Monday, July 27, 2015

summertime, and the livin' is ... what?

See, that's the difference between fiction/movies and real life.  Summertime, here, and the livin' is hectic, uncomfortable, edgy, and anxious.

It's been a "funny" spring and summer in the Midwest.  It stayed cool and damp for a long time after the early spring flowers came and went.  Since we got back from our cruise it's continued mostly cool and damp, and the worst part has been the atmospheric allergens.  By the time the tree-pollens faded away we started having constantly-high mold readings -- weirdly constant!  The rain stops, leaving lots of puddles in our torn-up back yard, and the temperature gets high for a few days, till the next storm-front rolls in to dump another load of rain -- Nature's ultimate "rinse and repeat" cycle!  Most days are in the "high" to "very-high" range for mold, with two separate "moderate" days ALL SUMMER so far!

I'll bet a lot of people don't realize how this affects them.  The sneezing may stop, but the more subtle allergy symptoms don't go away.  Inflammation in the upper and lower respiratory passages remain, plus gut problems -- bloating and signs of candida overgrowth.  There's not a prayer of losing weight when the bowels are fighting to keep inimical fungi and bacteria at bay.  The dull ache over my eyes and behind my ears, my throat either rough from the drainage or dry from antihistamine....  Mostly, though, I just find it drains me out and when it's hot, it's exhausting.

I feel fortunate that the gelatin has helped my joints so much.  People with weather-sensitive arthritis must be very uncomfortable indeed, with the frequent pressure- and temperature-changes. 

Weather has unseen impact upon us, beyond hot and cold, dry and wet, dark and bright.  When things are otherwise going well in our lives, an unfortunate heat wave or arctic stream can invisibly spoil our moods;  a pressure front can make us feel crummy without any idea why, if we're not alert to the possibilities. 

So cut your loved-ones some slack -- and yourself, too!  Pamper yourself a little, and don't try to do too much when you don't feel like it.

...But remember that sugar isn't the answer.  When thunder is in the air, the last thing you need is a sweet cocktail or added-sugar treat.  Those are just encouragement for the worst processes already going on in your body.  If iced tea or coffee isn't a favorite with you, maybe a Norcal Margarita can be relaxing without stirring up the candida or other irritants.  Yeasty things like wine, aged cheese, salami, nuts, or mushrooms might not be as good a choice as clear spirits or mineral water, plain (rather than flavored) pork rinds or crudités with fresh-mozzarella or cottage-cheese based dips.

The second Atkins book, the New Diet Revolution, was an eye-opener to me about how dietary and environmental allergy issues affect our bodies' processes, impacting weight-loss as well as sense-of-well-being.  We can't do anything about the weather, but we can ameliorate our discomfort significantly through what we choose to eat and drink.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

get ready for the push-back

I just read an interesting article, and even Dr. Ioannidis -- Mr. Medical-Industry-Is-Flawed -- is unhappy!  It's here:

For over 100 years, the medical establishment in America has ruthlessly attacked anyone outside their club who has threatened to cut into their profits.  Midwives, herbalists, alternative healers ... the list is probably longer than I suspect, and when looked at world-wide it's bound to be huge.  Hell, even INSIDE their club, if a doctor tries to reform a bad practice he gets stomped -- just google Semmelweis.  And HEAVEN HELP any dentist who finds an promising treatment for cancer!

Get ready for all their heads to explode at once!  An entrepreneur has developed some testing procedures OUTSIDE THE PEER-REVIEW SYSTEM!  That electric fence that protects their monopoly has been breached with the complicity of the FDA -- heads are gonna roll for this.

Although very exciting indeed, for those of us who think we have a right to know what's going on inside our own bodies, i'm not going to get my hopes up TOO far yet.  There WILL be a backlash, and I can imagine that access to this technology will be delayed as long as possible.

Of course, the chorus from the AMA has been, all along, that they're just protecting us from our simple-minded credulity.  They're protecting us from faith-healers (not acknowledging that they do that, too).  They're protecting us from snake-oil salesmen (whose products were probably not much worse than today's pet pharmaceuticals ... just higher in alcohol).  They're protecting us from our misguided attempts to HEAL OURSELVES.

Some of the "protection" has been beneficial, but some of it has not.  If they honestly CARED about our well-being, they'd be open to us being proactive in safeguarding our health.  If they had our best interests at heart, they'd want us to change our habits before they get out-of-hand, while they're easier to manage. 

It would waste less of their time -- fewer check-ups where nothing really gets accomplished.  Doctors, complaining that they don't have enough hours in the day to see all the people they need to deal with, SHOULD be delighted to find their work-load reduced, but I doubt that will happen.  The proportion of "intractables" would go up -- hypochondriacs, "munchauseners," and people who are worried about the results they got from their self-tests would increase, and I imagine such patients ARE their least favorites.

Of course, their time would be taken up more by people who NEED their services.  But what a bad precedent -- for patients to come to the office KNOWING what is wrong with them....  Next thing you know, they'll refuse to take their statins, or go on a low-fat diet!  ;-)

Jokes aside, I didn't begin writing this to pick on the medical profession as a whole.  My mockery is for the INDUSTRY which does its very damnedest to disempower its clients for its own aggrandizement.

I certainly acknowledge that poorly-informed people must drive their doctors crazy with the notions they pick up on goofy television shows, advertisements, and facebook postings from nutcases and profiteers.  But I also believe that brushing aside legitimate notions about averting illness through nutrition and supplementation is actively damaging to their patients' health.

IF (that big "if"...) on-demand testing for various parameters does reach people in a meaningful way, a health-care revolution will have begun in this country ... and it's long, LONG overdue.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


[evil grin]

I'm not going to pick on the poor overweight person who doesn't have the energy to work out -- no!  I'm going to pick on people who are too intellectually lazy to do their own googling.

Still reading the archives at Hold The Toast ... and shaking my head at all the people who insist on asking questions they could answer themselves.  How much of this artificial sweetener should I substitute for THAT artificial sweetener?  I don't have/can't afford/don't like/can't find X ingredient -- what should I do?  Or my favorite (in the comments after a cheesecake recipe) i'm lactose intolerant --  what can I use instead of cream cheese and sour cream?


I had this happen to me a dozen or so years ago, with a new reenactor.  She kept emailing me with questions that she could so easily have found the answers to with the help of any search-engine.  I ended up answering off the top of my head if I knew it already, cuz I was going to have to reply to her anyway.  When she asked things I didn't know, I told her* to go look it up herself.  She finally got tired of me not doing her thinking for her, and moved on from Living History to SASS -- it doesn't matter what they wear because most of them wouldn't know authenticity if it bit them in the ass -- they just want to look old-fashionedy.

I have sympathy for human-energy conservation, because I have a history of fatigue problems, but there are very few excuses for not doing your own reading in this day and age.  We live in a wonderful time of information availability, and if we're already online an awful lot of it is free for the finding.  It's even pretty easy to figure out which costuming site is giving good advice and which isn't ... though it's significantly harder on the subject of nutrition.  ;-)
* nicely -- I used to be nicer to idiots than I am now.  It's a serotonin/dopamine thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

red herrings

One of the problems with observational studies just occurred to me, after reading a couple of articles about "the obesity problem" -- people who don't want to face what modern foods do to us grab at straws of conceivable "causation" and waste a SHITLOAD of professional time exploring absolute nonsense.

...Like "food reward."  While ignoring the PHYSICALLY addictive properties of grains and sugars.  Significant difference.

...Like demonizing "high-fat" foods such as the large McDonalds' combos ... without observing that they're MUCH higher in carbs than fats.

People believe what they want to believe, no matter how much data piles up that their ideas don't pan out in real life.  This is why obese people who don't *like* low-carbing insist that carbohydrates are necessary -- they love their "fix" too much to abstain long enough to kick the habit, i.e. find out how much better they'll feel without it.

I feel that this is the cogent bit about the microbiome hypothesis of obesity.  Yes, sick people have sick intestines.  Yes, children born via C-section are more likely to be one of those people.  Yes, swapping gut-bugs between fat, sick people and lean, healthy people makes an impact on the wellbeing of both types. 

But I think of the microbiome as just another red herring.  What lurks in your colon depends ENTIRELY upon what YOU, as an adult, have ingested.  Get a candida overgrowth after a single high-carb day?  It's because of what foods, drinks, and antibiotics YOU took in, sometime in your history. 

Modern-day African hunter-gatherers with great health have an entirely different set of "bugs" in their poop than the average American?  WHY THE BLOODY HELL SHOULD THAT BE ANY SURPRISE TO ANYONE?  I'll bet the most perfectly healthy American ALSO has an entirely different set of "bugs" from the Africans'.  The latter got their mothers' bugs at birth, never took antibiotics, drink non-tap-water, eat tubers grown in entirely different soils having entirely-different bacteria in them.... 

Red herring.  Too many variables.  Inconclusive.

WHAT people eat is the important part.  Diet composition sets the stage for EVERYTHING that comes after.  Eat things that feed bad gut-bugs and you'll have bad gut-bugs.  Eat an all-meat diet and the bugs that love sugar will languish.  IF you eat an all-meat diet, you don't NEED the bugs that a fibre-eater REQUIRES.  Why try to cultivate them?  They're COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS.

We of the "western world" too often think we should be able to do/have/eat anything we want.  FREEDOM!TM ya know?  That's just plain stoopid.  This is like the lactose-intolerant insisting on the "right" to drink milk, or celiacs demanding their share of the wheat supply without the repercussions.  Ought we ALL to think we should be able to drink alcohol, despite the existence of people who haven't the enzymes to metabolize it properly, and despite the existence of alcoholics? 

Many people -- many many MANY -- simply behave like spoiled children.  If we can't eat our cake and have it too, it's NOT FAIR.  Sorry, but biology doesn't work like that.

If your biology calls for a low-carb Paleolithic diet and what you *want* is the SAD, you can whine and deny all you like, but your genotype will win every argument, every single time.  Trying to find a loophole -- chasing the "perfect" microbiome might distract you for awhile;  you might even improve a little for awhile;  but it's NOT going to solve all your problems because it is very unlikely to be the main thing wrong with your physiology.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

continuing the archive-reading

I'm still working on the archives over at Hold the Toast -- what a pity Dana isn't blogging anymore, but ... so many people aren't.

Well, over the weekend I read the posting about "pork-rind cookies," and the idea just kept nagging at me, so yesterday I gave in.  I LOVE them!  :-)  "Cookies" isn't exactly how i'd describe them, though -- they're more like homogeneous Reese's.

I didn't have the sugar-free chocolate chips she used, and my pork-rind bag didn't contain 5 oz, and the peanut-butter left over from the grandkids' visit last year maybe wasn't the exact right amount (and I wanted to use it up), thus my concoction is a LEEEEETLE different.  SO!


3.5 oz. bag of nice fresh, plain pork rinds
~1/2 c. peanut butter
~4 oz. 100% (baking) chocolate
2 T. erythritol
2 T. bulk sucralose
1 bulb-squeeze-worth of vanilla flavored liquid stevia

In the top of a double-boiler I melted the chocolate and peanut butter together till smooth.  Meanwhile, I poured the pork rinds into my food-processor and rendered them into crumbs.  When the chocolate and peanut butter were homogeneous, I added the sweeteners to taste (knowing that the lightly-salted chicharrones would "dilute" the sweetness).  Finally, I stirred in the crumbs, and spooned the resultant mixture into those little Wilton candy-cups I bought on sale after Christmas....

They're delightful -- the candy which is real food!  The batch made 24 servings, and if it were later in the day i'd do the math for you.  ;-)  All the skin-y goodness which is the chicharron, plus nuts and chocolate....  Next time i'll use almond butter in place of the peanut, or -- hell! -- coconut butter would be even better!

It was nice to make something with erythritol that didn't come out bitter or over-sweetened;  I think the old Atkins trick of mixing the sweeteners is the very best way to go.

This also opens the door to other appetizer-like ideas based on pork rinds.  Salmon and cream cheese, plus the crumbs, rolled in more crumbs, chopped nuts or fresh herbs, maybe?  We all already know that the crumbs are the PERFECT substitute for bread or crackers in meatballs. 

There's every reason to believe that the "perfect amino-acid intake ratio" includes more glycine/leucine/isoleucine/valine and less tryptophan and cysteine -- two AAs which hit one's bloodstream en masse when:  1)  we eat only muscle-meat; and 2)  we break down our own muscles during starvation.  Ray Peat -- whose writings I take with a lot of grains of salt -- swears that the latter two AAs are inhibitory of the thyroid for that reason, which i'm willing to take as a working hypothesis.

Gelatin, collagen, and cartilage have a long and proud history of healing.  I'm going to be doing even more experimenting with both supplements and traditionally-made gelatinous foods, given my good experience with the former!  A few days ago, I got my husband (with his shoulder problems) started adding gelatin or collagen hydrolysate to HIS coffee too -- i'm hoping he'll see relief even sooner than I did, with my damned knee.  I'm going to start making more fish-head soup, too -- my first experiments have been encouraging.

Short version (too late) -- I've learned to welcome more foods into my diet which originate from connective tissues.  This recipe is a keeper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

what does not destroy me...

For years I've been reading about hormesis, and for MORE years we've all been encouraged to eat foods which are rich in antioxidants.  Of course, "we" know the connection, but those who get their nutrition education through advertisements, or magazine/newspaper articles which are hardly more than that, only know the A-word as a magical, superfood-related concept. 

Short story:  antioxidant foods tend to be micro-stressors which act positively by making our immune systems rev up to counteract them.  The revved systems also take on other threats, which by themselves ... weren't potent enough to provoke the same response ...?

I still find the "hormetic hypothesis" a little iffy.  It's related to a concept handed down to us (originally from Greek philosophy) by Nietzsche, who expressed a huge number of highly questionable notions:  "What does not destroy me makes me stronger" -- how does that follow?  I might be more inclined to end that sentence, "...weakens me, and may shorten my life." 

I was reminded of the almost-universal canonization of antioxidants by YET ANOTHER paean to the anthocyanins of blueberries, in the popular press.  More than red wine!  Low in vitamins, but still a superfood!  Sing HO for ....


Probably the chief hormetic aspect of anthocyanins (or anthocyanidins) is the CN -- cyanide -- part.  The favorite quick-acting poison of mystery writers is NOT something to flirt with ... especially if you tend to be hypothyroid.

HUH?  An enlightened hypothyroid individual knows that "cyanide"-containing substances like yucca/casava are goitrogens.  Avoiding goitrogens should be the NUMBER-ONE STRATEGY FOR OPTIMIZING THYROID PERFORMANCE.  Don't eat lots of raw or undercooked cruciferous vegetables;  don't ingest brominated or fluoridated food-like products (including tap-water in some places);  limit fermented cabbage (etc);  look upon millet and teff as NOT-FOOD....

Of course, this isn't going to put me off blueberries -- they might have "high in antioxidants" written all over them, but that are still very low indeed in the questionable compounds that we actually need to be concerned about.  Blueberries, red wine, other "antioxidant" foods, are a big YES -- concentrated supplements isolated from them, NO.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

making a recipe your own

As a person who has been cooking for almost half-a-century now, it finally occurred to me that the easiest meals to prepare are the ones I do from memory.  For some reason, the need to consult a recipe makes the preparation significantly more tedious.  And when I have to keep waking up my ipad because it drifts away to sleep while i'm chopping or measuring?   grrrr....

Cooking an old familiar dish -- piece o' cake.  It may take me hours, but its familiarity makes it easy.  Cooking a simpler one that I never made before -- much more productive of stress and weariness, not least because of the uncertainty of the result.  Ever get a recipe for a dish that tasted wonderful at a friend's house, but turned out disappointing when you made it? ... you know what i'm talking about!

When making a more complicated concoction, I doubt that there's any quick way to bypass the much-repeated consultations with the written word.  A recipe with a dozen different seasonings, from 1/4-teaspoon of cayenne to 1 1/2-teaspoon ground mustard to 2 tablespoons of sugar-free pancake syrup (as in a batch of barbecue sauce), calls for a lot of back-and-forth which frankly makes me prefer to let J grill steaks....

Reading a "new" recipe VERY carefully before starting it -- or even a recipe i've made a time or two -- complete with visualizing the process, can help me.  In the former case, I can pick up possible errors in transcription.  As hard as proofreading literature can be, proofreading recipes is REALLY tricky, and some people can't describe a procedure well to save their lives.  If I've tried a recipe before and found it worth doing again, reading it through (with visualization) reminds me of what I thought should be done differently the first time.

Reading the new recipe can also remind you of something you've done before -- that makes it easier and less stressful!  If I realize that a new chicken recipe is LIKE an old pork recipe in technique, but just changing herbs and adding cheese, I can pretty well just wing it.

Converting classics and childhood favorites to a lower-carb style requires a few different ingredients AND some changes in technique.  When I first started LC, I was "doing" Atkins according to the book;  their recipes in those days beat hell out of most diet recipes i'd used in preceding decades, and it was worth it to me to buy the old "bake mix" and shake powders, but those things disappeared from the market and I had to find other substances that could do the job.  For a few years I used Expert Foods' thickeners and other special ingredients ... but THEY quit the business TOO!  :-P  Thank heavens their raw materials are known and available to retail consumers....

I've picked up several invaluable tricks from Dana Carpender:
  • To thicken a liquid with glucomannan (konjac) flour, the process goes MUCH more easily if you put the powder in a salt-type shaker and sprinkle with one hand while whisking with the other.  This doesn't keep me from over-thickening from time to time, but at least it prevents the lumps that I USED to get.
  • In preparing shirataki noodles for serving, you can keep dishes from sitting in puddles of water by draining and rinsing the straight-from-the-bag noodles, then microwaving 90 seconds and re-draining them TWICE.  That method seems to drive the water out without the stove-top heating that so often toughens them.
  • Classic recipes with cheesy sauces often require making béchamel and melting cheese into it.  This high-carb product can't be imitated merely by melting cheese into a low-carb dish, but by melting cream-cheese and cheddar (or gruyere, or whatever) together, you can get pretty close.
  • To replicate the caramel flavor of brown sugar, she suggests using a tiny amount of blackstrap molasses to the artificial-sweetener of choice -- somewhere around a half-teaspoon, depending of course on the size of the recipe.  Ever try to measure out a quarter-teaspoon of molasses???  :-)  Dana recommends putting your molasses into an old honey-bear type of squeeze bottle -- I haven't done this yet, but it sounds like GENIUS.
There are lots of other tweaks to traditional cooking that make our low-carb creations turn out better.  Part of it is intuitive and some is ... less so.  It occurred to me that I should make another "special page" here, where i'll congregate some of these ideas.  I hope my internet friends will share theirs, too!  Together, we have centuries'-worth of kitchen experience!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

new recipe, improved by being left-over!

My husband had to wait a little while before he got to sit in the barber-chair, when he got his last haircut.  The ladies who do the cutting had Rachael Ray on the boob-tube -- i'm not sure if J has ever seen her before, but that day she was making something that sounded really good to him, so when he got home he did some googling....

He pulled up the pork recipe she had been doing on the show, and another one that sounded good to him;  he discussed the recipes with me, and we decided the second one should be on our week's menu.  We were so right!  It was delicious, and I just finished the leftovers for lunch ... and they were even better today than they were last week!

We made some small changes in the base-recipe, so that I feel entitled to print this as our own ... so here I present:


2 T. dried currants, soaked in hot water and drained
1 T. each olive oil and butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2# ground pork
1 t. fennel seed
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 T. pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 t. thyme (more if fresh)

1# pork tenderloin
~8 slices prosciutto

Heat the oil and butter, and add the onion;  sauté till a bit softened, and stir in the garlic.  Crumble in the ground pork and cook till pink goes, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the rest of the ingredients, stir-fry together a bit, and set aside.

Put your tenderloin on a good-sized cutting board, butterfly it, and pound it to a uniform thickness of about 1/4".  Leaving a one-inch border on both short- and one long-side, spread the stuffing on the sheet of meat.  Roll up like a jelly-roll;  lay out your slices of prosciutto, overlapping generously, and place the meat-roll on it, seam-side down.  Roll up again, and tie with string.

Place your meat-roll on a rack in a roasting pan, and bake for ABOUT 40-45 minutes at 400F. 

J tested at 30 minutes and it seemed to have quite a way to go, so he put it back in the oven for 20 minutes and it was a little too done.  The original recipe calls for an internal temperature of 145F, and his ended up at 165 -- it was a little bit drier than it should have been but still delicious.

And it was even more delicious after resting a couple of days in the fridge!  It occurred to me that this would be an outstanding cocktail-party offering, made up in a roll half the diameter of our dinner-size roast, and sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Drizzle it with a tiny bit of low-carb sweet-sour sauce, or better yet a little pomegranate molasses, and I have no doubt that your guests will leave you with NO leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day.