Archive for February, 2012

February 21, 2012

Slate’s Explainer on “The Real Caveman Diet”

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/explainer/2012/02/the_real_caveman_diet_what_did_people_eat_in_prehistoric_times_.html

February 20, 2012

Kale Two Ways: Paleo Nachos & Warm Kale Salad with Deconstructed Guacamole

Paleo Nachos

Warm Kale Salad

I finally got around to trying kale chips this weekend, and as soon as I tasted the first batch, I thought “kale nachos!”  I threw together a test batch, and it was then that it occurred to me that the same ingredients would make a great salad as well.  The ingredients are the same for both versions, and I encourage you to give each a try.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale

2 ripe haas avacados

1 jalapeno pepper (only used for the nacho version)

1 small bunch cilantro

1 roma tomato

1 shallot (or 1/4 red onion)

1 clove garlic

juice of 1/2 lime

pinch sea salt

chili powder

cumin

garlic powder

oil of choice

pepper jack cheese (optional)

salsa

Preparation for the Nachos

Preheat oven to 350.  Wash and dry the kale completely, and remove stems and large veins.  You want leaf pieces about 2″x2,” though uniformity isn’t critical.  Drizzle kale with oil and sprinkle with chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and salt.  Distribute evenly in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes, making sure not to burn.  The kale should be crisp when done.

While the kale is baking, make the guacamole.  Chop the jalapeno, shallot, cilantro, and garlic finely.  Remove the seeds from the tomato and chop.  Skin and pit avocados and combine with previous ingredients.  Add the lime juice.  If you like your guacamole chunky, you can just stir everything with a large spoon.  For a smoother consistency, mash the avocados a bit with a fork as you combine everything.  Taste and add salt as required.

When the kale is done, pile leaves on a plate and sprinkle with cheese, if using.  Pop back in the oven for 2-3 minutes to melt cheese.  Add guacamole and salsa.  You could also add pickled jalapenos, a little browned ground beef, sour cream, etc, depending on your pantry and paleo preferences.

Preparation for Salad

Heat two teaspoons of oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Wash and dry kale, removing larger stems.  Chop garlic and shallots finely and add only the shallots to pan.  When shallots are translucent, add kale and saute for about 5 minutes, until bright green.  Sprinkle the kale with chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder.  While the kale warms, slice avocado and chop tomato and cilantro.  Add the garlic and saute a few more minutes, until it begins browning and kale starts to wilt.  Plate the kale and dress with avocado and tomato, sprinkling with a pinch of salt and drizzling with a little more oil if desired.  A little cheese melted over this salad is great as well–do your own experimenting!

February 17, 2012

30 Day Brain Cleanse Challenge: Week 1 Report

Last week I announced my 30-Day Brain Cleanse Challenge, in which I planned to meditate every day for a month.  During Week 1 I planned to do two sessions per day, at 5 minutes a piece.  I’m happy to say that I only missed two sessions total all week, and I did manage to get at least one session in every day.  I hadn’t really expected much from a 5-minute session, but I looked at the first week as a simple lead-in to doing longer sessions, kind of like doing girlie push ups.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at the changes I noticed even after a few days, however.

Nothing transcendent happened–I am not completely serene and at one with the world.  Still, I did notice subtle shifts in my meditation over the course of the week.  For the first few days, I was happy to get through the sessions without totally zoning out or peeking at the clock, and I found myself looking forward to the little windows of down time.  By mid-week, I had started to feel like I was getting better at physically calming myself down more quickly and effectively.  I found it easier to slow down my breathing at well, and to let some of the tension out of my muscles.  Those skills don’t yet seem to be extending to times when I’m stressed or upset, but hopefully they will with more practice.

For the last few days, though, I’ve become much more aware of my thoughts while I’m meditating.  I’ve kept with the 1-2-3-inhale, pause, 1-2-3-exhale, pause, which sometimes seems to switch after a few minutes to “I am calm” on the inhale and “I am relaxed” on the exhale.  In the sessions I did in the past few days I’ve become a lot more aware of other thoughts that pass through my mind, even while the counting or repetitions continue.  When I’m more relaxed at the start of a meditation, they tend to flit around with the amazing swiftness and variability of free association.  When I’m more stressed, though, my mind seems to serve up a buffet of worries, one after the other.  The part of this that I find interesting is the readiness with which I can replace one anxious thought with another, the minute the first is dismissed.  “Deadline at work” appears, and as quickly as I can let go of the thought, there’s another–“did that lymph node seem a little swollen?”  It’s like my mind is insisting that I worry about something, and it’s prepared to offer and endless array of selections until something sticks.  I’m not sure what that means at this point, but it’s an interesting observation. 

This week I’ll be doing a 5-minute and a 10-minute session each day, which comes just in time for a deadline push at work.  My stress level always seems to increase in tandem with external demands on my time, and I’m curious to see if the meditation breaks can help me feel a little less pressure.  Here’s hoping!

February 14, 2012

A great visual aid for choosing cooking oils…

http://smallbites.andybellatti.com/handy-dandy-cooking-oil-comparison-chart/

February 11, 2012

Paleo for Valentine’s Day: Dark Chocolate Truffles

The chocolate industry has begun its annual advertising assault in preparation for V-day and I’m fighting back this year.  These dark chocolate truffles require getting your hands dirty, but they are definitely worth the effort.

Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes active

Yield: 2 to 2 1/2 dozen truffles, depending on size

Ingredients

For the Truffles:

5 oz. bar dark baking chocolate (I used Green & Black’s 70% Cocoa Organic Baking Chocolate)

1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter (or coconut oil*)

1/4 cup coconut milk

*The coconut milk in this recipe does not come through in the final product, particularly if you’re using a very dark chocolate.  If you want a hint of coconut, use coconut oil instead of butter.

Toppings

The truffles can be rolled in various topping– finely chopped nuts, toasted coconut, cocoa powder, etc.  I used about 1/8 cup of unsweetened toasted coconut and 1/4 cup each of pecans and pistachios, though walnuts or hazelnuts would be equally wonderful.

The coconut can be toasted in a skillet on the stove over low heat for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning.

Directions

Chop chocolate finely into shards.  Place in a bowl with butter or coconut oil.  Carefully melt the chocolate and butter, either by placing the bowl over a saucepan
with a few inches of simmering water (the bowl should not actually touch the water), or very slowly in the microwave.  For the
microwave method, zap it for 30 seconds, then remove and stir, continuing to alternate microwaving and stirring until all the chocolate has melted.  It’s important to keep a close eye on the chocolate during the process, as it can quickly scorch.

When chocolate and fat are combined, allow it to cool for a few minutes while you bring the coconut milk to a simmer.  When you start to see small bubbles forming, remove it from the heat and allow to cool for 1 minute.

Slowly fold the coconut milk into the melted chocolate mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl toward the center until completely combined.


Pour chocolate mixture into a 6x6ish container and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. 

The chocolate should be firm when removed from the fridge.  Allow it to warm slightly while you prepare the various toppings.

Using a melon-baller or teaspoon, make small scoops of chocolate, forming into smooth balls with your hands.  (This is the messy part.)  Roll in  desired topping and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

When all chocolate has been rolled and dipped, place cookie sheet back into refrigerator for 10-20 minutes to firm up again.  Truffles should be served at room temperature.

February 10, 2012

The 30-Day Brain Cleanse Challenge

January seemed to fly by this year and, if the attendance at my gym is any indication, the arrival of February seems to have solidified which New Year’s resolutions we’re keeping.  I always look forward to the optimism of the New Year—blogs are full of 30-day fitness challenges, month-long meal plans, and lists of books to change your life.  By February all the enthusiasm seems to fizzle and we’re back to 10 things to do with leftover chili and the occasional piece on maintaining motivation—the implication, of course, being that it has largely disappeared.  One thing I’ve noticed living in LA is that here you’re encouraged to reinvent yourself constantly, not just January 1st.  I’m reminded on a daily basis that I can let my new life begin with 1-800-GET-THIN. (If risky surgery and eating baby food for 3 months is your idea of a new life…)

Anyway, I’m a big fan of trying on new habits and month-long experiments, and inspired by the ever-popular-in-SoCal juice cleanse, I’ve decided to try a 30-day brain cleanse.  I’ve always had a hard time sitting still—my idea of relaxing is reading a book while knitting.  I can’t nap, no matter how tired I am, and that part of the yoga class where you lie quietly on your mat and try to relax your toes drives me crazy.  I’ve always been interested in meditation in the abstract (who isn’t, really?), but I’ve never been able to stick to any sort of routine.  In the past I’ve tried guided meditations, which always work well for a couple of days, but I seem to get bored and zone out as soon as I’m familiar with the script.  At that point I always get frustrated that my mind seems to be wandering more and more with each session, and eventually I give up.  This time, instead of just hitting play on my iPod, I’ve decided to commit to a plan.

The 30-Day Brain Cleanse Challenge

Week 1: Meditate 5 minutes, twice a day

Week 2: One 5-minute and one 10-minute meditation daily

Week 3: One 5-minute and one 15-minute meditation daily

Week 4: One 5-minute and one 20-minute meditation daily          

 My thinking is that cultivating an effective 5-minute meditation would be a useful tool for life in general.  It could be done nearly anywhere—at work, in the car before I go to the gym, or just when I need a moment of space and quiet.  The goal of the longer meditations is to (hopefully) learn to slow down my mind a bit.  I’m hoping that by increasing the length of the meditations incrementally, I’ll have greater success than trying to jump in all at once, and also give myself some appreciable progress to keep me motivated.  My plan for Week 1 is to use a simple breath meditation of 3-count inhale, 1-count pause, 3-count exhale, 1-count pause. 

 Join me in the 30-Day Brain Cleanse Challenge—I’m counting on the blog to keep me honest and on the wagon.  I’ll post my progress along with any other insights periodically.

February 2, 2012

Nature Position Paper Deems Sugar Toxic

A discussion of a new article in Nature regarding the toxicity of sugar…