Marla Sarris is an avid blogger and author of the cookbook Pigskin Paleo. Aside from being creative in the kitchen and cooking up new Paleo meals for her and her husband Jeff, she also enjoys traveling, managing projects and shooting people in the face at Spyr Media and staying active with HIIT. Her latest cookbook, Los Paleo: Mexican Paleo Recipes , made its debut this month. For a taste of what’s inside, check out her recipes currently featured here on USWM. Later this month Marla is competing in the state competition for the Mrs. America pageant and hopes to use this platform to spread the message about Paleo and the importance of nutrition and properly sourced foods.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
When I was little I paid more attention to eating than I did preparing food. Our family used to eat the same Italian dinner at my grandparents house every Sunday: ravioli, chicken gizzards, oxtails, homemade breadballs, neck bones and sometimes chicken legs that were all cooked in my grandma’s homemade tomato sauce. I would help pull vegetables from my grandpa’s garden, and always sneak a few fresh peas as a snack, to put together a fresh salad along with garlic bread on the side. Around the time my mom started to take over the preparation is when I started to get interested in how dinner was prepared.
I began thinking more about making my own meals after taking a Health class in my last year of college. At that time, still living with my family, I decided to take over my own space in the refrigerator (including one drawer and one shelf). I reserved that space just for MY FOOD. I would have written my name all over the food if it was sanitary, just so everyone knew it was off limits, but instead I just labeled my drawer & shelf. What I was making back then was very simple: baked salmon, lunch meat sandwiches/wraps and very quick 2-3 ingredient salads.
When Jeff & I moved into our home in 2006 I started preparing our meals and learning my way around the kitchen. I started experimenting on my own when we went Paleo in 2009 but it wasn't until after I quit my teaching job in 2010 before I started to really experiment in the kitchen and realize how much I love creating new dishes.
This new found love sprouted into my recipe and food porn blog—affectionately known as Paleo Porn—followed by my first cookbook, Pigskin Paleo: Gameday Paleo Recipes, and my brand new book, Los Paleo: Mexican Paleo Recipes.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
Eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish is important to maintain our health. The more chemicals and toxins we ingest through our food the less healthy we will be—plain and simple. In terms of cooking, the times differ slightly with grass-fed meat and requires some planning ahead to let the food defrost, but other than that there’s really not a big difference.
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
For me it’s about keeping me, Jeff and our cat Alpha healthy (yes even Alpha eats Paleo) Globally it’s about being humane to the animals who become our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bison and cows should be grazing on grass. What they eat, we eat. It’s one big circle that starts on the farm.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
Well that’s hard to pinpoint exactly but I can probably give that credit to Mark Sisson, his daily blog and his book, The Primal Blueprint.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
I’ve found the right ingredients to be the ones that you have on hand, be it in your refrigerator, pantry or spice cabinet. Whether you have 3 or 30 quality ingredients, you can create a delicious meal.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
You don’t need a fancy knife or a specific blender to be a success in the kitchen. I think the key is being comfortable in the kitchen and that happens through experimentation! If you don’t know what to do, just jump in and try out a new recipe. Use something that looks good, pick up a new ingredient from the grocery store and blend ingredients you’ve never combined before. You’ll figure out what flavors go together and what a new-to-you herb tastes like once you give it a try.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
When you discover a fun new recipe follow the directions the first time. On your next go around just wing it. Change up the spices, change up the herbs, change up the protein and/or change up the vegetable and you’ll have an entirely new dish with a different flavor altogether, the possibilities are nearly endless (remember I was a math teacher, although it approaches infinity it never reaches it) ;)
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
There’s so many choices and I’m not sure I can pick just one. I have loved oxtails since I was a kid and would race my grandpa to see who could polish them off the best but now I’d probably go with something simple. Beef short ribs that are slow-cooked until they melt in your mouth are a close second to a grass-fed ribeye steak seared and broiled with a pat of grass-fed butter.