Humans are ridiculous beasts. I include myself in this assessment. We would rather (at least as I observe in our American culture) be instantly gratified by something tasty or something that stimulates our brain for a moment than be sustained and nourished long term.
Food used to take work. Whether you take a look at our prehistoric ancestors who had to hunt and gather or our agricultural era forefathers and mothers who labored and toiled over the growth and production of grains, milk, vegetables, and meat, you see that everyone had to work for what they put in their mouths. When they said their prayers, they were truly grateful because they’d worked their asses off and were exhausted by the time they sat down to a meal of real food. Even corn mash and collard greens fit the bill for real gratitude.
Today we rush. We want what feels and tastes good; we want what comforts us when we’ve had a crappy day or when our boss, brother, or spouse has been a real meanie. We’ve trained our brains to expect food as drugs rather than food as delicious god-and/or-earth-given nourishment for our minds, bodies, and souls. In the stimulation of ourselves we think we are providing for ourselves, but we’re really missing out.
We’ve become addicted to un-food in this process. We can’t taste spinach or pinto beans or almonds anymore. They don’t satisfy us very well. Water is bland. Tea and coffee are no good without all the “fixings.” We want dessert, a little something special in the afternoon, lots and lots of sugar for breakfast, or to get happy at that very special hour after work.
I spoke to a man yesterday who was looking for supplements in the digestive aisle. There are lots of options. It’s a long aisle. He informed me that he required some powerful digestive enzymes because he was really not able to digest anything he ate. He said he’d tried everything and nothing was working for him. I asked a couple questions, but he didn’t care to answer. He just wanted the best, cheapest pills we had for his digestive issue. I let him know that the best, cheapest thing he could do was to remove the foods he thought were the biggest problem from his diet and see how he did. Just for a while. You know, sir, not forever. He said that, nah, that was too hard and took too much effort. Just the pills, please.
I see this a lot. Everyday, in fact. People tell me that my suggestions are too hard, too time consuming, too frustrating, too restrictive. It’s probably true. They probably are. But the food suggestions I make toward real nourishment and real health are not the problem, as far as I can tell. The corner we’ve painted ourselves into with our choices and our addictions are the main problem. How much we demand for our taste buds and brains are impossible to keep up with once we decide we would like to be well. It’s the whole having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too predicament.
Becoming re-acquainted with real food, the time real food takes, and the nourishment and health real food provides is work. It does take time out of a person’s schedule. It is not fast food and it cannot be put into a microwave. Consider the time food would have taken to be hunted, gathered, grown, raised, and made. It may not be addictive in the same way un-food is, but it can fulfill desire.
Yesterday was Easter for most folks. For me it was the last ski day of the season, and a great one at that. Perfect bluebird skies, just a little wind, no traffic, no spring breakers, no lift lines, fresh beautiful mountain air, and shin deep powder up high on Loveland’s lift 9. Even the birds were singing. If only I’d have brought my fat skis!
Yesterday was also the day I was ready. After several meager seasons of telemark skiing, I finally got the guts to get off the big kid lift and ski a steep, powdery black run. This seems like small cookies, but you must understand that I learned to telemark (tele for short) in my 30′s, and it wasn’t easy. Tele skiing is backwards from “regular” or alpine style downhill skiing. It’s also better. It’s more graceful when done correctly; the turns are more deliberate and difficult and there’s more satisfaction at the end of a run. Even the snow you shoosh onto your buddy is richer. I’m not biased. Riding the lift up to the Continental Divide at almost 13,000 feet, I noticed a virtually untracked swath of snowy mountain and said I’m going to ski that– I’m scared, but I’m ready.
And I was. I hopped off, turned left, and found a spot beyond the cornices to pop off the ridge. Sure, I was far from aggressive my first time down, but after a couple long traversing alpine turns, I made amazing, satisfying tele turns all the way down, a far cry from my bunny hill days at Eldora. When I reached the bottom my two front teeth were frozen from the big fat smile on my face.
That’s a little story about being ready for something and it all working out. Pretty nice, huh? Well, I know it doesn’t always work out like that (sometimes we’re not ready, but succeed; sometimes we are ready, but fail; etc), but there is something to get out of it.
This idea came to my attention because I’ve been talking to people lately who want to accomplish things with lifestyle, health, and food, but don’t seem quite ready for what it will require of them. Humans (myself included, and especially Americans, I find) tend to want quick results without careful preparation, mind-shifting, or work in order to get results. We are a pill-popping culture that has not had to watch the proverbial grass grow.
As a nutritionist who does not believe in quick fixes, fad diets, or too much pill-popping, I have to consider for my clients the importance of being ready for whatever their desired goal is because it probably won’t come all too easily. Having the brain, body, and spirit on board is really, really important. If it’s not all packed up and ready for the journey, you’ll just freeze up, stay on the lift, and ride back down to the bottom. No frozen-tooth-smile included.
Here’s a few things you need.
You need to need the thing. Without needing whatever it is, what’s the point? If it’s just someone else saying You should really lose weight or Going paleo is the bomb or Everybody’s doing it (whatever the hell “it” is that particular week), then fuhgeddaboudit. You specifically need to need whatever the thing is. It needs to be right for your individualized you, not someone else, not the masses, not the airbrushed movie stars on the front of the stupid magazines. If getting a six pack for bathing suit season, taking dairy out of your diet, standing on your head for one minute every hour, or climbing El Capitan is right for you and you need it, then maybe it’s time to consider it. Just for you.
You need to want the thing. This is inextricably linked to point A (see above). Also, this might include liking whatever the thing is, and it might not. For me it did, as I happen to love snow and skiing and the views I get from the Divide. It’s good to at least want what you might get out of your thing. For instance, you might not want to remove gluten from your diet, but you might want to stop your acne, migraines, and diarrhea. Or you might not want to spend time with your idiot husband, but you might want to avoid running off to France with Pierre and ruining your kids lives. It’s nice when it works out that you want the thing and what it gives you as well. But you can’t always get what you want, as the saying goes…
You need to plan ahead and prepare for the thing. I can thank N.O.L.S. and Leave No Trace for this one. Nothing works…nothing works… when you fail to have the tools, supplies, support group, mental space, research, emergency phone numbers, or (in my case) backpack full of snacks and electrolyte enhanced water you need in order to accomplish the task at hand. If you don’t plan ahead and prepare, you will fail, and probably in short order. If you’re planning to do a Spring cleanse and must take bologna, Gruyere cheese, crusty loaves of French bread, Diet Coke, Haagen Dazs, mocha chip Frappuccinos, and Two Buck Chuck out of your daily routine, you need to be ready to fill it with something else. (A lot of nice lean steak, avocados, herbal tea, and greens if you work with me.) It might not be easy, but at least you’ll be ready.
You need your mind and body to come together to the thing. One is not much good without the other. It’s hard to start triathlon training if you have conditioned your muscles, but you think you suck and can’t do it. It’s also hard to start eating greens three times a day if you are psyched, but you hate the taste and your belly can’t digest them. Both sides need tending. When both are tended, they inch closer and begin to work together, as intended.
You need to be honest: it’s okay to be ready and still be scared. We can’t see the future, damn it. I try all the time and it’s never worked. We want to know ahead of time if it’s going to work out, if we’re going to fall, if all of our striving was worth the pain, and if we are going to get the results we want. We want to know if we’ll ski the black run without eating powder, if gluten was really the culprit, if we really can be thin and gorgeous. The fact is we can’t know ahead of time because the forest is dark and the path is sometimes obscured. Not knowing is scary and makes us feel insecure and tentative. We don’t like to fail, and if we don’t ever try, we won’t. We can just keep mucking along, settling for whatever mediocre or painful situation today holds. Or we can suck it up, be brave, and try, even though it’s scary. I think I know which route is better. I think you know, too.
At the end of the day, we all have stuff we want to change. We all have little goals we’d like to achieve whether it’s debt reduction, making amends with family members, or not eating so many damned chips every day. The fact is that humans– the human mind, body, and spirit– have the capacity and ability to change, even as we age and “become more set in our ways”. Guess what? You can change your health at 34. You can change your mind at 61. You can change your body at 75. You can start skiing blacks at almost-37. You might even like it.
Lately I’ve been talking with a lot of people who want to lose weight. So many, in fact, I dreamed last night that my husband kept weighing me on a giant doctor’s scale and I kept coming up about 20 pounds heavier than I actually am. We’re obsessed with weight, numbers, and the ever-cursed scale– even though these measures don’t really tell us very much at all about health, well-being, or even body make-up (constitution). I not only try to distract my clients from weight, numbers, and the scale with magic tricks and smoke screens; I try (and try) to re-program them with other (incredibly complex) measures such as how one feels in her own skin, how much energy she has, how one looks to herself, and how one’s clothing fits and feels. These aren’t even always great measures, as my jeans are the tightest after a long ski day, when I’m at my most fit, happy, and energized. Any measure can break down.
I’m here today to (hopefully) throw the brakes on some awful misdeeds, misdirections, neigh, lies we as a culture have been fed for several decades. Somewhere between the food industry, cheap crops, even cheaper sweeteners, fast-growing animals, processed foods, stellar marketing schemes by food companies, prevalence of fast food chains, we Americans have been told things about “health” and “healthy eating” that simply aren’t true. The proof is in the proverbial pudding– and we are that pudding. If what was being told to us about how to be healthy, thin, and well over the past, say, 35ish years were true, then most of us would be healthy, thin, and well. As it stands, most of us are anything but. In fact, most of us are quite the opposite and have the bodies and medical bills to prove it. It’s a sad story, but our the lies, plus incalculable elements of our lifestyles have duped us into a tight corner. It seems like there’s no real, good way out. There is, but it’s surely not as easy to get out of this corner as it was to get into it. You can’t get out with Nutter Butters, Lipton Noodle packs, and two-all-beef-patties-special sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun. No way.
The way out takes the truth and the truth takes time. The truth is the real stuff. Real food, real information, real health, really long walks on the beach, real conversations about what went wrong in the first place, real decisions (hard ones) about what needs to change in a person’s life if he or she decides that health is more important than x, y, or z. That shit ain’t easy, as I like to say. It’s not a pill, a program, or a diet plan. But it does work.
Here’s a few observations about weight and what it really takes to change it. Most people have a “natural weight,” a natural body type that their body will gravitate towards under optimal conditions (no stress, optimal sleep, the best food on the planet, perfect relationships, great health). I like to see that body type when I look at a person, imagine him or her there, and work from that place. Here are more solid principles to which I adhere *when trying to help a person.
- Fad diets don’t work. I’m not kidding. You can hope for this and search for it endlessly, like looking for the end of a rainbow, and you can waste your entire life in the process. It’s your choice. OR, you could spend that time facing the truth that there is no magic bean to take that is going to melt away your fat and turn you into Angelina Jolie forever. Even when something does melt away fat, it won’t last. Yesterday I had someone tell me, “I don’t want to do anything that I can’t sustain for the rest of my life. I can’t drink shakes for the rest of my life.” What a %$#@! relief.
- Eating real fat doesn’t make us fat. Now “real fat” does not include Dairy Queen Blizzards, “natural” potato chips twice a day, or frozen fish sticks from your grocer’s freezer. Those are really fattening, but they’re not real, whole foods. We get very confused when thinking about this. The real fats I’m talking about that don’t turn into blubber on your belly or chunks on your ass are fish (mmmm, Norwegian salmon…), eggs, almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds/oil, pumpkin seeds, coconut/coconut oil (my favorite!), clean meats– even red– gasp (as organic and antibiotic/hormone free as you can afford!), olives/oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, fish oil, and, of course, avocados. Guess what? Even full-fat (that’s 4%) dairy goes here. No more low-fat, no-fat nonsense. These foods, being closer to nature, are full of fat, but great for your health and your body.
- Calories-in-calories-out is not the whole story. In fact, it’s only one small chapter, and not a very good one. “Diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise!” This is the battle cry of the calories-in-calories-out camp and has been for decades. Doctors have spouted it off right before we leave their offices, still feeling slightly crappy and weird. It seems logical. It seems like it should work. For a few, stable, healthy people, it probably does. But for the masses, especially the overweight masses, not so much. If the blood sugar is out of balance (which is probably is); if inflammation is present (which is probably is); if the endocrine system is out-of-whack (which is almost certainly is); if there are emotional and psychological elements at play (which there are)– then the calories-in-calories-out prescription is simply not going to cut it. You can work your chubby little bootie off on that hamster machine at the gym till the cows come home and you can eat Yoplait Light and Special K to hack those calories in half. Hell, you can really forfeit all that is sacred and drink Diet Coke. But you’re not going to lose any weight worth writing home about.
- Therefore, you have to look at your whole health, not just losing weight. Bummer, right? No pill popping, no diet plan, no Jenny Craig or whatever else. You can’t just remove unsightly fat; you have to fix the entire mothership. I’m not kidding. It’s really not going to work if your entire system is utterly out of sorts (and it is). I’ve been told by reliable sources, sources who have struggled with their weight and their bodies their entire lives, sources who have “tried everything,” that none of it works. None of the plans, programs, or pills. So what’s the problem? The problem (I know) is that the truth takes time, focus, and time, and focus. And then there’s the next thing…
- And, therefore, you must, you must, you must face your closet full of nasty little skeletons. Without the emotional/psychological piece in place, you probably won’t get anywhere, sorry. I can’t get any step closer to understanding or healing my seizure disorder without facing the scary stuff that got me there in the first place. Why or how should it be any different with being overweight? Or with having heart disease? Or cancer? It’s not necessarily that emotions caused the issue, but it’s a hard fact that they are interwoven with it, and that facing what it has to offer sheds light on how a person got to where he or she is. Unwillingness to go to those dark places keeps you, well, stuck. So…noticing the events that happened around the time of bodily change, declining health, or greatest weight gain can be incredibly insightful in the entire process.
- Healthy skepticism about the food industry and your grocery store can light a fire for healthy living. No more “what I don’t know won’t hurt me,” because it’s just not true. No more fingers in the ears. No more covering your eyes. Let’s bring it all out in the light. The more you know about your food, your body, and your health, the better off you are. Me not looking at my bank statements does nothing to make my finances better; it only makes me ignorant and irresponsible. You not looking at your food and health…well, you get the idea.
- Oh, and eat your greens. Lots of ‘em, all kinds, all day, every day. I had to say it.
“How is this a prescription for weight loss?” you might be asking. How is it not? These are the long, hard steps that must be taken if you could ever hope to arrive at that natural, optimal body type I was talking about. If you don’t face the truth about the deeper, darker bits, then the bigger, fluffier, more obvious bits aren’t going anywhere. Who knows? You might even just find health and peace of mind along the way and get happy in your own skin. Who knows? You might never look at a scale or count a calorie ever again.
*Clinicians Note: All I can do is be a nutrition consultant and “try to help a person” achieve their goals, using the tools, information, and knowledge I possess. I can’t make anyone do anything or be someone they are not. In this, I like to be a support, a cheerleader (yes, you got it), and a structure for moving down a path toward health.
I’m really lucky. This past January I got a brand new sister and she’s pretty awesome. She’s a lot prettier, sweeter, and nicer-smelling than my brother whom she married, but I am thankful for them both. Recently my new sister started asking me what she could do to clean up her diet. She was feeling a little achy and gunky and was starting to plan for the future, run a few times a week, and feel slightly competitive with her new hubby. I’m not exactly sure what all the motives were, the fact is she asked me! How I love sharing all my cabinets-full-of-information with an interested party, especially if I like the party.
Needless to say, I did not jump into flax seed crackers, seaweed salad, or kombucha right away. I had to strategize and plan my attack.
The thing was, she didn’t need an attack. At all. This girl was ready for change, and it turns out that the most powerful, effective, dynamic catalyst for change is just wanting it for yourself. She was ten steps ahead just by choosing what she wanted and figuring out what it would take to get there. I was a mere accessory.
We e-mailed about sugar. And dairy. And cleaning products. And processed food. At the end of all the options of where to start, the bottom line was that she would need to decide what would work for her. She needed to pick something relatively easy and treat it like a little scientific experiment, then get used to it and assess the results before moving on to the next experiment. I knew it was overwhelming– lots info about ‘toxins’ that she would have to pace herself with to find results. But then she had some Skittles.
“…every time I eat something with lots of sugar (like yummy delicious Skittles) I get a huge disgusting mucus ball in my throat that lingers for a couple of hours. I assumed that this was a normal reaction to consuming sugary stuff, but I’m starting to think it’s not. I brought it up with *Larry* the other day and he looked at me like I was crazy. (0_o) <<< his face. Anyway, I’m on the lookout for any other changes! I know one thing is for sure, the fact that I’m not consuming all of those crappy calories on a day to day basis is going to be good for me and my waist line in the long run! “
The Skittles smacked her right in the face– yet she was looking and listening for it. She chose to pay attention to her food and body. She opened her eyes, pulled her fingers out of her ears, and gained awareness.
The next day she brought this newfound awareness to work. My new sister works for the school district in a job she loves. Great people, autonomy, open workspace, and a full snack drawer all to herself. That day she decided to clean out her snack drawer. Here’s what happened:
“The mac and cheese was an easy choice to get rid of because the list of ingredients on the back is longer than my arm (!!!)…But the soup?! Sad face! I used to be so proud of myself for having those little campbell’s creamy tomato “soup at hand” things. I would drink those like with a little sandwich and be so proud of myself. KRIS. The freaking THIRD ingredient on my beloved tomato soups was high fructose corn syrup. What the fuck? And so I turned to my chicken noodle soup thinking it’d be better and the list of ingredients was crazy long with a bunch of stuff I couldn’t pronounce. Do you know what the kicker for me was though? The sodium! It said that there was 35% of your daily value of sodium, but OMG then it said there were TWO servings in that little cup! HOLY HELL! That’s so crazy! So I gathered all of it up in my arms and dropped it off in the break room. Anyway, that was a mini breakthrough for me. I never thought something so seemingly benign like little cups of soup could be filled with that many chemicals? I don’t know what else to call those things on the ingredients list besides chemicals.”
Her real story is the best. She unfolded this narrative by herself and that’s what makes it so powerful. There small act of reading food labels suddenly became an enlightening experience.
Once upon a time I had a similar enlightenment. I prided myself on Lipton noodle packets, Yoplait yogurt, fat free sour cream, Quaker oatmeal packets, Snackwell’s, and Wheat Thins. Marketed as healthy and wholesome (good American foods!) these were my regular diet. Seriously, Snackwell’s cookies, known as a dieter’s choice, have high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient. A famous Princeton University study links HFCS over sucrose (table sugar) to obesity. Wheat Thins, Triscuits, and Ritz Crackers all have HFCS and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (check the slang). Nice.
The only answer to, “Why?!” I can come up with is, you got it, m-o-n-e-y. It’s cheap to make and tasty to eat. What is American than that? Never mind that it makes us sick and fat. We’ll just deal with that later. Or not.
The moral of our stories is that you get to choose. Really, you do. You don’t have to keep drinking cases of techni-color soda and eating “food” less wholesome than horse manure. Really, you don’t. You can start the wake-up process whenever you like. It might not be pleasant, like when your foot wakes up in the movie theater. But if you never wake up, you’ll never really walk out into the sun and really live.
References: The Snackwell Efect, Wikipedia
Thanks to: my sister– yay!; all the shitty food I used to eat–boo.
I’m originally from Texas. We have three kinds of food there: Tex-Mex, BBQ, and seafood. All three, eaten in the correct proportions, with enough free refills on soda, for a long enough period of time, will get you one thing. Fat. That’s cool, though, because you’ll be so happy on your way there.
My husband is from not-Texas. He’s from a nether-region “up north” where (from my perspective) there are no definitive regional foods. He speaks of boiled meats with no flavor, really bad pizza joints, and, of course, Hotdish.
What is Hotdish, you ask? Well, that’s a fine question. The answer is, after many times of hearing the answer, I’m still not sure. I think you have to be from Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or one of the Dakotas to fully understand– and appreciate– exactly what Hot Dish is. For you, reader, I will give it my best Texarado shot. After all, my father hails from South Dakota and my maternal great-grandparents from Michigan. Ya, shore, you becha.
*Hotdish Disclaimer. Please let it be known now that there is nothing, whatsoever, sexy about Hot Dish. It is a meal built on economy, warmth, and sheer mathematics. It is often found in church basements for potlucks, after-funeral parties, and on tables surrounded by many offspring. There is no way to make a meal centered around Hot Dish romantic or a prelude to anything, shall we say, animal, other than the consumption of Hotdish itself.
Now that’s out of the way, we can get down to business.
First, Hotdish is sort-of like a casserole, mostly because of shape, form, and consistency. Both are made and served (wow!) in the requisite 9×13 clear glass Pyrex dish every girl gets on her way out the door to college– or every couple receives from Aunt Marge and Uncle Dick upon marriage. Because of this, pretty much anyone can make Hotdish.
Next, Hotdish is meant to be a receptacle for odds, ends, leftovers, scraps, and all that stuff in your pantry, fridge, and freezer that is about to expire but you just don’t know what to do with. You could go donate it at the food shelter, but who the hell wants to go out in the snow? It is also a good place to hide undesirable canned veggies or frost-bitten meaty bits.
Third, Hotdish requires a) a binder– something gooey and pasty to keep it all stuck together. The most traditionally-used northern binder is Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, what Garrison Keillor refers to as “the Lutheran Binder”. There’s a lot of cream-of-something soups. There’s also Velveeta “cheese.” I’ve used all these in the past. I don’t recommend any of them now that I’ve studied nutrition. Sorry Lutherans. And b) a crumby topping such as panko breadcrumbs, cornflakes, those weird little onion things, or even tater tots. I won’t use them, but I dare you to.
Fourth, because of the less-than-optimal contents, I believe you’re meant to (as my husband said) “bake the shit out of it” until it all tastes like really hot processed cheese. That way you can’t taste lima beans, old sausage, or creamy mushrooms. All that happens is you get really full and really warm and have a lot of Hotdish left over for tomorrow.
Finally, as you can see, you don’t need a recipe for Hotdish. There isn’t one. If you’re one of those recipe people, good luck making Hotdish this winter because you won’t be able to. You’ll just stand in your kitchen in front of an empty Pyrex dish, wringing your hands and opening and closing the fridge over and over. It’s no way to live, but it happens.
If you want to make Hotdish, need a recipe, and would like to avoid processed foods (including cream-of-anything soup), here’s an impromptu one that’s in the over right this very minute. I snuck the idea from some other place online, but changed all the names to protect the innocent.
1 large-ish spaghetti squash, halved, baked and spaghettied
1 roast chicken, boned and diced (I get a pre-made one at Whole Foods!)
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 large onion, diced and sauteed till slightly brown
1 Anaheim or other pepper, diced OR 1 small can diced green chilis or jalapenos
3 cups fresh spinach, all chopped up
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (don’t get crappy stuff, okay?) OR cheese-like substance such as Daiya — divided in half
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and chili powder, to taste
Chop up all this stuff and stir it around in a great, big bowl. Use only 1/2 the cheese in this process. Dump it into your 9×13 casserole dish and spread it out. Top with remaining cheese or cheese-like substance. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
As you can see, I forewent both the “binder” and the “crumby topping,” mostly because they bind and crumb up our insides. Get my drift? I also replaced either potatoes, pasta, egg noodles, or god-knows-what-else with a nice, clean-burning spaghetti squash. You’ll feel so tidy after you eat this meal that you might just make yourself a pumpkin pie. I did.
*Hotdish comments, corrections, recipes, and stories are welcome below!
Fall is my favorite. Despite the fact that I’m a Spring baby, despite the fact that my favorite color is new-leaf-green, despite the fact that it is the harbinger of winter– fall is my favorite. I think it’s because I grew up in a land of no fall, where the humidity and heat of summer lingered on till Christmas and the leaves didn’t shed till February when the new blossoms pushed them off. Now that I get to enjoy fall, I really enjoy it.
Part of my autumn-love is about the food it brings. The warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and chiles; the sweet fruits like apples and pears; the last of the kale and spinach; and, of course, squash. Squash everything till your eyes pop out and belly explodes.
Here are the two recipes from our first fall meal, eaten two nights ago, with the heater purring and a movie going. The chowder is our family favorite, adapted from a free Williams Sonoma booklet I picked up at their pretty little store eons ago called “A well-planned Thanksgiving.” The dessert (kind of a rarity around here because, well, it’s hard to get motivated) I made up, but it’s inspired by Elana Amsterdam, a fascinating cook and baker whose innovative recipes you can find at elanaspantry.com.
4 bacon slices, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (I warn against using turkey bacon!)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh sage OR 1/2 tsp sage powder
4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 large russet OR 4 medium Yukon gold OR 6-8 small red potatoes (only peel russets), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 c white wine (if you don’t have this, be sure to sub in 1/4-1/2 cup of some other liquid, even water)
4 c low sodium chicken broth (this is 1 box. I prefer Imagine or Pacific brand.)
1 c filtered water
4 c (32 oz) butternut squash puree (this is 1 large butternut squash baked at 400 for about an hour, then scooped out and pureed in food processor or blender)
1/2 c canned, full-fat coconut milk (use organic heavy cream or full fat yogurt if you like!)
In a large Dutch oven (or stock pot) over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. // Add onion, celery, bay leaf, sage, salt, and pepper to bacon grease. Cook, stirring occasionally, till veggies are soft, anywhere from 6-12 minutes. // Stir in potato cubes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. // Add the wine and simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, for 1-2 minutes. // Add the broth and water and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer till the potatoes are done. Make sure the potatoes are done! // Add the butternut squash puree and bacon and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk or cream and adjust salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf. // Garnish with a sage leaf. // *Note: If you are preparing this ahead of time, do everything except the coconut milk/cream. When you are ready to serve/eat, heat the soup back up, then add the milk/cream.
Autumn Crumble by krisliane
4 pears, any variety, peels on, cored and thinly sliced
2 apples, any variety, peels on, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon, or more to taste
Put these all in a bowl and stir to coat the fruit. Arrange in a 9×13 baking dish. I ‘grease’ my baking sheets and dishes with a small chunk of cold coconut oil.
1/4 c coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Melt these together.
3/4 c almond meal
1/2 c walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/3 c finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Combine these together in a second bowl and squish with your (clean) hands until it begins to clump together in little pea-sized balls. If you have trouble with clumping, add a little more coconut oil. Crumble this mixture over the fruit. // Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or till bubbly. // I serve with vanilla bean coconut-based ice cream on top. You do whatever you want– just enjoy!
I’d love to hear if you make either or both of these recipes, how you alter them to suit your needs, and whether or not it all works.
During my month of discovering Paleo and eating as much like a caveman as a twenty-first century woman can and still function in society, little did I know I was creating two Paleo monsters right under my own roof. As I exited my month of mostly meat and veg, my husband began saying things like, “I think I’ll keep doing this…forever,” and his five year old started saying things like, “I don’t eat rice anymore,” never requesting cereal or oatmeal at breakfast…only sausage. And pickles.
So, I’ve got two type O meat-monkeys on my hands while sometimes I’d just like a nice bowl of brown rice, avocado, and black beans. No big deal. Or is it?
What has begun to happen is that, regardless of each of our individual eating needs, we all end up crossing food boundaries we’re better off not crossing. When I go all Paleo all the time, I get bloated and gain weight and need to actually act like a cavewoman for it to play nicely with my metabolism and physique. When my hubby deviates from Paleo, he gains weight, gets snotty, and feels all crappy. So, not having rice in the house isn’t that great– and having corn in the house isn’t that great either.
I’ve found myself making meals that my meat monkeys love, even though the same meals make my stomach sink a bit. As I write, I’m cooking up some dee-licious meatballs to be served in a tomatoey sauce over spaghetti squash. It’s tasty. It’s Paleo-tastic. My people love this meal. For me, it leaves a lot to be desired.
We just finished eating. I feel meh, like I need a shower and an apple. My husband, and I quote, says, “I think I could eat this everyday,” then, “Wow, that’s like power dinner for me!” The kid just asks for more meatballs, not minding their inner pinkness a bit. Enough said. If you eat Paleo-style and you like meatballs, hopefully you’ll enjoy this recipe.
For the spaghetti squash:
Buy a nice looking spaghetti squash, easier to find going into the fall. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half from stem to butt. Lay it face down on a rimmed cookie sheet in an inch-or-so of water. Bake for 50 minutes, then flip face-up. Bake for ten more minutes. Allow to cool, then scrape out guts with a fork. It should come out in stringy strands, looking much like spaghetti but, you know, squash.
For the meatballs:
Combine in a large mixing bowl 1 lb grass fed ground beef, 2 eggs, 1/3 c almond meal, 2 Tbsp finely chopped onion, 2 cloves squashed garlic, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 5 leaves chopped basil. Moosh this around with your (clean) hands till it’s all combined. If it seems too wet and yucky, add some almond flour until it’s squishy and sticks together, but not wet and soggy. These are technical cooking terms. Roll into little balls and cook in heated coconut oil, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.
For the sauce:
Use any red sauce you like. I keep it simple by combining olive oil, garlic, two cans organic whole peeled tomatoes (cut up), sea salt, and balsamic vinegar or red wine. Heat through and top with fresh basil. You can also buy something in a jar if you want something simpler or blanch and peel your own garden-grown tomatoes, cook your sauce, then can the rest and store it with your peaches and jam in the basement, if your that kind of person I don’t tolerate very well. It’s up to you.
I’m sure this is exactly how Paleolithic people ate! Assemble all three and salt as needed. I advise serving this with a large green salad or chasing it with some chocolate and fruit but, if you’re like me, a small bowl of this will stuff you to capacity. If you’re not like me, eat up and enjoy your power meal!