Wondering where I’ve been?  I’ve been focusing on wellness.  In the coming months, you’ll hear about the juice cleanse that I dragged my husband through alongside with me, and no doubt hear more about my latest obsession with healthy eating and regular exercise.  But don’t worry – I’m no angel – there will still be loads of foodie adventures and decadent recipes to indulge in.

More recently, I was given a copy of Irena Macri’s manuscript courtesy of Penguin Australia for her incredible Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook.  I was also given an opportunity to interview her to help readers here get a better grasp on what this stone age diet is all about.  

So far I’ve cooked four things from Irena’s cookbook (which is more than I’ve cooked from the vast majority of the extensive cookbook collection in my living room) and I can promise you that her recipes are very simple to follow and absolutely delectable.

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I made miniature versions of Eat Drink Paleo’s banana muffins with strawberry butter – which were a success with my health-conscious work crowd – especially with one of our practice nurses who has coeliac disease.

 

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These no-bake energy balls are absolutely incredible and comprised of delicious super foods like almonds, brazil nuts, dates, cacao & chia seeds.  I’ve already made about 3 different renditions of these babies, adapting the ingredients to whatever I’ve desired at the time.  They’re perfect for a pick-me-up after work before I have to hunker down and cook for the kids!

 

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Irena’s velvet summer quiche from her “Wake Up Baby” section of the cookbook is an absolute dream.  Filled with predominantly sweet potato, brown onions & red peppers, it’s a very sweet & smooth quiche (without the pastry of course – which is not only healthier but saves prep time!).  The kids loved it and it’s absolutely perfect for portioning out to freeze for bento box lunches.

 

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Hands down my favourite dish thus far has been Eat Drink Paleo’s drool worthy smoked salmon ‘not bagel’ which I made mini versions of for the family.  The fact that Irena knew that sweet potato could be transformed into amazingly crisp better-than-bagel-like patties is beyond me.  Each mouthful was followed by moans of absolute delight.  This dish has inspired me to attempt many more of Eat Drink Paleo’s savoury dishes!

 

But enough of the delicious food – let’s learn more about what it means to be Paleo – by the guru herself…

Elaine:  Irena, thank you so much for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer some of my questions. It’s an absolute honour to see a fellow blogger actualize your dreams of a highly successful blog, Eat Dink Paleo, but also of publishing your very first cookbook – the first of many to come, no doubt.

First of all I’m absolutely besotted with your new, self-titled, Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes and all of the recipes I have tried are really delicious, not to mention easy to make. My colleagues at work have all loved partaking in the food from your “Cheeky Treats” chapter, and I’m looking forward to cooking from it when my parents come over for a visit sometime in the near future as my mother abides by a gluten-free diet.

Elaine: For readers unfamiliar with the paleo diet, what are the mainstays of the paleo way of life?

Irena: First of all, thanks for having me on your site. Now, let me tell you a little bit about paleo.

Paleo is not so much a diet as it is a way of eating and living, as you say it’s a way of life. It’s inspired by our hunter-gatherer ancestors but rather than trying to mimic the cavemen it simply looks at what food and habits have made us thrive for a long time and what has been introduced recently that has made a negative impact on our health. Paleo focuses on nutrient dense, unprocessed foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, and shuns processed foods and sugar, refined carbohydrates, grains, legumes, and dairy. That’s the basic template of the diet but there are many variations that make it a bit more flexible and accessible. And as for the lifestyle habits, paleo advocates better sleep, stress reduction and management, strength and conditioning through natural movement, regular time outdoors, reconnecting with our communities and reducing our exposure to the environmental toxins. So if you drop the label, it’s simply about holistic, healthier way of living.

Elaine: Have you noticed any health benefits since becoming paleo?

Irena: Yes, I find that it really suits my body and makes me feel energized, alert and just healthy on the inside. The outside has benefited too – I don’t get skin problems and I’ve had no trouble maintaining my slender frame without having to count every calorie or compromise on flavour and variety of foods I eat. I’ve noticed my immune system has improved vastly and I don’t get as many colds or flu as I used to and when I do, they don’t linger around for long. Some of the reoccurring conditions I used to get have also pretty much stopped appearing.

I would say most people would feel some positive benefits from eating according to the paleo framework. In fact, you don’t have to go 100% paleo to notice the difference. It’s not rocket science – you cut out most of the processed foods and focus on whole, natural ingredients that are full of nutrients, enzymes and long-lasting energy – of course you will feel fantastic. 

Elaine: From your cookbook and website, I can tell you love food & variety – but can you give an example of what your typical day looks like from a dietary perspective?

Irena: For breakfast I would usually have a couple of eggs – soft-boiled or pan-fried – with some sweet potato rosti or bacon and a side salad. On days when I don’t feel like eggs, I will usually have some of my paleo friendly granola with a full fat, unsweetened yoghurt and berries. For lunch, it’s a huge rainbow salad with lashings of homemade vinaigrette, herbs and salmon or sardines; and for dinner, maybe a rich Bolognese ragu with zucchini noodles or a lamb curry with cauliflower rice. On the weekend I might make my paleo pancakes or some banana bread.

Elaine: Given your mission is to “make paleo for everyone!” What are your top tips as to how one can introduce paleo into their diet?

Irena: First of all, focus on what you can eat rather on what you can’t – the world of unprocessed food is huge with many wonderful things to try. Secondly, Paleo is not a just a diet, it’s a lifestyle so don’t forget about things like sleep, stress management, and movement . And finally, start cooking for yourself – it’s one of the quickest ways to upgrade your diet.

Also, start out slowly – perhaps eliminate wheat and processed sugar first, then cut out the processed oils such as canola, soybean, vegetable and margarine and replace those with healthy fats like olive and coconut oil and butter; and after, try eliminating the legumes and dairy. After a few weeks of following the basic paleo template, you can experiment by introducing some things like a little white rice or some yoghurt back into your diet to see how it makes you feel. Essentially, you can make your own version of paleo as long as you listen to your body.

Elaine: And finally, I know that you take a relaxed 80/20 approach to paleo so I’m wondering what you do on the days when you’re that little bit naughty?

Irena: I love a good gelato and a glass of wine. I have also added some healthy dairy back like butter, yoghurt, kefir and some cheeses but I avoid plain milk and low fat dairy. I also eat white rice, quinoa and buckwheat every now and then. I think these little allowances allow me to really enjoy my paleo way of eating long term.

Elaine: Thank you again for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I’m all about moderation, and obviously as a doctor, like to promote health & wellbeing, so your enthusiastic & relaxed approach to paleo is one that I’m all for. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to forego all of my grains and refined sugars for the time being but it’s something that I’ll definitely aspire to!

 

So there you have it – the lowdown on paleo & a little sneak peak into how fantastic the recipes in Irena Macri’s Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook actually are.  I highly recommend popping out to your local book store (though I’ve seen them everywhere – Coles, Target, Myer.. you name it) & picking up a copy.. stat!

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