Tag: cooking tips

Primal Substitutes for Non-Primal Foods

It’s perhaps the most commonly asked question, both here in the forums and around the Primal/paleo blogosphere: what about bread/rice/grains/mashed potatoes/fish-and-chips/sweets? That is, what Primal foods can I eat that will satisfy my nascent urges for conventional “comfort foods”? In a perfect fat-adapted world, these urges would be non-existent. We would all be sated on nothing but meat, fat, vegetables, and a bit of fruit, and on a normal day I would stress the importance of desiring truly Primal foods rather than Primal approximations of high-carb, conventional fare.

Today isn’t a normal day, though. We’re in the middle of a particularly intensive Health Challenge, one that centers around making small (but doable) positive changes. For all our new members, finding alternate low-carb versions of the classic high-carb foods can be just the ticket to maintaining their personal health commitments under duress – and for that reason, I rounded up every low-carb food alternative source I could find. Strict PB pros and Primal stalwarts, forgive me, but I’m doing it for everyone’s collective good. Consider this my 80/20 moment. (wink)

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On the Trail of the Elusive Fiddlehead Fern

The fleeting fiddlehead fern season is upon us, readers. All across the country, gourmands are eagerly descending upon farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and premium grocers in search of the slightly fuzzy, furled fern tips that taste a bit like asparagus. Cooked properly, the fiddlehead fern is bright green and tender, with a nice crisp bite.

Their name comes from the fact that the tightly coiled ferns resemble the curled end of a fiddle or a violin. Like their namesake, good fiddlehead ferns are expensive, stemming from the high production costs. Fiddlehead ferns are wild-harvested, mostly in the northeastern United States; they’re foraged for, rather than cultivated, and the expansive selection of similar-looking (yet inedible) wild ferns make proper foraging a difficult task requiring expertise. What you want is the ostrich fern tips, but what the inexperienced fern forager might come across is the nearly identical Bracken Fern, which is carcinogenic. So, seeing as how I neither live in the northeast nor do I have access to an “Edible Fern Field Guide,” I figured I’d just buy the ferns at a store. Grok would have disapproved, but whatever.

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Dear Mark: Considering Cookware

Hi Mark,

I couldn’t find any MDA posts that tackled the matter of cookware possibly leaching heavy metals and/or toxic chemicals into food. I’ve read that a porcelain/ceramic inside surface is the way to go, (thereby avoiding Teflon and metals), but good-quality examples like Le Creuset are darn expensive, and lesser-quality ones like Heuck look like camping gear to me.  Have you researched or concluded anything on this matter?  Is this a non-issue?

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How to Can Tomatoes

For people of a self-reliant ilk (as Primal readers usually are), what better way to ensure the quality of your food than preparing it yourself? I post a lot of recipes for various meals on MDA, and I’ve urged readers to produce their own food if possible – either by hunting or gardening. There was even that sauerkraut guide last week. But until today, I haven’t tackled the age-old process of home canning.

In the past, I’ve been a bit critical of canned items, and rightfully so. The soups are often loaded with preservatives and lines and lines of unrecognizable ingredients, while canned fruit is usually soaking in a syrup bath. Canned vegetables are a great choice when fresh produce isn’t available, but you still have to check the ingredient list. Still, the convenience of canned goods can’t be beat, and all those concerns about unPrimal ingredients go out the window if you take it upon yourself to learn how to can your own food. Just as cooking at home allows you to make sure your meal is truly Primal, home canning allows you to control exactly what goes into your canned food.

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Are Microwave Ovens Safe?

To Nuke or Not to Nuke?

The verb itself suggests the unleashing of atomic destruction, but we wondered, “Is there a grain of truth behind the slang?” What’s the real story behind these boxes of convenience sitting in so many of our kitchens? Are microwaves a benign bastion of modern handiness or, as some claim, a sinister contributor to our physiological (at least nutritional) undoing?

It’s likely that we find ourselves in a variety of camps on this issue. Some of us swear them off. Others unapologetically swear by them to get through the normal course of a busy day. And then there are those of us in the dithering middle who routinely stare at each plate of leftovers or bowl of frozen vegetables, sometimes reaching for the pots and pans and other times giving into convenience but always questioning whether we’re paying for it.

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Eat with Your Hands

We follow the diet of Grok, we exercise the same muscles with the same movements that Grok used, and we just generally do our best to live Primally in a decidedly modern world. At the same time, though, we use cell phones and computers. We drive cars or take public transport. And unless your HMO covers shaman visits, we go to the doctor when we fall seriously ill or break something. I guess what I’m trying to convey is that, as followers of the Primal Blueprint, we get the best of both worlds. We’re Primal, but not to a fault (no coming-of-age blood initiation rites, no dying out because of a sprained ankle). Likewise, we’re modern (modern evolutionary science has given us the tools to conclude that the Primal way is the best for us), but cognizant of the considerable downsides this world entails.

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How to Make Dried Fruit

Dried fruit? Isn’t that kind of high in sugar? Well, the short answer is yes, but the long answer is that in small doses – such as in a nut-based snack mix, or sprinkled on top of a high-fat plain yogurt (e.g. Fage Total) for a sweet dessert – dried fruit can be a welcome addition to the Primal eating plan. With that said, it is called Nature’s candy for good reason, so be careful not to overdo it.

Before we get started, let’s first address why you should be drying your own fruit – especially when dried fruit is available just about anywhere (and by that we mean even the grimiest of gas stations are stocking it these days!). According to the folks over at Wikipedia, some commercially available dried fruit products are first treated with sulfur dioxide to enhance the color of the product after drying. The problem? Sulfur dioxide can trigger asthma symptoms in those with the disorder. You can avoid purchasing sulfur dioxide-treated fruit by always opting for organic dried fruit products.

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How to Build Your Own Square Foot Garden in 10 Easy Steps

Let’s face it: Produce is expensive and, with the economy moving the way it is, it doesn’t look like its going to get any cheaper any time soon. A simple solution? Grow your own.

Now before you quit reading thinking this isn’t the post for you and your far-from-green thumb, it really doesn’t have to be that tough to keep-up – and benefit from – a garden, especially if you start small.

So, how small are we talking? Well, if you’ve got even 4 square-feet of outdoor space, you can enter the square foot gardening game.

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Dear Mark: Soaking Seeds and Nuts

Dear Mark,

I love nuts, but they most definitely do NOT love me back! Since going “primal” about 18 months ago, I’ve increased my consumption of nuts and seeds. Well actually, I’ve gone overboard.  (Seems I just can’t have a handful and call it a day.) Now nuts and seeds in virtually any amount cause me to have major digestion issues. It’s indescribably bad, let’s just leave it at that. I’ve read a lot about soaking (sprouting) nuts and seeds and it seems to make a lot of sense to try this. I’d love to have your opinion on this!

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Egg Purchasing Guide

Ah, eggs. We Primals appreciate your delicious creamy yolky goodness and fluffy decadent ivory insides, like so many edible clouds upon whose buoyancy our breakfast relies. You’re good for us and come naturally pre-packaged. What’s not to love?

The myriad terms used to describe them, for one.

Cage free. Organic. All natural. Free range. You see these terms on egg cartons all the time, some even using all four at once! But what do they mean? Does “free range” mean access to a chicken’s natural, Primal diet? Let’s examine each nebulous term for what it’s worth.

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