Saturday, June 26, 2010

Vibrams at the theme park

We went to Six Flags today with a couple friends. Following a suggestion from one of them, we wore our VFFs to the park. All day. Including the water park.

My feet are tired.

But other than that, they're happy. No pain from my bunions. One small blister, but it's not a painful one. The cobblestones were fun to walk on. And we had four different people ask us about our shoes. Would I wear them to the park again? Definitely. However, they didn't dry as quickly as I would have liked, and I would not want to wear them for very long when wet. My toes turned into raisins. Still, it was better than no shoes, in that kind of place... And they don't let you wear sneakers on the water park rides.

We packed lunch and ate on the grass next to the car rather than eat the overpriced, overgreased park food. Chicken salad and tuna salad, with various mustards and spices and bbq sauces and such, on bok choy leaf wraps. Recipe!

First, mayo.
Beat two egg yolks with 1 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp prepared mustard. (Or 2 tsp lemon and 1/2 tsp. dry mustard.) Beat until the mixture forms a ribbon when you pull out your whisk, rather than droplets. (You can freeze the leftover whites to use in a soufflé.)

Get a cup of olive oil (or other oil. I happen to like the flavor from olive oil; many people like to use high-oleic sunflower oil for half of it to soften the flavor.) One drop at a time, beat oil into egg yolks. Once you've added a third of the oil you can add it faster - a tablespoon at time - until it's all beaten in. If it's not thickening while you add it, you've broken your mayo, and you'll need to start over with a clean bowl, with a new egg yolk and some lemon juice beaten to ribbon-texture, and slowly beat in your broken mayo. But do it slower this time. Once all your oil is in, taste, and add more lemon juice if wanted. Add water to thin it until you like the texture.

Now that you have your mayo, either grill a few chicken breasts or drain a few cans of tuna. If chicken, shred with forks. Mix protein with mayo. Dice and mix in a tomato and half an onion. Dice the stems of your bok choy and add that in too (or celery, if you're not using bok choy.)

Place spoonfuls into bok choy leaves (or other cabbage or lettuce leaf.) Add any mustards or spices you like. Add-in suggestions: lemon pepper, cumin, cayenne, Italian spice blend, Dijon mustard, wasabi. Sunflower seeds are a nice addition too. Wrap and eat!

All of the above fits into a cooler really well, and thus makes an awesome theme-park paleo picnic lunch.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shopping woes

I thought I'd put together a little guide for shopping, for anyone trying to eat a healthier diet but is having trouble figuring out what that means.

First of all, whole veggies, fruits, fish, and meats are easy. No ingredient list. What you see is what you're eating. With that said, try to avoid corn and potatoes when in the produce section, and fruit should be more like a treat than a staple. Corn because it's a grain, and starchy; potatoes because of the high starch content; and fruits because of the higher sugar content. Also, if you're suffering from an inflammatory disease of some type, such as arthritis or fibromylgia, try to avoid the nightshade plant family as well (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Peppers means the vegetable, not peppercorns.) For meats, if possible, try to get grass-fed or pastured, rather than grain-fed; similarly, wild fish is more nutrient-dense than farmed fish. Grass-fed meat has a much higher omega-3 content, a vital fatty acid that most people in the US don't get enough of. Also keep an eye out for frankenmeats, whether cured (bacon) or a hodgepodge (sausage). There are often unknowns in these, so take a look at that ingredient list before buying.

Once you have all the whole foods you can eat, let's move on to dairy. Plain cheeses rarely have anything added to them, but the flavored ones often do (we saw a goat's cheese with high fructose corn syrup in it yesterday. Ick.) Get whole milk rather than skim - the fat is necessary to actually absorb that fat-soluble vitamin D. Look out for preservatives in your cream. Garelick Farms has an 'all-natural' line that I like, and any organic brand won't have any extras. Check the ingredients list on yogurts, sour creams, etc. too. Many of these have added sugar. Again, go for the regular stuff rather than low-fat or skim; vitamin D isn't the only fat-soluble vitamin out there. Here, too, grass-fed or pastured is better, if you can get it.

Next, skip the bread, chips, pasta, canned veggies, soda, and cereal sections. Just walk right past them.

For everything else you might want to buy, check the ingredients list for the available brands. Buy the one with the least high fructose corn syrup, fewest unrecognizables, least sugar, and the least soy. Some of those might surprise you; you'll find that mustard is easy, but there aren't many ketchups without HFCS. You'll also find that the store brand is sometimes the healthiest choice. If you like nuts, macadamias have the highest omega-3 content, while walnuts are mostly omega-6, and almonds between these with a fairly neutral balance.

I also recommend learning to make your own mayo and salad dressings. It's not all that hard to do, and that way you'll be able to avoid the soybean oil these products are always made with.

One more note: Here are some good resources if you are interested in joining a veggie CSA or a meat share. Local, small farms often have more nutrient-dense produce, and are more likely to have affordable grass-fed meats.

Link disclaimer: a lot of these links are blogs and other such unreliable sources. I don't expect them to be enough to convince you to start avoiding grains; I've simply tried to include an overview of what I've been learning through my own research, and these people have done a better job of pulling the information together than I can (or want to) do. I think only one is a direct link to a scientific study. Still, if you care about your long-term health, I encourage you to do your own research. As for an overview on the evolutionary aspect of eating grains, check out these posts by neurobiologist Dr. Stephan Guyanet.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eggs! and hiking

What a crazy weekend. First, on Saturday, we're running around doing errands until we can pick up our veggies at 12, and of course we run late. Then we stop for gas on our way home, so we can get ready to go visit my parents, and Rich's battery dies. Wait for an hour until AAA is done putting in a new battery (yes, it really did need a new one.) Go home, put away veggies, feed cats, drive an hour and a half to get to my parents' place.

So finally we get to the fun parts of the weekend. We cook up some of the awesome fries to go with dinner, and use the bunch of spinach and one of the two strawberry baskets we picked up for a salad. We should have cooked the fries just a little longer, but they came out tasty, and my little sherry vinaigrette worked well on the salad. The smoked salmon my parents made was fantastic, as were the steamed mussels we had for an appetizer.

The next morning we went hiking. Mt. Major isn't a big mountain, but it has rocky parts, dusty parts, root-filled trails, and anything else you'll find on a hiking trail in New England. Rich and I survived all of it in our Vibrams, although my feet were definitely tired at the end of the day. I also got one small blister that worries me a little. So far the plan for Mt. Washington in a couple weeks is still the Vibrams, and we're still going to bring along our old hiking boots. I'm hoping to get another hike or two in before we go for more testing; I'd like to feel comfortable enough to leave our hiking boots behind. We'll see.

Then we had our cooking class, and it was all about eggs. It was a lot of fun, and mostly paleo-friendly. The soufflés had a little flour in them; it was only 3 tbsp for 10 portions, so I didn't let it bother me. They were awesome, and now that I know how to make them, I can make them without the bechamel sauce. By the way, Oopsie rolls? Essentially a soufflé. (In case you haven't heard of Oopsie rolls, they're used as a paleo-friendly bread substitute.) I also made an olive oil mayonnaise, which came out quite tasty, although a little thick; I'll add water next time. The hollandaise - also paleo-friendly - came out quite good, too, although it wasn't quite restaurant-quality. I'll have to play with that one. We also made quiches, scrambled eggs, crepes, eggs benedict, and frittatas. Once I make the almond crust in my almond flour cookbook, I'll have a perfectly good quiche recipe to bring to family gatherings.

Last night we made lunch again for the next few days. We used up our mayos (Rich made a canola-based one, I used my own olive oil mayo) to make chicken salad wraps. We used the scallions, garlic scapes, and tomatoes from our veggie basket in the salad, and used the field lettuce as our wraps. They came out pretty good, but they'll only last us two days; they're just not very big. All we have left from our basket now is the bok choy, a bunch of baby romaine, a little field lettuce, and half a basket of strawberries. And, of course, a dozen eggs, but I'm sure we'll go through that quickly. Eggs don't seem to last long in our house, and now that I know how to make a dark-chocolate soufflé - with strawberries - well...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some recipes and things

A friend of mine asked my about the french fries we made in our cooking class last week. They were super-tasty, and I'll probably make them again anyway, so here it is:

Batonnet your potatoes. (French-fry size cut: ½ inch × ½ inch × 2½-3 inches.) I believe we used long white potatoes, but any white potato should do.
Put them in water in the fridge or freezer for a while. (Don't let them freeze, though.) This way, the potatoes will absorb water instead of lots of oil.
Start heating your oil to 375 degrees or so. I like olive oil, personally. If you're using a pot, fill it less than halfway.
Drain the potatoes well. The drier they are, the less sputtering you'll get.
Put the fries in the oil. If possible, use a metal basket so you'll be able to take them out easily. Stand back. You may need to do several batches, depending on how many potatoes you got and how big your pot is.
After 5-6 minutes, take them out of the oil and let them drain. Watch them; I'm not certain I have that timing correct. And it'll depend on how hot your oil really is, and how many fries you added to it.
Put lots of fresh, grated Parmesan in a bowl, with a few sprigs of minced fresh rosemary and red pepper to taste. Add the fries and toss until evenly coated.

Add salt. There! Awesome-fries!

We've also been having fun cooking up our veggies from the CSA. Monday night we made a spinach and strawberry salad, topped with lightly toasted chopped walnuts, to go with pan-fried buffalo liver and caramelized onion. I have a picture somewhere of Rich's plate, I'll have to see if I can find it later. (My parents had gotten us the buffalo liver to try - thanks!) It was delicious, and we had plenty for Tuesday night, too. Last night was karaoke night, so we were out with friends; I got a bun-less burger with peppered bacon, bleu cheese crumbles, diced jalapeno, and of course pickles, onion, lettuce, and tomato. And steamed broccoli on the side. It was a lot of food, and so yummy. Of course then we ordered dessert and I had to count it as one of my special occasion meals... I've used 4 out of twenty of those, and I'm 17 days into my 100-day challenge, so I'm mostly on-track there.

Then this morning, after our gym workout, we made a quick salad for lunch today. Grilled chicken, field lettuce, two big tomatoes, and a few scallions, and it'll probably last us for lunch tomorrow too. Yay CSA! It's making our meals so much more fun, both to cook and to eat. We still have another bag of spinach and a bunch of bok choy to cook up and eat before we get more stuff on Saturday. We're doing a stir-fry tonight with the bok choy as our base. I wonder if we have any ginger to use, too. I'm getting hungry for that salad now. Let's see, that's a 14 hour fast. Hmm. Maybe I can go longer tomorrow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Graduation parties, some cooking, and some veggies

I'm pretty sure graduation parties are out to get me. I had a few cousins graduate high school, and of course they had parties to celebrate. I don't know how much sugar I ate, but I do know it was far more than I should have eaten - even if most of it was in fruit form. Remember that 100-day challenge I'm in the middle of? I've already used quite a few of those 'special occasion' meals, and I've got a long way to go still...

But on a better note, we went to the gym this morning. Our trainer is out next week, so we get two sessions this week; we'll have a second on Thursday. As usual, he kicked our butts, and as usual, I hurt. I'll hurt tomorrow, too. And probably Wednesday.

We got our first veggie basket from Springdell Farms on Saturday. Lots of spinach, some field lettuce, pak choy, a few tomatoes, some wonderfully flavored unpasteurized farm honey, a dozen eggs, and a basket of small, sweet, juicy strawberries. This is the smallest basket of the season, apparently, so I'm looking forward to Saturday's. Today we're going to make a spinach and strawberry salad to go with the buffalo liver my parents bought for us. The honey has been transported to the office to be used in our tea. I could get used to this whole CSA idea.

Additionally, as you may remember, we had our very first cooking class yesterday. So. Much. Fun. We learned how to choose a good knife; we learned the different kinds of (basic) knives; we learned how to take care of them, sharpen them, hone them, carry them, and, finally, we learned how to use them. I've been teaching myself a little about cutting veggies, and trying to do it right, but I learned more in those three hours than I've taught myself via Food Network over the past year. And at the end of the class, we got to eat the french fries and salad we all so carefully tried to cut, expertly seasoned and dressed by our sweet little chef. I am really, really looking forward to egg class next week; the chef said we're going to learn how to make a souffle, among other things!

Also: this.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Out with friends

Tonight is karaoke night! I love Wednesdays, we always have fun. Sometimes I'll even sing. I will order some chicken wings - sauceless - and will indulge in a couple Tequila and Sodas with lemon. Last week the waitress suggested salting the rim, and it was quite nice that way; maybe I'll have one of them that way again.

I'm a bit sore today. Our trainer made us do some jogging yesterday, and then followed that with some pull-ups, push-ups, squats of various types, and presses, all with either the kettle bell or the tow strap. An hour of tensioned movement using free weights each week is doing a lot for me, but I do dislike that day-after soreness. I was amused, though: while running, the trainer said we should be heel-striking. Now, for jogging, that's still a maybe for me, but I won't heel-strike when running anymore. I mentioned how I thought that was strange, since people tend to toe-strike when barefoot, and that it was probably the thicker heels on the sneakers that changed that. We'd also already talked about our little hiking trip in our Vibrams the other day. I wonder if he's going to go look up some of the things I talk about? Dunno. But anyway, he did say that he enjoyed having us work with him, since we actually seem interested in health, and seem to know something about it, so :D

Read an article on coffee today. Well, kind of; I only skimmed it, but that's because I have no intention of changing my coffee habits anyway. But basically they're saying coffee has some good effects, like staving off Parkinson's. Personally, I'll keep drinking it when I'm tired, and sometimes when I'm not tired, and enjoy the flavor the whole way through.

The deodorant experiment is going well. I need to make sure I put enough on, but when I do, it works all day.

And the salmon I made on Sunday was awesome for lunch yesterday. And the second tilapia fillet was perfect today. And the beef I made was wonderful Monday, and will be awesome again tomorrow, and I'm sure the salmon will still be great Friday. I could really get used to making a week's worth of lunches all at once; it's so much easier during the week.

Oh! By the way! If you haven't read it yet, and are interested in capitalism, read this. It's very well-written and awesome.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Deodorant progress, and the ripple effect. And lots of cooking!

Got lots to talk about today! First off, I did make that deodorant on Friday. I've ended up having to use my fingers to apply it, just because try not to use A/C, and the coconut oil won't stay solid, but it seems to work OK. I'm damp but I don't stink. Today will really be my first full day using it, so I can't endorse it yet, but so far I survived hiking on Saturday, and hours of cooking yesterday: not quite as well as with the store-bought stuff, but with 100% less aluminum and parabens.

Speaking of cooking, yesterday was 'make lunches for the week' day, among other things. We cooked for three hours! Rich, of course, made some entirely non-paleo items that he's been craving (taco pie and corn pudding), so we've got a fridge full of stuff right now, since mine had to be separate. We've got egg and potato salad out the wazoo, which is unfortunate since I won't eat much of that; it has potato, after all, and the rest of the store-bought mayo. At least now I have a good reason to try to make mayo next time we want some. We made 5 potato's worth of sweet potato chips, which, again, I'll have to try to eat sparingly; we did make them with olive oil, but the sweet potato does have carbs.

However! My lunches! I pulled out the crock pot and made a few semi-sous-vide style meals. Three quart-size freezer bags in the crock pot for about an hour and a half: one containing beef and italian-style homemade dressing, with leeks; one containing cream and vindaloo curry with two tilapia fillets; and one Atlantic salmon, surrounded with cream cheese, dill, and leek. (Yes, in a second meal. Turns out one bunch of leek - three stalks - is a lot of leek.) I also made quite a bit of leek, red onion, and green pepper stir-fry. I already ate one of the tilapia fillets for dinner yesterday, and it was awesome. Looking forward to some of the beef today. Speaking of which, I'm getting hungry.

Ripple effect! A while ago I bought Take Control of Your Fertility, and loved it. Lent it to my sister. Now she loves it too. Whoo! No more hormones for me, and no more for someone I care about! Highly recommend this book. (Disclaimer: I bought the book. Neither the author nor publishing company has given me anything. I hate this disclaimer stuff.)

I have an exciting week coming up. Gym tomorrow, out with friends Wednesday, getting farm-fresh veggies Saturday, and cooking class Sunday. Oh! And not being on-call for work! Waking up a few times an hour does nasty things to one's sleep cycle. The dreams get intense and crazy. The dreams are sometimes fun; the absolute necessity of a large coffee in the morning is not. One more night and we're done with that for almost two months.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vibram hike

We went for a short hike (nature walk, really) in our Vibrams today, in anticipation of our upcoming Mt. Washington hike. I'm not certain yet if we'll be able to handle difficult trails in those shoes. I love them, but my feet still get tired quickly, and I have to pay more attention to where I step than I used to. One thing I noticed that I didn't expect was how little grip they actually have on rocks - I can't just step onto a rock like I can in boots. Mt. Washington is all rock at the top; we'll do Mt. Major at least once first, and see how that goes. We can always carry boots with us just in case.

Got a dozen farm eggs today! Ate one for lunch, over easy on top of a grilled chicken breast with a slice of cheese sandwiched between them, and Frank's on top. One of the easiest lunches we make. Dinner was nice and simple too, just hot dogs and hamburgers with a little ketchup and mustard. Can't find many ketchup brands without corn syrup; Heinz just put out an 'all-natural' variety that uses sugar instead, but until we finish the last bottle we have I just have to deal with the corn syrup. I'm getting used to using less of it though. (Not sure if that counts as an endorsement, but just in case, Heinz has never given me anything. Nor have the Vibram people. Or Frank's Hot Sauce people, for that matter. Did I miss any products?)

We got a lot of cherries today, too. Rich started a cherry whiskey infusion, and of course there were lots of cherries left over. Not sure how many I ate, but I am certain that it was far more than I probably should have. I'm going to have to be more careful with those. Maybe we can freeze some and keep them hidden for a while.

Anyway, it's getting late, even for me. Bedtime!

Friday, June 4, 2010

100-Day Challenge

100 Day Challenge!

Tricia over at Lean Mean Roomie Machine posted her 100-day Paleo Challenge. As a result, I've decided to do my own; 100 days will get me to one month before the wedding, and so it's Important.

I modified it a little from the one Tricia is doing. You can see the little piece of paper I am now carrying in my purse.

Food basics:
Eat meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fat.
No sugar, grains, or legumes. Light on dairy, starch.
Out of 100 days, you may eat 20 special meals.

Gym once/week, 1 hour high-intensity.
Running or similar once per week.

That's about it, but we'll see if I can keep it going. Oh! And blogging!

Dinner last night and lunch today


1 lb crispy, yummy bacon (unfortunately, not grass-fed.)
2 grilled chicken breasts (also not pastured :( We'll get there.)
2.5 tomatoes, left over from a previous salad
Half a head of iceberg lettuce, also left over
4 hard-boiled eggs (yay! the last of the store-bought! Farm-raised coming tomorrow.)

Unknown amount of cider vinegar (Too much, will have to reduce this next time)
About the same amount of extra-virgin olive oil
Some of the bacon grease
Some crushed garlic from a jar
Some diced red jalapenos, also from a jar
Dried basil, thyme, oregano, lots of these because I like my spices
Dash ground sea salt, black pepper

Progress! For once I didn't burn the bacon while dicing the veggies. Got everything timed well. Eggs finished boiling first, started them cooling; finished dicing tomatoes and slicing lettuce in between flipping over bacon; bacon and chicken started cooling down while I diced the eggs; cut up the chicken and then crumbled the bacon. Threw together a quick dressing in less than two minutes; never buying Italian salad dressing again.

Also I managed to not eat anything until 4, giving me an 18 hour fast (except for the cream in my coffee. Really close though!) The 12-8pm work shift does strange things to one's eating habits: wake up at 11 to go to work, eat lunch somewhere between 3 and 6, get home at 8:30 and start cooking dinner if hungry, eat at 9 or 10, go to bed at 3am. Good thing I'm a night person. Good thing Rich and I share this madness! We'll probably want more normal schedules at some point, but I really don't know when.

Bought some lavender essential oil today. Tonight's experiment will be making my own deodorant. I threw out the remainder of my old travel-size Lady Speed Stick this morning, so I have an empty container to fill, and all the ingredients needed to fill it: 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and as of today, two or three drops lavender oil. Whoohoo! No more aluminum! No more parabens! (Assuming it works, of course.)

I did, however, have a moment of weakness. My loving fiance received a cannoli as a thank-you, and of course only ate half of it due to his silly two-donut binge this morning (Dunkin's was giving a free donut per drink.) I like cannoli, so I kindly finished it for him. At some point I think I'll have to try making a cannoli shell with coconut and almond flour, with a nice whipped cream cheese filling, so I won't fall to that particular temptation again. Oh! with chocolate bits! As Hanners says, "baking is science for hungry people", and I've been having fun finding recipes to bake treats using paleo ingredients. Besides, if I can find a good bread recipe, maybe Rich can stop buying loaves of potato bread.

100-day challenge progress: 4 days down. 1 special occasion meal (overly sweetened butternut squash, a beer, and mashed potato. Restaurant stuff.) Half a cannoli today, so that's a second 'special occasion' I guess. 1 hour at the gym Wednesday. On track!