In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Yes, I’m eating dairy again. No, the world didn’t end. It’s just once more congested. Of course correlation does not prove causation… But I’m still cutting back on dairy even if I’m not removing it all together.

Future post to follow on diet choices and sustainability, i.e., when drinking milk makes more sense than the alternatives, sinus congestion be damned.

In other news, I think I’m going to open a restaurant, called Free. With a purely allergen free menu.  We will serve, water, air, and lettuce.

Last but definitely not least, I made a thing! Tentatively calling it “Chili Pie with Corn Free Corn Bread.” My first experiment using plantains as a corn / cornmeal substitute.

Chili Pie with Corn-Free Bread

Chili Pie with Corn-Free Bread

I haven’t found the perfect recipe to use as a starting point for a plantain “Corn Free Corn Bread” so I’m just making this up… probably needs a few more revisions before sharing the results. Which is to say, I enjoyed it but the less adventurous folks in my house did not think it a viable substitute for Jiffy Mix.

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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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Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Because life is too short to skip dessert, whatever your dietary preference might be! I think everyone who eats paleo or primal has their own “favorite” chocolate chip recipe – here’s mine!

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

With a shout-out to Oatmeal With a Fork, whose recipe served as my starting point.  (Although now that I read it, almost a year later, it’s really hard to see the family relationship between her recipe and mine. Oh well! She was my inspiration!)

Ingredients

2 cups almond flour (I use Honeyville almost exclusively for baking)
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 Tbs melted butter, cooled (mine was salted because that’s what I had!)
6 Tbs coconut sugar (you could substitute raw honey, but I think the flavor overwhelms the cookie)
2 eggs – OR – 2 egg whites, 1 Tbs unflavored gelatin and 1 Tbs water (I know it sounds weird, but it improves the texture. I use Great Lakes brand – the kind in the red can.)
1 Tbs vanilla
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (or less, according to personal preference – I use Enjoy Life)

Directions

Mix the dry ingredients (including the 1 Tbs gelatin, if using) in a large bowl, EXCEPT for the chocolate chips.  Tip: sift the almond flour, or use a fork to break up any clumps.

Mix the wet ingredients (including the 1 Tbs water, if using) in a medium bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet (bet you didn’t see that one coming!).  Gently fold in chocolate chips. If the batter seems warm – like the chips get melty because the butter wasn’t all the way cooled down – I will chill it for a while at this point while letting the oven heat up.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to measure out 16 cookies. Press the batter mounds flat with your palm or other likely accoutrement – these don’t “spread” like wheat based cookies do.  Bake for 11 – 12 minutes. Let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.

Enjoy!

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!)


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The Voices In My Gut

I’ve followed a “Paleo”-ish eating style (hate the word diet!) since July of last year.

Not quite a year later, I still get stark reminders of why this hack “works” for me.

My occasional relapses demonstrate that I am most likely gluten and corn intolerant, based on the extreme intestinal pain I suffer from the smallest amount of these products. Did you know most grocery store bought baking powder has cornstarch in it? I found that out the hard way! 

But there are plenty of grain-based but gluten-and-corn-free food options out there. We researched GF beer, and found a one-to-one wheat flour substitute based primarily on rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour, all of which seemed OK for me in previous tests.  

Yesterday, to celebrate our 12 year anniversary and welcome weather warm enough for eating on the deck, we binged.

The menu for the evening: 

“Appetizer” beer tasting
Grilled chicken with Sweet and Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
Grilled zucchini
Roasted mashed cauliflower
“Buttermilk” biscuits (I actually used kefir because that’s what I had) using the recipe from the Namaste Foods website 
Further beer tasting
Guilt Free “Nutella” Cheesecake (which didn’t look anything like the photo, because I think my homemade hazelnut butter didn’t turn out right!)

Mmmmmm. Starches, sugars, and carbohydrates, oh my!

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep nor stay asleep for long once I finally got there. Every time I rolled over I woke up completely.

This morning, my intestines are blown up like a balloon! Or roadkill!

I would have liked to fast today, but I’m still taking a prescription for an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy – the bottle label commands “TAKE WITH FOOD.” So I’ll be throwing cultured and fermented foods at my digestive tract with most meals, taking prebiotics and forcing fluids. Oh yeah, and avoiding all the starches, sugars and carbohydrates…

…right after I finish this slice of cheesecake!


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Gone Primal: Be Back, Um, Never

About four weeks ago – I think it may have been a Thursday, actually – I stopped eating grains (including corn and all varieties) and legumes (including soy), most refined sugar, and a lot of other processed foods.  (If you carefully read the labels in the stores, almost every pre-packaged food has something in it derived from grains or legumes!)

For those of you up on dietary fads, you’ll recognize this as a “Paleo” diet.  I prefer to use a slight variation on Paleo, called Primal by some, in which some amount of dairy is also OK.  The food choices are almost entirely lean meats (fed their own natural diet, wherever possible), fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.    Basically, anything which our Paleolithic ancestors could have conceivably hunted or gathered.  (Which is why the dairy is considered questionable by some – really? A caveman chasing down paleolithic  cattle to milk them?  Hmmm…)   I haven’t been 100% perfect all the time – corn syrup and corn starch and soybean oil are more pervasive than you realize, and the staff at the sushi buffet got REALLY mad when I just took the fish and left the rice.  *whistles innocently*  But I would say I’m in the 85% – 95% range of eating Primal-style.

I’ve tried all sorts of “lifestyle” modifications before – Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, blah, blah, blah. And I’ve come to the conclusion that (in America at least), what you eat is like Religion.  Everybody pontificates about what is right, and what is wrong, and the dire consequences awaiting you if you make the wrong choice, or stray off the straight-and-narrow.   So I will not be debating the pros and cons of Primal on this blog, nor waxing passionate about the virtues of Primal eating versus, well, anything else.

What I will say is this: I can’t argue with results, and the reason I will stick with Primal eating for the rest of my life is because I didn’t realize how much I felt like crap all the time until I stopped feeling like crap all the time.   Heartburn, gross burps, indigestion, bloating, overeating / binging, joint pain, and trouble sleeping – all have improved significantly or cleared up entirely since I stopped eating grains and legumes.

To celebrate, I here present for you the capstone of my attempts at sourdough bread.  My taste testing audience told me this was the best loaf I had ever made.

Artisan-No-Knead-Sourdough-in-a-Deep-Covered-Baker

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The night before, mix

1 c sourdough starter
1 c water
2 c bread (wheat) flour

Cover with foil, and let sit in a warm-ish location. I used my over-the-stove microwave, with the light below it turned on.

The next morning – about 12 hours or so after the previous step – add

1 c (wheat) flour
2/3 c water (at this stage I actually prefer to use the whey I strain off my my homemade yogurt – it definitely affects the crumb of the final loaf)

This gives the yeasties a little more food, making the final bread lighter and more airy.  Re-cover and stick back in its warm spot.

About 6 hours later, add

2 c bread (wheat) flour
2 1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix this into the dough, which will be pretty stiff by this time. Pour it all out onto a well-floured surface, put more flour on your hands, and gently fold to make sure all the flour is incorporated.  This part is more art than science, btw!  If your original starter was runnier or stiffer, you may need more or less flour at this stage.

If you are using a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker, line it with parchment paper. Put the dough in it and cover – this is the final proofing stage.  If you don’t have a DCB, you can put the dough somewhere else to proof, just make sure to handle it gently and cover it so it doesn’t dry out.

About 2 hours later, preheat the oven to 425 F. If you are using the DCB do NOT preheat it – this voids your warranty. If you are using a dutch oven, OTOH, put it in the oven to preheat too.  After the oven is nice and hot, add the dough in the covered DCB (or add the dough to the dutch oven, and cover).  If desired, you could score the top of the dough with a serrated nice for prettier patterns on the top.  Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and let bake an additional 15 minutes (or so) to get a nice brown on top.  Remove the bread from the DCB, and let cool COMPLETELY on a baker’s rack. The cooling is actually an important part of the baking process, so don’t rush this part.

Slice and enjoy!