#50 | Weeknight Paleo
100+ Easy and Delicious Family-Friendly Meals
By Julie and Charles Mayfield
Suzy: Welcome, to the Cookery By The Book podcast, with me, Suzy Chase.
Charles: This is Charles Mayfield, one half of the Mayfield duo, with their new book, Weeknight Paleo: 100+ Meals For You and Your Family.
Suzy: What is the difference between Paleo and your particular take on Paleo?
Charles: I would say that our version of Paleo is just where we've settled with years of tinkering and experimentation. Exploring what foods work well for us and what foods don't. So I think that's ... Our definition isn't probably that far off of most folks, it's just we make it work for us. And, we were, I'm hesitant to use the word, "strict," but we spent some time being very very strict and methodical about avoiding, you know, grains, beans, dairy, that's sort of the 30,000 foot view of paleo. And we still to this day .... I don't eat wheat, or I certainly don't seek out wheat. You know, if it gets snuck into something that I'm unawares, I don't have a reaction to wheat. Soy is a different story. We eat some dairy from time to time; cheese and ice cream, and I'll have an occasional glass of milk. But I tolerate it. Julie doesn't eat or drink milk. Our kids will have an occasional glass of milk or sip of milk. But yeah, our definition is ... We've probably slid more towards, in our home personally, a little bit more primal. Which is sort of the inclusion of dairy, certainly fermented dairy. But there's still foods that we avoid. We don't eat wheat, soy. We'll eat corn, but the corn that we eats generally fresh corn grown. We generally don't eat a lot of stuff out of a box or a can.
Suzy: Our stone-age ancestors left behind no menus or cookbooks. How do we really know what they ate?
Charles: We know that they ate what was available. And we know what was available around them. So ... And they didn't ... They weren't too picky. Hunter-gatherers, optimal foraging strategies and all that. I think they ate whatever was readily available and in season.
Suzy: Early farmers weren't just shorter than hunter-gatherers. They were also more sickly. You talk about food as healing. What are the health benefits?
Charles: You get all the micro-nutrients; all the vitamins and minerals. I would say that's arguably the single biggest advantage to eating real, unprocessed foods. If you start talking in terms of comparing, I think the lifestyle is a big component to our ancestors. They moved every day, they got plenty of sun, they were active. They have had very very connected social networks. And I'm not talking about, "online." They had cradle to grave relationships with people in and around them on a constant basis, and so ... You know, they got plenty of sleep. And sleep is a part of paleo ... I mean we didn't write a sleep book, but we're in the food-prep cooking business, but sleep is a huge component of that. And they slept 9, 10 hours a night. So yeah, it's a lot of different factors. And so, what we try to focus on is bringing forward into the modern day as much of that lifestyle as possible. And, so ... Goodness, our ancestors didn't have the convenience or luxury of planting a garden of kale and spinach and tomatoes and whatnot. And we have that luxury today. So instead of foraging for our food in the wild, let's put a little raised garden in our backyard and forage there.
Suzy: In the book your have a handy chart for paleo beginners. Let's say if we want to avoid grains, what should we eat?
Charles: Grain, we'll do in the form of bread and we'll do in the form of say, oatmeal. Okay?
Charles: So with bread, we'll take your common sandwich. Well a sandwich, if you really think about it, no one ever eats ... Not many people eat a sandwich just the bread, they typically put something super tasty in the middle of it. So the bread in that sense is really more of a construct or a vehicle to get the really tasty stuff in your mouth. So we'll use like lettuce wraps, or ... You know, there's some processed foods out there that are fantastic, like a coconut wrap. You know, in this day in age you can get gluten-free bread. In fact, they're fairly common now. But we generally just replace bread with something vegetable-related. We'll make ... We'll get big porte bella mushrooms, so instead of like a sandwich, think a hamburger. So instead of a hamburger bun, maybe it's porte bella mushrooms. It's a little messier, but the kids love it. You know, all that juice going everywhere. But lettuce wraps, porte bella mushrooms, tomatoes, big thick slice of tomato as your bun. These are just some really fun ideas there.
As it relates to like a porridge, you can make your own oatmeal or porridge out of dry toasted coconut, crushed up almonds. You know, any various types of granola. And again, that's kinda what we're trying to encourage folks to do is just to make some of this stuff at home, tinker with the ingredients yourself. Find what works for you.
Suzy: What are some easy ways to transition to paleo?
Charles: Well I'll just be blunt. Empty out your pantry of everything and anything we tell you not to eat. Find a couple of people and do it with them. And so whether your eating out or eating in, is to stock up your pantry with good decisions. Because if there's a bad choice in there you're gonna find a way to talk yourself into eating it. But, yeah. I mean just have on hand all the really basic essentials. So some ghee, or ... Ghee, coconut oil, olive oil ... I'm just tryna think of stuff you would always cook with. So havin' some healthy fat sittin' around is always good. You know, some canned ... Certain canned vegetables that keep well. You know, tomatoes, have some coconut flour if you wanna pan fry 'em. And just, the pantry is really where all the action is. So get all the bad stuff out. You know, donate it to your local food bank, and spend a couple of minutes, maybe an hour a week, a weekend, and plan your week. Plan your meals.
I was a financial planner for many years, and we used to joke that people spend more time planning their Disney vacation than they do planning their retirement. And I think the same could be said for planning their nutrition. So you, turn the boot-tube for an hour a weekend, sit down, write down what you wanna eat. And that's really where some of the guides in our book come in, is just trying to help people think about planning the week. Cooking is really about suggestion and what works for you, and I think especially for someone that's just getting involved and starting cooking, you have this idea that you're supposed to be, you know, Bobby Flay. You just have to get in the kitchen and play around. And so if there's an ingredient, and I ... Which recipe were you playin' with in our book? It was the trout?
Suzy: Yeah. I made the trout in parchment with tomatoes and basil sauce.
Charles: Oh yeah yeah. So that's a ... I love that recipe! It's super quick and easy. It's versatile with a lot of different types of fish. But so there's a recipe in there for ... The ingredient in there is olive oil and fresh basil leaves, right? And so, someone might read that, and obviously if they'd prepped and been to the store and gotten everything they needed they'll have it, but someone might look at that recipe, a super easy recipe, and lose their mind because they don't have a quarter cup of fresh basil leaves. And what I'm telling your audience to remember is, that's not the end of the world. Maybe you've got some dried basil leaves, and we try those. Or maybe you've got instead of basil, maybe you've got some tarragon-
Charles: Cilantro, yeah! So, don't ... Cooking is suggestion. So if you don't have a particular ingredient, it's okay, there's a substitute out there, and who knows? Maybe you uncover in your own very kitchen, the next trout in parchment paper recipe that's not out there.
Suzy: You know, as odd as it sounds, I was thinking this would be a great pizza substitute. My kid loved this, and it kind of was along the lines of pesto pizza.
Charles: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's been really fun for us, especially developing these recipes and tinkering with this book and seeing how the kids ... And so how old are yours?
Suzy: I have a boy and he's 10.
Charles: Boy and he's 10. So we've got a boy of 4 and girl at 2, and man, it's been ... It's kind of wild. They're polar opposites. Like Addalyn will eat almost anything. Scott's very very particular. So yeah, finding substitutions, and you mentioned pizza. That's a great one to try and tinker with and substitute in on. Especially with kids. And, so ...
Suzy: Another thing with this recipe was I was a bit thrown off when I saw mayo was called for in the basil sauce. And I ... Probably the only person in the world that just assumed mayo was dairy, but apparently it's not! 'Cause it's egg yolks and oil, and eggs are not made from milk.
Charles: But yeah, mayonnaise is not ... I call mayonnaise like the ultimate mother sauce. You know, you're familiar with-
Suzy: Yes it is.
Charles: ... french cuisine-
Suzy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charles: You know, you have your mother sauces. Mayo is like the ultimate sauce, because we'll make aiolis and sauces out of that. Julie ... Actually one of the recipes of the book with the chicken tenders, the chicken nuggets, the mayo is the secret ingredient to making those chicken nuggets taste as close as possible to some of your more tradition fast-food chicken nuggets that are out there, but just in a much healthier way. Our kids, if there was one food out of this book that they would both eat whole heartedly, and turn down everything else for, is the chicken nuggets.
Suzy: Well, doing my research, I came across something called, "Grain Brain."
Suzy: A Florida neurologist wrote a book about how modern brains are destroying our brains. Have you heard of this?
Charles: Perlmutter? David-
Charles: ... Perlmutter?
Suzy: Yes. Uh-huh. So what are your thoughts on modern grains? Because I feel like with the whole Paleo plan, you get back to the original grains.
Charles: One of them, which you just mentioned is that the grains we eat today are not anything like the grains we ate even 50 years ago. Some of the genetically modified ... GMO wheat and soy and corn and various things. It's just a completely different make up of grain, the proteins and the various different lectins and all that. So, the grain that we eat today is not the same as it was 50 years ago. And beyond that, he's a neurologist so he talks about our brain, and he does go into more detail on some of this other stuff in, "Brain Maker," his second book, but our brains haven't .... Or at least the argument he's making is that our brains have not evolved in the last 10,000 years to really handle the constant high levels of sugar that we are exposed to when we eat and make grains a primary part of our diet. And so, he's making some assertions that consuming modern grains, which are completely different from the ones we ate 50 or a hundred years ago, much less thousands of years ago, the nutrient make up and bio-availability of those nutrients is completely different.
And grains are so ubiquitous, they're so commonplace in our diet, and he's making the argument that our brains haven't evolved to really deal with that much sugar all the time. That's all they are. It's just sugar. And so, yeah, it's not good for us. Books like Perlmutter's are just scratching the surface on this. And I will say his second book, "Brain Maker," and this is sort of part of where the Paleo Movement ... One of the topics that they're sort of headed toward is this gut micro-bio, so all of the healthy bugs and bacteria that inhabit our bodies. And so, the grains that we eat aren't necessarily feeding and fueling the right bacteria and so that leads to all sorts of health risks and health outcomes that aren't positive. The valgus nerve is the primary nerve ... The valgus nerve and the brain grow out of the same nerve-cell, nerve stem, and human embryo, and so the gut and the brain are truly connected. It's a fascinating book, if you have time I would pick it up.
Suzy: So where can we find you on the web?
Charles: Paleocomfortfoods.com, you can find us on Facebook at Paleo Comfort Foods. We have an Instagram account, I think it's @paleocomfort. But yeah, Facebook, Instragram, and then our website.
Suzy: Great. Thanks Charles, for coming on Cookery By The Book Podcast.
Charles: Thank you too, I've enjoyed it.