08 February 2014

Paleo? Primal? Protein, oh my!

Hello friends!

Yes, once again I've had a long absence but I'm back with some fantastic new information and a few great recipes for you!

My family has, for the past couple of months, gone "Paleo" with our food choices. What's that mean, you ask? Well, the simple explanation is that a paleo "diet" (we call it a lifestyle since we are sticking with it and it does affect our daily lives) is heavy on animal proteins, seafood, nuts, fruits and vegetables. That also means there are no grains, dairy, sugars or legumes. The thing is this is something that, for any trying it, can be customized to fit into your needs and your tastes. Many of friends who eat the same way do what we call 80/20. 80% of what they eat is strictly meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts. The other 20% can be a little more free. I won't get too into the specifics and origins of the current diet. I will say that some people are calling this a fad, but it's one of those things has had many incarnations over the past 30-40 years even. There have been a number of high protein low/no carb diets that all go by different names and are hyped by different companies, celebrities, chefs, but they essentially all have the same guiding principals; low carbohydrate intake with high protein intake makes for leaner, heart-heathier living.

We did not go into this because it's a popular thing to do. We read up, spoke to friends who've been doing it for years, and really investigated how and why we might go about this new way of life. If this idea, this way of eating intrigues you, I recommend doing a lot (A LOT) of research on the benefits and things that may be of concern, as well as how this choice can be varied to suit and your family. So far, having been eating this way about 80/20 since Sept. 1st, we've noticed a number of changes. My husband and I have both lost weight, he has a lot more energy, we're breathing easier, and we are enjoying food more than ever because almost everything we eat is incredibly fresh. I've also notice my joints, especially my knees, have not been inflamed or in pain since we started. I have dealt with knee pain since my freshman year of high school. That was 24 years ago. It's nearly gone now. Seriously.

So did we cut out everything called for by the strictest of paleo plans? No. But we did change some things up. We do include dairy in our diet, but we drink organic pastured whole milk, aged cheeses and goat's milk yogurt and softer cheeses. We buy canned tuna, but only if it's canned in olive oil. Do we stick to it when we eat out? Mostly, but we'll go for a burger on a bun now and then, or pizza with regular crust. We might go out for frozen yogurt and go crazy with toppings! We do notice a difference in how we feel when we have the grains and breads, so it's nothing we do on a regular basis. Have we cut all sugars out? No, but we don't use white refined sugar! There are some incredible substitutions out there nowadays like granulated honey and coconut sugar, but you're going to pay more for them. We're okay with that because we know they are so much better than the over-processed stuff. I still use butter but it's grass fed Kerrygold brand butter (unsalted, from Trader Joe's) or organic butter, at least, and for other fat options there are oils like coconut and avocado, and of course olive oils. One thing to note is that when we do treat ourselves, especially when it comes to breads and pastas, we do…pay for it, shall we say. My knees may ache a bit and my tummy is less happy. This is why it's rare to do a wheat-laden treat. The treat has to be well worth the suffering.

More than a few people have asked "What do you eat all the time? Chicken and Kale?" Heck no! You all know I love experimenting and I've been lucky enough to know how to sub out nut flours for traditional whole wheat or a.p. flour, but when I hit a roadblock and am not sure how to sub something, or what ratio to use, the internet comes to my rescue with loads of paleo-friendly websites and recipes that have been well tested. It's definitely worth doing a little e-hunting to see what treasures you can find! And if you have specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to help you out. Baking has been my biggest challenge by far. I'm still learning what works and what doesn't, and accepted long ago that there's zero chance of paleo recipe tasting anything like a "traditional" recipe for cookies, cake, muffins. But different can be good. Very good!

If you decide to give paleo a try, get ready for a lot of prep work. It makes an incredible difference in your cooking and meal planning overall. I try to start the week prepping veggies for munching (peppers, carrots, celery) and hard-boiling a dozen eggs to go with our muffins for breakfast. You can roast a pot roast or turkey breast and cut it up for lunches. You'll want to make sure you are especially well stocked with things that you can grab-and-go, so the temptation for a quick easy bite out is one you can avoid. I'll include a list of my new favorite pantry items at the end of the post, to give you an idea of what we always keep around. I'm including my stock "recipe" as well since it is a wonderful, ridiculously easy thing to make yourself, and it's very easy to store right in your fridge and freezer! If you have stock at the ready, chop some veggies and throw in a handful of rice, boil it for 20 minutes or so and you have a wonderful, healthy homemade meal you can feel fabulous about eating!

One more thing about the specifics is that if you aren't a label reader now, you must become one if you go paleo. Because soy is not part of this diet and something we have, for the most part, kept out of our home for quite some time for a number of reasons, you will want to check everything from vegetable soup to mayonnaise to canned tuna. Mayo is a big culprit that I was surprised by. Vegetable oil is often soybean oil re-named. Same for vegetable broth in canned tuna. Again, it's all about research and knowing that there are amazing recipes to DIY your beloved mayo and homemade stocks and broths are ridiculously simple to make on your own. (If you're on it, Pinterest is a great resource and you can follow my "Paleo" board for well-tested recipes and recommendations! The link to my Pinterest page is here with the rest of the Swinging good links! at the top left of the page.

I want to share these couple of recipes with you all because whether or not you are eating like a caveman, so to speak, you and your family are sure to love them. I am also including some great breakfast ideas and make-ahead tips seriously helpful for any busy person or family! Enjoy!

Good Morning Muffins 
(Makes 12 muffins)
Oven at 350º

Whisk together:
2 cups almond flour
⅓ cup coconut flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (can sub cinnamon) 
½ tsp sea salt

In another bowl, mix well:
⅓ cup Olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 large egg
1 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (can sub pumpkin puree)
⅔ cup coconut sugar or granulated honey

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until mixed well. At this point, you can add a handful  of frozen blueberries, or dried cranberries/raisins/currants, and a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts.

Once everything is well mixed, scoop into prepared muffin tin (greased or lined with paper liners) and bake for 23-25 minutes until firm, test with a toothpick for doneness. Add another couple of minutes if needed. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Heat up in the microwave for 30 seconds or so for a warm treat in the morning! Perfect with a hard-boiled egg and some goat's milk yogurt flavored with some raw honey or pure maple syrup and fresh fruit. 

Yogurt Marinated Chicken
Oven at 375º
Ready for the oven!

For the marinade, combine in a large bowl:
1 cup plain full fat yogurt
1 ½ tbsp Kashmiri Masala (can sub Garam Masala)
1 tbsp each: sea salt, smoked paprika, ground ginger
1 tsp each: white pepper, dried cilantro

add 10-12 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, making sure they're all coated well, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Ready for the dinner table!

Bake on an over safe rack over a sheet pan for 20 minutes, turn chicken over and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until done (will depend on size of pieces, best cut to check) and serve with steamed or roasted, buttered veggies and basmati rice. NOTE: You can also use this marinade for bone-in chicken like legs, as I've shown in the pictures, but you'll need to increase your cooking time to 50-60 minutes total, still turning pieces halfway through cooking. 

Easy Stock

This will start with you freezing chicken bones, turkey bones, beef and hame bones. Decide on which stock you want to make and put the frozen bones into a large stock pot (8 quart or larger is best, with a lid that fits) I tend to throw the bones in freezer bags and usually use about 2 bags worth of bones for around 4-5 quarts of stock which is what this recipe would make. You can cut this down if you have less bones, or just make it more veggie rich by using less bones and these same quantities of veg.

Add to the pot the following:
4 large carrots, rough-chopped
8 celery ribs, rough-chopped
2 yellow onions quartered with peel on
8 garlic cloves, smashed with peel on

You can also throw in some tomatoes and bell peppers if you have some that need to be used up

Throw in some fresh herbs if you have them (parsley, basil, oregano, whatever you like)
season generously with sea salt, a few peppercorns

Fill with water making sure the bones and veggies are just covered. Put on high heat and bring to boil for a few minutes and then turn to medium-low heat, cover and let simmer for a couple of hours. Yes, hours. The flavors that will develop are incredible. If you do this with turkey bones from your Thanksgiving bird, the stock will taste "just like Thanksgiving soup" as my husband said. 

Once you've cooked it down for a few hours and you have that beautiful golden color developed, you'll want to strain the liquid off of all the bones and veggie pieces. I remove all the big pieces with a large slotted spoon and toss them, then strain with a ladle directly into clean freezer-safe jars with a small sieve right over the wide-mout jar opening. You can also put a large sieve over a smaller pot and strain into that, then ladle into jars, or freezer bags. Cool before freezing. Oh, and I don't skim the fat off of my stock, but you can do that, once it's cooled and separated, if you prefer. 

You can use this as you would any other stock or broth, in soups and stews, you can cook rice or potatoes in it. Just put your desired quantity in the fridge the day before you want to use it. Enjoy alone, too! Makes a wonderful cold and flu reliever, warms you on those frosty winter nights. It's just good! 

My Paleo Pantry and Fridge Additions:
(Remember, we do our best to have these at all times, but get as close as we can when we have budget restrictions or trouble locating a specific item)

Tuna canned in olive oil (Read those labels! Not all oil canned tuna is created equal! Skip any that list vegetable oil) 
Almond, coconut and tapioca flours
Coconut sugar
Canned coconut milk
Lots of eggs (we buy the 5-dozen package)
Organic whole milk
Goat's milk yogurt and/or Greek yogurt (not non-fat)
Uncured Bacon
Pastured and/or Organic Butter
Dried cranberries and banana chips (try to find with little or no added sugar if possible)
Extra dark chocolate
Pure maple syrup
GF Bread since it's never easy to give up toast and, for the man and our boy, sandwiches
GF Rice and nut crackers (perfect for lunches with roasted meat or tuna, and some aged cheese)
As always, tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats in the freezer, raw honey…

Main things we cut out:
Legumes (Beans and peanuts)
Grains (mainly wheat breads, pastas)
Processed/pre-pacakged foods (exceptions are made, but very carefully!)
Refined sugars
Canola/Vegetable oils
Soy anything

I hope you've enjoyed this little, crazy peek into what has been going on in my keen kitchen, and as soon as I get myself organized again, I will post more recipes and tips for staying on track. Most important things to remember are to start slow if you need to, and do a lot of research, experimentation with recipes and don't be afraid to try new things! I have a great chili recipe (actual chili, with no beans!) and a chocolate chip cookie recipe I look forward to sharing next time. Thanks for following along!

1 comment:

Jenn Watson said...

Thanks for a peek into the lifestyle your little family is embracing! I don't know that the paleo is for us, but it does inspire me to get moving on making more fresh and less commercially processed foods for myllittle family. Much love, and looking forward to new posts!