An Open Letter to Critics

7 Nov

While on the computer today, I once again found myself on the huge time-suck that is Buzzfeed. I came across this piece from NY Mag online:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.11.26 PMNow, I’m all for people putting their opinions out there, but this article (really a review of an article?) does one thing: proves the ignorance of the author. The article she is talking about is from Men’s Health (click pictures for links). Read the subheading. That irks me to NO end.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.15.48 PMI have so many issues with these articles I don’t know where to start. I’m going to talk about the Men’s Health article first. Yes, it shows the habits and practices of the actual paleolithic man but does so in a “ugh gross!” light. The line “gag-worthy” is insanely offensive. I’m so tired of the gross-out factor. You all realize that meat comes from live animals, yes?  And that some of the MOST nutrient-dense foods are the organ meats? Meat isn’t just ground beef/turkey/pork wrapped in a pretty package marked with a price tag in the meat case at Ralph’s. The genuine disconnect between animal and our plate is truly disheartening.  Since becoming paleo, I don’t shy away from any part of the animal. Sean and I make chicken stock from backs, necks and any bones from the bird we have.  Tongue, heart, brain, liver – all of it. Those organs have so much to give to us, so much nutrition it’s crazy. Funny how the article leaves that out…

I realize it’s not easy to get over that mental block, and maybe you won’t like it after the fact (I, for one, have tried raw oysters many times and just don’t like them).  There are many shades to a paleo diet. I didn’t dive in head first to headcheese and beef tongue (a la tacos de lengua). So please don’t knock it until you give it a go yourself. I can’t tell you how offensive it is to have your lunch called disgusting.

I was a vegetarian for years, and as the meat-eater I am now, I’m more of invested in humane practices and animal rights than any of my soy/tempeh/tofurky days. Sure, I don’t plan on drinking buffalo pee or engaging in cannibalism, but these things happened to early man. And they did whatever they had to do to survive.  I gather this article is against what the name “paleo diet” implies. No, I’m not eating the same way as the primitive version of myself. But what I am doing is using that type of diet – meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds – as a basis for a new food pyramid that makes me feel much better than the traditional model.

Now for the NY Mag’s recap of the article.

One: paleo is not a strictly CrossFitter diet. Two: Stop with the “original paleolithic man didn’t have paleo cake” shtick. Anyone with half a brain would understand that and news flash: we don’t eat paleo cake day in day out. We also use cell phones, computers, internet, heat, refrigeration and many other comforts of the modern world. This isn’t about emulating the life of paleolithic man, it’s about living as healthy as we know how which happens to include a diet closer to what they ate. Three: I think the author was having thoughts of leaving grain behind…the threat to his/her precious breads, cereals, etc. Extreme grain addiction. Sugar, folks. It’s not that hard to understand. You don’t want to ‘give up’ your pasta, bread, etc etc because in its’ simplest form, it’s sugar. This is why once you cut out these items you have that moment when you would do anything to get your hands on a sandwich. Yes, there are carbohydrates in other foods than grains – and I indulge sporadically in potatoes (sweet potatoes, yams, and (gasp!) white potatoes) along with white rice because neither make me sick.  I’ll also have foods that contain the occasional dairy product – yes, I eat the highest quality I can find of full-fat dairy sometimes because it doesn’t upset my tummy.  And goat cheese – sooo tasty.  I’m getting off topic. Eat your heart out, Paleo Police (if you can stomach to eat heart that is).

If I have a gluten-containing food, I get sick almost immediately. I can detect it now even with slight contamination. I was tested in 2009 for food allergies, and results showed sensitives to soy, corn, wheat/gluten and yeast. Talk about a hit to a then-vegetarian like myself. Luckily my symptoms aren’t as severe as others. But the intestinal discomfort is real. The inflammatory response in my system is real. Sure, I know there are people would think “gluten-free” is a fad, and it’s only been around since 2010, but I’m 99% sure I’ve been gluten sensitive since childhood. I had SO many stomach issues – just a kid with a “sensitive stomach”. But those hospital trips and the traumatizing event of throwing up in the lunchroom in 3rd grade (yes, I remember that too vividly) among other incidents really makes me think that my gluten-heavy diet was a big part of my era as the “throw-up kid”. Yep.

Yes, we aren’t killing our food with our bare hands (although Sean does hunt a few times a year) and preparing for the winter by gathering as much as we can right now – but this whole “hey our ancestors didn’t have paleo cupcakes?! So you’re wrong.” argument is getting way old. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and no way is exactly the right way, I know that. But I’m tired of people rolling their eyes at me, at the true paleo community which is full of people who want to feel better, lose weight, reverse disease and possibly extend life. It’s not a ‘One Size Fits All’ lifestyle. I would love it if everyone could try, for a solid 30-days, to eliminate grains, dairy, refined sugars from their diet and see how you feel. Then gradually add in those foods and see what happens. What you do for your health is your own business – paleo or not. Passing judgment without doing so is, among other things, disrespectful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got beef heart stew going on the stove and paleo muffins about to go in the oven…

Primal Bookshelf: Review of FERMENTED by Jill Ciciarelli

6 Aug

Sean and I have been lucky enough to get on the right list to receive advance copies of Victory Belt books – and this year’s Paleo Book Season is full swing. Our mailbox has been flooded with books from Danielle Walker, Sarah Fragoso, Stacy Toth & Matt McCarry and Bill Staley & Hayley Mason to name a few!

We first met Jill Ciciarelli at Paleo f(x) this past spring in Austin, TX.  She joined our house for the event along with her husband, affectionately known as “Dude” – and if there’s ever been instant friends, it’s us four. Combine our mutual love for dry humor and Alex Trebek, and you have immediate friendship. I’m so glad I have Jill & Dude in my life! That just makes her book all the more meaningful to me – for the love of kraut, go buy this book and get to FERMENTIN’! Fermented Cover LARGE

Fermented foods go way beyond sauerkraut and pickles – Jill’s got a recipe for everything under the sun. Kombuchca, vinegars, fermented fruits & veggies – even drinky drinks like hard cider and sangria! Fermented sangria? YES. I’m so excited to get started. Coconut milk yogurt also looks yummy! Oh, did I mention the photos? My good friend Bill Staley is a BOSS at shootin’ food (and people…and dogs :) ) and this book looks simply clean, fresh and magically delicious.

Adding fermented foods to your daily plate will send thousands of healthy bacteria troops to your gut. The health benefits are endless. Jill goes above just recipes here – you can feel the love for fermented foods & the science behind it.

Jill has given us a season-by-season guide to fermenting your own foods at home – now you have no excuse. Though, be warned – fermenting takes TIME. Be patient and pay attention to your science experiments and reap delicious results so good your gut will be singing. The book hits shelves today, August 6th…Go buy FERMENTED now!

The Primal Bookshelf: Review of AGAINST ALL GRAIN

26 Jul

I first met Danielle Walker at Paleo f(x) in Austin, TX. It was over brunch with the blogger crew that I tasted her divine granola. Holy cow! That stuff was addictive.  So, so tasty! Until then I had only heard of her through her blog, www.againstallgrain.com but tasting the fruits of her labor

Danielle recently posted her journey from overcoming ulcerative colitis on her site. So often we only see the weight loss success stories about the Paleo lifestyle, but using food as medicine is, in my opinion, the best aspect of the paleo/real food movement.

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Sean & I have only recently been getting advanced copies of books lately to review for our sites, so what a nice surprise when we got AGAINST ALL GRAIN in our mailbox!

First impression? WOW. Gorgeous photos and food styling on each and every page.  Danielle’s battle with health issues and subsequent venture to use a gluten-free/dairy-free diet produced lots of genuine replacements for our old school favs – like granola and coconut milk yogurt, to yummy meat dishes and chocolate chip cookies.

I flipped through the book a few times to figure out what I wanted to make first. And then I saw her Banana Porridge… In my pre-Paleo days, when I was first told of my gluten sensitivity, oatmeal was my JAM. I made an epic oatmeal chock-full of goodies – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, fresh fruit (my fav was adding in frozen mango and the hot oats would heat it up) and the kicker? A spoonful of peanut butter. Very tasty, very much not paleo… I still miss oatmeal, and cereal, sometimes, so I was eager to try out Danielle’s porridge. MG_6135-640x392

Yes, I live in Southern California, where it’s almost always 70-something & sunny…but not always. The past few days have been particularly gloomy & gray, especially near the ocean where I live. PERFECT weather to test out the Porridge. Super easy recipe, just requires some planning ahead as you have to soak the nuts. With a food processor and your finger, the porridge comes together like magic. Can’t wait to try out some other recipes, too!

Against All Grain hits the shelves on Tuesday, July 30th! Pre-order on Amazon now!

Ice Cream Social: Part I | Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream! (Dairy-Free)

24 Jul

I love ice cream. It’s hands-down one of my favorite treats – be it summer or winter. I can handle dairy OK, but occasionally I need to lay off the cow, so I decided to try my hand at making vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

Why the Part I you ask? You’ll see! I’m working on something special and will all be part of my Ice Cream Social series :) Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, try out the vanilla and let me know what you think! It’s creamy, soft-serve like texture right out of the ice cream maker is magical. And it’s not overly sweet!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cans full fat coconut milk

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

4 egg yolks

1/2 C coconut sugar

1 package (about 1 Tbsp) gelatin

DIRECTIONS:

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat coconut milk and vanilla. Don’t boil, but just heat – about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks & coconut sugar.

Add egg + sugar mixture to coconut milk. Whisk to combine. Add gelatin and continue whisking until dissolved.

Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool before transferring to a separate bowl.

Cover & refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Set up ice cream maker and operate according to instructions. Allow ice cream to churn for at least 20-30 minutes or until it has a soft-serve consistency.

Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer-safe container & cover to serve later.  If moving to freezer, when serving remove from freezer & allow to soften for about 5 to be scoopable.

Top with your fav sauces, toppings, add ins & ENJOY!

Watermelon Granita

18 Jul

Ever since I can remember, summertime is my absolutely FAVORITE time of the year. I lived at our neighborhood pool, where I was on the swim team, later on a lifeguard and swim coach. Watermelon and summer go together like bacon & eggs – and there’s nothing better than eating a slice of juicy watermelon on hot day. And have a seed spittin’ contest. :)

I got a good lookin’ melon last week and decided to make it into something different – a granita. What is a granita? It’s Sicilian shaved ice dessert – similar to Italian Ice or Shaved Ice – perfect for a hot summer day! It couldn’t be simpler to make – just needs a little TLC. I’m definitely planning to make it with other fruits. This recipe makes a pretty good amount, so perfect for your next backyard BBQ!Watermelon Granida-007-Edit
INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 cups watermelon chunks (seedless or seeded)
  • 1/2 C coconut sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • juice of 2 limesmint leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Working in batches, pure watermelon chunks in a food processor or blender until smooth and no chucks are left.

Note: If using a seeded watermelon, strain puree through a sieve to remove those pesky black seeds. Also, the white, softer seeds might show up in the seedless version but no need to worry about straining.

Put the puree into a separate bowl & continue until all watermelon chucks are blended.

In a small sauce pot, heat the water over medium heat.  Once small bubbles appear on the bottom of the pot, add the sugar – no need to bring to a boil, just want it hot enough to melt the sugar. You’re making simple syrup!

Once sugar is dissolved, add simple syrup to the watermelon puree along with the lime juice and stir to combine.

Poor into a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish, cover and place in the freezer.

Here’s where patience and TLC come in.

After an hour in the freezer, pull the mixture out. Using a fork, scrape along the sides (those will likely be starting to freeze) and the middle (which will likely won’t be frozen yet :)). Cover, and place back in the freezer.

Repeat this process about every 30 minutes – 1 hour. The more you scrape the ice mixture, the finer the ice will be – thus, the less you scrap, you’ll have bigger flakes of granita.

After at least 4 hours, and multiple turns of the fork, the granita will be ready!

Serve into bowls, top with fresh mint and enjoy!

 

 

Tired of Being Tired: My Journey Back to the Living – Part I

15 Jul

I’ve had quite a few tests of patience in my 27 years, and I’m finally trying to take charge of my health.

I work(ed) in television production, not really the best industry when it comes to employee health – my days consisted of long commutes (not abnormal for LA), long hours (12 hour days/60-hour weeks are the normal) and endless mounds of stress.
Having worked my fair share of shows and films since 2007, work has affected my health in many ways.  Including a rare autoimmune syndrome – Parsonage-Turner, a localized version of Guillain-Barré – most likely also caused by my eating disorder + stress level at the time. I’ve struggled with eating disorders since my teenage years – bulimia, anorexia, “eating disorder otherwise not specified” (that was the clinical name of it), I’ve battled ‘em all. Swinging from overweight to malnourished & emaciated (110 lbs on my 5’7 frame), to exercising 3-4 hours a day without ever taking a day off.  I’ll go into my ED history in another post.

No doubt my stress level plus ED past has had an effect on my health, and lead me to where I am today: tired.

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I’ve never been so tired, lacking in energy than I have been the past 2 years. I’d seen doctors in Los Angeles, gotten blood work done, everything pointed to me being a healthy human.

Basically, when I got my eating back on track, I hadn’t gotten my exercise routine to a normal level. I was working 60+ hours on a talk show and trying to keep up my college-days athletic mindset. Between 2009-2011, my days looked like this:

  • 5am – wake
  • 6am-7am Swim Practice
  • 7:45-8:30am  lift weights (sometimes extra elliptical trainer)
  • 9am-9pm WORK (usually 12 hour days, sometimes less, sometimes more)
  • after 9pm? Sometimes a late yoga or barre class. Not kidding.
  • ~11pm Bedtime.

And repeat…5x week. Plus weekend workouts. Day off? HELL NO.

Was I in great physical shape? Yes. Was I healthy? No.

It was when I left said talk show for a new project, and my schedule was broken that I started to feel insanely tired.  My boyfriend Sean (aka the Free-Range Human) insisted I see my doctor – something wasn’t right and he was sure adrenal fatigue was the culprit. I was working on another TV show, working crazy hours and feeling like I was going to pass out at any given moment.

I went to the doctor, only red flag was my blood pressure – it was 80/54 – that’s dangerously low. Why was it so low? The GP didn’t offer much insight other than a possible link between one of my Rx lowering my blood pressure. Anyway, I was so tired, feeling so weak that I was forced to work from home on the show. Luckily the work I was doing could be done remotely.

So we first suspected adrenal fatigue in 2011. Fast forward to 2013…over the past 2 years I’ve been unable to keep up my exercise regime due to my general fatigue. My latest “doctor” said it was all in my head – saying I can work past this “fatigue” likely from depression. I know depression. I know what that feels like – this fatigue is different. I’m not curled up in the fetal position crying “WHY!?” (not that I’ve been far off at times), I’m literally feeling exhausted. I go to sleep and wake up feeling the same – like I got no sleep whatsoever.  Talk about frustrating.

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And exercise? Yeah. Can’t do a lot at all. I’m simply too tired to keep up any intense exercise – my go-to is walking. This is hard for me as I was/am an athlete and have gained weight due to all of these issues. Again, more on that in another post!

It was at Paleo f(x) in Austin, TX this past March, when I heard a refreshing take on treating health with food as medicine. It was Dr. Lauren Noel, a Southern California-based naturopathic doctor.  Her talk inspired me to introduce myself and mention my issues briefly – there I vowed to see her officially to tackle my health.

The thing with alternative medicine is that it’s not covered my insurance – it’s not “real” or something…that’s a load of BS!  So I saved my funds, and since I couldn’t take off work to drive down to Encinitas to see her, I finally made a Skype appointment with Dr. Lo back in April.  After the first appointment I felt excited, hopeful and a little scared.

She started me on a few supplements and a morning protein shake to kickstart my journey. The big part of the puzzle would come from the ordered tests – thorough intensive blood work, a lovely stool test and neuroendocrine saliva test.  The blood work showed deficiencies in antioxidants, among other things. Nothing was a red flag, but a few things were out of balance. Still nothing to explain my fatigue.

Just about a week and a half ago did I learn the results of the latter two.  Before my appointment, which was in-person at her office, I was so nervous. The worst thoughts filled my mind – “what if it IS all in my head?!”, “what if there’s nothing wrong with me after all, then what?!”.

Well, answers I got.

The saliva test tests hormone levels throughout the day, at 4 different times. Turns out my cortisol levels are all out of whack!  Cortisol is a stress hormone – your “fight or flight” response. It’s supposed to start out higher in the morning, giving you energy to tackle the day, and decrease at a nice rate until the lowest point at bedtime.

Here’s a chart of my results:

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See how my levels – the red line – is basically flat-lined through the day? Yeah. No wonder I’m so freaking tired! The gray area/shaded purple is where is should be. Sure, my mid-day and evening levels are “normal” but the fact that my morning starts off so low is why I’m waking unrefreshed & exhausted.

And that little raise at the end of the day? That’s likely due to something we found in the aforementioned stool test (hey, 85% of your immune system is in your gut!) – one of the samples showed a parasite. Yes, a parasite. This was likely contracted from contaminated food at some point – could’ve been last month or years ago. So, the raise in my cortisol could be related to the parasite and my body fighting it.

The other hormones tested showed my serotonin is low (happy hormone!) and many others are out of the norm. So, how am I going to treat all this? Dr. Lo has me on a lot of different natural supplements to attack the adrenals, hormones, and even that little parasite (which has since been named Melvin).

I’ve just started my journey, but I’m thrilled to have some answers as to why.  When I get frustrated with lack of progress, I have to remember that all of this didn’t happen overnight, so it won’t be fixed overnight.

Stay tuned for updates!

The Primal Bookshelf: Review of BEYOND BACON by Paleo Parents

17 Jun

I was tickled pink to receive an advanced copy of BEYOND BACON by my friends Stacy & Matt, known as the Paleo Parents. The cover with its chalkboard graphics and picture teases of the recipes inside would make anyone crack it open. The beauty of this book is outstanding. The book is dedicated to Stacy’s grandmother, and I can’t help but think of my own Nanny who would tell me stories of life back in a time of the one-room schoolhouses and working in the kitchen. Even going out to catch a chicken, and wringing its neck to prepare dinner.

 

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In Beyond Bacon, Stacy and Matt explore nose-to-tail cooking of our beloved swine. While many people enjoy ham, prosciutto, pork chops & ribs – and of course, bacon – this book shows you how to use every part of the piggy.  From recipes for making head cheese (talk about using a lot of parts!) to lard fudge, there should never be a reason for you to stick to the standard cuts.  I’ve made a few recipes out of the book, along with my partner-in-cooking, The FreeRange Human. He tried out some of the more adventurous recipes, including Huntsman Stew and Scrapple, while I opted for the Swedish Meatballs with Liver Gravy as well as the Prosciutto & Roasted Peach Ice Cream. Those meatballs fed us for DAYS! So delicious. And the ice cream? Made it during non-stone fruit season so used frozen peaches. Still came out delicious :)

Organ meats are vital to our, well, vital organs! If you find eating heart, liver, kidney or any other offal, Stacy & Matt have many recipes that are VERY accessible for even the most turned up noses. Once you taste the sweet fruits of your labor in the kitchen, you’ll change your mind! Sure, some people might have a tough time with strong tasting liver, but give it some time. Your body will be thanking you! Their scrapple recipe alone has so much good-for-you gelatin from so many pig parts that you’ll be fighting like a champ! And aiding in minimizing cellulite, ladies! BOOM.

Flipping through the pages will leave your stomach growling – not to mention a heavy urge to go our and grab any pig you see :D. What I really do love about Beyond Bacon is the dedication to WHY nose-to-tail cooking is so important. Utilizing every part of the pastured animal that you can is, in my opinion, more of an humane animal rights action than forgoing meat all together. I was a vegetarian for about a decade, folks.  We’ve become too far removed from the “where our food comes from” chain.  Enough tallow-soap box talk, that’s a whole other post in and of itself :)

Beyond Bacon will be released on July 2nd, 2013 – just in time for 4th of July grilling! Pre-order this book now and prepare to go hog wild!

 
 

 

 

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