Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Green Soup

I'll always encourage folks to eat the seasons.  I try to do so as much as possible by participating in a local CSA and growing fruit and veg in my backyard.  The coolers of veg we've been getting this time of year are brimming with greens.  As much as I LOVE wilted greens (cooked in bacon grease, chicken fat, Kerrygold, etc.), I need other options.  Enter: my wife.

She doesn't cook too often.  While I do 80-90% of the cooking in our house, her less frequent contributions are awesome.  This recipe of hers has been a staple in our house during the springtime for at least a couple of years now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Horchata" Protein Shake

Horchata is a sweet Mexican rice milk... somewhat of an "agua fresca." The homemade stuff you'll find in little taquerias all across this state is made with rice, milk... and sugar.  Hmmm... at least one of these things strikes me as "not very paleo or primal."

One of the guys I work with comes up to me and asks where I got the horchata I'm drinking. I looked down at my protein "shake" and thought about correcting him. But, after thinking about it for a half second... the way I mix my protein looks, smells, and kind of tastes like horchata. So, this is either an accidental recipe for faux horchata or an intentional recipe for how I drink my protein.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Get Started in "Paleo"... and Where It Leads

There are 100+ ways to define paleo. Primal is just a more specific version. And while my paleo kitchen may not even match up ideologically with some of the other folks I swap recipes and produce with... it all falls under the same paleo template. Look... What works for me may not work exactly as well for you. We're all built and wired (physically, mentally and emotionally) differently.

I had a friend call me the other day and ask me what I've been doing to get healthier. He's put on some extra weight and is now frustrated to the point where he's willing to try what has worked for me. Which begged the question... How do I explain to him what worked for me? I decided to keep it simple. Below is the one page summary (italicized) that I sent him... my best effort to spell out what a paleo/primal lifestyle requires.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Primal Texas Gardening Resources

After the suffocating summer we endured last year (and a shortage of bees), my wife and I had trouble getting much of anything started in our vegetable patch for this past fall/winter. That said, we were more than ready to get the early spring vegetables going in our garden. Ready enough to start planting in February. In these unseasonably warm first few months of the year… we decided to gamble. We planted a number of seeds in the last week of February, waited two weeks and planted more. Things are looking good as we seem to have survived March without a frost or freeze.

My wife and one of last year's turnips!

Hope springs eternal this time of year. We all have visions of what we want our lawn and garden to look like; lush, green, bountiful. And before reality starts flooding in, we head to the store to stock up on seeds, fertilizers and supplies. Know that not all stores are the same… and where you get your supplies may play a role in the success of your garden.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Primal Economics 102 - Produce

I wasn't always a fan of the produce section.  The veg in my shopping cart used to come in the way of some canned green beans, an onion, a few out of season roma tomatoes and a bag of frozen french fries.  Oh, and ketchup.  [Odds are the tomatoes were going to go bad sitting on my counter.]  My shopping cart slowly evolved over the years... and the places I got my produce from changed, as well.

While most Central Market grocers have well organized and beautifully arranged produce sections, you have to do a little digging to find what little organic produce they stock.  Whole Foods carries more organic produce... but you're going to pay for it.  Listed below are a few of the other ways you can affordably source your produce.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bacon Rosemary Cod

I haven't done anything with seafood in a while.  I take that back.  I haven't posted anything to do with seafood in awhile.  I made salmon cakes a couple of weeks back.  On the plus side, they tasted great!  They just weren't very appealing to the eye.  Worth trying again later, though. 

You may or may not have noticed... I'll wrap bacon around just about anything.  Dates, eggs, chicken livers (a-frickin'-mazing)... and fish.  Looking at this recipe, instead of cod, you could probably sub in chicken tenders or some sort of lean beef cut into strips.  But, cod plays nicely in this dish.  It has a good, firm texture and it's not a fishy fish (for those who complain about such things).  And, considering the fact that my freezer is stocked with the 2.5 pounds of the cod I bought at Sam's... it's time to make cod.

To prepare...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Restaurant Review - Louis Mueller Barbecue

Stepping outside of your own kitchen, you lose control of how your food is prepared.  Most restaurants will give you a brief description of the dishes on their menu... but few will tell you what is actually in them.  Do enough digging online, and you can find out how much MSG you choked down at a national chain... and how many more ingredients there were in their crispy french fries (aside from potatoes, oil and salt).  Caveat emptor.

Having been in Austin for PaleoFX12, we decided to stop at Louis Mueller Barbecue on our way out of town.  Louis' is a mere 45 minutes northeast of downtown Austin, we took "the long way" home.  It was well worth the side trip.

Friday, March 16, 2012

What is a Paleo/Primal Kitchen?

The question of how to stock a primal or paleo pantry is a common one... and each of our answers are a little different.  While we all stock our fair share of meat and vegetables, the details start to vary from there on.  But what about the actual kitchen itself?
I imagine the original paleo kitchen was pretty simple: a fire, a knife and maybe a flat stone that could be heated and cooked on... maybe a mortar and pestle.  Even looking back a mere hundred years or so, most people would be lost in a kitchen circa the turn of the 20th century.  No ice or filtered water dispensed from the refridgerator door?  No dial on the oven to meter the temperature inside?  No food processor?  No microwave? 

Just as the human diet has changed and evolved over the centuries, so have the kitchens we use.  I started thinking about how and why...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Bites

These little guys are in a freezer bag tucked away in my backpack as I wander around PaleoFX.  I kind of wish there was a time activated sensor that rationed these out to me... then I wouldn't need "self-control."  While they certainly aren't cookies in a traditional sense (no sugar, flour, etc.), eating them in excess will still not do me favors.  Eating almonds, apples and raisins are all better for you than cookies... but you can easily eat too many of those things as well.

I thought about naming these Cinnamon Raisin Apple Paleos... but they taste way better than that acronym would imply.  To make these...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Other People's Food - Volume 2

My wife and I went to a formal dinner this weekend.  I'm always interested in seeing how other people plate and portion food.  Looking down at my plate, I was shocked at the lack of veg.  At first, I rationalized that it might have something to do with budgeting... managing costs for an event that was serving a couple hundred people.  But then I saw the tenderloin on everyone's plate that weighed in around 6-8 ounces.  If they can afford to feed us all beef tenderloin, they can afford to give us more than two skinny asparagas stalks and an equally atrophied carrot.  The food wasn't meant to be the focus, so all in all, it was a great event.  I'm just saying...

Listed below are a couple of the recipes that have supplemented the menu in my house the last couple of weeks...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicken "Waldorf" Salad

I'm putting the name "Waldorf" in quotes because, well... it only slightly resembles a Waldorf salad.  A Waldorf salad is traditionally described as "a salad made of fresh apples, celery and walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and usually served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal."  My version eschews celery and adds tons of protein... because I'm not looking for an appetizer or a light meal.  I want a lunch that will get me through the rest of my day at work and through whatever CFWR has in store for me... and hold me over until dinner.

And, my version has bacon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poblano Chicken Bake

Why do casseroles on TV always have pasta in them?  The commercials show a smiling mom opening the oven door (with gleeful children onlooking) and pulling out a steaming dish... that is 80% pasta, 20% meat, lightly tossed in "tomato" sauce and covered in breadcrumbs.  Just watching this makes my insulin spike.  Thankfully, the next commercial is usually for some sort of diabetes medication.  Paula Deen would approve.  Based on the use of sweet potatoes and bacon grease, she might even approve of the recipe I have below.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Second Change: CrossFit

Exactly 52 weeks ago today, at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I set foot in a CrossFit box for the first time.  In the early part of 2011, I came to the realization that I was incredibly out of shape... and fueling myself on a fast food diet while leading a sedentary lifestyle wasn't going to do my lifespan any favors.  I knew I had to find some sort of physical exertion that I could enjoy enough to stick with.  I'd tried running in my neighborhood... and found it to be boring.  Treadmills and ellipticals bored me even more.  But across from my old office, there was a gym that seemed to be thrown together in a warehouse.  Unlike most gyms, there was no traditional equipment to be seen inside... and the people who went there did odd things... like running around the block while carrying heavy objects.  Interesting.  The sign out front boldly proclaimed the establishment as CrossFit Strong.  As I wanted to find out more about how they would make me "fit" and "strong," I checked out their website... and tumbling down the rabbit hole I went.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Primal Texas Chili

This recipe is overdue.  I have no excuse for not posting it sooner.  In a perfect world, I would have made it on a bitterly cold winter afternoon.  Few things cut through a winter chill like a warm bowl of Texas Red.  But alas, I don't know that we had a winter this year.  It was 78 degrees the day I made this batch.  And with little chance of a freeze on the horizon, I decided I just needed a bowl this past weekend. 

How do you define chili?  Ask ten people and you'll get ten different answers.  Folks in the upper midwest put cinnamon in theirs.  Sometimes "chili" is served on top of noodles.  People from all parts use recipes with all sorts of beans.  There's even debate about the kind of meat that should be used.  I've had some good venison chili, and some people like to incoporate pork into their recipe.  While most people believe that chili meat starts and ends with beef, they're still divided into cubed vs. ground beef camps.  Overall, I keep my recipe simple.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Egg Muffins: The Spinach Experiment

It is a fantastic source of iron and calcium.  It was a food item I went out of my way to avoid as a child.  It is a staple food in Popeye's diet.  Folks, I'm talking about spinach.  While I wouldn't touch the stuff as a kid, I can't get enough of it now.  I know it's good for me.  I mix it into meat sauces and stews.  I wilt it and serve it as as side dish.  I make it the green, leafy foundation of a salad.  And, now I'm eating it for breakfast.

This week, I decided to turn my recipe for my batch of egg muffins on its ear... meaning more veg, less meat. Using my normal template for egg muffins, I came up with...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Primal Economics 101

Grass fed beef gets expensive.  So does free-range chicken.  Especially when you are feeding more than one mouth... or a growing family.  And, while someday I may be able to shop exclusively at Whole Foods and the like, I'd like a little more wiggle room in my grocery budget.  I decided to conduct an experiment in consumer economics that I would like to call Primal Economics 101.

I looked at my last few grocery bills and realized that the majority of the bill was going towards protein.  Meat, fish, eggs, bacon, nuts, protein powder, etc.  There was a significant amount of produce on the receipt, too... but that will be reduced soon, as our vegetable garden will start producing and we will be picking up our weekly share from a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm.  I'd heard from a few sources about how serious money can be saved by shopping at Sam's, Costco and the like.  But nobody provided a breakdown of what and how much.  And then there's the idea of having to pay for membership.  I remained skeptical.

So, this weekend, using a free one-day pass that I found online to try out our local Sam's Club...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Other People's Food

My wife gets on to me when we're at restaurants for craning my neck to peer at passing plates or even openly gawking at what is being eaten at the table next to me.  Is this rude?  Really?  My favorites are the neighboring tables that start conversations about what each of us ordered and what else we've tried/recommend off of the menu.  The patrons at Company Cafe and Jonathon's Oak Cliff have been the most talkative... and there is plenty to talk about with their menus.

When my mind starts runs out of ideas and I can't find inspiration on my bookshelf or by wandering the grocery store... I wander the internet, the world's biggest free cookbook.  Listed below are a couple of the recipes that have supplemented the menu in my house the last few weeks...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spiced Chicken and Root Vegetables

The language of food can be a fun one.  It spans continents and cultures.  It can make you sound sophisticated.  It can also make you sound like an immature 12 year old boy.  At the top of my food vocabulary favorite list (right behind "fishmonger") is "spatchcocked."  Walk up to the meat counter at your local grocery store, ask for one of the whole chickens in the case... then ask the butcher to spatchcock it for you.  I can usually keep a straight face right up until the butcher does a double take and asks me what I just asked.  I quickly explain that a spatchcocked bird has the back cut out and the breast bone removed or broken (both of which can be reserved and used later for stock).  They slowly nod and prep my chicken.  Why do I ask the butcher to do it for me?  They have better knives and shears than I have... and I just have fun asking.

If your butcher doesn't cut meat/poultry to order, check out this guide on how to spatchcock your own bird.

Also, I decided to take this bird into previously uncharted territory (for me, at least) when it came to seasoning.  To satisfy a craving I've been having all winter, I dusted this bird with cinnamon and allspice.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fennel & Apple Slaw with Pork Chops

Every family has their standbys and quick go-to meals.  They are part of a rotation.  Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember hot dog/mac’n’cheese night, taco night and grilled cheese/soup night.  One of my favorite meals that my mom kept in the rotation was pork chops, apple sauce and Rice-A-Roni.  If I want to overanalyze it, I’m sure the roots of the recipe below can be found in that childhood meal.  I wasn’t trying to mimic or recreate it… just thought of it while eating my latest creation.  I’ll wager that this version has a little less sodium than boxed rice and noodles… and a little less sugar than jarred applesauce.  And it has vegetables!  Fennel!  [That’d be the funny looking onion-like bulb that smells faintly of licorice in your produce section.]

Buy and use as many pork chops as you need for this meal.  The slaw portion prepared below makes about 4-6 good sized servings… but then I’ll eat a quarter of a cabbage head in one sitting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Upcoming Primal/Paleo Events in Texas

There's always something going on, but the events below are a little bigger than a local paleo potluck or Whole 30 Challange info session.  Houston, Dallas and Austin are each hosting an event... and all of these events are coming up in March.

First on the calendar is Paleo FX in Austin, March 14-17. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Buffalo Salmon Jerky

If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself.  The buffalo salmon jerky recipe I will share below spawned in the deep, dark recesses of my brain when browsing the seafood counter at our local Whole Foods.  They happen to make/carry a version of this treat.  But, after reading the ingredient card and talking with the fishmonger, I discovered that they make their salmon jerky using farm raised Atlantic salmon and have a number of soy based ingredients in their marinade.  [sigh…] Not something I want to spend my hard earned money on, much less eat.  As if the presence of soy wasn’t disappointing enough...  wait.  Why, you ask, am I so wound up about the sourcing of my jerky meat?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Aside from some of the harsh lessons learned in my kitchen these past couple of weeks, there have been a couple of successes.  One of them was the bacon bouquet I made my wife for Valentine's Day.  A bacon bouquet doesn't last as long as a dozen (overpriced) roses, but roses don't taste like bacon.  If they did, I still wouldn't buy them because real bacon is cheaper.  Next Valentine's Day, show your love with bacon.  If the target of your affections rejects your offering, move on.  Anyone who rejects bacon doesn't deserve your love.

I digress.  You're probably thinking, "Did he mislabel the post?  He hasn't said a thing about chicken wings..."  And if you're hoping to find out what a bacon bouquet looks like, sorry.  It didn't last long.  So, buffalo chicken wings...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lessons Learned in My Kitchen

The past couple of weeks in my kitchen have been checkered with successes and failures.  Some people think that "failure" may be a harsh criticism to throw out there.  But, I'd be sugar coating the reality if I tried to downplay some of my poor results... and sugar isn't primal/paleo.  While almost nothing I made was worth posting on Primal Texas, I suppose these lost endeavors cannot be labeled total failures.  For one thing, nothing that was prepared had to be wasted.  It may have tasted kind of "meh", but my wife put on a smile that even I (almost) believed and told me it wasn't as bad as I thought.  And, there were lessons learned in every instance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hearty Beef Stew

If it were to ever get cold in Texas this “winter,” I’d have started making this months ago and more often.  But, alas… It’s going to be 70 degrees or warmer the next couple of days with no dip into the 30s for a while.  Sometimes it’s hard to want to make stews and chilis when it isn’t cold outside.  However, I took advantage of the amazing unseasonal weather we’ve been having and started cleaning up and prepping the back yard and vegetable patches last weekend.  Some things we planted last year are somehow still going strong: chard, parsley… and rosemary.  While the recipe that follows is headlined by beef (a favorite leading character), rosemary certainly deserves a nod as Best Supporting Ingredient.  It doesn’t steal the spotlight, but brings a depth to the entire production that would be lacking if it were not there.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tough Mudder! - March 31st

So, I signed up for this little event called the Tough Mudder.  Maybe you've heard of it?  Ten mile course, 20+ obstacles and mud.  And, as a few friends were quick to remind me (while telling me I was effing nuts for signing up for it)... fire and electric shocks!  What else could you ask for in an endurance event?  Sure, some 5ks offer hot chocolate at the end of the race ("Because I earned/burned enough calories to deserve something sweet..."), but the Tough Mudder serves up beer to its participants ("Because I just ran through fire and live wires, damnit!").

While I have been training at CrossFit White Rock for ten months now, the prospect of a ten mile course started to get in my head.  We never run more than a 5k, and even then, we only do it once every few months.  Our WODs contain a lot of 400m, 800m and 1 mile run segments.  But, I started wondering if I needed to supplement my training with long runs each week.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Egg Muffins: Variations on a Theme

I am one who will eat the same thing for lunch, Monday through Friday.  I look at breakfast the same way.  Every morning, I eat two or three eggs.  If my palette was the only one in the house to please, I’d probably eat Bacon Wrapped Eggs every morning.  But now and then, my wife or I will want a slight change in the menu. Not a sharp turn off the Primal path toward standard American breakfasts of cereal/oatmeal/donuts/bagels/toaster pastries/waffles/etc… just a different spin on eggs.  While I make Egg Muffins about every other week or so, I don’t always use the exact recipe I posted earlier.
Listed below are a few different ways to change up your Egg Muffins, using the same recipe format. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Easy to Pack Snacks

CrossFit White Rock has started another Whole30 challenge.  While I am not participating in this one, there seem to be dozens of folks who are… many for the first time.  And with their first plunge into a paleo lifestyle, they have a lot of questions.  What to eat at meal times seems easy enough, but what about all the time in between?  “What am I supposed to snack on?”  I prep and pack my breakfast, lunch and snacks for the week on Sunday.  While I make sure I have two snacks each day, I don’t always eat them both.  Listed below are some of the many things that appear in my lunch bag.

Before the First Change...

I was dramatically overweight, had no energy to do anything but watch whatever the DVR had recorded for me when I got home, and "didn’t have time" to make the right decisions with food.  Eating was a matter of convenience.  So more beginning of year reflection lead me to think back on 2011.  One year ago, an average day of eating looked something like...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spicy Coconut Shrimp

I almost hesitate to use the words "coconut shrimp" to describe this dish. Together, the words conjure up memories that are deep fried, battered, greasy, and over-cooked. As this dish is NOT deep fried and NOT battered, it is far what you are probably imagining. However, I found it to be satisfying in many other ways... spicy, slightly sweet and plenty of lean protein.

Please note: I don't list any measurements for the cayenne... and never list them for salt and pepper. I lump these things under the heading of "use to taste." This is cooking (art), not baking (science). And besides... someone in the Pacific Northwest may have an entirely different idea of what spicy is compared to someone who grew up stirring a pot of Texas Red.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My First Change: Packing Lunch

I’m sitting up… past my bedtime… refreshing the CFWR schedule website for the 37th time to see if tomorrow’s WOD has been posted yet.  Alas, it has not.  I’m not sure why I’m so curious about the workout’s makeup.  There is nothing they could post that would inspire me to stay home and skip it.  I’ll be there at 8 a.m., even though the coach who planned the WOD described it (with his trademark wry smile) as “…going to be tough.  Yeah, it’s gonna suck for you guys.”  Um, when I asked about Saturday’s workout, I was looking for specifics… not smirking and vagueness.  Checking for the 38th time (still nothing), I vow not to check again tonight… to let it be a “pleasant” surprise tomorrow morning.  I know that early tomorrow morning I will be presented with the challenge to overcome.  A 5k? Murph? Filthy Fifty?  Or perhaps a uniquely designed Chipper?  Our coaches can be so creative.
As I (pointlessly) refresh for the 39th time, I begin to wonder, “What has come over me?  When did I become consumed by this way of life?”  This has prompted a bit of even deeper reflection…which has me thinking back on my life a year ago today.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs

December can be a handful.  With friends, family and work events to balance, loved ones to shop for, and workout regimens to maintain on top of everything we normally do... something has to give.  In my case, I spent less time in front of my computer.  In itself, not a bad thing.  But then, it has been a few weeks since I have posted any new recipes.

January can be a handful, as well.  The first of the year is chosen by many as a starting point for an attempt at a new way of life.  Many try to wedge new habits into their schedule in the name of better health.  Gym memberships spike.  Neighborhood sidewalks are crowded with joggers.  I'm sure there is an increase in sales of fitness apparel and candy "protein" bars.  I'll break down the popular protein/recovery/energy bar market in a later post.  But today, I'm offering a whole food alternative that will help replenish your depleted glycogen and give you some needed protein and fat after running or working out.