Saturday, September 28, 2013

Meet Your Meat (Happy Animals Just Taste Better)

This may come as a surprise to a lot of people who have been in my life for a very short while, but I was a vegetarian for several years.  And while I'm learning to not look at life experiences as either good or bad, but rather as learning opportunities, I can say that a plant based diet was not a good experience for me.  In short (and to avoid a tangent I can expound upon later), this style of eating left me nutrient depleted, hormonally imbalanced, and created a compromised immune system. 

The reason I went to a vegetarian diet is because I stumbled into some reading on how factory farmed animals (which current estimates range between 80% and 90% of the US meat supply) were raised, fed, and slaughtered.  And I'll spare you all the gruesome details, but to translated it into human terms,  imagine having to live in a college dorm room with 15 unhealthy and digestionally compromised line backers while being force fed McDonald's injected with growth hormones and antibiotics all day every day.  If you haven't seen the new Chipotle commercial, you can check out their take on this industry.

I am a firm believer that most people need animal proteins to thrive.  But I understand the objection to allowing any living thing to be treated in such a horrible way, much less the living things that will be fueling your life and performance.  But there is hope because there are still plenty of small family farms that understand and embrace the humane and ethical treatment of our food supply (and even a couple of large ones such as Polyface Farms).  The good news is that most family farms are easily accessible through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a farmer's market.  About 2 years ago, the Hubby and I decided to change our primary meat source to Triple S Farms.  Triple S is a family farm located in central Illinois, and they sell their meat all across central Illinois (including Collinsville, for all my Metro East peeps).

The best part of being involved in a CSA is that I can source exactly what conditions my meat endures.  And having visited the farm a few weeks ago for Customer Appreciation Day, I can say that their animals look pretty darn content.

Case in point:
Chickens rooting for bugs and plants (their natural diet),
cows with access to pastures and natural grazing,
and piglets with room to run and embrace their inner pigginess.

Triple S also raises heritage breed pigs, specifically the Large Black.  Heritage breed can be traced back to the days before factory farming and human intervened breeding.  They are able to be pastured and therefore are able to derive nutrients from their environment (a quality that most factory farmed pigs no longer possess).  And best of all, these pigs taste better than pigs confined to feedlots.  For more information on these wonderful breeds and opportunities to support the movement to bring these pigs back to the mainstream, check-out Cochann 555 or reference their pamphlet on heritage breed pigs.  


I've often heard that livestock can be mean or unfriendly, but I'd like to say that I made a couple of friends on my trip to Triple S.  I guess that proves that animals raised in happy, natural conditions  have a better outlook on life.  


I recognize that this lifestyle can be perceived as more expensive than  heading to the local grocery store, but a few thoughts on that....
  • It's all a matter of perspective.  To paraphrase a quote I've heard recently, "Pay the Farmer now or pay your Doctor later."  Eating this way will keep you healthier longer than food which is mass produced.
  • Start small.  Start by buying a couple of cuts of meat from a farmers market or local health food store.  I think once you start to taste the difference, you'll find it hard to go back.
  • Buy in bulk.  Go in on a half of a cow or a pig and save tons of money.  If you don't have a deep freezer, you can usually find a decent chest freezer for under $200.  
  • Be smart about your cuts of meat.  Hey, I'd love to eat a top sirloin every night,but that's pricey.  Get more cuts of dark meats and roasts.  They tend to cost less per pound but in my opinion have a superior flavor profile.  
  • Make it a priority.  If you're paying for iPhones, 200+ plus channels on TV, designer handbags, clothes, video games, etc, but telling yourself you don't have the budget for quality food, you're probably right.
  • Quit wasting food.  I am personally guilty of this and am making a conscious effort to stop.  I shudder when I think about how many meals I've wasted because I got too lazy or too busy to worry about what is in the back of the fridge.  Every week when you're writing your grocery list, go through your fridge and see what you can re-purpose into a soup, stew, or 
Switching our primary food source to a CSA has allowed me to become more connected and appreciative of my food.  Not to mention is all just tastes way better.  To find a local CSA near you, I encourage you to check out  If you can't find one in your area, there are great online delivery options available such as US Wellness Meats and Pete's Paleo.

Just curious, do you use a CSA?  If so, what has this food source done for you personally?  Also, give them a shout out in the comments below (remember to link so other people can connect!).  And as always, please use the comments for questions or thoughts!  I enjoy hearing from you!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pumpkin (Spiced) Madness

This past weekend was the first weekend that it actually felt like Fall here in St. Louis.  Temps dropped from close to 100 degrees during the week to mid-70s.  The mornings were cool enough to enjoy a cup of coffee on the back porch in a sweatshirt and the days allowed for the windows to be open to let in the fresh air.  And for me, Fall means the return of THE PUMPKIN.  There is just something about the warmth and comfort of that naturally rich and sweet earthy taste. Coupled with the cooling temperatures, pumpkin feels like a right of passage before our winter hibernation.

And hey, from an ancestral health standpoint, this is natural and A-OK. Back before we all had deep freezers and stocked pantries, our ancestors would naturally gravitate to these squashes and autumn fruits. The glucose from these fruits would signal the body to store fat in preparation for a harsh winter.  But unfortunately, most of us do not need to worry about enduring these harsh winters yet we still indulge in fall carb loading of Pumpkin Spiced "insert food here."

From Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, M-n-Ms, Coffee, and just about every pastry in the world, one could say Pumpkin Spice is the official flavor of autumn.  But when one goes down the path of real foods, the lure of pumpkin spice comes with visions of artificial flavoring, dyes, scary GMO grains, and a plethora of sugar.  So what's a grain free, (almost) dairy free, recovering sugar addict, pumpkin loving girl to do?

Enter Diane Sanfilipo and her Pumpkin Pancakes.  Diane is the author of Practical Paleo, my very favorite Paleo book.  Her recipes are a collection of whole food masterpieces and I've yet to find something I didn't enjoy.  If you are looking for something new and different, this book is a great investment!

So anyway, this weekend I crafted her Pumpkin Pancakes (really- a very easy recipe).  Every time I make these, I can't help but marvel at how simple the ingredients are.  The taste of pumpkin truly does not need a whole lot of added flavors to satisfy your cravings.  It's just simply beautiful. 

Here is my favorite thing about this recipe...  it calls for a half a can of pumpkin.  Since I'm always looking for a way to work ahead and set my week up for success, I use the whole can, double the batch, and use these babies for breakfast or post workout carb source.  

In case you missed it, the recipe is linked above, and I'll link it again here.  Try it out and I promise you that you won't be sorry!

In honor of the unofficial flavor of Autumn, what are your favorite Pumpkin recipes?  Have you found any that eliminate grains, sugars, or dairy and maintain that wonderful pumpkin flavor?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hey! Meet Me!

Welcome.  Welcome!  WELCOME!  To Ignite.Nourish.Thrive.  I am just so happy that you're here at my blog!  I am a Real Food Advocate.  My personal experience with the healing powers of real foods started five years ago when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  The pharmaceuticals to manage (not cure) it came with a whole host of side effects.  So I unknowingly started my personal journey to understand the cause and effect relationship of food, stress, and movement on optimizing the body.

From my journey, I've realized my passion is to help other people break free from the chains of poor health and optimize their life based on their own goals.  This blog is an outlet to share my thoughts on real foods, sustainable food sourcing, recipes and meal plans, and thoughts on successfully sticking to an Ancestral Health template.

I am a happily married to my wonderful, loving, and supportive husband. 

 We have four fur babies named Chandler, Ross, Joey, and Phoebe (in order pictured below). 

In my free time I spend time volunteering as a youth group leader at my church and this feeds my soul!

 I've always been a active and am a CrossFit junkie.   

I also work in a corporate job, trying desperately to make this way of living work despite cake in the breakroom, constant stress, and artificial lighting.

I am so excited and looking forward to this journey!  I hope you decide to follow my blog!  In the spirit of Q&A, please post any additional questions about me in the comments below.  (Almost) nothing is off limits!