Stacy and Matt of Paleo Parents
Stacy and Matt of Paleo Parents, and their three sons Cole, Finian and Wesley, have been living the Paleo lifestyle since the spring of 2010. With documented Before & After success, they’re an inspiration and a solid example of the benefits of eating grass-fed meat! They’ve created some delicious and creative recipes for us this month—check ‘em out! You can find more of their Paleo family-friendly recipes in their cookbook, Eat Like A Dinosaur.
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?
Matt: I grew up in a house with my 3 brothers. Honestly, cooking was always something that Mom did and none of us had any interest in learning how. When I retired from my job to become a stay-at-home dad in 2008, all of a sudden I was responsible for all the meals in the house. It was a trial by fire, but I soon discovered I had a passion for it!
Stacy: Well, there was that period of time where we were eating pre-prepared store bought food of the utmost worst quality when you first stayed home. But then you realized you wanted to do more and not just ogle creations on Food Network. That’s when you took classes at culinary establishments and now kick butt at recipe development!
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
Matt: There is so much more flavor to it! I actually find myself seasoning food less, to bring out the flavors. In a way, it’s easier to cook with because I know I don’t have to work as hard to make it taste good. On the other hand, it’s so much easier to mess up if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once, I terribly overcooked a tenderloin and was so upset to have ruined a perfect piece of meat.
Stacy: For me it’s more about investment. As the person who makes the income for the family and balances our budget, it’s been quite a sticker shock between our old and new grocery bills. But, the "return" we’ve seen from the investment in healthful, nutrient dense, humane, earth-friendly pastured protein is beyond what I could expect. We’re never sick and our personal health — for the whole family — is beyond what I could imagine. That comes from the quality of what we put in our bodies!
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
Matt: I’m not an animal person, so you won’t hear about humanely raised from me. I have, however, passed by an industrial chicken farm and a stockyard and, let me tell you, the smell alone is enough to tell me there’s something seriously wrong going on there! The toxic runoff is disturbing from those farms! A pasture farm, on the other hand, smells natural, cleaner. You want your pigs to smell like your cat, not your septic tank!
Stacy: Absolutely! Not only is about all the things we’ve mentioned, but it’s also about giving our children an appreciation for treating the earth in a way that can sustain their children and hopefully their great-grand-children. We try to visit farms — be it local humane animal farms or pick your own fruit and veggie farms — at least once a month. The kids get an appreciation for the work it takes to grow food, and they understand how important it is for humanity to do it correctly, the way nature intended. It’s become part of our parenting philosophy as well a lifestyle choice.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
Matt: Stacy introduced me to the paleo diet about two years ago. Hearing the science behind why it’s better for your health was enough to convince me!
Stacy: I grew up a vegetarian, for moral reasons. For me, it just makes sense to give animals a decent life. In return, we get amazingly improved results. After seeing Food, Inc. it showed me how much more about the process I really needed to learn. From talking with US Wellness Meats about their practices and visiting local humane farms, our family pledged this year to no longer bring any non-humane meat into this house. It’s a hefty promise, but one we’re excited to commit to and stand behind.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
Matt: Without high quality ingredients, your job as a chef is so much harder! Why work hard when you can work smart. Starting with healthy, tasty grass-fed meat puts you well ahead of the game!
Stacy: Honestly, Matt’s right. If you’re a foodie, like us, you want food to not only be good for you but to taste good. We’ve never eaten so well in our entire lives. And yet, we’ve never been as healthy either — amazing how that works!
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Matt: Have confidence! Learn how to use your knives and practice. Learn the basic techniques and practice. Learn the basic recipes and practice. Once you have the simple skills down, you are half way to becoming a great cook because no situation will fluster you.
Stacy: What Matt said. He took a series on “basics” at a culinary school that taught knife skills, butchery, sauce creation, food pairings, etc. After that, he came home ready to take those lessons and apply them to the visions he had. It’s been fantastic ever since! He also keeps himself inspired by taking ethnic cuisine or other classes when he can. This year he took a series of Thai classes at a local restaurant and the interpretations at home using grain- and legume-free ingredients have been better than restaurant food!
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
Matt: Learn your spices and what pairs best with which meats. Once I became confident with my spice cabinet, cooking became so much easier. Also, don’t be afraid of fat! Adding something fatty to your dish will enhance the flavor so much. I use lard or bacon or tallow or coconut oil in almost all my dishes.
Stacy: I would say, get your family involved. I know a lot of the people who follow our blog get frustrated that they spend a lot of time and money cooking food that their kids won’t eat. Our best advice is to let your kids pick out recipes with you (our site and book are great places to start), let them help prep and cook and then help them understand why the choices you put on the table are going to make their bodies grow healthy and strong. After that, if they choose not to eat it, don’t make a big deal out of it — just be firm in letting them know there are no other choices for the night. A pediatric nutritionist once told me "there are no picky eaters in 3rd world countries." Your kids won’t let themselves starve!
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
Matt: I make The Bacon Chicken. I take a whole chicken and wrap it in bacon. Guaranteed crispy skin. Guaranteed moist inside. Bacon grease is absorbed by cabbage underneath. Guaranteed delicious. Looks like a brain, tastes like a dream!
Stacy: The Meatloaf Cupcakes we made with the US Wellness Meats 75/25 and ground pork was one of the best recipes we’ve ever made. I could’ve eaten a whole pound worth. I also like Matt’s Turkey Thai Basil, which we make with leftover turkey meat — so it’s a rare treat when we have it.