Did you know this blog, Munchie Musings, is over ten years old? And some might have noticed the less frequency I post on it and the not all that inspiring content over the last year or so. Blame it a bit on burn out. 

I'm one of those people who needs to get a real bee in her bonnet. For seven years I was really into Pampered Chef and earning prizes and trips. Then burn out. Then this blog became my focus and I am super grateful to it for the doors it has opened for me. You might have noticed that lately I've been a bit focused on the science of the keto diet and its health benefits. I decided to move these over to a keto focused blog where it will be more focused. 

I'll still be here on MM occasionally, but I'll probably be writing more often on the new one. If you have an interest in biohacking your body and maybe keto, then please check it out.

The new blog is called Keto so Easy because I think it's easier than some people fear. I also named it that because I practice lazy keto, as in not-so-strict keto. People with serious health issues like diabetes, obesity, fibramyalgia, etc. may need to be super strict keto. I don't. That doesn't mean they won't find helpful information on the new blog, but that I am going to be more forgiving than other keto advocates. 

Sooooo, that's the latest. I actually already have piqued the interest of several friends who have tracked my progress so far. I look forward to seeing if they find a benefit and love of keto too. Heal your body with food, not drugs!

Do you worry about your cholesterol? After all, the medical community has drilled in the importance of low cholesterol for the last couple of decades in particular. Is it something really worth worrying about or is it just a manipulation by the pharmaceutical company to push more drugs? I pretty much think the latter, but I've been brainwashed enough to still worry about it.

I'm now over four months into my keto and still keeping data on things like weight, blood work, general health. As mentioned in prior posts, my cholesterol has jumped with this diet, but when I put the standard cholesterol lipid panel results (40 year old testing methods) into the new, current cholesterol calculators, the results were varied quite a bit. 

Even though the new calculator set my mind at ease a bit, it still wasn't the best answer to the question of cholesterol health. In order to get that, I had to get the detailed lipid test that Kaiser doesn't offer! Called an NMR Lipid Panel, I had to go to an independent lab and shell out $99 of my own money. This post is to share those results.

First, I'll put the standard test numbers into the ratio calculator and I get this. Keep in mind the top section is OLD testing methods (40 years old saying High Risk) and the bottom half is more up-to-date testing - the ratios.

These are the types of results that have kept me feeling good while pursuing this keto for the last few months. But, as I mentioned, the best test to get is the NMR test. Why? Because it turns out that the real indicator of heart disease from cholesterol is the type of particles that form the LDL. There are good, large particles and bad, small particles. The NMR test breaks those two apart for the true read of your cholesterol health.

So...I decided to bite the bullet and pay for the NMR. Today I got the results and they aren't quite what I expected. The problem is they are also confusing and the testing company does not offer assistance in explaining them.

The important numbers to look at have to do with LDL-P, the number of particles. The scary number is the 2065. That's REALLY high and if you look the right, they say so!

The other number is lower down where it says Small LDL-P is 269. That appears to be good. 

So my issue is interpreting what that all means in the scheme of things and I can't ask my Kaiser doctor because he's clueless about this new cholesterol science!

I can only rely on what I'm getting from internet research and from the keto forums and this is what I'm taking away.

1) I'm at month four and they say you need to give it at least six months to adjust.

2) Today's podcast on Keto Talk had Dr. Cole talking about cholesterol and that it can take some people up to a YEAR to settle out.

3) Part of the reason for this is that when you lose weight, your fat cells squeeze out some of the stored cholesterol which needs to be flushed out via your liver. It takes those months for your body to do that. I can't imagine that to be the case for me since I really didn't have much weight to lose.

But best of all, I found this...

4) Keto guru Jimmie Moore posted similar NMR numbers on a blog post.   Yes, the 2065 is high, but according to his post, you subtract out the Small LDL-P number and the leftover is the good, fluffy LDL that you want!  So my 2065-269 =  1796 of good, fluffy LDL! Also, the LDL size should be over 20nm to be the fluffy kind and mine are at 21.7!

24 hours later I am feeling much better and relieved to have found his results to compare to.  I will continue ketoing on and test again at the end of summer. 

Addendum:  I got the following feedback from Jimmie Moore's team:

Your LDL-p is higher than recommended.  This tends to be fairly common in the ketogenic community and it’s unknown if this is actually dangerous at all in this context.  Not enough research has been done.  Some people do see improvement in this number when they give up artificial sweeteners, so that’s one thing you can try if you’re concerned.   Your Small LDL-P is close to 200 which is excellent.

Your HDL is in the excellent range.  Your trigs are in the good range close to excellent. Your LDL size is greater than 20.5 indicating fluffy pattern A

If these were my numbers I’d be very happy.

Sacramento’s Farm to Fork chefs were featured at a special luncheon on Friday afternoon at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. While PBFW has featured city centric events before, none have had as large a contingent as the Sacramento one. The lunch featured nine of the eleven Sacramento chefs attending. The two others, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and Brad Cecchi, will be at the Grand Tasting Tent on Saturday.

Sacramento stands out from many other food cities due to two specific characteristics. The first is the draw of chefs to a city where they have all the great ingredients but also an affordable place to live and raise families. There are many transplants from more expensive cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. Many hometown chefs will leave for stints at Beard and Michelin rated restaurants throughout the world, only to come back to Sacramento to settle down. Other chefs arrive from far off cities or countries and fall in love with everything Sacramento has to offer and decide to stay. Secondly, the chefs love the friendly collaboration of its food community. In Sacramento there is no competition or animosity. Here the chefs love to work together, help each other out, support the community, and just have a good time. They share their knowledge and grow from their collaborations. That’s why you will see many connections between them in the bios below.

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Michael Passmore - Passmore Ranch
Starting off with the only one of the group who is not actually a chef or part of a restaurant, Michael Passmore instead supplies some of the best known restaurants and chefs in California and the country with his farm raised fish and small batch caviar. His giant ponds and tanks near Sacramento contain sturgeon, trout, catfish, bass, and more. Passmore Ranch fish have received a "Best Choice" rating from The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program. His fish will be featured by chefs at several PBFW events including the Sacramento Farm to Fork lunch as well as by Chef Jeremiah Tower at his Saturday dinner.

When the Sacramento chefs have a day off and are craving some sushi, you will usually find them at Bill Ngo’s Kru or grabbing a quick poke bowl from one of his Fish Face Poke Bars. Ngo was born in Hong Kong, but raised in Sacramento, making him one of the local boys who has stayed in the city he loves. At Kru he’s known for having the best omakase with bites featuring seafood from Passmore Ranch, off the coast of California, or as far away as the crystal blue waters off Hokaido, Japan. Kru is one of a select few restaurants to get 4 Stars from the Sacramento Bee. At Fish Face you can enjoy make-your-own poke bowls that are not fluffed up with noodles or rice.

Michael Fagnoni - Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay, CA and Hawks Provisions + Public House in Sacramento, CA.
Sacramentans were thrilled when Michael Fagnoni and his wife, Molly Hawks, opened up their second location on the edge of Midtown. For years they had had to drive out to the original Hawks for a stellar fine dining experience - one of the few 4 Star restaurants in the region. At the new Public House they have a more relaxed gastropub atmosphere but still serve food with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. Fagnoni has worked under renowned chefs in San Francisco and New York City including Rick Moonan at Oceana, Mark Sullivan at The Village Pub, and Traci des Jardins of Jardinière.

not much room to move
Edward Martinez - Milk Money
Edward Martinez considers Sacramento his home and the local chefs his family. After a life in gangs and time in the juvenile system, he managed to find a new life in the pastry world. He started in local restaurants such as the above mentioned Hawks before leaving to work with such famed chefs as Tyler Florence and Michael Mina, and in several restaurants in San Francisco and Las Vegas. In 2016 he won a StarChefs Rising Star award. He left the 2-Michelin Starred Lazy Bear to return to his Sacramento family to open Milk Money, featuring artisan crafted donuts and ice creams. Advanced pop-up previews have included donut creations such as the Ghostface Killah (black-pepper brioche, Strawberry Quik, powdered sugar) and the flaming Green Goblin (brioche, white chocolate, coconut and matcha).

Brock MacDonald’s culinary life has been in Sacramento working at the area’s (then) best restaurants, including Masque, Spataro, Tuli Bistro, and Thir13en. Over the years he developed an interest and expertise in butchery and charcuterie, leading to his position as Head Butcher and then Executive Chef at Lowbrau and Block Butcher Bar. Soon he and owner Michael Hargis will be opening Beast & Bounty, featuring dishes for either the carnivore or the vegetarian equally. Expect to also find desserts developed by his best friend, pastry chef Edward Martinez.

Kelly McCown - The Kitchen
Over the years Kelly McCown has been showered with plenty of accolades as he worked at restaurants on the west coast. He’s worked as Chef de Cuisine at the James Beard Foundation's Flying Fish and at Michelin starred Martini House, been named a "Rising Star Chef"  by Bon Appetit Magazine, and has been featured in pieces by Conde Naste Traveler, the New York Times, and Michelin. McCown opened one of Sacramento’s most popular restaurants, Ella, with the Selland Family before moving on to Goose & Gander in St. Helena. He has since returned to the Sellands to helm their flagship restaurant, The Kitchen. The Kitchen features a dinner show of multiple courses over four hours. It is considered the best value of high priced dining due to being that it is all-you-can-eat hospitality.

Oliver Ridgeway - Camden Spit & Larder
British native Oliver Ridgeway had moved many times in his life as a chef. Raised in London, he’s worked for famed chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans, at the James Beard House in New York, the Sydney and Salt Lake City Olympic Games, and even aboard the Queen Elizabeth II. In Sacramento he found a city where we felt he could settle down and raise a family. He brought his love of farm fresh ingredients and nose-to-tail dining to the Grange Restaurant within the Citizen Hotel. He recently left to branch out on his own with the soon to open Camden Spit & Larder, an homage to his London roots. The name refers to the spit-fired meats that will be featured as well as a “larder” that will be available for event bookings.

Dane Blom - Grange
Sacramento native Dane Blom has been a part of the local scene for many years. After culinary school and a stint at Michelin-starred Terra in Napa, he returned home to work at the original Hawks location in Granite Bay. He then worked several years as Chef de Cuisine with Oliver Ridgeway at Grange before returning to the Hawks family as Chef de Cuisine at Hawks Public House.  Upon the news of Ridgeway leaving Grange, he was asked to return as their new Executive Chef. He plans for everything to be made in-house, from the hamburger buns to the charcuterie, while keeping focus on his Sacramento roots.

Ramon Perez - Puur Chocolat
Ramon Perez grew up in the restaurant business, starting at his father’s restaurant, Auberge du Soleil, at the age of 12. It was there that he started learning and creating pastries before heading off to culinary school. He has worked at 3- Star Michelin restaurants; De Librije and Parkheuvel, as well as becoming Executive Pastry Chef for the David Myers Group in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. While there, Ramon was a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, and winner of the Star Chefs International Pastry Competition. Missing the Sacramento area and its abundance of farm fresh produce, he returned to start his chocolat line in 2013. He has plans to open up a specialty dessert location in Sacramento in the future.

Brad Cecchi - Canon
Brad Cecchi has returned to Sacramento after a successful run as Executive Chef at Michelin starred Solbar in Calistoga. Another Sacramento native, Cecchi started as a teen making pizzas at the local Embassy Suites before moving on to some of Sactown’s well known restaurants: Mulvaney’s B&L and Grange. Canon features contemporary California Mediterranean with a mix of Asian flavors and fermented ingredients.

Ginger Elizabeth Hahn - Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
She may be listed on the PBFW roster as from San Francisco, but that’s only because Ginger Elizabeth Hahn is promoting the opening of her second store located in the Cow Hollow area. Her Sacramento store was opened in 2006 and has featured her distinctive chocolates, an array of macarons, and signature desserts. In the winter she has special cupcake or custard days, while in the summer she focuses on ice creams and sundaes featuring fresh picked fruit from the region.  In 2010, Hahn was named one of the Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional Magazine.

Seven and a half years ago I had a small idea. Have a film festival for all the food documentaries that I never seemed to catch in Sacramento. Now it's time for the 6th edition of this great event series with another incredible line-up of films about food.

My friends at The Food Literacy Center have taken over this event as their main means of fundraising. It's a worthy cause of educating elementary school children to learn to love vegetables and eat more fresh, healthy foods. 

This  year's goal is to have fewer events that can reach more people with larger attendance. Therefore, there are only four events...and one is already sold out!

Check out the schedule below and then buy your tickets. We sell out every year, so don't procrastinate!

April 9, 2018 6:30 pm
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent
Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.
Famed chef Jeremiah Tower is coming to the Crest Theatre April 9 to present the film Anthony Bourdain created about him, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent.” The kickoff to the 2018 Food Film Festival is a special screening that will be preceded by an exclusive question-and-answer session. This is your chance to see the man Sacramento chefs are excited to meet, and who played a pivotal role in transforming the way America eats to focus on farm-to-fork fare.

Tower is renowned for leading the kitchen at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where the insistence on fresh local ingredients quickly gained notoriety. He is also known for Stars, a restaurant he ran in San Francisco for 14 years, as well as other projects across the country. This event will be Tower’s formal introduction to Sacramento as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, and he will be back in September to work with Sacramento chefs and lead the program for the Tower Bridge Dinner.

The film tells Tower’s story – beginning with his entrance into the industry and following the rise and tumultuous times that have made him a controversial figure and America’s first celebrity chef. Find out from the film and from the man himself why Anthony Bourdain says, “Jeremiah Tower’s menus made…a complete reevaluation of not just American food and ingredients – but food.”

Event Details:
• Q&A and Film Screen will take place at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.
• April 9, 2018
• Doors open at 6 p.m. with Q&A beginning at 6:30 p.m.
• Film screening will be at approximately 7 p.m.
• Ticket pricing: $15 in advance / $20 at the door


WASTED – SOLD OUT!Lucca Restaurant & Bar

Location: Lucca Restaurant & Bar, 1615 J St, Sacramento, CA 95814
Film: Wasted! The Story of Food Waste – Nari Kye & Anna Chai

April 14, 2018 - 5:30pm - 8:00pm

Saturday Night ShortsColonial Theatre

A fast-paced night featuring food from top local chefs, short films about food, a comedy pun-off and tasty libations.
  • General Admission $50.00
  • General Admission $60 (Prices go up in 2 weeks)
  • Early Bird $40.00 – SOLD OUT
  • VIPea $75.00 – SOLD OUT
Location: Colonial Theatre, 3522 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95820
  • Ernesto Delgado, Mayahuel
  • Edward Martinez, Milk Money
  • Brenda Ruiz, GEO Academy at Grant High School
  • Cesar Cienfuegos, UC Davis Dining
  • Santana Diaz, UC Davis Health
  • Whole Foods Catering
Films: Short Film Contest Winners
  • Super Veggies – The Superha Family
  • Hand Picked – Casey Toth
  • Tuka – Ian Midgley
  • Operation Apple – Giselle Kennedy
  • Food City: Feast of the Five Boroughs: Lars Fuchs & Matthew Fleischmann
  • Camelina – Lucas Bryce
At Saturday Night Shorts, you’ll get:
  • 5-7 small plates/bites prepared by some of the Sacramento region’s best chefs
  • Beer and wine available for purchase
Upgrade your experience! Go VIPea! Tickets include:
  • Swag bag
  • 1 free drink
  • Reserved VIPea seating
  • Exclusive free small plates/bites during pre-party
  • In-seat wait service (drinks for purchase)
All proceeds from this event will benefit Food Literacy Center.
Please note: Tickets are nonrefundable and nontransferable. Parking is limited. We recommend carpooling. We are unable to accommodate special diets. 

Broccoli HQ nightLeataata Floyd Elementary School

The Sacramento Food Film Festival celebrates food and drink paired with films about our food system. On April 21, community leaders will gather for the first public experience on the future Broccoli HQ site. The evening will showcase the architectural drawings and the project’s designers will share their plans. This year’s Finale event features small plates and bites from an all-star cast of local chefs, a “school lunch” dinner prepared by Sacramento Unified School District’s Nutrition & Food Services and a feature film from America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital!
Location: Leataata Floyd Elementary School, 401 McClatchy Way, Sacramento, CA 95818
  • Rick Mahan – The Waterboy
  • Kurt Spataro – Paragary’s
  • Billy Ngo – Kru
  • Chris Jarosz – Patriot
  • Santana Diaz – UC Davis Health
  • Whole Foods Catering
Lunch Line - A documentary that takes a new look at the school lunch program by exploring its past, its current challenges, and its opportunities for the future, from filmmakers Ernie Park and Michael Graziano.
4:30PM Mocktail and appetizer stations located throughout the 2.5 acre site of the future Broccoli HQ. Guests will enjoy bites by Sacramento’s top local chefs, view drawings of the project and walk the site. Remarks from Steve Hansen, Sacramento City Council and Jay Hansen, Sacramento City Unified School District Board Member.
6:00PM School lunch is served! Guests will join us in the elementary school cafeteria, where they will eat a family-style meal served on school lunch trays. The meal, prepared by school food service professionals, will feature the ideal school lunch.
6:10PM Program begins. Hear from Kevin Smith, Northwest Land Park & The Mill at Broadway and Food Literacy Center’s Founding Executive Director Amber Stott about their visions for the Broccoli HQ and its ties to existing school wellness programs happening at SCUSD.
6:30PM Film screening.
7:30PM Event concludes.
All proceeds from this event will benefit Food Literacy Center.
Please note: Tickets are nonrefundable and nontransferable. Valet Parking. We are unable to accommodate special diets.

Many people know that I am all for food literacy - educating oneself on everything that pertains to food: where it comes from, how it is grown, the health benefits, the people who produce it, etc. One of the best ways in our area to learn more about the food system is through The Culinary Institute of America in nearby Napa. You don't necessarily have to be attending the CIA either. They have several educational opportunities that are open to the public.

One of them is their series, Conversations at Copia. Each session focuses on a theme and has panel discussions with experts. Some of the past topics have included:

The next one is coming up in a couple of weeks. The Culinary Institute of America has announced the theme for their April 7-8 will be a focus on Sustainable Seafood and Bay Area Watersheds.

Guests will have the chance to learn more about sustainability and what chefs, fishmongers, and winemakers are doing to protect our rivers and oceans for the future. The highlight of the weekend will take place Saturday evening, which will include A Sea Change panel discussion and walk-around reception in their new one-of-a-kind teaching kitchen.The interactive reception will give guests the opportunity to mingle with the presenters and chefs while sampling selections from Napa Green Certified Wineries and sustainable seafood.
Presenters for the featured event on Saturday night will be Hog Island Oyster Co. co-founder, Terry Sawyer; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher, Sarah Mesnick; TwoXSea co-founder, Kenny Belov; and Cakebread Cellars founder, Bruce Cakebread; along with 25 Lusk executive chef Matthew Dolan serving as the moderator for the panel.
Additional activities throughout the weekend include a Guest Chef Demonstration from Fine & Rare Seafood and Wine Shop co-founder Ted Wilson; a demonstration from Chef Matthew Dolan that will include a singing of his book Simply Fish: 75 Modern and Delicious Recipes for Sustainable Seafood; a double feature of the movies Blind Sushi and Of The Sea in the Copia Theater; and much more.
Tickets will be sold separately for each of the weekend’s events and classes. For a full list of events and to purchase tickets, click here

When you go over the Eastern Sierra Mountains and first see the Carson Valley, you can't help but think of the settlers coming across the valley in wagon trains and seeing the mountains that towered in front of them that they would need to climb. The Carson Valley itself is wide and impressive when looked down upon from 7,000 feet. For over a century it has been the home of many cattle ranches and generations of families. 

Much of the valley was owned by the Dangberg family in the early 1900s, but over the decades pieces of it were sold off. In 1997, the main ranch was bought by the Bently family. The Bentlys have also been in the valley for over 100 years and have a tight bond to the region.

The Bently's have done great things with the ranch and for the area. In my prior piece on Wild Horses, I noted how they have limited fencing to allow the horses onto their land. As for the ranch itself, they are creating a sustainable, green, environmentally friendly ranch that helps not only the area around them, but their neighbors as well. That's for another, future post. 

This month the Bently's opened up their own modern butchering facility in Gardnerville. What makes it particularly special is that they will have a USDA Inspector on site. They are the only ranch on the west coast that can say that. All other ranches must send their beef to be processed at USDA certified processing centers. Some of that beef will end up at Sacramento's new Echo & Rig steakhouse. 

But let's talk a little beef first.

Most people have no idea how the meat on that styrofoam plate ends up in the store. Many have no idea of the way animals are raised, what they are fed or given in the way of antibiotics or treatments, the process that goes to getting them to slaughter, or the butchering process. They just pick up that package of meat, cook it, and eat it.

The ideal is to have an animal that is raised humanely, with plenty of room to roam and live a happy life outside of pens.

Bently Ranch does just that. Their cattle are all completely grass fed. There are many ranches that start their cattle off grass fed, but finish them on grains to fatten them up during the last stage of their lives before slaughter. Not the Bentlys. "Grass fed beef is naturally lower in calories and offers significantly higher values of many nutrients than conventional beef. Our cattle eat only natural grasses and hay grown on our farm. They never eat grains or silage in order to promote fattening."

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Bently Ranch has been certified as Global Animal Partnership Step Level 4 by IMI Global. You've probably seen that when you go to Whole Foods and they have the signs over the meat section. Step 4 pertains to being Pasture Raised. 
When it finally is time to slaughter, they are lucky enough to not be too far from Reno. The less travel time, the less stress on the animal. The cows are harvested in a small scale, local processing facility called Wolf Pack Meats. It is part of the University of Nevada, Reno. The facility is USDA inspected, and follows all guidelines for humane animal slaughter.  The beef is then returned to the Bentlys for processing at their new butchering facility. 

The beef is aged for three weeks minimum before being shipped off. Aging is an important process to the flavoring and tenderizing of meat, so it is a valuable step for quality meat. Bently Ranch is testing different aging times to see which is the best for their meat and the tastebuds of their customers. 

The butcher shop is the first to be LEED certified since it, like the ranch, meets green, sustainable goals for use of energy and reduction of waste.

Nathan Thomas is their Head Butcher. They knew they had found the right guy when he asked them more questions then they asked him. His butchery interest started in 2003 and he has held Head Butcher positions in several specialty shops in Seattle and Nevada. After being offered the job, he was told he could order whatever he wanted for equipping the cutting room, so he's in butcher heaven.

The meat is sold to restaurants, online, and to the locals. The Bentlys felt that their neighbors in the valley should be able to enjoy their local beef, and so the shop sells everything at a price point that makes sense for their community. I picked up some of their delicious beef, marrow bones, and bone broth. I make bone broth all this time, but theirs pops out of the container like a giant jello cube because it has so much healthy collagen. 

As Echo & Rig opens this month, the Bentlys will be looking for others who might be interested in serving their beef.