7 Months, or a Very Belated Update

It’s been a long time since last I blogged, for sure, but life has been happening, and honestly I just haven’t felt like doing this until now. I have a list of drafted posts about as long as my arm, and perhaps I’ll finalize them one of these days when the wherewithal is around for more than a brief visit, surreptitiously resurrecting this blog from its near death.

I am now seven months pregnant with our second child, newly into the third trimester. Before we all get too excited by “how soon” baby will be here, let me remind you that I wait to go into labor spontaneously, so this pregnancy could have fourteen or fifteen more weeks to go! No need to rush; baby knows better than anyone when its ready to meet its family! My son was born fat & healthy at 41 weeks gestation, and personally I am anticipating a similar length of time with this wee bairn.

In my last published post I wrote about hoping to maintain a paleo diet during pregnancy, and wondering if the claims of those who have gone before were exaggerated. Throughout these past seven months I have been about 75% compliant: I allow myself to eat as many sweet potatoes, white potatoes, bananas, and even rice, as I want, as I need them. (And yes, it is a need! My body needs carbohydrates!) Ice cream, potato chips, and pork rinds are other “forbidden” snacking devils I allow periodically.

Wheat & corn have come back into my diet, but definitely not every day. I feel like absolute crap every single time I eat it, and sometimes rice will bring on the yucky-ness, too. Those foods have been naturally limited to once a week or so, because I don’t like feeling like crap. :) (to expound: sluggish in my brain, body, and digestion, often bloated, increased heartburn, the list goes on & on.) Why do I even eat them at all?! Probably because I’m human (I don’t always make good choices), I live in America (it’s readily available), and at the end of the long, hot summer day here in Phoenix during which I’ve tended to both my toddler and pregnant self, I frequently do not want to cook, and Chinese food sounds a-MAZE-ing. There have been times, too, where the choice was going hungry or eating a sandwich made on *gasp* bread, and I don’t skip meals. Period.

Mark Sisson of The Primal Blueprint fame calls this the 80/20 Principle, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s more about what you eat over the course of a week than picking apart every single component of every single meal. :::stress:::

I feel my best – I feel INCREDIBLE – when I eat only protein (I include dairy in that category), fat, veggies, and fruit. I have energy, I have lots of smiles, I have no aches, pains, or common pregnancy complaints at all. It’s pretty stinking cool.

I’ve been finding, for myself anyway, that the lack of aches & pains has a lot more to do with getting regular exercise than what comprises my diet. That said, diet does greatly impact my overall wellness (especially leg cramps: for me, junk food = leg cramps and bloating) and that of my growing baby.

I want to rave about exercise! It’s like a magic pill for feeling awesome during pregnancy.

7 months pregnant, post workout

I don’t look too bad, either. ;) But lest you stone me for sounding so selfish in my pursuits of health & fitness during pregnancy, let me add that the baby inside is growing perfectly, and is very active and strong. I am consumed with delight & love for this little soul, and am tremendously excited to meet him or her in a few months!

Sauerkraut and a Nap

It has been such a long time since I blogged, I am ashamed. We’ve had bouts of mild but lingering illness throughout most of January, and I’ve been too busy, and much too tired, to apply myself to anything other than daily essentials.

It turns out that the source of my tiredness is a growing baby! The Sweetieman and I are adding to our little family: we learned on Tuesday that I am expecting baby #2. Great, great Joy! We are very thankful, and so blessed!

In light of this, I’ve been reading a bit online about having a “paleo pregnancy” and am interested to see how this all works out for me as this pregnancy continues. I’ve read fantastic claims from these other paleo-preggos, who aren’t tired, aren’t nauseous, have boundless energy, weight gain that disappears immediately after childbirth, and nary a blemish in sight. Are they growing a human, I wonder? What are they doing differently than me? Because I.am.TIRED.

Maybe it’s just perception. I don’t eat primally because it benefits my body image. Eating just for the sake your looks is called an eating disorder. I eat this way because it’s healing my food allergies and my gut, because it’s nutritionally superior to the Standard American Diet, and because I love red meat and butter. (The improvements to my body image are a nice but nonessential benefit.) Some of these paleo bloggers out there are so supercilious, so arrogant that I can hardly stand to read them! There’s nothing glamorous about the way hunter-gatherers lived or ate; it was raw survival and common sense. Why are so many on a high horse about stumbling upon a lifestyle that is thousands of years old? Like childbirth: we can paint a glamorous, beautiful picture of emotion, but in the end it’s still bloody, groaning, intense, raw and common. When we elevate it to an ideal and worship that ideal, we take what is doable for every (wo)man and make it something only for the elite.

But I digress. :)

I am interested to see how I feel as the days pass, and how this pregnancy differs from my first. I ate a lot of bagels, a lot of nachos, a lot of pizza, and a lot of hamburgers the first time around, yet nevertheless enjoyed that healthy pregnancy a lot. The only thing I’ve wanted badly so far this time is sauerkraut and a nap, ha!

This article is my favorite of those I’ve found thus far, about following a primal diet during pregnancy.

Eat to Live

I’ve not made it any secret that I love the primal diet and think it is the bee’s knees. Researching and studying all the ins and outs and whys & wherefores of whether or not it’s good to consume so much cholesterol, fat, animal products, and lots & lots of produce has revolutionized my life and the way I think about food.

I love it because it is so ridiculously simple. So basic and so, well, duh. Eat what you are designed to eat. Ignore everything else. Eat to live, and not to be entertained.

Oh boy, that is still such a challenge, truth be told. Food is entertainment. I’m an American. I live in a land of opulent affluence and food is how we celebrate, express, pacify, mute, and create. And we’ve done this for so long that having food be just food and not a form of expression, creativity, or a soapbox for other propaganda is completely foreign.

The primal diet has been hard for me. Because I use food to fill a lot of empty spaces in my life. Boredom. Loneliness. Boredom & loneliness. Dinner should be something exciting, not just another piece of beef with steamed veggies, all topped with butter. (sounds really good, though, doesn’t it?) An exciting or new dinner recipe is a change to the humdrum, day-to-day blah that creeps in and overwhelms me when I’m not being careful to get enough variety or outdoor activity, community, or mental stimulation.

But I’m learning, growing, changing. Following the primal diet has helped me to identify and acknowledge my obsession with food, and my need for food to be entertaining. And sometimes, slipping up and not following those simple, easy guidelines allows for the greatest breakthroughs.

Saturday evening before dinner, I ran out to the store with my lil boy in tow. We picked up milk and a few nonessentials. While we were loading up into the car to head home, he began signing “eat” & “more” like mad. Whining, whimpering, eat, more, eat, more! My poor bubba was so hungry!

What to do? I had dinner laid out, but unprepared, at home. Should I go back in the store, buy him a banana? Maybe yes, that’s what I should have done; that’s what die-hard primal parents would’ve done, I’m sure.

But I am not die-hard. I hit up a fast-food drive thru on the way home, just around the corner from the grocery store. I bought him a kid’s meal, complete with soy-laced hamburger and vegetable-oil-fried-processed potatoes, and plastic useless toy.

As I was driving up to the window, an unbidden thought consumed me, and caused such a change in my heart, with so much emotion, that I was literally weeping as I drove away.

Thankfullness.

I am so incredibly, consumingly thankful that I can feed my hungry child. I don’t have to listen to him cry out and beg for food, knowing that there is none to feed him. I live in a land of over abundance and plenty, and perhaps there is A LOT wrong with our food sources and practices, but I can feed my child when he is hungry. This is a luxury, this is a blessing, this is cause for great joy!

I can hear the die-hards in my head, telling me that yes, I should’ve gotten him something from the grocery store after I had already left and buckled him into his car seat. Or I could’ve let him fuss and beg until we got home and given him something paleo-compliant.  I know very well how sub-par that kid’s meal is nutritionally.

But suddenly I don’t care what anyone else may say. I don’t care. I find myself changed by this understanding that I am so fortunate in what is available to me. I am so fortunate that I can choose organic produce, I can choose grass-fed beef & butter. I can choose what I feed my son, not if I feed my son.

Since then, I find myself judging a lot less, and having a lot more grace, for the person I am relentlessly the hardest on: myself. I will not make the best meal every evening, and I will not always make the best choice in a given situation, and I will feed my child drive-thru hamburgers and ice cream when he asks me, though it really is horrible food. (Ok, maybe not every time he asks me, but you are catching my drift here, right?)

All this is ok. Just as eating to be entertained isn’t healthy, refusing food or disallowing food when you or your child is hungry, just because it isn’t optimal, that too is very unhealthy.

Eat to live. Food is just food.

Sugar Will Kill You

I was sick this morning. Nauseous. Fatigued. A migraine that painkillers can’t touch. Weepy. An overall feeling of general and inescapable yuckiness. Just so, so sick.

All this because I ate cake last night. 

I knew it was a mistake by the time we got in the car and were on our way home: I felt crap-alicious. (which means highly crappy, to all the senses, in Dara-speak) And cranky! Oh boy was I a sour-puss as we all took off our party clothes and climbed into bed! This was followed by a very bad night’s sleep – sugar is having some very undeniable effects on my entire body.

And I know it was the cake: everything else I consumed is a regular part of my diet (meat, potato, red wine, cream, veggies…) But I haven’t had any refined, processed sugar or grains in two months. I have been enjoying the longest run of the greatest health of my life, and I went and screwed myself with some red velvet cheesecake. All because I didn’t want to offend my host by refusing this mile-high cake extravagance. (Seriously, that was my reasoning. I stopped my automatic refusal because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Never again. I have to live with myself, and so does my husband.) 

Is it the wheat that is causing this total-body angst? The dairy? The soy that was probably hiding in their somewhere, someplace, some form? The actual sugar itself? I can’t say for sure, but I’m not eager to repeat the experience for the sake of science. Whether it was one offender or many, this experience has fortified my commitment to the Primal diet and living sans sugar and grains unshakably.

That cake should be served with the warning: contains poison. Because sugar, no matter what form it comes in, will kill you.

In fact, sugar is killing the majority of Americans, slowly but surely. Does that sound extreme? Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer… these diseases of affluence can be traced back to our continually increasing consumption of sugar, in all forms.

Here are some fun facts about that seductive sweetener:

  • Sugar binds with vitamins & minerals in your body, which means that they are not being absorbed, but depleted, thus depriving your body of nutrients vital for health & healing.
  • Sugar binds with and dissolve B vitamins in the digestive tract, which means they aren’t absorbed or utilized, resulting in health problems in the skin, nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems, and undesirable stress reaction.
  • Sugar requires insulin in order to be processed by the body, a hormone that assists your body in metabolizing and storing fat. If the insulin is too busy taking care of sugars, it will store fat instead of utilizing it; in the same vein, insulin will eventually start to store both sugars and fat as excess fat stores.
  • Sugar depresses the immune system by inhibiting the endocrine system; this decreases your body’s ability to heal.
  • Sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no protein, no enzymes, no fats, no vitamins, it is truly empty calories. Because your body uses vital nutrients to process these empty calories, it is depleting your body even further of what it needs to function well.

Two hundred years ago, in the early 1800s, the average sugar consumption per person was around 15 pounds per year (and didn’t include the modern marvel high fructose corn syrup). In the year 1990, twenty-one years ago, this average yearly intake was at 180 pounds per person - equal to, or more than, the average body weight. Break that down, and the average Joe is eating half a pound – eight ounces – of sugar a day. I can only imagine that number has increased exponentially. (I am having a hard time finding recent numbers on that score.)

You don’t have to be downing candy bars and soda pop to reach that intake, either. Sugar hides in many places, and has many aliases. Some brands of ketchup have more sugar per ounce than ice cream; some salad dressings have three times the sugar profile of soda. Many coffee creamers container more sugar per serving than a candy bar. Don’t get me started on breakfast cereals, or other good ole fashioned American staples that come in boxes, bags, and cans. In summation: they are full of sugar.

Here’s the rub: the label may not read first ingredient: sugar, or even list “sugar” at all. Sugar likes to hide behind such official names as dextrose, corn syrup solids, malt powder, sucrose, glucose, fructose, malitol, sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, ethrylitol, aspartame, saccharine, beet sugar, and my favorite, often found in “health foods”: crystalized cane juice, which is, uh, sugar.

Sugar is in everything, at least everything prepackaged & processed, and sugar is not our friend. We are regularly consuming mass quantities of something that is known to depress the function of at least five major systems in the human body, and yet we wonder why we are sick, lethargic, and overweight as a nation.

I am not a medical professional, and I am not claiming that eliminating sugars from your diet will heal you of cancers, diabetes, et al. I will, however, speak from my experience that eliminating sugars & grains from my diet has completely revolutionized my health and overall well-being.

Sugar. Great as a pet name for your significant other, but lousy as a food source.

What sort of presence does sugar have in your diet? 

Must Reads:

Further Reading:

Pasta-less Lasagna

I’ve never been a big fan of lasagna. I love all the flavors and zest of Italian food, but lasagna always seemed to be wanting. I’d much rather have a calzone, or braciole. I know I am nearly alone in my opinion, but hey, that’s nothing new! Something very strange indeed must’ve possessed me to try my hand at making a mostly paleo-friendly lasagna; something strange, or just sheer laziness, or perhaps it was my hubby’s request – whatever the motivation, the results were fantastic, and I can no longer say, “I don’t care for lasagna.” I just don’t care for lasagna made with pasta, thank you very much. ;) This lasagna, on the other hand, I love so much we eat it every.single.week.

Part lasagna, part eggplant parmesan, and entirely grain-free, this dish is uncomplicated yet hearty enough for this cold time of year.

Pasta-less Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant
  • 2 medium to large zucchini
  • 1 1/2 pounds italian sausage
  • 6 ounces goat cheese (ricotta also works well)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup water or broth (read here about how to make easy, homemade broth)
  • 1 head garlic (about 7-8 cloves)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or cheese of choice (we’ve used everything from Colby Jack to Oaxaca, because we aren’t purists.)
  • salt, pepper, and Italian herbs like basil, oregano, and marjoram, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13inch baking dish with extra virgin olive oil or butter.
  3. Wash the eggplant and zucchini, then thinly slice into 1/4-1/2-inch slices. Set aside.
  4. Grate the fresh mozzarella or other cheese of choice and set aside.
  5. In a large liquid measuring cup, or medium-sized bowl, combine the tomato paste, red wine, and water. Mix until a smooth sauce forms.
  6. Heat a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the sausage until no pink remains. Reduce the heat to low.

    sausage & sauce

  7. Add the tomato-wine sauce to the cooking sausage. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and italian herbs.
  8. In a separate, medium-sized bowl, or food processor, combine the 6 ounces of goat cheese, eggs, and milk, and mix until smooth.
  9. Assemble the lasagna! First, lay down a layer of sliced eggplant. Season the slices with salt, pepper, and herbs.

    layer of sliced eggplant

  10. Pour the goat cheese custard over the eggplant, and smooth it out so that it is evenly distributed.
  11. Add a layer of sliced zucchini. Season the slices with salt, pepper, and herbs.

    goat cheese custard is added, being topped with sliced zucchini

  12. Pour the sausage & sauce mixture over the zucchini, smoothing it out so that the entire surface is covered.
  13. Top this with any remaining eggplant & zucchini slices. I usually don’t have enough to fully cover the surface, but maybe 75% is covered. Again, season the veggies with salt, pepper, and herbs.

    final layer of veggies

  14. Cover the lasagna with the grated cheese, and season with a little more herbs.

    cheese

  15. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, until the cheese is browned and the lasagna is bubbling.
  16. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. (If you can wait that long – we never can!)

    fin

Please let me know if you make this lasagna, and what you think of it! Happy Cooking!

Meal Plan 12.8 through 12.14

Here’s the plan for this week! I’m looking forward to trying some new, yet uncomplicated, recipes. (links are included below)

The Hubby has a company Christmas dinner this weekend, so one of these meals might carry over into next week as a result. When he’s out working I tend to just eat another varient of my favorite meal of all time: breakfast, or use the golden opportunity to eat things he can’t stand the sight of, like liver. ;-)

Breakfasts:

  • eggs
  • sausage
  • bacon
  • grain-free pancakes/muffins
  • veggies or fruit
  • some combination of the above (omelets, frittatas, etc)

Lunches:

  • burgers (sans bun, of course!)
  • ham
  • liverwurst
  • veggies
  • boiled eggs or egg salad
  • leftovers (if any)

Dinners:

Snacks:

  • cucumbers
  • fruit (apples, bananas, clementines, pineapple)
  • celery sticks with nut butter
  • carrots (fermented or fresh)
  • pickles
  • boiled eggs

Pumpkin Goat Cheesecake

In honor of the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, I want to share with you my favorite holiday sweet treat - Pumpkin Goat Cheesecake. Sweet, spicy, rich & creamy, this dessert embodies all the smells & flavors of Thanksgiving tradition, with a fresh, delicious twist.

This is my own, original recipe; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Pumpkin Goat Cheesecake

the crust:

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, grass-fed if available (you can also substitute 1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil for the butter)

method:

  1. Combine melted butter and almond flour in a bowl and mix well. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch tart pan or 9-inch pie pan. Set aside while preparing the filling.

the filling:

  • 6 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup organic, raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, preferably pastured
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack in the lowest position.
  2. Using an electric or stand mixer, beat the goat cheese in a large bowl until fluffy.
  3. Mix in the sugar & honey.
  4. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, stopping and scraping the bottom of the bowl after each addition.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F until the filling is slightly puffed and the center has just set, about 40 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
  9. This can be prepared 1 day ahead, just keep refrigerated. Serve chilled.
Happy Cooking!