Lemon Cake from Healthy Green Kitchen

I wrote this post about my brief experience with Paleo, and it seems to have ruffled some feathers. I did not expect a slice of cake to be so controversial.

A few people seem to think I said Paleo was not a good way to eat. I never said that. I said I loved the whole foods emphasis and that it may be beneficial for people with certain health concerns, but that it’s not right for me. I don’t have health issues and I don’t do well with restriction. If you’re Paleo (or vegan, or something else) and what you are doing works for you, that’s great. I mean that and I said so in the article. But I do feel very strongly (and I said this in the article, too) that you don’t have to follow a restrictive diet to be a healthy person. I wrote that piece for everyone trapped in the mindset that you must to go to extremes with your food to be healthy. I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Yes, elimination diets can be helpful. I wrote about why you may want to eliminate wheat, gluten, and grains here. I wrote about dairy here. And sugar here. There’s a chapter on food sensitivities in my book (hooray! my book’s already up on Amazon! The cover is going to change a bit, but still! Can you tell I am excited?).

But it’s my feeling that elimination diets should be a temporary aspect of healing. Work on strengthening your digestion so you’ll be able to eat the foods that cause you trouble again someday (not with celiac disease or a life-threatening food allergy unfortunately though…you must stay away from those foods for good). Focus on ultimately eating more, not less.

Let’s be reasonable and use common sense here, folks. Let’s eat lots of real foods. Traditional foods. Eating like our ancestors did is great, but I really don’t think we need to go back and emulate the cavemen (who’s really sure how they ate anyway???). How about we just try to eat more like people did before all the processed foods, GMOs, and other undesirable stuff came along? How about we learn to cook and do that more often? How about we eat as organic and local as we can? And how about we don’t freak out SO much about gluten (again, unless you really cannot tolerate it or you have celiac disease) and sugar? I used to tell everyone not to eat gluten and sugar and I used to avoid them for the most part myself. I did that for many months before I even tried Paleo, and it did not make me feel any better than I do now that I’m back to including these in my life. (In fact, I feel healthier now because my mind is at peace since I’m no longer forcing myself not to eat things that I like. When I designate foods as “forbidden”, it brings back the feelings I had back when I used to basically starve myself as a teenager…I think I’ll pass on reliving that.)

Eat plentifully of wholesome stuff and don’t eat so much of the stuff that’s not. But please don’t be “on a diet”: don’t eat for weight loss…eat for your health. Your body needs food (all different kinds and and plenty of it) to do everything it needs to do. Don’t eat too few calories. Or fats. Or carbohydrates. Don’t deny yourself real foods that you enjoy. Move your body! Get lots of deep sleep, and some sunlight. Learn to properly manage stress. Strive for balance in terms of what you eat and in your life as a whole: I think that will go a long way toward helping you get and stay healthy. And happy.

Now here’s that cake I was talking about :)

Yellow Cake with Lemon Curd from Healthy Green Kitchen

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I rarely eat the same thing twice. A food or drink has to be really and truly insanely delicious for me to make it more than once; I guess that says a lot about this shake since I blended it up four times last week.

Date Shake with Toasted Nuts from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

The shake recipe comes from a wonderful new book (that’s officially out today!) called The New Persian Kitchen. I received a review copy from Ten Speed Press a couple of weeks ago and I simply can’t get enough of author Louisa Shaffia’s beautiful writing, or her food.

This is Louisa’s second book. I adored her first one (Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life), too. In fact, I wrote extensively about Lucid Food in a series of posts back in 2010: this granola is one of the recipes I featured.

One of the things I like best about The New Persian Kitchen is how Louisa weaves exotic, traditional Persian ingredients into contemporary dishes. Some of the recipes I most look forward to making include:

Cold Pistachio Soup with Mint and Leeks
Whole Roasted Fish with Oranges and Saffron
Sour Cherry and Rose Preserves
Herb Frittata with Walnuts and Rose Petals
Grilled liver with Cumin, Garlic, and Fresh Basil
Pomegranate Semifreddo with Blood Orange Compote
No-bake Persimmon and Goat Cheese Cheesecake

Don’t these recipes sound amazing? I am also a big fan of the ways in which Louisa shares cultural and historical information in this book. And the photography? It’s positively dreamy, as is always the case when Sara Remington is behind the lens.

I simply can’t say enough good things about this book, and I am pleased to let you know that Ten Speed Press has generously offered to send a copy of the New Persian Kitchen to one of my readers! You’ll find the information about how to enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

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I know what many of you are thinking right now. Lard? On Healthy Green Kitchen? Has Winnie gone bonkers?

Nope. I am as sane as ever, I promise. This post may seem surprising to you, but it’s really no different than any of my others. After all, when I post recipes, I always celebrate real food and healthy fats. And lard is both.

Pastured Lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

What’s that, you say? Lard is a healthy fat? Yes, it’s true. I too used to think lard was gross, and that eating it would give me a lard ass tushy. I also assumed putting it into my body would put me on the fast track to a heart attack, but I don’t think these things any more.

I am not talking about the partially hydrogenated lard you’ll find at the grocery store, though. That stuff IS NOT healthy. What I am talking about is lard rendered from the fat of from pastured pigs: pigs that have access to fresh air and sunshine, pigs that eat grass and other things pigs are supposed to eat (not pigs who spend their lives in cages eating grains). Lard from pastured pigs is high in vitamin D, and like olive oil, lard is classified as a monounsaturated fat (lard is about 40% saturated…that’s less than butter).

{I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that there’s really nothing wrong with saturated fat from natural sources. In fact, saturated fats are very important! There’s long been a misguided notion that all saturated fat does is contribute to heart disease, but this simply isn’t the case. Saturated fats are vital to the structure of all cells in the body, they boost the immune system, and they are necessary for the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Adequate saturated fats are also necessary for optimal storage and assimilation of the unsaturated omega-3s. Meaning: omega-3 fats are even more effective when they are combined in the diet with some saturated fats.}

Lard has a high smoke point so it’s one of the best fats for high temperature cooking (such as frying). Unlike many oils (and vegetable oils, in particular), lard is considered a “stable” fat: it does not form free radicals when heated. Lard also imparts that coveted flakiness to pie crusts and turns pastries that you make with it into seriously divine treats.

Rendering your own lard from pastured pork fat is easy. You’ll need what is called “fatback” or “leaf lard” (the fat from around the kidneys) to get started. If your intention is to use your lard in pastries, then definitely go with the leaf lard because it’s creamy white and has a very neutral flavor.

I couldn’t find leaf lard so I used fatback I bought from my favorite local farmers.

How to render lard from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

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When I ran my giveaway for the Heritage Collection Ball Jars, I promised I’d be doing another giveaway soon for EcoJarz lids. So here you go!

EcoJarz giveaway from Healthy Green Kitchen

EcoJarz are eco-friendly lids that make drinking out of reusable glass jars easy and pleasurable. They come in stainless steel and silicone, ideal materials because they are non-reactive and contain no BPA or phthalates (chemicals that may disrupt the endocrine system, interfering with the balance of hormones in the body).

These lids can be used “as is”; they also accomodate some of the reusable straws that are on the market, such as those made from glass and stainless steel. (The EcoJarz website actually sells the perfectly-sized stainless steel straws.)

The folks at EcoJarz are awesome and sent me a few of these to keep, plus some more to give away. So I will send three lucky readers a pair of jar toppers (each winner will receive 1 made of stainless steel and 1 made of silicone).

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These thumbprint cookies are ridiculously easy to make. Seriously…they might be the simplest cookies ever, and they’re also really delicious. I adapted them from the Jammin’ Sugar Cookie Thumbprints recipe in my dear friend Abby Dodge’s cookbook—Desserts 4 Today—so that they’re gluten-free (in fact they’re free of all grains). This means they’re perfect for nibbling on this week if you keep kosher for Passover; they’ll be lovely on your Easter table, too, if you’re looking for an alternative to wheat-filled cookies.

Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

Thumbprint cookies are great because you can fill them with SO many things. Take this opportunity to show off (and maybe use up, if necessary) your favorite jams, marmalades, fruit curds, and nut butters.

Fillings for Grain-Free Thumbprints from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I filled the cookies you see here with homemade chocolate raspberry jam, tangerine vanilla marmalade (so lovely: the recipe is found in here), Meyer lemon curd, and peach rose petal jam (I promise to share this recipe this summer…it’s amazing). I also made a few with almond butter.

Have fun with these cookies, and have a very happy Passover or Easter if you’re observing one of these holidays this week :)

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