"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recipe: Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)

I love Indian food-- it's my absolute favorite cuisine, and there are plenty of Paleo/Primal options for both cooking and ordering it in restaurants (just skip the rice, starches, legumes, and anything fried). I was really excited to see recipes for butter chicken (murgh makhani) in quite a few different Paleo/Primal cookbooks-- there's one in Everyday Paleo, one in The Paleo Recipe Book, and one in The Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook too. So instead of following just one, I took bits from all three and added things of my own to create the following recipe!

Ingredients (serves 6):
-5 pounds chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
-2 onions, diced
-12 ounces tomato paste
-1 can coconut milk
-1 tsp cardamom powder
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp coriander
-1 tsp cumin
-2 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp ginger
-1 tsp paprika
-6-8 tbsp butter (or ghee)
-unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Heat some butter in a large skillet (on medium heat) and sauté onions. Add in spices.

2. Pour in the tomato paste and coconut milk and stir well so it becomes a thick sauce-- this step might take awhile! It looks really weird at first, but then turns into that beautiful red/orange color.

3. Add in the chicken, stir well, then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes (or until cooked) on medium-low heat.

4. Add in more butter and coconut flakes (any amount you want-- I love coconut, so I put a lot) and mix well into sauce.

5. Serve either by itself or over any type of veggie-- I used green leaf lettuce tonight, but anything would work well! I also sprinkled additional coconut flakes over mine too. Enjoy!

Quote of the Day:
"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." -Julia Child

(This post is featured in Primal Cave # 5.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Look Into Conventional Wisdom (and why you shouldn't listen to it)

The more I become interested in evolutionary nutrition and health, the more Conventional Wisdom angers me. I read a lot of health/nutrition websites, and I'm so sick and tired of people preaching about "healthy" foods that are actually aiding to the issues. If these foods are so "healthy," then why are people getting sicker and sicker? Why is nothing changing? Why are health care costs astronomical and why are more people obese than ever before?

I read an article recently about people wanting to retire Ronald McDonald (*rolls eyes*) which said, "And the government is getting strict on marketing unhealthy food to children." Really!? Really? The government's pushing "low fat" and "heart-healthy whole grains" and all of that other crap. In fact, in the government's newest campaign, the Food Pyramid is becoming..... wait for it..... a PIE chart! Well isn't that ironic? It'll be unveiled on Thursday, but apparently "it consists of four colored sections, for fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein... Beside the plate is a smaller circle for dairy, suggesting a glass of low-fat milk or perhaps a yogurt cup." I think it's great that fruits and veggies will make up half of the circle, but grains? Low-fat milk? This pie/pizza chart will not help Michelle Obama's "crusade against obesity," and will certainly not help people become healthier. "Low-fat" products are almost always pumped with added sugar, and it has been proven that fat does not make you fat. (Mark Sisson has a great article about it here and here's another great MDA article about it too. This article over at Paleo Diet Lifestyle also gives a great breakdown of Paleo-approved fats.) And grains? In the words of Sisson, "There is absolutely no reason to eat grains." Hell, it was because our hunter-gatherer ancestors settled down and figured out agriculture 10,000 years that people aren't as strong, tall, lean, or healthy as they once were. Eat green leafy vegetables for fiber instead-- we know that those don't make people unhealthy!

The most ridiculous thing I've read lately is Diet-Friendly Ballpark Snacks over at Fitbie.com (a site I've blogged about before due to its ridiculous nutrition advice). Instead of snacking on ice cream, they suggest getting a snow cone instead because "It's mostly ice and actually provides a little extra hydration." Seriously? Just buy a water if you're dehydrated and save the 62.92g of carbs! Instead of buying nachos, they recommend buying a pretzel instead, but picking off the salt crystals.... but then goes on to admit that a "plain salted pretzel isn't the healthiest pick, but it's the lesser of two food evils." Same thing goes for choosing cracker jacks over cotton candy because "they're still a vast improvement over the cotton candy." This is exactly why people are so confused-- they're saying it's unhealthy, but telling them that because it's a "lesser of two food evils," it's still okay? It's really no wonder why people don't know how to make the right choices: these so-called helpful diet articles are just a load of BS! How about telling them Eat before you go to the game so you don't have to A) Eat unhealthily and B) Waste your money on outrageously-priced ballpark food instead? Wouldn't that be a lot better than giving out conflicting information?

We are a nation of confused, conflicted, and sickly people who have too much information coming at us from all sides by CW-believing doctors, nutritionists, and governments. The conflicting information-- "Fat is bad! Now meat is bad! Oh, wait, now calories are bad!"-- jams people up so much that they just give up and continue to be sickly. So don't give up and do your research: grains, sugar, low-fat "products," and processed anything are evil. Do not be uninformed and listen blindly to them. Knowledge is power... and who doesn't want to have power over their own bodies? So, besides the Paleo books that I reference all the time, I have three books that I think everyone should read:
1) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price. This should be required reading for all doctors, dentists, nutritionists, and, actually, everyone in general. Price, a dentist, found back in the 1930s that sugar and the Western diet were destroying healthy societies by examining their teeth. It's a fascinating and incredibly informational work on both the nutritional and anthropological levels.
2) The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller. Like Price, she examines the diets of hunter-gatherers and shows how the Western Diet (and the SAD) is the cause of our sickly modern societies.
3) Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. This is an absolute must-read. He explains exactly what it says in the title: why we get fat, and what to do about it. He takes a very Paleo-like approach to nutrition and also reminds you that fat does not make you fat. (He also recently wrote an article for the New York Times, "Is Sugar Toxic?", which is also worth reading.)

I know this was a bit of a rant, but the evidence is there: the guidelines put forth by the government and advice by other Conventional Wisdom followers will continue to make people sick and obese. I know I can't change what's going on out there, but if I can just help one person turn to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, then this blog will have been a success. Actually, two or three people would be even better-- if you've ever seen the movie Pay It Forward, you can do a lot by reaching out to three people. Haley Joel Osment's character has an idea to change the world for a school project and says something along the lines of, "I'm going to help three people. And each of those three people will help three people, so now that's twelve people..." and explains how quickly that could multiply. So if this blog-- or any of the other Paleo/Primal blogs, books, or articles-- helps you achieve your health goals, then tell three people and hope that they'll keep passing it on until we no longer have obesity and health crises on our hands.

Cooking from Everyday Paleo:
Rockin' Moroccan Chicken!

Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Quote of the Day:
"An examination of 320 teeth of ten individuals revealed twenty teeth with caries, or 6.3 percent. It is significant that all of these carious teeth were in the mouth of one individual, the cook. The cook used European foods. The others all boarded themselves and lived on native diets." -Weston A. Price

(This post is featured in Primal Cave #4.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recipes: Chicken Marsala and Balsamic Roast Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

I decided before the end of the semester that I was going to do a lot of cooking this summer. I've realized over the last six months or so that cooking is something that I really enjoy, and it's nice to know exactly which ingredients are being used in my food. I also have quite a few Paleo/Primal recipe books now, so there are so many options for any meal or occasion. So far, I've made two recipes from said books: chicken Marsala from The Paleo Diet Cookbook and balsamic roast chicken with cherry tomatoes from The Paleo Recipe Book. Both were quite delicious, and I look forward to trying other recipes soon. I also highly encourage you to buy both books, because the recipes and other information given are fantastic.

Balsamic roast chicken with cherry tomatoes:
This recipe was so delicious, and I will most certainly be making it again! I adapted the recipe from a book a bit-- I used chicken cutlets, rather than chicken breasts, and kind of made up the amounts for each of the ingredients to try and match the amount of chicken I had. So here's the general recipe I used:

-8 thinly sliced chicken cutlets
-1 lb cherry tomatoes
-1 cup balsamic vinegar
-2 tbsp mustard
-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-2 cloves of minced garlic
-Sea salt and black pepper to taste
-For the tomatoes:
-Olive oil
-Sea salt and black pepper
-fresh parsley, chopped
-lemon zest
-lemon juice

1. Combine marinade ingredients. Place chicken in marinade and refrigerate for 4 hours.

2. Lightly cover the tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, then add sea salt and pepper. Mix well.

3. Preheat oven to 400º. Place chicken (in marinade) in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Add in tomatoes and bake for another 10 minutes.

4. Combine topping ingredients in a bowl. (I don't remember how much I used... I just kind of threw everything together, so adjust this step to how much parsley or lemon you like...)

5. When the chicken is ready, pour parsley/lemon mixture on top and enjoy!

Paleo Chicken Marsala:
This definitely wasn't like any chicken Marsala I've ever had before-- the oregano gave it a very distinct flavor and made it taste more like a "chicken with mushrooms" dish, rather than "chicken Marsala." It was still really good, though, and I recommend trying it. We added onions to the mushroom mixture instead of shallots, and made some other modifications as well (I took pictures as an after-thought and hadn't thought to really blog about it, so I can't remember the exact recipe we used). But here's the general recipe:

-8 chicken breasts
-Extra virgin olive oil
-For Marsala sauce:
-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-3 cups mushrooms
-1 onion, chopped
-1 cup Marsala wine
-1 cup chicken broth

1. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet and cook chicken breasts for ten minutes, turning once halfway through. When cooked, remove and cover with foil.
2. Cook mushrooms in a pan for five minutes, stir in onion, and pour in Marsala wine and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for twenty minutes.
3. Place chicken back in skillet and cook for five more minutes. Add mushroom mixture and oregano, and enjoy!


Quote of the Day:
"I don't like gourment cooking or 'this' cooking or 'that' cooking. I like good cooking." -James Beard

(This post is featured in Primal Cave #3.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sweetgreen: Perfect for Paleo!

A few weeks ago, a new fast-casual restaurant opened up on campus: Sweetgreen. This chain first opened in 2007 and has multiple locations in Washington, D.C. (where it originated), Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They use only fresh, local, organic, and in-season ingredients, and their proteins are free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and all-natural.

With only a few days left in Philly for the semester, I decided to try it tonight... and I'm so glad I did. The restaurant was very bright and open; the decor was modern and nature-based, with a lot of bright green and trees on the walls; the servers were so friendly and upbeat; and the variety of Paleo-approved ingredients was amazing. Primarily a salad restaurant (though you can get wraps, fro-yo, and soup as well), I had a feeling that I was going to love this place.

I decided to go for the "make-your-own" salad, and got baby spinach with hearts of palm, avocado, roasted chicken, hard-boiled egg, bacon, strawberries, and toasted almonds with extra virgin olive oil. For the avocado, they actually scoop it out in front of you; for the hard-boiled egg, they slice one up right there. The price for such fresh and healthy ingredients was extremely reasonable, especially given the size and awesome taste of the salad. Combined with great service and a hip, inviting atmosphere, I will definitely be eating there again! So if you're in an area with a Sweetgreen, I highly recommend it-- it doesn't get much more Paleo than 100% real, natural ingredients!

Quote of the Day:
"We believe we are all put on the planet with the potential to use our talents to make a difference, even if that difference is just a few extra smiles a day on the faces of our friends. No man is an island. We recognize and celebrate our connections." -Sweetgreen's philosophy

(This post entered in Primal Cave Friday #2.)