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.

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