Tag Archives: real food

Reading Labels and Other Boring Crap That’s Totally Worth Your While

***This will be a short post, because I’m not concerned with you reading what I have to say. I’m just a lone lunatic. After looking over my brief rantings, I want you to check out the resources toward the end of this post.***

I know making the transition to clean eating is overwhelming and daunting. It can make you want to pull your hair and say, Well, what in the hell CAN I eat???” Here are a few points that may help you discern the real food from the overly-processed.

“Gluten-free”: All that’s gluten-free is not good to eat. Tortilla chips are gluten-free. Cocoa Krispies are gluten-free. Hand sanitizer is gluten free. Gasoline is gluten-free. You should try to avoid ingesting these items, and only drink gasoline in moderation. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but that was a joke. Please don’t drink gasoline. Not even oh-so delicious diesel.)

Oils: Heavily processed oils like corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil and margarine are not the “healthy alternatives” I grew up hearing they were. Even the term “vegetable oil” can be misleading (or an outright lie). A few “vegetable” oils – corn oil (corn is a grain, NOT a vegetable), soybean oil (legume, NOT a vegetable), and canola oil (canola is a cultivar of rapeseed… Wait, rapeseed? No thanks). The oils I just mentioned go through such an ungodly manufacturing process, your body can’t even recognize them as food. The good news – there are others that are also considered vegetable oils which are derived without the ridiculous amount of processing. When looking for oils closest to their original state, opt for those like olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and animal fat.

Labels: You won’t get the vital information from the front of package (such as “all natural”, “gluten-free”, “low fat”, or “possibly maybe hopefully safe for human consumption”). Read the ingredients on the back. If you can’t pronounce it, then it probably isn’t good for you. Also, “natural flavors” is NOT an ingredient… I’ve never had any luck growing a “natural flavors tree”. The details of this “ingredient” are noticeably absent. Oh, and if you see the vague “vegetable oil” as an ingredient, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that it comes from a quality source.

Of all the literature I’ve read that is geared toward regular people, the following resource has to be one of the most useful and easiest to digest. (Pun absolutely intended.) Liz Wolfe co-authored THIS AWESOME GUIDE that will hit many of the above points in greater detail.

In addition to this guide, I recommend Liz as a source of information and inspiration. She shares her knowledge an research in a way that is not only funny, but also easy for the average person to understand. (In my case, a below-average person.) For some entertaining posts/podcasts/recipes on topics from clean eating, to skin care, to homesteading, check out one of her blogs HERE.

Take the next step. Apply this information. Research it for yourself. Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! Or, if you have to give something up, give up highly-processed oils.

You Are What You Eat, So Don’t Be a Human

Today, I stopped to consider why I eat grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and carrion-fed condor. Maybe its just a mental thing, but I truly believe that animals raised on their natural food sources taste better. I can attest that wild-caught manatee is at least twice as good as farm-raised.

On top of the flavor, it just makes sense to me that what animals eat is passed on to us in one way or another. The nutrients in a cow’s body will come from their source of food, whether it is grass, corn, an unlucky farmhand who fell into the wheat thresher, grain, or grain by-products.

It’s not just from their diet, but also the other areas of their lifestyle. I only eat poultry from farms where the chickens are free-range, are not allowed to smoke, and they are never given malt liquor to excess.

Again, maybe it’s a mental thing, maybe it’s Maybelline, but I also physically feel better after changing over to organic meats. My stomach feels more satisfied after I eat a meal. It’s almost as if my body recognizes organic grass-fed beef more as food than it did the overly-processed, hormone-injected, grain by-product-fed beef. I find myself eating smaller portions, even without thinking about it. I think it’s also no coincidence that I got my taxes done a full month earlier, the Polar Vortex lifted, and Alex Trebek is still Canadian.

To really personalize it, though, I had to consider: “If someone ate me, would they be nourished, or would they get sick from all the toxins in my muscles, liver, bones, and oozy red stuff?”

And what would be a fitting side dish? Would I be served with red or white wine? Am I safe for someone with a peanut allergy?

There is plenty of research out there saying that organic beef is far more healthful than standard feedlot beef. On the other hand, there is plenty of research out there showing that feedlot beef is every bit as good for you as organic. I’m not linking to any of that here, because I fully believe you are smart enough and capable enough to research for yourself and make your own informed decision. I also happen to be very, very lazy. So happy Googling to you!

If, at the end of your research, you still don’t believe that you could really feel better by changing what foods you put in your body… then you can eat me.

Chili Today, Armageddon Tamale

As promised, here’s my award-winning chili! Full disclosure: I created, voted, and presented the award, to/for myself (Cutest Left-Handed Chili Maker in the Lower 48).

Total Prep/Cook Time: About an hour, allowing for the extra time to refer to this recipe, minus the time that you cranked up the heat during Step 3 because your kids/significant other were complaining that dinner was not ready, and he/she/they is/are hungry/a huge freaking baby. Makes about 16 servings. Great for families, or for a couple who wants to eat chili for a week.

Ingredients:

-3 pounds of ground beef (grass-fed organic preferred)

-1 can (15/16-ounce) organic tomato sauce

-2 cups water

-4 teaspoons paprika

-8 teaspoons cumin

-2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

-1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

-1 cup chili powder

-2 teaspoons ground red pepper

-3 small/medium sweet potatoes

-12 to 16 ounces of your favorite all-natural, organic, pastured, grass-fed, nitrate-free, minimally-processed, natural-casing, crap-free beef/chicken/pork/turkey sausage

-Fresh peppers to taste

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Step 1: Brown 3 pounds of beef in a 5-quart pot. DO NOT DRAIN THE MEAT.

While the meat is browning, combine tomato sauce, water, paprika, cumin, onion flakes, garlic salt, chili powder, and red pepper (cayenne) into a mixing bowl.

After stirring, the wet mixture should be the same color as the still-beating heart of your defeated enemy on the battlefield. You may also refer to the picture above.

Just in case you missed it – DO NOT DRAIN THE MEAT.

Combine the bowl with the pot and bring to a simmer.

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Step 2: As the pot simmers, peel and chop the sweet potatoes into 1/2″ cubes. Add to the pot and continue to simmer.

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Step 3: Cut the sausage and add it – continue to simmer. Slice and add any peppers to taste.

Simmer for up to another 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are cooked to the desired tenderness. If the chili is too thick, add water until you reach the desired consistency.

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Step 4: Garnish with your favorite organic cheese and serve piping hot. Enjoy!

For bonus points, add additional peppers, like habenero, Bhut Jolokia, or Carolina Reaper. Then, tell me how it goes the next day. No pictures, please.

How to Make Frozen Vegetables That Don’t Suck

If you’re like me, you have a hard time working vegetables into every meal. If you’re like me, you also have beautiful green eyes, but that’s beside the point.

I do not naturally gravitate toward raw vegetables. You’ll never find me leaning against a wall casually chewing on a carrot, although that would look really cool if I was wearing a leather jacket. For the most part, I cook my vegetables. Here are my tips for cooking 5-minute steamed vegetables that will blow your socks off, across the room, and likely into the neighbors’ house.

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Step 1 – Selecting a Bowl:
I found some awesome microwave-safe bowls at TJ-Maxx for $5-10 that include vented lids. They have numerous sizes to fit the needs of any size family. In lieu of that you can simply put a plate over a bowl.

Step 2 – Choosing a Vegetable:
This method works awesome for most frozen firm vegetables (broccoli, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.). For this example, I’m using Trader Joe’s Organic broccoli florets. Using frozen veggies is an affordable way to buy in bulk and eat otherwise out-of-season vegetables.

Step 3 – Fill That Mother Up!
Don’t worry if you can’t quite close the lid. As they cook, they will soften and allow the cover to seal/vent.

If you are steaming frozen vegetables, you do not have to add any water. The ice on the veggies will steam them without making them soggy.

Put your bowl in the microwave. Cook on High for 2 minutes, stir, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add additional time, depending on your desired firmness. Finally, I tip the bowl to one side and soak up any standing water with a paper towel.

A few points to remember:
-DO NOT put fireworks in the microwave with your vegetables.
-DO NOT mistake balls of tin foil for vegetables. It’ll wreak havoc on your microwave and cut the hell out of your gums.
-DO NOT throw your microwave on the ground in celebration of perfectly-cooked broccoli.

Step 4 – Season to Taste:
I personally like a little bit of grass-fed butter with salt and pepper. Feel free to experiment with other spices.

Step 5 – Enjoy!
Pair with some meat/seafood, another veggie (fresh sprouts or sweet potato), and maybe a little dairy (cheddar from a grass-fed cow).

Frozen vegetables don’t have to suck, and by following these steps, you won’t suck at cooking them!

Pay Leo if You Want to Live

In an effort get healthier and be able to climb a flight of stairs before clutching my chest, I have been trying to eat more real food. Some consider this to be synonymous with the “Paleo Diet”. I am not a strict Paleo follower who will slap a quinoa salad out of your hand and insult your mother, but there are some good parts of Paleo that can point you in the right direction. Here are my own observations:

The term “Paleo Diet” is derived from the term “Paleolithic Era”, which scientists detail as “the time when man had a unibrow and pooped in the woods”. I have been slowly working Paleo meals into my diet. One meal a day, wedged between McGriddles and Taco Bell.

When I mention Paleo, people ask me, “What is Paleo?”, and “Why did you force the topic of Paleo into a discussion about the ever-increasing price of gasoline?” Mostly the latter. In layman’s terms, Paleo is described as “what you can pick or hunt”. I try to incorporate those into as many meals as possible.

Corn and other grains are mostly out because they are not simply gathered – they must be cultivated. So, I stick with what can be picked. For lunch, I had an apple, my nose, friends, and a rental car (but I had to pay extra for insurance). Things that are not Paleo are just as simple to surmise: things which you cannot simply pick. For example: legumes, family, and your seat on a Priceline flight.

Lunchmeat and other processed meats are typically off-limits because they cannot be hunted. Well, that’s not entirely true, but the kind man at the grocery store asked me to leave when I put a spear through the Oscar Meyer smoked turkey. So if you want to stick to what can be hunted for, I recommend a balanced dinner of organic chicken thighs, your car keys, and a good deal on laundry detergent.

Speaking of Paleo meats – most meat found at your local grocery store is not, in the sincerest sense of the word, Paleo. Most beef and other meat-producing animals (sheep, chickens, goats, humans, etc.) are force-fed a strict diet of corn, diet cola, and cheeseburgers. Paleo experts (cavemen in lab coats who drag their women by the hair back to their caves) recommend eating only grass-fed or free-range meats.

I stray from the pack of experts, who are busy trying to overcome a wooly mammoth, by saying there is a better meat! I’m not often at the forefront of science, as I currently have 150 leeches draining the evil spirits from my body, but I believe there is a better form of beef. I figure: if eating grass-fed cows is very Paleo, then eating cows that only eat grass-fed beef is über-Paleo!

Before you know it, I will be selling (for $1,000 a pound, mind you) beef from cows that eat only beef that eats only beef that eats only beef that eats only beef that eats only grass that somehow eats beef that eats grass. It sounds really time-consuming, hence the markup. If you want a side for your beef-fed-beef-fed-beef-fed-grass-fed beef, I will also offer beef-fed grass. But don’t worry: the grass is fed a strict diet of grass-fed beef. So it’s still Paleo.

I know this sounds very daunting, given how grocery stores carry mostly processed foods. I personally get to the Paleo items more quickly by walking up to every teen-aged employee and shouting, “EXCUSE ME. I AM ON A PALEO DIET. PLEASE POINT ME TO THE PALEO FOODS.” At this point, he or she will point in a direction best described as “away” (then dart behind some magazines). Nine times out of ten, they will point you to the exit, but that one time out of ten, they will accidentally point you to the nitrate-free bacon. Goldmine.

Some would argue that, if eating Paleo were best for you, then Paleolithic man would still be around today! To you nay-sayers, I say, “Paleolithic man is among us! Just look at your average Nickelback fan. His knuckles drag the ground like the noble ape.”

I hope this crash course on Paleo helped you on your way to good health. If it did, I can only assume it was an act of God (which is NOT covered under your Homeowner’s Policy). If it did not help, we can probably credit that to the copious amount of misinformation I have dished out here.

Stay tuned for more posts covering REAL FOOD, AIP (auto-immune protocol), recipes, tips, and entertaining reads to pass the time.