Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paleo Fish Taco Salad

This week, I made a variant on my friend (and former boss and fellow low-carber) Brad’s famous Fish Tacos recipe.

I turned it into a salad. But, if you eat soft corn tortillas, I can only imagine how delicious this recipe would be in them. It was amazing just as a salad.

I used tilapia fillets. Dipped them in egg wash, dusted them with some flax and almond flour and then fried them on the stove top in coconut oil.

I lined my salad bowl with spinach (because that’s what I had at home) added the fish, then topped it with shredded Nappa cabbage, diced red onion, diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, and squeezed some fresh lime juice over the top.

I also mixed a bit of mayo (unfortunately it was not the homemade variety) and hot sauce and drizzled it over the top as well.

I was so happy with the way this salad turned out. I'll definitely be working it into the regular rotation. (However, the leftover fish doesn't reheat very well ... just FYI.)

To your good health,
Allison

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coo-Coo for Coconut Oil

Just a quick post tonight about coconut oil.

It's a staple on the paleo diet and has lots of healthy saturated fat. It's solid at room temperature, but it becomes liquid above 76 degrees. It's hearty, too, and holds up to high heat. I actually used it to make deep-fried sweet potato chips this week. (SO GOOD!) It also works well for frying eggs and sauteing vegetables.

In the past, I blogged about using Lou Ana's coconut oil. That was before I learned about the difference in brands. You want coconut oil that is extra virgin and unrefined. (Unprocessed and unbleached.) When I discovered that Lou Ana's didn't live up to this criteria, I found a brand that does.

I've been using Tropical Traditions (and there are lots of other great extra virgin coconut oil brands out there too) for a few weeks now, and I can tell a huge difference in the taste. There's even a big difference in how it looks:



Aside from being great for cooking, the oil has many other great benefits too. It's supposed to be great for conditioning hair and moisturizing skin ... I'll have to do a little experiment and report back on that. There's even some information out there that suggests coconut oil can help halt or even reverse Alzheimer's Disease. (See here and here).

That's all for tonight. I just realized I noted using Lou Ana's coconut oil in a previous post, which was before I learned about its quality. Now I know, and so do you. :)

To your good health,
Allison




Sunday, April 15, 2012

Adventures in Lard Land

I made lard this weekend. Yep, lard.

Saturated fats have been demonized for years. I was scared of "artery-clogging-saturated-fat" for a long time. I think most of America was ... and still is. After watching Fat Head, digging through the research of Mike and Mary Dan Eades (that link is a good one, read it) and reading some of Gary Taube's work, I overcame my trepidation. More than that, actually. I embraced saturated fats in my diet.

So, I began buying lard at Walmart instead of Crisco or other synthetic "vegetable" oils ... until I learned that the lard sold at most stores is hydrogenated (which creates a trans-fat by product -- the exact thing I was trying to avoid). Being hydrogenated gives the lard a long shelf life, so I see why they do it. I just didn't want to eat it anymore.

So, I picked up some pre-ordered pig fat from a rancher from my local farmers market. All of his meat (chicken, beef and pork) is pasture raised and grass-fed and- finished. This means the animals graze all day in an open pasture and aren't fed grains, so their meat and fat is higher in omega-3 fats. (This is the good kind of fat). The fat in traditional grain-fed animals produces omega-6 fat, which is in abundance in our standard American diet and also why people take fish oil supplements (omega-3 supplements).

But enough of the context for why I did this. Here's what I did.

Picked up 5 lbs fat and brought it home:


Cut it up and plopped it in the crock pot:


I set the crock pot to low, and just let it do its thing (this takes a long time and a lot of attention. As the fat begins to render off, you have to remove it. I forgot to take a picture in the middle of the ladling process, so this is near the end of the first batch.)


I strained it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. (Those are my hunky boyfriend's hands there. He's great in the kitchen.)


Then I poured the strained fat into jars:




I let it cool down a bit, then put it in the fridge. The next morning, I had this!




I gave one pint to my dad, but had six total pints rendered from the five pounds of fat I purchased. I'm so happy it came out all snowy white. Apparently, it has a tendency to turn a darkish tan color if not rendered properly. If I ate wheat, this stuff would be ideal for baking.

Lard is the perfect fat for frying. Or deep frying. It's stable and holds up to high temperatures. I also plan on using some of it in the near future to make my first foray into making carnitas. :)

It will stay good in the fridge for about three months, or much longer in the freezer.

There you have it, folks. Lard.

To your good health,

Allison




Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Patio Garden

When cooking paleo, you generally use fewer ingredients. This means you really get the flavor of what's in the dish. In one of the cookbooks I use, most of the recipes don't have more than five ingredients, and I find this to be true of my own recipes as well. But one thing common to most all dishes is the use of fresh herbs. They add TONS of fresh flavor and brightness to any dish (so much more than dried herbs).

Like I mentioned in my "About Me" section, I live in the city. In an apartment. I don't have the luxury of a yard for a large vegetable garden, but I do have a small patio that gets sun daily. So, I do what I can with what I have.

Now ... I'm not exactly known for my green thumb. I blame this on circumstances beyond my control—like having a patio with zero sunlight during the day or having a west facing patio during last year's Summer from Hell in Dallas. This may all be rationalizing ... we'll let this little endeavor be the judge.

About three weeks ago, I purchased a small (and cheap) little greenhouse at Home Depot for growing plants and herbs from seed. I picked an assortment of herb seeds and planted them that day. I put in three to four seeds per pod. (If you do this, I suggest keeping the seed packets because they provide useful information for when you can expect seeds to sprout, etc. Also, I labeled the greenhouse so I'd know which herbs were which.)

About a week or so after planting the seeds, I had this:



Those little suckers have grown so fast. I ended up putting the greenhouse outside on my patio because I started to see gnats flying around the apartment. (Gross!)

The plants have been really easy to maintain. I watered them as the small soil pods started turning lighter brown, which happened more and more often as they grew. Some pods have two or three separate sprouts, some have just one. By this past weekend, I had this:



I knew it was time (especially for the cilantro) to move those pups to their own little pots. Tonight was the night.


I put three to four pods per pot. Once I see which of each plant is thriving best, I'll cut the others out. Also, the pots I used are pretty big for the size of the plant, so I think I'm good for now. 

It'll still be a couple of months before I can use these in my recipes, so for now, I'll continue buying fresh herbs and washing them thoroughly.

On a side note, I still have more than half of my greenhouse full of sprouted, healthy plants. If you want some, I'm happy to send them to good homes. :)

To your good health,
Allison



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fat and the Paleo Diet


I thought it might be helpful to provide some references for anyone who met the previous post with repulsion due to the amount of fat in the butter coffee.

Fighting the mainstream mantra of "healthy whole grains" and low fat is an uphill battle. I honestly don't want to fight it. I do, however, want to provide real, scientific information for those who are interested.

www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/paleo-diet-and-fat.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html

And, here's a podcast:

http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes/6047/560-peter-attia/



Bulletproof Coffee

You're probably going to think this is gross ... at least that's what everyone I've told about it so far has said.

It really isn't. I promise.

I learned about Bulletproof Coffee a couple of weeks ago after it started popping up on a lot of low-carb and paleo blogs. I've found it to be a terrific way to start the day and stay energized throughout the morning. I had Bulletproof Coffee on Thursday and Friday last week, and I was satiated for about six hours. No joke.

This is where I deviate slightly from a strict paleo diet. I still eat dairy.

The reason the coffee is so satisfying is because there is butter in it. A lot of butter. On a low-carb diet, fat is important. It gives you that full feeling that keeps you from over-eating. The right kind of fats matter. I eat a lot of healthy, saturated fats. (I'll have to do a blog on this topic some time.)

The butter in this coffee is UNSALTED butter from pasture-raised cows. (That part is really important. The fat in butter from grain-fed cows that don't get sunlight is different. It doesn't blend well and the nutrients passed on from the cow to its cream -- and then the butter -- aren't as healthy.) When you get down to it, the kind of butter I used here is really just over-churned cream.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly. Of course, they want you to buy their coffee beans. And, I'm sure there is a valid reason for that. I bet they make amazing coffee. But, this blog is about doing what you can with what you have.

I used:
  • 4–5 tbsp of Kerrygold unsalted butter. You can find this in most grocery stores.
  • 500 ml of freshly brewed Starbucks Komodo Dragon coffee blend (this equals brewing to about the 5-cup line on the coffee pot)
  • 1 tbsp Lou Ann's pure coconut oil
I poured the brewed coffee into the blender. Added the other two ingredients and blended for about 10–15 seconds.

And, voila:


I love this coffee. It's creamy. It's frothy. It's delicious. And, it keeps you alert and focused during busy mornings at work. I can't have it every morning though, mainly because the butter is expensive. :)

To feeling full, tasty beverages, productive mornings and, of course, your good health,

Allison

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Search of the Perfect Human Diet

Just a quick post this evening.

Last week, Jimmy Moore raved about the recent PaleoFX conference on the Balanced Bites podcast. It sounds like it was an amazing conference, especially considering it was the first year for the event. I would've attended, but it was held in Austin during SXSW, and I discovered it a little late to ask off work. I do plan on investing in any PaleoFX 2012 DVDs that may be produced.

Jimmy and the Balanced Bites girls gushed about a documentary trailer that was previewed at the conference, In Search of the Perfect Human Diet. I'm always excited to hear about films dealing with the paleo lifestyle and diet because many people (myself included at the beginning of my journey) find watching a film more palatable and less labor intensive than reading a blog and digging into the research.

I ordered the documentary last week, and I received and watched it Monday. It makes an excellent, scientific case for the paleo diet in a very educational way. The host/producer is a former vegan who discovered the diet for himself, and he takes his audience through his journey of discovery.

Here's a quick preview (the guy on the still shot is not the host):


Right now, the film is only available on DVD. My understanding is that they're working toward getting it released on Netflix after it premiers at a film festival.

Coming up in my next post: bulletproof coffee—drink it in the morning and stay full for six hours! (It worked for me today. I'll make it again this weekend and take pictures.)

To your good health,
Allison

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sugar: The Mainstream Toxin

Last night, 60 Minutes had a nice little segment about the toxicity of sugar. It feeds cancer and is a major player in heart disease. They got it mostly right, but left out the fact that most refined carbohydrates (like bread and pasta) act the same as pure sucrose in our bodies. Regardless, I'm so happy to see the message starting to get out into the mainstream.

I'm not quite savvy enough to know how to embed the video, but you can watch the segment here.

Having good information is half the battle on the journey toward health. For more information, I suggest Gary Taubes book, Why We Get Fat, or watching Fat Head on Netflix.

To your good health,
Allison


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Roasted Chicken and Bone Broth

One little chicken took up a lot of my day today.

A couple of weekends ago, I purchased a whole, free-range chicken raised without antibiotics or hormones from the Livestock First Ranch booth at the Coppell Farmers Market (along with two dozen delicious eggs). It came frozen and vacuum-sealed. Today, I thawed it, roasted it and then made stock (or bone broth) from the bones.

Bone broth is one of the paleo super foods. It's incredibly nutrient dense and is an immense help in aiding digestion (read more health benefits details here). It also adds a ton of flavor to soups, sauces and just about anything else you put it in.

Here's how I roasted the chicken:

First, I thawed it. Slowly. In a large pot of cold water for a couple of hours. (Ideally, you'd want to thaw it by transferring it from the freezer to the fridge for a day or so to thaw, but I'm impatient, so I did it this way.)

When it was nearly thawed, I chopped up some green onions (they're milder than white onions ... they're also all I had at home), smashed some garlic and sliced a lemon.



I removed the chicken from the vacuum-sealed package, patted it dry and plopped it in my beautiful blue dutch oven. Then added the above ingredients along with lots of black pepper and some rosemary. I also stuffed some butter between the meat and the skin—because butter makes everything better.


If I'd had some twine, I would've closed it's little legs. I put the lid on the dutch oven and cooked it in a 375^ oven for a few hours. I basted it once. I always cut into the deepest part of the breast to make sure it's finished cooking.

Ta da:


I let it cool a bit, then removed the meat from the bones and put the meat in the fridge. I'll use it later in the week for chicken salad or just reheat it with a sweet potato or something for dinner.

Now comes the fun part. Bone broth!

I returned all the bones from the bird to the dutch oven. Added some celery and more onions for flavor and some spinach for some vitamins. I brought this to a boil then turned it down to a low simmer for about 6 hours.


After the six hours, I removed all the bones and veggies and strained the remaining broth with a fine strainer. Then placed it in smaller containers and moved it to the fridge/freezer immediately. (This is also when I added the salt, at the end. (It's easier to add more at the end than it is to remove too much used at the beginning.)



I used some of the broth in my good friend Reena's famous Chicken Tikka recipe. (This pic is about halfway through the cooking process. Sorry I didn't take one of the final product.)







I also made this tonight (totally unrelated, but it's pretty):



So, here's to the chicken. And the egg. And to your good health,

Allison