American Ghee

Milk fat or butterfat, standard of semi-sweet chocolate and confounding “Contains: Milk” indications, is actually just clarified butter, which, depending on how it is prepared and how the ghee you’re familiar with is prepared, is the same thing. So all that again: milk fat (spacing irrelevant) = butterfat (spacing irrelevant) = clarified butter = ghee.

So basically milk fat is American ghee.

We’ve been eating it this whole time. In Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips even! And we didn’t even know. We first hear of “geee”, yes with a hard g, and we think it’s soo exotic, yet there’s a good chance butterfat sans milk solids is in our intestines right then when we hear about it. Thank you, America, thank you.

If you’re lactose intolerant, casein sensitive or allergic, or otherwise dairy-free paleo (hopefully not vegan paleo, but it is technically possible…), then don’t be alarmed at seeing milk fat or butterfat as an ingredient and ignore the “Contains: Milk” portent as the expected ignorant vagueness from the American food industry. It’s all because the masses are too stupid to make their own food/ingredient decisions—no sense in clarifying all-of-it milk vs. lactose vs. casein vs. just the leftovers. Only people with milk allergies are paying attention to this, so our job here is done! That’s right, FDA.

I’m either severely lactose intolerant or casein sensitive (not sure yet which it is, but I’ve operated for 2 years as lactose intolerant and avoided it like the plague) and nothing with milk fat in it has noticeably affected me. And believe me, the way milk affects me, I would notice.

So go forth and happily consume chocolate (and I guess other foods, don’t know why you want to eat anything other than chocolate…) with milk fat, all who flee from lactose and casein!

With a Grain of Salt

Health programs at work display tables like this, saying 2,300 mg is the magic number you shouldn’t go over.

How much sodium is in salt?

¼ teaspoon salt 575 mg sodium
½ teaspoon salt 1,150 mg sodium
¾ teaspoon salt 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt 2,300 mg sodium

That equals about 1/4 tsp of salt 4 times a day or 1/4 tsp every meal with one to spare and use as you like. I don’t have a salt-tooth so it might not be too bad.

As with everything else, though, I wonder where they got that number. It could be just like the 8 glasses of water myth. I have half a mind to measure out my 4 1/4 tsps and see how far that gets me in a day. The only problem is bacon. They’ve already added who knows what amount of salt to our butcher-made bacon. No-salt bacon does not exist anywhere for a price not unfair to the entire rest of humanity. I guess we could go with out bacon, for the sake of science…

In a recent talk at OSU, Jared Diamond even suggested that not using salt and not using sugar were the best things you could do for your health, to avoid the disease of civilization. He’s coming from the perspective that we have a lot to learn from traditional societies, so that has indeed piqued my potential to believe it. Still it could be only a correlation that traditional societies don’t use salt and don’t experience the diseases we do.

Authority Nutrition has a pretty good discussion on the topic, but comparisons and analyses of studies and their methods would be needed to really evaluate the claims of both sides. I like the conclusion though: focus on eating real food and wrestle a little with your cravings, following what your body is telling you, but also not letting yourself get use to what you intellectually know might be an unnatural (read: not available anywhere in the 6 million years of human evolution) amount. Anthropological theories about the sources of sodium during the majority of our biology’s history and whether we’ve made any major adaptations to greater or lower amounts of sodium in the diet would be the key to knowing for sure.

Save Your Skin’s Frontline of Defense

The Skin’s Surveillance System

This is why people say that dowsing yourself every single day in hard water and bottles of chemicals intended to make the opposite sex fly to you like iron filings to a magnet is not good for your immune system. Here is the connection. If that’s your norm you can be wreaking ecological havok on the populations of good bacteria like S. epidermidis.

This paper takes previous observations that commensal bacteria can have an anti-inflammatory role in the skin one step further and shows how these organisms can affect T-cell maturation

Basically, we kinda knew it mattered before, but now we see more of the mechanism. So now there is the gut microbiome to hack and the skin microbiome. Inside and out.

Smoky Bison Chili

Not vegan. Not kosher

Coarse black pepper
Cumin seeds
Smoked salt
Bacon grease
Dried chili peppers
Cinnamon stick
Black cardamom

2 onions
Garlic
4 sweet potatoes
1/2 lb bacon ends
Red palm oil

2 28oz cans tomato sauce
Broth
Chili powder
Cumin powder

2 lbs ground bison

Start with a tadka of whole cumin seed, coarse-ground black pepper, smoked salt, dried chili peppers, a cinnamon stick, and a small black cardamom pod.
Get a big soup pot. Then heat the pot and put the cumin, pepper, and salt in before any fat. Let it heat up dry to start pulling the flavor out, but don’t burn the cumin. You’ll smell it if it starts getting too toasty. Once you feel good about those puppies, drop in a couple tablespoons of bacon grease, enough to coat the bottom of your pan. Now toss in your chili peppers, a sizeable cinnamon stick, and a black cardamom pod (that is Amomum sublatum or A. costatum as opposed to Elettaria cardamomum, green cardamom, both from the ginger family). Black cardamom is dried by fire roasting so it adds an incredible smokiness along with its aromatic flavor. A little goes a long way.

For the chili peppers I used two morita and one arbol and it had a nice spice. You could add more to give it a kick. Dried chilis of any kind will work and you could always sub fresh, but put them in later with the garlic. So let all the spices sit there for a few minutes to get their flavors spread around the hot oil.

Caramelize onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and bacon ends.
While the fat is heating up and accepting all of the essences of your spices, you should be able to get through chopping 2 onions, 4+ cloves of garlic (to your taste), and 4 sweet potatoes that fit nicely in your palm (medium? small?), and the bacon ends. If you mostly cover the onions with the sweet potato chunks you should have enough. If the spices start getting too hot, you can turn the heat off, but while the bacon grease is hot, pour in your onions. Stir a little so the cumin and pepper don’t burn. Then let those sit, according to the instructions inthis recipe.

You can use this time to do the rest of your chopping. Chop the bacon ends (or regular bacon) last, but put it in first, so it can get crispy. If they don’t it’s OK—it’ll still be amazing. Before the onions are done half way, add your garlic, half way or more, add in the sweet potato chunks. The sooner you add them the more carmelized they will get themselves, but garlic will burn sooner than the onions and the sweet potatoes can turn to mush. It’s all a matter of how much you wanna go for those oh so tasty Maillard/acrylamide/or-whatever-it-is bits. Add in the red palm oil here too, to give an earthiness, a little color, and all those vitamins and anitoxidants.

Add the sauce.
Once you’re done with Nom Nom Paleo’s onion carmelizing boot camp and your sweet potatoes are mostly but not all the way done, pour in the tomato sauce and stir it all up. Note that the more vigourously you stir the sweet potatoes during their time in the pot, the more they will break apart and threaten to mush. That may be what you want, as it will thicken the chili, but I went for nice chunks to bite into. Let the sauce go for about a half hour to incorporate and reduce a little. Make sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom, you know your burner. The sauce might get a little excited so when you’re happy with the amount of reduction, you’ll probably need a lid. You don’t wanna shoot your sauce all over the stove. Nobody wants to clean that up.

Add in copious amounts of chili powder THAT IS NOT SPICY. Sometimes it is and that would be quite the surprise. Add cumin powder to taste as well. I bulked it up with broth because I was making it for a chili cook-off, but you don’t have to. If you do, please use better broth than I did. Like that dark broth from the roast we made in the crock pot the week before. That would of been so yummy to use. But alas I had already eaten it all for breakfast on a few days. Cereal or oatmeal for breakfast? (We all know better around here.) Bacon and eggs right when you jump out of bed? You should try try homemade broth if either of those sound wrong to you or make you tired. (I love you bacon and will eat you for second breakfast, but wake me up slowly with some bone broth.)

Add the bison.
Oh, right. Your sauce should be ready now. Put in the ground bison and stir to break it up. It’s a beautiful red meat that will cook up quick. Seriously you don’t need to cook it long. It’s scary. But it will be moist and delicious.

Well that’s it for the chili. Pretty easy really. You don’t have to get into the finer points of spices and stuff, you can just toss what you have in there. Go ahead and substitute away. And share if you have your own variation on the spice blend. (Hing. I thought a little asafoetida would be good too.) As always let me know if I’m doing something wrong. Like lying about the time to caramelize onions. Really, why would people make up a number like 5 minutes? Always overestimate, people. And remember that cooked tomato dishes are always better the second day!

Judge Food by the Packaging

Packaged Food Puzzle: What’s the Smart Choice?

I thought they would actually have smart choices on here. Instead they compare crappy food with maybe-not-so-crappy food. The test becomes difficult cause they don’t give the most important part: the ingredients lists. Here’s why each number on the quiz is a loaded question:

  1. Surprising, but the numbers are pretty close and what else is in either of them?
  2. Probably more calories because the nutrients have been squeezed out of it. Fat and real cheese and other calorie-filled things also known as food.
  3. Type of sugar matters! Fruit sugar in figs is different from just the refined sugar in Oreos. Plus, everything else with the sugar is what matters.
  4. These differences in sodium don’t matter! Now gluten-free? Were you contaminating it before? Fruit snacks shouldn’t ever have had gluten in them so it’s vacuous to say that. (Although certified GF might matter for some severe Celiac’s, but still wouldn’t matter for the worst.) Made with real fruit is always better!
  5. Amount of calories says nothing about nutrients. Real food can tend to have more calories because it’s not reduced with wacky ingredients.
  6. What kind of sugar? There’s so many! If there’s a lot of sugar alcohols instead, then that has whole other intestinal implications.
  7. Less fat and more calories means more carbs! Not good.
  8. Ugh, please talk about different types of sugars. There’s not only one!
  9. These aren’t the issue on the table. CW says less fat is good so Kashi would win. Would CW take more fat to have less sodium? The world may never know!
  10. There’s bigger pieces of celery and carrots and no corn on the Chunky. Easy

Needless to say I got 6 out of 11 because I don’t buy any of these things. (OK, my wife buys Naked juice occasionally, but there’s so many different great vegetables there’s no way, when adjusted for sugar type, that your body gets more out of Welch’s.)

Shoulda looked at the title closer. The smart choice? Don’t buy packaged food.

Busting the Purveyors of Myths

UCR Magazine: Busting GMO Myths

By making a list of 10 beliefs about GMOs and giving their response, UC Riverside scientists Norm Ellstrand and Alan McHughen ignore the biggest myth about GMOs—and directly keep it going. I do appreciate the design of the article and the information that they are spreading, but it needs some unraveling.

I believe that it’s possible for instances of genetic engineering—aka plant sex in a laboratory (or more precisely, artificially selected third-party genetic recombination, but that sounds too kinky)—to be perfectly safe. It’s important that we don’t take or leave the whole technology, but rather be gravely cautious about each gene we pick for anything more ecologically significant that GloFish in Walmart. We need to look at every possible implication of making a (very) non-evolutionary change to a organism (cf. hybridizing, which still uses reproduction). We may get immunity to malaria, which is the single goal we had in mind, but then we get sickle cell anemia. We have to be aware of the trade offs if we’re going to take to the frontlines of evolution’s game.

That covers number 1 on the list, except for that process create or release things, so separating them is a little ignorant. You cook an ingredient one way, it creates one flavor, cook it another way, it creates another flavor, but all the “things” are the same except maybe at a very small scale, say, different chemicals are being released. So I think it’s OK for the public to think in processes, but to not accept or reject such a general process like I indicated above. Doing that with genetic engineering would be like discussing whether baking was safe or not. (A debate which may have happened at the rise of agriculture.) It all depends on what you’re doing it with and what all the products of that process are.

The logic for number 2 is messy. IT’S NO BIG DEAL THAT CROP GENES GET INTO WILD POPULATIONS. Gosh, this almost has to be a post on my linguistics blog. Let’s see… It is not a problem when GMO genes get into wild populations. This one I agree with! It can cause big problems, especially when people try to patent genes like manor lords withholding fishing and hunting rights for rivers and forests. “Excuse me, kind sir, your plants have naturally reproduced with mine so you owe me money.” You can kill of the bees, but until then, you can stop pollen from gettin’ around. So then the conclusion in the list is that because non-GMO genes can cause problems that GMO genes are no more of a threat. The issue people have with this is that the genes selected may be for bioluminescence or spider silk proteins, which are complete foreign to the organism, so the consequences could potentially be greater than one kind of beet genetically invading another.

Number 3. We don’t know that yet. That’s the point. We just aren’t sure enough of all the implications yet. The Romans loved their lead (even though people then did see warning signs about it),  we sprayed crops with DDT,  and we still used lead in paint up until the 70s. What’s this generation’s DDT going to be? PVC, BPA, Roundup Ready corn? Something we’re sitting on or licking or eating right now that we haven’t thought of yet? Hopefully not, but we’re not immune to that kind of ignorance. We haven’t evolved into some special generation of scientific progress that knows what every substance we manufacture may be doing to us. We’re not there yet and we need to humble ourselves to that fact. We just wanna be sure about what each technology or major change will do long-term.

For number 4, ho hum. Number 5 and 6, straw men. Statements so alarmist they’re easy to dismiss. The could mess things up. What does “drought-resistant” mean? What was changed about the plant? What’s everything those new genes do? Any sickle cell? Any difference in what it does to the soil? These problems need to be expanded for people so the crowd of critiques, observations, analyses, and myriad angles on the problem can be applied. “It’s drought-resistant, so it’s good” is too much presupposition for me to be comfortable with.

I do like the point in number 7 that if it’s not organic an it’s one of the big American crops, then it’s probably GMO. Buy organic and you’ll know for sure that it’s not. But for organic practice farms that can’t afford the organic certification that would be a present an issue. And as the list of GMOs grows, simple labeling would help the public keep up with list; even now it would help people learn what the current list is. I don’t see how a simple indication of honesty on the back of the box—with everybody grandfathered in so that packaging already out there or in production doesn’t have to be pulled—is such a big thing to ask of the industry. We already have a long list of allergens, additives, organicness and other features which are indicated so adding GMO to that sounds like a natural step in knowing what’s in our food.

Number 8. Genes transferred by bacteria between taxonomic kingdoms means swapping whatever genes we need in test tubes is exempt from questioning. That’s like saying because some kids do get into guilty-looking situations, but aren’t actually doing anything irresponsible, that kids should be exempt from all questions from your parents. EllstrandMcHughen Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “False. Some kids may be further questioned by their parents if they reveal what they’re up to and quick descriptions can on occasion sound incriminating, even though it’s fine, so you can’t make me answer you. Read the internet, dad.” Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “Up to Dairy Queen.” “Oh cool.” [The example family is not paleo.] Now the dad and son have related—and as a bonus, if Timmy doesn’t show up for 8 hours the family can compare that with the usual length of a trip to Dairy Queen and get worried. It’s just passing information between parts of the network. We need to do a lot more of that with genetic engineering. Just because there are some rare gene transfers that do happen, it’s possible they’re rare because they may be going though some kind of ecological “filter”—not just any gene could get passed on. This just sounds like an oversimplification of the process. I don’t even know enough about it to form an intelligent-sounding hypothetical scenario for the counter argument. So clearly that’s not enough of a reason—without further explanation—to say that genetic engineering is already proven to be completely natural.

I was surprised by number 9. The word on the street is that the EU banned GMOs. But I guess that just means most places in the EU don’t grow it themselves, a few places grow some GMO corn, but they all still import American food that’s GMO. Interesting. The freedom to import is good, though I think they should keep the ban on growing it so they can be the control group in this experiment.

And number 10 is absolutely false. They must be Wizard of Oz fans because there’s another straw man! Which brings me to the ultimate point: this article ignores the main concern with GMOs. It’s not technology. I’m typing this on a MacBook, while showing my wife an article on an iPad. Technology’s awesome! The main concern with GMOs is not cancer by association. The main concern with GMOs is pesticides.

Everyone always talk about how altering the genes of our food crops will make frankensteins that will march down our digestive systems, most likely giving us cancer. That’s not very likely. If evidence of that emerged, I wouldn’t be surprised and would have a sense of I-told-you-so, but we haven’t seen that yet. The real issue with GMOs is why they’re genetically modifying them in the first place. The most common reason is to make the plants resistant to pesticides so they can spray more on them. That translates to more pesticides in the end product. Hopefully you can wash it all off—and hopefully it’s not in the plant. Some crops, like potatoes, are particularly absorbent and suck up all that industrial chemical goodness. So really the GMO debate is about the overall pesticide load for humans and the environment. “If we make it about technology, then we’ll easily win the debate. Let’s take the focus off the pesticides.” GMOs aren’t a new debate. It isn’t luddites vs. science. It’s the pesticide debate and I think we know who’s winning that one. The list doesn’t mention pesticides at all, so I guess belief number 11 is THE DANGER OF GMOS COMES FROM THE PESTICIDES THEY ARE DESIGNED TO WORK WITH. TRUE.

We need to be more mindful of this powerful tool than Ellstrand and McHughen suggest us to be.

Re: Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

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All the recipes we followed this year were from PaleOMG’s Thanksgiving . Thanks, Juli, all of the recipe’s were wonderful!

We made a turkey with giblet gravy and FODMAPless Sausage Stuffing and we added oysters, the turkey’s liver, some white wine. By far my favorite part of the meal!

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It didn’t last long – we finished it off for breakfast!

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We made the Bacon and Chive Sweet Potato Biscuits, but used Japanese sweet potatoes (the purple Ipomoea batatas) instead because their so bready already. They turned out really mushy, somewhere between bread and mashed potatoes. We just peeled, boiled, and mashed them rather than follow the strange ritual the recipe described, but maybe we should have…

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We made mashed sweet potatoes and I attempted to make marshmallow cream, but that didn’t turn out so well. (It turned into the thickest jello I’ve ever seen.

The greatest success of the meal, though, was the Pumpkin Cheesecake. I didn’t dare put 3 tbsps of lemon juice and I’m so glad I didn’t cause 1 was plenty. I used maple syrup instead of honey. Maranatha No-Stir Crunchy Almond Butter tastes like Reese’s peanut butter, making the crust even more amazing.

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I’ve never eaten so much food at Thanksgiving and not felt tired and woozy. I was tingly stuffed, but none of the grain-carb-induced coma. So thankful for that!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pain Perdu sans Pain (French Toast without Toast)

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Toastless French Toast
Eggs
Palm oil shortening
Silk vanilla coconut milk

Glaze
Palm oil shortening
Silk vanilla coconut milk
Arrowroot powder
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Heat a ton of the shortening in a pan. You can try using just coconut oil, but the shortening works beautifully. We just discovered this and we’ve gone through half a tub in 2 days.

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Pour a good amount of coconut milk into the eggs. There was this Silk stuff in the house, and I’m not quite sure of its paleo status (it is sweetened with cane sugar), but it’s here and gave a great flavor. You can use canned or homemade coconut milk and vanilla extract. I know it sounds crazy to put this in to scrambled eggs with no toast or powdered sugar on the horizon, but trust me.

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Beat the eggs – a hand mixer works wonders – and get them really frothy; you’re gonna need that to keep them light and yummy.

Pour a thin layer of egg into the thick pool of shortening. Think crêpes here. Light, thin, fluffy. If it hits the side of the pan it may not fry up quite right, but don’t sweat it too much. Thinness and flipping will make it great anyway. It should look something kinda like this:

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When you think the egg has thickened up enough in the bottom, try to flip it over. It’ll probably not flip too well and ooze out everywhere, but that’s just fine as long as it’s thin. If so, it turn out something like this:

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For the glaze, melt some shortening and and stir the coconut milk, arrowroot, and spices. The colder it gets, the more it’ll thicken. You’ll be surprised how much this tastes like french toast. A great Thanksgiving morning breakfast!