Have Heart!

Bison heartIn April (my paleo new year), I set a resolution.

I resolved to start eating organ meat.

The year before I started eating mammals for the first time in 27 years. The year before that I went paleo after adhering to a vegetarian ideology for decades.

I’m pretty pleased with the organ-meat progress I’ve made. For months now I’ve been eating liver multiple times a week, in the form of Victorious Offal Muffins. I make ’em, eat ’em & make ’em again.

I did have an alarming misadventure with a bison tongue, which I haven’t quite recovered from. But I plan to revisit tongue soon.

And I’ve totally come to terms with heart, though that required introspection.

The challenge I had with heart was psychological.


I figured out a delicious recipe easily enough. I call it Sunday Stew, because it’s a perfect dish to prepare on a Sunday for the workweek ahead. I’ll post that tomorrow (on Sunday).

But despite the delicious outcome, I remained troubled by the ventricles & aortas. By the overall heartiness of the situation.

Then I read The Circular Ruins by Jorges Luis Borges, which includes the following passage:

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

“In the afternoon, he purified himself with the waters of the river, worshiped the planetary gods, uttered the lawful symbols of a powerful name and slept. Almost immediately, he dreamt of a beating heart.

He dreamt it as active, warm, secret, the size of a closed fist, of garnet colour; …with minute love he dreamt it, for fourteen lucid nights. Each night he perceived it with greater clarity. He did not touch it, but limited himself to witnessing it, observing it, perhaps correcting it with his eyes. He perceived it, lived it, from many distances and many angles. On the fourteenth night he touched the pulmonary artery with his finger, and then the whole heart, inside and out. The examination satisfied him.”

When I read that, I decided that perhaps I needed to take a more reverential approach to heart.

I didn’t necessarily dream about a great big bison heart for 14 lucid nights or explicitly worship any planetary gods, but I did approach it ceremonially.

  • Acknowledging my squeamishness as one of the amusing machinations of my human psychology. Endearing, really. Not so much endearing me to myself, but all of humanity to an observer-self that exists outside of resistance & attachments.
  • Acknowledging the bison that lived, with this wonderfully self-organized organ continually beating all of it’s life, from the time before it was born. Acknowledging my own heart, too.
  • Acknowledging the bison that died, so I could thrive.

I was no longer trying to force myself to process heart, or to eat heart, but exploring the opportunity for self-knowledge, learning & devotion that heart presented.

Now all I need is an inspiring literary passage about tongue…

Bison tongue: I totally wimped out

TongueI didn’t mean to buy bison tongue.

The package said Bison Heart & heart is one of the organ meats I’ve semi-mastered. In that I know how to cook it (in place of stew meat in Cinnamon Beef Stew) & I’ve accepted that is yummy.

I’m still a little squeamish about the ventricles & aortas & whatnot, but heart is within my slowly-expanding offal repertoire.

Which isn’t too bad considering I just launched myself (reluctantly but resolutely) into organ meats 2 months ago.

I bought this particular package of heart because it was twice as big as the others. I thought that what I had was a less-manicured organ & that this would be a perfect chance for me to really grapple with the aorta situation. That was courageous, I thought.

So I was fully expecting something a little more disquieting than the well-trimmed hearts I’d previously encountered. I even recruited Matthew to take some photos to document my bravery. But what I found inside the package was a little too alarming.

I bailed.

Right from the outset.

Luckily Matthew is not so squeamish. It took us a little while to figure out that what we had was actually a humungous ruminant tongue, and not a heart at all. The whole thing was covered in tongue bumps & felt just like a cat’s tongue (Matthew made me feel it, and I couldn’t really say no, after all my earlier bravado).

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But even though I was super-impressed with his fortitude in processing the tongue, when it came to cooking it, I wimped out again. No doubt he would have cooked it, but one of the primary undiagnosed symptoms he is dealing with right now is severe nausea. And cooking isn’t conducive to his attempts at being functional. So I wasn’t going to ask him.

I was all prepared to make a bison heart stew in the slow cooker, but I had no idea what to do with this monstrous tongue.Heart

I kind of freaked out for a while.

Then I tried ignoring the situation & let the tongue just sit there on the cutting board.

Finally I just accepted that I wasn’t ready for tongue.

I buried it.

And that’s the whole, awkward story of how I’m still an offal wimp.

I’m an offal hero when it comes to bison liver, though. Read that gripping narrative (& find an excellent entry-level recipe) here.

Greens! (& my top 10 ways to eat them)

Once upon a time, my kid’s grandparents lived in Detroit & every time we went to visit them, I’d go to the market to buy huge bunches of prehistoric-looking greens.

greens cookingVast bunches of alarmingly serrated mustard & dandelion greens.

No one else would eat them, but I adored them, even then.

One day I was waiting at the checkout with my basket full of greens (& some tofu) when I saw something that changed my perspective on everything.

The woman in front of me had greens & some bags of animal parts that I now (in my paleo wisdom) know were offal.

When her bill was tallied, she was short a few dollars.

Of course, I was completely embarrassed for her. White west-coast vegetarian that I was, I was mortified whenever my poverty was exposed for the world to see, so I was feelingly, vicariously humiliated for her, too.Chard 2

But no one else in line was fussed. Not even secretly-judging but pretending-not-to-be-fussed like people on the west coast would be.

The cashier just walked away from the till and returned moments later with a basket full of bags of offal. Pigs feet, oxtails and chitterling-ish things I’m only now starting to understand.

Everyone in line waited. No one was fussed.

Then the cashier pulled out her calculator and together, she and the woman analysed every possible combination of the bags of animal parts until they came up with one that maximized the money she had. To get her through the week. Then they completed the sale.

I learned 2 life-changing lessons during those unfussed moments:

  1. Shame about poverty is not universal, it’s cultural. And therefore optional;
  2. Greens are non-negotiable.greens

Dr. Terry Wahls agrees about the greens. She wants you to eat 3 cups of dark leafy greens a day.

Here’s how:

My top 10 ways to eat greens:

  1. Greens & Anchovies (Melt a jar of anchovies packed in olive oil in a pan; add 2 bunches chopped greens & cook until bright green & wilted);
  2. Green smoothie;
  3. Robust greens salad;
  4. Rhubarb-ginger glazed Bok Choy & Bacon (doesn’t have to be bok choy!);
  5. Green flatbread & it’s variants: green tacos & green pizza;
  6. Meal in one: the fry-up;
  7. Meal in one: stew. Try Nettles for breakfast;
  8. Simple greens soup (Sauté greens in coconut oil & add bone broth & a bit of Himalayan salt: this is my almost-everyday way to eat greens: Love!);
  9. Emerald City Soup;
  10. Kalua Pig Greens (After cooking Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pig, heat the remaining fat & bacon fragments, add 2 bunches chopped greens & cook until bright green & wilted. So delicious!);




Biohacking update: 40 days on the Wahlspaleo+

Bison heart

Quick summary

  • Loving it? Yes;
  • Hungry? No;
  • Reduced stamina for high-intensity exercise? Currently hacking that.

For a review on what’s legal on the Wahls Paleo Plus see this post.


For the first month on the WahlsPaleo+ my energy for daily life seemed lower & my stamina for exercise was definitely reduced.

So I decided to experiment with scaling back my exercise. I walked most days. Did a couple of easier hot yoga classes. A couple of run-walks.

Just to see.Chard 2

I thought, maybe my usual regime is just a counterbalance to a higher carb diet, and a more gentle approach will be amply sufficient for me when I’m eating mostly green leafy things.

But I missed the intensity.

I’m a super intense person. And somewhat-intense physical exercise seems to be cathartically necessary for me. A way to transmogrify some of that intensity.

After a month of daily walks, I was slumping on my ball-chair at work. Losing my core strength. My stress levels were higher. I was fidgety & discontented. That was enough data for me.

On day 31 I decided I’d resume my usual pattern of exercise & if I didn’t have my usual stamina, I’d just modify.

At the same time I added Upgraded MCT oil into my diet, and almost immediately my energy was back up.

I’m LOVING the MCT oil.

I’m having it in coffee & I’ve been quite the green tea purist for a bunch of months now. But it’s just really good in coffee, it almost seems to want to be in coffee & also seems to mitigate the negative effects that coffee has on me (including a spike & crash in energy).

As far as my energy for daily life goes, so far it’s increased significantly since the MCT: 2 tablespoons a day.

Another hack I’m going to try to increase my endurance is adding higher-carb vegetables twice a week after I exercise. So far I’ve excluded all high-carb vegetables (roots & squashes), but they are legal on the WahlsPaleo+ twice a week (as long as you can maintain ketosis) and I want to see if I can use them to leverage my stamina further.

An offal update

In April, I  made a Paleo New Year resolution to eat organ meats. So far I’ve had bison liver, chicken liver and bison heart, and it’s not even mid-May.

I’m feeling pretty proud.

That’s me & Frida & a bison heart at the top of this post. Ventricles, aortas & all.

I made cinnamon beef stew with that bison heart & some lamb (minus the carrots). It was completely yummy, but I admit I did do my best to unremember the aortas while I was eating it.

A sad story about cashews

Unlike the AIP, the WahlsPaleo + does allow small amounts of soaked nuts & seeds.

I included a quarter of a cup of my beloved cashews (soaked & dehydrated: I bought them that way) a few times during the first month. I wasn’t sure how they were affecting me, so on day 30, I thought I’d test them. I ate 2 cups of soaked & dehydrated organic cashews (& nothing else) for supper.

Would they kick me out of ketosis? Would I have any adverse reactions?

The answer was Yes.

I was in an absolutely foul mood the next day and a pretty bad mood for 3 days after that. My energy levels also tanked.

Conversationally, I told my vegetarian teenager what a bad mood I was in and she said smugly, maybe it’s your diet.

Because (according to her) that’s what I always say to her.

She is a little bit right. But I still think I do admirable job about keeping my mouth shut about her abominable vegetarian food choices most of the time.

In any case, she was a little surprised when I agreed with her. It was my diet that was making me so cranky.

Sad as it is, I think I’m removing cashews entirely.

 Coconut oil nauseacoconut oil

65% of daily calories come from coconut oil on the WahlsPaleo+.

Though Dr Wahls doesn’t mention ‘Upgraded MCT Oil’ in her book, I’m now an MCT- devotee, so I’m including it my coconut oil quota.

But adjusting to that much coconut oil can take a while.

I did experience coconut-oil induced nausea at first, and woke up in the middle of the night with wicked stomach cramps a few times in the first couple of weeks when I consumed a lot of coconut oil before bed.

But I’m adapted & no longer have any trouble.

Two more month 2 adjustments:

Oil pulling

If you’ve never tried oil pulling, you should.

At least once.

It’s an old Ayurvedic trick.

It’s weird & wonderful & makes me feel good. I used to do it, but fell out of the habit. Now I’m back at it.

Just pop a big spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and let it melt. First thing in the morning is best. Swish the melted oil around your mouth for 20 minutes (set a timer).

Then spit it out. Don’t spit it in the sink because it’ll harden up as it cools.

I rinse my mouth with salt water after.

Warm lemon water

This is another habit that fell by the wayside that I’ve reinstituted in month 2 on the WahlsPaleo+. Just because it makes me feel good.

That’s my criteria.

Squeeze a lemon into a mug. Fill the mug halfway with cold water, then top with boiling water.

Drink it up.




Victorious Offal Muffins (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

Bison liver~!

Bison liver~!

I’ve been victorious!

I was an offal wimp, but now I’m initiated.

When I made a resolution to venture into organ meats for my Paleo New Year I got heaps of helpful comments.

I decided to incorporate as many of these tips as I could into my offal adventure, including:

  1. Bison liver, as a great introductory level offal (thanks Alice!);
  2. The Paleo Mom’s 50/50/50 burgers as a way to ease in (thanks Kate!);
  3. Putting offal in ice cube trays. A tip from This Sidney Life (Though I thought it was unlikely I’d ever feel inspired to throw a cube of icy offal into my supper, this suggestion did inspire me think of my muffin tin like an ice cube tray…);
  4. The Paleo PI’s post about pureeing offal as a way to slip it in to other dishes; and
  5. The reminder that liver loves onions (thanks to my offal-loving husband Matthew).

I also employed another strategy that I am rather proud of.

bison liver pureeRather than buying offal fresh from the butcher and then a couple of days later thinking oh dear and slipping it in the freezer like I usually do, I bought it frozen at the beginning of a long string of errands.

How devious.

By the time I got home it was already slightly defrosted so I couldn’t in good conscience refreeze it.

But that was only necessary the first time.

Offal muffinsI hesitated about calling these Offal Muffins.

First off, they are only 33.3% offal

Second, they aren’t awful at all.

Okay, I didn’t love them on day one. I ate the first one with grim determination. Way too much grimness & an almost comical amount of determination. I’d been steeling myself for some time, and the bison liver slurry that I created in my food processor for this recipe was still pretty fresh in my mind.

But the thing is, bison liver made me feel good.

Having been on the Autoimmune Protocol for 3½ months and then the Wahls Paleo Plus for the past couple of weeks, I now get pretty rapid feedback about whether & how much my body likes particular foods.

It loves bison liver.

To the point where I was looking forward to having another of these muffins for breakfast before I even went to bed on day one.


Or at least, unexpected.

Dr Terry Wahls recommends 12oz of offal a week.

Each muffin is 4oz in total, and contains 1.33oz of bison liver (as well as 1.33oz of bacon & 1.33oz of ground lamb), meaning that 9 of these are required to meet Dr. Wahls recommended dosage in a given week.

Recently, I eat one of these most days, so I’m not quite hitting the target yet.

But I’m not worrying too much about about dosage. Just now, having figured out how to cook & eat offal is a victory.

Hence Victorious Offal Muffins

Victorious Offal Muffins (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleo

  • 1 lb bison liverDay~supper
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • ½ cup fresh herbs: basil, marjoram, sage, thyme (or 2 tablespoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Himalyan salt (a little more if your bacon isn’t very salty)
  • 2 tablespoons sea vegetable flakes

Advance prep: Make caramelized onions (see recipe below). Not necessary, but yum.

Preheat oven to 350.

Fill the sink with hot soapy water as you’ll probably want to wash your food processor right away.

Puree the bison liver in a food processor.

Mix the pureed bison liver & all other ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl with your hands. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper muffins cups, and heap each with the meat muffin mixture. Pack it in & pile it high.

Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any wayward bacon fat and place the muffin tray on the top rack.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Once cooled, these muffins freeze beautifully.

To reheat, just wrap in tin foil & pop in a hot oven while you prepare your vegetables.

Caramelized onions

  • 1-2lbs onionsCaramelized onions
  • 2 or so tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup bone broth

Next time you have to spend awhile in the kitchen, peel & slice a pound or two of onions, thinly, like apples & then separate each slice into its natural layers. Melt a good amount of coconut oil in a large pan on very low heat & add the onions. Stir occasionally, adding a couple of tablespoons of bone broth whenever brown bits start to stick to the pan.When the onions are browned, reduced and gloriously sticky, they’re done. Refrigerate or freeze.

Tracking the Wahls Paleo Plus

The Wahls Paleo Plus is a ketogenic version of the Wahls Protocol.

I outline the basics of what you can eat on the WahlsPaleo+  in this post. Additionally, we’re supposed to eat fermented foods, sea vegetables and bone broth each day, and 12oz of offal and 16oz of high omega-3 fish each week.

I’m only on day 18 of the WahlsPaleo+ but I’m pretty intrigued so far.

I was able to get into ketosis fairly rapidly (2-3 days) and have been playing around with quantity of coconut oil & levels of ketosis since then, to find out more about how this all works. I’ve kicked myself out of ketosis (briefly) twice by letting my coconut oil consumption get too low. The 1st time by accident and the 2nd time as an experiment.

I’ve developed a tracking system that I have been using in my experiments so far.

On a daily basis I use worksheets that I keep in a binder in my kitchen. Not only does the daily worksheet help me track my food, but it also helps me plan it.

I’m aiming for 2-3 cups of sulfur-rich & coloured plant-food, and 3 cups of dark green leafy vegetables each day over two daily meals. With my daily worksheet I can always see where I need to fill any gaps.

As long as I have a range of plant-foods on hand, I can simply select the carbohydrates I wish for from each category and then just decide how to prepare them. It actually makes mealtime super simple, and I’ve stopped the maniacal meal planning I was doing on the Autoimmune Protocol.

Here’s my daily workbook (for the day I ate the 2 meals depicted, above):

WahlsPaleo+ worksheetThen, because I’m nerdy and I like to track data, every few days I transfer my daily worksheets into a weekly record. This enables me to to notice trends (such as the relationship between ketosis levels & energy levels, or how much high omega-3 fish or offal I’m consuming).

My weekly record looks like this:

WahlsPaleo+ weekly

This was the week that started auspiciously when I ate nettles for breakfast two days in a row. You can also see where I fell out of ketosis when my weekend supply of blue-raspberry fudge disappeared. And, though I’m still a long way from Dr Wahls 12oz weekly target for offal, I actually ate offal twice, which I think is laudable. Knowing I’m tracking it makes me eat it!

Hey, I’ve finally uploaded these tracking sheets here!

Daily Wahls Paleo Plus worksheet

Wahls Warrior

A Paleo New Year

April seems to be my paleo new year.BeforeandAfter

Two years ago in April I went Paleo and lost 75 lbs in 5 months.

Soon after that I realized all 9 of my health issues had disappeared.

At the time I thought I’d ‘made it’. After all, I’d achieved even more than I’d set out to do.

I didn’t realize I was still only in the foothills of health and I’d taken just the first baby steps in my paleo experiments.

What I’ve experienced since then, as my food has become increasingly pure and my gut has continued to heal, is previously unimagined levels of well-being.

As someone who struggled with depression and anxiety every day in my pre-paleo life, I’m still astounded by the feeling of psychological well-being. And the impact psychological health has had on all aspects of my life, including my career.

Levelling Up

During my first paleo year I only ate fish & poultry, which was obviously sufficient for weight loss & initial healing. As a recovering vegetarian, I wasn’t prepared to eat mammals at first, but it became apparent that I needed to reduce my reliance on fowl as a protein source.

So last April, I had my first bite of steak.

And this April, after 3½ months on the Autoimmune Protocol, I went ketogenic on the Wahls Paleo Plus.

As April seems to be my Paleo new year, I’m going to make a resolution.

This year I’m going to level up to organ meat.

I’ve been recalcitrant on the offal front. I actually don’t even want to change (that’s sort of the definition of recalcitrant). But I know it’s the next step.

And one year from now I will no doubt wonder why I stayed offal-obstinate for so long.

Maybe it was because I started with lamb kidney.

Started and ended with lamb kidney.

I know it’s politically incorrect to say so, because in paleo-land we’re all just supposed to start salivating & shouting hallelujah the moment we see a pile of fresh organs in the butcher’s display case, but lamb kidney tastes like urine and the taste stays in your mouth for a long time, even if you brush your teeth (& your tongue) repeatedly.

I’m an offal wimp.

I just had to get that off my chest.

According to the Paleo PI, kidney is intermediate offal. Tongue & heart is the place to start.

I actually think chicken liver might be the way to edge in for me.

In any case, I’m celebrating my new year with offal.

Celebrate with me!