When You Cook the Awesome (At Least to Me)

Some days you cook the awesome. Some days you don’t.

That’s the paleo alternate reality with oompa and loompa.

However, one of my last meals was the awesome (at least to me).

Bill Murray You are Awesome

If you’re interested in trying out your own paleo alternate reality I suggest checking out Nom Nom Paleo. Michelle Tam has an extensive recipe index on her site. In addition she has a primo cookbook.

Nom Nom Paleo

So far, and I emphasize “so far”, we’ve found Michelle’s recipes the yummiest and easiest in our paleo alternate reality.

But on to the recipe, you say.

How does this meal sound? Skillet fried pork chops smothered in chopped bacon bits and onion and apple slices?

Yumtacular (at least to me).

The verdict from oompa and loompa?

Good, not great. The pork chops themselves were not a hit, but the sauce, oh the sauce. If you look at the recipe you will see that the sauce calls for drippings from bacon bits, bone both or chicken stock, fish sauce, and arrowroot powder.

But that’s not all. Oh no, that’s not all.

Into the sauce you throw the seared pork chops and onion and apple sauces. The concoction then simmers for half an hour.

At the end, when you taste the gravy, unseen Angels will weep on your shoulders at their inability to be part of your personal heaven.

Our only revision is to try chicken instead of pork. I loved the pork and pork fat. Munched it up. But the pork was not as popular with the rest of the crew.

What’s your biggest cooking success?

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A Paleo Alternate Reality: The Struggles with Oompa and Loompa

oompa

Ever had this conversation with your toddlers?

“What do you want for dinner tonight?” says me.

“Meat,” say oompa and loompa.

OK. Sounds good to me.

I take out the fresh grass fed sirloin, marinate it in grass fed ghee and Himalayan pink salt, grill it on low until it’s tender and juicy. I set the table with toddler friendly plates and have on the side garlic seasoned, mashed garden grown potatoes.

Food ready, I call the kids to the table.

Oompa the older sees the food and says, “I want pasta.”

Loompa the younger echoes, “Pasta!”

“No,” I say, “meat. You asked for meat.”

Oompa says,  “No. I want pasta and sprinkle cheese.”

Loompa chants, “Pasta! Pasta!”

And with each chant of pasta the inner paleo in me withers. I think that’s why part of my mind is in an alternate reality.

mayan

Personally, I struggle with feeding my kids what I consider healthy food and keeping my sanity. The two struggles are often intertwined. I mean, kids test our sanity, right? That’s their job in life.

In the past three years I’ve become hyper-aware of what is in the food I am eating. Through excessive research I’ve found that a diet abundant in healthy fats (grass fed butter, pasture raised animals, oils high in saturated fat) and protein from pasture raised animals, but low in carbohydrates and devoid of refined sugars is the best diet for me. Excessive carbohydrates, even so-called healthy grains, are a non-starter. Instead, when I do eat carbohydrates I gravitate towards sweet potatoes and rice.

The results? I haven’t been in this great of shape since I was twenty-two and training for Air Force ROTC boot camp.

I follow the paleo diet in a loose fashion in that I eat dairy and grains from time to time. The big changes to my diet have been the virtual elimination of refined sugars and a daily carbohydrate intake under 75 grams a day.

What is the paleo diet? Robb Wolf explains it best.

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, ophthalmology, dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. – Robb Wolf

I follow more of a paleo template. Every person is different. Therefore what works for me won’t necessarily work for you (or oompa and loompa).

If you are interested in reading more about the paleo diet outside of Robb Wolf check out nutritionist, Chris Kresser’s site, fitness author, Marc Sisson, and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

What does my paleo approach have to do with oompa and loompa, you might ask?

Well, I’d like my children to eat the best diet possible. I’m open to any diet for my children as long as it’s devoid of refined sugar and processed food. Even grains, but a grain centered diet takes effort and preparation. You should neutralize the anti-nutrients in grains by soaking and sprouting them. Then they can be used for cooking.

Do you think I am at a point in my life where I can hand make pasta from sprouted grains?

But my children love boxed pasta. I can’t soak boxed pasta. By then the grains are beyond help. It’s like trying to reanimate a desiccated corpse.

One could argue that, as a paleo parent, I shouldn’t have pasta around, but here’s the rub. Pasta is easy. Certain foods that give me a small internal cringe are easy. I’m looking at you, cheerios.

When you have three kids easy and fast are essential. That’s why I try to win small battles now.

So, instead of simple whole grain pasta we have Einkorn pasta.

If you aren’t familiar with einkorn wheat you should read this article on the Tropical Traditions site. The short of it is that the dwarf wheat we eat today is about as far removed from the native wheat of the wild as we are from chimpanzees. The dwarf wheat has been found to produce a higher insulin response, and it has a higher amount of gluten protein .

So, instead of plain butter, we eat grass fed Kerrygold butter.

Instead of vegetable oil we use rendered pork fat from local, pasture raised pigs.

Instead of flour we use nut flours.

Small victories.

Compared to the standard American diet I feel that my children eat quite well, but I would like to do more, feel even better about what they are eating. I read many paleo parenting websites, Paleo Parents, The Paleo Mama, Nom, Nom Paleo, to name a few, and honestly I don’t know how they have time to prepare all of the wonderful meals they detail on their blogs and in their cookbooks–yes, cookbooks! (Eat Like a Dinosaur being a favorite).

They have idyllic breakfasts, wonderful lunches in cute containers, and dinners that have more in common with a Norman Rockwell painting than with reality.

In my world half the time my wife and I are lucky to get something on the table that isn’t take out or take ‘n bake pizza.

We’ve gotten better, but there just isn’t time to be as good with the food as I’d like us to be. The food I feed my kids is important, and is a work in progress, but I’ve come to the realization that there are other parts of life on which I should focus.

Is it better to spend the time I have after work playing with my kids or spending an inordinate amount of time on a meal I found on a paleo website? The answer is obvious, but coming to grips with the answer was difficult for me.

Care to share your experiences feeding your children?

Being a Stay at Home Dad

Today I depart from writing about my upcoming novel and talk about how I’d like to be a stay at home dad.

If my manager ever reads this, and I doubt he will, perhaps he’d be surprised to hear me say that I prefer to be at home with my children. I work at the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks. The Legendary Skunkworks. Stealth came about here. We are amazing at integrating technology. Even better, I am part of a group within the Skunkworks that identifies and develops cutting edge technology.

The Skunk Works logo as seen on one of Lockhee...

The Skunk Works logo as seen on one of Lockheed Martin’s hangars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would I want to leave?

Simple. I miss spending time with my children. When I was writing my PhD thesis I stayed at home from the lab and took care of our daughter during the day while Alefiya worked. Back then, Isabella took one or two long naps a day, during which I wrote my thesis. When Isabella was awake we played together. Hung out. She was just learning to crawl and I created obstacle courses in the living room for her. I built Lego towers that she then tore apart. We had fun together.

Now, I work full time. During the week I am gone the majority of my children’s waking hours and am with them only in the evening. And we all know how toddlers and babies are in the evening. It’s their witching hour. Plus, I lament that I haven’t had the chance to spend the same amount of quality time with Conor as I did with Isabella.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a great job. I realize I am lucky to have a job in our economic environment. At times I am frustrated by the bureaucratic nonsense at Lockheed, but the company is good to me.

What I would like is more of a work-life balance. Alefiya is a very good nurse. Has her MSN. She has loads more career experience. She’s good at what she does. More importantly, she loved her job at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. But, we want to have one parent at home with the kids. We are fortunate that we are able to do that, but we’d like to split the time at home more, but because I am in a field that seems to have no concept of part time, and since health insurance is tied to employment, I am the one that works full time.

Like I said, we’d much rather split the hours. I would work half the week. Alefiya would work the other half of the week. She would like to resume her career as a nurse educator, but unfortunately we live in a world that is not set up to support families.

Research has proven that children with caring, involved dads have higher IQs, more confidence, and do better in school, but as a society we do not look long term. Imagine how much better the world would be if family and friends (community) were the center of life, and not jobs. Now, I’m not saying that I can’t be caring and involved with a full time job, but already I am missing out on preschool activities, field trips and playground time. Just imagine what I will miss in the long term.

I realize that each person needs their own space. Own time. Any parent knows that you will go crazy if you can’t get away from time to time. The job and career can serve as a distraction, but they shouldn’t be the focus, unless a person chooses so, and even then the person should not be rewarded for making that choice.

What I find interesting is that the one job that adds the most value to society, caring for children, is looked down upon in the professional sense. Oh, people will say that staying at home and caring for children is hard work. Noble work, but do we truly value what stay at home parents do? There’s perception. And then there’s reality. Even taking into account the work I did for my PhD and the work I do at Lockheed, I never work harder than when I stay at home and care for my children. The difference is the personal reward. In the spare, quiet moments when you see your child learn, or do something magical, that’s when you realize the enormity of what you are doing. How beautiful they are. That’s when you know all of the hard work is worth it.

Ask yourself this question. Which impresses you more? And be honest with yourself. Don’t tell yourself what you should say.

“I am a research scientist at the Skunkworks.”

“I am a stay at home dad.”

There’s what should impress you and what does.