Paleo FX 2012: Opening Night

I just returned from an exciting trip to Paleo FX in Austin, TX, March 14-17. Rather than writing one huge tome about my experience, it makes more sense to break it up into pieces. So I will start by simply explaining the nature of the event with some photos of some of the cool people in attendance on opening night. In future posts I can get into more details about the presentations and fitness sessions. If you want to know more about it right away, there are several great write-ups already posted in the paleo blogosphere. (Check out this post and video).

The PaleoFX Ancestral Momentum – Theory to Practice Symposium was a multi-day, hands-on event. It was a collaboration among fitness and healthcare professionals, nutritionists, research scientists and laypersons seeking to address modern health challenges through the application of ancestral based theory in practice. In other words, lots of folks with different backgrounds got together to explore how to put paleo diet and fitness information into action in a practical way. It was held at The Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports on the campus of the University of Texas – Austin. As a graduate of staunch rival Texas A&M Universitythis was a slight conflict of interest for me! The Stark Center overlooks the football field and I felt like I was in “the belly of the beast” so to speak.

Texas Memorial Stadium

Texas Memorial Stadium

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In love with LOVEBEAN Fudge

While back in my home state of Texas for the Paleo FX Symposium – Theory to Practice in Austin, March 14-17, I encountered LoveBean Fudge.

It was a magical meeting. (The symposium was good too….)

The husband and wife team behind LoveBean are huge believers in high-density super foods. Together they have created some chocolate products that are really nutritious and absolutely delicious! One thing that caught my attention about LoveBean Fudge is the fact it is made with organic coconut nectar instead of evaporated cane juice. I have used coconut nectar or coconut crystals in several recipes, such as Paleo Coconut Cream Pie and Paleo/Primal Chocolate Cheesecake. I even use it in my popular Paleo Pancakes recipe. Coconut nectar/sap is very low glycemic (GI of only 35), is an abundant source of minerals, 17 amino acids, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH. Some may argue there is not much difference between cane syrup and coconut nectar. But even if the insulin response to either form of sugar is largely the same, I would choose coconut nectar for the added nutrition and the unique and delicious flavor.

Here’s Sweat Pea eating some LoveBean Fudge. Hmm. Funny but he doesn’t seem to notice the insulin response! (And BTW Austin DOES rock.)Sweat Pea loves the LoveBean

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Paleo Chipotle Chili

Paleo Chipotle Chili
Posting a recipe for Paleo Chipotle Chili today seems especially appropriate. I am traveling back to my home state of Texas for the Paleo FX Symposium 2012 in Austin. It was an early morning for me today, beginning with my 3:30 a.m. alarm, but made better by the pink sunrise highlighting the dark Manhattan skyline upon take-off. The wonders of technology help me finish this post on my flight – thanks to my handy dandy iPad2 (which is only slightly less cool now that the third version is out!)

Before waxing too poetic about sunrises and iPads I’ll get back to the subject at hand -Paleo Chili. Chili may seem sort of obviously Paleo by its nature – lots of meat, a sauce, maybe onions and peppers. But I’m specifically calling this one Paleo to emphasize there are no beans and no sugars and there are a couple of “hidden” veggies. I like to include chopped mushrooms in a lot of my ground beef dishes. It’s a great way to add volume, texture, nutrition and a little extra flavor without a lot of carbohydrates – unlike the beans often found in many chili recipes. The fire roasted green chiles do much the same job while also adding another level of dish appropriate flavor. I have even been known to incorporate finely chopped kale in chili. Well, actually I’m not really “known” for it because I am not sure anyone ever noticed that little trick.
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“Food Activist” or Freedom Fighter?

This is not a political blog. Paleo Spirit is primarily a food blog that emphasizes the paleo way of eating and a healthy lifestyle that explores ways to improve “fitness” in all areas of our life – mind, body and soul. I want to be welcoming to people of all different persuasions and I know there are some readers who will be turned off at the mere mention of something that falls into the political realm. However, I had an interesting experience that I would like to share. And in my opinion this discussion could be categorized under “mind” because we should all make ourselves as educated as possible in order to navigate effectively in our world.

There is so much that goes on in politics that affects our lives and that includes how much control the government exercises over us. I am a strong believer in freedom and individual responsibility. And one of the ways we can lose freedom is when the government has enough power to tell us how and what to eat. For those of us who have seen and experienced the negative results of following the “Conventional Wisdom” of healthy eating, as espoused by the U.S. government (low-fat, high carb, etc…), we can attest to the fact government does not always know best. And this is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is a life or death issue.

I was motivated to call The Rush Limbaugh Program on March 9th because I heard him quoting, at length, from an article written by heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell. “Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease”  In the course of quoting Dr. Lundell, Rush Limbaugh also expressed his view that it is liberal “food activists” who are imploring the government to “step in and save us” by implementing regulations that seek to alter our freedoms by positioning themselves as our “guardians”. Later in his remarks, Mr. Limbaugh pointed out the importance of individual freedom in the realm of dietary choices. I knew I wanted to call the program to let Rush know there are those of us who might consider ourselves “food activists” in a sense and yet do not seek to force our views and dietary decisions on others. We seek to educate and, in some cases, advocate for change in government activities.

Think about whether or not you are in favor of laws banning the sale of raw milk. And note how government subsidies of the corn industry change the marketplace and consider those ramifications. Then there was the recent story of the pre-school girl whose homemade lunch (turkey and cheese sandwich, chips, banana and apple juice) was inspected and deemed unsatisfactory by school officials. This child was forced to purchase the “more nutritious” school lunch which consisted of chicken nuggets! Regardless of your personal views of her homemade lunch, do you really want the government mandating what a child must be fed? Adherents of the paleo diet choose not to eat grains. Do you really like the prospect of the government forcing you to feed your child “whole grains” because it is supposedly “healthier”? I certainly do not!

It is a freedom issue, pure and simple. Continue reading

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Korean Shingo Pear Flaugnarde (Clafoutis)

flaugnarde slice with yogurtWhen I initially made this recipe I referred to it as a clafoutis.  But it turns out a clafoutis is a rustic French dessert traditionally made with black cherries. Whenever the same dish is made using a different type of fruit it is known as a flaugnarde. Here’s how to pronounce flaugnarde. I had to play that soundbite a few times to get the pronunciation down (in spite of my slight Texas twang). It’s a funny word that sounds a lot better than it looks. And the dish itself is delightfully warm and filling.

This flaugnarde recipe makes use of Korean Shingo pears. These pears are similar to other asian pears but they are larger and very round. (You could substitute with other types of pears or even apple slices.) The Shingo pears have a high sugar content and a delicate, almost floral taste. They are nicely crisp and would probably be terrific in a salad. But they also work particularly well with this flaugnarde which is perfect as a breakfast or brunch dish. It is not a particularly sweet dish but could still be used as a dessert. If you like custards and/or bread puddings like I do then you will probably enjoy this moist flaugnarde. The 1/4 cup of coconut crystals is optional. I tried it both ways and it was good each time – just a little sweeter with the coconut crystals.

A slice of the flaugnarde for breakfast with a couple of farm fresh eggs fried in ghee is pretty heavenly. My sons, who eat dairy, like to slather it with full fat Greek yogurt.flaugnarde slice with eggs

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Better Burgundy Mushrooms

paleo burgundy mushrooms

The Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms is an absolutely delicious recipe. I add my voice to the chorus of folks who agree this is one tasty side dish. With a few modifications it is also a great paleo side dish. A BETTER Burgundy Mushrooms recipe, if you will. I served it this past Christmas to rave reviews. It was not only an easy recipe, the lengthy cooking time was actually a joy rather than a burden. The aroma wafting through the house while the mushrooms were cooking was “to die for”. Truly.

Changes to the original recipe

  • I swapped out the butter for ghee which is approved for people who cannot otherwise tolerate dairy products. The best option would be to use pastured ghee (grass-fed) or butter (if you choose to eat dairy).
  • The original recipe called for bouillon cubes which have zero nutrition and some questionable ingredients such as: salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated oil (transfat), Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), cornstarch, preservatives, etc… Cooking with bouillon cubes is clearly easier. I get it. But if you are going to the trouble to prepare such an amazing side dish why not also go all out with the nutrition. Use real chicken stock and/or beef stock for the best flavor and tons of good things for your body.
  • If you use real stock, the flavor is so rich and intense it is not necessary to use the Worcestershire Sauce found in the original recipe.
  • I thought the recipe was great with the garlic chopped up in it rather than left in whole cloves.
  • The celtic sea salt provides beneficial minerals.
  • The recipe is scaled down a bit so you do not need to crack open two bottles of wine.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds button mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup ghee (or 1 1/2 sticks of pastured butter)
  • 1 bottle Burgundy wine (or other dry red wine)
  • 2 cups chicken stock or beef stock
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, optional
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons celtic sea salt (quantity will depend upon how salty your stock is)

Instructions

  1. Wash the mushrooms and put them into a large stockpot.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the salt and thyme (if using).
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for six hours.
  4. Add the thyme at this point (if using)
  5. Remove the lid and continue cooking, uncovered, for three hours.
  6. Add salt to taste at the end. Keep warm until needed.
You could also make these Better Burgundy Mushrooms in the crock pot. Just simmer on low heat for the 6 hours then place them in a stockpot for the final three hours while the liquid cooks off.
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If you’ve ever tried this recipe (PW’s version or mine) please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
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Rutabaga Hash Browns with Pulled Pork

Turnip Hash BrownsDo you aspire to be one of those people who plans ahead? Would you like to have your weekly meals all laid out in advance? While I know it would save me time and money to do that, the fact is I am not especially talented in this area (can you say ADD?). The following recipe for Rutabaga Hash Browns with Pulled Pork is an exception. Breakfast on the Paleo diet can be a tough transition because we are so used to eating some type of grain in the mornings. But while this recipe will not solve all weekly meal dilemmas, a few quick steps the night before and you will be minutes away from an amazing, delicious, nutritious and inexpensive breakfast the next day.

On a whim (see how I don’t plan!) I bought a waxed turnip. (I previously titled this post “Turnip Hash Browns with Pulled Pork” because I was a little mixed up about the terms. See explanatory post.) According to my crumpled receipt, which I just fished out of the bottom of my purse, I paid $1.52 for this 2.21 lb purple and white beauty. It is lower in overall calories and carbohydrates than white potatoes but high in vitamin C. Before I went to bed I peeled it and put it through the shredder on my food processor. (You could use a box grater.) It went into a big container and then my refrigerator. I ended up with about 7 cups of shredded rutabaga.

shredded turnip for hashbrowns

Next, I rubbed a 3 lb boneless pork butt (cost me $6) with some Tsardust Memories Russian Style Spice Seasoning from Penzey’s. It’s one of the spices I got on my recent trip to a Penzey’s retail store. It’s not critical that you use this exact spice. I was just experimenting and thought it might work well and it did. I also don’t remember the exact measurement but I basically covered the pork in a light layer. (Maybe 1 tablespoon?) The Tsardust Memories mix contains the following spices: salt, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and marjoram. I added about a 1/2 cup of chicken stock (you could use water) and cooked it on low heat overnight.

Here’s what it looked like in the morning: Continue reading

The Strictly Paleo Plan

When I first discovered the Paleo lifestyle in February of 2011 I dove in headfirst and completed a strict Paleo eating plan for the first 30 days. My motivation was to figure out if what I was eating might be contributing to my fibromyalgia, fatigue, chronic respiratory infections and depression. I was already fairly lean but not especially healthy and I was frustrated with doctors who could not explain my symptoms. All my tests were normal and yet I was NOT okay. With the new year I am starting another “reset” by going Strictly Paleo© and thought it would be helpful to others to outline exactly what this means.

During my previous “experiment” I discovered certain food groups had been negatively impacting my health. The changes I have seen and felt since going Paleo have been pretty dramatic. If you have any unexplained aches and pains, inflammation, allergies, skin or digestive problems or other ailments or if you simply cannot manage to lose weight or keep it off you should seriously consider how the food you eat may be impacting your health. A Strictly Paleo reset may be just what you need to change your life.

What is Strictly Paleo©?

Most simply stated, Strictly Paleo means eating real food that excludes certain potentially problematic food groups for an experimental elimination period of at least 30 days.

What you DO eat:

  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fats from nuts, seeds and fruits

Here’s a handy guide to help with shopping.

What you DO NOT eat: Continue reading

Paleo at Penzey’s

It was a cold autumn evening and I was on my way to a Christmas concert in a nearby town when I spied a brand-spanking-new Penzey’s store. Had it not been for a slew of paleo food blogs I have seen referencing Penzey’s, the significance might have been utterly lost on me. But I knew immediately I would be making the trek back the following day to check it out up close and personal. In fact, I even managed to convince G to come along which meant we dragged our two boys as well.

Penzey’s is the top on-line seller of over 250 herbs, spices and seasoning blends from around the world. They have also branched out with several retail stores. Ordinarily when I see a recipe that contains a spice mix ingredient I just move on to something else. It has always seemed a bit presumptuous on the part of the person creating the recipe that we readers would necessarily have that particular spice mix on hand. Not only that, but while my kitchen cabinets are filled with a fairly respectable assortment of herbs and spices, I have never been big on spice mixes. So many of them have salt or sugar or MSG or the confounding “natural flavors” or all of the above that I was simply not interested. But after seeing Penzey’s referenced so many times I figured it would be worthwhile to investigate and I’m glad I did.

Penzey's bumper sticker

While ordering spices online is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – especially if you do not have access to a Penzey’s retail store – there is just something wonderful and sensual about being able to see and smell the offerings before making a selection. The Penzey’s store we visited was warm and inviting with a peaceful ambience and a friendly staff. The spices were well organized and most, if not all, of them were available to smell. There was even a small area for children to sit where they could draw pictures to be displayed on the store walls. While the boys were safely ensconced in the art area, G and I proceeded to sniff almost every herb, spice and mix in the store. A few more than once.

Here is what we brought home with us. Continue reading

Garlic and Herb-Crusted Pork Loin

This Garlic and Herb-Crusted Pork Loin, inspired by Emeril Lagasse, goes great with my Pomegranate Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Glaze. Christmas Eve is a perfect time to serve this dish because the red and green colors are so gorgeous and festive. I have also used the sauce to go with beef tenderloin on Christmas Day and it is absolutely delicious. The advantage of serving it with the pork loin is the whiteness of the pork makes a great backdrop to the red sauce. Continue reading