‘Tis the season…

For apples!

Is everyone where you live going crazy with apples? Maybe its just a Washington thing, but there are apples EVERYWHERE. John Mark and I shop at Costco mostly (its the most economical way to eat Primal- seriously, we go through a LOT of fresh food in a week), and what was once a diverse fruit aisle of peaches and pears and oranges and pineapples and clementines has been overtaken by apples of every color and variety you can imagine.

So you know what that means, right?

Its time to make Primal apple butter!

Apple butter is one of  those foods of my childhood that I cherish because we would only get it about once a year when the family would go to Beasley’s orchard to pick apples and pumpkins and listen to bluegrass bands. Apple butter is actually dead easy to make, and is also a convenient gift for those upcoming $15 or under Christmas gift exchanges you have for work and church and school and family (that is, if you don’t gobble it all before the holidays). Can the apple butter, tie a pretty bow around it, and voila! you have a gift that anyone can enjoy.

For us Primalers, we have to get a little creative with our use of apple butter considering that the traditional apple-butter-on-toast option is out. I wholly recommend the eat-it-straight-of-out-the-jar method, but if you are more refined than I am, try spreading it over your morning sausage or bacon (Seriously, try it. It’ll blow your mind.) or using it as a glaze for pork chops. I also want to try baking it with some nuts and flaked coconut or adding a dallop to some chai tea with almond milk. I’ll let you know how those go.

I’m certainly open to more suggestions.

Below is my own modified Primal apple butter recipe, but feel free to experiment with the measurements. Remember though, when the apple butter is whispering your name seductively from the fridge, and you are debating between eating it with the gigantor spoon or the normal dinner spoon, Primal apple butter still has a lot of sugar and would fit more in the “sensible indulgences” category. Devour responsibly.

Primal Apple Butter

Yields 3 full pint-sized mason jars

12 apples in a mixed variety (I used Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith. I prefer to cook with tart apples because I think the end product comes out brighter and sparklier on your tongue. If you like Red or Golden Delicious or Jonathan apples, think about using at least one tart apple variety to keep the butter from turning out dull.)

2/3 to 1 cup of honey, depending on the size of your apples and your desired sweetness

1 Tbs cinnamon

1/2 Tbs nutmeg (or a little more, if you’re feeling spicy)

a few cranks of sea salt from the grinder

Crock Pot

Peel and chop apples. Mix apples, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl until evenly coated. Cook mixture in crock pot on high for 1 hour, then let the mixture cook on low for another 8-9 hours, stirring occasionally. Puree apples with an immersion blender or in an upright blender.

Sometime in that 8-9 hours, check out this tutorial on how to can so you know what to do when the apple butter is ready. (Disclaimer: I read through this in a while, so if its silly or offensive… my apologies).

Enjoy! And don’t forget to share!

 

Fall Favorites

And, we’re back!

I have been planning on creating a whole series of posts on my favorite fall foods for a while now. But then life happened. Somehow we got busy. We took a trip to Oregon to speak for Rapha House, which took prep time, travel time, and recovery time. Eating primal and learning to be healthier is just kind of what we do now, to the point where I forgot to share the fun.

What you really need to know is that I love fall. I love the crisp air and sweaters and scarves and boots and mountains dotted with color. Seattle, despite the darkness that has now taken over our evenings and the morning mist that has taken over our commute to work, is beautiful in the fall. The Emerald City shows its true colors, and it turns out that they are deep red and flaming orange and sunshine yellow. The last few falls in Missouri had been a sad, drab brown, with leaves so dry and pruney it seemed they should shatter when they fell to the ground. Needless to say, fall in Washington has been a nice change of pace.

Oh, and did I mention all the fabulous seasonal fruits and veggies that come with the changing of the seasons? Squash and pumpkin and zucchini, and don’t forget apples… I mean, we live in Washington, and these people don’t mess around with their apples. Below are links to some of my favorite fall recipes. Most of them are Primal, or can easily tweaked to be so, but are delicious for even the non-Primallers amongst us.

[All photos taken from their respective websites!]

Butternut Squash Soup

I.LOVE.THIS.SOUP. I use the recipe from Joy the Baker, but substitute a small butternut squash (peeled and cut into small cubes) for the carrots, and then estimate by smell how much ginger and garlic to add. The creaminess of the butternut squash contrasts with the tartness of the apples (I use Granny Smith) for a little soup party in your mouth. Seriously, go make this soup.

If you want something a little less involved (not that this soup is all that involved, really),  try butternut squash all by itself! Cut the butternut squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Once the flesh is soft, spoon it out into a bowl and mash it with some butter and salt. Yuuummmmm! Plus, butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A without the glycemic load of citrus fruits, making it a great, natural way to fight off the fall cold and flu.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’ve already admitted my love for the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Its like autumn in a cup, and on the often dreary Seattle mornings (okay, on any Seattle morning), autumn in a cup sounds like just the thing to lift my spirits. But the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks has about as much sugar as a candy bar, which means bad news for my focus for the rest of the day. For this recipe, I used almond milk, for no other reason than that’s what I like, and homemade pumpkin puree (which can be made so easily using the same method as roasting the butternut squash and then pureeing everything but the rind and seeds). This recipe isn’t quite as sweet as a drink from Starbucks, but still oh-so-tasty. I would highly recommend making a large batch of this stuff!

Ratatouille

Who doesn’t love the Disney flick Ratatouille right? Well, the actual dish is just as delightful as the movie. Julie and I made this last night as a side dish paired with steak and chicken, but it can be made as a stand-alone entree if you aren’t as carnivorous as we are. And isn’t it pretty? Its icing on the cake when your food can be delicious, nutritious, AND pretty!

Baked Apples

Another Joy the Baker recipe. I love her blog. I love her food. Really, I’d say that I just love her, but that might be creepy. Most of her recipes are baked delicacies that I can no longer have, but then there are the occasional treats that can easily be modified for a Primal diet….like these roasted apples. Try honey or pure maple syrup, and in a smaller quantity, instead of the brown sugar for a guilt-free treat. Maybe hold off on the ice cream, too.

Squash or Sweet Potato Latkes

Does anyone else love potato hashbrowns, or is it just me? One of the hardest things for me to give up was white potatoes, partially because, well, I make some mean oven fries and crispy hashbrowns. A more nutritious substitute would be to fry zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes in olive or coconut oil: the produce a similar crispy, friedness without all the starch. One tip: he’s not kidding when he says get ALL of the water you can out of your shredded vegetables. Trust me.

Happy Fall!

The Truth About Yogurt

I’ll admit it- I have personal vendetta against yogurt. Yogurt is sneaky, and you know that I don’t like to be duped.

You may have heard my rant before, but I feel the need to share it again because of the Biggest Loser’s frustrating (and ridiculously cheesy) in-show promotion of Yoplait yogurt as a healthy snack alternative.

Despite what all the advertisements in Real Simple say, despite what the Biggest Loser may approve, fruit yogurt is not a healthy snack alternative. I know it comes in those convenient little plastic cups and in flavors like apple turnover and red velvet cake that make your taste buds dance. I know that that thick, creamy spoonful is like balm to the souls of those of us with texture issues. I know that your kids will gobble it up without complaint and its easy to chuck into a lunchbox on your way out the door.

As an ex-lover of yogurt, I know. It looks like the perfect, weight-loss snack. But have you ever stopped to look at the labels on those individual-sized yogurt containers? If you get the garden-variety yogurt, chances are it will contain as much sugar as a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. If you get the non-fat, 80 calorie kind, eat two of them and you’ve consumed the sugar equivalent of a Snicker’s bar. Even organic or Greek yogurts that have sweet varieties contain almost as much sugar as their more commercial counterparts. We try to stay away from those check out line candy confections, and we certainly don’t want our children to have them, but fruit yogurt, though containing more essential nutrients than a candy bar, is certainly not the best alternative to a candy craving.

What about the additives that have to be injected into the stuff to make it taste so delectable or have so few calories? Seriously, is no one else a little suspicious what they have to put into those things to make them only 80 calories (or for that matter, any “low-fat” food that does not occur that way on its own)? How do they get yogurt to taste like red velvet cake without actually using any of the ingredients of cake? And where are the fruit pieces in flavors like “apple turnover” or “blackberry cobbler”?

There is also the issue of probiotics, which I admittedly don’t fully understand because when it comes to digestion issues, let’s just say that I’ve never had a problem keeping the pipes a-flowin’. My body has generally done pretty well in that area. BUT, I can say, that that contents of your everyday fruit yogurt cup has had the bajeezes pasteurized out of it, so there’s not going to be a whole lot of probiotics left. There are much more natural, nutritional ways to help digestion (I was about to say something snarky here, as if this post doesn’t have enough snark to go around.)

[After all of that, I must once again announce my supreme disappointment in the Biggest Loser. Do you really think Bob Harper sits around eating Danimals or Gogurt in flavors like Key Lime Pie and Triple Berry Torte? Candy bars aren’t going to make these contestants lose weight, and neither will yogurt packed with sugar and preservatives.]

Moral of the story: READ THE NUTRITION LABELS! Don’t believe everything that the Biggest Loser or Real Simple Magazine or the television commercials tell you. Those nutrition labels don’t lie and you have a brain- believe those instead.

 

We made it!

We did it! Sunday marked the end of our first 30 primal days. I wanted to write a celebratory post on Monday, but I called in sick to work and spent most of the day on the couch watching Modern Family. Yesterday I intended to sit down and ponder the past month, the ups, the downs, and how profoundly this diet has effected us. Obviously, I did neither of those things.

The truth: there’s not a whole lot more to tell. Eating Primal (or Primally? I was never good with adverbs) is just what we do now. The idea of going back to how we ate before, to how tired I felt all the time, to the constant illness- it’s just not something that even registers in my brain. We finished 30 days, which is an exciting accomplishment, but we have no desire to change now that the 30-day experiment is over. Its my hope that Day 30 will look the same as Day 130 or 1,030.

We still have so very much to learn, and I’m excited to keep exploring this lifestyle. And yes, just because the 30-Days is up doesn’t mean that I will stop bombarding you poor, innocent readers with everything I’m finding.

So, onward ahead we go, Day 30 behind us and so much more ahead.

Going Primal Day 29: Grilled peaches

I don’t feel so well today. It’s a girl thing.

So, I will keep it short and sweet with our new favorite dessert: grilled peaches.

I’m not sure it even constitutes as a recipe, it’s that easy. But here goes:

Cut your peaches in half ad remove the pit.

Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or pumpkin pie spice. Pat the spices into the peach so it doesn’t fall off into the grill.

Place peaches cut-side down onto a hot grill. Heat for 4-5 minutes until there are grill marks and the peach is warmed to your satisfaction.

Enjoy!

If you are feeling extra fancy, you can pair them with raspberries or whip up some coconut cream as a topping:

You can buy canned coconut milk at any grocery store in the Asian foods section. Don’t shake it- the coconut milk will naturally separate with the cream on the top and the milky coconut water at the bottom.

Put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator the morning you want to grill, or if you are forgetful like me, put the can in the freezer for a while (just make sure you don’t leave it too long…. I’ve done that too).

When you are ready to make the whipped cream, open the can and scoop out the cream on the top. It will look like this:

(That’s not my hand. I poached the it from the internet, like I do most of the photos on this blog. I mean, if you want to send me a fabulous new camera, I would happily take my own pictures!)

Whip the coconut cream with a hand mixer for a few minutes and voila!- dairy-free whipped cream!

(PS- you can whip in melted dark chocolate or vanilla extract to the cream, put it back in the refrigerator, and it will set up like mousse!)

Happy grilling, whipping, and mousse-ing!

Going Primal Day 28: Juice and Dried Fruit

So, we’ve talked about sugar. And carbs. And insulin. We’ve talked about how berries, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, and grapefruits are better fruit choices than melons, mangoes, papayas, and citrus fruits.

What else is there to learn, really?

Well, just like not all fruit is created equal, fruit comes to us in lots of different forms that are not created equal either. Just because dried fruit and fruit juice can be created from the “good fruit” list does not necessarily make them the best snack choices.

Dried Fruit

The good thing about dried fruit is that the drying process only takes out the water content of the fruit, leaving behind plenty of fiber and nutrients. The bad thing about dried fruit is that the drying process takes out all the water, leaving behind plenty of sugar and a much smaller snack than its fresh original. It is very easy to eat double or even triple the amount of dried fruit than you would fresh fruit, which also means you are then ingesting double and triple the amount of sugar.

On top of that, many dried fruits have added, processed sugars to make them even tastier. Dried berries seem to be the worst culprits here, so ALWAYS read the nutrition and ingredient labels before buying a bag of your favorite dried fruit. I have found some pretty delightful dried cherries at Trader Joe’s and dried apricots at Costco that don’t have added sugar; I don’t frequent Whole Foods often because of their prices, but I’m sure they do too.

Fruit Juice

On the other end of the spectrum, we have fruit juice. Fruit juice, like its dried counterpart, still has lots of vitamins but maintains the water content of the fruit. However, in juicing, you lose the fiber from the “meat” of the fruit which aids in digestion and helps stabilize insulin levels. Mark Sisson says it best: “Juice is not fruit. That is like saying broth is chicken.” They just aren’t the same. Unfortunately, even when you are 100% drinking fruit juice, not some dyed and sugared “juice drink”, its essentially just vitamin enriched sugar water. (Note: I’m just talking about juice fruits, not juicing vegetables. That’s a whole other Primal pool of knowledge that I have yet to dive into.)

If you really love juice, like my husband does, a better alternative would be to either make a home-made fruit smoothie  or find a 100% fruit smoothie at the grocery that is made from fruit puree instead of fruit juice or concentrate. Fruit smoothies don’t have the same thin, smooth texture, but it will allow you to drink your fruit instead of eating it, if that’s your thing. We have been buying Naked brand fruit smoothies in “Blue Machine” flavor.

While Naked smoothies have a much higher fiber content than juice (about 30% of your daily needs in an 8oz serving), they still have a high sugar content (I mean, that same 8-oz serving of Blue Machine has 14 blueberries, a blackberry, over one full apple, and half a banana!), so it should still be drank in moderation, or perhaps how John Mark does it, one swig or two straight from the jug a day 🙂

Tomorrow: Primal fruit recipes!

Going Primal Day 27: Good Fruits and Not-As-Good Fruits

To recap from yesterday:

We learned that insulin is produced when we eat carbs, and too much insulin makes us feel yucky (that’s a very technical term) and creates excess fat. Fruits can have lots of carbs, and thus too much fruit creates too much insulin and can make us feel yucky and fat.

But wait! Not all fruits are not created equal, so there is no need to despair yet. Different fruits have differing levels of sugar, carbs, fiber, and antioxidants, which make some fruits better for you than others. Judging fruits can get pretty technical with counting carbs and glycemic index/glycemic load numbers, but my brain still hurts from yesterday. So, moral of the story: some fruits you can eat more of, and some fruits you should treat as well…. a treat. The following is as practical a guide to fruits as I can make.

First, good fruits:

Berries

Who doesn’t love berries, really? Strawberries, blackberries, blue berries, raspberries, and all those other random berries that no one really knows about are low in carbs, but high in fiber and antioxidants. Cherries basically fit into this category well. If you have any of the same budget restrictions that we do, you may be thinking “Yeah, but they’re ridiculously expensive!” My advice: buy berries in bulk and freeze whatever you don’t think you can eat before they spoil. Frozen berries make great smoothies!

Apples

Apples are lower in sugar and have an average amount of fiber. However, apples + almond butter = heaven.

Peaches

These fuzzy fruits are probably my absolute favorite of any on the list, good or otherwise. We tried grilling peaches last night (literally throwing them on the grill for about 4-5 minutes), and pairing them with whipped vanilla coconut cream and raspberries. SOOOOOOO GOOD. I might like grilled peaches better than brownies. However, stay away from their bald counterpart, the nectarine, which is higher in sugar ad lower in fiber.

Other notable mentions: grapefruit, figs, apricots, and plums.

Now to the fruits that require exercising a little restraint. You can certainly still eat these fruits and they have nutritional benefit, but consider eating them less frequently, pairing them with high fat foods like a nut butter, and/or doing something active to help use up the excess carbs.

Melons

Melons have a lot of water, but also have a lot of sugar. Watermelons are a great summer-time treat, but should stay just that- a treat.

Citrus Fruits

Yay Vitamin C! Boo high sugar content. Grapefruits don’t count here; they have less sugar than oranges or tangerines and have less effect on your bloodsugar than apples. Using a few tablespoons of lemon or lime in a recipe is perfectly acceptable.

Mangoes, Papayas, and Pineapple

Same old story…. sugar is always the culprit. If you are looking for something to sweeten up a smoothie, a banana is a better choice, though still should be eaten in moderation, meaning don’t eat three bananas a day. (I could eat a banana for every meal of the day, so this one is tough!)

The jury is still out on grapes– but I will make it my mission to figure that out.

Tomorrow: Dried Fruits and Juice!