Tag Archives: paleo tips

Happy Thanksgiving To You!

Paleo + Life | Bacon-Wrapped Turkey
This pretty beastie is my all-time favorite. All other turkeys pale in comparison to the joy of the bacon wrap!

How is it already Thanksgiving time? I was just discussing with a friend how it always seems like “Oh, it’s two weeks away, I don’t need to worry about that yet!” and suddenly it’s HERE. Whoops.

But no need to fret: one of the reasons I adore Thanksgiving is that it’s really the simplest holiday to manage. Not like Halloween, with costumes and candy and trying to plan treats that won’t make one feel bad afterward; or all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas (and which, I might add, has been going on since darned near August!). Turkey Day is the best because it’s just three parts: Buy food. Cook it. Eat it.
Depending on your family, there may also be football (we are sports-averse, so this is not us), or a trip to the movies (sadly, the tot is not quite old enough for this yet), but the heart of this holiday is the meal. It’s a food blogger’s dream come true.

Every year, I try to make the meal just a little bit different. Sure, there’s always turkey, and there’s gotta be dressing (NOT stuffing and yes, there is a BIG difference), but the sides and desserts are where I like to have my fun. This year, I’m thinking:

It’s simple, totally Paleo, and easy as the proverbial pie. I’m so looking forward to a relaxing day of cooking up some goodies for the family.

What are you thinking of making for this foodiest of holidays? Drop a line in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Compound Butter

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 have been dragging lately. These days I cannot seem to get motivated and I am cranky when I have to try. I guess the whole bar experience took more out of me than I realized. It doesn’t mean I am not thinking of food, or wanting lush, expansive doses of flavor — it just means I’m leaning more heavily on the culinary tricks that offer the most bang for the buck.
Thus, today’s FLF is one of the simplest, but most amazing things I know how to make: compound butter.

It really is as simple as it gets: warm some butter, dice some herbs, moosh together, and serve. If you are a more strict paleo eater, you’ll use ghee. If you aIre vegan, I would try a combination of equal parts red palm oil and coconut oil. The red palm has a rich, carroty flavor that is reminiscent of butter or ghee, and the coconut oil makes that flavor a little less intense, so that the flavor of the herbs can shine.

Because compound butters so simple, they allow for endless variations. My favorites, I think, are  fresh herbs from our garden with just a touch of salt. A single herb works just as well as a blend, so use whatever you’ve got. Compound butters don’t have to be savory, though — a vanilla and coconut sugar version, for example, would be great on a paleo muffin or bread.

I call the attached version Scarborough Fair Butter after the song; it’s my go-to for seasoning our Thanksgiving turkey. Because rosemary and sage are more dominant flavors, I’ve balanced them with a stronger dose of thyme and parsley. It is equally adept at livening up any number of vegetables (try roasted beets or sweet potatoes) or swirled atop a gorgeous grilled steak. That extra hit of flavor is divine.

Food Lovers’ Fridays: Compound Butter


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. In a small bowl, combine parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage, and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  2. Continuing to stir the mixture, add the softened butter. Mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.
  3. If preparing for later, roll the mixture into a cylindrical shape. Cover with plastic wrap, then wrap the bundle with aluminum foil. Place in freezer until ready to use.


Paleo Off-Roading


Lately, I am having the sorts of days where I do things like wash a load of laundry and then accidentally pour laundry soap on it again. Or I start to do something walk into a room and then forget why I came into it. Where I look into the fridge and the only food to be found is a bunch of rainbow carrots, a bottle of lemon juice and a jar of strawberries I pickled in 2013.

 I can just about manage a load of laundry every other day — the piles that six people create are frankly shocking — and by and large, I remember to feed us all. Our little routines are taking on more importance; family movie night was always important, but is now a Big Deal, and Friday afternoon pizza seems to be A Thing for the youngest two. (I just discovered that our favorite pizza place does gluten free slices, which is very exciting.)

Speaking of pizza, I wanted to talk about “off-roading”, which is my phrase for foods that aren’t strictly Paleo. We do a fair bit of off-roading here, particularly when I’m in a busy period like the one I’m having now.

While I’m still avoiding the biggest Paleo no-nos (gluten, I’m looking at you) , I do think that there are solid reasons to consider these foods:

Beans: These get a lot of flak, because of their gas-inducing qualities, and also because their natural defense mechanisms are believed to be irritating to the gut. Dr. Alan Christianson, author of the Adrenal Reset Diet, makes a pretty good case for not worrying about eating beans in this article.

Rice: Of all the foods, I think rice was what my second-most missed during my Whole30 (oatmeal was most, believe it or not). But when I gave it a try during the re-introduction period, I my body reacted very strongly. I got the shakes and was dizzy about 30 minutes after eating.  Since then, I have cautiously re-introduced rice to my diet. As long as I don’t have too much at a sitting, and I accompany it with a good portion of protein and fat, I do okay.
Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple explains why, surprisingly, the occasional meal with white rice is not that bad, as long as it isn’t displacing better, more nutrient-dense foods in your diet.

White Potatoes: This one, oddly, feels like the biggest “cheat” to me. It’s largely because when I started eating paleo via a Whole30, we gave up white potatoes entirely. My husband, as I’ve mentioned, has diabetes, and white potatoes were not on the menu for us much anyway, but going off them was still a big deal.
However, as explained by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig in this post, white potatoes are actually pretty nutritious and thus, are now permitted on the Whole30. Because they are still pretty dense sources of carbohydrate, when we do have white potatoes, I tend to combine them with lower-carb veggies like cauliflower or rutabaga, or to use them as an ingredient in a stew or casserole rather than as a dish in their own right. It works for us.

What are your gray area/off-road paleo foods? Let me know in the comments.

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!

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.


Intro to Paleo

Nerd Christmas | Paleo + Life

My sweetie got me the best gift: a TARDIS tea infuser. So. Awesome.

Did you have a good Christmas (assuming you celebrate it)? Ours was surprisingly sweet.
My wonderful mother-in-law had created a most epic advent for the kids, based around the Nutcracker. Each day, we read a short excerpt from the story, and then opened a gift which related to that excerpt — culminating in the gift of a DVD of the ballet as performed at Covent Garden in London. On Christmas Day, we opened presents, had a lovely dinner, and watched the video. As a final nod to the theme, we even had Nutcracker-themed Christmas crackers!
I am extraordinarily lucky to have J. as my mother-in-law; her thoughtfulness inspires me. I look forward to (someday, a long, long time from now) being as good a grandmother as she.

Speaking of looking forward: As I mentioned the other day, I am hoping that the new year brings more folks into the paleo fold. While I assume most people visiting this blog are already interested, I wanted to share with you a quick post I wrote for a friend that encapsulates what I think are the most important points to remember about this way of eating and living. Please feel free to share it with your non-paleo friends.

Intro to Paleo

Paleo isn’t a diet in the usual sense. This is not meant to be a quick fix when your pants feel too tight or you binged on one too many burritos. Instead, paleo living is meant to be something you do for the rest of your life.

So what exactly is it? I’ve written a somewhat longer intro here, but my 30 second “elevator pitch” is that paleo living means three things:

  1. don’t eat food that causes inflammation;
  2. do eat the most nutritious food you can find;
  3. take care of yourself: body, mind and spirit.

Let’s talk about these in a little more detail:

  1. Don’t eat food that causes inflammation: Paleo folks avoid wheat, sugar, dairy, corn, beans (legumes), most seed and vegetable oils, and grains. There’s a lot of scientific explanations for why this is a good idea, but the short version is that these foods irritate your gut and cause inflammation in your body. While inflammation is great, for example, when you get a cut and your body protects you by causing swelling around it, long-term inflammation is a disaster for your body. It’s especially so when you are struggling with arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease or many other conditions.
    So, when you start paleo, avoid all of that stuff for at least 30 days.
    (After the elimination period, try adding back dairy, legumes or white rice; see how you tolerate them. If you feel good after you try them, add them back into your diet occasionally for variety. The other stuff is out for good.)
  2. Eat the most nutritious food: Instead, focus on foods that have the most vitamins and nutrition. Green veggies, fish, meat, and good fats will be the bulk of your meals.
    Increasing nutrients may mean simple changes, like substituting Boston lettuce for iceberg, or cooking with coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, or making squash puree instead of white potatoes.
    It can also mean learning to love less popular cuts of meat, like tongue, heart and liver, as well as considering how your meat animals were raised (they should eat the food they eat naturally, not grains that make them fatten up more quickly).
    However you do it, the point is to squeeze in as many vitamins and minerals as possible in your meals.
    This does not mean your food will be boring! Going paleo is not about counting calories.
    Eat real, healthy foods made with real, healthy fats. You can still have burgers — just wrap them in lettuce instead of bread. You can have normal side dishes like peppers and onions or broccoli: just switch out the starch in your meals (corn, rice, beans, fries) for more vegetables. Ironically,  many people think paleo is a meat-heavy diet: I’ve never eaten more veggies in my life.
  3. Take care of yourself: it’s also important to make time to care for your body. Get enough sleep — this is one of the biggest sources of inflammation and stress (and makes it super hard to lose weight). Find some sort of exercise you enjoy and do it. Learn to meditate, pray or do something else that helps you calm your mind and de-stress.

Now I know, many folks will think “I could never give up bread” or “you’ll pry my milk out of my cold, dead hands”, and to them I say: just try it for 30 days. You can do anything for 30 days, right? I’m sure you’ve done something harder in your life. If you went to school, or learned to drive — heck, if you learned to read — you can definitely do this.

If you feel better after those 30 days, then you know something you were eating was hurting you, and you can figure out what. If you don’t feel any different? No harm, no foul. You’ve just spent 30 days eating the most nutritious food you can. There is no downside to that. But chances are, you’ll feel so good, you’ll want to keep it up.

Below is a link to the Family Resolution Revolution ebook bundle, which is on sale starting today. 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. A collection like this is a great way to get someone started on the paleo path quickly and inexpensively. I’ll be buying it myself as a gift for someone I love.


Happy Christmas

To those about to celebrate, I wish you an happy Christmas.
May you enjoy abundance in the company of those you love.
To those not celebrating, I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the same.

Looking Ahead to 2015
For better or worse, I am extremely future oriented. This makes me a pretty good planner, despite my tendency toward procrastination. (Is that an odd combination or what?)

Because of this tendency, I have been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions for the last few weeks. It seems everyone is ready for a fresh start at this time of year, trying out new things and seeing how they fit into their lives. Personally, I dearly hope that more people will give paleo a try. Even though you can start paleo anytime, there is just something about the collective energy of millions of people around the world making a change at this time that is really compelling.

I had thought about creating a program or meal plans myself, but I don’t have the time to develop anything and do it justice right now. So when I was invited to be an affiliate for the Paleo Parents Family Resolution Revolution, I was completely excited.


I don’t participate in a lot of online programs, but this one caught my interest because it’s a screaming good deal. There are some seriously good eBooks in this bundle — Well-Fed 2 and Easy Paleo Gelatin Treats are ones I use and love — and some excellent discounts from vendors like Honeyville, whose almond flour is divine, and Pure Indian Foods, who make fabulous ghee. I’ll be able to share more details when the sale goes live, but I encourage you to click the link above and check it out.

Ten Great Food Gifts

Toddler-Proof Holiday Tree | Paleo + Life

This is our 2014 Christmas tree, because the toddler is, well, a toddler.


At this point in my life, I am solidly in the camp of preferring experiences to “stuff.” Not that I don’t enjoy gifts when I receive them — Vera the Vitamix was my birthday pressie, after all — but what I want most is more time with and for the people I care about. A good dinner with my husband, or brunch with a friend, is far more tempting than any gift I could receive.

That said, my absolute favorite gifts to give and receive are food-related. I love it when someone takes the time to offer something tasty from their kitchen — it’s usually the sort of thing you wouldn’t think to make for yourself, and always delicious. Giving food gifts also makes me incredibly happy. I grow a good number of herbs in our garden, and because so much of our family is far away, I love being able to share a little bit of Oregon with them.

Here are my favorite Paleo + Life recipes for gift giving:

  1. Herb Infused Oils — I like to put these in beautiful bottles like these from Cost Plus World Market. Make multiple flavors, or do one jar of flavored oil and another of flavored vinegar.
  2. Blueberry Shiso Jam — because I don’t can, I like to make freezer jam instead. So in my kitchen, this is reserved for local gifts, which I package in plastic jam containers or mason jars.
    If you use Bonne Maman preserves, their jars are especially attractive and great to recycle as well.
    In any case, if you haven’t canned the jam, sure you let the recipient know that it should be used or frozen fairly quickly.
  3. Apple Sassy Applesauce — this can be packaged the same way as the jam above.
  4. Candied Pecans (part of my Figgy Pudding recipe) — this is a hard gift to part with, largely because I have to stop myself from eating them all(!). Again, Cost Plus has perfect containers.
  5. Peppery Spice Mix from my Spiced Summer Burger recipe — I just make up a big batch of the spice mix and put it in a jar; it works with a variety of meats, or with portobello mushrooms if you want to make it vegan. I like these fancy shaped jars.
  6. Cinnamon Spice Nut Butter — a trio of this, the blueberry jam, and the applesauce would make an absolutely killer present.
  7. Paleo No-Grain Granola — so easy to make (and eat,) big batches are a requirement. If you can stop yourself from eating it all, put together a few jars. Perhaps a trio with the original recipe and the suggested variations?
  8. Mango Citrus Salsa — Good citrus is available right now, and frozen mango can be found in most stores. This salsa goes really well with seafood or meat, and is full of healthy ingredients. With the New Year — and New Year’s resolutions — just around the corner, start them off right.
  9. Perfectly Paleo Peppers and Onions — Make this recipe as given, then put in a jar with a couple of extra garlic cloves, a  sprig or two of rosemary, and enough olive oil to cover it.
    It lasts a surprisingly long time in the fridge and is a great base for a meal.
  10. Apricot Cardamom Sauce (from my Apricot Crepe Cakes recipe) — This is a flowery, sour sauce that I love as is, but it might be too mouth-puckering for more sensitive palettes. To tamp down the  tartness, increase the honey to 1/4 cup.

If you’ve got a favorite food gift, please share it in the comments!

(Semi-)Paleo Husbands

The Photographer @ Work | Paleo + LifeSomehow, in my discussions of going paleo with the family, I have not yet tackled the most challenging convert: Mr. Paleo + Life. (No, I don’t actually call him that. I generally call him B., because I am lazy and remembering the names of all the people in our house is sometimes beyond me.)

Convincing B. to go paleo was surprisingly easy: I basically begged him to do the Whole30 with me, because I needed a buddy to help me through the process. As is his wont, unless he thinks I have suggested something completely insane, he agreed. Because he is diabetic, he figured paleo wasn’t too far off from how he should be eating anyway, and would give him a chance to clean up his diet. So we started down that bumpy road and 30 days later, managed to complete it. We high-fived ourselves and eagerly looked forward to re-introducing some old favorites.

As we worked our way through the re-introduction period, we made some interesting discoveries. The most striking of these was the first time B. tried something with gluten: he got incredibly sick and had to come home to recover.  In my opinion, this was proof that he was gluten-sensitive (something I’d suspected for a while; B. has a close relative with celiac disease) and we needed to go absolutely gluten-free.

My darling spouse, on the other hand, strongly disagreed. He did not want to hear it. I didn’t understand at all. The more I read, the more I was afraid that continuing to eat gluten would do serious damage to his health. Furthermore, all of the breads, muffins, etc. were so high on the glycemic index anyway, why not replace that stuff with food that actually offered nutrition?
He felt that as his diet was restricted already (due to the diabetes) taking away another thing was absolutely too much, and that getting sick was probably just as much about the quality what he ate (a burger from the Scottish restaurant) as it was about the contents of the meal.

At some point, we came to a resolution. I reminded myself that I am not the boss of him, as the kiddies say — he has to be paleo by his own choice or it won’t be sustainable. B., meanwhile, acknowledges my strong feelings on the subject, recognizes that he generally does feel better eating paleo, and since I make most of the meals at our house, they will be paleo ones. I am attempting more paleo baking, which helps to make this lifestyle sustainable for us. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

So what about you? If you have a reluctant partner to convince, how did you go about it? Please share in the comments.

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth

Bone Broth | 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.

In my continuing quest to keep the creeping crud away, I decided to revisit one of my favorite foodstuffs. It seems weird to consider broth a food, because I have always used it as an ingredient, but lately I’ve gotten into just cups of bone broth on its own.  Apparently this makes me trendy: the chef of Hearth restaurant in New York has opened a to-go shop just for bone broth.

Trendy or not, homemade broth or stock– the difference is that broth is made with meat, instead of just bones — has been my go-to, never-fail solution to sick for years. My kids all know the drill: if you’re sick enough to stay home from school, you’re getting broth for your meals. (Incidentally, this has prevented more than one case of “too sick to go to school.”) It’s the perfect base for making soups or for braises. If you eat/can tolerate rice or beans, they are so much tastier when cooked in broth rather than water.

Things to note: I’ve taken a tip from several other paleo bloggers and started making my bone broth in two phases. First, I cook the bones until they are softened:

Cooked bone | Paleo + Life

The bones go from this…

shattered bone | Paleo + Life

…to this.

Then I add the vegetables, and cook the mixture even longer.

Cooked broth/veg | Paleo + Life



A few broth tips: Though I haven’t yet tried it, Simone Miller of Zenbelly recommends adding egg shells to your broth if you happen to have them for extra calcium. I always use cooked bones — some cooks prefer a  “white stock”, where they blanch the bones, but I like the deeper flavor of cooked ones — and let the mixture go for days on end. In my experience, it takes between 24-48 hours to get the bones crumbly.
The broth here was made with turkey, but two or three chicken carcasses would produce about the same volume of broth. I like to add a little bit of salt when I add the vegetables, but because my broth is usually incorporated into other dishes, I don’t use much. Finally, some people like garlic in their stock, while others say it has too domineering a flavor. I add a couple of small pieces, but I think it is just as good without — cook’s choice.

Food Lover’s Fridays: Bone Broth


  • Poultry carcass (I used one from a cooked 18-20 lb. turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • 4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, quartered, peels left on
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic, peels left on (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Using a meat cleaver or other strong knife, breakdown the carcass so that it fits into a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and then add water to cover the bones. Program slow cooker to longest setting; cook until the drumstick bones become softened enough to easily break. [This takes at least 24 hours in my cooker - you may need to reset the cooking cycle more than once.]
  2. Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic (if using) to the slow cooker; cook for at least another 8 hours. Allow to cool.
  3. Once cool enough to handle, strain solids from the broth and refrigerate immediately. If desired, broth may be frozen for later use.

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