Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asparaginase (Mac)

So, the Canadian government wants to add asparaginase to numerous food products.  Click on the link above for more details, but in brief, asparaginase is going to be added to food products to help prevent a potentially toxic compound from forming when manufacturing products like potato chips, french fries, cookies, breakfast cereals, and bread.

Why does the government feel it is OK to add an enzyme to make something that is toxic and shouldn't be consumed in the first place edible?  Here's a thought...don't eat potato chips, french fries, cookies, breakfast cereals, or bread in the first place!  Having to add yet another substance just to render a food product "safer" is absolutely mind boggling to me.  I shake my head - eat food not food products.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sausage! (Mac)

I finally tried my hand at sausage making on the weekend deciding to make chicken, feta (not paleo but what the hell), spinach sausage for my very first attempt.  While the overall process is quite simple I found getting the sausages to be the right fullness and size a bit of a challenge.

The process was very simple.  I cut three pounds of skinless chicken thighs and one pound of skinless chick breast (skin may clog the grinder) into one inch chunks, mixed in some feta, spices, and shredded spinach.  I then popped the mix in the fridge (to cool it down for easier grinding) while I readied the casings.  I used ~1" hog casings which I let soak in water for an hour or so before I started the whole shebang.

When the casings were rinsed and ready I pulled the meat mix from the fridge and started grinding and stuffing.  Right away I discovered that with a power grinder this is a two person job.  One to control and stuff the sausage and one to feed the grinder.  I suppose this could be a one man show using a hand cranked grinder whereby a little more control can be afforded to how much meat is coming out, but two people most certainly make an easier go of it.

So, Jody and I stuffed away only bursting two sausages out of the thirty we made.  Not too bad methinks, however, I think the casing had a hole in it leading to the burst.  After I placed the sausages in freezer bags (that's me above and my high tech vacuum device!) I popped two sausages in a frying pan right away to give them a test.  Well...they blew up!  I think I over stuffed the casings.  Hey, it was my first attempt so there are bound to be some trials and tribulations.  I'll tell you, though, the explosion sure didn't ruin the taste.  Yummy!  We will be having some home made sausage and steamed asparagus for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicken or Egg? (Mac)

Last night we took our first step towards raising chickens.  I contacted Calgary's pioneer urban chicken farmer, Paul Hughes, to see if he would entertain my request to bring my family to see what he is doing and how he is doing it - Paul gladly agreed to have us over.

Paul has six chickens running around freely in his backyard and I was quite surprised how benign they are - almost invisible.  These six chickens were far more innocuous than many neighborhood dogs with their incessant barking and feces littering the ground that their owners refuse to pick up.  I was also surprised at how simple they are to maintain.  Paul says a few minutes a day making sure they have water and feed and a little bit of time on the weekend sweeping out the coop and that's about it - I can handle that.  For his efforts Paul is rewarded with three eggs every day - his other three are too young to lay as of yet.

Our next step will be consulting with our town to see what, if any, rules there are about chickens.  I looked online and couldn't find anything so I will make a call to see if I can dig up some more info.  I hope our town is amiable to the idea of raising chickens and if not I fully intend on fighting for my right to grow my own food. Safeway, Sobey's and Superstore do not need to dictate where my food comes from and I shouldn't be forced to use them when I can responsibly and sustainable grow my own possibly with surplus for friends and neighbors...kinda like it used to be a mere fifty years ago.

On  side note, my sausage casing finally arrived and I can begin making my own sausage to compliment the jerky I have been making for years.  Very cool :-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Carbohydrates (Mac)

To sum up carbohydrates (sugar, glucose, dextrose, maltodextrin, complex or simple) in a few words: unnecessary, unhealthy, fattening, addicting.  You are probably laughing at my words right now and thinking what a nut I am.  How could a potato or whole grain bread be all of those things?  You are saying.  How can the Canadian Food Guide be wrong?  You ask.  But aren't vegetarians so healthy? You ponder.  Well, to be blunt, you have been lied to about the role of carbohydrates and how they relate to human health.  In this post I am going to bring up a few of my observations about carbohydrates and their source, plants, that may get you scratching your head about the need for carbohydrates and how they are totally unnecessary and even harmful for optimal health.

1) Humans are made of protein and fat.  But for a very few carbohydrates in certain molecules, and the body can manufacture that carbohydrate from dietary fat and protein - we are not made of carbohydrate.  How do you build and maintain an organism that is composed almost entirely of proteins and fats with foods virtually devoid of those two nutrients?

2) Vitamin D and vitamin B12 are absolutely essential to human health and they are only found in animal products, and in the case of vitamin D, the body can make its own.  The essential vitamins A, D, E, and K require fat to be absorbed by the body - plants do not have appreciable amounts fat in them.

3) Large and chronic amounts of carbohydrates create massive swings in hormonal response in the blood.  Insulin is secreted in order to remove the glucose from the blood stream to get the body back to normal or homeostasis.  There are many hormones that are adversely affected when insulin levels are high and uncontrolled.

4) Animals have very much the same nutrients in their bodies that humans need - much, much, more so than vegetables.  It makes sense to me to shop at the store that has the materials you need, in other words, eat animals.

5) Humans and animals store excess energy as saturated fat.  If fat is so unhealthy why would it be the body's preferred storage method as well as fuel source for most daily, low level activity - including pumping your heart.  Plants store excess energy as starch.  We store a small amount of energy as animal starch or glycogen, but not very much.  Glycogen is used for short bursts of energy such as lifting a heavy object or a full out sprint - when was the last time you did that?

6) The body needs a very small amount of carbohydrate for fueling a few organs and maintaing glycogen stores and that small amount can easily be made from dietary fat and protein.  The body cannot make the essential fats and proteins from carbohydrates they must be obtained from the diet and, you guessed it, animal sources are by far the most complete and useable.

7) Ingested carbohydrates that are not immediately required for energy production are stored as fat especially in the presence of insulin. Fat cannot be mobilized for fuel when insulin levels are up.

8) Human beings do not have a digestive system optimized for large amounts of plant material.  Our digestive systems are much more closely related to carnivores than herbivores.

9) Grain products need to have vitamins added to them during the product manufacturing process because grains are essentially devoid of human required nutrients.  How healthy is a food that needs fortification to be of any use to our bodies?

10) Look at the destruction unchecked glucose does to the bodies of diabetics.  Insulin's job is to prevent that damage by quickly clearing the blood of glucose - in other words, glucose is toxic in the blood and needs to be promptly dealt with to avoid death.

These are just a a few observations I have made that illustrate how carbohydrates are inferior at providing anything but energy to the human body.  Animal products provide as much and quite often more vitamins and minerals than a comparable serving of plants and the animal-derived micronutrients are far more readily absorbed by the body not to mention the needed fat, protein and energy that comes along too. In short, there is virtually nothing that carbohydrates and their sources can provide the body that animal fat and protein can't.

Several experts recommend a daily average of no more than 100g carbohydrates and this should be obtained primarily from non-starchy vegetables and a little fruit.  But don't take my word for it, please track down and read some of the books in our list to the right that have the hard science to back up my observations and most certainly check out this video.  Your health and pant size will thank you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Refrigerator Died (Mac)

Well, our three year old Kenmore refrigerator decided to stop working some time last night and the repair guy can't come until Friday - lovely.  I guess we will really get to know what an incredible convenience a refrigerator is as we attempt to live for the next week without one.

Honestly, I don't think it going to be that difficult since we have lots of frozen meat in the deep freeze and I can get what little veggies we need from the store every other day so they won't need refrigerating.  We have no condiments to speak of and other than keeping leftovers and eggs we could survive without a fridge if we really wanted to - we haven't used a microwave in three years and we are still alive:-)  I might actually talk to Jody about the idea of going fridgeless depending on how this week goes.  It is one less power-using appliance, one less thing to clean and maintain, and not having a fridge encourages more fresh food use - just a thought.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Paleo What? (Mac)

The basic premise behind paleolithic nutrition is modeling food choices based on what humans would have eaten pre-agriculture i.e. hunting and gathering.  For the vast majority of human evolution we ate meat (insects, too), fruits, and vegetables.  There are loads of books and interpretations of paleolithic principals out there for you to research so I am not going to give an exact breakdown here.  Some proponents advocate higher fat than others, some more protein, etc but for the most part they all stick to the common theme of meat, fruits, and veggies - no breads, no grains, no cereals, no starchy vegetables, no processed food products and no dairy (depending on who's book you are reading).

I tend to eat a lot of meat and the fat that goes along with it as well as veggies.  I eat fruit a few times a week and it is mostly berries, the odd small apple, and banana pancakes on Saturday mornings.  I am 36 and woke up this morning laying in bed with a blood pressure of 97/52 and a pulse of 49 and my usual mid day average BP is somewhere around 105/60 - dispelling the notion that eating a lot of meat and fat will give you high blood pressure.  My meals are pretty straight forward, quick to make, and are nutritious and tasty. For example let's take last night's dinner - ground bison stuffed peppers with curried cauliflower rice.

I simply took some ground bison and tossed it in a skillet with some chopped leek, garlic, and coconut oil and fried it all up.  I then cut some peppers in half, added the meat mix, and threw some diced tomatoes on top.  Popped the plates in the oven at 250 for 45 minutes and they were done.

For the cauliflower rice, I started about fifteen minutes before the peppers were done by chopping up the cauliflower into manageable pieces and then using a "Slap Chop" like device proceeded to chop the cauliflower to the consistency of rice (a food processor could also do the job).  After I had the cauliflower cut up I added some curry powder and cayenne pepper and tossed in in the dry skillet (after I cleaned it) and toasted it all up a bit.

By the time the cauliflower rice was ready the peppers were done and it was time to eat.  Yummy!  I forgot to take a photo of the finished dish before we ate, but you get the idea :-)

Saturday Morning Breakfast (Jody)

Blueberry Paleo pancakes with sausage made from grass feed cow.

Paleo pancakes-- one banana per person served, one egg per person served), and a scoop of home made walnut butter (well any nut butter) and a tbsp of cinnamon.  You can adjust amounts to suit after you have tried this once or twice.  Generally for four of us it is three bananas (keeping the carbs down) and four or five eggs.

Directions: Put bananas in a bowl and mash with a fork (or potato masher), then add cinnamon, eggs and nut butter.  Lightly mix with fork-- then take the mixture and put it in the blender until smooth. Pour desired sized pancakes into a pan on medium heat and cover.  Check after a minute or so and when the top is no longer liquidy just flip them over for another minute or so. Heads up: they do not have the fluff of a pancake made with a grain flour.

Sausage --Heads up: cooking in the the oven takes a long time--too long for us. I say fry them. Our oil of choice is coconut oil (we do not have nut allergies); it has a high smoke rate since it is so saturated and is great to cook with.

We like to add organic blue berries to our pancakes-- our kids still have a little 100% pure Canadian maple syrup.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What Did You Have For Dinner? (Mac)

I mentioned yesterday that we were going to have roasted duck and mixed veggies for dinner so I thought I'd share some photos and what I did to make it.  Quite easy, actually.  I simply put the duck in a large roasting pan, added what ever veggies tickled my fancy, in this case it was yellow peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, leek, carrots, and celery.  I was going to add some red beets, but ran out of room as you can see in this photo taken just before popping the bird in the oven at 350 for 2-1/2 hours.  I also rubbed some coconut oil on the duck, added a bit of garlic with some random spices on top and added some home made red wine.  The whole affair took about 15 minutes of preparation.

Once the 2-1/2 hours were up I took the lid off and broiled the duck for about five minutes to make the skin a little crispier.  Despite what the "experts" say about the horrors of fat we ate the skin and didn't feel the slightest bit guilty - fat is not the enemy it has been made out to be.  Anyway, this is how I generally cook whole chickens as well...super simple, super fast, and very tasty.  I am boiling the carcass as we speak to make ground turkey (I ground myself) and vegetable soup to freeze for quick lunches.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Steady Loss (Jody)

I worked out four days a week for a year-- hard core classes lead by certified instructors (certified to kick my ass) and I started a glutten free, dairy free diet. I definitely felt better than I had but the scale was not moving. My family reluctantly bought into eating ancient grains and corn and rice flours (which aren't any healthier) instead of wheat and rye. In the first six months I lost a pound a month. I described it as being licked off (which isn't nearly as fun as it sounds). It wasn't until January 2010 that Mac bought in fully. He took over the cooking, reducing my stress level considerably. He read a number of blogs, sites, books, articles on paleolithic living. I continued to buy lunches at school (I am a teacher) for about two weeks; then we figured if he just made more dinner I would have a prepared lunch.

We bought Vibram Five Finger Shoes I walked six kilometers in them-- which I don't recommend --the shoes are awesome but like any new shoe you need to start out slowly integrating them into your routine; I ended up with a stress fracture and couldn't exercise at all for three weeks. However, the pro was that I realized that my diet was a 100% responsible for my weight loss. After removing preservatives, grains and most sugars from my diet (I still consume dark chocolate, red wine, all fruits and veggies) I began to loose two pounds a weeks. I have lost 20 pounds since January and I am still loosing. I wasn't even hard!

I am complimented everyday on my body (which is incredibly flattering), but more than that I have a ton of energy, I feel rested in the morning, and often wake up without an alarm. I no longer feel the need to eat three times a day. I eat when I am hungry no matter what time of day it is; I am eating veggies I have never tried before and I no longer have food cravings. I have even chosen to fast once in awhile-- and guess what? I am still alive and kicking. Now that I am eating plenty of protein and healthy fat (avocado, seeds, nuts, coconut milk, coconut oil) I don't feel hungry very often.

My foot has healed, after a few trips to the chiropractor for Active Release, I am now exercising to expend the excess energy I have, or to gain energy at the end of a long day. I don't do it everyday, and I rarely do the same thing. It's not a chore-- I love it again!

Kicking Things Off (Mac)

I am just coming off my weekly 36 hour fast (about my diet here) and started the day with a five egg, tomato, leek, mushroom, and asparagus omelette with a freshly ground cup of Kicking Horse coffee spruced up with some rich coconut milk.  Let me tell you, the first meal after a fast tastes incredible!  Roasted duck and mixed veggies for dinner :-)

My wife, Jody, and I have decided to make some major changes in our life with regards to our impact on the environment and we thought it would be fun to share our progress in hopes of inspiring others to make some changes as well.  I believe humans have made a massive and detrimental impact on the planet since the Neolithic Revolution some ten thousand years ago.  I also believe we have crossed the point of no return.  By that statement I mean that I believe we have damaged the earth so badly that our current ways of life and the current population cannot be sustained - nature will correct itself despite human beings' thoughts to the contrary.

We have lost tens of millions of acres of top soil, destroyed or used up countless fresh water sources, decimated fish stocks, obliterated forests - I could go on.  As the world population continues to expand our demand for food and energy increases with it.  We can't even supply the world now - how are we going to do it fifty or a hundred years from now?  Our reliance on fossil fuels to grow the grains that many vegetarians proclaim is the answer to the world's problems will increase at the same time oil gets more costly and scarce.  Our way of life, especially the North American way of life, is simply going to change.

I absolutely love George Carlin's thoughts on the idea of saving the world (video below...profanity warning for you delicate types).  The world is just fine and will be just fine - it is us with the problem and who will suffer.  Do I think I can save the world by composting?  Not a chance, but I can reduce my participation in the destruction and I can become self reliant and not have to worry about where my food is coming from, what oil prices are doing, etc.  Being able to live without the reliance on other people especially people in other countries for my food makes me feel a lot better.  Not to mention the money we will save by attempting to let nature provide for us as much as she can.

Are we going to become radical, tree hugging, evangelists?  Not likely.  I fully intend on keeping my Ford F150 4x4 and enjoying - responsibly - the fruits of modern life and I think the fruits of modern life can be harnessed to provide a much more sustainable and economical way to live - albeit with a little more effort than we are used to putting in these days.  I think we have gotten lazy.

I think humans have lived irresponsibly and without account for long enough.  We have reaped disease, global destruction, and an unsustainable way of life as a result.  Is life bad now?  No, not really and not for most North Americans, but I think it is time people woke up and smelled the coffee.  Thanks to us the world is going to change - it is changing and we are the ones that are going to be impacted - at some point in the future.  The world will go on with or without us - it doesn't care either way.

I hope you follow along with us on our journey as we aspire to lessen our impact on the planet and attempt to live within the systems nature has perfected over billions of years instead of controlling and abusing them.  We aren't going to "fix" the world, the Industrial Revolution most certainly marked that turning point, but we can all live more cleanly, more locally, and with more health for now and hope that when the Earth corrects herself from the activities of human beings it isn't too unpleasant for us.