Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grassfed Gorgonzola Burgers on Portabella Mushrooms and Mashed Cauliflower

Disclaimer: I am not a food blogger. I understand that the small amounts of butter, cream, and cheese skirt around the edges of hardcore paleoism, but I have found a happy balance for myself and you'll have to search your caveman soul long and hard to decide if small amounts of dairy are right for you.

Ok, with that out of the way, let's get started. To keep you interested, here is the final product:

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

So Here is what you need to get started:

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

Starting at 6:00 - 2 Portabella caps, button mushrooms, 1 lb of ground beef, pepper, cauliflower, a yellow onion, butter, cream, gorgonzola, salt, and about 8 cloves of garlic.

Chop up the cauliflower and start boiling it. You'll need it to be tender to mash it and that can take a little while, so I like to start it right off the bat. Here is how roughly I chopped it up:

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

Now that that's boiling, take your time and get everything else prepped. I started with the button mushrooms.

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

Next, I used a microplane to get the garlic into a paste. I filed down 8 cloves of garlic, seperating half of it for the burgers and half of it for the cauliflower. I love garlic, so feel free to cut that down by as much as half if you're not such a fan of the stuff. Quick note - this microplane is awesome for quickly prepping garlic and also making lemon or lime zest for Mexican dishes.

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

Next, roughly chop the onions. Roughly chopping them will help give some texture to the burgers. Ultimately, it's up to you how many onions you put in the burgers. I used half an onion for a pound of meat.

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

Mash the onions and half of your garlic into the meat. I prepare the meat on parchment paper for 2 reasons. For one, it helps with contamination (although I rarely worry with beef) and it also helps keep the burgers in nice thin patties while transferring them to the grill. After mashing the meat together with the garlic and onion, portion it out into a few equally sized balls then mash them down into imperfect little discs. After that, you can transfer them directly onto your grill by flipping the parchment paper over.

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

At this point, you should be able to poke a fork into the cauliflower and it should come right back out. If it sticks in the cauliflower, wait a couple more minutes and try again. Once it's tender enough for the fork to come out, strain the water and toss a small cube of butter into the pan to start melting. Looks like I left some paper on the butter. Oops. Begin mashing the cauliflower into the butter. Once you've gotten the cauliflower broken down quite a bit add about a tablespoon of cream. Continue mashing adding a small amount of cream to the mix until you get the texture you like, but be careful. Boiled cauliflower holds a lot of moisture and if you add too much cream, you'll just get soup. Next, add the garlic, some salt, a few grinds of pepper to your personal taste and mix. Let that sit for a few so the garlic has some time to mellow out a little bit.

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash

At this point, the burgers should be ready to flip. After you flip them, press them down, but only a little bit. We'll need the fat to sautee the mushrooms. Add the button mushrooms to the greasy areas of your grill. Add your portabellas at this time as well, but you may need to rub them in the oil of your choice to keep them from burning. If you have a nice pool of beef fat somewhere on the grill, feel free to use that. I know I would.

OK, we're almost done. Pull the burgers and mushrooms off as they're ready and put the gorgonzola cheese crumbles on ASAP. I like my gorgonzola to melt a little before serving the burgers.
At this point you're ready to plate everything up.......and now we've come full circle to that first picture of the post. Eat up!

From Gorgonzola Topped Burgers with Cauliflower Mash


Dairy is a touchy subject in the Paleo world. A lot of stricter paleos will deny themselves anything related to milk or its byproducts. Others have taken the approach of keeping the dairy as full fat as possible. I suppose I fall somewhere in between the two.

I grew up loving milk. I would drink it all of the time. I would drink it on hot days instead of water or gatorade. In fact, here's a picture of me in Thailand chugging a bottle of milk on a 120 degree humid day. (This was taken over a year ago, before I began researching the paleo lifestyle - I was pretty chunky, but dehydrated enough to not be embarrassingly big)

For me, milk was THE beverage to have. When I previously went low-carb, I gave up milk. I noticed immediately that my case of perpetual gas-butt had disappeared. This was a clue to me that I wasn't meant to be processing lactose and needed to lay off of the stuff permanently. After falling off the low-carb bandwagon and moving abroad, milk was shoved in my face everywhere I went. In fact, thousands of old ladies in Korea make their livings selling milk on street corners, making you feel guilty if you don't indulge. They had every flavor imaginable too, which made it even harder to say no (banana milk is aweseome)!

Come to two months ago and I decide to go strict Paleo. I laid off all dairy for a few weeks and felt great. During a cheat meal, I allowed myself some ice cream and had no ill side effects and at that point decided to allow myself SMALL amounts of dairy to help keep the diet interesting. Ideally I believe that dairy shouldn't be in the diet at all, but if a little bit here and there keeps me feeling satisfied, then I can live with that compromise. I've decided to use very small amounts of cheese (usually Feta or Bleu as they have a strong enough flavor that you need only a little), butter, and cream. There's nothing better than whipping up some cream with a few strawberries and walnuts as a reward for a good week. All of those ingredients dictate by thier heavy nature that I use only a small amount and as long as I'm not seeing any adverse effects from them, I'll keep on keepin' on.

It seems some people have genetics that allow them to process dairy without the negative side effects so commonly used to demonize milk. I know that most of these people do choose to use full fat and if possible, raw versions of dairy products. Good luck with that, though. I'll get into the legalities of raw milk and other forbidden foods in a future post.

Ultimately, it's up to what you feel is best for your body. Pay attention to how you feel after a heavy dose of dairy. Do you get gassy? Do you have diarrhea? Then maybe you need to forget about that delicious cow juice. Below are some links to some real information that you might help guide your decision on dairy.

What have you decided? How did you come to that decision? Please comment!

Milk can cause arterial scarring -

A myriad of links demonizing milk -

As for the other side of the argument, you'll have to check out the more popular blogs on the right side of the page for most arguments, but here is an article from Dr. Harris @ His thoughts confirm what I came to on my own, but his methodology is much more sound than my "it didn't make me fart" approach.

Breakfast 3/31

Breakfast was 3 free range eggs cooked in a little olive oil topped with Cholula. I had a side of leftover garlic creamed spinach before heading out the door. I have a doubleheader at the high school I work at today (I'm an athletic trainer there), so I'll be tempted with burgers and hot dogs from lunchtime. I'll probably sneak into a corner and ditch the bun on a couple burgers. On the plus side, I'll be in the sun for a few hours, so it looks like I can cut back on supplementing my vitamin D intake while getting rid of my Twilight-esque tan. Random thought - I guess vampires would be Paleo, huh? They eat the same way their ancestors have since the dawn of their existence. What are your thoughts?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Carnitas Wraps

I'm hoping to get a decent number of recipes put up on the site. I'm sort of a cooking novice, but I've learned how to make a few dishes pretty well. One of my favorites and easiest to make is Carnitas. Carnitas is Mexican stewed pork and is perfect for a cheap, convenient paleo meal. I kind of make up the recipe as I go, but here are the basics:

Start with 2-3 lbs of Pork butt or shoulder (they're the same thing) and set it in a crock pot. Next, in a bowl, mix the juice of a couple oranges, a couple tablespoons of cumin, and about a tablespoon of annatto. I didn't know what annatto was two weeks ago. It's a berry that adds a nice sweetness to these types of stewed dishes. A little goes a long way. It can be tough to find, but if your grocer has a decent Mexican spices section, you should be able to find it. Blend those together with a hand blender or whisk. Combine all of that in a crock pot with the meat, a few cloves of garlic and a chopped onion and put it on high for five or six hours. I like to take the lid off after a few hours to let the water evaporate and allow the juices to thicken. It will fall apart after about five hours and that's how you know it's ready.

I'll eat this wrapped up in Boston lettuce. I've found Boston lettuce to be the perfect vessel for almost anything I would normally eat with a tortilla or any other type of bread. I like to make individual bite sized wraps with some tomato, cilanro, lime juice, and my new favorite condiment: Labna. Labna isn't strictly Paleo, but I've found it to be a good alternative to sour cream as it adds the same flavor, but has some healthful probiotic cultures as well. I generally try to keep my dairy extremely limited, but if you like to indulge occasionally, this is one good option.

ESPN Covers the Paleo Diet

John Durant posted this link on Twitter earlier.

It seems that more and more mainstream media are becoming cautiously curious about this whole subculture that's beginning to thrive!

Why The De-Evolution?

I started delving into the Paleo adventure after seeing Fat Head and John Durant's appearance on The Colbert Report within 24 hours of each other. As a guy who has struggled with his weight for 28 years, I've always taken an interest in the latest trends in weight loss. 2 years ago I switched to a low carb lifestyle after my father had some health issues come to light that all of us had been ignoring for a long time. The greatest of these issues were type 2 diabetes and a possible "cardiac episode" that my dad had toughed out without seeking medical attention. All of this culminated in my dad losing a ton of weight on his own via a fairly low carb life and me being fueled to follow the TNT approach to weight loss. I lost some weight and felt great. I just couldn't stick with it long term as my cravings would overtake me at weak points and eventually put weight back on. Parts of a low carb diet didn't really jive with my common sense, either. I don't mind eating some fat. I love butter, cream, and especially bacon, but I don't see those products, when eaten as dietary staples, contributing to a healthy lifestyle.

At this point in the journey, I've put my original weight back on, walking around at a husky 200 on a 5'10" frame. After some frustrations with my employment situation, my fiance and I decided to take a year off and travel the globe via seeking work as English teachers abroad. Spending a year in South Korea was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I'll save a lot of them for later entries, but you learn a lot about yourself when you remove everything that you know. I lost some weight over there eating the local fare, but it yo-yo'd throughout the year as drinking is THE thing to do in Korea. There is a societal expectation that you will partake in food or drink when offered and ultimately, my love of Korean culture bit me in my Korean BBQ filled butt.

Fast forward to a couple months ago and my fiance and I are watching Fat Head and a 10 minute portion of it addresses the evolutionary changes in humans and how the standard American diet is in direct contradiction of those adaptations. All of the sudden it all clicks. I've heard of this "caveman diet" stuff before, but had never really thought of it in such simple terms before. The next day, John Durant happens to be the guest on The Colbert Report and his quick synopsis of the Paleo lifestyle solidifies in my brain the need to at least attempt this new faddish lifestyle (I've embedded the video below). The basics make perfect common sense: only eat what you can find in nature. As a Christian, nature is created by God and God is good, so Paleo is good. That was it.

The first day was easy. I was motivated. I was looking up new info constantly. I was educating myself and doing my best to rid myself of all preconceived concepts of what is healthy when it came to food. Day 2 was rough. Having done low-carb before, I was ready for the headaches, but these nearly put me out of commission for a couple of days. It was my first real experience with withdrawal. I cheated with some peanut butter (which I now know is not Paleo) covered apples to get me by when I couldn't even sleep because of the discomfort. Since then it has been fairly smooth sailing. It's been 2 months and as of this morning, my weight is 174 pounds and I'm still 5'10" (thank God).

What I hope to do is help add to the rapidly growing internet based Paleo community with links, recipes, workouts, and general thoughts on topics that arise within the community. I hope others will read this and at least be willing to give Paleo a shot for a month or so. Thanks for reading and I hope you return soon to see what else I put up!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John Durant
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform