Healthy Homemade Popcorn

Let’s clear the air real quick: corn is a grain, not a vegetable, which means it’s not paleo. I am aware of this, but with so many food restrictions for health reasons, I’m gonna take what I can get. Corn does not seem to have any negative impact on me so, when not on Whole30, it makes an occasional appearance in my personal paleo lifestyle. I did just start a new round of Whole30, so this glorious creation is out of reach for me for a hot minute, but if you’re doing your own thing then fire up the pan and get popping.

What goes together better than movies and popcorn? Pretty much nothing, that’s what. Unfortunately the stuff you get in theaters, or at the store, is usually loaded with artificial colors, artificial flavors, and even soybean oil. We talk a lot about not eating those things for our physical health, but mental health is an important part of our dietary choices too. To bring some light to the topic, this post is in collaboration with my friend Simon, the brains behind The Depressed Moviegoer blog. I whipped up this healthier version of a film buff must-have to keep us feeling good no matter what we’re watching, so fire up your streaming device of choice and grab a big bowl of your own homemade popcorn.

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Homemade Whole30 Mayo

Russians consume more mayonnaise than any other population in the world, so I guess it’s not that much of a surprise that it is probably my favorite condiment of all time. Unfortunately, the store-bought mayonnaise options are pretty lacking in quality, taste, price or any combination of the three. You can go the super processed route which is affordable, but usually features gems like soybean oil and corn syrup. You could also hit the “middle of the road” guys that are a little healthier, but typically still contain sugar and are made with low-quality fats like sunflower oil. Alternatively, you can go the all-natural direction which starts to smell bad before you’re halfway through the jar you spent $10 on. So, I make my own mayo now.

At first, the thought of homemade mayonnaise sounded pretty crazy, but then again… so did making my own mustard and I’ve been doing that for years. Mayonnaise is actually impressively easy to make and comes together very quickly – even if it might take you a few tries to get it right the first time. Once you finally get it right, it’s pretty hard to argue against making it yourself when this homemade two-minute version is always going to be Whole30 and 21 Day Sugar Detox compliant.

Bacon, guacamole, and tomato tacos with homemade mayo!

Still, I was not expecting this to be one of, if not the very best, mayos I have ever tried, but I am quite sure I will never purchase prepared mayonnaise again. I can’t wait to make my Easiest Chicken Ever and Deviled Eggs with this! And yep, it’s incredible in tuna salad too.

kasandrinos organic extra virgin greek olive oil

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Heritage: Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff (Paleo)

Despite our shared Russian roots, beef stroganoff is not a dish I ate often growing up – I don’t really remember eating it ever to be honest. That all changed a few years ago when Portland was graced with Kachka, the Russian/Ukrainian restaurant brain child of James Beard-nominee Bonnie Morales. I say this with no exaggeration: that beef stroganoff is one of my favorite dishes ever. The noodles are perfectly cooked, it’s creamy and unctuous, loaded with mushrooms, and topped with crispy but unbelievably tender beef tongue. Unfortunately, it’s also loaded with cream (and pasta obviously), which makes it a very delicious way to make myself feel very terrible. It was time to make my own version.

While I didn’t use beef tongue for my homemade version, I did whip out the instant pot to get us some seriously tender meat while drastically cutting down on cooking time (and cutting out all the time needed to peel a boiled cow tongue). I opted for Banza chickpea rotini as my pasta of choice – chickpeas don’t really seem to bother me and so are an occasional part of my personal paleo. If chickpeas don’t sit well with you, this will work just as well with Tolerant red lentil rotini or any other gluten-free pasta that works for your body. Both brands are available on Thrive Market as well as some grocery stores.

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Thai-ish Spicy Pineapple Chicken (Paleo)

It’s been years since I last ate the real thing at a college favorite spot back in Philadelphia, but recently I’ve been having crazy cravings for this Thai-style spicy pineapple chicken!

The main ingredients are pretty straightforward and I finally knuckled down to create my own version of this amazing sauce. I know the real stuff has tons of sugar and is also usually packed with soy; my version just uses a touch of honey and a splash of coconut aminos, but it still hit the spot to satisfy a five year craving.

Now that the weather is finally drying out and warming up, I’m making skewers, but this also works great as a stir-fry so feel free to switch gears if you don’t have a grill or don’t feel like cleaning it while your partner is away for four weeks.
Note: we’ve got a natural gas grill so my recipe will make mention of high and medium heat. You can absolutely make this on a charcoal grill as well.

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Curry for One (Whole30)

As you may already know, I live with my boyfriend Nick, and while he is an absolutely wonderful human, there are few who can stand to eat curry as often as I crave it. This has led to a lot of “protein two ways” dinners, but this dish in particular, featuring my Thai red curry for one, is definitely a household favorite (this is my other favorite).

The meatballs in this dish are so low maintenance that we can easily put together a quick dinner for two even when we want completely different meals.

If you’re tracking macros or have dietary restrictions for religious reasons, turkey or dark meat chicken make a fantastic alternative for the pork we usually use.

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The Perfect Steamed Egg

You guys know I love eggs. I mean, it’s literally in my name. I’ve got a lot of egg recipes here, but my Perfect Boiled Eggs are probably what I refer back to most – I use them in so many recipes (like my Top Secret Deviled Eggs)! I’m pleased to report, I now have a new and even better Perfect Egg than the OG. Let me introduce you to Perfect Steamed Eggs.

Sometimes, even when I want to eat my boiled eggs, I just do not feel like making them. I don’t feel like dealing with the boiling or the baking soda and I don’t feel like dealing with the immersion circulator either. So what’s an egg-needing person to do? Steam ’em! Yes, you read that correctly. You can steam “boil” your eggs, and not only are they a good substitute, they might be the best boiled eggs I’ve ever had. Plus, they are incredibly easy to peel, no baking soda necessary.

You can use these wherever you would normally use boiled eggs – as a quick snack, for deviled eggs, egg salad, or anywhere else that a medium-boiled egg might taste good.

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Heritage: Salted Caramel Halva Bites (Paleo)

I didn’t get too much of a reaction from my dad when I first told him about my Heritage: Upgraded series that I was going to start writing. My parents mean well, but I talk about food basically non-stop and I think sometimes they just smile and nod so I shut up.

Turns out, dad was just deep in thought because I got a call from him a few days later with a very specific request: halva, but healthier. A paleo halva. Halva, if you didn’t know, is a very popular Israeli/Middle Eastern dessert usually made from tahini or sesame paste.

I started researching halva and how to make it and when I realized that even Molly Yeh struggled to get it right, I figured it was time to adapt it to something more in my wheelhouse.

definitely in my wheelhouse

Halva aside, my dad has a serious sweet tooth and one thing I know he absolutely loves is caramel. More specifically, сгущёнка (“sgushyenka,” if you will). It’s made from boiling sweetened condensed milk in the can for several hours and is about as far from “clean eating” as you could possibly get. Note: Sgushyenka might sound alien to you, but you probably know it as its Latin American equivalent – dulce de leche.

Luckily, doing what I do, I recently received a very lovely package from The Date Lady crew including their coconut caramel sauce. This was shortly followed by some of the best tahini I’ve ever had in my life from Soom Foods, based in my hometown. Light bulbs, alarm bells, you name it, everything just clicked in my head and I had The Idea.

How do I combine my dad’s favorite things in a way that I actually want to eat it, and is also in a set size so we can’t just eat the whole jar with a spoon in one sitting? Not that that has ever happened…

Fudge. Freaking fudge, that’s how.

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No-Grill Roasted Peppers

love roasted peppers. I particularly love spicy roasted peppers like Anaheim or jalapeño and when it gets warm, I want them on everything. A great quickie accompaniment to just about any meal, these no-grill no-gas oven-roasted peppers are so easy and you can make them no matter what your grilling setup or pepper preference may be! This probably could have been a Five Minute Friday post, but I was excited and wanted to share in time for an extra day off and the sunny weather.

If you live somewhere that prohibits grill use, just don’t have one, don’t have a gas range, or any combination of the above: I got you. With an electric stove top and Oregon rain, classic roasted peppers are not always an option. Thankfully, these only take a few minutes and will last in the fridge for at least a few days, that is, if you manage to have any leftovers.

Large bowl (metal or glass)
Plastic wrap or ziplock bag

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Primal Party Platter

My sister was just in town so some indulgences were to be expected. That said, I also didn’t want to feel like crap while she was here (or ever, really) so let’s talk about eating primal and how to make the perfect party platter.

Primal is similar in framework to the paleo “diet” with a few differences. The main one, or at least the main one of importance to me, is the inclusion of full-fat dairy. I’ve developed an intolerance to “cow juice” in my old age, but seem to have no issues inhaling cheeses made from sheep or goat milks. Paleo prohibits dairy, and as cheese is a “gateway drug” for me, I tend to adhere to this prohibition pretty rigidly (not without longing for cheese, but nevertheless, I do stick to it). If you are interested in learning more about the Primal lifestyle in general, I highly recommend checking out this infographic from Mark’s Daily Apple.

Now before everybody gets up in arms about me saying this is primal, just remember the title of this post. It’s not a primal every day platter, is it? No? Good, glad we got that out of the way. If it makes you feel better, you can call it Primal+ or Paleo+ – I actually really like that. Paleo+. Cool segue, let’s move on.

As one tends to do when friends and family are in town, exceptions will be made! This past weekend, some friends came over for a raucous GIRLZ ONLY night, by which I mean we ate cheese, drank cider and watched Thor: Ragnarok. How to make this cheese + charcuterie board, you ask? Well you’ve come to the right place!

The cornerstone of a great platter is this: typically when working with cheeses, you should choose one each of the following – hard, soft, creamy, funky/blue, and “alternative” milk (such as goat cheese). Since we already established above that we’re not kickin’ it with the cow juice, I’ve adjusted this generally fool-proof formula to just include one hard cheese, one soft cheese (or maybe two), and something funky.

I’ve paired it with a few condiments and a few meat options – both store-bought and homemade in each of these categories, along with some nuts, honey, and paleo+ crackers.

Let’s get to it.

kasandrinos organic extra virgin greek olive oil

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Paleo Peanut Butter Pupsicles

Summer is upon us, or at least… it’s coming kind of soon, and the sun is seriously strong here in Oregon. We’ve got fans in every room and two AC’s, but sometimes my four-legged child wants a special treat just like us humans do! What’s a dog mom to do? Make pupsicles of course! They’re the perfect grain-free + frozen dog treats for any hot hound.

Franklin, like many dogs – like many pitbulls – has some serious allergies. They’re mostly environmental, but food can play a big part in that. Seeing my pupper scratching himself raw because he’s so itchy just breaks my heart. Even with medication, it’s not uncommon for Frank to draw blood from scratching so hard and he chews his paws constantly.

Per our vet, we don’t feed him gluten/grains or poultry/foul, and by choice we feed him a raw diet that we get from a great brand called Northwest Naturals. The progress in his skin and hair growth over the last six months has been unreal, but his allergies aren’t something that have an “end”. This has been and is going to be a lifelong issue for him and it’s up to us to do what we can to make him feel more comfortable.

I mention all of this as a preface to explain why on earth I’m making my own dog treats. While it’s gotten much easier to find single ingredient dog treats like dehydrated or freeze-dried animal parts, any biscuit-style goodies are pretty much out of the question. Not only are they often packed with rice, barley, or chicken, they also can have added sugar. What on earth does Franklin need molasses for? That’s a trick question – he doesn’t. Please don’t give your dog pure sugar.

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Master Class: Whole30 Pickled Onions

I recently decided it was time to add some more tricks to my kitchen tool belt. I am always researching, reading, and learning something new, but I wanted to share some of that with you guys as I go “back to basics” and learn how to do a few things I’ve never done before. Starting with: pickled onions!

This quick pickled red onion recipe is heavily inspired by Michelle at Unbound Wellness. I’ve been reading about pickling for a while and I love that her version doesn’t have any added sugar, not even honey. It’s also impressively easy and only takes about five minutes of real “work”.

chicken liver mousse and pickled onions are a perfect pair

Not only are pickled onions delicious, and apple cider vinegar is good for you, but they go great on just about anything. On a burger, paired with chicken liver mousse, as part of a platter, or even mixed into a salad – you’re going to want these Whole30-compliant onions on just about everything.

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Locavore Review: Stella’s Kitchen

In the tiniest two-spot shopping center in Beaverton lies the flagship kitchen of the meal prep masters behind Stella’s Kitchen, the Paleo/Whole30/primal meal prep + delivery service of your dreams.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with boss-lady Sarah, who answered a bunch of my questions and also very graciously let me try out a week of Stella’s so I could share the experience with you.

So how does this all work?

Every Tuesday night, the Stella’s crew posts their menu for the following week. There are breakfast, lunch, and dinner options along with snacks and just about everything is labeled for Paleo, Primal, or Whole30 dietary restrictions. You can choose individual meals or a specific meal plan. You have until midnight Friday to poke around, make some difficult decisions, and place your order.

my first order

At checkout, you’ll choose a pick-up location that is most convenient for you, either by location or delivery day. Then you get to hang out until next week! On your designated delivery day, you’ll get an email from Stella’s about 30 minutes before your food is ready for pickup. Meals come individually packaged in biodegradable containers and are kept cold with an ice pack in a sweet insulated bag rocking the Stella’s Kitchen logo.

The next time you place an order, you’ll return that bag and ice pack when you go to pick up the new one.

I loved this idea anyway, but I respect Sarah and what’s she’s doing even more for her Beka-level obsession with supporting local makers, local farmers – there’s an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and labor here that rivals the farmer’s markets. They’re also highly focused on sustainability which I can’t geek out about enough.

The kitchen crew uses as little plastic as possible, the containers are all recyclable and I believe they are working on having biodegradable packaging as well. When I asked Sarah if she’d stock one of my favorite juice shots, I got shut down – they’re packaged in plastic. Really, I should do better. Which is why I’m now trying to reverse engineer my own version of that juice shot, but that’s not relevant to this review.

All this to say, Stella’s Kitchen is pumping out some seriously thought-out meals with a very morally sound machine. I’m into it.

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