Monday, April 30, 2012

On Dietary Ecumenism

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
via the Dutch National Archive.
I've come to a conclusion after nearly two years of a paleo-style diet. I don't care if you are vegan, vegetarian, Muslim, a keeping-kosher Jew, someone with food aversions, someone with food allergies, a pescatarian, a fruitarian, a raw foodist, or someone who has sworn to never eat fat again as long as you live.

If I have invited you to dinner and you have dietary restrictions - and I don't care whether those restrictions are medically necessitated, religiously necessitated, you simply trying to do better in how you eat, or otherwise! - I will make. it. work.

I'm dead serious. No matter what your eating style, there is enough overlap between what you enjoy and what our family enjoys that I will figure out what those foods are, and I will make a menu that we can all enjoy, so when the occasion arrives, the focus is not overwhelmingly on the food, but more on savoring our time spent together.

One way I might do this is my favorite and most flexible ecumenical meal of all: DIY taco night.

If you're vegan or vegetarian, I will get some sprouted corn tortillas from Whole Foods, and perhaps soak ahead some beans to make beans and white rice - and I'll serve alongside a wide variety of veggies, and maybe (if you don't object) our family's cooked carnitas or shredded chicken.

If your religion has you fasting or abstaining from certain foods, I'll do a little Googling myself to get a ballpark understanding, and then I'll confirm with you which taco fillings and toppings you'll enjoy.

If you avoid pork, I'll avoid carnitas that night and use ground beef or shredded chicken instead.

If you are lactose intolerant or casein free, I'll see that dairy stays out of the mix.

If you're doing the GAPS diet or SCD diet, I'll do everything in my power to ensure that you have ingredients and dishes to enjoy based on the allowable food lists and where you are in those diets.

If you've recently announced you're Dukan-ing, I won't blink an eye if you want to only eat the meat and greens on offer.

If you're doing some kind of juice detox and you only want to bring and sip your juice, I don't care, as long as you come!

I. don't. care. how. or. what. you. eat. My interest in you and my affection for you goes so much deeper than that! I will do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable and welcomed in my home - and part of that will involve home cooked meal that we all can enjoy.

Why is this? Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) When you are a guest in my home, my main mission as a hostess is uncoupling you from your burdens and worries - to give you comfort, to give you laughter, to let you relax and be yourself.

I am also required of Scripture not to cause my brothers and sisters to stumble (1 Corinthians 8). If you have arrived at dietary restrictions, I know that you did not do so lightly, and have done so based on any combination of reasons, including health, digestive comfort, and personal convictions. While society is not kind or accommodating on the whole to anyone who dares to eat differently from the norm, I want our home to be different for you - to show that you can freely enjoy an evening with us without worrying about compromising your eating habits.

Finally, 1 Peter says, "Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." As I offer grace through flexible hospitality, I hope it might in a very small measure reflect the grace that God has lavished on me!

This post is dedicated to my mom and my mother-in-law, who have always patiently and graciously hosted  us (and, since 2010, our paleo quirks, too).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Accidentally Deleted Comment

Admin note: A commenter had left a comment on "On Seizing Our Chance", describing his/her own struggles with getting motivated to Crossfit. I tried to hit "publish" for this comment, only for my fat fingertip to accidentally hit "delete" on my smartphone's tiny screen. That's what I get for trying to publish comments from a teeny interface!

If this commenter was you, please feel free to resubmit (because unfortunately it would appear that I have no way of retrieving deleted comments!). I'm sorry for the inconvenience!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Seizing Our Chance

Source: Library of Congress, via Flickr Creative Commons
Sometimes, when my alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m., I can almost feel the warm comforter grow and wrap even more tightly around me.

But then it strikes me: This is my only chance.

My one and only chance to find that endorphin high that makes getting through the rest of the morning a little easier.

My only chance to greet my friends, to have a humanity-restoring dose - however brief - of community.

I see it in my fellow Crossfitters' eyes, too.

In my fellow Crossfitting moms' eyes: This is my only chance to work on me before everyone else's needs take over.

In the eyes of those of us who were poster children for participation trophies: This is my chance to be an athlete!

In the eyes of my Crossfitting friends who won't let a bum knee, or quirky shoulders, or even a prosthetic leg stop them from showing up: Today's my chance to work on everything else!

Under those unforgiving fluorescent lights in the early morning hours, we all lay waste to our potential excuses, clinging instead to the hope that the sweat and the reps drum back into our souls as we seize our chance.

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Extreme Couponing, and the One-Dimensionality of My Stewardship

A few years ago, from 2008 to 2010, I was an avid couponer. In some cases, when I was really on fire, you could have called me an extreme couponer. My basement shelves were full of cereal I had bought for pennies on the dollar, not to mention cake and cookie mixes and frostings. I also had huge stockpiles of various and sundry granola bars, candy (usually from CVS couponing), cereals, and Pop Tarts.

One of my old 2009 hauls from a double/triple coupon run.

Due to some double and triple coupon specials at a few local grocery stores, I was regularly scoring certain food items (especially BBQ sauces and salad dressings) for free, and I even had a few grocery runs where I bought in excess of $100 worth of merchandise for around $30.

Yes, I thought to myself, rather smugly at times, I am being a good steward! There was something that creeping up on me, though, rather uneasily. I was feeling bloated, definitely in the worst shape of my life. I was always hungry. I was perpetually cranky and had uneven moods.

As it turns out, I was only being an OK steward on exactly one axis - money-saving. But as I've found in some very humbling ways, being a good steward of what I've been granted does not mean being as shrewd as possible in only one dimension - of money. Squandering away my health and my body for the sake of us making a cheap or free breakfast out of processed carbs was not working out. I had to see my body and my health as other resources I'd been granted, and once that realization snapped into place, I've come to see stewardship as a multidimensional phenomenon, one that I am always trying to bring a little more into balance across its various axes. I definitely don't believe that I've nailed down this stewardship thing, not by a very long shot!

I do think it is still possible to save well with coupons on natural and organic items, including whole foods. But it takes a different kind of strategy, and a different knowledge set of the sellers - farms, markets, grocery stores, online vendors and other whole foods purveyors. And sometimes, the best deal just won't be found, and in those times I've often had to chalk up the higher expense to an investment in one of my other stewarded resources of health and a strong body.

What nonmonetary resources have you come to better value and steward over the years?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Paleo Parents' Eat Like A Dinosaur: Fast, Simple Recipes for the Whole Family

I spent some time Friday working on recipes from the Paleo Parents' Eat Like a Dinosaur. I try to get my hands dirty in the kitchen with a few recipes before reviewing a cookbook, and with this particular cookbook selecting just a few of the delicious-looking recipes (given my limited chunk of time) was quite a challenge!

For my cooking session, I made Chou Vert (stir fried green cabbage with cilantro), Mock-A-Mole (a quick rendition of guacamole featuring avocado and salsa), Black Olive Tapenade (a tasty blend including olives and raw walnuts), and the Zucchini Latkes.

My favorite of this group of recipes was the tapenade. Since kalamata olives were the only glass-jarred no-preservative olives I had available during my grocery shopping trip, I subbed them for the black olives, and in my opinion the recipe was not negatively impacted at all by this switch. The flavor was ultra savory - and my girls enjoyed very much. The tapenade was quick to be thrown together in the food processor, and the lack of cooking made it a super efficient recipe. I will be making this one again and again as a contribution to parties !

I just so happened to have duck fat in our fridge, which is the recommended cooking fat for the Chou Vert. The al-dente slightly-brown-at-the-edges texture of the cabbage was just right and I loved the cilantro (I'm a cilantro fanatic!). When I make this recipe in the future I'll try out for the recommended substitution fat, or perhaps do another shelf-stable fat of my own choosing to try taking the flavor in a little bit of a different direction.

The Mock-A-Mole was pitch perfect - my husband loved it! I've long enjoyed throwing together avocado and salsa in this way, but the suggested addition of lime juice was something I hadn't done before. Unfortunately I had forgotten to pick up a lime, so I used an equivalent amount of an acidic liquid - Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, which worked very well. Adding this acidic element is something I'm likely to repeat again in the future.

The zucchini latkes were very tasty, and other than the little bit of planning time required to "sweat" the zucchini with salt, they came together very quickly. The Paleo Parents' directions were very clear about removing as much moisture as possible from the salted shredded zucchini. When I make them again, I'll take even more care on the sweating-out part - I thought I'd done a good enough job of squeezing out the water from the shredded zucchini, but my latkes were still not as crispy as I'd have preferred.

I will definitely be giving these recipes a second (third, fourth...) go-around - after all, half the fun of the first go-through is recognizing where my methods and ingredients can improve! I can also work a little more at sourcing items for future tries, like finding black olives in a glass jar.

The Paleo Parents' Eat Like a Dinosaur is superbly well done. It is especially well suited to individuals or families who are just starting out on a classical paleo journey without grains, dairy, or sugar. Many basic recipes for household staples (applesauce, mayo, etc.) are included - but as with the olive tapenade, there are recipes with flavorful twists that will delight even the most longtime paleo enthusiast. Probably the biggest plus of the Paleo Parents' cookbook is that many, many of the recipes are five ingredients or less, and a good portion come together in less than 10 minutes. Some kid-friendly-sounding recipes include "Rat on a Stick" (a curried ground beef and/or lamb recipe), "Sweet Potato Fries", "Ten Tomato Ketchup", and "Graham Cookies".

I also very much enjoyed the cartoonified forward featuring pictures of the Paleo Parents' family describing their transition to the paleo lifestyle. On a final note, my non-paleo mother - an elementary schoolteacher - told me that of the paleo cookbooks she's thumbed through, Eat Like a Dinosaur is her favorite.

Fast, simple, tasty, and kid-friendly - Eat Like a Dinosaur is the total package. I'd heartily recommend it to anybody!


This review contains only my opinions, which are honest and my own. I was not compensated for reviewing this book, other than receiving a free advance copy. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lunchbox #188


Today, my preschooler's lunchbox featured (clockwise):

  • Fresh sliced mango
  • A hard boiled egg, and a slice of preservative free salami
  • Two Clementines
  • Soft cooked blue sweet potato and sugar snap peas

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lunchbox #187


Today, my preschooler's lunch featured (clockwise):

  • A sausage omelette
  • Mashed Japanese blue sweet potato
  • Two Clementines
  • Some hard full fat cheddar

Why I "Do" Treats in Lunchboxes

A mother of my daughter's classmate said to me the other day, "My son says that [your daughter] brings lunches that are healthy, and with a piece of chocolate."

Heh...and with a piece of chocolate.

There are a lot of viewpoints on how to approach paleo treats, and those viewpoints become even more splintered and diverse when you're talking about the issue of approaching treats/cheats with kids. If you've followed my lunchbox series for any length of time, you've noticed that I somewhat regularly include for my daughter something that qualifies as a treat/cheat. It could be some dark chocolate chips in a trail mix, or a piece of dark chocolate by itself, or a macaroon, or some other home-baked treat.

Some purists might protest that I'm setting my daughter up to see treats as normal, as an obligatory element in a lunch. I see their point, but often the biggest counterpoint to this argument is the fact that my daughter eats lunch at preschool with her peers, whose lunches regularly include at least some prepackaged brightly colored sweet treat.

So here is my dilemma: do I then craft lunches without any treats at all? I feel like dying on the hill of making my daughter nutritionally-fulfilling-only lunches in the name of a "treats are not a regular part of life" philosophy would have me winning a battle...only to lose a war in the long run with her seeking out treats and sweets in excess because she somehow feels deprived by comparison with her peers.

Between home and social/educational exposure, my daughter's regularly exposed to two approaches to food: {paleo + whole food treats} and {standard American diet}. She's already old enough to know which one her tastebuds and her eyes prefer. She also is old enough to compare and contrast - I've been asked by her on several occasions about why she doesn't get certain prepackaged processed items. So, I hope that sending modest treats from home in her lunchbox serves as an innoculation of a sort, a way to show her that treats can still be a part of life in the right amount, when made with wholesome ingredients.

How do you approach feeding your kids treats in a whole foods context?


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Final Challenge Results

I've received my final numbers from our Crossfit box's nutrition challenge coordinator! Here are the big figures.

Between January 20 and March 24 (9 weeks, 1 day):

  • Dropped 6.75% body fat

  • Lost 19.28 lb. fat

  • Gained 1.78 lb. muscle (lean mass)

  • Lost 6.75" off my waist, 4" off my hips

Unfortunately my granny's cankles remain with me, something that no amount of paleo/Crossfit challenging will probably ever change. ;-p

This was one male participant's submitted "before/after".
A rock star gal at our box lost 7.17% body fat! She deserves huge congratulations for rocking our challenge. The guy who won the body comp challenge dropped 10 lb. fat and replaced it with 9 lb. muscle. Wow!! The before/after workout improvement winners also did a fantastic job.

Crossfit works. Paleo works. Community works. Challenging yourself works. Accountability works.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Have You Used Your $10 Off Any Purchase Vitacost Coupon? You Can Get BPA-Free Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk for $0.86/can!

Edited to add on Monday 4/2: the price of the coconut milk went up since the 4/1 posting - d'oh! Thanks to an anonymous commenter for the heads up.


I'm shopping Vitacost today - in the past few months, I've discovered that for a lot of items, Vitacost is price competitive to Amazon. (Also nice that to get the low price from Vitacost without having to buy those items in bulk the way I often do on Amazon!) Vitacost also carries some of the harder to find condiments and seasonings out there.

Best of all, the $10 off any Vitacost purchase coupon is still available to first time Vitacost customers, so those price competitive items can be ordered for around the cost of shipping, or $4.99.

Now, Native Forest Coconut Milk (noted by Chris Kresser as one of the only canned coconut milks free of BPA) is down to a new lower price of just $1.69/can on Vitacost, a decent discount from the ~$2/can price at my local Giant. I love using Native Forest to make recipes like Green Curry Dairy Free Chowder and Midwestern Red Beef Rutabaga Curry.

Here's how to work a sweet deal with this new lower price.


Optional: Go to and search for "Vitacost". Clicking to the website through ebates will get you an additional 4% cash back on your purchase - in this case it could be up to $0.60.


6 x Native Forest Coconut Milk = $10.14
Subtract your $10 off any purchase coupon -$10
Subtotal: $0.14
+ $4.99 shipping = $5.13

So, if you grab your free $10 off any purchase Vitacost coupon, you can score 6 cans of BPA free organic coconut milk for $5.13 (+ tax), shipped to your door. That's a bargain price at around $0.86 cents per can!

If coconut milk is not your thing, here are other posts showing some of the ways you could use your Vitacost coupon to get $10 worth of paleo and primal pantry staples shipped to your door for around the $4.99 shipping cost.

What Vitacost items caught your eye for using the $10 off any purchase coupon?
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