Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving 2013

baby-meme-paleo-dinnerPaleo for Thanksgiving? WTF?

Based on the last few years of my own pre-, quasi- and now full- paleo** cooking, I thought I’d share a list of my absolute favorite recipes that work for that glorious Thanksgiving turkey spread. Most, if not all, of them are completely normal. You’d be hard pressed to have dinner attendees complain that these dishes are weird or healthy or out of the ordinary.

In fact, the biggest difference in a paleo friendly Thanksgiving dinner is in the handful of dishes that can simply be omitted (if everyone is on board) or not eaten by those afflicted by caveman food preferences (if you still have lots of bread eaters at the table).

**Note that ‘Paleo’ is just a limp word in lieu of a perfect and egalitarian way to describe this lifestyle and way of eating. Some folks use “ancestral eating“, some use “primal“, some just like to say “real food“. Some are “nutrient seekers“, some are “grandma cuisine“, some are “unprocessed“. Here’s my definition of the food choices this entails instead of a single term:

Well-raised meat, sustainable seafood, and organic produce are all wonderful for the human body, with raw nuts and dairy and fermented foods on occasion and rare encounters with refined sweeteners or alcohol. Any processing is best done by YOU, by hand.

That’s the gist; I hope it makes things at least a little less muddied.

Now, let’s have some gosh darned recipes, shall we?

2012-11-22 18.35.54

  1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple Bourbon Glaze. Yow. This is a HUGE winner. The sauce is rather involved but is worth it in the end. You almost want to just drink it instead of port after the meal. Eesh.
  2. Brussels Sprouts and Bacon. Classic, from a reliably awesome magazine (Saveur). You kind of can’t mess this one up. Just don’t burn the bacon. Drizzle with optional balsamic at the end for extra awesome.
  3. Cran-cherry Sauce for tart sweet tastiness. This one’s from a genuine paleo blogger with an awesome list of recipes for year round cooking, and an iPad app that I would own in a heartbeat if I owned anything non-Android. 🙂
  4. DID YOU THINK I’D FORGET THE BIRD? Nope, this is Russ Parson’s famous Judy Bird. The dry-brine is stupid easy, not messy, and almost foolproof. Can you beat that?
  5. Pumpkin Maple Coconut Custard. I’m either making this or the next dessert and inhaling the whole damn thing.
  6. Bruleed Bourbon Maple Pumpkin Pie. With or without the crust – who cares when there’s BRULEE happening? Oh yeah, here’s another one with no crust to omit. Hah!
  7. Dry Fried Green Beans. Chinese style because when it comes to pan frying, they know what the heck they’re doing.
  8. Cauliflower with 4 Other Delicious Things (sage, brown butter, pears, hazelnuts). I might sub chestnuts for hazelnuts because TIS the season!
  9. Broccoli with Raisin Vinaigrette. It’s almost like that horridly delicious salad we had in the Midwest. Well, not really. But, raisins!

2012-11-22 18.40.57I could go on and on. There are things like wild rice with pecans (oh-so native!) or things even more native to my current home like chiles and squash and corn for stuffing. The recipes are out there.
2012-11-22 18.36.59

Just know that you don’t have to have that stupid-sweet marshmallow sweet potato dish or the green beans with canned soup and canned onion rings in order to have a “real” Thanksgiving dinner.

To have a REAL Thanksgiving dinner, here are the things you need: family and/or friends at a table, and food on that table. Got those? Good. Have a Kitteh:

thanksgiving-because-kitteh

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Why One Square of Chocolate is Not Enough

. . . for me, that is.

Tons of health oriented websites and nutritionists and dieticians love to talk about moderation. “Everything in moderation!”, they chirp, “even, sometimes, moderation! (giggle)”.

What if they are dead wrong?

Is moderation what saves people? Some articles in the last few years have started to unravel this concept, stating dramatic reversals like, “Everything in moderation is making you fat!” or “The Moderation Myth“.

Here’s something to chew on: what if they are BOTH RIGHT (or) BOTH WRONG? What if the whole thing is as silly as t elling a redhead they really ought to be blonde; what if moderation success is based on INDIVIDUALS rather than a rule for all?

That’s when I found Gretchen Rubin‘s awesome Abstainer/Moderator theory. It’s simple: some of us are Moderators and we CAN have just a few bites and be done with it, and some of us are Abstainers and “just one” often ends up being “the whole damn package“.

eat-all-the-things

The outcome of this theory is really, really easy. You KNOW which one of the two you currently are (even if you flip-flop during times of stress or hormonal cycles – you’ll still know what situation you are currently IN), and therefore you can change your behavior**.

If you have always, always, been able to have one perfect chocolate square or one bite of ice cream and then stop with no pangs, no worry – you are a moderator. If your eating and sleeping and activity is good, don’t worry one bit and have your bites.

However, if you have always been the EAT ALL THE THINGS kind of snacker, then you are an abstainer. Avoid the things that start as delicious indulgence and often end up as guilty regret – it is far, far easier to just not start. This makes it simple – you don’t have that shit in the house, you don’t order dessert, you keep your mitts off the french fries. If you have a rare indulgence, go into it with joy and pleasurable acceptance. You might eat the “whole thing”, whatever it is, but piling on guilt and regret is honestly the last thing good to load on top of your aching belly. Drink some water, go for a walk, forgive yourself, meditate, and go to bed early. Done.

**P.S. I do actually think that your “type” is not set in stone, and that you can, through some other behaviorial changes like better sleep, high-nutrient diet, and such, you can influence to some degree which of the two camps you fall into.

Ultranutrition: How to not poop out, figuratively

Ultra food of the gods….

Ultras and nutrition seem to be a match made in caloric heaven. Just eat as much as you can possibly stand so that you CAN keep standing, right?

Not quite *that* simple, but for some folks, close.

The key is judging your own effort level first, and your familiarity with digestion on the run second. A 48 hour grind with 90% hiking is a different beast to appease than a 6 hour zippy race. This topic is ripe for detailed digging (and I will, I promise), but here’s an overview for starters. Keep in mind that the golden running rule always applies: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. (No, the golden rule is not, “What Would Anton Do?“)

Here are the types of foods that will help for different effort levels, for a 50 mile distance:

  1. Hard/fast and lots of running: fuel like a marathon with some additional easy-digesting quasi-real food. This would include: gels, sports drinks, water, and other quick foods such as candies, pretzels, m&ms, or even boiled potatoes.
  2. Easy and long effort – lots of hiking over varied terrain, some running: whatever tastes good, no matter what it is. Gels, sports drinks, cookies, sandwiches, soup, burritos, coffee, you name it. If it tastes good and you’re power-hiking tons, down the hatch!
  3. Medium effort – hard uphills but hiking, some good and hard downhills: this one is trickiest. It will depend a little bit on the placement of aid stations and how much food you are willing to carry. The short answer is to eat what tastes good but not stuff yourself, and try to eat/digest when you know you will be walking (usually uphills). Really jarring downhills can mess with any food’s processing, so keeping digestibility high is still a good strategy. This means opt for a jelly sandwich instead of a spoonful of peanut butter.

That’s a really basic primer. More will surely come.

Here’s one bonus tip: candied ginger is the “new” Gu Chew / Shot Bloks. That stuff is amazing on touchy stomachs.

Plumpy’nut Is Not Food; Also Not Death

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumpy’nut

500 kcalories of processed survival food

More than a decade ago, a European researcher noticed how darn tasty and fattening Nutella was, and realized that with a little tinkering, something like it could be created for famine sufferers in Africa, who needed something to get them through to better days. He used a bit of creativity and technology to create a super food. This “super food” has a two year shelf life and contains protein, carbohydrates and some fat as well as a bunch of added vitamins. As a category, this kind of food is known as a RUTF: Ready to Use Therapeutic Food.

No, it’s not Pop Tarts, it’s Plumpy’nut. (Though as you can see below, the ingredients are not that different from Pop Tarts, after all.)

Ingredients in Plumpy’nut: peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, vitamins, and minerals

Manufacturer: Nutriset, in France. Plumpy’Nut was Invented in 1999 and recently more visible with articles by well known folks like Dr. Sanjay Gupta (“The Funny Sounding Nut Paste That’s Saving Children’s Lives in Somalia“) and websites as big as Huffington Post (“Just How Much Can This Peanut Paste Reduce Hunger?”). I do disagree somewhat with Dr. Gupta’s assertion that the ingredients of Plumpy, as it’s called locally, are “nearly the perfect ingredients for the starving  human body . . .”; I could come up with a better formula in a heartbeat with slight change in cost. The New York Times is similarly cautious about the future of peanut paste supplementation due to some (seemingly petty given the cause) patent and copyright concerns.

Box for Plumpy’Nut Challenge

Campaigns also exist to raise awareness like The Plumpy’Nut Challenge by the British charity Merlin, which asks otherwise well-off westerners to eat nothing but Plumpy’Nut for one day while Tweeting about their experience and pledging money for charity. Not a bad idea, and ONE DAY is easy. Really, really easy – despite what most participants say. A week or a month would be harder, but no one would sign up for that. Shockingly the success rate for this one day challenge is not 100%. People are wussies, but I digress.

For those kids that consume Plumpy’Nut as a means to NOT DIE, the situation is different, obviously. Later, when death is no longer a threat, one hopes – one REALLY hopes – that a return to traditional foods is the final step. This is a topic I will continue in another blog post – how vastly different a grain-based traditional African diet is from the grain-based stuff that is eaten every day by Westerners.

Stay tuned, and don’t worry about the stress of signing up for the Plumpy’nut Challenge – there isn’t another one until 2014.

Prison Food Ain’t What it Used To Be: Bechamel, Croquettes and Cupcakes at Alcatraz

Even in 1946, one of the most notorious prisons in the world was serving what would be considered real, homestyle, quality food. Check out this menu and see if you can tell just from the name what “Puree Mongole” is – I can’t. Sounds kind of . . . dubious. And if not dubious, then a little bit strange. (In reality, Puree Mongole is a soup made from split pea and tomato soups put together with more veggies.)

Despite being an obvious attempt to use up leftover soups and minimize waste, it was a favorite dish in high-falutin’ restaurants in New York in the 1920s. Apparently it trickled down to become prison fare.

Alcatraz menu, courtesy of sfgate.com

Alcatraz menu, courtesy of sfgate.com

Notice the variety of foods, however. Three squares a day, with coffee twice a day, desserts that actually sound good (spiced crab apples!), and “fresh milk”, which may very well be RAW milk.

Let’s compare that to this month’s menu at my local school district: Albuquerque, NM:

aps-school-lunch-2013

So we are looking at the Albuquerque Public School District’s high school lunch menu. High schoolers are as close as we get to prison age, hence the comparison. Where the Alcatraz inmates were getting homemade soup, breaded cod, broiled tomatoes and mashed potatoes for lunch (that’s ONE lunch), growing and thinking bodies are getting CHICKEN SMACKERS with potatoes, white bread, jello, gravy, coleslaw and fruit. Yipes. At least there’s fruit. I guess.

Now I am absolutely not forgetting that the quality of regular civilian food in 1946 compared to today has slid down the same mass-produced slope. Chicken Smackers are normal food that grown adults purchase and eat themselves at home all the time. That’s not the point of this rant. Grown adults, while battered from all sides with conflicting dietary advice to the point of weariness and ultimately rebellion, still pick and pay for their own food. Kids in school and prisoners do not.

And in school, it gets worse for the kids that need good food the most. The kids whose family situation makes it hard for them to get breakfast before going to school? They get extra-shafted, coming up in my next post . . .