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Top-10 Must-Eat Paleo Foods

UPDATE Feb 2014: Part II is here.

As some of you already know, it irks me when people say that they eat Paleo, but what they really mean is that they removed certain Neolithic foods from their diet, but without adding other foods that are fundamental to good health. So I thought I should put up a list together of some of these foods that are must-eat in order to ensure good health (besides, Paleo is primarily about restoring and preserving good health, and secondly a weight loss program). This is how I was able to fix such a large array of my health problems so fast. From the moment I had solid proof that diet alone can fix, or make asymptomatic many “incurable” health problems, I left absolutely nothing to chance. This is my recipe to success so far, and I hope it pays forward:

1. Offal
Offal, offal, offal. Liver, heart, tongue, kidneys, tripe (from pastured animals, especially from goat/sheep/buffalo/horse). And if you can find them, and they’re indeed from healthy pastured animals, also get intestines, spleen, pancreas, lungs (I personally avoid only brains, not sure if I can fully trust the animal’s health). Offal is a superfood, with high doses of many nutrients that you know, and many you might not know (like PQQ and CoQ10). The cool thing about offal is that their prices are really, really low, as people usually snob these parts! Little do they know how much more important offal is to muscle meat.

2. Bone marrow broth
I’m personally against 3-month old chicken and vegetable broths because these have no major nutrients to speak about. But a broth from either pastured animals, or at least a 2-3 year old free range hen/duck, contains a lot of minerals that you won’t find elsewhere in enough concentration. From calcium, to potassium, to phosphorus, magnesium etc. And of course, collagen, which is what eventually heals your leaky gut. Cook the marrow bones (with the marrow exposed, so you can eat it too afterwards) for at least 15 hours in low heat. Here’s the actual recipe and more info about it.

3. Home-made, lactose-free, probiotic, goat/sheep kefir & yogurt
Kefir is a superfood with great nutrition and probiotic abilities, coming to you from Caucasus. The big difference with yogurt is that its “grain” bacteria actually colonize the human gut, while the yogurt ones (extracted from the gut of cows which is not fully compatible with the human gut) tend to shed away after a few hours/days. It also contains over 40+ bacteria/yeasts, while yogurt contains 4-6. Please note that for kefir to be potent, it MUST be home-made (commercial kefir only has up to 10-12 strains). In other words, kefir is more potent than yogurt, and it can fight even super-bad strains, like C-Diff. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need full fat yogurt though. Dairy, when it’s made from compatible-to-humans animal casein A2 (goats/sheep/buffalo), and when it’s properly fermented for 24 hours to remove most lactose, is acceptable food, and so it becomes the only point I don’t agree with mainstream Paleo. I fully explained my position on dairy and Paleo here.

4. Fermentation: Sauerkraut, Miso, Natto etc.
Fermented foods is another important missing piece in the modern diet, but thankfully, unpasteurised sauerkraut & kimchi are still easy to find in health stores or on Farmer’s Markets. They go great with sashimi too! *Unpasteurized* non-barley miso is also great in miso soups (make sure your soup is not too hot when you’re adding the miso, or you will kill the beneficial bacteria in it). Natto is fermented soy beans with a lot of PQQ and K2 vitamins in it, but it requires a lot of getting-used to as its taste is very particular (fermented wheat-free tamari, unpasteurized soy-based miso & traditionally-prepared natto are the only soy-based byproducts that are considered healthy and acceptable on Paleo). Other fermentated options are lacto-fermented vegetables, whey-fermented home-made mayonaise, and pickles.

5. Coconut Oil
Cold-pressed, virgin, unrefined coconut oil is a magical oil for cooking, and even for topical application (e.g. skin problems, fungus). It has anti-bacterial properties, but the biggest one for me is that it can bring amazing mental clarity. Cook with coconut oil for a month, and you will realize that you had brain fog for most of your life without knowing about it. Use extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil for salads and raw foods only.

6. Sea Veggies & Kelp Noodles
Ah, sea veggies. When I told my mom in Greece what these are (“φύκια”), she nearly gagged. But these sea veggies are delicious when prepared properly (as a salad or in miso soups), and they have a different kind of nutrition than most land-based foods. Not to mention that they have high doses of iodine, which is important for proper thyroid function. I personally buy these, which are admittedly expensive, but at least you get a variety of 6 different sea veggies, diversifying your nutrition. Then there are these kelp “noodles”, which are great in seafood stir-fries!

7. Shellfish
Most people who can tolerate shellfish eat shrimp. But there’s a whole world of shellfish to explore, from urchins to clams and saint-Jacques to name just a few. The most nutrient-rich ones though you should be going after are oysters and mussels, don’t skimp on them and their super-high content of Zinc! When it comes to fish, stay with wild fish only, and particularly wild Alaskan salmon (the only truly wild salmon), and wild whole sardines. Prefer seafood over meat, and when possible, have a small amount of seafood daily.

8. Sideritis Syriaca
A herbal tea that unfortunately isn’t currently under the Paleo radar, but it’s possibly more potent than kombucha in many different health areas, is sideritis, or “Greek Mountain Tea“. Don’t take my word for it, just read Pubmed’s research results! The thing obviously works, while Kombucha hasn’t shown good results on research! Here’s how to prepare it. Other very healthy herbal teas are the Cretan “Dictamnus” (even more difficult to find than Greek Mountain Tea though), and good, old plain chamomile. Just don’t root for coffee or highly caffeinated teas. Caffeinated teas also contain high amounts of fluoride, while herbal teas don’t.

9. Raw & Unfiltered local honey
Honey gets the bad wrap in the Paleo community mainly because most Paleo dieters are in it for the weight loss, and not as much for the additional health benefits. Unless you’re following a Paleo-ketogenic diet, then honey is one of these superfoods that you should not be avoiding. Yes, it’s got its share of glucose and fructose, but then again, so do most fruits. In order for its anti-microbial and anti-allergenic properties to be potent, it must be raw, unfiltered, AND local. Don’t look at buying big brands, look at your local farmer’s market instead. Don’t use it with kefir (since its anti-microbial properties kill the good kefir bacteria), and don’t heat it up. When it comes to Paleo desserts, avoid all these “Paleo cookies” and “Paleo breads” that you read online, these are most certainly not Paleo. Just do fruit/gello-based raw desserts (there are many recipes online about such desserts on vegan raw web sites).

10. Supplementation
I wish I could tell you that you don’t need to supplement. That just by following a great diet it would cure your ailments without any additional help. But unfortunately, after 10,000 years of continuing selection for both veggies (more sugar) and animals (more milk/fat), the nutrients on modern food is thin. In addition, our soil is depleted of minerals, so our food is too. Not to mention that our water is a far cry in both taste and nutrients compared to what our ancestors drank. In Greece we used to have “ok” water, but when I came to the US I found all the water that I tried here tasting… diluted. Think about that for a moment! Diluted-tasting water! Why? Because it had no minerals in it, it has been treated to exhaustion. So supplementation is definitely needed IMHO, there’s no way around it, especially if you have just converted from the SAD diet to Paleo, and your gut needs the extra help.

The first line of supplementation is vitamin D3 at 1000 IU every 2-3 mornings, especially if you’re not going out to the sun daily. Then, there’s Magnesium (20 mins before sleep), K2-Mk4 (not K, or K2-Mk7), krill oil or fish oil (only if you’re not eating seafood daily — you should), and maybe some E-tocotrienol (without tocophenols in it) — all no more than 2-3 times a week. Track your macro-nutrients with an app, like, to find out what nutrient you might be missing. Get a C+Bioflavonoids vitamin 2-3 times a week to boost your immune system, especially if you’re not eating a lot of fruits. You don’t need PQQ/CoQ10 if you’re eating offal once or twice a week, but you will need to supplement twice a week with these if you don’t eat or can’t find offal in your country (for CoQ10, it must be the Ubiquinol kind, not Ubiquinone). Finally, if you’re having trouble with inflammation or some types of tumors, you might want to try this one.

Bonus 1: Eat lesser-known veggies, e.g. turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, swiss chard, kale, sorrel, collard greens, parsnips, beets, and especially beet greens (highest potassium content than any other food) etc. etc.

Bonus 2: 85%-99% cocoa dark chocolate in small doses. They help with cravings. Your taste buds will regrow within one month of doing Paleo, and you will be able to eat bitter chocolates easily. I used to buy 90% and 99% cocoa chocolates, but they’re not available in my area anymore, so I now buy this one instead (tastes the best from the ones I tried).

Bonus 3: Move your butt, and exercise. Yeah, sorry about that. Nobody said it would be as easy as just eating the right foods. It also requires you to move, and “see” the sun daily.

Miso soup

While soy is to be avoided on the Paleo diet, when it’s fermented and its protein/lectins are broken down by the beneficial bacteria doing the fermentation, it becomes an acceptable ingredient. Tamari (wheat-free) soy sauce for example is used by many Paleo dieters, while natto (fermented soy beans), and soy-based unpasteurized miso paste are all considered very good for our health. Tofu on the other hand is very processed, and it still carries loads of agglutinin (SBA), so it’s not an acceptable food in the Paleo-sphere.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find these ingredients in all countries, especially the unpasteurized miso paste. Most miso pastes are pasteurized, so their cultures are dead, making miso itself useless. In my local Japanese food store I only found one product that was unpasteurized, and many more than weren’t. Also, make sure that your miso does not contain grains/barley.

This miso soup is very easy to make, and very healthy because it includes various bone minerals, the miso live culture, and iodine & other rare minerals found only on sea-vegetables (φύκια). My husband usually dislikes miso soup in sushi restaurants, but he loved this one (he asked for a refill, rare for him).

Ingredients (for 2, 5 gr of carbs each)
* 2 heaping tspoons of unpasteurized soy-based miso paste
* 1.5 cups of water
* 1 cup of bone marrow broth
* 2 tbspoons of dried sea vegetables (I used this 6-variety pack)
* 4 oyster mushrooms, chopped
* Green part of 1 green onion, chopped

1. Place the dried sea vegetables in warm water, and let them stand for 10 minutes. Then rinse them well.
2. In a saucepan add the bone broth and water, under medium heat. Using a tea cup, submerge it to the warm liquid and remove about 1/3 cup of it. Set aside the cup.
3. Add the sea vegetables and mushrooms in the saucepan and bring into a boil for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from fire.
4. Add the miso paste into the warm-ish water in the tea cup and try to liquify the paste using a teaspoon. It’s important for the water in the cup to not be very hot, or the active culture will die.
5. When the soup in the saucepan has cooled down a bit (warm, not hot), add the chopped green onion, and the now-liquid miso paste. Mix well, serve immediately, possibly with some sashimi!

Garden Vegetable Soup

JBQ had a food request today, and since he doesn’t often makes such requests, I knew I had to satisfy his cravings. He requested a vegetable soup, and so I modified Alton Brown’s popular soup recipe to make it more Paleo-friendly. JBQ said he absolutely loved the soup and that it felt fresh and tasty, although I believe that anything that gets cooked with bone marrow broth becomes tasty. Just like with duck fat…

Ingredients (for 4, 10 gr of carbs per portion)
* 1 tspoon coconut oil
* 1 tspoon pastured butter
* 1 leek, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 Thai chili pepper
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 1 turnip, chopped
* 3 button mushrooms, chopped thinly
* 1/3 cup frozen green beans, cut in 2″ pieces
* 1 small zucchini, chopped (optional)
* 2 green leaves, chopped (either kale, collards, turnip, swiss chard, or a small bunch of spinach or bok choy)
* 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped
* 2 cups beef bone marrow broth
* 1 TBspoon of fresh parsley, minced
* Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a big cooking pot, under low heat, add the coconut oil and butter. When hot, add the cleaned & chopped leek and minced garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat to medium.
2. Add the Thai chili pepper, carrot, turnip, mushrooms, green beans, the optional zucchini, and the green leaves. Stir occasionally, and cook until most of their juices have evaporated.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the bone broth, and 1 cup of water. Cook for about an 45 minutes in medium heat, or until the liquid has been reduced to the amount you find satisfactory for a soup.
4. A few minutes before it’s done cooking, add the parsley, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Serve hot.

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

This is the Paleo version of Bolognese, using spaghetti squash. We had this last night for dinner and it was really good. Personally I prefer it over real pasta.

Ingredients (for 4, 15 gr of carbs per portion)
* 1 lb (450gr) beef or veal minced meat
* 1 small spaghetti squash
* 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 TBspoon chopped parsley
* 1 clove of garlic, minced
* 4 button mushrooms, chopped
* 1 TBspoon coconut oil
* 2 TBspoons olive oil
* 1/3 bell pepper, chopped
* 1 cup of bone marrow broth, or water
* Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven at 400 F (200 C). On a cookie sheet lay some parchment paper. Cut the spaghetti squash in two length-wise with a sharp knife. Using a spoon remove all the seeds found in the squash, and discard them. Using your finger, apply the olive oil everywhere on the inside of the two pieces of squash. Place face-down on the cookie sheet, poke some holes using the knife (so the squash can “breathe”), and bake for 30-40 minutes, until soft.
2. In the meantime, prepare the bolognese meat sauce. In a cooking pan, under medium heat, cook the chopped onion with the coconut oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the minced meat, and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the garlic, mushrooms, parsley, bell pepper, salt & pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, continuing to stirring occasionally.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes, and bone broth or water. Stir, and cover. When all the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick, it’s ready.
6. After the spaghetti squash is still warm but not too hot to handle, use a fork to “scratch” in it, and remove the spaghetti threads from it. Discard the hard skin. Serve topped with the meat sauce and optionally, grated parmesan.

Breakfast Paleo Muffins

These breakfast muffins are the latest craze in the Paleo community. Reddit’s r/Paleo is full of pictures lately with people experimenting with these! The idea is that you can make muffins ahead of time, refrigerate them, and then you microwave some of them for a few seconds in the morning, for breakfast.

Ingredients (makes 12, 3 gr of carbs each)
* 6 eggs
* 4 slices of bacon, or 2 sausage links
* 1 TBspoon Parmesan or 1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
* 2 green onions
* 1 tspoon butter
* Salt & pepper to taste
* 3/4 cup (overall) of broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini… Use whatever fast-cooking veggie you need to get rid of from your fridge

1. In a big bowl whisk well the eggs, with the optional Parmesan or coconut milk. Then sprinkle salt & pepper to your taste.
2. Either in a food processor, or with a sharp knife, cut the bacon (or sausage links), green onions and vegetables in small pieces. Preheat oven at 350 F (180 C).
3. Place the chopped ingredients in a frying pan and fry in medium heat for 5-8 minutes (until the bacon is done), while stirring often.
4. Take the butter in your fingers and grease well the muffin holders in the tray.
5. Pour the fried ingredients in the egg bowl and mix well. Then, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the muffin holders.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the holders immediately and let cool. Then refrigerate for up to 3-4 days, and each morning microwave for 15 to 30 secs (depending on the microwave unit) the quantity you need for breakfast.

Cooking stuff, Part II

Today was my JBQ‘s birthday, so I made him a Paleo birthday cake (recipe, I substituted maple syrup with honey). It was the first such cake I had since I went Paleo, and the first one I ever made. I usually cook food pretty well, but I’m not great with desserts. This one turned out good, although we think the cake dough needed more honey.

Happy Birthday sweetie!

Last night I also made some almond-flax crackers. My JBQ, as a real French-man, he loves his cheese, so as we’re gluten-free in this house now, I’m making Paleo cheese crackers once a week. I added sesame seeds, finely chopped thyme & sage, oregano, and 1 TBspoon of olive oil to the base recipe. These came out great!

Shrimp & Citrus salad

We had this Paleo-friendly salad for lunch today. JBQ said that he hadn’t had this dish for many years (he used to have it in France), so I decided to try it out as our main dish (we had thinly-sliced smoked duck breast as an appetizer). It all came out really good.

Ingredients (for 2, 10gr of carbs per person)
* 10-12 large shrimp
* 1/2 of a cucumber
* 1/2 of a pomelo or a whole grapefruit
* 2-3 TBspoons of fresh chopped basil
* 2 heaping TBspoons of mayonnaise
* 1-2 TBspoons of lime or lemon juice (optional)
* Freshly cracked black pepper
* Salt to taste

1. Boil your shrimp in some boiling water for a few minutes. When done, put them in a colander and let lots of cold water run through them. Remove their shell and their vein on the back of their body. If you are using fresh, de-shelled and already-cooked shrimp, omit this step.
2. Place the citrus on a steady surface and hold it from the top. Using a big knife cut the outer part of your citrus fruit from top to bottom, all around it (it’s ok if a bit of the fruit goes to waste using this method). Then cut it in the middle (height-wise), and remove the skin from each segment. Place the main fruit (without any skin) on a big salad bowl, in chunks.
3. Peel the cucumber, cut it in two length-wise, and then two more times (so you get 4 long segments). Run the knife through each of these segments to remove some of the seeds (you can eat these while you’re preparing the salad…). Slice the cucumber segments in 1/3″ slices.
4. Add the cooled shrimp in the salad bowl, the cucumber, and the chopped basil. Crack some black pepper, and add some salt. Taste a small bit of the citrus fruit. If the fruit is bitter, then you don’t need to add the lime juice. But if your fruit is rather sweet, then squeeze some lime or lemon juice (1 or 2 TBspoons depending on the sweetness of the main citrus).
5. Add the mayo (home-made is best, but if you must buy it, strive to find a full-fat one without additives that is made with real eggs and olive oil), and carefully mix everything well using a spoon. Add more mayo if required. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Cooking stuff

Beef bone marrow broth, slow-cooked for 12 hours!

Lactose-free, probiotic goat yoghurt, fermented for 20+ hours!

Gizzards & kohlrabi en-cocotte

If there’s one recipe that will make you love kohlrabi (γογγύλι), it’s this one. Who needs white potatoes when you have such sweet and soft kohlrabi? Personally, I absolutely loved this Paleo dish! Its secret is in the bone broth.

Ingredients (for 3-4)
* 1 lb (450 gr) duck or chicken gizzards
* 1/3 stick of butter or duck fat
* 1 Tbspoon of coconut oil
* 2 cups of bone broth
* 3 medium kohlrabi bulbs
* 1 medium carrot
* 1 pinch of thyme or oregano
* 1 Tbspoon of lemon juice
* Salt & pepper to taste

1. Wash the gizzards with lots of water. Cut them in smaller pieces. Place them in a deep cooking pot, along the butter and coconut oil. Stir a few times, and brown them for a few minutes under medium heat.
2. Add the bone broth, salt & pepper, and simmer in low heat for about an hour or so.
3. Peel the kohlrabi, wash it, and cut it in 1-inch pieces. Wash the carrot, cut it in half length-wise, and then slice it.
4. Add them in the cooking pot, sprinkle the thyme/oregano, and stir. If at this point more liquid is required, add some water. Cook for 30 minutes in low heat.
5. When the liquid has evaporated, you’re left with a somewhat thick sauce, and the kohlrabi is soft, the dish is ready. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, stir. Serve hot.

Shepherd’s pie, Paleo-style

I made this Paleo-modified shepherd’s pie dish (aka cottage pie) for our Sunday lunch, and my husband remarked about how good it was. Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients (for 4)
* 1 lb (450 gr) sheep or beef minced meat
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 Tbspoons chopped parsley
* 1 clove of garlic, chopped
* 1 small carrot, diced
* 3 medium roma tomatoes, skinned, diced
* 1 cup of bone broth
* 1 large-ish head of cauliflower (preferably the yellow kind)
* 1 Tbspoon of butter
* 2 Tbspoons of coconut milk
* 1 Tbspoon of coconut or olive oil
* 3-4 slices of provolone cheese (optional)
* 1/3 cup of frozen green peas (optional)
* Salt & pepper

1. Cut the cauliflower in smaller florets, wash it, and boil it for 15 minutes in hot boiling water. Strain it, set aside.
2. While the cauliflower is cooking, warm out the coconut oil in a cooking pan under medium heat, and then add the chopped onion. After the onion has browned a bit, add the minced meat, and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the meat has started brown itself too.
3. Add the chopped parsley & garlic, diced carrot & tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well. If you allow green peas in your diet, add them now too (some consider them Paleo, others don’t). Then add the bone broth, and continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).
4. Put the cauliflower in a food processor, add the butter & coconut milk, and some pepper. Blend until smooth.
5. Use a 10″ diagonal, deep baking dish, and spread the minced meat mixture on it, leveling it well using the wooden spoon. Wash the wooden spoon, and use it again to evenly spread the cauliflower mash on top of the meat.
6. Spread the provolone cheese slices on top of the cauliflower (optional), and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it has started to brown. Eat warm. Dish freezes well too.