Sunday, March 24, 2013

paleo meals

my father in law (Ron) and i had a little date night recently where we went to this great local restaurant/marketplace for a cooking demo. the restaurant is called e.a.t. (extraordinary artisan table) and focuses on locally and responsibly sourced foods. they also take care to address special diets and food allergies. our date was to e.a.t. where they were hosting a small gathering of people to watch a cooking demo/class addressing the paleo diet. the restaurant/marketplace hosted it, and the executive chef there, one other private chef, and a well-known blogger in the paleo/crossfit community were the demonstrators.

before i get into the demo (and the delicious food we ate there), let's talk for just a moment about the paleo diet. i know far less about it than many others (for more detailed information, check out places like FITBOMB, Robb Wolf, and Mark's Daily Apple). a very brief overview is that this diet is not actually a diet, but a lifestyle change for health. it's based on the idea that we are not evolutionarily biologically capable of digesting certain agricultural items, especially grains and sugars. a typical paleo diet consists of no grains, no sugar, no legumes, and no processed foods. what does that leave? plenty, actually. it's a diet very high in vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, meat, and eggs. many lacto-paleo diets include whole/full fat dairy as well. this breaks down to diet high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats (coconut oil and olive oil, but no vegetable oil, for example.) i find a lot of merit in this kind of diet, and i know my troubled tummy feels much better when i limit starches and carbs, and it's something i feel a renewed passion for pursuing. but that's another post!

here's the fun part - the food from that demo! it was all SO delicious, and you would have a hard time believing some of it was totally grain free and had no added sugar or processed garbage.
we started with a cocktail which consisted of grape-distilled vodka (vs potato distilled vodka), coconut water, sparkling water, coconut sugar (sugar derived from the sap of the coconut tree - low glycemic and the only processing involved is extracting the water from the sap, leaving behind dark, sweet sugar), basil, mint, and blood orange. it was so smooth and so refreshing. remember, alcohol is not something i recommend indulging every day, but this was a lovely cocktail for once in awhile.
we next had a deviled egg made with avocado instead of mayo. typically, mayo is full of things those who follow the paleo diet frown on, such as vegetable oils and sugar. it is possible to make some delicious, flavorful, paleo-complient mayo very easily. however, it can be a little daunting and who would miss it when you use an avocado and the juice of a lime for a tangy, creamy, ultra healthy deviled egg. i never would've though lime would go nicely with a deviled egg, but i was a big fan.
the next course was paleo crackers and Bitchin' Sauce. they gave us more than one bite of cracker- i just forgot to take a photo! the cracker was made primarily with almond flour, herbs, and coconut oil. it was salty, savory, and crispy. the bitchin' sauce was an ultra savory, gluten free, vegan dip/spread that is also almond based. we came across some at the farmer's market the next morning and my husband and i bought two containers.
the main course was to die for. yams from a local farm were roasted in the over, then whipped with a little salt, coconut cream, and maple syrup to make a sweet luscious starchy base for the protein. the pork was a pork butt (which is actually shoulder) of a hog from a local farm that had been slow roasted with an herby, spicy rub. (the meat alone was delicious and high quality. the hogs are fed a breed appropriate diet which is very rich. they are finished before slaughter with avocados and macadamia nuts.) after the pork was shredded, it was tossed with a sweet, savory, thick balsamic-date reduction. then simply topped with a pretty roasted carrot. 
then we got into desserts! remember how i said no added sugar? that doesn't mean no chocolate. it means no milk chocolate - those paleo folks love their dark chocolate. George from Civilized Caveman Cooking prepared Chocolate Bacon Almond Butter Banana Bites for us to try. oh my, oh my. you never knew you needed bacon with your chocolate banana - but you do. you really do.

lastly, George passed out many variations of his Paleo Banana Bread. this was some of the best banana bread i've EVER had, grain-free, sugar-free, gluten-free or not. it was moist, sweet, dense, and delicious. everything banana bread should be and more. i snuck a few bites home for my husband and he also loved it so much, i made a batch the very next night.

i think he liked them. the recipe is so simple and fool-proof, it took me around 35 minutes to prepare from the time it took me to decide to make them, to taking them out of the oven. that easy! just throw everything in the blender and whirl til smooth. you can just the nut butter to any kind that blows your skirt up, any liquid fat that makes you frisky (melted butter, coconut oil, etc), and add-ins are endless. we sample chocolate chip, blueberry, and more. he also includes a variation that is orange-flavored. yum! i think i will add some cocoa next time to have some nice, dense, chocolate banana bread. 
all-in-all, we both loved the paleo demo and got some great insight into not only recipes, but a different way to look at food and our diets. it was a small gathering (they only sold 20 tickets total to keep it from getting crowded); and well done. the folks hosting and demo-ing were fabulous and the food was ridiculously delicious. you will definitely be seeing some of the recipes and food recreated here in the near future!

the next day, my husband and i hosted some family for a good southern catfish dinner.
blackened catfish with creamy lemon sauce; sweet mashed yams with pecans; crunchy, tangy coleslaw; tomato salad; and icebox pickles. definitely was so delicious!

the puppies have been having plenty of fun too.
they all look happy with their daddy. this is such a sweet picture - i wish it was a little better quality!

skyler was extra proud of his lunch today, and i'm glad to be able to post the fun meal to share with all of you!
clockwise from veggies: carrots and sweet baby peppers with salsa or peanut butter; coleslaw; icebox pickles and pickled onions; tomato salad; mashed yams with chipotle black bean burgers (frozen convenience food made by morningstar brand); whole wheat fig snack bar; and blueberry greek yogurt.

just for fun, here's a picture of appa with his ears in a ponytail.

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