Eating Paleo, Deliciously: Diana Rodger’s New Cookbook, Spring Gratin Recipe, & A Giveaway

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I’ve known Diana Rodgers for about 10 years now. She and her husband Andrew — I call him Farmer Andrew! — have operated every community-supported agriculture program I’ve ever belonged to. Through them, I learned to love all greens, especially Swiss chard and kale; I learned all about composting; I learned how social pigs are and fed them on a weekly basis; and, I learned how to grow and harvest my own food, watching their shining example.

I’m so thrilled for this cookbook for two reasons. One, it’s Diana’s second cookbook and the one that really shows all of who she is — her lifestyle, her food and her mission. Two, this cookbook was photographed by one of my best friends, Heidi Murphy. She’s a pretty amazing person, photographer and co-conspirator in all things cookbooks. I should know; she photographed my forthcoming cookbook.

Enjoy Kate’s interview with Diana and enter for a chance to win your very own copy in our Giveaway below! –Maggie

Tell us about The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook and what inspired you to write this cookbook?

I love the quote by Wendell Berry, “To be interested in food, but not in food production is clearly absurd”. I wanted to write this book to not only show people how to create healthy recipes, but also how to grow their food (from raising chickens to growing vegetables) – whether or not they ACTUALLY grow their food, at least they will have a better understanding of how sustainable food is produced. It’s the perfect blend of my nutrition experience and life on an organic farm. Pulling from my art background, I also include a section on “downshifting” living projects – like how to make beeswax candles, fairy houses, and naturally dyed Easter eggs.

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What has writing a cookbook taught you about yourself and/or your cooking style?

I enjoy cooking food that is nutrient dense and delicious. My recipes are not fussy or complicated – I allow the high quality meats and vegetables stand out.

What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen?

My motivation is to try to cook the most nutritious food for my family from the ingredients I have. I start with what vegetables are at their peak, then pair them with meat and complimentary herbs and spices to create a meal that is seasonal, delicious, AND healthy for my family.

As a nutritionist, can you tell us about some of the benefits of a paleo lifestyle?

The paleo diet is really about eating whole, unprocessed foods, which lower inflammation. Many people turn to the paleo diet for weight loss, to control blood sugar, or to improve their autoimmune disease. Others have found relief from sleep problems, joint pain, and even “brain fog”.

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Please explain paleo-living to us, as if we’re paleo-newbies.

The paleo diet is really about going back and trying to look at what foods are optimal for human health. This includes whole, unprocessed foods like naturally raised meats, healthy fats, seasonal vegetables, and fruit (though over consumption of sugary fruits is not advised for sedentary individuals). When you look at the lifestyle associated with this movement, it includes high quality sleep, time spent in nature, strong bonds with your community, and other unplugged, “analog” activities that get us back to what it means to be truly human.

What are some of the first steps to eating paleo?

I always try to encourage folks to focus on what the diet includes: meat and vegetables, plus healthy fats.  It also helps to start in baby steps, like cut out gluten and sugar for a month, then over the next month, phase in paleo first at breakfast, then lunch, then for all three meals. If you get rid of your perceptions of what breakfast “should be” – a bagel, cereal, or waffles – and think of your meals as just “Meal 1, Meal 2 or Meal 3” then your possibilities are endless. I often eat a leftover steak with sautéed vegetables for breakfast and scrambled eggs with salsa and potatoes for dinner. When you consider how many different combinations of meat + veggie + herbs + spices are available, then your options really open up!

Most people following the paleo diet tend to do the 80/20 rule – meaning 80% of their food is “paleo” and the other 20% is “modern”. I always encourage people to do a 30-day strict paleo phase, just to see how their body feels when they pull out potentially problematic foods like gluten and dairy.

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Can you speak to the differences between paleo and primal?

Primal is a slight variation on paleo, and is generally considered higher in fat and also includes some high quality dairy like butter and heavy cream. These days, the two terms are generally interchangeable and I include both paleo and primal recipes in my book.

What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.

I honestly keep my life pretty healthy but I do have a great balance because I believe any extreme can be mentally unhealthy. I’ve seen such dramatic improvements in my well being from eating this way that I really don’t feel that it’s worth it to indulge on a daily basis. Because I have celiac disease, I have to be gluten free 100% of the time, but I do enjoy some rice, an occasional ice cream, and once in a while, a great crème brulee really hits the spot!

Please share a little tip to inspire a home cook.

I’d say try to get the best ingredients you can afford. By shopping at a farmers market, or joining a CSA, they can have a much better sense of what’s in season. I also hope to inspire folks to try growing their own food, either in containers, or in raised beds at a community garden plot or at home. You’ll have much greater respect for what goes into the food you buy and you’ll appreciate the flavors that much more.

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What’s one of the best homemade food gifts you’ve ever received?

As farmers, we are always getting gifts of freshly caught fish and other food that we don’t produce on the farm. In the summer, some friends will preserve excess produce and send over some tomatoes or sauerkraut, which are always welcome gifts in our kitchen. We all eat lunch together as a farm crew during the growing season, and rotate who cooks. I love eating with friends!

What is the one item you covet for your kitchen?

I’m actually really excited to get an Instant Pot. I make broth regularly and the Instant Pot is a slow cooker and pressure cooker, so instead of taking over a day, I could have broth in a matter of a couple of hours. It will also come in handy for making large batches of chili and stew to feed the farmers.

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What’s your go-to homemade food gift for friends or loved ones?

A homemade broth for sure! Simple, delicious, versatile, and nourishing.

What inspired the Primal Spring Turnip, Beet, and Carrot Gratin (recipe below)?

Well, I really just love hakurei turnips and feel that people may not have enough recipes using them. They’re much more mild and delicate than bitter purple top turnips. This is a colorful dish that really shows off how incredibly delicious vegetables can be. It’s also not overly complicated or fussy, like most of the recipes in The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook.

THe Homegrown Paleo

*** This giveaway is closed and a winner has been chosen. ***

A HOMEGROWN PALEO COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY

Want your very own copy of Diana’s new book? One darling reader will receive “A Homegrown Paleo Cookbook” by simply sharing this story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (tagging @eatboutique and #foodgiftlove) and telling us where you shared in the comments below. We’ll randomly choose a winner on Wednesday, March 10, 2015. Giveaway is only available to U.S. residents.

To make it even easier, here’s a line of copy to accompany your share, if you’d like: I just read a great paleo gratin recipe on @eatboutique. #foodgiftlove

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Primal Spring Turnip, Beet, and Carrot Gratin

This is a lovely, earthy twist on potatoes gratin. It is a rich side that goes equally well with lamb or fish and a lightly dressed salad. I like to eat leftovers for breakfast with an over-easy egg. You can play around with the layering and use red beets for an intense color combination. I used golden beets for this recipe, but any combination of beets would work well. You can also skip the beets altogether and just use more turnips.

NOTES: If you can’t find hakurei turnips, you can substitute another turnip, but the flavor will be more bitter (hakurei turnips are very sweet). You can also try other root crops like rutabaga in this dish.

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons ghee, melted
  • 3 medium to large hakurei turnips
  • 2 medium beets, peeled
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or canned, full-fat coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease the bottom of a gratin dish or other baking dish with the ghee.
  2. Very thinly slice the turnips, beets, carrot, and onion. (A mandoline works best for this task.)
  3. Layer the gratin: Start with the turnips, spreading them across the bottom of the baking dish in an overlapping layer.
  4. Top the turnip layer with a sprinkle of parsley, onion slices, and a touch of the salt.
  5. Add a layer of beets, followed by more parsley, onion slices, and salt.
  6. Add the carrot slices. Sprinkle this layer with a pinch of cayenne, more parsley, and salt.
  7. Finish with a final layer of the turnips.
  8. Cover the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Pour in the half-and-half and continue baking, covered, for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the cover, sprinkle with the Parmesan, if using, and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes, until browned.
All photos taken and styled by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studios, except the cookbook photo taken by Maggie Battista.

Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista–shop girl, writer, author, and creative business coach. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is working to open her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food–as well as coaching women in food to reach life and business goals. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: 100 Recipes to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Food, Nourish Your Beautiful Body, and Celebrate Real Wellness for Life, will be published by Roost Books on February 5, 2019. 

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