Common Is Not Normal

We love statistics. Okay, we may not love stats class (I cried my way through it in college), we love looking at statistics. How much alike are we to others? What percentage is voting for whom? Or not voting at all? How many women will get heart disease? Get my drift? Statistics rule our world and help us calculate what risks we may or not take.

But statistics also normalize behavior. And make us think that things that aren’t normal are.

What do I mean? For starters, over the past few decades, the incidence of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) has increased, with women now reporting PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder aka PMS on steroids). Don’t believe me? Ask women who are a few generations older than you. Chances are, they won’t remember being home from school or work for days on end with cramps. We’re told by the medical establishment that most women suffer from some level of PMS. So, all of a sudden, it’s considered a normal side effect of Aunt Flo.

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Probiotic Ketchup

Some people are the ketchup with fries people. And I have yet to understand them. I’ve always been the fries with ketchup person. As in, “Yes. I did just go through half a bottle of ketchup in one sitting, why do you ask?” So when I started becoming more aware of what I was eating in ketchup – high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, additives, “natural flavors” – whatever those mean, MSG, gluten (WHY does gluten have to be in ketchup?!) and random chemicals that even my five hundred courses in biology, chemistry and nutrition didn’t set me up to understand, I knew it was time to look elsewhere.

My first course of action was to buy “safe” ketchup at the store. There are some great brands out there of ready-made ketchup (and the manufacturers don’t use BPA in their bottles, either!  Here’s a few if ready-made is more your cup of tea:

Annie’s Organic Ketchup
Woodstock Farms Organic Ketchup
Nature’s Promise Organic Ketchup
Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Ketchup
Muir Glenn Organic Ketchup

I tend to stay away from Heinz and Hunt’s – I disagree with their use of and support of GMO products and their lobbying against a consumer’s right to know what’s GMO and what’s not GMO. Even though both make an organic line, I just can’t bring myself to support them and take my business elsewhere.

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Taco Seasoning Mix

I recently purchased a bunch of grass-fed beef and the cow is in process so… I have to clean out my freezer. Which means I eat my older beef as quickly as possible. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? This morning it was taco meat. I ate it with some scrambled eggs and guacamole for a delish high-fat/high-calorie meal (it’s cold, windy and rainy over here in Western Oregon). I guess you could say I’m jonesing for more tropical climates… or San Diego. Which ever is cheapest.

Okay. So, here’s my super easy recipe. I make a whole bunch of it up at once and buy my spices organic and in bulk. There are probably places that you can do this from wherever you live. Here in Portland, we have Bob’s Red Mill over in Milwaukie. They have bulk organic spices and really reasonable prices. I buy my own spice jars and have cute labels. Heck. I even alphabetize my spices. Don’t judge me. You know you do it, too. First and second letter.

Once I’ve made a mega batch of taco seasoning mix, I dump it in a half-pint mason jar and put a lid on it. I mark on the lid my ratio – 1 ½ tbsp mix (sometimes I feel like having a bit more zip and throw more in) to a half cup of water. Below is the recipe for a single batch and is for a pound of beef. If cooking more beef, simply double, triple, etc the recipe. When I make my large quantities, I usually make 6 batches at once – those are included in the parenthesis. Enjoy!

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Sauerkraut

I have another recipe for sauerkraut on my website but this one is so much easier to make! A few months ago, I had a few clients who were unable to pound sauerkraut so I started using this method instead and found the texture to be much more enjoyable! It’s a simple sauerkraut and can be forgotten between turnings – which makes it perfect for those who don’t have enough time to make it in one sitting! It’s also gentle on joints, as it requires no pounding, and is much less messy. (Pounding sauerkraut seems to go every which way sometimes except for in the bowl.)
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Fermented Zucchini Noodles

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Zucchini noodles are a tasty alternative to wheat-based noodles but can often be a tad bit soggy. “Wetting” the noodles with some salt can help firm them up a bit when they are cooked, but they can still be soggy. Fermented zucchini noodles, on the other hand, don’t get soggy. Ever. At least not in the gazillions of times that I’ve made them.

You’ll want a Spiralizer – either one that sits on the counter or a handheld tool. It just makes life easier in every aspect. In the summer, our Spiralizer is a permanent fixture on the counter. And, spiralizing veggies is a fun and creative way to get kids to eat their veggies (hint, hint, parents). Other tools needed will include a jar with sealable lid, sea salt, weight and filtered water.
 
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Liver Burgers

Okay. These sound gross, I’ll admit. And that’s not a good selling point at all. But, at least I’ve learned a thing or two since I was 5 years old and I no longer call a burger a “booger” (my parents thought it was quite funny, btw). So know that I have your attention… and managed to embarrass myself all in one fell swoop. Liver burgers. Yea. That’s right. It’s the super organ that everyone needs to eat and no one wants to eat. Auth Ethel’s liver and onions? No thank you. (And no, I don’t have an Aunt Ethel and apologize to anyone who does. I’m sure she’s lovely.) Pâté

? Well, I like it now. So that argument is moot. But I used to think it was nasty. 

(So this photo – it’s the only one I have of the burger and was taken on my super ancient iPhone 4s.)

Incorporating liver in your diet should be a necessity. Unfortunately in the United States, we view organ meats and sub-par. Why have organ meats, the most nutrient-dense of the whole animal, when you can have a nice flank steak? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good marinated flank steak as much as the next person… but it just doesn’t match up for the vitamin powerhouse that organ meats provides. In fact, according to an arcticle by Chris Kresser, organ meats contain 10 to 100 times the nutritional benefit than corresponding muscle meats. (He also has a nifty chart comparing the nutrition of liver against other foods.) Organ meats were once so prized in traditional cultures that they were given first to the pregnant and women of child-bearing years. Talk about a super prenatal! 

If you’re not ready to take the liver and onions plunge, and I’m there with ya so don’t worry, than hiding it in your muscle meat might be the way to go. I usually direct my clients with putting a ¼ lb of ground liver in with 1 lb grass-fed/organic/pasture-raised/etc ground beef. They look at me like I’m crazy. Or have a new growth growing out of my face and it suddenly appeared. Either way, it’s the easiest way to hide the flavor. Yes, it does taste slightly gamey. But it’s not bad. In fact, the flavor is like a mild venison. And who doesn’t love venison?! 

To grind the liver, thaw in cold water and blend in blender until it’s all broken up. Or, if you have a fancy meat grinder, you may use that. Cutting it on the cutting board also works but if you’re trying to hide it from a picky eater, the pieces might be too big. 

Liver Burgers

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ lb ground liver (see above)
  • ½ tsp ground dried organic onion
  • ½ tsp ground dried organic garlic
  • pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Cook as you would any burger. And top with your favorite toppings. Might I recommend my Fermented Ketchup

Should You Buy Detox Supplements?

It’s the New Year and the buzz word so far has been “detox” – everywhere I turn, I hear or read about it. Co-workers ask me about the best detox supplement, tea, drink, pre-made meal program and my answer often comes as a shock to them: Save your money. 

That’s right. 

Save your money. 

Or at the very least, re-appropriate your money. 

While this in vogue buzz word might make you want to rush to your local GNC to pick out the latest and greatest supplements to help you become the “new you,” this isn’t what overall healing and betterment is about. Our bodies need whole, real foods that are properly prepared and nutrient dense. We need foods that are in season and picked at the peak of ripeness. When our bodies have these nutrients, they do what they ought to do in the first place – they run as well-oiled and fine-tuned machines and they detox themselves. (Starting on a detox regimen before the body has healed or is able to reopen what is called “detox pathways” can be detrimental to overall health and small intestine healing must take place before an actual detox protocol can be started and even then, it should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional such as a Nutritional Therapist or ND.)

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When we eat healthy fats, grass-fed/pasture-raised meats, organic fruits and veggies and rid our bodies of all of the excess crud that marketers entice us into, it’s going to clean itself out. A popular myth is that the body is imperfect and disease-prone and illness is a fact of life and that invasive, costly and starvation-type detoxification regimens are necessary. Ummm… wrong. Our bodies want to be healthy and strive for homeostasis. Eating foods that allow it to maintain balance is enough to let it relax from whatever trauma we’ve caused it and heal.  

Sometimes we need to meet one-on-one with a Nutritional Therapist to help us navigate a paradigm shift in thinking about our food, what we put in our body and how that affects our overall health. Sometimes we need a strict program such a Whole30 to challenge us to eat better and kick the crud to the curb. Other times, that’s still not enough and we need to give our bodies a helping hand and enroll in a program like RESTART Sugar Detox. RESTART is a wonderful 5-week program that helps set a change in lifestyle regarding sugar consumption through weekly “check in” meetings with other people seeking to kick their sugar habit to the curb, a built-in 21 day sugar detox and support for long-term goal setting and practical how to’s. 

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Whatever you choose to do this New Year, save your money with the cheap supplements and eat clean. Buy meats from a local farmer. Know where your food comes from. Eat organic and local fruits and veggies. Limit your sugar consumption. Make that your New Year’s Resolution. Besides, you really don’t know what you’re getting in those consumer-ready supplements found at your local supermarket or popular supplement shop.

Bolognese (aka Meat Sauce)

When you’re marrying an Italian man (who has more Irish than Italian but who am I to question his ethnic claim?), there’s a few things you need to quickly add to your repertoire. The first being a tasty marinara. The second being a bolognese. The third is the caveat that both must taste authentic and the way his Italian grandmother makes them.

Just breathe.

No pressure.

It’s only his childhood memories that I’m up against.

Thankfully, he was willing to share a few of their secrets to help me improve what I thought was already a pretty good sauce. The below is what he and I have since concocted and perfected. I serve it over my Brussels Sprouts Braised with Mustard because when you’re paleo, you discover that traditional foods don’t necessarily have to be eaten traditionally. This also tastes fantastic with zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash. And when we really feel like splurging, over paleo noodles. Because sometimes you just want a noodle.

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Cinnamon might not be a common ingredient by American standards, but adding it gives the sauce a sweet flavor and doesn’t add to the sugar content. Growing up, we would use brown sugar to cut the acid and give the sauce sweeter undertones. The cinnamon does the same, all the while keeping it sugar-detox approved. Also, for the tomatoes, I process mine in the summer and freeze them at the peak of ripeness. And by process, I mean I throw mine in the Ninja for a few seconds and that’s it! Into the freezer they go! Until I decide that I’m craving a slow-cooked Bolognese. If you don’t have frozen tomatoes, fresh work, too – just make sure you adjust your cooking time and add an hour or two. Or, you can use two cans of 28-oz BPA-free organic diced tomato such as the Muir Glenn brand. (Which thankfully WinCo carries and is super cheap for all of you Pacific Northwesterners.)

Enjoy!

Bolognese

  • 1 lb pasture-raised organic ground pork
  • 3 tsp Mild Italian Sausage Seasoning 
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts fresh organic diced tomatoes, with their juice – use a medley of Romas and juicier tomatoes
  • ¼ cup organic non-BPA lined tomato paste
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine spice mix and ground pork (or just use 1 lb pork sausage if you can find a good source with no added sugar). Set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a medium-sized dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the pork until slightly browned, stirring often and breaking up the larger pieces. Remove pork from dutch oven and set aside, keeping the fat at the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the onion and ghee to the sausage fat and continue to cook until translucent. Add garlic and saute until lightly golden and very aromatic.
  4. Dump in the tomatoes, juices and all, and the tomato paste. Add the spices and stir. 
  5. Reduce heat to low and put a lid slightly on. Simmer, stirring often, for 3 hours. After two hours, add the meat and continue simmering. 
  6. Serve warm! And just like most Italian recipes, this makes enough to feed the whole Roman army!

Napa Cabbage Soup

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a recipe. I sprained my ankle right before Christmas and was down for the count. I’m finally getting around enough that cooking, carrying plated food over to the window where I take my photos and balancing a camera… and maintaining balance myself, aren’t daunting tasks. Not to mention that the natural lighting has been working against me. It’s been exceptionally dark and dreary these past few weeks – even for Oregon. We’ve been socked in fog “‘thicker than frozen snot on a door knob,” according to Portland’s National Weather Service Office. So much so that my dad, who’s an umpteenth generation Oregonian, commented on how miserable it is.

Today’s soup is perfect for the dead of winter. I have fond memories of playing at a friend of our family’s farm out of Troutdale, OR. They lived in a house up on a bluff above the Sandy River and running around exploring and tormenting the older brother was heaven (it was two girls against one boy – poor kid!). They were (and still are) basil farmers and their house always smelled of the delicious, rich smell of fresh basil. So many fond memories in that house up on the bluff. My family was so taken with this simple soup that my mother had to ask for the recipe and it’s been a staple ever since in our family. I’ve made a few modifications to it over the years but for the most part, it remains the same. The best way to describe this soup is simple Italian peasant food. It’s nothing remarkable when you look at the ingredients but the flavors meld themselves together in such a harmonious blend… it’s impossible to not over-indulge and have one too many bowls.

It’s the kind of soup that will pump the lifeblood back into your bones on a cold winter’s day (or a day with dense fog) and won’t leave you overly full…. and only takes 30 minutes to cook! (Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray!)

But before the recipe, a few notes: You really want to use napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage) with this soup. It’s far more delicate than your typical “green cabbage” and cooks down nicely. You retain much of the crunch and texture of the cabbage but it’s not your “normal” thick pieces. Napa cabbage can easily be found at a farmer’s market or a natural foods store – if you aren’t sure which is napa, just ask!

 

Napa Cabbage Soup

  • 1 head organic napa, shredded
  • 5 pieces organic, nitrate-free, pastured bacon, sliced (can also use half a pound of a clean pancetta – this gives it an even more delicate Italian flavor)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can organic diced tomatoes, BPA-free lining
  • 7 cups meat stock
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-month aged, raw Parmesan for garnish (optional)
  1. In a medium-large stock pot, over medium heat, cook bacon (or pancetta) until done. Remove bacon from pan, leaving fat at the bottom. Cut up cabbage while bacon is cooking.
  2. Add garlic and saute in the bacon fat until golden, stirring often.
  3. Add tomatoes and juice from can and shredded cabbage. Stir.
  4. Add filtered water and meat stock and stir. Cover with a lid and simmer on low for about 20 minutes, or until cabbage is cooked.
  5. Add bacon back to soup and add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with shredded Parmesan (optional) and an extra dollop of fat (such as coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, or more bacon fat) (optional).
A quick and easy GAPS, RESTART Program, Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and, most importantly, DELICIOUS soup that only takes 30 minutes to make!