Thursday, September 11, 2014

Paleo pumpkin spice latte

If I ever manage to take a decent photo of a coffee drink, I fear the surprise might kill me.

By now you've all read this, which is horrifying and by all accounts absolutely true. Since then, all sorts of recipes for homemade pumpkin spice lattes have popped up on the interwebs. Does the world really need another one? Of course it does, silly.

I've been making my own damn pumpkin spice lattes for about a year now, and this is how I do it. My version is paleo, but I offer some additions/substitutions at the end that might not be. You do what you like, man. It's YOUR freaking latte!

Paleo Pumpkin Spice Latte

(Makes one 12-oz. drink, more or less.)

1-2 Tbs. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 oz. brewed espresso
2 oz. canned full-fat coconut milk
6 oz. almond milk

Dump everything into a blender, blend, heat, enjoy!

  • For the pumpkin puree, you can use homemade or canned pumpkin. I use the organic canned stuff from Costco.
  • Adjust the sweetener to your taste. I'm not a big fan of sweet. You can substitute one large pitted, chopped date for the maple syrup. Or try honey or liquid stevia. To me, maple + pumpkin is a no-brainer, but my husband is allergic to pure maple syrup, go figure.
  • In lieu of espresso, just use strong brewed coffee or -- and this is a fantastic variation that I guarantee is delicious because I make mine this way about half the time -- strong brewed chai tea. I use rooibos for its naturally caffeine-free properties but you could use whatever.
  • I hope it goes without saying that you can use whatever milk you like in this thing. I use homemade almond milk, which is my go-to milk substitute since I can't tolerate dairy, and add the canned coconut milk for extra body and creaminess.
  • Possible additions: grass-fed gelatin or collagen hydrolysate (I always put about a tablespoon of this in mine), whey/protein powder, a tablespoon of grass-fed butter or coconut/MCT oil, a tablespoon of nut butter (pecan would be fantastic), a dollop of dulce de leche or cajeta (adjust/eliminate the sweetener accordingly), whipped dairy or coconut cream to float on top.
  • If you're too busy to mess with all this in the morning, and who isn't, it'll keep for a day or two in the fridge. So you can make up a double batch when you have the time, then just heat and go in the morning!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jose Cuervo, you were a friend of mine

One unintended consequence of eating paleo for the past year-plus and healing my gut fairly significantly is that when I ingest something my guts don't like, they let me know in no uncertain terms. So far there are only four offenders, thank goodness.

The lesser two evils are eggs and avocados. I can have a couple of eggs and/or half an avocado on any given day without much problem. But if I have a couple of eggs and/or half an avocado every day for two or three days in a row, I find myself bloated like a tick with insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues that don't bear mentioning, and a generally bitchy attitude. It is, shall we say, not fun. So I try to eat those things sparingly, because I can't imagine a life without avocados, you guys.

The two major offenders are dairy and alcohol. Dairy has been a life-long problem for me but I love cheese so much that I keep hoping it'll magically correct itself somehow. It hasn't. I've tried raw full-fat dairy and goat-based dairy and all of that ultra primal stuff, and no matter what, even a little bit of it causes all the problems above PLUS my throat and lungs fill up with mucus. Awesome. So yeah, dairy is Right Out.

Alcohol, though ... you guys. If you know me at all then you know that I LOVE the booze. I really do. I love to get all locavore amateur mixologist up in here, with all the amazing spirits that are being distilled in Texas right now. And I'll admit, even while eating paleo, I was indulging in an occasional local craft beer now and then. I don't have celiac and I'm pretty sure I don't have a major gluten sensitivity either, so I wasn't too worried about the occasional beer or glass of rye or what have you. But recently, any alcohol at all, whether gluten-free or not, causes the above issues (but not the dairy mucus thing, thank God).

This made me so sad when I first realized it, but then I decided to be grateful that I don't have an actual addiction to alcohol (I don't think. I'm, like, 95% sure) and to see what interesting mocktails I could come up with. Because I do have an herb addiction, apparently (22 different varieties and counting in this year's herb patch). And because I still need something delicious to sip this summer while I'm out on the patio grilling up a bunch of protein and veggies for dinner.

Below are a few of my favorite concoctions so far. A few notes on ingredients/method: you'll notice these are all sparkling water based; if anyone cares, my favorite brand is San Pellegrino, but it really doesn't matter which one you use. Or you could use flat water if you're not into bubbles. Typically I muddle the herbs, sweeteners and fruit together with the fruit juice before adding the water and ice. I don't bother straining mine but you certainly could. I'm sorry I don't have actual amounts/recipes for the herbs and other ingredients, you'll just have to make these to taste. You can't go too wrong here, and tasting is part of the fun!

Blackberries + mint + honey + sparkling water.

Blackberries + sage + honey + lemon + sparkling water.

Lavender + basil + cucumber + lime + sparkling water.

Fresh stevia + pineapple mint + lime + serrano pepper + sparkling water + salted rim.

Fresh pineapple + lime + mint + sparkling water.

Raspberries + chocolate mint + chocolate bitters + sparkling water.

Raspberries + mint + honey + rosewater + sparkling water.

Strawberries + lemon + honey + sparkling water.
I suppose it goes without saying that if you are able to tolerate booze (you lucky bastard, you), a splash of gin, rum, tequila or vodka would not go amiss in any of these drinks. But I'm going to be honest here: I don't miss the alcohol in these at all. No lie.

I'm really enjoying experimenting with these mocktails. My next wave will involve backing off from the honey a bit and incorporating more fresh stevia into the sweetened drinks to make them that much more paleo-approved.

Anyway, enjoy! And don't let being on the wagon keep you from having a delicious, festive summer! Sláinte!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter mint mocha

It's been cold, cold, cold here in central Texas, you guys. Legitimately cold! Not just Southerner-Who-Doesn't-Know-What-Winter-Is-Like cold! Below freezing = legitimately cold, yes? Yeah. I'm originally from the midwest. Lake-effect snow, y'all. I know what winter is like.

And it's cold. Just so you know.

I've been starting pretty much every morning with a creamy, delicious mint mocha full of lots of healthy, warming fats to get me through the cold and dark. I am so in love with this drink that I'm inspired to share the recipe. Because originally this was supposed to be a recipe blog, haha. Whoops.

First you have to make the mocha-mint concentrate. Relax, it's super easy and it'll keep in your fridge for a couple of weeks, probably. Mine never lasts that long. I should look into doubling the recipe, maybe.

This recipe is loosely based on Danielle Walker's recipe for French Vanilla Coffee Creamer in her FABULOUS Against All Grain cookbook. Which you should buy immediately if you haven't already. This has become the cookbook for which I reach most often when I'm looking not only for dinner inspiration but for paleo basics like almond milk and mayonnaise. Every single thing I've made from her cookbook has been fantastic and easy and even my non-paleo family has loved it. So yeah. Buy that! You will not regret it.

Mocha-Mint Concentrate

3/4 cup almond milk
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbs. raw, local honey
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1 tsp. organic peppermint flavoring

Combine all ingredients except mint flavoring in a saucepan and whisk over low heat just until honey has melted and cacao powder is incorporated. Remove from heat and whisk in mint flavoring. Let cool, then decant into a bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator. It will tend to separate so shake well before each use.

* A note about ingredients -- this is how I make mine. If your honey isn't raw/local or you'd rather use maple syrup, no problem. Likewise if you just have plain old cocoa powder instead of raw cacao, that's totally cool. You don't have to keep the heat quite so low while whisking if you're not using raw ingredients so feel free to bump it up to medium to speed things along.

Winter Mint Mocha

12 oz. brewed coffee
1 Tbs. mocha-mint concentrate
1 Tbs. coconut oil or MCT oil
1 Tbs. grassfed butter or ghee

Combine all ingredients in a blender and whiz until combined (cover the blender lid with a cloth if the coffee is very hot, to avoid burns), then pour into a large mug and enjoy! This will be super creamy and it makes its own foam. And not for nothing but one big mug of this keeps me full until lunchtime, plus it really does help me deal with the cold. Must be all that yummy fat!

* A note about ingredients -- this is a loose variation on Dave Asprey's legendary Bulletproof Coffee. Like Dave says, if you're not already getting a lot of healthy fat in your diet, you will want to start with smaller amounts -- say 1 tsp. each of butter and coconut oil per cup -- and work your way up, otherwise it can cause stomach upset.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

By the numbers

The paleo shelf in my pantry.

Hey, everyone! Remember way back in August when I did a little check-in and mentioned that I had my annual physical coming up? And I promised to share the results? Well, they're in and here I am!

First of all, there have been a few dietary changes since August. I've finally managed to kick my shameful Starbucks soy latte habit! YES. I can't claim I won't cave and have one while traveling, but here in my little hometown when I'm just off to appointments or errands or kid shuttling or whatever, I've been planning ahead (a constant supply of cold brew in the fridge helps) and making my own damn lattes with coconut milk and a little stevia or maple syrup. SO much better.

And also I've cut WAY back on my alcohol consumption. I'll wait while those of you who know me well pick yourselves up off the floor. There you go. You'll be okay. Yeah, I had been drinking at least 1-2 drinks EVERY NIGHT between dinner and bedtime and that was kind of stupid. It started as a self-medication kind of thing, you know, unwinding from the stress of my day so I could sleep. But lately I've found that I handle stress much better than I used to, and I sleep MUCH MUCH better when I don't drink than when I do. Not to mention that I was sabotaging all my clean eating efforts during the day with that crap, stressing out my liver and whatnot. So yeah, now I am down to seriously like ONE drink every 7-10 days, if that. Do I miss it? A little bit. But I'm grateful my dependence on it is/was psychological rather than physical. I drank because I liked the way it made me feel. It doesn't make me feel that way anymore, so I (mostly, kind of) quit. No brainer.

So yeah! Feeling pretty good about both of those changes. And feeling pretty good about how my physical went, too. (Insert disclaimer about how I'm not claiming these results are typical or desirable, your mileage may vary, yadda yadda.) Let's get right to those numbers, shall we?

Height: 5'5"
Weight: 122 lbs.
Waist: 27.5"
BP: 108/68

Let's talk about those for just a sec. In the spring/summer of 2012 I set a weight-loss goal, with my goal weight being 120 lbs. I've already written about losing the weight. It was a desire to maintain this weight loss without too much effort, calorie counting, butt-busting exercise, etc. that led me to the paleo diet in the first place. Since going paleo at the beginning of the year, my weight tends to fluctuate between 117 and 122 lbs., depending on the scale and whether I'm fully clothed (as I was at this doctor appointment).

Before I lost the weight last year, my waist measured 32 inches. I reached my goal weight in September 2012, and my current waist measurement in December 2012 (after adopting a modified paleo diet but still eating small amounts of grain occasionally). So my waist measurement has remained exactly the same for the past 11 months. I do use a standing workstation most of the time and try to work functional movement into my day, but really, I think that is AT LEAST 90% due to my diet. Which means it's been damn near effortless. I'm not claiming to be special because of that, I'm just saying ... PALEO DIET, you guys. I wanted to maintain my weight loss and it appears to be working.

On the blood pressure front, I've always been a 110/70 kind of gal, but over the past couple of years, as I gained the weight, I started creeping up more into the 120/80 category. I thought maybe it was just an age thing. I don't know enough about blood pressure to know the details of what causes it to go up and what doesn't, but I know my mom was a bit worried about the amount of sodium in my diet (now that I snack on jerky, pork rinds and nuts instead of pretzel sticks, chips and peanut M&Ms) and it would appear that it's not an issue, at least as far as my blood pressure is concerned. Very pleased with 108/68.

Okay, but you want to know about the lipid panel, right? Because that's what my dad was worried about. Here it is:

Total cholesterol: 192
HDL: 91
LDL: 90
Triglycerides: 53
Risk ratio LDL/HDL: 0.99

So. Let's talk about THOSE numbers. The last time I had a lipid panel was three years ago. Since that time, my total cholesterol has gone up 37 points. I know that sounds kind of alarming, but hey, my total is still under 200! It was CRAZY low before. I've been doing a lot of reading lately about how high your cholesterol actually should be for neurological health, and whether or not "high" cholesterol is even an indicator for heart disease like it's been thought to be (for more info, I refer you to David Perlmutter's Grain Brain and to Jonny Bowden & Stephen Sinatra's The Great Cholesterol Myth), but either way I'm happy with 192, and so is my doctor.

Three years ago my HDL was 69 and my LDL was 72. So like most Americans, my LDL was higher than my HDL. Now they're more or less equal, and from what I've read, that's better. Also, they're both still within "desirable" ranges according to conventional medical wisdom. No complaints there.

In 2010 my triglycerides were 68. So that came down 15 points. Not too shabby! Docs want to see triglycerides less than 150 mg/dl, so I am sitting at about a third of that. I'll take it.

They tested bunches of other stuff too, of course: glucose and sodium and protein and whatnot, and I'm happy to provide those numbers if anyone is interested. Just leave a comment or shoot me an email and I'll respond. The only thing on the whole panel that fell outside of desirable ranges was my potassium, which at 5.6 meq/l was a bit high. Not sure what that's about but I've read it can be due to dehydration. I drink a lot of water, but who knows? I was fasting that morning; maybe I didn't drink enough.

So yeah. Those are my results after nearly a year of paleo. So far it looks like I've managed not to kill myself by eating this way, yay me! And I just plain FEEL better since eating this way. I mean, if this diet got me to give up (mostly, kind of) alcohol, you know shit is real. I'm going to stay the course.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seven months in

Trout with bacon, oven-roasted broccoli, salad w/homemade vinaigrette.
Grilled elk patties, cucumber "noodle" salad, sliced tomatoes.
Catfish pan-fried in ghee, cabbage "noodles" with bacon, salad w/homemade vinaigrette.

I "went primal" on January 2, 2013. (Why January 2 and not January 1? Because we eat tamales on New Year's Day. It's Texas, y'all.) My reasons were pretty simple:
  1. I wanted to maintain my weight loss from the previous year without counting calories or busting my ass like I did when I was losing the weight.
  2. This way of eating/moving/living made sense to me.
I used Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint as my guide, along with his incredibly informative website (and his eventual second book, The Primal Connection, which is A-MAZ-ING). My first step was to eliminate grains, legumes, processed food and refined sugar from my diet. My second step was to ditch the Jillian Michaels videos and buy a pull-up bar for my bathroom doorway.

So, how's it going seven months in? Well, I'll tell you.

Here are the things I DON'T eat:
  • any grain except for a bit of rice and corn now and then
  • any legumes apart from a shameful once-weekly soy latte habit at Starbucks (I KNOW!)(I believe in full disclosure)(and I also believe Starbucks might want to look into almond milk as a non-dairy alternative to soy, but I don't make the rules)
  • much dairy, apart from grass-fed butter and ghee (because my body doesn't like dairy, not because I feel it's inherently evil)
  • much in the way of eggs because I've found that I feel better, digestively speaking, when I don't eat them every day
  • much processed food apart from pre-made sausages, packaged pork rinds and jerky, and the occasional condiment (I know I COULD make my own sriracha but I'm just not going to, you guys)
  • much refined sugar, apart from those goddamn extra dark Lindor truffles that I can't seem to give up *shakes fist in the general direction of the Lindt factory*
Here are things I DO eat:
  • white potatoes, because they are a whole food and I'm not trying to lose weight
  • small amounts of rice and corn, as mentioned above, because I'm pretty sure God wants us to eat sushi and tortilla chips every now and then
  • lots of game and seafood because my husband and son have some weird animal protein allergies going on
  • lots and lots of fresh veggies and salad greens
  • moderate amounts of fresh fruit (mostly berries)
  • healthy fats like olives, nuts, avocado and little oily fishes
  • dark chocolate
  • soy lattes, oh how I wish I could quit you *shakes fist in the general direction of Seattle*
As you can see, I've tweaked my diet to the point where I'm not eating strictly primal all the time. Let's just say I embrace the 80/20 principle. I ate a 5-way at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati when my brother and I were up there for our grandfather's funeral in February. If chips and salsa are on the restaurant table, I'ma eat a few (not an entire basket like I would have before). I order my burgers without buns and my tacos with corn tortillas. I take my kids out for pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt every now and then. I drink beer and other grain-based, non-paleo forms of alcohol on a daily weekly basis. I'm not what you would call 100% compliant, whatever that's supposed to be, and I'd never hold myself up as an example of "how to eat paleo" or even "how to eat healthy", but I'd still put my daily food/drink intake up against that of the average American and I think I'd come out okay.

On the fitness front, I don't really work out anymore, if by "work out" you mean setting aside a block of time in my day to change into exercise clothes, work up a sweat, shower, and change back into regular clothes. I've jury-rigged a standing workstation for my home office and spend most of my computer time now in my bare feet doing squats, balancing on one foot, stretching, dancing, or just standing and trying to maintain some sort of decent posture (i.e., uncurve my spine from the C shape that it's settled into over the past 46 years). If I'm feeling energetic or just waiting for files to download/upload or whatever, I'll hit the deck and do a few crunches or modified pushups (and by a few, I mean REALLY a few). In other words, I've sort of worked exercise into my day -- small amounts, interspersed throughout -- rather than made it something that I have to schedule and then go DO. I realize I'm fortunate to be able to structure my day that way, but I've got to say, I really feel like it's working for me. (I haven't touched that damn pull-up bar in months, but I do occasionally bust out a Jillian video just to make sure I'm in as good shape as I think I am.)

I'm still very much a work in progress, but I'm happy with the path I'm on, if you'll forgive the multitude of platitudes in that sentence. I have managed to keep off the weight I lost last year; in fact, I dropped 3 more pounds in January after going primal and have kept that off as well. I have far fewer aches and pains. I've FINALLY got most of my life-long digestive issues worked out. I have more energy during the day and sleep better at night than I used to. I'm far less depressed and far better able to deal with stress than I was a year or so ago. (Seeing a therapist has helped with that, granted.)(Disclosure!) I've got my annual physical coming up in two months, and I'll be happy to report how the numbers shake out in my blood work, but I FEEL pretty damn good so here's hoping there are no surprises.

The longer I do this, the better I feel, and the more convinced I am that this is what my body needs. That's kind of the bottom line for me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Primal (and low-FODMAP) on a budget: Hash

Oh, you guys.

Back in March I had this infection, see. I will spare you the details but it wasn't anything too bad; however, I am allergic to all the stuff that doctors usually prescribe for this particular thing so I ended up on Cipro. I was scared half to death because heavy-duty antibiotics usually do a real number on my guts, but I am here to tell you, my guts have never been happier than during the 10 days I was taking that stuff. I've always had digestive issues, let's call them, and this stuff FIXED THEM. Just like that. Until I finished my prescription.

At first I was thinking, okay, well, it was the drugs. The drugs fixed me and now I'm broken again because I'm not taking them anymore. Then I was thinking, okay, well, I was not eating any dairy whatsoever while I was taking those drugs because you aren't supposed to, and I know I have trouble with dairy already, so I'll go off the dairy again! And IT FIXED ME. For a couple of weeks. And then I was broken again. I started taking probiotics and drinking kombucha and eating raw fermented sauerkraut and if anything the problem got WORSE. Um, what?!

This led to me frantically Googling things like "PALEO DID NOT FIX MY GUTS OMG WTF WHY IS THIS HAPPENING" which led me to FODMAPs and holy cow, about 80% of my diet at the time was made up of vast quantities of things on the Do Not Eat list (fructans and polyols especially). So yeah. Maybe there is something to this FODMAP thing? I dunno, but I am going to try cutting WAY back on those foods for a bit and see how I do.

And that is my roundabout way of tell you that hash is good, hash is cheap, hash is super customizable to whatever foods you happen to be eating and/or tolerating at any given moment. Hash is really just bits of stuff all cooked together, I mean really, it could not be easier to make.

For the version in that photo up there I just chopped up a couple of slices of bacon and cooked them in a skillet until crispy, then added cubed red-skinned potatoes (if you don't eat potatoes, just leave them out -- my reasoning is that they're a whole food and therefore not verboten in my version of primal/paleo but my blood sugar is fine and I'm not trying to lose weight so you do whatever), cubed zucchini and diced red bell peppers. Then I tossed in some shredded, cooked chicken and a handful of chopped fresh herbs, stuck a lid on the pan, turned the heat down to medium and let it cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies were tender. Season with salt and pepper and Bob's your uncle.

This makes a very filling, satisfying dish. You can throw in whatever meat and veggies you like (I would LOVE to have added onion but it's a FODMAP no-no) and you can get by with small quantities of more expensive ingredients (like decent quality meat) while bulking it out with cheap stuff (like in-season veggies). And you can make a crapload of it and eat it all week for lunch! Yeah!

So yeah. Hash is good. FODMAPs are delicious bad. Apparently. I'll let you know what happens.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grain-free granola

I am pretty firmly on record as being a fan of homemade granola. It's super easy to make, it smells amazing while cooking, it's an awesome quick snack and can top everything from yogurt to salads. And it's a great way to get a little extra protein and healthy fat into your diet.

I was thrilled to discover that primal granola is just as easy to make as the oat-based stuff. It's so easy, in fact, that I don't really have a recipe for it. (I really should start measuring ingredients if I'm going to blog about food, shouldn't I? Yeah. I'll get right on that.)

Anyway, here's what I did:

First I put some melted coconut oil and some pure maple syrup into a giant bowl. If I had to guess, I'd say it was maybe 1/4 cup of each, but keep in mind that I do NOT like my granola to be overly sweet. You'll want to adjust accordingly if you have a sweet tooth. I added a bit of vanilla extract and a generous pinch of salt and whisked it all together.

Then I dumped in the following raw nuts and seeds. This combo is just what I happen to like and what I had on hand; you could certainly change this up quite a bit: chopped walnuts and pecans, sliced almonds, pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds. I also added a handful of unsweetened coconut chips -- you know, the big, shaved flakes that you put in trail mix. I'd say the nuts/seeds/coconut measured around 4 or 5 cups total. (I opted not to add any dried fruit, preferring to add that to each serving separately, but you definitely could throw some into the mix at this point.)

Finally I beat an egg white until frothy and added that as well. Mix it all together, spread it out on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 300 degrees until toasted but not too brown, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Mine took about 40 minutes but you do want to keep an eye on it. Let cool completely and store in an airtight jar.

If you want to keep this both primal AND vegan, just leave out the egg white. The granola won't form clusters that way but, you know, that's really just a matter of aesthetics. Either way, you'll never miss the oats.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Primal on a budget: week-long chickenpalooza

Homemade (easy!) chicken stock. Liquid gold, baby.

Here's what you do, right?

You buy a chicken. A whole chicken. Preferably a pastured, organic, humanely-raised whole chicken. You season it liberally with salt and pepper, maybe a little dried thyme or something, and you stick it in the slow cooker (along with the neck and whatever nasty bits were stuffed in the cavity)(don't bother adding any liquid) on Low before you go to bed for the night.

You wake up in the morning to the smell of roast chicken, which reminds you that you need to head to the kitchen first thing and take that sucker out of the slow cooker. While the coffee brews you shred every last bit of meat off of that thing, put a little in the fridge for later, and put the rest in the freezer for way later. You dump the bones and gristly bits back in the slow cooker, pour another cup of coffee, roughly chop an onion and a couple of stalks of celery and a few carrots into quarters. Don't bother to peel anything, just dump it all in the slow cooker with the bones. Maybe you crush a clove of garlic or two and toss that in as well. Along with a handful of fresh parsley. And some whole peppercorns. And maybe a bay leaf, if you've got one. If you want to leach as many minerals as possible out of those bones, you add a tablespoon or so of vinegar. Then you add a couple of quarts of water, put the lid back on, set the cooker to Low, and go about your day.

At least six hours later (longer is better) you put a cheesecloth-lined wire mesh strainer over a big bowl and dump in the contents of the slow cooker. You're left with the richest, most amazing chicken stock ever, which you ladle into containers for the fridge and freezer. And now you can pretty much eat for a week, for maybe 20 minutes worth of actual effort and the cost of one measly chicken.


When I tell people I eat primally, the first thing they ask is how my cholesterol numbers are (I actually haven't had them checked for about a year, but I promise to get back to you). The second thing they ask is, "Isn't it expensive? And time-consuming?"

It can be, but it doesn't HAVE to be. I mean sure, if I was eating grass-fed ribeyes three times a day and making complicated vegetable preparations to go with each one, I'd be out of time/patience AND money pretty quickly. But I'm telling you, buy ONE really good chicken per week, and do that up there, and you've got at least one meal per day for one person for an entire week sorted.

Use the broth as a base for all sorts of soups (primal ramen, maybe?) and sauces, drink a hot mug of it for breakfast, stir in a little sriracha if you've got a cold.

Put the shredded chicken in soups, lettuce wraps/tacos, salads, omelettes, or just snack on it right from the fridge when you need a quick hit of protein.

You can be lazy and cheap frugal and still be primal, y'all. I'm living proof!

Friday, January 25, 2013

How much meat?

When I first heard about the primal/paleo diet, I thought it was all about meat. Meat, meat, meat. All meat, all the time. But I discovered pretty quickly after adopting this way of eating that I really don't eat much, if any, more meat now than I did before. What I do eat more of are vegetables and nuts! Weird, huh?

I should clarify that I was already eating meat almost every day. My body can't metabolize non-heme iron, which I found out years ago when I adopted an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, so I don't have much choice there. (If you've ever had iron deficiency anemia, then you know it's not only double-plus-unfun but also can lead to serious cardiac issues if left untreated.) And fortunately, I like meat. So if the paleo/primal diet really WAS all about meat ... I'd probably be okay with that. Except for the expense -- the primal lifestyle puts an emphasis on organic, grass-fed/pastured animal products (including eggs and dairy), and I put a further personal emphasis on sustainably/humanely raised meat and other animal products, and that stuff is not cheap, yo.

But things just haven't worked out that way. Instead of substituting meat for all the grains and legumes I'm not eating, I've gravitated toward vegetables and nuts instead. Here's what I eat on a typical day vs. what I used to eat (keep in mind I'm not claiming to be a paragon of healthy/clean eating here in either case, I'm just being honest about what I do and did tend to eat on any given day):

Primal Breakfast: Greek yogurt with honey, fresh berries or sliced bananas and walnuts; OR onions, mushrooms and spinach sauteed in butter with either a poached egg, some chicken sausage, or a scoop of full-fat ricotta cheese on top; OR a cup of homemade chicken stock. (I know that last one is kind of weird, but seriously, sometimes that's all I want. I've never been able to eat a huge breakfast.)

Non-Primal Breakfast (from before): that same Greek yogurt configuration but with granola instead of walnuts; OR half a whole-wheat bagel with strawberry cream cheese; OR eggs with toast; OR pancakes or waffles on the weekend.

Primal Lunch: a big salad with mixed baby greens and herbs, about 1/4 cup of some sort of meat (sardines, sliced leftover steak or burger, shredded chicken breast, whatever), shredded carrots, an avocado, some nuts and/or seeds (I'm partial to walnuts, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds), and homemade honey mustard dressing (Dijon mustard, honey, raw apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil -- so good!); OR my primal not-ramen; OR leftovers from dinner the night before (see below); OR for an occasional treat, portabella pizza.

Non-Primal Lunch (from before): some microwaved Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones chicken and pasta thing; OR a tuna salad sandwich; OR a BLT; OR a burger and fries or cheese enchiladas with rice and beans if I was eating out.

Primal Dinner: this varies a lot, but typically there's one meat item, one or two hot veggie items, and salad. So let's say ... grilled venison sausage, steamed broccoli, homemade sweet potato fries and a salad. I do still make the occasional grain thing for husband P and the kids. If I make stir-fry, I'll put in extra veggies and have mine with salad instead of rice. If I make tacos or fajitas, I'll use a romaine leaf for my wrap/shell. If I make burgers, I'll have mine with no bun and make kale chips to go with it.

Non-Primal Dinner (from before): Er, same thing except only ONE veggie -- either a hot veggie or salad -- plus something starchy like rice, bread or pasta (tortillas, hamburger buns, etc.).

Primal Snacks: almonds, macadamia nuts, fresh fruit (especially berries), beef jerky, pork rinds, carrot sticks or these primal crackers with this primal hummus (my new addiction), the occasional grain-free cookie made with coconut or almond flour, dark chocolate.

Non-Primal Snacks (from before): pretzels, popcorn, chips (tortilla and/or potato), peanut M&Ms, "fun"-sized candy bars.

Okay, so I guess snacks is one area where I've tended to eat more meat than before, substituting beef jerky and pork rinds for pretzels and chips. But apart from that, my meat intake is pretty similar to what it was before on any given day. My veggies/fruits have increased by rather a lot, though! I sort of cringe to think of how few I was eating before!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Let's talk about pizza

Pizza, you guys. That is one of the very few foods I knew I'd miss when I went primal. Sure, there are recipes out there for "meatza" and coconut flour pizza dough and whatnot, but I am a LAZY pizza addict. I don't want to mess around with making dough, even if the dough is made out of meat. (Okay, I'm just going to say it: meatza sounds so gross to me. I'm sure it's not. It's probably amazing. But I just can't, y'all.) I am not a make-it-from-scratch pizza person. I'm more a call-whatever-place-has-a-coupon person. Or a stick-it-in-the-microwave-and-call-it-done person. When I want pizza, I want pizza NOW.

So. What to do, what to do? I started thinking about cheats I could use for the crust. Just layer a bunch of zucchini ribbons, maybe? Pizza-flavored crustless quiche? Stick all the toppings in a bowl, nuke them, and eat them with a spoon? I was getting a little desperate.

And then the lightbulb went off. I like mushrooms on my pizza ... what if I used a really BIG mushroom for the "crust"? Kind of like those English muffin pizzas I used to love making back in high school? Yeah!

Primal Portabella Pizza

1 reasonably large portabella mushroom
olive oil
pizza toppings of your choice

This is so stupid easy it doesn't really require a recipe, but for those of you who, like me, are more comfortable with step-by-step instructions:

Take a portabella mushroom, brush it clean, carefully remove the stem and any overlapping spongey bits from the underside, rub it all over with olive oil and broil it gills-up for about 5-7 minutes. You want it a bit tender but not completely cooked. Remove from broiler, layer on your toppings, then stick it back under the broiler until the cheese is all melty and the toppings are cooked to your liking. (That one in the photo is a little underdone, but I was hungry. I couldn't wait.)

That's it! You'll probably have to eat this with a knife and fork but I'm telling you, if you like mushrooms on your pizza you will never miss the crust with one of these babies. One makes a yummy snack, one (or two) plus a big salad makes a meal.

And just like with the Not Ramen from yesterday, this can easily be made vegetarian or vegan depending on your topping choices (Daiya cheese, anyone?).

I am never giving up pizza, you guys.