Back from the land of travelling!

What a long, strange trip it’s been.  My husband is in the military, and they moved us across the country a year ago.  Then this spring they decided that he couldn’t retire next year without a trip overseas, so he received deployment orders for this fall.  Our tenant moved out of our house, and rather than finding tenants that would take a 10 month lease, we decided to move ourselves back into our house here in the midwest.  We have never really moved ourselves across the street, much less across country with three kids.  We used one of those Pods, which worked out very well.  The work to pack and load it was hard, but not having to drive our belongings across country in a rickety truck was worth it.

So here we are, back in our house with my sweet little non-gourmet kitchen.  I missed it so as the larger kitchen was more difficult to cook and clean in, believe it or not!  I am so much more efficient in a smaller kitchen.  I am glad we rented the larger home, instead of dreaming, saving, and buying one – to find out that it isn’t for us.  I am happy to have the Dorothy Lane market around the corner from the house, and there is a new kid in town – Earth Fare, which is kind of a cross between a health food store and a supermarket.  I haven’t had a chance to explore the farmer’s markets yet as we have been gearing up for the start of school and activities, but I hope to very soon!

I have had some time to do some reading this summer.  I purchased It Starts With Food – it is a great book for explaining why and how the Whole 30 concept of living makes you healthier, and provides a framework for making food choices even when you are not participating in a Whole 30 challenge.  My night reading is An Everlasting Meal.  It’s not a paleo book, and it isn’t really a cookbook, but more of a guideline for managing groceries/cooking/leftovers in the context of reducing waste – not just wasted food but wasted effort as well.  I am enjoying it immensely!

We did a pretty good job of keeping our food choices mostly healthy during the last month.  In the absence of abundant choice, we would default to a Subway restaurant for a salad topped with lunch meat or tuna salad.  We were able to spend two nights with my parents in New Mexico, and they fed us very well with some delicious steaks and hamburgers purchased from Whole Foods there.  My husband also downloaded an app for his iPhone which listed restaurants at various exits, so we stopped at Moe’s one day for lunch and had a lovely taco salad (and chips!  They are still my kryptonite!).  I was able to get my home kitchen up and running our first morning here for brunch – it’s that quick and easy when you only move half your stuff!  I also cooked a few dinners – pulled pork and primal moussaka – for the family to enjoy during our week together.

So now I have to settle into our new normal.  We no longer receive the beautiful crate of organic produce every week for me to plan our meals around.  I have heard of local CSAs around here but my guess is that the growing season will slow down so I don’t know if it is worth it to sign up at this point.  This means that I have to actually plan and shop for our meals, which will be a shift from my focus for the last year.  I hope to journal these experiences on this blog, as well as try new recipes!  Until then, thank you for sticking around.

Break…

Please excuse the silence for a short while.  We will be moving our family across country over the next couple of weeks, and my kitchen (and brain) are mostly found in boxes.

I look forward to resuming this adventure when we are back in our home.

Thanks!

 

Not a recipe, but an idea

I love hamburgers in the summertime.  I usually buy a loose grind, and gently shape it into a patty and lovingly grill it to medium; it’s thick and juicy and very tender.  Not this summer, though, since I don’t have access to the beautiful meat counter at the Dorothy Lane Market.  So I am making do with pre-made grassfed beef patties from Trader Joe’s for the time being.  As for how to eat the burgers, I’m a fork-and-knife kind of girl – sure I’ll use a lettuce wrap for an In-N-Out burger on the go, but I feel like a slob while eating it; I’ll also use a leaf of romaine for a BLT, but I only eat those for lunch and nobody is watching me be a slob there either.  But burgers are dinner food, and the whole family is sitting around the table, so I don’t want to be uncouth in my consumption of one of summer’s best foods.  The question is: how best to make use of the condiments when eating a burger like a steak?  I think I have the answer!  Tonight I chopped a red onion, a tomato, and 2 Bubbie’s pickles into a 1/4 inch dice and mixed it together in a small bowl.  Tonight’s burgers were the green chile and cheese variety, so once the burger was on my plate, I used the liquid-like condiments first – ketchup, mustard, mayo – then liberally sprinkled the relish on top of the burger.  It was awesome!

Another thing I have been liking lately – Bubbie’s anything!  I liked their sauerkraut and pickles – there is no vinegar added and yet the result is as good as any other product I have tried, without all the additives and preservatives!  They are usually found in the refrigerated deli section of your supermarket.  Now to thaw those Applegate hot dogs…we need to clean out the freezer before we move in a couple of weeks!

Homemade Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

My husband keeps buying “No Sugar Added” and “Low-Carb” ice cream full of fake sugar and “natural flavors” as a treat, while my ice cream maker gathers dust on a shelf.  I decided to make some homemade ice cream, without all the weird chemicals and additives, as a father’s day treat.  We got some (Rainier, I think) cherries in our produce basket last week and I saved a few to use, along with some 70% chocolate chunks, to make a knock-off of my favorite ice cream in my college days, Cherry Garcia.  Since this isn’t baking, the amounts of each ingredient I used are approximate.  If you want to make this recipe more paleo-friendly, substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream.

4 egg yolks

1/4 c organic cane sugar

3 c organic heavy cream

1 t vanilla extract

pinch salt

1/2 c chopped pitted cherries

1/2 c chocolate chips/chunks

  • Whip egg yolks and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Continue to whisk in a bowl over a pot of boiling water (make sure the bowl is larger than the pot, so it sits about halfway down into the pot) until the egg yolks thicken.
  • Add cream, salt, and vanilla.  Mix until blended.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Prepare ice cream maker for use.  Add heavy cream mixture and churn until it becomes a soft-serve consistency.  Add cherries and chocolate and continue to mix until well blended.
  • Place in a container and freeze.  Enjoy!

 

Paleo Pavlova

Mmmmmmm dessert…it’s something I haven’t really focused on because I don’t eat it very often.  However, the abundance of ripe fruit has inspired me to make a little “something” to enjoy every now and then.  We picked up 3 pints of incredible strawberries at the farmer’s market here on Saturday and they were so ripe they needed to be consumed ASAP.  I also had a couple of egg whites hanging out in the fridge after I had stolen the yolks to make some homemade mayonnaise earlier in the week.  So I decided to crack a few more eggs and make a Strawberry Pavlova on Sunday.  While it took about an hour to bake, it was very easy to assemble and it is the first fruit-based dessert I have ever been able to get my teenagers to eat!

3/4 c egg whites

3 + 1 t sweetener of choice (I used date sugar this time)

1 c heavy cream

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 pints strawberries, sliced

  • preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • whip egg whites and 3 t sweetener until stiff
  • form into desired shape on oiled parchment paper on a baking sheet (I did a disk with a hollowed out center for the whipped cream)
  • bake for 30 minutes; lower temperature to 250 and bake for 30 more minutes
  • allow meringue to cool
  • whip cream and remaining sweetener along with vanilla
  • spread the cream in the center of the meringue and top with strawberries

Travelling

No, we are not auditioning for a new cable show on American Gypsies, but with as much traveling as we do we might as well.  Last week we trekked halfway across the country to attend my brother’s wedding.  I am quickly getting to the point in my life where, when I travel, I would like to stay in a place with a kitchen and access to the ability to make at least one meal per day for my family.  Not because I love the extra work, or because my older kids love to wash dishes, but because it is a little less expensive and a great bacon, egg, and sausage breakfast/brunch can eliminate the blood sugar roller coaster swings that make family travel a little less fun.

That scenario wasn’t possible last week when we went to Chicago, because it was more important to find a reasonably priced room than to rent a condo with a kitchen.  We stayed in the Hilton Suites a block away from the Magnificent Mile, and a half block away from the Water Tower shopping center.  You’ll see later why this was a perfect location for our stay, despite being a tourist magnet.

Our trip began with a large homemade lunch of meatballs in Rao’s tomato sauce and sautéed squash from our veggie basket.  Our flight was to depart at 4:40 local time, so we left the house at 12:40 to allow time for crazy LA traffic along the 75-mile route.  We figured that we could get snacks at the airport, and had packed some mixed nuts (macadamias are key!) and berries for a snack.  Our flight was nonstop to Chicago, and did not serve a hot meal, but there were sandwiches, salads, and a fruit and cheese plate available in flight.  We knew we would be arriving too late to eat dinner in Chicago, but we did snack a little on board the plane and my husband had offered the older kids meals from the food court prior to boarding.

The next morning we awoke bright and early at 9:30 am.  My husband used his coupons for a free continental breakfast at the Starbuck’s in the lobby to get coffee for us to share and pastries for the carbivores, our two older children.  I had recalled from a trip five years earlier that the shopping center near our location had a superb food court and that we would be wise to check it out.  I am so glad we did!  Foodlife is the best mall food court I have ever been to!  By the time we got to the breakfast counter, they were on the brink of changing over to lunch, so they were eager to dish up the last of their breakfast foods in generous portions.  All three days I ordered the same thing to share with the CaveBaby: scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and fruit.  This was our primary fuel for the day’s activities, to include visiting the observatory of the Hancock building and a lot of swimming in the hotel pool.

After swimming, CaveBaby would be hungry for a pre-nap snack.  We brought along Ella’s squeezies because they are so easy to transport and give him extra veggie servings when he is hungry; we supplemented with a banana to ensure his tummy would be full enough for an effective nap.

Our evenings were busy with rehearsals, weddings, and long restaurant dinners.  Usually we don’t bring CaveBaby to restaurants because he doesn’t like to sit still for long periods of time – he prefers to be active.  However, it was unavoidable for this trip.  So we brought some extra squeezies and took turns holding/entertaining/feeding the little bugger and trying to get a few bites in ourselves along the way.  It turns out that it wasn’t hard to do at all!  My brother and his fiancée had also been eating on the paleo side prior to the wedding so it was possible to stay on the relatively straight and narrow during the rehearsal dinner (with salad and veal!) and wedding dinner (with ahi bites, lamb chops, and filet mignon!).  The wedding dinner was delightful, and the servers there were excellent, especially when it came to bringing out beautifully arranged plates of cut-up fruit for the younger children at our table.  CaveBaby loved the fruit, but he also loved the tomato soup and the filet!  They offered him some mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, but we declined and fed him from our plates for the main course.  He may have also had a bite or two of the burgundy sorbet – really, you couldn’t taste the wine at all, so it had to be a minor ingredient compared to the fruit and sugar.  My biggest transgression of the night was a few bites of wedding cake – but it was worth it!  I managed to skip the free-flowing alcohol entirely because I knew how miserable it would make me feel, not to mention how miserable it would make the rest of my family!

In all, it was easier than I thought it would be to stay at least 80/20 during our trip.  The key was good, large breakfasts and great food selections by my brother and his lovely bride!  I am now looking forward to our next family trip – a cross-country move later this summer.  In the meantime, I hope to have some fun in the kitchen experimenting with some new recipes to share with you.  Please be patient with me as I still have summer lacrosse and about a week of homeschooling to finish up!

Read around the Paleo blogosphere…

One of the things I love about the primal/paleo community is how generous its inhabitants are.  They are so giving of their time, knowledge, help and experience – for free, on the internet!  That is one of the many reasons I LOVE to buy their books and help them out personally.  I am a little behind on the book buying right now due to our impending move, but Eat Like a Dinosaur is next on my priority list!

My favorite day of the week is Friday.  Not for obvious reasons – actually, logistically, it’s a nightmare.  Due to early dismissal from the high school, the kids’ volunteer schedule, and art class I am on the run from 12:30 until 6, making it hard to prepare and execute a healthy and nutritious reunion dinner for the five of us – so I usually beg my husband to take me out after the CaveBaby goes to bed.  I love Friday because that’s when Mark Sisson publishes his success story of the week, and Modern Paleo it Paleo Rodeo.

If you think I like the success stories because I like looking at beefcake pictures of musclebound dudes, think again!  Mark also highlights people who have changed from emaciated and malnourished to healthy, beaten PCOS into submission, brought together multiple generations in a family in pursuit of a common goal,  and in general found a life of health and happiness outside the sphere of “normal” in our current society.  The quote that became this guy’s title caused one of those seismic shifts in my brain when it came to the imperative to eat real food – that continuing to eat a regular American diet is a slow and painful suicide, one bite at a time.  I find these stories and pictures to be so inspirational – they help me continue to make good choices in what I chose to consume every day.

The Paleo Rodeo over on Modern Paleo’s blog is also a great read every Friday.  They round up interesting stories from the blogosphere and put them all in one handy little place.  There is also a huge list of paleo blogs that writers self-submit.  Two years ago it would have been feasible to view all the blogs in the list…but as the movement has grown, so has the list!  No, you won’t find me on the list…yet.  One of these days I will have the nerve to do so – maybe when I come up with a particularly good recipe and document it!

Another blog I like to read these days is The Paleo Mom.  Sarah is funny and smart, with a scienc-y PhD, so she likes to approach paleo from a technical aspect – but then gets into the touchy-feely stuff about the effects of the changes on her family.  So it appeals to both right- and left- brained folks.  I also came across PaleoNonPaleo this week after Alison did a guest post on Paleo Parents.  Her post was about how paleo had changed their family for the better, in terms of one of her kids’ behavioral issues.

I finished reading Why We Get Fat this week.  It was a phenomenal read and caused some significant seismic shifts in my brain about the cause/effect relationship of diet and obesity.  I am currently reading Dean Dwyer’s Make Shi(f)t Happen for a change of pace.  It appeals to me because it approaches making changes to the mind/body connection like an organizational change, which was my job in a previous life.  It’s very positive and inspirational, if that is your gig I definitely recommend it.  Personally, I am a bit of a science nerd myself so my favorite books tend to approach this way of life from that perspective.

So there you have it!  I still haven’t had much time to putz around in the kitchen like I’d like to, so still nothing new on the recipe front.  But the days are getting longer, and I have a grill tank full of propane out back so I can envision a few splendid summer recipes on the horizon!

CaveBaby Update

A lot of people seem to be stopping by from Mark’s Daily Apple (aka my gateway drug to the paleo lifestyle!) so I will update you on our little bundle of joy.

He is 15 months old TODAY!  And he has lived a life without rice cereal, oatmeal, formula, and teething biscuits.  What does he eat?  Whatever we eat!

A typical day starts out with his breakfast.  When I am on top of things, I have a dozen little muffin cups of scrambled eggs pre-made in the fridge so they can be easily warmed and served soon after he gets up in the morning.  I serve the eggs with 1/4 avocado and 1/2 banana.  He eats this in his little high chair – I hand him a pre-loaded fork and he feeds himself – well, except for the avocado.  For a drink he will have a few ounces of coconut milk, which he loves.  He’ll eat it, but you have to stick it in his mouth!  After he eats I usually make my breakfast of eggs, sautéed spinach and either bacon or gluten-free sausage.  Cavebaby likes to run between the little show he watches on TV and my fork, loaded with little bites of sausage or bacon for him.  He really loves salty, spiced meat!

After breakfast I sometimes put some dried blueberries, cranberries, and sliced almonds on his little table so he can help himself if he is hungry.  I also set out a straw cup full of water so he can help himself if he is thirsty.

For lunch, I cut up some bites of pre-cooked chicken breast from Trader Joe’s and let him feed himself 2 “squeezies” of Ella’s organic fruit/veggies mix.

After his nap, I usually give him some fresh-cut strawberries and/or blueberries to keep him from getting grumpy when I am assembling his dinner later.

I have been in a repetitive pattern of cooking for the family so I usually have either a batch of Chocolate Chili from Well Fed made up, or a casserole of Primal Moussaka in the fridge, or some meatballs.  I serve this with sweet potato chunks and sometimes other veggies as well – he especially likes green beans and red cabbage.  He likes to wash his dinner down with a glass of water like a big boy.  Lunch and dinner are both served at a small table/chair setup I bought with the intention of using it as a Montessori weaning table.  I’m not 100% compliant with the methodology, but that is where he likes to eat his food instead of roaming about the house to eat, which drives me nuts.

Sometimes we have to eat very early, in order to take the older kids to their evening activities.  We do not get home until after 8 pm, so I like to feed him half a banana before he goes to bed.

So what is CaveBaby like?  He is incredibly healthy, but I really could say that about our older two kids who were fed the SAD as babies, one of whom was fed formula as well.  I think the main difference is how STRONG this kid is.  He can literally do chinups, and while he does have his normal and necessary baby chub, you can also start to see his little calf and quad muscles as well.  Also (and I don’t necessarily attribute this difference in my children to feeding them a different diet) he has a lot more energy and is into everything!  Thank goodness I have the two older kids to help corral him – I need it!

One other thing – you may have noticed that I have not mentioned any breastfeeding in this post.  Cavebaby decided, at 13 months, that he was done with that nonsense.  I was prepared to continue for awhile, so I was a little sad when he suddenly decided he was done – but I was confident he was receiving adequate nutrition from the other food he was eating.  In fact, he is the best eater I have had so far!  With my other kids, I was terrified of feeding them anything with spice or texture at this age.  Don’t ask me why!  I had no internet with the first one, so I just followed whatever my doctor said, and happily supported Gerber and Nestle and the like for lack of knowing better and trusting my instincts.  The only food he has tried and doesn’t like so far is kiwi.  He is genuinely excited when he sits in his little chair and sees his dinner plate on the table – and that is one of the reasons I find a paleo lifestyle so rewarding!

 

The Terrible Dinner That Wasn’t

It seemed like a great dinner tonight wasn’t meant to be.  It started with a great workout yesterday morning with my husband – I was able to do 8 squats at 95 lbs with pretty good form for all of them.  Then, he was up in the middle of the night…so I was up in the middle of the night (I’m a light sleeper) and couldn’t get back to sleep.  But I had thawed a lovely eye of round roast from US Wellness Meats and by golly I was going to cook it!  The recipe I was determined to use is from The Domestic Man, and it appealed to me because you zap it in a 500 degree oven, turn it off, and let the oven work its magic over the course of a couple of hours.

Well, the roast cooked a lot faster than I anticipated and in 45 minutes the thermometer read 169 degrees.  Great.  So I thought we were going to be eating some expensive shoe leather for dinner.  Guess I’d better make some delightful sides to offset that.  So I set about making a hybrid Hollandaise/Bearnaise sauce using the beautiful fresh eggs I had picked up this afternoon.  I served this sauce over the two pounds of roasted asparagus I had fixed at the last minute.  I also shelled some fresh peas we had gotten for the last two weeks in our veggie basket.  I have never made fresh peas and was fresh out of energy to look one up on the internet, so I decided to wing it.  I steam-sauteed the peas in a lump of butter with a splash of water until they were tender and then sprinkled a little fresh tarragon on top.

So I had some yummy sides that I hoped would redeem my poor performance, and it was time to try to salvage the meat.  There was lots of yummy junk left in the bottom of the roasting pan, so I decided to deglaze it with two ice-cube sized lumps of double-strength bone broth I had made over the course of three days last week.  I cooked the broth until it was thick and syrupy in consistency.  Because it was a reduction of a stock I had already salted, I did not add any further salt or spice.  It was wonderful and full of that lovely umami flavor I love.

And guess what!  Even though the roast was beyond well-done, it was still edible and even tasty when amended with the beef sauce or a little of the hybrid Hollandaise sauce!  It would have been divine if I had taken the roast out at about 135 degrees, and I will pay better attention next time I invest the money in quality grass-fed beef!

I apologize for the lack of photographs tonight, and then inexact recipes.  If you are like me, you usually don’t measure much while cooking – you cook by the seat of your pants (it’s not all scientific like baking).  That is exactly what I did tonight, and (for once) the results were almost exceptional, so I wanted to share my process with you.

At least it’s still April…

OK, almost every post I have made I have made the (not lame) excuse that things have been crazy-busy around here.  Allow me to give a little more detail, if you will.  I am married to a man who makes his living in the military – he has so for the last 18.5 years.  I knew it when I married him (he was already a first lieutenant) and have gone along for the ride ever since.  A year ago, we had to pull up stakes and move across the country to an area we’d already lived in once, and we weren’t thrilled with returning.  Not when our teenagers were thriving in school and activities, not when I was adjusting to life with CaveBaby, not with the knowledge that the military would likely deploy him at some point before retirement at 20 years.  And so the time is coming – we are far from home and this fall my husband will be sent overseas.  We are electing to move ourselves back home (his deployment will only be for 6 months so the military won’t pay to move us) so we have about 12,000 lbs of household goods to sort through, decide what will be needed immediately and what can sit in storage for 9 months.  On top of that, we are driving 45+ miles/day 4+ days a week to keep the teenagers busy in their activities (and my husband already commutes 80+ miles/day roundtrip to work and back!) so we have been pretty much in survival mode as far as meal preparation and execution!

I usually make a large quantity of protein (3-4 lbs at a time, something with grassfed ground beef or a kalua-style pork roast) and let the side flow naturally from that using the weekly veggie basket.  About once every other week I cry “uncle!” and my husband takes me to a nice little Japanese restaurant with AMAZING sushi/sashimi and we gorge on some good stuff.  And I eat a little rice.  My weight has been pretty much stable, I have made some good strength gains at the gym, and am approaching my goal of an unassisted chin up – slowly, though.

The area of growth I am experiencing is in my education and philosophy development.  Earlier this month I read Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan, MD.  It is an easy-to-read book with a lot of practical advice as to how to increase the use of traditional foods in your diet.  I have started making my own homemade bone broth from grassfed beef bones as a result of what I learned in this book.  I highly recommend it for women who are of childbearing age – her recommendations on maternal nutrition and pregnancy spacing to optimize the health and well-being of your children are insightful.  I wish I had read this book prior to having children!  It’s not too late to incorporate her dietary philosophies into the family’s practice though – it is helpful to keep our teenagers at peak health and performance, should they chose to take our advice.

I am currently reading Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes.  It’s definitely more interesting reading than the dry and scientific Good Calories, Bad Calories and it’s meant to be that way.  Gary Taubes is blowing my mind with facts and scientific studies and well-documented information.  He handily fisks the calories in/out paradigm that the dietary and medical establishment, backed by the government and large corporations, have promoted for the last 60 years.  Even the title of the book is loaded with an opportunity to share this – “What are you reading?”  “Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.”  “So what’s the answer?”  “Carbohydrates.”  Insert a long discussion in which the inquisitive party begins to defend every carbohydrate they have consumed in their day.  You know what?  I don’t give a crap.  Oh, now I am starting to sound like Richard in Free the Animal.  Two important takeaway items from this book:

  • Science has never been able to prove that a reduction in caloric intake or an increase in caloric expenditure results in fat loss
  • Gluttony and sloth do not CAUSE obesity; rather, they are EFFECTS of obesity

Those two points have enormous implications for the treatment of obesity, which is epidemic in our country.  For the last 60 years the dietary establishment has tried to make correcting obesity a character issue – that of obesity being a result of poor nutritional choices – rather than being a physiological issue.  I think the character issue comes into play when an individual KNOWS what causes obesity and chooses to consume carbohydrates anyway.  The problem is that the establishment is telling people the wrong things to eat and do to cure their obesity (and with it, diabetes and heart disease and AI disease and…) so they will never improve their health.

Speaking of health improvement, I read Jack Kruse’s Cold Thermogenesis 11 the other night and it blew my mind as well.  Read it for yourself and start thinking of the implications of our current medical/agricultural/governmental establishment if we are inching toward a unified theory of diseases of civilization.  I was heading down the path of thinking “The root cause of modern disease is inflammation!” and, somewhere in the first 25 comments or so, that is exactly what Dr. Kruse says.  Our current medical system is focused on finding out WHAT is wrong with us.  Then their solutions are to either a) wait and see if the problem needs drugs, or b) prescribe drugs to counteract WHAT is wrong with us.  Our system never asks WHY something is wrong with us.  There is no root cause analysis as to why we are sick or hurting or have an imbalance in one or more internal systems!  I believe that is what is fundamentally wrong with our system as it currently stands.  How do we change this?  How do we go against the medical system, our government, and large corporations that all have an active interest in keeping us unhealthy and dependent?

Doesn’t this revelation change the “health care” debate entirely?

I am doing what I can to ensure my family can “opt out” of the current system of what passes for health (sick) care in our country.  I think that is what a lot of paleo-minded people are trying to do as well.

What are you doing?