Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Whole 30.... ish

Apologies for the very long break. The new little girl in my life has been taking up most of my time in the past three months, and my diet has suffered as a result (though not as much as my blogging.)

But that poor diet inspired me to try out the Whole 30 challenge. I got to day 5 of using coconut milk in my coffee (or having it black if I buy it) and avoiding dairy, potatoes, and alcohol, in addition to the grains and added sugars I've been mostly avoiding for a year.

But then I stepped on the scale and noticed that not only was I losing weight, but I was losing it dangerously fast - despite snacking on high-calorie pemmican whenever I felt hungry.

I know, it sounds like an unusual problem to have, and most people wouldn't consider it a problem. But I'm breastfeeding my daughter, and toxins normally stored in body fat are released into the bloodstream (and, therefore, into my milk supply) when I lose weight. Losing more than two pounds of fat in a week could release more toxins than her tiny body can handle. Since I've also started exercising again (though lightly), any weight I do lose is more likely to be fat than muscle.

So the dairy is back in my diet, at least for a while. I'll continue to be more fastidious regarding other non-paleo 'foods', and dairy should suffice to keep my weight loss within acceptable levels.

I could probably accomplish the same by eating more root vegetables and fruits instead of adding dairy back in. Should any of you be inclined to try the Whole 30, I recommend that option if you experience the same extreme weight loss I did in the first week. For me, though, the high number of calories required to continue feeding my daughter makes milk, cream, butter, and yogurt a more practical solution for now, at least until I can get my life more settled in other areas. I'll be revisiting the Whole 30 challenge again in the near future, though.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Favorite Meat

We got ground goat from our meat share this past Saturday. It is safe to say this is now my favorite meat. We cooked it up today with sauteed carrot, onion, and apple, with a little cream cheese and no other seasoning, and it came out awesome. Goat is lean, tender, very mild and a little bit sweet. The apple actually almost overpowered the meat. I'm hoping our farm will start giving us more of that; if not, I might just have to buy it separately.

Speaking of the farm, our winter CSA is working out fairly well. We've gotten a lot of non-paleo stuff, including maple syrup, root beer, and chocolate sauce, but even those are at least local and essentially organic. The veggies, eggs, and cheese have been mostly making up for it. This past week we got a turnip, lots of parsnips, some very large carrots, lots of apples, and even more little red potatoes. Oh and some mescalin mix and a couple tomatoes and some mushrooms and two dozen eggs and some bleu cheese and goat cheese. I'm not as impressed with the winter share as I was with the summer share, but it seems to be working out well. I definitely like not shopping!

We also made jerky again. One large 4lb roast yielded two batches of jerky. In addition, there was enough suet on the roast to render down, so I finally get to try making pemmican! The jerky recipes we used are, unfortunately, not quite paleo, but they're fairly tasty.

Recipe 1, for 2 lbs meat:
1.5 tsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder (we used 1 clove minced), 1 tsp onion powder, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Rub mix on meat pieces. Tweaks for next time: more ginger & garlic, less sugar.

Recipe 2, also for 2 lbs meat:
1 cup whiskey or bourbon, 1 tsp coarse-ground black pepper, 1 tbsp salt, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tbsp Worcestershire. This one tastes pretty good as-is, though I think I'll sprinkle pepper on the pieces after draining next time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

BBQ Sauce, Cabbage Hash, and Cheesesteak

We had some pork ribs from our meat share that we wanted to try. When we looked in the fridge to see what we had to add to them, we saw apples and cranberries from our CSA hanging around. Great flavors to go with pork, so we got started!

We mostly made this up, and it worked out great.

Started with a little fruit juice and a little water with a couple handfuls of cranberries and a pinch of dried chipotle peppers, some cinnamon, and some allspice. When the cranberries had split, we added diced apple. Once that was soft we blended it with half a small can of tomato paste to make a thick sauce.

To that, we added a splash of white vinegar and some liquid smoke. It actually resembled (and tasted like) a real barbecue sauce, with an awesome cranberry flavor and a little sweetness from the apple!

We coated both sides of the pork ribs and put them in the oven under foil for 3 hours on low heat, once in a while taking them out to flip them over and add more sauce. For the last 15 minutes we took off the foil.

They just melted off the bone, and our cranberry BBQ sauce was the perfect complement. Would do again! I think I need to find some jelly jars soon so I can make a big batch of that BBQ sauce and can it in small amounts. We had the rest of it on chicken with cheese later.

We also had an awful lot of green cabbage hanging around. We got one in our veggie basket, and still had half a cabbage from the previous share. We sliced up all the cabbage and used half to make a tasty, simple hash: fry some bacon until rendered, drain most of the grease, add garlic and onions and cook until caramelized, then add cabbage and saute until tender. Spice to taste - we used salt, pepper, cocoa chili blend, and chipotle. It came out great, but our second attempt came out even better.

Cabbage hash #2: fry bacon until mostly cooked, add Italian sausage pieces and cook until mostly done. Drain most of the grease. Add onion, garlic, and cranberries; let onions start to caramelize and let cranberries split. Add cabbage and cook until nearly done; add diced apple. The only spice we needed to add was black pepper.

Cheesesteak is another dish we threw together recently that came out better than expected. We've tried this one twice too, and it's extremely simple. Pan-fry seasoned thin slices of steak until done, then cut the slices into strips. Caramelize onion slices with some chopped garlic. Put steak back into pan with onion. Add cheeses! We had pepperjack, cream cheese, and sharp cheddar lying around, and put in some of each. Add pepper to taste.

Yeah, that's it. I think it depends on two things: the quality of the steak, and the kinds of cheese you use. The two times we've tried it have been pretty good though, and it's something we'll make again.

Let's see, what else have we made recently? We made another batch of butternut chips, which - again - didn't stick around long. Oh! and pumpkin ice cream! The texture is a little odd, but it tastes really good, despite halving the sugar called for in the recipe.

So in non-recipe food news, we picked up our meat share this past weekend, along with a basket of veggies. Our meat share was all beef this time, but there's 26 pounds of it in a variety of cuts for us to play with, and we're supposed to get pork again next month. For veggies we got tomatoes, both hothouse and cherry, so we made tomato soup again (and added cream cheese to it this time); we got a few red potatoes, a cabbage, a pumpkin, two acorn squash, half a dozen apples, a jug of local maple syrup, a giant garlic bulb, a big butternut squash, cranberries, a dozen eggs, and two meats to round it out. Unfortunately with all our cooking all we have left for veggies is the acorn squash. We might have to actually pull out some of our frozen veggies next week!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snack time!

I know I just posted yesterday, but I was thinking about snacks, and thought I'd share my favorite primal snacks.

Fruits are often good snacks on their own. Carrots and celery are too. Sweet potato chips or squash chips (don't fry in vegetable oil!) are great too.

Lately we've made a lot of applesauce. A small bowl of that is a great snack.

We almost always have either Greek yogurt or cottage cheese in the house. Either one is good plain, with applesauce, with berries, or turned into a veggie dip with the addition of a few spices. Cottage cheese is also great with cinnamon, black pepper, or cocoa powder.

I also like plain slices of cheese as a snack. Lately we've had jars of olives and pepperoncini and marinated artichokes around that are good snacks too. We also have lots of pickles around - remnants from the cucumbers in our CSA this summer.

Every time we cook a squash, we save the seeds for roasting. Clean them, add a little olive oil, salt, and seasonings (generally chipotle pepper for us) and roast at 350 or so until they start to turn brown and crunchy. They're like popcorn. Kabocha seeds are the only one I've found that doesn't work very well, just because the shells get chewy rather than crunchy. Acorn, butternut, and pumpkin seeds all turn out great.

We use our dehydrator once in a while for fruits and veggies. Sliced strawberries, apples, bananas, kiwi, coconut, and pineapple work well, as do carrot sticks, broccoli stems, beet slices, cucumber slices, and sweet potato slices. Watch the amounts you eat of these, though; you get all the same carbs from dried fruits and veggies as you do when they're fresh, but not as much volume. It's easy to eat a lot of them. Jerky is a great snack too, also easy to make in batches.

Pickled eggs, seaweed, and pork rinds are also good snacks. Nuts can be good too, but some are high in omega-6 fats and should be balanced out with omega-3s.

One does not need grains to have tasty snacks in the house!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Have some science, and some recipes

This presentation goes over some of the links between sugar, fat, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. I found it really informative, though long; it has 5 parts, each between 10 and 15 minutes. I highly recommend it.

On to food!

Butternut squash, thinly sliced and fried in olive oil at 320 degrees, makes pretty awesome chips. Unfortunately they don't last long.

While almond flour crust works well to make primal pumpkin-kabocha pies (pumpkin and kabocha courtesy of our winter CSA), and is a lot like a graham cracker crust, it does burn where there is no filling, so your pie can't have pretty fluted edges. The recipe I used for the crust used grapeseed oil. I will be try again with butter next time; I suspect I'll get better flavor out of it. One pie has cream cheese in the filling, while the other has some maple syrup; both are tasty.

The pumpkin seeds, kabocha seeds, and seeds from one of our two acorn squash were all roasted with salt and chipotle pepper. Kabocha seeds really don't roast all the well, unfortunately. They tend to be chewy no matter how long they're in for. The pumpkin and acorn ones are better than popcorn, though.

We made lots of applesauce. Almost 6 quarts. We also made 3 quarts of cranberry applesauce, and 3 pints of cranberry sauce. The cranberry and cranberry-apple blend unfortunately needed sugar, and so are not paleo and will be eaten sparingly, but they came out pretty tasty. (Why so much of everything? Well, we bought a peck of apples and two bags of cranberries from the store, intending to make applesauce, and then got another peck of apples from our CSA, along with some cranberries. That makes a lot. But since we've mostly mastered canning for simple things like fruit sauces, the jars will be able to hang out for a while before we eat them.)

We dehydrated all the peels from our apples when we were done making sauces. Now they're like apple chips. Yum!

Then we put a chuck roast we got with our winter CSA in the crockpot whole, along with a few potatoes, a can of diced tomato, artichoke hearts, two small onions, mushrooms, and of course chicken stock and spices. It came out awesome, and made enough for lunch today and tomorrow, and maybe a dinner.

We still have broccoli, brussel sprouts, an acorn squash, and a head of cabbage to eat from our CSA, along with the bulb portions of the two butternut squash we got (we didn't think they'd slice well for chips.) I think we'll freeze the squash and the broccoli and try to make sauerkraut with the cabbage. We also have a gallon of local cider in the fridge, and lots of Amish roll butter in the freezer (I do mean lots. We portioned it into 4 oz. 'sticks' before freezing - the same size as a regular stick of butter - and got 9 of them. After using quite a bit in an acorn squash. And it's super-tasty.) The farm says they owe us two dozen eggs, too; they were out when we got there Saturday. We'll be picking those up tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to eggnog made with fresh farm eggs.

We're picking up more meat on Dec 4th, along with our second winter CSA basket. So far the winter share is just as much of a win as the summer share was. I hope that continues!

Cranberry sauce: 6 cups cranberries, 2 cups orange juice, 1 cup sugar, zest of 1 orange, two tablespoons ginger. Boil until cranberries pop, simmer until thick. Add cinnamon and other spices if desired. Most recipes call for more sugar than this, but using orange juice instead of water adds some, and really, we just don't like things all that sweet anyway anymore.

Cranberry-applesauce: follow the above, but halve the sugar and add a dozen peeled, cored, finely diced apples.

Applesauce: peel, core, dice apples; put into a big pot with some lemon juice. Add water to cover half of the apples. Simmer until apples are tender, blend to desired consistency. Add cinnamon (or add cinnamon sticks early, and take them out before blending.) That's it. Most recipes add sugar, but we've found it's not necessary.

Pie crust: mix together 1.5 cups almond flour (whole almonds in a coffee grinder then sifted works well), 1 tbsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp sea salt. Blend together 2 tbsp honey, 1/4 grapeseed oil, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix with dry ingredients, press into 9" pie tin, bake for 15 minutes (or until golden brown) at 350. Let cool before filling.

Pie filling: mix 2 eggs and 2 cups pumpkin puree (or pumpkin-kabocha blend in our case, strained) with pretty much whatever you want. Cinnamon and nutmeg are pretty essential. One of ours had 1/4 cup maple syrup; the other, maybe 1/2 cup of cream cheese. Fill pie crust and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dehydrator time! and more

We went on a little dehydration kick recently.

We bought some steaks ages ago to turn into jerky, so we did; found a decent soy-free recipe online to try. It came out alright, but there is an undertone of vinegar that I'm not a big fan of in jerky; we'll have to try again with a few adjustments. It doesn't help that we dried that one for a little too long.

But we also made two ground-beef jerkies that came out great. We used beef from our meatshare, so it's pastured and near-organic; it was interesting because the texture was quite a bit different than what I'm used to from Costco. One had a chili spice blend and the other had an Italian herb mix. Ground-beef ones are fun; they're easy, since there's no marinating needed, the spice mixes are easy to make up and don't use soy, and they're also easier to eat when they're done since they're a bit softer. Unfortunately they need to be eaten fairly quickly; they tend to mold. But that hasn't been an issue for us much.

We also dehydrated a lot of fruit. Several apples, two bunches of bananas, half a coconut (ate the other half fresh), and a pineapple. We've decided we like homemade dried coconut better than either fresh coconut or store-ought dried; the dehydration kills the slight astringency one can find in fresh coconut, and we can make larger pieces than we can buy. Also, fresh dried pineapple is nothing like the candied 'dried pineapple' you can buy in a store. It's far more awesome - despite (or because of?) the lack of added sugar. Of course, none of these fruits hung around for long. And we certainly increased our fructose intake for a week. By the way, Syntax adores dried fruit, especially coconut, for some odd reason. But then, he'll eat anything.

We also had fun with our crockpot. We used several meats from our meatshare this time - hot Italian sausage (not sausages, just sausage), bacon, and stew beef - along with one pound of potato, a few onions, and a butternut squash. Using loose sausage meat was certainly different. (We tried to make sausage patties with the sweet sausage, and it worked ok after I added an egg - the texture's a little difficult, but it's very tasty stuff!) What was unusual for us this time was the spice blend we added to the chicken stock base. Because of the butternut, we added some cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg, along with a couple dried chipotle peppers, salt, and black pepper. It came out great. For once our broth is not bland.

We did end up straining it though, in order to let the fat rise so we could skim some of it off. The sausage and bacon rendered quite a bit, and although I don't mind eating a lot of fat now the way I used to, it was just too much. But then we added the skimmed broth back in, and had some extra to use elsewhere; two days ago I made a 'miso soup' by adding some Nori seaweed to that broth. I know, it's not actually miso at all; it's just a seaweed soup, but it's a pretty good substitute.

Then last night was burgers. We got some hamburger patties from the meatshare that we were eager to try, and so we pan-fried them and topped them with cheese, pan-fried pineapple and some avocado slices (and, of course, mustard and ketchup). Rich wanted hamburger buns for his, but mine were great without a bun. And yes, the pineapple/avocado combo came home with us from Hawaii, and it's one I'll do again. We get leftover burgers for lunch today :)

In other news, my doctor wants me to take the glucose blood test sometime soonish to test for pregnancy diabetes. One problem with that is that people on a low-carb diet nearly always test positive, since the body gets used to processing fats instead of sugars and so sugars stick around for a while. The other problem with that is that, if I test positive, they'll recommend... a low-carb diet. WTF? So for a little while I'm going to try to estimate the number of carbs I eat, and see how low-carb I really am. So far today it looks like I'm not very low-carb at all:
1 apple, according to wolphram-alpha, averages 24g carbs.
Half a serving of roasted squash seeds is 15g (a blend of butternut and acorn, but unfortunately wolphram-alpha can't discriminate, and goes with pumpkin and squash)
Each slice of pineapple is probably around 5 g, and I've had one slice dried and will have one on my burger in a little while.
Some mac nuts, about 5g
I'll get another 3-4 in my ketchup with lunch
But the seaweed, coffee, mustard, cheese, and actual burger measure in the milligrams.

So total carbs so far today: around 70 already, with dinner still to go. Well, anything under 100 is considered low-carb, with 30 being the cut-off for very low carb; so I'm still there today, although the fruit really adds up. I'm going to have to look into that glucose test more to see how I'm likely to react. In any case, I don't think it's worthwhile doing, and my midwife agrees; unfortunately the practice she and my doctor work at apparently requires it. Or something. But we'll see,maybe I can skip it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's been a month and a half...

It's been ages since I last posted, but at least I have an excuse!

Wedding planning and a honeymoon take up a lot of time.

But while we were on our honeymoon, we both picked up pairs of Vibram's Mocs. They're like leather gloves for your feet. We're both wearing them daily now - soooo comfortable! I don't think they'll last long, unfortunately; Vibram suggests using them indoors, and we wear ours outside quite a bit. I've already had to use a little Shoe Goo to reattach the sole in one spot. But we'll see, they also look easy to repair.

By the way, eating paleoish is pretty difficult when you're eating out constantly, and you can't really cook in a hotel room that only has a mini-fridge. I mostly gave up on paleo while we were away, and as a result I gained about 8 pounds (half of which I've lost again since - I think the remaining four are baby) and felt worse than usual. It's nice being back and cooking again. Now I have to go through the carb crash again, though. Not fun.

Speaking of cooking, got some recipes for you today.

Recently we made meatloaf using this recipe. Substitutions: 1/2 cup almond meal and 1/2 cup grated parmesan instead of the bread crumbs. We also didn't have any onion, bell pepper, or tomato paste, but we used some dried onion and a little (a couple teaspoons) ketchup instead, forgoing the extra tomato on top. Oh, and we added more bacon on top of course - all woven together. It came out awesome, and was fantastically filling.

Then we got sandwich steak from our meat share (more about that in a minute.) It's little pieces of steak, sliced for sandwiches, in little rounds. We sauteed some onions and mushrooms in just a little cream until tender, sauteed the (salted and peppered) steak slices lightly in that, and layered it all onto steamed cabbage leaves to make little cabbage wraps. They didn't look very appetizing, but they were pretty tasty. I'm not sure the cream was necessary though, and next time I'll add more spices.

Today we spent a lot of time preserving things. We got a lot of apples in our CSA yesterday, and today we made 4 and a half quarts of applesauce, nicely jarred for future use. We also froze 5 pounds of blanched french-fry cut potatoes while still having a pound of home fries to go with dinner.

Along with the apples and potatoes we got a purple cabbage, a dozen potatoes, two dozen eggs, rainbow chard, broccoli, an acorn squash, a butternut squash, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. I've always hated brussel sprouts, so we're going to have to experiment with different ways of cooking them. They're basically little cabbages so maybe I can hide them in the cabbage somehow.

Unfortunately this was our last week of the summer veggie share. We're definitely going to continue it next summer, though; we still have lots of veggies in our freezer and pantry to eat for a while, and I love the variety without having to go shopping.

We also signed up for the winter share, which we get to pick up every two weeks. Apparently it's going to include more apples, eggs, squashes, things grown in their greenhouse, and cheeses. I'm excited to see what we get, and it continues all winter. We also signed up for the meat share like I mentioned. It's expensive, but the meat is all pastured and antibiotic-free, and we get a large variety of cuts. Yesterday we picked up 30 pounds (we'll get 25 pounds each month), in 12 different cuts of beef and pork - including pastured bacon! Expensive, yes; worth it, hopefully. The quality of the meat will help a lot. The DelMonico steak I'm eating now for dinner is really tasty! At the very least we'll be shopping around for cheaper meat shares if we decide this one's too expensive. The small chest freezer, though, is already proving it's worth.

Anyway, this post is getting long. Back to handing out candy (anybody have ideas for a healthier alternative for these kids?) and finishing my dinner between visitors.