Author Archives: Steph

4 Things You Need To Know Before You Start Strength Training

4 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Strength Training |

Before you start strength training, there are four things you definitely need to consider.

Lifting heavy things and building muscle mass are incredibly important, especially as we pass into mid-adulthood and beyond. If you’ve been considering starting a strength program, check out my list of four things to look out for.

I shared it on The Paleo Mom’s website, where I was recently a guest blogger.

Click here to read 4 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Strength Training!

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4 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Strength Training |

Do you strength train? Let me know in the comments below!

Bonus Fitness & Nutrition Guide

Bonus Fitness & Nutrition Guide |

“Am I doing this right?” It’s a common question I hear from Paleo people all the time!

To go along with my upcoming cookbook—the one that comes out in just a bit over 8 weeks!—I created a companion bonus ebook called The Performance Paleo Cookbook Fitness & Nutrition Guide to help you figure out if you’re doing Paleo right!

The best part? If you pre-order the cookbook before November 31, 2014 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, I’ll send you the Fitness & Nutrition Guide as way of saying thank you. I’m so incredibly grateful for all your support, and pre-ordering helps us know how many books to make. (Plus, you also save 25% off the regular price which is pretty sweet.)

Bonus Fitness & Nutrition Guide |

What’s in the Fitness & Nutrition Guide? It’s over 30 pages of great information about how to use the recipes in the book, plus a whole ton of other killer stuff like:

  • understanding how to eat Paleo for performance
  • what to eat and how to build a plate
  • how to approach pre- and post workout
  • sound training advice
  • how to get amazing sleep and reduce stress
  • practical tips for cooking
  • common Paleo pitfalls to avoid and
  • tons of awesome resources including my favorite products & discounts!

It’s like a mashup between my nutrition seminars and a miniature version of The Paleo Athlete all rolled into one, and it’s the perfect companion to the cookbook.

To get your bonus Fitness & Nutrition Guide, save your Amazon or Barnes & Noble order number, then fill out the simple form here. You’ll get access to the guide right away, and you can save the PDF ebook to your computer for later.

I’m so excited for you to get your bonus guide. I hope it gives you the tools and confidence to know that indeed, you are doing it right!

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Bonus Fitness & Nutrition Guide |

Remember to pre-order then get your guide here!

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on Food Photography Tips! (Click here to read Part 1.) I’m on a mission to help beginners make their food photos look better, so we’re going to jump right in with some basics on styling. Plus, keep reading down for a killer giveaway from my friends at Erickson Wood Works…wink wink.

Here’s the thing with food photography: It’s an art. Sure there are technical things to master like using your camera settings correctly, but SO much of it is what you create from your own ideas and from your heart. There isn’t any one style that’s right, and you’ll find over time you may develop your own signature look.

I’ve seemed to gravitate toward simpler styling, some shadowing and highlighting bold colors in the food itself. Other folks are known for their dramatic shadows and moody shots, others for their chic and polished look, and still others for their “smashed” food shots.

My best advice is to experiment and see what you come up with. Don’t feel like you have to copy a certain style to have it be “right.”

Once you’ve set the stage by optimizing the right location and light, it’s time to turn your attention to the aesthetic quality of your photos.

Food Photography Tips: Styling

The only limit to styling is your imagination, as cheesy and cliche as that sounds. There are some basic pointers that can help you get started, however. I learned a TON from the online course Story on a Plate and Tasty Food Photography, and they were highly influential in my work on the cookbook. Their lessons were indispensable then and now as I continue photographing for myself and others.  First, I’ll discuss some of the elements of a good photo, and then how to stage it.

Element 1: Props

You needn’t go crazy with props, but as you become more comfortable with your food photography you may want different props to shoot with. Props can be anything from the components of a table setting (plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, etc.) to interesting serving wear to linens to kitchen gadgets and of course, the food itself.

A look inside my prop cabinet…

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

My rule of thumb is that whenever I’m shopping, I keep an eye out for interesting props. Sometimes I walk out with nothing, sometimes a few things. If I see something I like, I always get it then and there. I’ve gone back to get an item a few days later only to find it was gone. Huge bummer. I also usually only buy one of something. It forces me to mix and match and cuts down on the amount of storage space I need.

Where to find awesome props? The possibilities are pretty much endless, but here are some of my favorites:

Some of these stores are pricey, so I always comb their sales rack or sales page looking for good deals.

There are no rules about which colors or patterns to use or avoid. I try to find props with interesting shapes or textures that lend visual interest to the photograph without upstaging the food. If you’re just starting out, you may want to invest in some basic / classic pieces, especially white / basic designs and avoid the really flashy pieces. It’s hard to go wrong with simpler props, and you’ll get more mileage out of them versus a really unique piece that will be really obvious the 6th time you’ve used it.

For linens, again, use your imagination. I have a mixture of colored and white linens, mostly dish towels but some napkins, too. Believe it or not, my favorite linen is a 99 cent Ikea dish towel with a simple red stripe. I really love soft, thin fabrics instead of actual linen or terry cloth because they aren’t as bulky and have a nice drape to them. I store my linens crumpled up in my prop cabinet because I love the visual interest that wrinkles bring. Burlap is also a cool fabric, and you can usually find it at craft stores.

Element 2: Backdrops

The surface you shoot on can really make a difference to the mood of your photo, and there are so many different options out there. If you have a nice table, there’s nothing wrong with starting with that and branching out over time. Countertops, floors, and chairs make good surfaces too, depending on the material. I’ve shot on top of old, beat up sheet pans, oversized metal trays, marble pastry slabs, pieces of slate, fabric covering a table, and even my wood floor.

By far my favorite option though are wooden backgrounds designed for photography.

I’ve made my own from salvaged wood (this one is my favorite)…

Paleo Vanilla Hazelnut Creamer with Homemade Cold-Brew Coffee |

…and from wood I purchased from the hardware store. (Click that link for the full tutorial.)

Vanilla Berry Chia Pudding |

The other option is to buy a pre-fab background from an online crafter. They range from vinyl printed to made like wood (which, when the shot is close, sometimes betrays itself as not wood) to reclaimed pieces or those made to look aged  / distressed.

Generally, I like boards that are 2 to 2.5 feet x 2.5 to 3 feet in dimension. This leaves enough space for pull-back / wide shots.

Recently, I found Erickson Wood Works on Etsy that makes double-sided, lightweight boards in a variety of finishes. When it comes down to the cost of making your own (especially if you’re not very crafty or lack the basic tools), these are VERY cost effective. EWW is a small, family-owned California company, and their quality and service is fantastic.

Here’s an example of their boards:

Butternut Squash "Pasta" Sauce—Paleo & Whole30 |

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

I’m SO pumped to offer my fellow food bloggers and photographers the chance to win one of THREE double-sided backgrounds from Erickson Wood Works! The winners will each choose from two of Erickson’s signature finishes. Cool, right? That’s $100+ value for each winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below.*

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Element 3: Planning the Shot

Again, there’s no real right or wrong answer with how to style a shot, but there are some basics that can help you construct a great looking picture.

Probably the most basic way to arrange a shot is called the Rule of Thirds. When you look through your camera’s viewfinder, imagine the field of view divided into 9 small boxes, Brady-bunch style. Placing the focal object of the shot at the corners of these boxes can really help make a photo look more interesting. Put in other terms, centering your focal object can kind of look boring.

That’s not to say that a gorgeous plate of food centered can’t look dramatic and striking! It certainly can…

The Performance Paleo Cookbook |

But setting your subject off to the side, even with some parts of the props out of the frame can really look awesome.

The Performance Paleo Cookbook |

I usually start the process of shooting a recipe by choosing my location, then selecting my props. I think about things like the color of the food and the feeling I’m trying to convey. Is it rustic? Casual? Refined? Playful? I tend to choose my props based on the mood I’ve selected.

For example, when I shot this soup, I wanted to create a feeling of fall so I picked a copper tray and a small bowl made of horn because they were both warm / darker colors. The soup really popped!

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

For this picture (from my upcoming cookbook), I wanted to create more of a process shot. This is great for recipes where you end up with multiples of things, like these little jars or other individual servings. I set up the photo as I was really topping each jar with blueberries, and I chose simple props that were silvery / had interesting shapes to play off the round jars. (The background? An old beat up baking tray.)

Lemon Vanilla Custard with Blueberry Sauce

As much as I can, I try to visualize what I want the shot to look like before I set it up. I don’t always end up with that I envisioned, but usually it’s pretty close. And sometimes, to be honest, I just wing it and see where inspiration takes me.

I try to think about what, if any, food I’m going to include in the shot and save some while I’m prepping the recipe. For example, in the squash soup recipe, I saved the seeds and toasted those in the oven, then used them as a garnish and a prop element in the photo. When possible, save the BEST-looking food for the shot. Generally, you can get away with more when food is cooked than when it’s raw. For example, in the blueberry sauce above, it didn’t matter at all what the berries looked like. In the shot of the Blueberry Pork Patties though, I saved the best berries for the garnish.

Now I’ll walk you through how I set up this photo of a Blackberry Thyme Kombucha Slushy…

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Once I select my location, props and background, I begin by setting up a skeleton of a shot without the food. I’ll take several photos with a “stand in” such as an onion (or in this case just the empty mug),  adjusting my camera settings as I go. I added some frozen berries (which I wanted to start thawing) and some thyme leaves.

Generally, I shoot on ISO 500 to 1000, f / 2.5 to 3.5, though that varies depending on the subject and the lighting. This shoot presented a challenge because the berries are very dark and the background, very light. Since I wanted mostly overhead shots, I set my aperture to 7.1 which results in less bokeh since a larger depth of field can be tricky from above. Since that means the lens opening is smaller, my shutter speed was slower to let in more light. (Note: The following photos are unretouched.)

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 7.1  1/320)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

I knew this felt too dark, so I added a piece of white foam board (helllllo, cheap reflector) on one side.

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 3.2  1/1600)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

I try to start with fewer props than I think I need, then add as I go to comfortably fill the frame. I think there’s a tendency with newbies to overdo it with props and crumbs and sprinkles of this and drips of that. Less is generally more. Here, I decided I wanted more berries and few more sprigs of thyme. Notice I still haven’t poured the frozen drink!

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 7.1  1/320)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

I felt sufficiently happy with my styling, so I went and made the frozen drink, then poured it. I knew over time it would start to settle, so I wanted to do the next shots pretty fast. Having this set up ahead of time made that possible.

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 7.1  1/320) Notice this still feels really dark. To compensate without changing aperture, I changed the shutter speed to make it slower which allows more light into the camera.

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

The result…It’s a bit overexposed, but that can be fixed in editing.

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 7.1  1/60)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Here I changed the composition and angle of the shot a bit. I ended up not liking this as much as the overhead shot, but I encourage you to change things up and see what you get. You never know! Note: I changed the aperture to f / 4.5 since I moved away from an overhead shot. Notice how the shutter speed changed from 1/60 or 1/80 to 1/200…much faster since the aperture was more wide open (lower number) which allows more light into the camera.

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 4.5  1/200)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

I also shot this recipe in both orientations: portrait and landscape. Having both orientation options is really key because you never know when you may want to use photo for a future project that requires one or the other. Keep your options open.

(Settings: ISO 1000  f / 7.1  1/80)

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Probably the best advice I can give is to keep things looking as natural as possible! Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Food Photography Tips series for how to handle editing and some frequently asked questions!

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Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Food Photography Tips—Part 2

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below, and I’ll get back to you!

*Open to US residents only. Giveaway ends Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 11:59 PM PST. Winners will be notified by October 21, 2014. The winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to confirm back with his or her full name, address, and phone number (for shipping purposes) to claim the prize.

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

Moules et Frites (or Mussels & Fries) is one of my favorite appetizer-style dishes that seems so fancy, but is quite simple to make. Sometimes when I can get local mussels for a good deal, I’ll make a big batch and eat the whole thing, but this can easily be split among two people as an appetizer or with a big salad for a light dinner.

I make my version of Moules et Frites with a little bit of hard apple cider because it compliments the sweetness of the mussels, but you could just as easily use a splash of white wine or chicken broth. The secret to sweet potato fries that aren’t soggy is to cut them very thin like I did below. Give them some breathing room and spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet so they roast instead of steam.

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 2


  • 1 lb (454 g) sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) ghee or coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb (680 g) mussels
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) ghee
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup (59 mL) hard cider*
  • 2 strips crispy bacon, chopped or 2 tbsp chopped salami**, for garnish
  • Handful chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. First, get the sweet potato fries going. You can also omit these and just make the mussels which will cut the cooking time down by a lot. Preheat the oven to 400F (204C), and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into thin sticks (about the size of regular French fries), then put them on the sheet and toss with the ghee, salt and pepper. Spread them into a single layer and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir at least once during baking so they brown evenly.
  3. While the sweet potato fries are baking, prep the mussels. Wash the mussels with fresh water and discard any that are open or cracked. You might need to remove the beard: It's that scraggly looking bit of stuff that's hanging outside the shell. To do that, gently pull toward the wider end of the shell. Set the mussels aside.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the ghee. Then, add the shallot and garlic and cook it for about a minute, until it starts to smell amazing. Toss in the mussels and the hard cider, then increase the heat to medium-high and cover. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mussels open and release their liquid.
  5. Serve the mussels in a big bowl with the broth, and garnish with crispy bacon / salami and parsley. Serve the fries on the side. I like to dip mine in the broth along the way.


*or use chicken broth or white wine **I like Creminelli Fine Meats, found at Whole Foods

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Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

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Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries |

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below, and I’ll get back to you!

5 Questions With My Paleo Shero—Mel Joulwan

5 Questions with Mel Joulwan |

Steph’s note: Every once in a while, I share interviews with some of the amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know in this community. I am beyond excited to interview my friend Mel Joulwan, totally badass creator of the blog The Clothes Make the Girl and author of two amazing cookbooks: Well Fed and Well Fed 2. She’s cooked up some of the most well-loved Paleo / Whole30 recipes EVER (um, hello Chocolate Chili and Homemade Paleo Mayo) and completely lives the lifestyle. I’m a die-hard fan, and still hoping that one day, her, Nom Nom Paleo and I will dress up as Charlie’s Angels for Halloween. Please enjoy!

I know a lot about you Mel, but can you tell newbies about who you are and what you do?

I’m a book nerd who plays classical piano. Along the way to being a grown up,  I fell in love with punk rock music, leopard print, and cooking. I also played flat track roller derby. If you look me up on Amazon, you’ll find Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From The Track (my book about my Derby days), Living Paleo For Dummies, and my cookbooks Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat and Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat. (You’re welcome to download free samples of our books: Well Fed and Well Fed 2.)

5 Questions with Mel Joulwan |

I have a blog called The Clothes Make The Girl where I write about my triumphs and failures in the gym, in the kitchen, and in life. I like to pretend I’m a badass so I workout at KDR Fitness  (where they have me lift heavy things over and over and over, sometimes quickly.) I also enjoy frequent soaks in epsom salts, walk 10,000 steps almost every day, and meditate. I’ve seen every episode of the original Law & Order at least three times (not an exaggeration), and my favorite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (not to be confused with books by Jane Austen.)

5 Questions with Mel Joulwan |

If you were stuck on a desert island (with a fridge), what 3 foods would you choose to have around?

A jar of Sunbutter, so I’d always have a sweet treat. (Plus, it would taste great on the bananas I’m going to assume are growing on the beach of my island.)

A jar of Thai red curry paste so I could turn the fish I’d catch and the coconuts I’d find into a luscious curry.

A bottle of champagne because…screw it! I’m stuck on a desert island! I’m having a little bubbly once in a while.

(This is all a lie. If I was on a desert island, I would wish I had Doritos, Fritos, and Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips.)

What’s your best time saving tip for making cooking at home less painful?

I have two tricks, and they’re both based on the helpful fact that I actually really love leftovers. Honestly, I think I enjoy leftover food more than the original meal. I know that makes me a weirdo.

1. I always cook a bunch of protein and veggies in advance. I grill chicken and brown ground beef. I partially steam broccoli, cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts…and I put everything in BPA-free containers in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, I heat some ghee or duck fat (OMG! Duck fat!) in a skillet, then add garlic and onion. When it’s soft, I plunk in protein and veggies, add some spices, and sauté everything until it’s caramelized. If I’ve done the prep of the protein and veggies in advance, the “make dinner” part takes only about 15 minutes.

2. My best secret weapon is homemade mayo. It takes about 3 minutes to make, and it makes everything you blop it on taste better. Grilled meat. Canned tuna. Raw veggies. Just add some spices and acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to the mayo and you instantly have a creamy dipping sauce.

What’s new on the horizon for The Clothes Make the Girl?

You heard it here first: We’re working on a site redesign that will be more visual to better highlight my recipes and a new structure that should make it easier to find recipes in the archive. We’re super excited to see how it all comes together. It should be launched in early 2015. Whew!

And…I’m working on recipes for our next cookbook. The theme is still a secret, but I can tell everyone this: The recipes will be internationally-inspired favorites with lots of spices — I could never give up my spice drawer! — but there’s also a new twist that I think people will really like. That’s all I can say about it for now. It should be out in early 2016.

I hear you’ve got these cool curated boxes of your favorite Mel things happening now…what’s that all about?

Quarterly is a really fun company that recruits people — like Pharrell Williams, Andrew Zimmern, Nina Garcia, Timothy Ferriss… and me (!) — to curate boxes of goodies that are sent to subscribers a few times a year. The first box I put together was a Paleo starter kit. It went out to 650 subscribers in September, and it was really fun to see the reactions online as people unboxed their care packages. (You can see what was in box EAT01 right here.)

For EAT02, the theme is “Good Morning,” and I’m really excited about the cool stuff that’s going to be in the box. Morning can be a stressful time for people, so EAT02 will be filled with hand-picked items to make mornings a little sweeter. My husband Dave and I collaborate on a hand-drawn letter and recipe for each box. In EAT01, we included an illustrated letter — my handwriting, Dave’s drawings — and a recipe for Snuggle Soup that I developed exclusively for the Quarterly box. We have some really fun ideas for the letter we’ll include in EAT02.

My goal with my Quarterly box is to always give my subscribers delicious things to eat and useful things that are delightful in some way. It’s a care package from me to them. To subscribe, head right on over here:

5 Questions with Mel Joulwan |

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5 Questions with Mel Joulwan |

Have a question for Mel? Leave it in the comments below!

Totally Pinchworthy

You know that thing of where you get recognized for something really awesome by your peers? Well, that just happened.

Paleo Magazine Best of 2014 |

I was nominated three Paleo Magazine Best of 2014 awards along with some M E G A talented folks like Nom Nom Paleo and Mel Joulwan. To say that I’m humbled is an understatement, and it makes me remember how very grateful I am for you. You show your support every single day by coming here to get new recipes and to learn how to be healthier. You read my books and join the community on social media. Thank you truly.

Paleo Magazine Best of 2014 |

If you have a moment, please head over and vote for your favorites. I’m nominated in:

  • Most Anticipated New Cookbook (for The Performance Paleo Cookbook)
  • Best Blog–Food Centered
  • Best Blog Recipe–Treat (for Cinnamon French Toast Panna Cotta)

Click here to vote!

Show some love for your favorite blogs, authors, and Paleo / Primal brands. It’s amazing how this community has grown. Thank you again for all your support…I couldn’t do it without you!


Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce—Paleo & Whole30

Butternut Squash "Pasta" Sauce—Paleo & Whole30 |

Sometimes, recipes are born out of necessity. My local market was sold out of a prepared butternut squash sauce, so I decided to make my own version. Of course, I had nothing to compared the taste to, but I’ll settle for “delicious” which is what I got.

Butternut Squash "Pasta" Sauce—Paleo & Whole30 |

This sauce uses butternut squash as the base, but adds in sautéed aromatics—similar to a classic mirepoix—to create a foundation of flavor. The red pepper gives it some body, and some tomato paste brings acidity without dominating and making it taste too tomato-y.

Butternut Squash "Pasta" Sauce—Paleo & Whole30 |

I served this over warmed zucchini noodles, but the possibilities are really endless!

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce—Paleo & Whole30

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves 3 to 4.


  • 1 tbsp (15 g) ghee
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 lb (454 g) butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) tomato paste
  • ~3/4 cup (177 mL) water
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


  1. First, get the aromatic veggie base going. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the ghee. Add the onion, red pepper, celery and pinch of sea salt. Cook and stir until the veggies soften and lightly brown, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the butternut squash cubes and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Cook for another 10 minutes or so until the squash is tender. Stir a few times so nothing sticks. Turn off the heat and let the veggies cool for a few minutes.
  3. Then, add the veggies to a food processor or high speed blender with the tomato paste. Start with 1/2 cup (118 mL) water. Puree the veggies until they become a sauce. If it's too thick, add water by the tablespoon. I found that 3/4 cup (177 mL) water made a sauce that was somewhere between a thin soup and a thick puree. Of course, the moisture content of your veggies may vary so start with less and add more as you go.
  4. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and warm in a small pot before serving.


Double the batch and freeze the extras for up to 1 month.

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Butternut Squash "Pasta" Sauce—Paleo & Whole30 |

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below!

Food Photography Tips—Part 1

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Some simple food photography tips can take your pictures from boring to beautiful, and today I’m sharing Part 1 of a three-part series.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was taking pictures with my iPhone in poor lighting (or even worse—with the bright glare of a flash), but through trial and error, some education, and lots of practice, I improved enough to confidently shoot all the photos for my upcoming cookbook.

From this…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

To this…  Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

A Few Thoughts on Cameras

Shooting photos with your phone isn’t the worst thing you can do. Many of them now have great-quality cameras built in that work really well under bright light situations, but there are definite drawbacks. Let’s say you’ve been dutifully snapping pics with your camera phone and blogging them for a while, and then you decide to compile your recipes into a book (electronic or print). The resolution is likely to be too low to create a quality product, and you’ll be stuck shooting them again.

If you’re serious enough about blogging that you devote several hours a week to it, my advice is to get an entry-level DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. I started with a Nikon D3200 which came with a 18-55mm zoom lens, and it was perfect for learning with. If you’re a Canon fan, a comparable camera would be something like a Rebel T5.

I shot these photos with my Nikon D3200 and the stock zoom 18-55 mm lens that came with it.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re brand new to DSLR cameras, I don’t think it’s wise to run out and spend $3-10k on a high-end full-frame deal. You may decide you really want to switch to another manufacturer (remember, lenses aren’t universally compatible), and you may even decide to stop blogging in a few months. It’s easy to upgrade in the future. For my cookbook, I upgraded to a Nikon D610 after about a year practicing with my entry-level D3200.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Top: Nikon D3200 with zoom lens, Bottom: Nikon D610 with 50 mm f / 1.8 lens. (Note the slimmer body of the D3200 because it’s got a smaller internal sensor and results in a cropped frame.)

Why get a DSLR? You can customize settings like shutter speed, aperture and ISO to really control and work with light—because after all, it’s your camera’s ability to capture light that really makes or breaks the shot. And, as a food blogger, how you portray your recipes through images is what gets people’s mouths watering! If you’re a newbie, these are cameras you can really grow into. Point and shoots and camera phones are less expensive, but their capabilities are limited.

Food Photography Tips: Crop-Frame vs. Full-Frame Cameras

The advantage of the D610 (or other full-frame cameras) is not only a larger sensor but lenses that shoot true. With a 50mm lens on the D3200 (crop-frame) the width of the field of view is cut down. With the same lens on the D610 (full-frame) you get a wider field of view.

Compare the following three photos taken while I was standing in the same spot with different camera / lens combos.

This was taken with the D3200, entry-level camera with the stock zoom 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6 lens. (Setting: ISO 500 f / 4.5.) While the field of view is quite wide, it’s also quite dark. An aperture of 4.5, while somewhat open, is still pretty closed for lower light situations. The widest aperture this lens has is 3.5. I prefer something with a lower option.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

This was taken with the D3200, entry-level camera with the Nifty Fifty 50mm f / 1.8 lens. (Setting: ISO 500 f / 2.) Notice how it’s a lot brighter (due to the wider aperture / lower f-stop number) but the field of view is a LOT narrower. The 50mm, when used on this camera, is not a true 50mm lens. It’s cropped. It makes shooting things like food somewhat tricky because you can only be a certain distance away before things get blurry. Notice how the background is far less in focus than the photo above because the aperture is lower.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

This was taken with the D610, full-frame camera with the Nifty Fifty 50mm f / 1.8 lens. (Setting: ISO 1000 f / 3.5.) It’s still bright but the field of view is a LOT wider than the photo above. Remember, I’m standing in the exact same spot. The 50mm, when used on this camera, IS a true 50mm lens. It makes shooting larger table settings easier because you can capture more of the scene.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Here’s a side-by-side comparison…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

A: Crop-frame camera with zoom lens

B: Crop-frame camera with fixed 50mm lens

C: Full-frame camera with fixed 50mm lens

Conclusion: Crop-frame cameras are great entry-level DSLRs, but to make use of lower light situations you may want to pick up an inexpensive 50mm lens with a low aperture number like f / 1.8. If you’re shooting a book or other extensive project, a full-frame camera will shoot a wider field of view.

What about lenses?

The lens I use the most is a 50 mm f / 1.8D, what’s often called a “Nifty Fifty.” (50mm is the focal length and 1.8 is the “lowest” aperture setting possible with this lens.) It’s incredibly versatile and really great for shooting subjects that are relatively close, as is usually the case with food. An aperture of 1.8 (which means the lens’s diaphragm is at its maximum width or “wide open”) translates to getting that desired depth of field feeling you get from an item being in focus while the background is a bit blurred. Another word for that is “bokeh.”

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

The dark chocolate coconut peppermint cup and my hand are in focus while the background items are blurred. This is called bokeh. (This photo was actually shot with my zoom lens so I was able to get really close while hand-holding the camera.)

Be aware that the Nifty Fifty is a fixed lens, meaning there is it doesn’t zoom in and out like the lenses that come stock on most entry-level DSLRs. That means you have to move closer or farther away; the camera will not do it for you.

Many food photographers work with macro lenses which are wonderful for capturing tiny details. Macro lenses are usually quite expensive compared to Nifty Fifty lenses. If you’re an experienced photographer looking to add to your quiver, it might be a great purchase, but I don’t recommend it for newbies.

Note that some entry-level cameras lack the ability to auto-focus using some lenses, including the Nifty Fifty. There is no internal motor to drive it. When I was using my D3200 with the Nifty Fifty, I had to manually focus everything.

Before you go out and purchase a new lens, I recommend getting out to a local camera store if possible to check things out and get a feel for it. Remember that lenses are specific to your camera manufacturer. A Nikkor lens for Nikon will not work with a Canon, etc.

I learned how to really use my camera’s settings by taking an online course through Creative Live called The Photography Starter Kit. (There’s no incentive for me to recommend this course. I just happened to really love it and found it incredibly useful.) Other really helpful resources: Tasty Food Photography and Plate to Pixel.

So, How Do You Stage a Basic Shot?

Taking a great photo is all about how you manage and manipulate light, and since I only shoot with natural (sun)light, that’s what I’m going to present here.

Food Photography Tips: Location

Check out the windows and doorways in your house that provide good light. It won’t always be the kitchen or dining room! For example, my kitchen windows are tiny and the only surface nearby is a cramped countertop.
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

I do most of my shooting in the dining area (morning hours)…
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

or next to my couch (afternoon hours).

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

In this photo, since it was 3 pm and the sun was on the west side of my house, I shot with my surface right on the couch.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

As a general rule, I avoid shooting mid-day because the sun is overhead and the light just seems flat to me. My favorite times to shoot are 9-11 am and 3-5 pm, depending on the season.

If you don’t have a tripod for overhead shots, consider moving your photos to the floor so you can stand above the subject or even stand on a small step stool.

Food Photography Tips: Light

I try to have light coming from only one direction to simplify things and make it easier to manipulate. For this shot, I closed all the other blinds in my living room / dining room and shut the front door. That gave me light coming in through this west-facing window only.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Try to avoid actual patches of sunlight hitting somewhere in the frame. You want to light up the food, but if there are patches of sunlight in the shot, your camera’s light meter has a hard time figuring it all out. Put another way, you’re likely to get a photograph with some very dark and some very light areas. While purposeful shadowing is a great technique to create a mood, severely over- or underexposed food photos are virtually useless.

To soften the light coming through a window, consider hanging a white curtain or a piece of transluscent plastic over it. Works wonders!

I’m a huge fan of side light because I really like the subtle shadows and highlights it creates, but light hitting the food from the front and the back can also look great. You can experiment by moving around the food so the light hits different places.

Here are some more behind-the-scenes photos where I shot with side lighting (the process shots were done with my iPhone and the final photos with the D610 with 50mm lens)…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Here’s an example of backlight…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

I had been just playing around with settings here. In retrospect, if this were an actual shoot, I’d probably have stuck a reflector in there to throw a bit more light onto those sprouts.

Here’s a different example of a shot I did on my dining room table. This was taken in the morning at about 9 am with translucent plastic over the window to cut the harsh rays coming in. The light was coming in from the left, and I wanted to take advantage of the shadowing in the bowls to create some drama.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Okay, that’s all for Part 1! I hope these food photography tips have given you a jumping off point for understanding things a bit better. In Part 2, I’ll be covering details like props, backgrounds, and styling so stay tuned!

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Food Photography Tips—Part 1 |

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below.

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup is so stupid-easy to make with only five ingredients, and it’s the perfect way to celebrate my favorite fall squash. Kabocha—also called “buttercup” in other regions of the United States and simply “pumpkin” in other parts of the world—tastes like a mash up between butternut squash and sweet potato. It’s wonderfully tasty with a thin, edible skin, and it really shines when roasted. It’s recognizable by it’s mottled dark green skin and round shape.

Usually, I just slice it into semicircles and roast it in the oven. (The seeds are delicious roasted, too.) This time, though, I made a simple soup that’s the perfect accompaniment to any fall dinner. I think it’d pair really well with a basic roast chicken and a green salad. If you can’t find kabocha squash in your market, butternut makes a very good substitute.

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 3 to 4



  1. Preheat the oven to 400F (204C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the bottom and top off the squash, then carefully cut it in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds (you can save them and roast them separately). Cut the squash into a few large chunks. Drizzle with the coconut oil and season with the salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 45-55 minutes or until it's tender and browned. You may want to flip the pieces halfway through cooking.
  3. Let the squash cool, and scoop the flesh away from the skin.
  4. Put the squash flesh into a high-powered blender along with the chicken broth, coconut milk, and curry powder. Blend for at least 15 seconds or until completely smooth.
  5. Pour into a medium pot to reheat, and adjust the seasoning with salt.


*If you have mild curry powder, it you may need 2 teaspoons or so. When in doubt, add 1 teaspoon, taste, then go from there. Substitute butternut squash instead of kabocha. This soup freezes well.

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Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

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Curried Kabocha Squash Soup—Paleo & Whole30 |

What’s your favorite fall soup? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice

4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice | Paleo swaps for pasta and rice can really help ease your transition into this way of eating. When you first go Paleo, it can be challenging to construct grain-free meals particularly when pasta or rice were staples of your diet.

Luckily, there are some easy Paleo swaps you can use to replicate the “feel” of these foods. While they won’t always be the same flavor or texture, once your taste buds adjust, you’ll probably find you end up enjoying these swaps just as much. Bonus: Using veggies to sub for grains and other starches significantly bumps up the nutrient content of your meals.

Paleo Swap for Pasta: Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” are probably my favorite pasta substitute because they’re mild in flavor and really simple to make. Probably the biggest complaint, though, is that they can get watery when cooked, but there’s a simple solution.

To prevent water-logged zucchini noodles, salt the zoodles after you make them but before cooking. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the zoodles in a colander. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
  • Place the colander in the sink or over a large bowl because liquid will be pulled from the zoodles.
  • After 15 to 20 minutes, rinse very well with fresh water. Then, gently squeeze any excess moisture from the noodles. Use raw or cooked.

How do you make zoodles? There are two basic methods: using a julienne peeler or a spiralizer. I prefer the julienne peeler for a few reasons: the noodles are “finer,” and the peeler is inexpensive and small. Lots of folks love the spiralizer because it’s faster. Either way, both will work. You can also make noodles from several other veggies such as sweet potatoes or beets.

Here’s a video of how Mel from The Clothes Make the Girl makes her zucchini noodles.

Suggested recipes: Cold Zucchini Noodle Salad with Tomatoes and Olives, Paleo Noodle Bowl

Paleo Swap for Pasta: Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash also has a fantastic noodly texture and while it doesn’t taste like a plain noodle made from flour, it’s a very common swap in Paleo cooking. Once you bake the squash, you use a fork to loosen the innards into long strings, a texture unlike any other squash you’ve probably ever had. There are a few ways to prepare spaghetti squash, but my favorite is to roast it.

To do that, preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C), and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. With a sharp knife, slice a small section off the squash so it won’t roll around the cutting board. Then, slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. (They’re actually dynamite when roasted separately with some salt and pepper.) Lay the halves cut side up, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes, then let cool. Scrape up the “noodles” with a fork.

You can also microwave it, cut side down on a plate with a little bit of water until tender, 10+ minutes. Or, if you’re brave, you can poke a LOT of holes in it and microwave it whole. I can’t really recommend that method though, because I had a spaghetti squash burst that way once. The clean up is not fun.

Suggested recipe: Paleo Chicken Florentine Spaghetti Squash

Paleo Swap for Rice: Cauliflower “Rice”

Okay, so this usually still tastes a bit like cauliflower, but the texture is very similar to rice provided it’s not overcooked or raw. Once I even fooled people at a party: My Paleo friend avoided trying my dish because she thought it was actual rice. The great part is that it’s a really blank canvas that you can add so many flavors to: Asian, Indian and Mexican are my favorites.

Cauli “rice” is relatively easy to prepare if you have a food processor. First, core it, and cut into large florets. Then, you can use a shredding blade (easiest) or use a regular blade and pulse it in small batches until it’s roughly the size of rice grains. If you don’t have a food processor, you can fill a blender pitcher with water, add chunks of cauliflower and whir it for several seconds until the pieces are small, then drain in a fine mesh strainer. I’ve never personally tried that method, but many people use it and say it works well.

I found the key to making great cauli “rice” is to cook it over high temperature and relatively fast. (Think of stir frying.) That way, the cauliflower doesn’t have a chance to get soggy. If chopped slightly smaller than rice grains, cauliflower can act as a replacement for cous cous.

Suggested recipes: Indian Pineapple Cauliflower Rice, Paleo Caramelized Onion Cauliflower “Cous Cous”

Paleo Swap for Pasta: Kelp or Mountain Yam Noodles

While not my top choice for a gluten-free noodle, kelp or mountain yam noodles are pretty neutral in flavor and even closer to the texture of actual noodles. Generally, they’re not super nutrient dense (certainly not as much as veggies), but they are pretty low in carbohydrate. For an every-once-in-a-while addition to soup, they’re probably fine, but I wouldn’t make them a daily indulgence because, well, there’s not much redeeming to them.

Where to find kelp noodles or mountain yam noodles? The refrigerated section of natural grocers (such as Whole Foods or Sprouts) near the tofu. Remember to rinse them before use.

Suggested recipes: Healing Chicken Soup, Paleo Fresh Spring Rolls

What About Other Gluten-Free Noodles?

Nowadays, the gluten-free foods section of your market is bound to contain noodles made of various gluten-free starches such as rice, tapioca, potato, quinoa, corn, etc. Some things to consider: Some of these foods are generally avoided in Paleo, and when compared to vegetables (like making zoodles), these noodles are far less nutrient dense. Also, some may contain proteins that are still problematic for folks with gluten sensitivity.

Optimizing nutrient intake and consuming enough vegetable matter is a hallmark of Paleo eating, so choosing veggie noodles or cauli “rice” is my best recommendation.

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4 Paleo Swaps for Pasta & Rice |

Have a question or comment? Leave it in the comments below!

Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad

Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad |

Steph’s note: This recipe is a sneak preview of Cindy Sexton’s upcoming book “Paleo Takes 5 – Or Fewer: Healthy Eating was Never Easier with These Delicious 3, 4 and 5 Ingredient Recipes.” Cindy’s come up with a cookbook full of stupid-easy recipes with 3, 4 or 5 ingredients perfect for beginning chefs or those who like to KISS (Keep It Super Simple). Note: spices, vinegars and salts are not included in the recipe ingredient total. Paleo Takes 5 – Or Fewer releases on October 21, 2014 but you can still pre-order and snag the early bird price that saves you 24%!

I need to preface by saying that this is one spectacular little number. It could easily pose as a main for lunch or act as a superior side dish for a larger spread. The birth of this recipe began one day while strolling the farmers market. After spotting a bushel of Brussels sprouts at a vendor’s booth, and some beautiful heirloom beets at another, I decided to come up with a dish that would combine the two. Ironically, I thought of uniting one of my all-time faves, beets, with something I had (at that point) never EVER tried before, Brussels sprouts.

To put this dish over the edge, I knew it would be ideal to cook up some bacon in the oven first and then roast the beets, garlic and Brussels sprouts in the fat afterward. Two words: dynamite decision. After slow roasting, everything caramelizes together to make one huge mound of goodness. It creates an earthy and nutty sauce within itself. Every bite gives you a savory crunch that will appeal to your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad

Yield: Serves 4


  • 1 lb (454 g) bacon
  • 6 beets, cubed into small pieces
  • About 24 (individual) Brussels sprouts, cleaned thoroughly (these guys can be dirty!)
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, quartered
  • 1 tbsp (4 g) dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (62 g) pistachios, once cooked, and toasted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Arrange slices of bacon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven until crispy. When done, remove with tongs and set aside on a plate to cool. Reserve the bacon fat for cooking the vegetables.
  3. In a large roasting pan, add in the beets, Brussels sprouts and garlic. Drizzle with leftover bacon fat. Sprinkle with dried thyme, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly using the tongs. Roast in the oven on the middle rack for about 45 minutes until everything has caramelized slightly.
  4. In the meantime, toast pistachios in a small pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Transfer contents of the roasting pan to a large bowl and top with pistachios. Crumble the cooled bacon and add it to the veggies. Use tongs to toss it all together.


Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin K and C.

Pistachios are an excellent source of copper and vitamin B6. They are also a very good source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and B5 as well as a good source of magnesium.

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Want to check out more of Paleo Takes 5 – Or Fewer? Go here and click on Look Inside.

Photo courtesy: Page Street Publishing

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Beet and Brussels Sprout Salad |

Have a recipe question for Cindy? Leave it in the comments below!

Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies

Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies

With fall weather starting to settle in, my mind naturally drifts to hearty roasts, soups, and stews. I’m a big fan of the slow cooker for this job, as the meal practically cooks itself once you’ve added the ingredients. Searing off the meat before you add it is an extra step that’s well worth the time because it helps to develop an extra layer of delicious flavor.

I got my lamb roast from 5280 Meat, a family-owned Colorado company that raises grass-fed, pastured animals. Normally, I’m not a fan of how lamb can be gamey, but this roast was mild and fall-apart tender. If you order from 5280 Meat, use the code “SEPaleo” when you check out and receive 10% off!

Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 3 to 4


  • 3 to 4 lb (1361 to 1814 g) boneless lamb leg roast
  • Couple generous pinches each sea salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) ghee
  • 1/2 cup (118 mL) chicken broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 to 3 sprigs thyme, stripped off stalk
  • 1/3 cup (77 mL) stone ground mustard
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped*
  • 1 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 g) black pepper


  1. First, you're going to sear the lamb roast to develop a nice golden crust. That's where the flavor really shines. To do that, dry the lamb very well with paper towel and season with a couple generous pinches of salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, then add the ghee. You want the pan smoking hot. If not, the meat will steam instead of sear. Try for 3 to 4 minutes a side until you get most of the roast seared. Remove the meat from the pan (I put it on a plate), then reduce the heat to medium, and add the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  2. Place the roast in the slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, rosemary, thyme and mustard. Pour it on top of the lamb and use your hands to coat the meat with the mixture.
  4. Toss the chopped root veggies (carrots, parsnips, potato and rutabaga) with salt and pepper, and arrange them around the meat. Pour the chicken broth from when you deglazed the pan on top of the veggies.
  5. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  6. Serve with a green salad or veggie of your choice for a complete meal.


*substitute with sweet potatoes if you do not eat white potatoes

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Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies

What’s your favorite fall slow cooker recipe?

Join Us On a Thai Culinary Adventure!

Culinary Adventure in Thailand |

Nick Massie of Paleo Nick and I are teaming up for a one-week cultural and culinary adventure in Chiang Mai, Thailand…and we want YOU there!

Spend 7 days / 6 nights in gorgeous Chiang Mai, experiencing the culture and cuisine that makes this area of the world famous. You’ll participate in two cooking classes, tour local open-air markets, and soak up all the Thai culture you can possibly handle.

Here are the details…


Chiang Mai, Thailand and surrounding area.

***There is an option to fly into Bangkok a day early and take the train to Chiang Mai. You will also return to Bangkok via train at the end of the trip. This option adds two days to your trip and $200, but saves up to $500 on air travel.


November 5-11th, 2014 (or November 4th – 12th if you choose the Bangkok add-on)

How much?

$1,249.00 all-inclusive

$1,449.00 all-inclusive with Bangkok add-on

When do I need to pay?

To book your spot, you must submit a deposit of $500.00. The balance will be due on or before October 15th.

Click here to pay your deposit and reserve your spot ($500.00):

Thailand Pay Now

Click here to pay in full for the Chiang Mai option ($1,249.00):

Thailand Pay Now

Click here to pay in full for the Bangkok option ($1,449.00):

Thailand Pay Now

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

What is included?

– All transportation once on the ground in Thailand.

– Breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few exceptions. Breakfast is provided at the hotel each morning. However,while traveling on the train, at markets in the evening and on free day, you will be responsible for your own meals. Food is very inexpensive in Thailand. You can get an amazing meal for $5.00.

– Two days of Thai cooking school. These will take place on the 6th and 9th from 10:00 to 16:00. We will visit the market and learn to prepare six Thai dishes each day.

– Day Trip to Patara Elephant Farm. Click here for this day’s itinerary. Click here for tons of pics of Nom Nom Paleo’s experience there last fall.

– Day Trip to Flight of the Gibbon Rainforest Adventure where we’ll soar on a zipline through lush, ancient rainforest that is recognized as the most beautiful in all of Thailand.

– One ninety-minute Thai Massage.

– Two CrossFit sessions at CrossFit Chiang Mai. (totally optional, but included)

– The time of your life! (not optional)

What is not included?

– Airfare to and from Thailand

– A handful of meals that are outlined in the itinerary below and shouldn’t cost you more than $50 in total.

– Gratuity for hotel staff, transportation, massage therapists, etc… This is all totally up to you and while not required, is always appreciated. Be generous!

Patara Elephant Farm

When should I arrive?

If you are doing the Bangkok add-on, aim to arrive between 09:00 and 15:00 on November 4th.

If you are flying into Chiang Mai, aim to arrive between 09:00 and 15:00 on November 5th.

When should I depart?

– If you are doing the Bangkok add-on, aim to depart any time after 10:00 on November 12th. We will arrive by train into Bangkok that morning at 06:30.

– If you are flying out of Chiang Mai, aim to depart any time after noon on November 11th.

What can I expect from the Bangkok add-on?

You can expect an opportunity for a deeper cultural experience of Thailand. We will board the train in the evening and travel overnight to Chiang Mai. You will share a first class accommodation with someone else in our group. There is an upper and lower berth, which is essentially a bed for sleeping.  You could fly in early in the day on the 4th and have a handful of hours to explore Bangkok. Nick and Steph will both be on this leg of the trip.

Cooking School


November 4th (Bangkok Add-On ONLY)

Arrive Bangkok

18:15 Board Train to Chiang Mai

November 5th

*** Lunch and dinner are on your own this day as people will be arriving at different times and we’ll be at the Bazaar at night.

08:15 Arrive to Chiang Mai by Train (Bangkok Add-On Only)

- Arrive and check into hotel

- Dinner at Night Bazaar (North end of Chang Klan Rd.)

November 6th

*** Breakfast, lunch and early dinner will be provided on this day. They say we’ll be stuffed when we leave class, but if you want to eat later in the evening, that will be on you.

- Casual morning with breakfast at the hotel.

– 10:00 – 16:00 Cooking School

– Free evening with opportunity for CrossFit, exploring Chiang Mai and visiting local markets.

November 7th

*** Breakfast and lunch will be provided on this day. Dinner will be on your own.

- Patara Elephant Farm (Click here for this day’s itinerary including a mountainside lunch at a waterfall accessed on elephant back.)

November 8th

*** Breakfast and dinner will be provided on this day. Lunch will be on your own.

- Free Day

– Dinner at Gain Yang Cherng Doi (Nom Nom Paleo’s favorite Chiang Mai restaurant).

November 9th

*** Breakfast, lunch and early dinner will be provided on this day. They say we’ll be stuffed when we leave class, but if you want to eat later in the evening, that will be on you.

- Casual morning with breakfast at the hotel

– 10:00 – 16:00 Cooking School

- Tha Pae Gate – Sunday Night Market / Walking Street

November 10th

*** Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided on this day.

– 08:00 – 14:45 Flight of The Gibbon Rainforest Adventure

– 19:00 Group dinner

November 11th

*** Breakfast will be provided on this day. Lunch and dinner will be on our own.

12:00 Check out of hotel.

16:00 Depart Train Station for Bangkok (Bangkok Add-On Only)

November 12th

06:30 Arrive to Bangkok

??:00 Catch your return flight home.


Floating Market Paleo Thailand 

While we’ve attempted to answer any questions you might have, I’m sure that we’ve missed something. Please feel free to leave questions in the comments below or email Nick ( 

It has been Nick’s experience with these Culinary Adventures (he’s lead them to Alaska and Nicaragua) that people “go hard in the paint.” For this reason, we’ve have left mornings and evenings pretty open and even included a free day in the middle. Part of the balance of life is rest and, while we often want to see and do everything, it is important to withdraw and actually relax. After all, that is what vacations are for, no? If you want to participate in less than what we’ve planned, you have that option too.

Thank you for checking out the details of this Culinary Adventure. We truly hope that you can join us, and we look forward to meeting all of you!

Steph & Nick

IMG_2588   Nick Massie of Paleo Nick |

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice |

Making your own Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice means you’ll never run out again. I love shaking some into a homemade pumpkin spice latte…perfect way to celebrate fall!

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1/4 cup (22 g)



  1. Combine the ingredients in a small container (I like jelly jars like these) and cover.
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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice |

What’s your favorite way to use pumpkin pie spice?

Protein Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Protein Pumpkin Spice Coffee |

I mean, what says fall more than pumpkin spice coffee? Recently, Food Babe blasted Starbucks for their fall favorite, the PSL (pumpkin spice latte), for its chemical-filled ingredients. I’ve never been a fan of the PSL, and a few years ago, I posted my own recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latte right here on the blog.

Recently, I decided to give the recipe a face lift and added a protein punch, plus a sprinkle of my homemade pumpkin spice mix. If you’re not into protein powder (which is totally fine), I recommend my original recipe (here’s that link again) or you can just omit. I recommend this blend for athletes or people doing performance-oriented training as a good pre-workout snack or something light if you train semi-fasted. For more on my stance on whey protein, click here.

Protein Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 serving



  1. Combine the coffee, protein powder, pumpkin puree, and spices in a blender. Blend on high for 15 seconds until it's frothy.


*use the code SEPaleo on checkout for 10% off any SFH product

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Protein Pumpkin Spice Coffee |

What’s your favorite fall pumpkin creation?

Do I Need to Eat Post-Workout Meal?: Ask Steph

Do I Need to Eat a Post-Workout Meal? |

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Adam C. writes:

Steph, I’m wondering if you can help me figure out if I need to eat a post-workout meal? I usually train 3 times a week at CrossFit, and I hike once a week. There’s so much confusing info out there!

Adam C.

Adam’s question is an incredibly common one, and something I hear a lot over at The Paleo Athlete Facebook page and after folks read The Paleo Athlete. Let’s break this down.

Nutrient Timing, Simplified

For the purpose of Adam’s question, I’m going to simplify this discussion. You can really go crazy with PubMed and Google Scholar, digging into the primary literature about pre-, intra-, and post-workout nutrition. My aim here is to provide a summary of the most salient points.

Eating protein and carbohydrate after training serves two main purposes. First, consuming protein means you’re supplying the necessary amino acids for repairing muscle (via a process called muscle protein synthesis). After muscle is worked in training, microtraumas must be repaired. Protein that is dense in the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) is preferred, and that looks like meat, seafood, eggs and for some people, whey protein. (Click here to read my stance on whey.) For a complete list of BCAA-rich proteins that are compatible with a Paleo approach, click here.

Second, eating carbohydrate in an insulin-sensitive state helps replenish your main glycogen (stored glucose) tank: muscle. A smaller amount of glycogen is also stored in the liver but is not the primary source tapped into when you train hard. Consuming a carbohydrate that is rich in glucose after training is important, especially when said training is intense and / or long. What does that type of carbohydrate look like? Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes (click here to read my stance on white potatoes), plantains and yuca provide the most nutrient bang for the carbohydrate buck. For a complete list of carbohydrates that are compatible with a Paleo approach, click here.

It’s worth mentioning here that post-workout meals are best when they don’t contain fat (or contain very little). Why? Fat causes the stomach to empty slower which is counter to the point of the post-workout refuel. Save the fat for your three square meals a day.

How soon should you eat protein and carbs after your workout is over? That’ll be covered in the next section.

The Issue of Frequency

So, we’ve established that consuming protein and carbohydrate post-workout is important for recovery. But how soon after training do you need to eat it? Is there ever a time when you don’t need to eat post-workout?

When trying to help individuals determine if eating a post-workout meal is right for them, I always come back to this one factor: frequency. How often are you training and more critically, how much time do you have between training sessions?

Let’s compare two hypotheticals.

Adam trains 3 times a week (MWF) at CrossFit and hikes once a week, typically on Sunday. In Adam’s case, he has a full day to recover and refuel between each training session. Even though his intensity is high on MWF, he has time to replenish with regular meals. His Sunday hike, while it goes for a couple hours, is low on the intensity scale. Unless Adam is trying to aggressively gain mass, it’s unlikely that he will suffer from lack of a post-workout meal.

Contrast that to Lauren who trains 6 times a week (Tu-Sun). She’s a competitive cyclist who includes long rides on the weekends and interval training during the week. Also, two days a week she strength trains then goes for a ride, including intervals. On Fridays, she trains in the afternoon after work, and Saturday morning is a long ride with her club team. She takes Mondays off. Lauren is training far more frequently than Adam. She’s working out on back to back days, doing some double sessions, and including intensity in her training. Someone like Lauren would be wise to eat a post-workout meal not only from a caloric standpoint, but also to provide the substrate for recovery. Specifically, her Friday night post-workout refuel is really important because she’s got less than 12 hours between sessions.

It’s worth mentioning that Adam, while he trains, is not really interested in being a competitive athlete. Yes, he wants to improve his lifts and his benchmark workouts, but CrossFit for him is fun and a way to stay active. He’s not really driven by performance. Lauren, on the other hand, is training for some large national-level races and has specific performance goals. It’s an important distinction to make, because, as a performance-driven athlete, Lauren really needs to pay attention to her post-workout nutrition, sleep and recovery practices more than Adam.

To summarize, the more frequently you train (especially if those sessions include intensity and / or are back to back), the more important it is to eat a post-workout meal. And, when you’re training the next day, it’s generally best to eat a post-workout meal.

When and What to Eat Post-Workout?

If eating a post-workout meal (because you’re training frequently and performance is a priority), eat as soon as possible once training is over. If the workout was particularly intense and you’re drooling and sweating all over yourself, let your body relax a bit and get closer to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state before trying to shove some food in your mouth. For most folks, 15-30 minutes after the workout ends is a good window, though some sources will say 15-60 minutes.

I don’t think it’s worth arguing about 30 minutes, but I will caution you against the following: You’re training like Lauren and waiting a few hours to eat anything. Remember, her schedule includes a high frequency of training. Getting nutrients in as soon as possible is her best bet.

What to eat is relatively simple: something with protein and carbohydrate. The options here depend a LOT on your lifestyle, time demands, food tolerances and personal preferences. Some people like leftover meat and sweet potatoes. Some people lean toward protein shakes with added carbohydrate for convenience. (Remember, supplements are not nutritionally superior to real food.) If you are trying to lean out a bit, I recommend avoiding liquid foods like protein shakes and sticking to solid foods.

The best way to find what works for you is to test it out and make some notes in your training log about what you ate, when you ate it, and what your recovery and performance are like. Click here for a list of protein and here for a list of carbs to get started. Shameless plug: My ebook The Paleo Athlete goes into a lot more detail about how much to eat (and the theory behind all this), and my upcoming cookbook has 100 recipes specifically for performance-minded folks (and it’s on early bird sale pricing from Amazon and Barnes and Noble right now).

How much to eat varies a lot and depends largely on things like body size and activity level. Click here to see some fueling tables, but please know that you’ll need to test things out. There’s no way I can possibly give specific recommendations for as wide and varied a readership as I have because I don’t know the details of your training and life. My best advice is to start with a modest amount of protein and carbs and track your recovery and performance data. Write down how much you ate (roughly, don’t be a crazy person carrying around a food scale) and when. Write down how you felt in training, if you felt recovered, etc. If you notice that over time you’re not performing well, it may be time to bump up your post-workout protein and / or carbohydrate.

For example, I might eat a chicken breast and half a sweet potato about 30 minutes after I train. If I do this for a couple weeks and notice that I feel really sluggish, sore and generally not recovered, I might bump it to a whole sweet potato. Then, I’ll stick to that for a couple weeks and note any changes.

Hopefully this has given you the tools to evaluate whether or not a post-workout meal is necessary for you.

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Do I Need to Eat a Post-Workout Meal? |

What do you usually eat post-workout? Leave your answer in the comments below.