A Primal buffet is no ordinary buffet. Primal types are used to real food after all, and we don’t shy away from the rich, meaty and decadent. We expect flavor. We expect satisfying fare—even when it’s in the form of “small bites.” Whether you’re hosting the party or contributing to someone else’s spread, we’ve got seven tasty and filling recipes that will appeal to any taste out there. Bonus: they’re all three ingredients, which means less fuss and more fun for you.
The ultimate big “small” bite…
FYI, this will be gone in a New York minute.
Can we just call this dinner?
Serve with good wine and zero apologies.
You’ll want to eat the whole platter, so make an extra for the guests.
A zestier take on traditional dip…
Because one bacon appetizer is never enough….
Hungry yet? Tell us which one is your favorite—and share other Primal and keto “small bites” you’ll be serving up this holiday.
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Although our holiday menus revolve around the delicious meats and savory sides, there’s still a soft spot for many of us when it comes to holiday sweets. Whether it’s baking cookies this time of year or serving show-stopping desserts at our holiday tables, we might give a little more leeway for treats as part of the special occasion. Below we’ve got recipes for every taste and preference—from Primal to keto, chocolate to peppermint, candy to mousse, pie to cheesecake…and even a jarred Primal cookie mix for gift-giving. Enjoy, and let us know what treats you’ll be baking and sharing this holiday.
Thanks for stopping in, everyone. What Primal or keto treats will you be serving this holiday? Let us know on the comment board.
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Tea can mean a lot of different plants. There’s maté, the bitter South American shrub steeped in boiling water to extract the caffeine-like compounds contained within. There’s rooibos, the “red tea” made from a polyphenol-rich bush native to South Africa. There’s coca, the South American plant also used to make cocaine. There are the unnamed wild bitter root and herb teas used by the Maasai, the evergreen tip teas used by American natives to obtain vitamin C, the nettleleaf teas used across Europe.
For today’s post, I’m focusing on the actual tea plant—Camellia sinensis. All of the classic teas come from the same basic plant; the differences lie in how they’re processed after harvest. Most tea undergoes controlled oxidation to develop flavor and different bioactive compounds. The more oxidized, the darker the tea. The less oxidized, the lighter.
I’m also going to focus on the health benefits of tea, rather than get into the nitty gritty of tea grading, the endless bespoke varieties, the optimum temperature—tea expert stuff. I enjoy tea, but I’m not a connoisseur. I can tell you about the health effects, and I imagine that’s what most of you are here for anyway.
Types Of Tea
Even within “true tea,” there are multiple varieties.
White tea is made from tea leaves that are very lightly processed without any oxidation. Studies show that it’s “lower” in antioxidants than green or oolong tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s “worse.”
White tea possesses compounds that inhibit the absorption and digestion of glucose, thereby lowering blood glucose levels.
White tea also shows a unique ability to fight amyloid plaque linked to Alzheimer’s disease (albeit in test tubes, not live people so far).
In Japan, green tea is lightly steamed. In China, it’s quickly toasted under dry heat. The result with each is light oxidation. It has a “grassy” flavor and, in general, the most antioxidant content—the catechins. In one study looking at the antioxidant content and effect of 30 different teas, the top 2 and 6 of the top 10 were green teas.
Most studies find that green tea is associated with the most health benefits among all the teas, but I take that with a grain of salt. For instance in this study, green tea was associated with better health outcomes than black tea among adults in the Mediterranean, but they failed to control for physical activity. Green tea drinkers had more physical activity, which the authors suggest is a benefit of green tea but I suggest is a feature of the “healthy user effect.” Green tea drinkers did more healthy stuff like exercise, while black tea drinkers were less likely.
Oolong is “halfway between” green tea and black tea: more heavily oxidized than green, less oxidized than black. Oolong also ranks highly for antioxidant content; in that same 30-tea antioxidant study, oolongs took 4 of the top 10 spots.
Black tea is fully-oxidized tea. It’s the highest in caffeine and rich in a class of antioxidants known as theaflavins.
Theaflavins in the 50-100 mg range (4-8 cups of black tea) reduced body fat and increased muscle mass in Japanese women, while green tea catechins had no effect.
Pu-erh tea undergoes an additional level of microbial fermentation. It develops intense flavors and unique bioactive compounds.
For example, pu-erh contains alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors that reduce the absorption of dietary glucose and lower blood glucose levels, particularly after eating.
Animal studies show protective effects against metabolic syndrome, hyperglycemia, obesity, and fatty liver. It seems to reduce liver fat, but by a strange mechanism: by increasing de novo lipogenesis (fat creation) in the visceral adipose tissue. Rodents in the study lost weight but gained visceral fat.
Matcha green tea is made from powdered, shade-grown tea leaves. Well, “shade-finished” might be a more accurate descriptor; a few weeks before the harvest, matcha-designated tea plants are covered with shade. This slows the growth, sweetens and deepens the flavor, and increases the amino acid content of the leaves (specifically L-theanine). Pulverizing the tea leaves into a powder increases the surface area and makes for a stronger, more potent brew. Plus, when you drink matcha, you’re consuming the leaves and all their polyphenols and amino acids themselves. The powder doesn’t get strained out like normal green tea leaves.
This seems to increase the antioxidant activity. First, there’s more L-theanine available. I’ve discussed the stress-reducing benefits of L-theanine before, but it’s also good against anxiety and pairs well with caffeine (more on that later). Plus, a 2003 study found that the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) was 137 times more bioavailable in matcha than a traditional leaf-based green tea, and more than three times as bioavailable as the “largest literature value of other green teas.” My guess is that the increased bioavailability is explained by the fact that you’re consuming the powdered tea itself rather than steeping and discarding the leaves. Another advantage of matcha is that because it’s so potent, you need much less of it, rendering any of the potential downsides of tea, like fluoride content, less troublesome.
(Can you tell that matcha is my favorite?)
The Health Benefits Of Tea
In general, tea is a rich source of bioactive polyphenols with suspected health benefits. Some of the potential anti-cancer effects reported by the study:
Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD): In Korea, drinking more than two cups a day of green tea was linked to lower rates of COPD.
Colon cancer: Among Korean patients who’d had colorectal adenomas (benign tumors) removed, taking green tea extract reduced the recurrence of them at one-year post surgery.
Prostate cancer: In Hong Kong, green tea consumption was linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, follow-up controlled trials in men with prostate cancer had mostly null results.
Skin cancer: Among whites, both caffeinated coffee and tea consumption were linked to protection against basal cell carcinoma (although coffee had the stronger relationship).
Most of the cancer studies in humans are merely observational. More interesting are some of the other effects.
Most tea varieties have mild anti-hyperglycemic effects, most likely caused by the ubiquity of substances that inhibit the effect of glucose digesting and absorbing enzymes. In other words, drinking some tea with your meal will generally reduce the amount of carbs you absorb.
Tea polyphenols are among the best at inducing a beneficial hormetic response—the one where your body responds to the presence of “toxins” by upregulating its own defense capabilities and triggering a net beneficial cascade of health effects. It’s up there with coffee, chocolate, and red wine. Green tea, for example, triggers the Nrf2 pathway, causing an increase in glutathione and other antioxidant pathways our bodies use to reduce oxidative stress and nullify reactive oxygen species.
The (Few) Negatives To Look Out For…
I’ve covered fluoride before, and I’m still not sure of it. It seems to have some benefits for topical application to teeth, but systemic ingestion poses problems. For instance, women who consumed the most fluoridated water (and tea) during pregnancy give birth to kids with depressed IQs. Tea is very high in fluoride. The plant itself is quite good at yanking fluoride from the soil, and soil fluoride in tea-producing countries is on the rise due to industrial pollution.
High quality tea made from younger leaves is more likely to be lower in fluoride, since the plant won’t have had as much time to deposit soil fluoride into the leaves. The lowest quality, cheapest brick tea is made from the oldest leaves and will be higher in fluoride.
White tea is generally low in fluoride, since the leaves are picked when still very young. Green, oolong, and black tea leaves all stay on the plant long enough to pick up measurable levels of fluoride.
In Ireland, the only European country with legally mandated water fluoridation, the average fluoride content of brewed tea was 3.3 mg/L, with the highest levels hitting 6 mg/L. Based on Irish tea consumption, the authors suggest that “the majority of the population in Ireland are at risk of chronic fluoride intoxication.”
Organic Japanese-grown matcha green tea is a good option for fluoride minimization, as Japanese soil tends to be quite low in fluoride.
If you use plastic tea bags, your tea will be full of microplastics. Stick to loose leaf or paper tea bags.
How to Brew It
Okay, so how should you brew your tea?
Duration: If you’re trying to maximize antioxidant extraction, longer is better.
In one study of bagged and loose leaf black tea, longer brew times extracted more antioxidants.
For bagged tea, 5 minutes produced the most antioxidants.
For loose leaf tea, 60 minutes produced maximum extraction. However, the first 10-15 minutes were where the vast majority of antioxidants were obtained. Longer brew times extracted more, but the rate of extraction dropped off a cliff. The difference between 15 minutes of brewing and 60 minutes of brewing probably isn’t enough to justify waiting an hour for your tea.
Water choice: A recent study compared green and black tea brewed with three different waters: tap, bottled, and deionized. Tap water with higher levels of minerals produced the best tasting tea with the lowest amount of antioxidants. Bottled and deionized water with lower levels of minerals extracted the most bitter compounds, leading to a higher antioxidant level but harsher taste.
Water temperature: I’ve read and heard a lot of different “rules” for brewing tea. Some say to “never boil the water.” Others say the opposite. All I know is that I’ve never noticed a big difference—but I’m no expert. What I do know is that both low and higher water temperatures seem to extract and preserve a good amount of antioxidant content:
In the black tea study above, they used water at 80 degrees C or 176 degrees F. That’s well below boiling.
In the study comparing 30 varieties of green, black, oolong, white, and pu-erh teas, they used water at 98 degrees C or 208 degrees F. That’s almost boiling.
A Few Ways To Enjoy It
Collagen Matcha Latte: Read this post for directions.
Coffee Matcha: Sometimes I’ll make a batch of French press coffee and throw a spoonful of matcha powder in with the grounds. I’ll add some hot heavy cream to the brew. This is a great way to get caffeine and L-theanine at once, a synergistic combo shown to improve cognitive performance. Many find that theanine takes the jitter away from the caffeine buzz.
Creamy Turmeric Tea: Read this post, and add some black tea.
And…I’ve got a couple new ways that takes the work out of the above. For those looking to get out the door quickly in the morning, tea in hand, check out the new Primal Kitchen® Matcha Keto Collagen Latte and Chai Keto Collagen Latte. I’m excited about them. Let me know what you think.
Summing It Up
Like everything else, tea is no super-substance that will save you from cancer, diabetes, and obesity. But it’s a drink that’s consistently (and sometimes causally) associated with better overall health, has a long tradition of usage, and can complement an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle. All teas appear to have some benefits, so drink what you like most.
What kind of tea do you drink? How do you make it? How do you take it?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!
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While there’s nothing particularly wrong with potatoes (in fact, we happen to love this recipe for scalloped potatoes), not everyone in the Primal—let alone keto—camp wants to serve potatoes at the holiday. They’re a technically Primal choice, but they’re decidedly high in carbs and not as high in nutrients as other options. Primal and Primal-keto eating shouldn’t be about deprivation—just thoughtful decision-making on what’s a good choice for you when it comes to holiday eating. Today we’ve got 13 delicious side dish recipes that stay true to the richness and flavors of traditional holiday cooking. Which ones will you be serving?
Garlic and Mushroom Soup
Tell us which are your favorite inspirations for your holiday table, or let us know what you’ll be serving up for the perfect Primal dinner. Thanks for reading.
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Beauty isn’t everything and celery root is living proof. There’s nothing about its knobby, gnarled, beige appearance that would entice you to put it in your shopping cart. You’ve probably passed by it a hundred times nestled between the turnips and rutabagas, not even realizing what an amazing root vegetable you’re missing in your life.
The flavor of celery root strongly resembles celery, but there’s also something potato-like about it in both taste and texture. It’s often eaten as a salad, grated then left raw or quickly blanched and mixed with mayonnaise, lemon and mustard. This time of year we prefer to cook celery root a little longer before serving. Peeled and cut into pieces, this vegetable can be braised, boiled, baked or sautéed. If you’re tired of using cauliflower as a mashed potato stand-in, give mashed celery root a try. Even better, gently simmer celery root, then puree it into a creamy soup.
Celery Root Soup is an incredibly easy recipe that can be doctored up into something a little fancier when you’re in the mood. The basic soup is simply shallots (or leeks) and regular celery sautéed in butter then simmered in broth or water with celery root for about 35 minutes. Puree the soup, then add whole cream (or coconut milk) to make the texture even silkier than it already is. Salt, pepper, add some chopped parsley and thyme, and you’re done.
Once you have this base, which is delicious as-is, the variations are endless. Add a little meat to the equation by frying bacon or pancetta in the pan with the shallot, or sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of the soup as a garnish when it’s done. Sauté mushrooms or spinach to add to the pot. Maybe grate a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top, or melt butter until it’s browned and has a sweet, nutty aroma and then drizzle it into your bowl.
You can make the soup with broth, bone broth or water. Water actually works quite well and lets the delicate flavor of the celery root shine through. Note: adding pureed celery root to other types of soup is a great way to make soup thick and creamy without adding dairy or potato.
So, next time you see this ugly but quite tasty vegetable at the store, go ahead and bring one home. It’s sometimes called celeriac, instead of celery root, and will most likely be displayed by the other root vegetables—not the celery. Celery root is a vegetable all on its own; it’s not actually the root of regular celery. The best way to attack celery root is with a paring knife, first cutting off the gnarled roots, then trimming off the skin.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 1/3 stick butter
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (or 1 leek, sliced)
- 2 pounds celery root, (about two large roots) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 6 cups broth
- 1/3 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
Over medium low heat, melt the butter in a deep pan. Add celery and shallot/leek and sauté until soft but not overly browned, about five minutes. Add celery root and sauté a few minutes more, then add 6 cups of broth or water and turn up heat slightly. Bring to a boil then turn the heat lower and simmer with a lid on for 35-40 minutes until the celery root is easily pierced with a fork.
Working in small batches (to reduce the odds of splattering hot liquid on yourself and all over your kitchen) puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. If you prefer soup with more texture, only puree half of the celery root and leave the rest in chunks. Return the blended soup to the pot and slowly stir in cream or coconut milk. Use the remaining 2 cups of broth or water to thin out the soup to your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and thyme.
Nutritional Information (per serving with broth used):
- Calories: 392
- Total Carbs: 25.9 grams
- Net Carbs: 20.7 grams
- Fat: 27.65 grams
- Protein: 12.72 grams
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Spend 90-minutes in the kitchen on a Sunday and you’ll be thanking yourself all week long. This low-carb, keto-friendly meal prep stocks your refrigerator with five ready-to-eat meals.
Combining home-cooked ingredients (like pot roast) with convenient store-bought ingredients (like rotisserie chicken) keeps the prep work manageable. Herbs, spices, sauces, and keto-friendly condiments keep the flavors fresh and new each night.
Menu (each meal serves 4):
Meal 1: Pot Roast with Roasted Asparagus and Honey Mustard Slaw
Meal 2: Chicken Coconut Curry over Cauliflower Rice
Meal 3: Beef Carnitas with Spicy Jalapeno Slaw and Guacamole
Meal 4: Asparagus and Mushroom Scramble with Arugula Salad
Meal 5: Chicken Noodle Soup
What You’ll Need…
- 4 pounds/1.8 kilograms beef chuck roast
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- Eggs (half dozen)
- 1 package/7 ounces/200 grams shirataki angel hair noodles
- 2 onions
- 1 head garlic
- 2 pounds/1 kilogram asparagus
- 4 medium zucchini
- 8 ounces/226 grams sliced mushrooms
- 1 12- to 16-ounce/453-gram bag frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 package shredded red or green cabbage (coleslaw)
- 1 6-ounce/170-gram bag arugula
- 2 limes
- 2 avocados
- 1 jalapeno
- 3 cups (24 fluid ounces) beef stock
- 8 cups (64 fluid ounces) chicken stock
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fluid ounces/400 ml)
- 1 bay leaf
- Curry powder (1 tablespoon/15 milliliters)
- Cumin (1 teaspoon/5 milliliters)
- Chili powder (1 teaspoon/5 milliliters)
- Salt and pepper
- Primal Kitchen® Avocado Oil and/or extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Soy sauce or tamari or coconut aminos (2 tablespoons/30 milliliters)
- Red wine vinegar (1 tablespoon/15 milliliters)
- Slivered almonds (1 cup/300 grams)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 cup/90 grams grated)
- Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (or your favorite homemade vinaigrette)
- Instant Pot
- 3 half-size rimmed sheet pans (13”x18”)
- Parchment paper or foil (for easier cleanup)
Here’s the Plan…
Prep and Cook the Meat:
First, get the pot roast going because it takes the longest amount of time to cook. Season the beef by rubbing 1 heaping teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper into the roast.
Roughly chop two onions. Use one chopped onion for the pot roast and set the other aside for later.
Peel 6 cloves garlic and smash them with your palm.
Turn the Instant Pot sauté setting to high. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of avocado oil into the pot. Put the roast in the Instant Pot and sprinkle one chopped onion around it.
Sear the meat, turning as needed, until all sides are nicely browned (about 2 minutes per side). Mix the onions occasionally, so they become soft and nicely browned.
Add the garlic cloves, 3 cups beef stock, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, a few sprigs of thyme and one bay leaf.
Put the lid on the Instant Pot and set the pressure release valve to “sealing.” Use the manual setting to cook on high pressure for 50 minutes. When 50 minutes is up, let the pressure release naturally.
When the pot roast is done, remove it from the Instant Pot and let the meat cool on a cutting board. Shred the meat and store in two separate food storage containers for two separate meals.
While the pot roast is cooking, get to work on the other ingredients.
Prep and Cook the Sheet Pan Veggies:
Heat oven to 425ºF/218ºC.
Cover three sheet pans with parchment paper (optional, for easier cleanup).
Sheet Pan #1: Trim the bottom off the asparagus stalks. Lay the asparagus out on a sheet pan. Lightly coat the asparagus with oil and salt.
Sheet Pan #2: Slice the zucchini into ½-inch rounds. Combine on a sheet pan with the chopped onion that was set aside earlier. Lightly coat zucchini and onion with oil and salt.
Sheet Pan #3: Spread the sliced mushrooms out on a sheet pan. Lightly coat mushrooms with oil and salt.
Put all three of the sheet pans in the oven. Roast for 20 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
While the veggies are roasting, make the coconut curry sauce.
Make the Curry Sauce:
To make the coconut curry sauce, heat a few tablespoons coconut oil in a pot over medium heat. Add 3 finely chopped garlic cloves. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder and sauté 30 seconds. Add 1 can coconut milk and 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos). Bring to a boil then turn the heat down slightly and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
While the curry sauce is simmering, slice the white meat from the rotisserie chicken and chop into small pieces. Add to the coconut curry sauce.
Organize the Ingredients For the Week:
Pull all of the dark meat from the rotisserie chicken. Put the dark meat in a zip-top freezer bag.
When the veggies are done, let them cool. Store the asparagus and mushrooms in separate food storages container and refrigerate.
Add half of the zucchini and onion to the coconut curry sauce. Store the coconut curry sauce (with chicken, zucchini and onion) in a food storage container (or just keep it in the pot!) and put it in the refrigerator.
Add the other half of the zucchini and onion to the freezer bag with the dark chicken meat. Make sure to push out all the air when sealing the plastic bag. Put the bag in the freezer.
Serve Your Meals:
Meal #1: Pot Roast with Roasted Asparagus and Honey Mustard Slaw
Serve half of the pot roast with half of the roasted asparagus. Toss half of the shredded cabbage with a few handfuls of arugula. Dress the slaw with Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, or your favorite homemade salad dressing. Sprinkle slivered almonds over the asparagus and slaw.
Meal #2: Chicken Coconut Curry over Cauliflower Rice
Reheat the chicken coconut curry over medium heat. Heat the frozen cauliflower rice either in the microwave or in a sauté pan. Serve the curry over the cauliflower rice and garnish with fresh basil.
Meal #3: Beef Carnitas with Spicy Jalapeño Slaw and Guacamole
Reheat the remaining pot roast by adding the shredded meat to a hot skillet with a thin layer of oil. Cook until the meat is hot and a little bit crispy. As the meat cooks, season it with 1 teaspoon of cumin and chili powder. Mash 2 avocados with lime juice and salt to make guacamole. Add a sliced jalapeño to the remaining sliced cabbage, tossed with lime juice and fresh cilantro.
Meal #4: Asparagus and Mushroom Scramble with Arugula Salad
Chop the leftover asparagus into ½-inch pieces. Sauté asparagus and mushrooms in a skillet with a little bit of oil to reheat. Whisk 6 eggs and add to the pan, stirring to combine with the veggies. Serve the scramble with a side salad made from the remaining arugula and your favorite salad dressing. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the scramble and salad.
Meal #5: Chicken Noodle Soup
Put the frozen dark chicken meat and zucchini in the refrigerator in the morning to defrost. At dinnertime, heat 8 cups chicken broth. Add the chicken and zucchini with rinsed shirataki noodles and simmer until warm.
Thanks for reading today. What cooking tips or meal prep ideas are you looking for? Share what you’d like to see us cover in future recipe and cooking articles in the comment board below.
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Whether you’re a big breakfast person or not, everyone enjoys something warm and comforting in the morning, right?
From Primal pancakes to frittatas, we’ve got 10 delicious ideas for those who crave the savory or the sweet—as well as some filling coffees for those who prefer to keep the routine simple and the fare light in the a.m.
Enjoy any of these great dishes and drinks anytime of the day….
Have a favorite Primal or keto breakfast or questions about what to eat in the a.m.? Share your ideas and inquiries below.
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For hundreds of thousands of years, humans had an unbroken tradition of evening firesides. It’s where we told stories, recounted the happenings of the day, sang, danced, and just sat in comfortable silence staring into the flames. It’s also where we graduated from desperate scavengers scooping half-eaten marrow and gnawing bone scraps for gristly morsels into legitimate cooks.
Now that line is broken. Now we sit around the television. We sit under the perma-glow of the LED, gazing into our phones. If we even cook, we do it under perfectly controlled settings. Which is fine, but it’s missing something: the wildness of fire.
Cooking over a campfire is more art than science. It’s feel. It’s intuition. It’s love. Every flame is unique, every piece of wood or charcoal providing a different amount of heat. No two steaks or slices of bacon are identical cooked over flame or charcoal, yet each is perfect in its own way. It always works out.
First of all, you don’t need to actually go camping to do campfire cooking. It certainly helps, and I highly recommend camping as often as you can, but you can cook over fire almost anywhere, anytime.
Here’s what to do….
How To Get Set Up
Watch the Francis Mallmann Episode Of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table”
If you have Netflix, watch it. It’s from the first season. This trailer gives you a taste of what to expect.
Mallmann is an Argentine chef who cooks exclusively using wood fire. He’s a bit of a romantic, always wearing colorful cloaks and elaborate hats and quoting poetry and things like that, but somehow it works with him. He’ll have you wanting to start flirting with the “edge of uncertainty” that is campfire cooking.
Get a Fire Pit
Buy one if you like. I haven’t come across any great cooking commercial fire pits, but I’m sure they’re out there.
You can get some old steel drums and either cut the tops off, or lay them on their side and cut from top to bottom to create a “trough” style pit. Make sure to clean the inside and (this is important) only use unlined drums—you don’t want any toxic material coating the interior. Give it a good hot fire or two to burn off any unwanted residues.
You can find a metal fabricator nearby who’ll build whatever you want. Bring a sketch (or detailed description) of your desired fire pit and he or she will build exactly what you envision.
Horizontal smokers work, too, if the trough section is big enough for a fire.
A basic Weber-style charcoal grill can also work well, handling either wood fires or charcoal.
Or, for the most Primal experience, you could build one on the ground. Make a ring of stones, shape it into whatever arrangement you’d feel best cooking on, and get cooking. Have a source of water nearby (hose, huge bucket) so you can douse the thing if it gets out of hand.
Get Some Cast Iron
There’s something extremely romantic about cooking in black iron over fire. It feels Primal, elemental, and ancient. Plus, cast iron can handle the worst fire you can throw at it and turn it into something beautiful and delicious.
Get a grill, like this one: Raichlen’s Tuscan grill—a 14 inch by 14 inch square cast iron grill with screw on legs, so you can place it directly in the fire and either cook right on the grill or use it as a stand for your pan or griddle. I’ve used this thing to cook meat right in the sand as the sun drops. Nothing like it.
Get some pans: I like a 12 inch cast iron pan and a 15 inch cast iron pan—good sizes but still maneuverable (albeit heavy). If you’re feeding more people or need to cook 4-5 steaks at once, think about getting a really huge piece like this 20-incher or maybe the 17 incher from Lodge. You can often find better deals (and unique pieces) at garage sales, antique sales, or off of Craigslist.
Get a griddle: A big flat rectangular slab of iron is also pretty great, if you prefer that shape to the round pan. Your mileage may vary. Or get both!
Build a Fire
For cooking, I like the log cabin setup. You need a big fire pit to do this, and it consumes a lot of wood, but it really creates a hot flame and, if you plan on cooking over it (see the next section), great embers in a short amount of time. Start with two large pieces across from each other. Stack two more across the top on the other sides, forming a square. Continue until you’ve got a 1-2 foot structure. Then, place a small tipi inside the “cabin” and light it. Place small kindling-size pieces across the top of the “cabin” to increase the fuel.
Here’s a nice video of one.
Oak is probably the best to cook over. Almond and madrone are also great. Neutral taste, powerful heat.
Don’t cook over wood like redwood or bay or eucalyptus. Anything with strong resin or sap will flavor your food, and not in a good way. Although some Caribbean jerk recipes use bay for flavor, a little bit goes a long way.
Straight up charcoal is another option. It’s not as romantic or thrilling as building a fire and seeing it cook down into embers, but it does the trick.
You’re ready to go. Your fire is blazing. Embers are developing. What’s next?
What To Cook
What kind of steaks?
They all work. I’d reserve the pricy stuff like NY strips, ribeyes, and porterhouses for a later date, for when you’re more skilled around the campfire, and stick with cheaper (but no less delicious) cuts in the beginning.
- Chuck Eye
- Flat Iron
- Picanha, or Petite Sirloin (a section of the sirloin with a big fat cap on it)
Cook this with salt and pepper on your cast iron pan, which should be screaming hot before you add the steaks. Flip once, press the center, and when it feels right, it’s done. Don’t use a thermometer. Go by feel. Trust your instincts. If they’re wrong, they will hone themselves and the next one will be better. You don’t want to be the person who’s fussing and fretting with fancy thermometers over the campfire, do you?
You can grill over the grates, but I really think a pan works better here. Any marinated steak, however, seems to work better over a grill.
And these all apply, of course, to other types of animal flesh: lamb leg steaks or chops, pork chops or loin, venison (preferably backstrap from an animal just killed).
I hereby declare that the category of “stews” includes chili, curry, pot roasts, and anything else you cook in a big old pot with liquid that’s hearty, rich, and thick and isn’t soup.
This is the best chili to make over a campfire.
This is a great lamb curry.
I love this German pot roast over the fire. Since the liquid will evaporate quicker than in the oven, you’ll need to keep some bone broth on hand to keep adding to the pot as it disappears. It actually ends up better and richer than the oven version due to the added gelatin.
I once came up with a stew using camp leftovers that I’ll probably never be able to recreate, but this was the gist:
- Chop some bacon and render the fat in a dutch oven.
- A whole chicken, salted and browned on all sides in said dutch oven.
- Throw in a mess of chopped veggies—garlic, peppers, onions, leeks, carrots, lemon slices—and brown them in the fat.
- Pour half a bottle of white wine in and half a hard cider or beer.
- Pour in some vinegar and fish sauce.
- Pour in some canned/jarred tomatoes or tomato puree. Paste would also work.
- Then let it cook down. Put the wooden spoon in it and cover it, so that the steam can escape and the stew can thicken. It’s ready when the meat is falling off the bone, the broth is thick, and the bones are softening.
The beauty of this one was that we kept adding ingredients throughout the cook as we discovered them and went “hey, this might be good!” Yours might not turn out the same, but it will be great. Probably works well with any hunk of meat, as long as it has bone and connective tissue—think oxtails, shanks, legs, feet.
The problem with making dishes like this in the kitchen is that it’s terribly boring standing there for hours monitoring its progress. The beauty of making dishes like this over the campfire is that it’s not. You’ve got friends pitching in, taking turns with the spoon. You have a beverage. You’re laughing, chatting, talking. You can always just gaze at the trees. It’s a communal event. If you can, extend the cook time of all these dishes. Really let the fire and smoke soak into the stew.
Veggies are to be cooked as the meat is resting, preferably using the same pan in the same fat. A few ideas:
Vegetable “Risotto”: Chop peppers (both hot and sweet and mild), slice onions, some green tomatoes, some leeks and shallots (basically all the alliums you can find), carrots, cherry tomatoes. Throw in a few whole garlic cloves (or a few dozen). Cook in the meat drippings and as it cooks down, add little scoops of hot bone broth. That’s the “risotto” part—continually adding hot broth to reduce down into syrup. Consider a splash or two of lemon juice at the end, if it needs acidity.
Crispy Asparagus: Chop asparagus up into four pieces, each about two inches long. In either avocado oil or the meat drippings, sauté the asparagus pieces until browned and crispy. Finish with sea salt and lemon juice.
Grilled Zucchini: Slice big vertical slices about a finger width thick. Brush with avocado oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Grill over a grate until you get char marks. Flip, repeat, eat. Zucchini is surprisingly low carb and very high in potassium.
I tend to let loose with the sweet stuff a bit more when camping, reason being I’ve been incredibly active, my circadian rhythm is on point from lack of artificial lighting, and sweet stuff just tastes better when it’s a rarity. And even this “sweet stuff” isn’t all that sweet compared to what most people are eating daily.
Whipped cream: Keep metal bowl on ice, pour in cream, maybe add a splash of bourbon or rum, add a little sweetener (real sugar, monkfruit powder, honey, etc.—less is more), and whisk. Pass the bowl around the group for everyone to whisk, since your forearms are probably tired from hauling around cast iron.
- Pears studded with cloves. Cut pears in half. Shove a clove or two into each half. Sear in butter on cast iron and sprinkle of salt. Serve with whipped cream.
- Mandarin oranges seared with rosemary. Sprig of rosemary on top the orange, sear in butter. Serve with whipped cream.
- Apples in pork fat. If you’ve been cooking pork or bacon, save the fat to cook apple slices in. Sprinkle cinnamon and maybe some cayenne. Serve with whipped cream.
Primal Chocolate Cake: This never fails to please. Cook a Japanese sweet potato by wrapping in foil and burying it in the coals and ashes, making sure to poke a hole down the middle with a chopstick first to provide an avenue for heat down the middle. When it’s ready, cut in half, stick some 85% dark chocolate pieces into the flesh, sprinkle with salt, and mash. Eat.
Dates Stuffed With Salted Macadamia Nuts: No explanation needed. One or two nuts per date half. Incorporate bacon if you like.
“Pumpkin Pie”: Take the winter squash of your choice (I like honey nut, a better, smaller, sweeter butternut) and bury it in the coals and ashes an hour before you need it. Once it’s done, halve it, deseed it, add a raw egg yolk to each half, sprinkle some ginger/cinnamon/nutmeg, add salt, and mash it up. Top with whipped cream.
The trick with campfire cooking is to make it sort of elaborate but not surgical. Rustic but not “empty can of beans into pot.” It’s a fine balance. It’s riding that edge of uncertainty. You can’t quite define it; you just know it when you taste it.
Take care, everyone, and get out of the city and go camping. Or crowd around the fire in your backyard. Or, heck, go to a park with BBQ grills and make a day of it. It’s not too late. Fall camping is my favorite. It’s the perfect time.
What about you? What do you like to cook over the fire?
Thanks for reading. Be well. And let me know how your campfire goes.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering five questions taken from this Twitter thread. First, does collagen offer anything special above and beyond glycine? Second, what’s the relationship between keto and gallstones? Third, do I recommend eating raw liver, and why or why not? Fourth, why does one reader’s scalp itch when eating stevia? And finally, what’s the best way to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?
If collagen is broken down into amino acids in the gut before being absorbed, is it just the amino acid profile (i.e. high glycine) that makes it so beneficial? Anything else?
Glycine is a major reason why we need collagen in our diets, but it’s not the only one.
When you feed people collagen derived from pork skin, chicken feet, and cartilage, many different collagenous peptides appear in the blood. You don’t get any of these from isolated glycine:
Proline-hydroxyproline, a peptide with protective effects on osteoarthritic cartilage degradation.
Glycine-proline-hydroxyproline, a peptide that makes it into the blood and turns into proline-hydroxyproline, which makes it into the skin.
Collagen peptides have beneficial effects above and beyond glycine alone—although glycine is great for balancing out methionine intake from muscle meat consumption. It’s also been used in several studies to improve multiple markers of sleep quality.
A family member has a complicated health history including cancer and wants to eat keto. But, now she finds she has gallstones. Any thoughts on a good way to attack this complicated issue?
Has your family member already gone keto? Did going keto come before the gallstone reveal?
If so, that’s actually normal.
The primary role of the gallbladder is to collect bile from the liver, concentrate it into potent super-bile (my term), and release the concentrated bile to break up incoming dietary fat into smaller molecules that lipase can attack and digest. Dietary fat is the biggest driver of gallbladder emptying.
If the gallbladder isn’t regularly emptied, gallstones can form. Usually made of hardened cholesterol, gallstones are quite common and often produce no symptoms. Problems arise when normal gallbladder emptying flushes out a stone small enough to make it into but too large to pass through the bile duct and a blockage occurs. Gallstones can also directly damage the walls of the gallbladder, leading to cholecystis, or gallbladder inflammation.
A high-fat diet can exacerbate or even uncover gallstone issues by increasing gallbladder emptying. Remember: the more fat you eat, the more often you empty your gallbladder—and everything in it.
But high-fat diets don’t generally cause gallstones to form. They only reveal pre-existing ones. The biggest risk factors for gallstone formation are:
- A high intake of high-glycemic carbohydrates.
- High estrogen levels, which concentrate cholesterol deposition in the gallbladder. This is why women, especially pregnant women and/or those taking hormonal birth control, are more likely to have gallstones.
- Obesity, which also increases cholesterol levels in the gallbladder.
- Weight loss, with a caveat: high-fat weight loss diets reduce and even prevent gallstone formation. In fact, when you compare people who lose weight on a low-fat diet to those who lose it on a high-fat diet, research shows that 45% of the low-fatters develop gallstones while none of the high-fatters develop them.
Once the gallstones are all clear, keep up with the keto eating, as eating more fat will keep your gallbladder regularly flushed and clear of stones.
Is Raw Liver safe to eat?
I’ve eaten raw liver before. I know people who eat raw liver. I can’t recommend it, however, because I don’t know what kind of liver you have access to. Who raised the animal? What did it eat? What were the processing conditions?
But because I know people are going to try this…
Freeze it first for several days.
Buy from a trusted source.
Buy only liver from well-raised, grass-fed, organic animals.
If it looks unhealthy, it probably is. I would never eat a pale, flaccid liver with ugly spots, cooked or raw.
Don’t eat raw (or even medium) pork liver. A huge percentage of pigs carry the Hepatitis E virus, which is transmittable to humans and concentrates in the liver.
Why does stevia make my scalp itch?
Stevia can be an allergen actually. It’s not very common, but as more and more people use stevia, more will be revealed to have an allergic reaction.
I’d just skip it.
Is it possible to gain muscle and lose weight with properly timed IF around workouts?
It is possible, although you may not actually lose weight, but rather body fat (which is better).
The best way I’ve seen people do it is the classic Leangains method.
Fast from 8 p.m. to 12-1 noon.
Fasted workout in the afternoon, perhaps with a little BCAA or whey isolate before the workout. Lift heavy, compound movements.
After the workout, walk for 20 minutes. Brisk pace to utilize all the free fatty acids swimming around.
Then eat. If you’re going to eat carbs, do it in this meal and keep the fat low-to-moderate. Load up on protein.
Eat as much as you like until 8 p.m.—the end of your eating window. Favor protein and, again, if you’re eating carbs keep fat lower than usual.
Maintain the fasting period every day. On rest days, eat low/no carb and higher fat. Protein always high. Go for walks on rest days.
That’s it. That usually works really well, but it presupposes you have a flexible schedule and can actually train in the afternoon whenever you want. Your mileage may vary—though it will work at any time.
Muscle gain won’t be as rapid as it would drinking a gallon of milk a day, eating pizza smoothies, and cramming ice cream made with whey protein at night, but it will minimize fat gain and perhaps even help you lose fat as you gain muscle. No guarantees, but it’s the best method I’ve seen.
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading, take care, and be sure to leave a comment down below if you have any questions.
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Autumn is abundant with hearty and savory foods, but that doesn’t mean salad season has to be over.
The best thing about autumn salads? You can get a bowlful of plentiful veggies in hearty mixes that often work better as the main dish, rather than a skimpy side!
These 23 Paleo recipes for fall salads are filled with seasonal flavors like pumpkin, apples, pecans, and warm herbs and spices like ginger and nutmeg. Then, you’ll drizzle everything in warm dressings with autumn ingredients like sweet maple syrup and tangy apple cider vinegar!
These naturally one-pot salads come together quickly and easily, so you can enjoy them for quick weeknight dinners or prep them for lunches the night before work or school.
Warning: You’re going to want to try every single one of these bountiful salads!
1. Autumn Spinach Salad
This simple, savory salad pairs classics like chicken, bacon, and apples and drizzles it in a sweet and salty maple dressing.
2. Paleo Fall Salad with Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Kale
Hearty greens like kale and bok choy shine in this fall salad that combines the sweetness of roasted squash with salty bacon.
3. Spicy Roasted Cauliflower, Kale, and Carrot Salad
If you’re not craving a lot of leafy greens these days, listen up: This warm and spicy salad made with roasted cauliflower, sweet carrots, and pumpkin seeds is about to become your new favorite.
4. Fall Vegetable Salad
Warm toasted almonds and a homemade sun-dried tomato dressing transform the simple flavors of spinach, parsnips, and squash into a dish bursting with autumnal zest.
5. Fall Harvest Chopped Salad with Apple Maple Vinaigrette
Want to sneak in your veggies? Squash, bacon, cranberries, and pecans are drizzled in a sweet apple vinaigrette for a salad that’ll make you forget you’re eating healthy.
6. Kale Salad with Caramelized Butternut Squash and Honey-Balsamic Dressing
Watch out—this beautifully vibrant salad just might take center stage at your Thanksgiving table this year. Bright kale mixes with caramelized squash and is studded with sweet pomegranate seeds for a striking color contrast.
7. Poached Pear and Prosciutto Salad
Sweet Bosc pears simmer in an aromatic vanilla cranberry broth, then are sliced and served with figs, cranberries, and smoked meat for the ultimate sweet-savory seasonal salad.
8. Fall Harvest Salad with Creamy Pumpkin Dressing
If you wait all year to be able to eat pumpkin-everything, this salad will be your new BFF. This salad of squash and mixed greens is drizzled with the perfect creamy pumpkin dressing, then topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.
9. Butternut Squash Kale Salad with Juicy Pomegranate Seeds
Bacon, almonds, and onions play a supporting role in this hearty kale mix. Top it with a tangy red wine vinegar dressing for a dinner-worthy salad!
10. The Ultimate Fall Salad
Red cabbage, pomegranates, and Brussels sprouts set the stage for this gorgeous pecan-topped fall salad. Just be sure to leave out the optional Parmesan for a truly Paleo-friendly dish!
11. Fall Chopped Salad
Apples, pecans, and cranberries come together in a salad blend full of fall abundance. The honey-mustard dressing alone is worth its weight in, well, creamy gold perfection.
12. Beetroot and Pumpkin Salad with Oregano Garlic Chicken
The earthy flavor of beets are tamed by sweet and savory pumpkin, then brought to the next level with juicy garlic chicken thighs. It’s the genius fall combination you’ll wish you thought of first!
13. Caramelized Roasted Fig Spinach Salad
You’ll be coming back for seconds when you taste this warming spinach salad drizzled with an addictively toasty pecan vinaigrette.
14. Roasted Delicata Squash, Pear, and Pomegranate Salad
No boring salad to be found here. Sweet squash and peppery arugula add a gourmet flair to this seasonal dish, while a maple balsamic dressing keeps things tangy and exciting.
15. Radicchio Salad with Caramelized Carrots and Onions
The sweetness of oranges plays nicely with the slight bitterness of radicchio. It’s a delightful blend of colors and textures with true simplicity at its core.
16. Harvest Fall Salad
This harvest salad is packed with a smorgasbord of seasonal delights, like pumpkin, endive, apple, pear, pecans, and cranberries. Plus, it’s fully customizable for dietary preferences like keto and Whole30®—or for whatever ingredients you have on hand.
17. Chicory Salad with Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette
Hearty, bitter greens like escarole, radicchio, and chives are dressed up with a vinegar-mustard dressing and toasted pecans. Swap in whatever greens you have on hand as needed!
18. Fall Bliss Salad with Cinnamon-Cider Vinaigrette
You can have this gorgeous side salad on your table in under 30 minutes. It’s fancy enough for the holidays, but satisfying enough for any day of the week.
19. Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Prep this hearty chicken salad ahead of time, then bring it to work and drizzle on the sweet and zingy orange cranberry dressing just before digging in. Your coworkers will be green with envy!
20. Marinated Mushroom and Charred Broccolini Salad
Your favorite seasonal mushrooms, fennel, and broccolini are jazzed up in a zesty lemon dressing for Paleo salad that also happens to be vegan- and Whole30-friendly.
21. Sweet Potato, Apple, and Avocado Salad
Go vegetarian with this low-carb yet satisfyingly chunky fall salad.
22. Autumn Arugula Salad with Caramelized Squash and Pomegranate Ginger Vinaigrette
Take this abundant autumn salad to the next level when you season the squash with a dash of—what else?—pumpkin spice. Just be sure to swap the brown sugar for coconut sugar to keep it fully Paleo!
23. Green Apple and Cranberry Chicken Salad
Serve this crunchy chicken salad over a bed of leafy greens for a veggie-packed, protein-fueled lunch.
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