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Paleo: Why we eat what we eat.

All the recipes I post on here are grounded in paleo concepts – gluten, dairy, grain and sugar free. Organic. Unprocessed. Full-fat. Free range, grassfed, pastured. I know, I sound like a jerk. But there’s a reason for it (aside from it’s what we’re meant to eat) so I thought I’d give you a quick run down of our story.

I love food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I always have, but I think our culture can make you feel guilty for loving food and to eat. I remember feeling incredibly liberated when I read Eat, Pray, Love because Elizabeth Gilbert said she was a food tourist. Yes!! I had never heard anyone admit that when they travel, it was about making sure every meal was amazing. In my head, travel was supposed to be about experiencing the sights, the culture, the history and the activities. Which it is. But for some—me—it’s also about food. I got way off topic there, but to say I’m always thinking about the next meal would be an understatement. For me, food is about the satisfaction that comes from eating something delicious while experiencing someone’s art and culture. It could be a meal prepared by a James Beard Award-winning chef, or it could be my nana’s tortillas, or it could an Oreo (although I find (slightly) those less satisfying these days). If a meal is mediocre, it feels like a wasted opportunity. Yes, this is an exhaustive and often disappointing relationship I have with food, but I don’t think I chose it. I’ve realized in the last few years that it’s where I find joy.

So, with that, how the heck did we end up eating a generally paleo diet? Where there’s no bread or cheese or pasta or beer or cheese or chicken pot pie or cheese or tortillas? For us, it sort of came together all of the sudden about 18 months ago.

I have fibromyalgia. I have had it since I was 18. From day 1, I was told I should eat paleo because grains and sugar are inflammatory. But, back in 2001, paleo looked very different than it does today, and fibromyalgia was even less understood than it is now. I tried, but couldn’t stick to the low-fat, no carb structure and looking back, wouldn’t have had the understanding of processed foods or nightshades to make it effective. Instead, I spent 10 years on muscle relaxants not paying attention to what I was eating, or my digestion. I kicked that habit and discovered it wasn’t even doing anything. I had some success with network chiropractics, but moved away from my chiropractor. I also tried massage and acupuncture and various forms of exercise and regular chiropractics and tried taking all sorts of supplements (but never really knew how to take them). I did learn that the digestive system was a big part of fibromyalgia, but didn’t know what to do about it. For the most part, I just ignored the chronic pain and fatigue – I had a life to live. Then, we unknowingly moved into a moldy house and spent the last four years battling a crazy combination of health issues.

TimTheFarmer is generally a healthy guy, but when we moved into our last house, he started having major stomach issues. We couldn’t eat a meal out without him getting sick, and half the dinners I cooked also made him sick. It was awful. We had no idea what the problem was.

Then all at once, I saw the cover article on Time Magazine, “Eat More Fat” and started hearing about bulletproof coffee. I read the article which lead to reading The Big Fat Surprise, which blew my mind. We started drinking the storied bulletproof coffee, which rocked our world, but I knew we couldn’t add all that fat into our diets without changing the rest of our diet, so I got the Bulletproof Diet book to learn his approach. This is when I got exposed to the new paleo. The full fat (good fats only though – grassfed butter, coconut oil, lard from pastured pigs, etc.), big meat (from pastured/grassfed animals), organic produce version of paleo. The switch to paleo was almost instantaneous and because this new version encourages the eating of fats (which makes you feel full much quicker than flour and sugar and processed food), it was easy. What I think is most surprising is things I used to love, are generally not that satisfying anymore. Although, lately I’ve been craving a good, homemade mac and cheese with a crunchy, cheesy breadcrumb topping.

TimTheFarmer was getting better, but would still get sick when we’d eat out. After moving out of our house into our new home, we both started working with a nutritional therapist who quickly identified the likely source his issues to be the moldy house. We were floored. My symptoms made sense – respiratory issues, chronic colds and allergies, fatigue, more sever fibromyalgia symptoms – but we had no idea how different everyone is and that it could affect your GI system. I’ll post more on this, but she prescribed an even more restricted version of paleo with a host of vitamins and supplements (different for each of us). That’s where we’re at today. Working to detox from the neurotoxin illness we developed after 4 years in a moldy home. Eating paleo is at the core with an emphasis on local, fresh eating.

So for us, this is about seeking health and actively trying to find a way to eat and live and thrive. This means what we eat will continue to evolve and we may throw some things strict paleo folks would never dream of touching into our diets from time to time. We also avoid things that are popular on paleo, because they send me into an asthma attack and curl Tim up on the floor due to the high histamine content i.e. bone broth. 

Because I find joy in delicious food, I’m always trying to make eating paleo just as delicious fresh crusty ciabatta topped with St. Andre’s triple cream cheese and a glass of Cabernet. If I post a recipe, it’s because it makes for awesome eating. End of story.

I expect I’ll share more about our health journey, but for now, I guess this is our paleo manifesto?



{Paleo Pantry} The Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you remember the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to gift Monica her grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe because it’s the best recipe ever? The recipe was burned in Phoebe’s apartment fire and they spend the episode trying to recreate it from the sole remaining cookie. Then, after countless tries, Phoebe remembers that her grandma’s friend, Nestele Toulouse, gifted her the recipe. Yes, the recipe was from the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag. Classic Friends.

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For some reason I’ve always been skeptical of the recipes on the back of the bag (any bag). Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to trust “the man” or because I want it to come from some fancy cookbook or because—and most likely—I tried for years when I was little to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies from the back of the bag and they never turned out perfect, or the same, each time. #longestsentenceever

We started eating paleo a little over a year ago and ventured into the world of gluten-free baking. It was definitely hit or miss. Then, Jesse and E came to visit and brought paleo chocolate chip cookies that E had made. And they were AMAZING. They were moist and fluffy and the perfect thickness and absolutely amazing. I seriously ate 4 while we were sitting there after dinner. Somehow that’s ok, because they’re just made from eggs and almond flour and maple syrup #justificationrocks. And guess what? The recipe was from the back of the Bob’s Red Mill almond flour bag. #friendsforthewin***

ChocCookies3Jesse tried to recreate them a few different times and every time they came out like crispy pancakes.  We weren’t sure what the problem was, but I decided to make them on moving day … because I had nothing better to do. And, I figured out the secret. You ready?? …………. Don’t melt the coconut oil. It’s that simple. Using melted/liquid coconut oil seems to make the cookies too moist and they turn into pancakes. 

ChocCookies2These cookies are gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar free. Sounds awful right? But, they taste amazing, seriously. They do have eggs and nuts. To make them (somewhat) affordable I buy my almond flour and Good Life (allergen-free) chocolate chips through Thrive Market. Usually they don’t have regular chocolate chips, only chunks, so, like a crazy person, I cut them up so they don’t take over the cookie. 

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I also buy my vanilla, maple syrup, and coconut oil at Costco because it’s far more affordable than the grocery store.

ChocCookies

Two things: first, don’t be afraid of Costco’s private label. I used to have a client in the food industry who produced a high end product and they relabeled it as Kirkland’s for Costco. They said Costco is really particular on what they private label. Second, this coconut oil label cracks me up. The farm on this label looks like it’s from the Pacific Northwest. Really??? Coconut oil from the PNW?? Let’s call a spade a spade people. #wheresthepalmtrees


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Anyway, here’s the recipe from the back of Bob’s Red Mill almond flour. It’s super quick and easy (I made these last night while dinner was in the oven) and the cookies have come out amazing every time!

PaleoChocolateChipCookies1

The Best Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 15
Easy and delicious sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free chocolate cookie.
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Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 c. Bob's Red Mill almond meal/flour**
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1/4 c. coconut oil (solid state)
  5. 1/4 c. maple syrup
  6. 1 whole egg
  7. 2 egg whites***
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 1 cup Good Life chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
  2. Combine almond meal, baking soda and sea salt in small bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix coconut oil and maple syrup in a mixer or by hand until creamy but not fully incorporated, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add whole egg, egg whites, and vanilla and mix for 2 additional minutes.
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix until barely combined.
  6. Add chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
  7. Place large rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about 1-inch apart. Flatten slightly, to approximately 1-inch thickness.
  8. Bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.
Notes
  1. * 10 minute prep time does not account for crazy chocolate chip chopping.
  2. ** I tried to save money by grinding my own almond flour in the blender, but it comes out too fine/mushy for these cookies.
  3. *** I save the egg yolks for TimTheFarmer's breakfast the next day.
Adapted from Bob's Red Mill almond flour bag
Isn't That Grand? http://isntthatgrand.com/
***Update: it turns out Jesse actually made the first batch of cookies, and that it was E’s recipe which was not from the back of the Bob’s bag and did not even included coconut oil. How amazing is it that I totally made this story up in my head and totally believed it. It makes me fairly concerned about my reality in general, but that’s something I won’t dwell on. Jesse pointed out that my version is better because then it doesn’t look like she kept failing to recreate her own recipe. That’s why I put this way down here. I’m not overly confident many people make it to this point on my blog 🙂

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Smokey Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

I hit the turkey jackpot this weekend! Every year I go through this internal struggle about buying a happy turkey (free range, antibiotic free, organic, local blah blah blah) which can easily cost $80-$100 and buying a sort-of happy turkey (pick one of the above descriptors) that’s more affordable. I try to walk the walk, but dropping $100 on one part of one meal is hard to stomach. I was hmming and hawing over turkeys yesterday and was going to go with the sort-of-happy turkey when I noticed a monster happy turkey that was the same per pound price as the sort-of-happy turkey. It turns out they were mislabeled, but the butcher gave it to me at the reduced price, so I saved $40 our 27lb happy monster turkey!! I’m going to have to start cooking that thing the day before to have it done on time, but we’ll be eating turkey for weeks.

If you need a quick and easy side dish ahead of all the busy Thanksgiving cooking coming up, here’s your answer! As anyone who eats Paleo can attest, cauliflower quickly becomes a staple ingredient in your cooking. It regularly serves as your starch substitute, and it’s always really good: mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes or cauliflower rice or cous cous in place of rice or gluten-based cous cous (made by shredding cauliflower on shredding blade in food processor). In both of these applications, you can add lots of flavor and create a huge variety of dishes. Oftentimes you’re playing down the cauliflower taste to make it act as your neutral starch to emphasize the other flavors in the dish. Sometimes, however, it’s great to let the cauliflower flavor come through.

Smokey Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

The first time we made these grilled cauliflower steaks, TimTheFarmer and I took a bite and looked at each other with wide eyes – they were delicious! This recipe started with an idea from this cookbook, but I didn’t have tahini, so I sprinkled on the smokey spice blend from this book that I’d been using lately and it turned out amazing! With this recipe, you only use about half the cauliflower, so save the florets that aren’t attached to the stalk to steam or roast or turn into rice or mash. You get 2-4 steaks per head and a serving is 1-2 steaks.

Smokey Grilled Cauliflower Steaks
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 heads of cauliflower
  2. 2 tbsp coconut or MCT oil
  3. 2 tbsp Smokey Spice Blend
Smokey Spice Blend
  1. 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  2. 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  3. 1 tbsp onion powder
  4. 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  5. 1 tbsp sea salt/pink Himalayan salt
  6. 1/2 tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat grill to medium heat.
  2. Slice cauliflower into steaks. Put stem-side down on cutting board, start about 1/4-1/3 of the way from the right, and cut straight down. Move knife over 3/4 of an inch and cut down again. You should get a steak. Repeat until there is no stem left to hold steaks together (2-3 more times). Save discarded cauliflower for future use.
  3. Brush both sides of cauliflower with melted coconut oil and sprinkle generously with Smokey Spice Blend.
  4. Carefully place steaks on heated grill.
  5. Cook 8-10 minutes per side. Don't flip until you've got good grill marks on each side.
Adapted from Eating Local & Practical Paleo
Isn't That Grand? http://isntthatgrand.com/