PaleoHacks: Tips for the busy & frantic

I’ve been around the Paleosphere for a while now, going on 5 years or so.  In that time I’ve had the good fortune to meet, help, and be helped by a lot of people.  But the one thing that continues to pop up with every person trying to tackle this lifestyle is, “How on earth do I fit all this cooking into my daily routine!?”

I see this question popping up on Facebook in various forums almost daily, whether it’s in The International Paleo Movement Group (IPMG), my good friend Diane Sanfilippo’s 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) (affiliate link) groups and forums, the Whole 30 and Perfect Health Diet crowds. It doesn’t matter.  Every new person asks this same basic question.  I even asked it myself once upon a time.  It seemed crazy that as a dad, an employee, a home-owner, someone who religiously makes time for hitting the gym between 3 and 5 days a week, and someone who would like to spend at least 5 minutes just sitting and breathing, that I should have to increase the amount of “stuff” I have to think about daily just to maintain my health. In fact, it seemed don’t right counter-productive to good health to have even MORE stuff to think and worry about daily.

Maintaining good eating habits takes work.  There is no magic pill, or silver bullet.  Well, actually, there is. The work itself IS the magic bullet.  The problem is that most people are so used to convenience and pre-prepared, frozen crap that takes 3 minutes in the microwave, that actual cooking doesn’t sound like a magic bullet. It sounds like way more effort you don’t have time for, more hassle you don’t need, and more frustration than it’s worth. It’s even more overwhelming if  you’ve never had to master the kitchen and don’t know the difference between an immersion blender and a chef’s knife.

Clearly some people LOVE being in the kitchen.  I actually rather enjoy it when I have the time and don’t have other more pressing things to do.  And I know my compadré also loves being in the kitchen.  Friday nights after work are his “Me Time” where his creative side flourishes.  But by and large, for most people these days, cooking is a lost art, and the idea of having to cook meals at the end of the day after work are the last thing anyone would actually want to spend their time on.

My kids often hear me say things like, “Everything in life is a skill!”  and, “If you want to get better at it, you have to practice!”. This is no less true of maintaining a healthy life style or eating well.  It takes practice.  At the beginning, we all stink at it.  Especially if we’ve never been taught how to work in the kitchen.  But the more you stick with it, the better you get. I’m also a firm believer that you need to also understand yourself and your lifestyle in order to figure out how certain things fit into that daily routine.

My friend and trainer, Justin, from Crossfit Woodshed/A Lifetime of Strength, recently posted the following to his membership:

“look at your existing routine and your habits and consider what changes a new habit would catalyze. If you love jogging, it makes you feel good, and it cascades into good choices and habits with measurable results already…that may be the answer–your good existing routine is probably going to win the day. In this case that doesn’t have to mean you’re “a jogger,” it means that jogging a few times a week fits into a happy, healthy version of you.”

In other words, look at the new habit you wish to introduce.  How does that work for you? Will this new change re-enforce existing good habits?  Cause undo stress and allow old, undesirable  habits to creep back in?  Take a look at your daily, weekly, or monthly routine and figure out what fits into it and what doesn’t.  Maybe a bulk cook day just can’t fit into your weekly routine, but it might monthly.  With kids and all sorts of activities, we never do huge batch cook days.  Yet, my friend Christine does them quite often, and very successfully.  PaulA does big cook-ups almost weekly, while we focus on smaller “life hacks” to make things go easier.  But the most important thing is, as they say, “To Know Thyself!”

A few years ago Justin invited Dan John to visit us for a weekend seminar.  One neat trick I learned from him was the “Stop Light” approach.  The concept is simple, but the results are powerful. Take out a calendar and and look at your week, month, or year.  Figure out which parts are “green”, “yellow”, or “red”. Which parts of your week are free right now?  Where you have time to do whatever you want? Those are the “green” zones, where you might be able to fit something else in.  Which parts are a little tight already?  Perhaps there’s an hour here or there between other things.  You might be able to do something, but maybe you shouldn’t commit to it.  That’s “yellow”. And those parts that are already scheduled and committed to, definitely “red”.  So, figure these things out and see where you might fit in a new habit or start working on a new skill that will eventually make your life easier.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t pause here and warn you of trying to take on too many new habits at once.  I’ve written in the past about how to adopt new habits here and here.  So if you missed those, give them a gander, and work on introducing one new, good habit at a time.  And of course, if you ever need help, feel free to stop by 30 Days in the Cave or our Thoughtful Cave Dad FB page and ask for help.  That’s what we’re here for!

So, without further ado, here are a bunch of PaleoHacks CaveMom and I have adopted to make our weeks a little easier to deal with.  With jobs, houses, cars, dogs, chickens, and CaveKids who need to be schlepped all over creation 7 days a week, here’s how we do it:

  • Have the same thing for breakfast & lunch every day.
    • Decision fatigue is a real thing (see herehere, here, and here). The more decisions you need to make in a single day, the worse you get at making decisions. Taking the decision-makingprocess out of things that “don’t really matter” makes life easier. I have an omelet every morning for breakfast and a salad for lunch everyday. Knowing well in advance what I’m going to be eating means I already know when I shop what I’ll need to buy, so it’s always in the house.
  • Shop at a time that fits into the rest of your life.
    • My kids have activities 3x/week right near the local BJs Wholesale (Northeast version of Costco). So we plan on doing our shopping when we already have to go in that direction. We drop them off, hit BJs, usually fill up our gas as well, then turn around and pick up the kids.
    • We maintain a shared Evernote folder with per-store lists for ALL the food we ever buy.When someone’s going somewhere, one of makes sure that store’s list is up to date. Often this plays out with me calling my wife and saying, “Hey, we’re out of X, can you swing by the store and get that?” Which results in her saying, “Sure, but update the Evernote list?” I do that, Evernote syncs to her phone, voila!
  • Call ahead for things like deli orders.
    • Deli meat is just way too convenient. We eat a LOT of it. We make sure to buy the cleanest, healthiest stuff we can find, no extra sodium, no added sugars, etc. We usually get about 4 pounds/week. When someone’s heading to BJs, we call ahead and let them know we’ll be there within an hour or so, and they always have it waiting.
    • This saves a ton of time, and it’s priceless to see all those people sitting there waiting to give their order as you walk up, say, “I called in my order.”, have the girl hand you a stack of meat, and then walk away while they’re all still standing there waiting.
  • Bulk-prep on weekends.
    • Since I already know I’m having omelets and salads all week long, I already know what I need to make those things. I pretty much put the same things on each, so on Sundays (or, often, Monday mornings while getting the kids ready for school) I chop up large containers worth of mushrooms, peppers, onions, cucumbers, and celery. This leaves only things like tomatoes and olives to slice up for each day’s salad or omelet.
  • Cook enough for dinner to make lots of leftovers.
    • We live on leftovers. When we cook up chicken, we’ll grill up 4 pounds of chicken and have that for dinner 2-3 nights in a row. We’ll make up huge batches of chili consisting of 6+ pounds of ground beef and freeze half for later, and eat the other half for 203 days in a row. We almost always have leftovers in the fridge or freezer.
  • Get the largestcrockpot you can find and use it for everything!
    • Cooking in bulk is made even easier with a crockpot. Do all the prep up front, dump everything in the crockpot, turn it on, come back later and eat. It also makes it really easy to make enough for leftovers.
  • Have leftovers for breakfast or lunch.
    • My kids have been known to eat BBQ chicken, grilled steaks, chili, beef stew, hamburgers, etc. for breakfast. There’s nothing faster for breakfast in the morning than the thing you can yank out of the fridge and zap in the microwave for 2 minutes and serve. And, since it’s homemade, it’s always delicious.
    • My kids are not huge fans of eggs, so they’ll often *ask* for leftovers if it means they don’t have to have eggs.If we didn’t get to the store, or it’s an odd week and we ran out of something, I’ll often take leftovers for lunch.
    • If we had chili, the kids will often request we send that to school for lunch in a thermos container so it stays hot.
  • Have “back-up” items in your pantry at all times.
    • Sometimes we don’t have leftovers and we run out of deli meats which means I don’t have any protein for my lunch. I keep cans of tuna, kippers (herring fillets), and salmon in the pantry at all times.
    • Not only are these things delicious and incredibly nutritious, but they’re insanely convenient. Grab a can, toss it in your lunch with your salad, and go. Open it up, dump it on your salad, douse it with your homemade EVOO based salad dressing, and BAM. Salad with protein.
  • Buy lots of eggs!
    • Eggs are miracle meal. They have all the essential nutrition in on easy and convenient package to grow an entire chicken!
    • We buy about 4dz/week from a local farmer. Even at $3.50/dz, that’s only $.30/egg, which for my wife, is an entire meal!
    • For my omelet, that’s a $1.20! You can’t beat that for affordability! We’ll sometimes make frittatas, but more often than not for me it’s the omelet, the wife 1 over-dead, and the kids get scrams.
    • Easy, quick, convenient, and affordable. You can’t beat eggs!

So, there you have it!  Automate your life.  Figure out which things work for you and use them. Figure out which things don’t work for you, and ignore them.  I’d love to hear what tips, tricks, or hacks you’ve incorporated into your life, so please share them in the comments!

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!

Cheers!

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.


Sincerely,
Paul

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!

IMG_3265

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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…

Ingredients:

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!

 

Directions:

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!

 

IMG_2424

 

Ingredients

 

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)

 

Directions

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”