Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hilary Finch Hutler on How PHD Simplifies Cooking: Four Beef Variations

Some terrific chefs and food bloggers have adopted the Perfect Health Diet. Our Recipes page lists a few of the best. One of them is Portland, Oregon chef Hilary Finch Hutler whose TummyRumblr is a go-to food blog for us. We asked Hilary if she had anything she’d like to share with PHD readers. She said she’d like to explain how PHD has simplified her home cooking. Here’s Hilary!

When I started following the Perfect Health Diet a year ago, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with preparing meals which seemed to be more demanding of my time. Learning to cook new cuts of meat as well as organ meats and more than doubling my seafood and shellfish consumption felt like a lot to take on. But I knew that I was experiencing inflammation-based health problems, and I knew that getting control of them would be valuable for my long-term health, and so I dove in.

Today, with a year of experience under my belt, I’ve found that by following the diet at around 80% compliance, I have gained control of my food and caffeine cravings, I’ve eliminated the horrendous cramps that accompanied my periods for over ten years, and I’ve dramatically reduced my knee pain, frequent bloating, and subsequent low moods. And all of this has been achieved by spending less time cooking (and less time thinking about cooking) than I spent before beginning the diet.

So how exactly has PHD simplified my cooking? Simply put, it’s because PHD is truly a back-to-basics diet. Firstly, the diet allows me to freely eat eggs and fattier cuts of meat or seafood every day. Not only are all of these things easy to cook, they are incredibly satiating, so there’s no feeling snacky or grumpy or any of those other “not quite satisfied” feelings that come with a Standard American Diet or a reduced fat diet.

Many of the foods I now regularly consume on PHD are foods that I limited or avoided for years for fear they would negatively affect my cholesterol or cause me to gain weight. Now that I’m eating these foods on a daily or weekly basis and have only seen improvements in my health, I feel happy and satisfied. I no longer feel the learned guilt that I previously associated with eating “too many eggs” in a week, or when choosing the steak instead of the chicken, or when enjoying heavy cream in my coffee or tea. I see PHD as an eating template, and I know that each day I’ll consume 2-3 eggs, some fermented vegetables or full-fat yogurt, some fatty meat or seafood, a few servings of “safe starch”, and as many colorful vegetables as I can.

Breakfast is a breeze now that eggs are on the daily menu, and lunch is usually either leftovers, canned fish with rice and kimchi, or a simple soup made using bone broth (I make a large pot of bone broth once every 2-3 weeks). For dinner each week I use the PHD diet template as a guide. Seafood at least twice a week is always my goal, and I choose nutrient-rich salmon, black cod, mussels, clams, or oysters. Fatty red meat is 3 – 4 times per week. I enjoy both beef and lamb nearly every week and pork or poultry somewhat more limitedly.

Generally, the fattier cuts of meat recommended on the diet are best cooked by braising or roasting, and these techniques happen to lend themselves particularly well to large-batch cooking and freezing. Every Sunday I braise or roast five pounds of meat, which I freeze in roughly 16 oz. portions for my husband and myself. By making this a ritual, I now have several portions of different types of meat at the ready for simple dinners, and I find that each portion of meat yields plenty of leftovers for a lunch for the two of us.

By learning these large-batch techniques for meat, you’ll find that you can create multiple, unique meals from one simple base recipe. Here, I’ll walk you through the process of a basic pot roast, and then offer up three non-repetitive options using the resulting tender meat to use down the road. I hope you’ll try it!

Basic Pot Roast

  • One 5 pound boneless chuck roast
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. ghee or other fat for browning
  • 2 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 5 – 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 C. water, broth, wine, or a mix (I used 1 C. dry white wine and 2 C. water)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large dutch oven or other pan large enough to hold the roast over medium heat (you will need a lid). Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper on all surfaces. Add the ghee to the hot pan and allow to melt.  Place the roast into the hot pan and allow to brown lightly, undisturbed, for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the roast over and brown on the second side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

To the same pan, add the onions and the sliced garlic and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes until softened and starting to brown lightly. Next, add the tomato paste and stir until well combined with the onions. Lastly, return the roast to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and pour over the three cups liquid. The liquid should cover the roast about halfway (add more if necessary).

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot and transfer to the 300 degree oven for 3½ to 4 hours. Check the roast once an hour to be sure the liquid is bubbling moderately (if it’s simmering so hard it splatters you, it’s too hot – if it’s just occasionally bubbling, it’s too cool). Alter your oven temperature by 25 degrees either way to achieve a moderate bubble.

When the meat is done, remove it from the oven, uncover and allow to cool slightly.  In the meantime, you can prep the ingredients for recipe number one below.

Once the dish has cooled slightly, divide the meat into 4 about-equal portions. Place three in the fridge to cool, spooning a few tablespoons of sauce over each so that they stay moist.  Leave the remaining sauce in the pan and set the last portion of beef aside for the following recipe:

NOTE: All of the following recipes made 4 servings – two larger dinner portions and two slightly smaller lunch portions.

Variation #1: Italian Pot Roast with Braised Cabbage and Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 pound of your favorite roasting potatoes, cut into similarly-sized chunks
  • ¼ cup olive oil or other melted fat of your choice
  • Salt and pepper

Increase the oven temperature to 325ºF. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with the oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until soft, about 50 minutes.

  • 1 pound pot roast PLUS remaining sauce (see above)
  • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
  • ½ large head of savoy cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • Salt and pepper

Add the vinegar, rosemary, and cabbage to the remaining sauce and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir to combine, cover, and cook for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is very soft. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and lower the heat if necessary.

When the cabbage has cooked down, season to taste with S & P. Break your pound of pot roast into 5 or 6 nice chunks and return to the pot.  Stir, cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes more until the meat is thoroughly warmed through.

Serve the braised beef and cabbage with the roasted potatoes.

Variation #2: Braised Beef Tacos with Fried Plantains

  • 1 pound pot roast (see above), defrosted if necessary
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder

For serving:

  • 8 – 10 lettuce leaves, salsa, grated cheese and/or sour cream

Warm the meat and spices, covered, over medium-low heat until simmering. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Once hot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and keep covered while you fry your plantains.

For the plantains:

  • 1 green or yellow-green plantain per person
  • coconut oil for frying
  • salt

Peel the plantains by cutting off the ends and running a paring knife down the ridges in the peel just to the depth of the plantain (I think slicing it in three places is ideal). Start at one end and gently pull the peel away from the plantain in segments to expose it. Use your paring knife to remove any bits of peel that remain attached to the plantain.

Heat the coconut oil in a wide saute pan over medium heat. Be sure when the oil melts there is enough to coat the bottom of your pan to a depth of at least ¼ inch. Slice the plantains into approximately 1/3 inch slices at a 45 degree angle so that the resulting pieces are oval in shape. Once the oil is hot, place a single layer of plantain slices into the pan and allow them to cook, undisturbed, for 4 – 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn the pieces over (I find a fork works best) and continue to cook until browned on the second side. Transfer to a plate or bowl and immediately season with salt. Continue until all of your plantain sliced have been fried.

Assemble to tacos in the lettuce leaves and serve the plantains alongside. I love these fried plantains dipped a vinegar-y hot sauce like Tapatio. Add a simple salad of sliced tomatoes, red onions, and avocado to make a complete meal.

Variation #3: Beef Fried Rice with Kimchi

  • 1 pound pot roast (see above)
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 4 cups cooked and cooled rice
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce (or more if you like!)
  • your favorite kimchi
  • pea shoots (optional)

Break your pot roast into 3 or 4 large chunks and place into a large wok or wide sauté pan over medium heat.  Allow to cook, turning occasionally, until the liquid and fat has melted out and the meat is very warm.  Remove the meat from the pan and add the coconut oil to the pan. While the coconut oil melts, quickly chop the beef into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Sauté or stir-fry the red pepper, scallions, ginger, and garlic in the coconut oil and beef fat until very soft, about 2 minutes. Add the rice to the pan and sauté or stir-fry for several more minutes or until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the rice is hot. Return the beef chunks to the pan along with the fish sauce and kimchi and cook until just heated through.

I love this dish served with a handful of fresh pea shoots piled on top.

Around the Web: Mid-Winter Edition

It’s been a long time since we’ve done an Around the Web, but we’re ready for some fun. The days are lengthening, spring is getting closer, and though there hasn’t been much time for reading, a few items caught our eye.

[1] Music to read by:

[2] Interesting Items on the Web:

SparkPeople has a PHD team. Thanks gopintos!

Low Carb Friends has a PHD thread that’s currently at eleven pages. Here’s one person’s post:

I am losing! And I am super happy. You know how people always say, “I can see myself doing XYZ way of eating forever” Well, I have NEVER been able to say that until now with absolute certainty. I LOVE the PHD and I love knowing I will eat each day.

Amy Kubal has the top 9 ‘BLOW YOUR MIND’ reasons to attend Paleo FX 2013. I can’t wait!

Even in northern Europe, Stone Age hunter-gatherers liked carbs: “The starch sources that the archaeologists have so far found include acorns and sea beet, the latter of which is the ancestor of both the beetroot and the sugar beet.” And their dogs liked carbs too.

But Paleolithic diets were lower carb than the Neolithic: Not only the onset of cavities with the Neolithic, but the evolution of cavity-causing oral bacteria, tell us that starch eating greatly increased with the invention of agriculture.

John Ioannidis has argued that most biomedical research is wrong, and he was supported by pharmaceutical company studies: Amgen reported in Nature that its oncology and hematology researchers had failed to replicate 47 out of 53 highly promising results, the German drugs giant Bayer reported that it could not replicate about two thirds of published studies identifying drug targets. Via Mike the Mad Biologist, a new statistical study finds that if published p-values are to be believed and if the number of positive and negative results published are unbiased (both big ifs), then only 14% of biomedical research is wrong.

Seth Roberts believes two things about teaching.

Kamal Patel is quantifying himself.

The flu virus doesn’t just cause the flu: it’s been implicated in ear infections and pancreatic infections leading to diabetes.

Norovirus deserves our respect, but there’s a way to reduce risk: wash your hands, and don’t eat out.

Via @cillakat, a primer in infectious disease.

A new blog: “Perfect Health Party.”

Andrew Badenoch had to abandon last summer’s fatbike-packrafting journey through the Arctic. His account.

Do restaurants in China pass off pork rectum as calamari? This is a concern because of hepatitis E in pork intestine. If you visit China, make sure your “calamari” is well cooked!

Jamie Scott embraces the economic analysis of nutrients.

Why do our fingertips wrinkle in water? So that we can better grasp wet objects.

True facts about sloths. (Via Yoni.)

A surprising therapy for digestive tract blockage: Coca Cola.

The key to a long life: Don’t fall!

[4] Cute animals:

Via Yves Smith.

[5] Not the Weekly Video: Arthur Haines discusses myths of the Paleo Diet:

[6] More Cute Animals:

Via Yves Smith.

[7] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[8] Monthly Video: Via Scott Sterling, the story of Susannah Cahalan’s descent into madness from an autoimmune disease:

Ask The Low-Carb Experts & AskBryan Podcasts

Jimmy Moore has posted our “Ask the Low-Carb Experts” show podcast, and will have show notes up shortly. The topic was “All Things Hunger (Satiety 101).” Over the course of the show I discussed four significant drivers of appetite:

  1. Malnourishment leading to “nutrient hunger”;
  2. Immune system reactions and inflammatory pathways to hunger;
  3. The role of gut bacteria and gut dysbioses in promoting hunger;
  4. The role of circadian rhythm disruption in increasing appetite.

These are all pathways that can be modulated to minimize appetite and make weight loss easier.

The callers had a number of challenging questions, so it was an interesting show.

Meanwhile, I also recorded an “AskBryan” podcast with Bryan Davis. AskBryan is also known as “Doc Fermento Discovers the World”. Bryan brings a different perspective and it was a fun show.


Chicken, Why Art Thou So Mediocre?

Chicken is the most popular meat in the United States; in 2010, 8.6 billion chickens were killed to provide Americans with 37.2 billion pounds of chicken, compared to 26.4 billion pounds of beef, 22.5 billlion pounds of pork, 5.8 billion pounds of turkey, and only 0.3 billion pounds of veal, lamb, and mutton.

The popularity of chicken has grown steadily over the last century. Here is a chart from the USDA Economic Research Service:

Increasing chicken consumption followed the development of cheaper chickens in the 1940s, which led to greater use of chicken into prepared and fast foods. It was further encouraged in the 1970s by the widely promulgated idea that red meat might be unhealthful and that chickens were comparatively healthful.

Yet in fact chicken may be the least healthful of the popular meats!

In our book (p 171) we give industrially raised chickens and their eggs a grade of C, eggs and meat from organically raised heritage chickens a B+/B. By comparison, beef gets an A. Why the difference?

Unhealthy Chickens

The methods that created cheaper chicken meat do not produce healthy chickens. Chickens were bred for rapid growth, but the modern Cornish Rock hens develop arthritis around age ten weeks, are often infertile, and prefer not to walk. (See “Local Farming and The Fight for Quality Food,” October 25, 2011.)

Factory farmed chickens are also fed arsenic, antibiotics, antihistamines, and, in China, antidepressants. [1] [2] (See Chapter 23 of the book.) It has recently been realized that these compounds may remain present at low levels in chicken meat. UPDATE: In the comments, Rachel Virden points out flaws in the studies cited above; chicken meat may be more healthful than these studies would suggest.

Omega-6 Fats and Obesity

Chicken have a moderately high omega-6 content; a whole chicken provides about 13% of all calories (about 20% of fat calories) as omega-6 fats. Because omega-6 toxicity begins at about 4% of energy (see chapter 11 of the book), replacing low-omega-6 foods like beef and seafood with chicken can help generate toxic levels of omega-6 in the body.

This has a variety of unfortunate consequences, including obesity. In my recent Q&A with Latest in Paleo readers, I gave six reasons why omega-6 fats promote weight gain. The last reason was that “omega-6 fats are precursors to endocannibinoids which increase appetite (see this article).”

The article in question shows an interesting figure which notes that chicken consumption is, after vegetable oils and with pork, the major contributor of omega-6 fats to the American diet, and is correlated with obesity prevalence (Figure 5):

Omega-6 Fats and Cancer

Omega-6 fats promote cancer growth and metastasis, and so we might expect that chicken consumption will also promote cancer.

It may. A study of men in remission from prostate cancer found that, “Intakes of processed and unprocessed red meat, fish, … and skinless poultry were not associated with prostate cancer recurrence or progression.” [3] However, the fatty parts of chickens – the skin and the eggs – were:

Greater consumption of eggs and poultry with skin was associated with 2-fold increases in risk in a comparison of extreme quantiles: eggs [hazard ratio (HR): 2.02; 95% CI: 1.10, 3.72; P for trend = 0.05] and poultry with skin (HR: 2.26; 95% CI: 1.36, 3.76; P for trend = 0.003)…. Men with high prognostic risk and a high poultry intake had a 4-fold increased risk of recurrence or progression compared with men with low/intermediate prognostic risk and a low poultry intake (P for interaction = 0.003).

Our results suggest that the postdiagnostic consumption of processed or unprocessed red meat, fish, or skinless poultry is not associated with prostate cancer recurrence or progression, whereas consumption of eggs and poultry with skin may increase the risk. [3]

We recommend three egg yolks per day for their nutrition, but the poor quality of industrial chickens is a real concern. If you can find a place in your budget for only one naturally raised food, make it your eggs.

Badly Cooked Chicken

Much chicken is bought in industrially produced forms or as fried chicken cooked in vegetable oils at high temperatures. High temperatures and peroxidizable vegetable oils are not a good way to treat any meat; as we note in the book (Chap 23), harsh cooking methods increase the toxicity of foods.

It seems to work that way with chicken. Another cancer study found that fried chicken consumption was associated with higher prostate cancer risk. They write:

Potential mechanisms include the formation of potentially carcinogenic agents such as aldehydes, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and acrylamide. [4]


I think most of the health problems with chicken are probably attributable to its omega-6 content, and in the context of a low omega-6 diet there is probably little harm to consuming gently cooked chicken or eggs. So I think most of the known concerns with chicken consumption should not frighten Perfect Health Dieters. Ironically, what makes chicken healthful is consuming red meat or seafood most of the week!

However, because eggs are such a significant part of our micronutrient recommendations, I think it is desirable to find an egg producer who lets the hens roam and eat insects and other natural chicken foods. Healthy chickens produce more healthful eggs; healthful eggs produce healthy people.


[1] Nachman KE et al. Arsenic species in poultry feather meal. Science of the Total Environment 2012 Feb 15;417–418:183–8,

[2] Love DC et al. Feather meal: a previously unrecognized route for reentry into the food supply of multiple pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Environmental Science & Technology 2012 Apr 3;46(7):3795–802,

[3] Richman EL et al. Intakes of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs and risk of prostate cancer progression. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):712-21.

[4] Stott-Miller M et al. Consumption of deep-fried foods and risk of prostate cancer. Prostate. 2013 Jan 17. doi: 10.1002/pros.22643. [Epub ahead of print]