Monthly Archives: January 2012

Paleo Breakfast Quinoa

Paleo Breakfast Quinoa

Eating meat and eggs in the morning is something I find difficult to do. I have never in my life been a morning person, and the thought of breakfast is not something I typically look forward to. My unhappy stomach is currently making the situation worse. Breakfast, however, is considered to be very important to a paleo lifestyle for reasons that make sense to me. First, it sets the tone for your body: give it lots of good protein and healthful fats in the morning, and it’ll decide to operate off of that for the rest of the day. Also, a good breakfast helps to maintain even insulin levels, gives your body a good fuel source, and causes the body to feel more satiated throughout the day.

Still…I miss my little bowl of steel-cut oatmeal and cinnamon in the morning. Mild, a little sweet, and not resembling an animal’s body part in the remotest sense, oatmeal was really nice.

So I’ve decided to compromise: breakfast quinoa. Quinoa looks like oatmeal, but contains complete proteins and lots of minerals. A little of this grain-and-gluten-free food cuts down on the amount of meat or egg I need to eat at the beginning of the day and makes for a more gentle start for my stomach. And it’s very simple to make. Here’s how I do it:

  •  Take one box/bag of your favourite pre-soaked, pre-rinsed pure quinoa.
  • Follow the directions on the package to cook your quinoa on your stove-top, but substitute 1/2 of the water required with coconut milk.
  • Once you’ve added your quinoa to the pot, add a handful of diced dried fruit (apple, mango, raisins, apricot, cranberries, cherries, blueberries – whatever you like and have on hand).
  • Also add 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, depending on how much quinoa you are making.
  • Let all that cook as normal, and let your quinoa sit covered for the normal amount of time.
  • Then, serve it hot with a little honey drizzled over the top and an extra dash of coconut milk, or skip the dried fruit during the cooking process and top your little bowl with fresh fruit.
  • Enjoy.

Bad Dog

Is Dove soap for sensitive skin paleo? I mean, it seems sort of paleo, given the traditional composition of soap (though I have no idea what is actually in soap today…). Just wondering, because I found my dog chewing on a bar of it. After being discovered, she had a sneezing fit, writhed on her back in the hall for several moments, and went back to bed, where she glared. I don’t think the paleo soap experiment was a success, in her opinion.

Paleo Curried Quinoa

Curried Quinoa

I admit, when I first encountered those tiny little spheres of quinoa, rolling about a bowl in their uncooked state, I was flummoxed. What to do with this? I had heard it could have a bitter taste; I certainly did not want that. I had a box with basic cooking instructions, so I decided to follow those. But, being me, I also decided to “lovely” it up a bit. I was missing the easy access to ethnic foods I had enjoyed while living in Edmonton, and had a particular little Indian restaurant in mind that night, so I decided to make my quinoa curried.

Before cooking the quinoa, I threw the following into a small skillet and sautéed it until it was cooked through:

  • Diced onion (about 1/2 cup)
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley (just a handful)
  • Cauliflower chopped quite small (about 2/3 cup)
  • Diced mushrooms (about 2/3 cup)
  • Sliced carrots (about 1/2 cup)
  • A dash of olive oil

I let these get a little browning on them. When this was done, I set them aside, away from the heat. Then I added:

  • Diced roasted red peppers (the kind you can buy in a jar) – about 1/4 to 1/3 cup
  • Finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (also the kind you can buy packed in olive or sunflower oil in a jar) – about 1/4 cup

To cook the quinoa, I just followed the instructions on the box, bringing 2 cups of water to boil and then dumping in the quinoa and reducing the heat. I also added the following into the pot of cooking quinoa:

  • 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Hungarian paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • About 1 teaspoon of saffron flowers (just to make it pretty)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh butter

I mixed all this about, put a lid on it and simmered it, and when it was done cooking I removed it from the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 5 min.

Before I let it sit, however, I added in all the veggies I had previously sautéed (with the diced peppers and tomatoes), along with a tiny dash of coconut milk (TINY – we don’t want soggy quinoa).

The Result: I have to say, it turned out quite well. It was very tasty, and the quinoa, when cooked, still has a crunchy quality that I found I really liked. I paired it with a little roasted turkey breast.

So there you go: Paleo Curried Quinoa. And since I added in all the extra veggies and ate it as a side-dish, I didn’t feel it was necessary to worry about too much carbohydrate or “glycemic load”.


Quinoa: Paleo or Not? The Debate Rages On…

Definitively, quinoa is a seed, not a cereal or grain. Biologically, it’s closely related to beets and spinach. There seems to be much debate about whether or not quinoa is paleo. This is due, mainly, to it’s pseudo-grain reputation: it’s often referred to as a “whole grain” for commercial sale, though it’s actually a seed, and closer to a fruit than a traditional grain. Adding to the debate is it’s position on the glycemic index. But it is also a complete-protien source, high in fibre, and high in iron, B-vitamins, phosphorus and magnesium. It’s also gluten-free and (when the saponins that coat it naturally are removed) easy to digest.

Curious about all this debate, I recently compared a banana with quinoa on the glycemic index, and here’s what I found ( ):

Quinoa (cooked): 150g serving size. Glycemic Index: 53. Carbohydrate value: 25. Glycemic Load: 13

Banana (raw): 120g serving size. Glycemic Index: 58. Carbohydrate value: 23. Glycemic Load: 13

Just to clarify, the average banana weighs 120 grams. 150 grams of cooked quinoa is about 2/3 of a cup.

To me, this means quinoa is perfectly paleo, in moderate amounts. I mean, not many people would sit down and eat 5 bananas, nor does it make much culinary sense to sit down and eat 3 and 1/3 cups of straight quinoa (which is roughly equivalent to 5 bananas).

In the end, however, what paleo is, is simple, unprocessed foods that are not grains or processed sugars. Beyond that, what counts as paleo seems to be a matter of interpretation and personal experience and preference. To me, quinoa seems simple and unprocessed enough to be healthful (not to mention all that great complete-protein and iron). This is what it looks like in its natural state, growing in South America:

 (Thanks to Wikipedia for this photo)

Lovely, isn’t it? Once the quinoa plant flowers, it forms little fruits about 2 mm in diameter. These are the fruit/seeds that are harvested as quinoa. Once these little gems are harvested, they still have a bitter coating on them called saponin, which has to be removed. The bitter taste prevents the seeds from being completely eaten by birds and wildlife. Usually, unprocessed quinoa is soaked in water for a time and mixed and rinsed well to remove the saponin. Most quinoa you can buy here in North America has been pre-soaked and washed. The package may suggest one further rinse, but often does not even require this.

If you’d like to try quinoa, I suggest buying a boxed variety such as PC Organics Pure Quinoa.  It comes from Bolivia, is pre-soaked and washed, and has easy cooking instructions on the box. I will post two recipes for quinoa dishes, and I can say that I have found quinoa easy to digest and quite delicious, though I have always paired it with spices and other additions.

Paleo Pumpkin Pudding

I’ve seen recipes for paleo pie crusts, delicately made from nuts and coconut. But I have absolutely no patience for pie crusts at the best of times, paleo or not, so I decided to convert pumpkin pie (which I love) into a baked pumpkin pudding. The result was phenomenal – I like the pudding version even better than pumpkin pie! Also, it was pretty quick to make. Here’s the recipe…

Paleo Pumpkin Pudding

  • In a large bowl combine:

-1 large can of pure pumpkin (about 795 mL or 28 oz)

-5 or 6 free-run eggs

-1/2 cup of pure liquid honey or pure maple syrup. If you like your pumpkin pie quite sweet, increase this to 2/3 cup (I prefer the less sweet version)

-1 and 1/2 cups of half-and-half cream (or full-fat coconut milk, if you’d like to avoid dairy)

-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

-1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-1/4 teaspoon ground clove

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I prefer Mexican vanilla)

  • Whip all of this together with a whisk or electric beaters, until it is very well mixed and is slightly frothy.
  • Spoon this mixture into small ramekins until the ramekin is about 3/4 full. You can also use a large shallow bakeware pan, such as a 9×13, but your servings will look messy as this pudding does not slice nicely.
  • Top each ramekin with crushed nuts (I like pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts).
  • Put all ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 400° F. Depending on the size of your ramekin or baking container, baking these can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes. You can tell when they’re done by inserting a toothpick into the centre of the ramekin. If the toothpick comes out clean (not goopy or wet) then your pumpkin pudding is done. When they’re done, the top will  look browned.
  • Let your puddings cool a bit.
  • Serve your puddings warm in their ramekins, and feel free to top each with one of the following:

-A dollop of unsweetened whipped heavy cream

-A dollop of Greek Yoghurt drizzled lightly with honey

-A dollop of the following mixture: 1 part cream cheese, mashed up well, and 1 part Greek yoghurt. Whip these two together (until very smooth) with a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten to taste, and place a spoonful on top of each ramekin.

  • You’re done!
  • If you have any leftovers, keep them in the fridge. This baked pudding also freezes well, so you can make them up ahead and freeze them for serving at special occasions – just remember to thaw them well before you warm them in the oven again.

You Can’t Fake Coconut Flour

Well, you can’t. I tried, with very little success.

I “Amazoned” myself a new cookbook on how to cook with coconut flour, since coconut bread seemed an attractive prospect. By the time it arrived, I had not yet actually found any coconut flour in my little city. SO, I decided to use my noggin and simply make coconut flour. After all, what was coconut flour but ground up coconut? I had a large bag of natural unsweetened dried coconut, and a food processor – what more could one need? Into the processor went the flaked coconut. Out of the processor came finely chopped flaked coconut, made sort of clumpy by the natural coconut oil it contained. More food-processor magic ensued. I tried a high speed. I tried a low speed. I tried the “pulse” setting. I tried the “ice” setting. After what seemed like ten minuets, what emerged was exactly the same as what had emerged after the first blending.

“Oh well…” I thought – maybe this was just what coconut flour looked like. I proceeded to make a banana nut coconut loaf (with Mexican vanilla, no less – will post the modified recipe later) and the mixture smelled heavenly. It baked in the oven like a dream, poufing up, light and lofty. I had bread! Or so it seemed. In the deep darkness at the bottom of the loaf pan, evil ensued.

You see, all my finely grated coconut, along with banana and nuts, had floated to the top of the pan. What settled underneath was the copious amount of egg the recipe called for. Thus, when I took my beautifully browned loaf out of the oven and cooled it and cut it open, I discovered that exactly half of the loaf was just baked egg, while the top half was grated coconut held together by banana and egg. Nothing had absorbed, or co-mingled, or tango-ed in the way it was supposed to. Well then: there was only one thing to do. I cut the bottom half of the loaf off, gave it to the dogs, and decided the top half was delicious – whatever undistinguishable food category it might fall into.

Today, however, I have real, actual coconut flour (see the picture above). It’s dry, floury, and nut-coloured rather than white, and there do not appear to be any golf-ball sized clumps. I shall attempt the coconut flour loaf again, and post the results. As far as making my own coconut flour goes… I think I’ll leave it to the experts, whom I have deemed to be “Bob’s Red Mill”.

My All-Natural Flash-Freezer

Here in the far North, we make good use of the outdoors, even when we can only stand to be physically outside our doors for a few seconds at a time. The “Deck Freezer” has been a long-standing tradition in our family. Recently, however, when the temperature dropped to -40 celsius, our “Deck Freezer” turned into a “Flash Freezer”. Below is a picture of a batch of “The Mock Turtle’s Soup” (see the Recipe page) being flash-frozen. I had to use oven mitts just to handle the tray, once the soup was frozen, and I had to de-frost the containers a little before I could put them in our big chest freezer, as they somehow developed about a 1/2 inch of frost on top of the lids, though it wasn’t snowing. Also, when I brought the chair into the house, one of the lower rungs snapped from being too brittle due to the cold. Poor chair. It’s been through a lot.

Week Three

Week three has been…weird. I’ve been experimenting on myself again and have tried eating Paleo for most of the day, and having a little unleavened bread (like a pita) once during the day to see if it helped to control some of the stomach-acid problems I experience, like reflux. Paleo food just doesn’t seem to “soak up” stomach acid very well, and a lot of Paleo food is very acidic in itself. Also, having had a stomach virus for most of the week, meat, eggs and nuts have just not been very appealing and I’ve been having to work hard to get proteins into my body. I’m definitely not getting enough, and I’m really feeling the energy loss.

Soooo, that tells me one thing: the huge increase in protein and good fats that comes with eating Paleo has an equally huge effect on my energy levels and alertness. It appears my brain really likes meat and fats. With this discovery, I have been subjecting my poor sister (who insists on eating strictly vegetarian, and who has epilepsy) to a dietary fat-increase. I’m sneaking olive oil into her food, butter into her sandwiches, and high-fat dairy into her shakes and mochas. I have heard before that studies have found a correlation between a “deficiency” of fat in the brain and diet, and epilepsy. My sister’s epilepsy is so severe, however, it’s difficult to see if any difference is being made, and I suspect any positive changes would only show up after a more long-term dietary increase of fats and omega-3.

As for the swelling issues (this directed towards my C. Diff. survivor friends) there appears to be no rhyme or reason to it this week. All-natural unsweetened applesauce and a glass of water has made me look six-months-pregnant, while a pita wrapped around chicken and cucumber sat very well, thank you. I think there’s some interference going on with the stomach bug, but I’m also wondering about delayed reactions. Usually, I swell directly after eating – it’s a pretty clear cause-and-effect. But I’m beginning to wonder if the swelling that shows up later in the day and evening (when I haven’t eaten) is a delayed reaction to foods still being digested. Very difficult to say. I have an X-ray appointment tomorrow, though I have no idea what that’s supposed to show, if anything. I guess it’s just so the docs can rule out things like gall-stones and kidney-stones and other weird, mineralish items the body likes to grow. If the X-ray comes back clear, I’ve read that the next step would be a CT scan, or top-scope of my stomach, or a barium-swallow and scan, and if those don’t provide any definitive answers, exploratory laparoscopic surgery. Good times!

I’m thinking of experimenting with tincture of White Willow Bark, if I can find any. It’s where aspirin came from, and is a very effective and gentle anti-inflammatory. Worth a shot!

I Used To Be A Vegetarian

Well, I was. For years, in fact. Oh how far the mighty have fallen! I tried to spare all the lovely little animals and ate a lot of soy. Then my body said “absolutely no more” and I had to start eating meat, or stay really ill and anemic. And I developed a serious soy allergy. So I ate meat once or twice a week, and only white meat or fish at that. Now I’m a meat-eating paleo monster, and it’s making me feel very conflicted. I look at my all-natural oven-roasted turkey breast and feel very guilty. I am a guilty omnivore 😦