Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my birthday!  No, not that birthday, it’s my Paleo (or Pauleo™) birthday and I’m two!  I’ve got this walking thing down!  In all seriousness, two years ago today I completed a Whole30 which changed my life.  Little did I realize when I went down this path that it would become one that I have stayed on and have really enjoyed everything that it has taught me.

At the end of those 30 days I was shocked at what I saw.  My arthritis became a whisper, gout disappeared, blood pressure started to come down, I lost several pant and jacket sizes and I felt wonderful.  It would take another eight months before I completely lost all the medications I was on and eliminated the final amounts of weight I wanted to shed but more importantly I relearned my relationship to food.

For those that have followed you know that I LOVE to cook.  I am happiest when I am in my kitchen surrounded by friends and family cooking up a storm for them.  I have to say when I completed that Whole30 I was worried.  Would others eat what I eat, would they like it, could I afford to continue to eat this way, what about my kids is this the best choice for them?  The answer to all those questions is a resounding yes!  Any food you enjoyed under the standard American diet (SAD) can be reinvented in a more healthy way.  It just takes some research and experimentation but it can be done.  Yes, really!

The other interesting fact is I have had complete blood work done several times throughout this process and everything (except total cholesterol) has moved to that of a teenager, it’s like I got to reverse time.  In fact, it’s one of the compliments my lovely wife and I receive frequently; how did you un-age or people will guess we’re a decade younger than we really are.  And that total cholesterol thing, it’s simply because my HDL or “good cholesterol” is off the charts highs bringing the overall number up.

These two years have seen me re-introduce exercise and weight training (although I don’t do it nearly enough) and all of the things holding me back simply disappeared.  Now today I am fighting a couple skeletomuscular challenges but in this case unlike my rheumatoid arthritis, food won’t solve them so I am working on the conventional medical approach but also very wary of any offered drugs to help treat the symptoms and look to blend physical, traditional and holistic approaches together to help solve it.

We’ve also come to realize during this grand experiment that you can’t hold on too tightly, otherwise, you will burn out.  You can’t approach this lifestyle with the “I can’t eat “y” because it will hurt me.”  Allergies aside, when you view life that way your brain starts saying “I want y, give me y, I’m dying without y!”  For me, “y” is pizza and martinis.  The right thinking for me has been, invert the classic food pyramid – tons of veggies in quantity and variety, good sources of protein (wild, pastured), good fats (saturated animal, olive, avocado, etc.) and the occasional bit of dairy and very little pseudo-grains and grains (we’ll occasionally do paleo baked goods, white rice, some legumes and once in a blue moon – a tiny amount of wheat).  I know you’re saying “Whoa, you hated wheat and even found out you’re allergic to it (or the gluten in it).”  You’re right, I am, but two years of healing my gut has allowed me to partake in small small amounts without lasting ill-effect.  So I am still a pit-bull avoiding that grain when I am out and never have it in the house but when my kids ask for calamari upon occasion, I might pop one of those in my mouth!  As for alcohol, it is a poison, there is no other name for it but occasional use is not necessarily a bad thing.  For me, I’ve kicked it for the current Lenten season and we’ll see how it gets reintroduced later.  It’s truly a drug and I need to look at it that way and ask if it is the right thing for me.

I’m convinced that the medical establishment is more concerned with repeat business than actually curing what ails you.  It isn’t that there is necessarily any sinister intent there it’s just that’s what they are trained to do; provide comfort, relieve the symptoms, allow the patient to resume their life.  I would argue that many in our society wouldn’t really like to have the mirror shoved in their face and have someone tell us the brutal and honest truth.  You’re unhealthy, overweight (really overweight, not BMI), you’re on your way to a heart attack, stroke or debilitating pain and you have to fix those things otherwise the medicine I can prescribe will just help you limp along but you’re on a slide to more pain, more medicine and reduced quality of life.  Medicine and health needs to start from tough love and it really does mean hard work for you!  Get over it and get into it!  Nutrition also needs to stop taking their cues from their sponsors (e.g. big Ag) and focus really on what IS healthy.  I was encouraged this week when our government backed off on dietary cholesterol, caffeine and salt but they still got it wrong on red meat and saturated fat and the whole grain thing. So progress but we still have a long way to go.

So, happy birthday to me!  I truly feel as if I have been granted a second chance and it’s why Paul L. and I are so passionate about our journey here.  We also recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and you have to tweak and experiment on you to find what works.  Ignore the “news” about the Paleo diet and simply start eating whole fresh unprocessed foods.  Make your base of your pyramid vegetables, add good protein choices, add good fats, reduce or eliminate sugar and go easy or better, remove those sources of simple refined carbohydrates.  Consider an elimination protocol like Whole30 or 21 Day Sugar Detox they will teach you so much.  Need help, just ask. Want support, we can help you there too!  Now what kind of cake do I want to make for my birthday?  Just kidding, but I might have a really good piece of 98% cacao tonight!


Paul A.

Copyright © 2015 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

Happy Paleoversary to me!

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I love this Tolkein quote.  It seems rather apropos of my journey to improve myself over all and my journey to improve my diet and health.  I’ve always had an interest in nutrition it seems, I just didn’t realize it.  And, looking back, I was more right than wrong despite always trusting my instinct.  From a very early age I shunned bread unless used for a sandwich. I gravitated towards real butter figuring something natural should be better than something synthetic and made of who knows what.  And I’ve always preferred more of the main course than dessert. So it seems I was not lost, as so many others are, but just wandering around aimlessly, feeling my way through the dark.  Until 4 years ago today. Which makes today a rather special day.  It’s my Paleoversary!  Well, not really, that’s actually January 1st when I began my first 30 Day Paleo Challenge.  But today marks the beginning of the road I’ve been traveling for the past 4 years.

It all began when was invited by a guy I barely knew (he’s now a very good friend and my trainer), to attend a nutrition seminar in a tiny Karate Dojo doubling as a Crossfit gym.  Some lady, whom I had never heard of, named Diane Sanfilippo was coming to give a talk on Paleo nutrition.  I had heard of Paleo at that point through my involvement in Crossfit, but at that time Crossfit was really pushing The Zone diet. And I had heard of Robb Wolf and had just begun his book The Paleo Solution but didn’t really know who he was yet either.  But this Diane person was somehow connected to him, and he wrote a book I was reading.  So, maybe she knew something.

I was eager to learn more.  I knew diet was the thing most holding me back from improving my performance in the Crossfit WoDs, and I also knew that no matter how hard I worked out that flab I had acquired in my 30s just wasn’t going away.  There had to be something else.   So I signed up for this seminar and brought my wife.  We’d discussed in the past seeing a nutritionist or dietician, but never really done more than talk about it.  This seemed like a logical and safe step to me.  No commitment, but if I liked what this Diane person had to say, maybe she’d help us or recommend someone who would.

Little did I know then where this road would lead.  It turns out this seminar was her 2nd ever seminar. And starting with an e-mail I sent her the day before (I almost titled this post “Diane didn’t know what she signed up for! The e-mail is posted below for your amusement :) I’ve developed a friendship with Diane that has lasted these four years.  In that time I’ve gone from some guy who knew really nothing about fitness and nutrition to a guy with a Paleo website (this one here!) , a Facebook page of the same name (Thoughtful Cave Dad), Facebook group dedicated to helping people complete their own challenges (have a challenge? need support? join us for “30 Days in the Cave“), and being on Diane’s volunteer staff to help support people and answer questions about her 21 Day Sugar Detox program (you can buy the book or the online program).

Who knew that attending this small little seminar, with a white board propped up on folding chair, would lead to such tremendous changes in my own health and that of my family.  Who knew I’d end up going on to help countless others on their journeys to improve themselves, their diet, their health, and who knows what else.

But, as the old saying goes:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

– Lao Tzu

So, take that one step, and see where it leads.  You might be pleasantly surprised!

For chuckles, here’s that seminal e-mail, written 4 years ago yesterday.  It’s a wonder, with an e-mail like that, she’s kept me around!

On Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 7:31 AM, Paul Lussier <contact@eventbrite.com> wrote:

Paul Lussier has a question for you about your event.

Hello Diane,

My name is Paul, and I’ll be attending your workshop tomorrow at Crossfit Woodshed. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve been reading up on nutrition quite a bit the past few months, and so far have digested (no pun intended :) Barry Sears’ The Zone, Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint, and have just started Robb Wolf’s new book The Paleo Solution. Though, despite all this, I still have a few nagging questions I’m hoping to get answered. So I don’t catch you off guard tomorrow I thought it only fair to give some time to prepare :)

First and foremost on my mind is the part nuts seem to play in a paleo/zone lifestyle. I have 2 daughters, both of whom have food allergies; specifically to all tree nuts, peanuts (but not other legumes), sesame, and sunflower seeds.

I’m very interested in how to approach the paleo lifestyle without these items, since though not a requirement, certainly a huge convenience, especially when snacking.

I’m also very interested in understanding what’s wrong with legumes in general. I don’t really understand how they differ from vegetables, or what constitutes a legume, or why they’re not good (I’ve got a decent understanding of the evilness of wheat/grain/soy, though). I just recently came across the idea that a paleo diet excludes these things, and, like grains, had always thought they were good for you.

Another question that’s bugging me relates to eggs. Barry Sears seems anti-yolk due to it’s high content of arachadonic acid. Yet the Paleo people seem to be all for whole eggs. I’m very confused on this issue and hope you can address it as well.

And lastly, oatmeal. I love the stuff. Which, I understand won’t make it any better for me :) In The Zone, Barry Sears recommends in favor of consuming oatmeal (specifically slow-cooked, steel-cut, which is the only kind in my opnion!) because of it’s high content of GLA, which our bodies stop producing after age 30. Yet, the paleo diet is anti-grain, and though I haven’t heard anyone specifically say oatmeal is bad, I’m assuming since it’s a grain, that it’s on the list of bad stuff.

Additionally, I’ve been adding flax seed to my porridge, since it’s supposed to be very high in Omega 3s. However, Sears also mentions that flax seed and flax seed oil are also high in ALA which inhibits the production of Delta 6 Desaturase, which our bodies break down in order to produce GLA.

But, since I’m past 30, I’m theoretically not really producing much GLA on my own anyway,
hence the consumption of oatmeal. Interestingly, GLA is further broken down into Arachadonic Acid, the very thing that Sears says is so wrong with egg yolks. So, why am I consuming that which will turn into the thing I’m supposed to avoid?

I apologize for being so long-winded, and for getting into the deep science of this (I’m sure you’re likely to tell me I’m way over-thinking this stuff :) but I’m an engineer/math guy and, like Robb Wolf, really get into all the numbers and science of this stuff!

I assure you, I’m not stressing over this, I’m just interested :)

Thank you for your time, especially if you’ve made it this far! And I’m looking forward to meeting you tomorrow.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Chili Oil

Fall is squash season and this great savory and spicy soup will warm you on those blustery days.  If it is too thick, add some more broth to get to the desired consistency.  The toasted seeds add a perfect crunch for a great balance of tastes and textures.  Enjoy!




1 3-4 lb butternut squash, peeled cubed, save the seeds
3-4 carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme
6 slices of cooked crispy bacon (make a pound and snack while you cook)
3 cups chicken stock
coconut oil
bacon fat or ghee
½ tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can coconut milk
salt, pepper
Chipotle chili powder
1 Serrano minced (keep seeds)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup avocado or olive oil
1 rosemary sprig
1 thyme sprig
parsley for garnish



Pre-heat oven to 400 deg. Put the squash and carrots on sheet pan with coconut oil and salt and pepper. Roast ~30-40 minutes stirring every 10 or so until lightly browned.


Season reserved seeds with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chipotle powder toss with some bacon fat and roast 15-20 minutes until brown. Let cool.


While the squash roasts sauté the onions in some bacon fat in a pot large enough for all the ingredients. Toss in thyme sprigs while sautéing and cook until the onions start to brown. Toss in garlic and cook another couple minutes. Pull out thyme sprigs add in roasted squash and chicken stock and two pieces (or more) of the cooked bacon. Blend with an immersion blender, blender or food processor.   Add coconut milk and place back on stove to heat back up (low). Test for seasoning.


To make the chili oil, add ½ cup avocado oil, the Serrano garlic, rosemary and thyme along with ½ Tbs of chipotle. Gently heat until you can hear things start to simmer, lower to lowest setting and let oil steep for 30 minutes. Run through a coffee filter and remove all but the oil.


To serve, ladle the soup sprinkle with crumbled bacon, some parsley, toasted seeds and drizzle with the chili oil.


Updated 10-12-2014

Recipe by Paul Adair. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 “The Culinary Cave Dad”


Tandoori Fritters with Sriracha Aioli!

Fritter - © CulinaryCaveDad 2014

There’s lots of fritter type recipes out there and this one is an amalgam of many.  It’s a little spicier and a little more bold but basically a paleo fritter is meat (usually pre-cooked), finely shredded with one or more veggies finely chopped and some eggs to bind.  Once you have the basic technique you can make salmon cakes, this recipe, think things like cauliflower chicken or chicken and broccoli, tuna cakes, etc.  These are great warm or cold the next day and are great take along snacks.  When frying, you can choose to dredge in some arrowroot or the like but I generally find that’s just another mess to clean so I don’t.  Just remember if you are using a particularly wet veggie you either need to pre-cook and drain or salt and drain and/or squeeze.  Generally lemon or lime juice squirted on at the end with some mayo like dressing is always a good add.  So take this not so basic version and amp it up more or skinny it down to suit your tastes.


2 medium zucchini grated fine
4 medium carrots grated fine (we used purple, yellow and orange)
1 medium onion finely minced
1/2 rotisserie chicken roughly chopped using light and dark meat (use this recipe http://thoughtfulcavedad.com/food/recipes/easy-crock-pot-rotisserie-style-chicken-and-awesome-brown-stock/)
1” piece of ginger, peeled
4 garlic cloves peeled
1 Serrano or jalapeno minced (hotter with seeds – optional)
4 eggs, beaten
1 tbs tandoori spice (www.penzeys.com)
1 tbs hot curry powder (also from Penzeys)
1 tbs turmeric (can use fresh or dried)
1 tbs Garham Masala – optional (also from Penzeys)
2 tsp cumin (cumin seeds would be good too)
1 1/2 tsp salt (plus more for salting zucchini)
1 tsp pepper
Coconut oil or ghee for frying


Salt the shredded zucchini in a colander with fine mesh and let sit for 20 minutes or so. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Put zucchini, onion and carrots in a large bowl (big enough for the rest of the ingredients).


Put the ginger and garlic in food processor and pulse until very fine, add chicken and pulse until a coarse chop is accomplished (may need to do in batches).


Add chicken and eggs to shredded veggies along with spices. Mix with your hand (if using turmeric consider gloves). Using an ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measure gently form into patties and put into a pre-heated non-stick pan with a generous amount of oil. I used medium heat. If it doesn’t sizzle, the pan is not hot enough. Cook five to seven minutes per side turning occasionally until nicely browned on both sides. Place on a parchment lined pan when browned and place in 225 deg oven to keep warm. Cook in batches and don’t overcrowd the pan.


Sriracha Aioli

1/3 – 1/2 cup mayo (make your own http://thoughtfulcavedad.com/food/recipes/mayonnaise-you-need-to-make-this-now/)
2-3 tbs Sriracha (use approved sugar free hot sauce if going sugar free)
1/4 cup avocado oil
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs coconut aminos
Lime juice and cilantro if desired

Mix all ingredients.


Serving Suggestion – Make it a salad!

To serve, plate up a huge pile of greens (romaine, spinach, arugula, etc.), some cooked and cooled green beans, sliced turnips, etc. Place 2-3 patties atop the greens, drizzle with the aioli and enjoy!


Updated 9-24-2014

Copyright © 2014 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

“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!