The Real Food Mama Recipe of the Week – Breakfast Hamburgers

I don’t know about your house, but when I’m really stuck for a supper idea my go-to meal is breakfast for supper.  I always have bacon and eggs and there isn’t a person in the house that doesn’t enjoy it.  It’s the perfect selection when I’m completely devoid of ideas.

Enter this week’s recipe from The Real Food Mama.  These Breakfast Hamburgers take all of the goodness and fun of breakfast for supper and combines it in a way that would be appropriate for any meal!  And this will be a special treat for Paleo and Primal folks who are trying to avoid white bread and gluten because it’s bunless.  Doesn’t it just look too yummy!?  And the best part is that prep is relatively simple and the results delicious!

I hope you enjoy this recipe suggestion. After you’ve read through the details on The Real Food Mama, check out Joanne’s Breakfast, Main Dish, Sides & Salads, and Dessert sections. You can also find Joanne on Facebook here.

Happy Eating!

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The Real Food Mama Recipe of the Week – Steak Salad with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts

It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce a new weekly feature on The Paleo Campfire. If you already know Joanne from The Real Food Mama then you know how much of an absolutely wonderful resource her site is for Paleo and Primal living. If this is your first encounter with The Real Food Mama, you’re in for a treat. Every week I’ll feature one of Joanne’s incredible recipes with a link back to her site where you can get all the details.

This week our Real Food Mama recipe is Steak Salad with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts. This mouthwatering combination of steak, goat cheese, and walnuts hits all of the nutritional highlights we aspire to at every meal in an appealing package even your picky little cavekids will enjoy. I was looking for a new lunchtime salad combination but I think I’ve found it! I’m definitely working this into my meal rotation sooner rather than later.

I hope you enjoy this recipe suggestion. After you’ve read through the details on The Real Food Mama, check out Joanne’s Breakfast, Main Dish, Sides & Salads, and Dessert sections.  You can also find Joanne on Facebook here.

Happy Eating!

It’s All in My Head

Unless you really sit down and think about it, the average person doesn’t really realize how much of the process of eating is purely psychological.

Think about it.

Are you eating because you’re hungry or because it’s convenient?  Are those four Oreos you’re walking back to the couch with necessary for the sustenance of life?  Are your morning breakfast choices based on need or desire?

I’ve made a concerted effort this week to really think about my food choices.  Every time I find myself angling for the cupboard or fridge I’ve forced myself to wonder at my motivations.  Why am I doing this right now?  Am I really hungry?  Do I need a snack?  Am I just eating to fill time or procrastinate?  It’s an interesting psychological (and sociological) exercise.

My outcome so far?

I’ve discovered, almost exclusively, that most of my between meal snacking is in my head.

All in my head.

It’s the same thing with coffee.  I’m beginning to see that coffee and I have the same co-dependent relationship cigarettes and I used to have.  When push came to shove, I didn’t need to smoke.  Granted, I had to go a little crazy before I finally overcame the psychological addiction, but I survived without smoking.  I’m trying this week to survive without drinking as much coffee as I have.  Seriously, I drink between 50 and 65 ounces of coffee a day.  My highly unscientific self-study has revealed that after the first two 16 ounce cups it’s all diminishing returns.  I’m not drinking coffee to survive or stay alert, I’m drinking coffee out of habit.

And how many of us can say the same thing about how we eat?

We walk through life doing things because we believe we should or because of unconscious habit developed through rote action or belief.  I’ve really come to believe that if we sat down and removed ourselves from our fictitiously busy lives for a few moments and really thought about our motivations and actions we would come to some startling conclusions.  Food is meant to sustain and energize, not comfort and fill psychological niches that need something else.  There’s no hole in your heart that can ever be filled by rocky road ice cream or that bag of chips.  Your daily chocolate bar is as much a habit as the poor souls standing in -15C temperatures to have their hourly cigarette.  I know, I used to believe I needed both.

So be honest with yourself today.  Go find a quiet room or put on your headphones, close your eyes, and blot out the office for a few moments.  Really, honestly assess your eating habits (and your life as a whole if you’re up to it).  Got those things in your mind that you can easily identify as unnecessary?  Good.  That’s a place to start.  Successful change isn’t a radical process, but one of steady and recursive identification and elimination.

After all, who knows what you’re capable of?  If I can cut down to one cup of coffee a day, ANYTHING is possible.

The Shell Game

It’s amazing how much of a shell game the modern, processed food industry has become.  You expect marketing and half-truths from people like car salesmen or television evangelists but not the people we buy our food from.  We expect those that provide the food that line the endless shelves of supermarkets everywhere to be at least honest about the ingredients and benefits of the product.  Unfortunately, if you’ve spent any time really thinking and investigating, you’ll know that’s a completely wrong assumption.  This really came into focus for me last night at the dinner table.  I’m aware of the extents to which the big agri-food companies are willing to go to sell their product but the insidiousness of it really kind of struck me.

We were finishing up supper when my eye happened to catch the back of the rogue bottle of ketchup left in our house.  You all can appreciate how hard some habits are to break.  Condiments in particular seem to be clinging to that last thread of survival around here.  I still can’t resist that little bit of ketchup on a burger.  Remember, Paleo is a journey, not a destination.

But I digress.

As I picked up the bottle and read the ingredient list, a little bit of text just below the UPC symbol drew my attention.  Gluten-free it exclaimed.  But not in an attention-getting typeface for anyone to see.  Slightly bolded and only a bit bigger than the surrounding text, it was calculated for a very unique viewership.  Only someone who had picked up the bottle, turned it around, and read the ingredient list or nutrient breakdown would have noticed.  In other words, someone who actually cared it was free of gluten in the first place.

To my mind though, that isn’t even the interesting part.

The interesting part is that someone in marketing probably had a brainstorming session with a bunch of food engineers at some point in the last year.  At that meeting the food engineers were mandated to come up with a flip chart full of product benefits that aren’t normally associated with tomato ketchup.  They probably hummed and hawed for a morning, writing down factually accurate bullet points about the product and then left after their fill of coffee and muffins.  The marketing person probably went back to their desk and cross-referenced these with a spreadsheet of trendy product claims and a spreadsheet of desirable product claims gleaned from a  focus group.  What that marketing person found is that they could capture a certain, desirable demographic if they positioned a claim of Gluten-free in the exact position I viewed it last night.  Not higher, not lower.  Not in a bright blue explosion on the top left corner of the front label.  In that exact spot, in that exact font, on that exact label design.

Does that seem as crazy to you as it does to me?

Buying and selling the food we eat shouldn’t be a shell game based on product placement, factually accurate claims that don’t reveal the whole story about a product, and a marketing department intent on selling you something you may not really want to buy.  It’s a world of focus groups, brainstorming sessions, and shiny glass office towers that care about profit and industrial efficiency.  It’s just another reason why I will be moving away from supporting these big corporations.  I have options, it’s time I started to exercise them.  What about you?  Do you have options?  May be the first option is to just stay out of the middle aisles of the supermarket as much as possible.  That’s a good start.  May be you live near a Whole Foods or other chain store dedicated to selling organic, ethical, or items produced by local farmers?  That would be even better.  Want to really go off the map?  Check out your local farmer’s market.  It’s a change I know I need to make in my life.  May be you should think about making it as well.

Let’s put an end to the shell game that’s being played with us.  Let’s tell the big food companies that we don’t care if something is solely gluten-free, salt-free, low fat, or sugar-free strictly because the marketing department told us it was.  It’s time to start eating whole foods that come as directly from the source as possible.  Let the marketing department have their focus groups and brainstorming sessions, we’re just going to eat well.

Sugary Disappointment

I can be a bit stubborn sometimes.

This should come as a surprise to no one I know.

I often know I’ve reached the end of something, be it a habit or a job or anything, when I try desperately to insert some sort of meaning into it.  You know the feeling.  When you stand there in despair, wondering and pleading with yourself why this doesn’t feel the way it used to any more.  That happened when I stopped smoking.  This will sound like the most out of whack notion in the world but when I knew it was over for me and smoking, I would actually force myself to go outside and smoke to try to recapture some of the zing I used to associate with it.  Weird huh?  Smoking had been such a habit for so long that leaving it behind was hard.  It was like leaving a lifelong friend behind.  A horrible, carcinogenesis friend to be sure but something that was comforting and mine.

I had such a break with sugar last night.

Sugary sweets and I have a sorted relationship.  Most times I used to scarf chocolate bars, cake, and ice cream with a glee usually associated with an ecstatic religious experience.  There were occasions though, usually in the mid-afternoon or late evening, when a substantial shot of sugar meant a quick nap on the couch.  As I’ve walked along the path of my Paleo journey I’ve been fairly successful in cutting most of this out.  I taunt the chocolate bar rack at the store and don’t even put it in my coffee any more . . . well at home at least . . . I’m looking at you Starbucks.  So I was thinking perhaps my days of the sugar-induced, mid-afternoon coma were behind me.

Yesterday I spied some chocolate ice cream in the freezer and couldn’t resist.  Topped with some raspberry sauce my wife made and I was in pre-Paleo heaven.  But then it hit me like a sledge hammer.

BAM!

There was the old sugar nap coming on.  And on such a little cup of ice cream too!  I used to eat a soup bowl of ice cream in my pre-Paleo days and be wired for sound!  Oh sweet sugar!  How could you fail me?

So that was it, that was the moment I finally stopped trying to insert meaning into refined, sugary stuff.  The typical argument I hear to eat sugary snacks it that it’s comforting.  I’m eating this king sized Mars bar because it makes me happy.  It used to make me happy too, just like smoking used to make me happy.  I realize now though there is absolutely no meaning, no happiness in this thing.  Happiness and meaning is inside me, it’s inside you as well.  When you realize that, no Mars bar will torture your soul again.

And if you need any incentive to change, or encouragement to stop, go read the article Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes.  I’m Instapapering it right now.  Every time I think about that chocolate ice cream, I’m going to read this first.  May be you should too.

Update:  This post is now part of Primal Toad’s Primal Cave 7.

Cute Animals

I had an interesting philosophical insight as I walked down the cereal aisle at the local grocery store the other day.  As a mascot of the Paleo and Primal lifestyles, Grok conveys both the ideal and the message of the movement.  He’s tall and lean, actively leaping into the air with his spear at the ready for the hunt.  Unfortunately he just isn’t . . . cute.  Or terribly cuddly.

I mean seriously, look at these characters in the cereal aisle.  Over there is an overblown caricature of a Victorian sea captain.  Over here a happy but somewhat ferocious tiger.  And two sections down is Brown Bear with an uncontrollable sweet tooth!  Even the bran cereal has a lovable, huggable pitch man.  How can we compete with that?  We need cute animals and we need them now!

If you haven’t guessed, I’m saying all of this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  The real insight I had as I walked down the cereal aisle was how it is probably the most marketing-dense section of any supermarket.  There are more mascots, dancing pirates, and anthropomorphic animals per square inch than any other aisle.  By and large, it doesn’t usually affect the buying habits of adults, by the time we get to 30 our grocery buying habits are well entrenched.  No, those colourful boxes promising fun and excitement are aimed at a much smaller crowd.  The marketing department knows the person really making the buying decision in the cereal aisle is your 3 to 10 year old.

By the time you’ve reached the cereal aisle you’re about halfway through the store.  You’re tired, your kids are tired, and it’s your deep and abiding wish to make it to the checkout without  another fistfight.  You walk down the aisle and those little brains start to light up with all the stimulus!  Bright colours!  Cartoon characters!  Hey!  There’s that funny bee from TV!  Hands start grabbing.  Tears flow as requests are denied.  You’re at wits end.  WHY did I walk down here again?  And finally you allow them to each pick a box so you can get on your merry way.

Damn cute animals.

How insidious is that?

Thankfully, my kids would rather eat bacon and eggs than something that’s 60% chemically treated marshmallow bits.  Again, I don’t think I did anything to influence that, it’s just the way it turned out.  Another happy confluence for me.  But for those of you that are still making the resigned march down that aisle, do you really even need to go there?  All cereal at some point is a grain.  That fact alone should be the show stopper for you.  Add the sugar and chemicals on top of that and it even gives non-Paleo or Primal folks pause.  Most parents though fool themselves into believing that one little treat isn’t going to hurt anyone.  We’ve been so conditioned to believe that the box with the dancing bear labelled whole grain is so healthy that we ignore what our intuition is telling us; we can do better by our kids than this.

Want the simple solution?  Don’t even go there.  If you don’t walk down the cereal aisle most kids won’t even notice.  That may seem dishonest to some.  Who cares?  There’s a whole interior section of the grocery store I try to avoid on every trip anyway.  You should be as well.  All those cute animals are fun and exciting but they aren’t doing you any favours.  They don’t care if BHT has been added to package material to maintain product freshness.  That’s a direct quote from a package of cereal I’m looking at right now.

Ummm?  What’s BHT?

So remember, if it’s in a grocery store and it has a cute animal on the package, you probably don’t want it.  The only animals you want to encounter are the tasty ones.

At the back in the meat section.

Why do I suddenly feel like having steak?