Monthly Archives: May 2012

5 Reasons to Read “It Starts with Food”

When I heard I’d be one of the lucky folks* to receive an advance copy of It Starts with Food by Whole9 dynamic duo Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, I admit to being very excited. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been that excited since getting the newest issue of BOP magazine with NKOTB on the cover somewhere back in 5th grade (c’mon you know you loved “Step by Step”!). What I’m about to give you here are five good undeniable reasons why you need to pre-order and read this book so here…

Wait. What’s that you say? Why am I, lowly Paleo food blogger qualified to review this book? I’m not a nutritionist or an expert in anthropology. I’m not a chef or even a “real” scientist (though I did major in biology and have taught high school science for the past 11 years). I’m not an award-winning journalist or a doctor. So why should you care what I have to say?

Because simply put, the Whole30 program changed my life. You can read all the details here but suffice to say, I battled food for my entire adolescence and early adulthood. In the battle of me vs. scale, food was the ultimate enemy. A few years ago I was introduced to Paleo and though I did a decent job implementing it, I still couldn’t commit 100% until I found the Whole9 and did my first Whole30. So yes, I’m one of those people who has had physical ailments clear up and who finally has a sane relationship with food and my body. What’s awesome about It Starts with Food is that it combines the Whole30 together with other concepts–new and old–from Melissa and Dallas’s blog/seminar and caps it off with some great recipes (because in the end…it’s really about the food, isn’t it?!).

So without further adieu, 5 reasons you need to read ISWF…

#1: It’s the perfect mix of science and practical application.

I’ll admit, I like to nerd out on science books. Truth. In ISWF, the Hartwigs provide enough techy goodness to satisfy the left side of anyone’s brain while telling us how to put the concepts of the Whole9–foods that make us less and more healthy–into action. From a primer in the major hormones involved in digestion and energy regulation to the details of managing inflammation and gut health, this book is chock full of information and leaves no stone unturned. At the same time, Dallas and Melissa don’t hang the reader out to dry feeling lost in a sea of “science-y” stuff…they devote a huge portion of the book to answering the “So what?” questions that come up like, So if dairy makes us less healthy, how do we get our calcium? and the like. I loved that they give the reader the option of, “If you don’t care about the science and just want to know what to eat, how much to eat…skip straight to the food in Chapter 8.” They get it…not everyone wants the science but for those of us who do, we are indulged! There’s also extensive reference section with numerous primary sources cited.

#2: It addresses the psychological aspect of food.

How many of us, at some point in our lives, have felt the following about eating/bodyweight/body composition: guilt, frustration, anger, hopelessness, plagued with uncontrollable habits despite wanting to change? I’m envisioning hands raising all across the globe. I have run across no other food book that addresses these concepts in as succinct a way as Melissa and Dallas have in ISWF. In fact, it’s so central to the story that it appears in the fourth chapter and is interwoven throughout the rest of the book. They describe how modern processed food–appropriately termed “food with no brakes”–makes our brains addicted and shapes our habits in ways that we aren’t even consciously aware of. ISWF also delves into the social aspects of food and how we treat the process of mealtime. Instead of just telling us what to eat, they challenge the reader to think about how to connect to food again instead of just shoveling it in animal-style.

#3: It is realistic.

The Hartwigs realize that at some point, everyone who reads ISWF/does a Whole30/cleans up their diet can’t stay in perfect lock-step forever (and who would want to?). People aren’t robots! How do we transition from ISWF as an awareness tool and framework to something that is sustainable for life?! Luckily, the book delves into this subject and provides the reader with strategies for determining how to continue their newfound healthy way of eating (let’s all agree to stop using the word “diet” okay?!). Also, they’ve included a huge section devoted to special populations like diabetics, pregnant women and athletes and their individual considerations because context matters. As an athlete, I particularly appreciated the post-workout carb refueling chart and how to handle the pre-workout meal. Despite having done a couple Whole30s of my own, I feel like this book will still be a desk reference that I revisit frequently for motivation and inspiration as I go on my own journey.

#4: It’s entertaining and fun to read.

Having been fortunate enough to hang out with Melissa and Dallas in person and interact with them via the Web, I can say that this book sounds like them and is true to their message. They’re notoriously witty, and ISWF is no exception. The book blends some classic zingers and tough love lines with enough motivation and positivity to get you through. Anyone who’s read about the Whole30 before no doubt remembers, “Please don’t tell us this program is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” When you read down to the bottom of the page you see, “You can do this” in bold letters.  It’s like a kick in the pants followed by a hug and then getting a belly laugh all at the same time. The Hartwigs, in typical good educator fashion, use lots of analogies to explain tricky concepts: your body as a nightclub, the immune system like firefighters, and my personal favorite…processed edibles “like the Las Vegas Strip of foods”. Hilarious and relatable all at the same time.

#5: It’s got recipes for amazing food.

Well duh, I’d like this part…this is a food blog after all! I’ve got to say, ISWF has a huge appendix of positively drool-worthy eats (which is no surprise because the ever-incredible Melissa Joulwan of Well Fed and The Clothes Make the Girl is behind it all). In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge Mel fan and her cookbook has permanent residency in my kitchen. The Meal Map is brilliant and contains several Master Recipes…think of them like the Mr. Potato Head of recipes: the same basic structure but a zillion variations all in neat chart form. I read through the section and literally said, “Why didn’t I think of this?!” It’s simple enough for someone brand spankin’ new to Whole30/Paleo while also giving an old-timer like me some new kitchen inspiration. And just to prove how much I was impressed, I made 3 new recipes for dinner: a spicy yellow curry (from Master Recipe: Thai Curry), a ground beef/onion/spinach frittata (from Master Recipe: Frittata) and Dreamy Avocado Dressing (from Finishing Touches: Sauces, Seasonings, and Dressings). So tasty and so easy…just how I like it here at Stupid.Easy.Paleo.! Even if you are an old pro at eating this way, I guarantee you’ll find something new to try (and love)!

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So…are you convinced yet because you should be!! Currently, you can pre-order your own copy of It Starts with Food…official release date is June 12, 2012. Click here to read about how you can help bring the Good Food word to people around the world. Let’s get this book to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List because the message is that important! Click the links to order through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Happy eating!

*I’m a Whole9 Envoy…hit me up if you ever want to chat about my personal experience with Whole30 :)

Dedication

This post is dedicated to my friend Greg who admits to loving bacon but not making it very often because it splatters and makes a mess. If you, like Greg, are still cooking your bacon on the stove top…all I can say is, “Stop! Get that yummy pork belly in the oven!” If you are a fan of crispy bacon strips (if you aren’t, well, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore…haha), try this next time you bring a pound home.

But Isn’t Bacon Bad…?!

Honestly, even if it was, I probably wouldn’t care because I find it delicious. Now, you can debate the pros and cons of eating bacon if you want…my personal opinion on it is: I don’t eat a pound at a time, and I buy the best quality that I can find (which is either from US Wellness Meats or if I’m shopping at the market, something like Applegate Farms). No matter…this post isn’t about why bacon rocks my socks but instead, the best way to cook it. [For some real chewing the fat about bacon, check here and here.]

Equipment:

To perfectly cook your bacon, you’ll need:

A baking sheet

A baking rack that fits over the sheet

Aluminum foil

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Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 380 degrees.

2. Line the baking sheet with foil and place the rack on top. The rack keeps the bacon elevated which allows for even cooking on the top and the bottom and results in flat, evenly crisp bacon strips (rather than the kind where the strips curl up).

3. Baking time will vary depending on the thickness of the strips, but I tend to find it takes 12-15 minutes to get to the crispiness I like.

4. If you save your bacon grease, pour into a jar and save for later!

Every once in a while, there’s a dish that so reminds me of somebody that I just have to name it after them (or in some cases, if I make a recipe specially for someone–like Jaimie’s Meatball Soup–that person becomes the namesake)! My friend Will makes a version of these yam fries, and they’re always a hit so I decided to put together my own twist on it and give him some of the credit. The mustard is very subtle after roasting and gives a layer of flavor that’s pretty delicious and tangy.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large yams*
  • 1.5 Tbsp good quality Dijon mustard**
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Coconut oil
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

3. Wash and peel the yams. Slice into steak fries by doing the following: slice the potato lengthwise. Turn each half so it’s lying flat. Slice  into pieces ~1/4 inch thick.

4. Place the fries into a large ziploc bag or bowl. Add mustard, smoked paprika and a drizzle of melted coconut oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shake the bag [or mix in a bowl] until the ingredients are well combined and the fries are evenly coated.

5. Turn out onto the baking sheets and arrange so that the pieces do not overlap.

6. Roast until the yams are cooked through [flipping over once about halfway through] and get crispy-brown around the edges, approximately 15-20 minutes. Check frequently to ensure they don’t burn.

7. Serve plain or with any myriad of yummy dipping sauces, like homemade chipotle mayo or paleo-friendly ketchup.

*Yellow sweet potatoes would also be delicious.

**Scan ingredient labels well!! Many mustards contain extra sugar or non-paleo ingredients.

The Inspiration

This recipe was inspired by my friend Jen’s Gone Paleo’s post about jerky…when I saw she was using Penzey’s BBQ 3000 spice mix, I figured I’d try my hand at my own blend! I admit to going on the Penzey’s site and perusing their ingredients list. Then, I mixed the spices together in a ratio that made sense (i.e. keep cloves on the slim side because they are very strong but go for it on the smoked paprika, as it’s a great base flavor).

Why I Made It…

We are whitewater rafting in Idaho this coming week (can I get a f#ck yeah?!) and need to bring some paleo-friendly snacks. Thankfully, a double batch of homemade jerky (with the new BBQ seasoning), combined with macadamia nuts and dried berries, then vacuum-sealed thanks to my FoodSavr is going to make for some safe snacking.

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Ingredients

  • 3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions

1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container until usage.

**2. For paleo BBQ sauce: mix 1 tsp BBQ seasoning with 1/4 c. homemade (no sugar added) ketchup from Mark’s Daily Apple.

Make Your Own Sauerkraut

The Sauerkraut Backstory

Growing up with a Polish grandmother, we ate lots of delectable ethnic dishes as kids. It wasn’t uncommon for me to consume my weight in pierogi and golumbki or slurp down a couple bowls of kapusta (cabbage / sauerkraut soup) or bigos (kapusta with rib meat for added flavor). Sauerkraut was not an uncommon recipe ingredient in her kitchen.

Later On

As an adult (especially living 3000 miles away from family), I had begun to lose touch with those ethnic foods that I so enjoyed growing up. After I started to eat Paleo, I started to see a lot of posts on Twitter and Facebook from respected sources about the benefits to gut flora that can be found in sauerkraut. I started buying kraut in the local market’s refrigerated section (please never buy sauerkraut that is in a can or not kept refrigerated…it means it’s been pasteurized / heated which kills the beneficial bacteria). Eating a forkful or two with breakfast or lunch meant I was going through a jar every 1–2 weeks, and at $5–8 a whack, it seemed like a lot to pay for cabbage and salt. After doing some research, I decided to make my own and was stunned at the simplicity of it all. The only thing you need (which money can’t buy) is patience.

Homemade Sauerkraut: The Method

Essentially, sauerkraut is cabbage mixed with salt which is allowed to ferment at room temperature over the course of time. Within that time, bacteria (Lactobacilli) begin to ferment the carbohydrates in the cabbage in an anaerobic, non-oxygen environment. They help lower (acidify) the pH which prevents the growth of unwanted bacterial spores. The brine (salty water) assists in this as well. Honestly, this is simplifying the process from a biochemical point of view, but since I didn’t want to go all Chemistry teacher on your @ss, I figured that would suffice. Here is a link to a full description of the process, in all its glorious, science-y detail. Sauerkraut is, then, a great source of probiotics, provided it’s not been heat Pasteurized. These beneficial bacteria are one way to support a healthy gut. Read more about the benefits of probiotics here (specifically step 3) and here.

I have seen recipes for all types of sauerkraut variations, with the addition of different vegetables, fruits and aromatic spices. Check out my kraut recipe with jalapeño peppers and collards here if you’re more food adventurous. Last summer I did a post on making my own red cabbage sauerkraut and though I used slightly different equipment, the method was essentially the same. [Note: I made it in the crock from my slow cooker which allowed me to make a larger batch, but took my favorite piece of kitchen equipment out of commission for a couple weeks.] My favorite kraut is plain old cabbage, so this is the recipe I used.

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Ingredients for Homemade Sauerkraut

  • 1 large head green cabbage
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • Water

Equipment for Homemade Sauerkraut

Directions for Homemade Sauerkraut

  1. Cut the cabbage in half and slice finely.
  2. Put half the sliced cabbage in a bowl and add 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt.
  3. Using your hands, begin squeezing the cabbage. You want the cabbage to begin breaking down. It will appear that the cabbage is starting to wilt.
  4. Add the other half of the cabbage and 1/2 Tablespoon sea salt. Continue squeezing the cabbage until the leaves are wilted and moisture begins to drip off the cabbage.
  5. When a briny liquid has been achieved, pack the cabbage into a clean Mason jar. Push the cabbage down hard to remove most of the extra space.
  6. Set a small 4 ounce Mason jar inside the larger jar on top of the cabbage. This will help weight the cabbage down.
  7. If your cabbage contained enough moisture, you should have liquid covering the cabbage completely. This is essential because you want to submerge the cabbage in brine (for the anaerobic environment). If there is not enough liquid, add some salt water until the cabbage is completely submerged. To do this, mix 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon sea salt.
  8. Cover the uncapped mason jar with a kitchen towel and set in location at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. I keep mine on the counter top so I remember to check on it.
  9. For the first few days, check on the cabbage and add extra liquid to keep the cabbage submerged. A bit of white foaminess is normal. You will notice the cabbage lose its bright green color as well. Do not dismay! However, be on the lookout for anything that looks discolored or moldy.
  10. Taste your sauerkraut after about a week. It will probably taste a bit tangy but will need more time. I live in Southern California (read: pretty warm) and find it takes about 10 days to get to the flavor I like. The length of time will vary depending on the ambient temperature.
  11. When finished, store covered in the refrigerator and enjoy often.

[Hint: Start two containers at once or stagger production by about a week so you always have a supply on hand.]

Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I love big flavors. B I G. I also really appreciate Mediterranean taste combinations…sometimes I think I was born in the wrong part of the world. I also think I may be the only person in the world who loves canned artichoke hearts as much as I do. Together with the tart punch from the sun-dried tomato and the brininess of the olives, this recipe is a nice departure from the boring old hamburger.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast (99% fat free)
  • 1 small jar roasted red peppers, chopped small
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 12 pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper

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Directions:

1. Chop all veggies and place in a large mixing bowl with ground turkey. Sprinkle with S & P. Mix well by hand (come on, get your hands dirty!).

2. Shape into medium-sized patties (I got about 7–cooked up 5 and froze 2).

3. In a large skillet, heat your fat of choice over medium-high heat. Saute burgers for about 5 minutes per side or thrown on the grill for about the same.

 

delicious

“I do not like them, Sam-I-Am!” or so says the main character in Dr. Seuss’s famous book. My friend and training partner Trish took me to a popular Encinitas eatery recently and swore that their green egg scramble was amazing…and it was!

It did happen to contain pesto (which traditionally contains parmesan cheese) and feta, so it wasn’t technically Paleo-friendly for me, as I don’t eat dairy. Intrigued by all the flavors, I decided to make a version that’s dairy-free and every bit as tasty. The extra pesto can be made and stored for other dishes (or even frozen in an ice cube tray). The quantities in this recipe served two very hungry people, but you could adjust accordingly. (Note: I, for once, did NOT use my iPhone for these pictures…learning how to use the big-girl camera slowly but surely!! Aren’t you proud?!)

Ingredients for the pesto:

  • 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the eggs:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, cut into julienne matchsticks
  • 2 green onions
  • Avocado
  • 1-2 Tablespoons coconut milk (from a can), optional

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Directions:

1. In a food processor, combine basil, garlic and pine nuts. Grind down until everything is chopped finely.

2. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 3. Prepare the veggies: microwave the spinach and squeeze out the excess moisture. Julienne the zucchini and cut into matchsticks (I cheated and have a special julienne peeler which I absolutely love!). Slice the green onions thinly (whites and about half of the green tops).
4. Crack eggs into a medium bowl and add coconut milk (if desired). Whisk until smooth.

5. In a large skillet, add 1 tbsp of your fat of choice (ghee, coconut oil, lard, etc).

6. Quickly cook the zucchini and green onion until soft, ~1-2 minutes.

7. Add spinach and eggs and scramble the eggs until firm.

8. Stir in the pesto.

9. Top with avocado, serve with a side of (good quality…sugar-free for Whole30) bacon and consume!

 

How to Eat Paleo While Training

For me, athletic performance = training + recovery + nutrition. If any part of that triad falls by the wayside, my performance suffers. Nutrition is such an important aspect of the total package, and it can seem really hard to dial in. Several folks have asked that I share some suggestions for how to fit paleo into pre-, peri- and post-workout scenarios.

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