Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Breakfast Casserole

Making breakfast during the work week can be a challenge for me, time-wise. Sometimes it’s a challenge effort-wise, too! One solution is this breakfast casserole. This is the dairy-free version I make so that both Nancy and I can enjoy it.

1 lb bulk pork sausage (can be either breakfast or Italian)
1 lb ground pork
1 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
8 extra large eggs
½ cup So Delicious coconut milk beverage

Preheat oven to 350° F

Brown the meat.

Spray 8.5”x11” baking pan with olive oil (could be any acceptable oil, but we’re avoiding canola and soy, right?)

With a slotted spoon, transfer from frying pan to baking pan.

Evenly spread the spinach over the meat.

Beat the eggs, add the coconut milk and combine. Pour evenly over the spinach layer.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Test for doneness with by inserting a knife. If it comes out clean, it’s done!

Don’t be worried about the lovely fat bubblin’ around the edges (and even on the top) of the casserole. It will recede as it cools. And fat is the basis of our diet, right? If it seems too much for you, you can drain the browned meat in a colander (instead of using the slotted spoon) to remove more fat.

Once cold, we cut this into 8 servings. It reheats perfectly in the microwave. I add 1 ounce of raw cheddar cheese. Sometimes I garnish with some salsa. This breakfast keeps me going until after noon.


If dairy sensitivities are not a concern, you can substitute 1 cup of ½ & ½ or heavy cream for the coconut milk beverage. And you could throw some cheese on top of the spinach layer, too!

How about a bacon cheeseburger version? Instead of the pork, use two pounds of ground beef. Cook and crumple a package of bacon and add it as an additional layer.


Friday, December 17, 2010

What’s the limiting factor?

Sometimes the “experts” get it wrong. Early in the 19th century, a school master declared a young man to be “hopelessly useless.” This pronouncement, coupled with a worrying interest in explosive fulminates, did not hint of the immense contribution he would make.

Justus von Liebig, circa 1850
from Wikipedia
Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) changed chemistry in Germany more significantly than any other chemist of his time and was responsible for the development of the teaching, research, and technology of modern chemistry. Forty-four Nobel laureates in Chemistry are scientific heirs of Liebig.

Liebig was one of the first chemists to organize a laboratory as we know it today. He improved organic and inorganic analysis of compounds. With Friedrich Wöhler, he developed a theory of radicals and made the first experimental discovery of isomerism. Liebig wrote books about agricultural and animal chemistry where there was a practical application of organic chemistry to animal and plant science.

Liebig’s Theory of Mineral Nutrients for Plants reformed agriculture during the mid 1800’s. This theory made the following major points:
  • plants take minerals up through their roots from the soil
  • soil is fertile only if nutrients removed by the plant are replaced
  • each kind of plant species requires different nutrients
  • one nutrient cannot substitute for another, which led to the “Law of the Minimum” 
The idea that plants take minerals up through their roots from the soil may not seem a great breakthrough, but we need to remember when this theory was formulated. Someday (hopefully soon!) the carbohydrate theory will be as readily accepted!

Liebig's Barrel
From here
Liebig’s “Law of the Minimum” in plant nutrition states that whichever nutrient is present in the least amount, relative to the requirement, will determine the yield of a plant. Liebeg used the image of a wooden barrel with staves of different lengths to illustrate this law. The effective volume (yield) of the barrel (crop) is determined by the shortest stave (limiting nutrient). Until that stave is increased, increasing the length of the other staves will, at best, be a poor investment. At worst, it may produce harmful effects (for example, nutrient toxicities).

Let’s apply this barrel analogy to a pasture-based livestock production system. I remember a visit to a pasture-based dairy farm in north western California. The farm’s pastures were subdivided into a number of smaller pastures, or paddocks. The farmer was concerned that the grass species he had planted were not persisting. He was renovating his pasture, by conventional tillage, on a five year rotation. “Perennial” pasture ought to last longer than five years!

As we walked across the paddocks, we saw that the grass-clover content increased from clover dominant (minimal grass) at the “head” of the paddock (where the animals are first turned in) to optimal in the middle, to grass dominant (with the grass too mature for dairy cow feed) at the far end of the paddock.

Each paddock had a single, fixed water source at the “head” of the paddock. These paddocks were managed, essentially, in a strip-grazing fashion. A portable fence would be set up ahead of the animals to give access to fresh feed. Each day the fence would be moved forward to provide a new grazing area. Each paddock would provide at least six days of grazing. Because of the fixed water supply, the animals could not be excluded from the previously grazed sections with a back fence and the animals would re-graze these sections. The grass at the head of the paddock was declining because it didn't have sufficient rest period after the initial grazing. The grass was dominant at the far end of the paddock because the cows preferred to remain closer to the water source and eat the higher quality herbage.

The majority of pasture Dry Matter (DM) yield is produced by the grass component. This farmer thought that his DM yield per acre (and therefore his milk fat production per acre) was limited either by the species (or varieties) of grasses he’d been planting, or by the fertility of soil in those pastures. He was prepared to pay a significant amount of money to address these conditions. In fact, the limiting factor was the lack of water in each grazing area. Given the costs of complete pasture renovation, the investment in improving the water supply system would produce the greatest economic return.

Now let’s apply Liebeg’s barrel analogy to human nutrition and health. The evidence indicates that the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains too much carbohydrate. Hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated insulin) is a health problem for many. There are compelling, biologically plausible explanations for the more than 100 years of epidemiological observations strongly suggesting that highly refined carbohydrates are the most likely dietary cause of dyslipidemia, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases of civilization.

If a typical American, eating the SAD were to merely switch their meat sources to grass-finished ones, while the rest of their diet remained the same, how much health improvement could they expect? Probably not much, since the differences in meat due to feeding practices are NOT the limiting factors. These differences are real. They are quantifiable and they've been well documented. But they are not the short staves in this situation. Making an investment of money and effort here will not produce the best response.

Okay, how about if they were to switch to grass-finished meat AND only consume organic vegetables, grain products, sweeteners, and vegetable oils? Again, the evidence strongly suggests that they will NOT see the greatest “bang for their buck.” The short staves in thier diet are the grain products, sweeteners, and vegetable oils. Their elimination from the diet is more important than how they were produced. Organic "carbage" is still carbage!

It's hard to talk about this without being mis-understood. Nancy and I enjoy locally produced, grass-finished lamb (from Cattail Creek Lamb) and beef, and our pork comes from a local producer (Heritage Farms Northwest) who fatten their Red Wattle pigs on hazelnuts. Most of the vegatables we enjoy are locally produced and organic (and non-starchy!). We are making conscious decisions about supporting our local farmers. We are blessed to be able to afford to eat this way. And because we've eliminated grain products, sweetners and vegetable oils from our diet, we're more likely to realize the benefits from eating these wonderful foodstuffs. We've addressed the "short staves."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"New" videos

Last October I gave a presentation to the Farm and Ranch Resources Management Group in Medford, Oregon. The title of the presentation was Grass Based Health: Turning the Food Pyramid Upside Down.

One of the group members videoed the presentation and kindly presented me with a copy on DVD. I finally learned how to overcome the technology hurdles to permit placing it on the web (if I had a 5 year old, it would have happened far sooner!).

You can view the presentation at this link, and the question and answer here.

Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Beginning of My Journey

I'm still alive!! I'm sorry it's taken me SO long to post.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Oregon Cattlemen's Association annual conference. The topic of my talk was "Grass Based Health - Food for Thought." I'm very encouraged by how it was received. Their feedback was positive and helpful, and their suggestions for future talks and projects have given me lots of ideas. Now comes the follow up!!

I took that material, removed the references to the Oregon Cattlemen and the beef industry in particular, and created an slide-and-audio video. It runs a little more than 16 minutes. I've posted it to Vimeo and YouTube:
Vimeo and to YouTube (Part 1, Part 2).

I welcome your comments.

Some of us may find ourselves, at some point in our lives, at a place where we realize that a change is needed (there are the unlucky ones who'll never realize or admit that a change is, in fact, needed). Here is my “moment of clarity,” Christmas of 2007. When I looked at myself I realized that I really had to do something. At my heaviest I was over 220 lbs (you get to the point where you stop weighing yourself, right?). At 5' 10 1/2" this meant that I was obese, according to the Body Mass Index. Several friends had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and I learned that I had several risk factors for that condition as well. Over the years I'd tried various methods of losing weight, but without significant or lasting success. "Not much and not for long" well describes my experience. Sound familiar?

By this time my wife Nancy had already been on her own journey of research and dietary change for more than 2 years. She was smart enough to know that talking to me before I was ready to listen probably wouldn’t accomplish much. So when I was ready to listen, I had my own in-house expert. She directed me to the books and other sources of information she’d found helpful.

The first two books were Stop Prediabetes Now: The Ultimate Plan to Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes by Jack Challem and Ron Hunninghake and The Protein Power Lifeplan by Micahael R. Eades, M.D. and Mary Dan Eades, M.D. Both books follow a similar plan of carbohydrate restriction. I started with Challem and Hunninghake's book but I've followed the Eades' plan for the most part. By following this information, I’ve lost more than 45 pounds and maintained that weight loss by adopting a way of eating that emphasizes animal fats and animal proteins while reducing carbohydrates.

Much of what I’ve been learning these past three years actually amounts to a review of material from my nutrition, physiology and biochemistry classes at the University of Kentucky in the early 80’s. As I’ve studied, I’ve come to realize that I had been the victim of a massive disinformation campaign that was waged upon the American people to convince us that a low-fat, reduced cholesterol, high carbohydrate diet is the healthy diet.

I'm grateful for the authors, physicians, and researchers who have fought against the tide of "conventional wisdom" to provide us with the truth. I'm supremely grateful to Nancy for her patience and support. I am humbled by the opportunity to help others find and apply this information in their own lives.