Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crazy Coincidence, or Paleo Preventative Medicine?

I'm thinking back to a year and half ago.  I may have been scrubbing or disinfecting something at this exact moment.  At least one of us may have been sick in this house with anything from a runny nose to a fever or some sort of stomach bug.  After years of me having stomach pain after nearly everything I ate, and then having our oldest daughter at 3 years old complaining in harmony with me about hers hurting, my husband suggested we take a look at the paleo diet and going gluten-free.  We did, immediately the following day.  Not a speck of gluten was consumed and everything we ate was unprocessed and fresh.  We had no stomach pains.  That was day one, but it was enough to keep us going.  Throughout the next week, we all felt better with each passing day.  Although I read everywhere that eating this way would help keep you healthier, I was skeptical that it could really work for my family because it seemed that we got EVERYTHING that was going around, no matter how much we tried to avoid the sicknesses.  I kept waiting and waiting through last year during the fall, then winter, and now that we're approaching spring I'm pretty convinced that it isn't a crazy coincidence my husband, both kids, and myself haven't been sick once except for a runny nose that lasted a day.  No fevers, no ill appointments at the doctor, no antibiotics, no sick days from school.  (Trust me, I'm superstitious, so I'll be knocking on wood after I say this) I think it's the Paleo diet thing that has been keeping us so healthy.  I can't count how many times I've seen friends posting on Facebook about having sick little ones at home and I just pray that whatever bug that has gotten a hold of their kid doesn't decide to jump ship to one of mine at preschool or a playdate.  With the overabundance of snot, coughing, and little fingers getting put in places they shouldn't be,  I figured it was bound to happen.  But it didn't. 

Aside from the fact that eating a diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grass-fed, pastured and free-range meats gives you plenty of essential vitamins and minerals to help keep you healthy, I think the gluten and processed sugars are where we found our culprits.  I'm amazed at the information about the link between gluten and our immune system's ability to fight infection.  The best resource I found to understand it better is through none other than Robb Wolf and his book, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.  It was entertaining, informative and gave the scientific explanation as to why it works.  Check it out if you are even just a little bit curious.  I didn't have anything else to read on a long car ride, and so I grabbed this from my husband's bag, and I'm so glad I did.  It became my preventative medicine.  Although the transition to this lifestyle had a few hiccups the first week, it was well worth it.  Having our kids at ages 3 and 4.5 aware of what is paleo and what has gluten in it and what doesn't and the sense to ask, "Is it gluten-free?" is music to our ears.

Order The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf

Friday, March 11, 2011

Almond Coconut Breaded Paleo Fish Tenders

Anything that resembles a fish stick or a nugget makes for an automatic tantrum-free dinner, so this might be one of my utility recipes that's a go-to when my brain is too fried from explaining for the ninetieth time to my four year old that 48 degrees isn't warm enough to go swimming in the outdoor pool.  Although, the coconut and hint of lime in this recipe definitely reminds me that spring and summer are just around the corner and we'll be back at the pool in no time.

Paleo Fish Sticks

6 small mild fish filets (wild cod, halibut, sole, etc.) cut in half lengthwise to make 2 tenders each
1/2 cup lime juice
2 whole organic brown free range eggs - lightly whisked in a large bowl

First, start by marinating the fish tenders in a shallow dish with the lime juice for 30 minutes.  Remove from dish and add to egg mixture making sure to coat all tenders.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and begin breading.

"Breading" mix

1/2 cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt *optional
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and pour onto a large plate.  Lay tenders one at a time and press onto the mixture making sure to coat both sides, then place on a large greased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve hot with a side of the coconut "mayonnaise" for dipping

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coconut "Mayonnaise"

Alright, now this one's a little out there and "mayonnaise" might be stretching it, but I used this to replace mayonnaise for a dipping sauce I made for this fish.  I made two batches, the second slightly runny so I could drizzle it over the fish.   I will absolutely be using this to fill the void in all those recipes I want to make, but haven't, because mayonnaise was a necessary ingredient.

Although heating it probably depletes some of its nutritional value, I made this by gently simmering coconut milk down with a few other ingredients until it was a mayo consistency.  I have to forewarn you though, it takes quite a bit of coconut milk to make a very small amount of this stuff.  You can use different things to flavor it and in this particular one, I used lemon and garlic.

Coconut Mayo Recipe

2 cups organic coconut milk (full fat)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove organic minced garlic

In a medium saucepan, add all ingredients and bring to a boil.  Once they are boiling, reduce heat to low and continue to stir frequently until it thickens to desired consistency, about 7-10 minutes.  For a consistency and texture similar to goat cheese, heat longer being careful not to burn it.   This made about 3/4 cup of the slightly runny and about a 1/2 cup of the thicker mayo.

If you don't want garlic in it, feel free to omit, but the lemon or lime juice is necessary for that tangy flavor of mayo.  Apple cider vinegar might be good to use as well.  Check back for the recipe for the fish pictured.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bratwurst Casserole

In need of some color on my plate and currently obsessed with using purple cabbage any way possible, I came up with this casserole of sliced bratwurst with a good mix of vegetables.   The kids loved this and kept calling the bratwurst a hot dog.  I'm fine with that, because I know what all went in to these "hot dogs."  They loved helping me make it too, with the youngest adding the cabbage and the oldest tearing the kale into pieces.  After a second and then a third helping, I figured I better take a picture before it's all gone.   I'm sure you can get creative with the seasoning of this dish, but I wanted to keep it simple and enjoy the natural flavors of the vegetables, for the most part. 

Bratwurst Casserole

1 lb. pastured pork bratwurst - slightly pan seared for slicing - Spring Hill Farm
1 bunch organic kale- removed from main stems and torn into bite sized pieces
1 cup chopped organic carrots
1/2 head thinly sliced organic purple cabbage
1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves organic garlic-minced
1/2 small organic yellow onion thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large rectangular glass casserole dish, add all vegetables.   In a small condiment bowl, mix olive oil with cider vinegar, then pour over vegetables.   Toss the vegetables until coated.   After a quick searing of the whole bratwursts in a large skillet, slice them into bite sized pieces (even smaller for really young children to prevent a choking hazard).  The searing cooks the outer edges of the meat making it more firm and easier to slice.  Toss the bratwurst pieces on the vegetables, evenly distributed, and cover with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes.  Don't overbake or kale will turn brown and cabbage will become mushy.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cassava Noodles

Let me first just say that I'm positive these still need work, practice, and a great beef gravy to go along with them.  Cassava flour (from the yucca root) is technically not paleo by most standards for various reasons I'm not going to get into.  You decide if you want this to be part of your diet.  If Groc and his fellow hunter/gatherers ate this stuff raw, a different species might be dominating the food chain, but at some point, however, someone got hip to the fact that if they boiled them, it released the toxins and was then edible.  And here we are...

Rather than bore you with the process of detoxifying the Cassava, I'll get to creation of the noodle.  So I did quite a bit of reading up on this and found a local farm in Ohio that sells all kinds of flour, cassava included.  Links are at the end for those of you interested in purchasing some. 

Again, don't make this a staple, but if you want to have something reminiscent of the Beef with Egg Noodles, this might (and I mean MIGHT) get you there, or at least provide you with a fun science experiment in the kitchen.

I haven't made these in bulk, but that's because I don't have a pasta machine. (imagine that!) This is my test run with just a small amount of flour to test it out and make a few noodles.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil

I used about 1/4 cup cassava flour with a pinch of finely ground sea salt and added a teaspoon-at-a-time of water and stirred until it formed a dough ball.    I pressed the dough down on a sheet of wax paper with wet fingertips until it was about 1/8 inch thick and used a pizza cutter to slice it into fat noodles.   If you can get the noodles off the paper in one piece, drop them into the boiling water for about 3 minutes and remove them.  The result is a thick, sticky noodle that is basically tasteless.

I may try these in a beef gravy recipe someday, but I wanted to accept this challenge from Roxanne to make pasta, and not spaghetti squash :) If you try these, please share your experience with me!

Here's the link:

Buy Cassava Flour