“O Captain! My Captain!” – Dealing with depression and anxiety.

With the passing of Robin Williams this week my Facebook feed has been awash with discussion of depression. Some are trying to understand it, others can’t possibly figure out how someone so funny could be so sad. Still others offer their own stories of how they’ve experienced depression and can relate to what Robin was going through. As I wrote on a friend’s post:

I am fortunate that I do not know what depression is like. Not real depression of the type Robin Williams had. But I have experienced its effects first hand as someone who has had to be there for others suffering from this horrible disease. And I’ve learned that there is no one cause. Sometimes it’s related to diet and various nutritional deficiencies, sometimes it’s hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances. Many times it’s other things entirely. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that dark place, but I can assure you, having been with someone while they were there, in the worst possible pain of their life, it’s not fun, and nothing else really matters except stopping that pain.”

Robin’s death by suicide hit me hard. I grew up with him, as I’m sure many of you did. I remember the very first episodes of Mork and Mindy, and even before that his appearances on Happy Days. I watched him evolve from a bizarre, crazy guy into a brilliant actor in Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Dead Poet’s Society. His stand-up routines, though filled with foul language, were a testament to the fact that foul language is often times the only and perfect way to accentuate and emphasize a point. Of all the comedians I’ve watched, listened to, and enjoyed, Robin Williams was always my favorite. And I am very sad he’s gone.

But it’s how he left us that really hurts. Knowing that he, who brought so much joy to my life, couldn’t feel that joy himself and was in so much pain that his only escape was to leave us as he did, really saddens me.  I have no idea what life was like for him, how long he was battling his demons, or even what those demons were.  But as my trainer mentioned the other day on this subject, you’ve got to find something to hold on to; an anchor that you can grip tight and never, ever let go of!

As I said above, I’ve seen that kind of pain first hand. Not experienced it myself, but lived with it. For over ten years my wife battled with severe depression and anxiety.  When it first hit, it was subtle.  But it grew into something larger. Something neither one of knew how to deal with.  And as an engineer and  a problem solver I was lost. I fix things. It’s what I do. But there was nothing there to fix. There was only pain and dread and worry. For both of us. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to make this go away or to make her better.  Except be her anchor.  Be that someone she could grip tight and never let go of.  As she was for me in return.  This was OUR fight.  Somehow we would find a way to fix this.

She once told me that “Depression isn’t logical, it isn’t rational.  There’s nothing there to fix or to make sense of because it doesn’t make any sense!”  A lot of people are trying to make sense of what happened to Robin.  Sadly, you can not make sense of that which is senseless.  All we can do is be their anchor and never let go!

What does it mean to be a Dad?

Dads & Sons

Four days in my life changed who I am forever.  The day I married my wife, the day my son was born and the day my daughter was born.  Being a father is simply amazing.  It is however, not for the faint of heart!  Wait, that’s only three days!  I know, keep reading OK?  One pivotal moment in my young life however, taught me all about what being a dad is and that was the fourth day.

I grew up in a typical and loving middle-class family of six where Dad worked and Mom raised us.  Sure Dad, participated but his role was largely a silent one.  By the time I was in high school, it seemed my dad and I barely spoke, we lived on two different planets.  We weren’t antagonists we just didn’t have anything to say to each other.  Then one day, something REALLY magical happened and taught me all about what a dad is.

I had a lead role in our high school musical and the performances were scheduled unfortunately while my dad was going to be on a golf vacation with his buddies.  No big deal, this wasn’t his cup of tea anyways.   It was closing night, the next day I was headed to Washington, DC for a week with school so I wasn’t even planning to see him.  I had a number early in the show and when I walked to the edge of the stage, I looked out at the audience and there he was, sitting right there, grinning ear to ear.  My heart melted.  Turns out, he made his buddies leave early and drive straight through to make sure he made it.  He still had his suitcase and clubs with him!  That moment, our different worlds collided back into one and he became my best friend, we could talk about anything and we still do.  I grew up that day and saw my dad in a whole new light and it changed me to the core.

Being a dad today involves more than with dads of past generations.  We’re bread winners, we cook, we change diapers, we play and interact with our kids more than dads in the past sometimes did.  But that is not what being a dad is.  Being a dad is about being present and showing our love.  It’s about giving room to let your children grow but being there when they need it.  It’s possessing a profound sense of understanding when you have to step in, step up and step out.  It is having unconditional love for your children and the wherewithal to know how to show it.

That day, 30 years ago, changed forever my relationship with my dad.  It also profoundly and forever changed my understanding about what being a father is all about.  It was and still is about love.  Happy Father’s Day Dad and to all dads!

Copyright © 2014 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

Paleo Soup – Just Wanna Be Egg Roll Soup

Welcome to The Cave

Back in January, Culinary Cave Dad and I opened up a group on Facebook, 30 Days in The Cave, the purpose of which is to support people doing 30 Day Paleo Challenges.  Since Paleo is really a very specific name for a template which includes many different and customized  ways of changing your diet, we don’t restrict it to just 30 Day Paleo Challenges.  We have people doing Whole30s, The 21 Day Sugar Detox, and even making up their own challenges.  The first time around, since I mostly live in 21DSD/L3-land (i.e. strict Paleo), I opted to work on optimizing my sleep by getting to bed by 10:00pm every night (I failed miserably). Well, I’ll cut to the chase, this group has been successful beyond our wildest dreams!  We have people doing all sorts of things, making all sorts of unbelievable progress, and changing their lives in various, but very meaningful ways!

The CaveDwellers

Possibly the best aspect of The Cave is the people who inhabit it with us. The CaveDwellers are the most awesome bunch of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of occupying a cave with!  We’ve got all types; from first-time-Whole30-just-heard-about-Paleo to seasoned-veteran-works-in-the-nutrition-world.  We’ve got young and young at heart, athletes and gonna-be-athletes-again-soon, single folks, and couples.

One of the couples is Ed and Missy, who remind me of  CaveMom and yours truly.  The two of them are absolutely hysterical, and when they moved into The Cave, Missy took over!  Well, at least took over the Penalty Rock, which, not only did she drag into The Cave, but, as she puts it, “carved my name in this rock the last 30 days. See the nice butt crevice? All me…”

Missy is just one of the amazing people I’m honored to share our Cave with.  She’s been through a lot in her life, and like most of The CaveDwellers, she’s as much interested in supporting others as she is in need of support from them.  In fact, she runs a great FB page, The Face of RA-The Paleo Way, which is all about living with and treating Rheumatoid Arthritis using a Paleo diet-based approach. Our own Culinary Cave Dad has written about his own battles with this monster here.

In addition to giving us the Penalty Rock, Missy also donated this fantastic recipe:

Just Wanna Be Egg Roll Soup

Just Wanna Be Egg Roll Soup

This is how we (egg) roll here in The Cave…


Chicken stock-12 cups
Sweet Italian Sausage Links (I use turkey)-5 links
Garlic- 2-3 Lg Cloves, minced
Yellow onion-1 Lg, quartered
Celery- 2-3 stalks with leaves
Carrots-4 medium, peeled
Spinach (frozen)- 1 Cup
Cabbage (I use pre-shredded coleslaw mix)
3 Cups Turmeric- 1.5 Tbs
Parsley- 2 tsp Salt/pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bowl of delicious Wanna Be Egg Roll Soup

Eggsactly what you need on a cold, wintery day!



Preheat oven to 400*F.
Lightly grease cookie sheet with Olive oil and space sausage evenly.
Cook for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned
While the sausage is in the oven add stock to large pot.
Add garlic, onion, celery, carrot & seasonings.
Let simmer until sausage is cooked.
Slice sausage or remove from casing and add to stock.
Add spinach and cabbage and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for ten additional minutes.
Serve and enjoy.

Total cook time for stock was about 45 minutes. Serves 6-8 with left overs.

In closing, I’d like to thank Missy for everything she’s contributed to The Cave.  The place would just be a hollow hole in the rock without her! So, Thank You Missy!  You’re awesome, and I love sharing a cave with you and Ed.  Even if you do spend most of the time on your butt-creviced Penalty Rock!

Go Pauleo™ *

Curves ahead

Watch out!  Curves Ahead!


In my spare time, which arguably has been very limited lately (family, work, travel, volunteering, volunteering…) I have been reading about people who have lost their enamor with the Paleo approach/lifestyle.  Almost without fail the reason people lose their way is because of their obsessive relationship with the approach and/or food.  This really isn’t meant to be an uber restrictive, make you freak out if you eat _______ lifestyle but that’s where many who abandoned the lifestyle went to.  At least that’s the way I see it.  Answer yourself these questions.  Do you freak out (just a little) if a particular food touches your plate (allergies aside)?  Will you not eat if you can’t eat 100% squeaky clean?  Did you pass on a social event because the wrong “food” was going to be there?  Are you a Paleo perfectionist making everyone’s life around you miserable (read – a living hell) because they aren’t doing it right!? (see Diane’s very insightful post on this subject here: http://balancedbites.com/2012/06/paleo-perfectionism.html). If you answer yes to any of these, you are risking burning yourself out and doing yourself a huge disservice to your own health and sanity.  Keep reading…..

Paleo gave me a beautiful gift.  It gave me the gift of enjoying life again to the fullest.  It gave me weight loss, it gave me freedom from arthritic pain, it gave me awareness that wheat and I don’t play well together (and we probably never will), it gave me freedom from prescription medications for arthritis(es), blood pressure and pain and it gave me what started to become a bit of an obsession.  This is where I think those that ultimately leave this approach to life and search for something new start.  I think that something is right under our noses but we often don’t see it; relax.  This is life and none of us will get out alive.

I believe an elimination diet like Whole30 or 21 Day Sugar Detox is a great GREAT teaching mechanism for darn near everyone.  Really making a pact with yourself to eliminate potential sources of inflammation and intestinal distress for a period of time (without cheating) and introducing them back can teach you amazing things about a) your body, b) the fuel you choose to put in it and c) what Big Food is putting into your processed foodstuffs.  It teaches you to connect with your food in ways you may not have before.  Starting with whole, fresh ingredients, preparing a meal from scratch and enjoying the bold flavors that come out when you lose the processed sugar crap can be life altering.  But this is where it can also start to go horribly wrong.

Allergies aside, when you start to fear foods and worry one slip will ruin all you have accomplished or panic because there is “nothing” you can eat so you choose to skip a meal rather than make the best choice possible with what you have; now you’re descending into the danger zone or outright hell.  Elimination diets are teaching instruments, they are not prescriptions for life.  As Whole30 says on their website, it’s not Whole365!

I’ve been paleo/primal for over a year now and I am thrilled with the results and truth of the matter, I have no intention of moving away from eating whole, nutrient dense foods that we prepare ourselves but I am realizing that even I forget from time to time, that this is a framework, a construct, GUIDELINES; not hard and fast rules to live by.  Wheat and I fight each other anytime I have brought it back (and I will largely remain gluten free going forward) but that doesn’t mean I won’t try a wonderful restaurant again where they serve Headwiches (sandwiches as big as your head) and a cold craft brewed beer again.  In fact, that day is likely coming very close to the end of my current Whole30 challenge I am hosting with Paul L. my blogging partner in crime.  I’m going to Paris later this year for vacation with the family and you can be damn sure I will be eating bread there (pain or not)!  Will I abandon this lifestyle that gave me all these wonderful gifts?  Will I invite wheat back to my daily table?  Absolutely not!  Being able to run (even walk) again without pain is truly a gift and one I very much understand how it was manifested and aggravated by the food I used to eat.  But even I need to remember that life won’t be lived by putting up a wall of can’ts and wont’s.  Enjoy that occasional indulgence, don’t stress about it, don’t freak out because it is there, embrace it then do what is right for your body.  Last remember this; what works for me, might not work for you.  There is no one-size-fits-all dietary solution that will solve everyone’s challenges.  You need to research, experiment and work with your own body to find that sweet-spot that only you can own.  Paleo, primal, WAP, SAD, All things in moderation…. All are just starting points.  For me, I’m going Pauleo™*, because that’s what works for me!

*Go Pauleo™ can be found here http://thoughtfulcavedad.com/random-thoughts/paleo-primal-30-day-challenges-dairy/

Updated 1-21-2013

Copyright © 2013 “The Culinary Cave Dad”


Hollandaise and Crab Hollandaise Variation

I love this velvety sauce and was trying to come up with a dairy free version for our Whole30 challenge.  This works beautifully and quite frankly, I like it better than the dairy version. This versatile sauce can be served over any kind of veggie but Brussels sprouts, broccoli and asparagus are our favorites.  The crab version is great over fish and fantastic on a grilled steak.Try it out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!






2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup coconut cream (make sure you get some of the heavy stuff)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ lemon squeezed (about 1 ½ Tbs)
2-3 Tbs Ghee


1 cup picked through and drained crab meat (optional)



Place eggs through lemon juice over a double boiler (aka a glass bowl over a pot of hot water).  Cook a stir frequently until the mixture thickens, then add ghee one tablespoon at a time whisking until incorporated.


For the crab variation add crab meat and heat through.


Updated 1-17-2013

Copyright © 2013 “The Culinary Cave Dad”


Paleo, Primal, 30 Day Challenges, and Dairy

Glass and Bottle of Milk

Photo Credit: macalit via Compfight cc

30 Day Paleo Challenges, 21 Day Sugar Detoxes, and Whole30′s, oh my!  T’is the season, I guess.  New year, let’s start over, rid ourselves of the 5, 10, or 15 pounds we gained (or think we gained) over the annual 5-week long Holiday Gluttonfest.  So, clearly the answer must be to swing to the opposite extreme and completely deny ourselves of anything enjoyable in life and just to make it unbearable, we join a new gym and beat ourselves to death on treadmills, ellipticals, and other treatment various human rights groups would stage world-wide protests over, were it not voluntary.

Here in the Paleosphere, we’re not all that different than “the mainstream SAD people”, are we?  If we were, then January 1st would be “just another day” following “just another month” from a dietary perspective, right?  But noooooo. We’re all over this 30 Day Challenge and Detox thing. Just look around you.  Every Crossfit box worth their kettlebells is running a Paleo Challenge of some kind or other.  Facebook groups like 30 Days in the Cave (Culinary Cave Dad’s and my own FB group (pssst, still time to join if you want to!)) are popping up as well. And my good friend Diane Sanfilippo is holding the “Largest ever 21 Day Sugar Detox group”.

We’ve lost our way…

But it seems that something has been lost in the original intent behind the Paleo Challenge, and this seems to have led to a lot of confusion over dairy and it’s role in the diet with respect to Paleo.  Does Paleo allow dairy?  Or is that what’s called “Primal”.  If it’s “Primal”, then why does Robb Wolfe admit to consuming dairy and even go so far as to say that Paleo plus dairy is a “potently anti-inflammatory diet [...] loaded with nutrient quality.” ?  [ The Paleo Solution Podcast Episode  92 ]

Let’s take a step back and realize what exactly “The Paleo Diet” really is.  First and foremost, it’s the name of a book by Loren Cordain, whom many credit with being the “Father of Paleo”.  The term “The Paleo Diet” is in fact a trademark owned by Cordain.  As a result, when Mark Sisson wanted to write a similar book, using the term “Paleo” would both add confusion and possibly infringe upon that trademark. Hence, “The Primal Blueprint”!

Controversy over dairy in the science…

Cordain does in fact recommend against consuming dairy, claiming that it’s more harmful than not.  But there is plenty of controversy over this claim. And Chris Kresser has done an excellent job discussing  the science which both backs up and contradicts his assertions.  The irony here is that Robb Wolf, who recommends eliminating dairy in his book, actually admits to consuming dairy, and Mark Sisson, who’s books claim dairy is okay, actually does not tolerate it, and therefore does not consume diary (I can’t find a reference to this claim, but I’m 99.999% positive I’ve heard Mark state this on some podcast or other).  So, we have the current leader of the Paleo movement (Robb) ostensibly saying one thing and doing the opposite, and the leader of the Primal movement (Mark) preaching it’s okay, but completely avoiding it?  How does this make sense?

The original intent behind 30 Day Challenges…

Coffee with Cream

Photo Credit: larskflem via Compfight cc

Then there is the age old question of, “What can I possibly put in my coffee if I can’t have dairy?!”.  There are some who say, “Man up and drink it black like the gods intended!”, and there are other apologists out there who claim that coconut milk really isn’t an evil abomination when combined with the Elixir of Life and personal insult to those very same coffee gods!”  So what do we do?

Again, let’s take a step back and think about what is going on with dairy, and why is it considered off-limits, especially on a 30 Day Paleo Challenge.  When Robb first proposed what he now calls “Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation”, his intent was for one to undertake what, in the medical world, is referred to as a “standard elimination diet”.  There was, and is, absolutely nothing magical about what Robb was proposing.  Every doctor and allergist in the world has at some time likely recommended a similar approach whether or not they understood the concept of “Paleo” nutrition.  The basic premise is to eliminate those foods which are most irritating and known to cause problems for the human body.  It’s the old Marx Brothers routine,

Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I do this!”
Doctor: “So, don’t do that!”

Robb’s approach, and Mark’s, is to eliminate the most basic causes of inflammation in the digestive tract. Everyone hears the “Eliminate these things from your diet..”:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol

But almost everyone seems to forget the end of that sentence which states, “…for 30 days.” And the next one which states, “And re-introduce it as you see fit.”  He in fact goes on to explain exactly HOW to re-introduce each of these foods in order to determine if you do have any kind of sensitivities or aversions to them.

Now, most people in the Paleosphere seem to agree that cutting out most grains is a good idea.  And there’s not a lot of debate about legumes in general.  Everyone also pretty much agrees that the clear, non-grain based alcohols are fine on occasion, and that sugar is something best left out entirely (there’s a whole separate discussion lurking here about gradients and spectrums which I plan to dive into at a later date).  But dairy seems to raise the ire in some people.  One side claiming there’s no good reason ever to consume it, the other claiming it’s perfectly fine as long as you stick to grass-fed, pastured products, ideally in their most natural, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized state.

Can I have dairy or not?

So where does this leave us?  Right back to the ever unpopular “It depends”.  My take on it is this. If you’ve done a 30 Day Paleo Challenge; Robb’s, The Whole 30, the “Squeaky Clean Paleo” protocol or Auto-Immune Protocol from Practical Paleo, etc., have properly re-introduced dairy back into your life, and subsequently determined that you have no issues with dairy, then have at it and enjoy it.  On the other hand, if you have issues with dairy, then it’s probably obvious and wise that you should avoid it. This shouldn’t be rocket science or brain surgery folks.  If you test something and determine it doesn’t bother you, then why intentionally avoid it?  Just because some person on the interwebs said so?  You’ve already determined it doesn’t bother you!

A grass-fed cow

Photo Credit: Eduardo Amorim via Compfight cc

But what about when doing a repeat 30 Day Challenge?  Should you exclude dairy during these repeat performances?  I guess it again “depends”.  What is the purpose of doing another 30 Day Challenge?  And is dairy a trigger food for you?  Do you perhaps have cheese more often than you should?  Again, my take on it is very individualistic.  I’ve done many 30 Day Challenges, most of them with a complete avoidance of all dairy.  However, I’ve determined through so much experimentation that I have absolutely no issues with dairy of any kind in any amount.  And for me, coffee is not worth drinking without a little bit of grass-fed heavy cream or butter in it.  Just enough to take the bitter edge off, but not so much that the coffee becomes a milkshake. We’re talking 1-2 tablespoons at most per cup.  I’ll have 2 cups/day, so at most 4 TBSPs of cream or butter.  Not unreasonable at all, and given my particular, individualized situation, certainly not enough to cause me problems.

Again, though, we need to look at why are you doing this 30 Day Challenge?  What are you challenging? Robb’s intent is for it to be an initial transition to Paleo, that “people do a really stout buy-in in the first 30 days then reintroduce foods to kind of see how things go.” [ The Paleo Solution Podcast Episode 92 ].  The 30 Day Challenge state is NOT meant to be the state that most people live in year round.  Nor is the 30 Day Challenge state something he expected people do frequently.  It is intentionally very strict because it is designed as a means of removing inflammatory and antagonistic substances from the diet in order to provide the body a calm and soothing environment in which to heal itself.  It can’t do that if it’s getting attacked on all sides by the dietary equivalent of a pack of hyenas.  So, remove the hyenas from the picture, let the body heal, re-introduce possible problematic items methodically and see how the body reacts.  THAT is the intent behind the challenge. Therefore, as I’ve said, if you’ve already tested and discovered dairy is not problematic, then relax and enjoy it. Otherwise you’re avoiding something just because a specific elimination diet protocol tells you to do so. This, despite the fact that you are now using that protocol for purposes other than the one it’s designed for!  That seems kinda silly.

A new dietary plan to replace Paleo!

So, if you’re doing a Paleo Challenge and treating it like a detox, perhaps you need to re-think your average daily approach to eating.  Perhaps your problem is that you’ve allowed too many hyenas into your body.  And if that’s the case, then a 30 Day Challenge isn’t going to help you in the long term.  It’s how you eat MOST OF THE TIME that matters, not how many 30 Day challenges you complete over the year starting January 1st.  By the time you’ve gotten to your 3rd 30 day challenge, you probably shouldn’t even notice that you’re doing anything different!

So, with that in mind, I introduce to you to the new dietary concept of “Pauleo“!

Pauleo™ is the concept of eating real, fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods and avoiding all man-made, highly processed, nutrient-deficient, industrialized food products whilst thoroughly enjoying those food which you have determined “work for you” through a stringent and strict 30 Day Elimination Diet Challenge and methodically re-introduced according to the proper protocol.

Pauleo™, for example, fully allows one to have grass-fed, pastured, minimally-processed heavy cream or butter in one’s coffee, if one tolerates dairy.  Pauleo™ completely and totally forbids dairy for any individual who has not first proven that they tolerate dairy as described previously.  In fact, Pauleo™ completely prohibits anyone from attempting this nutritional lifestyle without first having completed at least one 30-Day Paleo Challenge and properly re-introducing all removed foods according to the prescribed protocol. Pauleo™ is also open to only those individuals named Paul or those individuals willing to answer to the name Paul for the duration of time they plan on following the PauleoPlan. (Paulas and Paulettes may be acceptable as well, we’re waiting to hear back from our legal department.)

Now, back to dairy. Be aware it does contain a lot of fat.  And it can be a trigger food for many.  If your goal is to lose weight and dairy is quietly contributing a bunch of calories to your daily intake that you’re not also burning off with some form of activity, it might well be the culprit that prevents you from reaching your goals.  If this is your first 30 Day Challenge, you’re better off sucking it up and avoiding the dairy completely like I did.  Partly to determine whether or not you are sensitive to it, and partly to realize what you’re capable of accomplishing in 30 days.  You might surprise yourself and discover you like your coffee black, or that coconut milk does work for you, or that you don’t even want the coffee anymore.

So, who’s up for a Pauleo™ 30 Day Challenge?  It comes with a side a bacon!

The Travelin’ Paleo Man


Being gluten-free by necessity makes dining out an outright challenge.  If you aren’t gluten-free, ask for a gluten-free menu sometime.  All those foods that LOOK gluten-free on the menu, really aren’t sadly enough.  Thankfully the paleo, gluten-free trends are making it easier for folks like me as most places are increasing their selections but what about when you are strict paleo or doing something like a Whole30 or 21 Day Sugar Detox Level 3?  Well, then dining out usually, in a word sucks.

OK, I do have a couple of local places where I know I can get a nearly squeaky clean delicious paleo meal but I also travel a fair amount and then, it’s not so easy as I often find myself in strip-mall hell.  So what do you do?  Well, if you are going to have meat of any kind, expect that it will have been touched by soy, canola or corn oil sometime in the preparation.  You can ask that it is not but chances are not good.  So just accept it and move on (unless you are allergic).  Tell them you are gluten-free and ask for a gluten-free menu.  If nothing on that menu looks good ask if they will do meat and steamed veggies or salad with grilled lightly seasoned meat.  If they won’t, move on.  If they will, watch what they bring to the table as they still often want to dress things up because the plate doesn’t look good.  Case in point, I ordered grilled steak and double steamed broccoli this week and told the waitress about my gluten issues.  The steak came out on a bed of breaded onion straws because the plate didn’t looked dressed without it (it got sent back).

Take care when looking at the gluten-free menu.  My cousin the Travelin’ Primal Man will have an easier time finding something but you’ll find that most chefs and most restaurant chains want to tickle your fat sensors so dairy is often heavily featured.  This is also true for pseudo grains and pastas.  Generally speaking you will be able to make something work.  Also be aware that some restaurants, particularly slower fast food ones like Panera will have secret, nearly paleo meals but you have to know before you go.

In my kitchen, I can whip up exotic flavors and amazing combinations of foods.  Don’t expect this when you are on the road.  Expect middle of the road protein and veg; resign yourself to it, then when you’re pleasantly surprised, all the better.  This is even more true when you go out with a group or worse eat in at lunch.  They’ll have five pizzas in front of them and the waitress will look at you like you have eight heads when you ask for a gluten-free menu and end up with iceberg lettuce and hockey puck of a chicken breast and some red wine vinegar because they use canola.

So salads are your friend while on the road (watch the cheese monster and sugar coated nuts) but pack some tasty treats when the meal leaves you flat.  Take some kale chips or beef jerky along for the ride.  Macadamia nuts for me are a life saver and even sneak a tin of sardines in that carry on luggage.  This three day trip I just completed left me culinarily empty.  Thankfully, the rocking Cavemom had made the family free-range pork chops, roasted bacon sprouts and carrot-ginger soup.  At least in this restaurant, I can always eat fabulous, whole food meals!


Copyright © 2014 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

32 Ground Beef Recipes (mostly Paleo)

My normal Saturday morning ritual is to hit the gym at 7:00am for an hour or so of Olympic lifting.  After that I head over to a nearby farm where I get most of my produce (even in these harsh New England winters Jaimie over at Springdell Farms manages to have something delicious for me).  The weekend before New Year’s I picked up another huge, pastured turkey weighing in at 20-25 pounds.  The one we had at Thanksgiving was so unbelievably delicious we wanted another one for our annual New Year’s dinner as well.  If you haven’t tried Culinary Cave Dad’s Super-Delicious Turkey Brining Concoction, you really owe it to yourself to try it.

Anywhoo. I got home with said huge turkey and discovered I had absolutely no where to store it.  See, just after Thanksgiving my friend Matt, who’s parents own Bear Hill Farm informed me that my pig was ready.  This was quite fortunate since I was pretty much out of meat at this point.  Of course, when it rains it pours, and less than 2 weeks later, Carolyn, my beef farmer from Wheel-View Farm e-mailed me to let me know they were going to be heading out on their “Eastern Tour” to deliver grass-fed beef orders.  John and Carolyn live “out west”, about an hour from me.  Every few months they make a trip east and stop at various, convenient meeting places so their customers can swing by and pick up their orders.  Fortunately for me, they’re willing to stop at a place just off the highway less than 10 minutes from my house!  Unfortunately for me, they were coming the weekend before Christmas.  I had little room in my chest freezer for 100 pounds of beef, grass-fed or otherwise.

But what choice did I have?  They wouldn’t be coming back this way for at least another 3 months, so it was now or drive out there when I got the chance. I spent the better part of 2 hours re-arranging the chest freezer in the basement and the freezer upstairs as well trying to fit both the pig and the beef.  I finally made it all fit.  That’s when it hit me that of my 100 pounds of beef that I get, 60 of it is ground.  60 pounds of ground-beef.  Contemplate that for a minute.  3 bags at 20 pounds each of 1-pound packages of ground beef.  The 1 pound packages certainly make it far more convenient than those 5+ pound “family packs” I could get at the local warehouse store.  But 60 pounds is  a LOT of ground-beef.  Fortunately, I LOVE a good burger, and we have them often with that much on-hand.  It’s kind of our “goto” meal.  But there’s so much more you can do with ground beef.  Yet, pretty much all we ever do it with is make burgers, my favorite Ginger Curry Acorn Squash Hash, and the occasional meatloaf.

So, I put the call out to some of my fellow Real Food Blogger friends for more ideas.  Below I have collected 32 different recipes for using ground-beef.  Not all of them a strict Paleo, but it’s not tough at all to adapt them by substituting or just leaving out entirely, the non-Paleo ingredients. Enjoy!


Hollywood Homestead - Hidden Liver Burgers



  • Author: Tonja Pizzo
  • Meal: Chili
  • Tags: Paleo Chili Groundbeef


  • Author: Shannon Spicer
  • Meal: Marinara recipe
  • Facebook: All Things Health
  • Tags: Sauce Tomatoes Italian Gluten-Free Grain-Free
  • Notes: No actual beef in the recipe, but so easy to add!



Shepherd’s Pies

Soups & Stews

Stuffed Peppers/Squash

  • Author: Angela England
  • Meal: Stuffed Veggies
  • Facebook: Untrained Housewife
  • Tags: Veggies Freezer-Friendly Squash Simple Budget-Friendly Dairy Cheese Gluten-Free Grain-Free


And if all that isn’t enough, Loriel over at Healthy Roots, Happy Soul and Andrea over at Homemade For Elle have similar posts with even more Ground Beef recipes!  That’s 133 recipes for ground-beef.  I think that might be more recipes than I have ground-beef for :)

Culinary Cave Dad’s Award Winning Potato Chip Chili

Inspirations – Emeril Lagasse, Montgomery Inn and yes, Betty Crocker!


Betty was the first chili recipe I made and included the cocoa which is just amazing in chili and also clued me into the fact that the unexpected often yields great flavor.  When I decide to go off the paleo path I will also serve this over potato chips.  I saw Emeril put chili on top of chips with blue cheese and I love the Saratoga chips that Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati makes so I use both.  My measurements are approximate since I mainly eyeball things but this is more or less the recipe.


  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef, bison or even turkey
  • 1 large onion, fine diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt (start with one, add more at the end if needed)
  • 1 Tbs Ancho Chili Powder (or other roasted chili – this isn’t a blend it is just the pepper)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • Add spices to your liking – I tend to use ancho, adobo, chipotle, cinnamon (just a hint)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coriander (seed not the leaf)
  • 1 – 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (don’t leave this out)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (can use turkish as well)
  • 1 tsp Tabasco (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • 1 10 oz can of tomatoes with chilies (Rotel)
  • 1 15 oz can no salt stewed tomatoes
  • 2 bell peppers diced (I often just use a bag of frozen Trader Joes pepper blend)
  • 1 1/2 cups bone broth (homemade preferably)
  • 2-3 peeled diced and roasted sweet potatoes (400 deg oven, fat of choice, salt and pepper – toss on sheet pan roast 20-30 min)
  • Pickled or fresh jalapenos and guacamole to garnish


  • Cook and break up the beef, onions garlic and spices until beef is brown in a 4-6 qt pot.
  • Add the two cans of tomatoes bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer covered 30 minutes.
  • Add peppers and potatoes along with the broth, bring to boil, reduce to simmer uncovered for about 15-20 minutes more until chili is thickened some.
  • Check for seasoning adjustments if needed.

To keep things paleo, serve in bowls topped with jalapenos and guac.

The Award-winning Non-Paleo Chili option

If you want to go a little off the paleo path, try this as described below with potato chips, cheddar and blue cheese!

To serve, place a handful of chips (kettle chips or make your own) in the bottom of the soup bowl, ladle one to two ladles  of chili on top, sprinkle with cheddar and blue cheeses top with a dollop of sour cream or guac and jalapenos if desired.

Saratoga Chips


  • 3-4 baking potatoes – sliced thin, skin on with a mandolin ~1/4” or thinner
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper


  • Pre-heat oven to 450 deg.
  • Mix potatoes oil and spices until all are covered with spice mixture (I use a zip top bag to do this).
  • Grease two cookie sheets with olive oil and place chips on a single layer.
  • Bake until chips are crispy 30 – 40 min – check occasionally and depending on your pans and ovens and the thickness of the chips you may need to turn them.
  • You can also fry and add the seasonings at the end.

Updated 1-4-2014
Copyright © 2014 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

New Years, New Routines, New Beginnings…

Here I am at 8:30 on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  I’ve been up since 7:00am, which is late for me.  I’ve been getting up at 5:30 for the last few months.  It’s part of a new routine I started a while back in an effort to find more time in the day to get things done, more specifically, work on this here blog for you folks.  Ironically, the getting up early has proved to be simpler than the actually working on the blog (opening my laptop is a dangerous proposition for me, who is so easily distracted by time-wasters like Facebook or my latest interest, G+…).

This is the time of year to contemplate new beginnings and to reflect on the past. As I think back over the past year, or even the past 3 since I began my Paleo journey and obsession with learning more about health, I’m amazed at how many things I’ve changed in my life.  I’m more amazed by those who have yet to discover that self-discovery, self-experimentation, and intentional change can open up entirely new paths in life.

A little over 5 years ago I left a company I had fallen in love in with in order to start a new job closer to home and filled with promise and adventures in learning new things.  Sadly, that company fell apart and 6 months later I found myself unemployed for the summer.  That summer was possibly the best one I’ve had since being a kid.  3 glorious months with nothing to do but spend time with my family, sleeping late, and having fun.  September came, and with it the kids went back to school and I found a new job.  It was a little further away than I liked, and paid a lot less than I had been making previously, but it was a job and this was the worst economy since the Depression.  So I was thankful.  I had just begun learning about food and nutrition that past summer while reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  And in January, just 4 years ago, my wife convinced me to join the local health club. It was affordable, we had an income again, it was close to home, and I needed something since I was no longer biking 120 miles/week.  It was here I discovered Crossfit, and with it, Robb Wolf, The Zone Diet, and eventually Paleo.

A year later I joined a new Crossfit gym, one that has become a second home, its members a second family,  and it’s owner, a brother.  I continued down the Paleo rabbit hole, eventually losing over 40 pounds and getting down to the same weight I graduated from college at 20-mumble years ago.  And thus began yet another re-invention of myself and another adventure.  The quest to become strong.  Something I had never really been.  This required the exact opposite approach I took to losing weight.  It meant eating far more than was comfortable, far more than my body wanted.  But I was convinced, despite a few naysayers, that I could do this using a Paleo template.  Now, 3 years later I’m back up to the same weight as before I started addressing my diet, and most of it is muscle.

As I look around me though, I see far too many people who have been coasting through life with the same sickly routines.  Changes in their lives are foisted upon them by illnesses and ailments requiring extra visits to doctors and by these doctors in the form of new medications to counter-act the side effects of old medications. Occasionally these changes are in the form of visits to hospitals, sometimes short, sometimes long, occasionally over major holidays like Christmas.  Almost never are these changes arrived at by choice, intention, or the desire for improvement.

Recently I let a good friend of mine talk me into entering a weightlifting competition, something I was (and am) not really interested in doing.  I’m a behind-the-scenes person, one who shuns the limelight.  Donning a singlet and walking to center-stage with the light (literally) shining on me and me alone as I attempted to snatch a measly 55 or so kilos. As the date of this meet sped towards me I realized I was more nervous about this one even than I had been about pretty much anything else in my life to this point.  Even in my first year of Crossfit when I committed to undertaking Murph, something so incomprehensibly beyond my abilities, I was not as nervous as I was about this meet.  The difference I think, is this.  Murph was a solitary event for which I could train over the course of a couple of months and completed with a few like-minded (possibly crazy) friends in the comfort of my own gym.  It was an event which could be scaled and adapted in so many ways failure was removed as an option.  The weightlifting meet wasn’t something I could train for.  I could and did practice the lifts, and certainly improved over time.  But there was no spotlight or crowd with which to get comfortable.  Though, ultimately, it is neither the spotlight nor the crowd I feared.  At the root, it wasn’t fear, it was self-identity that was the problem.  I didn’t (and to some degree still don’t) see myself as a weightlifter, or as a strong person.  I’m an athlete, or at least a person with athletic tendencies.  But I’m not a weightlifter. Looking at the other weightlifters, and possibly clouded by this image of Donny Shankle hanging in my gym:

Donny Shankle

I felt completely inadequate and not at all like a weightlifter, standing there on the platform, in my singlet; more like Scooter from the Muppets.

Definitely NOT Donny Shankle...

Definitely NOT Donny Shankle…

I’ve never considered myself as being afraid of much.  I’m willing to endure being uncomfortable, putting up with annoyance, doing what has to be done to succeed at my goals, etc.  I have a REALLY high “pain-threshold” when it comes to dealing or putting up with things most people won’t bother with. But putting myself out there in full view of the world, COMPETING, not just practicing, in an event where I don’t see myself as an equal to those around me, THAT was scary.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few months,  and I now wonder if this is what keeps many people from a life of re-invention, or even just making the small changes necessary to get them on the road to a new life.  Are people trapped in careers, marriages, being unhealthy, addicted to various substances simply because they can’t imagine themselves as any different?  Are they paralyzed by the thought of change?  Not failing to change, but by the idea that they aren’t who that new person needs to be?  I’m not talking about those who are just comfortable about where they are and have no desire to change anything.  I’m talking about those people who are so obviously miserable with their own existence, so uncomfortable in their own skin, always complaining about this, that, or another thing, and yet never do anything about it. That person, who, when you greet them and ask, “So, how are you?”, they reply with a litany of complaints longer than Santa’s list of naughtiness.  The ones who, the first hundred times, you offer some help, advice, comfort, etc. none of which is ever heeded.  Oh sure, they’re more than happy to listen and smile.  But also just as quick to explain why none of that will ever work for them. Worse, are the ones who agree with everything you say, give you a false sense that you’ve helped them, and yet completely ignore anything you’ve said…

Change can be scary.  Especially big change.  And it’s always scarier when you’re alone.  Being up there on that platform by myself was more than uncomfortable.  Yet, committing to and completing Murph, a feat much more physically demanding in both time and effort wasn’t one bit scary.  Why?  I had a team with me.  It wasn’t me up there by myself in front of a huge group of people all staring at ME.  It was me, and a bunch of friends up there determined to accomplish something great, for ourselves in honor of a hero.  The key being we were a team.  And with a team anything is possible.

Paul and I have formed quite a team over the past few months.  He’s made this here blog a reality by being my teammate.  And now we want to expand that team.  We want you on that team.  We want to help you change your life, in big ways and in small.  Whether it’s changing your diet, getting more sleep, or undertaking some new challenge, we want to help.  To do that, we’ve created a Facebook group called “30 Days in The Cave”.  It’s open to anyone and everyone. And we want you to join us.  Some of us will be committing to a 30 Day Paleo Challenge, others might want to scale things down a bit and start with something like my friend Diane Sanfilippo’s 21 Day Sugar Detox.  Whatever your challenge, Paul and I are here to help.  More importantly, we want YOU there to help!  Paul and I are just two guys.  We don’t know all the tricks, tips, or secrets.  But the more of you who join, the more of you there are to help each other.  And one thing I’ve found is that you never know when that one thing you say, because of your unique perspective, might end up being exactly the one thing another person needs to hear to lift them up and help them on their way.

So, please, join us in The Cave.  We’re kicking off our 30 Days on Monday, January 6th and we hope to see you there!

Updated: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to It Starts with Food as Michael Pollan’s book.  In fact, that book is by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig of Whole9.com and The Whole30 Program. Michael Pollan’s book is In Defense of Food.