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

Advertisements

Green Smoothie in 2 Steps

Green Smoothies are, technically, easy and fast for any day/morning/whatever. There are two main steps you need to know:

  1. Add greens.
  2. Add secondary flavor &  liquid.

The rest is just details and nuances. Your blender is somewhat important especially if your GREENS are relatively fibrous veggies, like leafy greens. A good ‘regular’ blender or my favorite stick blender can handle spinach or cucumber. BUT. For things like parsley, kale, raw ginger root, and the like, you’ll need serious firepower to obliterate that stuff. Like, a Vitamix. Or any of those other fancy blenders that they demo at Costco.

Ok, here we go. Step ONE: add greens! Yes, that is a WHOLE bunch of flat-leaf Italian parsley. Trust me, it’s freakin’ good for you.

Green Smoothie 1a

Oops. First, we should take off the bottom stems and tag. Hee.

Green Smoothie 1b

Ok, now we need to add at least a little extra flavor, because just pure parsley might be a bit on the uber-healthy side for most folks. A banana is a good option, frozen or not (as is a green apple for extra green-ness):

Green Smoothie 2a

At this point, add a little water to help things along. A half-cup should do it. And then, always add salt. It brings out the flavor of ANY food. Add a pinch or a grind or whatever you know to be your preference:

Green Smoothie 2b

Start blending! It might take a little while to get absorbed down into the blades of obliterative death, especially if you are not using the blender’s “pusher” tool, as I am not:

Green Smoothie 2c

Success! All of the junk is twirling around merrily, on low power. After 20 seconds of that, it’s time to consider more speed.

Green Smoothie 2d

HIGH power! This is the speed at which if you blend for more than a minute or two, it will warm up and eventually turn into steaming soup. Yes, really. So don’t go too crazy, and feel the side of the pitcher to make sure it’s not getting warm.

Green Smoothie 2e

After about 30 seconds of cell-wall destruction, you are ready to pour:

Green Smoothie DONE

Enjoy your ridiculously healthy drink. I sometimes add a splash of cider vinegar afterwards, for a little extra digestive goodness.

Pick Up Ethical Meat on Your Way Home

Roadkill: quite possibly the only ethical meat if you are squeamish about animals raised with the express purpose of ending up on your plate.

I suppose hunting and fishing would also fall into this category, but then YOU actually have to kill the thing and for some folks that apparently steps over some line of culpability.

But roadkill? That’s like the dollar-bag of wilting produce at your favorite hoity-toity grocery store where local carrots with the dirt still attached are like $9.89/lb and the cashiers have dreadlocks AND mustaches.

In some states it’s legal, in others it’s just . . . tolerated. Usually.

As to the actual culinary merits, that’s up to you. Get some recipes ready and your butchery skills honed.

http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/eating-roadkill/

A Fair Amount of Kale Involved

Just a quickie today – I read a decent article in The Atlantic about food, our guts, and skin health and a quote popped out that made me smirk:

Maybe if you’re 20 you just have good genes and you can have pizza and beer every day and still glow. But if you’re over 40, often there is a fair amount of kale involved. – Robynne Chutkan, author of Gutbliss

Expectation does not Equal RealityYeah, that’s true – taking care of ourselves is a moving target that can shift from year to year, decade to decade. And yet, it is all to easy to find “inspiration” (or the more insidious varieties called thinspiration or fitspiration) for how we should look or feel or perform in people who do not resemble us AT ALL. They are almost always possessing of several attributes that are conveniently forgotten:

  • young
  • they are fit for a living
  • at the end of a long diet process
  • starving and dehydrated on photo shoot day

… those “amazing” looking women on the cover of Shape are – more often than not – dehydrated and almost about to pass out from hunger. They are likely at their lowest weight point of the previous (or upcoming) six months.

In short, THEY DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THAT. Just like you don’t look like the 10 years-old photo on your driver’s license, or the tiny and cute avatar that’s been attached to an email account for eons, or the glamor shot used for your corporate bio at your firm. And that’s OK, as long as you see the parallels in the disassociation from reality in both camps.

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.

Procrastinating Is Easy When You Are Not Suffering

I recently found myself in a quasi-challenge with a friend to remove a few things from our daily eating habits that were making us generally cranky, or were bothering our guts. No problem, right? Sometimes you are totally ok to walk by the ice cream at the store?

WRONG.

Here’s the thing. We are both very, very healthy. We feel good a lot of the time, AND we eat well, move around, and sleep a decent amount. Therefore, what we are doing is just the window trim, or the fluffy frosting rose on the otherwise done wedding cake. We are fine-tuning.

Dinner Option 1

Dinner Option 1?

And, fine-tuning sucks.

That’s a lot of the source of resistance to “whole food eating” (whether you call it Paleo or primal or ancestral or vegan+bacon, whatever) to average/normal people: normal people feel FINE most of the time. Sure, we have allergies, or we get sick, or our necks hurt a lot, or we poop weird a lot of the time, but hey, that’s just getting older, isn’t it?

Why the hell should we adopt this very specific diet because whatever we are eating now will/might/could make us disease-riddled in 30 years??? Fat chance. And thus, perhaps, we ensure some negative consequences down the road. But they are down the road.

Folks who have MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, or any auto-immune condition – THOSE are the highly motivated who turn their life outlook around when they use diet and lifestyle to fix themselves. They have everything to gain and only some minor inconvenience to deal with as they transition away from ramen and fried cheese balls and Pop Tarts. When they feel better, they feel GREAT.

And then they tell everyone about it. But, those they tell – the rest of us – are not highly motivated, usually. Normal folks are not-so-thirsty horses that don’t really care to be led over to the water, thanks.

Dinner Option 2

Dinner Option 2

I still think the “whole fooders” are right (whatever that means), and they are doing great things like:

But. Hmph. Sometimes the only marginally motivated just want some damn ice cream. Challenge? Hmph.

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.