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My Book Reading




Twisted Prey - John Sandford

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John LeCarre

UNSUB - Meg Gardiner

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Podcast Favorites . (The life and Legacy of Ian Fleming, with author and historian Jeremy Duns, always an excellent and entertaining interview) . (the true story of Oleg Penkovsky, regarded by many as the greatest spy of the Cold War era - with Jeremy Duns, whose book on the topic, Dead Drop, is a classic) (wonderful history of Ian Fleming's involvement at Bletchley Park during WWII, and Anthony Horowitz making a presentation about his new James Bond novel, Forever And A Day. "How I Nearly Started World War III" with Mark Valley, host of the Live Drop Espionage podcast



Paleo and Testosterone (Robb Wolf)

Robb recently published an incredible post, with a string of helpful comments, titled Paleo and Testosterone ( I cannot even begin to describe how important I feel T levels, adrenal fatigue, Paleo, supplements and aging combine for a life cocktail that rocks our world as we get older and fight to remain competitive and active. As a 57 year old Crossfitter and Personal Trainer, I'm telling you this is vital information that men of all ages should pay close attention to. Study this!


Struggling with the Transition to Paleo

Dear John:

My sister has Celiac disease.  She has questions on baking, wants to bake holiday breads and cookies. So she bought coconut flour, gluten-free oatmeal for cookies, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and almond flour for baking. She wants to know what sweetener she should use in place of sugar. I use Truvia because it's made from a plant.  Would you suggest honey?  Or since the nut flours are sweeter flours no sugar at all?  How do your kids deal with this issue of baked goods? (three of my adult step-children have Celiac disease - John). 


I use almond meal, coconut flour and almond flour for the baking I do. It's not a giant part of my diet, I don't eat cakes, pastries, breads and cookies at all, but about once a week I prepare something like I did yesterday: date, carrot, coconut muffins, using almond and coconut flour. It's a treat, I only eat it in my post-workout window, but such a nice change of pace.

I've not used gluten-free oatmeal before, so cannot comment upon it. I'd have your sister be cautious about gluten-free junk foods. Often they are packed with starches that actually have a higher glycemic index rating than table sugar! So they are safe for someone with Celiac, in the sense they'll do no G.I. tract damage, but they'll sure pack on bodyfat and be unhealthy.

I use honey and sometimes maple syrup in a recipe; only when necessary, and only in the weekly baking as I mentioned above. Stevia and all other sugars are sugar; whether natural or not, it's pretty much the same in the human body. "Natural" means very little to the human body, our systems don't know about marketing. My best advice about sugar is to use as little as possible. I rank wheat and gluten as more unhealthy than sugar, so don't be afraid to use a little bit of sweetener (if you must).

My kids just don't eat many baked goods; that's the secret. Most baked goods are non-nutritious and not very worthwhile anyways. I'd much rather feel good than eat a bagel!

Dear John,

I'm not a big baked goods eater either but you're going to break my sister's heart.  I bought the Paleo Diet cookbook for myself and my sister and I am going to pass your email on to her.  I gave all my bread to my daughter, along with my cereal so I'm on my way to eliminating the last of the "unhealthy" things from my diet.  Thanks for all your insight.

Buy a copy of Make It Paleo for yourself, and think about one for your sister. Holidays are coming. Read my review of this fabulous book (scroll down in this section); it's more than worthwhile and should go a long way to changing her opinion of baking grain-free. Please use the Amazon shopping widget to the right; your price is the same, and I receive a tiny percentage, which helps maintain this site.

Conclusion:  Cathy is doing the right thing, though it's tough for her. People don't like change, but there is no other way to regain health, quality of life, and get on the path to fitness than by eliminating the distructive elements from what we put into our mouths. In my life as a personal trainer, I find I'll do almost anything for those who try this hard. She's going to make it!


The Food Lovers Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason


Luscious. Special to the touch. Beautiful. Not typical adjectives applied to a cookbook, are they? Well, this isn’t a by-the-numbers, standard volume devoted to playing with food, neither in the Paleo world nor for “regular” foodies. Make It Paleo helps take our little corner of the world out of the sub-culture category, something for mass media to drag their caveman anecdotes out for. With this book we can all proudly prepare dishes and meals, without the sometimes odd “this is Paleo” or “you don’t mind grain-free, do you?” chatter.

In the modern Paleo world (hah, now that sounds funny!), cookbooks have been few, but recently they’re appearing fast and furiously. Enjoy the high quality of this and other recent Paleo-oriented releases; at some point the mainstream publishing world is going to catch on and decide this weird little Paleo thing represents a niche they should jump on. Believe me, someone at Random House or Simon & Schuster has had meetings and conversations on the topic. 

In the meantime, get your hands on Bill and Hayley’s masterpiece, Make It Paleo. You’ll need to be in shape just to lift the package the UPS driver dumps on your porch! This baby weighs pounds; at 446 enamel-coated pages, this is a great big healthy book. Setting itself apart from the Paleo crowd, Make It Paleo is about what I consider gourmet cooking; this is Paleo-foodie material. I’m often asked by people if I get tired of repeatedly eating the same foods; the answer is now easy: show people your copy of Make It Paleo

Each of the 215 recipes (no, I didn’t count ‘em, I read press releases) is accompanied by a single, full page photograph. Closeup. Mouth watering. I can’t pick up the book without finding myself stopping at a photograph, feeling my taste buds warming up like they’re preparing for a Crossfit WOD. Continually I’m drawn to dishes that under traditional cookbook conditions don’t apply to me, or that would appear to be too difficult or time-consuming, but within these pages they talk to me, draw me in. Suddenly I’m making grocery lists, or pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry. I cannot exaggerate how incredible these photographs are; making food look good is difficult. 

An example is page 168, Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops. Sure, I’d order these in a restaurant, in a heartbeat, but I’ve never prepared lamb at home. Suddenly I want to. Each recipe page is nicely structured and usable. A bit of introductory material leads right to an easy-to-read box featuring ingredients. Pull those together, and on the right side of the page you’ll find the how-to, or “process.” One of the favorite details in the book is at the bottom of many recipe pages: “notes.” Substitutions, history, and anecdotes find their way here; the notes provide some of my favorite reading in the book.

Bill and Hayley run through some of the generalities about why so many people are a bit afraid to transition to a grain-free food plan, and frankly put to rest many of the common fears. I believe that every Paleo-wanna be who touches a copy of Make It Paleo will learn a great deal about logical nutrition, and be compelled to try some of the recipes. Many will find themselves dropping grain from their lives, hopefully. I believe that by not preaching, but showing and living by example as the authors do, will translate to more healthy people who never would have tried “going Paleo.” Of course, for the rest of us converts, Make It Paleo is one of the finest additions we could anticipate. For me, I have many new Sunday afternoon and evening “cooking time” recipes to work on and share. Thank you, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason, for your considerable efforts, and obvious passion. 

Please go to the Amazon shopping box on the right hand side of this page to order your copy of Make It Paleo. A tiny percentage comes back to me, and helps with the costs of this website. Thank you.



Fitting white rice and sweet potatos into my life...

Paleo is not a religion! Repeat after me. Paleo is not a religion! When in doubt, listen to a few of Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution podcasts. You’ll hear a very smart person talk about how to employ modern technology and take advantage of our knowledge of the human metabolism and systems to our healthy advantage.

I’m well known in the Gold’s and Crossfit gyms I spend my time in as a Paleo disciple. People have watched me lose substantial bodyfat (and I thought I was lean before), retain my strength and become more muscular, agile and functional since moving to a pretty strict Paleo lifestyle early this year. Many ask me what I eat myself; they’ll read the information I provide, follow links, but they eventually ask me what is in my cooler. People are always surprised when I tell them I enjoy a good serving of sweet potatoes,  white rice, or some grain-free almond-coconut-fruit muffin type of thing almost daily.

Of course, these food items only go into my body in that magical post-workout anabolic hour I look forward to so much, but still, it’s a constant discussion. How can I eat white rice? Why not brown rice? Rice isn’t Paleo, is it? If I can eat sweet potatoes, can I have white or red potatoes?

The answers are out there. Search ‘em out. Read as much as you can and decide for yourself what applies to you. I’m a very hard-training strength and Crossfit athlete who wants optimum nutrition for my body. I’ll take every healthy advantage I can, whether it’s 100% Paleo or not.

 The white rice, potato, “safe starch” conversation is fascinating, educational, and important. Jimmy Moore, head honcho of the prolific and often amazing Livin’ La Vida Low Carb podcast (highly recommended), has done a great service. He’s put the discussion (and arguments) in the open on his site and created one of the most fascinating and useful long series of posts I’ve ever encountered in the field of nutrition and health. This discussion began with Paul Jaminet writing at his Perfect-Health Diet site (another hugely smart expert in the field, and a site you absolutely should be reading) about safe starches. Jimmy has basically taken the topic and made the opinions of experts world-wide available to us all. Please read this, it’s critically important and absolutely first-rate interesting.


Grass-Fed Beef from Church View Cattle Company

In my never-ending quest for optimal health and performance, grass-fed beef has been a priority. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer what is reputed to be high-quality ground beef, but their stores in Madison and Milwaukee are not in the neighborhood. Recently I purchased a few pounds of beef at Trader Joe’s, it’s great tasting, but at $6 per pound, not a good long-term choice for the household budget.

A couple of vendors at the Appleton Farmer’s Market sell grass-fed beef; again, both are in the $6/lb. range. One is bison, and I love the texture and flavor of buffalo, but the price is prohibitive for long-term purchasing. Anne and I simply eat too much meat to afford it.

Some members of Gold’s Gym told me about a cattle ranch in the area they say has been selling grass-fed beef for generations; in other words, they never went all grain-fed. I was curious and wanted to learn more, so I gave Mike Thiel at Church View Cattle Co. a call.

Turns out Thiel is the real deal, a friendly rancher who only a couple of minutes into the conversation invited us out to see the operation, watch the longhorn cattle munch on grassy pastures, and buy a small amount of meat if we wanted and give them a try. Mike was also upfront about Church View not raising 100% grass-fed steers; he gives each animal 5 pounds of corn daily. The remainder of their food, which of course is most of it, comes from grass. In Wisconsin the true grazing season is interrupted by harsh winter weather; the grass freezes, doesn’t grow, animals struggle, water freezes. So the reality is, some corn is introduced. I was impressed with Thiel’s forthrightness on the topic.

Visiting Church View is easy; they are on a farm site that’s fifth generation, homesteaded during the Civil War era. Most of it’s grassy rolling meadow; it’s nice to see steers with big horns in Wisconsin. Mike and Shirley Thiel are the friendliest of people (we didn’t meet Shirley, but I’ve talked with her on the phone). Theirs is a simple cattle operation, clean and organized. I felt comfortable there, and feel it’s important to get to know the people who raise the food we eat. Shaking Mike’s hand, looking him in the eye, sealed the deal.

One big advantage to buying from Church View Cattle Co., is that you do not have to invest in a quarter, side or entire steer. Yes, you can, and of course prices are lower this way, but at the ranch Mike has a retail operation with big freezers stocked with ground beef in one pound packages, roasts, and many different cuts of steak. Each is available to buy singly. This ranch is only a dozen or so miles outside of town, making periodic trips to buy meat logical.

A dozen pounds of ground beef, a roast and some steaks found their way into our cooler in the car, at about half the price we’ve paid anywhere else. Grass-fed beef affords the luxury of loading up on simply delicious quality meat at grocery store or lower prices; add omega-3 to your daily food input in a delicious manner. Isn’t eating beef a more engaging way to do this than swallowing gel caps or drinking tablespoons of fish oil?

Visit Mike and Shirley, take a walk in their fields, buy some great meat and enjoy!

Call ahead before you drive out there...

(photographs courtesy Mike Thiel; these are his steers on Church View land)


Church View Cattle Co.

Registered Texas Longhorns

W4933 Cty. Rd. G

Black Creek,  WI  54106