Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Resolution

It's that time of year again and I am thinking of my New Year's Resolution. I don't usually do any and my previous ones have not been too successful. I am sure I meant to stop biting my nails at least a handful of times as a child and not succeeding. I have stopped now, but it was not on a January 1st.

This year, my New Year's Resolution is to do the Whole 30, starting February 1st*. The Whole 30 is well known within paleo circles, but this is going to be my first one! Details can be found here: http://www.whole9life.com/2013/08/the-whole30-program/. Essentially, during 30 days, I will remove all inflammatory foods from my diet, reset my health (gut particularly) and hopefully gain more energy. For 30 days, I will be removing all sugar, grains, alcohol, dairy and legumes from my diet. I'll also give up any "paleofied" comfort foods, so goodbye banana pancake, I will miss you.

I am really looking forward to the challenge of cooking like this and I will share any successful and possibly less successful experiments here. For now, I will jealously be following the progress of others who are doing the Whole 30 in January. This blog post has already given me some ideas: http://www.theclothesmakethegirl.com/2013/12/29/whole30-2014-week-1-meal-plan/.

May you enjoy health and happiness in the New Year!!!

* I know, I know! I should really be starting on January 1st like everyone else, but we will be travelling for two weeks and a successful Whole 30 relies on being able to control your own food, i.e. cooking it yourself. So February it is!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Yearly Chocolate Lab Experiment

Every year, as soon as I set foot in Skummeslövsstrand and my parents' kitchen, the urge to make Christmas sweets overcomes me. My sister recently lovingly likened them to "kräks", the Swedish term for "vom". Yeah, admittedly they ain't pretty, as I always want to put more alcohol and marzipan in them than the poor chocolate can carry. 

So this year I tried really hard to refrain from recreating the usual blobs and I am pretty impressed with the results. This year, Cat will get finest cat turds in a box instead. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Paleo, LEGO Style

I found this great summary of the Paleo diet. It's an amusing read and above all, it uses LEGO characters to demonstrate! Happy reading!


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Post Christmas Party

Let's keep lunch simple when your brain is about as fried as what's cracked in the pan.

All packed up and ready to go to work. Admit it, you're seething with jealousy! Ehem.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

For me, Christmas is all about the food. There are specific smells and flavours that make me feel particularly Christmassy and I really don't want to miss out on that despite my dietary choices. So, yet again I attempted to make Swedish pepparkakor (not entirely successfully) and mince pies (definitely more successfully) without wheat and conventional sugar.

This is what the mince pies looked like. The crust from 'blueberry pastry pies' in Primal Cravings and the mince meat from the Fitter Food Christmas ebook. Decoration courtesy of Cecilia.

The best bit may well have been that I had loads of the spice mix left over from my pepparkakor (ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom). I used this both in my morning paleo porridge and in my coffee. Christmas in a bowl and in a cup!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Breaking (Up With) Bread

One of the hardest things for me to give up when cleaning up my diet was bread. I LOVED bread. Sourdough bread, scones, cookies (breaking up with Mr Oreo was tough), bread sticks, pizza, chocolate almond croissants, stone baked baguette, you name it, it had my name on it.

I didn’t just love eating bread, I adored baking it. Although I never got to the sourdough expert level of my sister, I was pretty full on with a fridge and freezer full of starters, sometimes getting up an hour earlier to bake a batch of sourdough bread BEFORE going to work. Dedication! And pure and utter addiction - and you know it is addictive when most people will exclaim “oh, but I could NEVER give up bread!” as soon as they hear what paleo/primal/low carb entails.

In the end, bread had to go because the evidence spoke for itself. Removing it was like flipping a switch on my skin, it suddenly cleared up completely. What relief, what joy! And how angry I was that I hadn’t known this when I was a teenager and young adult (hey, or a 30-something woman), suffering from what was supposedly a natural phase of adolescence. Whatevs. Makes my blood boil.

Although I will sometimes still eat gluten in the form of an especially appealing dessert or scrumptious artisan bread, I am very quickly approaching the point of eliminating it all, including the tiny bits in my favourite ice cream, Cookies and Cream (getting to a point of nit picking, I know...). Why? Because I am realising that the damage I saw for years on my SKIN, will have had an equivalent on my inside. Articles like this, gives me more qualms on ingesting something as toxic as gluten, just for the sake of occasionally “treating myself”. What harm have I already done myself with almost 40 years of a wheat heavy diet? Could I have avoided my allergies? What diseases have I created the perfect conditions for in my old age? I don’t want to know, but I also don’t want to continue adding to the damage.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Eat More Liver!

Liver is a great source of iron, protein and vitamin A, and it is a cheap cut of meat. I have honestly never been a great fan of the flavour, apart from in pâté, which effectively disguises the liver taste. Even though pâté is so lovely, I was a bit sceptical about making my own, but after encouragement from mother Paulsson and Cecilia, I took on the challenge. I have now made a few batches, this was my latest recipe (makes two 300ml jars of pâté):

500g chicken livers
400g yellow onions (sliced)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
Swig of whiskey
100g butter

Fry onions in some of the butter until soft, add salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary towards the end. Fry chicken livers in some more butter until brown, but still pink inside, add a swig of whiskey at the end and scrape up what has got stuck at the bottom of the pan. Whizz liver and onions in a blender with the rest of the butter until you have your desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into glass jars. These keep in the fridge for about a week, but also freeze very well.

Serve with crudités for a nice lunch or starter.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Eggs From Posh Birds, Yes Please!

When I spotted these duck eggs in my local store, I couldn't possibly resist trying them! I followed the instructions on the box and made soft boiled eggs... What's the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs? Duck eggs are a bit bigger, have shells that are a bit like ping pong balls (quite sturdy), the yolk was appealingly bright yellow like that from a chicken and the egg white was much firmer despite the soft boiled yolk. All in all, a good egg. Would I buy again? Probably not, as they come at a premium, but it was fun to try something new.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Autumnal Benefits 2

A week or so ago, I wrote about my leaf clearing workout and the disappointment of just putting the leaves out for the garbage men to collect.

Well, in the last few days the final load of leaves fell off the lime trees into our garden and this time it was Cat who went to get some fresh air and sweep them up. After a comment one of our readers made about using the leaves to feed the soil, Cat swept the leaves up and dumped them in our nearly empty veg patch (beets, chard and leeks still going strong) and turned them into the soil.

Cat working the veg patch!
Hopefully, the leaves will decompose in the veg patch by feeding worms and give us a rich soil for next years garden produce.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cheap Cuts of Meat: Being Adventurous and Frugal

We like a good Sunday roast and our friends served up a great one last weekend using a recipe from Save with Jamie. It was so good that I wanted to attempt it myself. The recipe is definitely paleo friendly if you skip the Yorkshire puddings and the potatoes*.

The best bit about this particular roast is that it uses brisket, which is a cheaper cut of beef, but has loads of flavour and when roasted long enough has that great stringy texture. I got my beef at the farmers' market in Parliament Hill from Tori and Ben's Farm, 1.6kg longhorn beef brisket for £10/kg. After four hours in the oven it was served up with mash of swede, carrot, kale and chard, sauerkraut and horseradish.

For reference, the brisket is here:

* There is much discussion in the paleo community on whether potatoes are paleo or not. Personally, I will eat a potato once in a while, especially a well roasted one, but I try to not eat too many due to their antinutrients (see this explanation) and also because I aim to eat relatively low carb.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Free Meat at Farmer's Market

Visiting one of London's many farmer's markets is great weekend fun, but unfortunately it is usually an expensive past time. Who can resist all those amazing smells from Angus beef and pork sausages sizzling on barbecues and beautifully coloured vegetables?

Today though, I managed to come away with something for free! This is how I did it: I was looking for a cheap cut of beef with loads of flavour that I could roast for hours. All those cuts were already gone, but a cut I hadn't seen before caught my eye, namely onglet steak. I then proceeded to quiz the butcher on what it was and how it tasted. The butcher hadn't actually tasted it (shock horror!) because he said the advantage of being a butcher was that you didn't need to eat those cuts (gasp!). Apparently, restaurants like to use this cut because it is cheap, but they can sell it expensively. The butcher promptly cut me a piece to take home and try out. Mostly to get rid of me, I think!

A couple of minutes on each side is enough.
A quick internet search once I got home confirmed "Onglet hangs between the 12th and 13th rib. This puts it close to the liver and kidneys, and the meat has a slight offal tang as a result: it's a richly flavoured cut that you should fry quickly and serve with chips. It sounds better in French though: onglet is the classic steak in steak frites."

Tonight's dinner was medium-rare onglet steak with butternut squash chips. The flavour was a mellow beef, no offal flavour whatsoever. Very yummy and we will be having it again.

Ghee Rhymes with Pee ( and Kind of Looks Like It Too)

When I realized that I may not tolerate great amounts of dairy, I eliminated most of it pretty quickly. Although hard to say no to when presented with it at a dinner or party, it proved to be pretty simple to ignore in the supermarket when shopping. So far so good.

What I struggled with was how to find a decent substitute for butter to fry in. The answer was ghee. Although still dairy, most of the offending proteins and sugars are eliminated when preparing it, making it an excellent cooking oil that tolerates heat like few others (my lovely olive oil never comes close to my frying pan...).

Get your workhorse to fetch some organic, grass fed butter.

Dump it in a large saucepan. Turn on low heat.

If you're bored, watch it simmer and skim off the white gunk on top. If not, let it sink to the bottom and go have breakfast (you might want to check in on it after 20).

Once all the water has evaporated (no more water vapors wafting up from saucepan) and the proteins are starting to brown on the bottom of the pan, turn off heat and pour through a hanky into clean jars. Yes, it looks like something the nurse will collect as a sample.

But this is the end result. Creamy, almost caramel-like in texture and flavour. Delish.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Quick Lunch/ Musings on Chicken Feed (As You Do...)

Working from home is quiet and a bit boring, but being able to make lunches like this makes up for it. Quick and so lovely!

The eggs are from Sheepdrove Organic Farm and are always positively luscious (I get them from their butcher in Maida Vale). There must be something in the worms they eat, because the shells are pretty damn hard to crack at times. The colour of the yolk speaks for itself.

The difference to conventional organic eggs becomes especially apparent when I occasionally have to "slum it" with Tesco or Waitrose organic eggs. Whatever organic feed they are using to feed them, it certainly doesn't seem to be optimal, as the shells are much more brittle, the yolks less firm and with weaker colour, the egg whites runny. Goes to show that just because it says organic on the tin, doesn't mean that you're getting your money's worth despite the premium. And that's not even going into the actual animal welfare issue that you think you've got covered when you buy organic. Trying to figure out whether the chickens can actually venture outside by reading on the packet is nigh impossible because of all the fluffy marketing lingo.

Bringing Up Paleo Baby: Breastfeeding

Knitted breastfeeding aid.

Lil' T is now 5 and a half months old and we are just starting to think about introducing solids. The plan is to go with baby-led weaning, but that is a whole different story. So far, the only food Lil' T has had is breast milk.

I knew from the start that I wanted to breastfeed even without the pro-breastfeeding propaganda I was bombarded with. Among other things, they (midwives, NCT, lactation consultants, etc) tell you that your baby will have higher IQ and better immune system. As a breastfeeding mother, you will supposedly be less likely to get breast cancer and you'll lose that dreaded baby weight quicker. For me it was all about giving Lil' T the milk that was specially designed for her and to be honest, bottles seemed like a hassle.

So, what has my breastfeeding experience been like in North London? Well, the first month was pretty traumatic. It started with the beautiful experience of skin to skin in the hospital, but then I was 'helped' by a midwife who manhandled my boob into Lil' T's mouth. Oh well, at least that got us going. The whole latch thing was tricky though, so feeding soon became painful. But nothing had prepared me for day three when the proper milk came in. I was a crying mess. Not only did breastfeeding affect me physically, but emotionally too. I thought I was supposed to love the special bonding!!!

My milk has been free flowing since that day three (how lucky I am to constantly have wet clothes and smell of milk), but Lil'T didn't seem to want to be any kinder to my nipples. So, being a complete novice, I sought expert advice: midwives, lactation consultants and even a paediatrician to check whether she was tongue tied. No one could help and it was a really stressful and emotional time. If I had not really wanted this for my daughter and been incredibly stubborn, I don't think I would have persevered. In the end, my mother gave me the best advice: to stop worrying and just let it come naturally. And eventually, it did.

For the last couple of months, it has actually been easy. Lil' T is thriving, her food is readily available and I have got used to choosing clothes with easy access. I have not had any bad experiences of feeding in public and I have tried most places: restaurants, cafés, trains, park benches, airport lounges, airplanes, cinema, yoga class, doctor's waiting room...

I am really excited about Lil' T starting on solids, but at the same time, I am sad that the beautiful time we spend together will eventually come to an end. Luckily, that won't be for a few months yet and maybe I will be ready when the time comes.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Eggs Galore

The highlight of my mornings used to be home baked bread and a frothy latte. Perhaps a serving of Special K and muesli with milk.... Mmmm, those were the days! Sorry, got distracted. 

Anyway, to wean myself off my morning sugar kicks, I started eating eggs. Boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs. And this little number below. 

I call it - *drumroll* - the banana scramble. Sounds bland, looks gross, tastes divine. Here it goes:

Fry bacon, set aside.
Fry some spices in the bacon fat/ some extra ghee/ butter/ coconut oil in pan on low heat (I use cardamom, cinnamon, ginger)
Add 1/2 a banana in slices - fry until mushy
Whisk together 3 eggs and stir into bananas until it all "gels"

Serve with the bacon and some berries if you want to dress it up a bit.

Spaghetti Squash Disappointment

Oh, how I was looking forward to trying the beautiful spaghetti squash. Oh, how equally disappointed I was. I must have done something wrong, because all I got was sloppy strings that tasted of nothing (I added salt, pepper and butter to make it a bit better). So dinner tonight was sloppy spaghetti squash with beef and pork burgers and oven roasted carrots and swede.

Candy King goes public

This email offer of buying Candy King shares made me giggle, especially since my sister Cat noticed it at the same time. I don't think I will be investing in them anytime soon.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Defrosted Blueberries

Simon accidentally (supposedly) left a 500g bag of frozen blueberries on top of the freezer last night. Only yesterday Simon was saying that he thought we should include some paleo treats on the blog. In other words, he was having sweet cravings. Anyway, I decided that it was best to use up the blueberries today and whipped up some blueberry muffins and some no-sugar blueberry jam.

The blueberry muffins were loosely based on a recipe in the "Primal Cravings" cookbook (also have a look at the Health-Bent website for some great paleo recipes).

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup coconut sugar
4 eggs
1 ripe banana (mashed)
1/2 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl (flours, bicarb, spices).
Melt coconut oil and whisk together with coconut sugar in another big bowl. Then add eggs, one at a time, whisking in between. Add mashed banana and apple cider vinegar. Whisk in the dry ingredients and fold in defrosted blueberries. Pour the mixture into a standard muffin tin lined with paper liners (12 muffins). Top off with chopped hazelnuts. Bake at 175 degrees C for 20 minutes.

As for the blueberry jam, I just boiled the blueberries with a few lingonberries and then stirred in some gelatine powder. Yum!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Holy Sugar Crash?

The full English would have been more sensible. Just saying.