Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not dead, just busy

Hi folks -

This blog isn't dead, I'm just really busy right now, between a high-pressure work project and some personal stuff I need to deal with. We'll be back with new recipes in September, see you all then!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mainly for the meat

Not much of a post today, but I did want to pass this link along for anyone who reads this and happens to live in South-Western Ontario (Toronto or points west). The Black Angus Butcher Shop is where we go about once a month to load up on game meats (which tend to be both leaner and richer in Omega-3 fatty acids than regular beef), including such things as venison, ostrich, wild boar, kangaroo, camel, and even python. Highly recommended if you're in the area, they have two shops, in Mississauga and Thornbury.

And I don't even get a kickback!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fajita bowl

Fajitas aren't quite caveman. Something about a tortilla, even if it's "whole wheat", just isn't properly caveman-esque. However, if you throw out the tortilla, and put everything else in a big bowl, you get a yummy, messy meal that's ready pretty quickly.

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or other oil suitable for frying)
  • 1 onion, chopped into strips or slivers
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers (green, yellow, orange, red, whatever colour you like), chopped into strips
  • 1 cup tomato-based salsa (yes, you can use store-bought, just check for added "stuff" like sugar)
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese, some pickled jalapenos, or whatever you like on your fajitas


  1. Fry the onions in oil until they're translucent.
  2. Add the chicken, and fry until it's no longer an invitation to food poisoning.
  3. Add the peppers, and fry until they're nicely softening.
  4. Add the salsa, stir well, and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  5. Dish up, top with whatever you like (I like cheese and jalapenos), and dig in!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cow farts cause global warming!!!

An oft-repeated statement in the last few years has been that cows (or more accurately, their methane, um, "excretions") contribute some ludicrous amount of carbon to what is typically now referred to as climate change. This is typically done, it seems, to shame us meat-eaters into changing our carnivorous ways and joining the soy-munching brigade at a vegetarian love-fest.

Except, as this article points out, that is a load of, well, cow crap. A typical grass-fed cow is not in any way pulling carbon out of the deep earth - it's performing what is typically called the short-term carbon cycle. Basically, plants take in CO2 and store it as sugars and starches, cows eat the plants, break down the sugars and starches, and release some (but not all) of the same CO2 back into the atmosphere. Livestock can't create new carbon atoms at will - that requires fusion, something that only occurs in that giant blazing ball of fire we call the "sun". Our meat-on-the-hoof is only re-releasing carbon that has already been in the atmosphere quite recently.

The article also points out something that the anti-meat brigade often omits when talking about how much land is required for farming plants versus animals - there's an awful lot of land out there that is useless for growing industrial crops, but is just perfect for our four-legged friends to roam and eat and grow big and fat and succulent. Sorry, I was drooling for a second there.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one, honestly) is that if you're eating locally-sourced, grass-fed, free-range beef (or other such animals), and somebody tries to tell you that you're contributing to the death of the planet, just try to refrain from whacking them with a club, no matter how much it might seem like the "caveman thing to do".

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Where do your veggies come from?

Recently, you may have seen an article similar to this one, talking about a recent study which found that organic fruit and vegetables were not really more nutritious than standard industrial-farming-techniques crops. The organic crowd are attacking this study on several fronts, and they do have some points, but there are also some counter-points to consider.

First up, for some nutrients (such as beta carotene), it did appear that organic food might have somewhat more than the standard crops. However, it should be pointed out that in most nutrient categories, both kinds of crops were roughly the same. Given that, on the paleo diet, I'm typically eating 20 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, the small percentage difference isn't going to make much difference to me - I'm still getting more than 100% of the RDA of most minerals and vitamins. Further, the study does invalidate an oft-repeated claim that organic versions of produce contain "way more vitamins and minerals" (as I've heard claimed).

Second, the study did not consider the pesticide residues and their potential effects on human health. This is a valid criticism, but the study explicitly wasn't looking at that. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that organic produce is not pesticide-free - they simply use pesticides that someone, somewhere, has declared are "organic". You know what? Mother nature has made some pretty vicious poisons that I wouldn't want to be eating. Poison is poison, whether it comes from a lab or it's extracted from some beetle's venom. There are also standards for how much pesticide residue can be left on a piece of produce by the time it gets to market - I'm not sure that the same is true of aflatoxins.

The thing that the organic crowd never mentions is that organic crops, by their nature, generally have significantly lower yield per acre. If everyone on the planet switched to organic produce, we'd need to commit a whole lot more land to farming, which means a lot less land for parks, forests, and so on. Further, even organic crops generally use seeds which have been "tweaked" genetically, even if it is through years of selective breeding instead of a snip of some DNA in a lab. (For example, carrots shouldn't have nearly as much sugar in them as they do.)

While I'm on the topic of produce, someone was recently talking to me about irradiation of food. The way they were talking, it sounded like the entire produce section should glow in the dark! The truth, at least in Canada, is somewhat simpler. The only things that can be irradiated, according to government regulations, are certain spices, onions, and potatoes, and they must all be clearly labelled as such. (The fact is that there is no residual radiation in the foodstuffs so treated, but some people wonder how the treatment affects the nutritional content of the food, and I'm not 100% convinced this question has been answered to date.)

Ultimately, if you want to be sure of your own food supply, you need to grow it yourself, ideally using "heirloom" seeds (which allows you to use a few seeds from each year's crop to sow the following year's bounty). Next best would be your local vegetable stand (ideally where you can see the field your veggies just came from!), and your super-mega-food-mart is a distant third, whether you're buying organic or whatever's on sale. Being a locavore (eating food from within 100km of home) is the ideal, but I live in Canada - six months of the year all I'd get to eat would be snow! Well, not really, but you get the idea.

Update - this article raises a curious question - if pesticides are so bad for us, then why do farmers (who work with the stuff in much higher concentrations than most of us ever run into) have a cancer rate substantially lower than the rest of the population?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chocolate freaking pudding!

Chocolate isn't exactly paleo. But, on the other hand, it's rich in antioxidants and a source of dietary fibre, and there's an awful lot of literature out there suggesting that good, dark chocolate has a place in our "preventative medicine cabinet". Now, when I say dark, I mean dark - minimum 60% cocoa, preferably at least 70%. We often seek out 85% to 90% cocoa mass chocolate - milk chocolate just tastes too sweet now.

Ever since I was a young lad, my favourite dessert has always been chocolate pudding. I wanted to create or find a recipe that would be not-too-objectionable to the paleo diet, yet still give me my chocolate pudding fix. My first experiment, with a chocolate custard recipe, wasn't completely inedible, but it wasn't what I was hoping for. Fortunately, I don't give up easily. This recipe is based on one over at Elana's Pantry, but substitutes stevia for the agave syrup she uses.

  • 1 can coconut milk (14 oz size)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 to 1 Tbsp stevia, depending how sweet you like it (use chocolate or other flavoured stevia for extra flavour)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% is sweeter, 90% is richer), broken up.
  1. Heat the coconut milk and salt in a saucepan until it's hot, but not boiling.
  2. Sift in the arrowroot, stirring all the while, and then whisk for 2 minutes non-stop. At the end of it, the mixture should be thickened slightly and should coat the back of a spoon dipped in it nicely.
  3. Whisk in the stevia and vanilla, turn the burner off, and allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Stir in the chocolate until melted.
  5. Spoon into 4 dishes and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Hint - to keep a "skin" from forming on the surface, place some plastic wrap on each bowl so it's covering the surface of the pudding.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Make your own chicken stock! Save money! Get rich! Retire early!

The other day, in the soup posting, I said I should post a chicken stock recipe. Well, I could do that, or I could just link to one that someone else has put up. The latter is simpler for me, and I'm not sure there's much I could do to improve on the recipe there. Just keep in mind that when he's talking about "chicken carcasses" he means what's left over after you've taken away what most people consider to be the edible bits. You can sometimes get raw carcass pieces from your butcher, if they sell individual chicken breasts to the general public (and if you have a butcher - they seem to be a dying breed, anymore).

Another tip (no pun intended) is to freeze the tips from the wings when you make chicken wings, for later use in a batch of stock.

And, of course, pretty much the same technique should work with a turkey carcass, should you ever run across such a beast...

Win valuable prizes!

No, not from me. Over at Mark's Daily Apple, Mark has just kicked off his "30 Day Primal Challenge", with the possibility of winning over $6000 in prizes. I've linked to his website before, and it's still worth a look, with fitness and food tips and thought-provoking discussions of various aspects of what Mark calls the "primal" lifestyle. And, while I may not always agree with everything he writes (he's a big fan of soy sauce, but I don't believe soy is fit for man or beast), I generally find something there to amuse me. So, go and take a look, and if you win anything, share it with me, okay?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cocktail Sauce

I know we're a long way off from the "holiday season", which (at least in my circle of friends) is the traditional time to be thinking about shrimp rings and such, but this cocktail sauce also goes great with the scallops we made the other week.

  • 1/3 to 1/2 of a small can of tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp horseradish (read the label, make sure it's only horseradish, vinegar, and maybe salt)
  • 8 drops stevia liquid (or equivalent to 1 Tbsp other sweetener such as honey - maple syrup not really recommended)
  • 1 tsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice (remove the pits)
  1. Combine it all in a bowl, stirring well. For best results, let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the flavours to "mingle".

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Well, I was fooled...

Since the paleo diet discourages the use of sugar and artificial sweeteners, adherents are generally looking for other ways to satisfy the "sweet tooth". I've already talked about stevia in a previous posting, but we had lately been using agave syrup as well.

As it turns out, this is a mistake on my part, and I'm just glad I never got around to encouraging its use here in this blog. Agave syrup is not "natural" or "organic", no matter what the label may say. To make it, they take the root bulbs of the agave plant, which are starchy tubers comprising 50% inulin fibre (a non-digestible long-chain saccharide with a slight sweet taste, often used to "cut" stevia to make it spoonable), and they "chop up" the inulin with enzymes to release the sugar molecules within, then run it through various not-particularly-natural processes to "purify" it. Unfortunately, these sugar molecules are all fructose, and our bodies just aren't meant to handle quantities of fructose - it has to be digested by the liver, and damages the liver in the process.

There are other potential problems with it as well, and I suggest if you're interested in reading why both agave syrup and high-fructose corn sweeteners (HFCS, or "glucose-fructose" as it's called on labels in Canada) have no place in our food then you might want to go read this report from the Weston A. Price foundation.

So what sweeteners can we use? Well, honey is about as raw as you're going to get, and maple syrup is also good (both in moderation, of course). Sometimes things are sweetened with concentrated juices (apple and/or grape are popular, but you can use concentrated orange juice in some cooking to good effect as well). I'm also looking into something called "yacon syrup", but I don't know enough about that one yet to form an opinion. Ultimately, though, all sweeteners should be used in moderation - they would not be common-place in the diet of early man, so they should not be a frequent guest at our table either.