Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is Primal...

Saturday, I made my first-ever roasted chicken.  People have been trying to tell me for years that roasted chicken was not beyond me, but I've really never believed them.  Now I am a believer!   Not only was it super easy, it was definitely "primal".  Got the recipe/technique from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook.  The kids said it was the best ever roasted-chicken they've ever had.  Even the leftovers were moist!  (I thought it was darned good, but I think I was a little too timid with the seasoning.)

Dutch-Oven Herb Roasted Chicken
(adapted from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook)


1 Whole Roasting Chicken (washed and dried, with the cavity emptied of the goodies like the neck!)
1 Tablespoon "good" fat (poultry fat, ghee, olive oil, or non-hydrogenated lard) (I used ghee)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4-6 cloves of garlic (I used garlic powder--probably 2 teaspoons- we like garlic)
1 teaspoon salt (the recipe called for "coarse sea salt", I had coarse Kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil (I added this...wanted mine to be herb-y)

1) Preheat oven to 250 F.
2) Using a dutch oven (or oven-safe roasting pan with a lid), melt fat on stove over medium heat.
3) Salt and pepper the chicken and then place breast-side down into the dutch-ove/roasting pan.  Add in onions, garlic, and basil.  Let cook uncovered for 8 minutes.
4)  Turn chicken and cook for additional 8 minutes.
5)  Remove from stove, add lid, and put the chicken in the oven.
6)  Cook from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours (depending upon the size of your chicken...4 lbs take 1 1/2 hour, bigger takes longer)...my Costco chicken took 2 hours.
7)  Remove from oven and let sit for 20 minutes.  Serve with wonderful vegetables and enjoy.

That's it.  Roasted chicken (not breaded chicken) is primal, as long as you use good fats to brown it before putting it into the oven.

Told you it was easy.

Did I mention it was fabulous, too?

Friday, May 27, 2011

So, why didn't I blog abou this sooner?

Honestly?  I was skeptical...I wasn't sure we could keep it up...I wasn't sure we could recover from Superman's 3 week leave filled his favorites from life BP (Before Primal) as well as a lot of festive eating.  Amazingly, we did.  The results we'd gotten before Superman came home made it possible for me to put on a bathing suit in the middle of March with very view qualms.  Returning to our Primal way of eating as soon as we got back from vacation helped us quickly bounce back to our pre-vacation status.  Since then, we've just continued to make progress.

I've felt like I've been keeping a secret and couldn't seem to blog around that secret...the change has been that monumental.  So, now you know.   We use words like "primal" to describe our eating habits (even the kids) and we're comfortable with that.

Want some more information?   Okay, then, this is my take on it all.

What is the difference between "Primal" and "Paleo"?  Both ways of eating exclude grains and legumes and include meat, nuts, eggs, vegetables and fruit. At first blush, the difference is simply the inclusion vs. exclusion of dairy products (Primal Eating lets you eat limited dairy/Paleo eating says dairy is a no-no.)   To me, however, the different is much more fundamental.  Mark Sisson, the author of the Primal Blueprint, encourages a relaxed approach to eating (and to life)...figuring in "cheats" or non-primal eating as part of a modern lifestyle.  Perfection is not the goal of the Primal Blueprint.  As Mark puts it, "Many of the benefits of a strict and discipline "healthy" lifestyle can be compromised by a perfectionist mentality.  The forces of hectic daily life (cultural traditions, convenience, and fast pace) will divert you from your ideal often, and this is perfectly okay (just make smart adjustments!).  Strive for 100% with the understanding that your efforts will probably get you to 80%."  It is for this reason that I chose the Primal Blueprint instead of the Paleo Solution....but if you have intestinal issues (IBS, etc.) people have tremendous results with the more restrictive Paleo diet.  (Don't believe me?  Read the comments on Robb Wolf's blog...they are so encouraging!)  The Primal Blueprint just seemed more doable for me (and I didn't have any health problems I was trying to resolve).

The compromise reminds me that these are guidelines that I can work to fit into my life, but if some of them don't work, it will be okay.  For example, remember my friend who gleefully informed me she's lost 7 pounds?  She eats oatmeal for breakfast everyday - Monday thru Friday.  She's unwilling to give it up.  Still, in a month of primal eating with this compromise, she's lost 7 pounds!  That 7 pounds has encouraged her to keep going...the compromises she's made has kept this way of eating doable for her.

As for me?  I love, love, love Mexican food.   (No, really, I love it!) Unfortunately, refried beans are legumes, flour tortillas are made of grain, corn tortillas and tortilla chips are made of a different grain--you knew corn is a grain, right?  Truly, this is NOT primal.  Still, I won't give them up...I just won't.  My compromise?  I don't have them at home anymore (although I make amazing refried beans and homemade tortilla chips to die for).  When we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, I eat whatever I want with no guilt...and it is good!  It hasn't undermined my results.  In fact, it has worked out to be the opposite because I don't feel deprived at all.  The kids like/miss other things...Buttercup is desperately wanting a Taco Ring, so next weekend, we'll be having a Taco Ring.   (I won't be eating the bread part, because I'm just not missing it.)  Valiant wants lasagna with pasta (not long strips of zucchini in their place, so we're getting "real" lasagna on the menu in the next few weeks.   Nothing is forbidden.

The basic idea is to eliminate grains, get your protein and good fats up and your carbs way down.  It is that simple.  No calorie counting, no real "rules".  This way of eating encourages eating vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Some people really get into figuring out macronutrients and micronutrients of everything they eat, but I don't.  I just make sure I have protein at every meal, good fats, nuts, and lots of vegetables and fruits. 

If you even begin to consider this way of eating, you'll face head on the realization that our typical American diet is grain based.  It can feel daunting to change that paradigm in your own home, especially with a spouse and/or kids who is/are reluctant to change the status quo.  In the next few days, I tell you how I began this way of eating and even more importantly, how I convinced my kids that this was a worthwhile experiment.  (Superman is theoretically on board, but the Mess Hall (DFAC) doesn't really offer much that isn't processed.)

For now, think about it...do you ever have a meal that doesn't have grains?

P.S.  I'm turning 48 this year and as I read through the comments on the blogs of both Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf the thing that struck me most about the people who'd tried this way of eating?  Even "oldsters" were having tremendous success...it is easy to get results on a 25-year old body, but to get results on a 55-year old body?  That is impressive.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We've turned our lives upside down...

Almost six years ago, Superman and I left Southern California in an effort to transform our lives.  Looking back over the past five and a half years, I'd say we've done just that. 

With this journey has come quite a few surprises, though.  Five years ago, I committed to learn to cook from scratch.  I through (oops!) threw myself into it.  I got good enough that I could purge the vast majority of processed foods from our diet.  I actually became quite good at home-made bread, all kinds of baked goods, and could hold my own planning dinners around the vegetables from our own garden.  Sounds good, right? 

Well, it wasn't.  Despite purging the processed foods, using whole grains, and serving my family home-made meals rich in vegetables, we were struggling to maintain healthy weights.  Our energy was erratic.  Our sleep wasn't restorative.  Frankly, we weren't thriving the way I, as the mother, wanted us to.   But I was out of options...I didn't know where to turn next.  So, I did what ever self-respecting blogger does...I searched the blogosphere for help.

I started reading more and more about food...First, I found Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon introduced me to a new way of looking at food and health, but I wasn't a devotee...it didn't quite feel right.  Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot that I still apply, but it just didn't fit.  I was using "good fats" and I was trying to make sure we had clean food whenever I could.  Nothing really changed.  We were still bordering on chubby.  We joined Gold's Gym and kept at it.  Nothing really changed.  I didn't want to raise chubby children...I felt like I was failing.

I kept reading.  Eventually, I came across Mark's Daily Apple...a blog by Mark Sisson, the author of the Primal Blueprint.   I was so confused.  Primal living?   What was primal living?  Could this really be the answer I was looking for?  I kept reading and found myself even more perplexed.  The Paleo Solution:  The Original Human Diet?  Going paleo?  What had I stumbled upon?  I kept reading...

That was in February and since then, we've turned our lives upside down.  We've given up all grains...all of them.  Even the kids have jumped on board.  So, all those recipes I spent these past five years learning?  I can't use them.  Whole grain vs. all-purpose? Irrelevant.  Corn, Quinoa, Rye, Barley, Oats?  None.   Fusilli or spaghetti?  No, thanks.  Dairy is pretty much gone, but we still have cheese.

So, what do we eat?  Meat, Eggs, Fat (Coconut Oil, Ghee, Avocados), Vegetables and Fruit.  In February, we bought a Blendtec blender...we have a lot of smoothies...  We eat a lot of stuff that we've been told would make us fat and yet, we're not pushing chubby anymore.  In fact, I'm thinner than I've been in forever.  Buttercup is no longer complaining about her 12-year old body, and Valiant is quite trim.  My skin has cleared up.  My hair looks better.  Oh, and I'm sleeping really well.  (Hey, a good night's sleep is priceless!)

My results seemed almost miraculous...too easy to be true.  No counting calories, no crazy workouts (in fact, we barely went to the gym until three weeks ago, but that is another post), no weird food combinations.  We just gave up all grains and upped our protein intake and the weight came off.

I was so jazzed, I told my friends.  Two of them decided that they'd give it a try.  I like to think my results were visible, but I know my enthusiasm and energy was persuasive.   One friend has lost seven pounds in roughly a month (with no exercise) and another friend has lost four pounds in her first week.

All of this sounded so crazy to me, I didn't even know how to blog about it.  It seemed too much like a trick, like magic.  it is not...it is just a new/old way of looking at the way we fuel our bodies.   It might not be right for you, but I'm convinced that for my family, this is the answer we've been looking for.  The war I've been waging with my body is over, and it won.  I'm giving it the fuel it wants and it is rewarding me by giving me the shape I want...at 47!  35 years of body war over in three months.

Now we'll be sharing new kinds of recipes...sharing the successes and failures...especially sharing what works with kids, too.  We're looking at food in a whole new way...definitely turning our lives upside down.  I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Have you seen this?

I received the following speech in email from a friend...it was erroneously attributed to a principal in Redding, California...actually it was given by a talk show host/columnist by the name of Dennis Prager.  I had never seen it before.  It is worth reading, even if you don't agree with everything he says (although I do), because it really demonstrates how far we've gone in separating ourselves from each other when we should be doing things that unify us.

A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give
By Dennis Prager

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.

The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.

If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values -- e pluribus unum, "from many, one." And this school will be guided by America's values.
This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism -- an unhealthy preoccupation with the self -- while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America's citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here -- it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English -- but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning's elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school's property -- whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can't speak without using the f-word, you can't speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as "Nigger," even when used by one black student to address another black, or "bitch," even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way -- the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago -- by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky -- to be alive and to be an American.

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.

To read it on the author's site, please go to The Dennis Prager Show.

Now I'm stepping off the soapbox and heading out to the garden...I must beat back a hoard of dandelions!

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Spring has finally sprung!

Look at the tulips that are filling our yard...  I asked the girl-child to take some pictures of her favorite ones because it is always neat to see what piques her interest.  Again, she didn't disappoint me.

Aren't these spectacular?  I love the contrast between the black and the red and the yellow border around the black just adds so much drama to these tulips.

I love this red and yellow one.  The blooms are smaller than some of the other tulips, but they look hand-painted...so pretty.

 This coral tulip is so unusual.  The color is deep and rich, but I don't know which batch of bulbs it came with.  Oh, well.
This pale pink is so demure.  You could overlook them in comparison with all the deep reds, but they're just so beautiful.  These are all in our yard, but Buttercup didn't stop there.  Nope, she headed down the street and kept snapping. 

Like many developments, the neighborhood we live in has a sign at the first street in the development.  The people who own the house with the sign don't care for the landscaping there, so the kids and I decided to take it upon ourselves to get some spring color there.  (Another neighbor has been weeding, too, so it is still a neighborhood effort.)  Last fall, the kids took a few bags of bulbs down to the sign and planted them all.  They've been waiting eagerly to see the results of their planted and finally see the payoff. 

They are just so cheerful, aren't they?

Sam doesn't seem too impressed, but then again, he's laying on fake flowers...maybe that is the problem.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Norman Rockwell paintings and Hallmark cards aside, Mother's Day is not always a day of familial joy.  In years past, I've taken the opportunity to acknowledge the women who shaped my adult life and provided the wisdom and guidance that helped me reach this place in my life.  For them, I am truly grateful, but to ignore the impact my own mother had on my life would be disingenuous and, frankly, dishonest. 

I can't think of a person who plays a more important role in the life of a child than a mother.    I'm going to be 48 this October and my friends are all in the 40+ demographic.  We have our own homes, we have husbands or ex-husbands and/or children (many of whom are adults themselves) and we all still refer to judgments, dictates, and standards established by our mothers when we were children.  Most of them are a mixed bag of compliments and resentments...none of us see our mothers as perfect and none of us underestimate the role these imperfect women played in our lives.

Our mothers can be our biggest heroes and our greatest source of pain...and, in some cases, both.

My story is a mixed bag, like most of the stories out there.   My mother was the most important person in my life until I was 16.  She truly was my hero.  She's smart, beautiful, charming, strong, and capable.  Other than the embarrassing purple bikini she wore to the beach, I thought my mother was perfect...flawless.  Was my perspective healthy?  In retrospect, maybe not, but who can say?  By the time I was 18, our family fell apart, my mom and my adoptive dad divorced, and my mother's priorities changed (or maybe they didn't, maybe her actions were finally able to suit her priorities...I really can't say).  We seemed to scatter.  24 years of ups and downs after that point saw three estrangements and two reconciliations and in the end, my mother and I haven't had any contact in almost five years.
 It is a hard thing to reconcile yourself to, the reality that your own mother is someone you don't understand and don't have anything in common with, even as you acknowledge how much you've gotten from your mother.  How is it possible to be raised by someone and end up so far apart that you have no common ground? 

I used to feel angry, I used to feel frustrated, I used to feel hurt...but somewhere on this journey, I grew up.  When I try to explain to my children why they don't have their grandmother in their lives, I accept my share of the blame...I didn't follow the path I was supposed to...you might say that I rejected my mother's lifestyle.   That couldn't have been easy for her.   Now, while I wish things had turned out differently, I've let go of the rest...I am so grateful for the lessons I learned at my mother's side as a young girl.  I learned to be smart, strong, and capable.  Through the journey of reconciling myself to the "way things are", I've learned how much I value the family that Superman and I have created.  

My mother's influence has taught me that my children's lives will always be influenced by my actions.  It helps me remember that my daughter thinks of me as her hero, her greatest example of what a woman is.  It helps me remember that my sons are looking to me to model what a good wife and mother is.  Truly...the influence my own mother has played in my life even as I quickly approach 50 reminds me of the influence I have and will have on the lives of my children.

Maybe the greatest gift my mother gave me was the way my own experiences have shaped my parenting.    I don't want to do anything that will have my children think less of me.  I want to be their hero...I want them to think of me as the best me I can be.   I always want to be part of my children's lives, even if they choose lives completely different from mine.  

I don't want them to think I'm perfect, but I do want them to know that I love each of them (and Superman, who gave them to me) more than anything else in this world.

Mother's Day ...a day to remember the child I was, the mother who raised me, and, most of all, to be grateful for the children I've been blessed with.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Not Complaining...

The sun didn't really come out today, but even though I had my heart set on another beautiful spring day,  I'm not complaining...
You see, Superman sent me some pictures of his day...I am feeling humbled and a bit ashamed.

I didn't have to deal with this.  Turning day into night as it first rolled in...

Then turning the sky a uniform yellow as the sand flew.

After that, they have a mess to clean up.  The sand gets in everything.  Seriously...can you imagine cleaning up during "sandstorm season" every year?

Suddenly, lingering gray skies don't seem nearly so bad...in fact, I'm thinking they're downright beautiful.

Perspective is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Coming Out of Hibernation

Growing up in the Southern California year-round sunshine, it never occurred to me that I would be a hibernator. Moving to a place with a real winter, complete with gray days and freezing temperatures, has taught me that I do, in fact, hibernate.

Winter began early last year...we had real snow on the ground in October. Winter kept a firm grip on the land for six long months. We didn't see crocuses until the end of March and the tulips have just this week begun to bloom. Finally, the snows gave way to rain and freezing temperatures stopped being part of the weather forecast. The grass has really started to grow (and so have the weeds!)

As it held on to the land, so did winter seem to have a firm grip on me. Just like the flowers are stretching and reaching form the sun, I find myself waking from the deep hibernation of a long winter. The sun shone so brightly today...the blue sky so crisp. I felt my blood warming up as I threw open the windows before heading out to work in yard.

Now I sit here a bit sun-kissed, a bit sore from using muscles that took a winter break and keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow will be another beautiful day...after all, I have flowers to plant!

Isn't it amazing what a little sunshine can do?

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Wouldn't Say I'm Happy

Unless you were in a complete electronic blackout last night, you heard the news that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Forces sometime last week. It spread like wildfire across the ether...from facebook to gaming sites to the nightly news. The president made a live speech confirming the news reports...it was everywhere...

As the rumor spread, the news cameras showed us jubilant crowds first in front of the White House and later in Times Square. I was dismayed. I went to bed last night wondering what I would awaken to. It came as no surprise, then, to see a huge photo of the crowd at the White House accompanying the headline on the front page of our local newspaper. I was pleased to read that the crowds really never gained momentum. The high-fives, the celebrations of a job finally done, stayed private. I think that is how they should be.

Over the years we have seen exultant mobs burning the U.S. Flag, dancing jubilantly at the news of the death of U.S. Soldiers, burning pictures and other representations of our president in effigy and it has sickened me. I don't want us to be those people...I think we are better than that.

Am I glad that our Special Forces carried out their mission? Absolutely. Do I agree with our president who said this confirms that the U.S. will do what it takes to protect this nation and it's citizens? Again, absolutely. Osama bin Laden was the head of a group that has been targeting America and it's allies for 20 years...he was called a terrorist mastermind and he was a threat that needed to be removed. After almost ten years, it finally was. Our military did the job with no more loss of life on our side.

I guess I just don't see how we can be "happy" about this. It doesn't undo the World Trade Center, it doesn't undo the USS Cole, or any of the other things he instigated with such devastating effectiveness. Osama bin Laden brought terrorism to us in a way his death won't eliminate. Sleeper cells, suitcase bombs, bio-terrorism, and alert levels have all become terms we're familiar with because of his concerted efforts. He was so successful that he changed the landscape of our lives forever. My children are growing up in an America that is completely different from the one I grew up in. His death hasn't changed that...so, no, I guess I can't say I'm happy.

To our Special Forces, I say "Job well done" and to the rest of us, I say the job has just begun.