Saturday, 31 March 2012

Some of These Things Just Ain't Like the Others!

Now, don’t get me wrong—there are a million benefits of adopting a paleo/primal diet and lifestyle.  The health benefits are awesome, indescribable at times.  The food is fantastic and the recipes are brave and creative and full-flavoured, but sometimes... I miss the foods I used to eat pre-paleo—not all the foods, heck no; I am eating WAY better foods now than I used to.  (Goodbye “foods from a box”)....  But you know—certain foods, special foods...  There are foods that just cannot be converted into a paleo-acceptable alternative.
Baked beans
Macaroni and cheese
Fettuccini Alfredo
Now you know what I mean.
Ironically, this is as much as Steve and I can think up.  3 things.  Because for everything else, where there is a will, there is a way.  We’ve been eating this way for so long now; we can’t recall what we’re missing.  Our taste buds have changed and we’ve become accustomed to how we eat.
Of course, we’ve learned so much now that eating out has become harder instead of becoming easier.  Our stomachs have adjusted and – healed? -   it is no longer as easy as ordering a side caesar with a steak and maybe some sweet potato fries.  We go home thinking we ate pretty good, and two to four hours later, stomach issues begin.  Nothing hideous, just discomfort, and we realize that there was hidden crap in the food.  Maybe sour cream in the caesar dressing.  Maybe those fries were lightly floured when I thought they looked dipped in egg white.  And then 3 days of bloating begins.
We used to be so laid-back.  I called us primal, not paleo, because while at home we did everything we could to eat clean and appropriately, we would still have soya sauce and full-fat dairy and our butter and meat was not grass-fed.  And while I still want to be laid-back and not go to any extremes (isn’t never eating a grain or boxed/processed foods, sugars and starches extreme enough??) it would appear that my stomach has other ideas.
The bloating and discomfort have been returning lately.  The “food baby” look is back.  Slow weight gain, nothing major, but annoying.  First, I blamed it on my cheats—the weekly hakka meal that was full of wheat flour.  I had to say goodbye to that cheat meal.  It is no more.  I can no longer have wheat even as a small cheat.  My guts have only begun to heal a week after hakka, and I then I go and bombard them again.  I was still meeting the 80/20 rule, but I wasn’t doing my stomach any favours. 
And when that wasn’t enough??  I blamed my dairy.  I know I’m lactose intolerant, but I have always been able to handle yogurt because of the live bacteria, and my home made yogurt was DELICIOUS and FULL of active bacteria.  Seriously.  The recipe doesn’t work if there are not enough bacteria.  But I had to say goodbye to dairy, too.  Damned stomach.  It’s fussy. 
So I go through spells of experimentation.  I love to collect recipes, I hoard them.  I get all these recipes emailed to me, all the time, from Chatelaine Magazine, from Canadian Living, from Kraft Kitchens.  And 99% of them are completely inappropriate, but that 1% are almost there, or have the potential to get there, so I try.
Sometimes it works out, but some recipes, while tasty and grain-free and sugar-free, just don’t work so well.  Maybe they don’t have enough protein.  Maybe they’re too high in carbs.  Maybe they just aren’t filling which would trick the body into eating more than it should.  For example, I converted a recipe this week that was a cold overnight oatmeal.  Delicious?  Yes.  Grain-free and sugar-free?  Yes.  It contained nuts, chia, banana, almond milk and vanilla.  It was light and fluffy.  But who wants to eat light and fluffy?  I had to gobble down a hard-boiled egg just to feel fed.  The naturally sweet taste made me want more—and a whole banana is way too much carb for MY level of activity. 
So this week I had a hankering for fettuccini alfredo.  Crazy, I know—it’s 2 evils at once—dairy and grains.  So I made some adjustments to a recipe I’d made before with chicken and zucchini, and the recipe turned out delicious, everyone ate it without a word of complaint (a rarity in my house).  But did it taste like fettuccini alfredo?  No.  So we won’t call it alfredo because its not and never can be.  If you can do dairy, you can get really close, but I can’t. So here is my it’s-not-alfredo recipe.  You’ll definitely like it.  But don’t expect it to taste like alfredo sauce.

Zucchini Grand-Style

Feeds about 5
Takes about 40 minutes from start to finish


  • 2 lbs of chicken, light or dark, deboned and cut up small
  • Fat of choice, for sautéing
  • 4-5 zucchini
  • ½ large Spanish onion
  • ¼ c chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tbs arrowroot powder or tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt and pepper


  • Cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Bacon, cooked and crumbled


Pull out your handy mandolin.  Slice your zucchini into thin spaghetti-like strips.  Place all the zucchini into a large strainer, layering with salt, and allow to drain over your sink or over a plate.  The salt will draw some of the excess moisture out.  Set aside.
Cook up your bacon and chop your add-ins, then set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté your chopped onion and garlic with a bit of fat just until onions become translucent.  Do not scorch the garlic.  While this is cooking, debone and chop up your chicken.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  Now, in the skillet; add your butter, coconut milk, broth, nutmeg, mustard powder and red pepper flakes.   Bring it to a simmer.  Add your chicken and let it poach for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

In a small bowl, whisk your arrowroot/tapioca starch with a bit of cold water to dissolve.  Slowly add it to the chicken and sauce, stirring and allow it to thicken.  Honestly, you want this stuff as thick as possible, overtly thick, because the water in the zucchini will thin it back down.

Once your sauce is really thick, stir in your zucchini and let it just heat through.  Adjust to taste with more red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. 

Serve it out onto plates, then top with add-ins.
Quick note—this recipe does not make good leftovers.  Re-heating the zucchini causes it to release more water, which turns the sauce into soup.  Unless you happen to like zucchini and chicken soup.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Nuts, No-Bolts

Do you remember "nut & bolts"?  How about "bits & bites"?  Oh, I remember.  They were home made, and they were around for decades before you could buy them in a cello-bag.  They were usually made of cheerios and shreddies, pretzels and peanuts.  They were finger-licking salty little buggers that you could not stop eating.  So you ate your way to the bottom of the bowl at every party, and you didn't poop after that for about a week.

Or was that just me?

Well, I miss those tastly little tidbits.  I started thinking about them a couple of weeks ago and could not get them out of my mind for a week before I caved and had to create some likeness of them.  It occurred to me--it was the Worchestershire sauce and garlic salt that I loved, not the actual shreddies or the cheerios.  So I bought myself a couple of cups of peanut-free unsalted mixed nuts at the local Bult Barn and took a stab at it.

Wow.  Got it first try.  That almost NEVER happens for me.  So here's what I did (and BTW, this recipe is STUPID-easy)  You'll laugh at yourself for not making them, and make them tonight.  And eat them all.  And you won't be thanking me, because they're so damned good you can't stop eating them until you hit the bottom of the bowl.

Nuts, No-Bolts


2 cups unsalted, peanut-free nut mix, or make your own
2-3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion powder


Preheat your own to 275 degrees.  I find that roasting nuts any hotter than this blackens the flavour of the spices and just kills it.  Melt your butter, and then in a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix well.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

That's it.  Take it out and let them cool.  Pack in an airtight container if they mke it to the cool stage before you gobble them up.  Serve at parties and to anyone who comes over.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Best Garlic-Basil Mayonnaise Ever!!

I've had limited success making mayo so far.  First, I bought the wrong type of olive oil, then I tried adding bacon grease--but forgot to strain it and wasn't so fond of the greasy baconny flavour in there.  I found that homemade mayo was not really as thick as the commercial stuff, and has been somewhat bland tasting.  But pre-paleo, I actually preferred Miracle Whip over mayo any day; I loved the tang of it.  I've tried adding more white vinegar to my homemade mayo, a bit of honey, a bit of stevia powder, all to no avail.  I've tried it with mustard powder, then tried with prepared mustard.  Tried white vinegar, tried balsamic, and tried apple-cider vinegar (which is the best one if you liked the tang of Miracle Whip, too)  And then today, it all just clicked in my head.  Presto perfect--this is THE ONE!!

First things first--you really do have to buy the Extra-light tasting olive oil.  Not the same as extra virgin, and not the same as ordinary olive oil.  Here's the only brand my grocer carries, so that's what I used this time.  What a difference this makes.

Next, I learned something important with my experimenting with bacon fat, trying to make baconnaise--because this type of fat is solid in the fridge, melting, straining and then whipping some of it into your mayo results in a thicker mayo once it has sat in the fridge.  It does impart a slightly baconny flavour.  But if bacon fat can thicken mayo, why can't coconut oil?  So I tried it that way this time.  I use virgin, organic coconut oil, which has zero flavour whatsoever, so it didn't leave any added taste in the mayo but all the thickness I wanted.  This was a good thing!

Discovering apple cider vinegar was a very good thing.  White vinegar just adds a vinegar taste, or sour taste, but apple cider makes it tangy!

And lastly, I came upon a recipe for garlic-basil mayo.  Now, I changed a few things--ok, several things.  But the thought of garlic and basil stuck with me.  Instead of fresh garlic, which has the potential to go rancid fairly quickly, I used dried granular garlic and dried basil.  Wow, what a flavour burst.  So here's the recipe:

  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup extra-light tasting olive oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried, granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Let your egg sit out on the counter for about an hour to come to room temperature.  If you only let it sit out for a half hour, don't sweat it, it'll be fine.  In a food processor, add all ingredients except olive oil and coconut oil.  Blend ingredients for a minute.  Measure out the olive oil and melt the coconut oil.

Leaving the blender on and the feeder open, slowly drizzle the olive oil in.  Pour so slowly that the stream of oil begins to break up and is barely dripping in.  It's going to take 3-4 minutes of drizzling to get it all in there.  Watch your mayo turn white in the process.  Once all the olive oil is in there, pour in the coconut oil and continue to mix for another minute just until mixed thoroughly.

Taste it.  It's already delicious, isn't it?  Now, understand that it will thicken, and the flavours will all mingle and it'll taste even beter in a couple of hours!

Carefully scrape your mayo into a clean empty jar and chill in the fridge.  I've found mayo stays good for about 2 weeks in the fridge, but begins to seperate after that and that kinda scares me.  So lets say it's only good for about 2 weeks, ok?  It's amazing how many things you'll find that you'll now put mayo in/on so this stuff will disappear pretty quickly at first!!


I'm already trying to think up ways to eat this stuff for lunch....

Why Does My Head Still Hurt--Part II

Alright, now for Part II of my migraine series, I’m going to get really sciency.    
So, according to conventional science, what is a migraine and why do they occur?

This is a "normal" brain scan

Migraines are typically thought to be caused by vasodilatation (swelling or widening of the blood vessels).  First, something occurs to cause injury (a “trigger”), and this injury/trigger causes swelling of the blood vessels which allows increased blood flow to the injury site (where healing compounds leach out of the vessels in an attempt to repair damage), which unfortunately allows further swelling to occur.  
Medicinenet ( describes migraines this way:
“Migraine headache is caused by vasodilatation (enlargement of blood vessels) that causes the release of chemicals from nerve fibres that coil around the large arteries of the brain. Enlargement of these blood vessels stretches the nerves that coil around them and causes the nerves to release chemicals. The chemicals cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. The increasing enlargement of the arteries magnifies the pain.
“Migraine attacks commonly activate the sympathetic nervous system in the body. The sympathetic nervous system is often thought of as the part of the nervous system that controls primitive responses to stress and pain, ..., and this activation causes many of the symptoms associated with migraine attacks; for example, the increased sympathetic nervous activity in the intestine causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sympathetic activity also delays emptying of the stomach into the small intestine and thereby prevents oral medications from entering the intestine and being absorbed. The impaired absorption of oral medications is a common reason for the ineffectiveness of medications taken to treat migraine headaches.The increased sympathetic activity also contributes to the sensitivity to light and sound sensitivity as well as blurred vision.

Brain scan during a migraine--see all the extra activity? 

Wow, now that’s a whole chain of unfortunate events.  You begin to see the conundrum felt by migraine sufferers.  In a nutshell, migraines are inflammation in the brain. 
So what is inflammation, really?  There’s a really good, short article about inflammation in MDA.  If you want to read it, go here: .  Unless you’re really new to this Paleo thing, you’ve heard all about inflammation and why it’s bad for you. To summarise the article, some of the inflammation triggers Mark lists include; toxic diets high in sugar, processed carbs, high gluten intake, too little sleep, being too sedentary, chronic stress, and poor gut health.  So that’s inflammation triggers.
Now what about migraine triggers?  Back to Medicinenet where they list; sleep disturbances, fasting, hormones, MSG, nitrates, chocolate, aged cheese and alcohol (aged and fermented food contain tyramine which can cause blood vessels to constrict and then expand, imitating the effects of barometric pressure which also causes migraines), aspartame and caffeine.  They also note that declining estrogen in women at a certain time of month can be a trigger.  But the truth is, a migraine can be caused by any or all of these triggers and the reaction could take days to occur, making it hard to pinpoint the exact cause at that time.
Now, I see some similarities here.  Lack of sleep.  Stress.  Poor diet.  Unfortunately, we can’t control barometric pressure.  But my point is, inflammation and migraine are very similar, if not the same.
More importantly, I see how just eating a paleo diet (and vicariously, an anti-inflammatory diet) can help reduce if not eliminate migraines altogether because we paleo advocates should already be avoiding MSG, aspartame and nitrates, alcohol (or at least consuming in moderation) and cheese (or at least moderating it).  And fasting?  Well, we know it can cause headaches sometimes.  Particularly if you’re eating a SAD because you’re going to have a sugar crash (though I recommend avoiding fasting if you do have migraine problems, or at least, pick a time when a migraine is least likely to occur).  There’s even science suggesting that reducing inflammation will help regulate hormones.  Huh. 
So, if migraines and inflammation are similar, if not the same, then an anti-inflammatory diet should offer relief, if not a cure. According to Dr Vincent Pedre, the 10 most inflammatory foods are:
  1.  Gluten
  2. Corn
  3. Beef/pork
  4. Shellfish
  5. Soy
  6. Oranges
  7. Peanuts
  8. Refined sugars
  9. Dairy products (all types)
  10. Eggs
Dr Pedre is known for his unique approach to medicine, combining western medicine with more holistic practises and has appeared on several prominent tv and radio shows and runs several blogs.  He wrote a great blog about a case study he did on a woman suffering frequent migraines where he treated her with an anti-inflammatory diet which you can read here
So, since Paleo avoids gluten, corn, soy, peanuts, refined sugars, and dairy, I should be pretty home-safe, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

Lets be honest—despite being lactose intolerant I continue to consume dairy.  Despite discovering that I have gluten intolerance, I still have “cheats” that include wheat.  I know I am allergic to citrus fruit, but I eat it anyways (too much causes headaches, rash, mouth sores and upset stomach).  I have to say that just looking at this list tells me the worst offenders for me are going to be gluten, dairy, and citrus.  I already know this and despite all the red flags my body was giving me, I have never paid it any attention. 
Why would I completely ignore something so obvious?  Can I blame it on akrasia, like Mark over at MDA suggests?  ( read this article at ).   Or is that just being lazy?
We all have cheat meals, meals that are completely un-paleo where we make mistakes, we gorge, then we regret it and get right back on that paleo-horse.  My biggest cheats are hakka (Chinese/Indian fusion food laden with MSG, salt, wheat and soy oils), and ice cream (dairy and refined sugar).  Maybe my occasional food cheats are more than just a gut-bomb.  Maybe I’m laying the framework for a whopping migraine that may come that day, the next, or even a week later.  And here I thought I was just messing up my stomach and bowels.  It can take up to two weeks for a stomach to heal after consuming grains and causing inflammation of the guts.  So why can’t it also take 2 weeks for a brain to heal from inflammatory triggers?
Right about now, if you read part 1 in my blog ( ), you heard a lot of prattle about ketosis and are probably wondering what the heck it has to do with any of this.  Since fasting can cause migraines, then it should be assumed that ketosis can, too.  So how can ketosis help migraine sufferers?  Robb Wolf has some very strong opinions on this, and some strong science, too.  This is what I’m trying to figure out.  But that’s going to have to go in another sciency blog, aka part III of my migraine series.
Until then, I’m going to have to take a much more hard-nosed approach to paleo/primal eating.  I will be giving up hakka completely, I will avoid grains even on my “cheats” and I’m going to give up dairy once again.  Of course, I will also be avoiding oranges.  We’ll see how that goes as I try to sort this new thought on ketosis out.
Meantime, have you suffered from migraines?  Has just “eating paleo” helped?  What are your triggers, and are they the obvious ones I’ve names here, or are your triggers entirely different?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Hi-carb, Low-carb, Yes-carb, No-carb; It's Making my Head Hurt

*Warning, this post is one of two (or many) parts all about migraines—there’s too much to say it in one blog posting!*

"Shh, mommy has a headache".  I can still hear the slur in my daughter's voice as she spoke around the thumb she was sucking.  As a toddler, she would come over and gently pat my head, oh so softly, in a kind of commiseration and sympathy gesture as I lay in a heap in the darkened living room on the couch.  She’d go get her little wooden chair and she'd sit by my side and wait it out, for as many hours as it would take, heaving the occasional sigh and giving me another pat on my head.  She knew the look in my eyes.  She knew it because I rarely sat still and when a migraine came, my whole world would come screeching to a halt. 

I have had headaches my whole life.  Regular headaches, migraines, sinus headaches, barometer-induced headaches, cluster headaches—I’ve had them all.  Depending on the season, I can get 2-5/week that I MUST treat with OTC painkillers—typically Tylenol or Advil.  If I don’t treat them, they can and WILL turn into migraines where no drug can touch them for around 8 hours, where I can't stand light, I see stars, sometimes I see black clouds floating around, where I can't stand to hear the sound of my kids breathing.  I’ve seen every specialist.  I’ve been prescribed a whole pharmacy of drugs to try—ones you take just when the migraines start, ones you take every day.  Nothing made a difference, the headaches still came.  About once a year, I get a migraine so bad that after the vomiting starts, my vision reduces to a narrow tunnel and I end up going into convulsions, and have to take a trip to the hospital for a few injections to the hip to stop everything—it becomes a cycle that has no end.  I’ve tried to tough these ones out, but I have gone into shock several times trying to wait it out, so the hospital is the best way to go at that point.  It really sucks.  My husband laughs that he’s been holding my hair back since I was 16...
We went to high school together, my husband and I, he was my best friend.  We ended up taking an outdoor education class together, and went on a 3 day field trip, canoeing the Gibson river route.  Now, as a teen, I was a smoker (I eventually quit, and I haven’t smoked since I was 20 but that’s another story), and I was surly just like any other teenager.  So every time we’d come to a halt to look at the next stage of the river, or to make a quick camp to cook a meal, I’d step aside and light up a cigarette.  Right in front of the teachers, I didn’t care, and while everyone else was making a fire and setting up food, I’d be standing there hauling on that cigarette.  So it was that we came to some rapids, and the teacher and I (and our respective paddling partners) had pulled off to look at the river.  He’s trying to explain something to me, and I’m hauling on that cigarette, looking at him like I didn’t give a damn, and in frustration, he grabbed my packet of cigarettes and threw them down the river. 
Needless to say, within 24 hours, I had a nicotine-deprivation migraine.  (And began my first experience with codeine, which I now know I am allergic to).  By lunch the following day, I was throwing up profusely and I could not hold the paddle reliably.  And then the river opened up onto Georgian Bay.  It was grey and choppy on the Bay.  Georgian Bay is extremely deep and rocky and claims more ship wrecks each year than any of the Great Lakes and we had a solid 2 hours of hard paddling over 4-5 foot rolling waves to get to our next campsite on Beausoleil Island where I could rest for the night.  There was a long discussion about how they would make the crossing with me in my current state.  We were 2 people to each canoe, so if I couldn’t paddle, someone had to solo that crossing.  Everyone was rearranged so that the strongest adult had to do the solo, and I only recall the look of the cold grey water as I lay heaped over the front of the canoe, carefully balanced, so that I could throw up over the side without tipping the boat.  We survived the crossing, but once camp was set up, I retreated to my tent and refused dinner and spent the whole evening throwing up profusely.  My tent mates refused to come near our tent with me throwing up like that.  But Steve, he came into the tent, which had to have smelled something awful, and he stayed by my side late into the night, keeping my long hair out of the way for me.  They almost let him sleep there in the tent with me, but thought better of it, and ended up switching it so a teacher slept in my tent with me.  Apparently the weather was going to stay grey and the water would be even worse the next day. Late into that night, they discussed how we would make the next crossing or if they should call for help to get me lifted off the island.  They had never seen anyone in such a terrible state as I was in (I’m usually incoherent and unable to open or focus my eyes or string words together in this state, so they were witnessing something that may have looked like a stroke—but wasn’t). 
But morning eventually came, and with the sun was breaking through the clouds, and I sat up, slipped from the tent, and when they found me, I was brushing my teeth with some disgust, feeling perfectly fine like nothing had happened at all. 

Now, Paleo cures everything, right?  Colitis, diabetes, eczema, GERD?  Right?  Well, not so much my headaches.  Sure, it reduced their frequency and strength, most of the time.  But not all of the time.  I didn't even notice at first how much less pain I was in until one recent weekend came and went, and Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday--I was pain-free.  It would have gone unnoticed then, too, but Steve, who never gets headaches, got a headache every one of those days.  And me, with my barometer-reading headaches, looked out the window at the grey, oppressive day, and thought, huh, why don't I?  What, exactly, did I do that was right this time?

So Tuesday was my weekly work luncheon where we go for Hakka--absolutely delicious but total crap food full of deep-fried floured meats coated in sugar-added sauces, flour-containing noodles, MGS (no doubt), enough salt to stop a horse's heart, and a few little fortune cookies at the end...  Nothing redeeming at all about that meal.  And there’s the spices.  Holy crap is this stuff spicy.  I love spicy.  Doesn't always love me, though, but that's another post.  So I ate the stuff, really pigged out, and low-and-behold--headache within an hour of eating.  Bloating, lethargy, heartburn, and a dull low-to-mid-grade headache.  So what exactly was causing it?  I think I broke every rule of Paleo in one meal, so it's hard to say what caused it, exactly—the sugars, the grains, the MSG, the salt...

But it got me thinking (and I swear I’m getting to the point)...

That same Tuesday afternoon, high on my sugar and carb rollercoaster, I minced words with Robb Wolf. 
Sorry, Robb, I didn't mean to come off as a Paleo Nazi, because I'm not one.  But he caught me off-guard.  I've been extolling the virtues of fat for months now, eating everything coated in butter, chicken fat and bacon grease.  And then he went and suggested that consuming too much fat can stall weight loss?  It wasn't possible!  I just got my head around the "fat doesn't make you fat" logic--and then he said otherwise.  I wanted to argue that fat=satiety, because that's what I've been telling myself for some time now as I feed the low, gnawing hunger I seem to have going on most of the time with fat, fat, and more fat.  But then Robb said something different--a ketogenic diet has more credence for appetite suppression than fat consumption does.  Huh?  I could go ketogenic and NOT BE HUNGRY?  This was worth investigating further.  So I started searching ketosis--on Robb Wolf's site, on Mark's Daily Apple, on  But what did I find?  A lot of research, and a lot of reader commentary on ketosis-not for hunger-but for controlling migraines.  Woa, back that horse up!!  Spur-of-the-moment, I set up a free Fit-Day account to track my carb intake. 
True ketosis happens sometime under 50g carbs/day.  It takes time for your liver to burn off residual fat stores and drop into ketosis.  It doesn’t happen instantly.  But Mark Sisson was suggesting that true ketosis wasn’t necessary—just keep it low-carb at 50-80g carbs and that was the ideal place for anyone to be when trying to reap the benefits of this primal diet.  
To read Mark's article on the ratio of carbs (there are many on his site) go to 

Now, I'm alittle naive at times--it's easy enough to convince me of the logic of something.  But to
keep me convinced is something else.  I have to test theories.  All theories.  My body is one big science experiment.  Really.  You gotta feel some sympathy for Steve, all the stuff he gets to put up with.  (Give up mint toothpaste, you say--make your own--with soap?)  He's a pretty patient, tolerant man.....

So I decided to give this low-carb thing a try.  Sorry, fruit, we will not see much of each other for the next little while....  Goodbye sweet potatoes, I hardly knew ya. 
That was back in the beginning of February.  How did it turn out?  You’re going to have to read the next blog(s) to find out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Quiche Me

Isn't it beautiful?

I have a thing for casseroles.  Anything that involves putting all the ingredients into one big dish/pot/pan, really.  I love all those comfort foods like shepherds pie and chicken potpie and anything with gravy on it.  Heck, anything with thick, creamy sauce at all.  Maybe it's the time of year.  Maybe it's my heritage, though if you ask anyone to define Canadian food, you'd get a perplexed stare.  
So my love of comfort foods also includes quiche.  Like the kind bought in the food court in a mall from the "healthy food" place.  Yea, you know what I mean.  It comes in a little tin pie plate with salad on the side.  Quiche Lorraine.  Classic quiche with ham and swiss cheese--none of that fancy broccoli and roasted red pepper kind.  Ok, you could put whatever ingredients you wanted into it.  Me, I like my meat (eggs) with meat (ham/bacon.sausage).  That's just me.
So I made a classic quiche, nothing too fancy because it's already pretty primal, and made a simple almond-meal crust to go under it.  Because a quiche without a crust is just baked eggs.  You could change and/or substitute whatever fillings you want in it.  I used a 1/2 cup of real whipping cream and a 1/2 cup coconut milk because I was afraid of making it taste too coco nutty, but now that I've tried it, I don't think the coconut milk would make any flavour difference, if you're looking to reduce the amount of dairy that this recipe uses.  You could substitute goat cheese for the regular cheeses I use.  But I don't recommend using no cheese at all, because then all you've got is baked eggs.
So, here's what I did:
Pastry (makes 2 pie crusts)
  • 3 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp cold butter
First, make your pastry.  Don't worry, this is fast and easy.  Crack your egg  into a large mixing bowl and beat the egg.  Then add all of the other pastry ingredients.  With your bare hands, pinch the butter into the mixture until it is all incorporated evenly throughout.  Form into a large ball and then drop it in a large ziplock baggie and stick it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  You can forget it there  all day if you want to.  But if you do, let it sit on the counter again for at least 5 minutes before attempting to roll it out.
Quiche Ingredients:
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup full fat cream
  • 1/2 cup spanish  onion, chopped
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped ham
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1  9" pastry
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425.  Alright, cut your dough ball into 2 halves, and put half back into the baggie and toss it into the freezer for some  other day.  Now, roll out your remaining pastry between 2 sheets of waxed paper.  It comes out really nice this way.  Make sure your circle is wider than the pie pan you're going to use.  When you're done rolling, carefully peel off one side of the waxed paper and flip your pastry shell into the pie plate.  Now carefully peel off the other side of the waxed paper.  Don't worry if you've made a mess.  If anything crumbles or breaks, just press it right back down onto the plate.  No one will notice.  Break off any excess pastry that hangs over the top of the pan.  Bake the empty shell for 8 minutes, until it is just starting to change colour.
    Now, while this happening, fry up your bacon.  Once its done, fry up your onions in the bacon grease.  Chop your ham and set it all aside on a plate.  Grate your cheese--any kind you like.  I didn't have a full cup of swiss, so mine's a mix of swiss, cheddar, and mozzarella.  In a large bowl, wisk your eggs and milks together, add salt and pepper.   When your partially-cooked pie shell comes out of the oven, reduce oven temp to 375.  Sprinkle the meats and onions into the bottom of  the pie shell.  Then sprinkle the cheese over it.  Then pour your egg mixture over everything.  Add more salt and pepper.  Return to oven for 40-45 minutes, until fully set and golden on top. 
You can eat this warm, but it's just as good cold the next day, and the next day, assuming you stick it in the fridge after letting it cool.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Recipes in Review

So, this week is March Break, and I have 3 bored, snacky teens who insist there is "nothing to eat in this house!"  So, I thought I'd do a bit of baking today.  I used to be pretty good with baking.  I could spot a good recipe from bad.  But this whole paleo thing has done a number on my recipe-radar, and I really have to bake each recipe to know if its any good or not. 

Now, taste buds are a personal thing.  In this household, we have not evolved to the point where we do not like sweet things anymore. That just hasn't happened.  These are teens I'm baking for, and they still eat crap, so my baked treats must still stand up against traditional wheat-containing versions.  Here's what I made today....And what I thought of it.

These Mudslide Fudge Cookies came from HealthBent.  The recipe says it makes 12 cookies, I think I actually managed to make 15.  They're made with egg whites--no almond flour or coconut flour.  Just cocoa, egg white, vanilla, honey and dark chocolate chips.  They were ridiculously simple to make--just mix and drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet--no whipping of egg whites required.  (I bake all cookies on an insulated cookie sheet so they never burn)

The verdict?
Soft, slightly merangue-like texture.  There was no grease slick on the tongue that almond-flour cookies sometimes create (a taste I like, don't get me wrong).  Very rich, dark chocolate flavour, almost sucked the saliva out of my mouth for a second (dark chocolate can do that sometimes).  Not terribly sweet, but just sweet enough.  Very satisfying.  One cookie is enough.  I would bake these again. 

These Carrot Muffins came from Chowstalker's sister site Dessertstalker.  I love these sites.  Don't be fooled by the shape of these--I use silicone muffin moulds that are slightly larger than normal so my baked muffins come out bigger and flatter than you may be used to seeing.  I added raisins because we like our carrot cakes and muffins that way--no chunky nuts in our cakes, please!  The recipe says it makes a dozen muffins, I managed to make 11, but that's probably my pan shape.

The verdict?
The texture was perfect--you would not know these were not traditional carrot muffins.  Moist, soft and delicate.  The taste was not quite as sweet as I am accustomed to.  I will make these again, but next time, I will increase the honey from 2 tbs to 1/3 cup.

So, what's on your baking list this week?  Anything new and exciting?

I'm still hoping to take the time to make an almond-flour pastry crust so I can make a quiche...  Maybe tomorrow?  And I found a recipe for a cheese-biscuit I still want to bake, maybe on stew night, we'll see.

What're you eating?

What Do I Know About Teens, Anyways??

I guess the answer depends on which day you ask me.
Teens travel in packs.  They can be found hunting and gathering in your kitchen, clearing out any food-like supplies you have of anything commercial, processed, sugar-added or starchy.  They are unpredictable.  They are both fussy eaters and tasteless eaters, turning down “natural” nut butter because it tastes too much like nuts, then scooping spoonfuls of commercial peanut butter, rolling it in rice crisp cereal and dousing it in pancake syrup, shovelling it into their mouths like they haven’t eaten in a year.  At least in my house, that’s how it goes.  They love something one day, then snub it the next (just like small children—you didn’t think they’d outgrow that, did you?). 
Think of the advertising out there these days aimed at teenagers.   TV ads suggest that teens will only eat foods that fit in your hand—slices of pizza, pizza pockets, hot pockets, corn dogs—if you wrap it in pastry, they’re sure to eat it.  And single serve convenience foods like granola bars, cereal bars, single-serve kraft dinners, all that crap. 
Do you still remember your teenaged years?  Of course you do, we all remember it like it was yesterday.  I remember feeling like everyone was watching me, all the time, waiting with held breath to laugh, scorn, finger-point and ridicule if I should take one mis-step.  I was so painfully aware of every set of eyes on me that I was terrified to do anything silly, outrageous or goofy.  I hated those “themed” days at school because they meant dressing up to stand out.  Being a teen was hard.   No one wants to stand out in those awkward years.  
I’ve been very vocal all along that I have teens in my household, and they are not 100% primal.  Food can be a battle. 
We inform, we lecture, they nod mutely, agree to “try again”, then go and make toast.  Now, those of you that do not have teens are reading this, thinking, “woa—rice crispy cereal?  Toast?  Syrup?  Not paleo!”  You’re right.  Not paleo.  Sure, we purged the kitchen way back when.  We took the hard line.  We tried again and again to force our new diet down their throats.  But you know what?  Teens are not like 5-year-olds.  If its not in your house, they’ll just go buy it at the store or go hang out at other friends houses where they have better junk foods.  Don’t say you’ll at least take their money away, because they have grandparents that will give it back.  No, we didn’t cave in and go buy a bunch of twinkies because the kids threw tantrums.  Its just that, with teens, being absolute is not how any war is won.  Its won slow and steady, one battle at a time.   There are good days and bad days, successes and failures.  Here’s a few of the things we’ve learned along the way:
  1. Teens are lazy and they are always hungry.  If you cut it up, make it pretty, and give them a dip to put it in, they will be more likely to eat it.  If it’s in the fridge and it’s in front of the other foods, they may eat it on their way to digging to other foods.  Make it easier to get them fed.  Keep cut veggies and some fruit right in the front of the fridge, and more likely than not, they will get it eaten (and they might even feed some of it to their friends)  Don’t assume that they’re old enough to do it for themselves.  Of course they are.  But they won’t because they’re too lazy.  So if you want them to eat it, cut it up for them.
  2. Teens are snacky.  Don’t bother trying to train them to eat 3 square meals.  It’s a battle you won’t win.  Plan for snacking.  Have beef jerky or pepperoni sticks, deli meats, olives, nuts, cheese.  And lure them to our “dark” side with paleo baked treats—wouldn’t you rather they fill up on almond flour cookies than Mr Cristie cookies?  Wow them with paleo brownies.  Bake the BEST paleo-ish treat you can, and feed it to their friends.  See rule #6.  Maybe their friends will rave about it, and then they’ll HAVE to admit to liking it, too.
  3. They’re going to eat junk food anyways, no matter how much “healthy” food you attempt to stuff them with.  Other teens eat junk, and they aren’t going to be the freaks that don’t.  The teen years are hard enough.  Forgive them.   This does not mean you have to keep the house stocked with pop and chips, but you have to accept that it will happen.  Don’t bother nagging.
  4. They’re going to make bad food choices.  See #3.  Even a lactose-intolerant, gluten-intolerant, iron-deficient teen will eat fries with gravy, pizza and puff pastries.  And then they’re going to feel sick.  And then they will be up all night with a bellyache, or so constipated that they’re in agony, and as soon as the pain and discomfort passes, they will do it again.
  5. They will challenge you just for the sake of rebelling.  My teen will occasionally get her back up and refuse to eat -anything- in our house, even if she normally likes it, just to rebel against it.  Teens will deliberately lay in bed starving rather than come down and eat something “healthy” some days.  And at 3 am, when you’re fast asleep, they will sneak down and eat the healthy food, and they will like it.  But they won’t like that they like it.  It’s a little like waiting for Santa Claus.  If they think you’re watching, they won’t appear at all.
  6. They will listen to the voice of friends, friends-of-friends, parents of friends-of-friends and complete strangers before they listen to you.  It’s not good enough that I explain to my teen what is going wrong in her stomach.  She needs to hear it from her friend’s gluten-intolerant cool mom to believe it.  Seriously.  It takes a whole community to raise a teen.  So I lecture in front of the cool mom, and she nods and agrees because mom’s back each other up.  My teen pretends not to care, but I know she’s hearing it.
  7. They will bring junk back into your house after you remove it.  We went for weeks where the kids were “sneaking” kraft dinner into the house from the local Mac’s Milk Store.  Right now, they’re hooked on microwave popcorn.  I wonder what the next phase will be.  The smell of popcorn is killing me.
Did you listen to the Paleo Summit online?  I managed to hear most of the discussions, in 20-minute sections, as I drove to or from work.  I loved Sarah Fragoso’s talk on paleo in your family.  She said something that really hit home for so many of us who are struggling with food rebellion in our homes.  I’m going to have to paraphrase, now, so my quote isn’t word-for-word here, but she said, “We approach every day with hope and joy”. 
There are days when I come downstairs, racing to get ready for work and out the door on time, when I suddenly see my teen sitting at the kitchen table not just eating breakfast (a rarity), but eating a paleo-approved breakfast--the Paleo Parents Apple Cinnamon Hot Cereal or scrambling an egg in the microwave.  It makes my day.  I have to bite my tongue so I don’t say anything and ruin the moment.  And those days that I come home and find that one of them ate the whole Tupperware dish of almond-flour cookies BEFORE moving onto any of the real junk food that other family members keep sneaking into the house for the kids to eat.
Don’t approach this paleo lifestyle with fear and loathing.  Approach this whole paleo thing with hope, but also with forgiveness and acceptance.  If you have teens, treat it like you would your own friends.  You wouldn’t force your friends to convert to your way of eating.  You wouldn’t nag them or threaten them.  You would lead by example.  You would explain, as many times as they were willing to hear it, and you would forgive them when they fell down, you’d pick them up, and let them decide for themselves if they’ll try again.