An experiment in Primal living

OK, let’s see if I can make a habit of blogging, then we’ll see about changing the direction of this blog. To recap 2011: the spring was very busy with the girls’ Lacrosse season.  I also traveled quite a bit for work, and we went to Arizona for Spring Break.  During the summer I had a fabulous time training for an Olympic distance triathlon with a great group of friends.  Then in August, about a week before the race, my back went out.  I have not recovered.  My scoliosis has finally caught up with me, and I have severe arthritis in my lower back.  I spent the fall struggling to make it through a day of work.  So grocery shopping and cooking went out the window, much less all the extras such as making homemade yogurt, cottage cheese and bread.  Beggars can’t be choosy.  The cooking fell to my husband and daughters.  Last month I had an epidural steroid injection, and I am doing somewhat better.

I’m not content to spend the rest of my life as an invalid, as a burden to my family.  Therefore I am launching a last-ditch effort to completely clean up my diet and to start an exercise program to build strength without stressing my body.  I decided on a Paleo/Primal approach.  I liked the diet and exercise plan from Mark Sisson.  His exercise plan is free, and I downloaded The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation for $9.99 to my iPad.  So we’ll see.  I always do better on a lower carb diet anyway.  Today is my first day, and the book has a daily journal to fill out, so I figured this would be as good a place as any to record my entries.

Day 1 Journal                                                                                                                                    Success Score: 4

The whole reason I chose this diet is because I get to eat coconut.

Kitchen/Pantry Purge:

Hardest part: Doing it at all.  Sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of my baking supplies or the cereal or granola bars the rest of the family eats.

Best part: There’s nothing in the pantry that looks tempting to me, so I don’t think it’s an issue.

Restock Preparation

Primal shopping resources: EarthFare, Vitacost, Netrition, farmer’s markets when they open back up in the spring

Comments: My husband opened a fresh coconut for us tonight – yum!

Increase Daily Movement

Ways you can increase daily movement over the long term:

1.  Engage the girls in active outdoor activities, practice sports with them during Lacrosse and soccer season

2.  Take leisurely walks with my family

3.  Make sure that I walk to the hospital at least once a day on workdays

4.  suggestions?

5.  seriously, I’m stumped

Describe today’s movement endeavors:

1.  Walked 4.5 miles with a friend on the greenway.  Despite the cold and the wind, we had a great walk!

2.  Does laundry count?

3.  OK, fail on movement.

Primal Essentials

Items acquired today:  I did not shop today.

Comments:  I bought a pull-up bar last month, so I have all the equipment I need for the workouts.  I have mixed feeling about the whole barefoot thing, and I don’t see myself wearing Vibram FiveFingers.  I did purchase a lot of tasty Primal-approved food at EarthFare on Saturday.

Summary Comments

Daily Energy levels 1-10: 8

Hunger level between meals 1-10: 3

Satisfaction level with meals 1-10: 9

Struggles today with Primal efforts: need to get into the habit of moving more and sitting in front of my computer less

Benefits noticed from Primal efforts: decreased hunger, increased energy

Daily highlights: walking 4.5mi in the same time we walked 4mi on Saturday, my girls commenting that building muscle is cool

Cottage Cheese

One of the things I gave up last year when I decided to reduce my use of disposable plastic was cottage cheese.  I find cottage cheese to be a healthy and convenient snack that I thoroughly enjoy.  The casein in cottage cheese is a great slow release protein, making cottage cheese an ideal bedtime snack.  However, in Huntsville only narrow-neck plastic bottles can be recycled, so cottage cheese (and yogurt) tubs end up in a landfill.

Yogurt is quite easy to make, and I posted my recipe in an earlier blog post. In fact I am making a batch of yogurt as I type this.  Last month I finally decided to tackle homemade cottage cheese. I ordered rennet from The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, although I found out later that they do sell it locally at Earth Fare.  The first recipe I tried was from David Lebovitz.  The pictures were enticing and the recipe didn’t sound too formidable.  However, my curds and whey didn’t want to separate, and I ended up with a scant cup of cottage cheese for my labors and frustration.  Not to be thwarted that easily, I scrolled through the comments for suggestions. Near the bottom of the page, I saw the following comment:

  • By Inna on May 13, 2010 4:39 PM

    There is a much simpler method of making your own amazing cottage cheese. You don’t need any liquid rennet, or salt or heavy cream. Natural Fermentation of 2 ingredients take care of all that for you.  All you need is 1gal of milk, and 1lt of butter milk (or your own kefir), stir well, cover the pot with a lid, and let sit on your counter for 12hrs. After 12hr period, check it, the liquid should be pretty thick, do not mix or disturb it at this point. Preheat your oven to 250F, take lid off the pot, and place the pot in the oven for 2.5hrs. When done remove from oven, cover with lid, and let sit until it cools down completely, the cottage cheese should be separated from the whey, collect the cheese in to a cheese cloth, and drain all liquid. Refrigerate. Done. This type of cottage cheese, can even be processed in food processor, and it turns in to cream cheese which you can use for cheesecake or other desserts. Enjoy.

Letting milk sit out on my counter sounded a bit dicey to me, but I decided to give it a whirl.  The cottage cheese turned out fabulous!  It does take some planning, but the actual work involved is negligible.  I will warn you that cooling down completely takes 6 hours or so – I wasn’t expecting that.  I ended up with a large mason jar of whey, which will be put to good use in bread baking.

Homemade Yogurt

I’ve had a couple requests to post how I made homemade yogurt.  The pic shows my younger daughter, D holding the jar of homemade yogurt.  She is my picky eater, and she gobbled down the yogurt and raspberries she had for breakfast yesterday morning.

Some tips to start out:

  • Use 2% or whole milk.  Skim milk makes nasty, sour, chalky yogurt.
  • Use regular fresh milk, not the ultra-pasteurized organic milk.  The high heat process breaks down some of the proteins and will not work for yogurt. (As a side note, my big milk drinker, J thinks ultra-pasteurized milk tastes funny and prefers Publix milk)
  • You can buy a yogurt maker, but glass jars work fine.  You can use one big one as I did or divide the batch into smaller jars.  The easiest way to sterilize the jars is to run them through a dishwasher.
  • There are yogurt starters, but I just used Stonyfield Farms plain organic yogurt as my starter.  It has a good culture profile.
  • Use a double-boiler to scald the milk.  This will keep you from scorching your pans. I don’t trust this process to the microwave.

Homemade Yogurt

4 cups milk

1/4 cup plain yogurt with active cultures

Scald milk in a double boiler over medium heat.  Bring the milk to 180 – 185 degrees (this will take about 30 min) , stirring regularly.  Hold the milk at this temperature for 5 minutes to kill any stray bacteria that may interfere with the yogurt culture.  Cool the yogurt to 120 degrees or a little less.  I put the double boiler into a large bowl of ice water.  It will cool off fast this way, within 5-10 min.  Stir in the plain yogurt with a whisk.  Pour the mixture into a large glass jar or several smaller ones.  I liked using a big jar because I could give it a few good shakes to make sure it was well mixed.  Place the jar in a warm place for 4-8 hours (the longer the time, the thicker and more sour the yogurt will be).  I turned my oven on, turned it right back off, and placed the yogurt in the oven with the oven light on.  You could also place jar(s) in a cooler filled with a warm water bath or set them on a heating pad and wrap them with a towel.

When the yogurt is done, it will have a layer of clear yellowish liquid on the top, which is the whey.  I pour this off and use it in soups and stews, but you can just stir it in if you prefer a thinner yogurt.  To make a very thick (Greek style) yogurt, strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander until it is the desired consistency.  I was happy with the flavor and thickness of the yogurt at 8 hours.  Place the yogurt in the fridge and eat when cool.  Taste it first – I didn’t think this yogurt required a sweetener.  Set aside 1/4 cup to use as a starter for your next batch (use within a week).

Getting rid of junk mail

I’m going to let you in on something.  Part of my reasoning for going greener and especially for generating less waste is that I am hoping to take control of the clutter that dominates my house. Does anyone else have a counter that looks like this?  Well, the rest of you are probably better organized.  My husband has already stopped the credit card offers and pays most of our bills online, but we still end up with a mailbox full of junk!  We frequently receive offers and catalogs for my deceased in-laws!  An additional frustration is that so much of the junk mail can’t be recycled.

I found this site helpful: How to Get Rid of Junk Mail.

I was surprised to learn that the Direct Marketing Association will help you reduce your junk mail!  Register at their site and request to be removed from credit offers, magazines, catalogs and other offers.  One pointer they had is that if you have ever purchased from a company you will have to contact them directly to be removed from their mailing list.

Another option is 41Pounds.  This organization will stop your junk mail for 5 years and donate a large chunk of the fee to community and environmental organizations.

Ocean Revolution

OK, I have a terrible head cold and can’t think clearly tonight.  Please check out J. Nichols’ website. Dr. Nichols is a research scientist especially concerned with the well-being of our oceans.  He has a list of very informative links including the Plastic Pollution Coalition.  Here are some ideas they have to get started.

Also, if a pug can be green, you can be too!

Happy Arbor Day!

Well, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit this, but I didn’t realize it was Arbor Day until midway through the day.  Gardening, yard work or anything that requires keeping plants alive is just not my strong suit.  I didn’t know much about Arbor Day, but the Arbor Day Foundation has a beautiful website:

Huntsville Hospital Foundation has a plant sale going on this weekend.  More information here.  I bought a hydrangea – wish me luck!

My daughter I planted the hydrangea this morning before the rain came.

Wednesday Thursday Friday award of the week

This is a PG rated blog, so I’ll let you as the reader figure out what Wednesday Thursday Friday means.  Look closely at the contents of this bin.  Or as I did, glance at it as you drive past.  What is this guy thinking?  Does he really think that the water bottle packaging is recyclable?  Also, I too wish that we could recycle paperboard, but that is not something that is currently accepted in the blue bin. Finally, we see one of my huge pet peeves – caps left on plastic bottles that are to be recycled.  These caps are made out of a different material than the bottles and can not be recycled.  Please remove them before throwing them in the bin.  Even better – use your own glass or reusable bottle and drink filtered tap water!  For reasons why bottled water is a problem, watch this video:

Ever wonder what happens to what you recycle?  Check out this video from WAAY 31:

Here is some info on recycling in Huntsville:

How do I get a blue recycling bin?Huntsville City residents: please call 256-830-BINS (2467).

Madison County and all others who live outside Huntsville: please call 256-532-1513.

BFI will bring a bin to your home
Huntsville City Residents Please call 256-830-BINS (2467)
Madison County and all others who live outside Huntsville Please call 256-532-1513

What can I put in my recycling bin?
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle Newspapers and all inserts
Glossy magazines
Aluminum and steel cans
#1 and #2 small-necked plastic bottles
Household dry-cell batteries (put in plastic bag by the bin)
Used motor oil (put in a clean, clear plastic container such as a soft drink bottle or one gallon milk jug)
A complete list can be found on the Recycling page

Where can I recycle glass?
You may recycle glass food and beverage bottles by taking them to:

Allied Waste ‘s Recyclery
1004 A Cleaner Way, Huntsville, ALPermanent, specially marked dumpsters are accessible 24 hours a day. For more information, call 256-830-2467.