Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cabbage Chop Suey


Woo-hoo--not only did this recipe "primalize" with ease, but I finally found the perfect taste to serve it with--Melissa Joulwan's Egg Foo Yong from her new e-cookbook "Well Fed". 

I've had this recipe for aeons.  My grandmother passed it onto me when I was just a teen.  She says she ripped it out of a newspaper that was featuring ways to cook cabbage--she suggested she'd gotten it sometime "around the war".  See the bacon?  There's no shortage of bacon, and at the time this recipe was created, the world wasn't on their low-fat craze, either.  Back then, people were smart enough to know they cook things with bacon.  Bacon makes everything better.

This recipe is ridiculously easy.  And tasty.  And just too unusual to serve with meatballs or roasted chicken.  Make the egg foo yong.  Surely you have leftover chicken somewhere?  It's like this savoury giant egg-pancake full of cooked chicken and shredded cabbage and spices.  Melissa is brilliant with flavors and spices.  Sure, Melissa used a pancake mould for hers, but I just whipped out my cast iron skillet and made one big one to serve over the chop suey.  Eggs and bacon for dinner.  It's economical and creative!!

Alright, makes enough side-dish for about 5 people.

Ingredients:

6 slices bacon, about 1/2 lb, chopped
1 onion (or 1/4 spanish onion), chopped
1 1/2 c celery, chopped
1 c mushrooms
2 c shredded cabbage
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 tbs arrowroot powder + 1 tbs water
1 1/2 tsp soya sauce
1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce

Directions:

Alright, so once you're done chopping everything into bite-sized pieces, and shredding your cabbage, whip out your frypan and cook up the bacon.  If there is tonnes of fat, you can drain some off, but you don't actually need to if you don't want to.  Add onions, mushrooms and celery.  Once onion is translucent, add your cabbage and green pepper along with water.  Simmer for 10 minutes until cabbage is tender.  While that is simmering, mix arrowroot and water in a small dish.  Measure out your soya sauce and worchestershire sauce in another little dish.  When your cabbage is soft enough for your liking, add the arrowroot and water, stirring as it thickens and coats the cabbage/vegetables.  Then add soya sauce and worchestershire sauce, stirring just until blended.  Remove from heat and serve!
Serve egg foo yong directly overtop, and don't forget to make her special sauce!  Have I said it enough?  Don't sweat the marginal amount of soya sauce I use.  Unless you have a soy allergy.  Then use coconut aminos.  Voila.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Flattened Garlic-Lime Chicken

Flattening a chicken makes it cook waaay faster--this bird cooks in about an hour and fills the kitchen with beautiful aromas.  This is adapted from a Chatelaine recipe that I tore from the magazine many years ago.  While the recipe calls for whole chicken, rubbing the seasoning over chicken pieces would work just as well.  I've heard you can put the lime slices in a tinfoil roasting pan and roast your chicken in the bbq this way, too, but I haven't tried that yet.

Ingredients:

3-lb whole chicken
2 limes
2 whole heads garlic
1 tbs butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes
olive oil

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  On a cutting board, with strong scissors, lay chicken breast-side down.  Starting at neck, cut down entire length of both sides of the spine.  Don't worry, that section of spice will make good broth.  Then flip bird over and flatten with hands.  Don't worry, you can't hurt it.  It's already dead.


Grate rind from 1 lime and place in small bowl.  Add soft butter, salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes.  Rub the mixture all over the chicken.


Cut both limes into thick slices and lay on bottom of a large casserole dish.
Lay your chicken over the limes.  Cut the tops off the heads of garlic and lay them in the dish, too.  Drizzle olive oil over the garlic, then cover just the garlic heads with tinfoil.   
Roast uncovered in oven for 30 minutes.  Then begin basting periodically while continuing to cook for another 20 minutes.  Then turn oven heat up to 400 degrees and continue to roast for 10 more minutes.  Check for doneness.  Let "rest" for 10 minutes before carving.  You can rub the garlic cloves all over the done chicken, if you want.  I think it's delicious without, but I love roasted garlic so I tend to hog all the garlic to myself.  No one comes near me all night after that.

She's beautiful, no?
Now, there's going to be pan drippings.  Do NOT, really do NOT use the pan drippings.  The lime has made them taste bitter.  But if it makes you feel better, do use the carcass for broth later on.  Any leftover garlic cloves go great in the broth, too...

Serve with veggies of choice.  Me, I steamed broccoli, then lightly sautee'd it in bacon grease and gave it a quick splash of lemon juice at the end.  Enjoy.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bulletproof!

Some days, I feel so great, I feel bulletproof.  I feel better than I did when I was 25.  I’m full of energy and ready to get the day started and do SOMETHING remarkable to make the day worth talking about, to mark each day with some event, something tangible that can be spoken of, laughed at, and recalled later.  I have plans of things I want to do, lists so long that they can’t possibly be accomplished in a week, let alone a weekend.  But most days I feel like I’m up to the challenge.
I was always this way—mostly positive, a little hyper, driven and a type “A”.  I was born knowing that each one of us on this planet has an expiration date, and for some of us, it is much shorter than others.  But we don’t normally know which one of us has the shorter lifeline.  So we waste our time sitting for hours in front of the tv (or the computer—me included sometimes). 
I have a day job.  I get up every morning—very early—get into dress clothes and commute to an office in the city.  I sit at a desk for most of the day; I talk on the phone, I pace around, I send emails and file papers.  This is life, dull as it is; this is what allows me, and everyone else who wasn’t born rich, to have a house, a car, to feed myself and my family.  And whatever is left over is what pays for the fun things I want to do.  There’s not a lot left over—my fun things are usually necessarily cheap.
So I have to work, but when I’m not at work, my time is my own.  How I use it, what I do with it, is entirely up to my imagination (and budget).
I got out there last weekend in one of these feel-good moods, and I went tobogganing.  Bought a cheap toboggan to replace the one I broke, got all dressed up in snow pants and boots, and just got out there, seized the moment and took off down the hill.  As long as there were no trees on the hill, what did I have to lose?
Now, if you’ve followed my facebook page, you already know that there was a dip at the bottom of that hill, followed by a jump, and through whatever design of nature, I hit the dip backwards, tailbone first, and I’m still feeling the results a week later.  I sucked it up at the time, got up, climbed back up the hill, and just took another run down that hill, only this time a little more carefully—I steered.   I wasn’t done having fun yet, pain or no pain in my butt. 
Stopping right then would have been failure. 
So there was no failure, no accident, no need to go home.  Because failure just incites me to try harder.  Weakness makes me mad--at myself-- for not being more fit/fast/strong.  Don’t even try to tell me I’m too old for this sh!t.  Because apparently I think I’m bulletproof and there can be no repercussions other than some tender muscles for a few days.  (If I’m going to break my neck, at least I’ll be having fun at the time.  But because I’m normally bulletproof, these kinds of ideas do not cross my mind when I’m busy having fun).
A bit of pain then, and a lot of searing pain later, did not stop me from working out, did not stop me from going rock-wall climbing a couple of days later.  In fact, as my muscles began to give out as I climbed away, my anger at my weak, pathetic arms only served to make me forget about the pain in my butt, and it drove me to keep climbing around for a full hour, longer than the seasoned patrons that came after me and left before me.  No, I’m not superhuman, just really stupid-stubborn sometimes.  Sometimes I just don’t know when to stop.  Sitting still is not my strong suit.
And I don’t like being told what I can and cannot do.  Not even by my own body.

Had a migraine the day I went zip-lining in Vancouver--didn't
slow me down--just required extra painkillers....

I haven’t mentioned it much before, but I suffer from chronic migraines.  Migraines that sometimes get so bad that I throw up for hours, migraines that induce shock and convulsions and my husband has to drive me to the hospital for a shot (or two) of Demerol and Gravol, just to give my body a break from the cycle of pain I end up in.  I have had every test, tried every medication out there.  I get headaches almost daily, at best going for about 4 days pain-free.  Then they return with a vengeance.  Paleo has lessened the headaches, at least, lessened the intensity of the migraines.  I have not gone to the hospital for THAT in a while now, and I hope to stay away for a while longer.  But needless to say, I am accustomed to pain.  Sometimes, despite the pain, I still refuse to slow down.  Sometimes that is the root cause of why my migraines put me in hospital—because I did not stop when I should have.  But life is too short to stop—isn’t it?

So it turns out I’m not so bulletproof—not all the time.  This week, I did not want to stop, despite being in pain.  With my aching tailbone, I have not had a good night’s sleep for a week.  I’m stiff all over from sleeping in weird positions to keep my tailbone from touching the bed. (I think I may have broken something).  By Wednesday, my tired, aching body was feeling so run-down that I had a constant headache and was popping advil every 4 hours.  Everything I had planned and wanted to do with my week  just came to a grinding hault.  I crashed.  My perk was gone, my drive was gone, my feel-good serotonin was gone, all of it.  I was hungry, no matter what I ate.  I was tired, but couldn’t sleep comfortably.  I was listless and unmotivated and my body was crying out for some feel-good hormones, just screaming for a pick-me-up, so that it could pick itself back up again and pull me back together...  What happened to me?
I had the energy on Monday to go climbing—pain was not holding me back that day.  What was so special about Monday?  I think back, and now I recall—on Monday I made a cup of nutbutter—and devoured it, giving my body a slew of carbs to help it to carry on.  My body had what it needed to make plenty of serotonin, enough to drive me to get out there and climb despite the pain and stiffness and lack of sleep.

The chicken pakoras are pure evil

And then Tuesday rolled around.  Hakka day.  My weekly work luncheon, a pre-set menu, where we all gorge on totally un-paleo foods.  I had a belly full of starchy evil, and so my body had a rush of serotonin with which to carry on a little more.
And then it was Wednesday, and full of guilt and determined to do better I denied it what it really wanted.  I ate twice as much fruit as I wanted to, but that was it.  The hunger came—that low-grade gnawing hunger that doesn’t go away.  I was listless but restless.  I had cravings.  I wanted a chocolate bar more than anything.  I fell asleep on the couch at 8 pm.
Thursday was much the same.  Thursday morning I got up early and did a mini-WOD—and I was happy with the fact that I got up and tried.  It wasn’t my best effort, but I did it.  Maybe I should have eaten something afterwards.  Normally, I don’t have to.  The WODs are short.  But this wasn’t a normal week.  I was hungry.  Tired.  Listless.  The restlessness stopped.  I was a lump on the sofa.
And then there was Friday.  I broke down—I was tired of being tired and I just didn’t care anymore what it did to my body--I caved and give it starch in the form of french fries.  With gravy.  Suddenly I was not hungry.  I was not cranky.  But for the next 2-3 hours, apathy reigned.  I sat in my chair at work and ceased to care about anyone or anything going on around me.  For a little while, the headachy feeling subsided.
So where did I go wrong?  Why did my body need those carbs so badly?  We all know that carbs are just sugar and the body can run just fine without sugar.  It can burn fat, and it can do it pretty well.
My mind is so focused when I eat the right kinds of foods.  When I stick to the classic meat and veggies, I am sharp of mind (and sharp of wit and tongue, too).  Why did my body hanker for carbs so badly this week?  Why did it need them when I so clearly was not running any marathons?  Is my body not producing enough of those little feel-good hormones serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine?  Most of the time my body must be doing its job properly, because I really do walk around feeling bulletproof even on those days that my head is a little achy, even if my muscles hurt.  But why, then, did I just as suddenly crash and feel like a bag of broken hammers?  Can a little lack of sleep really wreck so much havoc?  What about a little rain?  It was certainly gray and rainy and crappy out there all week.  And how do I get from my low back to my high, when I feel ready to take on the world again?
Here’s what I know about those little feel-good hormones we call serotonin—
·         Carbs cause a reaction in the body that feel like the boost you get from serotonin, but while carbs cause an instant mood lift, their effects are fleeting, usually 1-2 hours, and they do nothing to stimulate further production of more serotonin
·         Protein contains tryptophan which converts into serotonin in the brain, but requires the right ratio of tryptophan to phenylalanine and leucine to do so, so you’re best combining protein with good carbs like fruits and veggies to allow the uptake of that serotonin into the brain
·         Insulin can increase serotonin, but the more it does so, the more you’re risking insulin resistance and the possibility that you will become immune to the feel good serotonin effects.  Then you’ll need higher levels of the stuff just to feel anything at all. 
So how do I get my body to make serotonin?  There are a few suggestions...        
  • Get the right amount of sleep.  I was definitely not sleeping well.  Last night I finally slept pretty good, and I woke up at 5 am this Saturday morning, way too early, but feeling almost completely refreshed (even though my butt is still aching...)
·         Get some exercise.  Monday definitely left me feeling accomplished.  But Thursday was too much.  So don’t get too much exercise.  It’s one thing to motivate yourself, another thing to push too hard when you’re feeling down.  Or hurt and not able to sleep.
·         Rest.  Not every day has to be a marathon of things to do.  Recover.  
·         Eat right—your body needs the right balance of protein, fat and carbs.  Ketosis is great, but sometimes it may need an extra little boost, especially if you’re active.  Just be sure to give it the right kind of boost.  Pasta is not the right carb.  Even though your body may be craving simple carbs like fruit and sugar, starchy carbs like sweet potatoes and squash are actually a much better option.  Consider putting a bit more healthy carbs back into your diet on those low days.
·         Get some sunlight.  Sun definitely plays a role in the creation of serotonin.  A normal winter here in Ontario is sunny 50% of the time, even if it is -30 outside, but the sun’s rays are weak and most of your body is covered in clothing, so your body isn’t getting enough to produce vitamin D.  Consider taking a supplement in the wintertime.  Seriously.  30% of the population in cold climates suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) from lack of sunlight.
·         Hug more.  Ok, hugging actually produces oxytocin which is more of a cuddly hormone, but who couldn’t use a little more hugging?  I could.  I’m not normally cuddly.  Maybe I should be.
So there you have it.  At first, I wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, my body needed a bit of carb fuel because it didn’t have any fat left to burn.  But that’s just me being delusional.  I’m not THAT skinny.  Of course there’s fat on my bones.  I’m 40 and I’ve had 2 kids.  Sure there’s fat.  So it has to be injury.  Maybe the body just needs a little boost sometimes to pick itself back up after an injury.  Maybe that’s all it needs to feel good again.  I like to feel bulletproof because when I’m bulletproof, I act like a 20-year-old.  I get outside and have fun. 
I'm back to myself today.  I'm playing the chin-up game again, making myself do chinups on each trip to the bathroom as I suck back coffee--today I have to do 5 assisted chinups each time I pass by.  Today, I’m ready to get out there again and accomplish something.  And this time I think I better have a little carb in my breakfast.  Just a little bit so that I’ll be ready for the day.  And maybe afterwards, for the first time in a couple of months, I’ll have an after-workout smoothie.  I’m thinking pumpkin.  Time to look up a recipe in Primal Toad’s Smoothies book.....


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Zucchini Spaghetti with Chicken in Cream Sauce

Why am I so effin' hungry lately?  Hungry, headachy, achy, crappy, really.  Ok, achy because I keep hurting myself.  But we'll talk about that one later.  I think the body wants carbs.  Not grains, heck no, but 1 1/2 fruit a day just ain't cuttin' it, and neither is a handfull of nuts.  (Though that half cup of homemade coco cashew butter did it--but let's not do that one again or I will grow some cottage cheese thighs, ok?)  Pardon me while I go pop a B vitamin and hope that makes it all better. 

Anywhooo, many years ago, when I was in college in the little town of Lindsay, they had this awesome and corny restaurant called the Grand Experience and they made the best fettuccine Alfredo "Grand Style" ever--with deli ham and green peas and fresh tomato.  Everywhere I travelled around the province after that had me tasting fettuccine Alfredo in every tiny little mom-and-pop restaurant in every backwoods town.  (BTW, Wiarton used to have an awesome little place that not only did a great alfredo, but escargot as well... but I haven't been there in forever.)  So it spawned a love of fettuccini alfredo that came to a grinding hault when I became lactose intolerant.  Oh, how I missed it.  It wasn't the noodles I missed, but the silky, creamy texture. 

I found the original recipe idea for this on Family Living Simple, and I'm sure to adapt it again and again until I can make it "Grand Style" just like I remember (without the gut explosion that would surely come from that now).  So here's where it's at right now--

Serves about 5

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs chicken, light or dark, de-boned and cut up into small pieces
fat of your choice for poaching with chicken--I used chicken fat
3-4 zucchini
1/2 large spanish onion, chopped
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs butter
1 can coconut milk
1-2 tbs arrowroot powder, dissolved in a bit of water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp mustard powder
red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions:

Do you have a mandolin yet?  Because you should.  It's really important.  Set the blades to cut the zucchini into really thin noodles--as thin as you can go, really.  Cut up all the zucchini and set on paper towels, add some sea salt to help dry them out a bit so they don't cook all soggy. 

Next, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, fat, and broth, then cover and simmer chicken until cooked through.  Move chicken to a plate and turn the heat down to medium.  Put the onions in the pan, stirring, until they become translucent and most of the liquid is absorbed.  Then add your garlic (not whole, silly--through a garlic press!)  And stir just until you begin to smell it cooking.  Now add your coconut milk and bring it to a slow simmer.  Now add your spices and pepper and salt.

Once it's simmering a bit, begin to add your arrowroot and water mixture, stirring it in and letting it thicken the sauce.  If you over-thicken it a little, that's ok, because the zucchini will thin it back dow a little bit.  But get it thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Add your zucchini and chicken to the sauce and heat through, stirring frequently, just until zucchini is hot and beginning to soften.  Don't let it go soggy.

Serve, and add more nutmeg and red pepper flakes if you think that's necessary. 

If you're feeling fancy, garnish with green onions and chopped fresh tomatoes.  One day, I will get it perfect, and rename it Zoodle Alfredo "Grand Style".  But not yet.  It's very tasty, don't get me wrong, but not quite like the "Grand Style" I remember just yet.....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Blackened Fish and Mashed Celery Root

This recipe was adapted from a site called "The Refined Chef"--to see the original recipe, go here http://www.refinedchef.com/recipes_details.php?rec_title=Blackened_Catfish_over_Parsley_Mashed_Celery_Root

I clearly did not use catfish.  I don't know if I'd even like catfish.  But I like tilapia (and basa)--so that's what I used.  If you're not a fish know-it-all, tilapia and basa are firm white fish, mild in flavour but not bland as sole is.  The meat holds together well (haddock and sole can be pretty delicate and hard to flip over).

I love spice.  Really love spice.  The kids, not as much, but I'm slowly burning their taste buds off so they can join us in my love of spice.... 

This recipe feeds 4, with a bit of leftover fish if you're not greedy....
Takes about 1/2 hour

For mashed celery root you will need:
  • 1 celery root
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley
  • splash of coconut milk or real milk
  • butter for mashing
  • salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cube celery root.  Place in pot, cover with water and bring to boil.  Simmer/boil for about 15 minutes until tender enough to mash.  This will not stink up your kitchen like turnip and cauliflower.  Once softened enough, drain water off, and mash in pot with milk, parsley and butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  BTW, if you do dairy, a bit of cream cheese is really nice mashed in here in place of the milk.  But shhh, I didn't say that....

For 1 1/2 lbs fish fillets of your choice you will need:
  • blackening spice (see previous post for recipe or use your own)
  • melted butter
Move rack in oven to highest setting.  Use crappy baking trays--don't warp your good ones!  Set oven to broil.  Pat fish dry with paper towels.  Place on baking sheets, baste with butter and sprinkle with blackening spice.  Do this to both sides.  Go a bit easier on the spice for the fillets you plan on serving the children.  Place fish under broiler for 3-5 minutes per side.  Keep an eye on them as they will cook fast.  Burn fish is not blackened fish.

Serve fish over mashed celery root, dollop with butter and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Trust me.  Butter makes everything better.

Blackening Spice

Funny how my blackening spice isn't black.  Ok, granted, most things "blackened" are cooked on a bbq or under the broiler, but black?  No.  This mix has kick, but not too much kick.  You can still taste the food that's under it.  It's best for chicken and fish.  But get creative--what about shrimp??  Calamari??

Mix the following in a jar and keep sealed out of sunlight:

4 tsp tried thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 scoop stevia (or equivalent sweetener to 1 tsp sugar, or skip it)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Stuffing Pot Dinner

I found the original recipe to this "stuffing" on Caveman Strong, and even though Josee, the author, had not even tried it herself yet, I was determined to try it at my Thanksgiving dinner.  But then my appendix burst and I was in no shape whatsoever to start cooking up a storm, so I let my family all bring dishes of food, my husband made the turkey and stuffed it with old-fashioned bread stuffing (he makes an awesome turkey...) and promptly forgot all about this recipe.  Until Christmastime.  I was determined that I would have a paleo-approved dinner (in between stuffing my face with chocolates) so I hauled all the ingredients with me up to the cottage and cooked it up there.  It got the stamp of approval from several non-paleo family members, but the comment over and over again was, "there's so much in there that it could be a meal unto itself."  Well.  I freakin' love stuffing.  So why not?  It is a one-pot half-hour hastle-free dinner.  And it has everything but the kitchen sink in it.  So of course, me being me, I needed to go ahead and add a kitchen sink.  Ok, maybe not a sink, but I added even more stuff.  So here it is....

 
Serves 4 (as a main course)
Takes about 1/2 hour

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 5 slices nitrate-free bacon
  • 1/4 spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thinly
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • large handfull unsweetened dried cranberries
  • large handfull pecans, broken up

Instructions:

Chop bacon and saute in pan over medium-high heat until it begins to brown.  Crumble pork into the pan and continue to cook until pork is no longer pink.  Add thyme, rosemary, sage, onion, celery and mushrooms and continue to cook until onions become translucent.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add apples, cranberries and pecans, stirring frequently until apples just barely begin to soften.  

Serve with gravy, if you have any leftover from the holidays.... 

Ok, it is so darned flavourful that it simply doesn't need the gravy.  The gravy is distracting from the goodness.  Oh, you didn't have gravy, anyways?  I do.  I freeze mine in ice cube trays then move them to ziplock baggies for flavour bombs later.  Well, good thing you don't need them here.  There won't be any leftovers.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Big-Ass Pancake

This recipe originally came from the Paleo Periodical, but like all things, I have altered it to suit my tastes.  the texture is in between egg and pancake, moist but sturdy enough to handle with a spatula, and for the first time, is acceptably very close to the real deal.  I would serve this one again and again.  It serves two as is, but could be easily doubled, and could be made into traditional pancakes.  The addition of fillings is necessary, I think, but filling can be adjusted to suit what you have in the fridge.  I've also tried this with shredded butternut squash that I sauteed in butter and pumpkin pie spice, and it comes out very tasty that way, tasting like pumpkin pie.  You could probably try carrots and cinnamon and nutmeg for a carrot-cake flavour, too.

Ingredients:
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbs coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon and salt to taste
  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 banana
  • handful of nuts of choice--I used sliced almonds
Directions:

Peel, core and slice apples.  Saute in oven-proof pan with butter or coconut oil and cinnamon just until they begin to soften.  Meanwhile, peel and slice banana.  In blender or magic bullet, mix eggs, coconut milk, coconut flour, baking powder and vanilla.  Turn on your broiler.

Remove apples, re-oil pan and pour in batter mixture, sprinkling apples, banana and nuts over top.  Cover if you have a lid, and continue to cook over medium heat until almost set all the way through and slightly puffy.  Move pan to oven, placing about 6" below burner and broil until slightly golden on top.

Divide between 2 people and serve with butter, nut butter, honey or syrup, whatever you like. 

Can Milk Do the Body Good?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, of all things, about milk.  Yes, milk.  Now, even though I had to modify my Whole30, and completely failed in my goals for the month of January, I stayed true on two fronts—no added sugar anything (not even baked paleo “treats”), and no dairy.  I was curious about whether or not I’d miss the stuff, in all of its forms, and whether or not it would make any difference to my body (my lactose-intolerance, eczema, sinusitis, etc.)
A couple of days ago, the Paleo Parents posted a link by a Dr Cate who had written 2 articles about evolution and dairy, taking a new look at milk and what effect it might have had on our evolution.
In the first article,  (read it here; http://drcate.com/is-dairy-paleo-revising-history-with-new-persectives-on-flocks-of-goats-femur-bones-and-feckless-nutritionism/) , Dr Cate first talks about the flawed science of studying the impact of dairy on our bodies—by reviewing how the studies were done (scientist were analyzing the dehydrated freeze-dried individual components of milk instead of the whole, and how food companies pay for those studies) and she briefly visits both the pro-milk camps and the anti-milk camps.
Let’s take a moment to review the milk arguments...  The anti-milk proponents suggest that a) milk is Neolithic and therefore wrong, b) milk contains compounds, that in isolation can be harmful, so in combination should therefore be more harmful, c) offering milk beyond infancy may contribute to type 2 diabetes, d) milk causes a strong insulin response, and e) chemicals/hormones given to cows and added to milk during pasteurization leach into the milk and enter our own bloodstreams, causing a whole array of health issues including early puberty, eczema, allergies and so on.  Lauren Cordain is anti-milk.  Now, the pro-milk camp doesn’t argue milk’s Neolithic roots, nor does it argue the whole chemical additive and pasteurization thing.  But milk offers many health benefits, including the fact that milk’s insulin response makes it a great post-workout recovery fuel that helps transport glycogen and protein to where our bodies need it most, when they need it most.  Mostly, the pro-milk camp asserts that the arguments the anti-milk camp uses are, well, wrong.  For more on the pro and con arguments, go here (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dairy-intolerance/#axzz1guyGLald ) and here, (http://chriskresser.com/dairy-food-of-the-gods-or-neolithic-agent-of-disease ).
It was actually part II of Dr Cate’s article that really got me thinking.  (To read the article, go here; http://drcate.com/is-dairy-paleo-part-2-revising-history-with-new-perspectives-on-flocks-of-goats-femur-bones-and-feckless-nutritionism/ ).  In THIS article, she makes some radical, but believable, leaps of faith in her thinking, and I for one, am prepared to join her.  She suggests that in between being Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers, we would have transitioned through a phase of being herder-gatherers.  We would have figured out that herding large bovine animals was easy right after we realized that we had to follow herds as they moved about looking for good pasture.  Makes sense, right?  Why not follow the herd, and if we’re doing that, why not try to direct the herd in a direction that is more convenient for us, like between winter and summer camps we’ve already established and know to have good pasturing for these animals?  But here is where the leap really happens—if a calf dies, and the mother beast is engorged with unused milk and bellowing all night long in pain, how long would it take a Palaeolithic mother to figure out that the beast needs milking?  Not very long, I’m sure.  Wet-nursing has been around since the beginning of time.  The connection is apparent.
The article goes on--there is very strong evidence showing that bone length is greater in African tribes who consume dairy than those who don’t.  Yea, milk makes bones grow.  It makes us taller.  That fact is still apparent in African tribes of today when you compare the milk-drinkers to the non-milk drinking tribes (the pygmies were not milk drinkers).  There’s also a neat little argument that if dinosaurs didn’t die out, but rather, evolved into birds, couldn’t milk have been one factor that may have allowed Neanderthal to evolve into homo sapiens, rather than dying out as we have believed?  I’m no scientist, but I like the possible connection she suggests.
So milk may not be Neolithic food after all.  It may be that milk HELPED us to get from there to here, to evolve into what we are today.  Take that, anti-milk camp!
So, back to present-day milk...  I’ve said it a hundred times that I am lactose-intolerant.  Much of the adult population is.  It’s believed that over our lifetime we lose the ability to digest the lactase enzyme in milk.  I won’t argue that.  But WHY do we lose that enzyme?  What evolutionary purpose does it serve for our bodies to suddenly reject the benefits of milk as adults, when it needed them as infants?  I have a radical thought here—what if it’s not milk at all, but the chemicals in it and the things that we do to milk that is causing our body to eventually reject it?  Building up intolerance, like a low-level allergy, is our body’s way of saying, ok, enough chemicals?  So it’s really a defence mechanism against the chemicals, not the milk, and if we were able to consume whole, un-altered milk through our lifetimes, we would not develop any intolerance at all?
When I first found out I was lactose intolerant, there wasn’t as much lactose-free milk around.  So I was told to try goat’s milk instead.  I was told it is less-allergenic, less chemically-altered and that goats are more likely to be pastured than commercial milk-producing cows.  I don’t know if it’s true or not.  But I could tolerate goat milk way better than cow milk.  And the milk tasted richer, more like the milk you get in the UK, where cows are more frequently pastured (grass-feeding makes the milk naturally sweeter and richer tasting).
So what have I found so far in my month of dairy-free living?  Is my eczema gone?  Well, yes, but it was gone after around 4 months of grain-free living and doesn't seem connected to dairy at all.  Did my sinusitis go away?  Ummm, no, actually.  It did not change one bit.  Do my guts feel awesome?  Ummm, no also to that.  In fact, I’ve had a “food baby” belly for about 2 ½ weeks, more gas and bloating than is normal for me.  I developed a dental issue which likely has nothing to do with not consuming milk and had to take antibiotics, which may have caused the “food baby” appearance and it just hasn’t gone back to normal yet.  Funny enough, changing over to cream in my coffee instead of milk did my body good before eliminating dairy.  I wonder if I switched to full-fat dairy if I’d be able to even drink a bit of milk again, now and then?  What if I switched to goats milk?  It certainly supports the idea that it’s the chemicals, and the alteration process, that causes the problem, not the milk itself.  Did you know that when they make low-fat milk, the don’t just water down the milk to reduce the fat content, but that they add back in powdered milk to improve the texture of milk?  So low fat milk has more...milk... in it than full-fat milk does?  So drinking full-fat milk means actually drinking less milk than drinking low-fat milk.   Weird, indeed.  I wish I could test my theory with completely unadulterated raw milk, but raw milk is illegal in Canada.  So that argument, I will never know.
I am definitely in the pro-dairy camp, IF your stomach can tolerate it.  Maybe not as a main source of protein, but as a supplementary source, and as a way of making some foods more palatable/tasty. 
The goats milk argument is worth looking into.  I may do another post on that one later.  Maybe I’ll switch my lactose-intolerant teen over to goats’ milk.   And after this month is over, I am definitely going to start putting a little bit of cheese on my taco salad again.  But I might keep my dairy-free coffee creamer.  It’s really tasty.

What do you think of dairy?  Is there room for it in YOUR version of primal foods?  Do you give your kids full-fat dairy?  Let me know!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore

I first learned how to make Chicken Cacciatore in an "International" home-ec class in high school.  We had some pretty creative classes at my high school.  Know what else  I learned how to do in that class?  Debone a chicken.  And we used fresh ginger in the "asian" part of the course, something I would have never, ever seen at home since in my family we ate "foods from a box" with meat on the side.  Yea, I don't come from a foodie family.

Anyhow, I liked the Cacciatore so much that it became one of the first things I cooked for my family at home, over and over, because it was so damned easy.  It translates perfectly into the crockpot, too.  Now, when I made this on sunday, we gobbled it up so fast that I failed to take a picture of it.  So this very artistic photo is not my photo.  I wish it was.  I need to learn how to take such great photos...

Serves 4-6 (6 if you make paleo bread)


Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken (I used boneless skinless thighs this time, because that is what was on sale, but bone-in is actually better)
  • 1 pkg muchrooms (I used cremini; they were on sale)
  • 1 sweet pepper (I like to use yellow or orange because they're sweeter)
  • 1/3 spanish onion
  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, drained
  • 1 5-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c red wine, your choice (I'm a shiraz fan)
  • 1 tbs italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 of my chicken "flavour cubes"

Directions:

Throw it all into the crockpot, stir, close lid and set at 5-6 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low.  You might be looking at the red wine and thinking of omitting it, and you CAN add more balsamic vinegar to compensate, but traditional Cacciatore uses red wine and it does impart an important part of the flavour.  Your choice.  The alcohol will cook off in the crockpot.

We decided to make some paleo irish soda bread to go with it, just for a bit of nostalgic bread-dipping.  It was totally unnecessary.  The food was awesome on it's own.  The kitchen was full of all these great aromas.  I love my crockpot.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Just Get Outside, Already!!

So yesterday we finally had a bit of snow on the ground.  Out in Ajax, it was one whopping centimetre.  Barely enough to make the world white, let alone the need to shovel.  But I’ve been waiting, most impatiently, for snow to come.  So what did this primal girl do on Saturday?? Went tobogganing, silly!   Simply grabbed a couple of the kids’ old toboggans, bundled up really well (those of you in the GTA probably noticed—it was -22 in the wind), and just did it.  My weekends are all about getting out there and having fun!  (And vicariously getting a little bit of my sweat on—but only if its fun!)
Half the workout was the kilometre walk, uphill, in 10 pounds of snow gear, to get to the hill. 

Just watch out for kids--looks like I'm about to crash
 into this kid, but don't worry, I didn't...

I had a blast.  People are way too serious.  Find your inner child!  Steve and I are just two big kids with stuff like this.  We always find time to play.    I want everyone to see how easy it is to get outside more and enjoy it.  The bone-chilling cold didn’t slow me down.  Steve suggested we drive to the tobogganing hill, but you know—as kids, we would have walked in this weather.  It would not have slowed us down or put us off a good time. We would not have checked the Weather Network, either.  We would have put our stuff on and just went, and if the wind hurt our faces, we would have pulled our scarves up higher.  As kids, we would have sucked it up and got out there and had fun.  So it was time to suck it up and act like a kid.  It’s the journey, not the destination, right???

Ah, there's the workout portion of the outing...

Of course, the most important thing about getting outside in the winter in cold climates is the clothing, really—you have to have the right warm clothing or you’re just going to be miserable.  Be prepared.  If you want to get outside more, make sure you have snow-pants, long underwear, waterproof mitts, a hood that protects your face, and boots rated to -30 because standing around shivering is not cool. 

Pretty unsexy gear, right?? Check out my hole...
(can't believe I said that-couldn't resist)

 Apparently -22 and very little snow is not a good combo.  There was rain before the snow, so there was ice, very jagged ice, under the layer of snow.  And the -22 makes plastic brittle.  We shredded the kids toboggans.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell the kids.  Ha, who am I kidding?  The youngest “kids” in our house are 14 and they haven’t touched the toboggans in years.  In fact, I’m not sure that any of them even own snowpants that fit right now.  When we got home and told them we went tobogganing, they were more mortified that we went out in public, dressed like giant marshmallows, and acted like children.  “Were you the only adults on the hill—were they any kids there?”  Was the question.  Sure, there were other adults—with children, you know, families tobogganing together.  But no, no other adults just out there having fun.   But we were there.  Hopefully people WERE seeing it, and wishing they could have that kind of fun.
Getting out there is just that easy.  Tobogganing is cheap.  At least, it is if you don’t ruin your kids’ toboggans.  Now I have to comb the city for sales on toboggans.  And get some with harder plastic bottoms so we can do this again.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Roasted Spiced Rhudabaga

How many times can I type rhudabaga and spell it wrong?  Speller doesn't even know what it is.  It's winter turnips, silly!  I used to make great homefries, baken in the oven all low-fat but spicy.  Well, so many things have changed, but I missed the flavour of the spices, so I thought, what if I toss cubed turnip in some fat, and add all those familiar spices?  Tasty goodness, that's what.  But there was no dipping these in sugary ketchup like I would have in the past...  Lucky thing I had home made mayo and mixed in a little bit of curry paste, voila, good dippin' too!  (Because with my British-Canadian background, all foods must be in sauce, gravy, or dip--it is in the National Charter!!)  Ok, there is no such charter, but there should be.  BTW, I use this dip for fish, sweet potatoe and squash fries.  I like Patak's Curry Paste, but use whatever you got, it's all good. 

Repeat after me, "Bacon makes it better".  It just does.  We all know this.  So wrap your meatloaf in bacon and rejoice!  It will taste awesome.  Here's what I did to mine...
The uncooked meatloaf--see the bacon lattice?

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground meat--I used beef
5-6 strips bacon
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix eggs, meat, spices, almond meal and half of tomato paste together and form into a loaf shape in a large casserole dish or on a cookie sheet.  If you use a loaf pan, it may increase cooking time.  Spread loaf with remaining tomato paste, then lay bacon over top.  Steve thought he'd be creative and spread the tomato paste ontop of the loaf.  Both ways work, but your bacon is crispier if its on top.  Bake, uncovered, 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes, checking for doneness after an hour.  We like our ground meat well done, so we gave it 1 hour, 10 minutes.


My food photography is lacking...
Roasted Spiced Rhudabaga

1 medium rhudabaga, peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
fat of choice--2-3 tbs

Toss cubed rhudabaga with melted fat--I used chicken fat that I'd saved by freezing in ice cube trays.  Then toss cubes with spices.  Lay on cookie sheet and bake alongside meatloaf, for about 45-50 minutes.  Great dipped in curry-mayo.  Now if only I could figure out how to make these tasty guys crispy...  then I will never miss home fries again.

A Little Honesty, Please

I made mention in my last blog about my experience—and failure—with the Whole30 program.  I believe that honesty is necessary, that it’s what we need to hear from each other on this paleo/primal journey.  If all I ever read was how easy and perfect this new way of life was, I know that every time I failed at something, I’d feel pretty horrible and just give up.  But when I read that other people, people that are perhaps way more experienced at this than I am, caved to temptation, then I feel better about myself.  Not because I like to hear people fail, but because I feel a little better about my own stumbling blocks when I know that everyone has them.
So the Whole30 didn’t fit for me.  I have not given up hope on it, though-- I have simply needed to modify it to make it work for me.  So what was I trying to accomplish with my Whole30?  Well, I certainly ate waaaay more chocolate leading up to Christmas than was desirable, and hence had a raging sweet tooth going on.  I drank wine like it was going out of style.  I was feeling a whole lot more “grain-free” than paleo or primal in my efforts and I knew I could do better.  In addition to this, I am lactose intolerant, yet I allow dairy.  Now, I’m a big advocate of Mark Sisson and his more laid-back “primal” style of both food and exercise.  If Mark Sisson thinks a bit of dairy is ok, then I say dairy is ok, too.  But I wondered, what was having dairy, when I can’t tolerate dairy, doing to my stomach, and the rest of me?  I have chronic sinusitis.  I wondered….  Could going without it for a month really change anything? 
So my own version of a Whole30 isn’t perfect.  I have decided to allow nitrate-containing foods into my diet—aka bacon and ham, because the nitrate-free versions are exceptionally expensive and hard to find, and who knows what new chemicals the “nitrate-free” versions are using that ten years from now we will say is the same thing as nitrates, anyways?  And bacon is just too good to avoid.  I also still consume soy sauce.  I do not own coconut aminos, not yet, and from what I hear, it is not a perfect substitute for soy sauce anyways.  I think I add soy sauce to a meal I’ve prepared about once every other week, and usually not very much at that.  The stuff is pretty intense tasting, so a little bit does it just fine.  I figure, if Mark Sisson does it, so can I.  And he does.  And I can still chalk it up to his whole 80/20 rule.  Because no one is perfect all the time.  And my version of the Whole30 includes pain killers.  Sorry, but it just has to be.  And I have crashed and eaten out in restaurants twice already this month.  The first meal was a pre-determined menu, and there was not one thing on my plate that would be primally approved.  But that is the way life is.  Sometimes you just roll with it, pay the cost, and move on.  The second meal out, I tried very hard to make smart choices.  I had steak and sweet potato and a small Caesar salad (no croutons)—and suffered twice the discomfort as my first total-trainwreck of a restaurant meal.  So there you go.  Even the best of intentions can go awry.  Life moves on.
What my Whole30 does not include is added sugar or dairy.  I have been very good about this.  I thought dairy would be my downfall, but I have actually survived just fine without it.  I have found a dairy-free coffee creamer that I make myself that works just fine in my coffee and tea.  I had my “taco bowl” with everything ontop of it except cheese, and there was so much stuff there that I didn’t even notice the cheese (and dollop of yogurt) was missing.  Has my sinusitis disappeared?  No, but it is only day 11 of my dairy-free experiment.  Fortunately, my sugar-monster cravings disappeared on day 5 of my little experiment, so if you are fighting this same demon, know that it does get better.  Have I actually lost any weight?  Who knows—I have obediently refused to step on a scale and will not weigh myself until the first of February.  That aspect is killing my husband who is riding this out right along with me, but it’s the not knowing that keeps you honest.
I am completely grateful for all of my facebook fans, because not one of them has called me out or put me down for my shortcomings or paleo failures.  My husband, aka Mr No-Willpower, has actually been stronger this month than I myself am, and it has helped me considerably.  What we all need is support, we need each other, because we all have people in our lives who are fighting our choices (I have 3 teens, all of whom are fighting this one way or another, subtly or overtly), and because we are fighting conventional wisdom with every breath we take.  So thank you everyone!  I hope you are all having enough success on this adventure to want to keep trying.  Because trying is all we can do, isn’t it?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

My Favorite Spice Rub

Have you ever read the label of one of those delicious spice blends you can buy at the grocery store?  Don't!  It'll freak the crap out of you, and the darned things are at least 50% filler and salt, so make your own!  Get creative and buy some empty bottles to put them in!  I never have that kind of forsight, so I end up mixing the spices right when I need them.

This spice blend is perfect for beef or pork, for rubbing all over a roast, then browning the roast in a fry pan before throwing it all in a crockpot for the day.  I've used it on pork shoulder, pork tenderloins, roast beef and beef ribs so far.  It is an adaptation of the spice rub recipe in Paleo Comfort Foods, altered to my taste for spices and quantities.

1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

I've also tried substituting turmeric for the chili powder, if the meal is a little more indian-inspired, and I've added a couple tsp of coco powder for beef recipes for a deeper, richer flavour.  Try the turmeric variation on skin-on baked chicken thighs.  This coming summer, I want to try it with bbq'd meats and mixed with butter over shrimp.