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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Happy National BBQ Day!
If grilling, smoking, or BBQ anything is your jam, you probably already know that every region has their own style. I like most of them, but my favorite is definitely that yellow mustard vinegar BBQ sauce the Carolinas are known for. Even before food was really my “thing,” that was always my choice. I love vinegar and I love mustard and if I can put them together in a sauce and then put that sauce on meat, I am one happy foodie.
The problem lies in the fact that most of these sauces are loaded with sugar and all kinds of other weird stuff, like adding store-bought ketchup or BBQ sauce to the sauce you are making… why? The point is, I made my own that completely hits the spot and satisfies my paleo preferences too.
I started off with a base similar to my 5-Minute Mustard and then had at it. It’s worth mentioning that this wasn’t really doable without some kind of added sweetener, so I went for a thick local honey and a splash of maple syrup. I did find it got quite a bit sweeter as it sat overnight, so try ditching the maple if you like it extra sharp. This stuff is intense and delicious! And off-limits for Whole30, sorry gang.
I seriously could not think of a better debut recipe for my new blog series which I first talked a little bit about this in an Instagram post a few weeks ago. Heritage:Upgraded will feature Whole30/21DSD-compliant and Paleo recreations of the Russian, Ukrainian, Ashkenazi, and Jewish-American cuisine of my heritage and my childhood. Some of these will be dishes I grew up with, some just cultural classics, but this one, my Aunt Lena’s шкварки (shkvarky), this is like the holy grail. Plus it’s paleo, keto, and Whole30-compliant too.
Traditionally made with pork, Ukrainian Jews took to chicken for a more Kosher-friendly version of this scrumptious crackling “jam”. Chicken skin, chicken fat, and onions are all you need for this slow-cooked crispy madness.
It’s been on the menu at Portland-local Kachka a few times, but when I’m really missing my fam, I want it homemade. I’m still working on the paleo blinchiki to pair with this, but in the meantime, it’s pretty perfect on eggs, veggies, and anything else you want to schmear crispy chicken skin on.
I tend to make baked garlic a lot more often in the colder months, but I’ve been craving it lately and thought it would make a perfect little Five Minute Friday since that is quite literally all you need to make it happen. Admittedly, the garlic does cook for a while, but the prep is exceedingly simple and then you can just relax with one of my booze-free cocktails until it’s good to go!
Baked garlic was a classic menu item in my house growing up. My sister and I are both fiends and asked for it practically every day until my mom said she could smell it seeping out of our pores. Maybe this is why I started dating an Italian – he doesn’t judge my garlic consumption.
A glorious addition to most any protein-forward or vegetable dish, it’s also great in soups, mixed into a dip, and – if carbs are your thing – in a pasta dish or spread onto some paleo bread.
I think my OG deviled eggs recipe went up on SlowCarbSnacktime in early 2013. At the time, I was mostly writing the blog as an exploratory “I’m learning to cook and you can follow along” kind of thing. My skills and my confidence have improved since then, but my deviled eggs are still one of the most-requested dishes whenever I’m back on the east coast.
I always called them my Top Secret Deviled Eggs, and for good reason. It’s amazing what a little bit of shredded anchovy can do for the already practically perfect egg.
I still add anchovies now; they’re a fantastic salty upgrade to the standard kosher salt approach, but we’ve classed them up a bit this time. I also provided a few alternatives at the end in case you are Nick and don’t like anchovies.
Super fancy tea powder? Something like that. I had been curious about matcha for a long time, but was hesitant to try for nearly as long. Now it’s a staple in my mid-morning routine, but back then, even when I worked at a tea shop in college, I felt there was some reason to avoid it. Like most college students, I chose to drink an absurd amount of coffee instead. It made me sick as bananas, but I did it anyway.
I didn’t know it then, but I have both IBS and IC. You’ve probably heard of IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s symptoms are equally as embarrassing as having to say out loud that you have an irritable bowel. Interstitial Cystitis or IC is the smaller, quieter, more vicious cousin of IBS. The symptoms are similar, but target the bladder. I do not recommend this experience.
Where IBS just rushes you to the bathroom, expels your guts, and gets on with its day, IC likes to stick around. The pain is not dissimilar to a urinary tract infection, which I used to get all the time (I now realize they were probably IC flares). Unfortunately, neither antibiotics nor cranberry juice work for IC. It’s also more easily triggered than IBS, for me at least.
My guts are pretty straightforward and expectedly rebel at dairy, soy, and canola oil. My bladder, it seems, has also taken issue with alcohol, vinegar, acidic foods, sometimes chocolate, and sometimes carbonated beverages… but sometimes not.
The reason I tell you all this is because they have one trigger in common: caffeine. Having experienced all this and learned that caffeine is essentially like hurling Mjolnir towards all the waste-producing parts of my body, you can probably see why I was hesitant to try it in any other form.
Still, I kept hearing about how good matcha is for you. It kept popping up in coffee shops, pastry windows, and even chocolate bars. My favorite chocolate bar, actually. (This is pretty comical now since it contains not only caffeine from the matcha, but also gluten, dairy, and soy. It’s incredible what we will do to ourselves for something tasty.)
The point? Having fallen in love with these matcha chocolate bars from the swanky chocolatiers, I knew I needed to get to the real deal.
Luckily, I’m a blogger and, having no clue where to start, I reached out to the crew at Wild Foods for some guidance. They sent me matcha, MCT oil, and samples of their cocoa butter wafers and Cocotropic powder.
You are probably thinking “what on Earth does that mean and why would I put any of this stuff in my tea?” Let me explain.
It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer, outdoor brunch is almost a thing again, and you have no idea what to get for your mom. Happens to me every year, but maybe this time I can help you get ahead of the curve with some of my current life favorites turned Mother’s Day gift guide.
Note: Mother’s Day can be a challenging day for many. I respect that some of you may have lost your mother, may not have one worthy of being in your life, or may struggle with becoming one. This post is in no way meant to hurt any of you for whom this day is not a pleasant one. If that is you, consider this a bonus “life favorites” post rather than a gift guide (or apply it to other great people in your life). You can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your family.
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands hand cream – Okay so this really isn’t enough for a stand-alone gift, but it’s been a lifesaver for me recently as I’ve dramatically increased my time in the kitchen. If yo’ mama loves to cook, garden, or do any other work with her hands, this is a great little add-on to some fresh kitchen spices or heritage seeds.
Instant Pot – It’s me so of course I was going to recommend at least one kitchen appliance. I love recommending the instant pot because it covers so many bases in one item and if your mom is anything like mine – she absolutely cannot stand clutter and throws things out like a madwoman. The instant pot is a slow cooker and pressure cooker in one, but can also function as a rice cooker, yogurt maker, and more. I also love that it has a saute function so if you want to brown your meat or veggies before switching to pressure/slow cooking, you can do it all in one vessel. This is especially great for anyone who either doesn’t enjoy cooking and doesn’t want to do it every day or for someone who has many mouths to feed.
I recently had the pleasure of taking a very long drive down to Corvallis to meet some of the lineup at 2 Towns Cider. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may already know it is pretty much my favorite cidery around. I genuinely enjoy their product, and the love grew even more when I learned of their decision to not add any additional sugar to their ciders. As far as alcohol goes, that’s about as paleo as you can get!
Though I couldn’t enjoy all the ciders on tap (I did still have to drive home), the 2 Towns team graciously provided me with plenty of product to take home, which brings us here: onion jam, made with 2 Towns’ Ginja Ninja cider.
I’ve been looking into onion jam for quite a while, but every recipe I found used copious amounts of sugar, often in addition to over a cup of sweet wine or even rum. That wasn’t going to fly for me, but when I tasted the Ginga Ninja cider I knew we could make it happen a different way. The 2 Towns website description says “raw ginger root collides with Northwest apples to deliver a balance of sweet and spicy,” so pretty much exactly what I was looking for.
If you venture into the depths of Beka ‘N Eggs, you may find an embarrassing recipe from my SlowCarbSnacktime days for scrambled egg cups. It’s really not a good recipe. I didn’t test it at all until the day I made it for that blog post and the pictures are… well, let’s call it growing pains. Really, I should delete that post, but it remains to be one of my most popular on Pinterest so instead I’ve decided to give that recipe a bit of a makeover instead.
I’m not really a big breakfast person and neither is Nick, but with morning workouts, long walks with Franklin, and lots of work-related business in the kitchen, having a quick protein bomb to shovel into our face holes is never a bad move. These are perfect for breakfast, post-workout, mid-day snack, or even as part of lunch. It helps that they taste just as good cold, or you can nuke ’em for 10-20 seconds.
Trader Joe’s have really stepped up their deli meat game lately which makes this meal prep treat even easier. (I am not sponsored by TJ’s at all, just impressed!) For this post, I used prosciutto, mortadella, and turkey to keep things interesting, but if that’s not your style you can just pick what you like most.
* While you don’t really need the baking sheet to cook anything (it’ll remain clean), it’s very helpful when using a silicone tray to keep it flat/steady which makes it much easier to get in and out of the oven.