Friday, February 28, 2014

Fry-Day: Chinese Braised Pork Belly with Recipe

I've cooked a lot of meat, but I've never made any meat dish that smelled so good from the moment I started putting it together. The fragrance of the soy sauce, wine, cinnamon and orange said this dish was going to be a winner.

The only thing I'd do differently is cook it longer. (I live in the Denver area, where everything takes a little longer to cook because of the altitude.) This dish takes awhile to make and takes some planning since it has to marinade for six hours or overnight. But if you make a double-batch as I did, you'll have many easy meals for your effort.

Braised Pork Belly with Cauli-Rice.
The recipe is by Australian chef Cheong Liew and appears in the book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan. You can see it here.

ETA: I used Splenda instead of brown sugar, and only half the amount called for. I turned out just right for my taste.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What a Balanced Diet Really Means

I often hear the term "balanced diet" used to attack low-carb eating. "You're cutting out entire food groups!" some people cry, as if their own recommendations didn't curtail or cut out other entire groups like red meat and fat. "Good health = balanced diet, and that means some carbs," said Paul Nuki of the NHS Choices web site after he called low-carb proponents "quacks."

To be clear, a low-carb diet isn't a no-carb diet. Even Atkins induction call for two small green salads a day; it's just starchy foods such as potatoes, sugary fruit and grains that are limited so much that many of us don't bother with them.

It might also clarify things to know where the idea of a balanced diet came from. Early in the 20th century, the disease pellagra was the scourge of the American South. Poor Asians from India to Japan suffered from beriberi. Rickets was rampant in parts of the United States. What do pellagra, beriberi, and rickets have in common? Nutrient deficiency. Around 1920, that fact wasn't known, but it was known that cod liver oil and sunlight prevented rickets and that a varied diet, or "balanced diet," not one based on corn or polished rice, cured pellagra and beriberi. It was also known that certain fruits and vegetables prevented scurvy. Efforts got underway to get people to eat a variety of foods to fend off illness: milk, meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and grains.
Govt. poster from the 1940s. 

Balanced diets were intended to prevent illness from nutrient deficiency by eating a variety of foods. What kinds of diets had people gotten sick on? Beriberi: the staple was polished rice. Pellagra: the staple was corn. Scurvy among sailors: hard tack, a kind of biscuit. See the irony? Many members of the gotta-have-carbs crowd want to make grains a part, or even the basis, of a nutritionally sound diet. In all fairness, properly prepared grains have been staples for generations without causing serious diseases for large groups of people. But that isn't saying much. The question is, can you have a nutritionally sound diet without grains or other starchy, sugary foods?

Dr. Loren Cordain, a researcher at Colorado State University and foremost expert on paleo diets (one of those quacks editor Paul Nuki was talking about) compiled a list of the 13 vitamins and minerals most lacking in the U.S. diet. (It includes vitamins C, B1 and B3, the vitamins lacking in scurvy, beriberi and pellagra, respectively.) The highest sources of the 13 nutrients are fresh vegetables, seafood, lean meats, fresh fruits, whole milk, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, in order from highest to lowest. He's also calculated tables of food groups by nutrient (zinc, iron, B vitamins, etc.) and whole grains come in, at best, in the middle of the pack. (As for potatoes, Cordain says they should stay underground.) Cordain isn't quite a low-carb advocate, but when you take away grains and potatoes and eat mostly meat, eggs, seafood, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, carb consumption doesn't approach what many nutritionists recommend. This doesn't even take into consideration phytates, a substance in whole grains that prevents absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Technically, a balanced diet (meaning nutritionally sound) includes carbohydrates--but these are mostly in the form of fibrous vegetables, not starchy, sugary foods low-carbers avoid.

Another irony here is that the so-called balanced diets today remove nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and aren't absorbed well in the absence of fat, which we're constantly told to reduce. Red meat, rich in protein and many of the vitamins and minerals Americans are most deficient in, is also supposed to be a no-no. We'd do better to turn the clock back to the 1940s than follow current mainstream advice. (In fact, some of the ladies on a vintage interest chat site I used to visit did just that and lost weight. They were hopping mad about all the bad advice they'd been given and tried to follow.)

If you're eating a variety of meat, fish, fats and vegetables on your low-carb diet and supplementing with anything that's lacking, you can truthfully tell anyone who asks that your diet is balanced: it has all the nutrients needed for your health. Or you could use Dr. Atkins' line: people with an unbalanced metabolism need an unbalanced diet.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fry-Day: Pork Green Chili

I love Mexican food, but the tortillas, beans, rice and corn chips are too carby. Green chili (or chili verde) doesn't have to be, and if you simplify the steps in 500 Paleo Recipes, it doesn't have to be hard or time consuming to make.

I started with 12 oz (by weight) of thawed medium chilies, two pounds of chopped pork, and a few other ingredients...
...and had green chili 90 minutes later.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Could This Fitness Studio be Any More Confused?

Do we need any more proof that fitness trainers in a fancy studio don't necessarily know what they're talking about? Click screen shots to enlarge.

Disgusting endorphins...
and Thomas Edison invents the volcano.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fry-Day: Paleo Chicken Almond Rice-A-Phony

It tastes just like the San Francisco treat! Shred and steam some cauliflower, fry with a few other ingredients, and you have a side dish much better than a game show consolation prize. (I cheated a bit and used store-bought chicken bullion.) It's almost all vegetables and nuts, but I can't quit eating it. How would Dr. Food Reward account for that? Oh yes--it tastes good. Since there's only five net grams of carb in one-third of the pan, only the strictest low-carbers will have to watch it.

Recipe from 500 Paleo Recipes by Dana Carpender.
Serve with eggs or meat for a meal.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm 45 and Grateful

It might be hokey to count your blessings, but counting your blessings got to be a cliche because it helps make you happy. I just turned 45 and instead of mourning the loss of my youth, I have much to be grateful for.

I have better judgment than I did even a few years ago. Yes, I have more life experience, but mostly I credit hanging around critical-thinking low-carbers who inspired thinking and self-study. Simply remaining alive and calling it experience is like dumping puzzle pieces out of a box without putting them together.

I feel better than I did in my 20s. Carbs weren't a good fuel for me; I was nutritionally deficient as well. On low-carb plus supplements, I reversed a boat load of health problems: weight gain, wonky blood sugar, fatigue, dental problems, GERD, acne, allergies, constant sinus congestion, and others.

I'm better looking than I was at 26. Without wheat or dairy proteins, my acne finally cleared up after over 30 years. And I finally lost my baby fat.

Age 26.
Age 44.
Financial security! I'm grateful to my younger self for all the hard work, good decisions and fiscal restraint. (Friends who lived like the idle rich when they were young and broke--traveling, getting high, following their bliss--ended up middle-aged and broke.) I never took a vacation where I had to stay at a hotel (by myself) until last year--and then I stayed at a YMCA. I've never set foot in a spa. If you look and feel good and have a pleasant home to relax in, why bother?

Friday, February 7, 2014


I got the idea from a coworker: Fry-days. Someone in the office got a burger, whose smell inspired someone else to get a burger, and so on. I didn't get a burger (I was already out to lunch), but the story inspired me to make this:

Pastured hot dogs, napa cabbage and mushrooms fried in real lard.
It's delicious and it only took a few minutes to make, which is perfect since I'm leaving for karate practice in 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recess for Kids, Recess for Adults

A New Zealand school principal lifted rules against tree climbing, skateboards and a contact game called bullrush and saw decreases in bullying, vandalism and injuries. From The Independent, 

Principal Bruce McLachlan did away with the standard playtime rules as part of a university study conducted by Auckland University of Technology and Otago University looking at ways to encourage active play among children. 
The study, which ended last year, found pupils were so occupied with the activities that the school did not need its timeout area anymore, or as many teachers patrolling the playground, according to TVNZ
Teachers also reported higher concentration levels from their students in the classroom.
Mr McLachlan said: "The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school." 
"When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult's perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don't." 
"We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over." 
AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the team leading the study, said children develop their brain's frontal lobe when they are taking risks, which allows them to calculate consequences. 
"You can't teach them that", Mr Schofield said. "They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV, they have to get out there." 
Four schools in Auckland were involved in the experiment and all reported similar findings. The results have been so successful, Swanson Primary has opted to make the changes implemented during the experiment permanent.
For those who don't remember what a normal recess looks like, here's a video from playtime at an OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) school. From Youtube, 

Beacon Rise Primary has nearly 500 pupils and is situated in Kingswood North Bristol. It is a large site and includes a multi use games area. You will see that only a handful of children choose to play on it.

Play of this high quality does not happen by accident and is the result of six years work by the head and the play team with support and advice from OPAL Outdoor Play and Learning.

I think grownups need something like this, too, and physical fitness is only part of the reason. At least, this grownup does: since doing alignment yoga and karate, I've had a better attitude and I've gone to bed physically tired instead of mentally weary. Maybe the best sign of all: I've stopped worrying about getting old for the same reason that young people don't try to be young: I'm not getting old. 

Sources: "New Zealand School Bans Playground Rules and Sees Less Bullying and Vandalism" by Heather Saul. The Independent, February 3, 2014.