My Whole30 Detox – First 15 Days

Most of my friends and family now know I’ve been on a month-long Whole30 detox adventure. It’s been incredibly enlightening. What is Whole30? It’s a new way of eating, where you eliminate all sugars (yes, wine too,) grains, dairy, and legumes. The reasoning is to reset your body to burn fat for energy rather than sugar and carbs. If we burn only sugar and carbs, we’ll crave more sugar and carbs and store that fat. But it’s also a diet that reduces systemic inflammation. I’m finding I was suffering, for the past 2 years from joint pain because they were inflamed due to the foods I was eating (or drinking.)

I also cut caffeine out. Just to be me and up the ante a bit.

I can tell you that at Day 16 here, my hip and knee issues are getting much better. My overall joint pain is generally gone. I’m sleeping close to soundly. I feel stronger and healthier. But, my headaches are persisting. You can’t have everything right? Yet, I’m only in the middle of the experiment, so I’ll let you know more when we round the corner at the end of the month.

Many people ask me what I’ve been eating if so much is restricted from my diet. The answer is: a ton! And I have zero interest in snacking between meals because my meals are quite robust. I’ve photographed and logged every meal, including my general status each day, so although this might be way TMI I’m going to share it here anyway:

Day 1

Status: woke up with headache, sore on right side hip. Felt energized all day (my usual vibe.) Hiked/ran 4 miles. Getting tired at 7:30 p.m.

Breakfast: Curried Frittata

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Lunch: Baby spinach salad with tuna, my homemade sesame garlic ginger sauce, sautéed crimini mushrooms in ghee, naturally fermented pickle, 2 pieces dried mango

Dinner: Roasted potatoes in olive oil and splash of rice vinegar, artichoke and ghee, guacamole

Day 2

Status: Didn’t sleep well because of someone snoring. Sciatica above right glute is hurting a lot. Otherwise good energy, no hunger or cravings. End of day feeling really really bloated. I don’t like this feeling, all the grease and meat. It’s not good for the environment to eat so much meat. Not good for my gut. Am going to create my own Whole30 diet that still follows all compliant food but doesn’t eat so much meat.

Breakfast: Banana and blueberries with homemade almond butter (raw almonds, fleur de sel, coconut oil)

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This isn’t a totally compliant meal as the nuts won’t provide me with enough protein. 

(I was told in a forum that this meal isn’t really all that Whole30-compliant. The ingredients are, but I need more protein. What is a vegetarian to do? I eat eggs, but am not excited about changing my lifestyle to include a ton of animal meats (other than fish) in my diet, as I’m looking for something that’s sustainable for our family long-term. I’ve been advised to add 3-4 eggs to the meal. Not sure I can do this X3 every day. Nine eggs per day will be tough.)

Lunch: Chili but with egg instead of beef. Delicious.

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Best thing about this chili is that there’s cacao in it. 

Dinner: Chicken thighs with onion and olives, grilled eggplant, and  cauliflower carrot parsnip puree

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Day 3

Status: Feel like merde. Food is really greasy and it’s getting me down. Last night’s chicken had a lot of grease in it. One thigh and I was really full. This is more meat than I’ve eaten in years, and, well, after dinner I felt really bloated and went to bed feeling generally rotten, like how you feel after eating rich food. I slept pretty well, but felt that headache coming on throughout the night. Now, it’s a full-fledged migraine because I had to make my son’s breakfast and lunch, take him to school, feed the chickens, start the fire (we only heat with wood), get my daughter off to the bus, and I still hadn’t eaten. Suffice it to say, that vice grip on my head was so aggressive I knew I was going to start vomiting (this is the way my body deals with extreme pain — I have a history of getting migraines.) So, I quickly ate a banana, two dates and about 3 tablespoons of homemade almond butter because, frankly, the thought of eating a couple of eggs was going to make me hurl. Fingers crossed the vice eases its grip on my head. Is this too much animal meat for a non-meat eater? I’m going to try to stick with the eggs-mostly approach, with some fish and the very occasional addition of chicken. But yesterday felt like way too much: more food and fats than I generally eat in a day, so maybe I need to moderate a bit?

Meal 1: 3 Tablespoons almond butter, 1 banana, 2 dates

Meal 2: Sautéed kale greens and 2 poached eggs, with carrot parsnip cauli puree.

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Meal 3: Thai green curry with shrimp on cauli rice.

 

Status: Tonight was the premier of our film, and friends came over with champagne. Wasn’t tempted at all.

Day 4

Status: Remnants of yesterday’s headache, but not terrible. Have lots of energy. Feel pretty good, but also feel that I could use some more sleep. And, umm, in the department of “signs that one could be undergoing deflammation” (that’s my silly word for the opposite of inflammation) — my ring is falling off my finger. My hands look so much better. They were definitely looking on the sausage-y side of things, so this fast deflammation is a real surprise. I’m not chalking it up to weight loss, just loss of inflammation in my extremities.

Meal 1: Sautéed kale greens and 2 poached eggs, with carrot parsnip cauli puree, and a pickle.

Meal 2: Leftover chicken thighs,  cauli-carrot-parsnip puree, grilled eggplant

Meal 3: Chili (as above)

Day 5

Status: Feeling pretty good. Definitely tired in the morning when waking up to make Finn’s lunch and get him to school.

Meal 1: 2 Hard boiled eggs, 2 chicken sausages, small handful raw pistachio nuts, 2 dates, detox dandelion tea

Meal 2: This is some seriously yummy porridge!!

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Oat-free nut based porridge with apples

Meal 3: Baked Salmon, Roasted veggies (potato, turnip, beets, sweet potato) and homemade ketchup. Daughter loves the ketchup so much, she’s eating it by the spoonful.

Day 6

Status: My hip & knee still ache deeply when I sleep. A pillow between legs helps. BUT, when I get up, I don’t have the aches and creeks and stiffness in my joints! And the knee feels good.

Meal 1: Nut “oatmeal” (see above) and 2 soft boiled eggs.

Meal 2: Awesome pesto with cauli rice and turkey bacon.

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This vegan pesto is to die for.

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Meal 3: Delicious shrimp scampi on zucchini noodles.

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Status: I feel good. Have never cooked so much in my life, but I’m making the time for it and am learning so much. The alternatives to what I’m used to eating are still just as delicious and much more healthy. Zucchini noodles, yum. Cauliflower rice, yum. Homemade ketchup, yum. Vegan pesto, yum. Didn’t work out today but energy level is good.

Day 7

Status: Feel great!

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Meal 1: Sweet potato avocado toast with fried eggs, green onion, tomato, onions, and cashews.

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Meal 2: Spinach Ceasar (with my vegan faux Ceasar dressing), guacamole, smoked turkey slices, pickle.

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Meal 3: Asian Stir fry with egg “tofu” (leftovers of cauli rice, mushrooms, zucchini, red pepper, garlic, ginger, onion. And coconut aminos for flavor. Really really good!

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Day 8

Status: Feeling good. My back hurts from standing much of the day yesterday, cooking! Heart rate goes up after eating! Is my metabolism kickstarting?

Meal 1: Soft boiled eggs, raw red bell pepper, avocado, green olives, macadamia nuts.

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Meal 2: Baked potato with carmelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and garlic, topped with cilantro and green onion on a bed of spinach with faux Ceasar dressing. Two chicken sausages.

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Meal 3: Speck, chopped salad of jicama, romaine, onion, potato, cilantro, green onion and a little leftover potato.

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Day 9

Status: Woke up a bit late for a 7:55 ferry. Not enough time to eat much. Long day, then until a 2:00 lunch, with only a slight hunger headache.

Meal 1: Soft boiled eggs, banana.

Meal 2: Tuna, sweet red pepper, radish, pickle, jicama, dates, homemade almond butter.

Meal 3: Dungeness crab, ghee, green beans, homemade mayo, clementine.

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Day 10

Status: Slept well. Had the Natural Calm magnesium drink last night and I think it helped. But, woke up with a headache, so took meds.

Meal 1: Poached eggs on bed of sautéed kale and sautéed mushrooms with marjoram. Awesome!

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Meal 2: Chicken tenders dredged in coconut flour and pinch of salt. Pan fry it in coconut oil. Place in a bowl on a bed of baby spinach with a great dressing for this dish: Coconut milk, olive oil and green thai curry paste, whisked together. Garnish with enoki mushrooms, sliced Italian plum tomatoes. Unbelievably good, altogether!

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Meal 3: Pete is gone now, so I just made oven baked sweet potato fries with the kids and they loved them.  We also had sliced raw veggies: avocado, radish, celery and some macadamia nuts. I threw in some prosciutto to get some protein.

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Day 11

Status: Sleeping soundly, except for the fact that my hip and knee ache at night. Get up to take ibuprofen. Taking Magnesium.

Meal 1: Sautéed kale and garlic with poached eggs and marjoram mushrooms.

Meal 2: Sweet potato fries (leftover), baby spinach and parsley with green thai dressing, coconut floured pan seared chicken tenders.

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Meal 3: Poached salmon, fried green plantains with mango avocado salsa

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Day 12

Status: The pain in my hip and knee at night (and day) is diminishing! I went on a load-bearing hike yesterday which was intensive, but didn’t hurt my knee. At night I didn’t wake from the pain as often, but my muscles are seizing up, which shows a lack of calcium. The magnesium binds to calcium and now that I’m not eating dairy I may not be getting enough calcium. Have been eating dark greens but still not quite enough?

Meal 1: Sautéed garlic kale with poached eggs on top. Sliced tomatoes.

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Meal 2: Mango salsa with sliced turkey, deviled eggs (with homemade mayo), jicama.

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Meal 3: Asparagus, avocado, basil salad and chicken apple sausages.

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Day 13

Meal 1: Scrambled eggs with my parsley pesto and baby spinach, all together in a salad.

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Meal 2: The asparagus salad from Day 12 with prosciutto on top.

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Meal 3: Baby zucchini, onion and marjoram sautéed into scrambled eggs. With sliced avocado on top. So good!

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Day 14

Status: Small headache upon waking. What is causing these? My jaw feels like it was clenched as I slept. Otherwise, my body feels good. Not too much pain in my knee and hip as I slept, but I did take 600 mg of ibuprofen before bed.

Meal 1: Pumpkin custard  (a bit bland)

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Meal 2: Sliced smoked turkey, roasted potatoes, baby spinach, green beans.

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Meal 3: Coconut floured chicken sautéed in red palm oil. Morels and garlic sautéed in ghee, roasted veggies, and faux cesar salad.

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Day 15

Status: Felt really energized most of the day (collected wood in the forest with Finn and went on a 3 mile walk to pick up Cleo at her friend’s house,) but feeling a little bit down. It’s hard to just cook all of this just for myself.

Meal 1: pumpkin custard (see above) with ghee sautéed nuts and raw homemade Lara bar bits for sweetener (dates, cacao, hazlenuts, almonds, sea salt whirred in the Vitamix.)

Meal 2: Roasted veggies, salad, smoked salmon lox.

Meal 3: Roasted red pepper zoodles and 2 chicken sausages.

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So, there you have it! Fifteen days of Whole30 under my belt and the meals therein.

20 DIY Crafts Not Plastic

A Case For Exposing Your Children to Traditional Arts Using Natural Materials. Photo © Liesl Clark

When my children reached elementary school age and we enrolled them in programs that had art classes, we were amazed at how few natural materials were used for art supplies and just how much of it was plastic: glitter glue, colorful plastics for mosaics, acrylic-coated feathers, various items to be “recycled” through art like yogurt cups and plastic straws. The myriad cut-and-paste-style art projects they did were primarily made of art supply store plastics. All too often schools and art classes are cutting corners and can only afford cheaper plastic materials for art supplies.

Hand-crafted tiles or buttons, made by a young Nepali stone-carver. Photo © Liesl Clark

I would’ve preferred sticks, stones, leaves, sea glass, natural feathers and wood over the pre-fabricated plastic materials my son and daughter were exposed to. These plastics were simply mimicking what’s found readily in nature. I also believe the color palette children are exposed to in those early years, through day-glo style plastics, can affect their color choices later in life. Gone might be an appreciation for natural greens, browns, blues and purples found regularly in the environment. We started to opt out of the popular kinder art projects in preference to doing our own art, making an effort to learn from traditional artists who work with stone, wood, glass, wool, and ceramics. These experiences, for our children, were enriching as they learned quickly that they could create things of beauty from resources found in the natural world, as people have done for millennia.

A Young Nepali Artist Carving Prayers Onto a Mani Stone. Photo © Liesl Clark

A coupling of leaves, feathers, and flowers could become a miniature nest or fairy’s bed from a 7-year-old’s imagination.

A Fairy Bed, Made From Leaves, a Pod, Feathers and a Flower. Photo © Liesl Clark

Or a piece of wood might be whittled into a boat, a stone carved into a work of art. Exposing children to traditional folk art from around the world is a great way to teach them how natural materials that are readily available can be turned into works of beauty.

Azurite Is One of The Pigments Used in Traditional Himalayan Art. Photo © Liesl Clark

On a recent trip through South Korea while we were in transit, we took part in a program at the airport in Seoul that teaches traditional art forms. Every time we pass through this airport our children learn a new form of art made from a surprising material. They’ve worked with rice paper to make stone carving prints onto them, they’ve made paper lanterns, they’ve hand painted fans, and they made a tapestry necklace. This time, they learned the Na-Jeon art form, working with mother of pearl-colored shells and shellac from the lac tree.

Learning the Na-Jeon Art Form in Korea. Photo © Liesl Clark

This highly sophisticated ancient Korean craft utilizes iridescent abalone and conch shells in contrast to a lacquered black wood background, creating a sense of balance and harmony in this mariage of opposites.

A Hand Mirror Made in the Korean Na-Jeon Style © Liesl Clark

The children were given hand mirrors to decorate in the Na (which means “pearl”) Jeon (which means “decorate”) style. The focus and concentration the craft required was mesmerizing for us to watch. And the mirrors will be treasured for years to come in our family.

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If you’re looking for some ideas for arts and crafts less plastic, we came up with a list of 20 traditional crafts from natural materials found in and around your home that are easy to try. Copy this list or share the link with your art teacher at school. No need for spending money on cheap plastic art supplies when there are supplies we can contribute from our own homes and backyards: scrap fabric, acorns, sticks, scrap paper, wool sweaters, leaves and sea shells are just a few. Incorporate information about the cultures that started the folk art form you’ll practice so your children appreciate the history behind their craft and how interconnected we all are through our art forms:

1) Doll-Making: Fabric Scrap Dolls have been made for the children of many cultures for centuries.

DIY Tiny Dolls Wear Fabric Scraps in Style

2) Vegetable Stamps: My favorite veggie to use for stamps is okra. But you can also carve stamps from a potato with excellent results. And the celery rose stamp is absolutely beautiful.

3) Fabric Scrap Mosaic: Reusing fabrics is an art unto itself and certainly has been passed down for generations. Try making a pretty mosaic from your leftover scraps.

4) Embroidery: Try your hand at embroidery. You can even embellish a tired old lampshade to create color in a room.

5) Twig Basket: Collect some long green twigs and make a freeform basket out of them.

6) Origami Tea Bag Folding: Learn the traditional art of origami paper folding using the paper the covers tea bags! If families saved up their tea bag covers, a school art program would have plenty of paper to work with and couldn’t complain about budget constraints.

7) Scrap Paper Flowers: Art classes should save all scrap paper to make these beautiful flowers. Or toilet paper rolls are all you need to make these flowers.

 

Toilet Paper Roll Flowers. Photo © Kelly Munson

8) Fallen Leaf Art: There are many beautiful artistic creations you can craft from leaves.

9) Scrap Paper Tree: This pretty craft utilizes tiny pieces of your favorite scrap paper as well as sticks collected from outdoors.

10) Seashell Arts: We’ve made mobiles from sea shells and endless mosaics. These seashell koalas would make any child happy.

11) Tin Topiary: Use pie tins to make these beautiful tin flowers.

12) Knitting: With some saved-up chopsticks, you can teach anyone how to knit.

Knit with Old Chopsticks photo © Rebecca Rockefeller

13) Felting: Learn how to felt your wool sweaters.

14) Rubbings: Make rubbings for things natural or extraordinary.

15) Weaving: DIY weaving is easy and a great craft to do with scrap yarn and fabric strips. You can even make your own loom.

16) Phone Book Paper Painting Meditation: Teach the kids meditation by doing phone book paper art.

17) Sock Crafting: If you’re in need of a stuffed animal, try making one from a sock.

Sock + Rubber Bands + Bits & Bobs = Sock Hippo. Photo © Liesl Clark

18) Hand-Made Valentines: Valentines are an original folk art scrap hack.

Handmade Paper Valentines, An Original Folk Art. Photo © Liesl Clark

19) Stencils: You can make stencils from food boxes and use beets as your ink dye.

20) Driftwood Sculptures: If you collect enough of a variety, driftwood lends itself to creative art from their smooth appealing shapes.

What crafts from materials readily-available can you add? We love to make things from what’s abundant around us!

Reflective Pavement Markers Trash Our Roadsides

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Dear Washington Department of Transportation:

When you resurface our roads each year, you put in raised reflective pavement markers so we can better see the center line in the dark. But when winter comes, you scrape them all off the roads with your snow plows, and they sit there forever mangled, these mutilated pieces of spent DOT trash.

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What’s the point of installing plastic reflective pavement markers if you obliterate them a few months later?

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Now,  they simply reflect random routes off-road beckoning us to take misguided adventures into our roadside ditches.

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Didn’t you know that plastic pollution is one of the greatest problems endangering Puget Sound? Your scraped up plastic reflectors get run over by cars and break down into smaller and smaller reflective plastic bits as they slough off our hills and runoff with the rain into our ditches, headed for Puget Sound.

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These are the pieces of plastic marine debris we find washing up on our beaches. Perhaps there’s another alternative to reinstalling raised plastic reflectors on our roads each year, just to be scraped back off by your plows? I know other states, like Utah, use indented reflectors so snow plows don’t hit them.

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My neighbors try to be creative and reuse your smashed up reflectors on their stone walls so motorists don’t hit them at night. As for me, I’m just left to pick up your bits of reflective plastic trash as I reflect upon the waste our state tax dollars are creating, every time I walk down my road.

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Vegan Parsley Pesto

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© Liesl Clark

It was January 12th, the ground was frozen solid, and I harvested parsley from my garden! If this hardy herb can withstand 26 degree temps, then that’s a green I want in my body. Parsley provides so many nutritional benefits, including vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, choline, folates, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and copper, to name a few.

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A January harvest of deep greens. © Liesl Clark

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for parsley pesto that goes well with myriad dishes, and it’s perfect for a Whole30 diet. It’s quickly becoming my go-to sauce for most dishes. I’ve used it on Mexican food, Italian foods, and as my savory sauce to throw on eggs in the morning.

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Scrambled eggs and baby spinach with parsley pesto. Fried bananas, too! © Liesl Clark

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The dish, above, all mixed together. © Liesl Clark

Parsley Pesto

1 Large bunch of parsley

5 Cloves garlic

2 Serrano peppers, roasted. (I roast them right over the stove and then sweat them in a paper bag.) Remove the seeds.

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 Cup olive oil

Throw it all in your Vitamix, Cuisinart, or blender and blend until almost smooth.

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Green goodness. © Liesl Clark

I put it on poached salmon the other night and it was so delicious!

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Mango avocado salsa with fried green plantains and poached salmon. I used 3 sauces to try with this dish: parsley pesto, homemade ketchup, and homemade mayo. The pesto was the tastiest! © Liesl Clark

Garlic Kale Poached Eggs, My Whole30 Go-To Breakfast

Poached eggs over a bed of sautéed kale with garlic has become our staple breakfast. Now that the chickens are finally laying (3 months without fresh eggs has been painful), we’re thrilled to share with you this delicious nutritious breakfast for wholesome foods seeking people.

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Garlic Kale Poached Eggs with Sliced Avocado and Parsnip, Cauliflower, Carrot Mash.             © Liesl Clark

I’m on Day 12 of my first Whole30 adventure, feeling great, and this breakfast is fast, simple, uses 90% of its ingredients from my own land, and doesn’t dirty any pans. What’s not to love? Let me explain.

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Garlic Kale Poached Eggs (Serves 2)

2 Tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee

4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, chopped

pinch or 3 of sea salt

4 fresh eggs

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Here are the ingredients for one serving. © Liesl Clark

Put oil in a cast iron skillet or your best non-teflon skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is heated, add the garlic and sauté until just starting to become golden. Add red pepper flakes and stir around for a few seconds. Then add the kale and continuously stir fry it until it has reduced by half. You’ll know when the kale feels cooked through. Sprinkle the sea salt on top.

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This is what your “poached” and steamed eggs will look like when they’re done. © Liesl Clark

Add the eggs on top, without scrambling them or breaking the yolks. Quickly put a top on your skillet, to seal in the steam. Let everything cook for 1 minute, then turn your heat off. Within 3-4 minutes, your eggs will be poached. Lift the cover off and your eggs should be lightly poached on their bed of deep greens!

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Covering your eggs to steam, and turning the heat off underneath is the key to this dish. © Liesl Clark

Serve this with sliced tomatoes or sliced avocado, or any veggies that look great in the fridge. We often sauté crimini mushrooms in ghee with a teaspoon of marjoram and a pinch of sea salt as a favorite side veg.

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Garlic Kale Poached Eggs with Marjoram Mushrooms © Liesl Clark

Your skillet, after making the garlic kale poached eggs, will be nicely oiled and the kale/eggs are easily removed from the pan with a spatula. Simply wipe your skillet with a kitchen rag and your skillet is ready for the next meal!

 

 

 

My Whole30 Detox Month – Day 10

I’m a Whole30 experimenter. If you haven’t heard of Whole30, you will, eventually. It’s a paleo regime aimed at detoxing your body and switching over your carb and sugar-burning engine to a fat burning one. I have to say, I was a little skeptical at first, especially since I’m doing this with likely less grease than most, but here I am on day 10 and it’s been an eye-opener.

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My go-to breakfast: Poached eggs over garlic kale saute with ghee sauteed crimini mushrooms and marjoram. (Recipe in upcoming post!) ©Liesl Clark

Do Without. Let’s get the restrictions over with: Whole30 requires that you give up, for 30 days, all forms of sugar (except fruit), dairy, grains, and legumes (this last one kills me, because that’s been our major source of protein for years.) They also prohibit you from jumping on a scale. I figured that wasn’t going to be enough of a boot camp for me, so I threw caffeine onto the contraband pile. Day 3 was the biggest migraine I’ve had in years. My daughter’s grumpy face when I try to take her picture is how my head-in-a-vice-grip felt all day. Truth be told, Pete had to give me a dexamethasone, to prevent me from heading to the hospital for an i.v.

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©Liesl Clark

The thing is, it’s all it’s cracked up to be. How do I feel day 10? Pretty damn great. I’m sleeping better than I have in years, my aches (which likely comes from inflammation) in my joints has disappeared, and a knee and hip injury that I’ve been dealing with for 2 years is feeling a bit better. I’m likely losing weight, but who knows? There’s a lot of fat in this diet, more than I’ve ever eaten on a daily basis, so I could be the only person to have ever gained weight on a Whole30 month-long experiment. But this isn’t necessarily about weight. I decided to do this to address my insomnia, pain in my right knee and hip, and my migraines.

Whole30 meals: So, what do Whole30 peeps eat, you ask? Protein (eggs, fish, meat of all kinds), veggies, nuts and fruits. There’s no snacking. So, at each meal you can eat as much as you want. After a few days, you lose the desire to snack as the meals are very satisfying, high in fat. Coconut in every form is used as much as possible. Avocados, too.

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Prosciutto with oven baked sweet potato fries (amazingly delicious at Nomnom Paleo), slices of avocado, radish and celery and a few macadamia nuts. ©Liesl Clark

But here’s the thing: It ain’t really paleo. Full disclosure here, I haven’t actually bought the book (part of my ethic of buying no commercial propaganda when trying out a lifestyle change. Luckily, everything you need is available online. If it seems to resonate with me as a generally worth-while change in my world-view, I’ll buy the book!) So, I don’t know the extent of their paleo claims. But, if you watch my friend, Tina’s TED talk, you’ll come to learn that Paleolithic peoples didn’t really eat as much meat as these paleo diets propose.

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Meat and potato gut bomb? Well, it was good. Baked potato on a bed of baby spinach with caramelized onions and mushrooms with chicken apple sausages. ©Liesl Clark

In our nearly 10 years of archaeological climbing expeditions in Nepal, we recover the bones of ancient people out of high cliff caves and then the teeth go to Tina’s lab where she not only extracts DNA from them so we can learn much about the people’s origins and genetic makeup, but she also studies their dental calculus (the plaque) and determines much about their diet.

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Tina Warinner is able to discern so much about ancient diets from studying the dental calculus (plaque) of early people. This is a human skull recovered from the caves of Mebrak, Nepal, dating back 2,300 years. ©Liesl Clark

Tina has looked closely at the dental plaque of early peoples and she can state as fact that meat was not a huge part of most paleo diets. It would have been a big protein source on occasion for humans who had access to meat, but nuts, berries, and wild vegetative matter, fruit, and especially legumes primarily made up their diet.

Maybe a Tad Too Much Meat: I’m fascinated by what is involved in taking dairy and grains and sugar out of my diet. So far, my sense is that the elimination of all sugars is probably the best thing I’ve done in years. (And, I think removing the caffeine has been great for me, too.) But as a mostly vegetarian, I’m struggling with the meat equation in this diet, because I know any meat Paleolithic peoples would’ve eaten was extremely lean. Today’s market meat is bred for fat. (Eat local chicken in Nepal and it tastes like wild pheasant.) I know what a toll meat production takes on our environment, and I also believe that plant-based diets are the most healthy diets we can have. I look forward to introducing beans and lentils back into my diet as my main source of protein while being restrictive on the wheat, especially GMO grains and flours.

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Curried Egg Frittata from My Heart Beets ©Liesl Clark

These are the debates going on in my head, knowing what the archaeological and sustainability communities have to say about “paleo” diets. I’m a forager at heart and my sense is that if we eat what’s abundant around us, growing in the very ecosystem and climate where we live, than those are the organic foods that are going to be best for us. But, for now, I’m letting eggs and mostly white meat enter my digestive tract to see if the protein and high fats can help me with my lack of wheat, sugar, and dairy. So far, it is. I have no hunger between meals. And the physical changes are mostly for the better.

 

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Homemade almond butter (recipe coming soon!) sliced bananas and blueberries. 

Over the course of this month, I’ll be posting my thoughts on this diet, my own experience, and some of my own recipes that I’ve cobbled and know will be staples on our simplefoods menu in the future.

Have you tried Whole30? How was your experience and have you incorporated much of what you’ve learned about your body’s reaction to dairy, wheat, sugar and legumes into your everyday life?

Secrets of the Sky Tombs

Years ago, my husband, Pete, and I made a promise to ourselves: We’d try to give our children the best real-world alternatives to video games and virtual reality we could find because reality itself is so much more fulfilling. To that end, our children have grown up on the trail. Daily lessons are often as blunt as the hard-won objective of simply reaching the next village without incident.

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Pete with 3-year-old Finn, on the trail up the Kali Ghandaki River to Jomsom. © Liesl Clark

Ancient castles, fortresses, and real-world kings are normal for kids who’ve played amongst crumbling fortress walls that intermingle with cold clouds, echoes of the past tickling us in the driving wind.

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The winter palace in Tsarang, Upper Mustang, crowned by the Annapurnas. © Liesl Clark

If our children stayed at home, those castles and forts would be grand designs crafted from code in video games they play on their devices. Yet today they can work and play amidst the real thing: Tombs of the ancient dead, haul bags filled with faunal and human bones to sort and clean, artifacts hewn from leather, silk, iron, copper, silver, and bronze, some dating as far back as 2800 years.

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10-year-old Cleo bagging two femurs, with Marion Poux overseeing her work. © Liesl Clark

Nothing in those video games can compare. As parents, we make our choices, whether we allow our children glimpses into our professional lives and our special passions. They, in turn, feel empowered to follow their own dreams, ask their own questions, and seek the truth.

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Finn, now 13, connects easily with his friends in Samdzong. He also flies all of our drone aerials. © Liesl Clark

This drive is what makes us human, what pushed the early pioneers to find shelter amongst the world’s most hostile and glorious mountains. These early settlers brought their children with them, because the alternative was unbearable.

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Leaving the kids at home, so we can do our work in the Himalayas, is unthinkable to us. © Pete Athans

On January 4th, 2017, our film, “Secrets of the Sky Tombs,” about our quest to find the first peoples of the Himalaya will air 9pm ET/8 Central on PBS’s NOVA. The film will also be broadcast in the upcoming months on France 5 in France and National Geographic Channel worldwide. It’s been a decade-long endeavor, and we’ll likely continue for another, as unknown caves, more ancient human DNA, and new questions need to be explored.

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Finn & Pete below Tsaile, headed back to Jomson, dreaming up the next filming expedition. © Liesl Clark

But if there are “secrets,” (as the film’s title suggests) to be uncovered, they’re the clues to success of a people who foraged for what they could off the land, who found meaning in the struggle, and who relied on their clan and their fellow villagers for the bare essentials to survive. Community and one’s lineage is the secret to strength in times of hardship, in the face of the extremes.

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Looking down on the village of Samar, Upper Mustang. © Liesl Clark

This lesson is not lost on us today.