Your Pantry – What’s in it for the Kids?
When it comes to choosing what foods to stock and make for your family, I have a few guiding principles. I also asked my girls, whose palates are only occasionally corrupted by junk food, and who grew up in Europe and don’t watch television except for Modern Family episodes on DVD. Thank heavens we don’t waste our money on television programming – who wants to be under the influence of news and ads these days, or ever, and lose their critical thinking skills?! Spend your money and time on the good stuff and you will feel the rewards.
Let’s Start with the Fun Stuff: Snacks
School or on-the-go snacks can make for a huge line item in a household budget. Bulk or large containers rather than single-use packets are cheaper and create less waste, but go high quality. Send kids off to school with reusable containers of preferably homemade snacks. Fresh, seasonal, or dried fruits (raisins, nuts, figs, prunes, dates) are obviously a better nutritional choice than anything processed, like store-bought granola bars. Nuts and seeds (preferably from organic sources) are fun for trail mixes, combined with chocolate chunks or chips. You can also make gummy-vites with grassfed gelatin and elderberry syrup – vitamin and nutrition in one bite! There is a recipe for gummies in The Bordeaux Kitchen book in the Desserts chapter….)
Make It a Date Bar
Instead of losing money on packaged snacks, take a half hour on the weekend, stocked with some nuts, seeds, dates, and chocolate and try making no-bake date bars (see my date bar recipe). Or make home-popped (organic) popcorn to replace a bag of chips as a crunchy snack. Bags of chips are expensive and usually made using inflammatory oils like sunflower, safflower, canola, or soy. You’ll also have less trash and a lower carbon footprint steeped in the industrial system. (One crunchy packaged “nose-to-tail” splurge that I do get sometimes is 4505’s Chicharrones — fried pork rinds, fried in lard, from humanely-raised pigs. The owner, Ryan Farr, is a butcher and author of Whole Beast Butchery, a fabulous book. Butchers have my deep respect, as do farmers and ranchers who raise animals humanely! So I feel good about supporting 4505 with an occasional purchase.)
In a pinch, have your kids pack (into little reusable containers) a square or two of high-quality milk (or dark) chocolate, instead of a packaged item for school. If you resort to the old carrot sticks trick, try including a small container of Ranch dressing – one like Primal Kitchen, made with avocado oil. Don’t forget celery or apple and nut butters.
I don’t bake much, but when I do, I use grain-free flours of cassava, almond, and coconut for most of our baked goods. Look for aluminum-free baking powder. Better yet, make your own baking powder using one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar and two parts arrowroot powder. I haven’t tried cauliflower pizza but that became a thing a few years ago, and if you can digest that much cauliflower, go for it! It’s a whole food option, like cauliflower rice, that evades the industrial grain equation, if you are buying it organic and/or from a local farmer. Avoid food dyes. We have found that, especially in sprinkles, they contain excitatory neurotoxins: Sugar plus industrial oils (for shine) plus food dyes (especially blue) equals hyperactivity, or worse. Don’t let these in the door.
Try buying high quality macaroni pasta and powdered cheese, and use grass-fed butter and milk to make your own “mac & cheese.” Homemade granola is easy and much less expensive, and can be stored in large empty glass jars. (I have an old, silly blog where I posted a great recipe using oats and honey. Remind me to post the recipe next time on this website.) Homemade bread is a project, but if you make it yourself, you will know exactly what goes into it. We occasionally purchase a paleo pizza mix (it’s essentially almond flour) and add fresh toppings (turkey pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, peppers…) as an occasional “side dish” to a ribs or steak dinner.
Let’s Get to the Meat of It: Meals
Don’t buy packaged items like chips and flour and pasta until you have bought enough pastured meat and eggs to satisfy your children’s nutritional needs, and your own. It’s as simple as that. Over the past eight years I have been studying ancestral French lifestyle and holistic health practices, while cooking every day (even on vacation) for my family. What I have learned is that the nutrients humans have extracted from animal proteins and fats over the millennia have been crucial to brain development. I see it in my own health and that of my family. We do not skimp on eating high quality, pastured (not pasturized) beef, lamb, pork, and eggs from farms that allow their animals to graze on pasture. You simply cannot get the same nutrients from kale, even if you doused it with butter and ate bucketloads. As for me, I just can’t digest all that fiber. That’s what cows do best! And as a bonus, they can graze on hilly land, unsuitable for row crops, and cows actually fertilize soil and thereby capture carbon and rainwater. Eating grass-fed meat is the best way to support regenerative farming which mimics nature and helps the environment. There, I said it. Help the planet: Eat pastured meat. (Unless you live on the equator and can eat fish all day. I’ll cover more on photosynthesis, latitude, and the food chain another time.)
So stock your freezer and fridge with fresh and frozen pasture-raised, nutrient dense meats and fats. Organ meats pack the biggest punch when it comes to bioavailable (easy-to-digest) nutrients: liver, heart, thymus, kidney. And a little goes a long way; you don’t need much to get your weekly if not daily dose. My “gateway” organ meat as a kid was liverwurst. My kids love it on a crunchy store-bought or homemade cracker. Check out The Bordeaux Kitchen cookbook on how to prepare organ meats, easy meat roasts, fish dishes, and even homemade seedy crackers. Or check out my video demos on how to make liver pâté or liver and onions.
I say “Nutrient Density,” They Say, “Tacos”
Another nutrient dense meal idea is ground grass-fed beef or pulled pastured pork served in tacos or with tortilla chips on the side. This is a compromise and a treat – you have the chips and crunch (but also the seed oils, unfortunately – unless you can find avocado or olive oil-based shells or chips), but also the nutrient dense, pastured meat with all those bioavailable, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals your growing child’s (and your) brain needs. Add sea salt, garlic, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, and/or herbs.
Make Soup, Get Rich
Eating pastured meat on the bone like chicken, pork or beef ribs, or in-bone lamb roasts has the benefits of the collagenous meat, nutrients from the meat and fat, but also the leftover bones which you can use for bone broth (soup stock). Homemade bone broth is rich with gelatin, good for the gut lining and for skin. I have stock recipes in The Bordeaux Kitchen book.) You won’t have to rely on packaged soup that comes with a high price tag, preservatives to keep it on the shelves, or packaging that needs to go to a landfill.
Grow Your Own
A windowsill herb garden is easy, inexpensive, and is a huge value-added to your kitchen economics. If you have a garden, plant herbs and whatever else you can and like, to fit your diet, time and budget. I have lavender, chives, sage, basil, rosemary, dill, thyme, and mint. This year I planted onions and radishes. These are all garnishes for my meat dishes! Full disclosure, I’m not eating that many vegetables these days, mostly because I’m lazy. I’d rather fill up with meat and cheese than broccoli and kale. It’s that fiber thing again – c’est too much!
What’s for Dessert?
Simplify. Have plain (full-fat) yogurt with honey. Every now and then you can get fancy with chocolate mousse or crème brûlée. An “adult” dessert that I eat all the time is soft goat cheese with honey and freshly picked mint and/or lavender buds. (That’s why I grow mint and lavender. Lavender also reminds me of France.) A piece of chocolate, whole cream and berries, a date, a prune, a spoonful of raw honey. Easy. Or, be like the French, and eat cheese for dessert!
I Admit It
We have our share of some packaged items, and I procrastinate when it’s time to make date bars again. Because we live in such an affluent society, a vast majority of our purchases in our society are for our feelings, not necessarily what our bodies need. Packaging and marketing are engineered not for your body or your health, but for your feelings about yourself. We get duped easily by colors, materials, wording, media focus, and lack of our own research of the science behind food religiosity. In our modern society, we have the “luxury” of thinking about what kinds of foods to eat, rather than hunting, eating, and then fasting when our food has escaped us in the hunt or the harvest. This is another rant for another time.
Love the Joy
As chef Jacques Pépin has said, there is a sense of pleasure from chopping garlic and preparing our food ourselves. Indeed, there is an attachment of spiritual energy to the food we make for ourselves and our families that is better for us and does not come from something made and packaged in a factory. There is a rewarding sense of satisfaction in the preparation of our own food. It’s an act of love.
Some helpful references:
Dr. Cate Shanahan, MD author of Deep Nutrition and The Fat-BurnFix
Dr. Paul Saladino, MD author of The Carnivore Code
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD author of The Food Fix
Robb Wolf and Diana Rodgers, authors of Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat
And check out my PAST NEWSLETTERS
And my Etsy shop for my natural skincare line (deeply moisturizing lip & body balms, soaps, cleansers, bug repellent lotion bars, whipped body butters) using pastured tallow and lard.