Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Primal and Dating?

Not that I'm anywhere near being ready to date again yet, but I freely admit that with a break up comes some old fears. My former SO was really, really supportive of the way I chose to eat. But not every former SO has been that way.

I've been called controlling, anal, unable to relax. After all, why can't I just chill and have a couple slices of pizza? Why do I have to insist on ordering a salad with chicken? Why can't I just not record what I've eaten for a few days? Don't I realize I look disorderd? etc. etc.

To be clear: if I was really lusting for a slice of pizza, I would have it and move on. I'm talking about the situations where I really don't want to eat something I see as lower quality or as otherwise unappealing.

And while I have no problem being open with my friends, in a more intimate context I feel very sensitive about being judged. I'm not sure why. I know the feeling is irrational, and that someone who likes me will like me for all of me. But I can't help it.

When I cook for people I date, I NEVER weigh my food in front of them. I don't discuss my eating philosophies or talk about how I use my CRON-O-Meter. I joke with my friends that I am saving the "crazy" for later.

There seems to be sliding scale of socially acceptable eating habits. For example, being a vegetarian is fine, but vegans are nuts. Weight Watchers is a-Ok, but raw foodists are total weirdos. Hell, everyone is on South Beach, but breathe a word of Atkins and you're a bacon snarfing freak.

And rightly or wrongly, I feel like CR and Primal eating are both solidly in the unacceptable category. I would really love to find a way to screen for guys who were into Primal eating. Sadly, in my personal experience, most guys in good shape either 1) don't care what the hell they eat because they've never had to, or 2) are solidly in a nutritional camp I don't identify with, like the school of carrying tupperware protein everywhere for feedings every three hours. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

Hmmm. All of the sudden I appreciate the companionship of my cat so much more. He never cares what I eat so long as I feed him too.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Low and Slow

The credit for the cooking technique I am going to discuss today goes entirely to Richard at Free the Animal. I love his blog, and I highly recommend checking it out if you're at all interested in Primal eating. He and I have gotten into it a bit over CR, but he is a very reasonable, rational, and generous blogger.

I recently discovered a cut of beef I ADORE. Now, I generally adore red meat. My grandparents were cattle farmers, so it's in the blood. And I credit their, and my mother's, good health in part to the grassfed beef they ate frequently throughout their lives. And I have never even come close to being anemic ;)

As a side note, I should mention I have never gone through a vegetarian phase. Dyed in the wool carnivore here, folks. To each their own.

Anyways, back to the beef. So I was flipping through one of my many, many (seriously, I have a problem) cookbooks and it mentioned butcher's cut steak. Some of you may know it as hanger steak. This is a piece of meat that hangs down near the diaphragm of the cow. It's not too lean or too fatty, and it makes a delicious steak. Not only that, because it's generally a less familiar cut, it's usually cheap (and y'all know by now how much I like that :) ).

Which brings me to the title of the post. The best way to cook this steak, IMHO, is Richard's way. Which means roast the steak in a 250 degree oven until internal doneness is reached (depends on personal taste). A digital remote thermometer (one that has a lead cord so you can stick it in the meat but the temp monitor sits outside the oven) is a HUGE help here. Get one. They are the best.

Once internal doneness is reached, take the steak out. Don't worry that it doesn't have that yummy sear/crust you love so much. I'm getting to that. Now, turn on the broiler, rub the steak down with butter, and broil both sides until it looks the way it should.

Serve with some nice spinach pureed with olive oil. Or grilled asparagus. Or steamed broccoli with parm on top. Or anything else that looks appealing. I promise you this will be the most melt in your mouth steak you've had in ages, and you did it all by yourself.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Carb belly?

I have many slim Asian friends who refer to their 'rice bellies'--the phenomenon of being slim all over, except for a little roundness in the tummy area. Now, to my eye, they have no rice bellies to speak of, but they did get me thinking about an anecdotal observation of mine.

I definitely do get carb belly. Generally, I see it when I eat over 120g of carbs a day, which can happen, since I set my upper limit as 150 (not counting fiber). My daily carb count can vary between 50-150g on any given day.

There is more leeway for carbs in my diet because I'm not trying to lose weight. Also, 150g of carbs generally means I ate more fruit, including dried fruit, than usual, or I had more chocolate than usual--not that I went nose down into a baguette.

In any case, I do notice a little belly when I hit my upper carb limit. Generally when I see the carb belly, I know it's time to take it down for a few days, and I'll usually go right back down to about 50g. 3 days of 50g usually puts my belly to rights again.

The other thing I notice with carb belly is that, per my trusty (and I say that with sarcasm, because I have no idea how accurate it is) Tanita bodyfat scale, my body fat jumps ~3 percentage points along with the carb belly. My theory, since the scale judges body fat with electrical impulses, is that extra carbs somehow screw with water retention, which in turn screws with the readings.

It's observations like this that reinforce how important what you eat is to how you look and how you feel about yourself. Oh, and that remind me to watch my carb intake ;)

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Primal Passover

Oh, the joys of being a Jew. Most of our holidays revolve around eating and celebrating the fact that we escaped massacre. Good times :) For Hannukah (look, those who are about to bitch, there IS no right spelling, it's a transliteration, so if you don't like it, spell it the way you want to on your own blog :) ) it's food cooked in oil, for Purim it's hamantaschen, and Passover, well, Passover is the mack daddy of them all.

The first night of Passover there are specific foods you must eat. And yes, I break with Primal eating to have a bit of matzoh and charoset (a dried fruit paste bound with sweet wine) at the Seder because the ritual is very important to me. But even beyond the Seder, I keep kosher over Passover, something I don't do at any other time of the year. This year, I am actually trying to eat kosher and Primal. Adventures have and will continue to ensue, I'm sure, but I'm happy to report, it hasn't been that bad.

At the Seder itself, which was a meat (as opposed to dairy) there were the usual suspects, like brisket braised in red wine, veggies, and a few choice Jewish treats I will never be able to get into, like gefilte fish. Let me pause for a second--seriously, sweet fish? Who ever thought that would be a good idea? Anyways, there were also fabulous pickled veggies of all incarnations. Let me just say pickled asparagus, YUM.

As to the rest of the time, turns out keeping kosher and Primal is relatively easy, with the big caveat that I am lucky enough to have access to a steady supply of kosher meat. My plan for the week, at least for right now, is to avoid dairy completely, since I am far more reliant on meat than milk in my day to day consumption, and I hate the whole waiting period between eating milk and meat.

I have roasted off a nice kosher chicken, which is feeding me quite nicely right now, and then I have some hanger steak (post on that soon!) waiting in the freezer once that's eaten. Since I don't eat grains and legumes anyway, chometz and kitniyot, both trayf for the Passover period, aren't an issue. There are some cuts of meat I have to avoid during Passover, like beef tenderloin, and pork is obviously out :( And I cook with schmaltz or olive oil, and yes, I do miss butter. A lot.

But at least I have eggs, and lots and lots of yummy fruits and veggies. I've been having fresh strawberries as my sweet of choice lately, or baked apples doused in cinnamon. Dates are back on the dessert rotation too. I like the parallel, I can imagine the Jews fleeing Egypt eating dates in the desert on their way out.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Caffeine is one of those gray areas for me. Coffee, I can't handle straight (and I know I'm not the only one) but good coffee is palatable with just cream, so it isn't paleo-horrible. And CR wise, it does have B vitamins and few calories, even with a little cream.

Tea, eh, I go through phases. Genmai-cha is one of the very few I drink consistently, and as April once pointed out on her fabulous blog, in a way it satisfies any residual or random grain craving you might have, since it tastes like what it is green tea + roasted rice.

Other sources of caffeine? I've come a looooooooooong way, baby. I have mostly cut out diet soda, and that would be my only other source. No, wait, I'm lying. I do eat chocolate. Diet soda would be my only other concentrated source.

The thing is, I don't think there's anything wrong with caffeine. It perks me up in the morning, but it doesn't give me a hardcore buzz, and it never has. It may be a genetic thing--my mom can drink a cup of coffee and fall asleep half an hour later, so can I. And I love, love, love a shot of espresso after a nice dinner.

But then I hear these tropes about how caffeine increases appetite, etc. So I go through caffeine fasts. I guess I'm just wondering if it's necessary? Some of the healthiest people I know, including bloggers like Mark Sisson and the aforementioned April, consume caffeine relatively regularly.

Hmmmm, on the fence about this once (while clutching my morning coffee in one hand...)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The incredible, edible, well... you know

I think the egg is one of the most amazing foods in existence. Incredibly versatile, incredibly tasty, and absolutely brimming with nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere (choline, anyone?), they can also be an excellent convenience food.

Allow me to pimp a product for a minute, because it has improved my already good relationship with the egg This little gizmo, which cooks eggs in the microwave, is a LIFESAVER in the morning.

I'm a huge fan of soft boiled eggs for breakfast. I also love hardboiled eggs minced up on salad, and a frittata is a great way to deal with leftovers.

I look back on my egg white eating days with some amusement. I never really liked egg whites on their own, but I made myself eat them for the protein. Not that they were all bad, especially topped with a slice of cheese.

But the lovely, luscious soft yolk is definitely the best part. I will never forget my first salade Lyonnaise--frisee, bacon, and poached egg perched on top, pierced so that it would run down the leaves of the frisee and mix with the bacon grease, forming a totally delicious dressing.

I even eat eggs raw (gasp! scandal! salmonella!) mixed into steak tartare or in homemade caesar salad dressing. Each cooking method, or lack thereof, brings out something different in the egg.

The only thing you HAVE to do with the egg is handle it gently. The proteins in the egg do not react well to high, dry, heat--they seize and get tough and become, in the words of one great french chef "elephant skin." And anyone who's had an overcooked hardboiled egg can attest to the tongue desiccating nature of overcooked yolk. But treat the egg with love and patience, and it will repay you handsomely.

I'll finish with a cooking recommendation, rather than a recipe, because this is more technique than anything. For a truly indulgent, glorious example of what the egg can do, I recommend scrambling two or three gently in some clarified butter, over low heat. Stir the eggs gently and slowly in a figure of eight motion until just barely cooked through. It feels like eating rich, creamy, yellow clouds and it is possibly my favourite meal on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

What to eat when you don't much feel like eating

Paleo survival mode. I'm not an emotional eater. If anything, I'm an emotional faster. When I'm upset, food tastes different to me, and I avoid things I otherwise love and consider treats.

Have you ever stood in front of an open fridge door, wondering why there's nothing in there that appeals to you? I've been doing that a lot lately. So I've defaulted to things that are very easy, and don't require much chewing.

For example, the green smoothie. Whey powder, frozen spinach, and coconut milk. I use Jay Robb Vanilla whey powder, which is delicious. Sometimes, when I've been low on carbs for the day, I throw in a little (~35g) frozen banana. It's not necessary though. Between the whey and the coconut milk, you don't taste the spinach, and you get a nice dose of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Plus, the smoothie is a very attractive shade of green, pale and appealing and springlike.

Another dish involving spinach is where I get some chicken sausage(check the nutritional label and make sure there is 1g carb or less per serving) slice it up, and nuke it with frozen spinach. At the end, throw in a little herbed goat cheese for creaminess, mix it all together, and enjoy.

Another good one is soft boiled eggs, all on their own or with some salami. I like dipping salami pieces in the nice soft yolks.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a recipe for hot chocolate made with coconut milk, and let me tell you, it's delicious even without added sweeteners, because the coconut milk has a certain natural sweetness itself.

I know that particularly at a low point, it is important for me to care for and nourish myself, and cooking for myself is a key component of that self care. Of course, I'm always open to more Paleo comfort food suggestions :)...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Cooking in my cave

I will be back to normal postings tomorrow. I rarely talk about my personal life on the blog, but I wanted to explain this absence. The SO and I are no longer together. I'm not changing the blog name (maybe 'our' can now just be a universal term for all Paleo/CRON bloggers :) ).

The upside is I'm learning all about Paleo comfort food. More on that tomorrow...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Brussel sprouts

Not surprisingly, given my cabbage obsession, I am magnetically attracted to brussel sprouts. Now, maybe it's because there's a 5 year old girl inside me who squeals "awwwww look at the little baby cabbages." I blame many things on my inner 5 year old.

There isn't much love for the b. sprout in the general populace. In spite of their obvious cuteness (at least to me) people tend to avoid them in favour of more pedestrian, accessible veggies. Or maybe they can't bring themselves to eat them BECAUSE of their cuteness, the way some people won't eat lamb but have no problem chowing down on prime rib.

Those who do choose to cook them often seem to prepare them as if the b. sprouts have offended them in some way, such that they must be punished by boiling until they've reached a grayish dark green tint and smell of sulfur.

I like to treat my sprouts with a little more love. I peel off the nasty outermost leaves, slice them in half. Then I melt some bacon grease in a frying pan, saute some onion, throw in some hot pepper flakes, turn the heat up and lay the sprouts in the pan, cut side down, for 2-3 minutes. Then I flip them over, douse them with some white wine (or stock, or water, or whatever else you think might be good as a braising liquid), throw on the lid, and let them steam for a few minutes. Then I poke them with a fork, to see if they're soft, throw on some salt and pepper, and there you go, Lightly charred, bright green sprout deliciousness.

Or you can slice them up (for this endeavour, as well as an other veggie cutting project, let me HEARTILY endorse a ceramic knife. Mine is a Kyocera and one of my favourite things) thinly and saute them--that's even faster.

One word of advice: overcooking is the kiss of death of b. sprouts. Remember: bright green=good, dark grayish green=bad.