Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2013.  You might be wondering if I resolved to blog more in 2013.  Don't hold your breath on that one.  But I am planning to add several posts over the next few weeks.  The topic?  Small appliance cooking. 

My oven was well used over the Christmas holidays since I did a lot of cooking and baking.  Some of it Primal, some not.   Don't worry, I didn't fall off the wagon.  I intentionally jumped off and decided to run along side for a while.  This was our second Christmas after switching to Primal Blueprint living.  That first Christmas we kept things very Primal. 

This time, with nearly 2 years of Primal living behind us, we decided to intentionally, mindfully include some traditional non-Primal Christmas foods in our diet over the holidays, knowing that we'd be able to easily pick right back up with Primal living after the holidays.

Due to our Polish heritage, we celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional Wigilia.  (Pronounce the W as a V and you've got it).  This is a big Polish Catholic dinner that is considered meatless, but fish is allowed and usually severed in several preparations (don't ask me, I didn't come up with the rules).
For our Wigilia two Christmases ago we modified all the recipes to make them more Primal.  I joked that we would have to turn in our Polish cards for not serving pierogi at Wigilia.  This year we returned to our roots and served traditional foods in traditional preparations, including pierogi, uszka, nut roll, poppy seed roll and cookies.

Among the dessert choices were jam-filled Polish butter cookies called kolaczki and sugar cookies that the kids made and decorated.

It wasn't difficult to return to our Primal Blueprint eating.  If anything, we were more convinced than ever that we are doing the right thing following this eating plan.  The carbs, as tasty as they were, made us feel sluggish and head-achy.  I enjoyed the treats in moderation but still found that I easily gained a few pounds.  On the plus side, returning to Primal eating made the weight come back off quickly and I could still fit in my New Year's Eve dress.

Wondering what all of this has to do with small appliance cooking?  Well, during my holiday cooking and baking frenzy an idea took hold: perhaps it's time to replace my 20 year old, coil-burner range with a new double-oven, smooth top range.  After a week of contemplating this idea I learned that my niece's oven caught fire and she was going to need to replace it on a budget.  I took this as a sign.  I offered her our old range and ordered a new one.  Win-win!  She picked up the old range yesterday but our new one isn't due to arrive for 2 weeks.

So I've dusted off our small appliance cookware and look forward to a couple of weeks of experimenting with Primal cooking without a range.  Given the number of small kitchen appliances we've collected over the years what concerns me most is not figuring out how to make do without a range, but that by the time the new range arrives I'll wonder why I even need it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Doctor, Doctor

My morning started today with a wonderful whole milk latte from La Farm Bakery.  This is nothing like a Starbucks latte with thick milk froth that looks like detergent suds.  This is true art from skilled baristas who can coax the steamed milk into the tiniest mico-bubbles and hand pour it into perfectly pulled espresso shots to create a delicious morning treat that is as tasty as it is beautiful.  (Yeah, I know how cheezy that reads, but their lattes really are that good!)

small whole milk latte

Just before lunch time I picked up my 11 year old daughter from school to take her to the doctor for a regular check up.  It went well, she's very healthy.  During the check up the doctor did a routine talk with us about healthy eating and gave us a hand out about making good food choices.  The 10 key points in the hand out are:
  1. Sports drinks like Gatorade can be harmful to your health.
  2. Vitamins are not a substitute for eating fruits and vegetables every day.
  3. Skipping breakfast won't help you lose weight.
  4. Cereal bars and granola bars are not health food.
  5. Everyone above the age of 2 years should drink skim milk (not whole or 2%).
  6. Hot dogs and chicken nuggets are not a good source of protein.
  7. Most cereals that boast "made with whole grains" are actually processed foods made with white flour.
  8. People eating in front of the TV will actually eat more food and make less healthy food choices than they would at the table.
  9. Juice is not a necessary part of a healthy diet.
  10. Not everyone likes vegetables, but everyone can learn to like them.
As far as common nutrition wisdom goes, this list isn't too bad.  I disagree with item 5, but I can go along with the others.  In fact, I was feeling pretty impressed with the nutrition advice... until...

When we were all done and on the way out of the office my daughter was handed an artificially colored, artificially flavored, artificially sweetened lollipop.  (Sigh.)  It's hard enough as a parent to steer the kids away from sweet, processed foods like that.  How frustrating when your own pediatrician is undermining your efforts to discourage such junk food by handing it out the kids! 

(Heavy sigh.)

We drove from the doctor's office in search of lunch and ended up at our local Chipotle.  It was a really beautiful afternoon so we got our meal to-go and took it to the local park for a picnic before returning to school and work.

Chipotle Salad (1/2 Carnitas, 1/2 Chicken):  Lettuce, pork, chicken, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, guacamole
Unsweetened Iced Tea

After we finished eating we took a short walk by the lake.  Here's the view from our picnic table and some friends we met during our walk.

We had to pass La Farm Bakery on our way back from the park to school/work.  I started thinking about how much I enjoyed my morning latte and decided to stop in for another.

another small whole milk latte

It was a busy family evening (softball practice, overtime work, end-of-the-week homework, etc), which meant we all ended up eating dinner at different times in order to get everything done.  My dinner was a big salad and a beer.  Yes, beer is made from grain.  No, beer is not primal.  Yes, I still drink it anyway.  That's all I have to say about that. :)

Big Salad: Lettuce, mixed greens, crumbled bacon, avocado, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, artichoke hearts, feta cheese, Irish cheddar cheese, tomatoes, basil, Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets, olive oil based dressing

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recipe: Lime Basil Rump Roast

Today I'm going to work backward from dinner to breakfast so I can share my dinner recipe with you first.

This Thai-inspired marinade is quick and easy and one of my favorite flavor combinations when cooking beef.  I often add hot peppers to the mix but not when I expect the kids to eat it, such as tonight.

RECIPE: Lime Basil Rump Roast

  • small beef rump roast
  •  juice from 1 lime
  •  2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel (zest)
  • 1 handful of basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt (sea salt or kosher salt preferred)

1) Mix the lime juice, coconut oil, orange peel and cumin together.
2) Chop the basil finely.  (I use a hand chopper.  You could use a food processor.)

3) Combine the chopped basil with the coconut oil mixture to form a marinade.  Slice the garlic cloves in half.  Stud the roast with the garlic clove halves by cutting small Xs all over the roast and inserting the garlic.  Coat the roast with the salt.

4) Smear the marinade all over the roast and place in a plastic bag.  Leave to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

5) Remove from plastic bag and place in baking dish or (my favorite) a cast iron skillet.  Sear for 20 minutes in a 500°F oven.  Continue cooking at 275°F until internal temperature is 125°F for rare to med-rare (about 20 min per pound).

6) Remove from heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes while preparing side dishes.  Today I've sauteed some tatsoi in bacon fat with fresh ginger and garlic then seasoned with sesame oil and tamari.

7) Serve and enjoy!

Lime Basil Rump Roast (I ended up eating double the portion pictured above)
Tatsoi with ginger and garlic
Fresh Strawberries
Red Wine
(DESSERT) was Chocolove Almond and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

My lunch earlier today was a big salad.

Big Salad: mixed greens, crumbled bacon and sausage, bell peppers, tomatoes, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, red onions, artichoke hearts in Mediterranean dressing, feta cheese (no additional salad dressing, the artichoke hearts provided enough)

And breakfast today was just a cup of coffee.

Cup of coffee with non-homogenized, organic whole milk

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How many meals in a day?

Do a google search and you'll find a lot of conflicting information about how many meals a day you should eat.  Some sources say stick to the typical 3.  Some suggest more frequent, smaller meals, perhaps eating 5 or 6 times a day.  Some advocate a constant grazing all day.  Still others suggest fasting all day and feasting all night.

Personally, I find that what works best for me is to just eat when I'm hungry.  This would never have worked for me before I switched to a primal diet because I would frequently confuse things like a drop in blood sugar (that shaky feeling) or boredom or just being near food as hunger cues.  One of the most noticeable differences since switching to a primal diet is that those false hunger cues no longer affect me.  For the first time in my life, I can hear my body's true, quiet cues indicating when it's time to refuel.

Sometimes I only eat two meals in a day.  Often I won't be very hungry first thing in the morning and I wait until nearly 11am before I have my first meal of the day.  If it's a big enough meal I may not eat again until dinner time.  Or sometimes, like today, I end up extra hungry in the evening and eat dinner twice.

Today started out like a two-meal day.  I had a large meal around 11am.  We'll call it brunch.  It was going to be a three-egg omelet but I stuffed it too full so it ended up as a scramble instead.  I topped it with avocado and served it with some berries. 

- Scrambled eggs with Fra' Mani ham, spinach, Irish cheddar cheese, avocado and Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets
- Fresh raspberries topped with crème fraîche

After brunch I managed to find the one break in the stormy weather today to get outside for a little while.  I walked a mile then did a slow 2.5 mile run at a comfortable pace and got back home about 1 minute before the rain started again.

1 mile walk, 2.5 mile run

Our family calendar for this evening was full and it required that we split up in order to attend everything.  The boys took off for basketball practice.  My daughter and I had a meeting at our church later in the evening so we opted to eat dinner out before going.

We visited Rockwell's American Grill (same place we ate brunch on Sunday) and I ordered their Steak Burger minus the bun with an Apple & Walnut salad (my daughter ate all my apple slices).

STEAK BURGER: Ground short ribs, bacon, Maytag blue cheese, carmelized onions, grilled portobella
APPLE & WALNUT SALAD: Mixed greens, walnuts, apple slices (my daughter ate them all), grilled red onion, Mission figs, Maytag blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon

When we got home from our meeting I was feeling hungry again.  It turns out that the boys had ordered pizza for their dinner.  So now you're thinking, "Delivery pizza?  How is that primal?"  Well it's not if you eat it like this:

But if you scrape the toppings from a slice of pizza onto a plate full of lettuce you have a more primal meal that I like to call Pizza-Topping Salad!  Lots of veggies, some cheese, a bit of meat and no crust. 

Pizza-Topping Salad

And since I was still a bit hungry after the salad I dished up the last of the raspberries for dessert, topped with mascarpone cheese, a few walnuts and served with a chunk of dark chocolate.

raspberries, walnuts, mascarpone, almond sea-salt dark chocolate

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mmmm. Coffee.

My 7 year old son climbed into my bed this morning just after the alarm rang at 6:30am.

I said, "Do you know what I need?" (The answer was supposed to be, a hug.) 

He answered, "A jumbo coffee?" 

Well, yes, come to think of it, that *is* what I need!

I love really good coffee.  I love the smell of it, the taste of it, the warmth as I hold a cup of coffee in my hands.  It is a comforting way to start my morning.  As summer now moves toward fall I am reminded that one of life's great pleasures is sitting on the porch swing in the cool morning air sipping a fresh, hot cup of coffee.  I like the effect of the caffeine, but I could easily do without it (and have done so in the past).  It isn't so much the caffeine, but the full sensory experience of the coffee that holds me in the grip of this morning habit.   

The good news is that there are more and more studies suggesting that moderate coffee consumption may offer some health benefits.  As to how coffee fits into the Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson recommends that if it doesn't cause you problems and it's not used as an energy crutch it's probably OK.  Even Mark enjoys a morning cup with cream and (gasp!) a teaspoon of sugar.  I don't sweeten my coffee.  I prefer it with a splash of whole milk but will drink it black if there is no whole milk available.

So this morning, encouraged by the thought of fresh brewed coffee and remembering that the leftover Italian sausages were still in the fridge, I hopped out of bed anticipating breakfast. 

While my coffee was brewing in the French Press I fried up some farm-fresh eggs in bacon fat and warmed up the sausages in the toaster oven.  I rounded out the meal with a handful of cherry tomatoes.  What a great start for a Monday!

2 eggs fried in bacon fat
2 Italian sausage links
cherry tomatoes
coffee with whole milk

After breakfast I was off to work.  One of the nice benefits of where I work is that my office is located in a large shopping area.  This means if I have shopping to do I can usually step out on my lunch break and get it done.  Today I visited Earth Fare for lunch.  This gave me the opportunity to finish off the week's grocery shopping and pick up something tasty for my lunch from their hot bar of prepared foods. 

My grocery cart contained a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies, an African spice mix, some canned pumpkin, prepared frozen foods (which make a quick, easy option when packing lunches for the kids), Greek yogurt and milk.  My yummy lunch for today was some chicken and veggies from the hot bar.  I brewed a cup of coffee after lunch.  I don't usually have any after my morning cup, but I had been thinking about the planned topic for today's blog post and I had coffee on the brain.

Mediterranean Chicken (cooked with olive oil & herbs)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (also cooked in olive oil)
Sesame Kale (with sesame oil and tamari)
cup of coffee with non-homoginized, organic whole milk.

Tonight was clean out the fridge night for dinner.  I made omelets for my husband and daughter using up the last of the sausage and cooked veggies from the last few nights.  My son had the remaining chicken drumsticks from a couple nights ago, some strawberries and leftover rice from his dinner last night at the sushi restaurant.  I made a big salad for myself.

Big salad:  Lettuce, Fra' Mani Rosemary Ham, Dutch Gouda cheese, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, basil, cucumbers, broccoli, avocado, Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets, Tessemae's Lemon Garlic dressing

Pouring rain and a satisfying dinner caused me to lose my motivation to attend the yoga class planned for this evening.  Instead I poured a glass of red wine, dished up a few raspberries with some mascarpone cheese and cut a few more slices of that yummy Gouda cheese for dessert.  Then I spent the night at home with the family.  I wish I had had some slivered almonds on hand to add a bit of crunch to my berries for dessert.  I need to add that to my shopping list for next week.

Raspberries with Mascarpone
Sliced Gouda
Red Wine

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Walking Past the Dessert Table

A few months ago Rockwell's American Grill, a local restaurant near our home, started offering a Sunday brunch buffet.  It's an amazing spread including a made-to-order omelet station and waffle/pancake station, bacon, sausage, other breakfast items and a large selection of many of the items from their dinner menu such as salmon, chicken, collards, meatloaf, etc.

Rockwell's is one of our family's favorite restaurants.  Not only are they close and the food is fantastic, they source most of their food from local, sustainable farms.  When they started offering this amazing brunch deal it quickly became a Sunday morning family tradition.
Not all of the menu items are primal, especially their large selection of desserts on the buffet.  As enticing as this array of sweet might be, I find it very easy to pass it by and fill my plate with the farm fresh eggs and pasture-raised pork.  It really doesn't require any willpower to walk away.  One of the effects of switching to a primal diet and becoming fat-adapted is that high sugar foods actually give me bad headaches.  The quality, high-fat foods taste so much more indulgent to me than the sweet stuff ever did.  It's no wonder that the Primal Blueprint works so well.  No calorie counting required.  I eat primal foods until I'm satisfied and I never feel deprived.  On the rare occasion that I want a little something sweet from the buffet, I might take a small spoonful of their warm dark chocolate ganache and use it as a dip for berries, or better yet, chocolate dipped bacon!  But today I was more than satisfied with my omelet and salad.

- Veggie and Bacon Omelet (bacon, cheese, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, squash, zucchini, artichoke hearts, butter)
- Sausage
- House salad (mixed lettuce greens, onions, tomatoes)
- Blueberries and Strawberries
- Coffee with Whole Milk

We had plans to get out on the lake today and do a little kayaing but the weather didn't cooperate.  Instead we took advantage of this rainy Sunday to have a family cleaning day.  The house was in need of a deep clean and the kids' bedrooms needed to be organized so we spent most of the day taking care of business.  Scrubbing and vacuuming are actually great core workouts if you take care to use good posture and engage the core muscles correctly.  It's not as fun as a day on the lake but it's a good way to keep active and it's very satisfying to see the results of the effort.

Deep cleaning around the house

The chill in the pre-fall air made me want something warm, so I had some green tea in the afternoon.

The original dinner plan was leftover Italian sausage but after the Japanese green tea in the afternoon I started thinking how good some Japanese or Thai food would be.  Not to mention, I liked the idea of not having to clean dinner dishes after cleaning the house today.  So for dinner we went out to Sushi-Thai, a wonderful local sushi bar that specializes in both Japanese and Thai food.

Green salad with carrot-ginger dressing
Alaskan Sockeye salmon sashimi
Tom Kha Goong
Thai Spicy Basil Beef
Warm Sake

For the first course I had a small green salad with carrot-ginger dressing and wild Alaskan sockeye salmon sashimi.  Look at that amazing orange color in the fish!  You don't get that with farm-raised salmon.  The carafe of warm sake was perfect for the cool, rainy day.  See that small dish of green stuff in the lower left corner of the picture?  That's wasabi -- real chopped wasabi root.  That mound of green stuff that most sushi restaurants serve is actually grated horseradish mixed with green food coloring.  It's nothing like real wasabi.

The second course was a small bowl of Tom Kha Goong (Thai coconut soup with shrimp).  I wish you could smell this through the computer!  It is so warming and comforting!  This is good food!

The main course was Spicy Thai Basil Beef.  I ate about half of what you see here.


[edit 9/17/12:  Just adding that later in the evening I had a 4 squares of Chocolove Almond and Sea Salt Dark Chocolate as a snack before bed. (There are12 squares in a bar.)]

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Market Day!

It's Saturday -- Market Day!  My favorite day of the week.
I started my morning with a whole milk latte and then I was off to the farmers' market to do my weekly food shopping.  Today's purchases included grass-fed rump roast, sweet Italian sausage (pasture-raised pork), fresh eggs, baby ginger, garlic, basil, cherry tomatoes, tatsoi, greenhouse lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, multi-colored bell peppers and some cut flowers to brighten up the home.

I recently came across a recipe at Everyday Paleo for Sweet Potato Latkes and I can't wait to give it a try.  I had that in mind when I picked out the sweet potatoes and eggs.

After putting away the morning's purchases I finally sat down to my first meal of the day.  I suppose you can call it brunch since it was already 11am.  For the kids the meal was an early lunch before heading out to my daughter's noon softball game.  I had a market salad topped with a couple of smoked drumsticks that we ordered to-go yesterday while we were visiting The Humble Pig

(Whole milk latte earlier this morning)
Big market salad (lettuce, basil, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, olive-oil based vinaigrette)
Two smoked chicken drumsticks

My daughter's softball game went very well.  It was her first ever game.  She did well and her team won 20-1!  By the time we got home the kids and I were all hungry again.  I made sandwiches and lettuce wraps as a snack / late lunch for everyone.
Lettuce wraps (leaf lettuce, Munster cheese, avocado, crumbled breakfast sausage (left over from Thursday), Fra' Mani Rosemary ham, shredded carrots)

Later in the afternoon I went out for a run (barefoot, as usual).  I needed to keep it short today so I did a few sprint intervals.  According to the Garmin, the total distance was only about 2 miles, but I worked hard and had fun!

2 mile sprint intervals (barefoot)

After the run I cooked dinner.  I fried up the sweet Italian sausage that I bought today at the market from Coon Rock Farm (love those folks!) along with some of the bell peppers.  I had some raw spinach in the fridge from last week.  I picked out the best leaves to serve the kids in a spinach salad (they will only eat their spinach raw) and I sauteed the rest in the sausage fat.  I served it all up with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I sprinkled some Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets over the cooked spinach just before serving.  If you don't have Garlic Gold nuggets on hand, go get some right away!  They're crunchy, garlicky, yummy!  Perfect to top sauteed veggies, salads, or a steak!  I love 'em!  (Wish they paid me to say that, but they didn't.)

Italian Sausage with peppers
Sauteed spinach with crunchy garlic nuggets
Cabernet Sauvignon