Homemade food is a health risk for babies now, apparently

Graduation

My youngest daughter, Baby C, is a big girl now.  She has been visiting the toddler room at daycare for the past couple of days, and she will fully transition at the end of the month.  Going to the toddler room is a big transition!  It means the end of bottles and the beginning of shoes.  It also means the kids sit at a table and eat food together.

A few weeks ago, the assistant center director alerted me that the change was coming soon and asked me to revisit the checklist of foods I allow Baby C to be served at daycare.  The list is not long: it’s only whole fruits, vegetables, eggs, and some meats.  I don’t allow her Cheerios or puffs or tator tots or mandarin oranges in syrup or hot dogs or sweetened yogurt, or most of the other junk food that daycare feeds the rest of the babies. The assistant center director asked me very nicely to be less restrictive in the foods I permit Baby C, to ease her transition into the toddler room.

I politely said I would think about it, because “Minnesota Nice” requires that I not reply, “I will not feed your garbage to my child.”

I haven’t felt the need for the permitted foods list to be less restrictive because the infant room has been pretty accommodating of my bringing food from home.  I bring Baby C egg salad, roasted sweet potatoes, homemade soup, plain yogurt with cinnamon, carnitas–basically, a small tupperware full of whatever I’m eating for lunch.  She’s a good eater.

New Rule

But this morning the center director told me that the toddler room has a rule: no prepared foods from home.  They only allow foods from home if they come with a label.

Say what, now?

She said it was to make sure that the toddler room stays peanut-free, and I understand the importance of that request.  But no foods without a label?  That excludes everything I eat except dairy.  Fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, and meat–90% of my diet–don’t come with labels.  I actually specifically and intentionally eat foods without a label!

Now What?

So what are my options?

  • I can bring unsweetened yogurt for Baby C to eat instead of the fluorescent, sweetened stuff that has no business being served to children.  That one’s easy.  Done.
  • Do the stickers on apples and bananas count as a label?
  • I can’t bring egg salad anymore, but could I bring a hard boiled egg and some olive oil and salt & pepper and ask them to prepare it for me? How about a cubed sweet potato with some coconut oil and rosemary?  Can I send them ingredients and recipes every day of the week?
  • Can I make my own food labels at home, with ingredient lists that show my bone broth is peanut-free?

In related news, the nanny prospect starts her trial run on Monday.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government Knows Best

It takes a village to undermine parental rights

It’s hard to be a mom these days.  And I don’t mean that in a “Woe is me, my baby is crying and life is hard” sort of way; I mean that it is hard for parents to raise their children the way they want to, because certain parenting choices are increasingly forbidden.

State governments have an important but limited role to play in restricting parenting practices that put other children in danger; for instance, I think requiring vaccines as a condition of public school enrollment is acceptable.  But I have a big problem with the long arm of the law reaching into my children’s lunchboxes.

By now, we have probably all heard the story of the North Carolina 4-year-old whose packed lunch of turkey-and-cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice was confiscated for not meeting USDA nutritional guidelines.  The school gave her chicken nuggets instead and charged the mom for the meal. We may have heard of that Manitoba mom who sent her kids to school with a lunch of meat, potatoes, carrots, milk, and an orange.   The kids were “supplemented” with Ritz crackers (for their health!) and the mom was fined $10 for not including a grain.

Sure, those are totally egregious abuses of state power that don’t even serve the kids’ best interest.  But they must be exceptions, right?

Close to Home

My kids’ daycare costs an arm and 1 1/2 legs, because it’s a top-quality center and because we live in Minnesota, the second most expensive state in the union for child care.  You’d think, for what we pay, that the kids would be eating caviar and lobster.  But actually, they get Goldfish crackers, waffles with syrup, low-fat frozen yogurt with Cool Whip, low-fat strawberry yogurt, and dinner rolls.  It’s a nightmare for a paleo mom like me, who would rather her children not eat processed foods, sugar, corn syrup, white flour, low-fat anything, artificial dyes or trans fats.

Taking Action

Increasingly frustrated with the poor nutritional quality of the food at daycare, I met with my center director to see what improvements were in my power to make.  She informed me that healthy food is not always available from their supplier.  So now we bring in plain, full-fat yogurt on days they serve the fluorescent, sugary, low-fat stuff; and we bring in plain applesauce or whole fruit on days when they serve fruit cups in syrup.  We asked daycare not to serve our child maple-flavored high-fructose corn syrup on her waffles and pancakes—although when that didn’t go over well with our toddler, we relented and started bringing in small portions of real maple syrup so she could be like her friends.

So far so good–I can bring in healthier replacements for the foods daycare serves that I’m ok with my kids eating.  But what about the foods for which there simply are no substitutes worth the effort?

The Leviathan vs. the [baby] Lyceum 

In Minnesota, the government requires all day care centers to follow the USDA Child Meal Pattern.  According to this monstrosity, a breakfast of scrambled eggs and whole milk (which I serve basically every weekend) is not suitable for children.  The Child Meal Pattern allows for no protein at breakfast, and milk must be 1% or skim.  Never mind that the latest research shows that spreading protein equally across all three meals is better for us, and that reduced-fat milk is actually correlated with a higher risk of obesity compared to whole milk.

Don’t tell the USDA, but I often feed my toddler eggs, nuts, or bananas before school so she is less hungry for the blueberry-flavored cupcakes (really, what’s the difference between a cupcake and a muffin other than frosting?) they serve, in full compliance with USDA policy.

Crowding Out Parents 

This is the part that grinds my gears.  I can’t try to persuade daycare to serve more eggs and less waffles, because the government literally does not permit them to make that choice!  Daycare is not legally able to be responsive to the needs and desires of the families they serve because the USDA has overruled them and imposed dietary requirements that are not based on science and probably harmful.

I called my state CACFP rep (you can too!) –and asked her whether I had any recourse to opt out of the USDA mandates.  She shut that right down, but told me that 2014 is a “year of opportunity,” because the recent school lunch changes that went into effect (the wildly  unpopular, optimistically named “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”) did not affect daycares.  I had the opportunity to influence the new rule-making by submitting a comment!

This is what came out of that public discussion period.  A laundry list of concerns: food-related cultural sensitivities, too much meat, too much fat, too much grain, too expensive…

We all know what’s going to happen.  There will be no substantial changes, evidence be damned.  It’s just such a shame, because there was such an easy way to satisfy everyone who participated in the public commenting: Let there be vegan daycares, and paleo daycares, and USDA-compliant daycares, and non-GMO daycares, and cruelty-free daycares, and whole-grain daycares, and all-potato daycares!  Let local groups be responsive to their communities’ own nutritional preferences.  Let moms–not the government–decide how their daycares should be allowed to feed their children.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting Go of Calories-In-Calories-Out

The idea that calories are the key to weight loss is completely ingrained in our culture—perhaps especially in the subculture I inhabit, that of Type A overachievers.  I hear stuff like this all the time:

  • A woman saying she is eating oatmeal for breakfast, not the bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich she really wants, because the oatmeal has 60 fewer calories.
  • A woman ribbing her husband for exceeding his calorie “budget” on the social calorie tracking app they share as part of a friendly competition.
  • People ordering “skinny vanilla lattes,” or eating bags of Skinny Pop or 100-calorie packs.

People, we don’t have to live this way.

Out With The Old

We all know that diets don’t work  and that 80% of people who lose weight gain it all back within two years.  And there is a growing body of research that says calories-in-calories-out is a flawed paradigm for weight loss.   So why do we keep counting and weighing, losing and gaining, trying and winning and failing?

I don’t argue that it’s not possible to lose weight by restricting calories.  Rather, I argue that it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) matter—because restricting calories is no way to live, and it’s not our only option.

An N=1 Study of Weight Loss

Here’s a bit of my personal story.  A few years ago, I tried to lose weight via calories-in-calories out.  I had an app where I tracked everything I ate and everything I burned, and I weighed myself regularly.  I stuck to a strict budget of 1640 net calories, because that’s what the app told me I could eat if I wanted to lose ½ lb per week.  I did lose a little weight this way, but I gained it all back as soon as I quit—which was inevitable once I realized that living this way is not only a lot of work, but it’s also a recipe for unhappiness, body dissatisfaction, and feelings of failure.

It’s been several years since I stopped using the weight loss app, but I still record my weight every few months so I can keep my data stream going.  Nowadays, I focus on eating nutrient-dense foods ad libitum and I don’t count calories.  So when I told someone recently that I was “sure” I was eating more calories than I did back when I was dieting, but that I was pretty sure I weighed about the same or even less, I didn’t have the data to back it up–and he didn’t seem to believe me.  So I went back to the app for a day this week.

I ate 2,961 calories on Sunday, which is a whopping 59% more calories than the 1,867  the app tells me I “should” be eating to maintain my current weight!  (Full disclosure: I only recorded through dinner and didn’t include any of the post-dinner candy I ate—hey, it was vacation, give me a break—so my total calorie count is actually understated.)   The internet says there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so if I carry a 1,094 calorie balance every day for a year, then I should be gaining 114 pounds every year that I eat this way!  Well, I’ve been eating this way for about two years, so let’s see.

Here’s the Chart

(I took out the units on the y-axis because it’s the trends that are important, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to fixate on numbers when it comes to weight.)

image002

I’m not actually gaining 114 pounds per year.  In fact, I’ve actually lost a few pounds.

What’s the Takeaway?

My point is not that calories-in-calories-out can’t work; rather, it’s that it doesn’t matter whether it works or not, because there is no need to live that way.  You can lose weight just by feeding your body what it needs and trusting it to take care of the rest.  You can lose weight from a position of love and trust and health rather than competition and willpower and struggle–and who wouldn’t prefer that?

Recommended Watching

Have you seen this TED Talk by Sandra Aamodt?  Her perspective isn’t paleo, but it is worthwhile, so go ahead and have a listen (I’ll wait).  She shares her personal story–with a side order of science–about how she learned to stop counting calories and trust herself.  It’s a point well taken.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roast Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary

Worth The Money

I eat a lot of chicken and pork, because those are the cheapest meat options at the grocery store.  Unfortunately, they’re also among the blandest.  That’s why I was thrilled to pieces when Costco stocked Australian leg of lamb for Easter!  At $4.49/lb, it’s significantly more expensive than chicken or pork, but hey, it’s cheaper than steak–and this is the cheapest it will be all year.

Lamb is also a really great meat because it’s pretty likely to be pastured.  The US lamb industry is in trouble, so about a third of lamb sold in the US is imported from places like New Zealand, Australia, and Iceland, where lambs typically spend most or all of their lives eating their natural diet.  Even in the US, some sheep farmers do finish with corn and soybean meal, but even domestic sheep typically spend at least some time on pasture.  

So if you compare the $4.49/lb for Australian lamb not to a $8/lb regular steak, but to a $17/lb grass-fed steak (or at least to a partially grass-fed steak, which should be somewhere in the middle), it starts to look like a bargain!

Roast Lemon-Rosemary Leg of Lamb

I used this recipe from Jamie Oliver, and it was GREAT.  I made a few changes based on what I had in my kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 bunch rosemary, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon*
  • Olive oil (enough to cover your lamb)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 boneless leg-of-lamb roast, about 4.5 lbs
  • Whatever vegetables you have handy (the original recipe called for parboiled potatoes, which would be amazing, but I used quartered onions and Brussels sprout halves and that was also great.  Anything hardy enough to stand up to roasting would work.  The original recipe also called for two whole garlic cloves–throw those in if you’ve got ’em.)

*When I see lemon zest in a recipe, I ignore it about half the time because I rarely have fresh lemons on hand.  I happened to have one on hand this time (for a Pinterest cleaning thing I will probably never actually do, let’s be real), and it added immensely to the flavor.  I would highly recommend not omitting this ingredient!

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400.  Mix first 5 ingredients in a big glass baking dish.  Put your lamb in, and rub that marinade all over it.  Set the lamb aside and put your veggies in the dish.  Add more salt and pepper to the veggies, and a little more olive oil if needed.  

Put your lamb directly on your oven rack (if it came with twine, you can leave the twine on–mine didn’t burn), and put your baking dish full of veggies directly below it.  As it cooks, the fat from the lamb will drip over your vegetables in the most amazing way.

Roast for about 15 minutes per pound, or until reaching an internal temperature of 145 degrees for medium rare (for other temps, see this handy chart).

Crowd-Pleaser

I can never get my toddler to eat meat (she eats it at grandma’s house, but never at home), but she devoured the lamby, rosemary-y, lemony brussels sprouts almost as quickly as I did!  I thought this recipe was perfect–my one regret was that I didn’t have a bigger pan (I used 11×14) so I could have made more vegetables.  The lamb-juice/fat sauce was truly delicious.

How About Health?

Lamb is really good for you.  Assuming you buy grass-fed meat, lamb is an excellent source of Omega-3s–about half as good as fish, which is really high for meat.  It’s also rich in CLA, which is an unusual Omega-6 in that it is actually anti-inflammatory and pro-immune system, almost more like an Omega-3.

Plus, like basically all meat, it is a great source of B-Vitamins, which are critical for brain health, immunity, fertility, and many other processes we really want to be working correctly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This Week In Crazy Consumer Packaged Goods: PB2

A good rule of thumb for healthy eating is to eat only those things that are easily recognizable as food.  Can we all agree on that?

What the Heck is That?

I found myself in the PB&J aisle at Target the other day (cut me some slack; I was looking for applesauce) when I noticed something I had never seen before:

PB2 front

 

What is this product sold in an aisle where I expect to find food?  Well, the label tells me it has 85% less fat and calories, and that it contains no additives (plus, it has a leaf on it!)–so clearly, marketers want me to think this is a health food.  But what the heck is it?

PB2 directions

ingredients

 

 

Ok.  So they take a peanut, squeeze out all the fat they can get out (to sell separately), and powder it.  Then they add sugar; they have to, because fat is flavor, so artificially low-fat foods need something else added in order to become palatable again.  Then you, the consumer, are supposed to mix it with water to come up with a peanut butter substitute with all the allergenic proteins, but none of the satisfying fats.  Voila!  The perfect food!

Just Because It Says It’s Healthy Doesn’t Mean It Is

Let’s be clear about why this product exists.  Peanut oil is a popular cooking oil because of its high smoking temperature.  Some clever food engineers (or marketers?) decided they could monetize what used to be a wasted byproduct of the process of making peanut oil by taking advantage of people’s fear of fat.  I mean, give them credit–it’s pretty clever to market industrial waste as health food! (See also: cottonseed oil.)

So That’s a No?

Peanut butter is definitely not paleo.  It would be better to sub almond butter, which is less carcinogenic and atherogenic.  But if you’re not going to do that, for cost or flavor reasons, (do I really have to say it?) at least eat the kind made with the whole food.

Food is not meant to be a fight.  We shouldn’t have to feel bad about wanting to eat delicious food–and we shouldn’t think that we need to come up with substitutes for indulgences in order to “be good.”  Food should be about sustaining your life, not proving your self-worth or morality or any of the other emotional baggage we like to associate to it.

If you like peanut butter, eat peanut butter!  And let your body tell you when it’s enough.  If you truly trust yourself and give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, you’re not going to get fat; you’re going to get healthy.

Recommended Listening

I love the Latest In Paleo podcast, and if you like this blog, you will too.  One of my favorite episodes features guest speaker Charles Eisenstein, who discusses “The Yoga of Eating.”  His premise is that we need to learn to trust our bodies.  Our minds and bodies are not at war.  We don’t need willpower when it comes to eating; we need trust.  Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Cheaper to Eat Healthy. No Really.

Food-Flavored Calories For Cheap

Have you seen that “Hungry Planet” photoessay that’s making its way around Facebook again?  It is a series of photographs of families around the world posing with a week’s worth of food.  With all due respect to this family, who is surely lovely, America’s picture is embarrassing:

Image

McDonald’s, Burger King, pizza delivery, KFC, Diet Coke, potato chips, ramen…it really hits home how nutrient-poor the standard American diet (SAD) is. A common explanation for the prevalence of junk food, especially among the less well-off, is that it is cheaper.  I challenge that assumption.  Unless you’re eating ribeye and king crab every night, eating paleo can be every bit as inexpensive as the SAD in the short term.  And it completely crushes the SAD in the long term because paleo is protective against diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related illnesses that entail expensive medical treatment down the line.

Case Study

This family spends $341.98 a week on food, or $85.50 per person.  Here’s, more or less, what I ate last week (I shared some of it):

Breakfast: $3.89

  • 21 eggs @ $1.49/doz (Costco)
  • 2 oz. Kerrygold butter @ $0.29/oz (Costco)
  • Archer Farms coffee @ $5/lb after coupons (Target), using 1.5 tbs per day (there are 75 tbs in a lb.)

Produce: $27.74

  • 3 lbs broccoli @ $5.38 (Costco)
  • 2.25 lbs asparagus @ $6.17 (Costco)
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts @ $4.48 (Costco)
  • Tack on another 4 oz or so of Kerrygold butter
  • 10 lbs oranges @ $8.98 (Costco)
  • 3 lbs bananas @ $1.56 (Costco)

Meat: $32.06

  • 2 lb grass-fed beef bone @$3.89/lb (Farmer’s market)
  • 1 leg of lamb, about 4 lbs @ $4.49/lb (Costco)
  • 1 turkey breast, about 8 lbs @ $0.79/lb (Target)–much more than I needed for the week

Snacks: $8.90

  • 10 oz unsalted cashews @ $0.44/oz (Costco)
  • 2 dark chocolate bars @ $2.25 each (Target)

Grand Total: $72.59, or a savings of almost $52/month for the featured family of four–more than enough to buy Chipotle for the whole family!  (That’s what I’d do.)

Make It Happen

I know not everyone is a Costco shopper.  I myself am only a recent member.  But it is completely possible to spend this amount of money, or even less, shopping at traditional grocery stores.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #1: Buy What’s Cheap

Buy in-season produce, and consider frozen vegetables if nothing fresh is cheap.  Buy the meat that’s on sale in bulk and freeze what you don’t need immediately.  Buy the under-appreciated cuts of meat if nothing is on sale.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #2: Use Coupons

Most coupons in the marketplace are for non-paleo CPG foods, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck!  Target is always running coupons off fruits, vegetables, and meat.  Text “coupons” to TARGET to subscribe to their mobile coupons, and download the Cartwheel app.  Target and Cub (or whatever your local SuperValu is) also frequently have storewide coupons (e.g., $10 off $50 purchase)–and you can take those opportunities to stock up.

  • Frugal Cavemom Tip #3: Make It Yourself

Buy ingredients, not MREs.  If you find yourself buying anything pre-made, ask yourself if it’s something you can make yourself.  This goes for things like condiments (salad dressing, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, hot sauce, etc.), takeout (fried chicken, orange chicken, beef & broccoli, etc.), and snacks (potato chips, beef jerky, granola bars, etc.).  There are paleo recipes for everything.  Besides being much healthier and cheaper, homemade food tastes better anyway.   

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Paleo Strawberry Trail Mix “Granola” Bars

On a recent trip to my second-favorite big box retailer, my toddler asked me for granola bars.  I promised her we could make some ourselves when we got home.  It took us a couple tries to get them right where we wanted them; texture was the biggest issue.  I liked the flavor of this recipe, especially since everyone is running loss leaders on strawberries lately and you can get them for $1.49(!!!!!!!).  But I adapted it according to my own preferences for flavor and texture, and I was really happy with the result.  And the “grolla bars” were a big hit with my toddler too!

Image

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 3 cups nuts (I used 1c each cashews, almonds, and pecans)
  • 1 cup dates (I used tunisian, because they are much cheaper.  But medjool are better if you want to upgrade)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup honey (to taste and texture–if you’re using medjool dates, you may need less)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt

Method:

Coarsely chop your strawberries in a food processor.  Remove.  Put your nuts, dates, and raisins in the food processor and pulse until you’ve reached the desired texture.  I personally prefer a finer chop, and I think it holds together better than a chunkier one too.  Put your chopped date/nut mixture in a big bowl with your chopped strawberries.

Evaluate the texture of your mix at this point.  If it’s holding together pretty well, you don’t need as much honey.  If it’s not really sticking together, you’ll probably need the whole 1/4 c.

In a small saucepan, heat your honey, butter, cinnamon, and salt until it’s all melted together and smelling delicious.  Pour over your chopped mixture and mix it all together really well (I used my hands).  Form into bars.

Put in a dehydrator at 135 degrees for 8 hours.  You could also try baking them at 350 for awhile (25 minutes?), until the texture is right; but I can’t vouch for that method, as I haven’t tried it.  But you could also eat them raw–the cooking is just to achieve the desired texture.

Some Thoughts on Health

These are really delicious, but they should be eaten in moderation.  They’re very energy-dense, and dates and honey are both (obviously) high in sugar.  So, while they’re technically paleo, they’re not really the kind of thing you want to make the cornerstone of your diet.  That said, they’d make a great replacement for dessert, or a good snack to enjoy during some sort of athletic activity.

Nuts are kind of a mixed bag when it comes to nutrition.  They’re high in omega-6 fats (the ones that cause inflammation) and also contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient.  On the other hand, they are a good source of some micronutrients–and they’re undeniably a natural, whole food.  Here’s a great summary of the pros and cons of nuts and seeds, from a paleo perspective.

I really like these, so I am going to indulge every once in awhile.  It’s certainly not the worst treat I could eat!  But as a general rule, I try to make sure I’m eating a lot of salmon or grass-fed ruminant meat in weeks that I eat a lot of nuts to try to keep my omega-3 to omega-6 ratio roughly in balance.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bone Broth: Paleo Super-Food

The Fine Line Between Caveman and 50s Housewife

Only a generation or two ago, it was common for women to make homemade stock out of the carcasses of roasted chickens and other kitchen scraps. Not only is it an extremely budget-friendly move, but making homemade stock is so delicious, you’ll never want to go back to Swanson’s again.

Best of all, bone broth (which is what you call a stock when there’s still a little meat on the bones) is a paleo super-food. It’s good for joint health, reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, wound healing, digestion, relaxation, and skin rejuvenation. Basically everything.

How do I eat it?

Lots of paleo folks drink hot bone broth like coffee in the morning. I have done that one time (I had a cold and needed an immune system boost), but I am not nearly hardcore enough to do it regularly.

But I love it as an ingredient! It makes a great base for soups or cooking liquid for vegetables. You can (and should!) use it any time a recipe calls for stock or broth. It freezes really well–so make some any time you have some bones, and keep it for next time you want soup.

IMG_8620

Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Bones–If you buy a bone-in roast or a whole chicken, eat the meat and then reuse the bone! Or else you can buy beef soup bones, oxtails, and marrow bones at any butcher or farmer’s market and many grocery stores too. Any animal will do, but of course, it’s better to use the bones of healthy animals (i.e., bones from the farmer’s market will be better for you than factory-farmed grocery store bones). I do both–it’s a good/better/best thing.
  • Apple cider vinegar–This helps break the minerals out of the bones and makes them more available for your consumption. If you don’t like vinegar, you can squeeze a lemon into your pot instead–and throw the used lemon in too for some extra pectin.
  • Vegetables–I like to use vegetable odds-and-ends for bone broth, since i’m going to throw them away after stewing anyway (the nutrients leech into the broth so you don’t need to eat the stewed vegetables). If I know I have a batch of broth coming, I’ll keep the ends of my celery, carrots, turnips, asparagus etc. that I would otherwise throw away and throw them in the pot instead. I also always throw in an onion for flavor. You might want to avoid cruciferous veggies like brussels sprouts and cabbage, which could turn bitter after that much cooking time.
  • Spices–I don’t add salt at this point because the flavors get really concentrated. But I usually throw in a bay leaf and peppercorns, and sometimes other spices that strike my fancy at the time.

Method

Put all your ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover with water. Turn the slow cooker on low and leave it on for a long time: 8-12 hours for chicken, and at least 12 hours for bigger bones. We usually run our beef bones 24 hours, sometimes longer. As the liquid evaporates, add more water.

When your liquid is dark (chicken turns yellow; beef turns brown) and the smell is heavenly, strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. You can actually reuse big bones (like beef bones) until they go soft, but the flavor is less intense with the second stewing.

Depending on what you’re using it for, you may want to dilute your stock (I often dilute for soups to make it last longer). Once you’ve added any water you’re going to add, salt according to your taste.

A Commitment to Whole Foods

We talk all the time about how important it is to eat whole foods. We all know that eating an apple is better than drinking apple juice, because the apple contains fiber that the juice does not. Well, the same principle applies to animals–when animals are food, we should eat the whole animal.

The reason for this is so simple and yet so magical: organisms are perfect the way they are. Stripping them into component parts means we risk missing out on some of the beautiful synergies inherent in their design.

For basically all of human history, animals were eaten nose to tail: muscle meat, bones, connective tissue & cartilage, and organ meats were all used to protect against the next famine. We were not designed to just eat the muscle meat as we do in today’s period of perpetual abundance. Know how I know? Check out this beautiful synergy:

Methionine is an amino acid found in abundance in muscle meats. We need it in some quantity, but too much methionine can make us gain weight and cause oxidative damage to our mitochondrial DNA. Enter glycine, which is found in abundance in bones. Not only does glycine play a key role in relaxation, wound healing, kidney and liver function, and even possibly cancer-prevention, but (best of all) it also counteracts chronic methionine toxicity, such as we might get from eating lots and lots of muscle meat. Through this function, glycine could be the key to longer lives; rats who ate a methionine-containing diet lived 30-40% longer when they received a glycine supplement.

So go ahead and eat muscle meat–just drink your bone broth too.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Anytime Foods: Herbed Goat Cheese

Think Outside the Barn (No?  Too much?)

Regular readers may remember I’ve recently overhauled my approach to dairy.  I’ve replaced milk with cream (one of the most glorious substitutions I’ve ever made in the name of health), and I traded up to butter from grass-fed cows.  Since butter and cream have almost no lactose or casein, I tolerate them pretty well.

I was at the farmer’s market last weekend (one thing I love about Minnesotans: they don’t let a high of 18 degrees in late March keep them down) and met a farmer who sold cheese from her grass-fed goats.  I was eager to try it, because goat milk is supposed to be easier to digest: it contains a form of casein that is more like human breastmilk than cow’s milk, and it forms smaller fat globules that are easier to break down.

I bought the tiny tub at highway robbery prices and enjoyed every last morsel.  Best of all, I had no problems digesting it.  And it was so incredibly delicious that I knew I had to come up with an economically sustainable version I could eat more often.  (Of course, grocery store goat cheese isn’t as delicious or nutritious as farm fresh milk from grass-fed animals.  But for a quarter the price, I’m willing to trade down.)

Herbed Goat Cheese

IMG_8451

Ingredients:

Goat cheese is very versatile.  Make it however you like it!  Here’s one suggestion.

  • Plain goat cheese–I used one 10.5 oz log
  • Rosemary–I used about 2 tbs.  I like the crunch; if you don’t, you may want to use less or grind it in a spice mill first
  • Thyme–I used about 1 tsp
  • Olive Oil–just for flavor and texture.  I used about 1 1/2 tbs.
  • Black Pepper–a hearty grinding

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Put into individual tupperware to enforce portion control, because goat cheese is delicious.  I eat it plain on a spoon, but it would also be good on celery or cucumber slices.

How About Health?

Goat cheese, like all dairy, exists in the ancestral health gray area.  Like all dairy, it isn’t on The Paleo Diet (TM)–but it is in The Primal Blueprint (TM).  But if you tolerate it well, there’s no reason not to eat it; it’s delicious and nutritious:

In addition to containing 13% more calcium than cow’s milk, goat milk also has 25% more vitamin B-6, 47% more vitamin A, 134% more potassium and 350% more niacin. Goat milk is also higher in chloride, copper and manganese and contains 27% more of the essential nutrient selenium. Goat milk contains none of the controversial Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH).

Enjoy it in good health!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Butter is Better!

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.26.16 PM

I Can Too Believe It’s Not Butter.

An acquaintance of mine observed to me this week that “Unilever has the butter market cornered.”

“Really?” I asked, wondering if they maybe owned a dairy that manufactured private label butter for grocery stores.  I was surprised, since I have always heard that the dairy market is very fractured.

“Yeah, they have I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Promise, Country Crock, and this other one that’s made with yogurt.”

Um, not the same.

We’re Good.  But We’re Not That Good.

I believe in the triumph of human ingenuity and in technology’s ability to transform our lives in ways that improve our efficiency, productivity, longevity, and even happiness.  So how have we done with nutrition?  Have we come up with the iFood?

Not exactly.

How Did We Get Here?

In the early 20th century,  Proctor & Gamble figured out how to turn literal garbage, specifically cottonseed oil, into food.  Next thing you know, we’re all eating Crisco and margarine.

P&G claimed Crisco was healthier than butter (this was before truth-in-advertising regulations required proof for health claims).  Researchers tried to find a link between saturated fat and heart disease.  The American Heart Association looked into it and concluded there was no evidence supporting the connection.

But a man named Ancel Keys spoke louder.  Using cherry-picked data from only the countries that demonstrated the correlation he was looking for, he “proved” that saturated fat caused heart disease.  He was criticized at the time for his shoddy research methods.  But U.S. Senator George McGovern caught wind of this new research and decided it would be irresponsible for the government to withhold this information while waiting for more research to corroborate it.

(The whole story is like a sordid soap opera.  Read about it here.)

But the thing about government is that it has a way of stifling dissent.  That’s how it came to be that the American Heart Association reversed its position and started recommending low-fat, high-carb diets as heart-healthy.  Scientists who didn’t get in line with government orthodoxy had a harder time getting research funding, so the voices of dissent were quieted.  Later, curious researchers had no reason to investigate the link, because there was scientific consensus–after all, no one had ever proved there wasn’t a link!

Crisco and margarine (trans fat) became dietary staples, and butter (saturated fat) became a guilty pleasure.  The health-conscious among us followed the American Heart Association away from fat and towards “heart-healthy” carbs.

So How Did We Do?

Oops, turns out trans fats cause heart disease (a 2% increase in trans fat consumption correlates to a 23% increase in heart disease risk!) and low-fat, high-carb diets cause obesity.

What Now?

Well, we can’t eat margarine anymore, so what can we substitute for it??  You know, I have this crazy idea.  What if we just ate butter?

Ironically, given all the hubbub, butter from grass-fed cows is actually really heart-healthy!  It’s one of nature’s best sources of Vitamin K2, which is critical for heart health, as well as things like blood clotting and bone health.

And now the mainstream is finally catching onto the fact that this whole saturated-fat-causes-heart-disease hysteria just might not be the truth.  I was surprised and delighted to read, in the New York Times, of all places, that butter is back.  A recent meta-analysis concluded there simply is no link between saturated fat from animals and heart disease.  The whole article is well worth reading, but this is the part that resonated most with me:

But let’s not cry over the chicharrones or even nicely buttered toast we passed up. And let’s not think about the literally millions of people who are repelled by fat, not because it doesn’t taste good (any chef will tell you that “fat is flavor”) but because they have been brainwashed.

Rather, let’s try once again to pause and think for a moment about how it makes sense for us to eat, and in whose interest it is for us to eat hyperprocessed junk. The most efficient summary might be to say “eat real food” and “avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.”

The Takeaway

There’s a fine line between harnessing our intelligence to drive technological progress and, well, hubris.  Whether we like to believe it or not, there is a limit to what we know.  And so far, our track record with food isn’t good.

Think about that next time you read about lab-created meat substitutes or 3D printed food.  When it’s hard to distinguish between progress and looming catastrophe, the safest course is to stick with what we know for sure works: eat real food.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment