Spring’s Game

Arugula, Fennel, and Sunchoke Salad with Grapefruit Walnut Dressing (found under Paleo recipes)

We wintered hard in Minnesota this year, packing ourselves up daily for a snowy trudge to work, pulling on furry boots, the outer hide still wet and matted from the previous day. Our morning rituals were closed by the reluctant zip of a feathered-down jacket. Our gait reduced to a heavy waddle under the weight of 3, sometimes 4 layers. We shivered through the first 5 minutes of our favorite morning radio show, rewarding our resilience with sips from tightly sealed traveling coffee mugs.

After all that work, it was difficult not to feel entitled to a little reprieve. When Spring poked her head up and tiptoed across my bedroom floor to greet me on that first bright morning, I felt for sure she was here to stay. The boxes came out of storage. Closet hangers were emptied and refilled with glowing clothes that bounced and swayed.

Alas, the following morning spring was nowhere to be found. She was hiding somewhere, giggling and waiting to be caught, while snow flurries tickled the shy, naked ground, causing it to tense up.

My bouncy clothes proved to be poor armor from the darkness. I watched and felt camaraderie as drivers stopped at stoplights, clutching their travel coffee mugs in desperation.

I’ve heard grief comes in stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. In the past few weeks I am sure I have felt them all. I ran through the bitter wind and flurries of May day. I cursed the sleeting skies of April. I promised to take advantage of ever ounce of sunlight granted. I slept and watched bad TV shows instead of blogging; and finally, I welcomed the weather in whatever form it chose to appear.

Late this 43 degree morning, Spring padded her sleepy feet slowly out of hiding, rubbing her eyes, and widening her lips into a smile that warmed us to 62 degrees! I whistled my way to the co-op with a delicious craving to blog!

 

Re-posting for TwinTown

In honor of TwinTown Crossfit I am re-posting this January post in which I reviewed some of the recent scientific studies about the paleo diet. I’m doing this because I am planning to talk about this research tonight, and I am sure I will forget some of the details:

“The information cascade, or what I think should be called ‘the misinformation cascade’ is when people see someone else doing something and then they do the same thing, even though it goes against their instincts. It’s what has caused us all to keep buying low-fat foods even though they don’t actually improve weight loss. Eventually that sort of mis-information gets repeated so many times that it is taken to be true, even without any real evidence.” Dave said. I sat in his office snacking on a red bell-pepper. I was telling him about how hard it is for me to change my perception of animal fats as being evil, and grains as being good. It’s like a scooby doo ending, where the bad guy removes his mask to reveal that he was really the friendly neighbor that you had been trusting all along.

For the past 3 weeks Christina and I have been adhering to a palaeolithlic diet. I didn’t do too much research before we started (mainly because we are both healthy and can afford to play around with our diet for the sake of experimentation) but after being a vegetarian for so long, and now eating a diet heavily laden with meat, I decided to dig into the literature to see what potential damage I might actually be causing.

What I have been finding out has totally blown my mind.

Here is a summary of what I read this afternoon. The field of palaeolithic nutrition begins with observational studies of hunter-gatherer cultures, a few scattered studies comparing modern “western” diets with traditional diets and such. In the past few years, however, a number of small clinical trials have been done comparing the palaeolithic diet with various other “healthy” diets.

In 2007, Lindeberg et al compare the palaeolithic diet of lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs, and nuts with a “Mediterranean-like diet” comprised of whole grains, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, oils, and margarine, in ischaemic heart disease patients with either type 2 diabetes or glucose intolerance. The study lasted 12 weeks, after which comparisons of body weight, waist circumference, and glucose tolerance were made. Both groups lost comparable amounts of weight, and reduced waist circumference, however the palaeo group had significantly improved glucose tolerance over the Mediterranean-like diet:

(the light grey is baseline glucose area under the curve (AUC) the medium grey is after 6 weeks and the dark grey is after 12 weeks (Lindeberg et al., 2007). The shorter the bar, the better the glucose tolerance.)

Okay, so this study shows that the palaeo diet might be slightly better than the Mediterranean diet if you have ischaemic heart disease and glucose intolerance. What about the rest of us?

In 2008, Osterdahl et al performed a dietary intervention on a small group of healthy individuals as part of a pilot study. They tested the effects of 3 weeks of a palaeolithic diet on several metabolic endpoints. They found significant reductions in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (used as a marker of several disease states, including cancer, obesity, and metabolic syndrome). Although the palaeo diet was higher in cholesterol, it did not cause increased blood cholesterol of the subjects. The subjects ate far less calories on the paleo diet than they had prior to the start of the study.

In 2009 Frassetto et al investigated the effects of a palaeo diet on different outcome variables used to measure circulatory health, and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. The diet was controlled in that the researchers portioned out food and kept the calories constant to prevent the patients from losing weight. They wanted to see if the diet could be of benefit independently of the reduced body weight. The paleo diet REDUCED blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, without affecting HDL cholesterol. They also found that it improved results of an oral glucose tolerance test, as well as reducing diastolic blood pressure. These results are extremely impressive given the small size of the group (9) and the short length of the study.

In 2009 Jönsson et al. performed a study where patients with type-2 diabetes ate either a palaeolithic diet or a “diabetes diet” which was designed in accordance with current guidelines. This was a randomized cross-over study, which basically means that each participant consumed both diets, and the order in which they completed each trial was random. Thus some patients ate palaeo for 3 months, then were switched to the “diabetes diet” and vice versa. The conclusion of the study was that the palaeo diet significantly improved glycemic control as well as body weight, BMI, diastolic blood pressure, triacylglycerol, and raised HDL compared with the “diabetes diet”.

These studies were all small, pilot type studies. I imagine it is incredibly difficult to find funding for something that is so contrary to what has been en-grained in our minds for years. When someone speaks to me about heart health, I think oatmeal. This is not due to any sort of research that I have seen, but instead to this little icon:It says “As part of a heart healthy diet, the soluble fiber in oatmeal helps reduce cholesterol.” If it’s only the soluble fiber that makes oatmeal a heart healthy food, a person would actually be better off skipping the oatmeal and having a cup of blackberries for breakfast instead, as blackberries have nearly twice the soluble fiber of oatmeal. In fact, most fruits and vegetables are high in soluble fiber, so why does my brain instantly think of oatmeal when people start talking fiber?

For more information about the politics of food labeling, check out the amazingly awesome Marion Nestle’s website

For more information about the paleo diet, check out the site of Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD by clicking here

..and for an awesome community of people who are eating primal (similar to paleo, but with a few delicious differences) click on Mark Sission’s site here

References:

Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjostrom K, Ahren B. “A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease” Diabetologia, 50(9): 1795-807, Sep 2007.

Osterdahl M, Kocturk T, Koochek A, and Wandell PE. “Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62, 682-5; 2008.

Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, Morris Jr RC, and Sebastian A. “Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 63, 947-55; 2009.

Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahren B, Branell UC, Palsson G, Hansson A, Soderstrom M, and Lindeberg S. “Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetics: a randomized cross-over pilot study” Cardiovascular Diabetology. 8:35; 2009.

The Devil’s in the Details

I once owned a book called “When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse there is the Devil to Pay”. It’s a book about popular phrases born out of nautical terminology. On a wooden ship, the “devil” is the name of the longest seam in the hull. This seam (where the planks come together) was generally caulked with oakum and then sealed with “pay” (or pitch). No sailor wanted to be the one to pay the devil, because the job was incredibly grueling. It’s been years since I have worked on a ship, and I don’t associate the word ‘devil’ with caulking or manual labor anymore. When I think of the word “devil” I think about eggs.

Deviled eggs remind me of Easter with the extended family. It’s funny really, that we all gather to consume copious amounts of deviled foods on the day when we are supposed to be observing something “Godly”. Easter is a fusion holiday, where traditional Pagan celebrations of spring meet Christian celebrations of Christ’s resurrection. The mating of the two holidays has resulted, appropriately, in the annual appearance of our favorite fertility symbols: the fluffy-white, candy-carrying bunny, and the Easter egg. I’m not Wiccan, Christian, nor am I particularly fond of greeting card holiday, but who doesn’t love bunnies and candy? Why would anyone in their right mind deny themselves the opportunity to attend any celebration which features the decadent deviled egg?

While preparing these recipes, I got to wondering. Where does the phrase “the devil’s in the details” come from?

According to highly reliable Internet sources (because everyone knows that the Internet doesn’t lie) the statement was originally spoken as “God is in the details”. It was about the virtues of patience and being meticulous and thorough. These are qualities that I simply don’t possess in the kitchen. I love food too much to decorate with it. Every moment spent primping causes a low land flood in my salivary glands, and a crackling drought in my rumbling tummy. Pretty plating is agony for me, and most of the time I simply can’t be bothered. I get why the name changed to “the devils in the details” because details are often, in my opinion, a form of torture (I am sure Martha Stewart would disagree).

Here are a few versions of the appropriately named “deviled eggs”. I have not provided recipes, because these are purely meant to be inspirational (and I think they are pretty self explanatory). If you would like a specific recipe, leave a comment or send me an email and I will be happy to send it to you!

To hard-boil the eggs, cover eggs with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 min, then turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 10-12 min. Rinse with cold water and allow to cool before peeling.

 

You may notice that I have not used all the ingredients I have pictured here. Stay tuned for more “devil’s in the details” in the near future…

 

Wasabi and pickled ginger deviled eggs with scallion-pickled ginger garnish

(if you are a detail-oriented person, roll the pickled ginger into a rose shape and use the scallions as leaves)

 

Carrot and parsley deviled eggs with lemon zest

Christina’s favorites

 

Bacon and chive deviled eggs

mmmmmm bacon…

 

Western omellette style deviled eggs

Ham, spring onions, red peppers, green peppers..

 

Pictured together, six in a row, the little devils 😉

Cauliflower Roots Kiss Winter Goodbye

Cauliflower Roots Kiss Winter Goodbye Recipe

They weren’t the only voices of my childhood, but they were the ones that snowed the hardest and never melted.

Too small.

Afraid of the ball.

No endurance.

Underachiever.

“YOU are a MINIMILIST, that’s what you are!” he said.

“Mr. B, isn’t that an art movement?” I replied. I was in 9th grade and still a total smart-ass.

“Yes, but it applies to YOU” my bearded teacher boomed, while staring at me through glasses the color of pond water. They magnified the heavy bags which flopped under his eyes like the chops of a basset hound.

Naturally, I responded with an outward defensiveness and an inner rearrangement from self-pity to apathy. I have since learned that river of apathy is long and winding, and filled with buttery shores that simply refuse to give refuge to a soul for long. 

Like I said, those weren’t the only voices, just the ones I chose as my mantra. I was too afraid to try something and fail. Too afraid to find out that I wasn’t really an underachiever, but instead a total incompetent. What an absolute waste of time and energy.

It’s never too late.

Every day, more and more people are waking up to realize their true potential. With a resounding pound, awakened hearts fracture icy illusions. The subsequent circulating blood melts the snowy words which were used to build towers of misconception.

It’s time to kiss winter goodbye.

Winter Quinoa-Tabouli (with Asparagus)

I am heading over to Bachman’s today to give a cooking demonstration (yes, Bachman’s….the flower shop).

The event is sponsored by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, and is in honor of heart health awareness. There will be herb gardening demonstrations as well as cooking, so I am planning to make a few dishes using loads of fresh herbs. Here’s the recipe for one of them:

Winter Quinoa-Tabouli with Asparagus

You will need:

1 bunch asparagus

4-5 cloves garlic

1 bunch basil (or to taste)

a few sprigs thyme

a very small bunch of arugula (or to taste)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

2 cups water

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup rehydrated sundried tomatoes

2 tsp white wine vinegar

fresh ground pepper and lemon zest

Place quinoa and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 min. Spread quinoa out in a bowl or on a cookie sheet to cool.

Slice asparagus into small rounds. Pan fry in 1 Tbsp olive oil with the garlic (minced) (add a pinch of salt).

Chop herbs and sundried tomatoes.

Dress the salad with herbs, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon zest, pepper, and asparagus.

 

Thinking in Internet speak

There is no turning back.

The Internet has completely altered the way I think.

Literally

I used to have a holding tank somewhere in my brain, a place where curious inquiries could gather. They would mix about up there until such time as I happened upon a set of dusty, gold-lettered encyclopedias. Gone are the days of paging through Abraham Lincoln, Asteroid, and Architecture. Asylum can now be accessed directly through the tap-dancing click of my fingertips. That is, provided I don’t get distracted by Lindsay Lohan’s court outfit or the latest sneezing panda video (I wonder how many views it takes to get people to click on something just to find out why it is so popular?).

There is no need to hold my questions in anymore, no need to keep track of the answers to previous inquiries. I carry the internet with me everywhere I go, and when I feel the need to look for answers, I fire at will.

Weather Saint Paul?

Symptoms achilles tendonitis?

internal temp chicken legs?

food rationing world war 1?

Who invented peanut butter?

Why (copy paste: invented peanut butter)?

Treating the experience as though communing with a magic eight ball, when I happen upon an answer I don’t like, I just re-search.

Should I run with a cold?

If you get a cold, it is best to rest for a few days.

Backspace. Scan down. Click.

distance running can compromise your immune system and lengthen the time it takes to recover.

Backspace. Scan down. Click

As long as your symptoms are above the neck, go for it

refresh

It seems that even when away from my phone or my desk, I now think in searchable terms. For example, when I opened my closet door to find the cat rolling around in my sweaty running clothes, I didn’t think to myself  “How odd. I wonder why my cat is attracted to the smell of human sweat?”. Instead I thought “cat attracted human sweat?”.

Incidentally, the weather is currently 20 degrees and cloudy, the symptoms of achilles tendonitis are.. well.. pain in the achilles tendon (not sure what I expected with that one), the safest internal temp for cooking a chicken leg is 165, wheat, sugar, and meat were rationed during world war 1 to save the “good” nourishment for the soldiers (haha I wonder what we would consider “good” nourishment were we to ration food today?) and what Americans have come to know as peanut butter was invented by a doctor Ambrose Straub in the 1890’s. He was looking for a protein source for elderly people who struggled with eating meat due tooth loss. Interesting, because during the middle ages when people had notoriously bad teeth, the culinary solution was to cook meat into a soft, saucy stew that could be gummed down.

As for cats and human sweat? Rather than filter through pages of cat-lover websites, where humans post comments for their cats (with meows interjecting) and I decided that some mysteries are better left un-searched.

But if you want to know more, you know what to do.

La Luna

Coconut Shrimp and Broccoli with Macadamia nuts Recipe

“What do you mean you don’t see it? It’s right there!” Christina shouted through the phone. I was driving along the crunchy, iced-over roads. The cars in front of me rolled along slowly, a quiet steam pouring from their tailpipes into the crisp, blue morning. I frantically scanned the horizon. A gentle sloping hill covered with naked, wiry trees obscured my view to the North. To the West the road was littered with condos, houses, and the occasional strip mall. To the South was a river, topped by bridges, which were lit up like runway strips that sloped upwards. To the East was our towering city, the one we had just left behind.

We had parted ways in the elevator, briefcases in hand, freshly dressed in business attire. The phone call in the car was to continue a conversation which had been interrupted when a couple of residents two floors down, dressed in pajamas and winter coats, entered the elevator.

“Beautiful dog” Christina said, to the woman who was tethered to the small jacketed terrier.

“Thanks” the woman said, flashing an obligatory smile which caused her puffy, morning-eyes to squint closed. Her hair looked exhausted from what must have been an all night wrestling match with her pillow. The young man fidgeted with his pack of cigarettes, and brandished a ceramic mug of what smelled like hazelnut-flavored coffee. When the elevator reached the first floor, Christina left with the two of them. I continued on to the basement where I entered my chili car, and exited the parking garage.

By the time I had hit the first stop light, my phone began to vibrate.

I pushed the talk button. “Elevators are so awkward” I said to Christina immediately, skipping the part of the conversation where pleasantries are exchanged.

“I know” she replied, and we continued our conversation about this and that until..

“OH MY GOD” she said.

“What?” I replied.

“That is UNBELIEVABLE”

“What? What?” I pleaded.

“It looks so REAL”

“What does, tell me!!” I was beginning to get agitated.

“It’s like I could touch it, right here”

I rolled my eyes. Clearly she had forgotten about me. “TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT” I demanded.

“THE MOOOOOON” she cooed. She sounded like she was in a trance. I was reminded about the long list of facebook posts from the night before.

check out the moon’,

beautiful sky‘, and

la luna‘ people had posted.

Some had just written flowery poetry, or quotes about nature and her majesty. People were checking in from all over the map to share their moon fever. I remembered that even my mother had taken a moment to mention the moon when she had called from New Jersey the night before.

“It’s just so incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it!!” Christina continued, she was more speaking to herself at this point, as clearly she had left the planet and was now in full orbit around what I imagined to be an orange globe of pure beauty.

“I WANT TO SEE IT, WHERE IS IT!!!” I shouted, as though it were somehow her fault that the drive between our home and my work required going straight through a valley.

“IT’S RIGHT THERE!!” She replied, equally frustrated with me. “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE IT??”

“I don’t see it!”

“What do you mean you don’t see it? It’s right there!!”

I started to laugh. I was reminded of this quote:

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo. You might say,

“the world outside is vast and intricate. There are wheat fields and mountain passes, and orchards in bloom. At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding”

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer.

“There is no other world. I only know what I’ve experienced. You must be hallucinating.” -Rumi

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