Whole Foods ANDI Scores

While I do tend to shy away from large, chain grocers in favor of small farm stands and meat shops, I can’t help but love Whole Foods. Yes, in some areas they’re very expensive, but they can also offer very low prices* once you know how to shop there (*this also makes the assumption that you’re set on going local, organic, pastured, etc – compare prices to other stores at that level). Also, to address the local vs. chain factor, my local Whole Foods does an admirable job of stocking meats, dairy and produce from local/organic farms.

Whole Foods offers an amazing selection of foods which elsewhere would be hard to find. And while I think the founder of the mega-chain is simply a silly-vegetarian, the local, Brighton Whole Foods meat counter has a huge selection of buffalo, grass-fed beef and lamb, bacon, sausages, suet and salted pork fat, as well as offal.

And one more reason to like Whole Foods (where I shop several times a week), is their recently new addition of the ANDI Score System. This scoring range between 0-1000 underlines of the key primal/paleo values: focus on eating nutrient dense foods (ratio of nutrients to calories). Leafy greens, of course, dominate the Top 10; (from WF’s site)

Vegetable ANDI Score
1. Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens 1000
2. Kale 1000
3. Watercress 1000
4. Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy 824
5. Spinach 739
6. Broccoli Rabe 715
7. Chinese/Napa Cabbage 704
8. Brussels Sprouts 672
9. Swiss Chard 670
10. Arugula 559

This is not to say that you need to only stick with top 10/20 listed items, because other vegetables have essential vitamins and minerals which leafy greens don’t offer. It simply helps to make Americans aware that there are VERY important vegetables being ignored, which should be included far more often in our diet. Being primal isn’t about counting calories (I would barely know how), but rather avoiding empty calories found in starches, grains and sugars.

On this note, I made some steamed, then sauteed Swiss Green Chard this evening, and with a lot of garlic and a little lemon, this is one of my new favorite greens! Thanks Whole Foods.

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Balancing My Fats and Greens

After a few days straight of my favorite Tomato Meat Sauce (don’t even miss the pasta), laden in tallow and olive oil, as well as sauteed kale in lard and eggs, I’m feeling a bit sluggish… I love grease, meat, thick stews, but sometimes it’s too much. That’s why I’m looking forward to the chicken stock I made (again) a few nights ago – that stuff goes fast! Just broth, choy, sesame oil and sriracha! (also, this time I used less water to just cover the bones and feet, so it turned out perfectly gelatinous)

I’ll probably poach a few eggs as well, but I’m going to keep the grease to a minimum over the next few days. I’ll throw in more steamed greens and veggies to help cleanse my system. Sometimes it defeats the purpose of eating greens when they’re drenched in pork product  🙂

Also, my pops tried some Kale Chips he made himself the other day, and recommended I try it too. So, I’ll be picking up some Red and Green Kale this afternoon to prepare as a New Year’s snack for tomorrow; that and deviled eggs!

Crispy Kale Recipe
The biggest secret to getting the kale super-crisp is to dry them in a salad spinner. If there is moisture on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. Also, do not salt the kale until after they have come out of the oven. If you salt beforehand, the salt will just cause the kale to release moisture…thus steaming instead of crisping. I’ve also found that the convection setting on my oven works really well too – I set the convection on 325F and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Have fun with this recipe, I sometimes mix the salt with Cajun or Creole seasoning.
4 giant handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces and tough stems removed (about 1/3 pound)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the kale leaves into a salad spinner and spin all of the water out of the kale. Dump the water and repeat one or two times more just to make sure that the kale is extra dizzy and dry. Use a towel to blot any extra water on the leaves. Place the kale on the baking sheet.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the kale leaves and use your hands to toss and coat the leaves. Bake in the oven for 12-20 minutes until leaves are crisp. Take a peek at the 12 minute mark – the timing all depends on how much olive oil you use. Just use a spatula or tongs to touch the leaves, if they are paper-thin crackly, the kale is done. If the leaves are still a bit soft, leave them in for another 2 minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown (they’ll be burnt and bitter). Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

Looking forward to a healthier, leaner, more primal new year (and new me)!

P.S. Pops… if you liked the Kale Chips, you’ll also like the seaweed snacks I brought over  😉

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Christmas Blunders

Well, I made a valiant effort to stay primal during the holidays, but chocolate (crafty basterd) got the best of me. Nor did I keep up my IF. With treats, holiday parties and feasts abounding, I found myself unable to resist (though to be fair, I very well at the company party.. stuck to meat, veggies and two beers, as well as one piece of cake!)

Some of my new button downs (thanks pops) are fitting a bit tighter than I’d have hoped, but it hasn’t gone out of control. I’ll be back on track within a fortnight. Plan’s the same as before the holidays; load up on soups, greens, pastured meats and fats, keep alcohol to a minimum, and eat once a day.

The only other thing I’ve noticed is that I’m having more cream with my coffee (and more coffee, in general) than usual, so I’m going to cut way back and buy some organic, grass-fed heavy cream. Overall, I’m not that disappointed because this is just part of the yearly cycle, though I’m hoping to be leaner and leaner each time these cyclical speed-bumps come around.

And officially as of Christmas, I may have some primal converts at home and at the office. I’m excited to get them on board, and think that in reviewing this material, I’ll also be able to fine tune my own daily routine.

Stay primal!

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Soup from Scraps

Made my first ever pot of chicken broth from scraps the other night. I’ve made it from cubes, powders, and even from whole chickens fresh from the store, but this batch was simply from some leftover bones, skin and scraps of meats I had been saving recently from random rotisserie meals I’ve stashed away in the freezer.

It’s so simple to do, I honestly don’t know why people buy the boxed stuff so often. Yes, it’s not nearly as quick, but it’s so much better for you and I think much tastier too. I brewed the bones and scraps in purified water some thyme, dried mushrooms, onions and some dried kombu for about 5-6 hours total (between two nights, as inspiration struck me late in the first evening).

Tonight, my dinner was a simple bowl of broth with green onion and napa cabbage, then I seasoned it with salt, pepper, sriracha and sesame oil. I think that as a child, I always mildly enjoyed chicken soup, but it was missing something. A little heat and that savory sesame oil bridges that gap. I’m now a soup person. No longer will I confine myself to the stews and stoups like beef stew, curried chicken, chili or hearty meat sauces (amazing though they may be). I could really see myself having a thin bowl of chicken or beef broth almost nightly this winter with some form of leafy green thrown in. That’s how good this “scrap” broth was.

What vegetable medleys and salads are to spring/summer and squash is to fall, so to will my broth be my winter “go-to”. Here’s to a warm and deliciously healthy winter!

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Company Lunches

I thought I’d throw out a post about how I handle the free lunches we get on the weekend shifts I regularly take part in. To keep myself above water, I often head into work on a Saturday or Sunday for a 7-hr CSR shift; better OT pay here than I’m likely to get with most part-time jobs people have. 

Anyways, the company provides free lunch on the weekend, and most of the time I simply abstain, especially if I’m fasting until dinner; this especially goes for pizza or burrito days. However, this weekend, I found a way to joinin on the social event of “looking like cattle waiting to get at the corporate trough,” while remaining primal. Yesterday, we had sandwiches and salad. So, I heaped mountains salad with olive oil and vinegar, along with two roast beef sandwiches. After eating the salad(s – seconds), I took the roast beef out of the sandwich and tore into it. I realize that the beef probably had preservatives and was grain-fed beef, but I’m willing to take the small hit compared to the accompanying mayo and bread.

Today, they brought us rotisserie chicken quarters with Mac & Cheese and Corn. Simple… so simple. I just ate the chicken – done. Plus, as an added bonus, I’m saving the extra skin, scrap meat and bones. I’m going to take these bad larry’s home to add to the other chicken scraps bag in my freezer, which I make into a great chicken broth next week. If only they had also served raw carrots, onions and parsley   🙂

Being Primal can be tough if you religate yourself to “needing” to avoid social events. I say just make do with what you have in most cases and don’t be afraid of the “watchful eyes”. I often welcome the opportunity to explain why I do the ridiculous things I do. I’ve rarely encountered someone who’s truly weird out by my lifestyle, but rather just curious.

I think the people who are particularly weirded out, are those who are fotunate enough to catch that crazy guy walking outside with an open pack of Applegate Farms Grass-fed Roast Beef on his break… seriously, I just tear into fingerfuls of lunch meat! Sometimes, it feels good to just do whatever I want without feeling self-conscious; it’s quite liberating.

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Accidentally Primal

As I mentioned two posts back, I visited my father’s house this past weekend (mainly to see my nieces). My pops had made this soup recently which he’s told me about several times since. Well, for lunch that day, I got my chance to try some. It’s such a simple recipe:

– Chicken Broth
– Yu-Choy
– Egg Whites (fried, then sliced into ribbons)
– Can of Tuna

Besides the artificial broth powder my pops uses, it was surprisingly good, healthy and simple. And best of all, it’s completely primal! So, I decided to make it again at my place for Steph and me. Unfortunately, the Whole Foods nearby only had Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy. I’m not trying to knock Bok Choy, but while healthy, it’s never been my favorite. Yu-Choy is leafy at the top and the stock is more similar in texture and taste to broccoli stems. No huge deal though.

Not having chicken broth on hand at the time, I bought the simplest organic broth I could from WF’s, More Than Gourmet. Just water, chicken, fat, mirapoix, tapioca starch (better than corn/wheat), geletin, salt and spices; no dextrose, corn starch, hydrogenated oils, msg, etc. Tossed the broth and chopped choy into the pot, fried the egg whites on the side and stripped them, then threw those in as well with the tuna.. Voila! Very simple, tasty and satisfying. The perfect, light winter dinner.

And to improve it further, I added a bit of Sracha, Green Onion and Sesame Oil to my next helping. Well done, pops. Well done.

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Evil Chinese Pine Nuts

This is not a tirade against Pine Nuts because I love fresh roasted pine nuts in my arugula salads. In fact, they’re the best part of said favorite salad. However, I came across a problem recently, which I had never exerienced before. It wasn’t grave, but it became increasingly concerning over the past few days: A bitter, metallic aftertaste in my mouth when ever I had finished eating anything.

I honestly thought for whatever reason that something in my diet from the old Vit D and Fish Oil to my new broth beverage routine was to blame, but NO. It was the pine nuts I had in my salad from over 4 days ago. It didn’t just strike, but I wasn’t overly aware of this unagreeable flavor until two days ago. Ruining my beautiful, primal meals… even my girlfriend’s amazing meat sauce was an apparently common syndrome known as “Pine Mouth”.

After some research, I came across several reports, stating that a recent influx of Chinese imported Pine Nuts were possibly the route of the cause, but it’s difficult to pinpoint because they’re indentical in appearance. Here’s an excerpt from an NPR article:

… there’s another theory about what causes the bitter taste: Chinese imports. Researchers in Switzerland recently did a chemical analysis of imported pine nuts and identified two species that have not traditionally been part of the food supply.

“One was the Chinese White Pine and the other was the Chinese Red Pine,” said Munk. So the second theory is that Pine Mouth is caused by an inedible species of pine nuts that have made it onto the market.

The problem is, there’s no way for most consumers to tell. They look the same on the salad, so you might want to approach these nuts with a little caution.

Oh, joy. Yet another nut, which needs to be scrutinized (re: origin) before purchased. Added to the list among cashews from Thailand or India, which are likely rancid because of the long voyage to the US market and are most certainly irradiated before entering US soil. That’s why Trader Joe’s was able to sell Pine Nuts for so much less I suppose.

Caveat Emptor!

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