I know that many of you have been waiting for the latest GFE Gluten-Free Virtual Support Group (VSG) post. My actual gluten-free support group decided to take a break in July, and although I didn’t announce that info here I decided to follow suit for my Virtual Support Group. (VSG events are never real time anyway, with my sharing post always being at least a few weeks behind the actual support group.) So here I am squeaking in the last week of the month to share the latest VSG featuring Stacy Toth and Matt McCarry of Paleo Parents, their three boys (Cole, Finian, and Wesley), and their very popular cookbook, Eat Like A Dinosaur: Recipe and Guidebook for Gluten-Free Kids. Stacy and Matt actually presented to my group in June, but as the saying goes, “It’s better late than never.” Right? Nod your head. Thanks!
If you’re new to the GFE VSG, this event is simply a way for me to extend the reach of my actual support group and share great food, info, and giveaways with you, all of which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home on your own schedule! I know that many of you would love to participate in a good support group if available, so I hope that the VSG will help fill that need until you find one or perhaps “supplement” the real-life support group in which you already participate. Here are some of our previous VSG posts if you’d like to “catch up”: Gluten-Related Ob/Gyn Issues (and more), Gluten-Free Watchdog (what testing of gluten-free products really shows), and Healing the Gut. The next VSG will focus on Thermography.
Back to Paleo Parents … I’ve written about Stacy and Matt before when I adopted them for Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger; you can read that post here. I’ve been a big fan since almost the very moment I first “met” them. We’ve had many online interactions over several months and then, finally and happily, I met them in person at my house right before my group’s picnic event. Stacy and Matt have consistently awed me by being the genuine, blatantly honest, and caring people that they are. Their posts like What Losing 100 Pounds Look Like, Fattest People in Paleo, and more recently, What Losing 135 Pounds Looks Like, just blow me away, and I can tell by the hundreds of reader comments on each, that I’m far from alone. And I haven’t even gotten to their amazing recipes, yet … fantastic recipes that show people they can “do” the gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar free, legume-free diet.
Stacy and Matt have quite literally changed lives—and that, of course, includes their own lives and their sons’ lives—by inspiring others to make changes in their lives in what they eat (first and foremost) but also in their activity levels (e.g., head out to a U-Pick farm with the kids versus “veg” at home), and to keep making those changes, “tweaking” as needed all along the way. For example, Stacy is now following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol—which she shared in this post initially and later in this podcast of The Paleo View that Stacy now co-hosts with Sarah of The Paleo Mom—to improve her health even more. Now I’ll admit that I’ve been dilly dallying on this post and a review of their cookbook for a while. I don’t think that I truly ever have writer’s block, but some folks do humble me in such a way that I feel like I can’t do an adequate job of sharing a post on them (or their cookbooks, etc.), so I delay my writing hoping that inspiration and all the right words will eventually come. In some cases, enough of the right words really don’t come to me and I just have to “go with it” or ask for others’ help. I have done both for this post.
The Paleo Parents spoke at my support group’s third annual picnic event. This event was held at one of our member family’s farms, Biota. The Padovan-Hickman family—Steve, DeLaura, Tara, and Maren—who calls Biota home are a family that lives “off the grid”—which mostly means they live without electricity. Their home is a log home that was built from trees right on their property that Steve and friends helped turn into suitable logs for framing a house. Almost all of the home’s construction was done by Steve, DeLaura, and friends using the most “green” and economical materials available. Even Mr. GFE got involved with several aspects of their home project. For example, he installed the hardwood flooring in their home as their wedding present. (Steve had salvaged it from an early 1900s industrial building.) True to my nature, I remember showing up as “support staff” a few times with brownies in hand. The Padovan-Hickman family have a gas stove for cooking and two woodstoves for heating, but they decided to live without a refrigerator when their gas version died several years ago. After a few months of living refrigerator free, they found out that it was not the big deal that they had anticipated. They came to realize that they do a better job planning their meals for immediate consumption and have less waste without a refrigerator. (During warm months, they rely on a cooler and ice for perishables.) They also raise chickens, goats (there were new babies on hand this time; DeLaura makes fantastic yogurt and chevre), and they also grow organic fruits and vegetables. All the family members play integral roles in our community, too—ensuring the success of our award-winning farmer’s market (DeLaura is the manager and Maren is the gluten-free baker); conducting activities in the local, state, and national music scene (Steve is a renowned fiddler, but the whole family plays instruments, and participates in music camps and other events); and they do much more, too. In summary, they are a very cool family and it’s always both energizing and relaxing to attend events at their home and farm!
This picnic event was held at the tail-end of my gfe retreat at which I hosted several of my gluten-free blogger friends for a long weekend. Only Debi (Hunter’s Lyonesse) and Heather (Gluten-Free Cat) were still with me on Sunday afternoon, but they were excited to attend and meet my support group members and Stacy, Matt, and their sons. As I said, all of our picnics at Biota to date have been great fun with delicious fare, but this one was even more special with Stacy, Matt, Cole, Finian, and Wesley presenting and doing a book signing, and Debi and Heather joining in!
Food ~ As one might expect, our food theme was paleo picnic food and my group members easily supplied lots of paleo-style items, with a few non-paleo, but of course still gluten-free items added to the table. DeLaura made a great cucumber salad using her goat’s yogurt and beverages (and probably much more that I can’t recall right now) and Steve grilled fish for us (spot and croaker—tasty!). We ended up with a bit of seafood theme going for our main dishes as I brought a half bushel of steamed crabs. Plus, there was bacon, pasta salad, quinoa tabbouleh, fruit salad, bean salad, watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini chips (dehydrated), muffins, and fruit pie. We also really enjoyed Samoa Brownies, courtesy of our guest speakers. And one of our group members, Megan, made Matt and Stacy’s Anytime Cookies (recipe is in Eat Like a Dinosaur). Clearly, we had a feast of fantastic gluten-free picnic food!
Presentation ~ As I’ve already shared and many of you already knew, in addition to being the bloggers behind Paleo Parents, Stacy and Matt are also the authors of the recent cookbook, Eat Like a Dinosaur (affectionately called ELaD). Intended for children and families, this cookbook presents eating healthy real food, like that which a dinosaur would have eaten (meat, veggies, and fruit), in a friendly, super approachable way. The intro shares how Stacy and Matt together lost over 200 pounds in little over a year and resolved all types of health problems for themselves and their boys. Their story is very compelling and their recipes are simple to make and delicious.
Stacy started the presentation by telling her and her family’s story. She did all the talking with some occasional help from Finian and some solicited interjections know and then from Matt. But mostly Matt and the boys were off checking out the farm critters and the trampoline while she filled us in on their path to health including both her and Matt’s impressive weight loss (Stacy was recently featured in Woman’s World) and Cole’s transformation (from a little guy who was about to be kicked out of school for his aggressive and uncontrollable behavior to the calm, peaceful child who is now one of the best behaved, most focused kids in class); presented many of her resources (those are all Matt and Stacy’s books in the wagon that DeLaura “loaned” them); shared tips on buying grass-fed meat (e.g., split a large order with a friend, determine your local resources, consider using cuts that are not the high-priced ones); which wraps are paleo (they say that Pure Wraps rule); and handling school situations like lunches and parties with their oldest when nobody is else is eating paleo, gluten free, etc.
Because it was an informal, carefree picnic event, I was not in my usual note-taking mode. So while Stacy gave a great presentation, when it came time to write up what she actually shared with us all, I was at a bit of a loss for all that she shared. I reached out to several of my support group members and my blogger friends, Debi and Heather, for their thoughts. Thank goodness they helped me out!
Jennifer ~ “My son, Ryan, was very excited to meet the Paleo Parents and their children – and thrilled to get them to autograph our copy of their book. He read the story in the book a few times later that day.”
Megan ~ “I took away a lot from Stacy and Matt’s presentation. Listening to them only reiterated why I adopted the Paleo lifestyle, but what really opened my eyes was hearing how much it has improved the lives of their children. It fascinated me to hear that their children made significant health and behavior strides just by eating Paleo. It just reinforces the fact that food is medicine!!
I LOVE “Eat Like a Dinosaur;” it is most definitely one of my favorite gluten-free/paleo cookbooks, and I don’t even have any kids!! I have made several recipes which were all simple to make and delicious!!!: 50/50 Bacon Burgers, Pork Roast with Squishy Squashy Apples, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Sweet Potato Fries, and their Anytime Cookies, to name a few.
I must not forget to mention the Paleo Samoa Brownies they made and served at the picnic. WOW. So good!!! I have since made them, and they are a big hit with everyone, regardless of their dietary lifestyle.”
Heather (Gluten-Free Cat) ~ “One thing that really impressed me were the stories about how they help their children feel normal at school. As a teacher, I know that school is a sugar culture. There are birthday parties and other special events weekly that revolve around some sugary treat. I love that Stacy and Matthew have developed sugar free recipes so they can send in goodies to replace the treats that are shared during special events. But I was challenged as a teacher to find other ways to motivate students besides sugar. (You wouldn’t believe how motivating a single Skittle is to a five year old!) In Kindergarten, we use food almost on a daily basis. What do you think we use during “M Week”? M&Ms of course! “C Week”? Cookies! I don’t have answers yet, but I’m going to make a serious effort at limiting the unhealthy, sugary treats in my classroom this year.”
Debi (Hunter’s Lyonesse) ~ “So funny, Shirley. I was planning on finally doing the review of their book this week. 😀 (Shirley here: Debi got her review done long before I got this post done, you can read Debi’s review of ELaD on her blog, Hunter’s Lyonesse.) I’ve made so many things (some of which you saw in that blog post in which I did a quick nod to them) from their book.
Those of us who already eat a whole foods diet (as well as gluten-free and whatever-free we need to include) already know the health benefits of a diet like the Paleo diet. What I took from the presentation is the experience they had with Cole’s behavior changing just from a change in how they ate. Having worked with kids for years in mental health, it was a joy to hear about behavior modification simply from changing the food the kids were eating. It confirmed my suspicions that behavior can be changed by food and not just therapies and medication. It was also a joy to see the kids playing at your house and at the picnic and being typical kids.”
Debi and I had an email exchange while I was soliciting her input and we ended up talking about how calm and polite Cole was at my house and at the picnic. I stated that it was so hard to imagine him as he was before the dietary changes. Debi responded:
“I know. He is so different from how they described him from before and how the story in the book portrays him before. Having worked with kids who have made dramatic behavioral changes, it wasn’t too hard to imagine for me. But, it was heart warming to know it was all because of the food he was eating.”
Teri (who just started a new blog, Real Food Geek) ~ “I have made quite a few recipes as well: 50/50 bacon burgers, pulled pork (This was my first time every doing a pork shoulder on the grill. It was quite easy and very tasty!), Fool’s gold (Chicken nuggets): even my 20-year-old son thought they were good! I am planning on making 4 other recipes this week. I agree with Megan about the Paleo Samoa Brownies. Wow. When I made them, I didn’t have enough ingredients to make the caramel sauce and they were just as good without it. (I posted on Stacy and Matt’s blog the day after the picnic. They were that good!) Oh, and I bought the book for myself. My boys are 21 and 20 so if they’re at home, they eat what I serve.”
After our meal and their presentation, Paleo Parents entire family participated in signing their very popular new book, Eat Like A Dinosaur: Recipe and Guidebook for Gluten-Free Kids. Note that everyone at our meeting was buying these as the audience is not just limited to kids. Both singles and families love this cookbook as you could see from some of the input I received above.
Personally, I’ve made the following:
50/50 Burger (shown on a gluten-free, vegan Brazilian Un-Cheese Biscuit, you will never need to use another burger recipe … ever!)
Hissin’ Chicken (so simple and easy, yet so good; you can make many variations, too)
Carrot Rounds (they remind me of my Candy Carrot Coins, but are even healthier)
Sweet Potato Fries (I could eat their version for dessert, but there’s no sugar added)
Bone Stock (similar to what I make, but has at least one surprise ingredient … to me anyway)
And I still want to try so many other recipes in ELaD, like Frozen Waffles, Shepherd’s Pie, and Honey Nut Ice Cream. I’ve tried other recipes from their blog like Dark Chocolate Banana Bites (as good as they look!) and the Samoa Brownies that the other attendees raved over (they are justified in their raving!), and they’re all excellent. Paleo Parents excel at simple and delicious recipes that work for the paleo lifestyle, which means they work for all of us who are gluten free, plus others who might be any one of (or all) of the following: dairy free, refined sugar free, peanut free, and bean free.
But don’t just take our word for it, you’ll find many rave reviews of Eat Like a Dinosaur online. It even has a 5-star rating on Amazon. I understand that rating because when I first received Eat Like a Dinosaur and read it, I thought “This book is simply wonderful … it has everything!” From a Foreword written by my good friend Elana (Elana’s Pantry, Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, and Gluten-Free Cupcakes), to the family’s personal story (with a appealing cartoon-style depictions); to information on their ingredients and tools; to symbols that quickly convey their meaning (e.g., a hand symbol beside a recipe indicates that a child may help with the step, a crab symbol highlighted on the right side of a recipe alerts you that the recipe includes shellfish); to recipes that cover all the required areas; to on-page “post-it notes” for you to add your notes (e.g., try with peanut butter vs almond butter next time) to a section on packing lunches; to a food projects section (for those recipes that don’t always contain the same ingredients or fit into a pretty recipe card format); to info on U-Pick Farms, Farmers Markets, and gardening; Eat Like a Dinosaur really is one super packed, wonderful book. In fact, of all the dinosaur books in the Braden household, Eat Like a Dinosaur comes out on top!
I suspect it might be tops in the following homes as well. Well, if they’re cool and have dinosaur books. Either way, you’ll want to check out these reviews.
Giveaway ~ Well, it seems obvious what this month’s giveaway will be … copies of Eat Like a Dinosaur, of course! FIVE of them! One each for FIVE lucky winners! One copy was generously signed by Stacy, Matt, and their crew. The other four copies (again, five in total) won’t boast signatures, but as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the content can’t be beat!
Enter the giveaway by simply leaving a comment sharing your thoughts on Paleo Parents, paleo-style eating, or telling what you would have brought to our picnic if you could have been with us. If you’d like, you may share the giveaway via Twitter and Facebook for additional entries and you can also get additional entries for subscribing to gfe (via reader or via email), subscribing to Paleo Parents, “liking” gfe on Facebook, or “liking” Paleo Parents on Facebook. Be sure to leave a comment for each so that you will get the maximum number of entries with the “Pick a Giveaway Winner” tool that I use! The giveaway will end Sunday, September 9, midnight EST. (p.s. The Rudi’s Fiesta Tortilla package giveaway is still open, too … until Friday, August 31. Enter that here.)
Linky ~ Please link up to three of your very favorite paleo recipes (gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, legume free; and include a link back to this post in each of them). If you want to share a paleo picnic type recipe, that’s all the better! The linky will remain open through Wednesday, September 5, midnight EST.
Full disclosure: Two of the Eat Like a Dinosaur cookbooks—one that I reviewed and another that is included in this giveaway were provided for free by either Victory Belt Publishing or the Paleo Parents. (Sorry, I can’t remember which.) However, the opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine and that of the other individuals as noted. The other four copies of Eat Like a Dinosaur were provided by gfe. As stated in my disclaimer, some links are affiliate links and purchasing through those links will not increase your cost, but will help support gfe—thanks!