Monday, November 28, 2011

What is paleo? And who gets to decide?

Over on Chris Kresser's blog is an article, itself linking to another article over on PaleoNu, that raises an interesting point. There are a lot of people who spout off about "paleo" and "primal" diets, but they all seem to have slightly different takes. Some say beans are okay, others say they're not. Some say dairy is good, others say no. Same thing for cashew nuts. And so on.

Much as I'd like to just copy-and-paste the last 8 or 10 paragraphs here, that would be rude. So, I'll urge you to go read his article instead. Essentially, it's impossible to know *exactly* what a paleo diet consisted of, and it probably varied over time and by region anyway. But the fundamentals work - a diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole food without a lot of refined starch and sugar is known to be good for us. So, find what works for you personally, and I'll find what works for me personally, and we'll both be happy. Unless you're one of those people who isn't happy unless everyone else is doing what you want, in which case you're never going to be happy anyway, sorry.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bolognese-style pasta sauce - with lots of hints

I don't think I've posted this before, but it's pretty easy. Heck, most of you probably have your own pasta sauce recipes anyway. Here's mine. I used to have this with spaghetti squash. Then I discovered shirataki noodles.

Ingredients
  • One pound ground beef (or mix equal parts beef and pork, or use other meats)
  • One (or two) medium cooking onion, diced
  • Olive oil or other fat suitable for cooking, 3-4 Tbsp (lard works well!)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 3, if small), peeled and chopped
  • One can (680mL) tomato sauce (Hint - "pasta sauce" often has sugar added, "tomato sauce" usually doesn't)
  • One can (769mL) diced tomatoes
  • One green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2-3 tsp oregano (fresh is better, but dried is fine - see below)
  • 2-3 tsp basil (ditto)
  • 1-2 tsp thyme (and again, ditto)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the beef and onion in the fat over medium heat until the beef is browned and the onion is waxy-looking. (I have no idea why they say the onion should be "clear" - I've never seen a clear onion, and I'd be kind of freaked if I did. Invisible onions?!?)
  2. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for about a minute.
  3. Add pretty much everything else (Hint - if you're using fresh herbs, add towards the end of cooking; if using dried, add near the start).
  4. Simmer over low heat for a couple of hours until thickened somewhat, stirring occasionally.
  5. Adjust seasoning to taste. (Hint - only add salt at the end of the cooking process - otherwise the salt taste tends to 'vanish' and you end up adding more anyway.)
  6. Serve over shirataki noodles, or spaghetti squash if you can't find the noodles. Or just eat a big bowl on its own.
Note - there's some controversy right now about using canned tomatoes and tomato sauce - there's a possibility that the acidity of the tomatoes could cause certain unpleasant chemicals to leach out of the lining of the can into the food. However, I don't see jars of tomato products in my local mega-lo-mart (with apologies to Alton Brown), so I'm stuck with cans. This time of year, you can probably get bushels of fresh tomatoes cheaply and make this sauce up totally from scratch, but come January, the only tomatoes I'm going to see are hard, pale pink, and almost as well-traveled as I am. Hence, this recipe calls for canned ones.

At last - Fathead, reviewed

I should have posted this a while ago. Actually, I should have posted several things a while ago. I'll hand-wave at the usual excuse, "I've been busy", and promise to do better in the future.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, Fathead is now available in Canada via the Amazon and Indigo websites. For those who don't know, it's sort of a 'response' to the movie Supersize Me. In a way, it's really two movies in one - there's his own video diary of a 30-day junk-food feast (with a caveat - see below), and an examination of where nutritional science seems to have gotten off the rails since WWII. The latter won't contain much new for anyone who's already read Good Calories, Bad Calories, but it's in a video format with amusing animations.

The video diary part is interesting - as I mentioned, he (like Morgan Spurlock in Supersize Me) eats basically nothing but junk food for thirty days. The caveat there is that he limits his carbohydrate intake to approximately 100 grams a day. The results are rather embarrassing to established "conventional wisdom" - not only does he lose weight during his thirty-day experiment, but he also cuts his cholesterol.

I think I've pointed it out before, but Tom Naughton (the Fathead film maker, in that he made the film Fathead, I'm not calling him a Fathead) has his own blog that's worth checking out. You can even check out some clips from the movie here, and he's got his own Youtube channel here, at which he posts some additional stuff, including a talk he gave on the 4th Annual Low-Carb Cruise called "Science For Smart People".

Overall, I'd say buy this film and "accidentally" slip it into a friend's video collection - heck, if I had the money I'd be donating copies to the local library. Maybe even see if your local video store will order in a copy or two? (If they're a chain they probably can't do that because they need to order from the corporate catalogue, I think.) More people need to hear his message.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review - "The Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf

If you've been in a bookstore lately, you might have seen a new book, "The Paleo Solution", by Robb Wolf (published by Victory Belt publishing in 2010). I was curious, so I picked up a copy. I don't always know when to shut up, so here's my review.

It's a moderately-sized book, under 300 pages (plus 30 pages of references) in thirteen chapters. Much of the information therein is probably old news to most paleo / primal adherents, although the comparison/contrast between the viewpoints of anthropologists and nutritional scientists was rather amusing to read. He goes through a lot of the underlying biology, explaining how and why our bodies work (or don't work, when we eat the wrong things), but in a fairly easy-to-read format. A minor quibble for me is that he spends a couple of chapters explaining why grains are super-bad, but then hand-waves to dismiss dairy and legumes in a couple of paragraphs (although he does provide references for follow-up). To be honest, this probably bugs me as much because we haven't cut dairy out of our diets as anything else. Cheese makes things good, that's all I'm saying.

He also includes both sample work-outs (with pictures) and sample menus. As such, I consider this book to be a relatively complete source for the paleo newbie, although I would encourage them to do follow-up reading after finishing this one. An additional plus is the inclusion of a section on dietary supplements, listed in order from "must-take" to "optional" (my words, not his).

For being an easy-to-read book with specific menus, good examples, and exercise instructions, but with no index at the back for easy browsing, and for the hand-waving I mentioned above, I'd give this book a solid "A-" if I was assigning letter grades to books. Buy this one for someone you want to nudge in the paleo direction.

(In other news, Fathead is now available in Canada via Chapters/Indigo - I'll be ordering a copy this week, and when I've had a chance to watch it I'll post a review up here.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pat's Christmas Cake Muffins

This recipe (including the name) is from "Lucy's Specific Carbohydrate Diet Cookbook" (www.lucyskitchenshop.com). It really tastes like Christmas fruitcake, if you're into that sort of thing (which I am). However, the honey and dried fruit that comprise much of this recipe means that it really should be a "once a year" treat.

UPDATE - Hmm, this might be a repeat. You know what, it's so good, I'm gonna let both copies stay. You really have to try these.

Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, juice drained
  • 1-1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/4 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 3/4 cup dates or prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 275F. No, that's not a misprint - lower temperatures for this one!
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring until it's well-mixed.
  3. Line muffin cups with paper cupcake "liners", and fill each one with batter until it's almost full. NOTE - this recipe usually makes more than a dozen, probably closer to a dozen and a half!
  4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the paper liners.
About the only thing that could make these even better would be if I could figure out how to make a paleo version of marzipan icing!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Parmesan Cheese Bread

In my noodle post, I said you were on your own when it came to the garlic bread. Here's a good start on getting there, a nice cheesy bread. Just slice it thick, brush with melted butter and garlic, toast lightly in the oven (maybe with some mozzarella or cheddar on top?) and enjoy. This is based on a recipe from Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass ((c) 2005-2006 Whitecap books), but I've changed it up a bit.

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups almond flour (yep, that's a lot)
  • 1.5 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (not baking powder, there's a difference!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
  2. Line a large loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  4. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients (water, eggs, yogurt, butter).
  5. Add the dry to the wet, and mix well. The "dough" will be quite thick, like bread dough.
  6. Put the dough in the pan, and smoosh it down. Smoosh is a highly technical cooking term, FYI.
  7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
  8. Let cool, as much as possible.
Now that I think about it, a couple of ideas for further customization enter my mind. You could mix some minced garlic (2 cloves, say, or use a bit of garlic powder if you must) into the dough before baking, or you could mix in or put on top a bit of shredded cheddar cheese to make it cheesier. But I haven't tried these adaptations yet. Or, (ooh!) what about jalapeƱo?