Monthly Archives: January 2015

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken | Paleo + Life

When I was a kid, I loved having chicken for dinner, because the drumsticks were mine. There was something so perfect and satisfying about them. They were just the right serving size, and even had a convenient handle built in. Let other people have the thighs, wings or the often-dry and boring chicken breasts: I was all about the legs.

As an adult, I have reluctantly ceded the drumsticks to our children. I do find I appreciate the other parts more — a nicely roasted chicken thigh is a thing of culinary beauty, but sometimes, I find that I miss them. Fortunately, I can usually find packs of them on sale. When I do, I am happy to scoop them up.

This particular recipe is almost too simple (i.e., perfect for a weeknight). A hot oven and a dash of a few quick spices take hardly any time at all. Curries come in such variety that it’s impossible to say which is my favorite. This Madras-style spice blend is a good one that I’m enjoying of late. It is perfect with all kinds of meat, and if you are near a spice shop, it’s very easy to find a good one. (I like this one from  The cooking is pretty much hands off; the eating, happily, is the exact opposite.

Curried Oven-Fried Chicken


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds chicken (I used only drumsticks, but a cut-up chicken would also work)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon madras-style curry powder


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pour half of the olive oil onto a baking sheet, with a basting brush, coat the entire sheet.
  3. Wash and pat dry the chicken, placing it on the baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and curry powder; drizzle the remaining olive oil over the meat.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, or until flesh is firm, skin is brown and the juices run clear. Remove from oven; serve promptly.

There Is A Season

Birds flying -- Lincoln City, OR

Birds flying — Lincoln City, OR

I am shell-shocked at the moment; one of my dear aunts passed away today.  While I know there is nothing I can do except cherish my too-limited memories of her, and that life goes on, I cannot focus my mind on the usual paleo + life stuff at the moment.

I will try to take the advice I always give in bereavement — isn’t it ironic how hard that is to do? But I will try to be patient and gentle with myself, and to share it with my little ones as appropriate, so they understand why I am sad.
Mostly, however, I just want to send all my love to my precious cousins who’ve lost their beautiful mother.

Playing in the Kitchen

finished soup

Today, I thought I’d dive in to recipe development in a bit more depth.
Recipe development: that sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? It’s not fancy in my head. Really, it’s just playing in the kitchen — usually because we’re starting to get hungry and need something fast. So here’s how a typical dinner happens around here.

raw veg

This one started, as they often do, with the realization that dinner needed to hit the table pretty darned soon, and I had no plan. Sigh. I spy some veggies in a wooden bowl, and think I should use that squash. The weather’s been cold and damp today; soup sounds good. I chop up the squash, and peel some carrots. Roasting is usually quick, and gives really good flavor. Roasting brings out the sweetness, so I’m pretty sure even the littles will like it.

Thinking I’d like something warm and Mexican-inspired, I pull out salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and sprinkle those on the veggies. I quickly melt a bit of coconut oil, and pour that over them as well. Pop the trays in a 425 degree oven, and that’s underway.

I send a text to the husband, trying to convince him to pick up a rotisserie chicken on his way home. Husband says nope, can’t do it. Another dramatic sigh. I’ll pull something out of the freezer.

pork jowl

A quick dig around in our small freezer brings me to this chunk of smoked pork jowl. I figure hey, that’s basically bacon. I’m going to slice it up and fry it to go with the soup.

While the meat is cooking, I start thinking about the final dish. Since I’m going to puree the veggies in the Vitamix, I know the soup will be super smooth and silky. Crisp pork will make a nice contrast to that, but I want a bit of crunch (and color) as well. How can I do that? I pull out the hand grater and shred some red cabbage.

Onions in Pork Fat | Paleo + Life

I think about adding some of the garlic I roasted last week to the soup, but am torn. Like the roasted veg, the garlic is sweet, but the flavor’s a bit stronger than I want. Instead, when the pork is done cooking, I slice an onion really thin, and cook the slices in the rendered fat. The onion slices start to caramelize as they cook, starting to develop a deep, sweet flavor, but also picking up a bit of the smoky flavor from the cooking fat. As I taste them, I think: Yup, that was the right choice.

When the onions are done, I pull them out of the pan and set them aside. By this time, the carrots and squash are fork tender, so I pull them out of the oven. I let them cool for a few minutes, but since we need to dish dinner up PDQ I’m handling them while they’re still hot. The carrots are already peeled, and just need slicing, but the squash needs the peel taken off as well. I toss the chunks into the Vitamix, and blend away.  Because of the quantity of veggies, I do this in two batches.

Once the soup is blended, dinner’s basically done. I scoop a hefty portion into a bowl for each of us, topping it with the red cabbage, bacon and fried onions.  No time for fancy plating: we’re starving, and it smells fantastic. We dig in.

Got Up and Went

Oh, did I start the day with good intentions. Take the little one to baby playtime, get a giant chunk of studying done, do several loads of desperately needed laundry…you know the drill. All of the life stuff that gets ignored when you are actually busy living your life.

But? Eh. The husband is down for the count with the creeping crud, the children are all randomly full of coughs and oozing various bodily fluids, and I cannot separate the youngest one from my leg without a chisel. I think that means its time for our group to regroup and get some rest.

I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, though, so here’s a quick glance at some of the interesting things I’ve been reading this week. Some are recipes, some aren’t, but all are worth a few minutes of your time:

Healthy Crush’s The Truth About Eating Paleo

The Huffington Post on the newest steak cut: the merlot

Lauren Lives Healthy’s Banana Almond Swirl Ice Cream

Urban Poser’s Paleo Caramel Topping

Women Who Live on Rocks (hilarious tales about life on various islands)

Camille in the Kitchen’s Shaved Asparagus and Citrus Salad

Chris Kresser on budget healthy living

Vegan Parmesan from e. zontho

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Orange-Parsley Chimichurri, from Tasty Yummies

Jicama Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and a Citrus Vinaigrette

Enjoy. I’d love to know what you are reading. As always, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Potatoes and Pecans

Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

How goes your January clean eating challenge? So far, so good around these parts. As opposed to last year, when I did my first one, I am actually enjoying it. I feel far less stressed about the process –it’s more of a reminder to myself, since I’ve basically got the “rules” down from a year of being paleo. It also helps that it’s a less restrictive challenge this time around. While I appreciated jumping into the deep end as a paleo newbie, the 21-day primal feels more compatible with my day-to-day life.

Which brings me to sweet potatoes (bear with me, it will make sense in a moment).

Sweet Potatoes & Pecans | Paleo + Life

I have always loved sweets, even pre-paleo, though I tended to reserve them for holiday eating. But it turns out they are full of vitamins A and B-6, among other things. With those kind of benefits, I am happy to eat them year-round.

We steam, mash, bake turn them into fries, pie, breads, even muffins. But at the moment, I’m focusing on quicker dishes, so my daily diet has been more about “how fast can I get food into my face and get back to my work?” than the patient cooking sweet potatoes require.

In order to make that happen, I’ve turned to the microwave. Ours has a “potato” setting, though I usually find that I need to set the machine for two potatoes instead of one (or three instead of two, etc). Still, it helps me get this vitamin-filled deliciousness onto my plate in a hurry. Topping them with coconut oil, pecans and coconut flakes adds healthy fats and makes even a fast snack feel luxurious.

Potatoes and Pecans


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or ghee
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes


  1. Wash potatoes and dry them; poke them with a fork several times.
  2. Microwave potatoes on high for 12 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.
  3. Remove from microwave; slice potatoes in half and place into serving bowls.
  4. Split potatoes vertically; slip a dollop of coconut oil or ghee into the potato and mix it into the flesh thoroughly.
  5. To serve, top each half of potato with apple sauce, cinnamon and coconut flakes, and chopped pecans.

Taking on a Challenge

Happy Monday! Is that an oxymoron for people? I know the start of the week can be rough (my youngest girl went off to school with a melodramatic frown and a pair of sunglasses that practically covered her entire face).

I’m a wee bit giddy today because, even though I am knee-deep in studying, I decided that I would make time for a dietary refresh. While keeping the blog helps me hew to the paleo path pretty closely, I still sometimes take a detour (can I just make the weirdest confession here? Of all the non-paleo food out there, the one that gets me is crunchy tacos from you-know-where. Seriously. No, I have no idea what that’s about).

While I don’t think feeling guilty about straying from a strict paleo template makes sense, I do want to be my best, healthiest self for the next few weeks — and with the intensive work I’m doing, it is all too easy to justify a treat here, an indulgence there, until your 80/20 is more like 60/40. Now, 60% real food is still a darned sight better than none, but I have a two-day mental marathon and I need to be sharp.

What I love about the challenge is that at its base, it is simple: Eat good food, make time to move, and get good rest. Check out the lovely infographic below.

The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge
Doesn’t that sound good? You can do anything for just three weeks, right? I’m sure I can.

Drop a note in the comments if you’re trying the 21-day challenge, or doing something else. I would love to know what you’re up to this month!

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic | Paleo + Life

Food Lovers’ Fridays: I’m a big fan of bringing classical cooking methods and recipes into the home kitchen. Today’s post is part of a series meant to highlight those traditional techniques and recipes that can be used in or adapted to paleo cooking.

I’m just gonna come out and say it: You need this.

That’s a bold pronouncement, I know. But I’m not backing down from it. Roasted garlic can change your culinary life.

When you switch from the standard American diet to a whole foods/ancestral eating template, one of the things you lose is hyperpalatable food. Processed foods have scientifically engineered ratios of sugar, salt and fat to get you hooked. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a smart business decision. Big flavor makes you come back for more (and more and more).

So when you make the change to a new way of eating, getting used to natural tastes can be a challenge. But don’t despair. Real, whole food can have big, intense flavors, too — you just have to figure out how to make them happen.

Enter roasted garlic.

Roasted Garlic | Paleo + Life

Creamy, carmelized, and meltingly tender, roasted garlic will become your new go-to flavor booster. Less than an hour in a hot oven makes the sharp tang of raw garlic mellow into something so different, so luscious, it’s hard to believe it’s the same food. Spread it on crackers, mash it into soups, rub it on steaks or baked potatoes, mix it into guacamole, make salad dressing with it — once you’ve made a batch, you’ll want to use it all the time.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Roasted Garlic


  • 5 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon herbs (I like rosemary or marjoram)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the papery skin off of the garlic heads, but do not separate the cloves. Cut off the tips of each head of garlic (approximately 1/4").
  3. With aluminum foil, make a small packet to hold the garlic. Place a dollop of coconut oil on the cut side of each head. Sprinkle the herbs and salt over the garlic; close the foil packet tightly.
  4. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, or until garlic cloves are softened and lightly colored.
  5. Remove from oven; set aside until ready to serve.

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce | Paleo + Life

As I mentioned last time, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to more consistently eat paleo “superfoods.” I’m aiming for at least once a week. Organ meats are an easy place to start keeping that resolution. With all of the health benefits they offer (the B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin D, iodine, zinc, CoQ10, etc., etc. — check out this great post from The Paleo Mom for more details), these are truly the unsung heroes of the freezer case.

Heart, in particular, is a nice introduction to learning how to eat the odd bits. It’s muscle meat, just like steaks or ribs which are so familiar to us:  the flavor of heart is really just an especially ‘beefy’ roast beef.  The long, low and slow cooking that the sous vide provides makes the meat deliciously tender. (This dish can also be made in the slow cooker, but I find using the sous vide provides a very tender texture.)

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce | Paleo + Life

My favorite way to serve beef heart is in romesco sauce. One of the loveliest, most versatile sauces I know, it comes from the Catalan region of Spain. Like any good traditional recipe, romesco has many variations. Some versions use tomatoes, some use bread, but just about all feature sweet peppers, garlic and almond flour.

Prepared in the sous vide, the flavors of the vegetables and meat infuse one another so that each bite holds the essence of all the ingredients. Here, I’ve blended the vegetables with the juices from the meat, which gives the sauce a deep velvety brown color. For a thicker, more colorful sauce, when you open the packet, pour off the meat juices and puree the veggies. Depending on which pepper you have used, the sauce will take on that color.
(Don’t discard the juices: pour them into a saucepan, and cook over medium high heat until the volume is reduced by half. Drizzle a bit of this over the beef. It is delicious.)

Beef Heart in Romesco Sauce


  • Beef heart, approximately 3 lbs
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond flour


  1. Preheat sous vide to 185 degrees.
  2. Rinse the heart and pat dry. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the paprika, parsley, salt and pepper over the meat, making sure all sides of the heart are coated.
  3. In a sous vide pouch, combine the heart, onions, bell peppers, garlic and oil. With the vacuum sealer, seal the bag shut.
  4. Place pouch in the sous vide. Allow to cook for 24-36 hours. Remove pouch from sous vide and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  5. When cooled, open pouch and remove heart; set aside. Pour vegetables, cooking juices and almond flour into a high-speed blender and puree for 15-20 seconds, or until a smooth sauce has formed.
  6. Slice the heart into portions approximately 3/4" thick. When ready to serve, top slices of heart with a spoonful of sauce.

Making That Change


Shredded pork, sauteed greens and baked potato. A fairly typical — and easy — Primal dinner. (Trade the sour cream for ghee if you’re on a Whole30.)

I am continuing with the theme of resolutions today. I realized that in my previous post about resolutions, where shared my paleo intro story, I was so focused on encouraging paleo newbies to give it a try right now that I forgot a most important part: my resolutions for the new year, as a more experienced paleo eater. Now that the first blush of romance with paleo is over, what do I do to keep this a sustainable lifestyle?

Here, in no particular order, are my paleo resolutions:

Eat more superfoods.

While I love love love beef tongue and heart (recipe coming soon!), I have been rather irregular about incorporating these and other paleo superfoods like sauerkraut, seafood, and bone broth into my diet. My resolution is to have these foods at least once a week.

Up my vegetable quotient.

Dr. Terry Wahls, author of The Wahls Protocol and recovered MS patient, recommends that we all — yes, even those who do not have autoimmune disorders — eat at least nine cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
Nine! Can you imagine? Some days I’m lucky to get one. (I lean heavily toward protein, since I happen to like meat more than I do veggies.) When I am really on top of my game and paying attention to my food, I average about six servings a day.

My resolution: at least once a week, get nine servings in a day.

Learn to make a really good Paleo bread.

This resolution is more about the family more than me, but there’s certainly some self-interest behind this goal. While I generally prefer not to indulge, and while it may not be super strict paleo, I do think there is a place in a paleo lifestyle for the occasional loaf of bread, crackers, muffins, etc.

My resolution: create the best darn bread I can devise.
(I suspect this resolution will require the assistance of my very talented mama.)

Cook my way through an entire paleo cookbook.

I’ve always admired folks like Carol Blymire, who cooked her way through two foodie masterworks: The French Laundry Cookbook and the Alinea cookbook. While my ambitions are on a somewhat smaller scale, and I’m not certain when I will start, I think it will be lots of fun to make my way through a book and a challenge to expand my horizons a bit more. (Oysters, anyone? Shudder.)

My resolution: Cook every recipe in The Zenbelly Cookbook.

Dial in the paleo lifestyle.

That’s such an odd phrase, isn’t it? To “dial in?” I have a love/hate relationship with it. It sounds jargon-y, and more than a little pretentious, to my ear. On the other hand, it adds a tactile dimension that is often missing from our day-to-day lives, when so much of what we do takes place in “cyberspace.”

I want more tactile experiences in life. It’s part of why I enjoy cooking. The experience of preparing food centers me, helps ground me and makes me feel connected to my body. And in order to have these experiences, I need to take the best care of myself that I can, so I will be in good enough shape to enjoy them!

My resolution: Get more sleep, lower my stress levels, and strengthen my core.
(These are somewhat general, and I know specific and measurable goals are important here. I will need to define this piece more clearly before I undertake it.)

That’s it for me. I think that’s quite enough! I’d love to know what your resolutions are this year, paleo and otherwise. Feel free to share in the comments.


Happy (Re)New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you had a more interesting New Year’s Eve than I did. Not that I regret it: the husband and the toddler both seem to be getting a cold, so we were asleep before 10 p.m. (The teenagers, on the other hand, well…they will learn.)
I got so much rest I actually did not mind waking up at the crack of dawn with the youngest two.

Lately, my first post of the month has been a check in about how I did last month. Since this is the start of a new year, though, I want to talk about resolutions.

Most years, I have sworn off New Year’s resolutions. It felt like setting myself up for failure. I started out with high enthusiasm and good intentions, but when the inevitable backslide happened — and it always happened — I was disgusted with myself. Once again, I had failed. Why couldn’t I get it together? Why couldn’t I stick with something I knew was good for me?
So I said the heck with it. Why bother making myself feel bad? Surely, I had other things to do with my life.

But last year, around this time, I found myself facing my 40s, with a three-month-old baby, feeling desperate and unhappy. My weight was not where I wanted it, I was taking meds that made me feel gross, and between graduate school and family responsibilities, I was stressed beyond belief. I knew I needed to do something, but I was not sure what.

I decided to start with food. I’m sure this surprises no one who knows me. I love food, and cooking, and thinking about it and talking about it and finding new things to do with it that will taste amazing and maybe/possibly/sorta/kinda get my youngest daughter to eat a vegetable without complaint. It just made the most sense to try to adjust things there.

Considering that the one thing all healthy diets have in common is eating lots of vegetables, that seemed the way to go. Using a plan by a popular food writer, I tried going semi-vegan.

In a nutshell, that plan did not work for me. I didn’t feel any better, and I was often irritable and frustrated. It did not feel at all like something I could live with long-term.  Feeling even more desperate, I stumbled across a post from a cousin.
I paid close attention because she had also just had a little one — her baby boy is just two weeks older than my own. She mentioned that she had done a Whole30, and the baby weight just fell off. She also shared that she was just generally feeling great, which was just about the opposite of how I felt.
I had heard a little bit about paleo before, but her post just tipped me over the edge. I started doing some research, discovered there was a surprising amount of scientific evidence for eating this way, and dove in to a Whole30 of my own. Somehow, I convinced the husband to do it with me, and took off. The rest is (happy) history.

Below is a link to the Family Resolution Revolution ebook bundle, on sale through Sunday. There are so many good books and product discounts in this sale! Whether you are new to paleo or an experienced paleo-ista, I highly recommend you check it out.You’ll learn about nontoxic cleaners, how to ferment just about anything (there’s at least six versions of homemade sauerkraut alone), great yoga workout tips, how to create yummy gelatin treats for your kids — or yourself! –to eat… A collection like this, with over 40 discounted books, is a great way to get someone started on the paleo path quickly and inexpensively. The discount codes, like 15% off Honeyville Almond Flour, or 10% off EXO cricket bars, only add to the awesomeness of the sale.


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