I have a bunch of apples from our weekend family apple picking adventure.
I followed all of George’s advice and even fried some eggs to top off our burgers. I sprinkled the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I doubled the recipe so that we would have burgers for leftovers and lunches. For those of you that are trying to make the most out of your time in the kitchen, plan on cooking large batches of some recipes so that you have planned leftovers. If you are going to have to get a cutting board, knife & large bowl dirty to make this recipe…why not get a couple of meals out of it? Also, having some cooked burgers in the fridge is a great snack for kids. Instead of eating a bag of potato chips for an after school snack, teach them to wrap a burger in lettuce and snack on! Much more filling and nutritious than a bunch of processed carbs!
All in all, a filling, tasty meal with only a handful of ingredients! This will be in frequent rotation at our house.
Following a Paleo diet means making every bite count. It means choosing foods that will improve your health, not harm it. It is about seeking out foods that are full of protein, fats, vitamins & minerals.
Real, whole, unprocessed foods = meat, fish, fruits & vegetables. Simple!
Common questions I get asked:
I always enjoy Robb Wolf’s direct answers, including the ones found in “Kids, Paleo and Nutrient Density.”
This is another aggressive post by Richard Nikoley from Free The Animal comparing 2,200 calories a day of a Standard American Diet to 2,200 calories a day of a Paleo Diet. (There is a fair amount of adult language in his blog, but he is one smart guy!)
I thought the best way to approach this topic would be for me to list some of the Most Nutrient Dense foods that are a regular part of my Paleo diet. I compiled my list based on all the reading and research I have done personally, then I double checked with Diane Sanfilippo and Chris Kresser to see how my lists stacked up against theirs.
In case you feel like I have overlooked fruits and vegetables with these lists, I consider fruits and vegetables to be very nutrient dense foods! So eat as many as you can handle, assuming you don’t have any digestive distress or insulin issues. No one gets sick or overweight eating too many fruits and vegetables. Add them to your quality sources of protein and fat.
Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts (for one medium size sweet potato)
Salmon is one of our favorite weeknight dinners and packs a nutritional punch! This shouldn’t be a big surprise, nearly every health organization recommends adding more fish to your diet, especially salmon. It is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids which in simple terms, make our blood less sticky. This is a good thing. It is also really good for your brain and skin. Although salmon is one of the fish that most people seem to enjoy and we have decent access to, don’t forget the other less popular fatty fish: mackeral, herring & sardines. The latter are often cheaper and can be found in canned and jarred form. Be brave & experiment. I have had a few dishes that I really enjoyed (deviled eggs with sardines), that I would never have guess I would have liked.
Here is a guide to the types of salmon available and which ones you should buy (always wild, never farmed).
I covered these in C is for Coconut. Check out that post for lots of information and recipe links!
Egg yolks are a nutritional powerhouse. Nearly breaks my heart to think about people eating egg white omelets in efforts to “get healthy.” Eggs are one of our most misunderstood whole foods. My post E is for Eggs will cover the specifics on why this food is so nutritious and why they have received a bad rap over the years from the medical & nutrition industry. Most importantly, it will feature lots of recipes to enjoy these little bundles of goodness. So, start locating yourself a source of some farm fresh eggs and get ready!
Do you remember your grandparents talking about eating liver and onions? Apparently, they were on to something that was lost on the last couple of generations. Organ meats are REALLY good for you. I mean REALLY, REALLY good. Sigh.
I am not going to lie. I haven’t started cooking with organ meats on a regular basis. It is one of those things that I know I SHOULD do, I just haven’t added it to my routine. Does it freak me out a bit? Yes. I have 2 packages of beef liver in my freezer that are calling my name. I have tried liver, heart and even tongue on any occasion that someone brings it to a potluck and I have liked it each time. I really don’t know what is holding me back, other than a mental block. After reading some of the resources that I am going to list below, I am motivated to try it just for the potential “energy boost” that the concentrated B vitamins provide.
Don’t take my word for it. Read some of these articles. Be brave. Source some liver and other organ meats from a butcher. Get cooking. Tell me how it goes. I will, if you will!
Liver: nature’s most potent superfood by Chris Kresser
The Benefits of Liver and Cod Liver Oil and Dessicated Liver by Chris Masterjohn
I do know that if you want to experiment with cooking with liver for the first time, and if you are trying to please picky eaters, you should mix it with other more palatable meats. Bacon, ground beef and sausage come to mind. Incorporate it into meatballs, meatloaf or burgers. Also, “breading” chicken livers (with almond or coconut flour) might be a good way to get started.
This is another one of those areas where you Grandma knew what she was doing. Just a couple of generation ago, you couldn’t buy broth or stock in a can to add to your soups, chilis, stews, gravys and sauces. You had to make it yourself by roasting bones and simmering them in a pot for hours. Doing so releases minerals and collagen into the water from the bones that you can’t really get elsewhere. This is another one of those processes that really isn’t that tough, but you have to learn to incorporate it into your schedule. (If you aren’t interested in making it, you can purchase it from U.S Wellness Meats here, but it is MUCH CHEAPER to make it at home!)
Bone broth is very healing for the stomach and the skin. I can testify that my skin looks its best when I have been drinking bone broth on a regular basis. Either enjoy it as a soup or pour a cup full and sip it like tea. There isn’t any other place that you can get these minerals. Start saving up your leftover chicken bones and stick them in the freezer till you have enough to make a pot of stock!
Hmmm….Cod Liver Oil. Grandma. Are you sensing a theme here? Yep. She was on to something.
Everyone in the world of Paleo nutrition is passionate about the use of Cod Liver Oil/Fermented Butter Oil Blend. It sounds crazy, but there is no other product that comes close. I use it myself, but have only had it for a short time, so I cannot fully testify to the benefits. A huge source of Omega-6 fatty acids, it is healing for the digestive system and the skin. Let’s be frank here, it is Fermented Butter Oil, mixed with fish oils. It isn’t very palatable. You can buy it in capsules, but it is cheaper to buy it as a gel. I take the Cinnamon Tingle and I can get it down just find.
Buy from Green Pastures. You can get a discount from ordering larger quantities.
Fermented foods are nature’s probiotics. They provide your gut with little microorganisms that keep your digestive system happy. It might be hard to believe, but over sugared yogurt products are not the best place to find these little guys. I personally love the taste of fermented foods, so it is not hard for me to add a big spoon full of sauerkraut to a meal or drink some kombucha. As with most things Paleo, there is a difference between sauerkraut in a can and the kind that is processed the best way to maximize the health benefits. You might need to hit Whole Foods or a local health foods store, they should be in the refrigerated section. Otherwise, it is very easy to make some of your own. Just takes a little prep time and then a few weeks to sit around in the dark. Yep, you read that right. It sits out at room temp for the fermentation process, then gets stuck in the fridge. Don’t be afraid! Give it a try. These foods can really get your digestive system on the right track.
If you are going to do dairy, which means that you or your family members DO NOT have sensitivities to it, you should be trying to find Grass-Fed. I DO recommend that you do a 30 day dairy free experiment to see if there are issues with dairy. Lots of people have various reactions to dairy. Dairy is a main culprit in bloating and other digestive distress; skin issues such as acne, eczema, psoriasis; arthritis and other immune system diseases; sinus and respiratory problems. Even if you think you “don’t have a problem” give it a month and see what happens. Maybe a lingering cough will clear up, your allergies might get better, an achy knee feels good or a pesky patch of dry skin on your arm goes away. Paleo and Primal message boards are FULL of this anecdotal evidence.
My son had a dairy allergy as a baby, even while being on a breast milk only diet, if I consumed diary he had an ear infection. After a lot of trips to the doctor I figured it out myself and he was rarely sick again. No more ear infections. Now he can have 3 or 4 servings of dairy a week, but we don’t over do it. I find that my skin is clearer the less dairy I consume. I splurge on feta cheese, goat cheese and the occasional gluten free pizza.
So, the good news is: If dairy doesn’t bother you, WHOLE MILK and BUTTER are GOOD FOR YOU! I know, it seems almost dirty, right? It goes against everything you have ever heard about health and nutrition, in the last 30 years anyways. It is true. They are super foods. Read what Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple has to say in “Is all Butter Created Equal?” Or take a look at “Healthy Milk: What to Buy” from Food Renegade.
If you are going to enjoy dairy, consider purchasing grass fed dairy products and adding this “super food” to your diet. It is worth the cost, but you might have to consume less. Take a drink of a glass of grass-fed whole milk or try a pat of grass-fed butter. Just looking at the natural color of grass-fed butter will likely change your mind.
I don’t think you need me to give you recipes to tell you how to enjoy milk and butter. :)
I hope that this post has given you some ideas on how to incorporate nutrient dense Paleo and Primal foods in your diet. Explore some of the links and other blogs. It was not meant to overwhelm you, but if you are new to the Paleo scene, it may very well have. I joke all the time that there are “levels of Paleo!” You might not be ready to jump into eating liver and fermenting your own sauerkraut. That is exactly why I divided this list into two categories. Stick with the easy stuff (like I did for the first year) and then start exploring the other avenues.
Let me know if you have any questions or if you think I have missed something. If you have recipes for liver or fermented foods that are sure-fire, please let me know. I would love to add them to this resource. I promise to experiment with liver and get back to you!
Thank you for reading & following.
This may be the most surprised I have ever been at how a recipe turned out. I am pretty sure I spent 32 years of my life hating beets and I just made a chili using beets instead of tomatoes. It was delicious.
Chili is one of my most favorite foods. I don’t even see it as a seasonally appropriate food, we eat it all year round. I used to really love chili (made with lots of beef and 2 or 3 different kinds of beans) topped with cheese, Frito’s corn chips & sour cream. My chili recipe has morphed over time to be bean-free and therefore Paleo. On occasion, I will still throw in a handful of Frito’s. They are still GMO corn and high PUFA corn oil, but they are gluten free. A girl’s gotta live. I can say that over time, it has become a lot easier to enjoy the chili plain without all the garnishes, so I don’t feel deprived at all.
We had not had chili in a while and the hubby was requesting it. Selfishly, I haven’t been making chili and other tomato based dishes lately because I have been trying to follow a nightshade-free diet to see if it would make any further improvements in my health (skin, digestion & otherwise). This is based on recommendations from Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser & Diane Sanfillipo and their respective blog posts and podcasts. The nightshade family includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers & eggplants. For various reasons, they have a tendency to be allergenic and inflammatory to the immune system, not for everyone of course, but enough that they are often listed on restriction & isolation diets. It is hard to make and then watch someone else eat your most favorite dish and not be able to partake.
I debated whether i could just make chili without using tomatoes, but quickly realized that the other huge component in chili is chili powder made of peppers. I figured it was a shot in the dark but through the magic of Google I was able to find a “nightshade-free chili” recipe. I still had my doubts. Keep the beef, onions & cumin. Ditch the tomatoes and chili pepper. Add beets & squash for color and texture. It sounded crazy! The results were delicious!
I simply made a few minor tweaks to this recipe I found from And Love It Too! Gluten and Dairy Free Living I used acorn squash instead of Hubbard. I think any kind of squash would do. I also did not puree it, I cooked it a bit in the microwave first, cut it up and let it simmer in the chili, which broke the squash down quite a bit. I also did not use Dry Basil or Cloves and instead used about 1 tsp of allspice. I was able to start a pot of our regular Chocolate Chili on one burner and pot of this chili on the other burner. Most of the ingredients were the same, so it was easy to saute, season & simmer them at the same time.
No amazing unique recipe creation today, but I put together a pretty great dinner and wanted to share the links with you.
The roast recipe came from Fast Paleo. It is very easy with only a handful of ingredients. I used leftover morning coffee, dehydrated onions & Trader Joe’s crushed garlic. I pretty much followed this recipe to a “T.” A lot of CrockPot meat recipes will advise you to brown the outside in a pan with oil first, to get a bit of sear on the outside. I agree that this step adds a nice touch, but I am generally trying to get things done as simply as possible, with few dishes to wash later. I love that this recipe didn’t require it, and it turned out juicy and delicious.
I just tossed the broccoli with a little coconut oil, salt & pepper and then roasted it as I finished up the potatoes.
Now, for the Smashed Spiced Sweet Potatoes. I pinned these little guys from Pinterest months ago, and just finally got around to making them. We really enjoyed them, but I would do a few things differently next time. I tried to see if I could get away without peeling them. They would have been better if I had followed directions. Basically, peel sweet potatoes and slice into thick even “coins.” Bake till they get kind of soft. Take a small drinking glass or jar and smash them. Then brush with coconut oil, sprinkle with spices. A little bit of sugar is going to help them caramelize and get a bit crispy. I didn’t use any sugar, and I enjoyed the texture. I sprinkled mine with cumin, cinnamon, salt, paprika and a little cocoa powder. The original blog post goes a bit spicy-er! Try it any way! They remind me a lot of these Sweet Potato Chews that I made a few months ago from Whole 9. Those tasted just like a toasted marshmallow.
I picked up a couple of packages of bacon from my friend Mike. He is curing and slicing his own. This is the chorizo style. Wow, it is delicious. I suppose if I were a better blogger I would really go into detail, but it is BACON. Fatty, unprocessed, delicious bacon. Enough said. If you are interested in picking up any bacon/sausage from him, send him a message at Mdudenhoeffer@live.com
It was a bit of a happy accident, but we ended up having some pretty delicious bacon burgers on the grill after the hubby got back from golfing on Sunday. I realized that I only had 1 lb of ground beef thawed out, I thought that I had set out 2 lbs. 1 lb doesn’t go very far around here, so I glanced at that beautiful package of bacon and remembered a recipe I had seen a while back from the Paleo Parents, 50/50 Burgers.
I chopped the bacon a bit and pulsed it in my food processor. I added the ground beef and pulsed it some more. Patted out the 2 lbs of meat into burgers and grilled. Wow, they were really good. Next time, I will probably pulse the bacon a little bit more, just to improve the texture. Since I used Mike’s chorizo bacon, I didn’t use any additional seasonings.
Here are the dishes that rounded out our little Sunday afternoon dinner:
I made a huge batch of these meatballs this week for an End of the Year school picnic. I had plenty for lunch leftovers and even stuck a few in the freezer for later.
Before we went Paleo, I made a burger with cinnamon, cumin, feta and apricots. It was one of my favorite meals. After a quick Google search I found a close Paleo match on Everyday Paleo, of course. http://everydaypaleo.com/2012/01/18/yummy-greek-meatballs/ I modified the original recipe a little bit, I never have chives on hand, we didn’t have lamb and I forgot to get parsley. I love feta, so I put it in there. If you are strict Paleo, leave it out.
Here is my take on meatballs with a bit of Mediterranean flavor. I doubled the recipe and had about 100 meatballs. Make sure that you use an ice cream scoop or a Tablespoon to make your meatballs uniform, so they cook evenly. This is one of those times that a little precision makes a big difference. I baked mine on a baking rack over a cookie sheet to catch all the dripping fat. Warning: 450 degrees is a pretty hot oven and with all the fat dripping it can get a little steamy/drippy/splattery. It only takes 15 minutes, but keep an eye on these as they bake!
1) Mix all ingredients in a large bowl by hand.
2) Shape meatballs with a scoop and roll them in your hands. I had about a 1-1/2 inch ball.
3) Place meatballs on a lightly greased baking rack that is resting on a baking sheet with sides to collect the drippings. (I greased the rack by pouring some olive oil on my hands and just rubbing the baking rack.)
4) Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they cook quickly and the splattering can get kind of hot and messy.
5) Cut into one to test.
I just got back from an AMAZING weekend with some of my favorite ladies to celebrate my friend pregnancy. She will be having a little boy named Colton and he is already nicknamed “The Sheriff” so we threw a Western themed baby shower for her themed baby.
Just for kicks (baby shower, kicks…I am pretty funny) I checked out the official Chuckwagon cookoff menus and based our menu off that. Everybody pitched in on some dishes. Smoked brisket, baked beans, cornbread, slaw, potato salad and cupcakes. So, baked beans and cornbread aren’t paleo, but I don’t have to eat them or anything else for that matter. My friends don’t eat paleo, but are very supportive of my choices to eat paleo. I think a group event like this is a great chance to make a few dishes, share them with everyone and get a little practice on self control and diplomacy. I knew that by preparing the beef brisket, the slaw and the potato salad that I would have plenty to eat. No worries. All went well and the cole slaw and sweet potato/avocado salad were both a hit. (Recipes to be blogged soon!)
I knew that I was going to purchase the brisket while I was at home, marinate it, and then travel a couple of hours and cook it at a condo. I wasn’t sure what kind of cooking equipment I would have there, and I actually have never done a brisket by myself, my mom always makes them. After a quick Google search for “paleo brisket recipes” I stumbled upon the novel idea to smoke a brisket in a Crockpot. You know how I love my Crockpot. It was easy and it was delicious. The original recipe (http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/crockpot/crock-pot-smoked-beef-brisket/) is from a great blog/website called Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations. It is worth a looksy! I did modify my recipe a bit, because I don’t like white pepper and there were a couple of ingredients that I didn’t have for the rub, but just substituted things that I did have. Experiment and have fun, but this crockpot smoking thing was AWESOME! I can’t wait to try a chicken or something.
Crockpot Smoked Brisket
1. Mix all ingredients together and rub all over the brisket. Wrap or seal in a pyrex dish and marinate overnight.
2. Put wood chips in a parchment paper envelope. Poke a few holes with a small knife or fork. Lay in the bottom of the crockpot. Pour 1 cup water, beef broth or other liquid (maybe a hard cider?).
3. Place brisket on top of the parchment paper, cover with lid and cook on low for 10 hours.
4. Lift lid and remove to a platter. It should basically fall apart!
5. Serve with bbq sauce if you want, but it doesn’t need it.
Easy weeknight meal and paleo staple: Spaghetti Squash. If it is something you haven’t cooked before, start doing it. It is a great source of veggies and healthy carbs that can substitute for noodles pretty easily. And it is really good. The hardest thing about it is getting to the insides.
Can be baked, grilled or microwaved. The last is quick and easy. Poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork or something sharp. Microwave for about 5 minutes depending on size. Let cool a bit. Cut in 1/2 with sharp knife. Scoop out seeds, and use a fork to shred the flesh into perfect noodles. My kids like to help with that part.
Just to give some ideas on the versatility of spaghetti squash, here are the two versions I made tonight. Italian style & Greek style. It is a really long story that I might get around to telling sometime, but I seem to feel better the less I eat tomatoes, so I didn’t want to make “Spaghetti and Meat Sauce” for me, but that is what the hubby and the kids like. The possiblities are maybe not endless, but you can get a variety of meals out of this stuff. Give it a try with you favorite pasta recipe. I am really excited to getting around to trying PaleOMG’s Carbonara using spaghetti squash. http://paleomg.com/spinach-and-artichoke-chicken-carbonara-paleo-pasta/ Why have I not made this yet? Yum.
Italian/Greek Spaghetti Squash (You choose)
1. Cook spaghetti squash in microwave, cool and shred. Set aside.
2. Brown ground beef with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic or garlic salt.
3. This is where you can choose to take it a different direction:
If you like Italian, top squash and ground beef with your favorite “clean” red sauce & parmesan.
If you like Greek, add lemon juice, olive oil, Greek Seasoning, feta and kalamata olives to the spaghetti squash and ground beef. Stir and serve.
BTW, I LOVE Penzey’s Greek Seasonings and most of their other stuff, too. As much as I blog about using their products you would think I would score some free samples.
I am calling this post Chocolate Chili because it gets your attention. It doesn’t have chocolate chips in it or anything, just some cocoa powder.
I decided to make this recipe about 5 minutes before dinner should have been ready. I had ground beef thawed out and that was about it. I had listened to an awesome interview with Melissa Joulwan (blogger and cookbook author) from www.theclothesmakethegirl.com on Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low Carb podcast. I loved her story about growing up cooking, battling her weight and coming around to being Paleo. Her new cookbook, Well Fed, is the next on my list to purchase. She talked a lot about cooking with spices and taking different flavor profiles from different cultures and applying them to paleo food. So, I clicked on beef and realized I had everything to make her chili recipe.
The hubby, the boy and I loved it. She points out that the flavors really come together if you simmer it for a couple hours. I only did about 15 minutes, but I think the leftovers are going to be amazing tomorrow!
Her original recipe can be found here:
The only changes I made were adding a cup of diced sweet potato, subbing chicken broth for beef broth & subbing 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground cloves for the 1 tsp of allspice. I was out of allspice.
So my dinners haven’t been very exciting this month, but a good time to show that it can be pretty easy to eat paleo, even with few groceries! My kid has the flu today so we did not make it to the store. I made a bit of a Grass Fed Beef scramble with what I had around the house. No recipe here.
Pineapple Beef (Think Hawaii)
Browned GF Beef with salt, pepper and ginger. Seasoned with a few individual packets of Gluten Free soy sauce (I was out of coconut aminos, I prefer them) then added sweet potatoes and pineapple. If I had been more grocery rich I would have added some broccoli or spinach to this dish.
Turned out pretty great! Don’t let being low on groceries or ingredients send you out for fast food or a frozen pizza!