Category Archives: Demo Videos & Tips

DIY Photography Background—No Tools Required!

DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

DIY Photography Background—No Tools Required!

Steph’s note: This is another post in a series for fellow bloggers who are interested in improving their food photography and blog posts. You may also be interested in How to Take Better Food Pictures.

Creating a DIY photography background to make your pictures stand out is really simple, and this version requires no tools. I was inspired by this post and ended up with a lightweight, double-side, portable board that I can tote around the house, looking for the best light.

You could certainly scour your neighborhood yard sales for scrap wood with that authentically distressed, worn look. (That’d be a notch in your re-use belt.) But if you don’t have the time or access, this is a great alternative.

My local hardware store had these lightweight “hobby boards” in different types of wood. I chose poplar because it had the lightest color and was the least expensive. The sizes available to you may vary, so my quantities may not work for you, but do the best you can with the concept. I chose the 48″ long boards because I wanted a long enough platform. Somewhere between 36″–48″ should be long enough. Any shorter than 36″ and you may run into problems with portrait shots, especially when they’re straight on from the subject.

I was able to assemble mine, let it dry overnight for good measure and paint it the next day. It dried quickly because I watered down the paint. Choose a FLAT finish so the paint reflects very little light.

If you’re looking for more tips and tricks to improve your food photography, check out this awesome resource, Tasty Food Photography.

Supplies for this DIY Photography Background:

  • Four 48″ poplar hobby boards
  • Eight 24″ poplar hobby boards
  • Wood glue
  • Paint in your chosen color(s)—I got sample sizes in aqua and brown—with a FLAT finish
  • Paint brush
  • Disposable container to mix the paint and water

How to make the DIY Photography Background:

Find a clean, dry, flat surface to construct the background on. You may want to use a drop cloth or old sheet to protect the surface from paint and glue. Lay the 48″ boards flat and leave a small gap between each one, about 1/16″. I wanted the appearance of planks instead of one solid surface, but do what you like. Be aware that if you make the gaps larger than 1/16″, you’ll be able to see the boards underneath when you complete it.

DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

Do a dry run and arrange the 24″ boards perpendicular to the longer boards. There will be some wood overhanging and if you have a saw, you can trim the excess. I didn’t because I had no access to tools. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, you’ll start gluing. DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

Squeeze a moderate amount of wood glue across the long board, going section by section: Apply enough glue for one short board, then lay the short board down, pressing firmly. Be careful not to squeeze glue into the gaps or it’ll show when you take the photos. Continue this until you glue down all eight short boards.  DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

Gently lay some heavy books on top of the boards and let them dry for at least 3 hours. Overnight is better. DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

The next day, get ready to paint your boards. I created a wash by combining the paints with water in a 1:1 ratio. This allowed the paints to dry quickly and helped create a layered effect. DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

For the blue side, apply a thin layer of brown paint. Allow it to dry completely. Then, apply layer of blue paint in an uneven fashion. Do this by dabbing the blue paint, then smoothing it out by brushing it in both directions. The idea is to allow some of the brown paint to show through to create a worn look. I applied two or three layers. DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

For the brown side, use the same technique as above, but only use the brown color. That’s it! Once it was dry, I was able to start shooting on it right away.DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

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Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

How To Take Better Food Pictures

How to Take Better Food Pictures | stupideasypaleo.com

Want to know how to take better food pictures—especially better ones than Martha Stewart?

Food blogging is pretty unique (compared to other subjects) because you’ve got to convey a recipe’s appeal across a computer or phone screen. If you can’t smell the aroma and taste the mouth-watering flavors, the imagery of the food helps draw you in—or makes you click away. After all, we eat with our eyes first.

That being said, if you don’t come to the blogosphere with prior photography experience (like yours truly), learning to take pictures of food that actually look enticing can be a monumental task. In my early blogging days, I put more effort into the recipes and writing than the photos, and it shows.

Before we get to the do’s of taking better pictures of food, let’s start with the don’ts.

Top 5 Food Photography Blunders

1) Using the flash. Please, above all else, stop using flash carelessly with food. It creates areas of extremely high and low light that give food strange shadows and shiny spots. Put plainly, it makes food look chintzy. Every time I see food photos with improperly used flash (yes, there is a right way to use it), I think of awkward, crazy club photos from college days: everyone’s got their eyes squinted shut, doing that raise-the-roof thing. Not cool.

2) Getting too close. Resist the urge to get super up close and personal with the food. I’m so guilty of doing this when I first started blogging and part of it was due to my camera’s limitations. (See #2 below.) The other part was I thought it looked sweet. When you get too close to the food, it’s hard to tell what it is. Nobody needs a Rorschach test when they’re deciding to make a recipe.

3) Sloppy plating. You don’t have to be a professional food stylist, moving crumbs around with tweezers, but pay attention to basic neatness. It’s one thing to show what a casserole looks like when you just cut into it; it’s quite another to show food thrown onto the plate. Clean up messy spots and splashes. There’s a difference between making food look approachable—and not like a sculpture—and it coming across like Martha’s.

4) Shooting in low light. Nowadays, with a decent camera and good editing software, you can save lots of low-light photos from the trash can. But. BUT. There are some things you just can’t fix because they’re too dark. Shooting for 4 months in the Scottish winter taught me a lot about getting creative with light, reflectors, plating and camera settings. When in doubt, save the food for tomorrow and shoot in better light.

5) Only shooting in landscape or portrait. If you only ever shoot in one orientation—horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait)—start doing both…now. You never know when you might need the opposite orientation for another project or post, and if it’s months later, you’re screwed. When I wrote The Paleo Athlete, I realized all of the photos should be in portrait. A handful of them weren’t. Unfortunately, they were from archived recipes, and I didn’t have time to reshoot them all. Give yourself options.

Now, the do’s. Most of these I learned from this amazing book, Tasty Food Photography by Lindsey at Pinch of Yum. It’s by far the easiest photography book I’ve read and is specifically geared toward bloggers who need to take better food pictures.

Here are some before and after examples of my own recipes using techniques I learned in Tasty Food Photography:

How to Take Better Food Pictures | stupideasypaleo.com How to Take Better Food Pictures | stupideasypaleo.com How to Take Better Food Pictures | stupideasypaleo.com

Massive improvement, right?

5 Tips for Better Food Photography

1) Practice. Yep, the old saying is true. If you want to get better, you’ve got to spend time making nice with your camera. Taking lots of pictures and playing with settings and staging is the only way to transfer theory into reality. Shoot often.

2) Invest in a basic DSLR camera. Yes, your phone’s camera and point and shoot cameras can do a surprisingly good job, but there are major limitations. If you have any inkling that you like food blogging, an entry-level DSLR (like my Nikon D3200) gives you maximum versatility. You can adjust settings like ISO and aperture—which gives you the most options for working with light—along with a thousand other things. Most entry-level models come with an 18-55mm lens which will get you pretty far. I also use a 50mm f / 1.8 fixed manual focus lens (nicknamed the Nifty Fifty) for that cool depth of field look called “bokeh.”

3) Learn to love natural light. Shooting with artificial light can be done, but it takes lots of practice to make it look, well, natural. I generally shoot around mid-day, somewhere between 10 and 2. If you can’t do that due to work schedules, shoot on your off day(s). Early morning / later afternoon light is either flat or really yellow. Food looks best when it’s lit from the sides or back (unless you’re shooting from overhead). For example, I usually shoot in a west-facing window. I put the food on the kitchen table and tend to shoot standing parallel to the window, so the light hits from the left (or right).

4) Use some simple props to fill space. Remember #2 above…getting too close? Since you generally don’t want to be too zoomed into the food, you’re going to back out and have some open space in the shot. I keep my props simple: old worn baking trays, cutting boards, utensils and simple dish cloths or napkins. Play around with how to fill up the space. That being said, negative (empty) space can look amazing and dramatic, particularly when shot from overhead. Experiment.

5) Fill the plate with food. No matter which size plate, bowl or serving dish will be in the photo, make sure it’s full. I tend to use small salad plates and smaller bowls because it gives the illusion of fullness without requiring a mega-batch of the recipe. Most of the time, a large plate with a tiny amount of food on it looks awkward. By using smaller plates, it’s also easier to fit more than one comfortably in the shot. If you’re out buying plates for props, try to buy at least two of the same.

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned about taking better food pictures, and there are tons more in Tasty Food Photography. Two other books I really found helpful: Plate to Pixel and Focus on Food Photography for Bloggers. Get out there and start snapping away!

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How to Take Better Food Pictures | stupideasypaleo.com

Have questions about food photography? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Easy Paleo Recipe Ingredient Swaps

6 Easy Paleo Recipe Ingredient Swaps | stupideasypaleo.comToday I’m featuring six easy Paleo ingredients to transform almost any recipe! 

If you’re new to Paleo and wondering how the heck you’re going to keep from reinventing the wheel and finding brand new recipes for everything, this is the post for you. The easiest version of Paleo is to stick to meat and eggs, veggies and some fruit and healthy fats but with a few basic swaps, you’ll recreate flavors and textures that you thought were off limits (minus the gut irritation and inflammation). 

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #1: Instead of cream or milk, use full-fat coconut milk.

If you’re not eating dairy anymore, that means staying away from milk and cream in recipes. Certain dishes will lack the creamy, unctuous mouthfeel that you’re familiar with and wind up tasting, well, watery. Full-fat coconut milk makes a darn good sub for whole milk or cream and while it does have a slightly coconutty flavor, I don’t find it overpowering. The best part? If you use coconut milk instead of milk, it’s almost always a 1 to 1 substitution.

If you’re allergic to coconut or don’t care for the taste, another great option is homemade almond milk. To make it extra rich, I cut the water in the recipe down from 4 cups to 3. Sure you can buy pre-made nut milks in your market’s refrigerated section but most of them have preservatives and other pointless ingredients. 

Here are a few of my favorite recipes using coconut milk:

Coconut Milk Latte, Crock Pot Chicken Yellow Curry Soup, and Creamy Leek Soup

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #2: Instead of butter, use ghee or coconut oil.

If you’re not down with butter, alternatives exist to mimic both the texture and / or flavor. (Note: grass-fed butter finds its way into some Paleo kitchens but some folks who are ultra sensitive to dairy proteins avoid it). The good news is that ghee (essentially clarified butter that’s been cooked a bit longer to have a caramelly, almost butterscotch flavor) gives the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vitamin K2 in butter without the potentially problematic proteins. It’s basically butterfat. You can make your own or find jars in your market’s butter section. Bonus: it has a really high smoke point, making it ideal for high temperature cooking.

Avoiding all dairy? Coconut oil, which is mostly saturated fat, is a great butter stand-in because it’s solid below 77°F and has a moderately high smoke point. Sure, it tastes nothing like butter, but it’s really versatile (even great as a moisturizer, a body butter, a hair mask, a make up remover, etc.). Read more about coconut oil – which to use and which to avoid – in my article here

Bonus: ghee is part of the Whole30, so if you’re planning to do one in January with me, stock up now!

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #3: Instead of soy sauce, use coconut aminos.

So no…cavemen didn’t use coconut aminos, but they didn’t use soy sauce either. Remember, Paleo’s not a historical re-enactment of exactly what our ancestors ate. Soy sauce is responsible for that savory umami flavor that forms the background of so many dishes, Asian-inspired or otherwise, but soy sucks for so many reasons and is one of those “health” foods to avoid. What’s a savory-seeking saveur to do? 

Use coconut aminos instead. Made from the fermented sap of the coconut tree, this savory liquid isn’t an *exact* doppelganger for your beloved bottle of soy sauce, but it’s the next best thing. 

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use coconut aminos:

Sweet & Savory Blueberry Tortilla, Paleo “Noodle” Bowl and Umami Mayo

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #4: Instead of rice, use cauliflower “rice”.

6 Easy Paleo Recipe Ingredient Swaps | stupideasypaleo.com

If rice is off the menu because you’re eating strict Paleo, consider using “riced” cauliflower instead. Simply put, cauliflower rice is created by grating, blending or processing the white veggies down into rice-sized bits. Anything you put rice in, you can switch out for cauliflower instead. It becomes a blank canvas upon which you’ll create layers of flavor by adding spices, meats and other veggies.

My favorite way to rice cauliflower is putting it in the food processor though some folks swear by putting large cauli chunks in a blender full of water, blitzing it, then straining the “riced” pieces out. A cooking tip: small pieces cook faster and won’t get water-logged. Also, don’t overload the pan.

Great recipes to try with cauliflower “rice”:

Indian Pineapple Cauliflower RiceCabbage Rolls and Paleo Caramelized Onion Cauliflower “Cous Cous”

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #5: Instead of white flour, use coconut flour.

This one’s tricky because coconut flour is mega absorbent so you can’t use it in a 1 to 1 ratio in recipes that call for white (wheat) flour. You can bake with it, use it as a “breading” for chicken or fish and use it as a thickener, but remember this ratio:

1 cup white flour = 1/4 cup coconut flour

Sometimes, it’s more like 1/3 cup coconut flour, but this general range works. 

A word to the wise: if you’re planning to do a lot of Paleo baking (which I don’t recommend) coconut flour is expensive. It’s also made from dried, very finely ground coconut meat so it’s pretty dense in calories. I use it sparingly, mostly as a thickening agent.

Here’s my favorite way to use coconut flour as a breading: Paleo Chick-fil-A

Easy Paleo Recipe Substitute #6: Instead of wine (for flavor), use homemade broth.

Many recipes call for red or white wine in soups, stews and sauces because it adds a layer of flavor. And whether you side with Julia Child or not (she famously said, “I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”) there is a way to substitute for the alcohol in your recipes: use homemade broth. Sure, you could do store-bought broth if you’re in a pinch, but you’ll want to find a brand that’s pretty squeaky clean. 

My favorite way to make homemade broth: save the bones from chicken thighs or a whole chicken (or you can buy grass-fed beef bones, lamb neck bones, etc….whatever you fancy), put them in a crock pot and cover them with water (sometimes I add a halved leek or other veggie trimmings like the nubby tops of carrots or leftover celery) for flavor. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar (bonus if you add a bit of fish sauce like Nom Nom Paleo does). Keep on low for 24 hours, strain and use. Can be frozen or used fresh. As an added bonus, it’ll be rich in minerals and gelatin. Bone juice, for the win!

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6 Easy Paleo Recipe Ingredient Swaps | stupideasypaleo.com

Have you used any of these easy Paleo recipe subs before? What’s your favorite that I left off the list? Leave me a comment below.

Coconut Milk Won’t Solidify? Here’s Why!

Coconut Milk Won't Solidify? | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Coconut milk won’t solidify no matter what you’ve tried?! It’s a common problem with a simple explanation.

With the growing popularity of Paleo and dairy-free recipes becoming more plentiful, you’ll probably run into dishes that call for the cream from a can of coconut milk as an ingredient (even my Paleo Tzatziki Sauce and Paleo Cucumber Mint Raita list it). Usually, you’re supposed to put the can in the fridge for upwards of 24 hours, then be able to open the can and spoon the solidified cream off the top.

If you’ve ever followed those instructions only to open the can and find your coconut milk’s still soupy, it’s pretty frustrating (especially if you’re making something where a very thick texture is a requirement like coconut whipped cream). So what gives?

Back to Basics…What is Coconut Milk?

When fresh coconut meat is grated down with water, the liquid yielded is call coconut milk. It’s a combination of the water and the different healthy fats in the coconut meat such as fast-burning MCT oil (medium chain triglyercides) and saturated fat.

When it’s prepared via blending, the fat component (often called coconut cream) gets suspended in the watery component, and it appears to combine. But when left to sit undisturbed, the coconut milk will separate into two layers much like a bottle of oil & vinegar salad dressing. [Bonus science nerdiness: the fat is hydrophobic (water-fearing) and is rejected from the water layer.] Normally, the top, semi-hard cream layer is what you’d scoop out and use for recipes.

Why Your Coconut Milk Won’t Solidify

One word: emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers are chemical additives which cause the fatty and watery layers to stop separating from one another, and if they’re in your coconut milk, you’ll probably never get that thick creamy layer at the top of the can no matter what you do. [Another common way to get fatty and watery components to emulsify is by introducing air like you'd do when making homemade mayo.]

Common Coconut Milk Emulsifiers & Additives

1) Guar gum. This is a carbohydrate compound (polysaccharide) that comes from guar beans. It’s very commonly used to thicken coconut milk and cause it to stay emulsified. Often found in canned coconut milk.

2) Carrageenan. Derived from seaweed, this is another polysaccharide carbohydrate used to thicken coconut milk, though more commonly the type sold in paper cartons (not recommended because it’s often full of other junk). Carrageenan’s been implicated as having some pretty gnarly effects on the gut, among other things. Read more about it here.

3) Methyl cellulose or corn starch. More carbohdyrates / polysaccharides used to thicken and emulsify coconut milk.

4) Sodium or potassium metabisulfate. Though not used as an emulsifier, this chemical additive’s put in coconut milk as a preservative / bleaching agent to keep the color white.

The Solution to Get Your Coconut Milk to Solidify?

Buy a brand that doesn’t contain emulsifiers and preservatives. Better yet, look for a brand that only has two ingredients: coconut and water. My favorites are here and here. Both fit the bill and are sold in BPA-free cans, too. You can also make your own coconut milk at home (click here for a great recipe).

Have you ever had trouble with this? Does the answer surprise you?

Coconut Milk Won't Solidify? | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Coconut Butter from Scratch

Coconut Butter from Scratch Coconut butter from scratch is one of those kitchen hacks that’ll save you a ton of money and it’s stupid-easy (we like that). It may sound mystical, but when you get down to it, coconut butter is nothing more than pulverized coconut meat that’s been ground down to a very smooth consistency. It’s delicious and absolutely full of the healthy MCTs (medium chain triglyercides) and saturated fatty acids that provide energy and keep us feeling satiated.

Why’d you want to make coconut butter from scratch? It’ll save you a LOT of bucks. Store brands sell for upwards of $12 or more for about 2 cups. That’s pretty pricey for my wallet even though the store bought coconut butter is pretty delicious. The good news is you can make something that’s just as yummy.

What can you do with coconut butter? Anything you’d do with a nut butter: bake with it, put it in mashed veggies for a punch of fat and creamy texture, eat it with apples or a square of dark chocolate or use it as a regular butter substitute. The possibilities for eating coconut butter are virtually endless though my favorite way to eat it’s probably just off a spoon!

The one caveat for making coconut butter from scratch: you need a powerful blender or food processor to grind the coconut down. I’ve done it in both and the blender (like a Vitamix or similar) is faster but they each give a good result.

Coconut Butter from Scratch

Ingredients for Making Coconut Butter from Scratch:

Special Equipment for Making Coconut Butter from Scratch:

Directions for Making Coconut Butter from Scratch:

  1. Load the coconut flakes into the blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt. Turn the machine on.
  2. If using a blender like a Vitamix, you may want to use the tamper to push the flakes down. After a minute or so, the coconut will begin to liquefy. Stop the machine and scrape the sides down with a spatula. Continue until the coconut has turned to coconut butter and is liquefied and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar.
  3. If using a food processor, this processor will take longer…somewhere in the range of 8-10 minutes. Patience is your friend. Stop the machine and scrape the sides down with a spatula a few times. Continue until the coconut has turned to coconut butter and is softened and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar.

Recipe Variations for Coconut Butter from Scratch:

Troubleshooting Making Coconut Butter from Scratch:

What if….

  • …the coconut butter won’t seem to liquefy?

Try adding some melted coconut oil to the coconut flakes as it’s processing to loosen it up.

  • …the coconut butter is always hard when I go to use it?

Coconut oil solidifies around 77°F so in the cold months, it’s often in the solid form. You can store it at room temperature and not in the fridge to help it from being too hard. Also, if you’ve stored your coconut butter in a glass mason jar (recommended), you can warm some water in a pot on the stove and place the glass jar of coconut butter in to soften it.

  • …I can’t use a big batch?

This coconut butter recipe is easy to halve (or double if you want more).

Have you ever made coconut butter?

Coconut Butter from Scratch

5 Paleo Flavor-Making Juggernauts

5 Flavor BoostersThink back to the best meal you’ve ever had…go ahead, I’ll wait a moment. What was special about it? The flavors…complex yet subtle, layered by the chef to compliment each other left you with an experience. Far from plain chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, right? With a little know-how and a bit of creativity, you can make super tasty, rockstar-status meals.

It’s all about balancing flavors (this could be a long lesson but I’ll keep it to the basics). For novice cooks, try working with this simple triad: salt, acid and aromatics. For example, if a dish just tastes flat, try adding an acid like vinegar or citrus juice to brighten it up.

If you want to go a bit further, you can play with notes of bitter, savory (umami) and spicy.

You can create big flavors, too and it’s as simple as having these five Paleo-friendly, taste-tickling juggernauts on hand. These are my must-haves that I always have around my kitchen.

Vinegars

The options are pretty endless here and it’s generally accepted that vinegars (except for malt vinegar…derived from grain) are Paleo-friendly. Besides the obvious use in dressings or condiments, vinegar is a great way to add a bright note to veggies or heavy dishes like stews.

My favorites: apple cider, balsamic and white wine vinegars

Salts

Okay, this one can be controversial. Some folks who follow a very strict Paleo template don’t use any salt. At all. I tried this when I started Paleo 4 years ago, and it made food pretty boring. By avoiding processed foods, the amount of sodium intake in your diet is already substantially lower. As someone who enjoys cooking and my food, salt is part of the game. I use regular salt during cooking to adjust the overall flavor and sometimes flavored finishing salts as a very light sprinkle before serving. Which type of salt is best? Read this article from Chris Kresser for a comprehensive answer.

My favorites: Maldon Sea Salt flakes, smoked sea salt (pictured), truffle salt

Citrus Juice and Zest

DSC_0033Another option for adding a note of acidity or brightness to your food. Besides the obvious lemons and limes, you may want to experiment with others like grapefruit for savory foods (one of my favorite ceviche recipes uses grapefruit juice). If you’re throwing the zest out with the spent fruit rinds, though, you’re missing a gold mine of flavor! The outermost, colored layer of the skin (not the white pith underneath) contains the citrus oils that make the fruit so fragrant. I use a microplane grater to remove the zest and toss it in everything from dressings and marinades to desserts.

My favorites: lemons, limes and grapefruit

Aromatics

DSC_0035 These form the backbone of your dish…the flavor foundation everything’s built on. Used in cooking from cultures around the world, they can be used as a dominant note (think garlic chicken) or as a subtle layer. I always have plenty of aromatics hanging around! The powdered / ground form is useful for some dishes (especially where you don’t want to introduce a lot of extra moisture) though I lean toward the fresh variety just because the flavor is so much more pronounced.

My favorites: onion, garlic, and ginger

Fresh Herbs

DSC_0037Fresh herbs are so great! Not only are they relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to grow your own no matter your space constraints, from pots on a balcony to huge backyard gardens. Heartier fresh herbs like rosemary hold up well to cooking (like in Rosemary Balsamic Butternut Squash) while more delicate leaves like cilantro do better in cold applications (because they’ll wilt otherwise). They’re great to sprinkle on top of a finished dish for another layer of flavor or to brighten up the colors on a plate.

My favorites: flat leaf parsley, mint and rosemary

Let me know what your flavor-making essentials are in the comments below!

Perfect Hardboiled Eggs

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There are lots of methods for making hardboiled eggs, but I’ve always found good luck with this one. Some readers on Facebook asked for tips on peeling the eggs once they’re cooked, and here were some of the most common replies:

  • Don’t use eggs you just purchased. Keep them for a few days before you boil them. As the egg gets older, the white shrinks a bit and makes it easier to peel.
  • Add salt to the cooking water.
  • Soak in ice water after they’re done.

What are your tried and true methods for easily peeling hard boiled eggs? Let us know in the comments below!

5 More Tips for a Successful Whole30

doing-the-whole30 I’ve pulled together five MORE of my favorite tips for having a successful Whole30 (or just eating clean Paleo) into one place!

You can also check out tips 1-5 by clicking here.

On staying hydrated…

On staying off the scale…

On going out to eat…

On undistracted eating…

On the importance of chewing…

 

 

 

 

The Easiest Way to Cut Orange Segments

The fancy schmancy term for the orange segments is “supremes” (pronounced su-prehms). You can call them segments…I won’t tell anyone. Works with any citrus fruit.

  1. Wash the fruit. DSC_0683
  2. Cut the top and bottom off. DSC_0684 2
  3. With a sharp knife, cut the rind off in sections by moving from top to bottom all the way around the fruit. DSC_0686 DSC_0685
  4. Make a cut on each side of the inner membrane.  DSC_0687
  5. The segment should release quite easily.  DSC_0688
  6. Continue until the entire fruit is done.

*Hint: steps 4-6 work best if you hold the fruit in your hand but I couldn’t photograph it that way by myself.

Paleo Fresh Spring Rolls

DSC_0830 The other day, I wanted fresh spring rolls. Badly. I also happened to be staring at the collard greens in the grocery store and this idea was born. I know you love quick and easy recipes, but I’ll be honest: this one is a bit more labor intensive because there is more cutting / chopping than usual and it depends which sauce(s) you make on the side. I could see these being an awesome weekend treat or something neat to bring to a summer party. All the components can also be prepped ahead of time and refrigerated for a day or two before use.

The really cool part is that the kelp noodles look just like the vermicelli that comes in fresh spring rolls, but if you can’t find them, you could surely leave them out. I served my rolls with Umami Mayo but I think they’d be killer with Melissa Joulwan’s Sunshine Sauce, my Paleo Sweet and Sour Sauce or my Paleo Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce on the side for dipping. Dipping rules.

Prep time: 45 min     Cook time:  10 min    Makes: 6 full rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of collard greens (you need one whole leaf per roll)
  • 6-7 medium-sized raw shrimp (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, dark green tops removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, basil or cilantro leaves
  • 1 package kelp noodles (you’ll use about half), optional
  • 1/4 cup of Umami Mayo for dipping, optional

Directions:

  1. You’ll need to blanch the collard leaves so they become more pliable and lose some of their bitter flavor (this can be done ahead of time). Set up a large bowl with ice water. Bring a very large pot of water to boiling. Dip the WHOLE collard leaves in the boiling water for 1 minute. Immediately place them in the ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside. DSC_0810
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp, if needed. Into a small skillet over medium heat, place the raw shrimp and 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cover and steam until the shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Slice in half from head to tail.
  3. Rinse and drain the kelp noodles. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the carrot, cucumber and green onion. How thinly you slice them depends on how much chewing you want to be involved. DSC_0808
  5. Now that the collard leaves are cool, remove the tough stem with a sharp knife by cutting upward toward the top of the leaf in an upside-down V shape. The leaves will roll better. DSC_0821
  6. Now assemble a wrap: Lay the collard leaf on a flat surface. Place two halves of shrimp at the top of the leaf. DSC_0813 Next, put a small amount of kelp noodles (a little less than a 1/4 cup worked for me). DSC_0814 On top of that put a few mint leaves, and two or three slices EACH of carrot, cucumber and green onion. DSC_0815 DSC_0816
  7. Now you’re ready to wrap, burrito-style. Gently but with a bit of pressure, roll from the shrimp end toward the stem end. DSC_0817 DSC_0818 Once you’ve rolled over once, fold in the sides and then finish rolling all way down. DSC_0819
  8. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  9. Slice each wrap in half and serve cold with your choice of dipping sauces, if desired. DSC_0832

 

 

5 Tips for a Successful Whole30

doing-the-whole30 I’ve pulled five of my favorite tips for having a successful Whole30 (or just eating clean Paleo) into one place! Check them out and tell me how it’s going with your Whole30 in the comments below.

 

On getting your kitchen ready…

On batch-cooking…

On the buddy system…

On handling social drinking…

On having a contingency plan…

Homemade Kombucha

Homemade Kombucha Recipe | stupideasypaleo.com Making your own homemade kombucha is stupid-easy. Yusss! All you need is tea, sugar, a SCOBY and patience. Okay, so there are a few more details than that but overall, it’s pretty simple. I started buying kombucha before the great freak-out of 2010 – thanks a lot, Lindsay Lohan - during which the unquantified alcohol that could be in the drink caused it to be suddenly yanked off store shelves. Meanwhile, brewers of homemade kombucha were laughing.

[Want me to show you how to do it all from start to finish? Click here.]

All About Homemade Kombucha

I love fermented foods – I make my own sauerkraut and plan to start making kimchi – and it makes me feel kind of off the grid. Recently, I decided that I’d had enough of spending $4 for a bottle of GT’s. It was high time to get a SCOBY and start fermenting my own homemade kombucha. For those new to kombucha brewing, a SCOBY is a magical symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast which gobble up (ferment) the sugar, metabolizing it into the slightly carbonated, tangy drink that’s rich with probiotics and beneficial acids. In reality, it looks like a pale, weird, flat pancake and sort of like a science experiment. Click here to read more about kombucha health benefits.Homemade Kombucha Recipe | stupideasypaleo.com

I used a recipe for plain kombucha to start, then created my own flavor combinations for the second fermentation (to make more carbonation). I came up with ginger-mango and blueberry-raspberry…ummm, both came out freaking delicious! Since I’m all about stupid-easy stuff, I made a fruit puree (directions below) and froze it in ice cube trays so that I could add it exactly when my homemade kombucha was ready – which happened to be during the week when I was uber-busy. I ended up with *almost* four full 32 oz jars of homemade kombucha (one ginger-mango, two blueberry-raspberry and half a jar of plain). Why not four? You have to reserve at least a cup of homemade kombucha out of each batch to get the next started.

Overall, I was psyched at how easy this was to do at home, and I’m already planning to expand my little operation so I can double or triple my homemade kombucha production. Bottom line: you’ll have to experiment to see how long each step of process will take based on the conditions in your home and your own tastebuds. If the homemade kombucha is too sour, you can add more sugar and keep the fermentation going, but that just delays the process. For troubleshooting the process or to find a SCOBY, a quick search of The Google will give you a bevy of info. Watch here for my awesome tutorial on growing you own SCOBY.

Basic Ingredients for Unflavored Homemade Kombucha Tea (KT):

Directions for Unflavored Homemade Kombucha Tea (KT):

  1. Boil 64 oz of water (8 cups) in a large pot.
  2. Add 8 green tea bags and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
  3. Add 1 cup of sugar and stir well.
  4. Allow the tea to come to room temperature and pour into a clean one-gallon mason jar or crock.
  5. Add 64 oz more water to the jar and place the SCOBY (along with any KT it came with) into the jar.
  6. Cover with a piece of old t-shirt, and secure with a rubber band.
  7. Allow the homemade kombucha to ferment in a dark place (mine was in the pantry) for 7-14 days. Mine was ready after 8, but I live in Southern California, and it’s been warm lately. The fermentation time will vary depending on your location, your SCOBY and how sweet or sour you want the homemade kombucha. Sample by moving the SCOBY aside and taking a little out with a clean spoon. After this time, your tea may be slightly carbonated and will be unflavored (only tea-flavored). You may drink the homemade kombucha tea then or to do a second fermentation with different fruits for flavor and more carbonation.

For Ginger-Mango Homemade Kombucha Tea:

  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen mango
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Optional: For chia kombucha, add 2 Tablespoons chia seeds per 1 cup of kombucha.
  1. Puree the defrosted mango and ginger in a blender, Vitamix or food processor. Or, you can grate the ginger with a microplane grater if your blender isn’t very strong.
  2. Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.
  3. Two cubes will be ~1/4 cup of fruit puree.
  4. After your unflavored homemade kombucha is done fermenting, transfer it to a 32 oz mason jar. Add two cubes or 1/4 cup of ginger-mango puree. Close the lid and allow to ferment again from 1-3 days – again, it depends on your taste. You may want more or less ginger-mango puree or more or less carbonation. Mine took 2 days until I thought it was perfect. When it’s done, add your chia seeds and stir well so they don’t clump together.
  5. Keep the extra cubes frozen for your next batch.

Ingredients for Blueberry-Raspberry Homemade Kombucha Tea:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • Optional: For chia kombucha, add 2 Tablespoons chia seeds per 1 cup of kombucha.
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the berries over medium heat until they have released their juices.
  2. Lightly pureed them in the Vitamix or blender.
  3. Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.
  4. Two cubes will be ~1/4 cup of fruit puree.
  5. After your unflavored homemade kombucha tea is done fermenting, transfer it to a 32 oz mason jar. Add two cubes or 1/4 cup of blueberry-raspberry puree. Close the lid and allow to ferment again from 1-3 days – again, it depends on your taste. You may want more or less blueberry-raspberry puree or more or less carbonation. Mine took 2 days until I thought it was perfect. You may want to strain the flavored kombucha to remove any seed reside. When it’s done, add your chia seeds and stir well so they don’t clump together.
  6. Keep the extra cubes frozen for your next batch.

You can also order pre-made kits for making homemade kombucha, like these.

Have you ever made homemade kombucha before? If not, what questions do you have?

Grass-Fed Tallow Balm

IMG_3991Here at Stupid Easy Paleo, it’s very rare that I do non-food posts, but I think this one fits in well with my audience and my philosophy so I’m sharing it with you all.

Trying to live a more simple life in terms what I put in my body is nothing new to me, but recently I’ve been thinking more and more about what I put ON my body. Between hair care, dental hygiene, all sorts of lotions and potions and the few make-up products I use, I realized I’ve been slathering my skin with all sorts of chemicals. Cave Girl Eats creator Liz Wolfe came out with a comprehensive Skintervention Guide – a how-to for all things Paleo and skin care – not too long ago, so I decided to get a copy for myself.

While I’m no stranger to trying a few of the methods in the guide, there was a metric ton of information that was new to me. Liz does a great job of communicating that most of what we put on our skin ends up getting absorbed into the body and the myriad chemicals in our cosmetics are chock full of nasties (endocrine disruptors are just one that comes to mind). Being a bio major in college and a self-professed science geek, this wasn’t a huge surprise, but what to do about it is where I gained the most value. I clicked through the guide fervently and focused in on a couple of changes I knew I wanted to make right away – using the oil cleansing method to wash my face, switching to a coconut oil / baking soda deodorant, making another attempt at baking soda / apple cider vinegar for hair washing and using a nourishing balm nightly on my face.

Then it hit me.

Almost a year ago, I’d purchased a pound of grass-fed beef tallow from US Wellness Meats, thrown it in the freezer and forgotten about it. Okay, that’s a lie. I hand’t forgotten about it. In fact, every time I’d open the freezer, I would see it sitting there, mocking me for not having found a use for it yet. A quick Google search landed me a simple formula for making tallow balm, and I was off to the kitchen to make it.

Luck has it that the recipe to make the balm also called for olive oil to help with a smoother texture. I just so happen to have a huge jug of high-quality Kasandrinos Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my pantry, the perfect addition to the balm. Kasandrinos uses no chemical methods to press their oil and does not use any other oils as fillers, a common and shady practice that goes on in the olive oil business these days.

The tallow balm makes my skin super soft, and keeps it well-hydrated throughout the day without feeling greasy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup* grass-fed tallow (beef lard)
  • 2.5 tsp olive oil (I used Kasandrinos)
  • 2-3 drops of essential oil (I used lavender)

 

Directions:

  1. Melt the tallow in the microwave in a glass container. I used a small mason jar.
  2. Stir in the olive oil and essential oil.
  3. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the balm hardens.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator and store tightly. After I clean my face at night, I apply a thin layer as a moisturizer.

*The approximate ratio of tallow to olive oil I used was 8:1.

Test Doneness Without a Meat Thermometer

Fancy schmancy meat thermometers are cool and all, but what about those instances where you just don’t have one? Who, when they’re going camping, says, “Honey, we should bring the meat thermometer!” Who calls a friend to make sure there will be one at the next barbeque? The point is that it’s easy to test how well meat is cooked with this simple trick. All you need are two hands.

For each level of doneness, you’ll touch a finger to your thumb. Keep your hand relaxed. Then, using the opposite hand, poke the fleshy part at the base of your thumb. Feel that? That’s how a cut of meat would feel if you poked it with your finger when it’s cooked to that point. See, easy!

hand

For rare, touch index finger to thumb. Do the poke test. That’s what rare meat feels like.

For medium-rare, touch middle finger to thumb.

For medium, touch ring finger to thumb.

For medium-well, touch pinkie to thumb.

Last but not least, for well-done (if you’re cooking well-done steak, we need to have a chat :) ), open your hand and poke the center of your palm.

For chicken or pork (where generally, well-done is the way to go), use the open palm test.

Try it and let me know what you think in the comments!

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

IMG_3930If you’ve got a little extra time on your hands, say on a weekend day or another time when you can dally around the kitchen a bit, making scrambled eggs like this will be well worth the extra minutes of investment. The result is scrambled eggs so creamy, you’d swear there’s cheese in them. Secret’s in two things: 1) the addition of heavy whipping cream* (or double pouring cream for my UK compatriots…I imagine you could also use full-fat coconut milk but I haven’t tested that out yet) and 2) cooking them on low heat. I mean low. Lower than a double-jointed-kid-doing-the-limbo low. Method becomes almost more important than ingredients here.

Prep time: 5 min     Cook time: 10 min    Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:

IMG_3929

Directions:

  1. Combine the eggs, heavy whipping cream and salt & pepper. Whisk well until everything is combined.
  2. In a small skillet over LOW heat (use the smallest burner on your stove), melt the coconut oil. Dump in the egg mixture.
  3. Now…here’s where you have to be patient. Continuously stir the eggs around the pan using a spatula. It will take several minutes for the eggs to cook. You may have the urge to up the heat and get the process over with. Resist. The. Urge.
  4. After several minutes (mine took ~8 minutes), the eggs will be cooked through and very creamy instead of rubbery little lumps like normal scrambled eggs. Serve with a side of bacon for pure bliss.

*It’s hard to find heavy whipping cream without the additive carageenan. Even the organic brands tend to add it. Carageenan is used as a thickener derived from seaweed which sounds cool until you consider that it’s known to promote intestinal inflammation. Not cool. For those of us living near a Trader Joe’s, their organic heavy whipping cream is carageenan-free. Read your labels, folks :) Substitute coconut milk if you don’t do heavy cream.

Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki)

Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki) | stupideasypaleo.com

Say it with me…”go-wump-key”…it’s a fun one.

These satisfying little rolls of meat and cabbage take me back to my childhood, and having a Polish grandmother meant that golumbki were often on the menu when we went to visit. When I made this recipe, I instantly reminisced about her standing in the kitchen cooking for all of us. Traditionally, golumbki are made with rice so I substituted cauliflower to give a similar look and texture. Grandma always used a can of Campbell’s tomato soup (contains corn syrup and gluten!) to pour over the golumbki while they cook, but I used plain crushed tomatoes to give the same flavor without any weird ingredients. This one takes a little bit of time to prepare so to make up for it, I threw it all in the crock pot on low for 5 hours – you could bake them in the oven at 350°F for about 90 minutes. Or to make the process super easy, layer the ingredients in a dish, lazy-style.

Ingredients for Paleo Cabbage Rolls:

Directions for Paleo Cabbage Rolls:

1. Rice / grate the cauliflower. I use the grating attachment on my food processor or you could grate by hand – but it’s a pain in the ass. Save 1-1/2 cups for this recipe and the rest for something else…it’s tasty fried up in this side dish.

2. Dice the onion finely.

3. In a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

4. Put a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. To prepare the cabbage for rolling, you’ll lightly boil it whole and peel the leaves off a few at a time. Cut the core out of the cabbage and place in the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. As the leaves soften, you can peel them off with a spoon. Take care not to rip them in half. The whole process usually takes about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can throw the whole cabbage in and let it simmer for about 15 minutes – the outermost leaves will become very soft but still usable. In either case, peel as many of the leaves off as you can and let cool a bit.

5. In a large skillet over medium-high heat put a spoonful of coconut oil or your fat of choice. Add the onion and grated cauliflower  and and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the cauliflower is softened. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

6. Combine the onion / cauliflower with the meat and mix by hand to incorporate all the ingredients.

7. Roll the golumbki by taking a cabbage leaf – concave side up with the stem toward you – and placing a large spoonful of the meat mixture at the stem end. Then roll forward, fold the sides in and end with the seam down.


8. Mix the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce (not pasta sauce) in a bowl. Put ~1 cup in the bottom of the crockpot (or casserole dish). Lay the golumbki in with the seam side down. Cover with the remaining tomato mixture once the crock is full.

9. For a crockpot, cook on low for 5 hours. If using the oven, cover the top of the dish with foil and bake for 1.5 hours at 350°F (175°C).