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!

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?

It’s been awhile…

…and my creativity is hiding somewhere.  Really, I haven’t cooked anything new and exciting since I made that awesome rutabaga recipe.  I have spent at least three nights a week driving 45-60 miles each way to get the older kids to their activities of choice, so it has left little time for reading, researching, and trying new things.  Most weeks I make sure to cook up a slow cooker full of pulled/kalua style pork and either a ton of meatballs or Well Fed’s Chocolate Chili.  Add in a steak night and a chicken night – oh, don’t forget, a fish night (it’s Lent!) and somehow I have managed to walk the primal/paleo path the last several weeks.

Where I have been making gains the last few weeks has been in the gym.  On Sundays my husband and I have a date at the local Anytime Fitness, during naptime for the little one.  I have finally screwed up the nerve to wear my goofy looking Vibrams to the gym.  What took me so long?!  My squats were so…balanced, grounded, powerful.  I love them so much.  Also, I am slowly getting closer to an unassisted pullup.  The key word there is slooooowly.  I also do the leg press machine, but I begin each workout with a 10 minute walk at a moderate pace to get the blood pumping to all my muscles.

During a good week I am also able to sneak in another quick workout at the gym.  This workout is usually entirely machine based, and that is where I have had enormous gains over the last four months.  My leg press has gone from 95 lbs to 195 lbs.  My lat pulldown has improved from 86 lbs to 113 lbs, and I have increased from 50 to 75 lbs on the chest press.  I am probably the strongest I have ever been in my life, yet my little Cavebaby is so strong I can hardly handle him sometimes!  He is eating what we eat – his favorite is Chocolate Chili with a side of sweet potatoes, but he loves any form of meat and vegetable I give him.

The only other interesting thing I have added to my regimen has been cold baths.  I have been reading the blog of Jack Kruse with interest the last several months.  He’s a pretty polarizing figure in the paleo world.  I can’t debunk his biochemistry, but from a thermodynamics standpoint it stands to reason one would burn some fat in the process.  The first plunge was bracing, but there is a certain zen-like quality you achieve sitting in a cold bath for 30 or more minutes.  I don’t know if I have lost any weight – the BF scale I shelled out some bucks for a couple of years ago has wild mood swings – but my body composition seems to be changing along with my strength increase.

So that’s what I have been up to.  Please accept my apologies for not having anything new or interesting to post in the last month!

A Crazy Weeks’ Worth of Eating

No need to call the Paleo Police.  I am still here, just busy hauling the kids to their activities and cooking healthy, nourishing meals for the five of us! 

The other week I had things under control cooking-wise.  I am struggling to get back to that balanced feeling, instead of feeling a little behind in everything I do.  I have actually planned the meals for this week.  I hate having the same meat two nights in a row, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.  Here’s what I have planned so far:

Monday: Crock pot pulled pork with braised cabbage and sautéed chard

Tuesday: Pork fried cauliflower rice: here’s a recipe that includes kim chee, which I just so happen to have in my fridge!

Wednesday: Primal Moussaka

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Crack Chicken

Saturday: Steak night!!!

I have to figure out an easy Sunday recipe.  I usually work out on Sundays and it leaves me a hungry, crabby, tired mess!  I am very fortunate my family tolerates me that day of the week…

Wahls and Sisson: A Match Made in Primal Heaven!

Mark Sisson was the gateway drug to my primal conversion a little less than two years ago, so it’s fitting that he is building on the inspirational video of Dr. Terry Wahls I posted last month.  Primal and paleo lifestyles aren’t all about heavy cream and butter – while they can be a welcome addition to your lifestyle if you can tolerate them, the primary focus of the foods eaten should be meat and vegetables.  If you are able to consume her recommended 9 cups per day, you probably won’t be very hungry anyway.

Mark Sisson does a great job of expanding on the reasons you should be eating these great foods, and gives helpful hints on how to go about it.  Last week he featured leafy greens; this week it’s sulphur.  Just about every meat-based recipe I cook these days starts with a chopped onion.  What I found out today is that if I let it sit on the cutting board for about 10 minutes, the active components of these vegetables are able to better withstand heat.


So in all honesty I didn’t make it to 30 days.  I could have, but I chose to eat off plan the very last night, a little bit.  What can I say?  Chips and salsa are my kryptonite!  I would go back and do it again, though – no regrets. 

So what did I learn from doing a Whole30 challenge?  A lot of things.  I like to think of myself as a pretty disciplined person, but this challenged me more so, and stretched my creativity as well.  Throwing a pat of butter in the pan for whatever I was cooking was second nature to me (as was throwing a pat into my mouth!).  I was able to break that habit, and cooked with either coconut oil or ghee.  On a side note, it is a lot less expensive to make your own ghee than to buy it at the health food store – like $5 cheaper.  I was using about 2 jars a week (I’m feeding 5 people here!) so that adds up.  It’s just that I would run out at the most inopportune moment.  Now the kids have accidentally recycled the jars I was using to store it, so I will have to find another way.  I really like cooking with ghee and I think I will continue to do so in the future.

I also broke the coffee cream habit (though I did use some this morning, and am paying a price.  A sneezy, runny nose price.  Yuck!) and now use some coconut oil and coconut milk in my coffee.  It’s not much different, just no nasal allergies when my cup is done.  I don’t think I will go back to using heavy cream in my coffee.  Like the way I feel after drinking alcohol, it’s just not worth it.

I am learning to like leftovers.  At least, I like not having to put together a 3- or 4-course meal every single night.  I have taken some lessons from Melissa Joulwan’s book Well Fed, and NomNom Paleo’s website for cooking up a lot of protein.  The sides are usually a quick and easy item – a salad, some sautéed greens, etc.  We are heading into an especially busy season with kid activities and copious amounts of cooking and cleaning daily will make me crabby!  For a family of 5 (yes, one of them is a baby but he eats mostly the same food that we do) I have to cook 3-4 lbs of meat in order to have some for dinner that night and leftovers later in the week.

Results.  You want results?  I’ve got results.  I probably lost about 5 lbs.  I can now comfortably wear my smallest nursing bra, on the smallest hooks; I can’t wear the ones I used a year ago at all they are so huge (since having the baby I have probably lost a total of 60 lbs).  In fact, I fit all of my pre-pregnancy clothes very comfortably; in another 5 lbs or so it will be time to go down to a smaller size.  That feels good, especially since I will have one of those big-decade birthdays in about a month.  I have always wanted to enter those birthdays feeling great – and this is the year it is going to happen, thanks to living a clean paleo lifestyle.

Energy.  I have it.  In abundance!  My eyes snap open at 6 am every morning.  I am mentally alert and ready to take on the day!  My fuzzy, foggy need for 2 large mugs of splenda-cream coffee and 2 hours of reading on the internet until I feel human is gone.  I can wake up and cook first thing (before, I didn’t trust myself until I hit that 2 hour timeframe – too foggy!) if I want to.  It leaves me with more time in my day to be active, proactive, and that is a great feeling.  No longer am I just a consumer of internet junk, television junk, whatever junk; I try to be a generator of something positive either for my family or for this blog.  Am I making any sense? 

This week I will play around with what works and what doesn’t.  Obviously cream in my coffee doesn’t.  But I will use that cream to make some homemade ice cream for our little Cavebaby’s 1st birthday!  I will also use the beautiful chocolate I bought to make a flourless cake as well.  And plan an awesome little feast in his honor!  Then, perhaps, I will return to another Whole30 challenge, or just maintain a slightly stricter paleo practice, knowing that it makes me feel great. 

If you are interested in trying a Whole30 challenge, check out this website.  There is a lot of information for free, but also a guide for purchase I think.  I didn’t buy the guide, but a lot of people have commented on how helpful it is.  I really enjoyed their post yesterday about completing your Whole30 experience: now what?

Another Great Workout!

Thanks to my husband, again.  I was being a bit of a sissy about which squat rack I wanted to use.  I had tried the one that kind of balances the load for you a couple of weeks ago, but it was already in use, so it took my husband a few minutes to really convince me that, yes, I can do real big-girl free-weight squats with more than just an empty bar.  In fact, I was able to load 95 lbs on the bar and do some squats!  Yay me!  The think I really like about doing squats versus a leg press machine is that it is much harder to “cheat” and use the wrong muscles to execute the motion.  I had no trouble maintaining my balance as well.  I love success like this!

I am also getting closer to being able to do some unassisted chinups every week.  I move the pin up a notch each time I try and am able to do 1-2 chinups, then I drop the pin a little and do some more.  It is great seeing progress every week!  I look forward to our Sunday “dates” at the gym.

A Non-Edible Recipe: Toothpaste

This past fall I decided to stop using toothpaste containing fluoride.  I did so after reading this blog post from Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist and author of the book Wheat Belly.  I have been taking thyroid hormone supplementation for the past 8 years and have wanted to try a more natural way of healing my body (I have not been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or Graves, it just seems as though my body does not produce enough thyroid hormone to maintain a feeling of well-being).  I noticed that the issues started shortly after the birth of my second child, and around that time I also started using “fancier” salt in my cooking, which did not contain iodine.  However, there are many other chemicals we are exposed to daily that contain halides, so in addition to using iodized salt I decided to refrain from using/ingesting fluoride as well.  I am not taking any iodine supplements at this time, though; I am still nursing a baby and do not want to negatively impact him through my self-experimentation.

So this past fall I mixed up a batch of toothpaste from Wellness Mama.  I used it until I ran out — then got lazy and bought some non-fluoride toothpaste from Trader Joe’s for backup.  Today I finally got off my behind and mixed up a second batch, and I am so glad I did!  The first time I made the recipe I kept it in a plastic mason jar.  This time I purchased a Go Toob at Whole Foods – we’ll see if it works like a tube of toothpaste!  I used a lot more peppermint oil this time as well, so I anticipate a mintier experience – last time I was timid with the essential oil and the toothpaste seemed more baking-soda-y. 

The Wellness Mama also has recipes for other natural living necessities – from laundry detergent to lotion!  I enjoy her blog immensely, and perhaps you would to.