I’m excited to announce that Madison will soon have it’s first grain-free, dairy-free bakery. Beginning September 7th, you’ll be able to pre-order cupcakes and other treats that are not only gluten free but also free of grains, dairy (except butter), soy, refined sugar, and utilizing only healthier fats like coconut oil and grass-fed butter. The initial menu of cookies, cupcakes, muffins, crackers, confections and granolas can be viewed at www.paleomamabakery.com. Many ingredients are locally sourced, such as honey from Gentle Breeze in Mt. Horeb and tart cherries from Cherryland’s Best in Door County. No retail store is planned at this time, though sales through other local outlets are being explored. (Ask your favorite spot to bring them in!)
I recently had a chance to taste-test several of the initial products (Thanks, Belle!) and was quite impressed with the quality. My family (wife and two daughters, none of whom are paleo at this time) helped me sample the vanilla salted-caramel cupcakes (pictured), chocolate chip cookies, and raw cookie dough. We agreed all were delicious and perfectly executed. Some were pleasantly surprised by the moist texture of the cupcake compared to some of the other grain-free treats we’ve tried.
As expected, prices are higher than similarly modest portions of mainstream baked goods. Also, despite the extreme attention to using the healthiest possible ingredients, these are definitely treats meant for occasional indulgence, and not something I’d make a frequent part of my diet. (I’d love to see the eventual addition of something a tad more substantial and nutrient dense, perhaps a less-sweet cookie or bar based on the cranberry walnut granola– or maybe some grass-fed gelatin gummy snacks.) Having said that, Paleo Mama’s treats are among the top tier of those I’ve tried, and I would definitely consider buying them, especially if offered somewhere I typically shop or dine. Keep them in mind next time you’re planning a party or event!
Madison Paleo is proud to announce our very first giveaway promotion!
One lucky winner will receive a case of Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips, made with pure coconut oil! I just tried them and they’re delicious! You can find them in the Madison area at Willy Street Co-op. Use the link below to view complete rules and submit your entry. Good luck!
Try my easy and delicious pizza alternative: sausage wrapped in kale leaves:
1. Steam lacinato (“dinosaur”) kale leaves and lay flat.
2. Mix your favorite spices into plain ground pork and form a giant patty. I like sea salt, oregano, basil, garlic and fennel seeds. (Skip fennel if doing AIP.) Or use ready-made sausage that you trust.
3. Cook thoroughly, ideally in a cast iron skillet. You probably won’t need to add fat unless your meat is extra lean.
4. When fully cooked, cut into strips about 1/2″ – 1″ wide.
5. Place a sausage strip in the center of a leaf. Feel free to add tomato sauce, pesto, cheese, additional veggies, or whatever if you wish.
6. Roll up into an easy to handle bundle.
7. If they’ve cooled down, you may wish to warm in the oven for a few minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Once you’ve navigated a few grocery stores from the perspective of a modern day caveman, you’ll notice some recurring disappointments. Only a few cuts of meat are from pastured animals, and if there’s someone to ask they’ll probably try to “educate” you on the superiority of corn-fed. Vegetables are mostly grown in a tempest of chemicals, then shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles. Eggs are from chickens who may be “cage free” but are still fed a highly unnatural diet based on corn and soy, and seldom if ever see the light of day. Choices are meager among your few packaged “staples” like coconut milk & oil, nut flours, or even pure dark chocolate. What is plentiful, comprising nearly the entire center of the store, are all manner of fabricated “foods”: brightly colored nutritional time-bombs engineered from combinations of highly processed wheat, corn, sugar, and industristrial seed oils — little that your grandmother would recognize as edible.
It doesn’t need to be like this. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to live near a more sophisticated outlet – maybe something like Whole Foods. You’ll probably pay a little more, and there’s still (in the words of founder and CEO John Mackey) “a bunch of junk” but you’ll find a better selection of the things you want: organic produce, grass-fed meats, healthy fat options, etc. A few good choices are also starting to appear at stores like Costco and Target, as well as better independent grocers. Certainly (weather permitting) your nearest farmers’ market can be a gold mine of real foods at fair prices. There is, however, another choice – one with benefits you may not have thought possible. Astonishingly, if you don’t have this option now you can get together with your tribe and call it into existence! Behold the modern food co-op.
I bet I know what you’re thinking: a bunch of hippies offering up tofu burritos and wormy little apples (“That’s how you know they’re organic, man!”) in a dusty little shop smelling of patchouli and… something. I’m just old enough to remember some of that, and to confess fond memories of ice bean cones, Guerrilla cookies, and my first dried pears. With the passage of the nourishing sands of time, the guiding touch of the market’s invisible hand, and no small effort by hardworking visionaries, food co-ops have matured into something altogether different. In cities and towns nearly everywhere you’ll find clean, professional storefronts as unique as snowflakes but sharing common principles and the overarching mission of putting customers first – because those customers are also the owners.
You could say the first co-ops were hunter-gatherer tribes sharing their efforts to ensure that all would eat. Cooperation is a natural instinct precisely because it works. The first cooperative enterprises of the neolithic world, however, are generally identified with the cooperative movement of 19th century Europe. The Rochdale Pioneers of Lancashire, England in 1844 still exert an influence today in the form of the Cooperative Principles underlying most consumer co-ops. The movement enjoyed a second period of growth since the 1970’s when many “second wave” cooperatives started, and some see a third wave beginning now.
A coop is typically formed to address a community’s unmet needs. Perhaps a beloved mom-and-pop store has gone out of business. Or maybe there is simply nothing around for miles. In other cases, customers seeking particular (often more natural) foods are perceived as too small a market to warrant catering to. In response, a group of ordinary folks get together and start their own store or buying club. These can be worker-owned, or more often customer-owned. Initial capitalization is often via advance membership sales and a bond drive. Typically, members who invest in an annual share recoup the investment after $100-200 in purchases, and get a vote on certain key decisions. Leadership provided by a member-elected board follows articles of cooperation, a specific mission statement, and the cooperative principles. Product is ordered, shelves are stocked, and a new co-op is born.
Walk into a modern Co-op and you’ll likely find a clean, well-stocked grocery store with an emphasis on natural and organic foods. Of particular interest to paleo folks: lots of organic fruits and veggies, local grass-fed meats, good eggs, an excellent bulk department, and packaged items like coconut milk and oil. Member-owned businesses enjoy a tradition of being ahead of the curve in supporting options others don’t yet care about. Co-ops were among the first to offer plentiful organic, vegetarian (some see “paleo” as the new “vegetarian”), and gluten-free options. This applies not only to packaged products but often fresh-made deli and bakery items. (My store, for example, has recently introduced a line of grain-free hot dishes.) If you want something that isn’t stocked, most co-ops are happy to special order it for you. By shopping at a co-op, you’re probably also doing more to support local farmers and producers, and benefiting from the somewhat decentralized distribution network.
If you’d like to start your own co-op there are a lot of resources available to help. With a little digging, you’ll probably be able to find assistance with everything from planning to financing. You’ll find, as Thomas Jefferson allegedly once said, that the harder you work the luckier you’ll get. One good place to start is http://www.foodcoopinitiative.coop/. Another is your nearest successful co-op. They won’t do the heavy lifting for you (maybe a little in some cases) but they’ll probably treat you more as a kindred spirit than a potential competitor. When assembling your core founders, remember to reach out to those with legal, public relations, real estate, or other helpful experience. Above all, never lose focus on the goal of serving your customers, particularly member-owners. At the end of the day the future of any business is determined by the customers, and this is especially true when the customers are running the show. Whether you get involved with an existing store or start your own, help to make it a place where good food (however you define that) is plentiful and affordable.
I’m one of those people who consider coconut milk something of a staple. I’ve been known to travel with it for use in hotel/restaurant coffee. Until recently, I had to choose between the brands in BPA-free cans and the ones without problematic additives like guar gum and carrageenan.
Estrogenic activity from BPA has been linked to diabetes, ADHD, endocrine problems, heart disease, infertility and cancer. Guar gum and carrageenan have been associated with a variety of digestive issues, and more than a trace of guar makes my tummy unpleasantly gurgly.
Great news: Natural Value has finally brought to market a canned coconut milk free of all these things, and if you live near Madison you can get it at the Willy Street Co-op! (I may have a had a little tiny bit to do with this.) It’s been available for a while by mail, but I’m happy I can now get it at the grocery store!
Since it’s just organic coconut and water, it’s not as inexplicably smooth as the other canned milks – more like homemade, actually. Delicious coconutty taste, nice fat content, and well worth a little extra stir to avoid those extra chemicals.
A special welcome to new and returning students, and other Madison newcomers! People think of Mad town as being half vegetarian, half fried cheese and beer — but we have a growing and friendly paleo/primal population as well.
Wondering where to shop or dine out? Check out our resources page as a starting point. And don’t be shy asking questions or letting us in on your own discoveries. Like and subscribe to our free mailing list for updates. Lots more coming soon!
Here’s my easy method for making delicious crunchy kale chips:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Roughly tear kale (preferably curly) into chunks or strips as it naturally comes away from the stem. Somewhat uniform is best but no need to obsess.
3. Wash in cold water, and dry completely using a salad spinner or paper towels.
4. Coat evenly with olive oil (or melted coconut oil) by drizzling then massaging with fingers. (The more you massage it, the sweeter and less bitter it gets.)
5. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet/s, preferably lined with parchment.
6. Turn off oven as soon as the chips go in. Use existing heat to bake for 10-20 minutes. (Time will vary considerably depending on your kale, your oven, and size of chips.) They’re done when crispy but not burned.
7. If desired, sprinkle with salt and/or cumin, curry, garlic powder, cayenne, etc.
One of the most common “cheats” people sneak into the paleo diet is dark chocolate. When very pure (85% cacao, and ideally no dairy or soy) it’s arguably pretty harmless and may offer antioxidant and other benefits. But with so many choices out there, which is best? Never fear; I’ve accepted the burden of doing some of the sifting and winnowing for you. Thank me later.
I think the ideal chocolate bar is 90-95% cacao, with a little sugar, cocoa butter, and maybe a touch of vanilla. No milk solids, soy lecithin, or anything else. Whether you invite nuts to the party is up to you. You might choose to award bonus points for organic, fair trade, domestic, or whatever satisfies your personal proclivities. For this comparison, I’ll be primarily looking at taste and purity.
Of the ten bars I tested for this article, my overall favorite is Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark. I agree with its “Deliciously intense, Surprisingly balanced” tag line, and I’m quite impressed by the smooth texture and lack of burnt or bitter notes present in even 85% blends from most other brands. Though there is a warning that it may contain traces of peanuts, soy, tree nuts or milk, listed ingredients are only: chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa powder processed with alkali, sugar, and bourbon vanilla beans. A 40 gram serving has 240 calories, 22 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrate of which 3 grams are sugars.
Some notable runners up, fine choices all, include Alter Eco Dark Blackout, Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark, and Green & Black’s Dark 85%. Lindt again wins the taste profile in my opinion, as I found the Alter Eco slightly burnt tasting and the G&B a tad sour. Note that all of these taste elements are both subjective- and subject to change with different batches. Also note that the bitterness of less-processed cocoa often indicates greater presence of beneficial compounds. Unlike Lindt, the Alter Eco and Green & Black’s (actually a Kraft Foods brand) both claim organic and fair trade status. The Blackout bar lists cocoa liquor as its first ingredient, rather than chocolate. I wonder if this explains its unusually high iron content of 39% per 40 gram serving, vs. 25% for Lindt and only 6% for G&B. Other macronutrient numbers are about as you’d expect from an 85% chocolate bar. (See table.)
The next tier includes Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao, Endangered Species 88% Dark Chocolate, and Equal Exchange 80% Extra Dark Panama Chocolate. I would consider these decent “second choices” but not worth seeking out on their own. The first because it contains milk fat and soy lecithin, the second soy lecithin only, and the third because it’s only 80% cacao. The Endangered Species is, however, specifically labeled gluten free (though I suspect most chocolate actually is anyway) and the Equal Exchange is organic. The Panama bar is also made with chocolate liquor and interestingly has a higher (35% in 37 grams) iron content. I’m not sure if it was this ingredient choice or simply slightly higher sugar content that made it the least bitter tasting of the three.
The bottom tier (for now– expect this article to be expanded and revised in the future as I force myself to continue taste testing) didn’t quite meet my standards for one reason or another but may be just right for some. Ghirardelli’s Semi-Sweet Premium Baking Bar (as far as I’m concerned any chocolate is “eating” chocolate– ask my wife) is delicious enough, but contains milk fat and soy. I don’t see a cacao percentage listed, but I’m pretty sure it’s south of my 85% target. Similarly, in addition to unnecessary soy the Delish Mid Knight bar from Walgreen’s is a bit too sweet to make the cut at just 70%. I’d like to see them add a soy-free 90% bar to their price-friendly line, to compete with the Lindt offering. Finally, I really wanted to likeLily’s Dark Chocolate bar, proudly non-GMO and sweetened with stevia instead of sugar. The taste and texture were remarkable, and I’m sure the lack of sugar is a dream come true for certain people. However, I can’t consider it even “paleo-ish” when it includes not only milk fat and soy lecithin, but also inulin (a FODMAP that makes my tummy unhappy), dextrin, erythritol, and unspecified “natural flavors.” If they could work their magic without most of this they might shoot to the top of my list.
As I said, everyone’s needs and priorities differ. My opinions are offered only as a guideline. Below is a table that may help you compare other details from the bars I described. Please be aware that manufacturers often make changes, and I make no assurances that this data will be current when you read it. Do your own delicious homework to verify, and please let me know if you discover something special that I missed!