Category Archives: Misc.

Just In Time For the Holidays!

Just In Time For the Holidays | stupideasypaleo.com

Just in time for the holidays, our new batch of Stupid Easy Paleo goodies is here! If you’re looking for something fun for someone on your list—or you want to treat yourself—pick up something from the store!

Quantities and sizes are very limited, though, so if there’s something that piques your interest, I highly recommend ordering right away.

Everything is lovingly hand-packed and shipped by me, usually on the same day orders arrive (unless it’s a Sunday), so you’ll be sure to have your gift in hand before the holidays. Domestic shipping is free, and we even ship internationally, too. I’ve sent shirts to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK just to name a few!

I don’t usually post apparel up as a blog post, but there were many people who said they missed the posts I made on social media back in October. I want to make sure that as many folks see it as possible!

Here are some of my favorites:

Metal Campfire Mugs

Stupid Easy Paleo Logo Enamelware Mug | stupideasypaleo.com

Trapzilla Sweatshirts (super-limited supplies)

Women's Trapzilla Sweatshirt | stupideasypaleo.com

Healthy Happy Harder to Kill Shirts (t-shirts and tanks…these are going fast!)

Women's HHHTK Tank Top | stupideasypaleo.com

Quadzilla Shirts (t-shirts and tanks)

Women's Quadzilla Tank Top | stupideasypaleo.com

Hangry Dish Towels

Hangry Flour Sack Towel | stupideasypaleo.com

And there are still a few Quadfather t-shirts left for the guys!

Men's Quadfather T-Shirt | stupideasypaleo.com

Every time an order comes in, it humbles me so much. I just sent a shirt to the Northwest Territories of Canada and one to Australia! I am so incredibly grateful for all the support you give me daily by reading the blog and chatting with me on social media. Without you, this site wouldn’t be here.

Much love,

Steph

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Cooking School

Steph’s note: This is the second installment in my recap of the Thai Culinary Adventure I took with Paleo Nick and 18 other fantastic friends. Read Part 1 here and Nick’s recap of our trip here.

When I last left you, our train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was lumbering through the darkness of the Thai countryside. Daylight broke, and we were greeted with the sight of trees in every conceivable shade of green…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cat checking out the local sights as we stop to hook up another engine…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Curious little dog…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Jesse without his face behind the camera for once…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Nick reciting his Thai numbers to this guy…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Another couple hours, and we arrived in Chiang Mai (about 48 hours after starting out on our trip). In case you’re wondering if the train option is right for you, here’s my honest opinion: If you don’t mind being mildly uncomfortable for 14 hours, the lack of fancy toilets, the potential for bugs, or want to save some money…go for it. If you want to get to Chiang Mai as fast as possible or want only the best accommodations, take a flight instead.

Welcome to Chiang Mai…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

We lugged our bags out of the train, stuffed ourselves into two vans and drove to our home for the next week, the Eco Resort just east of the Menam Ping river. It’s walking distance to the old city square and the markets. I definitely recommend it! We settled in and took advantage of the free day to get some food and amble around.

Eco Resort loves you…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Famished, some of us opted for lunch as soon as possible which turned out to be directly across the street from Eco Resort at a tiny, family-run restaurant called Inpoo Food Shop. We tucked into perfectly spiced red curry, silky Pad Thai, and other favorites while we recounted the long journey from Bangkok.

I heart this soda water…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

A soft-spoken Thai woman and her husband, Som and Payute, run the eatery and cook outside on three small propane stoves. They’re truly lovely with warm smiles and big hearts. We ate there several times over our trip, and Nick even arranged a special event there. (More on that in future installments.)

Som’s kitchen…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

That evening, we strolled the night bazaar and the following day was our visit to Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. Chef Thanapon Punya picked us up and took our bunch to the Sam Yaek Market, where we got a lesson in Thai ingredients. Here are some of the sights from the market…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Scrubbing coconut meat before it gets shredded…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

All the rice…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cutting rice noodles…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Fresh veggies…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Chef Thanapon quizzing us on Thai produce (we did okay)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

More veg…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Stalls selling all manner of things…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

All the lemongrass…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Smiles from Nick and Noura…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Butchery…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Yes, that’s a fried grub. I ate two…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cleaning fish…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

We were in Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival. These are kathrong, offerings floated down the river during the festival. They’re made of banana trunks, palms, flowers, candles, incense and other decorations. We saw them all over the markets in Chiang Mai…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Fishies…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Weigh in…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

So many colors…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cutting green papaya for Som Tam Thai (Green Papaya Salad)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

…and cooking school…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Banana leaf cups for Khanom Kluay (Steamed Banana Cake) (gluten-free)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Wok handles…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Prepping ingredients for Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cooking Gaeng Phed Plaa (Red Curry with Fish)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Plated red curry…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Chrisann helping make sticky rice…

 

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Phad Hed Ruam Khao Pod Orn (Mushrooms with Baby Corn)…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Prepping the banana cakes…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Cooking the soup…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Plated green papaya salad…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

The whole gang!

Thai Culinary Adventure—Chiang Mai Food & Markets | stupideasypaleo.com

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Thai Culinary Adventure!

Non-watermarked photos courtesy of Anderson York.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

A couple months ago, Nick Massie (better known as Paleo Nick) asked me if I wanted to go to Thailand on a culinary adventure. It didn’t take me long to jump at the chance to check another country off my travel bucket list. As type this, I’m lying on my fold out bed on the overnight train to Chiang Mai…my first chance to be horizontal in about 48 hours. It feels fantastic except my body’s trying to decipher which day it really is, but the jet lag sort of fades to the background as the food and sights and sounds of this trip fill my senses.

If you’ve ever seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you’re quite aware—and probably fond—of the scene where the troop of twelve Dwarves tumble through the door at Bag End in pairs and trios. The early part of our journey has been quite the same. My trip started on Sunday night when I left San Diego along with two others from our group. After a quick flight to San Francisco, we were joined by four others, expanding our merry tribe to seven.

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

We tucked in for a very long flight (all told, 13-1/2 hours I think) to Taiwan, accompanied by some epic turbulence and binge-watching every tv show on the in-flight entertainment. Many hours later, we touched down in Taipei, picked up another member and boarded another flight to Bangkok. That’s a total of twelve, if you’ve been counting!

Once there, we greeted another three folks flying in from all over. Upon exiting customs, my hunger got the best of me so I pulled up to a little booth and snagged some fresh spring rolls and a box of pork sautéed with rice noodles and veggies for about 130 baht (roughly $4).

Now, I’m sure you’re probably wondering what / if / how I’m going to “keep it Paleo” when I’m in a country renowned the world over for it’s culinary delights. How will I know what they put in the sauce? What kind of oil do they cook with? Don’t I know that rice isn’t Paleo?!

My simple answer to this is that on a vacation that will come once in a lifetime—unless the universe has other plans—I’m going to enjoy the noms. Food is such a strong part of any culture, and to deny myself the chance to experience this beautiful country, I’m not staying strict Paleo when I’m here. I know there’s sugar in the sauces, it would be absurd for me to ask a street vendor about cooking oil, and that my body reacts fine to white rice because I’ve tested it. For more on my take on eating Paleo while traveling, click here.

Once we gathered everyone up, we stuffed ourselves into the train from the airport right into the heart of Bangkok and made a quick transfer until we were right out front of CrossFit BKK. Henrik and Nick arranged for us to do a Paleo seminar, so we tumbled in the door, set down our bags and started talking. There were some really great questions posed by the audience, and I really loved how we talked about adapting Paleo based on Thai culture and food availability.

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

Our answer: Just eat as much whole, unprocessed, nourishing food as possible. This isn’t a quick-fix diet. Instead, it’s a framework for choosing the best food you can a majority of the time for the rest of your life. After the seminar, CrossFit BKK was kind enough to offer our tribe the option to do a workout or to just shower for the first time in about 36 hours which I quickly took advantage of. Their facility is pretty rad with both an indoor and a much larger outdoor rooftop training area. If you’re ever in Bangkok, hit them up!

From there, the afternoon was wearing on so our now-expanded group of fourteen traipsed to the train station via another metro…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok   Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok   Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

…and we happened to have enough time to snag some really tasty food from a couple street vendors…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok   Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

…like skewered meat…

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

…and Pad Thai.

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok   Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok   Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

With our bellies full, it was finally time to board the overnight train to Chiang Mai. It looks circa 1960s but it’s clean and functional despite it’s age. It wasn’t long after we pulled away from the station that it was impossible to keep my eyes open…for about 6 hours.

Thai Culinary Adventure—Bangkok

True to form when I travel, I’m struggling to adapt to the time change. Appearances tell me everyone else is asleep right now as the shiny striped blue curtains are pulled across virtually every sleeping berth. It’s about 2 am, and we’re not quite halfway there.

As I gaze out the window, I can make out bits and pieces of what’s out there in the darkness: the moonlight glinting off the train tracks and silhouettes of palm trees going for what seems like eternity between towns. Kids sitting three to a motor scooter as they laugh and speed down a side street and people eating at a roadside cafe in the middle of the night. Gorgeous temples with intricate adornments. Roads that look like American freeways complete with green road signs with white lettering. If the writing wasn’t in Thai, I’d think it could be in Miami.

Every station we roll through has its own unique character. Phitsanulok was quite expansive with folks sleeping on hard wooden benches women setting up food stalls in the middle of this ebony dark night. Sila-At was deserted except for one man standing in the middle of the platform with his arms folded across his chest.

The train whistles sounds and fades into the black as we approach yet another town. It lumbers and lurches in what seems like a rhythm and lulls me back to sleep.

Stay tuned for more dispatches as we reach our final destination: Chiang Mai.

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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

Vanilla Berry Chia Pudding | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

Moules et Frites—Mussels & Fries | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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!

Click here to pin this!

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.

Food Photography Tips—Part 1

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

To this…  Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

Here’s a side-by-side comparison…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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

or next to my couch (afternoon hours).

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com
Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

Here’s an example of backlight…

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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 | stupideasypaleo.com Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

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!

Click here to pin this!

Food Photography Tips—Part 1 | stupideasypaleo.com

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below.

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

Click here to pin this!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

DIY Photography Background | stupideasypaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas for the Foodie on Your List

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo holiday gift ideas for the foodie on your list may seem tricky, but rest assured: I’ve combined some of my favorites – both homemade (if you’re crafty like that) or store bought – to assist in your quest to spread holiday cheer!

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #1: Homemade Extracts!

Extracts are great for flavoring all sorts of dishes, from coffee to baked goods, but they can be pricey in the store for what you get. Making them at home is so simple, but it takes a bit of time. If you’re thinking of making these for holiday gifts, start them now! Know what’d be nice? Making a trio of three flavors for the foodie on your list.

I make them in a plain mason jar, then transfer to a decorative bottle like this or this with a hand-written tag or label. These recipes all make one cup of extract.

Paleo Gift Ideas Homemade Vanilla Extract | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • Split the vanilla beans down the middle and put in a mason jar. Add 1 cup of vodka or brandy. Let the vanilla beans steep for at least 4 weeks. The alcohol will darken in color. You can leave the beans in.

Homemade Orange or Lemon Extract

  • Zest from two oranges or three lemons
  • 8 ounces (240 mL) vodka or brandy
  • Use a veggie peeler to remove as much of the zest as you can from the citrus. Add 1 cup of vodka. Let the zest steep for at least 4 weeks. Strain the zest out and bottle.

Homemade Mint Extract

  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, washed
  • 8 ounces (240 mL) vodka or brandy
  • Crush the mint leaves and put in a mason jar. Add 1 cup of vodka. Let the leaves steep for at least 4 weeks. Strain out the leaves and bottle.

Bottles like these are great for gifting extracts:

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas | StupidEasyPaleo.com
Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #2: Homemade Spice Mixes!

These recipes make about 1/2 cup. Mix them up, put them in a decorative jar like these mason jars, attach a homemade label and you’re good to go! I could see making a gift set with a few spices mixes and extracts (or mix and match). I’d be super stoked to get that as a holiday treat!

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Homemade Gingerbread Spice Mix | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Homemade Gingerbread Spice Mix (see the full post here)

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #3: Cookbooks!

Long gone are the days when you couldn’t find Paleo cookbooks…now there are titles to fit every single niche. Here are a few of my favorites – tried and true from Paleo’s best food bloggers – that I highly recommend:

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Well Fed | StupidEasyPaleo.com

  • Food For Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong (aka Nom Nom Paleo). What can be said except that Nom Nom Paleo is a classic Paleo site loaded with flavor-making recipes and amazing photography! You can pre-order the book…it comes out on Dec. 21, 2013!

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Food For Humans | StupidEasyPaleo.com

  • Gather from Bill and Hayley Staley (aka Food Lovers Primal Palate). Want a gorgeous book for someone who loves to entertain? Gather is the one!

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Gather | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #4: For the Novice Cook!

If the Paleo foodie on your list is just starting out and needs to build up her / his kitchen arsenal, I highly recommend these staples:

  • Crock pot. Bar none, this is one of my favorite kitchen tools. If you’re trying to buy a useful gift for someone who’s really busy, I can’t think of something better. Want to make it extra special? Print out a copy of my (free) PDF Crock Pot Guide for some recipe ideas.Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Crock Pot | StupidEasyPaleo.com
  • Cast iron cooking set (the one in this link is still on sale!). I love my cast iron pans…they go from stove top to oven really easily for dishes like stews and frittatas.Paleo Holiday Gift Idea Cast Iron Pots | StupidEasyPaleo.com
  • Spiralizer. This little device makes oodles of veggie noodles from everything from zucchini to butternut squash. Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Spiralizer | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #5: For the Experienced Cook!

If the Paleo foodie on your list is more experienced and or for someone who has almost everything, check these out:

  • Vitamix. What can I say? This is the Cadillac of kitchen blenders. I have one. It’s worth the cost (IMO) for someone who loves to cook. Soups, homemade mayo, nut butters, nut milks…they’re all possible (and more) with the Vitamix, and they last forever!Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Vitamix | StupidEasyPaleo.com
  • Le Creuset 3.5 Quart Dutch Oven. These Dutch ovens are enameled cast iron and stand up to stovetop and oven cooking…anything you need braised or cooked slowly does so beautifully in these pots.Paleo Holiday Gift Idea Le Creuset | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #6: For the Life Long Learner (aka Nerd)!

If the Paleo foodie on your list is into learning all (s)he can, check out these options for e-courses and books:

  • Real Food. Real Good. eCourse by yours truly. This is great for anyone who’s really a beginner and wants to learn more. Click the link for more info. Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas Real Food Real Good eCourse | StupidEasyPaleo.com
  • It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Whole9. This is *the book* for learning about how problematic foods affect us and why.Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas It Starts with Food | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Paleo Holiday Gift Ideas #7: Fun Gifts for Anyone!

Still searching for a gift that’d be just right for your Paleo foodie? Let me know below and I’ll see if I can give you some ideas!

Crock on the gas stove over black background

Why Peanuts Make People Go Crazy

Peanuts

Nuts. Crazy.

A few weeks ago, I posted an answer to a reader (hey Kyle H.!) question:  “Peanut butter. Yay or nay?” Poor Kyle. Little did he know he would spark a debate more heated than a Georgia peanut field on a hot July day, and I could feel the peanut frenzy building with comments like:

“So eating a peanut isn’t paleo, but using kitchen chemistry to concoct paleo cakes and cookies is ok?” 

“But are peanuts unhealthy???”

“Still eating it. I love peanut butter and really don’t think a few tablespoons on my apple is going to hurt me.”

“Native indians of south and central America have been eating peanuts for the last 7,500 years. I wonder if they’d consider them nutritious or not.”

Peanuts are tasty and apparently quite controversial.

(By the way, I am thankful for the dissenting opinions and questions and am in no way trying to single anyone out!) What became obvious to me is that certain Paleo guidelines aren’t well understood. You see, when I think of Dr. Loren Cordain – the first to write a book about this way of eating, cleverly titled The Paleo Diet – I picture his face superimposed on a painting of Moses with the Ten Commandments shouting things like:

“Thou shalt not eat peanuts or any legume!”

“Thou shalt not eat cheese! Haha, that one’ll really crush the dairy-loving spirit of the people!”

Paleo’s come a long way since the movement started and as such, has evolved over time. People figured out that damn it, trying to eat a diet with no salt or no vinegar or no butter just wasn’t as sustainable as a lifestyle because it was, well, boring. What started out as “rules” rationalized by scientific evidence have faded into conversations like, “Well, this Paleo thing sucks because we can’t eat bread or cheese or peanuts or anything fun…,” without understanding the why.

So here’s the downlow on peanuts. They’re NOT nuts. They are a bean – more technically called a legume. Legumes aren’t considered Paleo for a few reasons:

  • They contain a relatively large amount of a compound called phytate which binds to minerals in the food itself, limiting the availability to us when we eat it. (Interesting to note, so do nuts. Try not to crack out on them.)
  • Most legumes are very carb dense compared to the amount of nutrition they provide. If you’re saying you eat peanut butter for the protein, I’m calling you out ;) You eat it because it’s delicious and fatty (and if those are your reasons, that’s fine). Peanuts are an exception to the high carb issue but fail the Paleo test for some of these other reasons.
  • Legumes contain lectins, specific proteins known to cause damage to the gut lining. The protein peanut agglutinin can do naughty things to your intestines.
  • Peanuts specifically are prone to contamination with aflatoxin.

Legumes DO have nutrition. There’s no debating that. It’s not like opening your mouth and shoveling in a spoonful of rocks. You’re going to get fiber and protein and minerals and vitamins from legumes. What you’re NOT going to get is as much nutrition compared to equal quantities of meat or produce. Usually, legumes require soaking or sprouting to reduce the phytate, and most folks just don’t want to go through that effort to make them more edible / less harmful.

It’s not always black and white, right?

Most Paleo people have decided not to eat them because Cordain said so the downsides outweigh the upsides and so avoid them. If you feel like someone can just pry the peanut butter spoon from your cold dead hand and you’re not willing to give it up, then the good news is that it’s your choice. Simple, right? You can choose to be Paleo + peanut butter or Paleo + lentils if you want. I promise no Paleo police will show up at your door. Just be honest about maybe not feeling as good or being as healthy if you make it a regular player in your diet. If you’re willing to make the trade, it’s up to you. This is where finding what’s best for your body but being honest about how good you feel is so important.

If you’re trying to get started with Paleo but you keep holding back because it’s hard to find a good source of reliable information, I’ve solved that problem for you in my new e-course.

You may want to take all legumes (and grains and dairy) out of your diet for at least 30 days – using a protocol like Whole30, then reintroduce systematically to be more aware of any sensitivities you may have. Folks with Celiac disease or other autoimmune issues are highly recommended to avoid these foods completely, but even if you’re not in that boat, you may be somewhat sensitive to them.

What to eat instead of peanut butter? Lots of other options exist, but remember that nuts also have phytate so overdoing it with those isn’t necessarily better. Virtually any nut or seed can be made into a butter. If it’s store bought, make sure it doesn’t have extra sugar and weird chemicals. Here are a few suggestions:

If you want to make your own, you’ll need a food processor or a powerful blender.

Do you still have questions about peanuts or legumes? Let me know in the comments below.

Whole and chopped peanut on old wooden table

Fall Seasonal Produce Guide

When I was a kid, I tried to emulate Bugs Bunny.

I remember pulling carrots out of dirt from my grandparents’ backyard garden. They’d barely get a wash under the outdoor spigot before I was crunching away on the subterranean gems, root hairs tickling my face, the frilly tops thrown into the compost heap. Reminiscing on that garden has inspired me to eat more seasonally in the last few years.

Eating with the seasons used to be a lot easier: produce wasn’t trucked in from thousands of miles away or floated on boats across oceans; folks tended to shop locally; and small farms or even backyard gardens yielded different produce depending on the time of year.

Now that fall is here, there’s a new bounty of tasty things to try: hard squashes galore, apples of every red hue, and cauliflower – perfect for ricing – are just a few of my favorites (scroll down for some autumn-inspired recipes).

Click for my free Fall Seasonal Produce Guide (PDF):

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 1.53.30 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paleo / Primal / ancestral movement is definitely shedding more light on returning to this way of eating. If you can’t grow your own or there isn’t a farmer’s market near you, consider including some seasonal fruits and veggies into your weekly mix. Why? They’re likely to be fresher, and if you buy local, haven’t traveled very far. It’s also a great way to force variety into your diet so you’re not eating broccoli every night for the rest of your life and only snacking on sliced apples. This’ll help stave off boredom and get some diversity into the micronutrients you’re consuming.

I’m not saying you can only eat produce when it’s in season, but challenge yourself to try a new fall veggie or fruit. You may find something unexpectedly delicious! [Note: exact availability is often highly dependent on country and even region.]

Here are some of my fall-star recipes:

 

 

 

Sweet Plantain “Buns”

DSC_0725

Trying to use up more of my pantry before I go on my big trip, and I was staring at the bottom of a bag of coconut flour and a ripe plantain so I decided to mix it together with an egg and a bit of leavening agent to see what I could make. The coconut flour gives it the density it needed to stand up to eating a grass-fed beef slider with my hands.

It’d be easy to double or triple this recipe. It yielded about 4 small / medium “bun” halves, enough for two sliders. It’s really important to use a blender or food processor to break this down so you don’t end up with a chunky batter. No pastry bag? Me neither. I used a ziplock bag with the corner cut off to pipe the buns into perfect(ish) circles.

Makes: 4 bun halves, enough for two sliders or small burgers

Ingredients for Sweet Plantain “Buns”

Directions for Sweet Plantain “Buns”

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and process until it becomes a smooth batter.
  2. Load the batter into a ziplock bag. Cut off the corner. This is your pastry bag. Sweet Plantain Buns | stupideasypaleo.com Sweet Plantain Buns | stupideasypaleo.com
  3. In an oiled skillet (I used coconut oil), over medium low heat, pipe a circle of dough about the same size as your sliders or burgers. Cook for a couple minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Sweet Plantain Buns | stupideasypaleo.com
  4. I served mine as a slider with avocado, tomato, jalapeño sauerkraut and spinach.  Sweet Plantain Buns | stupideasypaleo.com

The Stupid Easy Paleo Teach Me How To Virtual Lessons

TMHT classes v 3.0 It’s finally here! The Teach Me How To series of virtual lessons is open for registration!

For the past 2.5 years I’ve been working hard to bring you, my phenomenal reader, the absolute best in Paleo food and now, I’m combining my expert knowledge with it to help increase your confidence and skills in the kitchen.

TMHT make kombucha

If you want to learn time- and money-saving tips, become a Paleo master and still have the energy left to do the fun things in life, look no further. I’ll be rolling out different offerings in the next couple of months, starting with my Teach Me How To Make Kombucha lesson which is now open for registration.

What’s kombucha? It’s a fermented tea that’s got probiotics, B vitamins and beneficial acids / enzymes. The bummer is that store-bought is super pricey. I’ll let you in on the secrets to saving up to 96% off the cost of store-bought kombucha by making it in your own kitchen with some simple ingredients!!

TMHT athlete Coming soon: for anyone who’s an athlete, whether you’re a weekend warrior, have podium ambitions or just enjoy training with friends, I’m launching Teach Me How To Be a Paleo Athlete next. I’ll show you how to properly fuel before, during and after your training and competitions and how you can reap the benefits of clean eating. If you want to start smashing PRs, look no further. High-intensity/CrossFit, endurance and power sports will be covered.

If you do a search for certain content on the site, you may notice that certain pages are membership only for the premium content of the Teach Me How To series. All other pages, resources and recipes will remain free and available to everyone, no purchase necessary.

5 Questions with California Paleo Kitchens

mush-stache Nicole Hellendoorn from California Paleo Kitchens is a woman on a mission to bring clean Paleo eats into your household! She’s the founder of CPK, a California-based business specializing in helping people ease the transition into a Paleo way of eating. I recently had the distinct pleasure of getting to chat with her over lunch and learn more about her passion for all things real food related.

What first brought you to eating Paleo? How did you find out about it? What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed with yourself since you’ve adopted the Paleo lifestyle? 

My transition to Paleo was definitely gradual. My awareness of food allergies, and a Paleo way of eating came about in two ways. First, about three years ago my dear friend and HLP (Hetero Life Partner) Mary Shenouda (Yes, The Paleo Chef Mary) was diagnosed as a Celiac. At the time, we were roommates and we both started to team up to work on becoming healthier with all kinds of experimental foods and cleanses. Paleo made more and more sense, so we started developing CleanEats as a way for people to have access to allergen free, Paleo friendly meals and snacks. It was also around this same time that I began to learn about Crossfit from some of my guy friends. I began using Crossfit style interval training to lose about 10 of the 15 pounds I had packed on in my post college city living partying days.

Then, in March of 2012, I did my first “Whole 30” but took it further and did six full weeks in preparation for a girls’ trip to Las Vegas. My motivations were equal parts wanting to look smoking in a swimsuit, but I also felt it was important to “walk the walk” given the concept we were developing for CleanEats. I was also curious to see how far I could push myself and what magnitude of change I could manifest. I haven’t looked back since, and consider myself about 85% Paleo all the time. The physical changes I noticed were dramatic – no more puffiness in my face and stomach or discomfort after eating a big meal. My skin, eyes and hair all become more vibrant. People commented that I just looked “healthier” (geez, how gross was I before?!) I easily fit into clothes much smaller than my regular dress size fluctuations. Mentally, I felt like I had found the golden ticket – I didn’t have to worry as much about portion size, calories, or striving for “thinness” after years of being broader and at times a bit chubbier than a lot of other women. I further embraced my natural ability to put on muscle and worked out more, which obviously led to increased confidence. My energy levels stabilized and I didn’t experience crazy late afternoon crashes at work anymore. It was amazing to know what “great” felt like when before I thought that I felt pretty good most of the time.

Within a month or so, friends and family began to notice the changes I had made and began to ask me what I was doing, what CleanEats was up to, and what this Paleo business was all about. I started coaching just to help people I knew, and it’s turned into a full-fledged consulting business that I could not be more proud of.

You’re a Paleo coach…what’s the philosophy you use when guiding clients toward better health? What’s your favorite service that you offer?

avocado-stacked-horizontal My philosophy can be summed up by the late, great Roy Orbison: Anything you need, you got it. I will do practically anything to help a client be successful in their journey to better health – I’m constantly available to them for the most minor questions and any food related emergencies. If you got stuck at work and have nothing in the house for dinner, it’s not unheard of for me to drop off a bag of veggies or emergency protein on your doorstep to keep you on track. I take a lot of pride in getting to know my clients, and making personally tailored recommendations that I think will resonate with them. No two people are the same, and people face unique challenges in adopting healthy food habits. Paleo is not a one size fits all philosophy in my book.

As far as a favorite service, I think it has to be the Kitchen Clean Out and Pantry Raid. I love physically going into client’s homes and getting rid of anything with gluten, grains, dairy, soy, sugars and any other processed junk. It creates great rapport with the client and really helps you get to know them and what obstacles they personally face during their transition. Taking it a step further, it gives the client a clean slate, literally and figuratively. Plus, I love organized kitchens and it’s so fun to experiment with food when you’ve got brand spankin’ new ingredients and treasures to play with.

Project out 10-20 years from now. How do you think Paleo / the real food movement will have changed by then?

It’s certainly not going anywhere, that’s for sure. The dramatic improvements in health and body composition that people have and continue to experience are too big to ignore. The past two years have been huge in terms of mainstream media recognition and I see that trend continuing, albeit an uphill battle given the current state of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. I’m hopeful that in 10 to 20 years, we will have entirely new generations of doctors and healthcare practitioners that will be more attuned to preventing disease with lifestyle recommendations and food rather than treating it with pharmaceutical drugs.  Hey, a girl can dream). I see those of us in the community now looking exactly the same (we haven’t aged a day – thankyouvermuch), and continuing to help people that still haven’t gotten the message. I also think that grocery stores and markets will have produce sections that are 90% organic vs. the average 25% we see now, particularly in California where agriculture is king.

What’s your favorite recipe from your arsenal of yummy Paleo eats?

Ooooh, girl, now that’s an impossible question – I’m a former fat kid that loves to eat. I can’t pick just one, so here are a few:

  • Spaghetti Squash Florentine, especially leftover the next day once the tomatoes have time to really soak through everything.  Recipe by request – no tab on my site for recipes yet. Slow Cooker Kalua Pork
  • BLAT Salad – arugula, tomatoes, bacon, avocado and a medium boiled egg, seasoned with sea salt, cumin and hot sauce.
  • Eggs in any form.  Anyone who follows my stuff knows my favorite hashtag is #PutAnEggOnIt – makes anything better!
  • Half an avocado sprinkled with sea salt and hot sauce
  • Meat. All kinds particularly carne asada/flank steak and pulled pork. Slow cooker Kalua pork (pictured) is a staple in my kitchen.

If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?

Definitely a French Bulldog.  I have one, and they are the most adorable, coveted, spoiled, fawned over and delightful creatures of leisure I’ve ever met.  They have a TON of personality and sleep all day.  My pup’s also a totally grain free Paleo machine so I guess not much would change for me.  Bunny, my dog, will also start popping up in some memes and posts soon.

Here’s how you can connect with Nicole and California Paleo Kitchens through social media:

‘Gram Us: Nicole on Instagram

5 Questions with Bob from Not So Fast Food

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Working on the truck

Bob Montgomery always has a smile a mile wide.

You’d never guess by looking at him today that just two years ago, he weighed 30 pounds more, has lost almost 100 pounds in 7 years, and had some serious health problems. That’s pretty inspirational on its own, but then it really sinks in when you realize what it motivated Bob to do with his life.

He co-owns California’s only Paleo/Primal food truck together with June Sinclair, and is one of the hardest-working dudes I know. Last year, he and June started Not So Fast Food and have been putting the rubber to the road, bringing delicious, healthy food to folks all over the state. Recently he told me he was about to finish a Whole30. How cool is that?! Doing a Whole30 while working full-time on a food truck isn’t the easiest thing I could imagine doing, and knowing how inspiring this would be to others, I caught up with him for a quick interview about his Paleo/Primal life. Check it out!

What first brought you to eating Paleo/Primal? How did you find out about it? What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed since you’ve adopted the Paleo/Primal lifestyle? IMG_7095

There are so many. Obviously, numero uno is I don’t need surgery anymore. No more issues internally that I know of. I believe gluten to be the main contributor to my initial issues. I am in better shape. My senses are much stronger. I still have the energy to do anything I want to do. When I’m hungry, I eat and when I’m not I don’t.  

 

You’re one of the owners of the Not So Fast Food Truck in San Diego. Tell me how that came about.

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A transformation

June and I were 6 months into being Paleo/Primal, and it was very motivating for us. The changes we noticed so quickly definitely made a big impact on what was to come. We loved cooking at home, but hell, every single person who loves to cook eventually wants a break. Therein lies the problem…Where do you go? What place can you trust? Is there any place where the server won’t hate you after all of your modifications? Haha, nope.June had been serving and bartending up and down the coast of California for years, and I had been a Restaurant & Bar Manager for House of Blues, Lucky Strike & Wavehouse. We knew a Paleo food truck was what we had to do. Startup capital wasn’t too steep. We could run it ourselves with minimal staff. We could make a menu that not only our customers loved, but we loved too. With the help of a lot of great people and a lot of blood, sweat and elbow grease from June and myself, it happened!

You recently did a Whole30. What motivated you to do that? What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome since you work on a food truck?

I think that when we first went Paleo, we probably followed a Whole30 for our first 3 months. We were very, very strict. Recently, I have had more sweets…chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! :) I just felt it was a good time to clean up and get back to the basics. I really wanted some motivation to get back into the kitchen and write some new recipes and try some new dishes (motivation is hard when you cook all day for work and want nothing but your face in a memory foam mattress topper as soon as you get through the door), I just finished yesterday [July 7] and I have to say…I feel great. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I guess I’m just a tad bit strict on myself as it is, so, it wasn’t too big of an adjustment.

Some of the challenges were definitely having to get everyone else to taste things that I made. It sucks not being able to stick a spoon in something for a taste to see if it needs salt. Haha.

If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?

Good question. I think this answer has changed for me over the years. Now, I’d probably go with a Leopard. They’re insanely smart, quiet and excellent at climbing. They can fend off lion prides and packs of hyenas by themselves. They’re not the fastest, but 40mph is good enough for me!

If you’re local to San Diego, you can find the Not So Fast Food truck at different venues around the county by checking out the schedule here.

Paleo & Primal Happenings

elysium This weekend is the 1st Annual Primal Symposium in San Diego! Thisgathering will feature movers and shakers in the Primal/Paleo/Natural Health field including Cavegirl Confections, Pete’s Paleo, real., Civilized Caveman, Paleo Treats, Life in Focus, Healthy Happy Fit Life, yours truly and many others!

If you’re going to be in the San Diego area this Saturday July 13th, come on over to CrossFit Elysium for the Primal Symposium. Tickets are available for full or half day and can be purchased here.

Fermented Ginger Carrots

fermented ginger carrots Fermented ginger carrots will knock your socks off!

It’s no secret that I love fermented foods (sauerkraut and kombucha being my favorites) because of their probiotic content, and lately I’ve started to expand my horizons. I went to a farmer’s market recently and saw a jar of fermented ginger carrots selling for something like $8! Off I went to the store to get a pound of carrots and some ginger to make my own.

This fermented ginger carrots recipe uses lacto-fermentation, a different method than is used to make kombucha. Essentially, the brine (salt water solution) that forms around the veggies is enough to discourage the growth of harmful bacteria and fungus while at the same time providing just the right conditions for Lactobacillus—the bacteria that cause the tart flavor of lactic acid as a byproduct—to grow.

Lacto-fermentation of ginger carrots—and any veggie really—requires that the veggies be completely submerged under the salty brine to give just the right anaerobic conditions. It’s possible to go whole-hog and buy fancy fermentation jars or huge crocks. (Can you say $$$?) If you’re just getting started, you may want to KISS and stick to this method for fermented ginger carrot which uses mason jars. They’re cheap and relatively easy to find.

This recipe easily doubles, triples, etc. If you don’t like ginger, you can leave it out. You can always thinly slice the carrots, but I prefer to shred them. The generally accepted ratio for vegetables to salt is 5 pounds veggies : 3 Tablespoons sea salt. I’ve adjusted that ratio down for this recipe.

Prep time: 30 min     Ferment time:  7–14 days     Makes: ~2 pint jars

Ingredients for the Fermented Ginger Carrots

  • 1 pound carrots (450 g), shredded
  • 1–2″ piece of ginger, peeled and shredded or grated
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Ingredients for extra brine 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 rounded teaspoon sea salt

Equipment Needed to Make Fermented Ginger Carrots

Directions  to Make Fermented Ginger Carrots (including video!)

  1. Shred the carrots and ginger in a food processor and dump into a large bowl. fermented ginger carrots
  2. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands, squeezing the carrots as you go. You’re trying to extract a bit of the natural liquid by creating a concentrated salt solution around the carrots (it’s hypertonic…SCIENCE!). Let the carrots sit for 15 min before moving to the next step. fermented ginger carrots
  3. Divide the carrots evenly between two pint-sized (16 oz) mason jars. Press the carrots down firmly until you’ve removed as much empty space as possible. There may be some natural carrot liquid at this point but not enough to cover the veggies.  fermented ginger carrots
  4. Place the small 4 oz jar on top of the carrots. Fill the remainder of the space with a little bit of the brine solution. The carrots should be completely submerged. Repeat with the other jar. Save extra brine in the fridge because you might need it during the fermentation process…you can always make more but this saves a step later. fermented ginger carrots fermented ginger carrots
  5. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, a piece of old t-shirt or a kitchen towel and place them in a bowl (I use paper bowl) or on a rimmed plate to catch any bubbling over. fermented ginger carrots
  6. Place in a dark spot (like a pantry or cupboard) and check daily to make sure the water level has not dropped down to the carrots. If it has, pour a bit more brine on top.
  7. My carrots were to my sour liking after about a week, but I live in sunny Southern California. Check yours by removing a small sample after 5 days or so and eating it up! If it tastes tangy enough for you, it’s ready. It generally takes 7-14 days but varies with temperature.
  8. Store tightly covered in the fridge…it will last for a few months!

Troubleshooting

  • My carrots are slimy. Bad bacteria have probably started to grow in your jar. Best to toss it out to be safe.
  • My carrots have run out of liquid. If this was recent, within a day or two, top off with more brine solution. If it’s been several days, you may want to throw it out and start again.
  • Help! My carrots are foaming! This is normal especially after the first couple days of fermentation because gases are being released by the bacteria and can cause bubbles or foam. You can skim the foam and keep on rockin’.
  • I see white stuff at the bottom of the jar. Is this okay? Yes. These are the bacteria. It’s totally normal.
  • Um, my carrots have greenish black mold on top. If you’re adventurous, you can skim it and keep going. This is how moldy ferment has been dealt with for ages (and I can tell you lots of stories about what they do with moldy cheese in the grocery store…haha). If you’re totally grossed out, just start over.
  • It’s been a couple weeks and the carrots still aren’t sour or tangy. You may have them in too cold of a spot. Try putting them in a warmer location to speed up the process a bit.

6 Healthy Paleo Drinks

Recently, the incomparable Dawn Fletcher of Fletcher Fitness/Mentality WOD and I collaborated on our first video: a quick look at some of our favorite Paleo- and Whole30-friendly drinks.

Information about Elete Electrolyte drops (sugar free and Whole30 approved) can be found here.

Leave a comment below and tell us YOUR favorite Paleo-friendly beverages!