Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans

If you like cookbooks, then I have a fantastic treat for you! Michelle Tam and Henry Fong have written a delightful, funny, warm, and satisfying cookbook filled with mouth-watering photographs and fascinating recipes. This is not your average, run-of-the-mill cookbook. Not by a long shot.

Tam has been recording her Paleo-inspired recipes on her blog for years now. (see www.nomnompaleo.com) Her style is humorous, irreverent, and engaging. She employs cartoon drawings of herself and her family as well as loads of silly jokes. Her cookbook is very similar to her website.

Despite her lighthearted style, Nom Nom Paleo recipes are seriously substantial. However, her cookbook is not an in-depth guide to Paleo eating or living. If you are looking for loads of scientific analysis, you'll need to go elsewhere. But if you desire lots of delicious-sounding, intriguing, international recipes which shun all grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and refined sugar, then this is definitely the book you crave.

My daughter, home from college for the summer, immediately fell in love with this gorgeous cookbook and decided to make the chicken nugget recipe as well as the cauliflower mash. The nuggets were way too labor-intensive for me to even consider (keep in mind I am a lazy cook!) but we bought the ingredients and the whole family took advantage of the results of her labor.

The nuggets came out quite salty-- a result of brining the chicken pieces for an hour before shallow frying-- but moist and tasty. The light coating of starch (we used potato starch as we didn't have arrowroot) was slightly crispy. The cauliflower was yummy, too. I added a touch of heavy cream (NOT included in this Paleo recipe!) to make the mash a bit creamier. No one would mistake the texture for mashed potatoes, but this is a nice dish anyway. (Do you like my placemat???)

The chicken nuggets and cauliflower mash were probably two of the most boring, although kid-friendly, recipes in the whole book. You might prefer the Kalua Pig, a traditional Hawaiian recipe made in the slow cooker. Or how about Crispy Roast Pork Belly? Big-O Bacon Burgers? Fast Pho? Pistachio Apple Salad?

Every time I turn the page, each new recipe has me drooling. This might be a cookbook I have to purchase and own. And if you know me, I don't say that lightly. (I am not only lazy, but also a cheapskate.)

So check it out at your local library. Or buy your own copy! I think you'll love it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Whittling the Waist

Who doesn't want a smaller waist? As we age, most of us struggle with weight gain around the middle. And there is more at stake than just looking good in a bikini or a speedo. Carrying excess fat around the belly raises the chances of heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women over fifty. This is because belly fat is much more volatile, i.e. unstable. The only good thing is that it is often easier for women to lose this fat than the more stubborn (stable) fat around the hips and thighs. If your fat is located lower down, you may not love it, but it's not nearly as dangerous.

This summer, I have been working to whittle my own waist. I've combined several techniques, including both dietary changes and exercise. I've lost a few pounds and I've watched my previously bloated belly go down. (Of course, I've lost fat all over, not just from the belly. There is no such thing as "spot reducing" as women's magazines once touted. No exercise or diet can reduce fat in one specific area.)

A growing belly is most often due to over-consumption of poor quality carbohydrates. (Do you drink beer? There is a reason they call it a "beer" belly!) The first step is to improve the quality of the carbs you eat. What are the best carbs? Dark green veggies top the list. (Yes, vegetables and fruits are mostly carbohydrate!) Start by adding at least one serving of dark green, leafy veggies to your daily meal plan. I often have power greens at both lunch and dinner. (Power greens = kale, collards, spinach, swiss chard, etc.) To begin losing fat, substitute a serving of veggies for a serving of grain-based carbs at each meal. This simple substitution reduces calories and ups the nutritional value of each meal.

If you have been eating grains, an easy way to jumpstart your fat loss is removing all refined grains from your diet. Nothing made from flour! If you must eat grains, make sure they are WHOLE. (Whole grain breads and cereals do not count! Those grains have been processed!) If bread is a deal-breaker for you, substitute sprouted whole grain bread which contains NO flour. (Ezekial Bread is one brand. Trader Joe's also makes this type of bread. Sprouted grains are easier to digest.)

Have you been indulging in desserts? Speaking of empty calories, sugar is about as empty as you can get. Refined sugar contains nothing your body needs, only excess calories. And each time you consume something sugary, your blood sugar spikes, so your insulin rushes to push all that excess sugar into your fat cells for storage. The quickest way to put on fat is to consume processed sugary junkfood. Instead, substitute whole, fresh fruit. A handful of cherries or raspberries, a sliced peach, a bowl of blueberries. These are all in season now. Enjoy your summer fruits just as they are, with no added sugar.

When you make these improvements to your diet, you will see progress around your waistline very quickly. But to increase the fat loss, you should also up the exercise. My hubby and I used to do one long walk each morning with our dogs. Now we walk twice per day, 45 minutes each time. On top of this, I have added daily swimming in our pool. Once a week I teach a bootcamp class in the park. Three days per week, I teach a dance-based fitness class. And two yoga classes per week, as well. All of this adds up to lots of calorie-burning! Whatever your current routine, I'll bet you can add a little bit more. Exercising twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, will speed up your results. Don't kill yourself, though! Overtraining will stall your weight loss. Build up slowly to a higher level. If you feel overly tired, take a day off and rest.

And get enough sleep. High quality sleep. Cut back or cut out the alcohol which disturbs your normal sleep patterns. (Alcohol is another example of empty calories.) Most of us need about 8 hours of sleep per night. Naps are also a great way to catch up on rest. Add a nap into your schedule whenever possible. Even a 10 minute nap can make a difference. (After all that added exercise, you are going to need those naps!!)

Remember to measure your waist before you begin your whittling program. Then you will be able to watch the numbers go down as you burn off that excess fat. I hope you will post your results in the comments section below so we can all congratulate you on your success!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Carrot Zucchini "Muffins"

Uh oh. You probably noticed that the word "muffin" is inside those dreaded quotation marks, right? You know what that means! This is a Paleo-ish recipe (not exactly Paleo, either!) which means these "muffins" are not your average bakery creation. Instead of flour, they are made mostly from turkey.
Yup. Ground turkey muffins.

If you are a traditionalist and believe your muffins should not contain meat, then just think of these as mini-meatloaves. They are adorable, healthy, PACKED with protein, delicious, and so easy to grab in the morning for a quick breakfast. Warm a couple up in the microwave for just one minute and you're good to go.

If you are a woman heading into menopause, you know you should add more protein to your diet! If you're a dude trying to put on more muscle and lose the fat, the same applies. Here's a recipe you all must try! You can substitute any ground meat you like for the turkey. Ground beef or lamb would be great, too.


About 1 and 1/2 pounds ground turkey (or other ground meat)
3 slices organic sprouted wheat bread, like Ezekial brand (Paleo people can substitute 1/4 c. ground flax seed)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup cottage cheese or yogurt (Paleo people can omit or substitute coconut milk)
3 large carrots
1 medium zucchini
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup large black raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup walnut halves

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray muffin tins with olive oil or coconut oil spray. Set aside.

In large food processor, finely chop carrots. Add the zucchini and chop finely. Add the bread and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Bread should look like large crumbs.

In large mixing bowl, mix eggs and cottage cheese or yogurt. Season with salt, pepper, and spices. Add the chopped mixture from the food processor and mix well to moisten. Add the rest of the ingredients (except walnuts) and combine well. Fill muffin tins with mixture. Top each muffin with walnuts halves.

Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before removing from tin. Makes 12 muffins. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fermented for Fourteen

I have recently joined the movement to add more fermented foods to my diet. Want to come along on this 14-day journey? It starts on July 14, of course. See this website for more info and to sign up: http://www.healthyguthealthylife.com/

Why join me? That's simple. Naturally fermented foods are full of live bacteria which are necessary for a healthy gut. Who needs a healthy gut? Only everyone!

Gut health is big news these days. The entire Paleo diet revolves around this idea of maintaining excellent gut health. This is the reason so many people are giving up grains and legumes. Have you heard of leaky gut syndrome? If not, you might want to give it a google. In a nutshell, substances in grains and legumes can damage the lining of your gut, allowing particles to leak out and wreck havoc with your health. However, excellent gut health means strong immunity, good digestion and absorption of nutrients, plus less gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. You have probably heard that about 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. How well you fight off disease is based on the health of lower digestive tract. So give your gut what it needs!

Which is fermented foods!

These include naturally fermented saurkraut, kim chi, pickles, yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, and natto. You can purchase foods with live bacteria (dead ones do us no good!) at natural food stores, Trader Joe's, Costco, your local grocery stores, ethnic stores, and farmers markets. Read labels carefully! Not all pickles or saurkrauts are naturally fermented. If the jar warns that the contents are under pressure, then you know the bacteria inside are still alive!

In addition, you can make your own fermented foods and drinks. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, and register for fourteen days of fermented foods, you will receive recipes to create your own meals and products. I may be making my own saurkraut soon, as I have four heads of cabbage in my garden right now.

Let's give this a go! Get fermented, y'all!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sweating it Out

What are you up to this summer?

After a LONG COLD winter, which some of us were afraid might NEVER end, I am doing everything in my power to enjoy (read: wallow in) the summer heat. And this includes bootcamp.

Because of my new teaching schedule, I can only offer bootcamp classes during the summer. And for some people, exercising outdoors in the heat is not at the top of their to-do list. If you are sensitive to the heat, bootcamp in the summer may not be for you. But if you are healthy, and maintain good levels of hydration, there is no reason for you not to participate!

Thinking of giving an outdoor exercise class a try?

Here are some tips on how to prepare your body (and mind!) for the challenge:

1) Start out slowly. Before you sign up for an hour-long bootcamp experience, or a 5K race, or a Warrior Dash, take some time to acclimate your body to outdoor exercise. Begin by walking daily. Choose a time of day when the sun is not at its peak. Early morning hours are the coolest. Choose a path in the shade when possible. Build up to a couple of miles. When you feel comfortable walking a few miles, begin to alternate light jogging with walking.

2) It is never too early to hydrate! Begin drinking extra water the night before you plan to exercise outdoors. Lay off the booze. Alcohol is dehydrating! Before you head outside, down at least a liter of water. If you plan to exercise for more than one hour, also drink an electrolyte replacement. Gatorade may not be the most natural option, but it does work. There are other brands which contain fewer artificial preservatives and additives. I prefer to take Salt Sticks, a mineral supplement in capsule form. Bring plenty of water with you so you can continuously rehydrate while you exercise.

3) Choose the lightest clothing possible. Cotton is a lovely, natural fabric, but it tends to hold moisture next to your skin and becomes very heavy when wet. I prefer the high-tech wicking fabrics for exercise. Light colors will keep you cooler when you're in the sun. Keep your head covered whenever possible using a light-colored hat with a brim or a bandana. Use sunscreen when necessary to avoid burning.

4) Take breaks if you need them. Don't let your ego get in the way of taking good care of yourself. It is foolish to push yourself so hard that you end up with heat stroke. At the first sign that you feel icky, slow down or stop. (Icky can mean dizzy, nauseous, overly tired, or overheated.) Get into the shade. Pour cold water over your head (to reduce your body temperature.) Drink an electrolyte replacement beverage. If you still feel bad, call 9-1-1. Serious dehydration and/or heat stroke is nothing to mess around with.

Bootcamp classes have become very popular. If you think you'd like to try one of mine, please comment in the section below. I offer bootcamp classes on Wednesday mornings during the summer in Western Howard County, Maryland. I am also available for private bootcamp sessions. Let's get our sweat on!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Support Local Farmers

Many of you who are reading this blog are looking for the healthiest food options for your family. But I realize you don't want to eat food which harms the planet, the farm animals, or your own bodies.

Some choices are easy and obvious. How many of you are still eating margarine and Crisco shortening and trans-fats these days? I'm guessing (hoping!!!) you have eliminated all trans-fats from your diet as these products have clearly been shown to cause disease. If this is news to you, then today you can celebrate by eating some real butter! (Grass-fed, of course.)

However, other choices are not so clear.

Do you purchase organic berries at Costco to get the best price? (These berries might have been transported from California or Florida.) Or do you pick your own berries at a local farm which might not practice organic farming?

You want the very best quality meats which are raised humanely on pasture (grassfed and grass-finished) so do you purchase beef and lamb from New Zealand at Trader Joe's? Or do find a local farm which raises beef, lamb, chickens, and other animals on pasture?

I understand that the cost of these products might be a significant factor in your decision-making. I know it is in mine. I'm always looking for the highest quality foods at the lowest prices, while keeping in mind that cost might not always be the top priority. (If you can afford to spend a little bit more, what factors determine where you spend these extra dollars?)

In the past year or so, I have noticed a trend at both Costco and Trader Joe's toward carrying more grass-fed products. This includes beef, lamb, cheese, and butter. I'm hoping this trend will continue to grow to include pastured eggs, milk, cream, and chicken. But how do we make this happen?

How do we get these high-quality products we desire to become more available everywhere?

We vote with our pocketbooks.

The more people go out of their way (to local farms, farmers markets, pick-your-own places, and farm stands) to purchase pastured beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk, and veggies, the more the grocery stores and specialty stores will sit up and take notice. And the more consumers insist on eating grass-fed products, from animals raised humanely, the more money will move away from the confined feeding lots and into the hands of farmers who are doing things right. Although I have never seen locally-raised, grass-fed meats at Costco or Trader Joe's, perhaps it is just a matter of time before enough of these products are demanded that all groceries will carry local beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk, and other products.

In the meantime, you might need to do a little research. If you are local to my area (Howard County) then you are in luck! There are numerous farmers markets (practically one every day of the week during the growing season!) as well as many farms which sell directly to the consumer. Check out England Acres, Breezy Willow, and TLV Farms for locally raised, pastured beef, lamb, chickens, eggs, and dairy products. Pick your own fruit and veggies at Larriland. Join a co-op and receive a basket of goodies each week. Support your local farmers!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Bone Broth

If you've been paying attention to the latest nutritional information available, you have probably already heard about bone broth. If not, don't worry. I'm usually not the first one on the bandwagon, either. Just because you came late to the party doesn't mean you can't have a good time. Right?

Anyway...bone broth is made by boiling down the carcass of an animal (not a plant, since plants don't have any bones!) along with a small amount of vinegar. Of course, you can add other ingredients, such as garlic, ginger root, herbs, veggies, but I recommend adding these later in the process. Bone broths are cooked for extended periods, i.e. DAYS, in order to extract the most nutrients from the carcass. The vinegar helps to leach out the minerals from the bones.

Why is bone broth so good for you? Well, minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are extracted from the bones during a long, slow cooking. In addition, many amino acids as well as gelatin are also made available by cooking down the animal's joints and connective tissues. Compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates (which we often take in capsule form to help our own joints) are extracted. When we only consume an animal's muscle meat (chicken breast, sirloin steak, etc.) we miss out on many of the different amino acids our bodies need. This is one of the reasons why nose-to-tail eating is such an important concept for us to follow. (To read more about why bone broth supports excellent health, see this article: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/16/bone-broth-benefits.aspx.)

You can purchase bones to make bone broth from your local butcher, or from any grass-fed meat supplier. You can also just boil down the family's roast chicken or turkey when the carcass has been picked over. Beef bones are traditional, but you can make broth from bison, lamb, pork, venison, elk, chicken, turkey, duck, ostrich, you get the picture. I make broth from a chicken carcass on a regular basis, but I've also used lamb and beef bones.

Your slow cooker is your best bet for making bone broth. Because the bones need to cook for a LONG time, this will free up your stove. The process is super simple: Throw your carcass or raw bones into the slow cooker. Hack your carcass into smaller sections if it won't fit. Add a small amount of apple cider vinegar, about 1-2 tablespoons for a small batch of bone broth. Cover the carcass with cold water. Place the lid on top and set your cooker to LOW. For a chicken, simmer 1 day (24 hours). For larger bones, increase the time to 2-3 days.

When your broth has finished cooking, turn the slow cooker off and scoop out all the solids. Dispose of the bones. You can now add flavorings, such as herbs or garlic, salt or other seasonings, or make a soup from your broth. You can drink a cup of bone broth as you would a cup of tea. Enjoy!