot cherry or raspberry fruit compote. Then I will slice the cake thinly and pour the hot fruit sauce over the cake and then put a little whipped cream on top. This will make it more like a traditional trifle and this cake recipe will hold up perfectly for it.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I LOVE to try new fruits and vegetables and yesterday at the farmer's market I tried and purchased some loquats. These are members of the rosaceae family (see my post on Jan 22 about the importance of these seeds). According to the citrus man at the farmer's market, loquats don't last long once picked and the season is short too. Ahhhh, the hallmark of a real paleo fruit! They also require a little bit of effort and mess to eat. They are about 1 1/2" in diameter with a slightly fuzzy skin like a peach. The skin is flavorless, but a bit tough so some people slip it off although I ate it. The flesh tastes like ripe apricots and their is a giant cluster of seeds in the middle. I chewed up and swallowed a couple of the seeds which had the characteristic almond-like flavor of the cyanide-bearing rosaceae family. I overheard one lady at the farmer's market who characterized the typical American approach to food. The citrus man was incredibly kind and tolerant, but I had to restrain myself from giving her an impromptu lecture! He gave her a loquat to taste after showing her how to slip the skin off and expose the flesh and the seeds. She said it tasted good, but was too much work to bother with and she didn't purchase any. This lady looked like she spent more time getting dressed to go to the farmer's market than me and my kids put together. I can guarantee her car is very clean, she has a well maintained yard (probably done by a staff) and probably sets the table each evening for dinner with matching table ware, but she can't be bothered with a 45second process so that she can eat a sweet, juicy, local, fresh fruit. Get your priorities straight people!! Do you want the farmer to wash, peel, and separate your food for you? Do you want him to cut it up into bite size pieces? Maybe you want him to hand feed you and then clean up afterwards?
The kids got loquats, turkey kielbasa, half an egg, cherries and bananas with pumpkin seeds and coconut for breakfast.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
My table is blessed this week with gifts of fruits and vegetables. First, from Mateo's client Daniel, came organic roma tomatoes, heirloom yellow and purple tomatoes, cucumbers and jalapenos. Later from Mike T. came fresh rosemary, mint and one of his last lemons. If you've never eaten any of the giant, lumpy, bumpy, strangely colored tomatoes you're missing out. They should just be sliced up (don't refrigerate them because the flavor gets reduced), sprinkled with a little sea salt and slurped. I had thawed some mahi mahi for the grill before Mike gifted me with the herbs and lemon, so I made a marinade/sauce for the fish. I put 1/4c balsamic vinegar, 1/2 oliveoil, leaves from the 10" stalk of rosemary and all the zest from the lemon (not the juice) into my blender and made a thick vinaigrette. I marinated the fish in it for about 20min before grilling it. While the fish was grilling I poured the leftover vinaigrette/marinade into a saucepan and brought it to a boil. I reduced it for about 7min while the fish was grilling. This takes care of the raw fish factor and makes the balsamic a little sweeter. You end up with a thick, lemony/sweet/herb sauce for your fish. Gratitude Mike and Daniel.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Mmmmm. A new Paleo delight. Crandall found it. A Pan de Higo Almendrado, from Spain. Translated as Fig Almond Cake. My kids said it was in no way a "cake", but that does not diminish it's deliciousness. It is basically mashed up figs pressed with whole almonds. The ingredients are: Pajarero Figs and Marcona Almonds. That is a good ingredient list.