Sunday, July 31, 2011

On a Lack of Orthodoxy, and Reflecting on Michael Pollan's Food Rules

Here is where I tell the dogmatic: this is not a post for you.

We returned today from a quasi-staycation - we were spending the week at a nearby lake taking advantage of some kayaking and other summertime activities. And guess what? There were s'mores. Oh, yes.

Now, in no way would I attempt to classify any type of s'more (grain-free or not) as "paleo" or "primal". Nope, they are decidedly a rare neolithic treat. Michael Pollan once said in his Food Rules, "#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." I can't ever know whether he had s'mores in mind, but the idea here applies nonetheless. Since all of the commercial marshmallows that I found in stores contained various preservatives in addition to corn starch and corn syrups, I looked for a non-corn marshmallow, only to return the same search results over and over. You guessed it: Google was recommending via its various search results that I make my own. Me? Make my own marshmallows? I went back to a marshmallow recipe linked by Eat the Cookie, who also has a grain-free graham cracker recipe on the same page.

My mom was my partner in crime: she covered most of the marshmallow-making process. I made the graham crackers. And guess what? Total time invested in both was at least three hours. Yes: three hours. In other words, Michael Pollan knew that there was something to his statement. If someone wants a Cheeto, and they have to hand-craft the Cheeto, it's going to take them way more time and energy than popping a few quarters into a vending machine does. Because of the huge time investment, guess how often s'mores are likely to be a part of our lives? Yup; about once or twice a year, tops.

The marshmallows toasted beautifully once held close to the flame - and my entire family pronounced them far superior to commercial marshmallows in all aspects. (I didn't have any of anything, since I'm still in July Whole 30 mode, so I relied on the reviews of the s'more eaters present.) My brother said that conventional s'mores were a taste and texture bust by comparison.

And thus, my 4-year-old had her first handcrafted s'more.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Broadening Snacking Palates: Yours and Your Kids'

It is a common puzzle for parents: how to break their kids of the iron grip that refined carbs has on their palates. Since refined carbohydrates like white sugar and wheat flour (even whole wheat flour) have documented properties of addiction in terms of how they affect the brain, it's no small wonder that food manufacturers try to hit the sweet spot with added refined carbs at every turn.

The long term solution to this is to get these kinds of carbs out of regular rotation - and one way to do this is by broadening your kids' palates. By offering and introducing tasty alternatives, your kids can come to view whole foods as treats in their own right.

Here are some ideas for kid-friendly tastes that can satisfy without promoting the manufactured taste or effects of refined carbohydrates. Be sure to indulge yourself - not only because they taste good, but because when your kids see you snacking on real food instead of processed junk, they'll follow suit.

If your family tolerates dairy well, go for the good stuff: full-fat, and organic, pastured, and/or raw where you can afford it. If your kids don't go for one type of cheese, don't be afraid other types; you might have one kid who's a Roquefort hound, and another who's all about Gouda. Hard and soft; stinky or mild; cow's, sheep's, or goat's. Mix it up and discover what cheese tastes your kids enjoy.

This savory dip of mashed avocados is a classic favorite for adults and kids alike - and the smooth, fatty texture is irresistable. Serve it up with fresh cut veggies like carrot and celery sticks.

Fresh Fruit and Veggies
This goes beyond apples and bananas, carrots and celery. Introduce your kids to as wide a variety of produce as you can manage - including palate-awakening items like tart grapefruits, starchy plantains, earthy beets, and crisp, peppery radishes. Asian grocery stores and farmers' markets are great places to seek variety - invite your kids to pick out whatever new fruits and vegetables they'd like to try, and bring them home. You might even Wikipedia the new picks together on your smartphone or PC to see where they originate and some of the best ways to prepare them - which is a fun learning experience by itself. And if your kids don't go for something new? That's fine! In your next shopping trip, move on to the next intriguing item at the produce stand, and you are sure to eventually find something that you all enjoy.

I don't mean a bowl of dusty cottonseed oil and corn starch dusted peanuts (yuck!). Try simply salted nuts - or even combine them in trail mixes with raisins and other dried fruits as a summer outing snack. Remember to read the ingredient labels of all of the nuts that you buy to ensure that there is nothing added - just nuts, perhaps with added salt. Nut butters (again, be sure to select them without added sugars or industrial oils like canola or soybean oil) can be delicious spread on apple slices.

Plain Whole Fat Yoghurt
Traderspoint Creamery Grass Fed
Whole Creamline Yogurt is one
we've tried recently and really enjoyed!
Did you know that GoGurt has 5.78 grams of sugar per ounce of product? Coca-Cola has 3.2 grams of sugar per ounce of soda. Yup, sweetened yoghurts frequently have more sugar per ounce than soda, and both are laden with high-fructose corn syrup and other coloring agents and additives that you and your kids don't need. It's time to ditch sweetened yoghurts and get acquainted with the creamy, deliciously tart taste of plain whole fat yoghurt. If you're feeling adventuresome you could try to make your own, or simply buy the highest quality (organic, grass-fed, etc.) that you can afford. Since it's a big shift from the industrially-sweetened taste, you could sweeten with something natural, like a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup - or by adding fresh fruit, but also don't be afraid to try the plain yogurt by itself to wean a sweet tooth off of depending on yoghurt as a sweet snack.

Chicken Salad or Egg Salad
Make yourself some delicious homemade mayo (it's very simple, promise!), and then toss it with leftover chunks of chicken, or with diced boiled eggs. You can eat this right out of a bowl with a fork, or wrapped in lettuce leaves. It's a great hearty snack that is bound to keep you and your kids satisfied because of the high protein and fat content.

Getting your kids to try new tastes while you transition to a real food lifestyle can be challenging at times for sure. The important mindsets for you to exhibit during the experience of broadening your palates are patience, persistence, and openmindedness.

What new-to-your-tastebuds real food snacks have you and your family been trying out lately?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Dairy-Free Sugar-Free Grain-Free Gluten-Free Banana Bread

I should kick this recipe by saying right off the bat: this is not a supersweet banana bread, not in the is-this-bread-cause-it-tastes-like-cake-to-me sense. It is more like a delightfully lightly sweet multigrain bread, only know...the grains. I think it's a great candidate for serving up in situations where you might normally serve cornbread, as with a bowl of chili - a good option for when you have nonprimal company over for a meal.

Unbanana Bread
Makes 4 mini-loaves, approximately 6 slices/loaf


2 bananas
8 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. white wine vinegar (can sub other vinegars)

Dry mix:
2 c. Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 generous pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375 F. Pregrease four mini-loaf pans with a healthy cooking fat (you could use butter, coconut oil, macadamia oil...).

In a blender or food processor (my mini food chopper worked fine here), blend the bananas, eggs, vanilla, and white wine vinegar. Blend for at least one minute to allow blending to whip air bubbles into the batter.

Combine dry mix ingredients and combine with a kitchen mixer. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and combine with the kitchen mixer. Pour the mix evenly into each of the four mini-loaf pans.

Bake at 375 F for 40-45 minutes. The top of the mini-loafs should be firm and dark golden brown.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. Thanks for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lunchbox #104

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):

  • A very large salad: About 8 oz. chunks of poached chicken, with shredded cheese, shredded red cabbage, and sliced cucumber, all on romaine.
  • Two Clementines
  • Salted almonds and pistachios

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lunchbox #103

So, here's how it went down. Our home's air conditioning failed on Tuesday afternoon - on the very hottest week of the year. The last time we had our air conditioning repaired, it took a couple of weeks to get the necessary part ordered and installed, so we had no idea how long it would be before we'd be blasted with sweet, sweet cold air again. We packed up several days' worth of clothes for ourselves and all of our meat and produce from the fridge (including my husband's packed lunch for today), and headed up to my inlaws' place.

While my husband met up with the AC repairman back at our house this morning, it dawned on me that I still had his packed lunch in my inlaws' fridge. Since it was a king-sized serving of salmon, I divided it between myself and my girls, and added in some pickles, sauerkraut, and sweet potatoes that had all traveled there with us.

Today, my husband's our lunch featured:
  • Wild silverbright salmon
  • Romaine lettuce with parmesan cheese (I gave the cheese to my youngest since I'm dairy free during the July Whole 30)
  • Baby carrots
  • A peach
And yes, today the AC is flowing again. What a blessing!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lunchbox #102

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):

  • No-mayo egg salad
  • Fresh sliced strawberries
  • Plain whole milk yoghurt with frozen blueberries stirred in (they thawed in time to eat)
  • A romaine salad with cherry tomatoes and shredded cheese


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Whole30 Update: Day 13 (or is it Day 4?)

Well, it's about halfway through July. Time for an update on my Whole30 experience!

I kicked off my Whole30 on July 1, and experienced the familiar "I'm eating right" signs: much reduced bloat, and higher, steadier energy.

One thing that really surprised me, since I've never gone dairy-free for an extended period: My skin looks so much better. Zits went down to negligible levels, and the oily/dry difference (T-zone anybody?) has evened out a lot. Why, with results like this, I'm starting to consider trying out the oil-cleansing method.

So far, the hardest things for me to give up have been:
  • Giving up my coffee with heavy cream. Old habits die hard.
  • My pastured butter. However, in the absence of butter, I've found that a modest drizzle of macadamia oil is a great dairy-free substitute for butter in topping veggies.
  • Cheese
  • Honey, and plain whole fat yoghurt with honey
Hrm, noticing a pattern here? Obviously I loves me some dairy. But so far, I have noticed that overall I feel noticeably better without tons of dairy in my daily diet.

Now, here is where things got interesting.

Late last week, my husband and I remembered that we had a hefty gift certificate to a high-fallutin' fancy-schmancy hoity-toity French restaurant. Said gift certificate was a very generous gift from my parents in honor of our fifth anniversary.

Guess what? We recently celebrated my sixth anniversary. In other words, we're the parents of young kids and managed not to make it to this restaurant in the last YEAR. Yea, we don't get out much.

To complicate things further, the gift certificate was set to expire 7/31.

So: keep my 10 days of Whole30 purity going and forfeit a multicourse haute cuisine date out with my husband? I was dedicated to my Whole30, but not so much that I'd give up an opportunity like this.

So we went. I even took the opportunity to wear my first pair of heels in ages: some black peep-toe pumps. I did notice that my ability to wear heels has sharply declined; I used to wear them all day in the office. Now, two pregnancies later, that I'm an at-home mother who goes barefoot or wears minimalist shoes most of the time, I nearly killed myself trying to walk in the aforementioned heels. (Note to self: find some hot-date shoes that don't endanger my life.)

We ordered the chef's tasting menu. I tried my first-ever round of fresh oysters. We had braised pork belly on a bed of risotto so good that I had to remind myself of our elegant surroundings so that I didn't lick the plate clean. There was also beef, fish, and lobster soup. And yes, a made-our-tastebuds-sing apricot souffle with a Grand Marnier cream.

Was it worth it? Three hours of daylight without changing diapers or fetching snacks, catching up with my husband over gourmet French creations?


So now what? Since that one errant meal, I've been back to my dairy-free sugar-free grain-free Whole30 menu. I'm not sure if that makes today my new day #4, but I'm willing to make it that way to try out the full 30 days. After that I'll blog my concluding thoughts. In the meantime, you can check out some of my day-to-day Whole30 details by following me on Twitter.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. Thanks for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!

Lunchbox #101

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):

  • Spaghetti squash topped with shredded leftover pork ribs and Simply Enjoy (Giant's in-house brand) tomato basil marinara - and a lifetime supply of parmesan cheese. I've really enjoyed the Simply Enjoy brand! It's comparable to my much loved Victoria pasta sauce, with an equally short and simple real-food ingredient list (no soy or canola oils here!), and no sugar. And yes: a very low 4 g. carbs per serving. It's also about 50% cheaper than Victoria at around $4 for a very large jar.
  • 2 Clementines
  • A romaine salad with halved cherry tomatoes and some more parmesan - you know, in case there wasn't already enough on the spaghetti squash. ;-)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Grain-Free Sugar-Free Primal Paleo Pancakes

Love that cherries are in season and half-price at Giant this week!

Though the blog post title is elaborate, there's no elaborate measuring and mixing here! In fact there's not even any kind of flour; though I do use alternative flours like coconut flour from time to time, not in this recipe - this is my "We need pancakes now!" recipe.

Play a banana-themed soundtrack while you're working, if you like:

Lazy Day Pancakes
Makes approximately 12-16 cakes

1.5 large bananas (or 2 medium ones)
3 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Dash vanilla extract (optional)
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender on high for at least 2 minutes, until perfectly smooth and there are lots of air bubbles whipped into the batter.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of stable cooking fat such as butter, coconut oil, or macadamia oil in a large pan on medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, pour in the batter to make 2.5" cakes. Allow the cakes to cook in the pan until almost all the way done before flipping; you'll see bubbles pop and stay "popped" when they are ready to flip. Continue cooking the rest of the cakes, adding a little more cooking fat to the pan before each new set of pancakes.

Serve warm with fresh fruit and butter to top, if desired.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lunchbox #100

Lunchbox 100?! I'm still stunned that I've blogged this many primal / paleo packed lunches.

Today, my husband's lunch featured (left to right):
  • Salad: with romaine, strips of steak, pieces of pickle and carrot

  • Pre-mostly-baked potato (I think this was a couple of small red ones, actually), cut up, topped with shredded cheese, with a bowl of salsa on the side to add later after the potato's microwaved (because who wants to eat warm salsa on their baked potato?)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crunchy Pecan Bleu Burger

When you're grillin' it up this weekend, try this simple combo to make your bunless burger a little more celebratory:

  • Throw a handful of chopped pecans into a pan on medium-high heat (you could do this step even a day or two before). Once they're toasty but not burned, take them off and allow them to cool.
  • Sandwich these toasted pecans with some crumbled bleu cheese (could sub your cheese of choice) between a couple of burger patties hot off the grill.
  • Accessorize with some fresh veggies and lacto-fermented Sauerkraut (this step also optional, but tasty!)
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