What Paleo Is

Apr 072012

When I posted this image to Modern Paleo’s Facebook Page, so many people liked it that I just couldn’t resist re-posting it here. And no wonder: It’s beautiful, tasty, and paleo! (Click to enlarge.)

It’s by Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites (Facebook and Twitter).

Two Cookbooks: Well Fed and The Healthy Gluten-Free Life

Mar 172012

I’ve had a few books in my pile to review for the past few weeks — okay… maybe a bit longer than that. I’m super-busy right now with SnowCon 2012, so I don’t have time to write as much as I’d like, but I thought that posting these two reviews would be better than nothing! (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Well Fed by Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan of The Clothes Make The Girl

Well Fed is a fabulous addition my growing collection of paleo cookbooks. Its recipes are “made with zero grains, legumes, soy, sugar, dairy, or alcohol” — which I think makes it compliant with the strict demands of the Whole 30. (Oh look, I was right! The web page for the book says: “Melissa and Dallas Hartwig of Whole9 wrote the foreword for Well Fed. And even better, they’ve given all of the Well Fed recipes (except for one dessert) their stamp of approval for happy eating during participation in the Whole30 program.”)

Also, it’s just beautifully done, with lucious pictures and sassy, easy-to-navigate design. It’s chock-full of useful tidbits like prep and cook time, good companion recipes, and more. Its tone is friendly and approachable: you feel like you’ve got a friend in the kitchen.

Mostly, I’m impressed that the recipes are not standard paleo fare: they’re a bit exotic and off-the-beaten path — and wow, they look amazingly delicious and not difficult to make. Alas, I’ve not yet had time to make any, but I will soon!

This cookbook would be particularly suitable for two kinds of people, I think: (1) anyone who has been cooking paleo for a while and wants some variety and adventure and (2) a foodie interested in eating paleo. It’s not that others won’t enjoy it — far from that — but this cookbook is definitely a must-have for the paleo foodie.

You can buy a PDF of this book for $14.99 or buy a softcover from Amazon. (If you buy the softcover, you get a coupon for the PDF for just $1.)

The Healthy Gluten-Free Life by Tammy Credicott

For me, this cookbook isn’t a great fit. Lots of its recipes use foods that I avoid, particularly gluten-free flours and sweeteners. Moreover, I’m just not interested in smoking candy cigarettes: I really enjoy full-blown paleo foods, and I don’t feel any need to make pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. That’s mostly a problem in the breakfasts and desserts; the entrées and sides look far more appealing to me.

However, I imagine that some parents might find the recipes in this book really helpful when cooking for a family without a well-tuned paleo palate. Also, the recipes are not merely gluten-free: they’re also dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free. If you have an egg allergy or intolerance, this cookbook might be just what you need!

This cookbook is by the same publisher as Paleo Comfort Foods and Make it Paleo. So it’s quite beautiful, with huge mouth-watering pictures. Alas, the cookbook lacks a proper table of contents, which is a huge negative. I’d love the author to post a table of contents to the web, as Paleo Comfort Foods did.

I have two other books that I’d like to review… but first, I need to find the time to read them! They are:

If you’ve read them, feel free to post your thoughts on them in the comments.

Two Book Reviews: Kids and Paleo

Mar 102012

Not too long ago, I received two books aimed at paleo kids and their parents to review. (Disclosure mandated by the turds at the FTC: These books were given to me for free as review copies.)

Alas, I disliked Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship. However, I loved Eat Like a Dinosaur. Let me explain why.

Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo

As you’ve probably gathered from the name, this book is a children’s story on eating paleo. I wanted to like it, but I don’t think that it does much to explain to kids what’s good about eating paleo or bad about eating the Standard American Diet. Also, I didn’t find the story compelling in itself: too much came across as propaganda, and I didn’t like that.

The two basic claims of the book about paleo are (1) that industrial food production is scarybad and farm-produced foods are goodygood and (2) that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically.

I strongly disagree with the first claim against industrial foods, and frankly, that’s not what paleo is (or should be) about. Farms can and do produce unhealthy SAD foods, and factories can produce healthy paleo foods. Similarly, “processed” foods are not inherently bad, as some people seem to think. All fermented foods — like kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut — are “processed” foods. Anything cooked is “processed.” That some food is processed — or even processed in large batches under strict conditions (i.e. industrially) — reveals little about its nutritional value. Instead, what matters is the original quality of the ingredients, and then whether the processing enhances or degrades the nutritional value of the food.

While I’m not a fan of many foods sold in America today, the fact is that industrial production is huge benefit to everyone, particularly in terms of safety and cost. Every paleo-eater depends on the industrial food system in order to eat paleo. As much as I want to see changes — including the end of all government meddling — that doesn’t justify condemning industry. I’ll just vote with my wallet.

The second major argument for paleo in the book is that eating paleo makes you feel better, mentally and physically. I agree with that, but again, the book was mostly just asserting that, rather than allowing it to emerge from the story. So it seemed like propaganda.

If you’re a paleo-eating parent, I’d recommend reading how Kelly Elmore and her daughter eat, as described in this post: My Paleo Kid. And if you have any problems or challenges, ask on the PaleoParents e-mail list.

Personally, I’d not be willing to read a child this book, purely due to to its explicit anti-industry message and seeming propagandizing.

Addendum: I’m a person with strong opinions and a blunt style, and I like that about me.  However, I tend to err in the direction of “bull in a china shop,” and that can be misunderstood by more gentle people.  Here, I don’t want my review to be taken as any kind of personal attack or global criticism of Sarah Fragoso.  I didn’t like this book, and I stand by that judgment.  Nonetheless, I respect Sarah Fragoso and her work with Everyday Paleo. I’ve never met Sarah, but her blog is awesome, and I’m more than happy to recommend it to everyone, particularly parents.  And if you found value in this book — if it helps you explain paleo to your kids and grandkids — that’s fine by me… and you’re welcome to say so in the comments.

Eat Like a Dinosaur by The Paleo Parents

I love this book! It’s a kid-friendly paleo cookbook, with over 100 gluten-free, dairy-free, legume-free recipes for kids and adults to enjoy. Every recipe has a good picture, simple instructions, and a handy icon for what kids can do. (Obviously, what kids can do will depend on their age and skills.)

Kids could easily review the recipes to decide what to cook, review and assemble the ingredients, and then do much of the cooking. It would be a great first cookbook for kids to work through, and after much cooking from it, they could easily graduate into regular adult cookbooks.

I loved the cooking that I did as a child. I only wish that I’d done more nuts-and-bolts cooking of meat and vegetables, rather than so much baking and desserts. I’d strongly encourage paleo parents to teach their children to cook… and then let the kids do the cooking!

Modern Paleo in The Daily Camera

Feb 182012

The paleo diet was recently the subject of an article in Boulder’s newspaper, The Daily Camera: Paleo diet advocates claim increased energy, health benefits. Very unexpectedly, Modern Paleo was mentioned!

With more than 90 active members, the Denver paleo group on Meetup.com provides a way for paleo dieters to connect, support each other and share tips. In Boulder, more than 45 people are on a waiting list anticipating the start of a similar group. With the objective of creating an online community, University of Colorado graduate Diana Hsieh started ModernPaleo.com.

The article is pretty good, as much as I groan at the paleo “pancakes” featured in the opening and the closing.

How to Make Bacon in the Oven

Feb 112012

I make bacon on a regular basis, and I always make it in the oven in a glass pan. That’s the easiest, tastiest, and cleanest way I’ve found to to make a large batch of perfect bacon.

First, lay the strips neatly in a large glass pan.

The larger the pan the better! If the slices don’t all fit, I will overlap them, one exactly on top of another, then adjust them when I flip them. They shrink while cooking, so you’ll end up with more room.

Cook at 400F for 20 minutes — perhaps a bit less if you pre-heated the oven.

Flip over each slice, and re-adjust the placement as needed.

Cook for another 10 minutes. You might need a few more minutes after that — it depends on how crispy you like your bacon.

Save the grease for later cooking. Once the pan is cool, let the dog(s) lick the glass pan. (If you are missing the dog, adopt one!)

You can cook bacon at a lower temperature with more time too, but I don’t have the timing worked out for that. You can also use cookie sheets lined with tin foil in the oven too. That makes it harder for the doggies to enjoy, however. And the bacon doesn’t seem to cook quite as nicely as it does in a glass pan. I’ve seen some people recommend using a rack in a pan. I’ve never tried that, but it seems like more trouble.

How To Celebrate Randsday in Three Easy Steps

Feb 022012

How to Celebrate Randsday in Three Easy Steps:

Step 1: Buy up all the delicious uncured bacon at the grocery store.
Step 2: Take it home.
Step 3: Go wild. (This may take a few days.)

Happily, Steps 1 and 2 eased the pain of seven (!!) hours of errands today! (Due to the impending blizzard, I had to mush all my errands into one day.) Plus, the bacon was on sale! Score!

Snowboard Girl, Powered by Bacon

Jan 212012

Last week, I had a great four days of snowboarding in Beaver Creek, then one final day of skiing. Much to my delight, the third day offered six inches of glorious powder — and that much powder transforms snowboarding from “yay fun!” to “OMG OMG OMG THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER!”

My snowboarding skills are definitely improving with every day on the slopes. (These were days five through eight on a snowboard.) My turns are much better: I can do pretty flat s-curves down the milder slopes, and I can do turns on steeper slopes now too. I’m able to get off the lifts reliably, thank goodness. I’m only falling on occasion now too.

Interestingly, I’m pretty much ambidextrous on the snowboard. I’m goofy-footed, mostly because the inflamed nerve (morton’s neuroma) in the ball of my right foot is happier when strapped in full-time. However, I’m happy to go down the slope with left or right foot forward, and my turns are equally good (or bad) on either side. That flexibility is good: I can face whichever way makes the most sense given the terrain, not based on my own body’s preferences.

I snowboarded or skied for four to five hours every day. I was tired by that, but not wildly exhausted. (The only exception was the first day, but that involved waking up early and driving three hours to Beaver Creek, then snowboarding.) Also, I was sore after the first day or two in my quads, but that faded. That tells me that my 20 minute SuperSlow workouts once per week are keeping me in as good shape as CrossFit did.

By the time we went home, the only thing that hurt was the backs of my knees. I couldn’t figure out why… until I realized that the problem was likely my construction-style knee pads, because the main strap wrapped around the backs of my knees. I’ve ordered knew knee pads, so hopefully those will work without causing strain.

Finally, due to my still-super-strict elimination diet, I cooked all of our meals in the kitchen of the condo. We usually had bacon and grapefruit for breakfast. (Hence, the caption on on the picture!) Paul had coffee, and I had my cinnamon hot cocoa. I packed some meat (ham or leftovers), plus sweet potato for lunch. Then we had yummy dinners: slow-cooked pork ribs, roast chicken, pork roast, and so on. That worked really well: I kept strictly to my diet, and I enjoyed what we ate. Also, we probably saved a few hundred dollars, since eating out anywhere neat Beaver Creek is ridiculously expensive.

Overall, I’m really happy that I took up snowboarding this season. I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new snow sport, particularly that difficult process of forcing myself by sheer will to overcome my fears. (I hope to write more about that later.) Mostly…


Cinnamon Hot Cocoa

Jan 142012

On my super-restrictive elimination diet, I’ve been in a bit of a bind regarding hot beverages. Normally, I drink black tea with cream, usually just one cup in the morning. Also, if I’m tired from running errands, I find that a cup of tea restores me nicely. I don’t just enjoy the taste: a cup of tea is a moment of quiet peace for me.

On my MRT test, coffee and tea tested “green” for me, so I could drink them. However, cream is what makes these beverages palatable to me, but dairy won’t be on the menu for me for a while. Tea without cream is really too bitter, and I only barely tolerate coffee, even with lots of cream. It’s possible to make a coconut-based creamer with coconut milk and egg yolk, but eggs are also off the menu for me, at least for a few more weeks. I’m also limiting my consumption of coconut milk. Oh, and I still dislike coffee, so I’d just prefer not to drink it. Coconut milk in tea is just plain gross.

Happily, I’ve found an acceptable substitute for tea: cinnamon hot cocoa. I just pour boiling water over approximately 1 tablespoon of pure (Ghirardelli) cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and often a pinch of sea salt, then stir. The cocoa and cinnamon tends to settle, so I stir periodically while I drink.

It’s not the tastiest beverage ever, but it’s better than nothing! The cinnamon adds a sweetness and complexity to the cocoa, and the touch of salt makes the flavors pop. I’m sure that other spices would work well, but alas, I’m pretty limited in my spice choices right now.

I know lots of people who can’t tolerate either cream or coconut milk… but you might like my cinnamon hot cocoa!

Elimination Diet: Weeks 1 and 2

Jan 072012

I’m pleased to report that I’m doing very well on my elimination diet with nearly two weeks completed.

Here are all the foods that I’ve eaten so far:

  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Salmon

  • Zucchini
  • Carrot
  • Coconut
  • Sweet Potato
  • Spinach

  • Banana
  • Orange
  • Apple
  • Raspberry

  • Black Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Cumin

That’s not much, but other than longing for the delicious salty crunch of macadamia nuts on occasion, I’m pretty content.

My angry gut symptoms have disappeared. I’ve only reacted to one food: Whole Foods’ 365 Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon. I’ve done okay with Applegate Farms and Coleman bacon (uncured, of course). The Whole Foods bacon has some kind of unknown “spices” in it — not the very forbidden onion and garlic, since those must be listed separately — but something else. I want to try eating it again, then if I react again, I’ll contact Whole Foods again about the ingredients. (Whole Foods was good and Applegate Farms was awesome when I inquired about ingredients in their products.)

I’ve lost a few pounds too, plus an inch off my waist. That’s good too, because I’ve had major trouble shedding the weight I gained due to my hypothyroidism. More importantly, my hunger sensations seem to have reset themselves, so I’m not inclined to eat and eat and eat beyond satiation.

This upcoming week will be a bit of a challenge, food-wise. Despite the crappy snow conditions, Paul and I are going out to Beaver Creek for a few days. (He’s snowshoing, and I’m snowboarding and maybe skiing too.) I can’t possibly eat out on this elimination diet. If I could eat beef, I’d be golden: I’d just order a plain steak or bunless burger. That’s just not possible with other meats. So… what will I do? Well, we’ll be eating in, just like at home. We’ve reserved a condo with a full kitchen, and we’ll bring a hefty cooler of tasty food. So I’ll continue to cook as usual, which will suit us just fine.

The only change that I need to make concerns pork: basically, I’ve probably been eating far too much of it. I’m supposed to rotate foods, but pork is so convenient for breakfasts and lunch in the form of pork loin, uncured ham, and uncured bacon that it’s hard to forgo. I’d better just eliminate it from my diet entirely for a week. (Oddly, I find it far easier to just eliminate something that I like from my diet than to eat it in moderation.) I won’t do that this upcoming week because sticking with the elimination diet while away from home and on the slopes will enough trouble. But after that, no bacon for a week for me!

So far, the elimination diet has been a success. At this point, I don’t feel deprived… I’m just happy to be feeling better!

My Elimination Diet

Dec 312011

On Monday, I began a serious elimination diet. Why? Some unknown foods don’t seem to agree with my gut: I feel bloated and pained for a day or so after eating them, and while I’m in that state, my hunger sensors seem to be broken, and so I overeat. Also, some tests that I’ve done with our own Christian Wernstedt of Vital Objectives show gut inflammation, plus high sensitivity to certain foods. If I have problems with leaky gut, that could be a contributing factor in my autoimmune hypothyroidism, as well as my adrenal insufficiency. If so, I want that fixed!

My basic strategy for this elimination diet is slightly complicated because I want to make sure that I’m not just wasting my time by introducing confounding factors.

First, the results of my “MRT” food sensitivity test labeled foods as “green” (little reaction), “yellow” (moderate reaction), and “red” (severe reaction). I’ve started with just a few “green” foods — like pork, zucchini, and bananas. Over the first two months, I’ll gradually add more “green” foods. After two months, I’ll try eating some of the “yellow” foods. After three months, I’ll try eating some of the “red” foods. Hopefully, my gut will have healed enough by the time that I reintroduce these foods to be able to tolerate them, but if not, then I’ll have to cut them permanently from my diet.

Second, I’m eliminating common autoimmune triggers — particularly nuts, dairy, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), and eggs — for at least a month, even if they’re “green” by the MRT test. I’ll also not drink any alcohol for that first month, nor consume any added sugar. I’ve been eating strictly gluten-free for ages, so that’s a given. I’ll also avoid all forms of soy. (I eat wheat-free soy sauce on rare occasion.)

So what does that mean for my diet? What’s on the menu… or not?

Red Foods: Eliminate for Three Months

  • Beef
  • Mushroom
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Avocado
  • Watermelon

With a half freezer full of delicious grass-fed beef, I’m not too enthused to give that up for three months. Plus, not being able to eat beef means that I won’t be able to eat out, since a plain steak or hamburger is off the menu. I’m also mighty unhappy that onion and garlic are on the list — as they’re two of my favorites. However, last week I made a ground beef dish with lots of onion, garlic, and tomato, and I was miserable for two full days. Since then, I’ve been more reconciled to this three-month deprivation!

Alas, I just saw that my favorite breakfast meat — the Italian Pork Sausage by Boulder Sausage — has garlic powder in it, so that’s not an option for three months. GRRRR! I wonder whether the “spices” listed on my Whole Foods 365 bacon and Applegate Farms Canadian bacon include garlic or onion. I’ll have to inquire.

I do like mushrooms, cabbage, and avocado too, but I can live without them for a while. The watermelon result seems strange to me, since I eat watermelon about once every three years! Corn, however, doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve had some serious belly aches from that.

Yellow Foods: Eliminate for Two Months

  • Basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Lemon
  • Mint
  • Peach
  • Scallop
  • Tuna
  • Yellow Squash
  • Cashew
  • Green Pea
  • Papaya
  • Pear

Happily, there’s nothing too exciting on this list, nothing that I’ll really miss.

Green Foods, But Eliminate for One Month

  • Bell Pepper
  • Tomtato
  • Potato
  • Eggplant
  • Walnut
  • Almond
  • Pistachio
  • Pecan
  • Hazlenut
  • Sunflower
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple

Mostly, I’ll miss my morning cup of tea, which absolutely requires cream. I’ll also miss the eggs, tomatoes, and bell peppers. I’ll definitely miss the cheese too, but I know that I eat too much cheese, so that’s probably for the best.

So, you might be thinking, what’s left? What can I eat?

Green Foods

  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Turkey

  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia

  • Zucchini
  • Carrot
  • Olive
  • Sweet Potato
  • Spinach
  • Beet
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • String Bean
  • Leek
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Coconut

  • Orange
  • Apple
  • Grapefruit
  • Strawberry
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherry
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberry
  • Grape
  • Blueberry
  • Honeydew
  • Apricot
  • Cranberry
  • Plum
  • Banana

  • Coffee
  • Tea

  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Tumeric
  • Vanilla

That’s a pretty good variety of foods, so I won’t be terribly bored with meals for the next few months.

Also, I’m back to keeping a food diary, and I’m cutting out my bad habit of snacking. Oh, and if I cheat, I plan to confess it here, so as to keep me on the straight and narrow!

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