Book Review: Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

When I started hearing the hype about Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, I assumed it was just another cookie cutter cookbook, but Diane Sanfilippo’s masterpiece is much more than that.

Yes, it’s loaded with recipes, each of which includes prep time, cooking time and yield, along with notes about whether the dish includes nuts, eggs or nightshades, as well as helpful tips or suggestions for replacing certain ingredients..and gorgeous photos, of course. The comprehensive recipe selection includes breakfast foods, entrees (categorized by the type of meat used), sides and salads, sauces and dips, and desserts. The recipes are quite forgiving, which is always nice if you’re trying something new or aren’t used to cooking, and everything we’ve sampled so far (about 15 recipes) has been delicious. The spice blends section alone will help provide flavor and variety to your dishes.

There’s also 30-day meal plans, and the thing that’s so great about them is that there are so many to choose from…and each include some information on the condition or issue you’re trying to address, diet and lifestyle recommendations, supplements and herbs to consider, supportive nutrients (and the foods that contain them), and, of course, the meal plan. A heart-health meal plan. A meal plan for people recovering from cancer. One for blood sugar regulation. One for digestive health. One for autoimmune conditions. One for thyroid health. Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis… you name it, and there’s a 30-day meal plan for it. There’s also a squeaky clean Paleo plan, if you’re testing out the diet for the first time, and my favorite–a plan for athletic performance, which includes an ample amount of much-needed starchy grains. Diane’s website, Balanced Bites, even has grocery list printouts of a handy guide of ingredients you can download each week for each plan, which saves a ton of time if you wish to follow them. (A word of warning: if you’re used to cooking with leftovers and just eating eggs for breakfast every morning, meal plans can get $$$, even when they do incorporate leftovers, like Practical Paleo’s does. We did notice that a week of meal plan foods lasts us a good 10 days, though.)

What else does this book have? Really great pullout guides and info sheets on everything from what foods you can eat to tips for travel and eating out. Guides to Paleo foods, how to stock the pantry, food quality, fats and oils and cooking fats (as in, which to use depending on what temperature you’ll be cooking them at.) A guide to dense sources of Paleo carbs. A guide for sweeteners to use. These guides are all simultaneously easy to use and incredibly comprehensive. Sanfilippo must be one of those hyper-organized people, because all the recipes have specially designated key codes for types of foods–so if you want a quick visual guide to avoid using nightshades, for example, or would prefer to cook without fish, you’re set.

Most Paleo cookbooks explain the diet, and this was no exception–comprehensive yet highly accessible information on all things Paleo. One thing that was unique to this book (which isn’t sexy to write about, but is a great feature), was detailed information on different types of poop (complete with drawings of shapes and texture), what’s actually going on in your body, and what you can do to address it. I love that someone actually took the time to discuss this, because bowel movements are largely ignored, except by acupuncturists.

My new favorite Paleo cookbook is always the one I’m using, but Practical Paleo has quickly made its way to the top of the list. It’s available online for $26 or so,  and is well worth the price. Very highly recommended.


2011 Survey Results

I promised I’d release the results of my 2nd annual reader survey, and give a bit of an overview of where the blog will be heading in 2012.

Survey responses were collected between November 13th and 22nd.

Topics of Interest

The most often selected blog topics survey respondents were interested in were health and fitness, along with the weekly “Variety Hour” and “Friday Musings” posts.

People also expressed strong interest in posts about Paleo food and nutrition, weightlifting and strength training, self-employment, humor, interviews with cool people, personal posts and posts about the writing process.

There was some interest in MMA, grappling/BJJ, recovery, psychology, politics/news, poetry and videos.

Several survey respondents specifically requested more personal posts.

People were interested in a variety of topics that were not covered, including motivation, kickboxing and variations on equipping a home gym (on a budget, in a limited space, after an injury, in a rental unit, etc.)
motivationI think you covered it. n/akickboxingStuff about equipping a home gym, maybe with variations like “On a budget” or “In limited space” or “After sustaining an injury” or “In a rental space,…
Lack of Interest
Some people said they were not interested in martial arts and men’s MMA, and still others were uninterested in all things fitness-related or Paleo-related.
Where This Is Going
Because survey respondents were only a small percentage of readers, I took these results into account along with other data, such as traffic volume and other indicators. My conclusions?  The vast majority of you guys are interested in most of the topics I cover (health, fitness, food, combat sports) and are especially pleased when there’s a personal angle to the posts. It is great to have authoritative information, but I think it’s really the human angle that many of you are looking for. So I will continue to include my own personal experiences in my posts.
It seems that other topics I write about are of interest to some but not all readers. I will continue to include posts about self-employment, writing, etc. but they will remain in the background.
I was pleased to learn that people enjoy the Variety Hour and Friday Musings posts, as I really love putting them together.
I am still working on determining a publishing schedule for 2012, and deciding whether to maintain the current schedule of five posts a week or lower the volume–so stay tuned.
A special thank you to all survey respondents!

Yael’s Variety Hour: Last Party of 2011!

The variety of links this week is the same as usual: some health and fitness posts, some thought-provoking pieces (on education and writing this time), food posts and combat sports posts. Enjoy!

Health and Fitness

  • The January 2012 issue of the Performance Menu is out! It’s got articles on pulling technique in Olympic weightlifting, incorporating animal moves into your workouts, and getting more cash flow in your gym. There’s also Paleo recipes, a comparison of the U.S. Men’s team’s 2007 and 2011 performances in the World Weightlifting Championships and a review of a day-long MovNat workshop, along with some Q+A on training post-ACL surgery and seeing significant gains in the lifts in your mid-30s. Yours for $5.
  • Body/Art. Really nice piece by Tav Byerhoff about art/fitness. Beautifully written…


  • The holidays are over, but if you ever want to buy a foodie a present, here’s 5 Great Kitchen Gadget Gifts which I wrote for City Pages’ Hot Dish blog.

MMA, BJJ, Wrasslin’

  • Jon Fitch is facing Johny Hendricks this Friday night. We’re totally trying to have a party, but I’m not sure anyone is coming. Anyway, here is part of my interview with Fitch: No Need to Dumb Down MMA on Sherdog. A longer profile should be up any day now.
  • InterMat Reads: Perfected by Girls is a really great audio interview with Alfred Martino, the author of Perfected by Girls, a book about a female amateur wrestler. I don’t normally read a lot of fiction, but this novel is definitely on my list.


  • Bootstrapping My Way Into the Ivory Tower. What if you want to be an academic, but you’re poor? What does this even look like? What are the challenges? This personal essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education makes some cogent points.

Top Ten Posts of 2011

I checked Google Analytics to see what my most popular posts of ’11 were, and thought I’d put them all on one page for you.

The Paleo posts were by far the most popular this year, accounting for more than half of the top 10.

  • Paleo Flour and Other Sundry Substitutes. I was surprised at the popularity of this post, since it didn’t have a lot of recipes and only a few links…but it’s hard not to want to eat Paleo muffins, so I get it.
  • My Whole30 Recap. I think taking pictures of all my meals increased interests in these posts.

The next most popular type of posts was my BJJ posts, specifically BJJ DVD reviews. Interestingly enough, it was the two beginner DVDs I reviewed which were most popular.

Finally, my next three most popular posts were pretty random.

  • My Vibram Five Fingers. Another surprise, because this piece was written in 2010! I will admit I’ve since moved on to New Balance Minimus–perhaps a different post!
  • 7 Alternatives to Pandora. I don’t typically blog about music, but this one was a hit! Apparently other people were running out of free time on Pandora, too. I’m pretty sure the service is now unlimited…but not positive, since I’ve moved on to Spotify.


It looks like many of you guys reading this are interested in Paleo food, very beginner BJJ, free music and nice footwear…and perhaps even in SEO, though you don’t know what to ask.

That concludes the top ten posts of 2011! Tomorrow, I might dive into some survey results.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Geekiness, Food For Thought and the Usual (Paleo, Combat Sports, Writing)

Whoa, Nelly. My browser’s been busy this week, so brace yourself for a bazillion links on a variety of topics. Here goes.

Geeks, Unite!

  • Art of Learning Project. If you haven’t read chess guru Josh Waitzkin’s book, the Art of Learning, get thee to the library! (He writes a lot about tai chi in the book as well, using the two as models to explain how learning works). This is a project stemming from his research on the subject, and has some awesome resources for teachers. Check it out.
  • Why Do Some People Learn Faster? “Do we ignore mistakes, brushing them aside for the sake of our self-confidence? Or do we investigate the errors, seeking to learn from the snafus? The latter approach, suggests a series of studies, could make you learn faster.” From Wired.

Paleo Propaganda

For Freelancers

  • It’s not enough to be good – you have to show up. “You could have clips from the highest circulation women’s magazines or the most prestigious newspapers in the country, you could have written bestselling books, you could be making $100,000 a year. None of it matters if you don’t bring your A game to the assignment you’re working on today,” Michelle Rafter explains.

Requisite Combat Sports Section (Like the requisite BJJ section, only different.)

Good Food For Thought

  • Nightclubs Are Hell. What’s Cool Or Fun About a Thumping, Sweaty Dungeon Full of Posing Idiots? This piece cracked me up. Here’s a choice quote: “Even if you somehow avoid reproducing, isn’t it a lot of hard work for very little reward? Seven hours hopping about in a hellish, reverberating bunker in exchange for sharing 64 febrile, panting pelvic thrusts with someone who’ll snore and dribble into your pillow till 11 o’clock in the morning, before waking up beside you with their hair in a mess, blinking like a dizzy cat and smelling vaguely like a ham baguette? Really, why bother? Why not just stay at home punching yourself in the face?”





Shameless Self-Promotion

  • You probably heard about the guys who thwarted an attempted robbery at an L.A. hotel right before no-gi Worlds, but have you seen the video of one of the two superheroes fighting MMA? I managed to dig up his 9th fight here.
  • I write a weekly women’s MMA column for Fightergirls, and this week’s Women’s Weekly MMA Wrap-Up also has some results from female fighters who competed at no-gi Worlds, among other things.
  • Last but not least, I was pleased to be featured in this month’s spotlight of Networking News, the Twin Cities Professional Editor’s Network newsletter. If you’re a PEN member, make sure to check it out!
As always, feel free to post any comments or your favorite links from the week.

What I’m Eating: Two More Paleo Meals

Here’s a couple of Paleo meals from the past week.

This first one is from the November issue of the Performance Menu, where Scotty Hagnas provides Paleo recipes each month.

It is a Slow Cooker Curry recipe which is actually very easy to make and quick to prepare.

It includes stew  meat, coconut milk, cauliflower and various herbs and spices (cumin, curry, tamari, garlic), plus coconut milk.

A very hearty stew.

The next dish is the Primal Meat and Vegetables recipe from The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Transformation by Mark Sisson. (I hope to write a review of this book soon.)

It’s pretty much just steak (cooked over the stove and then in the oven), spinach, mushrooms and onions topped with herb butter (parsley and butter).

Seasonings are limited to salt, pepper and olive oil.

Happy cooking!

Book Review: Make It Paleo

Make It Paleo is the newest Paleo cookbook that landed in my mailbox for review, and I’m so glad it did! This is an awesome cookbook: visually appealing, tasty yet simple recipes and amazing variety.

The recipes are divided into the following categories: breakfast, appetizers, entrees (further subdivided into meat, poultry and seafood dishes), salads, soups, sauces and dressings, side dishes, and a treats & cheats section (including cookies, cakes, pies, baked fruits, candies, cupcakes/muffins, ice cream, and frostings/toppings.)

One of my favorite parts of the book is the Paleo kitchen section, which has cool diagrams showing you which parts of the animal various cuts of meat come from, have a list of seasonal produce (divided by season), describe various oils and fats as well as nuts and seeds, and list herbs, spices and seasonings by which types of meat they work well with.

The recipes are incredibly aesthetically pleasing–not  just the beautiful color photos, but also the font and color selection and formatting. Below the recipe title and information, There’s a box with a list of ingredients, difficulty scale (indicated by whisk icons), prep time, cooking time and servings. The process is on the right of the box, and below it are informative notes (if necessary).

The recipes themselves are fairly simple, but there is a wide variety–so it’s good both for tried and true favorites as well as some variety that isn’t too complex or time-consuming. I like that there are some pretty unique recipes, such as sushi, or those that use fun ingredients, like red wine, balsamic vinegar, etc., but that they don’t take hours to prepare. Aside from the great entrees, it is the salads and appetizers that to me really shine. I always want to add more side dishes to my meals, and these recipes make it quick and easy–especially since many recipes are not that complicated, so it’s not hard to find all the ingredients laying around. I have not yet delved into the deserts, but there’s some bacon cookies, coconut macaroons, raspberry torte, almond fudge brownies and pistachio bark with my name on them. Yum.

Lastly, I was really excited about the menus for special occasions, featuring 4-6 recipes (and the pages they’re located on in the cookbook), in the back. Myboyfriend and I were considering cooking a Paleo meal for Thanksgiving–and rosemary roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, roasted brussel sprouts, pumpkin chiffon pie, carrot souffle and garlic and herbed mashed cauliflower hit the spot! Even the Valentine’s Day meal is perfect–strawberry salad, oyster’s Rockefeller, balsamic and rosemary chicken, raspberry torte and roasted baby carrots. And who wouldn’t want a Sunday brunch consisting of coconut-nested eggs, coconut flour waffles, frittata and prosciutto e melone? Other special occassion menus include a birthday dinner, Easter or Passover dinner, New Year’s celebration meal, “the Big Game,” a winter holiday meal, a summer cookout, Tex-mex night, Far East flavors and an Island Laua. And, of course, a conversion table and list of resources (books and websites) in the back.

At $34.95 for over 200 recipes, the book is a steal. Highly recommended.

To see photos we took of some recipes from the cookbook, check out yesterday’s post!

Three Paleo Meals

I am lucky enough to live with my boyfriend, who is a really awesome cook and has really embraced this whole Paleo thing ever since we did a Whole30 and saw fantastic results. Here are three awesome meals he cooked for me, all from the Make It Paleo cookbook (which I hope to review in the next couple weeks). On the left are pan-seared scallops cooked with coconut oil and shallots, served with roasted broccoli and balsamic onions. On the right is a taco salad which was actually a touch spicy for me. And on the bottom are smoked paprika chicken thighs with garlic and herbed mashed cauliflower.



Paleo Meal of the Week: Coq au Vin

Ever since my Whole30 experiment, I’ve been taking loads of pictures of Paleo meals–and I thought it’d be fun to post some of these to share with you, as well as describing where I got them from.

Pictured here is coq au vin, or casserole of chicken in red wine, from the Paleo Comfort Foods cookbook. I was really excited about putting brandy in my food and setting it on fire, but it didn’t catch for some reason. Maybe it’s because I used a regular pot instead of a Dutch oven? Who knows. I just hope to one day get to flambe for real.

This was definitely a time-consuming meal. I think it took over an hour total to prepare, and probably an additional hour or so to cook, but of course there is some overlap.  It is a great winter meal–the butter, bacon and chicken are hearty and the pinot noir, mushrooms and onions, combined with a touch of tomato paste and spices, give the chicken a great flavor. I had trouble getting the almond flour to really stick to the chicken, but the result was delicious!

Plus, cooking with wine and brandy makes me feel all fancy, even if it didn’t catch fire!

What’s your favorite, fanciest Paleo meal?

Yael’s Variety Hour: Steve Jobs, PR Fail & Some Tips for Freelancers

Steve Jobs (R.I.P.)

  • Steve Jobs, My Father, and Yom Kippur “…our real impact on others is not always easily noticed, or even appreciated. Not every worthwhile life is built upon achieving personal goals. We are all interrelated in so many different ways, that you can never be sure how your actions are affecting others.”

Feel Better!


  • Jaclyn Day – Working From Home With all this rain lately… Healthy snacks? Leaving the house? Shenanigans!
  • Here’s a picture of Wil Wheaton collating papers. “You’ve been sent to this page because you offered a blogger a photo of some random celebrity standing near some product that no one actually gives a shit about.”  OMG. This is too funny. Why has it taken me so long to find this site? “Please know that we will be happy to accept a high-res picture of ‘Nathan Fillion holding some twine’ in return for publicizing your product just as soon as that becomes an acceptable form of currency anywhere in the entire goddam world. Until then, please take us off the mailing list of bloggers-who-are-so-desperate-for-content-that-we-assume-they’ll-write-for-free-about-pretty-much-anything-we-hand-them. We would, however, be thrilled to be placed on your list of bloggers-whose-time-is-worth-real-compensation-and-whose-highly-reasonable-rate-sheets-are-available-upon-request.”
  •  And then the PR guy called me “a fucking bitch”. I can’t even make this shit up.  Now that the Bloggess is my new best friend (in my  mind) this makes me so mad! So this PR guy tells her she should be flattered that she’s even considered relevant enough to send spammy celeb ads to. “Please stand by for a demonstration of relevancy,” she responded. Love it.

Requisite BJJ Section

  • How to Roll is a great piece by Cane Prevost about how to roll with different people and ability levels.

Requisite Paleo/Primal Section

Shameless Self-Promotion

Just MMA pieces this week. I wrote two pieces about  Joe Lauzon for Sherdog before his last fight.

Enjoy the rest of your week!