Friday, April 30, 2010

Grilled Lamb & Mediterranean Salad

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

As I said in my last recipe, I'm really trying to cut back on the dairy. I feel I've been a little to lax, starting to venture more towards Atkins territory than a paleo or primal way of eating. So this recipe is an attempt to get back to basics.

Let's start with the Mediterranean salad. You'll get better flavor if you let it marinate for a while, so I made mine a couple hours beforehand.

You'll need 20 grape tomatoes, 1 handful of chopped parsley 1/4 of a red onion, 2 cloves of grated garlic, 4 oz of sliced black olives, 1 cucumber, 1 tbs of lemon juice, 2 tbs of olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Basically, you just chop everything up and mix it in a bowl. Add the salt and pepper to your taste. It took about 5 minutes to make.
From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

For the grilled lamb, take 1 lb of ground lamb and combine it with a handful of parsley and 3 grated garlic cloves.

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

A quick tip - When working with the chopped parsley, put it in the bottom of your mixing bowl and place the lamb on top. Chopped parsley has a way of getting everywhere, making a huge mess. It looks like an Italian Rip Taylor came through your kitchen. (Wait for the 20 second mark)

Mix up all the ingredients really well. If you leave big clumps of garlic, it might burn and get really bitter. If it's spread out evenly, the fat from the lamb will help infuse the meat with the garlic flavor. I like a good crust on my lamb, so I decided to make little lamb "balls" so I could get the most surface area possible, ensuring as much crust as possible.

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

Grill them until you're happy with how they look and plate everything up! You should be able to get about 3 or 4 servings with this recipe, depending on your appetite.

From Lamb balls and Mediterranean salad

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Paleo for the Parents

My parents and niece are going to try eating a paleo diet. This post is for you guys and anyone else looking to start eating in a more natural and healthy way.

I asked some friends on Twitter what paleo means to them. I got some really great responses:

McGrok - Eat things that flew swim or ran, came out of the ground, or fell off a tree. lift heavy things, run around a lot.

Tcita - Living from the source

FeastingFitness - Eating what nourishes, not harms.

What I feel is the most important part of a paleo lifestyle is living as naturally as you reasonably can. Whether you believe we came from Eden or the Big Bang, there is no arguing that the way we eat today (especially the kids in that picture) is not exactly the way we were intended to.

For me, there is only one simple rule: Live your life the way we were intended to.

This issue is that nobody definitely knows what that means. To me, it makes sense that we would be adapted to eat whatever was available thousands of years ago. That's when we came into our present role here on Earth. Nobody can contest that. It stands to reason that what those people ate is what we are supposed to be eating today. The people of that time period lived off of the land. They didn't work the land...yet. That means they ate plants, some nuts, some seeds and animals. A paleolithic food pyramid would be similar to this:
If you want to return to that original way of eating, here are some simple suggestions:
  1. Don't eat processed food.

  2. Don't eat sugar that doesn't come from fruit. Aside from fruit, sugar was not a part of the daily food intake. As for honey, I find it hard to believe that people thought honey was worth a couple hundred bee stings.

  3. Don't eat grains. While companies that profit from sales of grains would have you believe that grains are an essential part of your diet, there isn't a single thing in grains that isn't in vegetables and fruit. Check out my article here for some proof.

  4. Stay away from starches like white potatoes and beans. These would not have been eaten frequently by people 10,000 years ago.

  5. Stay away from dairy. This is an area of debate that I've discussed before, but for at least your first month or so of eating paleo, steer clear of all dairy. You can try reintroducing some full fat butter, cream, or cheese after a month to see how your body reacts, but it wasn't around 10,000 years ago and shouldn't be in your belly for now. I have found that I can tolerate small amounts of dairy and have decided to use small amounts in my cooking. This will be a personal decision for you to make after allowing your body to live without it for at least a month.

  6. Move. We weren't meant to sit around for hours on end. You should move (walk) at an easy pace frequently and at an intense pace (sprinting, weightlifting, biking) infrequently.

  7. Relax. Our stress levels are off the charts. The biological changes that happen to a person are alarming and will actually make you fatter. I can't wait to do a post on stress, but here is a quick overview of what can happen to your body with prolonged stress.

  8. Eat when you're hungry. I'm rarely hungry when I wake up, so I skip breakfast a lot. I'll eat right before bed if I'm hungry. I don't eat when I'm bored, upset, or anxious. On a related note, I don't eat 6 small meals a day. It's a pain in the butt and isn't manageable for most people. That frequent eating also conditions you to look for and think about food constantly. Follow your gut on when to eat. On a related note, don't eat until you're stuffed. It's hard to do with paleo food. Trust me, I tried.

  9. Buy the best local food you can afford. We aren't all made of money, so you'll have to use judgement here.
  • Some research has shown that organic produce may not be much better than regular produce, so I usually won't pay extra for organics. Instead, I'll spend an extra minute washing the chemicals off.
  • When it comes to meat, you have to be careful. While eating fat is a big part of being paleo, you need to make sure you're eating quality fat. This means eating grass fed livestock, wild caught seafood, game meat, free range chicken, and free range eggs. For those of you with a lot of money, this won't be a problem, but for some of us it is. I'm eating about 1/2 quality 1/2 traditional meat at this point. I'll do a post about how to save money as I delve into my cowpooling program. In the mean time, you can partially make up for lower quality meats with extra vegetables and some extra omega 3 fats from fish oil or flax seed oil.
So in a nutshell: No grains, sugar, or starches, but as many veggies and much meat as you want to feel satisfied. Have some fruit, nuts, and seeds in moderate amounts.

An important thing to remember is that you will not follow these rules 100% of the time. A good rule of thumb to remember for these types of things is the 80/20 principle. If you legitimately stick to these rules 80% of the time and fail 20% of the time, you should still see results. My initial goal was to go 100% for 30 days and I came close. I saw incredible results and haven't looked back. I suggest you do the same. Here are some videos to help reiterate my points:

Update 4/29/2010 - Health Habits has just released an E-book with a very similar outlook on a modern paleo lifestyle. I suggest you look it over, it's a quick and easy read that gets right to the point. Here is the link.

Chicken Tikka Masala

From Chicken Tikka Masala

Enjoy this recipe, because I'm going to try and cut down the dairy for a while. I feel like I've gotten a little out of control with the dairy lately and need to get it in check. This will be the last cowjuice hurrah for a while. This recipe makes some compromises adding up to about 10 grams of sugar being spread across 5 servings. That's 2 grams of sugar per serving, so be warned if you are sticking to a strickly paleo diet. There is also a lot of dairy in this recipe, but man, I just really wanted some Indian food, so I went with it.

Here is what you'll need: Yogurt, cumin, paprika, a clove of garlic, cilantro, 1 cup of cream, 1 can of tomato sauce, a jalapeno, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and chicken thighs. I lost my receipt from the groceries, so no price breakdown today. Sorry everybody.

You'll need to marinate the chicken for a day to make it taste correctly, so make sure you plan this meal in advance. Combine the ingredients listed below the picture into a container and make sure as much of the chicken is covered in the marinade as possible.

From Chicken Tikka Masala

1 cup of yogurt, 1 tbs of lemon juice, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 2 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp black pepper, and 1 tbs of ginger. Keep that covered for a day before moving on to the next step.

Place your marinated chicken on a broiler pan covered with foil. Trust me, use the foil. The marinade will carmelize and be a huge pain to clean if you don't. Put the chicken in the broiler for about 20 minutes, flipping them at the 10 minute mark.

From Chicken Tikka Masala

While that cooks, melt 1 tbs of in a large pan and sautee 1 clove of grated garlic and a chopped jalapeno (I kept the seeds in for heat) for a minute. When the garlic looks clear, add the tomato sauce, 1 cup of cream, 2 tsp of paprika, and 2 tsp of cumin and mix it together until it is one uniform consistency.

From Chicken Tikka Masala

By the time that's done your chicken should be about done. If not, turn the heat off of the sauce so it doesn't burn. Whenever your chicken is finished, cut it into bite size pieces and toss it in the sauce.

From Chicken Tikka Masala

From Chicken Tikka Masala

Let that simmer for a few minutes and then plate it up! This recipe is about 75% truly paleo, but man is it good. It's better than an all out cheat, so if you're into Indian food, give it a shot. Also, this dish is great with my cilantro chutney.

From Chicken Tikka Masala

Cilantro Chutney

Today's first recipe post is a quick one. It's a sauce that I'm making for tonight's main course, but I wanted to go ahead and make it and get it set aside. Cilantro chutney is an Indian sauce with a very strong cilantro flavor. It's super easy to make and tastes great with a wide variety of foods, including a lot of Mexican dishes.

From Cilantro Chutney
You'll need 2 jalapenos, 2 cloves of garlic (0.04), 1 tbs of ginger(0.10), 1 lime (0.33), 1 bunch of cilantro (0.25), 6 green onions (0.33), 2 tbs of olive oil, 1/4 tsp of cumin (0.01) and a pinch of salt. That's a total of 1.06 for enough chutney to get you through for at least 6 meals.

Chop everything up, seeding the jalapenos.

From Cilantro Chutney

Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, and ginger to either a food processor or a tall container that you can fit a hand blender into. Blend those until they are a thick paste, then add the rest of the ingredients and the juice of your lime (check the link -not my video- for tips on how to get the most juice). Blend everything until it is fairly smooth and you're done!

I used my hand blender and got great results. If you don't have a food processor, consider getting one of these guys!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Carbohydrates: The One Armed Man

If you haven't seen The Fugitive, that title probably makes no sense, so just ask someone else what it means. I've stumbled across a couple of articles the last couple of days that have helped to reinforce the silly notion that fat may not be the fugitive the diet police should be chasing. Processed carbohydrates like sugar and corn syrup may be the real killer!

The Scientific American ran this article. It more or less states that carbohydrates, specifically the more refined varieties like sugar and corn syrup, are more likely to cause diabetes and can be more directly linked to heart issues than fat.

In the comments, I found that, The New York Times ran this article a while back. In those 11 pages, you're definitely left with the feeling that nobody knows what to eat. One camp tells you fat is a killer and the other camp tells you it's your best friend.

These articles provoked some thoughts that I'd like to share.

I grew up in the 80's and 90's, so low-fat was a way of life for me. I never knew any better. Fat has always been bad. So for me to begin eating fatty food was difficult for my brain to comprehend. It was hard to not feel like I would have a heart attack from enjoying a juicy steak and creamy spinach, but once your mindset changes, you'll open up to new ideas about what your body wants you to consume.

I've been eating a lot more fat than I ever have over the last 3 months and I haven't been this healthy since I was in high school. It has been hard to look at some of my meals where half the calories come from fat and think that what I'm eating is healthy. The key has been that I get most of my fat from good sources. I eat a lot of salmon, tuna, nuts, grass fed beef, organ meat, and free range eggs. I'll give in and have some grain fed beef and cheese, but those are becoming increasingly rare. The key to not getting fat or sick is that I've eliminated all processed foods from my diet at the same time. The only sugar I get comes from berries or the occasional citrus fruit. What I've found is that I don't really get hungry any more. I'll be ready to eat a couple times a day, but I don't think about my next meal constantly. I'm losing body fat at a steady rate. I lose about 1-2 lbs a week while only exercising for about 30-40 minutes each week. My energy levels are steady and I feel more alert.

It sounds kind of like Atkins, right? No carbs, lots of fat, I've heard this before. Atkins may have understood a thing or two about fat, but I don't think he took it all the way. I still believe in eating fruit, but only in small quantities like our ancestors would have found. Also, genetically modified fruit is very different than what we would have found in the wild a long time ago. We still need to be conscious of where the fat in our diets come from and make good decisions as to not poison ourselves. At least one generation has been screwed by the idea that anything is better than fat idea. Let's not screw another one over by starting an "anything is better than carbs" craze.

That's all I'll say tonight. I've already rambled on more than I intended. I really just wanted to share those articles. Take care and happy reading.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Feta and Beef Stuffed Mushrooms with Tapenade

These guys may not look the best, but you're going to love the way they taste!

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

I've been excited about making this all week. Stick with me with the pictures, I didn't get everything photographed because I usually start off with a general idea about how to make a dish then make stuff up as I go.

Here is what I used:

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade
Starting at the pepper grinder going clockwise: Pepper, 2 lbs of button mushrooms(4.00), olive oil (0.25), green olives (0.85), capers (0.10), anchovy paste (optional) (0.05), black olives (1.39), parsley (0.10), 5 garlic cloves (0.10), 85/15 grassfed beef (5.99), 1/4 lb of feta cheese (1.08), *not pictured 1/8 of a yellow onion (0.30), and red pepper flakes (0.02). That's a total of 14.23 for 4 servings @ $3.56 each.

Before starting, go ahead and get your oven preheated to 375. Start by removing the stems from the mushrooms. They should come out easily. Be careful to not break the mushroom caps as you'll want them to catch all the tasty beef juices later.

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade
Put a little olive oil in your hand and dip each mushroom cap in your hand. This step may not be necessary, but it's something I decided to do. Like I said, I make this stuff up as I go. Next, lay out all your mushrooms on a cooking sheet with some parchment paper or foil underneath.

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

I ended up with 20 good mushroom caps, so I chopped up my feta into 20 small cubes and stuffed them inside the shrooms.

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

After that, I mixed my beef with 4 grated garlic cloves, 1/8 (1 slice) of an onion, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Make sure you slice the onion up as fine as you can. If the chunks are too large, it will make the beef watery and it will fall apart. We want it to stay in one big clump on top of the mushrooms.
Portion out the meat and cover each mushroom. 1 lb of beef portioned into balls a little smaller than golf balls worked pretty well for me. When they're all covered, you can put them in the oven at 375 for about half an hour. Remember, your oven is different from mine, so check after 25 minutes and see if they look finished and adjust your time from there.

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

Now, for the tapenade. Tapenade is a kind of like an olive and caper relish. It's super easy to make. It's a chop 'n' mix topping. Mix 4 oz of drained black olives (I got mine prechopped), 4 oz of drained and chopped green olives (I used the black olive can to measure 4 oz), a small bunch of parsley, 20 capers, and a clove of grated garlic. You may want to add a little olive oil to help keep everything moist. I used about a tablespoon. If you want, you can add a couple drops of anchovy paste or an anchovy fillet. I know a lot of people hate anchovies, so I kept it optional. Also, if you have basil, you can add basil to tapenade as well. It depends on what herbs you like.

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

When the mushrooms are finished, they should be releasing some delicious beef juices onto the feta, softening the cheese up. Plate the mushrooms up with some tapenade and eat up!

From Feta Cheese Beef Mushrooms with Tapenade

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Homemade Pork Rinds

Today's post is a quick primer on how to make home made pork rinds. I've never made pork rinds before, so this was a first for me. Pork rinds are useful as a breading when frying foods and can add some crunch to a fairly crunchless paleo diet. A lot of store bought pork rinds have a ton of salt added and some are even fried in vegetable oils.

All you need is some pork skin and an oven.

Lay it out on a cooking sheet. I laid down some parchment paper to help ease the cleanup.

From Pork Rinds

Preheat your oven to 325. When the oven is hot toss in the skin and wait 3 hours. Pull it out and let it cool. That's it. You may need to place them on some paper towels to help wick away some of the grease. We used a cooling rack and just let the grease drip out. These pork rinds will probably be a little bit harder than what you're used to, but if the skin manages to bubble up a little, you'll get some more tender pieces worth snacking on.

You can salt them if you want, but it's probably best to avoid seasoning the pork rinds since you'll more than likely be using them as breading and we don't really need too much salt to what we eat anyways.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Paleo Paella

Paella (pie-Ay-ya) is an old Spanish dish that my fiance and I were lucky enough to try while in Barcelona. This picture is from our trip when we tried some squid ink paella.

From Barcelona

I've never actually made regular paella let alone paleo paella, but it seemed like it could be done. It was either going to turn out to be a complete failure or a success, and I'm happy to tell you that it wasn't an epic paleo-fail. This recipe takes a little under an hour, so it's not fast, but it can be done on a weeknight.

Here is what you need:

From Paella

Starting at the mussels at the bottom: 1 lb of mussels (4.99), 1 orange ancient pepper(0.25), 1 red ancient pepper(0.25), 4 cloves of garlic (0.08), one can of diced tomatoes (1.59), cauliflower (2.34), parsley (0.05), 1 yellow onion (1.00), 1 lemon (0.25), paprika, 2-3 lbs of chicken thighs (3.24), 8 large shrimp (4.99), and (not pictured) a hot sausage (2.16)- we used a hot Italian sausage (salamini) our deli guy recommended. That's a total of 21.19, or roughly 4-5 dollars per serving. This is one of the pricier meals I've made, but it is worth it, I promise.

I prepped all the veggies and meat before starting to cook. It makes life a lot easier and I don't feel as rushed as I cook. You'll need to grate the cauliflower, grate the garlic as well as chop the onions, pepper, and sausage. This is also a good time to clean off the mussels. Just put them in a strainer and run your fingers over the shells, removing anything you can. If any of the mussels are open and don't close if you tap them on the counter, throw them away. They're dead.

From Paella
Use the larger holes on your grater.

From Paella

From Paella
Cut the sausage into half circles.

Once all the chopping and cleaning is done, start by frying the chicken thighs in some olive oil. Make sure the oil is nice and hot so that you get a good sear on the chicken.

From Paella

From Paella

When the chicken has a good sear on each side (about 6 minutes on the first side and only about 4 on the second), set the chicken aside. Use the oil and chicken fat to fry up the onions, sausage, and peppers.

From Paella

When the veggies are golden brown add the garlic. Make sure to keep stirring when the garlic is in the pan. You don't want the garlic to sit around a have a chance to burn. Garlic gets really bitter when it burns.

From Paella

Stir for about 2 minutes, then you'll add the chicken back in along with the tomatoes and a handful of paprika.

From Paella

Stir in the paprika and bring that up to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, add a lid and put bring heat down to about half. As that simmers, start heating up some olive oil in another pan. When that is hot, add the grated cauliflower. It will take a while for the cauliflower to turn brown which is fine because the paella needs to simmer for a while. Keep stirring and just don't let the cauliflower burn. Eventually it will turn brown.

From Paella

When it is brown, add 100 ml of chicken stock and wait for it to evaporate. When it does, your cauliflower is done. Just set it aside.

From Paella

It should take about 20 minutes for the cauliflower to be ready, so it's the perfect timing to get back to the paella. It can't really simmer too long with the lid on, so don't get stressed if it's taking your cauliflower longer to cook or if you have to do it in batches.

From Paella

Now is the time to add the mussels. This is the perfect time to double check for dead guys. They'll be the ones that are open and won't close when you tap them on the counter. Throw them away.

From Paella

From Paella

Add the mussels to the mix and put the lid back on. The mussels will open up in about 2 minutes. At this point, add the shrimp and wait another 2 minutes.

From Paella

Remove the lid and that's it! You've just made paella. Don't you feel classy? Not yet? Ok, add some parsley and lemon then, Mr. Belivedere. Now you're first class all the way.

From Paella