In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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The Philosophy of Salads

Company is coming for dinner. Which means spaghetti (to keep cooking simple), and a huge salad in the style of a “certain Italian chain restaurant” (which is not so simple).
The chickweed is long dead, thanks to the Arctic chill that has enveloped our area for the past two weeks. Plus, who feeds yard weeds to company? What will people think? My “lettuce bowl” attempt for indoor leafy harvests utterly failed too, so I am to buying salad fixings from the grocery store. Read: reduced to buying… yes, you guessed it… bagged lettuce. The horror! The shame! (I grabbed two.)
Next: tomatoes. One display featured tomatoes from Canada; the other, from Mexico. And I wondered, which option destroys the environment less? The produce from Canada, with a shorter shipping distance but more electricity for heat and light to grow out-of-season tomatoes? Or the ones from Mexico, closer to the tomato’s natural requirements for warmth and sun, but further away from me, the consumer? The conflict! The guilt! (There are no “good” tomatoes in January, so I snagged the three which looked least sad.)
Sad tomatoes in January

Sad tomatoes in January

This is a trick question, of course. The “right” answer is that in the Piedmont region of Maryland, in January, after two weeks of nighttime lows in the single digits and wind chills well below zero, one does not expect lettuce and tomatoes. They are not native to here and now. They would not be except for the cheap energy that fuels our modern American expectations and consumption habits.
Learn from my folly, dear friends! An equally delicious, much healthier (and much more sustainable) winter salad for company could include:
  • cubed, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash
  • on a bed of torn kale,
  • garnished variously with goat’s cheese, pumpkin seeds, thinly sliced red onions, pickled beets, dried cherries, and/or chopped walnuts, and
  • dressed with a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, walnut oil, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey and rosemary or other herbs.
All these ingredients could, could, be grown and produced locally to the Mountain/Piedmont regions of Maryland, and preserved in such as way as to be available for eating, even in this brutal weather.
Now, I just need to remember that for next time!
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DIY Cultured Foods – Tip

“How do you tell if your cultured food product is bad?”

“It’s as off-color as my jokes.”

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Not Good! Off color culture

This, folks, is not the color coconut milk yogurt is supposed to be.

I made a double batch this time – four cans of coconut milk, in two mason jars. I’m using a heating pad in a cooler to culture the bacteria between 108 and 112 for about 24 hours.

Both jars were fine this morning, with eight hours incubation time to go. I have no clue what happened to this jar. The other is thankfully ok!  Although I will be inspecting it extra carefully as I spoon it into containers for this coming work week.


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The Quest

Congratulations to me!

I have survived a week of dairy free eating. Unless of course there was hidden dairy products in some processed food I consumed. But guess what? Grain-free, legume-free, and dairy-free really limits your processed food choices.

Plus, I found a workable substitute for my beloved daily Quest bar: behold, the Almond Butter Power Bar!

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Homemade Energy Bars

(How do food bloggers take such good photos? Topic for later I guess.)

The original recipe started with peanut butter, but I substituted almond butter to avoid the legumes. I think next version, I will use sunflower seed butter, to cut down on the overall amount of nuts, since sometimes I feel bloaty after eating too many nuts (almonds in particular).

These bars lack the gooey texture of the Quest bars, but the texture is pleasant in its own right – it has almost a granola bar crumbly thing going on.

Better yet, they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet like many paleo “energy bars” which are date-based.

Recipe to follow after I try one more round of tweaks. Because that’s what I do. Tinker with things.


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Dear Dairy

Sometimes, I hate being right.

Like two days ago, when I realized all this time I had been wrong. About eating Primal, seasonal allergies, and dairy products.

See, lo these many months ago when I adopted the “Primal” variation of what is known in the vernacular as the “Paleo Diet” I embraced it at least in part because of its leniency regarding dairy products. I luff my butter in my coffee in the mornings. I luff my homemade whole cows milk yogurt (and its healthy bacteria love me in return). I luff my scrambled eggs on Saturday mornings, cooked in butter and sprinkled with shredded cheddar. I luff most of all, my afternoon whey-protein-isolate-based Quest Bar, especially the Double Chocolate Chunk. And the Cookies & Cream.  And the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. How fabulous to have such a selection of grain-free, low carb snack bars!

(Not to mention, almost every recipe I’ve collected over the past year features cheese or butter or sour cream or yogurt or kefir in some form or fashion.)

And I thought that eating Primal would improve minor health annoyances such as seasonal allergies. After all, avoiding the “SAD” (Standard American Diet) would reduce inflammation in my system, so when the annual botanical orgy started up again in the spring, I would be just fine, thank you very much.

More like, it was BORED and DESPERATE for something to do, because my allergies went kah-razy. Tree pollen and mold spores oh my! I was one snot mess.  Like seriously. I was embarrassed to be at work because everyone thought I was sick. Watering eyes, unable to breathe, debilitating sneezes – just as miserable as miserable can be. Even on my trusty ol’ cetirizine-D, which I finally weaned myself off of months ago, couldn’t make a dent in my symptoms.

And then… I remembered. I had noticed in years past, that if I had seasonal allergy flare ups, any dairy product made it worse. Even “non dairy” products would slam my sinuses shut – milk proteins, for example in the form of calcium caseinate are added to juices to “fortify” them with calcium.

Two days ago, I abandoned dairy in every form. Even most brands of ghee have trace casein and whey in them.  I’m trying coconut oil in my morning coffee concoction again (some morning coconut oil and I do NOT get along), cooking more with lard, store bought coconut milk yogurt (though I’ll try making my own this weekend), and sprinkling my scrambled eggs with, well, nothing.  Sigh.  Still not sure what to do about my afternoon snack though. Nuts make me bloaty, fruit and most “raw” snack bars are too sugary, jerky is so high in sodium (and many store bought brands have corn and wheat in it, yuck) and nothing, but nothing, is as satisfying as a Quest bar anyway.

But – I was right. Yay? My allergy symptoms have subsided back to an annoyance rather than nearly debilitating like they were just a short while ago. Just like the decision to eat “Primal” / “Paleo” in the first place, I wouldn’t have stuck with it, except that I could see and feel the results.

Will our heroine survive her self imposed dairy abstinence?  Will she come to terms with the fact that when she decided long ago to “cut back on dairy”, that actually meant absolutely nothing?  Stay tuned!

Grain-free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


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Ooey Gooey Paleo Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Did I mention this was grain-free and Paleo (-ish)?

This is my adaptation of a recipe from Jan’s Sushi Bar – you can find the original version here.  I SWEAR I meant to follow it exactly.  I’ve been cooking grain free for almost a year now (!), and I have finally developed a feeling for what “works” (or not) in a baked recipe. I rejected a lot of possible grain-free pineapple upside-down cake recipes before I settled on this one. But as I started mixing, I found myself adding a little of this, and a little of that… Luckily I kept track of all my changes, as the cake turned out AMAZING.

Grain-free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Ridiculously delicious pineapple upside-down cake. And it’s grain free!

Ingredients

2 8 oz. cans of pineapple rings, drained, juice reserved
1/4 cup butter or ghee
1/4 cup coconut sugar
3 medium eggs, separated (or two large eggs…but my hens lay medium, so that’s what I use!)
1/4 cup butter or ghee, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice
2 1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (I use this brand as it doesn’t have cornstarch… but in the future I may make my own)
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you use salted butter elsewhere in the recipe, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350F

2. Put 1/4 cup butter or ghee in a 8 x 11.5 inch baking dish, and bake in the oven till the butter is melted (sorry, I didn’t time this part!). Sprinkle 1/4 cup coconut sugar over the melted butter, and arrange pineapple rings across the bottom of the baking dish.  (If you wanted to add cherries, this would be the time, but we skipped them.)

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks, melted butter or ghee, 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and 3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice.

5. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients.  Use a fork or a whisk to make sure any lumps in the almond flour are broken up.

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Fold in the egg whites.  (My egg whites lost all their “stiff peaks” in my effort to incorporate them thoroughly, so I might try skipping that approach in the future.)

7. Spread the batter over the pineapple, sugar and butter in the baking dish.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (But not too deep, or you’ll hit pineapple!)  Your kitchen will smell AMAZING.

8. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen up the cake around the edges of the pan.  Place a cutting board over the dish, and using pot holders or oven mitts, flip the dish and lift away, leaving the cake on the cutting board.  (I had to wait a few seconds for it to come completely away.)

9. Let cake cool completely, if at all possible. Refrigerate leftovers.

I actually made this the day before, kept uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, removed from fridge to come up to room temperature, and then served it.

Did I say it was AMAZING?  I couldn’t tell the difference between this cake, and wheat-flour-boxed-cake-batter recipes I’d made previous years. More importantly, the birthday boy loved it!

Nutritional info

If you cut this cake into 8 ginormous slices, here is the nutritional breakdown:

449 calories; 29.3 g total fat; 41.6 g carbohydrates; 9.6 g protein

(But you might want to cut it into 16 smaller slices, because it is very rich!)