Archive for paleo

How can I eat Paleo/Primal on a budget?

Posted in gfcf diet, primal cooking with tags , , on June 10, 2012 by askthesky

This is the question that everyone I know has been asking me lately.  I get it, you guys. The kind of meat and veg we think is best to eat is more expensive than their conventional counterparts.  I have a family of four (soon to be five!), a part-time job at a non-profit, and my husband is a public school teacher.  We don’t have money coming out of our ears, at all.  But, I’ll begin with the phrase that has become a sort of mantra for me, when it comes to this issue:

If your health, and that of your family, is not important enough to spend your money on, what is?  Food is fuel for your body.  If you put crap (pesticides, additives, preservatives, grains, sugar) in your tank, you will get crap (illness, fatigue, skin conditions, headaches) as your output.  

So, assuming this fact as our guiding principle, let us begin.  I have some practical suggestions to help you, some of which relate directly to saving money, and some indirectly related.

Things you can do asap to make a difference in your wallet:

1.  Invest in a separate deep freezer.  This might not make sense right off the bat, but if you invest some hard-earned savings in a deep freezer, you will be able to buy your meat in bulk- as an example, the grassfed beef I buy from Hedgeapple costs $5.95 per pound.  When I buy the 21-pound box, though, the price per pound drops to about $4.25 per pound.  My other source for grassfed meats, US Wellness, also gives quantity discounts.  You can take full advantage of sales when you have somewhere to store all that meat.

The second advantage to having a deep freezer is that it allows you to be able to create your own “convenience” foods.  We all have busy schedules, at least at some point or another.  If you’ve got a place to put them, it’s easy to make double your dinner for foods that freeze well (meatloaf, meatballs, stews, soups) so that you’ve got something to pull out on a busy evening, rather than stopping somewhere for bun-less burgers or Chipotle.  You can also freeze your homegrown produce when you’ve got a deep freezer, everything from shredded zucchini to tomato sauce.  Save up and invest in a good one.

2.  Join a CSA.  Community Supported Agriculture is the best way to save money on organic produce, but it also accomplishes other awesome things- it forces you to flex your creative muscles in the kitchen (kohlrabi, anyone?), makes it easy to eat in season for your geographical location, and it supports local farmers.  You’ll definitely save money in the long run, but again, you’ll have to plan ahead, as you pay for the whole growing season at once (some big farms offer payment plans, though, and don’t be afraid to ask!  Farmers are such nice people!).  I also get my eggs from a local farmer, and although it’s not a csa setup (yet), it’s a friend of my mother’s who raises the eggs, and since I’ve been such a loyal and high-volume customer, she gives me a price break.  I pay only $2.50 per dozen for foraging, free-range, cage-free eggs.  At Trader Joe’s, which is the next cheapest I’ve found, similar eggs (which have likely sat around on a truck and in a warehouse for a lot longer) cost $4.50 per dozen.

To find a CSA near you, visit Local Harvest.  *See item number 3 for more info on how to make a CSA work for you.

3.  Spend one afternoon (or several evenings) each week doing a big cook-up.  This one is indirect.  Once you’ve got all this lovely produce and meat, you’ve got to process it.  When you let things sit in the fridge, growing ever drier and browner by the second, you’re basically flushing that hard-earned money you spent down the drain.  Don’t do it!  Now, I’m lucky.  I know this.  I have two weekdays off a week, plus Saturdays.  It isn’t difficult (usually) to make time to cook.  But, going to back to our mantra, if you don’t think cooking healthy fuel is a good use of your time, then I’m not sure what is worth your time.  If you turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and just get in the kitchen, you’ll find that your time investment is well-rewarded.

The trick to making a three-hour cooking session work is having a plan, then working your plan.  I’m in the middle of a big cook-up as I’m writing this post.  I started at 12:30, it’s now 3:30.  In that time, I washed and cut four quarts of strawberries, pureed them, and made them into Strawberry Banana muffins (with coconut flour).  The rest of the puree went into the freezer, to be used later.  I also baked four pieces of lemon butter flounder in the oven.  Then, I washed and tore two huge bunches of kale.  Since I had the salad spinner out, I went ahead and washed and tore a head of green leaf lettuce and two bunches of spinach, then stored them wrapped in paper towels inside ziploc bags in the fridge.  Next, I seasoned two pounds of ground pork for italian sausage.  Half of that became patties that I sauteed for tonight’s dinner.  The rest went in to be browned for the kale.  The kale is bubbling away on the stove now, and I’m halfway through cutting up a bag of celery.  Next I’ll move to carrots (these are for lunch prep for the week).  Last, I think I’ll steam some broccoli to go with the fish.  I could have done more in the oven, like roasted some sweet potatoes wrapped in foil, but I already had some in the fridge, so I skipped that.  I hope you see my point, though- you can get SO MUCH DONE in the kitchen in three hours!  Let your kids and significant other help- they’ll be  much more likely to eat things that they helped make.

4.  Stick to this meal-making formula: Protein + Veg + Veg.  The best way to cook paleo, especially at the beginning, is to follow this formula.  When you try to duplicate a lot of old favorites, you usually end up baking too much.  Almond flour, while very nutritious, and certainly delicious, is exorbitantly expensive.   Save the treats for once or twice a month, rather than once or twice a week, and your pocketbook (and waistline) will thank you.  Cook up your main dishes ahead of time (see #3: cook-up, above), and prep your veggies so they’re ready to saute, steam, or roast right when you walk in the door from work.  If you’re a family who always ate dessert before, indulge in some beautiful, in-season fruit with coconut cream instead.  Which brings us to our last tip…

5.  Amazon’s Subscription program.  Just so you know, I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so I’m not making any money by telling you about this program.  I just am a happy user, and want to share.  Now, you can’t get organic produce and grassfed meat here, but you can get coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut flour, maple syrup, Larabars, and tons more.  The trick is, you have to know how much you use those things before you subscribe, but this can be figured out and written down, and then acted on later.  Every little bit you save is worth it!

6.  Break out of your comfort zone.  If you’ve gone to the trouble to buy a pastured, local chicken, why would you ever throw out the giblets?  That package of grassfed beef liver in the case at the farm that’s priced way cheaper than any other cut?  It might as well be solid gold, nutritionally.  Eating offal (organ meat) is the best bang for your buck, again, nutrition-wise.  One really easy way to incorporate these foods into your diet is to grind them together with other meats.  Then, you’re making that pound of ground beef go a little further, and getting all the great benefits the organ meat as well.  My favorite way to do this is with liver and beef, and make meatloaf with the mixture.  My family likes it, and it’s easier on the pocketbook.  Win-win!

I hope these tips help, happy cooking!


Yummiest. Burgers. Ever.

Posted in gfcf diet, life in general, primal cooking with tags , on May 29, 2012 by askthesky

No photo, sadly, due to the speed with which my family inhaled them.


1 pound pastured ground beef (locals, get some here, others, here)

1 pound happy life ground pork

3 TBS Penzey’s Greek seasoning

Mix it all up, form into patties, make a little indentation with your thumb in the center (keeps them from puffing up on the grill), and grill carefully until done.  I can’t say how long, since my grill a’int your grill.  Also, the carefully part is important here- the pork will drip more fat than a regular beef burger, and you don’t want to catch your deck on fire.  Start them on a low flame, get some color going, and then finish them on a sheet of foil placed over the grill rack to reduce flare-ups.

We ate ours sandwiched between romaine hearts “bread” with mayo.  Zander commented, “this is the best meal ever.”  So matter-of-fact, that one.


Mystery, solved.

Posted in life in general, musings with tags , , on May 18, 2012 by askthesky

So, remember all that stuff about my stomach being so out of whack, and putting my foot down about getting to the bottom of it all?

Yeah.  I got to the bottom of it, all right.  😉

Baby Ask The Sky, due Christmas Day, 2012.  If you’re inclined, please pray/light a candle/chat an incantation/send some good juju our way.  If you’re a long time reader, you know why.  Thanks in advance.

New Developments

Posted in autism, gfcf diet, musings, PDD-NOS, primal cooking with tags , , on April 13, 2012 by askthesky

FAIR WARNING: This post contains highly personal health information.  If you’d not like to read about such things, by all means, back away from this post.

The radio silence around these parts has been due to a knock-down, drag-out fight between me and my intestines. Recently, my son got what seemed to be one of those 24-hour vomiting viruses.  He got sick twice, once in the car (my sweet husband earned a parenting stripe for that incident), and then the next day was bouncing off the walls in his usual way.  Textbook stomach bug.  Despite washing my hands twenty billion times during my son’s illness and subsequent hazmat clean-up, two days later, I woke before dawn with crippling stomach pain.  Now, my stomach woes always tend towards the other end of the body, rather than the vomiting, which (don’t get me wrong) I prefer, and yet, after 36 years of dealing with such issues on a weekly basis, I am so.  tired.  of it.

All that day, I stayed in bed, sleeping a ton and heading to the bathroom in between.  I had to work that evening, and I made it to the service, thankfully I didn’t have a lot of active ‘work’ to do, so I just dragged myself through it.  The next morning, I felt passable.  Not great, but good enough to say “Yeah, great idea” when husband suggested we hit the diner for breakfast.  I had two scrambled eggs, two sausage links, and three slices of tomato.  No coffee, just water.  All that day, I felt mildly off, but I took naps and breaks from cleaning the house, and it was okay.

The next morning was Easter, and when you work at a church, there is no missing Easter Sunday- not that I wanted to, or felt it was warranted, I actually felt a lot better when I got up that morning, on day 3.  We went to service, hunted eggs on the lawn, had all our friends over for lunch, and had a fun trip to the ER to give my son an albuterol treatment for his allergies (he’s fine).  On the way home from the hospital, I felt it.  That familiar acidic rumbling in my lower abdomen, coupled with the feeling of being trapped underwater.  It was coming back, and I was in the car for the next 20 minutes.  Would I make it?

(I did, you can stop worrying.  Thanks, though, you’re sweet.)

I say familiar, because for most of my life, I’ve been feeling this way every few weeks for a few days at a time.  I’ve learned to just power through, but it’s really awful.  I don’t know what happened this time, but something clicked in my head, and as I lay in bed the next day with a high fever, wondering how on earth this could possibly be the same virus my son had almost 5 days prior, I decided I was done with sucking it up.  I was going to get to the bottom of this, once and for all.

Starting around age 10, when I got my period, my stomach woes became a large part of my daily life.  I had (and still have, to some extent) really bad periods- terrible cramping, heavy bleeding, and, every single time it comes around, diarrhea.  This led my GYN in high school to posit that I may have Endometriosis.  Both my mother and older sister had been diagnosed with the condition as well, so it made sense.  A few years later, I would have exploratory surgery, with the intent of diagnosing the condition, and moving forward with treatment.  When they got in there, they found no sign of endometriosis.  Cysts, sure, and fibroids, they were having a nice party in there, but not the spots of tissue growth they had expected to find that would have explained my bowel issues.  I was diagnosed by my regular doctor as having IBS, and I was put on Levsin, which helped nothing.  I stopped taking it about a year later.

Flash forward to after my kids were born- Zander was three years old, and had just been diagnosed with autism.  I am lucky enough to have a dear friend who has dedicated her life to helping kids with autism, and she starts talking to me about dietary interventions.  “I have clients who seem to think it really helped their kids, and then others who swear it did nothing, but you’ve got to try.  As a mother, and not a trained therapist, this is really one of the only things you can do.”  I knew she was right.  Selfishly, I didn’t want to adopt the “autism diet”.  It seemed impossible, but I knew if it would help bring my son back out of his fog, I would do it.  We started the diet the week before Thanksgiving that year.  My son also had been dealing with his own intestinal issues, all very simliar to the ones I had struggled with my whole life.  He also had intense eczema and horrible diaper rash.  I met with some other local moms who were more practiced than I was, and we started cold turkey- we cut out gluten, dairy, soy, preservatives, artificial flavors, and artificial colors.  I realize that recently there’s been a lot of studies published that say dietary interventions don’t work for autism.  I guess for me, they just don’t matter.  For my kid, it was a miracle.  His language came back.  His eye contact came back.  His skin cleared up.  He started singing again.  He was my boy again, but still- he suffered from the bowel problems.  His diaper rash got mildy better, but never went away.

About two weeks into the new way of eating, my daughter and I had a large helping of all of the off-limits foods at a church dinner (I had packed my son’s dinner).  Lasagna, garlic bread, ranch salad dressing, croutons, parmesan cheese.  We were both sick for days and days.  It was like the flu, on crack.  I decided we must also have some sort of issue with these foods, and decided that the “cheating” wasn’t worth it.  My kids were so young when this happened (3 and 4), I just implemented the changes and didn’t look back.

The years passed, and my gut health remained about the same.  Usually, pretty good, and occasionally, really really bad.  I just sort of accepted this as my lot in life and trudged along.

Then, last year, I read The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson.  I talk a lot about how that book changed my life in another post.  Sufficed to say, I was so moved by the arguments laid out in the book, I decided to take my family one step further down the path to total weirdness, and cut out all grains, sugars, beans, and processed foods.  My husband, after about a month, started shedding weight like it was going out of style (and still is).  After 6 months on the new plan, I had lost 6 pounds.  SIX.  I couldn’t believe that was it.  And while my digestive woes had seemed to have calmed down a bit, they were still there, lurking in the background, making their appearance when it was most inconvenient.

Then, the week prior to this week happened.  I got really sick, for almost a whole week.  I ate almost nothing (homemade bone broth, eggs, tea, and one banana).  Then, I stumbled upon this post, by  Peggy of The Primal Parent.  The title caught my eye, as “IBS” was once one of my labels.  Fructose Malabsorption.  Huh.  All the symptoms seemed to mirror what I’ve been struggling with all these years.  Peggy recounts how even after trying a million different tinkers (and i’ve been there, too- GAPS, SCD), she just didn’t feel like she was optimizing her health.  This is exactly how I’ve been feeling about eating Primally!

Yesterday, I decided to give it a go.  I was already eating bone broth, meat, and eggs, now I’d just have to resist temptation with the fruit in the house, and add in the vegetables that are safe- no fructans (onions, garlic, cabbage, and a bunch more), but most things were acceptable to eat on the FM eating plan.

Now, I’m not saying that I have this disorder (yet), but some of the things Peggy wrote in that post really rang true for me, and after 2 days of cutting out fructose and fructans, my intestines seem a whole lot happier than they have been for the past week.  Here’s hoping that during the next few weeks of experimentation, I’ll be able to nail this down, one way or another.

Here’s hoping.

Linky love…

Posted in gfcf diet, life in general, primal cooking with tags , on March 13, 2012 by askthesky

Um, I have been bad about taking photos lately.  But!  I have lots of things to recommend to you today, that others have been posting, and that I have been trying.

First!  My nephew had his b-day party last Saturday, and although my sweet sister went to the trouble of baking Cherrybrook Kitchen cupcakes and making icing from scratch that was safe for the kids (thank you, sissy!), I wanted something for husband and me that was festive and birthday-ish without being so very full of refined sugar and junk.  I ended up making this cookie dough dip, but I changed it up a bit.  I’ve been having a serious craving for truffles lately, for some reason, so I rolled the “dip” into balls (I think I added a little more almond flour to facilitate this), stuck them in the deep-freezer for a couple hours, then dipped them in melted 80% dark chocolate.  They weren’t really hard (the coating was, but not the inside), even after a night time rest in the freezer, but I sort of loved that, b/c it made the coating sort of crunchy and hard, but the filling stayed nice and soft, like… a TRUFFLE.  Which is what I was going for.  I’m really excited to get my pre-ordered copy of Eat Like A Dinosaur, written by the Paleo Parents who came up with this brilliant recipe.

Tonight, I decided it was time to use up the rest of my Coconut Cream Concentrate.  I made chocolate fudge with it at Christmas, which was Very Very Good, but I still had about half the jar left (I got the big one), and it’s been taunting me up there in the cabinet.  I decided to try this recipe, which looks so pretty in the photos over there (go, I’ll wait… weren’t they nice?), but I wanted to dull the coconutty-ness a little.  The fudge was really good, but there’s something very science-experiment about the consistency of the cream concentrate.  It’s like that substance I used to have my students make with cornstarch and water- just when you think it’s a solid, it’s not.  Anyway.  I melted the coconut cream concentrate, melted some super dark chocolate, and chopped up some dried cherries and blueberries (Trader Joe’s).  I poured out the coconut first, then scattered the fruit and some sliced almonds over the top.  Then I topped it with the chocolate and spread it over the top so that it completely covered  the coconut.  It’s setting in the fridge now, I’ll let you know what we all thought of it.

Thanks, internet, for the great ideas!  Next post, I need to outline my family’s new favorite side dish- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna.  With pictures, for crying out loud…

So, I have this new business…

Posted in charm city craft mafia, crafting, musings, super fun for little one with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2012 by askthesky

…with my friend Julia!  It’s called Meep!Craft, and we make things for babies and mamas and all kinds of other happy people out of “upcycled” clothing.  This is a fancy way of saying that we take donated clothing, shirts and pants and skirts that are sad and forgotten, and give them new life!  It’s pretty fun, and good for the earth, too!  There’s a line of lunchbox products that are perfect for Primal/Paleo snacks! If you’re in need of a baby gift, a pretty pick-me-up for yourself, or some eco-friendly housewares, check it out!



The haps, as of late…

Posted in gfcf diet, life in general, musings, primal cooking with tags , , on February 23, 2012 by askthesky

So!  We got some new windows in our house!  I realize this is likely only exciting to me and my husband, but I’m going to show you some photos anywho:

Old windows = Crudsville, USA

Nice packing tape screen patch, eh?  We’re all class over here.


Here's the surprisingly unsettling empty window hole

New wondrous window goodness!

Of course, I had to buy new curtains.  The old wood blinds just weren’t cutting it with these new, sexy windows.  I got the kids plain black (above), because I don’t care what their wants and needs might be.  Mother of the year!  Seriously, though, the Target had NO cute curtains that weren’t ridiculously gender specific.  In fact, they only had girly ones, and one “manly” print for a boy’s room that was inexplicably covered in frogs.  Like, anatomically correct, from a biology textbook frogs.  Maybe for the boy’s bedroom in a… hunting lodge?  In the wilds of Canada?  I don’t know, people.  I got the black ones.  I actually like them a lot, cause they block out a lot more of the light than the wood blinds did, therefore facilitating the possibility of the children sleeping in past 7 on a Saturday morning.  And truly, it’s the little things.  I got new curtains for our room, too, wheeee!

They are purple with a white paisley-esque print on them.  Not too girly, though.  They really give the room a “someone gave a crap” kind of a feeling.  I dig it.

Ok, enough about the windows, woman!  On to some cooking… things have been really doused in homemade chicken stock the past couple of days (weeks), since we’ve all been sick in one way or another recently.  I’ve managed to make a few other things, though, including fake Larabars (using this fantastic recipe).  They are approximately 1/16th of the cost of actual, real-life, non-imposter Larabars, which are now dead to me.  Also!  Meatballs!

Here’s how I make meatballs, which I tend to make once a week if not once an hour.  We love the meatballs.

Ground meat (I usually use 2 pounds of ground beef and 2 pounds of ground pork)

eggs (if you’re using 4 pounds, 3 eggs- one pound, 1 egg)

seasonings of your fancy (these had greek seasoning, and dear LORD were they amazing- if I’m doing Italian ones, I’d add a little worcestershire, some garlic powder, basil, and lots of oregano)

Mix the above ingredients together until everything is happily mingling and making small talk.  Then, dust over the top some almond flour.  I can’t give you a measurement here, because it really depends on how moist your meat was (sorry, I hate that word, too, but ‘wet’ seemed even more gross).  You want the mixture to hold together well without crumbling.  Add almond flour a little at a time, mixing as you go, until you can pinch a little bit of meat together in a ball and it holds its shape.

Use a teeny tiny scoop to scoop out meatballs onto a lined (parchment or silpat) cookie sheet.  My scoop is 2 tablespoons, which I think is a great size for soups or appetizers.  I like them smaller because they cook quicker, and hold together better.  Bake them at 375 for about 15 minutes.  Rotate your pan(s) and bake for another 10 or so, if they aren’t browning yet.  Take them out when they’ve got a nice color, and try in vain to hide them from your ravenous family.

There have also been some lovely brussels sprouts:



AND, I bought myself an apron for Valentine’s Day, because the kitchen was my Valentine.  I couldn’t resist it.

Cook covered in hearts, signing off!