Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Report: Real-Life Paleo

Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. As always, all opinions are my own.

Matt McCarry and Stacy Toth are the dynamic duo behind Paleo Parents, and prolific authors of paleo cookbooks, including one on eating nose-to-tail (Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog)* and one for kids (Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids)*. Their newest offering is Real Life Paleo: 175 Gluten-Free Recipes, Meal Ideas, and an Easy 3-Phased Approach to Lose Weight & Gain Health*, which suggests a slower, three-phased approach to taking on a paleo diet.

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Quick Banana-Chocolate Souffle Cake, p. 146

In brief: this book is a gold mine. While I am a “jump in with both feet” kind of person, not everyone can handle that approach, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Stacy and Matt’s very encouraging tone gently leads the reader by the hand, always explaining why certain foods are encouraged or discouraged, letting them get more comfortable with the idea of paleo eating while offering tasty, kid-friendly recipes. It is written in a very conversational, friendly tone: I had to wrestle it away from my oldest in order to read it for this review!

In Phase 1: Swap, you swap out the worst foods in the diet. This means going gluten-free, as well as taking out refined and processed foods, changing dairy products and meat (full fat, organic and grass-fed are king here), and eating more veggies. The book has a useful tear-out grocery shopping guide that you can use in the store to remind you of products to look for while shopping, and tips for going out to eat. (As the primary cook in our house, this may be my favorite part of the book.)

In Phase 2: Remove, you focus on removing other grains, dropping dairy, legumes, and processed oils. (In this phase, you ‘go paleo.’) Matt and Stacy share more shopping tips here, and share suggestions from their family’s transition, as well as lists of paleo kitchen staples and suggestions for family activities (some food related, some not).

If Phase 2 is Paleo 101, then Phase 3: Heal is the next course in the sequence. In this phase, organ meats, bone broth, fermented foods and more are added to the diet. These are considered paleo super foods, in that aren’t just good for you, but can actively help heal your digestive system. This phase also emphasizes lifestyle aspects of paleo, since they can be just as healing as the foods you’re eating.

Green Onion and Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese from Real Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese, p. 238

There is much more to the book: suggested menus, meal plans, and spice blends, as well as close to 200 recipes. Speaking of those: all of the recipes are categorized by phase, and all are indexed to help those who need to avoid specific allergens. There are lots of recipes for staples like coconut milk, and many good ideas for less-sweet alternatives to both breakfasts and desserts. Thus far, my favorite new-to-me recipe is the Green Onion and Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese (one of many squash recipes) — the husband went for seconds and thirds, and the meat loving oldest boy was barely done with his dinner portion when he asked to have some for breakfast. That dish is definitely going in the permanent rotation, though it may be a while, as my must-try list is about a mile long. The book strikes a good balance between safe, simple flavors kids will like, and a few adventurous ones that stretch the palate a bit (both the homemade beef energy bars and the mussels are on my list).

The Real Life Paleo approach is a really sustainable way to get folks eating healthier, one meal at a time. I wish I had had this book when we started our paleo journey: I dare say my kids would have been far happier if we had gone paleo this way. Still, I’m glad to have it now. This book has earned a place on my bookshelf for everyday inspiration.

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever from Real-Life Paleo | Paleo + Life

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever, p. 384

Healthiest Ice Cream Ever


  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1-1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1 (13-1/3 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk or 1-3/4 cups homemade
  • 2 large pastured egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix, for garnish*


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Remove the ends of the squash, slice it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Then peel and cube the squash. Spread out the squash cubes in a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely.
  3. Place 2 packed cups of the cooked squash and the remaining ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn, following the manufacturer's directions, until stiffened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Freeze in an airtight container for at least 30 minutes before serving. If frozen for more than four hours, let rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. (Natural ice creams don't contain chemical softeners, so they set hard like ice and require time to soften.)
  6. Scoop into bowls and top with the Slightly Sweet & Salty Snack Mix.

Note: if you can’t find butternut squash, any winter squash will do. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged peeled and cubed butternut squash to make this recipe even easier, but we’ve heard that pumpkin is a fan favorite.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? Never fear. After cooking and cooling the squash, place it in the freezer to harden for a few hours. Then, once partially frozen, add the squash and remaining ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree — you’ll have instant soft-serve.

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Book Review: The Kitchen Ecosystem

Note to my readers: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The premise behind Eugenia Bone’s new book, The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals*, is a simple one: let nothing go to waste. When you’re cooking, you should use some of the food fresh, preserve some, make use of the scraps for another ingredient, use them, then use the preserves, in an ongoing cycle.
It’s a modern take on what our mothers might have called being frugal. Our grandparents wouldn’t have even had a name for it — it is just the way they cooked. Saving meat and vegetable scraps to make stock, making your own  mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup, recycling fruit peels into jelly or candies…these are all time-honored techniques for getting the absolute most out of your food dollar. Who doesn’t want to do that?

If you didn’t grow up in a kitchen that worked this way, it might sound like a miserly way of cooking. However, having your own kitchen ecosystem is anything but miserly — it’s freeing. When you have these basics like these in your kitchen, a good meal is always easy to create. Saving the water veggies were cooked in as a base for soup saves vitamins that would otherwise be lost to the cooking process. Rendering fat from a duck or a piece of pork adds a boost of extra flavor to a dish without adding extra cost. It’s the same principle as a paleo eater’s weekly cook up, where you make a bunch of recipes on the weekend and eat them over the course of the week, but on a longer timeline.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Feral Greens | Paleo + Life

Feral Greens, p. 231

While The Kitchen Ecosystem is not a paleo/Primal cookbook per se, it is very paleo- and Primal-friendly. Ms. Bone emphasizes using fresh, natural ingredients;  eating real, homemade food. Many of the recipes are paleo, with no tweaks needed, while others require only simple substitutions such as trading zucchini noodles for pasta. For bread or grain-based recipes, you’d have to experiment, but many of the ideas are still usable, like using leftover whey from cheese making as the liquid in a bread recipe.

Speaking of recipes: this book contains hundreds. That is literal: each of the forty-plus foods included gets its own mini-chapter with a minimum of six recipes; most have eight or more.
Bone describes her kitchen as mostly Mediterranean, so many of the recipes are traditional ones that will be familiar to a lot of Americans (garlic, rosemary and olive chicken and zabaglione are included, as are many cocktail recipes). Others will be a little more exotic, such as flounder in grape sauce, but all of them are very do-able.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Roasted Radishes | Paleo + Life

Roasted Radishes, p. 272

Do-able is really the watchword of this book. What I like most is that the author’s methods are very accessible. Her writing is friendly and encouraging, and many of the recipes have fun anecdotes or useful tips in the head notes. You always get the sense that you can ease into this way of cooking pretty simply. Do as little or as much as you want — for example, if you aren’t into canning, you still can make many of the recipes that call for that technique, but just use the foods more quickly. As you get more comfortable cooking this way, you can try more of the techniques and really make it your own.

All in all, I think The Kitchen Ecosystem is a solid addition to a cookbook library. If you have friends and family who are curious about a real foods diet, but are not ready to go full-on paleo, this book is a great place to start.

The Kitchen Ecosystem's Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage | Paleo + Life

Stewed Apples with Red Cabbage


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups finely sliced red cabbage (1 small head)
  • 2 cups chopped peeled apples or 1 pint applesauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples, bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until the apples are hot and tender, 3 to 4 minutes longer.


* = Affiliate link.

Book Review: The Paleo Approach

Holy cats, people.

I like to think I’m a cool customer. I know the dangers of hero worship. I know no one is perfect, but dang it all: Dr. Sarah Ballantyne — AKA The Paleo Mom — has written a book so thorough, so thoughtful, so … awesome, that I have officially added her to the list of people I want to be when I grow up. Effusive praise, I know. However, there is no way to be cool about this: The Paleo Approach knocks my socks off.

The book, all about how a more fine-tuned version of the paleo way of eating can help heal autoimmune disease, is broadly divided into two sections: The Cause and The Cure. In both parts, Dr. Ballantyne’s clear, precise prose — along with her clever illustrations — takes you through an astonishing amount of science without ever making you feel as if it is too complex or over your head. Each chapter is jam-packed with information; you can’t learning something from this book. In incredible detail, Dr. Ballantyne makes the case for getting inflammatory, damaging foods out of our diets and getting nutrient dense, gut-healing foods back in.

Once you’ve decided to embark on the autoimmune protocol (AIP), Dr. Ballantyne includes tips on how to get started, a thorough troubleshooting section, and a further chapter on what she calls “the long haul” to get you thinking about how to eat (and live — she strongly emphasizes lifestyle factors as well as food) in the long-term.  An extensive reference section gives plenty of information for those who want to dig into the research. It’s exciting to see such a thorough, thoughtful, encouraging approach to what can easily feel overly restrictive.

Equally exciting, The Paleo Approach Cookbook, the companion to The Paleo Approach, was just released last week. I have not yet got a copy of it, but am definitely looking forward to getting my hands on that book as well. The Paleo Approach is a well-done resource book that belongs in most every paleo eater’s library: I am certain its companion piece will prove equally excellent.

Book Review: Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on The Go

As its title states, Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go* attempts to solve the biggest conundrum for new paleo eaters: the need for fast, portable food that holds up well in travel. The book succeeds admirably. Author Diana Rodgers, a nutritional therapy practitioner, offers a ton of tasty recipes that fit the bill perfectly.

What is wonderful about the book is that it is more than just a collection of recipes. Rodgers shares her own path to the paleo lifestyle, and tips for those who want to go cold turkey or take a “baby steps” approach to going gluten- and grain-free. She also shares nutritional information, advice for dining out and a great FAQ. The section on “Paleo Pitfalls”  and the menu plan with three weeks of kid-friendly lunches make this book a must-have.

Then, there are the recipes. The book begins with two chapters of wraps, which might not sound exciting to the uninitiated. However, Rodgers adds pizzazz with clever flavor combinations and creative choices. Her Portable Tuscan Wrap puts plain submarine sandwiches to shame, and the Smoked Duck Wrap with Cherries and Hazelnuts had me headed for the grocery store almost before I finished reading the page. The Grilled Eggplant Rollups are beautiful and delicious.

Later chapters feature delicious soups (her version of Greek avgolemono is excellent), salads, multiple breakfast sausage recipes (one with cherries and tarragon — mmm), as well as recipes for paleo staples like broth, mayonnaise and more. Rodgers even includes recipes for snacks/hors d’oeuvres, biscuits and crackers. Just about every recipe includes tips on how best to transport the food and how well the dishes stand up to travel. Finally, she ends the book with a brief resource section that includes recommendations for other paleo reference books and websites.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The only negative comments I might make were about the few typos I noted, and that one recipe is referred to in another by an incorrect name. These are small quibbles, however, and would not stop me from recommending this book to anyone who wants fresh ideas for paleo meals.
Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On the Go: The Solution to Gluten-Free Eating All Day Long with Delicious, Easy and Portable Primal Meals*

* = affiliate link.

Book Review: Eating on The Wild Side

Jo Robinson’s book, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health*, is a wonder. Its premise is simple: in our quest to make our staple foods look good, sturdy enough to survive long transit times, and more palatable (i.e., sweet), we have bred much of the nutrition out of it. Since we can’t go back to eating a true hunter-gatherer diet, each chapter offers tips for choosing the most nutritious foods we can within our modern food system.

This book is, simply put, genius. Divided into two large sections on vegetables and fruits, each chapter features a different food or food group. At the start of each chapter, Robinson hooks the reader in with an interesting historical or scientific anecdote. She then discusses the transition from the wild versions of a plant to the modern domesticated one, and suggests the best types to buy and grow, along with serving suggestions and interesting facts about the various foods. Did you know white-fleshed peaches contained more phytonutrients than yellow ones? I certainly didn’t. That cooked blueberries are even better for you than raw ones? News to me. Or that allicin, found in garlic, can be as effective as penicillin?

Most chapters also include a featured recipe, such as the Armenian Lentil Soup in the chapter on legumes, a tomato salsa, Black Plum Sauce (Stone Fruits) or the mixed fruit salad with Thai herbs (Melons). Every chapter ends with a chart of recommended varieties to look for when shopping or to grow yourself in the garden, as well as a bulleted list of the chapter’s major points that makes a great reference when you are ready to shop for seeds and plants for the garden, or for produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

Another reason I love this book is that Robinson provides a thorough list of references to the scientific sources for each chapter’s claims; being able to follow up on a thread that has piqued my interest makes the pleasure of the book last that much longer. Not to mention, Robinson’s writing style is casual yet engaging: even though I fully intended to savor the book bit by bit, somehow I found myself speeding through it eagerly. Because I did cruise through the book so quickly, I am certain there is more to be found in another, closer reading. The book is so pleasant to read, I look forward to revisiting it again and again.

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health*

* = Affiliate link.

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