Archive for October, 2011

Switching to Paleo? Here’s your first shopping list!

What can you and can you not eat on a Paleo diet? Here’s a rundown. This could be your first Paleo shopping list! We will be using all these items to cook your first 3 Paleo meals!

1 dozen pastured or omega-3 or cage-free eggs
1 pack of bacon
1 large pork chop (or fish steak)
1 beef liver
6 beef marrow bones
1 celery
3 big carrots
1 bunch of radishes
1 head of cauliflower
1 plain unsweetened coconut milk (get the diluted beverage one)
1 bottle of olive oil
1 bottle of unrefined Virgin Coconut oil
1 green salad mix
1 raw & unrefined honey
1 bag of walnuts or pecans
1 medium onion
1 garlic head
1 avocado
1 jar of olives
1 tomato
1 box of berries
1 lemon
1 apple
1 peach
1 butter
1 jar of mustard (if you don’t like it buy 1 more lemon)
1 salt with iodine
1 whole black pepper with grinder
1 oregano

If you spend less than 20-30 minutes in the sun daily, consider supplementing with vitamin D at about 1000 IU. Enough Vitamin D (also K2, magnesium & krill oil), along the bone marrow broths, raw coconut oil spoonfuls, and offal consumption 1-2 times a week, is one of the secrets of Paleo’s success.

Here’s how to use these products you just bought:

Breakfast: Fry two eggs in coconut oil with salt & pepper. Remove the eggs when done, add 4 strips of bacon and fry them until crisp. Cut half an avocado, peel it, slice it (reserve the rest in the fridge unpeeled, in plastic wrap). Serve all of that with 1/4 cup of berries, and a glass of coconut milk beverage, or water.

At 9 AM (once a week only): In a big pot (or slow-cooker) fill it with water, and put in there the beef marrow bones, two washed celery talks, 1 washed & chopped carrot, 1 peeled & chopped onion, 2 peeled cloves of garlic, salt & pepper. Cook with the lid closed, until 6 PM in low heat. Let it cool for an hour or so, add two tablespoons olive oil, and then strain the broth into a big glass jar. Drink a glass of that bone broth with your dinner (eat the marrow itself too, but discard the veggies/bones), and keep the rest of the broth in your fridge. Consume it within one week.

Lunch: Wash the 2 carrots and the radishes, and cut them in 1″ pieces. If radishes’ greens are in good shape & they look fresh, wash these up too and chop them. Place them all in a baking dish, and then drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey on them. Place the beef liver in the middle of that same baking dish (make room). Then add two tablespoons coconut oil, salt & pepper, and 1/4 cup water. Bake at 400F (205 C) for 50 minutes until soft, turning the liver a few times in between. In the meantime, wash and slice the tomato, peel and cut the second half of the avocado in pieces. Add these half of the the green salad mix in a salad bowl, and then pour on the salad some olive oil, black pepper, and half of a washed lemon. Toss the salad, and then put the used half-lemon in the still-cooking bone broth. Enjoy your liver with mustard or some lemon. Have a peach for dessert.

Dinner: Cut half of the cauliflower, and wash it (refrigerate back the rest). Boil it in lots of boiling water, until soft (optionally, add a clove of garlic if you like it garlicky). Strain the water out, add 1 tablespoon of butter, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons coconut milk. Mash the cauliflower with a potato-masher, or use a blender, until it’s pureed. Meanwhile, use a frying pan and add two tablespoons coconut oil in it, the pork chop (or fish), salt & pepper, oregano. Fry in medium heat until cooked through. To prepare dinner’s big salad: add the rest of the greens from the salad mix, some walnuts, peel/seed/slice the apple, and add them all in a salad bowl. Juice some lemon on them, and add olive oil, salt, pepper, and then toss well. Enjoy your dinner, with the still-warm bone broth & marrow, a few olives, and water.

After 2-3 hours of dinner, it’s time to sleep now. Always eat enough during meals so you’re never hungry in between, and never skip breakfast (or you WILL be hungry by 10 AM eating random garbage). There’s no snacking after dinner (or ever), and try to keep the food times constant every day. You can have caffeine-free plain herbal tea at any time though, and of course, water. Smoothies as occasional desserts are ok, as long as all the pulp is in there too.

Tomorrow, if you have left overs (e.g. roasted radishes), you can incorporate these in your breakfast instead of the avocado (microwave them to get them hot again). For your future shopping list consider eating all kinds of allowed veggies (some of them will be a new tasting experience for you), meat/fish/offal, and fruits. Mix and match, the sky’s the limit. Forget real desserts, and breads btw. Nobody should be eating 3 cups of almond flour in a bread/cake form, because you wouldn’t be eating as much almond normally (not even within 2-3 days). Overdosing on that stuff is not good for you, and it’s one of the reasons why grains are such a problem today (too much wheat or corn or rice in everything). Learn to live without these kinds of “processed or complex” recipes. Simplicity is key.

Paleo Breakfast Cereal

Today I went to the dentist for teeth cleaning and one filling. Now that I’m on this Primal diet (Paleo + selected dairy), I’m hoping to not ever have to visit a dentist again. The interesting thing is that about 2 hours after returning from the dentist I had a very weird urge to eat dairy. I eat lactose-free probiotic goat yoghurt and goat lactose-free hard cheese occasionally, and I supplement with calcium, but this urge was different. It wasn’t a craving per se, it was a need. My husband theorized that my teeth endured severe stress today because of the dentistry, and they depleted the calcium reserves in my body.

Unfortunately, my next batch of goat yoghurt wasn’t ready yet, and the only commercial goat yoghurt I could find had… tapioca flour in it. Most Americans think all yoghurts are thick, while this is not the case with goat yoghurt (really Trader Joe’s? flour in the yoghurt?). Even my aunt in Greece who owns ~200 goats, has to add a bit of sheep milk in the mix in order for her home-made goat yoghurt to be less runny. But she definitely doesn’t use… flour, and if she doesn’t have sheep milk at hand, she will simply just make her yoghurt with goat milk alone. So I bought some regular goat milk (with lactose in it, no option) to appease my calcium need.

Recently I saw this amazingly-looking Paleo roasted “cereal” recipe, so I had to try something like it. Because time was of the essence, I simply did a “raw” version of it. Works just as well if you don’t have the time to bake stuff. It looked and tasted amazing. Who needs cereal grains when you can have nuts and seeds?

Ingredients (for 1)
* 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk or kefir
* 1 tspoon of raw & unfiltered honey (optional)
* 1 tspoon of unsalted pecan pieces
* 1 tspoon of unsalted walnut pieces
* 1 tspoon of silvered almonds
* 1 tspoon of unsalted pistachios
* 1 tspoon of unsalted raw pine nuts
* 1 tspoon of unsalted, raw sunflower/safflower seeds
* 1 tspoon of unsalted, raw pumpkin/squash/pepitas seeds
* 2 Tbspoons of frozen or fresh berry selection (e.g. blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, or other kinds etc)

Execution
1. Put all the nuts & seeds in a breakfast bowl. If using unsweetened milk, you could optionally add a teaspoon of honey and stir it well in. Add the berries and milk. If using frozen berries, wait for 2-3 minutes for them to get warmer. The berries will now release some color into the milk, making it look really interesting. Enjoy!

Variation: You can also use hot milk, and a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder! Optionally, a pinch of cinnamon too. Or, you can use a chopped banana instead of berries!

Notes:
1. If using Brazil nuts, make sure you only use 1 of them, chopped. A single Brazil nut has over 100% of the daily value for Selenium, but it also has the most phytic acid than any other nut, so you don’t want to be overdosing in any of that.

2. Macadamias are great to use in this recipe, but you’ll have to buy them chopped, or use a food processor to chop them. Same goes for hazelnuts, which in addition will have to be skinned. Might not worth the effort for a quick breakfast.

3. Do not use peanuts, they’re not nuts. Botanically, they’re beans/legumes.

How to make Free Healthcare Cheap

Article is updated below.

The vast majority of the reasons people go to the doctors are preventable. 25% of Westerners for example, have gut issues. Possibly another 50% is about conditions ranging from depression (1 in 10 Americans take dangerous drugs for it), to painful period, to acne, to asthma, to cancer. In my (non-scientific) estimation, 75% of all conditions that drive people to visit doctors can be prevented if these people were to go Paleo/Primal, and most importantly, if they were grown up with such a diet (most current adult patients can only be made asymptomatic on such a diet, but they can’t fully heal, while kids can). Think how much cheaper a free healthcare government program then it would be. Republicans wouldn’t even make such a fuss about it.

This is how my worldview changed in this past month, after my switch to Paleo:

Of course, having everyone feasting on game, pastured meat, organic & local veggies/fruits, and completely ditching grains & beans is not sustainable for 7 billion people. But this does not negate the above reasoning, it just says that we need to limit our numbers on this planet, so we can live healthy lives. Quality, not quantity.

More information on the leaky gut, that you most probably have without knowing it, here.

UPDATE: How to reset your leptin resistance (a master hormone that also regulates cortisol & insulin), and gain your health back (based on Dr Jack Kruse‘s protocol). It is what I follow myself. On this regimen, if you’re overweight you’ll lose weight, if you’re underweight you’ll gain weight:
Rule 1: Never miss breakfast, eat protein with some fat. Avoid carbs if you can.
Rule 2: No snacking at all, but especially after dinner. Timing is important. Eat breakfast between 6-8 AM, lunch between 12-2 PM, and dinner between 6-8 PM. If your day falls differently, then adjust. Meals need to be spread out to give the liver time to use gluconeogenesis again.
Rule 3: Follow the Paleolithic diet explained below, for life. Learn to eat all kinds of veggies (including rare ones), and get used to eating offal & bone broths.
Rule 4: Supplement with a good multi-vitamin. The most important vitamins are D3 (the recommended value is apparently too low at 400IU, especially if you’re not going out in the sun much), K2 MK-4, Magnesium, and DHA/EPA. Eat fermented foods, or get a multi-probiotic, especially if you have gut issues.
Rule 5: Walk. Lift some weights occasionally. No need for heavy exercise.

Bonus: Meditation, especially for those with cortisol problems.

Update 2: The Paelo/Primal/SCD diet food list. Do not count calories, do not eat processed foods, read labels! And remember, Paleo is a diet to get your health back, weight loss is just a natural outcome of it only IF you’re overweight. Disclaimer: These statements haven’t been verified by the FDA, and I’m not a doctor.

– Drink enough no-fluoride water (bottled, if you have to). Between 2 and 3 liters a day, depending on sex, age and activity. Water is good for you.

– Eat ALL kinds of edible vegetation, from green leaves to roots, herbs, spices, tubers, mushrooms, squashes etc. Starchy tubers (e.g. sweet potatoes) must be eaten in moderation or after workouts. Eat a lot of fermented vegetables too (e.g. unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi).

– Meat, wild fish, pastured eggs, pastured poultry, shellfish (especially oysters), game. Have offal (especially liver) once a week. Have home-made bone marrow broth daily (reheated in a cup, or used in foods). Try to achieve a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 by purchasing pastured meat and wild-caught fish. Give priority to fish/shellfish over meat.

– All fruits, in some loose moderation. Berries, avocados, olives are the most-suggested fruits, the rest of fruits must be thought of only as a “dessert”. Sodas and fruit juices are not allowed, but you could make your own fruit smoothies. Smoothies must include all of the fruit’s pulp, not just its sugary juice.

– IF you can tolerate dairy, you can have goat, sheep, or buffalo cheese and home-made, probiotic, lactose-free, goat or sheep, full-fat kefir/yoghurt (fermented for 24 hours). Unless you can perfectly tolerate it, avoid cow dairy (its casein is problematic), except for grass-fed butter/ghee, and possibly sour cream. Unless you can trust your local raw goat milk, avoid plain animal milk altogether (coconut and almond milk are ok, but soy milk is NOT ok). Note: home-made goat kefir is a super-food, one of the most potent ones! Dairy is not the enemy (under specific conditions).

– Good fats: Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter, avocado oil, ghee, tallow, lard, duck fat. Trans-fats, hydrogenated vegetable seed oils, margarine aren’t allowed (major cause for inflammation). Mostly use coconut oil when cooking under normal heat, butter or animal fats in low heat, avocado oil in high heat cooking, and use olive oil raw in salads.

– Nuts, except peanuts. Peanuts are NOT nuts, they’re dried beans, and they’re toxic! All the rest of the nuts are allowed, unsalted and preferably raw or soaked — in moderation (they contain lots of phytates and PUFA, so take it easy). Especially take it easy with nut butter and nut flours! Almond or coconut-based baking goods should be rare.

– Seeds (in moderation). Squash/pumpkin, pine, and dried watermelon seeds are very nutritious. Quinoa & amaranth seeds are grain-like, and so they aren’t allowed too often (they contain saponins), but their green leaves are good to eat. Especially go for whole ground flax meal and chia seeds for your crackers or smoothies.

– A bit of honey. It must be local, raw & unfiltered, otherwise don’t even bother. You can also use pure maple syrup, but only in small quantities. All other sweeteners, including sugar, stevia, agave, and all artificial ones are NOT allowed.

– 82% to 99% cocoa dark chocolate, in moderation. Don’t worry, after 4-5 weeks on this diet, you’ll be eating such a bitter chocolate without a problem. Your taste buds will regrow!

– Avoid caffeine & alcohol (especially beer, it’s loaded with gluten). Wine and Cider are ok, but use rarely. Go for chamomile and herbal Greek Mountain Tea (sideritis) if you can, best for health. Non-herbal tea can’t beat sideritis in health effects, plus, it’s loaded with fluoride.

– Use good quality sea salt. Eat sea veggies once or twice a week too (different varieties), in order to get even more iodine.

– Modern veggies/fruits are aggressively selected, and the earth has lost minerals after thousands of years of agriculture, so they’re often poor nutritionally. Consider supplementing with Magnesium at night (most people are deficient), D3 in the morning (if you’re not getting enough sun). Also, K2 Mk4 (not plain K or MK-7), and Krill or Fish Oil (or, you can get the “Fermented Cod Liver Oil & Butter Oil” from Green Pastures, which contains both nutrients in a single pill). Especially if you’re diseased, or feeling very fatigued, you might need to supplement with CoQ10 Ubiquinol (not Ubiquinone). Don’t take any of these more than 2-3 times a week. If you’re following the Paleo-ketogenic version of the diet, also consider eating beet-greens occasionally, and sea-veggies more often than usual.

– The foods that are NOT ALLOWED are: white potatoes (at least not with skin on), ALL wheat/grains/corn/rice, ALL beans/soy (except wheat-free soy sauce called “tamari”, which is acceptable), and all of their by-products (always read labels of products you buy). Avoid all processed “gluten-free” baked goods and products too. Regarding flours, you can use almond and coconut flour rarely, tapioca as a thickener, but even these must be used rarely, or in small quantities. Eating 2 cups of almond flour in a pizza dough becomes unhealthy pretty fast too. But mainly, avoid glutenous grains at all costs (wheat, barely, rye, oats*). Finally, limit your sugar/starch intake, and avoid vegetable seed oils/margarine.

Special Notes:

1. Here are the top-10 Paleo super-foods, make sure you read this list!

2. The Paleo-ketogenic diet is the same as Paleo, but in it you can’t consume more than 50 gr of net carbs per day (you can use cronomenter.com to count your daily *net* carbs). Paleo-keto can fight some types of tumors and mental illnesses, that plain Paleo can’t do so as effectively.

3. Give it at least a month to see your overall health turning around for the better. However, for some, it might temporarily get worse before it gets better (e.g. for some with constipation). Hang on in there! For more serious medical conditions it can take up to 3-6 months before you see some positive results.

4. Don’t get fooled by Paleo pictures online showing off some huge portions of beef steaks. According to the Paleo gurus, by weight, 2/3s of your meals should be vegetables, not meats! Also, at least 40%-50% of your diet should be from raw foods, but increase your raw consumption to that percentage only after a few months on the diet. There’s a gluten-free raw vegan book that its vegetable recipes can easily be adjusted for Paleo. Another must-have book is “Nurishing Traditions“, which has unique information on traditional cooking, fermentation, preparation of organ meats etc. No need to buy Paleo cookbooks in particular, the Chowstalker web site has thousands of free Paleo-friendly recipes. Here are my collection of Pinterest Paleo recipes too.

5. Green beans & peas/pods are ok to eat. It’s dried beans and soy that are not allowed. You could try and eat lentils after you’ve completely healed, but only sparingly, and only after you’ve soaked them in water for 24 hours (changing water 2-3 times). This technique can get rid off most of the dangerous lectins found on lentils.

“Outcasts”: a review

Outcasts” was a short-lived sci-fi TV show by BBC broadcasted this year. It tells the story of 70,000-strong at a colony in the planet of Carpathia, in just a few short years from now. Earth is almost destroyed and ravaged by war, and these colonists are the only hope for human race to survive. But Carpathia holds secrets, mysteries, and the guilty past of the colonials. You can rent the discs on Netflix.

The show is one of the most expensive British shows of all time. The production value was great, and the locations were amazing (shot in South Africa). Definitely not your kits-looking Dr Who. The sci-fi elements were very interesting and thoughtful: genetically-modified humans, unique kind of aliens, survival and natural catastrophes in a mysterious, hostile environment with its own piece of history. Carpathia itself is a character in this show, which is how it’s supposed to be. Overall, I felt that the producer who envisioned Carpathia and the colony knew where the story was going, and there was a clear path towards resolution.

But where the show faltered is in the delivery. All the right ideas were there, the right visual look was there, but the way the story unfolded was all wrong. The dialog, and the architecture of the story-telling was just very bad. Too old-style, too uneven, and unbelievable at times.

When I checked who wrote the scripts, it was made clear what the problem was. There is only one writer. Ben Richards. Who happens to be the creator and master-mind behind “Outcasts” too. Clearly, Mr Richards is the man with the right sci-fi vision. But unfortunately, he can’t write scripts in a way that don’t patronize the viewer, or progress the story in a more interesting way. Richards made the same mistake as J. Michael Straczynski made in Babylon 5, not letting anyone touching his writings. (Update: I checked the credits on IMDb, but Wikipedia lists more writers).

First of all, these autonomous episodes with characters we never see again, had to go. Such characters/stories have no place in modern serialized television, even if they help to tell pieces of the overall story. The pieces needed to come more natural, and the characters we encounter need to be re-visited, so we get a more rounded idea of the community there and how they live. To sell the colony to the viewer, you have to give information about everything that’s going on, not only what happens in CT1’s bridge or PAC’s/XP’s main office.

Secondly, the mystery is not dealt right (e.g. we should have seen Berger opening his communication device long before we see him using it, Cass showing elements of his previous bad self, Fleur’s intelligence actually showing etc). Instead, we got autonomous episodes where whole major chapters were opening and closing in 45 minutes (e.g. Tate giving up presidency and getting it back). The counter-argument for this is of course that “viewers thought that the series was already slow going, and you wanted it to be even slower?”. And the answer is no, I don’t want it to be slower. But the reason why the viewers thought that nothing was happening in the series was because the past/secrets of the various characters were sprouting out of nowhere in single episodes, rather than creating clear mysteries around these characters in small but clear steps, pushing people to watch further.

Thirdly, Forthaven, the colony felt small. There are 70,000 people living there, but we only dealt with 9 recurring characters. That’s too little, too small, and too unbelievable (LOST had 25, BSG 20 or so). Is the whole PAS office only have Fleur & Cass as the only officers? Of course not, but the story is shaped like no one else works there. The “bridge” only has two speaking characters too. The XPs only have one, the others are marionettes. We learn very little how these people actually live there, where is the power, food, materials come from. We know nothing about how the AC live either, even if they’re supposed to be a mystery, but their whole story is presented in an unbelievable way: it’s like the outcasts have been outcasted by the script itself. On the single scene in the whole series where we see the Council of the colony, only the 4 recurring characters speak, and when the camera pans to the rest of the Council people, it’s like we watch plastic dolls.

Not to mention that the relationships are based on 2: Cass & Fleur, Tate & Stella, Tipper & Lilly, Jack & Berger. Only Rudi is alone, since he’s… an outcast (we never seen his wife & mother of his two babies, let alone his No 2). This is all very simplistic, not to mention the few cases where the show becomes a laugh, like when Jack starts shooting at the attacking ACs like he’s some sort of cowboy who’s invisible to other people’s bullets. Scenes like these were both badly written & shot.

As for the villain on the series, Berger, he’s presented as very black & white to the viewer. It is very obvious that Richards tried to make Berger a modern enigmatic villain, but he failed miserably. Berger should have been someone who truly believed that what he was doing was for the good of the human race. Kind of like the Dr Rush character on SGU, or Locke on LOST. Berger’s character fails to show the same fine line, instead we only get a megalomaniac and liar, trying to grip power via treason. This is not exactly the fine line viewers are looking these days.

Finally, there’s no way we will have the technology to build such ships in 40-50 years time, it’s way too optimistic. Oh, and how is it that everyone’s British (except Berger), in an otherwise seemingly international colony?

To recap, “Outcasts” was very good sci-fi as an overall story idea, but with a terrible script/dialog and delivery. It needed a treatment similar to “Breaking Bad” for believability & characters, LOST for mystery and story architecture, and BSG for relationships & political drama. If it makes it any easier, I felt exactly the same about the also-cancelled “FlashForward”: similar flaws, great ideas, poor realization. Still, I give the show a 7/10 for trying to do something more epic than the standard British shows. Compared to other TV shows rated on IMDb, it’s lower rated than it should have been.

I would very much like to see a US cable TV remake series of “Outcasts” (also shot in the beautiful South Africa, possibly reusing some of the sets), employing Ben Richards as an executive producer, but with better script writers to execute his vision. Personally, the only actors I’d keep for such a remake would be the excellent Liam Cunningham (president Tate), and possibly Michael Legge (Tipper). Eric Mabius (Berger) would be on the fence.

The foods Greeks forgot how to eat

When I left Greece for UK in late 1996, I got a bit shocked on the kinds of vegetables British were eating. Sure, I could recognize most, but there were some that I couldn’t. Even after reading their names in the super-market labels they didn’t really sound familiar. Parsnip, turnip, rutabaga (sold in abundance in UK) were completely foreign to me. When I married my lovely French husband in 2001 and moved to the US, I learned to eat a few new things (mostly mushrooms), but still not a whole lot.

It wasn’t until I started the SCD/Paleo diet recently, that I kept visiting my local Farmer’s Market, and I started experimenting with more kinds of vegetables, in order to enrich my now-reduced diet. So I have started eating quite a few new kinds of vegetables, and I couldn’t be happier.

However, while searching for the Greek names of these foods (mostly so I could boast to my mom who eats very limited things), I got literally shocked to see that most of these veggies do grow in Greece, and that ancient Greeks ate them in large quantities! It wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire took over the area and some local foods were simply forgotten, as dishes with different ingredients were promoted as fashionable. The biggest dietary catastrophe though came with the introduction of the potato in the early years of the modern Greek State. Its excessively starchy root was so addictive, that Greeks left behind all the other tubers!

Today, foods that were eaten for thousands of years before, not only are not consumed anymore, but Greeks are not even sure what their Greek names are! Some of them use the same name for different species, and some confuse names that belong to different foods! So I decided to put a list here, and I also edited the Greek Wikipedia about it.

– Parsnip: Παστινάκι, δαυκί, κοκοσούλες.
– Kohlrabi: Γογγύλι.
– Turnip: Ρέβα (some times is wrongly called γογγύλι).
– Rutabaga: Γουλί (some times is wrongly called ρέβα or μέγα-γογγύλι).
– Taro: Κολοκάσι.
– Cilantro: Κόλιανδρο (Greeks still use the seeds, but not the leaves anymore).
– Collard Greens: Κράμβη or λαχανίδες.
– Kale: Λαχανίδες.
– Rape: Λαχανίδες.
Goosefoot or Lamb’s Quarter: Νένες, αγριόβλητο, χηνοπόδιο.
– Sea vegetables: είδη φυκιών θαλάσσης.
– Quince: Κυδώνι.
– Tarragon: Δρακοντιά, αψιθιά, αρτεμισία.
– Nettles: Τσουκνίδα.
– Cardoon: Αγριαγκινάρα.
– Arugula/rocket: Ρόκα.
– Savory: Θρουμπί.
– Garden Cress: Κάρδαμο.
– Watercress: Κάρδαμο.
– Beet Greens: Κοκκινογουλόφυλλα.
– Centaurea: Αλιβάρβαρα or γομαράγκαθα.
– Purslane: Αντράκλα or γλυστρίδα.
– Mustard Greens: Βρούβες.
– Hawthorn/thornapple: Μουρτζιά, κονδομηλιά.
– Gooseberry: Φραγκοστάφυλλο.
– Sorrel: Λάπαθο/λάπατα or ξινήθρα.
– Celery root: Σελινόριζα (Greeks only eat the leaves nowdays).
– Chicory: Κιχώριο or ραδίκι.
– Dandelion: Άγριο ραδίκι, αγριομάρουλο, γαλατσίδα, or πικραλίδα.
– Marjoram: Ματζουράνα (mostly used only as ornamental plant now).
– Sage: Φασκόμηλο.
– Mediterranean Hartwort: Καυκαλίθρα.
– Squash: Κολοκύθες (different types don’t have different names in common language).
– Mâche or corn salad or lamb’s lettuce: Βαλεριανέλλα (Valeriana crinii or valeriana olenea). Apparently it grows in the mountains of my home Epirus, and yet no one eats it or knows about it there?
– Many other kinds of berries are also not eaten anymore, while a number of wild greens that villagers would gather for “spinach pie” are close to getting forgotten since the knowledge is not passed down anymore to the younger generation. I don’t think most women younger than 50 years old anymore know what safe wild greens to gather anymore in my village. And we’re talking for at least another 10-15 edible wild species in my village’s area alone!

And of course, mushrooms (μανιτάρια). I really don’t know why, but most Greeks are avoiding mushrooms like the plague. Every time I visit Epirus there’s this collective FEAR of mushrooms. They wouldn’t buy them to cook with them, and most of them would remove on the side any mushrooms that might happen to be on their ready-made pizza.

Other vegetables, like dill (άνηθος), fennel root (μάραθος, φινόκιο), fresh peas (μπιζέλι), endive (αντίδια), asparagus (σπαράγγια), swiss chard (σέσκουλα), radish (Ραπανάκι), and amaranth leaves (βλήτα) are eaten less and less too! This is so disheartening!

Here is a list of new foods (originating away from Europe) that Greeks could learn to eat:
– Yam: Διοσκορέα or Γιαμ.
– Sweet Potato: Γλυκοπατάτα.
– Japanese Radish or Daikon: Ρεπάνι.
– Hearts of palm: Φοινικόκαρδο.
– Prickly Pear: Φραγκόσυκo.
– Jerusalem Artichoke/Sunchoke: Κονδυλώδης Ηλίανθος or Αγγινάρα της Ιερουσαλήμ.
– Jicama: Χίκαμα
– Bok Choy
– Avocado
And at least another 50 more kinds of fruits and veggies from around the world! But before Greeks move to new foods, I wish they RE-learn to eat their ancient foods that they have forsaken for rice, potatoes, and pasta!

Mom, I’m looking at you.

6 weeks with SCD/Paleo

It’s been 6 weeks already. I’m in the middle of my 3-month milestone, a usual milestone for people with gut issues on a healing diet. Several foods will be added in my diet in small quantities after these 3 months, namely, tubers: parsnip (παστινακι), swede/rutabaga (γουλιά ή μεγα-γογγυλι), turnip (ρεβα), and sweet potatoes (γλυκοπατατα). Currently, the only starchy root vegetables that I eat are carrots, and more rarely beetroots (παντζάρια), and various kinds of radishes (ραπανακια). Beets are sweet & starchy like carrots & radishes are, but they contain “simple sugars”, so they get easily digested in the stomach, before they arrive in the gut and feed overgrown bacteria/yeast.

Regarding the rest of the stuff I eat, ordered by daily quantity: allowed veggies, meat/fish, fruits, eggs, nuts, raw & unfiltered honey, herbal tea (chamomile, Greek Mountain Tea, Kombuscha decaf), and small quantities of salt (with iodine). I cook with coconut oil, olive oil, duck fat, or butter. I also eat offal, game, and I make bone broths (very important parts of the Paleo diet). I avoid all other sugars (including artificial sugars), legumes/soy, white potatoes, and all grains (especially wheat). That’s the Paleo part of the diet.

All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates, father of modern medicine

Because of my gut issues, I follow the SCD‘s diet advice (a diet similar to Paleo, but lower carb, that tries to restore bacterial balance), so I also eat a home-made lactose-free probiotic goat yoghurt (goat casein is much more tolerable than cow’s, since it’s closer to human’s). Unfortunately, there is no such product in the market so I have to make it myself. Rarely, I also eat small quantities of lactose-free goat cheese. I try to avoid cow and lactose-ridden dairy in general, and milk (although I might try raw goat milk in the future). I supplement with various vitamins, mostly D (since I rarely go out), and probiotics.


Why the proper diet can fix so many ailments? Explained.

In these six weeks, I’ve become a different person. A host of medical issues that I had, or I didn’t even know I had, are either gone, or on their way to eradication. For the first time ever, I feel truly happy and thankful for the life I have. Sure, it took a few weeks for my body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat, but I made it in one piece (I went through the “carb flu” or “die off” phase, and had dizzy jolts). All good now. In detail:

– IBS-D & SIBO: from 4-5 liquid bowel movements a day on average, ruining my non-life, down to 1 a week. Work in progress, as I’m still rather irregular. It can take a few years to fully heal a leaky, bacteria-ridden gut. (Update: I’m more regular now, after taking 2 multi-probiotic pills per day, rather than 1 pill every few days as I used to).
– Pre-diabetic hypoglycemia (was on my way to Type 2 diabetes): GONE.
– Candida in my ears (earwax smelling like cheese): GONE.
– Sleep apnea: GONE (according to my husband who previously had to endure my snoring). I now feel rested and I wake up fully energetic. I spring out of the bed. In the past, I was waking up tired and like a zombie (even as a kid).
– Eczema in my forehead is in remission, very little of it remains. Work in progress.
– Dandruff / itchy-scalp: GONE.
– Constant urge for scratching everywhere in my body: GONE.
– My upper-left-central tooth was super-sensitive. After several beef bone broths, vitamins D3 + K2 and some calcium, the sensitivity now has gone down to half, and it’s getting better day by day.
– Teeth plaque seems to not be accumulating anymore. I just need to clean up the one I already have and I should be plaque-free from that point on. I rarely floss.
– Depression and thoughts of suicide: GONE.
– ADD (couldn’t focus on anything, couldn’t really read books since I was 12): GONE.
– Anxiety/stress: GONE.
– Pee urgency (I had recurring bacterial infections): GONE.
– Muscle atony and less strength on my right arm/hand (hypothyroidism?): much better after the 5th week on the diet.
– Asthma/allergy-like inability to breath deeply after eating some foods: GONE.
– Acanthosis nigricans (discolored axilla): GONE.
– Sugar addiction: GONE.
– Period pain: Much less than before. Although this will require 5+ months to get fixed properly. I expect pain-free, lite periods that don’t last more than 3-4 days (they now last 7 days, and they’re heavy).
– I used to have acne spots a few days before my period: GONE.
– Irregular period (especially in the last 2 years): GONE (the last two times, while on the diet, it arrived exactly on the 28th day)
– Popping sound on the inside of my ear drums: GONE.
– I can now sweat properly, an ability that I almost lost about 20 years ago.
– Taste buds regrown (sugar kills taste buds). Now I can eat 99% cocoa dark chocolate like a boss. Before, I could only eat super-sweet milk chocolates.
– My skin is visibly better, according to people who saw me months ago the previous time.
– My ability to smell is now stronger, although this is still work in progress. I hear it takes 3 months to come back fully.
– Chronic anger towards… everyone everywhere and fast-lighting anger: GONE.
– Fibromyalgia-like pain on my neck/shoulder: better, but it’s still work in progress.
– Black circles under my eyes: GONE.
– Stomach bloating: GONE.
– Excessive gas: GONE.
– Occasional heart-muscle pain: GONE


Why the proper diet can fix psychological problems? Explained.

And of course, I lost 10 lbs too so far. I had a plateau for over 2 weeks, but that went away after I cut down the number of fruits and nuts I was eating daily (I was over-doing it, in order to feed my sugar addiction). I now eat 1-2 servings of fruits daily, and nuts only once every 2-3 days (except peanuts/cashews which aren’t nuts). I need to lose another 45-50 lbs, since I’m still obese. A much healthier obese person though. Things that still need fixing and I had no visible change yet: my female-pattern alopecia. I will know if I will get new hair in a year or two (it takes 3 years for some roots/hairs to renew, as they’re on a cycle).

As you can see, I have/had a number of ailments. Not enough to finish me off, but enough to make my life miserable. I bet most people have similar problems, but they think that these are “normal”. They’re not! We’re meant to be healthy until the day our body simply gives up from natural old age.

One thing that SCD/Paleo can’t fix though is… my laziness. I feel more alive now than ever before, but I’m still not thrilled about exercise. I just need to open that front door, step outside, and walk, walk, walk.

Fruit Crumble, Paleo-style

I followed up tonight’s dinner with a fruit crumble dessert. The original recipe for the crumble was asking for too many unhealthy things (even if it was found in a gluten-free web site), so I had to make changes to the recipe. It came out really good and it was super-easy to make!

Ingredients (for 3)
* 1 apple
* 1 pear or apple-pear
* 1 peach
* 1 + 1 tspoons of cinnamon
* 1 tspoon of nutmeg
* 1 + 1.5 Tbspoons of honey
* 1/3 + 1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
* 1/2 cup of almond coarse meal
* 1/4 cup of olive oil or melted butter

Execution
1. Preheat the oven at 350 F (175 C). Peel the fruits and cut in slices. Place them in a small baking dish. Add 1 tspoon of cinnamon and 1 Tbspoon of honey. Pour the 1/3 cup of walnuts. Carefully, mix well everything using your hands.

2. On a bowl, mix well using a fork: 1.5 Tbspoons of honey, 1 tspoon of cinnamon, the nutmeg, 1/4 cup of walnuts, almond meal and olive oil. I went for a batter that wasn’t too rigid nor too liquid, but if you prefer it more crumbly add more almond meal.

3. Spoon the “dough” on top of fruits. Use your hands to evenly spread it, but it’s ok if it’s not perfectly spread. Bake for at least 45 minutes, until the fruit is soft & bubbly, and the dough is nicely browned.

Duck Gizzards, French/Paleo-style

This is one of my husband’s favorite recipes, and he’s the one who taught me how to prepare it the French way. We found duck gizzards in a local shop, and I already had kept frozen some duck fat from French duck-confit cans. It was delicious, and very Paleo too!

Ingredients (for 2)
* 1 lb (450 gr) of duck or chicken gizzards
* 10 stalks of asparagus
* Salad green mix of your choice
* 1 cup of duck fat (preferred), or 1/2 cup of coconut oil
* 1 Tbspoon coconut oil
* 2 Tbspoons olive oil
* 2 Tbspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
* 1 tspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/2 lemon juice
* Oregano or marjoram to taste
* salt & pepper to taste
* Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Execution
1. Wash well the gizzards, and cut them in two. In a frying pan add 1 Tbspoon coconut oil and add the gizzards. Cook in high heat until all the juice has evaporated and the gizzards have started getting a nice brown color. Remove from the heat.

2. Clean the asparagus. Place the duck fat in a slow cooker (or a deep cooking pan, set in low heat). Add the gizzards in it and cook for 3 hours, or until they’re tender. Add the asparagus in the last 45 minutes of the cooking process.

3. Remove asparagus and gizzards from the heat, and place them in a separate dish to cool down a bit. Try to not get the cooking fat with it. Sprinkle the oregano/marjoram, and the lemon juice.

4. In a salad bowl add the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt & pepper. Mix well with a fork. Add the salad greens, mix, then add the still-warm asparagus & gizzards, and mix well again. If you do dairy, you can also sprinkle some Parmesan. Enjoy!

“Blatzara” Greek spinach pie, Paleo-style

Blatzara (aka “plastos”) is the original version of the popular Greek spinach pie. The recipe goes back thousands of years, but only a few villages still make spinach-pie this way. In fact, this is one of these recipes that you can’t find anywhere else online. I’m originating from the Souli mountain villages of Epirus, so this is as original as it goes. I double-checked with my mom & grand-mother too.

Blatzara is made similarly to modern Greek spinach-pie, but without a dough/phyllo. It does retain the same taste though, and it’s easier to make! This makes it perfect for the Paleo diet, with only a few small changes: I used coconut flour instead of corn/semolina flour, and “riced” cauliflower instead of white rice (although white rice was optional in the original recipe anyway). The rest is the same as in the ancient recipe!

Ingredients (for 6)

For the filling:
* 1/2 cup spinach (thawed from frozen), or 2 cups fresh spinach
* 1 cup fresh sorrel, chopped
* 1 cup fresh Swiss chard, chopped
* 1 cup of other green leaves you got (e.g. chopped amaranth, kale, collards, beets, dandelion etc). Use more spinach & swiss chard if you can’t find such kinds of greens.
* 2 leeks, cut in 1/4-inch rounds
* 4 scallions (or 1/2 of a big onion), chopped
* 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
* 1/2 cup cauliflower, “riced” with a shredder
* 100 gr feta cheese, crumbled (optional, only if you do dairy)
* salt to taste

For the batter:
* 1 Tbspoon sour cream or yogurt, or 2 Tbspoons coconut milk if you don’t do dairy
* Juice of a 1/2 lemon
* 2 Tbspoons fine coconut flour or tapioca
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 1 or 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup warm water

Execution
1. Wash the leaves with cold water. In a big bowl place the chopped onion, parsley, leeks, spinach, sorrel, Swiss chard and other greens. Add salt to taste. Using your fingers, work the mixture, until they almost start looking wilted. If there’s juice coming out of them (especially if you’re using thawed spinach), you must discard it.

2. Crumble the feta cheese using your fingers, and add it to the mixture. Add the riced cauliflower too. Carefully mix all ingredients again. Pre-heat the oven at 400 F (200 C).

3. In a separate bowl mix all the batter ingredients. Whisk them well until well-blended. It will be pretty liquid, that’s ok. Pour the batter in the greens and mix well, but with care, so you don’t mash the cheese. Move everything in a deep baking pan. The raw ingredients should be forming a mass of about 2.5 inches thick in the pan.

4. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Half-way through check it out and notice if it looks too dry. If yes, drizzle a bit more olive oil on top of it. When it has started getting some nice color on top, remove from the oven.

5. Serve it with either by squeezing some lemon juice, or with butter. In Greece we drizzle lemon juice, but my French husband loves it with butter (since it gives the dish a more creamy texture). Enjoy!

A Look at Premiere Elements 10

Adobe sent a free copy of their brand new Premiere Elements 10 video editor for a review, and I took up on the challenge to see what’s new. Premiere Elements and Vegas Platinum are undoubtedly the best two sub-$100 consumer-based video editing suites that could actually deliver Pro features when someone uses them to their full extend. They both can do 24p, time stretching, burn DVDs and AVCHDs, deal with color correction etc.

For the 10th version, Adobe added some additional color correction plugins: Auto Tone and Vibrance, and a three-way color corrector. You can independently adjust color in highlights, shadows, and midtones, while the “auto tone” plugin is actually pretty accurate, even if fully automatic.

Another major feature is 64bit support, but this only works on Windows 7 (Vista/XP won’t work with the 64bit version). There’s also “AVCHD exporting” now, which lets you export M2T or MP4 files with customization support. That’s the only exporting option I found that had acceptable parameters to tweak (e.g. VBR support), and use for personal viewing/YouTube/Vimeo. I put together an exporting tutorial here.

Other new features include AVCHD burning (burned on DVD discs) in addition to plain DVD and Blu-Ray burning, automatic Facebook and Youtube exporting (which unfortunately exports in the wrong frame rate and doesn’t let you edit it), you can tag photos using your Facebook Friends list, turn photos into movies, and photo tagging. And of course, even more kits DVD templates & multimedia files for use in your video.

The app seemed more stable than the previous version, but it took a good while to load. The “auto-analyzer” feature Adobe added supposedly for photos-only is super-slow though even when no pictures exist on the project bin, and it’s best to be turned off. Also, the app is not particularly “smart”. It loads effects on clips all by itself by default (e.g. motion, opacity etc), and this has a speed repercussion. On a slower PC for example, this was the difference between super-smooth and dropping-frames on 1080/60i HDV footage. The playback speed also dropped to the floor even if I changed no options on an active plugin (e.g. leave Three-Way Color Corrector loaded as-is without changes, but active). There’s definitely room for improvement on that front.

Additionally, Adobe added DV PF24 pulldown removal support, but not HDV one. I tried to enable the “DV 24p pulldown removal” option on a PF24 Canon HF11 clip, but the checkbox wouldn’t become enabled. Honestly, adding DV pulldown removal but not HDV/AVCHD one, is pretty lame in this day and age. Not to mention that in some dialogs, the app would change my typed 23.976 to 23.98, which could force resample, and enable ghosting.

Features missing is the Mercury Engine, as found on CS5.5, that could make h.264 playback even faster. There’s also no way to tweak the project settings as you can do with Vegas. For example, there is no AVCHD 1080/24p option with 5.1 audio setting. The user is forced to use the dSLR 1080/24p preset, and lose his 5.1 sound settings! Adobe is trying to make everything in the UI be a pre-selectable option, but some of these options simply need to be editable rather than just pre-selections. See, not all use cases are covered by pre-selections. Let the user decide how to mash-up the project properties to suit the myriad formats of camera footage that exist in the world.

And that’s the biggest pitfall of Premiere Elements, and I don’t personally see any way out of this unless its product manager really changes direction. Premiere Elements is more of a “here are 30 choices, select one” kind of app, while Vegas is more like “here are 10 choices, or customize it yourself” kind of app. It’s that difference that makes Vegas more suitable for both home & serious projects on a low budget, while PE remains suitable for home projects but not so much for more complex projects.

Between the two, Vegas is less clunky and confusing after the initial shock, while Premiere remains painful to use even after you learned its tricks. Then again PE now has a 64bit version and a Mac version. On the other hand, Vegas can do 3D editing and has more flexibility. At the very end, for family users it might just be a question of price at the very end. Checking prices today, Vegas Platinum 11 costs $63 on Amazon, while Premiere Elements costs $91.