Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bird Fat

I am unafraid of animal fats. Why? Well, for one they don't really cause any lipid issues on a low carb diet. In fact, they raise the amount of good cholesterol. For another, I don't really buy into the whole lipid hypothesis of heart disease, in it's present form. Read Gary Taubes "Good Calories, Bad Calories" if you want a good overview of the source of my skepticism. This topic has become dogmatic though. Many people have invested their careers, reputations and fortunes in promoting the idea that fat is bad or animal proteins are harmful to humans. Arguing with them is like trying to use science to prove God does or does not exist. It just doesn't work. But everyone is free to choose their phat philosophy. And my philosophy is that fatliness is next to godliness.

I absolutely love duck and goose fat and I cook those birds just to rob them of their fat. It is great tasting fat. Veggies cooked in it are just amazing tasting. Also these birds eat a lot of grasses and probably insects, both are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, so it wouldn't surprise me if duck and goose are higher in those fatty acids. But outside of my suspicion they're very healthful forms of fat, I think they're vastly delicious.

Do yourself a favor, roast a duck or goose and save its fat for cooking!

Here's a recipe that should get you started, I use this method and it works great. I skim the fat from the pan and save it.

Crisp Roast Duck Recipe

Steak Tutorial

I was steak cooking newbie but found some good tips online and finally made a little tutorial about how Nancy Does Steak!

Step 1:
Preheat a cast-iron skillet on high heat for a few minutes. Don't need to add any oil or anything. Turn the oven onto 375.

Step 2:
Prepare the steak. I "butter" my steak with goose fat (see ingredients picture below) and then use coarse kosher salt and cracked pepper, and plenty of both. The reason kosher salt is necessary is that it has big spikey crystals that will stick to the meat better than table or sea salt and that helps the meat form a crust (according to Alton Brown). If you don't have goose fat you could use another fat with a high smoke point like peanut oil. Don't use butter though, it burns easily.
(Look at all that goose fat! I had that whole container totally full from cooking one goose.)

Step 3:
Plop your "buttered" steak into the pan and let it sear on each side for 2-3 minutes. On this steak I went for 3 minutes. Turn on your vent fans, open your windows! You might want to use a splatter screen if you used a lot of fat.

Step 4:
Turn it over to the other side and sear it. About the time you're done searing your oven should be up to temperature (at least mine is).

Step 5:
Lift the pan off the stove-top (use a pot holder, it is HOT!) and put it into the oven.

How long to cook? It seems to depend on the thickness of the meat and the size of the steak. This one was 9 minutes to be pretty rare. You can learn to judge the doneness by poking the steak with a finger. If it feels mushy and soft, it is very rare. The firmer it is, the more done it is. I often like leaving it a little rarer because I eat half of the steak, next day I re-heat the leftovers and put it on a big green salad and I don't want it overcooked from the reheat.

Step 6:
Let the steak rest for 3 minutes and tip the platter so the juices run off. You want that "crust" you made while searing to stay as crunchy as possible. I'd suggest using a bigger plate than I did.

Optional Step 7:
Throw something like spinach or another vegetable in the pan and use the left over heat to cook it. You'll get vegetable mixed with yummy fat, salt and pepper with that lovely steak flavoring.

Step 8:
Enjoy! There's a side of avocado with mayonnaise if you're wondering about that green/white blob.

Everything I know about cooking steak came from these two sources:

Guide to cooking perfect steak
Alton Brown's steak method (video)

Limited food selections but not bored

I don't get bored on a limited selection of food, or at least on the set of foods I currently eat. I have a suspicion that what people usually identify as boredom really isn't boredom. At least that was true for me. I get a kind of restlessness sometimes where I will want something I can't have, like salted nuts or peanut butter or worse.

I know I have plenty of foods I like, but they're not the foods I'm presently craving. If you asked me previously to identify what the source of my discontent is, I'd say "I'm bored with these foods". But on further reflection, I know that isn't right. I love the foods I have available to eat and at meal times I eat them happily. But I'm hungry and hunger is good sauce. Everything tastes wonderful, I'm fully satisfied and contented after a meal and food is far from my mind. Absolutely no boredom with mealtimes.

But come the snacking hour (between bed time and dinner time) that restlessness sends me scurrying to the pantry looking for forbidden eats. That is not boredom... it is cravings.

I think really people normally eat very limited diets. But they're not aware of the limitations so they don't pay them any mind. However when they go on a diet, they're suddenly quite aware of their new limitations and mentally that makes them uncomfortable and they look for escape clauses.

I've given up foods for 2 reasons. One is that some make me ill like gluten, chocolate, nuts, seeds (*cry*) and dairy. The other list is ones that make me fat. The fat ones seem to set off binges so bringing them back "in moderation" just isn't going to happen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Coconut Lemon Mousse

Ok, this one is super easy! Goes together fast but needs some time in the fridge to set up. I don't have exact measurements for sweetener, I tried about 3/4 cup of sweetening power and that was too much. So we'll guess, and please taste and adjust.

1 Can of Coconut milk (mine was 15 oz)
1/3 Cup of lemon juice (fresh is always best, but sometimes I cheat and use bottled)
Lemon Zest [optional]
1/3 - 1/2 Cup of sugar (or sweetener to that equivalency)
2 tsp of gelatin

Soften the gelatin on a little water in a bowl.

Microwave or cook the coconut milk until it gets hot, but you don't need to boil it. Add everything to the hot coconut milk and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

You can pour into little bowls or just keep it in one large one.

I like to serve this on hot raspberries.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Egg Crepes with Berries

The last couple of mornings I've been eating egg crepes, doused in butter (ghee if you're really sensitive to casein), and drowned in slightly sweetened blackberries or raspberries.

What you need

2 Eggs
1 non-stick pan
Cooking oil
Frozen or fresh berries
[optional] A bit of sweetener, I use liquid splenda.

In a small non-stick pan I add some cooking oil and let it get hot.

The berries are easy. If they're frozen, pop them into the microwave for 30-45 seconds until they're heated and juicy. Add in sweetener and mix.

Meanwhile I break 2 eggs into a bowl and add a few Tablespoons of water, to thin the egg. I beat it very well with a fork. Then pour enough egg into the pan to just cover the bottom. I let it cook until fairly well set-up. Flip it over and just let it cook for a few seconds on the other side. Flip onto your plate and top with butter and berries.

If can imagine that if you weren't completely paleo with the dairy stuff, some sugar-free whipped cream would be delightful, or even some creme fraiche.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mostly Paleo

Hello world!

I'm mostly paleo. What's that mean? Well, it means I follow a more-or-less Paleo diet, similar to the one in Loren Cordain's book, "The Paleo Diet", or perhaps the purist plan of "Protein Power". My interest in this form of diet came from my weight loss attempts on Atkins. I'm not new to Atkins or low carb dieting by any means. Back in the 1970's I was a teenager and lost some weight on Atkins, when it was pretty new and my metabolism was new and shiny.

Later on, in my late 20's or early 30's I got interested in low carb dieting again and actually founded a Usenet group dedicated to the topic. Then I got swept away in the low fat craze and actually became vegetarian for awhile. I got much fatter and my health started to deteriorate, although I didn't really link it to my diet at the time. Meanwhile Dr. Edell, Dr. McDougall and others were saying you couldn't get fat if you didn't eat fat... yeah, right.

As I started to get into my late 30's, early 40's I really felt like things were rapidly going downhill. I had terrible blood sugar swings, gained weight incredibly fast, my intestines were giving me problems that were getting worse all the time, my thryoid went bananas (Graves Disease) and I was starting to get arthritic. It just seemed like I was way to young to be suffering all this. And I was getting pretty fat. So I decided to return to low carb and bought the newer Atkins book and started up again. This was probably in 2003.

Low Carb Goes High Tech

This time many companies had reengineered a lot of foods to make them low carb. For instance, bread became super high fiber to make it low carb. The other tool they used was to increase the amount of wheat protein used in bread, that would decrease the number of carbs. This protein is called "gluten". Well, I happily nommed down on these breads, sometimes I ate "low-carb" bars, I enjoyed the low-carb milk and ate plenty of cheese and other lovely things... but I was having horrible problems with my intestines and it was getting worse all the time.

Sometimes I'd be running to the bathroom 15 times a day. Other times I'd be seized in the night with terrible diarrhea and intestinal cramping. I'd spend hours in agony sitting on the toilet. I figured I had IBS and didn't really pursue it with a doctor. Not only that but I my arthritis was getting a lot worse. I seemed to be having arthritis is most joints and also horrible muscle spasms. Eventually I stumbled on gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, as a possible explanation of my symptoms. I got rid of all sources of dietary gluten and low and behold, my diarrhea cleared up in 2 days.

Shortly after going gluten free (GF) I got a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that, in some people, turns cartiledge to bone. I'm lucky in that in me, it just makes me hurt everywhere. My rhuematologist put me on a relatively mild drug, Sulfasalazine, and eventually my symptoms went away.

But I didn't know if it was because of eliminating gluten, increasing my Vitamin D3 intake, or the drug. About 6 months to a year after going gluten free I was feeling really good with the joint and muscle pain. The intestinal issues were much better, I wasn't living on the toilet and the cramping was gone. Although I still seemed to be getting reoccuring diarrhea and sometimes constipation. Other things that troubled me were a constant post-nasal drip and stringy ropes of mucus that would crawl down my throat sometimes. Gross, I know!

So on January 1st a few years ago, I decided to give dairy products the boot and see what would happen. I had a last binge on dairy (suffered with horrible gas from it) and quit. Dairy was harder for me to quit than the grains were. I have always loved dairy products. But I must admit, the idea of quitting was worse than the actual quitting.

Anyway, I felt like I had another health improvement quitting dairy. Sinus issues really improved, intestines felt a bit better too. I tried going back on dairy and immediately started to get muscle spasms. I thought it was perhaps coincidental but I've attempted it a few additional times since and they do seem to come back almost every time.

I'm not as fanatical about dairy avoidance as I am gluten but overall I feel like removing dairy products has helped me a lot.

Well, now I'm doing much better. Gut is doing very well, not perfect but much better. My arthritis issues are really well controlled. My rhuemy is suggesting that Sulfasalazine will be in my life forever. Unfortunately it was giving me macrocytic anemia and I wasn't happy about that... even taking folic acid supplements wasn't helping with that.

So I decided to try to stop the Sulfasalazine and see what would happen.

My symptoms did NOT return! I went a good year without any issues and believed it was due to the diet. However, I did recently have a flare and I'm dealing with some neck and shoulder pain. Taking 1/2 a naprosyn every other day seems to make it bearable though.

So, after going GF and casein free (CF, i.e. dairy free) and being low carb to lose weight (and preserve my weight loss of about 45-50 pounds) I decided that the diet I should probably be following is a Paleo diet. The philosophy here is that we should stick to eating foods we have had the longest evolutionary time eating. Foods that are new to us came to us with farming, which happened over the last 10,000 years (much more recent in some parts of the world). Now, living in N. America I don't have access to exactly what my paleo ancestors ate and I'm not really all that interested in trying to be 100% accurate. I'm always rather corrupted in my tastes in that I LOVE sweets, I drink coffee and there are other non-paleo things I'm just not prepared to give up. I think I get most of the benefit of the paleo diet while still making it convienent and fun and very tasty.

So, this is a blog about my way of eating. Perhaps others can see how easy and delicious it can be to eat a very healthy diet. And even one that restricts foods quit drastically can be very tasty.

Other Food Intolerances

As time goes on I have found I have other foods intolerances, which I've indentified by using an elimination diet. It turns out chocolate, nuts, seeds, even sesame oil, were giving me intestinal problems. I'm not sure why I've developed so many sensitivities to so many foods, perhaps leaky gut or something explains it. Or perhaps I'm missing some crucial enzyme or gut bacteria. But I am staying away from those foods too, at least for now.

What do I Eat?

I eat meat, fish, poultry, vegetables (only low-starch ones 99.95% of the time), spices, low sugar fruits (berries), eggs, very modest amounts of soy and coconut products. That might not sound like much but if you look at the cruisine of Southeast Asia, that's pretty much their entire menu too, except for rice. So I look to SE Asia for inspiration and got a Thai cookbook with very easy recipes.

My staples include: Chicken, tomatoes, broccoli, many herbs and spices, spinach, onions, garlic, beef, pork, salmon, tuna, salad greens, cabbage, brussel sprouts, olives, olive oil, rice vinegar, avocados in mass quantities, Splenda, erythritol, xylitol. To drink I have been indulging in Koolaid sweetened with liquid splenda called Sweetzfree.

To the Paleo purists out there that are writhing in horror over my use of non-caloric sweeteners, yes, I know you're offended. But I feel that to make the diet enjoyable and fun, I need to have something to use. And whatever harm, which hasn't been proven reputably, it probably can't be worse than the harm caused by using sugar or fructose based sweeteners (like Agave Syrup).

So with all that said. The rest of this blog is going to be recipes and menu ideas and occasionally newsy things about the Paleo diet.